As we fast approach the Christmas or Holiday or whatever you want to call it season, my mind often wanders down to that dusty place called memory lane. It’s there that I recall celebrations of days gone by with family and friends and acquaintances whom at the time I thought were friends who today I wouldn’t recognize if they sat down next to me. I wonder where those people are today and if they hold the same memories that I do?

As with any type of celebration, be it a holiday, a wedding a birth or a graduation, I’m sure we’ve all encountered ones that were good, ones that were not so good and ones that for whatever reason, were just plain bad. Maybe the food sucked, maybe the music wasn’t to your liking, maybe you didn’t like the people or person you were with or maybe your drunk relative conducted themselves in such a way as to put a stain on the whole affair. I hope that when you think about all of them, you focus on the good ones.

I’m gonna focus on Christmas and what I remember most about them from back when I was a whole lot younger. Most it has to do with the presents that I received and the memories that come back to me when I think about them.

Naturally, there was the first bicycle. It was gold in color and to top it off it was a three speed!. Yep, when all my friends were tooling around on one gear, I had three. It was cool and so was I until the day I rode it up a curb and bent the wheel that never got fixed and the bike was left to gather dust in the basement. Oh, but the time in between was unforgettable. It was my horse, it was my chariot, it was my car and it was my plane.

Then there was roller skates. No, not roller blades but roller skates. Today, they’d be a relic but back then they were the kind that you needed a key to turn and tighten the little clasps on the front and the back of it that held it in place on your feet. You'd wear the key around your neck on an old shoelace and it dangled like an amulet and was always at hand when the skates had to be adjusted. They were the kind that adjusted its size to actually fit your foot and they were bound with a strap of leather to hold them on. The kind that would randomly fall off one of your feet when you hit to many bumps or went to fast and dangle and you’ve have to stop and put it back on. They were the kind that you strapped to your foot so tight that the leather band left its imprint around your ankle and they were kind that when the leather band finally gave way and broke, left you in tears.

After that, there was the baseball glove Stiff as a board when you first got it and had to be “broken in”. You’d massage it with oil and put a ball in the “pocket” and tie it real tight with rubber bands or string so that it would fit your hand and be more flexible and make it easier to catch those screaming line drives and pop ups with. It was the kind of glove that would dig balls out of the dirt and the kind where you’d relish the sting when you caught the ball in the palm of the glove instead of the web. It was the kind of glove you were reluctant to lend to any of your friends for fear that they might somehow corrupt it and it was the kind of glove that smelled like baseball when you put it next to your pillow and had dreams of playing in the big leagues someday. It was the kind of glove that lasted for years and when it finally came time to part with it, it was one of the hardest things you ever had to do.

Next, there was a football. The kind you’d spend hours playing catch with your friends with. The kind you’d tuck under your arms and dodge would be tacklers and fantasize about scoring that last second touchdown that lifted your favorite team to victory. The kind that survived countless games of two hand touch on the concrete streets of Brooklyn and seemed indestructible even when the ends began to fray and had to be held together with electrical tape and the laces snapped and had to be replaced by the old strings of an even older sneaker. The kind that would sit itself in the closet patiently waiting during the hot months of summer only to resurrect itself again when the fall and the winter hit.

After that there was the smell of fresh cardboard when the board games were cracked open and people sat around the table or on the floor and played and talked and laughed. There was the sawdust quality when you ran your hands around the box of that thousand piece jigsaw puzzle and thought to yourself that it wouldn’t be so hard to put together. There was the aroma of Elmer’s glue with its white bottle and orange cap and the snipping of pieces of plastic in order to put together the model airplane or car ort train or whatever it was being assembled.

These days, I watch with what I call a distracted interest when I hear stories about people that are standing line for hours at a time just waiting to get their hands on the latest hot gadget. This year, I think it’s something called the Xbox 360 and I wonder if years from now people will be around writing about the time they scored a bazillion points or defeated some image of an enemy that flashed in front of them on a tube after being freed from its shrink wrapped prison.

I hope I’m wrong but I sorta doubt it.

Here’s wishing you all happy memories from me and mine to you and yours.

Bob & Anna

I am harboring a theory that the reason we like music goes back to our earliest childhood, when we didn't understand language and lived in a world of incomprehensible sight and sound. A newborn infant bombarded with sensory input has only its deepest intuition to rely on for a response. It cannot contrive an answer to a question. It sees and hears and an instinctual, genetic response is ilicited. A baby feels the answer to a mother's question. It feels the reaction to a sight.

When we listen to music we're going back to that first response we made to being alive. If we were lucky enough, it persisted through our lives, sound eliciting responses that we remember. The music of our past makes us feel best. If we grew up with our parents responding with love while we listened to Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty, we're going to be country fans forever. If we had our first kiss and Dylan was on the radio, it becomes embedded in our being.

This is why music is so subjective. This is why certain sounds send us to our own personal nirvana while leaving others in the shoe aisle at Walmart.

While I was writing The Dream I was debugging my linux machine. Debugging is the normal state of affairs for a linux machine, far as I can tell.

To debug amaroK I put in a CD from my collection I hadn't listened to since I bought it from Spinner doesn't exist anymore, but the echolyn CD, As The World, is still on my rack as a result of my having heard it on the Spinner service back in 2000. I remember listening to it once, declaring all but one song boring, and retiring it along side a bunch of Emily Bezar CDs I bought around the same time.

The motive of As The World finally seeped into me. I figured out the rhyme and reason of these songs that have no hook. Once I got it, I needed more.

I downloaded The End is Beautiful from iTunes and promptly fell in love with it. I didn't think people made music like this anymore. Progressive rock by middle-aged guys, a few thousand notes per song, 7/8 timing moving to 9/8 then 5/8. Themes that I can understand.

Who likes these guys enough that they can have out five CDs? I sure didn't like them when I first heard them. They tried too hard to sound like Gentle Giant. They seemed like a "Spock's Beard" rip-off. Spock's Beard being a Dream Theater rip off, being a Yes rip off, etc. A progressive throwback in a world that's already moved through two or three musical genres. Decades have past. Most people have never heard of them, much less heard one of their songs.

It's really hard to play echolyn music. It's hard to sing the four-part harmonies they have in every song. How could you go through so much work for so scant a following?

They must love what they're doing.

Somewhere at the end of The Dream, when the guys are closing the bar and going off to their cab in the sleet the refrain to The End is Beautiful dribbled from my computer speakers. There was something deep and majestic about it. Profound in a scientific way. Profound in an I love you and I'm scared, way. Profound in an I can't live without you but I am, somehow, way.

I realized I'd heard the riff before on a Yes album. Yessongs, first track.

It was the last movement to The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky. And I remember where I was the first time I heard that theme. It led to a love of progressive music, and a crush on a girl I was certain had been designed by God to my exacting standards.

The crush was unrequited, mostly. The music lives on. I heard it again while I was working and it evoked feeling the way I'm sure familiar voices evoke feelings in infants. There is a universe in a few neurons of my mind where I am seventeen and have a serious crush on a girl with long brown hair and blue eyes in Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights, Illinois. I am forever connected to that time and place. To the feeling. I go back there when I hear those notes.

The lyrics are kind of SOP. Words to fill space. Sigur Ros probably has it right in simply using a human voice as an instrument. Nothing has to be said. It's the purity of the moment -- our own response as infants to sound. The song comes to a creshendo with the fire in my stomach, and then I realize they're talking about something I might have said, might have done, might have thought. The adult me in head-on collision with my first thoughts as human:

I made her hate enough to kill.
It doesn't make it right.
I made her hate enough to kill.
It doesn't make it right.
Doesn't make it right.
Doesn't make it right.

Doesn't make it right. My God. My dear. My love. We go through these trials for a reason, I'm sure. It hurts and I can't figure out how to make it stop. Will I come out the other side whole?

Music comes to us. One reason or another. Mother returning with food. Father twirling us in the air. Life, love, pain. I made her hate enough to kill when I could have left her in peace. Or was there no other way? It doesn't make anything right. There no other way than to be trapped between two wrongs.

And words to the Firebird theme swirling around me as I try to bury myself in technology to avoid the pain of the mistakes I've made in my life. What trial is to come for mistakes I've yet to make?

"How do I tell her the end is beautiful?"

I finally finished Don DeLilo's,"Underworld". It took me six years.

Eight-hundred some-odd pages. It winds all over the place, and isn't strictly about any character's story. Rather, it's a gigantic meta-story about the ultimate underlying interconnectedness of all things. Pedigrees. Coincidences. Any one event spawns hundreds of other events, each of which is in some stage of maturity. At any point in time all humans are in the middle of a bundle of wires that are the path things take through time. The ends are frayed. Branches upon branches on each side. Things are ending, and their ending is the middle of something else's existence and the beginning of others.

The trigger for the multifarious world lines of Underworld is the 1951 pennant game between the Giants and the Dodgers. That game connects everyone, directly, indirectly, consciously, or unconsciously, through the winning home run and the baseball, retrieved by a kid who crashed the gates instead of going to school.

It's a masterfully executed book. Written in superior prose I could practice for two hundred years and never emulate. It covers such diverse topics as Lenny Bruce, the Cuban Missile crisis, subway taggers in Manhattan, the mafia, pretentious modern artists, nuclear war and the American secret weapons programs, J. Edgar Hoover's deviency -- if you had eight hundred some-odd pages to fill about everything being connected from a baseball in 1951 to now, you could cover a lot of ground, couldn't you?

He connects that game to the bombing of Hanoi. To the creation of a styrine-based napalm developed by Dow Chemical. To a mob hit in Brooklyn. To a serial killer in Texas. To a woman on Valium who makes jello in parfait cups she angles at 45-degrees in the refrigerator.

What made me pick it up off my shelf and start it over after six years was the cover, which displays an iconic World Trade Center. The WTC plays no part in the story, though were Underworld to be written today, I'm certain Don DeLilo would have found plenty of fodder in the WTC collapse.

I pulled out the bookmark. Page 115. Started at the beginning and finished it last night thinking, "Why?" Maybe it's his "Ulysses". It's a technical achievement that's not easy to love. I found no engrossing characters, and there are so many. At times, it seems a new one is introduced every ten pages, and then a hundred pages later, you realize tens of characters simply haven't been mentioned again. Just like real life. Connections are ephemeral. By the end, many themes are resolved but honestly, I'd forgotten them two or three hundred pages earlier. Had I known it was about what it was about, I would have never invested the time. Nor will I recommend it to anyone who isn't a student of writing.

It took me six years to read. I am not man enough for this book. I feel the same as I do looking into the math of the Richard Feynman biography (for mathematicians) I never finished -- the one that goes into all his physics in detail. The one with all the differential equations and tensor math I never learned. I keep reading pages of it, trying to understand two or three of the proofs, and then I put it back. I can't handle it, and I probably couldn't handle Underworld, even though I thought I did. It takes someone of greater prowess.

I'll go back to Nick Hornby. Dave Eggers. I'm a much simpler person. I have other things on my mind.

How do I tell her the end is beautiful?

I'm an E2 newbie. Last month I just turned twenty years old. I've only attended college for two years. In terms of the general age range of E2, I fill out the younger end of the spectrum. It's only last year that I was even old enough to head off to nodermeets on my own. The topics that fascinate me are the things of youth and there's no use in pretending otherwise. I'm emotional, reactive, idealistic, and a little tetchy. I have a lot of life yet to experience and a lot of matters to understand that most members of E2 probably mastered years ago.

I'm an E2 oldie. This is nearly my sixth year of active participation in and contribution to the community that gives this website its character. I've been through most of its crises. I've taken sides and switched sides. I've made dozens of friends with whom I've exchanged e-mails, phone calls, instant messages, and face-to-face meetups for years now. My writing has matured, my technique has improved, and I can say with fair confidence that I 'know the ropes.' Even the sekrit ones.

In the past few months, I think this pair of disadvantages and advantages have balanced out to the point where my experience in some areas outweighs my inexperience in others. I've been recommended to the editorial staff before. I have a pretty good idea why I haven't been added to the $ list before, and the reasons against the addition were solid. This time, however, I feel ready. I'm confident that I can contribute valuable skills to the team in creating and guiding the creation of content. And, occasionally, removing content. So, as many other noders already have, I put forward my autobiography according to Lord Brawl's specifications.

1. List 3 to 5 writeups that epitomize what's special about everything2 for you.

Your Ending Here - This is the sort of fiction I'd have trouble finding anywhere else and the type of writing I feel E2 nurtures particularly well. Surrealistic, but determinedly rooted in the popular and familiar. Poetic, but colloquial. Structured, but not exactly narrative. Perhaps most importantly, this write-up utilizes the power of hardlinks and pipelinks to their full potential, fulfilling the 'hyper' of hypertext by introducing a new, meaningful dimension through linking that also weaves the story into the pre-existing fabric of the database. "Your Ending Here" is a fictional tour de force and the first write-up I'd point any aspiring fiction writer on E2 towards.
We Cannot Breathe, We Cannot Breathe - Okay. Scandalous confession: I'm extremely gullible. No, I mean extremely. Remember Revelation of the Lamb in Four Parts? I thought the write-up was about an actual filmmaker for its extremely-convincing duration. Including after the 'human sacrifice' bits. I started Googling his name, trying to find out more about these horrible video tapes he'd devised. When all I found was links back to the write-up on E2, I realized I'd been reading fiction. Go me. So, given that baseline of a total lack of healthy skepticism, this particular selection from The Book of Yelps and Growls series entranced me. How could such a beautifully cruel, hypnotic, modernist fairy tale have existed among the peasants of some Western European country and why hadn't I heard of it before? The rendering was so perfect. Half-conversation, half-incantation, We Cannot Breathe, We Cannot Breathe tempts you into a world of gods and demons where thick, flowing mists dissolve details into metaphors, a whole landscape of coded meanings. Then I figured out, several years after everyone else, that The Book of Yelps and Growls was an elaborately woven fairy tale all its own across multiple write-ups and contributors. Borges would be proud.
diagonal argument - Advanced concepts of set theory explained in humorous, intuitive detail? The beauty of mathematics made beautiful to even non-mathematicians? So much for 'incomprehensible math nodes.' Like every other field, this material can be made understandable and appreciable to lay readers with a little work and cleverness. Redbaker invested riches of both in his outline of Cantor diagonalization. Wikipedia only wishes it could write expositions this cool.
why don't poets kill each other anymore? - Submitting poetry to the nodegel is an exacting gauntlet. Delicate prissy prose and fragile emo egos won't last five minutes in New Writeups. Poet noders are armed well past the teeth; right into the nasal cavity, actually. They'll fuck you up yo.
How to install Linux on a dead badger - E2. The uncontested, ultimate resource for real l33t h4xx0rz.

2. List 2 to 3 writeups with which you're most pleased.

A thunderbolt not included in the calculations - I wanted to write poetry about my world—a world of information, of computers, of the internet, of social software, of instant messaging, of cell phones. These things are important to me. They are more important to me than the traditional subjects of poetry. Frankly, I don't care that much about nature. I want more of it, less polluted, but it doesn't grab me or entrance me in the slightest. Places like this? They certainly do. The culture of instantaneous information shaped my childhood and it will shape my adulthood all the more. It has as much a place in modern poetry as Frost's forests and Dickinson's trains. I wasn't sure I was going to succeed in the endeavor, however. From the reaction this poem garnered, it seems I did. A place to progress from, in any case.
Think of us as a lost - E2 taught me to write fiction. Without E2, I would never have approached writing as a creative medium. Never. So thank you, everyone. Including the downvoters.
August 23, 2003 - E2 also taught me to stop mutilating myself from the inside in order to fit someone else's hate-filled dictates about who I should love and cherish—intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. The support I've received from the people who populate this website is a gift I could never repay. And they've asked nothing of me save that I cultivate an identity I feel safe in, rather than one that makes others feel safe. More than fair trade.

3. List 2 or 3 writeups to which you would point new users as an example of "how to write for E2."

diagonal argument and Your Ending Here, as iterated above. In addition, for the poetically inclined, I would point noders to etouffee's entire oeuvre.

4. At what time or times are you typically active on e2 and accessible for user questions and help?

I'm generally online during the early morning and early evenings, CST. I spend a lot of time at my computer, even as I work on other things, so I'm instantly reachable in that regard for more hours of the day than not.

5. Are you an active member of the Mentoring team, or if not, would you be willing to join?

Yes. I've been a member of the mentoring team for almost three years. My first charge was Inflatable_Monk, and to this day that remains the only mentee I can point to as someone I can honestly say I had a hand in developing. Other mentees that have been assigned to me have, one way or another, dropped out of communication and ceased to log in. songaboutliz wrote three excellent write-ups before they departed, however, so I'd highly encourage you to check them out nonetheless.

6. Are you a subject matter expert to whom the admin team can go for content advice? If so, in what area(s)?

If it's linguistics, I'm your man. Linguistics makes up a good portion of my write-up spread and happens to be my major, so I can spot-check content in that area with a fair level of confidence. And E2 writers seem especially keen on linguistics write-ups, oddly enough. I have also been told that I do a good job with poetry criticism, so I would be an addition to the number of poets on the staff roll already who'd be willing to give advice on that kind of content.

7. Are you a leader or an active, contributing member of any e2 usergroups?

Though I feel that she would be a better leader, in Mitzi's absence I am the leader of the bipolars group for those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, those who feel they may have the disorder, or friends and family of bipolar individuals. I'm also an administrator for the E2 Bulletin Board.

I've come to believe that no matter how difficult it is between you and the people you love, especially your children, it isn't a good idea to close yourself off to them. At this time of year especially, forgiveness is very important, and you must reach into the depths of unconditional love to remember what it really means.

I work at a shelter for troubled teen girls, and while many of them are receiving passes from their probation officers to spend time with their families for the holidays, there are those who will be spending Christmas at the shelter. For one in particular, this is the result of her parents deciding that she has fucked up once too often and they don't want her to be with them for Christmas. While this girl is often strong and defiant, she's taken to crying in her sleep lately, and as I sit in the hallway and listen, it breaks my heart.

We judge all too quickly these days, in a time where we feel we are defined by what we stand for and how strongly we hold to those convictions. We have become all too self-righteous in our efforts to prove we are right when we are all, at the very core, completely wrong. I believe that admitting we are wrong in the face of what others believe is right is the key to healing. Does being right matter? Or do other people matter? This concern for the self and watching out for "number one" is a bloated and confused doctrine, and I am always, always very wrong.

We think of the child at this time of year, from the mythological origins of the season, the birth of a savior as a child, to the focus on gifts and magic in the eyes of children. And still we fight. And still we argue. And still we claim to be righteous while telling others they are wrong. We miss the message, which is to love and accept and to not attack and destroy in the name of our own professed righteousness.

Take a step back and think about how pure your goals really are and how your beliefs and convictions impact the lives of others. Is it worth it?

Somewhere in New Hampshire a girl is crying herself to sleep because her parents have told her she has fucked up too often to be welcome in their home for Christmas.

In this lies the key to where we have all lost our way.

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