Monthly Archives: May 2009

Let’s talk about chess.

Let’s talk about chess, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things, like pawns en prise, let’s talk about chess… let’s talk about chess!

Salt n’ Pepa, “Let’s talk about Chess”

When I was in high school, I played a lot of chess. A lot. I never got too interested in learning the game all the way through – to me, it wasn’t a problem I had to solve, just a fun thing to do. I liked winning, sure – but I didn’t have to win, so I didn’t study middlegames, tactics, et al.

What I did do, however, was learn a number of openings. I always thought it was interesting to respond to other players’ machinations with moves that were unexpected and unanticipated – surprise, of course, being the most interesting thing that can occur in chess or in any “open” game, in which all the information is available to all the players at all times.

I surprised myself today when I realized that I can still recall the names – as well as the moves and the designed purposes – of a whole host of chess openings that I used to use when I played in high school.

There is, for instance, the classic Philidor Defense, in which the common opening 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 is met not by the standard, reflective 2. … Nc6, but instead by a pawn buttress of 2. … d6. This is far preferable to the poor Damiano Defense of 2. … f6, which exposes the kingside and leaves the king vulnerable to a sacrifice attack. Once the night captures with 3. Nxe5, the response 3. … fxe5 (that threat of capture being the implied defense of said center pawn, after all) is met by 4. Qh5+ and the king, with no guards at the castle gate, must leave the safety of the back line.

While I enjoyed messing around with unusual defenses as black, I also liked using odd opening lines as white. Two of my particular favorites to play were 1. b4 (try to figure out what to make of that!) and the old, long-forgotten King’s Gambit.

The Queen’s Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4) is still standard, but the parallel gambit on the kingside (1. e4 e5 2. f4) is exceptionally rare nowadays. Though it was the most common opening back in the 1800′s, it is now not often seen, and it is certainly not the kind of opening most young players have had the chance to play against.

I won quite a few games with the King’s Gambit opening, if I recall correctly (and I may not – I’m sure most of my losses have been gracefully papered over by the vagaries of my mind, and only the impressive victories remain), and I definitely enjoyed the sharp, aggressive gameplay that it brought to the table. I suggest that any chess playing readers out there give it a shot and see if they like it.

Go ahead. I liken it to taking the Schwinn out of the garage and firing it up for old times’ sake. Except this bicycle, you’ve never learned to ride.

PS: A side note to non-chess playing readers: learn.

Like the song never ended.

I remember us as wildfires.

Summer lights dancing through the trees.

Our parents were dry leaves and cigarettes.

Our children were ash and smoke, the kind that won’t leave your clothes for days.

The radio played cheap beer by the case while we sipped old punk songs and plucked the notes to “El Scorcho” on our gin buckets.

Our music singed the corners of our coat pockets while we smoldered dead branches like souvenirs of last year.

We scribbled notes to the future on each other’s tongues and taped forties to our hands like boxing gloves for our souls.

We were tired as hell but we danced all night anyway.

Just because.

We flicked and floated as cinders on the breeze and our glass bottle hearts broke shiny like they never glittered to begin with.

Our taste buds learned the difference between cute girl and light beer but didn’t care for one more than the other.

If both could be had, then all the better.

Our truth poured out as poorly mixed drinks and we flowed from cup to cup with ease.

We woke with good ideas turned ugly mistakes turned righteous crusades.

Our darkness was outside.

We felt warm beneath it like blankets wrapped with care.

Tucked and neat.

We glowed on the inside.

Our whiskey-warmed heartbeats found the drum track and thumped in unison.

The bass line pumped infatuation through our capillaries and with small cuts we bled romance as blood brothers.

The fire popped champagne and crackled sing-song.

Embers were snowflakes on our tongues, lightning bugs in a jar.

We decided that’s all we were.

Just lightning bugs in jar.

Dancing in the moonlight.

Singing out a song.

Still, our fire smiled wide like we never broke to begin with.

Like it didn’t even matter.

Like the song never ended.

For Love…

The beauty of being a college student is that the real world still seems to be quite far away. When the work seems to be overwhelming, I can pretend that I am seven; I want to be a baseball player or a rock star. I rarely have to look inward and question what’s really there. Yesterday, I listened to Anne St. Martin speak. She works for Human Services Incorporated in Oakdale, Minnesota. HSI is an interesting program because a therapist and a co-therapist go into the homes of the families to work with the people in their environment. Anne was one of these therapists for over 25 years. Interacting with families. Learning from each familial system, she exhibits the tired symptoms that I would expect from a life spent listening to pain and hatred that can only erupt in the home setting.

She sighed, with all earnestness, the known adage, “We always hurt the ones that we love”. And she knew. As Anne drew family trees on the board and told us the stories that underscored the simple circles and squares, the pain of her profession became clear. Her slightly sunken eyes still revealed the optimism needed to engross oneself in the toils of a tiresome labor, but she carried herself in a heavy manner. Each family weighing her down. Without saying it to us, it was clear that every family she worked with placed their world on her shoulders and she carried it until the family was ready to take it back. Not every family took their mountains back. So Anne was left carrying the rocks, the water, the power of each families interactions; she had no way of passing them on or setting them down. And it hurt her.

Painfully, Anne was drawn to borderline personality disorders. People under 18 cannot be diagnosed with personality disorders, so youth are said to have borderline traits. This includes all-or-nothing thinking, uncontrollable anger, suicide thinking, and self mutilation among others. People experiencing these disorders experience strong mood swings. She told us of situations where people expressed their love for her for 4 months of therapy and then, with no distinct reason for change, hated and resented her. She was fired. Families tried other methods. She had to turn her back on, was asked to leave, situations where Anne could have improved the situation. And it hurt her.

Situations varied and some people truly stick out to her. Her eyes lit up a bit as she talked about one young boy, a five-year-old. He was experiencing borderline traits even in his youth and would become incredibly enraged. This would manifest in tantrums and aggression. Apart from this, he was a good child who could articulate it. He was not happy with who he was and asked for new doctors because there was an
“anger monster” in him and he wanted it to be gone. Despite her best efforts, Anne was not having success with the child. He was not improving. And it hurt her.

Anne revealed amazing strength and desire to be where she was. She expressed her unsure future, as the economy problems lead to less money being available for private non-profits such as HSI. Perhaps her job would not exist next year. These thoughts were just another weight for her to put on her back. She took it in stride and continued helping the people who needed her. She said that the interesting part of family therapy is that in a successful instance, the family will feel like they improved their situation themselves, by working together and overcoming their problems. In an unsuccessful instance, the family has a scapegoat — the therapists. It was a thankless job in many ways. She didn’t get cookies at the holidays like clinical therapists, the private-practice types. Anne took away stories and weight. And that was ok with her.

Baby Planes

A single-seated aircraft crib
Single-engine coverall
Single ladder to the bridge
Footprints up against the wall
Safety pins and scribbled notes
German hands and ocean views
Touching down across the moat
Everything in the news
No more dancing, no parades
No more runways lit ahead
No more shining accolades
Two months wrecked, the pilot dead
Baby planes take off, descend
Not so lucky in the end

Reunion Tour (1.3)

Granted, the money was technically ours, but Fernando never struck me as one with much regard for personal belongings.

After the show, Stuart went into the office to settle up like normal, while the rest of us were just anxious to get on the road. When he finally came out of the office, nearly half an hour later, he seemed a little shaken up. I didn’t really think anything of it — as far as I was concerned, the gear was in the ambulance already, and I was pretty drunk, so it was time to go. Also, I didn’t want to catch any more fucked up diseases. That place was grimy.

Naturally, Dylan assumed that there was something shady going on, and he yanked the cash out of Stuart’s little hands and counted it for himself. For once, his hot head paid off — we were $500 short of our contract. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m pretty sure that money was the only reason Dylan even agreed to this reunion in the first place, so you can see why he’d be pissed.

Of course, I remember back when $500 was a pipe dream. When we first started out, we’d play anywhere for anything. Or nothing, even. But not anymore. See, we were doing pretty well for ourselves, before we broke up. We weren’t rich, but we were making enough to tour full-time and not have to work in between. Which was good enough for me, because I hate fucking jobs.

By the time the rest of us caught up with him, Dylan was already in the office screaming at Fernando and shoving things off his desk. Surprisingly, this didn’t seem to bother him. He insisted that he kept a cut of merch sales, and that was that. Stuart kept apologizing desperately, saying it was all a joke, or a misunderstanding, but I don’t think Fernando really cared. At some point, possibly between Dylan yelling, “Fat fucking mongrel!” and him getting punched in the face by one of those rent-a-thug Hell’s Angel wannabes who worked there, Gabriel gave me a nudge and nodded my attention towards the wall behind the desk.

The safe was open.

He and Alex looked at each other, then they both looked at me, and tried to do that whole conversation thing with just their eyes, but I wasn’t listening because I don’t understand eye-talk language very well. It really weirds me out.

Then all of the sudden, Gabriel dove behind the desk and grabbed a wad of twenties from the safe. Fernando turned around just in time to see him get up off the ground and bolt for the door. He yelled at the bouncer to follow, but all this did was distract him enough for Dylan to give him a leg in the crotch and split. I was pretty overwhelmed by everything at this point, but I did get the whole ‘run like hell’ vibe from everyone else, so I did. Run like hell, I mean.

(to be continued…)

Things to do in Tokyo.

Yeah, I lived in Tokyo for half a year. Are you going? I’m not, but I wish I were. If you are going some time soon, here are a few things you should definitely do.

1) Go to Yoyogi park, on the west side of Tokyo. Yoyogi sits on the west side of the Yamanote-sen (the loop train line; it’s orange-colored on all system maps), in between Shinjuku and Shibuya – which are themselves the two other coolest going-out districts in all of Tokyo.

When in Yoyogi, check out the park itself, and the Harajuku bridge where all the random folks do cosplay (dressing up like real life anime characters) – it’s a trip. Then head east for a second and check out Takeshita Dori, the street of a million crazy couture clothing stores. Nuts.

Photos.

2) Rock Shibuya, particularly the Hachiko intersection and surrounds. Shibuya boasts the world’s busiest intersection (which allows for eight-way people crossings all at once), and the Hachiko dog statue is the on place in all of Tokyo where you can actually plan to meet someone and find them. ‘Nuff said.
Hachiko.

3) Shinjuku – if you go to the old prostitutes’ disctrict (old like, where the prostitutes used to hang out in the 1800′s) you can party ’til the break of dawn. You can also go to a 24-hour public bath on the 30th floor of a crazy hotel building and look down on the WHOLE city at 3 AM or whatever from the top of a super-hot jacuzzi pool, all for a couple of bucks. Unreal.
(No photo… sorry.)

4) Eat sushi until your face explodes.
Otsukare-sama deshita!

I = jealous. Have fun.

Six Degrees

one

My eyes traced the lines of her hip bones down like an arrowhead flashing neon to a detour on the highway. She said something about oversized sunglasses but I was distracted by the way her sweatpants hugged the inside of her thighs. I found myself nodding in agreement while noticing the disparity between the accepted norms for male and female traveling clothes. I wondered nearly aloud if she was purposefully displaying her pale freckled midriff for me, conventional wisdom said no, but I like to keep an open mind, at least when it comes to buxom redheads and Amtrak trains.

two

Her hips leaned into me like saplings in a hurricane. She was everything I loved about college in a coctail dress and when we kissed in the back hallway for the first time we agreed that it shouldn’t count since we had already made plans for our first date and the kiss needed to come at the end of the night, but like metal and magnets the attraction was strong and we couldn’t help but do it again.

three

I told her, I don’t love you and it has nothing to do with your virginity. Sometimes people just fit differently. Sometimes they don’t fit together. She’s a thousand piece jigsaw map of innocence, and lately I’ve been stealing puzzle pieces and hiding them under my pillow, wishing she would come to retrieve them. I like the way she looks better when we’re apart, but I smelled her on my sheets this morning and I found myself knocking at her door again.

four

I was an isthmus when she crossed me, connecting two continents through arctic waters, and while time, like tectonics moves slowly, it moves none the less. And now we find ourselves separated by our own continent, yet connected by the earth beneath us. Still plates move in many directions and great shifts have been recorded. Just look at the Himalayas, India was once an island until it crashed into Asia propper like waves on California beaches and now snow capped peaks remind me of Massachusetts winters. If canals can be built then straits can be bridged, and if Dubai taught us anything it’ s that God no longer has the monopoly on creating land. So piece by piece I’m building a way home.

five

We collapse into each other like mirrored bridges, rusted and broken from decades of lonely rain storms. She buckles like steel, soft as goose-down. My knees tremble like a fawn taking first steps. She breathes shallow like puddles, I stare deep like oceans. We connect like power lines, strung transcontinental.

six

Her french toast had too much powdered sugar on it. That’s all I can remember about the meal. I might have had the eggs. The bacon was good, I think. I finally said, “I love you”. She didn’t.

The higher…

I would most likely describe myself as an atheist. My religious views are, to be frank, non-existent. Typically, calling myself an agnostic would seem to be the most accurate, but I have been quite persuaded by Richard Dawkins that a true coming-out of sorts is better than merely sitting on the fringe with my tail between my legs. We can see here that Dawkins truly examines ways to encourage people to come out about their atheism (see the 20th minute). His claims, as well as his connection to Darwin, regarding beliefs in atheism and the intelligencia may only be part of why my claim is not apparent. I do think quite highly of myself and this claim can only bolster that self-image.

Ignoring my beliefs that it seems highly implausible to me that any form of higher being created the world and all of its inhabitants, organized religion is not necessarily flawed as a social mechanism. Nor, for that matter, should it be discounted as a method of encouraging mental health. That is not to say that religion cannot be, also, detrimental to an individual’s well-being; a powerful belief in an all-powerful god does seem to reveal a disposition of an external locus of control which is associated with problems and disorders. However, confessions and ritualistic prayer can both be related to psychological tactics which encourage positive mental health.

Confession seems to be very similar to many forms of talk therapy where the client is encouraged to discuss what is bothering them. The constitutions of sins are typically things that would weigh on the conscious of a person, but a confession allows for those feelings to be expressed, rather than internalized. It is client-centered therapy (as developed by Carl Rogers) in a basic sense. This could realistically be seen as the first therapy and a healthy way for people to express themselves and reveal their inner workings in a safe, protected environment. This also includes the necessary and sufficient characteristics for a positive therapeutic alliance as described by Rogers which include congruence, unconditional postive regard, and empathy. These aspects of therapy are provided by the god during the presentation as confessors are insured that they are still loved and respected in the eyes of these higher beings. These confessions are, thus, a comfortable environment that facilitate the expression of underlying personal beliefs as well as actions.

Ritualistic prayer also offers a therapeutic technique. These schedules and necessities that must be kept allow for people to maintain somewhat of a purpose; people do not simply exist during the day with no tasks required of them. In studies conducted in nursing homes, patients who were given a higher level of control over their environment, including their possible behaviors, were found to be happier- and to live longer.

In current society, is it necessary to confess or pray in a ritualistic manner? Probably not. There are other ways of reaping the benefits without an organized religion. However, for human development, they do appear to have been helpful.

Cinco de Drinko

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear Karl Marx, Nellie Bly, Tammy Wynnette, Michael Palin, Chanel No. 5, John Rhys-Davies, Yossi Benayoun, the Battle of the Wilderness, Craig David, Adele, Brooke Hogan, Carnegie Hall, West Germany, the 27th Amendment, Kurt Loder, Harold Miner, railways in continental Europe, and the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla by the Mexican army under Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín which most Americans mistakenly label as Mexico’s Independence Day which is actually September 16th according to Wikipediaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Happy Birthday to you!*

—————

*Oh, and Chris Brown? I don’t care if it’s your birthday, too. Fuck off.

Reunion Tour (1.2)

The police found the ambulance in a warehouse parking lot somewhere in The Bronx. Cate Denton, the officer in charge of the investigation, invited Stuart and I along in her cruiser, which was nice, because otherwise we were kind of stranded at the truck stop, and I’m pretty sure that the bearded woman who ran the joint had a sentient mole on her neck that was watching Stuart like a hungry vulture. Believe it or not, they were about the same size. He and the growth, I mean.

I breathed out a swear as we pulled into the parking lot of One Eyed Jack’s. I think it was “shit.” We had just played there last night, but it never occurred to me until we arrived that this was exactly where they’d be.

But Denton ripped the cigarette out from between her lips and glared at my reflection through her rearview mirror. I’m pretty sure the little plastic Jesus hanging down from it was looking at me, too. “Watch your mouth, kid,” she said, with gravel in her throat. She took another drag from the cigarette and exhaled, but nothing came out of her mouth. Up until that point, I hadn’t even realized she was smoking; there was no smoke in the car, and that awful smell like Dylan wasn’t clinging to the seats. I thought that maybe the Hanging Jesus doubled as an air freshener, but when she went to slip the cigarette back into its pack, I noticed it was never even lit in the first place.

Stuart and I exchanged a knowing look when we realized she was smoking a stage cigarette. I have no idea what kind of knowledge the look was actually intended to convey, other than the acknowledgement that this was pretty fucking weird.

See, we played our very first show as a band at One-Eyed Jack’s. Years ago, back before we were Daedalus. I think we were still The Slaughterhouse Five at that point, which didn’t really make sense, considering there were only four of us. But Gabriel likes books a lot.

Liked. He liked books a lot.

Anyway, the place was bought and turned into a strip club, and eventually came into the possession of a rotund Portugese bastard named Fernando, who at some point decided to turn it back into a nightclub. I think this happened about three days ago, since the stage walls were still lined with mirrors and there was a cute little grotto in the back complete with running water; not the ideal setting for a rock show, but it works. I did feel a little self-conscious knowing that the crowd could see my sweaty back reflected behind the drum kit.

Still, it was a pretty good set. Solid crowd, good energy. A homecoming, of sorts, as we neared the end of the tour. Hell, I almost forgot about the $500 that we stole from Fernando until I saw Dylan getting beat to shit by one of his biker-trash bouncers.

(to be continued…)