A Christmas Gift for New Years Eve by Orey Wilson

If you've read my other posts, you already know that I'm in love with New Years. That being said, I'm a week out from the holiday and I'm finding myself feeling bitter. 

We've all just completed (read as, "endured") another Christmas season filled with forced family feasting, half-drunk political conversations, an outpouring of cash, and a whole heap of consumerism.

I know what you're thinking, "Damn, this douche is a total Grinch/Scrooge/Party-Pooper". Well, I find that estimation too green, too mean and too festively-fecal. Listen, I don't hate Christmas. But, it does exhaust me. Honestly, I feel like Christmas is a ramp-up holiday for New Years for me but, this year, I noticed something that truly perturbed me.

When I ask you your favorite Christmas song, you probably have one. Jingle Bells, O Holy Night, Frosty the Snowman or I'll Be Home for Christmas. However, if I ask you what your favorite New Years song is you say...? What? Auld Lang Syne. Yeah. Shocker. It's the one damn song the Holiday has. (Don't get me wrong. I fucking love Auld Lang Syne. It actually gets me teary eyed far-too often. (Also, this needs to be said. It's not Old Lange's Sign. Don't you call it that. I'll smack that champagne flute right out of your hands. It means "times long past" and not some elderly dude's billboard. (Also, I'm really enjoying seeing how deep I can get into this parenthetical rabbit's hole. (I promise I'm not always this reckless with my punctuation. I think I had too many Christmas cookies.))))  

Well, this Grinchy-Poopy-Scrooge shan't stand for such an oversight. So, I stole a song from Christmas. Don't worry, I'm sure it won't be missed. Just think about it as a Christmas gift to New Years... uh huh. Let's go with that. Below I've adapted it and made it ideal for your New Years celebrations.

Have Yourself A Happy, Little New Year

Have yourself a happy, little New Year. Raise your glasses high.
All our friends will joke of how the months flew by.
Have yourself a happy, little New Year. Let the countdown start.
As the hour of celebration lifts our hearts.

We'll look up as the ball comes down and all over town we'll cheer.
Offering up a champagne toast to send off the ghosts of last year.

Here's to all the good that we'll be granted, all that we'll achieve.
Next year must be better if we just believe.
If not, we'll still have this happy New Years Eve.

I hope yours is an amazing, safe New Year. Have the happiest start to 2017!

The Twenty-Sided Self: In Celebration of Role-Playing Games by Orey Wilson

Let me start by saying, If you haven't seen Stranger Things, move it to the top of your viewing list. In addition to being a brilliantly written show with complex, lovable characters, it showcases something I've come to be incredibly passionate about with an innocence and vigor I never expected from a main-stream show: Role-Playing Games.

My first experience with and RPG was in college. a few of my fraternity brothers began playing the RPG, Pathfinder, and I could hardly contain my judgement toward them. They gathered in a dimly lit basement with two-liters of soda and bags of chips with papers and pens. Hours later they'd resurface with smirks, babbling about dwarves. I couldn't comprehend their interest in Dungeons & Dragons but, all too often, those in glass houses spend too much time Windexing and not enough time looking out. So, I tracked down their leader (AKA "Dungeon Master"), Patrick, and asked me to explain why they liked it so much.

He explained the plot they were playing through, the mountains and forests they were traversing, the underground puzzles they faced. He told me about the dice that decided their fate and the math that built their characters. And, honestly, my immediate thought was, "That sounds dumb." But, as my mind tends to respond to damn-near everything, it continued with, "I bet I could do it better". So, I spent the next few weeks taking what I knew about story-writing and board games and made something happen.

My first game was called, "Erronail, An Adventure". I decided to forego many of the things I found to be cliche: elves, labyrinthine catacombs, and the ever-present threat of goddamn dragons. Instead of making a game about a story, I wanted to make a story that read as a game. I made a plot about religious intolerance, racism and hate crimes (things I find myself thinking about often). I invited a few of my friends (some who played Dungeons & Dragons and some, like me, who had always found it to be lame) and we began.

Within ten minutes of game-time, I was addicted. I had created a story with characters that could talk, walk and make their own decisions, regardless of my plans. My characters were fighting with me and against me. My plot flew out the window within minutes and I had to frantically think "what the hell would happen next" basically the whole time. But, at the end of the three hours, I had a story far greater than I could've made on my own.

That was five years ago. Since then I have written fifteen different games with over twenty different people. It's become one of my greatest passions and has deepened my love of writing more than I ever expected. I get to explore political issues that trouble my "real" life through the fictional worlds I create. My personal turmoils can work themselves out through the characters and plot decisions my players make. 

Without spoiling anything, Stranger Things brings an RPG into the spotlight and shows how problem-solving skills and comradery in the game affected the way the main characters viewed the world around them in a positive light. They saw the world as a game, one where the stakes were lethally high and the goals were near-on impossible. But, they still knew that there were rules, things to be understood, and people beside them the whole way. (I obviously love this show. One might say I give it 11-out-of-10? ...#Dadjokes.)

So, why should you care? Because this is a call to arms or, more specifically, a call to the table. If you've never played a Role-Playing Game, find a game store, find a friend that plays, or just get a Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set online and start your own game. It doesn't matter how you start, but play one. Create a character. Make decisions based on your character's backstory, outlook, hopes, goals. Get out from in front of your take what you see on your Netflix shows or your favorite novel and experience the limitless possibilities of fictional worlds for yourself. Good luck and roll high.

Home Is Where The Heart Is, But Kansas Has No Green Cities: In Defense of Dimension-Hopping Twisters by Orey Wilson

Thanksgiving means the repetition of certain traditions: browned turkeys, afternoon football, sneering during political speeches of inebriated aunts between dinner and dessert. When I was growing up, my grandmother would put The Wizard of Oz on the living room TV. It was always muted and no one watched it. But, my grandma insisted.

She left her home state of West Virginia around the same time my grandpa left Kentucky, both heading for Ohio. They settled into the tiny village of Nevada, Ohio and never left. In fact, they have been living in their white house with the black shudders and green porch for 40 years. As someone who lived in Nevada for 18 years, I still can't comprehend why someone would want to live there, let alone for that long.

When I graduated high school, I moved (read as, "ran") to Columbus as fast as I could. Up until that point, Columbus was a mystical city where people went to get expensive clothes or eat dinner before prom. I grew up very poor, so walking around the Polaris mall was like a day-trip to Beverly Hills. The roads were so big and the sky was frequently punctuated by buildings even higher than the grain elevator two blocks from grandma and grandpas. 

During college, Columbus quickly became Home for me. I drove all over town in the years I lived in the city, learning all the suburbs and the criss-crossing highway system. I scarfed down burgers at Thurman's and walked up and down the Short North more times than I'm willing to count. But, even though I loved it, I decided to go to Philadelphia for my Masters degree. I knew I had to leave Ohio for a few reasons, but the biggest was that damn Dorothy, muted, roaming around in the back of my head. I had to see the world and Columbus wasn't going to cut it. 

So, I loaded up my Ford Focus and moved to a city I had visted once. I knew nobody and chose a house simply because it was halfway between downtown and my school. My first week in Philadelphia, I took the train (a terrifying experience for someone who had only taken the school bus by himself) downtown to explore. I exited the underground station at City Hall and surfaced beside the enormous Comcast Center. I wasn't in Kansas anymore. With all the beeping cars and street vendors and crowds of people, it was about as far from Kansas as I could've gotten. (Although, upon thinking about it, I think that'd actually be somewhere like Bangladesh. But, hey, I don't have a globe.)

Every day became a magical experience in my metropolis: The Piano Bar on Camac Street, eating lunch with a costumed Betsy Ross interpreter, catching the skyline at the perfect angle on South street. Not to mention, the total change in my writing style as I earned my degree. It wasn't all good, but it was all intense, colorful, and new. But, I was aware my movie was ending and I had already missed my hot air balloon.

So, after two years, I shocked my new friends in Philly by announcing I was returning to the Buckeye State. They couldn't comprehend why anyone would want to return to "a fly-over state with nothing but cornfields and republicans". They pointed out the museums, restaurants, and galleries. They looked at me the same way I looked at my grandparents, living in the shadow of Nevada's bright blue water tower. But, I clicked my heels, drove the eight hours home, and refused to look back. That was seven months ago.

Last night, after we celebrated Goatsgiving at our apartment (we named our house after the animal not the more modern "Greatest of all Time" phrase), my roommate, Jordan, said something that caught me off guard entirely. She said, "Sometimes I forget you lived in Philadelphia. It seems like you've always been here. It must feel like a dream to you." Now, I'm well-aware she meant this as a compliment, implying that we'd returned to normalcy quickly after my two-year hiatus of Ohio-ness. But, for me, I think about Philadelphia almost every day. Is this how the littlest Gale felt after she woke up, surrounded by her family, in her windswept bedroom?

I still know many people, in Nevada, Columbus, Philadelphia, who have never lived anywhere but their hometown. They are content with the set of streets they grew up cradled in. Sepia tones don't bother them, if we want to beat this metaphor just a little bit more. But, the things I've experienced have shaped me. I've had my share of lions and poppy fields and house-squashed sorceresses. And now, after growing up surrounded by the cornfields of that train-track bisected village, I've realized that I have two Emerald Cities: one that introduced me to Technicolor and one that caught me after the two-year Twister let me go.

Countdown to the Countdown: My Ritual of Resolution-Writing by Orey Wilson

Last weekend I sat down at my laptop and began writing my New Years Resolutions for 2017. Yes, I'm well-aware that it's November. But, unlike most people I am already deep into preparation for the absolute best days of the year.

Before talking about my resolutions specifically, let me explain why New Years is the happiest, most positive holiday. That's right, screw you, Christmas. 

First of all, there's no traditional requirement for who you should spend the holiday with. Spend it with the people that make you the happiest. I'm not super close with much of my family, so I revel in any day that I can pull together my collection of friends and show them my appreciation for all the good they do for my life. There isn't a necessity to buy each other gifts or create elaborate meals so you can focus on being together and enjoying each other's company. I believe happiness is impossible on your own and highly improbable without a finely-honed group of close friends. 

New Years is also ideal for creating your own traditions. For example, I always host a party with my friends. Recently, I've begun writing Murder Mystery Dinners. Yeah, we go full-out Clue on our New Years. (Quick sidenote: one of my favorite moments of last year was hearing two of my friends screaming at each other shortly after the Murder Mystery started. I rushed upstairs to find them fighting in character. As I writer, this was heaven.) I mean, why have a party to die for when you can have a party to die at, amiright?

Another tradition I have is to choose a new font for the new year. This one sounds weird but just hear me out. I write a ton and organization is crucial for me. So, when a new year rolls around, I begin writing all my new work in the font for that year. Not only does this give all my new work a fresh energy, it keeps my older work subtly dated. I can look at an old poem and say, "Well, that's in Garamond, so I wrote that in 2012". It gives my words a distinct shape, formed by the year they were built within.

That all being said, we all know that some tradition surrounds this holiday. The ball drops at midnight. Champagne fills glasses. Scotch is shared. Pork, black-eyed peas, grapes and citrus fruits are eaten. These can absolutely be part of your celebration as well.

Personally, we always make pork and sauerkraut on New Years morning. This is a German assurance of good luck plus is just tastes so freakin' good... It's also a great time to make mimosas from the left over champagne from the night before. But, probably the best part of the traditional celebrations are the midnight toasts. We will toast the year that is ending and the one that is beginning. We raise glasses and inhabit the classic joy represented by the effervescent bubbles, rising to the surface.

"Sure", you, the disembodied-voice-of-my-imaginary-reader, might be saying. "But why the hell do you write your resolutions in November?" Well, the writing of my resolutions are always a complex ritual, one I look forward to all year.

I begin by writing my resolutions in November because this gives me about a month and a half to practice and refine them before the big day comes. This may sound like overkill, but my resolutions aren't "lose weight" or "sleep more". Honestly, those resolutions won't work. They aren't specific. There is too much room for failure. There are zillions of articles on how to create "good" resolutions and you know I've read them all. So, here are my three steps to writing a successful list of resolutions:

1. Start with a one sentence description of yourself. For example, last year mine was, "I will be a healthy, food-loving writer that keeps his life organized and worthwhile". This gives me the most concentrated list of areas for me to focus on.

2. Take each of those descriptive terms and break them down into specific resolutions. So, for my "organized" portion, I came up with three resolutions to accomplish this goal. Remember, these should be specific. Mine were "Empty your inbox every quarter", "Update Budget spreadsheet each month", and "Use Google as your digital work space". So, this kept my email easy-to-read and my weak points in my finances showcased. Moving over to all Google Docs and Sheets was a hard change, but the ease of using my Chromebook for everything has taken off a ton of stress. So, just do this for each portion of your description sentence and you'll have a list of resolutions. I started 2016 with nineteen resolutions. 

3. This is probably the most important portion: Check-In Days. If you don't return to your resolutions, they will fall through before March. Because I had nineteen resolutions, I decided I'd check-in on the 19th of each month. I went through all my resolutions and gave myself a pass or fail depending on how I did that month. This let me know what I needed to do in the upcoming month to get back on track. I also did quarterly check-ins to look at my resolutions as a whole and tweak them. If I had a resolution that was repeatedly falling through and/or too difficult to accomplish/no longer applicable I could change it on the quarterly check-in. For example, when I moved from Philadelphia to Columbus, my resolution on "taking three hour-long walks each week" wasn't as feasible. Because I changed to driving instead of walking to work, I needed to adjust and the quarterly check-in facilitated that.

Everyone's resolutions should be different. This is what works for me, but if you need to change part of this to make your resolutions last, go for it!

When most people think of New Years, they think of chugging champagne, embarrassed hookups after desperately searching for a midnight kiss, and the inevitable disappointment of broken resolutions. But, for me, it is a celebration of life.

The year that is ending is filled with experiences that built you and broke you down. Making it to New Years means you survived another year, through break-ups, new jobs, loss, and discoveries. And, the moment that the new morning comes and the old calendars come down, you can propose brand new habits and hope to make your life richer and more worthwhile. But, the perfect moment, the real celebration, falls between the two. Among the tinkling of glass and fizz of champagne and the unified voices of those you love counting down to the three, two, one, Happy New Year, you raise a glass to yourself. There, you are both the You-of-last-year and the You-of-next-year. You're a being that is both built from the past and bursting into the future. You're everything you've been and anything you could be. Raise your glass and celebrate yourself. Hear the clock chiming and know you are alive and there is so much life left for you. 

What's Funny? Humor In A World That Isn't Ready To Laugh by Orey Wilson

Last night I spent all evening with my roommate watching a marathon of Bo Burnham stand-up. We started with his half-hour special on Comedy Central and watched through his most recent piece "Make Happy". Now, I call it a "piece" and not "show" because it is absolutely, freakin' art. Each minute is witty, quick, dense and complex. "#Deep" makes you question your own pretentiousness. "Pandering" raises an eyebrow at stadium country music while "What's Funny" has you trying, desperately, to keep up with rapid lines like: 

"Welcome to my flow, it flows a little bit like this
with a rap and a diss then a swift rap on the wrist,
a rap in a kiss like Hershey's wrappin' a Kiss, shit
I got a show that'll test you kids

and it asks one question and the question is:
What's funny?"

And test you he does. He doesn't give you a second to breathe through all of his fast-paced music, poetry, and bits. You don't walk away from watching Bo Burnham thinking, "Wow, what a funny dude". You watch the credits wondering what the hell humor even is anymore while sitting in a puddle of your own, personal existential crisis, questioning who you should call to fix whatever he did to you (in the best way possible). If you're not familiar with his work, I highly recommend it. 

Now, we both know you can't get on social media without getting bombarded with aggression and despair. Really. Open a new tab and scroll through Twitter. No, seriously. Open up a tab and look. I'll meet you in the next paragraph...

...Right? That's awful. People freaking hate each other right now. It's incredibly depressing and begs the question: Why don't we all turn to comedy? Laughing makes us feel better. That's just a psychological fact. And people have been flocking to comedies well before the times of Shakespeare for a welcome reprieve from the everyday calamities of life. Okay then, so why isn't that happening now?

Well, some people don't feel ready to laugh. With political upsets, climate hysteria, famine, and celebrities Kardashian-ing their way all over our lives, there are many who just need a second to step back and reassess. That's totally fair. For many it's impossible to find humor in what feels like Armageddon (the end of the world, not the movie with Bruce Willis, to be clear. Although, not a ton of humor there either.). 

Other people are total victims of a PC-age that insists we all behave in a way that doesn't step on anybody's toes. Unfortunately, this has caused many people to end up stomping around like Godzilla and others to end up all foot (if you will). What space is left for poking fun when society tells us that any joke will offend?

But, all this is why I think that comedy is so crucial at this moment. If the world is ending (or even if it just feels that way), it's my firm belief that nothing will help us if we can't laugh at ourselves and if we can't laugh at each other. This doesn't mean making a mockery of someone to make yourself feel better (refer to my comment on "stomping" in the last paragraph). It means finding the inherent humor in the world around us and allowing that catharsis.

Bo Burnham addresses race, sexism, homophobia, and a hell of a lot more in his comedy pieces. He makes us laugh and then think. That second part is essential. If we're not considering what makes all of this funny, it's just a band-aid on a bullet wound. By joking, laughing, smiling, we can process the hurt and fear that fills our lives and Twitter feeds. Every guffaw and snort releases a little of the pressure that pushes against our chest the moment we read the news in the morning. Yes, you have a right to be mad. You might wake up every day furious and horrified and feeling at the end of your rope. But, I have to believe that laughter can help us to heal. Comedy won't fix our problems, but it can make us ready to fix them ourselves. 

So, what's funny?

All of it. Cause, damn. If we can't laugh at what is happening to us, we're all absolutely screwed.