Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pleased To Meet You, Won't You Guess My Name?

Do a search on my name-this blog comes up! @_@

Then again, that's not saying much...

EDIT: Flip a few pages and the page for my Lego trains comes up too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Eyes Have Seen You

Something just sparked in my mind-kind of like an intermittently contacting third-rail shoe. (Look it up.) I've been reading an essay by Paul Graham called 'Copy What You Like'. In it he talks about his experience in high school with short story writing. His description of the average short story basically says that it's a deep-feeling 'slice-of-life' vignette. Also that it's often a boring story. Oh, and it helps quite a bit if the characters are unhappy.

I'll admit it's one hell of a generalization, but what's weird is that this is the description of my favorite kind of blog piece. (Except for unhappy participants. I'm depressed enough already...) When I started college life on my own, I thought my life would look like one of those vignettes.


I like to read opinion pages. I LOVE to read opinion pages. They suck, but I read them anyway. Every other letter to the editor is a response to some letter printed in the previous issue or so; often this letter itself is another response. Incidentally I like to think that there's one bloodline (inkline?) of letters in the PSU Collegian that has as its grandsire a letter published in the very first issue. The average example of these response letters generally takes the opposing viewpoint. It's such a contrarian thing to do, it seems; even I have been tempted to write a letter or two. (One of the more important ones was about CATA, though. Our buses here suck. Right now though I forget why I wanted to write.)

But I digress; I like to read editorials most of all. I once read one in the New York Times that was EXACTLY like one of those blog posts. It was a little vignette on the life of someone who had moved to California from somewhere on the East Coast. (A dream which my friend Matt shares, and I admit has an appeal; but that's another post.) And despite its presentation of all the pitfalls of living in SoCal, it still made this writer's life appealing. As if all of the flaws were just little quirks and could be ignored for something greater in the experience. I ate it up; swallowed it hook line and sinker; any cliche to that effect you may wish to submit works. I thought that's what great writing was.

But no. It isn't. I read and even saved that article. I don't know where it is now. I care but I know deep down that I shouldn't. It's a silly thing, but that editorial presented a fantasy as fact. So do most of those blog posts. It glamorizes a lack of glamor, if that makes any sense. And non-glamor, or even anti-glamor one could say, appeals to me.

Boy, I'm weird.

A lot of my favorite things in life, for a while, were the most ragged. I looked for vintage, or failing to get the genuine article (one example of which I do have), faux-vintage clothes. I liked Neil Young's borderline autistic guitar solos and the protoplasmic punk he pioneered with his Rust Never Sleeps album. (Dig a little deeper and you'll find his Time Fades Away album-beautiful stuff in that same aesthetic.) I like the look and feel of an older building, be it apartment, farmhouse, even suburban dream home. That way it feels more like my childhood home does. (Which is older than even my parents are, I believe.) I honestly have more appreciation for older things in some fields. They feel tried and true; especially when the rest of society is there to validate me. But that's rare.

Why I feel so ready to reject glamor at the first approach is beyond me; maybe sitting in the sun in the living room as a kid did warp part of my brain. But one of the effects of this rejection is that while other people look at wear patterns and see something that needs replaced, I can see beauty, usefulness, worthiness. Maybe if Thomas the Tank Engine had had some rust on his boiler, I'd still be watching the show, and still willing to declare him a really useful engine. But not just because it means he's old; rather because it means he's worked for the title, and he's done the job he was intended to fill. Things in perfect condition bring to mind museum pieces all too often; while things outdated and beat to hell are innately more satisfying because they stood up to the beating and lived to tell the tale to the next generation.

In short, I'm a dork who likes old crap because it makes me feel better about being young. I guess.

Or maybe it means I'd like to have earned my stripes and have the scars to show for it before people go around telling other people how great I am.

I just realized this got WAAAY off track. I can't even remember my original point. Maybe there was none.

Huh. Freaky.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Rode The Highball, I Fired The Daylight

I've done it again. I've gone and created something. Not to mention added another to my very long list of hobbies.

I've created this Lego steam locomotive. It's not a very big engine, but it's really nice. It's actually a Lego design with Americanized details. I really like it. It's motorized, and runs well, if a bit noisily. I'm currently trying to get ahold of an engineer minifigure to place in the cab.

I'm a bit more proud of another design, however. This tank car was conceived not long after the locomotive was, and the design is wholly mine. I was attempting to create a tank car small enough to work with my Lego train set from 1993 (#4563). Great little set.

Check out the page created for my engine on the MOCPages: American Steam Locomotive

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Based On A Novel By A Man Named Lear

Recently I've been considering changing from a Supply Chain & Information Systems major to English. Now before all of you ask why I want to do a silly and wholly unprofitable thing like that, I'll tell you. You may not understand, but I'll tell you.

Sometime last year, I tried to start this blog. I had come out of my Spring '06 semester with an excellent creative writing class with Dr. Judy Lindberg, an excellent English professor who I also had for a business writing class-in the same semester. I don't really remember much from the business writing class, but those I retain from English 050 shine like a new brass bell on a filthy old locomotive.

I'm not totally sure about the rest of the class, but I had liked to write before and Judy got me excited about it. We started out writing poetry, of all things-and I loved it. (to read some of my weird and woolly poems, go here) Probably my favorite exercise was the short story we were assigned-I wrote it about two kids from America moving to Japan to start a band, and their problems in doing so. It turned out very nice.

For a long time before, I was also writing a piece of fanfiction for one of my favorite classic anime
series, Robotech. It was a beloved pet project and though I worked on it quite a bit, the only thing I completed was one chapter in the middle. That's no place to start a story, is it? A classic exception, of course is Tolkien and The Hobbit-but Tolkien already had the foundation stories and legends (which would later become The Silmarillion) written and largely completed by the time The Hobbit was published. Thus, it's not an apt comparison.

I had also begun to write a fantasy story entitled The Legend of Shayla, based on an idea I had come up with when trying my hand at an epic poem in the vein of Barbarossa in Italy; which, oddly enough, I read long before college. I think I read it because of Microsoft's Age Of Empires II strategy game, where one of the campaigns involved Barbarossa. It never really progressed beyond the initial chapter of the poem, but much more recently bits and pieces have come together; I even drew a map of the world in which the story occurs.

All this is good and fine, right? Well, not entirely. Those of you trying to run Microsoft Train Simulator on a laptop should probably not do so, at least in my experience. My computer crashed because of it. I lost everything I had saved-which, in addition to the aforementioned writing, included a lot of music, railroad photos, and all of my work I had saved from my classes. I had kept number of things for reference; like homework and papers. Bad. Very bad. Very bad indeed.

For some of these things, I had hard copies; I had printed out my Robotech fanfic, but the copy I have now was out of date at the time of the crash. The Legend of Shayla survived. My poetry survived because I had put it on the internet as we went through Eng 050. A paper on the history of the small arms used by the US Army during WWII perished in flames (although a copy may still exist in one of my portfolios from my senior year of high school) and I lost my wired copy of the story I wrote based on Rush's song Red Barchetta (print copies and internet publishing have saved that one) as well. Unfortunately, much of the Robotech fanfic's progress over that summer and two pages of my creative writing short story are gone forever. I was not able to recover the data due to a lack of funds (which I probably ate).

It also didn't help at all that this crash occurred just before I was to move into my first apartment in State College; I had to recover from that setback, as well as adjust to living on my own AND with strangers as roommates all around the same time. The former was fun; the latter was a bitch or two. Since then, my written output has slowed, and declined in quality as well, I am afraid. Originally, I set up this blog to counter that. But as it turns out, I'm just using it to recover. Again.

Which brings me to my point: I should have been an English major. I've screwed up this whole semester, including one class which was mostly writing assignments. It seemed pointless to write a page-long essay on a topic that could be condensed into a simple answer to a simple question. It didn't help that my professor for said class was a boring old fogey who worked for Duquesne Light for thirty years. No motivation whatsoever. It's like watching anything on MTV that isn't a music video: you just don't give a rat's ass.

I've lost interest in my major; I'm afraid of being cooped up in an office for thirty years and becoming all of my awful professors; and I have the drive and passion and all that other stuff needed for an English major, but it's buried beneath a thick layer of self-doubt, laziness, escapism and highly radioactive ash. No, really, it's there and I've seen it; it's just a matter of bringing in an emotional excavation crew and digging it out.

But I can't do what I love, apparently; my mother, especially keeps telling me to stick with SC&IS. "You'll make more money," she says. "So?" I say. "What the hell does it matter if I'm not happy?" "You could get stuck in an office, but you might not," she says. "I could get not stuck in an office, but I might," I say. "They're the same thing, and I don't like it/them." "You might not end up with a job in your field, like your dad," she says. (Incidentally, my dad has his degree from Penn State in geophysics, but he currently works with a database management system because the DBMS uses the same software he used in South America exploring for oil) "Okay, then I'll just go to work for a railroad as train crew, like I was gonna do from when I was little until we met that engineer from Conrail and I ended up talked out of it," I say. "But that's a hard job," she says. "So? Have I tried it? Have you tried it? I LIKE trains, remember? Maybe it's worth it."

And maybe it's not. Now I guess I'll never get to know whether either one-English or train crew-would have worked out.