Monday, March 29, 2010

Primordial and Elemental

Pretty much finished the V7 SS Actor's Guide over the weekend and I'm moving quickly on to the Tome Arcane. Hopefully I can kill that project mid-week and put a deep dent in the gear book. Might even cheat a little over the weekend and finish... if I can pry myself away from my iPad.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Being Strangled

Hit me last night. Like a right hand pressing against my throat with the thumb up against my windpipe. Doesn't hurt, but it is uncomfortable to swallow and somewhat disconcerting. Needless to say I was freaking out, and to some degree, I guess I still am. This feeling of being strangled is very real, but when I had the doctor look in my ears, mouth, and feel my throat up down, from the back, side to side, etcetera, he could find nothing wrong.

I told him I was feeling anxious about the whole thing. When he looked at my medical history he saw that I'd seen their family practitioner for anxiety back in July. Told me what I was feeling is textbook for a panic attack. Now I'm sitting at home with a brand new bottle of Celexa wondering if this truly is all in my head. I'd almost prefer a gigantic tumor squeezing in to block off my windpipe, at least you can do something about that.

I've tried so long to manage my anxiety without pills but if my heart rate and general freakiness isn't a good indicator of my condition, I don't know what is. I've known for a month that I was on a slippery slope. Cranky and impatient with my friends, angry for no reason, anxious and worried about everything, but all this just seems normal to me. Now I'm taking pills I really don't want to take just to find out if it really is all in my head or if there is a tumor trying to strangle me.

Either way, my chest hurts now, just like after and during one of my old panic attacks and I've got acid reflux which could explain my throat too. I don't like anything that has to do with my neck. Neckties, turtle necks, etc really make me anxious, and that's what this feels like... a necktie put on too tight... but I can't take it off.

I'll take half of one of these pills, see what happens.

I've got to keep working regardless. I feel tired today but every moment I rest only seems to make me worse. I'm down to counting the minutes of every day I work and the number of words I write. While I'm piling on the pressure to perform, I'm falling apart, freaking out, and showing physical signs of my poor mental hygiene... again. Why am I so weak in spite of trying so hard to be strong... none of this should be getting in my way but the harder I push the more it pushes back.

Two hours of messing around with the Doctor and getting my medication, gone forever. Time I could have been writing, lost in the miasma of this personal conflict.


All right. I think I'm done whining. Back to work.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Initial Inclination

I made a joke about becoming a bitter 30-something to a friend the other day. It was in response to the complexity that so many people our age assign their lives, myself included. We cannot be content to sit in a converted garage writing without worrying that we'll become a recluse. We cannot gather with only the usual measure of people, work a regular job, or have normal lives. All our best intentions seem to be for naught.

The wounds of the world put into some strange context when I think about the duration of a lifetime and how truly short it is. That you could line the lifetimes of just 25 or so people together and lay down a duration that would put you somewhere in the time of Christ or the Roman Empire. The events that have shaped the world even two-thousand years ago are fresh on the world and the fullness of mankind's presence in the world is barely a breath in the full span of the earth. I love making myself feel small, my clothes fit better.

I got a fortune cookie once that said, 'keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows'. This is generally the attitude of most people wandering about the planet, endlessly optimistic, and blindly so. I envy them. In the wake of all that has been wrought in the world radiating out from my own circle of social influence to a worldwide scale all seems to be in great turmoil. I've had this very strong sense that this year will be different from any other I have lived, that the position of magnetic North in the landscape of my life and the world surrounding it will change somehow forever.

Every word I write taking me closer to my goal gives me a greater and greater sense of why people write. The presence of my own works acts like a small library of thoughts, quotes, stories, and ideas. The stuff of my mind slowly filling manilla file folders, moleskin notebooks, and hard drive space. Not a whole lot of it is even that good and will likely languish wherever it got filed, lost to the haze that is my arcane creative process... a pity and a present when I find the patience to go back through my own works. It is amazing how often I will have rewritten something a dozen or more times and in the aftermath... go with my initial inclination. Such is the way of things.

Both my journal and my blog entries have become a strange walk through the metaphysical and ethical murk of my everyday life creeping into my thoughts and therefore my writing. It isn't for my own well being that I have found myself contemplating the obscure notions of the human condition, the motives for our triumph and folly. I would like to think myself altruistic to seek out these things to aid others but the truth isn't that simple by a long shot. To merely know would be enough I think, but why settle for the minimum experience.


Feelings are indefensible and vulnerable to the complexities of Belief. Belief can change and adapt but feelings are inviolable often setting up like so much emotional concrete, the walls that would prevent all compromise. Neither weathers the scrutiny of reason without relying heavily in the defense that can be granted by cold logic. There is no logic without either the abandonment of emotion or the constant questioning of all belief, or both. The byproduct of ignoring our given capacity to reason is often the pain of powerlessness. Yet this is preferable to so many because the process of setting our own emotions aside, questioning our own beliefs, and seeking a higher understanding of ourselves... is often just as painful.

It is a pain we relive and endure many times over as we shrug off complacency or seek to be burned by a keen understanding of our fragile condition.

I would have it no other way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Human Machine

Like a misdirected machine it is pretty easy for a human to get stuck exercising a particular function, unable to change course, running continually into the wall until momentum and gravity bring it crashing down. I see this quality in everyone I know, within myself, and society as a whole. I wince every single time I see it.

False Epiphany -> Pattern of Familiar Actions -> Terminate

My already beautiful wife came to me this morning and told me how she was going to change her habits to lose some weight. I listened as she went through the same steps she intended to take as the previous half dozen or so incarnations of her plan. Instead of being supportive like I usually was, I took the road no man should ever take with his wife.

"How is this different from the last ten times you've told me this was your plan, and what makes you think it is sustainable this time?"

Hoo boy, that went over well. Every logical argument falls flat when you've gone and made your wife cry.

People prefer to fail than succeed. I've seen people merrily destroy situations where they had a good thing, and in the same moment protest violently anyone disrupting their daily ritual of self-destruction. Want to permanently damage your relationship with someone? Provide someone a logical argument as to why they should stop doing A, give B a try, and explore C.

Where A = something that provides the person no tangible benefit, which wastes time or resources, or puts that person further from their professed goals in life.

Where B = something that will provide them real benefit to his or her goals, requires hard work and accountability for ones actions.

Where C = a noble sidecar to their endeavors to grant them both clarity and a back up plan should the resources for B run out or become unavailable.

What I've learned is that even though we were born to this earth in enough numbers to make use of each other's wisdom, this rarely, if ever occurs. Most people can't implement any sort of plan that will enable them in life... unless they themselves thought of it first. The pain of admitting you can't do anything on your own seems to be this impossible mountain only the humble are willing to climb.

Even the people in my life who have reached a masterful level of constructive humility still take a great deal of pride in being self-reliant.

I listen and read all I can stand of people who want things to be different and firmly believe there is some magical combination of elements applied to one's life that will make it so. People seek happiness like it was some unattainable goal while refining to a razor's edge the repetitive behaviors that continue to doom them to the same set of circumstances day after day. They never challenge their relationships with their friends, family, or the world at large. They cannot resolve to try something new every day.

I have the desire but little in the way of means to escape these circumstances in my own life. It feels like I've been writing, drawing, and seeking the approval of others since I was in the second grade and my hands would finally work well enough to operate a pencil. I mourn having been born with a crippling learning disability... that admittedly no one but me can detect. I've gotten so good at hiding my dyslexia both visual and somatic that I can limp through most situations none the wiser.

It's like trying to control a stutter. Whenever I sit down to read something allowed during one of my tables or workshops it takes every brain cell I have to read a paragraph without misreading what my eyes are seeing. Forcing my brain to interpret the data without transposing the letters and words into gibberish. Everything I do is a strange cycle of preparation to just write those few pages I can manage each day for my books and projects.

Having trained my mind to detect my own skewed perception of everything and compensate is a boon only when I have the strength to effect change. Viewing the world through these smoked lenses affords me a strange view of human weakness, my own and that harbored by others. I get it in equal parts, those people that disclose to me for a brutal assessment of their affairs and those who avoid that discussion with me at all costs.

Some of my own destructive cycle... giving advice, knowing it will be ignored.

My status on Facebook not too long ago read '... wants things to be different.'

Set up a schedule using the iCal program on my Mac so that I could better manage my time and improve my productivity. I have my work hours listed, my tables and workshops, and so forth. I check it every night and rest easier knowing I've applied some measure of order to my existence. In the aftermath, I look at this and marvel at just how flawed this logic is. In making this schedule I've doomed myself to a sort of personal failure. My own private cycle of creating unrealistic expectations for endeavors that rely on the state of my mind to stay constant from day to day.

There are days where I can write for twelve hours without losing my creative focus, while keeping my dyslexia, general anxiety disorder, and depression in check. There are others where I get five hours of productivity, before the murk of being me sets in... if I'm lucky. Both scenarios rely on a set of unknowable variables and cannot be predicted or produced at will. I know this all too well, and yet I continually set myself up for failure in the most well thought out and organized manner possible.

I want things to be different. I'm just not sure how to get there yet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ethical Revenge

The human condition is tuned to the ideal of Justice. As an ideal it exists without the benefit of man or Gods, and yet no virtue has been more skewed or corrupted. Every attempt to be an ethical creature brings the need for a reassessment of one's own interpretation of Justice and the measure of discretion a person has to apply it. Within our own power, we generally have very little real power in this regard, Justice often applying itself like any logical conclusion.

Some laws are inviolable, no matter how much human hubris would attempt to suggest otherwise.

The power to hate another human being doesn't grant you any real power, but it certainly takes power to persist in that same regard. It is a lie we have to tell to ourselves over and over, varying and adding to the story each time, otherwise the notion will eventually die with time and distance. It takes real stamina or a greatly eroded degree of mental hygiene to walk the slow road required to perpetuate hatred.

A social barb that is so easily deflected.

The Christian ideal of altruism suggests that we love such people, turn the other cheek, and so forth. I believe the best way to spite such people is to utterly fail to reciprocate in any way and just live well in spite of their desire to see you harmed or sorrowful. Enjoy the sunny day even as people wish for rain to fall on you. You haven't wasted any emotional resources on them, while they have wasted their energy, and you've done what you should do everyday anyway... you lived well.

No man is an island.

Our own emotional ecosystems consume our energy, produce an environment, and create some measure of waste. It isn't within this concept that we find the means to relate to other people, that's easy enough provided the natural state of being a human being. However, it is that same concept which provides the unfortunate circumstances that prevent meaningful interaction. The exhaust that comes from our own emotional machine is an inevitability. Our emotions are a powerful vehicle to go places, good, bad, or necessary. When I see someone blowing a lot of smoke, it relates directly to the efficiency of their own emotional engine, or lack thereof.

Then you have all the people who claim to be hybrids, running partially on faith, their own rigid ideology, or Red Bull. People are so much more chemical than they realize, and the perception of some sort of balance on the basis of attitude is just so much personal obfuscation. There is no magical combination of elements that unlocks our own personal potential. It is always a clumsy imperfect process of stumbling, everything we do plagued by doubt, hoping no one looks hard enough at us to notice. Some of us sport a better paint job than others.

To further that analogy, my own emotional engine isn't that different from the one I drive around town. Really inefficient, blows a lot of smoke until it warms up, soft and comfy on the inside, faded and beat up on the outside. Yeah, I forgot to feed my high horse and it ended up dying.


Monday, March 15, 2010

SS RPG 5th... err 7th Edition

Whenever I do a revision of my writing aid, I go back through all the versions of it. For some reason I was under the delusion that I was working on a 5th edition of the project. While not totally inaccurate, I found two separate directories on a backup drive each containing two dozen documents each detailing versions of Storytelling Sciences that never found their way to print. One version is circa 2005, falling somewhere previous to any play testing, while the files in the other are time stamped 2007.

Looking through the files I can see the merits of both and could see why they never made print. Each version lacked something that the other had. I'm not sure why I abandoned these documents of the project and I only dimly remember writing them. Reading back through them, it is definitely my work, stuff I haven't thought about for a long time. Reading back through it makes me remorseful that I haven't been working with everything I'd written being taken into consideration.

My own rules generally cut me off after a 5th edit, but these are special circumstances. In the wake of working on my Novel, I'd really lost all steam for my RPG until I found these old documents. In a way I'm glad I did, I owe it to the people who warm seats at one of my three tables to deliver a better experience. Needless to say the eight pages I wrote this morning are a significant departure from the last three versions I put in people's hands. It is light and very stylish, making the Actor's handbook a pretty thin product. Taking the obscurity out of the mechanical architecture behind the skills, while matching mechanics to levels helps to eliminate the charts and graphs, giving the system an intuitive feel.

I can't wait to rework my D&E, Primordium, and Apotheosis story settings.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art's iPad Buyer's Guide

By now there are probably a hundred guides for buying the iPad online. Each with their own opinion about which iPad you should buy. Now there's one hundred and one. If you plan on buying an iPad you really only have two choices to make:

1. Storage?

They make a 16 GB, 32 GB, and a 64 GB version.

For me the decision was easy. I looked at my iPod Touch and discovered that I have 28.3 GB used of the 64GB available. By the time I load Pages on there and the full volume of all I've written, I'll be creeping up on 32 GB, leaving me with little wiggle room... unless I get the 64 GB version.

What if you don't have an iPod touch to gauge your potential usage?

16 GB - Plenty for the casual user that wants to store Apps, associated data, and a decent sized music library.

32 GB - If you have an iPhoto library, and a few movies you bought on iTunes in addition to everything else, this is probably the size to go for.

64 GB - You are a filthy media junky that wants to store an obscene amount of music, movies, apps, documents, and podcasts.

2. WiFi or WiFi + 3G?

Do you have a smart phone?

Yes - Get a WiFi version.

No - Get a WiFi + 3G version.

Obviously, the few of us that buy one of these silly things will likely get whatever we can afford, but this was basically my thought process.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Setting Fire to the Apple Cart

A lot of people are angry because Apple regulates and censors the content published in their App store. They have labeled Apple an attacker on free speech, and worse, a proponent of censorship. Reading Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz's article on the subject only affirms my suspicion, most people who write tech are stupid.

"How Apple can force Bild to change their editorial content?" - from Mr. Diaz's Article

The app store isn't public property. It is a service that Apple maintains on their own dime, and from everything I've read, they do a little better than break even. Say yourent out a place where you have a billboard on the roof advertising a legitimate business or service. Are you going to let people shoot porn in the apartment right below it? It's like going into Best Buy and making a complaint to the Manager because they didn't have hardcore porn on the shelves with the other DVDs.

Mr. Diaz goes on to suggest that Apple might choose to censor news delivered via Apps sold or distributed on the App Store. That this would be bad. They'd be abusing their monopoly-like power in this regard. Last I checked, there was still TV, Radio, and a little thing called the Internet where people can get their news. Using a little basic math one can quickly deduce the relative number of people who use the App store as their sole source of getting news and information.

Bet I could count those people on one hand.

"There are plenty of applications that have been deemed blasphemous or offensive by Apple, and banned from publication. Would publications showing a caricature of Prophet Mohamed be taken down as well?" - more from Mr. Diaz's Article

It is clear by this point in the article ( I use the term loosely) that Mr. Diaz believes the App Store is public domain. If Apple truly held these views and was out to squelch anything potentially offensive being peddled from something they operated... I wouldn't have been able to buy those two Cannibal Corpse albums last week from the iTunes store.

If someone told me what I could and couldn't do with my lawfully maintained publicly traded business, I'd do whatever I could to spite them. I'd also engage in a level of obfuscation through an appearance of being arbitrary just to frustrate them. To top it all off, I'd be richer and more successful than the people complaining about me.

Steve Jobs you're doing it right.

People have virtually every other medium and market place in the world to peddle free speech and pornography. If Apple doesn't want to allow their property to become one more place for people to peddle their ignorance and smut, I'm strangely cool with that. From every indication Apple want's to do better than a little better than breaking even selling content for their new iPad. They took a stiff broom to the showroom floor before hand to make sure they were ready to enter the market with as little liability as possible.

That this concept is confusing to so many people in the tech industry baffles and amuses me at the same time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dungeons & Dragons

The game has a sort of enduring quality about it. I'd always wondered at how something that was so obviously a waste of time managed to continue to commercially succeed. I hadn't really given it much thought until this morning.

Y'know those "get to know your Friends" app games on Facebook? They utterly fail to enlighten me about the people I hang out with when compared to sitting at a Dungeons and Dragons table. Can you really tell a lot about a person by whether they decide to be an Elf or a Gnome, a Fighter as opposed to a Paladin? Not really. What about Alignment? Is the person who chooses to play Neutral Evil and the person who plays Chaotic Good saying anything about the person they truly are inside? Nope.

The people who play multi-class or dual-class characters? Getting warmer I think.

Leaders and Followers? Sure, any social situation will root out those people whether it's a Super Bowl Party or the original Undermountain Module.

Imagination? Duh. Obviously someone who is a sinking pit of banality would have no use for such a diversion.

Like no other diversion, Dungeons and Dragons showcases a person's ability to be humble. They spend a great deal of time developing a precious character, that is to take part in the story, and be entirely at the mercy of a single potentially angry Dungeon Master. People who lack humility are far and away the most difficult people to have at a D&D table. The twin sister to humility is clarity, especially as it relates to one's self.

No one who lacks great personal clarity will be able to suspend their own belief either as a Player or a Dungeon Master and play the game well. When I rate myself in either role, the moments where I saw myself most clearly was when I was able to best pretend to be someone else with the greatest skill. This made me ponder the part of Dungeons and Dragons I like best. Storytelling!

Far and away, the best stories I've ever told, came from a mindset that was humble to an audience who likewise possessed a similar clarity. That feeling of wellbeing seems to amplify to all involved in ways that really dispel why humans gathered around campfires telling stories to begin with. Really there was never any true doubt to the motives for storytelling, but I spent a long time being blind to the truest benefit.

As fun and colorful as online games can be, they utterly lack the human closeness that comes with building the warmth of a good story, around the fire of even better friends.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mobile Computing Main Event

The world of computing will change forever this year.

It won't be the iPad, or any other single device that evokes this change, it'll be the people who use them. It isn't the thought that I could have my highly anticipated best seller, magazine and comic book subscriptions, games, email, web content, and personal files all delivered and stored to a single device that weighs less than a couple of pounds. It has nothing to do with the fact that these devices are 25% of what my first Laptop cost ten years ago.

For the first time (ever), the mobile computing industry has no clue what people want and lacks the market share or brand power to dictate to the masses what they should buy. So, the tech sector is frenetically spewing out devices and operating systems in a mad grab for market share? Nope, they do it just to stay relevant. No longer are people buying these devices just because "It's a Sony". They are buying them on the basis of what they do, how much they cost, and whether you can get nifty accessories for them. Can it be jailbroken and hacked for maximum customization? It better.

The mobile computing industry has always created an illusion that the consumer controlled the market. Seeing the lies they've been telling for so long suddenly come true, blowing up in their faces... quite simply rocks. Watching Sony, Asus, Amazon, Apple, Google, HP, Dell, and a host of others slug it out for a share of the market like a pack of rabid animals scrounging for table scraps is entertaining in the same sinister way that a train wreck forces you to stare. Even Google and Apple's match made in heaven could not be sustained in the hell comes from these manufacturers all grasping desperately for my (the consumer's) dollar.

People's eyes are so open to the rise of this new technology that even your casual consumer cannot be swayed. In the next 30 days I will likely talk to both of my 80+ year-old grandmothers about which mobile computing device they should procure. They couldn't have picked a better time to buy as the market suddenly gets flooded with more choices than ever before.

A lot of manufacturers are setting their sights on Apple and like any appreciator of violence sitting ringside, I want to see blood and lots of it. I'd like to see the market get so competitive that the big guys blow their war chests suing each other while the little guy develops the next world changing device or software unfettered. I hope HTC kicks Apple's ass in court and the landscape of how technological devices are patented is changed forever... and for the better.

That being said, I can't wait to get my likely flawed, 1st Gen iPad (or 4th Gen iPod touch, opinion pending), that lacks flash, a forward facing camera, and the functionality of a standard OS. It'll feel like I just bought one of Howard Roark's buildings unfettered as they were intended to be built... free of society's opinions and agenda.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In no particular order:

Someone to keep you company.

Having a place to work that's quiet and comfortable.

What is it with me and red anyway?


[Tara, Karen, Andrea, Liz, Brynn, Arthur, Steve, Tom, Mike]

Someone who offers and argument in the defense of something controversial.

I'm sitting just past the six month mark since I decided to start writing to live. I have done so many things in that time I didn't think I would. The other side of the coin? There are a like number of things I expected to have conquered by now... but haven't. I could make all sorts of excuses, but the reality is that the preparation required to write three novels goes far beyond what I thought necessary. I learned something from the whole thing to be sure.

Life is short. I look at how hard I've worked, and what I was able to accomplish in the span six months. The perspective one garners in the wake of such an experience is like... well, staring into the maw of your own mortality. I hope that I grow faster at my craft as time goes on, and that I can quickly finish these three books, and move on to the next endeavor. More to the point, I should probably start thinking about what that will be exactly.

I've really enjoyed writing and drawing my web comic, but I'm horribly self-conscious about my artwork. It might end up being like so many things I write or create, saved to a directory on my backup hard drive and forgotten. Along the same lines, I bought a domain and parked it on my mobile me account as the host. I'm not yet confident enough with Dreamweaver, so I've been building a piddly personal page in iWeb. A place to organize my thoughts relative to my Storytelling Sciences System might be nice... password protected and so forth. I should probably make up my mind about that.

I hope my furniture from IKEA shows up soon. My workspace isn't as comfortable as I like.

Think I'll count my blessings now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Web Comics and Cheese

I wrote story for two 3-panel strips and one 6-panel strip and started drawing the backgrounds for my Chitterling web comic this morning. The whole process (I have no idea what I'm doing) seems simple enough. Draw one layer that acts as the background. Drop a layer over the top of that to sketch in the people and leave some room at the top for text bubbles. The truly difficult part has been how long it takes to tell a story in that medium. Makes you really think about every piece of dialogue, and every word a little more carefully when you can't just roll out ten pages of story in a morning.

I can totally see why it takes the established folks a couple days to a week to draw and post their stuff and why planning ahead would be important. I'm already scheming as to how I can save myself time by pre-drawing various expressions for the different characters, stock backgrounds, and the like. All things considered I think I'll need to figure out some way to host it once I have a few strips drawn.

Thought about just getting a Mobile Me account with Apple and using iWeb to post it until my Dreamweaver skills are a little sharper. Why does drawing always make me hungry?