Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It's touching. Beautiful, even. Susan Boyle. She has some very strong notes. A lovely purity of tone. Really very good. Not professional. Not yet. She needs coaching. Vibrato is too metallic. Weak on the low notes -- but that's nothing a good vocal coach couldn't fix. In any case, she's a star, for the moment, on the internet. So much so that even I have heard of her. But honestly. Please. We don't base our opinions on a single performance. Even so, it just does make us smile.

And I found this sort of game. If I'm understanding it correctly, I'm the little yellow ball and the colored lumps will chase me and eat me unless I get a dot, after which I can chase and eat the lumps for a little while. And the cherry will give me another life? And I'm supposed to get into the center of the maze, maybe, which is safe and I win something, or the maze is refreshed and we start again. But I'm getting points by running over the little trail of dots. Is that it? I haven't gotten that far, so I'm guessing. It's just amazing, the ingenuity they put into these things. And the hours and days and lifetimes that get wasted with them.

The thing about time-wasting is that we can lose a sense of proportion. The game is important to the player, and it may actually be important, but there needs to be a level of self-awareness that acknowledges the value of other people's time and tastes. You know, like a sense of self-deprecating humor.

Susan has that. It's why she's endearing, why the crowd cheers, and we do too. The child playing video games who whines when it's time for bed does not have that. He thinks the game matters. Games don't matter.

Games don't matter. You don't care about my exercise or my rolling or any of the odd little obsessions I share. I'm not obnoxious to you, although maybe a little tiresome, because I have a sense of proportion. I say boring things in an interesting way. So, for instance, I'm going through the Iliad right now, and man is it good. Really really good. 2800 years old, and the level of artistry humanity can achieve has not surpassed it. You can see in the structure of the tale the dusky megarons and the firelit camps where the epic was recited, hear the words designed to fall from the mouths of bards, orated, enacted -- as it was meant to be heard. The dead never cease from speaking to us. We live in their houses. Awareness of this fact is my game. But what matters is now, not then.

We're playing around pretty seriously with the idea of p-factor. It's becoming a powerful tool. Sometimes we just have to give something a name, and it stops being invisible. What do you think of the Fatigue Zone? You push it back by driving into it. Most fatigue is misdirection from the brain -- it sends out all these bizarre signals, nausea, dizziness, tunnel vision and black spots ... fear and negative self-talk and yearnings for sympathy ... all in an effort to keep us from going beyond the performance limit the brain thinks we should be comfortable with. It might be dangerous! By going past that limit, we teach the brain to reset its expectations, recalibrate its gauges. Its program will always try to protect us, but we are physically capable of so much more than comfort allows. Can't blame the brain -- it's just doing its job. Blame goes to us, agreeing to be weak. Like a child who insists on being carried, always.

We were also looking at the usefulness of strategy -- if we go for an average number of reps per round, the overall score will be higher. This is true. We'll do more actual work. But we'll do less perceived work. We're managing fatigue, rather than confronting it. The exercise benefit, then, is less, even though the work is more. Because only part of the problem is physical. A lot is mental. We have the muscle to do more. It's a matter of persuading the brain to let us do more, teaching it that more is safe. It learns this by demonstration, not by instruction. By challenging fatigue head on, rather than being crafty and cunning and trying to outsmart it, we may get a lower score, short term, but we develop courage. C-factor is the antidote to p-factor, administered by reaching into the slobbering black maw of fatigue and shoving it down its throat. Suck on that, bitch.

The grim fact is that reality is random, and there is no strategy for dealing with unprecedented emergencies. We have to go full-blast, for as long as it takes. That's not a strategy -- it's the way to survive. We prepare for it by training to be brave, to be courageous, to be heroes. We train for that by defying fatigue. What is it after all that invented the p-factor? The brain. Question is, who is to be master? A lump of meat, or my will? Little by little, we become what the voice we obey tells us to be. We can't do more than we can do. But we can do more than we do. That takes courage. Worth doing.

Isn't that interesting? The things you find, surfing the net.


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