04 December 2017

DIE FOR YOUR GOD

The Romans did not get the early Christians. Thanks to Ryan Reeves' excellent videos, we get the picture that the Romans, through the Greeks and other influences, saw the point of religion as the currying of favor. You do this for your god and you'll get blessed: stuff, money, victory in battle, et al. Now what is this bizarre, new cult that glorifies martyrdom and defeat? Who won't even play along and bow before the god-emperor? It didn't jive with their worldview, and so we have periods of early Christian history in the Roman empire of great persecution, periods that we remember today and draw inspiration from. If some dude would face dismemberment for his love of the Lord, I think I can set aside some time to pray.
The idea of persecution has taken a hilarious turn, though, in contemporary America. What follows are some thoughts on that. I cite no evidence and provide no references; it's mostly anecdotal because, really, we all know someone who thinks this way and I don't have time to cut and paste a bunch of tweets in here.

Within the paradoxical perception of a culture war, "Happy Holidays" substituted for "Merry Christmas" is a persecution of the majority faith of the country. Coffee cups are the means of persecution. The secular government making moves against some people's interpretation of biblical morality is now a case for martyrdom. Her emails are persecution.

And yet no one, to my knowledge, in this country, is being dragged from their homes and publicly executed for faith in the Bible and Jesus Christ. The worst you'll get is a rude stare-down-the-nose from liberal-leaning passersby, or possibly a combative Facebook post. No one is making you die for your faith.

Or, maybe they are.

Christians who emphasize the need for the public to conform to their definitions of moral, Biblical behavior are being asked to die to that god, that god who stands ready to smite those who endorse anything contrary to his designs. Christians who stand in public to condemn people for living as they see fit to live are being asked to die to the god who does the same, who sends hurricanes to punish the sodomites. I see it as a call to increase faith and works and to decrease judgement.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers went to near comical pains to avoid judging one another. There are stories of Fathers who bore penance under false accusations to avoid shaming their brothers (who, in shame, confessed the error anyway); Fathers who held their tongues, knowing that it was God's job to amend the wrong-thinking of others. They took very seriously Matthew 7:5 and did their damndest to avoid hypocrisy.

Even if we disagree with the direction culture is going, even if we see ourselves as soldiers in a war that's being waged against "traditional values", we are all called to death, plain and simple. Only in death do we find the Life required to act as Christ to those in our paths, to affect real change. When the persecutions ended, the Desert Fathers & Mothers created their own persecutions, dying to the world for Christ's sake by spending most of waking life "entombed" in their cells, tiny caves or huts containing little more than some scripture, a little bread and salt, perhaps an icon or two. Some fled ordination when the laity came to make them Priests. I think their model is one worth considering.

Certainly there are times to speak up and teach or correct with genuine love (though this is different from some folks' interpretation of "speaking the truth in love"). That time is mostly none of the time. It's a tricky balance, but my feeling (and I'm always ready to be wrong) is that Christians in this part of the world are working on too grand a scale. The early church didn't seek to change the Empire; they pursued Christ and left the heresy-fighting to the professionals. We are now all about public speaking, rather than focusing on Prayer. We are expected to politicize what is not a political thing, instead of drilling down into the immediate relationships we have. We (at least I) neglect our neighbors for the sake of the public arena.

It's a tricky balance and the accusations I'm throwing out belie the very idea of this post. Lord have mercy.

28 November 2017

Banished

I didn't know if we'd survive the first winter. The fish was running out -- the harvest came in poor. The bitter chill of winter eaked into our homes. It seemed the firewood would be gone soon.

It's fun looking back at the first few years of this blogging endeavor. Most of my posts were about (PC) gaming at that time and, generally, the satisfaction or dissatisfaction the hobby can bring. Apart from the random cheap/free iPad game, I haven't bought a video game in years. But it was one such cheap/free iPad game (SimCity Buildit) that led me back in time to a game I had trucked past, and yet still deserved a look.

Banished is what I would call a "pure" city building game. These types of games hold a special place in my heart, going all the way back to the original Caesar game by Impressions Studios, through the Zeus and Emperor games and beyond. I like my little diorama cities with their absurdity and design opportunities. It's also one of the bigger pluses of video gaming, that feeling of being sucked in, when time stops and you are laser focused on the next thing. I like the element of obsession to a point. The nice thing about the Impressions' "city building" series is that it never went too far. Mechanically, it kept a nice fence in which to play, and never dove off into the deep end where more "advanced" strategy or management games lead off to, causing someone like me to go swimmy-headed. I hadn't found a way to scratch that itch since, even with the multitude of browser and iOS games bending along a similar line (you suck, Elvenar). Those are too focused on generating profit, even if they look nice.

Banished had been on my radar for most of its development. Then, when it finally dropped three years ago, my head was elsewhere -- you know, writing a novel, raising a small child, etc. Playing through SimCity left me with a rather hollow feeling, so when Banished came back to mind I plunged in, shelling out the $20 and setting aside some time. It has been worth it!

glorious village of Budgeford


Whereas other games of this type set you along a strict development path, Banished is a sandbox. This is tough because you're forced to find and maintain your own direction. The tutorials are useful in learning to navigate the minimalist menus and basic functions of the game -- had this not been a one man, indie job, some narration would have been welcomed, but the result is still sufficient. Thankfully, being a 3-year-old game, Reddit is chockful of helpful hints and I soon found a desirable build order. Once you hit a certain point of population and reach a balance of  maintaining food and supplies, things settle down and it becomes meditative, almost like gardening. This is in part due to the pace of the game. There is no hurry. At the default, 1x speed, it almost seems to be real-time; throwing up buildings can take months. The years cycle by, the harvest comes and goes, the wind blows, the birds chirp, the old die. As little problems come up you shift labor here, cut down trees there, nudging your garden along.

It's at this point that the aesthetic element of the city-building game comes in to play. In numerous iterations of my towns I knocked down more than a few houses to rebuild them elsewhere, constructing a city-center that was at least somewhat symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing. The sandbox element is able to shine here. Even though you only have a few buildings to choose from, none of which having more than a plain, wood-and-stone, quasi-dark age Europe architecture, the freedom of arrangement (unbound by the grid systems of other such games) lets you layout your settlement however you choose. A dense, gridded townscape can work, or a spread out forest village is equally viable. I opted for a blend of these, with a center village and then a few sporadic outposts for hunters and foresters. Any design is basically effective, though questions of efficiency can come in to play if stockpiles and barns are too spread out. It's good plain fun.

The first go was a flop and I scrapped it. Subsequent towns reached that quiet equilibrium I spoke of. Not much happens, until it does -- pestilence can mess up your food supply; an influx of nomads can suddenly put some of your population into homelessness and starvation if you're not prepared; less serious opportunities, like getting that cool crop or cattle when Fartface the trader arrives, can be lost if you're not stocked up on trade items (iron tools, basically).

It's a chill game I am much enjoying, a peaceful place where I can exorcise those demons of control and watch time go by as quickly as I please. Banished is cool.

30 October 2017

"My Heart's True Home"

I've been on a bit of a religious journey lately...lately as in the last year or two. This is distinct from a faith journey, as what I believe isn't changing, but how I believe and what I do seem to be.

Something has drawn me to explore more liturgical Christian traditions outside of my (apparently) evangelical bubble. It all goes back to Fr Stephen Freeman, really, and his excellent blog and podcast. Prior to that I'd had a passing interest in the Orthodox that never materialized. Fr Stephen presented to me a lot of cool Orthodox ideas I had never been exposed to before. Even hardcore Protestants admit that the Orthodox have a real grip on Christian cosmology, and it was Fr Stephen's "one-storey universe" that began to agree with me and nudge me towards an exploration of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Since that time I've been reading a lot of Orthodox and Roman Catholic literature and peeking into "Liturgical Protestant" traditions, like the Anglican communion. In short, I might be a cliche soon. Many men and women my age who were brought into the Protestant/evangelical thing at an earlier time of life have felt the pull of liturgy and vestments and candles and smells and bells, though others still take it the other way around. Many people I know have worked their way through the gradient, from Protestantism to "light" liturgical churches (like the aforementioned Anglican church) and landed in Orthodoxy, or at least Orthodox-affirming positions.

I haven't landed yet. I don't know where I'm going to land and that is both terrible and encouraging.

What's been on my mind recently is the idea of conscience. Mr. Pahman over at Ancient Faith put to words the things that have been stewing in me for a long while now. Many of those who land in the Eastern Orthodox (EO) church, or the Catholic church for that matter, sometimes cite this very thing: all the reinterpretations and schisms and theological confusion throughout Christian history draw them backwards in time to the church that hasn't changed over the years and is, apparently, not subject to human conscience.

That's putting it broadly because both EO Church and (especially) the Roman Catholic church have room for personal opinions and movements of conscience, but they are all contained within the boundaries of the Church and her doctrine/dogma (not real clear on the difference between those two yet). As Pahman affirms, the role of the human conscience is important, even within the ancient Eastern Christian faith.

My question, as if it were utterly important and I couldn't just submit to the religious ideas of somebody somewhere who's already sorted this stuff out, is where do the lines of personal conviction and conscience end and those of tradition and authority begin? Because that's the big one, the real frontier between dogmatic liturgical traditions and the last 500 years of Reform vacillations. It's easy to twist scripture to agree with your conscience or cultural convictions, so when do we submit our conscience to what other people think and when do we resist?

For a contemporary evangelical, the only fence we know is the Bible and how we (and our conscience and experience) interpret it. For all other Christians (traditional Protestants included), their church is right and everybody else is missing something.

I've studied the Orthodox Church most extensively so I can say that there is a lot of "wiggle room", as it were, for other traditions and even Christians abiding within the dogma of the Church. The Orthodox simply regard their faith as the "most complete" revelation of God, while other religions (even non-Christian religions) are simply "incomplete." That's a nice way to put it and can help steer members way from the hatred that often gets thrown around between differing faiths; for the Orthodox, other religions shouldn't be a threat. Within the church itself, you have to go a long way to actually be a heretic, though some (mostly YouTube commentators) seem eager to throw that term around. Archbishop Alfeyev said that there are lots of things outside of Church teaching that fall into the bounds of "personal opinion" and they generally are not in conflict with the dogma of the Church. In other words, it's okay to have your own ideas as long as they don't directly conflict with doctrine.

Fr Stephen Damick said, or probably quoted, that in the Orthodox Church when you bump into something the church teaches that you don't agree with, you don't say, "I don't believe that." You say, "I don't believe that yet." The idea is that you don't have to agree with something just because the Church teaches it (which seems to be less the case in the Catholic church and in certain Protestant realms), but you do have to recognize that the Church is the authority on the issue and that they have made the final judgement (probably 1000+ years ago).

A co-worker of mine, in a discussion about our individual ramblings within the Christian tradition, said that the path we're meant to be on finds us. This is a very Orthodox idea, as it's God who comes to us rather than the other way around. You hear this kind of talk a lot in conversion stories. Even the title of this post was taken from the autobiography of an Orthodox monk, describing how he felt when he made it into the EO church. But the Orthodox church is The Church, right? It's not just "your heart's" home, like some subjective thing, right? Such talk of subjectivity lends itself well to parody, where the only thing that matters in a church or a theology is if it's right "for me."

So, the EO church is everybody's home, right? The paths we're meant to take should lead us all to the Orthodox Church...right?

Or does God (even the God of the Orthodox) move and guide us into the church/theology we're supposed to be in at the time we're supposed to get there? Is God "subjective" about where He puts us? Is He the one guiding our consciences, albeit in a dogmatic context? Does that explain why some bounce from Catholicism (or Orthodoxy) to Protestantism (or non-denoms), and vice versa?

Again, I defer to the Orthodox. A local priest who I've been fortunate enough to speak with about these things told me, as a response to my expressed confusion about where God is leading me, that if what I think I want doesn't come to pass it is for my salvation. I don't know if this priest's kind, generous, and thoughtful response is a reflection of the greater priesthood, but I found it incredibly freeing and hopeful. Wherever I go, whatever God has for me, is for my own benefit, for my salvation.

He will use my conscience, holy scripture, the lives of the Saints, the Church (both here and beyond) to direct my steps. I think the phase of the journey I am on now may be the part where I figure out how to accept that. And that is terrible and encouraging.

As a post-script, I'll elaborate on the "terrible" part in an attempt at transparency that might encourage someone. It's terrible to feel adrift and pulled and pushed by every passing current. Every podcast or book I see demands my attention, even briefly, because it has to be considered. I'm trying to be free of this overload and spend more time in God's presence (the Jesus Prayer has been very helpful in this regard), but it's terribly difficult. I just want to land and feel okay in my belief system, but that's not happening right now. There are too many questions. Have we really gotten better at this Christian thing since the Reformation? Is the Bible and the Christian life to be subjected to modern ideas and evolve along with society? It sucks and it's hard. At the same time, the journey is a gift and for my salvation. What else can one do but wait until the answers come?

I have a lot more to say on the subject, so we'll see if a follow-up is in order.

03 October 2017

The Road to Thunder City

Well, my first Kickstarter is live. I started The Dig as a random idea, inspiring me to self-publish. I thought it would be cool to take a dive into game-making using the world I wrote in what would become Homes. It was meant to be a small experiment and I, an unknown creator, saw no need to crowdfund. In a way I wish I had so that I could pay Jacob to make more awesome images of dwarves.

Here we are about two years later and crowdfunding is happening. I feel as though I've built up enough steam within the community to throw my hat into the ring and have a go at this Kickstarter thing. The result will be a beautiful book with lots of original art by the same Jacob. I'm excited. I'm no longer nervous; just excited to get this thing out there. I'm confident that we'll fund, but even if we don't it's still experience points. I intend to have many updates on the campaign page sharing more thoughts on this thing, and I hope to have some cool stuff happen throughout the course of the campaign.

For now, click that pledge button!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shorelessskies/heavy-metal-thunder-mouse/


06 September 2017

Winking-out Phenomenon

I wonder if the biblical Lazarus had such a beard
We've been reviewing some original Star Trek this last week and I'm always, no matter how often I watch the show, struck by the difference of pacing compared to contemporary shows (even the Star Treks of the '90s, now more than 20 years ago). The cheese and camp and production value are to be expected of a show of such means in its timeframe, but the slow pace is almost unfathomable to me. That pace (and the camp and the sometimes primitive writing) belie some severely deep themes, big ideas that made and make Star Trek what it is.

I found most notable a concept presented in The Alternative Factor episode towards the end of the first season. In it an (apparent) madman named Lazarus crash lands on a dead planet after the entire universe "winks out" for a brief second. In essence, the entirety of existence ceased to be for a only a moment. Lazarus is hunting a "thing", a "beast in humanoid form" that seeks to undo everything. In reality he is struggling against himself, but it is the Lazarus of another dimension, a different universe. They wrestle in the gateway between our two universes and if one should pass into the next, and the two meet in real space, it's the end of everything, like universal nuclear fission.

It's intriguing pseudoscience, but what a spiritual application! Here is a man struggling against the "beast" that is himself, the same man as him but different, a creature looking to undo everything. It's our dead selves, the sin Christ buried when He went to hades, refusing to stay dead. It's the thorn in all our sides, but played out on a galactic scale. It's Lazarus, but it's not.

Moreover, it's the end of everything.

The struggle is real
Thomas Merton became a Catholic, and shortly thereafter a Trappist monk, at the outbreak of World War 2. He remarks in The Seven Storey Mountain that he "caused" World War 2. That we all did. All of us, our brokenness and inability to find peace and goodness, our dead-ness, culminates in war -- in that case a terrible one on a global scale. The end of everything. So it is in the spiritual struggle, so it is with Lazarus. Existence (life) versus non-existence (sin). For sin is nothing. It is an absence, a void. In patristic traditions sin is often thought of as non-matter, having no form or life of its own. It's a shadow. Just as Lazarus of our universe (matter) wrestles with Lazarus of the other universe (antimatter), so we fight in an inner-life of existence against non-existence. Sometimes we appear mad, sometimes we are at peace, but there is always a struggle.

In the final act, the "antimatter" Lazarus agrees to remain trapped in the gateway in an eternal battle with his counterpart to keep both universes in tact. It's mythical in its way, and the point at which the application departs. Ours is not an eternal war, thank God, only a temporary one that foreshadows things to come. In the end it's all we have control over, the only thing that matters. Thankfully our inner struggles do not summon the end of the universe!

19 May 2017

Mouse Fiction

The text is mostly complete, +Jacob is hard at work drawing mouse motorcyclists, playtesting is well underway. Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse is happening. Here's a bit of fiction that may or may not make it into the final product. Please enjoy!


They rode by twos, single file, tails tucked under their arms, a pack of six tiny motorcyclists bringing a tiny storm of combustion to the streets around the Triple Fir hotel. They were waiting. For who, or what, they weren’t sure exactly, but this was the spot. There was Grey Eyes, Tim, Mickey, Sleepo on her yellow monstrosity (the chassis was mostly melted bottle caps), Grunge, and Boris, who revved his engine too often. The pack was bored and getting tired, imagining sweet cheese and other snacks awaiting their return to the clubhouse. Luckily, it appeared the end of their vigil was getting closer, for out of seemingly nowhere a small (even smaller than their own bikes) cafe racer shot between their formation into the night-black streets.

Without a word they broke off and pushed their accelerators to the limit in pursuit of the target. Sleepo, somewhat awake now, squeaked her delight at the turn of events. Grey Eyes took the lead, navigating their pursuit by feel. His instincts proved right as his headlight, one of only two motorcycles in the pack that had such a thing, reflected off the rear fender of their prey. He waved and they veered down an alley to follow.

A splashing sound, scarcely audible over the din, gave away their target and Grey Eyes led the way again. Around banana peels, under dumpsters, and through boxes the little pack zoomed and there was the racer, tipped over on its side.

“That just ain’t right,” said Mickey, “Leaving a bike like that.”

Grey Eyes hopped down and inspected the scene. The little snoop they were chasing could go quieter on foot, but not faster. Where did they go?

“There!” he shouted, and the ones still mounted raced away. Tim, the other one with the headlight, sped up and saw the bouncing little tail and whooped. In a moment they were on her, a black speckled field mouse hurrying away on all fours. They circled her with their bikes until she stopped and slunk down on her haunches in defeat.

“Fine, you got me,” she said, though no no one heard her over the engines. They only stopped when Grey Eyes scurried into the circle. He sat in front of her.

“Well?” he said.

“Well nothing,” she rejoined.

“Not the answer we’re looking for. Where’s Tasha?”

The field mouse wrung her paws nervously.

“We ain’t out to hurt nobody,” said Grey Eyes. “We just got a job to do, you see.”

“Let’s get her!” shouted Boris. Two of them rushed ahead, grabbing at the field mouse, ready for a pounding. She tried to curl up into a ball pitifully, then Grey Eyes calmed them down. The tactic seemed to work; mice aren’t overly brave by nature.

“Fine!” she squeaked. “Fine! Frankie’s got Tasha in the subway tunnels under the Main Street Bank, okay? Little crack at the base of the steps should lead you right to her.” She began to cry. “They’re gonna get me! You guys gotta protect me!”

As he popped the kickstand up and reached for the starter, Grey Eyes looked down. “We’ll see,” he said and rode away.

22 April 2017

Six Six Sigma

Skid felt the vibration of the strings on the edge of his palm, a fluttering nuance steadying his nerves; felt the callouses feeling the fret feeling the string; felt his neck in wonderful strain as it banged his head back and forth. The bass rattled his rib cage; the snare pierced through the mess into his eardrum; and as a bubble of sonic netting, the wailing vocalization enveloped all this and made it what it was: heavy metal. There was visible electricity in the air, fiery white lines of power and excitement that seemed to flame forth from amplifier and instrument. And then that rushing train of high speed distortion and adrenaline collapsed suddenly and wonderfully, taking the countryside to oblivion with it.

The "NO!" could even be heard over the noise as the bass dropped out, then the vocals, then the drums. Guitar ceased last of all, Skid having difficulty getting out of the moment.

"No!" cried Philip at exactly the same volume, even though the room had gone quiet. His strain was made clear when everyone noticed just how white his knuckles were against the fretboard of his bass. "That part should've been sixteenth notes on the root!" he roared. The sighs from the other three were equally audible.

Skid's eyes slid over to Chicha, the drummer, who was actually already looking at him. Then he realized Philip and Starla were staring at him too. "What?"

The stares continued.

"What, I was off? Nah, come on man."

All three said, "Yes, you were" simultaneously and in their own way, creating a din almost as noisy as the song before it, resolved with a "for fuck's sake" by Philip.

Skid was so called because he bore a frightening resemblance to Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame, not because Jerome Wilkinson said he left skid marks in his underwear in the 6th grade. Skid hated both explanations, but went with the lesser, and more rocking, of the two. Now he let that long blond hair swing into his face a little as he feigned deep thought, considering how such a terrible thing could have happened on his watch as guitarist and, arguably, musical visionary of Six Six Sigma.

"Sorry guys."

They all sighed again and Philip took off his bass.

"Take five?"

"Take six," said Philip. He was already working on catch phrases and also already had a cigarette in his mouth.

"Mom says she'll kick your ass if you keep smoking those, puto,” called Chicha to her brother. Philip said nothing in an uncharacteristically politic move as he slid outside.

The practice space was a tiny twelve-by-twelve box, part of a storage facility that fit snugly between some of the taller buildings in midtown. The location was nice because after the suits went home nothing was open in this part of town besides a liquor store; had they tried such racket at home, neighbors both upstairs, downstairs, and in adjacent buildings would have noise complaints. Here the band could practice far too late and not bother anybody except the pop punk band who also practiced in the space. They sucked, so the band didn’t mind disrupting them.

Skid played on his muted guitar, repeating an arpeggio for a lead he’d been working on, and ignoring the other two bandmates who stood by quietly. Chicha furtively sipped a beer.

“So your mom wants to murder Philip but doesn’t mind her baby girl drinking beer underage?” Starla had a warmness about her that let her get away with critiques like that. Saying it with a smile made it even easier.

Chicha smiled back and shrugged. "We're walking home. Trying to get used to the taste anyway, since this'll be our primary mode of payment."

Starla shrugged and leaned on her mic stand. "Get used to whatever you want. We'll be paid in dollars, US American! Then you can request any crazy stuff you want backstage. You know Iggy Pop always requested pizza to give to the homeless. You could even request some disgusting corn beer."

Chicha laughed. Her real name was Yessenia, but evidently her antics as a child made dad drink a lot and the name stuck. Her family was fucked up. She made a sour face and threw the silvery can in the trash. "Shit's nasty anway. Save my drinking for college."

"Oh you're going to college now?"

"Should Six Six Sigma not take off, yeah. Minority and ROTC scholarships can put me just about anywhere I want. Except Texas."

"Don't go to Texas."

"I'm not going to Texas!"

"Besides I don't think you'll need to fall back on anything except music. You think any band wouldn't want a hot Latina who can play drums like you? Just wait for Nicko McBrain to die."

The shrug seemed to indicate Chicha was considering the possibility, but that hanging around decrepit old white guys would not be worth the money.

"Or just stay out of college like your brother and Skid mark over here."

The guitarist's reply was the twang of his pick striking the guitars. Starla shook her head and adjusted her leather jacket. She had the look of a front woman: tight jeans, properly and genuinely broken in Omen tee shirt, jacket that fit like a glove, even the young Joan Jett pretty-but-not-super-model-pretty face and haircut. All she needed was the authority to muster her ragtag band. Skid seemed to be living a rock n' roll fantasy all day long; Philip couldn't decide if he wanted to be in this band or start up that death metal side project he'd been talking about for a year; Chicha was committed but young and, as such, likely to drop the band without much of a care when the time came. The singer sighed and called through the PA, "Let's go Philip, cigarette break is over."

After a minute of silence Chicha twirled her drumstick and said, "Probably got his headphones on. Dude can't decide if we're 'heavy enough' or not, so I guess he needs his fix of blast beats."

"I think we're plenty heavy," said Skid.

"Jesus, have you been listening this whole time?"

"What?"

"Nevermind."

"I'm saying, we've got the groove of early metal with some fast thrash parts. Starla can do grind vocals on those parts, Phil can do his death metal thing on..."

Both women frowned.

"...on a song...or two. I'm telling you, we're close to hitting that sound. That wonderful sound when metal and rock were still conjoined, with some of the brutality that makes metal what it is. If we learned anything from the Show..."

Chicha shuddered. Nobody wanted to remember the Show, the first concert they ever played.

"...it's that we're at our best when we're subgenre-less heavy metal. That's what record companies want to hear, anyway, and that's what we're good at. So," he clicked his mute pedal and played two bars from Mechanix, "let's make some metal."

The drummer settled into her stool. "I like the sound of that, but even clean-ish metal isn't going to get us a record deal. There’s no money in metal. I'll stand on my looks and my ethnicity and marry well."

"What happened to college?" said Starla, adjusting her mic stand.

Before Chicha could reply, Philip burst in with heavy breath. He stopped and tried to look casual, but he wasn't walking towards his amp.

Starla raised an eyebrow "Alright, Phil?"

"Yeah, I'm cool." He tucked his long hair behind his ears to prove it. Soon the stares forced him to cave. "You know that shitty punk band upstairs? Some suit was checking them out. Turns out he's a smoker, too...anyways we got to talking and I played him the demo...and he likes it."