Monthly Archives: October 2015

When Imaginary Becomes Reality

“Mrs. Parsons, are you a Jedi?”

I chuckled and said, “No, this is the real me. I just dress in costume as a teacher the rest of the year.”

Headshakes, puzzled looks, a few hesitant giggles, then class moves on.

Actually, I an X-wing pilot, but since I had to leave my blaster at home, it’s kinda hard to identify me. Or swap the blaster for a bow and quiver and I make a pretty convincing elf.

What makes it difficult to identify my costumes is they are so ordinary. A few tweaks are all that’s needed to distinguish the costume from reality. And I do it on purpose. Although I love costumes and dressing up, I’m too much of an introvert to be comfortable in complete costume in public.

Maybe it harks back to elementary school days and the paranoia that my costume wouldn’t meet approval with my peers. After all, nobody dressed up like sci fi characters in those days in rural, small town America.

Whatever the reason, I tend to downplay my “costumes,” so most days only I know which character I’m playing that day.

Which brings me to cosplay and the trend of more and more adults to spend boatloads of money on costumes that last longer than the 30-minute walk around the neighborhood to collect treats. It’s like giving adults a free pass to relive their childhood days playing dress up.

Some folks are pretty ingenious when it comes to parading around as their favorite anime or cosplay character. Then there are those larping folks who stay in character no matter where they are. Awesome!

I’ve seen a few adults (the no nonsense kind (and no fun kind!) who raise eyebrows at cosplay and make disparaging remarks like “when are you going to grow up?” Too bad they miss out on the real benefit of cosplay: to make us comfortable with who we really are and brave enough to let that person out in public.

Cosplay is wonderful, and one day I’m going to get up enough nerve to go all out on a costume and actually find like-minded adults to hang out with. As a wise X-wing pilot once said, “You can’t look dignified when you’re having fun.” You just have to choose your moments.

Malls use to be a cheap date. Not to mention an interesting place to while away a few hours just window shopping

Today, I can be in and out of a mall in under 20 minutes.

Last week, my hubby and I had some time to spare and decided to check out the local mall, something we did a lot when we were newlyweds and pretty broke. One circumference of the mall at a fast clip and we were done; the mall of bygone years replaced with a cardboard cutoff of clothing and shoe shops with little or no appeal.

I can already hear the naysayers: of course those shops don’t appeal to you; you’re old! Unfortunately, those kinds of shops didn’t appeal to me when I was young, either, but I found plenty of places to entertain and entrance in the mall when I was younger.

Malls used to contain a variety (diversity, mixture, selection, assortment, miscellany, range, not all the same) of shops. Somewhere down the years, malls lost their distinctiveness, their uniqueness.

I remember when a trip to the mall meant hours browsing two different bookstores: B. Dalton’s and Walden’s. Specialty shops offered one-of-a kind items like knives, seashells, candles, or oriental imports. Pier 51 was actually an import store with unique items from around the world, instead of a high priced home décor shop. Malls had at least one, often two, toy stores (and not the kind of plastic knockoffs you can buy at your local Walmart).

Then there were the “fun” stores, which offered boxed games, board games, gaming supplies and educational puzzles, toys, etc. Often malls boasted a “scientific” or “nature” store, which after the bookstores were our children’s favorite shops. We all enjoyed browsing the scientific knickknacks and doodads or picking up a new fossil or polished rock for our home collection.

And who can forget the pet shops? What fun checking out the cute puppies and kitties, but also looking at the fish, hedgehogs, iguanas and other rare and exotic pets.

I understand the reasons a lot of mall stores are defunct and there may be some malls in major metroplexes that still retain variety; however, we may have traded profit and ratings share for the nostalgia and magic of a bygone era when people actually made mall walking a part of their weekly routines.

Good Guys Still Win

Catching up on some of my favorite comic books/series, I’m reminded of the basic reason people are attracted to the genre, along with faerytales and fantasy. We love seeing good triumph

It’s an idea that’s not too popular in present day Hollywood or the publishing industry. Pick up any book off the shelf or check out a movie and what do you get? Evil trouncing good and if the hero wins at all, it’s at an extremely high cost and through a series of coincidences. Modern society has lost its faith in good triumphing over evil and our social media and pop culture reflect that unfortunate tendency.

Evil is often flashier, noisier, more in-your-face than good, so it gets more attention. But if the maxim “evil is stronger than good” really were true, our world would be in much sadder shape. In reality, good triumphs over evil every day.

Good shows up in dozens of small, unexpected places and unexpected ways: the person who gives up a seat on the subway or bus, the kid who helps the old couple down the street with their computer, the police officer who goes the extra mile to cut a kid a break, the firefighter who volunteers in rural areas, the neighbor who brings a meal to a grieving family, and the list goes on.

The very fact that the majority of the populace abides by rules even when there is no one around to enforce those rules verifies the strength of good over evil. Yes, I know evil exists and makes a strong showing, but more often than not ordinary people stand up to evil every day, yet never make the headlines. Being good doesn’t garner “ratings,” so the news media isn’t as motivated to cover those stories, yet they exist in far more communities than we realize.

We are used to seeing good overcome evil in the midst of tragedy and perhaps the reason the news media plays it up then is because humanity can only stand so much evil before we need to reaffirm that good wins. We are hardwired to believe in good, which is why faerytales will always remain popular, as will underdogs overcoming giants. Our default is to accept that good overcomes evil. So when we are surrounded by good everyday, it has a tendency to get “lost” in the blessings of life. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to reawaken us to the good that is around us on a daily basis.

Filmakers could learn a lesson or two from real life. People like seeing the “come from behind” and “feel good” movies. Such movies don’t create a fantasy world that makes us ignore the bad stuff happening every day, rather these movies and books give us a reason to try again, to get up and stand when the world is caving in. We need to be reminded that not everyone in the world is evil or bad or mean or vindictive. The majority of the world is composed of good, decent people trying to make a life for themselves and their families, and when presented with evil, they will stand up and do the right thing; they will defend the weak and helpless; they will overcome evil with good.

Blast to the Past

Normally I post on Saturdays or Sundays, but our weekend was a bit busy. The kids were home and that always trumps everything! Raising children was fun, but spending time with our adult children is even more fun, so we pack in as much as possible.

This weekend we did a bit more of the “remember when” than usual, including dragging in bits and pieces of the parents’ life B.C. (Before Children). For some reason, the kids seem to like looking into their parents’ odd behavior prior to the time when we fiendishly decided to get our enjoyment from warping our kids by exposing them to all things science fiction and Muppets.

This weekend’s main topic was Chuck E. Cheese. Sure, you say, every parent has Chuck E. Cheese stories, after all it’s geared toward kids. Wrong! The original Chuck E. Cheese was geared to yuppies. Or at least adult game players who couldn’t get enough of video games so we combined the two best parts together: pizza and games.

When the famous gaming and pizza parlour opened, it wasn’t a kid zone only and it had the world’s largest selection of real arcade games including Crystal Castles, Star Wars, Galaga, Phoenix, etc. Think Flynn’s from the original Tron. Jam packed with adults and we didn’t need an under 12 to get in.

It was a regular Friday lunch date for a fellow co-worker and I. We’d go and split the lunch special: a slice of pizza, salad and coke. She’d order water and take the salad; I’d get the Dr. Pepper and pizza. Then we’d split the 20 free tokens between us. Her favorite was Crystal Castles and I adored the Star Wars game. Not the current version with its snow speeders and AT-ATs or speeding through the forest nonsense, but the full on wire grid in an X-wing taking down the Empire version. It is still the only video game I’ve ever been able to play, break a million points, and put my name on the screen. In fact, when Bruce and I played it at Putt-Putt, I’d have to let him play first, just so he could get on the top ten screen for a few minutes. Chuck E. Cheese was our favorite cheap date. Order a pizza and cokes, split the 20 free tokens and have an hour or two of insane laughter as we battled light cycles, Tie fighters, alien ships, or colored ghosts.

Those were the days of true arcade games. Now it’s all flash and graphics and the games are basically similar with little to no variety. Over the years, Bruce and I have wandered in and out of a number of so-called game arcades, but nothing has ever topped those magical years at Chuck E. Cheese.

Remember When…

I remember a time when being different was neither good nor bad, just “different,” when speaking one’s mind wasn’t met with government sanctions or public reprisals, when having a different opinion (even if wrong) was shrugged off as being a “nut,” but never met with abusive language or physical harm.

Sad to say, America is turning its back on 200 plus years of personal freedoms in an effort to return to pre-colonial days where fear of the king kept one’s thoughts to one’s self. Or maybe we’re playing catch up to totalitarian nations where a small, ruling majority keep the general populace rigidly toeing a line in fear.

Either way, the idea that I cannot espouse my personal opinions without fear is cause for concern.

Take the case of Houston Astro slugger Lance Berkman and his opposition to a Houston ordinance allowing men in women’s bathrooms.

Leaving aside the alarming idea of purely safety issues, the fact that Berkman cannot speak his mind publically without a firestorm of demands for sanctions against him sets off all sorts of klaxons.

Whether one is for or against this issue, Berkman should be able to say what he wants to in a public forum. He should have as much right to speak against this as the next person has to speak for it.

In the media frenzy to ensure “equality for all,” we are losing our “individual equality.” When I was a kid, I remember my mom teaching us that our freedom ends where the next person’s began. It was her way of saying to be considerate of others. But nowhere did she teach us that we had to give up our freedom to allow someone else to practice his.

Meanwhile, I have to run the risk of personal and/or bodily injury just to use the bathroom in public. As a person, a bathroom should be safe. This seems to be understood in every culture except America, where we have to make something as natural as going to the bathroom a political and social issue.

If Houston is so set on “equality,” then let them either build new bathrooms or designate a section as “ non-gender.” Women already have enough issues trying find sufficient bathrooms in public places (after all, we outnumber the guys), without having to give up our bathroom space.

I’m afraid this new trend to politicize everything will force businesses to eventually close their restrooms to the public rather than deal with the hot button frenzy sure to follow.

 

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