Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Trouble With Essays, Gaming Breakup, Miscellany from a Week

Yesterday, I struggled through about the thirtieth draft of my essay for the grant. The problem is that there is no possible way to write an essay about “how your work exhibits excellence in storytelling” without sounding like a pretentious gasbag. In this latest incarnation, I’m taking the earnest, heartfelt approach, and it still somehow manages to sound stilted and arrogant. But I’m not ready to admit defeat yet. I’ll be damned if some silly 350-word essay comes between me and 10,000 clams.

In gaming news, I finally broke up with "The Secret World" for good. My on-again, off-again affair with this game is like, totally over--for reals this time. There is so much about it that I love (conspiracy theories, elaborate storylines, the clothes), but it was frustratingly crash-prone, and most of the players are European, so none of my guild mates were ever around when I was on. So, we’re done. I wish it well, and I’ll always have the memories. I’m back to playing the latest incarnation of “Neverwinter”, which is like video game crack—scientifically designed to stimulate the reward centers of your brain in such a way that you stay up until one in the morning so you can invoke the goddess just one more time and get more shiny blue diamonds.

I met with a good friend of mine this week who read my novel and offered to copy-edit it! I’m really excited about this, since copy editing is not my thing and I’ve been dreading that part of the process. I’m also excited because she liked the book, and she’s someone whose opinion I respect immensely. My goal is to get the book in front of an agent before the end of the year, and that seems like a distant but real possibility now. If I can get this thing published, I’ll have achieved a major writing and life goal. It’s a dream I hang onto when it’s hard to keep soldiering on. In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with some flash-fiction pieces, and thinking about ideas for my next big project. I have a feeling it will involve my anachronistic cowboy.

I’m wrapping this up early because I am off to buy shoes. I bought shoes last week, but they didn’t work out. My problem is that I have both a low frustration tolerance and an irrational faith in the idea that shoes will “stretch”. After trying on nine pairs at Big 5 Sports last weekend, I finally gave in and settled on a pair which I knew in my heart were too tight. But I was tired of trying on shoes, so I just convinced myself that if I bought them, they would somehow magically transform into the right shoes, through the sheer power of being chosen, or something. Well, all they did was give me blisters and almost make me trip again, and avoiding tripping is the whole reason I bought them in the first place. So they are going to the Goodwill, and I'm going to try to be a grown up and sustain the patience needed to buy a decent pair of well-fitting shoes. Wish me luck!


 --Kristen McHenry

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bad Fall, Competition Demon, A Gold Medal in the Worrier Olympics

I was walking downtown to the bus stop on Thursday when I tripped on the pavement and went down so hard on my left knee that I went into a sort of semi-shock and was unable to get up. I just laid there on the sidewalk, stunned with pain and completely disoriented. Luckily, two nice ladies happened by at that moment and very sweetly and efficiently helped me to my feet. I was trembling and near tears, but I assured them I was okay and that I just needed to sit for a minute before continuing on. I hobbled over to some nearby steps and lifted my pant leg to survey the damage. It was horrendous. Huge, angry scrapes and bruises and bloody cuts. I limped back to my office, fished some bandages out of a First Aid kit, and cleaned up. On the overcrowded bus, people kept sliding their stupid backpacks and tote bags over my super-swollen, tender knee, so I was in agony by the time I got home.

My left knee was in bad shape the next day, but with ice and aspirin, I managed to keep the swelling under control. However, last night, I was playing “Spiderman-Coke-Case-Tube-Slide” on the floor with Buddy (the mechanics of which I will explain shortly), when I felt a severe pop in my right knee. About twenty minutes later, a cyst literally the size of an egg appeared just under my right knee cap. I guess I hit my right knee pretty hard in the fall, too. Mr. Typist and I stared at the gigantic lump in horrified amazement and contemplated a trip to the ER. Luckily, after about an hour, the egg shrunk to half-size and turned into a swollen bruise. Today, it’s just a slightly raised black bruise. However, my entire right shoulder is in agony. I have a huge scrape on my right elbow, so I think I must have fallen with quite a lot of weight on my right side. I’m a mess, folks.

All of this leaves to wonder what is up with my LEFT KNEE? Why do I have bad left knee karma? I need to consult Louis Hayes, even though I think her message has been pretty horrible and destructive, allowing self-righteous New-Agers to blame people's bad attitudes for their own mental or physical ailments so they don't have to face the fact that something bad might happen to them, even though they do yoga and eat organic. Nonetheless, I am very curious about why I have had four major injuries to my left knee in the last eight years. I would never blame anyone for their ailments, but I do have a very strong sense of mind/body connection from my many years as a massage therapist and mind-body counselor, so I can't help but think that there is some unresolved spiritual issue that’s causing me to continuously injure myself in the same place. Or maybe it's just purely a body mechanics thing. All I know is that I’m in for some aspirin and an Epsom salt bath, stat.  

I’m making good progress on the grant. I’m almost done with my writer’s resume, although it feels absurdly thin. I've assured myself over the years that I have been building up "quite a body of work", but when I really scrutinize my resume, it doesn’t exactly reflect a prolific writer. I think this grant application has been bad for my writing self-esteem, but then again, I don't have that much ego invested in my successes. It's only when I enter into some sort of competitive situation that I start to get all insecure and weird. Like when I completely lost my bloody mind during Project Verse six years ago. I was totally confused by the competitive monster that awoke in me, unbidden and unfamiliar. I was obsessed with every tiny criticism, and my entire life and emotional health was centered around this ultimately rigged and stupid contest which turned out to be wracked with scandal. I have a lot of compassion for those cooking and runway show contestants now.

After my fall, I was texting my co-worker, who was worried about me and thought I should go to the doctor. I told her she was a world-champion worrier, but that I probably shouldn’t talk since I could easily win a gold medal in the Worry Olympics. Then I thought that there should be an actual Worrier Olympics! I don’t know how it would work, exactly, but there must be a way. Speaking of games, I shall now explain the intricacies of “Spiderman-Coke-Case-Tube-Slide”:

Required:

Small stuffed Spiderman chew toy
Empty 12-Pack Cardboard Coke Case
Fast Reflexes
Cat

Instructions:

1.       Close the flaps of the Coke case but leave enough open space to wiggle Spiderman in a narrow opening.

2.      Open the case flaps at the “Cat entry point”.

3.      Situate Cat on “the runway”—make sure he is far enough back to make a running leap at the case entrance.

4.      Wiggle Spiderman in the small flap opening.

5.      Get your hand the hell out of the way as Cat tears across the floor, dives into the case, and captures Spiderman in his razor-claws.

6.      Reward Cat by rolling him around in the case roughly and praising his hunting prowess.


Easy, cheap, and hours of fun! I’ll try to post a video soon.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thunder! Inertia! Fantasy Reading List!

After months of dry, hot weather, Seattle finally got a good old-fashioned, epic, rage-of-the-gods thunderstorm that went on for six hours straight last Friday afternoon. It was glorious. The sky was all dark and weird and crackling with gloomy electricity, and it poured and poured over all the parched, yellowed landscape, and Seattle felt like my home again.

Maybe it’s just because of the stage I’m in with life right now, but for the last few weeks when I’ve sat down to blog, I’ve just drawn a blank. Life feels like drudgery at the moment, and it’s translating to a lack of imaginative sparks in my mindscape, which is usually rich with material. Then I get jealous of people like Frank effin’ Moraes, who puts up like, eight blog posts a day, while I can barely get in one a week. (Coincidentally, I met Frank’s sister for breakfast this morning. I hadn’t seen her in well over a decade, and it was lovely to re-connect. In a time far away, we were roommates and went to massage school together.) But with the exception of this morning’s outing, I don’t go anywhere except work, and there’s just nothing new happening. I’m civically dis-engaged, so that leaves out writing about politics. I don’t make anything or grow anything, and my rug project has sat unfinished for over a year, despite my high hopes that rug-making would become my “thing” and I would have an online empire by now. But I lack the will to change anything, so if the gods want to rattle the cage of my life, they’re going to have to be the ones to throw down. I’m too apathetic to do it myself.

The thunderstorm was a reminder that cold weather is on its way, and that I have made a pact with myself to read some classics this Winter. There are a number of books I just never got around to reading, and as a writer, it feels irresponsible somehow. I have a going list that includes Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, Brave New World, and the Lord of the Rings series. I want to read them as real books, heavy and leather-bound, while curled up proper-like on the recliner, sipping tea. It’s a nice fantasy, anyway. Hopefully it won’t go the way of my rug empire.

In cat news, Buddy seems to calming down a little bit. It’s fun to have his fiery kitten energy in the house. After he destroyed two expensive cat feather toys, I stuck a wrinkled-up piece of paper into the toe of a knee-high panty hose and let him roll around with that. Hours of pure bliss, and it cost nothing. Which is good, because he decimated it in the course of an evening, and I had to make another one. So my never going anywhere has worked out for the best—plenty of panty hose to spare!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grant Rant, Cat Re-Christianing, A Stray Poem

Yesterday, I started in working in earnest on putting together everything I need for the grant application I mentioned in last week’s post. I’ve barely started, and already it’s a horrific, hair-pulling process. I spent a good chunk of yesterday muddling my way through an essay about “how my work exhibits excellence in storytelling”. I completely lack the chutzpah to write a 350-word essay about what an excellent storyteller I am, so the resulting piece is a mushy-mouthed mess that refuses to admit to any personal talent or technical skill on my part. The problem is that I don’t know how analyze my own process because in all honesty I don’t know how to write—I just write. For some reason, a lot of people think I was an English major, but I wasn’t. I’ve never taken any  classes in writing other than a brief poetry workshop here and there, and my writing process lacks any sort of formal technique or deliberateness. So it’s hard for me to write with any authority about narrative form, genre or “craft”. But all the same, I’m starting to feel weirdly competitive about the whole thing, and I’m determined to push through and get the application in, even though objectively, my chances of winning are nil.

In other news, Sammy has been re-christianed “Buddy”, and continues to be a maniac. I don’t know how a creature so tiny and skinny can manage to be such a terror. He’s just a relentless, shrieking, destructive blur of fur and claws. It’s like having a armed toddler on cocaine. What else....I’m experimenting with a short story written entirely in dialogue. Other than that, I have nothing to report, since my days lately are entirely consumed with work and subsequently recovering from work. I’m plotting a get-away to a magical healer who can take all of my stress away and make everything better. I need a good old-fashioned shamanic, new-age, mystical, woo-woo healy-type person to peel the layers of crud and grime from my energy field and make me all shiny and optimistic again. I’m Googling.

Since I’m out of stuff to say, here’s a stray poem I wrote a while back that I never did anything with, and an amusing video from the “Written by a Kid” series. Enjoy!


Notes on Surrender
When we think
of surrender we think
of salmon, of their thoughtless yielding
to biology, and of those
poor saps in archaic tales,
forced to slaughter their own
to learn the nature of loss.

So forgive me but today I shredded
with my own hands each
of your bouquet’s petals
just at the peak of their bloom. My fingers
stink of rose. I have wiped
their tribal stains onto my cheeks.
I did it, understand, because
I resented their timing,
unwilling as I was to bear
witness to their death--not this dozen,
not these.

How many has God lost
to our disregard for a mystery, to our
heroic, ham-handed
rescue of our ourselves?

Let us surrender this day to our cowardice, to our
one bad turn too many. Let fear
take hold of us completely, let us
offer it our necks.
It’s okay for a while to cower
frozen in our terror,
to clench and hide,
until starving,
we emerge to search for home.



--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, August 2, 2015

That Sweet, Sweet Grant Cheddar, Writing News, Art Win

I don’t have much this week—it was a long and brutal work week, and all I did was go to work, come home, collapse sweltering onto the couch, and do the whole thing over again the next day. All work and no play has made this a dull typist, so this will be a short-ish post.

Someone from my writing group recently sent me a link to a grant application for fiction writers. It’s a $10,000.00 unrestricted grant, just for being a good storyteller. I haven’t looked into it with any seriousness yet, but I’m thinking about applying—not because I have any chance of winning, but because it would be an exercise in pulling myself together and formally presenting myself as a writer, which I’ve never really done. I’m finally at the point that I think of myself as a writer and can even call myself a writer out loud, but I have never, for example, put together a writer’s resume, compiled my publications credits in one document, or done any formal analysis of my own work, all of which is required for the application. I feel somehow if I go through the process of applying, by the end of it I will have a tidy package of Writer Me, all ship-shape and shiny, that I can present as proof of my legitimacy. If nothing else, it will be fun to fantasize about the possibility, however remote, of an extra ten grand to throw around.

In writing news, I’ve been moping around (insert obligatory gripe about the endless Seattle heat wave here) for the last month or so, feeling sun-shot and lazy, waiting for inspiration to strike. I think I finally hit on something yesterday; an idea for a short piece that is rapidly blossoming into a full-length story about a wealthy recluse. That’s never been done before, so right out of the gate, I have originality on my side! I haven’t gotten very far with it, but it felt good to work on something again. It looks like I may have a new publisher for “The Acme Employee Handbook”, but no information at the moment on when it may be coming out. The novel is a still awaiting final feedback, editing, and proofing, but it’s my goal to get it out the door and into the hands of an agent before the end of the year.

I mentioned a few posts back that I joined the Art Committee at work, and I made my first big official decision last week! I was tasked with finding a place to hang two rather unique framed art quilts. One is quite large and quite red. One is made of license plates. I was really nervous that I hadn’t picked the “right” spot and that no one would like the work, or worse yet, it would be met with indifference. But as it turns out, the quilts are a huge hit! I was amazed and deeply gratified to see how excited people were about them, and that they actually took the time to stop and engage with the work. It’s fascinating to me how much just those two pieces alone shifted the energy of the spaces they were placed in and generated so much delight. If I decide to make a career transition in late life, I’m going to become an interior decorator and just spend all day making people happy with drapes and pretty hanging things.


--Kristen McHenry




Saturday, July 25, 2015

Future Cat is Present Cat, Library Shame, Weird Western

Future Cat, who I blogged about last week, is now Present Cat. After a flurry of phone calls and a lot of confusing interactions with the adoption agency and the pet store that housed him, we finally managed to pay all the fees and sign all the paperworks, and we took him home on Monday night. 

I’m not going to lie; the first few days with Present Cat were rough. Of course I would zero right in on the cat with abandonment issues. He also seemed to have a touch of PTSD, coupled with severe food anxiety. He very quickly figured out that “kitchen” equals “food”, creating a situation in which every single time we even approached the kitchen, he would yowl hysterically. He gobbled up every morsel we fed him, and cried for more. We finally decided to just leave a constant supply of kibble for him in his dish, but we had to stop that because he’d just eat the entire bowl in one sitting. He got whiny if one of us wasn’t in sight at all times, and he needed constant reassurance, attention, and stimulation. But he’s already calmed down considerably. He seems to realize we’re not going to abandon him or starve him out, and he’s stopped yowling every single time we go near the kitchen. He’s figured out ways to entertain himself, mostly consisting of torturing his feather toy and taking running leaps from the top of the cat tree onto the back of the couch. Despite his anxiety and his wild kitten energy, he’s quite a curler-upper and very snuggly. We named him Sammy. We’re happy he’s with us.  

I live literally one block away from my neighborhood library, but for some reason, I just don’t go anymore. I needed a new environment to jump-start my flaccid writing muscles today, so I headed over to my local branch to sketch out a few ideas for new projects. Before I left, I decided to check out a few poetry books, and it turns out that it’s been so long since I used my library card that they deleted me from their system, and I had to apply for a new one. I’m so ashamed! Part of the personal mythology I have created around myself is that I am A Person Who Loves Libraries. And I do. I don’t know why I don’t utilize them more, especially the lovely one that is right near my apartment. I have resolved to make library visits a regular part of my life from here on out. They are so calm and quiet and book-scented. I need more library in my life! Cats and libraries and poetry. That’s who I am folks. No running away from it.

In writing news, the ideas I jotted down today were just sort of meh, but I have one that I’m going to play around with that may become a regular series on this blog. Until the novel is actually shipped off to an agent, I think I’m going to focus on writing shorter, more experiential pieces. The one I have in mind involves a mysterious time-traveling cowboy. Don’t ask me why--he just keeps haunting me, so think I need to get him onto the page. I also played around a little bit with writing a slam poem, as I’ve been inspired by a brilliant slam poet in my writing group. Alas, I don’t think slam is in my talent wheelhouse, but I’m going to keep working on it and see if I can cobble together a piece that might work for an open mic or something. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m just blitheringly grateful for a bit of rain and the cooler temps. Ahhhh….Seattle weather is back, and I feel like a proper human again. 

Addendum: Since I got some complaints about not including pics of Sammy, viola! Pics of Sammy:



--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Whiplash of the Heart, Future Cat, Against Happiness

Future Cat?
Mr. Typist was out most of today, and I had Big Plans to Do All The Writing. I was going to buckle down, stop being so wishy-washy, and just pick a new project to delve into. Instead, I wasted a lot of time surfing the internet, then when I got tired of that, I puttered around, dusting, vacuuming, and emptying out the cat boxes. I didn’t need to empty out the cat boxes, because sadly, the last of our trio of cats died suddenly this week, leaving Mr. Typist and I sick with grief and reeling with what I coined, through my wracking sobs, “whiplash of the heart.” I’ve had neck whiplash. I can tell you without a doubt that heart whiplash is way more painful.

Somewhat unconsciously, I did all of that cleaning and dusting and vacuuming to prepare our abode to welcome a new cat. It’s been less than a week since Yoshi died, and I have already found the lack of a cat in our household to be an unacceptable condition.  I’ve never been good at delaying gratification, and I’m getting even less so as I age. The hell with some arbitrary grief waiting period: I'm applying ruthless pragmatism to this situation. I have a cat-shaped hole in my heart, and the solution to a cat-shaped hole is a cat. So I dragged Mr. Typist off this afternoon to look at a ten-month-old kitten who’s currently boarded at our local pet store. After a few token minutes of playing with His Adorableness in the Visitation Room, we put in an application. And now we wait-- and I go online and start compiling potential names for Future Cat. On the list so far is:

Tucker
Johnny
Deejay
Buzzy
Jonesy
Spike
Puck
T-Bone
Mack
Nico
Rudy
Sam
Ollie
Baxter

I hope we get him.

It’s been a hard week encased in the brittle shell of a hard few years, made all the more exhausting by the relentless cultural pressure I feel to Seek Happiness and Find Fulfillment. I stopped going to counseling because I got frustrated with supposed professionals telling me that the most important thing is my personal happiness, and that I, and I alone, am responsible for it. Helped along by reading Eric G. Wilson’s “Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholia”, I had a revelatory moment this week in which I realized that, actually, I’m not responsible for my own happiness, because I am in no way obligated to be happy. Knowing I am under no obligation to be happy released me from attachment to a lot of culturally-ingrained ideas about what my life should look like, and instead has allowed me to experience the full emotional and spiritual richness of what's actually happening. 

The pathological value we place on happiness in this society is a torturous psychological burden. We have this idea that if we are suffering, something is wrong, and that it’s our moral obligation to get to a state of non-suffering as soon as possible, rather than sitting with what is. We’re uncomfortable—even terrified—of the least expression of melancholia. Sadness is not a rich emotion to be experienced and mined for its gifts, but something to be immediately counseled out of us or drugged away. We’re not allowed to show unhappiness or admit to defeat or be anything other than perky, or worse yet, “resilient”.

It’s hard to be a lone voice in the wilderness of the happiness-obsessed. But it’s a huge relief to realize that’s it’s okay to just be who I am, where I am, and to honor the truth of that, even though it that truth isn’t necessarily sweet and syrupy.

And now for a good dose of delicious melancholia, here’s a sad piano:


--Kristen McHenry


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Waiting Period, Game Review: Alum, My Interior Interior Designer

Having finished the novel and possibly secured a new publisher for “The Acme Employee Handbook”, I’m officially in between writing projects, and waiting for inspiration to strike me.  I have a red journal full of ideas from writing prompts, but I don’t feel compelled to invest my creative energy into any of them. So I’m still waiting. Three nights ago I dreamt of a turtle, the next night I dreamt of an egg, and last night I dreamt that I was pregnant. I know intuitively these dreams are about my creative process; perhaps about an incubation, a waiting period. So wait I will.

In the meantime, I’m whiling away my weekend hours playing video games. The latest one is “Alum”, a Kickstarter-funded independent game from Crashable Studios, with a heavily-pixelated retro look and feel, and a fascinating story: In the city of Kosmos, everything is seemingly perfect. It’s temperate year-round, there’s no unemployment, and robo-cops maintain perfect order, so crime is non-existent. Nonetheless, an alarming number of its citizens are suffering from The Vague, a depression-like affliction that causes them to shut down emotionally, speak in monosyllables, and lay slumped in a zombie-like daze. Alum, the main character of the game, is desperately seeking a cure for The Vague, as his girlfriend Esther has been stricken with it. In his search for a cure, Alum is banished from Kosmos by its authoritarian overlord. He soon meets a mysterious wise man who gifts him with the cure called a Rushlight, provided by a god-like force known as the Altruist. Alum’s goal is to return to Kosmos to share his Rushlight with Esther in order to cure her. In his quest, he meets a band of rebels of who have been gifted with Rushlights of their own, and are trying to get back into Kosmos to share their lights with its citizens and defeat its Machiavellian leader.

I read one review which posited that “Alum” is a Christian allegory, and I think that may be true. There’s a clear battle between good and evil. The Altruist speaks to Alum throughout the game, telling him that he has plans for him and providing him with direction, which so far Alum is ignoring in his obsession with curing Esther. There are demonic black creatures lurking around who are up to no good, and many of the characters have moral battles with themselves, fighting their sinful natures and suffering from deep shame about their weaknesses. But the story of “Alum” could also be interpreted as a metaphor for enlightenment—the Rushlight provides peace, wisdom, and deep compassion to its bearers. I’m still only about halfway through the game, but so far I’ve found it surprisingly deep and morally complex.

 My sister recently posted a link to the website “Apartment Therapy”, which I have I now become obsessed with. Even with the Tiny House movement being all the rage, there is still a dearth of information about living in and decorating small spaces. At one time, I wanted to be an interior designer, but I was daunted by having to learn the math involved, so I never pursued it. Having joined the Art Committee at work, my latent decorator has burst through in full force, and have discovered my hidden talent for such things. “Apartment Therapy” is feeding the decorating beast within, and I am plotting all sorts things involving re-purposed wood, antique brass candlesticks, and funky woven baskets lined with bright linens. Don’t tell Mr. Typist!


--Kristen McHenry

Monday, July 6, 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Know People, Game Review: Botanicula, and Formal Verse Series #5: Ode to the Television

I’ve been wracked with a sort of hypomanic irritability lately, probably due to the fiery breath of hellish 90+-degree weather ravaging Seattle, and as a result, I’m getting a lot of unimportant things done. Once of those things was cleaning up my Linked In profile and “friends” list, or whatever you call it on Linked In. I’m annoyed that I have to have a Linked In account at all, but it feels inevitable. I don’t want to  maintain it, I don’t want to deal with it, and the whole thing is a complete nuisance, but I’m afraid if I don’t have one, it will somehow negatively affect me. I’ve given in to some unspoken pressure, or maybe it was spoken pressure at some point; I don’t remember now.  Anyway, I recently went through and deleted a lot of “bad” contacts, and reviewed a very long list of potential contacts, which was fascinating. I do know a great number of those contacts, or at least am somehow tangentially connected to them through my profession or my writing life. It was like a journey through the last ten years of my dual careers. I sent out about ten “connection” requests as a result. I realized through this process that despite thinking of myself as a semi-hermit, I actually have a fairly large circle of acquaintances. I’m out there, meeting people and doing things! Oh, God, just writing that sentence exhausted me.

Because I can’t sleep, (heat), and The Secret World keeps crashing (heat), I recently downloaded a quirky little point-and-click game from Amanita Designs called “Botanicula”. This is the same studio out of the Czech Republic that put out “Machinarium” a few years ago, which I took a good stab at but ultimately found too maddening. However, “Botanicula” is a complete delight. I find it very meditative. The visuals are beautiful, the score is stunning, and the “puzzles” are far more intuition than logic-based, which works well for my right-brained bent. There are no instructions or “hints”—you’re just left to potter through the beautiful landscape (a mystical tree born of a fallen star) and click around until something happens. The game is extremely immersive in that the score, the sound, and the gameplay all work together to allow your mind to let go and just intuitively follow the internal (non) logic of its weird and wild landscape.

The gameplay itself involves navigating a scrappy band of critters on a mission to save their tree from corrupt forces that threaten to destroy it. This adorable team is composed of a flowering twig, a lantern, a mushroom, a feather, and what appears to be a chestnut seed.  They each have individual talents and personalities, but the group is never separated. They travel through various sections of the tree, rescuing critter-babies, saving fishermen, finding keys, and in my favorite section so far, retrieving the oddly specific number of fourteen chickens in a dementedly complex and hilarious sequence of  bribery, trades, and cunning puzzle-solving. There’s also a highly entertaining “mini-game” segment where each of the critters takes a hallucinogen and has a bizarre dream. You have to play their mini-game dream sequence until each one comes down from their trip. I’m taking a four-day weekend and I’m between writing projects, so “Botanicula” has been a marvelous brain un-winder. I highly recommend it. (The trailer below is a bit misleading—the game is very slow-paced, and enemies rarely pursue the critters with much verve.)

Continuing on with the Formal Verse Series, below is a good poem for a sticky-hot, brain-sapping July day—a silly rhyming poem I wrote a number of years ago after flat-out lying to a co-worker about my TV viewing habits. Mind you, I didn’t mean to lie—she was one of those super-smart, liberal NPR types who said she “didn’t own a TV”. Without even thinking about it, I piped up with “Oh, same with me! I never watch TV." This was after a weekend of binge-watching for about ten hours straight. To this day, I don’t know what compelled me to fib. I guess I was just trying to fit in. Anyhow, enjoy “Ode to the Television”:

Ode to the Television

Give me your background noise, your winking lights,
Your Iron Chefs and your spandexed fights;
Your Animal Planet, your wild girls,
Your Adult Swims and your rapping earls;
Your Easter colors and hushed affairs,
Your stomping models with their sullen stares.  

Give me those abs, as flat as a nickel,
The slayer with his rusty sickle;
Astute detectives, forensic porn,
A frumpy mother done-up, reborn;
Tell me my skin can glow like honey,
And quitting my job will lead to money.

Grant me grace in the dark when I’m in pain,
When my loneliness asserts it’s reign.
Give me your shocks, and your wives done wrong,
Your perfect ending, a cheering throng;
Your spangled dancers, your jazzy band,
Your laconic hosts and your hipster brand.

Tell me that my deepest, scariest ill
Can be vanquished with a common pill.
That I’m sexy with this latest scent,
Then I’ll sleep easy, at last content.
Tomorrow I’ll claim to hold this view.
like Judas, that I have never known you.


--Kristen McHenry