The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

16Jun/080

I once had a blog called Dreamer

In the dream, I'm late for my internship with an Asian film director. They're shooting on top of a large cliff overlooking the sea. The sun is bright, sky is blue, and there's plenty of lush grass beneath our feet. Our, being myself, the director, his assistant, and the hundred actors comprising two armies of rival nations, decked out in blue and red.

As I run up the hill to meet them, I find the director standing smack dab in the middle, with armies in formation in front and behind him ready to charge. He yells "Action!" and my mind fast forwards. He is preparing an actor for a scene involving him being pushed off the cliff by an enemy. The assistant irritatedly walks up to the director and starts haranguing him, complaining about safety and expenses and difficulty, how we could easily do this on a blue screen back at the studio. It's getting late, he says, and the actors are tired. If we film this shot digitally, we can call it a day and not go back to this wretched place.

Wretched? This oceanside cliff is beautiful, a sharp contrast to the bloody feud that is taking place. I want to make my case to the director, but it's not my place. I'm just an intern. And when the director looks into the tired eyes of his employees, he too lets out a weary sigh. Very well, we'll call it a day, he says.

I don't bother pleading, or helping them pack up, I just walk back the way I came. This place has a certain majesty about it, something that couldn't be recreated by a second-rate computer geek who has spent his life indoors, who has never felt this wonderful ocean breeze.

At the bottom of the hill is a wall-less tent adorned with a sign that says WI-FI INTERNET. Several tables have been strewn about, packed with people on their laptops. A few people are sitting on the fat, pillow-sized stone slabs that serve as a railing for the small ramp that leads down the cliffside to the water below. There's one poor shmuck who is standing in line, apparently not content to sit on the grass or sit in the sun.

Curious as to why they'd make a rail that leads downwards, I hop onto one and start to make my way down. My balance wavers a bit, and I decide that it's best if I sit down and scoot instead of walk. The ramp alternates between slanted and straight, and it would be a fun slide if the friction of the granite wasn't such a killjoy.

I reach the bottom and find that the water is actually pretty shallow. It would probably just reach past my feet, if I stepped in, nothing like the ocean I saw from on top of the cliff. It's inconsistent. But life is consistent. The only place something like this could happen is...a dream? Is this a dream?

As rebellious thoughts fill my mind, I remember that I'm in bed after having taken a nap. I give a gentle mental push, and suddenly my hands feel the smooth sheets of my bed instead of the rough rock.

I immediately pull my mind back, my head spinning with the realization about where I am and what I can do while here. I have had a lucid dream only one other time, where I was on top of a large building. I wanted to jump off but I was too afraid, worried that I might be sleepwalking and would wake up moments before my death.

But this time I was too curious. I stood up on the stone railing and looked back the way I came. Another inconsistency, the railing was not part of a ramp that led up the cliffside, it was now simply a long curved railing that led back to an island. There was no cliff behind me anymore, just the expanse of the sea. The water was still foot-deep.

The best stories are made when you're bold, curious, and just a little bit stupid. I dove head-first into the shallow water.

My head entered, then my body, then my legs. I was fully immersed, and there was plenty of room beneath me in the cool water. I wanted to come up and take a look around and found it effortless to rise to the surface. The island was still in the distance, but the railing was gone and the water was now a proper ocean. I started swimming, not caring which way, and it was the easiest thing in the world. I was totally uncoordinated but it was as if I had on a miniature life jacket that had that helped me float.

It was amazing, liberating, and in a flash it was over. I was on my bed, eager to go back into the water but too certain that I was awake and would not be able to return. And so instead of reliving it in my dreams, I sat down at my computer and relived it through my memories and my words. Hopefully I'll have more lucid dreams, because I'm sure as hell not diving into water outside of one.

29Mar/082

Chunk of hay + an indefinite article – Mirror 3 + AD replacement

The Sims is a series of award-winning games that let you control simulated people, each with their own needs, desires, relationships and futures. Some players choose to build elaborate houses, giving their characters a dream home and letting them roam free to do as they pleased.

I, on the other hand, played The Sims very efficiently. I built rooms only as large as they needed to be, with items strategically placed to minimize the space they took up and the time to travel between them. I did not decorate the interior of the house, because pretty scenery really only mattered when they left the house to go to work, and indoor decorations would not help that. I did not buy a full-length mirror because a square hanging mirror served the same purpose at a fraction of the cost while not taking up any space.

I built bachelor houses that were essentially very large cubicles, with no extra money spent on walls for the bathroom because no one would ever see him and it would never be an issue. I did not buy a lounge chair or sofa because it would not double as an eating chair, and which I would then have to purchase separately. The house had one chair. It was the chair in which my Sim ate, watched television and learned skills from. I spent money making it extremely comfortable, because that chair and the bed were the only sources of rest I provided my Sim. When he needed comfort, I did not let him simply sit down, I would top off his fun need by also making him watch TV. If he was already at full fun, I would discontinue TV watching and make him read a book to learn a skill.

But hermit Sims have stunted job progression because later promotions require you to befriend your neighbors. To accomplish this, I had a systematic way of rapidly maximizing a relationship level. I did not bother with most of the interaction options like backrubs and pranks, I did what I needed to do in order to get where I wanted to be, and then I sent them along their way.

I would talk to them until our relationship level rose a bit and then mixed in jokes, all the way until when a hug became the best option to increase relationship points. I chose these because they were efficient and reliable, but also because they raised fun points as well.

Talking, joking, and hugging were fun. With just those three, my Sim no longer felt the desire to watch TV. As long as he could keep talking, he never wanted to read a book, or play games on his computer. To keep the game understandable and not needlessly complex, the developers generalized a Sim's need for recreation into a single quantity that rose whenever something that could be construed as fun was accomplished.

It doesn't work that way in real life, sadly. Given constant exposure to something, we grow tired of it, and we are not as affected by it. Conversely and notably, the absence of something can make us profoundly affected by its reappearance.

For the past year I have been in the presence of amazing friends and socialization. I love being with them and have made shockingly large changes to my plans for next year in order to keep being with them, but they are not everything that I am. They don't do everything that I like to do. And so sometimes, as much as I want to spend every moment with them, I also want to spend moments relishing the comforts that I enjoyed so dearly before I met them.

Yet even with the best of both worlds at my fingertips, each having done nothing to dilute each other, I can't have everything I want. I am always missing something, missing someone, neglecting someone.

But given the choice to be everywhere and do everything with everyone, would I take it? Would it only make me tire of everything faster? Maybe it would. But at least I would never have to apologize.

4Feb/082

Fan sand ninja – Jeremy Piven’s Gold + Thousand nation descent – Xi’an romanization

She once told me that if we were to be together, she would probably have an argument with me and break up with me after only a few months. She had told me more than a few times that I couldn't handle her temper, that no one could, that I was only inviting disaster by asking for full disclosure.

I am reluctant to admit that she was right, but she was.

Yet things were completely different for me when I was instead just a friend. I was able to bear the brunt of an attack the likes of which I'd only seen once before, one that had been a giant blow to my sensibilities. I was able to push past thoughts of her being with other guys, to embrace her as eagerly and passionately as I had done hundreds of times in years past. I was able to learn of things that I would not have thought I could tolerate. I was able to put myself and my own needs above those of other people.

That last note is the one that gives me pause, for that selfishness is exactly what was enabling me to function so well in the presence of difficulties. I have sometimes said that unlike those who treasured independence, I loved being dependent. I loved having someone to whom I could dote on, who would appreciate the details I paid attention to and fuss over.

But I was not always able to meet expectations, and my need for their approval ensured that I always felt it. It is in the dissolution of this dependence that I became more resilient. Perhaps only ever so slightly, but noticeably.

Is the improved defense worth staying single, worth putting myself before other people? Is this, in contrast to how I have lived my life all these years until now, perhaps the better life for me after all? I can already see Cristen telling me that to lead such a life would cause me to miss out on life itself.

Or perhaps I have simply underestimated myself. Perhaps my being unscathed should be attributed not to being selfish, but to simply knowing when I need to back down. Perhaps my tolerance is owed to an understanding of new rules.

The one thing I do know is that being godlike is not all it's cracked up to be.

10Dec/074

Seriously, silversmithing?

It's still hard to imagine my parents as people who once had lives like the one I'm leading right now. To me, their lives had always started with...well, me.

It's when tidbits about their past are fed to me that I start to get curious about what their lives were like before they settled down. My father offhandedly mentioned that he actually entered Polytechnic University as a chemical engineer major, only to discover that he didn't like chemistry. It was then that he turned to silversmithing, and finally deciding on mechanical engineering.

My father, the man who loved his job so much that he set up a drafting table and work environment in his basement, actually thought he wanted to do something else? I can't imagine him as a chemical engineer, and I didn't even know silversmithing was a major!

My parents actually bought a house in Brooklyn, on 70th street and 20th avenue. They had intended to move out from our 1-bedroom apartment in Queens, away from all the relatives that lived above us or within a few minutes drive of us, away from the routes and venues and nuances that I know so intimately. I wouldn't have gone to Montessori, Renaissance, and maybe not even Mega Academy. I would have lived a mere three blocks from my friend Sally, who currently lives two hours away by train.

But for whatever reason, they didn't move out. My dad drove there during the fall to sweep the leaves in front of the property and in the winter to shovel the snow. Eventually my parents realized that they weren't going to move there, that taking care of it was too much of a hassle, and that they weren't strict enough as landlords to make money off of it. They sold the house at a loss just to be rid of it.

When I hear about my parents' pasts, when I learn about how they stumbled, when I realize that they might be perfect parents but were not always perfect people...through learning about their failures I find the courage to face my own. Not everything fell into place the way they wanted, but I can't imagine them falling any other way.

21Nov/077

Reply: + Sauer P220 + Jennifer Government – MAWAFLNY…

Even the naive get tired when the only progress to be made is negative. Luckily nothing ever breaks; instead, incompatibilities are discovered. The ideal was worthwhile, but ultimately it belongs solely to the mellow.

15Nov/073

Hot dog champ – .russian – Japanese small forest + altleft

Strangely, the closest I came to crying over her was when she was being cursed out. As with all instances of tearing, I was split between wanting to embrace it and suppress it.

It all came about from a thought that had been stubbornly persistent: if I could go back one year, would the knowledge of one outcome change my behavior? Would I work harder towards keeping us together, or would I be resigned and bitter? Would I do nothing and simply appreciate our time more? If so, what would happen when the last day passes uneventfully? Would I assume that the same events happened and call her a liar?

No, I never assume the worst of people; instead, I fear it. Every action would be laced with hesitation and restraint, every hug less heartfelt, every kiss reminding me of the things she did and might still do. The changes in my behavior would be the same reasons why I couldn't take her back.

Change is what everything boils down to. What would I change? What has changed? Could I change? Could she?

I have always honestly believed that people can be anything they want to be. That they could change themselves to be whoever they wanted to be. I do not, however, believe that you can change someone else; it has to be purely of your own volition and desire. At the end of the day, you are the only person there who can tell you to keep trying.

So no, I don't think I would try to change what happened, because I did nothing wrong. I did not give the relationship my all, but I gave the relationship everything I was willing to give. I did not always put her over everyone else because I needed to have a life apart from her, and the presence of that life was kept a particular rift from closing. What happened was not something we had any control over; it was simply a result of how we were.

Given the chance to relive that year, I would do everything the same way I did it, up to the day where it was done, and would once again be done. Would I be able to say all this while in the comfort of her arms? No, but that's exactly why I wasn't.

20Sep/072

is to be human – Yoú – roar, rewind, replay red rover record + you see?

She always told me that she wanted to make me confident in myself. She wanted to make me believe that I was as smart, sweet, witty and cute as she thought I was. I had always thought that somewhere out there, there would be someone who did find my jokes funny, and my quirks cute, my attempts at romance charming. And somewhere out there, there's someone who really does have the same balloon fetish you do, or thinks that the huge tumor on your forehead is actually pretty damn sexy. In each of my relationships, I had been propelled by sheer excitement. Someone actually liked someone as strange as me? Someone honestly wanted to spend time with me, and just me?

It was possibly the ultimate compliment. It made me feel secure about myself, made me feel that I could be myself and still experience that mystical feeling called love. That there would finally be someone I could pour all my effort into and have them reciprocate in full, that someone would notice all the little things, make me feel all the things I've wanted to feel and maybe a little more. And as doubtful as I had been all my life...she actually succeeded.

I noticed my freshman year of college that I approached people with confidence, raised up and cushioned by the fact that I had someone to run back to if a social encounter ever failed. It made me more confident and outspoken around everyone, and I really do have to thank her for that. It made me unafraid of sharing my hobbies, my jokes, my self...and I had a better idea of who that self was. She reinforced that in me, that my real self was so close to the one she loved, such that I embraced it and let it fly. She helped me define me, even while she herself was so unsure.

But the dip in the Styx wasn't perfect, and the qualities that perhaps made her cling to me so readily and lovingly were the ones that have left deficiencies in me. Would I ever be able to find a girl that didn't make her interest so obvious? Would I ever be able to ask one out, or make one see me as a lover and not a friend? Would I ever be able to keep one?

Which is why I have posts like this. Thoughts, dreams, nights, days like this. Just optimistic enough to hope, too rational and risk-averse to substantiate. It rarely affects my attitude towards people...but that doesn't keep it from affecting me. But I'm still here. I'm still hoping. And perhaps one day I'll start trying and things will start happening. Because now I know what I want to reclaim, match, and exceed. I have her to thank for making me sure like never before of my reasons for defying reason.

30Aug/076

“I just watched her make the same mistakes again”

Instead of writing what I would like to think about, perhaps I'll write about what I am thinking about. Which, in fact, is nothing. Nothing at all. I'm feeling more listless now than I have all summer. My mind doesn't think of quips, it doesn't think of comforting words, it doesn't think of conversation...it just doesn't think. It doesn't process information. It forces laughs when they're prompted, it forces eye contact when it's prompted.

And yet I'm not sure what triggered it. My first day at work was spent being excited, nervous, and cheery. I talked to each and every customer with my usual gusto, left work happy, and met up with friends. And sometime between shopping with them at Bed Bath & Beyond and getting home, a part of me just stopped trying.

Perhaps I'm just tired. I dealt with a lot of people today, and had to wrack my brain for solutions to their questions. I know that I have a low quota for social activity, and I often appreciate alone time after going out with friends. But this isn't quite a need for alone time, because not even watching TV or checking my RSS feeds provided me with any satisfaction.

I originally attributed it to loneliness. Playing with Bunnie vividly reminded me of the lack of physical contact in my everyday life. As strange as it sounds, I had never missed it before she entered my life. I had appreciated it but never felt a desire for it. She was the one who showed me what I was missing, showed me of the power she held over me. I know that simply by hugging me tightly and not letting go, she could make me forget about my deepest and most entrenched worries. Strange and unnatural for someone who relies so heavily on reason.

But now, there's no one to go to. This is one of those rare occasions where I actually don't know the answer to my own question. Perhaps there is an answer out there, but honestly, I don't even know if there's a question anymore. And there's no one to notice that I'm not there asking or answering. The freshmen here are looking for the easygoing friends that they can become lifelong buddies with. My sophmore friends are in their own little worlds, and I suppose I'm in one of my own. The difference is...I'm not so sure I want to be in it by myself. I may have people here with me, but I certainly don't feel like it. I feel too awkward to call attention to myself, feel embarassed when I do get attention, and yet complain that I don't get attention?

Maybe I'm not lonely. Maybe I'm just regretting.

1Aug/077

Talisman of…Everlasting Power?

Back in Stuy, there was a saying that often wormed its way into speeches or closing opinion pieces in the school newspaper, like that joke about laxative* that stopped being so funny after you've heard seven different comics say it in a row. (I am surprised neither was anyone's yearbook quote.)

Welcome to Stuyvesant High School. Choose two of the three: grades, friends, or sleep.

The Friday before my Astronomy class final, I powered through a monster seven-hour study session with three classmates in preparation for the final. In doing so, not only did I fry my brain, but I finalized my answer to that joke in the process, an answer which I was leaning towards my junior year and had solidified by my final year of high school.

I choose friends. It doesn't matter what else I have. Without friends, being well-rested just makes me restless and bored. Without friends, the time spent studying seems even lonelier, and the grades feel hollow and pointless. Yet with friends, I can feel energetic and motivated even when I'm running on empty. A dollar spent with friends on five fried dumplings can feel more rewarding than any meal I've eaten alone. Friends can make me feel like I have a place in the world, a niche that no job earned by good grades could ever fill. Friends is the only choice that will comfort me when I don't have the others.

So thank you, all of you, for showing me this unique facet of the world: one where school isn't everything, where a simple piece of molded plastic can provide infinite enjoyment, where money is no longer considered squandered but merely spent for a good cause. As much as my future clamors for more attention, thank you for grounding me in the present. Thank you for showing me that even though the most enjoyable things are often ephemeral and a waste in the long run, a life not lived is the worst waste of all.

*There are some things that you need to buy together. "Should I get the laxative...or the toilet paper? . . . Give me the laxative. Paper bag, please. And yes, I want the receipt!"

**I was tempted to say, "Friends, I choose you!" but I choked and died a little inside. I still think it's a tiny bit brilliant, so it's been relegated to this addendum.

19Apr/074

Closure.

Every character in World of Warcraft is allowed to learn two tradeskills, things like blacksmithing or alchemy, though in WoW they're called professions. Professions are like college educations; they put you deep into debt in order to complete, and they're near-worthless until you finally do. Once you've learned all that you can, you want to put that knowledge to good use, namely to work off those training expenses. Some people tersely advertise "300 engi/alch," "port to darn/if/sw 1g," or "arc transmute 5g." I chose to advertise a little more flamboyantly.

"Like vibrating mechanical objects, but can't tell the difference between a Mechanical Squirrel and a Sniper Scope? Want to get back at that mage with an exploding sheep? Let Iskar the Incredible Inventor with his 300 Engineering handle all your engineering needs!"

"Have slippery fingers and keep dropping your vials? Whether it's Swiftness potions or Rocket Fuel, let Iskar the Incredible Imbiber with his 300 Alchemy handle all your substance-related needs!"

"Parents never talk to you about the birds and the bees? I can reenact the story with your Thorium Bar and Arcanite Crystal for just 5g! Come see the Miracle of Life...arcanite bar style!"

"Tired of Aragon the paladin and Gimlii the warrior begging for money? Change it up and have Llegolaz the hunter beg instead! Take a portal to Darnassus for just 99s! Friends ride free!"

"Tired of the contaminated canals of Lagwind and the soot-filled air of Lagforge? Take a trip to the clean, cool, tree-hugging wonderland that is Darnassus for just 99s! Friends ride free!"

I programmed all of these messages into individual "macros" that so I could advertise a particular service to all three major cities with the click of a button. The biggest rewards would be when people would LOL in the trade channel after my advertisement spam. The racier ones often provoke a LMAO or a WTF. Sometimes people would send me a private message saying that they didn't need a transmute, but if they did, they'd buy one from me. Whatever the reaction, I enjoyed eliciting them and making money in the process, and it's something that I've missed since I stopped playing WoW. I miss the people in my guild, their quirks, their voices, their talents, their generosity and companionship. I miss completely annihilating players that think I'm an easy target. I miss manipulating the economy, perfecting methods of killing a dozen monsters at a time when other people have to slog through them individually. I miss being good at something. The feeling of success is what I look for in a good game, and I stuck with WoW because it provided it so well.

The game has since changed drastically, and made itself dead to me in the process. I was in love with what it had been, not what it now is. I'm sure that I've changed in the interim just as the people who I played it with have changed. Even if they don't remember me as fondly as I remember them, the least I can hope for is for my guildmaster's words to ring true: "Iskar, no one will forget your macros."