A Shallow But Sincere Pride Message

End of the Pride Month progress report

For the past few years, I’ve tried to make some kind of acknowledgement at the beginning of Pride month in June. But it’s usually a kind of generic “love is love” type of thing, an earnest-but-not-especially-deep acknowledgement of how much better my life has been since I came out, a resolution to keep speaking out in favor of equality and respect, the kind of thing that makes for a perfectly suitable sentiment on a rainbow T-shirt.

This month, though, has hit different. I don’t know if it’s because it coincides with my birthday, so I’m growing deeper into DGAF territory. Or if COVID has kept me isolated in one way or another, with a lot of time to myself to think. But June 2024 has really sunk in as part of an ongoing process I’m calling The Great Unclenchening.

Which means that even through I’m fully out and growing gracefully into my bland, Buttigiegian lifestyle, there are still all of these things that I’ve been holding onto as something I should be embarrassed about. Even though they’re completely inconsequential. Like having crushes. Or conforming to stereotypes. Or even being shallow.

I’ve offhandedly mentioned before how Instagram had an overly large impact on me. For better or worse, but mostly better. As lousy and downright toxic as the platform is, it undeniably helped change how I see myself. For the first 40 years or so, I thought of myself as being gross and ugly, and I felt like there was so much wrong with me. Then I started getting attention from bear dudes on Instagram. All of a sudden, strangers were giving me compliments, and I hadn’t had to do anything to win them over!1Except maybe grow a beard? I was finally being properly objectified!

Is that narcissistic? Hell yes it is! But it’s also rippled out to make a subtle but profound difference. Just this morning, after I took a shower, I saw myself in the mirror and I didn’t give a dejected sigh. Instead I thought, “that’s me, and I’m fine with that.” I don’t have to immediately shut down anybody giving me a compliment.2I’m still bad at that, but trying to get better. I don’t have to try desperately to make people laugh to get them to like me. I can just relax.

And it wasn’t lost on me that I was making this observation on the last day of Pride month. How it doesn’t just mean flags and parades, but shedding any sense of shame or embarrassment over the millions of harmless things that make up you. It also made me feel a step closer to understanding what transgender people go through, finally being able to have an outward appearance that matches how they feel on the inside.

Obviously I don’t want to underestimate the significance of coming out, or the importance of political activism and solidarity. But I feel like Pride month reduces a ton of ideas to symbols, flags, and cliches, so that it’s easy to forget it means a complete rejection of shame, embarrassment, and fear. Refusing to listen to anyone who’s getting in the way of your pursuit of happiness, even if — or maybe especially if — that person is yourself.

  • 1
    Except maybe grow a beard?
  • 2
    I’m still bad at that, but trying to get better.

Way, Way Out

Approaching Pride month with thoughts about identity, politics, and the value of defining your own “normal”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about being gay. I feel like I’d be pretty good at it. Should I give it a shot?

We have fun here but seriously: what prompted this was when I realized several weeks ago that it had been a long time since I’d thought at all about being gay. It’s almost as if once straight people stopped shoving it down our throats, we could go on about living our lives.

I didn’t need to have a bunch of imaginary conversation trees always at the ready. I just mentioned my fiance, so I need to include a gendered pronoun sometime soon to make it clear, but I don’t want it to be so blatant that it sounds like I’m making a coming-out announcement, and if they say “she” or “her” before I get a chance to, I need to make a firm but polite correction and be ready to follow-up with an assurance that it’s fine and I’m not offended. I didn’t need to keep an additional tape loop1On top of the one I already have as an over-thinking introvert, of course of every conversation running in my head, mindful of whether I’d said anything that would “out” me and introduce any awkwardness into the conversation.

Since I’m a white guy living in California, working for a company with explicit policies about diversity and inclusion, it’s all very minor “social lubricant” stuff instead of coming out of any concern for my own safety or job, but it’s still a relief to be able to turn all of it off. It’s like when landscapers have been working outside your office all morning, and it takes a few minutes to register that they’ve stopped. When you get accustomed to constant noise for so long, the silence seems alien.

In fact, the only reason I noticed the quiet was because I went onto social media and immediately saw a bunch of the familiar discourse. One post that stood out was in response to the “controversy”2Scare quotes because I’m never sure just how much of it is genuine controversy vs. social media posturing around displays of leather or fetishes at Pride events. The poster was complaining about “assimilation,” and they used the phrase “ghouls like Pete Buttigieg,” which actually made me laugh out loud.

Don’t get me wrong: I supported Buttigieg in the last election, I still think he’s an excellent and insightful statesman, and I look forward to his taking a prominent role in the Democratic party as it settles into a more youthful centrism. (While a more genuinely progressive party develops outside the DNC). But it cracks me up to think that anyone anywhere would have a strong enough opinion about Pete Buttigieg to call him a “ghoul.”

And I mean, I kind of get it. The whole idea of Pride demonstrations in the first place is to reject the social pressure to be ashamed about not conforming to limiting and old-fashioned ideas of gender/sex/propriety in general. A lot of LGBT people go through a phase of wanting to set a level of conformity they can get away with — I’m okay as long as I’m not like those people — and that’s largely driven by internalized homophobia.

But it’s also exhausting. As somebody who went through a long coming-out process relatively late (in my early 30s); and who would probably be content to settle into a bland, Buttigiegian level of gayness myself, I’ve always felt like I’m being bombarded from multiple sides of conformity. Some people say I’m too gay, others that I’m not gay enough. In my case, it’s rarely explicit, but it occasionally is: I have at times been called both the f-slur and a “self-loathing closet case,” neither time by anybody whose opinion I give a damn about, but enough to stick with me.

For most of my life, it’s felt like having one hand on the “Gayness” dial, carefully scanning the crowd for their reaction as I tune it to exactly the acceptable level. It’s all about external validation, and the pressure of conformity around something that’s supposedly all about self-identification.

It’s still weird to me that anyone would assume I’m straight, since it’s been about twenty years since I stopped trying to hide my orientation. Did you people not see the rainbow flag emoji in my Mastodon profile?! It also feels obvious to me, because every time I see a photo of Women In Love-era Oliver Reed, I turn into a Tex Avery wolf. And I swear, no exaggeration, the other day I saw some production stills of Toshiro Mifune from various points in his career, and I felt light-headed as if I were about to faint. Still, it’s as true now as it was all during my adolescence and my 20s: nobody genuinely cares as much about my orientation as I do.

I absolutely understand that visibility is essential. I’m just concerned that instead of actually promoting self-expression and self-identification, we’re falling into lazy patterns from the past, substituting one brand of conformity for another.

(In retrospect, I think a lot of that pressure is unique to San Francisco, which in addition to all of its great aspects, has its own brand of performative tolerance. The most memorable example to me was when a city councilman was trying to introduce a bill to put the slightest limitations on public nudity, along the lines of “you can be naked, but just put a towel down first.” It was described as having opposition from “the gay community,” even though I couldn’t imagine how being part of the gay community would make me eager to stare down a man’s withered, leathery junk while I’m eating in a restaurant).

Recently I saw a comic from Sarah Shay Mirk titled “Why Did I Think I Was Straight?”, about their experiences identifying as queer and nonbinary. It significantly changed the way that I’ve thought about all of this, the questions of self-identification, visibility, and conformity.

On the topics of bi- and pan-sexuality, and being transgender or genderfluid, I’ve long considered myself an “ally” — for whatever that term is worth — instead of feeling as if I had any genuine place in that community. I’m basically a Kinsey 7, and I’ve never had any real feelings of gender ambiguity, so it would be extremely presumptuous for me to pretend that I know what it’s like for transgender or nonbinary people. But so much of Mirk’s comic felt so familiar to my own experience. It made me appreciate how much self-identification isn’t about finding the box that you fit in, but finding circles of intersecting commonality with other people.

I think I understand the problems inherent in a white guy asserting his right to be As Heteronormative As I Wanna Be. It can come across as Peter Thiel-esque selfishness: I’ve got my own level of comfort, so I can pull up the ladder behind myself, and everybody else can fend for themselves. But after seeing just how much of the persecution of trans people is just a lazy repetition of the same “arguments” that were made against marriage equality and gay rights in general — they’re so lazy, they didn’t even bother to change the playbook — I’m motivated by the opposite. We’ve already fought this battle, and we won it. I’ve finally gotten to see what it’s like to live my life without being constantly othered, and I think everybody deserves the same!

I clearly don’t have the answers to what will stop the political and cultural persecution of trans people. But my hope is that we can put a stop to it without having to turn back progress and fight the same battles all over again. Simply refuse to treat the issue in 2024 as if it were still 2000, as if we’ve learned nothing over the years, and have such short attention spans that we can’t remember we’ve already debunked all those lazy-ass arguments long ago. Stop treating each letter of LGBTQIA as a separate protected class that has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and instead get to the heart of the issue: letting people define their own “normal.”

When I was younger, I adopted the mantra “Being gay is the least interesting thing about me, so why should I be forced into making it a key part of my identity?” That, I believe, was largely driven by internalized homophobia. In the decades since, that’s evolved to: “Being gay is probably still the least interesting thing about me, but it’s still an important part of who I am.” An important part of that is learning not to give a damn whether anybody else thinks I’m doing it wrong, and defending everyone else’s right to do the same for themselves.

A crucial part of Mirk’s comic is that for a lot of “queer” people, everything “queer” about them is their “normal.” Mirk uses the example of being in a society where men didn’t exist, and it never occurred to them that some people (in particular: straight women) wouldn’t find that awesome. The thing I like best about But I’m a Cheerleader (which, again, I wish I’d seen when I was younger) is that it doesn’t even occur to the main character that there’s anything weird or wrong about the thoughts she has about other women. And I’ve regularly heard the claim that “everybody is at least a little bit bisexual,” which sounds like inclusivity on the surface, but is still othering to those of us who aren’t.

Part of the reason I don’t use the word “queer” to describe myself is because I’m only “queer” as defined by other people. To me, it’s all perfectly normal. Didn’t everyone have the same thoughts I did when watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time? Isn’t everybody else a nerd who defines their own sexual orientation largely in terms of celebrity crushes? It was only after other people started telling me that I was weird or shameful that it even occurred to me that I was different at all. (And many decades later, I gradually discovered that I wasn’t even all that different).

So as Pride Month 2024 starts, I’m hoping we can stay politically conscious. Because for as much as I believe in simply refusing to jump through the hoops that right-wing bigots and opportunists keep setting out for us, it’s clearly going to take some work to ensure equality is legally defended. (Even with marriage equality a “done deal,” it’s still not legally guaranteed as far as I’m aware). But I’m also hoping we can stay socially conscious and acknowledge that self-identification means having the freedom to be as boring and “normal” as we want to be.

  • 1
    On top of the one I already have as an over-thinking introvert, of course
  • 2
    Scare quotes because I’m never sure just how much of it is genuine controversy vs. social media posturing

Reverse Omens

Vacation mishaps and trying to make sense of what the universe is telling me

I just got back from a long-anticipated vacation, starting with a cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Wish, three days at the Yacht Club resort at Walt Disney World, and culminating in a week-long solitary stay at a vacation apartment in Kissimmee Florida while I recovered from COVID.

If you were thinking about testing positive for COVID the morning of your flight home after a long vacation, I cannot recommend it. It’s absolutely no fun and as an added bonus, is extremely expensive.

As I’ve mentioned on here several times, I love the whole Crescent Lake area near Epcot, and the Yacht and Beach Club hotels are my favorites on Disney property. I’ve been extremely fortunate to get to stay at most of the hotels at Walt Disney World over the years, and while the theming, history, and views around the Polynesian can’t be beat, the Yacht and Beach Club narrowly win out for me due to vibes and convenience. Convenience because you can easily walk or take a pleasant boat ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Vibes because they instantly and relentlessly pummel you with the feeling I am having a very nice and relaxing deluxe vacation.

On top of a few memorable vacations with my family, I also got to stay there several times for work. I have a vivid memory of one of those trips, when I’d been feeling a little stressed out and felt it out melt away with one supremely relaxing morning. I got up early, went down to get some coffee and a blueberry muffin — the Yacht and Beach Clubs have the best blueberry muffins on earth — in the Solarium, and then took a short walk around the grounds while it was mostly empty.

There’s a constant loop of easy-listening background music playing quietly around the resort, and one song came on that felt like a wave of peace crashing over me. I later Shazamed it and discovered it’s called “Linwood Road” by Billy Joe Walker, Jr.

It’s a nice piece of music, but more than that, it’s one of those songs where hearing it will immediately take me back to that exact place (just a few feet away from the photograph above) and moment of peace and calm.

Fast forward to my most recent trip, and it was kind of rough going. I’d deliberately scheduled only a couple of days in the parks so as just to get a glimpse of the new stuff without overdoing it. But I found myself getting more irritable and dissatisfied as the heat grew more stifling, all the walking became more and more exhausting, and my “allergies” grew increasingly severe. By the time we got to the Magic Kingdom, I was coughing more often, blowing my nose into napkins, and just generally miserable.

Getting sick in the Magic Kingdom is its own kind of misery, because I’ve got so many good memories tied to the place, and I always think of it as being designed specifically to make me happy. But here I was, trudging around feeling awful and looking forward to nothing more than being home. By the end of the day, I just went to bed early in a nice room in my favorite hotel, confident that I’d feel better in the morning.

I didn’t, and the “I want to go home” feelings intensified until I was on the verge of becoming a 52-year-old man having a full-on meltdown that would rival any toddler’s. I went out for a cigarette — a great addiction to have when you’re fighting a respiratory illness — just thinking about how my favorite place in the world had let me down, and I just wanted to be home.

And as I was standing in the Designated Smoking Area at the hotel, a familiar song came up on the background music. It was “Linwood Road,” instantly taking me back to happier times, a kind of reassurance from the Universe that no matter how bad I felt now, everything was going to be fine. Disney World would still be there waiting for me to come back refreshed and renewed, but for now I was going to be home soon.

Then I got back to the room and tested positive for COVID, and had to cancel my flight and reserve a rental car and condo to isolate in for another week. A condo which, I didn’t know at the time, would be right off the highway in constant view of signs reminding me that I was just minutes away from Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, but couldn’t go in.

My first reaction was The Universe Lied To Me! Sending me a sign that everything was going to be okay, just before pulling the rug out from under me. Then, as the monotonous days wore on, I had a more realistic and mature reaction: there’s no such thing as getting signs from “the universe” or any other equivalent, obviously. I’d spent years wallowing in nostalgia. Instead of having proper gratitude for the people I’d been with and the things I’d been doing all of those years as the source of my happiness, I’d been attributing all of it to a place. A place that would naturally have diminishing returns as I got older and life changed around me. It was time to finally grow up and pay attention to the things that actually matter.

But… here’s an interesting observation: it’s a week later, I’m safely at home, and everything is okay. I’m still waiting for a negative test before I go back to normal, but for the most part, things are returning to the status quo. If the lesson is about gratitude, then I’m more aware than I’ve ever been how uniquely fortunate I am to be able to just hit pause on everything, to spend a week in comfort doing nothing. That’s never been true before — I have to remember all the times that having to change travel plans would’ve been devastating, both financially and for my job.

So maybe The Universe was telling me, using the medium of acoustic guitar-driven light jazz, that everything was going to be fine eventually. And instead of doing anything drastic like adapting a more mature and realistic world view in the face of minor adversity, I could go on being generally optimistic, sentimental about theme parks and hotels, and content to find omens in the most inconsequential things.

The Discreet Charm of the 4 8 15 16 23 42

Feeling inexplicably charmed by the dumb idiot who was obsessed with a bunch of people on an island

(For the record: yes, I do still remember The Numbers completely unprompted, years later).

Earlier today I was looking for an old post on this very blog, and as often happens these days, I found myself reading through the adjacent and related posts, trying to make sense of what exactly past me was trying to talk about.

It’s rare that I give past versions of myself any grace at all, so I was surprised by how much I was charmed by the whole uselessness of this website. On top of all the broken image links from a failed server migration years ago, there’s the fact that I was writing posts on the assumption that 1) everybody else was watching or reading the same stuff I was, and 2) I was obligated to be obtuse so as not to spoil it for my “audience.”

As a result, there are just dozens and dozens of posts about Lost and Battlestar Galactica where not only do I have no idea what I was talking about, but they’re so alien to me that they might’ve been written by another person. I was clearly enthralled by whatever storyline happened to be going on at the moment, making oblique references to plot events and throwing out names and descriptions of characters I no longer recognize, that trying to read them now feels somewhere between stumbling onto a complete stranger’s text messages, and the Voynich manuscript.

But instead of smacking my forehead, I’m just happy to see myself so completely engrossed in something, and clearly enjoying it even as I complained about it. And I’m charmed by my naiveté assuming that anyone other than me would be reading it. It’s essentially a private journal trying to pass as a public discussion, meaning it fails at both. But it does survive as something else, an extremely nerdy time capsule.

I do wish that I hadn’t spent so much time in online forums (and soon after, social media) that I was constantly writing on the defensive, filtering every thought and every sentence as if it were opening myself to correction and criticism. I can somewhat place posts at different periods in my life without having to check the dates, not by anchoring them to significant life events, but just by getting a sense of how earnest or how guarded I was being.

And obviously, I wish that they were anchored by significant life events for me, and not a bunch of fictional characters on an island or a spaceship. But that kind of stuff doesn’t really belong on a public blog. And I frankly appreciate the distance from having to read a genuine account of what exactly I was thinking at traumatic or stressful times. It’s a lot more charming to read my younger reactions to stuff happening to Desmond and Penny and Starbuck and Boomer than to myself.

More often than I’d like, I’ll come across a post that’s either mean-spirited or crass, and think “who is this asshole?” But as somebody who tends to behave with the mindset of “Dance like everybody’s not only watching but recording it zoomed-in and broadcasting it live to everyone you care about,” I like the idea of a decades-long record of myself going full-on nerd and getting excited about inconsequential stuff.

Fun Fact: We Can Never Truly Know Anything

Thoughts about how easily-digestible information ends up in the same state as most things that’ve been digested

As the algorithms have spent time getting to know me, they’ve learned (at least) two things: 1) I’m a nerd who enjoys learning quick, easily-digestible pieces of information; and 2) I’m pretty shallow and will pay extra attention to anything presented by a young, handsome man with a beard. So YouTube must’ve understandably believed it’d hit the jackpot when it started recommending videos from the “magnify” channel.

And it was correct; it’s an interesting channel, mostly dedicated to short-form info, mostly related to language and the origins of words, with particular repeated emphasis on different aspects of Christianity and their roots in Judaism.

Coincidentally, in the middle of watching a ton of the short videos back to back, I checked into a forum on Discord and saw someone repeating the (certainly, patently false) etymology of the word “posh” as an acronym for “port out, starboard home.” The coincidence jumped out at me, because this was a recurring topic in the newspaper column The Straight Dope — or at least its online message boards — which I used to read with beyond-religious devotion in the days before social media took over everybody’s attention.

I should make it absolutely clear that the “magnify” channel is both entertaining and interesting, which is its only real obligation, and that it at least seems both convincing and motivated by a real desire to inform. I have yet to hear anything presented on it that fails to pass my bullshit test. I’m not trying to disparage or cast any doubt on the channel itself, or its content. Just its format, which is driven by the state of online media in 2024.

Continue reading “Fun Fact: We Can Never Truly Know Anything”

Now You’re Playing With Power!

Tabletop RPGs and my ongoing beef with social media’s corrupted version of progressivism

I’m not much into tabletop role-playing games, but my fiancé is, so I’ve seen quite a few videos on YouTube about Candela Obscura.

As I understand it, it’s the first game based on a system the designers made in conjunction with Critical Role, a popular group of actors who’ve spent years running their mostly-Dungeons & Dragons campaigns as web series. (And, among other spin-off projects, adapted their campaigns to an ongoing animated series on Amazon Prime). Again as I understand it, they were interested in developing a new system that could go beyond established D&D settings, and also would favor narrative more than mechanics, to be better suited to the type of content they were making.

There seems to be no shortage of videos on YouTube critical of Candela Obscura, most of them with hyperbolic titles calling out its inexcusable sins against the very fundamentals of RPGs. Along with accusations that they “ripped off” the game Blades in the Dark, the game is insensitive to marginalized groups or the neurodivergent, etc. Many of these are, of course, just clickbait looking for attention. YouTube’s gonna YouTube, after all. But some of them seem earnestly upset.

And even if I were invested in this genre of game, I would have no problem with people criticizing it, of course. Where I get annoyed is when the complaints are, invariably, presented as speaking Truth to Power.

After all, Critical Role is easily the most successful and well-recognized (i.e. I’ve heard of it) group doing what they do. Not only have they managed to turn their friendly games into a content creation and publishing business, but they’ve got tons of devoted fans. Which means they clearly need to be taken down a peg or two, I presume?

I know that when I think of high-and-mighty fat cats who are so rich that they’ve lost touch with the common man, I think of two groups: independent tabletop RPG creators, and voice-over artists. Maybe when they’re not lounging around in their mansions, or swimming in their money bins, they could deign to lower themselves to hear some honest and necessary feedback for once.

Continue reading “Now You’re Playing With Power!”

Our iPads, Ourselves

Dumb thoughts about obsolescence, both planned and unplanned

Apparently I’m firmly in the phase of my life where I get sentimental about computers of my past, and the one that’s been on my mind lately is the iPad mini.

That may seem weird, even by the inherently weird standard of getting sentimental about computers, because the whole idea behind the iPad is that the device disappears and puts all the focus on the content. But the form factor of the mini just got everything right. I remember seeing its initial announcement and thinking the whole idea was absurd: too big to be as pocketable as a phone, too small to be as practical as a full-size tablet. But then I went to a Best Buy, picked one up, and said, “okay, now I get it.”1No one at the store seemed all that fazed by my sudden announcement; I guess people at Best Buy are used to strangers having sudden epiphanies about gadgets.

I’ve “upgraded” to a bigger iPad, which is a lot more useful for the things I use an iPad for, but the mini is just ineffably more satisfying to hold. It’s also the form factor that feels most like living in the future. The larger ones might provoke thoughts like “I could draw masterpieces on this!” or “I could write a movie on this” or “I could watch a bunch of YouTube videos I’ve downloaded for a long plane flight,” but holding the iPad mini makes you2Okay, just me think, “I could scan the atmosphere for alien particulate matter with this!”

Last night, I dug my old iPad mini out of its resting place, found a lightning cable to plug it in, and quickly felt a pang of guilt. This is a device that had been perfectly happy in whatever Valhalla beloved computers are rewarded with after their short lifetimes of usefulness, and I’d cruelly yanked it away from the light, into the cold reality of late 2023.

A while back, when I tried something similar by recharging my old Nintendo handhelds, I was surprised at how easily most of them came back to life. They made a pleasant chiming sound and seemed to say, “Hey, welcome back! Let’s play a game!” The iPad mini just showed a dead battery icon before grudgingly stuttering into its home screen, as if to gasp, “Why won’t you let me die?”3The heat pouring off of its right side made it seem even angrier.

I looked it up, and I bought the iPad mini 2 in 2014. I hadn’t realized it’d been almost 10 years! It informed me that 154 app updates were available, and the installed apps were like a snapshot of ages past. Games that were never played, apps that had fallen out of favor and been replaced by newer versions, or ingenious ideas that the creators had simply abandoned. I’d forgotten about a book-in-the-form-of-an-app (remember those?) about Disney animation, which was touting the technological advancements of its newest feature, Frozen.

When I tried to place 2014 in my own lifetime, I couldn’t remember what was going on back then, even though it wasn’t all that long ago. For the record: it was right at the time of my disastrous second stint at Telltale Games, but the more memorable events were going to the British Isles for a wedding, and having parties and events with friends.4I also had pretty sweet sideburns for a while there.

I realized that that was a transition period in my life overall, where I’d stopped dividing up time in terms of projects I was working on and companies I was working for, and started using more personal landmarks like travel and social gatherings.5And my hair. It was the start of a shift to where I stopped thinking about my life in terms of productivity, and more in terms of just plain enjoyment.

By my old standards, that would make it seem like I wasn’t accomplishing as much. But by any really meaningful standard, it meant that I was starting to be able to enjoy all the rewards of hard work, instead of just working hard for the sake of some vague payoff in the future.

And back to using the iPad as metaphor: ten years of gradual improvements. If you read the tech blogs and watch the gadget videos, you could get the sense that the tech industry as a whole, and Apple in particular, has been stagnating. Just churning out variations on black rounded rectangles year after year, with incremental changes instead of revolutionary ones. But I can look at this device I got almost ten years ago, and it almost seems like a product of a different time. Things have gotten so much better since then, without my taking notice.

(To be clear: I do wish that ten years wasn’t “ancient” by modern computer standards. But I also have some stock in Apple, so the capitalist in me is glad they’re regularly selling more stuff).

So this iPad mini is unlikely to be that useful for anything apart from being a time capsule to not-that-long ago. But it also feels more like a kindred spirit: pretty slow and clunky, doesn’t perform as well as it used to, gets overheated with just a little bit of exertion, still mad sexy though.

  • 1
    No one at the store seemed all that fazed by my sudden announcement; I guess people at Best Buy are used to strangers having sudden epiphanies about gadgets.
  • 2
    Okay, just me
  • 3
    The heat pouring off of its right side made it seem even angrier.
  • 4
    I also had pretty sweet sideburns for a while there.
  • 5
    And my hair.

Blessed are the Mid

Rambling, unorganized thoughts about living up to expectations and how it’s okay to be okay

I spent Thanksgiving week at the house I grew up in, which is something I took for granted and something I hadn’t expected to be grateful for. I found myself up too late with insomnia, lying in a single bed with all the lights off, listening to Led Zeppelin IV way too loud on headphones, “The Battle of Evermore” and “Stairway to Heaven” crashing over me like waves, as if I’d been QuantumLeaped back to the early 1980s.

How often does a 52-year-old man get to relive being 13 or 14 years old so vividly?

Lying in the dark with music blasting has always left me feeling both expansive and maudlin. This was no exception. I thought about all of the things I wanted to do as a teenager, and I compared it to how many of them I accomplished, and how many I still want to accomplish. That’s not generally a healthy mental exercise even in the best of times, but it feels like the past couple of weeks have been particularly harsh for anyone who feels like they’re under-performing.

Continue reading “Blessed are the Mid”

We Have Always Been At War With DOMA

Unpacking my own hypocrisy (maybe?) and avoiding getting gaslit by the Obama administration.

After I read Kal Penn’s memoir, I was pretty salty about how it just barely even mentioned being not-straight1For lack of a better description, since I don’t know exactly whether Kal Penn identifies as gay, bisexual, queer, etc., and instead treated it as if had been a non-issue. He casually says that in his mid-20s, his friends already “knew that [he] was dating dudes;” he makes a passing reference about figuring out his sexuality; and he has a chapter about his partner that is more about NASCAR than anything else.

That’s pretty much it. It stands out because so much of the book is about facing discrimination as an Indian-American working in Hollywood, or as an actor (at the time primarily known for his work in stoner comedies) working in the Obama Administration, but makes absolutely zero attempt at describing any kind of intersectionality with his sexual orientation.

It’s been bugging me for the last few weeks, since I’ve been wondering how much, if at all, my criticism makes me a hypocrite.

Continue reading “We Have Always Been At War With DOMA”
  • 1
    For lack of a better description, since I don’t know exactly whether Kal Penn identifies as gay, bisexual, queer, etc.

Tapped

Lorcana, memories of Magic the Gathering, and the value of novelty

There is absolutely no way I can justify buying the new Disney Lorcana trading card game. I’ve still got a few boxes full of Magic: the Gathering cards that have followed me across several moves, even though I was never that big into the game, and I haven’t played it in almost 10 years. I’ve got several other trading card games, and even more deckbuilding games, that I’ve accumulated over the years, and they’re all sitting unplayed.

But I mean, come on. It would be absurd for me to even try and pretend I’m not going to pick up at least a starter pack of the Lorcana decks, so why even bother going through the motions, when we all know how this is going to turn out?

In an attempt to pretend to be responsible, I imposed a rule that I have to get rid of all my Magic the Gathering cards before I can bring any new TCGs into the house1I really should find new homes for my copies of Netrunner and Doomtown while I’m at it..

And it was while I was sorting through the cards that I hit upon the epiphany that launched this post: hey, you know what, Magic is a really well-designed game!

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    I really should find new homes for my copies of Netrunner and Doomtown while I’m at it.

All That Heaven Affords

Observations about the optimism of design and designers

This was prompted by a recent blog post by Cabel Sasser called “Fantasy Meets Reality.” He writes about various cases where the design of physical spaces (mostly theme parks) breaks down when it comes into contact with actual human beings.

Cabel mentions how design needs to make different assumptions based on culture and location; even within the subcategory of “Disney theme park,” for instance, there can be dramatically different ideas of how much guests are compelled to follow the rules, and different understandings of what the rules even are.

There’s a sense of optimism in that post — not just because of Cabel’s inescapably infectious enthusiasm for things, but because of the sense that is often common among designers, that these are problems that can be solved, and that thoughtful design is often the answer.

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