#393: The Passenger Seat

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Being in the passenger seat is fun. You don’t have to be the one driving, obviously, and it allows you to relax without worrying so much about where the car is going. I thought about this blog post based on a few things: one, my experience watching my friend Alex play Persona 5 the other day, and two, watching my girlfriend Alex doze off in the seat next to me while driving home a few weeks ago. She’s known to doze off in that seat, especially when we’re not listening to anything special. This past drive home, the one from Thanksgiving, featured Alex and I listening to the most recent Death Blart episode, the annual Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 podcast featuring the McElroy brothers. We are in love with the amazing tradition that is Death Blart, and we look forward to it every year without fail.

Being in the passenger seat means also feeling like you control part of the action, though. Alex is good about not directing me what to do while I’m driving, and I’m usually the one driving in these situations, but I’m the kind of person who becomes a backseat driver. It’s not that I like telling people what to do, I just get excited imagining everything going on and want to share it with others. I noticed that while watching my friend Alex play Persona 5; I was being a backseat driver. I kept telling him what strategy to employ, what baddies to beat up and how to beat them. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious and in your face about it, but afterwards, when all was said and done, I definitely felt like I could’ve held back a bit and realized that the game is about experiencing it, including all the mistakes you make along the way.

#370: The Fan Art

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There are certain rules that we all must follow while posting fan art, whether it’s on social media or elsewhere, and I like to make sure that I’m following the rules no matter what I’m doing, even if they’re not written anywhere. More often than not, there are implied, social rules and norms that people have to adhere to or else they risk being ostracized. Fan art posting is hugely relevant to this.

If you’re in a fandom or community that has fan art of any kind, you’ve likely encountered reposters, the kinds of people who have clout solely because of the fan art that they repost over and over. It’s a way of gaining popularity, and it’s pretty dumb because the art is never truly theirs. It’s only theirs by virtue of the fact that they’re the ones posting it, but ownership doesn’t work that way. Claiming ownership over something you didn’t make is scummy and rude and obnoxious in all the worst kinds of ways. People shouldn’t be posting art that isn’t theirs in the first place, and fan art ought to be respected the same way as fan fiction, wherein you wouldn’t go around posting another person’s story pretending that you wrote it. It’s a social taboo to do so.

I guess the reason I made this post is because it’s become a trend in fandom recently, and it’s annoyed me to see it continue. I really want to make sure that communities don’t operate in a way that’s unfair to the content creators, or that discourages content creators from continuing their work. They are, ultimately, the drivers of the community and they make it all work. Without them, we’re all just a bunch of people talking about the game but not doing anything about it. It’s not the same.

#369: The Tattoo Experience

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Getting a tattoo was a fun experience. I’ll be discussing the details here, and keeping them for posterity. Overall, it was memorable in a way I’ll likely never forget, and the people I met there gave me a lot of fun stories to share with my friends for days to come. I’ll probably keep those stories to myself, though, as some of them are a bit inappropriate. Alex, who reads this blog, knows what I’m talking about, because I’ve already told her about some of them, and she’s also been to the same shop before.

So, I went to a shop in Norwalk, where I was serviced by an artist named Kyle, the same one who worked on Alex’s Makoto/Persona tattoo. Kyle was great, struck up conversation with me throughout the process, and managed everything well. He came up with two sketches for me to look at and I chose the more traditional looking one, rather than the one where it looked more sketched and abstract. I initially went in looking for an abstract design, but the cracked stone look appealed to me a lot more after talking about it with him. He convinced me of the right path, ultimately, because I absolutely love the design now and how it came out. He made it stick out really well.

While I was getting it done, the process was really smooth, and it took about two and a half hours overall. I watched some speedruns on the computer and checked my phone occasionally while it was getting done. My hand fell asleep and I felt like my legs would never leave that chair in the same spot. It didn’t hurt very much, possibly because my arms are chubby and I’m used to the pain. It’s apparently a good spot for a first tattoo.

#365: The Canon

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Get it? It’s a cannon.

The literary canon needs to be overthrown and replaced with more diverse, multicultural offerings of the same quality. The idea that only white people have written books with quality enough to be read in classrooms is completely untrue and delusional. So many authors from other cultures and races have produced canon-worthy books, and it’s about time we give them the respect and attention that they’ve missed out on because we’re still teaching The Catcher in the Rye. Can’t we move on from that by this point in our lives? I get that it’s still relevant culturally to us, but it’s not any better than Things Fall Apart.

But this post wasn’t originally going to be about assessing and analyzing the faults of the literary canon. Harold Bloom would probably hate me by now, but I’m willing to suffer that blow. Originally, I was going to write about the very idea of a canon, how books, movies, comic books, and other media with fandoms attached to them have what’s considered a canonical storyline. The canon is the official storyline, the one that’s told by the creators. What doesn’t take place within the official plot of the piece of media doesn’t actually exist in terms of the characters. For example, if you’re writing fan-fiction, you’re doing so outside of the game’s canon. If you’re producing any scenes in your art that don’t take place in the piece of media, that’s working outside of the canon as well. The canon is an interesting concept, but thankfully it doesn’t matter that much whether something is canon or not. Produce what you want to produce, and hopefully people will appreciate your faithful recreation of the story. Fandoms exist however they want, and it’s up to us to make of that what we will.

#363: The Fallout

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This won’t necessarily be about the Fallout game series or about fall as a season; instead, I’ll be discussing the ways in which fallout inside a community can be handled. There’s been major fallout recently after some spoilers came out for a certain game which I won’t name here, as I don’t want to spoil anyone by association.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes endings don’t go how people plan them to go. Sometimes endings don’t end up the way the fans want them, and sometimes that happens regardless of all the clamoring people have done for an appropriate ending to the series.

The way that the original game ended was fantastic. It was cohesive, fit the themes of the story, and overall made sense. Invoking this third arc out of nowhere really tears down on what made the first game click for me. It blows up the foundation of a really compelling and thematically-consistent story just to mess with things for the sake of it. In reality, stories need to be consistent and need to have a flow to them in order for them to make sense. A story that already exists in a perfectly fine context doesn’t need forced content to make it better, if anything it needs more development of existing content and characters who feel left out. That’s what gets me about this whole new game; there are areas that need improvement that are just thrown to the wayside to push new content instead.

A game’s ending also has to be satisfying in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be positive, but the player has to feel like it was at the very least all worth the time and investment. An ending has to click, and if it doesn’t, people will feel like they wasted their time on nothing.

#361: The Proofreader

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I’ve written three chapters of my series in about three weeks, somehow. It’s been a long journey getting to this point, but having established such a pace means I have to keep up with it, right? I’ve made it clear that I have time to write 4.5k words once a week, so with that in mind, shouldn’t I be able to do it again? This is of course on top of the other stuff I’m writing, like the fandom week that’s coming up in January, and the blogs that I try to maintain regardless of the fact that they’re becoming more and more difficult to write.

The proofreader is about having a good friend who’s willing to proofread and edit my writing for me, even though I don’t pay the person to do so. Should I? Probably. But they’re a friend of mine, and they do it for me anyway because they want to help out. It makes the story infinitely better, having people around who are willing to help out with the creation of it. I always credit them at the end of the stories, too, because I’m not irresponsible or unappreciative of the work they’ve done to help me get to where I am.

My proofreader is currently, as I type, reading my third chapter and preparing to give feedback on it. I’m excited to see what they have to say, as well as whatever they have to contribute next. I love sharing my writing with other people, and I’m always eager to get feedback, even if it’s negative. So long as it’s constructive, it’s worthwhile in my book. I want to make sure that people feel interested in where my story is going and aren’t just reading for the sake of it. Having genuine interest in a story of my own creation is really, really great.

#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

#325: The Fan Week

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Having an entire week dedicated to fan content has been an incredible experience. I didn’t realize how expansive and fun and interactive everything would be. I wrote and published two whole stories, amounting almost 10k words in total, and I feel deeply thankful for all the friends I’ve made on Twitter and beyond with their help. They have left wonderful feedback on my stories, too, which allows me to work and improve. It gives me the motivation to keep writing, which is wonderful. I don’t normally have this experience of being able to instantly receive feedback from my peers in an easy way, and I haven’t written much creatively in the past few months or even really years since college. It’s wonderful to get to write again with renewed inspiration to write.

Fandoms are interesting because, no matter which one you’re a part of, there are always bad eggs. Some people are toxic regardless of whatever you do to try to prevent it. You have to ignore those people and just move on, without paying them too much attention or else you risk letting them define the fandom completely. Ignoring and acting as yourself is the best way to move forward, without rustling any feathers along the way. You have to just be you in these spaces.

While I have had mostly positive experiences with my friends in fandom, I know for a fact that others have had negative experiences and they’ve been ruined and burnt out on everything. I don’t blame them for feeling the way that they do, especially after being part of something larger than yourself for so long. It becomes beyond your control and difficult to manage, even though you try your best to. Sometimes things just don’t work the way they’re supposed to. But that’s life in a nutshell.

#298: The Minivan

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I wrote a tweet the other day about how funny it is that the main characters of Persona 5 drive a minivan. They’re meant to be these radical, paradigm-shifting vigilantes, and though I have nothing against the minivan as a vehicle, I think the stark contrast between the characters’ attitudes and the general public perception of minivans adds some humor to the game.

The game is normally very funny, and this isn’t the first instance of irony showing up. Each character has a distinct irony that defines their personality; Ryuji is a low-brow, immature teen who bleaches his hair and isn’t afraid of anything, but he also shows remarkable maturity when it comes to understanding how hypocritical and immature adults can be. He has wisdom even through his tactless attitudes. Makoto is an over-achieving honors student and student council president, but she’s insecure about her looks and social status. I enjoy how diverse the characters’ personalities are.

But this blog post is about minivans. Let’s talk about those some more. When I was growing up, my mom owned a minivan, and it was fantastic. It had a DVD player in it and we would watch Disney movies (or Barbie movies, if Miranda was around in the car) and whatever else was around. I’ve seen the first Cars probably a hundred times, along with Finding Nemo. Bella loved Finding Nemo, and who can blame her? It’s a fantastic movie, but on repeat viewings like that, it becomes a bit annoying to watch.

A lot of my childhood memories took place in that minivan, and I remember it pretty well despite not remembering a lot of things from that period of my life. It’s good to be able to look back not in anger but in a sense of quiet nostalgia. It’s very good.

#288: The Ship

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Shipping is the act of putting or imagining two fictional characters in a romantic relationship with each other. It’s primarily an act of creative ingenuity, with those who contribute to a particular community having broad imaginations and the unique ability to articulate those thoughts into art, writing, or whatever other medium they choose.

Fanfiction is writing that takes place in the same world as an existing story, but written by another author, usually a fan of the original story who wants to expand on it further and bring more detail to a particular scene or moment. Fanfiction homes in on something in particular: a character the author really enjoys, a moment they want to make last forever, a relationship they wish had more backstory to it. It’s a remarkable practice, and something that I fully support as an English teacher. It takes a lot of creativity to write within another person’s mind, to have your writing gel with the essence of the original story while still expanding on it in unfamiliar territory. I remember offering the opportunity to write fanfiction as a project option for our Catcher in the Rye unit, and I wish more people chose that option, as it would’ve provided me with some interesting reads while giving the writers the chance to stretch their creative juices even more.

The reason I’m discussing these two concepts is because recently I started writing more on Twitter, as some of you probably know if you’ve been reading this blog often, and I’ve met some remarkably talented individuals through it. The chance to meet and befriend these people has been one of the highlights of my summer vacation, and I can only hope it doesn’t disappear as I head into another school year of work. I would hate to see that happen.