Those are pearls that were his eyes

Part of the reason why I’d been thinking about names and identity and the power of pseudonyms has been because for the past few months I’ve been debating registering a domain (morbidflight.com although I’ve briefly been transfixed by the idea of morbidflig.ht). I finally went ahead and did it today, which means that non-lazy people now have another way of finding my real name (despite the fact that it’s on this blog in at least one instance).

It’ll take a couple days to hammer out the kinks and figure out what I want to do with this, exactly, but I’m glad I did it instead of waffling for another few months/years/decades. There’s a pair of boots I’ve been meaning to buy for the past five years and at this point I don’t even think it’s worth it. That’s the kind of waffling I wanted to avoid. Sometimes, spending money on myself is a good thing.

This is just a quick post to mention that and to suggest, however indirectly, that there might be a sea-change in my online presence. I’ve made a home, now, instead of camping out in the guest rooms of friends. It remains to be seen whether this is as momentous as I made it out to be. (I’m betting not.)

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What’s in a name?

I suppose you’ll have noticed by now the quote in the header. I confess this quote was a conveniently apropos quote that I found through a google books search when launching this blog, but has no relation to the process of creating the name by which I identify myself on the internet.

No, that’s a different tale altogether, and I am not simply indulging in narcissistic nostalgia by telling (some of) it. Names have power, especially when they’re names we choose ourselves. Listen, dear reader, and you shall hear.

It should be no surprise (I mean, really, “morbid” is half of this name) that I’m a bit of a baby goth. The colorful clothes throw it off for some people, but when it comes down to it I’m definitely sullen and I’d say emo except emo developed when I was just older than its inhabitants. Back in 2003, when I was barely a teenager and starting a blog, I wrote a poem about myself that included the line “morbid flying in warped dreams.” (Protip: don’t try to google it, it won’t really work.) When I had to think of a username that wasn’t an obvious one, I took the first two words and smashed them together to get morbidflight. It worked, and I’m eternally grateful to my creativity.

So that name, “morbidflight,” comes out of a fairly dark period of my life and more embarrassingly than that, a fairly juvenile one. I don’t claim to have matured significantly in the intervening eleven years (although I hope I have). I’m still morbid(ly) flying through warped dreams. I’m still very much morbidflight. The old blog might not exist where it used to, but it definitely exists on the web. I need a record of my past as much as I need a record of my present.

But the story is never that simple. I’ve believed for a long time that the only reason we believe in consistency of character, of personality, is that we keep the same name. And as a member of the generation that grew up with relatively easy internet access, I understand the value of pseudonymous identities. Yes, plural, identities. I have a name that I use in meatspace with few misgivings, and I’m rather attached to it. I have morbidflight for the internet, and I’m rather attached to that as well. But I’m also someone in a position of developing a professional identity in meatspace that is tightly intertwined with what I do on the interwebs. And therein lies the rub.

What is my name? What does it matter that this group of people defined only by their real-world location calls me by one moniker, while this group of people defined only by their lack of real-world location calls me by another. Why do I care so much about keeping these names, and these identities, separate? These thoughts have been going through my head for several years now, but I think the decision to write these down is in part spurred by a friend’s recent name change (yay, friend). To throw out a spate of offhand metaphors, names are records, names are identifiers, names are choices that we make and choices made for us.

I prefer to make the choice myself, controlling the relationship between my meatspace name and my cyberspace name as best I can. This is why you might see me request to delete something that has my name in it, or fail to see me claim ownership of a thing that has my name in it. I definitely don’t do this as well as I should, or as well as others would expect, but I do it in a way that works for me. It’s not an easy distinction between professional and personal identities; in my case it really feels more like a distinction between meatspace and cyberspace. But I’m professional and personal in both of those spaces—ask anyone who’s ever been at a conference with me, or anyone who I visited after getting to know online. And to complicate this further, I go by different pronunciations of my name depending on the country in which I am located and the language I am speaking. In the past year or two, I’ve even started responding to a name used only by a small group of people.

I guess it’s safe to say that I go by many names, all of which correspond to me. Even if it feels a little weird to let people call me “morbid” and leave off the “flight,” that’s a nickname. People say “morbidflight” out loud when they want my attention. Maybe it started out as a name I chose for myself, but now it’s a name that others use for me. I am accountable because I use this name consistently, and accountable because this name corresponds to a story, a telling of my life.

And that’s about what it means to be a name.

Productivity and motivation

I am setting myself up for failure with a title like that, but I’m going to go ahead and try this anyway. I want to get back in the habit of blogging once a week (Fridays, probably). I know today is Sunday, but shhh. The reason why I want to do this is because it’s not just blogging I need to get reaccustomed to, it’s writing. I find it difficult to write when I don’t have pressing deadlines, and yet writing is fundamental to how I understand the world. I dislike complacency but I enjoy laziness.

How can I reconcile these? Pretty much, by forcing myself to write. So welcome to this vaguely forced post.

Here’s a bit of backstory for you, dear reader. I’ve had reason in the past few months to be around people/friends/etc. who feel stagnant in their lives. Friends who want to live their dreams but feel unable to support that. Friends who tried to live their dreams but didn’t make it (yet, I hope). Friends who don’t know what their dreams are (again, yet, I hope). In the midst of all of this, I feel simultaneously lucky and ungrateful, because I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to live my dreams and plenty of support, but I also don’t know how to pass on my luck. I feel like this about a lot of things, to be honest, which I think is how I deal with privilege in general: acknowledge my luck, and try to make a zone of luck around me for other people. (Smash the kyriarchy.)

I’m not yet in a position within the hallowed walls of academia (lol) to make such a zone for my colleagues, but I can try to get there. I can start by observing, by thinking, and by writing down my thoughts. I can start by standing up for things like anti-harassment policies (a recent example, though not the only kind of privilege I mean). But mostly I can start by remembering that everything I do, I do for myself and for others.

Update on Minecraft

I started playing Minecraft again when I was on vacation recently, on a server this time. I’m actually enjoying it, though my two main fears are definitely in effect when I play (the dark, and water). The first fear isn’t a big deal, especially since the dark is scary due to monsters spawning. The second is just weird, because a game with blocky, low-res graphics like Minecraft can still trigger the feeling of being underwater…which leads me to a small point: for me, the “graphics” or “visuals” of a game help me immerse myself in the game, but once I have done so by whatever means necessary, the game has strong affect. It’s not as simple as pretty art means I care more, or more pixels in the hair means I identify more with the protagonist. Rather, I can be put off by bad art, but if it doesn’t put me off, it is not the lens through which I engage with the game. (Disclaimer: it is the lens for some games. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.)

Another thing about Minecraft this time is that I’m playing with people I already know on a shared server. This is just another way of engaging with them, in addition to playing League or talking on various instant messaging services or using Snapchat (I like being able to write and draw on pictures I take, even if the quality takes a hit for it; also, note the recent lack-of-privacy discussions about Snapchat before running off to download it).

I’m still pretty bad at this game, though. I just make houses and put torches in them and like…that’s it. Oh well. I fell into lava once and lost a nearly-full inventory. That upset me quite a bit, and since then I’ve been either less invested or more careful. Perma-death mechanics are one of the few things I hate in games, mostly because I don’t actually like meaningful consequences for failure.

Connecting through porn, or just creeping?

Preface: since this is about porn games, any links should be assumed to be NSFW. The games linked also include a huge variety of fetishes, so. If there’s anything you know you don’t like, it’s honestly probably best to avoid the games. Besides like, hardcore gore, it’s mostly “anything goes.”

So I’m sitting here at my computer, and I get up to brush my teeth and as I’m getting up I pass my boyfriend at his computer. I ask what he’s up to, and he responds, “it’s in alpha,” and points to his screen where I can see a rudimentary interface and porny text.

It’s a text-based porn game, like Corruption of Champions (at the time of writing this post I don’t know the title of this particular one, or have a link to it; a day later, here’s a link to LEWD. As the boyfriend said, it’s in alpha, and moreover, I haven’t tried it. No guarantees. I have no idea about the content although I’ll assume there’s some transformation fetish going on).

As I was brushing my teeth, I got to thinking about how porn games work to realize this fantasy of sexual prowess and how it’s all about making your fantasy happen within the confines of the game world. I’ll be honest here, I think porn games have figured out a long time before mainstream games that your embodiment in an avatar is crucial to the experience (especially to the experience of virtual sexual pleasure) and that giving players the ability to customize *everything under the sun* is a huge part of this embodiment. But I digress.

So there’s this fantasy of being the one that is attractive to everyone in this world who you are attracted to. It’s been written about with respect to Dragon Age; that everyone in the game is Warden- or Hawke-sexual more than they are any other sexuality, and that real people’s sexual appetites are more subtle than that. But this is the guiding principle behind porn games. (It’s actually more nuanced than that because many of them, especially the text-based ones I’m thinking of, will have character preferences encoded into the NPCs. But I digress again.)

I was thinking, and this is where it gets weird: this is the same fantasy that real-life prostitution materializes. The idea that this person is here, completely sexually interested in you, and only you…for as long as you have scheduled together. And real-life prostitution has time limits and more importantly, you can’t barge in on a session if someone else is in the middle of their own private fantasy.

What if we take this and apply it to a multiplayer online porn game? The multiplayer aspect being completely invisible, except when you try to do a scene that someone else is in the middle of doing. Say you decide you want to try to fuck the bartender with the robotic horse dick (yeah that’s a real example), and you’re turned away because, hold up, he’s fucking someone else right now. I don’t think I’d go so far as to have the players contact one another in the game or see one another or anything, but just being aware of the presence of other real people engaging in their own sexual fantasies in the same imaginative landscape that you’re using for your own. I wonder what that would do to people.

ETA: There are a couple links I can’t not add…

Also I should also state explicitly here: I am not against sexuality. I really hope that didn’t actually need to be said.

On Anzaldúa; or, writing is hard but I do it anyway

I’ve always had mixed feelings about writing. That much should be obvious to anyone who’s glanced at this blog: writing is essential to my life (this blog exists), but writing is hard (this blog hasn’t been updated in oh no nearly two months now). The fact that I’m a massive procrastinator and I put off things that I don’t have to do certainly doesn’t help. But it is only in putting thoughts into words that they become worth anything, and so I write. I keep trying, because a few words every few months is still progress. I know from the outside I look lazy, complacent. But complacency is my sworn enemy.

Which is why I had such a reaction to reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.

It’s a book that would have changed my life had I read it in high school (or maybe early college). So much of what Anzaldúa talks about makes sense in the context of my life, such as when she talks about growing up in the borderlands between two cultures. Even though my personal experience is less physical border and more psychosocial border, I know what it’s like to exist with two homes, neither of which can fully hold you. Like Anzaldúa says, “I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back” (43). And when she talks about languages and how you ever decide which to use in a given context, I understand, because I live that life. There are people I’ve known since before birth, that cause me to stop and wonder what language I should use to speak to them (as discussed in the section on “Linguistic Terrorism,” 80-81).

More than this shared experience, however, Anzaldúa’s text resonates with something deeper: a shared worldview. Anzaldúa voices that which I dare not say: writing is the struggle of life, and it’s fucking hard.

Relationships and Grad School: Part 3 – The response

Or, wherein your wise author notices a sad trend.

In Part 1, I described some of the background stuff about grad students and relationships. In Part 2, I talked about my situation at the start of my master’s program. Now, some stuff about general stuff I noticed, and how I feel about it all.

With my ex and I, our relationship’s end was a classic case of two people realizing their lives didn’t really work together.

But it was still a bit sad when I asked him to come with me, and he said no. That’s all it really was, until I got to orientation for my master’s program, and started talking to my program buddies, and a strange trend popped up. Out of 10 (or was it 11? I always forget) people in my program, seven of us were in relationships when it started. One man was married, so he doesn’t count, I suppose…but then again, his wife was the only actual “grad student’s wife” of all of our partners. Four women were in het relationships, and only one of those women lived with her partner. He was also based in the area, so it wasn’t as though he moved to a new town with her. The other three women (myself included) had partners in other towns who refused to relocate. The final two members of my cohort with partners were men who lived in family housing with their girlfriends.

I remember a conversation early on where I realized that none of the women’s partners came with us, but all of the men had their partners with them. It was a sad conversation, tinged with jealousy. Why weren’t we given that kind of support and care? What did it say about all of us, that our partners put themselves above us in every case?

That moment was a wake-up call. I’ve always prioritized my career over my relationships, whether romantic or platonic. This means it’s tough, and it also means that I’ve failed to support my friends through their dark times because I was busy with my own. It means I’ve walked away from the possibility of relationships because I can’t justify taking the effort away from school.

I don’t regret this focus, I guess. Not yet, at least. I just wish it were more acceptable, or at least not seen as a challenge to gender roles. I don’t want to be expected to drop everything and move to where my partner is, but I do expect that my partner will at least consider it. Maybe I’m a hypocrite, or maybe I’m just lucky that my current partner was happy to move to Texas to be with me as I go through my new graduate program. (Yes, I’m lucky. I know that. It’s also a challenge because I’m supporting him in addition to myself, on a grad student stipend.)

Part 1 – The background

Part 2 – The personal shit