I was telling deadblob that I want to go to an arcade.
I want to go to an arcade of our youth, though. I want to go back in time to Space Port at Blue Ridge Mall: shitty little Blue Ridge Mall, that now has nothing in it but a Kmart and a JC Penney and an incongruously opulent Belk next to the corpse of a Sears, and a police substation where Space Port used to be. I want to go plunk tokens into games in the dark, in a place my parents have told me is a waste of time, with games I do not even begin to comprehend and people I do not know.
I tried to go take pictures of Blue Ridge Mall last year when I was in Hendersonville for my 20 year high school reunion but they came out blurry and depressing and I never posted them anywhere. The notion of an indoor shopping mall in Hendersonville of all places was so novel when I was a child. I recall the Kmart opened first, before the rest of the mall was finished, and people went to the Kmart just so they could stare down the darkened concourse at that unfinished space and fill it up with whatever they hoped it would be. The Kmart is still there but the rest of the mall has been turned into something like a beige snowscape: an arctic horizon in a blizzard, all depth perception gone, all sense of direction lost, all hope gone with it. The Kmart has somehow managed to serve as both midwife and psychopomp to a generation – two – of economic turnover. It delivered what seemed a death blow to Hendersonville’s downtown but now Main Street is more alive than ever.
It isn’t only people who have their Saturn’s Return.
Anyway, yeah, I kind of want to go to an arcade. Maybe I want to go bowling? I dunno. Maybe I’ll just go for a hike.]]>
Is that everything? I think that’s everything. A year of blogging in a single post. Heavens, indeed.]]>
I spent the days between my last post and the subsequent meeting of the Board of Elections discussing this with friends and with election colleagues. Everyone’s reaction was the same: don’t quit. Don’t let O’Keefe and his band of idiots beat you, don’t let them control the fate of your precinct, don’t let them have veto power over us, don’t give in, don’t be so damned easy to beat. The last one was one of the main things that swayed me. Quitting immediately on finding out about the heavily manipulated video seemed like the responsible thing to do but it also felt like giving up without a fight and I hate that. I hate that feeling more than any other.
All these conversations also gave me some time to cool off and get some perspective. These jerks did this to me only incidentally. I am collateral damage to them. Their real goal is obviously to build a case in favor of voter ID laws which rig the system against populations comprising persons whose lives don’t allow a lot of time for doing paperwork. They wind up targeting minorities and the poor and especially those individuals who are both, meaning they target Democrats. Voter ID laws are bald attempts at voter disfranchisement. It occurred to me somewhere along the way that one of the better arguments against voter ID is the absence of voter fraud and that means making sure there are attentive, alert people working the polls on election day. I am by no means perfect in the execution of my duties as an election official but I am very attentive and alert when it comes to the goings-on in my precinct.
Those aren’t the only reasons I changed my mind but they were some of them and I had enough, altogether, to decide that I did not want to show up simply to resign. Instead, I went to the meeting, asked to explain my side of the story – as detailed in the previous post – and at the end I said, quite simply, that I understood my job as an election official is to assure the public that their votes are fairly counted and that is also the job of the Board of Elections. As such, if it would increase the public’s trust to have me resign I would be glad to do so but if the Board did not ask me to resign then I would continue in my post. I wanted to give them the option to overrule me or bring to bear some greater experience or expertise.
The Board asked me only one question: could I take the oath of office for my position and mean it? I said that I could, yes, and here’s why: because I don’t have to marry anyone on election day and, more importantly, I don’t have to tell anyone that they can’t get married. The Board was satisfied with that answer and said that they appreciated my offer and my willingness to cooperate but that they saw no reason for me to quit.
So, I’m still an election judge.
It was quite an interesting experience, all told, and I sort of mean “interesting” just as a simple adjective but also sort of in the sense of the old proverb. One member of the Board hadn’t watched the video yet, so we all got to sit there and watch it together. Less than fully fun. However, it provided an opportunity for members of the Board to note that which all my journalist, videographer and editor friends, as well as general tech-heads, noticed: that there are times when the video is not video and the audio doesn’t sync and all the other obvious symptoms of heavily manipulated footage.
The Durham County GOP’s new(?) chair was there to address the Board regarding the 20 or 30 seconds of video that contained me. After hearing me speak and confirm that I could take the oath he said he had no discussion to add or objection to make. It was nice having a Republican in an actively partisan role be pleasant to me for once.
At one point a member of the Board noted that I should take from this the lesson that we – people involved in elections administration – simply don’t get to speak the way others do sometimes. I agreed that it was woefully unwise of me to speak to someone claiming to be a reporter when I was so emotionally raw but I noted that the footage they cut and/or edited was me trying to talk them down from lines of questioning with which they tried to lead me to advocate violence or other forms of extremism. They came at me hoping to get me to say that now was the time to light the bonfires and instead I assured them that time was on our side and the path to progress was one of civility. The things I said to them were not extremist but they were made to appear that way by a couple of lying sacks of shit.
I perhaps unwisely hurried to remind the Board member in question that at 1:00 AM on Wednesday 9 May, when that video was taken, I was on my time. I sat there and did my job from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM on election day and I never said a word no matter what I heard said about me by voters – and I did hear epithets, at least one of which might have been directed at me by a voter with functioning gaydar though I’ll never know and don’t really want to know – but when I clocked out that night I stepped back inside the protections of the First Amendment and regained the right to make any mistake I felt like making.
That’s how I know I do most definitely still want to be more of an activist.
The question I have been trying to answer since then is that one: what kind of activist do I want to be? The answer I’ve arrived at is this: the kind who gets things done. Standing outside and shouting about an issue can get things done and I love that kind of activism because it’s so kinetic. It involves lots of doing and saying and getting out in the world and it’s a great way to network and meet people and make friends and allies. It’s also a great way to make enemies and nothing makes one feel more alive than having a lively enemy.
The way real change happens in our society, though, is through the legal system. The history of social justice in America is one of people marching in the streets to stay visible while their attorneys work in quiet tones to dismantle the barriers to justice and progress. With that in mind, I’m now seriously considering going to law school. I’m 37, my undergraduate degree was in Performance Studies, my career is in information security and my graduate program is to get a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Information Assurance, Security and Privacy. Not exactly a pre-law degree and a lifespan capable of taking on the student loans, I know. I may have other options for paying for some of it as a job benefit and I may be able to go part-time and I may have other options available that are as yet totally unknown to me. It’s the idea I keep coming back to, though: becoming a lawyer, working in security-related law and doing voting rights advocacy work otherwise. The idea of the LSAT terrifies me and the idea of four to six more years of school after this one terrifies me. The idea of having zero downtime in my life and new debt and not having any clue what my career would look like at the other end all terrify me.
I keep coming back to that anyway, though, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.]]>
What they actually did was leave the camera running and, later, pull out select quotes with no context. They dropped all the talk of Amendment One and activism and my feelings as a voter – my observations about how much good has happened in the last twenty years and how much work this gives an activist to be excited about – and used my honesty about hesitating to take the oath of office again to suggest that I was stating I would only enforce portions of the state constitution in my role as an election judge. If one listens to what I say in the video then it’s clear that isn’t what I mean but they do their best to distract from that by failing to caption the words that make it clear and by running out-of-context audio over other footage later. A professional journalist who has reviewed the video said there are obvious signs of manipulative editing that any trained observer would recognize as signs that the video should not be taken at face value and that these will ultimately hurt the video more than help its apparent message.
The kids making the video were, it turns out, part of James O’Keefe’s organization. They used twenty or thirty seconds of me in a ten-minutes-and-change video they say demonstrates how easy it would be to commit voter fraud in North Carolina.
I posted the following comment on the video:
As one of the persons in this video I think it’s important to note that the filmmaker misrepresented himself and the topic to me, performed selective editing and dropped an extended conversation in favor of the juiciest quote with no context. This is an important issue tragically reduced to fumbled anonymous “gotcha” journalism. I decided the next day to resign as an election official because I believe we must mean the words we say, especially oaths. I wish the filmmaker had been that honest.
Overnight it received enough “down” votes to become invisible.
Most of the people with whom they speak are not election officials and are in no way experts on election law. They have nothing to do with enforcing those laws. They are not persons who would be allowed into a voting enclosure on election day for any reason other than to cast their own ballot and leave. They are not people who run elections but they are as welcome as anyone else to have opinions about them. I can only assume that those persons also find themselves misrepresented and their words mischaracterized and taken out of context to put them in the most negative possible light. They also misrepresent the activities at the bar that night to be some sort of official results party but it was just another night at the bar. There was no organization and no party. He line-danced with a bunch of lesbians who were there to line-dance. I am sure there are places where line-dancing is a political act but that night, in that place, it was not a preordained one.
Needless to say, I am saddened and infuriated and disappointed.
One of the things I find most frustrating about this is the ignorance the filmmaker shows regarding the very laws he’s claiming to investigate. When he fraudulently presents himself as another person and then volunteers that he has no ID he is told that they cannot ask for ID. That’s the law; the workers in a polling place are not allowed to ask for ID. If someone wants to show it to us then I suppose they can but we are not allowed to ask and he is taking advantage of that by approaching elections workers rather than legislators as though we should be expected to be more stringent than the law. Precinct officials enforce the laws as they exist; legislators craft them. When he states that he is not comfortable not showing ID and the election official gives him a slightly dismissive, “OK,” that’s something I recognize as the response of a person who has heard a hundred crazier things before lunch every election day for years. One person who thinks it’s weird that he doesn’t have to show ID is way down the list of things to worry about.
Other examples in which he absurdly overstates or misrepresents the circumstances and their risks:
The central mission of election administration – and therefore of anyone who oversees elections in any official capacity – is one of establishing and maintaining trust in the results that are publicized. Every step of the way, every moment of the training classes we attend before every election, every form and seal and signature, every moment in which a judge or other official is forced to make a judgment call, should have as its foremost aim to maintain or increase the level of trust the public can have in the integrity of their election outcomes. The filmmaker exploited my honesty and my interest in the sincerity of my oath of office in an attempt to damage that trust. I cannot think of anything worse he could have done to me that night. I’ve been mugged, I’ve been assaulted, I’ve had cars and homes vandalized, I’ve been called names and had in fact been called names that very day in the course of doing my sworn duty as an elections official. None of that made me feel more intensely hurt than I do at this moment. I have spent years working to increase the faith other persons have in the mechanisms of local government and their community’s ability to come together and practice democracy. This kid thought that seemed like a fun can to kick and nothing more.
As noted here and elsewhere I have been struggling with the question of whether to continue as an election judge in light of the approval of Amendment One. I was 95% certain that I was going to resign. This has made up my mind for the remaining 5%. If I’m featured in a video that has any chance of calling into question the veracity of elections results in my precinct then I must absolutely step out of the way in favor of maintaining the public trust in elections overall. It stinks to high heaven for me, personally, to have the decision made for me like that by this one random and incredibly dishonest kid with a camera but such is life. My priority really is making sure that elections are fairly administered and the best thing I can do in support of that is to guarantee that elections in my precinct or my county are not somehow tainted by my involvement in them. My service is to the public and to the public trust, not to myself or some personal sense of false ownership over my precinct or any other aspect of the elections process. I would gladly step down if it would prevent one voter from doubting elections for one second.
There are two things I find incredibly ironic about this whole situation. One is that I spoke with him about the importance of being honest when I speak the words of my oath of office and yet he had been dishonest with me in order to get me to discuss those honest concerns. I believe that we must mean the words we say, always, or they lose value; that oaths we take to one another, to an ideal or to a society must be made to the highest standard of honesty possible. I wish this guy could share the same degree of integrity.
The other great irony is that he has pushed me out of the neutral role of election judge and thus freed me to be more of an activist. If his goal was to embarrass me, he has certainly succeeded and I suppose is to be congratulated for having gone to such tremendous lengths to get one moment of tired stupidity. If his goal on the other hand was to diminish my enthusiasm for the outcomes of elections or to make it impossible for me to participate in them in any way possible then he is a miserable failure. Before our conversation I was an election official whose activities were restricted to the voting enclosure and a fifty foot arc emanating from its front door. Now my turf is the rest of the world and I plan to work no less hard on it.
Two stills, pulled from his video, show a better look at the young man who conducted the interview. His cameraman was an overweight guy in his early 20’s with unkempt red hair and a fluffy red beard. He wore overalls and a t-shirt as I recall. I thought they were just absurdly dressed hipsters.
First, it was not at all a surprise. I gave money and had conversations with friends and with strangers and went running on the American Tobacco Trail wearing my bright blue “I’m Voting Against / Ask Me Why” t-shirt (and was, once or twice, actually approached by people but always to receive a message of support) and I bought yard signs for myself and for others including some people I didn’t even know. I talked loud and proud about it when walking in my neighborhood with brother and neighbor Pants Wilder in hopes maybe someone would overhear us and be given a reason to reconsider if they were in support of its passage. I knew it would pass, though. I wanted to make sure it would pass by the smallest possible margin and in all honesty I think we got that. Twenty points probably is the smallest possible margin for something like this. I know that sounds implausibly upbeat but I’ve realized this week that I got all my mourning out of the way before the election even happened and I am free of that now.
Second, this is not a loss. Oh, it will harm people and there has been plenty of jowly gloating already and the “Vote FOR” people had the tackiest possible victory party in the universe complete with a seven-tiered wedding cake and a plastic – glossy plastic! – bride and groom figurine on top, but what else do they have now? They beat us on this before the game ever started, way back in ’96 with the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Tuesday was a victory lap and that stings – bitterly – and it damages real people and I am not immune to anger at that but it isn’t the end. It passed with 60% of the vote but that is significantly less than similar amendments have passed in other Southern states in recent years. Just take a look at the Wikipedia page for marriage amendments and you will see some horrifying percentages: 81% in Tennessee and Alabama, for instance. North Carolina was the last state in the South without an amendment and we passed it by the lowest margin in the South. Just stop and ask yourself what would have happened if this had been up for a vote ten years ago, or fifteen, or twenty; no, twenty years ago it wouldn’t have even been considered an issue because the possibility of gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar for people. Losing 60/40 beats the hell out of losing 80/20 or 90/10 and those are the percentages we easily could have seen in years not so distant from 2012. 60/40 means that four in ten voters on Tuesday knew what they were voting on and why and understood the ways an amendment such as this harms everyone and voted against it. Perhaps it speaks to my high degree of misanthropy to say this but 60% is surprisingly lower than the percentage of people I assumed would vote for it out of simple ignorance or knee jerk hate in the very best scenarios.
I know such talk tastes of ash but those numbers are part of a trend that has taken years to show itself and, projected years into the future, points to a time when days like Tuesday are spoken of as an embarrassing but instructive history.
Third, I have never been this energized for activism in twenty years of being varying degrees of activist. The haters won on Tuesday, sure, but all they’ve got left is to sit back, sip their tea and feel smug. I, on the other hand, have hands to work and energy to invest and a goal to attain. They have yet another
notch on the headboard trophy on the mantle notch on the headboard but we have new allies and a broad coalition of groups and interests who a year ago didn’t even know each other existed. They have nothing but time on their hands, time they can only spend watching Tuesday’s victory gather dust. I have friends and family and an army of lovers and we’ve all just been handed a great big kick in the ass to remind us that equality does not come to the complacent and the comfortable.
Progress is not a task that has an endpoint. Changing the world is not a task that will ever be done. If Amendment One had been defeated it would have temptingly easy to hang up my marching shoes, retire to a rocking chair and pretend that life has always been grand. Instead I have been given the sincere gift of remembering what it felt like to be a radical; of feeling a stir of joy on realizing there are still people whom my mere existence pisses off; of waking up on Wednesday to the realization that I have never in my whole life been so happy as I am when I have a bully to fight.
Fourth, I am an election judge. Monday night I had to take and administer my oath of office as chief judge for my precinct, an oath which includes swearing “that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and to the constitutional powers and authorities which are or may be established for the government thereof; that I will endeavor to support, maintain and defend the Constitution of said State not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.” Tuesday I had to sit there and help people in my precinct vote in favor of an amendment that turned the state constitution against me. Do I believe the amendment is ultimately unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution? Yes, but I also think it will be a very long time before the courts rule that way, if ever, and in the meantime continued work as an election judge will require me to take that oath and swear to support the state constitution time and again, every election day, when in my heart I will know that I only mostly support that constitution and thus my oath will be a lie.
Is now a good time to point out that I consider myself Lawful Neutral? I’m not sure I can still take that oath. I’m not sure that if I can’t really mean it that I should take that oath. I’m considering resigning as the chief judge of my precinct because that seems in some ways the right thing to do and because a part of me thinks Tuesday after the first Monday in November might be better spent trying to get specific people elected rather than trying to oversee who gets elected overall. My precinct has other good staff who can sit inside and make sure the ballots are cast fairly. I have been reminded that I cannot sit on election day and get what I really want.
I have been given the gift of an agenda and a part of me is unspeakably grateful for that.]]>
Anyway, I recently had a MOO-based conversation with an old friend about Obama and realized that it wouldn’t make a bad blog post, either, so here it is, de-identified with their permission:
====================================================== Snorklewhacker [to Michael]: I have to say, I wonder whether a certain number of Obama's positions will undergo a quiet 180-degree shift if he wins re-election. Once he no longer has to care about the DINO/RINO vote in the middle, he can stop supporting/opposing things he's never seemed particularly jazzed about his position on. Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Well, I've been saying for a long time that obviously no one believes that Obama is "uncertain" about gay marriage. I mean, c'mon. That said, the politically active African-American bloc is also highly evangelistic and churches drove a lot of the civil rights actions of the 20th century and still do - and a lot of those people are extremely conservative on specific points including gay marriage. So, when people complain that he hasn't been sufficiently pro-gay (which is not what I think you're saying; I'm thinking of conversations I've had with other people who were somehow convinced that Obama was a secret homophobe) I point them towards DADT and a few other things and explain that I think he's essentially performing a pantomime. He wants African- American support for queer rights and he can't afford the political cost of offending that segment of his base by just weighing in and saying, 'Guys, fuck it already, don't be haters,' so he has to act out this performance of someone "evolving" on the issue so that he makes it OK for black leaders and voters to do the same thing and, in some ways, kind of /forces/ them to. Michael says, "All of which is very clever and also perfectly in line with the tactics of the average community organizer: meet people where they are, if you will, and then lead them where you want them to go." Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Ultimately I don't believe that his positions will change wildly in his second term because he also has to work not to undermine the chances of the Dem nominee in 2016. I do think that he hopes that there will be as much change in the next five years as there has been in the last five. Five years ago there were, what, zero states with gay marriage? DADT was still in effect, there was nothing even remotely like a hope of significant healthcare reform, etc., etc. Lots of leftists like to say he's a failure because we hate everything, all the time, but we hate nothing so much as the terrifying prospect of success, but the fact is that there has been significantly more movement to the left in policy and the cultural conversation under three years of Obama than there were in the previous eight or, arguably, the eight before /that/. Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: It can be hard to realize that - for me, anyway, reason #872 why I never watch the news anymore - because of how effectively the Tea Party and the War On Women people dominate the news cycle, but part of why they get so much attention is because they are so outlandishly outdated in their stated positions. Attempts to restrict access to birth control draw coverage and protests because they're so crazy. I don't deny that they harm people when they pass, obviously, but they pass through the fanaticism of the last hardliners of a fading remnant. They're the sort of things fanatics would never do if they didn't feel threatened. They're the bomb jackets of the marginalized right wing. Snorklewhacker [to Michael]: This is true! Someone noted that all the Dems saying they're going to vote Republican in 2012 just to spite Obama because they're so 'disappointed' with him is like saying, "Well, my glass is half-empty, so I'm going to trade it for this other glass FULL OF BROKEN GLASS AND CYANIDE." Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Exactly. Those people are blowing smoke. They didn't get a pony made of ice cream carrying a unicorn on its back. They are people who lack the cynicism^H^H^Hwisdom of experience. We're a society geared towards slow but reliable movement to the left and we've been doing that for a couple of centuries now. They need to chill. ======================================================
Of course, five years ago there was one state that had gay marriage, so I was wrong on that. There was also a war on in Iraq and a President who openly wanted to privatize Social Security. Things have changed for the better and continue to do so – and will continue to do so. Change takes time in our society. No one gets what they want in a day. Our task as liberals and progressives is to build the society we want, brick by brick, not to show up and find it waiting for us. The sooner those who are “disappointed” realize that, the sooner we can get this shit done. Anyone who wants results without being willing to contribute ongoing effort for the rest of their lives is being unrealistic and childish. Period.
An old friend of mine from college who is now a rabid Tea Partier was “discussing” Amendment One with me a couple of months ago and I said, truth told, I am opposed to Amendment One not because I think its defeat will make it easier for me to get married in the state of North Carolina but because I think its defeat will make life better for the next generation of queer citizens. People have to take the long view if they want to work for leftist causes without burning themselves out. They have to favor slow and steady over immediate gratification. If it helps, perhaps they should consider that the people in our politics who want things done right now and want it out of anger more than anything else are usually the right wing. Do they really want to rush down the road to be more like them?]]>
Wait, has it really been twenty years since Vampire hit the scene? I haven’t been playing Vampire for the full twenty years but I have been playing it for fifteen. Fifteen years ago I sat down with a few members of my fraternity and made my first VtM character after complaining that D&D was fun but I constantly found myself wishing my character could just pull a gun and start shooting.
One fae-obsessed Malkavian neonate later, I had what I wanted and I never looked back.
For the intervening decade and a half I’ve been in two gaming groups with overlapping memberships, known colloquially as “the vampire group” and “the D&D group”. The former has actually played a wide variety of systems and settings and games, not just Vampire: Trinity, Exalted, D&D 3.5, D&D 4E, Pathfinder, Palladium Fantasy, Aberrant, Mage, Changeling, Kindred of the East, non-Werewolf-but-still-WoD shapeshifters (Judge Fang! ♥), Vampire: the Dark Ages, Vampire: the Requiem, Vampire: the Dark Ages fast-forwarded to modern day and any other combination of World of Darkness systems and settings we could possibly put together. We’ve also swapped around player and GM roles, traded people and characters in and out with wild abandon (including roping in members of the D&D group from time to time) and scheduled games of Vampire to start at 11:00 AM on Sundays because the bells of the church across the street made for a deliciously ironic way to call the game to order.
The D&D group has always played D&D and always will and that is completely OK. Our D&D group is happy playing D&D and so am I. I’m not happy just playing D&D, though, and neither is anyone in the vampire group. That’s why we keep branching out into something different and swapping roles and trailing off mid-chronicle to try something new: we’re curious, restless, fickle people and the only cure for boredom is the new.
It just happens that a gaming blog to which I am completely addicted, Gnome Stew, is running a New Year, New Game contest. That’s all the excuse I need. As soon as I read the post about it I realized that I had the excuse I needed to run a game of Third Eye Games‘ excellent-looking Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. It’s all zany action and crazy apocalypse stuff and the creator of the game is very explicit when discussing it that he draws on White Wolf’s World of Darkness games as one of his influences. Whereas WoD sometimes tries really hard to make the player feel bad about their character, however, API seems to have “fun first” as its conceptual foundation. It’s meant to be a little funny. It’s meant to be a lot of fun. It’s meant to be over-the-top and silly and at the same time it’s meant to be scary and horrifying, too. It’s all the things I love about a lot of different games and shows and ideas: Buffy mashed up with X-Files and John Woo and China Miéville’s Kraken and some Good Omens and a dash of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. It reminds me of the crazy good times that group has had in our most memorable, most reminisced-about games: Pants Wilder’s “Seattle by Lava Lamp” and C’s Trinity game are two that leap to mind. Those were games in which we, as players, were rewarded for being creative. I want again to nourish and produce that sense of wondrous delight at toys of our own making and I think one of the keys will be to engage what hunger everyone in that group already knows we all feel: the need for new.
Running a game of API is going to require a lot of preparation, though. I envision this as third-rate globe-hopping adventure: being sent to Cleveland instead of Malibu to cap a demon with distinctly bargain-basement desires; at least, that’s how it starts. If I’m going to run a short game of API – I’m a big fan of limited series and short campaigns – then I’m going to need two or three really evocative locations in one or two cities that are not exactly vacation destinations and at least one setting for a big-finish set piece. The exotic, in the world of API, is as often found in a grimy, shadowed alley as it is anywhere else. I want to preserve that sense of the gritty and faded, of encroaching entropy, that the World of Darkness so effectively presents. I want the mood to be one of fighting to save a world that could, when all is said and done, use a good washing up.
The Big Problems
There are a lot of challenges to this idea, though, and I’m pretty sure they’re challenges faced by many gaming groups if not most:
There are ways I can imagine to try to address those concerns. Some of them probably need a lot of work and no plan is ever perfect, but I’m going to give it a whirl:
All those sound good, but there will undoubtedly be things that crop up that I can’t anticipate. It may be that no one else shows any interest whatsoever, in which case I’ll tuck this away and come back to it at a later time. Even if the group doesn’t bite, the “New Year, New Game” challenge is a great way to reinvigorate my interest in running games and to get groups like mine to come up with strategies for continuing to enjoy a favorite way for us to spend time together.
This post was written for the first annual New Year, New Game blog carnival hosted by Gnome Stew as part of the 2012 New Year, New Game challenge and, for it, I have blatantly ripped off elements of what I think of as the Gnome Stew style.]]>
In a lot of ways, 2011 was a big bag of suck.
Several years ago I wrote two short stories about zombies. One is about a vampire who’s at a meeting of his HOA when zombies attack and the other is about a woman who feels out of place in a tiny religious school when the dead rise. There were problems with each story and I had only done the first draft of either of them but I liked the concepts and I would occasionally get email from someone who had read them and wanted to know if there would be a third. Instead, last year I sold them to someone who wanted to include them in an anthology with a really clever connecting thematic thread only to have the publication of that anthology fall apart.
There was also the small matter of getting mugged, an event which still resonates in my daily life. Stupid, I know. There are people who get mugged all the time. There are people who live in places where muggings are just a fact of life. There are people who get mugged and instead of simply having a few things taken from them they are hurt or killed. I know, I need to stop throwing a pity party or firing up the inner mosh pit every time I think or talk about it, but it’s still there, still weird and freaky to think about, still making me jump out of my skin every time I’m surprised or caught off-guard or walk into Target and see someone of the same approximate morphology as any of my muggers. As noted in that post, a particular regret was that they had taken my last Russian money – a 500 ruble bill from my trip to Russia with KJ nearly twenty years ago. KJ sent me a card later in the year, around our birthdays, that contained a coin for fifty rubles. It is my new Russian money and I cherish it.
There were plenty of things to bitch about regarding last year. I could whinge about 2011 for hours but instead I will simply say that it was the worst year I’ve had since my cousin Chris died, which was the worst year I’d had since my sister Mona died, which was the worst year I’ve ever had. 2011 was #3 out of all 37 if ranked in descending order from worst to best, hands down, and I’m someone who dropped out of college three times, survived the tech bubble and spent a few years as a problem drinker.
There were two major good things that happened: I lost 100 pounds and I got an A in my first class in grad school. There were other good things that happened – excellent gaming experiences at Dragon*Con and my trip to Columbia, SC, to visit high school friends spring to mind – but the highs were few and far between. I just have to be honest about that. One of the things that wore me down more and more as the year went on was how much work it seemed to take to get anything good out of life. Losing weight was a tremendous amount of effort and I’m having to maintain that regimen of exercise and diet to maintain the weight loss even now, months after hitting my target weight and figuring out how to stay there. My grad school class took many hours of study and work, including one night when I essentially missed one of my closest friends’ housewarming party because MS Word used curly single-quotes and Firefox preserved them when pasting commands into a MySQL interface and I couldn’t figure out why my queries wouldn’t run and they were due the next day. I won a major victory at work but it took months of campaigning and cajoling and lining up all the pieces in exactly the right pattern to convince someone powerful of the thing I needed them to acknowledge. Every victory was exhausting last year and I had become convinced that the only joy in life is that which we make for ourselves; that tragedy is prone to walk in the door any fucking time it feels like it but that happiness was prey we must chase or abandon.
Today, though! Today has helped.
For one thing, I started work on the third of the zombie stories. It, combined with the other two, could make for a nifty little novella. The would-be editor of that anthology knows that I have withdrawn my stories to use for another project and I’m going to use them by combining the three into a work that I can release on Kindle. Why not, right? The only way to guarantee that I never sell a book to anyone else in my whole life is never to try.
Another great goodness is that I found a long-forgotten cache of ruble bills. Now I get to have the 50 ruble coin from KJ on my altar at home – the space where I put the things I really value – and carry a bill with me as well. Finding those bills was like winning the lottery. I teared up a little as soon as I realized what they were.
Last, when organizing some papers on my desk at home I randomly discovered the schedule from my gaming sessions at Dragon*Con. My major regret from Dragon*Con was that I hadn’t gotten the email addresses of any of the other players or of any of my DMs and I had wanted to thank the DMs for running great games. I went into Dragon*Con just terrified of gaming with strangers and had nothing but incredibly positive experiences. The schedule made it easy for me to track down the DMs on Facebook and lo, the best of them – the guy whose one-shot was so good that the next day I realized what I was planning to do during the next session even though I knew that session would never occur – has an old friend of mine from high school as one of our mutual friends. All of a sudden I had the chance to say thank you.
So, I did.
And now I’m grateful that it’s 2012; that there can be moments of unexpected good in life; that the construct of a calendrical year gives us the chance to compartmentalize the past and move on when we need it; that there is more Russian money in my house; that I can still make myself smile when a story idea occurs to me; and that I got to tell a DM he did a great job.]]>
I’ve added a couple of chapters and I’ve also added a Chapter Zero at the beginning in which Our Hero closes an earlier case as a way to observe what it is he does in his school. It’s an idea stolen from James Bond novels and films and I’m sure Sir Ian Fleming stole it from someone else. I want to say it happens at the beginning of The Maltese Falcon but now I honestly can’t remember. Chandler starts all the Marlowe novels at the commencement of a fresh case but I can’t do that and Chandler was a genius anyway. I mean, seriously, people say they’re trying to write the Great American Novel but guess what: Chandler already did it and saved us all the trouble. The Long Goodbye is simply the best novel written in America in the 20th century as far as I’m concerned. No, I have not read all novels written in America in the 20th century, or even very many of them, but it’s hard as hell for me to imagine one that does a better job.]]>