Category Archives: Journal

My Phone Has Something to Say #2

My computer died at work today, so I’m browsing WordPress on my phone. I think I’ll hand the keyboard over to the phone AI and see what he has to say today –

I have to say that this is not enough evidence for me to get into that conversation. I just want to make sure that through surgery I can get another car. When I was in school, I had a few transportation plans and my voice was very difficult to deal with.

The best way to get a personally qualified person is to recover your heart from your bedroom. Our anniversary is not a camel. We have to stop worrying about what happens when we grow a new generation of children.

To quote the president, “Damn, this is why I love my popcorn!” He loves you and your attention. Hopefully, we can get a new commercial whaling solution for the head’s on the ground. The only way to get that is to recover from a Statistical failure of all those childhood problems.

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Pizza That Was Meant To Be

I was faced with a dilemma tonight. I went to the Hut for dinner before class. I ordered a pasta and a pizza off their $5 menu, thinking I would get a personal-sized pizza. Instead, I got a medium.

I only ate a few slices, but I felt bad wasting a pizza, so I boxed it up. There was no refrigerator on campus, so I stored my pizza in the outdoor freezer for 3 hours.

After class, I debated taking the pizza home. 3 hours is a long time. Maybe squirrels got into it? I still felt bad throwing it away, so I took it with me. I figured I wouldn’t make such a scene, carrying a pizza box on the #5 bus.

Well, the #5 bus stop was closed, so I caught the train. While on the train platform, a person came up to me and asked for a slice. I said it was frozen, but they were welcome to it. They accepted. It makes me happy to know that there was a purpose to this pizza after all.

It’s also a reminder to never waste. The people who are starving are not always in India or Ethiopia. Sometimes, the person who is starving is in your own town ❤

Issuing A Facebook Press Release

Today, my girlfriend ticked off the world so much that a bunch of my friends texted me about how offensive she was. I’m not going to apologize for her. Instead, I’m issuing a press release, as written below:

– A Statement Regarding [name] Online Activities –

Several of my closest friends have brought to my attention certain offensive (some would call abusive) comments that my girlfriend posted online today. The outcry over her words has been so intense and damaging that I feel the need to issue a statement.

I do not know the nature of the original comments, posts, arguments or actions. The amount of time I have spent online has been limited by the intensity of my work recently, so I missed the posts before they were taken down. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that considerable social damage has occurred today, straining friendships and relationships that I have held for a long time.

Many of you have seen a side to my girlfriend that you did not expect. She is opinionated and can be vulgar, insensitive and graphic. She is, what we used to call back in the ‘90s: a shock-jockey; in modern times: a troll. While I find great delight in what she says, I understand that it is not for everyone. One of her outlets is social media and she has undergone several bans due to her content.

I will not apologize for what she has done. However, this is a reminder to me that the company I keep is a reflection of who I am. Since [name] is my closest company, you may find yourself asking, “Why is [name] with her?” I’ll tell you. I find her to be a raw expression of my id. She is honest, loyal and forthright, without regard for the impact to others. These are qualities that I value in my partner. While I am diplomatic and conciliatory by nature, I need someone who can cut through the crap and speak to what is really happening.

This statement is also a good opportunity to talk about speech. As many of you know, I support an edgy (more right-wing recently) group called “Amaricans Against Amaricans Who Get Offended.” The principal that is practiced there, that I believe in, is that the answer to harmful or offensive speech is not censorship, but more speech. Sometimes arguments descend to personal insults. An important skill in life is being able to overcome opposition to your point of view whatever form it comes in, and this group can be a worthwhile practice space at times. Remember that it is only social media. You can turn off your phone, unfollow, or walk away. Even though I support the space, it does not mean that I always embrace the content.

The end of this decade has featured a war on civility. A vast array of offensive speech, vulgarity and obscenity has emboldened and inflamed the polarization of our world. What should be the symphony of human society, where differing ideas can work in concert, has become the artillery fields of hostility, where people yell past each other like artillery shells aiming for their targets, which blast away at the goodwill and higher nature of audiences. Our conversations nowadays are more a competition of adversaries than a search for insight or building mutual fidelity.

Nobody is perfect and error is part of the human condition. It is the creed of a cynical person, such as myself. We are all held captive by our flaws. Nevertheless, I believe that we can learn and grow. While you may have been witness to some of [name] flaws, I see a great deal of value in her that is worth investing in. She will likely be the woman that I choose to build my life with. While I do not expect the damage to heal immediately, I am hopeful that someday, you too will see the value that I see in her and appreciate the reasons why I am staying with her.

Please Remember: These are only words.

Moving On Dream

Last night, I dreamt that I returned to my old apartment in Uptown. It was an autumn day and the sun shined warmly in my south-facing apartment. My old apartment was a 1950s style efficiency with a walk-in closet that you had to enter to get to the large bathroom with pink wall tile, aluminum florescent mirror lights, and white paint. There was a little kitchenette to the southwest corner where you would stand in one place to cook or do dishes. Counter space was at a premium, but you could shut the door behind yourself and hide in the kitchen-closet. The main living space felt large when you entered it, with its wood floors and large windows across the room, which took up over half the wall. The 2-seater cloth couch, or loveseat, sat across a faux pearl aluminum table, which fit the 1950s motif. I have many happy memories of this place.

 

In my dream, I came home to my apartment, but it was cluttered, so I set about cleaning and organizing the place. I collected the laundry, made the bed and cleaned the kitchenette. The refrigerator was mostly empty except for a jug of milk and condiments. When I opened the overhead cabinets, I was surprised to discover three rotisserie chickens! I was also surprised that they didn’t smell. I took them down, packed them into the garbage, and turned to take out the garbage when my landlord entered with two young women and a short guy around 19 or 20. One woman was a wavey-haired blond and the other a short-haired brunette.

 

“Hello?” I said, “Can I help you? What’s going on?”

“We should be asking you that,” the blond woman said, “You’re in our apartment.”

I felt very confused, and must have looked the part, because the tension left the room. I plaintively said, “But I’ve been paying rent on this place for lo these many months.”

I looked to my landlord and he slightly shook his head no.

“Well… I cleaned the place…”

The young man nodded in approval, thankful that he didn’t have to do it.

 

I looked out the kitchen window and watched the sun set in the southwest, casting long autumn shadows as the twinkles of late summer left the world. Holding a garbage bag of rotting chicken, I said, “I guess it’s true. I don’t live here anymore. You can have your apartment back.”

 

I walked through the crowd, stepped outside the apartment, crossed the hall to the back entrance, and threw away the garbage for the new tenants of my old apartment. I lingered by the dumpster and watched the sky darken to shades of purple and dark blue as the sun took its warm reds and oranges with her. The landlord was standing at the door, watching sternly. I crossed the side yard to the front sidewalk as I left my apartment forever.

 

______

 

I think what brought on this dream was the fact that I was listening to my favorite band (Oxford Collapse) yesterday on the drive home from visiting my family for Christmas. I listened to them for over an hour, which was something that I hadn’t done in a long time. Their music was an anthem of that time.

 

My life is drastically different now. My girlfriend just moved in with me last week, I’ve owned a house for about 5 years, I have a functioning automobile and I live and work in the suburbs. I am a manager now, not a part-time cashier or aspiring professional. The Minneapolis of 2007 is long gone and a different city has replaced it. One infested with 5-story condo/apartment developments, bicycle-only roads, and scarce parking.

 

I think this was an important dream to have. It is an important life moment. The former things have passed away. I am a new person in a new setting, where yesterday’s future has passed and I have something new to look forward to, new things that the old me could scarcely imagine. Even in my current state, I can hardly imagine them now, even though it is the near future, rather than distant future. I feel surprised that my hard work has yielded success and I feel grateful for it.

 

I guess it’s true. I don’t live there anymore. They can have their apartment back.

Sitting in the Grass

I did something very important today –

When I saw that it was 60 degrees and sunny outside, I left my desk and I walked to the nearby Panera. I purchased a cherry danish, stepped outside, and sat in the grass. It occurred to me that I hadn’t sat in the grass all year. I ran my hand across the blades, which were simultaneously scratchy and soft. In the dimming sunlight of the autumn afternoon, I realized 2018 is drawing to a close.

This has been a hectic year. A year where I voluntarily lost control of my time. I didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy my summer. My 1-year anniversary arrived with my pending fiancee, and I was surprised by the fact that months 1-6 contained more vivid memories than months 7-12.

In 2018, I tried to do too much, which resulted in me doing little at all. My band absorbed so much of my time that I’m considering quitting. I haven’t played as much soccer, poker or volleyball as I would’ve liked. I was able to get in a couple of rounds of golf, which are happy memories to me because my gf was my caddy and we went wild in our golf cart across golf courses in two countries: USA and Canada.

The tepid sunlight and its mild warmth, the smell of living grass, and the clear blue sky on an afternoon where the wind exposes the bare branches as it undresses the trees, all give me pause to reflect on the year that was.

January 104, 2018

January 104, 2018 –

Gale-force winds buffet my shelter as winter weather lingers on. Astronomically, it is spring, for the sun rises and sets beyond 6 bells. Yet this forsaken land refuses to yield it’s wintry grasp.

I hear the cries of the souls of the mutineers on the winds, and I fancy they have resorted to cannibalism by now. It is already past 2 weeks since the Easter mutiny and I alone have remained, because the captain always remains with his vessel. Alas, the Good Ship Deflatable is inoperable and offers poor shelter to the storm.

I pray for spring and for an abatement of the madness of my crew. May God have mercy on us all and end this winter.

Lesson From Littlefinger

If you are not caught up on Game of Thrones, stop reading. If you don’t care about Game of Thrones or are all caught up, keep reading.

 

Littlefinger, aka Lord Petyr Baelish, is tied for my favorite character on Game of Thrones. Part of the purpose of this essay is to examine why I like him so much and what aspects of his character arch and character development I can incorporate into my storytelling.

 

 

Character Summary

 

For those not so well-versed, I’ll give a summary of who he is, what his back story is, and his relationship to the Game of Thrones. Most of this can be found on the Wiki of Ice and Fire. The Baelish family were relatively new landed lords, given scrub land in a region known as The Fingers, which were located in the kingdom of The Vale in Westeros. In fact, Petyr’s father is the first member of this minor lordship and his family was impoverished.

At the age of 8, Petyr took all he owned and moved to capital of the neighboring kingdom, Riverrun in The Riverlands. There he befriended the children of the most powerful lordly house, the Tully’s, who were Edmure, Catelyn and Lysa Tully. It was Edmure Tully who gave him the nickname “Littlefinger” due to his frail stature and insignificant nobility.

As they grew up together, a system of one-way affections developed. Lysa loved Petyr, but Petyr loved Catelyn, yet Catelyn did not return his affection, and so on. When Catelyn was to be married to Lord Stark of Winterfell, heir to the Kingdom of the North and one of the most important lords on the entire continent of Westeros, Petyr challenged Lord Stark to a duel. Littlefinger lost, and would have been killed had Catelyn not interceded. It was here that Littlefinger was at his lowest point and his true quest for power begins.

Catelyn married Lord Stark and Lysa married Lord Arryn of The Vale, which is the most powerful house in the kingdom where Baelish fiefdom was located. Littlefinger befriended Lord Arryn and became appointed as the custom’s officer of Gulltown, where he started to accumulate his fortune. His skills at money management lead to a 10-fold increase in revenues. After the success of Robert’s Rebellion, Lord Arryn becomes Prime Minister of the continent of Westeros, a position known as “Hand of the King.” Because of Littlefinger’s managerial success, Lord Arryn appoints Littlefinger as “Master of Coin,” or chief tax collector. As is remarked later in the series, “When Jon Arryn named you Master of Coin, nobody cared. It’s always been a grubby job. Why not let a grubby man do it?”

There is power to be had in the gutter and power to be obtained through money. This is what Littlefinger establishes throughout his career. He opens a chain of brothels in the capital and begins catering to the whims and vices of all the noble lords. As a result, he develops the skills of a spymaster and ingratiates himself to many a nobleman, yet allies himself with few. As he would remark in the series, “Information is power,” only to be reminded by the queen that power is power.

Even though this is a bit of a spoiler, Littlefinger is the one who convinces Lysa to murder her husband which ignites The Game of Thrones series. Through a series of negotiations and betrayals, Littlefinger deftly maneuvers himself to more powerful positions. He successfully dispatches Lord Stark by entrapping him in a feud with the royal family, freeing himself to try to win the hand of Catelyn, who rebuffs him again.

During the War of the Five Kings, Littlefinger successfully negotiates an alliance between the royal family and another powerful house, the Tyrells: Margaery Tyrell is to marry King Joffrey. Littlefinger is granted Castle Harrenhal as a reward for the alliance. At the wedding, Littlefinger oversees the poisoning of the king at the request of the Tyrells. (Fans rejoice; King Joffrey is one of the most despicable characters of the show)

Unfortunately, Catelyn’s daughter’s husband is framed for the murder. Catelyn’s daughter’s name is Sansa. Littlefinger smuggles Sansa out of the capital and they return to his home kingdom of The Vale. Once there, Littlefinger and Lysa marry and Littlefinger ascends to becoming one of the most powerful lords in The Vale. However, the marriage is a sham. Littlefinger falls in love with Sansa. When Lysa finds out, she becomes enraged and tries to murder Sansa by casting her through “The Moon Door,” which is a false door that plummets a person to the cliffs below. Littlefinger intercedes and throws Lysa through the Moon Door. When Littlefinger and Sansa undergo an inquest by the other lords, they cover for eachother and are acquitted of the murder.

Once acquitted of one murder, it is important not to forget that Sansa is still wanted for the murder of the king. Littlefinger negotiates a marriage between Sansa Stark and Ramsey Bolton. Earlier, the Boltons betrayed the Starks to seize control of The North, so Sansa is less than enthusiastic for a marriage to one of her enemies. I will return to this later to examine the reasons behind this marriage.

Unsurprisingly, the marriage to Ramsey Bolton turns out badly for Sansa. Ramsey is a sadistic bastard who derives great pleasure from the torturing of others. Ramsey murders his father to become the supreme lord of the North. Sansa’s bastard brother, Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, supports a rival King, King Stannis, who marches on Winterfell only to lose to the Boltons. During the battle, Sansa escapes and travels north to gain protection from her brother. Ramsey finds another Stark brother and holds him hostage and demands that Jon Snow return his wife and swear fealty to him. Instead, Jon Snow marches his armies south to Winterfell, where The Battle of the Bastards takes place. The deciding moment of the battle occurs when Littlefinger leads his army of mounted knights to aid Jon Snow.

Following the battle, Jon Snow is named King of The North. Littlefinger supports Sansa as leader over her brother and reveals to her his aims to become king and his vision of her to become queen by his side. Foreign affairs force King Snow to leave Winterfell, where he leaves Sansa in charge. More Stark children appear out of hiding and settle in Winterfell: Brandon Stark, who has enhanced powers to see past and present, and Arya Stark, who is a practiced assassin.

Littlefinger sees all these variables as competing factions for leadership of the north, and he sets about using his spycraft and behind-the-scenes machinations to try and sever the relationships between the Starks while, at the same time, trying to befriend them individually. His tricks ultimately prove unsuccessful for, in the season finale, he is confronted in open court for his murders and his treason by Sansa, with Brandon Stark presenting evidence. There is no escape and Littlefinger is executed by Arya in front of everyone in the Great Hall of Winterfell.

 

 

Character Analysis

 

So why is a sleazy, power-hungry, little man my favorite character on Game of Thrones? There are several reasons. First of all, unlike all of the other characters in the show, he was not born into power. He earned it through cunning and intellect. He represents a bourgeoisie element in a show mostly dedicated to battlefield prowess and noble birth. Since George R.R. Martin drew inspiration for Game of Thrones from history, the Middle Ages, and specifically, The War of the Roses, I think the character of Littlefinger is best represented by the historical figure Cosimo de Medici, the founder of the Medici power in Florence. Both Littlefinger and Medici share a common backstory and used similar methods to gain power.

Second, his background of powerlessness feeds his quest for power. He knows he can not compete on the battlefield, as was made manifest by the duel against Lord Stark. This leads to the development of other, novel skills which he uses to find a way to dispatch his enemies by using other players on the board. He develops an ability to out think his adversaries, making them unable to see the trap until it is too late.

Nevertheless, he is a flawed, malevolent character. His unrequited love for Catelyn leads him to become cynical, and his ability to manipulate Lysa makes him develop sociopathic tendencies. His financial acumen reduces everything to numbers and his ownership of brothels and human trafficking reduces people to objects and pieces on a gameboard. Even as he develops his powers of thinking, planning, secrecy, scheming, he loses almost all compassion. His sense of the people he cares for becomes twisted.

While many fans are repulsed by Littlefinger’s love for Sansa, the reaction surprises me when compared to other deviant sexual behavior that occurs throughout the show, including incest, homosexuality and sadism. Given the supposed time period, the middle ages, it was common for older men to marry younger women. Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that transference of affection from mother to sister to niece/daughter is pretty disturbing.

 

So what led to Littlefinger’s downfall? From my reckoning, Littlefinger’s downfall was a lack of due diligence and a failure to solidify his powerbase. The peak of Littlefinger’s power occurred with his marriage to Lysa, but his marriage was so short that his lordship over The Vale was tenuous. He has to convince Lysa’s son to support him through bribery and he forces the other noble lords to support him through blackmail.

Simultaneously, his chain of brothels were destroyed by religious fanatics (The Sparrows) and there was no retribution or effort to rebuild on Littlefinger’s part. This likely led to a reduced information flow. Littlefinger himself admitted that he knew nothing of Ramsey Bolton, to whom Sansa was supposed to marry.

With regards to Sansa’s arranged marriage to Ramsey, I give the following reasons. First, Littlefinger was eager to restore Sansa to The North, no matter the cost, thinking that her nobility would protect her and give her power over that kingdom. Once in power, Littlefinger hoped to parley his relationship with Sansa toward higher goals, ultimately leading to the throne. Second, Littlefinger also believed that King Stannis would be successful in capturing Winterfell from the Boltons. Should the marriage of Sansa and Ramsey not work out, Stannis and Littlefinger would come to the rescue. These turned out to be poorly placed bets, forcing Littlefinger to take command of the army to rescue Sansa.

Even though Littlefinger is a crafty schemer and thinker, he had a limited imagination. He remained tethered to his landholdings in the Vale and was obsessed with becoming warden of the North, which he intended to use to eventually seize the crown. Had he engaged with lords from other kingdoms, or used his money to hire more mercenaries (like Medici would’ve done), he might have avoided the trap of being cornered in Winterfell.

 

Finally, what I think I liked most about Littlefinger is how the heroic flaws of detachment and secrecy, which allowed him to succeed in the capital of King’s Landing, were the very things that led to his demise in Winterfell. It was ironic to watch the man who trusted no one, trust his protégé and aspiring lover, only to be executed for treason in open court. Love proved to be his ultimate undoing. That is the lesson I take away from Littlefinger – The things we are good at are not always good for us.