Monday, November 30, 2015

JESSICA JONESSSSS!!!!111!!1!! GAAAAAAAH!!!!!1!!!!!11!ONE!!!

Photo from Wikipedia
Okay, I was going to try to post more thoughts about moving and about living in places and what that means to us as people but instead I'm going to geek out about Netflix's new show Jessica Jones because GAAAAAHH JESSICA JONES AKDJF;AJTEIAOJFDAJF;!!!!!!

So, Netflix has shown itself to be the place where gritty, dark dramas from the Marvel Cinematic Universe go to rest while the movies and ABC Shows are generally lighter fare.

I really like Daredevil a whole heck of a lot. The fight choreography was some of the best I've ever seen. Every blow felt brutal and real and painful, and I loved the complexity of the characters. The fact that the show was, at its core, about gentrification (among other things) is pretty frickin' crazy. That we can use the story of a man with super senses that dresses up like a devil (or, a ninja, at least) to beat up bad guys to tell this amazingly complex tale about crime, poverty, and the sticky and complex nature of how city development affects those things is pretty incredible.

Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin was fascinating. He wasn't the bold, cackling comic-book villain I remembered from watching the 90's Fox Spider-Man cartoon. He was quiet. He was sinister. He was also, at times, very sympathetic. There were times where he was saying his lines with such a look of sadness and pain on his face that you wanted to hug him--or you would want to if you weren't afraid he would decapitate you with a car door.

Jessica Jones continues that fascinating method of using the inherently ridiculous medium of comic books and their tropes to tell a fascinatingly complex story.

While Daredevil felt heavy, like eating a giant bowl of homemade mac and cheese, Jessica Jones feels lighter and more easily digestible. That's not to say that the show is some light, airy exploration in nothing, just that we've been watching this show for about a week and we're almost done. We watched 4 hours of it yesterday. In one sitting! We couldn't help it, the show was so good, the mystery so tense, and the characters so compelling that each time Netflix would bring up the countdown for the next episode, we found ourselves saying, "Yeah, sure. One more."

One more.

One more.

And it is incredible.

The great thing about Jessica Jones is that, at least as far as I can tell, there has not been a single moment where the show has objectified used Jessica as an object for the male gaze. I admit, it's hard for me to confirm this as I am male and have a gaze and therefore that gaze is inherently flawed. But the only time my wife and I debated over a shot was one shot of Jessica climbing a ladder that was shot from below. My wife thought it was an ass shot for an ass shot's sake, but I would argue that that shot was not about Jessica's ass but about highlighting the cramped, dark space she was cavalierly throwing herself into--as she so often does.

David Tennant's villain is very different from Kingpin. Where Wilson Fisk was quiet, intense, Tennant's Kilgrave is loud, brash, charming. He's not a cackling comic book villain either, and you eventually learn stuff about his backstory that makes him somewhat sympathetic as well, but it does start to raise interesting questions.

There are a lot of women, and the show is stronger because of it. And a thought that kept coming to me was this: David Tennant's character is one who gets everything he wants because he can control minds. All he has to say is for you to do something, and you will do it, and want to do it. And, in some ways, this comes across as a great metaphor for men--particularly white, straight men. 

While the metaphor is exaggerated, obviously, I'm fairly certain it's not by accident that the white, straight, male villain can easily get whatever he wants with very minimal effort. The world is his oyster. Meanwhile, he is directly responsible for many horrors in a lot of people lives, especially women and people of color. And much of this destruction appears to be, if not accidental, at least done without thinking. 

There are a few moments where I feel like Kilgrave is being perfectly genuine about the lack of evil in his intentions, and that was more horrifying than the flashy, big, evil teeth gnashing. Because the implication that our blind spots and lack of perspective and understanding can cause us to sew harm in other people's lives is one that I think we should all think about.

Actions have consequences, and many of those consequences will be unnecessary. So when you do something, and it causes someone harm, even if you didn't mean to cause that harm, it was still caused. And you still did it. So what do you do with that? Ideally, you apologize, and try to learn from the situation, to avoid further unintended consequences in the future. But that is hard to do, and when the intentions are good, it can be difficult to get over your feelings of "I meant well" and truly accept that your attempt at good made something sucky happen. But how you deal with those situations, when they're presented to you, I think, define who you are.

Also: GAAAAAAAH SUCH A GOOD SHOW OMG WE HAVE LIKE 3 EPISODES LEFT AND I MUST FINISH IT GAJKFJDIAJTADAFJDAKLFJDKAJGADFJGDLKAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cupboards: Not Bare, but Neglected, or The Petrifying Pantry


As you may have heard lately, my wife and I are selling our house and moving to an apartment in order to save money. Some of my posts have sounded a bit maudlin about that, and I don't want them to, so today I wanted to tell you about something kind of gross and hilarious: our cupboards.

Now, I don't mean to say that having cupboards are gross or hilarious--they're just, y'know, cabinets. But in the process of trying to reduce the amount of crap we have to move, we've been going through all of our stuff and trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible. So, we started going through our cupboards and refrigerator looking at all the stuff that we could get rid of by donating or throwing out.

We're not generally in the business of wasting food, but we're also not in the business of donating spoiled food to folks in need, so the throwing out is somewhat necessary.

At one point, though, we began to realize that some of the stuff that we had hidden away on the very highest shelves, and the very furthest reaches, was...shall we say...past its prime?

It was when we found some food from this time last year that we decided to make it a competition to see who could find the oldest food.

My wife took an early lead with something from October 2014.

I quickly pulled ahead with something from May 2014.

We were in a dead heat after that, going back a few days at a time. And then

BAM!

My wife finds something from 2013.

The very old food on the table grew into a pile, the food in the pantry dwindled, and my heart started to sink that my wife would win this one.

But then it happened:

I found a package of food from May of 2012.

VICTORY!

We also found a vast majority of food that was still very much good and that we are going to be donating as it's stuff that we just don't really want but that seemed like a good idea at the time.

This makes me think, though, about how available food is in America vs other places, and how lucky we are to have such easy and ready access to so much food. And while we were having this silly game, I also felt guilty that we had so much wasted food. Part of it is the weird layout of the cabinets in this house, which results in some weird blind spots where things were put to get them out of the way and then forgotten, and part of it is because, as shameful as it is, we would buy things that sounded good at the time and then think, naw, I actually don't want that afterall.

One of the things I'm going to work on in the new place is making sure our cupboards stay well-stocked with essentials, but also that we cycle through and use our food so that we can avoid these embarrassing food purges.

One of the ways I want to keep my house cleaner, in fact, is by trying to do bi-annual clean ups where we go through and donate any clothes/stuff/food that we don't want anymore. This way we can give back to people without wasting stuff.

I think the most important thing to take away from this post is: I WON! WHOOOOO!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I Have a Lot For Which to be Thankful


It's late Thanksgiving where I'm at, but still technically on the day, so I wanted to post some thoughts honoring the day.

I have a lot for which to be thankful this year. Even though I had to work on Thanksgiving, and even though we're having to sell our house, and even though money's tight this year as we head into the Christmas season, I can't help but feel extremely hopeful and positive about everything. It's been a hard couple of years, but I feel really good about the stuff that we're doing to try to turn things around.

So, here are some things I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful for my family. That includes my wife and my dog, who both love me and are there for me when I need them. But it also includes my brother, who I've really enjoyed getting to know all over again since he graduated college. It's been great to see the kind of person he grew into. I like that person. I'm thankful to my mom and grandparents for always being there when I need them, and for always managing to find a way to help when necessary, even by all logic they shouldn't be able to.

I'm thankful for my friends. I don't have a large number of friends, which is why I'm so grateful for the friends I have. They're all great people, and there's nothing like staying up too late talking with folks about whatever the fuck, whether that's politics, or the weird implications of the world of Pokemon. They're the type of friends that will offer to help you work on your car when you need to replace the stereo, or that will bring you a bunch of Thanksgiving leftovers because you had to work through the holiday.

I'm thankful for my job. I'm not sure that I've ever worked a job that I actually liked. I hated working in all the fast food places I worked at, but I assumed that was just because they were shitty jobs. But I hated teaching, and then I hated my next job. I worried that it was just me. But the place I'm working at now is wonderful. The people are all super supportive, and the work is fun and challenging. Plus, there's plenty of room to advance.

Lastly, I'm thankful for how things are working out, so far at least. It looks like things are lining up in an unexpectedly advantageous way. I'm not used to things going my way, so my guard is still up, and I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But still, things are going so well that I can't help but breathe a little easier.

And that's my list. That's what I'm thankful for. Our Thanksgiving celebration is delayed since I had to work today, but Saturday looks like it's going to be full of fun, and games, and other exciting things. I'm really looking forward to it.

I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving, if you're in the US, and if you're not, I hope you had a great day anyway.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Have a Lot of Crap

One of the things you start to notice when you're slowly gathering everything you own into a pile and deciding what to keep and what to throw out is how much stuff you inevitably accrue over time.

In some ways, I'm better off than some folks because my wife and I have never been the type of people that feel the need to buy a bunch of useless knickknacks, although that's not really because we're taking any sort of stand but more because we are incredibly lazy/forgetful people, and we almost always forget that we bought stuff. In two years of living in our house, we have yet to fully pull the trigger on either the "fat chef" motif of the kitchen, nor the "movies and cinema" motif of the living room, despite buying a few things to fit both of those themes.

A lot of the stuff that we've acquired were things that I was REALLY INTO for a brief period of time, only to have that interest wane or evaporate entirely. (My brain is sort of weird, and gets all obsessive and globby on one thing for a period of time and that's all I can think or talk about, and then POOF it's gone and I'm onto my next new obsession.)

In spite of all of that, we still have lots of weird decorations and thingamabobs that just sit on shelves and take up space. And part of me looks at all this stuff and thinks: do we really need all this?

Just as an example: I have, to be scientific about it, a metric fuckton of books. In fact, and this is completely true, when we hired movers to move into our house, one of the movers said that my giant tub o' books was actually the heaviest thing he had to move of our stuff--and he actually picked up and moved both our washer and our dryer inside without a dolly.

I mean, he moved them separately. He didn't, like, stack the washer and dryer on top of each other or carry one under each arm or anything. Bust still, the fact that he was able to carry my full-sized washing machine but found it difficult to carry my tub o' books says a lot about the number of books I have.

And that was only one of the books. I had at least one other, and possibly two--I can't remember exactly, tub o' books, admittedly smaller but no less full.

My personal library is an eclectic mix of genres, styles, and subjects--especially recently, as I've become much more interested in nonfiction. But still, sometimes I look at my shelves of books and think, "I'm probably never reading most of these books ever again. I should just get rid of them to make room for more books." But then I look through the stacks and find that--NO I JUST CAN'T WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO THIS YOU MONSTER???

And so the books stay. And grow. And overtake the house.

Featured: unpacked books part 1

Featured: unpacked books part 2
I managed to bite the bullet this time around, when faced with the harsh reality of a dramatically smaller living space, and gathered up two boxes of books to donate to Goodwill. And yet? The shelf is still full. In fact, at this point in packing, the big gray tub o' books is completely full, and my bookshelf is still full.

The tub goes above her knee. It's, like, mid-thigh on her.
This is true of movies as well. I have three boxes full of movies, and this was after the Great Movie Purge of '11, wherein I got rid of a bunch of movies, TV show seasons, and video games to get enough money for two tickets to see both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Winnie the Pooh--two movies my wife reeeaaaally wanted to see.

All full of movies/tv shows.
And I still find myself going over to the movie shelf and going, "Wait...didn't I used to own that? GAH! STUPID! WHY DID I GET RID OF THAT??"

And none of this counts the extra furniture that we got over the several years of living in houses that we seem to have gotten mostly to...fill up the empty rooms we rarely used.

All of this packing and moving has me realizing how much wasted space we really had all this time. I mean, our house wasn't particularly big, and yet we still had an entire room that we only stepped into probably 10 times in the entire time we lived in this house. And we had a similar situation in the last 2 houses we lived in. And my friends--until they had a kid, at least--had the same situation.

What did we use that room for? To fill with crap that we didn't know what to do with. It was like that junk drawer that everyone has, only this wasn't a drawer, it was an entire room.

Anyway, those are just some of the weird places my mind went as I packed today.

Do you have a lot of useless crap? Do you decorate your house? If so, with what?

Also, do you have a room and/or drawer of useless crap that you don't know what to do with?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Rise and Fall of a Cookie Empire



I have a story to tell you.

It is a story of power. Of madness. Of reaching the dizzying heights of success and then watching those successes collapse asunder like a house of cards.

I saw someone on Twitter, I believe it was @davefaceless, tweet about a game. It was a simple, silly little game called "Cookie Clicker." The conceit of the game is simple--click the giant cookie, get a cookie.

I decided to see how I could get the number and started clicking ferociously until I got about 1000 cookies. I stopped after that because I was afraid of breaking my mouse button. But then I noticed that, in fact, the makers of the game had ways around that. You could buy clickers and Grandmas to make cookies for you.

Intrigued, I bought a couple. But it was still very slow. I realized I could click alongside those add-ons and generate even more cookies. So I did, although slowly, and I continued to purchase more clickers and Grandma's. I eventually realized there became other things as well. Farms you could purchase that grew cookie trees. Industrial plants to manufacture cookies.

I became obsessed. I had to purchase more add-ons to make more cookies. But all the add ons cost cookies. So to purchase more add-ons, I had to make more cookies faster. It was a vicious cycle. The more add-ons you purchased, the more expensive they became, and the more slowly you were able to gain enough cookies to buy the next add on.

Clicking cookies was the worst way to generate cookies, not only because it yielded the least cookies, but also because I didn't want to break my mouse clicker over a stupid internet game.

Much better to find additional hacks and add-ons that others had created to auto-click. And wouldn't you know it? People did.

I added one of the add-ons onto my Google Chrome and let the game auto click for me, setting the clicking function as high as I could. I started letting the computer run all night, waking up 7 or 8 hours later to a massive yield in cookies, which I would then nearly decimate buying more add-ons.

The add-ons became more ridiculous. Gathering cookies from space, from other places in time via time machine, and from other dimensions. I even began battling Santa Claus, revealing his true form as an Elder God of horror and despair.

I spent nearly two weeks coming home and obsessing over my numbers. One day, I realized that to get more add-ons, it would take entirely too many hours to get more cookies. So I just added a bunch of cookies to my pool with a hack that just dumped cookies--no generation required.

At this point, it wasn't even about the add-ons, or the cookie generation. It was about the awards. I needed to to get all the achievements. Once, I even wiped out my entire cookie empire and rebuilt it from scratch--which unlocked two achievements.

But one day, I came home from work and sat down at my computer, watching the buzzing, moving, flickering images of Grandmas and cookies and milk sloshing, and I realized that I had done everything I could do. There was no thrill in the cookie game anymore. I had reached the top.

I got rid of all traces of the cookies and their production methods, then deleted the game and its add-ons.

Part of me remains conflicted. Who knows what cookie empire power vacuum I created by simply walking away from the game. At one point, indeed, the game confirmed that all of existence was made of cookies. Every molecule. Every atom.

What had I done?

But I knew, for the sake of my family, for my future, I had to walk away.

God help those left wanting in the wake of my absence. I hope, someday, they will forgive me.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Outrage

I haven't been on social media in a while. I've been almost completely off Twitter, and I've been avoiding Facebook pretty strongly as well. Part of this has been due to being very busy with the whole money/work/house thing. But honestly, I started avoiding those places before that, and I didn't even realize it.

I try very hard to be a good person. Like, I'm an asshole. I'm sometimes inconsiderate. I'm sometimes cranky. I frequently would prefer to do the easy thing instead of the thing that I know is better to do. For example: last night I made macaroni and cheese for a food day at work and soup for dinner. And when I was done, even though I knew I should, I didn't clean anything up. I just left all my trash and dirty pots and pans on the stovetop and the counters because I needed to unload the dishwasher before I could reload it and I was tired and just wanted to eat, watch TV with my wife, and go to bed.

I recognize these flaws in my character and I try to work against them. I try to be a good person, to stay informed, and to do the right thing.

What does this have to do with social media? I'm glad you asked, rhetorical representation of a potential reader that I'm using to continue the forward momentum of my blog post.

Social media has been a huge influence on how I interact and think about the world. If it weren't for Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, Livejournals, and even--to a lesser extent--Facebook, I wouldn't think the way I do. It introduced me to and shaped how I think about race, gender, sexuality, class, and a multitude of other issues. I'm not perfect, but social media has taught me tools to at least attempt to be more thoughtful when I consider a subject, and since I'm a white straight male living in a predominantly white area in the US, that's something that I needed to learn.

Once I learned about these types of issues, I couldn't turn a blind eye and pretend that I didn't know this stuff. No matter how much I loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, I can never look at it the same now that I understand the context of Einhorn's outing as the former Ray Finkle and how that plays into a long and nasty history and heritage of shaming trans folks for embracing who they are.

All that is to say that while I'm grateful to social media because it keeps me informed on a multitude of things I think are important, it also started feeling more and more like I was being crushed under a giant stone.

Or maybe a better metaphor: my mental well being was like a stone in a river--every day the constant stream of news about things being broken was eroding away at me.

There's two prominent sides when people talk about outrage:

1. There's too much outrage on the internet.

and

2. There's so much to be outraged about.

Generally, I think that people that complain about "outrage culture" are being disingenuous. It often feels like the people that are the most vocal about there being "too much outrage" are people who were caught being assholes and don't want to own up to the fact that they were being assholes. Sexist jokes, racist jokes, or just plain being mean.

That said, it's exhausting. I would get on Twitter and see people that I generally respect posting about yet another shitty thing happening, and I would think: "God, just one day can we not?" But then that makes me an asshole, you know? Because I'm a white dude. If I don't want to think about racism or sexism, I don't have to. It very minimally affects me in my daily life. There are people who don't have the option not to think about those issues.

So I get caught in a loop of obsessively reading and trying to stay up to date with every instance of shittiness because I feel like it's my duty to be extra vigilant because of my privilege. But I also kind of start to hate everything.

I don't know how to be on social media and not follow those people that talk about these important things. If I don't, I feel like I'm trying to bury my head in the sand. If I do, I get depressed and start to feel like I'm drowning.

Even writing this post is a conflicted activity to me. What right do I have to complain about how any of this makes me feel? This is very much making other people's problems my problems and somewhat making these issues about me. I get that. That is part of the problem.

If you're the type of person that cares about these types of issues, how do you find balance between staying informed and masochistically bearing witness to the horrors of the world like some sort of social-media based version of The Giver?

Anyway, don't worry, I'll post something funny soon. This has just been on my mind a lot lately.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Housekeeping

Hello, everyone. Long time no read, right?

This blog post is like a robotic maid from the year 2062 in that it's all about some housekeeping.

So, I disappeared from the internet for, like, a while. It's because life, as it so often does, blew up. If you were following me on Twitter earlier this year, you probably saw my posts and sort of desperate attempts to gather any sort of income because I had just been laid off.

I was laid off from a job that, frankly, I kind of hated but desperately needed because it paid really well--at least for where I live. Losing that put us in a really tight spot, obviously, so I was desperate to find work anywhere doing anything.

Since then, I've found a job that I really, really enjoy in spite of some screwy scheduling and generally being very hectic and stressful. In fact, it's sort of weird, but this is the first job I've had that hasn't made me actively angry and sad.

All of that sounds great, and it is, but there was a downside. My new job pays way less than my previous job. So we've since run into some financial trouble. After a lot of soul searching, we've decided we need to drastically reduce our expenses, which included selling the house that we bought and lived in for almost two years.

It's definitely sad. We had a lot of dreams when we bought this house, a lot of plans that we were making that got put on the back burner when money became such a limited resource.

Renting a house would mean substantially higher rent than our house payment, so we've been apartment hunting instead, which will mark the first time we've lived in an apartment in 5 or 6 years. That means getting rid of a lot of stuff that we've accrued over the past several years because we're substantially reducing our living space. 

As sad as it is, we're also kind of excited about it. The rent payments are quite a bit less than the house payments. We won't be tied to any particular place. I won't have to mow the lawn anymore. I won't have to worry about the cost or aggravation of fixing things that may break around the house. So in many ways this is a positive change.

So far at least, things seem to be working out okay. I don't want to jinx it because there's still plenty of places where things could turn, but someone made an offer on the house--which we accepted--and we have an apartment opening lined up in about 2 weeks. If all goes according to plan, our house will close in about a month and we can close the book on this chapter of our lives and fully commence our fresh start before Christmas. That is a crazy fast turn around, and I'm so, so, so, so happy that things seem to be working out so well. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they continue to do so.

In related news, I'm super glad we found a place that we can move into because the alternative was living with my brother in his one bedroom apartment until we found something. I love my brother. But three people sharing a one bedroom apartment would be a tad of a strain. We asked him about moving in if we couldn't find a place and, while he agreed, it was pretty obvious that he was reaaaally not excited about it. And I don't really blame him. I wasn't either. It would've turned my commute to work from 10 minutes to an hour, and my wife's commute even longer as she'd have to drop me off and pick me up since we only have one car. 

Having a place before Christmas almost means that I can hang up my Christmas decorations! My tree can go up!!! Yaaaaay!!!!! CHRISTMAAAAS!!!! AAAAAAHHHHH!!!

So that's how things are going right now. It's been highs and lows for a couple of months, but it looks like things might be turning around in a very unexpectedly pleasant way. Fingers crossed that that continues.

P.S. Can you tell I've been binge-watching the Vlogbrothers? Because I've been binge-watching the hell out of some Vlogbrothers.

P.P.S. I kind of hate that I had to use "that that" in that last sentence. Curse you English for your confusing and ridiculous constructions!