May was Not So Great

Lost my job, forgot to post a bunch, and fell super far behind on my work. Also didn’t get the opportunity to save up enough money to move somewhere that could be classified “new and exciting” at the close of July. Will try to be a little better about posting and blogging moving forward. I still have a couple of stubs and thoughts pertaining to various different concepts – one, namely, is my growing love of “deck-building” games, which don’t always take the shape of cards but generally have that structure.

Another is a continued meditation on an idea I have of examining superheroics in a philosophical light. That one sort of spins around in place and has for years – it’s based on my old Brimstone drafts. Brimstone, for those that don’t know, was a superhero outside of the classic continuum of superheroes whose extraordinary ability was to manifest radical and systemic change to his epidermis and near-dermic tissues as a kind of psychosomatic manifestation of his emotional states. Some things would make his skin cold and harden like concrete, to the point that many liquids and other objects would flash freeze on his skin. Other thoughts and emotions have a “hot” reaction, causing him to gain a molten-rock like quality that incinerated very nearly everything he touched, and if not incinerated, severely warmed. Basically, he allows himself to get arrested and then I do a four-part anthology/philosophic monologue on the nature of heroes, of hero worship, and of why those stories, characters, and archetypes are so valuable to us as human beings when they’re so far from the truth. I do that in the style of The Last Days of Socrates, with four sections – Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo but reflavored to be a fictional hero of our modern (or maybe near-futuristic) world instead of an ancient paragon of critical thinking and modern philosophy. It’s weighty stuff that’s probably super above me, but I’ve always really liked it.

Elsewise we have a few sort of thought-vomits on game design and my experiences trying to “play as a designer.” It’s particularly difficult to do when you’re trying to enjoy a game. I’m also wondering if it’s possible to do with a game you’ve already played. I’m beginning to believe that, no, it’s not, but attempting to do it can lead you to new assumptions or beliefs about the decisions the designers of the game in question made as they were going through their process. It’s a fascinating exercise, one way or the other.

So, schedule? Well, let’s see.

I’m starting Full Sail Online’s Creative Writing Master’s program on Tuesday, May 31st. So probably no post that day.

But we’ll say bi-weekly from now on, shall we? (He said to his imaginary audience)

Wednesdays and Fridays and more frequently as the mood strikes.

Wednesday, June 1st – On Deck-Building Games
Friday, June 3rd – On Euthyphro and why I’m mad I never took more philosophy courses

Wednesday, June 8th – Hopefully some Brimstome-related content to expound on that.
Friday, June 10th – a summary of experiences thus far from Full Sail Online, and some samples of that writing if it’s feasible by then. I have thoughts on this now which I’ve collected into stubs, but I want to actually, you know, do it before I issue judgment.

Wednesday  June 15th – Building Characters for Narrative with D&D. I’ve had this idea that, take away the adventuring aspect of it, we can all sort of think of ourselves as D&D characters in some way or another. I also find that the characters I’m most connected to lately are coming from my own imagination into the D&D Character Builder. I’ve been able to write up their backgrounds, give them faults and frailties, even disorders, largely based off of how I look at them in terms of the race I chose, the stats I chose, and the powers I chose. I can paint a really vivid picture of a character based on this stuff and then I can dive into his background in fun ways to upend this sort of idealized moment, give him some real gravitas and weight to his backstory. See, I’m already yapping about it. But that post will contain some examples of characters I’ve never played as in the game, who I created to balance the twin ideas of mechanically and conceptually interesting in the game. It’s a fun task, particularly if your fictional tastes run more towards fantasy and sci-fi.
Friday June 17th – Second Full Sail Online discourse. Again, going to try to dump anything useful I’ve generated into this space for my own storage and to make it more public as a challenge to myself. It may even be rewrites from previous weeks.

Wednesday June 22nd – Playing like a Designer – A Month-long Challenge discussed. Having tried to “play like a designer” for a month and tackle as many games as possible with this mindset, I’ll try to go back over the notes of the past month’s experiences and discussions with friends also interested in it to see what we came to collectively about the process.
Friday June 24th – Hm. Really thought I could plan this far. Well, mostly  hoped I could. Let’s see how we do and hope there’s something interesting to discuss come this day. Even if it’s new employment or the continued (lack of?) travails of unemployment.

 

The Indomitable Imagination

So, I was watching The Daily Show the other day, and it may have been an old episode, but it was talking about all the stuff found in Osama bin Laden’s complex and all the things we’ve learned about the guy since then… and I don’t know. I’m on the wrong side of this.

Getting to the point where we have to kill one specific person to feel good about ourselves or reconnect with our bygone illusion of global security is a little sad. Rooting through his shit to tear him down even more? That’s borderline bullying. The dude’s dead. We can’t hurt him anymore. Those who believe in him won’t care or believe that he dyed his beard or was porn-crazy (and, really, America? Pot calling the kettle black much?)

When that new first dropped, I felt weird about it. I didn’t feel an upending sense of joy and accomplishment. The President has said some things in the interim that have made me feel better – finally, a President’s gotten hard on Israel, and yes, I think they deserve. Because Israel has a democratically elected government and we opted to side with them 60 years ago, they’ve been able to scoot by on numerous civil liberty injustices and just overall bad behavior. If we’re going to do the 2 people 2 states thing (which we should), we need to make it clear that Israel doesn’t run the show entirely.

All of that information existed in a tertiary way to the fact the the news kicked my imagination into overdrive into a completely unproductive and bona fide useless direction of story crafting. Needless to say, I feel some conflicting emotions about the news. Discomfort is near the top – the idea that we’re celebrating the death of a human being is difficult for me to overcome. It is, in fact, the same behavior we abhor and detest in our primary enemies, warriors of the Radical Islamist movements. I’m not sure that we should be espousing that. Regardless of deeds, he was a man, a human man, not some aberrant demon or monstrosity. We’ll never know the precise circumstances surrounding his death, and I think that’s what causes some trepidation for me. Is it still a victory if the Spec Ops boys win the gunfight, storm the building, find bin Laden, give him a swirly in the nearest unflushed toilet, light a cigarette for him while peeing into his dialysis machine and radio in for “Papa Bear,” so that Dick Cheney can be choppered in to deliver the death blow? Is that a victory? Some would say yes. I don’t know the answer.

Now, don’t let my satire or cynicism disguise the fact that the scenario described above is a wholly and completely ridiculous notion. Our guys tend to be consummate professionals. They lose their cool, now and again, but overall our ruthless, trained, psychopathic killers really do tend to be gentlemen, so I would be powerfully hard-pressed to believe that’s how events played out on the ground (or the air? I dunno), but, again, we’ll never really know for sure, and that gives me pause.

 

Highlight for politics!

To briefly be overly political,  I do wish we’d had a trial, and what an opportunity for an unprecedented Public Referendum, specifically on the nature of the sentence. That, in my view, could reaffirm the power of democracy. We would have chosen this criminal’s fate, and, regardless if we chose, as a voted nation, to end the man’s life or to simply bury him a billion feet underground or treat him to a host of endless re-education sessions, prolonging his life as much as possible until he denounced his former ways and declared that he’d seen the light of reason and civilization and all that , it would have been a choice inflicted democratically and as a unified (or at least majority) voice. That has more staying power than a squeeze of the trigger on a suppressed M4, or whatever it is that our spooky boys are using these days. Some of that’s crueler than a death in an armed, military conflict, maybe, but that would have been my preference (not the re-education, but the vote part).

It doesn’t really matter. That’s not how life works, and not how death worked in this case.

I find the timing exceptionally poor. It’s as if, in the midst of so much political and military unrest in the Arab world, the last thing we needed was to remind all these various powers, “Hey, whenever we need to, we’re still going to kick in your doors and do what we feel is right, regardless of your opinion.” That was essentially said in the President’s speech. I don’t think that aligns with the narrative thus far – we embrace democracy, we embrace both peaceful civilian revolutions and the armed uprising of an oppressed people for real political change. The States stand with you in your struggle for freedom – emotionally and spiritually, if not economically and or militarily.”

That message, as wishy-washy and cornball as it may be, was consistent and potent and, in my humble opinion, incredibly important. We were doing our best to stay out of it as these people sorted out their own lives and countries, at least publicly. Maybe that’s not fair – maybe we’re not doing as good a job of that as I thought we were, but it seemed like an effort to buttoutsky was underway.

The message from Pakistan that night was, “Yes, we’ll mind our own business — but our business can be anywhere, even 38 miles (60km) outside your capital of your sovereign state.”

So, I dunno. That duality makes me a little uncomfortable. That’s a thought that keeps sort of surging up in my brain. Back on track…

What inevitably and indomitably marched forward, however, was my imagination in reference to this event and those surrounding it. On the other side of the pond, just before we celebrated the end of a man’s life, the greater portion of the western world concerned itself with the birth of a new union, that between the (now Duke and Duchess? I don’t know how it works) Prince William and Kate Middleton of Britannia. I kind of couldn’t help it, but I wound up painting this dumb-ass scene in my head:

The President finishes his speech and putters back off to the oval office to think – one of his aides stops him and congratulates him, and the President, being a man of taste and dignity in my mind, sort of shrugs off the comment. His apprehension is clear – congratulations, politically, certainly, but is the death of a human man a just thing to congratulate anyone else on? That’s the sort of question my mental picture of Barack Obama struggles with, and one of the reasons I think he’s a good man.

He retires to the oval office under the watchful eyes of a pair of Secret Service goons stationed just outside the door, as they always are. Reaches into the desk and pulls out a clear, stout bottle with a brownish colored liquid and a clear glass, plunking both onto the desktop without ceremony or grace. It’s obviously been a long night for our dear President – decisions to be made, concern to be had, speeches to be written, morality to be considered, ethics to be measured. These are the heavy concerns of power and office, and none of us should begrudge him this serene moment between him and his glass of colorful nameless adult beverage, particularly considering there’s a worried wife waiting for him at the other end of the building with a pair of lovely young girls and a dog to consider and worry over as well.

So let us allow our Preisdent, in this fantasy, a humbling and human need – inebriation, even just in part, to relieve the stress of command. Particularly since what will come to him next is anything but relaxing. Particularly since, having been raised and weened on a steady diet of causality-bending science fiction, my imagination beseeches me to study these two events and lead our poor, fictional president into the intrepid jaws of a distinct icon of time-travel.

A draft kicks up in the Oval Office, which gets our President’s attention, surely and swiftly. He clears his throat slightly, wondering if perhaps his hooch is more powerful than he could have anticipated, but that doesn’t seem to be it: the draft builds into a breeze and then a howling billow, alarming our President rather significantly. Now he’s out of the chair and staring into the center of the room, where  a brief flicker of light has caught his eye. That flicker erupts outward into a sphere of shimmering energy and lightning, arcs of energy zapping outward and charring the walls, sending books, documents and mementos flying. The Secret Service guys are already in the room, circumnavigating this ridiculous anomaly with the cool, measured calm of men whose higher brain functions and instinctual urge to fear the unknown have been suppressed by a lifetime of training and commitment to one individual’s safety. The lightning ball grows until it occupies a space roughly six feet in diameter, just inches off the ground, the breeze and ambient electrostatic discharges so strong the Secret Service members can’t move their President from harms way for the strength of this meteorological phenomenon.

And then all at once, in a flash it’s gone, and in its place stands a man, six foot tall to the tip of him, thinning hair and awkward smile in place, shirtless but bound in the fine dress livery of the RAF and revealing a rippling musculature born of hard work and hard fighting – his entire left arm, from shoulder down, has been replaced by an unconstrained and unconcealed robotic connection, giving him the look of an incredible cyborg. tattooed starkly on his upper right pectoral is the Union Jack. The medals and markings can leave no doubt to an educated man of the world: this is a leader of men, a man of power and authority. This is the Duke of Cambridge – or was, at one time.

I won’t go too much further for fear of reprisal (She put out an edict, you know – no parodies or satire of the wedding footage), but suffice to say, King William would have come back to our time from a grim, World-War torn future to stop President Obama from ordering the death of Osama bin Laden, pinpointing it as the moment of causality that forces everything to spiral out of control to the point where he’s Lord High General of all the active allied armed forces of the States and Great Britain and has spent his twilight years fighting ruefully against some as yet unknown presence. He came back in the hopes that he could time it right and stop Obama – he had one shot at it, it turns out, and they had miscalculated because they were under fire.

I hadn’t gone much deeper than that in detail, but I had a funny little idea where he manages to get back to that war-torn future (I could never come up with an absurd enough to be funny scenario that would actually cause all that chaos to spring from that one decision), and we would find out that he and Kate had planned it that he would go back just afterwards to warn the President and paint the future as even worse than it was, hoping that, if he followed their instructions to store up secret weapons and oil caches they’d be able to suddenly pop them open and turn the tide of the war. Like something vaguely sinister – they didn’t want to stop the war from happening, because it put the Monarchy back in full power in the Empire, but they also wanted to make sure it was well and truly winnable by ensuring that the President would supply them from the past.

I think I might be a little effed up in the head.