Lin-Manuel Miranda Will Warm Your Heart

I don’t know about you, but I frequently find myself in need of a strong dose of positivity in order to get through my day. It’s pretty nice to be able to wake up, struggle through the bleary-minded period right after waking up while my six subsequent alarms go off every other minute (anything less has, at least once, not brought me out of the bleary-minded period enough to actually wake up), and check my phone to find a nice, heartwarming good morning message from my favorite person on the internet, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He doesn’t send them to me specifically, but he tweets them out every morning and I’ve set up my phone to get notifications every time he tweets because he’s such a positive voice in the world. Since I also like to go to bed on a positive note, I always save his “good night” messages for as I’m climbing into bed. They’re just as positive and usually related to the earlier message. It’s often has some kind of flipped message or is a “ending/end-of-day” variation of the morning tweet. It’s a bit of a drag that they’re only sent out on weekdays, but I can understand his desire to stay off his official twitter account on the weekends. I sometimes feel the same way but I don’t yet have the luxury of time away from my craft, seeing as the time spent on my craft is actually my time away from the rest of my life.

The only thing better that getting those good morning and good night messages would be some kind of collection of those ideas. Which, guess what, is a thing that exists. Someone collected and curated a bunch of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets into a book called Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks For me and You. Gmorning, Gnight! is my second favorite book from this year, after only An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. With a wonderful selection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Good Morning and Good Night tweets and illustrations by the amazing Jonny Sun, Gmorning, Gnight! is a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a rather dark few months for me. The positivity, love, and support of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets manages to carry through into the book without losing anything and actually gains a little more warmth thanks to Jonny Sun’s illustrations that capture and magnify the feeling of the tweets.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend reading this book from cover to cover. If you need a sustained burst of positivity, maybe read through a dozen or so pages, but you’ll probably be better off going to his twitter feed for that. While nothing is lost in the message itself, there’s something to be said for the freshness of the messages on Twitter. The message of each tweet isn’t any different from the ones in the books, but they feel much more immediate and relevant to the days we live in than Good Morning or Good Night messages from years ago. Thanks to the chaotic and difficult times we live in, the more recent ones have a certain amount of resolute weariness to them that gives them a little more oomph. If you just want something warm and positive to juggle around in the mind because you’re trying to pull out of a negative thought stream or you need something to give you that quick little boost, just grab the book and crack it open to any old page. You’ll find a warm message that’ll life the corners of your mouth and take the edge off the weariness in your heart. If that particular one isn’t working for you, or you have a habit of opening books to the same place all the time despite your best efforts (I can’t understand, much less explain, how I keep opening to the same set of messages every other time I open the book), just flip a couple pages in either direction and you’ll find something that works.

If you want to get the most out of this book, I recommend learning to meditate and using a message that resonates with you on any given day as the focus of your meditation. There are a lot of really wonderful images in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s message, both on his Twitter account and in his book, so they make excellent focal points for most meditation. Most of my favorite involve pacing oneself, going at one’s own speed, or focusing on marching to the beat of your heart rather than someone else’s. Since I struggle with the feeling that I’m not getting enough done or that I’m not working hard enough to make the kind of progress I want, it’s important for me to keep myself focused on doing as much as I can without over-extending myself. Given how often it shows up in his tweets and how many times it appears in the book, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda probably has a similar feeling. He wrote a whole musical about a guy who lived his entire life with this feeling, so I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that he understands the feeling, even if it’s not something he himself constantly struggles with.

That being said, there’s enough other imagery in here that pretty much anyone can find something that fits whatever is going on in their heart or mind. I rarely have to flip more than half a dozen pages to find something that resonates with me, even when I’m not struggling with feelings of running out of time. Everything from learning to forgive yourself, to stuff like learning to love or accept yourself. If you look hard enough and actually read through Gmorning, Gnight! from front to back, I’m sure you could find a message for any occasion. Someday, I might do just that. Instead of memorizing poetry or being able to summarize great thinkers of big ideas, I’m going to memorize the modern-day wisdom of self-love and self-kindness that Lin-Manuel Miranda espouses. Any time someone needs support, I’ll be able to draw wisdom and support from the annals of the greatest, kindest person on the internet. I bet there are other people out there who do similar things, but how many people have the kind of platform Lin-Manuel Miranda does who then use it to spread positivity and kindness? If you know of any, send them to me!

The kindness, care, and concern Lin-Manuel Miranda expresses at the entirety of the internet still manages to feel directed toward you specifically. Look at the subtitle of his book: “little pep talks for me and you.” He’s said before that his Good Morning and Good Night tweets are the messages he most needs to hear each day, but they seem so heartfelt and open that they couldn’t be for anyone but him and you, like the title implies. This thing, the way he manages to make them feel personal despite being shared with millions of other people, is why I’m still on Twitter and social media in general. I almost gave it all up toward the end of the summer but following his Twitter account (something that was off limits until I’d seen Hamilton, just like listening to the soundtrack was off limits) is what convinced me that the internet could still be a good place. John and Hank Green’s videos this fall, in addition to the talking they did during Hank’s book tours, helped solidify it, but I wouldn’t have made it that long with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets.

Since Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me and You is the hardcover version of those tweets, I honestly can’t recommend it enough. As I struggle to deal with my grandfather’s failing health, my own grief, and the complicated relationship I have with my family that is only made more complicated by the holidays and current circumstances, this book is pretty much the other thing that can pull me out of a negative spiral of emotions and thoughts. I recommend buying it and keeping it near your bed or wherever you do most of your reflect. It’ll be incredibly helpful.

 

Watching, Waiting

Last night, I watched the moon.

I stood outside and waited for it,
From the first glimmers of starlight
That beat down on me,
            Cold and isolating
            As they spoke of size
            And depth and space
            That were beyond me
            And my little life,
To the bright corona of light
That told me the moon was sitting
Behind trees that stood tall,
            Proud of the ground
            They held against
            The rising tide of Humans
            Clearing ground for fields
            And planning subdivisions.

As the moon rose above the trees,
Full and gargantuation in context,
It threw its light into the sky,
            Reminding the stars
            That they would fade
            Before its brilliance
            And that it shone
            Only for we Humans
            And our little lives,
And smiled down on the world,
Bright on a cloudless night
To lift the veil of nightfall,
            Showing the sparse trees
            For the sentinels they are
            Of a world long lost
            That humans chose to respect
            In all that remained
            Of its wilderness.

I sat and watched as hours passed
And the moon brushed away
The canopy of pinprick stars
That tried to drown it.
            There is nothing up there
            And nothing down here
            That can stop its journey.
            All we can do
            Is sit and watch and wait
            And let it push or pull us
            Like a nightly tide
            Of human emotion.

When it finally came time
For the sun to share the sky,
The moon slowly gave way,
            Fading to a pale disc
            With no light to share
            Until it almost vanished
            In the pale blue
            Of the morning.

I took comfort in knowing
The moon was still there
As I went through my day,
            Sleepless muddled thoughts
            Fueled by extra coffee
            And the knowledge
            Of the moon waiting,
            Hanging on the horizon
            Despite the heavy glare
            Of the unfeeling sun.

Maybe I too can stay my course
Despite the inexorable feeling
That I sometimes fade away
To the point of being overlooked
By anyone who doesn’t care to search,
            That little feeling
            Of having gone away
            Without having left
            And being somehow less
            Than I know myself to be.

            I claim no special kinship,
            At least not one beyond
            What anyone could claim,
            But I do know it holds a place
            As high in my esteem
            As it holds in the sky
            And I am tidally locked
            To its influence.

The Portal

Timeo stared at the portal, uneasy with the wash of pale light that emanated from it. He’d heard from Gellis there was nothing to fear on the other side of the portal, but Gellis had been through it so many times that he seemed immune to the odd feeling of the light as it lingered on his skin.

Gellis also didn’t seem to notice, but he was a little different after every trip to the outer realm. It was hardly noticeable unless you looked back and saw how much changed happened.

The first time he noticed, Timeo started monitoring everyone who want through the portal. Anyone who was gone for a significant amount of time came back changed in a similar way. The degree of change tended to vary by person, but it was always the same type of change. Timeo was surprised that no one cared when he pointed it out.

“It’s fine. Nothing to worry about.” they’d tell him. He wanted to believe them, but he’d done his research and new that what they told him wasn’t true. His presentations and appeals fell on deaf earths. Fennrel actually laughed at him.

Today was the day, though. Timeo could no longer put off going through the portal. If he did not contribute to the enclave’s well-being, he would be cast out. And then they’d force him through the portal, anyway. Today, he had an appointment with his destiny.

After making sure all of his gear was prepared, Timeo took a deep breath, opened the glass shield, and stepped through the portal. The sun beat down on him, various creatures screamed into the air, and Timeo took his first breath of fresh air. Resolute despite the cancer-causing orb in the sky, Timeo strode off toward his first day of college.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon X lately. I’ve finally gotten past the place where I stopped last time, even after falling into the same hole of earning tons of money and XP fighting in the Battle Chateau because I’m a completionist and would rather spend two hours walking in circles to find the last Pokemon than move on and breed it from the evolved form I already caught. The problem is, there’s no real “complete” moment with the battle Chateau, so you can level up Pokemon endless or make sure that your wallet is always sitting comfortably above one million Pokedollars.

The other thing I’ve encountered, since I’m actively working on catching all of the Pokemon these days, is just how many Pokemon there are in this game. I’ve caught or evolved over two hundred so far and I’ve only just gotten the fourth gym badge. If I never caught another Pokemon and just evolved the ones I’ve already caught, I’m certain I’d break three hundred. Every route I enter, and even some of the cities, has new Pokemon to catch and there are few overlaps. Thankfully, I’m an old hand at walking in circles and can afford to just throw Ultra Balls at everything because I just go to the Battle Chateau every day so I can achieve my dream of eventually earning a billion Pokedollars. Specifically, having a billion Pokedollars at once, if that is even possible. If not, if the money counter doesn’t run that high, I will settle for having had a total of one billion Pokedollars. I’ve been tracking my expenses so far and I’m a little over two million right now. Only nine hundred and ninety-eight million to go!

I did the same thing with all of my Pokemon Moon play-throughs, and am currently doing the same thing with my Pokemon Ultra Sun play-through. There’s a lot more overlap in Sun and Moon, though there is also variation in what Pokemon can be found on a route depending on which patch of grass you’re in. If I didn’t use a location guide to find out which Pokemon are available where, I’d have missed a few dozen, for sure. That being said, I prefer Sun and Moon’s methods to X and Y’s. I don’t feel trapped on routes as much since I know I’ll be able to find the Pokemon on other routes, much of the time. The biggest downside trying to catch them all in Sun and Moon is that you never get the customary National ‘Dex.

The National ‘Dex was introduced by that name in the third generation of Pokemon games, Ruby and Sapphire. In Gold, Silver, and Crystal, it was referred to as the “Old Pokedex Mode” but it was essentially the same thing. Ultimately, it is an organization of the Pokedex to include all known Pokemon, listing the Pokemon by oldest to newest. It has been a staple part of the core Pokemon games and they completely abandoned it in Sun and Moon. I was devastated! I was looking forward to compiling all of my Pokemon in these new games only to find out that I could, but I’d have no way to actually track them in-game aside from portioning out PC boxes and figuring out where to place Pokemon that way. Which is why I spent the $5 for the Pokebank because you can do the same thing there, but it is a lot easier since it directly interfaces with most of the games. Only one transfer required and you can access it from any of the modern games.

The National ‘Dex available in the Pokebank is likely to be the only National Pokedex available going forward. Since it will be able to interface with all future games and will help solve the problem of cross-generation trading that was such trouble from the very beginning, I can’t see it going away any time soon. Since it is essentially cloud storage for Pokemon, we’d need some kind of big jump in technology for it to be worth changing the system to use something new.

While it isn’t as fun to use the Pokebank to check my National ‘Dex, I can see the value. Nintendo and the developers of Pokemon can just upgrade the one app and the Pokemon in the cloud can be made available to any device people use to access it. Portability, safety in the face of lost systems or games, and ease of access. I just wish there was some character who would give me things for completing it like there was in all of the games leading up to Sun and Moon. I want my ultimately meaningless recognition and prize, dammit!

Pokemon Through The Ages

I’ve been a fan of the Pokemon games ever since the first one came out. I have dim, partial memories of standing on the deck at my parents house, looking at my brother’s Red Version cartridge, and deciding I wanted blue version because I liked blue more than red. I remember how amazing it was that you could have your Pikachu follow you around in Yellow version. I even still have the game guide and Pokedex my brother got for Yellow Version so he could complete his Pokedex. Back in the days when there was only “Special” instead of “Special Attack” and “Special Defense,” breeding wasn’t possible, IVs were unheard of, and Pokemon abilities weren’t even on the horizon, I built my team in Blue using the Pokemon I thought were the coolest and my Yellow Version team as a match to Ash’s team, since I watched the Pokemon Anime religiously.

As I grew and more games came out, I played at least one of every version up until the Black and White generation. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want to play new Pokemon games at that point since I was in college and there’s no denying they’re basically all the same game, but the reality of the situation is that I was too broke to buy them. To this day, they remain the only generation I haven’t bought or played. Pokemon games don’t really lose value and they’ve been coming out with new ones at a pretty regular frequency, so I’ve never really been left wanting a new Pokemon game.

I primarily play Pokemon as a way to relax. For me, it is all about having something easy and calm to do that I can use to deal with stress or anxiety. If I’m playing Pokemon, I’m too busy to be stressed or anxious, but not so busy that I can’t quietly work through stuff in the back of my mind. The games can be kind of boring at times, if you’re going for Pokedex completion, but it can also be rewarding to come up with plans, look at models for the appearance frequency of various Pokemon, and to calculate which Pokemon will make for the best addition to my team.

Unlike some of my friends, I’m not into the competitive scene. I have no interesting in fighting Pokemon battles against real people via online competitions. I’m not super interested in the strongest Pokemon and maximizing their stats,  but I definitely enjoy Pokedex completion more than they do. I’m the only one of my main group of friends who actually takes the time to collect or works on creating a full Pokedex using the “Pokemon Bank” service, something that allows me to store Pokemon from the more recent games on a server somewhere. This allows me to transfer them between games whenever I so desire and is not limited by in-game storage capacity.

Due to my penchant for starting the games over multiple times (mostly so I’ve got actual objectives beyond just catching Pokemon, because that can get kind of boring at times), I’ve now got enough evolutions of the Pokemon in the recent games, Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Moon, to complete my Pokedex simple by moving Pokemon from the Pokemon Bank to my game. I’m still working on getting ALL of the 800+ Pokemon now, since a lot of the rare ones are event-specific and I suck at going to the events or even turning my game on at the right time to get them.

I would say my favorite generation was Gen 2, the Silver/Gold/Crystal generation and their remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver. I prefer the remakes since your lead Pokemon follows behind you and I’ve always enjoyed that. Generation 2, especially the remakes, had the most story elements in them, though the recent ones probably have the largest story (though it is a lot more straight forward and less complex). I also really enjoyed being able to get more than 8 badges and was really sad when Gen 3 didn’t continue that trend.

I can understand that a lot of people aren’t always enthusiastic about each new Pokemon game and I’ll admit that I rarely play the older ones now, but I can’t deny that they hold a special place in my heart. They were the first video game franchise I ever bought into and my longest-running. Half of my handheld games, if we exclude the Switch, are Pokemon games. I’m constantly on the lookout for cheap copies of the games so I can complete my collection. My love for the games also instantly provides common ground between myself and other people as most people my age have played at least one of them.

Aside from the easy identifiers such as apparel and knickknacks, Pokemon fans are usually easy to identify. All you have to do is drop the name of a less-popular Pokemon. If you get a look of confusion, you know to avoid Pokemon. If they recognize the name, the conversation will usually take at least a momentary aside to talk about Pokemon. With the advent of Pokemon Go and its continued popularity, the game is reaching more and more people. I’ve got a coworker in his early 50s who likes to talk about Pokemon as a result of the app, even though he never has and never will play any of the console/handheld Pokemon games.

I can’t even criticize the games for being money grabs because I’m happy to give the studio and Nintendo my money so they can keep making more of these games and other wonderful stuff in the future. The games bring people together, they help me relax when I’m stressed or can’t sleep, and they’ve been a part of my almost as long as I can remember. What more can you ask of a game franchise? I really hope they’re still making these when I’m 80 and enjoying my retirement in a space-station retirement hold. Don’t have to worry about breaking your hip or falling if there’s no gravity!