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Category Archives: Voices in My Head – Writing

Introvert Blues

Introvert Blues

I get mistaken for being a shy person a lot, and to be fair, that’s because I used to be – my junior high experience left me that way, with a trust in humanity that was almost completely destitute. Still though, I did manage to knock out that particular social hangup, and so I can often hold my own in social situations. There is, however, a difference between being shy and not having anything to say to people you don’t know, and so if there’s a big crowd that I’m locked in the middle of somewhere, I’m going to be the weird guy standing off in the corner. Or, more likely, somewhere near the bar, slamming rum and cokes.

It’s not because of anxiety, but because of pressure. It’s an awkward feeling trying to mingle in a big crowd of people I don’t know, had no idea even existed until that day, and will most likely never see again. What am I supposed to do, walk up to some random person and bug him about the weather and football team? If I’m in a big crowd where I don’t know anyone, most of the time there are very few subjects I’m really able to talk about as a common point because all the politically correct subjects bore me to tears. This is part of the reason I follow professional sports – sports are a uniting subject which are followed by many people, frequently out of civic pride. Even then, though, I tend to screw up a lot of the time because I tend to go all out in my fandom – hockey, baseball, and soccer are my favorites, and you can’t be anything less than devoted to follow them – and take a viewpoint which is a lot more analytical than most people are used to. If the subject turns to a subject besides sports which I’m truly interested in, someone is definitely going to want to kill someone else by the end of the party.

I’m an introvert, and wish me luck in trying to get anyone at all to understand this; or at the least, trying to get extroverts to understand this. This doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or shy, although it makes me come off very awkwardly sometimes. What it means is that I like being alone or in very small crowds consisting of a handful of close friends – friends I know well enough so they’re not offended or surprised by very much of what I say or do. It also means I’m prone to spending long periods of time lost in my own head, in some sort of trance, and that if I get disturbed over your own trivial matters, you’re going to be on the giving end of a single-sided conversation. It also means – and this is the part the extroverts truly fail to ever fucking understand – is that my introversion is never, ever going to change. It’s not a choice or a mental block. It’s an orientation, and whining about it will be like whining about my race, deformity, or sexual preference: Complaining about it, setting rules against it, or trying to force a difference isn’t going to end well. I’m not going to change. You’re stuck with what you’ve got.

Unfortunately, the extroverts are the ones ruling the world, and so I’m the one who has to make the adjustments accordingly. I’m very good at that, and it helps that I have an adventurous side which masks my introversion quite nicely. But like every introvert, I take socialization in chunks, and eventually I’m going to need to head off to the corner and hit the refresh button.

What most people don’t realize is that my silence doesn’t mean I’m upset or rejecting anyone. It means I just don’t have anything to say at the time – get me going on something I’m interested in and you’ll want to cut your ears off to escape. Yes, I get lonely, but there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely, and being alone is something I can handle most of the time. If I’m reading or writing alone and the phone rings, I’m not prepared to hold a conversation and anyone on the other end who has to listen to what is little more than my surprised grunting has to live with it. This being the case, my phone conversations tend to be blissfully short even on the occasions I do have them. The sound of a ringing phone might as well be that of a nuclear bomb – loud, scary, and I want to dive under something for cover.

On the outside, there gets to be a time when I don’t want to be around everyone else anymore. Even at my best, I try not to bog myself down with too many social plans, and at large gatherings, I usually don’t want to stay the whole night. (This is where the booze comes in.) If I’m at a really big event for a long time, it will take me time to recover – sometimes a couple of days. I’ll read a lot, write a lot, and vegitate during my recharge period, and frequently not say very much. This is pretty easy living where I do for now because it’s so far off. Yet, living in a more crowded place, there’s more pressure to socialize from people who don’t quite get the fact that I do want to socialize, but I prefer to do it on my own terms. If someone stops by, I try to make them feel at home, but this also requires a rechagring period.

And yes, it’s harder for me to make friends. I’m well past that kids’ part of life where people can just meet anyone at random and be best buds. For introverts to develop friendships, there has to be a lot of common ground, and if there’s uncommon ground, my new friend has to be very good about understanding my viewpoint. Smaller crowds of people I know well and like are where my introvert shell falls off and I feel liberated. I do have many friends outside of this little inner friend sanctuary whose company I truly enjoy, and yes, this inner circle does make it exceedingly hard to get to know the real me. If you make your way in, though, I’ll be your loyal ally for the rest of your life.

Which, depending on your view of me, may be a good thing or a bad thing.

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For Those Who ARE Bicycle Friendly….

For Those Who ARE Bicycle Friendly….

Sadly, I don’t have a way to work this into anything I have to write. However, bicycling is something I truly believe in, and I received an email recently from someone asking me to promote a website graphic where you can buy bicycle racks for your car. Since this is something I’m big on, I’ve decided to post the graphic and the link. Here’s hoping he gets business:

http://www.bikerackshops.com/guide_to_buying_the_perfect_bike_rack/

guide to buying the perfect bike rack for cars

The Admissions Essay

The Admissions Essay

This essay is what I came up with for my application to D’Youville. I, Nicholas Croston, wrote and posted this essay on May 29, 2013. On June 4, 2013, it was sent into D’Youville with my completed application.

I’ve temporarily removed this post in the best interests of my application.

A Raving, Maniacal Tribute to Star Wars

A Raving, Maniacal Tribute to Star Wars

I’ve read the Jedi Prince series. It’s not something I’m proud of. It isn’t anything to do with the fact that it’s a series of Star Wars books. Star Wars is very popular. It resonated with so many people that it turned into its own industry, so why shame myself about loving Star Wars? It isn’t the fact that the Jedi Prince books are objectively awful, either. Reading them yields ridiculous shit like Luke Skywalker using The Force like an inept buffoon at some points while unleashing its absolute hell at others; a main villain more concerned about his image than anything in Trioculus; Han Solo and Princess Leia fretting over their wedding; Han Solo, scoundrel rogue smuggler, wistfully building his dream sky house; a Mount Yoda; Jabba the Hutt’s pop winning Cloud City in a card game against Lando; Lando running a holographic theme park (with 1138 THX Ultrasound speakers, dear fucking GOD I wish I was making that up); villains wishing each other “dark greetings;” Han Solo finishing his sky house in the third book, throwing a housewarming party, and teaching Leia a dance called the Space Pirate Boogie; and Chewbacca being relegated to a background character while new character Ken turns Luke into the annoyed pop. (You’re dying to read these books now, aren’t you?) Hell, back when these books came out, you couldn’t blame kid me for reading them because the expanded universe that’s gotten wider than the Star Wars universe itself basically didn’t exist. There was just the Jedi Prince series and Timothy Zahn’s acclaimed Thrawn Trilogy. And THAT is where my embarrassment is. I missed The Thrawn Trilogy because I was too busy reading the Jedi Prince books. All I have to stand by for my alibi is the fact that I was very young and didn’t know any better.

It was pretty disheartening to hear about the recent closure of LucasArts and the impending cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I joke a little bit about the LucasArts closing: On the downside, it means less Star Wars and fewer video games. Of course, the practical upshot is that it means fewer Star Wars video games! In all seriousness, though, it’s sad mostly because it’s 150 people who are now out of work because Disney switched the business plan. I’m certain it has something to do with money.

As a game developer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a diehard game fan mourning the track record of LucasArts. It relied heavily on the Star Wars license, and while Star Wars has a better track record than The Simpsons as far as licensed games go, there’s no simply stumbling into a Star Wars game in the local Gamestop and buying it there. As individual games, the galaxy-wide span of Star Wars games runs the gamut of quality. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is considered one of the greatest video games ever made. After that, the quality tends to drop to your Lego Star Wars (a title I always believed should have been granted the subtitle “Together at Last!”), your Rogue Squadrons, your Battlefronts, your Episode I Racers, your Bounty Hunters, your Obi-Wans, your Flight of the Falcons, your Rebel Assaults, your Yoda Stories, and, finally, (sigh) your Masters of Teras Kasi, one of the worst video games ever made. As a whole, though, Star Wars video games are well on the sucky side.

Then there was Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In the entirety of six live-action movies, George Lucas left the vast majority of the Clone Wars to our imaginations. Throughout the Original Trilogy, in fact, we knew three things about the Clone Wars: Number one, they were wars. Number two, they involved clones in some way. And number three, they were epic enough to snap Luke Skywalker to attention when Obi-Wan Kenobi said he fought in them alongside Luke’s father. Episode IV also gave us a vague description of Luke’s father: Best starfighter pilot in the galaxy, cunning warrior, and great friend of Obi-Wan. In Episode V, we got the added detail that Luke’s father was at the right hand of the Emperor wearing a new, evil identity known as Darth Vader, so we now knew something had gone wrong for him somewhere on the line. The Prequel Trilogy was a big letdown in large part because it deprived us of a lot of those descriptions, and we only saw the beginning and end of the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars was a great series because it was able to give us the parts left out, showcasing Anakin Skywalker at his Jedi best. It went into detail about the war itself and gave us Anakin’s friendship with Obi-Wan, as well as a few other things like Mace Windu in real combat and Anakin training an apprentice named Ahsoka Tano.

I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan. I got into Star Wars before I was even into video games, which means this passion goes back quite a ways. The first time I saw the Original Trilogy was probably about the time they were first being aired on TV, when my parents were recording them – Return of the Jedi had only been released one or two years previously at that point. Star Wars is the movie I’ve probably seen more often than any other now, with the possible exception of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I still remember the first time I saw it. I hadn’t yet learned to read so I couldn’t read the opening monologue, but you can bet your ass I understood the swooping crescendos of John Williams’s magnificent score, telling me I was in for an adventure beyond anything my underdeveloped mind yet had the capacity to imagine. The opening theme ended, and then came the opening scene, with the biggest damn starship I’ve ever seen whizzing over my head. Finally, the Rebel Alliance soldiers made a heroic last stand in the halls of their doomed transport, were mowed down by the terrifyingly faceless Imperial Stormtroopers, Darth Vader appeared, and Princess Leia was captured as C-3PO and R2-D2 made a break for the planet below. Like every other kid who watched that spectacle, I was hooked on the spot. Hell, anyone who isn’t yanked right in by the time the droids reach Tatooine just hates movies. Period. It’s still probably the greatest, most effective movie opening I’ve ever seen.

Luke Skywalker became one of my childhood heroes, and Princess Leia my first dream girl. To this day, those two particular characters are extremely representative of the kind of man I want to be and the characteristics I like in women. (It’s no coincidence that my biggest celebrity crush as a teenager was on Sarah Michelle Gellar.) Upon the introduction of the Prequel Trilogy, in which we learned that the whole saga was the story of Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker, it took on an even deeper resonance. In a spiritual sense, I was able to draw certain parallels between Anakin’s choices and my own life. I’m aware of the little plotholes and inconsistencies, and I frankly don’t care. I’m still waiting for the day lightsabres become a reality.

I’m not exactly what it is about Star Wars that it casts such a spell over myself and others like me. Perhaps one answer is because the Star Wars universe is so simplified and its views of good and evil are so direct. Did anyone, on seeing Darth Vader for the first time, have any doubt he was the bad guy? While the obvious retort to that idea is the end of Return of the Jedi – where Vader finally renounces the Dark Side and becomes Anakin Skywalker long enough to perform his final act as a Jedi Knight – every movie in the series, as well as a lot of the material in the expanded universe, emphasizes The Force as having a Dark Side which is always there, tempting the Jedi who know giving into it produces dire consequences. The Star Wars universe gives us something we don’t frequently have in real life: A clear-cut division between good and evil, where the bad guys are easily distinguished by their heavy english accents and dark, mysterious wardrobe choices. The good guys are archtypes: The young kid looking to learn, the wisecracking hero, and the seen-it-done-it old guardian whose pearls of wisdom offset the younglings’ ability to get the group into trouble. In the inversion category, Star Wars gives us three cute animal sidekicks: One is a tense ball of nervousness and primness; one is his adventurous best friend who excels at getting them into trouble; and one is a beacon of overwhelming physical strength with a heart of gold. The Princess is both an archtype and an inversion of it – she needs rescuing, but is more than capable of defending herself. Her immortal first line when the good guys bust into her cell is a masterwork of defiant snark: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

My mother explains my father’s love for Star Wars by saying it’s a classic fantasy story in a sci-fi cover. I don’t doubt that, but this angle has been run into the ground, so I feel very little need to expound on it.

In a way, Star Wars also tells two stories which are, at heart, quintessentially American. The first speaks to the country’s origins: A small band of struggling rebels rises up and overthrows an evil, oppressive empire. No matter how debatable the accuracy of that summary is, it’s still the commonly propagated story every American schoolkid hears to the point of such repetition that they all tune it out after awhile. The less obvious parallel is the story of Luke himself, rising from a humble, unassuming origin to become the most powerful Jedi Knight in the galaxy. I imagine that while Han Solo may steal much of the show, it’s Luke Skywalker that many of us dream of being in some way or another. By the end of the Original Trilogy, it’s Luke who has grown the most. After starting as a naive little farmboy with nothing to offer except an open mind, Episode IV ends with him being awarded as a hero of the Rebel Alliance, a result of his resourcefulness and maximization of the few abilities he has. By the end of Episode VI, he’s the greatest Jedi Knight in the galaxy. In the expanded universe, Luke has the responsibility of beginning the Jedi Academy after Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine nearly wiped out the Jedi. Like Luke, many of us dream of rising as high as we can using our smallest, most bare resources and abilities.

It seems a little too easy and convenient to play the Star Wars is Just Cool card because it comes so close to winning the sabacc hand that doing so feels like cheating. But it is true, and anyone who doesn’t think that is either a hipster or Alec Guiness. I can sit here and write out rehashed intellectual theories until the banthas come home, but I’m also part of a generation that was fortunate enough to see the magic of Star Wars when it was still a very recent thing. Did I know WHY I like Luke and Han? Nope. I knew I loved the Battle of Hoth scene, and that I wanted a lightsabre. Even the comparative suckitude of the Prequel Trilogy and the Jedi Prince books never spoiled it for me. Why couldn’t I have my own smuggling cargo spaceship to go to an interesting planet like Bespin? People falling in love with Star Wars for the first time at a young age aren’t saying “What kinds of different meanings and influences could the mysterious Force hold? What parallels can be drawn between the Battle of Endor and modern Islam?”

Disney owns Star Wars now, and they’ve handed it off to JJ Abrams for direction, and subsequent spinoffs will be written by Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. George Lucas said there would be no more new Star Wars movies after the Prequel Trilogy, but hell, he also said that after the first Star Wars movie. (Which explains a few things in Empire and Jedi.)

I’ve had the fortune to be introduced to a lot of beautiful sci-fi/fantasy escapist paradises in my lifetime: The Lord of the Rings; Dune; Doctor Who; and Harry Potter. That last one there, Harry Potter, brought in the only weapon possibly cool enough to equal lightsabres with the way it used magic wands. While the magic wands don’t have the ominous whirling sound and hypnotic glow of a lightsabre, they do have the ability to produce many powerful spells. But, given the choice, I would probably still take the lightsabre. Actually, I take that back; I would take the magic wand, immediately use it to construct a lightsabre, then sit back and relax as “problems” and “irritants” became concepts relegated to the knaves.

My Barton Fink Moment

My Barton Fink Moment

It seems funny to be writing about this right now, since I’m basically just taking to my blog to brag about my progress. Seems like I already did something similar once a few months back to complain about my writer’s block. As some of those who have been reading know, I’ve been working on a book that I describe as a “video game autobiography.” It’s my own life as seen through the lens of many of the video games I’ve played throughout my life. In my last entry about my progress of this thing, I wondered about my Barton Fink Moment of Enlightenment.

Barton Fink was a movie from the Coen Brothers, released in 1991. It’s about a man named Barton Fink who takes a large contract from a movie studio to write scripts, checking into a hotel to write his first assignment for the suits – a script about wrestling. With only that generalized concept to work with, Barton develops the world’s nastiest, most ill-timed case of writer’s block. Little goofy wave-off things become huge distractions, and Barton isn’t even able to peck out the first line of script he was ordered to write. Eventually he is given a box by a man in one of the other rooms whose real identity is more than the insurance salesman he was claiming to be. Without opening the box, Barton finds his moment of enlightenment, sits at his typewriter, and flushes out an entire script in a single sitting.

I’ve finally reached that point. After many months of fighting with both distractions and “distractions,” I was recently able to finish a whopping five chapters in the last three weeks. It won’t be very much longer now, and if my other little writing projects don’t get in the way too much, I can have this manuscript finished by the end of March, at the latest.

What to actually do with it is going to be a whole other matter. I know I’m going to try to get it published, or self-published, even. I do have to recall my favorite writer character in a movie again, though, because in his flash of inspiration, the script Barton pounded out – which he called the most important thing he’s ever written – wasn’t exactly what the suits had in mind. Barton technically did just as his boss asked and wrote a movie about wrestling. “Wrestling,” however, proves to be a pretty broad term, and so Barton managed to parlay the idea of a script about an ancient Greek sport into a script about a man wrestling with his conscience. Or, in the words of his employer, “a fruity movie about suffering.”

In my last post about my writing troubles, I alluded to one of my favorite writers, Hunter S. Thompson. His renowned masterpiece of American literature, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, started as an everyday article about a motorcycle race and grew out of that when Thompson realized the impracticality of covering a motorcycle race. The Vegas line on such a thing happening to my own humble little work is a billion to one against. The bigger issue is the fact that I’m revealing myself to a (potentially) very wide audience through publication. It seemed like a distant concept in in the final few weeks of 2010 when I started writing, but now the idea is a little scary.

Faith and Final Fantasy

Faith and Final Fantasy

This is a chapter from my book.

Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X was more or less an impulse buy. I was at Media Play one morning, talking to a friend who happened to be working as one of the clerks there. That was something I did pretty regularly to help make her clerk job a bit more bearable, and I would usually show up around the time the store opened so there would be a minimum of traffic for her to fend off while talking to me. I had had an interview at a nearby Sears for a job her own walking away left open, and my school was only about a half hour walk away, so I would sometimes pop in to say hello. The day I bought Final Fantasy X was the very day it started to show up in the bin for the Playstation 2 Greatest Hits collection. It was $20 now, and since I had liked or loved most of the games in the series to that point, I decided to go ahead and take a stab at it.

I never quite learned to develop the fondness for Final Fantasy X that I had for Final Fantasy IX or Final Fantasy IV from the Chronicles package. Maybe those two games had spoiled me, because it had been a long time since I played Final Fantasy VII, which was basically my gateway into the series. Final Fantasy X was a radical departure from the way the games themselves were made. The Playstation games had contained vastly updated graphics, but Final Fantasy X utilized voice acting, traditional turn-based combat, and had a heavier reliance on CGI cutscenes than any of the other games in the series I had played before. It also allowed the players to switch their characters during combat, which had never been done before in the series. I liked the customization system, the grid sphere, because of the convenience of it.

The main story was a little thin, but Final Fantasy X found a particular resonation to me for one reason: It was the first video game I had ever played in which the characters were openly confronted with the idea of questioning long-held sacred traditions. At the time I started playing Final Fantasy X, the whole idea of doing that in my personal life was becoming tantamount to the way I had decided to live. The game’s plot revolves around the main character, Tidus, fighting off a giant monster eating his hometown and being thrust 1000 years into the future upon doing so. The game opened with the monster fight and Tidus’s little time adventure. Tidus was a star player in a sport called blitzball, and one of the earliest scenes in the game shows a character performing a prayer. Tidus recognized the prayer as a sign that players in his sport gave to each other in his own time. Final Fantasy X certainly didn’t take very long to get to the core of what it was really about.

The main villain of the game, as introduced to me, was simply called Sin. He was the giant monster in the beginning, and the the people from the game’s world believed him to be the manifestation of their sins against their god. It also confronted evangelism, and the idea of hypocrisy within the church.

I had turned into a religious conservative as a kid, at least in secret, because my church had been teaching repetitious passages to be taken at face value. (My parents are NOT responsible.) Most of the folks there also had a very askew idea of the way the younger culture and real world worked, and a lot of what was preached there was extremely dated. I soaked it up mostly because I was a little kid and all the adults I trusted all seemed to be saying this “God” character existed. He also appeared to have written – or at least inspired – a history book about supermen who could actually talk with this god, and apparently were able to ask him to level cities, create swarms of frogs, flood the world, and cause complete darkness. People who were immune to fire and being eaten by lions and could rip apart temples. This god apparently had a son who was sent to be killed to redeem us from sins we hadn’t committed. Who was I to question all this? The church was giving me the impression that the answer to that question was “someone asking for a good smiting, that’s who.”

It was all well and good back when I was eight years old, but I had noticed a few inconsistencies with my science classes by the time I was about 13. I also noticed a few small discrepancies with the scriptures that weren’t sitting very well, either. Even though I was naturally curious, well, I didn’t want to get smitten. My questions couldn’t stay buried forever, though, and by the time I was 19, I had rejected my originally taught religion for an entirely different religion which was soon causing the same questions and therefore, the very same set of problems I had with my old religion. By the time I was 23, I was done. God, religion, and the idea of needing religion to teach morals and values were dead to me.

Final Fantasy X was projecting a lot of my thoughts onto a disc, and that was important to me because Buffalo is uber-religious and South Buffalo even more so. Although the religion presented in Final Fantasy X wasn’t the one I had been taught growing up, it was a relief to me because it made me feel like I wasn’t just being crazy. Maybe it was a little weird taking this kind of comfort from a damned video game, but video games are programmed by people, and in this case it felt like the people doing the programming were encouraging me to think. Besides, in a witch-hunt city like Buffalo, I had to take whatever I could get. In a city where a popular way to discipline kids was to tell them they would be sent to live at Father Baker’s boys’ home (Father Nelson Baker was a Catholic Priest who was renowned for helping the poor and is currently under consideration for sainthood), most people didn’t dig the idea of difficult theological questions and would wave them off using the usual answers: Pray more, read the Bible more, or go to hell. My mother was the only person in the neighborhood who was receptive to my questioning, so that made for a very suppressing atmosphere for me within the city. In an atmosphere like that, Final Fantasy X became something of an important release for me, as well as a good place to run and hide.

I’m still playing Final Fantasy X sporadically. My interest started to wane a little bit because I had other games on my plate, and when Final Fantasy X suddenly took a steep curve into far more difficult territory, I decided there wasn’t any point to frustrating myself over it when there were plenty of other good games there. In spite of the poorly-done difficulty curve, though, Final Fantasy X is still a game I can count on to be there for a very unusual religious reason.

Gonna Make a Resolution

Gonna Make a Resolution

Usually I’m not privy to saying very much about my New Year’s Resolutions because so many people don’t take them seriously, and until a few years ago I was one of those people who was doing the mocking. I made a lot of phony resolutions which, to say the least, were kept easily and didn’t require very much work on my own part. If it wasn’t that, I would resolve to do something totally outlandish and absurd which I didn’t stand a chance in hell of accomplishing. When my resolution to quit drinking so much soda at the start of 2010 became an unexpected success, though, I decided to think through the idea from that point out a bit more.

I thought about resolutions this year and came to these, mostly because I don’t see any other good ones. Much of my endeavoring this year is going to the goal of getting me back out of Buffalo, either soon or in due time. I expect it will be the latter, and I’m not sure where I’ll wind up. Chicago would be the ideal, but I can’t say I’m so dead set on it that I’m going to blind myself to opportunities in other places.

Number one is something I’ve been trying to do for a few years. I’ve been wanting to get back into college for some time, but just when I was starting to get off the ground back when I decided I wanted to do it, it would get tangled up in some other thing I wanted to do. Or I wouldn’t be able to afford the application fee. Or, back during my messenger days, my debts would get in the way; I was poor enough as it was when the economy went to hell because my income was entirely commission, and there was no work for me to do. Right now there isn’t much of an excuse for me to not be able to focus on this goal, and I’ve also finally narrowed down something I want to specialize in. I knew I was interested in a medical-based field and gave serious thought to therapy, but then an out-of-nowhere candidate came in and took the top spot: Nutrition. My sudden interest in nutrition was sparked by my body’s apparent inability to stay at the nutrient levels required by blood donors, and I began being more careful about what I eat. (Well, more so.) It also had to do with my next resolution.

After years of doing just enough to stay in the decent shape I’m in, I’ve decided to try to build real muscle. Although I normally eat and act in healthy ways, this is going to require a much greater commitment on my own part. Watching food portions and exercising every day are great starts, but actually going out and – well, dare I actually use this term? – bodybuilding will be putting my body through an ultimate challenge it hasn’t been through before, and certainly my mutation will add an extra dimension to finding a reasonably workable program which can get me off the ground. The ruling logic behind this radical idea is the same logic which caused me to make my pop-quitting resolution back in 2010: I’ve tried to do it on a more gradual basis, and kept blowing it. So I decided that, in an instant, that would be that and I was going to go all the way with it or it wasn’t going to happen at all.

I’m going to finish my book and start trying to submit more writing samples. My book is actually almost finished as it is. As for general writing, I’ve been stuck for far too many occasions, and to a point I’ve been afraid of sending queries because it seems like all the publications I want to send them to use regular staff members to do their writing instead of contributors. Although I’ve tried to get published in the past, I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner, because what’s the worst that can happen? It isn’t as if I haven’t been rejected from anything before. The only difficult part is finding a unique and interesting topic to write about.

I’ve been wanting to try stand-up, since I’ve been listening to it since I was about six or seven years old. I used to tell stories at slams in Chicago, and a few years ago, with a little encouragement (actually it was more like a challenge) from my friend Dana, I began writing an act. I would like to have the chance to finally try it, and to learn what works and what doesn’t work for me. I’m also going to continue writing for it more. Speaking of writing, I will maybe get a bit more serious about journal-keeping, because there are some thoughts that I just shouldn’t say out loud or on a computer, or really in public at all.

What’s the point of living if you’re not expanding your list of interests, after all? Hell, ten years ago I didn’t know anything about global politics or alcohol, but I learned a bit about those subjects in short order. Ten years ago, I never had never seen a full baseball game, and now baseball is one of the sports whose teams I have genuine emotional attachments to, plus a little internet fame as a baseball book reviewer. Unless it can be proven otherwise, I’m still convinced that we’re here to learn and grow as much as we can. First, though, I have a little stop to make in Chicago!