14 January 2020

LOTRO Revisited

That meandering stream of attention has veered itself back around to PC gaming in the last few months. I attribute it to difficulty in rejoining my writing habit, in addition to the general stressors of life seeking that sweet, sweet escape of hobbyism. As is per usual, that veering lands me smack dab in the gaming Middle-earth, preeminently in The Lord of the Rings Adventure Card Game. I even (surprise!) got a blog going on the subject. It's fun and it scratches a lot of itches. The stream shoved on, though, last week when we found out the game is going to cease development.

Simultaneously, or perhaps consequently, I started looking for a new RPG to enjoy between Pathfinder sessions. Elder Scrolls Blades was alright, but the lure of The Lord of the Rings Online piped up again. It's funny to be able to go back on the blog and see my frustration and general emotion over a game, and even funnier to see I still have some of the same feelings. All of those concerns, over focusing on alternate characters instead of a main, the general "waste of time" of such sweeping games, thoughts on what gaming means in general, distill down to a central question: how do I best enjoy this game world?

Not "How did I enjoy this game 10 years ago," which I did immensely, but how do I best enjoy the game world of a beloved piece of fiction here and now, today.

I found a really thoughtful review of the game from late last year from a fellow who had a similar experience. The game was his life some years ago, he dropped around the Rohan expansion, and wanted to come back but was afeared over the game not living up to the nostalgia. And oh there is such nostalgia! Now we're growned and more objective and with different needs. Can LOTRO live up? Well LOTRO is a game. So no, it can't. But as a game, can it be a place where I go for entertainment?

So far the answer is yes. I feel less obsessed and rushed with the game and able to take my time and (please God) focus on one character instead of six. Most of all, LOTRO is about mucking around in Middle-earth. And if that's worth squeezing in a few hours a week for at the expense of catching up on shows I should've watched 10 years ago (probably while I was playing LOTRO) then I think that's okay.

The long and short of it is, who can say? My heart is human, and so fickle. My leisure time a closely penned field in which I allow myself to bop in ADHD fashion from whim to whim. The rest of my life is scheduled and mandatory; fun stuff, even MuMORPuhGers, get to be subjected to the worst of the remaining adolescent hyperactivity of my person.

Maybe I'll blog about it some more, as that is much easier to cover than theology or fiction these days Maybe I wont.

04 December 2019

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have a way of stymying my Yuletide affections until the last minute. Halloween passes. "Daddy, can we listen to Christmas music?"

"Not yet!"

The Nativity Fast begins and I twitch, but hold the line.

Santa shows up at the end of the Thanksgiving Day Parade and I'm all in. Nat King Cole on repeat.

Close enough.

Getting the tree setup this year, I had a thought that demanded elaboration. Soon Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and so many other "Christmas Magic" movies will hit TV screens across the land. Why have these pieces of popular culture become so affiliated with the Christmas season? What gives?

It's because this is the only time of year we (some of us, anyway) allow the world to be enchanted.

29 November 2019

Good Heart Kickstarter is almost over!

My current publishing project ends on Monday morning! But you've still got time to pickup your copy.

Good Heart is the story of a cowboy who finds himself  a stranger in a strange land (North Africa, to be more specific). There he retrieves what he's sure is something special, a necklace he was paid to lose. Soon thereafter, though, he's pursued by dark strangers who know his name, who know the orphan girl in his unlikely charge, and threaten the life he is trying to build for himself with the first woman he's ever allowed himself to love. And somehow in the midst of it he believes it is something to do with a spectacular horse he calls his own. 


25 April 2019

The Red Angel and Symbolic Compression

We finished season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery this weekend and in discussing the episode with my wife a lot of things popped up, secondary to the show itself. The finale itself, as an episode of television, was quite good. We got one of the more clean and interesting looking space battles I've ever seen, certainly the most interesting of any Trek battle sequence. It tidied the show itself up quite nicely, putting a bow on this season and the various discrepancies the series has posed between itself and canon. A lot of the relational subplots were equally completed and the entire series is now positioned for a fun and weird third season. The plot points the show brought to close, however, did not and do not often make a lot of sense, but is that the important bit?

What I first thought of in reflecting on the DISCO finale was the series finale of LOST. I gave my own thoughts on that bit of television almost ten years ago, and I think it's a fine parallel for our friends out there on the U.S.S. Discovery. Because, I refer now to another quote I included in my LOST review, Discovery isn't really about space ships or Klingons or the end of all sentient life; it's about people. It's about the characters, the crew of the ship and their relation to one another.
Image result for disco red angel

I can't imagine having to split my time in the writers' room in creating careful character pieces interwoven with interesting scifi. It seems too much. It is, indeed, too much as any critic of the show will tell you; Discovery does not hit the balance perfectly at all. They veer heavily on the relationship side as is evidenced in just about every. single. episode. Because each episode has at least one tearful intercharacter moment. The finale had several. And none of them made sense in context.

"We have two minutes to save all sentient life! Let me spend all of it telling how you've changed me and are my family!"

A lot of criticism was spent pointing this out and shouting it down. Those same dissenters employed the same tactics with LOST, because who cares about how characters are connected on an existential level when their are polar bears to account for? What's the use of Spock and his sister reconciling on a deep relational plateau when the glass on the blast door of the Enterprise withstands a nuclear-level explosion?

As we discussed this further, it hit me: we're not just talking about two views on how to watch science fiction; we're edging close to two views on looking at the world.

One view sees the bigger picture, the interrelationships, the connection, the oneness of the message. The other view is focused on "facts" and forensics. The contemporary world, living in the wake of the scientific revolution, has gotten very good at caring about the facts, the physical actuality of things, possibly at the cost of the former (of course I mean this in a larger, societal way; not in a complete sense, that would be stupid).

This brings us round to something Jonathan Pageau refers to as "compressed symbolism". I don't know if he's the first, but he's the first I've found to talk about the Bible as compressing narratives and stories. This makes sense. As stories get passed around the big themes are the things that should stay apparent, that are still poking out, when the forensic details get lost. He talks about the creation story in this fashion and refers to the story of the Magi in this way. The Creation story may not literally be completely true, in fact it's probably not. But in it's symbolism and poetry and "compression" it's trying to tell us something. The same can be said about the Icon of Pentecost.

Pentecost Icon, Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery (c.1497)

The Icon of Pentecost has two immediate glares that should alarm anyone looking at the world forensically: St. Paul is there, as is some dude we call Kosmos. The inclusion of St. Paul is alarming enough -- this image is not depicting a historical event, as the Holy Apostle Paul, at the time of Pentecost, had not yet had his revelation and had not yet begun serving the Lord. Seeing a bearded figure representing all peoples (in the figure of the cosmos) is then the red flag; we're not talking about "literal" scientific facts.

So what are we to do about this? Get all huffy that this image isn't lining up with reality as we see it? Perhaps we can take it on the same terms the author created it by. And perhaps we can do the same for fiction.

Now this is tricky with something like Star Trek. Trek has, at once, a well-established scientific background that all its subsets must adhere to. Simultaneously that background is only "scientific." Some of it is more factual than the rest, especially as series have spanned generations of advancement in our knowledge of how the universe works. So it's all loosey-goosey anyway. The rule by which we measure how flimsy Trek science can be varies from person to person and series to series.

So if we see Discovery more about the people and less about the science...well then, more's the better for us viewers. Because then we can actually enjoy the ride and find the message, rather than getting hung up on our own inconsistent needs for consistency.

26 February 2019

Beatsie Boys Book

I recently finished the Beastie Boys Book (thanks, Justin) and was struck by a number of things that I choose now to share with you.

Foremost in my brain is just how lucky these dudes were. The entirety of the Beatsie career, almost, was predicated on right place-right time: growing up in the birthplace of hip-hop? Check! Being born into permissive families so you can roam NYC clubs at a young age? Check! Finding and befriending the biggest and best early hip-hop group, and their manager? Check! Finding a label during the age of record labels that would give you creative control and a bunch of money? Done deal!

There are more examples, but these guys seriously got a lot of breaks. They were basically just music nerds with the audacity to find and use the resources and talent to make a career out of this nerdery. And that's not a dig; all the breaks and opportunities don't mean a whole lot if you don't latch on to them with both fangs, or have the musicianship to make something worthwhile, which brings me to another observation: MCA.

Even though I consider myself a (quite literally) life-long fan of the Beasties, I had no idea just how important Yauch was to the process. It should've clicked with me after he died, as all of their projects basically stopped with him. But MCA was the dreamer and the doer of the band. He was always pushing them on to the next thing, finding a crazy idea and then actually following through. All three of them wrote a lot of music (Adrock especially, it seems) but in terms of direction and momentum, it was all Yauch. As Adrock and Mike D emphasize time and again, he was the type of person who found wild notions and then actually followed through on them.

Most impressive of all, to me anyways, was the relationship they had with creativity. They always seemed very comfortable with their creativity, with taking risks and running with whatever insane notion came to them (I recall, quite distinctly, after Hello Nasty came out, seeing an ACTUAL infomercial on the ACTUAL paid access channel that they produced to promote the album). I'd say this comes from: (1) starting on a path of professional creative output at an early age and (2) having each other as editors from the beginning. The three of them, along with the rest of the crew that came and went over the years, was like a petri dish of cool ideas and musical freedom and it didn't go wrong because they didn't allow it to go wrong. Because there were three of them. When others got famous and surrounded themselves with enablers, the Beastie Boys had a trinity, a triumvirate, that kept them each grounded and doing what they were supposed to be doing.

Final point: while I don't think Mr. Adam Horovitzt or Michael "Sweet Lou" Diamond are done making things, this book feels like the logical conclusion, the capstone, to the Beatsie Boy legend. As a product in the marketplace it's beautiful and Beastie-ish, full of funny essays, excellent and rare photos, playlists, gear list, and sundry else. As a bit of writing, it's heartfelt and touching, most of all for us nerds who grew up alongside these guys as the cool older brothers we never actually had.

If anything it stands as a monument to a different time and to a different people in a different stage of life when things were simpler.

09 January 2019

Truth Solution

Hey, it's me! I wrote this post in the middle of 2018 as part of a trove of posts I'm sitting on and not releasing (hence the slump this blog has seen). Said posts are in the stasis chamber because I don't want this blog to become a place for political or ecumenical debate; and yet I can't help writing about this stuff as it is where I am these days. This post seemed innocuous enough so I'm posting it now. Hopefully 2019 will mean more writing and publishing projects, maybe even some fiction to post here. Or not. Either way, the train keeps moving. I've no less than a dozen games and stories in the cooker so we'll see if time and energy allow me to complete anything, or publish some long-dormant completed works.


04 September 2018

A Prayer for Writers in the Morning

So what have I been up to? Not a whole lot of writing! Most of what I've written here has been about my faith journey, which I'm not totally comfortable sharing yet. But I'm easing my way back in the saddle and deciding what to focus on and finish next, now that things have slowed down for Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse (we won and ENnie!). Part of that is going through old stuff and sifting what's worth picking back up. In that process I found this "prayer" I wrote several years ago and found amusing. May it encourage those of you who also get up too early to try and do something.

a cup of... by carmine-voleme
a cup of... by carmine-voleme
Awake, o spirit!
Awake, O creative heart!
Let not the devil tempt you back to sloth,
but let the Lord free you for to make fun things.

As such is in the coffee, so let such be with you

Awake, O sleeper, for you believe in the creative process
and, foolishly, that it is best done early in the morning
So, awake, young sloth, and make fun things and write stories no one will read
Let thine fingers fly with the speed of eagles
Eagles who are still half-asleep and on their first cup

Awake and let not the internet send thee into distraction
for cats are cute and Facebook is irritating, but in a fun way.
Let good things come from your hands
and not stupid