Well, I’m preparing for the role of Nemorino in “L’elisir D’amore”, rehearsals start very soon.

On the 9th I am going to be auditioning for the Met council, though I don’t know if I’ll go through with it because I’ve been sick and right now my voice is scratchy from coughing. I’m entering vocal rest until Saturday, then I’ll know what kind of shape my voice will be in for next friday!

Among the things I am singing in my audition:

1) Instant Charmant/En Fermant Les Yeux, from the opera “Manon” by Jules Massenet
2) Il Mio Tesoro intanto, from the opera “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
3) Dies Bildnis Ist Bezaubernd Schon, from the opera “Die Zauberflote” by Mozart,
4) Per Rendermi Beato, from the opera “Serse” by Georg Friedrich Haendel,
5) Lonely House, from the opera “Street Scene” by Kurt Weill.

My repertoire was initially more ambitious– including ‘Languir per una bella’ from Rossini’s Italiana in Algieri… but because of this sickness I’ve revered to pieces I could literally sing in my sleep, because I’ll be singing in a debilitated state already (and this is IF my voice has recovered enough for me to put up a good front).

I’ve never understood why the hell opera companies and other similar organisms love doing things in the winter, the season where singers fall ill the most often instead of having the heavier activity take place in the summer. I’ve never understood this, really.

The Intrexvert.

Funny thought: As a musician and opera singer in the furry fandom, you generate no ‘cool’ waves. You’d usually have to ‘upgrade’ to, say, a DJ (*snerk*) to attract things like gift art or things like that. Crazy, really, it’s like the 17th century’s version of The Antipodes- everything is all upside-down: The semblance of something is more valuable than the thing itself. Over the years I have grown distant with ‘the fandom core’ as one might call it, and have stayed in touch only with individuals I choose, individuals who I consider worthwhile knowing.

Having been around since I first got online in 1995, I’ve seen a bit of change– back then it was a little more intimate, perhaps, a little hard to access because of the state of the technology, and not everybody was savy … but it usually followed that you had a certain kind of people that tended to be around- perhaps socially awkward and definitely a great number of them a bit of the tech geek, but perhaps a little more knowledgeable of things. Flakes there were and will always be, but the ratios were a little less skewered… heck, I remember when you could go to Yahoo Chatrooms and have an interesting and intelligent conversation (and the same goes for IRC channels. Nowadays….) The point I am driving at is that, as with everything, the more available something is to the mainstream, and the larger the number of people that pour into it, the larger the index of imbecility rises. This is a well-known phenomenon everywhere and perhaps Terry Pratchett had it in mind when he wrote, in the pages of ‘Maskerade’, “The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member divided by the number
of mobsters.” This is not reserved to the observations of the literary jocund, but several experiments have shown that there is a marked decrease of intellectual acuity when people act as a group that when they act as individuals. And the larger the group…

So, in essence, yes, I am saying that the furry fandom of today is a very different place than the fandom of thirteen years ago when I first got my feet wet, so to speak, at sixteen. While wonderfully talented individuals are still around (such as Blotch, Bauske, Pinkuh, Vince Suzukawa, Kyell Gould, etc), there is also an enormous profusion of… well.. slackers, aimless people with whom attempting intelligent conversation is akin to venturing into undiscovered country and- I kid you not- for whom the word “erudite” is an insult (one of said ilk flung that insult at me, and was surprised when I took it as a compliment.) When I was in highschool I didn’t feel any identification to the peers of my own age because I considered them shallow and unimpressive, I always sought the company of older, more experienced and knowledgeable people– and I have to admit that I feel very little in common with the ‘younger’ furs, even those that are only four to five years younger than me (notable exceptions, of course, apply), because they seem to be awash in the same sea of triviality and superficiality that my academic peers were so comfortable in.

All this means is that more people found the fandom, crowds got bigger, and -just like in the world of Yahoo chats- the more people there are the chances of finding a ding-dong (or several) increased exponentially to the point that there are so many ding-dongs flitting about that it sounds like St. Paul’s at Christmastide around here sometimes.

But this is not exclusive to the furry fandom, but in everything. I have found that the world, at large, is comprised of a great deal of mediocre people, people who are so terrified of responsibility that they would rather let others prescribe their path for them. Many of them, having never done anything of which they are proud, hate their lives or are extremely dissatisfied with them. These people are the kind of people that derive a perverse pleasure when they hear of a great or famous person being in trouble or falling in disgrace, because dissatisfaction and mediocrity combined engender envy. They’re everywhere- whether they be at the board of the Metropolitan Opera or in the Furry Fandom or whatever.

The trick is this: to understand that they’re inconsequential, in the grand scheme of things. These grey people (borrowing an image from one of my favorite novels, “Momo” by Michael Ende) enjoy putting down the bright and the joyful out of shame of their own impotence. They pretend to be jaded, sarcastic, ‘worldly’ even, with knife-sharp tongues dealing out acidic wisecracks and ridiculing “the naive and the idealistic” not because they know better than they do, but because they are not as brave as they are. But they can’t touch you, if you don’t let them. No-one should ever be allowed to tear down the shining vision of what you want life to be, if you have the courage to pursue it, and all it takes is never giving the green eyed monsters enough importance, so that their barbs matter little when they come.

I guess it is because of this that I have become more withdrawn- I disappeared from the Master Zen Dao Meow boards despite having been there for four years, I broke off with most Colofurs in a rather decided fashion, I stopped going to cons two years ago and continued to nurture only the friendships that I sought while I work on my career (and within it, again, cultivate the friendships of my choosing.) There are, of course, individuals I wish I could speak to more often, such as Vince, but overall I have grown content in choosing my friendships. Elitist? Perhaps, you may call it elitist… but you have to first realize that an elite is “the best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.” So it means that I consider the people before me and I choose whom to talk to and whom to interact with, based on my criteria- and I will not choose someone who displeases me or in whom I have little interest. Essentially, I choose what’s best for me. If being friends with a few as opposed to acquaintances with hundreds is elitist, then so be it- I am. Perhaps by doing this I am re-creating the intimate aspect of ‘way back in the day’, or perhaps I am simply one of those rare beasts- the introverted extrovert who is at home in any social gathering and is not uncomfortable at all anywhere, but who keeps his hand close and shares it with only those he trusts.

In the area of RPGs, many players have voiced their desires of entering a role-playing realm to enact their own stories, disliking the fact that they have to follow storylines of variable linearity. While this is possible in the traditional version of the genre (pen and paper), such a task becomes curtailed by current technology in its electronic version. Currently, there can be no such thing as a player telling his own unique story in electronic worlds because the technology currently limits us to follow the pre-established path written by the creators of a game. In some cases the path is wider than others (Oblivion vs. a Final Fantasy, for example), but it is still a great deal of someone else’s story.

The only worlds in which a current player could truly play his own character and story would be Rogue-like worlds- dungeon crawlers in which the player has little to no interaction with Non-Player Characters, and therefore no infiltration from someone else’s storyline. Here the player is truly free to decide who his character is, what is his/her background, and why the hell did he/she decide to explore the Temple Of Quasi-Biological Annoyance.

Because human communication relies on specifics, it is impossible for a computer at this point to create an NPC interaction that would feel both natural and suitable to the way the character has been playing the game without pre-established narrative margins. In an old fashioned tabletop adventure, a group of travelers arrive at a town in strife. Technically speaking, the adveturers can do anything at this point (provided they have an inventive GM)- they can choose to aid the ailing town, ransack it, or even take control of it by, say, taking over the crime syndicate that runs it. The options are limited only to the players’ imagination (and the improvisational skills of his GM), whereas in an electronic format the options are limited to the designers’ imagination and the flexibility of the technology. There simply can be no improvisation.

This is why so many worlds that try to pander to the current craze of Open-Ended Gameplay feel… broken, with areas and NPCs that feel disjointed and strangely disconnected from the greater picture. It is the threads of history that bind a world together- not just ancient history but recent history, as fresh as last night’s news of a raid. It creates a common atmosphere, a common experience between the inhabitants of the land. Open-ended worlds must necessarily lack any heavy influence from these threads because History also carries its younger sibling, Story, and a Story must, by necessity, make some allowances for linearity. It is an inevitable realization, but it is one we have to make: At this point, we do not have the technology to truly create an accurate role-playing experience. Rather, we are creating an Adventure-Playing experience- an interactive literary escapade where we are asked not to incarnate the protagonist but rather accompany them and, yes, choose their fate… while we may identify with many fo them, they are their own persons (or, more accurately, someone else’s creation), even if we are the ones choosing a great deal of their path. It is no accident that while many people remember the *gameplay* in Oblivion fondly, many more more people remember the intricate storylines woven by Final Fantasy VI and the character development.

A storyline adds a sense of tension, whereas an open-ended world can leave you feeling without much tension at all… in Oblivion, you could complete the demon-gates quests at your own leisurely pace (only the last one is timed), the nature of the realm would not change at all, and that really detracts from the atmosphere in a world that is supposedly besieged by otherworldly entities that are advancing upon it. Instead of dissolving the illusion that everything is staged for the player’s benefit, Open Ended worlds actually reinforce it- you either have two alternatives: Let the major events depend on when the player gets to them (as in the closing of the gates), or have them happen independently, on a certain timescale. The problem here is that the first one creates a “Truman Show” type world that won’t move significantly without the player, and the second one creates a world that moves without him… meaning that in order for him to get his money’s worth he has to engage actively in the storyline so he doesn’t miss it– and for all that trouble, you might as well have created a linear (or modular, web-based, etc) storyline to begin with!

The one game I know that can pull off the first one convincingly is the Grand Theft Auto series. Why? because instead of being Young Lad With The Sword Destined To Save The World, your mission scope is much smaller- you’re not really saving the world, at most you end up affecting a part of the city, and always yourself, but that’s it. The games pull off the illusion of being in a busy, thriving city marvelously, always making you feel that you are a citizen there and not the equivalent of Wonder Woman running through the streets, and the the gap between missions makes sense with the way they structure the story . But GTA is action, and Obligion is RPG, and you will find very few RPGs out there whose main line isn’t “Save the world.” Ultimately the problem is scope. The bigger the scope of the storyline, the harder it is to implement it with existing technology.

I certainly do look forward to the day we can finally have a fluid and exciting role-playing experience (perhaps in the form of Augmented Reality?), but until then I am content in joining a party of adventurers on their quests. I don’t want to be them in particular… as long as they’re not complete idiots, it should be enjoyable…. right?

One of the many objections I constantly hear concerning Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and why it is rejected, is its “simplicity.” When they speak of simplicity, her denouncers refer to the philosophy’s metaphysical essence (the existence of an objective reality) and the means by which this is established- namely the three axioms of Existence (existence exists) , Identity (there is something) and Consciousness (there is something of whose existence I am aware).

The post-modernist argument is that this is too obvious, we cannot trust our senses. Either the entire world is nothing more than a perception of your mind, or that there is a world of things in themselves but we will never be able to perceive them because our senses get in the way (Hume and Kant, respectively.) Post-modernist philosophers tend to distrust evidence because it is factual, and in their world view it is impossible for something to be factual due to there not being a reliable way to verify… well, anything.

Because of this strange and- dare I say it- malevolent approach to their own senses (the sense organs as tools of deception as opposed to tools for the gathering of information), their only option to reach an answer is to, essentially, make it up. This creates a certain strange psychology in which the more far-fetched and improbable a theory sounds, the more likely it is to be true.

An example: A post-modernist philosopher would not accept the following explanation:

“I released a red apple from my grip, and it fell down the chasm due to the law of gravity.”

Instead, he would find this one a lot more satisfactory:

“It appeared that I released a retinal pattern in the shape of an apple, which also caused in me the sensation of redness, from my grasp, at which point the scene-image or ‘apple’ began to shrink away.”

Because an apple is not an apple: it is nothing more (to these philosophers) than the illusion of an apple collected by retinal pattern and inputted onto the brain. The color red, also, is not a characteristic of the apple, but a ‘sensation’- we do not see a red apple, we see a splash of red. And finally, it is not perspective that makes the apple shrink away, it is the ‘scene-image’ of the apple that literally shrinks.

By these examples you can see the mentality that they must have: a consistent distrust of everything around them. For us- or most of us, those that are not overly mystical or follow an Eastern philosophy or a New Age cult– the idea that the very senses we developed to gather information from the world around us may be nothing more than a malicious practical joke seems utterly ridiculous. Arguing that the only way to perceive things correctly is trough mis-perception borders on lunacy. That is because we haven’t rejected reality but embraced it. To someone who consistently tries to escape from the existence of reality, an obvious explanation won’t do- it can’t reinforce his fantasies.

Thus, when someone tries to tell me that Rand’s philosophy isn’t fit to be taught due to its simplicity, I often have to question that. According to Occam’s razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true — hence the importance of the concept of simplicity in epistemology. Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity, and we can see by how the world works that everything that is superfluous is eventually phased out- not by some magical design, but because of logical application. One should be suspicious when someone demands that something be exaggeratedly ornate and complicated- the greatest con artists in the world often stun their marks through a flood of information.