I spent a hundred dollars on booze today. Before this sounds like the ramblings of someone with a severe problem, I must clarify not only the date, June 24th 2022, the day the United States Supreme Court voted to overturn the landmark case known as Roe v. Wade, but the frequency with which I visit the liquor store down the street from me: maybe once every other month. Today seemed like a good occasion to restock. On my drive home, lazily wolfing down fresh, hot hushpuppies from Cookout, I thought about how to feel and what to do other than succumb to the nihilism that comes from bargaining with a terrorist organization such as the United States government. The next thought was one of self-admonishment, and then the immediate self-pity. I have no fetal incubators lodged within my torso; I have no say in this. I do not belong to one of the many groups of marginalized people whose rights and safeties have been threatened with the obvious next steps of these nation-wide decisions. Of the horrible things currently being debated in the highest court in the latest empire to pretend they’ll never fall, the only one that could affect me directly is about firearms in the wake of yet another act of academic violence, and as someone who is becoming more unsure if bringing a child into this world is a moral positive, that risk of affect is even lower.
All these caveats make my emotional state, and my decision to spend a hundred dollars on booze, even more pathetic. When not logged into the psychological padded room that is social media, where hundreds of my peers and tens of my friends speak the same sort of defeated pain, I feel foolish for caring. Obviously, this is the gamut of authoritarianism, removing the feeling of being capable of suffering pain and the oncoming protective rage that follows. So I’m writing this and posting it to my website and tweeting the link to said website and sending said tweet to my friends because that’s what I can do. But the discussion about political current events and massive human rights atrocities are not what I’m good at, as I’m sure anyone reading this can tell by the avalanche of run-on sentences and frayed thoughts, including the one you’re actively reading, hoping I throw in a period soon so your eyes can stop to rest. There you go.
I would argue there are two things I’m uniquely good at; not the best, just things that are not given skills for an able-bodied middle-class young man such as data entry, the thing currently paying my rent. These two skills are crafting stories and media criticism. I’ve been lucky enough to do both of these things professionally, the criticism many years before the creation of my own art, and it gave me a bit of a complex about my skills. I figured I had a gift for spinning words and speaking eloquently about art, and I should make that, if not a career, as my eventual goal always has and always will be writing fiction in some form, then a side hustle. I started blogs, my first one in 2009 with a paragraph-long review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I gave it a C+ at the time, which I later edited to a C-. It was the harshest I could consider for a movie I considered technically and morally competent, as the American school system’s bastardization of percentages made its root in my psyche and understanding of numbers very clear. This is a problem I wrestle with to this day. I wrote monthly reviews for a magazine, The Cumberland Presbyterian. If you find an issue of this magazine in a CP church and the issue is from 2009 to 2016, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see one of my reviews on the back few pages. These reviews are not very good. I then went through various other critical outlets. I did reviews and analyses for the NPR affiliate station at my college and got my first paycheck ever for my writing. I spent five years as a contributor for the website OneOfUs.net and made many lifelong friends as well as hone my critical and comedic faculties. I wrote satirical and emotional articles for Crooked Marquee, churned out some garbage for ScreenRant, and started an ill-fated movie review channel my freshman year of college. Personal fallings out killed that one. Then in 2019, I, along with two friends, started another YouTube channel called Game Mechanics. We published video essays, written and voiced by me, discussing video games and their sociological impact. Through many setbacks and personal conflicts, we published 12 videos. I’m exceptionally proud of 6 of them. I enjoy 4 of them. I think 2 of them are pretty shit. I don’t think we’ll make any more, but I loved my time with them, and would not trade any of those experiences away.
If you’ll forgive me just listing part of my CV and walking down memory lane, I have a point. I ran through several ill-conceived ideas for fiction pieces today, trying to use my skills to do…something positive. They were all terrible.
I put on an old Jacob Geller video, “The Future of Writing About Games”. If you’re unfamiliar with Geller’s work, he’s my favorite person on YouTube. His video essays about games are the strongest influence on my work with Game Mechanics, and I find his clarity and precision uniquely comforting. It reminded me of a conversation I’ve had in my head many times, wondering if I were to have children, what sort of films, shows, games, novels, plays, or albums I would force upon them, both to give them a personalized media education but also to fight against the oncoming wave of intentional media illiteracy that sweeps, apolitically, through an uninterested public. Luke Skywalker is a badass who needs to always be cool. Only snobs think Marvel movies should have better shot composition. Squid Game is actually about socialism. Bioshock and Metal Gear Solid are apolitical action games. There are countless examples, from the obtuse to the willfully ignorant, of this sort of thing. I do not think I can fix this. I think this will continue to happen for many years until we are so burnt out culturally that the tide shifts back to finding ourselves excited and awed over riskier, more savvy material. I do not write these words to fix the world. I do it to fix myself.
I cannot do many things about the world. Maybe I am making it worse by adding more noise and more words to an online culture oversaturated with noise and words.
In 2015, I went to a month-long program called the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts. I studied film production and met some of the most valuable people I have ever and will ever meet. One of the teachers was a man named Sam Dalton. If you’ve seen the original Footloose, you may recognize him. At parents’ day, he said something to the effect of ‘these kids do not make movies because they want to, they do it because they can’t do anything else’.
I’m writing about art on this page not because I want to. But because I think I must. The follow link is below if you want to see what I write next.