warmest regards from the rabbit hole
many thoughts on feeling addicted to discovering something new.
Greetings and good blessings, everyone! A quick technical note: it’s possible that this email has ended up in either your Promotions tab (if you’re a Gmail user) or *gasp* your Spam box. Please drag it to the Primary tab until your email client accepts me!
I’ve got a lot to share in this week’s post, and I’m proud and excited of this week’s Cool Things, so let’s hit that first:
I interviewed Korean emo rapper MMXX SKY 무명천사 SKY (album embedded above and edgily pictured below) for Solstice.FM last month where we talked about his debut album Nonperson, his idolatry of Lil Peep, moving back to Korea, and his favorite insects. It’s one of my favorite projects of the year—check it out!
My friend Saim Raza recently started his own newsletter on South Asian topics, including differing opinions from prominent South Asian figures, expectations in South Asian American culture, and recipes for delicious South Asian meals. If you’re a South Asian (or wish you were and want to blend in), this is the newsletter for you!
My friends and I completed another Writing Jam last Sunday! Our group was ~25 Indian American high school kids. Soon there shall be a website with more information…soon.
One of our prompts was for kids to write in a stream-of-consciousness style incorporating words that we suggested every ten seconds or so. The point was to get them to write without overthinking. Here’s one of the responses to the words majesty, wand, cabinet, caterpillar, friendship, flying, rap music, samosa, and Pokémon:
So the other day I was looking around and saw a dark hall, in there was a cabinet and next to it was a caterpillar, the caterpillar opened the cabinet and inside was a magician who held a wand. He looked at me and bowed down and said, “your majesty.” I stopped in my step and wondered how I'd get here. I wanted friendship with this magician because he seemed nice. I looked out the window because I was wondering where I was when I saw a flying whale soaring through the sky. I blinked many times to see if I was seeing right and when I looked again it was still a flying whale. I then hear rap music coming from around the corner and when I go to look it's my sister playing rap music eating samosas. I asked her where we were but she did the same thing the magician did. She bowed down and said your majesty. Then I turn around and a Pokemon is coming straight at me. When I wake up I'm in my bed. It was just a dream.
The Root of My Problems
It’s an asymmetrical competitive strategy game in which each player chooses a “faction” (essentially a character type), each of which has a different appearance. The first player to 30 Victory Points wins. Asymmetrical means that each faction has different rules, abilities, and victory point conditions, so it can feel like each player is playing a completely different game.
I’ve fallen head over heels for it. What’s particularly striking to me about this game is how well the theme ties into the rules. Here are the factions you can play (prepare for Redwall flashbacks):
Marquise de Cat: The Cats are an imperialist group that aim to control the forest by chopping down its trees to fuel their military advances. Their whole game is sort of like Catan in how they manage their wood supply.
The Eyrie Dynasty: The Eyries once ruled the forest until the Cats came in and walloped them, so they want to make a comeback by building roosts in the rest of the forest. Since they’re a royal society, they must follow a strict, pre-defined set of actions—otherwise, they fall into turmoil and a new leader must be chosen.
The Woodland Alliance: The alliance is comprised of the common folk, who are tired of being dominated by the other factions and seek to fight back against their oppressors. They gain sympathy from their neighbors to build power before revolting.
The Vagabond: This lone wanderer plays all sides of the battle to benefit. They gather items (swords, torches, boots, hammers) to perform actions, aid or attack other factions, and complete quests to gain renown in the forest.
Bear with my geeking out for just a moment. After playing my first match (through Tabletop Simulator—pls continue to socially distance) and realizing I’d have to wait a few more days to play again, I headed to YouTube to watch other gameplays. And to learn tactics for each faction to win. And to research faction matchups to better prepare myself for the next game. I passed entire days doing this.
I could go on and on about this game, but I’ll spare you the details because they’re beside the point. I actually wanted to get into why I’ve dived into this rabbit hole to begin with.
To put it bluntly, I have a tendency to plunge into anything that remotely catches my interest with every fiber & tissue of my being, systematically exhausting it of its novelty by regularly re-experiencing it and recommending it to friends, family, and newsletter subscribers to sustain its spell over my willpower.
I’m always telling friends about the “best songs they’ll ever hear,” the “most heartfelt prank show available on streaming services,” or the “underrated importance of stretching to get a good night’s sleep.” (One recurring portion of this newsletter is literally cool things that I want you to check out.)
But I think this part is more common than it may seem. Everyone I know has something that they could go on and on about without shutting up. Several of my friends are sports fans, hip-hop heads, video gamers, fashion lovers, celebrity gossipers, bargain hunters, cooking connoisseurs, etc. Their passions usually take similar forms: talking about it with friends, watching other people do the thing you love (the NFL, Great British Bake Off, music review channels), following authorities for updates on the culture, wearing representative merchandise, etc.
Why do I dive into rabbit holes?
I’m obsessed with Root, though, not just passionate. I can’t stop thinking about it. I just wanna play all day every day. I want to name my children Root, Rütboi, and Marco Rootio. I listen to The Roots more for associative good karma.
It’s not the first time this has happened. In the past, I’ve cycled through books, TV shows, music, and dance during weeklong fits of excitement. I used to be a regular at the Redwall, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones Wikias. Fiction-diving isn't new to me.
With all this experience, I’ve learned a little bit about my own workings. When some topic excites me, I rush through it as quickly as possible to “get the excitement all out of my system” because if I wait, then the excitement will linger and build into anxiety. That “rushing through it” is like the positive equivalent of a horror movie jump scare, deflating tension quickly but not so enjoyably.
Excitement is also a huge motivation. There’s a thrill of quickly familiarizing yourself with a new idea, especially when your expectations are set low. You know that feeling when a friend blandly recommends something new to you? It's an underwhelming feeling. Here are some examples:
A friend tells you that Breaking Bad is “a dope show about a chemistry teacher making meth.”
Your coworker shares that Game of Thrones is “all about war and dragons.”
Your personal trainer shares that the Golden State Warriors are “doing well.”
The hotel manager tells you the Bible is “an insightful read.”
None of these statements are wrong…they’re just criminally inadequate.
But they also make the discovery of that thing all the more interesting. Hearing a lukewarm review before experiencing something is, in my opinion, more fun than going in blind. It's like taking a blurry picture and sharpening it instead of just taking a clear picture to begin with. The latter might be more efficient, but to me, the former is more exciting. You never know what that green blotch in the bottom right might be!
Hence what happened to me with Root. Yoav told me it’s a “fun board game,” and before I knew it, it became a dynamic battleground of various sociological ideologies disguised as woodland creatures that I could choose from depending on my mood.
Eventually, just as that of The Witcher 3 ended, this Root rabbit hole too shall end with another eventually taking its place. It reminds me of something I wrote before. At the beginning of this year, I looked back at 2019 as the triumphant Year of Shedding. It was a time where I let go of those parts of me that didn’t serve me any good. Now, halfway through this traumatic year, I wonder whether I let go of a little too much. Just look at all the hobbies I gradually cast aside after college: playing oboe, dancing, music production, writing short stories, and more.
What was even the point of any of those things? They each meant so much to me at some point in time.
Something gets in the way when I consider picking up a previously shelved hobby, some insecurity or ineptitude, but I’m starting to believe that rediscovering those old habits may be more rewarding than diving down new rabbit holes. Old activities can be reclaimed. They deserve their redemption arc.
It's a lot to think about. Will probably just play more Root until I figure it out.
—Chuckry Vengadam (@churrthing)