Category: Diary

Don’t expect too many of these. These entries are where I am both trying to document my emotional and mental state in a way that’s useful or meaningful to others. It’s not enough to record what I’m at, I’m trying to record them in ways that’s worth sharing, to make clear the struggles that can come as a part of the work of creative endeavours and research. It matters to me that you can identify me as a person, not just as a dispenser of advice – and that means occasionally, sharing about how I’m doing.

March 2021 Wrapup!

Curse this Smarch weather!

But March is over and we’re moving on to April! March lacks a theme, which means that anything I wrote in February and went: Hey hang on, this doesn’t relate, got bumped. And thus, I present to you something you can read that directs you to other stuff you can read, that’s all fun and good.

What did we get in the Game Pile? Two videos, and two text articles. The videos were on Second Sight, and how meritocracy is fake and Games Journalism is fundamentally broken, and on how Minecraft doesn’t have anything like Goblins and how that’s? interesting? I also tackled the digital Root board game and how it isn’t quite the same thing as the physical game, but how that can be a good thing, and finally, I took some time to take down Genewars, a 1996 RTS. Man, 90s RTSes are just a genre for me to poop on huh.

The Second Sight video was something I was pretty proud of, especially because there’s some techniques in that that I was afraid would look dumb and bad and it didn’t.  The process of turning a 1500 word article into a video produces a video of about that length, which I think is good, since it means that there’s no reason to just list a series of things that happen in the game and to instead try to focus on what the game is trying to do.

In my efforts to not just become an anime review blog, I wrote about some deliberately oddball stuff. I talked about Chess, a really good musical that fits almost too well into modern discourse about what gamers think matter. I briefly talked about Until This Shakes Apart, a new album by Five Iron Frenzy I’ve been listening to in parts to repeat for months now. I got a single anime article in with The Ascendance Of A Bookworm, which I love a lot and will still use to tease Nixie. I talked a little bit about the way medium influences content with the book series of the Muddle-Headed Wombat. And finally, just a few days ago, I talked about complicated feelings around the series Black Books, which was made by a dreadful dickhead.

What else do I recommend you check out this month? Well, there are two pieces that were put up as part of a sort of ‘Hi, I like you and I like knowing what you like’ Birthday celebration: my article on being Edelgard in 4e D&D, and my article on the Hindren in 4e D&D. These were both little hat-tips to friends near their birthdays, and it seems they were well received, but they also were just, you know good content for if you’re into 4e D&D. While we’re talking about building in other games’ spaces, I wrote about how I use ‘pushed’ when talking about custom magic cards and how Competeitive Commander is essentially building its own game in another game.

On other topics, there’s an article about The Games Of Orcs, which is worldbuilding for nonhuman cultures in fantasy settings. This was really fun to research and involves a lot of thought about the sheer mechanisms of what goes into folk games. I also wrote about how to handle gods based on my own thinking for the gods of Cobrin’Seil, and there’s a piece about how character creation needs to avoid Owlbear Traps because they don’t work.

Game-making practice, there’s one big one: I broke down the rules of my game Die Rich after finally, finally, finally getting a chance to playtest it with some real humans. Also, Fox and I talk about how we’d design Pokemon to fill some holes in the type lineup. It’s a long conversation, about an hour, but you might like it!

Finally, I did write about three equally important political topics; that a dedication to nonviolence doesn’t mean an abdication of a willingness to use force, that Rush Limbaugh is fucking dead, and that Garfield is probably white and Heathcliff is probably black.

Next up, here’s this month’s T-Shirt. Thanks to 2020 I never got to show students my original Naruto-style did you check the subject outline, but I wore it to class this year and they loved it, so it inspired another, updated version of the same idea. I expect I’ll make more on this theme.

March has featured some illness, which in our current situation kind of slowed things down more than I expected. I have two classes going this semester, and they’re both exciting and interesting and I’m talking to students who seem to be split into ‘let me pass and let me out’ and ‘I am genuinely interested in this,’ which is a good split to have. An important piece of PhD documentation got completed and handed in and now I’ve been working on the research part of that, which is exciting. I’m basically finding I have a little more time than I thought I did – that the kind of administrative work of the research project is less arduous than the work I’m enjoying doing, which kind of stands to reason. I even participated in a twitter event with other educators, about games, and got to get them to read ‘Gamification is Bullshit,’ which is

Fun.

Weirdly, I know I said this last month, but another friend had to bow out of a game I was running. In this case, it wasn’t mental health, it’s that they’re a parent to a two year old, and time in the evenings has become precious. Oh well!

February 2021 Wrapup!

February is over, my Twitter avatar is going to change, and our Smoochy Month is past! Back to regular posting tomorrow, but let’s give you a reminder of what happened this month and what you may have missed!

What did we get in the Game Pile? This Smooch Month’s game roundup was Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Arcade Spirits, Monster Prom and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Its the nature of Smooch Month that the Game Pile is a special struggle, but I hope that this gives you an interesting variety to read – particularly, I’m very proud of the Arcade Spirits review. It is huge, and it’s thorough and I think it touches on some ideas I struggle with as a critic of the genre. Some angst about my place in the world, you know?

It also involved me considering via the Leather Goddesses that next year, I should write about procedural rhetoric and do articles examining other Game Pile games based on their romances. After all, it’s not like when I wrote about Mass Effect I ever spoke about how those romances felt to me.

Story Pile wound up being very anime this month. No idea why, but it means that we got Story Pile videos on Always Be My Maybe, a funny romcom movie with a killer cameo and hilarious ending rap track, Haikyuu, an anime that deserves attention for its dedication towards making a range of boy characters who are actually romantically interesting, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, and The Quintessential Quintuplets.

Other articles we have this month include a piece explaining hyperreality in fandom, in Akane Tendo, Baudrillard’s Tsundere, something directing you to go exploring for a new form of creative work you can check out and maybe even make with Smoochy Audio Plays, I waded into the tedious form of ‘what if we act like the answer isn’t obvious’ with Why Do Movies Have Sex Scenes?, and I considered some ways to depict romances in games with ‘Ship’ Building. I also wrote about some things I like in Media, being Yandere characters, the ship Tatsuhime from Bleach, and how much I enjoy being mad at Buffy the Vampire Slayer for doing a bad job with a trope I like.

There, that’s some reading for you if you wonder what I hope you noticed at the end of the month.

Next up, here’s this month’s T-Shirt, which is an attempt to make a nice candy-heart themed shirt with some messges that I think are nice, and sweet, and maybe the kind of thing you can give someone.

 

Personally, I am pretty happy with this month. I was worried that January would be a frantic burst of energy thanks to a rollover of a date, but this February was the recommencement of things like PhD meetings and University planning. That meant that I was weaving workloads together, and while yes, there have been days where I’ve been exhausted and just dealing with life in this situation, I’m still hitting goals and meeting obligations. Some days, not much gets done, but enough does get done. That I’m happy with.

Another small thing is a friend told me they had to quit a game we played, because it was proving too much of a problem with their productivity and mental health. It was a bummer, but I was able to tell them that I would miss them, but I would always rather they leave and do what’s best for them rather than them spend their time feeling bad about wasting time they weren’t enjoying spending. I hope we find another way to keep spending time together, but if we don’t, we don’t, and that’s okay.

I also had a lot of fun this month hanging out with a couple of friends on discord. It’s just been a time to actually use this mic setup, watching friends play games while I do written work around them.

oh and there’s a flag thread.

January 2021 Wrapup!

Gosh, January’s already over! And some things that have happened in it that were not ‘literally everything getting worse the whole time forever,’ and like, that’s good to know.

What did we get in the Game Pile? We talked about Katana Zero, Tinderblox and Kittin, Wingspan, and two ‘meta’ Game Pile articles about What Left In 2020? and What Making Gaming Videos Is Like in 2021.

What did we get in the Story Pile? I talked about Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) which I liked a lot and I think my review with the shocking idea of ‘what do you iexpect ithis kind of thing to be like,’ Star Trek Discovery, Season 3 which I also liked a lot, The Bletchley Circle  which, again, I liked a lot, and and a meta article about the stuff from 2020 that was so bad that I ditched it, Flushing 2020.

There are some other articles I like a lot that I put this month. I reflected on the funny story of the The Beaver Drop. I put out a long form article on an idea I have for developing White in Magic: The Gathering, with The Case For White Copying. We talked about D&D with both a piece on The Paladin’s Plight and a piece on The Cleric Archer. I also ruminated a bit on what we say when we wear a mask right now, with What Does A Mask Say? I also spent some time to finally put down some thoughts about one of my favourite arcs in the Haruhi Suzumiya idea space with this article about the Endless Eight.

Also, despite my desire to keep out of politics, I did write a piece explaining What’s a Condorcet Winner?

In fancy-pantsy academic making and writing, messaging and signalling studies, I talked about Fuzzy Games , which relates to my ongoing studies, Practicing Practice which is how I approach helping students engage with making, and an oblique interrogation of interfaces with Does the Audience Play?

Here’s this month’s T-Shirt, modelled on the Blue Shell of Mario Kart fame.

I feel like overall, this month, I did a lot of work – the articles are longer than usual. But I also was able to bring my backlog back up to a healthy 32, rather than the lower number it was languishing at. This is really heartening, and because I have a full year of possible slots in front of me, any time I get an idea that relates to a theme, I can throw it forward into the future for that theme.

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying!

Let’s Talk 2021!

Hey, uh, some of the 2020 plans got a bit weird didn’t they? Phew! Good thing that all of those things are exactly over and now it’s 2021, all the problems that 2020 had are over because we tore the tab off a new calendar.

First up, there are theme months; months when I’ll try to use the theme to focus topics. This means that you’re less likely to get a lot of stuff on this topic all the time. This is going to break down as follows:

  • February is SMOOCH MONTH
  • April is TALEN MONTH
  • June is PRIDE MONTH
  • August is TRICKS MONTH
  • October is DREAD MONTH
  • December is DECEMBERWEEN

I also plan on producing content in the following forms, each week:

  • Every Friday is a Game Pile
  • Every Monday is a Story Pile

You may think: Hang on, these don’t show up on those dates. Yeah, because you live in America. These are Friday and Monday, my time. So nyeh.

Let’s talk about types of topics though. Each of these articles types are going to be ‘lightly capped’ at one post a month. This is to enforce a degree of variety and make sure each of these things have room to breathe.

  • One Magic The Gathering article a month. With the rate of releases of MTG content, I prefer to make sure that my posts on this matter aren’t trying to keep up with the ‘proper’ pace, but instead be pieces that take my ways of playing Magic seriously.
  • One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. There’s still lots in 4e D&D that deserves some attention. I know I have a thing about forced movement and smart targeting coming up on this one.
  • One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. The awkward ugly cousin of 4th edition, I still have a lot of fondness for dumb things it could do and ways we can do  better than what it asks of us.
  • One How To Be post. These are fun breakdowns of how to approach a character and I try to build them in blocks so the middle section of ‘how do I get at the mechanical core of this idea with the tools I’ve got’ is readable for anyone.
  • One T-Shirt design post.

Now, on to game design and posts about that.

Originally the plan for game making for me was a new thing each month. This meant that each month needed to fit in playtesting and graphic design and printing and prototyping and that worked out okay when I was primarily a student doing Honours, and had some blocks of free time and reason to hang around at the university doing random pickup games with strangers. Since then I’ve had an experience I don’t want to repeat, where someone comes to my table at a convention and asks me about the games I’ve made, and I have to introduce them, in a tiny window, to thirty games.

The notion that face-to-face sales and personal play is important made me feel that more time on fewer games was a way to go. Having a new thing at a convention means you have a conversation, but you don’t have a big backlog to go over. I had low-key the idea that I would try and make at most, two games per convention in 2020; that a single new game to launch at an event was a better idea than having to explain twelve different games to someone who hadn’t seen me in a year.

This meant in game development terms I had four major events in mind: CanCon, Comic-Gong, MOAB, and SMASH! We know there won’t be a CanCon this year, so that’s out, which is a bummer, and the odds are good even if the pandemic dies down and conventions come back, it’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll have those same cons springing up, out of nowhere, this year, at the same size as they would have been. This has put game development on hold, which

Uh

Yeah, that’s been a bit of a thing.

I do seek to present some more pieces on examining game ideas and structural ideas I’ve been working on on this blog. I find this kind of stuff really exciting and interesting, and being able to go back over the games I’ve explained later results in moments of ‘ohhhh wait, that’s how I should do it!’ I do want to keep doing posts like that. This year, I don’t know how those gaming events are going to happen, and so, I’m going to operate on the assumption that they’re not, but that I do want the tools to be available. I’m going to spend this time I’m working on building apparatus to make a game making process, documented and clearly explained in about three months.

There! That’s the plan!

December Wrapup

Obviously, a normal wrapup each month is ‘hey, here’s the best stuff I did this month.’ Except I didn’t do the normal kind of article this month – it was largely easily-accessible media that you can check out during this month, praise for my friends, and at least one embarrassing story where I look like a cowardly dipshit.

Each year, I look at this chart now and I have a weird moment. Like, hey, this is cool. This is a long, dedicated, protracted practice. This year the schedule has at times gone up to 60 and down to 16. Given the year, that seems pretty reasonable. The average blog post is 913 words, and I get about 100 views a day. I’m at the point where WordPress Dot Com is offering me ways to monetise the blog.

D&D Posts

If you haven’t noticed, this year I’ve done more writing about running tabletop games in general and more about D&D in specific. I try to limit myself to two posts about D&D a month – my current method for doing it is to pull a book from each edition out of my bookshelf at random and see what the book reminds me of, and then share those thoughts.

Magic: The Gathering Stuff

This was a rough year for The Greatest Game or whatever. Lots of bannings and the delays on schedules, cards being kicked out for being racist, an entire mechanic getting rebalanced because it was too strong, lots of problems. Still, I wasn’t playing in those spaces so I didn’t really follow that, and instead focused on custom card design this year.

Game Dev Posts

Despite the great wheel turning slow, and the PhD crawling along, I have still found some time to talk about game development, and some of those posts made it into the top of the heap, or I had a personal reason to want to put them forward.

Posts About Living

There’s not really a good term for these, is there? There’s a bunch of posts I’ve written about emotional issues and about the way we look at our lives. Often these are about queer culture, and about the way we live as queer people. I don’t have a ton of experience with the things we consider ‘queer culture’ – so instead I make do with looking at how we relate to media, and how that media relates to my queerness, and maybe your queerness.

And it turns out that queer folk have slightly weird life experience that relates to odd social behaviours, too! And thinking about that sometimes gets blog posts made.

And Etcetera

Then, when all those other categories are covered, what else do we have going on this year? Well, here’s stuff that got decent hits, sorted for the ones that I personally think are the most interesting.

As for what we’re going to do in the coming year…? Well, check that out tomorrow. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for being part of my year, and I hope I’ve made this year at least a little bit better. For you. This year. Year.

Decemberween: Fox, 2020

It has now been four years of this little exercise in using December as a month to focus on my friends. This year, I’ve been focusing in particular on one friend, who has been with me, and who I have seen, every single day of this year.

Once again, on the day closest to Christmas, I want to talk to you about Fox.

2020 has not been a fun year. One of the elements in that for me is that in the context of our early warnings about COVID19 was that the disease presented an increased risk for three categories of people; elderly people, pregnant people, and people with a pre-existing respiratory difficulty. What this meant was that even when people around me in Australia were umming and aahhing about whether or not this was a problem problem, I was locking stuff down and creating plans for how to minimise my contact with everything.

Fox has asthma, and that means that for me, the potential risk presented by my passing this disease (that I probably? would survive? even if it sucked immensely?) to her was unacceptable. I think this year, Fox has literally only left the house a dozen times or so, and a number of those trips were to the doctor.

I have spent this year in more constant, everyday contact with Fox than I have any time in my life. There is no time I’m leaving the house for work, nor she for work. It’s a time when you’d expect – I mean, based on media – for this to be a thing that works us raw and makes us even more tense about our relationship, all those little things that never get a chance to cool down, building up in a pressure cooker.

And I have yet to feel it.

I know there are ways I’m not easy to live with. I forget details when there are four or five things to do. I might be able to knock over one through three, but four or five gets lost and once again, there’s another bread tag on the countertop (sorry). But through the whole time, I haven’t ever felt ‘oh god, Fox is such a pain in the ass.’ I’ve noticed the tensions and the stress and the sadness and the pain and all the things we’re having to do because we’re afraid and we’re being cautious.

But it’s never a problem with Fox.

Every day is a gift.

Thank you, Fox.

November Wrapup!

Aauuuup hot damn! November’s done with and now we’re sailing on into December! That’s some good news! Why is this article coming up now with two days more in the month? Shut up, that’s why!

First up, articles from November! What did I have going that I was proud of?  I got to show off the excellent Commander Keen 4 and apparently continued what is now pretty much going to be a Commander Keen Retrospective (no, you probably won’t get that, who cares, whatever). I presented an examination on the character of dril, a post that was beaten out by CNN of all people. I also was pretty happy with the interesting question of my Wallet Game worker placement idea.

Then, there was a video, about Beyond Zork:

And there was a shirt! This shirt!

It’s about the way this year has made us all feel, apparently.

Anyway, back to marking for me. See ya tomorrow!

Productivity Today

I feel like I haven’t been very productive today.

Or this week, really.

 

I mean as I write this the government just announced a rule saying that travellers coming to Australia need to be quarantined for a fortnight. I also spent three hours on the phone today talking to my supervisor about teaching, and then another hour going over my readings. Then I spent another hour getting discord game running technology going.

I have done stuff today.

Last night, I recorded an hour of a podcast, with research and tasks and all that stuff. It was hard and it is going to be hard to edit. It’s going to go up soon. By the time you read this, this podcast is probably out.

But I haven’t written much.

I think there’s a lot of good reasons to think that I shouldn’t be producing right now. Undeniably, as someone who doesn’t handle apocalypses well after the ones I already survived, it’s going to be hard to handle this one. I could just stop writing and nobody would judge me for it. Maybe patreon numbers would slacken, but you’re all so nice I don’t think that’s the case.

 

What I’m going to do is put this thought down here, and throw it into the future. Months from now, this time in March, when things were, I bet, ‘not so bad.’

Writing every day is hard and some days what you write isn’t that great. But we’ll look at this again, in a few months, and see what we think of it as a little time capsule.

EDIT: I wrote this like, four months ago, I think and boy I did not expect how long this week was going to feel.

Bullet Journaling This Year

… Kinda haven’t done it.

Look, Bullet journals are great. I deeply love my Bullet Journal.  I have a nice little paper book that I carry with me in almost all the bags I have and I use it for, well, notepaper stuff. I make a monthly planner, which means I’m noticing when the seasons turn, I’m noticing the things in my life that a lot of systems automate. I’m tracking which week of the semester it is, I’m thinking about the next month.

This year I’ve done a lot of tracking of the year on the blog using the planning chart I linked at the start of the year, which I do think I’ll keep doing because it’s good for taking an overview on how the whole year looks and can have comments and notes. That’s super useful.

It’s one of those rare things that I can treat as a sort of ‘gift well.’ If my family want to get me something nice, some stickers for putting in my bullet journal, stamps for things like weekly schedules, or just decorative pens. As someone who doesn’t tend to be ‘giftable’ in a lot of ways (I mean, I have lots of videogames, and family members aren’t necessarily going to want to be experts on board games or videogames to try and get me something I ‘want’), the bullet journal is super handy. It’s nice, too, it means I think of my family as I take notes.

But.

My Bullet Journal is something I use when I’m not at my computer to make things.

So, this year: No development on the Bullet Journal, no new mods, no new layouts, no new habits. I did get some nice stuff, I have a lovely book, which is… hopefully going to be my 2021 book?

Of course, Bullet Journals are meant to be flexible. This is one of the things about the system that’s a point of recommendation, especially for neurodivergent folks. They don’t care if you mess up, or miss a few days, or miss a month. The system is designed to not structure your life to the book, but the book to your life. It’s okay. I’m going to be okay.

Why am I doing this here? Well, this is normally something I’d write about in my bullet journal.

But uhh.

October Wrapup!

Woo~ooo~Ooo~Oooo it’s trick-or-treating niiiight. Which it wouldn’t be wiiiise to dooo~oo~oooOOO~~ because of the globaaal pandeeemiiiiiiic~ You know now I think of it, it is a little weird to not see more Zombie fiction set on Halloween where they have to work trick-or-treating into the plot somehow. Anyway!

It’s Halloween and it’s the end of October, so it’s time to run down what I got done this month in amongst many other things.

First of all, articles. We did some interesting and different stuff this month, didn’t we? First, there were my readings of Hp Lovecraft writings with some critical response afterwards; I read Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn, aka ‘My Ape Grandma’s Grandson Was A Racist’, The Colour out of Space, aka ‘Space is scary and hicks don’t know when to be afraid,’ Nemesis, aka ‘hey, not so much racism this time,’ and The Statement of Randolph Carter, aka ‘behold the ancient days of a century ago.’ These were fun to do and reasonably easy, so if you want this kind of stuff, I’ll consider doing more readings on theme months.

I interviewed Erik the Bearik about Brinkwood: Blood of Tyrants, and that was lots of fun. I vented for a bit about ‘ghost hunters‘  and ‘real mystery‘ media, where I pulled my punches and avoided swearing about exploitative nonsense. I also wrote some companion pieces to my SCP Wiki video (and we’ll get to that), where I listed some SCPs I dislike and some I like.

I also did something special this month with videos! Since I’d been doing a lot of experimenting with video this year, I figured I’d bring them together and do five ‘different’ kinds of video.

For Halloween Forever, I talked about the game and about my relationship to Halloween as a cute, fun thing to be enjoyed. This was done by playing the video, then unscriptedly talking about the way the game made me feel. This was really easy to do!

For the SCP wiki, I made a simple video of a series of animations with minimal visual data, but with useful, clear iconography. This works well for representing text media, so maybe this is how I’ll tackle text adventures going forwards. This was also scripted pretty thoroughly before I made the video.

For Scarlet Hollow, I made a very quick series of pan-and-scans over stills from the game, which worked out well for explaining the ways the game worked. This was lightly scripted, but I did do a fair bit of editing to get the right flow down. This meant I could promote the game on kickstarter in an appropriate window, instead of holding things up. This also helped overcome my big problem with visual novels, where I often feel like I’m ‘wasting’ the medium to use video and voice to talk about a primarily textual medium.

 

Finally, Ai: The Somnium Files is like one of your more typical ‘essay-ish’ type videos, though not using the game to make some greater point. I scripted it out, read it, then used a loop of gameplay visuals which I overlaid with graphics to present more information about the game. I was able to weave in video footage and some captioning, which worked out okay, and I liked it.

I think I just talk faster than most video essay people. This video script is 2200 words, and the video is about ten minutes – but a typical audio reading, according to audiobook resources, is around 150 words a minute. Ostensibly, this should mean that this video should be about 15 minutes if I just read slower.

I’ll have to work on that.

For Gloomwood, this was much simpler to make. I recorded myself playing the game, as is, the first time. Everything is here – me messing up, me learning game mechanics, me exploring how the game worked from record to end record.

 I also made a shirt this month! Then I was so happy with how one element on it worked out, I made it into a sticker!

Aiba is a real sweetheart of a character, and I’m really glad to have gotten to play this game. When I make shirts and stickers, it’s often as ‘merch’ of my interests, and so this time I’m glad to be able to make merch of my love of this game.

And finally, personal life stuff? Well, October was busy – I’ve been marking pretty much every week of the month, and the marking has taken up a lot of time. I have a lot of students this semester, and they’re under a lot of stress, which has meant there’s been a lot of late-night mix-ups, or two AM calls from students worrying about how to get things working.

October was nonetheless a lovely month to catch up with some movies and shows I really liked, it was a wonderful experience in video making, and I enjoyed my recordings as well. Let me know if any of the content this month stood out to you as a fave and I’ll see what I can do going forward.

September Wrapup

Bring out yer alive!

This is our second-last unthemed month of the year, and with it came a scattered arrangement of posts, some that had been written months ago and only came out now, cast off into the far future when I could forget about them. It’s also when I wrote about how to handle money in your game design (and how weird it is that it’s how we handle it in real life, almost like life is an unfair game, odd), about how Elite Beat Agents expresses difficulty, and I put out my article on the charming and interesting Magical Land of Yeld.

This month’s shirt is a pie chart reference to a song! The big shakeup in the store is how I took down some Harry Potter themed merchandise which I once upon a time made as meanspirited jabs at a fandom I wasn’t into, but was willing to sell them, because it didn’t matter if their fandom was bad to me, it was important to them. The thing is, now, selling that stuff can be seen as if I’m okay with JK Rowling’s behaviour, and I’m really not.

This month’s video is another short experiment; an unscripted article on Void Bastards, which took me a very small amount of time to make for a game I’d already pretty much beaten. I quite liked doing this, and I’m hoping it’ll work for some of the other games we’re going to look at going forwards.

This month, I hurt my foot, and that snarled up my grading and that means everything’s been done with not enough time, oh no, oh dear, anyway.

Wasting Waste Space

I can’t believe what a boring bastard of a thought this is.

It is at the time I am writing this, quite late. It’s late not just in the time of night, but also late in the cycle that our house runs on. There’s basically a fortnightly track, and it all orients around the single event of our recycling being done.

We don’t generate much in the way of typical garbage. Most of our waste in this house is paper and plastic, and since we do that, we buy recycleable whenever we can. In our area, in order to encourage recycling, the non-recycleable waste bin is half the size of the recycling bin, which, you know what, whatever.

If you just organically throw things into the recycling as they need it, though, they pack up and fill a lot of space. When things are being delivered in hard cardboard boxes, if you just stick those boxes in, their basic shape exerts force around them. When people give you paper bags instead of plastic ones, and you just ball them up and throw them away like that, they’ll occupy a lot more space than they would otherwise.

This space is at a premium then.

Fox and I basically have to plan throwing out our recycling.

And what’s more, she’s really good at it.

A box has all these points of stress, it creates empty space and it resists being pressured out of that shape. That’s kind of the point of a box. Same is true of plastic containers, though they often deform a little less easily. This means that the most efficient way to put a box in the recycling is to break it down into panels. Larger boxes get cut into matching shapes, then get stacked at the bottom, then soft paper atop that, then crushed plastic and cans, then anything that’s last minute atop it.

The most amazing thing about this is this means that my living room table, where I would normally sit or set up board games, is, amazingly, given over to the task to organising the recycling as we approach the fortnight end, when it will get taken out and go elsewhere. I am trying to make sure that the food I eat now is the stuff from recycleable containers so we don’t have two jars of the same thing in the fridge or cupboard, don’t have doubles of a type of can.

It is an enormous amount of work, and constant mental effort, dedicated to just making sure I don’t have to sheepishly ask our neighbour if I can put some boxes in their recycling (because they’re managing theirs too).

I write about this not because you should feel sorry for me, or even care that much. I’m writing about it to reflect on how something so mundane as ‘chucking things in the recycling’ is now consuming material space and effort to be done in a manageable way in this time of heighened awareness.

I Hurt My Foot

As I write this, I am recovering from having hurt my foot.

I hurt my foot a few days ago. It’s not a particularly big deal but it is a deal. I didn’t drive a nail through it, didn’t need medical attention, didn’t have to cut a portion of it off, didn’t have to walk a long distance on the already-injured foot, I didn’t have to unfold one of my toes and I didn’t have have a piece of earthmoving equipment roll over it, all of which are things that have, previously, happened to my foot.

My response to it the first day was to not really pay attention to it, and then it became unbearable and impossible to sleep with; the result was the next day, I had to stay at home and not do a grocery shop because my foot was hurt so badly and the pain had been exacerbated by my inattention. I sat on the sofa and watched Netflix and generally felt like a bit of a lump. Nothing in the queue got done that day. I was desperate to recover, because the next day (today, as I write this) I had to teach and I didn’t want to let my students down.

This worked, I got a full night’s sleep, I taught all day, and then, because my foot felt so much better, I thoughtlessly flicked it out to stretch it, and immediately regretted my actions.

Now, through all this, I made my situation worse by consistently forgetting that painkillers are a thing; what’s more, these painkillers are anti-inflammatory, which means I forgot things that wouldn’t just help me immediately but also makes the process of recovery better and easier.

It’s just a bit of friction. I need to remember how long it’s been since I had one, then I need to negotiate with myself if I really need it, if the immediate pain is that bad.

This isn’t an interesting blog post, and as it goes up, I’ll probably be fine?

But I kinda use this blog for diary notes, and during the pandemic, being aware of my own dumbass behaviour that makes it harder to do things is important. Productivity is being diminished by every form of friction imaginable, after all.

August 2020 Wrapup

And just like that, poof, August disappears!

August, with its theme of magic – which I tend to expand to be about manipulating attention and tricks, so eventually we wind up talking about heists – is pretty hard for me to work with when it comes to games or movies, because I already did The Prestige and Ricky Jay’s TV special, but after that. It’s great (in my opinion) for the other articles of the month, because I can almost always find other stories about the wonderful weirdoes involved in magic, the techniques of magic, the tools magic gives you access to, and that means that I tend to wind up with a lot of articles I’m happy with while Story and Game Piles kinda suffer.

But that’s okay!

By expanding to heists and stealth like I did this year (the art of controlling attention), I got to talk about Logan Lucky, which is great. I got to talk about Breach, which I still really like even after finding out it’s basically copaganda for the cop’s cops. I also got to talk about Volume, a game that I really like, and has gotten a lot better in the five years since its release because the idea of a Britain fallen to classist fascism in an information economy really isn’t very farfetched.

I also wrote about some useful general principles for dealing with people. One of them was confabulation, the way your brain justifies dumb things it does, and that you may literally never realise you were doing, about slugs and loads, and about forces. The forces article even has my favourite line of the month:

The force is not there to set up the trick: The trick is there to hide the force.

This month also was when I slipped out some of the lore of a Scum & Villainy science-fiction setting, with The Synthetic Mystic and the Century Ship. These are going to become important later, but you’ll find out why. Basically, creative content for you to share and enjoy.

I also hammered in on the absolutely unforgiveable Tome of Magic from 3.5 D&D, which is not a good book and full of not good things, but still deserves a tiny star for trying. I did a How To Be about the amazing Sumireko from Touhou Project. I love when I get to do something meaningful about Touhou Project, because the Touhou fans mark out in just the best ways.

August, I made another pair of shirts (though like, technically, it’s four shirts), showing both a math puzzle that’s part of a magic trick (in white and black text), and a reference that’s not actually vague, but you know, you could pretend it’s vague (in white and black text).

This month’s video was a half hour attempt to get started on Jane Jensen’s Gray Matter, during which time I talked about trying to make Narrative Adventures work, and the ways that you can have problems if you’re just creating flag-based trigger messes, the Australian side of the Steam store, and

Teaching started up this month, and that’s been great fun to do. There’s been some concerns about managing workload, but I’ve also been trying to dedicate more time actually building and playing things, rather than trying to manage my life so I’m just getting by. Also, with some things opening up, I’m getting to see my family more often, which is nice.

July 2020 Wrapup!

Hey, July’s down. We’re getting this year done, day by day, people. If you’re still here with me, thank you so much for that.

This month seems to have had a theme of catching up; the writing schedule has been better, in general, with very few days where I fell behind, and there have been some articles that I wrote months ago that I threw forward into July, the ‘infinity away’ year. Also it was time to dust out and finish off some drafts I had been leaving alone for literally years.

Comically, this did mean one article came out just after a major conversation about its subject matter despite being originally written like, a year ago. Oops. That was the Cards Against Humanity article, because every year I teach students about making games, I see more variants on it, and they’re almost always weaker games because of the overwhelming presence of Cards Against Humanity. Which is a bummer!

I also finally did my set on the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, from manga to the first anime to the second anime to the live-action movie. There’s more, of course – a few more movies and videogames, and man, there’s probably a card game or something – but I finally got my feelings out there about what is, again, probably the best series of its kind that nonetheless has some ways it’s bad.

I also finally penned that piece on Brolonialism, which has been waiting for years; I put out some thoughts about how ‘cancel culture’ isn’t really a thing, looked at tackling the Nephilim from Magic: The Gathering, which is maybe a month old at this point, and even did a writeup of my character Moonheart, from City of Heroes. Also, because I try to keep myself to one 3rd ed D&D article per month, I spent this month banging on the Spelldancer, one of the most hilariously broken loops you can have in a game that normally abhors loops.

July’s shirt continues on my theme of Loss-themed shirts! There are two new additions to the Loss Collection: a lettered and numbered version of the same idea. It’s not a complicated design, but I’m very happy with being able to use the simple elegance of it, in a way that works as a design even without being able to see the Loss element to it.

Video? I did put up a small video explaining a Minecraft thingy I made, a Hopper Loader. But that’s not the ‘proper’ video for this month, no no. This month’s video is a game pile video, which you shouuuld be getting to see tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled.

Personal life, hm, hm, hm, well this is a break month between two semesters, during which time I’ve been doing set up and consultation for my various work arrangements. I’ve felt obviously busy, and dealing with a lot of best practice stuff about health and contamination, which gets more awkward as schools open up and second waves of infections kick off. I try not to talk about the pandemic much here, but it is affecting me, and I’m trying to make sure the content I put here is an escape from gloom rather than an embrace of that feeling. You know how it goes, and I hope it’s been helpful, even as I’ve been doing my best to be honest with you about my work process.

You Can Just Want Things

There are two categories of people I try not to make blog posts about. One is my students, the other is my family. They never signed up to be made into Hashtag Internet Hashtag Content, I don’t want to make the storytelling practice that seems to have been inherited from my father (that he called ‘preaching’) into something that exploits the people around me who are themselves living, breathing people who do do not want to be, nor deserve to be, pinned to this page as a moment that will live on in my mind and in the minds of others. Hannah Gadsby talks about this, how her own mother’s homophobic comments are effectively preserved in amber, as part of her show, meaning that even though her mother may have grown past those comments, Gadsby repeated them to herself and others endlessly for years.

(Gosh, I like Gadsby’s work)

Anyway, because of this I have had something repeatedly run into me in the past few weeks that I have resisted writing about, because again: I don’t want to write about these people in my life who didn’t sign up for it, even though they are overwhelmingly common and repeated experiences, which is usually a sure sign for me that it’s time to put some words down.

The good news is that after contemplating the difficulty of writing about this, I had the realisation that this isn’t something that’s bugging me when students and family do it, I’m just being bothered by everyone doing it, and that got me thinking about modes of communication.

Now, I am a fan of the work of Marshall Rosenberg, not because he was right about everything or because I’m an advocate for the fulltime adoption of nonviolent communication, but because he was very good at correctly recognising that our conventional communication model is about victory and it will get that through oppression or manipulation if we can. And as a direct result, I will ask someone the question, in my day to day, what do you want, and the people over whom I have some degree of power – be it infrastructural or social or familial – will seek to find ways to give me the right answer.

Here’s a base example, which in this case I use because the person it would otherwise be with is Fox, and Fox does not have this problem at all, so, if you’re reading this and trying to extrapolate, or if you are Fox and you’re going ‘hang on, I would never,’ I am using this as an example because you’re basically bulletproof. Nyeh. Anyway:

“What do you want?”

“Well, I was thinking that if we did the laundry on Tuesdays, it would get the drying done over the week rather than weekend mornings.”

This frames the answer not in terms of the want of the person saying it, but instead about a shared, perceived value of the result. It’s not that it’s bad to have this kind of plan, it’s that it’s not addressing the question. It might even be that this answer has the answer in it: I want the laundry drying during the week. That’d be enough! It’s the way that when the question is asked, the want is ignored in favour of the result.

It seems like such a small rhetorical thing, but it’s important. It’s important because if I ask you what you want and you respond with what you think I want to hear, I’m not hearing what you want, I’m hearing what you think of me. It’s a fundamentally passive position, and it means I don’t get to know you.

How’s this come up in fandom stuff?

It comes up in fandom stuff when people are unwilling to centre themselves, and their wants, and their responses to things, in the discourse about media.

It can’t be I want this scene. It can’t be I like this pairing. It can’t be I dislike that story trope.

It has to be this scene is necessary. It has to be here is how this pairing is a moral ill. It has to be here’s how my identity legitimises my writing.

This creates extremely weird behaviours. There’s a bit of a canard about the Hamilton fandom being what I will now in a comically understated way refer to as a bit lively when it comes to this. Oh, there’s Miku Binders and Fake HIV and the cannibal mermaids and all that stuff, but I tend to look at it in terms of a kind of pressure cooker. Hamilton takes something that’s very bad (the formation of America by a bunch of extremely terrible people), connects it to something undeniably good (kickass musical theatre), and then leaves this audience in this complex space, unable to grapple with the most important element of their interpretation, themselves.

If you can recognise yourself, if you can recognise your own wants, it will help you realise that you don’t need to prove the value of your loves. You don’t need to approach playing games as if every game is meant to become a career. You don’t need to watch anime because it will make you more cultured.

You can just want things.

 

A Completely Honest Accounting Of A Day

I went to sleep at two.

up late trying to make sure I could get that text done, checking and double checking that everything I’d done had been done up to scratch, some last minute surveying of tomorrow’s notes about the PhD writing ugh got to make the road map got to make sure I’m productive

I woke up at nine.

head hurts but that’s normal how it goes really who doesn’t feel like ass right now but I’ll make sure I can sniff something or taste something because it’s very important, if I can taste things that means I’m probably not sick with covid

I couldn’t see things by ten.

this I understand, this is how I get at cons when I’ve been sleep deprived for a few days in a row, when I can’t sleep due to stress and anxiety, so I start noticing these black patches in my vision the nI have difficulty processing visual information like text, can usually hold it together but hang on why do I need to –

I went to bed.

whumph

I woke up at six.

still felt a bit bad

I had dinner, I talked with Fox, I watched Youtube with her.

we had mcdonalds and watched Overly Sarcastic Productions

I sat here in the dark, feeling warm and comfortable and happy.

I met obligations today, even though I wasn’t feeling well, and even if I hadn’t it’d still be okay, it’d be okay to not be productive; but I was able to be, and I should be proud of that, because it was above what I needed to do

And now I’m going to try get some sleep.

it’s okay to have bad days and I need to tell myself that until I can believe it

June 2020 Wrapup!

June’s down! It’s been a bit of a fog right now, in no small part because some of my plans got spiked. One of my plans was to do give aways and spend money sending people my silly pride themed t-shirts that yes, I am proud of, but also, maybe, now is not the time to be making people do competitions for silly queer shirts. Generally, I feel now is a time to keep my head down, to try and promote some uplifting stuff, and not do things that make me seem like I’m trying to take advantage of this moment.

There were some articles I was happy with: The Speed of Crowds, which was meant to coincide with Games Done Quick, talked about the way that speedrunning was collaborative orchestral art. Holding On To Pride wound up being, it seems, very well-timed to suggest that folks had to be kind to themselves, and why Pride even matters at all. And the somewhat basically named Post About Being A Cis Boy explored how being aware of trans women’s experience did not require some mystic spiritual insight. I was also fond of my article about Burnwillow, who remains a character I think about from time to time when discussing the way we make limited assumptions about what things like trans and cis mean.

There were lots of shirts this month – I’d been banking designs so I could do them all in Pride Month like Last Year. That means we got four designs, one of which was about thirty designs, one of which was a much smaller nine and two more classic designs: Diceheart, This Shirt Says Trans Rights, Pronoun Stamps and Gay Wrath Month.

Here’s this month’s video, about Lore Finder! I really liked this game demo, and I’m really glad it dropped when it did, so I could spend my Pride Month game watching a nonbinary person bicker with their parent and turn into a tentacled slimebeast.

June was a month in which teaching came to a conclusion (for now) and my workload got weird (for now). I got to mark student projects, which I do genuinely like doing, because students are great. It was also a month for articles about Pride Month.

Pride month articles were great for everything but the Piles. I hit my limit real quick on the non-Pile articles, and I have been bubbling to see the reactions to this month’s how to be for… some time now. The Story and Game Piles – well, I figured what I’d do is save up all the really queer games and movies from 2019 and early 2020 and pick the best of them to Pile in Pride Month. That just didn’t seem to happen, though, which was a real bummer.

What’s more, I save some slots month to month so that when I hit the themed months, I can do things based on the reactions to existing articles, and uh, you know what hasn’t much happened this month? Everyone has other stuff on their mind.

Post About Being A Cis Boy

Hey, this one’s been in the hopper for

God

Almost two years.

Okay, so some time ago, someone posted in my CuriousCat asking:

I first became aware of you and your tweets from your “Amerimanga cover” posts, and also apparently you’re a cis man. The ways that repressed trans feminine people can express their gender feelings is an easy enough thing for allies pick up on, but I’m curious if you have more of a relationship to queerness than just knowing people.

I provided an answer, which I’m now going to reframe a little bit, for archival purposes, and also, to flex here where the word count isn’t so weirdly limited and maybe clean up some typos I was realllly embarrassed to not notice the first time around.

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May 2020 Wrapup!

Martha, another month trails by in the grasp of this strangest of years of my life. We stand here at the precipice of June, with a word pit opening beneath me and my reaffirming in my most sincere belief that students, are good. I look forward to seeing you again upon my return to public transport.

Hey, that was fast. May just whizzed by, perhaps because we’ve all gotten really good at frittering away our home time. In fact, my home time has been preeeetty stretched so I kind of feel like I haven’t had much free time, as much as I’ve mostly been doing things to destress. Still had some time for some blog experiments, woop woop.

What’s wild is that I don’t feel like I did a lot of stuff this month, like somehow there are fewer articles, but I check the scheduler and yep, sure did do one every day this month. I’ve been rebuilding the backlog, and if you track this kind of thing, I had one day this month where I didn’t write at least one article. This is good. I did write about How To Be A Gardevoir in a D&D game, which was received really well. I vented at length about Deep Space 9 and even included a page of memes which did absolutely stunning numbers.

This month’s shirt design was waiting in the wings for a while, but I’m happy it came out so well. I mean look at that on black.

This month’s video was going to be one of two. I made a tiny video explaining something I made in Mincraft, which made the video making process fast and easy and I was very happy with it. One practice run, one run at the video, boom, it got made.

I was going to do a Lets-Play-And-Chat, but it didn’t line up with any of my friends, time-wise, and I got under a crunch for work at the end of the month. So be it, that sucks but this is why we build contingencies. Pretty happy with what I did regardless.

 

 

Didja know I have a Youtube channel?

Yeah, apparently this was something of a mystery! A point that was made by Ettin when this came up is that to get to my Youtube channel is like, five not intuitive steps.

Based on this, I’m doing some minor updates to places around the site. My About page now mentions my Youtube channel, there’s a button on the sidebar – this button! – that takes you to my Youtube channel, and… and…

I’m kinda not sure what else to do?

See, one of the worst things to have in your brain is a negative feedback loop that interprets silence as disinterest from people who are too polite to say anything. I know for a fact a lot of my friends don’t read my blog, and that’s something I’ve kind of had to become okay with. That becoming okayness however has not actually fixed the brain problem, because it means that I kind of intuitively see everyone I know who doesn’t read the blog or listen to the podcast or follow the twitter as disinterested and actively not interested in stuff. The idea they might not have noticed or not checked it out right now or the presence of being advertised on a miserable hellsite full of sadness might be diverting their interest in me talking about videogames doesn’t seem to latch into my head.

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Power Word: Kill

Okay, okay, hold up, this one might be a walk of an intro.

Do you know the story of Ananias and Saphira? It’s a Biblical story, a story that gets loved by grifting preachers and people who want to scare the shit out of kids. During the early days of the church in the book of Acts, when the church was going full communist, there’s this little cautionary story about Ananias and Saphira, a couple that sold everything they had, gave most of the money to Peter to build the church, and held some of it back.

When they brought the money to Peter, he looked at them, asked them if this was all the money, they said yes, and Peter said ‘no it’s not,’ and they died.

Now, I’m simplifying the story (it’s done in two incidents, there’s talk about whether it’s about lying or it’s about greed, but whatever, it’s Christian myth, it sucks ass and none of these people existed), but this is a story that sometimes gets brought up with a giggle pointing out that this would make Peter a level 17 wizard, minimum, or a cleric with the war domain, because this was a Biblical appearance of the spell Power Word: Kill.

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April 2020 Wrapup

April 2020 continued as a strange month in this strange year. Quarantine continued – I left the house maybe five times all month, each time for grocery travel. I have seen my family only at a few arm’s reach and I’ve been doing all my work over the internet. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped my phone being on silent all the time and answer it now. What a wild month.

This blog, themed around me centric media was a hard one to do but we did get there in the end, even if there were two points where posts almost didn’t go up on time – closer than I’d like to be, to be quite honest. Obviously, in a month like this, most of the articles are favourites – either topics I’d saved up for the rest of the year or burning opinions that inspired fast shots form the hip.

Still, I really liked my pieces on Bleach and the Ur-Quan. The Ur-Quan article was something of an experiment, too – I wasn’t sure if a deep dive into the lore and storytelling of a game universe like that would appeal. I’d love to do more of that if people liked it. I weirdly went in on Star Wars twice this month, with an article about how bad Sabacc is (very) and how good Ewoks are (very).  I talked about my beloved helicopter boy Blades, from the Transformers universe because apparently I’ve just become a parody of my own interests.

This month you learned how to become Corvo Attano and maybe picked up some tips on teleporter bullshit in 4th edition D&D, that’s great too. I talked about how important inns are to play narrative, about how oaths and pacts are things to enoble characters, not to punish them, and I insulted everyone who complained about murder hobos. Then throw in that I did a run-down of my Eresh Protectorate knightly orders for those of you who like that kind of thing!

I also finally put out there the article about Atheist Oppression, which summarises as yes we are, and thanks to bad actors, I can’t be taken seriously talking about it.

This month’s shirt design coincidentally ties into this month’s release of Final Fantasy Seven Again.

And this month’s video was, in hindsight, really easy to make! I got a good handle on how to make this kind of video over all my time practicing and I may find myself doing more stuff like this – long rundowns of character groupings. At least if you enjoyed them, please do let me know.

My personal life is just very stressful. There’s a lot of work that needs doing, there’s not a lot of boundaries between types of work and there’s a real challenge keeping the days of the week straight. I don’t want to accidentally miss the day in the week when I need to put the recycling out, for example.

Those of us who get through this are going to do it by being careful and being caring. So that’s what I’m trying.

The Giant of Kandahar

When you talk about conspiracy theories, or false information, one of the unfortunate side effects, because of how our brain processes information, is that outlining the thing first creates the impression that it’s true, and then the disproving has to be satisfactory to that. Even if you do a perfect job debunking the introduced idea, our memories filter away in different order, and the thing more easily brought to mind seems more true. It means you have to be careful how you introduce the outlandish, for fear of leaving people with the impression of the wrong thing having a kernel of truth.

With that in mind, there’s a not insignificant number of people who believe the United States government found a giant in the invasion of Afghanistan and are covering it up.

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Where the Energy Goes

This month has been hard. Last month was hard. Really this whole year has been hard and it depends really on just how long you’ve been paying attention that it’s been hard.

One of the things that’s been hard for me is writing. I don’t like giving that much up, of a sentence – I try to always stay ahead of the curve, I try to make sure that at the best of times you have no idea how much or how little I write from day to day. Well, today I’m coming off four days of not even being able to commit an idea to paper. That’s bad. Normally even if an idea doesn’t work when I start on it, I put it in a hopper and it becomes an article, later. Eventually. I can get some work done. Tiny steps are steps.

But it’s been hard to even do that.

Part of this is just presence. I’m surprised by this, but I find I write really well when I’m alone. When I’m not alone, people in the house impose their own needs on the house, which is totally reasonable, and we’re all just trying to get along right now. It makes recording audio harder, that’s an easy one. Oh, and it also means our neighbours are around more, and so are their pets, which means Elli, our pet, is more prone to causing fuss, which means that recording can be interrupted by the dog.

There’s a surprising amount of work I do when it’s quiet? waking up of a morning, putting on some relaxing audio and reading books for an hour or two, which surprises me as how much of a boring bastard I’ve become and how much I enjoy that, It’s also meant that time when I could churn out a few thousand words in a morning is now down to taking all day to write maybe half that. That’s really rough, especially as someone who prides himself on his productivity, his ability to create in any circumstances and dealing with pressures.

Also I have to be available to take opportunities. Sometimes, I get the chance to go to the store for an emergency supply when a friend is driving past our house and willing to do the pickup/dropoff for us. That means that I may have 2 hours of uninterrupted time to work, but that time is taken up, in part, by not being available to work. Just in case.

Here’s another thing, though: Everyone around me matters so much more than any piddling thing I’m writing. I started on an Ikoria set review until I realised I barely wanted to talk about four cards, because I kept getting distracted talking to a family member about things that they were interested in, things that mattered more. Every evening now I’m talking about playing board games or sharing videogames with Fox, because uh, every night now we are keenly aware of spending our time together.

This sucks, nobody is working well, and I’m just wanting to make it clear I am not immune. This is awful.

And now, saying that, I’ve been able to belt out 500 words. I’ve been able to get something done. And that’s… a start. That’s something. With that in mind, I pick myself up, and I start work on the next thing, because the next thing is what’s next.

Small Oppressions

Hey it’s April and that means I’m giving myself carte blanche to talk about shit that isn’t super important but that matters to me because I really need to be focusing on something right now, and this is an infamously problematic topic, so hey, let’s talk about the marginalisation of atheism.

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March 2020 Wrapup!

Well now.

Hasn’t this been a thing.

What happened here, on this blog?

Well, Kenny Rogers died, which interrupted my scheduled articles and I found myself looking very hard at myself and the person that, in no small part, Kenny helped shape. I wasn’t happy with what I saw. I finally penned a reference point to show people what fanagement was about. The weirdly popular Claw Gloves article went up – I blame Freyja and her gang of accessorisingly extra cat people. The wrapup of the Round Pokemon thread went up, and I liked that. I took the 3rd Edition D&D Epic Level Handbook to task, and that was fun.

On a small bummer, also I put up an article – which I was very proud of – about Hatsune Miku’s song Odds n Ends, which didn’t get a lot of attention or reaction. The Vocaloid contingent must not respond to things the way the Touhou Project contingent do.

This month’s shirt is coincidentally well timed, and to my surprise, has the shortest time between releasing the shirt and someone buying it of anything I’ve made: It took a day before someone bought a  shirt of this design.

This month’s video is kind of a packing peanut. See, I had two other videos in mind, and a third in script stage – but none of them could be easily or conveniently made, which meant that it was extremely hard to get them done in the time frame I needed. Which means you get this, a half hour tour of my current big Minecraft project: A great big hole in the wall keep.

Personal life… well.

Classes started up again, and two weeks in, we decided to shift to online classes. Then the conversation about whether or not we do that became compulsory, and then things got real. I’m already a creature inclined to spend weeks at a time in my own house – just the way I prefer to be – and the effort of going out to do other things ran into that.

I can’t do much to help, but I can try to avoid giving anyone else stress. I won’t talk much about the situation here, because I think the last thing I should be doing is giving you all more reasons to feel anxious and distressed. We’re going to do our best to cope, and we’re going to do our best to take care of one another, together, all the time.

Okay?

See you tomorrow.

The Gambler

Kenny Rogers just died.

For anyone not aware, Kenny Rogers was a Country Western singer whose career started before you think and was still going up until just a few years ago. In a way he was one of your pop-crossover one-hit wonders, thanks to a duet with Dolly-mother-freaking-Parton called Islands in the Stream, a song that gives her every opportunity to show off how awesome she is and how he can manage to Be Next To Her, which you know, when you’re dealing with the incandescent strange sun that is Dolly Parton, a woman who at that time in history was somehow managing to be a gator-wrangling country firecracker in the visual aesthetic of what can only be called Escaping The 80s Big Hair Bimbo Chic, it’s not so bad.

It’s not that he was a great man or a good man and I don’t say that because I’m thinking that there’s some well known fact about his life or how he stiffed the KFC Colonel out of reparations money or something weird like that but it’s just that these days I don’t feel comfortable sticking my neck out for any famous person I primarily know for having committed the act of being rich in their lifetimes. It’s entirely possible the dude was really great in his private life, but I don’t know that and I don’t feel like looking it up and picking over his moral character in his life through the pinhole of wikipedia now the dude’s died and I need to make that call in order for my Death Take to be apprporiately woke. What I can tell you based on observing the guy is that he had some fucked up boomer-ass opinions about women and relationships and the way he spent his later years pumping out Christmas albums and getting plastic surgery to stave off the Being In His Seventies suggested that he wasn’t particularly super happy with the enormously comfortable life of someone who owned multiple restaurants and was married for twenty-three years.

And despite all that, what’s super weird is that Kenny Rogers dying means a lot to me for no good reason. The internet has conditioned me to see every single thing in terms of a listicle and so with that, here are Three Things About Kenny Rogers I’ve Been Thinking About All Day as I Process the Death of a Fascinatingly Mediocre Successful Person.

3. The Gambler

This song is one of Kenny Rogers’ most famous, and I mostly see it invoked as a punchline. It’s a song about using a game to look at your own life, as a metaphor, and consider the lessons from a poker table that you can bring to bear on problems in life in general, and you know what startles me relistening to it again, after all this time, all over again?

This song gets poker right.

It’s so utterly baffling to me that this cheesy little song of a riverboat ridin’ ramblin’ man who generally never reached higher levels than an emotional sentment of I heart you and sometimes love, but hard? managed to convey in a song an actual meaningful metaphor based off a game that doesn’t break if you know how the game is played.

2. Coward of the County

Oh and content warning here! Sexual assault, misogyny, toxic masculinity!

This song was on a Kenny Rogers ‘best of’ compilation I listened to when I was a kid in the 90s. The album had a lot of songs I remember more for a crooning part of the chorus than anything of their content, and Kenny’s music is extremely samey at the best of times.

Anyway, uh, so, hey, this country song with a lilting tone and a back-and-forth beat is uhm, it’s about a gang rape? It’s about a woman who’s gang-raped by three men and how massively it traumatised her.

I mean, that’s not what the song is about. That’s just a detail in the song, a song that is otherwise about the classic story of a seemingly humble young man who refuses to fight people thanks to a promise his father asked him to make (and maybe he made it) finally being pushed too far because the worst thing that could happen to him was his girlfriend being gangraped. God, I try to repeat phrases like that to numb them of all their sense but you know this time I think I’m not going to do that. I didn’t realise at the time that that’s what ‘they took turns’ would mean. It was never explained to me, so that detail just… hung around until some twenty years later I thought back and went: Hang on, holy shit.

Anyway, this song is really fucked up and it fucked me up directly, because of a whole laundry list of personal traumas. Not the least of which was that my father made me promise that no matter how angry I’d get, I’d walk away from trouble and let people hurt me because that was the Christian way. I mean, it’s not like fighting would have fixed anything (because I tried that too) but the song kept hanging around in my mind with the idea that at some point, something bad would happen to me, and then that would be the point where God would make me a just and noble avatar of his anger and maybe it’d all be a good story, then, rather than a story about thirty years of crawling.

There’s also the fact that Tommy’s dad died in prison, something about which I had complex feelings. After all, Tommy’s dad wasn’t… around. He asked his son to meet a moral standard, and then… he left.

That was oddly comforting, a fantasy to have.

The whole of this story really impressed itself on me, as an idea of something I thought that should happen in my life. That’s pretty messed up.

1. Six Pack

Hey that was a bit dark, what about this? How about something unrelated? Well, Kenny Rogers was one of a number of country music ‘stars’ who moved into making movies that we can lightly refer to as ‘mid day TV fare.’ Six Pack was an attempt to make a kind of dad movie about a wannabe Stock Car racer with a broken heart bringing back his career from the brink and collecting a bunch of kids on the way.

This movie is definitely in that calibre of ‘good enough to be pirated on Youtube.’ It’s the kind of movie where even the people who own the copyright for it aren’t going to bother pulling it down because it’s not like they’re making profit off it some other way.

This movie was one of the first non-Christian non-kid-targeted movies I can remember watching. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t great… but it was there. It was a post on my personal timeline.

None of these works really matter to me now. None of them are good, I don’t recommend them to anyone. The place I was in, the person I was, the person who listened to these stories and who loved them and who thought that they were meaningful is gone, and I’d like to think I’m a much better person than I was then. I’m out of a space that was bad for me, and I would not recommend any of these works of stunning mediocrity to anyone.

But I still know all the words by heart.

New Keyboard

Right now I’m typing this blog post on a new keyboard. This is the keyboard that comes with my new laptop, which is a combination multi-family christmas and birthday present. This is, by dint of being purchased new, and now, now the most powerful computer in the house.

This has brought with it a bunch of infrastructural thinking. I have to set up a new laptop and that means managing logins and synchs and wondering just how badly I need this thing that I have to set up if I want to keep using it. It’s not a bad time – not really a bad thing to do a single big infrastructural audit. Do you need what you’re telling yourself you need? How many directories are full of accumulated nothing? How many look unsorted, but sorting them would be unnecessary?

Software changes and updates are interesting, because they’re these kind of virtualised things. Updating and changing them, that’s a matter of restructuring ideas in my head. But fixed to this computer is the new keyboard.

And that is what I have to just learn to use.

There’s one big change in this keyboard – some keys are going to be rarely used, which means using them will involve calling up a check in my mind. But some keys are used so much they’re basically being put together intuitively out of impulse action. That’s where stuff gets weird. Because on this keyboard, the ctrl key is split into two parts; one is a ‘function’ key and one is a ‘ctrl’ key.

And the ctrl is on the inside of the pair.

It’s remarkable how difficult this is proving to adjust to.