Heap II

I feel fortunate that I don’t have to have long conversations about what I do for work. Whenever someone asks and I tell them “I work at a digital marketing company,” their eyes tend to glaze over and the subject changes shortly thereafter.

The only people I really talk to about work are people at work, and even then, sometimes I have to say, “Guys, we’re at lunch, can we just not for half an hour?” The answer is usually no, but that’s the nature of conversation when standing on a limited amount of common ground.

Some people say that the mark of true politeness is to never talk about yourself, but if that’s true, doesn’t it set up one person to be impolite? I guess the solution is to only talk about other things. Maybe that’s why sports make some of the best small talk.

If someone offers you a mint, and they’re not the host of a restaurant, there’s a good chance they’re trying to tell you something. Take the damn mint.

The chair I made in 8th grade woodshop was rotting, so my mother tore it up and put it in a trash can. I took it out to the curb, but the garbage men wouldn’t take it. I tried again the next week with the same result. We’re going to have to bag it up, apparently.

It was an adirondack chair, and it was never perfectly level. For a couple of months after I brought it home, it sat in front of my video game TV. This was at our old house on Ashel St., and while it was smooth (I at least did a good job sanding it), it wasn’t all that comfortable. It’s definitely more of an outside chair, so we put it out in front of the house, next to the hose and the planters. At some point it got a coat of black paint, though I don’t remember doing that myself. The paint didn’t seal it up or protect it from the elements at all.

When we moved in with my grandmother, the chair ended up out back, next to mom’s bird feeders. The paint peeled back bit by bit, and the weather and microorganisms ate away at it until the arms broke and the back slats wore through. And now it’s waiting to be hauled away to finish decaying elswhere.

The shop teacher was Mr. Hubbard, and in addition to teaching at Daniels Middle School, he occasionally drove buses for the football team at Broughton. Back in 8th grade and every time I saw him afterward, he would tell me, “Now William, when you grow up and make all that money, you better come take me to lunch.”

I guess that’s what I owe him for teaching me what a relief cut is and how to use a band-saw. It’s a debt unpaid so far, as I’ve yet to make “all that money.” Losing the chair does make me wonder if he had any particular number in mind.

Anyone who was anyone wanted to take woodshop. It was a nice mental break from the anxiety-engineering years of middle school. The question then, fellow Blue Jackets: what became of your Mr. Hubbard chair?

Homestuck ended last month. It’s conclusion came 7 years to the day after the comic started.

What is Homestuck?

It was a web comic that started with one teenager alone in his room and, over the course of some 8,000 pages, cascaded into a story about the end of the world and the birth of a new one. When I started reading it, it resonated strongly with me because I was convinced it was an accurate portrayal of what I was like as a 13-year-old.

I didn’t leave the house much in middle school. I rarely went to people’s houses, and I never had sleepovers, which was a major drop off after being relatively social in elementary school. The introduction of the comic follows a character through his house on a normal day. He talks to friends over the internet, and he does his best to dodge encounters with his guardian. I could identify with that. It’s also a story about a group of friends who meet on the internet and go on to have a fascinating adventure, which is the kind of thing you dream of doing when you have have internet friends. You daydream about some event or impetus that can somehow bring all of you together to one place for one purpose.

Few comics on the internet were more ambitious than Homestuck. In addition to illustrated pages, the creator, Andrew Hussie, used gifs, animations, and short browser-based games to craft a multimedia experience. Although most pages contain a single frame, the comic also contains hundreds of thousands of words, many contained in chat logs between the characters. He even gathered a community of musicians to provide accompaniment for the animated segments, and together they have released dozens of soundtrack albums.

Homestuck is an experience that will only carry you as far as your adherence to its sense of humor. In many ways, it’s the ultimate “You had to be there” joke. So much of it is layers and layers of self-reference and riffing on events of the time and ways fans reacted to the comic as it happened. There are memes and gags that would date themselves in the present (a running joke about Bill Cosby that relies on him being that funny old guy from the sitcom comes to mind).

That’s one of the reasons I could never recommend Homestuck to someone new. An old reader going back over the material would remember and understand, but if you read it for the first time now, so much would probably miss the mark.

The other big reason I can’t recommend it is because there’s a very real chance that the comic got too big for itself. As someone reading it now, that would probably be obvious to you. As someone who stuck with it for so long, it would hurt to hear you say that.

Homestuck is over, and like the comic itself, I think the ways it is important to me are difficult to explain.

The most common things people have said about Captain America: Civil War is that Spider-Man is the best part and it’s the Spider-Man we’ve all been waiting for. It’s true, he was really good (I’m no fanboy, so it’s not the reason I went to see the film or anything).

The other thing everyone is saying is that Marvel has once again redefined the super hero movie, and I feel like there’s something to that, too. It’s just a wonder that we even call them movies at this point. They are far, far closer to their original medium at this point than movies. Marvel’s films play out like an issue of a comic book. You go to see your favorite characters and the stunts they’re going to pull next, and then it ends, and you wait for the next issue to come out. There’s always going to be more, and for that reason, there’s usually not a lot of resolution.

Civil War takes that lack of resolution to a new level. I think it’s a much better film than Age of Ultron because the scars of executive meddling aren’t obvious, and it isn’t weighed down by endless setup for other movies. But it still does set the stage for other movies. Marvel wants to make sure you’re going to show up to the Spider-Man movie and the Black Panther movie. They want you to see Doctor Strange because something will happen there, too. And it’s all building up to the Infinity War films, but I think you would be mistaken if you think those movies are going to be an end point. There’s going to be more after that. There will always be more until the money stops coming.

You could argue that this is how Hollywood works now, but it isn’t the way movies work as a self-contained medium.

I’m not trying to say it’s a bad thing. I’m a fan of these films, and they work out very well for me as someone who doesn’t read comic books. It’s just worth noting that beyond being its own genre, Marvel and Disney have made comic book movies into a medium almost entirely their own.

Just think about what that business model means for Star Wars.

What I’m playing right now:

Dark Souls III: I finally got around to playing Bloodborne back in March, and that got me excited for Dark Souls again. This game hasn’t disappointed at all, despite my concerns that From Software was stretching themselves too thin. I’ve just beaten the main quest, and for once, I’m looking forward to my second playthrough almost more than my first.

Destiny Sunless Cell HUDless screencap.jpg

Destiny: Coming off of a fresh content patch in April, it’s pretty obvious that Bungie is biding their time until a major update this fall, but their way of doing that has been to make the game more fun to play at present. Quality of life updates have made the game less grindy, and I’ve been able to steadily raise the Light Level of all my characters just by playing a few nights a week. It’s also nice to catch up with my friends who play the game, although the update apparently wasn’t enough to bring back everyone. In some cases, that’s fine, and in others, it’s a bit disappointing.

Metal Gear Solid V: This game is on hold for the time being, but once I finish with DSIII, I’ll go back to plugging away at it. I played through the rest of the series earlier this year, and while the gameplay in this one is exceptionally satisfying, it takes a long time to get anything done. Not a bad thing, but it makes me want to be careful about setting aside time to play it. I don’t feel like I can just play it for an hour and then switch to something else. Like, what if I’m in the middle of a mission and the plot suddenly decides to show up? It’s a lot like other Metal Gear games in that you’re better off not being interrupted while playing.

Uncharted 4 comes out this week, and I’ll probably try to pick that up for next weekend. I also tried out Overwatch in its beta this weekend, and that’s a hoot. Up in the air on whether I want to get that as I was pretty confident I’d never spend $60 on a game that is only multiplayer, but this one is only $40. That and peer pressure make it a pretty easy sell.

I don’t know what to do with my vacation days.

Today marks a year since I came out in the most roundabout manner possible. While doing so has done a lot to calm certain anxieties, I can’t say it’s changed much else.

A lot of that comes down to what I found in my followup blog post from the week after, which is that I still don’t think anyone new knows. My cousin messaged me after my post about HB2 to tell me that she had only just read Metagaming because of the link in there. My friends who knew beforehand have all been released from their NDAs, but it’s not like that turns them all into gossip nuts (thankfully).

This still doesn’t matter. Like, it isn’t important that every person I meet is explicitly aware. In 99% of interactions with others, it shouldn’t be significant. That’s the ideal we’re working toward, so it’s fine.

Meanwhile I no longer feel like I’m having to hide anything. I’m just myself, and that’s the same as it ever was, minus the gnawing inside.

I guess the crux of this update is that I’m doing fine. A year has gone by without incident.

In fact I’m better than fine. I’m moving out next month, and I’m looking forward to having a place that is entirely my own. A sanctuary beyond reproach and devoid of examination. Until then, I get to worry about all the things I have to buy to turn an apartment into a home.

Trash cans are what I thought of today. I have to buy trash cans. I’ve got a list.

Today is also Mother’s Day, which means it’s time for annual bragging. I fear for those who had to grow up without a mom like mine. Someone who is a really good cook. Someone who shines as only an artist can. Someone to teach the importance of quiet strength.

I struggle with praise. I fumble when receiving it, and I mumble when delivering it. As the last to leave, I bear sole responsibility for any of the most recent grey hairs on her head, but I wouldn’t be where I am without her.

Love you, Mom.