Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Truthtelling

My mother says that when I was little she thought I would be a talking head political analyst. She figured that I could be one of those people who goes on the news after the president speaks and distills the truth from the sweet nothings politicians whisper into elaborate webs. She thought this was a possibility because I have always had a talent for saying what is unsayable. I spend every day of my life searching for truthtellers who don't mind honesty to the point of bluntness. When my friends ask how they look sometimes I just say bad. I am unapologetically proud of this. One of my top five skills is judging character.

As always, though, I will tell you where this might have come from because we are nothing if not products of our environment. I've always had low vision. I have never been able to read small font or quickly recognize people or see stop signs from afar or see individual leaves on trees. Any low vision child will tell you that it is tough at times. Many are called stupid. I was loquacious so people rarely thought I was dumb, but many adults told me I was lying. I would tell a teacher I couldn't see something and they'd tell me it couldn't be true. It shook me. What was the truth if my own eyes couldn't provide it?

Anyway,  I've spent my lifetime so far trying to know what the truth is and how to say it. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm working on it. Last night I was having a meeting with the president of the college and about eight other students when I noticed that very few of the students were being honest. Nobody was lying that I knew of, but truthtelling is about being your best self all the time. The demeanor of the students completely changed when they saw the president. They spoke in full sentences, removed all slang from their language, crossed their legs, laughed at jokes that weren't funny, and generally sucked up. I don't know if the president noticed this, but I found it extremely odd. That's not something I do. To be fair, I'm an excellent suck-up and I don't mind going to special events or doing extra credit, but this was more than that. A classic sign of lying is dropping contractions (I did not have sexual relations with that woman) and these young ladies were doing it all over the place. At the same time they were telling the president how empowered and self-assured they felt they were not able to maintain their natural speech and honest manner. It was bizarre.

I don't think most people can pick up on this stuff. It's one of a couple just natural talents I have. When I was around eight years old a colleague and friend of my father's named Anna came to our house and stayed with us for a couple days. I have no idea what prompted it, but when she was leaving I looked at Anna and said, "You are not the person you think you are." There must have been some truth in it because since that time she has switched careers, industries, relationships, and become a truthteller herself. I believe she was surprised by the advice, but it's the kind of thing that sounds like fact when you hear it.

The takeaway from this is to tell the best truth you can. If you don't, there might be someone like me around to catch you in a lie. I don't often point it out, but I've made note of who is and isn't a truthteller. All my best friends and idols are brutally honest, steadfastly themselves, and critical listeners. If you want to test whether you are a truthteller or not you can pick out two friends you have from massively different potions of your life. If they get along you are the same person with both of them. If not, you should reevaluate your life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

I've never done this before, but for this Thanksgiving I want to make a list of things I'm thankful for. It will be long. I'm a very lucky person. This is in no particular order.
  1. The Earth being exactly far enough away from the sun to sustain life
  2. The Earth having a molten core that creates a somewhat stable magnetic field
  3. Organ donors
  4. Make-a-Wish
  5. ArenaNet
  6. Guild Wars
  7. Guild Wars 2
  8. My Mom
  9. My Dad
  10. My Brother
  11. My Cousins (but mostly Sammi, sorry cousins)
  12. Having good friends (finally)
  13. Health insurance
  14. Heart Transplant technology
  15. Not being dead
  16. Knowing it could always be worse
  17. Public Transportation
  18. Simmons College/being able to afford Simmons College
  19. Human consciousness
  20. Books
  21. eBooks
  22. The Internet (mostly Wikipedia and YouTube which according to my guess contain all human knowledge)
  23. GPS technology (it goes to SPACE!)
  24. English
  25. Blog Stalkers
  26. The Moon
  27. Endless hope
  28. Snow days
  29. Random compliments (by the way you're amazing)
  30. Carbon
  31. Oxygen
  32. Water
  33. Knowing how to swim
  34. Children's wisdom
  35. The Big Bang Theory (the show and the event)
  36. Bones (the show and the anatomical piece)
  37. not being brain damaged
That's all I can think of for now. I hope you are thankful for just as many things.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

To Be Human

Since humans knew they were humans we have wondered what makes us human. The conclusions people have drawn have varied, but In Guild Wars there are five main "races." I think they (Human, Asuran, Norn, Sylvari, Charr) are much more like species than races, but that is a matter of rhetoric, not theory. Bottom line is that if you were going to categorize them by the hierarchy of exclusion in Ender's Game they would be ramen not framling because they are from such different backgrounds. They can just barely communicate and sometimes break into cultural wars. In this game, then, the developers had to define what made the humans human and the norns norn. What makes a human different from a asura defines humanness in Guild Wars 2.

The humans in that beautiful game are the race that has a perpetual carnival despite being in a war for  (at least) the last three hundred years. They are eternally looking for a piece of happiness despite their empire having fallen to a single tiny nation and their population having been decimated. Humans know they are doomed, but they stand up and do what's necessary to find joy while battling for their short lives. Humans are eternally optimistic. They look to the sky, stars, land, and sea and see what could be theirs. No other race does this quite as well as humans. More than greed, their lust for expansion is a search for some sustaining happiness that won't be threatened. Sometimes humans do create utopias, but more often they just have a perfect Stockholm Syndrome that tells them that even though the Charr have them pinned inside Ebonhawke, they can be joyful. They can drink, play, create, and win no matter what the circumstances are. Humans never give up when other races would have long ago been ruined.

Along this line, the defining characteristic of humans in Guild Wars 2 is that they are the only race that your social status matters. Homelessness is not something you can solve by being an upright individual even in Tyria. If you are a genius asura or a ferocious charr you would become an instant hero, but humanity universally relegates people into unshakable social classes. The thing Guild Wars does with this that is interesting, though, is that they let you play any social class and be a benevolent hero. The game recognizes that people have their place, but that there are good people in every place.

Humns are conservative. The Charr murdered their gods. The Asura went from cave dwellers to earth warriors. The Norn can literally turn into three new forms. The Sylvari are brand new to the whole world and are already taking on a dragon. The humans still live in a monarchy praying to six gods they haven't heard from in hundreds of years. Humans would rather die than admit that they are wrong. They will rebuild cities that flood even if they flooded because they were below sea level or vulnerable to undead pirates. I know that America just elected a fairly liberal president, but really how much would you be willing to change to survive? I wouldn't leave my family or abandon friends. I wouldn't leave Earth. The Asuran would, but the humans would not.

I like humans. In both reality and Guild Wars they are my favorite race. I see their flaws and worry about their future, but the same things that make them weak also give them strength. Their optimism is as useful as it is unrealistic. Their inequalities make them cruel  but motivated. Their conservativeness makes them steadfast. I know I don't get a choice, but given all of the thousands of species described in science fiction and fantasy I would still choose to be human. We are only eggs. We are still stuck in this little planet of Earth trying to decide what we mean and who we can be. I would love the opportunity to find out how our little species ends up, but I know that being human means dying. I submit to that fate and will let my heirs and descendants make the truly important choices of defining humanity. Every thoughtful video game, novel, and movie brings us closer. No one can tell me that Guild Wars is not thoughtful. It is adding to the canon. This weekend is a free trial of Guild Wars 2 and I really hope that a lot of new people get a chance to see the insights I do.Ascalonian townsfolk m.jpgFile:Norn heavy armor concept art.jpgGW2 Asura Render.pngFile:Sylvari 16 concept art.png

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Daytime

This post contains no spoilers.

Dawn has broken and Twilight is most likely over. I told you I was going (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/11/twilight.html) and I went. It was a brilliant film in the same way that Avatar was a brilliant film. The effects were astonishing. The violence was gruesome. Everything looked fantastic. The emotions felt real. The plot was original in the sense of the Roman imitatio, but not in the modern sense. If you can accept Shakespeare as original even though he stole all his plots from Cinthio and Plutarch and you think it's alright that Avatar was just Pocahontas in space, then you will think it's fine that Breaking Dawn is basically Antony and Cleopatra with vampires. Although unoriginal, it is compelling, mind-bending and definitely the best Twilight movie yet.

Before going I was very nervous because I heard that the end of the movie and the book were drastically different. They are not so I was pleased. I wanted the story to end wonderfully and it did. It was worthy of the emotions I had invested it it. I'm not a twi-hard or on anyone's team- Edward or Jacob, but I wanted to see Bella's story resolved and it was. If you took that movie by itself it barely seemed like the series was the slut-shaming anti-feminist franchise it really is. It was empowering and played right into my pre-constructed notions of love.

I watched the movie with a group from my school and it was all very Simmons. Two hundred or so girls gathered up and walked to the theater together, supportive of one another, but intensely aggressive about seats. Throughout the movie people were animated to the point of hysteria and there were as many screams in favor of Bella's boobs as Jacob's abs. When we were walking out of the movie as a group two thoughts crossed my mind. If any straight male or gay female in fifty miles needed a date they could have gotten one at that film. I would have swooned if some guy offered me his love and I am a strong, independent female. Second, the people waiting outside in line really should have gone to college. We learn things and we get to watch Twilight without having to wait in the cold. I'm grateful I have both of those opportunities.

All there is left to say is... Forever.

Twilight

So I'm going to the new Twilight movie tonight, Breaking Dawn Part 2, with my friend Bruna and it is not due to peer pressure or obligation. I regret to inform you that I really want to see this film and I am extremely excited. I paid my money, I have my ticket, and my evening is free. There are a lot of other really excellent things I could do this evening, but I am choosing to go see Edward and Bella's final battle.I'm a bit ashamed because I know the series is trash, but I love it. There are certain things that are secret pleasures.

Twilight was the book series I was reading during my heart failure.If you need proof of how obsessed I was refer to here http://www.emilysatrium.org/2009/01/at-childrens.html . Like Guild Wars it was something I became engrossed in for hours a day to just escape my reality. I know that in Twilight the story is borrowed, the allegories are obvious, the dialogue is cliched, the metaphors are unoriginal, and the message is terrible for young girls, but its hard to see past the way the book made me feel to see the failure of the novel as literature. I know that Bella is one of the weakest women characters in modern literature. I know that Edward watches Bella sleep and that's creepy. I know that Bella is completely reliant upon men for her happiness. I know that Edward manipulates Bella with sex and that is wrong. I know that Bella has no life outside of caring for her father and having Edward's baby. I know that turning into a vampire is basically being raped and Rosalie was actually raped. I know that despite Twilight having a female protagonist it can barely pass the Bechdel Test. I know that the book uses almost only simple sentences. I know all that, but when Bella was depressed I was depressed. When Bella started to get the life she wanted, I started to get the life I wanted. It's disgusting, but Bella gave me hope at a time where I had very little. I wasn't convinced that I could get a man to come date me or save me, but I was convinced that sometimes even sick, uncoordinated, awkward teenagers get a chance to have a good life.

Twilight is disgraceful, but it has some nostalgic value. If I didn't go see the movie I would feel like something was missing and that somehow my own story was not yet complete. Orson Welles, the actor, said that “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story” and at the end of the first Breaking Dawn movie the ending is gruesome and disturbing, not happy. My life is pretty fantastic at the moment and I need Twilight to end so that my ending can be happy. I started those books when I was sickly, gangly, and secluded. Now I have an army about me and I have a life. I just want Bella to get that too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aria Venom

As you will recall from here (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/08/that-was-earlier.html) Aria Venom is a character I created in Guild Wars 2. I thought I would show you her in her various incarnations on this, the day that the names are released in Guild Wars 2. Aria Venom is one name I really like and am glad I snagged while the names are still reserved. This first picture is the girl I made for the original Guild Wars. I like her look a lot. Necromancers should all always dress in green and black. Poison, death, and reanimation are the only things a good necromancer should think about. Then there is the picture from Guild Wars 2. As you can see, 250 years later Aria Venom cut her hair, but she is essentially the same. The one on the right was created by me. The one on the left was created by ArenaNet. I think they match quite nicely. Perhaps ArenaNet's is a bit prettier, but they have professional artists and I am lucky to draw recognizable stick figures. I love that she is in the game. She looks a bit like me, she thinks  thoughts I agree with, and every time I walk a character past her I think, "wow, anything is possible. I have a character in a game that millions of people play". That's Aria Venom and if she were real I would be her best friend in an instant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Proud to be an American

I am proud to be an American, but it is not because I believe we are free. I know that many gay people aren't free to marry the people they love and many women aren't free to own their own bodies and sexuality. I am proud to be an American even though our healthcare system is the stupidest in the world and we fight needless wars. I am not a 'Merican who loves their country despite our imperialism and ignorance, but I believe in what America can do. We can vote to create equality and peace. We can make sure everyone in this country feels safe and free. We can live what we stand for. I voted and I hope you will too because there are issues that matter. Education matters. My ability to get health insurance even though I have a preexisting condition matters. I would prefer you voted my way, but I mostly want you to vote so that in the next four years I can talk to you and we can have a political discourse and we both put our voices in the discussion when it mattered. I am young and may tire of the political bickering, but today I just want everyone, rich or poor, black or white, to have a voice in making the song that makes America. We cannot repair past mistakes like our internment of Japanese and murder and displacement of Native Americans, but we can be progressive voices towards  justice now if we try. All we have to do is be a little unreasonable. We have to demand better from our leaders than we think they can do.

Tuesday, November 6 is Election Day America and if you want to ever say a single bad thing about politics in the next four years you better vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Seasons

If you asked me what my favorite season was a couple years ago I probably would have said summer. That's the time when children get to mess around and do nothing and when I typically see my aunts and uncles and cousins whom I love so much. Recently I've changed my opinion. Now I like fall and spring better than summer. This is not, unfortunately, for some super awesome reason such as better sports or less people dying of heat stroke or something. No, unfortunately it is about my ArenaNet coat. I am a giant nerd.

This is the origin
story of the coat:
So a few months after I visited ArenaNet for my Make-a-Wish trip the adventure was a memory and crossed my mind every day instead of every hour. My family and I were sitting around on a chilly Saturday morning doing something inane like watching television when the doorbell rang and a package arrived. We weren't expecting anything urgent  in the mail so when the episode ended or the activity we were participating in came to a logical stopping point my mom went out to the front porch and inspected the mail. She was gone for a long time and when she finally reentered the house she said, "Emily, I could not make this up if I tried." When I saw the box that was addressed from Bellevue, Washington, U.S. my mind exploded. Randomly, with no begging, ArenaNet sent me this beautiful coat. It is my most prized possession in the world. In the spring and fall when I can wear it I am happiest.

At gaming conventions my ArenaNet coat gains constant praise and admiration, but in my everyday life wearing the ArenaNet coat is like gambling. Like Pokemon I am always waiting for a random Guild Wars player to appear. So far its only happened once even though Guild Wars is pretty popular. In the fall and spring I have the chance, though, which makes every day a little more exciting. The single appearance of a Guild Wars fan was hilarious. I was leaving the dining hall on a day just after the first Guild Wars 2 beta test had been announced (April). A guy was walking in. He walked straight past me while I was wearing the coat before doing a double take, realizing what the name and symbol meant, whirling around, and screaming, "WAIT!" excitedly.


I flipped around, smiled, and asked, "What?"

The guy says, "You have an ArenaNet coat. You must know things. Tell me everything."

I laughed and said, "Sorry. Even if I did know anything I couldn't tell you."

After the random fan responded, "Well could I ask you questions and you could either nod yes or no?" I facepalmed and walked away without telling him anything. I thought it was really funny. First of all, there was a man in my dining hall. Second he was a Guild Wars fan. Third he recognized the ArenaNet name. Fourth he was bold enough to stop me. Fifth he thought I would give him information. That is a very unlikely set of circumstances.

Anyway, that is the current history of my ArenaNet coat. It's starting to get a bit old and damaged, but its clean, warm, soft, and makes me feel special. I love wearing it. There is always a chance I will get to tell someone an awesome story when I wear it and I am nothing if not a story teller.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Confidence

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 



― Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross (author, psychiatrist)



Although there are people in this world who have a much stronger relationship to suffering than I have I like to believe that I am the better for having almost died in high school. I know who I am and I know what I have to do. I know I am a person with unique luck and opportunities. I know I am a person who simply has to do good things in the world. I have to do decent things because the best things have done for me. Someone gave me their child's heart. A few hands folded me a thousand cranes. A company made me a world and showed me a dream. I am confident of this. I am confident that the acts of individuals can change lives.

I struggle with confidence in myself and my own beauty as much as anyone else, but at least I can always come back to the fact that I do good things. I text my most stressed-out friends happy quotes every day to cheer them up. I write poems for people when they are sad. I tell people they can change the world. I try. 

My friend Ally once looked at me and said, "Emily, some days, like every day I wonder why you aren't a model," because I have a reputation for not being afraid of photographs and not being slow to smile. I like to be happy because it could always be worse. I could have been brain damaged. That would be worse. I could have not gotten a heart. That would make me pretty dead. I could have needed a double lung transplant. That would be immeasurably more bad. It seems to me being confident and beautiful has a lot less to do with makeup and high heels and a lot more to do with acknowledgement of pain and a decent attitude. I think having a reasonably sized body helps, but I know plenty of beautiful people who aren't a size 2. That's why I will never be a model even if I will stop and take model shots. The way fashion decides beauty is just messed up.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

So as I said (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/10/that-doesnt-go-away.html) I was pretty happy with my outcomes from Hurricane Sandy. I had a nice snow day, all my friends, family, and property are basically safe, and I got to play a lot of video games. Overall it made me pretty happy. The one thing that didn't make me happy was dinner. That made me feel all gross and icky inside.

I went to dinner and the place was filled with people. There were so many humans there to get food. Aramark, the people who make our food seemed to anticipate this, though. They had extra staff. The issue was that most of the staff at our dining halls don't make a ton of money and most of them are people of color. They had to come into work to feed me during a hurricane and that's just not cool. When I was coming in I looked at the woman and said, "How are you getting home?" because the public transportation was all turned off. When she answered, "I don't know," my heart sank because I know there is inequality in the world and I have a certain white privilege that others may not, but the glaring inequalities are usually not so obvious. I usually don't have to be confronted with the truth that rich people plan for generations forward, poor people plan for Saturday night. I hadn't even considered where my dinner would come from, but those employees had no choice. I could have turned to this woman who was serving me and offered to let her sleep on my floor, but that wouldn't have solved the problem. It would have been almost disrespectful to the complexity of the issue and the dozens of other food and sanitation employees that were feeding and catering to us rich college brats. I just couldn't solve that problem.

A lot of my friends are sociology majors that study the inequalities of the world almost full time. I just don't know if I could do that. I couldn't make the T run so those people could get home through the hurricane. I couldn't let them sleep in my room. I just had to accept that poor and rich exist and are part of the WorldSuck we have to fight. I want to forget this experience, but I felt that the least these people deserve is a blog post. That I can do. I don't want to make you feel all icky inside too. Guilty is not a super useful emotion. Awareness, charities, money... that stuff is useful. Just saying.