Paint

Distant humming, mechanical whirring,
a slight rumble and shake to the room;
The air is on, and I can feel it graze through
the hairs sticking up from my skin;
Computer screens, half awake, half asleep,
a beachside oasis wallpaper repeated
on every other monitor,
jutting rocks, a cavern of sand,
and it’s 1:46pm, to be exact;
Two more hours to go, until I am free to leave
and let my mind roam mindlessly elsewhere
and at another time;

Remember school?
Remember what it was like when they finally
turned on the AC, and the entire building
shifted
in place?
Remember how it felt when walking into a room,
a room you knew before, but now with
added comfort and luxury?
A room that once made you sweat until your
pits could drain enough water to fill a bucket?
A room that once made you cry tears of
complete exhaustion, from bullying or
heat or whatever else existed outside the mind?

Yeah, that’s it.

Paint a picture without photos

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#111: The Dance

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Today I’m going to discuss dancing, the process of dancing, and what it’s like to dance. Today (the day I’m writing this, not the day it’s published) is the day of the junior high, upper school dance at work. When I was a kid, school dances were huge events featuring fundraisers, raffles, food, drink, loud music, and lots of forced and uncomfortable socialization. That’s what being in school as a kid is mostly like, actually.

Being a bit of a class clown myself, I loved to draw attention to myself as a kid, knowing that it would be mostly positive because I was young and full of energy. People would applaud me for being brave and outgoing, when in reality, I did it because I liked to please people (and still do, ultimately). I danced at weddings all over the place, taking over the dance floor with terrible, god awful renditions of the cha cha slide and cotton-eyed Joe. This is who I was, and it almost feels weird to look back on that self, knowing who I would become in the years to come.

When I was much younger, in junior high school, I liked to dance at home to the songs I liked. Not frequently, but occasionally. I remember learning how to dance from Dance Dance Revolution, actually, because the game taught me that just moving your legs back and forth a lot can bear resemblance to a dance if you try hard enough. And I was initially pretty good at that game series, especially the Mario-themed one for the Gamecube. I was also a fan of Rock Band and other rhythm-based games, but unfortunately I never really succeeded in becoming a musical artist. Being a teenager is all about trying new things over and over, hoping that something sticks, but very few things did. Especially not dancing, now that I’m much older than then!

#109: Heavyweight

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(Sorry to break the naming convention of having a definite article before a general word as my blog title; it had to be done!)

On the way to work, I’ll sometimes put on a podcast instead of music. I prefer music nowadays because my commute is shorter than it used to be (17 minutes versus 40 minutes is a noticeable difference) and music tends to get me more consistently in the mood I’m looking for within that short amount of time. But when I do think about listening to a podcast, it’s usually MBMBaM or TAZ, or a third option, which I’m going to discuss in this blog.

The podcast is called Heavyweight, and while it’s not syndicated weekly or biweekly like the other podcasts are, it still provides consistently thought-provoking and intriguing media. It’s one of those pieces of art where, after listening to it, you can’t help but think about it constantly afterwards; it consumes you, just as you consume it. It envelops your mind and forces you to reckon with the ideas its creator is positing throughout the episode. In one episode, the creator and his friend try to get an old record back from multi-platinum recording artist Moby, and fail in the process. But they still meet with him, talk with him, and discuss life together in one of the most beautiful episodes of a podcast I’ve ever listened to. They discuss the futility of holding onto the past so intensely, like holding onto a lost record. The creator’s friend, however, attaches a lot of sentiment and symbolism to this record, as it represents the friendship they no longer have. It’s a miraculous story, and I would highly recommend checking it out. I believe it’s episode two.

It also introduced me to a song, “Sun in an Empty Room” by The Weakerthans, which I was listening to in the car before writing this post. It’s amazing sometimes how art helps you discover more art.

Yet Again

You see,
it isn’t easy
coming back from the
edge and surviving

Living to
tell more tales, to
die another day,
to give it all
another
shot

Yet again, those
thoughts return
like bees to
their hives,
ears ringing and
eyes bulging

Yet again, like
residual hatred,
like time itself
it can be delayed
but always finds
its way back
home

Coloring in School

Picking up pencils,
colored pencils,
crayons and pens,
put them in with
the right colors,
please

Quick!

Coloring
is a very soothing
activity,
isn’t it?

Worry about the
territories later,
just the states now,
just color between
the lines
and
finish the rest
for homework,
or during study skills
on
Wednesday
morning,
when
we’ll be finishing
the rest of
the movie

#58: Multiplayer & Solo

yellow concrete tower thailand

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Continuing the spirit of talking about things that I talked about a long time ago but want to dedicate more thought to, here’s Overwatch again, but in a different context! (The enclosed picture is not related to Overwatch at all, but that’s because there aren’t any free pictures on the internet of the logo, so this will have to suffice.)

In case you didn’t read my last blog post on this subject or are living under a rock, Overwatch is a first-person shooter (fps) video game for the PC, Xbox, and PS4. It features quick movement, a massive pool of heroes with different niches and styles, and solid, reliable run-and-gun gameplay built around teamwork and cooperation. Six heroes make up a team and have to complete a single objective in order to win a match; however, opposing them is another team of six heroes with the sole objective of making sure the first team does not succeed. It’s a back-and-forth, chaotic, fun multiplayer game built for pre-made teams to dominate together. When I find myself hanging out with my friends, we always end up playing at least one or two games of Overwatch before the night is over. Bringing our laptops or computers together to play games is a classic tradition of ours, to complete the LAN party atmosphere, but venturing online to Battle.net to play some Overwatch is almost an inevitability.

Despite all this talk about the game’s multiplayer prowess, I also enjoy playing solo from time to time. The Quick Play mode is painless and, as its name implies, quick, a simple way of entering a game with like-skilled players but without any major competitive stakes attached, except for a small bit of experience gained at the end of the match for the winning team. There are different virtues to extol while playing the game online with friends versus online by myself, and I’ve learned to enjoy both. The fact that every match is multiplayer does not necessarily mean I have to play with other people I know in my party to have fun.

 

#52: The Barbecue

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Barbecue food is some of my favorite, and as someone who’s a tad overweight, I like to imagine barbecue food is probably one of the reasons for my status. It’s irresistible; some spicy pork, some bbq brisket, nothing better. The spice hits my teeth and upper mouth as the brisket goes down my throat, and my face explodes in deliciousness and joy. Something about the crunch as I bite into the meat adds to the deliciousness formula here, factoring into my enjoyment somehow. Mouthfeel matters when it comes to food, as it’s one of the primary reasons why I dislike some staple foods; the texture in my mouth isn’t enjoyable or interesting or takes too much work to get through to get to the good stuff.

The other day, Alex, Bella, and I went to Dinosaur BBQ for dinner, which is just down the street from our apartment complex. Shout out to Mom for covering our dinners! I tried something new this time, the BBS, which I’m not sure what it stands for. Bella got a cheeseburger with bacon, medium, and Alex got an indescribable salad (indescribable because I don’t remember much of it, just that it was a large mass of a salad and that the server didn’t bring it back when we asked for it to be brought home.) Dino BBQ didn’t disappoint, as the food was excellent, the atmosphere was enticing, and the music was popping. Unfortunately, as mentioned a bit before, the server was in another world of his own, not really paying any mind to our table. To be fair to him, the restaurant was packed full, and the line outside the door when we left probably prompted them to work faster.

We also noticed two people standing near our high table, by the bar, who stood for an hour straight with their beers, talking to people without ever sitting down. I would hate to go to a place like this and not have the option to sit, but they did have the option; they just forgot about it or were ignorant to the idea of sitting. A total conundrum.

#49: Holidays & Candlenights

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Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

My favorite fictional holiday of the year, the season of Candlenights, cherishes ambiguous worship and joy and cheer for everyone. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, as there’s nothing like giving and receiving gifts, watching people’s facial expressions and body language as they open your presents for them, and reveling in the holiday tunes. I enjoyed spending some time off from writing on this blog, while enjoying Michigan, Jimmy, and Christmas Eve and day festivities. So much went on this week, I even considered writing in my old, leather-bound journal. I was also given two journals: one from my older sister Madison, which was a nice tied leather journal, and another from my youngest sister, which was a Pokemon card-flanked journal featuring Charmeleon and Fioone. Both brought me great joy to see.

Similarly, on the topic of Candlenights, Alex and I listened to the TAZ Candlenights spectacular live show episode on the way home from Bradley airport on Sunday. It lived up to the quality imbued by its name, and it made us laugh all the way home. Nothing wrong with a little late night cheer to lighten the mood on an exhausting day full of travel and waiting and sitting around. (I have nothing against traveling, in fact I quite like it when I have something I can do while on the plane or train or whatever, but in this case, it was a long, long day and I really just wanted to go home.) It featured a parody of John Cena (Jeff Angel) and a bunch of Christmas movie remakes, like a small rendition of Home Alone, and it was entirely perfect. So much laughter and good cheer from this episode, it made the car ride home feel significantly shorter.

But most of all, it feels good to be back. I’m happy at home, resting for a few days between the holidays and playing with friends when I can. Opportunities abound in both categories.

Bad Person

Not sure what to say,

What to do, who to speak to,

Where my mind was,

When, why, when,

A few months ago when I

Left my lifeline hanging out to dry

Left the kids there too,

Waiting for me to come back, I’m sure

I’m sure of it

Why, why, why,

For me, for myself, for my sanity

Is that selfish?

Am I a bad person for choosing me

Over a hundred people?

At what point does the number tip over?

When do the scales move in their direction?

Am I a bad person

For sacrificing education for health?

For leaving behind unfinished work?

For treading water afterwards?

For letting another take the reins,

Without full training or anything?

It is hard not to be a bad person

In your own mind

#28: Overwatch

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Overwatch. Some love, some hate it, but most everyone knows about it in some way. From the firefights and massive ultimate explosions to the bombastic fanfare that enters every match, Overwatch has lots of love baked into it by its developers, while also providing for epic experiences on a regular basis. With 29 heroes and counting, the diverse gameplay styles offered in Overwatch are second to none. Tanks, healers, damage dealers; every hero fits into a specific “role” within a team and achieves that goal through different means. Playable heroes like Torbjorn and Soldier: 76 are both classified as damage dealers, for example, and yet Torb deals damage via crafting and upgrading turrets on the battlefield, whereas Soldier deals damage by shooting his pulse rifle. So, there’s a lot of unique design space within the game for the developers to explore; and of course, some heroes are more “vanilla” than others. The developers recently released a hero called Ashe, another damage dealer, who’s been a blast to play. Her move-set is centered on her weapon, the Viper rifle, which separates her from more ability and spell-focused hero releases like Brigitte and Doomfist.

While every fight in the game won’t be perfectly balanced and competitive, most quick-play matches tend to be fine. And even the most frustrating matches boil down to a simple lesson of: don’t take the game too seriously. Most aggressors and trolls are easily ignored (or muted) once I take my head out of the game. This isn’t just for Overwatch, necessarily, but for most competitive games. I used to get more worked up over games than anything else, and yet it’s so much easier for me to take a step back now. I feel much more at ease while playing games thanks to this change in my mindset. I spoke about mindfulness a bit in one of my previous posts, and I’ve tried implementing mindfulness practices while playing games to help ease the mental stress of competition.

One of my most memorable and cherished moments from teaching is when some students discovered my old YouTube channel and my Play-of-the-Game highlight reels, featuring some less than stellar gameplay from myself. (I’ve never professed to be that good at Overwatch; I just find it fun to play with friends when they’re around.) They left a note on my desk after the last day of school, after playing hangman on loose paper for an hour. I remember smiling for the rest of the day after reading their note. It made me smile not just to see their recognition of my embarrassing plays, but also because it showed a level of gratitude and respect from them that I had been seeking all year, slowly but surely. It’s difficult to put into words, but even if they didn’t learn anything all year, I’m satisfied with this.

Teaching has always been connected to some form of self-validation, for me. Is it selfish, or just human nature, to seek appreciation from people over anything else? Ethically speaking, I guess it’s questionable, as students’ learning should always be number one, but as a person with complex emotions, it’s something I have a hard time preventing.

Want to play Overwatch sometime? I’m on PC. Leave a comment if you’re interested.