Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Running Off At The Mouth: A Rant

This can’t wait.  So I’m posting mid-day, trapped in the lovely Polar Vortex, wrapped up in blankets in my cube.  Forewarning: This is a rant. It will be long.  And it will discuss and use profanity.  Deal with it or don’t, your choice.

It seems to me that polite discourse is a thing of the past.   The term certainly is, but I’m serious.   And I’m angry about it.
Because a lot of the horrible, jack-assy statements are coming from groups of people that I identify with, people who, by the definition of the word they label themselves with (nerd) should know a thing or two about people making them feel inferior, or feel like shit.

Of course, it’s not just nerds. It’s reality tv stars and football players and plenty of other people.
People have lots of opinions these days but they can’t stand if someone has another one.  And they can’t stand if what they say has consequences.  Yes, you can believe that being gay is an abomination.   But that doesn’t mean you’re free of consequences when the network you work for feels like that’s not a message they want to promote.  Hell, you can believe that gravity is an unproven theory, but that doesn’t mean that if you jump off the roof you won’t bash your skull in on the pavement.    And that’s a flawed analogy. I know that.  But the point is, what you say DOES have an impact. 

We’ve all heard “agree to disagree agreeably” but does anyone practice that anymore?

I think the breaking point for me was listening to an episode of a podcast that I really enjoy, The Indoor Kids.  It’s a video-game podcast by definition, but topics vary to include movies, music, books and pretty much anything else. I like it because the hosts are charming, funny, and interesting.   The topics that they’ve brought up have made me think differently about games, and introduced me to games I might want to play, alone or with my favorite player one in the universe.   They talk about the community, about what a “real gamer” is and isn’t and why people have to label it, about good stories and bad corners of the game world.   And it’s fun and interesting. 

There was recently an episode that touched on religion.  I usually peruse the comments but I don’t often say anything.  There was some hate towards what they were saying. Then in the most recent episode, it got worse.  People are throwing around “Fuck you” and “go die” about things like how many people do jobs working with their hands anymore. 

I guess it’s just too much lately. So I’m saying something.

Why are people like this?  Why do you come in, upset about a statistic, and instead of being a reasonable person, you attack someone personally? I’m seeing a lot more of this writing for Chicagoist too.

One of my personal favorites was a comment I got on a story I did regarding an artist project in the Bridgeport neighborhood.  To distill it all down, it’s a big giant camera they plan to put in the middle of the neighborhood.  The person whose picture is taken gets little prints, and meanwhile the back of the camera displays the picture to the whole neighborhood.  The idea is to introduce people to their neighbors in a fun, interactive way.  

You wouldn’t think that’d be controversial in any way.  But here comes the Internet, folks.   Because one of the first comments that I got on that article was all “Fuck you, I’m from Bridgeport and you little pigs say it’s not friendly and you’re pretentious and blah blah blah” (paraphrased, but she managed to call myself and the artist pigs right off the bat). 

Yeah lady, I’m feeling the love.   Definitely a friendly neighborhood. Totally want to go now.

Do people stop and think that they’re representing something larger than themselves?  For example, the Bridgeport neighborhood, gamers, nerds or the Internet?

And people love those things. Dearly.  But do you want the stereotypes to be true? Because when you go lowest common denominator and unintelligently respond to something you disagree with with name-calling, insults, threats and personal attacks…you’re detrimental to the things you love.  If you’re going to be the 13 year old screaming “FAGGOT!” in a headset, then you’re the one who’s making less people play that game you love to do that in.   You’re part of the problem that keeps potential players away.   And if there’s enough of that, maybe that whole thing just goes away.  And guess what? That thing you love so much, you destroyed.

If you’re the one screaming about how friendly Bridgeport is, you filthy horrible pigs, then you’re the one who’s making people go
“oo. Yeah, I don’t really feel like going there.”

What if, just a theory, we decided to disagree agreeably?

What if instead of telling someone to go die because they don’t like Super Mario 3D World, you say something like “what didn’t you like about it?” or if you don’t really want to know, you just say some of the reasons why you did like it (super awesome cat suit, amazing music, tons of challenging levels, fun co-op….cool integration of Wii U features…but I digress.)

I just wish people would think about things.   Yeah, TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space, not Time and Relational Dimension in Space, but what exactly do you accomplish if you bully someone for not knowing that?   Are you helping the show by being a jerk to someone just getting into it who didn’t know that? 

For that matter, what if you really really like something and someone else doesn’t?  Does it make someone stupid to like America’s Next Top Model because the show is corny/cheesy/stupid?   Or maybe, does that person really like the photographs, and sometimes like to zone out on the equivalent of reality junk food?  So maybe we’re not learning anything amazing.  Maybe there’s no compelling story line. Maybe you hate it.  Maybe I like it.  (And I do.  So shoot me.)  That’s not all of who I am.  That’s one thing I enjoy sometimes. 
I love good story, and I love learning, and I love intelligent shows.  It just so happens I also like that. 

There’s a world of guilty pleasures out there, and everyone’s got a few.   To judge someone based solely on that is just ignorance. 
So let’s try stopping it, y’know?

IF we’re nerds, let’s be intelligent in our responses, because we love to learn, and we love to know every little detail about things, but let’s not be exclusionary and belittle people for not knowing as much as we know.   If we’re “internet folk” let’s be open and friendly, because all of our friends are in this box, and we can connect with them no matter how far away they actually are, and we love that about the internet, instead of trolly and hateful and exclusive.  If we’re gamers, let’s be fun and work together and figure out puzzles and escape from all the crap we deal with in our everyday lives, instead of putting more crap out there and being negative.

That’s what I’d love to see.

Just sayin’. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let The Right One In

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”- Bill Watterson

Randomly, when watching a show my best friend and I both love and that I lovingly call "my stories," this quote popped up.  The show (Criminal Minds...yes, my stories are about serial killers...don't judge!) had me thinking about a lot of things already, but when I heard that, I felt like I had to write something.

Incidentally, part of what this has to do with is writing. The tail end of 2013 changed a lot of things for me, making me a little bolder in the process.  A little bit. But there's still things that are hard for me to get.  

As it happens, one of the things I'm grasping to get is that I'm a writer. That I can call myself that.  To tell the absolute truth, every once in a while when I say I'm a musician I think I'm a pretender to the throne, though I've been playing for 21 years now, and though if you put an instrument in my hands, it just feels like an extension of my body at this point. 

So it was August, and this GISHWHES thing inspired the boldness, and I tried to get in to Chicagoist. And I succeeded. And I started to write. And it was published.  And I do it twice a week now.  Arts and Entertainment.  Press passes and photo pits.  Hell, I got to interview a musician from a band I'd loved since I was 16 this year.  My photos along with it sometimes.  

And I've had a journal since I was 5, no lie. I still have that journal.  I've got all subsequent ones, and years of online journals of all security levels. I could go back in time and tell you what happened on this date. I have *always* written.  My twitter handle was something I'd used before, my own way of mocking the fact that I loved to write poetry. But with all this "evidence" I still hesitate to say "I'm a writer." 

Why is that? 

One of the hardest things for me of late is to accept the good things. I wonder where that comes from. I know I'm probably not alone in it, though.  One of my friends has made similar comments recently, even.

But what is that? Why can't I look at myself and say "Yes. I'm a writer." Why didn't I always say that? I was, whether one word got beyond this page or any other page, because it was *always* something that I did, from the time I could on.  Looking through some old papers the other night I realized that.  

And I'm loved. And weirdly, that sentence is hard for me too.  And this time, I'm not talking about the "your mother loves you" or "your friends love you." 
I'm talking I.am.loved.

I look back at some of my past relationships and I wonder, would I have even accepted an I love you back then? I said I wanted that, but would I have been able to handle it?  And why not, if I couldn't, you know? Why was I good enough with being of mild amusement to someone I was with.  Or pretty okay to them, you know?  What held me back from the things I wanted, and what still holds me back?

I wanted to be remembered, thought of, held.  I wanted to to feel safe, and know without saying anything else.  I wanted to be brave enough to keep my eyes open. 

Why is that hard, when it happens? I mean, don't get me wrong, it's wonderful. But why can't I say what I am? I'm a writer. I'm a musician, and when I love I love like you wouldn't believe. And *I* am loved.  All of that is real, and I'm allowed.

I'm allowed.