Objects, Idols & Donuts

I feel like I should write a blog post. Having a long weekend suggests I should, and I haven’t written in a while, so I’d hate to fall out of practice. Not to mention the last post was more on the sad side, so it’d be good to pull out of that lull.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say at the moment. I’ve spent the good part of this holiday programming a fiesty, Martian cactus who is trying to ward off an incoming drone invasion. The drones counterattack by dropping sombrero hats and displaying passive aggressive banners. If the cactus has been hatted one too many times, it can power-up by catching a donut.

The game was a group project for engineering, and our (cacti-infested) rendition turned out fancifully well, in my opinion. I am rather biased, though. We spent DAYS working on it over the semester (seriously, if you add up the hours…it’s definitely in the days).

Norbert and Natalie are still stuck in my book, as per my last post, though the cactus did have me thinking of Charlie’s butterflies. The project brief had a space theme and mentioned a Spanish word. We basically ran with those hints like the butterfly effect. (The donuts were the exception. That was the result of a personal craving in the late evening / early morning, long after I probably should have stopped programming ). But it’s done now, a good reminder, perhaps, to enjoy what you do, and maybe buy pastries beforehand.

And things are much more enjoyable when you make friends to help you through. One would think I speak of the people with whom I worked, and though I did have a super-awesome group of talented partners, I’m actually talking about the cactus.

As a child I always wondered how there could be stories of people worshipping idols they had made. It did not seem logical; if you’d made it yourself, how could you possibly think it powerful enough to put yourself below it?

While I wouldn’t go so far as to start holding Sunday services for donut-devouring cactii, I can perhaps understand, through a steep leap of imagination, how a person could become attached to a physical idol. When a situation is uncertain, rough and perhaps seemingly uncontrollable (as one might consider a semester of engineering) manufacturing a friendly face can go a long way to making it seem less so. Maybe it has something to do with protective/nurturing instincts, maybe it’s just the power of / personal preference for laughing whenever possible (I fight hard for creative ideas that make me giggle).

In any event, it’s probably good to remember, as both iconoclasts and iconophiles will be quick to point out, that feelings are not inherent in objects. We coded a cactus to shoot needles at exploding drones, not to make one feel joyful. And blurring that distinction can definitely bug up your mental program.

Still, it is a nice side effect. One only calls programs that cause wanted changes or side effects. Whether the code for the side effect in life sits in the programmer or the object is a much discussed topic of debate. Can a person, for example, affect another person’s happiness? Or can material things? Can spelling donut, “donut” instead of “doughnut” really induce a fit of exasperated indignation in the more traditionally-inclined?

As a child I was very much influenced by the 1965 film of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella… impossible dreams…imaginative corners…mysterious, pointy things in fur that left so many unanswered questions in an era before internet searches… but perhaps most profoundly, by the line “Do I want you because you’re wonderful, or are you wonderful, because I want you?”

It was a phrase I’d thought about often as a child. It cycled through my 8-year-old head for a whole fifteen minutes while I agonized over whether or not to spend my first, $5 allowance on a plush snowman, whom after seeing, like the cactus, I’d started smiling. For some reason, as a child, I’d developed a great fear of making the same mistake as Scarlett O’hara in Gone with the Wind… spending two hours and a whole war chasing after something that’s ultimately not a good fit and rather disappointing.

I don’t know why I thought of such things so young. Perhaps I’d spent too much time daydreaming in corners.

Maybe it’s a good moment, though, to revisit that corner, to pause and to notice the butterflies fluttering there. Yes, small things like a single word or a missing mantra can spiral into whole games and the most epic, cinematic breakup line in the history of film. But there’s a lot in between that, too, and the stuff that matters, I think, has a habit of staying around, like the glass memory of a slipper or the red earth of one’s home.

In the end, I bought the snowman. Whether or not I really should have, I’m frankly not in the mood to consider right now. In fact, all I can think about right now is that I’m feeling rather hungry, and would very much enjoy a donut.