Confessions of a drinker student abroad

Friday, August 26, 2011


It isn't every day you realize that you're leaving home, and that the place you're going to, is so familiar and so alien. The roads remain, I remember the trees, but something is gone.
It isn't every day you realize that a good friend and childhood hero isn't away on vacation, you haven't seen them not because they're away at school, but because you never will.
It isn't every day you question your existence, your quality, your worth, and come up wondering what exactly it was that made you into this mediocre copy of your imagined self.
It isn't every day...just today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Doctor Gatsby the Great

Bear with me, you will understand in the end.
Dedicated to my Dad and my older Brother.

When I awoke I was on the freeway, standing in the interior breakdown lane along with a crowd of people. I wasn't sure what we were all doing there, everything in my life up to that point had been a rush and a blur, I knew I had to cross the lanes of speeding cars, but not matter what the stream of metallic pace never let up. I ran along side them, trying to match pace, trying to go one lane at a time, but it was worthless.
Suddenly there was a commotion farther along the highway, a crash, an explosion, and the river of traffic came to a halt, I seized my opportunity and raced across and up the gravel path at the roads edge. I could see the mansion up ahead, the front garden strewn with children's toys. Something was wrong with the statues guarding the gate, they were different, and one was missing, it should have been there, I knew it, but it was gone.
I was in the lower garden now, alongside the pool, chaos decorated the patio, someone was missing. As I came up the steps I heard them talking, he was gone, the cybernetic servant, he had staged a daring escape, even destroying the statue of ____ the Gray that guarded the front gate, and whose ghost now stood in the garden demanding to know what had happened to his body.
I knew who would know, the Doctor, he always knew. I raced up the building to his suite and entered. He was kneeling by a case, he explained that in the case was a meteor fragment, taken from the one that had caused the earlier explosion. It contained oil, similar to our oil, but infused with cyclamates, he was very clear about that, the combination of nitrates and something else caused the oil to become enriched with cyclamates, which was what made it more potent. He took a sample that had been expanded into an orange fuzz and dropped it out the window, when it hit the ground there was a powerful explosion. With this oil we could change the world. But they were coming, they were after him and his children, there wasn't time to explain, the robots would be there soon.
I ordered the children into the back room and hit next to the door, waiting for them to enter. When they came in I was totally unprepared for them, they looked like us, only with sparking wires extending from their cheeks and across their mouths. I let them come in, only when the entire squad was in did I attack, rampantly destroying their horrid countenance. In the bathroom one of them entered the mirror and hid behind the Doctor's daughter's reflection. I stepped to the side and fired at an angle that would pass by her reflection, killing the assassin. "Geometry, bitch!" I muttered.
Suddenly he was there, the servant who had escaped, he lifted the body of one of the assassins up for me to see, it was a man, not a robot. When I turned the Doctor was smiling at me, his children were the robots. It was then I understood, Dr. Gatsby was trying to take over the world, the oil was for a bomb.
The servant grabbed me by the hand, we had to escape, we ran out to the balcony, the servant jumped into the gap between this and the neighboring balcony. As he fell he used his hands to check his momentum at each story. I knew my human hands could never take the battering of descending that way, so I jumped to the neighboring balcony one story down, descending by this method I fell one story at a time, but the building began to curve inwards, I wouldn't reach the ground in time to escape. I dropped myself faster and faster, but by the time I reached the bottom I had curved in to an interior basement, directly in the path of the escaping Dr. Gatsby and his robotic children, all looking for revenge upon 'The Evolved'.
I fled through the side door, reaching a car park, and raced around the corner of the brick building, trying to hide behind the smokestack as the army of children marched past. Suddenly there were lights everywhere, the servant had gone to fetch the military, they shot the evil doctor and captured the children. I asked the servant how he had gained his independence, when he had learned to think for himself and recognize that destroying the world was wrong. He looked at me and responded, "It's because when I was created I was made using PYTHON." I was incredulous, he adamantly repeated that he was different, because his AI was developed using Python. Everything froze.

It was at precisely this moment that my brain called out, "Bullshit!". It wasn't when the cars were driving the wrong way on the freeway, it wasn't when a statue had a ghost, it wasn't when The Great Gatsby was about a robotic servant abandoning his family because Dr. Gatsby was a maniac. It wasn't when I shot a guy in a mirror, it wasn't when the children were robots, it wasn't when the building curved in on itself, it wasn't when outside gardens became industrial parks, no, it was precisely when a robot told me it was developed using Python that my conscious self rose up and said, "I cannot take this anymore, I must be dreaming, and it has grown too farcical." Not even mentioning the the servant was the guy who played Johnny Storm, or that one of the kids was Sean Young from Bladerunner.
None of this was invented after the fact, none of this is exaggerated or in anyway stated other than as it happened and I experienced it, proving that 1: My subconscious is geekier than 99% of people and 2: Inception ain't got shit on me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Away from the Arcade

Just down the street from the castle, near the Queen's Arcade, is nestled a small cafe. A warm place, with a dark wood door. There is a large window in the front of this cafe, an invisible barrier against the rain and winds, but a welcoming gate to the light of an early afternoon, or the golden beams of a kindling sunset.

In the corner of the cafe, where the walnut paneling fits seamlessly against the window frame, is a small table, nominally for two, sat for three and practical for one. Rarely is it occupied, as the corner intrudes upon the comfort of even one occupant. Even if one is small enough to sit comfortably between the wall and the round pedestal, it makes for a poor supporter, as one of its legs was damaged long ago, leaving it with a somewhat delicate grasp upon the floor. A hold so tenuous that the landing of a single fly on the correct edge might upset the balance, transforming a stage into a schooner deck and turning the stable occupants of saucer and cup into so many stumbling drunks, no more capable of retaining their contents than a beach is at restraining the waves.

A young woman sits at the table. Her book lies open on the opposite edge, while a porcelain cup balances precariously close to the edge of the see-saw. Neither the book nor the cup, however, are enough to occupy the woman's mind. The pages rest unturned, the tea in the cup forming an adorable replica maelstrom as the slender hand absently agitates the spoon. The pale green eyes drifted out through the glass pane into the street, where the summer rain pounded against the brick pavement. The swirl of overcoats and umbrellas parted, revealing a figure across the path, for a moment the eyes flickered, a keen light passed through them, and then disappeared when she realized it could not have been who she thought.

Her mind drifted back down the street, the falling rain disappeared, the crowds thinned out as night fell. She saw the hood, a shimmer in the dark and then the stillness. It wasn't her fault, it wasn't his fault they said, and he’d been protecting her. Three strangers met on the street corner that night, one never walked away. He was young, he was strong, he hadn't meant for it to happen. When the hood glimmered he had struck out to protect her, her that he didn't know. When the hood hit the ground there was a sickening sound, a gasp they would never forget. When the hood fell back he realized what he had done, a hood can age a person. She often went to see him, he that had saved her, as he sat alone by the window. She wished that she could reach him, explain why it happened, but that answer didn't exist. She watched while he faded, never looking forward, always out the window at the rain. He looked back on the corner, the glimmer in the dark, and knew he was the only one to blame. He tried to walk away, leave the hood there in the dark, but wishes wouldn't cover up the face. He gave up one winter evening, alone there in the dark, for a life, a life, and only one remained.

And so she sits by the window while the rain beats down. She wonders what mad fate drove them all to the corner that night. She remembers when he told her it would be all right, when he said he'd come around tomorrow. It was a lie of course, she knew it even then, but still she came to the cafe every day. The window faces away from the street corner, but all she can do is look through the window, away towards the castle, and wonder what life is like out there beyond the arcade.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Romance is horsesh!#

Wow, what a strong title, guess we're gonna have to say something special to justify that. Really I'm following a traditional journalistic practice of putting up a sensationalist headline and then following it with something that is either A: rather less overt or B: completely unrelated. Obviously though I have some beef with love...not really, I'm a huge fan, what I have a beef with is the modern portrayal of love in 90% of movies.

For example, I just finished watching Hitch. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the premise...ah forget it, if you don't know what it's about, watch it. Anyways, this chick screws him over royally. Why? Because she's irrational, jealous, and lacks the ability to openly discuss issues with him before getting passionately angry. But this is played off as her being a loyal that it? With one circumstantial second-hand quote you completely throw away all gut feelings about someone just based on what your societal perspective has trained you to believe? Panther piss. She behaves like an unreasonable wench, and he does nothing about it, apart from eventually vindicating himself once his life is ruined, and the lives of others with it. Once he's vindicated he ends up crawling back to her, asking for a second chance. And this is where the shovels start working.

Someone treats you like that, you don't say, "Oh, well she's a proud woman and independent and I can't live without her." No, you say, "Screw her, hope she gets fired after being forced to print a retraction." You move away, drink in a bar, and hold onto nothing but enmity for her.

This modern portrayal of the proud man having to realize how much he needs the woman and then come back to her, is not how life is, and it creates a false expectation in many young women that they can do whatever they want, they're the proud and free spirit that he has to come to accept. Nope, you're both people, and unless you learn to behave like decent people and develop some trust, you're never going to make it.

I'm not saying men are always right, but they're most certainly not always wrong. This ladies first mentality was created a long time ago with the concept of chivalry. Men would idolize their ladies, protecting them from the world, and putting their needs before self and safety. However it was a two-way street, in exchange for this sort of treatment the women acknowledged that the men were indeed doing something remarkable.

Now, with gender equality, women want to have all the same privileges, responsibilities, and power as men, but yet they expect to still be treated like queens by men, who have passed from a proud warrior dedicating himself to service of a fair lady, to mere footstools of servants. We're expected to put a woman before all else, but not given any of the respect that comes with this endeavor, it's just what you're supposed to do.

Thus, love is real, romance is reprehensible, and Hollywood is Horsesh!%.

On a different note, I really need to stop watching so many movies and reading the news all day. I get an extremely jaded view of the world, and after reading all the news I am less and less inclined to go back to America...not that anywhere else in the world is particularly spectacular, but I see a lot less abuse of power and oppression here in the UK, maybe because here people just don't care, they're okay with letting the government handle it. Honestly I don't mind letting the government do their thing, so long as they leave us alone to do ours. And preferably stop bombing foreign countries based on political and economic interests.

So, yeah, that's my rant for the day, all two of them. Brighten up though, hopefully this will give you a laugh. In keeping with the battle of the sexes theme today.

And one for Fathers' day, cause I'm pretty sure my dad has this book.

Enjoy, and have a happy Fatherz Day

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Here it is again, saturday afternoon. This must be what purgatory is like. You know there's something good at the end, but the lack of good just drags on interminably. I apologize for not posting all the time. I re-read many of my early works, and now see somewhat the difference. Back then life was an open book, so full of adventures and unknown paths that simply thinking about it set my head to spinning. Now, however, I can see the future clearly enough (so I think) to know what the path before me is, but not clearly enough to wax poetic about it. 3500 miles and several months still separate me from my greatest adventure yet, but the distance might as well be in parsecs. I'm not good at seeing myself settled down. Running rampage across the continents, acquiring a reputation and stories, yeah, I could see that. For me, that's the easier path.

I've always been terrified of settling down. As the elephant in Servants of the Queen by Kipling, I am betwixt and between. I know well enough my own imperfections to doubt that I will overcome them. What I do not know well enough is the strength that can be gained from faith and a loving companion. I see myself as I am alone, not as I could be with her. I am a hexagonal lattice, there will always be a bond dangling from the edge (yeah, sorry, dissertation permeates my entire thinking process).

What comes after settling down? Do we like....get old in one place? I dunno, I've never spend that much time in one place since coming into my own. There were always jumping off points just over the horizon, future paths to consider. Now though, there is one path, and it stretches out as far as the eye can see, showing no signs of a divergence. So yeah, that's the difference in my writing I reckon. I am terrified, and yet excited as I have never been before.

So...yeah, summation, I don't know enough of the future to see the adventures. The adventures may be on a smaller, less Michael Bay explosive scale, but they will ideally be shared with my best friend. One thing I do know, there will be plenty more slow saturday evenings listening to music and watching the sky fade to grey, but I can pretty much guarantee I won't be on here blathering on to you, I will be on a couch, a cold concoction of reminiscence in my hand, and my other hand will be holding hers, and life will be, in that moment, perfect.

Sorry, no poetry or deep platitudes tonight. Hope your saturday evenings are mellow, cool, and shared by those you love.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Under the Setting sun

Here in Wales the sun has just set. The sky is still the lighter blue of twilight before the night goes dark, and it's 10:30. I would apologize for not posting, but before tonight all you would have gotten is a short "Here's my daily routine, gym, lab, watch baseball online, eat some frozen food, sleep." Which is quite boring, nothing new has happened, not much exciting going on. Tonight however two things happened, I played some futbol with coursemates, and watched an excellent film, these things have gotten me in an artistic mood.

The Last Word
As I said, I found this to be an excellent film. Maybe it's the writer in me, but I always enjoy understated, realistic levels of drama. Stories that are fabricated, but the people in them react in a normal fashion. There's no overt comedy, no melodramatic rise and fall, just life. Good things happen, bad things happen, a joke gets told in passing, and that's how it goes. Somehow the characters become so much more relatable then, allowing us to truly experience the emotion as they are. I vastly prefer this to films where the entire point is to be sad, or make the audience cry. Because while life can be sad, it is often overplayed into tragedy for the sake of an oscar, but even while viewing an intensely sad film, I often struggle to understand the emotions portrayed, because it's just too much, there's no empathy between audience and character. Because of this, The Last Word was a great film.

Well, it wouldn't be a proper evening of kickabout if both my toes weren't bleeding, but happily the damage appears minor, no massive holes or ripped blisters, just ones that formed and popped. It was a good evening, the only two shots I took were both on goal, but blocked by a defender who decided handballing was better than letting it go in...kind of a dick. Granted I also miscued about 10 passes and through-balls, but hey, I'm American, we're not good at this. I forgot how much fun it is to get a group of friends together and just run around. One of the more interesting conversations I heard was a kid from Libya explaining that he wouldn't be going home this summer, due to a lack of interest in getting shot. He was so matter of fact about it, "I'm not going home, there I'd be killed." Happily his family is safe, hopefully soon they can all be together again.

There's a shine on the green turf as the players take the field. There are no stands, no crowds, no refs, and most of all no salaries. Uniforms are only makeshift, those who brought a red shirt against those who didn't. With a rush the ball is off, whirling and dancing through the forest of legs. The sun settles low over the trees as shouts of Line, Again, and Center echo off of the surrounding buildings. The most common sound is the rattling of the ball off of the fence behind the goal, since none of these are professionals. The heat, the excitement, there is a joy in racing along the springing turf, legs stretched out and lungs pumping. Friendships are forged, respect is given for a well struck ball, or a well cut out pass. It is a game, just a game among friends. As the sun sinks lower many legs tire. The energetic runs of early on are gone, replaced by closely marked friends, casually strolling and chatting, waiting for an opportune chance to spend some of their precious remaining energy on a run. But eventually the light fades, the boots are removed, and everyone limps off the pitch to return home.

Anyways, I'm off to bed, early start tomorrow. This summer cannot go by fast enough.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Just got done watching a film, quite a good film actually, where the main characters parents have just recently gotten divorced, citing the reason that there was nothing left to keep them together. After dealing with this, and talking to his parents, he finally asks himself, and them, "What's so wrong with ordinary? What is the problem with boring?" Nobody has an answer. I think this question reflects almost perfectly a primary cause of broken families in the Western World.

Originally people painted love as happy and peaceful in movies, it was beautiful, romantic and our realistic perceptions soon became too jaded to accept it. We knew full well that love wasn't always peaceful, love had bumps and bruises with it. We were okay with love not always being portrayed as 'eternal bliss' because when the fallings out came, the drama mounted, we learned something about ourselves, and always ended up coming back together knowing that it wouldn't always be easy, but we would always grow and change and love.

The problem is that even that portrayal isn't a true one. Love, life, boring sometimes, but that seems to be the one thing we cannot stand. We have been conditioned (by self or others) to expect adventure and drama from our lives. We expect the monumental peaks and dismal valleys of emotion, we want to have a rosy tinted photograph of best friends on a beach, and we want to stand out in the rain when our heart has been broken. But this melodrama that we have come to expect is counter-intuitive to real life. This is why when we reach a level place, be it a plateau or a river delta, we don't know what to do with it.

How many people have said, or at least heard, "I wish I had more excitement in my life, I want to have adventures." I'll be honest, I always wanted adventures. The problem is that adventures are fairy tales. Even when they happen in your life...they aren't real life. They may be a sustained vacation, they may be a diversion, but they aren't real life except for a select few. We all suppose ourselves to be the protagonist of the story, but the truth is that we are actually the villagers who eagerly await the return of the adventurer.

This determination that we want adventure, we expect adventure, has created an entire generation that seems to be incapable of settling down and living their own lives. Irreconcilable differences, that's what they call it. Or maybe even mutual agreement. A divorce where nobody did something overtly wrong, but both parties agree to end it anyway. Why? Because it's boring, they want something more. We may all claim to want a normal life, but what we want is a normal photo album. We want the highs, some lows, and everything framed just right. Unfortunately that's not what life is. Life is boring, love is ordinary, and if you are unable to understand the difference between boring and unbearable then marriage isn't your thing.

Boring is okay, it's fine, it's living day in day out with people you love. I'm not saying there won't be ups and downs, but they probably won't be high in frequency or amplitude. Today, you get up, go to work, and come home. Tomorrow you do the same. Only by seeing each moment together as a victory, something to be cherished, do you realize that life may be ordinary, but ordinary is miraculous.