Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Flash ended the Arrowverse with its season finale and I have thoughts to share.

I've been a faithful follower of The Flash for many years now. I probably did not know much about the Flash going into this series, but I was excited when it launched. Now, as it has ended by airing its series finale last week, I think it kinda/sorta limped to the finish line. It's been a weird journey on so many levels, but just to be clear, it isn't as weird as Riverdale, which in its final season defies my even explaining what this show is about. Here are my random thoughts that I have about The Flash.

1) Grant Gustin is a great actor, and he did a great job as the Flash. He could have said any lines, but the ones that he was handed, he delivered with the emotional impact that I wanted. Any issues I had was that the writing was bad in places. I know this, so he did the best with what he was handed. And he looked good in the suit.

2) The CW decided to double and triple down on time travel. happened all the time. I know that time travel is a central power that the Flash has. But there was so much time travel that I got a bit confused on what timeline was worth saving and what wasn't worth saving. It really made me realize that the Flash seems to be a much better character when he has other heroes to team up with, and that leads me to my next observation.

3) The crossovers worked really well. I liked it when Supergirl crossed over with Arrow and it crossed over with The Flash and that crossed over with Batgirl, and then we got a crossover with Legends of Tomorrow (which by far was the greatest of the CW comic series) and we even got a Black Lightning cross over, etc. Those were a lot of fun, and it's rare when a single channel can do that with all of its properties. But the era of superhero shows has pretty much ended with The Flash, unless you bother to count Gotham Knights which I'm enjoying.

4) I think that The Flash picked up too many secondary characters. I wanted something that was more about Barry and Iris with maybe some crossover to uncovering a new Green Lantern (which was always hinted at but I never got). Instead, we ended up with Cecile and Allegra and Chester and then they offed Caitlyn to bring in Killer Frost and then changed her to the goddess Khione. We also picked up several versions of the Speed Force and then a Negative Speed Force. But the best secondary character throughout the entire show were the various versions of Thawn and Captain Cold (which we got very early in the series). Everytime he appeared in the series, he stole the show before it got reduced to Barry just "outrunning" his problems in various ways. I get it...Barry runs a lot. But maybe my lack of reading the comics made me expect that he wouldn't always outrun his issues and might have to go about solving them in a different way. Or maybe I just got jaded with the running and it no longer impacted me in a meaningful way, and I just became a bit bored with it.

5) Barry and Iris's marriage is still weird to me. This is a personal thing. But I just try to imagine a woman marrying her adopted brother and those two making kids together. The fact that they got to know each other when they were like six and maybe seven years of age doesn't make it better. It makes it worse for me. It's just...I dunno...too odd for me to not find pure cringe. I would never say anything to a couple that was like this...I'd just wish them well and probably not talk to them all that much because it was too weird. Would it be better if it was gay? I try to imagine a man saying, "I'm marrying my nephew because we are in love and near the same age, but he is not my nephew by blood." And I think..."good lord that sounds just awful...not gonna touch that." Feel free to judge me. I guess I'm just not as open-minded as I'd like to be, and maybe I have some work to do on that.

Anyway, those are my five thoughts I have on this series. Overall, it kept me invested for what? Nine seasons? That's a lot of time I spent watching this thing. It was fun though to see a network actually take a stab at doing what Disney/Marvel has accomplished with the creation of a superhero cinematic universe. It makes me think that this kind of thing is an incredibly difficult feat to pull off well. I give the CW props for trying.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

I wish Queen Charlotte was longer than six episodes.

This last weekend, I watched the Bridgerton spin-off called Queen Charlotte on Netflix. Much like Bridgerton, it is a wonderful fairy tale. It develops the character of the Queen, who sits above all in judgment of the characters who are striving for status in the era of Regency Romance. And like its namesake, Queen Charlotte manages to thread a needle of suspending disbelief while peppering us with classical renditions of modern songs like Halo (by Beyonce) and by injecting diversity into this world of stalwart white people. I can only say that Shonda Rhymes is one of the greatest entertainers alive. She does know how to put together a show (and a story) that a lot of people enjoy.

With the production of Queen Charlotte, we got our first introduction to a Bridgerton extended universe. It's filled with waistcoats and powdered wigs. But even though it only runs six episodes, it still has a lot to say about modernity, and how we are not so unlike those who came before us. In particular, I was drawn to the parallels between Lady Danbury and the Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton. One was able to find love in their life. The other was not and knew only loathing and duty. Every one of us would like to think that this is because "in those old days" people were forced into arranged marriages and one didn't have the option to choose. But this simply isn't true. In today's world where the choices available to all of us are so plentiful, there are plenty of situations which end up far worse than the arranged marriages of old. And this is mostly due to the fact that 1) people are not good at making decisions, and 2) being spoilt for choice creates its own problem, namely a thing called "choice paralysis" and the inability to commit to anything for fear of missing out.

One of the things that did take some getting used to are the two timelines in the story, and the way they transition between them. Shonda Rhymes overall does an excellent job of making those transitions appear seamless, but there was at least two occasions where it took me a moment to realize I was watching a flashback. The minor timeline is Bridgerton present in which we already know Charlotte and Ladies Agatha Danbury and Violet Bridgerton. What we didn't know in the modern timeline (or maybe it was just me that was ignorant of this fact) was that the queen had produced a horde of children who were "in effect" seedless grapes. They'd grown fat and plump on the vine of royalty but remained "heirless." Or at least childless in any sense that counted with the aristocracy, for the Queen said she had some fifty illegitimate grandchildren unsuitable for sitting upon the throne.

Another thing I liked was the commentary on loneliness that we see in this show. This comes through the lens of Lady Agatha and Lady Violet (mostly) although Charlotte is also lonely in her own right as the King (in the modern timeline) is so stricken with his mental illness (we don't know exactly what it is) that he isn't emotionally or physically available to her. Agatha and Violet realize that they are still worthy of consideration even if society is always focused on the young. This is how it should be, and I liked that commentary as all lives (while we are still living them) are untold stories, and it is up to us to remind others that this is true for there is a constant pressure to cast older folks as irrelevant. And was wonderful to be treated to lots of sex made by the pretty people of Bridgerton's unique take inspired from real history. That part is definitely a fairy tale as the people of old did not look all that attractive when I look at paintings from that time period. But, a painting is difficult to judge I think. In the end, if the story is good, why should we care too much about how real a thing is, especially when reality is basically shattering all around us in 2023 as deepfakes become more and more common.

If you haven't watched Queen Charlotte, it's worth a look. That being said, I wish it was longer than six episodes. I could have used more escapism.

Monday, May 22, 2023

A.I. is going to take away all of the fun jobs and leave us to do the drudgery.

This is an image generated in Midjourney.
The Prompt: / baroque sci-fi macro, floral lady

A.I., or "artificial intelligence" is coming on strong in 2023. The A.I. bot "Midjourney" produces stunning artwork all of the time in ways that has to be humbling for even the most talented artists out there. ChatGPT is now picking stocks better than financial planners, it is writing better than technical writers, and creative types of all kinds are protesting (and striking) to ensure that they still have jobs in the future. The CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery recently got booed at a commencement speech as students in the audience chanted, "Pay your writers!" This is where we are at now, and it isn't even June.

With the incredible rise of these technologies, I wonder why this is even happening. It isn't so much that I don't know how we got from A to B to C, etc. Rather, it's the fact that all of these A.I. technologies seem to be doing all of the fun things in life. When I dreamed about a future with robots in it, I didn't envision the robots sitting around making poetry, writing creative stories, doing art, and engaging in all of the things that most people do as hobbies because they are fun.

No, I dreamed of a future with robots doing the drudgery. The toilet needs scrubbed. The groceries need picking up at the store. The windows need washed. The laundry needs to get cleaned. The carpets are dirty and need to be washed. The furniture needs repairing. The lawn needs mowed and the driveway needs to be shoveled of snow. It goes on and on, and these are the tasks that I dreamed that robots would do! Not us. So much of our lives are filled with the tiny minutiae of what it takes to be alive. From the moment we get up, some of us have to struggle with pain, then cleaning our bodies, and then food prep and cleaning up after all that food is prepped, and then getting dressed, and then going to work for someone else, and maintaining a car, and all of those other things. In our free time, if we ever get any...then that is the time when we would be reading, watching t.v., listening to poetry, or doing art.

But it looks like the robots are going after all of those kinds of jobs...the kinds of jobs that a lot of us thought would be "the dream job" allowing us to live full lives of creativity and joy as we are validated for the various talents that some of us may have spent a lifetime in trying to get really good at. Now, the robots get to our level of skill within a couple of months, surpass us, and make all of us who relied upon those things to bring us joy now obsolete. I suppose that we could still do these hobbies if we "wanted to." But they will be worth zero dollars in the future.

What will be worth something? Scrubbing the toilets, being a housekeeper, taking out the garbage, servicing refrigerators, and repairing roads in 100 degree heat. A lot of those things are jobs that few people want (or desire) to do. And I suspect they will be as underpaid in the future as they are today. Like...what the hell? We are on the verge of a dystopia so perfect that there's no way I could have dreamed it up. Your children will be born into a world where drudgery awaits them, and all the fun things will be done by computers and A.I. to take that "responsibility" out of their hands.

Only, the word "responsibility" is just gaslighting. It never was a "responsibility" but a "privilege." It was my privilege to write and be read and to be enjoyed. It was my privilege to draw good enough to get compliments or to earn money. It was my privilege to be recognized as someone who creates at a level that is uncommon. And somehow, the capitalists have taken that away from us (or that is their intent).

And...I'm left to wonder why? As in...why didn't the capitalists take away the pothole repairs and the mending of garments and the housekeeping? Why did they create machines that could do art, write, and make music? It seems almost malicious that the people who could program and create these things would set out to create a form of life that would force real living people into the most unpleasant jobs. Can anyone out there explain to me exactly why this happened (is happening)? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Here are five things I learned from casually watching people play Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch.

Here are five things I learned from casually watching people (mostly roommates) playing Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo Switch.

1) Even though it is a sequel to Breath of the Wild, you apparently start with nothing thanks to an introduction that strips away all of your equipment and even manages to break your sword. So, you start out with a stick that you can swing at. And Link gets to walk around mostly naked again. I told my roommate as he was playing that this is "convenient" for developers who don't have to tune tougher monsters, because they made Link weak again. That's a nice reset.

2) Link is (apparently) a really popular character among trans people. He's considered an "egg breaker." If you don't know, "egg" is a term used to describe someone who is trans, who may not fully realize that they are another sex other than the one they were assigned at birth. Because Link is smooth and hairless and extremely young (he would be a twink in the gay community if he were a real person), this is apparently androgynous enough for people to both identify with male and female aspects of the character. So people who are "eggs" can see something in the character that they strongly identify with that corresponds to their subconscious sexual awakening. Josh Hawley would probably want to ban Link if he knew this was happening, based on the few pages I've read in his book, as he's deeply concerned about masculinity in America. But even as a queer person on the left, I have wondered what exactly is going on with KPop boy bands, the seeming unlimited power that young twinks wield within the gay community as older men shower them with money and gifts (I'm serious that this totally happens in what amounts to thousands of dollars gifted to fifteen year olds), and then the rise of body dysmorphia by people who desire deeply to essentially have the bodies of extraordinarily attractive teen boys. If you think I'm making this up, I swear that I'm not. My own life experiences has included conversations with almost sixty-year-old men who wonder why they cannot look like Timothee Chalamet (attractive Dune actor who is essentially king of the twinks), and whether or not surgery can bring them closer to this goal. It is (in a word) grotesque. I'm glad I don't suffer from this. I spoke with someone recently who returned from Thailand, and they said what they saw over there kinda shocked/spooked them, and that there were signs and people warning them of the dangers of getting monkey pox. I'll let you figure out exactly how a "tourist" acquires "monkey pox" but...there you go.

That is an impressively long bridge made of logs stuck together end on end.

3) Link loses an arm, so he gets a magical prosthesis called the "ultrahand" which has powers of telekinesis and apparently can handle unlimited weight. It also allows you to glue and unglue things together. This includes monsters and individuals that you run into in your exploration. You can glue those people to things, so that they don't fall off. But imagined gluing someone to a raft in real life. It's just weird, but a kid might think it is a novel solution (and that's obviously the target audience of the game even though adults are playing it everywhere--another sign that no one is an adult anymore?). What my roommate does with the ultrahand is construct things like bridges. But people online have apparently discovered that there is no limit to how big a bridge is that you can construct, so they are erecting these huge monstrosities that are miles long and carrying them around with them so that they can easily access things by setting up their portable bridge.

4) By stripping down to your skin, you can increase your stealth. Link's belongings/clothing all generate sound that affects you sneaking up on monsters and people in the game. If you are really trying to be quiet, taking off your pants and shoes is totally a thing you are supposed/can do in this game. It's weird to even type that about a game...that the creators wanted you to strip down to your underwear. But I didn't make this up. Japanese people make some truly strange games that seem odd to my very western sensibilities. But hey, I only grew up here. My brainwashing doesn't mean that it is necessarily the proper brainwashing. I at least have enough self-awareness to say that about myself.

5) You can fall an unlimited distance in game if you land in water. I thought this was weird. Because you end up in the sky at the beginning of this game, my friend decided he wanted to explore the continent down below, so he just jumped. As he was falling, he aimed for a body of water. Once he landed, he just swam to shore. I do wonder though what would have happened if he had landed on a lily pad (in other words, would the lily pad have killed Link?). My other roommate who was also watching said, "People can survive terminal velocity into water, Mike. It happens."

The game looks like a lot of fun, which (in the end) is all a game is supposed to be. I personally don't play many games, but I do like watching. If you are more of a player than a watcher, I'd recommend adding it to your collection. Some of the ridiculous things you can do as Link seem to justify the purchase price alone. Additionally, and because my brain works this way, I have to admit that when I run into someone who really, REALLY loves the game, I'll have this question pop-up in my mind. I WILL NOT say it out loud. I have enough self-control to know better. But I'll wonder..."Hey...are you an egg? Are you trans? Just curious."

Monday, May 15, 2023

I'm unusually excited about Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai which drops later this month on HBO Max.

I just learned that HBO Max is releasing an animated series later this month on May 23rd called, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai. It's a prequel to the original Gremlins film that came out in the early eighties. I have a few thoughts about this. The first is that the original Gremlins hasn't aged well. However, the bones of the storyline tying a mystical creature to ancient Chinese culture, has always intrigued me. So yeah, I'm going to watch this thing.

I'm sure that there are many people who won't be excited by this announcement. These are the people who would probably say we don't need to know anything about the Mogwai beyond what is presented in the first movie. However, I remember being a kid. And when I was a kid, I sure wanted to know more. Not necessarily about Gizmo himself, but I wanted to know more about what that creature does in the wild world. That being said, I'm also surprised an animated series with Mogwais as the main creature took this long to be made, especially with the rise of Dungeons & Dragons to regular pop culture and for fantasy films of all kinds getting huge budget treatments.

I for one hope that they answer the question of how the Mogwai's stay hydrated. As far as I know, living creatures need water to survive. So how does a Mogwai quench its thirst? As one of the three rules to owning one of these creatures, it seems like a pretty important thing to know. Maybe it will turn out that they drink blood or something like that.

Also, the "never feed after midnight" does seem like a time zone issue. I'm not sure how they will explain that one, but I hope that they do. Of course, the creators of this series are under no obligation to elaborate on the nonsensical rules for mogwai. Here's the trailer, if you'd like to get a sense of what this series is going to be like.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is a bit hard to watch in some scenes.

This is a review of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. If you don't like spoilers, you might want to go elsewhere today if you intend to see it.

So, I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. It's a bit hard to watch in some scenes, because the treatment of the animals (in cages) by the High Evolutionary is pretty grotesque. I was surprised it affected me as much as it did. But this villain (who was obsessed with changing things about lifeforms) was in many ways more terrible than Thanos. Rather than just kill lifeforms with a snap, he tortured and burned them to death. What happened to Rocket Raccoon to make him into what he is was just plain sad. I actually don't know if I like the character of Rocket any better now that I know all of this. But I do appreciate the extent that the character's creators wanted to go to in order to explain his existence. Gunn decided to go dark, and then double downed on that. It was a tonal shift to what I normally expect going into a Guardians movie. Even the humorous banter between Drax and Mantis failed to alleviate the heaviness of the film, which seemed as somber as Wakanda Forever (this was not a fun movie to watch).

Additionally, Adam Warlock wasn't really emotionally satisfying. I've been waiting for this character for a while, and they introduced him in this movie and he was basically a weaker version of Captain Marvel. This is probably (mostly) due to him being a baby mentally. In the end, his inclusion felt more like a studio mandate, but his combination of haughtiness, uncertainty, and naivety has potential. The Adam Warlock I saw in the Infinity Saga comic books was not this Adam Warlock. So, I wonder where they are going with all of this. Maybe it's to do another Guardians movie with Rocket Raccoon as the leader. However, what we got at the end of the credits was: "The Legendary Star Lord Will Return." And this is obviously (maybe) for Avengers: Secret Wars? I guess only Kevin Feige and those around him know the whole plan.

There's also the possibility that Warlock's inclusion was more that James Gunn (who has since parted ways with Marvel and moved to DC movies and Warner) put himself in a corner by adding the cocoon to the post credit scene of 2 and then had to figure out a way to make his inclusion work with the story that he wanted to tell. Considering the High Evolutionary had a pattern of destroying every prior creation whenever he was moving onto his next project, it doesn't make a lot of sense that the Sovereign were made by him and allowed to live when he was done with them. It feels more like Gunn decided that explanation worked well enough to link Adam to the plot of the third movie.

One of the things I did like in the movie was Nebula, who has learned to connect with others in ways that are not built on pain and fear. She embraced Gamaora through friendship with Tony and the Avengers to becoming a Guardian of the Galaxy in her own right. In this movie, we finally got to see Nebula come into her own by caring for others. And she ends up being the mayor of Knowhere, putting on her wings to fight and actually defeat Adam Warlock, and then to find the information on what Rocket needs, and then directing the team to find a way to cure him. It was fun to see the kind of connection that she had with Rocket, and I remembered that she was the only one of the team (aside from Rocket) who wasn't "snapped." So she had five years with Rocket to build a friendship that the others were not privy to, so it made sense that they would be close and that she'd care about him. Also (and near the end) she sheds the last of the toxicity left by her father Thanos and sees Drax the Destroyer as what he really needs to be: a dad. Nebula was hands down the MVP of this movie.

And I want to say one last thing about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Finales like this tend to come at a cost to one or more of the characters. I think Gunn knew that and used that to keep us on edge about Rocket. Quill (too) towards the end. And, you know we lost Groot in the first movie, Yondu in the second. It was fair to expect somebody to sacrifice themselves, and I got caught up in all of that. But it didn't happen, and that was one pleasant surprise that I liked very much about this movie. They deviated from what I was anticipating, and they actually got a happy ending. That's not a bad way to end things.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Star Wars Jedi Survivor is an impressive game that makes me think of the future of storytelling.

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
is an impressive game. I haven't played it, but my two new roommates play it all the time on the Playstation 5 that we have at the house. I like to sit and watch, sometimes for hours, because it is more than just a game but a cohesive story that moves on and on not unlike a movie. Furthermore, the graphics are so good that I have trouble believing it is a game and not a "made for tv" kind of series on Disney +. The main actor for the game is Cameron Monaghan, who I recognized (and liked very much) from his stint on Showtime's Shameless. Here, he plays Cal, a young man who has some pretty fantastical jedi powers. You see things all the time that are obviously built for the game, and would probably not show up in a television show or a movie, and there is always the "respawns" when you do something that ends up getting you killed. That kind of death and instantly coming back obviously doesn't work for a movie or a story well at all. But in a video game, it's a necessity. Watching the video game play out on the screen by my roommates has given me pause to consider how it is that we all structure stories, especially those with any kind of "hero's journey" built into them.

For example, once you get past the glitz and glamor of the look of this stunning video game, you do realize that there are walls that you can climb, and walls that you cannot climb. It's not a completely open world, so there are things that you see on the horizon that you just can't get to because there's an invisible wall there. Additionally, the things that you fight all have a mechanic that you need to figure out. Real things don't act like that, and you wouldn't want to write that into a real story that has a hero's journey. And finally, you would want a story to progress with more than just fighting and solving puzzles that mostly consist of how to get from X to Y. A lot of Jedi Survivor is exactly this. Allow me to explain.

A lot of the time, your character (Cal) ends up in a big room, a big canyon, or a big area. There can be tunnels and many levels of elevation to explore. But inevitably there is an area that you can't get to that has something shiny on it that you can see clearly. To get there, you have to figure out a puzzle. Sometimes you need to cut a wire so that it can hang limply in an area where you can hop to and force pull it and swing over like Tarzan to another area. Sometimes there are batteries you can seize with the Force that are hundreds of feet away, and then you can use your telekinesis to insert them into machines that are also out of reach to erect bridges that you can cross, which then gets you into a better position to achieve your goal. I could imagine trying to write all of that in a story, and how it would seem really boring to go through the minutiae of solving a puzzle like that. But for video games like Jedi: Survivor it is over half the game. The other half is fighting with lightsabers that (for some reason) hit things and don't just saw them in half. In a video game, tons of monsters you fight can take repeated whacks from a lightsaber and not just die. This obviously isn't how the weapon works in a show. But it is what it is.

But what the creators of this video game do get right are the stunning visuals, the motion capture of using a real actor as a Jedi, and the incredible design of not only the sets but the aliens you encounter. There is one alien named Greez that is Cal's friend on a world dripping with western-esque science fiction elements who has four arms and some really bushy eyebrows. I think this alien is a remarkable creation, really well-detailed, and has a great voice actor playing him. There are others (of course), and I do hope we get to run into a Sith that throws some force lightning (as I'd like to see that), but my roommates haven't come across anything like that yet.

Despite the shortcomings and huge differences between a game and a written story, I found myself daydreaming of how much fun it would be to have a story translated into a game that someone could play. It would be so incredibly different from an actual story. However, it would also be its own "kind" of story, in that it would be deeply satisfying in another way. People would get to interact with beloved characters in a way that simply isn't possible if you are just reading a story. But the interaction would most likely be in the form of combat mechanics that are predictable and problem solving. I wonder then what the next step in the evolution of games will be? Are we on a new horizon with the rise of artificial intelligence? Could A.I. break the old model of fight, solve puzzle, fight some more, and then rest to recover? That would be a fascinating step into a whole other world of being able to tell and participate in a story.

Anyone else out there have any commentary to add on the differences in storytelling regarding high quality games like Jedi Survivor and novels?

Friday, May 5, 2023

Most consumers of entertainment seem to prefer live-action to animation. Why do you suppose this is?

When I think of The Little Mermaid being made into a live action adaptation, or for One Piece on Netflix to be going through the same transformation...I wonder why we have such a push to make things that were cartoons/anime into live action adaptations. For example, you could argue that One Piece (as my "go to" example of this phenomenon) is already reaching its audience. It is the 3rd most popular show on Crunchyroll, and it airs on American cable every Saturday. But here's the thing.

Cartoons and anime reach a fraction of the audience that live-action properties do. For instance, recent episodes of One Piece have brought in around 2.39 million viewers on live television. That's a lot of people, but in comparison HBO's House of the Dragon which was a Game of Thrones spinoff, was regularly averaging over 25 million viewers per episode. For the spinoff of a show with a legendarily bad ending, this is phenomenal (the final season of Game of Thrones averaged over 40 million viewers per episode).

So it is apparent that there are other levels of recognition that studios who pump out animated films/cartoons might be reaching for. In other words, they want their property to have some esteem that exists without dismissal, because "comics and cartoons are for babies." To be more succinct, if you want your story to be taken seriously, live-action is where it's at. And it seems like it always will be. It's not fair or right, but it just is. I do wonder though as to why this happened? I mean...why is everything that is animated associated with "being childish?" And why do we heap so much legitimacy on a film that features live actors?

Maybe the answer is that animation when it is shown without promotion has bright colors that tend to be attractive toward kids. If we see a lot of kids gravitating toward a show, then it is probably natural for us all to begin to associate that show as being "childish." And maybe another answer is that live-action can offer a sense of realism that animation just fails at doing.

Anyone else have any opinions on this? Are you a person who prefers live-action to animation? If so, I'd like to know why.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

For the May 2023 IWSG I talk about what inspires me to write.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3
is out this week, which means that May has finally arrived in my brain. I kinda have this weird calendar in my head where I associate certain times with movies or television I want to see. For example, Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse comes out in the first week of June, and then Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is essentially the July 4th movie this year. So, I know when that movie hits theaters that it is time for fireworks. And Ahsoka (the Disney+ series) is what I'm looking forward to for August. By the time that hits, I know that summer has only got a few weeks left in it, so I'd better suck it up.

But being the first week of May is also exciting because it means that it is time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can find all about that HERE and even sign up if you'd like. And to tell you a little bit about the IWSG, I've borrowed some of their words from the sign-up page.

First off, what is the purpose of the IWSG?: It's to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Second, when do y'all post?: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. This is the day you are supposed to post your thoughts on your own blog. You might talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Or you might discuss your struggles and triumphs and offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Another thing you could do is visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

The Twitter handle for the Insecure Writer's Support Group is @TheIWSG and the hashtag that everyone uses is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Meka James, Victoria Marie Lees, and M Louise Barbour!

Now, every month the IWSG also announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt someone like yourself to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. If you choose to do the question, then you should include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

And this is where I tell you that I'm answering the question this month. So without further ado, here is the May 3rd question:

When you are working on a story, what inspires you?

I mostly get inspired by art. Music can inspire me to imagine a scene. A picture or a painting can leave me filled with a story that I must get written down. Another thing that inspires me is interacting and connecting with another person. That "connection" can be a strong driver for creative output. So, I think that those are the three things that inspire me the most to do the creative writing that I enjoy.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Trauma responses to modern life are everywhere if you know what to look for.

Trauma responses are a thing I think about a lot these days. Life in 2023 is as hard as it ever has been. The dollar is worth much less than it ever was, housing consumes more of everyone's paycheck, nothing seems to be built well anymore, scammers are everywhere trying to steal your information probably so that they can meet ends meet wherever they happen to be, and people are afraid of gun violence moreso than at any other time in history that I can remember. With my new roommates being just about two months old at this point, one of them said at the table the other day, "This is the first time in a long time when I have some stability in my life." That struck a chord with me, and I suppose I'm glad that I could provide some stability to someone that may have needed it a lot more than I originally anticipated.

Additionally, I have new friends who are all starting to let their trauma responses show. One of them, an adult woman of almost forty, apparently has no ability to have crucial conversations. She's as fragile as glass, and her trauma response is to behave like a little kid and run and hide from any responsibilities or being held accountable for anything that she has done. It's a fascinating thing to watch...this forty something woman to become red-faced and about ready to plunge over whatever mental cliff they have erected in their minds over some very minor things. I remarked, "Your inability to meet any conflict must really result in you living a shitty life." And yes, it turns out she lives a shitty life in a trailer park with her mom who will die of old age someday and who knows what will happen to this person.

So, yeah. I've thought about trauma responses a lot lately. I have no idea what "trauma" people are suffering. It is probably all different. But to say that things aren't getting tougher between inflation, credential inflation, extreme weather, and you name what all else that comes your way, and I'm noticing a pattern. And here's the rub: most neurotypical people do not enjoy (or suffer) people who are having a meltdown due to a trauma response. So we get really good at boundary making, and we shunt those people to the other side of the boundary. Boundaries (afterall) are healthy for everyone. But then I read that there is now a "loneliness" epidemic in the country. Don't believe me? Look it up online. There are lots of articles that point to loneliness being a problem for everyone. Birth rates are going down, people are living alone in homes to a greater extent than at any time in the past, and no one seems to be able to point to any one thing. But I think I know the answer. I have a hypothesis as to why people are so lonely. Here it is.

I think people are so lonely because we all can't stand each other anymore. There is so much trauma happening to everyone at everyplace due to all of the things that run the gamut of all the things I've mentioned above. It's trauma, trauma, trauma...followed immediately by response, response, response. And the thing one likes the "response." Because people having a trauma response are essentially traumatizing someone else. In other words, the "conflict" is something that most people say, " need therapy! Do not thrust your shit on me!" And so that leads to people living alone and then suddenly, you've got an entire population who is lonely. Connecting on social media is the only way people feel safe getting together anymore, because as soon as the trauma response is "detected" you can block that stuff and still feel safe. Safe...until society itself starts to unravel at the seams and you get things like "gun violence" from people who have gotten so angry from being isolated (or who are having some other "trauma response" whatever that happens to be) and they go and grab a gun and decide to "balance the scales."

Anyway, that's my hypothesis. For what it's worth, I'm sitting in a pretty good place mentally these days, and I'm grateful for the safety and stability I feel in my own life. But that stability has allowed me an excellent vista for me to look out and see things. I now wonder how much more trauma the people who are not me (who are living in our shared society) can take in the various forms of abuse that can be dished out by employers, by creditors, by educational institutions, by bullies who might say they are your friends, by religious fanatics, and by the truly mentally ill who are unhoused and wandering our streets. I wonder what the breaking point is? What does that look like? And will that reckoning that is sure to come be absolutely awful? And then...the final question: why were we (who saw it coming) so powerless to do anything about it?