40 Photos from Ireland

021We took an early morning bus out of London and watched the shapeless countryside ebb and flow in the dark. When we got to the coast, our vehicle was swallowed by a ferry. From the tight-quarters of the cargo hold we ascended onto the lodging floors and collapsed on any free surfaces available, sleepy ooze still clinging to the corners of our eyes. We didn’t book a room, so a firm restaurant booth had to do if you wanted to go horizontal.

Then the world churned beneath our bodies and we knew rest and relaxation was out of the question. Our landlubber inner ears bobbed like buoys and our stomachs forgot about breakfast or even the concept of food. Luckily there was a small theater playing Pixar’s Brave; the uneven tale of witchcraft and womanhood proved an effective distraction.

When we reached Dublin, the first thing I did was throw up. The ferry station restroom stalls were a peeling cobalt blue scattered with graffiti. My vision blurred with welling tears, and I choked down what I could. From there we rolled our suitcases to a two-story McDonald’s where I got further acquainted with the toilets of Ireland.

The next stop on my porcelain tour was the local hostel where we rendezvoused with the rest of our excursion group. While matching t-shirts were being passed out, I was searching for the nearest drug store. With a jumbo shot of slow-moving Pepto on my tongue, I started panicking. I didn’t want to be the sick kid on the field trip.

I’ve always held anxiety in my gut. Some people experience joint pain or excess sweating, but my mood and tummy are inexorably linked and rise and fall together. When I’m anxious, my insides churn and splash like the waves beneath the Cliffs of Moher. While walking back in the cool November air I entertained the idea of bailing on the whole trip. The thought of sloshing in a bus cresting hill after hill was enough to make me miss my quiet flat in London.

But I’m thankful I stuck with it. At our first stop I slowly made my way through a pack of crumbly butter crackers, and washed them down with bottled water and deep, calming breaths. The trip lasted several days and I saw a lot of beautiful country, an Irish music jam enlivening a street of neighborhood pubs, and some really cool rock faces. Continue reading

22 Photos from Costa Rica

531408_468359006509702_1501962542_nWhen I remember Costa Rica I think of rain. My bangs forming into icicles. Droplets swelling on my eyebrows, pooling in my eyes, leaping off the tip of my nose. Rain drumming off distant roofs and smacking against giant green leaves bowing like penitent monks. When it wasn’t raining, the atmosphere was sweet and sticky with potential energy. The heavy clouds descended to swallow us. It was a shared ritual, a communion of heaven and earth. Continue reading

Sororicide, a Twine story

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Sororicide is a short Twine game set in the Mass Effect universe. After playing through the bombastic events of the series, I wanted to explore a more intimate story where the stakes are much smaller. I originally wrote this for a job application for BioWare’s Austin office several years ago.

Taking place in a shadowy corner of the Citadel, my story focuses around two Asari sisters. One of them is an Ardat-Yakshi or “Demon of the night winds”, someone diagnosed with a vilified genetic mutation.

Content warning: violence

Follow this link to play!

Best,

James

On Playing

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During my hiatus from this blog I did something extraordinary: playing games  successivley without stopping to write about them. The little critic took a holiday from his home in my head, and I was able to enjoy my favorite hobby with a newfound enthusiasm. I slid across the reflective sci-fi skylines of Mirror’s Edge, explored the nordic tundra and rolling grass plains in Skyrim, and survived the horrific violence of a doomed Japanese island in Tomb Raider. I did all this with a sensation beyond the typical virtual-world escapism. I took a break from writing, and it felt good. In fact, I pushed it out of my mind entirely.

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Friday Mornings

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I wake before dawn to an illuminated rectangle at the far corner of my dark room; my phone alarm spurs me down the narrow hall to a hot shower. After getting dressed I ignite the lights in the living room and kitchen, grabbing a blueberry yogurt from the refrigerator and settling down on the couch to college football highlights and another loss for the New York Knicks. A panel of suited strongmen talk sports statistics that go way over my head; I’m just happy to have some company at this hour.

I pocket the keys to the bakery enclosed in a heavy Batman ring and prepare for the cold. My car roars awake and quickly cycles through its morning stretches. A few voices sound off on NPR about something I can never remember. The roads are slick and empty and softly reflect the street lamps and the strobe lights attached to the belts of dedicated joggers and the bright eyes of a stationary metro bus sinking with the weight of boarding passengers. I break the crest of a few oscillating hills and spy the distant highways where sleepy vehicles gently waver between lanes. An oncoming traffic light turns a deep red; I halt at the intersection and gaze through the windows of the street-corner Starbucks, dangling amber bulbs reveal a trio of teenagers preparing for the morning rush. The green light sends me forward before quickly reverting back to yellow like a temperamental gatekeeper.

After parking I walk a short distance beneath a crescent moon and thumb for the correct key to unlock the back door. I cross the empty kitchen, flip the switches for the dining room, and clock in. First to arrive; how I like it.

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Shootin’ and Lootin’: Zen and the Art of Borderlands 2 

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For nine months of job-hunting I had been rejected or ignored by a growing collection of marketing firms, publishing companies, software corporations, and even video game studios. It was a cyclical mire of research, application, and optimistic anticipation. My heart sunk upon the opening of professional emails containing the word “Unfortunately” or the phrase, “Thank you for your interest”; afterwards I would log my updated status into my increasingly forlorn Excel spreadsheet before moving on and pretending I didn’t have my hopes up. It was a humbling and arduous exercise, one that I’m not ashamed to admit took its toll on my self-confidence. It was easy to find myself in a hole of doubt laced with a tunneling idleness; at times I felt useless, static, unproductive. I felt like a parasitic force on my own bank account and on the generosity of my supportive parents. I looked back upon my internships and coursework with a sort of pessimistic and undeserved disdain, believing after all of my efforts I had earned the opportunity to prove my worth.

Much to my delight, during my extended radio silence on this blog I was able to land a part-time job at my neighborhood bakery and coffee shop. I would love to share more on that in a later post (I’ve begun stockpiling a few anecdotes I’ve experienced as cashier), but for now I’ve decided to focus on the new monster in my life who replaced unemployment; graduate school.

I remain steadfast in the direction I want to take with my education, I aspire to enter an MFA graduate program to improve my writing and broaden my worldview, and use this goal to keep my head on straight. Yet even this commitment brings the baggage of personal expectations. Is my writing good enough? Do I have the guts to teach at the college level? How will I handle a more concentrated rejection, one targeting what I’ve always believed to be one my greatest talents? I try to alleviate my anxiety with plentiful exercise, studying, spending time with old friends, reading, watching movies, discovering new music, and shooting rampaging aliens in the face.

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oh little me

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Freshman year of college I spent many an hour alone in our cavernous campus chapel. The steady hum of the air conditioning morphed into a drone, like the inside of a seashelle. My little retreats were often after nightfall, and the enormous framed windows of a tessellated Jesus glowed with the lamps lighting the academic mall. I sat in a pew, or laid out on the floor to gaze at the rafters, and felt perfectly small.

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The Invisible Bridge

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Pictured: suspended terror

“Try not to move around so much,” our guide said, as if I was planning to samba across the entire swaying 262 meter length of the Tirimbina Biological Reserve suspension bridge. In fact, I would’ve preferred to crawl like a baby if that didn’t mean directing my face towards the 22 meter drop. Could I survive that fall? I asked myself. Would my legs be crushed? Have I had enough of the whole ‘walking’ thing?

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