Friday, April 29, 2022

I have a strange theory that might explain what I'm seeing with inflation today.

I had an epiphany about inflation. I actually know a lot of people who make $120,000 a year. I know even more people who have a household income that exceeds that threshold. None of these people can afford a home now, because in the Salt Lake area, you need to make $90.00 per hour just to afford an average house. This is becoming ubiquitous across the nation.

However, this doesn't change the fact that people who make $30, $40, $50, and $60 per hour doing whatever it is that they do, are not (in fact) still bringing in that money. They just can't afford to buy a house. So they are stuck renting, which drives up the price of rentals as they seek out luxury apartments that they can afford because (again) they are not millionaires who are able to afford a regular old house.

This also means that all of this income is flooding the market, and they are buying everything they can afford. Cars? check. Luxury goods? check. Vacations? check. All. The. Things. And this is making inflation crazy hot. I don't think higher interest rates are going to do much against this weird circumstance. You've got an entire group of people who can't leap up to the next level because the gap has grown so wide to home ownership. So instead those people are awash in cash, and they're going to spend it. On everything except a home (because they can't find one in their price range). 

I know this kind of anecdotal point-of-view is crude at best. I am not an economist. But the internet allows me to voice my opinion on what I'm seeing, and this is what I'm seeing. People driving $75,000 cars and going on vacations to Hawaii while living in a one-bedroom basement apartment that they will never escape. Meanwhile their rent keeps going up, because landlords know they can charge more and that their renters can pay because they see all that cash sloshing around. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's easy to do, and just so long as you keep the price of renting barely within reach (and owning a house is outright unreachable), they can just keep raising the rent, and everyone can charge more for everything. 

It's a super weird capitalist dystopia, because high home costs are pricing people out of the market. But everything else costs so much less than a everything else is suddenly affordable. I think the only fix is to make housing affordable again. Then that can soak up all the extra cash, rents will fall because people can suddenly own, and we'll finally get a decrease in inflation. Until that happens, I think inflation is here to stay because people will not ever do the right thing (so businesses definitely won't). I guess my second epiphany about all this is how stupid it is to have an economic system where owning a home is the bedrock. Why is housing (a basic need) seen as the ultimate asset and investment? Whose smart idea was that (I'm being facetious)?

In the near future, we are going to see a dramatic rise in hedonism. People have tons of money that is not enough to buy a home. But it can still buy plastic surgery, fitness equipment, crossfit memberships, concerts, and party, party, party. Want to go to Ibiza? That's easy. I live in a shitty one-bedroom apartment, but I can afford that. Ibiza here I come! Want to buy a Land Rover by Jaguar? Sure. It'll be parked outside my mobile home. How f'ing weird...but that's where we are headed. These times are sure strange. And in the meantime, the people who were priced out of the market even when houses were like $300,000? Those people are screwed forever, because they can't afford anything now. And no one cares, except, you know...when church is in session. Then the caring can last for a little while, until the grifting gene takes over.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I binged Heartstopper in one sitting and I'll probably do it again soon.

The week in queer television reviews continues! This time I'm going to talk about Heartstopper, which is on Netflix and is an adaptation of a graphic novel. Heartstopper caught me by surprise. I expected a romantic comedy, but what came across my screen was a story that was remarkably free of drama, and was just a budding love story between two kids that came from different worlds. It was allowed to unfold without manufactured breakups, terrible tragedies, and without the expletives and nudity of Euphoria or Sex Education. In a was just wonderful and pretty grounded in actual reality.

This is another show that was everything that I've wanted and couldn't express. It's so wholesome and heartwarming. The fact that Charlie and Nick have this chaste relationship is part of the absolute charm of the whole thing. Queer culture is drenched in sex, and it's pretty much ubiquitous among young gay men on the verge of adulthood (which happens at different ages around the world). I follow an Instagram couple (for example) that look like they could be 19, and they're porn stars flying to Ibiza to party, London, Manchester, Hollywood, and you name it. They are awash with money and about as dumb as rocks because the only things they seem to do is spend money and have sex to post online to fuel their expensive lifestyle. Then there are the other gay men (also 19) putting on makeup and clay masks to (I guess) plump up their already young skin. It feels a lot like water just trying to be wet when water is already wet. What's the point? Heartstopper in contrast to this dares to tell the story of love without all that garbage. It's just two boys who really like each other, seeing each other, and then saying "hi" in a way that makes me verklempt. Seriously, the word "hi" becomes so romantic and good that I was just swept away by it whenever Charlie or Nick took the time to say it to one another.

The main romance of the show is pitched perfectly. Even in "straight" love stories, it's so rare for the athletic love interest to be an insecure character of pure heart who doesn't make some terrible mistake to introduce drama. Nick (in this role) is such a refreshingly likeable and relatable boy. Loads of people on Facebook are saying that they wanted something like this when they were young. If I'd had access to this when I was a teen, I absolutely would have realized some things about myself that took a lot longer to crystalize. That being said, everyone wants something like this. But I know (because I've been around this racetrack called life a few times) that it is exceptionally rare kinda like the fabled blue rose of fairy tales. That doesn't mean we shouldn't believe it could happen, which is why I love this story so much. It reminded me of why I became a writer in the first place: I like to dream.

I thought the homophobia they showed in the story was very accurate as well. There are so many characters saying, "I'm not homophobic, but..." or something like, "I'm an ally," and then they do something to diminish the main character (or commit some micro aggression). We also get very accurate and real comebacks for these people from characters who have learned to have tough skins and to draw boundaries. They snap back by saying things like, "Thank you for your service, but please move on," and it feels so great. That's kinda what homophobia is like in modern times. People aren't so brazen anymore that they threaten you with fisticuffs or other forms of violence (sure those still exist, but they are becoming more uncommon). Instead, homophobia has entered a passive/aggressive stage. It's morphed, kinda like the variants of the Omicron virus, and attacks gay people through innuendo, or backward compliments. This is what we all now have to deal with in America (especially).

Anyway, all that being said, the actors who played Charlie and Nick absolutely nailed the nervousness and butterflies moments. The lesbian couple was also well-scripted, and I found myself getting invested in their story arc as well. The one thing that bugged me a little was Tau, who was very defensive of Charlie and always threatening to hurt Nick if he hurt was a bit heavy-handed and was really the only source of tension in the show. And as it turns out, Nick had purely good intentions with Charlie and was in a process of realizing a great truth about himself, and he had the courage to show it to the world once he figured it out. Tau (I think) was just feeling lost because his friend group that very much had Charlie at its center was splintering into relationships in which he was no longer a priority. All of his friends were getting together (except for him) and they no longer had time for movie night at his house or for hanging out and having those long, meaningful conversations that friends of the same age tend to have. So, of course, Nick Nelson (Charlie's boyfriend to be) was very threatening to that, and Tau attacked him with claws out until Nick showed Tau that he was a good person and could be Tau's friend too (Nick's a puppy dog masquerading as a human...I swear).

This year we are getting so much gay! I love it. I'm just a little worried about getting attached to it all. For example, I feel like this show (Heartstopper) only got made because it was already in the pipeline before Netflix started hemorrhaging subscribers. I think they're going to think that woke content is dead weight, and anything that isn't Stranger Things won't help slow their decline in subscribers. Ahh was a beautiful moment while it lasted. My favorite moment? When Nick runs to Charlie's house in the rain and stands outside all drenched. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Y'all seriously need to watch this show.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Our Flag Means Death dares to tell a pirate story that no one has ever touched and it's incredible.

Our Flag Means Death
is a show on HBO Max that I absolutely loved. It's a queer pirate story told through the brilliant eye of Taika Waititi, who stars as Blackbeard in the first season. And I just want to emphasize that I loved this show even more as a gay viewer. After finishing the first season, and desperately wanting more, I realized something about modern queer representation. It's so rare that audiences who are interested in seeing it have essentially been trained to look for these tiny little clues of queer coding.

I mean...just think back to Disney celebrating its "First gay character" and then it's a guy dancing with another guy in the background or a line of dialogue that could easily be missed. It's like the glances between Finn and Poe in Star Wars...what do those glances mean? Or Dumbledore is gay...but it is mentioned (by the now shamed author) years after the original series in which she made her fame, and it has been printed and minted billions and there is literally nothing to lose.

This (of course) then clashes with tropes like the infamous bromance. This is a plot device where two dudes are shown to be close, often even using typical romance imagery, but they are never actually allowed to be in love because they're quick to push the "no homo!" panic button. "He's like a brother to me!" is the new "no homo" because it is ubiquitous today.

So, viewers like me experience a lot of queerbaiting as a result. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it's when a show/film/whatever is building up the expectation of a queer character being in there somewhere and then not delivering on that in a satisfying way (if at all). To be fair, it can happen a bit unintentionally, like when two actors have surprisingly amazing chemistry, and they're even up for something more to happen between their characters. But...then the writers refuse to do anything with it. In the meantime, you put a man and a woman next to each other, and that's pretty much all there is to the gazillion paper-thin hetero love stories.

Our Flag Means Death even went beyond this though. Not only did it show a complete homosexual love story between Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet (played by Rhys Darby), but it also allowed fat characters to be fat without that "being" their character or the butt of jokes. The show also had characters with speech impediments and other "often mocked" traits and behaviors. And the main characters were middle-aged men who just got to live in their emotions and express what they felt for each other.

And apparently, it's all based off a true story. If one researches the actual Stede Bonnet history, you'll find that it is surprisingly ample online and in history books, and the whole gay innuendo really leaps out between the cracks of the narrative. As people did back then (and they still do), the gay aspects are danced around and waved away, but there are clear subtext once you decide to look. Stede left his marriage due to a "mental issue," and he and Blackbeard did indeed share years of their lives together. They were clearly drawn to each other and each featured aspects that were admired by the other.

I was already a huge fan of Taika Waititi after Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit. However, Our Flag Means Death came as a total a present...from a legendary director that sees me and my community clearly enough and who has the guts to be extra as hell. The show is hilariously funny, and it is full to bursting with the kind of storytelling that one can feast on. If you are looking for something to watch, and you haven't heard about this one, I'd urge you to give it a try.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Spelljammer is being rebooted for 5th edition and I'm so excited by this news.

I'm here to show all my inner nerd peeps. I apologize in advance, and this post is going to be about Dungeons & Dragons which is the nerdiest of things to do with one's free time. So as your eyes glaze over, and say..."I just...can't with this D&D stuff..." that's okay. I'm going to geek out here on my blog for this Friday and try to return to a semblance of normal blogging next week.

Without further ado...Wizards of the Coast (which is the company that owns Dungeons & Dragons) held its first ever D&D Direct web conference. This is a digital news release/conference/presentation meant to illuminate all things Dungeons & Dragons that are coming out in 2022.

First off, the biggest news was that they are bringing back the Spelljammer setting. If you don't know, Spelljammer came out during second edition, which had its heyday in thirty years ago. I own all the supplements for that game, and as they are getting kinda faded and yellow with time, I was wondering if we'd ever see a modern ruleset (D&D is currently on its very amazing 5th edition). So, you might ask: why has Spelljammer got me so excited?

The Spelljammer setting had ships like this.

Well, the most popular D&D settings for games and stories are ones inspired by European folklore. They are kind of "Lord of the Rings" knock-offs if you will. Spelljammer was way different. It involved traditional sailing ships that had been empowered by magic so that they could fly through the void of space. You could explore different worlds, have space battles, and "space" itself was filled with all kinds of magical wonders. It also allowed your characters to travel from one setting to another that was akin to traveling to different universes. You could have space pirate adventures too.

Furthermore, Wizards of the Coast is going all-in on this product. The Spelljammer campaign setting is going to be a three-volume set complete with a handsome slipcase and a double-sided map and a screen to use while gaming. And the whole thing runs just $70.00. That seems like a lot, but it isn't for three full-color books, a map, and a screen. That's less than $25.00 per book, which is peanuts these days given how it now takes me $75.00 to fill up my truck with gas.

The first of the three volumes is titled the Astral Adventurer's Guide. This is going to be the main book and contain everything a DM (Dungeon Master) would need to run a campaign as well as tons of options for playable characters. The second book is called Boo's Astral Menagerie, named after a giant space hamster from one of the D&D video games. We're going to get evil space clowns, vampirates, sentient comets, and space dragons. 

The last of the three volumes is called Light of Xaryxis. Set in the astral sea (an even more magical place in the setting than normal magical places) it includes 12 adventure hooks, each of which end in a cliffhanger. This thing ships in August, and I'm so excited to get my copy.

All of that being said, there was other news mentioned in the webcast. For one, the Dragonlance setting from famous fantasy writers, Weiss and Hickman, is coming back as a board game that will include some kind of campaign module that you can play called Shadow of the Dragon Queen. A board game sounds intriguing, especially if it has cool miniatures. A module (as well) is extremely exciting as Wizards of the Coast has been knocking things out of the park with their modules in the last few years. These are fully integrated adventures that generally take characters from level 1 to level 10 and have enough playable material to last six months or more. And the Dungeons & Dragons movie that is in Hollywood and stars Chris Pine now has a title: Honor Among Thieves.

Anyway, there's a lot to be excited about regarding my hobby.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

If empathy had a body it would be a bloated corpse in America today.

I just read an opinion piece in the New York Times called "Each White Flag: A Life Lost to Covid." This particular article focused on a participatory art project by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg entitled "In America: Remember." The Times article goes on to explain that each white flag in Ms. Firstenberg's project represents a life lost to Covid in the United States. Visitors were invited to personalize and dedicate flags to honor loved ones who had died. What the Times did to make it more personal was they filmed these hundreds of people mourning. You can hear them crying, talking softly, and the wind flapping all the hundreds of thousands of the white paper flags. It was a beautiful thing to watch, very poignant, and I was moved by it even though I didn't walk through the project myself. So then I clicked on the hundreds of comments to see what people wrote about it. Here's what I found immediately (my comments/analysis are in italics:

From a person called Walker: "A high proportion of these people were elderly and would be dead anyway by now, covid or no. In the meantime many of them were forced to die alone due to draconian isolation rules. And many more died due to the loneliness and neglect caused by lockdowns and regulations that limited healthcare, increased addiction and mental illness, and caused financial losses. It's time a real analysis was done of the true impacts of this pandemic, direct and indirect. This type of simple count is next to meaningless."

Wow. Old people were just going to die anyway.

From Indy970: "The theory of evolution still holds: it's the survival of the fittest. While it is extremely sad to hear of these numbers, the reality is that it is very challenging to fight viruses and bacteria in an increasingly mobile world. Add to that the state of obesity in this country, no one should be surprised. The good news is that science and government intervention has protected over 99.7% of the US population. To put that into context, over 50 million people died globally during the 1918 pandemic with 675,000 in the US when the population was much smaller."

Hot take: no one should be surprised that fat people died in droves.

From C Clark: "The stupidity we are witnessing leaves me speechless."

I'm confused by this one: How can someone look at so much death and then call us all stupid for feeling something?

From David J:  "Yes, thank you for the article, and, of course thank you for the flag memorial. But I’m afraid it’s all for naught. America shrugged off the hundreds of thousands of lives, and are still squabbling over the wearing of masks. And one state has even made that horse medicine nonprescription. So much ignorance."

TL;DR: Americans are ignorant; I don't have time for this late News Flash. I'm actually surprised you had time to read the article and then comment. From someone who doesn't care, that's a lot of effort.

From RJ: "Why not flags for cancer deaths? Or traffic deaths? Or the deaths caused by domestic violence and suicide precipitated by misguided lockdowns? Asking for a friend..."

Wow. I actually don't care for anyone but myself. However, I need to virtue signal that all lives matter so I don't come across as a complete monster.

From Jim: "In the US, each year about 600,000 people die from cancer and about 700,000 people die from heart disease. That’s more than 2.5 million since covid started. The obsession with covid deaths is about things other than dying."

So...this guy is calling out mourners as having an agenda to shame other people? It takes a special kind of person to stand in a field of the dead and point fingers at grieving people and declare, "Don't you try to blame me for this!"

Anyway, I was unprepared for the vitriol of the comments that were made on The Times article regarding this art installation. A lot of America doesn't have any empathy anymore. I'd say about half if not a little over half. That's around 200 million people. How do we have a functional society when 200 million people don't give a shit about what happens to the other 200 million? Like...that's a serious question. To put it bluntly...if you were literally on fire, half of the people wouldn't help you put it out if it meant any inconvenience to them. You'd just burn.

We are in such a strange place in this country, and (more and more) I have an answer to the question I ask myself everyday: why is life so hard? It's hard for many of us, because (increasingly) you got to go it alone. There is nothing and no one to help you at all. If empathy had a body it would be a bloated corpse in America today.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Tsuburaya's next Ultraman project has a trailer and I hope an international release is coming soon.

Tsuburaya, which is the company that owns the rights to Ultraman, has released a new trailer for Shin Ultraman. It comes out in May in Japan, and I hope it gets an international release soon, because I want to see it. If you watch the trailer, there's some gorgeous but brief shots of Ultraman and some great kaiju teases. Even though they are using motion capture and CGI, I'm glad they are making efforts to retain the feel of the low-tech original shows. Ultraman flying into the air has the same stiff action figure-ish feeling of the old miniature work (for example). 

If you'd like to know more about Ultraman, Tsuburaya has its own official YouTube channel located at

You can go there and watch episodes of Ultraman for free. They are also subtitled for those of us who do not speak Japanese. That being said, I've included the trailer for the new Ultraman movie below.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once hopes that we all find gratitude for the people and the things we have in our lives.

This last week I saw the movie, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Going into this movie, I didn't know what to expect. I mean, there were the obvious things. There was Michelle Yeoh who (at times) appeared to be wearing a googly eye taped to her forehead. Additionally, there were martial arts. But what movie or television show that has Michelle Yeoh in it does not occasionally veer into the territory of kung fu. With Jackie Chan having gotten old, it seems like a natural fit for Michelle Yeoh to step in and start kicking her way into unique and interesting stories.

The movie by itself was good. I liked the frenetic pacing even if the story itself seemed so chaotic (at times) that I had trouble following what exactly the director was trying to say with this thing. And the acting is exceptional. Each actor at times needs to portray probably five or six different versions of themselves within the same scene. There were also the many surprises I found within the cast, namely Jamie Lee Curtis as a stern and unlovable IRS auditor who has trophies shaped like oversized butt plugs on display in her cubicle, and Ke Huy Quan whom I last remember being a kid in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. Well, he's all grown up and middle-aged even, and here he is still kicking some ass albeit with a fanny pack in the place of nunchaku.

The real surprise though in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was that its plot on the surface was so simple, yet just a layer deeper it became complex. On the surface, its a story of a woman in an unhappy marriage and lacking an appreciation for anything in her life, just trying to get her taxes done while managing a laundromat. One layer deeper though, and it's a science fiction tale of how this woman experiences all of the lives that she could have lived in differing branching universes and grows to appreciate that there is a huge difference between living the best life, and living a life of authenticity. One of the best lines in the movie comes from Ke Huy Quan who says (more or less) to the woman whom he is married to in other timelines, "I would welcome a lifetime spent with you even if all I did was manage a laundromat."

When I heard that, I instantly got the message of this movie, and I felt it in my soul. So many people forsake the things that are right in front of them always chasing some version of themselves that is supposedly living its greatest life. This kind of living, forever discarding the present (sometimes with contempt) for what might be (if only we'd chosen differently), is a thing that destroys marriages, wrecks friendships, causes some to experience financial ruin, and ultimately leads us down the road to regret. Additionally, I think that a lot of people who are alive in the world today have real problems with gratitude because of this very thing. It may boil down to the fact that modern people lack life experience, especially when young. Indeed, Michelle Yeoh's character (who is the main protagonist), literally needs to incorporate all the life experiences of countless versions of herself in order to see that the life she spends in the laundromat with her husband and her gay daughter is just as valuable as any of the other incarnations of what could have been. And the end of the movie isn't like any other I've seen because it's simply that the main character, still doing her taxes, now has contentment.

After leaving the theater, it left me wondering why I know so many people who are discontented, even if their lives are secure, and they are relatively safe. What is there to want? It was then that I realized that our toxic society beats down on people with the idea that being content and being satisfied with one's life means a lack of ambition. It means you are a loser. And if you don't have any ambition, you might as well just be dead. This assessment may seem harsh, but I don't think it is far from the truth. How refreshing it would be if people were allowed to just live their lives, and there was no family pressure to conform to this or that, or to steer people into busy schedules and overworked lives. If people would stop berating others for lacking ambition, and just allowed people to take the time to really think about their life choices, then I think more people would find the authenticity they seek from their lives and end up happier. It's one thing to know that experience will undoubtedly affect choice, and the more experience you have in a thing, the better off you will probably be when making a choice that has those things to factor into it. It's quite another for me to realize that (without experience itself) people not be able to tell what is good from what is bad. Do we honestly know what sweet is if we haven't tasted sour? And can these things be taught? Or must they be lived? These are all questions that I now have after having watched Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.

This is a great film, and if you're looking for something to go and see in April, I highly recommend it. I've included the trailer below in case you'd like to watch it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Are beauty standards just made up?

Lizzo made the news because she posted a picture of herself on Instagram wearing the Yitty logo (featured on the cropped leggings) and also on the underwire strap of the bra. And yes, it got my attention. In case you don't know, "Yitty" is Lizzo's shapewear line. It's billed as a revolutionary shapewear band that exudes self-love, radical inner confidence, and effortless, everyday wear. So here's my question that popped into my head when I saw this: are beauty standards just made up?

I'm not here to weigh in on whether or not I find Lizzo attractive. The only thing that matters is that she thinks so and that others seem to share the sentiment. We live in strange times, and I'm one of those people who (maybe) spends a little too much time trying to answer the question why? For example, if I don't find Lizzo attractive, why is that? Is it self-loathing because I myself struggle with weight? And if it is "self-loathing" projected onto someone else...what has made me this way? Is it the fashion industry forcing me to go to specialty stores to find my size? Is it doctors telling me that every thing that is wrong with me can be traced back to obesity so that they actually don't have to do any work?'ve got a rash? It's probably because you are fat. Oh you've got high blood pressure? Again...fat. Oh you have cancer (I don't, but I'd expect to hear this)? Did you know that fat people get cancer at 3x the rate of people with normal B.M.I.? Oh you're balding? Maybe it's cause you were fat and that killed the hair cells on your head. Being fat is literally an excuse for everything.

So I what we find beautiful or attractive just all made up? What other things are made up? It turns out that there's quite a bit that is. TikTokers lately have become aware that in Ethiopia, it is the year 2014. It's because they run their calendar different based off when Christ was supposedly born. So their calendar doesn't start in the same place that ones in the Western world does, and because they were never colonized, they didn't have a regime telling them any different. But does it matter that it is 2014 there and 2022 in America? Probably not at all unless the idea of that unsettles some people, because they suddenly realize that time is a manufactured concept and our way of keeping track of it is also a thing that people decided upon.

Rules are the same thing. At work, I'm helping to write a policy manual for our agency. There's a bunch of people involved, and they are leaders in the agency. I'm there, because I have a strong technical writing background. Anyway, because I'm actually writing the thing, I get quite a bit of input on how things are phrased. I also get input on what is included. On more than one occasion I've thought to myself, "before this policy manual you could just do a thing. But once we make it policy, it has to be done a certain way, or we will be breaking rules which will be cause for disciplinary action." It's weird to think of things like that, because we are just making up stuff. But years from now, or when I retire and someone else does my job, they will look at the policy as "rules to follow" and they won't understand that I just strung words together in a paragraph that dictated a kind of behavior. In other words, they might not get that it was all just "made up" out of nothing. And the biggest mind job of all is realizing that, just because something is made up, does not mean that it doesn't matter. On the contrary, made up things can be very powerful depending on who believes the made up thing (and who enforces it).

It's a weird thing to see this on the world stage as well. Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, has no rules that bind him because he has access to a nuclear arsenal. Because the threat of radiation and destructive fire is so catastrophic, he can basically do whatever he wants to do. If he sends people into another country to rape, pillage, murder, knock over buildings, destroy things, even paint polka dots on anything that's around...he could do that/has done that. It's strange to think that we try to impose rules on war, when war (it seems) is taking civilization back to the policy manual stage (where there is a blank page and literally every kind of behavior can be indulged) and just dictating whatever policy you want to dictate into a book and later generations will have to live by whatever gets splashed on that page.

Put another way, war is like a huge paper shredder to all the rules and laws that come before that were probably put in place to manage all the many versions of "consent." War is taking the word "no," ignoring it, and trashing the other person's consent to everything and just doing whatever you want. It seems chaotic and awful and it is undoubtedly destructive. However, in the fact that there seems to be no rules at all involved with it, it's probably the closest we ever come (as a society) to being true animals like sharks in the ocean and wolves in the forest. So one could argue that what humans are in a time of war is our true nature. And have you ever thought of this? War itself is fought for freedom in so many ways. However, war itself is also the ultimate expression of freedom to do whatever you want constrained only by the violence visited upon you by the opposing party. I've never fought in a war, but I think that people who have, who have really been in the thick of it, could probably tell you that everything is made up. What we understand as rules, laws, notions of what is beautiful and ugly, human rights, our money, our age, how we measure time,...literally all made up.

So, if I'm correct, then another question pops up. How can I/we use this? How can knowing that everything is made up come of benefit to living our lives? I suppose just having the self-awareness can give us all the freedom to let go of things. Additionally, going forward, a lot of us could take things a lot less seriously and realize that rigid thinking is just a's a box that we put ourselves in to limit anxiety of the unknown. But it doesn't do any of us any good, especially when it makes us unable to see beauty that may be right in front of us.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Dungeons & Dragons does not need NFT's but they are coming anyway because people suck

A company called Gripnr wants to create their own NFT Dungeons & Dragons market, and I just have no words for how stupid this sounds. But undoubtedly, there will be people who see value in it. I just don't know why. Here's the business proposal in a nutshell that is being talked about. Players will buy a pre-generated D&D character created by a computer or something else. This pre-generated character will exist on the blockchain, which is where NFT's and crypto are all encoded. They will play with this pre-generated character under an approved Gripnr "Dungeon Master," who (I assume) is skilled at running the game. I also think it will be virtual, but you never know with these things. The blockchain "character" will then go through pre-generated adventures that I assume will also be monetized on the blockchain. They will earn experience, level up, and obtain both a history and magical items. Who knows, they may even acquire "land" in a blockchain "fantasy world" set up for D&D. And then, anyone that wants to use your character's likeness or your character's name or anything else would seemingly have to pay you for that right. Additionally, other people could play the character you created but they'd have to pay you for that, because you own it.

I should point out that Gripnr is not a maverick in the Tabletop RPG industry. Rather, it's a pet project attempting to exploit a hobby that I very much enjoy. The thing one is asking for any of this. The TTRPG community has already been monetizing pieces of creative output for years in the form of modules, adventures, books, miniatures, commissioned art, terrain, and dice. So, there's a proven track record that people want to put more of themselves into the game than you can with core assets alone (furnished by the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons called Wizards of the Coast). So the question that pops into my head is: why would I even want to buy an entire character off the Gripnr blockchain when creating and building a new character (for free), watching them grow, and then interacting with a fantasy world created by an imaginative friend is the whole point of Dungeons and Dragons!? Ay carajo!

The world is increasingly becoming a strange place where everyone seems to want to monetize everything. As soon as someone can figure out how to charge us for the air we breathe, that will probably come next. I just get so angry at all the rampant greed that I see everywhere. Anyway, I wanted to finish this little post with a note that Wizards of the Coast is not involved in any of this. You may not know that, but Wizards of the Coast (which is a very good company) owns the rights to Dungeons & Dragons, but it has this "Open Game License" thing which allows tons of people and other companies to use their intellectual property to create stuff. I think this is really neat. So there are all kinds of third party monster manuals and supplements and other things that use the core set of rules that the geniuses at Wizards of the Coast created (and they work really well). It just sucks that a company like Gripnr comes along and wants to use the Open Game License to start some unnecessary crap that ultimately will benefit no one. I actually hope that (if it launches), that it actually fails and is forever known as a terrible business model for a hobby that doesn't need these kinds of transactions.

Chalk this post up to another "Old man shakes fist at sky" thing I suppose.

Friday, April 8, 2022

A lot of people these days seem to be obsessed with prestige.

I came across an interesting article in The New York Times yesterday. It was about a faculty position that had been posted by UCLA seeking an adjunct professor with PhD's in biology and chemistry that would teach a semester course for $0. It was very clear in the advertisement that there would be no monetary compensation offered at all. The university faced tremendous backlash for the advertisement, and it eventually took the job offer down from its website. But being The New York Times, the story did not stop there.

The writer of the article dug deeper, and they discovered what has been suspected of much of academia for some time: that professors oftentimes accept jobs without compensation for the prestige of being able to add "professor" of X at X University to their resume. Many of these professors who did engage in this behavior regret it, and realize in hindsight that they were being exploited. The university in its defense says that it is just offering things that are competitive with the labor market. They literally get hundreds upon hundreds of applicants for one job opening, and so with this huge slush pool, they feel that the prestige of working for them is oftentimes "enough" in payment. But as another person pointedly said, "You cannot eat prestige."

So it got me thinking...and this in turn sent me down an internet rabbit hole...and what I discovered about what I call "the obsession with prestige" is actually very telling about America. You see, more and more people are hunting for prestige in America and psychologists don't really have an explanation for why this is happening. The phenomenon is an outlier when it is compared to historical data. People are seeking out prestige now more than ever, and in greater numbers when examined "per capita." It's affected everything, but let me tell you of a few examples.

In dating, there are numbers that show that people prefer partners who can bring some prestige into a relationship. In other words, it's not just 1) looks, 2) fitness, 3) income and wealth but now there is a fourth component called "prestige." A person might think, they have a house and a car, but they got that house and car by being a janitor at the local high school. Eh...not for me. In the same situation and the same house and car, someone might think...oh...this person is a lawyer for the veteran's administration. That's kind of neat. And that ends up sealing the deal. In other words, it doesn't matter that they possess "X" good. What matters now is how they got "X." This also flies in the face that par for the course of life is now a middle class job. If you've ever played golf, you know that if you can meet par, then you are doing reasonably well. This also means that if you cannot make par, that you have a ton of work to do. In the golf course of life, a lot of people are unable to make par, yet they pretend that they have the abilities of Tiger Woods in his prime.

And many people prefer prestige in jobs, even if they don't pay anything. In another article I saw, a man with self-awareness wrote about how his obsession with prestige caused him to go to business conferences incurring expenses that his family could not afford. While at this business conference, he handed out cards that said he was "CEO" of his company, and he cheated on his wife by saying to attractive women at the conference that he was looking for a "VP of Marketing." He said that women would drive 100 miles round trip to meet him for dinner in San Francisco just so that they could talk about what it might be like to be VP of Marketing for him. And his company was a complete fake. It made no money and was just a pipe dream. He had a wife and kids at home and was a school teacher. Just the very scent of "prestige" was enough to cause people to leap at these opportunities.

In the last article I found (regarding a toxic relationship with prestige), a psychologist spoke about people who aren't sure of what goals to pursue in life. These (in large part) younger folks actually place "prestige" as the actual goal. In other words, in absence of a life plan and feeling the pressure to "do something," they focus all of their energies on something prestigious. "I want to work at Google," or "I want to work at Goldman Sachs" or "I want to be a doctor." And they throw themselves into fulfilling whatever requirement it takes to get the prestige they are seeking and not really knowing anything at all what the day-to-day responsibilities of that job are.

The Oxford Dictionary defines "Prestige" as a noun that means the "widespread respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of a perception of their achievements or quality." But hunting for prestige on top of the things that you actually need 1) food, 2) shelter, 3) air, and possibly 4) companionship seems to be a weird turn of events. For starters, hunting for prestige sets up anxiety and fear in that you may never attain it. Second, if you do get the prestige, if you don't fully understand what it is that you were seeking like (for example) a job at Google, then you might end up really hating the hours and hating the work you do, and it ends up being something you regret.

Furthermore, prestige hunting also feeds into misogyny in untold ways, insisting on virgin brides being just one example. Prestige-hunting also sets up gatekeepers in positions of power (Harvey Weinstein being a great example of this). But at its most basic level, a person who is obsessed with prestige is going to have a really hard time finding anyone who is good enough for them. The epidemic of loneliness that is sweeping the first world may (in fact) be caused by an obsession with prestige. People aren't "good enough" for other people and are thus discarded. So people end up not communicating with each other, and daughters no longer communicate with mothers, because they fear such associations may harm whatever prestige they've managed to obtain in their lives. It also feeds into celebrity mania, in that ordinary people become increasingly obsessed with celebrities because they envision that being with "this person" would fulfill me even though they know absolutely nothing of what that person is like in private.

Anyway, these are all things that I think about. This particular one all popped up in my head because I read that article in the New York Times. But I do have a question for you: If you believe this hypothesis that people care more for prestige now than they ever have, what do you suppose is driving it? And if you will indulge me a second question it is this: do you have any examples in your life where someone seemed to be obsessed with prestige, and they came to harm because of it?

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The April question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group aims to address audio books and the challenges in getting them made.

Today is my monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The purpose of the IWSG is to share and encourage other writers. It's a blogfest designed by the founder, Alex Cavanaugh (who has a new book out by the way), to create a safe space where writers could express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. You can sign up for this blogfest at the following LINK.

This blogfest rolls around on the first Wednesday of a new month. The group is foremost about connection, and if you can't think of anything to write about, you can answer the monthly question. That's what I'm going to do this month. Here are a few more details for you that I stole from the IWSG sign-up page:

Their Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

And here is the April 6 question - Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 6 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise - Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

So, the quick answer to the above is "no." And additionally, I don't intend to have any of my stories made into audio books. However, even having no experience in audio books and their composition, I'd like to weigh-in on what I know about audio books primarily from reading and studying the works of successful authors. To put it mildly, I think the main challenge is money. And most authors get around this when they self-publish by running a kickstarter.

Two recent kickstarters that I combed through comments and watched youtube videos for were done by author Michael J. Sullivan and local Utah author Brandon Sanderson. The first, Michael J. Sullivan, is a family-run affair that seems to have the business side of things down pat. Most of the heavy lifting of the business had previously been done by Michael's wife, who was very frank in her updates before she came down with an illness that made her step away. In her place, Michael's son seems to have taken over things. Mr. Sullivan's Kickstarter's always generated a few hundred thousand when they ran. In the updates, they were very frank about how much the studio cost to reserve time, to hire the voice actors, and to get everything in place so that excellent recordings could be made. It sounded like an honest to goodness "professional" effort and probably cost in the neighborhood of $50,000. Having made $350,000 though, this still left quite a bit to throw at illustrating the books and then having them printed. I figure that the author probably pocketed about $125,000 or so out of a $350,000 Kickstarter. And seeing he runs about three of these a year (he's very prolific), it puts him squarely in the six figure category of self-made writers. In other words, Sullivan is doing something very few of us could do. That being said, the next author is in a category of only one.

Brandon Sanderson is a phenomenon that (I believe) cannot be understood. People will try, but no one will ever "get" what it is about him that makes his army of followers so fervent and so generous. His Kickstarter literally said nothing except that it was going to be about four secret books. There was no art, there was no title, there were no synopsis, and there were no stretch goals. None of that mattered. It was just a blind faith thing in that he promised "four secret novels" a bunch of stickers, some t-shirts, and other stuff that I'd label "worthless junk." But I'm like Jon Snow in that "I know nothing."

Sanderson's Kickstarter raised $41 million. That's $41,000,000 with six zeroes. The average person contributed $225.00, so it only took four people to hit every $1,000 of that milestone number. It's absolutely ridiculous and is what it is. My jaw drops at how "out of whack" this whole Kickstarter is. It's not even an's so far out of the realm of the actual reality of publishing that it has no comparison. He has enough money that he could hire Tom Holland, Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson to do three different audio versions of his books if he wanted to, and still be a multi-millionaire. He's got enough money to make his own recording studio if this was his desire. Anyway...the point of this whole thing is...he's not going to have any problem getting his audio book done. Money is the lubricant of life, and Sanderson has got a lot of lube at this point to make his dreams come true.

So there you have it. I think the biggest challenge to doing an audio book is money. Once you get that solved, everything falls into place. You gotta have money to make money has never been more true than in 2022. Anyway, I hope my above explanation was worth a visit. Best of luck to you all that are pursuing audio books. I do have some advice for those who don't have deep pockets: try exploiting someone with talent in computers, audio recording, voice work, or whatnot. You don't have to call it "exploitation." Just rebrand it as "volunteer," or "unpaid internship" or maybe try a "religious calling" type of thing. There's lots of ways to exploit that are built into capitalism that don't require negative language. Don't believe me? Check out the subreddit labeled r/Choosingbeggars. You'll see the extent that people go to exploit others so that they preserve their assets for vacations and the other luxuries of life.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Star Trek Strange New Worlds is a series that I want in my veins right now.

The new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds trailer makes this series look really good. It is expected to premiere next month on May 5th right as Picard ends. It may be completely updated to modern special effects, but I think the showrunner nailed the look of The Enterprise, the costumes, and the things that made Trek what it was in the sixties. What is that precisely you might ask? How about the romanticism of space and the joy of exploring new worlds and new civilizations? It's all in there to unpack if you dare to watch the trailer below.