Friday, May 29, 2009

Pastry Deer Award

So yeah, I haven't done any meme sort of things since last year, and almost two weeks ago now, CrazyCris shared an award with me from her blog, so yeah, here I am actually doing my post on it now. This sort of recognition isn't an every day thing for me, so I just thought I'd post to say thanks, and follow the award's rules.

Rules: Respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention, and add one additional question.

Basically, this post'll be one of those ones where you get to learn things you either didn't know or already knew all over again about your local blogging weirdo extraordinaire here. FUN!!! (That hurt even me.)

1). What is your current obsession?
I'm not really sure. Addicted to Animal Crossing on the Wii as usual, and pretty addicted to Taiko no Tatsujin on the DS. This Magician's Quest DS game (Sort of Animal Crossing meets Harry Potter) looks like it'll be a future obsession if I can find a copy as I'm hoping to this weekend, with at least a good year or so's worth of things to do and even better character AI. And otherwise, I'm musically obsessed with the latest Metric album, Fantasies, and M83 since I got into his music back in January after seeing him perform on Late Night with Conan O'Brien then. (This would be my favorite of his songs, from the 2005 album, "Before the Dawn Heals Us.") I've also rather gotten into listening to music by Japanese electronic pop artists Capsule, MEG, and Perfume. Sadly, none of them have released any of their albums in the west. And in general, joining earlier this year's helped to fuel my exploration of my musical tastes, so it's probably a bit of an obsession too, you could say. Otherwise, still generally obsessed with finishing my novel this year so I can embark on the increasingly difficult journey of searching for an agent and publisher in this day and age where publishers are only getting more conservative and hesitant to pick up new authors, further reducing any aspiring author's chances of breaking into the literary scene and having any real shot at "making it."

2). Where are you right now?
In my room at home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Pretty much where I am 90+% of the time. I'd like to change that within the next two years, though - ideally find some success, some kind of writing work I'd be happy doing and start more of a life of my own. Stuck at home is not exactly where you want to be at 25.

3). Coffee or tea?
Tea, without a doubt. I love all kinds of tea, both hot and iced. It's part of why my teeth are less than blindingly white. The only kind of coffee I really like are those little bottled vanilla frappuccinos that Starbucks makes, but they're still kind of overpriced, and the excess of caffeine always makes me feel weird. Still, those things were important in getting through many an all-nighter, midterm, and final in college.

4). What's one of your favourite movies?
I could name many, many movies here. To be more recent, one of my favorites in recent times is Dear Wendy, a Thomas Vinterberg/Lars von Trier film that I had to pick up online earlier this year since no retailers stock it here in America. A slightly uneven, but really interesting, satirical character study on the psychology of weapon obsession, giving a bunch of teenage pacifists in a staged European art house take on isolated small town vintage guns, which they carry to bolster their self-esteem and confidence, and watching as all hell inevitably breaks loose. A lot of Americans took the film to be nothing more but a one-sided diatribe against gun rights, but there's a lot more to it than that, and it's a really entertaining movie overall.

5). What's one thing you're looking forward to?
Finishing this last set of novel revisions so I can get on to the "fun" of the agent/publisher search while I start work on my second novel.

6). Who was your childhood crush?
I don't remember. I know I had one on a classmate back in 4th grade, but other than her, I wasn't really attracted to anybody as a kid. Even as an adult, I'm usually not drawn to or attracted to anybody particularly easily, which has apparently made me quite susceptible to ridiculously long term unrequited love. Sad. Otherwise, there's just maybe a handful or so of actresses and musicians around my age out there - mostly smaller name ones - who I find particularly wonderful.

7). What is your (current) favourite song?
Already answered this one a few questions up with an M83 link, actually. Don't Save Us from the Flames is simply epic. Great '80s style shoegaze pop anthem.

8). What would you like to get rid of?
When this whole unrequited love situation undoubtedly amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things, I'd like to shed the baggage with ease, but that's unlikely, knowing me. As a writer, I tend to be more inclined to keep my baggage around for study and character extrapolation in my writing - I'm assuming most do the same. Writing and neuroses can easily come hand in hand. Otherwise, I'd just like to get rid of this general stagnant way of life I have now - to get out of the south and finally begin my own life. Hopefully my writing projects will be a part of getting that going.

9). What's your favourite book?
Tough call. Probably something Salinger or Murakami. The last book I really found myself getting completely lost and absorbed into was Murakami's After Dark last year, and that's technically one of his more flawed works. It's just such an amazing mood piece. I'd kill to be able to write like that.

10). Why did you start your blog?
The idea was to ideally start developing a bit of a readerbase for when I started getting my work published and finally became a published novelist. And technically speaking, I am a published author now - just not a published novelist yet. I don't want to be one of those authors completely inaccessible to their readers, though it seems to mean shedding all that mystique and mystery people seem to love around authors. But then, people are usually disappointed if they get the opportunity to see past all that - authors, artists, and so forth are all still human like everybody else, after all.

Of course, when I first started this blog back in 2007, I wasn't sure what direction to take with it - and it's still not exactly well-directed now. It's mostly just a bunch of meandering ramblings and discombobulated thoughts about anything and everything. Especially seeing as I'm still a complete literary nobody, I'm not sure what value there is in reading them, let alone writing them, but here I am. I'd intended to have the novel finished within 2007 when I first started this thing as is, and now I'm just hoping I have a shot at getting it published within '09 or '10. At least I can say that it's better I finished it this spring than had I rushed through it to finish it back in '07. It's certainly a much better book for it, and I've definitely grown as a writer throughout the process. (And I hope and intend to only keep growing as one as I continue to write and ideally get book after book published over time.)

11). If money was not an issue, what is one thing you would purchase for yourself?
I'd probably just want to get a nice, comfortable apartment somewhere in New York or Boston. Either would be an ideal living environment.

12). If you could live in a foreign country, which one would you choose?
Another tough call. Japan's an obvious choice, if only to have the experience, in at least being somewhat capable of speaking the language. But Canada and many parts of Europe - especially the Scandinavian countries - are quite appealing as well.

13). What is one trait about yourself that you wish you could change?
I'm sort of ambivalent about it, but probably my lack of assertiveness. It would've helped me elude my long term unrequited love situation entirely, though in retrospect, without it, I might not have found a muse and who knows how my writing would have turned out? Probably not as inspired as it has been. And I might have just ended up more dead inside on some level anyway, since I don't tend to be one of the most emotional people in the world to begin with anyway - though what I have tends to be deeply felt. I didn't meet a single person who interested me in the slightest romantically in college, after all, and I tend not to meet new people with any kind of regularity, anyway. I don't make friends easily, and I'm okay with that.

And by nature, I've always been a passive person who's stuck to the periphery and simply observed others and commented. This is something I see as important in my writing as well. So again, for all this, while it'd probably be nicer in some regards if I were a more assertive person and more open minded to working worlds I really don't want anything to do with, it's not as though I dislike who I am in being this quiet, passive observer who rarely interacts with others. For all the negatives, there's a lot of positives to it, too.

14). How 'bout that favorite children's cartoon?
Yeah, this is the one I changed, since the previous was about wine, and I don't drink. And it's all about The Tick! Fox Kids canceled it after only three or so seasons, but Comedy Central gave it second life for a while in a late afternoon slot in the mid-'90s, since its style of writing and comedy was more suited to an adult audience than kids anyway. Great superhero parody.

15). What is one trait about yourself you're proud of?
Hrm. My ability to think things through, maybe. I may be neurotic, but at least I really take the time to think decisions in my life through - sure, I may overthink them and jump back and forth on decisions, but at least I'm capable of a rich internal dialogue.

16). Is there any particular talent you wish you had?
I wish I could still play a musical instrument. I'd like to take up something again, maybe the synthesizer keyboard and some kind of guitar, I'm thinking. Not unlike the sound combination M83 goes for. I'd like to eventually get the hang of composing and performing my own music, as another layer of creativity upon the novel, short story, game, sketch comedy, and TV show type writing I already pour a lot into and dabble in, depending on which of the lot we're talking about. But it requires a very different kind of thinking and approach to things. I used to be pretty decent at the Cello a long time ago. I'm not sure if I'll ever be any good at an instrument again, let alone good enough to actually take a crack at becoming some kind of musician on top of everything else. It might just be too much, but it's fun to think about anyway. At this point, it's stressful enough wondering whether or not I'm really a good enough writer to be worth publishing.

And POW, there you have it. A lot of personal babbling, just as you were hoping for!

Now I'm supposed to tag people, but I don't have a massive list of blogging buddies whose stuff I constantly keep on top of yet. So there's something else for me to feel guilty and neurotic about. Thanks for the pressure, blogging award~

So I'll just go ahead and tag Lindsay, since she tends to write a lot of interesting things. (Just a few days until Conan's return to the air!)

So yeah, sugar-addled deer are go! Or something to that effect.

It's almost June now. Where does the time go?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Animazement 2009: Wait, What?

I said there'd be another post this week, and here it is. There'll probably be at least another shorter one next week too, in addition to the usual one.

This time, I talk about what's exhausted me this weekend! (Exciting, no? Relevant, no? What do you mean, "no?")

So Animazement '09 was this weekend. Technically still is, but nothing much tends to happen on the Sunday, and I only went for one day this year. This after I intended for last year to be my final year in attendance, after having attended all 11 years since the convention began back in 1998. And thus, now I've technically attended all 12 years, though I was only there for about 6ish hours today as opposed to the whole weekend. None of my friends came this year, after all, two of the usual three I hang out with there off in Japan, and the third being at home with family.

I attended the convention as a normal paying attendee from 1998 through 2002, then after I started writing for Anime Dream back in 2002, I started getting press passes, attending for free and doing media work (Reporting the news, interviewing guests, transcribing guest panels, writing up con reports, etc.) between 2003 and 2008. Some years produced more content than others, depending on the schedule and how much access the press got to guests. (When I first started reporting, they were able to give members of the anime press access to a few guests at a time for interviews and a sort of round table discussion in a small closed room, in which I had the good fortune to sit and talk with quite a few industry celebrities. (The likes of whom the vast majority of Americans have never heard of and could care less about - but as a nerd in this sort of subculture, it was a pretty powerful experience.) Since then, the press pretty much lost any real direct time with these people and just had to try to get questions in during guest panels, competing with the regular attendees. That's about it.) I plan to do more press coverage of cons in the future - probably some more Animazements at some point, and ideally some others, not having attended any of the numerous others across the country yet. But this time, I attended as a VIP panelist.

So now I've basically attended as everything but an invited guest, with a collection of passes from over the years ranging from normal attendance through press work through a VIP pass now. My mother - a local textile artist specializing in the tie-dye-like Japanese fiber art "Shibori" - attended to run a Shibori panel and invited me along to be her assistant, helping to move all the equipment and film some of the panel for the local Artists in Schools program she's participating in.

When we first arrived earlier in the morning, I was still pretty wide awake despite not having slept since the previous day. (I'd opted to oversleep then anyway, as so to better prepare for staying up all night and going to the convention.) One of the reasons I'd decided to attend this year was curiosity about the convention's new setting - this year, it moved to the Raleigh Convention Center. The closest to home it's been, and the biggest location by far. (I can't remember if I'd been there before, frankly.) We spent an hour or so getting our bearings and learning the layout of all the rooms. Gradually planning a potential future novel - one I'm pretty sure may materialize further down the line - set within the subculture, I wanted to get a feel for the place. It was a little tiring getting around with all the staircases to climb and descend - but all things considered, given the highly concentrated nerdiness of the attendees, that kind of exercise was undoubtedly needed by most in attendance. As usual, the convention was loaded with people cosplaying ("Costume Play," essentially dressing up as characters from anime and video games with typically homemade costumes. Sort of the appeal of Halloween without having to wait for a single day in the year to dress up and pretend to be someone else.), some of whom were fairly scantily clad, and some of whom couldn't exactly pull that off.

After unloading the car with everything needed for the panel, we had to wait quite a while outside our scheduled room, since the preceding Origami panel ended up going on for about 10-15 minutes overtime - things being off schedule are something of a con standard. While we waited, some guy started hovering around us babbling about various con matters - I couldn't decide if there was something off about him or if he was just trying to get in a little face time in realizing that we were panelists, and therefore "more important" than regular attendees. After all, again, pretty much everybody wants to be noticed by somebody at these things, whether they're looking for attention from panelists - even in the less attended cultural panels, though Animazement has more cultural panels than any anime convention on the east coast, which is certainly something good - or even momentary acknowledgment of their existence by one celebrity or another at the guest panels. (And three of the guests - two elderly industry figures I've talked with before and a shamisen player - ended up cancelling their appearances at the last minute this year due to swine flu concerns.)

In this fixation on being noticed and acknowledged that the con-going geeks have, you'd almost think that this sort of event would conceptually be an ideal nerd mating ground of some sorts, if not for how awkward everybody is.

While we waited, some other guy with dyed spiked hair ended up approaching us and specifically asking me if I'd been on American Idol. Of course, I haven't - I don't even sing. I have a pretty terrible singing voice, though I'd like to get back into music again someday. Oddly enough, this isn't the first time I'd been mistaken for someone on American Idol, as when I was getting a hepatitis vaccination that I was overdue for at my university's student health center a few years ago in preparation for a study abroad trip to Japan that fell through, a nurse working there somehow mistook me for Bo Bice of all people. I usually grow my hair out, yes, and I often let myself get a little scruffy, but I couldn't really see the resemblance. Not exactly keen on "southern rock" myself, anyway - I'm more of an indie pop rock/shoegaze kinda guy. Suffice to say, this guy kind of weirded me out too, and before we headed in to start the panel, he basically forced a similarly confused friend who had no idea what was going on to take his picture standing next to me, since he kept going on about how he was convinced that I was famous. When I told his friend I had no idea what was going on, he said he was just as clueless. Naturally, I made a disturbed face. For such a short amount of time spent there, that was one of the strangest encounters I've had at an anime con yet - and those things are havens for the strange to begin with. I'm kind of inclined to think he was trying to pull some kind of nonsensical prank that didn't really go anywhere, but I didn't get that sense at any point, and I'm usually good at intuiting these things. I'm not sure if it's good to have a face that stands out or not, in the grand scheme of things - if I have to be remotely famous for anything, I'd rather it just be my writing, and at this point, I'm nothing but extremely obscure at best in that regard.

After getting into the room late, we ended up taking another 10-15 minutes to set up. Out of the thousand-plus attendees, only around 20 showed up for the panel: a mix of college age students, older attendees/parents, and a very few high school kids. About the sort of mix you'd expect of the tiny minority of anime con-goers actually interested in cultural (As opposed to simply pop cultural) and arts-and-crafts type events. Despite some setbacks, the panel was a success, overall - everyone got to dye a piece of fabric with their own design and take them home with them to wash. In the end, it seemed to be a successful, universally enjoyed panel. As it drew to a close, I got to enjoy being mistaken by one of the older women in attendance for someone high school aged (Probably another reason why women don't tend to acknowledge my existence much to begin with - when I bother to shave, I basically shave off a good 8-9 years and look like a kid.), shocking both her and a college student there when I pointed out that I'd been finished with school (Even after five years of college) for well over a year now. It turned out that said college student was finishing up the same Asian-focused International Studies degree I had at my alma mater, UNC-Charlotte, so she and I spent a little bit talking about the Japanese program and some of the International Studies professors there, with a mix of anecdotes and gripes.

We only had about an hour or so to do the panel, and after setting up, I spent the whole time sitting on a table behind the attendees filming a good bit of the panel, killing my arms trying to keep the lightweight camera steady and killing my back in there being nowhere to sit down with any kind of support for my back, after standing up for hours on end. (A typical problem when attending the convention in each of its past locations as well, back in the North Raleigh Hilton from '98 through 2000 and the Imperial Sheraton Hotel out in Durham from 2001 through 2008. Too much standing up, never enough places to sit down with good back support - you always end up stiff and sore after a long weekend at these cons.)

We cleaned up after the panel and hit the Dealer's Room for about an hour and a half - I picked up an import copy of Taiko no Tatsujin DS, an excellent and innovative touchscreen taiko drum-based music game, Japanese music games being amongst the easiest to get into for the non-fluent with limited knowledge required to fully enjoy the gameplay - most of which amounted to waiting around while my mother talked to various people. She ran into one of her old students from her Japanese classes she's taught over the years at a local high school who recently returned from Japan - when she and I were introduced, we didn't have much to talk about, since were strangers, of course, though we'd gone to the same high school - and saw one or two others. Then she ended up caught up in conversation with a Japanese import dealer selling kimonos, masks, koi no bori-like bags, and other little interesting things, and made a connection that could eventually lead to their selling her work as well, since they were interested in her shibori panel but had been unable to attend. So out of all that, I also got the experience of hanging out with a vendor in the dealer's room behind their table for probably about an hour while they discussed kimonos, importing, shibori, and more.

When we finally headed out around 3 PM when all was said and done, my mother bought me an ice cream cone from a street vendor parked outside, the con being an absolutely ideal place to set up outside this weekend, in thanks for my patience. She had an important morning and afternoon both as a local artist and teacher, and while I didn't do a tremendous amount - not nearly as much as I would have if I were hanging out with friends as usual - it was nice to be there to witness all that and help her out with the panel. I like to think of it as a "good son" day, something to ideally make up for what a pain in the ass I know I was to my parents back in my adolescence. At least as an adult, I've figured out the importance of having a good relationship with one's parents, so things have generally been much better since those days, even if I'm still technically a freeloader with no idea when I'm finally going to be able to leave the nest, so to speak. (Though I'd hope that iPhone game and novel publishing might potentially lead to some kind of demand for my writing - assuming people actually end up enjoying what I write - that could open some doors to making a little money and getting out of the south.)

After returning home, I took a nap for a few hours and had a late dinner. What little I saw of and participated in of the con this year still amounted to some new and different perspectives on things. If my friends weren't so scattered, I would've loved to have attended with them, and I definitely hope to go back and attend as press again in the future to do some more coverage and make good memories with friends there again. (I didn't even get to go to Anime Hell this year, for the first time in probably something like 8 years, and I've always loved that event in all the weird international and retro commercials, cartoons, and so forth that they manage to dig up on the internet.) It's nice to see the con continuing to grow in a new, bigger location, and I wish all of them running it the best of luck with continuing it. I've got no idea if I'll be going again next year after I hadn't even planned to attend this year, but I suppose only time and various other factors will tell. Either way, the convention's played an important part of my nerdy youth, and even though I'm not quite as much of an otaku as I used to be - not that I can deny still being one with my ever-growing huge game collection and the fact that I still watch and write about anime, the subculture, and industry, so I guess you can technically say I've "matured" some as an otaku, anyway - I want to see more conventions all over the east coast and country as time continues to move forward, and ideally see my friends at more of them if I can. As we continue to scatter around the world, special planned weekend events like this may increasingly become our only means of seeing each other in person every once in a blue moon, after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Elusive Concept of "Home"

The Blue Marble, Earth as seen from Apollo 17.What exactly is a "home?" What does it mean for someplace to be "home?" What do these concepts mean to you? Growing up, these are questions everyone has to face at some point or another.

Ideally, home is somewhere you'd feel as though you belong. Somewhere you feel "in place," somewhere you can relate to. I've lived here in North Carolina for about 15 years now as of sometime in the next few days, and to me, it's never really been "home."

In many ways, as an American, I've always been fairly culturally displaced. I'm a born Baltimorean, but I'm not really a Baltimorean or Marylander in any meaningful sense, having left the city and state within months of my birth. I've only been back once briefly since then, after I graduated from high school, and as much as I enjoyed what little time I spent there then, I still have no real cultural attachment to the place. The part of my childhood that I enjoyed was spent in Cincinnati. But despite that, I can't really say that I'm really an Ohioan or Midwesterner, either, having left at age ten. I haven't been too far north, but I absolutely enjoyed what little time I've spent in New York City and I'm dying to see more of it as an adult, and I'm interested in Boston as well. But ultimately, I'm not an authentic northerner. And after spending 15 years in North Carolina, between Raleigh and going to college in Charlotte, I can honestly say that I don't connect at all with southern culture, and in general, I'm completely out of place down here.

This is something I have been acutely aware of since within my first year living here. It's always been too hot for me, the political climate is not to my taste - I only became more aware of that as I got more into politics as I grew older - and even in my first year living here, it was made painfully aware to me by my peers that I'm out of place here, that I don't belong, that I'm an other. I always had that sense, and in many regards, it's a part of who I am now, for better or worse. At least as I grew older, in realizing how much I dislike of southern culture, being an other here started to seem like much less of a bad thing, as I'd rather not be a part of all this in many ways.

I can remember realizing how different kids were here from those I knew in Cincinnati, how different people's attitudes were, how differently people raised their kids. I remember being scolded for not layering my manner of speech with "sir" and "ma'am" as so to constantly defer to the adults around me, having lived in a more casual environment in Ohio. And I remember being disgusted with how two-faced and rotten so many people were. Don't get me wrong, kids in Cincinnati were plenty crude too, but at least we were open and honest about it. So many more people were set on crafting this "sweet" image to endear themselves to adults as so to manipulate them, while they were largely absolutely unpleasant people to be around as soon as there wasn't a teacher or adult in earshot. They were disingenuous. And there was no lack of people talking dirt about one another behind each other's backs. Dealing with so much bullshit from people personally and witnessing how rotten and manipulative so many kids my age were to each other upon first moving here - on top of being irritated with how artificial the forced all the additional expected 'polite' speech was - came as an awakening to me in many regards. The rottenness of human beings was nothing unknown to me at that point, but said rottenness and open deceitfulness only hit new levels in North Carolina. And it's roughly there, at only ten years old, that the seeds of my misanthropy were ultimately planted.

Now it's late May, and just about everyone else I know is graduating now. My younger brother, younger friends on Facebook. And as a result, I'm definitely feeling old. I wanted to be out of this part of the country by now, but a million factors are getting in the way of that, and I haven't exactly accomplished remotely as much as I wanted to have by late spring 2009. Initial plans and intentions behind what I wanted to say with my first novel - and when I wanted to say it by - are effectively derailed on some level. I'm still going to go through with what I intend to say, delayed and regardless hopeless though it is. This is all part of the process, life never goes as planned.

It's hard to believe it's been over two years since I finished writing my senior thesis already. And since then, I've already completed a personal writing project in my first novel over 10 times my senior thesis' length. (Easier to do with fiction in not having to frequently stop to make citations.)

Grad school efforts went nowhere. I'm not sure if I'll try again, I'm not sure if I'd have any more of a shot if I kept trying, or if it's all essentially futile, objectively speaking. I don't have an English degree to begin with, after all - that seems to lead to others making a jump to the assumption that I can only be an incompetent writer. That in itself is frustrating.

At this point, I'm still hoping to make my way to the northeast, largely because it's always appealed to me. But nothing really changes that I'm culturally displaced - I'm not really northern, southern, Midwestern, or any of that. I can't stand southern culture and don't connect with it at all, but both northern and Midwestern cultures are largely alien to me as well. I feel like jellyfish, drifting about and belonging nowhere, a part of no culture. An outsider no matter where I go and what I do. I don't see a day coming where I'll suddenly just transition over from "awkward guy banging out weird musings on the internet writing strange novels" to "successful, respected author." I think if I ever do manage to make it to the latter, I'll still feel like the former. (Probably for the best that I not allow any potential success to go to my head anyway. I was only just published for the first time last year as is, and I have an astronomical ways to go if I'm ever to achieve any real measure of my high aspirations.)

No guarantee that things will suddenly improve in the northeast either, being rather isolated and alone no matter where I am, in part because of the very nature of my personality. I've always been something of the lone wolf type who doesn't make friends easily and doesn't push himself to do so, not wanting said friendships to be forced and artificial. It's part of this idealistic search for authenticity in the human experience, in existence itself - personal sacrifices have to be made in this search.

And yet here I am now, halfway to thirty already and still living at home with my family with no idea when I'm finally going to get out of here, and no idea where I'm going to end up, let alone what all I may end up doing to support myself. (Ideally some kind of satisfying writing, since it's hard to say if my dream of being a full-time creative writer is even realistically achievable.) All while quietly juggling numerous writing projects, the majority of which may likely never see the light of day in any form, whether novels, short stories, game design concepts, comedy sketches, or small scale show ideas. (Mostly web TV oriented stuff, a field in which I also have no real connections, nor any idea whether any of that sort of thing is profitable to begin with.) Watching my younger brother and most of my younger friends on Facebook all graduating right around now, all of them off to accomplish far more than I have in the year and a half since I graduated in no time (Even with the economy a wreck and job opportunities extremely limited at best these days, which only makes it harder to start a life of one's own after graduation these days.), it's hard not to reflect on these things.

This is a strange age to be, and it's frustrating having accomplished so little at this point - all I can do is just keep at my projects, try to keep myself sane with hobbies, and hope I'll have a legitimate shot at finding an agent within this year or the next and perhaps finally getting my first novel published, at last going from aspiring novelist to actual, published novelist. If I can manage that much, it's a meaningful, authentic step forward, at least - something to give worth to these years of unaccomplishment and failure, though I know I'll likely be faced with even more failure in the future, in all sorts of manners. I don't know if I'll ever succeed in finding any sort of authentic "home" for myself anywhere in the world in my lifetime. All I can hope at this point is that I'll have begun that search by the time I begin to face all the inevitable failures - love included, of course, in part of the intention behind this first novel, though I'm not stranger to that sort of failure anyway, this'll just be a new variety of that - I'll be out there somewhere, beginning that search for somewhere to belong in this galaxy in some sense. In the least, I'd like to be out of the south by then.

(Hey, at least I didn't write about death this time. Another short entry or two are coming later this week, as well!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Sun is Your Enemy, You Realize

This may come as a shock to you, but it shouldn't.

Sol, taiyou, tài yáng, the sun. All names used to identify the yellow dwarf star at the center of our solar system. (Even the term solar system itself was derived from the star's original Latin name!) Sure, we rely on the sun for far more on a daily basis than any mere blog post could cover, and it could be reasonably argued that we wouldn't exist if not for the sun. But the truth is - you know it as well as I do - the sun is our enemy.

Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carinoma, Melanoma. The three most common types of skin cancer. For much of human history, the sun has waged war with our very existence as a species through all forms of this particular cancer - largely suffered as a result of excessive exposure to the sun and the resulting DNA damage. Granted, skin cancer can generally be prevented through proper use of sunblock and efforts to avoid exposure to an excess of ultraviolet light. But then, we human beings are creatures of excess. We love to go outside and bake ourselves in the sunlight until we're extra crispy (Sometimes applying a secret recipe of 11 different herbs and spices for flavor), and to generally absorb every bit of the sun's rays we can. Bad idea. Perhaps, to the sun, we are the cancer.

But that's not the main focus of this post.

Last summer, director M. Night Shyamalan released yet another terrible film, The Happening, which focused on tree gas turning off the one chemical in the human brain that disabled our innate natural desire to immediately kill ourselves at all times. Because we've got a long ways to go in creating a more environmentally friendly society. Good message, terrible movie, terrible neuroscience, terrible basic concept. (If you want to make a good movie about nature taking revenge on humanity, it needs to be more of a modern day battle of Isengard from the Lord of the Rings - yes, trees uprooting themselves, walking into our cities, and beating the everloving crap out of everything. That would be a phenomenal terrible movie. (Note: As of my writing this, I'm staking my claim on this premise as my own intellectual property now. Take that, internet script thieves! You'll never have my idea that will never be made into an actual movie now!))

In reality, studies have recently indicated that excessive sunlight can increase risk of suicide - particularly as a result of the insomnia resulting from long summer days in countries like Greenland, where the sun doesn't set at all between the end of April and the end of August in parts of the country.

People like sunlight, and most tend to prefer it to the darkness of night. As such, it's a commonly held belief that suicide rates rise during fall and winter as a result of the lengthening of night and the coldness of its darkness. Constant sunlight like Greenland suffers for a significant portion of each year interferes with natural circadian rhythms. And sleep deprivation can easily wreck anyone's mental health.

When distressed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a quick fix more effective than suicide. By WHO measures, 877,000 people commit suicide every year. And for each of these deaths, 10-40 attempts are made. Puts things into perspective in regards to just how many people look for a way out each year, no?

Scientists have previously linked sleep disturbance with suicidal tendencies in adolescents and people with psychiatric disorders, though no clear findings have been made linking these issues all the way to the general populace. (Yet.)

A team of Swedish scientists studied the seasonal variation of suicides in Greenland from 1968 to 2002 and discovered that suicides tended to notably cluster in the summer - especially in the north, where the populace suffers through the aforementioned three months of incessant sunlight. Said suicides make up 82% of the yearly suicides in that region, are usually committed by young men, and are almost exclusively violent, including: shooting, hanging, and jumping from high places. These deaths accounted for nearly 95% of suicides at that time of the year.

Neuroscientific speculation is that the excessive sunlight exposure creates an imbalance in serotonin - a brain chemical linked to mood - which could lead to impulsiveness that, when paired with severe sleep deprivation, could lead to suicidal behavior. But in this case, light itself seems to just be one of many affecting factors in the tragic circumstances of suicide.

So yes, while the sun can technically be your friend and healthy for you - we all need Vitamin D, after all - it's still our enemy. We need the sun to live and maintain our health, but that which sustains us can also destroy us. Be wary of the Deathsphere! Always be wary. And wear lots of sunblock. Tanning doesn't really seem to be a good idea, either, from the health perspective. No matter how much you may like the extra color.

Yes, I'm positive you guys were just dying for another consecutive death-themed post. I'll try to find a different topic for the next one. (And try to post a bit more often again soon.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This is the End, My Only Friend, The End

Shamelessly stolen from NatalieDee.comMay has arrived, time flying by as quickly as ever, and here we are - my 100th blog post here on Spiral Reverie. Yes, there's nothing else of merit to discuss, nothing else going on in the world, and nothing else of real import ever happening in May.

Except for that, to estimate conservatively, we're all going to die. Me, you, ALL OF US. Because what better theme could there be for a 100th entry than a discussion of our approaching demise? There's no avoiding it, you know.

So let's find ways to cope with the imminent arrival of the reaper, who will soon wipe out all human life on Earth! (To be clear, yes, I'm talking about the pig bug everyone's afraid of. Which also happens to actually be killing some people. Which obviously only makes it an even riper subject for comical discussion.)

We're all going to die. How does that make you feel? You might consider seeing a therapist to learn the best methods to cope with these trying times, in which most people who contract the H1N1 recover just fine, almost as though this particular strain wasn't much more debilitating then the usual influenza viruses we're used to. (Shocking!) If a therapist's too much, as may well be for most in these financial crunch times, a paper bag's just as good. You can breathe into it during panic attacks. You might consider drawing a smiley face on it somewhere - ideally upside down so you could see it as you inflate the bag with your panicked exhalations - so it's kind of like seeing a therapist, or at least getting a supportive pat on the back. (Despite the fact that it is neither and you're probably dying alone.)

Nothing better to do than panic over your inevitable doom? There are better hobbies out there than wallowing in the anxiety of existential crises. Like Chinese checkers. Have you tried Chinese checkers yet? No? Yes? If that doesn't work, I'm out of suggestions.

So now you've sunk into a bottomless pit of despair. This is not my fault. You were the one looking to the "blogosphere" for relief. Since when has the internet ever been good for anything like that? Even the stock market has abandoned you. (But pork bellies seemed like a sure thing! YOU WERE WRONG.)

With nothing left but to resign yourself to the cold, unloving embrace of oblivion, what can you do? You could always keep calm like a rational adult, wash your hands, and maybe try to avoid getting coughed on by people in public. (Going out of your way to have that happen is an example of a hobby you might want not to pursue.) If all else fails, trying being too fast for it to catch you. It's possible, you know, to outrun germs. They don't want you to know that.

Sorry for the delay on this one, everybody - trying to keep myself motivated while juggling other projects still. I know this was technically about a week late, given that last week was pretty much the prime time for swine flu panic comedy.