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Latest articles
If RCM Was A Kindergarten Class (Valentine's Edition)
Feb 14th
Everybody knows that RCM doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day. What we celebrate mid-February is the 15th, or what is commonly referred to as Half-Priced Chocolates Day. But that doesn't mean we were ALWAYS like that. Before Cupid was stupid and adult life reared its cynical head, our staffers were once innocent little schoolkids who just wanted to share affection and arbitrarily sugary treats in the middle of a school day.
If the RCM staff were members of a kindergarten class....
1. Varyar's valentines to the class would definitely be this:
Some idealism
Dec 31st 2017
It was the font that gave it away.
As an amateur scholar of propaganda, I'd seen the cartoons and style frequently enough to know what she was reading about from the photo she took of the page. But it was the font of the page number that helped me recognize exactly which book she was looking at. I remembered admiring it the first time I opened my copy.
"Is that Dr. Seuss Goes To War?"
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Dec 13th 2017
"Remember, I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together."
So goes the closing line for one of the regular segments of the Red Green show, and the words have been reverberating in my mind a lot as of late. Part of it is just the time of year: the days are cold and dark, the flu is going around, and everyone (well, most people) are trying to juggle the normal stresses of work and life with the added stress of holiday obligations. The feeling of wanting to hide in bed and sleep until March is a fairly common complaint at the moment. I at present don't have the day job factor, and though I'd planned for this interim period and made sure to keep busy (first with being in England for a month and then with tackling the plethora of house and creative projects), not having the normal Monday through Friday work week has been a lot weirder than I'd expected. I am not one of those people who should be left to their own devices for too long, and doubly so if (like for the past five days) I'm sick and spending a good chunk of time in bed thinking about things.
Thanksgiving, in particular, is a rough time for me. Though it's heavily touted as my favorite holiday now, it takes on a new dimension when one realizes that favoritism was created by an obsessive desire to eradicate the nightmarish memories I had of it growing up. I mean, who doesn't want to remember the year they watched their mother get smashed through a window, or forced to gather her children around and sob about how she was a whore because someone else had made a pass at her and somehow that was her fault? Never mind that nothing came of it, it was clearly important that she serve as an example to her 9- and 8-year-old daughters that things that happen to them are their fault no matter what.
Those Who Wander: A Journey Begins
Oct 25th 2017
An introduction
I do not come from a family of travelers. Everyone lives within a roughly 30 mile radius of the towns my great-great-great-grandparents and their siblings helped settle when they arrived from Ireland and Germany in the 1880s and haven't really left since then. As Gram explains it, we come from a line of simple farmers, and farmers tend to stay on the farm.
There are a few exceptions – roughly one per generation who inherits that wanderlust the others then live vicariously through while staying safely at home themselves. During the Second World War, my grandmother's aunt was married to a high-ranking Allied naval officer; we have photos of her christening new ships being sent off to war and stories of her filling my Gram and her siblings' heads with tales of adventure. One of those siblings, my mom's uncle, joined the Air Force and was stationed in West Germany through the Cold War, retiring to Texas soon after the Berlin Wall came down (we have pictures of him helping chip at the wall). My mother's brother, my own uncle and godfather, moved to the Midwest for the comparatively tame adventure of medical school and decided to go native.
AP: Summer Nights
Jul 24th 2017
Three months later, she found her footing again.
It is the perfect end to a perfect day. RivalCon wrapped up this morning. I spent the rest of the day with one of my favorite people on the planet shopping at my favorite treasure store in the world, buying fancy dresses for the sole purpose of lounging in them on the cabana of my favorite hotel in greater Cleveland.1 2 The evening was spent alternating between talking business in the hot tub and bullshitting outside while watching the sun sink down, the fireflies twinkle dancing their happy twinkle over the lawn. Now I'm snaking home through the summer night along my favorite drive. I've got the windows down, the radio up, and no traffic to temper my pace. Every season has its perks, and summer's are nights like this one: warm but not stifling, the air pregnant with possibility and adventure.
I haven't felt this good in a long time.
20 Years of Magic
Jul 2nd 2017
On June 26, 2017, the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. For many, including myself, this was the time to reflect on what the series had given them and to celebrate the magical world once again.
For me, the Harry Potter series was crucial to my development as a reader and a writer. I began my journey with the magical series in 2001 when I was 9 years old. I didn't come across the books on my own; I went to Catholic school so they weren't openly discussed. Instead, my mom's friend suggested that I read them. I remember that it took me a while to decide that I liked the first book, but once it finally got going I was hooked. In that same year, the first movie came out on my birthday and I begged my dad to take me. I remember trying to finish reading the book before we left to see it, but I was unsuccessful, so my dad let me stay up unusually late when we got home so I could finish reading it to make sure the movie got it right. For the most part, it did.
I moved more quickly through the next two books; Harry Potter and The Prizoner of Azkaban quickly became my favorite. It introduced two of my favorite characters, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, neither of which survived the series 1. Around this same time, I discovered fanfiction. As someone who had been writing and telling stories from a young age, this sounded like a great opportunity to expand my writing skills. I didn't have to build a world around what I was writing, I just had to work with what already existed. Writing fanfiction really solidified my desire to be a writer, and I remember that the feedback that I got was generally helpful. It also gave me a safe space to work through some of my adolescent emotions 2, since I didn't always feel that I could off of the page.
The Accidental Podcaster: Roads Less Travelled
Apr 28th 2017
It's 3 am once again.
I am in a cabin on the side of a mountain, deep in the woods surrounding my hometown. It's one of those places so quiet that one is fully aware of every sound: the clicks and pings of the heaters, the loud hum of the fluorescent light in the kitchenette, the faint but ever present hum of trucks on the interstate a mile over the ridge. From down the hall comes the much louder but more sporadic snoring of my mother. An occasional jingle of dog tags warns me that I'm about to be dive-bombed by an alleged beagle-corgi mix who we're all fairly certain was the really the result of an illicit affair between the breeder's bitch and a neighborhood mutt.
It's a very noisy quiet.
The Accidental Podcaster: Dead Pigeons
Mar 2nd 2017
I murdered a pigeon the other morning.
I didn't mean to. I was just driving along, minding my own business, listening to a Lou Bega song that had just come on the radio. Then all of a sudden I see this large, kinda bluish chunk of (I thought) debris getting kicked across two lanes of freeway. It landed on its feet, its clearly broken wing flapping awkwardly beside it as it madly hopped into my lane. For a split second, I caught the expression in its bird-eyes: the pain, the terror, the confusion as it tried to grasp what what happening.
Then it was over. A horrific series of thunks starting on the inside of my front passenger wheel, bouncing the undercarriage, and finally kicking up and off the back wheel sent the ill-fated avian on a quick trip to whatever lies beyond this realm. The cloud of exploded feathers in my rearview mirror assured me that death was instantaneous, so at least it didn't suffer. And there was no way it could have been avoided - the poor thing was bounced from the opposing lanes first, already battered and injured, into an area it had no hope of rescue from and would have died slowly even if it had somehow managed to pull itself off the road. Probability said that the bird was slated to die of its grievous injuries; chance just decided that the vehicle would be mine.
Blood-Organ Theft in Eastern European Folklore
Feb 27th 2017
"Mare Köiva reports many stories of human bloodsuckers. An old lady told Köiva, 'After the war there had been blood takers, blood-suckers in Tartu. They had been dark men, but they had also some Estonians in their company. A blonde girl danced with a young man at a party and started to try how her ring would fit on his finger. And finally she left it there. But later she phoned and asked him to bring her ring back. The boy went but did not come back. His family started to search for him and found him when half of his blood had been removed from his body and he had fainted. But he still survived'. Köiva also reported that when she was a schoolgirl, she and her friends were terrified by rumors that people were driving black cars (supposedly Russian Pobedas) round the country, kidnapping people and sucking their blood. The drained bodies were later thrown out and left by the roadside." -Mare Köiva, Estonia, 1950's (Bennett 189-190)3.
We all know the image: a sharp toothed, pale monster, bending down to suck the blood from a helpless victim's neck. Less known, however, is the folk legends of black vans patrolling the countryside, looking for victims to steal blood from to sell on the black market. These legends, called "blood theft legends," are most popularly circulated in Eastern Europe, where they reflect the real circumstances of organ theft that are common there. Blood theft has a long and varied history throughout the urban legends of Eastern Europe, from religious monsters to vampires to blood-stealing legends that are popular today. But what is this history? And what can it tell us about society today?
The earliest tales of blood-snatching come from anti-semitic sentiments; gory and persistent rumors of Jews murdering young Christian children for ritualistic purposes date all the way back to the Middle Ages1. Referred to as "Blood Libel legends", they paint Jews as cannibals that terrorize and consume their Christian neighbors. The idea that a sacrilegious figure on the fringe of society would drink the blood of an innocent child or established member of society manifested later in the development of the vampiric myth. According to folklorist Kathryn Morris2, "In late seventeenth century, strange stories began to emerge out of eastern Europe. They typically described some person who, having died under unusual circumstances, returned to terrorize his family and neighbors. These revenants would often suck the blood of their victims before returning to their graves. When exhumed, their bodies would be uncorrupted and their veins full."
Tenpai: My Unlikely Encounter With Mahjong
Feb 6th 2017
As someone who seems to always be a part of too many fandoms, has too many interests, and not enough time to tend to them all, I find it interesting when some of these aspects find a way to connect to each other.
Watching anime is one of my favorite pastimes and I am currently watching an anime series called Saki. The show follows a high school mahjong club as they prepare and compete to attend the national mahjong tournament1. After reaching a little over the halfway point of the first season, I concluded that it might be a good idea to get a sense of what is going on during the game. So, I began my research. The first important bit of information that I came across was that mahjong is not a super popular game outside of Asia; most people don't recognize that there is a difference between the solitaire games (like the one I played as a kid) and the real game of mahjong that is presented in the anime. Solitaire mahjong is a matching game, while mahjong is played with four people and is similar to gin rummy. Each player has thirteen tiles and the goal is to come up with as many pairs, runs, three of a kind, or four of a kind with the thirteen tiles that they have in conjunction with the fourteenth tile that they draw2. There are also three types of mahjong: Chinese, Japanese, and American.
In all three varieties of mahjong, there are four players and the game begins by rolling dice to determine which wind each player will play. The player with the highest number sits as the East wind and will be the dealer, followed by the South, North, and West winds, and the game moves counter-clockwise. After this simple start to the game, the rules vary depending on the type of mahjong being played. In the Chinese3 and Japanese versions of the game, each player picks up and discards a tile each hand with the goal of obtaining a winning hand with all 14 tiles, however, Japanese4 mahjong also uses riichi sticks that are used for bets and scoring. The American version uses a card of standard hand, has more tiles, and includes joker tiles. The game also begins with the "charleston," which is the passing of three unwanted tiles from one player to another5. Each version of mahjong also has different point systems, which makes the game even more complicated.