Sunday, October 06, 2013


“Sunday's child is full of grace.”

That was the quotation on a set of announcement cards hurriedly assembled one evening, twenty-eight years ago today, when my son Paul David Alexander was born. The 6th of October fell on a Sunday in 1985 as well.

Before he entered the world, safe within his mother's womb, he was known as “Tad.” The name was generic enough, since we didn't know what we were getting at the time. It was also reminiscent of “Tadpole,” a nickname one of my uncles would call me, whenever he into town from the farm. For much of elementary school, Paul was known as “Alex,” and for a time, carried on a tradition for three generations (although for his grandfather, it was met with three or four heads popping out the door at its calling, rather than one).

It was on the first day of school, either in the fifth or sixth grade, when the teacher asked him his name, and with only a moment to think of something clever, he responded with “Cubby,” and it managed to stick with him for most of the year that followed. By the time he was a senior in high school, he went by the stage name of “Memento Mori,” while making the rounds in the local freestyle and hip-hop circuit. In 2009, he entered the U S Air Guitar championships as “Fender Splendor,” winning the title in the Philadelphia regionals, and placing sixth in the nation. This latest moniker is also his Twitter handle, albeit temporarily under the name of “scary benghazi egg.” Don't ask me why.

In the past fifteen months, he completed his senior year at the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in Interactive Design and Game Development. In August of last year, following a summer internship, he was offered a position with Camouflaj, a recently opened and up-and-coming design studio in Bellevue, Washington, across one of the numerous lakes from Seattle. Upon graduating “fere cum laude” (that is, with a 3.4 GPA, thus almost with honors) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he was already on the design team for his firm's first release, “Republique,” the first video game in history to be optimized for mobile devices (specifically, the iOS platform for iPhones, although Mac and PC versions are in development). Paul has also been designated as lead designer for their next endeavor, known only as “Project Porpoise.”

Meanwhile, he has engaged his father's professional services in a bit of rebranding. (I can hear my typography professor now, suggesting I go back and do one hundred more versions of this until I get it right.)

Along the way, he has appeared on HuffPost Live this past summer, as a guest interviewer of Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, and author of the book Finding the Next Steve Jobs. (Paul starts at about 09:30.) In the time since that show was done, Paul and I have conversed at length, not only on the future of game design, and the design industry in general, but regarding its effects on popular culture. Paul sees himself on the fast track, and aspires to rise to critical acclaim within his profession.

And yet, there is also a transformation of sorts. In an age when so many of his generation have so many means of communication at their disposal, does it take away from their humanity, their ability to simply talk to one another, rather than walk through the streets of the city, their ears plugged into devices, their eyes half-fixed to something called “Google Glass,” only being half-aware of their real-life surroundings?

If this is the future, the impertinent question remains: is this an opportunity to invent, or to warn of, the next big thing?

Paul must go to Seattle for the second half of this month, to complete the big project. One can only work via computer from 2500 miles away for so long. Even with the latest technology, there is no replacement for being there, which may in itself be an answer to the question ... in question.

Playing the blues harp on the street at the Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington, August 2003.

His business in Atlanta having been completed, he hopes to move to that fair city in the northwest by the end of this year. He first went to visit there with me ten years ago this past summer. It was to his mind the best vacation he ever had. And even though living in one place is not the same experience as just visiting, I believe that Paul will discover that Seattle and its environs will agree with him. One can only hope.

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