My Curve

My tagline should become “it’s been a while.”

I find so many ways of saying the same thing. It’s been a hard couple of months. Sometimes, it feels like it’s been a thousand years, though I have also read some writers stating that this period in our history is an eternal present: an in-held breath that keeps going until, inevitably, there will be a release of some kind.

In my personal life, I’ve been having something of the same process. March 13 was the last time I’d been downtown. I knew about the pandemic and the quarantine on March 11, but a few days later I went back to my parents’ place, and knew I would be going into hermit-mode again.

I had few illusions about that. I knew it would be more than two or three weeks of quarantine. It was hard in the beginning as I had been going out more. For the first week, I didn’t go outside at all: not even for a walk. I had this plan that I would not go outside at all until all of this was over, or even past it. I’ve gone long stretches of time without going out of my house or wherever I was living, and I thought to go back to it. I lasted over a week like that, before it got too much.

After that, was a string of misfortunes. The end of a relationship, and the death of a pet. Even then, I felt like I was accepting that something was changing, that I was at a shift — or we were at a shift — that once it was done we would never be the same again. And just when I felt like I was beginning to be free, to shed that past dead weight, everything else went side-ways, as a friend of mine used to say.

When Kaarina passed away, I was in this twilight place. I’d known beforehand, as I already wrote about I’m sure, but I was going to bed at seven or eight in the morning. I wasn’t sleeping. I was talking on the phone, or online in an almost drunken manner. Sometimes I could focus, and other times I was out in my own world. It was just these glittering pieces in the dark, metaphorically speaking. I felt both detached, and angry, drifting, and sad. I kept a list in my head of things I wanted to do, or say to people, before the pandemic and I fulfilled them slowly over that time as I began to become more stable again.

I talked with my therapist on the phone, something I should continue to do. My friends have been going through their own losses as well. It’s like the darkest, suckiest stuff that was waiting to happen before the pandemic decided since things were already bad they’d might as well all come out to play.

During this time, I wrote some stuff about Kaarina, did some roleplays with my friends that still can online, and not much else. I marathoned Freeform’s Sirens for a while, and then continued watching Motherland: Fort Salem. I know that for a while, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, especially in the beginning month of all this — suffocation and being terrified of getting sick. Sometimes, I still cycle through that, and there might be some medical issues I will have to deal with that aren’t related to the plague.

I don’t know when it happened exactly. Once the suffocation, the anxiety, the despair, the empty feeling, the frenzied feeling, all wore off it began to level out. To meet a curve if you want to borrow a popular phase now.

One day, I found out Joe Bob Briggs’ and Shudder’s The Last Drive-In was coming back. I’d missed the last season, as that had been another year of turmoil. I did catch one part where one of the Halloween films was being played, and I had created a theory on Twitter that Dr. Loomis had experimented on Michael Myers already altered physiology and psychology, and that was the reason he wanted to kill him so badly. It never get quoted on the show, but I had fun that night. I’d heard of Joe Bob from James Rolfe’s Cinemassacre channel ages before, and I had to check it out. Also, Diana Prince — who plays Darcy the Mailgirl — was someone I’d started interacting with on Twitter and Instagram along with other fans from time to time.

My usual D&D game days are cancelled for the foreseeable future, and I am obviously not breaking quarantine. I decided to experiment and watch an entire run of The Last Drive-In. I liked the format of the first episode in Season One, with the film Tourist Trap with a telekinetic who likes to create wax beings, and I wanted to see what a live marathon would be like while live-Tweeting.

It was hard. I didn’t pace myself, and there were no commercial breaks. I admit that while I had fun that first episode, the five hours locked my body down, and I didn’t feel well. I considered just seeing one part of the episode next time, and looking at the rest when recorded on Shudder. But then, the next week came and after having most of my food, and some commercial breaks, as well as knowing when take some of my own, I did much better. I absolutely loved Maniac with those creepy mannequins, and it was the first time I’d seen Heathers: and I adored it.

This past week, there was Brain Damage and Deep Red as well, the former I surprisingly enjoyed and make a few good one-liners on Twitter. Deep Red was harder to follow, and I tried to make sense of it, and … maybe one day I might. I really liked interacting with the other fans on Twitter, and just the feeling of watching something, some ridiculous, sometimes awesome films with people while listening to Joe Bob’s anecdotes and facts. I don’t agree with everything Joe Bob says, and certainly I know that I loved A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night more than he seemed to in the earlier seasons — though I do have a weakness to towards “art-films” — but I can appreciate what he brings to the show.

I just, for a few moments, not only did I recapture what it was like to watch strange films, horror movies, with friends, but to have it at a fixed point, to come to that time and actually accomplish it. I know the show is on from 9 pm to 2 am on Friday evenings, and I attend them and get through it, and even interact. It’s a combination of observation, entertainment, writing, and socializing with a good meal. And it helps. It helps to feel that sense of accomplishment in doing that, and that sense of positive reinforcement.

And, whenever I watch The Last Drive-In, or any horror films, I feel like I am watching them with Kaarina: for the two of us. We used to go to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival together, and then watch Twilight Zone before bed. And I curated a whole Shudder account for her when she was in a medically-induced coma in hopes of presenting it to her when she woke up from that surgery. I think it even still exists somewhere on Shudder. I also felt like, for a moment, that I was watching horror movies with my friends again after almost two decades.

It must sound strange, to want to watch things for someone who can’t anymore, but I take comfort wherever I can, and I won’t knock this.

It’s been around this point that I began writing again. I was already feeling the need to return back to the work I began about a year ago, before real life came in. I was so busy going out and socializing that a lot of it fell to the way side to gather dust. And then, the pandemic and all these personal losses accrued. I think it also helps that I don’t feel the pressure of not having a job or still living at home, as I know many people are facing similar situations due to the current crisis. Surprisingly, I’m less hard on myself: even though I still need to sleep properly.

I feel like I could spend more time writing and reading and watching films than interacting with people as much now, but I know there are people in my life that check in on me. I’m definitely not the same as I was before March, and I know I won’t be after all of this is over or at least stabilized. I learned a lot about other people during this time. And about myself.

Right now, I am writing fanfiction but I am thinking about going back to a possible collaboration idea, and that Lovecraft work of mine. I know this seemingly limitless time is an illusion. It will end, one way or another. Life likes to change. I am going to just do the best I can, and I feel like I want to do it again.

It’s late now, for a change. I want to write down one or two more things before this night is out. I don’t know how I will deal with things when they open up again outside, but I can’t really think about that right now. All I can do is enjoy what I have now. That is all I can do.

I’m glad that you can all join me on this venture. I might add another entry after this one. It’s been a while since I’ve done something like that. Until then, my friends.

Time

Not too long ago, an acquaintance of mine, Brandy Dawley wrote something about her inner critic and what it looks like, how it acts, and what it represents in a Medium article called On Creative Paralysis, Feeling Naked Online, And My Inner Critic Whose Name is Chad. I wasn’t originally going to write this, at least not today or tonight. I’ve been very depressed lately, especially with regards to my creative writing. And I’m just going to tell you all now that my inner critic, my judge, my arbiter-out-of-control doesn’t have a gender, or an interesting aesthetic, or is even all that interesting.

My judge is Time.

What can I tell you about Time that you don’t already know? I’m not talking about kindly old Grandfather Time, or even Fotamecus: a chaos magick sigil turned into a servitor, Egregore or complex thought-form, and eventually new god of time, if you want to learn something more obscure. No, I’m talking about the old man with the scythe. I’m talking about Cronus or Chronos who castrated his own father, and ate his children out of fear. But not even that. Think of this grey cloaked figure with a scythe, or maybe more of an impulse that tells you that it is bigger than it really is, while also greatly under-exaggerating the size of its heart: which is, like a singularity, a large implosion with a very small, dense, pitiless centre.

Time is capricious. It likes to tell me that I have plenty of it, sometimes, or that I have all of its attention. It can lull me into a false sense of confidence, or complacency. Time waits as it encourages me to procrastinate, or bears down on my chest and stomach, on my esophagus, and ticks away on the corner of a YouTube video I’m watching to calm down and clear my head. And all that time, it keeps score. It writes down, much in the way that I’m not, everything I’m doing except for what it thinks I should be doing: what it alternatively whispers and shouts at me what I should be doing.

Sometimes Time likes to get fresh. It likes to throw something in my face and yell “Surprise! Deal with it! This is your only chance, but no pressure!” It gets relentless and manic: jabbing, kicking, and screaming at me about how I need to do this thing now Now NOW NOW NOW but it won’t always tell me what I am supposed to do, or how I should do it. And when I ask it why, it mostly answers in the negative. It tells me that if I don’t do this, I will suffer, I will remain in stasis, or I will rot from the inside like the spoiled creature that it claims and makes me feel that I am.

I’m not even talking about when Time decides to take me on a trip down memory lane. It’s like the TARDIS from Hell. It likes to show me everything I was, and what I’m not anymore. It likes to show me what I could have done instead, but no backsies. It likes to show me what I could have been, but how I will never have those chances because of my own ineptness: my own sense of paralysis.  It explains to me, in immense detail, how it will stretch out and test all of my friendships and relationships — all of my connections with them — and slowly, and carefully fray the emotions around them over time until I feel detached and disassociated from everyone. It tells me not to trust anyone or anything: how one day, they will all leave me, or I will leave them first.

And then, it takes me into the future. It takes me to a place where it confirms the worst of my fears. Time tells me that I wasted my life. It tells me that I am a loser for living at home after having worked and had scholarships at university. And then, Time likes to be cruel. It enjoys offering me opportunities, waving them in my face, and then right at the last second in an inverse of “no backsies” go “just kidding” and kick me right back into the metaphorical gutter that it took me from: sort of a reversal of fortune writ petty, and small, and banal.

Time likes to play “The Pit and the Pendulum” below me and over my head. It likes to wear me down and remind me of every stupid thing I’ve done, and how no matter what I have done since I will always be that whiny self-entitled child that doesn’t deserve a single thing he gets. It tells me that I’m useless. It says I’m too old, or that I’m getting too old to make anything that will turn my life around.

Time tells me that I am unkempt and that everything is shallow anyway. It tells me I am not nearly as clever or as smart as I think I am. It reminds me of the children that taunted me as a child because I talked too slow, or because I fidget and rock back and forth. It said that I used to be good at “passing” as “normal” but I’ve lost that ability. It says that nothing I do, no creation of mine I create, and no relationship I seek or make matters. Nothing I do will matter. Sometimes, when it is really cruel, it likes to remind me of how good things used to be and how horrible they’ve become now: how I made them that way. It tells me I’ve imprisoned myself, locked myself away, made myself think I am weak and pathetic and rubs my delusions of grandeur — of working hard to excel and be someone — right back in my face like shit.

Then it tells me my only future is around people who I will never relate to, and that I will be alone.

In this way, this version of Time as my inner critic and judge is like Chronos: like him it cuts away the good memories of the past by making me think I’ve learned nothing from it, and it eats my children by paralyzing me, and telling me that I will accomplish nothing but thwarted, angry, bitter dreams.

And Time has been louder these days. Like I said, it wears you down. You defy it over and again like screaming at a brick wall. But you get tired. You get drained. I’ve worked for so long for very little money. I know I should send out pitches or stories, but I don’t feel motivated to do them: as negative motivation from Time is a terrible reason to want to do anything worth while. I don’t even know where to go. But that isn’t true. I have a comics script I never finished because of procrastination and Time telling me it’s too late, and reminding me about my inadequacies. I have a Toronto Comics Anthology I could submit pitches to, but again too much Time has passed and I don’t feel the same way about Toronto as I used to: making it belong to another life. I’ve had talks I’ve put aside because of the fear that something will be over, even though it may well already be, or because I just let it go for too long. It mocks me about how my fanfiction is useless because I will never get paid and there is no reason to do it. It looks at my articles and tells me I am wasting my time reiterating matter I didn’t even create. And it tells me not to get close to anyone because I will end up losing track of the emotions, and by the time they lurch in me full stop they will be long gone.

My judge has the power to freeze itself, to slowly make me watch things change and do nothing to stop them. But it isn’t linear. My critic is definitely cyclical: as circular as this entire post has probably become.

A long time ago, someone I loved wrote a poem before she ever met me. It was called “Where Time Goes to Die.” And sometimes, when Time tells me I should have died in the Summer of 2008 when I was happy and I thought my life was just beginning and everyone was still with me, I wish it would just die. I wish Time would die and I would forever avoid that place where it perished.

Then I would finally be free.

But that’s not what’s going to happen.

What will happen, I think, is this. You see, my inner critic has a weakness. It doesn’t always realize this, but it’s there. Like I said, it likes to pretend to be bigger than it actually is. But what it doesn’t realize is that sometimes I can cut it up into little chunks. Into little bits. Sometimes, I can takes parts of it as well. Sometimes I eat it just like it tries to eat my creations. I take them, these pieces of my judge, jury, and executioner. I eat them one by one with my fork like the pieces of breaded cutlet I sometimes microwave at night.

Then I have dialogues with the parts of myself that Time thinks it has taken away from, or locked away from each other. We exchange notes. Sometimes we wear masks to hide from it. This becomes dialogue. Dialogue becomes interactions and the formation of scenes and descriptions. Sometimes I steal bits of Time when it doesn’t think I can even get out of bed. I take it and read something like Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles: which makes me remember my comics script and dialogue and wondering what might happen if I write just the dialogue of what I want to say and fill in the description later from I have already done.

My past selves talk with each other, to me, on the grapevine that the scythe can never really serrate that well. Then I recall the opportunities. I look at what I have done before and I wonder if I can adapt it into something else. Or I take some space and think of something I haven’t done before.

And then when Time wants to implode like powerful gravity, I just let it. Sometimes I just let it weigh me down and I don’t fight it. I feel it. I remember it. I remember this Spirit of Gravity and I think about its power, coming from a black hole and string theory, and if blackholes are wormholes and if I can harness the power of Wormhole Technology to do something completely ad hoc.

So I work through it. I do the little things that Time doesn’t think are all that important or worth its notice except to make delicate, beautiful, egg-shell bombs. But eventually, one day Time will reach too far. It will offer me something that I can grab back. It will step onto one of its deadly little Easter eggs. I will have more friends. More allies. People talk about Time. I’ve already talked about Time here and what it likes to do. Some people might not like that very much. Some people might not like that at all.

I will take Time’s regrets and uncertainties and create a world out of them of my design. I will take my pain and I will write with it. I will create new life. And then, one day, when I send in more pitches, and better more defined works of which I will have enthusiasm, and I sleep better, and eat well, and people will talk about my name to other people and places all across its surface, I will make the that place. I will create that space. I will make the site of the area of the grave of the ground where Time — my Time — goes to die.

And I will point and laugh. And I will be utterly satisfied.

I’m Doing It: Towards the Final Week

And now: for Too Much Information Time. If you do not want Too Much Information Time, please stop reading this post. As I’ve said before, there are a plenty of good and viable articles and writings of mine that you can read instead. But if you do go on, know that these are challenges that I am dealing with and, at the very least, there is some positive problem-solving involved. That said, reader’s discretion — as always — is advised. 

I’ve never really been good with time. Not too long ago, I said that it’s an inescapable fact that projects are monsters that can get away from you but really, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves here, it’s time that’s the greatest monster of them all.

Usually, I’ve been able to update my Blog on Mondays and be able to focus on other things throughout the week. But last week, and a good portion of this one have been … something else I have to say. It’s true that I haven’t really kept you up to date about my fourth and, now practically, the fifth weeks of my time in LDEEP: an Ontario government-sponsored program that helps people with learning disabilities find meaningful employment.

One reason I’d been stuck on saying anything is because I reached a … curve, as it were. A lot of the syllabus that we follow is generic government-mandated material: mainly filling out questionnaires to determine our technical and intellectual skills, resume building, possible interview scenarios, and even cold-calling. We also had sessions on computers to look for jobs.

In the beginning, I could understand the questionnaires: as it would help the workers know us a bit more and eventually aid them in getting us the right placements. But after a while, I started feel a bit … restless. It probably doesn’t help that before I get a ride to the centre, I have to use the washroom three or four times before getting paranoid about being stuck in traffic for far too long. Irritable bowel is manageable when you are not facing a lot of stress. I don’t dare eat anything before I leave for that similar reason: even though it doesn’t seem to make much difference and, in fact, it might actually improve my condition.

I don’t mention this a lot, but especially before I even came to LDEEP I developed this feeling that anything outside my immediate vicinity is ultimately unsafe and I have to be on guard all the time. I can’t relax. I need to know where the facilities are and I need to have the freedom to move around and have access to them. If you have seen Toronto, this is easier said than done in a commuter city where public restrooms are few and far between.

It was … bad the first two weeks of the program as my body was adjusting to waking up earlier again and figuring out what the hell was going on. Actually, it feels like hell: a hell of discomfort and anger I have to work through and I am relieved to get around when I finally get to the centre thanks to my dad. But in the beginning I was all right because I insisted on doing work when I got there, despite some of my experiences before that, and I left — with the work there — and with a sense of accomplishment. I did what I needed to do despite my body and the panic attacks. I put them in their place.

By the end of the three week of the program and through the middle of the fifth, I started to have other doubts. One key issue, when you are dealing with learning disabled or gifted students, is that you can never make an educational program that is one size fits all. It’s just not possible. It’s even less possible when you have a results-driven mandate that you need to keep up in order to keep going.

I’m not going to lie. There have been a lot of interesting elements of the program that I’ve filed away out of curiosity’s sake, but I’ve felt that a lot of it just doesn’t apply to me. The fact is, I know what I want. I am a writer. I knew I would need to do some tasks for LDEEP, but I thought that we could take what I was good at, focus on what I was missing or what needed improvement, and have some more one-on-one sessions to get me there: complete with more networking to make employment for me possible.

I’ve said before that I also had to get used to interacting with a group again, and that hasn’t been so bad. I’ve made some really nice connections and the people there — including the workers — are good people just trying to find their way and help each other out. Some of us have gone through a lot. When you get beaten down so many times, you can begin to internalize it. But everyone in my program wants to get past that and get the employment they deserve.

But there have been times, particularly when left to our own devices on assignments I didn’t really understand or felt applied to me that I got frustrated. I will admit that there were a few times I was even tempted to leave.

I’m used to having things a certain way. I’m used to being able to eat breakfast at home and deal with my functions before interacting with people. Especially due to my past as a Master’s student, I’ve gotten used to being independent, leaving at my own pace, and learning the things that interest me. And I am a published writer. I have not forgotten any of this. Sometimes I’ve honestly felt like in pursuing this, I’d taken one step forward and three steps back in terms of my own independence: getting a ride to the centre, needing to get a lunch before hand instead of finding something on the way, and even dealing with different kinds of people and situations.

It also doesn’t help when I have to fight a burning feeling in my gut and not feeling safe until I’m out of traffic and near facilities — kind of like how you’d feel if you were playing a video game and Save Points were few and far between on your journey — just to do something that I don’t always feel applies to me, or get left doing something that Ontario Works had me do without much in the way of success.

I know what I want and what I need. And I did ask myself: “Why am I here? Why am I putting myself through all of this? What am I hoping to achieve?”

On Wednesday, the leader of our program called me into his office. Somehow, I knew he would, and not for any terrible reason.  We get along very well and I enjoy talking with him. But he does get busy. LDEEP itself is very busy and he and the other workers attempt to help as many of us as they can.

We had a long talk that can be summarized like this: he has to find me a job and it has been difficult. But I threw out a few ideas and he is going to help me out with them. One of them is a business plan: which will have roots with some of the things I’d been attempting to do for the past three years. It also helps now that, because of LDEEP, I know what my potential net worth — my salary — actually should be. I’m going to be consulting and editing someone else’s work and using the above, along with some of the program leader’s input, as potential templates.

There is also something else I could do in addition to this that might get some pressure off my back and advance my connections and knowledge further. I know that I am going to have to do some hard work no matter what I choose, but at the very least I can choose what work that will be.

And that’s what it is about for me. Personal agency. The fact is — another fact is — I’ve realized how far I have come. LDEEP’s nine to three schedule makes me keep daylight hours and I actually feel a lot better than I have in years aside from the morning departures. My headaches are more manageable when they happen and I actually go to sleep at midnight now.

It has also gotten to the point where, when I come in to the centre, I socialize and work with my peers and this, along with some directed activities, actually makes me feel better as I can focus on a task at hand: or, really, enjoy a conversation. We are all different in this program, and there is a lot we’ve learned about each other.

I also know what I am going to do now. I’ve realized that I can go to the workers and tell them about my concerns: that I don’t have to do all of this on my own. They are there to help us and I need to remember to do that. I might need some time in the morning and that shouldn’t be an issue. I might need clarification about a task.

And, even better, they might have some suggestions for me. Next week will be our final session. We will have assignments to do, but I have my own assignment now that I can begin to focus on starting Monday. I also feel a growing sense of relief. After next week, I can finally pace my own time again. I will still be going to the centre and interacting with the workers and my peers, but I won’t have to be there as stringently as before. I know my stressors and I can pace myself accordingly.

And look at how far I’ve gotten from where I was. On my Facebook today, I wrote something for my status. I said that I’m starting to feel like my life has just begun.

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So, if you have read this far, here is your reward. As you’ve seen from the article image, I got my copy of Doctors in Hell: an appropriate title when all things are considered. So here is an excerpt below, just for you. I just got the hard copy today.

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Perhaps, when you get right down to it, it’s not so much that I’m trying to get my life back. Rather, I’m beginning to realize that I have the potential to make a whole new life entirely. And that, my friends, is a very important feeling. I think I will leave you with that for now. Until next time soon.

It’s Been One of Those Weeks, But I Still Live

This is the entry that I should have been working on last night.

Wow, doesn’t that just feel like history repeating itself. To be fair, I actually should have written this weeks ago. And I did. At least, I tried.

When I last left off (this is the point where Marvel would have a footnote under one of my sentences, referring to my previous “issue” of Mythic Bios), I went on vacation for the weekend. I’d just come from finishing off my interview with Will Brooker and creating some press for Poets in Hell: where I have a short story published.

It was a nice trip. There was good food, a cabin, a forest to explore, a river and some really nice company. After so much time in front of a computer, I found myself staring into a great bonfire right in front of me. As the warmth of flames replaced the cold glow of the screen on my face, grateful to be away from my parents’ place for a while and all the other distractions, I began to become aware of something.

It’s as though I keep forgetting it. When you spend a lot of time by yourself, for extended periods, you begin to forget things. I mean, even in the days when I went out more often, I was shy and introverted regardless. I get very quiet and overwhelmed by a large group of people: even people I know. But after I moved to Thornhill, this became even more pronounced. Most of the time I was camping, I mostly talked with a few people about very specialized geeky things and, well, that was about it.

That’s generally about it. You see, I like the things that I like and when I’m nervous or feeling awkward I either “talk shop” or I don’t really talk at all. I’m not really one for small talk and I don’t really talk much about other parts of my life under most circumstances. But, even though I didn’t do any archery, or golf, or even sing karaoke, I did have fun. I even had some really cool discussions with some people towards the end of the second night after a massive rainstorm came down on us all.

After that, I actually found myself used to being around people again. One other thing I’ve noticed about being by yourself a lot is that you forget how to talk with people or even relate to them. So after that weekend, I actually wanted to be around people again. I had these thoughts about going out and hanging out with some friends: even working outside of my house and exploring again.

I’m not quite sure what happened, to be honest. I genuinely meant to do all of these things. Then I had some projects I wanted to work on before dealing with anything else. I thought I could get those out of the way and then do what I needed to do. Of course, none of these went as planned and I am still working on them. I was enthusiastic and as clear-minded about these projects and goals as I could be but I began to get bogged down in a slow, creeping sort of fashion.

I took on some tasks and obligations as well. And then, one day, some people from the city were fixing our side walk and destroyed our cable. It took over a day for them to replace it and even now it’s only a three month temporary one.

Now, this might not sound like a very big deal. I mean, most people would take that as a sign to relax and do something else. But I’d already gotten used to my rhythms back here. The fact is, I had no where really to go in Toronto. Not really. And a lot of my work is dependent on the Internet: personal projects and otherwise. But what is worse, for me, is that somewhere over time a lot of my even more personal relationships have become dependent on the Internet. And when my Internet is not working, I am cut off from a majority of my long-distance friends and loved ones.

I get very angry when someone meddles with the Internet primarily because of the fact that if something happens to it — and cable companies that are near-monopolies have no reason to really expedite or even take the time to fix something properly without endless hassle — my means of communicating some of the few people that keep me sane is gone.

When I spent over a day without the Internet at my own house, I became aware of just how … alone I was.

After that, when it was fixed, I just continued doing what I was doing. But I also noticed I wasn’t really going outside as often anymore. I was staying up late again. And I found I had nothing really to say on Mythic Bios. My mind began to become clouded and murky. I was avoiding people, even people visiting, because I already felt I had work to do that, conversely, I felt I wasn’t doing fast enough.

It even got to the point where communicating with people online became very disassociative. I suppose the signs were an extreme need for perfectionism leading the way to a lack of concentration and then, lately, a sense of frustration and anger. Sometimes, to make a Vampire: The Masquerade reference, I’m like an Antediluvian — an ancient and vampire — waking up from torpor and going into a blood-thirsty rage at existence. Or something suitably melodramatic.  Sometimes anger is easier to feel — to actually feel active and present — than detachment.

But why shouldn’t I just go out? Why not just meet people outside or go to Toronto regardless? The truth is, there are few people I can meet in Toronto. Some others have already moved on with their lives or have their own difficulties to deal with. And I’ve had some bad experiences downtown and I feel very reluctant to open myself that way again. With a very apt, and now unfortunately timely, moment of insight Robin Williams once said something to the effect that the only thing worse than being alone is other people making you feel like you are alone.

So this past while, struggling to write, I’ve been mostly watching interactions. It’s felt easier in a lot of ways: just as corresponding with people over the Internet is still easier for me as I can, usually, express myself well through the written word instead of with the awkward chagrin of dealing with people “out of my element.”

At one point an acquaintance of mine made a joke that I was “better than the rest of them.” Now, when I was out more people did tell me that I have this mien of aloofness. But let me just state that I hope it goes without saying that despite my manner, the way I write and my “big words” that I don’t think I’m better than anyone.

Trust me, I know I’m not.

So, where does this leave us now? Well, I definitely knew my depression was getting stronger when I stopped writing Mythic Bios for a while. I will try to keep up this Blog and there are some other things I’ve wanted to write on here for quite some time. But at the same time I do actually need to do some writing.

I’m also still going to therapy. And my budgie is a source of ridiculous entertainment. I have other plans to actually meet some people as well as some tasks that I still need to fulfill. I think I’ve said everything I’ve needed to in this post. Sometimes, as my friend Fairytaleepidemic once mentioned to me about a year ago now, I wish I had a group of friends that I could just meet and marathon StarGate SG-1, Dr. Who, and other shows and films with — hell, even those bloody Clone Wars cartoons — just to be able to go to someone’s house and have that kind of contact and presence of like geek minds.

Who knows. Maybe it will happen again one day. That all depends on others. And myself.

Also, budgies.

That is all.

My Depression is a Ginosaji

It was Winston Churchill that called depression his black dog. I never thought of actually personifying or embodying my depression into its own form before. I suppose I’m really talking about the subject of depression due to my absence away from Mythic Bios and having thought about the matter at some length.

But there are different kinds and variations of depression depending on the situation or the person. So, after really thinking about it and with Gaming Pixie’s unintentional helpfulness in the matter in attempting to get me back for sending her a disturbing video, I give to you my loyal readers what my depression would look like.

Yes, my depression would be Richard Gale‘s Ginosaji.

A Ginosaji (which apparently means “silver spoon” in Japanese) seems to be this grotesque, dark, awkward, lurking, creeping thing that beats you with a spoon. Eventually. At first, it’s the little details that simply irk you. And you try to ignore it, or dismiss it. But then the spoon beatings keep increasing and they never stop. You can’t power through it. You can’t kill it. You can’t ever completely blow it up. You can’t become it.

You don’t know why it is even there. And just as a shovel can slowly erode a mountain given time, so can a spoon beating begin to bruise and wear you down. And it is so ridiculous. It offends your pride. It is laughable that something like this can challenge your sense of self-worth and peace of mind. It embodies all the little things that shouldn’t bring you down: the bureaucracies of the world, getting your passport, preparing your trips, even responding to potential incentives … All of these things are just one ridiculous, banal spoon blow at a time.

And when you apply this to sufferers of chronic illness, the symbol of the spoon gains a whole other kind of connotation: the irony being that while you run out of spoons, the depression always seems to get them all.

But, unlike the main protagonist of the above short film, I have my methods of dealing with this particular demon. I can at least laugh about it. Sometimes. I suppose that is the function of the Ginosaji: a ludicrous symbol of the humour in, and the parody of, human suffering and existence.

That, or he is just a douchey demon with one too many spoons.

What? Did you think I could honestly resist another reference?

This Little Party is Just Beginning

It’s been two weeks now since I posted anything on here.

Really, my post before this would could have had a few other alternative titles: you know, like “Fed Up,” or “Exhausted,” or something more responsible along the lines of “I Love You All, But I Need To Take a Fucking Break.”

So let me tell you what I’ve been doing since I last wrote here, and what I plan to do.

The very day I wrote that last post, I went to my friend Noah’s birthday dinner and then hung out with him and my friends at a Tim Horton’s: including my friend Andrew whom I haven’t talked with in ages. We just talked about geeky stuff and nothing more strenuous than that. That was about the last time I have seen my friends so far, but it reminded me that I needed to get more time out that I have, well, honestly been getting.

I’m can’t remember a lot of what I did after that. I kept meaning to write something here and I just … didn’t. I even started to get ideas again and have them become more coherent in my brain. I bought the second issue of The Sandman Overture, and then the book Darth Plagueis: the last of which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

And during this time I knew that I had a few ideas for more Sequart and Mythic Bios articles. I want to look at Gwendolyn MacEwen again, at an interesting form of comics, at a Batman fanfic comic and the second volume of the new Sandman. The material is all there. I’ve contemplated writing about women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but figured it had already been done before and didn’t include it here: though some of that did make its way into an article on Sansa Stark on GeekPr0n. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also thought about eventually making that article on Anakin Skywalker and how as a classic science-fiction swashbuckler hero he is at a severe disadvantage merely existing in the extreme black and white Force-powerful Star Wars universe. I have also been meaning to write something for my friend Anthony with regards to his second novel Beloved Demons.

And, of course, after one playthrough so far I also want to look at Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. It’s fitting I guess, when you consider that this past while I’ve been depressed.

Me and my Head

At first it was all exhaustion, but then I started to get perfectionist and disillusioned and side-tracked with procrastinating. Also, I began to feel concerned that I would get restless and feel empty again: having no sense of accomplishment writing at least two hundred words a day.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been maintaining my one post a week on GeekPr0n, as it is my job but also something I like to represent my skills well in doing, but it’d been a lot of white noise in the back of my head. Of course, that white noise is ultimately a lot of ideas that lack a structure or starting point that threatened to drive me crazy.

But now here we are. I’m writing something on here again. And now, we come to the next part of this post.

I took one proactive measure that I’m proud of. A few days ago I went downtown and made good on my Day Pass to Bento Miso: a collaborative workspace and community. Game makers utilize the space considerably, but there are a whole variety of different people that go there to work on their own projects, network, and attend particular events. I must have the strangest luck in the world in that the few times I’ve visited outside of the Bit Bazaar events, I’ve always come when most of Bento Miso’s members are at conventions.

The fact of the matter is that, as I have said before, I do need a space away from home to work, but not just on anything. There are some other projects I’ve been meaning to focus on and I have not had time or the concentration to do so. And I just need something new. So I decided to join Bento Miso as a cohort. 🙂

I remember that night, walking down Queen Street from Strachan, thinking to myself that the street didn’t feel nearly so old anymore or filled with ghosts. In the spring time, looking at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and walking down the street to take a streetcar to the subway, it felt like it was new again. I mean, here I was outside going downtown on some adventures and a new quest.

I think what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a while I felt more like me again: no longer hiding and starting that process of making new opportunities and perhaps even connections. Who knows, right?

And I do have plans. I’ve thought long and hard about why my Patreon account hasn’t been followed or supported. And I realized that my work right now, on Mythic Bios, is good but scattered over a variety of different subject matters: all of them geeky, but not always specific or focused. This was always ever meant to be a supplement to the main writing that I planned to do.

Kris Straub, before he created Broodhollow, spent much time creating works to get to that place where he could make something akin to an ongoing master project or, if you’d like to get more profound about it, a magnum opus.

So here is what’s going to happen.

I am going to be writing on Mythic Bios once a week now. I simply can’t always write two posts a week like I used to. I need time to work on other projects and details in my life. I will, of course, break my own rules from time to time, but expect a post either Monday or Thursday. I will most likely alternate.

I will still be working at GeekPr0n creating my articles for them as well and with more time, hopefully, I can send some more … unique work Sequart’s way again. But, more importantly, I am going to be creating Patreon-Only content. My plan is to create a serialized work, or series of works, and make it so that those who Support me will be able to see whatever it is I will post there. Anyone can contribute whatever they’d like and we will see what happens from there.

And that is just for starters. I need to make my Patreon more presentable aesthetically and outline what my actual goals are. Right now I just have what I can offer. These are two entirely different things and with something more concrete, I might be in something akin to business.

You can find my Patreon account right here: http://www.patreon.com/mkirshenblatt

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I have a few ideas for some serialized work, mainly fiction, that I think some of you might actually enjoy. In the meantime, this is just the beginning. There are other possibilities as well. And I look forward to seeing where they might go.

I Write on The Black Tunnel Wall

There is a story I read in Rosemary Sullivan’s Shadow Maker. It is a biography of the Canadian, and particularly Torontonian, poet Gwendolyn MacEwen. Towards the end of Gwendolyn’s life she approached a bank for a loan which, unfortunately, she was refused. In a fit of rage she apparently stormed back to her apartment, picked up all the books she had ever written, or ever written in–including those given awards by the Canadian government and literary societies–threw them down on the teller counter, and proclaimed that she made all of these books and that she just wanted her money.

There is, of course, a lot more behind this story such as Gwendolyn’s ultimately fatal alcoholism, the fact that she only had her sporadic university teaching salary and reading profits to live off, the job opportunities she was denied because she never matriculated out of high school, and always having to deal with the stigma of being a female writer and creator and fighting for recognition from the fifties to the late eighties, or even the argument that Canada didn’t value the arts and its poets nearly as much as it should. There is an entire book or two speculating and detailing all of these things.

I am also, obviously, not Gwendolyn MacEwen. I am not an alcoholic, I graduated from a Master’s Program, and I do not claim to have created any works coming anywhere near close to Gwendolyn’s but I have been unemployed for quite some time and, as such, I am on Ontario Works: a Provincial job search form of welfare. I’ve also mentioned that I suffer from situational depression. In retrospect I’ve probably had this for quite some time but it’s only in unemployment and the struggle to keep writing that I came to really call it what it is.

Systems are not perfect: especially bureaucracies. Bureaucracies and many of them do have some really good workers that attempt to help people to the best of their ability, are systems that function in quantitative ways. They want numbers written, blocks marked out, NIL scratched down in key squares: with “concrete evidence” or “statistical proof” of some sort before they will begin to help you. Coming from an academic background myself, I’m unfortunately no stranger to the bureaucracies of academia or even OSAP loans, but it becomes very clear when you leave those places and go into “the working world” that you are in a different place where quantifiable data is given more precedence over quality.

When I first came into Ontario Works, I was presented with a work sheet–a long letter-sized piece of paper–that I had to fill out once a month: to show how many jobs for which I actively searched. They have an initial section where they ask whether you’ve attended classes at school, or gone to a job search seminar, or gotten a job, and if so what are they and such. And then on the other side is the very long lined list of jobs you looked and applied for and, below that, is an additional comments section.

And for all that space and everything I had to fill in, that was it: just one small space for additional comments.

That is the mode of reality that I had to deal with for a very long time. And I won’t lie: it was depressing. It was made all the more frustrating by the fact that I knew this sheet didn’t even exist in the Toronto welfare system: that it had been considered an anachronism and was actually made obsolete. In the program that I had been under, had I not been so depressed and had to move back to Thornhill, I would have actually gotten paid for volunteer work while looking for a job. To go from that model to the one I found myself in was galling and it just rubbed the salt into my wounds even further.

For the work that I do, and make no mistake I do work, the jobs I can apply for with the skills and interests that I have are limited. As someone who is an extreme introvert and has social anxiety issues, along with tension headaches, stomach issues, and learning disabilities with regards to mathematics, retail jobs are not an option for me. I also know that if I work some job I don’t like, I will simply not do well in it because, frankly, I just don’t care.

And then there is the stigma of that to consider. People on welfare often feel like, if they aren’t flat-out told, that they are lazy and that they should accept any old job because, frankly, they are lazy. Thankfully, my counsellors at Ontario Works are not the people who communicate this sentiment and have, with what resources they have, actually tried to talk me through and help me with this.

But then there is that other critic.

I’m not talking about my friends who I, up until now, haven’t even told I’m on welfare, or my family that sometimes wonder what I’m actually doing about this, or all the people–anonymous or otherwise–that have their own opinions on the matter on the Internet. No. I’m talking about me.  I have to catch myself and be careful to remember not to impose what I think the system’s view of me is over who I really am. Because I am often tempted to think that the system, society or what not, views me as that stereotype: a lazy, free-loading unemployed shut-in bum that has done nothing worthwhile with his life while quite a few of his friends have jobs and families and should just “suck it up” (a phrase I find utterly infuriating) and do something that I hate for the greater good.

And then to remember that I was once a student that had very high marks in my classes, the respect of many of my teachers, who was always told that I wrote well and who believed that academia would take care of someone like me from cradle to grave only to have to compare it to my current reality of living at home again, in debt, and in this living situation…

It’s that nice litmus test between anger at the world and anger at myself.

Me and my Head

But one day, something happened. It was around the same time I was doing my best to fill out those worksheets. I realized that I could talk about the things that I was, in fact, doing that didn’t seem to apply to the criteria on the sheet. Of course, there was very little space and my handwriting got cramped and bad as per usual. So I began typing out my additional comments. In fact I made a whole section called Additional Comments.

Over time, and through a succession of workers, my Additional Comments varied but mostly got longer in description. For the past year or so, I have been telling Ontario Works about the conventions I’ve attended, the networking I’ve been doing, the writing I’ve undertaken, and the recommendations and praise that I have received. I have even told them about this very Blog: this Mythic Bios of mine.

Because, unlike the stereotype of the unemployed lazy bum, I have been writing. I have been writing almost every day. I write until it is late at night to the point of there actually being sunlight. I write until I rhyme. Sometimes I can get myself to go out and network with important people: to have them remember my name and know me. I made a whole lot of business cards for that very purpose. I made a Patreon account. I have looked over and edited other people’s works. I have made friendships and relationships during this period.

And even though I have not been paid yet, I must reiterate that I work. Some people clock out for the day. I clock out when my head feels like wool and I can’t concentrate any more. I read, research, write, edit, and attempt to maintain my own schedule. I am not useless. I have made more things than most people can dream of and one day, I hope to profit from all of these endeavours.

And perhaps it’s not that important. Even though my current worker has started calling my Additional Comments my Reports and knows that I am genuinely attempting to earn money from the places where I’m at now and I no longer have to use those worksheets–all now regulated to NIL–due to my disabilities and my therapist’s evaluation of me, perhaps the system doesn’t give a damn about my efforts beyond statistics. Maybe no one cares about anything I do if there are no crisp dollar bills next to my words.

But you see that’s the thing: I care.

Every time my worker sees my Reports, every time my parents glance at them, every time I have the excuse and the medium to write about all the achievements and contacts I’ve garnered it is a victory for me. It is me, to myself, proving that I’m earning my money, that I’m actually doing something and there is meaning in all of it.

It may mean nothing to anyone else. It may not even help me. But it means something to me. When I write these, it is just another way of saying “Look at me world. This is what I’m doing. This is what I’ve done. This is what I’ll be.”

Originally, I wasn’t even going to write about this. I had a review I promised Anthony Martignetti and I had a good Monday when Elfquest retweeted and Shared my article When I Recognized Elfquest. I wanted to talk about welfare and money after it was all over: after my loans were paid off, after no longer needing Ontario Works and beginning to function as an independent force again in my own right. But I am just tired of feeling shame and fear. I just wanted to tell all of you, more or less, what is going on and what all of this means to me. Realistically speaking, I will need help for quite some time and I know there are others out there like me, who fear waking up, who feel that sick pit of dread in their stomach whenever they have to pick up that phone, who despises dealing with bureaucracy and puts it off as long as they can, who have to fight against that feeling of futility, who wishes they had help and who–ultimately–need to read this.

One day, you will not be in this situation any more. You only needed help to get to your next destination and there is no shame in that. All of this will just become another story to tell your friends, your loved ones, and yourself: to remind you of where you were, and how far you have come.

Looking Outward

On August 27, 1987 the mythopoeic creator Gwendolyn MacEwen, who should have been the Poet Laureate of Toronto, if not all of Canada itself, slammed her books down on a counter and said, “I did this. Now give me my money.” I’d like to think that, when she did that, she was really throwing her works against her Black Tunnel Wall: on that last work she never finished and what metaphors it might have represented.

And every month, because I can never forget, I write on my own Black Tunnel Wall, covering it with words, one Report at a time.

amaze.me

Also, this is my Patreon Page. If you have the funds, or the interest, and you want to see what I can really do as a writer, please support me. You can also access it on my About Page. Thank you.

Life and Identity, Eden and Hell: The Twines of a Gaming Pixie

The following will talk about–and accordingly link to–games of a graphic nature: if you will pardon the unintentional pun. Reader’s–and player’s discretion–is advised. Do not say that you have not been warned.

It was around February when I discovered Gaming Pixie. Less than a month before, in January, I finished Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and participated in my first–and so far only–Game Jam. After really hearing more about Twine, I began searching for more information on Anna Anthropy’s works and other Twine games.

I’m not sure how I found Gaming Pixie exactly. Perhaps it was through one of her creative YouTube video game reviews, or I found her Pixie’s Sketch Book before or after. I do remember, however, playing one of her only two Twine games at the time: specifically What’s In a Name? Seeing this really personal Choose Your Own Adventure text game really hit home for me the fact that I wanted to make something similar: something that to this very day along with everything else. Then I played her first Twine game–The Choice–and at the time I stopped playing once I got the good ending. It’s strange that I remember the second game more than the first, but even though I could relate to both of them in some way, I really felt more akin to What’s In a Name? and what I felt that Gaming Pixie was attempting to portray.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. Originally, after getting to know Gaming Pixie more, I was only going to write about her game Eden. However, I know feel compelled–in some way–to trace the development of her game-making, and its content even as both continue to evolve.

As I stated before, Gaming Pixie was best known for her own video game reviews. If you click on the above link, you will see an analytical mind that engages with the mechanics of the games she’s plays: accompanied by a sense of wry bemusement, her personal reactions to the game, how she related to it, and her liking to break the Fourth Wall a lot and interpose herself into the games. She rarely, if ever, indulges in profanity (though there are times it seems as though she is coming close, but instead settles for the tongue-in-cheek), and she has a wide assortment of costumes.

A little girl

But in addition to this past, she is also a talented artist–creating many lush and vital comics and storybook-like illustrations–as well designing a really immaculate website or two. By the time I found her, she had more or less transitioned away from reviews, planning to create some comics, then Flash animations, but ultimately choosing the medium of video games to work in: with Twine as her first tool. She had so far created two games: two very personal games.

The Choice: by Gaming Pixie

Her first Twine game, The Choice, is about suicide. You play from the second-person perspective and, after choosing which way you want to die, a part of you attempts to stop you. And that part of you is tenacious. Let me tell you. When I replayed it recently and made a determined choice to kill myself off, that embodied part of me was relentless in asking me whether or not I was sure I wanted to do this.

And playing The Choice made me also re-examine the perspective I want my games to be from and why. Because, you see, I automatically stated that the game was from my own perspective because of the second-person “you” that the narrative addresses the player from, yet it can also be an attempt to make a player see into the mind or the situation of another person. There is this fine line there. And despite the bleakness in this text-based game, there is hope in it too, and the ornate, story-book illustrative graphics complement it well.

Also, when I was searching through Gaming Pixie’s Sketch Book to get more insight into the game, I also came across a review and link to this really interesting Indie game by Daniel Benmergui called Today I Die: which according to her Sketch Book greatly inspired her to look at the issue of a game being a medium for art and emotional expression. It is a truly brilliant and beautiful game about seizing your life back from depression, and so much more. I wonder if it inspired some of The Choice, but either way I, for one, am really glad that Gaming Pixie’s entry led me there, that I played it and that it gave me a little more insight than I had before.

What's in a Name: by Gaming Pixie

By What’s In a Name? … I think this is where it all begins. While The Choice dealt with a feeling of suicide and either overcoming or giving into it–with an emphasis of the strength of life–this game is about futility. It is that second-person perspective again: except whereas you could argue that the previous game gives you more lee-way in projecting your own identity into the game, this one is very concrete and autobiographical. The character or the perspective is that of a woman who is struggling to understand her bisexual feelings and in a situation where no matter how she reacts to an issue of identity, she always loses: finding herself and her burgeoning sense of self becoming de-legitimized and trapped in a place of pervasive biphobia.

This game must have come at the height or the beginnings of what is called The Twine Revolution, or perhaps there was just a niche that formed there because both Kotaku and The Border House as well as Anna Anthropy made mention of and even reviewed this game. Please look at The Border House’s IF Game of the Day: What’s in a Name? by Gaming Pixie, Patricia Hernandez’s A Game About The Confusion And Difficulties That Come With Being Bisexual and Lana Polansky’s Nameless with regards to how she related to the game’s content for a little more information: but please consider playing the actual game first.

I will admit: when I played that last game I really, really wanted there to be a third option and a “screw you to everyone else because I will live my life the way I want to” ending. The fact is, even though the game was not about me, it touched that place in me, and I’m sure in many of us, where I remember trying to figure things out and having other people and forces tell me what was right: with changes in their treatment towards me if I didn’t comply with their spoken or unspoken views. It is a similar feeling and perhaps, one day, I will go more into it: and you can thank Gaming Pixie–at least in part–for at least reinforcing that possibility.

And then things began to really change. I’d lost track of Gaming Pixie for a while, but by the time I came back I saw that she was working on a much longer and more ambitious Twine. The Twine plot outline chart for Eden is a spider’s web of complex activity for me and I’m amazed that Gaming Pixie could keep track of all of that.

Some Twine source code for Eden. SOME.

[It makes me really think I have my own work cut out for me with my own Twine novel.]

What’s more is that this is the point when her game-making changes. Whereas What’s in a Name? is minimal in terms of graphics and both games are silent, she starts to utilize the royalty-free music of Kevin MacLeod as her soundtrack. In addition, she creates a great many more graphics: lush, colourful, finely lined and utterly beautiful pastel images. One thing I should definitely note here is that she has moved past the short and personal into something larger and far more fictional.

And yet, sexuality and gender play a great role in–and with–Eden. At the beginning of this game, you are asked to choose a name and a gender. You are also asked what your sexual preference is. Unlike The Choice, where you have one or two endings, or What’s in a Name? that is ultimately one ending no matter what you do, Eden has multiple–multiple–endings. It looks at beauty and it examines your morality and just how far you are willing to go to maintain what–and who–you believe in: an element that Soha Kareem, in her Haywire Magazine article Soha Kareem shares four more games made in Twine also points out.

What is even more interesting is that Gaming Pixie has managed to place a lot of randomizing elements into the narrative: so that upon future playthroughs the game and its text do not always react in the same exact way. There is even one ending that happens almost simply by chance.

In a lot of ways, if The Choice is choosing life and What’s in a Name? is a grim coming to terms with one’s identity I feel as though Eden was an answer to What’s in a Name?: that third option that branches out from one persona into so many other choices … so much so that if I had to answer What’s In a Name? as a question, I would reply with Eden. In fact, in one Blog post before she reveals her game, Gaming Pixie goes into further detail on the matter.

Shadow of a Soul

And now, we shift gears from a potential and fragile utopia, into–quite literally–Hell. For Halloween, Gaming Pixie decided to do something different yet again. Shadow of a Soul is a horror game in which you have to make some pretty macabre, and yet strangely erotic, and BDSM-themed choices. It starts off the same way as Eden does: asking what your name is, your gender, and your sexual preference. You can see something of a pattern here: in which your sexuality–particularly bisexuality–has an impact on how you experience both of these text games. However, it is more than that. In addition to an open-ended possibility of a third gender or something beyond binary gender, both games present bisexuality as a valid orientation: and that is a great assertive against the spirits of The Choice and What’s In a Name?

Shadow of a Soul has fewer endings and some of the randomization and knowing how many resources you have can mean all the difference between … being in different states. I will not spoil it further than that except to add that it is very hard to win this game: even when the answer stares you right in the face … or if you choose it: just for the, if you will pardon this pun too, hell of it.

It is fascinating to see someone with clear creativity undergoing the transition point between reviewer and artist, then text game-creator, and now going into the realms of programming beyond Twine. So please keep your eye on Gaming Pixie Games: which you can either click on here to view or find on my Blogroll: because Gaming Pixie can obviously explain her process far better than I can and, trust me fellow Clappers, she is one fairy that you should definitely believe in.

Pixie-art

It Is Never Still and Neither am I

I dream in the green of it.

In fact, I never really left the green that my friend brought me into last weekend during the summer sunshine. She told me before that I seemed disconnected–that I’d been so for a while–and, as a matter of course, we walked through High Park, then to a pub and back to her place. A night or so later, I found myself on a shuttle bus from Eglinton back to Finch after meeting Neil Gaiman. And on that ride, tired and somewhat dehydrated, I had time to think.

I had time to think about a lot of things.

There was a time that I took a night bus from College Street all the way to Finch after spending time at Neutral. At the same time, when I passed Eglinton I would look for the Higher Ground store with its old apartments that my friends used to stay at. Years ago I would come to visit there and sometimes I would stay the night after going down to Queen and the Vatikan from Ossington. The irony–that I would finally understand how we always navigated from there to there years later after they were gone–never escaped me.

The associations spread from there like creeping vines of psychogeography ignoring all perceptions of time and space. I remember walking down Spadina: from College Street to Queen with my friend from Germany and later giving her her first Halloween. I recall walking with another friend through Kensington Market to look at old thrift clothes and makeup.

Of course the Lillian H. Smith Library comes into the fore with its statues of fantastic animals: whose doors we sometimes stopped into. That library becomes a nexus: where a friend introduced it to me for the first time and I waited for another person there to see the Merril Collection for the very first time.

When I follow the track down I remember Neutral and the girl with the Cheshire smile who decided she wanted to dance with me. Further on, down the streetcar path in the night to Dufferin and then Brock Ave where I sometimes spent the night and free-cycled things like abandoned doors. Down the very opposite, away from the Lillian H. Smith Library was Broadview where two awesome ladies used to live and sometimes had parties. And then near College and Clinton was the streetcar line to Euclid Avenue.

Euclid Avenue.

I recall all the streetcar rides to comics conventions like the Paradise at the Ex or some chain of hotels and all the Starbucks and places I used to find myself in when I wandered. But of all these days and all these evenings what really sticks out at me the most of all was the night bus after a Star Wars game with my friends in Richmond Hill taking me back into the city and my walks on the Danforth and Woodbine where I used to live. And Woodbine. Woodbine. Woodbine …

There were the moots and the munches, the parties and the events and just the times when I allowed myself to wander. I’m not sure when that moment was when I changed from a quester into a castellan, or a wanderer into a hermit. And when I was coming back from meeting Neil and wondering if life would any better after reaching one of the things I looked forward to the most, I finally realized that I was in mourning.

I knew I’d been grieving for a while. In my mind I understood that this was what I had been doing and I even told people I knew that this was the state I was in. But it wasn’t until that night that I began to understand that I’d been grieving for a really long time–for all these things that I thought I lost–and I wasn’t dealing with it.

Of course, that’s not entirely true. I was dwelling in it. I didn’t let go of it. And when I moved back to Thornhill away from the city, all I could do was blame myself and scream quietly why. Why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I keep my perception of freedom? Why does loss exist? Why do I have to be so fucking unhappy?

And I understand something now. That boy who made his ridiculous budgie chants, who went out to his first Conventions, who went to Euclid Avenue, who danced with the girl and her beautiful smile at Neutral, who went to Brock Avenue for the night, who stayed above Higher Ground, who helped a friend find Halloween, who played at the Two-Headed Dragon, who lived and still loves at Woodbine, who went to York University and who wandered around at all times of the day and night downtown in various forms is no longer here. I am no longer that boy or that man. I am not that person–or those people–anymore. It’s all so vital and immediate: before time eats through experiences and turns them into memories. And sometimes it sucks. It sucks so bad and I feel that anger come out at that sense of loss.

Me and my Head

But I have to accept that and live accordingly.

I’m … something else now. I’m not new. I still have all of those memories of being all those different variations of people. And I haven’t sorted through it all yet. I don’t think I ever really will. I know I’m not always wise or strong and I tend to repeat the mistakes of the past in different permutations. But I am doing so much now. I feel closer to something: something that I can’t entirely focus on or name. It’s like I am breaking through a barrier partly of my own creation and the other half belonging to the rest of the world. It is a penumbra of pain, loss, regret, rage, guilt, ennui, and rut but also stability and order and “just the way things are.”

And I am tired of feeling like a stagnant, rotting old man with crazy hair. I want to be an active powerful young man with crazy hair instead. I realize I still feel and that it is okay–and more than okay–to have strong feelings: even though and especially because I own them.

I know a lot of this might go over some people’s heads with details that explain little or nothing. But to those of you who know, and you know who you are, even though I’m a changing person I still love you and I will treasure what we had and whatever else we can have again now. I was really very lucky. And I guess I still am.

I guess this is just a really long way of saying that I’m still healing and it is confusing, and uncertain, and sometimes really quite scary. But at the same time, I feel alive and this is my space and my time: or as Gwendolyn MacEwen put it, I’m dreaming “in the green of my time.”

Until another time, my friends and loyal readers.

On the Dangers and Merits of Sequels: Or a Post in Post-Haste

This post is late. Actually, I’ve had to redo this post at least two or three times already in that I had no idea what exactly I wanted to write about. In fact, I wasn’t sure I was even going to write about anything.

It’s been those kinds of days.

Usually I have some posts in reserve–as I’ve probably mentioned before–or I get one done the very day of Monday or Thursday. In fact, I think some of the few times I’ve been late with an entry have been on special occasions such as holidays: you know, like New Years. This was not New Years: at least I really hope not.

I have been busy. I recently finished writing an article for Sequart which I plan to send to them with some associated images once it gets a look over. I actually got all fancy and annotated it: doing some of the very academic things I swore off because of how tedious and infuriating they can become. Still, it’s kind of like creating a formulaic ritual around your words: either keeping the forces of skepticism out, or binding them inside the circle.

My analogy of academics as formulaic magic aside, I’m pleased with how it has turned out so far and I look forward to showcasing it: one way or another. I’m also now brainstorming more elements for the plot of my Secret Project: though there are some details–both practical and otherwise–that I have to get before I can go forward. I am also working on a short story and doing research for that. In addition, I have had to reread some of my Twine rough draft notes so that I can eventually go back to working on that lovely monstrosity. I almost gave up on it because it really has been a while, but my plan involves finishing one or two “chapters” and then work on one “chapter” that I can experiment with Twine proper. This one chapter will be an excerpt for people to read and play through: or a standalone piece of game writing. I think focusing on this one part captures the spirit of what I want to talk about and will be a good example of what I want to do. So there is that.

As for the rest of it … I guess I can sum it up like this. Sometimes an event in life is like a film. And even if that film becomes “a downer,” it can still be a very good and detailed work of art: something complete in and of itself. Despite the highs and the lows, that film is unique and it has a happy ending: in that it actually ends. Unfortunately, in most cases a film interests people so much that a sequel is created and most sequels tend to be shoddy and derivative shadows of their predecessors. The story should have just been ended while it still had some dignity. But there is another phenomenon to consider: that of trilogies. While some trilogies are degenerations of that first movie, more often than not it is the second film that serves as a bridge to that much more effective and satisfying end story.

So the way I see it, right now my life is The Empire Strikes Back–a very good sequel–and maybe, just maybe I can get to the place where I can blow up AT-ST chicken walkers with teddy-bear Ewoks.

I have quite a few things to look forward to and not the least of which being next week, on Tuesday, when I finally get to meet Neil Fucking Gaiman. Anyway, that’s it for tonight. I’m glad that I got to end this on a more positive note and I will see you all later.

Take care.

Looking Outward