Wednesday, May 26, 2021

It is difficult for me to understand why people do the things that they do.

I thought I was a relatively educated man approaching fifty. But in the last year I learned of two things that I had no previous knowledge about: the Tulsa massacre and Sundown towns. Both of these I actually learned about by watching either Lovecraft Country or Watchmen on HBO. I never read about either of these things in a history book in any class that I took in high school or college.

The New York Times wrote about the Tulsa Greenwood Massacre in incredible depth yesterday, since it has been a century now since the event occurred. It was a real eye-opener, because they showed what the town of Greenwood meant to its black inhabitants (in a slick computer-generated presentation), and to how it was a place of prosperity and pride for a population that was not welcome in the greater Tulsa area. Fast forward to 2021, and very little has changed. And the nation is still struggling with the way it deals with the narrative and facts of what happened in Tulsa a hundred years ago. Just recently, Oklahoma Governor Stitt got booted off the 1921 Greenwood Massacre Centennial Commission because he signed a law prohibiting the teaching of why Greenwood was burned to the ground. Like...why would you do that? Why would you not want it taught so that people could learn about it, and keep other people (like me) from having to confess that they are/were ignorant?

Sadly, you can look at Google maps today and see that where the federal Interstate highway was placed when they cut through Tulsa that they chose a path right through Greenwood. Of course they did. No one of importance (and nothing of importance) lived/occurred there, right?  I wonder if publishers of textbooks will ever have the courage to air within their pages events like Tulsa, or speak openly about the planes that flew overhead to drop dynamite on the buildings. And no one had any problem with that at all, because (apparently) it happened as a result of a black man assaulting a white woman. That's how all of these kinds of stories start out. The reaction was breathtaking, and (to me) it almost feels like it was an attempt at genocide.

It is difficult for me to understand why people do the things that they do. What goes on in someone's mind to make these things happen? Are there words one can say to describe the history of how black people were pushed and violently oppressed in the white-mob mentality to "stop the steal" of their supposed divine right to wealth, land, and prosperity? Much of that entitlement still simmers today. I wish I understood where it comes from better, rather than just observing that "there's really unpleasant work to do and the cotton doesn't pick itself so somebody is going to be forced to do it." Is that really what life is about...being the one person who gets to have a good life at the expense of someone else? Must there always be a loser for every winner? These are all questions that I have in my mind that don't make any sense.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Do second hand markets and scalpers ruin hobbies and games for other people? Is unfettered capitalism good for anything?

Do second hand markets and scalpers ruin hobbies and games? I was having a quiet weekend when I saw a video of a mad rush of adult shoppers at a Wal-Mart trying to punch each other out over the last remaining Pokemon cards. Most of these are destined for Ebay, resale, flipping...or what have you. I doubt these people actually play Pokemon and have a passion for their rare card because it helps them win games.

I've also heard the stories from scalpers. This may surprise you, but most of the scalping being done is happening to other scalpers. It's the same mentality that you see in crypto trading or stock market memes like "Gamestop." That is...all of the buying and selling is happening between scalpers who actually have no interest in the product other than, "If I can take advantage of someone, I can make some money on this and not actually have to participate in back-breaking capitalism which would require me to work for a number of piss-poor dollars per hour." In other words, very little product from a Pokemon buying frenzy is actually making it to consumers. And then scalpers buying off scalpers essentially controls the supply, and that's how the price goes up.

I also hear that scalpers created a shortage in the Playstation 5 that was released some time ago. So I guess what I'm asking you to answer (dear reader) is this: products being sold NOW are brand new and are being snatched up by speculators who have no interest in actually consuming the products. They just want to exploit their ability to create artificial scarcity to rip other people off. So my question to you is should this be allowed? If so, I'd like to hear why. As for me, I don't think it should be allowed. I don't like "unfettered capitalism," which has no regulations to protect the public from predatory profit seekers. Unfortunately, we live in a country where half of the populations is okay to let greedy people bribe out politicians to change laws and create loopholes so that they can get away with monstrous actions for profit.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Vignette number one from my Dungeons & Dragons game is about a watery tentacle that bestows supernatural gifts.

Here is the first of the vignette short stories that I got sent by one of my players. Her name is Geneva, and she's playing a rogue that multiclassed into Warlock. She seemed really taken by the warlock character class in the Player's Handbook which ties its power to some kind of ancient/old entity. Geneva decided that Valerie (her character) would have a connection to the ocean, as the setting for this campaign is around a small town called "Saltmarsh" in the Kingdom of Keoland.

The name of this piece is Tentacle.

Valerie wades in the surf, knee deep, in a secluded cove an hour’s walk from town. She is 8 years old. She has been swimming with her best friend, Oelien, a young elf boy around her age. He is still swimming out by the reef. She sees him surface, much less often than one would expect. She envies his ability to stay under the water for so long, but she is content to watch from shore for now. She may go back in for one more swim in awhile, but right now she is enjoying the feel of the summer sun drying her hair and warming her skin. She has plenty of time before she’s expected at home. Her mother made it plain that this afternoon she was to stay clear of the house until sunset, and her father is out to sea.

Valerie has been swimming almost since she could walk, and is quite good at it. She loves the way the cool salt water embraces her, buoying her up when she swims on the surface, surrounding her when she dives beneath. Moving through it feels the way she imagines flying would feel. She wishes she didn’t need to come up. She often opens her eyes in the stinging salt water to find a world of beauty below her. She can hear the fish feeding on the corals on the reef just past the shore break. The sound of the waves ebbing and flowing is the sweetest music to her. She can make small forays into the deeper water, but finds herself frustrated by the limits of her breath.

Sometimes the world of the water seems more real to her, more like home, than the world on land. Especially her own home, when her father isn’t there. Her mother is often preoccupied, and short with her if she’s underfoot. There are things in the house that Valerie only sees when her father is out of port, and she’s pretty sure she’s not meant to notice them. But Valerie has always noticed things. Sometimes, strange people come to the back door of the house for whispered conversations with her mom. Sometimes, those conversations take place in languages Valerie doesn’t understand. Once, when she was smaller, she went climbing up a shelf to reach a coin purse that was hanging from a high hook on the wall that had not been there the day before. She fell and was discovered. Her mother was furious, and, strangely, afraid. Afterwards, her mother carefully poured a few coins on the table and showed them to Valerie and explained to her that she must never, ever touch coins like this. The coins looked like gold coins, which Valerie had seen before, but these glinted red in certain light. Her mother swept them back into the purse, which Valerie never saw again.

The tide is coming in. Valerie is on a rocky bit of shoreline now, among tide pools filled with urchins, anemones, and purple sea stars. She crouches where the water is beginning to crash on the rocks, pulls off a few mussels from under the edge, pries the shells open, and picks out the tiny creatures inside. She washes them in seawater and pops them in her mouth. She chews, savoring the sweet/salty taste.

Now she is thirsty, and she realizes that she has left her clay water jug far down the beach, with her clothes. Oelien is still swimming, far out. She places her hands beside her on the rock and prepares to hoist herself up, then stops mid-motion.

There is a tentacle coming out of the water, right in front of her, and it is reaching for her foot. But it doesn’t look like a proper, fleshy tentacle. It’s transparent. It appears to be made of water. It touches her with a soft splash, and it feels like water on her skin, but it doesn’t lose its form the way a wave would upon impact. In the instant of that touch, a voice fills her mind. To Valerie it sings like the sea itself - thundering, beautiful, fierce, overwhelming. She can feel it swirling around inside her head, much the way a wave does across and between and under the rocks where she sits. The voice in her head is alive, and it flows unchecked into every part of her consciousness. She can’t stop the flow. It demands to know her.

Her body is standing now, her back arched, her arms thrown wide, her eyes sightless as the tentacle winds itself up her body and also into her mind. Angry now, she demands in return to know what thing believes it has the right to use her so. One who would give you the gift you want the most, child, answers the voice. One who is as wild as you want to be. One who welcomes you into the depths.

The tentacle, grown large and strong now, pulls her into the water and propels her forcefully away from shore and downwards. She struggles against the tentacle now, aware that the growing pressure in her ears means that she is going deeper into the water, and the burning in her lungs means that she will soon need to breathe. Then breathe, says the voice.

And then Valerie feels the seawater flowing across the sides of her neck, and the urge to inhale that she’s been fighting abruptly leaves her. The wave that had flooded her mind recedes until it is a lingering caress, a single tendril. A tentacle. The force binding her limbs eases. Open your eyes, child, says the voice softly. Look upon your new world.

She expects the familiar sting of the salt water as she opens her eyes, but it is absent. Her eyes quickly adjust to the light level. She is probably about 30 feet down, but her ears aren’t bothered. She is surrounded by sea life. Reds are dull and dark at this depth. Yellow and green and purple are still visible, if a little softened and blued in the filtered light. There is something swimming rapidly toward her that is roughly her size. Her friend? No. She sees a head and arms like a child’s, but then she sees its powerful, finned tail. Its skin is a sea creature’s skin’s texture and color, its movements more like fish than humanoid.

The creature is close now, so close she can see its eyes and its facial expression, which is hard to read. Curiosity? Concern? The eyes, though… it IS Oelien! Valerie thought she had lost the capacity for further surprise today. She was wrong. Her best friend is a… what is he, exactly?

He motions toward her neck. Valerie’s own hand follows the motion, and touches the side of her neck, gently, and she understands. She’s seen, and felt, something like this when helping her father clean fresh-caught fish. Gills. She has gills! The tentacle in her mind speaks. When she is in the water, from now on, she will have gills. They are the gift, perhaps the first of many gifts. She can now move between the worlds of land and

water freely instead of being an outworlder from the surface. Just like her best friend. The word the voice uses for him is one she has heard in stories. Changeling.

Valerie is overcome with a savage joy. She taps Oelien on the shoulder, and using hand motions, challenges him to a race. This time, for the first time ever, she matches his speed. They play under the sea, swimming through passages in the reef, plunging over the edge of the drop-off into deeper waters, watching motionless from below as several white-tipped sharks carve out a living ball of smaller fish from a school and feast.

After about an hour, Valerie heads for shore. She can breathe under the water and swim better than ever before, but the water is still cold, and swimming still takes effort. By the time she emerges onto the beach, her limbs feel heavy, and she’s shivering. The tentacle, as she has named the thing in her mind, is silent, but is still present in her head when she searches. She can feel it, now delicate and subtle, dipping into her experiences as they happen. Oelien comes ashore just behind her, now appearing as the elf child she had thought him to be up until this day. He is tentative around her. She instinctively knows why, and reassures her friend that she will protect his secret. She asks for the same protection in return. They solemnly link little fingers to seal their promise.

She cherishes the tentacle’s gift, yet she understands that telling any other person, especially a grown-up, might provoke reactions that would affect her in ways she can’t control. It is easy for her to imagine her mother forbidding her to go to the sea. She wouldn’t be able to stand that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

I've decided I'm going to post some of the vignettes the players in my D&D game have emailed me regarding their characters.

With the permission of some of my players in my weekly Dungeons & Dragons game, I'm going to post the fiction vignettes that they've been inspired to write about their characters. I think you may enjoy them. I plan on doing the first one Friday, but first, there's a little housekeeping in that I want to share with you how I started them all out adventuring in my homebrew world (homebrew is a term that means it is not an official product; rather it is one of the author's imagination).

I started them off by actually having them create roleplaying personas of people who are alive in modern Salt Lake City, year 2021. I told them that the only restriction on this was that they couldn't be a famous person. My friend Jed decided that he would be a thirty-five year-old man living in the basement of his parent's house, bitter that he cannot get a girlfriend, and watching anime porn/hentai all day long on Wi-Fi while trolling people on message boards. My friend Jake decided to be a sixty-five year old business man who got drunk a lot because his wife of 25-years left him for the son of a local billionaire. My friend Jesse decided that he wanted to play a guy that was in his eighties who was super rich. My friend Jordan decided he would play the son of Jake's sixty-five year old character. And my friend Sasha decided that he would play the son of the billionaire responsible for breaking up Jake's character's marriage. There wasn't a whole lot of originality, as most people just wanted to be either rich or to make a character that mocked and/or teased Jake in some aspect. Jake has diagnosable levels of narcissistic personality disorder, so it may have been a kind of passive/aggressive response to build characters linked to his background. Additionally, Jake may also have encouraged it as he very much wants things to be about him. But I digress...the table was set for these characters to make their first appearance on my game world, which I call "Wynwrayth."

Now, all of them were friends with a guy they called Milbar, and I always had in my head that Milbar looked like the actor Paul Giamatti. So, I told them that in this fictional Earth, Paul Giamatti didn't exist as an actor because I was going to use him as Milbar. They were okay with that. Milbar in the Wynwrayth universe is the very powerful god of magic. And I stole an idea from the movie, Jumanji (Dwayne Johnson not Robin Williams), to get them to Wynwrayth, only it was a bit more "colorful."

I told the group that their characters all knew Milbar (that was their common link). He was some skeezy guy that always had the hottest women hanging off his arm. He was the friend that always asked for favors, borrowed money, and never paid any of it back. He was kind of a slovenly pig, very well-spoken, but also arrogant. When he was at a party he would be wearing those 70's style open shirts with the big collars, displaying lots of chest hair and gold chains, with a cigar in one hand and brandy in a shot glass in the other. He'd just blatantly tell people, "I'm the god of magic," and then do cheesy card tricks while womanizing.

Anyway, for one reason or another, they all ended up at his house which wasn't in the nicest neighborhood one sunny afternoon in mid-July. With the pandemic raging, they were there to collect on money he owed them (or various other reasons). They arrived and saw in the driveway an adult maid service Kia was parked. I described it as bright pink, with fake eyelashes around the headlights and dominatrix stuff in the backseat. They knocked on the door, but Milbar didn't answer. They heard noises which caught their curiosity, and they walked in. That's when I played a cut scene from the show Billions. I'll link it below.

View it to just after Paul Giamati's character is getting the "golden shower" and that's where I stopped it. Needless to say, my group of players was shocked and laughing out loud. That's when I said, "Suddenly, Milbar notices you and in a fit of shock and embarrassment, he yells, 'Uhh! Uhhh! THIS ISN'T WHAT YOU THINK!" and he's gesturing wildly with his hands when "BAM" they get hit by something that flares out of him, and the next thing they know...they are hurtling through space and time in a wormhole of colors and images that are both terrifying and beautiful. And then everything goes black. When they wake up, they are in a field on top of a hill, and they are no longer in their original bodies. Jed's character (the man that lived in the basement and loved anime porn) is in the body of a super hot half Drow teenaged girl of seventeen (so he's now essentially transgender), and the others have similar and shocking discoveries of their new bodies. Furthermore, just like in the show Jumanji they can slap their upper chest at any time and view their character sheet. However, no one in the world can actually see it. Oh and each one of them has something useless that came from Earth. Cell phones with no signal, paper money and a money clip, one even had the steering wheel to their parked car (but the car wasn't there). One person had a laptop with no signal, etc. And that was the first day for their characters visiting my world, and we've been playing for a little over a year now.

So now, with that background, maybe the vignettes I post will have more meaning (and hopefully you will enjoy them).

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Mitchells vs the Machines is the best animated movie thus far of 2021.

If anyone is on the fence, or thinks that The Mitchells vs the Machines looks bad, it is fantastic. I watched it this weekend on Netflix with a friend who had the time to do so. She also liked it. Without spoilers, the movie does take a few typical digs at Silicon Valley, but it also is a movie that is well-made and sports almost Pixar-like animation. The story is for kids who love technology and the internet while simultaneously managing to target parents who are mystified and frustrated by the gadgets that pull their kid's attention away from the dinner table. So it's kind of the best of both worlds. There are many "laugh out loud" moments, and many moments that manage to be beautiful and emotional. All in all, I think it's the best animated movie (thus far) of 2021, and that includes Disney's gorgeous Maya and the Last Dragon.

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.

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