Book: How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

I’m way behind. Bawse came out last year, and I just finished it yesterday. Though truthfully, I’ve been reading it about a chapter or two at a time since I got it on release day.

This book is beautiful: thick demi-gloss pages, giant high quality pictures of Lilly at the start of every chapter, and bright, colorful graphics for pull quotes and end of chapter checklists. It’s not exactly what I expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You know, by the look and feel of this book, it seems very much like it wants to be a coffee table book. It does make an impact.

Through fifty chapters, Lilly outlines her values and ideas on achieving success in very clear, simple language. Given her YouTube audience, I’m not really in her demographic… but I am a regular viewer of her content because I find her brand of positive and confident hustle inspiring. Which it’s meant to be but not just for her audience but also for herself. And I’d be willing to be that’s exactly what her actual demographic finds so attractive as well.

Her ideas aren’t new, not groundbreaking, but they are presented in a way that makes them easily digestible for her audience. And at the end of each chapter she provides a little space to write your own checklist of people, things, places that will help you achieve whatever idea she’s just presented.

I’ve read a few self-help kind of books in my time and this one definitely breaks out from the norm. Mostly due to the way each chapter is presented. But also, Lilly’s brand of positive reinforcement and her very easily accessible brand of humor makes it feel like a conversation. I’ll also say that I think the fact that if you do watch her videos or her vlog, you can see that these aren’t just words she’s written down. This book doesn’t break from the person she shows so openly in her vlogs. You can see that this kind of positive hustle is the same thing she applies to her own success, daily.

I say that, and I think that two decades ago, this book might’ve really changed my mind. However I think that at my current age, having struggled to get to where I am in my own life, a lot of her values are things I’ve already learned or applied. They’re concepts that you learn with experience. If you take them to heart early in life though, maybe you’ll be a step up from the rest. Will you have 13 million YouTube followers? Probably not. But, maybe you could have a good start on where you want to be someday.

 

[Writing] Poetry — background on writing Instep

I wrote Instep for a specific publication’s open submissions about eight months ago. It was supposed to be a pretty big poetry anthology being created. At the time I had another poem I was thinking about submitting but when time came to actually send something in (of course I waited until the very last minute, despite having something on hand to send in) I decided I didn’t want to send the thing I had ready to go. Instead, I had an idea for this poem and decided to write and polish it on the last day submissions were open.

It wasn’t exactly a new idea for me though. I know a lot of dancers and have written a few fiction short stories about dancing or dancers before. Almost a decade ago, I wrote a short piece for an online community about a dancer being driven home after a big performance that has some of the same themes of Instep. So this theme wasn’t new to me and in fact Instep is pretty much that specific short story condensed down to its most basic parts. Putting it together into a poem format was pretty simple using that story as a template. It’s not my normal poetry style, but I was pretty pleased with it when I sent it off.

Last week I received the rejection notice for it. I’m disappointed obviously, but I guess I’m not super surprised given that this specific anthology was going to have a higher pool of submissions than your typical publication. (It’s not out yet, so I’m not going to name what it is.)

However, since it’s a little different, a little simpler than what I’d normally write, I’m not super keen on trying to resubmit it elsewhere. But I don’t want to toss it in a digital drawer and forget about it. So, I’m putting it up here and I hope people enjoy it.

YouTube: Cracked’s After Hours with a side of Rubi Whipple

I woke up this morning and for some reason was really, really missing a comedy pop culture video series that sadly ended pretty abruptly last December. Until recently, the Cracked website also had an active YouTube channel where every month for the last few years (since around 2011) they’ve produced a series called, After Hours.

After several active years on YouTube the staff and producers for the Cracked website were fired, effectively ending the run of all their YouTube series in order to focus more fully on the website. Now I don’t know what must’ve gone on behind closed doors over at Cracked, but I think cutting all their YouTube shows was a pretty fucking stupid idea. But, I’m probably biased.

What I can say is that I really miss their brand of humor, their political statements and the stabs they took at analyzing and making light of pop culture. Specifically, After Hours.

The After Hours series showed four friends sitting around a diner table debating pop culture questions. Like crazy internet theories about The Simpsons, or which movie about ghosts was the best for the ghosts. Or, which movie has the best version of Hell. These weren’t always funny but they were always insanely well researched and well argued.

This morning when I was getting ready for work, I realized how much I really missed that series and that group of characters (and writers). Daniel O’Brien, Soren Bowie, Michael Swaim and Katie Willert all portrayed these friends and pop culture fanatics with a great deal of charm. After Hours was a great series and it’s really only one of the many series Cracked produced on YouTube that were charming, interesting and memorable.

Anyway. I thought since I was missing it and rewatching some old favorites, I’d share them with you and hope that if you never watched one before you give it a try now. [Also, I don’t necessarily want to advocate for a company that literally fired all the video staff I loved, soooooooooooooo idk, watch with adblock on. Or don’t, because that would be WRONG? Who am I to say.]
PS. And let me do a little legwork for fannish people. If you like like After Hours, you might find yourself here someday.
If you start with the video below it goes right into the playlist.
Also, if you’e got a minute, go give Starline Hodge some love. She often wrote for the show and did background acting as the waitress, which were always great bits. She created a great web comic called Rubi Whipple that more people should read. 

February Mixtape: Schwarmerei; ladies edition

Inspired by the word for the february mixtape challenge as created by Eve @ Twist in the Taile and Evi @ Adventuring Through Pages, I bring you a playlist for February. The word for this month’s challenge is schwarmerei: n. You can find the prompt for this month here.
As I started putting songs together I was sort of inspired to only put songs on the list sung by ladies, and sort of my go-to songs for putting myself in a good mood. You can find the playlist on Spotify here.
Track List: i. confident – demi lovato; ii. my lovin’ (you’re never gonna get it) – en vogue; iii. freak like me – halestorm; ivlove myself – qveen herby; v. good as hell – lizzo; vi. what have you done for me lately – janet jackson; vii. that’s my girl – fifth harmony; viii. flawless – beyoncé

D&D [Underdark]: Dungeons and Actual Dragons

In the D&D game I play in on Mondays, my druid has recently come into guardianship of a young red dragon wyrmling. Against the better judgement of part of my party I gave him a name that was NOT food related. This party is constantly at odds and rather than attempt to save the poor thing (while he was still an egg), they wanted to make him into a dragon egg omelet. Hilarity did not ensue.

Anyhow, thanks to me, our party is +1 protective dragon. It’s pretty great so far. Since our party is mostly in travel mode at the moment, escorting part of our npc group home, my druid has been spending her time teaching the little guy to forage, speak, fly and fight. I’m working on skills that she has, so she can better train him, so tonight I opted to teach him about Religion. She’s a worshiper of Silvanus herself and thought this would be a good start.

Our DM is never the best at spur-of-the-moment dialogue but the exchanges we’ve had as druid & dragon have been pretty great so far. Tonight’s produced this moment.

Dragon: What’s Religion?
Druid: Well, it’s the thing we call it when you decide to spend your time and energy paying love, attention and respect to something or someone.

Dragon: Does that mean you’re my religion?


And that kids is how you make me fall in love with a baby dragon.

Movie: The Cloverfield Paradox

I love a good surprise movie. The Super Bowl was over by the time I saw the announcement for the new Cloverfield movie, so I finished what I was working on and hopped over to Netflix.


Now, I never watched the first movie. I wanted to, but knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the shaky-cam production. However, I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane at the theater and loved it. I’m a huge fan of horror movies — especially ones that build really well, and ones that tease you about just how threatening the thing you think might be threatening really is.

You’re supposed to spend all of that movie wondering what the real threat is. Is it John Goodman’s character or is he really a nice guy protecting our heroine from what’s happening outside? Sure, it’s not ideal, the situation, but how much can you trust about what’s happening inside that bunker? I’m a sucker for that ambiguous villain. 
The Cloverfield Paradox feeds on another one of my favorite horror genres: the isolationist space thriller. Again, this is all about feeding on our own expectations and perceptions. What’s more scary: the thing happening on the space station, or the fact that nothing is happening and you’re still cut off from all the things you know and love. Can you trust the people you’re with? Can you trust yourself? In a movie like Alien, there’s a specific threat: the killer alien. But what’s more, we learn that you can’t always trust the people you’re with either… people will do a lot for money, for power, for fame and that’s not too mention that you never know what people will do when put under that kind of pressure.
Brief spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane ahead. 
So, we’re supposed to spend the majority of the movie rooting for the heroine, Michelle. She’s saved from a wreck and nursed back to health by a stranger, but finds herself stuck inside his underground bunker. He seems strange and we’re supposed to see him as this mostly harmless but slightly unhinged guy, who maybe suffers from some mental illness. He’s particular, he gets angry and most importantly, he refuses to let her leave. He’s adamant that there’s something outside, that something dangerous has happened, that the bunker is the safest place for them all. 
For a while, she gives in to this supposed fantasy. After all, other guy in the bunker is a neighbor who seems pretty normal and he came into the bunker willingly. But over time, this stranger gets stranger. He’s forcing Michelle to play this familial role. We find out near the end that this guy isn’t just strange, that her initial instincts were correct… he is dangerous. Michelle fights her way out of the bunker. And then there’s the twist. He might’ve been a monster, but the stranger wasn’t wrong either. Something is very, very bad outside. 
And that’s where we come to The Cloverfield Paradox. 
This movie doesn’t play off the second movie any more than the second did off the first. We know there’s an indefinite something happening. It’s not explained or defined… but it also doesn’t need to be. So whatever is happening means our protagonist, Ava Hamilton is going with a team to the space station. There, the international crew spends two years firing up a particle accelerator trying to figure out a way to generate enough power that the Earth can rebuild resources. Which we can learn from the power of elimination… are dwindling. 
The majority of the movie is about the isolation of space, who and how does the crew trust. If they’re alone, how do they survive. And when the unexpected and unexplained happens, can they keep their shit together long enough to figure out how to get home again.
I have to say this reversal on an apocalyptic tale is a lot of fun. This is the opposite of something like San Andreas, for example. The disaster thriller genre shows us heroes at the center of the disaster, where the disaster is the main character. The Cloverfield movies, by comparison, mention the disaster as little as possible. 
I don’t want to spoil it for you. But if you’re a fan of space horror, or just horror in general, check it out. I really, really liked it. 
Also, holy fucking shout out to this whole cast and crew for keeping this movie on the DL for however long they had to keep that under their hats. And, to whatever casting director delivered this amazing leading cast of POCs. It was awesome.  

Music: Dubstep Bagpipe Cover by TheSnakeCharmer

I don’t have anything much to say about this video except that it’s super cool. It’s a dubstep medley of The Force Awakens, Duel of Fates and Imperial March done on a bagpipe, accompanied by a violin and a DJ on a launchpad. Also, this badass piper has the coolest horned dragon skull on her bagpipe and I love it.

 

Taking Myself Out

So, I drove myself about three hours north early Friday afternoon for a concert. I got into Omaha right about dinner time, leaving me enough time to eat something before going to the show. Now, I’m familiar with the city a little bit, but not the part the show was in. So I drove there first, making sure I knew the area a little. Then I found a place nearby that looked worth trying out for dinner.

Now I’ll be really honest and say it took me longer than I’m proud of to find a place to eat dinner. Mostly because I couldn’t settle on something but also because the conditions around the place for the show weren’t ideal. It’s really fucking cold outside and I didn’t wear shoes for walking a long way, because I’d planned to just park and eat somewhere near the concert venue. So I drove around a little bit while making my decision.

I had to have a good talk to myself during this little drive. A good, stern talking to. Because it’s so, so, so easy to fall into something easy when conditions are out of the norm or at least out of the expected. As I was driving I considered, a couple of times, stopping at some fast food place and eating instead of bothering with anything else. But here’s the thing. I drove three hours to a different city and I had both the time and the money to eat somewhere that wouldn’t make me fucking miserable. Plus, while I could’ve eaten quickly and sat in my car or at a coffee shop for two hours, I would’ve been bored and miserable just scrolling my phone. AND I knew afterwards I’d be kicking myself for not taking the chance to do something else. Hence the very stern talking to I gave myself to just make up my mind and get something.

I had to spend some time finding parking but I managed and the walk was brief. But I ended up at this nice restaurant near the concert venue that was actually a little fancy. I don’t drink alcohol often or much when I do, but since this was a treat for myself and at a restaurant with a wine and cocktail bar, I opted for a drink to.

Let me tell you. I’m so very glad that I listened to myself. I had a fantastic meal, even if it was a little awkward to eat alone. I sat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine and my meal and texted a bit while I waited for both. It’s not the sort of meal I could have often or would choose for myself when I’m home, but it was the perfect sort of experience for taking myself out. A little like a date. Fancy food, nice drink, and a good show.

Duck with endive and sweet potato chips, with a side of scalloped sweet potatoes smothered in Gruyere.
(Not pictured: a glass of Dr. Loosen Riesling.)

Once I got to Omaha and saw the parking, felt the cold, it would’ve been so easy to give up. I even thought about just skipping the show once I realized it wasn’t the sort of venue where you can easily grab a chair. I had so many tiny battles with my anxiety. But it was worth it.

After the show, I didn’t linger because I was eager to drive back home again, but the whole way home I thought about how glad I was to see the thing through.

Oh, and get this. The place I opted to eat for dinner is closing in two weeks. I found that out near the end of my meal. The owners are shutting it down after Valentine’s Day so they can do something new. The place was packed while I was there and the bartender was talking about how busy she expected it to be over the next week and a half. She loves the place and couldn’t speak highly enough of it. That’s an experience I’ll never be able to have again, even if I wanted to. So that’s pretty cool all on its own.

(And if you’re in Omaha before Valentine’s Day, check out Lot 2 in Benson. You might have to go early to get a seat, or sit at the bar, but the food is definitely worth it.)

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#INeedDiverseGames

I’m giving today’s post to share with you a cause near and dear to my heart, #INeedDiverseGames.

I Need Diverse Games is a 501c3 non-profit organization advocating for diverse voices in gaming. The organization sponsors attendance at conventions with diverse panel tracks, promotes diverse creators and teaches about diversity and inclusion in gaming spaces.

There’s plenty of ways to support this effort, starting with either Patreon or  Twitch.tv. You can also continue to support and share the work of creators with underrepresented or marginalized voices from the tumblr and twitter accounts for INDG which boost games and creators regularly.

We get that everyone struggles with funds, but every little bit helps. There’s just a few people involved with Tanya at the helm, and there’s still plenty of work to be done. Right now, INDG needs help with both funding and content and you can read more about both here on this post.

If you’re new to Patreon, you can get started supporting INDG with as little as $1, each of which adds up to be an amazing help. I love Tanya and the work she’s doing with INDG. Please consider checking it out, subscribing to the twitch channel or becoming a patron.

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