Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Star Citizen made me love graphic design again.

"Have you ever heard of Twitch?"

We were sitting in the dark just talking.  This was December 2014, and while it was still early, the sun had already gone down.  The room was starting to get cold.  And we were talking yet again about Star Citizen.

It seemed like he'd been talking about Star Citizen for as long as I'd known him.  We were both fellow gamers and writers, and he was just as excited about the lore as the gameplay.  I'd heard about the game before because of it's unique funding efforts, but I was more concerned about playing games that were already out than prospective ones that may never come to fruition.

But he was passionate about the game.  I'd read the fanfiction he wrote, and it was good.  Really good.  Enough to pique my interest.  I explored the website, I read the lore, I pledged to the game to get a starter package.

And then I found that my computer couldn't run it.  But everyone said, if you put money into the game, you're not buying a game, you're funding a venture.  I'd supported a good share of Kickstarters, I would be able to play the game someday, that was enough.

I'd heard of Twitch before, but it sounded boring to me.  Watching my friends play games while hanging out was one thing, but why would I want to watch a stranger on the internet play a game?

But this was different.  This was a friend, playing a game that I wanted to play but couldn't, and who needed my support.  I watched his stream and became immersed in the Star Citizen community.  His passion is infectious, he shares his knowledge, he's good at the game, and I become addicted to watching him play.  I learn who the top players are, and I talk to more and more people who are also passionate about this ambitious game.

Come April, I buy a desktop computer, my first one in years, so I can play.  I join a large organization and find people to play with.  I watch their streams, I play along with them.  I make friends.  In June, I'm playing regularly with another streamer that's on a similar schedule.

I play along with him so much that in July, he puts me on the stream with him.  I become his cohost.  I am a streamer.  It shows me even more of the Star Citizen community, and I am now firmly a part of it.

With this new perspective, I start getting ideas.  The whole reason I got into this was to support my friend who introduced me into this world.  He's an ace pilot, a loremaster, an excellent teacher... there was no reason his stream shouldn't be more popular.  More people just needed to know about it.

I can do that, I thought.  While I was spreading the word, my mind was still searching as to how I could help him more.  And then he needed help with a graphic design project.

It's hard when your hobby becomes your job.  People say to do what you love, but when working for someone else, your passion becomes condensed into other people's wants and needs.  I still get some projects that I like at work, but most of the time, I don't get to stretch my creative legs.

Yet here I could help.  He needed an overlay for his stream, but he didn't know how to go about it, and it seemed like a lot of work.  I had a ton of fun working on it and was disappointed when it was done so quickly.  I tweaked it to his needs, enough to likely be annoying.  And I sat waiting for more projects to do.

Whenever he needed a button or a graphic, I was on it.  I came up with ideas of things he needed just because I wanted to make them.  I started doing projects for the new friend I was streaming with.

I was enjoying designing again, that mix of creativity and technical prowess.  That's what drew me to graphic design in the first place.  I know many designers who are really illustrators or painters, but me, I'm a graphic designer first.  Graphic design is logic and beauty melded together, it's practical art.  I am fulfilled by sharing my creativity, by using beauty to help others in some regard.

I love designing again.  To the point where, after working at it all day, I come home and work on projects for myself and other Star Citizen streamers, not because I feel obligated to, but because I want to.  I look forward to it again.  To the point where, I now let other people watch.  Every Tuesday night, I turn on that webcam, I turn on my screen capture, and I let other people watch over my shoulder as I design.  And somehow, I have an audience.  And that makes me happy.

Follow Baior of Red, my favorite Twitch streamer, with all my graphics, Friday-Tuesday from 10am-1pm EST; join me with Admiral Nolan from 9-11pm EST Wednesday-Sunday; or watch my graphic design projects on Tuesdays from 9-10:30pm EST.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Be Fucked by the World and Love It! (an exploration of sensuality)

(I said that my writing has been more risque lately.  Here is one of the tamer examples.)

What is sex if not sensation? I realize that a lot of things that I enjoy about sex have nothing to do with touching genitals at all.

I shaved my legs and bikini area this morning. As I walk around the office, the fabric of my clothes runs over my smooth skin, teasing me, tempting me, making me want more touch.

On a warm spring day, the wind blows over the tiny hairs on my arms, like my lover's fingers gently trailing over my skin.

I take a bite from a peach and before my lips leave the fruit, I suck in gently to taste all of the juices and prevent them from dripping down my chin.

In the shower, I lather my body with slippery soap not unlike the cum that sprayed my stomach hours earlier.

I dance and I become flushed in my cheeks and over my breasts, just like the blush on my skin after making love.

I eat a spoonful of creamy soup, and the warm, thick liquid goes down my throat.

Although I say I hate the cold, when I get goosebumps, I can't help but think of being warm and that shiver of erotic excitement runs through my body, prickling my skin.

Sometimes I wear my boots without socks just to feel the fun on my bare flesh.

The guitar in that song, the horn in that one, they sound so close to the sounds my lover makes.

The rhythm of the drums is like the sound of two hearts beating, the bass line like the speed our bodies rocked together.

Haven't you ever gotten that rush from the hairdresser washing your hair?

Or from the skin to skin contact of a handshake?

Or found a bird feather on the ground and stroked it?

Take a moment and pay attention to the sensations all around you. Be seduced by your environment. Like making love through the night and being surprised by the morning sun when you emerge, take a moment to squint, then open your eyes.

Fuck the world, and let the world fuck you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Do All The Things!

What I've been up to....

My Twitter description says this: Graphic Designer. Writer. Gamer. Crafter. Drinker. Belly Dancer. Flamenco Dancer. Poi Spinner. Independent Burlesque Performer. Star Citizen. Streamer. Dreamer.

Yup, that's a lot of stuff.  I've been busy.  Let's break this down a little.

Gamer. Star Citizen. Streamer. Graphic Designer.

Actual in-game screenshot
There's this game called Star Citizen.  It's not out yet.  Crowd funded, it's an ambitious project to create a first person universe, a science fiction open world MMO game.  Right now it's still in development, with only modules to play, including spaceship racing, dogfighting, and a mini persistent universe to explore.

It's a beautiful game so far, and the lore is rich, but even moreso is the community behind it.  The people playing it are backers, people who have invested anywhere from $20 to tens of thousands of dollars because they believe in the vision of it's creator. This makes the players have a vested interest in the game.

Me and some fellow streamers at CIG, the developers of Star Citizen.
A lot of these players also stream, and I have been kidnapped by that world.  I'm often found on Admiral Nolan's stream, playing along and making dirty jokes to entertain those who watch us.  I also fully support Baior of Red's stream by helping out with moderation and graphics and playing along when I can.  Baior is a scientist and has an intellectual investment in this game as well, and does a perfect job of sharing his knowledge with his viewers.  He's also a very close friend of mine and the one who got me into Star Citizen.

So I've caught the streaming bug.  In addition to games, the streaming service also features Creators, people who show their process creating things of all sorts.  On Tuesday evenings, I've been streaming as I work on graphic design projects.  I don't have much of an audience yet, that's not my goal, but I like sharing what I do all day with the world.

Writer. Drinker. 

Yes, I'm still a writer, even if I haven't released anything new lately.  I've been writing things for me, and things that are a little edgier than what I've previously put out there.  I'm going to follow this blog post up with an essay I wrote with no purpose in mind, just something that came into my head.  It feels a bit risky to put it out there, but speaking of risky...

Independent Burlesque Performer. Crafter. 

Let me introduce you to Marcia Melons.
Marcia Melons as Mary Poppins
I debuted as a burlesque performer in a show dedicated to musical theater.  I got a great response to it, and although it didn't go as smoothly as I would've liked, it was fun.  I am excited to do it again!

Check out my calendar over to the right to keep track of my upcoming performances.  And speaking of performances...

Belly Dancer. Flamenco Dancer. Poi Spinner. 
My poi solo.  Photo by Paula Stapley
Bloomington Belly Dances was on March 4th, and it was excellent!  As always, I am honored to perform among such talented dancers.  I did two songs with Different Drummer Belly Dancers, one with ¡Baila! ¡Baila! Flamenco, one with Caravanserai Belly Dancers, and a solo poi number.  My dance schedule for the year is already filling up, and I love it!  (Again, see the calendar.)



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why I am not resolving to lose weight this new year:

Photo by Levi Thomas
I'm fat.  I hear you my friends, telling me, "You're not fat, you're perfect the way you are," and I know you mean well.  But fat is merely an adjective, and one that describes me.

I know which foods are good for me and which aren't.  I've done Weight Watchers, I've counted calories, I know.  I still eat ones that aren't.  Am I trying to eat less of the bad ones and more of the good ones?  Yes.  Am I cutting out the bad ones completely?  No.  Am I dieting?  Oh hell no.  Because when I worry about what I should and shouldn't eat, it makes me feel bad about myself.  When I focus instead on giving myself the nutrition to function at my best, it makes me happier.  When eating ice cream is my choice, it's a lot easier for me to say, "Nah, I'm not in the mood."  When I think of ice cream as something I can't have, it's all I want.

I don't exercise.  Wait, before you start telling me that the things I do are exercise, hear me out.  Exercising is a chore, a thing to cross off a list.  On the other side, I'm finding that being active makes me happy.  When I dance, I get lost in the music, and all meaning of time floats away.  Learning choreography gives me a mental challenge.  Hiking gets me outside and gives me peace of mind.  Trying new things, like the aerial silks class I just took, satisfies my desire to explore, and when I find myself becoming stronger because of it, I am proud.  

Photo by Michael P Hoover Photography
I am proud of my body.  I find joy in it.  Where I used to be critical of every picture taken of me, now I find that I'm looking forward to seeing pics of me in action.  When I see these pictures, I think, "Look at this thing I can do.  Not everyone can do that."

My body is not an achievement or failure, my efforts are.  I'm a dancer and an artist, and I want to get better.  So I push my body to its limits so I can build up the tools I need to improve.

So what if I'm fat, I can still move in amazing ways.  I challenge those who call me unhealthy because of my body, for them to do the things I do, and to improve in the ways I strive to.  Because I'm not done yet.  I will never be done.  But on the way, I'm not focused on the way I look, I'm focused on what I can achieve.

Fat or not, I'm going to keep rocking.

Friday, August 07, 2015

I'll Miss You, Grandma Hubbard

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck
And a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck
And a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap 
And I'm talkin' in my sleep
About you
Doodle oodle oodle ooh doo
Doodle oodle oodle ooh doo
Doodle oodle ooh ooh doo!
I can remember being a little kid, sitting in my grandma's lap, her arms tight around me, her bouncing me up and down, singing that song.

Or a few years later, sitting next to her in a car, her arms around me, swaying us both back and forth, and singing.

Or when she had just come out of the shower and was laying in bed watching Golden Girls, I crawled under the covers with her, and she rubbed my back and sang.

The first time I flew in an airplane, I got the window seat, she sat in the middle, and as we took off, she patted my knee to the rhythm and sang that song.

Earlier this year, I was down in Florida at her house, just me and her, sitting in the living room, still watching Golden Girls, and she just started singing...

When my grandma used the word Love, she said it with all of her heart every time.  With every Christmas card, birthday card, Valentine's Day card, Easter card, St. Patrick's day card, thinking of you card, because really, they were all thinking of you cards, every single time her pen wrote Love, I could feel it reach off the paper at me.  Every card was signed with X's and O's, and every single X was a kiss, and every single O was a hug, the ink was merely a carrier.

I wish I had the stamina that my grandma had.  She'd work all week, and when I stayed the weekend, would pick me up on a Friday night.  We'd stop at KFC, get fried chicken and mashed potatoes and I would get a parfait.  And we'd stop at the video store and rent movies, a nice one she would watch too, and sometimes a horror one for me and grandpa, and a Nintendo game.  Once at her house, we would sit down at the table, with real plates and silverware, and eat our fried chicken before watching the first movie.  And if we cheated and used paper plates, she'd always apologize.

But the dishes were always done, and her home was always spotless.  Her hair was done, her makeup was done, the house was managed.  We'd have homemade strawberry shortcake for lunch, and a full home cooked dinner.  Every Christmas, everyone would get a huge heaping platter of cookies and fudge sent home with them, not just any platter, but a Christmas themed one, complete with colored saran wrap.  I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, and it's because of her.

I don't know how she did it all.  Yet she was always there to give me a hug, and to worry about me every second I was out of sight.  And it wasn't just me, she cared about everyone.  I learned courtesy from her, generosity, forgiveness, selflessness. 

Independence.  When we'd go on vacation, I always had a job to do.  I'd navigate, help look for road signs, remember the license plate number of our car, talk to the clerks with heavy accents that she couldn't understand...  From her example and encouragement, I learned that I needed to take care of things in life, not have someone do them for me.  But I learned that in a soft, nurturing way, and to appreciate every person that I had in my life.  Everything she did, she did out of love.

Earlier this year, Grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She fought it, and she did it for all of us as much as herself.  So when she passed, it wasn't entirely unexpected.  But I'll admit, I wasn't ready.  But she worked so hard, it was time for her to take a break.

Yet, I can still feel her love for me, and I will carry that forever.  I'll miss you Grandma.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Are You Nervous?

Bloomington Belly Dances is tomorrow night!

I'll be dancing with Different Drummer Belly Dancers and Caravanserai Dancers.

I'm so excited!  I can't stop talking about it.  And the first thing my friends say when I bring it up is, "Are you nervous?"

My nerves seem to work differently than most.

Monday morning, I woke up at 4am, and spent the next two hours thinking about Bloomington Belly Dances.  I don't know if that was nerves, or not being prepared, or both.  I still had one costume to finish.  The practices the day before had been cancelled due to weather.

I could hear the songs in my head.  My mind churned over the moves.  "Be sure to remember that this move comes before that one in the second song," I told myself.  "Do this to keep from dropping that prop.  What can I do to keep from smacking myself in the face while doing that?"  Problem, solution, problem, solution... I wasn't dwelling on worries, I was solving them over and over again, yet I still didn't sleep.

But the show is tomorrow night.  Am I nervous?

Today was a long day at work.  The hours seem to drag by.  When I went to lunch, I played the CD of the songs over and over again, going over the moves in my head.

No, I am not nervous.  The closer it gets to the show, the less nervous I am.

So that must mean that I'm confident about the dances?  That I have them down pat?  Oh hell no, I'm not!  There's this one spot that no matter how many times I run over it, I have to look up what move comes next.  I'll have to rely on fellow dancers to hope that someone remembers.  I don't like doing that, I'd rather not put that responsibility on them, not give them that stress.  So even if it's just in my head, I practice and practice and practice.  And then as the show comes up, I let it go.

The first time I performed in any sort of crowd, it was a tiny hafla.  I was nervous.  I'm an introvert, and here are these people who are looking at me.  There's no redirecting the conversation so I can just listen.

And then I shimmied out onto that makeshift stage.  People were smiling, eager to see what we were going to do.  And then, a couple moves into that first dance, I forgot what came next.  I glanced over at my director, had only missed about half the move, and picked it back up.  The audience had no clue that anything had gone amiss.  I smiled at the person in the front row.  They smiled back.  We shimmied, people cheered.

After that dance, I was ready to run a marathon.  I was energized, I was euphoric, I could take on the world.

"Don't look down," my instructors tell me.  "Smile."  "Look over the audience members' heads." All the tips for getting over a fear of public speaking are repeated over and over again.

Last year, when I performed at Bloomington Belly Dances for the first time, I had never been in front of a crowd like that before.  Yet, before we went out, a sort of calm washed over me.  There seemed no need to be nervous, because there was no way that would benefit me or my dancing.

My very first time, performing in front of any sort of crowd ever, and I was front and center.  I didn't remind myself to smile.  I didn't try to look over the audience.  I looked at them.  They looked back at me, smiling, cheering, having a good time.  I didn't do the moves, I felt the dance, I felt the music, I felt the energy from the crowd.  I stepped off that stage grinning from ear to ear, my heart beating a million miles a minute.  I was exhilarated, I was high on the energy of the crowd.

It surprised me.  I wasn't expecting that.  But at that moment, all I wanted was to do it more.

I know it sounds cliche, but belly dancing, especially performing, is like a drug for me.  My pulse races, and I am in ecstasy.  I'd like to see a brain scan from while I'm performing compared to a brain scan of while I'm making love, because I'm guessing the same regions light up.

So no, I'm not nervous.  I'm excited.  Every hour until then seems to drag on forever.  It reminds me of waking up the morning before my birthday party and having to wait until people started showing up.  And so I practice, I plan, I pack and unpack my costumes, I make lists, I do everything I can related to belly dancing to satiate me until the big event arrives.

And heck, it's so much fun, I don't even need cake!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Please Keep Arms and Legs Inside the Vehicle...

I'm out of breath.  2014 has been one hell of a ride!

This year I've taken on a lot, made lots of friends, earned some more best friends, gotten closer to old friends, had so many new experiences, and have just had a friggin' good time!

Of course, I've got another book written.  For now, it's called Red Amnesia, and it's a vampire novel.  It needs a lot of rewriting, but I do think I'll do something with it someday.  The writing process was tougher this year, but I ended up learning a whole lot about myself as a writer.

I think I already know what I'm writing for NaNoWriMo 2015.

Yes, The Three Zombies and Other Undead Fairytales will be published someday.  I don't do New Years Resolutions, but it'll be out in 2015, I promise.

Of course, this has been The Year Of Belly Dancing!  Not to repeat the posts I made before, but belly dancing has changed my life.  I am more confident and I just feel more... me in a way.  It's like I've found myself.  It's like my inner rock star had been hiding inside me all along, and I finally let her out.

I've made so many new friends this year!  I'm not the type to need a whole lot of friends, but I wouldn't trade any one of them for the world.  Old friends have gotten closer.  I feel like I have a whole troupe of sisters who I love dearly.  I have friends and confidants, and I feel loved.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't give a Braino update.  Brian's drawn over 100 pictures this year.  He's working on a book of pictures and poetry, which we'll publish next year.  And of course, he's as gorgeous and supportive as ever.  God, I love that man!

Speaking of love... My sister is engaged!  Her fiance is a good guy, and geeky, so obviously I approve. ;)

Time to start 2015.  Here's to another year of love, life and adventure!