Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Look at "Channel Zero: Candle Cove", pt1

Introduction
            Last year the new horror anthology series “Channel Zero” premiered on the Sy-Fy channel with a great deal of promotion.  I was hyped.  My brother is a horror fan, I am a science fiction fan.  We were set to watch.
            The premise of the show was to take inspiration from Creepypasta internet horror stories and to run with the premise each story put forth.  I talked about Creepypasta as a concept yesterday, so check that out if you want a sort of primer.
            Since most Creepypasta stories are a couple thousand words, the idea that 6 hours of material could be made from such a small sampling meant that creative license would have to be taken and I wondered if they would try to weave ideas from several stories together into a larger mythos.  Like the pulp writers of old they could make a large and incredibly silly modern horror mythology based around internet boogeymen.


            The first season was dubbed "Channel Zero: Candle Cove".  To start this, there will be numerous SPOILERS throughout, and while I can say that most of it is worth watching, in hindsight I can only recommend that if you are going to watch this show for its good elements (and there are good elements) you mitigate your expectations because there is a high chaff to wheat ratio, there is a lot of stupid unclear crap mucking it up.  Not that you would know that, this six-episode season has comically high reviews.

Candle Cove: The Source Material
            The starting point of this season was the Creepypasta (a word I am getting tired of writing), of the same name.  “Candle Cove” was written by web comic creator Kris Straub as a horror parody of shows like “Lidsville” (which was his stated inspiration).
            You can read the entire “Candle Cove” story in 5 minutes HERE.  But if you don’t have time for such indulgences I will provide a synopsis.
            The story is presented as a web message board exchange between several people remembering a puppet television show from their youth, the twist is that they were all watching a screen filled with static.
            I am not sure, but I think the puppet episode of Angel might have also drawn inspiration from this little story.



The Show in Brief
            Being a 6-hour miniseries “Channel Zero: Candle Cove” falls into an uncanny valley of sorts.  I could explain it somewhat satisfyingly in 2 sentences or 12 paragraphs, but any amount between those two extremes is going to feel unsatisfying.  Since most of what I like about the show are elements not directly related to the story, but more about the production value, the images, and the tone the two-sentence summary is not going to get across any of the things I enjoyed.

Seriously, this show has super high reviews.
Even the one negative review on Rotten Tomatoes was a "B-".

            This is a feeling show.  Not a thinking show.  Ideally you want both, but either will do I suppose.  To that end I am going to have to give a meatier explanation of it.  But let’s start out with something simple that will prime you for what I find strange and frustrating.
            Here is the 2-sentence synopsis they have on Wikipedia, “A child psychologist returns to his hometown to determine if his brother's disappearance is somehow connected to a series of similar incidents and a bizarre children's television show that aired at the same time.”
            Already the synopsis sounds like something WHOLLY different from the thing that inspired it.  There is no mention of message boards or puppets, more importantly there are elements in that blurb, a brother, child psychology, and similar incidents related to child disappearances that are NOWHERE in the source material.
            I am going to give a fuller explanation of my issues, but right there is the first sign of something going wrong, the short bit of info about the show could not possibly be used to describe the original story.  At all.  Which means there wasn’t just additions to the source material, but that this story is going off in a totally different direction.
            Which I guess could have worked.
            I guess.

Here is the trailer.  Looks good. But not what I would expect.

To be Continued…
            No joke, I planned to make this just one entry.  I thought to just bang out my thoughts over a thin outline and be done with it.  That was optimistic.
            I got to 1700 words without a plot synopsis, compliments, or criticisms.  The part that took up most of the space was the pretentious and totally necessary, the “What would I do section”.  Sensing no way to edit it down to a palatable length I decided to break this up and put out the pieces over the course of this week… Because Halloween?  More because I want more time to edit all this.
            Or… OR!  Better way to frame this: it was a miniseries; thus, it should be reviewed in a miniseries of blogs.
            Yeah.
            That’s the ticket.
            Either way, I hope I am being mildly entertaining and that will encourage you to hang around.
            Some Time Later…

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Some Thoughts on Creepypasta

What is Creepypasta
            The term Creepypasta is a quasi-pun on the term “Copy Paste a” as in you are copying and pasting a story you read somewhere to a new forum for people to read.  The idea being that the original source is lost, much like a rumor, gossip, or in the case of “Creepy” a campfire ghost story.
            It is an online community that was based around the format of presenting stories in such a way that they look real.  Photoshopped pictures, drawings, formatting the text to look like a web board conversation, and other little tricks to make them appear as authentic.

Authenticity inevitably dies by the sword of meme culture though.
            The creepy factor has more to do with playing with people’s expectations of the mundane.  You see and read information off of a chat window every day, so reading someone else’s chat going back and forth about something creepy, like finding a dead body, or hearing something outside, that can be cool.
            The problem is… WAY TOO MANY of these things are god awful to read, and I can tell you why, but first let me state something about criticism in this instance.

Criticism
            All of this hacky, poorly structured, poorly edited schlock is just a creative writing exercise.  People will never get better at writing unless they have the space to practice and the support of a community that will read their stuff and give them criticism.  The idea that your stuff is being read and enjoyed by someone motivates you to write more, and getting sound advice and biting criticism can push someone to become better.

I cannot recommend Gladwell's books enough.
I have read "Tipping Point", "Blink", and "Outliers" (Where this quote is from).
They have a lot to say about critical thinking and wider social trends.
            Writers get better with practice and an idea made of the misassembled ideas stolen from other works can mutate into something of value and substance.  As derivative as this all can be, something can come out of it.
            If you don't like reading amateur work, that is fine, but you should not be down on it as a whole. These communities act as creative outlets for people who might not otherwise have access to the teachers or support groups necessary to cultivate their aspirations as writers.  These communities serve a function, and it is a function that should be respected, lauded even, for what it can do to help people become better.  Only 1/10,000 people has any knack for writing, and lot of what they write will be bad too.  But without the other 9,999 people around to read their stuff and give them support, it will all go to waste.
            If you want to read these things, try to encourage people to not only write something out, but to edit their work for typos, edit their work for word use, and to edit for punchy and functional length. Don't just tell them that they never got past 8th grade, because the reason their writing didn't get past 8th grade English probably has something to do with a lack of support to begin with.  Or they are literally in the 8th grade and starting out early to develop their writing.  I wish I had an online means of getting my stuff read back in 1998, I would have gotten a lot more down and reviewed.
            Be a critic.  Be better than the guy who insults amateurs for trying.  Even if you are a better writer, even if you are a really good writer, don't be the guy who derides other's attempts when they are starting out just trying to tell scary stories to their friends.  Help them, don’t dissuade them.

Famous Creepy Pasta
            There are really no bones about this one.  Slender Man, star of video games, internet memes, and the inspiration for one real life attempted murder of a child by other children has to be number 1 with a knife.
            I am confident most people have heard of this character, and there is more lore surrounding him than I am interested in learning, but what is sort of fun, he might be a work of quasi-plagiarism.  Here is a video from the youtubers, RedLetterMedia to explain how they kind of invented a character like Slender Man.

  
            What is important to note here, aside from the fact that creepy people in suits talking to children is instant horror, is that this idea permutated in an interesting way.
            Suits are dehumanizing status symbols that imply an uncaring but wealthy/powerful person with control over your life.  The less personality or distinctiveness to the suit the more alienating it is.
            I am sure in Ancient Rome there was a boogeyman figure that wore a toga.  And I am sure there have been similar non-person manifestations of the supernatural thru all cultures.  Wearing something nice, and otherwise having no identity.
            See, even if the guy got an idea from watching some shit movie in the Midwest, it doesn’t really matter because the ideas are so derivative and hack that they could have come from anywhere.  Slender Man is a mashup of elements that has inspired a lot of online… let’s call it “literature” and has grown beyond the original idea, which had grown beyond the work of RedLetterMedia, and wherever the germ of that idea came from they grew it from beyond that.

Idea Growth and Development
            Stories are in some ways, living things.  They grow and change passing from mind to mind, changing the environment of those minds based on how much of an impact they carry and passing onto new minds via being memorable and catchy.  Like a pop song or a virus.
            The reason I wanted to talk about Creepy Pasta has to do with a show I watched last year and whose sequel series is being called, “The best horror show you’re not watching”.  The show is “Channel Zero” which might be the best title for a horror anthology show since “The Twilight Zone”.
            The reason, I suspect, that no one is watching season 2, has to do with the steady decline of season 1 to a truly unsatisfying ending.  It left a bad taste in my mouth that I have wanted to talk about for ages, but because I had so much to say I just couldn’t sit down and get it out.
            If I were a youtuber I would go thru “Channel Zero” episode by episode pulling it apart.  Here, on blogger, I am just going to put down enough of my ideas to feel like I am done thinking about it.  To get it out of the cycle of my thoughts.  Because, and this is no joke, for the last year I have thought about that show periodically and it has bothered me how disappointed I was with it.
            See, the “Criticisms” section above, that applies to the amateurs that put their work out on a website for fun and some attention.  That does not apply to a professionally produced TV show on Sy-Fy made by people who are supposed to know where to make cuts and where to put things in.  I wanna lay into them a bit, but not too much because the show had a lot of positive elements that I feel could have been great if not for the key failures.

The monstrous figure here... That is an element that should have been given a miss.

A Parting Criticism
            This is Jenny Nicholson, a delightful woman who primarily makes fun of “Star Wars” and is a combination of low key strangeness and cuteness.  She is an interesting youtube persona.  This video is her explaining a SUPER LEGIT criticism for Creepy Pasta that I think many writers of the stuff might want to take to heart.
            The issue being how the genre(?) has moved away from plausible to just an arms race of gore.  Lots of purple prose discussing guts.  Guys, I respect your efforts, but you are not Clive Barker.  Try to describe something mundane like a flower or a bookshelf before trying to describe viscera.

                                    
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Core Appeal of Batman


            I did not like the “Wonder Woman” movie that came out earlier this year.  It, along with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” are the two most popular and well-reviewed films that I have a deep dislike for (I think I will write a bit more on one or both of these later in the year).  But, something I will concede is that the Diana portrayed in the movie is a perfectly valid portrayal.
            The version of Wonder Woman I am most familiar with was defined by two sources, the “Justice League” animated series and the writing of Grant Morrison on JLA back at the turn of the century… Not his more recent work on the character in “All Star Wonder Womana bad comic I reviewed in two parts where I also talked about how incestuous and lame the marketing decisions of the comics industry can be.
            My point with all of this is that I had to ask myself while watching the latest “Wonder Woman” movie was, “do I dislike the “Wonder Woman” movie only because it is NOT like the versions of the character I am more familiar with?  Was I just attached to the confident, confidence inspiring, more veteran version of the character I had become accustomed to and seeing a less experienced version bothered me?”
            The answer is NO.

Though I definitely got sick of every freaking character in the movie saying how pretty she is.
Yeah, I get it.  You can be hot and strong.  Hooray for Lipstick Feminism. Can we just drop the stilted dialogue?
            I welcome interpretations of work that create fresh takes on stories and characters.  Permutations on familiar things are some of my favorite avenues of storytelling.  Changes in style, motivation, or even drastic changes in setting can make things better, interestingly bad, or (most often) neither better or worse but different enough that I appreciate it existing.
            But I can see other people having this problem.  For instance, I have seen lots of people who look at the “Harry Potter” movies as being bad because they deviate from the books.  These people are of course, fools, those movies are bad for numerous reasons unrelated to the books.  Side note, I would really like to encourage the Harry Potter fandom to read more books, when I see every god damn thing from politics to Stephen King’s “It” compared to Harry Potter mythology I start thinking they are all really dumb and myopic, get out of your comfort zone a little, they’re YA fiction, not a religion.
            What the hell was I going on about?  Oh, yes… Adaptations.
            With all this in mind, I decided to kick around the idea of how different can you make a character before it is unrecognizable.  To do this I decided to look at Batman, because there have been so many versions of the character.  They even made a joke about it in his last movie.


            Different aspects of characters appeal to different people and what constitutes the core aspect of a character is up for debate.  WHAT MAKES BATMAN…. BATMAN!?

To start, let’s list the three most important aspects of Batman,

1) He is a rich man who watched his parents getting murdered as a child.
2) He is intelligent and well trained in multiple disciplines related to combat and criminology.
3) He fights crime dressed as a bat using bat themed weapons and equipment.

            I am betting some people would say those things encapsulate everything you *need* about the character in order to make a movie, and that would be the minimum.  But others would say no list would be complete without,

4) No killing, more specifically Batman does not use guns.
5) He has a butler who raised him after the death of his parents.
6) He has a surrogate family, primarily consisting of adopted children who have similarly lost loved ones to criminal activity, but extends to father figures and love interests.

            Christopher Nolan decided 5 was more important than 4 (Nolan’s Batman has guns on his vehicles if not his person and does cause the death of several criminals, though under such extreme circumstances that it could only be seen as excusable).  Nolan cut number 6 almost entirely, his supporting cast is far smaller than other iterations of the character.
            Zach Snyder has Batman using guns and killing people left, right, and center.  Snyder would have had Batman kill Superman if it weren’t for an unintentional and really out of place reference/appeal to point number 1.  That screaming of “Martha!” was a sort of out of nowhere appeal to the core of the character… maybe a subtle way of saying, “Batman really shouldn’t be killing people, Superman especially”.  Was that a winking bit of self-awareness on the part of the creatives?  Or was it just another misplaced bit of character trivia to try and build a report that wasn’t earned… I would say it was silly either way and that movie sucked.
            Tim Burton had Batman kill people in massive explosions or throwing them to their deaths.  Beyond that his inner circle and surrogate family was the smallest it ever was.  During the whole first movie Batman’s only humanizing cast members are Vicki Vale and Alfred, Batman doesn’t speak to Gordon, Dent, or Knox and there is no Robin in the movie at all.
            I am sure more people saw Burton's movie at the time of release than had read a comic in the preceding 10 years.  I am sure more people saw Nolan's movie than had read a comic in the past 25, mostly because comic books are an industry on life support in spite of them being the core ancestral home of the most popular genre of entertainment on the planet currently.  But my point is, comics getting the title of “Definitive” is REALLY misplaced.
            More people having seen the movies or the old TV show means that their version of Batman is VERY DIFFERENT from what a comic book fan might see as definitive.  And if you are looking at “Definitiveness” as a sort of middle ground of what most people think of when they think of a character… More people will recognize a Batman that does kill.  Some might see Batman killing criminals as something so typical or part of the character that they wouldn’t even comment on it, or they might even dislike versions of Batman that don’t use lethal force, seeing them as childish or just out of date.



            Who's to say one iteration of a character is the superior or more iconic version of the character?  Especially when the multiverse exists in comics and film and each iteration "exists" in the same way all fictional characters "exist".  Like Shakespeare said in “The Tempest”:

As I foretold you, we’re all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


            For me, Batman the animated series and to a lesser extent the “Arkham” video game series is the definitive version of the character and his supporting cast.
            If you prefer the Burton version, you aren’t wrong.
            If you like Lego Batman, you’re not wrong.
            If you think that Batman is just a lamer version of Zorro or the Shadow… You’re not entirely off base and I suppose if you dislike when characters are derivative I can see how that would be a strike, but I would still think you are an ass for writing off a character just because he is one of many other similar characters…
            … I mean, if you are going to knock them for that, let’s call them all derivatives of the Scarlet Pimpernel.


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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "World Building"

            This is going to be another blog about Dungeons and Dragons.  That means it will simultaneously be impenetrable to normal people and get more views than any content I put out that is aimed at a general audience.
            Months ago, I did a micro series of blogs on world building, (part 1, part 2, part 3) but didn’t follow up with some of the most basic parts of world building.  I was taking a perspective a lot of academics do and started out too high in the clouds, so high in the clouds I was talking about concepts and inspirations rather than maps and regions.  That is not what people reading about world building are looking for.
            With all of that in mind let’s take a different tactic and focus on a continent sized perspective.  And we will do that with the help of this map:

            This map comes from Uncharted Territory's (Etsy Page) “Steal this Map” (facebook page) an artist that creates maps for fun, profit, and to build a portfolio (I am guessing) in much the way I write this blog.  The idea being that once the lovely map is provided people can populate it how they like.
            For this map, I will take you thru my creative process, I will go in Clockwise order using generalized placeholder names and trying to point to various eras in history that inspired me.  When you make up countries or regions I always recommend taking from history and then adding the magical element to them.
            Whether people admit it or not, even the stupidest events in history have some internal logic and feel real and human to people, even as fanciful elements like dragons and pixies are slip into them.  That is why King Arthur or Hercules continue to hang out on in the cultural consciousness, they were reflections of their times and mixed in fanciful elements that spoke to their culture, they feel realer (even when you look at all the really stupid stuff that goes on in each).

The Continent as a Whole
            Let us start with the first big thing, you want something that ties the continent together, and for that I would recommend pulling an "Eberron" and have the regions defined by a recent war/calamity that they all participated in and now defines their interactions.
            Much like the Napoleonic Wars defined interactions all over Europe until World War I completely upended the status quo, only to have it up ended again by World War II before a new status quo could even be established, having a big central event that everyone knows about and defines their view of the world serves as a good base to work from.
            Think of how many people in the 30-45 range have their entire worldview defined by 9/11 and the Great Recession.  Think of how many people’s view of politics is defined by Monica Lewinski being the height of “immorality”, and how Watergate was to an older set, or Iran Contra, or McCarthyism, or Teapot Dome.  Think of how any of these groups would react to politics now.
            So, let’s say that one of those five big blank banners went to war with another one, and then each of the other banners started going to war until the whole continent’s view of things was turned upside down.

The Five Blank Banners
            Let’s just take them one at a time in clockwise order.  Talking about their worldviews, and the real life historical inspirations for them.  We’ll want to make them distinct, so that an adventure in any region would feel different from the others, but not so distinct that they feel like they are from totally different worlds.  Good thing all of these inspirations come from Earth and primarily Europe so that they will feel similar.  What should be the name of the continent as a whole?  Let’s go with a placeholder, this will be the “Continent of While”.  As in, “While, we’re here”.  (It is a pun)

1 O'Clock- The Mau Empire
            Defined by nationalist sentiment but also assimilation, they push out their boarders via conquest and being able to build really good roads, but when doing so they have traditionally granted citizenship to the conquered.
            At least the Mau Empire used to grant citizenship to the conquered.  The last war was about their efforts to expand to the West side of the continent and make those conquered into second class citizens under "client-kings" and extort material wealth from them like colonies without extending them rights as citizens.
            The Mau Empire lost the war and now numerous proud and capable military leaders are all vying to be the new Emperor while trying to keep the old Empire from breaking up completely or falling to an invasion from the South.
            Think Rome after the sacking by the Goths.  Rome throughout its history expanded and attempted to integrate people all over their Empire into their social order, but toward the end of the Western Roman Empire they stopped doing that and started treating conquered peoples as second-class citizens with little or no ties/loyalty to Rome and instead having loyalty only to their commanders.  This fragmentation led to the Western Empire’s collapse.

3 O'Clock- The Divine Feudal Kingdoms of Horral
            This is a kingdom defined by "Divine Right".  The King is the direct descendant of a good aligned god, the entire aristocracy is Aasimars and see themselves as naturally more just, giving, and by virtue of their blood worthier of the status leader.
            While the Horral aristocracy do run things well and there is a logic to all their actions that promotes the public good, they often use excessively brutal means and justify those means by citing their own divine bloodline as justification.  "We know what is right," is their frequent refrain.
            The aristocracy were the primary opposition to the Mau Empire during the last war, but only won because of the internal strife and confusion of the Mau Empire and the help of the other powers on the continent.  Their military resources are nearly depleted but they are trying to keep up an appearance of strength for fear that the Mau Empire might manage to pull together against them before they have time to recover.
            Think Persia mixed with King Louie's France, which is an odd combination but I think it makes some sense.  Persia was the primary rival to Rome in the Middle East and had a strong enough central leadership pulled together during the fall of the Western Empire then the East might not have held together either.  The Concept of Divine Right of the French Aristocracy couples together well with this idea, the Persians would often characterize their leadership as divine or semi-divine (not as much as an Egyptian Pharaoh, but some) and King Louie believed he was king because God wanted him to be King and used that to justify his poor leadership decisions.  And King Louie was deposed after a costly war with another Empire emptied the coffers domestically and left the populace unhappy with the aristocracy.

5 O'Clock- The Southernmost Trade Kingdom of Kul
            This peninsula was defined by trade between the East and West sides of the continent.  Prior to the war caused everyone to cut ties with the Mau Empire shipping from one half of the continent to the other was to pass around this bend and this area grew rich from it.
            All ships swinging around the bottom of the continent stopped in Kul and often just made a quick trade and headed home rather than continue further along the trade route in search of greater riches.
            This transient nature and midpoint status makes Kul the most polyglot of the 5 powers, and it arguably suffered the most from the war.  Smugglers, pirates, and a small criminal empire of deserting soldiers have come to dominate the area.  The economy has collapsed and aside from fishing their agriculture is not providing enough food to support the nation, as they previously were cultivating luxury items like flowers for perfume, silphium, and incense.
            Kul should be seen akin to Indonesia after China stopped trading with the Indian Ocean to focus on its war with the Mongols.  Here is a video about that from Crash Course.


            The elements of Piracy and criminal activity should be seen akin to the piracy that plagued China’s seas for centuries.  Adapting a character akin to Ching Shih as the de facto ruler of the area and emphasizing the cutthroat and backstabbing between rival groups of pirates that are preying on the numerous trade vessels trying to re-establish the economy after the war and coming into conflict with navies “protecting” those groups seems like a great hook.  You could also look to how the Portuguese tried to dominate Indian Ocean trade thru piracy of a different kind, building forts and issuing trade licenses, and then confiscating ships that didn’t have a license (ignoring the fact that they had no authority to issue licenses and were acting like a mob boss, here is a video on that too).

8 O'Clock- These are the Confederated City States of Lum
            The numerous rivers in Lum have cultivated dozens and dozens of city states tied together by easy trade along the rivers, but kept from fully pulling together by difficult overland travel.  The lack of bridges and ferries prohibiting such road based travel.
            But separation by rushing rivers is not the only barrier to full unification, the Counts and Princes of Lum have banded together into a secret society called the Luminous.  This secret council wishes to keep government small, religious influence weak, and keep control on the value and power of hard currency.  Why they chose to do this derives from the perceived corruption in Horral and loss of individuality in Mau.  Not all of the Counties and Principalities participated in the last war and as such certain groups are seen as cowardly (but admittedly wealthy for having stayed out).
            The military is fractured into roving bands of mercenaries, errant knights, and merry men who protect the populace while living lives untethered to any singular kingdom.  Adding to the difficulty of each County providing troops to the effort, it is hard to put together a unit large and cohesive enough to then send hundreds of miles over pirate plagued sea to fight the most powerful military on the continent.
            (I link a few videos in here.)
            For Lum think a cross between the very loose alliance of German city states that would one day become Germany, the numerous small states of pre-Italy, and the mythical England of Robin Hood.  All three of these areas were defined by decentralized government, militaries that were more mercenary in function, and a sense of freewheeling “freedom”.  The secret society, the Luminous, is almost a direct take on the Bavarian Illuminati, even the name being a pun.

10 O'Clock- The Tribe Lands of Nor
            These were the “nations” that Mau was trying to invade that started the last war.  Dozens of tribes and petty kingdoms spread across a hilly landscape they are defined by a combination of warrior ethic and shrewd tradesman sensibilities.  They like fights they can win and are quick to avoid those that they can't.  They are not stupid and will take to raiding, ambushing, or retreating to keep an advantage and not take a loss devastating enough to wipe them out.
            The Tibes of Nor almost certainly would have lost to the Mau Empire eventually.  The Mau had built roads right up to the border and were already promising wealth and prestige to those kings and chiefs of Nor who would join the Mau Empire without a fight.  But the Mau Empire kept getting duped by the Nor, who were happy to just keep pumping them for money, and then leading the Mau troops into ambushes.  The Nor’s entire countryside is now a burning wreck, hiding hidden wealth conned out of the Mau Empire and stored in secret vaults and remote holds.
            The few roads laid down by the Mau to facilitate their imperial ambitions have allowed the Nor to rebuild somewhat, but they know that the Mau might be back and much like the Horral posturing, the Nor are making their first great attempt to fully unite into a single nation so as to dissuade any future attempt by the Mau Empire to ever invade again.
            I was inspired to create the Nor by picturing a cross between Scotland after the Romans were repelled and Russia after they beat King Charles XII in the Great Northern War.  A country that was not previously a united country, coming together after realizing how much stronger they were together.

Themes
            In history, you can often see the formation of new grander alliances via war.  Where once there were nations there is a nation, where once there were lands there is a single land.  The idea that a massive conflict by the most united nation led to other countries drawing closer together and the aggressor ending on the verge of disintegrating is interesting.  The idea that the country defined by trade is falling into piracy because of the war pulling the silk rug out from under them is interesting.
            So, a campaign here should be about the characters coming together after the war to deal with the unrest in each of the areas.  Recover treasure in Nor to help them rebuild and become a new nation or take what can be taken before they can get themselves together?  Working against the Luminous to unite Lum, or to work with them to keep the lands diffuse and “free”?  Destroy the pirates, or become a pirate?  Break the Divine Right of Kings, or protect the aristocracy so that a new generation can learn from the war and become new leaders?  Help a new military leader to take the reins of Mau, or encourage the infighting to keep their military dominance from ever threatening the continent again?

Player Input
            Pick one for the area of interest, but have it that characters come from any of the other areas, and have them explain why they are there.  If the game is in Nor than the idea that a Pirate from Kul is there to steal something, that one is not hard to figure out.  But if the game is in Lum, why would someone from Mau be there?  If gives the players enough structure to focus, but also enough freedom to be creative.  That balance between Freedom and Structure is also a theme of the setting, CRAZY.

Some Missing Things
            I did not bother to talk about the presence of Elves, Gnomes, and what not in this setting because this is already over 2,000 words long and my hands are getting tired from typing.  Try to think how those groups would fit into each of these instances.  Where are orcs, where are gnolls, where are Kuo Toa?  Populating the continent with things other than humans, even sliding in other whole countries can do a lot to make these ideas digress in wildly different ways.  Maybe the Mau use Giants, maybe the Horral have dragons, and maybe Vampires are controlling the Luminous.
            This is bare bones and it is still pretty detailed for an outline.  Try doing this sort of exercise with the blank map provided.  Take it in as different a direction as possible, and then post it somewhere and put a link to it in my comments.  See how different the same map can become.
            Have Fun.

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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Value of Sanctuary Cities

A Group Against Sanctuary Cities
            I just today found a political action group that wanted me to send an email to my Senator Bill Nelson asking him to end Sanctuary Cities.  As I think Sanctuary cities are a good thing I carefully edited their email to say this:
-----
I am writing to inform you I support sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary cities allow immigrants to approach the police and report crimes without fear of deportation.  This leads to safer communities for both the residents and the officers.

Sanctuary cities promote public safety because in the end, dangerous criminals will not find sanctuary among communities that have no reason to fear talking to the police.  In fact, there is no evidence that these communities have any crime beyond what would be expected for an area with their population density.

Senator, please do not let racism and stupidity damage America any further.
-----




Their Response to Me and My Reply
            After sending it, they sent me an email thanking me for my support and so I responded to them, pointing out my edits and explaining my feelings toward their group.

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Hello,

I consider your group to be racist idiots, so rather than send your form letter I carefully edited it to support Sanctuary Cities.

I hope you stop your campaign of white nationalism and instead learn to focus on making the United States a better place for all the people who live here, even if they didn't fill out piles of paperwork for the privilege, paperwork drawn up by racists like yourself from another era.

You can be better than what you are.  All you have to do is not persecute innocent people.

Grow up, grow a sense of decency, and be better than what you are.
-----

Political Discourse
            Am I wasting my time?  Almost certainly.  Their website (and their form email) pushed the idea that sanctuary cities are hiding grounds for criminals, including rapists and murderers.  This is wrong, both on a moral level or being fear mongering garbage, and statistically wrong, as I explained above.
            I would recommend to you that if you see a group like this one you take the time to speak against them as I have done or in whatever way you feel comfortable.  And beyond that adopt some of their methods, by which I mean contact those senators and congresspeople you disagree with and tell them what you believe.

            I have done this in the past with Senator Rubio about the refugees/travel ban and about net neutrality.  It perhaps accomplished nothing, but it is one more piece of paperwork sitting in a file somewhere that will illustrate my feelings to some future generation and their response will also be recorded as to being on a side, right or wrong.


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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Star Trek BS, "The Borg"

            “Rocketboy1313 talks about Star Trek a bit and with no Over Arching Theme”.  Admittedly it is not a great title.  Not a great theme really.  I just had some left over writing from random discussions I have had online and in person about “Star Trek” and decided to throw this out there for consumption.

            Today’s topic is THE BORG.  Kind of.  All of this stuff has official explanations, but I don’t care what those explanations are and have instead written some of my own that I feel make more sense in the context of what I know about the series, and what about this universe that sticks out in my mind.  You can do this too; it is called “Head Canon”.
            Since it is all fictional and doesn’t matter, existing only as an imaginary story to help us ruminate on the world and life to better understand ourselves, the story specifics are meaningless, disregard them at your leisure.
 
Their ships are super rad.
Introduction
            For those who don’t know, the Borg are a race of cyborgs.  They come from a region of the galaxy that they completely dominate.  A vast empire from which these mentally linked shock troops coordinate as a singular intelligence.  They speak as an intimidating chorus of dull voices, they seem their eventual success as such a certainty that they call resistance to it “Futile”.
            The Borg reproduce in two fashions, the first is growing knew biological beings and then attaching cybernetic components as they age, but the other more horrifying method is to inject microscopic robots into the blood of other alien races, bonding with them mentally and making them part of their collective will.  Assimilation of all cultures, scientific knowledge, and striping out all sense of self and personal identity.  They are space-zombies and the single best villains in the franchise.


            They were introduced in “Star Trek the Next Generation” to both the audience and the crew of the Enterprise by the godlike being, Q.  Q’s motives for such an introduction seem to boil down to, “I’m a dick” but regardless of his long-term plans for such actions this episode established that both Q and the Borg had prior interactions with the recurring character of Guinan, a wise bartender character played by Whoopi Goldberg who is centuries old and whose people were destroyed by the Borg… and Really hate Q.
            The Borg became more and more sucky as time went on.  For that matter, so did Q.  Because “Star Trek Voyager” made everything that was big and threatening in “The Next Generation” worse and worse.  Regardless, let me tell you about my fan theory.

My Bullshit
            I actually thought that the Borg might have existed on only 1 planet as a big uni-mind (like "The Matrix") for thousands of years until they encountered some space fairing species.  Their collective intellect is always shown as being vast in knowing things, but rarely good at inventing new things.  I think that the creation of a vast linked intellect led to the society stagnating.
            I think that the species that first met the Borg-Matrix was the El-Aurian, the name of Guinan’s people (Whoopi Goldberg’s people).  Perhaps a scout craft landed far outside their own territory and wanted to learn about the vast and knowledgeable super mind.

This is Guinan on Earth in the late 1800's.
            Maybe Q made the introductions.
            The El-Aurians got assimilated into the mind and that started the Borg on a path of moving from solar system to solar system growing at first in a linear fashion, as they could only breed more of themselves or capture people to add cybernetic attachments, which just seems like a hassle.
            The real start of the Borg’s golden age was the discovery of a new technology, nano-bots which made assimilation of new species so easy that started growing their boarders exponentially.  Finally they decided to go after the El-Aurians’ home world and wipe them out.  The super villain equivalent of self-actualization.  This would explain El-Aurians aversion to both Q and their history with the Borg.

Some More Bullshit
            On “Voyager” the best character was Seven of Nine played by Jeri Ryan, a Borg freed from the uni-mind and returned to a state of being a human (albeit still covered in cybernetic components) who wanted to explore being a human (the race she was before being assimilated) but held onto learned behavior, knowledge, and beliefs from the Borg.  Her knowledge was limited, only a single mind she could hold only a tiny fraction of the Borg’s collective information, but she would often use experiments to further apply her knowledge to help the crew in new ways (she at one point cured death… “Voyager” was often stupid).
            One of Seven’s beliefs was that of Omega.  A theoretical element(?), particle(?), and they went with molecule(?) that would serve as a “perfect” thing.  The Borg see perfection as something that can be attained and Omega as an example of something that is perfect.  But at the same time Seven was always lacking on certain time periods and had holes in her data, so I gelled these concepts together. 
Jeri Ryan gets unfairly maligned, often just labeled as a pretty face, but she is an excellent actress in this series.
When I say she was the best character, SHE WAS THE BEST CHARACTER.
            900 years ago, might have been the Borg’s first experiments with the Omega molecule as a power source which was such a devastating waste of time and resources that the Borg have still not fully recovered and archived all the data from that period. Beyond that they were more insular at the time, seeking that technology rather than expanding, and that explains why they have no strong memories about the prominent empires of the era, like the vast subspace tunnel empire, the Vaadwaur, mentioned in “Dragon’s Teeth”.

            However it is also really possible that with only the minimal amount of data from that specific time, in that specific place, about that specific people would be in the Borg hard drives Seven of Nine has access to on “Voyager”.   This would serve as a good explanation of maybe the Borg not having fractured memories, but just her own data stores being limited (I doubt the entirety of Borg Wikipedia could fit in her cargo bay).

End of my Bullshit
            I have been thinking about “Star Trek” lately because of the new series I have not yet seen.  And probably won’t see for a while because CBS can bite me.
            Hopefully any reading this will find my musings entertaining.  It is just my own head canon.

            (Pardon any grammar issues.  I have a real job now and my time for proof reading has dropped off QUITE A BIT).

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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nerds/Geeks and Toxic Relationships


            This is a set of snippets I took from some random nerd based group on Facebook that relate to the above image.  I am highlighted in orange; the 4 grey responses are 4 different people who didn’t like that I wasn’t biting on the joke.



            I would like to reemphasize that I don’t think the nerd/geek community is particularly healthy when it comes to discussions of relationships and gender equality.  Just the fact that the original post has a “she” instead of a “they” and uses the term “bro” illustrates that there is some kind of nerd-exclusivity happening here.
            I read on twitter and certain corners of the internet about harassment in nerd/geek communities related to women (especially cosplayers) who have to somehow prove that they know something about nerd culture to not be treated like shit and called “whore”.  This is bad behavior and should not be tolerated or encouraged.
            I have talked about this (kind of) before, with the idea that I leaned hard into my little eccentricities because I had been taught by media that I was the main character of my own story and just had to wait for the narrative to catch up to me and push me along.  I just needed to wear a distinctive hat and one day I would be the hero in some story I was not yet aware of.
            This is obviously not the case.
            I get the impression, I have not done a study of any kind, that many nerds/geeks online put up a front.  They adopt the image of something heroic, magical, or interesting because they themselves are not any of those things.  I see this behavior aligning more with shitty behavior toward women, toward minorities, toward anyone who isn’t a white male.
            This behavior happens so often that I am going to put an idea out there and see if it feels true to your experience.  “Alt-Right or racist comments on things, but the Avatar being used is an anime character”.  Do you have any memory of something like that happening?  Have you seen any mentions of the word “whore” next to a picture of Dragonball Z’s Goku?  Have you seen such comments next to other nerd iconography, maybe a Bat symbol or Captain America’s shield?
            I think a lot of these people have lost sight of life.  They have even lost sight of what makes those characters and icons worth being iconic.  Superman is a character all about having power and using it to do good.  Goku is a character that is all about doing one’s best and fighting evil.  I don’t think either of them would want their face next to the “N-word”.  But I’m seeing it.  And I don’t like it.
            Let us look back at the original image.



            Do you think that the message behind these shows is about excluding people from your life because of hobbies?  (I guess “Attack on Titan” could be about that I lost interest in that show immediately for being shit.)  Do you think Goku is the type of person to ignore someone because they they didn’t share his interest in cartoon shows?
            Of course not.  Because Goku had more interests than that, he went on adventures, trained his body, and went out and did awesome things.  All of these characters did.  Stop ignoring life because it conflicts with your cartoon shows.  Have more interests.  Beyond that, don’t be an asshole about your hobbies and interests.  BEYOND THAT, JUST DON”T BE AN ASSHOLE.

            And if you think I am complaining about the hobby, or your love of the hobby, then I am afraid you have missed the point.
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            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Colin Kaepernick and Peaceful Protest

            You have to love how on the pulse my finger is.  I missed the boat.  Again.
            I wrote an outline weeks ago on the topic of peaceful protest during NFL games.  I wanted to ruminate a bit, I am not much of a sports guy so I wanted to do some research on how good a player (or bad a player) Colin Kaepernick is.  Then I could link to an SNL discussion on the topic and some memes talking about it.
            I wanted to speak with some authority about why peaceful protest is a good idea.  BOAT HAS SET SAIL WITHOUT ME.
            I figured there was a coin flip the issue would be completely forgotten or still fringe by the time I got the will power to write about it.  NOPE.  President Trump is bitching about it on Twitter as a way to distract from the Russia investigation, Healthcare, his daughter and son-in-law miss using email in the same way Secretary Clinton did, and the deluge of other scandals and tomfoolery he can’t be bothered with.  FYI, at time of writing this Puerto Rico is fucking disaster area.

            And now that I have missed the topic, I present to you the outline I wrote some weeks ago (more than a month looking at the document time stamp, 8/18/17).  I feel I might have wasted some time talking about Netflix reviews.

---Start

Colin Kaepernick

            At this point I am miffed the entire NFL isn't taking knees.
            Have you seen the news?  I can't think of a better reason to protest than the President speaking with respectful deference to white supremacists and Russian dictators.
            Where the hell is the NFL's moral fortitude where they think standing during the National Anthem is more important than standing up against bigotry?  Bigotry that affects 60% of the players of this sport, by the by.

---End

            Remember dear reader, if you have an opinion on a complex issue but need time to get your thoughts together.  MAYBE just try and hammer that shit out faster than 5 weeks, because the world moves fast.
            In all fairness to me, I am not getting paid for any of this.

______________________________
            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.