Favorites

It was recently asked of me as to what my favorite book was, to which I struggled with for a few minutes before finally settling on an answer.

The answer I gave was Armor by John Steakley, a book which was given to me by my uncle when I was thirteen. It was my first foray in to Science Fiction, and also my first to actually reading for pleasure. Previously I had only read Hardy Boys or Goosebumps or whatever else was required by school. Armor was the first book that I absolutely loved and I still love it today even after reading it 15 times or so. It’s probably not the best book I’ve ever read, but how do you quantify that anyway?

Regardless, it got me thinking what are my favorite books? So I decided to come up with a list. In no particular order, these are my favorites and ones that I heartily recommend.

Therapy

So this is a strange turn of events. Not only have I been completely sober for nearly 3 months but I’ve been going to therapy for about a month now.  I find this odd as I am pro-drugs and anti-therapy. But life has a way of challenging your beliefs.

I’ve always been prone to anxiety. It’s likely just part of my temperament being an introvert, but being picked on all throughout my life all the way up to high school certainly didn’t help. Becoming a recluse at age 10 didn’t help either. Playing thousands upon thousands of hours of video games plays into it surely. I didn’t really start socializing until I started work at age 18. I still think I suck at it now, but I’ve had plenty of practice so it’s a little easier. But never easy.

I started experimenting with drugs at age 21. First with pot, then ecstasy, Salvia, mushrooms, LSD. I tried coke a few times and heroin once but those weren’t my thing. I liked psychedelics. I could take a large dose, close my eyes, and I’d be transported to alien realms. Figuratively of course. But certainly nothing you can experience in your everyday normal existence. It took me until about 3 months ago to realize I was addicted. Not to any one particular substance, although I did smoke pot daily for a decade, but just addicted to not being here. Not being present. And now I’m paying the price. Because all I want to do is be here and it’s too fucking difficult now.

Hence therapy. At least I finally succumbed and decided it was needed. And it scares me (pretty much everything does) but I’d rather be scared and alive than dead and nonexistent.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take before I start feeling “normal” again, if it’s even possible. My brain has been through the ringer. I just hope over time and with work that life becomes easier. Because this shit is getting old.

Magic: The Gathering

So I just started playing MTGA, their online component similar to Hearthstone. I started playing Hearthstone in its beta form back in January of 2014 and now I’m playing MTGA while it’s still in beta. I’ve noticed that for some reason when I begin playing a game before its proper release I tend to stick with it longer. For example I started playing Counter-Strike when it was still only a mod and in beta. I ended up playing that for like 8 years or something absurd. I took a year off of Hearthstone but have generally played it every day. I’m a casual player these days but for the first 2 years or more I played it for hours and hours every day. I started off as a terrible player and slowly became an adequate player. I remember placing top 3 in a 256 player tournament and actually earning real money for it. I’ve only ever gotten up to top 250 legend or so which isn’t exactly that great but it’s still better than thousands and thousands of others. I’m starting Magic at a similar point. I’m terrible and lose the majority of my matches but I can see myself flourishing if given the proper time investment. Strategic analytical games are my forte it seems. And it is highly rewarding when you win against a competent opponent.

Magic is significantly more complex than Hearthstone and the game has been around for 25 years. There are millions of players, maybe tens of millions. So I’m starting off way behind. But I feel that my experience with Hearthstone is not in vain as some of the principles carry over. But since I was able to achieve competency in that game it gives me hope that I can do the same here.

Time will tell.

Stephen King

So I just started Book 4 of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series and am absolutely loving it. Even though I’ve been reading from a very early age (significantly more since 2010) I had never read Stephen King until only recently. I would constantly see his books in book stores and think, “I don’t read horror” or “He’s too popular. He probably sucks.” Yes, but sometimes people who are really good become popular too. In Stephen’s case, he’s phenomenally talented.

In my opinion there’s two types of writers – one’s who want to write cool shit, not caring for the complexity, or two, one’s who want to show off their talents. Sometimes they overlap, but usually not. In Stephen’s case, he’s more of a writer of cool shit. His talent lies in making it look so easy. He avoids bigger words, not because he doesn’t know them, but because they distract and get away from the point. He’s very pragmatic and only cares about the story. Some authors get so lost in their own wordplay masturbation that it’s nearly unreadable. Stephen never falls into this trap.

But anyway, I’m halfway into this series now and can’t wait to see where Roland and Crew end up next. Glad I finally got over myself and started reading his shit.

Timidity

Last night I hooked up my guitar to my amp/cabinet for the first time in months. Ideally I’d love to play with that shit cranked to full volume, but in consideration of my neighbors I usually play unplugged, and very quiettly at that.

Part of the joy of playing comes in the cathartic release of repressed emotions. In my case that’s usually anger and sadness. So I tend to strum the guitar very strongly, something you’re not really supposed to do. I was talking to an actual guitarist about this and he says you need a “graceful” touch, a light playing of the strings. And I see his point. But I like to play aggressive music and it simply feels better to fuck the strings up a bit when playing. Plus I think it sounds cool with distortion. If you over-strum, you can get a lot of artificial harmonics going on, which to me is an incredibly cool sound.

So fuck the standard. I’ll do it my way.

Except, I don’t even do that, ’cause neighbors, you know? Instead I find myself too often just playing the guitar, not working it. And if I’m not working it, I’m not enjoying it.

Well, all this to say I got it set up last night so I could play through headphones. I’ve been listening to a lot of Deftones lately, specifically their White Pony album, and have been wanting to learn their songs on guitar. Well apparently I’d already learned them all 15 years ago because when I went to do so it all came back to me. And I realized that they’ve had a greater impact of my playing style than I knew.

Their guitarist likes to play dissonant chords, something I also greatly enjoy. Most of the time when he plays a power chord he also adds an extra string or two that changes the chord’s sound, usually to make it sound darker rather than brighter. This is a technique I stole from them although I hadn’t beeen aware.

But it all comes back to enjoyment, and I’m finding myself enjoying the guitar more and more once again. I gave it up for over a period of 5 years or so but have been playing it pretty consistently for the last 2. I’m by no means technically proficient from a classical perspective, but I can play rhythm fairly decently. I’m getting over my insecurities about my ability, now it’s time to get over my reluctantance of actually letting people hear it.

Dandelion

I see you fallen and discarded
Like a common dandelion
Longing to belong
Longing to be loved
Coming up short

And I see you clearly
Reflection in your soul
Revealing hurt in your heart
Locked without key
Lost without hope

Yet I will find a way
To free you from your pain
Release you from your hell
Enable you to be
Who you’re meant to be

So if you choose to flee
I will simply wait
And if you choose to search
You will surely find

Anger

I’m starting to feel more and more like my old self. The self that disintegrated upon smoking Salvia Divinorum. That self was pissed off, angsty, and generally fed up with the world at large. I went through a period of self-loathing and growth only to come back full circle to the anger. The anger that fuels. The anger that gets shit done.

So be it. Feels good to be back.