Monday, April 26, 2021

The "Success Machine" is Jammed

People are often told success has to look a certain way, and the milestones that signify said success must be reached at approximate ages. Owning your first home happens in your 40s at the latest. Your career should be established by the time you are in your early 30s. There is some space for deviation, but the wiggle room is only permitted if you have already reached other goals (like being a parent). 

If you are someone who doesn't meet the expectations silently fastened to your back when you become an adult, you're considered a failure. Late bloomers are okay... provided they blossom seemingly all at once and in the acceptable directions. Otherwise, you're a "waste of potential" or worse.

A lot of people feel this keen nervousness and check their progress against their peers' frequently (though this tends to calm itself when people reach middle age). It can foster insecurity and jealousy. And, in a society so focused on pixel-perfect Instagram posts, it's a potential recipe for disaster.
It's difficult to pull myself away from the "hustle and achieve" mindset because it's the only model that was presented to me from little onward. I will never do most of the tasks required to be viewed as a success (no driving, no traveling, no children, no real career, etc.), and I have few other metrics as a guide. Sometimes, I feel like I'll never do/be anything worthwhile. There is no envy or comparison for me... just a list I can't finish. A list so engrained within me, that I don't even know how many of those objectives would be fulfilling.

My sense of self is directly tied to my accomplishments. I could be the funniest, kindest, and smartest person in America and it would mean nothing unless I did things with those traits. It's not enough. I must push myself relentlessly. I've worked myself sick numerous times. My amount of accomplishments is paltry.
What I often fail to see is that I have a unique opportunity:  Since I'm so far on the fringes of society, I can safely rewrite what long-term success looks like without true repercussions or judgement. I can throw out the manual. But, the possibility feels a little too impossible because I don't know where exactly to begin. 

Perhaps Albert Einstein will give me a hint:  "Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." Seems like solid advice to me.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Universal Nova (A Poem)

Holed up in a space of your own—
adjacent smattering of planets
house lives and light and stars
cracking smiles of varied intensities
and deaths. If you collapse now,
you’re a little closer to yourself,
a bit more endeared to the soreness
of popped joints and reset bones.
Hum of your blood the highway lullaby. 
Your moon face aches for the sun.
I think I'm actually writing two poems here, but the result is okay... if a bit off.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Hoedown Throwdown: One World versus Pioneers of Olive Town

 If you're in North America and like farming simulation games, you're probably aware that two titles came out this month for the Nintendo Switch. But, if you aren't an avid player of the genre, you may be confused as to which one to try. Well, I'm going to help you with that.

The Harvest Moon series people knew from years ago is not the current one. Natsume, the company in charge of localization, kept the name out of spite when Marvelous decided to go with a different company to bring it to North America in approximately 2015. So, anything with the name Story of Seasons in front of it is actually what people used to know as Harvest Moon. This is important for people to grasp, as current day Harvest Moon is not indicative of the way the games used to be.


Tending to the crops in Harvest Moon: One World.

Harvest Moon: One World is a barren, muddy palette of a game. Everything is bland. The character design is uninspired, the areas (even those in different climates) are virtually the same. There is slow down at points when you walk, but it isn't too bad because there's not much in the game to render. You can walk for virtual in-game hours and not see anything too much of interest (slowly losing stamina while you do). The story relies on the character saving the goddess (a played-out plot).

The gardens in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.

Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town always has something going on. There are no winding roads to traverse between sections. The slowdown on the first section of your farm is significant and even at points alarming, but frame drops are generally confined to there. While you help awaken a goddess, your main goal is to make the town a better place. Players don't lose stamina when they walk. The payoff to mining, cooking, fishing, raising animals, and all the normal activities in this game feel rewarding where One World felt meh or like a drag. There are little touches in PoOT (like better indicators for things like the watering can) that One World would benefit from.

The snowy town in Harvest Moon: One World.
All towns are basically a cluster of similar buildings.

One World has some unique concepts that Pioneers of Olive Town doesn't. There are multiple regions with different climates. There is a huge crop variety and animals never seen in the series (like reindeer). You can move your farm to multiple locations after you meet requirements. However, no matter the climate everything is similar, the crop variation is mostly different colors, and finding the exact seeds you need for a quest (while they are free and the general location is shown on a lackluster map) can be a huge pain. There were also no festivals that I saw and time moves so fast, you can lose half your day just walking around and finding seeds instead of planting or caring for animals (there is limited fast travel, but it is only to a few select locations). A final negative note is not being able to decide where your crops will go; you can only plant crops where the squares already exist.

Walking around Olive Town.
You can see how much character is in each building.
They all have their own feel.

Pioneers of Olive Town keeps your farm in one place, but it is divided into multiple sections you can unlock (you can decide where on the farm to plant crops). There are mutated crops, but you have to work for them instead of them being handed to you by random sprites. Olive Town is a much more colorful place, and there are a lot of things to do to keep your farm running and help the villagers. You don't automatically take every quest like you do in One World, you can decide what you deal with when and rewards are more significant (villagers change requests daily, though). You can forage for a greater variety of things. Festivals, while not all top notch, exist. The sprites feel less present (but more useful) as the game progresses than in One World.

Let's talk glitches: One World had a couple significant ones just in the handful of hours I played it. I had a cutscene that drained my stamina and worsened my condition (which should have fixed itself with sleep), but even sleeping for three days didn't restore my condition to normal... increasing my stamina depletion exponentially. A character would never leave her house to receive quest items, and you couldn't just knock on her door to go inside. Going to different areas without preparation, while not a glitch, can also deplete your stamina with the extreme weather conditions (you are penalized for walking into them the first time). In Pioneers of Olive Town, the only glitches I have experienced are graphical ones.

Pioneers of Olive Town has one major flaw for me besides the slowdown on the first section of the farm: The makers. There is a brick maker, a lumber maker, a mayonnaise maker, a cloth maker, a thread maker, a condiment maker, a cheese maker, powder maker, honey maker, and more. And they all need space on your farm. Some people won't care about that, but I don't like the industrialized feel of my farm with all the makers going, though they are useful and/or help you make money.

Same-sex marriage is possible in PoOT but not in One World. The character customization and clothing options are also better.

Both games have extra content to buy, but One World is holding the strongest tools in the game hostage behind a paywall.


Basically, if you own a Nintendo Switch and want to play a new farming game, definitely go with Pioneers of Olive Town. There's always something to fix or someone to help, and there always seems to be a goal just on the horizon. One World isn't worth it, especially at the price. If you own a system other than the Nintendo Switch, stick to Stardew Valley.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Six Published Poems

I'm attempting my normal schedule on this blog once again (posting twice a month), but I have no idea how it will go. There may be inconsistencies. Please bear with me as I readjust.
Rudderless Mariner Poetry - "Fractious Divinity" 

This is a formal poem. So few places publish rhyming poetry nowadays. I almost didn't bother sending it out.

Rudderless Mariner Poetry "Distance Throw"

A tiny piece where I contemplate the next mass extinction.

Demons start knocking just as they begin possession of a home or person... if some reports can be believed. 

The formatting on these pieces is messed up. The proof looked accurate, but something was lost between then and publication. I might do a reading of these someday so they can be experienced closer to their original forms.

Monday, February 15, 2021

In Remembrance of Momma

My mom died the morning of Groundhog Day of natural causes. She was 64.

Her obituary was tiny and expressed her joy of being a mother/grandmother. My older brother claimed that nothing we say would do her justice. I agree... but I want to try.
Linda Sue was born in Milwaukee to a weatherman-sergeant-turned-factory-worker and a factory worker/gender activist. She was the middle child and only girl.

She always wanted to be a mother and would often babysit other people's children. In fact, when her mother told her how babies were made, she felt cheated because she knew there had to be "a catch". Doctors told her in her teens that she'd never have children... she was heartbroken but stubborn.

She worked through social services to provide care for families who needed help between her factory jobs and bookings. My mom was a semi-professional singer for about twenty years; she was an amazing vocalist and a semi-okay bassist. She worked for free as a teacher's aide for a couple years with one of my classmates who needed one-on-one attention when I was in preschool.

Mom loved animals and had a calming effect on them. I'd call her Saint Francis because of it. She had a variety of pets in her lifetime and was an amateur expert on "domestic" birds (parakeets, cockatiels, finches, and canaries).

She had a complicated and beautiful sense of spirituality and taught her kids to seek their own truths.

Mom had untreated ADHD her whole life and would often fragment her conversations due to so much going on in her head. She had her own way of speaking when she couldn't focus that my brothers and I called "Momese" or "Mommaese" which was a combination of spoonerisms, spliced thoughts, and pauses.

Cooking at as young as four years old, my mom was an amazing cook/baker her whole life. She could eyeball amounts of ingredients and modify recipies on the fly. My older brother learned much of what he knows from her.

She could draw/paint, crochet, do beadwork, and jerry rig objects (especially with duct tape, which she loved). She never pursued creative endeavors outside of singing and cooking with any real gusto because her attention never stayed put. Proficiency was just good enough for her liking, but her talent was evident in nearly any project outside of card making (she was pretty hopeless at it).

A Christmas fanatic, mom started playing Christmas music in September. She had Bing Crosby's holiday CD when I was a kid and would play it on loop while she slept. Decorations would always go up before Thanksgiving.

She had a wicked sense of humor and plain way of speaking that people either loved or hated. She refused to pull punches and swore a lot.

Mom liked old shows like Gunsmoke (which she called "Buns" because of the ass shot at the beginning of the show), The Flintstones, Mama's Family, and The Carol Burnett Show.

She adored Italy (even learning bits of Italian) but never travelled.

Mom was honest, faithful, and kind. Her family (primarily ex-brothers) often took blatant advantage of her giving nature; it hurt her to cut their toxicity from her life, but she was better for it. She gave to strangers and spoke to them as though they'd known her for years.
My three brothers (we adopted Jacob), husband, little nephew, and I sat in a room at a dark wood table and looked at urns on a screen less than thirty-six hours after she died. We discussed the pros and cons of materials and if the urn should be her favorite color. We looked at totals for handling her body and reducing it to ash, wondering if we could pay. My brothers went to see her body while Brandon and I kept our nephew company in the conference room because I want to remember my mother alive.

We will have a private service for my mom in the spring or summer. There will be less than ten people in attendance.

My mother raised my brothers and me on her own and taught us so many things... except how to handle the loss of her.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Criticism Around Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to read at an inauguration on January 20th. "The Hill We Climb" has received incredible praise from some prominent people in the poetry community (like Jericho Brown) and beyond. Its rhymes and accessibility make the piece immensely quotable, especially since it speaks to the state of our nation fairly well.

But, beneath the glowing praise and interviews, there are a number of trolls bashing everything from the poem to the poet herself.

Claim one:  Picking a Black female poet is pandering.

Every time a person from a minority group is picked for a job or task, someone cries affirmative action or pandering. Amanda is the first Youth Poet Laureate of America. She graduated from Harvard with honors. She isn't some unqualified child picked at random over other legitimate candidates. She has the education, skill, and presence to fully inhabit the role. She is young, but "gen z" is our future, so...

Claim two:  The rhymes and accessibility made it a terrible choice.

The poem was written to address a nation that is comprised of all backgrounds. Most people who watched the inauguration probably haven't interacted with poetry since high school. Rhyme and rhythm make things easier to remember and make more sense to the human brain than a jumble of free verse. It welcomes listeners. Heaven forbid a poem written for a country be easily understood by the citizens!

Claim three:  Performance pieces aren't poetry.

Slam/performance is an utterly traditional mechanic of poetry dating back to when oral storytelling techniques were the norm. Each generation might tweak or spin it, but performance poetry existed before every writer had a notebook in their pocket.

Performances are more engaging for large audiences. Reading like a statue with minimal emotion is a recipe for restlessness and tuning out. This isn't your MFA mixer night, Tim! If Amanda would have read without passion, they'd criticize her for that, too. "She phoned it in guys! So boring!"

If performances don't belong in poetry, we'd better take microphones and contracts from singers and rappers.

Claim four:  She's going to become a diva like Maya Angelou.

Why? Because she's a Black poet? Because she read at an inauguration like Ms. Angelou? I see no evidence... merely surface comparisons to support a wild theory about Ms. Gorman's future behavior. Is the person "concerned" about this going to be working with her in the near future? I'm unsure what race the person was who speculated this, but it almost sounds bigoted.
People are allowed to dislike rhyming poetry or what they consider trite.  However, diminishing someone's accomplishment for arbitrary reasons doesn't validate petty (at points, bigoted) opinions. And, policing poetry and all its possibilities is the mark of an absolute amateur who is thrilled to wallow in faux superiority (I know this because I used to do it). 

Monday, January 11, 2021

My Writing Year in Review

While everything else was going to hell last year, my publishing progress was fairly decent. Out of the 70 responses I received, 16 were acceptances. I didn't track personalized feedback on rejections, though I probably should have. If my (admittedly bad) math is to be believed, I had 22.86% success rate. It's technically one of the best years I've ever seen.

Two acceptances were for flash fiction. The figure isn't any better than an average year for stories, but one actually gave me a bit of pay... and that's unusual for me. Especially since it's just past the line of a pro-rate sale.

One of the biggest surprises is that I had more literary than speculative poems accepted. There was a time in my early career where I thought I should give up writing literary poetry and just stick to the aliens and zombies. 

So far for 2021, I've received two rejections and an acceptance.


Since a year in review post isn't complete without shilling the published pieces everyone's already seen, here are the links to a good chunk of the works that had birthdays last year!

"Tengu Lament"
"Selkie Maiden"
"Intergalactic Missionary"
"Severing Scars"
"Frozen Heart"

Other accepted works from last year are either forthcoming in 2021, or came out in various media that can't be easily linked to.

How was your acceptance record last year?