go postle.

pardon my dust. i'm turning it into glitter.

Hi, I'm Chris. If you subscribe to the MBTI, I'm an INFJ. I put myself through school for a seemingly useless English/Creative Writing degree, but writing is my passion and that's what I want to do when I grow up. Still figuring out what comes next, and pretty much everything else, so I'm feeling kinda adventurous. And yes, that's exactly how my OkCupid profile starts out. Why mess with a good thing, eh?

The site's a work in progress. I'll be adding content over time, and hopefully eventually it'll evolve into something halfway interesting. I'm glad you're still reading, though. Usually by this point I have to show a little skin to keep 'em interested.

Mid-Life Crisis?

       So I've been doing math all day. Yeah, that's been fun. Those who know me at all will probably wonder what the heck is wrong, but before you dial 911, which would otherwise be the appropriate response to such an admission, please rest assured that this activity has been planned in accordance with rational and healthy brain function. Well, more or less. 

       No, I am torturing myself thusly in preparation for the GRE. I have decided to try to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program that I've been sitting on for the last two years and apply to UNC's online MPA program. While the idea has been brewing for ages, I made the final decision yesterday, at which time I discovered that I would have approximately one month to study for and take the GRE in time for scores to be available by the fall application deadline in June.

       While I think I'll have a pretty good handle on the verbal and analytical portions of the exam (but still won't make the mistake of not studying for them), my immediate focus has been, as stated, the maths. Yes, I'm doing my best not to make it the four-letter word that it deserves to be. As it has been six years since I've been in school and approximately ten years since I've had any math classes, the quantitative practice tests I've taken have thoroughly kicked my ass. As in, I couldn't even remember how to add fractions. Yeah. Fucking math. I have, however, found quite an amazing resource in The Khan Academy, which has already been a better math teacher than I've ever had.

       But yeah. An MPA. We'll see if that actually happens. I've always had my eye on not-for-profit work, though, and an MPA would create a whole host of opportunities there and in other public-sector gigs. Like I said -- we'll see. This may all be the product (fucking math) of a mid-life crisis, but for the moment at least it's giving me something to do... even if it is math... ok, maybe you should be a little worried.

Do the math by Deviant Art user Frelly-Is-Kelly. Used  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

And for my next trick...

Community title card, used under fair use for identification and critical commentary.

       So lately I have been quasi-obsessively binge-watching television shows on Netflix (etc.). The most recent has been Community which, after watching all five seasons in the last week and a half, could very well be my new favorite sitcom. It has been a somewhat tragic experience since I knew all along that there were only five seasons, but just now as I was writing this post I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that Yahoo! Screen (of all things) has picked it up for a sixth season (#sixseasonsandamovie). A modicum of faith in humanity restored.

       What I'm getting at, though, is that my escapist nature has been at its finest. Writing? Resolutions for 2014? No idea what you're talking about. Heck, even my most attainable resolution, getting my passport, has been actively deferred. I mean if I'm going to have to carry around that picture for ten years I want it to look damn good! I kept thinking -- just a little more time at the gym. Almost there. Nope, my cheeks are still too chubby -- one more month. So now I've spent way too much on Christmas and this new computer that I'm currently building, and the extra hundred bucks to get a passport is both daunting and a relief (one more month!...).

       To be fair, I have been writing some. Not nearly as much as I want to or should do if I ever want to write my way out of here, but I was able to take off work for my annual writing holiday (October 24th -- it's too nerdy of an explanation) and I've made some solid progress on this damn outline for novel that I've been working on for, oh, about TEN YEARS. Grrr.

       Nothing happening on the whole quest to not die alone. Well, mostly nothing. There is a super-faint spark of hope on the horizon, but it's flickering like crazy lately and he seems hell-bent on this pseudo-self-destructive path of letting it die out in favor of -- I don't know what -- video games? Surely it's not my fault. I'm wonderful.

       And I've just remembered why I don't blog anymore.

A Dark Room.

(Updated 2014.07.20)

       Optimization may be officially dead to me. A bug introduced in the last iOS update has caused the app to freeze on the start screen, rendering it useless until a fix can be made. The ludicrous oversight by the developers (is anything tested anymore?) has made me realize that I don't really miss the tedium of activity-logging and that the benefits were short-lived. In the end, the only thing driving my progress in managing my time better, or at least in making more time for the activities I want to pursue, is simply my will to do so.

       However, while trying to find a fix or explanation in the App Store, I instead stumbled on a little text-based game that has quietly risen the charts. As a fan of the old King's Quest games, I naively had something similar in mind when I forked over the $0.99 to download the game. I had seen the reviews calling it "disturbing", which I typically avoid -- I tend to let myself slip a little too deeply into these sorts of things to enjoy the horrific. Heck, even Minecraft can scare the bejeezus out of me at times. But the many reviews calling it "cerebral, emotional, and dark" and "deeply stirring" (while also carefully noting that the game isn't scary -- after all, it's text-based) intrigued me.

       I can't say much about the game play here without spoiling it. It's certainly best to let the game reveal itself to you, layer by layer. The game doesn't give you much help in how to play it, but it's not difficult. You grope around and figure it out like a blind person might, always returning to your fire to keep it going. Then you start to notice things. At first they're small things that don't seem to fit. You wonder why she's so reluctant to build you a hut. You wonder why bits of cloth turn up in the hunting traps. Then you start to get an idea of what and who you are. Your actions in the game are disturbing, but they seem justified. Desperate times, after all, and dangerous ones.

       Then the game has a way of connecting with you on an emotional level. There's one particularly powerful turning point in the game when you start to call characters you were protecting by another name. It was a shocking, "What have I done?!" moment for me, and I tried in vain to reverse it. I heard stories of others being brought to tears. But then you get used to it. You keep going. You do what needs to be done. It is just a game, after all. And then you start to wonder what you're capable of.

       The game is addicting, but it doesn't take long. I went slowly, playing yesterday while I was doing laundry and other chores around the apartment, and I completed it in 297 minutes. The feeling upon completion was nearly profound. While the actions within the game itself cannot be called beautiful, the narrative, the way the story is told, certainly is. Seriously worth the $0.99, and I'd also very much like to see a movie made, if done correctly. Sorry, Androids, you can't play (at least not the official version),  but the original game is available online for free here. However, I highly recommend playing the iOS version if able. The app developer, Amir Rajan, added some subtle but significant depth to the game play and fleshes out the narrative more than the online original does. Also significant is the support added for blind users, which had some fascinating side-effects on the game play for sighted users. If time is an issue, the iOS version also moves a bit faster and allows for easy pausing, which is only available on the online version by downloading the code into a text file, then importing the text file into the game when you wish to resume.

       Anyway, the current challenge, once you've finished the game for the first time, is to go back and play it again without building any huts. You'll know what I mean when you get there. Until then, try seeing just how dark that room can get.

(Update): It does take significantly longer to complete the game without huts, which also makes it less exciting, but I slogged through it as a matter of principle. As a small reward, there is an alternate ending.

I'll show you my nerd if you show me yours.

       Have I mentioned before that I have a certain... fondness, shall we say? -- for the Harry Potter series? Well, I do. I'm on the downhill slope of finishing another re-read (nearing the end of Phoenix), and I've noticed that this time through, not unlike the times preceding, my appreciation for it has deepened considerably. My coworker today called me "obsessed", which is a fair description, but not having read them herself, she of course cannot understand. She probably reads more than I do, too, so I've made her promise to read them. She'll see soon enough. Oh yes, she'll see. Like the many times I've read it before, I'm struck by what a nepenthe it is. My boring little life fades away for a while, and I come through at the end feeling stronger, somehow.

       One fun little quirk of this read-through is that this is the first time that I've read the books on my lovely Kindle, and it seems that these versions, while the title of the first novel remains horribly mutilated by silly American publishers (the same publishers I hope to one day woo -- love you guys!), have retained much of the original British-English. There have been a few words (largely slang) that I've had to stop and look up because I had no idea what they meant, which has been quite fun, although a notable (and strange) remnant of the Americanization remained with "soccer". I mean, of all the words I've had to look up, I think I would have known what was meant if "football" was left intact.

       In other news, it's time for me to start thinking about a new computer. I know, right? I feel like I just bought this one, but it's been 4 years already, I've so far never been able to get more than 5 years out of a laptop, and I can feel this one starting to bitch and moan about how old it's getting. So I started looking around for different builds, keeping an open mind about desktops as well, and none of them seemed to have exactly what I needed... so I've decided to build my own. Kinda scary, but my little brother did it about a year ago with great success, and you can build a crazy powerful machine for about the same money that you'd spend on a decent laptop. The research for it has been fun, and I've more or less decided on my parts list, much of which can be seen here. That, by the way, is the permanent link to my Amazon wish list. I already have the motherboard and will be getting the rest bit by bit as I can afford it. And my birthday is coming up........... :)

       Oh, and... while I'm being unabashedly nerdy, I've also started a Minecraft Realm (server) and am accepting applications if you're interested. Vanilla survival, if that means anything to you. It's been fun. If you're completely lost, it's like Legos on the computer, with silly zombies thrown in for good measure. It helps my woefully underused creative side.

       And enough rambling. Later taters.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
By J. K. Rowling, J.K. Rowling

Persuasion.

       Jane Austen's final completed novel has always been the one that broke my heart the most, and is among my very favorites. Tonight I made the mistake of watching the 2007 BBC adaptation, which is the first time I've seen any of the "Persuasion" films. I had sort of avoided it before, but my boss, knowing how stressed I've been with our big annual event (which went quite well today), sent me home after with a stack of DVDs and instructions to take a couple days, get drunk, and watch the lot. She didn't have to tell me twice.

       We had discovered our mutual adoration of all things Jane during a work conference we attended about a month ago in DC, so most of the stack is comprised of BBC adaptations. "Persuasion" was the first I watched -- I've only just finished -- and it may have ruined me for the others. It didn't quite turn me into a blubbering idiot, but almost. It's far too easy to identify with both of them, really, but probably Captain Wentworth all the more. Perhaps all I have to do now is get rich...

       It's easy to believe that Austen may have tried to live through her novels, with all those happy endings to the stories of broken hearts. And it's a cold reminder that reality is often very different from the happy endings we imagine or hope for, when Austen herself died an "old maid".

       I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation, with the exception of the meaningful looks that Anne Elliott would sometimes give the audience by looking directly into the camera. They were disconcerting and incongruous. Apparently I'll not learn from my mistakes tonight, though -- on to the next!

Optimi...what?

       Thought I should post something before it officially becomes two months that I miss. It's been a busy two months. Writing? Not so much. Apparently being hyper-aware of time has devolved from a motivational tool to a trigger for depression by which I'm acutely aware of how little I work toward my goals while being reminded constantly of how much time I waste. I've also discovered that time spent at work has a statistically significant negative correlation with my overall mood.

       Probably the most useful thing about this app (so far) was that instead of making up my time sheet at the end of each week I could log accurately based on GPS data. Turns out I was spending a lot more time at work than I thought. Nipped that one in the bud. Kinda. I"m still there a lot. Now I'm getting paid for it.

       In other news, I really need to stop falling for guys hundreds of miles away. That's also depressing.

       Big event this weekend. Spending more than my annual salary on it. Wish me luck!

Optimization.

My day so far...

       As of today, I have lived 11,111 days. Average life expectancy of a human being living in the United States is 28,703. That gives me, barring any unfortunate circumstances, approximately 17,592 days to live. Given my fitness level, more or less healthy diet, family history, etc., I'll probably have a few more than that, but this is all for illustration purposes.

       Yesterday I was surfing a news reader app called "DuckDuckGo" which pulls interesting stories from various news agencies, reddit, lifehacker, etc., which I love but really don't have the time to explore individually, and I stumbled upon (yes, I love that one too) an article from lifehacker touting the benefits of an iPhone app that basically invades your life and destroys your privacy. So of course I downloaded it.

        I'm on day 1 of using "OptimizeMe", and the first thing I've noticed is that it makes me acutely aware of the passage of time. Today I slept from 12a to 9a, fed the cat, took a shower, and did some groggy grooming until 9:24a, cooked and ate breakfast (this exact one here, except with whole wheat toast instead of sourdough -- so freaking good) while watching an HBO documentary "The Out List" until 9:55a, continued watching the documentary intermittently while doing some laundry and cleaning up, brushing my teeth, etc., until 11:38a, at which time I sat down to start writing this post. I have now been working on it (including a break to continue the laundry) for 32 minutes and 36 seconds.

       It kind of sounds like a nightmare, logging all of these activities, but the app makes it relatively simple. And the reason I'm doing all of this? I'm kind of terrible with my own personal time management. At work I'm on point and I get my stuff done, but after 9 hours of focus, another ±1.5 at the gym, I get home and things tend to fall apart. I've already failed that "3 hours a week of writing" goal that I set for myself earlier this month, so this is an attempt to reclaim that. The app breaks everything down into 4 categories: health, creativity, routine, and pleasure, with the goal of finding balance and optimizing behaviors to become more effective and improve your mood. It lets you set clear goals and gives you insights into how to improve. Basically: I'm excited. I'll let you know how it goes.

Fourteen for '14.

       A fresh start. That's what I see a lot of ads calling it. Apparently because we keep fucking up all the ones that came before? Lord knows I haven't got it right yet. So we try to come up with ways to improve, to try to make the next one better. Every year.

       I see some celebrating the old. Well done. We survived it. I see some desperately looking forward to the new. Maybe this one will be better. Others just take advantage of another opportunity to get shitfaced and make out with strangers in clubs. As for me, I'm going to make a list. I like lists, and I haven't made one in a while, particularly one of this sort. Been a few years. I haven't seen the point. I only end up disappointed. But I've had just enough champagne to want to try, and putting them down also helps to keep them in mind. So. Fourteen for '14:

  1. Number One. The same thing that's always number one on my list. The one thing I never do but want desperately. Maybe this time I'll get a little more specific: three hours a week. It's the minimum amount of time I spend in the gym each week so it can also be the minimum amount I spend writing. It's only fair.
  2. Let's see... I need to keep working on debt. I've been doing really well with it and have had it under control for a while now, but I need to keep it up.
  3. Get out of Dodge. The goal that I made for myself after about a month of living in North Carolina was to move out before I turned 30. That didn't happen. I still don't think that it was a mistake to come here, but it would be a mistake to stay. I don't expect to make any big moves this year, but I at least need to make some significant strides towards that end. Success at the previous two on this list would help with that.
  4. Keep up the gym-going. I've been doing really well at this, so I'm not terribly worried about it. This is called filler, people. Still nonetheless important.
  5. Eat less sugar/simple carbs. I'm terrible about this. I have a major sweet tooth. I'm sure I'd have had my abs ages ago if it weren't for that. Plus I don't want to be diabetic when I'm old. I'm good about the healthy stuff, but sweets just get added on top. Not good.
  6. Get out more. This one has been difficult here. Knowing/hoping that my time in NC was limited, I have consciously avoided putting down any kinds of roots and have kept making connections to a minimum. Because I really, really hate breaking them. As a result, I have become exceedingly boring. That won't do.
  7. Don't forget to play. Another perennial item on my resolutions: I have missed music terribly. I'm not even in the habit of listening to much of it anymore. Half of my usernames around the web have "music" in them because it used to mean something.
  8. Goddamn, I'm only half-way there? This is getting rough. I do need to read more. This is a strange one for me since even when I'm barely reading anything at all it's pretty safe to say that I'm still reading more than the average illiterate American. I use the term "illiterate" in a figurative manner, of course, not to show prejudice against the actually illiterate, but to illustrate my contempt for those who can read and don't. Trust me: those of us who do read can tell.
  9. Get better at telling stories. And I don't mean the made-up ones. I mean telling my own stories in general conversation. I've noticed that especially here in the south people connect by telling little stories about their experiences, and they always have one ready. It makes things more interesting.
  10. Continue learning other languages. At some point over the last few years I have started or continued Spanish, French, German, Latin, Greek, and Italian (in approximate order of effort). I should keep going on these.
  11. Get a frickin' passport already. What's the point of the languages if I can't use them?
  12. Community service. I used to do this a lot more and kinda miss it. I've looked into a few opportunities here, but the ones I'm interested in don't usually fit with my schedule. I need to work some in.
  13. Be more organized. In a lot of ways, including electronically, but also in my writing, in my closet, and at work. I'm not bad at this. But there's always room for improvement.
  14. Be vulnerable. Watch this. Seriously, watch it. My good friend Dan Stahl sent that to me. I have a tendency to avoid situations in which I am vulnerable. My mantra/goal for the last few years has been to strike out from a place of strength. It is a big part of the reason why I moved to NC, not NYC. It doesn't mean being stupid, but it means taking more risks.

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers by christmasstockimages.com

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller directs and stars in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

       So today I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Along with The Desolation of Smaug (which I'll probably not talk about here because I'm too much of a fanboy), Mitty was one of my more highly anticipated movies of the season. I've always had a soft spot for characters who get lost in their own little fantasy worlds, notably Zach Braff's "J.D." on Scrubs or Calista Flockhart's titular Ally McBeal -- they're neurotic and sad and I very much identify.

       When leaving the theater after Mitty I overheard one little old lady comment to her two little old lady pals, "I didn't like the beginning much, but it got better" which strangely helped me organize my feelings about it. For about the first half you would have seen a look of horror on my face as my hopes and dreams for the film were slashed to bloody pieces: the writing was terrible. The jokes fell flat, the fantasies were utterly bizarre (the fantasies from the source material would have made much more sense, but apparently the film had to be stripped of anything at all resembling Thurber's original story), and there was a schizophrenic bleed of fantasy into reality (mountains crumbling to reveal text messages) that completely lacked any sort of charm.

       Even the cinematography, which briefly captured some truly stunning views of Iceland and Afghanistan, failed to let us linger in the beauty of those moments -- a central theme of the film. I remember very specifically one scene in Afghanistan where Mitty is hiking up the Himalayas and the music builds to this great crescendo a la The Return of the King when the beacons are lit, and we crest over one ridge to this gorgeous panoramic view of the mountains only to be drawn down with barely a glimpse of the beauty to Ben Stiller huffing and puffing up the trail.

       Some of the plot points -- like the sale of an old piano -- just don't make sense, and the oodles of product placements were annoying as hell (eHarmony probably financed half the damned film for an entirely pointless subplot, and the gushing over Cinnabon was laughable), but what did help to save the movie for me in the end was the adherence to and borderline overstatement of the fictional Life magazine motto about following your dreams and the purpose of life or some such sentimental bullshit, but it worked. It tied the film together and left us with a vague sense of having been inspired that lasted approximately until we reached the parking lot.

       Is it worth seeing? Sure, if you're bored, but don't have your hopes up too high. Netflix? Maybe, but the natural beauty that we're able to glimpse might make the cost of the big screen worth it. Better yet, let's take a trip to Iceland instead. I'll read you the short story on the way -- even it's not that great but it will only take about ten minutes.

Pumpkin & Puddles

       Looks like I'm so far reverting to the once a month format of my previous blog. Considering the amount I paid for it, you'd think I'd post slightly more regularly. And the thought just struck me that I'm one of those self-published writers. You know who I mean -- the ones who write something that no one will buy so they pay crazy amounts of money for some hack publisher to print so they can give them away to friends and family. Oh lawdy.

       It's one of those nights where I need to sit down and watch Amélie with a healthy dose of the pumpkin vodka that just finished getting all yummy and pretend that things like that could happen to girls like me. You know that scene in the diner where the guy comes in and she literally turns into a puddle on the floor? Yeah, that's been happening to me with this guy at the gym. I've started seeing him around town too, though admittedly at first it took me a while to recognize him with his clothes on. Well, ok, actually I wasn't sure it was him until I saw him again at the gym. Not exactly love, but it does make me think (again) about how I've spent half my life alone and how tired I'm getting of that. And yes, I mean half since I don't plan to live past 60 because, let's face it, at that point there's not even a small hope of ever being hot again. Unless you're Patrick Stewart. Why do you think I drink Earl and/or Lady Grey Tea every day?

       I've been loving the fall, though. North Carolina has just enough of it to make me happy, even if not quite what I'm used to. On Halloween I went with a couple co-workers, Martha and James, to this nice little restaurant in Chapel Hill called Weathervane to celebrate Martha's birthday. It was a cool day and the breeze was blowing the leaves around and it was the sort of day where you'd want to sit outside and write. It was perfect. Then this week was the first that I've been able to wear a sweater to work. Except it's been nearly 70 the last couple days. Grrr. I want the cold back.

        I leave you, though, with this seemingly random sonnet that has been my favorite since I first read it ~15 years ago, and which continues to open itself up to me as I get older, Mr. Shakespeare's 29th:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

As good as it gets?

       I have been trying for forever (or at least since the post before last) to write a review of John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars", but am failing miserably. Any other topic that occurred to me was waved off by my one-track mind, so the result was another month of silence. Fortunately this one wasn't the crazy kind, or at least no more than usual. Another reason for the lack of writing is that work has been quite busy. Otherwise a prime writing time, we're currently in our recruitment phase, which this year involves all four of our fellowship and residency programs, so I've been trying to stay on top of the insane amounts of email from people saying "pick me!" But that should start to slow as people realize that they didn't get an invitation. Thursday I sent out a mass email for the first round of residency invites and had about 30 responses in 10 minutes. Blew me away.

       Something a coworker said the other day is driving me a little crazy, though. We were having lunch with some hotel sales reps hoping to get our business from all of the events we plan. I don't really remember what led to the topic exactly -- just some scrap of small talk that these southerners are so fond of -- but I made the remark that I'm still not sure what I'm going to do when I grow up. It's a lighthearted pseudo-joke that always gets a few polite chuckles, but my smart-ass friend, with her signature belly-laugh, came back with "Honey, I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you're doing it!"

       It was just a flippant response, not intended to injure, but she hit a rather raw nerve. That has been a fear of mine since I moved to North Carolina, and so far she's exactly right. The best thing I've written today? A review on a pair of shoes over on Amazon. They are some rather lovely shoes. Working my way up the Amazon.com top reviewers list. Now ranked at 64,252! Because the small victories give you the completely sensible hope that the big ones are possible.

       Or something like that.

The Best Weight-Loss System Ever.

       Need to lose a few pounds? Exercise is overrated! When it comes to taking the weight off, nothing, and I mean nothing, has worked faster for me than illness combined with overcautious doctors and extreme antibiotics. 

        A couple weeks ago I came down with flu-like symptoms and a pretty impressive fever. When they diminished but didn't seem to be going away after a week I decided to make a trip to the Urgent Care (I had intended to see a doc for a routine check anyway). Thinking it was a virus, but not really sure what it was, he put me on doxycycline. I later found out that this uber-crazy drug is what they give to soldiers in the field who have had limbs blown off or guts exposed in order to prevent infection from the open wound. My fever broke the next day, but being the good boy I am I kept taking the antibiotics because I don't like germs.

       That shit tore me up. Slowly, the side-effects became worse than the original bug. At one point I couldn't straighten up because my stomach was cramping so much. Taking some probiotics helped a little. Yes, the germophobe was consuming 50 billion germs daily in capsule form, But I still couldn't eat much. Breakfast usually consisted of half a piece of toast. Lunch was an apple. Dinner was a few spoonfuls of soup, a couple bites of chicken if I was lucky. I got a sunburn sitting inside near an open window but not in direct sunlight.

       Fortunately a doctor friend saved me, giving me permission to come off the drugs a little early. Now I'm 3 days AD (After Doxy) and still feeling the effects, but they're not nearly as bad. Yesterday I dared to eat a grilled chicken salad and a yogurt for lunch. I felt like I ate an elephant, but it was soo good.

       On the plus side I lost 5 pounds, my skin is super clear right now, and I was able to watch the first two seasons of So You Think You Can Dance in the down-time. :) And in the end the experience furthered my believe gained first through working with doctors that you should never trust your doctor. There really is a reason why they call it "practice."

Dirty Thirty.

“Thirty -- the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”    

       As a good friend promised, it really wasn't a difficult thing to do after all -- at least not physically difficult. I woke up one morning and it had already happened. I didn't die in my sleep, my face didn't suddenly become a web of wrinkles. I had turned thirty, and there was nothing I could do about it.

       As you probably didn't notice because no one reads this blog anyway, the gap between the last post and this was there for a very good reason. That last post could serve as a slight hint at that reason -- I went a bit nuts. Now, going a bit nuts for someone who's already a bit nuts means I was getting close to the "squirrel poo" category of nuts, which is the category just before republicanism (bat shit). In other words, you're welcome.

        Turning 30 (or turning anything else) is, like most other things per John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, a side-effect of dying. That light across the bay still calls but doesn't seem any closer. Yes, I'm mixing my references. But of course that's the scary part, isn't it? Not the dying, necessarily -- that thought, while well understood, still has an abstract quality that mitigates the fear. Instead, the effect of death is that we have a typically unknowable and hopelessly finite amount of time to live.

        Rereading Gatsby has had such a different effect on me than it did almost 20 years ago. I now have a past, for one -- things to look back on that didn't quite happen as hoped. And dreams remain unrealized. They seem simultaneously impossible, little lights at the other end of a huge span of water, and possible, with tools literally in hand to reach them.

 “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Out for Blood.

       I just wrote an email to Andrew Christian and chewed their asses for using "your" instead of "you're" in an ad about underwear for the well-endowed. Then I electronically bitch-slapped a friend for using "alright" instead of "all right" on his private blog.

       This bitter old queen is brought to you tonight by Robert Mondavi's Private Selection Pinot Noir and a renewed self-hatred thanks to all the beautiful men at my gym.

       So I've started reading this book: "Young Man from the Provinces" by Alan Helms. It was recommended to me by that aforementioned blogger friend after my "Call Me Crazy" post. This is a sort of review before I get very far at all into it. Because I'm curious if my perception will change. It's a memoir by this gorgeous man who was something of a gay icon/sex symbol in the pre-Stonewall days. And we're supposed to feel sorry for him.

       First of all, I don't really trust people who write memoirs. We get it. You think your life is important and has meaning. You are a unique and beautiful flower. Just like the rest of us. Except you happen to be genetically gifted and that makes me want to hate you all the more. Yes, this is the first memoir I've ever read. So far I'm on page 20 and all he's done is try to make us cry over his tortured childhood, giving intelligence to a 4 year-old that you'd probably believe as much if I attributed it to my 4 year-old cat.

       I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it. The redeeming quality thus far was in the epigraph from Walt Whitman's "Calamus" in which he kind of acknowledges my frustrations: 

Who is now reading this?
Or may-be a stranger is reading this who has secretly
         loved me,
Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions
         and egotisms with derision,
Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.
As if I were not puzzled at myself!
Or as if I never deride myself! (O conscience-struck!
         O self-convicted!)
Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly,
         a long time, and never avow it;)
Or as if I did not see, perfectly well, interior in
         myself, the stuff of wrong-doing,
Or as if it could cease transpiring from me until it
         must cease.

 *sigh* Sometimes I have to remind myself that pretty people are indeed people too. If we cut them, they do bleed. Well, Mr. Helms, I'm sharpening the fangs of my wit. You have 186 pages before I strike.

 

A Secret Life.

       There's a strange feeling of elation and bitterness that comes with the revelation that a story idea that's been circling your head for a decade is about to be turned into a movie. Elation from, of course, seeing your thoughts and fantasies come to life, bitterness from the crushing realization that you had nothing to do with it and, inevitably, someone else had your idea first.

       I say "inevitably" because the concept that there are no original stories to tell is ever-present on the mind of a writer. The hope is to tell a story in as original a way as possible, adding your own experience and perspective to perhaps improve the old tale. Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" is a favorite example, based on Ovid's "Pyramus & Thisbe". We modernize and adapt, hoping that something in it will pass for originality.

       The story that I was hoping to tell was about a librarian with a rather monotonous existence who entertains himself and satiates his need for something resembling a life through fantasy. It was inspired largely by experience (ha) and a favorite quote from Harry Potter: "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." While my story takes it a bit further, little did I know that something extremely similar had been written back in 1939 by James Thurber, now being turned into the Ben Stiller film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which I desperately want to see.

       It's eternally frustrating because good ideas come so rarely to me, and it's kind of obvious that this was a very good idea. Mine might be different enough to avoid calling it dead on arrival, but obviously it's already being mourned, as my ideas often are. And it's not helping this developing feeling of being stuck.  So, for now, back to staring in The Mirror.

Outed: J.K. Rowling's "The Cuckoo's Calling" is FABULOUS!

The Cuckoo's Calling
By Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling

       It has been ages since I've been so absorbed in a book that I almost missed my bus stop. With this book I've been close about a half dozen times. Like my stop, she wasn't exactly spotted a mile away -- in fact it took three months for the secret to get out -- but "The Cuckoo's Calling", written under the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith", has all the hallmarks of classic Jo Rowling.

       Fans who found themselves slogging through "The Casual Vacancy" (even if too proud to admit it)* will be quite buoyed by this effortless read. In "Cuckoo" Rowling's wit and ninja story-telling skills are stronger than ever. The mystery is deep, the suspense is goose-pimplingly gratifying, and the characterizations would make Jane Austen proud, all the more realistic for their lack of magic wands. Once again, Rowling has masterfully constructed a book that feels exactly the way reading should feel, effortlessly keeping the reader under it's spell. 

        Potter fans will love very subtle references to the series that brought Rowling her own wealth and fame. I giggled aloud when I read the phrase "you know who killed her", even if I can't be entirely sure it was intentional. Given Rowling's superhuman control of the language and a predilection for winks and nudges, I choose to believe that she was having fun with it.

       Entertainment value aside, do not make the mistake of reading the book lightly. From commentary on racial tensions (bigotry seems to be emerging as one of the author's favorite recurring themes) to our culture's obsession with wealth and fame and returning once again to discuss death, if even in a lighter context than her previous works, Rowling once again brings to the table an enviable wisdom and morality without the slightest hint of preachiness.

        The climax of the novel, while not some earth-shattering twist, is gratifying and not overly predictable. Ultimately, readers will likely find more satisfaction in the relationships between the characters, particularly that of Strike and his would-be secretary, Robin. We are left, inevitably, wanting more. Fortunately that desire will be fulfilled soon: in the FAQs on the author's pseudo-site, Rowling reveals that the sequel is due out next year. Overall, highly recommended (and yes, if you purchase through that link to the left I get a cut).

*not to say that it lacked any brilliance

Fiscal Fisting; or, Another Way Republicans Are Ruining Everything

       I was mildly surprised the other day to read that if sequestration repeal is unsuccessful, Obama could be the first president since Reagan to not increase the minimum wage. Of course, with the GOP-controlled House, any sort of pay raise is unlikely, and thank you once again, America, for voting those fuckwits into office. Trickle-down economics doesn't work (seriously, read that article). We know this. Instead, your money lines the pockets of the CEOs, serving to widen the income gap, continuing the destruction of the middle class, and ensuring the lower classes have absolutely no chance of improvement. I learned as much in my conservative high school's social studies class. So why are they still trying it? Simple: either they're stupid and just do what they're told, or they don't care.

       Similarly incensing was the release of McDonald's suggested budget for its employees. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. Just appalling. You'll notice that a second full-time job is included to make ends meet, but things like heat and food are still obvious luxuries that you shouldn't waste any money on. Another sick thing about this? The website is built through a partnership with Visa, which supplies the pre-paid debit cards by which employees are paid. But guess who foots the bill for the cards? Yup -- the employees. Too bad they didn't include those fees in the budget. But what do they care? They have and endless supply of teenagers waiting in line for a job.

       And now that some fast-food workers are on strike, the response from the companies has been an emphatic "meh". Sure, their demands might be a little overzealous, but the food giants' claims that any sort of wage increase, government requirement or no, would cripple the businesses are likewise hyperbolic.

       Not that you should be eating fast food anyway. I mean, really... it's not the dryer.

Image by AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker. Some rights reserved.

Call me crazy.

Not me. 

       Boy crazy, that is. I saw one of the most beautiful men I've ever laid eyes on today. Perfect muscular body, not too big, not too skinny, just the right amount of body hair in all the best places. He was riding by on his bike, shirtless, of course, and stopped about twenty feet away ostensibly to make a phone call, but I know he was just teasing me. I tried my best to stare as much as possible. I was very close to asking him for a picture, he was just that gorgeous. The bitch.

       I'm getting back to that point in my own fitness where I'm close to maxing out half the machines at the gym again. And it pisses me off when the 6-foot-2 Adonis next to me is struggling with about half the weight. I mean I've accepted the fact that my 170cm frame just won't do some of the things that theirs will. I say 170cm because it sounds so much better than 5'6.9". Yes, that .9 is extremely important because then I can officially round up to 5'7" and avoid the "pocket gay" status of the 5'6"ers. But there I am, a (barely) 20-something Average Joe who could probably kick the panties off the Greek gods.

       Beauty is such a funny thing in this big gay world of ours, though. How much time and energy and money and tears do we spend on trying to make ourselves look better? Does it even matter? Don't they always say that it's what's on the inside that counts? Funny that it's often the ugly people who say that while the beautiful are getting everything they could dream of.

       Perhaps that's why I prefer to dream and forget to live.

       It can sometimes be very difficult to believe in yourself if you're not typically counted among the wealthy or beautiful or highly intelligent. Perhaps that's why we watch those who are thusly gifted, hoping to experience some of their greatness for a moment, perhaps even wishing that some of their je ne sais quoi will rub off on us. If anyone finds out how this works, let me know.

       But when the world seems to crumble around us from greed, bigotry, incompetence, shady government surveillance, etc., at least enjoying something beautiful can make the ride to hell a little less ugly.

 

Steve is Grand.

       I think I'm becoming slightly obsessed with this Steve Grand kid. Yeah, I know it's so two weeks ago, but that boy has got some pipes. Yes, and he's fucking hot. We all know him now, of course, from his rather heart-wrenching "All-American Boy" video that lit up the internet on the 4th of July. Definitely made me interested in country music again, insofar as I've watched that video at least a half-dozen times. But tonight I also stumbled across some of his older stuff (completely by accident, I promise)  and was just blown away by his cover of Lady Gaga's "You and I":

Steve Grand for DNA Magazine, photo by Tom Cullis

I mean, seriously! Then I saw this Bruno Mars cover and I'm starting to think it's love:

*sigh*  The things he does to that piano. I think I need to start looking into a move to Chicago.

       You should definitely check out his stuff, though. His music! I meant his music. Don't even think about touching my man. Because he'd totally be into me. Definitely at least worth keeping an eye on, though. I mean, he grew up Catholic, was forced through gay conversion therapy , so he's definitely got the whole guilt thing driving him to be amazing, which he seems to be effortlessly anyway. And he has pretty much all of the gay Midwesterners throwing themselves at him. Don't judge. But I'm officially calling it: he rocks.

Orange Is the New Black.

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman in the Netflix Original "Orange Is the New Black". 

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman in the Netflix Original "Orange Is the New Black". 

 

       It's been a weekend of escapism.  Not only does my little apartment feel increasingly like a prison, but my mind is also playing some nasty tricks on me, making company simultaneously undesirable and yearned-for, thus completely ill-advised. So in my self-imposed solitary confinement I turned to the three things that have always been there for me: gin, my cat, and Netflix.

       Now Netflix's previous attempts at television were, to me, rather lame. It was a secret to no-one that the company's well-oiled machine of statistics collection and determining what audiences prefer was fully cranked up to make a perfectly packaged product with all the same flavors that we've been chewing on since television was invented, rendering them as bland as prison food. The latest attempt, however, was helmed by the genius that is Jenji Kohan and touted a supporting cast that included Jason Biggs and the great Kate Mulgrew. Round it out with another opening theme by Regina Spektor and they had this geek eating out of that well-oiled machine's rusty hands. 

        The show is definitely reminiscent of "Weeds" and likely not by accident, but Kohan's perfect blend of comedy and drama works well for the story, and the cheap-cliff-hanger-at-the-end-of-every-episode device (there has to be a name for that) a la Dan Brown makes me feel like an insatiable drama whore. Yes, I watched all thirteen episodes in a roughly 48-hour period. Probably safe to say that I liked it.

       While many of the story elements are fairly predictable, particularly surrounding the relationship between our protagonist, Piper (Taylor Schilling), and her fiancée Larry (Biggs), the results are no less gratifying. The characters are for the most part realistic even when aided by racial or cultural cliché, but the show doesn't get bogged down in racism either. Instead it tackles some of today's hotly debated topics with a light touch, from many issues along the queer spectrum to shady government to religion. The villains are who you'd expect and sometimes over the top, but not so much that you can't picture them as human, and in fact the show goes out of its way to remind you of how human each of the characters are. There's an interview by Sir Ian McKellan that I love to reference in which he says (paraphrasing) that straight people should be so lucky to be forced to look in the mirror and come to terms with who they are; and in this show they rather deftly force the characters to do the same, reflecting on how they came to be where they are and what they are reduced to when stripped of their freedom. It's a fascinating struggle of self-discovery on a level you don't often see in television.

       And of course it's always important to pay attention to literary references, none seemingly so important in this show as Frost's "The Road Less Taken", with which Piper shows off her literary skills and offers the interpretation that: "everyone wants to look back and think that their choices matter, but in reality shit just happens the way that it happens and it does not mean anything." Most quick interpretations cling to that titular line as a reason to go one's own way and forget that the narrator calls the roads "really about the same". "Orange" effectively strips our protagonist of her self-deception that one road could have made all the difference and forces her to look at herself as a flawed human being. 

       So Netflix finally seems to have found it's footing in the world of entertainment production with "Orange", and I'm definitely looking forward to the second season, but right now I'm feeling the urge to go for a run.

Copyright © 2018 Christopher Postlethwait