To My Casual Readers

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There’s a habitual interaction that I’ve had with others when I talk to them about my blog, usually along the lines of “Oh, I’ve read your blog, I really like it!” But this is actually something of a surprise to me, and let me see if I can break down exactly where this disconnect stems from. I also want to offer a call to action to some of my meatspace friends who read what I write.

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When You Walk Away From Pikesville

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We parked outside of the Toys R Us in Owings Mills. We just got done dealing with a woman who thought it would be a smart idea to barrel down the parking lot and honk at us as we were trying to navigate. Her road rage, to her, was justified, she had her son in the backseat. I had not thought at the time to ask why it was safe to drive that fast with her son in the back, but my goal was that I just wanted to see if there was liquidation going on. No dice and the entire time our mood was soured.

But between both Rebby and I, we lamented how there simply wasn’t much to do out here. We were cash-strapped and had few friends in the area. The worst of the snowstorm was over and we had cabin fever from the past two days. But every suggestion seemed to fall short. Didn’t have the money, didn’t have time, didn’t have the gas. But I kept thinking about where we were, why we were there in the first place. What was it like, really?

The Ghosts of Baltimore County

My placement in the Pikesville/Owings Mills area was not one that I had any choice regarding. It was a move made for the sake of locating us closer to my stepmother’s extended family. In that regard, it accomplished what it was set out to do. But for much of my life, I was left as a stranger in a strange land. I never belonged, and to this day I don’t believe I ever could.

My favorite game of 2017 was Night in the Woods, and I produced my favorite article on Splice Today saying “We All Live In Possum Springs”. I use that phrase as a shorthand for describing the alienation and monotony of the dying small-town/suburban life of modern America, a product of late capitalism. While Scott Benson drew more from his hometown of Pittsburgh, that game could very easily describe where I currently live and the struggles that people like me face.

Both Rebby and I exist as walking examples of Katherine Newman’s “The Accordion Family”. Neither of us has a full-time job, and while I work freelance and study full-time, I still rely on cheap rent from my parents. Rebby still can’t drive on her own, hamstringing any potential leads until that task is complete.

The job market here is dry, and what jobs are available are the kind of high-stress jobs that wreak havoc on autistic minds. There’s a place that hires people on the spectrum, but she still can’t drive. It’s been a slow process for both of us. I still have almost two years left until my bachelor’s degree, and Rebby’s pathway is still unclear.

There’s no future here, for either of us. We both see it. Our lives will continue, but they must do so elsewhere, for there’s nothing left for us here. We don’t know what will happen, but we have the understanding that it won’t be stuck where we are now.

When The Last Store Closes

And I think that there really isn’t a future for Pikesville or Owings Mills. Pikesville is dying. Owings Mills is dying. We can see the writing on the wall. It’s slow but shows no signs of reversing.

The last remnants of Rosewood Hospital have finally been demolished. The shell of the Wendy’s is still unoccupied. Go up a little closer to the Bill Bateman’s and you’ll find several closed gas stations. The Owings Mills mall will be turned into strip malls pretty soon, left to the suburban wasteland that it has become.

There’s a sensation that I’ve come to recognize in my time exploring dying spaces both virtual and physical. Whether I’ve walked through MMO¬†Age of Conan‘s dead game world or the aisles of Toys R Us, I’ve begun to feel the dissociation that comes with visiting a place that’s clearly fading away.

The Owings Mills mall has long since closed. There really isn’t much to do in Pikesville. No one really talks about it with any sort of reverence, and frankly, I don’t blame them. Who wants to be around when the last store closes?

I don’t think suburbia has a future.

Beyond the Cul-De-Sac

Maybe suburban communities will adapt to the future, but more than likely people will migrate away from them as we are planning to. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to a ghost town that the prospect of this place becoming a ghost town doesn’t sound so far out of reach.

I don’t know where the future lies, but it isn’t in a world of sprawl.

 

Finding Love and Intimacy on the Spectrum

I did some housekeeping recently, tossing out old posts that I did in the days when I put up stuff on a daily basis. This was initially for the purposes of having daily content ready, making a reliable schedule.

This was a mistake. I can certainly produce one solid article per week, but in aggregate I ended up having to toss out much of these because they hid articles that I wanted people to read. One series of articles that got deleted dealt with my experience in dating.

Much has changed, so much so that simply adding a new article isn’t going to help. My attitude on the entire subject has shifted, though not as completely as one may think. And of course, now that Rebby and I have been together happily for six months I can say that this phase of my life is over.

In my life, I have held serious doubts about my ability to perform in certain aspects of life, things like finishing school, holding down a job, or falling in love with a romantic partner. Neurotypical friends, well meaning as they were, didn’t understand my anxieties.

Some of these things were easier to accept than others. I regained my confidence with my triumphant return and successful completion of my degree at CCBC. I found out I could do journalism really well and kickstarted a freelance writing career. But dating and relationships? That was another story.

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Midgar is Still Burning

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On September 11, 2007, Leigh Alexander wrote an article for the Escapist titled “Midgar is Burning”. In it, Alexander describes the rise and fall of the Final Fantasy VII role-playing community on AOL. She speculates regarding the future of fan involvement in media creation, that moviegoers will shape the future of films and franchises. She also posits that this process has already begun in some nascent fashion.

What Leigh Alexander didn’t know at the time of writing this was that she was describing the blueprint for a cycle of modern fan culture. Since this was in the burgeoning days of the internet, these events unfolded much more slowly than in our social media and mobile-friendly present.

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On the Failure of Milo Yiannopolous’s Writing

I remember witnessing Milo Yiannopolous rise to power, riding the alt-right wave. He was known for being a provocateur and by his own admission a troll. He exemplified the awfulness of the behaviors addressed under the alt-right banner, sexism, racism, homophobia, really anything that you could suffix with -ism or -phobia was part of his repertoire. Continue reading

Plato’s Digital Cave

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Admittedly, summer has been particularly slow in regards to blog content. Perhaps it’s the lazy days of the season that make writing out of reach for me, or possibly because I just didn’t have much going on that warranted a blog post. However, that has changed.

I’m going to talk about World of Warcraft and game addiction. More specifically, my own experiences with the game and what happened as a result.

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Where Art Thou, Audience?

 

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Photo by DodgertonSkillhause @ Morguefile.com

Much like my previous ambitions to attain Discover, my ambitions for an audience have also grown. In my days at Eyes Through the Glass, I was very grateful for whatever audience I had. There were a handful of people, though I do not recall much in terms of a community.

If I recall correctly, many of my followers for Eyes Through the Glass were spambots. So perhaps the fact that there are far fewer means that I am simply not getting picked up by spambots for an easy follow.

In terms of SEO, you can find my domain if you Google “memoryofthestar”, but won’t find it if you use “Memory of the star”. I am unsure of what to make of this. I’ll probably get someone on Google to explain what is going on.

I must confess, I don’t think I do enough in terms of promotion and outreach. Part of that has to do with the fact that I prioritize my journalism and schoolwork over blog promotion. I am on Flipboard since that has the greatest return on investment in terms of audience. However, I also fell behind with putting posts up.

I do have a Facebook page but it doesn’t really generate views. Neither did my Twitter feed. Part of the difficulty is not just finding an audience, but finding the right audience.

I could go to Reddit and post, but I honestly doubt that they’d be interested in my writing style.

I also recognize that I don’t have an audience. There will be people who are interested in my autism spectrum posts. There are going to be others who are interested in hearing about board games and Dungeons & Dragons. When I finally get to writing about other geeky topics, I’m sure that’s gonna be part of it too. The difficulty with catering to a single specific audience, as I learned during Eyes Through the Glass, is that I am interested in writing about many different things. You can pull out some patterns, for certain. But I still wonder about what I can do.

And yes, I am still eyeing Discover. Though the process is that in which I submit an article and summarily hear nothing ever again. It’s no one’s fault, but I wonder what the issue is in particular.

I’ve heard the clich√© a million times, “just write for yourself and don’t worry if people read your stuff” But I find that unsatisfactory. The purpose of making a blog, one that is publicly accessible, is so that someone else can read it. It’s why I’m typing on WordPress and not on Word.

I don’t want fame, but I confess that I do want recognition. Perhaps my expectations are unreasonable in that regard. If I had the money to burn on advertising, I’d take it up. But I’m a student, and still trying to find exactly where I fit in, especially since journalism is a tough field.

I have found that getting people offline to read my blog is a Herculean task. Some of my friends do, but only on occasion and usually without comment.  My thoughts have turned to attempting to establish myself as a Baltimore blogger. Currently, there is no Baltimore blogger meetup group present, so I may just go ahead and attempt to rectify that.

Until then, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do. I guess I’m just going to keep writing good content and then hopefully an audience will find something that I produced.