Owl Therapy

Having a rough day? Yeah, me too.

Here, have a cute owl taking a bath. I think it’ll help.

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Audiobooks Are a Blessing

I am ashamed to say that I’m not reading for fun lately. I haven’t just sat down with a book in months. A lot of this is because my down time is currently spent rewriting my manuscript or reading slush for Clarkesworld. That doesn’t leave a lot of opportunities to just quietly enjoy a book. I last read part of Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness in January, but that’s not exactly light reading, and I simply haven’t kept up with it.

That “quiet” part of book enjoyment is, I realize, probably overrated because I just remembered how I can solve my reading problem: audiobooks! My commute to work is about 45 minutes each way, which I hate (but which is really the only part of my job that I could do without, so I’m grateful for that much), but which gives me ample listening time four days a week (I work from home on Thursdays). Now, currently, I tend to listen to actual play podcasts of tabletop role playing games (The Adventure Zone, Campaign, One Shot) while driving, but I could spend some of my drives each week listening to a book instead.

One of the women in my weekly D&D game kindly sent me an audible book: Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon, after my group talked a little about the Dresden Files and I admitted I’d only ever read the first title in the series. How thoughtful! Now, it’s time to kick start reading for pleasure again, which is something my overworked self could surely use.

What books are you reading lately? Do you prefer audiobooks? Hardcover/trades? Ebooks/kindle?

Happy reading, everyone!

Gatekeepers Part 2

Last week, I was talking a little but about the phenomenon of Gatekeeping in the nerd community and took a little time to break down what that means and where it tends to come from. The long and short of it is that it is generally insecure white men who act as Gatekeepers, clinging to some illusion of power and insisting that they’re keeping their hobby pure and free from meddlesome outsiders.

Come on. That just sounds gross, doesn’t it?

This concept of what Gatekeeping means in nerd culture can wrap around to the newfound popularity of tabletop role playing games, in large part thanks to streams and podcasts like Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, One Shot, and Campaign. There is a terrible fear in the Gatekeeper that now so many Others will show interest in The Thing that the creators will go and change The Thing to appease these newcomers, who the Gatekeeper thinks are not “real fans.” They think these Others will show up and ruin The Thing that the Gatekeeper loves.

dice

There were a lot of complaints about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition because a lot of the play was streamlined to make it more accessible to new players. I cannot possibly understand how this is, in any way, a bad thing. Just because more people now enjoy The Thing, it doesn’t suddenly delete The Thing from existence or erase the Gatekeeper’s memories of enjoying it in the past. In this case, the Gatekeeper can go play with 4th Edition and battle maps and can get over himself.

The Gatekeeper fears the Other, often the SJW (Social Justice Warrior, a pejorative term for feminists who seek diversification and inclusiveness in many spaces where traditionally there hasn’t been any), and that she will show up in his hobby and, through her influence, “ruin The Thing.” In fact, many believe that SJWs are out there pretending to like The Thing just to ruin it for others.

Here’s the thing: this SJW does not exist. She is not gunning for the Gatekeeper’s Thing. She is not out to ruin it. She wants to enjoy it as well, though perhaps the things she would enjoy about it might be different.

Gatekeepers, a word: if you genuinely believe that more people liking or engaging with your The Thing is bad, if you think a bigger group having fun is somehow making the world a worse place, you are the problem. There is no wrong way to enjoy The Thing and no one is “ruining” your hobby. I’ve heard horror stories of gaming groups mercilessly torturing their Other players (lying to them, having their RPG characters raped or killed, making inappropriate remarks or “jokes” until they are driven from the groups). If you don’t want to play with certain people, just don’t. Do your thing at your table and don’t try to, in turn, ruin someone else’s experience. Yes, “ruin.” Gatekeepers can do it, too.

No one gets to decide who is allowed to enjoy The Thing. It’s out in the world for everyone. So get off your high horse and go enjoy The Thing, okay?

Wil Wheaton is right: don’t be a dick.

Gatekeepers Part 1

So apparently D&D Gate is a thing now? And it seems aptly named, because it’s a question of the old guard of the game playing the role of Gatekeeper and trying to shut out new players and other people interested in role playing (whether by playing or watching streams). And you know what? It’s gross. The concept of who is or isn’t a “real fan” is so misguided and I’m going to try and lay out some thoughts about that.

Raindbow Dice

Gatekeeping, as a phenomenon,  is nothing new. It’s often a white man who, having felt persecuted in his childhood and teen years, dives into something traditionally considered nerdy, and embraces that hobby or thing as a massive part of his personality. He comes to define himself a great deal by his attachment to The Thing. He wants to become an authority on The Thing and often spends money on related merchandise and a lot of time learning obscure information about it. Without his place at the top of the hierarchy of The Thing’s fans, he feels lost.

His self-perceived value as a person is intrinsically linked to his status as an authority and ultimate fan and he guards this jealously. He will meet the challenge of other fans of the The Thing in a sort of contest, always seeking to be the biggest fan. This is messy to begin with, but it’s the possessiveness of the The Thing that drives him to bad behavior.

When people who fall into the category of “Other” (women, PoC, queer people), sometimes from the groups that the man felt persecuted by in his youth, want to engage with The Thing, the Gatekeeper appears as if summoned. “You’re not a real fan unless,” “Name three things about The Thing,” “I bet you’ve never actually played/read/seen The Thing.” These are all the rally cry of the Gatekeeper, whose sole passion is now to keep the Other out of his hobby. As a “true fan,” he feels like he has a right to decide who does and does not deserve to engage with The Thing.

To be continued next week…

 

CSA

In the spirit of Treat Yo Self (a la Parks and Rec), I joined a CSA this summer with a few friends. Yes, fresh and locally grown vegetables are my idea of a treat. Maybe my priorities are a bit skewed, but I’ll be damned if I won’t try to eat the rainbow as often as possible.

Treat Yo Self

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for consumers to be more directly connected with the local farms that grow their food. In most cases, joining a CSA means subscribing to a “share” of crops during the growing season and, on a regular basis, receiving a selection of farm fresh produce.

In my case, I’ll be getting a weekly box and this will determine my meal planning for the next seven days. Each week, a few days before pick up, I’ll get an e-mail listing what will be in the box and this will change weekly depending on crop quality and availability. Honestly, I like the challenge of creatively working my meals for the week around something that someone else is picking out for me. It’s like an episode of Chopped, but less intense and terrifying.

This week, it’s asparagus, Chinese cabbage, beets, mushrooms, kale, potato, radish, and zucchini. My friends and I are already negotiating who gets more or less of what (I’ll trade mushrooms and cabbage, not my favs, for more kale, beets, or asparagus) and of course I went food shopping yesterday and bought some zucchini because I wasn’t thinking. It’ll just be a zucchini party at my house. Zucchini boats for days. Wow, the more I type “zucchini,” the less it looks like a real word.

Anyway all this to say, buy and eat local when you can and treat yo self to good and healthy food sometimes. Nutrient rich foods are an investment in good health. Worth it!

Beerily Why: Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita

True art is born from suffering, right? That’s kind of the angle I’m coming at this project from. If I drink truly terrible things and review them, surely some comedy will be born from this unholy union. Please, do not let my trials here have been in vain. I even did my own version of the walk of shame to buy this drink from the beer and wine store around the corner, which I have only ever purchased craft beers from before. They probably judged me and were honestly right to have done so.

To begin: yes, I know this isn’t really a beer. I am well aware. But the Straw-Ber-Rita is made by Bud Light and packaged like a beer and it seemed like the sort of terrible beverage that could start this new project off on the right(???) foot.

Straw-Ber-Rita 001

First of all, let me say that this is a truly hateful concoction, an abomination in the eyes of the lord, and an insult to all human beings generally considered lucky enough to possess functioning taste buds.

The culinary equivalent of the chewing gum found under school desks everywhere, this horror show is sickly sweet and a distinctly upsetting shade of pink to behold. It’s verging on the color of Pepto Bismol, which is honestly sounding like the kind of thing I may need after drinking even a little bit from this ridiculously oversized can.

Stra-Ber-Rita 002

Thanks, I hate it.

Who on earth needs 25oz of pure suffering? And at 8% ABV, can this candy floss nightmare in such a large serving really strike anyone as a responsible choice on Bud Light’s part? Never mind the iron stomach you’d need to finish this cloying substance — which doesn’t even pretend to be beer, and is sold next to the Four Lokos of the modern era — the willpower it would take to choke down this faux fruit insult is beyond even me. And friends, I am genuinely stubborn. But no. I can’t.

Why? Why did I do this to myself? Why why why? That’s it, I’m pouring the rest down the drain. I don’t deserve this much suffering. No one does.  I wouldn’t wish this on my enemies.

Friends, I am open to suggestions for beers/terrible bottled and canned alcoholic beverages to try later this summer. What fresh hell will you put me through in the pursuit of a good laugh?

Life’s Better With a Community

Communities in our lives can take many forms: family, friends, co-workers, sports teams, clubs. These can be a little bit harder to find as adults, which is something that any divorcée or person who just moved to a new city can tell you. Often, we’re put in the position of needing to create and nurture our own communities rather than just finding one and coasting along with it. This has been my experience with Columbia Writers.

In 2014, I put my nervousness aside and joined CW, not having done much critique myself nor having shared my writing before (with perhaps two exceptions). And what I found was a community of writers who wanted to grow and improve together. Four years later, I co-run the group and most of the members that were there in 2014 have moved on. What myself and my two co-organizers have done, though – and which I am very proud of – is rebuild a new community of writers. We’re a solid group of about thirty active members who are working to improve our craft and help the other group members as well.

Now, I’m a bit of an introvert and I need a good bit of alone time every week to feel recharged, but I am also human and I need social interaction and support to stay healthy. I find the meetings for Columbia Writers – as well as the sub group I run for the Novel in Six Months project – to be energizing. I’m proud of the group of people that we’ve created and shaped and nurtured. And I’m proud of each of the individuals who choose to be a part of this with me.

A community is like a garden. You can’t just leave it alone and hope for the best outcome; you have to give it time and effort and a little bit of love. This work that comes from the heart is bound to pay off. It’s worth it. Trust me.