This will never become a book.

2013 January 9 Wednesday


Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:01

I remember an advertising jingle from years ago, a classic which cropped up every January (as I remember it).  A razzmatazz melody and a rushed chorus of voices sang, “Everything You Wanted But Didn’t Get For Christmas…” to promote a post-holiday sale at Sears.  (YouTube kindly allowed me to refresh my memory with a version from 1977 — was it seriously that long ago?)

Things that we were fine living without before an arbitrary gift-giving occasion thus become things that we need badly enough to go out and buy for ourselves.  That’s the point of commercials, isn’t it?  They remind us that wanting something is a condition which can be cured rather than endured.

Commercials try to persuade us that our lives are lacking things which we never realized we wanted or needed or couldn’t live without (despite having done so). Very few commercials are simply informational announcements of a new product or service.  Along with the facts are the opinions, presented as arguments we cannot refute, telling us how to think about ourselves and our lives and why we must surely want what they offer.

Even without commercials, I find myself wanting things that I never thought about before, simply because the lack of those things have been pointed out to me.  I knew Twinkies existed, I had eaten Twinkies in the past, but I lived for decades without thinking about Twinkies.  Then it was all over the news how the world would soon be without Twinkies, and suddenly I wanted them.  My store had none left in stock, and I wanted them more.  The shelves of Little Debbie snack cakes were never a destination for me, until this manufactured desire drove me to buy their Cloud Cakes.

Then there is this matter of my current search for a job.  I have considered a lot of different career paths, and have applied for a variety of positions.  I have learned about jobs which I had never considered before, but might be a good fit for my current skills and interests.  I recently had a phone interview which boosted my spirits, and it left me looking forward to working at that company.  Then the rejection came.  And now I am left wanting something I was completely ignorant of before.  How can I want something now which I didn’t know I wanted a mere week ago?  Just because it was taken away from me, before I even had it to begin with, I feel the loss.

I guess they don’t call them “want ads” for nothing.


2013 January 7 Monday

Random Richness

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 10:46

I awoke from the dream disoriented. What time is it? I can usually sense how early it is by the amount of pre-dawn sunlight breaking through beyond the curtains.  Is there a glow?  Or is that the Christmas lights outside the window?  Did I leave them on all night again?

Wait. What day is this?   Oh, right, now I remember.  I took the lights down last week. It’s a work day, but it’s not time to wake up just yet.  What was I dreaming?

I was in a large room, filled with armchairs and end tables.  It looks like a living room, with dark wallpaper and plush carpeting, but it seems to be the waiting area at a fancy business.  On the coffee table is a catalog.  I think I recognize one of the models on the cover.  Maybe her name is Chelsea?  Maybe we are friends and I am here to meet up with her?  This seems to be a place where fashions are designed and sold.  There is a lounging sofa next to where I am sitting, the kind with a curled side arm and no back.  On it is a tailored man’s shirt made of a luxurious pink fabric, neatly folded, with a receipt on top.  It seems to have cost $50. Is that a good price? I know someone who likes tailored shirts.  Maybe I should surprise him with a gift, but how would I get his measurements?

I pick up the catalog and flip through its pages.  It is more like a magazine, featuring a different designer profile on each double-page spread.  The fashions are outlandish, ridiculous, extravagant. Each turn of the page shows me something entirely new, from bizarre to Lady Gaga crazy. But the glossy pictures imply that someone is proud of these designs, and the existence of the catalog says that people buy these clothes, maybe even wear them.  On a deeper subconscious level, I must realize I am dreaming and that these images were created by my own mind.  I try to look at the magazine again, to memorize the details, but the images are now blurry.

I look for other things to read while I am waiting.  I find a small stack of coupons and advertising leaflets.  Shuffling through them, I also find cash intermingled with the slips of paper.  Hundreds of dollars are mixed in with cheap tourism mailers.  I try to read the blurbs on the coupons, but again I find it difficult to focus on the text.  I hear a noise which I believe means an elevator is arriving in the outer hall.  I feel guilty for handling the money, but now I cannot remember where it belongs.  Where had I found it?  Did it go with the shirt on the sofa? Why isn’t there a note with it, to say who left it or what it was for? I wake up, worried that someone will think I was stealing from them.

I want to remember this dream in the morning, but I also want to go back to sleep.  I should write it down, but turning on a light and looking for a pen takes me further across the line into wakefulness. I scribble some words down in my notebook, to use as memory triggers later, but it is too late.  I have only a single image remaining from the dozens in my fashion catalog. The rest of the dream is gone.

I check the time.  I won’t be able to go back to sleep now, the rest of the household will be getting up fairly soon. Maybe I’ll turn on the television.  Maybe I’ll see whether anyone on Project Runway has stolen my ideas.


2013 January 4 Friday

fiction sprint – Figures and Landscapes

Filed under: writing — kdefg @ 18:22

“Mom? Where is our family photo album?”

Children ask the most difficult questions, Donna thought to herself.  She went to the kitchen to greet her son, where he always headed after coming home from school.

“We don’t have one as such,” she replied hesitantly. “Did you want to see something in particular?”

Tommy poured himself a glass of milk and reached for the cookie jar. “It’s for a school project.  We’re supposed to bring in a picture of ourself when we were little.”

His mother handed him a plate and a paper napkin, hoping he would agree to use at least one of the two.  “I keep some photos in a box in the hall closet.  We can dig through there together.  I’m sure we can find something you can use.” She knew exactly how few pictures she had of him as a child, but she could stretch the search into a few extra minutes with her son.

After cleaning up the cookie crumbs and drops of milk that missed both the plate and the napkin, they opened the linen closet and pulled out a cardboard box. It was overflowing with many small envelopes, each stuffed full of loose photographs.

“Some of these go back to when I was a child myself,” she told him.  She peeked inside an envelope to check its contents, then set it aside.  “Yours should be near the top here, somewhere.” She let him check another envelope.

“These are pictures of our old house,” said Tommy, “but I don’t see any of us in them.” He closely inspected several of the photos, then scanned through the rest of the stack. “I don’t see any people in them at all. Is this all we have?”

Donna pretended to be surprised by the contents in the next envelope, assuming it would end their expedition.  “Oh, here you go.  Look what I found.  All of your school portraits.”  She handed him the packet, hoping it would end his questions.

Tommy looked for something suitable for his class project. “These are all taken by a photographer, and I’m all dressed up in them.  They don’t show who I really am, or who I was when I was a little kid.  The teacher said we should bring in something… I forget the word, but less staged and more personal.”

“Casual? Candid?” suggested his mother.  “I think we could get copies of some shots taken at your friend’s birthday party last year.  Would you like me to ask his parents for those?”

He looked at the rest of the box, with many more envelopes yet to be opened. “Can I keep looking through these with you?”

She nodded, but without enthusiasm.  “I don’t think you’ll find much else in there.  We really didn’t take very many pictures over the years.”

Tommy flipped past scenes of neighborhoods and mountains, buildings and parks.  One picture showed a table in a restaurant set for a fancy feast, but no one was seated at the place settings. “Where are all the people?” he asked.

“Oh, they hadn’t yet arrived,” she lied to him.  “I took that one before the dinner we had when I graduated from college.  People started arriving and I put down the camera and forgot all about taking a picture of the group.”

“But they’re all like this!”  He started to spread the photos out on the floor, there in the hall in front of the linen closet. “Here’s one of the playground across from our old house, but there’s no kids in it.  Why would you take a picture of an empty playground?”

I didn’t, Donna thought to herself.  I remember you hanging from the monkey bars in that one, and I remember all my friends being around that dinner table when I snapped that photo.  The people always disappear when I have the film developed.

“I guess I just don’t have good luck with cameras,” she told him.


(updated:  I altered a few lines for clarity — I hope it’s an improvement.  Feedback is always welcome, thank you.)


2013 January 2 Wednesday

Sentimental Endings

Filed under: reality — kdefg @ 22:54

With the start of the new year, I should be looking forward to new things.  This is supposed to be the time for making resolutions and being optimistic about the future.  Good riddance to 2012, hello 2013, right?

Instead, the coming year will probably involve some compromises.  I cannot talk too much about my employment situation, in case a prospective hiring agent is reading this.  You don’t need to hear about the details anyway.  I’ve enjoyed my time at home this past year, living at a leisurely pace, but the time has come for me to find a new source of income.  Change is coming, but I don’t know what form it will take.

Today was also the last day I could visit a particular virtual world.  I suppose it was classified as an MMORPG, in as much as it ran on a multi-player online platform and you role-played in the game.  The audience was simply not massive enough to sustain its business model, and the servers were taken offline today.  I would give you a link, but what would be the point?  They removed all of the in-game images from the website, and I didn’t grab any screen captures myself.

The computer game was an online component meant to tie into a live action game called MagiQuest which is installed at a variety of family resorts.  I played it because it was a virtual world built by Cyan Worlds and based on their engine for Myst Online: Uru Live — I might have mentioned that game in the past.  I didn’t care about being a “magi” or earning points for my wand.  I just enjoyed immersing myself in another 3-D environment.

The game itself could have run as a stand-alone offline game, but their business model was looking for subscribers.  The initial chapter had a meager amount of content, and the price of entry was low, but the cost of running servers just to access the game was never going to be covered by any number of purchases.  It was doomed, as so many of these worlds seem doomed.  A month ago, a friend of mine mourned the loss of Glitch, a Flash-based MMO by Tiny Speck, a game which I had never even heard of. That’s the problem, isn’t it?

I spent some time today in the MagiQuest Online game, waiting to see other players join me for the vigil.  No one did.  (In all of the months that I had played the game, I never did encounter another player online.)  I sat on a rock near the spawn point, and let the computer run while I did other things in the house.  I returned to check the chat window, but only my own text had scrolled there.  I listened to the sounds of birds chirping and the leaves rustling where I walked.  Eventually I shut the game down, rather than wait for the system shut-down message.  When I tried to connect to the server tonight, it simply never responded.

We knew this was coming.  We had an official announcement months in advance, and players used forums to arrange some final gatherings in the game.  Somehow I missed them, bad timing on my part.  It shouldn’t have mattered so much to me now, because the community was not a big part of the game for me. I had completed all of the available tasks a year ago, December 2011, and had no reason to return until now.  It just seemed important to show the company that we still cared.

I won’t compare the loss of a virtual world to real tragedies.  This isn’t the death of a family member.  This is like the cancellation of a TV show that you stopped watching a year ago.  This is like the loss of Twinkies when you haven’t bought one since you were a kid.  Life goes on.  New snack cakes are produced, new shows air on television, new virtual worlds are launched.  You get a new goldfish, and life goes on.  I just wish I had taken a picture when I had the chance.


2013 January 1 Tuesday

Contain This

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:32

Happy New Year!

Have you recovered from whatever holidays you may have celebrated in the past month?  I have not yet cleared away the stack of shipping boxes that delivered many of our gifts.  Something about the crispness of the brown cardboard, used only once, begs to be saved for another purpose before being collapsed and recycled.

I find myself increasingly surrounded by packaging.  Most normal people would just throw it out with the trash, but I hate to be wasteful.  A jar that once held wheat germ is a perfectly good container for something else, something dry and powdery like flour — or more wheat germ — and it wouldn’t even need to be washed out for reuse.  So I keep it, just in case it might come in handy one day.  Eventually I will remember that I never found a use for the empty jar from my previous purchase of wheat germ, and I will reluctantly toss it into the recycling bin.  It seems wrong to me, considering how much it will cost someone somewhere to melt that glass down just to mold another glass jar for another single-use container.  Such a wasteful society we have created for ourselves.

I bought sea salt from the grocery store, which came packaged in a sturdy glass jar with a feeble plastic grinder built into the lid.  When the salt is gone, I am left with an empty container which has little value, neither as a storage jar nor as a grinder for other spices.  The plastic blades are worn out; the glass jar is pristine and yet useless without a proper top.  On my next purchase, I bought the cheaper plastic container of sea salt, but the grinder lid is of a different design, and it doesn’t work as well as the first one did.  There is a mismatch here, and it annoys me.

I buy toothpaste which comes out of a dispenser.  My household likes the product, and in theory we should be able to buy refills and reuse the dispenser base.  Our local store has stopped carrying individual refills.  They sell twin-packs now: two refill cartridges packages with a new dispenser.  They are forcing us to buy a new base now, whether we need one or not.  I now have an extra dispenser base taking up space in my cupboard instead of a landfill.  I will throw it away when the next replacement is bought, but I will still keep the most recent one “just in case…”

When I was a kid, we could buy ball-point pens at the office supply store by the individual stick from a bin instead of by the package.  Now they come sealed in flat packs, more one-time-use wrappers of paper and plastic.  I remember returning Coca-Cola bottles back to the vending machine at the gas station. Buying a product back then involved refilling an existing container, not buying a new one along with its contents.

Now, I am conscious that every purchase of a consumable is also a purchase of its packaging. When that package is empty, I still own it.  How can I justify throwing anything away?  I am dangerously close to being labeled as “a hoarder”.  And yet, when the world runs out of oil for producing new plastic tubs for ice cream, you will thank me that I saved a few “just in case”.

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