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.

Flowers Can’t Bloom All Year

At this point, according to my very vague stats on the matter, I have been releasing a daily blog post for some time; in 2015, I blogged every day all year, it dropped off at some point in 2016, and I think from 2017 onwards, I just blogged daily and didn’t stop. I have remarked in the past about how I do things on this blog; I have backlogs and themes that help me keep producing. I’m one of those people who likes working on lists, so if I have a bunch of things that need to fit a theme, working on that theme can be very satisfying, and when I don’t find that engaging, I can work on another space afterwards. Part of just maintaining this blog well involves maintaining my engagement with the process.

But if I decide, tomorrow, that I don’t want to write, that’s okay and that needs to be okay.

A turn of phrase I’ve been using with friends who have achieved something then immediately found themselves lacking in satisfaction is – well, okay one thing I say is try gratitude journalling, which none of them have, but after that is flowers can’t bloom all year. Now, one of my friends, a botanist, helpfully pointed out that there are in fact some flowers that bloom all year, mostly in equatorial spaces, but then they went on to point out that one of them technically isn’t a flower, because flower has a fairly specific range of qualities.

We talk about creativity in a lot of numinous, wonderful ways. We describe it in terms of it being enriching and engaging and helping us grow and handle and process and develop and practice. What we sometimes avoid talking about with creativity is the urge, the need to stop.

You don’t need to be constantly creating. I seem to feel, right now, in my life, like I always want to be – I have dozens of creative projects ongoing and I find the task of organising them is lots of fun, and that means I keep wanting to keep cycling from one thing to another thing. But for some of my friends, they try out a creative effort, they make something…

And that’s it.

They’re done.

One day I’ll be done.

One day, I’ll not want to do anything more, and maybe I’ll take a break or maybe I’ll stop.

I don’t like bringing this up often because I think that our general condition is one where people are encouraged to never start, to never try, and to hate themselves for never completing. I hate hate hate it when I make some actionable, tangible advice about overcoming the mental roadblocks of making and realising your projects, some asshole comes along and says ‘or maybe I could repeat the advice everyone is already parrotting.’

Instaed what I want to make clear is it’s okay to stop. It’s okay to stop for a time and it’s okay to just stop.

You’re not bad because you’re not creating.

Rapture Ready Pets

Hey, here’s a thing that exists.

Okay, now you may read this and have some questions. Meet me after the description.

For those of you who don’t want to click the link and check it out, it’s a link to After the Rapture Pet Care, a website that offers a paid service (a small one-time payment of $10) to arrange for volunteers of non-Christian religions to promise to take care of your pets after the rapture. The rapture is this belief in some types of Christianity that Jesus will return, take all the living Christians (sometimes) to Heaven with him and then the world will spend its time ending in a few different cycles. It’s a weird belief and it’s part of how the people in charge of the US government are ruining the world.

But let’s not dwell on that, let’s talk about the idea of pet care and rapture preparation, because this thing opens up my mind to one particular question that I imagine you might have now.

Is this a parody?

Well, here’s the problem. It is possible the people who made this website don’t believe it. It’s possible the people who pay money for the service or for the merchandise don’t believe it. It’s possible that nobody involved in this process is doing it seriously and it’s all a joke. You could categorically assert that nobody like this really exists, so the website is a joke about the idea of what if it is. That could be a funny joke, but then the question that follows that is okay, how many people are serious?

How many people have bought into it?

And now the thought that festers for me: How many people didn’t have anxiety about their pets after the rapture until now?

You need to know that these people really exist. They do. They’re all around you and they’re very typical and they’re not even that exceptional. They’re conspiracy theorists on a cosmic scale, with nothing ever able to prove that their idea is foolish. And when they do exist, you’re left looking at this website and thinking: Even if it’s a joke, how different would this look to the serious veresion of what it is?

2020 Blog Plan

Alright, let’s look forward to 20/20!

Currently, this blog is a daily blog. Every day, there’s an article, with each week featuring a Story Pile article and a Game Pile article. Story pile is when I look at a piece of media (like a TV series, a movie, an album, or something sometimes more obtuse), and Game Pile is when I look at a game. I also release, each month, a Video on Youtube, and a t-shirt design.

That’s it! That’s the basic plan.

Now, what I’m going to be doing this year is laying out our schedule of theme months. Every even numbered month is going to have a theme, all concentrated into one spot. I like theme months, they give me something to focus on, and our themes this year are 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

Last year taught me that forward planning is valuable, and now I’m trying to do that with an even longer view. There are articles that came out in 2019 that in hindsight, I would have wanted to put at a different time of the year – to put them in a theme month that fits them best. That means that right now I’ve made a few articles that are sitting way down in the hopper. I’ll share how I plan that out later, but for now, expect a bit more cohesion.

There are also a few types of articles I like doing but I want to space them out in the interest of not just repeating myself endlessly. There’s room for one-and-two parters like I did with 2019’s orc-and-elf articles, but I want to keep the blog varied rather than just burrowing down into one topic for a long time. Twitter is really good for those momentary obsessions, the blog is where I want to tidy it up.

Here are the things I expect to do once a month, maybe pushed around a bit to avoid landing in theme months:

  • One Magic The Gathering article a month. You might see two, if I’m feisty.
  • One How To Be article. These take some planning and research.
  • One Jimmy Buffett album article. These are super easy and I don’t wanna just spit them all out at once.
  • One 4th Edition D&D Themed Article. This is stuff like overviewing specific books or character classes or things 4e did that differentiate it from 3.5, or things you should borrow for your characters or your own games.
  • One 3.5th Edition D&D Themed Article. It’s super easy to dunk on old books which I can now critically regard, and I don’t want to be too mean but I do love going back and looking at weird or dumb 3.5 game rules or flavour problems.

If this sounds okay to you, great! And if you’d like more of any of these things or less of them, let me know. I want this blog to be approachable and fun and engaging, and understand these are not the only things you’re going to see.

Overall, the thing that most likely gets an article type reiterated on is positive reactions. Someone once told me she didn’t read the magic articles I wrote, and because I had no other responses on that front, I just… didn’t write any magic articles for a bit. Then someone said they really missed them and boom they came back.

If there’s content you want, ask me for it, because odds are really good I’ll respond and try and do more of it.

Decemberween: Best of Press (This Year, So Far!)

I did say that part of Decemberween would be giving you stuff that cost very little to engage with, right? Well, how about this very blog, where there’s a bunch of stuff that you might have missed?

I get readership statistics on my blog, which I can break down to teach me all sorts of interesting things. One interesting thing is that even a mild bit of interest from Reddit explodes my statistics, and also that the most popular thing I’ve ever done is probably always going to be the No Magic Colour Is Transphobic piece. Magic content gets more attention, reddit-friendly content gets more attention, it do be like that though.

Here’s a curated list of the top stuff that I wrote this year, sorted by how much I like them. Note that this year has featured three hundred and sixty five articles, so this is going to give you a long list of maybe thirty of the ones I like the best out of the ones that audiences have indicated they like the best.


Games

Okay, so what are some of my game pile articles that I liked? Well, I wrote about Kingdom Hearts, after watching a video on it and I think the ensuring research was so fascinating I might be able to be considered something of a fan of it? Look, there’s a nonzero chance I’m going to buy this game to talk about it more in depth.

Easily my favourite, most self-indulgent piece this year was my two parter discussing Exalted and Exalted: The Infernals. Not only were these articles extremely fun to write and read, I’ve seriously considered turning them into long-form videos. They’re about one of the most bombastically excessive, beautifully evocative and dizzingly incompetent Roleplaying Game sourcebooks and settings I’ve ever seen. Bonus, it has probably my favourite joke of the whole year in it.

It wasn’t a proper Game Pile article, but back in June I did break down the enormous and preposterous Fabula Nova Crystallis in a summary fashion (and missed some important details and context, by the way!). I may still hate how excessive and extra everything Final Fantasy is trying to do has become, but you gotta respect the completely wasteful and foolhardy development process, or don’t!

I also made some videos about games! Particularly, I made one about Mirror’s Edge and Platform Capitalism, one about Skyrim and Gaps In Language, one about Love Is Strange, The Game You Asked For, and one about Abe’s Oddysee and Meatpunk. I’m pretty happy with these (I need to get used to using backing audio to make my voice sound less like a lecture in an empty room), but I’m glad at how I’ve improved and sped up at making these videos.

I talked about three critical darlings this year: Majora’s Mask, Bloodborne, aand Braid, and one of those games got a real kicking. I looked at a bunch of visual novels as well, and of them, my favourite, DoraKone still stands out to me as being worth sharing and suggesting you check out.

Finally, at the start of the year, I codified a new direction on kindness and cruelty with my view of Risk of Rain. Be kind with energy, be cruel with purpose (Exalted).

Dungeons & Dragons!

Oo boy! Lots of stuff this year, and some of it surprisingly well received. None of my Hunter’s Dream work cracked the metaphorical top twenty, but that doesn’t matter that much. What does surprise me is that double digit groups of people wanted to check out my takes on 4th Edition D&D.

First, an article about how 4th Edition’s structure limited it. Then there was an article about how you should give 4th edition a shot (because it’s cheap). Then another article, about making halloweeny heroes for 4th edition, and finally, my favourite so far, the How To Be Hilda article.

There was also some setting stuff I wrote about, things that are more generally applicable than just my 4th edition treatment, which mostly focused on, weirdly, races. There’s an article about how Dwarves relate to goblins (dwarves are bad, yo), my article about how I and only I get Tieflings right, and the twin pair of articles about Orcs and Elves.

Then as a last bit, a bit about what dragons represent in your story and making your setting queer. I’ve been thinking about ways to build on this going forward, so look forward to that.

The Story Pile!

The most popular Story Pile this year was my piece on Touhou Project as a storytelling canon, which it turns out, was one of those social groups that click links a lot, especially if it’s saying that they are doing something good. I don’t imagine ‘Touhou is hollow and everything meaningful to it is created by the fans’ would fly well!

I took a month to go in on the new Voltron series, a project I greatly relished, and still hold that series out as an excellent and positive franchise that more people in fandom should look to, and that more writers and creators should embrace because of its positive attitude towards fandom. Hunk sucks though.

I finally sat down and pulled apart a retro anime series called Geobreeders, because it’s one of those things that kind of just hangs around the back of my mind, a weird and remotely removed unimportant anime series that was nonetheless composed mostly out of the mind of a lone creator’s personal obsesssions. I went in on one of my favourite characters in Young Justice and even talked about my favourite Disney movie, Lilo And Stitch.

Finally, I explained not anything about the story but about the presence in the culture of the immense anime titan Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mixed in amongst this there’s also a little slip about the Gen 1 Transformers, The Stunticons Are Gay.

Media Criticism!

This year brought with it a handful of different pieces about longer-form criticism, tools for talking about game making and media criticism. One, I got to codify my problem with TvTropes Criticism, and a longer form response to Chris Franklin’s piece where The DM Is Removed. Inexplicably, my piece on how a game of Scrabble ends was really popular?

I also talked about the role of erotic roleplay in academic studies of people and their relationships in online spaces, which was in response to a year of watching people who I used to respect deciding to mock people for using the internet to have sex.

There was also two other points of spite: One about the term Owlbear Traps, and one being The Tail Of Spite. These are both short pieces on problems with how gamers treat one another!

Magic Stuff!

At the start of this year I said I wasn’t going to write about Magic regularly. This is something I’m glad I did, but also it’s kinda funny that this year would have been the best year to write about it weekly because there was always something going on to write about. There were four major set releases over the course of the year, there was a banning, a whole new format introduced, major story related stuff happening, announcements and special projects and all of that and hey, we may have gotten rid of Nicol Bolas! For a bit!

Maybe!

Still, I did write some stuff about Magic, and I even collaborated with Fox on a two hour long video where she basically passed her opinions on which members of the cast she wanted to do smooches on.

There were also some other articles! First, there was an attempt to reconsider the problems of Boros in Commander, and a piece on trying to design a small, sharable tinycube for Winston draft.

Then I did some articles about custom magic design: One about why we should ignore the bottom of the deck, and one about how to manage your word counts and why that matters.

And then there was the absolute doorbuster of an article I put out in April, where I spent three thousand god damn words talking about how the discourse comparing a random distribution physical game without a central server was and had the same moral pitfalls as a Gacha game might. Since I wrote it, literally nobody I know has criticised me for it, so I have to assume I just got it right, and now that discourse is over.

And that’s that! It’s a bunch of reading that you, the audience, has deemed to be popular and good! thank you for your attention and I hope you keep reading!

Decemberween: Freyja!

This is going to be an annoying one. Not because she’s annoying (though, I mean), but because Freyja’s not someone with a central like, place for her stuff.  This means that this doesn’t get to be a comprehensive easy linking to some website or something, and instead, I have to point to her twitter. Which is extra silly because her twitter is three times the size of mine and there’s literally no help I can offer her there. This isn’t really a promotion, I guess, not really – I’m not extending reach or offering her anything here.

But I wanted to say something anyway.

Freyja has had a big year. It started in February and has continued for the ongoing eleven months, and during that time there’s been a kickstarter, vindication in a major TTRPG scandal, and a whole lot of discourse. She’s had a few medical problems, quit an abusive job, started relationships and on top of all that, she’s changed her name officially to Freyja Katra Erlingsdóttir, which is, as I understand it, not common.

And during this year we’ve talked about vintage anime, Hermitcraft, practical solutions for cleaning objects, editorial oversight and yes, indeed, the explosive way in which AM LESBIAN happens in some spaces. It’s funny, she’s someone I’ve followed and unfollowed a bunch this year, not because I’m actually upset with her, but because the nature of twitter is one where there really are only a few ways to moderate the flow of what happens. And with that kind of thing I feel it’s worth putting a statement here, in this year, about this person, this lovely lady and her utter exuberance.

This is a year that has asked a lot of Freyja, and she has risen to the occasion and exceeded it.

Something else that Freyja has done, and I don’t know if enough people have paid attention to this, is talk about the ways that media around us help us practice the identities we want to have and the ways we want to share our identities. Catra is the most obvious one – a character that gave Freyja the metaphor she needed to understand something phenomenal about herself. But she’s talked as well about the ways that folk stories have given shapes to national identities and the way that fascists tell themselves stories about the person they think they are, and even the way that various Youtubers have been useful lessons for ways to express herself.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve acquired another sibling (I don’t think), that’s not what this is about.

But the important thing is, I wanted to put, somewhere this year, that I am so, so proud of her.

Decemberween – My Patrons!

I launched my Patreon early in 2018, after arguing myself around on it over and over again. There were some ideas I had for it, which did not pan out well, and this year I committed to a much simpler schedule: Micropodcasts for people who paid for them, my blog schedule as normal, one video every month, a major game each year, and as many minor games as I could make.

Largely, it’s seen as polite to keep Patreon stuff ‘in Patreon’ and behind the scenes, and I think I fall into that because it involves money. Also, I don’t ever want to be the kind of person who monitors who is and isn’t my patrons, and just accept at the most base level that anyone who is my patron on patreon is doing it because they like what I’m doing and they’re not doing it as part of a benefits package, and maybe because they want to be part of conversations about my commercial production and being included in the games I’m making as I make them.

That’s it, though, and I think this is important to mention: My patreon patrons are extremely, extremely hands off. I have never had anyone contact me to tell me they’re upset with the money they paid, I have never had anyone tell me ‘as a patreon supporter, I-‘ and I’ve never had the conversation space of my patreon turn into a serious fight over anything, ever.

Largely, the people who are supporting me on patreon, it seems, are doing it because they want to, and their doing so has allowed me to do some things this year I would not have been able to bring myself to do.

What kind of things?

Well, being able to purchase a large number of my own shirts for a gimmick at work where I wore a different Loss Shirt every day, which I’ve already covered. It’s not that I couldn’t afford that, but that I could not bring myself to spend ‘important’ money for what was basically a goofy joke only the internet could appreciate.

I spent over two hundred USD on other people’s creative efforts this year, and some of that did not result in anything getting made. I basically sent some people some stuff, and because my patreon patrons were supporting me, that was able to promote the creativity of others with a safety pad. Some vulnerable people who are shy and did not have a lot money were able to try out creative endeavours without the ability to fail, because my supporters were willing to trust me to distribute some money for that purpose.

Also I got to speak to a lot more artists with the confidence that I could drop some money right there on them, so the conversation didn’t feel like I was wasting their time. That was all really valuable.

My patrons have given me freedom and comfort, even if this project isn’t paying all my bills and I appreciate the way they aren’t making the things I do into this sort of tense, ‘monetise everything I do’ kind of heckscape.

Decemberween: Fox! Again!

Hey, you know Fox? Fox Lee? @MunchlaxRegrets, short for Munchlax Regrets Nothing? Artist, web developer, game designer, smut peddler and a stack of three munchlax wearing a human suit?

I don’t talk that much about Fox on this blog; she has her own platforms and her own audience, and she doesn’t want necessarily to be presented to my audience in ways that aren’t in her control. I largely keep myself focused then on sharing her work when it’s relevant here and on twitter. I don’t like talking for Fox, I don’t like feeling I’m talking over her.

Fox has been a part of my life now for longer than she wasn’t. She missed all the damage. And she and I have been spending time growing together and learning about ourselves and working things out. Sometimes small things, sometimes big things. Again, I don’t like speaking for her, but if you’re a fan of her work, follow her twitter feed, or listen to the things she talks about, you might know some of the things I’m talking about.

As with years before this one, I want to take this moment on Christmas Eve to repeat, once again: this time with her, this another set of tomorrows, has been a gift.

Decemberween: Surviving my RPR!

I say that like it’s something I did but I think it’s really just because I’m still numb that I did it. I think back on that hour or two of waiting and talking and asking and waiting and waiting and waiting and I feel sick to my stomach thinking about the mistakes I made. It was weird to enter with so much confidence I downplayed myself in the name of not looking like an arrogant dickhole, and in the process it all twisted around on itself.

My PhD scares the hell out of me, and every time I stand in front of an actual academic and explain it, I feel my grasp on my confidence slipping away. It’s scary!

But this year, I did my RPR, my first major presentation on the Phd to someone who doesn’t know the field and doesn’t know me. It didn’t go amazingly, I missed some specific details and – and –

You know what.

The thing is, the real reason I want to write this.

My supervisor and my co-supervisor went into a small room with two of their peers and went in to bat for me. They didn’t defend the indefensible, they provided context that was meaningful.

I’m not saying my work is bad and my supervisors made it look palatable. I’m saying my work is good, but I’m not yet good at making that clear, and my supervisors did heroic work in standing up for me. It’s a huge deal to me, the way I can feel cared for and respected by these people.

It means a lot to me and I’m very grateful for it.

FOYMO

Let me tell you about one of my little fears.

It’s a little fear, not because it’s small to me. It can be all consuming, to me. But it’s a little fear because it’s a sin that can be measured in dollars and cents.

I sell games. I sell my writing, too, on this blog, here, on patreon and still don’t know why you pay for it but I’m so grateful. But I sell games, and those games are typically made out of cards that are printed and I hand them to people and they give me some money and they go away. Overwhelmingly, our sales are face to face, in conventions, and to people who talk to me and buy the games based on talking to me.

I am scared, so scared, that one day someone is going to come to me, having bought the game, and say ‘Yeah, you know what, this game is really bad, and you wasted my time and money.

Everyone’s so nice. Even the responses we’ve gotten about some of our games that don’t work is it’s too easy for me, or we didn’t use that rule, or he outgrew the game quickly. These are the little cuts, the little things that make me wince because I feel like I did someone wrong. Like I guided them into a bad purchase. And I fear that everyone who bought a game, or who I sent a free copy of the game, is just quietly being polite.

It paralyses me in improving and upgrading our games, too. I want to revise LFG and Burning Daylight and even Middleware, but I feel like doing anything to make the games that are already purchased ‘wrong’ would be a sort of act of violence against those people who trusted me with their money and time. I am ultimately afraid of making my game better so the people who bought the game before hand are left with a version of the game that is missing something.

I have a Fear Of You Missing Out.

But First…

There is a joy in horror.

There’s a truth to it that horror is a space that draws the marginalised. There are a variety of reasons for it, many socioeconomic, many infrastructural, and almost none that actually have anything to do with demonic forces or actual witches, no matter what Alex Jones types want you to think. There’s a not-insubstantial body of people for whom horror in fiction and media directly relates to and catalogues horror in their own lives.

Continue reading

Not Our Crisper

I’ve been thinking about the crisper in our fridge.

You know, the fridge with a broken light, where, no matter what, for some reason, I keep going and expecting to have the light turn on in the middle of the night. It’s a decent fridge, and I’ve never really had a problem with anything about the fridge does. It’s never occurred to me to fix the light but it’s also never occurred to me to consider whether or not the fridge is, you know, good for my purposes.

The fridge is atmospheric to me. It is passive. It is background storytelling, it is a wall texture in my own personal level 0, my own travel hub. I don’t even think about changing the fridge, or doing things to make the fridge better. I fill it, I empty it, I clean it, it’s a fridge, right?

Well tonight is the first night I realised that for six months, or more, I’ve been loading vegetables in the crisper drawer, and playing tetris with it. That I’ve been fussing and turning and trying to make capsicums fit in this side and the carrots can lay flat on the bottom or they can prop up on the side. Then there’s the two lettuces, and the cabbage, that just sits up there, up on top.

I don’t talk about eating as much as I talk about food prep. It may just be this is one week, where it’s really obvious to me, where hey, I need to fit a lot of vegetables here. But it was enough to make me notice a thing that’s normally functionally invisible to me: My crisper draw is too small. Not so much that I’ll change the fridge. Just… a little bit of a weird thing to notice.

I at no point noticed that in my plans for cooking and preparing food, the thing I’ve been doing is consuming enough vegetables that my storage for them hasn’t been suited to task. It’s strange, it’s a kind of progress. Yet at the same time it was a kind of magic trick played on me, or rather, that moment of noticing this change in my life was itself, that same sensation. Startled.

A magic trick is essentially, constant and perfect control over perception. Controlling your own perception, recognising its boundaries, and sometimes you can change it without even noticing it.

The Coming Week’s Coming Tension

It’s postgraduate week at my uni.

That means this week, I have a really important thing due.

oh heck.

The long and short of it, for reference, is that I’m basically at some point in this week – depending on a schedule – presenting for the uni, proof that I haven’t spent this past year of PhD work just picking my nose. The document involved for this is – as I write this – in iteration four, and each iteration is about the length of a book, and each iteration has been refined individually many times and even completely restarted at least once.

It is a big task. I have to get up in front of people who can say whether or not I get to continue doing this! If I’ve been wasting everyone’s time! I am going to stand before a crowd and be judged.

Anyway so if I’m a bit twitchy this week, that’s why.

Carthage

I have a strange love for losers.

I mean, I make fun of the Confederate flag waving assholes, and it’s worth remembering that that’s good, because they’re losers, and they should always be forced to confront that they’re losers, and they lost because they were bad at winning, and this is just a long aside to dunk on the Confederacy. But not all losers are that kind of loser. Sometimes you lose not because you were wrong, or because you were on the wrong side, or because you’re bad, but you lose because the bad people had more stuff. They had more money and more people and they didn’t even realise they were the bad people, because they were removed from the bad things they did.

I think about the people that lose against empires.

I think about Carthage.

I think about Carthage, and the story of Hannibal, a general who tried audacious things and succeeded. I think about bloody battles in the desert by mercenary armies. I think about the strangeness of a country whose big sin was not really doing enough for military infrastructure and how it was the victim of an empire next door that was. I think about how you can win a dozen fights in a row, but if your enemy can handle losing, and you can’t, then it doesn’t matter.

Carthage is on my mind because while history tells us that Carthage lost, there were a lot of times and places in Hannibal’s campaign that he won. There’s a lot of people who were living their lives and having what they thought of as important conversations about the future of Rome and their campaigns for political office and governorship or whatever, and then Hannibal happened to their territory, and they’re just gone.

Just forgotten.

This is what I’m thinking about, when I’m thinking about this card game I’m making. The different things nobles can do, these little festivals and parties and politics and territorial disputes and fights over who has the best land or best marketplaces, all while quietly aware that you can’t change the future.

That Hannibal is going to happen.

The idea for this game, the idea that I’m working with, is that of a stacked deck. At the start of the game, players get their cards, then the deck gets loaded; you shuffle up and deal out stacks of cards. Into each stack, you shuffle one of a number of cards, then you put those stacks on top of each other. Now you have a deck of events that everyone draws from, to play their cards and live their lives, and then one point, near the end…

Hannibal happens.

Jesus And The Widow’s Mite

Time to time Jesus comes up on the timeline and I watch as people who are generally well-meaning people try to harmonise together the Bible and the oppressive behaviour of Christian hegemony. There’s usually some sort of deference to a Gandhi quote, some sort of next-levelling smugness of well Jesus was great, Christians are bad. Maybe you’ll see something like Jesus was a leftist or Jesus was an ally or a truly amazing take Jesus was more of a trans person and on the one hand I try to file that under ‘fanfiction’ but then people use it to discuss real world political behaviour of a culture that has probably a third of the world’s resources and is using them to kill people.

It’s basically an attempt to make Christians feel ‘not so bad’ about being part of a great big dreadful machine, which is not something I see typically extended to things like heterosexuality or cisgenderness.

It annoys me, personally, because Jesus isn’t a cool guy who’s being mangled by his followers.

Jesus is a total dick and his teachings are full of confused morals and justifications for evil. The only reason people treat him like he’s good is because we treat his story as if he’s meant to be good and interpret his positions that way. There’s a constant decontextualisation of Jesus – that’s what Sermons are for! – that turn his positions into whatever we need them to be, and want to pointedly make sure you don’t relate what he said today to what he said yesterday, because if you do, you might go ‘hang on a second, fuck you Jesus.’

For example, the story of the Widow’s Mite. Now for the purpose of this consideration we’re going to treat Jesus like he existed and did the things that are kind of fundamentally necessary to the Christian narrative of Jesus. He didn’t, and he didn’t, but let’s just pretend for now. Treating this text as a text.

The story, which appears in Mark (the first draft) and Luke (the second last draft), tells of a time when Jesus and his disciples were rubbernecking in the temple and watching people do their weekly donations to the temple’s upkeep. Rich people came in and dumped large amounts of cash, and a poor widow came in and gave a ‘mite’ – one of the smallest currencies they could give. Jesus turns to his disciples and says:

3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:

4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

Then we nod and tap our chins and we move on to the sandwiches and coffee after church.

Now think about this in the context of the fact that Jesus is meant to be the perfect human sacrifice that redeems us our sins. Remember that Jesus is God in this interpretation of the faith, that he talks to and experiences the voice of God, and that he is aware of God’s plan.

When Jesus submitted himself to torture and death, that was a bad weekend out of an infinite life and he knew he was going to survive this. We’re told it’s an important, meaningful sacrifice, it’s meant to be the ultimate sacrifice, but in this case, Jesus is the wealthy, giving a meaningless fraction of his wealth (time), and it wasn’t going to bother him a week later. It was performative, it was literally done so he could show off to people millenia later for whom he had done nothing.

If it costs you nothing, Jesus, what does it mean that you’re giving it up?

Disengage, Distract, Deprogram

Last year, I was asked:

How do I deal with jealousy regarding other people’s happiness? It always feels like everyone around me is happier, more alive, and generally *living* better than I do. I know being the bitter Old Man staring between the blinds at the happy kids on the street isn’t good for me or anyone, but I can’t shake these feelings off.

And taking some time, thinking about it, considering things thoroughly, what I said in answer was:

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Birthday Post

It’s my birthday, when this goes up. Hopefully, I’ll be asleep, but odds are good I own’t be, because it’s a Friday night-morning for me, and who am I kidding, I stay up late and when it’s almost time for a blog post to drop, I go ‘aw, yeah, you know what?’ and it’s fun. It’s fun. We have fun here.

Anyway, it’s my birthday, and that means that hypothetically, it’s a time when you might want to buy me a present, or make me a present. I don’t necessarily think you should. After all, there are charities that deserve your money; I have a Patreon you can be contributing if you want to support my work; and I know a number of you reading this are not in any position to give gifts, and now my mentioning it can be guilt-inducing. Don’t worry about it. This is about something else.

Weirdly, this is about me.

I have a problem I think of as ice cream indecision. It was first codified to me by the work of Rumiko Takahashi, in her manga, Maison Ikkoku. If you haven’t read the series, don’t worry about it, the basic gist is there’s a man in it who has a hard time committing to a decision. It’s told with a metaphor of a scene, where as a little child, his grandmother offers him one of two ice creams. He can have one flavour, or the other. In either case, the ice cream is going to be delicious, it’s not a serious concern: But he spends his time umming and ahhing between the two that it stresses him out and he can’t decide before the two melt.

I think about this scene a lot. More than is healthy.

I’m afraid of spending gift cards. I’m nervous about using gifts. Fox has found one of the most effective ways to get me a gift is to just install it in my life and suddenly I’ll be using it and it’s great and I’m happy about it. Last year, Fox got me a pair of nice knives and a griddle plate for our oven and I’ve used them every single day since and I’m so happy I have them.

There’s a lot of things tied up here. Like, I imagine people browsing wishlists of mine with a wrinkled nose going ‘oh my god, he wants that? What’s wrong with him?’ And this keeps me from doing anything that could be perceived as Horny (For Capitalism) On Main.  I’m afraid of being ungrateful, so I’m nervous of talking about gifts with anything but glowing praise, which means if I wished for something that turns out to later on suck, I’m left feeling I can’t talk about it. And as with many things, I’m afraid of whether or not I deserve gifts, and if it’s  foul arrogance to suggest that hey, someone might want to buy me a thing, maybe?

Anyway, this list took a long time to compile, and part of why was because I didn’t want it to have just one or two things that were very expensive (to me). So here, check out some wishlists of things I think I might want and I don’t know if I want them, and even as I write this I’m trying to argue myself out of it.

All of these companies, in some ways, suck. If you don’t want to buy anything from them, because they suck, that is 100% okay and I support your choices.

But more than any of this… I said I wanted some things. And that I can do that, and feel okay saying it (though I don’t know how okay about it I feel), well, that’s a step! It’s important!

Hey, happy birthday to me.

Bujo Module – Year Task Spread

Wow, yesterday was a bit much wasn’t it? Let’s wind it down a touch. Here, let me show you my Bullet Journal.

Hey!

That’s not weird!

Hey, I still use my Bullet Journal to track things. Fox got me a lovely new Bujo for Christmas last year, and I’ve been using the dot-grid system very aggressively to do things it’s harder to do on lined paper.

One module that I’ve seen and wanted to try out was a year long planner. If you had something you want to do every day or every week, or a tracker for a long-term pattern, then this is a great system for it.

The funny thing about Bullet Journal modules like this is I tend to just need to look at them and then they kind of explain what they’re for. This one’s for managing this blog, and since this picture has work done up until April, you might guess this was – well, recently. But it’s not, this was done in the first half of March.

If you want a closer look, click on it, it should open up in a new browser window for ya.

Broken Fridge Light

The light in our fridge doesn’t work.

It hasn’t worked, literally ever. Our fridge was second hand, and it is great, and I am so glad to have it. It has a good energy rating. It has been a reliable, workable, completely great fridge. And it has never, not ever, had a working light.

Tonight, I got up, as I could not sleep, and I wandered out to the kitchen to have a drink of milk.

I opened the fridge, and looked inside, squinting, thinking, oh. the light’s broken.

I have this thought about once a month.

I am so used to the idea that fridges have lights in them despite having had a fridge without a light for over FIVE YEARS, I am still somehow completely expecting the light to work when I open the door. Human brains are weird.

Why Does Christian Media Suck Ass?

One of the most dangerous things to fundamentalism is a desire to be good.

This post was in part spurred by relistening to the absolutely dreadful Camp Kookawacka Woods by Patch the Pirate, a subject so dreadful I feel a bit like I should do a rewatch podcast just so I can impress upon people just how utterly yikesy the whole franchise is at its core. Listening to it, though, with Fox, I had to let her know that some of the songs (that were performed pretty well) were hymns, and some of the songs were based on old campfire songs, and some of the songs were rip-offs of pop songs, and how the whole thing was just so cheap and hacky.

This is a pattern.

If you’ve ever gone looking for what I call Christian Replacement Media, you might have noticed that it’s kind of bad? Not necessarily remarkably bad, no glorious-trainwreck The Room style hubristic excess, it’s just that the best of these movies tends to crest a Pretty Alright level. Probably the best Christian Media Escapee band is Five Iron Frenzy, which is to say that the entire right-wing music machine was able to produce a single good ska band of leftists, which considering the number of times they’re rolling that dice is not a great average. The movies, the branding, the graphic design, almost everything you see in the Christian Replacement Sphere is a slightly shit version of whatever it’s replicating.

Oh, they’re often expensive. Yet even the things that are expensive in this space tend to be gaudy, or overpaid for. When it comes to art and media these stories are almost always just slightly inferior, confusingly weak versions of things that aren’t actually that hard to get right. There are bestselling Christian authors whose work crests the quality of maybe a decent fanfiction.

This is weird though! It’s not like being in the Christian cultural space asks you to be bad. Assuming a random selection of the Christian media space is an equally random selection of the culture of the world, you have to assume that a certain percentage of them are just going to pick up decent artists.

What gives?

I have a theory.

No, wait, I have a hypothesis.

The hypothesis is built out of my experience, and the experience of a few ex-fundie friends. We’ve talked about it, about the things that pulled us away from the faith, and how those things that pulled us off the path were not the fun, excellent temptations we were warned against, but inevitably, a drive to be good at something. I didn’t learn my eschatology and biblical foundational theory because I wanted to prove it wrong. I learned it, because I wanted to be able to prove it right. Nonbelievers would come at me with arguments, I was told, and so I wanted to understand those arguments so I could show how they were wrong. One of my friends wanted to do excellent work rendering graphics for their church, and so they wanted to study how graphics worked and how to convince people with the icon rendered in front of them. Another was driven by a desire to Make Computers Work.

None of us set out to fall.

The basic idea is this: To be good at something requires context and practice. Gaining either of these things inevitably exposes you to the ways in which fundamentalist church spaces fail.

It’s not that church seeks out awful artists. It’s that the modern American church is a sorting algorithm that wants to throw out the good artists in the name of keeping the people who are content to be average at things. Oh, they may want the numinous and the excellent, but if you ask a preacher to choose between a ‘faithful’ artist vs a ‘troubled’ one, they’re going to plomp for the pious one every time.

Plus, the faithful don’t tend to charge what they’re worth.

Smoochin’ Algorithm Blues

This isn’t the kind of thing I wanted to do for Smooch Month, but I figure it’d be just a kind of lie if I wasn’t willing to admit it. Finding stuff to Story Pile for Smooch Month has been really hard.

Normally when I approach a topic it’s easy enough to start because I want to talk about things I find interesting. That means I have things already in mind for interest. If I wanted to talk about overrated RPGs, for example, I’d think ‘are there any games I think are bad but are critically acclaimed, oh, TWEWY, FFT and Undertale and that’s most of a month’s content done right there, no problem.’ When it comes to Smooch month though, I explicitly wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Part of why is because I don’t watch a lot of smoochy media, because it mostly makes me unhappy, or reminds me of being unhappy. There was a time in my life, I, no joke, seriously sat on the verge of tears because of an anime opening theme subtitle, and the series it was from was DearS, which, if you don’t know it, good. It’s bad. Don’t watch it. It’s real real bad. Avoid it. Anyway, the point is, the times in my life when ‘romantic’ media hit me the hardest were some supremely messed up times, and that meant I responded to some dreadful garbage, movies that today I think of as actively bad, things that spoke to a person I’m not any more, and am supremely grateful that I’m not.

That meant that I’m both starting pretty fresh and, since ‘boy grouses about genre he doesn’t like’ is supremely dull, I wanted to take the chance to watch some Smooch Media that I could both talk about and maybe connect people to their new favourite thing but also broaden my tastes and horizons.

First I asked friends. I got some good suggestions, but not things I could use – Australian Netflix and Stan, after all. I wanted to avoid anything that needed shipping to make it good – so the Tangled series was right out, even though I like it a lot. I wanted to avoid movies that treated their audience like they were stupid, which meant a lot of rom-coms I knew were gone (Sarah Michelle Gellar has starred in some bunk). I also didn’t want to just watch action movies that had a romance in them, because it felt like cheating. No. This was about Smooch Media! That’s when I started looking at lists online, google searching ‘good romantic movies,’ and, well, that’s when I ran into the maw of the algorithm.

Did you know Kristen Stewart’s done a Tragic Lesbians Movie About Theatre? I did. It’s called Clouds of Sils Maria. Not going to talk about it here, it’s depressing as hell and is really more about the transient nature of fame and the disposable vision of women. How about Snow White And the Huntsman? Well, that’s an action film, and it’s really bad too, which is maddening because how hard can it be to make Snow White not garbage? Also didn’t write about Blue is the Warmest Colour because it’s really steamy and gay and that makes me really uncomfortable and exploitative. I read all of My Dragon Girlfriend, too which is also super steamy and gay, and that made me feel even more intrusive because it wasn’t a multimillion dollar international production. Mixed in amongst all these movies and series, though, there were all these things that the Algorithm thought I’d like, things like thrillers and horror movies and suspense movies which were all masquerading as Smooch movies, with the general message of Maybe Don’t.

This subject has been really hard to cover! And part of that is that when you ask the internet about ‘romantic media’ you get ten thousand answers that aren’t very helpful.

To Own With Your Eyes

One of the things patriarchy teaches men is that they own, in a way, what they look at. It also teaches non-men that that they are, in part, owned by being looked at.

Simple little lesson. Simple little idea. Advertising to men often just shows them things and the natural intuition is that they’re entitled to it. Women are shown things with an explanation for what’s wrong with them and why they need to get them.

This idea is part of why there’s not really a structural comparison between the male gaze and female gaze. The thing is, The Male Gaze is the default structure, an observable trend that comes about not because a bunch of dudes looked at a textbook for Male Gaziness, but because men, given control and means to, did things, and afterwards, people observing that work were able to find a really clear, consistant pattern.

It was a byproduct of giving guiding control of a medium to mostly a single gender for generations. And it grew in part out of that same starting mindset: The idea that you were entitled to the things you looked at.

In the Bible there’s this passage:

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

This passage has been used heavily to talk about the dangers of lust as an action. It’s one of the times the Bible weighs in about whether sins are things you do to people or objects, or if they can happen in your mind. Which, well, the Bible is pretty clear, yes, they can. If you think it, you did it, and adultery isn’t just about bodies and grinding, it’s also about the mere capacity to want it.

Which makes a kind of sense, if looking at something is an action of power.

It makes sense if you own the things you look at.

Cancon 2019 – Aftermath!

Okay, that’s CanCon over!

The short story is we went to Cancon this weekend, and there, we sold games and bookmarks and postcards and other neat things and we stayed in a nice dorm with our friend, and we all had a Pretty Good Weekend and came home. We ate some pizza, we played some games, we talked to people and we had a bunch of fun. Then we came home.

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The Origin of ‘Talen Lee’

Okay so here’s the sequence of events. This is a story I shared on my CuriousCat a while back, but that site is kind of a pain in the butt to search through if you’re not directly checking. Consider this more archiving.

When I got onto the internet, I bounced around trying to find places to be, mostly Christian Network places and Christian IRC channels and Local Christian websites (augh). Eventually, I found through newsgroups, the alt.fan.eddings group dedicated to the fantasy novels of David Eddings. I had read some David Eddings because a friend in church had already vetted it and thought I might like it.

Anyway, in the Eddings fangroup, almost everyone, except gilmae, had handles based on the characters from the books, and when I arrived and hung out there, I didn’t have ‘a name’ yet. Also, this was back when you didn’t release your real name or real information on the internet, a thing I was … stunningly responsible about, now I think about it? Wow, hang on that’s weird. Anyway, point is, to fit in, the group discussed, in newsgroup posts, what my handle should be.

All they knew about me was that I was fourteen, and they… weren’t, and the only Eddings character who existed who was both male and young was ‘Talen,’ a thief who in the first books was like, ten, and in the second was fourteen. He was also often referred to as ‘Boy’ and they liked that. Anyway, so that’s where Talen came from, and it wasn’t usually taken anywhere on the internet, so I used it as I went around.

Eventually I hit on places where it was taken, particularly the Wizards of the Coast forums, where I needed something to add to the name to make it usable, but also where I really, really didn’t want to be that dickhole with numbers after his name, or something that would date it immediately like MewTwoCrusher (sorry MewTwoCrusher, I didn’t realise how long-term important Pokemon would be), and I wound up smacking on the surname ‘Mist.’ I’d like to say there was some story behind that but I really think it was just… kinda cool. I want to say this relates to a period in an #animorphs channel on the Chee Database, but I’m not sure and it may relate to a grand project to re-fanfic the entirety of Final Fantasy 6 (yes really).

Anyway, fasterforward to another forum, another shakeup, and I’ve been dating this stack of hairy trolls named Fox Lee for about two years, and this time, rather than ‘Talen Mist’ I used ‘Talen Lee’ instead. She’d recently asked me to marry her (we wouldn’t for another few years), and I thought it was, because it was something that mattered to me, worth making into part of my identity, because… I’m a huge dork and I didn’t expect to ever break up with Fox, which okay, turns out to have been a safe bet.

Anyway, at that point I had ‘Talen Lee’ and it is mostly never taken anywhere. But even more interesting is that it flies under ‘real name detector’ because it’s just real enough. It is an Asian name, which I am occasionally selfconscious about?

So there you go. That’s your lot. My name is shaped by my past, in a way the name I was given never was.