PandaZen

Of things unspoken, catchup in the land of those not in the know.

This is my first public post in a long, long while. I do not approach it with trepidation, but with a calmness that soothes the soul and guides the fingers to strike the keys with graceful precision and confidence. I'm not suffering from my usual writer's block when it comes to this or any other journal; perhaps the amount of writing I've been doing over the past year has something to do with that.

I was very excited to get a freelancing job with White Wolf, Inc. working on their Exalted line. I had the pleasure of writing 25,000 words in 15 days in December of last year for a product that will hit stores in December of this year. I'm very excited about seeing my name in print as a published author. It was a real pleasure to see my name in playtester credits earlier this year. The only downside to having worked on this product is that I developed a taste for doing so that has been as-of-yet unfulfilled since. Well, I shouldn't quite say that. I'm currently in the process of editing a movie script for an upcoming movie that won't see movie theater screens for another three years at least. It was a quick-edit job that fell in my lap earlier this week and for the amount of time that I'll have spent on it, it will be quite lucrative.

Of course, I'm doing all of this on top of my day-job, but I've been off from that since Tuesday afternoon, so it's not a concern. The job doesn't offer me the kind of satisfaction that it once did, but perhaps that's due to the fact that I'm teaching very small classes in an alternative school. The accomplishments that I achieve with the students that I do have are still very rewarding, but it does seem rather hollow in comparison to what I've become accustomed to over the past decade of teaching. We also have a separate set of challenges that traditional (read: normal public) schools do not have, but we also have some perks that they don't, so it all balances out.

I've taken on a number of additional volunteer activities that keep me very busy, but not too busy for my girlfriend of almost a year now. Those activities are not limited to administrative duties on three websites, two of which are associated with White Wolf, Inc. and the other is associated with Blind Ferret Entertainment. I'm also still very active in my community chorus as their assistant director, and Rachel (my wonderful girlfriend, for those who have not been introduced) is also a member of that chorus, so it's an activity that we're able to share. We've got a concert coming up next month; we'll be performing Amahl and the Night Visitors, among other things at a local community college. Then, later in the season, we'll be performing music from the movies for our spring concert. It will be music that comes mostly from the earlier era of the silver screen, but if you're able to attend, don't let that deter you. We've got some pretty fantastic numbers up and coming.

Rachel (the aforementioned "other half") is a native Californian who came out here in February and we've been getting along (mostly) well. We've had our disagreements, arguments and fights, but I think that the fact that we've been able to resolve them has been a testament to the strength of a positive and healthy relationship. Don't let my opening statements fool you, though, as we've had a great nine months together and we're continuing to look toward a future together. My family loves her, and my friends really like her as well. It seems that my poor choices of the past (those that I ended up dating, and those that I did not)have been worth enduring to get me to this point and they certainly provide an unique perspective on just how good I've got things, even if they may not be what most would consider "perfect". Let the naysayers say "Nay!" They shall do so anyway. Not that I know of any...

Thanksgiving week has been a very good time with family. My mother, her fianceé and my younger brother came out for the week and just left yesterday. I was slightly annoyed that they helped to clean things around the house; it was my goal to give them a real vacation and they wouldn't have to lift a finger, but that's okay. I have to let people do things for me, too, and I'm okay with that. My mother went out to do research on genealogy in Annapolis—we have relatives that emigrated to the United States through Baltimore and the records are now kept in Annapolis. I was not able to go along, as I had work, but my family had a good day out with Rachel. We did go out to see one of the local historical sites; the home of Thomas Stone, who was active in local politics and was one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland. We were going to go to the Smithsonian, but due to the rain that we had all week, no one really wanted to go out walking around at the National Mall.

Thanksgiving dinner was my wish for a non-traditional presentation of traditional holiday dishes realized. We had a porcini mushroom turkey with herb-butter and mushroom gravy, a pineapple rice stuffing (Rachel made that, actually), marscarpone and porcini mushroom potatoes au gratin, creamed sweet potatoes (probably the most traditional thing I made), roasted vegetables and potato skins, an orange-cranberry sauce (Again, Rachel made that) and a pumpkin custard pie (another Rachel creation). Everyone was full and satisfied. I managed to burn my thumb taking the turkey out of the oven, but it's a superficial burn and is healing quite nicely.

I should get back to my work on the movie script. I have until Monday, but I think I can get it finished this afternoon and sent back to my employer for a round of revision if necessary. Then I'll have the rest of the weekend to enjoy with Rachel and make up fro some much-needed us time after a week of guests.

Ja ne!
[Hellboy 2] Nuada

Cuddly Panda-Bear Zen™, 2009 Edition.

A green pine is in the east garden,
But the many grasses obscure it.
A frost wipes out all the other species,
And then I see its magnificent tall branches.
In a forest people do not notice it, but
Standing alone, it is a miracle.
I hang a jug of wine on a cold branch;
Then stand back, and look again and again.
My life spins with dreams and illusions.
Why then be fastened to the world?

- T’ao Ch’ien
Sometimes our world is so small that we can't see the bigger things around us. In western culture, the saying goes, "You can't see the forest for the trees." Despite having this vast tool called the internet, we live in very small worlds. Sometimes we come out of our shells and realize that there's this entire world out there. I try to keep up with world events, and not just those that happen in the Middle East. Believe it or not, I pay more attention to what's going on in the U.K. than I do what's going on in the Gaza strip. But, what about the worlds we live in? Are we really in tune with what's going on with the people around us? Our friends? Our families? Are we really aware of what's going on with our own lives? There are so many things that obscure our awareness of even our own lives–work stress, relationship stress, television, the internet, video games, sports...  We don't pay all that much attention to ourselves and our inherent worth or goals.  We don't take the time to address our emotional states.

Sometimes something comes along that changes all of that.  All these external things fall by the wayside and the "big picture" becomes clear.  Usually these events are either catastrophic or so intense that we cannot help but ignore them.  They can consume our entire world and we may not be able to see anything but that one singular event.  It's huge, so much bigger than our own world.  It might be finding that special person–or losing them.  Whatever it may be, it may consume your entire world and you may be swimming in your own dreams or illusions.  I know that sometimes I get stuck there, but I always manage to find my way back to reality.  I'm a very grounded kind of person, but not everyone is like that.  Some people just have their heads in the clouds, which is fine for a while, so long as they don't either do something that harms themselves or let themselves be taken advantage of.

So what do we do?  What can we do but live in the moment, mindful of the future and yet with an eye to the past.  Keep your mind on what it is that you're doing and where it is that you're going.  Know where your life is going and where you want it to go.

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[Dr. Horrible] Crazy Random Happenstance

Writing is for monkeys. Oook-oook!

This is going to be a [very] short update.  For those of you who do not already know, I was contacted two Mondays ago and offered a freelance job as a writer for White Wolf Publishing's Exalted line.  Due to NDA's, I cannot give details on exactly what I'm working on, but suffice it to say that I'm going to be a published writer with my name in the credits of at least two Exalted products coming out in 2009.  I am very excited about this opportunity and can't wait to share the work of my brain with people all around the world.  I am close to completion of my word-count and those I'm working with are quite pleased with my contribution.  That is all for now.
[Hellboy 2] Nuada

In the spirit of this moment.

I am going to reserve my optimism for the moment and just say a few words that I've said to others, but haven't managed to communicate with most of the people I know.  With regard to yesterday's decision for the next phase of this country's leadership; if you feel that the wrong choice was made, I encourage you to put a hold on your judgment for the next four years.  At the end of that time, please feel free to vote your conscience as so many have done in the 2008 election season.  That having been said, I am relieved and heartened at the turnout in this year's election process.  There has been so much apathy toward our own leadership in past years that it's no wonder our government was asleep at the wheel when it came to this country's financial stability.  Our leadership has been so timid that we've convinced ourselves that there are villains everywhere that we must do everything we possibly can to defeat, including destroying ourselves and our own people to do so.  We must make every sacrifice (with the added "without regard for what that may do to our own people" politely left unspoken).  I think that our leaders need to remember that they are only where they are because of the common person who allows them to be there.  If they get the message that people need things to get better and are no longer willing to live with limping along, then the American People will have truly been heard.  It can no longer be "business" or "politics as usual".  None of us can afford to quietly stagnate.

That's what I felt like I had to convey, so I'll step off the soapbox now.  I bid you all peace and patience.

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[Hellboy 2] Nuada

Zen and the art of cookies. I'll let you figure out how it fits.

At Waterfall Temple

These peaks gather like snowy swords,
the waterfall a curtain of ice on the cliff.
Gibbons in the tree tops toy with clouds.
among blood-red azaleas.
The cuckoo sings till it bleeds;
from deep in caves, wind gods scream.
Compared to the hearts of people,
these mountain wilds are tame.

- Chang K’o chiu (1265-1345)

Vivid imagery.  Do we think in such terms, such patterns?  Do our brains process the world around us in details of color and texture in a conscious sense?  When we think of favorites, we do, but what about all the other times in our lives?  Why would that be important, anyway?  What would be so important about experiencing all the colors, flavors, textures and sensations that life has to offer?

Now how does that all compare to your own life?
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Permanent

Cleaning house?

I have gone through my phone's list of numbers and deleted all the numbers that are no longer valid, or I don't call, or they haven't called me in at least a year.  If I deleted someone's number by mistake, I apologize, but next time you call me, I'll have it.  If you are concerned that I may have deleted your phone number, but would still like to keep in touch with me, please either call or text my phone, or leave me your phone number here.  All comments will be screened.

For those of you whose phone numbers I never had, but you'd appreciate a call now and again from me anyway, feel free to put up your numbers here, too.  Again, all comments will be screened.
[Doctor Who] 10 - Smith & Jones

Again with the Zen

The mountain air sparkles as the sun sets,
Birds in flocks return together.
In these things there is a fundamental truth,
But when I start to explain it, I lose the words.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)
It's strange that this is the zen for this entry, because if I try to explain it, I'll lose the words as well.  Did you ever have that feeling?  When there's something you just want to get out, but you don't have the words?  I get that every now and again.  I'm good with words.  I'm good at explaining what's going on in my head.  Not everyone else is all that good at understanding what it is that I say.  I have a tendency to be very literal and try to over-explain things just to be clear, and as with anything, people look for what it is that you're not saying.  Except...  I said what I wanted to say.  So there's the miscommunication that occurs when people try to read things into what you're trying to express that you're not actually saying.

But that's all beside the point.  Sometimes you don't need words to express a moment.  I have a habit of doing physical things to express my thoughts.  I clean things when I'm upset - my father pointed that out to me years ago and it's been a very true observation my entire life.  When I want to express affection, I squeeze things twice in rapid succession; I've done that with all of my girlfriends and they ask me why.  It's just something I do.  Squeeze their hand twice, it's as simple as that.  My gestures and facial expressions carry a thousand words for those who look and listen.

That's also beside the point.  Sometimes you just need to experience things for yourself.  In that experience, you will find wisdom and enlightenment.
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[Boston Legal] Let's just think about th

Say what?!?

So, I'm updating my Amazon.com wishlist tonight on a whim; removing things I bought for myself and adding new things.  I don't think anyone's ever bought me anything off my wishlist on there before.  But, I'm adding new things to the wishlist and I come across something that disturbs me...



Here's a better picture; a screenshot from Amazon.com's website (there's a link to this below).



The artwork looks strangely familiar to me...  Something like Looking for Group...



or...




There's no mention of Lar DeSouza working on the artwork for this book on Amazon.com, and they've got a fair bit of material from inside the book on Amazon (check it out) including the inside of the cover, the back cover, index and table of contents.  No mention of these characters that look exactly like Lar's artwork.  So, I messaged Lar and Sohmer on their forum and asked if they knew about it, since it's distributed both in the United States and Canada.  I probably should have bought Lar and Sohmer a copy and sent it to them, but that would probably be a very bad way to inform them of this if their work (mainly Lar's artwork) was stolen.

So that first picture has characters that look strangely like Richard and Krunch from the webcomic, who also could be generic looking characters from World of Warcraft if you designed your characters on the game to look like them.  Benny and Pella (or in this case, Pella's twin brother) have no analogies in WoW so far as I know, especially Benny.

If Lar and Sohmer knew nothing of this book being printed and sold with their work on the front cover, I can imagine them to be way more pissed than I am right now.

Update: This is legitimate.  Lar drew the picture for their book.  Everything is good.

[Eddie Izzard] Arranging Matches

A Return to Zen: Post Hiatus Authorship

The wind is still, but blossoms fall,
Birds sing in the quiet of the mountain.
This is Kannon’s wondrous wisdom:
Ah!

- Ryokan (1758-1831)


Things happen. No matter what, things happen. We miss most of what's going on around us because these days we live in such a vacuum despite having the best communication network in history. We can reach each other at virtually any time should we choose to do so. We have cell phones, text messaging, the internet, UPS... Despite this extensive communications network, there are things that are going on all around us that we either don't know about, or we just don't notice. We're disconnected from each other, despite this glorious communications network. We're disconnected via the internet, the phone, the text messaging. We don't even know what's going on a thousand miles away, let alone what's going on in the next town, or our own towns.  We don't know what's going on with our friends or our families.  Not the whole story.  People hide behind each other, or the façade they put up in front of themselves to hide from the rest of the world.  There is so much mistrust and fear of everyone and who we really are.  I've seen it up close and personal.  I've seen what lies on the other side of the mask, and I'm not just talking about what's behind the mask.  I've seen what's on the underside of the mask; what it's made of.  I've seen the ugliness of the people behind their masks and the ugliness of the mask itself.  Sometimes, I'm not sure which is worse.

But this is all symptomatic of the distance between people.  We don't trust each other because we can't see what's going on.  All too often, we don't see each other because we're not looking.  That's the problem a former friend and I both had when we looked at each other.  We weren't really seeing who the other person was.  We all do this, no matter how hard we try not to.  We do it to someone we think we know because we didn't take the time to properly listen to and understand them.  We saw what we wanted to see when we thought we were seeing behind the masks we all wear.  So what's the solution?

You've got to learn to pay attention.  You've got to think about the things that you see, that you hear, that you feel.  Trust your intuition, but don't let other things cloud your judgment; when you listen to that intuition.  Take note of the things that you see and hear.  Write them down in a little pocket notebook if you have to.  Be aware of your surroundings and of what and who people are, despite what they may claim to be or to not be.  Understand why things are, or at least try to.  If you can't, then just accept them and move on.  "The wind is still, but blossoms fall."  We all know why they fall, and it's not because the wind is still or it's blowing.  We see the blossoms falling, but do we even stop to think about the wind?  Do we listen to the birds singing when we gaze up at the majesty of the mountain?  We distract ourselves with our focused observations.  We focused in on technology over humanity.  If you can't see how that's a problem, pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news broadcast.  You'll see myriad ways in which we've done ourselves harm simply because we focused on one thing over another.  So many misunderstandings and so few attempts to correct for those misunderstandings and mistakes in judgment.

But, this passage may not speak to you that way.  Just because I've given you one interpretation that has personal significance tonight does not mean that's the main, or even the only, interpretation.  This passage may say something to me tomorrow, or six months from now, or six years from now.  That's the beauty in this poetry.  It still speaks to me after the passage of time and I learn something new from it each time I read it again.  Do you dare to believe what your heart and soul tell you of this?
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