Performance Anxiety Dream #293: I’ve joined an orchestra. It’s one of the most prestigious ensembles in the country. Unfortunately, I haven’t been practicing my instrument, and I haven’t been attending rehearsals. I finally show up, thinking I can blend in. To my surprise, we’re doing a choral work today. But that’s not the worst of it. The bad news is that the symphony is now led by the drill instructor from “Full Metal Jacket” - and he is determined to make an example of me. He puts his knifeblade face an inch from mine as I fake my way through the song, and I expect a fist to the solar plexus any minute. But I wake up before I can hear him shout THAT WAS THE WORST PERFORMANCE OF HOLST’S "NEPTUNE" I EVER HOPE TO HEAR, LADIES! I'VE HEARD DOGS FART SWEETER MELODIES! And then we'd have to do 60 laps, chanting ditties:

I don't know but I've been tolde

I don't know but I've been tolde

We'll sing Tristan and Isolde

We'll sing Tristan and Isolde

Even as I swam to the surface of consciousness I felt guilty for disappointing him.

Woke clogged and wheezy, remained so all day. Bone deep tired. It's not a bad cold, but it's a cold, and this means my brain is covered with a crunchy layer of linty styrofoam packing peanuts. While Gnat was playing I listened to Ian on FM107, and I thought of a point to add to his topic; I called the show and got in line. As the moments passed my point seemed, well, stupid, and Gnat was insistent that I should play house with her, so I hung up and sat down to play. Then I heard Ian on the radio lament that I'd dropped off, and he asked his producer to call me back. I froze. The phone rang. They'd found me! So I went on the air, and by now Gnat was irritated that I was not playing house - so I'm scurrying down the hall to get away for the 45 seconds I need to make my stupid point. It had to do with colonoscopies. Don't ask.

Off to work. Writing the column when you're in that blurry head-cold fog makes it feel as though you're poking the keyboard from six feet away with a stick. If you read Sunday’s column you might be able to see where the coffee kicked in, and how quickly it faded. It’s not a bad column - I rather like it, to be honest - but it’s not in my yearly top 50. Not that I have a yearly top fifty. I never read these things after they’re done. Too painful. You pray for forgiveness and stake it all on the next one.

No column tomorrow. Just Target. Gnat’s all excited: we’re going to get a new computer game at Target tomorrow. What it will be, I don’t know, but she’s gotten so good at the computer I could probably load Diablo and she’d figure out how to hack her way to the deepest dungeon. I'm not kiding - today we leaned all about drop-down menus - click, hold, roll down, release. She understood. When she quits her Mr. Potato Head game, she clicks on the trapdoor icon in his tree house. A dialogue box pops up: do you really want to quit? Thumbs up for yes, thumbs down for no. She clicks on Thumbs Up.

I didn’t teach her any of this. I showed her the basics and let her go. Tonight I watched her paint a picture using the bucket tool - she clicked on blue, splashed blue paint in the sky, clicked on green, colored the grass, etc. When she was done she saved the picture, clicked YES when asked if she wanted to overwrite a file, then did another. I asked her to start over, and she clicked on the lightning-bolt icon that restored the picture to its original condition. Two and a half years old. The Quake 3 engine is older than she is.

Speaking of games: I was looking forward to playing SimCity 4, but it’s not out for the Mac yet. This is probably a good thing, since SimCity is one of those games that does its damnedest to keep me from enjoying it. All I want to do is build cities. Design them, watch them run. That’s all. I use the cheats to build up huge amounts of money and build infrastructure for free, just for the pleasure of seeing the empty spaces blossom, the downtown grow. But like most Sim games, it puts a hundred obstacles in your path in the name of Fun. I remember Roller Coaster Tycoon - you had to earn money to build cool roller coasters, and you earned your money by running a good amusement park. This meant hiring enough janitors to clean up the vomit from the smaller rides, and it meant careful mangement of your janitorial staff so the vomit was promptly daubed from the sidewalks. It made you wonder how you’d explain the future to someone in, say, 1896. "See, we have these marvelous Difference Engines - everyone has their own, and they play music and moving-picture shows as well, but they also allow you to micromanage small unionized creatures responsible for swabbing the vomit of fictional fairgoers."

I see. And this vomit comes out of the Difference Engine? From a hose?

No, it’s produced by it, but it’s not real vomit. It’s . . . fictional vomit.

So in the future, men and women will concern themselves with creating small street-sweeping mannequins controlled by a calculating apparatus?

Well, men, mostly. Although some women will enjoy a game called The Sims, which requires you to control and manage the bladder of a two-dimensional puppet who speaks in pictograms.

And will these computers be concerned with other bodily functions?

Sure! Anyone running Windows knows it’s all a piece of shi - sorry, that won’t make sense to you. Trust me, it’ll be fun.

I skimmed the message board for SimCity 4, and found the usual complaints:

I have 16 collegs but my sims are all iliterate.

Help! Hospital coverage at 100% but life expectancy is 36 yrs

My sims won’t take the bus!

#(*$@#(#$ My infrastructure health rating is C+ even thoguh I pass every bond issue and have hospitals every two blox

Volcano problems

Anyone else have their cities disapear?

Trouble with Carrot Top Disaster senario

Who needs this aggravation? In SimCity 3 I developed a perfect city layout, with exceptional infrastructure, clean industry, parks, docks, marinas, ballparks, schools; I had deals with neighboring cities to sell them power and water, I recycled everything, and my cities would turn into East St. Louis because I didn’t pass an ordinance mandating extended library hours. Why my cities failed was obvious when I played The Sims - these creatures were idiots who would literally piss in their pants if you didn’t pick them up and drag them to the bathroom. I tired of that game so quickly I soon walled up my Sims in their rooms as they slept, and let them die of uremic poisoning.

Thus concludes day four of this week of exceeding lameness. I’ll be spiffy when I’m well.

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More