Friday, November 18, 2022
Monday, November 14, 2022
I've never been big on computer or phone games. But I liked Oregon Trail back in the day. And Tetris. Oh, I did like Tetris. I was good at Tetris. I could play a continuous game for a long time. I remember finding it harder to play once iPhones came out and you had to use a touchscreen instead of going click, click, click. Tetris is the game that I occasionally do pick up again, mainly when my mind is itchy and needs something to focus on, like if I have five minutes to wait on something I'm a little anxious about. I'm still pretty decent at Tetris.
A couple months ago, I discovered Woodoku and had a temporary fixation with it. It's a little addictive because there are different levels that you complete within a week's time and other little sets that you do over the course of the month. So it makes you feel like you have to check in at least half the days in the week. It looks like Tetris, but it uses that square setup of sudoku. So you use your wooden blocks to fill in the squares, kind of like how you fill numbers into sudoku. I've never seen the appeal of sudoku. But this is good; I like this.
The way that the setup is, you often have no choice but to put a piece in where it will make a trapped, empty space. But it's okay because you have to take the best choice available and think in long term, not just for the one move. You might make empty spaces now, but maybe in the next more you'll get the right piece that allows you to access that space again and fill it in even better than you could have before. After all, since the pieces aren't falling down in ever-increasing speeds like in Tetris, you have time to plan and try to make a strategy (I say try because of course you still don't know which pieces you'll get next) (not that I normally like having to make a strategy--so maybe I like that you can only strategize so far. The strategy is more about how best to fill in space, not about military moves).
Given that it's so different from Tetris despite looking fairly similar, I wondered. I tried up a game of ol' Tetris again. I wondered if I wouldn't play as well, since it had been a while and since I'd been getting new ways of thinking. And guess what I didn't anticipate.
Usually, I keep a pretty clean Tetris game. Just a couple rows on the bottom, no gaps within the rows. If I have to make a trapped, empty space, I get knocked off my game. The rows start stacking up, and I'm buried. But playing Woodoku got me used to having those empty spaces. So when I found that the best option in Tetris was to make a trapped space, I did it and kept going and cleared up the space again. I found that I could play a better game with higher stacks of rows that I had been able to before. I found that I could play through the imperfection.
Sometimes that's life. You can't fit all the pieces in perfectly. But if you start in with the awareness that they won't all fit perfectly, then you can have the mindset that allows you to best work within that state of imperfection. You can keep reacting, planning not just for the perfect fit but also for the imperfect one. And then you can keep clearing out rows and racing towards your goal.
Monday, November 7, 2022
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Since moving back to the Phoenix area almost six years ago, I've been trying to enjoy the things the city has to offer, like the arts. Arizona Opera, Ballet Arizona, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Musicfest, the Mesa Arts Center, the Orpheum Theatre, Herberger--there's plenty to keep busy with show after show. So up until last month, I had never attended a performance from Phoenix Theatre Company.
If Bandstand was anything of an example of the quality of their productions, I've been missing out. (Granted, Phoenix Theatre Company tickets also cost more than some of the saver ticket options for other companies, though they do offer lots of promo codes.) This musical was at their Mainstage, which is a relatively small venue. Yet the production was full--music and choreography and singing. Even towards the back, you're close enough to enjoy the detail of it all.
The story follows WWII vets trying to make their way back into society after the war. We also focus on Julia, the war widow trying to have an identity besides just being a war widow but also trying to find closure for the loss of her husband. And the way in which their story of "coming home" is told is quite unlike any other. Their PTSD, their lingering issues (whether physical or mental), their fears, their memories, what sets them off--it's all thrown in within the story. We don't see the innocent young men before the war, then the haunted men after the war, and then some sort of third act event that brings it all to a climax, then the resolution. That is, we see all the stages of the story told in the musical. But we don't see those stages in the characters' lives. We come to understand that for them, there is no going back, no coming home (in which I inadvertently take some of Frodo's words--which I suppose is fitting given that Tolkien wrote his story after his experience in WWI). They'll always carry the war with them; the sacrifice wasn't just in the time spent overseas but in their whole lives. It can't ever be "just like it was before."
So the story itself is incredibly moving. And the performances matched the material.
Having dabbled in swing dancing in the past year, that swing era now has a little bit of connection for me. So it was nice even just getting to hear all the music and see the choreography. This is one of those musicals that flows from one song to the next; the beats keep moving. Swing makes for a wild and reckless abandon to energy that tries to stave off the pain of the war--and audience-wise, provides levity towards the serious material. Somehow this musical acknowledges the depths of darkness while also not being depressing. That's what art can do, though, no? The darkness is made into an elevated view of reality--by both the band in the musical and by the musical itself. Art can heal not by taking away the pain but by giving it outlet, giving a place to state the truth in full force in a way that you couldn't in any other way.