Signing Off

September 27, 2011

Well… it’s been a ride.

I knew this moment would come from Day 1. But this will be my last post on In Retrospect.

Having this blog at my disposal for the past few years has been the most productive thing I’ve ever done with a computer. Except for porn. No, including porn.

I had so many thoughts stuck up in my head throughout the first 18 years of my life. Having an excuse to get SO much off of my chest was more therapeutic than you can imagine, even if it was sometimes “durr I like video games” or “derrr look what I drew in math class!”

Honestly, this website has been beyond meaningful to me. It became a piece of my identity, and to an extent it always will be. I’m proud that I was able to keep it relatively free of teenage angst, because the things I’ve posted in this journal really come from the deepest parts of my soul. Even the stupid stuff. Stupid is a part of everyone, and I’m happy that I got to share some of my stupid with you, my few but precious readers.

I knew it was time to hit the old dusty trail when I felt like I hadn’t posted in a year. In truth it has been 7 months since the last time, in which I promised a link to the student film I was acting in. As fate would have it, the website for that movie has finally just gone public. So without further ado, the 6-part epic that is What Rough Beast. It’s a pretty long film, so unless you’ve got some time to kill, put this one on the to-watch list.

I’m sure that in the future I’ll come back to this website when I’m bored, as I always do, and re-read my old blogs. Egotistical? I would call it nostalgic. I loved writing about my life and my thoughts which I’d never been able to spell out before, and now when I read an old entry I feel that same rush, like I’m living the story again. I sincerely hope that you’ll do the same, and that you’ll continue to be entertained for many years.

So, I guess that’s it. Anything I needed to wrap up? I suppose I should at least give meaning to the name of my blog.

“In retrospect…” is my absolute favorite chunk of the English language. Any opportunity to use the phrase in conversation has always given me a warm and happy feeling, and so when I had to make a name for the journal I was going to keep, I picked that.

My life is only beginning, and because of this blog I feel like I can go into the rest of it without feeling bottled up. There will always be more opinions, more anecdotes, but at least in this stage of my life, I have said all that I needed to say. I am at peace with who I am.

So this is your author, your captain, your friend Mike Cowell… signing off.


This Last Little Lament

September 27, 2011

Something trivial that will always annoy me: When people grab others’ attention with something that’s supposed to display their emotional or intellectual depth, when in reality the statement they make is completely standard to everyone.

Example 1: When someone gets a tattoo that says “Love”.

What is that all about? Are you trying to show how much you like love, or that love is super important to you? Hmm, well that’s strange… you like love? I didn’t know anyone else did. What is this love anyways? Never heard of it. Maybe if I was more deep and thoughtful like you I could attempt to comprehend why this “love” thing is so great. Golly, I hope that someday the rest of us can understand the meaning behind this word just like you do!

The same goes for things like “Music” or “Friendship”.

Like, oh, I see that you enjoy music. You really must show me your catalog of music sometime! I mean, since you’ve got that tattoo you must enjoy YOUR music much more than I enjoy mine, to the point at which you couldn’t help but get a permanent reminder of that fact!  Really, I wasn’t aware that anybody else liked music. What an interesting tattoo.

Example 2: When someone posts a status on facebook like this one:

“My Confessions #6: I think that you should only say “I Love You” if you truly mean it.” 

That’s inspiring. So you’re saying that you SHOULDN’T lie and tell someone that you love them? You know, I’d never thought about it that way, but you’re right! All my life I’ve been going up to strangers willy nilly and telling them that I love them. On the street? I LOVE YOU! In the bathroom? I LOVE YOU! But now you’ve shown me how wrong I’ve been all these years. Thank you for the wisdom, you stupid fucking girl person. I truly admire your courage; coming out with this confession of yours couldn’t have been easy.

Example 3: Okay so I don’t have a third example in mind, but you get the idea!

I’m not usually one to hate on personal expression, but if you’re visible in the public eye (or on the internet, WHICH IS PUBLIC) and you want to seem intelligent or profound, try to avoid saying things that literally everyone else on Earth isn’t already thinking. Be unique.

Sup, Film?

February 20, 2011

For some reason I never posted about the fact that I’ve been acting in a student film for the past month. Until this opportunity came along I hadn’t been involved with film in college whatsoever, so it’s been pretty exciting for me.

All I can say in regards to the plot is that it’s a murder mystery set in modern-day rural Massachusetts.

Here’s a photo from our first day of shooting:

Yours truly in the center.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but this particular picture was taken on a cell phone so it’s probably worth like 500 words. Anyways, our shooting schedule goes until the end of the semester so unfortunately you’ll have to wait a while to see the finished product. But stay tuned!

Who are you with?

February 16, 2011

So… happy late Valentines Day, everyone! Sorry I didn’t write anything romantic for my readers, I was much too busy going on several hundred dates last night to blog. My bad.

Anyways, speaking of being “with” people, I wanted to post some thoughts about literally being with people, specifically in the dining halls of this fine academy we call UMass. How’s that for a segue? [seg-way]

From Monday to Friday I wake up around 10:30am and go straight to class with no breakfast. My classes end anywhere from noon to 2pm, and by that time I’m beginning to feel the effects of stage-2 starvation so I head to my favorite dining common, Franklin.

As I walk around searching for somewhere to sit I have a choice laid out before me. Do I (A) Try to locate people that I know and sit with them, or (B) Book it to the closest available table and plant it? The answer is almost always “B”.

A lot of people feel uncomfortable eating alone at the DC and make sure in advance that there will be someone there to meet them so they don’t have to go it alone. However I find that there’s a lot to be gained through solitude, and likewise much to be lost through forced company.

For example: Eating alone gives me a chance to reflect on what has happened in my day so far. It allows me to go over what went right and what went wrong, and what I can do to improve. It lets me plan out how the rest of my day will go, and in doing so I remember things that I would have forgotten otherwise, like my over-stuffed laundry basket, or that email I had to send to that professor that I should have sent a week ago.

Even when my mind has nothing to organize, I revel in the experience of being physically alone in public. It grants a certain anonymity that empowers me to act differently than I do around my friends. I can walk differently, talk differently, and most importantly act differently without being scrutinized, because nobody around me knows who I am and so they’ll only question the most outrageous of actions.

This isn’t to say that I go around knocking over chairs and yelling at people in an Australian accent simply because nobody knows me. That would be crazy. (Crazy fun!) Simply put, being alone gives me a freedom that I don’t experience very often.

I could use my anonymous powers for evil by people-watching, but I figure I wouldn’t like to be people-watched, so I try not to do it. Rather I use it to blend in with crowds, in the DC or otherwise. Sometimes while walking on campus, when I’m all anonymous-ed out, I feel like I’m a tiny ant in a colony of thousands, and I imagine everyone around me having a specific job that they’re on their way to do. On the other hand, if I’m walking with a friend then I’ll inevitably lose my sense of how small I am compared to everything in my world, and my ego inflates accordingly. Alone I’m an ant; in a group I’m a wolf in a pack.

Going back to the DC, one of the issues I encounter as I’m finding a table for myself arises when I see someone that I know (or barely know), and the dialogue lasts longer than five seconds…

As you can see, it can be difficult to get my little sliver of peace cashed in when people ask if I want to sit with them. Of course there are times when nothing would make me happier than to reconnect with an old friend or have a group chat, but most of the time I’m very content to eat lunch by myself. So even though I honestly appreciate the generosity behind such an offer, all it usually does is make me feel awkward.

Please though, if you’re reading this [and I know you are (I can see you)], let me be clear: I’m not saying “NEVER INVITE ME TO LUNCH BECAUSE I AM ANTI-SOCIAL AND I WANT TO BE ALONE.” I would love to have lunch with you. I’m just talking about when random people that I don’t really talk to offer me a seat because they feel bad that I’m alone, when really I enjoy it very much.

*Note that this blog is entirely about lunch. Dinner is an entirely separate event in which I always want to be with people and I do feel weird being alone. If you ever see me by myself at dinner it’s okay for you to offer me a seat! I won’t bite you :) haaaaard…

Sorry I didn’t blog for a month, Jen Mageary. I’ll try to do better.

Apple Thief

January 18, 2011

I know my last post was about dreams, but I needed to get this awesome idea out of my brain and onto the internet.

I had a dream last year (that’s right, it’s so brilliant that I’ve been sitting on it for a year) that involved me playing a video game, although I wasn’t “playing” it so much as I was living it. You might call it a virtual reality game. Anyways, it turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done (asleep or otherwise) and I wanted to share my experience with the world.

The premise of this game is simple: The main character (the player) has no distinguishable features other than the fact that they wear shabby clothing, like a medieval peasant. The player begins in a rectangular field slightly larger than a football field, which is surrounded by an unending forest. Across the field from where you start, a troop of boy scouts is returning from a mid-day hike, each of them carrying a beautiful, shiny red apple. Your ultimate goal as the “Apple Thief” is to thief those apples.

At first, this might sound like an easy task. Go up to some weak little kids and use your large adult muscles to take their apples; simple, right? Wrong. Because guess who’s travelling alongside that troop of boy scouts… A SQUAD OF COLONIAL-ERA REDCOATS, WITH BAYONET RIFLES!

That’s right, those puny boy scouts are being escorted by 18th-century British soldiers who want nothing more than the satisfaction of shooting your Yankee ass to hell and back, and then to hell again. NOW WE’RE TALKIN’ BABY!

But you can’t defend yourself against guns, right? You’re just a simple Apple Thief who runs through fields wearing peasant clothing; you have no weapons! Wrong again. You have two weapons: 1) Your sneaky mind, and 2) An active camouflage suit which makes you invisible for roughly 10 seconds before shutting down.

So here’s where it all comes together. Using a combination of stealth, speed, and your active-camouflage, you must navigate the field towards the boy scout troop, steal one of their apples, and escape from the pursuing redcoats with your life. If you are shot once by a soldier you may be able to escape momentarily, but if you are shot repeatedly or are mutilated by a bayonet, you die, and the game restarts.

Since I remember the layout of this whole dream pretty vividly I drew a detailed map of the playing area, so you can get a better feel for the gaming experience. Here’s a top-down view of the field:

I hope you enjoy this picture, because it took a long friggin' time to recreate this field from memory. There are still details I left out, for time purposes.

The dotted red line at the bottom represents the area where the Apple Thief begins at the start of the game. Likewise, the arrow and apple at the top represent where the boyscout troop and redcoats are entering from.

The structure in the middle is a shed, which I could never seem to get into. There are no doors, only windows which are boarded up. If I’d tried I might have been able to smash my way in. But as they say, hindsight is 20-20. The shed has a barbed wire fence on either side, which doesn’t seem to serve a purpose other than making life difficult when I’m trying to scale a fence in order to escape capture, and my hands get all shredded up. Ouchies.

The thing on the left that looks like an almond, or a weird vagina, is actually just a really muddy area. I assume whoever owned the shed used to spray a hose into one spot of his/her field, for fun, and thus a plot of mud was born. It’s not the strongest theory, I admit, but I don’t know what causes mud so for now we’re going with that.

The sticks on the bottom right are giant wooden logs. Maybe the shed’s owner was a logger? Or perhaps he bought the logs with the intention of building a new shed, since the first one had to be boarded up for some reason.

Regardless, the owner of the logs and the muddy spot and the shed has vacated the premises. With no one to tend to the field there is very tall grass growing everywhere (hence the green squiggly lines). The green circles, if you couldn’t tell, are trees, which would provide momentary shelter from the redcoats when I got far enough from the thieving point.

Taking into account the fact that I still actually left out details from this field, not wanting to spend more hours in Microsoft Paint than I needed to, and the fact that you have an unlimited amount of lives should you perish, there are most likely an infinite amount of ways to try to escape the redcoats with the fruit of your labor (ha).

Maybe I’m just biased because this was my dream, but I thought this game was fucking awesome and I would play it every single day. Being a virtual reality game, it was incredibly immersive. I felt like I was going to fucking die every second, but it was awesome since I would immediately re-spawn anyways and could try again and again and again if I failed, which was convenient since I always failed.

That’s right. I, Mike Cowell, subconscious designer of Apple Thief, have not yet beaten Apple Thief. And it pains me.

Please, someone, anyone, make this game. I need to win.


Dreams and Nightmares

January 9, 2011

Whenever I have a really cool dream, I try to recall it as I’m in the process of getting out of bed; I play it over and over again in my head in an attempt to cement it into my memory, for future analysis. This usually only works if the dream is unique, something I’ve never envisioned before.

Of course, even if I remember it for an hour after waking up, my mind will eventually wander and the dream will be lost forever, as I’m just realizing happened this morning, since I can’t remember anything about my awesome dream last night.

The only dreams that have stuck with me through the years are two nightmares I had as a kid. For some reason these were incredibly terrifying, and I guess that’s why I can still remember them vividly. Here they are: (don’t judge)

1) I was at the top of the staircase in my house, outside my bathroom door. As I looked across the hallway I saw a skeleton looking at me. Somehow I knew that this skeleton was thinking about killing me, as any reasonable skeleton would. There was no one else around, although I think my family might have been downstairs, oblivious to my plight. I couldn’t call out to my family or I’d provoke the skeleton to come towards me and attack, so I panicked and did the only thing I could think of to do: I said “You’re my best friend.” I guess I figured that if I could fool him into thinking I was his friend he wouldn’t kill me. I think it worked, because I remember walking down my stairs calmly, pretending that nothing was wrong, as the skeleton continued to stare at me. Once I made it downstairs, everything was fine.

2) I was once again at the top of the staircase in my house, though this time I was on the opposite side of the hallway (coincidentally where the skeleton had been standing in the other dream). I was facing my bedroom door which was open, when I started to hear the ticking of a clock. The ticking continued, and when I looked down the hallway I saw either my brother or my dad (I don’t remember which) walking in my direction, in slow motion. The ticking grew louder; it was beginning to drown out all other noise. At the same time my brother/dad started slowing down even more. The ticking became almost unbearable, and my brother/dad had slowed to a near standstill when all of a sudden worm-like bugs started crawling everywhere. They weren’t hurting me, but they were covering almost every surface of my house and the ticking of the clock was driving me insane. I couldn’t see my brother/dad anymore, I assumed he was dead. I don’t know how this dream ended, because at that point I probably woke up crying and ended up sleeping in my parents room.

Both of those nightmares were terrifying, but in odd ways. I don’t really know why these two were the most scarring, or why both of them took place in my upstairs hallway, but I know that after that second dream happened I always hated hearing the ticking of clocks. I’m only now getting over it.

On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been having one recurring dream a lot recently that I thought I’d share. I don’t read into dreams that much, but if I have any readers who are fans of Sigmund Freud feel free to voice your opinion on what this could mean:

1] I’m travelling for miles across mountain ranges and valleys, in the dead of winter, in an effort to rescue someone, or retrieve some sort of object. My motivation is never too important; what matters is that this dream is always a struggle. There’s an air of despair in the snowy woods, and although my will to carry on is strong, my strength slowly fades. I always encounter a river in this dream, roughly 100 ft wide, which is too cold to swim across because of the frigid temperatures. There’s an old stone bridge that crosses the river, but it’s broken and knocked down in the middle so I can’t cross that way. I don’t remember how I usually get across; I suppose that sometimes I hop across rocks, or I find a way around it further down the river. Sometimes I’m not able to cross it at all. There’s usually a small companion with me during this dream, either a dog or a child. The companion doesn’t help me, rather it’s my duty to protect it, which becomes increasingly difficult as I’m brainstorming how to cross the river. This dream normally ends on a sad note, either with me not being able to cross the river, or with me crossing it but never reaching my goal, or with me losing track of my companion.


Happy New Year!

January 1, 2011

2010 is so fresh in my mind, it’s odd how difficult it’s been for me to recall. It’s full of moments from the past 365 days that have already left my short-term memory, but haven’t yet grown old enough to make me nostalgic.

I’m taking some time to look backwards in my life, a year before now, to try to see what’s changed.

1) A year ago today, I was halfway through my first year of college, and I felt like I knew exactly what the college experience was and should be. I considered myself a connoisseur of partying.

2) A year ago today, I was beginning to enter into a meaningful relationship, one in which I would learn a lot about myself that I hadn’t discovered before.

3) A year ago today, I had no solid direction in my education, apart from my advisor’s sage wisdom: “Take physics courses.”

1] Today, I am halfway through my second year of college, and I realize that what I saw in myself a year ago was naive. My experience was one in a million; in fact, just saying that I enjoyed college was a privilege. I was lucky to have had such a positive experience but I wish I hadn’t taken it so for granted. I also know now that drinking $15 vodka, dancing to Ke$ha, then trying not to puke, is actually not most people’s idea of a “crazy party”. To think that I thought I knew the ins-and-outs of my institution makes me feel pretty stupid. In retrospect, I was a total freshman.

2] Today, I am single and very content with that. As much fun as relationships can be, I’m not searching for one right now. I’m just living.

3] Today, I have a better understanding of what I need to do in school in order to become a teacher. I still don’t know many details, but having a definite list of courses I need to fulfill has taken a load off my mind. Thank you very much, education department.

I haven’t changed this year nearly as much as I did when I first came to UMass. I have the same friends, I live the same lifestyle, and of course I’m still blogging. So I guess it all amounted to just finding my place last year.

I think it’s great for people to have a new year’s resolution, so here’s mine:

I promise to myself and to the whole world that I will attain the rank of General in Halo: Reach.


So this is Christmas…

December 25, 2010

This Christmas has been extremely rewarding, not just because I got to see my friends and family but also because FUCK YEA, GIFTS!

I’m in such a good mood. Here’s why:

1) Guster’s new album Easy Wonderful! I love Guster; they’re my favorite band and they haven’t put out an album in four years so I was anticipating this for a long time. I’m listening to it right now and it’s making me so happy. Well worth the wait.

2) LOST Seasons 1 & 2! I started watching Lost with my friends at the start of the sixth season and fell in love with it. It instantly became my favorite TV show and I’ve always wanted to go back and watch Seasons 1-5. Now it begins… lucky I’ve got another three weeks of vacation to kill.

3) Inception DVD! Chris Nolan is my favorite director, and always was even before he made The Dark Knight. Inception was an incredible experience for me not only because of how amazingly stylish the movie was, but because of how many jokes came of it afterwards (BWAAAA to name one). I’m glad to have added this epic fragment of my future Nolan collection to the pile.


4) Avatar [DVD]! Even though my mom accidentally bought a Blu-Ray disc and didn’t realize that my Xbox 360 can’t play Blu-Ray movies (DUHHH MOM! CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT OMGGG) I was still happy to get this one. Some might knock Avatar saying it’s just eye candy, but I honestly loved everything about it. It was breathtaking; I remember my jaw dropping at every scene change. And now I have it fo’ eva. Except not in 3D. But that’s fine because my life is in 3D anyways and that shit gets old.


5) The Hangover DVD! One of the best comedies in recent history. Love it. “SHE’S A NICE LADY!”

6) Gift card to Tenchi Sushi! In an odd turn of events, a sushi restaurant opened up in Bellingham next to Walmart which I’ve been dying to try out. My only experience with sushi is from UMass dining, so I’m curious to try the real deal.

7) Other assorted gift cards for clothes, movie tickets, and fast food. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a gift card to Subway. NOTHING. No legit though, I’m looking forward to those free late-night munchies.

I suppose I should’ve said something about how my greatest gift was life and freedom and love, but FUCK THAT I GOT AWESOME GIFTS. FUCK YEA, CHRISTMAS.

I’m sorry :(

I’d love to say that my 30 day absence was due to a combination of working, studying for finals, and family commitments, but none of that would be true. Honestly, I was just being a lazy-ass and I didn’t feel like writing for a while.

So… my bad. Will you forgive me?

Just kidding, your opinion doesn’t matter; only mine does. And I forgive myself. Thank you, self. Anyways, rest assured I’m now starting back up on this blog. I just needed a break from it.

On a related note, I was oddly tempted to get a Tumblr tonight when my unnamed red-haired friend switched over from her original blog on to a new [and better looking (the $50 was worth it)] microblog on Tumblr. I’ve been tempted in the past, and in fact I do have an account on the site, but I only use it to link to this blog. Until now I’ve never seriously considered using my Tumblr account to blog, for fear of my words being drowned out from all the noise of photos of prairies and galaxies. Also, Tumblr tends to break down from time to time while WordPress is constantly functional.

I really like the thin, clean style of WordPress, but at the same time I know that nobody else uses it and as a result less people will end up seeing what I write. So I’m caught between a rock and a hard place; do I try to get more views to my page by using a site that more people will see, at the risk of losing those readers’ interest by putting my lengthy paragraphs next to distracting pictures?

I really don’t know.

What the hell, I’ll try it and see how it makes me feel.

Cause You Had a Bad Day

November 22, 2010

While mood swings are stereotypically attributed to pregnant women and to girls on their periods (in which case I like to call them “doom swings”) I’m not immune to having my own periods (wow a pun in the first sentence, good job me) of teenage angst.

I’m a pretty happy person; I let things slide off my back and it’s very rare that I let any irritation bother me. You’ll almost never catch me in a bad mood. However there is an exception, and its nature eludes me.

Yesterday was an average Saturday; I slept in until 12, went to lunch, did a bit of homework, listened to music, went to dinner, showered, put new clothes on and partied with my friends. It was a good day and a great night.

This morning, however, was ass. I woke up feeling gross, I had a headache and awful morning breath, and everyone had gone to breakfast without me, so I quickly fell got out of bed and had to throw on whatever clothes I could find before walking down to the dining hall, in the cold, by myself. When I finally got inside I was so out of it that I swore I was still dreaming. I walked into four different people while navigating to find our table, and instead of giving them the standard “Oh sorry!” I walked right past them silently as if they weren’t there, unable to will myself to speak. I couldn’t remember what people were supposed to eat for breakfast so I just got steak and pepperoni pizza, adding some blue Powerade to help cure my ailing “headache”. Everyone at the table was talking, but I couldn’t form words or contribute to the conversation. My dream-like feeling lingered. After lunch when I was back in my room I tried to improve my mood in the usual way, by mercilessly slaughtering the Covenant armada.

And then, when even Halo couldn’t cheer me up, I knew it was going to be one of those days.

Despite my overall record of sweet dispositions (hi Jess) once every month or so I’ll have a day where I just absolutely cannot get happy. Today was one of those days. Granted it was one of the lighter bad mood days I’ve had, like a 5 out of 10. But believe me, I’ve had 10’s.

I may have encountered some minor disappointments before breakfast, but honestly I felt like shit the moment I woke up. Those little things just piled extra weight on my already sinking attitude. On any other day they would’ve seemed like nothing to me, but on this specific day, the fact that everyone had left for breakfast without me made me feel worthless. I told myself to get over it, but of course there was no escaping the inevitable terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day that lay before me.

The hours dragged on much in the ways I thought they would, every little out-of-place thing irking me and firing the neurons in my brain that control baby-punching.

It took me a full 12 hours to get over my bad mood; a mixed prescription of music and texting finally brought me around. But this bad day was only a 5, and it made me hate everything. I’m worried that the next one will be the perfect storm and I’ll do something terrible, like call someone an asshole.

I’d feel so bad if I called someone an asshole.