On Retro-Superheroism

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My wife had already started an epic Hellboy collection before I got into him

There is a very specific group of comics that exists in the world as sort of an ode to superheroism as a genre. I am, of course, talking about books like Tom Strong, Hellboy, and Atomic Robo, which I recently picked up with the handy “The Everything Explodes Collection” and do not regret reading at all. There’s a thread of commonality between them with an obvious charm. Each story works with a long-lived hero who starts as an innocent. He accrues experience and a grim sort of wisdom as the decades pile on, almost like they’re embodying the gradual cynicism that settles on the world with the years. And I think in the best ones, they offer a wonderful example of how we can come to terms with the things their heroes represent: acts we wish they had never committed, ways to attone, and the irreducible truth that without them, the world as we know it would not be here today.

This is an entry about a group of these books, which have existed in an underground capacity for many years and have finally found recognition in recent years.

Continue reading “On Retro-Superheroism”

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June 27th Update

Let me just apologize by saying that yes, I’m working on new posts. I have no excuse. Well, I have several, and they’re actually very interesting, so…

First off, it was my birthday earlier this month, which is relevant because I got Persona 5 for myself and have spent most of my time being a stylish Phantom Thief. I’ll put up my thoughts on it later, which is not going to be a proper review, seeing as we already know it’s one of the best games to come out this year.

I’ve been trying to finish up some short stories for submission despite some odd time constraints. Just a lot of things to do that gets in the way of writing and in the way of inspiration. When I reach for some concrete reason why I didn’t spend time I had a lot of I get a handful of guilt that feels a lot like the hangover from procrastination. Except I distinctly remember being exhausted at the time, or walking around with a mind full of other things to do, or just really needing to unwind. I mentioned having to do a lot to care for my chronically ill wife, but she is slowly recovering, and the work is more about mental caregiving than anything. My days feel a little like Persona, when the social links and the stat bonus days don’t ever come at the right time, and there’s always the pressing need to accomplish something by a certain date. Except in real life, things tend to be a lot more stressful.

My friend dropped off a kitten for us to catsit earlier this week and Skittles has introduced some challenges all on his own. I keep wondering if Zoe will eat him, but she is a big softy or a coward, I haven’t decided yet. Skittles keeps following her around, like he misses his mom. Also, small animals like to sleep on my tummy. This is a fact I sometimes forget, on account of lack of opportunity.

More later. Stay tuned!

I Finally Finished Iron Blooded Orphans. Also, Some Gundam History.

So last night I ran across the news that Iron Blooded Orphans finally reached its finale sometime last month (#slowpoke). For me, that’s the cue to go find a stream and binge the bejeezus out of one of my favorite things in the entire world: gigantic animated robots beating the shit out of each other. It’s Anime Night, people. This is going to get a bit ranty. 

For those of you who don’t know, Iron Blooded Orphans is the latest in the Gundam series of animated shows that have been declared one of Japan’s cultural treasures. The staying power of Gundam is partially its ability to move a whole lot of plastic on modelling sprues, a hobby that seems to connect nerds of every generation and serves as a benchmark for whatever is in vogue for anime through the years. Gundam is also a series with some great traditions that may seem confusing or pointless to a casual anime fan, of which I’ve compiled a bit of a list:

  • Politics. A shitload of politics.
  • Belongs to the “real” school of robot anime as opposed to the “super” version. That means robots are subject to limitations like fuel, or the tendency to burn up in the atmosphere, or pilots being crushed to death instead of fading into a shower of fairy dust.
  • Bland, often repetitive visuals that more or less serve as backdrops to some amazing voice acting. This is almost always completely lost in a translation to English, even when you have spectacular actors. In latter series, this tendency is exacerbated by CG and the abuse of slightly modified stock footage.
  • Different parallel universes that each encompass several series of Gundam, often with no obvious way of telling them apart from each other.
  • most of all a tendency to jump from plot point to plot point with scene breaks that often ignore whole days between meaningful events. This is to speed things along and jump from the aforementioned political points to some mech on mech action. See: Reconguista in G, Z Gundam, and the original Mobile Suit Gundam, sometimes known as Gundam 0079.

Continue reading “I Finally Finished Iron Blooded Orphans. Also, Some Gundam History.”

Introspection and Role Play

So I’ve been thinking about D&D a lot. As I said, the wife and I are huge fans of Critical Role and today Matt Mercer just unloaded a bunch of therapy today. You’ll probably find it eventually on the Geek and Sundry Youtube Channel  or their twitch channel if you subscribe.

Some of what my wife and I talked about started to percolate, and one of those topics was having your real life experiences start to creep into your game. That’s normal and encouraged, every good story draws on experiences. But there’s drawing from what you know and there’s metagamining, which is using knowledge you have as a player to make decisions as a character. For example, if you as a player witnesses a private conversation, you can’t simply have yourself as a character do something convenient to take advantage of what you heard. In writing, this is known as a deus ex machina. Depending on how lenient your DM is, metagaming could be a big no-no.

OR IS IT?

I was thinking about how I make decisions from day to day, and sometimes stuff works out for me because of an instinctive or unexplained reason. People draw on intuition or a reason that cannot be articulated to make a decision. Makes you think. What if each of us is a player and there’s some dice-rolling douchebag controlling our every action? Or, what if there was a D&D mechanic that takes intuition into account?

Let’s say you were gaming and wanted to make a metagaming decision for you character. Instead of dropping a rock on you and killing you outright, the DM turns to you with a wry smile and asks,

“Make an introspection check.”

So you roll the dice, and add your introspection modifier to see if you can do it. But, oh shit, your character has been neglecting their meditation, or they haven’t read a book in a really long time. Or, they’ve been making shitty rolls and you’ve been getting really mad at them, and your modifier has taken a hit from lots of decisions like that. So your character has lost their intuitive or spiritual connection to you, the player, and doesn’t make the roll. Alternatively, the player has been whispering really well to the character, making lots of choices in line with their alignment, and guiding them towards contemplating the choices they’ve done, boosting their modifier, and you actually get to make that totally cheating move, saving your character from certain doom.

Basically, I’m treating the player as a guardian angel or a daemon in the service of the character. You can RECOMMEND a metagaming decision, but your character has some autonomy based on what you’ve done before. It’s an interesting dynamic, so comment below!

To Stride With Death

My wife and I love Geek and Sundry, in particular the Dungeons and Dragons show Critical Role. We were watching it last night and @matthewmercer made an off-hand comment that he doesn’t allow @Marisha_Ray  to ride a motorcycle. I have to assume this was a mutual agreement, considering who they are. More importantly, as a two-wheeled aficionado who is still alive after ten years, I have to politely protest that point. D&D is a form of therapy for a lot of people, and lovers of D&D should understand what it is to stride with death for a moment and better know her. Ironically, @VoiceOfOBrien created a gorgeous blightscape of a campaign last night, complete with gruesome mortification that drives home the point I’m trying to make here. 

While statistically you are more likely than not to kill yourself in a motorcycle accident, this is a case where the numbers lie their ass off. First of all, the incidence of unlicensed riders getting into accidents are much higher for bikes. Second of all, the actual number of motorcycle deaths accounted only for 13 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in 2015. So where are all the other deaths coming from? It’s not like you’re going to kill three other passengers along with yourself if you ride drunkenly into a tree. If you try to ride drunk you’ll likely highside at low speeds into a curb, or grab so much throttle you wheelie out.

Continue reading “To Stride With Death”

On Atheism and Responsibility

A long time ago I decided to stop practicing my father’s religion, Buddhism, and declare myself an atheist. That’s very different from not believing in its ideas, which are very good: pacifism, for instance. And it has been hard to practice pacifism in a world where almost everyone subscribes to one religion or another, and assumes I do too. This post is about how I come to peace with the religious, day after day. Continue reading “On Atheism and Responsibility”