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My Dystopian Story

A long time ago, I started to write a story about a world in which people lived their entire lives in an Internet virtual reality.

I wanted to write a dystopian story because I felt that all the most famous dystopian stories are exaggerated beyond the point of being realistic.  The TV Tropes article on dystopias captures my feelings at the time:

A dystopia is a social commentary literally in the background, as is a utopian setting. The two settings share a problem in sometimes being a little too one-note. The author is thinking “capitalism sucks!”, for instance, and everything wrong with the world turns out be clearly the fault of nasty Corrupt Corporate Executives and their nasty, greedy megacorporations. Conversely, it could be “governments suck!” and the corporations are the last line of defense against the evil, totalitarian bureaucrats.

I do think novels like Brave New World provide important lessons, but the lessons are so spelled out that they start to come off as lectures that are forced down your throat.  After John hanged himself at the end of Brave New World, I half expected him to suddenly wake up, noose still tight around his neck, and tell me, Arrested Development style, “And THAT’S why you don’t precondition people to become docile and incapable of independent thought!”

The kind of dystopian story I wanted to create wasn’t much of a dystopian story at all.  I wanted to create a world in which it isn’t really clear whether it’s a utopia or a dystopia, even by the end of the story.  (I’m sure stories like these exist, but I don’t currently know of any.)  My Internet world would not be like the dystopian world of Forster’s The Machine Stops, which, like Brave New World and every other dystopian story, takes too many cheap shots.  People are not going to stop valuing love, or sex, or original ideas or face-to-face contact or traveling outside of their tiny hexagonal cells.

The world I envisioned was a virtual reality that simulates the stimuli for all five of your senses so completely that it is indistinguishable from real life.  Images appear as if they’re actually right in front of you; food tastes as if you’re actually eating it; sex feels as if you’re actually having it.  It’s like The Matrix, except that machines aren’t the ones subjecting us to it.  We create our own Matrix and voluntarily immerse ourselves in it.  I always thought this would be a more likely situation.

It would be a world that perfectly reproduces all of the experiences we know and value from our beloved physical plane of existence, without having to sacrifice anything.  Yes, it wouldn’t be technically face-to-face contact to meet someone online this way, but it would be difficult to construct an argument that explains what makes it any different in practice.  Love still exists.  Individuality still exists.  Art still exists.  But there wouldn’t be any of the problems associated with living in the physical world, for the simple reason that virtual resources are infinite.  Things like hunger, disease, brutality, etc. would all be not only wiped out, but IMPOSSIBLE within the virtual world–the programming simply would not include these things.  You wouldn’t even have to experience any physical pain (unless, you know, you’re into that, in which case you can ask to have it included in your body’s programming).

In effect, the world I envisioned was more like the world of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, but without the catch–no one has to suffer for the good of society.  For all intents and purposes, it would be a perfect utopia.

But then the question becomes: How do you find meaning in a world in which nobody suffers?  It’s a pertinent question because if this kind of society is not desirable, what good does it do us to try to eradicate the world’s problems?

The idea of games is a big theme in many of my favorite books, like Card’s Ender’s Game, Strauss’ The Game, McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken, etc., and I wanted it to be a big theme of my story as well.  When there is no suffering, everything becomes a game.  There are winners and losers, but ultimately, the outcome of the game has no significant consequences.  It’s just a distraction.

But my main character, Jack (a temporary name that I wanted to change later), wants life to be more than just a game, and as a result he feels detached from a society that places such heavy emphasis on gaming.  He wants to be a real hero in a world where the only heroes are generals in pretend wars.

The main plot was going to be about Jack meeting a girl, because that’s what all of my stories are about, naturally.  It’s a typical manic pixie dream girl romance (also what all of my stories are about) in which the girl’s infectious exuberance allows the brooding male hero to feel excitement again.  Jack falls in love with her, loses his feelings of detachment and starts to find meaning in his life.

And then, she disappears.  One day, she simply isn’t there, and she leaves no trace of her existence.  For the rest of the story, Jack tries to figure out what the hell happened, to no avail.  There’s a part in which he sees another girl who talks using one of the unique mannerisms of the girl he loved.  The two girls look nothing alike,  but through the power of Internet anonymity, it could easily be the same girl that he met before, using a different avatar.  He accosts her, and she insists she has no idea who he is.  He starts looking like a crazy person in front of everyone until the moderator decides to boot him from the server.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to end this story, which is one of the reasons I never continued with it.  That’s the problem with writing a story that isn’t just one-note.  There’s no obvious ending.  I definitely wasn’t going to take the cop-out route and have Jack kill himself, even if he had experienced anything drastic enough to merit that, which he hadn’t.  I think I wanted Jack to just stay in the virtual world, and do his best to cope with the way the world is.  It’s sort of an anticlimax, but that’s how life is.  Life is full of anticlimaxes.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is that you can never really know people.  My virtual reality world is a good medium for demonstrating this principle.  First, the anonymity of the Internet makes it extraordinarily easy to put up walls and avoid investment.  Second, nobody experiences any suffering with which others can empathize.  Both of these phenomena thus heighten the impersonal nature of people’s interactions.

But it doesn’t take a different world to show that you can never really know people.  Lots of books explore this principle (John Green’s Looking for Alaska comes to mind.)  And in fact, I had an experience similar to Jack’s just recently.

A girl messaged me on OkCupid.  The first two sentences of her message read, “You are my dream dude.  That being said, I’ve only been on this site for two days so I’m going to assume you are too good to be true.”  I looked at her profile, and she didn’t really seem like my type, but I always like it when a girl is straightforward.  I was busy at the time, but a couple weeks later, we met up in San Francisco.

It was one of the best dates I’ve been on in a while.  We had dinner, then went to a bar and talked about anything and everything until we had no awareness of time.  At one point, she told me I was exactly the way she’d imagined.  There was a photo booth at the bar, so we took some pictures.  I suggested we kiss for the last one, and we did, just in time for the camera.  We went to another bar, talked some more, went into the back where there was a completely deserted dance floor, and danced and made out.  We went back to her place, where we watched a movie and fell asleep.  She drove me to the BART station in the morning.  I rode home, thinking that, against my expectations, she just might be exactly what I need right now.

Three weeks and a few texts from me later, that morning is still the last I’ve heard from her.  Like Jack, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to work out what happened.

Maybe she just wanted to have fun for one night, and does not feel any explanation is necessary.

Maybe she has drama going on with an ex or something that’s preventing her from contacting me.

Maybe she was arrested.

Maybe I am socially clueless and she actually didn’t enjoy the date at all.

Maybe, through some weird technological error, her phone hasn’t received any of my messages, and she’s been waiting for me to contact her the whole time.

Maybe she got into a serious accident and wound up in the hospital.

Maybe she was actually a pre-op transsexual and is afraid to contact me again until after her operation because she thinks I’ll be really weirded out if I find out she has a penis.

I can go crazy thinking about these things too much.  I mean, literally crazy.  As in, I find myself starting to wonder whether the date actually happened at all.  Perhaps I hallucinated the whole thing.

If she were to contact me again, I’d be completely okay with anything she told me.  I mean, we only went on one date.  If she wanted to go on another date, great.  If she wanted to just be friends, that’s cool, I can handle that.  If she wanted to be very casual acquaintances who rarely contact each other, I can handle that.  And if she just never wanted to see or hear from me again, I can handle that too.

The only thing I can’t handle is not knowing what the hell happened.

And yet, here I am, in an impersonal world that is only destined to become more impersonal, trying desperately to attribute meaning to an experience that I will probably never fully understand.

I wanted to create a dystopian story that wasn’t just one-note, that didn’t have clear answers.  So here’s the question: is the virtual reality world a dystopia, in which the circumstances ruin people’s ability to make deep connections with each other and live meaningful lives?  Or is it a utopia, and is Jack the one who needs to grow up and accept a world that’s as perfect as a world can reasonably be expected to be?

Can I really blame a girl for not returning my texts, when no one should reasonably have any obligation to contact someone after a single date?

I know that a more mature person would be able to just accept something like this and move on.  But I derive the entire meaning of my existence from the connections I make with other people.  Yet, so often when I interact with people, it feels like there’s some kind of disconnect.  People rarely just tell you candidly what’s really going on.  Maybe to avoid confrontation, maybe because they’re afraid of being exposed, maybe just because they don’t know how.  Whatever the reason, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I just wish the world didn’t have to be so impersonal sometimes.

My Post-Grad Single Life

I never dated anyone in high school.  In college, I was a serial monogamist.  I had a new girlfriend for each year that I was in college (the freshman year girlfriend, the sophomore year girlfriend, etc.)  Only in my post-grad life, and mostly only in the last year or so, have I had many experiences with less traditional kinds of relationships.  I now share my thoughts on the pros and cons of some of these experiences with you.

Disclaimer: These encounters reached various stages of sexual intensity, which I will not be divulging explicitly.  I’m very open, though, so if you’d really like to know the details, ask away, creepers. 🙂

—–

The Ex Hook-Up

The Recipe: We break up, deciding we’re better off as friends.  We see each other again a few days later.  Things get steamy.  I ask her what the hell we’re doing, and she says she doesn’t have a problem with hooking up even now that we’re broken up.  Dumbfounded, I see no reason not to accept the proposition.  And we continue to hook up, off and on, for the better part of a year.

Advantages: Already a well-established emotional connection, but without having to worry about being in love, or having a future together.  Extremely convenient–don’t need to spend all your time with her, but always have someone to turn to.  Still have someone to be close with and talk about problems.  Doesn’t interfere with pursuing other opportunities in theory.

Disadvantages: Does interfere with pursuing other opportunities in practice.  Relationship needs are already fulfilled, which might affect emotional connections with other women in insidious ways.  Even if it doesn’t affect your ability to connect emotionally with other women, feelings of jealousy arise whenever new women come into the picture.  Ex feels like she is being replaced.  In worst-case scenario, ex tries to exert direct influence over your love life.  (Naturally, mine turned out to be worst-case.)  Even if you’re no longer hooking up with your ex, even if your ex already has another boyfriend, these issues can still come up.  That’s why pretty much any dating blog will tell you that being friends with an ex is a bad idea.

The FWB

The Recipe: A friend invites me to a party she’s hosting at her place in Davis.  There, she introduces me to a girl she thinks I’ll like.  I talk to the girl for an hour over drinks, then take her onto the dance floor.  Things get steamy.  We ditch the party for an hour to fool around in her car.  We exchange numbers and agree to meet up again if either one of us happens to be in the other’s area.

The circumstances are perfect for this type of relationship.  I go visit my parents in Folsom every couple of weeks, and Davis is right on the way.  It’s frequent enough to satisfy our needs, but not frequent enough for it to develop into something more significant.  We text each other and chat online periodically, but interact mostly when we’re about to meet up.

Advantages: Very low level of commitment.  Easy to pursue other opportunities simultaneously, especially with the distance.  Significant differences in lifestyle or philosophy don’t matter.  She seemed somewhat materialistic, which would have made her a poor match for me if we’d wanted to be more serious.  As it was, we both found each other fun and interesting, and we enjoyed each other’s company.  That was enough.

Disadvantages: Missing the deeper emotional connections of something more serious.  Low level of commitment means no obligation to explain any decisions whatsoever.  Which is exactly what she did–abruptly stop returning my texts and chat messages for no stated reason.  I don’t mind rejection, but I can’t stand not knowing things.  But could I blame her?  That’s the kind of relationship it was.

The Two-Night-Stand

The Recipe: We meet at a friend’s wedding reception.  She performs a song on her ukulele, and I compliment her on her performance afterward.  We start talking and hit it off.  I find out that she has another year at Pratt and will be heading back to New York soon.  I invite her over to play Ocarina of Time at my apartment the next weekend before she leaves.  She comes over, and an awesome afternoon turns into an awesome night, which then turns into an awesome two nights.  I finally drop her off at the train station the following morning.

Advantages: The ultimate no-strings-attached experience.  In a week she’ll be 3,000 miles away, so there’s not really any question of pursuing something beyond her one visit.  There’s no interference with anything else you’re pursuing at the time.  There’s absolutely nothing to worry about except enjoying the moment.  Unless….

Disadvantages: ….you actually develop serious feelings for her that persist even after you start dating local girls again.  Then you’re screwed.

The Online Relationship

The Recipe: She lived in Texas.  She was browsing OkCupid profiles in the Bay Area because she was planning on taking a trip to California sometime soon.  She messages me, and we start chatting for hours almost every day.  She gets a webcam.  We videochat for the first time, and things get surprisingly physical despite the fact that we can’t actually touch each other.  We start to like each other in a pretty serious way.  Excitement builds for her trip to SF.

We agree that we need to actually see each other in person before we actually get into anything serious.  We decide to wait until she arrives, have a blast for the week or two that she’s here, and then figure out where to go from there.  We keep talking regularly until the date draws near, and then… her trip falls through.  She has family issues to work out, and she needs to move out of her house and become financially independent first.  I offer to pay at least part of her way here once she has her family issues sorted out, but she says she doesn’t like letting guys pay for her.  After her trip has been postponed indefinitely, she starts coming online less often, avoiding me.  I confront her, and she says she’s scared of being attached to me.  I ask her if she still wants to come, and she says she does.  I hold on to that hope.

Advantages: None whatsoever, unless you for some reason enjoy being really invested in things that are unlikely to pan out.

Disadvantages: Distance makes everything more complicated.  You hear about her problems and feel powerless to do anything about them.  You become attached without being able to have any direct physical connection.  You aren’t really committed, but you aren’t really emotionally free to pursue other relationships either.  An online “relationship” is not a real relationship at all, and yet it comes with all of the same investment and heartache that real relationships feature.  In other words, it’s the same kind of desperately frustrating anticlimax that has plagued me ever since the last time I was in love, three years ago.

We all know how this story ends, and it’s pretty much exactly as described on this episode of Tales of Mere Existence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oHnE_ObivY.  She ends up getting a local boyfriend a couple of weeks after telling me she still wanted to come to California.  She’s still my Facebook friend, so I get to see photo albums of their trip to China.  I find myself wondering how the hell she came up with the money to go to China.  Maybe she’s not so against letting guys pay for her after all.

The Fling

The Recipe: She sends me a casual message on OkCupid, and we start talking.  We meet up and quickly come to the conclusion that we’re not right for each other long-term.  She’s 28 and has a 1-year-old kid, and is at a different stage in her life.  Not to mention that we’re around a 70% match.  But we like each other a lot, and we’re very attracted to each other, and we’re both at a point in life where we’re willing to be involved in something more casual.  We start seeing each other a few times a week to go dancing, jog by the lake, eat crepes, and do other date stuff.

Advantages: New and exciting, like the start of a long-term relationship.  Almost like having a real girlfriend, but without having to worry about long-term commitment or future plans.  It’s just nice to have someone you think about all the time, while knowing she’s thinking about you too.

Disadvantages: Like any relationship, it eventually ends.  We decide about a month later that if we keep it up for much longer, it will start becoming a real relationship.  So we go our separate ways.  Unlike most of the other relationships described earlier, though, this one felt conclusive when it ended.  I still missed her, of course, but it was a satisfying, bittersweet missing.  And we’ll always be able to talk to each other if we ever need to.

—–

Ultimately, I think I am and always will be a monogamist at heart.  But this year I’ve come to accept the fact that I can’t wait forever for the perfect girl to come along, and I need to live my life to the fullest even when I’m single.  I don’t regret any of these experiences.  In fact, I think that because of these experiences, I’ve grown more in the past year than in any other year of my life.  Here’s to indefinite singlehood.

American Idol predictions

So, I made a big report on what I think the best investments are for American Idol on Intrade.  Because I have no life.

My personal rankings:
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Joshua Ledet
3. Deandre Brackensick
4. Colton Dixon
5. Elise Testone
6. Skylar Laine
7. Heejun Han
8. Hollie Cavanagh
9. Jermaine Jones
10. Phillip Phillips
11. Erika Van Pelt
12. Shannon Magrane

My predictions:
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Colton Dixon
3. Joshua Ledet
4. Phillip Phillips
5. Skylar Laine
6. Heejun Han
7. Deandre Brackensick
8. Hollie Cavanagh
9. Elise Testone
10. Shannon Magrane
11. Jermaine Jones
12. Erika Van Pelt

Intrade Predictions:
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Phillip Phillips
3. Skylar Laine
4. Hollie Cavanagh
5. Colton Dixon
6. Joshua Ledet
7. DeAndre Brackensick
8. Elise Testone
9. Erika Van Pelt
10. Heejun Han
11. Shannon Magrane
12. Jermaine Jones

Best Investments:

Joshua Ledet – Since Josh was in the bottom 3 last week, his stock price continues to plummet, and by the time the next episode airs there will probably be people willing to sell his shares as low as 4%.  Nobody has bought a single share of Ledet since the last show.  But none of that changes anything.  America almost never gets things completely wrong, at least not with the guys, so Joshua will have to make top 6 at least, especially if the judges have any more saves this year.  No, he doesn’t have the right personality to win the whole thing, and maybe the market will continue to reflect that fact even as he makes it through round after round, but if he makes the top 6 and his shares haven’t budged from 5%, I’ll be shocked.  I think there’s an excellent chance that anyone investing in Joshua will double their money easily as long as they get out at the right time.

Jessica Sanchez – Yes, her shares, at 30%, are incredibly expensive at this stage in the competition, but if you have enough money to invest, this is still one of the safest buys.  Jessica’s fan base is enormous.  Her YouTube videos have more views than those of all of the other contestants COMBINED.  So I don’t think 30% is overstated at all.  It will be the biggest shocker in American Idol history if Jessica is eliminated before round 4, and by that time her shares will get so inflated that anyone who invested early will make a healthy profit.  Or, you can just hold on to the shares all the way into the final round.  Jessica does have the best chance at winning the whole thing–she’s young, she’s likable to everyone, she picks the right songs, she’s not boring.  Her only disadvantage is that she is a girl, and she is not white, but after four years of white guys even American voters ought to be ready for a change.  I don’t see any way she could lose momentum, and her prices will not stop rising.

Heejun Han – All right, so Heejun has no chance whatsoever of winning the whole thing either, and that’s probably why he’s being sold at 2.6% despite not having been in danger of elimination yet.  But I think if VFTW gets behind him mid-season he has an excellent chance of getting much farther into the competition than people expect, and just like with Joshua, it’s eventually going to make people at least a little nervous.  As long as he keeps America laughing, he’s going to stick around a while longer.

Colton Dixon – I’ve placed Colton almost unrealistically high on my prediction list, and it’s perhaps more probable that his position and Phillip’s will be reversed.  But because of Idol’s teenage girl voters, Colton’s smoldering camera looks and emo voice, as well as the fact that he had a very solid performance last week, make me think that he can make it very, very far.  Here’s what I think could happen: Phillip will imperceptibly lose momentum as the competition wears on and he continues to scream his way through every song.  Then Colton and Phillip will evenly split the WGWG vote in the top 4 or 5, and Phillip will lose in a major upset.  I think enough people hate Colton’s image that he is unlikely to win the whole thing, but a lot can happen between now and late season, and at 7.5% or so his shares are ripe for the picking.

Fair Investments:

DeAndre Brackensick – DeAndre is still around 3%, probably because people are still nervous about the fact that he was one of the judges’ saves.  But in his performance last week, he finally got to show off what he’s best at, and I think he garnered enough fans to last him well into mid-season.  A mediocre first performance is not going to affect him if he keeps his momentum going from this week, so he should be one to watch out for in the coming weeks.  Also, DeAndre is a good-looking guy, and you should never underestimate the teen girl vote.

Skylar Laine – Skylar is being sold around 13%, and that’s mostly well-deserved–she’s white, 16, and has a really strong country voice, so it’s a safe bet that she’ll make it into the later stages.  But girls have done unexpectedly poorly on Idol before, and I don’t think she can get enough fans to match Jessica, so once she gets into the top 6 or so it’s anyone’s guess as to how far she’ll make it.  Her price will rise a little by then, but not enough to really justify investing at such a high price so early. 

Phillip Phillips – His shares are around 25%, which is okay.  As a standard WGWG frontrunner, he is more or less guaranteed to make top 4 or 5, and his prices will probably rise a bit by then.  But even though he fits the mold of the last few winners, I don’t think he’ll go on to win the whole thing.  Why?  This may be wishful thinking, but like I said before, America almost never gets it completely wrong.  I’ve never seen anyone that I didn’t like win the competition.  And I do not like Phillip Phillips.  His performance last week was the most famous Stevie Wonder song of the night, which he sang in his WGWG scream with his pimped-out guitar and his pimped out band beside him, in the pimp slot (last to perform).  The whole thing just annoyed the crap out of me.  David Cook was my favorite in Season 7, and I liked Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze, so I take this as a sign that Phillip cannot possibly keep up his momentum forever.  America needs an excuse this year not to vote for a white guy for the fifth time in a row, and Phillip needs to REALLY impress me to not be that excuse.

Jermaine Jones – He has a cool voice, but he is definitely the next guy the voters will kick off the show.  That said, his shares are at 0.8%, so you don’t exactly have a lot to lose by investing in him.

Bad Investments:

Elise Testone – I like Elise a lot, but the fact that she picked Greatest Love of All last week (before Jimmy and Mary correctly told her to switch) says a lot about how well she’s likely to do.  The oldest girl who’s won American Idol so far was Carrie Underwood when she was 21.  Elise is 28, and she can’t hit the power notes the way other girls in the competition can.  Her one advantage should have been that she was old enough and mature enough to know what kind of singer she is, and her song pick last week shot that to hell.  It’s reminiscent of when Mr. Carroll, my high school English teacher, in the same prophetic tone he used to predict that Harry was the last Horcrux, proclaimed that Katharine McPhee “does not know who she is.”  Katharine took second place to Taylor Hicks the following week.  If Elise uses her strengths and her uniqueness, she may go a bit further, but she’ll have to change the way she picks her songs to make that happen.

Erika Van Pelt – What is there to say… she’s already been saved by the judges, she was in the bottom three last week, she has a deep voice, she’s 26, she’s slightly chunky.  If she had some way of distinguishing herself from the other female singers in the competition, she might have something to work with, but for now she is everything Americans don’t want in an Idol.  Even at 3% this is a bad buy.

Hollie Cavanagh – American Idol’s girls are commonly eliminated in the first few rounds even when they don’t deserve it.  I think Hollie, currently at 12%, will be the first strong competitor to be eliminated–Skylar and Jessica will have a much more solidified fan base, and faced with the option of kicking her out or kicking out one of the guys, America will turn on her pretty fast.  12% is too high and is unsustainable, and she won’t climb more than a couple of percentage points before she goes.

Shannon Magrane – Again, last week changes nothing.  Shannon proved last week that she is the worst singer still currently in the competition, and she doesn’t have the chops to bounce back from it.  She has no chance of making it more than three rounds further into the competition, even with VFTW’s help, and even with how young and attractive she is.

General Things to Keep in Mind:

–In general, don’t invest in girls unless they’re the frontrunners.  The way the judges have been talking makes it seem like the girls are ahead in general, which is probably why there are several girls with high prices.  But that’s all just lip service.  Girls tend to be eliminated more in the early stages of the competition, and the top 7 on American Idol almost always consists of a majority of guys.  Girls have a distinct disadvantage on American Idol every year, and even the judges are going to have a tough time changing that.

–The judges will have more influence this year.  Allowing the judges to make the final decision on who went home last week sets the tone for the rest of the season.  The producers and judges are probably pissed about Pia last year, and they will do everything in their power to make sure their favorite picks stick around to the end. 

Preview of My Novel (but not really)

The possibility of hitting 50,000 words by the end of the month is now little more than a pipe dream.  Anyone who’s talked to me over the last month knows I’ve been trying (though, admittedly, that isn’t really very many people).  I just can’t seem to force myself to write at that kind of pace, even under the most conducive of conditions.

Many of my friends have been telling me that 50,000 words in 30 days is a stupid goal in the first place.  It’s extremely inflexible, and a novel written in three months will be much better than a novel written in one.  I might as well forget about the deadline, since all it brings me is needless stress.

No one wants to put everything on the line.  

It’s why people put their eggs in different baskets.

It’s why people always save something for the swim back.

It’s why more people than ever before are saying that marriage is obsolete.

It’s why, when asked the OkCupid match question, “What would your ideal partner do if you were up against an impossible challenge?”, most people say they’d prefer that their partner “stand back, but comfort you if you fail” rather than “push you hard to succeed.”

It’s why a guy on OkCupid will send messages to dozens of girls each month, and if the girl who messages him back happens to be his second or third or twentieth choice, that’s fine with him–it’s not like he was keeping count anyway.  

It’s why the pick-up artist community lingo includes the word “one-itis,” the “disease” of falling so hard for a girl that you focus on her to the exclusion of every other girl.

It’s why, as a cure for one-itis, the pick-up artist community prescribes FTOW–fucking ten other women.

It’s probably why polyamory seems to be rising in popularity.

And it’s why a guy can breeze through grade school, graduate from UC Berkeley with a 3.7, have several successful relationships, get a decent-paying job that he loves straight out of college in a bad economy, and still have some areas of his life in which he’s deeply unsatisfied.

I’ve been taught my whole life how to minimize risk.  I have subconsciously developed some pretty elaborate strategies to avoid venturing too far outside of my comfort zone.

Then I started writing a novel, and the level of introspection it forced upon me brought my passivity back into full focus.  I’ve examined with painful scrutiny all the times in my life that I’ve chosen the path of least resistance.  I’ve accomplished a lot, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but with very little exception, everything that I’ve done has come easy for me.  The moment a certain path becomes inconvenient or beyond my reach, I create rationalizations for why I should just forget about it.  I tell myself it probably wasn’t meant to be anyway, and that there are plenty of other pursuits in which I’ll have far greater success.

The few times in my life that I’ve challenged myself to go for what I REALLY want, I haven’t had the guts to follow through with it.

I’m going to keep trying to finish this novel, if for no other reason than to say I stuck it out to the very end.  Once I fail, I’ll probably go back to life as usual.  I’ll tell myself that finishing the novel wasn’t really the important thing anyway.  Maybe I’ll be right.

But I hope I never forget what it means to put everything on the line.

My Day

This is what it’s come to.  I am so stuck for ideas that I have nothing better to write about.  It’ll be a miracle if I actually do NaNoWriMo this year.

I had a pretty light day work wise, just one short session in the afternoon.  In the evening I watched the Halloween a cappella show at UCB, and that was pretty cool.  The groups are already surprisingly good considering that it’s still early in the year and that many of them have more newbies than veterans.  Next week will be the West Coast A Cappella Showcase, and I’m going to try to make both nights.  Looking forward to the Oregon groups coming again–On the Rocks never fails to put on a show-stopping performance.  They’ll be riding on their popularity from the Sing-Off this year too.

Still trying to brainstorm novel ideas.  I think I might just make myself the main character, have myself move to Hawaii without a plan and go from there.

Come to think of it, I might just do that for real.  Thing is, I like my job way too much to quit, and I want to stick it out at least for the rest of the academic year.  I’ve been stagnating in Oakland though.  There’s nothing really wrong with anything in my life, but I’ve gotten way too comfortable.  That’s why NaNoWriMo is going to be such an important thing for me, and that’s why I have to do it this year.  I need to be put to the test, and maybe this will be the thing to do it.

NaNoWriMo coming up again

Every year I say I should do it, and every year I chicken out.  I even bought the book from the dude who founded NaNoWriMo, complete with a week-by-week guide for how to approach writing a novel in such a short time.

I have a friend who’s gone through some experiences over the last month or so that I thought would make a good novel, but I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, mainly because it would be too serious.  I get so stuck on this idea that I have to be writing a novel that touches people on a deeper level, and that’s probably what’s holding me back so much.  In any case, I definitely don’t know nearly enough about love to be writing about it extensively, especially through the perspective of another person.  Given that this would be my first full piece of fiction since around middle school, I really think the way to go is something more light-hearted.

One thing I’m going to have to practice, though, is faster, borderline stream-of-consciousness type writing.  It takes me a long time to write one of these things, even when I keep it simple and informal.  I’m always editing my thoughts as I think them, when I should be doing the editing after I get everything down in print.  But that’s partly what this blog is about.  I just have to get used to writing again.  People act like writing is something you need inspiration for, but it’s really like any other skill.  It takes habits.  That’s what NaNoWriMo is all about.  You don’t have to have a plot, you don’t have to have a plan.  You just need to fully commit yourself to writing 1,700 words a day, and the rest will follow from there.

Why does everyone miss the math question??

All right, I’ve all but given up on preserving the integrity of this blog, so I’m just going to use it as my regular journal now and vent.  If you started reading this from the beginning, you can stop here if you want.  You’ll still gain valuable insights about me if you continue, but they won’t be as structured.  Which could very well mean that the insights you’ll gain from this point forward will be even more valuable.  Who knows.

So I was browsing profiles the other day, as I often do, and came across one that was very lengthy.  As you can probably guess, I consider long profiles to be a huge turn-on (provided, of course, that it exhibits quality as well as quantity).  I get tired of reading one-sentence answers to all the profile questions all the time, and I get even more tired of reading answers that don’t even attempt to give me a feel for the girl’s identity beneath the superficial.  Lengthy profiles, on the other hand, are usually full of juicy self-disclosure and introspection, and they tend to indicate that a girl is both interesting enough to be able to talk about herself for several paragraphs at a time and confident enough to believe that all of those paragraphs are worth the reader’s time.  Now here was a profile that was among the top ten longest I’ve read (and I’ve at least glanced at a couple thousand by now), written by a girl who was very attractive, very articulate, and newly single.  And not only was she an active blogger, but she actually posted a link directly to her blog right at the beginning of her profile.  If brains could have hard-ons, mine would have been rock-solid.

I look up at our match percentage, however, and we’re at 68%.  That’s, like, a D+.  (Come on, you know you extrapolate the match percentages to letter grades too.)  So I go to the match questions to find out why, and, just as I feared, one of the questions we differed on was the math one.  You know–the one that asks which number comes next in the sequence.  She gave the “Don’t know/don’t care/dislike this question” as her answer and wrote “I. Hate. Math. Lol” in the answer explanation.  And, just as I’ve done on numerous other occasions, I yelled the title of this post to the heavens in exasperation.  Making sure to include the double question mark in my intonation of the question.  And you know when I have two question marks, I mean serious business.

My own answer explanation for that question says it all: it’s fifth grade math.  Really, it is.  I remember answering questions just like that one in the fifth grade.  I am certain that upwards of 95% of the high school students I tutor, including the lower scoring ones, could answer that question correctly without batting an eyelash.  Okay, to be fair, that answer doesn’t necessarily mean she would have gotten the question wrong.  Maybe she just hates math so much that she didn’t answer it on principle.  But she also answered similarly for the logic question (“If some men are doctors…”) AND the Shakespeare question (“Wherefore art thou Romeo”).  That last one probably surprises me the most, because it’s English, not math/logic, and she writes for a living, for God’s sake.  I wouldn’t even mind if she fucking Googled the answer–to me, answering those questions correctly at the very least indicates that you care enough about basic knowledge to at least be embarrassed about missing these questions.

And then she writes about how she’s a smart girl, and she likes smart guys.  Nerdy, geeky guys, even.  And the worst part of all is, it’s hard to argue with her.  It is hard to argue with her with that profile–one of the most articulate, detailed, deftly written profiles I’ve ever come across during my long, illustrious career in profile judgment–with that profile staring me in the face.

It probably goes to show that there are more types of intelligence than I’ve allowed myself to consider.  Maybe my ideas about what intelligence is are in need of reform.  Maybe I’ve been wasting my time judging my compatibility with girl after girl after girl in completely the wrong way.  Maybe my love life will continue to stagnate until I finally come to terms with the complete bullshit nature of my brand of elitism.  I freely acknowledge these possibilities. And yet, one problem still remains: I cannot date someone who misses the math question.  I CANNOT DATE SOMEONE WHO MISSES THE GODDAMN MATH QUESTION.  I am constitutionally unable to do so, and I am probably destined to remain this way until death.

Can’t think of a conclusion here, but I’ve already structured this post more than I originally intended to anyway.  If you liked this one, I’m sure there’ll be plenty more where that came from.