Another Dumb Retirement Announcement

It’s 9:30 am on Sunday, October 16th. I should be in the East Bay playing in my first tournament as a Skrewt; instead, I find myself writing another dumb retirement announcement. The tournament was canceled, but there are still games going on at Cal.

Games involving teams that I’ve worked hard for, whether or not I’ve ever been affiliated with them. Games I didn’t hear about until 6 pm the night beforetoo late to get my team together to go and get some much-needed experience playing as a team.

I love quidditch. But I have never hated it as much as I do right now.

So I quit.

I vacate all my roles and responsibilities as of right fucking now.

  • West RC? Regionals are months away and team sign ups are done. Get your damn ref requirements in.
  • Sunset Invitational? Only one team from outside the West was even interested. And why should they be? Traveling sucks for us on the west coast but there’s not much of a choice, so why would other teams volunteer for that hardship?
  • NCQC? Chris and Ra know what they’re doing. I trust them.
  • QP? They deserve a CEO who isn’t having a meltdown every other weekend.
  • Skrewts? They deserve better than an ancient bench warmer who hates practicing.

Why did I take on so much? A few seasons ago, my team got so caught up in doing well at any cost that we became pretty terrible people. Playing illegal rosters (by our school’s rules, not USQ’s), playing to hurt other teams, lying and infighting and imploding right before regionals. I took a break from leadership before coming back, not to lead my own team, but to make things better for the teams around me. I promised myself that my biggest priority would be to make quidditch better for everyone, not just myself. I promised myself that I would be a good example.

I think I have been. It just hasn’t been enough to change the underlying problems of this sport. The workload isn’t the problem; I think I’m well suited to those roles. What I can’t do, however, is change attitudes.

I am done with trying to make the big picture happen, because it would make the sport better, with people who only care about themselves and their petty rivalries.

I am done being asked for help with no benefit to me because it would make the sport better. Yes, that means you, for asking me to help ref at scrimmages my team asn’t invited to because of a stupid petty bullshit rivalry with the Skrewts.

I am done with working with teams that make my life harder because it would make the sport better. I included teams in my conference that I wasn’t particularly thrilled with because I cared more about improving local quidditch than my personal feelings. 

I am done being the only person who tolerates people I can’t stand because it would make the sport better. That list is long and distinguished but I don’t even want to bother with naming names and giving anyone any more attention than they deserve.

I am done with hearing about rivalries and drama that predate me and have nothing to do with me, like all the Skrewts-adjacent community team clusterfucks and the mountain of bullshit I had to deal with from my friends when I had the crazy idea of making QP better because it would make the sport better.

I am done with knowing that nearly every tournament I run, no matter how detailed my plans and contingency plans are and no matter how much information I put out in advance, will usually end with me doing last minute magic that adds to my white hair count because someone else doesn’t have their shit together and expects me to cater to them.

I am done with being the face of choices that no one (including me, so so so very much) likes and getting shot for being the messenger.

This isn’t all Cal’s fault. They didn’t think. Neither did the other teams attending. It happens. It’s just the last time I care to deal with people thinking only of themselves while depending on me to think about the big picture.

It will keep happening until there are consequences. I’m not really your or anyone else’s mom. Maybe that approach was wrong. Maybe I’m too old for this and quidditch needs to grow up. Maybe my leaving will shake things up and change things for the better, but I doubt it. Staying certainly won’t, though.

But like any other dumb retirement announcement, let’s see if this sticks.

This is not how I wanted to go out. I wanted one more season. A shot at playing at nationals one last time. Making sure that I had built a conference that could run itself without me. Quidditch has given me so much, so many friends and opportunities I never would have had otherwise; it’s just that I’ve reached the point where it’s taken more out of me than I get back.

 

Everything’s Coming Up Barcelos!

I’m coming home from an unexpectedly amazing night at Portuguese school and I am finally finishing this blog post so it can get posted tomorrow. A lot of changes have been in the works and I am so stoked to say that I can now go public with them!

New job!

As I mentioned before, This Is My Life in Silicon Valley went beyond my usual audience of friends, friends of friends, and random quidditch people. It found some of the eyeballs I was looking for. They pointed me in the direction of a few writing jobs. I made it through the interview phase of a couple of them and this week I accepted an offer for an editorial internship with a better pay rate than my contract at Google. I start October 3rd and I am psyched to finally be taking what feels like my first steps toward a career, not just a job.

New (volunteer) job!

Speaking of editorial, The Quidditch Post was looking for a new CEO as I was applying for other jobs. I knew I would have to leave my position with USQ if I got it, and as much as I love my region, I couldn’t pass up the chance to have my quidditch life reflect my real one. I may not be West RC for that much longer, but I don’t need a title to tell me what my heart knows: I’ll be #WestTeamMom/Fangirl-in-Chief no matter what. I’ll still be doing NCQC since that is my quidditch labor of love.

New students!

Last year, I peaked at seven or eight students enrolled in my Portuguese class. However, I only really averaged about six kids in my class each week. It was demoralizing sometimes.

It made me remember when I was a kid in Portuguese school. We had four classes of about fifteen to twenty kids each, depending on skill level. I started in the second highest class and worked hard to get int the top class as fast as I could. I went two nights a week for two hours at a time. We used real classrooms at Five Wounds School.

Last year, I started the school year in an exercise room for seniors and ended it in an office since the adult Portuguese class needed the space more. I had to figure out how to teach with fewer resources and less time than I was used to, but I do think I made it work. I loved doing it. I loved the kids. I hated that I had to give it up because I started working at a startup.

It’s a new school year and that startup job is old news. (As much as I’d love to write about that experience, I signed an NDA so that is just not a possibility.) I was so grateful that POSSO wanted me back after my departure. Last week I had five students, one of them absent because they were at their Back to School Night. I planned my lesson for this week thinking that this year would be the same as the last.

Instead, I ended the day with twelve. (My class actually more than doubled, Twitter-self!) Two of them, brothers, are the sons of my catechism teachers that got married some time after I left their Confirmation class. Seeing them and realizing that I was being charged with the cultural education of the children of people my parents entrusted with my spiritual education confirmed (ha, see what I did there?) that no matter what else I do with my life, I should be teaching others and I should be working with the Portuguese community in San Jose. Those are two things that define me and I can never turn my back on that.

(Shameless plug: We’re still accepting new students.)

New domain!

Check it out, I finally ditched my initialslastname.wordpress.com domain name! I spent a good part of last week thinking about what the hell my personal #brand is before putting my money where my online mouth is. It turned into a mini-identity crisis that you’ll get to read about in a blog post later. After working on some projects that’ll need an online home soon, I decided to invest in myself and take the plunge.

After a summer of uncertainty, it feels good to have direction in my life again. Thanks for reading, and I’ll hope you keep reading as I continue heading towards to wherever it is that I’m going.

 

The Kids Are All Right. Am I?

I went to my first SJSU Quidditch game (okay, it was unofficial preseason scrimmage) where I was a spectator and only a spectator. Not a ref, not a TD, just a Quidditch Mom with a lot of feelings and love for my kids that I know are gonna have a great season.

A great season without me. While SJSU had a version of the community/college split rule already in place before this season, this year I’m joining a far larger pool of players than ever before that are being forced to transition from a college to a community team. As a college player, I believed this was a necessary transition. Having the same players on a team for four years and more would stifle the player pool, keeping new players from ever making a roster. Turnover may not have been great for individual teams, my own included. but it was necessary for the pool of players as a whole to grow. Now I’m on the outside looking in, missing the team that I still slip and call “we” or “us.” Yes, even around my new team, the Skrewts.

choices

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

The funny thing is that at this time last year, I thought I had a whole year of undergrad ahead of me but that I was gonna transition out and do as little as possible. I definitely practiced as little as possible. (And boy, am I paying for that now!) Last fall, I played only one tournament because we were desperately shorthanded. Then I started focusing more on being a referee, tournament director, conference commissioner, and regional coordinator. I was looking forward to graduating in the spring and transitioning from being a player to a non-playing volunteer.

I went to Snow Cup saying that I’d stop playing when I graduated, that I would never join a community team. A friend replied, “This just in: Elizabeth Barcelos announces that she’s joining the Silicon Valley Skrewts!” We laughed about it but I would soon regret it. Before I even got home from Utah, SJSU decided to graduate me a semester early without telling me. My first thought was, “I can’t play for SJSU anymore?!”

There’s nothing like losing something to make you realize how much it means to you. Luckily, I was able to get back home and sign up for credential classes, making me an SJSU student once more. I still didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have, but my team indulged me and let me get some minutes in, including letting me keep for a few possessions so I could say that I had played all four positions before I left SJSU Quidditch. I even managed to play not terrible at the NCQC Championship, doing my small part to get us a fourth place finish. I had been expecting us to finish sixth. My kids proved me wrong.

keeper

What is this strange ball in my hand? Can I hit people with it? No. Damn.

I did a whole lot more not practicing this summer, telling myself that I would totally make up for eating my feelings all summer. Well, September is here and PSL season is upon us along with the new USQ season. Time to pay for my sins.

eek

This is not an attempt to get on the Gambits roster. Really.

This is the most out of shape (or most round shaped, I guess) I have ever been in my life. I hit 160 pounds when I was twenty-five, decided to make a change, and worked my down to 130 in about six months. I’m thirty-one now and I just tipped the scale at 170. I contemplated making this the new normal before accepting that I am too eternally displeased with the status quo to take anything lying down. Yeah, even if lying down and watching YouTube makeup tutorials (ugh, who have I become?) sounds so much more appealing than running around with some of my favorite nerds for a few hours.

I’m not on a team that’s just gonna allow me to do what I want because I’m #TeamMom anymore. I know that. That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose the Skrewts; year in and year out, they keep taking the roster they have and developing them to their highest potential. Fucking off is not an option. I need to work harder. I can’t just accept that being the oldest woman on a USQ roster (until proven otherwise) is an excuse to settle. If Michael Phelps can keep winning gold medals at my age, the least I can do is go to practice is not complain. Too much, anyway.

It’s gonna be a good year. The Skrewts are good people and a great team. Soon I’ll be able to say “we” and “us” about them instead of calling them, well, “them.” I’m not there yet, though. But I’m working on it.

What I Learned from Complaining on the Internet

It’s been a week since I wrote My Life in Silicon Valley and it’s still getting hits. Before that, my most popular blog post was the intentionally clickbaity Fantasy Quidditch is Dead. It got just under three hundred hits in two days, with the occasional reader or two later on. It was a very exciting time; I learned that being provocative but backing it up with good content could work for me with the right audience.

#MyLifeInSiliconValley, on the other hand, is still getting eyeballs on it. Over sixteen hundred pairs and counting:

Silicon Valley Stats

Am I posting this to brag? Maybe a little, but mostly I’m just floored by the volume and variety of responses I got. It gave me a lot of food for thought, especially as I’m still trying to make a living with my big words and even bigger mouth. Let me share with you all what I’ve learned this week:

  • There is no such thing as 100% approval.

The initial responses to #MyLifeInSiliconValley were positive because they were mostly from my friends, many of them English majors like me, struggling to make their way in this valley. Nothing feels as great as being told I wrote something good. It gave me the nerve to share it in more public forums than my personal Facebook and Twitter. That’s when I started getting pushback.

I was told that I was lazy. (Have you been talking to my father? I kid. A little.) I was told I was an entitled millennial. (Glad I didn’t mention that I’m 31 and not 22.) I was told that I thought I was too good to be a teacher. (I love teaching. I’m going back to teaching Portuguese school this fall.) I was told that plenty of teachers work a second job anyway. (Where do they find the time?!) I was told to check my privilege. (And here I thought I did a decent job of pointing that out.) I was told that I should be happy that someone I love is employed by a tech company. (Technically, he’s employed by a contracting company. He’s not allowed to misrepresent himself as a Google employee.) I was told to move if I couldn’t it stand it. (Do you have any idea what kind of upfront cost that would entail?)

All my responses in the last paragraph belong in parentheses because they’re not important. While I first felt a need to defend myself in comment threads against anyone who had a problem with my writing, I soon stopped. If my writing couldn’t stand on it’s own, it wasn’t good writing. I needed to let it speak for itself. More importantly, I needed to not take criticism personally.

That being said, if anyone who had a problem with my last post is reading this: I wrote out of frustration, not a desire to attack a whole industry. My problem was and is with the tiny strata of the society that we live in that thinks they represent all of us. They certainly impact the lives of everyone that lives here, but they don’t represent the mosaic of people that live here and depend on one another. Service industry workers need to be able to afford to live here and serve you your cold brew. Teachers need to be able to afford to live here and teach your children. Non-tech industry workers (like my parents) who are staring down retirement need to be able to afford to live here. The homeless that we see (and in my case, often hear) only to quickly ignore them need to be able to afford to live here if we ever want places like Saint James Park to be parks and not homeless encampments.

So if you felt attacked, maybe you’re more culpable than you realize?

  • I have an amazing support network.

I asked for shares and you guys game through. The vast majority of traffic to my article came from Facebook. Some of your friends ended up resharing, sending my writing to places I could no longer follow. Then there were unexpected retweets. If you did any of those things: thank you, thank you, thank you. A story like mine is only as impactful as the size of its audience.

While I promised myself I couldn’t comment on my own story anymore, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t peeking as links to #MyLifeInSiliconValley spread across Facebook and beyond. In sharing my story, some of my friends had to end up defending both it and me. My brother, who at first was hesitant to be mentioned at all when I asked for permission, ended up valiantly coming to my defense.

Also, a quick shoutout to everyone who caught the dumb grammatical errors I missed because I made the mistake of writing drunk on emotions and not even bothering to edit sober before posting. Thanks for keeping the big bad Internet from questioning how much I deserve my English degree, friends.

  • Ask the Internet and sometimes the internet answers.

While I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley explicitly for the sake of creating a counternarrative, there was also an implicit purpose to me spreading it around: I wanted someone hiring a writer to read it. As many someones as I could reach. Getting my foot in the door has been the hardest thing for me. (I got another rejection email today.) By writing something like this, I hoped to kick down some doors.

It worked. I was contacted about a few writing positions and I made damn sure that I followed up. I also was told about other opportunities that would fit my skill set. I took those seriously, too.

  • The hustle is harder once it’s truly a side hustle.

I guess now is as good a time as any to confirm that my funemployment is indeed over. I started on Monday as a contract minion at a satellite office in San Jose for other contract minions doing work for Google.

The snacks are nice, having my boyfriend in the office is an unexpected treat, but the pay and the work are both motivating me to keep looking. job is what I needed to pay my bills and move out like the adult I should be by now. The job isn’t just gonna show up, though. I’m going to keep working towards it.

That being said, writing after putting in eight hours of staring at spreadsheets is hard. It’s easy to see how someone can get so exhausted by a job that they get complacent about finding the job. It happens every day; we just never hear about it.

I was supposed to post this on Wednesday; instead, I ended up finishing the first draft Thursday morning on the light rail to work. It’s Thursday night now, I did some housework, and I am finally finishing this damn thing.

Writing is work. I love it, but it’s still work. I need to find what will keep me working and not waiting for inspiration to come from on high.

  • I’m not alone.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to admit in such a public way just how pathetic my day-to-day life had become. I’m fairly image conscious. I like people to think that I’m competent and on top of my shit because usually, I am. I felt like I was admitting defeat when I wrote #MyLifeInSiliconValley, but I kept writing anyway. I prepared to deal with the shock and disappointment of my friends.

Instead, so many of you (some of whom I haven’t talked to for ages!) reached out and shared your stories with me. There’s thinking that you’re not the only one struggling to live here and then there’s knowing it because someone is sharing their struggle with you. It was such a relief.

That’s not enough, though. Sharing among friends, I mean. Like I said before, stories are only as impactful as their audiences. As much as I was hyped by my sixteen hundred-ish hits, the original had over forty-six thousand hits in it’s first few hours. It got reshared by The Observer. I considered not linking to it and giving it more hits but at this point any traffic I create is negligible. That story still controls the narrative of what it means to live in Silicon Valley.

That’s the hardest lesson I learned. It’s also something I want to do my part in ending. I want to make #MyLifeInSiliconValley into a regular series. I’m not alone. You have stories and I want to share them. We live here, too. Our stories are valuable, too.

Comment, message, or tweet at me. Use that #MyLifeInSiliconValley hashtag. Let’s tell some new stories.

This Is My Life in Silicon Valley

Though my funemployment may finally/hopefully be coming to an end, I am still working on my writing-based side hustles because no one seems to want to hire me as a writer. (Recruiters seem to think I’m the perfect polyglot contract minion candidate instead.) That means reading up on content writing, marketing, social media, SEO, and all the buzzwords a writer’s gotta know if she wants to make a living with her words.

However, the dream is to write in and about my community. When I saw This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley in my Facebook feed, it seemed like just the sort of content I should be reading and maybe even emulating. I know it was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek bit of satire, but it left me a crying mess instead of being inspired or even amused.

I hate to give that indulgent piece of writing more clicks, but please do read it before reading this so you have some context. Or don’t and just share this so maybe I go viral and get some eyeballs on my writing. That’d be cool too.


I wake up at 7:30 am to the sound of everyone else in the house getting ready for work, or in my dad’s case, coming home from work because he’s been running his non-tech company’s graveyard shift since I was in middle school. Ashamed to remind everyone that I’m still at home and jobless, I grab my laptop and stay in bed, checking my email and waiting for the house to quiet down.

There are a few of the usual automated rejections, thanking me for my application and encouraging me to apply for other opportunities. One looks like it was actually written by a human, so I respond with my thanks for their quick and personal response. Maybe they’ll remember me when something else comes up.

There’s another email from [name redacted] from [kinda sketchy sounding recruiting company redacted], introducing himself yet again (seriously, I get an email from him at least once a week) before throwing a job description for something I am interested in but wildly unqualified for. 5+ years of marketing, computer science, technical writing, an MBA? Have you even read my hella entry level resume, [name redacted]? Or is this a form letter you send out to everyone with an English degree who posted their resume on Indeed/Monster/etc?

I shower and grab a quick breakfast, reminding myself how lucky I am that I have parents that love and support me enough to let me keep living at home for free as I figure out how to turn my degree into a job. I’m ashamed now for hiding out this morning because I didn’t want to deal with being grilled about the job search. That conversation usually ends with being told what I should have done: stayed with the underpaid job that turned out to be an overworked internship or just stuck with getting my teaching credential because what else do you do with a BA in English?

I leave the house that my parents managed to pay off without even a GED between them, let alone a degree (Portugal was a dictatorship back in the day, so they only got four years of reading, writing, and arithmetic.) and walk to the bus station. I’m playing Pokemon GO as I do, headphones on, and yet it doesn’t drown out the honk and the catcall I get for the audacity of wearing shorts on an August day. I catch nothing but the usual suburban suspects: Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Meowths.

I take the 522 to the Alum Rock Transit Center, where I switch over to the light rail. I like to write on the train because it makes me feel like I’m going somewhere. I look through job postings on LinkedIn and Indeed. I’ve seen and applied for several of them already, but I save the promising ones and start working on cover letters for them. I hate cover letters but I know that if I want a writing job, they gotta see how I write. I work quidditch into every single one of them because that is a thing I am good at and I know it makes me stick out from the herd.

I get off the light rail at Saint James and put only one headphone in. Like the Pokemon GO loading screen says, you gotta be aware of your surroundings. There’s a comment about my ass that I ignore because the last time I talked back to a leering resident of Saint James Park, I got called a bitch and followed for a few blocks. I mentally wrestle with wondering what’s more important: fighting the misogyny inherent in our society or having empathy for someone who doesn’t have a home in one of the most income disparate parts of the country. Both are #SiliconValleyProblems no one has an answer for, least of all a #WhiteGirlFeminist like me.

I walk to my favorite Starbucks, which is on the other side of town from my home in Evergreen. It’s my favorite not just because it’s on the west side of town, a welcome escape from the east side, but because the barista I have a crush on in spite of being very happily not single works here. He played Ferdinand in The Tempest once; it’s my favorite Shakespeare play and he played the part to boyishly charming perfection. I try not to think about the fact that an artist has to work a service job to survive.

Instead, I think about every well-intended article I’ve read telling me to save instead of going to Starbucks, but I feel like a real, professional, glamorous freelance writer when I work here and I’m not just gonna use their free wifi without ordering something. I work on content for the blog I’m going to launch with David soon. It’d be cool if we could monetize it to the point where we could make a real job of it, or at least a decent side hustle. Scoring a content writing gig, a copywriting position, or even (dare I dream?) a job writing for the Metro based on our work would be cool too.

I crank out some drafts fueled by coffee and dreams, forgetting that I’ve forgotten lunch. One of my buddies, another English major trying to make his way in the world, is starting a writing consulting business and asks if I could use some side income. The answer is obviously yes. Later on, the boyfriend texts me. Want to meet for dinner? I remember that I’ve forgotten lunch, so the answer is obviously yes.

He works for Google, but by “works for Google,” I mean that he’s valuable contract minion who’s been strung along with the promise of having an inside track for an FTE (full time employee, for those of you who don’t speak fluent Google) position that he’s long since given up on. He still lives at home too, because a contract is only as stable as it is profitable to keep from moving the same job to Austin or some other, cheaper up-and-coming tech hub.

I look at jobs in Portland and Salt Lake City as I wait for him to pick me up, but I don’t apply because even though I have friends out there, my family and the Portuguese community I grew up in are here and I don’t know who I am without them. Little Portugal was here before Silicon Valley and I try not to think about how one is dwindling as the other is booming.

We get burritos at La Vic’s and I add orange sauce (though I think Iguanas‘s is better) and Mexican food to the reasons why I can’t leave San Jose. We discuss the article he shared on Facebook, the one about the people who got here and made it first are making it hard for anyone else to even afford living here, let alone buy a house. Until I get a job, his income alone isn’t enough to rent a place. I have to wonder which is worse: living at home with no job, or living at home with a job that doesn’t pay enough.

We drive through Little Portugal as we head back to the east side. Instead of the purple banners with grapes and other vaguely Portuguese symbols I remember, there are signs urging you to Shop Alum Rock. I wonder if that helped more than what the small businesses here, Portuguese or not, got as a payout for their lost business because of the unending road “improvements.” Then again, those improvements are supposed to help the 522, which is how I get around.

He drops me off at home. My dad’s gone to work by now, my brother’s locked up in his room grading papers (he has a tenure-track job teaching high school history, but it’s in Morgan Hill which means the pay is worse than if we were teaching in San Jose, hence why he too is still living at home), but my mom’s in the living room waiting for me with the usual questions. How was your day? Did you find a job yet?

Not yet, I reply. She wonders what I could possibly be doing all day out of the house but not actually working. I’m so smart, I got such good grades, I volunteer for so many things. Even I’m shocked at how busy I am for someone with supposedly all the free time in the world. The usual questions behind us, we settle down and watch Food Network together before we head to bed. I remember how lucky I am that my family cares so much and that it’s probably just as hard for them to watch me struggle instead of succeed.

We talk about the plan for tomorrow: picking up my seven-month-old nieces for their weekly stay with us. My sister and brother-in-law both work, staggering their days off so that one of them is home with the twins. On the days they both work, they’re at our house. Can’t beat the childcare costs at Grandma’s, right? They have to pay their mortgage (on a house in Tracy because there is no way they could afford a house in San Jose) somehow, not to mention save up to help pay for the girls to go to college.

I dream of a 9-5 and being able to put a down payment on a house.


I was born and raised here and I’m beginning to doubt I can stay here. I also recognize how privileged I am. I got a great education without crippling student debt from West Valley College and San Jose State. I’m lucky enough to live for free in one of the most expensive markets in the country, leaving me the luxury of looking for at least an okay job instead of just any job. I’m not saying we need to kill Silicon Valley and roll things back to the Valley of Heart’s Delight, but at the way things are going, I don’t know if I can make a home in the place I’ve always called home. I know I’m not the only one, but no one is gonna write an HBO show about us.

Phew, that felt good to get out of my system. If you related to this more than you laughed at This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley, like this, share this, talk about this. I’ll even give you a hashtag: #MyLifeInSiliconValley. I don’t care that the original article was meant to be satire; it still perpetuates the ideas people have about living here. We don’t all have the luxury of writing indulgent satires of our lifestyles. For many of us, trying to live here is no joke.

Podcast: FBI Interviews Elizabeth Barcelos, USQ West Regional Coordinator — Face Beat It

I haven’t been writing as much as I should have been lately (shame, shame) because I’ve been working on a little project. Just trying to maintain the legacy of the West’s biggest summer quidditch event. No pressure. Thanks to Face Beat It for the interview!

Smythe conducts another interview – this time with Liz Barcelos, USQ West Coordinator.

via Podcast: FBI Interviews Elizabeth Barcelos, USQ West Regional Coordinator — Face Beat It

My Comic Con Journey: Day 2

As Marina and I were talking back to the car last night, she gave this article a far better summary than I ever could. “You just had the most Comic Con day ever.”

At least, that’s how I remember it. I had several beers at a NorCal/Long Beach Funky Quaffles (a team I would totally include in NCQC if I could) Quidditch reunion, so my memories are artfully blurred like an Instagram filter as I write down my memories of the day this Friday evening that I’ll polish and edit Saturday morning.

It’s #WestRCgoestoSDCC Day 3, y’all. As always, this is a quick breakdown before I return to the fray. Thoughtful and insightful will have to wait until I get home.

A Productive Morning!

After a few days of being here, I was feeling less intimidated. I got to the convention center early since Marina’s on staff, parked upstairs near an outlet, and charged my devices as I wrote yesterday’s blog. Then, it was off #LineCon2016

  • Line to get into the exhibit hall itself: security nearly tried to get the line at the stairs to use the escalator instead.
  • #PowerpuffYourself: finally got there early enough not to get blocked by their capped line.
  • Even though I used the app, I still had to wait around at Starbucks because it was packed. So I watched a bit of Mexico’s exhibition game against Turkey!
  • But that’s fine because at 11 am I needed to get Peanuts buttons for Marina; she’d missed the chance the night before and it was the least I could do considering that she’s housing me.

Everything was great. Until they weren’t.

Rick and Morty and the Line that Broke Me

Got to the Indigo Ballroom line. Marina said it had been inside the hotel in years past. This year, it was not. I ached, I burned, I nearly melted… and I didn’t make it inside by 2:15.

Cue the crushing despair.

Crashed and showered at Alison’s hotel room, considered being a hermit the rest of the day. If we’re friends on Facebook (and let’s face it, I know you are because I look at where my incoming traffic comes from), you know what happens next.

(Quidditch) Friendship is Magic!

I met up with San Diego native and former SJSU Quidditch teammate Lauren along with her former teammate from the South Bay Blazers, Michael.

She spotted Danny Pudi. We didn’t want to bother him because he had probably had a long day, so Michael bought him a drink. We raised glasses to one another and later he came to talk to us. He was at the bar because he Yelped the place, proving that celebrities are just like us.

 

Danny

Cool. Cool cool cool.

 

Eventually Gino from LBFQ and Marina came. She asked a guy at a nearby table if she could borrow a chair. Lauren thought it was Elijah Wood. We argued about if was him. I didn’t think we’d be that lucky twice in a row. We were. Marina returned the chair before he left and asked if he’d take a picture with us. (Lesson to be learned here: Never be afraid to ask. The worst anyone can tell you is no.)

 

Elijah

I don’t think he was expecting this many nerds, but oh well!

 

None of this would have happened without quidditch. Not the agony of the Indigo Ballroom line or the ecstasy of being giggling fanboys with my friends. I am so blessed to be part of this sport and this community.

Sorry that this seems short; buzzed me only write bullet points last night and I refuse to be late to get in line this morning after the Indigo Ballroom Meltdown. Until tomorrow, friends!

 

My Comic Con Journey: Preview Night and Day 1

Three years ago, quidditch was only on my radar because I had sighted a Silicon Valley Skrewts practice from the perch of my lifeguard’s chair at the El Camino YMCA. Eventually I’d begin my time at San Jose State and catch a glimpse of quidditch hoops at club day while looking for the Portuguese Club table. Two years ago, I was in Portugal thinking about hanging up my quidditch cleats or moving there and starting a team. One year ago, I was getting the NorCal Quidditch Conference together and slowly being coaxed into becoming the USQ West Regional Coordinator, a role I have come to cherish because I love working with these teams. Now I’m at San Diego Comic Con because I’ll be representing US Quidditch on a Comic Con panel.

I’m a day and a half into living the dream and it’s still sinking in that this is happening to me.

I’ll do a more polished write up when I get home. For now, here are some initial thoughts.

Preview Night

It was my first exposure to the madness that is Comic Con. I got into San Diego early that evening and just walked around the exhibit hall after meeting up with my former SJSU co-captain and perennial Comic Con volunteer Marina (who is also housing me because she is wonderful like that), grabbing freebies and letting myself be overwhelmed in the best way.

Day 1

I eased into things by hitting up some smaller panels:

From Fan to Creator: Goal-Setting for Creative Types

I’m working on launching a blog with my buddy David. Right now we’re working on creating a backlog of content but I’ve started to feel daunted by such a big task. While this panel told me a lot of things I already knew (be ambitious but realistic, set smaller goals on your way to your big goal, commit to your deadlines), it was helpful to hear from someone else. I felt energized and motivated again!

New Authors Making a Splash in the Literary Pool

If I’m gonna blog about books, I might as well have some insider knowledge, right? I’m gonna play this panel close to my chest so I have content for later, but I am really looking forward to reading Alywn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands.

Got an email saying I didn’t get a job I interviewed for, but that the recruiter still liked me and wanted to keep in touch. I had a moment of crushing disappointment because I really thought I nailed the interview. Then I remembered that I was funemployed but I was still at Comic Con, which made everything better.

We Need Diverse Comics

I met up with fellow English Major Old Fart’s Society member Hannah for this panel, and after a morning of missed connections, finally met up with Mary from USQ, too.

One of my favorite things this panel discussed was the commoditization of diversity. Indie comics often take on the task of writing about more than just lantern-jawed heroes and waif-like heroines. When something outside the mainstream gains popularity, mainstream comics often repackage it and get applauded for being diverse.

Walked the exhibit floor with Mary for a while, but then the convention exhaustion started coming on strong. I crashed at Alison’s hotel room for a while, raged on Twitter about the Republican National Convention, then rallied and grabbed rooftop drinks at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund welcome party.

Day 2 is about to begin, and I have booths to get to, freebies to grab, and lines to wait in. Until next time!

Liz’s Hot Takes: The Right Kind of Immigrant

I was typing fast, feeling furious, and trying to fit within Twitter’s 140 character limit, so go easy on the grammar of that tweet. I watched a bit of night one of the Republican National Convention tonight before heading to trivia. While I’m as aghast and appalled as the next leftie about the isolationist and ignorant rhetoric of the evening (not to mention the parade of corpses that crossed the stage as represented by grieving families turned political tools), Antonio Sabato Jr.’s speech stuck with me because of how close to home it hit me while still being absolute bullshit.

If you didn’t see it, take a gander. It’s not long:

His story is so close to mine and my family’s that I can tell you all about how absolutely wrong it is. Like my parents, Sabato Jr. is a “good” immigrant. He came from a European country and followed the rules, rules that were stacked in our favor. In my father’s case, he was sponsored by his sister, my Tia Ligia. Google and Wikipedia aren’t helping me much with how Sabato Jr.’s parents got here. This is a #LizsHotTake, not a #LizsWellResearchedTake, but I imagine that they immigrated legally because it wasn’t an undue burden on them.

The thing that really ground my gears was this quote at the 1:50ish minute mark:

There should be no shortcuts for those who don’t want to pay or wait. You know, my mother was born in a communist Prague, escaped the Czech Republic, and met my dad in Italy. I know what socialism looks like. I don’t want that for my children.

Let’s unpack this with a close reading, shall we? Put my English degree (which has still to arrive, goddamnit SJSU) to good use.

Point the first: “There should be no shortcuts for those who don’t want to pay or wait.” Last I checked, the Statue of Liberty asked for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I’m not saying that US immigration policy should be based on a poem, even one as moving as Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus,” but that sentiment is just so un-American to me. It’s easy for someone with an actor, a realtor, and aristocracy in their family tree to tell you to shut up and wait your turn.

I wish Sabato Jr. listened to the part of his ancestry that survived the Holocaust instead. If the huddled masses had time and money to spare on waiting their turn, would they still be huddled masses? For many illegal immigrants (a term that rankles me because people aren’t illegal even if the means of their arrival in the states might be), they couldn’t wait. More often that not, they’re fleeing poverty that would keep them from being able to pay or dangerous circumstances that leave them unable to wait their turn.

Point the second: I’m not here to lecture you on communism or socialism (other than to say they are not synonymous so kindly stop using them interchangeably to save yourself from looking ignorant, kthxbai). I don’t know how his mother managed to make it to Italy, but I do know that you don’t get to appropriate your parents’ story for political points.

My parents also grew up under an authoritarian regime: the Estado Novo dictatorship. Never once have I claimed to know what it is to live in a dictatorship because my parents did. In fact, I learned way more about it from studying Portuguese history and culture in college (hellooooooo attempted second major that I had to settle for making a minor) than I ever learned from my parents. It wasn’t something they wanted to pass down to us. It’s a completely alien idea to us because we were raised in San Jose, a fairly liberal and ethnically diverse bubble. What little hardships I faced by being the daughter of immigrants had nothing to do with a fallen regime. Considering that I grew up in East San Jose while Sabato Jr. managed to go to Beverly Hills High School, I’m going to make an educated guess and say that my immigrant family struggles were harder than his.

I will fight anyone who tries to dimish what my parents did to get where they are now, but I also recognize just how privileged we are to be European immigrants. Their accents are charming; they don’t inspire jeers of “Learn English, this is America!” My siblings and I speak accent-free English (and have I mentioned that I have a degree in it?) and have no trouble blending into white American culture. I also know that not too long ago, Southern Europeans like me and Sabato Jr. were the ones that didn’t deserve to call themselves American. The goalposts have moved since then and you no longer have to be a WASP to be white. Oops, I mean American. I am aware of both my parents’ struggles and my privilege because it is something I think about all the time.

If Antonio Sabato Jr. put just as much thought as I do into his immigrant story, he would not have appeared on that stage. He’s lucky. I’m lucky. His story is exceptional, but putting him on that stage makes it look like the rule. He’s the right kind of immigrant, the kind of immigrant the RNC wants you to see, the kind of immigrant Melania Trump is too, though I stopped watching long before she took the stage. By presenting his story as the norm, the RNC justifies the narrative that “illegals” (ugh, that word again) shouldn’t be here.

I hope being used as a token and a tool was worth a little under four minutes on stage, Antonio.

 

Liz’s Hot Takes: Ghostbusters

Okay, before you read any further: go see Ghostbusters. Go see it right now. It’s not even that this blog post is super-spoilery, though there are some spoilers. It’s less of a review of the film and more of a collection of my reactions before I go to bed and lose my fangirl zeal.

We all heard about how it would ruin the collective childhood of a certain segment of the population. I thought it was a man-child tantrum being thrown over yet another Hollywood remake that we didn’t need but that I would go watch anyway to spite the haters and because I liked the Ghostbusters cartoon when I was a kid. I eventually saw the movies but the cartoon and Hi-C Ecto Cooler were still what I first thought of when someone mentioned the Ghostbusters franchise.

Okay, so I still think it’s a man-child tantrum. But I understand their anger now. I understand it because I never had hilarious badass science heroes and I would be pissed off too if they were removed from continuity and replaced with new faces.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t. Not only that, I didn’t realize what my childhood was missing until Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Holtzman pulled out her sidearms and went to town on some ghosts in the final act. I don’t have words for the badassery of that scene, but here’s a gif that encapsulates my reaction to that scene:

tumblr_nr5u8a5wgk1tq4of6o1_500

In that moment, someone like me was the big damn hero. She was weird and brilliant and awkward and so familiar. For all that she felt like me, I still wanted to be her. (I’m already looking into being her for Halloween.) I’ve been devouring a pretty steady diet of American pop culture for the past thirtyish years and never had a moment like that.

On the drive home tonight, I was talking about this need for female heroes that I didn’t even know I had with my boyfriend. He brought up Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens as another example of movie franchise heroine/target of a certain demographic’s ire. That led to this exchange:

Me: Yeah, Star Wars was great. I knew it was going to be great. I expected it to be great. I even expected Rey to be a Jedi all along. But I liked Ghostbusters better.

James: Really?

Me: Yeah. I just wanted to see a fun summer action flick and stick it to angry meninists. I didn’t expect the oooooh, wow moment. I expected that from Star Wars. I had high expectations for that movie and it met them. I had decent expectations for this movie and it exceeded them.

James: That totally makes sense.

My new fangirl obsession with Dr. Jillian Holtzman isn’t the only thing that I love about this movie. I loved that it took tropes that I was used to re: female representation in pop culture and subverted the hell out of them.

I expected Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert to be my favorite character because she was set up to be the smart (but uptight) one and I usually gravitate towards that character in all female casts. Sailor Mercury was my favorite scout, Blossom was my favorite Powerpuff Girl, Jeanette was my favorite Chipette, Piper was my favorite Charmed One, etc.

But here’s the thing: there is no smart one. Three of the four protagonists have Ph.D.’s and the fourth possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of New York City. Since all these women are brilliant, there has to be more to their personalities than just slapping a pair of glasses on them and telling but not showing that they have brains. I got my choice of smart female characters. I identified with Erin’s ambition, Abby’s heart, Patty’s ability to absorb and apply supposedly trivial knowledge, and Holtzman’s embrace of her quirkiness. (And not that cutesy and twee Manic Pixie Dream Girl quirkiness, either.)

Chris Hemsworth’s gorgeous and delightfully dimwitted secretary Kevin made me uncomfortable sometimes with just how objectified his character was. He’s the token male and I’ve got so used to the token female being put in that same position of dumb eye candy that I’ve learned to ignore it. There is no ignoring Kevin’s buffoonery. It may come off as over the top, but I think it’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. You’re supposed to feel like creating a character like this is wrong because they just can’t be real.

As for the other major male character, Rowan, the socially inept antagonist that decides to destroy New York because he doesn’t get the respect he feels he’s entitled to? He’s a huge fuck you to the haters and I loved it. Any woman who engages in geek culture knows that guy. His entitlement is so real that it makes him genuinely scary.

This movie needs to make all the moneys so that Hollywood keeps making movies like this. Go see it in IMAX 3D: it’s actually worth it. (And not just because it will make the box office profits even higher.) I normally get nauseous in 3D movies but the effects are well done in this movie. I definitely jumped in my seat a few times, but they didn’t abuse the jump scares, either.

I’m the drooling aunt to two adorable six-month-old twin girls and I don’t want them to grow up to be Tia Liz, hurrying home to blog about finally seeing a hero in a movie that looks at feels like them. They’ll have Rey. They’ll have the Ghostbusters.

That’s not enough. Maybe they don’t want to be a space knight or a science hero. Give us more heroines. More choices. More stories. Not more of the same.