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Category Archives: Play

The Jester and The Jackass

Posted on by Paul Roth

[TRIGGER WARNING: rape] Court jesters were often the only members of a royal court who could verbally attack the wearers of the crown and live to see another dawn. Continue reading

Sucking at Parties

Posted on by Paul Roth

The thing is, I’m socially awkward. I sincerely hope you had no idea this was the case, but it’s very true. There are people I see who can walk into … Continue reading

Another Story Idea: Killer Be Killed

Posted on by Paul Roth

This was a throw-away idea I had back in November but it’s stuck with me. A story told from the point of view of a zombie assassin. Here’s how it … Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Paul

Posted on by Paul Roth

Is There A Santa Claus? We take pleasure in answering since it wasn’t tl;dr, the formspring submission below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author … Continue reading

The Internet’s a Show-Off

Posted on by Paul Roth

I want to sing and dance and play ukulele and draw and write and make people laugh and it’s all been done! It seems like every time I’m grooving to … Continue reading

Found my Passion

Posted on by Paul Roth

I haven’t blogged in months but I’m not going to apologize. I post private notes on facebook and rarely go as much as a day without tweeting something, but I … Continue reading

2009 Resolution the Last: To Distant Lands

Posted on by Paul Roth

I’ve never been interested in travel. That’s not the same as disliking it, the way I really dislike moving. Travel has just always struck me as a means to a goal rather than a goal in itself. I grew up as a child of the military so would routinely move from one home to another every couple of years. My parents would take me from Korea to Japan to Hawaii to Maryland to Illinois and back. The trips themselves always seemed to get in the way of our purposes, which were generally to visit family.

When I settled into high school and then college in Maryland, I finally stopped moving with my family and was happy to put an end to the traveling, too. On my own, I never went anywhere far from home. With the onset of my dancing career, I started to travel for the purposes of getting to those dance events which were inconsiderate enough not to be in my backyard. What I thought was that everywhere is pretty much the same. People, places, things. Gravity? Yep, still 9.8 meters per second per second. Now, where’s that venue?

It wasn’t until I started dating someone who loves to travel that I slowly began to understand a little bit of the allure. The fact that every place is influenced by its own history and that the history of every place is different from its neighbors. The beauty and uniqueness of each environment. The culture and practices of different peoples. There really are places where the grass is greener, the water is bluer, the horizon is wider, and the sky looks bigger. There are towns where I fit in as if we were designed for each other and there are cities where I would always stand out no matter how still I stood. The weather travels more than any of us and it has its favorite places, too, depending on its mood.

Even in that relationship where my eyes began to open, I still didn’t want to admit the fun of going to a new place and exploring it. It has taken an overlong time for me finally to confess that the world is an amazing place full of astonishments and that all I need to witness more of those surprises is to stand on a different patch of land.

Two years ago, I started to enjoy traveling for its own sake and went on trips just to go on the trips! Last year, I let go of the last of my reluctance and began to embrace every bit of it. I liked the driving, I liked the flying, I liked the getting lost and the getting found, I liked encountering the people who spoke differently and ate differently and thought differently. I sang along with the Discovery Channel commercials that declaimed Boom De Ah Dah, the world is just awesome!

I would like to go to England and Canada and Australia and Japan and the various tropical islands where people play in clear sweet waters. I’m sad to say, though, that I am a little stuck. I have become estranged from my sister and mother and I think that my birth certificate and most recent passport were last in my mother’s possession. I have a driver’s license and social security card, but no way to prove… well, that I was born. My physical existence notwithstanding, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how I can show that I exist and thereafter how to get a passport as a U.S. citizen. My friend, Soo, has given me some ideas and so I will try to see if I can get a passport this year despite the odds. I hope that I am not deported in the process. Damn my slanty eyes!

Even if I don’t get a passport, I’m going to stay open to the opportunity of travel. If I see a cheap flight to Boston or somewhere in Florida, I’m going to try to go! Las Vegas, Seattle, anywhere in California? Yes, please! And if there is ever a last-minute cheap flight to Hawaii, I am so there. Hmm, I need to find a dogsitter. Or make friends with a pilot who likes flying with dogs. Oh, man, that would be great!

Thus, I resolve to travel to places this year not just because a dance event is happening there (although I am looking forward to New Orleans for Showdown!), but just because I haven’t been there yet. To give myself two quick guidelines: if I can drive there in less than four hours, it doesn’t count; if it’s specifically for a dance event, it doesn’t count. I’ll start small and aim for just one completely new place before the end of the year! And if I manage one, I’ll shoot for a second. And if I manage two, well, you can see where this is going. This resolution will go hand-in-hand with my fourth resolution and I will try not to let a lack of a clear plan prevent me from moving toward that new destination.

It’s taken me a while to admit it but the world really is awesome, and I want to see more of it. Here I come!

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2009 Resolution the Second: Bearing More Words

Posted on by Paul Roth

Words are important. I still think that numbers are the vocabulary and mathematics the language of the universe, but that metaphor shows just how essential words themselves are. Words are what we use to change the world, more than muscle and more than science. In fact, I think that the notion of magic came about because some people were able to use words in unique ways that frightened and amazed others around them. The ability to manipulate words so that disparate ideas can be joined together in unexpected ways is beyond many and certainly strikes me as magical.

I am proud of my ability to make letters dance across a page to a tune of my own devising. I am not the greatest author the world has ever known, but I think I am no simple scribbler of pedantry either. I write sentences that make me smile and I try to convey concepts in interesting layers of colorful hyperbole. Sometimes, I can surprise myself by the structure and eloquence that I manage to capture in fleeting phrases.

In 2008, Aba invited me on a quest to write fifty-thousand words in a month. I worked hard to accomplish that goal and in looking over my achievement, I think it was good and feel pride in my production. That story is not yet finished, but I intend to tackle the challenge again come this year’s November.

Thus, I resolve to finish my book from last year’s National Novel Writing Month before the next begins. I shall also continue to write whatever I can, whenever I can, in the form of these blogs and perhaps in other endeavors. I have found that I can write poetry, though it is juvenile and amateurish. I have found that I can editorialize and spin fictions. I have found again and again that I feel great joy when my words come together and stand before me in thoughtfully organized dispositions which effectively convey my ideas. I have been happy to discover that once I record an idea for posterity, more ideas stand up to be recognized and captured.

I will write more in 2009 than any previous year because I love words.

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2009 Resolution the First: From The Edges

Posted on by Paul Roth

Deer are creatures of the edge. They live along the outskirts of life, be it in the forest or the suburbs. They survive on what they can find, grazing giving way to scavenging should they exist near sources of great teeming life. They are pretty and innocent and useless. They make this world a better place by their beauty but it is a purposeless accidental achievement. I like them, but I do not want to be them.

I think my nature also keeps me living along the edge of things. At dances, I stand on the sidelines and watch for opportunities to dance. At parties, I move out of the center and converse with those who happen to pass by me. I wonder how many more instances there are when I stand at the border of some aspect of life and just enjoy whatever circumstances fall in my direction?

I am comfortable on the edge of things. I stand by myself, I do things on my own, I make decisions based on personal reasons, and I avoid impacts with those around me. That lifestyle is comfortable to me. But I realize that psychological comfort is an illusion.

I suspect that we are comfortable when we think that we have support and safety and knowledge of what is to come. I could make the argument that by staying in comfortable situations, the probability of harm or calamity is lessened, but statistics working in one’s favor aren’t sufficiently useful when you are hit by an unlikely disaster. At the beginning of September of 2001, I would have thought that working in a lower level of the Twin Towers in New York City was a safe enough thing to do. I imagine probabilities would have been on my side. But those probabilities didn’t save the victims of the terrorist act that occurred soon into that month.

I have come to realize that staying back in the shadows is only useful for cowards and villains. When I wade into the thick of events amidst people and the chaos of life, I encounter more opportunities for excitement and happiness than what drifts in the thin fringes. It can be a bumpy experience, but bruises heal and collisions breed interesting stories.

I have already inserted myself into the midst of dances. I can have fun with a dance partner along the side, at the back, or in the middle of a dance floor; but when I can be there in the middle of things, I am more likely to be surrounded by excitement and can better share in my fellow dancers’ joys. Most of life is a dance of some sort, so why not extend this approach to broader circumstances?

In 2008, I went on more journeys than in most years, though many of them happened by accident. I attended more events and parties. I put myself into more crowds of people. I reached out to more people. I didn’t like all of it, but that’s not required. I did experience a much greater variety of emotions and encounters than perhaps ever before and by the end of the year I had much better stories. All of those benefits came to me often without my conscious decision to pursue them. Well, I can learn from accidents as well as I can from lessons, and I have learned that there is more and better in this life than what I can see from the edge.

This year, I resolve to throw myself into the midst of things. Whether that means sporty activities, meetups of various groups of people, venues I normally wouldn’t enter, or just random circumstances from which I’d normally veer off, I will strive not to move away. I will instead stride into the center of the world to explore what I haven’t yet encountered. I wonder if I’ll find you there? I wonder what I will find?

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Considering Childish Things

Posted on by Paul Roth

I should be working on my book right now and certainly if this were the germ of a new novel idea, I would do everything short of hitting myself in the head with a frying pan to ignore it. I might even get that pan’s handle in my grasp just to warn myself. But the idea that occurred to me this morning as I was reading a friend’s blog over breakfast is that what is correct for adults is not necessarily correct for children, even though truth is always the truth. So, this is an aside to clear my mind of these words before I get back to the meat of my book.

My friend’s note was about a child of special needs who participated in a game and was allowed to win by his child peers because of those special needs. My reflexive response, as it usually is, was to consider how I would have wanted that experience to unfold had it happened to me. As I was beginning to grow indignant at anyone throwing a game just to make me feel better, I realized that i was imagining myself right now, as an adult, in that situation. I was thinking about it without proper context.

I’m all for absolutes. I believe in absolute truth, I believe in absolute evil (bears), I believe in the theoretical absolute zero, and I believe that if I drank vodka, I’d probably like Absolut.

But I don’t think that children are the same as adults, and so I don’t think that the question of “Should a person be allowed to win in order to make him feel better?” is a complete question as it eliminates the distinctions between those stages of life. “Should an adult be allowed to win in order to make him feel better?” I say absolutely not. “Should a child be allowed to win in order to make him feel better?” After I’ve thought about it today, I say a conditional yes. If being allowed to win will help the child grow into as complete and confident adult, more so than being justly defeated, then yes.

That qualified response right there exemplifies the difficulty of parenting. Certainly, there are clear goals and absolutely correct purposes in raising a child. But the nurturing and psychological therapy that is inherent in being a good parent means taking each situation into consideration as it relates to those goals. Look to the goals each time as you consider what is good for your child on this occasion. The reason why the road to Hell is paved with good intentions is that people pay so much attention to the intentions that they don’t look up to see where they are leading. The Good Intention Paving Company has completed several roads; it’s not their fault they get all the flak because so many people just followed one of them.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I Cor. xiii. 11. (punctuation added by me because I wanted to)

As a child, I feared many things and many experiences. I feared getting hurt in a variety of ways. There are some children who are bold and some who are timid, but rarely have I found any who are completely devoid of irrational fears. It is a part of the magical thinking with which we play as children that our minds test the rationality of the universe around us. If we say this, what happens? If we pretend we are this, what happens? If we try to do this, what happens? Left to their own devices, children will find that some things hurt and other things are fun, that lying to themselves may feel reassuring but won’t change reality. They may learn the truth of single instances, but without experience, they cannot learn the truth of broader scope. Just because one time you tried to ride a bike, you fell over and hurt yourself doesn’t mean that you will every time. But unless there is outside experience that can contribute that information, why would a child think so? A parent helps children through those painful experiences by providing the trustworthy reassurance of true information learned through greater experience. Yes, it does hurt when you fall off the bicycle, but that only happened because you haven’t figured out the balance part of it yet. But you can do it and when you do, riding in the wind can be very fun!

If a child is not allowed to win at a game once in a while, how are they to know that it’s possible for them to win at all? The reason why good educational toys for children begin with very easy challenges and increase in difficulty is to provide that experience of a game that a child learns he can win at first. Then the child learns through increasing difficulty that he can overcome more and more demanding obstacles.

This is quite different from a circumstance where a perfectly capable adult is given a game to play and because his companions feel bad for him in some fashion, allow him to win. Adults are, in part, adults because they understand that life is full of challenges that can be overcome through personally applied effort. They have learned that if a given effort is insufficient to succeed, then they need to apply a greater amount or greater skill of effort on subsequent attempts. Confident adults understand that if they reach their limit in approaching an obstacle and still cannot overcome it, then that is their limit, full stop. Mature adults feel good in the striving and feel acceptance of their limitations and certainly feel proud in overcoming the obstacles that they do, all with honest self-examination.

I do not believe it does any adult good to receive an unearned success. It shakes one’s belief in the rationality of the real world. It encourages you, in the worst way, to think like a child. The wise adult sees lucky windfalls as happy meaningless coincidences, and undeserved rewards for an unpossessed merit as a source of shame to be declined and avoided. If someone tells me that I have a nice voice, I thank them but I don’t feel any pride in it, just a vague happiness in the coincidence of having a decent vocal structure. On the other hand, if I’m told that I sing well, then I thank them and feel glad that I have practiced and managed to carry a tune. But, if someone were to tell me that I am the best singer ever, I would feel little or no appreciation at such an obvious lie, even if it were earnestly meant to be a complimentary hyperbole.

In my friend’s note, the implied circumstance was of a child with learning disabilities who may have never won a game before. Happy though he may have been, perhaps he never thought of himself that he could be a winner. I am glad that he was able to learn, at least once, that he had the possibility of winning within him. There was no reason, in my friend’s tale, to believe that this child had been pandered to before or after the single game and I do not mind thinking the best of him and his parents and his life. In fact, I applaud his father for allowing this boy the opportunity to face challenges on his own and grow as well as he could. There was every likelihood, the father well knew, that his boy would lose, and yet that loss would have included the experience of participation and the challenge inherent in sport. These are growing pains and are needed in a full life. I like to think that had the other children simply played to the best of their ability, and thus the disabled child had not tasted success, the father would have been encouraging of the attempt alone.

I don’t envy responsible parents for taking on the incomprehensibly difficult job of helping a child to grow well. I don’t know that I could do it well at all since my default mindset is one where I don’t consider a child’s viewpoint. I still play with toys on occasion and enjoy children’s stories more often than not, but I do so with the knowledge that these are temporary escapes from the challenges of being grown up. When faced with the rigors of day to day life, I make the difficult choices that are needed. I do this at work, in my personal life, and in my social interactions, for in my mind I have put away childish things.

I am glad to have read about a good parent today. I am glad to have had an opportunity to challenge my own thinking about what it means to be a good parent and not just treat children like tiny adults. I honestly think this is a new realization for me and it may color my views to come. I have quite a few friends who seem to be doing remarkably well at parenting and I applaud them all. I don’t know if I want to be one, let alone if I could do it at all well. Could I pull out those childish things and keep them close enough in mind to consider that what is right for me is not right for a kid? I feel too selfish today to want to share my life with someone who would need so much and think so differently from me. Still, I wonder.

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Writing a book by close of November

Posted on by Paul Roth

I think there are two exceptionally memorable episodes of the Cosby show.  Not that I actually remember the plots, there were just segments of the two episodes that left a … Continue reading

My laptop is a Phoenix

Posted on by Paul Roth

Technically, my laptop is an Apple. But Apples just turn brown and then fall apart. My current PowerBook G4 will soon turn into a MacBook Aluminum (Late 2008). That’s not … Continue reading

Traveblogue: ULHS 2008, POSTSCRIPT

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I purposely attempted to keep my daily entries in my Traveblogue upbeat and positive, but I did have some thoughts cross my mind that were not quite positive.  If you’d … Continue reading

Traveblogue: ULHS 2008, followed by the final day

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Today is Sunday, the last official day of Showdown.  I’ve got to try to get myself going so that I don’t miss any of the competitions this afternoon: Teams and … Continue reading

Traveblogue: ULHS 2008, then comes the third

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Today, I woke up around 10:30am, local time, and felt a compulsion to go to Target.  It is the land of Target, after all.  Actually, I went to get some … Continue reading

Traveblogue: ULHS 2008, the second part

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It was very sad getting up and out the door this morning without spending time with Dru (my dog) first, but I’m sure she’s happy at the Preston Country Club … Continue reading

Traveblogue: ULHS 2008, being the first part

Posted on by Paul Roth

I don’t remember exactly when I started swing dancing.  I think it was around this time of year in 1998.  That would make around this time of 2008 the point … Continue reading

Christmas Journal – Laughing All the Way!

Posted on by Paul Roth

I wasn’t very good at being a child. I liked learning about stuff. I followed the directives of the Public Service Announcements on topics from not taking drugs to conserving … Continue reading

Christmas Journal – Christmas Elephant in the Room

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I recently went to a party, recently enough that I can say it was in mid-December. People I knew from Minneapolis to Baltimore to parts of Virginia were all there, … Continue reading

Christmas Journal – The Jingle Bells Got Him!

Posted on by Paul Roth

Hello, my name is Paul, and I’m a Lindy Hopper. Most times of the year, I feed my addiction to swing dancing by going out to various dances held to … Continue reading

Christmas Journal – Christmas Music is not that bad

Posted on by Paul Roth

I like Christmas music. I don’t like ALL Christmas music. As rose-tinted as my holiday glasses may be, I’m perfectly aware that 90% of the sounds that get piped into … Continue reading

After Showdown 2007: Why I Dance

Posted on by Paul Roth

As I’m flying home from Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown 2007, I remember looking out over the balcony of the Cinema Ballroom and wondering why everybody else was there. There were … Continue reading

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