Et Tu, Fidget Cube?

 

I like many at times struggle with generalized anxiety. And my anxiety tends to manifest with obsessive hair brushing, nail biting and other “self-mutilation behaviours” that anxious people exhibit. Like a stressed out parrot, if left to my own devices, I would likely bite my nails to an unattractive length or over-style my hair to finally fit the look of the anime character that I really am on the inside.

I’ve been playing with stress balls, small toys as well as doodling, drawing, pen spinning and just about any other “fidget” activity that you can try. It was actually my therapist who encouraged that I try a d fidget cube. She thought that maybe it would help curb some of the bad habits that I’ve dealt with since I was young.

I waited for a while to get a fidget cube but then they and their spinner partners became popular. Suddenly, mostly fidget spinners became very en vogue. Even my boss had one. He, of course, said it was for “business men like him who sit in meetings” to which I promptly corrected him on the true origin of the fidget spinner. But since they became popular tools of the zeitgeist, it puts people like me in a strange position. I either look like a hipster by not adopting what became popular or I look like I’m part of a movement that I’m not by having one. And truthfully, I even separate out that I have a cube rather than a spinner. To me and those like me that have these toys to help them cope with stress or anxiety, the spinner is a pretentious toy. The cube became the secret handshake of those who actually intended to use the devices as they were patented: as therapy devices.

Amber, my dear teacher friend, at first was dismayed when I showed her my cube. She said her school children have been causing quite a fuss with their spinners. Some even light up now and are being used like new-age hipster Beyblades. When I explained to her why I had mine, she accepted it. Most do when you explain that you have a cube or spinner for any reason that isn’t puffery or just for fun.

That being said: if you see someone with a cube or spinner, I think it’s important to halt judgement briefly. I know it’s been difficult for me to not immediately judge the children on the bus wielding two light-up spinners for some odd reason. But I’m doing my best to reserve that judgement because I know how much I don’t like being judged and lumped in with all the people that got these because they want to be hip with the young kids. Most people now have them because they’re popular but they’re already starting to wane in their popularity. Soon, once more like with so many other appropriated things, people who intend to use them as first created will rise again.

 

A Letter to Idea Channel

Hello, Mr. Mike Rugnetta.

We’ve spoken on Twitter before. I’m a big fan, really. I’ve used countless PBS Idea Channel videos in blogs before. I’ve shared them with friends. I’ve commented on them in my panels. I have had real life discussions and talks about your videos and the theories posited by them.

I heard about you winding down and ending the channel.

I had lots of feelings about this.

I do agree that at times, the channel wasn’t always best. I’ve lovingly called it PBS Semantics Channel like everyone else. I have considered that you may be overthinking rather simple things. I may flat out disagree with a thesis you pose. But I’ve always appreciated the theories, discussion and you, the host.

I wanted to get my feelings out. I wanted to write this little letter to you. I want you to know that even though I am emotional over the end of an era and the loss of one more much needed voice in the muck and mire of the Internet: I’m mostly just grateful.

I’m thankful for the discussion. I’m thankful for the memories. I’m thankful for the videos.

Wherever the Internet may take you, I hope it’s a bright shiny place full of delicious content.

Thank you for the Discourse.

Yours truly,

Amanda

Drive Away

 

Not all those who wander are lost.J. R. R. Tolkien.pngA former partner used to comment on my wanderlust rather frequently. I’d go for long walks. I was constantly dreaming of a place anywhere but where I was. I wanted nothing more than to walk into the woods and sometimes, just sometimes, never have to leave the tangled mess of Grendel’s forest. All of these are very atypical for the average Cancerian.

We had a shared passion for astrology when it was convenient to us and both of us being Cancers, it was a common topic of discussion that I had such a desire to “get lost”.

Cancers are supposed to be homebodies; my partner certainly was. I absolutely have it in my character to be a homebody and my friends can attest to the fact that sometimes I am often heard and seldom seen. But upon further research, an interesting concept did appear.

A Cancer, like a real Crab, often picks up its home wherever it goes and if it feels it has no home to return to; a crab will wander until it finds a suitable home.

Now for some context, this was during a time of my life shortly after the passing of my mother and during one of the most tumultuous phases of my home life. My aunts were at times unsympathetic, the economy was bad and my grandmother was sick. And even though I was physically at home in North Texas I felt very far from being anywhere that felt like home. I had returned from San Antonio after graduating from college and hoped to find myself in North Texas. That didn’t work out for me and I returned to San Antonio to start my life.

I left behind plenty of people in that move but I did what felt right.

I wanted to find my home. I wanted to build a home because I embraced that the nostalgic view of home I had no longer existed. My nuclear family had died, my aunts struggled to deal with a melancholy college grad. We were no longer in the home I was raised in: we were far from it. All of the things were of value to me were either movable or didn’t exist anymore. Friendships don’t usually just vanish over miles and I’ve managed to keep many of my North Texas friends since I moved: sure, things have been difficult but not impossible.

I built a happy home in San Antonio and even though lovers, partners and friends have come and gone I did find home. I found routine. I found security. I found stability.

But every once in awhile a pang of anxiety will coax me from my bed. Every once in awhile a twinge of fear will stop me from my sewing. And before I got my handsome car, usually in those moments I’d either hop on the next bus to anywhere but home or I’d sit and distract myself until the negative thoughts went away.

Now that I have a car, I find that I go on drives. Amber and I are known for our weekend trips. I for a while drove back and forth to Austin daily. The drives to North Texas have gotten easier and easier. I am a bit of a road warrior. Give me a good playlist and most road trips are pretty easy to manage, even alone. They get better with company. I’ve even considered a few trips on my own to find myself.

So now if those same invasive negative thoughts creep in, despite the time of day or night, I can hop in the car and go for a drive. I can go to the park and go for a walk. Go to the mall and just people watch. I can go to the museum and embrace a culture that isn’t mine. I can go to the library and get books I no longer have self space for but will never turn down.  

Despite my pugnacious personality, I rather dislike conflict. And when things are less than kind, I much rather walk away. I much rather distance myself from a bad situation than stay in a non-productive argument. Like a hermit crab, I will pick up my shell and walk until I find more hospitable waters.

Sometimes it’s okay to walk away from a conversation that isn’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s okay to avoid pain. If a crab has a home, even one it likes a lot, it will leave it behind if it is repeatedly shocked or subjected to torments or acidic waters.

Home is where you set up camp and home is almost always inside of you and those you care for most.

Rebellion in the Orange Summer

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” ― Ovid.png

Has it only been a few months since Trump was sworn into office? It certainly feels like it’s been much longer. And the thought it this potentially being a years long affair into just how far down the America I came to know from childhood can go down, I think it’s important to mention how to be politically aware, active and how to still remain sane and true to yourself.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: these are of course my opinions and I’m really not wanting to start a flame war in the comments. If you disagree with me, that’s lovely, just do so respectfully.

My history with being politically “woke” is a fraught one. I struggled with being connected as a teenager and debate student. I struggled during the Bush era and the violently American propaganda age of the 2000s. I found hope during the Obama years and since the mid 2010s have additionally struggled with increased social tension, police violence, hate crimes and homophobia. And honestly, it all reminds me a lot of the Bush years. There’s a powerful person in power that I less than agree with but I don’t always feel in the position to do much about the situation. I was, am and probably will be for awhile totally overwhelmed by Trump. How anyone can look at him and agree with the venom that oozes from his mouth…well, that’s another blog post. It’s been difficult to empathize with the other side of the political aisle, as it was in the early 2000s. I found myself then a mostly emotional and verbally impotent teen all those years ago and now I’m a working adult that has to be kind to everyone despite at times boiling anger from the rhetoric from the GOP. And considering my mostly liberal leanings, this has been difficult. I’m a strong LGBT ally. I’m a Roman Catholic but a lover of science. I’m a person of color. I am biologically female. Almost all of the issues that have been brought across the aisle and to the table directly impact and affect my corpus and my existence. But with all the comparisons to Bush and the hyper-patriotism of the early to mid 2000s: how did young ingenue Amanda deal those years?

Music.

Many of you now know that I am a former (reformed, past…something) punk. And the particular type of punk and emo rock I listened to was very political. American Idiot is one of my favorite albums and hearing songs like American Idiot and Holiday gave so much form and shape to the mess of emotions and indignation that swirled in my mind during the uber-patriotism and growing racial and social tensions the 2000s brought with them.

In my youth I started wearing black hoodies in part because of the song Mosh. It was my rebellion. It was a powerful symbol to think that at least a few people also clad in the black hoodie of resistance knew the message they were sending. I only recently retired the black hoodie after the death of Trayvon Martin and having to step up my personal style as a grew from being a petulant teen to a working young person. I knew the hoodie didn’t actually do anything but it felt like a powerful enough statement.

The Obama years while far from perfect were better. And in the moments where racial tension did bubble up I was mostly able to remain active politically with friends, family and have healthy discourse.

But then 2012 happened.

I’m not quite sure what happened but 2012 seemed to be a difficult time for everyone. Usually civil conversations began to run deep with overly religious and xenophobic undertones and this was well before the hot garbage fire that was 2016.  And with the current state of the world, I find myself like so many confused, angry and unsure of how to react and exist when everything everything is political.

Amazingly, some of the music of my teen years has been instrumental in helping cope with some of the issues feeling unrepresented by your representatives. Comic books have also been a fantastic way to channel some of that energy. The Civil War storylines in Marvel comics have heavy allusions to real government issues and concerns and encourage you to pick a side. Movies have also been helpful even when they’re difficult to watch. Watchmen  was not an enjoyable movie but some of the moral, ethical and political statements made by the movie especially are very timely. V for Vendetta is very similar down to the current state of the world down to the shooting of an innocent child that begins a revolution and  a 1984-style authoritarian regime that likes to censor speech and rules by fear and false information.

Satire has been remarkably helpful in dealing with this current administration as it was during the Bush years. Last Week Tonight has done a great job of holding Trump accountable and while Trevor Noah is no Jon Stewart, The Daily Show is still a shining beacon of satirical light in an otherwise dim world.

But music alone does not soothe the savage president. Being active doesn’t always being at every protest. It means calling your local representatives. It means speaking up for those that may not have a voice. It means fact-checking and being aware of the issues. It means maybe having to face the other side of a political topic and it means taking care of yourself to battle another day for the causes you believe in. If you see a problem, say something. But be kind to yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a protest, rally or event: don’t go. There are other ways to support causes and considering the current trend of violence against even peaceful protests, I am entirely empathetic to the wish to avoid big rallies for fear of violence. But being aware if vitally important. Even now, logic and facts are being used against people so it is now more important than ever to be aware, active and persistent. But it’s also good to know when to back down. Some people are not going to change and all you can do is be yourself, be as active as you wish and stay sane to continue the conversation for another day.

Stay kind, world. We have a little while before this dumpster fire can go out.

 

Audience vs. Author

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”—William Zinsser.png

I’m a rather selfish writer. From an early age, whatever and whenever I wrote: I was writing fundamentally for me. I think it’s the big reason why I blog and panel: I write and say as I wish. If someone isn’t happy with my opinions, I adore discourse but no one is making any unhappy reader stay. I also tend to share my work with just close friends. They have plenty of things to say about my work but I rather defend my work from friends than strangers. But as someone who writes, reads and loves discourse between fans and creators: what does an artist or author owe their audience.

Well, to me the short order is nothing. Most of the time.

I read a lot of webcomics and webcomics have become the last stand for many artists and writers who want real creative freedom. Smaller audiences, you are your own editor and almost total freedom to write about whatever you want. Well, most of the time. Amazingly, despite the “freedom” that comes with abandoning traditional platforms and avoiding editors and publishing houses it puts creators and audiences in direct contact with each other. I’ve seen many a comment section grow into riots over canons, storylines and shipping. And amazingly, when you remove the buffer between creator and audience: it isn’t always pretty. I know plenty of webcomic artists that are damn near defensive of their work and refuse to accept any criticism. There are comics that will never properly end because the creator got so burned by their audience. Storylines have been changed. Plots retracted. And so so many arguments over pronouns and if a character is asexual, non-binary or whether a pairing is true or not.

And I can attest that as an author and creator: I get defensive, too. I’ve never quite argued with people nor will I often correct them but I also don’t usually bristle too much when a creator does dive into the comments to correct a misgendering or to assert that a “pairing” is in fact just a pair of friends. Hell, after a negative review on one of my panels, I bristled for days. Even though the criticism was in many ways valid and I did grow and learn from it.

What I will probably never understand is being so defensive to the point of being delusional. Sister Claire is a webcomic I love and have followed from the start but there’s a scene that…borrows heavily from the popular anime Big O. And instead of just owning “Hey, you’re right. We did heavily borrow from another series.” the creator and her partner spent many days in the comments saying that it was common Knights Templar imagery and verbiage as opposed to just accepting a spade as a spade.

But on the flipside of that, I’ve seen audiences completely steamroll over authors. There’s webcomics that will never be finished because the creators became so exhausted by the rigor of keeping a fanbase happy. Blaster Nation famously almost didn’t get a proper ending because the creators were besieged with negativity over ending the very popular comic in favor of one that actually made them money. I was sad as anyone else to see Blaster Nation end but I’d never spew venom to the creators. One of my favorite comics Saint for Rent is currently on hiatus for a year and from what I’ve been able to see everyone has been very supportive and patient in waiting for the series to return while the creator explores other creative ventures.

Now that we’ve discussed how an author should act, what does an audience owe the creator? Well, that’s a strange subject now. Things like Patreon make audiences even more powerful. If I am giving an artist money, like a patron, then I should have some influence on what happens. One of my favorite historical figures, King Ludwig II was the patron of Richard Wagner. And King Ludwig II did dictate what and when Herr Wagner should compose about. Audiences do especially in webcomics drive what creators can do. If you want full creative freedom, finance yourself. But even though audiences are paying for creative ventures now, that doesn’t mean an audience gets to be nasty. I do though even more so understand the frustration an audience has when a comic or property fails them. There are plenty of webcomics I wish would just end, they have strayed so far from their original plots. Dangerously Chloe has had an interesting run that has strayed very far from its original rom-com roots. But no one who loves a property or piece feeling like they’ve been taken for a ride. And there is a certain helplessness that comes with being a lover of a property or piece and having no control over the direction, plan or execution of a series. And that lack of control can be exhausting, scary and demoralizing for fans. That isn’t an excuse to be nasty to creators, but as someone who has watched a beloved series derail, I “get” where that feeling comes from.

I do also understand the strain and stress of performing for an audience. Why do you think I only panel a few times a year? It’s exhausting! Yet alone having to crank out pages while at times the unsympathetic herds can rant and rave about a page being later. Energy wanes and waxes, desire to post lessens and it creates a rather unfortunate feedback loop. And honestly, that pressure does keep me from wanting to publish more of my work more often. I luckily try to blog multiple times a month but I do my best not to beat myself up too much if I don’t. And I have seen many artists who openly admit to taking breaks or slowing down only to be met with extreme hatred and vitriol. There’s a reason I don’t quit my day job to be just a panelist and writer: 1) talent and 2) I never want a hobby to be anything more than a hobby. I know how quickly once you turn passion into work it can become exhausting. Anyone who knows me knows how stressed out I get before and after paneling and if I can do anything to lessen that feeling, I’m willing to do that. I can’t imagine the stress of making people happy and having to perform and if I displease an audience more than my general panelist rating is affected.

Is there a way to move forward or go on? I think so. Have meaningful discourse, at least in private. I may have issues with Never Satisfied or Sister Claire but I tend not to talk about those in public. I do have friends that read the same comics so we get to rant about those forever. If you do feel the need to talk about your concerns to the creator or in public: do so respectfully. If diplomacy fails and you do manage to raise the ire of the creator: keep things civil.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to read the comic if it irritates you that much even if that argument fundamentally makes me angry. I will never totally accept that rationale of “if you don’t like a thing, stop reading/watching it”. Even just as a reader, you invest time, energy, money and life into a work. Without audiences, creators cannot create. There has to be a balance of respecting the creator while also respecting your audience.

Thoughts from Austin, Round Rock and Welcome to Night Vale Live Once More

-So Buc-ee's is like the nicest and biggest gas station ever with immaculate bathrooms and all sorts of things you could never imagine you need but want in the moment. Oh and the food's delicious. So like a giant fan.png

I’m starting to wonder what I did to deserve friends that will do such things for me. Once again, Amber managed to get us tickets to see Welcome to Night Vale: Live this time in Austin. The trip wasn’t very long but the trip was fun and as always, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself and those I call my friends.

  • Traffic is weird in Texas and going to Austin is a constant reminder that even though in theory this place isn’t far it takes sometimes way too long to get there.
  • Buc-ee’s is still wonderful.
    • So I talk about Buc-ee’s a lot and I think it’s hilarious that so many people that I know and care about will never know or understand how wonderful this place is.
    • Also I need the “Killing my liver while floating on the river” tank top.
  • There’s nothing like bringing bottles of booze with you to a hotel room. Makes you feel ritzy and by ritzy, I mean probably going to do questionable nerd things and that you (I) are (am) too old for this.
  • If you see more than one Corvette in the parking lot of your hotel, there’s probably a thing going on.
    • The thing going on was a giant Corvette race thing.
  • Hampton Inns are surprisingly nice.
    • They’re Hilton properties so I expect that but they’re very nice.
  • Amber has never been to a Waffle House.
    • This fact shocked me.
  • Amber is a great friend and I love her like a sister but she is blunt sometimes and so much more direct than I am that she really catches me off guard. She’s very authentic and I appreciate that about her but she can sometimes say truths about me that cut me to my core.
    • I want to work on taking her word to heart and knowing she doesn’t mean it as a cruel thing, she’s just trying to help me grow.
  • Fun fact: there’s nothing on TV anymore but My Cat from Hell and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
  • Midnight, Texas is apparently just hillbilly Constantine.
    • Additional fun fact: Amber and I have many opinions on both shows.
  • There’s nothing like trying to cosplay as someone who you feel no one else would notice.
    • Like, really. Night Vale is a rough thing to cosplay out in public.
      • Amber said it best: “You can’t go out dressed as a bloody glowing cloud covered in dead animals and expect people to get it.”
  • Fun fact: it will start raining as soon as you put on 5 layers of concealer and foundation. And then it will stop as soon as you get into the car.
  • The Paramount Theater in Austin is pretty but not as nice as the Majestic.
    • But they had snacks and hipster popcorn so it was a win.
  • There were a lot of kids at this show…I’ve never considered Night Vale to be a mature show but lots of kids…too many kids.
  • That being said though: Austin audiences are…a different bunch. The crowd was for sure more rowdy this time.
    • Additionally, there was a woman who climbed over 2 rows of antique seating and then spread her legs over the empty seat below her. I was floored.
  • No spoilers about the show but at the risk of sounding like an huge brat (it was a birthday gift, after all) I’ll say this about the show: it wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t bad. At its core, it’s still a show I love but it didn’t floor me the way Ghost Stories did.
    • The weather was quite good though. The artist was entertaining and rhythmic and eccentric.
      • Also “rhythmic accordion solo” are now words I can say I strung together.
      • Also lots of intense percussive foot stomping.
  • Parking in Austin makes me angry.
  • Sonic is not real food, but it is delicious once you’re half a bottle of champagne into the evening.
  • Live PD is a confusing jaunt between almost boring cop stories to very over-blown drama.
    • Like it does really feel like police propaganda a little. It’s a lot of cops doing very non-dramatic things and in a world where it seems that the police are now only involved in scandal, it was sort of nice to see them just do their jobs and no one get unnecessarily hurt or die.
  • Jasmine Green Tea with Elderflower Liquor and Ginger Vodka is magical.
    • If you have any cocktail name suggestions: leave them in the comments below.
  • Round Rock is a magical place full of delicious food.
  • Round Rock Doughnuts is wonderful. I didn’t want to leave.
    • Though I feel bad for the church and Cuban spot next to the small donut shop.
20170716_105857.jpg
The famous Round Rock Donut. It’s measured with a bucket lid. BECAUSE TEXAS.

 

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  • SALT LICK BBQ IS DELICIOUS AND I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE.
    20170716_112917.jpg
    LOOK AT THIS. LOOK AT THIS FOOD. EVERYTHING WAS DELICIOUS.
    • Even though Amber and I had a heavy conversation about personal responsibility to family over how awful families can be as well as gentrification and how difficult it is just to be of color in America.
    • Oh and I got free cobbler because birthday weekend.
  • There’s nothing like getting new Converse.
    • Fun fact, I showed these shoes to TJ and he said we could no longer be friends afterwards because the shoes were too cool.
  • Amber gets antsy on the road trip home.
  • Discussing drug and club culture and its relationship to techno is depressing but necessary.
  • Traffic in Texas is still awful.
  • Finding something opened past 5 on Sunday is difficult:
    • Context: my power went out due to a storm in San Antonio so I didn’t feel like going home to a hot/dark house. So I drove around for 2 hours somehow past the trip and it was damn near impossible to find anything that was still opened.

I had a great time in Austin and I had a wonderful birthday and birthday weekend. I’m grateful for friendships, fun and making memories.

20170715_194019.jpg
This is the face of a very glossy and very tired cosplayer and friend.

Rest easy, readership. Rest easy. And thank you for the birthday wishes.