Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thought I Could Nap. Couldn't. Time To Post About My Childhood Phobias And Avoid Working On Real Writing Projects.

Or, Weekly Blog Update No. 5A37

I got a couple responses who were intrigued by my childhood after seeing the God's Eyes post.
So this blog entry is more about my life, rather than any pattern--unless you think an array of childhood anxieties as a pattern, in which case you would be belittling years of pain, angst, issues and much needed electrotherapy.


I wrote this up a few days ago as "my favorite personal story" for a creative-writing project I'm working on, so bear in mind that it wasn't directly aimed for the blog, BUT IT WILL HAVE TO DO.  I'M ONLY HUMAN. STOP THE PAIN.

*and begin story*

My sister and parents will agree that I had some weird phobias as a child. There were the
standards (fear of darkness, monsters in the closet, Santa).

But, I was also afraid of being eaten by wild wolves, of peeing in public bathrooms, and, thanks to the Harrison Ford Movie, Patriot Games, car bombs being placed in our 1991 Volvo sedan by the IRA when we left it in the parking lots of the ironically named Safeway or Lucky’s. 

Disclaimer:  Not Your Father.

(I failed to remember that in my case, my father was not a renegade cop who killed the brother of an IRA operative, nor does the IRA have operatives stationed in Alameda, California, as far as I know.)  In fact, I never told my family about this last fear because I knew they would scoff—and in movies, those people, the non-believers, were always the ones that got blown up first. I was protecting them.

One of my biggest anxieties was being judged and laughed at for being so anxious. So I began to write letters to my mom, starting at age 6. Anytime I was afraid, or upset or worried, either by things that she did or exterior threats to my life (like my sister), I wrote. As my mom puts it: 

“What would happen is…you know a lot of children, if you’re annoying them, or doing something that causes them to react they will respond right then…but instead of shrieking at me…you would just go into your bedroom, and shut the door and disappear for a while. And at some later point, I would find a letter by my bedside table.”

By putting my fears down onto paper I could feel somewhat in control of them. But, there was always a surplus of things to write about. In one letter I go on about how my parents must be ashamed of me because I, unlike them, hated books. Another one complains that when my mom brushes my hair it hurts so bad it “makes me want to kill myself.” Another expresses a deep fear about becoming addicted to smoking, even without ever having tried, or wanting to try to smoke.

Back then anything could be a threat, and it didn’t matter if I was generally a good kid because, as I wrote, “I don't know myself.” Even I couldn’t be trusted. The letter writing got to the point that I’d pass bits of cardboard, or whatever was handy, to the front seat of the car while my family was, say, out on an eight-hour road trip. And at the end of the letters there was always one, clear direction: don’t laugh—take this seriously. And mom always did. She’d talk to me calmly and honestly, hearing every single fear out. And usually, I would move on and feel reassured, until I found something new that scared me, like spiders leaving their babies in my bed. But, mom was always there to write to, and listen, like this icon of reassurance.

I’ve since managed to overcome many of my childhood anxieties and can now enjoy these letters as a weird window into my psyche. The reason why I like this story is that through these letters, I can look at my childhood as if through the wrong end of a telescope and all the pain and anxiety seems so small in retrospect. The fear is diminished, and in letting go of habitual letter writing, I am more in control than I was when I wrote them. Years after I had forgotten (and gotten over) my letter-writing stage, mom mentioned the letters and showed me the few that she kept. They’re old and torn, and only a few survived over the years. We talked over about it all and I said thanks for at least reading it all and taking it seriously given how weird it must have been to receive them over the years. 

It was then that she confessed, the first thing she did whenever she saw an envelope on her bed, was preemptively close the door, grab a pillow, read the letter, and laugh hysterically into the pillow.


p.s. Have you ever googled "electrotherapy" ?  I recommend it, as you get websites with demonstration-pictures like this.  I didn't realize electrotherapy can (or should be?) sexed up.

p.p.s. No, I did not receive electrotherapy as a kid.  Little homo-joke there, ha. ha.  You know, because way back when (as in, the 1970s) people were still openly using electrocution as a way to cure The Gay?  

p.p.p.s.  Also, my parents didn't suspect The Gay in me as a child, nor did they want to shock it out of me when I told them.  Although, I was the Red Power Ranger for Halloween a couple times, so I do wonder about their levels of denial.

Homosexuality:  You can't stop it.  But you can start laughing at it really early on.

Monday, September 13, 2010

God's Eyes and A Can of Math: A Semi-Memoir

So, I got a lot of feedback from my few fans and my parents--who aren't fans, but I force them to read this, anyway.  Basically, what I heard was, "Why in the HELL are you writing about math?  Why?  I will now stab your eyes out with non-mathematical objects just to show you how much I hate using math."

So, that went well.

I have decided to respond to these complaints... WITH EVEN MORE MATH.

But, simple math.  Math for fun.  Mom just shouted at me, "Fun and math do not occur in the same sentence." I tend to disagree as she just proved herself wrong in that last sentence.

We have now...

A comic book explanation of that function I tried showing you before.


(Don't all applaud me at once.)

Mom just said, "Don't worry."

I'm not gonna.

Because I'm awesome like that.

The function, F(x) =1/X, is like an Unhealthy Relationship

Remember what it looked like?  No?  Doesn't matter.  Just imagine a God's Eye pattern you were forced to make in intersession camp because your public school is system is wacked and lacking funding and you're on a year-round schedule, unlike every other school system so you end up being the weird kid at the family reunion with one too many homemade crafts presents to give at Christmas.


Anyway, the function:

So, however far out that function F(x) = 1/X [or Y = 1/X] continues, it STILL won't be enough for the function to break even and cross the X-axis.  X will go to infinity before it will let Y finally touch that line.  That's right, folks.  Infinity.  IN-FIN-IT-TY (I felt like it warranted a second T just to get the point across.) 

That's like saying Y is pining for the X-axis at 0 and that classic love story We All Have Gone Through starts to unfold...

Y: "I love you, please be with me so we can make variable babies" 

X:  "I don't love you but I'll never really say no or yes to you kthnxbyeeeettylG2G."  

(Exit X).

Y:  "Sweet!  I have a chance!  I just have to wait... forever?"

Unrequited love = a burden even functions have to bear.

But, more importantly, what is up with that weird open space in the middle?  

You know, the part where the function keels away like something smells bad in the middle of the graph, shooting up and down to get away from said smell?

Let us go back to our halfhazard metaphor that Y is desperately trying to get with X, who couldn't give a flying fundamental theorem either way:   when Y no longer attempts to get with X, and instead gets furthest away from that seductive, tantalizing, alluring, enticing-to-no-end X, the function (i.e., the relationship between the two)...falls apart.

*dramatic pause to let words sink in*

That's why your function is spinning wildly off your graph paper in a frenzy to keep up with it's unrelenting path to smallness.

When you think about it, it makes sense.  The function is 1/____ <-- insert some number here.   

If that number gets bigger and bigger, that fraction gets smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller andyou get the pictureand One Day, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, the fraction will be so infintesimally small it will be almost like zero, but not zero.  However, if you were to divide it by zero... oh boy.  

You just opened up a can of Math Drama.

With that, I  leave you.  I hope this helped explain why it is so important to disagree with my choice of subjects.  

As per request, proof of my awkward childhood:

Not one.

But, two.

In the same pattern, no less.

Apparently, when I was a child I sustained the same level of creativity as an infant Jackson Polluck, puking up his first art piece on his bib.

To quote Mom, "Well God has two eyes, right?" 


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Geekiness To a Whole New Level: Even I Don't Understand What I'm Trying to Calculate

Part 1:  Definitely Definable

I like math problems.  More than anything, I love calculus functions.  In fact, I usually end up seeing how similar life is to mathematical functions, and they help me understand those weird moments much more than anything Lifetime Television has tried to tell me.  Although, Golden Girls still kicks ass.

= Awesome.

This is probably why I'm still single.

Anyway, if you're worried this will get too mathy, don't worry.  I tend to run away from anything too obtuse math-wise (I have an incomplete math major at UCB that still haunts me).  I mean, after a while my eyes gloss over and I start to hymn The Mamas And Papas "Monday, Monday."  And yet, I love patterns and practical explanations as to why the world works the way it does, which tends to contradict the normal artistic gaze.

But, it's amazing how often math functions can describe real life, perfectly.  For example, take the function F(x) = 1/x.

This is a basic calculus function that pops up almost immediately in your average CAL. 1A course.  In point of fact, it's usually one of the first functions you're asked to find the derivative of, take the integral of,NON-MATH PEOPLE STICK WITH ME. IT'S GOING TO BE OKfind the volume of the shape it takes when put into the third dimension, etc., etc..

The idea is, that as x (whatever you want to x to be, it could be time, it could be bananas, it could be rocket ships covered in ninjas) approaches infinity, y is slowly decreasing and is heading towards 0, but oh no!  It will never reach it.

And if you try to let X = 0, oh dear.  What you have on your hands is something even Math doesn't understand (and that's really un-understandable).


*Crack!  Bolts of Lightning Streaks! Another Crack For Good Measure!*

Yes, Undefined.  

I was curious about what Undefined really means though, as I never got an exact definition on this term myself, even (or especially, depending on how you take it) after several semesters of math classes.  So, I poked around online.

Immediately I got the usual:  "Anything divided by 0 = OH THE HUMANITY WHAT IS HAPPENING?"  But, according to MathnStuff here, The Definition of Undefined is thus explained:

"Define means to set the limits, explain.  So, undefine means not to set limits or not to explain."

So, Undefined is unlimited--unexplained.  And F(x) = 1/something to infinity that will eventually go beyond anything we know or can understand.  

 Aka, Buzz Lightyear.

 = 1/x
I think this function is ripe to be applied to life.  Don't you?  Thus, we have the function, F(x) = y = 1/x, where y = Your Dependence On the Outcome Of Your Interaction With Sexy Person At a Party, and x is your Likeability: 

See how simple that was?

**UPDATE:  I have been futzing with the function more and more.  But, the root of it still stands true.  Funny how when one puts something emotional into the realm of calculus you see things you never would have before in a different perspective.  For example, Sexy is utterly undefineable (I know this isn't a real word).  And Romance is in the negative.  Hm.