Words in My Head

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Author: fitzyadmin (page 1 of 2)

Stop means stop

There are only a few things these days that really get my blood boiling. I’ve mellowed with age. And though I still have some pet peeves, I try not to let them out into the world much. Most of them are idiot things that are more about how I’m reacting (poorly) to something someone else is doing, so I’m attempting to let them go as much as possible. After all, I can’t control them. I can only control me. So letting that go makes a lot of sense.

One of the things that I can’t let go is not stopping at stop signs. It drives me batty.

We have an elementary school not two blocks from my house. It has stop signs all over and I watch people do everything BUT stop. I’ve seen them:

  • slow down but never actually stop
  • slow down, tap their brake pedal for a second, and keep on going
  • roll on through without even looking

Um. It’s not there as a decoration. And they do it everywhere, not just the school zone near my house. Parking lots. Stoplights where they’re turning right. Anywhere they just don’t want to be bothered.

I’ve told my daughters that if I catch them not stopping at stop signs when they drive, that they won’t be driving long.

The purpose of these signs is to make us stop, usually for a good reason. School zones are one. People in parking lots are another. And residential areas in general is a third. People speed through our neighborhood all the time and it bugs the heck out of me.

In an age when distracted driving is at an all time high with cell phones, dancing to the radio, being overstressed and overtired, it’s amazing that more people aren’t in accidents every day. If we stop, look around, and take a breath to make sure there are no people, cars, animals, or kids in the way, does it really slow us down all that much?

No.

The answer is no, it doesn’t.

So please stop at stop signs and pay attention to what’s going on around you. They’re there for a reason.

And it might just save a life. Yours. A neighbor. A complete stranger. Who knows?

Rough week and saying goodbye to a furry friend

Promise I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I definitely want to express a few thoughts about this past week. It wasn’t a good one. We dealt with sick kids, a pet whose time had come, work struggles, and who knows what else. And I came to realize that there is nothing harder than seeing the end of a good thing before it gets there and knowing you can’t do a damn thing about it.

We first met Caliente while we were still in Arizona. We dog-sat for Monika, one of Ev’s vet techs, a few times, and eventually things conspired to where we ended up adopting Callie as our own. That was probably 2003 or 2004. She was a rescue dog — a pit bull mix that I liked to call “the world’s smallest pit bull.” And though she could be dog aggressive at times, she was the sweetest, softest dog you would ever meet. And she would talk to you like no other dog I’ve ever known, with a sweet “roo-roo-roo” that would melt your heart.

It’s impossible to think that I’ve known Callie longer than AJ has been alive. Impossible.

She was a very good dog. Sweet. Sassy. And the queen of the house, for sure.

Over the last 12 or so months, she’s been on the decline. She took some hard tumbles down stairs last year and that was the beginning of the end. Ev did everything she could with medicines, laser pain treatments, we even did acupuncture. And it helped some, now and then, but it didn’t stop the decline.

The last few weeks have been rough. We knew that when it got cold and snowed we were going to see rough times, and that absolutely happened. I began to dread going downstairs in the mornings because I didn’t want to find her not breathing or stuck outside, unable to get back in the house. And the latter thing happened a few times. We had a few snuggle sessions where I had her in my lap wrapped in a blanket in the recliner while we tried to get her warmed back up.

And when we finally had to put her down yesterday, there were a lot of tears. I’m a sensitive guy and am not too proud to say that I cried. Sobbed even.  She will be missed. And there will be more tears before we’re done.

Here’s the thing. When I grew up, we had a cat. Fat City Kitty. She was an indoor/outdoor cat and I think her ghost still probably haunts my childhood home. I knew her at least a decade I think. And I wasn’t home when she passed.  We had other cats growing up too, but I was not there when their time came.

When I started dating Evelyn, I got to know Lobo (a German Shepherd/Mexican Wolf mix) and Dakota (a Corgi/Beagle mix). They were really the first two dogs I got to think of as family. Lobo was a smart dog with a lot of attitude. Dakota was probably one of the best dogs in the world and an amazing navigator in the car. They both passed after we moved to Arizona. And it was sad. But I didn’t know either of them all that long. A handful of years at best. And there were still tears.

Boo and Tigger, our two cats, outlasted both Dakota and Lobo by a long while. And it was hard to say goodbye, especially to the Boo. She was a very good kitty. More tears.

That said, I’ve known Callie forever in pet years. There’s a hole there now. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to love our Weimaraner Storm. She’s a good dog too and it will be equally as hard to say goodbye when her time comes. But it’s hard to know these pets for this long  and not take them into your heart.

Callie. I miss you already. And as someone on Facebook pointed out, you’re probably going to be waiting in the hereafter for us wondering what the hell took us so long to get there when we finally do.

I want to hear you “roo-roo” again. 🙁

Some days you realize how far you’ve come

Life likes to test us sometimes, or so it seems. Yet I’m coming to realize that perhaps it’s not what happens to us that’s important, but what we invite into our lives.

When the unexpected happens, I sometimes rail against it like a living thing. Nothing today went according to plan, from the moment I woke up to the time I’m getting ready for bed. And that’s ok.

It was ok.

That statement simply acknowledging that change happened is a huge step forward for me. Used to be I would freak out at the smallest deviation. Today, to use a football term, I “called an audible” at 6am and it changed the order of the day. Ev made some calls, I reached out and changed my schedule a bit, and the world didn’t end.

Go figure.

Later in the day, I resisted another change. Why? No good reason I could fathom when I sat to think on it a bit. So I called another audible, changed my plan, and adapted.

Towards the end of my day I got into what essentially was an argument about nothing about one of the game projects I’m working on. I didn’t get the response I was looking for and got more and more walled up. I asked for one thing and got sarcasm and grief instead.

So I did the only thing I could do. I backed off, said I’d check in with them tomorrow, and let it go. Even just a month ago I might have stormed off, slammed a door, walked for hours… who knows.

Right now though I’m wondering at why I’ve seen this change today. It’s not because I’m better at “adulting” – that’s for sure. Even before today I was always pretty calm on the outside. I only get rattled when there’s a lot of people around or confrontation of some sort. Is it possible to become even more calm?

My goal these days is to simply be a better me. And that varies day to day. I’m trying many things at once and find that of everything I do, writing is the simplest part of my day. Whether I’m writing for work, for a game, or writing something for someone else, it usually flows better than any other activity I attempt.

Perhaps some of that flow is spilling into other aspects of my life. One can only hope.

Namaste.

A Brief Look at FX’s Legion

If you talk to me, you’ll quickly find out that I like movies, television, and books, particularly if they are of the science fiction, fantasy, action, animated, horror, or comic book variety. I’m a geek. It’s pretty easy to figure that out.

Of late, we (as a clan) have been devouring most of what Marvel Studios has been producing for film and TV. Netflix series like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. ABC series like Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Movies like Iron Man, ThorDeadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers… the list goes on.

And now FX has joined the ranks of platforms for such programs with Legion.

Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to think of this show. The previews were bizarre combinations of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the crazy visuals of Deadpool, and a much darker storyline like we saw with Jessica Jones. Would it be worth watching? Would it be too weird? Would we like it?

Surprise, surprise. I loved it. The warped, piecemeal style of storytelling reminded me a bit of Memento mixed with a bit of the Usual Suspects. But the way you keep guessing and second guessing what’s actually occurring in the story was fantastic. It was almost an “is it real, or is it Memorex?” kind of thing. You never know whether the place in the story you were was in the past or present, or even real at all.

It’s not going to be for everybody. It definitely touches on some mature themes. It uses some language that some folks may not appreciate. But if you can get past that, it’s going to mess with your head. And I dug it. The first 90 minute episode sets the stage for an interesting battle of things to come.

If you like the darker road that Marvel is traveling with its Netflix series, then I think you might dig Legion too. Give it a shot. I don’t want to spoil it for you. I didn’t know anything much about it going in and was happy that was the case.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not going to last long. It’s pretty out there. But I really hope it finds an audience and stays in for the long haul.

The Challenge of Unmet Expectations

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been at war with my own perception of how the universe should work. Usually I get an idea in my head and my idea of how something should work and how it actually works in the real world are rarely in sync. And when I get my hopes up, that’s the worst.

Today was one of those types of events.

Since the mid-1990s, I’ve been part of a publishing effort under the name of Moebius Adventures. We have gone through three separate iterations over the years: the 1990s, the mid 2000s in 2006/2007, and the most recent run starting in 2012/2013. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our website at MoebiusAdventures.com.

2016 was a great year for us and 2017 has been off to a bit of a rocky start. Today we were supposed to run a game for a group of playtesters at our favorite local game store. Yesterday I spent about 4 hours pulling everything together, getting in the right frame of mind to run a game, and today when we showed up… nobody came.

Let me start by saying that this is not the fault of our FLGS.

Over the last couple of weeks, I shouted into the void on social media — Facebook and Google+ — and mentioned it to a few friends. Obviously nobody was interested or had time. And that’s not their fault either.

The lesson here is that I need to figure out another way to get playtesters to the game table. That’s it in a nutshell.

But here’s the thing. It took the wind out of my sails in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for.

It’s not like it took long to realize that today wasn’t going to happen. I’d even mentioned it to AJ (my youngest daughter), who was there to help. We were going to give it 30 minutes and then head out. I think we gave it 20 and that was it. The writing was on the wall.

On the way out, I began feeling very, very tired. It was like I had just done an hour-long workout and my body needed time to recover. We went home, took care of a few things, went to lunch, and then I took a nap for about 90 minutes.

That’s unusual for me. I may like down for 10-20 minutes now or then, but 90 minutes of crash time is strange.  I believe this was a symptom of the difference between my inner perception and what actually occurred in reality.

In the past, I have reacted differently. When I realized that the Moebius Adventures Core Rules book was a failure at the game table after a playtest session, I retreated from publishing for TWO YEARS before I was ready to start again. And when I did start, I wrote reviews of other peoples’ materials through Game Knight Reviews. I did that from 2009 to 2012 when I started working on the first One Spot for the rebooted Moebius Adventures in the fall of 2012.  That was nearly a five year break between “failing” in 2007 and starting again in 2012.

My goal is not to retreat this time, but to learn from what happened and move on in an intelligent manner. 🙂

I think that’s a better way to go, don’t you?

A Bunch of Mini-Reviews for January 2016

On a business trip to Germany last week, I had the opportunity to not only watch movies on my flights but catch up on some reading, so I thought I’d just do some mini-reviews of the things I managed to digest.

Movies

  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one too. No Robert Duvall this time, but I thought that it was fun even if it was a little predictable in places. And, as with all Tom Cruise movies, it could be subtitled “Run Tom, Run!” (3/4 stars)
  • Morgan – This looked like an interesting movie and turned out to be a rehash of every other Frankenstein-like plot. Why is it that monsters, machines, alien/human hybrids, and nanobot/human hybrids always turn on their masters? Far too predictable and boring for me. (1/4 stars)
  • Legend of Tarzan – Funny enough, I enjoyed this one with Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robie, and Sam Jackson. They didn’t go overboard on talking with the animals and all the characters were pretty clearly motivated. (3/4 stars)
  • Swiss Army Man – This has to be the weirdest movie I’ve seen in a very very long time with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say that I will never think about farting quite the same way. (3/4 stars)
  • War Dogs – When I saw the trailers for this one with Jonah Hill, I have to say I wasn’t all that interested. But I decided to give it a shot on the plane. It turned out to be pretty good. Reminded me a bit of Deal of the Century with Chevy Chase.  (2/4 stars)

And since I’ve been back, I watched the latest animated DC Comics movie – Justice League Dark.  I really enjoyed this one. One of the best of the rebooted DC universe animated flicks by far. (4/4 stars)

Books

  • Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen – Wow. Amazing follow up to her first book, Wake of Vultures. If you like urban fantasy and an alternate Wild West, this series is phenomenal.
  • Monster Hunters International: Sinners by Larry Correia and John Ringo – Another fun entry in the MHI series, though not my favorite. I liked MHI: Grunge better, though this one ended pretty well. If you like guns, action, and monsters, you should definitely check out this series starting from the beginning. Check out Larry’s website for more.
  • The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne – If you are a fan of urban fantasy and haven’t read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, you’re missing out. And this is a fun side quest for Atticus and his hound Oberon. Definitely light reading and entertaining! Check out Hearne’s site for more about his series!
  • Shadowed Souls  a short story collection from Jim Butcher & Kerrie L. Hughes – Another amazing urban fantasy series is the Dresden Files series from author Jim Butcher. This short story collection has one story in Dresden’s world and a great mix of others from a variety of authors. Fun collection of varied voices and tones. If you want more of the Dresden Files, check out Jim Butcher’s site for the complete list!
  • Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia – I have been enjoying his Monster Hunters International series, so thought I’d dive into his new epic fantasy series. And I was not disappointed. I’m VERY curious to see where it goes in the next book.

And there you have it. I had a lot of time to kill in airports, airplanes, and in the hotel when I was between meetings. 🙂

Have you read anything good recently? Let me know!

Beating Myself Up

I thought about titling this one “The Art of Self-Flagellation” but I kept thinking of the character Silas from the Da Vinci Code and decided maybe it wasn’t a good comparison. You may disagree when I’m done.

Nobody is better at tearing me down than I am. Years and years of practice attempting to control the world around me through willpower. We all know how that goes. Ultimately I can control exactly one thing… me. And sometimes even that’s a challenge I’m not up to.

Today I am dealing with a few extenuating circumstances that led to an unsettled mental state:

  • Going on a week-long business trip. (Always stresses me out.)
  • Not sleeping well. (May have squeaked out 3 or 4 hours last night if I was lucky.)
  • Haven’t been eating well (less healthy than usual) or drinking enough water.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. (One, sometimes two drinks a night, which is unusual.)
  • Coming down with a cold on the eve of my trip.

All of these have led to less-than-stellar performance when I go to the CrossFit box. (No, I’m not going to talk about CrossFit here – if you want to know about my CrossFit experience I’d direct you to my CrossFitz blog.) And usually I just try to keep a positive attitude, do what I can do, and chug through it.

Today I quit during a workout. Could I have continued? Probably. I would have been slow as molasses and was having issues breathing right, but I probably would have finished after about 18 minutes or so.

Man Shouting Through Megaphone

The quitting is what is eating me alive now.

  • I walked out of the box after cleaning my equipment. I simply didn’t want to have to interact with anybody and explain why I had done so poorly.
  • I let myself down because I know I should have done better.
  • I took a protein recovery shake (a post-workout ritual) with me and decided I didn’t deserve it due to my poor performance.
  • I swore a lot during the workout and afterwards.
  • I decided that I really don’t deserve to eat lunch because of my poor performance either.
  • I’m upset as well with the fact that this is probably the last workout I’ll get in before I go on my trip, which means I’ll leave on a failure.

None of this is healthy. The critic is running rampant. And I need to let it go.

A healthy response would have been:

  • Accept that I wasn’t feeling up to snuff and bailed early on the workout.
  • Accept that I get a DNF (Did Not Finish) today and that it’s still better than DNS (Did Not Start).
  • Accept the minor victory that I accomplished a 2:09 400m run.
  • Challenge myself to do better next time.

I have finished Helen before. I will finish it again. Today was just not my day.

Or, as my Dad puts it: “Get mad, get glad, get on with yourself.”

Yes sir. I’m trying. Failing, but trying.

A little more self-compassion would be good. Just a little.

Art is Art. People are People

Lately it’s become very difficult to breathe in the space where many folks seem to think that everything must be polarized. You are either THIS or THAT. There is no in-between.

The world doesn’t work this way. We must find middle ground.

I’m going to come right out and say that’s a bunch of bullshit.

Yes, I said it. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m just as entitled not to share it. And that doesn’t make you wrong and me right. Let’s agree to disagree, remain civil, and compromise on the important issues. Without middle ground, we’re never going to move on and make the world a better place.

That said, let’s talk about one of the elephants in the room that sometimes causes people difficulty. Interpreting art.

Wait, what? How did we go from polarized opinions to art?

Art, in my opinion, is essentially a product. It exists in a particular moment of time, created by one or more individuals, and captured in a particular medium. A painting. A performance. A story. Whatever it is, the artist creates a single thing for one audience or a million audiences.

So let me clear this up. If I like your art, I’m going to say so. If I don’t like your art, I may not say so unless I feel strongly enough about it to say so.

But I don’t care if you (the artist) are black, white, or brown. I don’t care if you (the artist) are Christian, Islamic, Agnostic, Atheistic, or worship the Great Spaghetti Monster. I don’t care if you (the artist) are gay, straight, or asexual. I don’t care if you (the artist) are a native, an import, or an alien from another world.

Your art stands alone. And I may like one piece, but not another. That’s the great thing about art. We all come to it with our own baggage as an audience. No two people have the same experience with art. You and I may both like a piece for wildly different reasons.

And that’s AWESOME. Check out this quote from Selma Hayek:

I don’t expect you to share my opinion on a particular movie, book, song, image, or whatever. I would encourage you to share your own opinions. Let’s compare notes. Maybe I’ll come to see things your way.

After all, I am entitled to my opinion, but that doesn’t make me right. It may be right for me at this moment in time where I am in my own personal journey. That doesn’t mean that my opinion can’t change with further reflection, experience, and discussion.

But here’s the thing. If I like your art, it doesn’t mean that I automatically like you (the artist). And vice versa if I don’t like your art, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like you. Like most things in life, it’s not that cut and dried. Context matters.

So… as I say in the title for this post. Art is art. People are people.

And opinions are opinions. Everyone has one.

In the end, all we can hope for is respect. Respect the art. Respect the artist. And respect the audience. The only part of that equation that doesn’t have an opinion of its own is the art. It simply is.

But remember that I can respectfully disagree and that is not a bad thing. It’s a conversation starter. We may agree to disagree at the end of that discussion, but I hope that we respect one another regardless of whether either of us changed our opinion.

We all can get along with respect. I’m convinced of that. I have hope that you do too.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the art. 🙂

Positivity and a Negative Mind

There’s a weird dichotomy when I look at the world from my point of view. I’m not the most positive guy in the world, really, but I find myself trying to help others look at the bright side of things more often than not. And it seems that perhaps that approach has rewired my brain a bit over the last few years.

But what do I mean by that? Let’s start with a baseline.

A Few Things About Me

If you talk to my family, they’ll tell you a few things about me.

Change is Hard

First, I don’t like change. As a result, they often had to give me advance warning (at least 15-30 minutes) before it was time to go anywhere, especially when I was doing something like reading and lost in my own head. If you try and change plans at the last minute, I get very cranky.

Second, I don’t like confrontation and will go to ludicrous extremes to avoid it. I think this goes back to my issues with change.

That said, if you do something to harm my family or friends, I can be a bull in a china shop. I may avoid confrontation, but I will maul you like a bear if you do anything to mess with my family. And family goes much deeper than blood.

Third, I don’t like interacting with people I don’t know. Or people in general. I love interacting with individuals or even small groups, but crowds are exhausting. And even dealing with people on the phone is exhausting.

If I can text you, e-mail you, or send you a chat message via Facebook or some other site, I’m there. It gives me a chance to consider my words.

The Changes

Over the last 17 years, I’ve had one very large factor for change in my life. My wife. She’s a force of nature and very impulsive. My resistance to change has been worn down out of necessity. She’s been good for me in that respect.

Having children has also forced me to deal with most of those issues I deal with all the time. Sometimes I just have to get out of my comfort zone and deal with things I don’t want to. And that’s been good for me as well.

And then there’s CrossFit, which has given me a ton more confidence in my own abilities.

I still don’t like change, confrontation, or people, but I think overall I’ve improved by leaps and bounds over where I was before I was married and had kids.

It used to be that the world conspired against me and I’d get angry about it. I had a picture in my head of how things were going to go, and they rarely went that way, which would make me less and less willing to make plans in the future.

Now, if I have a little time to get my mind right, I can leave enough room for change to not throw me off as badly. I still have to prep for it, but if I know that we don’t have a set plan and we just figure things out as we go.

But where does the positivity come in?

Helping Others

I listen and I watch. Pretty much I’m a passive observer in much of my own life. And when people talk to me, sometimes I have advice. Sometimes I don’t and the mere act of listening is enough. But usually I can make a suggestion or relate something I’ve experienced, read, or heard, and I have hope that sometimes that makes things better. I try to help when I can, even if it’s just offering encouragement.

That said, with CrossFit I have begun working on myself. I feel like until I started CrossFit, I was locked into the physical awkwardness of a 12-year old boy. Over the last 4 years, I’ve at least progressed to maybe age 13 or 14. 🙂 But I have plenty left to work on. It’s like relearning how to do the most basic things all over again, and it’s deeply humbling.

And I hope that my work ethic serves as an example to others. If I can do some of this stuff as an awkward, out of shape, 40 something, geek, then anybody can. I’m still amazed when I do simple things like kick up on the wall and do a handstand push-up. Who have I become? Or, better yet, who am I becoming?

Heck if I know, but I’m enjoying the ride — and that in and of itself is amazing to me.

Helping Myself

Beyond that, I find myself approaching the world with a cautious optimism and trying to accept things as they come. I can only control one thing – me. That has to be enough.

These days if I need something done, I try to take the time to do it while I’m thinking about it. That avoids any awkwardness with asking someone else to do it only to have them forget. Doing it gets it out of the way.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still procrastinate or put things off indefinitely. But that’s not on anybody else but me.

And because I’ve helped others, some of those folks are now helping me by offering encouragement and advice. Sometimes I even accept it. 🙂

Conclusions?

Quite honestly, 2016 was a pretty good year for me and I hope that 2017 continues the trend.

It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I can try treating myself as well as I treat others. Accepting my faults is a big part of that because it means I can address them better.

Now we just work on everything a day at a time.

Review: La La Land

We’ve managed to see a few films over this Christmas break. Rogue One. Collateral Beauty. And the girls saw Sing. And now, for Mickey’s birthday, we went to see La La Land staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Essentially this is the Hollywood story. An aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) works as a barista serving drinks to movie stars while she auditions endlessly, never getting a callback. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) plays jazz piano and has dreams of opening a jazz club in Los Angeles. They bump into one another, have a love affair, and eventually attain the dreams they worked so hard to achieve — but in separate lives.

Neither Gosling nor Stone has a fantastic voice. But even so, the strongest part of the film was the music. As a fan of jazz, I hope this movie sparks some interest in this genre of music. There are some amazing arrangements and performances throughout, including some music from John Legend that I didn’t mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the songs with Gosling and Stone. You could tell they had fun with it. And there was an innocence or organic nature to many of the singing and dancing numbers.

But there were far too many parts of the film where I just closed my eyes and waited for the music to start again. One particular scene where the two characters were having an argument seemed to last forever. And in an already long film (a little more than 2 hours), I thought they could have done better with the story parts.

There were quite a few moments that looked great and sounded great too. Any time the main characters were doing their singing and dancing thing, I was engaged.

But the best part for me was how they captured what a composer puts into a song towards the end. From the first note to the last, there was meaning and story. Musical phrases linked to moments in their own lives. Lyrics and licks that tell tales through melody, rhythm, and pacing. And the story ends with the last note.

I really wanted to like this film more. Musical film is rare these days. Some of the better ones from the last few years include Into the Woods, Enchanted, Across the Universe, and Moulin Rouge. And I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I can remember.

The story from each of those (except for the creepy Johnny Depp wolf in Into the Woods) held up better for me than the one in La La Land.

But I’ll still buy the soundtrack. 🙂

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