Tag Archives: Games

Ideart: How To Paint An Assassin

Here’s something I painted for the boy for his birthday. He’s a gaming freak and Assassin’s Creed is one of his favorite franchises. In honour of the visual/verbal medium, this post is in a comic-book panel format. Presenting Ezio Auditorie:

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Marvin’s World: Dash Games – Watch That Clock!

It’s a curious fact that all games mirror real world situations. For some reason, we enjoy playing a game, while its real world counterpart would probably have us bored or scrambling for excuses. Perhaps it has to do with the illusory sense of control & achievement that a game gives us, which its real-world counterpart may not.

I’m hopeless at time management in real life. Deadlines are met but with frantic dashing about & panicking. I get delayed, no matter how hard I try to make it on time. And my meetings & conversations stretch on long beyond what was intended. It’s curious indeed, that I love that genre of casual gaming called Time Management.

The Dash games are probably the most popular of the Time Management games. They involve performing a set of actions, at optimal speed & order in order to collect the rewards & progress to higher levels. I think Flo’s Diner and Sally’s Spa are the biggest of these and have spawned several knock-offs like Wedding Dash, Pet Dash etc. I’ve enjoyed the online versions of both these games before and it was just a matter of time (!) before I hooked up Marvin onto that ticking clock. Here are what I’ve been playing against the clock for:

Sally’s Salon Luxury Lite:Beauty Is A Fast Business!

This follows the standard Sally story, starting with her taking on a small beauty salon. The game begins with basic services like hair wash, hair cut, hair colour & blow dry. You pick the best choice of hair cut & hair colour based on the customers’ expression & get rewarded with hearts (and subsequently tips) accordingly. There are a couple of different customer types by patience level & tipping abilities. During the game, you are also offered options to upgrade services or buy new materials (like magazines, chairs, speed apron & coffee dispenser). Sadly though, in the initial levels, there really isn’t potential to earn enough to make any purchases outside a magazine and a coffee machine. Also, the free game ends at level 5, which means you also don’t have a chance to experience the spa extensions in other locations, the hiring of new staff or the merchandise counter, all of which add tremendously to the original game.

The graphics are colourful & quirky, matching the original game perfectly. Even on the tiny mobilephone screen, the details of hair styles, facial expressions & different customer types comes through perfectly. The game screen is a little bigger than the mobilephone window, which means scrolling left-right is necessary. Even so, the services are concentrated to the left of the screen and the payment counter is right in the middle. So if you’re really quick & don’t let the waiting line pile up (top left), then you manage nicely without ever having to scroll.

Sally’s Salon Luxury Lite is developed by Gamehouse and available for free download in the Android Market. Also see Sally’s Spa, a free demo by Gamehouse which lets you play just one round in the first level. The full version is available for Rs.105.78 as Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition.

Dinner Rush 2011 Lite: Customers On A Conveyer Belt Is Unpalatable!

This is a version of Flo’s Diner but doesn’t have the same charm. The key to both Flo’s Diner& Sally’s Spa is their key characters that are constants through all levels. Players superimpose their own identity on Flo or Sally & can empathize with her rushing about to fulfil orders or service customers. Dinner Rush focuses on the dishes rather than on the customers or the staff. Each customer glides in as a face at the top of the screen. They are seated & their orders taken by drag-drops. Once the order has been registered, a tiny menu made of colour blocks appears on the right side of the screen. The game is about clicking through in the correct order so as to complete that dish. Customers as a conveyer belt item to be processed isn’t a concept that I enjoyed. Much of the retail experience is the actual engagement between the service provider and the customers. All of that goes missing in Dinner Dash. The graphics of the food components are too tiny and too basic to grab interest via the cookery route. This is not a game that I’d recommend for Dash lovers. Electronic music is a staple of these games but possibly because this game was so boring, its music seem to grate on my nerves even more.

Dinner Dash 2011 Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and available for free download in the Android Market.

Buffet Dash Lite: Waiter, There’s A Bug In My Game!

This is another spin-off from Flo’s Diner. Sadly, like Dinner Rush, this one also fails to deliver a good experience. It started when the music wouldn’t stop even after the application was exited. Turning the music off while the game was in progress didn’t help either. And finally, even Force Close/ Clear Data didn’t help. I finally had to restart my phone to get the annoying electronic music to stop. My guess is that this is a bug that occurs when you’re downloading or installing multiple apps.

The problem is the music is so grating that you really want to shut it off immediately. However, on silent mode, the game is disorienting as you can’t tell whether the tasks have been completed or not. The visual processing & completion of tasks that Sally’s Spa offers, is missing in this game and its a huge absence.

The graphics are mediocre, too tiny & bland to be able to make out expressions or even what is being cooked & served. One customer is much like another and the dishes are equally homogeneous. Buffet Dash Lite is blah and another must-not-have for Dash lovers.

Buffet Dash Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and is available for free download in the Android Market…

IceCream Dash: Line Up, Don’t Dash

IceCream Dash Lite is more a line-up-in-row game (like Jewels) than Time Management.The premise is that each order of ice-cream requires ingredient assembly. These ingredients are not simply scooped & served as in other food Dash games. A grid appears of different coloured dollops. You have to line up 3 or more in a row to get them off the bin and onto the cone. It’s a novel attempt to marry two genres of casual games. Unfortunately it ends up being more of one variety and not the one that it purports to be, a Dash game.

The graphics are simple but a game of this nature doesn’t require very evolved images. The response time is a tad slower than the average line-in-one game, which means the game goes slower and builds frustration, since it is a timed activity. The music is monotonous but if you play it like you would play Jewels, you probably won’t even notice it. But by that premise, you probably want to play the original, Jewels, instead of a poor knock-off.

Ice cream Dash Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and is available for free download in the Android Market.

What Does Pop Culture Have Against Bloggers?

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories logo. C...

Image via Wikipedia

The boy tells me that a Grand Theft Auto (GTA) mission that he just completed, is called ‘Blogger This…!‘. In the game, a blogger has raised the shackles of a nightclub owner because of his negative posts about the club, after being denied entry into it. So the mission involves hunting & beating this blogger down to pulp. I know GTA isn’t exactly a posterchild for politically-correct or even rational messages. But I can’t help but wonder what pop culture has against bloggers.

One of the Castle episodes involved interrogating a blogger as witness in a case. The blogger was depicted as an overweight, socially inept woman. When asked if she had an alibi, she mentioned a couple of names.

“Roommates?”

“My parents!”

she replied, surprised that it wasn’t obvious. Even as far as offensive stereotypes go, that seems closer to software geek than blogger. When did these two become the same thing? Or is anyone who spends time behind a computer, to be perceived as socially inept, laughable, unattractive and a nerd?

Cover of Last week, I was watching ‘State of Play. This crime drama pushes through on the chemistry between a senior journalist and his blogger counterpart, both employees of a reputed publication. The blogger is a young woman, depicted as willful & intelligent but also brash and superficial in her work. That sounds to me like an echo of what a lot of journalists say about bloggers. The funny thing is, my experiences with traditional media, especially print journalists has thrown up negligence, stupidity, shallow to no research and an uppity attitude to boot. Yet, the blogger is the one taking the flak and indeed the audience derision in Hollywood’s depiction.

At an immediate level, I’m usually offended by such narrow, prejudiced messages. But beyond that, I am inclined to think that these are but fearful, defensive responses of a traditional, control-hierarchy mindset. It’s just sad to see it revealed in the promoters of pop culture, who are responsible for shaping a lot of attitudes. Blogging and bloggers are here to stay whether traditional media likes it or not. What’s more, it’s not even an us-versus-them situation. Anybody who is online, can be a blogger. To condemn that is like a prisoner sneering at those who walk free and are holding out a key to him as well. Funny, indeed.

Marvin’s World: Townsmen6 & Sea Empire

I’ve always enjoyed games that involve manufacturing, bartering & managing resources. A number of these follow a standard format. You’ve come to a new country (or city). You need to build houses for your people, identify food sources, create means of employment and facilitate economy. You may also need to manage a defense environment by building barracks, training army, manufacturing weapons and directing wars and/or defensive tactics. Along the way, you also complete tasks, quests and acquire upgrades, powers and medals.

Board games started me on Monopoly in its various delightful avatars and then progressed to Risk and the Catan games. The internet offered up a wide range right from the casual Empire to the MMORPG, Runescape. Even ZyngaGames tapped into this with Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, Petville, Cafe Story and others.

The Android market has its share of options. Unfortunately for me, most of them seem to be incompatible with my device. Still, here are two that I found interesting enough to try out.

Townsmen6: The French Revolution!

The first, Townsmen 6 comes in a free version and a paid-for one. You start by entering one of the territories in France, during the French Revolution. You need to build houses, each of which adds two people to your population. Lumber huts and quarries must be established to gather basic resources. Food sources like farms, fishing huts and windmills & bakeries must be created. All of these need people to run there so you need to distribute your people accordingly in each place. The more people work in a building, the faster and higher its output. Other buildings that don’t require permanent employees like wells and storage sheds also must be built. At the first level upgrade, your existing buildings can be upgraded to employ more people and produce more.The next stage of progress includes more developed buildings such as universities (where scholars can research creating newer functions & buildings), coffee houses (where propagandists can be created) and military camps (to train and maintain soldiers). And finally, you can extend your control by moving to other regions and building your communities there too.

In Campaign mode, the territories you enter will already have some settlements, possibly hostile to new encampments. You may need to manage your community as well as protect them from conversion and/or attack. Weather plays a big role in the productivity of a community as well as their morale (which directly impacts productivity as they refuse to work in prolonged rainy weather). Starvation or lack of certain key resources can also cause strikes. And finally, you have a limited period to establish or turn around a community.

Townsmen 6 is great fun since it involves managing people, resources, schedules & war strategy.  Unlike many other phone app games, it allows for different ways to play the same game. Between region acquisitions, you’re also allowed to build in an additional chance component by flipping a coin for a lottery-style resource bonus.

Resource management games involve spending a lot of time staring at the same picture. Hence the quality of the graphics, the people’s expressions, movements and the look of the structures is extra important. Townsmen 6 has beautiful graphics and mood music to match. The level of detail in the trees, rain, farms and buildings ensure that boredom doesn’t set in. The people look like funny, little cartoon characters dressed in Medieval European style and scurrying about their work, grinning broadly or pouting (when bored). Strikes show these tiny citizens congregating outside buildings and pumping their little fists up and down. Low morale is depicted by a series of Zzzs issuing from the face of a sleeping townsman. All in all, the game is a visual delight as well as a completely satisfying experience for a junkie of this game genre.

Townsmen 6 is developed by HandyGames and is available for download in the Android Market.

Sea Empire: Island Mogul!

The other one, Sea Empire has you in the role of a sea captain, racing for sea economy supremacy across islands. Each island produces certain resources. You can mine them, ship them across to other islands and trade them for other resources. As your earnings increase, you can build more ships and/or buildings and thus grow your empire.

The Random Map option lets you design your game map by selecting number of islands, fortresses required to win, big resource islands and the number of opponents. Campaign mode takes you through specific missions on the map, doing these tasks.

Maps & directives are depicted on what looks like an ancient map, torn and faded at the edges. This is a nice touch. The soundtrack is an object splashing through water, alternated by sawing/hammering sounds during building, which works well. However, the aerial-only view is a bit of a turn-off. The grandeur of ships and the majesty of the sea are things we usually see at ground level. The graphics on this game are not high quality enough to substitute for that. The mobile screen is too small for one to be able to appreciate the look an island. This last is a vital missing component since a big part of resource management games is the sense of satisfaction the gamer gets, from seeing growth & development on what started as a bare plot. On Sea Empire, the islands just look like blobs with tinier blobs within them.

Gameplay happens by tapping on the island that you want to send your ship to, to trade, manufacture or build. Possible options for these are presented in the same cream colour as the rest of the screen while options that are unavailable are in grey. The main screen also has a status bar showing what day it is, the level of each of your resources and a ‘speed up’ option. Overall, the game is promising but gets boring because of the monotonous visuals.

Sea Empire is developed by BluePlop and is available for free download in the Android Market.

Marvin’s World: Angry Birds & Aporkalypse

Don’t Be A Bird-Brain, Be A Pig!

Pop culture is a mystery. I’m stumped by the success of a game that involves catapulting scowling, winged creatures onto a building to destroy it. The movie Rio: Angry Birdsmay have contributed to its popularity but then again, most people I know went to watch it because of the game. Evidently omnipresence equals popularity.

I admit I’m not particularly enthused by shoot-em-down style games. But most people I know who enjoy those like more gore and grit in their graphics than Angry Birds‘ primary school cartoon depiction. What’s more, on my phone, I couldn’t even really see the angry bird expressions well enough to derive any comic value from them.

It’s not like Angry Birds is particularly challenging. I’ve been told by its diehard fans that it requires an understanding of physics. Really? Oh, and so does walking. Duh. On a tiny mobilephone screen, I don’t really get the intellectual kick of figuring out the perfect angle and propel velocity. On a bigger screen like a console game, I doubt I’d be interested in a game with such basic line-drawing/primary-colour graphics. And at an arcade, I’d just be too embarrassed to be seen around what I see as a little kiddies game.

But this is just me. Angry Birds (and the other versions it spawned including Angry Birds Rio) continues to rule not just gaming thumbs but popular lingo as well. The boy has taken to frowning and saying,

“Oof, you’re such an Angry Bird!”

each time I’m, well, angry. I had the following conversation on Twitter:

@ideasmithy: Temper has nothing to do with fur and feathers. #$%% Rio for popularizing a stupid phrase!! #angrybirds

@krist0ph3r: @ideasmithy my friend has pillowfights with her husband when she’s angry. she’s never heard of angry birds.

Angry Birds is a product of Rovio Mobile and is available for free download in the Android Market.

On the other hand, I’m really taken up with Aporkalypse. The protagonists are four pigs, each one with its own unique powers and behaviour. The game begins with Hungry Pig, a rotund, always starving piggie that can eat its way through obstacles but also regurgitate them for use as stepping stones and other things. Then we meet War Pig, strapped in porcine military style and armed to its chops to shoot down enemies. At a mid-level stage, the Pest Pig enters the game, resplendent in its green & smelly self and it can help you control enemies by stink-bombing them. And finally, there’s Ghost Pig which can move over crumbling bricks with ease, teleport each time someone dies but also come back to its ‘living’ self.

The game involves negotiating the pigs through a series of obstacles, facing down monsters, collecting coins and tending to special tasks like freeing pigs, all using a combination of each pig’s skills.The obstacles include crumbling walls that break down after you pass, rivers, slippery ice cubes, fiery paths, clouds and rivers. The maze is multi-level with staircases, bridges, trolleys, broken connections and sheer drops. And finally there is (slightly drunk-looking) Angel Pig and Devil Pig who will do their best to keep your pigs from doing what they want.

Aporkalypse is punctuated by tongue-in-cheek conversations between Angel Pig and Devil Pig between levels. The sound effects include grunting (!), Hungry Pig’s gobbling and War Pig‘s firing. Adding to the entertainment is the expression on the pigs’ faces when they’ve been shot at by War Pig, stink-bombed by Pest Pig or move between life & death (Ghost Pig). And finally, there’s all the additional effects like a stink-bombed location with emanating fumes, rotating coins, Devil Pig’s jabbing attacks and even random animals frozen within the ice cubes.

I think there’s actually only one possible way to get past each level. You can make the game even more complex but limiting your scroll options. There is no Map for a birds’ eye view of the game. And if you turn off the scrolling option, your pigs will negotiate their way across blind till the end of a corridor or river. I love the sensory detail in this game, right from its music to the elaborate depiction of obstacles to the perfectly tuned movements and expressions of the pigs. Aporkalypse also achieves that golden mean of staying one step ahead of the player to keep it interesting but not so difficult that it is frustrating to play it.

I’m currently on what I think is a middle level of the game since I can’t see a way to track the level number. The four pigs have come together for the first time in my game and I’ve been struggling to get them all across a maze of obstacles. But I’m enjoying every minute of it! And the end of it, a grunting piggie is just a helluva lot cuter than an angry bird!

Aporkalypse is a product of HandyGames and is available for free download as well as an extended, paid version in the Android Market.

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*A version of this is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Marvin’s World: Tapestry

This is a rather belated announcement but perhaps not so much considering my case. I have a new phone. Yes, I have finally joined the ranks of smartphone owners. Bypassing the Apple fad (yes, yes, I know their products are superior, I just don’t have the moolah, okay?), I’ve gone the Google route. The new phone is a Samsung Android Galaxy Pop and has been duly christened Marvin (the Paranoid Android, you philistines!).

First of all, I don’t want to hear how this model sucks and every other brand, technology or model surpasses this one. Technology is expensive, gadgetry soon obsolete and a  mobilephone is an extremely personal device. I pondered this decision for nearly six months before finally buying it. Nobody gains anything from running down my final choice (except competition brand sellers)…why do people do that anyway?

Secondly, the phone has now been in use for a little over a month which I know doesn’t qualify it for ‘new’ in the gadget-slutty (easy come, easy go) world I inhabit. But I’ve never used a mobilephone for less than two years at a time. It’s not about how ‘in’ the device is, it is about how long and how well it fulfils your requirements. A mobilephone is the one gadget that is with you at almost all times. A month isn’t very long to get used to the feel and controls of a new phone.

And now cribbing aside, I’ll tell you about the phone. I was thrilled to discover how much more I could do online using this phone. First stop, the Social Hub – synchronizing Gtalk contacts, Facebook calendar, Twitter accounts and email.

Then I discovered the Android Market and its wonderous delights. Since Marvin went online, I’ve downloaded a number of apps, all free. Now I’m like those thousands of annoying people who’s more interested in their phones than the outside world. At least, I try and keep mine on silent when I’m in a public place (don’t you want to sometimes strangle people who’re constantly going beep-beep-beeeeeeep! in public??!).

Games caught my fancy which made me realize, contrary to what I tell the boy, I do have a gamer in me too. I lean to strategy & empire management games rather than the dishoom-dishoom ‘boy’ stuff.

Chess was my first stop but having passed on that useful tip to my checkmating dad, I moved on. Sudoku was duly loaded and played. By the way, I discovered a puzzle called Tapestry. Tapestry gives you a grid of empty squares with a sequence of numbers for each row and column. The sequence tells you how many and in what order squares need to be filled in, emptied or left alone. When the puzzle is solved, it shows a tapestry-like picture.

I struggled a bit initially when an accidental touch would shade or empty a square inadvertently. But this may just have been the teething troubles of a touchscreen newbie. The game also gets a little harder to play at the higher levels since you have to keep scrolling left-right and up-down. Bearing in mind that this is a game of a full pattern, it is difficult to focus on specific areas at a time. When a row or column have been completed, a green check or a red cross indicate if the sequence has been followed. But these indicators don’t show properly for the top row.

Even with all these glitches, the basic nature of Tapestry is compelling. With time, one figures out certain obvious things. For example, a sequence that contains a high number of coloured squares (8 in a 10×10 grid) will occupy a  section in the middle of the grid, no matter how it is placed. These tend to be the building points of the more complicated Tapestry patterns. The puzzle is just easy enough to allow you a few early wins in completed sequences and then tricky enough mid-way that you might spend hours trying to figure out the correct sequences to finish the game.

The game takes awhile to start up, from the opening screen to the options menu where you can pick grid size. The puzzle itself doesn’t take long to load. Quitting the game mid-way saves the game and opens it to that same position when you return. This makes it an ideal game for when you’re travelling or waiting and may need to shut out/return quickly.

Tapestry is owned by VIRlogic and available for free download on Android.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty Recommendations.

Reverb 10.8: Beauty Is The Difference You Make

I absolutely hate this Reverb 10 prompt because it reminds me too much of the feel-goodey self-help books/seminars/talk shows. I can’t see what it possibly has to do with writing. And that said, I will still do it because I’m stubborn, because I’m annoyed and according to my writing circle, any strong emotion is fodder for a writer. So here then is a prompt that sparks off the ‘irritable’ energy in me.

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

What makes me different? Nothing at all. I am not one of those people who strives to be different. I am the person who manages to say or do something that makes people around uncomfortable. For the Harry Potter fans, I am the Luna Lovegood of my world (in the ‘had a curious habit of saying things like that which made everyone uncomfortable’ way).

When I was a kid, I was called weird. Children don’t take too well to a kid who questions the method of selecting the ‘den’ in a game (it’s biased too badly in favour of the bigger, stronger kids). The kids I grew up with did not like change and hated my frequent suggestions to reverse game rules, mix-and-mash games (football on bicycles, hide-and-seek where everyone looks for one person and hides with them when they find them) and other variations. ‘Weird’ was a well-earned tag, I suppose.

Then I grew up a little more and stepped into adolescence. But I hadn’t developed the badass attitude to be called delinquent, misbehaved or troublesome. Instead I became ‘inexplicable’. I mean, who gives away their lunch in return for being left in peace to stare out of a window? Who makes a beeline for the skeleton in the biology lab to go shake hands with it? Who answers a Foundation Course question of ‘What is your identity?’ with ‘I am unique’? (Yes I did that. Everyone else had used up the ‘I’m Ms.so-and-so’, ‘I am the class topper’ answers). Who cuts physics class to sneak into psychology lectures? Who gets to college early to watch a sunrise? Inexplicable, indeed.

I dropped a year in college because I couldn’t bear physics. Then I made life miserable for the head of my math department by questioning every thing she said. I called my placement co-ordinator, a pimp, because she insisted on sending me to a dubious company (whereby she retaliated by banning me from college placements). I sat unemployed for six months because I didn’t think the jobs that were on offer were worthy. And then, I quit the prestigious job that I did get, a year later with nothing else on hand. Mysteriously three months later, I landed another (and even more prestigious) job. Three years later, I made a career move that surprised everyone in the company who heard of it and every mentor I’d ever had (one of them said I’d plain lost my brains). I quit that a year later to write. Without a publisher, without a job on hand and right in the middle of recession. Brainless? That’s me.

I’ve never been prouder than when following my own quirky, mad, unpredictable choices. They’ve always worked for me. I can’t always explain how and why but many of those times, I just know that something is right for me, even if the world seems to think otherwise.

And I’ve never been happier than when I’m able to live as weirdly, as inexplicably and as brainlessly as I want to. That happiness comes from freedom but also the peace of mind that no one has ever been burdened by my choices. I’ve always borne the consequences of my decisions and really, really, not a single one of them has been bad. The only difficult things I’ve had to face have been the results of following what people around me felt was right (uninspiring education, unsuitable workplace, unlovable love interest).

I can’t tell if it that any of this makes other people happy. But here’s something – Because my own life is so offbeat, my choices so inexplicable and my self so ‘weird’, I have a near irrational hope in other people’s dreams. I’ve been told by at least a few people that my belief in their abilities gave them the courage to pursue what they really wanted. That’s an aspect of beauty I would be proud to stand for.

Nobody really wants to be born ‘different’. It’s so much easier, better to be born smart or attractive or popular or steady. I spent long enough ruing the fact that I couldn’t be the girl my family wished I would be, the ‘right’ kind of girl for the men I loved, the ‘perfect’ employee that the perfect workplace demanded. Now, I think I’ve just reconciled myself to the fact that I never was any of those things and never will be so I may as well enjoy being myself. After all, nobody else is.

2009: Happy & Counting

So it’s that time of the year again, the time to take stock and look back. Funnily enough, for a compulsive organizer/list-maker like me, it isn’t coming naturally this time round. Even funnier considering it isn’t just year end but decade end and actually end of the first decade of the millenium and all that. Perhaps I’m changing.

2009 has definitely been an eventful year (in retrospect, which year hasn’t?). These changes have been big, life-altering ones but funnily enough they haven’t been looming high on my consciousness. What does that mean?

Well, for me obviously the biggest transition in this year was quitting my job and taking a sabbatical. And yet, there was no major build-up. I’d been feeling like it was time for it, for a long time and one fine day I just woke up and said, “This is the day!”. Just like that.

That was the single, discrete point that marks this year as a special one. But there have been other things. Of course I turned 30 this year which in itself is a special event. But I’ve been covering this phenomenon for awhile now, as befits a gradual but important phase.

One of my biggest thoughts this year was that I had achieved all the things that I had wanted a decade back. And in sum, that achievement didn’t make me happy. That is to say, it was satisfactory and all of that but I didn’t like the person I had had to become as a result. So I decided that I wanted to go back to the person I was, about a decade ago.

I think I’ve succeeded..mostly. A decade ago, I wasn’t a compulsive organizer. My thoughts were scattered, my actions aimless and my attitude open and curious. It was not a position that commanded respect from other people but I liked the person I was.

Six months since my break, I have a half-begun (not half-complete since I have no idea how long the book is going to be) book. I have a number of other book and story and writing ideas shooting about in my head. I have achieved high Farmville and Mafia Wars levels. December has been full of parties, meetups, coffees, dinners, lunches, fun n’ games.

I’ve made my peace with a number of people. I’ve cut out a lot of poisonous habits and people from my life. I’m not making sense most of the time and I’m generally riding on ‘inappropriate’ setting. But it’s great. I love my life.

One defining idea I had this year when I looked back at the past decade was how much I was struggling, how much suffering and angst there was in my life. I’ve made some rubbish decisions, I’ve been at the receiving end of some bizarre stuff from people I trusted. And I’ve been so angry, so much in pain. I tried everything I could think of to explain why all of this was happening to me. Why me? Me who had never broken a trust or cheated or wanted to hurt anyone?

The karmic theory of retribution was my last attempt and finally around my birthday, I looked up at the heavens, shook my fist and yelled,

Okay, enough already!! I’ve paid all my dues and I’m not standing for any more rubbish in this lifetime. No more! I’m going to have an awesome time from here on.

And would you believe, I did. It’s not like everything turned out swimmingly. Well, perhaps it did. Or maybe when stuff happened, I just felt able to skim over it. Let me see, what’s the bad stuff in the past six months? (Okay the lists are back at the first mention of ‘bad stuff’…hmm)

  • Mum’s hospitalization
  • My malaria attack
  • Dirty lies
  • Writer’s block
  • A nasty fight apiece with two close friends, both of which I thought would end the friendships
  • Failure (no details, there were multiple and they were bad)

But then there was other stuff

I don’t care to figure out in what proportion they balance each other out but somehow the good stuff seems to out-weigh the bad.

Life is good. I have God (even if religion finds it an uncomfortable fit in my life). I have art and inspiration. I have friendship and some love (even if it isn’t always the way I thought it would be). I have time and energy. And I have an idea that the next decade is going to be wonderful. What more do I need?

A very happy new year to all of you!

Tough Love

He said,

To the people we love the most, we are a little bit crueler.

I thought about all the people I’ve adored and how they’d agree. Secretly so as to not hurt me. And openly just so they could.

He said it was because of a streak of sadism.
But I think it is precisely because we love so much that we’re cruel.

We fear being hurt and those closest to us are in the position to hurt us the most. So we play our little games and ration our love or at the very least, withdraw it every once in a way, just to ensure that it’s not taken for granted.

That’s cruelty, akin to pulling a fish in and out of water. But that’s how we survive.
With and without love.

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