Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Content Dump: Artists and Scammers

 Short and sweet post to dump some links to things I've written lately.

First, a brief profile / press release about watercolor artist Scott Campbell.  Scott made it onto my radar from Umbrella Academy, where he did a quick 8-panel illustration for a flashback scene.  The style of the scene immediately charmed me, and gave me an overwhelming sense of déjà vu for reasons I couldn't quiet put my finger on.

After a bit of research I discovered it was because I had seen the art style, after all.  Scott Campbell was one of the art directors for the video game Psychonauts, which I spent several years completely fixated on, and which was one of my first cosplays.  (I won't say which character but I think anyone who knows me can guess.)  To this day, I have Psychonauts camp patches stuck to my laptop bag, and a few purple arrowhead necklaces floating around the house.

The second article is simply a listicle of seven common Facebook scams.  I wrote it up because of the prevalence of these scams; I see them in the Umbrella Academy group I moderate and I see my less-savvy friends fall for them repeatedly.  (Shame me once...)

Things I'm looking forward to this coming month are happily offline events.  I'm vaxxed, waxed, and ready to get my social mingle on.  I got tickets for Labyrinth of Jareth, which unfortunately falls on the same weekend as DomCon.  I'd much prefer to go to the masquerade, though.  The week prior there's the first in-person LARP for my Vampire: The Masquerade group, so I can get some practice in on my costuming!

Also I'm happy to report that my friend who refused to get the vaccine (and personally insulted me in the process) is slowly coming around.  Our relationship remains rocky but we're speaking, and she told me she'd get the vaccine once it was fully FDA approved.  This gives me hope; I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her safety (and the safety of those around her).  

Anyway, my apologies for a lazy and phoned-in blog post, but it is very hot and I am very tired, and I have a backlog of commissions to work on.  So, blog, I will leave you with these pictures of my plants and of my son enjoying his first slice of pizza, and see you in another week or two, probably with my thoughts on how I hated the season 1 finale of Loki.

My desert rose is finally blooming!
New lizard!
Help me, I have too many not enough terraria!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Black Widow Review

As we move into July, things are getting sorta-kinda back to normal!

Being an extrovert with social anxiety makes the mathematics of social "value" complicated, but I'm pretty pleased with myself for finding the balance on either side of the equal sign. After the mess that was 2020, I've sworn I'll never take social outings for granted again.  (Prediction: this feeling will last less than two years.)

One of the things I've been looking forward to the most over the last few months was going to see a movie in theaters again.  Specifically, a Marvel movie!

Well, I went and saw Black Widow at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown with my friends.  We didn't cosplay this one, but the novelty of being back in a movie theater alone made it a wonderful time.

As far as the movie goes, I would give it a solid A- and say that while it's not in my top 5, it could probably snag #6 or #7 on my list of Marvel movies.

Read my review here.

Also, Black Widow had enough archery references to remind me to go try archery.  I got a recurve bow back in 2017 but had never used it, fearing failure.  Ryan took me out to the archery range and it turns out I'm not half bad!  Archery is a sport that is easy to learn but difficult to master, making it an incredibly fun sport!  A piece of advice, though: wear armguards.  
Nice tight cluster.

One week later, healing nicely.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

2021 Hobbies: Gains and Losses

2020 took its toll on just about everyone, but the fallout is still being felt in 2021.

One of the only good elements of the pandemic and the political upheaval was that it separated the wheat from the chaff in terms of what's worth expending mental energy on.

Being at home all the time allowed me to hone in on which hobbies and habits were the healthiest for me.  For example, I was able to lean in to my writing, particularly my fiction.  Andrew set up up a Fiverr account for commissioned fanfiction, which you can find here.

Another hobby I rediscovered a passion for was RedditGifts, which I'd been involved in since 2013 or 2014, but stopped participating in because of the new baby.

Sadly,  RedditGifts is going to wrap up (pun intended) this year.  I wrote an article about the significance of RedditGifts both within its community and for me personally, and what the "sunsetting" of RedditGifts will look like.  (See the link below.)

In a time when generosity is needed more than ever, I don't really fully understand why RedditGifts is being shuttered, but I have hopes that something new will rise from the ashes.  To be honest that's been my attitude toward most things over the last six months or so.  "I'm sure it will get better and this will act as a springboard for positive change."  2021 has truly been a year of silver linings and making-the-best-of-bad-situations.  

Well, at least it's not 2020, right?

Saying Goodbye to RedditGifts

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

90s Nostalgia: A Millennial Perspective

 One of the major defining traits of Millennials, I think, is the strong generational identity.  It's funny, if you think about it, because the rapidly changing cultural landscape means that not all Millennials can even relate to each other.  On the web, the lifespan of a single meme can be less than a week; trends are born and die in less than the span of a year; the shelf life of any aesthetic is brief.  And there's a huge divide between older and younger Millennials.

Nonetheless, the label of "Millennial" is a weighty one.

Here's some of the major things I think define Millennials, particularly older Millennials, the kind that grew up with AOL CDs and probably had to use a card catalogue at the library at some point:

  • Having used a floppy disk
  • Having had chicken pox (or known someone who had chicken pox)
  • The first, early wave of stupid electronic toy trends (Giga Pets, Furbies)
  • MECC games in school
  • Experiencing 9/11 as a child
  • Identifying "Boomers" as the "parent generation" that sees Millennials as children no matter what and resenting them for it with none of the no-fucks-given chill displayed by Gen X

And, most of all: 90s nostalgia.

I don't know what it is about the 90s that so enchants all Millennials.  I think a big part of it was the golden age of Nickelodeon.  I'm no exception to the 90s nostalgia, or the fond memories of Nickelodeon.  But not all Nickelodeon franchises live up to their reputation.  Some are decent (Are You Afraid of the Dark? holds up well, although the Wiki is a hot mess) while others are absolutely unwatchable (just try and get through an episode of All That without cringing into orbit).

Anyways, being a Millennial myself, I decided to revisit a couple of my favorite franchises and write an article on my discoveries.

First I took a look at the Klasky-Csupo studio (the one that brought us Rugrats and The Wild Thornberries), and discovered I have surprisingly strong opinions about their later work.  (Dear Klasky-Csupo: please stop rebooting Rugrats.)

The Klasky-Csupo Crossover No One Asked For

Next I compared two of the most "wholesome" Nicktoons, Doug and Hey Arnold!, both of which I didn't like much as a kid.  As an adult, one was worse than I remembered, and the other was far better.

Why "Doug" Is the Worst Nostalgic 90s Cartoon (and "Hey Arnold!" Is the Best)

I hope these two articles take you back, as they took me back, and give you a brief glimpse into some of the more meaningful aspects of the cartoons that no doubt affected the way the Millennial generation has processed the confusing history that's shaped it.

Monday, May 31, 2021

On the Razor's Edge Between Invincibility and Vulnerability Lies the Breathtaking Strength of Human Perseverance

As May draws to a close, I'm finding myself productive but dogged by a general malaise.  

All things considered, I should be happy, because there's a lot to be happy about and a lot to look forward to.  For example, I recently binged the show Invincible and absolutely LOVED it.  (It's not going to take over Umbrella Academy as my dysfunctional superhero show of choice, but it holds its own.)  I ended up buying all of the comics, which is over 3,000 pages (or, if you just want to measure compendium thickness, about six inches).

In fact I ended up writing a review I'm pretty proud of.  

Read my review of Invincible here!

I've been keeping up with my writing, mostly.  It's a hodge-podge of passion projects, e-mails with writing partners, reviews for the GGG website, and, of course, the occasional obligatory press release.

Like this one about Netflix's upcoming Geeked Week.

Writing aside, now that I'm fully vaccinated, my life is opening up again, allowing me to socialize with other vaccinated friends.  I reconnected with Benedetta from my journalism program, for example, and went to Kevin's birthday pool party.  I went with Jonny out to Johnny's bar (although, we sat on the patio; we're still too shy to actually eat indoors).  

I even went to Vegas with Chris and Tevin from the Dragon and Meeple.  While I was there, I visited Ekho and Ken, who I haven't seen in three years, since they moved to Nevada, and I'm eagerly looking forward to visiting them a second time before the year's end.

Since my birthday fell on Saturday and because I share that birthday with Tony Stark, naturally, I insisted on going to Marvel's STATION, which is located inside of the Treasure Island casino.  I even remembered to take pictures this time!  Here's a select few:

(Captain America's bike from Avengers: Age of Ultron.)

(Hawkeye, indisputably the best Avenger.)

So what's with this grey sense of dread looming over me?  I mean, I look happy in all of those photos.

I guess part of it is the awareness that what happened with my friend a few weeks ago has probably effectively terminated our 10-year friendship.  I'm really not sure how to come back from it.  Because she doesn't want to get vaccinated, I don't want to physically be around her.  More importantly, on an emotional and psychological level, her reaction implied a level of personal disrespect I really can't abide.  I've been trying to prune my friends down to only the best, which usually only means removing people from social media when their posts bother me.  But this is a real friendship and having it end so abruptly and cruelly has really done a number on me.

Aside from that I've felt a little overwhelmed with the house, because Calvin is fully mobile and so long as he is awake, I really can't get any work done.  

This means I only have about three hours in the course of the day to manage chores and writing.  It's cutting into my writing productivity severely and that's causing me a great deal of anxiety, since usually, I lean hard on my personal sense of fulfillment from creative work to put me in a good frame of mind.

I'm trying to balance out a lot of little things (personal finances, health, house management) and all those little things have left me wrung out.  (If only there were a metaphor for this, maybe one involving, I don't know, camels, and straw?)

(Oh, look, an Invincible meme.)

The anxiety from work is temporary, of course, because Calvin won't be a toddler forever.  But the disruption to a close friend could be, and it's also given me a deep sense of distrust toward all of my other friends, and doubt about what things I can rely on in my life.

I think this is one of those "the only way past is through" kind of situations, but I've always found those to be the most frustrating because I'm naturally very controlling in most aspects of my life and want to feel like I have power over future outcomes.  Alas, if there's anything 2020 taught us, it's that we're a lot less in control than we think we are.  And that the best way to come to terms with that isn't trying to forcibly wrest control from the universe but to come to terms with the things we can't change and make peace with them.

So, I'm trying to focus on the things I can control and let go of the rest, and, if I can't trust the world, to trust in my own ability to respond with grace to whatever it throws at me.