Building a Better Mousetrap

Reading Addiction by Design, Lionel Shriver’s The Post-birthday World, and a lot of news articles, I feel more or less inundated with the sense of the artificiality of absolutely everything in modern life. Right now, for example, my left big toe is in an incredible amount of pain, but it’s the result of doing weightlifting barefoot and in a poorly-constructed squat rack. A wholly manmade situation through which I persist with copious applications of ibuprofen and gritted teeth.

Tonight, for example, I walked over to the bar here to get my allotted amount of permissible alcohol and attempted to get a good hard buzz. The goal there was to get buzzed and write a stream of consciousness, yet more than anything else I ended up commenting on my environment, this “sports bar”-style establishment in the midst of a soulless, hopeless Qatari desert. It troubled me, though, in that stream of consciousness, that I am so capable of envisioning these elaborate, self-sustaining detailed worlds in my dreams, and talking to people, and even sometimes attempting to capture them in drawings, and yet when I sit down and attempt to leverage my expensive, overlarge vocabulary, I fail to even make it to one thousand words to try and describe the pictures.

So I still try to write fiction, genre fiction, poetry, sometimes, attempting to capture that which I wish I could put onto film. But the most fascinating stuff seems to slip through my memories like salmon leaping up a fish ladder against a raging torrent of emotional and verbal non-clarity.

Ultimately, I suppose, this is not that important in the grand scheme of things. My life is a very small conscious ember in the dying fires of greater Western civilization, or perhaps a coal that could eventually spark into a greater engine-driver of the future. At thirty-one, it certainly feels like I have already experienced an outsize amount of the larger world. Lately, when there have been “big world events” I realize that I have physically been to a great number of the places flashing across TV screens and twisted to fit a specific narrative antithetical to my own worldview and civilization’s success.

Yet I still feel compelled to tell stories, or at least take a stab at giving people a tour of these alternate worlds in my head that I get to explore, alone, so often whether asleep or awake.

Wotan’s Day

One thing in my study of languages that has always fascinated me is the way that different languages name days on the Western calendar, especially when they adapt it to a locality that had a different system for structuring time before its introduction.  In Japanese, the days of the week correspond to the sun, moon (日Sunday and 月Monday) and then the five East Asian traditional elements (火Fire/Tuesday, 水Water/Wednesday, 木Wood/Thursday, 金Metal/Gold/Friday, and 土Earth/Saturday.) In other languages, they may use names for old astrological stars, or sometimes simple numbers.

Even within European languages the pantheons shift between Northern and Southern Europe, and possibly even more in other languages of the continent. So Sunday is the “Lord’s day”, possibly linked as much to Sol Invictus as to Christianity, Monday is the moon’s day, Tuesday is the god of war’s day, Wednesday is the all-father god’s day, etc etc… the role of the god or natural feature is similar between the two language regions, but the names and traits are subtly different.

That was, in fact, not what I had planned to write about today. I have not yet even had the time to write on my current story. Nonetheless, it seemed like an interesting topic.

On the writing front, I will probably have to satisfy myself with a few sentences at best. It is already bedtime, and I have not yet put down a single line besides this blog post.


Dark Designs

Today a package came in with two books for me.  I have already begun delving into one of the books Addiction by Design.  It’s insufferably written as an anthropological ethnography, but I think nonetheless the author did do some useful, objective research on her topic beyond interviews and politicized musings about sociocultural buzzwords. The purpose of the work is to explore the industry of machine gambling and its effects on people. I found the book after watching South Park, particularly their “Freemium” episode that points out, quite mischievously and with an iron edge of outrage, observed neurological research on addiction and habituation in mobile games and gambling systems, not to mention a host of other side shots at various other misery industries.

I think that it’s a particularly interesting topic given how dopaminergic nearly everything involving software has become. To play a simple game of solitaire now, one cannot simply purchase an advertising-free copy of the game in the basic form it came on Microsoft platforms in. Instead, there is an always-on connection expectation, pulsing and inescapable advertisements, and a push to upgrade the experience with additional purchases beyond the basic game.

Overall, today was a fine day. I’ve got my current story open, ready to write another portion of my protagonist’s journey towards the big pivotal reveal of the tale. Yet at the same time I am distracted like a bird in a house of particularly shiny mirrors. My left foot is injured, acute sesamoiditis, which is one of the most unpleasant phenomena I have ever experienced, despite its being pretty non-threatening and more a waiting game than anything else. At my job I accomplished a decent amount, while also feeling as though I had wasted a significant amount of the time I could have used to work on ongoing projects.

One thing that I did manage to do was make one of the Germans I run into frequently laugh quite hard. Definitely he belied the stereotype of the dour Deutschlander, and over a cigarette he, I, and a coworker traded some decent jokes and stories. One thing that I will miss when my time out here is over is the regular interaction with people from all over the world. It has been a feature of my work for some time, but especially acute in a place as expatriate as the State of Qatar.

So here I am, all plied with books, doing laundry, writing on my story, and chugging along through another evening. I aim to write in this journal every day until eventually something interesting comes of it, I end up with a readership, or some other grand effect.

25 Pounds Gone

In which I kick off this blog.

The past year has not been much like what I would have expected, had you told me even a few years ago that it would play out this way. I’m sitting in a concrete room in Qatar listening to Estonian Eurodance, talking to my friend from West Virginia living in Poland, and this is, for me, a fairly ordinary night for the past decade.


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