Waterfall City, from James Gurney’s Dinotopia
TTWA Assignment: Briefly but convincingly, state why world peace is better than indoor plumbing.
Imagine you are one of the last man or woman on Earth. Mother Nature has finally conquered mankind, our cities, our roads, our airports, and our ice cream parlors. Despite the loss of internet and ice cream, the planet has ascended into a new Eden: wars died out with much of the human population, parasitic organisms and their resulting diseases died with the world’s population of Homo sapiens, fruit and the few remaining livestock provide ample food, and land is plentiful. In fact, humans — those that still remain — choose to live wherever they feel at ease — that is as far from one another as possible. In such a world, where competition and infighting no longer exists, where the multitudes of the human population can no longer pollute the planet, indoor plumbing is no longer a neccessity.
TTWA Assignment: A friend of yours at the NSA calls. She says that for just one hour, she will let you listen to the conversations of any two people in the world. You accept. Whose conversations do you listen to and what do they say? Transcribe the conversation.
Okay, I’m going to get my inner geek on and say George Lucas and Peter Jackson. Ironically enough, both created epic sci-fi and fantasy trilogies, beloved the world over, and both followed up these wonderful movies with prequels that heavily relied upon CGI instead of old-school props and set-design. These secondary trilogies are relatively less beloved.
I often wonder if the two men every phoned one another and compared notes.
PJ: CGI gophers, man? Seriously? Didn’t you learn anything from Jar Jar?
GL: Your one to talk. The Five Armies was basically one long Pixar film, man. Where’s the models? The orc costumes? Hell, I’d settle for a real horse.
True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”
Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me. For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single. “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent. “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year. You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense. Pip pip cheerio. Fish and chips.”
Well, let’s field that common misconception first. Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer. After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’ You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life. You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations. This is your life. These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life. Tunnel-vision within a textbook.
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you have moved to North Dakota in the midst of winter. Write a postcard that will make Californians jealous.
This task is quite easy. I’ve always had a strong opinion about the value of winter. Christmas in my humble opinion while certainly a religious holiday exists as a winter festival, a celebration of warm food, white lights and warm fires. December and its holidays exist to chase away the fears and despair that accompanies the season. Temperatures fall far below freezing; snow and ice coat the roads; the trees extend from the ground like the living dead. Living things abandon the outside world; we hide in our homes and avoid any reminders that the planet has tilted away from the sun for the next four months.
Christmas for my family chases all that despair away. The smell of baked goods intermingle with pine wreathes. Cranberries and cinnamon pepper our food. As a family we draw close together before the oven and fireplace; lights dance across the treetops; children giggle beneath Christmas trees.
How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. — Shakespeare
I cannot imagine Christmas in Florida or California. Sure, the holiday exists, but it has no meaning, no significance. You can drink hot chocolate in San Diego but without the bite of winter, how good does that chocolate taste? How can you revel in bonding with family when you are free to move outside? Some of the greatest myths and stories exist because families and friends would sit around a fire and talk to one another. In some respects, this may prove boring, but boredom often spurs creativity.
Yes, winter is not pleasant. Anyone living around the East Coast this year can tell you that, but all the good things associated with Christmas and the holidays are born of the cold and snow. I imagine North Dakota would prove a similar experience. Except for the bears. With that respect you’re on your own.
A thank-you note for a weekend visit where everything went wrong.
As a devout introvert, weekend visits are chimerical, that is rare and often terrifying. Attending family parties, being forced into polite but shallow conversations, and eventually seeking out a quiet place to hide and read or play games . . . the whole ordeal taxes my mind and spirit. Shame, guilt and anxiety build even if I do manage to escape to my comfort zone. Am I running away from my problems? Do I dislike the people with whom I surround myself? Maybe I’m afraid of crowds . . .Talking to two or three people at once is stimulating, but add half-a-dozen and the conversation nose-dives into general pleasantries or rehearsed opinions about sports. At worst, the conversation devolves into a lecture with the more competent speaker assuming the role of professor.
Your partner writes a Craigslist ad to get rid of an item of yours that they totally hate. What does it say?
This assignment required only a small amount of imagination. I love anime. My brother and roommate, Kevin, can appreciate my collection of comics, movies and video games, but my other interests . . . well, he pigeonholes Japan as a nation of perverts and anime as a product of that perversion. Daring him to watch Spirited Away or Cowboy Bebop, two excellent examples of the quality of the medium, affected no change of his opinions. Secretly, I wonder if the subtitles prove daunting to my dyslexic sibling . . . Reading in order to enjoy a movie may taint your opinion of the genre in much the same way that Jersey Shore or The Bachelor has infected my enjoyment of documentaries. Then again the beautiful strangeness of these tales can overwhelm the more practically minded. Kev enjoys operating heavy machinery and tilling the earth. Case closed.
“So picture this, Murph: a death metal concert in the heart of Amsterdam. Me and Jason disguised in leather, fake beards, and goth t-shirts . . .”
“I for one do not need to imagine any man much less Rodney in leather,” Sean sighed next to me.
“The beard I can get behind, though . . .” Ryan added.
We all agreed that a man with a beard is a man to be reckoned with.
“If Batman had a beard, he’d be unstoppable,” I considered aloud.
“Man, enough about Batman. I’m talking about real heroes,” Rodney shouted. “I’m talking about Jason Borne!”
I chose not to discuss Matt Damon’s heroics or what constituted a imaginary character. Frankly I didn’t have the time.
Ode to a puzzle piece shuffled under the rug
They say ignorance is bliss
Brother, you should try it.
I’d rather savor the taste of loathing
Seeped in spicy Hatred, tangy Loathing
Ah, savoring that revolting reminder
Seared in another’s thought
as the inky center
of a pastel landscape;
the oil-paint reproduction
by David Winter
with the crack in time and space.
Instead of fading into obscurity
Rotting in the dust-flavored dark.
Time and fragile memory hastens
No, my one satisfaction
is that I must not be seen
under shaggy wool
promises the fragment
that one day I may be remembered
as a wonderful failure
when the picture is complete.
As a student, it always amused me to stumble upon my teachers outside the classroom: at the mall, in the movie theater, or even on the school parking lot. Somehow it seemed strange to discover that our educators had lives and families outside the school property, as if they had apartments in the teacher lounge or — more abstractly — ceased to exist entirely without their class. I would imagine Mrs. Willis and Mr. Phebus melting from the walls at the ringing of the bells, reforming flesh from discarded glitter glue and construction paper like a Terminator villain armed with copious lesson plans and graded algebra tests.
Of late, the boys have started this group message thread to whittle away the hours while pretending to work and yet still reap the benefits of a real paycheck. Like all the best Seinfield, the thread is mostly about nothing: BSing each other and counting down the minutes until happy hour. Since my phone has sold its digital soul to the ‘robot devil’ (i.e. it broke), I could not read these messages or in truth comment on them. Luckily, last Easter I lost my cellphone down a storm-drain while stomping on it with my right heel. It will not be missed. My subsequent purchase of an iPhone opened a doorway to a whole new world of texting and communication. Moreover, I can now chat with my brothers while they work during these June days and I contemplate my next blog post in my PJs at home. Teaching does have its merits.
The following conversation delved into how my presence has affected the Groupchat (as they dub it) for better or for worse. If you, dear reader, find these conversations interesting, I might try to post a few more now and then.