SCALPED– I bet Italians sorta hate the Sopranos, too

January 30, 2008
 <-- from http://www.bluecorncomics.com/scalped.htm 

   Some of those who want forces/are the same that burn crosses...

-Rage Against the Machine
   

I’ve been thinking seriously about extending my small nugget of comic book scholarship (see long, rambling Soviet Superman paper…) into the ever growing circle of my Native studies scholarship. My first instinct was to write about the Marvel comics character Warpath (a hyper-violent Native warrior with mutant strength and a pair of almost “magical” knives who is currently carving up people in a story called “The Mesiah Complex”), but as I looked over some of the things out there to analyze, I came across the Vertigo title SCALPED.

If you follow the link above, you’ll see a rather scathing review of the title (the image is a piece of art from the series). I cannot, currently, launch a direct counterargument because I have only read one issue (I’m going to order the trade paperbacks from Amazon, so look for more on this). I can attest to seeing exactly what the creators claim is in the first issue, though: it looks like the Sopranos on a reservation. It’s gritty, and sadistic, and quite frankly gripping.

My commentary here is a response to the general idea expressed by the commentary from the critic at Bluecorncomics.com. I don’t particularly disagree with his interpretation/response; the whole idea of reviewing and critiquing is to say what you feel. But I think, based on the exchange depicted on the page, there is a problem that I sort of fear as I move into Native/Indigenous studies: why should ANY depiction of Native peoples be considered a reflection on ALL Native peoples?

I have twice (or maybe thrice) made the comparison to the Sopranos here. I think that’s apt. I personally LOVED the Sopranos (even the ending that bothered so many fans that the complaints crashed HBO’s website three times the night it aired). I found most of the characters compelling, and while the situations were gritty, sometimes way-over-the-top, and certainly less-than-positive depictions of Italian Americans, the show pushed artistic bounds and entertained while making an intricate, engaging argument.

Other than within the program (through the Italian American character who plays the otherwise forgettable therapist who sees Dr. Melphi, Tony Soprano’s therapist), there is very little backlash from the Italian American community about the Sopranos. It is, after all, a mafia TV show, following the same sort of genre fiction as Puzo’s Godfather or movies like Goodfellas. It is quite obvious that Tony Soprano isn’t meant to be “every Italian-American man,” though at times it seems like he’s the American everyman (in fact the last episode’s title “Made in America” makes perhaps the most clever wordplay of the series, pointing out that Tony and his crew are a decidedly American development as “made” men).  The stories that David Chase and his crew of writers crafted for the Sopranos draw from a specific community, and raise visibility of that community, but they are not meant to stand in as an ubersignifier, as it were.

And I am sure that someone, somewhere, would lodge the complaint that I am misrepresenting the complaints lodged against the Sopranos; there were no doubt small scale things. But the initial fervor that was anticipated when the show was first discussed (before it had ever aired) didn’t result in the wide-scale criticism. And to be fair, the complaint I linked here is one of the few entirely anti-SCALPED commentaries I’ve seen. If one were doing something other than a thought exercise (as I reveal my own research ethics) she’d want to do this sort of research. If I’m misrepresenting either situation, my apologies.

But my concern is that as a Native creator, the reviewer from BlueCorn was just too hard on SCALPED early on. I’ve done extensive research on Leonard Peltier, and as such I know that there has, indeed, been a spotlight on violence involving reservation land and policies. I also know, as a fan of both comic books and crime dramas that the genre demands a certain handling of violence and “grit” as I’m going to call it right now. In that sense, what *I* saw in the first issue of SCALPED was a cabal of tribal criminals acting like criminals.

  

I would argue that to craft SCALPED any other way would be wrong. There’s no reason to make a Native criminal somehow noble, and in fact I think that would do harm to popular understanding of what life on the reservation is like. So if the other argument, I assume, would be to NOT write about criminals on a reservation, corrupt casino owners in a violent, violent world. And I guess, in some ways, as a mixed-blood Cherokee, I can see that. But I don’t “get” it as a scholar.

I don’t think we should ever treat some segment of the population as “off limits” as fodder for popular culture just because we’re afraid that trying to depict something stylized but realistic using elements of that culture. If we do that, we essentially say “popular culture has to be about white people,” and that’s one of the biggest criticisms of the status quo on TV, in comic books, in movies, etc. 


Until we can accept that any of us can be good or bad, and as such any of us can be depicted as good or bad, I don’t know if we’re really making progress or just playing “nice” with each other.

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Just a little taste

January 29, 2008
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night/I’m not sure all these people understand…
-R.E.M.

So tonight, just a little sample of something I’m working with/on. It’s just rambling right now, but… thought process! W00t!

I study gaming (specifically video games) and identity/group formation. As such, the “materials” used to game become a part of the process of forging an identity and carry a number of important rhetorical markers for the players. While I deal mostly in “virtual” spaces (I want to eventually, as we go through this semester, try to argue that there is a “virtual material culture” and should be “virtual material rhetoric” but I’m not sure I have the material ammunition for that battle yet), I can offer a number of quick physical examples: Dungeons and Dragons players tend to carry their own dice, the color and texture (and number) of which says something about them, as do the books they carry and the notes they take; serious players of any sport—take bowling, as an abstract example—bring their own ball, and glove, and shoes, and have a specific shirt for competition; and those who take games like pool, dominos, or even console video gaming seriously tend to carry their own equipment (be that a stick, a set of whatever is used to play the game, a control pad, or the game itself).

 

Of all the things theorized and researched in current gaming studies (and all the rhetorical studies I’ve seen of any manner of gaming), there is precious little attention given to the “materials” of the game. It’s as if the rule systems are elevated to the point of subsuming the tangible aspects of play, when in reality, many games would be impossible without some “thing” (imagine, for example, theoretical basketball with no ball or hoop, or chess based on a belief that one could hold the positions of the pieces in the mind). Right now I’m studying the game World of Warcraft; the game would be impossible without my computer, a keyboard and mouse, the software, or the virtual “material” of my character in the gaming world and the “things” he has virtually acquired.

 

As such, it seems to me that if we don’t begin to study the materials involved in gaming, we might miss something critical about the nature of gaming and the practices of play.

What further fascinates me is that gamers don’t tend to classify the material objects that go into the game as part of the game itself. In my thesis research, I found that online gamers don’t think of the writing they produce (or the new media they produce) as anything BUT a part of playing. In contrast, pen-and-paper/dice rolling role-players wouldn’t call their dice, their character sheets, their books, etc. part of the game; when pressed, anecdotally several said things like “well, I guess it’s part of the game” and/or “that’s just the stuff I need to play the game.” These materials—in different mediums, obviously, as the pen-and-paper gamers can hold theirs while online gamers simply have files—are roughly equal in terms of their impact on gaming practice but are attributed different classifications by their respective communities/cultures.


Fragments of Phillosophy

January 27, 2008

People cry, and people moan/look for a dry place to call their home/try to find a place to rest their bones/while the angels and the devils fight to make them their own…

-Cobain, singing a Meat Puppets song

The temple of Apollo at Delphi bears the inscription “γνωθι σεαυτόν”: know thyself.

It’s possible my work will bend and twist in a thousand different ways before I graduate, but right now my primary interest as a scholar is the intersection of identity formation, digital identities, the formation of discursive social groups (primarily online) and the impact of popular culture on individual identity. One of the things I’m quickly realizing is that as much as I still fear the Lester Faigley gargoyle (I wonder if anyone reading this knows that story), my reflections on po-mo fragmentation and the discursive, ever-rewritten self are going to be much more important than that page of notes I took the night before my thesis defense.

I think the fragmentation is the sort of “key” to the dilemma of digital identity. Yes, there are those (Lisa Nakamura in particular, who does a fantastic job of addressing it) who believe that people enter the online world to participate in “identity tourism,” it is my belief (currently with no proof—that’s stage two and will be coming soon) that people go online to wear selves that they cannot or choose not to wear in their normal lives.

I am thinking of an example that some people would probably scream at me for invoking, but this seems readily apparent in Second Life. There is a massive, massive sexual/erotic fantasy element to Second Life, and most of the people I have discussed it with—admittedly a small sample compared to the massive number of people ENGAGED in it—have reacted immediately with either shocked disgust or all-too-curious questions. If one factors in the puritanical suppression of sexual expression in the current world (other than the sexual imagery we have packaged as a culture and consider “safe,” such as the ever expanding and contracting chest of Pamela Anderson or the sock packed crotch of an air-suit wearing Texan governor), it seems only logical that people aren’t participating in “sickening sexual perversion” in SL but rather are looking for a “safe” place to be “sexual” (for lack of a better way of saying that). With AIDS and neo-conservatism, it’s not exactly safe to look for a public orgy, but if you can be Phill Juicylicious and walk around a virtual world, suddenly there’s an outlet. *

If we extend this outward and look at how people package themselves in different places, we can start to chart the fragmented pieces of various individual human being’s identities. For example, here are but a few pieces of me:

1.    I belong to an Indianapolis Colts discussion forum (which I’ve been a member of for several years). In that space, I talk about football. I am not interested in discussing my life in general in that environment. It’s not important who or what else I am.

2.    A few posts ago I talked about my “primary” WoW character. It doesn’t matter, cosmically, what else he does. He’s digital animal-hunting, monster slayin’ Lyon.

3.    My Facebook profile is littered with all sorts of little pieces of Phill, from my favorite songs and such to my goofy virtual pet squirrel (squirrels are relevant to my life) and my tricked out little Nissan which only races against two of my favorite scholars and one of my classmates. Taken just as a page, though, it doesn’t really express “me.”

4.    Then there’s this blog, which is slowly starting to add up some content. It’s pieces of me, but certainly not all of me.

There are more, obviously, but this isn’t a post that’s meant to make an exhaustive list. I’m simply trying to illustrate how these fragments work. Someone claimed once on the football message board that I was being “mysterious” or “dishonest” when I claimed that it didn’t really matter what I do for a living (right now I do nothing for a living—ahhh!) or where I lived. My point was that in that particular space, doing what that space is designed to do, it didn’t matter at all. What mattered was my level of knowledge and ability to share opinions about football/to interact with fellow fans. It matters if I know who Craphonzo “The Sh!t” Thorpe is. It doesn’t matter that I live in a place named after a literary figure’s watery retreat.

I don’t think many people go so far as to make that move transparent, to say “hey, it doesn’t matter who I am outside the screen—this is just a part of me,” but I think many, many of us treat digital identities that way. They are not “true” identities, in that they are not comprehensive, round, fleshed out images of who we are and what we want. They are, instead, rhetorical instances, carefully crafted masks (people don’t like me using the word mask because of the other ways it is used, but my blog, my rules!) that people wear in spaces.

But that brings me back to my initial quote: know thyself.

We DO forge our “true” identities (which I would argue are endlessly more complex but no less rhetorically constructed than the digital identities I’m talking about here) out of these fragments we craft in other aspects of life. So while football fan Phill cannot truly stand for the whole Phill (one would see Phill through a scanner, darkly, if one were to look at him that way), the whole Phill contains football fan Phill. To study the importance of digital identity we will have to first understand, to some degree, the identity (or at least the awareness) of the person wearing the virtual mask. If not, we fall into another of my favorite quotes, this one from that ray of sunshine known as Fredrick Neitzsche (slightly altered for content):

“if you stare long enough into the flat panel, the flat panel stares into you.”

*note: to the best of my knowledge there is no Phill Juicylicious. I don’t think SL even has that available as a last name. There is a Phill Theas that belongs to me, but I realized after making it that I didn’t read the name aloud, and I have a hard time now taking Filthy Ass seriously. I must also admit that while I’m curious about the SL sex scene as a point of study, I didn’t dive down the rabbit hole. I walked around the outer edge and peered in, but I figured if I was going to go “all in” I should have IRB approval and actually do research instead of just feeling virtually dirty.


Embodied Rhetorics: what you learn in a given week

January 25, 2008

This week’s academic pursuits centered on the self, thingness, the self as object, community in opposition to object, community because of object, and things being embodied.

Thingness scares me. I get thing.  I get “ness.” But when you put it together, it’s essentializing.

I have a self. I know my self. I’ve read lots of Selfe, and Selfe. And Hawisher and Selfe.

I know about objects, but one of the things that happens in the field of rhetoric (and in the world) is that object doesn’t mean the same thing from reading to reading.

But lately I’m interested in this idea of embodiment. I think the greatest part of my interest in the concept is that I’m a person who has always tried to deal with things on the intellectual plane. It’s not that I am obsessed with words (I guess I am, but I’m more obsessed with multi-modality), but rather that I’ve always carried around a sense of embodied awkwardness. I’ve always been larger than average, always been a touch clumbsy. I’d often have preferred to be invisible. But… I’m not, and I never was. So it’s time to think about what it means to be embodied and to sense things in an embodied way.

I have two examples, one of which I nearly shared in class when a professor at my university whose name rhymes with Chef asked if we’d ever had an embodied literacy experience. Everyone was going with rather positive things, so I saved this. But… I HATE to read aloud. I don’t know why, honestly. I don’t know if when I was young there was some trauma, or if the kids laughed at me in reading class, or if I just don’t like being looked at… but any time I have to read out loud, even now, my body clinches up. My already questionable posture gets worse, my stomach tightens, and often one or the other of my hands shakes involuntarily.

Let me break for a second to clarify something that confuses me people. I am NOT nervous speaking in front of crowds. Sometimes I get presentation jitters in a class, or if I’m on a panel and someone I really look up to is in the audience, but I can grab a microphone and stand in front of a thousand people and talk about something I understand with no abnormal discomfort.

If I have to READ to them, I might pass out.

That’s an embodied response to a literate practice. I even feel a bit jittery reading aloud BY MYSELF in the comfort of my own home.

But my other example is more “rhetoric” and less literacy. As people who deal in words, we often feel that we can say just about anything clearly and concisely. It’s what we do. We’re wordsmiths. But I think the concept of embodiment of rhetoric comes in those things that cannot be said. I won’t share the specific occasion here (as I don’t think this is a place where a specific example is needed), but this week I encountered– more than once– an idea I needed to express that I simply couldn’t convey in words. I started moving. I made my point.

So another question raised was “how could we study this as a literacy?” My suggestion– which sort of fell on deaf ears during a break– was to study sports (perhaps more specifically coaching). There are numerous examples of this, but the most obvious one to me is from something I’ve taught: how to shoot a basketball. I can explain it to you in words. Grab the ball. Line it up on your non-shooting hand so that your fingers are on the seams (for the most part) and you can hold the ball steady without applying pressure (otherwise you’ll pull the shot one way or the other). Put your shooting hand under the ball so that your fingers rest in a way so that you feel you have traction and control. Starting with your feet, allow the motion to channel from your body to your arm, extend, and sort of gooseneck your arm while pushing the ball into the air.

Does that make ANY sense?

If I took you outside, right now, I could show you what I mean, and once you saw it, and tried it a few times, you’d probably get it. I just re-read my written description, and I honestly have no idea what I meant.

So… some things have to be embodied. Perhaps all things are, by their nature, embodied. I feel the keys as I type. I no longer look down. I trust that my hands will land in the right place each time.

Wild.


January comes in like a Lyon and out like… a Lyon?

January 24, 2008

I love the TV/cause tragedy thrills me/whatever flavor/it happens to be, like…

-Tool 

This is a story about an Elf named Lyon.

Lyon is my World of Warcraft toon—well my highest level toon, known in the community as my “main”—a level 60 blood elf hunter with a level 60 aqua sabertooth pet (named Locke—after the LOST character and/or the political theorist). He’s been with me since I started playing the game, roughly six months ago.  While to this day I wish I would have had access to the ORIGINAL blood elf model (see my other work for details on that), I chose the Blood Elf because I wanted a Horde character that looked at least “sort of” human. I won’t go so far as to say “like me.” That’d be a stretch.

The creation of a toon in World of Warcraft is surprisingly template-based and restrictive given the permissions of other MMORPGs (City of Heroes, for example, allows for intense customization). As a blood elf male, Lyon had a choice of one body model, six or so faces, six or so hair styles, six or so facial hair patterns, a choice from around ten hair shades, then a choice of classes (there are several classes in World of Warcraft, but blood elves have to choose from paladin, warlock, mage, priest, hunter and rogue).  Initially a toon is given no clothing choices (WYSIWYG) or weapon choices. The only 100% customizable part of the toon is the name, and if we’re all being honest, I went with something rather generic and expected in the fantasy genre (one of his pets along the way was HooMahn, a mountain lion).

Forging a distinct identity in World of Warcraft can be difficult. Some servers are role-play  (RP) designated. On these servers, one must communicate with other gamers “in character,” and that process allows for a great deal of character composing/identity formation.  But I didn’t think about that when I created Lyon (I should have, granted that I did research on another game where there were RP and non-RP servers); I simply went where my friend was already playing. The server where we play is player-vs-player (PVP), which means that at level 20—or sooner if one wanders into the wrong area—players from the other faction can attack and kill your toon. Our server doesn’t have a RP designation, though, so most people play as themselves, using the game’s communication functions as a chat.

I am, however, as they say an old school internet user. I often use the net—like this blog—as a place for confession and full-on honesty (ask anyone I’ve IMed in the middle of the night). But I also believe in sometimes compartmentalizing certain things so that Phill can live free of some of his history. It shouldn’t always matter, for example, that I’m a student of rhetoric of writing. That doesn’t change the fact that in a raid I’m great for damage per second (DPS) but can’t heal anything but my pet. As such, I decided that Lyon needed a personality and identity of his own.

So I decided to treat him like I would a character on an RP server, with the exception of allowing him to interact as if he were a “normal” person with the other gamers (on RP servers, it is common for a hardcore RPer to actually call out any mention of the real world in an attempt to maintain the fantasy; I obviously chose not to do this, since I willingly joined a non-RP server). The identity I forged for Lyon stole in places from the story of Drizzt D’Orden (from the numerous RA Salvatore “dark elf” novels) and from my own sort of “if I were an elf” self-image. He’s a loner with tremendous love for animals and is wickedly sarcastic when he does associate with people (as a defense mechanism). He likes to regale people with stories of how he obtained the various things he carries (most often his pets—he loves to tell the story of a good hunt). He does not, under any circumstance, talk about himself beyond these two instances (which is mostly a character trait developed to keep me from breaking the character and talking about myself, though it does make him whimsically mysterious).

Early on in the gaming experience, these little quirks of my own creation didn’t make Lyon all that unique. He looked like every other low-level hunter (this tends to be true until a toon is high enough level to leave his “origin” area, as most of the early armor and weapon upgrades are so similar that no one really looks any different than anyone else at their given level).  Because I wanted to be able to define myself as someone different, I decided to leave the blood elf homeland early and did my early leveling in the starting area for the Undead race. When I reached level 10, and could finally tame creatures so that my poor defenseless hunter could utilize a pet, I discovered a website called Petopia (http://petopia.brashendeavors.net/). The site lists “rare spawns,” which are animals that are uncommon. With the listings, I was able to turn Lyon into a “rare pet” hunter, and for a long period I was the only person on our server to have certain pets. Lyon finally had something to make him “stand out.”

The most difficult of his “rare spawn” hunts was for the cat that became HooMahn, a rare lion called Humar. Humar is level 15, which means that a hunter trying to tame it must be at least level 15 him or herself. It spawns every 18 hours (less than once a day) under a tree in the middle of a pack of lions near a heavily trafficked town. Since it spawns so rarely, and could be killed within seconds of spawning by someone coming to or from the city—tracking the cat down took weeks of logging in, sweeping the area, logging out, and trying again. Lyon actually tamed it one night when I was battling insomnia and happened to log into World of Warcraft at 4:45 in the morning, barely managing to survive the onslaught of the pack of lions surrounding the beast. For weeks Lyon was known as “the dude who tamed Humar!”

World of Warcraft avatars have a strange sort of real-life implication. Unlike games that allow for more customization, it’s difficult in WoW to make a toon that looks like the player (please save all “But Phill, you’d make such a sexy Tauren!” jokes until all our speakers have finished), so there is a level of visceral separation between me and Lyon that I don’t feel nearly as distinctly, for example, with my Second Life avatar (which in one form looks frighteningly like me), or even the created shooting guard Phill Alexander I use in NBA Live. And there’s no tangible way for other players to tie Lyon back to me, so there aren’t the real life implications that exist with something like my Facebook profile (which many people used to tell me happy birthday today—thanks everyone, you’re the sweetest!). Still, though, there are connections that exist. One of the guys I play with occasionally calls me “L-word” outside of the gaming environment, and while I don’t actually think of myself as Lyon, I’d feel a true sense of loss if he were eradicated in a server crash or if my account was terminated, or if some creature could kill him in such a way that I didn’t have to just jog back to his corpse and click a button to start playing again. I’d miss his goofy chocabo rip-off mount and his two cat pets. I’d miss the owl he ran all the way into opposing territory to tame, just so he could name it “The Blowfish” and see if anyone got the joke (that’s two times in a day! A third Hootie joke and Darius Rucker will have to grant me three wishes). I don’t spend as much time playing him now (it’s difficult to level after 60), but for a stretch of several months, for an hour (or more) every night I wasn’t a blood elf hunter but I played one on TV.

Recently Blizzard—the company that created World of Warcraft—forged an agreement with a group called FigurePrints (http://www.figureprints.com/) to make custom action figure likenesses of in-game toons. They’re actually statues, under glass, but I’ve entered both of the drawings so far to attempt to obtain my very own $100 glass enclosed Lyon figure. I’m not sure how I’d react to a physical representation of one of my digital identities standing on the corner of my desk, but I think it would be an interesting example of the virtual being made material in a literal sense (as I would argue, at another time, that Lyon is already material in a rhetorical sense). He’s not me, but he’s a little piece of me, and I’d feel strange if he wasn’t around. Somehow I wonder if I’m still talking about what I started with.

🙂


 

Note: this  post was generated in part as a response to a prompt from Julie Platt’s class. Julie’s a great teacher, and this is a crummy example of what she asked for, but I hope those who read it are amused and get a general idea of where things should be going. Check back next week for my reflections on the materiality of my WoW rogue’s daggers, or what I lovingly call “Come on , Vanus, just one more run of SM for that 4% drop!”

Day 1: The Phill-man Cometh

January 23, 2008

Now every gambler knows that the secret to surviving/is knowing what to throw away/and knowing what to keep/because every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser/and the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep…

-Kenny Rogers wrote it, but Mike Doughty is singing right now

Oh, hi there.

Welcome to the first of my 365 experimental posts.  Because I’m a scholar who studies gaming and digital environments, it seems only fair that I start by explaining the “rules” for what I’m doing.

It’s pretty simple, really. I’m a rhetoric and writing student at “a big ten school that rhymes with Fish Again, Bait.” As a scholar/researcher/sarcastic bastard I run up against two major ethical problems as I do my work. The first is that I feel if one is going to study something, one has to DO it. I read blogs, but I haven’t maintained one since my course ended in April of last year. The second issue is that I’m a writer, and while I produce a great deal of text, I haven’t been adhering to the “write for at least a half an hour every day” edict I was given as an undergrad.

So… a project. It’s part of my New Year’s Resolutions, but to be totally pomo I start the year on my birthday. Which is, obviously, today. So this blog is my attempt to post 365 consecutive days of content to a blog. It will likely warp and twist a little as I move forward, but here’s what I’m setting up a rules.

1.       Each post will open with a lyric from the song I’m listening to or a line of dialogue from what is on the television. Should I be on-location and out of my proverbial Phortress of Phillitude, I’ll go with some other marker. While music is sort of a cliché jumping in point for a post, I want to have markers that transcend alphabetic text to guide me when I look back, and I’m not in the mood to put video of myself online just yet.

2.       Each day of the week will have a subject designation. I will allow myself, on a whim, to run “off-script” once a week, but otherwise, the following will apply:
Monday: Reflections on my current scholarship
Tuesday: Musings about popular culture
Wednesday: Musings about my goals and my relative successes or failures in accomplishing them
Thursday: Forced exploration of something gaming studies, tying it to rhetoric
Friday: Reflection on the week
Saturday: Off-the-cuff ranting about whatever bothered me that week
Sunday: Something creative (anything, really)

3.       Because I’m going to MAKE myself do this even on days when I’m busy or stressed, I’m going to build in the right for some posts to be really short/revised and I’m going to give myself until 4 AM the following day to make each post (I thought about just setting the blog to Pacific time, but with the time change that’d sometimes leave me at 2 AM).

4.       A comment can, if interesting enough, change the entire scope of the next response. Please interact with the text, readers.

5.       Don’t talk about Fight Club

So, that’s the plan.
Watch me make it all of a week before I give up.

And to start out, just a quick reflection. Every birthday, I do this soul searching thing where I get all down and all deep and reflective and think “okay, how can I do better?”
This year, I’m doing pretty good. I still have things to fix (see the list below), but I’m happy, I’m relatively productive, I have friends, I’m in love, and there’s just not a lot to complain about. I think this might just be the Summer of George.

Shortest birthday reflection ever: “I’m happy. Why mess with it?”

Goals for the coming year:

1.       Maintain this blog (ha! NEVER happen)

2.       Publish something

3.       Lose weight/eat healthy

4.       Figure out how to not end up dirt poor at the end of each semester, panhandling for gas money and such

5.       Hit level 70 *dork alert*

6.       Find one moment of complete happiness in each day, even if it’s just a fleeting moment

7.       Maintain my GPA

8.       Figure out, once and for all, that weird bridge lyric from REM’s “Leaving New York” (the one about the shadow and the necklace and the thigh, before living the life in the dream that Stipe swears is real)

9.       Pick something from my “by the time I’m 30 list” that I didn’t achieve and go try it this time.

10.   Find a way to curb the jealous rage I feel each time I see Conan O’Brien’s rugged writer’s strike beard.

I’ll check in on at least one of these next Wednesday, when reflection time comes back.

For now, I’m going to consider starting the blog a victory.

Seacrest, out!

-Phill