31 December, 2008

New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve seven years ago, I was at a party making out with a girl underneath a ping pong table.

I just felt that it needed to be said.

30 December, 2008

Music In Review

Deep Purple - Burn (1974)

I picked up Machine Head years ago when I was first starting my classic rock collection, because it's one of the pinnacle albums in classic rock history (four words: smoke on the water). Since then, I've picked up Made in Japan for the live angle, and The Very Best Of for a smattering of the non-Machine Head hits. Even so, I've been wanting to dig into some more actual Purple albums for awhile - and now I have.

Burn is the debut of Mk III of the band, featuring David Coverdale on vocals in place of Ian Gillan. Ritchie Blackmore is still on guitar and Jon Lord is still on the keyboards (and Ian Paice is still on the drums). The new bassist Glenn Hughes also serves as secondary vocalist, creating a pretty cool "two singers" effect on some of the songs. The standout tracks are the title track, Burn, which is every bit as good as the straight-up rocker that opens Machine Head (Highway Star), and Mistreated, a slow (for Deep Purple) bluesy number. Also, the track "A" 200 is an interesting synth piece, with an awesome guitar solo thrown in for the hell of it, and the bonus track Coronarias Redig, is an exciting jam. Altogether, I am really enjoying this album.

Dio - Metal Hits (1983-1994)

I think I remember being rather intimidated by Ronnie James Dio at one point - him being this "heavy metal" singer with scary-looking album covers. Somewhere along the way, I learned that he started out in a less-metal-and-more-rock band called Elf - named after Dio's short stature. So much for the intimidation factor. Well, I picked up the Elf albums, which are pretty good, and over time, Dio's voice has really grown on me. And I think it's a great voice for "metal".

I'd say Dio's material is, in a sense, comparable to Ozzy's solo career. Seeing as they're both classic well-known vocalists in the metal arena, and they both started out playing in popular bands before really making a name for themselves (in addition to the little-known Elf, Dio also made a splash in the band Rainbow which Ritchie Blackmore formed after leaving Deep Purple mid-70's, and also sang for Black Sabbath around the turn of the 80's). And while I really liked Ozzy's voice in the original Black Sabbath, I think I'd have to say that Dio has the better metal voice.

As for the Metal Hits compilation, it's great to have Rainbow in the Dark and Holy Diver on CD, and I suspect I'll get to like the other tracks as I get to know them better, over time.

Roy Buchanan - You're Not Alone (1978)

You probably know that I'm a huge Roy Buchanan fan, even though I don't yet own very much of his material. Even so, I was uncertain of how good this album would turn out to be. From what I've read, Roy played around in a lot of places with a lot of bands before ever getting "noticed" (to the extent that he actually /was/ noticed), and so he had been around before he ever started recording early in the 70's. Additionally, Buchanan seems to me to be the type that's more concerned with playing the guitar than writing songs. Which, is actually one of the reasons I like him so much. But because of this, I've read that the people in the biz who wanted to get Roy some visibility had to resort to various musical stunts in the studio, without really knowing how to tap into Roy's style - which is self-evident on the live albums on which he appears.

So anyway, I wasn't sure what kind of experiment You're Not Alone would be, or how successful it would be, and frankly, knowing Roy's unique and versatile playing style, I wasn't quite sure what kind of an album it would be. On the other hand, that also made the experience of listening to it for the first time more exciting. And it was exciting. Turns out the album is almost completely instrumental - which earns an automatic thumbs up for me. Roy's never been much of a singer (something I can sympathize with), although when he does sing, his vocal delivery, though plain by vocalist standards, in my opinion, fits the kind of songs he sings perfectly - that is, slow, depressing, blues. He doesn't belt out the emotion like a lot of great blues singers have been known to do, but when he sings, you can hear the depression in his voice, and it's just as effective.

Anyway, the album is awesome. It's like an instrumental soundscape, shaped by Roy's playing, with more atmospheric pieces and also some pretty good rockin' shuffles (including an awesome take on Joe Walsh's Turn To Stone). And the cover of Down By The River, here in studio version, is very good. It's similar but not the same as the live version I have - another thing about Roy that's great, he has a tendency to play the same song very differently at different times (take Roy's Bluz, where the two live versions I have are almost completely different songs). I'm very impressed with this album and my appreciation for Roy Buchanan has just jumped up another notch.

Harvey Mandel - Baby Batter (1971)

Speaking of instrumental albums, Baby Batter is also amazing. I've heard that Harvey Mandel has done some pretty experimental things, and in the opening track on Baby Batter, where a baby speaks the titular phrase (the only vocal utterance on the entire record), I was a little scared of how weird things were gonna get. But, rest assured, this album is pure Harvey Mandel as "The Snake" we've known from his previous albums. Fluid, slithering guitar lines over a groovy, at times almost jazzy, musical background.

With Harvey Mandel's stuff, songs don't really stand out from the overall musical experience, but it's an experience I really enjoy. The guitar work is tasty, and it's the kind of music that I can put on and just absorb as I do other things, and it makes me feel better, because it's like damn, great music like this actually exists? It doesn't impose itself, but it's more than happy to show-off if you choose to give it that attention. I just have to say, Harvey Mandel is amazing, and he too has jumped up another notch on my appreciation belt.

Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular (2008)

This is a different sort of live album from 2001's A New Day Yesterday Live. Joe's come a long way in these short years, and he's managed to garner a pretty solid and totally loyal fanbase. And he deserves it. While this live album might not have as much raw energy as the earlier one, it's still a great album and features its own charms.

It seems that, since ditching Joe's original backing band - of the power trio variety - he's been more focused on the songwriting aspect than the rock band aspect. Although, to say that he doesn't still rock out would be completely wrong. But the kind of soundscapes he's crafting like on India/Mountain Time show a different sort of focus than hard blues rock - though no less impressive. Even Sloe Gin, an amazing song, and likely Joe's new showcase song, to replace A New Day Yesterday, is a different kind of bluesy rocker, with a bit more introversion and crying compared to Yesterday's extroverted screaming (of sorts).

If Heartaches Were Nickels, an emotional electric blues, was another of my favorite tracks on the earlier live album, and here, it makes a surprisingly acoustic appearance. Knowing my proclivity for electric music, I don't like it as much as the earlier version, but it is still quite interesting to hear the difference. The track that opens the live album, Bridge to Better Days, works as a great opener, though I think I like Takin' The Hit better as an opener (a la the Rockpalast DVD), after all. The Django/Just Got Paid jam alternates between the soundscape and hard rock approaches, finishing with the instrumental Dazed and Confused solo jam just like I heard Joe play the last time I saw him live - great to get this on a live album to listen to for years to come!

Coming to A New Day Yesterday, the track that closes the album - it's quite a bit different from the earlier version. You almost feel like Joe's only playing it because it's one the fans like to hear. It's still a fantastic song, but it doesn't have the raw energy it used to - and the Yes jam at the end of it has been extended since the short riffs Joe played at Rockpalast. You definitely get the feeling from this album that Joe is stretching out and really expanding his playing repertoire, not content to exist within the confining walls of "the blues". Although this isn't surprising, as Joe has from the beginning had a liberal approach to what the blues is and what the blues could be, but here you can really hear him exploring some alternate realms. It's very exciting, and I look forward to hearing what Joe's got in store for us in the future. I just hope he doesn't venture so far that he forgets that hard rocking edge that made me a fan of his in the first place.

29 December, 2008


So I was browsing the ample magazine stock at Border's tonight, and I came across two different naturist magazines in the "adult interest" section. Which was a pretty interesting find, because I've read about naturist magazines, but I've never actually seen one, so I was kind of curious. But something really bothered me. I'll forgive the naturist magazines being placed in the "adult interest" section, which really isn't right, and I can't really complain about the fact that the magazines were bagged like all the other adult interest magazines so that you had to buy it in order to look through it - since that's just the way a lot of magazines are.

But there's something fundamentally wrong about the fact that of the two naturist magazines, one of them had a blank, text-only cover that almost looked more like a newspaper than a magazine cover, and the other one, with a full color cover, had a bag with a large silver bar obscuring the majority of the cover - obviously covering the supposedly "offensive" bits of the presumably nude woman featured thereupon. And yet, while not featuring fully nude women, all the Playboys and Penthouses and whatnot with their scantily clad women in provocative poses had their covers in full display.

Okay, I can see the thought process behind this. "Glamorous near-nude? Nobody's offended by that anymore. Non-provocative bare nipple? Ban it!" But it really doesn't make any damn sense. If I were to pick up a Playboy and take it to the checkout, it'd be like, okay, I'm buying a Playboy. But if I were to take one of those innocent naturist magazines to the checkout, it would be like, oh wow, you can't even see the cover, I wonder what dirty and perverted things are contained within. I shouldn't feel dirtier buying a naturist magazine called "Health & Efficiency" than I would buying a Playboy. This, is injustice.

This society has really got its priorities mixed up.

28 December, 2008

Xmas Acquisitions

It's really not my style to brag, but for those who are curious, here is more or less what I got for xmas this year:

CD's -
Fleetwood Mac - Showbiz Blues 1968-1970
Rolling Stones - It's Only Rock N Roll
Jethro Tull - Stand Up
Jeff Beck - Beck-Ola
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood
Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps, Ragged Glory
Roy Buchanan - You're Not Alone, Live Stock (Live)
Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular (Live)
Deep Purple - Burn
Harvey Mandel - Baby Batter
Dio - Metal Hits

DVD's and Games -
Gary Moore & The Midnight Blues - Live At Montreaux 1990 [DVD]
The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan) [DVD]
Silent Hill Origins [PlayStation 2]

Books -
Berserk (Manga) Volumes 24, 25
Clive Barker - Books of Blood Vol. 4-6
The Watchmen (Graphic Novel)

Other -
5 Guitar Folding Stand
various snacks and candies (including, but not limited to, Sarris Dark Chocolate Pretzels, the inevitable Terry's Chocolate Orange, and a huge jug of cashews)
other neat stuff that is really really awesome despite not warranting a specific mention on this list

Plus, a couple gift cards for Best Buy. Maybe I'll finally buy a working record player?

23 December, 2008


A person can do a lot of things alone, but success requires people.

The other day, I was thinking about the daily grind of work, and how people do stuff to get paid, and I thought, I'm me, I do the stuff I do because I'm the person I am, so why am I not being paid? I should be paid to do the stuff I do.

So I thought about music. Sure, I'm no professional musician, but I play music, and people applaud. If their applause isn't sincere, then that's their problem not mine. But they should turn their applause into cash. I should be paid to entertain people with my music, even if I'm not at a professional level. I should get something.

So I thought about how it would be possible to get some money just from playing, even on an amateur level (in relative terms), and my thoughts strayed to busking. And I thought, making money out on the street, just playing tunes for passing people. I should be doing this.

And so I read up a little on busking, and I read that you can actually make some decent money busking, if you can do it well. So naturally, I was curious about what it takes to "do it well" such that you can actually make some decent money. And I kept reading these "tips" that basically amount to "be a good showman". The "tips" are really "tricks" - the kind of tricks you use to manipulate people into feeling happy and joyous and loose with their change purse. The exact kind of dishonest tricks that get used in all professions, just disguised by the fact that they appear on the surface to make people happy.

Look, I have utmost respect for a good Thom Merrilin character, but that's just not me. I'm not here to put on a show. If being successful at busking means wooing an audience, rather than having anything whatsoever to do with the music you play, then what the fuck, mate?

Even if I think about photography... I've taken some pretty good pictures, I think. I've had some good concepts, and I've had a few successes turn out. But I can't help thinking that if I was taking pictures of a better subject, there would be a lot more interest in my shots. I mean, we could debate about how much credit the photographer deserves for the photographs he takes, and how much credit nature, the world, or the model deserves (and let's ignore the ridiculousness of post-processing in this day and age), but if you give an intelligent person with a passion for photography a decent camera and enough time to learn how to use it, and then you put a gorgeous model in front of him, I have to believe he'd be able to take some good shots.

So how do you become successful? Charisma. You have to be good at working with people. Okay, maybe this applies less to different types of photography (landscapes, for example), but for the kind of photography I'd really like to do - nudes - the bottom line is that you have to be suave enough to get the women all begging to take their clothes off for you.

Even if we ignore the issue of subject, no matter what field we talk about, the key to success is networking. It's meeting people and expanding your web of influence. A physics professor I knew during college once described his experience trying to get a job after he graduated college. He applied for a bunch of positions but didn't get accepted for a single one. So then he spent some time traveling instead, meeting people "in the business", so to speak. And just like that, he got offered a position. It's all about who you know.

Like if you're a musician. You gotta know people who know people. "Hey man, I got this gig goin' down and we could use someone to warm up the crowd." And then a promoter goes, "hey man, saw you at the show tonight, you were smokin', how'd you like to play this other place this other night?" And it goes from there. It's meeting people, it's knowing people, it's communicating with people.

Even if we ignore the networking aspect, success, in the traditional sense, don't come without people. Unless there are people who like what you do enough to pay you, you ain't gonna make a living. Particular in the entertainment fields, you gotta have people that like what you do, or you're nothing. In the media arts, you gotta be worth something to people. You gotta have fans, of some sort. You might be appreciated long after you're dead one way or another, but unless you've got it now, you're not successful. And you've got to be successful. Else you're dogmeat.

God, I'm tired. I just wish there were paths set out for the people who don't want people. Of all things in the world I could be bad at, why did it have to be people? I may as well have the inability to breathe air. It would do me just about the same amount of good.


I just remembered, it's been just over a year since I started this blog (last winter solstice). Looking back, it's been a good ride. I originally started the blog as a way of following in the footsteps of two of my friends who had started blogging about their working lives. I didn't (and unfortunately still don't) have a working life, but I wrote about my living experience just the same. My one friend all but completely abandoned his blog after not too long at it, and though my other friend continued his for awhile, he sort of "finished" it. He's tried a few other blogs since then, but so far, none of them seems to have really "stuck". :p So as far as I'm concerned, I'm the winner! Although I seem to have inspired my brother to start one, too, and he's still going at it. Yup, victory just runs in the ole family blood. Ha, I wish. I'm still a failure at life...

Those early entries were incredibly exciting. I was really struggling with coming to terms with certain aspects of my identity, and certain interests that were blooming. Specifically, I was trying to gain acceptance of my interest in nudism (from myself as much as anyone else). I was also still early in the process of learning about paganism, though that was more discovery than revolution. I also spent some time discussing sexuality more openly than I think I ever have before. And I've reflected on things that have occurred in my past. Overall, I like to think it's been a journey of self-acceptance, which is something that I've always needed more of (and still do).

It's okay to enjoy being naked. It's okay to "worship" trees. It's even okay to like sex - and you know what? It's okay to talk about it, too! I've still got a long way to go, though. And in the grand scheme of things, I'm not appreciably closer to where I want to and need to be than I was a year ago. But maybe, the little pieces I've built up are worth something.

Ha, you know what? While we're on the topic of self-acceptance and all that, there's something I've been sort of hiding. It's about Second Life. I've heard a lot of grief from people about SL, and you know, it kind of makes me ashamed to admit that I have anything to do with it. Or at the least, if *I* accept my involvement, I'm less inclined to share my experiences with "non-users" because of my fear of criticism. But if y'all don't like it, blow me.

I have a lot of things going on (and it feels like even more than that because of the busy Christmas season), including working on becoming a better guitarist (I think I can play the first three notes of I'm Tore Down better than Eric Clapton does on From The Cradle (though not as good as Freddie King plays it), but unfortunately that's about as far as I can get), and trying to learn the ins and outs of semi-professional photography with my shiny new dSLR (which is hard when you're shut in a house at night in the middle of winter with little inspiration and as many as zero hot naked chicks), soooooo, I'm trying to make a point not to let Second Life absorb my first life. However, the fact remains, I enjoy SL - it's fun, and beyond that, I think it may have the potential to help me in terms of my inability to interact with people. So I feel like it's important for me. And I won't let you take that from me.

So what I've been hiding isn't the fact that I've been on SL (I don't think), but that I've started a new blog about my thoughts and experiences there. And I'm not holding back. SL is a place to learn about yourself, and I've already covered the topics of naughty tentacles and the indiscretions of underage avatars (though not underage users, mind you) on the new blog. I anticipate it'll be a fun ride, but I'd love some input/feedback from other residents of SL. In time, they may come. In the meantime, if you're curious, non-residents are welcome to read the blog, too. If you're observant, you won't have any trouble finding the gateway. ;)

15 December, 2008

'Tis The Season To Be Spending (or Bling-A-Ling-A-Ling A-Bling-Bling-Bling)

It's not officially Christmas until you're mall-hopping in the snow. I took the Lincoln out tonight because the van's dying. Taking a snazzy unfamiliar car Christmas shopping - this takes me back to the infamous days of the ZoSoCar back in '01, where I did the exact same thing. Well, this obviously wasn't as revolutionary (ZoSo had a lot to do with the revolutionariness of that past experience), but it is a bit nostalgic. Christmas shopping is still a pain in the ass, though.

I was thinking about it, and yeah, the whole consumerist thing is pretty stupid, but I don't think that's the part I hate most about the whole game. It's all the guessing and the secrecy. I suppose other people will have different opinions, but they way I feel, I'd rather gift-giving be a spontaneous thing than a planned surprise. Instead of going out alone, shopping for other people, Christmas should be a time where people shop together, and if something jumps to one person's eye, one of the other people in the group can buy it for him/her as a gift. That way, they're getting something you know they like, and you get to spend time together so it becomes more personal than handing over a box and saying goodbye. And plus, I would hope that in this case, shopping would become more of a fun, relaxing activity, than the hectic, stressful dash for the goods that it seems to often be.

Bah humbug, all the same.

12 December, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

It was raining earlier, judging by the sounds of it on the rooftop, but I didn't pay the weather much mind. However, after the house went to sleep, I went to use the bathroom sometime around 1 am-ish. The toilet drained fine (thank god), but I noticed that it didn't refill with water. And then at the sink, the running water had been cut down to a bare minimum low flow.

Then I looked outside and well, it's your typical ice storm that occurs when there's rain and then it freezes and then it snows. It's like everything has been frozen and then coated with a layer of powdered snow. Except for one minor detail. Looking out front, the road is neither frozen nor snowy. It's actually running with a heavy current like a stream out in the woods somewhere. Wow. That's what that quiet rumbling noise in the background was.

So I guess there was a problem up the hill a house or two. Frozen water pipes? Broken water pipes? I wanted to go out and check it out, because this is a very rare situation, and maybe get some idea at least of where all that water's coming from, but after suiting up for the cold (and reviving some of the gear I used at Burning Man), I looked again and there were some trucks just up the road, obviously dealing with whatever the problem was (and is). I decided to stay inside for obvious reasons.

I wonder just what happened, and how long it will take to fix. And what kind of damage the problem is causing. There's a stream going through the front yard and under the van, a sort of offshoot from the main stream - not as heavy, but you can tell the water's run through because the snow is melted in those spots. A very interesting sight.

Oh great, I was okay earlier because, if weak, there was still *some* water pressure, but now it seems to have stopped altogether. Oh dear. There's a guy out on the street shoveling stuff off the road - at least one item looked to be a stick/branch, dunno about the rest. The current in the road seems to have lessened a bit. I really hope it doesn't take 24 hours or something to get running water back...

30 November, 2008

Better Living Through Chemistry

Despite my natural and simplistic approach to life, I have a pretty progressive attitude toward modern technology. I don't really care about having the newest gadget on the market (being a fan of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto), but from a philosophical standpoint, I embrace technology as the power of man, and I fully support the idea of "playing god". My feeling is, there is no god, so we might as well play him, because nobody else will. Hence I am, in general, sympathetic toward the transhumanist agenda.

However, when it comes to introducing foreign chemicals into my body, I'm very reluctant. I never do any drugs, and I absolutely hate taking medicine. It doesn't make a lot of sense - if I'm sick and in agony, and imbibing a certain chemical compound has a high chance of making me feel better, my course of action should be obvious. Yet I'm still reluctant.

From a holistic perspective, one might choose to argue that the human body is well prepared to deal with various sicknesses on its own, without modern medicinal assistance, and that otherwise, we wouldn't have survived this long. Well, I also think there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Even personally, I have had more than my own share of evidence that the human body is not equipped all that adequately to deal with even the mundane sicknesses of the world. Being sick for months, with or without medicinal aid, is not an unfamiliar experience for me.

In fact, recently, I've started wondering if maybe I have a deficiency in my immune system (which certainly doesn't seem to be very immune). God forbid I should find out that I have AIDS and just never realized it. I remember narrowly avoiding talking to a doctor about a particular extended sickness back when I was a wee lad. I spent a whole week out of school (which is almost certainly my record), but ultimately, my reasoning for not going back was more psychological than physical. So I sucked it up and went back to school rather than see the doctor. I really wish I had seen that doctor, though, for the psychological problem moreso than any physical problem I might have/had. Course, confronting my problems has never been my strong suit.

Around the time of my senior year in high school, I was taking DayQuil regularly. It's fucking ridiculous to think of it now - I had to take DayQuil daily just to feel normal. I wasn't addicted to it, I just needed to have it because without it, I would not have had the constitution to face the unending stresses of school life. I could have quit at any time, there just wasn't any logical reason to.

In my senior year of college, I stopped taking DayQuil. Heh, I don't mean to suggest that I continued taking it nonstop for those four years. I would take it off and on as my condition dictated. But I remember taking it regularly to stave off some sort of cold that year. And it got to the point where, even taking the stuff, I didn't feel any better. It was just as bad. I still couldn't get to sleep at night through the coughing. So I just quit taking it. I figured, if it's not helping, then I might as well get rid of it.

These past couple years, I've been living a sedentary lifestyle, which has allowed me plenty of time to sleep, even more time to rest, and very limited contact with other human beings (and their oh so horrible germs). And yet, I haven't stopped coughing for the past two and a half months or so. I frequently tell myself (I actually say this, I don't just think it), in a firm voice, "Stop it. Stop coughing. Just stop." Course, it never works.

I could take medicine, but what's the point? If I had to go out somewhere and do something important, yeah, then I'd try to take something to ease the agony. But if I'm just laying around anyway, I'd rather not pollute my system with foreign chemicals. Seriously, I am strongly against the idea that I should have to constantly take a specific substance just to be normal, just to be me, just to be.

On the other hand, if you think about it, food is kind of the same way. Although there's the option of variety, the fact is, you have to keep taking food in order to survive and maintain energy. So medicine shouldn't be such a big deal, right? Well, when they start making medicine in the form of little chewable chocolates (that actually taste like real chocolate, and not have some funky medicinal tang), then I'll start taking them. I mean, even the Cold-Eez that I do take on the occasion that I can spare some change to buy some, while it's not an unpleasant flavor, it's not exactly like chewing on candy, either.

Another thing I've been considering is the possibility that maybe some playa dust got lodged in my lungs or something while I was out in the desert, and now it's wreaking havoc on my respiratory system.

Shouldn't getting a lot of rest improve recovery time? Or does getting exercise actually help by keeping your body strong?

Go see a doctor, go see a doctor! Bah, humbug.

29 November, 2008


Ever since losing my camera at Burning Man, and being forced backwards a technological step to the previous camera I used, which, though impressive when I first started using it, I cannot help now seeing as utter crap, there's been a huge depression in my interest and motivation for taking pictures. I'm still very much interested in photography, though, and thus I've been pining for a new camera. I've never owned what I refer to as a "real" camera - meaning, the kind of camera that "photographers" use, as opposed to the kind of camera that regular people use who are more interested in taking snapshots for the family album than they are in creating art. And right now, I'm staring at one of those "real" cameras and I'm seriously considering buying it.

Never mind my financial situation. It's not often that I feel that a certain course of action is "just right". Perhaps I'm deluding myself with impossibilities, but I can't help thinking that maybe, with a camera like this, I could actually start a path to becoming something of a professional photographer. Of course, I define "professional photographer" in my own specific, idiosyncratic terms, but the point is that maybe I could take photos good enough to make some money off of, and somewhere down the line, maybe I could actually reach a point where the idea of shooting models isn't just a pipe dream. It might be a long road, but it's gotta start somewhere.

So I'm looking through photos on Flickr, and I can't help thinking to myself, there are a lot of people out there taking really good photos. And I ask myself, who the hell am I to think that I could ever be good? I mean, I'm sure many of these people are just taking good pictures, without making a career or lifestyle out of it - so how could I honestly expect to ever create something that's worthy of people's attention, let alone money? If there are so many good photographers out there, how can I expect to ever make a splash? What does it take to "make it", and why should I believe that I have that?

"Why am I now so attractive when, just a couple of years ago as a butcher, nobody wanted to know? Why all that applause just for playing guitar?" (Peter Green)

Okay, I'm not oblivious. I realize that this is a lot of negative thinking that maybe I shouldn't be doing. But as the person that I am, I just don't know if it's better to dive in head first and believe in yourself, or hold back and play it cool. I guess you could say, "what is there to lose?", but that doesn't shake the confidence I have in my ability to fail.

I'm reminded of Naruto, and his conviction to one day become Hokage (leader) of Konoha Village. Never mind that everyone doubted him in the beginning; his determination has always been unwavering, and through the years, he's proved that not only might he have what it takes, but he may actually be the right man for the job.

So is announcing that you're gonna be something and then working towards it relentlessly enough to ensure that it will happen? I'm not so sure, but even if it is, I'm still not confident of my ability to work relentlessly towards a goal. But should I just give up on life? If I don't have enough confidence that I'll ever accomplish anything worthwhile in life (which is a pretty accurate assessment of my current situation), then what point is there in anything? I could just try accomplishing something, simply because I seem to have nothing to lose, but even then, it's hard to muster the motivation. I'm just having a really really hard time *believing* that I can accomplish anything. God, this sucks.

So, should I become Naruto and just say "fuck it, I'm gonna be a winner"?, and then do it?

The problem with convictions (and everything in my life), is that they depend on moods and certain perspectives, and it's hard for me to stick to one for long before finding myself back in my cozy little pit of despair where nothing really matters.

On the other hand, even if I never become a good guitarist, I still think that that guitar may be the best thing I ever bought in my life.

Struggle, struggle, struggle, that's all life is. I've always maintained that if god would give me even a small taste of the good stuff, that would be the motivation I'd need to be a better servant. If he could just show me that I'm not alone, that I'm not in this all on my own, I'd be more than happy to return the love. But in the absence of his presence, I have to believe that I could struggle my entire life and get no reward whatsoever. The least he could do is dangle a carrot in front of my face. An actual, physical carrot that I could see and smell, not some illusory dream carrot that doesn't really exist. Show me a real carrot, and I'll start running. In the meantime, don't be surprised if I decide there's no point in getting out of bed in the evening.

Fuck you, god.

27 November, 2008

Giving Thanks

Not to get all sappy, but since it is Thanksgiving, here are just a scant few things that I am thankful for (remembering that quality trumps quantity):

*2D Girls - Maybe they can't do everything that 3D girls can do, but they're a hell of a lot easier to approach.

*The Blues - It's comforting knowing that there exists a musical expression for the pain and sadness I carry in my heart.

*Pirates - I'm more of a ninja guy myself, but when it comes to stickin' it to The Man, pirates are the people who remind us all that "no law can be sacred but that of my nature".

26 November, 2008

Consumerism (or Luciferianism)

I don't understand money. I never understood money. It doesn't jibe with my fundamental nature. Money is the fuel of life in modern society. You need money to do anything and everything. But the paradox is that you have to spend the money you have in order to do those things. So how can I consolidate the desire to have money with the need to spend money? Should I spend my money on this? Or should I save it for something else? But if I spend my money here and now, I'm not gonna have it later for something else. Even if the money I have right now is more than enough to afford these things, how can I know that I won't find myself in a situation later where the money I have isn't sufficient? It's just all so freaking screwed up, and I just can't get it straight in my head.

I think about going and hanging out at coffee shops. Take a book. Read for an hour every day. Worst case scenario, I get out of the house and get a chance to read more. Best case scenario, I happen to meet some cool people, gain confidence and experience in social situations, maybe meet some musicians that might wanna jam with me, maybe meet some girls that are interested in art and photography. But I can't justify hanging out at a coffee shop regularly without spending money there. I may not actually be kicked out, but generally the amenities offered at a place such as this are understood to be there for paying customers, more or less. To go in once or twice and not pay isn't a big deal, but if you start using their shop as a living room, they're gonna expect you to compensate them in some manner.

I think about going out during the day and just wandering. In the car, since walking won't get me anywhere worthwhile. I have nothing else to do, so meandering about town all day long isn't really gonna cut into anything important on my schedule. Going to stores, malls, maybe even museums and conventions and concerts and movies and who knows. Get used to being out in the world, as well as being around other people. Who knows, maybe I'd even come across a job opportunity that could actually interest me, like at a music store or something. But all of this costs money. Even if I just loitered places and didn't buy things (or services), I'd still have to pay for gas, and for food - neither of these expenses exist when I stay at home.

I can't afford to blow money like this - a few bucks here, a few bucks there, every single day. Which makes it harder for me to get out there in the first place. And even if I managed to get a job first, to provide a source of income, that still doesn't change my fundamental nature - why spend all this money now if I might need it for more important things later. It doesn't change the fact that deep within, I just don't *agree* with the way society runs. And that's what's stopping me from being Joe Everyday. I just don't agree with this world, no matter which way I try to look at it, it just doesn't fit. That's why I don't understand how to do normal things that other people do without thinking. They look at me strangely and ask why I'm having so much trouble with something so simple, and the answer is, I just don't get it. It doesn't make any sense. Why am I here? Why in this world? Who the hell decided things should work this way anyway?

Who knows...

21 November, 2008


When did I start looking forward to Thanksgiving more than Christmas? On Thanksgiving, I can get up at a reasonable time (not more than a couple hours earlier than usual), eat a huge and satisfying meal (the best meal of the year, in fact) among a mercifully small crowd of family, and then lounge around the house the rest of the night, doing whatever I feel like. On Christmas, I have to get up early in the morning (which is the absolute worst time of the day for me to get up), after the previous night's crowded, claustrophobic family party, and then stay up all. day. long. until the evening (after dinner) when I can finally stop visiting family and just collapse into bed. And that's not even mentioning the consumer nightmare that is gift-giving (let alone the preparations for it)! Give me a break!

20 November, 2008

Defined by Disorder

Yesterday I found myself studying the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) system for defining personality types based on Jungian theories. (A brief aside: I don't hide my distaste for Sigmund Freud, but even though Carl Jung was also far from developing a solidly scientific basis for psychology, I have a lot more respect for him, and his theories take on an almost romantic, mystical quality for me). Although the MBTI system is far from perfect in terms of pigeonholing the population into distinct personality types, I don't think there's much doubt that it's a lot better than something like astrology, and regardless of the system's limitations, I'm discovering that there's quite a lot of depth to it, and much wisdom to be gleaned from a grounded study of the various personality types and particularly the boundaries between them.

So I've been trying to figure out just which personality type best describes me, and I'm having a little trouble. There's no doubt that I am an Introvert, and it seems pretty clear that I am more iNtuiting than Sensing, but after that it gets a little tougher. There's a test I've taken a few times over the past couple years, and I've gotten pretty consistent results. The trouble is, I've always been just barely above the midpoint for those last two attributes, so while this particular test would mark me as Thinking rather than Feeling, and Judging rather than Perceiving, the fact is that it is possible that I could easily swing to the other side given different questions.

To further complicate matters, I took a different test elsewhere (at mypersonality.info) which expectedly marked me as an iNtuitive Introvert, and placed me just above the midpoint for Judging over Perceiving, but instead of Thinking, I scored Feeling with a slightly larger distance from the midpoint than I had on the previous test (in the opposite direction). Of course, no one of these tests is foolproof and 100% accurate, but I feel like my rational scientific side is battling my temperamental artistic side.

So I'm willing to believe that I truly exist in the middle of a couple of these dichotomies, but I'm still curious about what kind of people fall into each personality type - especially the ones I'm teetering between. Who knows, maybe I can relate better to the average population of one group more than another. Unfortunately, reading summaries of the personality types hasn't helped a whole lot, because depending on the source, I can find myself agreeing with the description of multiple types, or none of them. But, I found an alternative solution - exploring message board forums dedicated to specific personality types.

So far, I've explored the INTJ and INTP boards more than others. From a purely superficial perspective, I would definitely say that I am more of a Thinker than a Feeler, and that whatever part of me "Feels" (understanding that the nuance of the term in this context is not necessarily obvious) is either subdued or not as fundamental to my being as the part that "Thinks". Additionally, I briefly browsed an INFx (can't remember if it was J or P) board and was unimpressed with the personalities on display. On the other hand, the INTJ and INTP boards have both provided quite a bit of discussion that I can find interest in.

As much as I want to find out one personality type that fits me the most, even if it's only a little bit better than another one, my opinion on where I fit unfortunately tends to sway quite a bit depending on who's offering the description. Although the test I took three times would yield the narrow margin toward INTJ over INTP, I'm finding from people's own descriptions that the INTJ's tend to be more action-oriented, dedicated to seeing their plans implemented, whereas the INTP's seem to be more concerned with the formulation of the plans only. In that case, I'd lean towards the INTP side of the spectrum. On the other hand, I'm hearing things that suggest that INTJ's are more concerned with organization and order than INTP's, and that would sway me a little in the opposite direction. Maybe I should just content myself with being labeled an INTx, with potential circumstantial F preferences...

The bottom line is, regardless of how I decide to label myself, it's exciting finding a discussion board with other people who, in general, think in patterns that are not entirely alien to my own.

Another thing that crossed my mind while trying to pigeonhole my personality, is just how much a disorder defines a person's identity. How much is a disorder an obstacle that blocks a person from realizing their true, latent identity, and how much is that disorder a fundamental part of that person's identity? Is the disordered me the real me, or is there a realer me hiding inside somewhere, afraid to come out? After all, what would I be like if I didn't have this anxiety disorder? If I never had it? How much different would I be? What kind of person would I be? Would I be essentially the same person, minus the anxiety, or would the lack of that obstacle have allowed certain inhibited aspects of my personality to shine through? Is it possible that I could have even been an extravert, or at the least, outgoing? Does that capability exist within me? Is it merely locked away, or is it just not there to begin with?

There's a specific reason why I question this. Looking at my brother, at times, is kind of like looking into a funhouse mirror. An upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror in one of those old abandoned funhouses that are almost definitely haunted. I've always considered myself a loner, and now he is whole-heartedly embracing the loner's manifesto. But the more he characterizes himself as a loner, the more I tend to question how much of a loner I really am. I mean, in practice, I consider myself to be more of a loner than he is, but in my heart, I don't think there's any question which one of us is truly a loner. The way I see it, my brother has social connections, but would rather get rid of them. In contrast, I have hardly any social connections, but I long to have more of them. The reason I avoid people is not because I don't want to be around people, but because this disorder I have makes it uncomfortable for me to be around people. Can I truly be a loner if being alone makes me feel alone?

I guess I probably shouldn't question it so much. Not all loners are alike, that's one of the fundamental tenets of lonerism. You'll never see us banding together. It's just that, I don't feel content being who I am. I don't want to be me. I wish I was someone else.

18 November, 2008

Anime Chekku

Being that I'm a NEET, and a self-described hikikomori, it occurs to me that maybe I should mention with a little more frequency the anime I watch, as it seems to be part of the territory.

Sakotsu Moe

I recently watched a 4 episode OVA series titled Kyou no Go no Ni ("Today in Class 5-2"). The sole reason I picked it up is because I read that there was a scene in which the characters describe the appeal of a girl's collarbone, in contrast with the more common focus on breasts. Naturally, I had to check it out for myself. Turns out to be more of a joke than a serious discussion, but it was still pretty amusing - which is the way I'd describe the rest of the series, as well. Despite the questionable combination of ecchi and elementary school, the series manages to be quite funny and even a little bit endearing, without, in my opinion, crossing the line. As a summary I read elsewhere puts it, this is 5th grade the way you *wish* you remembered it.

Hikikomori: Homicidal Teens of Japan

I don't like the stereotyping of hikikomori as violent recluses just waiting to explode on society, which is why I'm hoping that the delusions of the main character and hikikomori of new anime series Chaos;Head (based on a visual novel) turn out to have some kind of supernatural substance - but regardless of how it turns out, this is looking to be a pretty interesting story so far. I really liked the character of Kusunoki Yua at first, playing the part of the shy long-haired otaku girl - but unfortunately that largely turned out to be a ruse (presumably). Even so, the way she hesitated before sending that email, only to use the hand of her huggable frog plush to push the button, was totally cute. And the girl that sings in a band - totally hot. The fact that she looks like Ayanami Rei probably helps.

More Fun With Hikikomori

I'm also currently enjoying the series Hayate no Gotoku!, which features the radiant rich girl Sanzenin Nagi-ojousama. In addition to being a hikikomori (with a lot more money than most hikikomori), she's also got tsundere appeal. That's a pretty powerful one-two punch. And the series itself is quite amusing, chock full of parodic anime references.

All Grown Up

I finally watched the first [and second] episode of Naruto Shippuuden. I've been meaning to get on this series ever since I finished the first Naruto series (no mean feat), but you know how it goes. Three years have passed, and things are supposedly gonna get serious now. Naruto returns to Konoha Village after training with Jiraiya. The first order of business is to test Naruto (and Sakura's) newfound powers. And that's where Kakashi comes in. When Kakashi shockingly pulled down his mask to reveal his sharingan before the bout - that's when I knew things really were gonna get serious. I'm looking forward to what's in store.

Suicide in Second Life

I didn't really think of it this way at the time, but the more I think about it now, the more it feels like I committed suicide in Second Life. I couldn't deal with the people, so I just disappeared. And do you know what the best thing about suicide is? There are no consequences. Sure, the people I had befriended in-world might wonder where I went to, whether I'm alright, and why I left without saying a word to them, but the truth is, so long as I choose not to back out on my suicide, I will never have to face any of that. It no longer exists to me. It's a clean break. Now if only first life was that easy to escape from.

I've never seriously considered suicide only because I've never considered death to be a better alternative to living, despite how crappy my life is/has been. My opinion on that is subject to change if my life ever gets significantly worse than it is now, but for the time being, that is where I stand. If I knew for a fact, for example, that if I killed myself, I could be reincarnated as someone else, then I would have to seriously consider it.

Job Seeker Poll

Are you afraid that employers can see your Facebook or MySpace pages?

>Yes, my page could negatively affect my job search.
>No, my page is set to private.
>No, I use my page to promote myself to employers.
>I do not have a page.

This poll bugs me, because the provided answers are insufficient. I have both a MySpace and a Facebook page, even if I hardly ever use the Facebook page, and haven't used the MySpace page much recently - so I clearly can't pick the last option. I definitely don't use either of my pages to promote myself to employers - I have those pages for purely personal purposes - which rules out option number three. My Facebook page /may/ be set to private - frankly, I don't know - but I do know that my MySpace page is totally public, and that's the way I prefer it. Thus, I cannot choose the second option in the poll. And while it is true that my page could negatively affect my job search (what search?), I'd be lying if I chose option number one because then I'd be answering that yes, I am afraid that employers can see the page.

This is my answer:

No, my page could negatively affect my job search, but I don't care in the least, because I'm not interested in projecting a polished and perfected - and utterly fake - image to my prospective employers. I'm interested in my humanity, and it is all the quirks of my personality that makes me who I am, and that is the person you would hypothetically be hiring, not the perfected image I might otherwise choose to present.

The fact that this is even an issue is proof of the sorry state of affairs modern society is in...

17 November, 2008

Naptime is No Longer Safe

Generally, I don't take naps - despite my fondness for sleep, I'm of the mind that napping is something only kids do. That having been said, when I'm feeling *really* tired, or just miserable, crawling into bed for a period ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours during the middle of my waking period can be a lifesaver. Although in this case, it was sort of the opposite. That's right, just as Freddie Krueger comes for you anytime you nod off, no matter where or why or for how long, now Death too has descended upon naptime.

I've pretty much been sick for the past two months, since returning from the big trip. I've been even more miserable than usual the last couple days, though, as my coughing has recently gotten rather violent - and has at this point contributed to an unfortunate headache. Needless to say, I felt like lying down for a bit today as it was still early in my waking period and my head was already swimming (I love that expression, though I don't love the feeling). So I fell asleep for a good two and a half hours, only to wake up breathing rapidly from an exciting and harrowing dream. It wasn't quite as terrifying as the other "nightmares" I've had that pit me against Death, but I did get pret-ty close to death at the very end. Luckily, I just got up and the dream is still fairly fresh in my mind, so allow me to explain.

The setting is one of the shops over in the lot that's being consumed by the Walgreens that's scheduled to be built soon. But it's not any shop that I'm familiar with, and it was actually in one of the shop slots other than the ones I've spent lots of time in (which are closer to the road than the one I was in in my dream). Although, it was kind of coffee shop-ish, because there were a few of us (family/friend types) hanging out and chatting in the shop. But the lighting was brighter, and the atmosphere was more casual and less hip.

Anyway, there was this one guy, that I wish I could explain better, because there were other details about him that I don't remember, but I guess I can say he was the type that seemed nice and friendly but turned out to be...not. In any case, he was driving around the parking lot and I was sitting in the car with him, chatting about who knows what - I have no idea why, but that's how it was. As he drove close to the exit to the parking lot, I was about to ask him if he was actually /leaving/, since it wasn't /my/ intention to leave at that moment, but before I even asked, I was sort of 'dumped' out of the car. I don't know how exactly, if the guy pushed me out or I just got out voluntarily or what - I suppose it's one of those ambiguous dream details. At any rate, I found myself on the pavement watching the car drive away (and, indeed, leave the parking lot).

Unfortunately, there was a police car nearby, for some reason watching the car I just came out of (perhaps he knew what I would soon find out - that the guy in the car was actually a pretty mean character). I guess he maybe thought I had something to do with the guy, because he came straight for me, lights a-flashing, soon as I left the car. Then again, at the time, I didn't have any reason to believe he was coming for me for any other reason than I'm me. And cops tend to have it out for me. For no good reason. Although, did I mention that I was naked the whole time during this dream? I was, though I didn't *feel* naked - nobody seemed to notice or care (least of all myself).

Well I came to the conclusion that the cop was approaching me not because I was doing anything illegal but because he was just a corrupt and perverted cop (perhaps an even more frightening prospect). The thing that tipped me off was the way he instructed me to pose just before he was about to take my picture (for evidence...or something). I got the sense that this didn't feel like part of a cop's typical procedure. Lucky for me, in my dream I was a lot more straightforward than I really am, and I not only cursed at the cop, I even slapped or punched him (can't remember specifically). I was also lucky that instead of retaliating or being stubborn, the cop actually backed off. He drove away, and I went back to the shop where the others were. (This is really a pretty pointless detail, but I find it interesting that there was a grassy hill with a tree on top of it, right in the middle of the parking lot - which isn't the case in real life).

So somehow I find myself running from the guy from the car earlier. Apparently he's a psychotic murderer, and for some reason he's after me. It made more sense in the dream. I was pretty desperate at this point to hide, so I ran to the back of the shop and locked myself in the bathroom. There were some developments I don't clearly remember that had me back at the front of the shop, but it just ended up in me running back to the bathroom just as the psychotic murderer entered the shop. I slipped into the bathroom and locked the door, wondering if the murderer knew I was in there, and if not, how long it would take for him to find me. So I opened the bathroom window and slipped out into the alleyway between shops (still naked, by the way). At this point I had the instinctive feeling that the murderer was right on my tail, and that he'd kill me (or worse) the moment he caught me. So I stumbled through that window and climbed over some stuff, including a fence, as quickly as possible. I found myself in a yard and made a break for it, hoping I could throw the murderer off and find somewhere safe to hide (back home, maybe). This daring escape from the shop happened all so very quickly, and I awoke in the midst of it, still feeling the effects of the chase - breathing rapidly, as I mentioned above. It was quite exciting, indeed.

14 November, 2008

Every Fight Is A Fight With Freezer

There are two scenes from DBZ, both from the Freezer Saga, that periodically resurface in my consciousness, and that I can relate to my life. Both of them can be described as "Saiyajin prepares to fight Freezer".

The first involves Son Gokuu. For a rather large portion of episodes, Gokuu trains to become stronger while in transit to Namekkusei where he will have to face off against Freezer, to protect his friends (and, of course, the universe). But when he starts getting close to the planet, he ends his training regimen and takes a few steps to prepare himself for battle. (I may have the order of these mixed up, but that's not important). First, he cleans himself up. Then, he eats a huge meal to restore his energy. And then he takes a good long sleep. After all of that is out of the way, he spends the remaining time before arrival posed in a standing position, presumably concentrating on the fight ahead, perhaps in some form of meditation, mentally preparing himself for the ordeal that will follow.

It is this part that I can relate to - the mental preparation. Before I head into an important situation (or as it turns out, even many unimportant ones), I like to, whenever possible, spend some time mentally preparing myself for the ordeal ahead of me. After I do everything else to prepare myself, I feel like I need some time to just stand there and steel myself mentally against the obstacles that will inevitably assault me.

Then again, maybe it's just me fretting over all the little things that ultimately won't matter, and making an excuse to delay launch just a little bit longer.

The other scene I relate to involves the other important Saiyajin in the story, Bejiita. There is a scene, before the anticipated fight with Freezer begins, where Bejiita himself steels himself against the battle ahead, in a slightly different way. This occurs, if my memory serves correctly, right around the scene where Gohan and Kuririn are fitted with Saiyajin armor (from the "washing machine"). I think they take a nap, or at least leave Bejiita alone for a bit, and that's when Bejiita places his hand against the wall, bows his head, and works through the sheer terror that shakes through the core of his being at the mere thought of facing off against Freezer - a monster whose power Bejiita knows better than most.

Whereas Gokuu takes a more peaceful and composed (even enthusiastic at times) approach to the anticipation of a coming battle, when facing Freezer, Bejiita is, simply put, absolutely terrified. And honestly, I think that's closer to the way I feel before an "ordeal".

The trouble is, this sort of thing doesn't happen to me only when I'm up against a major scenario, like giving an important presentation or taking an important exam or something that could otherwise have a significant impact on my life. It doesn't occur only when I'm fighting Freezer - it happens every single time I go to "battle", even when it's just with the expendable small fries who don't even have a name. In other words, it feels like every "fight" I have to fight, is a fight with Freezer.

Can you imagine the impact that would have on a person? If everyone they had to fight against terrified them just as much as Freezer, regardless of how strong (or weak) they actually are, could you blame this person if they gave up fighting and went into hiding?

Could you?

09 November, 2008

Opening Stages (or Focusyn)

Now that the neighborhood coffee shop has (reluctantly) closed down to make way for yet another Walgreens in the area, you'd think I'd finally have some rest from having to perform every other week. But the Open Stage there was so popular (or at least so treasured by its regular attendees), that it has splintered off into two (two!) different new Open Stages. One of them is hosted by folk rock band The Primatives, who hosted the other one, and is located about a half hour drive from here. The other one is closer - only a little bit farther than the old one - and hosted by the Stickman, who was a regular and celebrated feature of the old 'stage. And guess what - their schedules are scattered relative to each other, so now I essentially have an Open Stage to perform at every single week (with some exceptions - holidays, months with five fridays, unexpected cancellations, etc.)!

Okay, this is good for me. I know. I've been practicing guitar a lot more the past couple months. And that's a very good thing. But it's still a lot of pressure. The farther Open Stage is cool because it actually has a stage (a pretty tall one, in fact), which is good performing experience, but also adds a lot more stress. The closer Open Stage is a bit less formal (with no real stage). An interesting side effect of the splintering of the old Open Stage is that each of the two new ones feature a number of familiar faces (which provides comfort), while adding in some fresh faces (so you get to hear new performers, and new people get to hear you). And even though *I* get bored playing the same songs over and over again, since each of the two stages feature different audiences (with maybe a few occasional crossovers), I can play a song a couple times before it gets tired. Or I can try a song out at the more informal stage so that I'm more comfortable playing it at the slightly more formal stage.

Enough of that for now. Let's talk about learning. A few weeks ago, I learned the basics to the song Too Rolling Stoned by Robin Trower - a fantastic blues rock song by the way. I can play it fairly well, minus the solos of course (unfortunately). Now, it took me some effort to work out that main riff you hear at the beginning and after each chorus. I had a tab for it (I wouldn't have been able to figure it out otherwise), but it was still tricky getting the timing down, and the tab itself was a little iffy (as they always seem to be). I had to listen to the riff in the song over and over again, listening carefully to the pitches of each note, and the timing between them, etc., to get the riff down. Eventually I got it, after a lot of effort. And being able to play it feels really really good. And this is the stuff I really wanna be able to play, as opposed to boring chords. Moreso whole solos than just riffs (though riffs are fun in their own right).

But a solo is like a dozen different riffs (or "licks", if you will - and that's just for a short solo) strung one after another, usually played fast. So it generally takes the effort of learning one riff times a dozen (or more, for the longer solos), to learn a solo. And that's a lot of effort. Of course, some solos are pretty easy, and some are really hard, and they all vary in difficulty. I'm sure other people - "true" musician types - can work stuff like this out a lot easier and/or faster than I can. But I'm not here today to talk about envy. I've proven to myself that I can work this stuff out if I really really work at it. And the portions of solos I can play are some of my favorite things to play - example, the opening riff for Steppin' Out played by Eric Clapton on the Bluesbreakers LP (I know, I'm mixing up riffs and solos now, just try to stay with me).

Another thing I love to play is the first four "measures" or so of I'm Going Home by Ten Years After, featuring Alvin "Fastest Fingers" Lee - as seen on the Woodstock film. Sure, four "measures" doesn't sound like a lot, but when it's Alvin Lee, baby, it's like a universe's worth of flurried notes (it's not really, but it sure feels like it). Just tonight I worked out the next four measures or so (with tons of effort), including getting past a part that's stumped me since I learned the first part. I gotta practice it a lot now to cement it into my memory, and a few of the sections are still weak, but it feels great to play it, even if I have to slow it down a bit yet.

My point here is, I can work this stuff out if I really work at it, but my problem is making the effort. I have some kind of mental deficiency that creates a strong desire within me to avoid doing stuff - moreso stuff that either requires effort or induces stress. I *want* to spend all day every day for months working out solos and stuff - and can you imagine what that would do for my playing ability? But I just can't get myself to *do* it. As soon as I come up against a wall, I feel a strong (really really strong) desire to turn around and take a nap or something, rather than chip away at the wall. This is why I'm a failure at life. But no amount of telling myself to "just do it" makes it the least bit easier for me.

And this is why I'm "just a picture of what I could have been".

04 November, 2008

Death Stalks My Dreams

I had some more vivid dreams last night. I'd love to describe them in detail, but unfortunately I don't really remember the details. I do remember, though, that one of them had me facing death again. I was being chased by some madman for some reason, or something like that, and I was holed up in the house, hiding. The part I remember involved somebody banging on the door from the outside and tossing an axe through the window (shattering the window in the process, of course) and chopping the door to pieces. Pretty intense. I'm starting to get the feeling that maybe Death is stalking my dreams or something. That'd be terrible if I just didn't wake up one of these days after one of those dreams. I just hope Death doesn't decide to go all Freddy Krueger on me. *That* could get messy.

02 November, 2008

Silent Hill 4: The Room

Having just beat Silent Hill 4: The Room for the first time, here are my general impressions. It helps to realize that the game was originally intended to be a spinoff of the Silent Hill series. This goes a long way in explaining why, though it definitely feels like a Silent Hill game, it has certain elements that veer from standard expectations of a Silent Hill game.

The game centers around The Room, which you, as Henry Townshend, are stuck in, since the door is chained shut (though from the inside). You travel to various "worlds" through mysterious holes that appear in the apartment, and it isn't clear if these are just dreams or reality or what. Interestingly, there's only one save point in the entire game, and it's in The Room (which despite being the "safe haven", starts to get pretty creepy later in the game as it gets more and more haunted). Since you're frequently coming back to The Room via holes that show up all over the alternate worlds you explore, there's still plenty of chances to save your game. Although, it does get kind of tiresome after awhile to go through the hole and back into the apartment every single time you want to save your game, or shuffle your inventory.

Which brings me to another innovation this game features. You can only carry a certain number of items at one time (ten or so). Everything else has to be stored in a chest in The Room. Early in the game, you get a notice warning you to travel light in that other world, or else you may regret it. Which is true, because you never know when you're gonna pick something new up, and you especially want to have space for the important things. Which means you can only carry so much health and ammo at once. It's not so bad, since there are holes leading back to the apartment pretty much everywhere, but it's still a pain after awhile to go all the way back through the hole every time you need to grab something or put something away.

The plot of the story is totally Silent Hill worthy, about a serial killer named Walter Sullivan who seems to be continuing his killing streak from beyond the grave. One thing I noticed in the game is the lack of boss fights. From what I can recall, there were two battles that could be considered boss fights, and one of them (the one that's not the final boss) was hardly even that. On the one hand, bosses scare the crap out of me, but honestly, the experience suffers a bit from not having them.

The other major difference about this game was the inclusion of ghosts and hauntings. There were still the usual Silent Hill demons roaming around, but this time there was a large emphasis on "ghosts", which, while definitely cool in concept, are incredibly annoying, considering that they can hurt you psychically, just by being close to you, and that they are effectively IMMORTAL! I hate enemies that I can't kill. There are certain items you can use: the Saint Medallions nullify the ghosts' psychic attacks; Holy Candles can be placed to kill off the ghosts (although they sometimes have a tendency to come back); and there are a few Swords of Obedience scattered about that you can use to pin a ghost down indefinitely. And these are all really cool gameplay elements, but the fact that there are only so many of these items, and the medallions break after a certain time of use, means that a lot of the ghosts you just have to run from.

Speaking of items breaking, let's talk about the weapons. This game is shy on the guns (providing only a pistol and revolver), choosing to focus more on the melee weapons, it seems. Some of these can break if used too much. Which, again, is interesting, but makes me hesitant to ever use them. Still, I wasn't too bothered by fighting my way through Hell with a steel pipe, axe, or even the Pickaxe of Despair (very powerful, but slow to use), pulling out the pistol for those hairier situations. Of course, there were always the immortal ghosts to bug me...

Oh yes, there's also the matter of the camera. Inside The Room, the game utilizes a first-person perspective, which just takes a little getting used to. It was pretty jarring at first though. Thankfully, the majority of the game (including the sections with combat), revert to the traditional third-person perspective, although the camera angle and movement (despite the fact that you can force it to just over your shoulder, good for combat) can be frustrating at times.

There are five main worlds throughout the game - subway, forest, building, apartment, and hospital. You actually end up going through each one twice (except hospital), and unfortunately, it gets a *little* tiresome towards the end. As for the Silent Hill "transformations" we've all become used to, there's much less of it here. You still get the same idea, contrasting The Room with the worlds, and especially in the apartment world, but there's less of a focus on that actual transformation, and going through one place in both worlds and marking the terrifying differences. Also, I found there to be, overall, less darkness in this game. Not to say that the game wasn't terribly creepy, but I think it's a little bit less creepy than the previous SH games, environment-wise.

Final game stats seem a little lighter (meaning that there's less of 'em that seem to count) than in previous SH games. My first time through, play time clocked in at just over 11 hours, with 62 saves (I've always been a heavy saver), and 633 kills (which I have reason to believe is a high number). I got the "bad" ending out of four possible. I want to try for the others, but the experience has left me a bit drained and I'm not sure I have the energy for it. My rank was a mediocre 5.5 stars.

At any rate, it was an enjoyable game. Creepy, too - definitely. Deviations from the expected formula may water down the Silent Hill experience slightly, but it's still generally a Silent Hill experience, and the innovations, for better or worse, were certainly interesting to try out. And you can't miss the storyline if you're a Silent Hill fan.

29 October, 2008


This year's Monsterfest on AMC is shorter (if memory serves), with a worse lineup (where's my Hellraiser?!), and renamed to Fearfest. What's the tradeoff? We get a celebrity host in the form of Rob Zombie. Which is kinda neat, but I'd rather have more and better movies. Still, it's a whole week of horror titles, and there's bound to be something good in there. Following are some notes about some of the movies I've watched in the past week - mostly the ones I *haven't* seen before (though not exclusively).

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 - The first Nightmare on Elm Street movie is undeniably one of the great classics of the horror genre. This sequel, though unsurprisingly, doesn't hold a candle to the first installment. One thing it does have going for it, though, is the kickass rock music - which sounds great despite being very 80's.

Motel Hell - This movie was so great. The perfect combination of comedy and horror. It was funny without making fun of itself, and without killing the creepiness of the plot. The innocent motorcycle accident victim girl was very alluring throughout, and Farmer Vincent was delightfully demented. The climax involving a pig's head mask and a chainsaw duel was just totally outstanding. Two thumbs up.

Constantine - This is one I saw back in college a number of years ago. Really more of an action film featuring [supernatural] horror elements rather than a horror film, but entertaining just the same. I think I understood it a bit better this time through.

Panic Room - And this one's actually a thriller, not a horror. Jodie Foster and her daughter (her movie daughter, that is) hold out against three robbers looking to steal a fortune hidden in their house. Pretty tense, and overall an entertaining movie. Forest Whitaker plays very well the part of a bad guy who has enough morals to make you feel bad for him when things don't work out in the end. I liked it.

Pet Sematary Two - For once, a sequel that's actually pretty decent. Maybe even as good as the first. The Pet Sematary movies are so sick in that they play on that fear of children losing their pets, and then pervert it by adding a creepy zombie twist. Good stuff, though. I found the fat kid to be pretty easy to sympathize with, and the bully was just a real jackass. He totally has it coming when he gets done in later in the story...

House on Haunted Hill (the remake) - Entertaining, and actually manages to sit outside the realm of crappy "no soul" remakes. This one claims to be "faithful" to the original, and while it's totally respectful to the original, and in no way "unfaithful", I just don't know if "faithful" is a word I'd use, since it adds this whole totally supernatural element to the story. Anyway, I love that the one actor totally pulls off the "Vincent Price" persona. It gives the film a whole 'nother layer of authenticity. Anyway, it's a fun ride, and who can say no to Ali Larter? Not I.

Return to House on Haunted Hill - Crap. Pure, utter crap. I couldn't even watch it. It's just got that whole sleazy, modern direct-to-video feel, meaning a crappy plot, with really crappy actors. Don't bother. (Still better than Pinata: Survival Island, though...)

Bordello of Blood - Taken for what it is (a Tales From The Crypt movie - and thus, not to be taken seriously), this was a rather entertaining flick about a vampire whorehouse hidden in the basement of a mortuary. Dennis Miller absolutely sells this movie, in the role of a witty private investigator. His quips are without a doubt the main feature (intended or not). By the way, watching another "tale from the crypt" reminds me how much I absolutely despise The Crypt Keeper. It's not just that his puns are absolutely terrible (which, let's face it, is true of most puns), or that you can see them coming from a mile away, but the way in which he hams them up so much just completely kills whatever impact they might otherwise have had... and his laugh is just so damn obnoxious! Moving on...

Jeepers Creepers - Wow, the first act of this movie is outstanding (by the way, note to Quentin Tarantino: the beginning scene in this movie is how casual chit-chat in a horror movie *should* be done). If only the rest of it stood up, this would be one of my favorites, but unfortunately the movie sort of descends into mediocre supernatural horror by the 1/3 mark or so. And that's ironic, because I usually say that I prefer a good supernatural monster flick to another run of the mill serial killer story. But this movie starts out as a *really* good serial killer movie, then drops to the level of a run-of-the-mill devil-on-the-loose story. Still worth seeing, though.

An American Werewolf in London - A classic of the werewolf subgenre, and, from what I can tell, frequently compared to The Howling, which I saw last year. I have to say, I *much* prefer the werewolves in The Howling - the ones in An American Werewolf look too much like bears, actually. But, the whole part in the moors, and the Slaughtered Lamb pub, is totally atmospheric and creepy. And the rest of the movie is pretty entertaining. I think I like The Howling better overall, but they're both good lycanthrope classics.

The Dark Half - Interestingly, a Stephen King novel adapted and directed by George Romero, about a writer (whodathunkit?) whose dark and gritty alter-ego literally comes to life. It's an entertaining story very well-executed, with lots of suspense and mystery, but as far as being strictly /scary/, I wouldn't necessarily call it a straight horror. The flocking sparrows did seem to channel The Birds just a little bit, though.

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday - Mediocre at best. Too much plot, and not enough horny teenagers. Jason just isn't as intimidating hopping from one body to another. It was an interesting surprise to see the mysterious informant "X" from The X-Files (Deepthroat's replacement) playing the part of a bounty hunter who inexplicably knows all the details behind Jason's secret supernatural origin. What the hell was Freddy Krueger doing at the very end there? Was that supposed to be a setup for Freddy vs. Jason? That was weird.

Willard - A captivating story about a timid man who is driven mad by his jackass of a boss, and seeks revenge after befriending a host of rats he finds in his basement. But not all of the rats are so willing to follow the man's orders. Excellent acting by Crispin Glover in the lead role. Pretty darn good for a movie about rats.

Christine - Another Stephen King story, about a geek who buys a junk car (named Christine) and then turns into a cool cat practically overnight. Trouble is, the car is possessed, and a pretty jealous lover. Yeah, it sounds kinda silly, but this was actually a very good movie. And hey, it was directed by John Carpenter. I love how Christine always plays these old 50's-style rock n roll songs (she was "born" in 1957), and then the last line in the movie, by one of the survivors, is... "god I hate rock n roll". In most situations, I'd be annoyed by a line like that. But here, it just works.

28 October, 2008

Virtual (In)Ability

One of the cool things about Second Life is that you can overcome a lot of the physical limitations that you might feel are holding you back in first life. This is most apparent in the realm of physical appearance - considering how easy it is to look young and beautiful. Second Life also provides a vast world for people to explore who might have trouble exploring the real world, due to certain physical handicaps.

Second Life also provides its users with a sort of clean slate with which to build a brand new persona, allowing them to become whoever they want. Yet, there is a limitation to this kind of identity sculpting - a limitation which exists in the user. Although most people with half a mind and the will to do it could pull off any number of "identity guises", via a certain level of roleplay, most people do not have the skill to change their actual feelings or subconscious reactions by will.

What I mean is, you can take what you're thinking and feeling and mold it into a specific form to express it within the confines of a chosen personality role, but you can't change what those initial thoughts and feelings are. You can control how you act, but not how you react - your behavior but not your cognition (in a sense). You can choose the signals you send out into the second world, but not the ones you receive from it.

What I'm getting at is, a person with a mental disability in first life, still has a hard time overcoming that disability in second life.

Second Life is a social place. I spend most of my time there alone, however. It helps that my schedule seems to be more or less at odds with the average Second Lifer's schedule. It also helps that I tend to avoid people, and especially crowds. When I do a search, looking for new and exciting sims to explore, I have a tendency to look one up on the map before teleporting in, to see if there are (m)any people there. If there are a lot (or sometimes even just some), I'll likely pass and look for another place to go.

And yet, loner that I am, Second Life provides a nice low-stress environment for me to meet people. And it's no secret that I get lonely. Better yet, with the right avatar, it's pretty easy to get people comin' up to /me/, so I don't even have to exert any real effort. Of course, that might be asking for the wrong kind of attention...

So I thought I could be a friendly person. And sure, I'm friendly. But like I said before, the more friends I make on Second Life, the less I want to log on. It's not that I don't like these people that I've befriended, or that they bug me (most of the time they just ignore me anyway), but it's just the stress of knowing that I might be walking into a social situation that I would have a hard time avoiding without further burdening myself with the worry that I might be hurting someone's feelings.

I'm shy, and I'm introverted. I read somewhere that the two are not equivalent, despite the fact that the terms tend to be lumped together, and even interchanged quite a bit. An introvert tends to direct his focus inward, being more concerned/interested in the self rather than others, whereas a shy person is just someone who takes their time warming up to people. Therefore, you can have a shy extrovert, who acts timid in front of strangers, but becomes the life of the party as long as it's the right group of people.

Well, that's the general gist of it, anyway. And I consider myself both shy *and* introverted. I guess the shy part is more important in this discussion, though. I take a long time to get comfortable with someone. I have to know them well and for awhile before I can relax around them and stop worrying about all the stupid things I worry about. The point is, when confronted with the possibility of having to face someone socially that I'm not entirely comfortable with yet (which is, effectively, everyone), my avoidant personality kicks in. And you can guess what I end up doing.

Of course, I could start a new account - an "alt". Then nobody would know me. And although this is something that I'm planning on doing (for this and other reasons), I can't just throw away my current avatar. I've invested too much (objectively and subjectively). And besides, it would be pretty damn dickish to just disappear and leave my new "friends" guessing. I don't want to be mean like that.

On a slightly related note, I really wish there was some form of free private zone in Second Life - a small area that comes with every account, that's entirely localized to the computer you're running SL on, and has no direct connection to the online SL worldmap. It would be a place where you could go to try stuff out on your own, without interfering with the community - like clothes and building projects and whatnot. You'd still have to pay to get land "on the grid" that other users can access, but this would just be something for yourself, to fool around with, with zero distraction.

23 October, 2008

Taking a Second Look

To my surprise, I have encountered an inordinate amount of negativity towards Second Life, in my discussions about it with friends (or in some cases, with person(s) who I thought were friends). And my experience of Second Life has been so positive, that it's left me guessing. Why so much hatred? I could understand if these people just didn't like the program, but they seem to feel the need to express fairly strong negative opinions about it.

For example, one "friend" - who is no stranger to MMORPG addiction, by the way - seemed to take pleasure in deriding Second Life, despite the fact that he's never even tried it. It's not just that he never bothered, but, in his own words, he "couldn't bring [him]self to actually play it." And yet, he apparently knows it well enough to profess that the "lowly" SL isn't worth his hard drive space.

I tried to figure out where his prejudice was coming from, but all he could tell me was that SL "does everything *poorly*" (whatever that means), and that he pities the "zombies" that play it. This coming from a WoW addict. And despite the fact that I'm the one actually playing SL, and actually having a great time with it, he insists, "given that I have more knowledge and experience with games like this, you'd damn well better give me credit that I know what I'm talking about moreso than you." So I gave up.

That's one thing, but even the friend whose opinions I actually respect has expressed negative feelings towards Second Life (although he at least took the chance to try it). It seems that he has more of a philosophical problem with the game, and the whole idea of embracing fantasy instead of reality. I can understand that, though, because he's doing pretty well dealing with reality, from what I can tell. I, however, have good reason to escape into a fantasy world.

But that's not all. This friend has repeatedly referred to Second Life as a low place that must be sunk to, and on different occasions compared it to, and also professed it to be even lower than, 4chan and its ilk, stating that it exists in that same niche of the internet. Which one? Well, "the shitty one", of course. This, to me, was quite a blow, because frankly, I don't see the relation, and I agree that places like 4chan are pretty shitty.

Look, I'm not trying to call names or be bitchy or anything by using direct quotes - I just want you to get an idea of the kind of abuse I've had to deal with. I mean, my one friend actually said that Second Life was, and I quote, "worse than drugs". Okay, to be fair, I've said that WoW is as bad as drugs in the past. But worse? Seriously?

So how do I make sense of all this? Well, I read some stuff recently that might just clear things up a bit. Specifically, I've read about cases of people getting hooked on Second Life and letting their first life fall apart. The classic case of addiction. But unlike with other games, there's the added confusion that comes from Second Life pretending to be real life. This is especially difficult when it comes to forming relationships in SL. Does it count as cheating if a married (or otherwise committed) person falls in love on SL? When you've got SL friends to hang out with, do your rl friends matter anymore? If an exciting adventure is just a teleport away, why should you bother leaving the house?

My response to this angle is to say that you shouldn't hate the drug, you should hate the addiction. The simple truth is that Second Life can be just as much a positive influence in a person's life as a negative one. It depends entirely on the user, and how they choose to live their second life.

I'm reminded of a specific scene in Chobits - a series that takes place in a world where intelligent computers in the shape of pretty girls (called persocoms) are commonplace. There's a lot of drama that goes on about people who fall in love with persocoms, and whether they should be treated like people, and all of that ugliness. Well, in one specific case, there's a man who falls completely in love with his persocom, to the point of neglecting and then completely forgetting the very existence of his wife. The "best friend" character in the story befriends the wife, and learns to hate any man who would fall in love with a persocom, forsaking reality for a fantasy. But later on, he comes to the realization that it's not a man who falls in love with a persocom that he hates - what he hates is simply a bad husband, a bad person, who would cheat on and forget his own wife.

I approach Second Life in the same way. If a married person falls in love with someone on SL, and allows their rl marriage to fall apart; or if someone gets so engrossed with SL that they give up on important matters in rl; then it's the *person* who is making bad judgements in his/her life. It's not the game's fault.

So maybe people that hate Second Life so much, only really hate the people who play it irresponsibly. Maybe that's part of the puzzle, after all. But I don't feel it's a complete answer. I think some people just aren't ready for the metaverse yet. They can't handle a virtual reality that pretends to be actual reality. And I don't blame them. Although I do think that it's the way of the future. Someday, the simulation will become reality itself. I find that idea exciting. Others may find it scary.

Don't fight the future. Embrace it.


I had another vivid dream last "night". And yes, it involved that feeling of imminent death that I have become so familiar with. I was exploring a futuristic power plant with a girl - the cute, short, supergenious type. She had some kind of connection to the plant, which is why she was able to get me in to take a look after hours. I have no idea how the power plant worked, except that it was similar to a nuclear reactor in one aspect - the dangerous potential for a devastating meltdown, should things go wrong.

Well, the plant was housed (ironically) in some kind of biosphere, so wandering around it was actually quite like wandering through a forest. And since it was after hours, it was dark, so it was also pretty creepy. And it was huge, like a forest, not just a little greenhouse. After exploring a bit, we were back at the entrance, where there are these huge circular monitors. The girl wanted to test out the system or something, but as soon as she activated it, things got bad. A few of the circular monitors were flashing red, and I had a feeling something was wrong. Whether the girl explicitly said something to the effect, or if it was a subconscious realization, I knew that the place was going to blow. When I heard the words "four seconds" uttered, I ran like the devil towards the door.

The explosion at four seconds was mercilessly minor, but I heard the girl shouting something about another one at 27 seconds or so, as I kept running. She was quick on my heels. Exiting the building, there was a gateway ahead, and the girl shouted that the explosion would be centered on that gateway, for whatever reason. I realized that I was running towards my death, but I also had an understanding that to stop, or to go back, would be even worse, if the whole place was about to go, which I believed it was. The only thing I could do was keep running.

I expected to be annihilated in an intense wave of heat and wind as I passed through the gateway, but the explosion, while serious enough to shake me up and hurt my neck, wasn't bad enough to stop me running, let alone kill me. Still, I was running for my life, hoping that I'd be able to get far enough away from the building before the big bang, or that the automatic-response rescue team might arrive and save me before then.

And that was the end. Of the dream, I mean. The stuff we saw inside the biosphere was totally awesome, but unfortunately I can't remember any of it in enough detail to describe.

21 October, 2008

The Solace of Psychosis

I just started playing Silent Hill 4: The Room a few days ago. Not because I've given up on Second Life, or that I grew bored with Second Life, or anything like that. The main reason is that it's October, and Halloween is coming up, and this is my favorite holiday of the year, and I don't want to let it pass me by unnoticed because I was too engrossed in a virtual world. And this is really the best time of year to play a Silent Hill game. I played Silent Hill 3 last year around this time, and I've just been waiting for the right opportunity to pull out Silent Hill 4.

Okay, Second Life does hold /some/ responsibility for my decision to start playing SH4 right now. Firstly, I spent a few days exploring some Silent Hill related sims on Second Life. They were really cool, though not as good as I think they could be. With a few teleporter tricks, you could totally pull off the "Alternate transformation" of the town and really freak people out. Still, it's not the same experience as playing a real Silent Hill game. Secondly, one day I thought about logging onto Second Life, and I thought to myself, right now I feel like playing an actual /game/, that has some kind of plot or purpose, other than wandering around and talking to people. And thirdly, with each new friend I make in Second Life, the more "social" the experience becomes. And to be fair, Second Life is largely a social experience - much like life itself (at least the way it's intended to be lived). And so I increasingly find myself wanting to log into a more solipsist-friendly world, where I don't have to interact with any other sentient beings and I can just wallow in the mists of my own self-absorbed experience of existence.

And then it hit me. Silent Hill is not just an abandoned resort town gone [literally] to Hell. Silent Hill, with all of its hellacious flaws, and abandoned buildings, *is* the resort. I realized that I go to Silent Hill to get away from it all. In Silent Hill, I can crawl into my own mind and fight against the schizophrenic demons of my life, without being bugged by people from the real world, telling me to straighten up and get a [real] life. In Silent Hill, it's perfectly okay - even expected - to be psychotic. The demons, at the same time that they scare me and disturb me, also, in a way, comfort me. The silence and the psychosis of the town is gradually becoming my home.

18 October, 2008

Living a Second Life

Everytime I read an article about something related to the world of Second Life, there's always a brief section that explains what Second Life is to people who aren't familiar with it, and I always brush over that section because it's incredibly boring to read pretty much the same tacky description over and over again about something that I'm already quite familiar with. And yet, I don't feel comfortable discussing Second Life here, without some kind of an explanatory preface. So I apologize for the following paragraph, but it must be written.

Second Life is a computer program. It's /like/ a game, but it's not really a game. Because there is no plot, and there is no goal. It's as undirected as actual life, and it means only as much as the meaning you put into it. For some people, it's a glorified three-dimensional version of irc, or a really neat social networking tool. Others see it as a commercial or intellectual prospect - a place to create things, and, perhaps, sell them. Still others like to focus on the adventure aspect, exploring the landscapes and attractions that others have built. And for many people, Second Life is just that - a chance to start a new life, and become either the person they've always wanted to be, or someone else entirely.

The very premise of Second Life brings up difficult philosophical and moral questions for those who are inclined to explore such matters. It's kind of like a "Pong version" of The Matrix, if you will - except that everyone who is "plugged in" is a knowing and willing participant. But how much importance should a person's Second Life have, when weighed against their first life? How authentic is their "second" identity, when and where it differs from their "first" identity? Just how much of an overlap is there between these lives, and what effect does that have on either?

So how did I start "playing" Second Life? The truth is, I was bored. I had heard about the program, was interested enough to check it out, and became intrigued when I found out that it's absolutely free to start. So I said to myself, "let's find out what Second Life is all about." I downloaded the program, created an initial avatar (my Second Life persona), and began to explore this new life.

I like Second Life because it lets me be somebody else. That somebody else is still entirely me, but it's a dormant part of me that isn't able to express itself in first life, for any number of reasons. When I'm this second self, I can momentarily forget about my first self, and all the things I hate about it. And so far, I like my second self so much better than my first self. Instead of being cynical and depressed, I am bright and cheery. And the happiness of my second life actually leaks into my first life. I'm not just acting happy, I'm *actually* /feeling/ happy.

As you can imagine, I don't enjoy talking about first life when I'm living my second life. It really spoils the mood. At first, I thought that would be a hard angle to explain to people, but then I realized that a lot of other second lifers feel the same way. Which reassured me, but even in this case, it's still hard for people to ignore first life entirely. Because you can never completely disconnect the two lives. Maybe I'm taking this "game" of second life too far, but I really want to be able to pretend that there is no such thing as first life when I play it. When people ask me questions about *me*, by default they're asking about first me - which /drives/ second me - and not about second me myself. And sometimes I have to actively wonder how many of my first life details are actually relevant to my second life, and how many of them are expendable. It's a confusing mess of affairs.

One area of Second Life that concerns me dearly is the realm of sex. For the uninitiated, yes, there are copious amounts of sex in Second Life. And given the nature of the environment - particularly the high level of fantasy versus reality - there is an opportunity for second lifers to explore modes of sexuality they may not otherwise consider in first life, for any number of reasons. From just being a little more sexually promiscuous than usual, to diving head first into a grab bag of perverse fetishes, a second lifer can experiment to his/her heart's content, with relatively little risk.

Well, I've made a little discovery. I'm not gonna pretend that it's any surprise that I was curious about sex in Second Life. Given all the parameters stated above, it was natural for me to want to explore the possibilities of being a little more... let's say "open for business", than I generally am in first life. And here's what I learned: when having sex in Second Life, the avatars (second lifers) may be the ones to engage physically, but it is still the first lifers who engage emotionally. And what I learned about myself? I may have a fully healthy appetite for sex, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm a pretty exclusive and deeply personal lover. (Which may not really be much of a revelation after all). Though I may feel the desire to get down and boogie at any time, the release just isn't worth picking any guy or girl off the street who happens to be horny.

A few notes on the carnal act itself. I guess when most people get off in Second Life, they're actually more interested in getting off in first life, and their avatar is just a means to that end. Maybe that's obvious. But maybe that's not the way I feel. The question that always bugs me is "r u horny irl?" It goes back to that whole spoiling the fun thing. You're not supposed to be having sex with first me, you're supposed to be having sex with second me. And once you ask that question, you've crossed that boundary into my discomfort zone. I ask again, am I taking this "game" of life too far? Or are there others like me, who want nothing to do with first life?

I have to admit I'm not a fan of cybersex. I guess it could be imaginative. If the people involved care enough, I suppose it could be like writing real-time interactive erotic fiction. And that doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, yeah, the real-time part. And that pressure to perform. It's like two authors working together on a choose-your-own-adventure story. When I make something up, I like to have total control over it, to be able to guide the long chain of action and reaction. Because that's what it takes for me to craft a compelling story. But the goal of cybersex isn't to tell a compelling story, it's to get off in real-time. And well, frankly, I don't like being put on the spot when it comes to words. Like having to make an impromptu speech or something. Put me in bed and I'm happy to explore, but just please don't make me write about it. It's like turning sex into a book report or something.

And here's the hook. Despite how happy I feel actually being an attractive personality (to completely ignore my appearance), I'm increasingly feeling the desire to be myself (my first self, that is) again. My own dull, unattractive first self. Then, I wouldn't have that pressure of having to continuously impress people and live up to their standards. But the question is, have I really learned anything? Or am I just telling myself that I don't have what it takes to be the kind of person I want to be - the kind of person who can be happy? Because that would be pretty depressing. And we're right where we started.

The psychosocial experiment continues on...