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Masks Off

Courtesy DC/Vertigo

I’ve had kind of a shitty week.

I haven’t heard from recruiters. Barely a word from the dayjob leads I’m pursuing on my own. I’ve had difficulties in maintaining focus, getting words out, not being pulled into discussions on the Internet. Hell, I finally went to bed at a reasonable hour last night, and I still didn’t rise again until most of the morning was gone. I’m pissed at myself, which is kind of dumb, since I have no conscious control over whatever the chemicals in my brain are doing on a day to day basis. I’m not even on any drugs. Nothing fun, at least. It’s all vitamins and mood stabilizers and cholesterol regulators, and even those are starting to run dry.

(The last two, at least. I’ve got vita-gummies for weeks.)

The thing is, waking up and making coffee and sitting here, a thought occurred to me. I could do an extensive write-up on the experience I had yesterday with some GG folks who were actually nice to me, and answered my questions logically, and the really terrible knot in my stomach that I got afterwards. But I’m not going to. For one very simple reason.

I’m not getting paid for it.

I’m going to write the article. I’m going to give my observations on the phenomenon, how it’s grown, what it does – really does, in spite of what happened yesterday – and what it could mean for the future of gaming culture. But I won’t be putting it here. It’s going to get pitched. I’m going to write about the appeal of old games and why GoG announcements make me giddy. I’m going to write about the reasons why I’m finding myself playing Old Republic so much lately. I’m going to write articles from the perspective of a cantankerous old bat of a gamer who wants the Candy Crush kids off of his goddamn lawn and the Call of Duty fuckwits to stop egging his house.

The only way to write is to write, and I think I’ve been afraid to do that.

I look in the mirror and I see something that scares me.

I see someone tired. I see someone bruised and battered. I see someone who doesn’t believe he’s good enough to make it on his own, and I mean entirely on his own, no corporate structure or steady paycheck to back him up. The mask has worked so well. The smiling mask. The one I would put on every morning before the commute to the office. I think I’ve been trying it on again, and the damn thing is itchy and uncomfortable and sticking to my skin and I’m sick of it.

I mean, I can be that guy, but I don’t necessarily want to be.

Yes, I know. Beggars can’t be choosers. Any port in a storm. A job is a job is a job, and slinging burgers at McPuke’s or presenting clothes to women who feel judged and uncomfortable just walking through the goddamn door at the Gap is better than no income whatsoever. I’m not an idiot.

But I’m also sick and tired of pretending.

I’m not a hateful person by nature. I’m an optimist. I would like to believe in the better aspects of humanity, that individuals can rise above the miasma of self-centeredness and stupidity that seems to dominate our species. In my mind, intelligent folks who can conceptualize the circumstances of others and imagine those concepts in a complex manner can work together to make the world a better place. I’ve seen it happen.

Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening often enough. I see people taking advantage of others. I see victims who carry senses of shame and regret a hundred times bigger than their cardboard signs, victims of a system that’s fucked them over or choices they would undo if someone just gave them a chance (but nobody does). I see fat cats getting fatter while they people they claim to care about and protect suffer and scream and plead and die in obscurity, their supplications drowned out by lobbyist money and the hum of narcotics. I see societies and individuals railing against change because it means that you don’t get to have all of the best toys to yourself anymore.

I hate that bullshit.

I hate ignorance. I hate misogyny. I hate rampant materialism. I hate reckless misinformation. I hate the corruption of young people. I hate corporate globalization and I hate upper-crust greed and I hate people who lack empathy or compassion and I fucking hate making people feel worthless because they don’t fit your advertising image and I fucking HATE people who make liberal use of slurs like “faggot” or “bitch” or “slut” or specific racial terms I won’t repeat, THOSE ARE HUMAN BEINGS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU IGNORANT ASSHOLE.

This is me with my mask off.

Boo.

I’m a role-player. I write fiction. I pretend as a matter of course. And I’m pretty good at it.

But you can only lie to yourself for so long before it starts to drive you insane.

I’m not giving up on the job search, but I can’t maintain this level of dishonesty with myself and people who would choose to trust me with what is, to them, important work. I’ve tried it before and I’ve always let people down. The more I push myself to try and care, to adopt that mask, the more something inside of me rails against it and along the way, something breaks. I really need to stop getting into that cycle because it never ends well. Hence the brutal honesty.

I’m going to start coming at things differently. It’s never too late to change things. It hasn’t been easy so far, and the practical and static side of me has been fighting me along the way because, like I said, change is frightening. Lying to someone to land a cushy corporate gig is easier than putting myself out on the edge of everything, tossing out pitches on the end of lifelines and hoping someone grabs one and gives me just enough positive momentum back from the void so I can finally say, without a trace of irony or caveat, that I am a goddamn journalist.

If I can do that, I can write more and write even better, because I won’t be held back by this endless sense of guilt that plagues me because I might be letting down my parents since I’m not holding down a steady job.

If I can do that, I might be able to forgive myself for wasting a good portion of my adult life chasing cubicles instead of opportunities for a decent byline.

If I can do that, then I can finally set this stupid mask on fire, and never look back.

That’s the plan, and I’m fucking sticking to it.

If you believe in higher powers, pray for me.

If you believe in luck, wish me that.

Otherwise, just keep reading. A mind needs words like a sword needs a whetstone, and my words are worthless without your eyeballs.

Reset and Realignment

Test Pattern

Today is a busy day for me, but I’m still having trouble getting the day started as early as I’d like. I’m doing what I can to reset my schedule so it’s easier for me to rise when my alarm goes off, not when my cat paws at my face until I feed him. But I still managed to pay bills, toss out some resumes, and get myself ready for some errands. So that’s something, I suppose.

My writing waits to be completed, words and ideas crouched for employment in the corner of my mind. I’ll be unleashing them soon. But first – cheap gasoline!

… in my car, I’m not going to drink it or anything.

From the Vault: No Guilty Pleasures

I’ve had a pretty rough week so far, so instead of the post I wanted to make, here’s an expansion on a comment I made to my flatmate the other night, while she was watching The Mindy Project. It took me a while to encapsulate this idea properly, but here it is.


Courtesy Hasbro

I’m making plans to go see Transformers: Age of Extinction later this week. Possibly on that most American of holidays, Independence Day. What better way to celebrate the birth of a nation and honor the sacrifices made by those fighting for its autonomy than a big-budget action movie filled with Americana iconography and military/weapon fetishism? I’m someone who tries to see media in general, and movies and games in particular, from a more critical standpoint, adding my voice to those attempting to discern good qualities from bad and directing the spending of those willing to listen.

Admittedly, however, there is a part of me that will always love the Transformers, no matter what Michael Bay does to them.

And that’s okay.

I’m honestly getting more and more disillusioned with the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’. There’s an idea in our culture that there are certain things that we are not allowed to enjoy, or at least not allowed to admit we enjoy. We should hate ourselves for eating food we know is bad for us. Entertainment that goes for cheap thrills or laughs should be put down. And if you admit to enjoying sex, slut-shaming will fall on you by the bucketfuls. I mean, it should fall on everyone in this culture, but I think we all know women get it a lot more than men do because the patriarchy is, in fact, an extant and present danger to progress and free thought.

Let me wrestle this thing back onto my point. My point is that, as long as one is being safe and smart in their choices, no pleasure should be labeled as guilty. Sure, if you eat nothing but fast food all the time you’re going to have health problems, but that isn’t to say you should never eat any fast food ever. There are those who make that choice, and they’re healthy people I admire. I may even join them someday. But on occasion, I will get a hankering that can only be satisfied with a late night Taco Bell indulgence.

Basically, if no actual harm is occurring, and things are being taken in moderation (including moderation, as St. Augustine would say), it’s difficult for me to really describe any pleasure we take from life as “guilty”. After all, life is long and difficult, and moments of true pleasure, joy, and release can be hard to come by in our daily struggle to keep ourselves and our dreams alive. Why make things even more complex and potentially hurtful for ourselves or others by leveling judgement on what we enjoy?

Sure, some things can be objectively bad or wrong with what we like. We can acknowledge that red meat is bad for us. It’s easy to see the flaws in a movie that’s not up to standards. Hell, I love Flash Gordon even though I know some of its effects are cheap even by the standards of the day and a good few story points make zero sense. But I love it in spite of those flaws. I enjoy the hell out of the time I spend laughing at the antics or belting out Queen lyrics. It’s just fun. It’s a pleasure. And I don’t feel guilty about it.

I don’t think you should feel guilty about your pleasures, either.

Go Outside

Courtesy allthingshealing.com

I love the amenities of modern life. Video games, the Internet, films, toaster ovens, books, on and on. As a writer, I am used to making myself a bit of a recluse, something of a hermit, tucked away in a solitary room where shelves heave with papers and the only sounds are the tapping of keys, the scratching of nibs on parchment, and my occasional outburst of profanity.

But I have to remind myself that I need to go outside.

People are outside. This can be a frightening thing, to be sure, but it’s also where stories come from. Every person is experiencing their own story. There’s also the fact that this is our audience, as writers. The people wandering the streets, riding in buses, and grinding their teeth in cubicles want – no, need the escape fiction provides. And we, as writers, are poised to provide that escape.

Fresh air is good for you. Even a brisk walk to and from the corner store can do wonders for the body and the mind. I’m a big proponent of public transit, not only for the environmental aspect and its positive affect on city infrastructure, but because it promotes folks like me not being quite so lazy and actually walking more from place to place. I have errands to run, and I’m actually looking forward to it, because it means getting out of the house.

I’m not saying you have to go run a 5k. I’m not saying you should eschew key work times to go for a stroll. I am, however, saying you should go outside from time to time. Your work, your games, and your refreshments will still be there when you return, and the rewards will be all the sweeter for your efforts.

Flash Fiction: Hello Human

So Chuck Wendig coined the phrase Spammerpunk and I thought I’d get down on that.


Hello human,
Greetings from another human. I am human and interested in human things. Your planet which you call Earth has many resources important to humans. An offer generous to humans can be made. Many lucrative offers to other humans have provided human familial units with much material wealth for reasonable replacement demands. Many benefits material wealth can be provided unto your fleshy human carapace especially when alternative is complete annihilation of species. Compliance is preferable to resistance. Please to be considering generous offer.