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Analog Folding @ Home: A Daily Distraction in My Otherwise-Digital Life

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Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

click to enlarge KEVIN SCANLON
  • Kevin Scanlon
Toward the end of December, my wife and I went to the calendar kiosk in the mall. (You know the one; it's between the Crocs kiosk and the cell phone kiosk. No, not that cell phone kiosk, the other one. Yeah, that one.)

It was time to do the annual calendar replacement, which is something I dread more than I probably should. To some people, it may not be that big of a deal - a calendar is just a place to write down appointments and reminders - but to me, it represents a 12 month commitment to a theme, and I want to ensure that I do not choose poorly.

This particular kiosk was fairly well-stocked, considering how close to Christmas it was, and my wife waited patiently while I invested more time choosing 2009's kitchen wall calendar than many people put into choosing a tattoo. Which is why I've never had a tribal barbed wire calendar, thank you very much.

I dug through the kittens and puppies and sexy models. I pushed aside countless sports teams, lamented that I've never been able to get into fantasy art, and finally decided to go for something familiar and reliable.

"Excuse me," I said to the bored teenage girl who didn't know how lucky she was to have a job, "I can't seem to find the Far Side calendar."

She stopped texting and gave me a look.

"There isn't a Far Side calendar," she said.

I laughed at her hilarious joke.

"Seriously," I said, "make with the Far Side calendar."

She gave me another look. "They. Did. Not. Make. One. This. Year."

I began to feel frightened and confused. "They always make a Far Side calendar! How can there not be a Far Side calendar? This is the worst thing since the Holocaust!"

"I'll be sure to let the company know that," she said. 

My wife put her hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry. He gets like this when he hasn't taken his pills."

The girl gave my wife a look, my wife gave me a look, I gave them both a look, and before I knew it, we were walking to the bookstore.

"I don't think she appreciated my unique brand of tasteless humor," I said.

"Jee, do you think?" My wife said.

A few minutes later, we stood in the calendar area at the bookstore.

"I can't believe there's no Far Side calendar," I said.

"Yeah," my wife said, "I got that."

We looked for several minutes, finding a few possible candidates, but nothing as good as the Far Side calendar that, in my mind, had classics like Midvale School for the Gifted, How Birds See the World, and That One With The Cows Where They're All Standing Up And One Of Them Says "CAR!" So They Get On Four Legs While The Car Drives By And Then They Stand Back Up.

I took in a breath and opened my mouth to speak.

"No. You're not going to say another word about it."

I closed my mouth and we continued to look, eventually settling upon one of those Anne Taintor vintage humor calendars. I think it was November's "The secret ingredient is resentment" that sealed the deal.

On the way out, I passed an end cap that had a bunch of desk calendars on it. I haven't needed a page-a-day or desktop appointment calendar in years, but I thought that if I could find something funny or interesting, it'd be worth picking up, so I could enjoy a daily analog distraction in my otherwise-digital life.

"Maybe they have a Far Side desk calendar..." I said, quietly.

"I heard that!" My wife said.

Most of the calendars weren't worth the paper they were printed on, but one jumped out at me: a daily origami calendar. I pulled it off the shelf and turned it over in my hands.

Every day, it said, you'd get instructions to make a different easy origami creation, folded from the previous day's page. I've always wanted to learn origami, but I've been intimidated by the complexity of the books I've seen, and, let's face it, I have stupid fingers.

NO WIL DOSNT HAV STUPD FINGRZ!

Sorry, sometimes they type things on their own. Stupid fingers.

"I think I'm going to get this," I said to my wife.

"Because you need more stuff in your office?" She said.

"Among other reasons, yes," I said.

"Just don't mention the Holocaust at the register, okay?"

"Too soon?"

She gave me a look.

"I'll be good," I said, in a tiny voice.

On January first, I opened my new calendar. It was shiny and wonderful. It had inserts that taught different folding techniques and base models with exciting names like Helmet, Organ, Water Bomb and Shawl. For the first few days, I made simple models like "Folded Paper" and "Square," but before the end of the first week, I'd created an adorable little koala bear.

I ran into the living room and stood between my wife and the television. "Hey, look at what I made!" I said.

"Oh, it's so cute! You made a doggie!" She said.

"Yeah! I totally m-- what?"

"A doggie. You made one."

I looked at it closely, and noticed that, if you didn't know that it was a koala, it could easily be mistaken for a doggie.

I shared this observation with my wife. "But the important thing is that I made it," I said. "Because I have stupid fingers that don't usually let me do this sort of thing."

OMG WE ARNT STUPAD! YOU AR!

I swear to god, fingers, I'm going to hit you with a hammer.

OH YAH GOOD LUK WIT THAT LOL.

"That's great," she said. "Now will you let me get back to watching Grey's Anatomy?"

"Yeah. Sorry."

Since then, I've made numerous different models, and I've started to look forward to each day's new construct with an enthusiasm usually exclusive to dogs when their masters come home from work. This brings me to the point that I wanted to make this week: The technology that was supposed to make our lives easier and give us more time to relax also overwhelms us with information, entertainment, and tons of other always-on stimuli. I make my living and spend a lot of my free time in that world, and it can be very difficult to unplug and just breathe.

Since I put this calendar on my desk, though, I have a few minutes every day to quiet my mind, tune out the rest of the world (digital and analog) and enjoy the simple act of folding paper into cool little models. I've made about 20 or so by now, I guess, since there's just one each weekend, and some days have been teaching a new basic form instead of making an actual model. Some of them are worth keeping on my desk, some of them are worth giving to my wife or my son, and most of them go into the recycling bin after I'm done. There's also something poetic about using the previous day's instructions to make that day's model. It teaches me to let go of the past, and truly enjoy the moment. 

It reminds me to never sacrifice the journey for the destination. When I'm making a turtle or a snowman or a canoe, it's all I'm doing. If my model looks cool when I'm done, I consider it a bonus, but even the ones I've mangled horribly, the ones which bear only vague resemblance to their instructions and are origami only in the strictest, made-of-folded-paper sense, have been worth the time I spent with them, for that is time which belongs only to me, every single day.

It's not CAT FUD, and it's not How Nature Says Do Not Touch, but it's something much more valuable: it's my little bit of quiet time, a daily analog distraction in my otherwise-digital life.

WIL WHEATON DOS NOT HAV STOOPID FINGRZ!!1

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