Thoughts and Meditations from the San Antonio Missions: Part 2

Amber asked me if I wanted to return with her to the Missions. We have been on a similar trip before. We mostly enjoyed ourselves. Mostly. Here are the things I learned on my second journey to the San Antonio Missions.

  • DO.NOT.TOUCH.300-400. YEAR.OLD. STATUES.
  • DO NOT TOUCH 300-400 YEAR OLD BUILDINGS.
  • DO NOT RIDE YOUR BICYCLE THROUGH A 300-400 YEAR OLD ACTIVE CHURCH.
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR DOG INTO A 300-400 YEAR OLD ACTIVE CHURCH.
  • STOP TOUCHING HISTORIC MONUMENTS, BUILDINGS AND ARTIFACTS.

Amber and I had to leave the Missions early because I was too angry at people touching statues…

Here are some of my real thoughts, though.

  • I still struggle with the narrative of great men doing great things when it comes to the Alamo.
  • I still struggle as a Roman Catholic knowing that my church is more responsible for acts of terror than any of my Muslim brothers and sisters.
  • I still struggle with the fact that as an American, African-American and woman that my place is history is odd, recent and now is mostly written by very current hands.
  • I am curious how the Koi got to the Alamo…and if they’re okay.
  • I didn’t know Texas had a patron saint.
  • My anger when it comes to touching statues is an issue of respect. If you love something, ensure that it stays around for a long time and don’t touch it.
  • I am conflicted about what it means to be an American and a Catholic right now: especially considering the current state of the world.

This one was a little short but our trip to the Missions was a little short and the last time I wrote about this I was far more eloquent.

Always remember, the oils in your fingers destroy monuments.

 

 

 

Friends on the Other Side

Friends are the siblings God never gave us. Mencius.jpg

Carlos works late sometimes. Sierra’s busy with friends and family. Marisa’s studying or in class. Taylor works crazy shifts sometimes and Amber’s usually tired after a long day with her students. Ricky’s schedule is insane and keeping up with it could be a full-time job in itself.

Keeping up with timezones and busy schedules can make it difficult to keep friendships afloat and many 20somethings find themselves struggling with loneliness. I moved away a few years ago. I live alone. But in moving, I left some of my best friends and now that I work a full-time office job, I don’t have the time or energy to be the bon viveur I was in college. I have the topic of friendship on my heart (I hear it’s magic) and I wanted to go over a few of the ways I keep up with my friends.

Call and Call

Skype is wonderful. Some of the best memories I’ve made in my recent history have been made on Skype calls. I’m an Internet girl. I’ve made plenty of friends online and we do our best to stay connected whenever we can and Skype helps us stay in touch. (This isn’t an advert, just a fact.). One of my old stomping grounds, Gendou, had a booming community and many of those community members are some of my closest friends. We do our best to get together at least once a month and chat. Many of us have grown up together and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come from being angsty anime kids to being angsty anime adults. But depending on the friend, there’s also been hours long phone calls. Epic Google Hangouts sessions and livestream nights that go on until the wee hours of the morning. We talk during everything. I’ve been on calls while making costumes, planning hotel trips and even while working on panels or playing video games. It makes the distance between us sometimes feel not so vast.

I’ll Check the Post Box

I’m an adult now and the only things that arrive in my mailbox are bills, bills and advertisements. It was a request I started a few years ago. I asked for, instead of gifts for my birthday, I asked for cards in the mail. Not online ones, not Facebook messages, just cards sent in the mail. Over the years, this evolved into Christmas and holiday cards, post cards and all sorts of other gifts and photos sent: even internationally, through the post. It’s a great way to keep in contact and a wonderful way to break up the dread of checking the mail. And rest assured, I keep each and every single gift and card I receive and I genuinely love sending out letters, postcards and presents.

It’s a Pokemon Go Kind of Day

My friends and I tend to be a little competitive. Okay, seriously competitive. And there’s a beautiful challenge and art to competing with friends. We’re all serious Pokemon fans but a few of us: Taylor, Ricky and Carlos are serious Pokemon players. When Pokemon Go debuted, we were all early adopters of the game. We chose our factions. Selected our buddies and now we regularly compete with each other and show off our catches and victories. And the newest update to the game makes the hunt for new Pokemon even more exciting. I did write up a post about here that goes into a little more how Pokemon Go became a huge social stepping point for us.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Sierra would like you all to know that she also plays Pokemon Go and she is a higher level than me as of now.]

Pokemon in General

While we’re on the topic of Pokemon, we are mostly all fanatics so when a new game comes out: we are on it. But what’s even more amazing is how social the game is now. It’s like we’re all on the journey together. We judge the starter choices the others have made. We compare fashion. We train and battle. We share tips. We talk about how differently we play the game. Carlos is a serious perfectionist and wants to complex his Pokedex as quickly as possible. Ricky’s in it to be better than Carlos. I want to catch all the Pokemon that I want. We egg each other on, we strive to beat the league and we do our best to be better trainers and it was a great way to reconnect: especially after I moved from my home in North Texas to San Antonio.

There’s Always Convention

Some of us don’t get together very often. Some of us see each other every holiday. But dammit, there’s always convention. We often get together for con and we’ll either room together or we’ll just decide to meet up. Gendou has plenty of Texas members and convention is a great place to meet and get together. We talk, share amazing stories and make memories. You can read all about that here, here and here.

Super Smash Bros Smack Talk

I mentioned we’re competitive, right? We play a lot of fighting games. Smash Bros. is high on the list but there’s also Street Fighter, Naruto: Clash of Ninja and plenty of others. Online player modes let us fight against each other even if we’re not in the same room. We battle lag and each other sometimes and it proves for some pretty hilarious out of context quotes. 

I’ll Be Home for Festivus

Many of my friends plan to see me during the holidays or when I’m in town for convention. Sometimes my convention schedule is crazy but it’s often true that I will prioritize time with certain friends over even some family obligations. We do our best to see each other during the holidays and that’s usually more than enough time to bond before the next convention or road trip.

Wait, You’re Watching That, too?

Despite us being friends, not all of us have very similar interests. So when we end up watching something similar, it’s cause for an uproar. Whether it’s complaining about RuPaul’s Drag Race or discussing the fact that Harry Potter fans have been wronged by the ship that is Harry and Ginny: common interest binds. However, we may like the same show, we often have different opinions on the matter.

What’s most important is that we plan. We take time out to talk to each other. Carlos and I talk every week and message each other throughout the day. Ricky usually joins us on the weekends. We chat when we have time: during lunches, in between meetings, late at night or early in the morning. We talk while we travel for work, cook dinner and in between time with other friends and significant others. We make time because we care. We make time because we built a family for ourselves around common hobbies, interests and a longing to feel like we were part of something better. I’m in my 20s, so people have come and gone. People who I thought would always mean something to me I can barely remember and the people that I thought would be a passing phase are now central figures in my life. 

My friends mean the world to me; and at the risk of sounding like a shonen anime’s leading male: I want them to know how special they are to me. So thanks for keeping me grounded. Thanks for encouraging me. Thanks for staying up with me while I work on costumes. Editing panel videos. Thanks for holding costume pieces while I go to the bathroom. Thanks for letting me have the last of the pickled daikon. Thank you for cheering me up after a rough day or letting me cry over a fictional character’s dramatic death. Thank you for challenging me over issues both great and small: each one makes me a little stronger. Thank you for encouraging me to try new things but also reassuring me that things will be okay: they always will be. Thanks for all the memes and pictures of cute animals and most of all, thanks for being there.

To many more years of friendship.

 

Thoughts and Meditations on the 15th Anniversary of My Father’s Passing

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This handsome man is my dad, Troy.

My father died when I was 12 years old. I was a little girl and I spent most of my young life dealing with the emotions that come along with  the loss of my father.

That was 15 years ago today.

I like to think I’ve grown up a bit from the apathetic pre-teen who had to put on a brave face at a funeral; so here are some of the thoughts I have on the meditations of grief and what it means to hold the specter of Death at arm’s length for most of your life.

  • There’s no solid way to mention that you lack parents. Especially when it was just my father who had passed, I struggled with being able to articulate that I didn’t exactly do Father’s Day anymore or anything. I’ve gotten better about just being honest and even talk about it here.
  • I do find that especially with my dad, the days do get easier. Time does heal some wounds. It was a long time ago, there have been many more memories made in the time between me having my father and not.
  • But I do still hear a lot that I have several of my father’s mannerisms and traits. We apparently share the same wit, humor and sarcastic attitude. We both have larger than life personalities. We both can apparently light up a room. I think those parts of my father’s legacy I am most proud of. When I can effortlessly feel more connected to him because we aren’t so different.
  • I feel a fair amount of guilt over the fact that my mom and dad are buried in different cemeteries on different sides of town. Mom is buried with her parents and her brother. Dad is buried in another city with his parents and his cousin. I regret they aren’t together and the fact that dad is so far away means I don’t get to visit him as often. That wears on me more than I like to admit sometimes.
  • I’m always surprised by my friends and how supportive they can be. I can tell them anything. I can openly say I’m having a rough day today and without question, they’re willing to do whatever they can to help ease some of my angst. I’m so lucky to have that kind of support in my life.
  • My family is very supportive as well but being my father’s daughter means a great deal of weight on me. They look to me as the effigy. As the legacy and sometimes, I just want to get off the altar and grieve, too.
  • I am entirely enamored by pictures of my father. My aunts have found old photo albums recently and seeing my dad even before I was born warms my heart. On lucid days, I can still remember his voice and I’m always happy to see his face in a photo.
  • I’m very aware of how much I look like my dad and the older I get I look like my mom. That’s a heavy burden in itself. When I was little I was always compared to my father’s mom (my grandma: Annette) who I never got to meet. So we’d visit my dad’s family out in country and all I heard as a little girl was how much I looked like Annette. That’s a heavy burden for a child and even now as a young woman, I still don’t know how to feel about bearing apparently such a strong resemblance to these people who are now practically deified due to death.
  • I’m surprised that I still have so many of my dad’s old CDs and movies. That’s not really good or bad, but interesting.
  • I’m very fascinated by the fact that as I get older I use “father” more than “dad” now. I guess I’m just dramatic or a bad Damien Wayne cosplayer-in-training.
  • I’m also curious as someone who does social media professionally what rights the dead have to those who own their images. I wonder if my dad would be okay with me sharing his pictures. I wonder if my mom would be okay with it. They can’t tell me they don’t consent to having their images online but it vastly helps me and my family cope sometimes sharing images of them online.
  • I’m always troubled when people use “death of the father” as an excuse to rationalize poor behavior in men but especially in women. I watch a lot of crime dramas and a number one “cause” of bad murdering women is apparently having no father. I dislike that argument because: well, what the hell does that mean for me? I’m not a terrible person (well, depends on who you ask). I work hard. I do my best and I happened to lose my father when I was young. So what does that mean for me and the other people I know who grew up without parents? Not to say that losing a parent does not PROFOUNDLY affect how a child grows up and learns how to love, trust and feel secure BUT I certainly hope my destiny isn’t headed towards of a path of a future Law and Order: SVU episode. I was raised admirably by my aunts and they did their best. I certainly hope I am destined for more.
  • There’s a certain sardonic nature my friends and I have about me and my parents. When we go over character quizzes and such no one is ever surprised that I often get sorted as the angsty playboy with no parents. There’s a reason the last two posts like this one were labeled with names like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark: two characters that I empathize and relate to quite a bit.
  • As I get older and in theory start thinking about grandchildren, children and marriage: I’m worried about what narrative of my parents (especially my father) that I’ll tell. My dad died when I was a kid. He was one of the most important parts of my life BUT he was a human man who was in many ways very flawed. So which legacy do I capture? The flawed but compassionate family man who would do anything for his wife and daughter? Or this Christ-like redemptive father who peacefully faded from this Earth after deciding that disease was not the most dignified way to live on this imperfect world?  I hope that I’ll tell the right story. It’s important to those around me and most important to me.

This one isn’t going to be very long and I may work on another one for my mom who faces another anniversary later on this year.

I love you, Dad. I love you now more that you’re not here and that I don’t have the luxury of calling you every day. I miss the person you were. The man you did your best to be and the person you wanted ME to be. I hope I’m doing okay in your eyes.

Rest well, Father.

 

In GIF We Trust

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. Ludwig WittgensteinRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fkeywords%2Flanguage.html.png

I’m pretty hilarious on Twitter. You should probably check it out if you haven’t seen it before (SHAMELESS TWITTER PLUG). And I love just about any place that I get to chat with people and make connections. And despite the wars over how to pronounce the word: the GIF is one of the most mutually understood forms of communication that this fair Internet has created.

And for those of you who get the immense fortune of following me on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me use GIFs to communicate a lot of rather complex emotions. I’m quite the prince of GIFs and have been known to use them pretty expertly.

But when does a GIF mean more than a GIF and is it just a lazy tool or a secretly genius way to communicate things that are at times, difficult to communicate?

Okay, so like, both is the answer, really. Sometimes, yes, it’s because I didn’t have anything clever or witty to say and someone else had already. Sometimes, they’re just cute and have nothing to do with anything and just are cute. And sometimes they fit PERFECTLY into a conversation.

I have a weird relationship with GIFs and shorthand (I’ve written a ton of posts about it) and the GIF is also a strange piece of modern communication. Is it a word? Does it replace a word? Are they universal in meaning or the most subjective?

I do think people are sometimes too rigid with language. People immediately scoff and write off these common uses of language as “not real” or “not important” to which is odd considering how we still have a love/hate relationship with slang. PBS Idea Channel did a great video on the very topic.

In places GIFs are a cheap way to communicate. They’re a great stand-in for lots of words. In other places they’re a wonderfully not so subtle way to convey so many emotions. With a single GIF I can show support, disgust, shock and admiration. They’re also pretty short and it doesn’t take me a long time to find one that fits the situation. I think of GIFs as having the perfect card on stock to send out in a hurry to any friend in a situation. Baby shower? Here, let me get this in the mail. Death in the family? Bless my stars, let me sign this and get it to the postman. (How very Southern of me.) I keep reaction GIFs on standby. Just in case. And I certainly hope that I am more than just my reaction GIF. (Another PBS Idea Channel link here.)

And the state of GIFs? It’s a matter of taste. If you’re okay with language at times taking a backseat: then awesome, GIF away. If you for some reason think that language is strict and must look like one thing: then there’s some Jacques Derrida that I suggest you pick up. And if you want to say that I am somehow less creative or less of a writer for my use of GIFs? Well, hold on, wait a minute.

This comes up a lot. That when you use something that substitutes language, you bastardize it. There are plenty of moments that sometimes there’s no need for words. And most of the time there are words that make sense. And of course there are times when a GIF is not valid. I can’t imagine posting something about losing a loved one or a job and someone responding with a sympathetic GIF in the same way that in those instances, a phone call would barely suffice.

Language is a complex discussion topic and we’ve had fun talking about language this month, haven’t we? This post was short and sweet, just like a Reaction GIF.

If you have a favorite GIF, I’d love to see it! Show it to me on my Twitter!

 

 

A Struggle Between the Sacred and the Profane

“My flaws and imperfections make me perfectly incomplete.” Aisha Mirza.png

Contrary to popular belief: I am not perfect. I have plenty of things that make my normally sunny disposition at times a little less than rosy. Now, if you clicked on this hoping for a manifesto on what makes me terrible: shame on you. If you clicked on this looking for a discussion on the nature of flaws, agency and expertise: then I humbly welcome you and let’s get started.

So as many of you know, I panel. I love being a panelist and I love being able to show that I am an expert in my field and that I adore sharing my knowledge with other people during a panel performance. Now, my panels are sometimes a bit odd. I really get to cut loose when I’m on stage and really have fun. I have a big personality despite my small frame and a voice that doesn’t match the petite princess many assume I am. But in cutting loose, I worry very little about what I have to say. I use slang, expletives, chatspeak and whatever word that comes out of my mouth to best explain my thought at the time. Truthfully, if you’ve even seen me perform the same panel twice: each performance is a little different.

During last A-Kon, on top of the fantastic review that I received I also did get a not so positive one. A viewer was more than put off my by use of casual language and the occasional bad word (oops). The reviewer comments that it “took him entirely” out of the panel that I used common vernacular and even gasp profanity. Now, before you start thinking:

Amanda, are you just mad because SOMEONE didn’t like one of your shows?

Well, yes. But more than that. I was very struck by the choice of words. Took him out of the show because of my use of common speech. And it got me thinking. How am I supposed to speak? What would have satisfied him? What was he expecting? And really, does common language make an artist no longer an artist?

Shakespeare was considered to be lowbrow during his time because of his use of common language. Poe never received a great deal of critical acclaim because of his use of terrifying imagery and rather plain language. And many authors, poets and creators have been put to the side for their use of the language of the common folk. And why is that? Because it makes art attainable. Art and writing has always been a tool to keep those in power in power and those below in the muck and mire of mediocrity. So when revolutionary people took art into their own hands (Oh, you know. Like publishing the Bible in German not Latin) they are often demonized because now EVERYONE could understand and reach and react to the piece.  

I’m a writer. I have been paid for my work. I hold a degree from a top-tier school. I’ve paneled before and my use of language that is common to myself and those around me should not be the thing that absolutely invalidates my ethos. And if it does: again, what did you expect? For me to saunter out onto the stage in full arsenic-filled makeup, corsetted to the gods and speakin’ the King’s?


Now, I’ll take the hit. I should reign in my mouth. I can stand to, at least a little bit. It isn’t ladylike to be profane but the double standard of a woman who uses profanity and a man that uses profanity is a topic for, well, another time. This whole audit of panels and panel videos (that don’t go up for a reason you’ll find out soon) in prep for a new round of panel creation and applications. I do swear, probably more than I should. And I was very taken aback by my own loose nature with language upon listening to my videos, and truthfully, a little ashamed. I’m disappointed that I get so comfortable with my audience that I do not always try to impress them by finding a different word to use than “damn”. But that doesn’t stop me from putting on a good show and it doesn’t seem to bother any of the other literal hundreds of people that have seen me perform.

And I’ve struggled with that in other places as well. The chatroom I moderate for has a very strict no chatspeak policy and despite how I feel about the rule, I do think it’s an odd paradox. Sure, I’m a writer and sure, I can use more elaborate constructs of language but sometimes there’s no better response to something that LOL. We’ve added those things to our language. They are our cultural artifacts that I’m sure will be judged by future humans and future civilizations. But hey, remember that time that people actively shunned television because they assumed they’d ruin books? Also remember the time that people actively shunned books but they didn’t want humans imagining things that weren’t real and happening before them?

So let’s just remember that an expert by any other word is an expert. And really, if my occasional swear word and use of shorthand is the most egregious thing you’ve witnessed me do or say; then I guess I’m doing a hell of a good job.