Sunday, March 30, 2014

My New Fake Career, “Public About Privacy” Recap, and a Couple o’ Poems

I’m a video game writer now! Well, not actually, but I’ve always had fantasies of writing video games, and I finally got up the gumption to try my hand at creating my own Neverwinter Nights quest using  The Foundry, their content creation engine. It turns out my imagination is far bigger than my technical skills, so the first quest I wrote was too elaborate for me to pull off as a complete novice. I’m working on a much simpler story now, one that doesn’t involve custom map design and epic-level plot complications. The number one rule of newbie quest creation—don’t overreach! Anyone who thinks that video games aren’t art are profoundly wrong. Balancing all of the elements that go into creating a compelling player experience takes enormous skill and artistry. I’d be happy just to create something that entertains someone mildly for about thirty minutes. Things have been heavy in this typist’s life lately, and it’s amazing how a little side project has managed to perk up my sagging spirits. I’m excited to see if I can actually pull off designing a fun, well-written quest that people will want to play.

I’m happy to report that the "Public about Privacy" reading at the Good Shepard Center last Wednesday went swimmingly! It was a nice, quirky bunch of folks, all with very interesting takes on privacy—looking at it politically, spiritually, physically, and even as it pertains to the human/animal connection.  Therapist and novelist Rebecca Meredith read an excerpt from the sequel to her novel “The Last of the Pascagoula”, which addressed the lack of physical privacy afforded to quadriplegics. It made me consider all of the ways in which we lose privacy when we’re severely ill, hospitalized, or otherwise dependent on others for physical care. Sometimes I wonder if the loss of privacy is actually worse than any disease we could get that would make us dependent on others for our care.

The reading organizer David D. Horowitz read a series of poems that ran the gamut, but one in particular stood out for me—it talked about the utterly creepy and apparently ubiquitous practice of putting cameras in the eyeballs of department store dummies, which record data about you such as age, gender, and how long you linger in certain areas of the store. This interfaces with facial recognition data to create a detailed portrait of your movements and your potential buying habits. (Shudders). Victoria Ford read poems that addressed our relationship to privacy and the natural world, Dennis Caswell read a hilarious satire ad for a truly terrifying Google product, (I only pray it remains in the realm of fiction), and one of my local favorites, Michael Spence, a retired Metro driver, read several great poems culminating in one that told the fascinating tale of an altercation between a driver and a passenger that was caught on a bus camera. My poems addressed issues of when privacy is taken from us, and when we give it away. Here for your reading enjoyment (or indifference, as the case may be), are two of the poems I read. (“The Suffering of Others” was originally published by qarrtsiluni.)

True Story

When I was child, I knew how to speak in tongues, but no one noticed. I was terrified of losing control of my gift and exploding during Mass, my jaw opening against my will; spewing forth a frantic, fiery rush of God. How embarrassing, and how furious my mom would be. So on Sundays, I made up stomach aches, and huddled alone on the porch, speaking in tongues to a ceramic snail. He understood everything; in fact, he knew so much about me that eventually, he had to be destroyed. I was heartbroken as I stomped on him with my clean white Keds. I buried the shards underneath the porch, and the next day, when I went to check on his remains, a blood red Devil’s Tongue had blossomed from his grave.

The Suffering of Others

You can protect yourself from the negative
energy of a crowd by envisioning white
light surrounding
your entire body. Imagine this light
enveloping, protecting you.
Imagine this light
filtering out  the suffering of others, the pain
your body is prone to absorb as its own.
Imagine this light
as your shield, your womb, your favored skin,
your dearest armor,
your police dog, your invisible
fence, your power word, your safe house.
Imagine this light
filling you, traveling
from the soles of your feet  into
your spine, through your
core, and when grief

howls in with a vengeance, when you are
bowled over and
bewildered, by the failure of this light,
after the blow
of betrayal, you might well say,
you might  well understand,
that it was never Them at all.
It was never feasible: no skin no light
no prayers saves us for we have,
all of us, swallowed
ourselves, and contain

only one another.

--Kristen McHenry

1 comment:

John Socrates said...

You're a master of imagery and metaphor, my dear. This post is a deep, sophisticated winner! I enjoyed reading it very much. You should be running the review department at The New York Times or The New Yorker and making sever figures a year. Your writing is simply top of the topnotch!