Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Archive for March, 2007

Virtual life, virtual pics

I still play The Sims 2 every so often. Much more time-consciously, of course; I’m not losing sleep and/or work over it like I was back in the day. For starters, after a while it starts becoming horribly formulaic and you end up doing weird things to your sims or downloading a ton of custom ones, like famous people or TV personalities or whatever, just to keep things interesting. And I must admit, it is kind of fun watching Aragorn (son of Arathorn, of course) have a water balloon fight with Guybrush Threepwood, while Wario and Lex Luthor are in the back becoming fast friends. And to have an avatar of your roommate in a romantic relationship with the daughter of your own avatar. (Not any of the ones from last time; that neighborhood got deleted. Yep, in this day and age it is possible to just delete your family. Well, virtual family.)

Actually, while I’m on the subject, I might as well share some random Sims screencaps, just so you can see what the foo goes on.

Wario

Like I said, Lex Luthor and Wario. . .they’ve got some evil plans, I’m sure.

Now for some shots of my avatar playing games with people.

Chess with Spock

Chess with Spock. Seems logical.

Chess with Picard

Chess with the next generation, of course.

Poker with LOTR

The real reason the Fellowship of the Ring broke up? Boromir and Legolas both owed me some gambling debts. And, apparently, we’re discussing kissing.

Poker with the beast

Speaking of poker, here’s a shot of my “daughter,” Lindsay, playing poker with a vampire, a zombie Homer Simpson (you can tell due to the bluish tint of his skin, especially the hands), and the Beast. I mean, what the foo?

Bowling with the kids

Speaking of my “daughters,” here’s when I took two of them out bowling. My “wife” and I ended up having eleven kids, since “we” both possessed the “family” aspiration, and one of our wants was to have ten kids. We had eleven because the last two were twins. The first two children were also twins: these ones here, named Katie and Tatiana (like last time). All of the girls were named after girls I either went on dates with, had crushes on, or just names I thought were cool. For example, I don’t know anyone named Tatiana outside of Spain, and I certainly didn’t date or have crushes on any of the ones I met in Spain. Still a cool name, though.

College Jam 1

When “I” was in college, I formed a rock trio with my future “wife” (again named “Jennifer”), and, of course, Jake Sisko. I mean, why not?

College Jam 2

My “kids” did the same thing when they made it to college (these being “my” three oldest: Katie, Tatiana, and Joel, complete with Gizmonics uniform). Their guitar player, apparently, was a llama.

Pipe Dream

And this pic? Either a pipe dream or a goal to shoot for, depending on your viewpoint.

And although my old family got deleted, I still have some older screencaps, so here is the “old” Jennifer, from back more than a year ago now:

Old Jennifer

I actually like the old one better, although the new one’s much better customized and stuff. She just seems more down-to-earth. Oh, well.

Lest you think I have no life and spend all my time playing “The Sims 2,” these pics were all taken over the course of months, not in some three-week long binge.

Anyway, I had a more poignant point to this whole thing, but I forgot it while searching for this stuff. So I’m sorry that you missed some of my brilliant philosophical musings, and enjoy the ludicrousness of these pics!


People are jerks. (?)

Calvin probably sums up my current viewpoint. Please help! Where’s my Hobbes?

Friends
Click for bigger version, of course.


Tonight I Touched a Tree

Snowy Aspen

Tonight I touched a tree.

And on that tree I found some grit, and flaky bark-like bits
That, for so long, ne’er a human had touched.
I found some places where branches had broken off;
The remaining jagged edges blackened and puckered by time.

Once, a young boy had felt that grit,
that texture and that dirt.
Had climbed that bark, had swung from that branch
Had built his world around it.

Tonight I touched a tree.
And in that tree I found the little boy who used to play
To run and dream and lie awake in stories with no end
Filled with leprechauns and magic lights and colors to behold.
The rustle of the leaves inside a summer’s warming day,
the babble of running water; the feel of mud and grass.

Oh, how long has it been!
How long must it be
Before each and every one of us wakes up to touch a tree?
With the daily grind and hustleness
The inane chatter of people and “relationships”
The packaged, neat depictions of the TV, computer, and movie
What is reality?
The job, the money, the car, the work
The couches, kitchens, Nintendo DS’s,
The chick flicks and the explosions,
Umbrellas in the rain?

Oh, how long has it been!
I had forgot
The texture of the wind;
The smell of life;
The warmness of the world.

In sterilized cages we live
In boxes we exist
In self-created short-sighted globes we thrive and build our imitations of life

But summer days are not just made for under 12-year-olds only.
And trees don’t just exist for Feng Shui
Or to give us oxygen or line the path.

Tonight I touched a tree
And remembered why trees are there for touching.
And once again had hope and light
And once again had dreams

Tonight I touched a tree
And the sun came up at midnight
And the moon shone brightly through the clouds
And the chatter of the busy world faded into obscurity.

Tonight I touched a tree
And held the hand of God.


Mediocrity

Mediocrity

There’s the story about the kid in fifth grade who thought he had the best teacher ever. The teacher always had a kind word for his students, and even when the student would turn in a sub-par piece of work, the teacher would find some angle to praise it. Everyone loved this teacher, and he believed he was doing the kids a favor by bolstering their self-esteem.

This contrasted with this student’s English teacher a scant year or two later. The student went into this class thinking it would be a breeze. After all, according to his previous teacher he was a pretty good English paper writer. Imagine his shock and consternation when his first paper came back filled with red marks, with an ignominious “F” at the top of the sheet. How dare this teacher do this to him! He was a great writer!

But he wasn’t. His fifth-grade teacher, in an attempt to boost his students’ self-esteem, actually left them with an overinflated ego and an unrealistic opinion of their own skills and abilities.

I read this story a long time ago, and I wish I could find the actual story to post here instead of paraphrasing it, as the message is much more succinct, clear, and powerful in its original incarnation. But the basic moral of the story is to not have unrealistic expectations of your own abilities, nor build them up in others, for eventually the world will crush those expectations, leaving you having spent a lot of time and energy believing a falsehood, and therefore unable to improve yourself and truly achieve greatness. You can’t rise above mediocrity if you can’t even recognize it.

Lately I’ve had the sneaking sensation that a lot of the praise I’ve received over time, especially in regard to my musical and/or performance abilities, has been akin to the experience of this fifth-grader. My abilities certainly exist, and objectively they’re not bad. However, am I really this great musical genius that some people (especially certain relatives of mine) make me out to be? Perhaps the praise comes from a) people not wanting to hurt my feelings, b) people who are close enough to me to see everything I do through rose-colored lenses, or c) people who truly can’t recognize the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

Consider this. I tried out for the Playmill not long ago, to go this summer. My sister was absolutely positive I’d make it. After all, both she and my brother had made it in previous years, and she knows the owners quite well, therefore she had good reason to be confident. In addition, I’m a pretty good actor and singer (not so much dancer, but then, neither were Kjersti or Ben). However, despite her confidence, I wasn’t included on the cast list this year, plain and simple. How could my sister have been so confident as to be flippant about it? Simple. Rose-colored lenses.

I’ve written a lot of music over the years. Most of it has not been heard by critical ears, but even people I know who hear it and say things like, “That’s pretty good, Jeff! You gonna be famous!” and so on, don’t really ever *listen* to stuff I write on  any sort of regular basis, nor do they recommend it to their friends, or request copies of it for themselves. Why can’t people just say, “It’s OK, but it’d be better if you did this and this,” or “The middle part needs work” or whatever? Why must it all be guesswork and inference as to people’s real opinions? It may be that they believe the work really is top-notch and can’t tell the difference. I don’t believe this is a large number of cases, though. Even a person with the most untrained ear can still say, “I don’t really like this part” without knowing what exactly is wrong. What’s the problem? They don’t want to hurt my feelings. They want to be like the optimistic fifth-grade teacher, buoying a person up without helping him to improve.

Honesty, please. I would rather hear that all my songs suck (if they do, which I don’t believe), than that all my songs are top-notch (which I believe they also aren’t.) At least in the first case people are being honest. The best-case scenario, however, would be constructive criticism, so I know what to do to improve.

Why do I place this much importance on what other people think of my art? If it were simply a hobby perhaps I wouldn’t. However, the more I learn about the music business the more I learn the importance of staying competitive, and the best way to do that is to continually improve oneself. I don’t feel that my compositional skills have measurably improved since high school, and the amount of self-reliance, drive, independence, business skill, and competitive spirit needed to make enough money in the entertainment business to support a family is overwhelming, and I don’t feel up to the task. The simple fact of the matter is, my future family is the most  important thing in my life, even though it technically doesn’t exist yet, and when it comes down to it I would rather sacrifice an entire music career to save my marriage. And with what I’m learning now, I may have to sacrifice a music career before I get married for my marriage’s sake. However, I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility when it comes to my musical abilities, mainly due to the praise I get regarding my musical talents. If I don’t go into the music biz, it’d feel like a waste of my God-given talents.

It’s that time of life everyone warns you about: when you make that career decision that will last you the rest of your life. And I’m becoming less and less enthused with pursuing music as a day job. I may be able to subsist if I stay single forever, but I don’t want to drag a family through poverty because I had some random talents, but lacked the skills, drive, or initiative to fully exploit those talents.

Maybe I should just scrap it all, make music my hobby, and go be a pilot, like I’ve contemplated in the past.