Dean

I first met Dean

in December in my bed.

 

He bit the ends of my fingertips as I traced her back.

He nipped my nose when my hands flipped her over

and he told me to stop.

 

I brush my teeth and I pop a pill and I apply a cream.

I set the alarm (8:30 with no snooze)

and I can only think of the movies I’ve never seen.

 

I white-water raft and try to climb a mountain. I cook a hot dog.

I listen to songs played by crickets and watch light shows performed by fireflies

and I can only think of the albums I’ve never heard.

 

I kiss a woman. I hold her in my arms after we make love.

I peek over her shoulder at her graphic design homework

and I can only think of the art museums I’ve never visited.

 

I read a book. It is by an author I like. I am quiet on a bench and I am invested.

I get to chapter two and decide it’s a favorite

and I can only think of the books I’ve never read.

 

I think of Dean.

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Another Weird Trigger for Insight

I was just the right age for the first Spider-Man film. I was twelve, maybe eleven, when Spider-Man was released at the end of my first day at a Star Wars convention. At the theater, my dad and my friend and I saw a lot of the same faces from the convention. The same sci-fi space opera nerds were also comic book geeks, which should be sort of obvious. Back in 2002 there was a really palpable enthusiasm for a superhero movie’s release. I saw a Stormtrooper take off his helmet and put on a Spidey mask. People cheered at the opening credits. I got goosebumps, partly because of their enthusiasm and partly because, even if I wasn’t alive for the forty years between Spider-Man’s introduction and his theatrical debut, I had gone back and loved him in my little span of time. Hollywood was filming the “unfilmable,” which is the same thing Hollywood said about the Lord of the Rings. Nothing’s unfilmable. Executives just try to suppress their imagination for as long as possible.

I went to a comic book club at the Fort Wayne public library when I was ten. The older kids were discussing the ins-and-outs (relatively, the utter minutia) of heroes. What they thought about ___ Crisis, or whatever. I asked if they knew anything about Pokemon and they laughed at me. That’s a totally fair response, especially in that environment. I’d do it now.

So my parents got me Marvel encyclopedias for one of my childhood birthdays. Hulk, Spidey, and the X-Men. I still have them. I remember poring over them, memorizing every character and their respective powers. I read every comic book I could get my hands on, but there were a lot of back-issues too expensive for my little allowance. Also, the 90s were a dark time and tried to be “gritty” and “adult” in ways that would offend my parents if they looked over my shoulder. So I read a lot about Cable without often having Cable issues in front of me. Did you know that one time Magneto ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine? Woah! The X-Force kills people! This picture of Mojo and his Mojoverse actually sort of scares the hell out of me!

The second X-Men film came out on a middle school band trip to St. Louis. It’s the best (was the best?) in that film series and definitely better than the first. I remember taking glances at my friends after the film’s best scenes, locking eyes and wordlessly asking them, “Are you seeing this? Can you believe they were paid millions of dollars to film this? This is so good – is this what we missed out on for not being alive in the 60s?” I saw X2 in the theater at least three more times.

What happened later in the decade is that the money got to be too much and the egos got to be too big. Executives wanted too many villains in Spider-Man 3 and dudebros got to direct X-Men movies and you tried to justify it, you tried to make it seem okay, you wanted that enthusiasm but it wasn’t really there. “Well, we have Venom now. That’s cool. Angel was in his movie for a total of four minutes and still got on the poster hanging outside. Better than nothing, right?” The movies started to suck and the directors and actors knew they sucked and everyone moved on. I remember remaining optimistic that 4 will turn it around! Spider-Man 4 will be great, X-Men 4….uh, clearly I hadn’t watched Superman 4: THE QUEST FOR PEACE.

It’s like I became resentful at every reboot announcement. Now Peter Parker isn’t a dorky anxious kid you can relate to, he’s handsome and hilarious to everyone and has no trouble – but he watched Star Wars once! The X-Men are attractive young hairless nobodies plucked from the Disney Channel, because we need people on the covers of teen magazines! Those movies aren’t bad. They’re okay. I just don’t care. I’m not overwhelmed and no one is cheering the opening credits. There are my favorite characters, doing what they do, as I have seen them do for the past 15 years, but this time it’s purely for money. Older kids don’t high-five each other walking out of the theater of The Amazing Spider-Man, they just walk back to their cars in silence, remembering almost nothing, and wait a month for the next shot. No one falls asleep in the backseat on the way home with a smile on their face.

The movie I saw tonight, X-Men: Days of Future Past, ends up justifying my theater experiences since 2000. It takes what I saw as the hairless tween nothings and weaves them into the “classic” (lol) series that got me so excited. It doesn’t leave me in the dust. It recognizes its own past, gives meaning to experience. Hell, to make sense of a lot of it you have to see the bad movies. To get the most you have to suffer through the past like I did. That’s all I’ve ever asked for: consequence. What I’m watching, reading, listening to should matter, it should have ramifications for the rest of the story. (As a complete aside, me saying “listening to” spawned a realization: I love mewithoutYou because their albums and songs establish continuity. Demon Hunter mostly sucks because they made one okay album they’ve been repeating for the past twelve years.) Sure, I’m not saying X-Men represents the highest caliber of art. It reestablishes my favorite parts of the series with time travel and retcons. Shoot a bit higher than X-Men, and for God’s sake don’t let Brett Ratner near a dead fish much less an important franchise, but try to give me the same feeling I had tonight: a smile on my face for the film I’m watching and for what I watched as a kid. I’m out of the 18-24 age bracket and am getting closer and closer to leaving 18-35, and Hollywood could ditch me for being old and constantly reboot in order to let new middle school kids standing outside the Smithfield Cinemas see the origin, new and cleansed and ready for accepting Teen Choice Awards. But with this one movie, one little two hours of my life that I’m never really going to expect, I knew my own childhood wasn’t totally whitewashed.

I’m not saying DoFP is this amazing, important experience to everyone. It’s a really good comic book movie, and if you don’t have my own history then that’s really it. It speaks to me – and that’s sort of wrong, because no one was thinking of me when they made it. They just did what came naturally, and I’ve been along for the ride for most of my life.

Fictional Non-Fictional Fiction Writing

“They were all written by me,” he says.  “I made them up for this exercise.”

I chose the high fantasy over the twee indie story.  I went for the one that sounded like a He-Man episode, the one where apostrophes are in the middle of first names.  Khuz’har.  X’onitic.  Rek’falz.  What’ever.  I am lacking context, and I appreciate it.  I do not know the villain or his backstory and I do not know the princess or her backstory, but I do know that all writing should be different from my own.  My own is boring.  It is confessional in the overwrought Dashboard Confessional sense and in the frightening Sylvia-Plath-sticking-her-head-in-the-oven sense.  What do I have to write about?  If I rack my brain for stories, what can I come up with?  What can I relate?  What would fascinate listeners when they accidentally slap the dial in their car and end up on NPR?

Okay.

So there was this one time when I had my last day of high school.  The day ended early so my friends and I headed to Taco Bell for lunch.  No one probably remembers it but me.  Just a little feel-good celebration, nothing major or anything.  I liked that last full year in Indiana of just driving around with nothing specific to do.  Later on that night I had a party, and at that party I freaked out over irksome little details, nothing really worthy of my reaction.  It made me feel bad later.

Whoops, that sucked and went nowhere.  Better try again!

So there was this one time when I attended college but didn’t really go to any classes and had to drop out and ended up in the hospital for a bit and then later on I would attend college but not really go to classes and had to drop out and ended up in the hospital for a bit a-

Dammit, that’s not funny either.  That’s not what you people came to read!  That’s the Livejournal, not the novel.  Not the heartwarming tale.  I cannot write conclusions to my own confessions.  I do not know the endings to my own stories.  I have felt in flux since self-awareness kicked in.  My youth leader told me and tells me that I lead while being in the pack.  My brain works in quantum mechanics.  I am an adult and at the beginning of my adulthood.  I am making the right choices while determining which choices to make.  I see myself cathartically printing out this blog post and tearing it up eight years from right now.  I am aware of my sexual impulses, aware of the expectations I place on others, aware of Blackmon Road, and aware of Nicosia.  Awareness of my greater story means I cannot wrap up my tales with neat little bows.  When I am eighty I will be thinking of myself at eighty-one.

When does my heptalogy become bound in a neat box and sold on store shelves for a low price of seventy dollars?  No, when does my heptalogy become available in PDF format for seven dollars?  When can I stop writing about THIS?  When can I beat my head against the edge of my desk to make heroes fall out?  What can I secrete that inspires?  When will all young adults stop calling themselves “young adults” and simply write for adults?  When will I stop being told that it’s good to write about black and white nude photographs, hookah, acoustic guitars, incense, and that time Travis put his foot through the drywall?  When will my colleagues look at The Graduate as courageous honesty and not life’s template?

“My Khuz’har,” the father said, “When you meet the gongorad of Mount Tyr, what shall you do?”

“Father,” replied the young Khuz’har, “I shall stab it in its tar-black eye with my gilded rockedge.”

“Well, that’s not entirely necessary,” the father said.  “You may as well wait until its set is done, has made all the autographs required of it, and personally sit down with it to ask for advice concerning relationship issues.  Perhaps in twenty-five seasons you will consider attacking it.”

Visual Thinking

I use my right arm, the arm draped across her shoulder and down her own right arm, to pull her close and ask if she’s enjoying it.  We are watching The Great Muppet Caper.  That is not The Muppet Movie or The Muppet Show and it is not the same thing as subscribing to the Sesame Street YouTube channel because Elmo is cute.  This is a level below that.  This is placing feet on the next rung and climbing down into the next basement crypt.

The Muppet Movie was a runaway success and it walked away with a box office of seventy-six million dollars.  The Great Muppet Caper walked away with thirty-one million dollars.  We are climbing down into obscurity.  You are going to see the t-shirts on my shelf that my mother purchased for me at Christmastime.  They are of Kermit and Animal and the Sesame Street roster.  I appreciate them and I wear them to bed occasionally, but she confused stylish interest with interest itself.  That’s alright.  But at some point she will walk into my apartment and I will be wearing nothing and I will be watching Sam and Friends, and I do not know what she will think.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Do you like her?  Did you kiss him?  What were you saying about me?  I am a nosy person.  I bothered my friends.  Childhood trauma, suicidal ideation, eating disorders.  I was told about them so that I would quit asking, so I could go back to saying something funny.  Come up with new material.  Exploit it, exploit it, come up with new material.  I am twenty-three and I have to find balance.  I am not bipolar nor mentally ill.  I just care about what I care about, and the things I care about I care too much about.  I care about video game reviews, I care about the pretty girl in front of me in study hall.  I can care without saying “I love you” in the first week.  I love her, still, but that might not be endearing to everybody.

My father may be an introvert.  He has friends, but his friends are rarely seen.  His friends are not used as a support system.  He does not value time out of the house or time away from work if he is gone for more than a few hours.  But to label my father a hermit would be wrong.  I could take a picture of him, upload it online, and he would be fine with that.  His information is available, his address is possible to find.  If you look at the Raleigh Craigslist long enough you’ll surely find a bundle of chopped wood that can be picked up for free.  No one in my family is a recluse, they are just homespun.

Even as an introvert, I cannot understand the recluse.  The recluse avoids cameras and abhors interviews.  The well-known ones are those that have contributed some kind of great work and left the public world.  Some recluses may be mentally ill and some may be perfectly capable.  I understand the introvert.  I take the introversion from parts of my family.  But I would not avoid a camera or turn down an interview.  I want to be successful when all is said and done.  Not celebrity, but successful.  If anyone wants to break into my home and murder me in the dead of night, they may feel free to do so.  My address is

——————————————————————————————————————–

My mother keeps asking me for an updated photograph of myself.  The problem is that I don’t know who will take it.  Do I go to a professional?  Do I ask a friend to stand there awkwardly with a camera while I stand there awkwardly with a pose?  The last photograph she has of me is from August 2006, when I was inadvertently at my trimmest and most boyishly handsome.  I worry that picture will be the last, or the last of any importance.  I can simply disappear into the ether and be an idea instead of a tangible person.  Perhaps someone could go ahead and cut out my brain to place in a vat.  That way I won’t have to deal with taking pictures any longer.

I have long hair and I need a haircut, and I have a beard and I need to shave.  Maybe there is no specific “early 20s” variation of myself, but an altered shape based on mood.  Maybe all of my extremities will swing in the other direction after a nice hot shower, and then all my appearances would be rendered useless.

I am available for interviews.  Feel free to contact me, Oprah or The Daily Show or C-SPAN.  But even though I tried before, I am really just not the type to take selfies in the bathroom.

Still Devout

I want to shake the mothers and fathers of Middle America.  Mothers and fathers, when your sons and daughters come to you asking questions about the Lord, abstain from telling them that it is “just a phase.”  The Lord is a madman.  He appeared, apparently born of a virgin, and claimed to be the son of an unseen supernatural entity.  I am a madman, because I believe significant chunks of that story.  I capitalize the ‘L’ in Lord, for God’s sake (see?).  Your child is inquiring and by shutting down his curiosity you can break the already-fragile spirit.  I make no claims towards the authenticity of myth, but I know that Easter Sunday has drilled its way into my bone.

The Associate Dean of Students & Director of Leadership Studies tried giving me relationship advice.  “If my wife had done the same thing to me, we would have…we would have serious problems.  We would need marriage therapy.”  I met him when I was twenty-two-years old.  Twenty-two-year olds are traditionally stupid.  They are so traditionally stupid that they look at the term “traditionally stupid” and don’t try to rise above it, but dive deeper into regrets and mistakes, knowing they have “traditionally stupid” as a get-out-of-jail-free card.  I nodded and said I understood him and I understood myself.  I sealed myself in a box and hobbled from corner to corner, dropping to my knees and wishing my life would readjust to its previous setting or I would fully embrace my new one.  I am crazy.  I am pathetic, and indie dramas are filmed about me and The Onion articles are written about me.  My friends can kiss and tell.  Hell, they can kiss and keep it secret because the fact that they’re kissing is so obvious they don’t feel the need to repeat it.  That is tradition.  That is the normal course of things.

I am watching her kiss and watching her cry, and I am living in 2013, and it is no longer 2009.  I must be crazy, because this isn’t how the world works.  The man who can’t get over his ex is scorned or condescendingly patted on the head and I’ve known that for years and it scared the life out of me.  I hate being wrong, but I know that in order to be most right I’ll have to be wrong sometimes.  I said I would rather be dead than wrong in this scenario.  So here I am, proven right.  Am I right?  Will I wake up tomorrow and go to my last final of Fall 2012, then head to my parents’ for Christmas?  This doesn’t happen to anyone I know.  They will fall in love and marry and be happy and I will be happy for them, but maybe theirs will come about in a classic, though none the less special, way.

The blessings in my life could exist to reaffirm me, to assess my desperately-sought correctness in this exact situation, but I am still agnostic when I wake in the morning.  I am so bewildered by the life I’ve been given that it seems unreal to me.  I am shocked that grass is still beneath my feet.  I am amazed that someone would love me, at least to the extent a person can, which is bringing me cookies and talking with me about video games for hours at a time.  I don’t want to throw it out; I want to hold it close to my chest.  I just cannot believe it.  I cannot believe what I have been given.

My inquiring mind wants to poke and prod and to test the validity, but only in hopes of even greater understanding and, more importantly, even greater affections.  I no longer doubt the Lord in the teenager-with-newfound-insight sense, but I like broaching the subject with a profound awe.

12/9/12: Your Junes Edition

You know, I don’t really have much to share this time around.  I finally submitted a story to The Anthology, but that was the very last minute and is only hopefully considered good enough for publication.  I mean, I wrote more for The Johnsonian as well, but they didn’t take it.  Their rejection was understandable; I’ve been so darn negative lately.  I need to write lighter pieces with names like “Why I Love Scrubs,” or “21 Things To Do On Your 21st,” or “Pineapples Are So Tasty, Yum, Yum, Yum!”  In my place, The Johnsonian picked up Patrick Key’s beautifully-titled “Age should bring a tastes.”

I’d be devastated if anyone sincerely believed that I’m a misanthrope, but I do admit a tendency to utilize misanthropic qualities from time to time.  My reconciliation is that my beliefs are to build a better foundation, not destroy an institution.  Still, it’s hard for me to avoid feeling more pious when compared to others in my age group.  I don’t mind someone writing “Key,” because that could be a typo or any person’s quick glance at an unfamiliar name.  “Age should bring a tastes,” however, is more or less an affront on the English language.  How does that get approved?  How does an editor sleep at night?  I’ve never been a newspaper editor, so I can’t rightfully play backseat driver and assure everyone of what better a job I’d do.  Commitment to craft is important, though.  I’m starting to think it’s why I write so little, despite wanting to write so much.  I am always concerned about quality, and that fact can put me in paralysis.

The Where the Wild Things Are film adaptation is a remarkable success because, despite the original book having only 48 pages, the additions are thematically consistent.  Unlike most adaptations that have to snip and cut important elements to fit a running time, the film works as a logical extension of the basic themes expressed over forty years ago.  I recall reading the book a few times as a child, and I recall it frightening me with its authenticity.  So much of children’s literature is inauthentic or, at the very least, scrubbed with gloss.  Honesty always makes the best writing, and, in the classic “Superman sucks, or, shut up about Jesus for once” context, I’d rather read about how I am rather than how I should be.  Where the Wild Things Are also makes me incredibly self-conscious, because I don’t know how to write stories so rich and multilayered.  I say “I liked the game Super Star Wars a lot,” and all that means is that I liked Super Star Wars a lot.  I may throw in some introspection, but that work never has hidden references to The Golden Bough.  Then again, I’d feel worse for forcing any of that.

Other than my constant, internal game of duck-duck-goose, everything is going swimmingly.  When not working on school, I’ve witnessed a treasure-trove of good material, including the sixth season of 30 Rock, Evangelion 2.0, High Fidelity, and Lincoln.  I even found the best song of all time in the Saints Row: The Third soundtrack, and I’ll probably pick up Crystal Castles’ third album sooner rather than later.  And I’m actually writing on my desktop machine again, though it’s without a proper graphics card.  That should be delivered to me sometime tomorrow, and if that installs properly, I won’t have much more to complain about.

I apologize if I ever come across as demeaning.  I’ll try to keep balance between the immediate ideal and the eventual ideal.

Purchases of Equal or Lesser Value

I’m hopeful there’s already been significant psychological research on a consumer experiencing Black Friday.  A graduate student somewhere must have a locked drawer full of the specific reasons why people love to stomp each other to death.  Maybe at next midnight copies of the work can be taped to the glass door front of every local CircuitCity or CompUSA or wherever it is that the kids shop these days.

My fingers move at incredible speeds when it comes time to explain the inner recesses of my mind.  It’s not as if I’m routinely asked about my stance on foreign policy, but if they do, I like to be prepared.  Sometimes I can go on about morality’s place in religion and forget to sleep.  Greater issues are important to me, and even if I say something as condensed as “Drugs are bad” or “Superman is good,” there’s probably an essay I built to support it.  I like sales.  They’re nice.  But I can’t look at a man’s brain juice running out of his fractured skull, and then look at a lanky 6’5” dude in a No Fear hoodie with a suspiciously-red sneaker and think there aren’t essays to write.  I cannot comprehend anyone who doesn’t go through a Russian novel’s worth of introspection whenever they encounter something troublesome.

After all that self-aggrandizing talk of ethics, my God, my first thought is to take everyone seen in those videos and nuke them from orbit.  There are hundreds of heads in those four-by-three videos all conglomerated together to create the husk of a mega-monster, and I have to kill it.  I have a problem, one that’s persisted for decades, where if I find significant flaw in another person I’m quick to assume their lack of worth.  A man could be the best father and husband the world has ever seen, but then he breaks someone’s glasses in a stampede and every kind deed he’s done is negated.  I suppose human beings are more complex than that, but the end goal is to not be.  In a way, I don’t feel as much sympathy for the lowly employees of these major retail outlets as others may.  Being put in such an abusive and genuinely life-threatening situation is worth storming into your manager’s office and quitting over.

Half of my life has been spent mulling over the ramifications of being a financially-stable straight white male in the middle class.  I question if my education was better, or if my parents reading to me had a profound impact, or if choosing Sesame Street over Barney really does make a kid more able.  While I may not always follow them, and I’m wrong more often than I care to admit, I do have some ethos that refuses to leave my core.  “Money isn’t happiness and goods aren’t happiness,” says the kid who received every video game system he asked for.  I could’ve been spoiled.  Hell, I don’t know, I could be spoiled.  I just know, from the perspective of someone who didn’t always have to fight a Black Friday crowd just to save money on a designer boot, that killing a child in the rush into a Wal-Mart isn’t going to bring my cat back or my grandfathers back or make my first relationship not a disaster.  I operate with that knowledge and if you lack that knowledge, I don’t know what to do.  I resort to anger and immediate thoughts of barren wastelands.  The act of mass consumption with disregard for human life seems primeval, and right now I’m sitting in a house as clean as my parents could possibly scrub it.  When your daddy leaves you and you get all those “daddy issues,” I can’t empathize, because my dad is here and is super nice most of the time.  I’m so very not handicapped that my mind jumps through hoops attempting to find reasons to die.

The fact is that I don’t want to be negative about others all the time.  I want to celebrate them.  I just see schlock on YouTube that makes me question, even rightfully, the absence of a basic ruleset that determines human decency.  For as isolated and introverted as I can be, I want to help every person who thinks that shit is okay.  I want to let them sleep on my couch and I want to cook a nice meal for them, if need be.  I don’t just get off on writing about fault all the time, but I want action to back it all up.  I want to give someone a gift because they’re special to me, not because I punched a grandmother in the face for a sick deal.  Dangit, world, let me be better.  You can be my belief if I can be your doubt.

The very notion of Black Friday (aside from the gruesome term that becomes a bit less gruesome when it’s applied in its figurative capitalist terms) isn’t inherently a bad one.  I’m inclined to spend money on Amazon every single year.  I just need to remember that what I’m doing is so first-world, so special, so far above the poverty line.  I’m still going to be insane whether or not I buy a video game.  These are separate issues, and I would be remiss to confuse the two.

11/12/2012: Nation of Domination Edition

Hey, you!  Yeah, I know you!  The person who keeps looking up “Patrick Kay Winthrop” or “Patrick Kay WordPress” in Google’s search field!  Awww, hey, buddy!  Here’s my third article for The Johnsonian!  It deals with mystic space reptiles that I would have loved to explore in more detail had I not been operating under a word limit.

My desktop computer, as it currently is, displays a “System Recovery Options” screen.  My precious hog of precious finite resources had a bad driver error in the hard drive (hopefully) that sent itself into a slow downward spiral to the point that it won’t even turn on anymore.  Thankfully, I bought a second drive in time to recover my data.  Oh, it’s not there to recover family keepsakes, it’s just recovering Crystal Castles songs and videos of The Matrix Online.  The priorities.

I’m actually really peeved at the whole process.  My machine was bought lightly-used from an eBay auctioneer who builds and immediately sells machines at discounts.  He made sure to include all the manuals, but didn’t offer receipts or Windows install discs.  On top of that, and on top of a graphics card I may have wrongfully assumed was the problem, it’s difficult for me to even parse what exactly the problem is.  This isn’t “Oh no, my mouse stopped working!”  It’s blue screens.  It’s BIOS.  It’s the deep, nasty, near-illicit levels of computer programming that was covered up by an influx of the casual market.  I haven’t seen some of these screens on my monitor since WarGames.

Then, my backup drive didn’t come with its necessary SATA cable.  Way to piss on my life, Western Digital.

Who cares, though?  The internet now uses the Cloud, which means I’ve been able to keep up with my silly mediums.  I made remarks recently about how dumb it was that Microsoft charges sixty dollars a year to watch YouTube on the Xbox 360.  PlayStation has my back, though.  That giant corporate monolith at least has the decency to not charge me for a free service, so I was able to watch Giant Bomb quick looks and 30 Rock episodes with some degree of regularity.  30 Rock was in a weird funk in its last couple of seasons.  It still existed as a funny, better-than-average show, but its sincerity seemed increasingly lost.  In the four or five episodes I’ve seen of 2011’s season, the lack of sincerity is actually used as a resource for humor.  Rather than playing the Scrubs failed line-walk where it attempts humor and sweetness in separate-but-equal measure, it just dives headfirst into cocaine madness.  That was a compliment.

I often, perhaps wrongly, pride myself on being an individual.  This doesn’t mean that I react to situations solely on the basis of being “different,” but I do tend to follow my heart.  Sometimes you stop eating at a restaurant because it’s what you imagine a decent human being would do, not because you were inspired to become one with the crowd in a political boycott.  I either shy away from small talk or let it be all I appear capable of, depending on the conversation.  People ask me what I want for a career, and I tell them, “To get paid for being myself.”  That’s an honest answer.  I presume that would come through in writing, but whatever works.  My parents treated me all special-snowflake enough for it to leave a permanent impression.  So it alarms me when a random person, pointing to no one in particular, can so clearly define the way I operate in just a few short seconds.

The best submissions come in late because all the good writers are either huge procrastinators or are such perfectionists that they won’t get their imagined magnum opus’ done until the last minute.  I sure don’t know if I’m good, but I know the last two speak some awkward truths.

10/27/2012: Weed Roots Edition

I believe I have difficulty writing in quantity because my ambitious nature is squashed by the reality of time and effort.  A thousand unwritten stories have found residence in my mind, and I create them to entertain myself.  Beside all that, here’s my second op-ed for The Johnsonian.  I don’t know how to fix Winthrop’s ridiculous internet standards, but I can, at the very least, formally acknowledge the issue.  I’ve been using the word ridiculous a lot lately, and I’m not sure why.  Anyway, the positive of reading the article online means you get a super high-definition version of the psychological horror from our newspaper cartoons.  The positive of reading the article in tangible form is that you get to see my half-smiling mug.  So pick your poison.

To try and cut the details short on this week’s Gaming Journalism~! fiasco, here are the basic details.  A columnist wrote a piece about how, while he had no evidence of the press’ corruption, some members of the media seem a bit too chummy with the idea of letting themselves be turned, with corporate public relations’ influence, into walking advertisements.  He pointed wildly at a few people who had done questionable things (like surrounding themselves with Dortios and Mountain Dew advertising, or tweeting hashtags to win Playstations), but never called anyone out directly.  He had no evidence!  It was a worthwhile point, but up its own ass as anything I’ll write here.  He did point to one woman who emblazoned her personal sites in advertisements for the not-yet-released, still desperate-for-marketing Tomb Raider game.  It was a random potshot at a random person who did a questionable thing that hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called journalists had done.  Instead of dealing with the comment with grace and clarity, she had a meltdown and called “libel,” essentially forcing the original columnist to be fired without a good reason.  In the confusion, people looked up this woman’s information.  She listed Square Enix as an employer.  She had written dozens of articles and reviews on that company’s products, consistently praising them.  Whether through simple young-person naivete or through a concerned effort to push product and profit off of lies, she was entirely corrupt!  Fancy that!  The columnist just walked in his town asking, “Are you The Devil?”  “Are you The Devil?”  “Are you The Devil?”  And that third person uttered an unholy roar and grew a second mouth to say, “I AM BEELZEBUB, LORD OF THE FLIES” and vanished.  The chances of that having happened are nearly unfathomable.  It went a little something like this.

Game fans, at least the ones obsessive enough to read and write about it on the internet every day, are as hypersensitive as anyone else.  If a game is scored too high, by their standards, it was obviously a sign that the publisher paid someone off.  Most of the time, the reality is that IGN handing 9.0 scores out like they’re free candy is due to fanboyish inexperience, not a bribe.  If a game is scored too low, reviewers get death threats that contain their street addresses.  The truth there is that no one is out to get games, to put them in their place.  Games should be awesome.  We should all be happy all the time, but sometimes that can’t happen.  Corruption in the media has happened, but it’s as rare as that bird Ash sees at the end of episode one.  A lot of the navel-gazing happening in games journalism is about Kotaku being too off-topic or Destructoid being super sexist, not a direct link to corruption to prove all the conspiracy theorists right.  This is exciting and important because it proves some amount of conspiracy theories entirely accurate, though we’ve seen nearly all other media personalities, one after the other, come out and state that they aren’t a part of the problem.  I hope that’s true.

I remember reading my old game magazines, the old GamePros or Game Informers or EGMs of yore, and occasionally seeing a two-page spread on some upcoming game, written as if it directly spoken to the reader.  It would tell you just how great Fear Effect 2 is going to be, see, it has these scientists [disclosure: not real scientists] there to prove it.  They were, essentially, infomercials.  What helped the situation, what made it not feel so damn shady, is that the infomercials would have big white letters at the top and bottom of the pages that clearly stated “ADVERTISEMENT.”  Interaction between advertisers, publishers, and press isn’t necessarily a toxic thing.  It can be a great thing for everyone involved, even without absurdly high scores and money changing hands.  What matters is transparency.  Transparency, transparency, transparency.

It’s nice to see Polygon establish a code of ethics right up front, the very second their site launched.  Giant Bomb, a site which was born out of a distaste for the political ramifications of press/publisher relations, has repeatedly stated that corruption is completely antithetical to their own code, and their content keeps proving that.  Even writers popping up on Twitter for a mere minute to say “Hey guys, I’m not totally crooked!” is a nicety that goes great lengths to proving that someone’s work is worth it.  Love is about opening your heart to the possibility of being betrayed.  You trust you aren’t being lied to, but do you know for sure?  Of course not.  You either give the benefit of the doubt or you spend the rest of your life pretending you live in The Truman Show.

Transparency is putting “ADVERTISEMENT” at the top of your infomercial, and it’s also differentiating between hardcore war zone journalists and the dude who writes for Us Weekly and asks if HD video is going to reveal Britney’s awful complexion.  Take Andrew McMillen, for example.  This is the dude who exposed the abysmal working conditions at Team Bondi, and now he’s the guy who did a tell-all of why Silicon Knights has been in such a rut for eight years straight.  That’s the gaming, super first-world equivalent of covering African civil war.  Compare that to Ryan Davis, a guy whom I professionally admire, whose primary duties are to critique Star Wars Galaxies on its final day while he streams on the internet.  Those are completely different things, right?  Friendship with PR representatives gets a pass as it varies by person, by situation.  These are real people involved in real situations, and human relationships are complex.  What’s wrong is to cast all of gaming journalism in a bad light because of one mistake (a mistake perhaps executed by more than we imagine) from a stupid person.  What’s right is to value each critic or journalist individually, based on their work or their transparency or their entertainment value or kindness.  I don’t say gaming journalism is dead because Jessica Chobot is a paid model more valuable to her company than the employees who do the work.  I just know IGN is valueless trash to me, and continue to love even more what I find morally redeeming in this world.

I’ll just link you to what Shawn Elliot wrote.

This weekend was also spent watching the Rebuild of Evangelion, the four-part remake movie series that updates the brilliant show.  I had seen the first film, 1.0, before, but needed a refresher.  I still think Evangelion has among the best openings to any program I’ve witnessed before, as it’s one that equally plays to and entirely subverts genre tropes.  That first movie is more or less a HD version of the first four episodes, but the final scene lets you know that things have changed.  This isn’t 616.  This is the Ultimate universe.  This is not what happened before.

2.0 (despite being released in 2009 it’s still the latest film) continues in the same Ultimate direction.  The similarities and basic plot flow of the television series remains, but wrenches are thrown into your expectations during nearly every scene.  There’s a new Lilith on Earth, but the old series’ one remains somewhere else.  Even though she’s promoted heavily, Mari, a brand new character, enters and exits the scene dramatically, never answering a single mystery.  It’s Asuka in the Angel-posing-as-an-Eva now, not Toji, so she’s taken out of the equation.  Hideaki Anno, the series’ creator and auteur, knows what you’re expecting and knows just when to throw you off course.  He makes the old new again.

As two individual films, I still can’t recommend Evangelion enough.  But what pulled the original series together, what made it all click, was the climax and fallout.  It’s a confusing series with an encyclopedia’s worth of lingo and religious interpretation, and by the end of the show nothing was explicitly laid out.  Instead, it all worked tonally.  My fear with Rebuild is that of, once again, expectation.  I’m used to Evangelion wrapping up in a romantic and melodic way, and I’m able to watch early episodes with full knowledge of how they contribute to the greater narrative.  In Rebuild, enough wrenches have been thrown that there’s no possible way to figure how the series will tie together.  It’s all up to the creator to redo what he has already done, but for a brand new situation.  Anno hasn’t failed me yet, but he’s always dangerously close to pulling a The Matrix Revolutions.

I guess love is about opening your heart to the possibility of being betrayed.

Actual Published Work That Someone Could Point At And Say “Look, That Person Existed” But Then Not Have Strong Feelings Either Way About The Topic

My first article for Winthrop’s The Johnsonian student newspaper is live, and by “live,” I mean in a physical newspaper that needs to be picked up by using hand muscles.  Their website seems to be in perpetual redesign and reabandonment, so I’ll post what I’ve written here, for now.  The articles, the second of which is in the mail, are little ditties about school or whatever I feel like.  A word count for print means I can’t devolve into an emotional soliloquy comparing my past relationships to attempted Atari revitalizations, but what’re you gonna do.  Sometimes all “adult” really means is wearing an adult’s clothes.

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