Month: August 2014 Page 2 of 3

Bogeymen

Blogathon Post #10: Bogeymen

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #10 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

I am not afraid of the bogeymen.

This summer, my landlord was arrested for possession of child pornography. My reaction was mixed. Revulsion, yes. Disappointment. Pity. That deep melancholy that accompanies a reminder of the world’s dark corners. I felt a lot of emotions, none of them happy.

But even on the day I found out, when I saw his pathetic mugshot and imagined how fundamentally unsettled the parents in our building must have been to hear the news, even when my blood was hottest, if you had asked me to grant the government wide-reaching powers to capture other people like my landlord… I would have said no.

Sexual predators. Pedophiles. Terrorists. These are the bogeymen they warn us of. “Beware,” they hiss, and they gesture at the dark, foreboding closet as their grip on our shoulder grows painfully tight.

I am not afraid of the bogeymen. What I fear is something else entirely.

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KoL, Content, and the End of Things

Blogathon Post #9: KoL, Content, and the End of Things

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #9 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

This isn’t what I wanted to write about today. I started a post called “In Defense of Fuck” about swearing, and I really wanted to sit down after work and finish it up. But “In Defense of Fuck” will have to wait, I suppose, ’cause there’s something else on my mind today.

That something is this:
Kingdom of Loathing letter about ads

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Letter

Blogathon Post #8: Letters

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #8 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

This one’s a little different. Read it on Scribd below. (Also, please ignore the footnotes at the bottom of this post.)

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Exposure

Blogathon Post #7: Exposure

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #7 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

When I was nine years old, I started a comic.

Cover of "The 'L' Gang"I laid on my bedroom’s tan carpet, carefully drawing and coloring each panel, a plastic tub of colored pencils beside me. When I finished a page, I’d run downstairs to the kitchen, where a pot of spaghetti sauce was simmering on the stove, and interrupt my mom’s cooking to show off my latest work.

I don’t remember exactly how long The “L” Gang took to complete, but when I finished its seven pages and had written “THE END!” in rainbow letters on the last page, it was time to publish. Gathering a spare three-ring binder and some sheet protectors, I carefully slid each page into its plastic sheath, which I then hooked over the binder’s silver rings. When I was done, I held it in my hands. Here was a real comic. I could turn the pages, it had a cover–this was the real deal.

A few years later, when I was thirteen, I started another comic.

Eighths vs. Sevvies #1

Let’s look past the really weak, problematic punchline here.

This time, there was no binder, no sheet protectors. Although I asked my dad to print one copy for posterity, I didn’t rely on the comic’s tangibility to consider it published. Instead, I got near-instant gratification by uploading it to my deviantART account.

Eighths vs. Sevvies continued for five strips. Over the course of those five strips, I developed a digital coloring technique, practiced drawing and pacing comics, and even had a thoroughly developed plot laid out (although I’ve forgotten almost all of it today). One day, I’ll probably write a blog post about the series. But today, I want to look at something else that Eighths vs. Sevvies represents: the significance of art-sharing sites on my creativity as a kid.

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Traveling Without a Map

Blogathon Post #6: Traveling Without a Map

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #6 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

The other night,  after cleaning up the dinner dishes, R and I went to the ale house around the corner for a beer. The evening air was gentle, a welcome change from Walla Walla’s oppressive summer heat, so we took our beers out to the patio and sat.

“What will it take,” R asked me teasingly, “to convince you to go live with me in another country for a year?”

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Spamalytics

Spamalytics

I’m not counting this as part of my blogathon, I just had to share it.

I went to Google Analytics to check up on my blog traffic, and there was a peculiar entry. Apparently, almost 20% of my traffic in the last month came from referrals from a particular domain, which I had never heard of.

Huh, I thought. That’s interesting.

When I looked closer, though, some things stood out. Every single one of those visits came from a new user, which was odd. What’s more, every one of them bounced–hit a page on my site and left without exploring anywhere else. To cap it off, each of them visited for precisely 0 seconds.

This was really weird, so I looked up the site.

It’s a goddamn SEO1SEO stands for “search engine optimization”, and refers to the tactics webmasters take to ensure their content ranks highly in search engine results. company.

I can’t decide whether I love or hate this. On the one hand, it’s really clever advertising; someone who’s checking their website analytics is also likely going to care about SEO. It plays off of human curiosity–you see this unexplained referrer in your analytics and go and check it out. The result feels a bit like a discovery.

It’s clever… but it’s also spam. With 100% new users, 100% bounce rate, and 0-second session lengths, this is entirely unnecessary traffic. It clutters my analytics report. If more businesses start doing this, I’ll have to wade through a bunch of unsolicited advertising just to get a meaningful look at my website analytics. And that’s really damn obnoxious.

So, points for ingenuity, company-whom-I-shall-not-name. Demerits for being obnoxious as hell.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. SEO stands for “search engine optimization”, and refers to the tactics webmasters take to ensure their content ranks highly in search engine results.
The Inevitable Book

Blogathon Post #5: The Inevitable Book

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #5 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

There aren’t many things in life I’m sure of, and about my future, even fewer. I lack a developed sense of ambition or faith; when faced with the daunting unknown, I’m far more likely to cautiously inspect it and slowly sketch a map than confidently plunge ahead into uncharted territory. Until very recently, if you asked me, a college graduate, what I wanted to do with my life, I would have shrugged, listed a few half-baked ideas, and ultimately iterated that I just didn’t know.1Even now that I have some idea of a career I want to pursue, I’m still don’t have many powerful aspirations for other parts of my life. Like I said, ambition’s not my thing. But despite my general milquetoastiness about the future, there’s on thing that I’ve simply accepted as a matter of fact:

One day, I’ll write a book.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Even now that I have some idea of a career I want to pursue, I’m still don’t have many powerful aspirations for other parts of my life. Like I said, ambition’s not my thing.
Burnout

Blogathon Post #4: Preventing Burnout

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #4 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

I’ve only been doing this blogathon thing for five days, but in those five days (and three posts), I’ve written 4,500 words. Rather, I’ve blogged 4,500 words; I’ve been posting to support forums and writing emails and doing a lot more writing elsewhere in my life. Needless to say, I was starting to feel some significant burnout–and I still had 22 more posts to go.

This was weighing on my mind as I walked into the kitchen this morning to get breakfast, and I saw it. An idea struck me.

See, here’s the thing. I love old-fashioned cake donuts. They are easily among my favorite donuts of all, second only to buttermilk bars. And when R and I went grocery shopping this weekend, she bought some.

But not for me.

She bought two boxes of glazed old-fashioned cake donuts to bring for a coworker’s birthday celebration this week, which means I definitely cannot touch them.

Two. Whole. Boxes.

I walk by them every day. I see them, giving me those alluring eyes.1What, your donuts don’t have eyes? I don’t think R understands how much restraint I exercise on a daily basis just to keep from devouring them.

But I think I can help illustrate the point for her.

Donuts

It’s important to take breaks now and again. Can’t be all business all the time.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. What, your donuts don’t have eyes?
X-ray specs

Blogathon Post #3: Escaping to Nostalgia

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #3 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

After five or six months of living in Japan, I came down with an overwhelming case of nostalgia. Seemingly out of the blue, I developed a powerful urge to dust off my old Gameboy Color, slot in a cartridge… and play Pokémon.

I ended up sating my desire by buying a used Nintendo DS and a copy of Pokémon White. Though the graphics on the new system left my childhood copy of Yellow in the dust, my sweaty palms and rapt attention confirmed what I had hoped. Pokémon was still as fun to play as ever, and I still wanted to be a Pokémon Master.

Shortly after springboarding off of my nostalgia and diving back into this world, however, I realized something. When I was a kid, Pokémon was about finding a bunch of cool monsters, leveling them up to do lots of damage, and fighting away. At that point in my life, I didn’t see the systems beneath the game. Traits like attack, defense, and accuracy were all just meaningless numbers that popped up every time my Snorlax1who, I believe, was named “THE WALL” and knew Surf gained a level. But when I came back to the game at 21, I suddenly saw just how much depth there was. I pored over move lists and team rosters on Smogon University, a site dedicated to competitive Pokémon strategy. I considered the role of each Pokémon on my team and the significance of every stat. Not only did playing Pokémon as a twenty-something allow me to experience the familiarity of an old favorite, it opened up worlds of complexity I’d never noticed as a kid.

This isn’t the only childhood favorite that I’ve developed newfound appreciation for upon revisiting as an adult. Last year, I reread the Series of Unfortunate Events books, by Lemony Snicket, and the first two books in the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman. Both of these series were at the top of my favorites list as a kid, but I appreciated them for their surface-level details. I loved the plot of ASOUE, loved Snicket’s voice, loved imagining the secret society of V. F. D. with all its codes and ciphers. His Dark Materials gripped me with its plot as well and tickled my imagination with its depictions of dimension-splitting blades and the truth-telling golden compass. But upon rereading them, I was struck–struck by how, for instance, the world of the Baudelaire orphans becomes less black-and-white as the books progress and the children age; or the theological intricacy of the plot of Pullman’s novels. Like I did with Pokémon, I gained a deeper appreciation for these books, seeing beyond the surface and engaging with them on an intellectual as well as emotional level.

One more example. Rachel and I just finished rewatching Star Wars, which I hadn’t seen since I was 14, sitting in the dusty cinemas of Oak Grove 8 with my family and watching Episode III. When I was a kid, Star Wars was about good and bad. I couldn’t explain why, but I just knew that the Rebels were good, the Empire was bad, and there was going to be a lot of lasers and explosions as the good guys tried to win. But having now rewatched the series at 23, I’m amazed how much I missed. More than the lasers and the explosions, I’m fascinated today by the politics and the character arcs. How did the Galactic Republic become the Galactic Empire? Who is Palpatine, and how does corrupting Anakin and Luke play into his schemes? And, heck, how does Star Wars play with common storytelling tropes and monomyths? Asking questions like this makes the series far more than six five2We refused to watch Episode I, and nothing of value was lost. movies about lightsaber battles.

I love having these critical lenses. Engaging with works on multiple levels allows me to appreciate–and critique–their content from a variety of perspectives. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I’m glad I see things with these “X-ray specs”.

But every once in a while, I wish with all my heart I could take them off and return to the simplicity of childhood.

My generation is a nostalgic one, as I’m sure some New York Times trend piece has triumphantly reported. We love the culture of the late 80’s and 90’s, and are regularly looking for ways to return. Look at the recent Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, or the surging trend of indie video games with 8- or 16-bit graphics. I’m sure this is in part because of what I’ve discovered myself–that revisiting childhood favorites as an adult is often a doubly satisfying experience–but I suspect it also has to do with a return to those simpler times.

After all, we were in high school or college when the Great Recession began. After 10 or so years of being told we ought to go to college, we were strapping on our shoes and preparing to do so–or working on our degrees–when the economy began decaying. We inhabit an increasingly corporate world and a country with a withering middle class. My generation watched the promises of a charismatic, visionary young politician turn to campaign trail litter; we saw the specter of “terrorism” used to erode our constitutional rights. The economic and political power of massive corporations is at an all-time high. The threat of climate change hangs over every thought of our future lives. And that’s to say nothing of the forms of oppression like racism or sexism that permeate our culture.

This is our shit. We see the complex systems at play in the world, but knowledge isn’t power to us. After all, what more can we do to stop the forces of a power-hungry surveillance state? What more can we do to arrest corporate control of our government? It’s not that we’re ignorant of these problems, it’s that we see the distant limits of their shadows and realize we’re facing juggernaut behemoths.

For us, knowledge isn’t power. It’s a reminder of our own powerlessness.3Self-aware footnote here: I actually don’t think we’re all as habitually downtrodden as I make us out to be in this post. I think it’s less of a “God, everything in the world is awful” conscious thought, and far more of a nagging, persistent tune that erodes your fundamental faith in the world. Y’know, like elevator music.

So if by slotting in that cartridge and flicking the switch, or by checking out books from the library’s kids’ section, we can return, even temporarily, to a world less complicated, where we don’t see the various interlocking systems and can instead enjoy the simple thrills… I think it’s no surprise that so many of us seek that link to our simpler pasts.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. who, I believe, was named “THE WALL” and knew Surf
2. We refused to watch Episode I, and nothing of value was lost.
3. Self-aware footnote here: I actually don’t think we’re all as habitually downtrodden as I make us out to be in this post. I think it’s less of a “God, everything in the world is awful” conscious thought, and far more of a nagging, persistent tune that erodes your fundamental faith in the world. Y’know, like elevator music.
Pondering the colors of Magic

Blogathon Post #2: The Colors of Magic

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #2 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

write one on what parts of the color pie your personality represents, including a comprehensive walkthrough of each color’s ideals/traits.

Kevin Dyer

Strap on your nerd helmets.1I expect that a “nerd helmet” looks something like this. I’m going all-in.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I expect that a “nerd helmet” looks something like this.

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