Friday, November 17, 2017

Writing Exercise - Short

The day started off badly. Laetizia felt the rumblings around her and bits of plaster and drywall sprinkled down onto her, her bed, and her papers - she waited for a few seconds to see if the intensity would increase, but it stopped abruptly. The clock read the seventh minute of the seventh hour. As good a time as any to get up. Laetizia groaned, dusted herself off, and rolled over to peep out the window. Day was breaking and the distant red glow of a sunrise was reflected in the window opposite hers. These buildings were old, built to withstand much, and had assumed personalities of their own what with chunks of them coming off in the tremors and the graffiti that graced the exteriors. They looked a bit like giant tattooed gargoyles.

She got up and stretched, set her Moka Pot going, then ate a meager breakfast of a dry slice of toast. Today she presented her paper on Situational Ethics: a small branch of philosophical thought that rejected the notion of any robust/stable character traits. Experience seemed to bear out this tenet - frame a person in a situation just so, taking into account their historical accretion of situations, and you could guess how they’d react. Sometimes. People could surprise you.

Laetizia pulled on her favorite black calfskin boots with buckles on, paired with a dress and blazer, then added her mother’s heirloom necklace of semi-precious gems, said to be a good-luck charm, which glinted in the morning sun. Her mother had sent it to her a few weeks before for the occasion. "You can do this," she mouthed as picked up her papers and looked at her reflection in the mirror. It might have been her imagination, but she thought she felt something standing behind her. The mirror contained only her reflection. “No more magic,” she thought to herself, firmly, and left the room.

Outside, it was already bustling: businessmen, women, children - all were heading into the city center, jumping onto trams, busses, and, sometimes, whizzing by on their velocipedes. The preternatural investigatory unit had cordoned off an area of the sidewalk, right under her window, and a body lay covered with a sheet. The investigators had their hand on someone’s shoulder. It looked unfriendly. A few spectators talked in hushed tones about how terrible these things were and one was holding a newspaper with the headlines visible: “OFFICIALS STILL PUZZLED BY SPATE OF MAGIC-ASSOCIATED DEATHS.”

Laetizia shivered and crossed to the other side of the street to the tram stop. The tram passed over the River Whey - a deep, dark river choked with refuse and steaming run-off. “Excuse me, excuse ME,” Laetizia called out as she elbowed and shoved her way onto the next tram and wedged herself in-between a stocky man in a ripped leather jacket and an old lady with a granny cart. The doors closed. Everyone was so tightly packed together that there was no need to reach for any of the dangling handholds: the mass of bodies supported each other.

As the tram moved along its tracks, Laetizia noticed that people were looking slightly uncomfortable - wrinkling their noses and side-eyeing each other to see if anyone else noticed anything. Then Laetizia smelled it. Something plastic was burning. Dark smoke puffed out of the ventilation chambers. Everyone began to shout: “FIRE, FIRE!!! CONDUCTOR, OPEN THE DOORS! FIRE!!!” But the tram continued chugging along. The next stop wasn’t far but it wasn’t close, either, and the smoke gathered ever more thick and dark. A lick or two of flame shot out and the heat became palpable. “DO SOMETHING” wailed a mother holding a baby. Those around became more panicked and looked at each other to see if anyone would take risk. Laetizia kept her head down. “Not ME,” she thought, and clutched her good luck charm.

A stoic looking elderly man with wispy white hair finally began to mutter something under his breath and made small somatic movements. The tram jerked to a halt, metal screeching, and the doors slid forcefully open in their grooves. Everyone cried out in relief and poured out through the doors. Laetizia barely escaped being trampled. She’d have a few bruises to show for this the next day. At a safe distance from the tram, she paused to look back even though this whole delay meant she’d be late for her presentation.

The old man had taken a seat amidst the flames and closed his eyes. The skin on Laetizia’s neck prickled. Something was there by the man - though she couldn’t see anything. The man stiffened suddenly and his eyes roll back in his head. Unable to look away, she saw him convulse for a few moments before slumping down into his seat. The feeling of another thing faded. “DEFINITELY no more magic,” she swore, breaking into a cold sweat. She said a silent prayer for the old man, then hailed a taxi.

Friday, November 03, 2017


I am using NaNoWriMo as an inspiration to write just a little bit every day - life is too crazy crowded to attempt more. I've been wanting to write more on this fairy-esque tale because fairy tales we're my first fodder after Flash Gordon comics (which I learned to read from) and are dear to me.

My parents used to have an illustrated book of Russian Fairy Tales, covered in a soft red velvety material that felt friendly to the touch. Some book covers are cold and stand-offish. Others, you touch them and feel invited, in. Too young to read, I absorbed images of heroes on steeds, heroines with gauzy wisps of veil, and Baba Yaga and her house ringed skulls. When I learned how to write my name, I wrote it in the flyleaf of that book - and on several walls and a JPII paper doll book. My mother made me scrub my name off the walls but couldn't do anything about the Russian fairy tales. I felt a swell of satisfaction each time I opened that book and found that my name connected to something so wonderful.

The Berkeley library children's section had cut-out window seats, areas of light and dark, wood, places where you could become lost - at least, that was how it felt. I shall never know how it actually was because it was renovated and is now an alien sterile-feeling place of concrete. In one of the dark aisles lived the fairy tales, Andrew Lang's many colors. I can remember reverently opening several of them and comparing the stories of one colored book to another and weighing which ones to get. My backpack was so loaded that, on one occasion, after hefting up my treasures, I staggered and fell flat onto my back on the sidewalk.

Fairy tales speak to me: of glory, of beauty, of horror, of things mysterious, of things profound, of a subtext, an undercurrent that you suspect exists in some way even if it's not what you see in the world. Forces of good and evil in a cosmic struggle crystallized in the figures moving across the pages - flat in some ways, but deep in others.

So, I am working, bit by bit on a fairy tale of sorts. It's not an homage. It's simply the beginning of a tale.


Once upon a time,

There lived a small cockroach named Hugo underneath the boards of a great house. Hugo had many brothers and sisters who would dare each other to amazing feats when food was scarce or when they were just plumb bored. One dare was to crawl on a human’s flesh and see how long you could stay before being flicked off and the human went shrieking and wriggling away, doing a funny dance. Another was to run across the floor of the ballroom when there was a party. If you made it to the other end alive, you got an additional mark on your exoskeleton - but it didn’t count if you lost a leg or antenna or something.

One night, there was a particularly huge party on the floorboards above - the biggest in living memory. All the cockroaches peered through the cracks and jostled each other for the best view. There was a fairy and a centaur who were making high pitched keens and deep rumblings at each other over a bassinet that held a baby.

“Bet you can’t run across,” his sister Frida mouthed at him, cuffing his unmarked back.  The other cockroach siblings sniggered and nudged each other.

“I can so TOO,” Hugo cried out.

A sudden silence up above made him afraid that he’d been heard. Then he realized that was impossible. A cacaphony of sound began to fill up the room and ooze through every crack and crevice.

“This is IT,” thought Hugo, “This is MY TIME.”

Hugo leapt for the cracks, scrabbling through to win the smooth surface of the ballroom floor. He heard his siblings hootin’ and hollarin’ behind him and felt pretty darn smug for a second. During that second, he pranced forward a few steps before a shower of sparks erupted above and cascaded down onto his head. He felt like sneezing.

He sneezed.

And felt himself expanding. His head blossomed before the rest of him followed suit. Dizzying towers of color became closer to his side and resolved into interested looking faces above stalky legs and poufs of green petals. Knowing that these beings mostly stood on on their two hind legs and not wanting to be thought impolite, Hugo followed suit. It was difficult, given cockroach legs, but he managed. There was a small smattering of applause, so Hugo bowed very, very carefully - first to the right, then to the left, then to the front where the fairy and centaur stood watching him.

“It appears we have another guest!” Hugo heard a clear voice chime from the bassinet. In the bassinet there was no longer a baby but a young girl dressed in dandelions, holding a branch traced with silver. As she said this, twelve servants stepped forward and coughed discreetly at once. One stepped forward holding underwear. Another socks. A third some breeches. And so on. They marched up to Hugo and made him dress up in these fine clothes and the very last one put a top-hat square between his antennae and tucked a kerchief into his breast pocket. It was terribly embarrassing to be dressed in front of so many eyes and with such bad balance - plus, Hugo knew that his siblings were watching through the cracks and probably screaming with laughter. So, he blushed a bit and tried to get it over with as fast as possible.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Cracking Under Pressure

Me: Nice costume.
Him: Thanks, it was stolen! 
Me: ...
Him: *feeling the need to clarify* By friends ... 15 years ago.
Me: Oh.
Him: From a school.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


I do not like x.
∴ no one should like x because it is not worth liking

There is a sort of person who scoffs at things others enjoy because that person, himself, does not enjoy it. How could anyone enjoy it if this self, measure of measures, is not pleased by it? Generalities take a-whirl.

It's good to know that you're perceived as a being with arms and legs that stick into dimensions beyond work or school - that you have passions which people identify with you. It's bad when you are attacked for having those passions: from dance to anime to sports - or when others inform you that these passions are not worth spit.

Often, the attacks are cloaked in the form of a tease: ahooo, you say, you sportsball watchers with your jerseys and foam fingers, you are stupid and the ball-sport you love is stupid (I am quite good with pithy make-someone-feel-bad-insults - Do Not Cross Me). There's also an appeal to our final destination (heaven/hell) which is  used to cement the fact that what you love is infinitesimally insignificant. Yes, but. Not yes and.

People sometimes NEED you to like or not like something -- or, since they don't like it, cannot see its worth and can't see that ANYONE needs to like it. 
But you never know whether your dismissive words are the first words which sow doubt in the mind that this thing that is loved is worthwhile, whether it's part of the deafening discouraging roar, or whether it's the final straw that breaks the back and heart.

You don't know.

You don't know the worth of this thing in itself or worth to that other person. This person might find dance worthwhile because they see soul-as-form-of-bodied intensified and catch a glimpse of the glorified body. That person watches anime because it shows a reality that is so beautiful they long for it: maybe because it's what they've never had, maybe because it's what they hope for themselves or for the world - a reminder that things can be beautiful. It's not all shadows. That person watches sports because....well, I'm not a sports watcher, but I can *imagine* that there's something in it that speaks on some primordial level and hits that aching soul spot squarely like a resounding bell or a bellowing beast.

Point being: these small things ARE worthwhile. These small loves are not ultimately insignificant - they're a shard of Being, a sliver of God's goodness which is accessible and  which can lead along the path of salvation.

Is being good? Is life worthwhile?

If these small things are good, if these small things are worthwhile, maybe other things are good? Maybe there is greater good? Maybe there is The Good?

So, for heaven's sake, don't squarsh people when they love things. Back up a bit and realize that you are not the rule by which things are measured. You might not see how such a thing can have worth since it has no worth to you. But it has worth to your brother in Christ - and, if it does not contravene what is good, then, I would suggest, perhaps do not be the one who snuffs out that smoldering wick.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Watched Bladerunner 2049 and might watch it again to check my impressions and get a bit more of the story. When you have a movie theater nearby where you can catch a show for $5/6, it becomes not ludicrously expensive (mwah, Grand Lake Theater) to do extravagant things like...see a movie twice.

I saw what everyone is saying about mammary glands. Yup. Accurate.

(Not really spoilers.)

This isn't a review, but two impressions that I took away.

First, something I liked: you sit with set scenes and experience them in distended theater time. The characters in this movie are at home in these magnificent otherwordly sets but you, the viewer, are not. The scenes are lingered on and you're given time and space to experience them, to get grounded in that universe. There's no dilution of your own impressions by seeing them through the eyes of another (for the most part - and I think when that shifts it's maybe intentional - as in, K maybe did not see before that these things were worth pausing on and exclaiming over), though there is ambient music/sound which does prep you for certain feelings. Contrast with a scene like this:

It's SO FAST and you see it through the eyes of Judy: she is impressed so you wanna be, too. And it is impressive!

Blade Runner 2049 is not like that. It takes a different approach to give a sense of both distance and immersion through the set-usage, purposefully, I think, to give us a taste of how a replicant might view the world: no attachment, no comment, just moving through and doing what you were programmed to do.

Which, second, leads me to a disappointment. On the macro level, I felt like the world was really excellently conceived. On the micro, at least for the city scenes (and maybe one or two others - but mostly the city scenes)....ehhhh.... It felt like it wasn't the bustling metropolis in the original and seemed...almost empty? Sterile? Too neat. The original somehow conveyed the sense that this was a mish mash of cultures in extremely tight quarters - but without explicitly showing much:

The new one? Not so much.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. EXCEPT for accidental circumstances. I happened to sit in front of two really loud teen? college? girls who, at first, kept up a conversation in tones louder than the movie... Until enough people craned their necks to stare pointedly at them and they finally got this rather subtle hint.

BUT they were also the sort who scream out "OH GROSS!" or "what's he gonna do!?" and the like. So the entire movie was a bit of a purgatory. They reminded me a bit of this skit:

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Simon Says: Rocks, broken bones, and load-bearing

There have been two moments in life when the presence of God has become almost tangible - where I call out and He responds like a dead weight crushing against my consciousness.

One moment was many years ago. I was praying for a boy I'd never met who'd been in a horrific car accident. My friend, the boy's brother, had broken down crying when asking a group for prayers. He then left the room, shading his eyes, covering his sorrow: the situation seemed hopeless. I went into a nearby chapel, knelt, and prayed. No voice spoke in the stillness, but an absolute certainty settled upon my heart that God had heard and God had answered. That being that, I thanked God, genuflected out of the pew, and left - dipping my fingers into the holy water on my way out. There was a trail of ants leading to it, drinking on that hot day, from that same font of incomprehensible mercy.

A few weeks later, the boy was well on the path to recovery.

But I don't know God through moments of ecstasy or flashes of certainty - and don't expect that any personal experiences will be convincing to others. Honestly...I find personal testimonies rather more suspicious than convincing.

Mmm. But here gotta be careful. Because, epistemologically, I do find witness convincing (see: Apostolic succession). But the personal testimony flavor leaves me cold. It might be because I've known too many people who hear the experiences of others, when I think of my own experiences, and wonder: "Why HER, why not me? What is it that **I** lack?" You hear the miracles granted to others, you expect miracles, and, then,  when you scream from the depths of the soul ... you only hear an echo of your own voice that becomes faint and fainter before being absorbed by a universe of implacable rock-faced walls.

That feeling is why I believe, to be, perhaps, too overt in parallels. I find it repugnant to think that so many voices should be crying out because a burden, not of their choosing, has been placed upon them - to think that so many will end life in an agony of fear, anger, pain. To never, ever, be made whole. I cannot accept that. I will not accept that.


There but for the grace of God? Do such as they not also have God's grace? Is that supposed to make that person who went *there* feel like they are worthy of love, of dignity? Or even that the person carrying some heavy burden feels like they're somehow blessed? Really? That's what you say and not: oh, hey....That looks....heavy....can I help you carry that?

Justice is a large part of why I believe.

God is the only lens through which suffering in the world becomes something not-pointless. I won't say acceptable or even tolerable. Not on a human-experiential level, at least. I would, instead, say intellectually passable. God does not will physical evils in se (and moral evils in no way). But He does will to allow physical evils so that some good might come about. The problem is this: clumsy speaking lends itself to misunderstanding. You get your dream job? God's will. You become deathly ill? God's will. The implication is that if this is God’s will, then it is also good and to be embraced (or even desired) as such. And, when you expand that without making distinctions, you get all sorts of crazy messed up ideas about mercy and justice.

God's grace moves beyond what we can see and He will wipe away every tear. If not in this world, then in the next: the Lazaruses will find respite. God forbid we should find ourselves on the other end of that great divide.
Edit: This should be read and is quasi-related - but it is dark so do not venture if it might be too much.

Friday, October 06, 2017

This Week

This week was pretty hellish and my mood was like so:

But it is no longer quite like that.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Anime Music Videos


In Him we live and move and have our being

Lotsa people feel isolated from their Catholic Community, from what I see/hear/read.

Parishes try to encourage the formation of community by having bible studies, youth groups, young adult groups, parish events, and whatnot - throwing a hodge podge group of people together and being all "halloooo, Catholic hoomans, here are other Catholic hoomans! Ain't religion just the thing?"

And it doesn't work (if that's all it is) - it's like kids with playmobils mashing toy faces together.

There's a strict delineation some have between Church-friends and friend-friends. Occasionally, a Church-friend might slip into the friend-friend category but it is not (in my experience) because the circumstances surrounding this transition are inherently conducive to nurturing this development. They're rather the opposite: here are utter strangers - you sit awkwardly around a table and make small talk, read the bible, go to Mass, and agree that having a Catholic Identity is Really Important.

Then you part ways, go home, and forget these individuals even exist -- unless there's a t'eh fetching guy who catches your eye and makes your heart race and then you catch yourself using heart emojis and smiley faces everywhere and sternly say to yourself: "Self," you say, "he's probably one of those Nice Catholic Guys."*

Part of the problem is we romanticize Catholic Community as something other-worldly: this community will be holy and help us get to heaven and it will be set apart from and above our regular day-to-day world of drudge work, commutes, and making dinner for the fam while squeezing in an episode of some tv show. This is the CITY OF GOD, maaan.

Well, yes. And no.

The "yes" bit is that yeah, we are signed and sealed by the Holy Spirit, our destiny is shared and heavenly, and we are supposed to (1) get there and (2) help others get there (sorry, sounding like an airplane oxygen-mask PSA). This earthly home is not our final home and our hearts yearn for something greater and beyond. There will always be this yearning and dissatisfied feel because that's how we are, structurally, due to the jarring disunity effected by original sin. THANKS, ADAM AND EVE. GREAT JOB, GUYS. [Nb: they must be really sick of people on earth saying stuff like this.]

The "no" bit is how we understand that role and how it affects us on a practical level.

We are not pure spirit. We need support on a physical and emotional level as well as the spiritual. We have passions and hopes and dreams for this world which are legitimate and worthwhile: of getting a better job so you can support your family, of having a family, of having people around you that you can simply call up and say - without pretext - do you want to be with me in some way?

I'd argue you cannot effectively engage on the spiritual unless you're also engaging on those other levels. Catholicism is not at the expense of these lesser worldly things: it's the context for them, the giving of a proper order.

And that's one reason why (not THE reason, but A reason) - I think - we sometimes feel disconnected from our local Catholic Community. Because so much stress is placed on the spiritual, the rest feels immaterial or unimportant. And it's not. So it is that while we may be brothers and sisters in Christ we've never cooked a meal together, never watched a movie (unless it's a *religious* movie), never read then discussed a book, (unless it's a *religious* book), and never shared our interests and passions (unless they're *religious* ones). And unless you reveal who you are, people cannot connect with you or you with them: you can't build or have a community that feels or is real.

I don't really have any solutions except to say: creating an authentic Catholic Community is not about shoving the world into some neglected corner. God saw that it was good. It's not THE GOOD, but it's aight. We need more of a permeation of the Good News that settles into our bones and breath and every aspect of our daily lives and less of the "NOW IZ RELIGION TIME! ALL T'EH REST IS IN A DIFFERENT SPHERE!!!" feel to Catholic gatherings.

The day-to-day sorrows and joys are what we bond over as human beings. We care about beauty regimes, sports teams, dancing, authors, and art. We glory in the beauty we see around us and weep at the pain. It's not an either/or. It's a both/and (so long as by 'the world' you don't mean it in the sense of 'worldly').

It's not the intent to create the suggestion of these different spheres, I'm quite sure. And it is true that we must put God before all things: learn to know Christ more, Church Fathers and other befitting works, etc. But that's not ALL that we must do with others if we want to be friends with them, if we want to form a community.

This is all terribly, terribly abstract and vague - and also based off of personal experience with these types of events - yes.  Sorry. This is about Things I've Observed and Conclusions I've Drawn.

* This is a pejorative. Many Nice Catholic Folk unthinkingly - even blasphemously - use religion as a pious mask for some truly messed up crap.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

French Animation

French animators are doing some super cool things these days:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dribs and Drabs

I read this essay, recommended to me by someone in real life, and he proposed the following:

Such folk as these should not, properly speaking, be called philosophers - they should be called assholes. Would you invite them to your philosophers' club? Would you invite them to a dinner party? Would you invite them into your home unless it were to remonstrate with them in private?

On reflection, I think he's right. You can absolutely hold that (1) such and such a person made a great contribution to philosophy but (2) demonstrated a significant lack of intellectual virtue and therefore (3) is not, properly speaking, a philosopher.

I certainly would hesitate to class Frege or Heidegger (alas, much as I like Heidegger and, yes, there is debate -- but things seem rather damning) with the likes of the gently insistent Socrates or the poetic Pieper. It feels a bit obscene in setting them alongside each other.

Everyone has their blind-spots and compartmentalizes their beliefs so that incompatible ones don't accidentally touch and explode - if not on the purely intellectual level, then as regards how these beliefs are applied in practice. Yes, here is a universal principle...but it doesn't apply in these particular circumstances. Ayiii, practical syllogisms.

But there is some point at which you cannot say both that this person is pursuing truth, is a gen-uuuu-iiine lover of wisdom, and yet holds certain patently false - even self-acknowledged as irrational - beliefs. It seems incompatible.

Will such folk ever not be called philosophers? Probably not. Nevertheless, I do not think we should call them as such. Call them Frege or Heidegger, call them a great thinker, but do not call them a philosopher.
In other news, I am starting on a fantasy short story about a cockroach:

Once upon a time,
There lived a small cockroach named Hugo underneath the boards of a great house. Hugo had many brothers and sisters who would dare each other to amazing feats when food was scarce or when they were just plumb bored. One dare was to crawl on a human’s flesh and see how long you could stay before being flicked off and the human went shrieking and wriggling away, doing a funny dance. Another was to run across the floor of the ballroom when there was a party. If you made it to the other end alive, you got an additional mark on your exoskeleton - but it didn’t count if you lost a leg or antenna or something.

One night, there was a particularly huge party on the floorboards above - the biggest in living memory. All the cockroaches peered through the cracks and jostled each other for the best view. There was a fairy and a centaur who were making high pitched keens and deep rumblings at each other over a bassinet.

“Bet you can’t run across,” his sister Frida mouthed at him, cuffing his unmarked back.  The other cockroach siblings sniggered and nudged each other.

“I can so TOO,” Hugo cried out.

A sudden silence up above made him afraid that he’d been heard. Then he realized that was impossible.