Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Puzzle Quest

I have a problem. I have downloaded Puzzle Quest 2. Puzzle Quest, if you don't know, is Bejewled, except with monsters and swords and things. Puzzle Quest 2 is an updated version of the first puzzle quest, which is a game I literally could not put down. I eventually lost my copy for the DS somewhere, which is possibly the only way I would have stopped playing. We're talking about a game that I played all the way through to beat the ending and conquer every town and capture every monster and find every rune and trained every mount, and then I started a new game and got halfway through that before losing it. So, as you might guess, Puzzle Quest 2 weighs pretty heavily on my mind and in my opinion.


It's one of the few games (the other being Tetris) that will literally continue playing in my head in front of my eyes every time I close them. It's like an acid flashback except that it doesn't end. It literally continues through anything I do. I was playing puzzle quest while frying up some crummy rib sandwich thing. I was playing puzzle quest while having intense sex. I am playing puzzle quest right now as I write this. Shitty orchestral music (seriously, this stuff is so ridiculously cheesy and dramatic) is playing in my head right now. I can hear the noises from the gems lining up. I can hear the voice-overs declaring that my combo was "a heroic effort." It's pretty thorough, this obsession. Doesn't miss much.


That said, not all my activities have involved Puzzle Quest (at least, not externally). I've been incredibly busy, something that is actually pretty noteworthy for me. It's a good thing that I am dating someone who does things and is pretty active much of the time. It really helps me decide to do stuff. She's a football fan (actually, a sports fan in general) so I get to go places just to watch sports. We went to the French quarter pizzeria (a misleading name, as pretty much every restaurant in the quarter serves pizza) and bar and watched the preseason niners game because she is a niners fan. I feel bad for her, but then I remember that I'm a redskins fan and I haven't watched football in some years because of this. It was fun. Some guy in a hat came along and sang some assorted stuff. Mostly blues, but he threw in a Hendrix song for no reason. I gave him a dollar because I can't actually afford to give him a dollar but I liked him anyway. Grocery shopping here is sort of fun. The nearest grocery store is (thank god) in walking distance, but it's right in the middle of the quarter, so I worry that I'm getting gypped on touristy prices. Being the cheap ass that I am, I mostly buy cooking things there anyway.


Anyway, it's in the middle of the whole tourist locale for New Orleans, so I see nothing but contemptible tourists most of the day. Smarmy white folk, flaunting their money and their inability to hold their liquor all over the place. There's some really cool places there, though. I dig the gay grill there (clover) mostly because it's inexpensive. I dig flanagans pub because it's all dark and pub-ish. I like the little cc's community coffee because it's all coffee place/internet repository-ish. I like the river. I like wandering down canal street and walking into hotels that are constantly having conventions (reminder: must write up writeup on deepwater technical symposium) and wandering into empty convention rooms and stealing candy and generally being a nuisance. It's strange, but either they disguise their camera's really well, or they simply have none. Which seems strange because these are pretty ritzy hotels.


I've been outside the quarter or midtown or treme a few times. The CBD (central business district) is pretty much what you'd find in a city, big ol' office buildings and related detritus. Uptown is like this place that seems so emblematic of living in the east or the south or anywhere that was built before the 1860s. Lots of grass and trees and old buildings that are short and close together and they all seem very astute, though most of them are pretty much rundown on second reflection. Still, walking down magazine street sometimes feels like walking in the sunset district in SF and sometimes feels like walking in Kalispell if it had a lot more plants and bugs everywhere and sometimes feels like walking in Gaithersburg if everyone there were actually poor. It's a strange feeling, being somewhere that just feels like a horrible amalgamation (I'm looking at you, super-skrull) of everywhere I've been before. The wal-mart here is just like the new one in Kalispell, which is weird because there is no real comparison to that kind of thing in California. Or even in Maryland. I like living here, I think, more because I'm living here than anything else, probably. I'm very content with living most anywhere, and I don't get too incredibly attached to the places I do live. I like them all, but they're not essential components of my life or who I am.


I guess what I'm saying is that I could be me from here to Tripoli. Never before have I appreciated so much purchasing a laptop until now, frankly. It's sad, probably, and a little embarrassing to say that my computer is a greater component in my life than where I live. April occasionally brings up the fact that we live in the south, usually directed towards some conservative statement or judgment or something that someone else does that reminds her that we do live in the south, but I don't quite understand what is so terrible about it. Certainly, it's a different mindset and a different way of life, but it is no more inherently bad than anything else is. It's just a worldview of a certain sect of people. New Orleans is hardly southern to boot, especially judging by all the gay bars and crazy deviant events I've been to just so far. It's in the south, yes, but it's not southern in any legitimate respect. It's urban, and further, it's an urban college town. While geographic propinquity may lead to some fairly southern attitudes, it's a town where people go to get drunk and get laid, full of tourists and college students. It's about as south as Sacramento.


I guess my point really is that I don't much understand hating a region for any reason, stereotype or not. It seems pointless to hate things that you disagree with, because all that does is burn bridges for understanding and cause conflict where there is none. I don't hate Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin even if I am a sarcastic jerk towards them and with respects to them. It's a product of the way they interact with my views, treating my views sarcastically and douche. I respond likewise because I know that they don't respect my views and thus aren't deserving of my respect for theirs. It certainly doesn't mean I hate them or resent them or will go out of my way to avoid/confront them. All of those would frankly be a waste of my time. I understand them as semi-political figures interested in the pursuit of power and influence over people and I do not begrudge them that. Heaven knows what I would do if I had the kind of fanbase that Beck does. They're celebrities, essentially, and investing oneself into the lives of celebrities is hollow and futile.


It's not that I don't hate anything, not really. Hate for me is an emotion, something I feel towards something that is particularly bothering me at a given moment. I walk past a group of cicadas being stupendously loud, I hate cicadas. Once the emotion (and the cicadas) has passed, I no longer hate cicadas. I honestly cannot hold a grudge. There are certainly some people and some situations that I cannot stand to be in, but when I am not in those situations or dealing with those people, I do not feel any particular resentment towards them. I simply can't obsess over another thing like that, I am too busy living my life. The only thing I can obsess over, apparently, is bright and colorful puzzle games.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Staying on Message

I'm poor and I'm in New Orleans and conservatives have framed a confidence/gulf coast boosting trip to Florida as a "vacation." Or perhaps Obama has framed his vacation as a confidence boosting/gulf coast revival trip. Depends on who you listen to. But regardless, I am poor and in New Orleans which has only changed inasmuch as I am now poor in New Orleans and no longer poor in California. It is fortunate, then, that I am poor here because here many people are poor and it is not so much an unexpected anomaly of living as it is a standard by which adherence is not shameful or disadvantageous. The truth of the matter is such that I did not expect to go to college this semester. I understand that there are costs associated and that I am incapable at this time of meeting those costs. I will state again, as I have many times before, that if nothing else, I was extremely fortunate for not having to pay for classes in California. It was simply the extracurricular detritus that I couldn't afford. Here, I have a rent that's just under $300, but when I signed up for classes, the bill came out to three thousand dollars. I spoke to financial aid and they ameliorated my concerns with the cheery news that I would be able to only have to pay a third of that money now; I could defer the rest to a later date. I'd find humor in the situation, but mostly I confronted a feeling of resignation, of ultimate inability to alter this particular course of my life. I walked off to the Burger King nearby, had a reasonably okay garden burger and an extremely thick Icee and then I went home.

Then I got dressed and went clubbing (well, to a bachelorette party). It was pretty neat. As much as I like to tell people "OH YEAH MAN I LOVE DRAG KINGS" and so on, I've never actually been to a show until now. It was cheesy and silly and great. I thoroughly recommend that everyone who happens to read this should go to one, being that they are great. Don't go expecting great Shakespearean drama or particularly coordinated dancing, go because it's a chance to see people do silly things on a stage and spend too much money on alcohol. And if you can't get off to stuff like that then don't go, I guess. Anyway that was nice. Then I spent the next day lying about and being sundayish and then I took off my pants and marched down the street with a troupe of similarly pantsless people who were making entirely too much noise for no reason at all. Then I did a really bad job of playing pool and I met some people and I ate some Mediterranean food which is astonishingly salty in a way that I, who loves salt, can barely tolerate. Still pretty good, though. For being poor and in New Orleans, I'm having a lot of fun.


Today I am ostensibly searching for a job, but in reality, I am once again naked and typing on a computer instead. I am surprised at the frequency in which this nude typing has occurred, but I see no reason to don clothing. Actually typing that sentence has caused me to go put clothes on. And find out about a buffet up at the French Quarter Pizzeria for $7 Mondays only. So now I'm going to go do that. Now that I am clothed, the words are no longer springing to my mind with the full force they once were. I am now merely typing in hopes of fleshing out what I have already written. Let me return to my original point and reiterate it. I am poor. Also I am in New Orleans. Fantastic. I love you all. You mean so much… so much to me. ;_;

Anyway, I'm back. There was no buffet, as the guy there said "there hasn't been a buffet for several months. It's summer you know, the food just goes to waste." So we ate a pizza with entirely too much cheese on it. Then we went to a mall "shops on canal" which is the sort of thing that collects money from people through the trading of shiny chintzy things for no reason. "Anthropologie: the store" had a chair that was made out of a radiator for 1300 bucks. As I said in the store, when you're rich, you buy stupid uncomfortable things just because you're rich.

There are 82 days until the November midterm elections. Studies show that people who pledge to vote are much more likely to follow through than those who don't. Studies also show that the majority of people are under the impression that the sky is a blue color, with a minority describing it as "blueish." Remember in November that George W. Bush supported the original Bailout and that most congressmen voted against it before they voted for it. Remember that the Republicans have officially entered a stage of complete insurgence toward the present government, gridlocking it into oblivion just because they can regardless of the actual logic or practicality of obstructing congress, leading to an apparently ineffective government supposedly in control of the opposition party, handing political ammunition to fire via their political advert-guns, stating that the democrats are weak and ineffective because they couldn't properly stop the right from steamrolling all over their ideas simply on the basis of the letter attached to the name of the bill's proposer, further, dragging the president through the mud for being the nice guy and attempting to work with a bloc of people who will vote against him no matter what he does, ignoring all concessions and then complaining of the lack of bipartisanship after the bill passes with many concessions for the republicans even though they didn't vote for the bill. It's as though congress has been infested by two camps, one made of reasonable people genuinely interested in getting things done on campus, and another interested solely in preventing things from being done in the most clinically insane manner possible.

I look forward to the rally by Glenn Beck and guest speaker Sarah Palin out in front of the Lincoln memorial (august 28th! Save the date!) to hear their plan for America. I look forward to listening to them completely misunderstand economics, make reductive statements about politics, and generally piss on Blacks and Martin Luther King Jr. and the whole damn civil rights movement. These are people who have suddenly decided to jump on the 14th amendment, the one that ends slavery for providing for a loophole of "anchor babies," completely ignoring the statistical irrelevance of said babies. Ignoring statistics is a popular pastime for a group of people who are honestly still convinced that if we don't shoot terrorists in Afghani deserts, we'll be shooting them in L.A. streets. They're people who are legitimately concerned that gay marriage is going to lead to bestial marriage and polygamy and make everyone nearby the married queers grow up to be gay and end the human race through promiscuous homosexual sex. They're people who honestly think that mexicans are just streaming over the border and walking into office buildings and auto repair shops and walmarts and shouting "ey homes. ¿Puede tengo un trabajo?" and walking out with fat stacks of American cash to take back to their eleventy-billion illegal anchor children. Reality for these people is fucking terrifying, and for good reason. Everyone they trust and respect (coughfoxnewscough) is telling them that everything is terrible forever, and the only way they can fix it is to vote Republican. Vote Republican!


Of course they way they say that is a lot more complicated and sounds a lot less directly frightening, but that's the message the party wants people to come away with. The party specifically wants them to feel as though they've developed and conceptualized this message on their own under their own brilliance, through targeted news items and a constant stream of Democrat-caused-or-affiliated crises. Remember in November just how fucking terrifying the world is, and how Democrats are the direct or indirect cause of it all.

The direct irony of this message is how inevitably similar it is to bush-era rhetoric, and how people voted away from bush back in 2006 when it became obvious that he was entirely incompetent. This is the reason we have a democrat majority in congress now. The simultaneous irony/hypocrisy is the assumption (particularly in political ads and triumphant statements) that the democrats are just as united and bloc-ish as the current republicans. The reality is that the democrats are a diverse group of people with a diverse set of values and a willingness to disagree with members of their own party for one reason or another. Republicans have established a "you're either with us or you're against us" mentality in their own party, something that is going to ultimately alienate members and damage their overall standing as exclusionary and unnecessarily homogenous. The Republicans have decided that it's easier to sell people a package deal and an easily understood platform than it is to cherish difference in viewpoint. They humorously and probably intentionally promote a viewpoint that the Democrats are doing the same. Republicans of the modern era are interested in reducing politics to a choice between Pepsi or Coke.

This obviously hurts the nation through a stifling of productive debate for fear of being ousted from the political party affiliations a politician holds, but more specifically it hurts the American people, who as of yet seem incapable of understanding that occasionally both parties are right, or even more often, neither party is right. Reducing anything is inevitably marginalizing some portion of the thing being reduced, leading to a lesser understanding of the subject. The first four lines of the Dao De Jing are

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

which means, frankly, that by shackling Tao, the universe, the source of all things, everything, with a singular name like "Tao" or "God" denies it the fullness of itself, the fact that it encompasses all of existence and is every name. Reducing Tao by labeling it Tao and stating, that this is Tao, as opposed to "not-Tao" marginalizes the fact that all things are Tao and nothing is not Tao. In order to understand Tao, one must understand that the true Tao lacks a name (I've been using names here for sake of readability) and that there is no way to reduce Tao and explain it in mere words. As I wrote to someone, this is often the first and only thing that supposedly enlightened non-religious people read of the Dao De Jing and "people just kinda give up then, because you have a religion that is telling you that 'No, we're not going to lay everything out, that shit is impossible. Bitch you crazy' in the start of its book."

By reducing politics into a choice of flavor of politician, by focusing on specific issues that are considered "mainstream" and immutable, politics becomes less of a frank discussion of ideals and more of a simple decision between two polar opposites. Do we save the forests or burn them all down to make room for jobs? Do we ban all abortion as a crime against God or do we pass out free abortion pills so no one has to use any of that nasty birth control stuff? Do we shoot Mexicans on sight or do we hand them jobs and neat little hats and let them change the official language of the country to Spanish?

This is what reduction of politics does, this is the world it creates. By eliminating or ignoring middle ground as wishy-washy and unfeasible it creates a concept of either/or, shading the world in black and white in an arena whose very existence is tied to a grey concept of the world. When things become all or nothing propositions, when life becomes an eternal struggle between two opposites, what is the purpose of debate? What is the purpose of democracy? The next Republican president, and the next Republican majority, if it truly reflects the message promoted by the modern Party, will be nothing more than a tyrant, silencing all opposing voices under threat of unlimited filibuster and political clout. This is more than simple fear-mongering, this is a rational examination of the extremist conservative movement in this nation. George W. Bush was an extremely damaging president, whose influence on the country has yet to fully play out. I live in New Orleans, and shit here is still fucked up, five years after the hurricane. The economy suffered a meltdown under Bush guidance of economic policy, that of short-term hyperconservative thinking that emphasizes profit margin over sustainability in business practices. It was his deregulation, and the deregulation of the Republicans in congress during the Clinton years that lead to the inevitable collapse of the absurd housing bubble. It was the collapse of that bubble that lead to the crazy fiscal troubles we're going through today.

Despite the clear and obvious link, ultra-conservative Republicans still continue to pander to their richest constituents and insist on deregulating business and lowering taxes. Reality is entirely irrelevant to this position. Businesses have helped create and are maintaining the problems we're in because it is fiscally advantageous for them to do so. Lowering taxes, despite popular belief, will not help the government pay off its ridiculous debt. Neither of these are solutions, just the status quo from a party mortified by change and deviance. There are no solutions being offered by this party, beyond "give us power and we'll fix it." There is no real plan of action they have in mind, and this is important to the message. By avoiding specifics, the Republicans can also avoid coming under fire for their specific plans. It's an extremely popular political, and in a larger sense, a simple debate tactic. Avoid making declarative plans to large groups, use words that everyone can define for themselves, like "hope," "change," "founding fathers intent," or "constitutional" so as to avoid alienating parts of your constituency because you believe the founding fathers' intent was to create a nation of freedom for each individual, but some of your voters believe that their intent was to keep the Mexicans from having our land.

That's partly why I'm excited for this Glenn Beck rally. He says it's when he's going to reveal his roadmap for America and what he thinks will put America back on track, which will lead to him revealing a legitimately attackable position, rather than simply putting up with his inane criticisms of everyone in politics today. It likely won't change the mind of many of his rabid fanbase, but even losing some portion of the people that support him is a step forward for rationalism in the political arena.

The other reason that I'm excited is because it's an extremely rude and extremely disrespectful to Martin Luther King Jr. and I'm hoping that God smites him or some black internationalist group shows up and starts a riot.

A man can dream, can't he?

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Hello, my name is Jacob Germain. I live at 1505 Dumaine street in the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. I have always lived here, or presumptively I just moved here. I can’t tell which. I live in a small but roomy apartment with a woman I love very very much. I am very happy to be here. I can’t recall having been anywhere else, and I cannot envision being anywhere else again.

My mind tells me, my memory tells me, the people I know tell me, and my bank tells me that I once lived somewhere else. I know this conceptually, and I can envision the place I lived and think of the smells, the sounds, the feeling of being there. I have every reason to believe I was there, but I am not, and I cannot say for certain I ever was there. I’m twenty years old. Today I talked to a woman who was eighty-six, who told me she doesn’t feel like she’s that old. I don’t feel like I’m twenty, I just feel like myself, whoever that is. My age is irrelevant to my person, excepting when it becomes a license to receive gifts. I have moved here, or perhaps I have moved here, except I feel like I’ve stayed perfectly still. Today I met a famous trombonist. I will probably see him again next Wednesday. I look forward to it, as only I can look forward to what will happen in the inevitable future.

I am naked, right now, sitting on the couch writing. It’s very humid here, so wherever my skin meets my skin sweat has formed, and I am only truly surviving through the virtue of generous air-conditioning. The air-conditioning in this apartment consists of two air conditioners, one for the bedroom, one for the living room. They are likely the newest things in this apartment, which is old, wood floored, poorly insulated, a bit uneven and bumpy, the bathroom is tilted, and it’s totally amazing. I can recall once not being here, but I cannot recall why I would have made that choice, or if I ever did. I live here has become a familiar refrain, spoken in tones of awe and surprise and occasional dismay. It’s not me who says it, or rather it’s some part of me and some part of a self I may have been once, or simply met and exchanged recipes and video game tips with. I am white, I understand, and essentially all of the faces I have seen as of yet far have been black, but I do not feel white and I do not worry about this sort of thing. I find myself worrying far more that other people will misunderstand my whiteness as an identity and not simply a result of the causality that brought me here. Most often, I don’t worry at all, excepting that I may receive a wicked sunburn and develop skin cancer and die painfully. So far so good. I am informed that there are bugs here, bugs that bite and cause problems, but I have not seen these bugs, and can only assume the most logical answer: they’re invisible bugs.

I live here now, 1800 miles from the place that was. I live here because I chose to and my choice was made. I live here because of a series of unlikely events that ultimately lead me to the choice I made. I live here because I’m in love and because I want to die. I live here because I can’t handle anything and I want to take on the world. I live here because of all the places in the world, only this one has a piece of myself in it. I live here because I have always lived here, and anywhere else is incomprehensible to me.

I moved, which is to say I packed up a certain part of my self (threw most of it away) and transformed it through a trial of noise and sleeplessness and uncomfortable seats and a demonstration of my immense Sudoku skill until the self that came through is virtually unrecognizable to the self that was before. I am still me, ostensibly, but I am not me who was before. I was never the me that was before, and I will never be that me again.

Today is the third day I have been here, but it is not a start or a beginning, only a continuation of the inexorable, the events beyond my control, beyond my comprehension, beyond my reality leading up the very moment between now and the next word I type. This is life, a series of inexplicable events, marching towards the only path they can march towards. Everything is pre-determined, except that the determination occurs every moment. Random is simply another word for incomprehensible. Chaos is another word for unfathomable. Free will is perplexities disguised as control.

My reality has never felt real, except in sensation. Sensation has never felt true, as it is merely an extension of my belief. Ultimately everything is surreal, even the most basic portions of living. I am trapped in a place in my head, but that is the only place that exists, or at least perceptually exists for me. I guess my dense and overly mystical point is that I do not feel that my life is real, and very little changes that. I spend my time thinking, “Ahoy! This is what happens next to me!” rather than “argh, this keeps happening to me.” People often ask (actually, they never ask, but I wish they did) “Jake why are you so chill?” if people asked me that instead of not asking me that, I would respond “because nothing is real. There is no point in wasting time with regret, as everything that is ever done by anyone is the only thing they could have done in any of those situations. There is no reason in anxiety, because events will always play out exactly as they should. There is no purpose in sorrow, for life is what it is and is well beyond our control and understanding. All we do is who we are, and who we are is all we can do. I embrace that and it gives me the strength and ability not to allow myself those negative feelings as I understand their ultimate uselessness as emotions. You may in time learn to embrace this too, and you will find all manner of provocations sliding off of you as water slides off of a majestic statue.” And then I might be hung as a heretic.

My name is Jacob Germain, though I feel that I’ve never been Jacob Germain, though I am informed that I am the only one. I’ve always been me except when I was some other me and not that me. I’ve always lived here except when I didn’t live here and I lived somewhere else.