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The Strength and Endurance to Overcome

November 11, 2015 (3:17 pm) | Politics, Social Commentary

roleplaying group by justablinkImage by Justablink

Friends and brothers in arms,

Every morning, I wake up to a plethora of news about the wrongs in the world. The weight often seems overwhelming. What can we individuals do to contribute to fixings the ills of the world? The editorial page is rife with the words of concerned citizens calling us to action. Often, they inspire hope and motions that help us feel like we, given enough time, can overcome anything.

Yet no matter how many times I separate my cardboard into the little blue bin, no matter how often turn off the lights when I leave a room, no matter how much I let it mellow when it’s yellow, I still find a world in dire straits the following day. These actions are simply not cutting it. They give us perceived agency, but really they’re just chicken soup for the aware soul.

I tell you this not because I think we’re acting in futility. Even while we keep our eyes on the stars, we need to remember that our feet must remain firmly planted on the ground. Small steps can grant us agency, can allow us a sense of accomplishment, and can enable future generations to build from what we’re beginning.

That change can begin with pen and paper role playing games.

You may be rolling your eyes and wondering how this could be an answer to our problems. If RPGs are the answer, why haven’t we done this before?

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September 19, 2015 (10:47 pm) | Creativity, Social Commentary, Story


I wondered what percentage of the universe I could actually see from my perch beneath the yellow street lamp. One thousandth of a percent? One millionth? I could see a half-dozen stars and twice that many planes crossing the night sky. How is someone supposed to feel insignificant and alone when civilization keeps reminding them there’s no escape?

At least I had the bus stop to myself. “I want to hold your hand,” crooned the smooth Motown voice through my earbuds. I reached into my pocket and half-pulled my phone out, as if I’d be judged by the whole lot of nobody there. It was Al Green and, if the schedule was right, I could enjoy it in solitude for a whopping three minutes before I’d be collected by the bus. As I tucked my phone into my pocket, I spotted a figure marching up the street, glancing furtively over his shoulder. Read more »

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Three Apologies

September 5, 2015 (7:26 pm) | Women

“I’m sorry,” the email began and finished. I stared at it. I read it three times. And then I hit send, breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed.

I woke up with my stomach in knots the next day, and it only got worse with time. Since then, I keep rewriting that email in my head. I keep wondering if I said everything correctly, if I slammed a door I meant to close gently or perhaps not close at all. In some ways, it got the desired result; it ended communication. That’s exactly what I felt I needed. But now I’m not so sure.

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How to Look at Art Without Really Trying

July 25, 2015 (9:31 pm) | Growing Up, Random, Social Commentary, Technology, Work

fox cafe

“When you go to a museum,” he said, “you look at the painting, observe it, take it in. Then you look down and read the little plaque. Does the picture have meaning before you read the plaque? Does its meaning change because of the plaque?”

I wasn’t happy with this contemplation, thinking about how I consumed art and how that consumption was controlled by small plaques, tour guides, and everything but the art itself. In the context of my class deconstructing post-modernism, this was exactly the sort of uncomfortable feeling my professor wanted to instill. I soon found myself reading the plaque as a separate work when standing at galleries, wondering how my judgement of art worked, wondering if I could appreciate the art for itself without the context. I would wander through, staring at the art, actively ignoring he plaque, not caring about the context.

But often the plaque was a validation for me. That’s a Van Gogh, I’d think before glancing at the small brass trophy as if it were the backside of a Trivial Pursuit card. If I were right, I would get the endorphin rush of winning at Jeopardy; if I were wrong, I’d get the joy of learning and be able to look once more and try to spot why I thought it was Van Gogh instead of Cezanne or whomever. Regardless,  no matter how hard I tried, the plaques remained a part of my art world experience.

Yesterday, our camp went to the Denver Museum of Art. I haven’t been there in two years, the last time a camp at which I was working headed there on a field trip. In my previous trip, travelling through the museum with the oldest kids, grades 4-7, allowed me to have fascinating conversations, give them a bit more freedom, and really enjoy the experience. This time, however, I was with 2nd and 3rd graders; this time, I felt as though I was herding cats.

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Beneath the Glass

July 21, 2015 (10:26 am) | Media, New Media, Social Commentary, Technology


I remember this moment where I was standing on the edge of a car accident watching people be loaded and lifted into the ambulance, watching the tears streaming down the faces of uninjured bystanders and the stern glares of police and emergency workers as I darted back and forth trying to capture it all. I glanced over the viewfinder and took in the scene without the distance of the camera clutched in my hands. There was no focus on the lens, no technical details I needed to consider, no framing. I paused, I breathed, and I watched.

And then I ducked once more and began snapping anew.

There have been plenty of people who have argued that cameras allow distance from the experience. I know I became so focused on recording my experiences when traveling, I had to remind myself to actually have the experiences as well. I no longer travel with a camera because of that. Well, that and the fact that my camera is beat to hell and doesn’t even qualify as the trailing edge of technology at this point.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of escaping to Northern Colorado with a wonderful collection of friends. I’m only tertiarily related to the crew, as the main impetus was a reunion of a sort and I’m old friends with the spouse of one alum, yet I love spending time with these people.

Still, over the course of the few days we were there together, I was struck by how everyone, including myself, gravitated toward these moments of solitude together, staring at our phones, our thumbs flicking away. Read more »

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Ghost Story

July 12, 2015 (10:17 am) | Growing Up, Women


Sweat beads on my forehead, my fingers a gnarled mass of anxiety. I can feel the tenseness in my jaw, neck and body. I twist my shoulders tersely, a shiver running up my spine as I push the wet covers aside and feel the cool night air rush across my damp body. I roll slightly, looking for a dry spot, but my pillow, the sheets, are saturated with the physical manifestation of fear and anxiety. I keep my eyelids shut tightly, even as my gasping breath begs me to open them and make sure the room is empty.

It is empty. I know I’m alone. And yet, I feel its presence, lingering, haunting me.

“There’s a ghost in the bathroom,” he says.

“Yeah! I think it’s the purple ghost. Or maybe it’s the yellow ghost,” she chimes in.

“We’re finding evidence,” another boy offers, holding out a handful of trash they scrounged from the floor.

The ghost hunt has been happening for three days now, beginning when one of the girls turned the bathroom light off during a group bathroom break, eliciting shrieks of happy fear from the others. Now, the kids are obsessed.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” one of the counselors says. I frown a bit. I used to believe that too.

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June 17, 2015 (8:56 am) | Philosophy, Politics, Social Commentary

It seems so easy for me to recognize inequality.

I glare at it, letting it foment in my self-righteousness, until such a point that it’s out of sight or I explode. I’m not alone in this. There isn’t that pause of, “Hmm, ok, now what?” The formula is simply See it, Get angry, Act; a visceral emotional reaction.

This is not one of those times.

It must suck to be Rachel Dolezal right now. Her statement stepping down as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane listed off some of the things she and the organization feel she accomplished in that position. Unfortunately, her accomplishments and the work she’s done for equal rights is a footnote to the conversation, much in the same way the public’s strange and divided reaction is a footnote to the conversation, one which is more worthy of examination than Dolezal’s identity.

For all the discussion about her actions and how they pertain to race, equality, privilege and America’s shifting sense of social justice, what we’ve really been given is not another scandal to rail against, but an opportunity to examine our own motives and reactions to race, identity, and equality. The conversation has hardly been as divisively divided as many others to which I’ve been party, nor have the arguments and discussions been full of the angry vitriol indicative of political and racial discussions in the past. The civility is a good sign, indicating that all sides feel conflicted and confused, and most people are unsure whether to be angry, sympathetic, or simply indifferent.

Perhaps I’m reading too deeply, but I see a lot of other reactions, ones I didn’t expect, hidden beneath the surface. Some supporters of Dolezal, who argue that she should be able to choose her identity or, to a greater degree, her race, have smatterings of hope: hope that race is on its way to losing its significance; hope that people can be accepting of all lifestyle choices; hope, selfishly yet reasonably, that they can rise above their own societal hurdles. On the other side, detractors show elements of caring and preservation, often arguing not exclusivity, but a culture of respect.

What’s most fascinating to me is that both sides, despite differences in what they say on the surface, are arguing for equality.

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Certainly, Madame

May 30, 2015 (6:48 am) | Women

The first time you broke up with me, it caught me off guard.

It didn’t really register at all at first. Not in the moment. You said the words—kind, sweet, logical words that cited equality and fairness—but I wasn’t really listening to your words. I heard you, your words seared into my subconscious, but I was too busy holding you, feeling your hands on my body, kissing you, crying with you, and our hearts pounding.

I nodded and agreed, too distracted by everything I was seeing and hearing and feeling to listen. I kissed you goodbye, letting our lips linger too long, letting my hands flow magnetically toward you as you pulled away, letting my eyes follow you as you drove away. I walked back inside and began searching my room. I caressed the silhouette you left lying there, feeling the still warm outline of your body as I made the bed. I missed you immediately, even though you hadn’t truly left yet. And then I replayed your words and I realized how stupid I had been to nod and agree, to not really listen.

I listened then, as you boarded a plane and flew away. I listened as I went to work and ate and did all the things that were expected of me. I listened, though you were no longer speaking and I could no longer argue and the moment had passed.

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Magnetic Mummery – Psychedelic Sky

May 29, 2015 (6:00 am) | Magnetic Mummery, Poetry

Magnetic Poetry 3

Psychedelic sky:
an orange canvas full of
shimmering purple smoke;
a flood of sable mist
in an enormous blue aquarium;
a soaring forest of light
that leaves delicate color silhouetted above.

See the other poems here.

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Magnetic Mummery – Only Words

May 28, 2015 (6:00 am) | Magnetic Mummery, Poetry

Magnetic Poetry 2

I write,

and through language
paint a symphony electric,
elaborate rhythms,
raw surreal honey.

By experiment, I perform passion,
create vision,
whisper power,
produce monuments.

And yet my art is only ink and metaphor…

See the other poems here.

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