Yesterday, I had a bit of a scare with an avocado. I don't know how I could be such a moron, but I somehow managed to chop up some avocado skin into my salad. I noticed the tough texture right away as I was eating, and thought I had spit it all out, but about fifteen minutes later I started to feel my palms, the soles of my feet, my face, and neck getting really itchy.
I have to assume the reaction was to the avocado peel, since it was the only thing different in my normal salad. The itchy palms/feet thing has happened to me before, and preceded a rash of hives from some allergen I was never able to identify. So feeling the reaction again, I knew to take some Benadryl right away. Thankfully, the medicine did its job, and the itching subsided very quickly, but since it's an antihistamine, I also felt woozy and groggy for the rest of the day. That kind of messed up my writing and editing schedule, but there wasn't much I could do about it. I'd rather be alive and too tired to work properly, then dead from an allergic reaction (yes, I'm probably being dramatic here, but you know what I mean).*
Anyway, since I was too high to function, I decided I may as well relax and do something easy and fun. For whatever reason, I've been feeling very nostalgic for Final Fantasy lately (this post partially got me thinking about it again). It's my all time favorite video game series, so I decided to dig out my old copy of FF7 for the PC and play it again.
There's just something about the world-building in Final Fantasy games that I find so perfect. Whenever I play them, I'm completely transported into the universe. I think it's a combination of the artwork and the music, and the little details that carry over between games, like Chocobos, Moogles, airships, and probably also that special hybrid of science fiction and magic that the series does so well. Final Fantasy is by far my favorite fictional universe.
So yesterday, I decided to install Final Fantasy VII on my computer to get my fix. No joke, I've saved my FFVII PC game since I first bought it in 1998 (1999?). That's almost 20 years I've been carting around these CDs. They've been with me to college, three apartments in graduate school, and two apartments/houses in my post-graduate life. I don't know why I took them everywhere, since I've been pretty much way too busy to play the game since high school, but they gave me this sense of comfort. Like I could disappear back to Midgar, Gold Saucer, or Costa del Sol at any time if I wanted to.
So yesterday was going to be my big return. I sat down to install the game - but it didn't work. It just refused to function on my computer. After a little googling, I learned this was typical. The one thing I hadn't factored was that FFVII wouldn't be compatible on a computer system that was almost 20 years beyond it. I know that seems obvious, but it wasn't until that moment did I really understand that 20 physical years of my life have almost passed since I was just a kid, sitting in my parents basement, playing what would be my favorite game of all time. 20 years! Where did the time go! Turning thirty this year didn't have half the effect on me that failing to install FF7 did. It's like that time passed finally became real.
I remember this moment, back even further to 1995 when the arrival of Windows 95 made virtually all of my young computer knowledge and favorite video games (really old Kings Quest stuff) obsolete. That was a clear dividing line in my life. So it just feels strange that somehow everything changed without me noticing it, and now it's another phase of my childhood that's obsolete, but I can't even define the point when that happened. Or rather, I guess that point is now, when I realized I couldn't disappear back into Final Fantasy as easily as I had wanted. And it's funny, I don't even really want to play the game, I just want to be in it. Does that make sense?
So anyway that's when I knew my childhood was over, when FFVII became just a memory, and not some place I could escape to whenever the real world got to be a drag (that is, until I can hopefully find a software patch or an emulator, or perhaps I'll just download the soundtrack and look at some Final Fantasy concept art - that may work just as well, to be honest).
Ironically, just the other day I also had the epiphany that I finally felt like an adult, the flip-side I guess of knowing my childhood was over. This occurred when I finally admitted to myself that I really do need to blow-dry my hair every time I take a shower.
Jeeze, isn't adulthood boring?
*PSA: You should always, always have some Benadryl in your house, your purse, or your wallet. You never know when you or somebody else might start to have an allergic reaction, or worse, go into full anaphylactic shock. Having a Benadryl on hand could be the difference between life and death. The little pills are small and easy to carry. So yeah, Benadryl, get some. It's the wonder drug.
Yikes. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I'm simultaneously editing two dissertations that are due within a day of one another. One's in MLA, the other's in APA, which makes my brain explode.
It's just hard because I'm still working at my research job as well, so all the editing is taking place in every spare moment I have. If I weren't working a full-time job already, this editing would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to be choosy right now. Working and editing at the same time extends the runway for establishing my business.
Yet, I still feel a little resentful. I want to work on my practice novel; edit that into shape, but I just don't have the time.
Plus, I've been having fun posting some artwork on Society6. I'd really like to scan some more drawings I have laying around. Or, you know, actually draw something new. But if there's no time to work on my practice novel, there's definitely no time for scribbles.
Ok deep breaths. It's one stressful week. It'll pass.
Wish me luck :)
I did a little painting this weekend and I thought it would be fun to show you the process. I used to paint a lot in high school. It was probably my favorite thing to do. Haven't been doing it so much lately, because life, but it's something I'm trying to do more regularly.
First, because I was just playing around, I didn't get hung up on the materials. I only had some watercolor paper lying around, so I used that even though I was painting with acrylics. Side note: When people say they want to get into painting, I don't understand why they start with watercolors. Watercolors are one of the hardest paints to use well. Try acrylics, or hell, even oils can be really effective since you can layer colors much more easily. Also, a little tip, when I paint on paper I like to use cheap painters tape to create a white border. You'll see the effect when I take it off at the end.
I wasn't going for anything realistic here. And I've never had a very good sense of color, so I didn't bother to do any mixing; just used the paint straight out of the tube since what I was really interested in was using blocks of color to emphasize the composition (the balance of the spatial layout). The picture is loosely based on a section of the property we rent. Our landlords have put up a lot of statuary throughout the grounds and along the paths, so that's kind of what I was trying to show here.
It's always hard to know when to stop, so I added the trees very slowly, physically taking a step back to look at the picture overall. When I decided that one more tree would clutter the composition, I took the painters tape off and then I really got a better sense of the final image framed in the non-painted regions of the paper. Not bad for a little study. In retrospect, I might have done the trees in white or grey to lighten up the "tone" of the picture. It looks darker and more foreboding than I'd originally wanted. I'll probably paint this picture a few more times, trying out different colors and techniques, before I settle on the idea, and then I'll give it a go in oil paints on canvas. That's another trick, don't immediately jump into using the most expensive art supplies. If I had had computer paper available, I would have used that to do this quick study.
But the advantage of painting on sturdier stock like watercolor paper is then it's easy to hang on the wall. I used painters tape to stick it, nothing fancy, and super-easy. When it comes to art, I say let your inner five-year-old be your guide.
I put it up in our stairwell since it was looking a little bare there, but it looked off-balance, so I addded another study I had laying around.
I was never that happy with the figures I painted in the red study, but I liked the blocks of red, black and especially the unpainted white of the windows. It's not perfect, but again, it's just a study. It's all an experiment. Ultimately, I decided it wasn't something I wanted to paint again, but regardless, it's color that looks nice on the wall. I'll probably add a third picture, vertically oriented, to nestle above the woods study. Pictures look nice hung in odd numbers. We'll see.
In addition to your reading and writing, do you have another hobby? I really enjoy focusing on each brushstroke. It's one of the few things that makes my mind go quiet.
But a thought occurs to me. Why don't we use studies when we write? It's a common technique in art. You sketch and paint a few practice pictures to test out your idea, the color, the composition. Why don't we write quick novel sketches? Seems like it would save a lot of wasted writing. Too many of my attempts to write a novel a few years ago resulted in pages and pages of writing that I edited and honed, only to find the overall story and structure disappointing and filled with holes. A writing study could have helped me avoid that.
I suppose that's why people outline their stories, but when I say "study," I mean a step beyond an outline. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether a story is working until you're actually writing it. Maybe the closest analogy we have to studies in writing is a "fast draft." That's what I'm doing right now for my work-in-progress and already I have 30,000 words with the end in sight. I've never gotten along so far in a novel before and frankly, I think it's because I've been consciously fast-drafting it. It's my WIP study.
T and I visited some family in DC this past weekend and had the chance to see the new Peacock Room Remix exhibit at the Sackler gallery. If you are anywhere near DC before the end of the year - you should go see it.
For those that aren't familiar, the Peacock Room was originally the dining room of a wealthy British shipowner. It's famous for its Asian and Peacock theme, designed by the artist, James McNeill Whistler. The entire room is now a permanent exhibition at the Freer Gallery, an Asian art museum which is part of the Smithsonian.
One of Whistler's paintings hangs at one end of the Peacock Room, depicting a young European woman in a Japanese kimono. Asian pottery decorates the walls on gilded shelves. There's a fascinating story behind the Peacock Room (which is worth reading), but to summarize very briefly: Whistler and the owner had a fight about the extent of the decor and particularly the cost. The owner refused to pay, but here’s the weird thing, he allowed Whistler to finish the work anyway. Whistler added a few extra touches, including sprays of gold paint to "ruin" the room in an act of artistic vandalism. There's also a mural of two fighting peacocks, one of whom is standing on a pile of coins...
I usually pop into this room whenever I'm at the Freer to enjoy the cloistered ambiance and design.
But my favorite Smithsonian museum is actually the Sackler. The Freer sometimes seems like an exercise in anthropology. The Sackler, while also an Asian art gallery, is where to go when you want to be surprised.
So you can imagine how surprised I was when, like Alice through the looking glass, I walked into this alternate version of the Peacock Room, entitled Filthy Lucre.
The installation is by the artist, Darren Waterston, who paintstakingly recreated a version of the Peacock room, but one that is in total ruins. The familiarity and darkness jolts and disturbs. It's clear a terrible fight has taken place and someone has gone around and smashed everything they see. Red light glows behind the window shutters, suggesting something even more evil that lays beyond. It's a very effective illusion. When you step inside, you are suddenly isolated within someone else's hate filled world.
And when you consider the Peacock Room's story, it makes perfect sense. The original, beautiful room coexists with a backstory of anger, greed, and vandalism. Waterston makes this context real, not so subtly pointing out our tendency to value some very dirty and dark things. Think of the name too, Filthy Lucre, or "dirty money."
If you are in DC, first go to the Freer and see the original Peacock Room . There's not much time to do that because the Freer is closing for renovations (January 2016-Summer 2017). So hurry.
Then, walk through the underground passage that connects the Freer and Sackler (see, it's always been a conversation between these two museums), and find Filthy Lucre. You will be deliciously disoriented. Even if you miss the Peacock Room, Filthy Lucre will continue showing until November 29, 2016. Go see it, trust me.
More pictures here.
Writer, editor, scientist.