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The Kindness of Strangers

27 Aug

Last night Jeff and I went to see my favourite band. Well, favourite band that still actively tours, but they’re still in my top three bands I love of all time. The Hold Steady playing a free outdoor show; sounded like the perfect evening.

For the most part it was too; we ran into some friends, the openers were moderately entertaining, we drank bad beer and people-watched and let the exhaustion of our weeks slowly slip away from us. It wasn’t too hot out and we got a good place to stand. All in all, an excellent concert.

During the wait before the band came on (which was long – I’m compulsive so we got there early) we sat on a picnic table drinking beer and talking, and when Jeff got up to get a beer this guy wandered over. Fairly nondescript, lanky, brown hair and bearded, and a pretty sweet tattoo of a robot fighting a dinosaur on his left forearm. He asked if he could sit with us and I said okay.

That’s the thing about shows like this. People are chill. The Hold Steady attracts a crowd that’s sort of a weird hybrid of hipsters, hippies, party people, druggies, college kids, older folks… you name it, we saw it there. He sat with us and we talked after Jeff came back with beer. His name was Zack, he’d just gotten back into town (Lincoln) from Austin Texas, he liked bands like The Hold Steady and Radiohead and Modest Mouse.

As the conversation progressed he realized that he’d left his phone in his friend’s car. His friends were supposed to come back to the show, but he had no way of contacting them without his cell phone, and the crowd was getting large and milling, making finding people next to impossible. He was clearly stranded, stuck in Omaha over night, with no real way of getting back to Lincoln save for camping out in a doorway overnight and then hopping a train in the morning (his idea, not ours).

So Jeff and I offered to give him a ride home. It seemed reasonable. The guy seemed nice even if some aspects of his personality were (in retrospect) a little shady and weird. It was the kind of crowd where drugs were easy to come by, and it’s a fair chance that he was on something, or several somethings, by the time the night was over.

We met him after the show outside the Slowdown. He thanked us profusely for letting him tag along with us to Lincoln. We get to the car, my sister’s Honda Civic, and I start climbing into the backseat, shoving my purse and sweater and other things in front of me.

It was at this point that several items from my open purse spilled out into the backseat.

Zack insisted that he sit in the back, that he didn’t want to inconvenience me by making me sit in the back all crunched up (2 door cars are a joy like that), and so I let him into the back and got into the passenger front seat. That was how we rode home.

I did not grab my purse out of the backseat at this time.

We drive the 50ish minutes or so back into Lincoln, and we’re all very conversational and nice. Zach asks us questions that seem innocuous, like what kind of car we were driving in and what jobs Jeff and I had and other things of that nature. Things that only seem suspicious in hindsight.

We get to Lincoln and he asks us to drop him off at 14th and O street. He complains repeatedly that he really, really needs to go to the restroom as we’re driving into Lincoln, and as we pull up to the sidewalk and we let him out he’s definitely in a hurry, stopping to give high fives and handshakes but definitely in a hurry.

No worries, I figure. He just needs to pee. Look, he’s even walking funny he has to pee so bad.

We drive the mile or so back to the apartment and as we get out of the car I head for the backseat, starting to gather up my things.

It is at this point that I realize my wallet is missing.

Genuinely missing, not just misplaced or shoved under one of the seats or under a sweater. We tore that car apart, which didn’t take long as it was small and recently cleaned. And we realize there’s another reason this guy was walking funny. Probably a reason he asked so many questions about our lives. A reason he hightailed it out of there before we noticed anything was wrong.

I go inside, immediately call my bank to cancel my credit card, and begin taking inventory of all the things I had carried in that wallet, that long rectangular bright red ladybug wallet I loved so much. My driver’s license was in Jeff’s wallet since I’d needed it for the show and didn’t want to take in my whole purse since I knew I’d be dancing. My cash was in my pocket. Overall my net losses were my library card, my now-cancelled credit card, my insurance cards, my old student ID, my birth control pills, a couple of expired giftcards and some receipts.

He also took my day planner. Why he did that is completely beyond me. It doesn’t even look useful.

He got nothing important. Everything in that wallet is replaceable, even with a little hassle. He didn’t get anything like my social security card or my computer passwords. The planner had my address in it, but we live in a secured entry building two blocks from a police station. I have my driver’s license. I can replace my insurance cards. I have another pill pack I can use to take my medication. Inconvenient, but manageable.

It just sucks is all.

It sucks that we do this guy a favor, two normally not very trusting kids, and he thanks us by stealing something of no use to him. He tells us what kind of person he is. That he judged us by our well-maintained car and the answers we gave about our lives and our jobs. He determined that we were clearly doing well enough that he needed my things more than I did.

Or he was just high out of his mind. That’s also a possibility.

Jeff and I are doing well for ourselves. It’s easy to judge people by their covers, we all do it all the time. I work a damned good, well-paying job. We were driving a very nice, still very new looking car. We gave the impression of being college kids even though I’m not and Jeff’s only part time.

Impressions are dangerous. Judgments are dangerous. I don’t work any less hard for my money because I work in an office for a corporation that gives me benefits and paid time off. Jeff doesn’t work any less hard because he’s a part time student. We still get help from our parents, yes, but we’re young, and extremely lucky, and we’re grateful. Painfully grateful. We never acted like we were better than this guy. That was something he invented for himself.

So it hurts. It makes me rage that this is what kindness to strangers will net you in this world. It makes me want to track down this guy and punch him in his face. Or at least get Jeff to punch him in his face.

We were up until 2 or 3 sorting things out, and sleep was nearly impossible.

Once I got there though, I did okay. I woke up and felt better, not just from getting the rest.

My memories weren’t tarnished. The show was still fresh in my head and it was still as glorious as I had remembered.

It really was an amazing show. This is the third time I’ve seen The Hold Steady, and they just keep getting better and better. We muscled our way close to the front, and after six solid months of listening to their music at least daily I knew all the words to all the songs. I was that kid, screaming along with the songs and pounding my fist in the air.

I forgot everything in those moments. Music profoundly affects me, and there’s a reason I love it. Normally my brain is a hyperactive chittering mess, like a squirrel on speed suffering from ADD. I’m always dealing with at least five things on my mind: work, impending grad school, my comic, my novel, what to make for dinner, various songs I like. It’s busy up in here.

The music and the crowd washed it all away. I thought of nothing in those moments but being right there, right where I was, singing along and feeling exuberant joy at experiencing The Hold Steady the way they were made to be experienced.

Nothing can take it away. Not even some asshole who decides to rip off a couple kids who did him a solid.

Thanks for trying buddy.

So maybe I’ll be more reluctant to help strangers now. I usually am anyway. But it’s not all bad. My friend Jen saved a guy’s life last night by being a kind stranger, calling 9-1-1 when she noticed him passed out on the sidewalk. When I first met Jeff he was a stranger, in a friend-of-a-friend just met kind of way, and I DD-ed for him so he wouldn’t have to drive on his birthday.

I’m cynical. I’m jaded. This incident has lowered my opinion of humanity, made me feel foolish and caused me a lot of trouble.

But everyone’s different. We all have our reasons for the stupid shit we do, even if this guy’s reason made no sense to us.

As Jeff said, he’ll get his. Especially since we have every intention of filing a police report.

But I won’t let the best part of the evening be taken away. That concert was fucking amazing. So, nice try buddy, but your assholery is just a tiny blip on the radar in my life, and after time, I’ll forget you, and just remember the music.

Stay Positive.

Why I’m a Feminist

7 Jul

Feminism gets a lot of crap these days. The word has become less positive and more of an epithet. Feminists are seen as dangerous, irrational extremists who despise men and want to make mountains out of molehills for the sake of being the Better Gender. That or their work is considered useless, as women still get paid less than men, still face harrassment, rape and a bombardment of negative images from media and culture.

What is feminism though? Semantically now, I’m talking about the textbook definition.

fem·i·nism
–noun

1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

so sayeth dictionary.com

I’m not here to give you an history lesson, and it’d take a lot of research to lay out the exact history of feminism. But now that we’ve got a basic definition, I can give you readers a list of reasons why I am a feminist, and what feminism has done for me:

Feminism has given me the right to vote in US elections.

Feminism has allowed me to go to college.

Feminism has made it possible for me to dress how I want to dress, be it in short, pants, a skirt, my sweats, dressed up and pretty or casual.

Feminism has given me the choice to have a career AND/OR be a housewife.

Feminism has given me legal rights in social, economic, and family situations.

Feminism has allowed me to be valued for my brains as well as my domestic abilities.

I am a feminist because feminism lets me go to work for six hours, then come home and bake bread. Feminism doesn’t make me choose my path, it allows me an option c.

Feminism, definitive feminism, the feminism defined above, does not tell us we can’t be traditional women. There’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to raise her children as a homemaker, work as a cook, sew or teach or be a secretary. Just like there’s nothing wrong with women being doctors or lawyers or CEO’s.

The difference is, little girls would NOT have the ability to become doctors without feminism and the feminist movement of our ancestors. Now we as independent, modern women can be mothers, can be teachers, can be lawyers or cooks or anything else you can think of because we CHOOSE to, not because those are our only options.

Feminism gives me equality. Feminism permits me choice in all my walks of life, the choice to wear what I want, say what I want, BE what I want, and the freedom to express my identity.

Is feminism perfect? Hardly, and I know it. The bad rap comes from stereotyping, a lack of ‘visible’ progress and a misuse of the term.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I hate all men. I like men. I also like women, but I’m currently in a relationship with a man and he and I are very happy together. Equally together. There’s no expectation I fill a traditional gender role of being a wife and mother, just the understanding that I can be that if I choose.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong for women to want to be mothers and homemakers. I want women to be happy. I know that my way of being happy (writing books and drawing cartoons and being a cat lady) isn’t going to be the same happy my female friends want.

Fifty years ago, I would not have had the option. I would have tried, but would have to fight tooth and nail for it. Women in the sixties were making progress, but it was still frowned upon for a woman to focus on something other than a husband.

One hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to try.

I think definitive feminism is taken for granted. Many of us take for granted our rights to vote and go to college and wear trousers and marry who we want or not marry at all.

Sometimes I do too. I forget that this is something new for the world, and in many areas of the world isn’t even common practice yet. Women don’t have rights everywhere. American women are lucky. We can choose.

A recommended movie for y’all: Mona Lisa Smile. It’s kinda girly, and Julia Roberts is in it, but it says a lot about the roles of women in America, today and fiftyish years ago.

I end with a favourite quote:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.  ~Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler
Y’all can agree, disagree, point out flaws in my argument and reasons why I’m wrong and this post is silly and rambly, but I’m a proud feminist, and firm believer that women deserve rights EQUAL to those of men.

Lady Gaga and I: A Review of ‘Born This Way’

26 May

Some of you have no interest in Lady Gaga, and that’s okay. You’re welcome to skip this blog and scamper away until I write something more interesting. Those of you who don’t openly despise Ms. Gaga for her music or style, sit back, because it’s been a few days and it’s time to review the new album.

I’ve been nervous about Born This Way. Privately of course, as I’m a closet Gaga fan and have been ever since I awkwardly bought a copy of ‘The Fame’ in Target almost two years ago. I enjoyed both The Fame and The Fame Monster, I watched the music videos, I danced to her songs in various bars. It’s hard to describe what makes Lady Gaga appeal to me. Musically it speaks to a small voice in the back of my head, a fabulous voice, but ultimately I respect Ms. Gaga as a person for putting herself out there and, basically, not giving a shit. She plays flaming pianos, wears dresses made of bubbles and scary high heels, and she’s a year older than me. Crazy successful and I could have gone to high school with her. She basically speaks for the nuts among us, the downtrodden, the outcasts, the sad creative types who spent most of their lives being poked by bigger, meaner fish.

So yeah. I like her. It’s lame, I deal with it.

The Born this Way single was the first nervous twitch for me. I liked it well enough, but it didn’t grab at my brainstem and tug it urgently like some of the songs of the past. The video make me check my glass to make sure nobody had spiked it, and the melody was so… Madonna… it caught me off guard. But it was catchy and fun and had a positive message I could get behind, so I took a deep breath and stepped back and said “okay, let’s see where this is going.”

I’ll say it flat: I didn’t like Judas. Not because of the religious issues (this is me we’re talking about), but just because I couldn’t get into the tune or the beat. It was blah. I was unexcited. Continuing to be nervous about the new album.

Cut to Monday, when the album goes on sale on Amazon MP3 for 99 cents.

I’ll be honest with you, fellow little monsters. I probably wouldn’t have jumped for it if it had been posted at the regular internet price of $9.99. For a buck I figured ‘what the hell’ and spent a good hour and a half or so of my working day on Tuesday giving it a listen.

I’ll be more honest with you: I don’t like Born This Way as an album.

It’s got decent individual songs. Some really good ones too. Edge of Glory is a good song, so is BTW. The rest of them I think I’d like if they were remixed by someone and played in a club. But that was the vibe I got from most of these tracks. They were lacking the energy of older Gaga songs to me. She was still singing, still dancing, but it didn’t gel with me. I couldn’t dig it. It felt like they took a bunch of beats you’d hear at a DJ party and then added some vocal tracks on top of it. I’d use words like lackluster, unenthusiastic, meh. Not bad per se. Just not ‘wow’. I wasn’t excited like I was the first time I listened to The Fame.

One song off that album saved it for me though. One song that sounded basically nothing like any of the other songs on the album.

You and I is the second to last song on the album, and it has what every other song seems to be missing. It’s got soul, heart, passion, it sounds like it gives a damn and has more to it than pounding bass. I heard this song, then listened to it again. And again. And once more for good measure.

I love this song.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a good piano melody. Perhaps it’s that the lyrics speak to me. Whatever it is, this song is hands down the best on the album for me, no fight, and it’s saved my love of Lady Gaga. Because it’s real. It’s not just dance mixes and high heels. It’s a song about love and friendship and holding on to the things that matter. It’s got balls, big ones, and it gives a shit. It’s not tired or boring. It’s easy to tell (kind of like you can on Born this Way) that this song is coming from Lady Gaga’s heart, not produced or prodded into something catchy and drab.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t listened to the rest of the album much. I do plan on giving it another chance, and I’m sure some of the other songs will work for me in time.

But I love You and I because it reminds me that even though Ms. Gaga and I live worlds apart, we’re not so different. After all, we’ve both got our cool Nebraska guys.

I don’t have oodles of pride for my adopted home state, but it speaks to me, since even if it isn’t my home state, it’s the home state of the man I’m bonkers about. And if Ms. Gaga can admit the same thing on a multi-million dollar record, she’s gotta be all right.

So that’s my two cents: it’s not my favourite album, but for 99 cents on Amazon MP3, go for it. It has its moments.

This Song Has Been Stuck in My Head Since I Heard It

10 Apr

Lyrics:

There was that whole weird thing with the horses
I think they know exactly what happened
I don't think it needs any explaining
I'm pretty sure I wasn't your first choice
I think I was the last one remaining
I wish we hadn't gone and destroyed it
Cause I was thinking we could pull another weekender
You've still got a bit of clairvoyance

I remember the metal bar
I remember the reservoir
You could say our paths had crossed before

So if it has to be a secret
Then I guess that I can deal with it
you and i both know it's a negative thing
In the end only the girls know the whole truth

There were a couple pretty crass propositions
There were some bugs in the bars
There was a kid camped out by the coat check
She said the theme of this party's the industrial age
And you came in dressed like a train wreck

I remember the O.T.B
The five-second delivery
You could say our paths have crossed before

So if it has to be a secret
Then I guess that i can deal with it
God only knows it's not always a positive thing
To see a few seconds into the future

And if you swear to keep it decent
Then yeah I'll come and see you
but it's not gonna be like in romantic comedies
In the end I bet no one learns a lesson

guitar solo

So if it has to be a secret
Then I guess that I can deal with it
you and i both know it's a negative thing
In the end only the girls know the whole truth

And if you swear to keep it decent
Then yeah I'll come and see you
but it's not gonna be like in romantic comedies
In the end I bet no one learns a lesson

In the end only the girls know the whole truth
In the end I bet no one learns a lesson

 

Videogames, the Liberal Agenda, Sexuality

24 Mar

So I wrote a new blog post.

Rather than attempt to transfer it all over here, I posted it up at my Gaming blog. Follow the link below to read it!

Videogames, the Liberal Agenda, Sexuality

Dear Benjamin Franklin,

14 Mar

Daylight Savings Time was a shit-fuck balls-ass HORRIBLE idea. THis morning I woke up and felt like I was being freshly dragged out of a grave thanks to it feeling like 7 o’clock in the morning instead of 8 o’clock.

I want my hour back.

*Shakes tiny fist*

In other news, I’ve started a side project called Not Your Gamer Girlfriend, a website about girls and videogame culture. You can find it here. I promise Uncomfort Zone will continue to update as closely as possible to daily as my exhaustion and madness will allow.

Mini-Manifesto: On Belief

9 Mar

Author’s Note: I spend that majority of my formative years being raised Catholic, something I’ve come to for the most part reject in my recent years. I’ve been pondering my spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, as of late, so here’s some stream-of-consciousness in an attempt to explain what I have that can be loosely classified as  a ‘belief system’:

I believe in a lot of things.

I believe that human beings are neither inherently good nor evil at the start of things. The world is what shapes them one way or the other (or neither).

I believe that I know absolutely nothing for certain except that I exist. Descartes put it how I see it: “I think therefore I am.” That’s all I’ve got on the definite front. Everything else? Open to debate and new discovery.

I believe in karma, or something like it. What I do to others will ultimately come back to me in one way or another, even if the only effect the universe gives to me is  my own guilt and realization of my own wrongdoing. I also believe in the human capacity for forgiveness, and our ability to make amends for our wrongdoing. Redemption. It’s a beautiful thing.

I believe that if there is an afterlife, it’s not dependent on a Judeo-Christian morality system. I don’t think it’s a simple as keeping a score-sheet of the good things you’ve done versus how many bad things you did. I don’t believe in a ‘heaven’ or a ‘hell’, or acts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that cast you into the pits of hell. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ acts that get you into heaven and hell by fundamentalist standards are pretty relative and based in dogmatic tradition, not integrity or truth.

I like the idea of reincarnation as a part of the afterlife, but my ever-present uncertainty prevents me from calling it a ‘belief’. I’ve definitely had feelings that I, or at least some part of me, has existed in this world before in the past, but also that that wasn’t MY life. I, the person I am now, will only live once. My consciousness as it’s connected to this body, this soul, this metaphysical entity in time, is only here for my lifetime. Anything before or after that was part of another life, even if it was technically mine.

I believe in science. Explanations, reason, logic are all beautiful things to me, because they give me answers to all my questions. I believe in questions, and that they are necessary even if we never get the answers.

I can’t say I do or don’t believe in some Higher Power because I just don’t know. I have no systematic evidence one way or the other that I consider reliable (even if other people do have things that are evidence for them, I still haven’t found anything that proves anything specific).

I don’t believe in the ‘Power of Prayer’. I do believe in the power of positive thinking in every aspect of my life, and also in the power of hope.

I believe in love. Every kind of it.

I believe in treating others the way I’d want to be treated: with respect and attempts to be understanding and rational.

I don’t believe in religion, and think it exists as a security blanket for the masses, a hand to hold when things are hard. I think it’s much more difficult to face the harshness of the world without a religion, some person in the sky who can make it all better, to cling to. I don’t believe in an all-powerful GOD sitting in the clouds passing judgement or sentence upon our existence. If there is one, I don’t believe He or She is attached to any one religion or the man-made writings and practices that are associated with it. I don’t believe in the bible or other religious texts. I don’t believe in Jesus or other historical figures as religious icons. I believe religion has done more harm than good for our world in the grand scheme of things.

I believe, simply, in people. We exist as pure accidents of science. We have the ability to live, to love, with power and strength. I think that can come from whatever we want, because it’s what WE want. We have the power, the energy, from within, to move forward with our lives. Whether we get that from religion, philosophy, fiction, each other or ourselves is our choice. Our decision. Our path.

If there is a GOD up there, I don’t think He or She is involved. I think it’s just us down here, us and our personal power. We make things happen, in whatever ways we choose, we feel are right, and we are here to experience everything the world has to offer.

I believe that it’s so hard for me to pin my beliefs down because I was raised in such a rigid belief system.

I don’t believe in a God, but I think that there is something more out there than can be explained by religion or science. Things that cannot be explained. Maybe we’ll find the answers with time, but I accept and believe that some things will never be explained, because we humans don’t have the capacity to understand the answers.

I believe that I am a child of humanity and nature, not of a God. I exist on this planet to learn things, to understand that it is impossible to truly be an authority on something, and that we must always strive to be proven wrong that we may find new answers to those new questions.

I believe in the necessity of constant humility, but the importance of not letting that lead to simple-self-deprecation.

I believe you should never knock something until you’ve tried it. That includes everything from alcohol to skydiving.

I believe in the importance of trust and honesty in interpersonal relationships.

I believe in fluid sexuality. I don’t think a sexual preference must be ‘proven’ to the world or have labels slapped on matters of the heart. I believe that it’s okay to call myself pansexual and open to relationships with other females even though to this point I’ve only ever been in serious relationships with straight men. I believe that there are more important defining points to a person’s life than who they want to fuck. I believe that you can fall in love with anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

I believe in respecting the beliefs of others around me. Mutual appreciation and understanding have more value than arguments of semantics. We each reach the beliefs we do through our own life experiences. We’ve all lived different lives. How do we judge who is right and who is wrong when we cannot truly live in each other’s shoes?

I believe that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to accurately predict the weather or the way that nature works. I believe that certain things are inherent in human behavior, are in our ‘natures’ and not in our control, but how we react to those natures is something that CAN be controlled.

I dislike ritual in spiritual practices, but respect the need for it in other people’s lives. What works for me won’t work for everyone else. We all get to the same result in different ways. It’s just how we are as people. Different. Unique. Fantastic.

I believe I exist for the purpose of deep personal connections with the people around me. I also believe that risk is an essential aspect of existence if you seek to live life to the full.

I believe in maturity. Honesty. Integrity. I believe in morality without gods. Good for the sake of good, not good for the fear of punishment. I think that morality is shades of gray.

I believe in balance and harmony, and that darkness is essential to our beings, almost more so than light, because without darkness light has no way to shine.

I believe that there’s no situation in life that can’t be improved through indulgence in dance and song.

I believe in maintaining an open mind, and exploring all possibilities with boundless enthusiasm and endless questions.

I believe in the precious nature of all life. I don’t eat meat because I think it’s wrong to eat animals, not just because I have problems digesting it.

I believe in real-sugar colas, ghosts, true love, aliens, the power of imagination, friendship, family and full-fat mayonnaise.

Most importantly.

I believe in myself.

And I think that, right there, is more than enough.

Twitter WTF: Decoded

2 Mar

I’ve been on twitter for about a year and a half now on a daily basis, and one of the things that never fails to mystify me is the little cluster of Trending Topics on the sidebar. Hashtag fever is still an epidemic, and I find myself indulging in them myself on occasion, whether it’s to make fun of myself, denote something as a drunk tweet, or shamelessly fangirl at one of my favourite movies, TV shows or musicians.

The other purpose of hastags, it would seem, is to confuse the hell out of me every time I look over to the little Trending Topics sidebar. I find myself staring down the list of names, portmanteaued words and unintelligible nonsense, and click them only to find that most of the top hashtags are people asking ‘what the hell does #muttonchip have to do with anything?

So, after days and days of staring and pondering, I present to you Lora’s Trending Topics of the hour Decoded, as of 6:00pm CST on March 2nd:

Trending Topic #1: #Focusrally

This appears to be related to the Ford Focus, and it’s at the top of the list because it’s the Promoted Topic. It appears to be related to this and involves people driving across the country completing challenges, reality TV style. I assume the prize is they get to keep the car? I don’t know. The promoted TT’s seem to defeat the purpose of the concept to me, so I pretty much write them off as shameless adspace that keeps the glory of twitter alive.

TT #2: #sorryjustin

Guess what, another Justin Beiber TT. Because the whole ‘ZOMFUG Why didn’t Justin win a grammy whine whine my life is over’ fangirl twitter mess wasn’t enough, now there’s more drama? This twitter apology apparently comes from the fans due to the actions of a crazy fangirl who punched his girlfriend on his birthday? Or something? ‘Beliebers’ remind me a little bit of Twihards, and that’s not something I want to see more of in my life Twitter. Thanks.

Also, the Beibs is only turning 17? Dear Gog, America. You depress the ever living crap out of me.

TT #3: #tigerblood

This is apparently related to Charlie Sheen. And a fellow named Frank McCourt. I don’t know. All I care about with Charlie-boy is that finally they’ll stop making Two and a Half Men. Here’s a relevant link, for the confused or amused.

TT #4: #tipicasmentiras

Roadblock: I know no spanish, and that appears to be the language this originated in. I’m at a loss folks. Even google has given up on me in this case. I think it’s something to do with a facebook app, but the only way to find out was to give the app access to my info. This is harder than it seems folk.

TT #5: McLobster.

Okay, WHAT. Apparently McDonalds is really upping it’s game in the class factor, because the McLobster sandwich is real.
I kind of want to go punch the guy who came up with this in the gut. The words ‘Fast Food Lobster’ should ALWAYS be an oxymoron.

TT #6: Sleepwalker

This appears to be a reference to at least one song. So far Twitter thinks it’s related to an Adam Lambert tune. I’ve never heard it, and I can’t say I care enough about Adam Lambert to track it down, but that’s what that is I think. I guess. Twitter is a thrilling place today it seems.

TT #7: Fleur Agema

Fleur Agema is apparently a Dutch Politician, once again limiting my ability to understand why the hell she’s trending. But here‘s her wiki page, and I think a couple of the tweets referenced racism, so whatever it is, I’m sure it’s thrilling.

TT #8: McSushi.

Okay. No. Just. NO. But it’s real.
That sound? It’s the sound of my hope for humanity dying. Violently.

TT #9: Limburgers

This? I have no clue, but I’m guessing it’s not to do with the slightly pungent cheese. That would be just too boring for the world of gossiphounds and nutjobs that frequent the twitterverse. Or it might be something to do with the Dutch elections. I guess the Loop is off in the distance and I’m over here watching dumb TV.

That or it’s another Charlie Sheen thing.

TT #10: Selic

… yeah, not sure. I think though, judging from all the Portuguese, it’s something to do with this.

So that’s today’s Twitter roundup. Justin Beiber has crazy fans, McDonalds is still gross, and there’s a lot going on with the Dutch. That’s Tuesday in a nutshell on the Twitterverse.

Lora’s 8 Stages of Fandom

11 Feb

I know I’m not the only member of my friend-pod who suffers from chronic Fandom. Be it a webcomic, movie, TV series, mythos, culture, you name it, there are Fandoms everywhere, and I admit, I’m decidedly a part of them. To name a few, I’m an avid member of the following fandoms:

– Harry Potter
– Buffy/Angel
– Firefly/Serenity
– Doctor Who
– Torchwood
– Chuck
– Repo! The Genetic Opera
– Questionable Content
– Lord of the Rings
– My Chemical Romance
– Star Wars
– Star Trek
– Homestuck

Some of these, Homestuck for example, are recent fandom discoveries, and others like Star Wars have been part of my Fandom life since I was in the single digits of my life-age. While pondering this, I also pondered the steps I seem to repeatedly go through during my discovery and acceptance of a new Fandom into the squidgy hole where my heart used to be. After some more pondering, and eating some cheese, I compiled a rough list of my personal 8 stages of Fandom.

DISCLAIMER: Fandom is not the same for everyone. My coming to love a Fandom is different from many other folks’ journeys. A lot of the principles, however, are the same. So here it goes:

Stage 1: Discovery

“Hey, have you tried reading this comic? It’s really good!”

Discovery comes in many forms for a Fandom. Sometimes that Fandom comes to you through a close friendship or relationship (personal examples: Firefly, Chuck), sometimes through family (Star Wars, Angel) and other times through independent discovery (Doctor Who). Whatever the method, this is where Fandom begins, where the seed is planted and roots are put down.

Stage 2: Casual Perusal

“Hm, I’ll give the first chapter a try…”

This is the stage where the Fandom is explored. For Harry Potter fandom, for example, Perusal involves reading the original books written by JK Rowling. For TV shows, it’s watching an episode or two. For comics, it’s reading a page or three of the archives, and so on. My Perusal of Star Wars occurred when I was ten years old and watched the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope with my parents. I remember little of the encounter, except that the seat I was given was too low and that it was really loud.

Stage 3: Abandonment

“Meh, I’m gonna go watch re-runs instead…”

Not a common stage, but a pattern I’ve recognized in my fandom journeys is that it takes a few tries for me to get truly invested in a Fandom. Examples of these ‘false start fandoms’ for me have included Harry Potter, Homestuck, Lord of the Rings and Chuck. It says nothing of their quality, just of my attention span. I can be facing the most amazing Fandom in existence, but if I’m distracted by something shiny, forget it.

Stage 4: Re-Occurrence

“Hm, this actually gets good once you get past the early exposition…”

This happens in a variety of ways. Perhaps a friend drags me to watch a movie I previously felt reluctant about. Perhaps I’m bored and my mind wanders back to a long-forgotten story that bears new discovery. Maybe I just didn’t get far enough into it. Whatever the reason, reaching true Fandom requires returning to that first discovery in some manner over a short (or long) span of time.

Stage 5: Devouring

“It’s 4AM and I have to be up in 3 hours but OH GOG I CAN’T STOP READING hlaghlasdghlghlgh”

A melodramatic term perhaps, but it’s the best way to describe the method one uses to absorb the items of Fandom. When a new Harry Potter book emerged, I absconded with it to my room and stayed there for hours, reading and ignoring all distractions. Webcomics kept me up until the sun came up with their storylines and drama. I systematically swallowed up whole seasons of TV shows in less than a week. This is where the build of the material is experienced, where the source becomes realized.

Stage 6: Obsession

“Wow, people actually write Buffy/Torchwood crossover fic?”

Once the material has been devoured, the signs of Fandom become abundantly clear. Perhaps it simply begins with a google search, or a conversation with friends, but before you know it you’re trolling Deviantart and Fanfiction.net to experience MORE of these characters and stories, to interact with others who share your passion. You integrate inside jokes into your vocabulary in the hopes others will notice and engage in conversation with you about your Fandom. The Obsession grows and leads you to new levels of nerdery you’d never consider. Like Shipping. And writing fanfiction. Or even drawing smutty slash art for friends.

Yes, in case you were wondering. I have done all of these.

Stage 7: Petering

“Maybe I’ll read this new book later, after I investigate something shiny.”

Similar to Stage 3. Sometimes the obsession comfortably dies, leaving naught but fond memories of times gone by. Other times they don’t and aspects of the Fandom become permanently integrated into your life, be it through cosplay, purchasing merchandise, or if you’re weird like me and have characters that run around in your head chattering at you constantly.

(Lemme tell you, it’s getting crowded in here with all the trolls).

Stage 8: Lasting Love

“Vriska, you’ve wedged your way into my heart and there you will stay. Even if you are shithive maggots.” *

The final stage demonstrates the staying power of a Fandom. Some are flash in the pan, brief infatuations that fade into the past, but others stay for years, decades even, and remain in your heart to inspire your actions, thoughts and dreams.

*Homestuck reference

So that’s my take on my experience with fandom. Others do it different, some have similar experiences. Whatever fills the gaps in your blood-pumping unit, I’m sure Fandom has helped you the way it’s helped me. Be a huge nerd. >.>

The Changing World of Videogames and Gamers

4 Feb

When I was a kid, I didn’t have a lot in the way of games, not compared to my peers. I had a gameboy pocket with two games when I was ten: tetris and pokemon: red. My primary exposures were through my friends and family. The first game I remember witnessing was my cousin, six months older than me, playing Doom on his computer when I was about eight. My best friend in elementary school had a Nintendo 64 and we spent many a day after school playing Bomberman while her sister babysat us.

As I grew up, a child of the early 21st century, I found myself wanting the consoles of my friends – playstations, nintendo consoles, the XBox, but I was hindered by the concerns of my parents. They weren’t overly strict, but they were concerned with the media intake levels of me and my sister. We didn’t own a real television until I was 12, and even then I was only permitted to watch for five hours a day, and only on weekends. Things changed, I grew up, and despite my rampant ADD and love of TV shows I also fostered a love of reading, and a healthy addiction to the internet.

Why were the videogames not encouraged? Most likely their novelty. Their realism. The frequent reports of violence, lethargy, irresponsibility and other such faults occuring due to games were heeded by my parents the same way they heeded the dangers of television rotting my brain. I grew up not necessarily deprived, but definitely without certain technological entertainment devices.

I don’t blame my parents – that’s not what this is about. It’s about the way games are changing, the way the market is changing, the prevalence of games and the new face of gamers.

Putting the fast forward button on my life, now I’m 23. I frequently play games on my computer, the internet, my boyfriend’s 360 and the PS3. I own a Nintendo DS. I enjoy games as escapism, as entertainment and as storytelling. Heck, at this point in my life I’m so invested in the gaming industry I’m hoping to go into law to help it grow and be defended from naysayers.

Clearly the face of gamers has changed. I’m female, first of all, and a social animal. Far removed from the original stereotype of the videogame geek living in his mother’s basement, clutching his controller with Cheeto-stained fingers. So are my friends – my boyfriend is a philosophy major who has been an avid member of the gaming community since childhood. He’s eloquent, well-adjusted, and a really good shot with a sniper rifle (In game of course).

The dark side of gaming exists. I’ve known and even dated guys who spend more time in front of the screen than with the outside world. Not just with World of Warcraft either, but other games. People still lose themselves in their alternate realities.

But that’s not the face of gaming in America any more. The face of gaming in America is so diverse in age, race, class and gender that most everyone these days could qualify as a gamer.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this is a good thing:

Jane McGonigal is just one of the people innovating gaming in the modern world. The idea of games improving the social connections of people and the overall mood of their lives is innovative, but valid. While I hate the concept of action-gaming consoles like the Kinect and Move, I appreciate the marketing approach companies are going for: family. Encouraging gaming as a family activity is changing the nature of games in people’s lives, their role. What used to be seen as an anti-social behavior, a lack of norm, is now becoming not only accepted, but encouraged.

The world is starting to open up. In a few years, I predict students will be taking classes to discuss the literary and philosophical ramifications of games like Bioshock and Dead Space the way I’ve studied graphic novels like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and films like The Maltese Falcon. Multimedia storytelling, in games and on the internet, is growing in prevalence, and is looking to become as common and as worthy of respect as film as an art form.

Videogames ARE art. They’re storytelling. They’re entertainment. They’re an exercise for the brain. They’re a way to bond with family, friends, and significant others. And they’ve changed as much as we have in the last few decades.

Sure, people argue that kids playing an excessive amount of games is unhealthy. I won’t argue, because too much of ANYTHING is unhealthy. If we foster gaming as a positive, networking experience, one that creates bonds instead of damaging them, we’ve moved forward in an age fraught with social technology encouraging distance.

I think we can do it. I’m willing to embrace games as positive social behavior. As tools for growth, as entertainment and art worthy of as much respect if not more than film.

This is the changing face of gaming in the 21st century. I’m a 23 year old female, and I’m a gamer. And I agree with Ms. McGonigal: the more of us who game, the more chance this world has of becoming a better place through a mutual sharing of something, through community.

And at the risk of ending on a sappy note, I just want you all to know that I fucking hate Super Mutants, and that Fallout 3 is awesome. *goes to track down some landmines*