Friday, September 30, 2022

The Boomers entering assisted living is probably going to crush the healthcare system in the United States or usher in universal healthcare.

For many years now, my last surviving parent (father) has been in assisted living care. The cost has been a staggering $1200.00 paid out every seven days from his estate, and this hasn't been covered by insurance. This morning (for some reason) I decided to google "Why is assisted living so expensive in the United States?" And I landed on a Quora page with the most intelligent and insightful (concise) reason that I just had to blog about it. And then I want to talk about what it may mean for the future. But first, here is the answer that I got that was so fantastic:
"Because they are private for-profit facilities that take advantage of America's lack of healthcare for its elderly.

"In countries with universal healthcare, people don't have to go bankrupt to pay for their parent's care. The for-profit model knows that they can wipe out the life savings of a senior and take any form of inheritance laid aside for their children, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

"If your parent becomes impossible to care for in your home, you have to pay for it. Therefore, they charge it because they can, and because the United States government won't pay anything until you are down to your last $2,000 in assets. It's a system of robbery that pays the workers (who are usually foreign) very low wages and offer nothing close to the luxury that $10,000 a month should provide.

"It's an unsustainable business model that is able to do this because the WWII generation lived in a cheaper America, and they were able to save more. Once the Boomers start entering care, there will not be this plethora of saved assets and either the U.S. Government will need to implement universal healthcare or seniors will collapse the system."

Wow! First off, this was an incredible post made by someone going by ED L on Quora. Additionally, from my personal experience, it is 100% correct. Like...there is no error I can see here at all. So let's move onto my analysis of what's being said here and what it means for the future.

Folks, the Boomers are about to crush the system. Huzzah! It's all going to come crashing down. This has kinda got me a little excited. Sure...there's going to be lots of suffering and crying, but when it all crashes, I'm going to have fun looking at the Republicans who opposed universal healthcare and feel mighty smug about being right on this. I don't have kids, so the system crashing is not going to hurt me as much. But it's going to smack these huge family units in the ass. Hard. And I just can't wait until it happens.

And furthermore, just more validation that capitalism like we have in America absolutely sucks just makes my day. "How dare you want socialism! Don't you know that you'll pay more in taxes?!" I don't know how many times I've been told this by an ignorant person, even as my taxes go up all the time due to Republicans in Utah taxing everything. They are even discussing at the Legislature level about taxing food delivery, which is absurd. And Utah is one of only four states that taxes social security, which has been taxed already. But they have a good social media game with, "We support lower taxes!" What they mean is, "We support lower taxes to rich people and corporations!"

I mean...what's the alternative? Force old people onto the streets? How on earth will they be able to live with themselves, especially if they are Christian? It's going to be fun watching the greedy and righteous squirm. At least they can blame Obama.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this nugget of wisdom from Quora. It made my day. I hope it makes yours too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

House of the Dragon is a great reminder that the human race is a miserable species.

The world that has Westeros in it (A Song of Ice and Fire) is brutal. We saw this in Game of Thrones, which ended its historic run some four years ago. With House of the Dragon I'm reminded at just how grotesque the people are in this world. But my own naivete would be to think that this is abnormal. That the people of "Earth" couldn't be this gross, could they? But a little digging and a little delving into history (and into modern headlines about what's going on in Ukraine and Russia) makes me think that George R.R. Martin was (if anything) simply a really good study of history and human behavior. And just to be clear, modernity has not changed this. Humans in 2022 are just as gross as they were in 1222. In other words, all the incest, rape, and murder he puts on display in his stories is just par for the course as far as humans are concerned. We (human beings) are awful. Take for example some of the things we've seen just this season in House of the Dragon. This list of things are drawn from human examples.

For one, bastards popping up to cause problems with family dynasties is a reflection of real-life things that happened in kingdoms on Earth. Infidelity aside, siblings murdering other siblings was a real thing that people did in order to seize power. The character of Alicent, who was Rhaenyra's best friend when they were teens, got pushed into marriage with an older man (the king) by her own father and forced to have sex with him (leprousy and all). Imagine forcing your own daughter to have sex with a leper with oozing sores so that you could birth heirs to a throne. Who imagines this kind of thing? You don't need to because this kind of thing happened in real life history. She ends up having no friends and people (like her father) are manipulative to the point of getting both her and her kids into very dangerous situations. Add to this situation that she is "god fearing," and you understand why she is so hateful toward her former friend who get to bed whomever she wanted as opposed to what lay in store for her.

There's Daemon Targaryen played by Matt Smith. His monstrous behavior at killing his wife so that he can be free to marry another just smacks of King Henry VIII. The fact that one of his wives takes it into her own hands rather than let him decide to slice her up to save a baby that is in breach and just immolate herself to death seems...I don't know...realistic if not horrifically grotesque. Then there's the self-loathing knight of Ser Criston Cole who brutally murders the knight of kisses for pointing out that he knows that Criston has obviously bedded the princess (at least that is my take).

Self-loathing is so destructive. You see it in the gay community when a politician is gay but they are deeply closeted and married to a woman, denying everything about themselves. They may not murder someone, but the vitriol, anger, and hatred from a self-loathing man in this position is probably the most dangerous thing there is to the sustained well-being of a society. And I can't imagine how the family unit itself suffers. The man who is a closeted gay probably tells the wife that sex can only happen for procreation, hiding the fact that he secretly wants to just suck a dick. The obvious "my husband does not feel anything toward me sexually" causes more self-loathing in the woman, who thinks it may be that she isn't sexy, or is somehow gross. This leads to other problems like unnecessary plastic surgeries, more self-loathing, and mental illness. It's basically just beating someone to death like Ser Criston Cole did at Rhaenyra's wedding, only it takes years instead of a minute.

 A healthy "Game of Thrones" scenario seems to be benign neglect. This is what you would want to pray for if you were born a woman in this world. The other kinds of things that can happen to you in this world (if you are a woman) are terrifying. The short list is 1) getting married off to somebody triple your age (and hope they aren't diseased), 2) being tortured or enslaved because you were not born a boy, 3) or just getting raped directly. If you have children, then there's the added possibility of watching them getting raped and slaughtered in front of you before the same fate is visited upon you. When a future alien anthropologist happens upon Game of Thrones, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Walking Dead, it should become clear why the human race became extinct. We are a miserable species, and some of our greatest writers know it to the core.

Monday, September 26, 2022

As far as I'm concerned the Rings of Power has come into its own.

This last episode really sealed the deal for me. The Rings of Power has not been a fast burner, at least as putting together a cohesive plot has gone. But the individual threads that have storylines in 1) the people of the south lands, 2) the harfoots (an ancestor of the hobbits I think), 3) the dwarves of Moria, and 4) the elves trying to stamp out the last vestiges of Morgoth are at last becoming entertaining to me (spoiler alert: they fail at doing this).

I just needed to switch my focus from trying to force a story out of this thing, to realizing that what I was witnessing was a "slice of life" tale that peeks in on all those living in a significant portion of an age of Middle Earth. This series is a chronicle of those lives that influenced the great ones that have most been visited upon in Tolkien adaptations and in the Tolkien books of which we are familiar. It isn't here to give us another Frodo or Elrond. It's here to give us the reason as to why there is such biting emnity between elves and dwarves (just one example). It's here to explain why Gimli says, "Never trust an elf" in his casual off-handed racism. There's a story behind why this happened.

So, I needed to let go of "What is the purpose of this character?" and embrace the idea that "this character is one that did a thing in Middle Earth, and it was important enough to warrant a footnote" in The Return of the King. But in order for me to like that character, I need to watch them eat, train, and interact with other characters. So there's a lot of the boring minutiae of life interspliced with these "events" that happen, which are significant for the characters.

Events like: 1) Is Sauron returning, and 2) what does he look like, and 3) yes the dwarves eventually release the Balrog, but...before that happened...what did their homes look like and was Durin a nice guy? These are all things that we get to see, and I actually love it all. The series is there to build the world, and in all of that world-building there are few plot-based stories and more "slice-of-life" stories that allow us to sympathize with these characters that (honestly) are not fleshed out enough by Tolkien to even be interesting outside of "facts about Middle-Earth."

Amazon is also being pretty daring with their series, which is angering some people who may not have wanted that daringness (I am not one). These are the same people who really could have cared less about what Durin looked like or even what his wife looked like or if she had a nice voice or cooked a tasty dinner. All that they were interested in was that the Balrog in Moria was called "Durin's Bane." That's where their interest began and ended.

It was also enough for these people that mithril was this legendary metal that only the dwarves had, and it was as light as silk and stronger than steel. It didn't need to have an origin. But Amazon is deciding to give us an origin. It's choosing to say that the light from one of the lost Silmarils went into a tree and that it penetrated the earth through its roots, and this may be where mithril gets its precious light from.

Okay...I have no problem with that, and it's actually kind of cool. Whatever. I also like that Amazon is explaining how important light is to the elves. In Rings of Power, physical light is so important that it actually sustains their immortality. I didn't realize this, and it's probably a thing that Amazon made up, but I don't care. It actually makes more sense in all the things I've read and seen because light is always the magical thing that gets rid of evil. It makes it seem more mystical rather than Gandalf just needing to turn on a lightbulb to drive a swarm of Nazgul away.

I also love the scenery and the music. Amazon got its money's worth on this series, and I hope that there is a season two. It's absolutely stunning in its beauty, and I don't mind that I'm actually walking side by side with these characters just going through the motions of their lives as opposed to being focused down on a singular quest: to throw the one ring into Mount Doom to destroy Sauron forever! I'm glad I gave this show the time it needed to unfold what it wanted to say about the magic rings. It turns out that there were a lot of puzzle pieces that needed to come together in order to get these things forged. It just took me longer than I expected to understand this about the series, and with my expectations properly adjusted, I'm finding it pretty hard to wait for the next episode to drop.

Friday, September 23, 2022

It's a little weird thinking that the new Hellraiser movie on Hulu is a Disney property.

Horror movies are not my thing. However, I'm going to watch the new Hellraiser movie when it hits Hulu on October 7th. I've always been a fan of Clive Barker, and the mythology he created. I also read the story which Hellraiser is drawn from called The Hellbound Heart. In this short story, Frank (one of the deranged main characters who is an extreme hedonist) opens the Lament Puzzle Box expecting to be greeted by beautiful angelic beings. What shows up are a cadre of very evil BDSM demons who have no safe word. If I remember correctly, in the novella the Cenobites actually give Frank a choice.

In the movies that I've seen, this illusion of choice is not really so spelled out. When someone solves the box, they're essentially entering into a deal with the Cenobites. This is the form of "consent" that the demons require, before they begin an excruciating session of agony that ends with the person who summoned them being ripped to pieces by meathooks or something just as awful. In other words, these supernatural and demonic beings can't just go about murdering and killing. They have rules that they must follow.

The thing I liked from the trailer for this Hulu reboot is that it actually looks like the director and the producers cared about what they made. It feels like there are actual production values at play here, and that they put some real money and effort into the project. They also appear to be honoring the intellectual property quite well, by making references to things that we've seen in the prior multiple movies, including drawings of the different configurations of the puzzle box. This "puzzle box" is the magical MacGuffin that lies at the center of the story. Mysterious and powerful, we don't ever really know what it can do, and in this aspect, it is similar to "the one ring" in the Lord of the Rings stories.

The Hellraiser mythology also includes a bit about this thing called a Leviathan, which is a Lord of an infinite labyrinth that might be a fallen angel of some kind. In one of the Hellraiser movies, this Leviathan makes an appearance as an octahedron that floats above the labyrinth sending out black beams which (when someone is exposed to them) makes you relive all of your sins. This thing apparently rules over everything, and the cenobites serve it, by funneling souls to its pit to serve out their damnation. As it spun above the labyrinth, it emitted a fog horn-like sound that was Morse code for the letters: G...O...D. I assumed that this meant that it was repeating over and over that it was a god and worthy of worship. Hard to argue, given how powerful it obviously was.

Anyway, I don't normally watch horror movies. But this one has enough supernatural and fantasy angles to it that I'm going to watch it. In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to it. If you haven't seen the trailer, I might recommend to you to click the one I've embedded below and give it a good look.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Timothée Chalamet said that societal collapse is in the air. I think he's right.

Timothée Chalamet (while wearing what looked like a backless red dress thing) said something that caught my attention. It happened at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. He was there to promote the cannibal love story (yes there is such a thing) called, Bones and All. I haven't decided if I'm going to watch the film. I like Chalamet very much. But "very much" these days rarely means I'll go out of my way to watch something a person is in. It just means I appreciate them for what they do, and I follow them on Instagram. So what did he say?

Timothée said, "It's tough to be alive now. I think societal collapse is in the air--it smells like it."

I have to say, I wasn't expecting him to say that. It was a "drop the mic" moment, and shook me out of what I was doing so that I could be fully living in the present. Being "present" is harder than it sounds. There's a lot of us that struggle with this, especially with the ubiquitous "smartphone" within hand's reach. But what Timothée had to say struck a nerve with me. I think he was speaking honestly, and I kind of agree with him. But what does that mean exactly? What does societal collapse look like? Here are a few of my observations, taken from a guy who lives in a state that was recently discovered to have the most aggressive and dangerous drivers in the United States. I can confirm, it is bad here to be on the roads. Nobody cares and its every person for themselves. Psychologically, this kind of thing can be expected when people are both very entitled and very selfish (you can see I have a high opinion of my fellow human). But I digress...

My firsthand observation of the collapse of society looks like the degradation of humanity via a mental health crisis. I also think that our society is at a point of no return. This mental health crisis around the world, but most particularly in the United States, is largely fueled by greed. It takes the form of political greed, corporate greed, the fossil fuel industry, big pharma, employer greed, professional sports, religious greed, and greed within families. Is there anything that embodies the image of pure greed more than "royals?" We were treated to a spectacular show this week with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The entire time I saw snippets of this, I asked myself, "Why are these people better than anyone else? What gives? Why do people send so much money to others like this?" I had no answers for any of my questions. I only had co-workers who are barely getting by themselves who were in tears because this incredibly rich and entitled woman died. What a mind job, man. It's like everyone has Stockholm Syndrome, where they sympathize greatly for their abuser.

This avarice for more and more is seen as the highest standard, a so-called badge of overall life success, without any sense of compassion or concern for anyone else. When a Queen dies millions mourn and lament the passing of a person that probably never had to hustle to get dinner ready after working a 10-hour shift. When a homeless person dies, people just complain at the stink and step over the body if it is on the sidewalk. The constant barrage of consumerism and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots tremendously affects mental and physical health. Most of us (including myself) feel like we are running on a hamster wheel with little or no incentive. Our annual wage increase, if we even get one at all, doesn't even come close to covering the cost of living. Then after taxes and healthcare premiums, we've taken two (or more) steps backward. But by all means, let's shed tears for the Queen and not even think about the destructive swath British colonialism wreaked upon the world in the centuries it was allowed to endure.

I think that a lot of people who share my values feel powerless and hopeless about the future. From where I'm standing, American society resembles a dystopia of social disconnection, gun violence, and confusion over the most fundamental facts one should know. No wonder the catchphrase for 2022 seems to be "quiet quitting." In any other context, people would see that particular phenomenon as just setting healthy boundaries. But in 2022, where people are shoveled crap by the bucketload, "quiet quitting" is the term that summons rage at the idea of another person just doing the bare minimum to get by, as if that is somehow shameful to even contemplate, given how toxic to mental health everything has become.

Monday, September 19, 2022

I was surprised at how good the HALO series was on Paramount +.

I never played the HALO games that Microsoft put out, but I had plenty of friends who did. When the HALO show premiered on Paramount + earlier this year, despite my lack of familiarity with controlling Master Chief, I was excited to watch the show. I finally got around to finishing it this last weekend, and it didn't disappoint.

In reflecting on these nine episodes, I think I can say that HALO was a surprising show in that it had a lot of roles with diversity and handled them really well. This wasn't a clumsy or ham-fisted adaptation with little disregard done to racial casting. Every role seemed to have as much weight as the Master Chief himself. And each was given enough dialogue and enough screen time to warrant the investment of talented actors who seemed to take their roles seriously enough that I was immersed almost constantly while watching. In particular, I really enjoyed actress Yerin Ha's role in Kwan Ha, the only survivor of a Covenant-led attack that murdered her clan on the planet of Madrigal. Her story arc was really interesting, and shone just as brightly as the one led by the Master Chief.

I think that I'm glad I never played the video game, and thus was unfamiliar with the story going into this show. On the surface, it's a diamond in the rough, offering a lot of promise in many of its scenes (the one showing a ring-world of some kind in dreamscape-like sequences hint at some pretty high science fiction that may be coming down the pipe). I'm now on board with these characters, and I'm invested in whatever goes down with them. I actually cared that a Spartan was in danger. One thing that gave me a chuckle was watching John's bored face while watching for Kai to show up after the spaceship crash. That said to me that John knows an exploding starship is like a mosquito bite for a Spartan. In the end, I think the only thing that scares them are "feelings."

I was also impressed with the villainy of Dr. Halsey. In this show, the crime that she commits is one of the most horrific I've ever heard of in a story. Here's what it is in a nutshell: to create the Spartan program, she selected kids that were about six years old and targeted them for kidnappings. Then she cloned those kids (once they were kidnapped) and returned the clones to the parents. These "fake" kids would then (within days) hemorrhage blood and go into unexplained seizures and die, leaving the parents to mourn for their children while she kept the real ones for training to be Spartans. I was like...oh my god...that's so evil! I's like next level evil. Like Dr. Mengele evil (real-life former Nazi doctor). I wonder how she's going to outdo herself in season 2. Maybe she will just kill millions of people or something like that, and justify it to herself as "saving billions." What a monster.

Additionally, I learned just yesterday that it has been renewed for season 2. I can't wait.

Did anyone else watch HALO, or are you in the process of watching it? If so, what did you think?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Lower Decks is back with season 3 and Bradford Boimler is my favorite character.

With the launch of season 3 of Lower Decks on Paramount +, I think my favorite character is Bradford Boimler. Voiced by Jack Quaid who plays Hughie Campbell in Amazon's The Boys, the character of Boimler takes himself very seriously while everyone else does not. That's kind of his running gag, and it does seem to work. He also has a lot of the "Sheldon Cooper" obliviousness which maybe is an homage to Big Bang Theory which in its long run had many of its own homages to Star Trek. It may just be that geek culture in general is one big bathtub and everything just sloshes around in it constantly. So, if you are a geek, then you see all parts of the tub equally, and they all affect what you like equally.

Thus far in season 3 we learn a little more of Boimler than we did in previous seasons. The first thing that surprised me was the sight gag of "Picard at the Vineyard" before the Boimler reveal (meaning it was Boimler at his own vineyard and not Jean-Luc). I had no idea that Boimler had that kind of money in his family. But it could be that it was just meant to be another gag. And then, it was funny to see Boimler being ogled as a sex object by all the people at the vineyard (mostly women) who were literally throwing themselves at him. But in Sheldon Cooper style, he had no idea what was going on and gave them instructions quite literally whenever they would complain about "getting stains on their shirt," etc. I don't know why that kind of humor lands with me, but it does. So yeah, I laughed out loud multiple times.

I also hadn't realized that Boimler's hair was actually purple. I guess in the animation, I assumed it was kind of a blue black thing. I've seen people use black and then blue to explain highlights in it. But I hadn't given it much thought. And then Boimler said he dyes his hair purple. So, that explains it. But now I'm wondering why he dyes his hair purple.

The season three opener also had the lower decks crew playing a kind of Star Trek version of Dungeons & Dragons. So of course I liked that. The "DM" in this case (who is the one that runs the game) was the Klingon Martok from Deep Space Nine days. He said a line that reminded me of my friend Joseph, who runs some ridiculous games where he has encounters that just end badly for players and that don't make a lot of sense rules-wise. This is actually common in the D&D community, because a lot of people who run games don't really know how to run them. It can be hard to get a mastery of encounters, and much of the time, DM's just want to kill player characters probably because they've convinced themselves that by doing so, people will take them seriously. It's kind of how George R.R. Martin has an oversized influence on fiction by being one of the first authors to really "kill his darlings." A lot of people just don't like to do that, so you end up having these laughable critiques like, "Galadriel has plot armor. Nothing can happen to her even though they are trying to make this seem dangerous."

Anyway, so the line that Martok says in season 3, episode 1 of Lower Decks happens when Brad Boimler declares that his character is going to do a thing, and then he rolls a twenty-sided dice. It comes up a "1" which is a critical failure in just about every scenario. The Martok character laughs and says loudly, "The Klingon warrior rips your arm off and beats you to death with it. It is a death WITHOUT honor, because technically you died by your own hand." It's a quote that stuck in my brain, and by which I've teased my friend Joseph with several times now. When I did it the first time, it was at his game that he runs at the local game shop, and his players all agreed, "Yeah, that's Joseph."

The season opener also had a holographic James Cromwell making his inaugural warp flight from Bozeman, Montana in it. This was featured in the movie First Contact, which came out sooo long ago. Man, does time fly. Anyway, in the Star Trek universe, civilian space flights actually take off from a theme park in Bozeman, Montana. I couldn't help but think that someday this is probably going to happen somewhere on the planet. Only it won't be a holo James Cromwell doing the piloting. It will be a holo Elon Musk. And this sadly means that I'm living in the screwed over Mirror Universe, as if that wasn't apparent already.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Stable Diffusion is here to give you art on demand and to make artists obsolete.

For the past week or so, I've been playing around with Stable Diffusion. If you want to play around with it, you can go HERE to check it out. When you click on that link, it will take you to a link where you can enter a string of text and then hit a button and wait for a robot (an artificial intelligence) to generate an image based on those words. I did one last week where I wrote, "Timothee Chalamet as Legolas," and it generates some really uncanny valley images. It's kind of addicting to come up with a sentence and then wait for the A.I. to interpret your words and generate a bespoke image just for you.

Here are some images that were generated by other people who have been playing around with the software. 

It's definitely got some uncanny valley to it. Another thing it can do is generate images from other images. This second set of pics came from Reddit user argaman123. They created this image:
and then they added the following prompt:

A distant futuristic city full of tall buildings inside a huge transparent glass dome, In the middle of a barren desert full of large dunes, Sun rays, Artstation, Dark sky full of stars with a shiny sun, Massive scale, Fog, Highly detailed, Cinematic, Colorful

And then Stable Diffusion produced the following two images:

I haven't gotten anything close to results like this, but I'm still learning how the software works. It's also improving all of the time. I think it's only a month old at this point. However, anyone that does art for a living should be scared. Stable Diffusion literally makes images in less than five minutes. And as the software gets better, artists are probably going to become obsolete if this is the kind of quality we can expect from artificial intelligence.

The robots are coming for us all.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Three episodes into the Rings of Power I have a few observations that could be construed as nitpicks.

I'm three episodes into Amazon's Rings of Power. I am stunned by this beautiful and contemporary take on Tolkien's works. I also couldn't quite suss out a plot by the end of episode 2. However, episode 3 seems to have done a decent job in drawing it all together for me. My friend who watches it with me reminded me that a lot of Tolkien stuff takes a while to get going, so this should follow that same formula.

So what should I say about Rings of Power? Well, it's mostly observations. So, if you think my observations might be spoilers, then you should probably avoid them. However, if you too are watching the show, it might be useful to know if you noticed the same things that I did. So here are my first observations based off the beginning episodes.

The first is that the guy they've hired to play Elrond has the biggest chin I've ever seen on someone. In some shots, it honestly makes his entire face look like a crescent moon. I've joked with my watching partner that "Elrond must receive broadcasts from the future because of his chin." So that's been fun. It's also mean of me to body shame, but I can't help it in this case.

My second observation is that its weird that Galadriel jumped off the boat near the shores of Valinor and just...I dunno...decided to swim back to Middle Earth. This seemed so unbelievable to me that I commented to my friend, "This would be like diving off a boat in the middle of the Pacific and swimming back to San Francisco. It was utterly ridiculous. My friend reminded me that elves are badass. So, I shrugged and said, "Okay...I guess I can let this go. But it does bother me."

My third observation is that I think Halbrand who plays a man from the south (notorious followers of Sauron and Morgoth) is Sauron just kinda hanging out and being all hot and stuff. It's really weird. But he killed the people without a second thought at sea, and I think he saved Galadriel so that she would introduce him to the elves and so that he could help out with the rings of power (which they are about to get around to forging). It makes sense, because Galadriel kinda likes him and in the books and in the movies she clearly doesn't and calls him "the deceiver." So...I think he "deceives" Galadriel starting with this shipwreck and subsequent trip to Numenor, etc. And most of us who have read The Lord of the Rings books know that Sauron was a great smith, so him trying to help out in the smithy seems within character. If I'm right, it's just weird seeing Sauron eating dinner and hanging out. He kinda has a look with all that spikey armor that I'm not used to thinking of him like this. But I suppose he could look like whatever he wants to look like to accomplish his goals for his master.

My fourth observation about the show is that the Harfoots, who appear to be ancestors of the Hobbits, are incredibly cruel. They just abandon anyone that falls behind when they decide to move from one location to another. They actually have a word for it: "de-caravaned." And among some of the worst punishments are being at the back of the caravan, because it is more likely to lose the back than it is to lose the front. In practice, it looks like you can expect no help from anyone else in the caravan. You either follow under your own power and strength, or you just fall behind and die, and then they read your name out in a book once a year. It was honestly kind of grotesque, but whatever.

I suppose these are just nitpicky things. I'm enjoying the show, and I know it is difficult to create a fantasy world. They are doing better than most, and this is to say that I don't think I could have come up with anything better using only footnotes and appendices. Is anyone else watching, The Rings of Power? If so, what are your observations?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Allowing work aversion disorder to set in is probably the most toxic thing you could do to yourself if you can't afford to not work.

I suppose this post was a combination of things I was thinking about. There was the death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday, which got me thinking about people who don't really have to work because they live off other people in a life of extraordinary privilege and entitlement. There are also numerous people I know who have what is called "work aversion," and they are at various ages in life. And thinking about those two things in particular led me to write this peculiar essay of sorts for this blog, and how being work averse when you are not rich in a capitalist society is probably the most toxic thing you could do. It's actually just awful. But first, I think I need to define what Work Aversion Disorder is. And trust's super common. I have only like 10 total friends and at least four of them that I know of suffer from this "disorder," which when you boil it down isn't really a diagnosable disorder. It's just a better term than extreme toxic laziness.

Work aversion is the state of avoiding or not wanting to work or be employed, or the extreme preference of leisure as opposed to work. It can set in because people observe privileged folk not working, and they think that if so-and-so can get away with it, I can too. It can also come from parents who coddle their children and believe that many kinds of work are beneath their children to do. It can set in from negative experiences. A lot of work is done alongside assholes who berate, pay you low wages, or who treat you as a subhuman. This is mostly because of an inconvenient truth in that a lot of people are actually terrible. Violent crime aside, the bullies and the casual law breakers and people who can't be bothered to respect others are everywhere. So work in itself (for many people) is trauma. You have to have a thick skin to work, to suffer performance appraisals, and to suffer the many indignities that are splashed on you because of work. So I get it. Work Aversion then is the ultimate boundary. It is saying, "I'm not going to play this game. It hurts me. I'm not doing it. Ever." And then what happens is that the burden of that person living gets passed to someone else. So the workload increases.

What I find fascinating is the insidious spiral of death this decision creates. In other words, these extremely concrete boundaries set by those who have "work aversion" will destroy you in a capitalist society. There are so many complications, but here's a short list of those that are possible (and that I've actually observed) that are visited upon the person with this disorder:

1) Loss of assets. Duh...if you can't afford anything because you don't work, then you end up poor. This (in the short term) leads to huge debt and credit problems that (because of our society) can quickly creep onto a partner or a loved one like a disease and ruin their finances.

2) This then leads to abandonment. Duh. Again, this is a no-brainer. Why would you let someone else drag you down? So strings get cut, the person is abandoned, and the people who were partners thank the gods that they were able to escape this "toxic" person. Friends scatter to the four winds too, because in a capitalist society (especially America today), everyone that isn't a Queen is maxed out on who and what they can care for.

3) Because of abandonment and because of being dirt ass poor, depression sets in. Now you've got a real diagnosable mental illness. Then self-neglect sets in. This includes malnourishment (if they even could afford food to begin with), and the neglect of one's personal appearance or hygiene. This in turn drives even more people away.

4) Strained relations with family and friends happen. No one wants to be around a needy, stinky, person who doesn't want to work and just wants you to support them. So yeah, the isolation grows if it wasn't already huge to begin with. Not to mention that the person is probably constantly talking about their mental illness and screaming for help and there is literally no one who can fill this bottomless well of need (because what they really need is millions of dollars to meet all of their financial burdens as a result of being work averse). 

5) This leads to reduced socialization, which causes even more mental illnesses, like anxiety, and terrible codependency issues.

So's like dominoes. When you knock one down, it touches another, and so on and so forth. But I get it. Who wants to work, especially when we can see that there are folks who live wonderful vibrant lives who really don't have jobs that abuse them and treat them like garbage? But work aversion disorder is literally the worst thing if you are not one of the people who are lucky, and can afford "not to work." And it's amazing how it's a doorway to so many horrible things. In fact, I'd describe what happens to a person as a toxic death spiral. It's like you make a decision to circle the drain. But what's the alternative? For many people, it is embracing severe daily trauma for low wages that eventually break your body and your mind. That's fascinating, isn't it?

Anyway, that's what I wanted to share with you today: thoughts on being forced to work and having the privilege of not having to work. Those are some interesting things to contemplate in this all too human experience called life. Now if only I could answer (for myself) why we have things like Kings and Queens to begin with? Why do we celebrate these freeloaders? How did it even get started? Does it all go back to bullying and narcissism? Did the one with these toxic traits thousands of years ago just bully and stomp their way to the top and enslave everyone else? Maybe that's all it was. As I said earlier, people are terrible, and they just keep visiting terrible on other people forever.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The September IWSG wants to know what genre I'd have the most difficulty writing for and why.

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. If you've been following my blog, you know I like to participate in this thing. This is the first time I can remember in a long while when the IWSG happened so late in a given month. I guess it was a perfect storm with the 31st of August landing in the middle of last week so that the 1st was actually a Thursday. If this is your first time stumbling across this blogfest, know that it's been going for years now (maybe even a decade). Alex Cavanaugh, writer of best selling science fiction, started it all. Here are a few other details taken from the sign-up page, which you can find HERE.

What is the purpose of the IWSG?: Well, it 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!

When do y'all post?: As I said above, it is the first Wednesday of every month. This is the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group posting day. You are to post your thoughts on your own blog, talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered, discuss your struggles and triumphs, and offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Or, you can just answer the monthly question, which is what I do every month unless I'm feeling particularly ambitious.

Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

The IWSG is on Twitter! The handle they use is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

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.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

I'm going to answer this as anything that people who are strongly conservative in their politics would enjoy. I know that sounds like a weird way to answer this question, but people who are conservative and people who are liberal like different things. They just do, and it's a fact and not an opinion. It's why Yellowstone is such a huge hit with conservatives and very few liberals actually watch it. I know what conservatives like, and I just can't write any of that. It's not for me. I don't understand it. I don't like it. And I'm glad that it isn't my job to write stuff for their minds. So yeah...that's the genre that would be the worst thing for me to tackle.

I hope that answer satisfies you. Now for those of you who have visited my blog, here's a not-so-fun fact about the State of Utah where I live: temperature records going back to the 1800's show that Utah (on average) has eight 100 degree days during the summer. Here on September 7th (Wednesday) of 2022, we have now had 35. It will be 105 degrees today. I'm not sure what is happening, but I hate it. I never signed up to live in Phoenix, Arizona. Our future is so screwed.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Why was there so much red matter in a containment field in the 2009 Star Trek movie?

So I came across Star Trek on cable one night this week (I think it was on AMC), and it was the J.J. Abrams reboot that happened in 2009. I hadn't seen it in a few years, and I only watched some of it, because I was headed to bed. The part I did watch was the "red matter" scene, where the Romulans inject a drop of red matter into their drill that is going to attack Vulcan in order to make a hole deep enough for them to fire a torpedo into Vulcan and cause its collapse into a black hole. This is where (for the first time) I kind of blinked and asked the question, "What is red matter anyway?" I figured that the internet would have stuff written on it. And it didn't disappoint. So today's entire post is an essay of sorts on exactly what "red matter" is, because I figured you guys would all want to know. It's like that itch that you didn't even know you needed to scratch from the pseudo-science from a movie that is already thirteen years old and where one of the main crew members has already passed away. How time flies. So ready? Here goes.

Red Matter in J.J. Abrams's reboot is a substance capable of forming a black hole when ignited. One drop was sufficient to collapse a star or consume an entire planet. From what I can gather, it was originally created by Spock, and his idea was to use it to reinvigorate a dying Romulan sun, but it didn't work, and the result was the complete and utter destruction of Romulus. brain was like...okay, then why was there this much in the movie (picture below):

Remember when staring at the huge red ball that they only needed one drop.

Like...that is a ridiculous amount of red matter. I don't know how dangerous all of that stuff is, but one drop can cause an entire planet to disappear into a black hole. So this led me to question, "Why would Spock make the above when all he needed was a single drop?"

Here's what I found out. Getting this out of the way, I'm not the first person to ask this question. And there is no answer other than maybe he thought it would be nice to have extra for other applications. Who knows? However, the Vulcans were not overly keen to have a potentially world-ending substance sitting around in their science facility. In the comic book (I shouldn't have been surprised that there was a comic book) Geordi LaForge and Spock indicate that red matter is very unstable. They had to build a special container on Spock's ship (named the Jellyfish), and that ultimately became the safest place to store it. That's why there's such a huge amount of it on Spock's ship and nowhere else. They also seemed to think that it would be okay to jettison whatever was left into the singularity that formed and it would just disappear into the black hole like everything else. That seems weird to me, but I don't understand black holes anyway. So I suppose that sounds like a good idea. Like...where else would you store it safely?

And finally, I guess that all of J.J. Abrams's movies and productions have a red ball placed somewhere in them. I've never noticed this. But it is an Easter Egg for his movies. There is one in the Alias pilot, and people who work with J.J. wonder where the red ball is going to show up. So the red ball in Star Trek was impossible to miss, which may be an indication of how excited J.J. was to direct the movie, even if its disruption to canon has riled many Star Trek fans.

So, now you know as much about "Red Matter" as I do. It's one huge macguffin, and an inside joke. Are you satisfied? Did it scratch an itch you never knew you needed to scratch? Have a great Labor Day weekend. I will be back on Wednesday with an Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The House of the Dragon spinoff feels less interesting than the original Game of Thrones even if it is a gorgeous production.

I've watched two episodes of House of the Dragon now, and I wanted to weigh-in on the Game of Thrones spinoff. However, it will be impossible to do so without spoilers. So, here is your spoiler warning.

House of the Dragon doesn't feel like Game of Thrones as much as it feels like Game of Thrones fanfiction, but maybe through the eyes of someone with less talent. The original story featured a huge cast of characters (many of them horrible), with each one starring in its own chapter or point-of-view. This technique allowed George R.R. Martin and by extension, the HBO team, to cliffhang each story and then go on to the next scene. With House of the Dragon the scene transitions are more like a regular tv series. They are just different points of view within the same large family. And the dynastic succession seems like a story that we've seen before. In some ways, having watched Game of Thrones, I wonder why any of these people don't see that the struggle for this uncomfortable chair that the king sits in is even worth it. Or maybe the ultimate lesson is that it is bad to be the King of Westeros.

That chair too has been changed a bit to make it more imposing. The steps leading up to it appear broader than they were in the original series. They are also covered in the littered remains of melted longswords and daggers no doubt taken from enemies and forged in a way to make the Iron Throne a bit of a contemporary art piece. The fact that the king regularly cuts himself on it and gets grotesque skin infections from the wounds seems lost to the common sense of those who should know better within the context of this fictional world.

The dragons as well seem a lot different. The ones that Daenerys rode were what I might consider to be a more traditional take on the mythological monster. Matt Smith from Doctor Who plays Daemon Targaryen, and his dragon appears to look more red and serpentine. Smith's character is utterly without charisma of any kind. This in contrast to Joffrey in the original who had charisma even if he was a psychopath. It almost feels like Matt Smith overacts in his Targaryen role so as to appear intentionally crazy, as opposed to the slow boil of crazy that we saw in other characters in the original series.

Where House of the Dragon does seem to land well is in the violence and gore that were hallmarks of the previous series. However, the original show covered quite a bit of territory. Seeking to maybe break new ground, the Westeros of centuries past shows itself in a tournament of bored knights eager to maim one another, and in a horrific birth scene that seems conjured to remind us all that many women prior to modern medicine did not survive a baby. And of course, there is plenty of social commentary on the state of the patriarchy in this medieval horror show, with baby boys clearly being more important than mothers and with a Targaryen in Harrenhal choosing a male heir over a female one.

Why anyone even continues to use Harrenhal as a dwelling is a question I never got answered either from the original series or the books. If you don't recall this specific castle in Westeros, it's a ruin of melted stone with many collapsed hallways and uninhabitable spaces due to dragon fire being used on its inhabitants. It would be little more than living out of a cave. There is always some noble squabbling over Harrenhal, yet no one ever gets around to renovating the place and fixing it up. I guess part of its ongoing appeal is its ruined appearance so that people can gape in awe and say, "This is what happened when Balerion the Dread melted the place." Balerion is the "big" dead dragon skull at King's Landing. I'm pretty sure Drogon ended up being that big at the close of Daenerys's storyline. 

The new cast of House of the Dragon may settle into their roles yet. But it is difficult to see how it will maintain the epic feel of Game of Thrones without a spooky bad guy (the White Walkers). In fact, it may end up being more of a medieval Dynasty (this was a popular prime-time soap opera in the 1980's that featured various squabbling modern-day nobles backstabbing one another while living off their oil money). Dallas is another one of these dynasty-esque shows. So, House of the Dragon then is just a gussied up Dynasty featuring dragons instead of cars and with white wigs on everyone. Watching this show makes me think of the phrase "lightning in a bottle." It's obvious that there is more hunger for Game of Thrones. But there may not be more Game of Thrones to be had. 

Sometimes, a good story is just that. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Stretching it out to give more to the people has always been a problem. Look at Jaws and Jurassic Park. Both of these are examples where the brilliance of the original made people go looking to recapture that "lightning in a bottle." And it never worked, even if those attempts produced money. Being profitable is not the same as being good, and I think we are in that territory when it comes to House of the Dragon. The thing has millions of viewers, and it probably always will dominate the ratings. But the magic of what made the original unique is simply not there, at least in these first two episodes. It would help things a lot if they actually had a supernatural villain to worry about (like the Night King) as opposed to watching a family destroy its enemies, many of whom reside within the same walls. Ah well...if any family was interesting enough to warrant a series, it was the Targaryens and their dragon lords. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

She-Hulk on Disney Plus didn't waste any time drawing bigger connections to the MCU.

In today's post, I want to discuss the first two episodes of the new She-Hulk series. So this is your spoiler warning.

She-Hulk on Disney Plus didn't waste any time drawing bigger connections to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Most of these Marvel series are not shy on this aspect. But right from the get-go we had a Sakaaran spaceship that resulted in Banner's niece getting infected with his gamma irradiated blood. And then from there, she's off to represent Emil Blonsky, whom we briefly saw in Shang-Chi and who had a larger part in an Edward Norton led Incredible Hulk movie that I believe I've only watched once, and it was well over ten years ago. That show was the one that had the Abomination in it. Honestly, I thought it would be a better movie. But it wasn't bad. I just remember that my interest waned in it once Edward Norton jumped ship for whatever ship he's sailing on these days. I used to like Edward Norton a lot (his performance in American History X is incredible). But I've come to understand that he may be a bit difficult to work with. I've worked with "difficult" folks, so I get it. My sympathies go to anyone that is forced to work with difficult, snobby, demanding people.

I am wondering who Blonsky's "seven penpals" are at this point. He mentioned it more than once when meeting with his lawyer (She-Hulk), and I'm thinking that the line felt "bludgeoning" enough for me to think that they are laying the ground for something. But my knowledge of Marvel is not good enough for me to predict what this "something" is going to be. I also wonder if Matt Murdock will make an appearance at some point seeing as he's a lawyer too. That would be an interesting turn of events and draw a nice connection to the Daredevil series, since we know that She-Hulk is now going to take the place of Mark Ruffalo in the Avengers movies.

Another of the things I find interesting about the character of Blonsky is that we learn (by the end of the second episode) that his participation in the underground fighting ring that was featured in the movie, Shang Chi was in fact an illegal appearance. Honestly, this is a no-brainer. So, I should have realized this. But I didn't. There were too many things I was trying to process plot-wise that this appearance by the Abomination seemed like just another interesting and humorous cameo. However, now that I've had time to process what we saw in She-Hulk I think there are more realistic real world implications.

For one, She-Hulk herself admits out loud that people need to earn a living. Money doesn't just drop from the sky, and she wonders if being an Avenger even comes with a paycheck. When I turned this tidbit over in my mind, I realized that even though Wong is now the Sorcerer Supreme, he might also need a paycheck. So I assumed that Wong is the one that is selling his magical talents to break random super people out of their prisons so that he can earn money in the fighting ring. Afterall, being the Sorcerer Supreme probably doesn't pay a living wage, and those tuna melts from the corner deli don't come cheap.

We don't need this explanation for Stephen Strange. He obviously has a good windfall fund somewhere since he was a rich doctor once, and the Sanctum Sanctorum has to be paid off in full (minus yearly property taxes). The idea that the Sorcerer Supreme has all these regulations and rules about using magical powers and artifacts and whatnot for fear of being magically corrupted, but these same rules do not include using your powers to make money for personal gain (in illegal fight clubs) makes me laugh.

And finally, these two episodes of She-Hulk make me wonder what the plans are for Banner. It seems obvious that they are removing him from The Avengers. But he is seen leaving Earth in a Sakaaran spaceship. So, I wonder if we are going to get a World War Hulk thing in the future? I'm thinking that the Sakaarians are taking Hulk back to the planet to meet his son and baby mama. Some band from Earth attacks (maybe the Illuminati) and Hulk's son and baby mama get killed. That makes Banner lose his shit, and then he comes back to Earth as an unstoppable angry man. Anyway, it's just thoughts at this point. But a lot of it was kicked off with these first two episodes of She-Hulk. They were pretty good. Anyone else wondering where they are going with this thing? Anyone else enjoy what they saw?

Friday, August 26, 2022

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a $400 million dollar story made from footnotes and appendices.

Today I learned that The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power does not have the rights to The Silmarillion. I was like...what in the hell? I guess the rights to Tolkien's properties are complicated. What they do have are the rights to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, all of its appendices that go with it, as well as The Hobbit. So, the appendices cover a good amount of the Second Age. Additionally, I guess the showrunners were allowed to ask to use certain elements from the other books (or to get permission) if even one name was (for example) mentioned in the appendices. In other words, if a person, a place, or an event is referenced in the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit in any way that they were allowed to use all of the connecting details that appear in The Silmarillion. However, they couldn't use anything that appears solely in The Silmarillion.

This is a really weird way to spend $400 million dollars (the cost of the first season). I'm a little in awe that someone would greenlight a show adaptation from what are essentially scraps and footnotes, when there are entire novels out there written by other fantasy authors that are relatively cheap (in comparison) to get. I understand that The Lord of the Rings has name recognition. However, there are a lot of fantasy stories out there that are just as good if not better in their overall story.

All that being said, there are additional considerations that I would have had if it was my $400 million being invested in this thing. For example, I've noticed online that this series (it isn't even out yet) has become something of a lightning rod for folks who are mad because there are strong women and non-white people being represented. This means that the series will start with a lot of bad will (assume that half of the United States is basically racist). Even if the series is good, it runs the risk that this "bad will" could spread online and infect even non-racists and non-sexists. To simplify, if the series ends up not being all that great of a story because it is drawn from appendices and footnotes, there will be huge arguments that state (wrongly I might add) that the show exists to showcase diversity and that therefore the problem is diversity.

We live in interesting times, folks. I am looking forward to The Rings of Power. It's going to be here soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

What will be the final consequences of all the political hatred directed at shows like She-Hulk?

I haven't watched She-Hulk yet, as I've been busy. I hear from a few trusted sources that it is good. But there is a thing going on with its reviews (especially those on IMDB) that have become newsworthy. I guess, people are bombing the show by the hundreds. And these happened even before the first episode was released. When an article pointed this out (which was open for comments) these were the kinds of comments that were left in response to the reporting:

"Just because you make a w0ke show and it gets bad ratings that doesn't its getting botted it might mean however inconceivable to lefties that the show is just really bad."

"No point in delaying the inevitable. No one wants to watch degenerate trash television and they want you to know it."

"When did giving your opinion that something isn't good become an epidemic instead of the truth? I watched it. It isn't good. Maybe it will get better? But so far, no good. How is that a problem? Women can fail too...."

"The show is a pile of current cultural nonsense and the reviews reflect that."

"Every time some GRRRL POWER MEN ARE TERRIBLE show is criticized this happens, anyone remember Captain Marvel and how awful that was?"

"Sounds like somebody can't handle the fact that their new woke show just isn't that popular. The woke media always wants to make everything they hold dear seem so much more popular than it really is. Yeah, Joe Biden is turning things around. The economy is doing great. Everybody wants a man pretending to be a woman reading books to their kids in school. Conservatives are more violent than leftists. There weren't any riots. What riots?"

The quote below is actually my favorite:

"It's called democracy. Anyone who claims online reviews are rigged is a review denier conspiracy theorist. She-Hulk had the freest and fairest review ratings in the history of review rating. Anyone who denies the She-Hulk reviews deserves to be raided by the F.B.I."

So what do we make of all this? Well...there's a lot of upset people out there who aren't upset about She-Hulk, who feel that bombing She-Hulk is a way to get back at the people that they hate. Don't you think that's weird?

We haven't quite gotten to the point where people take up arms against each other in a full out civil war and a hail of bullets. But we are close. What we do have on our hands is a very uncivil society, and the hate is everywhere. It's palpable. And you can feel it radiating outward from every terrible comment left on websites scattered throughout the internet.

Personally, I wonder why people can't find joy. One of the comments above clearly slurs someone who is transgender. However, the way I'd look at that situation is, "My child is getting a free education at a public school. That's fantastic. It's something I don't have to do."

But no one sees the good in things anymore. I would liken it to being made a delicious dinner, and then complaining about the appearance of the things it was cooked in and even being hateful toward those pots and pans. These online trolls are the worst kinds of bullies. I just wish they weren't half the people in this nation. I sometimes wonder if psychopathy is nature's way of controlling a population that has no other checks.

What will be the final consequences of all the politically-inspired hatred directed at shows like She-Hulk? I'm betting we'll have an answer to that within my lifetime.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Dungeons & Dragons is making some minor revisions to its popular ruleset and it's caused a meltdown online.

This last week has been an interesting one for the tabletop roleplaying game community. Wizards of the Coast, which is the parent company for Dungeons & Dragons (and a very well run company I might add), has decided to produce an update to the core rules which they believe stand the test of time and will only require minor updates every few years. For decades, this has not been the case. Every five years or so, a new edition would roll out with all new revamped rules that would irritate old school players who would feel like they get left behind, and it would irritate those who have tight budgets as replacing books is expensive. This new make a ruleset that is backwards compatible and makes a few tweaks here and there that you can either accept or discard depending on how you want to run your game...has started a lot of discussions. And many of these discussions could be rephrased as complete and total meltdowns online. It's a fascinating thing to see how people enmasse react to a changing world, even if that world is fictional.

For one, a lot of the changes are being branded as "politically-inspired bullshit" or "wokeness gone too far." Wizards of the Coast has decided that it is in their best interest to be as inclusive as possible. So, they have made tweaks to races to make them pretty much equal to one another (which was not the case before). They have also created hybrid races that can more safely explore the fantasies of those people who identify as "furries" to allow them safe spaces and a means to create all kinds of animal and human combinations. Queerness of all kinds is represented. There are gay heroes and rulers of countries of fictional worlds. And there are black, brown, female, and disabled characters being represented. It pisses a lot of old school (particularly white male) people off. So why has this come to pass?

Look, Dungeons & Dragons has always been a weird form of entertainment. But its mainstream appeal in 2022 is pretty gigantic, and there are so many new people playing and wanting to play this game that I have enjoyed for decades. I like to think that the reason this has happened is because of the inclusive changes the game has made. But another reason might be that the escapism that D&D offers is a substitute for therapy which many cannot afford. Some of the old school complaints that I don't agree with which are aired online is the fact that Wizards of the Coast is supporting people creating and indulging all kinds of fantastical worlds, instead of adhering to the patriarchy-driven European middle-ages kinds of fantasy stereotypes that grew from works like The Lord of the Rings and continued through Game of Thrones and every other kind of medieval fantasy knockoff. In other words, in the eyes of many of these people you are not playing proper Dungeons & Dragons if your idea of a fantasy world looks more like Disney's Zootopia and less like Middle Earth.

This is a weird take, right? Additionally, the company has decided that the alignment system (which you may have heard of) is extinct. No longer are things "Chaotic Evil" or "Lawful Good." Instead, they want evil and good to be a matter of play and decision-making and motivation, rather than a label you just smack onto something. It is an interesting way to go about doing things, mostly because it assumes that people are smart enough to know when something is evil and something is good. We should all realize that this idea doesn't work, as the pandemic showed us that no one does "the right thing." We either assume to believe this truth, or far worse, to believe that people simply do not know what the "right thing is" to begin with. Labels like "Chaotic Evil" were useful to just stick onto things for those people (who are many) who have no ability to judge whether raping a thing is good behavior or not (if you are in is not). And in my own personal experience, I plan to continue to label things for players who may have trouble sussing out whether a thing they decide to do is evil or not, and whether observing something occurring is evil or not. Sometimes, people truly are stupid enough that leading them around a bit is the best way to go. Although a good storyteller can accomplish this without making it too obvious (and that is the key, isn't it?)

There are also minor rules changes that are coming up. Some of the things that people previously used will lose relevance as the new things get printed, but I think it is all in good spirit as the streamlining clears up misunderstandings. What I don't get is the hate that I see from old-school players, who didn't embrace the latest edition of the game anyway, and are continuing to struggle to find players for their games that they run where the rules system hasn't been updated since the 1980's.

From reading their Facebook posts in a Facebook group I belong to, you would think that the company is a complete sellout to liberals, and that the new generation of players are all weaklings who got participation trophies in school and who cannot handle the harshness of a gritty game. They are half one has the stomach to play games where characters experience nothing but misery and then die. What's the point of that? What's the fun in that? But there are (in this old school crowd) plenty of people who get enjoyment from watching characters suffer.

It's an odd phenomenon, and I wonder why this is. Is it inherent within human nature to want to watch others suffer, even if those suffering are fictional characters? Is this (perhaps) why dystopias are so popular in fiction? I suppose it is all good as long as you don't expect someone to inhabit the skin of that character that is suffering. And this (at its core) is what Dungeons & Dragons does: it puts you in the skin of a character. And considering that its a game, it is supposed to be fun to be that character for a few hours. And fun (the last time I checked) had nothing to do with suffering unless you are a really odd duck.

In any event, I wish I understood why people get so upset at changes. I wish I knew why people get stuck in tar pits like dinosaurs did in prehistoric times. They get stuck there, and then they die in the sweltering sun. It doesn't make sense, especially when I find out that many of these people so resistant to change say to my face that they are capitalist. Capitalism, by its very definition, embraces innovation and change. If they hate innovation so much, and they can't afford to replace books, and they hate it when a company makes something irrelevant, they should be a socialist. But they aren't, and that confuses me a lot in just about everything I observe them doing. Instead, they just want to keep going forward (and expect everyone else to go forward) with ideas that they embraced when they were young, like an insect frozen in amber. I suppose it is easy to confuse "what is" with "what ought to be" when "what is" has been working in your favor for so long.

If you have the time, you should watch the video above. It's quite interesting, and it will give you a bit more perspective on the changes that are happening in the community (and why some people might be outraged).

Friday, August 19, 2022

Has anyone else noticed that a lot of Asians seem to have Europeans placed on a weird pedestal?

Xenoblade Chronicles 3,
which is a game for the Nintendo Switch, recently became available. I've read that it is a pure joy, and it's made me want to play it. I've also read that it's another game where the anime-like characters all have British accents. I've wondered about this phenomenon a lot. I suppose that part of it is obviously marketing to your audience. But being a Japanese American (my mother was born in Tokyo), I just want to say, the entire time I knew my mother she wanted to be British and/or European. She never wanted to be Japanese. This never struck me as strange. But now that I'm 51 (I recently had a birthday), I'm starting to realize that she wasn't alone. There are a lot of people in this world who long to be British and by extension...European. And at the same time...I'm starting to think that it is strange.

You see it in architecture choices, you see it in the way people decorate their homes. I've been in a lot of Asian homes that used a kind of gold on white color scheme, which is called French Provincial. This term, in case you are unaware of it, refers to furniture produced in smaller French cities that was mostly white and gold in the 18th century.

Anime characters rarely have the eyes of someone from Asia (meaning that they are almond-shaped). Rather, they tend to use European-style eyes, especially on the male characters. So where does all of this come from (assuming for a moment that I'm onto something)?

I wonder if it is an extension of colonialism. In previous centuries, the British empire (especially) practiced colonialism around the world. In short, this was a domination of a people or area by a foreign state or nation. They occupied these lands with settlers, and they exploited the area economically for their own gain. Japan to my knowledge wasn't ever colonized, but they were conquered after World War 2 by America, and America and its British parents have been in lockstep through a majority of America's history (once the parent nation realized that its child had drawn boundaries they couldn't really mess with). 

I know this is sloppy history, and it's not meant to be any kind of official history lesson at all. History is complicated, and I'll leave it to the professionals whom I respect very much. But my point is that I wonder if there is a kind of collective self-deprecation that happens to folks who are non-European that makes them create stuff like anime characters with British accents. Or maybe my observation is just flawed, with a sample size that is too small. So I guess I'll leave this topic with a question: has anyone else noticed this? Like...has anyone else seen Asians in particular seeming to emulate Europeans instead of embracing their own culture? And if you have noticed this, why do you think this is happening? Do you think it is just marketing to an audience? Or do you think that Asian nations have placed Europeans on some kind of weird pedestal?

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

I don't really miss going to the movies.

Does anyone else feel like television is now where it's at? That it's just not worth it to go to the movies anymore? The last movie I saw in the theater was Thor: Love and Thunder. But just being honest, getting the tickets, scheduling, and then coordinating with others to go and see it as well as spending the gas and the time and the money on concessions has lost a certain luster. Just five years ago, I spent hundreds of dollars a year on going out to the movies. I loved them. I don't know what's changed. But now...all the things I look forward to are on television. Here are things that I haven't watched yet that are on the list:

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

The last half of the final season of Better Call Saul

House of the Dragon (it starts really soon).

The Rings of Power (Amazon's Lord of the Rings fantasy that they spent $400 million on).

Season 3 of Locke and Key that's on Netflix

The Terminal List on Amazon

The Bear

Love, Death, and Robots

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities that comes out just before Halloween

Uncoupled on Netflix. This one has Neil Patrick Harris in it, and it looks like it is worth a watch.

Inventing Anna

Prey (this one is on Hulu). It's apparently a movie with the predator monster in it fighting some Native Americans. It honestly looks interesting and has quite a bit of buzz built up around it.

Wednesday (a new Addams family show that's going to be on Netflix)

Interview with the Vampire, which is on AMC and will be in October (of course)

Arcane season 2 on Netflix. It started production in November 2021, so it should be appearing sometime in the winter or spring.

Red which is a Pixar movie that I just haven't gotten around to watching yet. It came out probably six months ago. That's how far behind I am.

Season 3 of The Mandalorian, which will come out in February I think.

Season 2 of The Bad Batch, which drops sometime in September. 

And that's just the things I can recall off the top of my head. My point in making this list is that I'm literally not looking forward to any movies in the movie theater. I actually could care less about the movie theater. This, honestly, kinda makes me sad. I spent so much time in the movie theater growing up, and I feel like the format may be reaching obsolescence. It will definitely be obsolete, if everyone feels the same way that I do.

Movies need to become exciting again. Otherwise they are going to go the way of the dodo. Any thoughts on this you'd like to share? 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Netflix's Sandman is so good that it's worth probably three months of subscription fees alone.

Tom Sturridge is "Dream", a.k.a. one of the Endless known as "The Sandman." In this scene
he is trapped by a wizard and placed in a cage. He remains imprisoned for an entire century.

I finished up watching the first season of Netflix's The Sandman. Way back in the nineties, I owned several Sandman comics. I think this was really before I ever knew who Neil Gaiman was. I was drawn to the artwork on the covers, although the interior art was decent too. But the covers were spectacular. I remember wondering what "Vertigo" was (it has since been ended as a publishing company). The comic book shop owner explained that this was a "division of DC comics that focused on adult stories." Another Vertigo title I followed for some time was Hellblazer. These comics were about the cigarette smoking trenchcoat wearing John Constantine, and they were very adult. Every single media adaptation of these comics has always failed to impress upon me the mood of the comic book. However, I did enjoy John Constantine in Legends of Tomorrow, which I still insist is one of the best shows that ever graced television.

You might say that I was an "uber" fan of Sandman comics, because at one point I had in my possession an original first printing of Sandman #1 in mint condition. It wasn't all that much of an achievement. I'd bought it from the comic book shop that sold it and promptly put it in an archival quality mylar sleeve (I stowed all my comic books this way). Printed in 1989, there is an original first printing of it for sale on Ebay for around $200. That seems a bit low...I think it is worth around $400.00. So we'll go with that number. You might ask, why don't I have it anymore? Well...I was playing Magic: the Gathering heavily in 1994, and I got an opportunity to part with it for a card called a "Mox Pearl." There's one of these on EBay right now for around $3,300.00. So, if I'd the foresight to hold onto this rare Magic card, I'd have a small fortune. But I didn't. I had to make rent one time in 1998 I think, so I sold my entire collection, along with the Mox, for around $3,000. It was a good deal for the person who bought it. And it kept me in my apartment for a few more months. Honestly, the Mox isn't what stings. I sold a beta Black Lotus in mint condition for $400.00. I think one (like the one that I had) recently sold at auction for $120,000. It's just an eye-popping number for sure.

Anyway...enough of the stupid decisions I've made (or were forced to make because of financial circumstances), because there's no use crying over spilt milk. I wanted to talk about the Sandman series on Netflix, what I enjoyed about it, what I didn't like, and this is your official spoiler warning.

The first thing I wanted to say about the show is that Tom Sturridge is perfectly cast as "Dream/Morpheus," who is the protagonist of the entire series. He plays him in a way that sends chills down my spine. Tom's voice is incredible, and the way he vocalizes all of Dream's lines makes him seem "otherworldly." And Tom when he is naked and imprisoned (yet he maintains this god-like presence) reminds me of Michelangelo's Statue of David, only in the flesh. It's stunning. He's both beautiful and terrifying.

The second thing I loved was the pacing. Given the number of shows out there that draw out every potential story beat for way too long, the Sandman keeps things moving. In virtually any other series, collecting his things would have been two seasons long (staring at Starz here). So the fact that he got them before mid-season was incredible. I loved that. Where the show seems to slip is that it doesn't quite nail the transitions between stories. So there's a bit of weirdness where the series pivots from Dream at full power to Dream needing to get the three "Arcane" back under his control.

I do know that this first season covers the first two main story arcs from the comics, which are most commonly published as two separate trades. This is probably why it feels a bit "disjointed." The first arc is generally considered to be a bit of "finding its feet" situation, which is tonally quite different to the rest of the series. There are ten trade back books in total, so I expect that they will be aiming to cover two a season for a total of five. Going forward, I think it very likely we'll see this similar shift halfway through each season.

All in all, for as crazy and inspired as the original Sandman was, I was impressed by how much they got right. Did anyone else watch it? I look forward to reading your comments.