Mocking Names You Didn’t Give Kids That Aren’t Yours

I’ve seen a thing on Tumblr and Tiktok a few times (god how do they get me to check tiktok) which tends to take the form of ‘wow, look at this white girl talking about baby names, what a fucking idiot she is.’ And I get it, it’s great fun for the internet as a whole to decide we’ve found the right girls to bully, and you can all knock yourselves out but one thing that I can’t keep escaping is how stupid it is to mock baby names.

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Story Pile: Drive Angry

Talking about Drive Angry runs the risk of becoming just a list of what you might have heard described as Holy Shit Moments. Honestly it’s a problem that plagues a lot of the Nicolas Cage ouvre, where this actor who’s particularly good at throwing himself into roles and who seemingly has a neverending appetite for work keeps getting handed movies which continually push the limits of a sensible creative’s idea of hey, should I maybe say no to this? It’s only due to licensing and availability that meant I didn’t look at all these Nicolas Cage movies well into October, with titles like Wicker Man (the beees), Colour Out of Space (and trust me, I thought about it), Mandy and Willy’s Wonderland all making up easily an entire October of Dread-themed Nicolas Cage movies, all of which would probably be easier to talk about than Drive Angry.

But here we are.

Drive Angry is a movie about Nicolas Cage as a man who escaped from hell with Satan’s own gun to save his infant granddaughter. In the simplest possible way to describe it, this movie does nothing special and nothing new. It is a structurally coherent movie where you can basically summarise it as ‘dude chases after thing, almost gets it, gets it, story end. It is a pop song of a movie, three minutes or ninety minutes of exactly what you expect based on the opening few bars and then you have to decide if that’s for you or for not.

It is important to talk about Drive Angry in this anodyne way because if you don’t, you kind of have to talk about it as an experience and then all the coherent words go out the fucking window.

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Himbography

Wow, guess this is a topic people have opinions of now huh.

What’s a himbo? Why, it’s a term used to describe a particular character archetype. It’s a term like tsundere or neet, where it’s used as a tool to explain the ways of perceiving a character or talking about the ways those characters operate within their narrative. In this case, the idea of the himbo (ヒンボー in the original Japanese), and there be himbo discourse.

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The Up Late This Date Update Mistake

I stay up late a lot these days, which I don’t actually want to do. It’s not always an anxiety thing, it’s not always a social thing. I mean this month I had a friend contact me to say ‘look I had a real bad day at therapy and I’m just coming down from how I coped can you keep me company,’ and the bad day at therapy had been a week ago, and that means I’m up at four in the morning taking care of someone.

But sometimes it’s a much more insidious thing where I  don’t want to go to bed until I feel like I’d done something for the blog. Managing work and life is a meaningfully difficult balance, and that means that someitmes, work is going to get done on days that are fruitful and work is going to get missed on days that are not. Still, there’s a sort of passive, droning ‘fell asleep on the couch’ kind of anxiety that can come from not wanting to admit that I’m done for the day, get up and go to bed.

As I write this, it is December. Yep, December, 2020. The aliens hadn’t arrived yet and beards weren’t yet illegal. But I write this as I have done all the easy hit goals for the blog today, and despite the fact today featured two long shopping trips, numerous social events and a bunch of graphic design work, I’m sitting here thinking: I haven’t done enough to go to bed yet.

And so, I am therefore putting this little wad of anxiety at my own productivity into a ball, stuffing it into the bottom of a pipe and then shooting it off into the future. I am doing so by writing about the only thing I can think of to write about that I can write about in this hazy, muzzy fog of tiredness, and I am doing so with the full knowledge that by the time I get around to seeing this on the schedule next year that I will probably forget how mediocre the post was.

It is okay, from time to time, to give yourself some easy ones.

Captain Boomerang’s Sentencing is Fucked Up

Look, Suicide Squad: Not The One We’re Selling Right Now isn’t a good movie. Obligatory conversation and padding words about good, etcetera and whatever, point is, I didn’t like Suicide Squad and neither did the markets. Markets are meaningless, meritocracy is fake, but I think this is a situation where a movie I thought was shit also failed to score well at Capitalism and the result is a movie that is even as we speak, being quietly shoved in a back drawer and forgotten forever.

Which isn’t fair, because I was too tired to really take it to task when it looked like it might be the formula that Whoever Owns These Movies might be trying to use as their template, and the idea of arguing with this movie’s weaknesses was just pissing in an almighty wind made of money. Sure, there are better people for talking about editing and camerawork and Jai Courtney may even be able to forgive himself for that fucking accent god damnit man you’re from fucking Cherrybrook for fucks sake, anyway, anyway.

Point is, I love talking about movies that failed and disposable media as if it’s worth taking seriously, so hey, why not talk about something in this movie that is really, really effed up and merits some of that there media scrutinising.

And so, let’s talk about Captain Boomerang, the Australian character they introduced with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap my fucking god I hate this movie so much.

And how his court sentence makes no fucking sense.

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Setting Up Your Feedback Loop

Every day I wake up and work on a big project. It’s a long, slow, ongoing project. There’s always a book, always a document, always a report, always some recording to do. Every single day, that means I spend some time engaging with something.

This means that I have a feeling, immediately afterwards, of what I want to do with the rest of my day. Around noon, I can spend some time making myself lunch, talk a bit with my partner, or put something on the TV or my second monitor that would work as a good entertainment source and let me wind down for a bit.

Then there are chores that need doing, which I try to schedule to do during the middle of the day, or close to it. Some need to be done later; for example, I can’t clean up after making dinner until after I’ve made  dinner, but thinking about dinner early in the day means I may think to plan and thaw some food for dinner later. One of the errands is taking the dog for a walk, requiring me to disengage, daily, from my computer and its space.

And I do this with a notebook open on my desk, so that things I need to do, or thoughts I have or want to work out, I can do on a thing that I can then look at, later, at a glance.

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Story Pile: Gone In 60 Seconds

All my friends know the low rider.

Nicolas Cage movies never feel like they’re doing anything exciting or novel as much as they are the kind of pipework and standard model that all other movies are riffing off. If you’ve never seen the type of movie in the genre before, any given Nic Cage movie is going to blow your mind, but by default, he’s not doing challenging work as much as he is doing fun work. The kinds of movies he chooses to do — well, I guess it seems like it’s more about who bothers to call him, the man will star in anything it seems — do not seem very avant garde or surprising. It means the man serves as a sort of grading label on any given movie, something that gets to be enjoyable to watch and maybe crests into very funny, but by default if they put Nicolas Cage on the poster, the movie you’re getting won’t be that complicated.

Before Fast And The Furious was an extremely muscular meme, that meme lived and breathed in Gone In 60 Seconds.

This movie is sort of high water mark for this sort of floor-and-ceiling of Nicolas Cage Quality principle: Gone In 60 Seconds is a dumb movie with poop jokes and weirdly PG-rated criminals, and it’s a pretty good time.

Your narrative: Nicolas Cage is Nicolas Cage, the best car thief who ever car thiefed, but he left that life behind. His kid brother, however, didn’t, and now he’s in trouble, so he needs his brother to save him, through Car Thiefing. He proceeds to do so, with some complication.

That’s it, that’s the tweet.

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Game Brief: The Many Complications of Fogge’s Barrow

I’m running a D&D game right now. Uh, unless something’s gone very wrong, I’ve been running it for some time by the time this guide goes up. But when I make a game I start out by giving people a document, called a Game Brief, that gives them guidance on building characters, and what’s expected of them.

For this game, I knew I had a small party (only three players), because we’d be playing this when our fourth friend was absent from the game. I also knew I didn’t want a huge stake, and wanted it to be much more about something local without big potential impact, so I put it in the mid levels of Heroic. Enough room that players could play experienced characters, but not that they had a veritable tale to them yet.

I’m going to present the brief, as I started on it… and then talk about the complication that followed.

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Let’s Look At Some Assets And Brainstorm!

I need a catchier name than that for this.

Okay, look, something I do, regularly, is go looking for game assets I can use. I am, as a designer, kind of aesthetically flexible. I don’t tend to design games with a vision of how they should look ahead of time. And what’s more, I tend to be resource-inspired. If I see a new mechanic, or an art asset or something, my natural desire is to creatively explore it, to say ‘hey, I’d use this for this.’

I’m also uh, cheap? Like I don’t like the idea of my games as these ongoing costs. I want to buy assets, address my needs for a design, and be done. That means instead of comissioning an artist, I’d really like to buy their existing art as art assets rather than hire an artist to make things. It’s funny, too, because if the artist designs a thing and just makes it look right, great, that’s their choice and decision and I don’t have to try and tell the artist how to make it more, I dunno, ‘fwoowshy’ or appropriate to my needs.

I’m an odd boy, I know.

This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while! How long have I been waiting on doing this? Well, the first draft of this article, and that name, is from January.

2019.

I gotta shake off that awkwardness, and just do it, so here’s the plan. I’m going to show you an asset pack, and tell you what I think about it, and what kind of games I’d think of doing with it.

Okay, so here’s the asset I found when I went looking that I want to talk about: Golem Battler Pack for RPG games by Anvilsoft. The images here are obtained from there.

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The Contention of Haruhi Suzumiya

Anime is an art movement that has encapsulated thousands of different competing threads and there’s no true centralising canon because it’s fragmented across all sorts of cultural anchor points. Australians of my age that are into anime so often got started because Aggro’s Cartoon Connection screened Sailor Moon, the ABC screened Astro Boy, Cheez TV screened Teknoman and SBS, in the late 90s, screened Neon Genesis Evangelion, meaning that those four anime are sometimes seen as ‘common ground’ topics. Common ground for one age bracket in one country, and even then, only sometimes.

There are some events that can be looked upon, in the english-speaking anime fandom, though, in terms of their impact on shared cultural spaces, typically conventions, but also just, anime releases that somehow managed to be widespread enough at the right time that they became foundation to the conversation. The big three of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. Evangelion movies. Fullmetal Alchemist, then Fullmetal Alchemist again. A collection of trans girls and boys and nonbinary people that can trace a lineage from Ranma 1/2 through to Kampfer and Haku and Soul Eater and maybe a few tracing lines to Vandread.

There is a category of people I can annoy enormously by responding to a Touhou picture with which anime is this from?

There’s only so much room for any given series to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the fandom space. You can’t typically have five or six ‘big name’ anime that ‘everyone’ has an opinion on. One of those ‘event’ Anime, that rose, became incredibly prominent, and then deformed the culture at large, becoming one of the rings in the tree trunk that is this strange cultural enclaves, was the enormous franchise known as Haruhi Suzumiya.

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So My Bed Blew Up

In case you didn’t know, I sleep on a waterbed. Well, prior to these past few days, I slept on a waterbed. Fairer to say that my default sleeping arrangements, typically, were that of a waterbed, and right now as I write this, but well before you read it, I sleep on an air mattress.

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Story Pile: Con Air

Con Air is a 1997 action movie that gets to be beloved. I don’t know why. I don’t know what could justify it. I mean, every part of this movie is stupid from the base of its soles to the top of its head and the whole wretched exercise uses that deliberate stupidity as a sort of performative figleaf for the things this movie very clearly thinks about how reality should be.

This movie is a beautiful example of verisimillitude, a long word we use to describe the impression of being real. Lots of times people will ask for ‘reality’ in their media, but they don’t want that – they want things to seem real. People don’t want realistic violence or sex scenes or relationships, especially since those things are both much faster and much slower than they think. It is a movie that somehow constructs a reality that’s meant to be ‘you know, like real things’ yet somehow every single thing this movie tries to show you tends to be just wrong.

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Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season Two!

We have another month and another drop of a Disney Animated Canonball season! The first season was successful beyond my wildest imaginations, because I imagined I would launch it and it would get uh

one listener?

Anyway, season two covers what we call the Twilight Of The Walt, or Halfing Your Ass, a season that starts with Cinderella and concludes with The Jungle Book. This season brings with it the increased attention of animation techniques like Xerography, attention to Milt Kahl’s famous swaggle, and some insight into the critics and cast behind these movies. The movies also get generally better, which means there’s a bit less dire boredom.

You can get the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and any other good podcasting service that’s checking the standard RSS feeds? And failing that, you can head to the website.

3e D&D: SONIC FIREBALLS

In the pantheon of D&D spells, there’s nothing, it seems, more iconically important to the identity of the game than ‘fireball,’ a spell that apparently nobody ever anywhere would come up with without D&D bringing it to their attention. Hm. Bit sarky there, I should come back at that again. Anyway, Fireball! What a great spell! A classic, a powerhouse, a spell that always comes quickly to the fingertips and that players love to hear when the wizard is about to start some shit with a fireball.

Anyway, you’d never bother casting it in 3rd edition D&D.

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Game Pile: Draftosaurus

There’s a couple of other dinosaur park themed games that hit the market recently, which ranged from the positively bombastic Dinosaur World by Pandasaurus to the more multiplayer-friendly Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write by Pandasaurus to the sprawling euro of Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus to — you know, maybe it’s just Pandasaurus games.

Nonetheless, you might be the kind of person to whom the theme of a dinosaur theme park, as inspired by classic 90s piece of pulp media, Dinopark Tycoon, just makes your heart sing, but you don’t want to have to reconstruct an actual academic model of a human heart out of cardboard and math. To you, I wish to show you the dlightful Draftosaurus, a game that sells itself almost immediately when I show you the meeples.

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Feeling Superman

Obviously, as a white dork approaching the category of middle age who has a brown ponytail and a degree, I’m obligated to have some opinions on Superman. And Superman is a great character to have opinions on, so you can signal to everyone around you how boring you are and therefore, where to check out on your opinions.

One example is that you could get your opinion prepacked from Kill Bill, Part 2, which is where a villain, written by someone who primarily likes westerns, exposits on how Superman, as a character, is a commentary from someone powerful on the people around him he sees as powerless. This is a great opinion to get prepacked, because that means it’s really a convenient shape to take and drop in the trash.

Superman and his boyfriend Batman have gotten some flak lately for being fascist power fantasies, which may be attached to the way that a few movies got made in the past decade or so that presented these characters as really fascist fantasies. There’s the Superman of the Snyder movies, with his calm, understated Jesus allegory and his eugenics and his complete apathy for trillions of dollars of damage and thousands of lost human lives, for example. That guy? That guy might be a fascist power fantasy, and I’ve written about that in the past. He’s a bully, and a cruel one, and the world he’s in treats his bullying cruelty as if it is the only natural outcome of his toxic, violent, disgusting strain of having to put up with sharing a world with you know, us.

It’s kinda a bummer too when we get into a headspace where a character created by a couple of prewar Jewish guys who wanted a hero they could believe in, gets treated as if he is, simply and wholly, a fascist power fantasy, because of a few people who don’t like the character getting unprecedented and uncritical control over the way that character is depicted to an audience of billions. It’s weird, too, because it seems like those stories about ‘Superman’ that could be being written about Supermanning aren’t… really… useful as Superman Stories? They’re just… story stories. You could write them about anything. About anyone. Make up a hero.

Here’s the thing, here’s my opinion about Superman. About the fantasy Superman enables.

Superman is  the fantasy that someone, given power, will choose to be good with it.

That’s it. That’s all it needs to be. No ifs, ands, or buts. No ‘because of love,’ or ‘because of Kansas values.’ No ‘because of Jesus allegory.’ Just simply, that someone when presented with the choice to do the most good, is going to do it, and that the outcome of that can be good ends.

We get a lot of stories about people who are given power and who try that power out, then find, oh no, what a bad idea to use that power! I can’t be trusted with power, because then I’ll do things with it. Much better to give up the power and not learn anything from it. This is pretty common in time travel stories, but it’s also common for superheroes, who maybe sometimes lean into it even harder and become very invested in treating their powers as a burden, as if the role of a superhero cannot be done with joy.

It bugs me.

It bugs me, because in my opinion, I have enough stories in my life, telling me that trying to improve things can go badly. It’s like I’ve been surrounded by that story my whole life. It’s like what power I do have to improve things has always run headlong into the question of well what’s the point, it won’t fix anything. Like there’s some sort of reason people would find it easier to accept and adapt to and regard as ‘serious’ and ‘mature’ the stories where doing good is so hard it’s better off to not bother with it.

August 2021 Wrapup!

And thus, the flourish, the finale, the end of the performance, and tricks month draws to a conclusion. This was an interesting month, as many of the pieces were quietly done throughout the year, and postponed to now; this created a strangely out-of-time experience as, when written, I felt ‘well, I’m going to need to explain a lot about Qanon, I guess,’ as opposed to the relatively mainstream bullshit it is now.

Still, let’s have a look at the blog, shall we?

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Story Pile: The Great Pretender

Anime is a crapshoot.

This slot has been tied for The Great Pretender for the better part of a year. The plan was, after seeing it, being so intrigued with the opening, that I’d watch the whole thing in the first few months, once Crunchyroll had it on their ads-paid area.

When I felt it was time, I watched the first two episodes.

Thought about it…

And stopped.

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How To Be: Disney’s Robin Hood (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, I felt it was time to approach the challenge from a different angle, of taking something with an obvious, easy, simple solution and then exploring around that. And for that, we’re going to look at a classic character, a character who’s so well known we don’t even remember we’re referencing him when we reference him. A folk hero, a hero who defined a generation and set thousands of people on their path that would determine the kind of person they’d be.

We’re going to look at Robin Hood.

Specifically, the 1973 Disney’s Robin Hood.

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Game Pile: Magic Trick

This is a cute little game about playing a skateboarding kid in a town of animal people. It has pickups and tricks and magical powers that give you fast travel. It’s not a long game and I imagine if you’re better at skateboarding games than me, it’d probably only take a few hours to finish. It’s charming, it’s sweet, there’s a trans flag in the banner art.

If you want to check the game out, you can go get it here, and also, if you bought the Bundle For Racial Justice back in 2020, you already own a copy. But it’s also really cheap, so maybe buy it again?

I’m thinking more and more when it comes to itch games, just showing them off on my platform and talking about what I like about them is more interesting than trying to apply some deeper analysis to them. Not that I won’t for games that inspire it, but especially when it comes to games like this, I want to make sure I’m taking the opportunity to just share games.

Be kind with energy,
Be cruel with purpose.

3.0 D&D: Everyone Shapeshifts

Min-maxed 3.0 D&D was fucking weird.

I use the term 3.0 to talk about ‘third edition’ because there’s this weird way that people treat ‘3rd edition’ D&D as a single game, and not a period of time between the last release of 2nd edition and the first release of 4th edition. 3rd edition content is still being made and the game is still being played, even if I’d moved on from it. Important to this, though, is that ‘3rd edition’ is a term that I feel inappropriately ambiguates the two games made in 3rd edition.

When people are criticising 4th edition — hey maw he’s defending 4th edition gain — sometimes you get a ‘timeline’ argument; the idea that 4th edition, as a game that was only actively published and promoted for six years before the introduction of 5th edition. 5th edition has been going for 7 years since then (two of which were pandemic years), and 3rd edition went from 2000 to 2008, showing that 7 and 8 years are ‘good’ times for a game to exist, and 4th edition’s 6 years indicate that it was a ‘bad’ time. Thing is, 3rd edition D&D, the thing before 3.5, was only around for 3 years, and it was not the same game as 3.5. You couldn’t just pick up classes, creatures, or monsters and port them over. First party feats and classes were generally all weaker than 3.5, and spells were largely stronger.

4th edition never released a supplement that wasn’t compatible with all of 4th edition. By comparison, 3.0 lasted for 3 years, and 3.5 lasted for four – an immense rules patch apology.

And trust me, it was an immense rules patch.

Like, did you know in 3rd edition, in min-maxed groups, you basically never bothered building for physical stats if you were starting after level 3 or so?

Because in a min-maxed party, you very rarely were dealing with un-polymorphed characters.

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The Mormon Murders

Let’s talk about conspiracies.

Let’s talk about lies.

Let’s talk about protecting very important lies.

A content warning, though. I am going to talk about Mormonism, Mormon history, and the Mormon church. I don’t believe in Mormonism’s depiction of history, and I do not believe that the historical record of Joseph Smith is somehow corrupted. If you don’t want to hear an outsider speaking frankly about his opinion of Mormonism — and you probably know what that’s going to be like — then I recommend you skip on out.

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Story Pile: Now You See Me 2

This movie is shockingly bad.

That’s not hyperbole; when I watched the first Now You See Me I was shocked at how bad it was, with the structure of the movie and its general incompetence creating this sort of impossibly tangled mess of failure. To describe the plot of that movie is to rush past constant cul-de-sacs of narrative failure, an act of will that requires you to treat the movie as if it’s better than it actually is, because of its bottomless well of failures. Now You See Me 2 takes that bottomless well of failure and installs a sub-basement, in all the ways that unnecessary sequels do.

This original movie was terrible, and this movie is aggressively worse.

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