31 July, 2008

Jaywalking (or Freewalking)

(In the sense of being naked as a jaybird, of course.)

I hadn't been outside in the past week or so (boy, it sounds pathetic when I put it that way), as I've been somewhat busy with a number of things. But I checked TWC (The Weather Channel, er, .com) on a whim tonight and was elated when I saw the current temp marked at 73 degrees. Anything over 70 in the deep of night is usually good for checking out. I was also a little frustrated with the photos I was shooting, not quite getting what I wanted, so I decided in the moment that it would be great just to go out and get a good walk.

It was comfortable - high humidity, but not overly warm (not that I would have minded a little bit more warmth), and the grass was a bit damp from earlier rains - but there wasn't much wetness. It was just about 2am when I went out, which is a pretty good time for a weeknight. Sporadic cloud covering and not much in the way of moonlight. Quiet, not a lot of house lights on up or down the street. I went out completely naked with no gear and covering (not even shoes), and I decided I'd go for that walk just the way I was. I was also feeling particularly ambitious, so I decided to go farther than the short block that I've done completely nude before. So you could definitely say I expanded my boundaries again tonight.

I went around the "long" block. All the way up to the 5-way intersection, a short stretch from the local main thoroughfare. About halfway there, a car did actually come down the road I was walking up, but I lucked out, as there was sufficient time and sufficient shrubbery right beside me to hide behind when I noticed the headlights coming over the crest of the hill. I was a little concerned about whether or not I'd be seen easily in the headlights, even behind the thick shrubbery, but I ducked down and the car passed and there was no incident. I never liked the idea of going onto people's property to hide, seeing as you never know what kind of defenses they might have, and also by entering their property, you're putting yourself in an even more delicate situation if you get caught. But the bush was there, and I felt like hiding, and it worked out just fine, I think. I got a little bit wet brushing up against the bush, but I only mention that in interest; it's not like it was any sort of problem.

So anyway, back to that 5-way intersection. A lot more street lights around that part, but I got lucky, and made the turn down the hill without any cars coming past. Although, a bunch of cars went through that intersection after me, which made me nervous, but I was down the hill at that point, and none of them came in my direction. Whew.

I certainly wasn't gonna head towards the thoroughfare - it was getting busy enough just where I was. So I went down the hill towards the elementary school. Which, is maybe an even more delicate area to be caught nearby, but it's the direction I wanted to go, and I was pretty confident in the lack of overnight traffic in that particular area, and really, it's not like I was/had plans of doing anything bad. I passed the corner of the school without incident, and made it back to the darker, more secluded streets, heading back towards home now, in a loop.

On my way back, another car crossed my path, and this time, though I had plenty of forewarning, it occurred at a spot where there wasn't anything to hide behind within close distance. I wasn't completely unprepared for a car passing me, but still, when it happens, you get jumpy. I didn't want to be completely exposed, so I sat down by the curb in front of a house that had their yard light on anyway, and just acted natural. The car went past me without incident, although there's no possible way they couldn't have seen me. I didn't try to pretend I wasn't there, but I didn't do anything odd either. The car passed, and to my horror, turned into a driveway up the road. I wondered, do they live there? When they get out of the car, are they going to ignore me, or do something? Should I just start walking away, or continue sitting there, as if it was no big deal? Well, it didn't take long for the car to pull out of the driveway, and start heading back in my direction.

I bet you're on the edge of your seat right now. Well, I was too. I considered the possibility that the driver was actually a cop, coming back to ask me a few questions. But at that point, I had pretty much steeled myself against the "getting caught" factor, and figured I could just reason myself out of any serious trouble. And if not, so be it. It's my innocence against the crooked justice system. Not much I can do but accept it.

Well anyway, there was a turnoff in the road right there, between me and the driveway the car turned into, and that's the road the car turned off onto, instead of coming back towards me. Was it just a case of missing the turn? Or was there something else going on? Was the driver so totally shocked at the sight he saw, that he just had to get a second glimpse, however brief, and from a distance, just to make sure he hadn't imagined it, or just been dreaming? or did he want to confirm the name of the street/location of the intersection, so that he could describe it to the cops when he got home? Who the hell knows, the car was gone, and I was up and continued walking, and nothing more came of it. Though of course by that time I was once again thinking about how much it sucks that I can't just do my own thing - which doesn't hurt anyone - without all this fear, anxiety and paranoia.

I thought about what might happen if I just went out in broad daylight, and walked around naked. I mean, really, what's the huge deal? Would people be more tolerant of it than I expect - seeing, as I do, that it's really not that big a deal? Suppose the reason people don't do it isn't because there's necessarily anything wrong with it, but just that it doesn't cross their mind as something they'd want to do. In other words, maybe this stigma that haunts me is just imagined.

I'm not that naive. But still, what would happen? People would get upset for seeing more than they want to see? Because they think I have evil, instead of pure, intentions, and it's their prerogative to turn me in to earn another merit badge from God? Because they think somehow their children will be spoiled for life for seeing the natural form of a human being, which they could see just as easily by looking in the bathroom mirror?

How much power, exactly, do people - individually or collectively - have in this world - in this country - to dictate the kind of life another person should lead, even if that person is doing no real harm to anyone? Do we really live in such a non-free world? I certainly believe it's possible. But I also feel like it needs to be tested. And if there really is no freedom, then that's something that should be brought to our attention. Because something needs to be done about it.

What would happen? People could complain - and simply because "they don't like it", the authoritative branch of this country's government would have all the permission they need to enforce their will against mine. So my liberty is being stripped away from me. What if I refuse to follow their conventions? Would I have to pay fines? They'd force me into poverty, so that I'd be a homeless bum roaming the streets - without even enough money to /own/ clothes. Is that what they'd do? They'd make money off of me? Could they put me in jail? At least then there'd be no denying that what it is they're doing is stripping my liberty away from me.

I'm not unfamiliar with that guy in the UK, the Naked Rambler or whatever he's called, who made a point to walk naked across the country(s). I think he's in jail currently. So it could happen. If I refuse to follow their ill-defined rules, I could end up in jail. Like Ghandi. Or something. Civil disobedience. I just can't see how I can be true to myself and continue to let them take my liberty away. As long as I'm out here, not in jail, I have the choice to live the way I want to. The only reason I don't is because I fear that jail cell.

And yet I was thinking today about how my life is a jail cell - a really nice one, and not particularly in the physical sense, but a psychological jail cell. Of my own making. Maybe being put in a jail cell of somebody else's making will help me define the boundaries between me and the rest of the world. Maybe it would put me in place. Some place. The best thing that could happen by roaming around naked and ignoring people's complaints would be an enforced mental therapy program. I need therapy. I know I need therapy. But I don't know where to go or how to get it. So maybe they could show me the way. Still, my therapy is for a different issue. It's for the bars /I/ put around me, not the one's /they/ put around me.

At least things would happen. Not this neverending stalemate.

Ironically, the only places in America that are truly free, are the places in which the government has no jurisdiction - and of course these are often hidden, fleeting places. Liberty is not compatible with justice for all. All this time, I thought my refusal to recite the pledge of allegiance was simply due to laziness (not to mention lack of desire to conform to the masses who all stand up in unison and recite the pledge day in and day out, or the fact that the pledge insists that there's some kind of connection between our country and God - oh there is one, but it only exists in people's minds, and overall, it makes the country a worse place), but I must have known subconsciously that it was just a hypocritical oath. I took one of those myspace-style tests recently to see how patriotic I was (cuz these things are obviously official), and I was expecting to be the total anti-patriot. But, to my surprise, I got the full score in patriotism! The test explained how it worked, and to my great satisfaction and approval, the patriotism score had nothing to do with one's pride for their country - the only thing that mattered was adherence to the ideals that the country was founded on. That just goes to show you how far we've fallen...

Burning Man Travel Plan (Getting Back)

Okay, here's the plan for the home stretch, subject to the same disclaimers as the "to" plan.

Monday, September 1 - Burning Man is over. I anticipate getting up and out early, because it's a lo-o-ong drive through empty desert roads to get to Rachel, and they might not let us in (at the Little A-Le-Inn) if we get there too late. Plus, Rachel is like, tiny, so I doubt there's any hotels or even motels (except for the Little A-Le-Inn), and it /is/ in the middle of nowhere after all. (Incidentally, it looks like you can actually get a pretty good look at Area 51 on Google Maps. Kinda surprising. Check it out if you don't believe me). Anyhow, it's a good 7 hour drive to Rachel, and that's not taking into account Burning Man traffic. The route includes a stretch on US-50, the Loneliest Road in America, as well as potentially passing through some true ghost towns, Indian Reservations (as much as I wanted to love the Indians, I've heard some stories about the Tribal Police), and of course, the final stretch on the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV-375). Should be an unforgettable experience. I just hope we don't break down or run out of gas an hour's drive from the nearest semblance of civilization...

Tuesday, September 2 - Be nice to have some time to appreciate being a horizon away from Area 51 - they say the night sky out there is beautiful (for a number of potential reasons) - but there's lotsa driving to be done. At the very least, being able to see the Little A-Le-Inn will be really cool. Day 2 involves a lot more empty desert roads, but I decided it would be best to kill the detour and meet back up with I-80 as soon as possible, just to simplify things. And to cross the Great Salt Lake Desert a second time. I anticipate passing through Salt Lake City and making it up to Rock Springs, WY, where we stopped on the way out. The plan at this point has us stopping in the same places we stopped on the way out, for simplicity sake - of course, adjustments can be made as necessary. By the way, the trip from Rachel to Rock Springs is a good 9.5 hours, not including stops etc.

Wednesday, September 3 - The rest of the way home is pretty uneventful. Back on I-80 already, decompressing from the festival and the lonely desert roads of Nevada, and headed home. From Rock Springs, it's another 9.5 hours of driving back to Lincoln, NE (passing through Cheyenne, WY at about the 1/3 mark).

Thursday, September 4 - Lincoln to Omaha to Des Moines to Iowa City, eventually to Chicago. 8 hours of driving - a gradual easing up as we near the end of the trip. Eating at Uno's again is entirely up to how we're feeling at that point in the trip, as well as when we get to Chicago, where we stay, etc. But at this point, all that's left is the home stretch.

Friday, September 5 - From Chicago, 7.5 hours back to Pittsburgh. And that's that. Unpack. Unwind. Unravel. Take the car back the next day before noon. And there you have it. I /still/ think it'll be a miracle if this trip works out. But it sure won't be easy to forget. It'll also be a miracle if I have any money left afterwards. I hope I find something at Burning Man that'll help me live my life. Because if I don't, I'll be spiraling the drain.

27 July, 2008

College Memories (3) - Pathetic Fallacy (1)

As a side note, pathetic fallacy is a term I learned in Junior High School, I believe. I used it in a writing assignment, and the teacher told me what the device was called, and I've latched onto it ever since. Come to think of it, I learned the term onomatopoeia the same way. Or maybe that /was/ onomatopoeia. But then where did I learn pathetic fallacy? Ah well, the point is, I've been fond of the term ever since I learned it years ago, regardless of how I learned it. But that's neither here nor there.

You might remember The Window Story I wrote a little while back. The purely fictitious one. Well, it turns out that it's a completely true story. Okay, completely true with a little creative license. But there /was/ a girl and she /was/ very beautiful and I /did/ actually make a habit of sitting in my window waiting and watching, just to catch a mere fleeting glimpse of her. If you know me, and were around me in that environment at that point in my life, then I think there's no doubt of who the girl in question is (Jefferson Airplane - It's No Secret), and if not, then there's not much point in trying to identify her. So I will refer to her generically (and not particularly creatively) as Lady L. Partly because, considering how things happened, I don't really feel like I have any sort of possession over or right to use her name anyway. But mostly for the same reason that people don't like to utter the devil's true name for fear of inviting his power and control over their fragile hearts.

Don't get me wrong, she was not evil - in fact, she was much closer to an angel. But considering how I feel about God, I think you can understand my perspective. I will likely attribute all sorts of amazing powers to this girl whenever I invoke her likeness in any of my recountings of tales of days gone past, but you must understand that most of the power she had over me was likely a result of my own weakness, and that she was in fact very innocent and did not possess any malicious intent. At least as far as I could tell. But sometimes being kind hurts a hell of a lot more than being mean. Just try to keep this in mind.

She put a spell on me. Not by her will, but I was rendered powerless just the same. It's the kind of spell that a plantation worker puts on his zombies to get them to work in the field. You don't actually realize that you're under the spell at first, and you tend to react to your thoughts and feelings with denial, trying to rationalize your situation in any number of reasonable ways so long as they studiously avoid the truth - that you are a mindless slave, and you don't even have the will to resist. Of course, this all happens without actually dwelling on that possibility, so that it seems as if it were the last thing in the world that could be true. But it is true.

The first significant interaction (and I use that term loosely) I recall having with Lady L occurred at the end of my first semester at college. It was the lull before finals week. My dorm and the adjoining dorm was having some kind of get-together that evening, just to hang out, play some games, have some food, raffle off some crap, and things of that nature. Knowing that Lady L lived in the adjoining dorm,
I figured that it just might be a chance to see her. So I braved the social storm. She was there, along with what I believe were her two best friends at the time. I spent most of that get-together standing off to the side, against the wall, silently watching over the people moving around me - the way I tend to do.

Eventually, the crowds thinned out, and Lady L and her "entourage" acknowledged my existence, considering that we should have at least been aware of each other from our involvement in the anime club. They generally made me feel welcome, and we hung out casually until it was pretty much down to three of us - including L's closest friend (who was especially friendly). Would it be inconsiderate if I referred to her as Kinky K? I use the term in a most endearing manner. I remember that we played foosball and some card games (even though card games have never really been my thing), and I'm pretty sure that I generally made a fool of myself (although I could be biased). We all seemed to be having good fun, though.

There was just one problem. I had a radio show to dj that night. I think they were kind of impressed when I told them about it, but I was very reluctant to leave, even for something that I enjoy as much as hosting a radio show. But it would have been unreasonable (and probably have looked unfavorable) to blow it off, so I had to leave. I bid the two farewell, and trudged off into the driving rain. It wasn't just raining hard at this point, it was also cold, and very muddy. And here's the worst part: when I got to the radio station, I found a note there waiting, informing me that there were to be no radio shows for the rest of the semester. My co-host and I had chosen to do a show that night, thinking that it would be okay, considering that finals hadn't actually started yet, but our judgement was apparently incorrect.

So I trudged back to the dorms, in the cold, driving rain and slippery mud, my spirit downhearted. On a whim, I swang by the common room where the earlier get-together had been held, but peeking in, the two girls were nowhere to be seen - they most certainly had gone up to their rooms. This depressed me greatly, but I wasn't about to creep (deliberate word choice) around their doorsteps. So I swallowed my sorrow and returned to my room. But the effect that night had on me was irreversible.

24 July, 2008

The Dark Knight

By popular demand, here's a few notes on the new Batman movie, which I saw over opening weekend.

Overall impression - very good movie. Not perfect, but very entertaining, and certainly above the curve compared to other action and superhero movies coming out these days. Was it better than Batman Begins? Tough question. I'm tempted to say Batman Begins was better, but this movie was also very good and it could probably use some more time to sink in.

One thing that struck me particularly in this movie is that I have a hard time seeing Christian Bale as Batman. Frankly, I think he's a lot more convincing as the floozy billionaire than the Dark Knight. Plus, his gruff "Batman voice" sounds kind of forced - I can't remember if it bothered me or not in the last Batman movie, but it was kind of distracting in this one. I might be partly biased against the characterization of Christian Bale since seeing American Psycho, which, even moreso than Equilibrium, has engraved a certain personality into my head of what Christian Bale is supposed to be like. Oh well, Batman is Batman, regardless of who's behind the mask.

It's easier to air my grievances than to talk about what I liked, since the grievances stand out more against the backdrop of a good movie, I suppose. I kind of got the feeling that there was too much in the way of chase scenes - with the Batmobile or the Batcycle. But hey, it's an action movie, so what can you expect?

So let's talk about this Rachel Dawes character. I have to admit, I was entirely confused when I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal's face on the screen. I totally did not make the connection that she was supposed to be playing the same role that Katie Holmes played in Batman Begins. So I had no idea who this character was and why she seemed to have such a personal connection to Batman. In fact, I didn't figure it out until after the movie. With her going "Harvey, Harvey" all over the place, I was entirely convinced that she was going to become Joker's sidekick, Harley Quinn, which would have been freaking awesome. But since that didn't happen, I was kind of disappointed...

As for Two-Face, I was completely surprised to see him in the movie. Everybody knew The Joker would play a large role in this title, considering the way the previous movie ended, but Two-Face to me was a surprise. And a pleasant surprise - I like Two-Face, I think he's a really cool villain. However, up to about 3/4 of the way through the film, I was certain that they were setting Harvey Dent up to become the villain in the next Batman movie, so I was surprised when his role as Two-Face started playing out in complete right here in this film. On a related note, this movie was definitely very long, but my perception might have been influenced by the fact that I really had to take a piss towards the end but I couldn't justify getting up before it was over...

Shall we talk about The Joker? I have nothing but good things to say about The Joker's characterization in this film. That having been said, I don't think the success of these new Batman adaptations should necessarily render obsolete the excellent Tim Burton versions of Batman and Batman Returns. I think Jack Nicholson played a great Joker, and his role shouldn't be eclipsed by this new Joker, who is at least as good. I think they should both be considered as different interpretations that are each worth exploring. But anyway, Heath Ledger's Joker is awesome. I'm not influenced by the hype, and I have no agenda to honor the dead - but it's true that it was a good role executed well. The Joker's philosophies on chaos and disorder and everything he preached were very interesting - even convincing. And as a villain, he definitely had that cool that all the best villains have to have.

What else to say? The theme of the movie was good. I think that exploring Batman's origins in Batman Begins was slightly more interesting, but I love the ideas presented in this film, especially along the lines of Batman being "The Dark Knight", and being successful /because/ he chooses not to be a hero, that he's the one who is capable of making the tough decisions that softer people can't handle.

Comparing the villains to the previous movie, The Joker and Two-Face is a strong pair, but I have to admit I always liked the idea of The Scarecrow - which was executed exquisitely in Batman Begins. As for Ra's Al Ghul, I had never heard of him, and yet he made an equally awesome villain in that movie. It's saying a lot that they were able to make those lesser known villains every bit as interesting as The Dark Knight's more well-known names. But now it sounds like I'm reviewing Batman Begins...

I definitely caught the reference to Catwoman in this movie, even if it was just a passing homage to please the fans. I don't know what the plans are on making any more Batman movies, or what villains will turn up, but I will always be excited to see a new take on Catwoman. Even though I have a hard time believing that /anyone/ will be able to top Michelle Pfeiffer's performance in Batman Returns, Catwoman is just such a cool character that I would never object to seeing more of her (unless she's really really terrible - I haven't even seen Halle Berry's interpretation, but I know enough to know that it's not worth it).

Another villain I will always be excited to see is The Riddler - I've always liked The Riddler, and not just because he wears green. I think Jim Carrey's performance in Batman Forever leaves something to be desired. Too cartoony. I'd love to see a serious and pathological Riddler. And that's exactly the kind of personality you'd expect to find in these new Batman movies. But only time will tell who (if anyone) we'll get to see.

I have to admit, even though The Joker wasn't killed or anything at the end of this movie (oops, was that a spoiler?), I don't have any major expectations of seeing him turn up again, and not because the actor that played him is dead. It just feels like to me, this is the villain in this movie, and that's the villain in that movie. Although, the Scarecrow /did/ show up in this movie, but in a pathetic practically-cameo role which didn't really make sense or add anything to the story. Unless I missed something. Sure Batman and Joker are arch-rivals and they complete each other and all that, but this isn't a TV show - this is movies, and each new movie focuses on a new villain. That's just what I'm used to though - feel free to change the formula.

Burning Man Travel Plan (Getting There)

Burning Man is becoming like the end-of-semester project that I keep putting off again and again, until the last minute, at which point I put it off a little bit longer... I guess the best way to make me disappear would be to give me something that needs doing.

Burning Man Travel Plan

(Open to revisions, questions, comments, suggestions, and the general whims of the open road.)

This is the first time I've gone on a road trip (meaning multiple consecutive days on the road), so it should be quite an experience. Especially because I am the captain by default, and there's noone I can really foist the duties of command on to.

It all starts on Wednesday, August 20. Pick up the rental minivan. This gives me a little time to get to know the car, and gives us some time to pack up stuff before the last minute, so as to avoid inevitable start-time delays.

Thursday, August 21 - Get up in the morning. Early, but not insanely early. Have breakfast, do last minute prep, and then the journey begins. It should take (according to Google Maps) about 7.5 hours to drive to Chicago, our first stop. If we get on the road by, say, 8am, then that gives us enough time to get to Chicago before or right around dinner time, including time for a few stops along the way. I propose finding some [hopefully] cheap hotel near the highway to get a room for the night. Then we can drive into the city and seek out Uno's. I'm assuming that Chicago is comparable to NYC, since that's the only real "big city" experience I've had. Anyway, I should like to think that we'd find some parking nearby Uno's, where we can then have a delicious dinner. Hopefully the restaurant isn't booked solid - I dunno how that works - but if it's a matter of waiting, it's not like we have anything else to do for the rest of the night but head back to the hotel and get some rest before day 2 of the journey.

Friday, August 22 - The journey continues. From Chicago, it's under 4 hours to Iowa City, and another 2 hours to Des Moines. Then another 2 hours to Omaha, Nebraska, and another hour to Lincoln. That's 9 hours from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska. I'm thinking that's pretty good progress for one day. As far as getting out into the midwest, I don't know what the hotel/motel situation is going to be like, but I'm counting on there being at least options near the bigger towns we'll be passing through. So I suggest looking for someplace to stay the night in Lincoln, if all goes as planned. (Wow, I just Googled "Lincoln, Nebraska", and the first thing I noticed in the link description for the wiki page is that it's the hometown of Zager and Evans, who you might know as the artists behind the song In The Year 2525...).

Saturday, August 23 - The journey continues. From Lincoln, it's 4 hours to the point where I-80 splits with I-76, just outside the convex corner of Colorado (which doesn't mean a whole lot now, but will become more important on the return voyage), and another 2 hours to Cheyenne, Wyoming. From there, it's another 3.5 hours to Rock Springs. That's almost ten hours there, so I figure that's another good place to stop.

Sunday, August 24 - From Rock Springs, it's about another tenish hours to Reno (through Salt Lake City, across the Great Salt Lake Desert and on the other side of the wasteland of Nevada). You're not allowed to enter Burning Man until Monday (any time on Monday, I believe), but I also hear it's a long drive into the desert from there, and arriving at the festival during the day, with daylight to set up camp, seems like a good idea to me. So finding a place to stay not far from the Reno area (if not in it) would probably be the way to go.

Monday, August 25 - The festival begins! Maybe make some stops in Reno/Sparks for last minute items, or food items that won't last very long - I hear there's a Wal-Mart in the area - and then make that trip to the playa! Then it's madness (more or less) from there on out...

Monday, September 1 - If I'm not mistaken, the Man burns on Saturday night, and the Temple burns the following night (Sunday). So Monday will likely be the day to hit the road. Crowds are probably going to be a problem no matter what we do, so I guess it's just something we'll have to push through. It would probably be a good idea to get moving early in the day, though. Could take hours to get out of the middle of the desert. The plan is to stay at the Little A'Le'Inn the first night after the festival, which is a good 6 hour drive from Reno - factoring in the festival exodus, it'll likely take all day to get there, if we get there.

Unfortunately, the return voyage is turning out to be somewhat more complicated, so I'm gonna need some more time to think about it.

23 July, 2008

Morbid Satisfaction (or Jesus, Fuck You)

Despite being a pathetic loner who can't handle interacting with other people, I spend a lot of time wishing I wasn't so lonely and thinking of ways I could have a more satisfying social life - and how to get more girls into my life, by god. The first time I ever got a girlfriend was through a chat room, and the overall experience was one that I decided I never wanted to repeat. So it doesn't make me feel very good about myself that I've actually entertained thoughts of lifting my personal ban on web chat just to find some companionship - romantic or otherwise.

I've never seriously considered the use of dating sites, because I'm too shy to advertise myself for a date, and the very idea of communicating with people, regardless of the fact that what I ultimately want is to have people I can communicate with, terrifies me. And besides, I feel like there are other problems in my life that need to be cleared up before I can be passed off as a "reasonable option". But do I have to be well-adjusted just to get a date? Don't psychos deserve some loving too? I feel like making a deep and intimate connection with a person would go a long way toward lifting me out of my pathetic state of affairs, but since when has the dating pool been hospitable to "fixer-uppers"?

I feel like I wanna find other people that are as radical as I am. But that's a tough job. I mean, where do you go to find other people that are afraid of people? How can I expect to meet a person who prefers a nocturnal lifestyle who isn't also into all sorts of unsavory activities that I have no interest in? People misunderstand me a lot, particularly from the stoner angle, and that means my type is very rare - people aren't used to seeing it. So how can I possibly hope to find another person like me?

I like the idea behind eHarmony - even if it's a scam in actuality (try typing in eHarmoney.com if you don't believe me) - the idea of finding a soulmate based on non-superficial compatibility components, from a pool of people much larger than you could meet in your localized part of the world. It sounds like magic - and that's what the commercials pass it off as. But I often joke with myself (a dry sort of humor) that there's nobody in this world that would be fully compatible with me on an intimate, romantic level.

And I've considered proving that point. But thus far, it hasn't been worth the effort/anxiety of actually getting involved. But I was reading up on eHarmony, and I found out that some people are completely turned down after filling out the questionnaire, because they have certain kinds of personality profiles that make it impossible for the system to match them up with other people. As soon as I heard this, I knew that I would end up being one of those difficult-to-match people. And so I went through the grueling and time-consuming questionnaire, answering the questions as honestly as possible, and sure enough, at the end, I got the rejection screen!

So I'm filled with a sense of morbid satisfaction - a kind of validation, that it's really as difficult for me as I make it out to be. But at the same time, it's obviously depressing. I just can't see any way of me not living out my life as a loner. I'd have a chance if I became weller-adjusted, but when I think of the time and effort in "rehabilitation" required to make me "normal", in addition to pessimistic considerations of the success rate of such an endeavor, there's just no chance for me. I'm a lost cause. The game was over the moment I was born.

So the question I ask myself is this: if you can't see any possible way of getting the things you want in life, and you don't even particularly feel like you deserve them in the first place, what's the point in living? I'm still much too attached to life - however disappointing it is - to even consider any other alternative, but I have to say that my appreciation for those people who choose to end theirs only increases as the years go by. And my tolerance for Jesus freaks and uber-happy people who say that everything is fine and that God will set everything straight if you just let him into your life decreases even faster. You know those signs and graffiti you see a lot, that say "Jesus loves you"? Well, I saw a picture of a graffiti'd sign recently that was modified to say "Jesus, fuck you". I think I like that one a little better.

22 July, 2008

Flickr Filter Fiasco

So I was checking my stats on Flickr - something I've been doing much less frequently lately (the novelty tends to wear off after awhile, I guess), and I noticed that some of my pictures were getting a views spike (lots more views than the average) in the most recent day recorded in the stats. I thought it was curious, but I didn't see any explanation behind it so I just took it at face value.

But then I looked at the list of referring sites for the past 24 hour period. Call it narcissism or whatever you like, but I like to know when other sites are linking to my photos - it's a popularity thing, I guess. It's also always interesting to see what kind of things people are typing in search engines (usually Yahoo or Google image search - surprisingly Yahoo moreso than Google) that ultimately lead to my photos. Sure, most of the search queries are boring or predictable (teen nudes, guitar nude, nude student, nudist, naturist, etc. being the most common), but sometimes you get something unusual, sometimes that makes you scratch your head. Here are some of the more interesting examples (my own reactions are in curly brackets):

naked pumpkin run {what?}
nude 17yo {I have no pictures of myself younger than 18...}
natasha henstridge {lol}
angelina jolie {I'm certain that name has not come up ever in my entire photosteam...}
nude gun {my squirt gun, I suppose}
rabbit pelt use {heh}
slut wife {sorry to disappoint...}
san diego beaches {I wish}
bed bath and beyond {...}
naked girl standing straight {er...ahem}
naturist hard {I have a feeling somebody has the wrong idea about naturism...}
imaginary animal {?}
nudist nude {okay, this person has the right idea, but, duh...}
bikini flickr {I confess, I like to wear women's clothing at times, but I don't think you'll ever see me in a bikini...}
nice {yeah, I'm serious}
narcissus {guilty as charged}
bra {see the note for bikini}
naked 10 {and} 10 naturist {I'm hoping this person is looking for a "perfect ten" and not a ten year old...}
age 10 naked {oh well...}
nude 80 {ok, I think I'm starting to get sick...}

Anyway, even the odd and perverse ones usually don't bother me, but I didn't like the idea of my photos having anything to do with an image search for "gay nude" pictures, from which I noticed my photos were referred four times, all in the past 24 hour period. Now, if you're into gay nude pictures, then that's great for you. If you're gay, and you like looking at my pictures, I don't have a problem with that, either. But I don't want you getting the idea that I'm gay, too. Because I'm not. And I'd really rather you keep your "advances" to yourself, because they'll only be wasted on me, unless you're an interesting and hopefully attractive girl, which, considering that I'm a guy, is mutually exclusive with being gay.

I really wish you could find out which pictures were linked by a certain search query - if you can, I don't know how. Because to find out which pictures were linked, I had to go through each picture that was viewed in the past 24 hours and see which ones were listed as being linked to that particular search query. Instead of being one picture linked four times, it was four different pictures. There was nothing in the pictures, as I suspected, that would provide any kind of a specific connotation of "gayness", other than the fact that they each depicted a nude male - and stereotyping a naked guy as a naked gay is something that really bothers me. So I don't know how those images were linked to the search, but I suppose it's something that's probably out of my control.

But the other thing that I noticed, was that these were all supposed to be restricted photos - and thus could not be linked or viewed outside of Flickr. There was obviously something fishy going on. I rechecked the safety filter on these photos, and to my shock, they were marked as safe! I /knew/ that it was not a simple matter of having forgotten to filter those images. I checked some of my other restricted photos, and found out that quite a few of them had also been re-marked as safe. This would explain the view spikes I was seeing.

Well, I was pissed off. The last thing I wanted was to get into trouble for not filtering content appropriately (which is something I do diligently, dammit), so I changed my entire photostream to restricted, since it would take too long to fix the filters one photo at a time, with the risk of somebody stumbling across a photo that shouldn't be safe and getting offended and taking action against me. But now, the idea of going through all my photos and re-filtering them one by one is not looking pretty, especially with the knowledge that at any time, they can again be mixed up without warning.

Also, I'm hoping that it really was just a glitch, and not somebody hacking into my profile wreaking havoc. I feel like if I hold off on re-filtering all those photos, then if it ends up happening again in the near future, I won't have wasted that effort.


17 July, 2008

How Many Liches Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Tootsie Roll Pop?

Just. One.

Having finally beat Guild Wars, I have to say, the post-game quests are leaving me rather discouraged. I like the idea of them - having to stop the titan threat even after the big boss is taken out - but I feel like once again I'm being punished for being a solitary player. Having to go back to earlier parts of the game, but fight the same max-level enemies - without having the benefit of max-level henchmen (not to mention maximum party size), is ridiculous. To do the quest back at the first area in the game, my party size is down from 8 people to a measly 4 people, and the henchmen are all level 8 or something, while I still have to fight level 28 monsters. There's no way the makers intended anyone to play this part of the game this way.

Having beat the game, I now have the option of playing in Hard Mode, which, reasonably, increases the henchmen's levels up to 20 (which is the player max). But the monsters get even stronger - the level 28 ones go up to level 30 or something like that. Why should I be forced to play these quests in Hard Mode to even have the semblance of a chance of completing them? Not to say that there's any real possibility of that, anyway. The content of these quests involve the one objective I've seen throughout the game that I despise the most - keeping an NPC alive while armies of monsters descend upon you. A team of henchmen just can't take the enemies out fast enough. By the way, the objective I despise the second most is having to take out rapid healers, which are effectively immortal, /especially/ when they gang up and fight (well, heal) together.

Chillin' by the Onyx Gate

Having gone through all of the missions, seen all of the story (excluding the "after-story"), and explored at least 95% of the game world, as well as acquiring the awesome armors I wanted to have, and having some time to play with them, I feel right now that, for once, I could imagine stepping away from the game. Hard Mode doesn't have much appeal to me, since it just seems to be doing the same things over again, but even harder than before - and for a single player, they were hard enough the first time around. Gaining titles seems really cool, but looking through them on the wiki, it seems like a lot of effort (grinding) for a pretty inconsequential reward - the vanity of being able to display the title next to your name. If there was an option for a user custom title, that would be great.

Furthermore, there are a couple environments (dungeons, really) that weren't involved in the main storyline of the game that I have yet to explore. But they're supposedly really difficult and have really strong enemies and are even more biased against solitary players than the rest of the game, so I don't really see myself making the effort to explore them.

I could imagine continuing to play if I bought one or more of the additional expansions/campaigns, which would give me more "main storyline" type stuff to do, and supposedly with the addition of "heroes" instead of "henchmen" I might have a /little/ more of an advantage playing alone. But right now I'm thinking a break could be a good thing. Especially with the things that are coming up in the next month or two. Looking at my logs, it seems that I've been playing this game for the past two and a half months (ever since the beginning of May). That's actually longer than I thought.

Well, whether I continue to play the game or not, it's been a lot of fun. What with the addiction factor, I might have a harder time stepping away from it than I think. And if anyone else reading this wants to play it some more, I'd be more than happy to join you. Despite the difficulty, I've enjoyed playing alone, so that I can go at my own pace, but especially now that I've seen most of what there is to see, I'd probably be more comfortable playing along with someone else. And being able to play with someone I know is always a treat - even if it's a person that gets on my nerves sometimes. It was actually pretty cool to have a three man team going for that short period, and I was disappointed when that ended, even though I was a lightweight at that point, and my gaming endurance was constantly being put to the test.


13 July, 2008


I might be making a huge assumption, but I think most people have something that they are especially afraid of. Something that stirs up such feelings of dread that they go out of their way to avoid it. Not just simply because they don't like it, but because its very presence in their consciousness renders them weak, and vulnerable. Maybe I am making an assumption, but it's such a mainstay in my life that I feel like it has to be normal for other people, too.

There's a delicate line between quirkiness (for lack of a better word) and disorder. What differentiates an eccentric personality trait from a psychological infirmity? There's an idea that's been passed around that suggests that the psychological profession is merely a tool of society that is used to promote conformity - the hammer that pounds the bent nails into place, if you will. And it's true that when faced with a personality that we don't understand, we shouldn't be so quick to label it as "impaired". But to write off the entirety of psychological therapy as an underhanded tactic concerned only with the efficient running of "the machine", is a bit brash, if not downright conspiratorial.

Indeed, this is a struggle I suffer through constantly - is my personality something to be proud of, for giving me a different experience of the world than the average, or is it something that honestly needs to be fixed up, so that I can participate more in what other people understand as life? Well, I subscribe to the idea that a disorder becomes as such when it significantly interferes with the happy or successful life of the sufferer. I suppose it doesn't work so well for people who suffer from forms of dementia and the like, not to even get into the issue of denial, but the way I look at it, it's the sufferer who decides that his/her problem is serious enough that something needs to be done - usually to improve his/her quality of life.

I fear people. Not what they might do to me (no, that would be too reasonable), but what they might think about me. And my ego is so fragile that even the possibility, no matter how small, that somebody might have a less than positive thought concerning me is enough for me to go to great lengths to avoid the confrontation. It's not that I'm paranoid and I think everybody automatically assumes the worst about me - I'm pretty reasonable in my expectations of people's impressions, I think (for the most part). But for some reason, the idea of putting myself in a situation where I could be vulnerable to those negative thoughts - whether they actually exist or not - throws my body into "flight" mode. And thus I hide myself away from the world - safe, but unsatisfied.

Now we're getting back to the issue that started this discussion (gradually). Dealing with my problem on my own is one thing - it's what I'm used to, and who better to understand my feelings than myself, right? But when my inability to function normally becomes a burden on other people, I feel really bad. As much as I try to explain myself, the problem isn't a problem of logic, but a problem of feeling, and the only way for someone to sympathize with my pain is to actually know that feeling of fear, anxiety, and general ineptitude. And that very idea right there got me thinking.

Most people are afraid of something, right? If this is indeed true, my impression is that most people are luckily afraid of something that doesn't play a major role in their lives. For example, what if you're deathly afraid of spiders? Actually, I am, too. But does being afraid of spiders significantly hinder the quality of your life? Maybe if you're unlucky and live out in the woods or something, it might be a serious problem. But if you don't actually run into spiders that much in your daily life, and when you do, they're pretty easy to avoid, then it's not really that big a deal, right?

I mean, even something like the fear of flying - this can be a major inconvenience in today's modern world, but it's still something that you can do a pretty good job of working around, if you're willing to make a few sacrifices. But my fear of people - interpersonal interaction is such a pervasive part of simply living and existing in society, that it's just not something I can get away from. One possible alternative is living a reclusive lifestyle - but here's the problem. Leading a life without flying is fine because flying probably doesn't "do" anything for you. But it's not that I hate people and don't want to have anything to do with them. I'm just as lonely as anyone else - moreso, considering that I spend so much more of my time alone. It's not that I don't /want/ to be around people, it's just that I'm not comfortable around people. I don't avoid them because I don't want them, I avoid them because I can't handle them. I, like most other people, have a natural, base desire to interact with other members of the species. But I'm afraid to do just that.

So, trying to think of a way to get people to understand my condition, I came up with this scenario. Whatever it is that you're most afraid of, just imagine for a second that it is not only a necessary, but a pervasive part of normal daily existence. For example, let's take spiders. Imagine for a moment that our planet was literally crawling with spiders - they're everywhere, and most people aren't bothered because they just consider it normal. Imagine that you've quit school, refuse to get a job, and hole yourself away in your room, not wanting to go out into the world except when absolutely necessary, just to avoid the spiders (assuming you have some kind of protection on your home to keep spiders out, mostly).

Certainly, you might think that under these circumstances, you'd be forced to overcome your fear, and eventually it would no longer be a problem. But it's not that you can't get away from the spiders. You've found ways of avoiding them - places you can go where they're usually not around. It's just that to avoid them you have to make certain sacrifices, such as staying away from school/job, not going out with friends very frequently, and things of that nature. You've tried many times to deal with your fear and overcome it, and you've had some successes and some setbacks, but overall, you still just can't take being surrounded by spiders, and don't particularly /want/ it to become natural - you only wish that you didn't have to make those sacrifices just to avoid them.

Whatever you are most afraid of, imagine it now. Imagine that there's a concentration of it contained in a space directly in front of you (I'm trying to be ambiguous because fear comes in so many shapes and sizes). Now imagine that the only way for you to continue living a normal life - i.e., going to work, having a family, hanging out with friends, making money, going on vacation, trying new things, exploring new areas - is to walk through that space of concentrated fear. Be it swimming through a pool of millipedes, climbing over a copse of corpses, walking a mile-high tightrope, enduring painful surgery without anesthetic - my imagination is apparently limited to largely "physical" fears, but whatever shape your fear comes in, use that. And it's not just once that you have to endure this fear. Walking through that space is something you'll have to do constantly, day after day. Hopefully, it will get easier over time, but there's no denying that it's not going to be easy at first.

So maybe that gives you a better idea of my condition, and why it isn't so easy for me to just get up, forget my problems, be a man, and live my damn life already. Maybe you're afraid of water. I can say to you, "come on, just swim across the pool and live your life, it's not that bad". But that's completely ignoring the issue of fear. What does not faze one person, may paralyze another. And that's why the phrase "get over it" is pointless and insulting. It impersonally makes light of a very heavy weight on a person's soul. But I'm not trying to critcize anyone here, I'm just trying to help you understand.

12 July, 2008

Status Quo (or Guild Wars Girlies)

I'm playing Guild Wars way too much. Not that it would be much of a problem, considering that I really have no other real responsibilities in my life, aside from the ones I'm doing so well at avoiding; but the spending hours upon hours sitting at the computer day in and day out is wearing on me. I think I'm straining the muscles in the back of my neck, from sitting in a certain position much of the time, and forcing myself to hold my head up in place for long periods of time. It's the sort of thing that's completely meaningless in normal everyday well-adjusted life, but when you're stuck in that position for long hours repeatedly for many days, it starts to have an effect on you. And I'm not even entirely sure that that's actually what's happening, but I am getting minor headaches more frequently than I ever did before. And I can only sit at the computer for so long before my body just screams to get up and do something.

The problem is, there's not much for me to do, and the things that there are to do, I don't feel like doing. I'll go lay down on my bed for a bit to unwind, or I'll sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere of the night, but that always gets me to thinking about things - like I would do when I was younger, just sit in a room and think myself in circles for a while. But the problem is, when I do it now, I keep stumbling upon topics and subjects that I want to go look up on the internet to learn more about. Particularly, I'll think about ways I might improve my life, and it always comes back to doing a Google search to try to look for certain types of opportunities (which I can never find, by the way). But the problem is, this just draws me back to the computer, which is what I was trying to get away from in the first place...

I would love to have some kind of regular physical activity, like going out and playing tennis in the park everyday, or five days a week, or something (this is purely a random example), but I just can't be bothered to do it on my own. If I had friends and we arranged for something like that, that would be perfect, but I don't have friends. I don't have people I can just call up (or preferably IM) and then go and hang out with, somewhere outside, or at least out of the home, and play ball or toss a frisbee around, or anything like that.

Going for a walk is nice because it's something I can do alone, but you get more walking done if you actually have someplace to go. If I'm just randomly wandering, I'll find that I won't take this or that road because I don't want to go too far and tire myself out. But if I had someplace to be or get to, then I'd take the road no matter what - and even though I might get tired, it'd be a good workout and I'd be all the better for it. It's like saying, "I dunno, that's a pretty long walk, I'm not sure if I can do it", as opposed to just getting out there and doing it, and finding that it doesn't matter if it's long or you get tired, but that you just do it anyway once you're determined to. Of course, it still has to be within reason - you can't just say "I'm gonna walk to the beach" and then watch it happen. (Unless you're a lucky bastard who lives within walking distance of the beach).

There was more that I wanted to mention about Guild Wars. I wanted to briefly talk about my characters. I currently have three characters that I really like. I recently made a fourth, but she serves mostly as a storage mule, and I don't really like the way she looks, after all, so I'll probably delete her and try something else somewhere down the line (presuming I reach a point where I feel like the three characters I have and like aren't enough). If you don't understand what I mean when I say "storage mule", here's a quick explanation. Each character you create in the game has a certain amount of inventory (meaning no "bottomless bags" like you get in some Final Fantasy games). There's also an in-game "storage account" you can purchase (with gold) and use, which gives you even more storage, and allows you to trade items between your characters. The trading between characters part is nice, but the trouble is, that storage account doesn't get bigger when you create more characters.

So anyway, there's a slight problem with storage in the game. It's not terrible, but I tend to bring my real-life packrat tendencies into the game, and that makes it tough for me. I like holding onto weapon and armor upgrades - partly because if it's a nice one I feel like I should save it until I get a stronger weapon or armor, and partly because I like having options in case I change my mind about what I want in the future. Also, armor takes up a lot of space, and in some cases, I like having different armors to change between, if there are multiple outfits that I like. There should definitely be a separate "wardrobe" section of storage just for keeping armor, so that it wouldn't have to fill up space in the regular storage.

Another important point is that the storage problem wouldn't be so bad if I just needed the space to carry what I already have. But when I go out and fight monsters, they drop stuff, and though most of it is relatively un-important to me, I have to pick it up and carry it around if I want to either salvage it for materials or sell it for precious gold when I get back to town. I was playing on one of my characters recently, trying to scrounge up the dough to buy the expensive elite armor for another of my characters, and my inventory was so filled with the stuff I was hanging onto, that I only had like 5 or so slots to pick up things that the monsters dropped. And I was going on relatively long stints in tough environments where jumping back to an outpost every time my inventory filled up would make me have to do all the work of clearing out that area again just to get back to where I was previously.

Ok, this wouldn't be an issue if I was just out farming for gold and stuff. But I was also exploring, and my goal was to advance to new areas, and thoroughly explore the areas around me, so killing the same monsters in the same area just outside of a town over and over again did not appeal to me. Therefore, I frequently found myself juggling those 5 spots between the items I was picking up, leaving the ones that were worth less gold behind. There was also a problem with my Identification Kit randomly dying on me, but I'm not gonna bother going into detail about that. Anyhow, only bringing back 5 items from an expedition meant I was only making so much money. After I created the extra character purely to exploit her personal inventory space, I could pick up like 20 items from an expedition and make 4 times as much money with the same time and effort!

Enough with the storage thing - it's a problem, but you learn to deal with it as best you can. What I really wanted to do was briefly describe my characters, that I love so much, since I don't think I've done that yet. My first character was an Elementalist - basically, a mage, a spell-caster, a wizard, casts mostly offensive elemental spells, that sort of thing. I named her after a character in Claymore - Kazekirino Flora (Windcutter Flora). Following the Claymore symbolism, and because I love swords, I made Flora's secondary profession be Warrior, so she could wield a sword. There's even an Elementalist armor set that looks vaguely Claymore-like, though the Elementalist actually has multiple armor sets that I think look good. The problem with my plan is that warriors and spell-casters don't seem to go together very well, and I've all but given up on having Flora wield a sword, even though I still like the idea in theory. Actually, I changed her secondary profession to Ranger recently, and now she wields a bow, but the reason for that was purely utilitarian - I wanted the bow skills that interrupt enemies, since interruption is such a useful ability.

Kazekirino Flora

As a matter of fact, I learned the usefulness of those bow skills from my second character, who I made a Ranger. The only reason I wanted a Ranger was because I looked up all the armor sets for all the professions online, and the single set that I liked the most out of all of them was a Ranger set. Unfortunately, it was also an elite armor set, meaning that you can only get it towards the end of the game, and that it costs a ton of money. Still, I was prepared to put in the effort for that reward. Unfortunately, the majority of the other Ranger armors turned out to look terrible, which bugged me for awhile, but then I found an intermediate set that I liked, and now I finally have the expensive elite set and I couldn't be happier. It's a Druid set, actually, and my idea for the character was to make her a Druid type. That's why I named her Salix Sepulcralis - which supposedly means "Weeping Willow" (my favorite type of tree) - and made her secondary profession Elementalist, so that she could wield the elemental forces of nature.

Salix Sepulcralis

Now on to my third character. Looking at the armor sets online again, there were two sets that looked incredibly hot, because they basically consist of either tattoos or scars - depending on whether it was the Monk or the Necromancer - covering the skin of the entire body, with minimal clothing. Between the two, I decided to go for a Necromancer, largely due to another Necro character I saw that had a combination of the scar "outfit" and some really sexy boots. And it's a good thing, because with my Monk storage character, I've found out that I really don't like a lot of the Monk's other outfits (you can't get the tattoo one until later in the game - farther than I'm willing to take my storage character, which I don't especially like anyway). On the other hand, the non-scar Necromancer armors turned out to be really cool-looking - so cool, in fact, that I haven't even been using the scar armor hardly at all! My Necro's name is Malady Grimm - kind of simple, but it's certainly grown on me - and her secondary is Monk, mostly because I liked the idea of being in control of life and death, but also partly because the missions I had the most trouble with were missions that required keeping somebody important alive (not that they've proved significantly easier for me even with healing spells at my disposal...).

Malady Grimm

I picked up a really really really cool looking sword recently. It's not the Fiery Dragon Sword, although that one looks cool, too. It's called a Fellblade, and it's all black and shiny and evil looking, and I think it goes perfectly with my Necromancer (see image above), except that it brings me back to the difficulty of having a spell-caster type fighting with a melee weapon. I might find a way to work it out, or I might just hang on to the sword, but I really love the way it looks. So much so, that I just had to mention it here, even though there's not really much to say about it...

You know, I was gonna talk about a bunch of other things, but I've gone on long enough already. I feel like I'm a rambler, which is ridiculous considering that if you meet me in person, I hardly ever say a word. But when my mind isn't otherwise occupied (more often when I'm alone and not consumed by the concerns of being among people), I'm engaged in a continuous internal dialogue. I could probably easily write stuff every day, but the biggest problem is that most of it doesn't seem worth saving or sharing, or else I don't like the way it comes out. I could just as easily have scrapped this post as published it.

05 July, 2008

Alternate Neighborhood

Today was the 4th of July, but I didn't see any fireworks. I heard them, but I was much too lazy after stuffing myself at dinner with the family to go out to check out the local display. I was gonna try to take some pictures of fireworks since I recently discovered my camera has a fireworks mode, but looks like that'll have to wait till next time.

I ended up doing my daily self-portrait relatively early, before looking out the window to see how foggy it was tonight. If I had known I would have the fog to play with, I would have waited, but oh well. I grabbed my camera (without the tripod), put on my sandals, wrapped that blanket around my shoulders and went out for a long walk.

The streetlights looked great, as always, in the fog. I took a bunch more fogscapes - too much, I'm sure, but they look so cool. My first instinct was to go to that section of street and take that picture I wanted to take that one stormy night when I went out and got caught in the downpour. That plan went off without a hitch this time. Kind of iffy about the outcome, but it's something.

I was heading back up the hill, thinking about heading home, but I was really enjoying the fog and wanted an excuse to stay out longer. Well, at the intersection, a car sat on the corner I was headed for, and I didn't want to walk right past it and all, so I took a turn instead and walked on down the wrong street, intentionally, to keep the car from getting the satisfaction of closely watching my every move.

That street took me past a school (joint elementary/middle school, I believe) and a park off of a side street that I had been to only a few times in my slightly younger years. By this point, I was getting sweaty from the walking, and the very high humidity, and I was pleased with the idea of going to an area with some darkness, where I could rest /and/ not have to hold the blanket so closely about myself. So I visited the park.

After I got in the park, which is more of a fieldy affair than a woody one - actually, I could be wrong about it being a park, it might very well just be the fields attached to the school - I took off my sandals so I could walk a little quieter, in case there was somebody hanging out in there or something. It was empty.

I walked across the first field, which had a kind of muddy sandy ground to it, and then went down the hill to the second and much larger field. Let me tell you, with the fog blanking out the horizon, it was quite creepy. I don't know if I'd call it a full-blown fear, but I definitely get creeped out at the thought of wide open spaces. Like the water underneath me when I go swimming in a lake, or imagining plummeting through the vastness of the sky - focusing on the vastness and not the plummeting. It's the emptiness and the wideness that affects me. If there are things there, to gauge distances and whatnot, then it's okay. But the vast emptiness...or alternatively, as in the case with swimming in the lake, the idea of not being able to see very far ahead, but knowing that there's space there that could be filled with anything - it's not the anything that creeps me out so much as the not knowing.

Anyhow, scary as it was, it was very exciting. I walked out to the middle of the field, surrounded by a blanket of fog, with only a few lights along the horizon. Walking along, not knowing what the ground might be like under my feet after every continuing step, or what might loom out of the foggy abyss, was exhilarating. I enjoyed it for awhile, and then decided to leave the area and continue on my way.

It just so happens that I was only a block away from my old church that I used to go to before I escaped the prison of god. That place was very cool looking in the fog, with the spires reaching up into haziness and all. I patrolled the perimeter of the building, and the architecture brought up many memories from my youth. I would have loved to sneak inside and lurk about, but that was a bit beyond my limits, so I found a spot on the steps by the back parking lot and sat for awhile.

I was enjoying my rest for not long before I heard a sound over by the door. I determined that it couldn't be a person - that it was probably some dripping water, or at most an animal or something. But even so, I couldn't help feeling that it might be an emissary of god trying to shoo me away from his hallowed ground. As ridiculous as that idea is, the sound accomplished its task of creeping me out, so I left the church grounds and moved on.

I passed the other side of the school on the way back to the main street, and then headed home. I didn't bring a watch, and I had been out so long, I was starting to wonder what time it was. I got concerned when I noticed the sky lightening. I made it back home shortly before 5:30 - much later than I was planning!

It was an exciting night - the fog never disappoints - and with the locations I explored, there was very much a Silent Hill atmosphere going on. Although, luckily, it was more of the eerie daytime (ironically) something's-wrong-with-this-town atmosphere than the hellish nighttime demons-everywhere "Alternate" atmosphere...

02 July, 2008

A Hilly Sunrise

Today has been quite the busy day outdoors (for once). The same conditions that conspired for me to head out into the park this evening, also led me back to the hill where I attended that druidic ritual a week and a half ago, to view the sunrise. The temperature was comparable to the morning of the ritual, unfortunately, but the sky was supposed to be clear (according to TWC) - in contrast to the unrelenting storms we've been having (I'm not complaining, though) - and I was ready to take advantage of the opportunity to get some sunrise shots.

So 'round about 5 o'clock, I headed out to the hill. I decided this would be a great chance to finally do some real nude driving. So I carried my clothes to the car, with my camera equipment (in that bag again), with a towel to sit on and a blanket to keep me warm (on the hill). Then I drove over to the park completely naked. It was pretty cool. I have come to the conclusion that people really don't notice drivers much, so the risk of driving nude, albeit still a risk, is smaller than you would imagine. Even during the day, pedestrians tend to see the car itself and completely ignore the driver. But certainly at night, sitting behind the shield of blinding headlights makes you practically invisible.

I was hoping for the park to be empty, and I got my wish. It was already starting to get light, so I didn't waste any time getting to the top of the hill. I left my clothes in the car, and went up with just the bag of camera equipment and towel, and the blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I was also wearing sandals, which wouldn't have been necessary in the grass, except that the dew was very cold. I set up my stuff at the crest of the hill, and then cycled between taking a few shots and just hanging out.

The sun kind of took its time to come out. I walked around a bit, wrapped in the blanket and wearing the sandals - both for warmth - on a circular path that wove around the hill. I thought to myself about how nice it would be to walk those paths on a warm night, completely naked and protected by the veil of shadow. The problem with that is that I'd feel very self-concious driving into the park in the middle of the night. At least for the sunrise, I had a good, easily understandable reason for being there.

By the time I wandered back up to the top of the hill, the sun had broke the horizon, so I took a bunch more shots and generally got wetter in the grass. I think the paths must have recently been mowed, because there seemed to be a lot of grass clippings lying about, and the grass did an amazing job of painting itself all over my feet and shins, and knees, and wherever else I made contact with the grass. The one towel I brought was hardly enough to keep me dry. I endured the cold damp, and to be honest, it wasn't that terrible. Really not more than a minor inconvenience.

I didn't linger long after the sun had left the horizon, as it was getting brighter and brighter, and more people were waking up across the land (I could just tell), and I wanted to try to a) get out of the park before any early-risers showed up for morning exercise or something, and b) get home before anybody in the house got up so I could avoid having to make explanations or whatever. There were still no people to be seen or heard when I made it back down the hill to the car, so I actually took a couple more shots, and took my time shaking off the grass and getting myself dry enough to get dressed. It was nice and laidback. I actually drove home barefoot, because the sandals were ridiculously grassy and I just couldn't clean them off with the tools I had at hand.

That's about the end of the story. I got home while the house was still quiet, and it took me some time to clean up. I really like the pictures I got, and the experience was totally worth it! If only (my?) life was filled with more things like this. I really can't stand my self-concious anxieties. They're what keeps me from doing things like this more often. But the only reason I listen to them is because of fear, and fear is my captor. There's this commercial where this guy talks about how great his life is, and he says "there are no obstacles to achieving your dreams", and then he immediately contradicts himself by saying "and if there are obstacles, you knock them down." But everytime I hear him say this, I can't help saying to myself, "this guy's obviously never been in a situation where he's had to bang his head against a brick wall (figuratively speaking), to no avail."

"Some are born to sweet delight; some are born to endless night."

A Wooded Sunset

Today, conditions conspired (mostly weather and personal drive) for me to head out into a local "wooded" "park" - which is really just a pathetic excuse for a surprisingly overgrown path squeezed between two rows of backyards - to take a few pictures outside, in daylight, before the sun set. Unfortunately, the fact that it was a good day to take a walk through the "woods" also conspired against me, as the "park" was more crowded than I expected. Granted, it was a comfortable summer day, dry and mostly clear, but even so, I expected that "park" to be all but abandoned. At the very least, regardless of what happened, I /did/ get a few nice pictures that I like.

I headed in with no problem. The way the "park" is set up, is that it's basically a long, linear stretch of "woods" - narrow enough in some places to see houses (or even streets) on both sides - that bends around in a vague U-shape from one entrance to the opposite entrance. This means that there's pretty much only a single path that goes from one end to the other. The disadvantage of this is that there's really no place to hide from people other than staying ahead of them. I thought I'd be able to hear well enough to know someone was coming with plenty of time to prepare myself before they could see me, but I was quite wrong about that. And then the parts that run up against the street dull your hearing (and enjoyment of nature) even further.

Anyway, there's a fire circle about a third of the way in from the entrance I generally use, and a cool bridge over a stream about a third of the way in from the opposite end - I no longer use that entrance because it kind of runs through a government installation (or something - ridiculous, I know). So I made it to the fire circle no problem, without seeing any people - just the way I expected it. But there was a group of young birds chirping loudly and occupying the circle. I didn't really want to bother them, so I kept going, hoping to make it to the bridge with enough time to take some shots before the sun went down.

The "path" was pretty overgrown (I later found out that it wasn't actually the path...), and there was a section (which actually met back up with the real path), that skirted right past an open backyard, which just happened to have a guy mowing the lawn. Not that I had any reason to hide myself at this point, but I still didn't like the idea of walking right past him, so I gave up, turned around, and headed back to the fire circle.

When I got there, the birds were still chirping, and now I saw what I assume was the mother. The sun was starting to touch the horizon, and I figured, if I was gonna get some shots, I better not delay any longer. So I got undressed right there at the fire circle and took a few shots. I wasn't confident about the location, because I didn't want to be rushing back and forth to get in the right spot in time for the camera, since I figured it would probably frighten the birds, and I didn't want the mother attacking me or anything. So I left the circle proper and took a couple more shots around some picnic tables nearby.

I was feeling pretty good about being naked out in the "woods". It was a great sensation. But I couldn't enjoy it for long, because right after one of my snaps, I saw a person over at the fire circle. Out of the blue. It was some kids. I don't know how much they saw, and I'm not so naive to think that they can't have seen me, but they didn't make any kind of fuss, and there's at least the possibility that they didn't get any clue as to what I was doing. Well I got dressed real quick and sat around for a bit, because I didn't want it to look like I was running away or anything.

As I was sitting, a group of kids went by on the path a little in front of me, heading away from the fire circle and in the direction of the bridge. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the same group that may have seen me, which is good because it was actually some of my brother's friends. They saw me, and I waved to them, but declined joining them on their trek. After they left, three kids came through from the firecircle area into the picnic table area where I was. This time, I'm pretty sure it was the kids who might have seen me, but at this point, I was open to the idea that it was yet a third group of kids... Well, I just tried to act natural, and one of them asked me for a light, holding a cigarette. The idea vaguely passed through my head that maybe they had seen me naked through the trees, and thought I was high or something. Anyway, I didn't have a light, and I told the guy that, and the kids left (went back to the fire circle, I guess, as I could still hear them).

At that point, I figured it was time to move. Get away from these people, at any rate. And seeing the one group of kids (my brother's friends) go ahead in the direction of the bridge gave me newfound confidence to get past that lawn mower guy. And that's exactly what I did. Happily, I made it to the bridge with no other confrontations. I wondered if maybe I would catch up to that one group, or if they would start heading back, as I knew the end of the path that runs along the government installation (or whatever it is) was kind of rough. Although I don't suspect that would have stopped them. I convinced myself that they had gone straight through, and weren't gonna come back, and rested by the bridge.

Luckily, nobody whatsoever interrupted me while I was at the bridge, and I got a bunch of cool pictures and spent a decent amount of time hanging out there naked. I even climbed down and stepped in the stream to wash my hands and feet a bit. The water was so clear and cool. I wouldn't have dared drinking it, though, with all the pollution around...

So that was most excellent. After a bit, I started thinking about heading back, as it was starting to get dark, and I wanted to get out of the "park" before I couldn't see my way, since I didn't have a flashlight or anything of the sort. So I got dressed, and after very short deliberation, decided to retrace my steps back the way I came. It was just about 9:00 at this point, which is when the "park" "officially" closes, so I was quite surprised to find a bunch of kids at the fire circle. Whether the ones that may have seen me were there or not, I don't know, but there was definitely more there than there was when I left that area, including at least one girl. I walked through casually, acknowledging them, and just kept going.

On my way back toward the exit, I passed two more kids - there must have been something going on in there. I never realized the "park" was used that much. And just before I reached the end of the "park", there were two girls walking a dog coming in. One of them actually asked me if I "smoke", and I had to regretfully answer in the negative and leave them unfulfilled. It seems to me that pot would be a great way to get friends. If I sold pot, I honestly think I'd be the most popular guy in the greater neighborhood. Although in that case, the cops would probably want to get to know me better, too, and I'd rather that not happen.

The other thing I noticed is that of all the people I came across in the "woods", I was the only one "hiking" solo. But I guess that's no surprise. This is not a very solitary world we live in. I was also easily the oldest, since everyone else seemed to be school age, but that didn't particularly come as a surprise to me.