Friday, May 14, 2021

Jupiter's Legacy is the first superhero story I've been exposed to that doubled down on straddling the gulf and conflicts that can arise between generations of people.

I finished watching Jupiter's Legacy on Netflix, and I gotta say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. I guess the show is adapted from a superhero comic book series created by Mark Millar. It's the first time that I'd taken notice of his work, although I guess he has quite a bit of superhero cred having penned Captain America: Civil War and Logan. Those are two stories that I enjoyed very much.

When I first saw the trailer for Jupiter's Legacy, I was going to watch it eventually. But then I heard or read some background information about Mark Millar, and it convinced me that maybe I should make watching the show more of a priority. One of the things I heard was that Netflix was looking at Jupiter's Legacy as a possible entry into the whole "shared-universe" thing. Thus far, I've liked what I've seen of "shared universe" story arcs, so this was an exciting development.

For example, I like what the CW has done with the Arrow-verse (which is now dominated by the Flash), and I like Universal's "Monster Verse" with King Kong and Godzilla. I also like the MCU and I like the DCU as well, even though I think DC would be stronger if it embraced (rather than shunned) its small screen stories. Why actors in movies and actors in television have always had a strained relationship is beyond me. But I think it has to do with a "stigma" that someone who appears on television is not a "real movie star." But are there actually any real "movie" stars today? I personally like to give all the credit of a "thing" being good to the writers and the directors. In the case of television, it is the showrunner that I pay respect to. But actors? Not as much.

Anyway, for all of the above reasons, I got more excited to see Jupiter's Legacy. And then I heard a story about Mark Millar talking with Stan Lee. I guess the two were chatting about Mark's work at Marvel, and Stan encouraged Mr. Millar to branch out on his own to tell his own stories. He said something like "Spiderman and the Avengers are old stuff. Every generation needs its own stories and its own superheroes, and I think you might be the right person to tell those stories." Even if this is paraphrasing (and it is) that would have been a remarkable conversation to have with someone of Stan Lee's magnitude. So Mark Millar took his advice and started doing his own stuff. That really got me interested in taking a deeper look and seeing what's there.

For what its worth, Jupiter's Legacy really does a good job straddling the gulf and conflicts that arise between generations. At the core of the story are these aging superheroes who really want to pass down a nice legacy to a group of youngsters with astounding powers. But "The Code" that they used to police their own activities doesn't fit well with the troubles of a modern world, and it puts them at unnecessary risk from increasing and horrible violence perpetrated by supervillains.

Jupiter's Legacy also happily embraces the dysfunction of families, at how the Superman-figure called the Utopian might actually just be a raging narcissist, and how the kids are riddle with anxieties and depression from being reared by a toxic narcissist. Every "super teen" in the show is pretty much broken in the mental department (neuro-diverse?), only they have tremendous powers and lashing out is incredibly destructive. But it also doesn't go quite the way of Amazon's The Boys which doubles down on the idea that the world is filled with nothing but horrible people. Instead, Jupiter's Legacy spends its eight episodes carefully convincing us that if we want a better world, we need to put in the hard work to make it happen, even if a lot of that work no longer makes good sense. With the end of the eighth episode (and season finale) I feel like the table is set for some bigger storylines, and some family drama that will end up changing the world of Jupiter's Legacy in a very interesting way.

Anyone else watch Jupiter's Legacy and care to share their opinions?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

What is the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight about anyway?

I read the story of  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight way back in my college days as an undergraduate in the English program at the University of Idaho. For what it's worth, I read it in Middle English, which (if you haven't done so) takes some time to look up all the words and process what they mean. It's not nearly as hard as Old English, which is essentially a foreign language. But English majors want to study English, right? I guess that means "to study the language in all its forms."

So what did I learn? Well, the Green Knight came for a game on Christmas, and as games go, it was "strike me in whatever way you want now, and in a year I get to do the same to you." Gawain does so, and the Green Knight does not die because magic saves his life. So, Gawain is honor bound to seek out the Green Knight to conclude their game in one year's time. When he does so, he comes across a castle where the Lord of the Castle's wife seduces Gawain over the course of multiple days. In the end, it was all a trick arranged by Morgan Le Fay to test King Arthur's knights and notably, to test Gawain who was known to be the purest of them (Gawain is caught with the Lady's green girdle if I remember correctly). Oh, and the Lord of the Castle was the Green Knight.

The interesting stuff unfolds as follows:

The Knights of the Round Table are supposed to be brave, but other than Arthur or Gawain, they're all too afraid to strike the Green Knight in any way when he comes calling.

Gawain straight up attempts to murder the knight (but the knight was asking for this). And this isn't a problem because knights were all murdering bastards anyway (all sewn up into the romanticism of the age). 

Gawain is warned that there will be repercussions for his actions. However, Gawain's hubris leads him to believe he can easily kill this obviously supernatural visitor, and thus not have to worry about consequences. It's some heavy-handed Christianity in the lesson of eternal justice.

Gawain knows he's going to die if he goes to meet the knight, but he does so anyway to keep his duty and his promise.

With regard to the Lord of the Castle's wife, Gawain is supposed to refuse the Lady's advances. But it's not just that. He's supposed to do so in a way that doesn't offend her. So he ends up compromising by allowing some kissing to happen.

Despite having come all this way to die, Gawain doesn't want to die, and he breaks his promises by accepting her allegedly magic girdle and not telling her husband about it. The magic girdle is supposed to keep his head attached when the Green Knight goes to behead him (and instead it will be the girdle that falls). 

Gawain assures the Green Knight that he's the most honorable knight in the kingdom. However, we've seen him break his oath before in the story, so this is really more a commentary on the inadequacy of Camelot than on Gawain's virtue.

The tester is Morgan le Fay. Technically she's the bad guy and Arthur and his boys are supposed to be the good guys. However, in the story it is Morgana who is holding the knights up to their impossible standards of virtue, and they don't pass. Camelot is always shown as possessing lots of chauvinistic hubris.

Anyway, there never has been a good adaptation of this story, so I'm glad that one is on its way. Did I picture Dev Patel playing Gawain? Not really, but he will do. Because Gawain is described as being innocent and virtuous to the point of naïveté, I think I personally would have went with a wet-behind-the-ears teenager who knows nothing of the world other than his own cockiness. An annoying thirteen or fourteen year old would do. Keeping with the idea that young people did very adult things back in the dark ages, this wouldn't have been out of line. But finding someone that young who could actually act would probably be a challenge that is impossible in the age of Covid.

If you haven't seen the trailer, I've linked it below for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, May 10, 2021

I have thoughts regarding the Saturday Night Live episode that aired this weekend with host Elon Musk.

This weekend, I (along with millions of others) watched the Saturday Night Live appearance of Elon Musk as a host of the show. There are lots of people who hate this guy for his anti-trans and anti-masking statements. He's managed to accrue an amount of wealth that is staggering to even imagine, and by being the poster-child for that kind of income inequality is to invite comparisons to a Smaug-like dragon sitting on a pile of treasure while others die of poverty (this is completely true by the way).

He makes weird choices when naming babies. He's also a hypocrite (being high on Joe Rogan's podcast while representing Tesla and then terminating the employment of anyone who dares to show up high to work at any of his companies). This last one is (honestly) more about middle management gate-keeping and policies to protect company assets (H.R. departments, risks, and whatnot) than it is about the ethics of employment. But still, there's lots to hate this guy about.

On the flip side, Elon is pushing forward car electrification, space exploration, and solar energy, which seem to be all good for humanity. He's used his PayPal money to kind of push humanity in what I think is the right direction. As the old expression goes, "You can't break an omelet without cracking some eggs." In this case, there's a whole lot of egg cracking going on in our society right now. When you think of those eggs as the lives and fortunes of human beings and find empathy for them, then I understand why people are angry and upset with Elon Musk.

I (personally) don't know how to feel about him. He isn't important to me. I don't look up to him, but I also don't hate him. He's just a person who seems to have an enormous pile of money that should be distributed more evenly. But we have a society that (by and large) does not have the power or teeth to do that kind of thing without violent revolution. And as I'm not a revolutionary, I guess I'll just take the fact that he's some kind of celebrity that I should know about if I'm going to take any interest in this world of ours.

So, how did he do as a host for Saturday Night Live? Well, I will tell you that I was surprised when he outed himself as someone with Aspergers. I had no idea that he was on the autism spectrum. Additionally, I'd like to point out that the term "aspergers" is dated, but I get what he was trying to say in his opening monologue. He's also not an actor, and that is obvious in the stiffness with which he delivered his lines. I've read online that some people would like him to donate money to researching neurodiversity, and (I think) this comes from a place of wanting to find a cure for it.

However, there probably isn't a "cure" for autism. Rather, research is usually focused around trying to understand what it is and to teach others solutions and methods that work when dealing with the challenges this disability presents. The idea is that if neurotypical people can alter how they interact with a neurodiverse person, it will empower "neurodiverse" people to lead productive lives in our society. In other words, it's not them that needs to change. It is you, and that means work on your part.

It sounds all good on paper, but when I recall how hard it was to "teach" people to respect others enough to wear masks (and it didn't happen and resulted in violence), I honestly don't know if we can teach at least a third to half of the population how to deal with neurodiverse people in a way that is respectful. It feels impossible, and I'd say, "Good luck with that, and I hope you don't get punched or shot by someone who doesn't want you to impinge on their freedom to be an asshole."

As far as Elon on SNL is concerned, it looked like he was trying his best to be funny. It fell flat a few times, but I laughed out loud during the Chad on Mars section, where Elon got to play himself. I think that was the funniest skit. Here's a link to it for your viewing pleasure.

If you don't know who Chad is when referencing Saturday Night Live, Chad is a recurring character played by Pete Davidson. He's supposed to be an apathetic, easily distracted youth with limited conversational skills whose catchphrase is "okay." He also seems to be rather stupid, and he is not moved at all by grandiose displays of love. For some reason, I find the "Chad" sketches to be funny, because (I think) I know people in real life that behave in this manner.

Did anyone else watch Saturday Night Live this weekend? If so, I'd like to hear what you thought about it.

Friday, May 7, 2021

I like to use the group texting function for my Dungeons & Dragons game to talk about deep issues on which I ruminate.

 I like to submit questions to people in my social group on a regular basis to help me figure out the important issues of the day (or to just make sense of my crazy thoughts). One of the wisest people I associate with (who also plays Dungeons & Dragons with me) responded to two of my questions that I posed on Thursday. The first was in the form of a hypothesis, and here it is:

Many psychiatrists who I consider to be professionals within their field have diagnosed former President Trump as a psychopath. I agree with this diagnosis, based upon the things I have read. However, I also don't think he is beyond the norm if you were to consider how white males behaved in the 1940's and 1950's. So my question to my group was: If former president Trump (by modern standards) is a psychopath, does that mean that a lot of the men from the 1940's and 1950's would also be diagnosable as psychopaths? Does this mean that we are literally the children and grandchildren of psychopaths?

Just so you know, my group is pretty liberal. We have one or two conservatives kicking around, but I purposely exclude them from these discussions, because there is no point talking with them. I can learn nothing from them as I've lived around them in Utah and Idaho my entire life. I already know what they will say and can write it down ahead of time. They also possess a lot of "white fragility," which is a term that was not coined by me, but you can look it up on the internet if you like. Still interested in the answer I got? Then read on.

Most of my group was silent on this particular question. But Geneva responded with this (and I wanted to share): 

"I think Trump, and many of his peers both historical and modern, are narcissists rather than psychopaths. Here's why: at the malignant end of the cluster B personality scale, the difference between someone with antisocial personality disorder (what used to be called sociopathy/psychopathy) and a malignant narcissist is that the narcissist cares about his public image. The person with antisocial personality disorder doesn't give a crap what other people thing. Trump and his ilk care deeply what others think, and lash out with rage if they feel that their outward facing image as a dominant "alpha wolf" has been compromised. The psychopath is less likely to act out publicly. He'll simply have you killed."

I find this very interesting, not only because of what Geneva had to say, but if she was right, then the people of the 1940's and 1950's who were white, straight, and male probably possessed diagnosable personality disorders like narcissism in above average quantities. But does the shoe fit? How would this compare to my own family? Well, knowing what I know and how mom and dad lived their lives, I can say with 100% certainty that (in my opinion) my father could probably have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (using modern standards). It explains so much in the terrors I experienced growing up, and the violence I saw within my own family.

I love that we have explanations and words to describe these disorders. It is so empowering, and it has allowed me to understand (and properly frame) events that I recall from childhood and teenaged years. Being able to understand behavior has helped me with healing. Have your life experiences been similar? Are you (as well) grateful for the words that we have available today to describe behaviors? If so, I'd like to hear about them in the comments. And have a nice weekend. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

In the May Insecure Writer's Support Group post I ask you to consider writing a small vignette for a character prior to including them in your next story and see how that goes.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and it's time for an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! If this interests you, please sign up at this website HERE.

I usually answer the monthly question, but I'm skipping it this month. Instead I wanted to talk about a really fun writing experiment orchestrated by the players in my weekly Dungeons & Dragons group. I challenged my group to email me 400-500 word vignettes about their characters doing "a thing." Picture this as a slice of their character's lives, and you will have envisioned what I asked for perfectly. I told them that my intention was to read these out loud to the group, so if they send one in, they are to be prepared for others to hear what you have written.

The first one that emailed me was regarding a pirate character, and it was called "knife juggling." In the story, the lady's pirate character is having a romance with another in-game player (Lailata), but that character's player is courting "madness" by embracing Cthulhu-esque gods (Lailata is obsessed with the ancient power of the Great Old Ones). Captain Ava (the name of the pirate character), was simply out juggling knives in the morning (its an activity she does) outside their encampment deep within the hot jungles of a place called "The Island of the Snakes." It's a hostile and unforgiving land where dinosaurs and other things are roaming, and where danger is right around the corner. However, it is also a place that can suddenly surprise you with its astounding beauty.

Anyway, Captain Ava was juggling her knives and reminding herself that you should never catch a falling knife. And (of course) the romance with the character who is courting madness has become a bit of a "falling knife." But there is also the added problem of detaching oneself from a character like that, because "just maybe" there's enough there to keep them from spinning off into utter darkness. So, she kind of feels trapped in a relationship that is not as fulfilling as it used to be. Anyway, it was a very interesting read and the whole table enjoyed it.

I've had other snippets emailed to me. One character (who is having a romance with the hag Baba Yaga) wrote a dream about a world that he left behind, and how he now accepts people for who they are on the inside rather than their outward appearance. A third story I received was about a woman learning how to deep dive in the ocean, when the ocean came alive to show her how. A fourth story was about a paladin being taught how to gamble and play a game called Three Dragon Ante by a roguish sort that was about as direct opposite of a person as one can be from this paladin. The fifth story I got was about two royals who are betrothed to one another, eating pie, and figuring out that neither of them likes to eat cheese with pie.

I guess if there's anything I could say about these stories it's that we've all enjoyed them. However, they have also strengthened the connections each person had to their character, and they've made their  characters come alive in the minds of each other. As important as a plotline is to the integral part of writing fiction, I now feel like these "vignettes" could be a better way to flesh out a character even before you begin to include them in a larger story (like a novel or a series of novels). I also might suggest that if you are feeling stuck, to maybe crank out 400-500 words about a thing in the life of that character. Make it come alive by focusing in on a single small event in their lives. You never know where this exercise might lead you, or how it may affect your next writing project.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine!

Have a great day, everyone.

Monday, May 3, 2021

I had no idea that Hawaiian rainbows were the most spectacular on Earth but there's science to explain why.

Having never been to Hawaii, I was fascinated to learn this weekend that the remote island chain produces the most spectacular and intense visible rainbows in the world. The scientific article went on to explain why. If you are curious, I'll explain what I learned.

First, and as a result of its isolation, Hawaii's remoteness means that the air is exceptionally clean and free of air pollution, continental dust, aerosols, and pollen. This doesn't just mean more rainbows, but it also means more rainbows with purer and more defined colors. Aerosols in the air in other locations of the Earth refract the color as the wavelengths approach the eye, diverting some of them and reflecting back only the color in the wavelength specific to the aerosol in question. This results in more muddled and less intense colors.

It can also work the opposite way with sunrises and sunsets, as aerosols can "filter" light already bending around the curvature of the earth to intensify one or two colors as they absorb the wavelengths from the white light and reflect sunset-y colors to the eye.

I also learned that rainbows are so important in Hawaii that their native language has different words to describe them. "Uakoko" means "earth-clinging" rainbows, "kāhili" means "standing rainbow shafts", "punakea" means "barely visible" rainbows, and "ānuenue kau pō" means "moonbows." These are just a few terms to describe the popular optical phenomenon.

A second reason for Hawaii's spectacular rainbows is that, being out in the middle of the ocean, its weather is heavily influenced by northeast trade winds. This causes frequent rain showers with clear skies appearing between those showers. Warm sea surface temperatures heat the air close to the surface of the ocean while the tops of clouds is cooled by the proximity to outer space, resulting in deeper rain showers in the morning that produce rainbows in time for breakfast.

A third reason is that Hawaii has big mountains which redirect trade winds to assist in cloud formation.

Now that I know all this, the big question is whether or not I will ever get over to Hawaii to actually see any of this. I'm not sure of that answer. I don't like to travel all that much, as mostly my mind sees a new place as just a change of scenery for things I do everyday, which is eat, go to the bathroom, entertain myself, and sleep. I've often found that I sleep much better in my own bed, than I do when traveling. So traveling really is just a change of scenery for things I do everyday but throw in "bad sleep," which means being tired all the time. I also enjoy reading. But I feel like if I went to a new place, and blew the money to do so comfortably, that reading a book would be a horrible way to experience it. 

So, anyway, the jury is still out on that question. However, if any of you have been to Hawaii (who are reading my post today), would you confirm please on whether the rainbows were the most spectacular you have ever seen? Inquiring minds (like mine) want to know.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Jeff Goldblum is going to play D&D now which really does show you how much reach Dungeons & Dragons has in the world.

I'm continually amazed by the celebrities that are piling and/or coming out of the closet regarding Dungeons & Dragons. I always thought that my nerdy and geeky hobby was something to be ashamed of. I remember in the not-so-distant past when I was sitting with an attractive guy I was interested in and his cool friends were in the kitchen mixing drinks and making mojitos. They asked, "Where did you two meet? I'm really curious because you are so different." That was their way of letting me know I was fat and ugly without being rude and to let the guy I was interested in know that he was hot. At least that's how I read it.

So, naturally, I answered immediately in a loud voice that filled the house. "We play Dungeons & Dragons together. That's how we met." The girls preparing the mojitos looked at each other and were like..., "Really? I never would know...guessed that you played that weird game (insert name of male friend here)." He (of course) was kind of embarrassed. He shrugged and said, "Yeeaaahh....well...I kinda love it." Girls with blank stares..."Uh...okay then. Anyone want drinks?" It was just awkward, but I kinda loved it.

Fast forward to today. People are still judgy about D&D, however, they get less so every day because the list is long of famous people who play this game: Vin Diesel, Asa Butterfield, Wil Wheaton, Henry Cavill, Joe Manganiello, Matthew Lillard, Mike Myers, Jon Favreau, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elon Musk, Felicia Day, Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper, Kevin Smith, Stephen King, James Franco, Patton Oswalt, Chris Hardwick, Dame Judi Dench, Deborah Ann Woll, Ashley Johnson, Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and the late Robin Williams.

Well, I guess now Jeff Goldblum is going to join us. He's going to be playing D&D as part of a podcast called Dark Dice that starts on May 12. His role? Playing the eleven sorcerer Balmur. Dungeons & Dragons is undergoing a kind of renaissance, and it's been very interesting to participate and be a part of it as the game grows and sucks in new players.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Mortal Kombat movie on HBO Max didn't take enough time with its characters to allow us to feel anything for them.

I watched the latest edition of the Mortal Kombat movie, and it was entertaining. But it also wasn't good. As pointed out by a friend, the fighting was mostly good computer generated graphics/images. However, the dialogue and the story were very sub-par. They did try to insert lines from the video game to pay homage to their source material, but these attempts mostly came across as cheesy and stilted. Examples were Kung Lau saying, "Flawless Victory," and Kano declaring, "Kano Wins!" Kano (although I don't like the character) was easily the one that had the most personality in the show. Everyone else was either a bad actor, or they were concentrating on being broody and serious and had no time for things like emotion.

They also left the storylines behind and had the characters trying to kill each other off before the actual tournament started. The movie never actually made it to the iconic tournament at all, preferring to have its battles in many regular world locations. As an example of this, Sonya fought Kano in her mobile home trailer park. So, although I was impressed with the appearance and the diversity of the cast and their dedication to martial arts and these characters, the script kind of sold them short.

But rather than say, "Video games are difficult to adapt to make good movies," I want to take a moment and explain why I think Mortal Kombat could be a great movie if the person with the right vision and talent came along to fix it.

Also, I'm not saying that this person is me. I know next to nothing about what it takes to make a movie. However, I have ideas regarding this franchise and why it is failing. So here's what I think is wrong with all of the movie adaptations thus far and how I would go about fixing them, were I to be a paid consultant.

Mortal Kombat has an enormous storyline. It is easily as complicated as The Lord of the Rings and as nuanced as Marvel, with many characters intertwining with others to form entire story arcs. So, why are directors and movie makers trying to hammer all of that into a 90-120 minute film? This is one of those times where you want to give each character (or a couple of intertwined characters) their own movie first. Sonya Blade and Jax should have their own movie. Liu Kang and Kung Lao should also have their own movie. The same goes for Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Shang Tsung should have his own movie as well as Johnny Cage, Katana and her sister Melina, and Baraka and Kano. Each of these characters has a fascinating storyline, and the characters should be approached as superheroes (or villains) and not as video game characters. We can make Captain Marvel look cool shooting beams of energy out of her hands, because it's a slow build to the reveal and it is handled in a really cool way. Maybe the same kind of delicate hand should be used with Sonya Blade, so that we slowly buy into these characters and they don't come across as cheesy.

It could also be explored in television via the same way that Disney Plus has gone with its characters like the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. A mini-series devoted to telling the story of Sub-Zero and Scorpion (easily the best part of the Mortal Kombat movie that is shown in the first 7 minutes). The story also needs time to develop Raiden all by his lonesome, so that he is shown to be connected to the protection of Earth. This would be similar to a Thor treatment, where Raiden gets his entire own movie (or a mini-series) to develop his powers and show what he can do.

What I'm saying in all of this is that the Mortal Kombat adaptations are not taking enough time to allow the story of the huge tournament to unfold. It's a great idea, and I think it would make a fantastic film if the directors of these movies would just slow down and let us get to know these characters before they are trying to kill each other. There's enough of a fanbase to this that I think it could be really popular. Who knows? Maybe it could even be the next big franchise outside of Marvel.

Monday, April 26, 2021

I kind of like the character of Sharon Carter now.

Here's your obligatory warning that there are spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ahead.

I just finished watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney Plus. I enjoyed it less than I did WandaVision. However, I still liked what happened in the show. And I think it's because of Sharon Carter's heel turn. Honestly, before this mini-series, Sharon Carter was a nothing burger of a character. She was the niece of Peggy Carter who was in love with Steve Rogers. She did share a little on-screen heat with Steve Rogers, but it was brief and made awkward by the fact that we all knew that Steve Rogers had been in love with her aunt. Being long lived and more or less in possession of a version of eternal youth, that seems to be a problem for the gods of Marvel more than its mortals.

That being said, we all need to remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. is toast. In it's place is S.W.O.R.D. So Sharon's whole purpose for even being in the story was gone. The previous storyline from Civil War also made this woman an enemy of the state. Sharon was a wanted woman because she stole the Captain America shield and the Falcon flight suit to aid Rogers and Wilson as they rebelled against the Sokovia Accords to protect Bucky Barnes. And then she got blipped. When she came back, she had to run. Sam and Bucky were pardoned and she wasn't. Hawkeye and Antman got deals, and she didn't. I love that she's possibly harboring a lot of bitterness and rage at this point.

Under circumstances like that, it's understandable for this character to take a dim view of patriotism and become increasingly disillusioned and self-interested. Sharon's turn as a potential villain now (the Power Broker) is a welcome change. The MCU has been wildly successful at creating an interconnected universe, but it still often feels like consequences of individual movies don't really affect events down the line. Tony and Bruce destroyed entire city blocks, and the only consequence to them was that they had to fill out a little more paperwork before beating up the bad guys going forward.

I hope that we see Sharon in future movies, camping it up a bit, with a "Live, Laugh, Love" sign in her office, organizing Hawaiian Shirt Fridays, and stuff like that...all while selling out and undermining the country that stabbed her in the back. It'd be cool if she ends both Bucky and Sam in some good story arcs. However, she will probably get some powerful repercussions once the full depth of her treachery has been brought to light. In any case, she is now a very interesting character, and I like it.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Even if its visuals are terrible by modern standards Babylon 5 is still a series that is worth watching.

I stumbled across Babylon 5 the other day while looking for something to stream on the t.v. while I painted on my 3D printed Samurai/Japanese Castle that I ordered. I had watched the series back in the 90's (yes, I'm that old), and I remembered that (at the time) I thought it was really good. In rewatching it, I'm still impressed by its story, and the things that it tried to do for science fiction. I think it's an amazing series, yet there are (of course) some things that haven't aged well.

By today's standards, the visuals are terrible. Additionally, the costumes and alien designs are creative, but they would not hold up to the things that we see in a series like Game of Thrones. At the same time though, the alien ship designs are so imaginative that I wonder what they would look like if this series was rebooted for a modern audience by something like Netflix or HBO Max.

The real strength of Babylon 5 is the way that it is one continuous story. It isn't episodical like its contemporary, Star Trek: The Next Generation. And the first four seasons are all a slow boil for the Shadow and Vorlon war whose story is visited through the use of time travel and the fate of the Babylon 4 station. Furthermore, the time travel shows the effects that the Babylon 5 crew has on the history of the galaxy. You get to see aspects from characters in the first season which are only answered in season four.

I think what I like most about what Babylon 5 gave to us is that the whole story was plotted thoroughly (all of its seasons), before they even started to film the first episode. This is actually what made Game of Thrones great. The whole thing (more or less) had been plotted out by George R.R. Martin, whether or not he'd actually finished writing any books. He still had the lore and his notes, and he knew who was going to end up on the Iron Throne. The same goes for Babylon 5.

And the people who put up the funding for shows in today's world (of 2021) could learn a thing or two from Babylon 5. For one, the specter of renewal makes a lot of shows suck. Every season that is produced could be the last in the series, so a lot of shows cannot take the risks that Babylon 5 did in order to tell its story. At the same time, the invention of the 13 episode season (I think) has been a good one for television as a whole, because it has forced writers to cut out filler episodes that usually made for a 22 episode season. So now you get a lot more tight storytelling, and as a result, each episode of a good series is typically "movie level" quality.

Anyway, I've been enjoying revisiting the series, and I was quite overjoyed to see that it was available to stream on HBO Max. Anyone else here a fan of Babylon 5?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

This Ghostbusters Afterlife T.V. spot is hilarious.

I saw this Ghostbusters: Afterlife t.v. spot and it absolutely put a smile on my face. I think it's the dark humor, with the "Stay Puft" marshmallows roasting each other and spearing each other with skewers. It's been a while since I saw the original Ghostbusters but I think that because Ray (Dan Aykroyd's character) chose the form of Gozer to be the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, that it has to remain in this form forever? Is that correct? Also, Paul Rudd is an actor that always brings a smile to my face. He's great in everything.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Our very society is a sponge dripping with the urine of toxicity created by abusers and their ilk.

2020 was the year when all the crap hit the fan. But it was also the year that a lot of us realized we actually have nothing in common with other people. We had suspected it all along and there were red flags...but they were easy to ignore. For example, there were the HOA's that most people deal with. Some people actually love those things; others hated them. But more often than not, I was warned (when house shopping), "You won't want to live in that neighborhood. The HOA is pretty strict." But...they didn't know that I was a person that liked strict things, because I believe that people need to be held accountable for the crap that they do. In any event...suffice it to say...none of us were ever on the same page. And things that you thought "everyone hated" kept sticking around. For example, if everybody hated HOA's...why did they exist. The answer was a bitter pill to swallow: a lot of people actually liked them. Hmmm...interesting, right?

The same can be said of mass shootings. As a society, we have the means to deal with them. But the truth of the matter is a lot more complicated than that. A lot of people don't mind them at all if it means that they can keep their guns. It's a small price to pay. Additionally...those same people...they don't want those guns to hunt. It was never about that. They just want the option to do the unthinkable...if it ever comes down to it. But none of them say that. They still want to hide behind a veneer of civility, but their hearts are (and always were) filled with hate.

When 2020 came along though, it pulled back the sheets and exposed everything. We suddenly saw how actually bigoted and racist people were because they could be unapologetic about it. We saw terrible people just go on being terrible, and there was no "shaming" them into getting them to behave. The Covid 19 response was an absolute disaster, and we saw just how little empathy and how much selfishness pervades this country from top to bottom. It can never be unseen.

This x-ray vision that has exposed everyone has permeated every facet of society. For example, here in Salt Lake City, they can't find workers for $15.00 per hour. Shockingly, no one is signing up. I have Republican friends that say, "It's all the stimulus money. Why work when you can get money for free?" I respond, "No that's wrong. Why work for you for crap wages and run down their bodies when you should be paying $30.00 per hour to start for even the most basic job? That's a better question. And if you or your organization cannot afford to pay that, it's my opinion that your organization doesn't deserve to exist because it was built upon exploiting others for profit."

This of course, gets a lot of shocked looks, and, "Damn! I didn't know you were extreme Left in your views!" As an aside...that comment makes me laugh, because (apparently) getting paid a living wage and having healthcare makes me "extreme left." Something about 2020 made it easier to call people out on this kind of grifting...this kind of exploitation...and now we all see it.

I see it in games too. The liars, the narcissists, the cheaters, and the control freaks stand out like they've got a big red "X" painted on their foreheads. You see it in what other people define as "fun." I got this post from the D&D Facebook group I belong to (it boggles my mind that this guy was having fun because this is not how I would define "fun"):

"Proud GM moment. For the last 5 months I had my group fighting monsters and other servants of evil all the while fighting off curses that were slowly taking over their bodies. They also earned money and were able to purchase magic items that they wanted. This last session I dropped the bomb on them. Upon returning back from cleaning out a vampire nest, the group is greeted by their superior who thanks them for destroying all the rebel factions that would have threatened the servants of the Deep Gods plans to bring the all powerful Cthulhu to the world. He then changes into a monster, their magic items stop working, and they discover that the curses that they fought to remove from their bodies were actually symbiotes trying to protect them from being brain slaves. Then they all essentially died."

If you don't know why this is a terrible idea to do in a game, but would probably make a good story for a novel or a movie, then we are definitely not on the same page. But I have no doubt that this guy will probably struggle to find players who want to play in the future, and he will be shocked and wonder why. "But I'm so good. People know that my games are difficult." And he will bitch at how the new system put out by Wizards of the Coast (owners of D&D) coddle the players (it doesn't). "I remember back in the day, the game was hard!" No no remember back in the day that you could be a complete asshole and abuse people and waste their time and they sat there and took it because they secretly wanted your approval and mistook your abuse as a challenge. I would cap that comment off by saying, "You don't understand how the game is played, you don't know what fun is, and your games are incredibly short because you see it as you against them and you can't run powerful characters, because your brain is too small to come up with challenges. So you prefer this dark fantasy crapola that you try to spin into some testimony that you are somehow a genius."

Anyway, I wish I could unsee all of the toxic people out there, but I can't. I've been inoculated by surviving 2020, and those antibodies are in my blood. I now have bullshit and gaslighting detectors that run at 110%. Toxic individuals are everywhere. Our very society is a sponge that is dripping with the urine of toxicity created by abusers and their ilk. I wonder if there is anything any of us can do about it. The answer seems murky at best.

Friday, April 16, 2021

It blows my mind that illustrated comic books in full color were sold so cheaply in the middle of last century.

When I think that comic books in the mid 20th century used to be like twelve cents, I'm kind of blown away by that. If you account for inflation, that's like $1.32 in today's dollars. These were publications that had hand-drawn art. They were colorized, and many of the art panels were packed full of details. I recently finished an art piece myself. Admittedly, it is way more detailed than what many comic book panels have. However, it took me months to draw it. Comic book artists crank out these things like they are nothing, which really makes me appreciate how talented they all are.

But twelve cents? How was that even possible? A book today that is an illustrated edition can run into the hundreds of dollars. Comic books never had illustrated editions because the whole book was illustrated. I would also argue that distribution nationwide of these things was a marvel of its time as well. Imagine how much it would cost you to get something distributed to stores nationwide in today's dollars. Yet the founders of the comic book industry, like Stan Lee, were able to get this kind of thing done in an obviously affordable way that actually allowed them to pay talent a living wage.

And what about color? I would argue that it is cheaper and easier to get access to color printing in the modern world than it has ever been. But how could you print out entire comic books consisting of ten or more pages in full color for less than 12 cents (or a $1.32 today). It actually couldn't be done at all.

Anyway, it's just a random thought I had regarding art and how cheaply many artists work. They/we spend days and even months toiling away at something, and it ends up looking great, but I doubt if all that many actually make a dime on all that work. Art is cheap, and comic book art must have been cheap and easy to do (because extreme talent made it easy) or there's no way an entire industry could have risen from it. All those characters from Spider-Man to Galactus to Superman to Wonder Woman and Black Manta all had a unique look that originated in an artist's head, was put to paper, story-boarded, colored, and then printed for mass consumption for less than you can buy practically anything in today's world.

That's just nuts. I know that a lot of comic books from the Golden Age are worth some money these days, especially if they feature "first appearances" by famous superheroes, and they are in good condition. However, I'm going to put a controversial opinion out there: they should have been worth a lot of money when they were first printed. The amount of effort that some artists put into these could never have been rewarded with the proper financial compensation (if they only charged 12 cents for a book). 

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

I cannot possibly live long enough to read all of the books on my ever growing list.


As most of you out there, I read a lot of books. However, I legitimately want to read more books than I possibly can in a lifetime, and being almost fifty, it makes me depressed that I won't finish them all. Here are just some that I want to read or am in the process of reading. In other words, I have them cued up.

For a while now, I've been enjoying Raymond E. Feist Riftwar books. But, I'm nearing the end of that lengthy list, and I started looking forward to what I wanted to read once I finished, and that's what led me to this post. So, when I get done with Riftwar, I'm going to read Ready Player: Two. I liked the first book, and the second one has been on my shelf for a while. There are also three novels in the Legends of the First Empire that I need to work through to finish that series off (it is by author Michael J. Sullivan). I want to start over with the Dune series to both refresh my memory and to push past God Emperor of Dune and finish what Herbert wrote as well as delve into some of the novels that have been put out by his son to see if any of those are any good.

I want to possibly revisit the Shannara books by Terry Brooks. There are dozens of them now that he's been publishing, and the last one I read was decades ago. I'm going to pick up after the book, Morgawr by Terry Brooks. I think that list has some 21 books in it alone, so I may not go too deeply and skip a bunch. But I am curious as I've enjoyed a lot of his world-building in the past.

I want to read the Demon Cycle books by Peter V. Brett. I've heard good things about these novels and there are like six or seven of them that I'd like to enjoy. I also want to re-read the Stephen King Dark Tower books (I think there are seven). I read most of them as they came out, which won't be the same as reading them as a binge so that the story is super fresh in my brain. Later this year the last book of the Expanse gets released. It is appropriately called Leviathan Falls. I guess we shall see if the human race can stand up to the aliens that wiped out the creators of the protomolecule.

There's some Piers Anthony books I want to finish that got added to a series after I thought he was done with it. I read them in my youth, and the series was originally called the "Apprentice Adept" series. I've read three of them but there are at least four more that continue the story. So, I plan on finding out what those tales have in them.

There's also the second Chronicles of Amber that deal with Corwin's son, Merlin, that I haven't read. Those are written by Roger Zelazny, and I'd like to see what those stories are about since I enjoyed the first Chronicles of Amber very much. I'd like to read some Anne McCaffery. I've never read any of her stuff, and it feels like I should get that out of the way. 

There's a George Romero book about the Living Dead that I want to read that is sitting on my shelf at home. So gotta get to that sometime this year. I'd like to read the Ringworld series by Larry Niven. I've been intending to delve into that for some time now, and will be ordering the books soon.

Anyway, it seems like I've got the next five years of books planned out already, and it seems a bit daunting. Any of you out there have an ever expanding shelf of books that you really want to read?

Monday, April 12, 2021

There are a lot of clichés about dragons but are dragons themselves cliché?

This is a gigantic dragon miniature that comes painted that is definitely not a cliché

Dragons have been a part of fantasy storytelling for a long time. In addition, they are in mythology and folklore the world round. George R.R. Martin used them (he originally didn't want to but was persuaded by someone he knew that it would be cool). They appear in video games, in Dungeons and Dragons, and they are used in a titles for fictional characters. One example of this is Dracula, who is Vlad Dracul, member of the Order of the Dragon. There are also characters in Mortal Kombat who can fatally kill others by summoning flames that look like a giant dragon, or they can channel the power of a dragon. In China, there is even a year of the dragon.

There are also many clichés about dragons themselves. They are greedy, clannish, they hoard wealth, they are very old (practically immortal), cunning, evil, they like to capture princesses, and when they pop up in stories it tends to be either about "the last dragon" or "a single dragon egg that somehow is alive." They are also (nearly always) extremely powerful.

There are also the creatures who are clearly inspired by dragons. Godzilla and King Ghidorah strike me as "dragon-inspired." And practically every fictional setting with a hint of fantasy has some version of a dragon. There are even some in Star Wars...krayt dragon anyone?

So, with all of these thousands (if not millions) of stories in which dragons play a part, I'm wondering if the monster itself is a cliché and should be avoided by writers. I think that at first we all need to know what a cliché is. The dictionary defines it as a phrase or an opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. So, a dragon is neither a phrase or an opinion. But it is a creature that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. Another definition of cliché is a stereotype or electrotype. When I think about it, there are lots of fire-breathing dragons, and I would say that this is a stereotype. But the ones without any kind of breath weapon do show a little originality in thinking. I mean, that does seem unusual, right?

In any event, I think that for a thing to be truly a cliché, that it must be irritating. And I don't think that dragons (for most people) will ever be irritating. As much as I get tired of seeing them in fiction, once I accept that the dragon is there I usually start to think of how cool it is first. And this is true in Dungeons & Dragons as well. In that tabletop roleplaying game, dragons are even a part of the title as well as being infused into every corner of the worldbuilding. I occasionally think, "Ah it's just another dragon." But then I see the really cool illustration that someone does of it and then the miniature comes out and it's super detailed and looks awesome and I think, "Okay...there's nothing cliché about this now."

But that may be just me. So, I'm curious and am going to pose the question to any of you out there that might be reading my words. Do you think dragons are cliché, and would you ever consider putting them into your stories? I look forward to reading your comments.

Friday, April 9, 2021

I'm struggling as to why I should care of what happens to my estate after I'm gone.

I have a hard time making sense of how a "Will" or "End of Life Planning" are applicable to me. This year I will be fifty years old. I'm single and have developed no loving attachments. I have no pets. My only parent will die of old age probably in the next ten years. I'm atheist, so I believe whole-heartedly that when I die that I have no afterlife. I just become nothing, which is what I believe I was before I was born. I won't care whether or not I'm buried, cremated, fed to sharks, dropped in a hole with no marker, scattered through space, or whatever. I'll be dead, and that is that. There is no caring after death in my particular view of life and how it works (science and all that). Some people can think of some very creative scenarios of what might be considered "desecrating remains," but in hearing any of these and the "if you don't plan, it could happen to you..." my response still never changes: I won't care. I'll be dead.

And although I have friends, I see no reason at this point why any of them should benefit from just having met me and watched a few movies with me while they pursued their own families and relationships and always put me on the back burner to anything that had higher priority. None of them ever came even close to making a "sacrifice" for me unless you want to count bringing me a bowl of soup when they had leftovers. I never faulted them for putting me as a low priority either, especially true of the ones who are unhitched. They gotta get out there and try to find support, perhaps an old-fashioned "meal ticket" or other such thing to bolster their income (sugar daddy or sugar momma anyone?). I can't fault anyone for making those choices. But I wouldn't expect them to want anything from me other than a, "Thanks, it was nice knowing you. If I wasn't dead, I'd miss pizza night."

This has all really come into focus this week as I was reminded of how much my house is worth in an ever-increasing market here in Salt Lake City (we are about to experience San Francisco prices for real estate y'all). If it wasn't for the house, I really wouldn't be worth much. But I've had some people express that I should do my end of life planning "just in case." My response was to laugh comedically (as if they told a joke) and said, "For what? I have no heirs. I don't care what happens after I'm dead, because I'm dead. There doesn't seem to be a point. The state or the Mormon church or anything really can have it all. I won't care."

Then the conversation became very serious. "You don't care what mess is left behind?"

I blinked and then in a less comedic tone said, "Well, there's no mess while I'm living. And when I'm dead I will be yeah, I don't care about any mess. I won't have to sort it out. It won't be a headache for me. I'll be dead, so I won't have headaches."

This was met with derision, revulsion, and even anger directed at me. All for pointing out that, I really won't care when I am dead.

"How could you be so irresponsible? How could you do this?"

Suddenly... a comedic comment had become way too serious. It was a discussion that I feel is not applicable to me (I'd welcome anyone to explain why it is). But there is a price that is paid for never making connections with anyone. I wasn't successful in finding love or finding anyone to care deeply for (at least up to this point in my life). The price I pay for that "lack of ability" is that my whole estate also goes to nothing in particular. I actually won't care what happens to this entire planet after I'm dead. If it gets struck by an asteroid and everything dies...I won't care.

It honestly feels like the people who want me to do end of life planning are trying to "shame me" for not being more attached to the human race. It's like that scene in Game of Thrones where the zealous septa follows Cersei around King's Landing ringing the bell and chanting, "Shame!" I loved it in fiction, but it's bullshit that someone would try to do that to me. I'm a man who's almost fifty. I can do what I want.

I've come to appreciate that life is a very strange thing. And life in capitalist America comes with its own layers, as people battle to try and obtain the "easy life" through inheritance. However, I think that most of the people who strive for this kind of thing are just malignant narcissists who feel entitled to other people's money. In addition, there are those people who do a lot of virtue signaling with regard to money. They say things like, "Money doesn't matter; it's people who matter." And then they live the life of choosing (always) people who are not me because attractiveness and sexiness matter a whole lot in the "fun" department. Look, I get it.

Okay then, I know a few of these folks. However, when the people who do this kind of thing find out that they will not benefit a cent from my death, a different discussion emerges. "Don't you care about me?" My answer, "Sure. I'll buy you dinner tonight." They respond, "I mean...after you're gone. Don't you want me to live a better life?" My (truthful) answer, "I won't care because I'll be dead. So no, I don't think at all of what will happen to you after I'm dead. But I care about you in the present." And then they say, "Well you should care in the future too." And then I say, "Why? Aren't you the person that says you prize people over money? Why is money so important now? If money was always this important, then maybe you should give me more attention than you do and put other people on the back burner. So what is it? Are people more important? Or is money more important? You can't have it both ways."

Anyway, this has become more of a rant than I thought it would be. But it has helped clear my headspace a bit as I struggle to understand why people say and do certain things, and why some may prioritize money over people...and yet say they prioritize (clearly) people over money.  Something is not matching up, and being "on the autism spectrum" it's a thing that I'm having a little trouble sorting out. Maybe in the end, people should just mind their own business unless they are willing (and able) to become a partner or a spouse. In that regard, I'm jealous. People who have found someone don't have to put any thought into whether or not they should do "end-of-life" planning. It should be automatic, as you have loved ones and heirs that are in your interest to help pad their lives going forward. As for us single, unattached folks floating out here bereft of anything even remotely called "attachment," the path beyond death is far more complicated. Maybe I'll just ratchet this whole thing up to being yet another "First World Problem."

If you have any opinions on what I've said above, I'd like to hear them in the comments. Maybe you can help to provide me with a little more clarity as to what I should do and why.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

In the April Insecure Writer's Support Group we are asked about our risk-taking when crafting our stories.

Today is April 7, and it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. It's also "national running day," and I've enrolled in this Healthy Utah program at work. I'm not running. Sadly, my body is incapable of that at the moment. But we have a work thing scheduled for two hours today that will be fun (it's two hours I don't have to be at work). We just need to walk around the park, so I'm looking forward to that.

Now back to the purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group: to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Here's a link to the IWSG if you would like to learn more and sign up.

April 7 question - Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!

In my own writing, I've always been a risk taker. I approach controversial subjects like homosexuality or religion with gleeful abandon. I wouldn't recommend following my footsteps as there is a narrow audience that accepts this kind of thing, and I have received some negative reviews due to the way I choose to write about things. But, I don't care. I'm gonna write what I want to write. I'm also not that serious of a writer. So I think that if you are serious about making writing your career, you should not write about controversial topics. For example, I think that J.K. Rowling would not have survived her writing the things she has regarding transgender people if she wasn't already too big to cancel.

Another thing that I tend to like (when I read) is head hopping. This bugs A LOT OF people, but I've read some good books where the writer head hops around so that you can get different perspectives on the same event. But head hopping is seen as a sign that you are a terrible writer. So, it's weird that I kinda like it.'s a controversial opinion. Maybe, I only like it because the uses where I have encountered it seem to really fit the story. Which means, it's not an accident. So, I would qualify my statement about "head hopping" in that, it's another tool in the toolbox. There may be situations where a scene could be improved by skillful use of this tool.

Anyway, thank you for stopping by my blog. If any of you are doing the A to Z challenge, I hope it is going swimmingly.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The most fascinating aspect of Godzilla versus Kong is the Hollow Earth.

Godzilla versus Kong
landed on HBO Max on Wednesday. So, naturally I decided to watch it that evening. There are spoilers ahead in this post, so take this as your one and only warning and head out if you plan on watching it, and do not want to know any details.

As kaiju films go, I enjoyed this one. However, the people who I watched it with may not have permitted themselves to like the film as much as I did because it was just too stupid. I know that a movie that has a gargantuan radioactive lizard fighting a super ape on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean is not high cinema. But these folks wanted explanations of most things, which I just decided for myself did not need answering.

But, this isn't to say that I don't have questions. On the contrary, there were so many things I saw in the two hour running time that I want answers to, that it creates a kind of frustration in me. This movie, Godzilla versus Kong, felt very much like the end of a story that started with Godzilla a few years ago. And I don't think that Legendary pictures may make more of these, especially given that Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a box office disappointment and Godzilla versus Kong is not going to be breaking any box office records with the country in the grip of the fourth wave of Covid 19.

So here are my questions that I may never get answers to:

1) So the Hollow Earth is a planet within a planet, and it is apparently the ancient home of King Kong's people. Furthermore, Kong's people had a civilization. The place where Kong found the ancient axe of his ancestors looked like it was a throne room surrounded by stadium seating for other massive gorillas of his kind. What happened to those people?

2) What other kinds of kaiju are there in this Hollow Earth? We saw a huge snake like thing with wings like leaves. I'd like to see more of the kaiju that populate this incredible place, where the sky is filled with mountains.

3) Where does the Hollow Earth get its light? There was sunlight down there, and atmosphere. I'd kind of like some crazy fantastical explanations for that, because it is cool.

4) Who made that axe? It looks like it has a blade that is a dorsal fin from a creature the same as Godzilla. Was it an ancestor of Godzilla?

5) Back on the topside (Earth) I have questions about Mecha-Godzilla. Specifically, did they put King Ghidorah's soul in the Mecha-Godzilla? Is that why it went crazy?

6) Godzilla's breath weapon can burn all the way to the Earth's core. That means that Godzilla could literally destroy the Earth if it wanted to. Is it the intention of the makers of these films to suggest that Godzilla is that powerful?

All in all, I enjoyed the film and thought it was too short. I wished they had taken some more time with it, and really showed us/taken us on a tour of the Hollow Earth. That was a fascinating place, and it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

I'm painting a 3D printed Japanese castle in the same color scheme as the Himeji castle world heritage site.

I collect 3D terrain. I recently purchased a "Samurai Castle" off Etsy. They come unpainted, and they are printed by people who own 3D printers. I don't want to own one because they are bulky, temperamental, and make a lot of noise. The one that we have at work is whining pretty much all day long, making a low-key electronic squeal as it moves around the bed squeezing out hot plastic. The thing's got to be kept at a precise and relatively perfect temperature, or the plastic unlatches from the bed which then causes a huge mess. Anyway, it's much easier to purchase from people willing to do all the trouble and just get the finished product from them.

Most of the terrain that I own is "Western-themed" as that is the most popular. So the items I've been purchasing off Etsy are "Japanese" flavored, and I'm going to have fun painting this castle (I'll attach pictures below). I received it yesterday in a big box and then last night I primed it. So tonight I should be able to start with the painting. I'm going to use the paint scheme of Himeji castle, which is a famous landmark in Japan.

Above is what my castle looked like out of the box, only it was in brown plastic and not gray. The color of the plastic doesn't matter as I'm priming the whole thing and painting it with a brush anyway. It doesn't look that big in the picture, but it is rather large. The small model in front of the door is just a little over an inch tall. The guy I bought it from on Etsy wanted to sell me a whole foundation for it, which was about three times the above size. I wasn't interested because 1) that's a lot of stuff to paint, 2) I didn't really like the design of the huge base it sits on and 3) I think it would have trouble fitting on a regular kitchen table, which is what I use when we play our D&D games.

And on the "painting the model" front, this is actually the biggest project I have done to date with brushes. I don't want to buy anything else until I get this one done to kind of discipline myself and force myself to complete one project before I move onto something else. I think that it will probably take me weeks of time to paint during the evenings if I want to get all of the details just right. Painting is relaxing for me, so I'll just put on some nice music and as the days get longer and warmer, I'll probably leave a window cracked while I paint away.

However, I do have my eyeball on future projects. Should I finish this castle to my satisfaction, I'd like to purchase some of the accessories for it that can be 3D printed. Below is a gatehouse that would look amazing all painted up.
I think this gate would look so cool all done up in nice matching colors. Oh and if you aren't aware, all of these models come apart so that you can put stuff on the inside. The interiors are fully detailed down to the tatami mat borders and threads of the rooms. They are fantastic. To go with the above gate there are Samurai castle towers and walls so that you could enclose the thing if you wanted to. Here's a shot of the towers.
These obviously would go on the corners. Anyway, I'm not going to buy either the gate or the tower until I finish the main project, which is the castle itself. Below is a picture of Himeji castle in Japan, and I'm going to paint my castle in the same color scheme.
Obviously, my 3D model will never look this grand. However, it will still look cool as I have other terrain pieces to go with it, including a nice looking foundation and cherry trees. I think the diorama (when it is completed) will look quite beautiful.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Matt Mercer effect is really interesting.

Matt Mercer is an elite DM and makes a ton of money from Critical Role and other products. He
is widely successful, and he is responsible for Dungeons & Dragons
becoming a bedrock of pop culture.

I belong to several RPG (roleplaying game communities) on Facebook. Some boast hundreds of thousands of members. I go there to see what people are talking about, what the current outrage is, and to see what other dungeon master's (this is a term used to describe a person who hosts the game rather than someone who is dressed in leather and whipping another in a sex dungeon) are struggling with. I sometimes offer my own advice, as I would describe myself as being an expert in this particular hobby of mine (playing Dungeons & Dragons). Not to brag, but, I've always felt that I was the equal to any of the other "famous DM's" who run games for players online and who have gathered millions of followers. I've had people in my old home town actually come up to me (strangers) to shake my hand because they heard from people who used to play with me (I haven't lived there for fourteen years) who still talk about the games I used to run. And I've only gotten better with the newest edition of D&D (called Fifth edition).

Anyway, if you take a tour through these RPG communities, which are full of fresh faces and people discovering the hobby for the first time, you can encounter discussions of "the Mercer effect." This is a term that describes the unrealistic expectations of new D&D players who believe their games will be similar to the online broadcast episodes of Critical Role (it averages 40,000 views for a live stream and broke a Kickstarter record by raising over $11.3 million--it also has an animated series on Prime Video). Matt Mercer is a semi-famous person who runs D&D games, and he's a voice actor, and a lot of his players are voice actors as well. A familiar instance of the "Matt Mercer" effect then is when new players, unaware of their own inexperience and how that impacts the game, become disenfranchised when their own Dungeon Master cannot be as entertaining and engaging as Matt Mercer.

There are literally hundreds of posts in Dungeons & Dragons forums with DM's asking for advice on "How do I beat the Matt Mercer effect?" In other words, DM's feel like they are letting their players down (which they absolutely are...let's not quibble and what is going on here) by not being as engaging with new players. And the players stop returning to their games, or if they do...the satisfaction of the DM who is running the game becomes so low that they stop, and that kills the weekly fun. This (of course) is not the intent of Matt Mercer (who is playing on an elite level). But it is fascinating to see.

Even though my goals are widely different from Matt Mercer, I have never had this issue. I don't want to be famous, I don't want to monetize my hobby at all, and I like connecting with a group of eight individuals who I handpick to get to know and run stories for. However, my entire goal with respect to D&D has always been to have an elite game and play at an elite level, and I've finally achieved that. So, I don't feel any different. I had a couple of newbie players say to me recently, "Playing with you is exactly what I'd feel playing with Matt Mercer would be like." I didn't need this compliment, but I said "thank you." However, it was something I already knew. Part of my confidence comes from that fact that I know I spin interesting stories. That is half of the battle right there. Some people just have an active imagination, and others do not. Nearly all of you who are reading my words right now are people with incredible imaginations, which is why you are published authors. And I've read a lot of your work out there, and I can reassure you that all of you are just as creative as me (and Matt Mercer--whom you've probably never heard about until now). But we all have different goals with what we want to do with our talents.

However, it has taken me literally decades to come to terms with how "different" people are from one another. There are people out there who don't have imaginations. I have met them, and it is very difficult for them to see anything that isn't real or spelled out to them. That must be a kind of curse, especially if what you want to do is entertain people with your own stories. A lot of these people also seem to have "side-effects" of this kind of curse, in that they don't want to read any materials to absorb ideas because "reading is boring." And yet, they try to run games like D&D, and they do a terrible job at it because it isn't something in their wheelhouse. It would be like a person who is bad at math declaring that their life's ambition is to be a rocket scientist. That's a really difficult thing to accomplish in the first place, and it's even mores if you are bad at math.

Anyway, to finish, I think that the "Matt Mercer effect" is an interesting phenomenon to which there really isn't a solution anymore than there is a solution for low self-esteem and a way to convince people to lower their expectations.

Monday, March 22, 2021

I'll be back next Monday.

I'm taking a short break to help dad get his taxes in order and do a few other things. Those of you with aging parents may be going through the same thing. It is no fun, but it needs to be done. I'll see you next Monday with my thoughts on the Snyder Cut of Justice League.

Friday, March 19, 2021

I'm in awe of the writers who finish a series that is so huge it staggers my mind to think about the length of it.

I am a little in awe of stories that seem to never end. I'm also using hyperbole when I say that these stories don't end. It just seems that way, because authors I've been following have continued writing sequels to their fantasy stories that stretched way beyond anything that I could have envisioned in the past when I first found these writers, read a book, and then said, "Hey, this is pretty good. Is there any more?"

Tolkien left off with (pretty much) his famous trilogy and then a bunch of seed stories that he created in The Silmarillion. To me, these "seed stories" all sounded like something much bigger than I could ever take on. I just wanted to write a few books, and then my story would be finished. I was thinking, "Maybe five books is doable." And then there came along writers like Brandon Sanderson (who writes a book in the time that I take to cook breakfast), and Stephen King who does about the same (but Stephen doesn't so much write in sequels as he does in a shared universe similar to what Marvel does with its movies). I think (as far as sequels go) The Dark Tower stretches to eight hefty novels that could be used as door stops. That's impressive and way beyond anything I could ever do in my entire lifetime I think.

But as far as prolific writers go, it's up there with Robert Jordan (and Sanderson) who wrote a series spanning (I think) fourteen books. That's almost twice what King wrote. Admittedly, Jordan died during the writing of it, but's impressive. And then there's Raymond E. Feist who wrote 30 books all in the same series (I'm on number 25 I think). That was kind of a jaw-dropping number when I stumbled across how many books he'd published in the time since my childhood (when I first discovered him), and there were only four in the series (and I had enjoyed them).

Well, I took a gander at what Terry Brooks has been up to since my college days when i had finished a book called The Elf Queen of Shannara, which (I think) was like number seven in the series. I was just curious to see if there were any more books in that series, and I discovered that the whole thing had been wrapped up with book 35 in 2020. Say, what?! Thirty-five books? That's just insane to me. What kind of story takes 35 books to wrap up? What's even more crazy to me is that he actually finished it, and I guess he's starting a new series which actually looks interesting (I saw the cover art for his new "non-Shannara" book yesterday on io9).

I'm going to have to do some more research. Did these authors actually write all of these books or are they being ghost written by someone? With Feist, I can confirm that I think he's written all of his. The writing style never changes, as does the devotion of the characters. I suppose I could be fooled, but I don't think any second-hand writer could keep track of all the stuff that's going on in those books. I'm also glad that I waited until the series was over before I started reading them. It allows details to remain fresh and crisp in my memory so things he refers back to in his books were things I read maybe a month or two ago (instead of having years between stories).

In any event, I'm no less awed by the production of these writers. And these books are not thin flimsy things, but easily top 200,000 words a piece. Like...what the hell? People who are trying to get established as professional writers should take note: if you want to be a writer, you need to write your fingers off.

Is anyone else following some absurdly long series (absurdly in my book is more than ten)? I'd be interested to hear about them, even if I never get around to reading them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

We have so much freedom to choose things in the United States that more and more people are failing to launch every single day.

This week on Facebook of all places, I was treated to a meme post about a man who had been in prison for thirty years having to deal with the complexity of modern life. It talked about how he had to acquire computer skills from a helpful person, and then use those computer skills to essentially find a home and work. It was a long and difficult process, because when they went into jail, there really was no such thing as computers. The point of the post was to encourage others to give help when needed, and to illustrate just how much the world has changed in a relatively short amount of time. It also got me to reflect (for a moment) at how difficult it is to actually live in our modern world. It requires above-average intelligence, or (lacking that) it requires you to be rich so that you can hire people with above average intelligence to do things for you. Don't believe me? Here's a short list of what the modern adult is expected to do by themselves (if you cannot afford to hire anyone).

1) To get a place to live, you need to find a place that is vacant. The best places to do this is by going online, which means that you already have to have internet skills, the ability to connect to wi-fi, and the ability to understand how to click on and process computer links. Once you find a place to live, you need to apply, which is usually online. You will probably need references, first and last month's rent, and a deposit. You will probably need to sign a lease, which means you should be familiar with some legalese. You will need to be able to move dollars around, which will mean you need bank accounts of some kind. They will also probably do a credit check in order to obtain "trust" from strangers with regard to the property they are going to lend you to use.

2) You will need to find work. Doing this in the modern world is even worse than finding a place to live. You will have to apply online to a ton of jobs, you will need references, you will need social media networking, and you will need to express yourself on resumes in ways that allow a bot to find keywords so that you can actually catch the notice of a person who is in a hiring position. Once that is done, you may need to interview online, which will require you to be able to use software like Zoom or Google meet and know how to mute and unmute your microphone. It sounds easy to someone that is computer savvy, but it can be daunting to one that has no idea how computers operate.

3) You will need licenses that expire all the time for everything. You know of the driver's license already. But what about a license for your pet, or your credentials (that keep expiring) so that you can work with others. Do you have letters following your last name? As soon as you go through the rigmarole of getting licensed, it seems like you blink twice and its expired and needs to be renewed. Your license plates will need renewal every year. What about safety inspections on your vehicle? You will need to get certificates for those over and over and over. To get your pet washed at PetCo (or other pet groomers) they will need to have their shots. However, it's not just that. You will need to have kept proof of those shots, and have that ready for examination. You will need to register everything with bureaus, and with organizations, and with insurance companies. 

4) You will be bombarded by crooks and thieves. In the midst of navigating your hundreds of licenses and certifications in order to have a job, you will receive hundreds of phone calls, text messages, and emails requesting you to supply information or to click on this sketchy link... One false move, and you will have your identity stolen and your credit rating ruined by scammers laughing all the way to the bank about how stupid you were.

5) You will need to monitor your credit rating and your identity online to make sure that no one steals it. This will mean regular checking of suspicious activity that may be reported to one of the three credit bureaus in the United States that keep track of stuff like this.

6) You will be required to come up with hundreds of passwords to make sure that the things that you use are secure. If you forget your passwords, you run the risk of not being able to use or access something important (like checking your accounts for fraud or to move money around). If you put things on autopay, when you have to cancel a credit card because it got stolen, you will need to redo all of the autopays yet again in order to avoid catastrophic failure.

7) You will need to be able to fix things in your home. In many situations of the modern world, lightbulbs have become a thing of the past, replaced by cheaper and supposedly more efficient LED fixtures. This means that if one lightbulb on an LED fixture that holds four burns out, you won't be able to replace it. You either live with the burned out lightbulb, or you replace the entire f*cking fixture (and yes I've done this multiple times).

8) Anything connected to the internet wears out or requires updates. Your routers only last about four years and need to be replaced. The same goes for computers and operating systems. An operating system that doesn't have the latest updates becomes compromised. Your computer can get backed up with hundreds of these updates that never got installed, booting you off Wi-Fi and slowing down your computer as it tries to clear the logjam. You have to constantly update them as they march toward planned obsolescence, which happens quicker than you think. As soon as you buy yourself a gadget or a laptop, you should already be thinking about the cost to replace said gadget or laptop within four years. I was surprised that fridges are so replaceable. They only last a few years now, and they are made to be replaced about once every six or so years (which doesn't seem like that long at all).

9) Everything is made with "some assembly required" in the modern world. If you buy an electronic device to turn your lights on and off, it will probably require a connection to the internet, an app to be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet, and at a minimum an email account. Google products don't play well with Amazon products which don't play well with Facebook products and Microsoft products. So you will want to check compatibility between all of these to make sure that you have the right thing. And that's just electronics. Furniture (for many people) has gotten prohibitively expensive. So you may go and buy some assemble-it-yourself furniture. If you do, know that you are in for a day of work.

10) You will have to file taxes, repeatedly, until the day you die. The merciless toll of years does not care whether or not your mind has aged and you don't remember things as well as you did in your youth (or if you ever did for that matter). If you don't know how to do it yourself, and you aren't computer savvy to do it with software, you'd better be rich enough to hire someone else to do it for you.

11) You will need to be your own troubleshooter. If a computer doesn't stay connected to the Wi-Fi, it could be the actual computer, the Wi-Fi card, or even your internet service and your router. There is no magic fairy that floats down and tells you what is broken. You have to be able to do that yourself or pay someone else to do it.

12) Money is no longer simple. There are people trying to get rid of the dollar in favor of cryptocurrency, which could come with its own set of horrible processes and required devices and security that you need to go through in order to be able to purchase something. You will also need to know where you should put your money that will give you the best shot at building security for yourself. If you don't make the right choices, you will end up broke and no one will care as you die a pitiless death on a sidewalk somewhere.

And all of the above is just the beginning. You may be saying to yourself...why is Mike going to the trouble of listing (and complaining) about all of this stuff? Well, it's because I'm in a job that allows me the privilege of watching people struggle with all of these things. It's exhausting...and on top of are expected to find a partner, create a family, and then work a 40-hour a week (or more) job.  So, I guess, my point is that the amount of freedom we have in the United States is driving many people to exhaustion. There's too much freedom to screw yourself over and over. A given person only has so much brain capacity to meet the challenges of constant choice. Life has become a never-ending treadmill with a saw blade on the end of it waiting to chew up those who can't keep up. And it's only going to get worse with the challenges of climate change, income inequality, housing, and healthcare.

Why did the people who came before me (our ancestors) build a world like this? Anyone got any ideas? There are some days when I feel like the modern world has become hell on earth, made so by the decisions of people who are constantly making things more complicated so that they can make money.