Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 36

“It feels good to hold a pencil in my hand again. It’s hard to write, but I need to get my hand back in position, get my muscles going again. This is it. This is it.

“Should I feel bad about scribbling across the front page? I don’t. This is more important than ‘November 29, 2019’ or ‘The Paducah Sun’ or anything else scrawled on here by the press. I’m writing again. It’s good.

“My hands are getting warmer. How could I have taken for granted those gloves I used to always keep in my pockets? Gotta keep writing, or my fingers will go stiff again. I need to keep writing.

“This margin is getting crumpled. I was never able to keep my hand upright, like my mom was taught. I just drag it across the page. My hand used to get covered in gray dust from raking it across the words. Curse of a left-handed person, I guess. Graphite. That was it. Graphite is the word.

“I’m going to need to get a new patch for the box. I grabbed a comforter today out of a dumpster down by the Market House Theater. It only has one hole in it, though it’s thin. How did this happen? I was going to go to law school. I was going to apply for a job. I was going. I was going.

“It doesn’t matter now. I can write about that later. I just need to keep my hands warm.

“Screw you, Trump, and your fucking headlines. ‘State of the Union Reveals New Plan to Improve Race Relations.’ Yeah, and race relations wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t a raging bigot. At least that ridiculous Wall idea didn’t pan out.

“Only forty more years until our oil runs out, if that statistic stuck in my brain from Bio is still holding. Have we decreased our consumption at all? Well, at least one thing is different. When I learned that statistic, I was sure I’d live to see us run out.”


She twirls her pen absently as she waits for the announcer to call her name. “I’m not a success story,” she mouths once again. “I’m someone who returned to par from below the bar.” She liked the assonance, but she was starting to shake, as she always did before a speaking event. She continues to mouth the speech, twiling her pen—until it drops to the floor with a clack. She puts aside her little pamphlet and reaches down to grab it.

As she reaches down, the pamphlet flutters to the floor, and she grabs it as well as the pen in one swoop. The paper crinkles. Her mind travels back. Back to the Christmas she hitched a ride home. Back to the family who welcomed her not as a failure, but as a prodigal daughter. Back to the house that sheltered her in her childhood, even into adulthood, and she wondered why she hadn’t come home before.

The speaker calls her name, and she walks up to the podium, tucking the pen into her pocket. The pamphlet is left behind where it drifted back to the floor.

She tucks her hair behind her ear and smiles on a memory, before squaring her feet and looking ahead. She begins her speech.

It passes in a blur, but she manages to hold onto her confident persona as she speaks. When it concludes to polite applause, she exits the theater on shaking legs, and makes it to a water fountain.

“Kristi, how are you, my friend?” The voice was familiar. A professor she’d had? She turns.

“Dr. Alvarez! I haven’t seen you in forever. Ten years, right?” She beams, relieved to see someone she knows.

“Yeah, it’s been a long while.” He pauses, his look sincere. “I had no idea you were, you know—everything that happened.”

“Yeah, um, well, yeah.” She rubs the back of her neck, somewhat abashedly. “But you really got me out of it, you know. I wrote it down. I wrote everything down, and then it got picked up, and that’s how I got started. You always did say to keep writing.”

He smiles softly. “Yeah. I’m so glad you’ve gotten past all that. You know, you could always have contacted me. I’m always here for all of my students.”

Then it’s her turn to smile. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“Ah, well, I shouldn’t keep you. I should let you get back to the convention.”

“Likewise. It was wonderful seeing you, Dr. Alvarez.”

“Same to you, Dr. Street.”

She puts her hands into her pockets, and her hand touches warm plastic. She takes out the pen, clicks it twice, and places it back, before turning and walking out the door.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 35

My thoughts about the future consist of existential panic, concern that I’ll never be satisfied in any career, and fear that I’m going to work myself to death for an unfulfilling life, because I’m only really happy when I have zero obligations (which will end once I no longer have a summer break, meaning that the rest of my life is starting to look like one giant, endless semester—which isn’t looking good for me, given that college is what gave me suicidal ideation and mild to moderate depression).

I’m interested in game writing. That sentence seems unremarkably plain and unimportant, but it means the world to me, because I’m interested. For my entire college career, I chose my major not because I was interested in a career path I could pursue with that degree, but because I could make money at a career in that field. First I pursued Pharmacy, because I was good at chemistry and I liked it well enough; I could pick the structures up off the page in my mind, make them three-dimensional, turn them around. I could create substances out of others and set things on fire in the name of science. But when I started pursuing chemistry in earnest, I found it limiting rather than freeing; I couldn’t take one step without being worried I’d missed another. As my life’s worth became determined by how quickly I could answer questions on a test, rather than any real consideration of my ability or willingness to put forth effort into learning, I became disheartened. Organic Chemistry was a kill class; you had a week to teach yourself a chapter of material, and you got to come into lecture three times a week to watch your professor give the broadest possible example of a problem you’d be expected to solve ten ways to Sunday. To succeed at Organic Chemistry, you had to be willing to devote all of your time to it, both in and out of class; all other classes were expected to suffer just so you could keep up an Organic grade. So I took a C and got out. I changed my major, because I wasn’t going to suffer that much for Pharmacy when I didn’t even care about the profession.

Since I failed at doctor, I went for lawyer. I liked writing, and I liked argument, so even though arguing a case in front of a jury seemed like an anxious hell, I thought maybe I could at least be a paper lawyer, doing property law or something. I was not excited at the prospect, but it didn’t seem any worse than Pharmacy did. I switched into the Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies major, and I studied for the LSAT, and I got a score in the 87th percentile, which was alright. I was pleased with it, though I think I could have done better if I’d really cared. Which isn’t to say I didn’t care at all; no, the LSAT was my ticket into law school, into the next step of my life. I panicked the whole week leading up to the test, practicing Logic Games and trying to get all my homework done in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry. But I didn’t care because I wanted to get into law school; I cared because I didn’t want to not get in. I was already on Plan B, and I didn’t have a Plan C ready.

But I love video games. If my life were perfect, I’d never work a day; I’d sit alone in my house, on my computer, experiencing worlds I’ll never get to see in real life. Breaks from school, when I can return to my natural nocturnal sleep schedule and see the sunrise, when I can do whatever I want without having to plan around other people, when I don’t have any responsiblities or obligations—those are my happy moments. Notice that I don’t say “happiest,” but “happy.” I live each semester in quiet resignation, in emotionless ooze. I’m not happy. I’m just…there. Breaks change that, and what I do on my breaks is play video games. If I could be involved in video games, somehow, I might be able to capture some of that happiness in my career, and maybe I won’t spend the rest of my life begging for the day I have enough money to retire and spend my days like summer break.

Since I’m in a Writing major, and I enjoy writing, and games require narratives and characters and other things that writers make, I figured I might have an out. The only problem now is figuring out whether I can actually get a job as a game writer, or whether I should just give up and go for law. My dad has made his position clear: do what makes you happy, as long as you can get a job and make money at it, preferably a lot of money: “Any job you do long enough, you’re going to get tired of. But if you’re doing a job you get paid for, it’s a lot easier to show up every day.”

I don’t know what I’m going to do, and that terrifies me. It’s not even down to what I want to do, but what I’ll be accepted for. The prospect of failure has always terrified me, but failing at something I didn’t really want to do anyway was never that bad. Failing at something I’m actually interested in—game writing—or something that’s potentially the only path I could take to reach the retirement I so desire—law—is far more terrifying. And choosing one means giving up the other; the chance of giving up the wrong one just adds to the terror.

And time is quickly running out. Applications aren’t open forever.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 34

The first night . . .

Your world is frost. When you are not feeling nothing, you are feeling everything—and that everything feels like nothing, because you cannot process any of it. Everything is clinical, because that is the only way you can think. You no longer have emotions; you have cold rationality. Everything must be just so, in order, held together, because you aren’t, and you don’t know when you will be.

The second night . . .

Your world is Frost: You perished first in ice, dry and cold and astringent, but from what you’ve tasted of desire, you know the cruelty of fire. Your night is split not between nothing and everything, but between not enough and too much. When your distractions run out, the fire comes, leaving ice in its wake—anger and sadness pulsing through your heart. At least you’re feeling now.

The third night . . .

Your world is wrong. You feel okay sometimes, really okay, and you’re scared because you don’t know if you should, because the rest of you is still screaming silently, but the tears have stopped ripping through you, and you can think clearly now without suffering the slings and arrows, though the pebbles still sting. You’re learning how to live again, and it feels like you shouldn’t, but you will.

The fourth night . . .

Let me know when you’re there. Because I’m not there yet, and I’m scared, but I know I’m not alone. You’re not alone. And I need you to be here, so you can tell me that it gets better, because I know it will, but I need you to tell me. And I will tell you, and we will make it through this, and we will tell everyone else that it’s okay, and we will give them our shoulders, and we will give them our distractions, and we will pat out the flames, and we will melt the ice, to let them know that it gets better. It gets better.

And so on . . . and so on.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 33

I have a confession.

I didn’t eat yesterday. I should have.

I woke up early (for me) to play a game with friends.

From 10 AM to 5 PM I was a smart-talking mage of Mind and Space.

But until 4 that morning I had been watching YouTube videos. I was tired.

So I took a nap. I slept longer than I thought I would; my alarm woke me at 8 PM.

The alarm was reminding me that the Saturday game I run was to start in an hour.

Though I wasn’t hungry, I knew I needed food, so I checked the UK Dining hours.

K Lair would start taking meal swipes at 10 PM, in the middle of the game.

I wanted to use a meal swipe, because I had one left for the week.

If I didn’t use it, it would go to waste, gone forever.

And Flex dollars are a precious resource.

I had a pack of ramen I could eat.

I could make it during a lull in the game.

The meal swipe is wasted, but ramen is cheap.

And I wouldn’t have to go all the way to K Lair at night.

But I didn’t fix the ramen. I was tired, and I wanted to sleep.

When the game ended at 3:30 AM, I pulled up the covers and curled up.

But I couldn’t sleep yet, because my nap had brought me out of my sleep debt.

I was tired, though. Just a little longer, and I could sleep. I just had to stall for time.

So I pulled up YouTube and had a discussion with my friends on Skype. It was long.

At 6 AM, I rolled over in my bed and tucked my arm under the pillow, sleepy.

I slept in fits and woke up several times, the most prominent at 9 AM.

I finally awoke at 1 PM, still not hungry, but very weak.

I berated myself, since I knew why I did it.

It wasn’t because I was busy.

Nor because I was tired.

It wasn’t the dining hours.

I did it because I’ve gained a few pounds.

I’m far from overweight, but I worry anyway.

I know that your stomach should never be entirely flat.

You have organs there. They take up room. But that’s being rational.

I Googled the calories someone my height, age, and weight burns by living.

I certainly wasn’t going to exercise on an empty stomach, weakened as I was.

And I told myself that this was fine. That one day of not eating isn’t bad.

In high school, I read a book about a girl with anorexia nervosa.

She told herself she was strong when she didn’t eat.

I had been telling myself the same thing.

I can’t say I won’t do the same again.

But this is a rare occurrence.

I can control it.

But once in awhile, I worry.

Because I still feel overweight at 125 lbs.

And I worry about the messages the media sends.

Other people may not recognize the dangers in their thoughts.

Not everyone has read a book or a journal or a blog about eating disorders.

They may not know to stop those thoughts before they take complete control.

And even with the resources I have read, I find myself not eating some days.

I want to have a thin middle, to have curves resembling these words.

Because that’s the ideal, isn’t it? That’s what to strive for.

That’s “pretty.” Anything else is “alright.”

That’s the story as it’s being told.

And it’s wrong.

But I still don’t eat some days.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 32

I have weathered the whips and scorns of time. Surely I can bear these upcoming years. For certainly, the system of of checks and balances will prevent the worst case scenario. Certainly, it cannot be as bad as I’ve feared for so long. Certainly. Certainly.

Yet the last time my mouth formed the word, it was out of a different disbelief. “Certainly, he can’t win.” There was only the slightest doubt, passed off as needless paranoia. The voters wouold show the truth when she won—that the best person may not win, but the lesser evil will always prevail. What is an email server to bigotry, hate, and prejudice?

But the numbers clicked in. The numbness clicked in. I searched for answers and found none. I searched for reasons why and found none. Defense of votes cited the sharing of opinions, but not what those opinions were. Were my friends and family sharing those opinions with him that frightened me? Did they, too, harbor such hate in their hearts?

But nothing was said. They cheered with the results and they placated when protests arose, but nothing was said. There was no why. It didn’t happen for a reason. It was the bystanders who delved not deeply enough into the consequences. The evil of one bolstered by the ignorance or apathy of many.

And now I am the apathetic one, wanting only to lie down and close my eyes. Now I am the one who must bear the oppressor’s wrongs. I, and everyone else.


The above was written in class, while I was still trying to sort out my emotions. I cannot say the same is not the case now.

As I wrote, I was tired. Yesterday, I had to just lie down and sleep during the middle of the day, because simply existing was too exhausting. I was hopeless and done.

Since then, I have become indignant.

I have spent too many hours in lengthy discussions with my dad, as he asserted that he was “fine with same-sex civil unions, but calling it a ‘marriage’ just isn’t right,” all the while the words “I LIKE GIRLS” lingered on my lips. I want to out myself to my parents, to explain demisexuality, to show them that it’s not just a made-up word. “So you’re basically straight but don’t like sex?” was the reaction I got from one of the two people in my family I came out to. “No,” I explained. “I can like girls too. I can like anyone. I’m not straight.” “So you’re like a bisexual who doesn’t like sex?” “No, that’s not it either.” Cue another lengthy discussion. That was to a person I trust implicitly to understand me, and in time, she did understand. And though I love my parents deeply, I feel that I cannot trust this information about myself to them. How could I ever hope that a politician with such hateful attitudes toward women, latinos, and a host of other minorities could ever understand me, when I fear even my parents cannot?

Then add to that the fact that I am a genderflux woman—put simply, someone who fluxes between intensities of gender. Most days I experience little connection to the female gender, and present my identity in gender-neutral, baggy clothes, tying back my long hair simultaneously to get it out of my way, and because I associate it with feminity, as I wear it down on days when I feel more comfortable as a woman. But regardless of my gender identity, the fact that I own a vagina is enough cause for worry, when the upcoming president promises, “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” And with as much fear as I have for anyone with a vagina, I fear most of all for my trans friends, who already have enough hardship as it is.

But this fear and indignance has been tempered.

Because Stephen Colbert talked about the things we can all come together on.

Because the people I cherish most have not changed, and they still care about me.

And because my professor nearly brought me to tears with a speech about his own fears, his own uncertainties—and in the midst of it, he reassured this class that we are his friends.

What we need most in this hour is solidarity and strength. We will weather this storm, as we have weathered all storms before. We will persevere, we will outlast, and we will come out with a shared experience that has brought us all closer together.

And hey, reactionary votes seem to be the “in” thing nowadays, so we might get Bernie next time.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 31

The Results are In: U.S. Presidential Election 2016

silence never cut deeper
nor the skin tore so slowly
a thin veneer of white
pale as death
like shed skin over yet living tissue
the blood pumping
pounding in the ears
because the heart remains in shock
what a world
what a life
what wonders created in the bleak hands of terror
the claws curled inward yet reaching
grasping but furled
attacking all while holding in
the breath of those
who suffer now
and on
and on
and on
and
and

deadness in the stomach
like a pit of void
the need to fidget, to do something
to do anything except
wait
and wonder
and wish that i lived in a swing state
so that i could have made a difference

i watched the states turn
like sportsball players
i yelled at ohio when it dropped the ball
‘so far off the planet that its astronauts waved’
ohio tried to kill me both times i was in the state
seems fitting
i thought that the joke
about ohio being so terrible
that so many people went to space to get away
was funny
now i realize
i would leave too

kentucky was doomed to be red
i never expected more of it
but wisconsin was a stab of betrayal
new hampshire kept me in fits
pennsylvania was the final straw

pennsylvania
it had seemed so blue for so long
the dirty judas
pieces of silver
to erect a phallus of pyrite
language, now
dont want to offend
because in this new world
opinions are like fingers
if someone decides you have too many
they just need to cut you down
slice by slice
until youre submissive like you should be

i speak as a woman in a world
where locker room talk just got elected
and i am afraid
not for myself

not for myself

yet

but i feel a great weight
and i wonder
if inishturk would be there for me
once my last semester
one more semester
is done

i wish i were angry
but i never thought
in my wildest dreams
that my faith could be so overturned
i built up no reserves
i have no passions to draw from
my anger is an empty well
encasing a spite suicide
in a talk-story not mine to tell

a line echoes
in new york you can be a new man
and isnt that hope
isnt that the thing
the immigrant who changed america
who betrays him now
like pennsylvania

andrew jackson
fueled by rage and cocaine
(one of these may be wrong)
a joke among my friend and me
how often did i joke
about small hands
and empty speech
the man fought duels for fun
the man fights safety
the world for america
but what about the world
when america is no longer in it
when you have closed us off
with walls and hate
when you have fueled the fire
your horns do grow high

im cold

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 30

I roleplay, and I game. These are verbs, yes, which tell you what I do, but they also tell you something about who I am. I’m a revenge-bent former agent of the Imperial Security Bureau. I’m a six-foot-two redhead with a wraith for a father. I’m an Argonian Dragonborn who specializes in sneaking and necromancy. Beyond that, I am someone who experiments with gender, race, class, sexuality, and history; if I’m going to play a bisexual Cajun card sharp fighting with the French in WWII, I’d better darn well know how to do so.

I lore binge. I lore binge constantly. I have gradually been accumulating a mental account of the entire Elder Scrolls universe, from the 36 Lessons of Vivec, to Anu birthing its own soul into Anuiel—which birthed itself in turn into Auri-El (aka Akatosh)—to theories on the Dwemer (I think I may have conclusively solved where they disappeared to). And despite this breadth and depth of knowledge, I have only played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; I gained this knowledge by researching wikis.

Similarly, I history binge. Do you need a timeline of the major events that occurred in Athens from 1941 until the present day? I made one, because if I’m going to GM a game where my players are vampires, they’re going to get to make use of that immortality feature. And kill Nazis to boot. I have simultaneous notes on the changes in real-world politics as they relate to and are influenced by Kindred politics, because even if Athens was declared a neutral zone, you can bet that an underground vampire society is going to be keeping their options open.

And I life binge. Hours researching signs, symptoms, and mindsets gave me insight that I used to portray my character Lily; in particular, I drew on the knowledge I gained from a book whose protagonist was similarly dealing with anorexia. And when I realized that, even before playing Lily, I could slip into that mindset so easily? That scared me. It wasn’t having those thoughts that shocked me; it was that I’d been having those thoughts for years, never realizing what they could lead to.

I have played a masculine agender person, dealing with questions about their identity and the presentation of their gender. Through Owen, I was able to deal with my own questions of gender identity, and come to terms with the knowledge that it’s okay to lie somewhere along a spectrum rather than on a point at one end. I have played many people of different sexualities, examining the differences between their attraction and my own, as my demisexuality influences how I interpret media almost daily; I’m still working on how the trope of “angry sex” works. I have been hesitant to play people of other races and ethnicities, but I have attempted to immerse myself in the study of their cultures so that, when I am comfortable enough exploring those experiences, I can do so from a place of utmost respect. As it stands, it is much easier to face discrimination as an Argonian in Skyrim than as a black person in modern America.

The most intriguing position to play, in my opinion, is that of the villain. I have yet to work up to evil in a video game (I can’t help but personify the NPCs as real people when I’m immersed), but I am trying to understand the actions that cause a descent into evil through roleplaying. Outright evil is easy; just chop off a bartender’s finger to make yourself feel better. But the more justification evil has, the more difficult it is to play. Say you’re trying to prevent the Tragedy of the Commons; you must kill the cows of the farmers around you to prevent overgrazing of the land. You are causing harm to both the farmers and the cows, removing a vital source of income and committing animal cruelty, but in doing so, you achieve a greater of good of sustaining the land for future generations of farmers. Though the act is evil, do the ends justify it? Then take it a step further. When do the ends no longer justify the means? At what point does fighting for the greater good make you into a villain? Is it when the cause for which you fight becomes little more than a pipe dream? Is it when the ratio of benefit to deficit drops too low? It is as the philosophers debate: do you kill one man to save a thousand? Do you kill 99 to save 100?

And furthermore, did Rapture fall because Objectivism is flawed, or because Andrew Ryan failed to follow Objectivism’s tenets to the end?

I digress. The point is that roleplaying and playing video games both provide insight that can help you come to terms with who you are, and with who other people are. You experience what they experience, you learn what they know, and—in your own way—you teach. You examine the questions of life as they pertain to both the concrete and the abstract. The act becomes part of the person, and in coming to understand positions different from your own, you sometimes learn that you are not so different as you first assumed.

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 29

slowly creeping
fingers at the keys I jump back when the wolf growls
hands shoot fire breath quickens
the boyfriend whose lap I stole
rubs his jaw
my elbow throbs
a sheepish sorry

Potency of Unintentional Horror
limited agency, inherent strangeness, flawed logic
psychological dissonance

I flee the horrific and embrace it
never to play, ever to experience
vicarious
despite and because of those non-horror
instances
the wolf growling
the shadows hiding

Outlast and Amnesia
carefully crafted, such love
never touched by my hands, but by my eyes
held dear to my mind
exulted
Skyrim and Pokémon and Minecraft
my worlds
holding fear in the unknown
in the contemplation
in the shadows where monsters lie
in the questions never answered

agency, efficacy, control
need not be stolen
when they hardly exist at all
when you fear your own incompetence
when anything in the dark could spell your doom
not because it is powerful
but because you think yourself weak

uncanny and unfamiliar and unsettling
the worlds in timeless hours spent
amid the light and fire
against the dark
the places where I feel most safe
have lurkers even so

 


This poem is largely of my own work, but incorporates “found” elements from and was inspired by the journal article “Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Diversity of Horror in Video Games.”

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 28

language choice:
to
co-construct identity
conflict and conversation
contesting the norm
constructing the form
the heart of the matter
embraced in charge

the person inside
a multitude
manipulation and maintenance, malleable, myriad

the portrayal is the conversation
a life twined among fingers holding pencils
like sacred knives
gender is something one does
gender is social category
gender is
gender is

the person inside
the shifting concept
the one who portrays
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma
context is key

Discursive construct!
there are no simplistic classifications
the performance differs
the performance enables
to speak is to do

language, the social function
identity within the expression, the person
the spells and swords provide
where life prohibits
simuntaneous and conflicting are
the swirling stances
the lilting linguistics

all aspects co-constructed
shared among all or some
for the one inside to know
that they are valuable to the party
and so the world

 


This found poem was inspired by the journal article “Gender, identity and tabletop roleplay games.”

Posted in WRD 402

WRD 402: Post 27

|We’re acquiring money now.

|Once I’ve gotten more of my work done
|                                            and pushed back,
|I’ll start looking into what I’d need to do
|                                                             to be DM.

|Lack of time strains the threads.

|We assume that the meaning of a relationship
|                                                      coming into being
|is constituted through relational partners’
|                                           positively but perceived
|communicative practices

|the passages that we higlighted
|                         versus the present

|When are the concepts applicable?

|Coast to Coast AM
|                                is
|                                Ghost to Ghost AM
|                                                      tonight.


This was attempt #1 at “found poetry” incorporating research, beginning with the text message poetry begun in class and continuing with a journal article I found through the University of Kentucky’s library database, “Feminist Identity in Romantic Relationships: A Relational Dialectics Analysis of E-Mail Discourse as Collaborative Found Poetry.” I chose the article because it was co-authored by the same person who wrote the poems we examined in class (Sandra Faulkner). Since the text messages in my original draft embodied my relationships with my boyfriend, friend, and sister, incorporating pieces of an article heavily influenced by a relationship seemed appropriate. The | marks preceding each line are there to preserve the spacing, until I can find some way to fix that in the HTML code. Unfortunately, even with the lines, the spacing isn’t preserved perfectly, and I’m not sure how to fine-tune it.