Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jessica Jones Thoughts (Spoilers)

I was pretty excited when I heard Sleigh Bells in the show. They're a great band, and its use in the show is a truly spectacular music cue.

Before I get into the meat of this post, some updates and excuses!
Dropped the ball on Songaday pretty much immediately. I just abandoned ship when I missed 3 and 4. My work schedule is pretty nasty to my spare time.
Legend of the Elements is struck by chronic delays that are out of my control. I'm waiting on an editor to finish and cannot progress til then. Keep watching the Kickstarter updates to stay up to date.
I know I don't post here much. I want to post more! I think the key is being comfortable with shorter posts that aren't long ramblings. I understand that, but I still have a tough time actually being okay with short posts.
If you like Pixel Art, I've got stuff on that front.


So I watched the show through the other day. Two sittings, episodes 1-9 and then 10-13.
I loved the show. Not with the same wide smile that I love many things, like Avatar and Final Fantasy and Scott Pilgrim. Jessica Jones drags my mind through an emotional quagmire in the way a powerful film does, which is pretty uncommon for television!

Many folks are singing the show's praises. It does a great job with some very sensitive subjects, and doesn't tiptoe around them. Jessica is a powerful anti-hero, a really good follow-up to Daredevil. The two mirror each other in some interesting ways. Jessica is insistent in her refusal of the mantle of the hero, while Daredevil wishes desperately to be a hero but has resigned himself to become the devil of Hell's Kitchen instead. Despite that, Jessica is pretty consistently more heroic than the Murdock, or at least less willing to dirty her hands (though if asked Jessica would deny that).

The thing I most want to take about is Kilgrave. Specifically, how much hatred I built up for him.
First, let me praise David Tennant. Yeah, I loved him as the tenth Doctor. That really shouldn't matter, but as the shadow of the Doctor looms large over any actor who played him I think it's important for me to say that, while I loved him as the Doctor, I am a sharp and aware enough audience to separate his performances. And god damn is this the performance of a lifetime.
I would say it's a shame that we won't see any more of his spectacular work in future seasons...but I can't.

By the end of the show, I needed him to die. And that's what I want to talk about.

It's not a simple thing to make me believe a character must die. It's just not in me. I love merciful heroes. It's the reason I'm a big fan of CW's Flash, Spiderman, and any Superman but Snyder's. CW's Flash is a breath of fresh air after a couple years of Arrow, because Barry is an idealist. He doesn't allow himself to fall onto the dark path, even when it could lead to lasting success. He sacrifices of himself to keep people happy. Spiderman is driven by what he feels is right, and he feels guilty because he isn't bringing great enough good for his standards even when he does his best. Superman is among my favorites - or, more accurately, the idea of Superman. He is the perfect role model, the sort of character who one can always ask "What would Superman do in this situation" and find a powerful answer. It's no mistake that he's a Jesus allegory in many cases. Many people don't like Supes for that reason, that he's a goody two-shoes, but I think we need a hero like that.
This is not actually a post about Superman. I could also talk about Superman for quite a while, because I have strong feelings about why I like Superman! But that's a different post.
The point is that it is very rare for me to hate a character viscerally enough that they need to die. But Kilgrave got to that level with me.

Some of it is his vile crimes. He is a serial rapist, a killer, and a slaver. This alone brings him close to the "too dangerous to be left alive" line, but... I don't get this type of repulsion from The Joker. Maybe it's the rape; I've never known The Joker to be explicitly sexual with his violence. I obviously condemn the Joker (though I would not want it to be Batman that kills him) but it's not such a deep or personal anger.
Some of it is his demeanor. He is a sociopath. "People" are just objects to serve him, and he doesn't care who he chews up.
A lot of it is his power. Mind control, especially when you retain your consciousness under the commands, is among the most terrifying things to me. His power had limits at first, but as the show went on he just kept pushing past past those barriers. The real limitations of his power...well, who knows?

I thought about what it was that made the anger personal. It came to me later. Before I watched the show, I saw someone post about it and they questioned why the show was trying to make Kilgrave seem sympathetic after what they'd showed us he'd done. I knew ahead of time that they would try, though thankfully they were vague enough that I wasn't spoiled on any context.
And then episodes 8 and 9 happened.
Kilgrave was given reasons. They gave him a twisted and deluded form of love. They'd already kinda established it, but they showed it instead of just telling. They gave him a tragic backstory.
And it works. You feel a little pang of sympathy for the monster.

And I finished the show and I asked myself the same question I read before I started: "Why are they trying to make him sympathetic?" I again bring up The Joker (I'll talk the Dark Knight one specifically). The Joker is wild and murderous. He just wants to destroy, and does so with unrelenting fervor and a love for what he does. He too has a "tragic backstory." He actually gives several! But despite the lack of truth in the stories, you can be pretty sure that he didn't make those scars himself; something tragic happened. And I don't feel the same sort of sympathy and rage at him.

I think I found my answer.
Kilgrave manipulated me.
The previously-mentioned tragic backstory is child experimentation and torture. They show us the cruelty of the parents. They show us the screaming agony from the needle in his back. And they show us over and over and over and over in episode 9 as they torment Kilgrave himself with the video.
Violence against children by adults, especially by their parents, is among the quickest shortcuts to making us feel bad for them. It works. Even when you don't want it to, it works.
That much is a pretty decent answer for why I felt sympathy for him. But linked to that, I think I also got an answer for why they did it.
It's cheap. It's a really cheap trick to make you sympathetic. Like I said, it's a fast shortcut to generate sympathy, and the faster the shortcut, the easier it is to notice. And it's pretty much impossible to miss this one. You know they're trying to elicit sympathy, and you know it's working for some reason. Even though you don't want to, Kilgrave's past tricks your brain into feeling pity, and that makes me angry! And unlike things with the Joker, he's done it to me personally, not just to other characters. And that's why I think he elicits that deep of a personal reaction from me. He didn't just manipulate people. He manipulated me. And chances are he manipulated you too! And that's frightening and it makes you question how easy it is to provoke sympathy and it's aggravating.
This thought ran through my mind right after finishing the show, about why I felt so okay with Jessica snapping Kilgrave's neck despite my supposed ideals. I thought "I wouldn't have felt safe if he was allowed to escape and roam free" and I'd thought I was talking about in-universe, that the rest of the Marvel continuity was in danger from his continued life. But I think I really did mean it when I thought that I wouldn't have felt safe. He's fictional, but he affected me, tricked my mind, and he's fictional.
And so I needed him to die at the end. And Jessica didn't disappoint.

So kudos to the showrunners and writers for some really masterful filmcraft. And kudos to David Tennant for genuinely frightening me. I'm very ready for Season 2.

End Recording,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November Songaday: Day 2 - Paradise Fears - Who We Were With


So I don't know a whole ton about Paradise Fears. Their most recent album, Battle Scars, is pretty good, but ultimately I mostly just like this recent single. It's a lot more pop-y than their previous songs, and I think it suits them more than alt-rock does. Definitely check their other stuff too though, it's definitely not bad or anything.

So, it's Nov 3rd. I just got home from work, so obviously I was right in suspecting that my work schedule is going to play havoc with my Songaday schedule. Just run with it, I'll try to post the next song within 36 hours of the previous one.

So, these daily posts are also a good opportunity for me to keep you all up to date!
Legend of the Elements stretch goals continue to roll in and complete. Kristine's essay is done and great, I'm workshopping the final touches on the Wielder, and I got another playbook of shipping moves, two of which I love.
I've got some errands tomorrow, and I'm gonna try to plow through some more layout stuff. Seriously, end of next weekend is the goal. Also I need to take some time to do a few more art pieces.

End Recording,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Welcome Back! It's Time For November Songaday!

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!
Well, after a 3-month hiatus, it's time to get back to The Logbook Project!
First, the hiatus itself. I probably should've actually announced it instead of letting you all think I just faded out. My bad. These past three months have been crazy. In August I ran my Kickstarter for Legend of the Elements, coming in at about $9500. I'm so proud of it. Also in August, I moved into my own place, an apartment in Lakewood, Tacoma, WA. It's my first time living on my own! That's been quite the experience. I keep forgetting to eat. Also also in August, I got a full-time job! It's a night-shift job (10pm-6am) cleaning the inside of slot machines at a casino. It's gross and working in that building is probably hazardous to my health, but whatever, it's a job.
In September I started a rest a bit and my parents sold their house and bought one in Missouri, where they have to move for work. They actually left a couple days ago. It's stressful.
In October, I had my birthday and also started grinding through my side of the Kickstarter needs.

This month, I need to actually get the LotE books printed and start shipping them out, but first I need my stretch goals to come in and my editor to finish, so I'm full of stress.

As a thing to jump-start my activity here, it's Songaday this month! My previous Songaday was last July. I've found a lot of music since then! If you've not seen one of these before, here's the rules:
1) Make a post every day for a month featuring a song. When the deadline for "each day" is is a moving target for a schedule like mine, but I'll be as consistent as I can.
2) No repeating artists. Alternate projects by the same band are only permitted if there are major differences in style or artist lineup. I also try not to repeat artists from any previous posts here, which is a lot, but I know I can do it.
3) I have to like every song. They do not need to be Favorites, nor do I need to post them in any particular order, but I do like every song I post.

My music taste is eclectic and varied. I listen to all kinds of music, including occasional country and rap, though I'm not particularly fond of metal. I listen to underground indie stuff and mainstream radio stuff and the whole range in between. Now, you've probably heard of most of the mainstream stuff, so I tend to try and stay away from that during Songaday, but if I really like it you'll hear some. Even I don't know exactly what I'll be posting - I don't plan my Songaday listings in advance. It'll mostly be stuff I listen to on Spotify a lot that day.


Schaffer The Darklord is an indie rapper. His older stuff is based in comedy and I don't really like it, but this particular album, Sick Passenger, is a complete departure. His rapping is better, his beats are better, his lyrics are better, and the themes are better. It's funny and strong and just, frankly, an amazing album and a gigantic step up for STD. Since finding the album a little over a month ago, I don't think I've gone three days without listening to it. It's that good. Go listen to the whole thing. It's definitely in my top couple albums I've found this year.

Until tomorrow!
End Recording,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Legend of the Elements Kickstarter Is Launched!

After a month of preparation, it's here! The Legend of the Elements kickstarter is launched and you should go back it and get yourself a copy!

I'm really excited to finally be launching my first real game, and I can barely contain how much I want to share the amazing final version with you all.

Read all about it here:

End Recording,

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Go Play NW 2015 Wrap-up

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Go Play NW is a convention in Seattle in the last weekend of June. It was a lot of fun! There's only a little more than 100 people in attendance, but we're all story gamers of some type.

Friday evening I played Splendor with new friends Jerry Ozbun and Tomer Gurantz, and Ross Cowman (he's not new to me, but I love playing with him anyway). Jerry and Tomer are long-time gamers and first-time attendees. The game itself was really interesting, and I played it again later in the weekend. Splendor is a fairly new card-based resource-management game, and I'm pretty good at it! If I get a spare $30 I'll definitely be picking it up.

For my actual Friday night slot, I played Monsterhearts! Of course I did. Robert Bruce ran it, and my fellow players were Daniel Wood, Myra Lara, and Natalie Holt. I played the Witch, and I was a truly awful, awful person. It was a bit tragic to see me get totally shut down by the end of the session, but she deserved it. We also had a Selkie, a Ghoul (hunger for flesh), and a Sasquatch.

I skipped Saturday morning. To heck with the early wake-up.

For the second slot, I ran Legend of the Elements! This slot was with veteran GPNWers. I had Jay Loomis and Andy Munich (both of whom played in Avatar World last year), Erin Sara DiPeso, and Mark Levad. I brought my A game with me to this one: we used the Festival of the Four quick-start scenario and had a Hunter, a Fireshaper, an Earthshaper, and a Spiritshaper. We had a small chase scene, intra-faction rivalry, a super-strong Earthshaper ghost grandma, a Mulan moment, and wavering morals. I even wrapped up the Earthshaper Leaders plot point really well! Definitely one of my favorite uses of the Festival scenario, and I actually nailed the doing-stuff-in-an-urban-environment thing this time, which has given me so much trouble in the past.

For dinner, a huge wave of us went to Cafe Presse, this French bistro on Capitol Hill. We went because Morgan Stinson was there and none of us have seen him in months because of his personal and professional life keeping him away from gaming, and now he's easing back into it. It was fun hanging out with everyone and trying to cram like 30 people into this tiny back room.

For the night slot, I ran Legend of the Elements again! This time it was with newcomers to GPNW. Patrick Richardson, Matt Mignacco, John Cucco, and Ryan (I'm sorry, I forgot to write down your last name!) were all really cool. Oddly enough, I talked to all four of them about Legend of the Elements at ECCC earlier this year! I'd actually told Ryan about GPNW in general, so it was exciting to have him actually come and then play in my game :). Since I'd used up my Festival scenario (I only carried the one set of sheets for each), I ran The Red Mountain. The Red Mountain is actually my preferred scenario in general; it's not better or anything (that I could fix with revisions), I just happen to be more interested in the spirit and mysticism side of the game than the whimsical silly bits. The Red Mountain is much closer to the sort of climactic episodes of Avatar (first learning about the coming eclipse, siege of the north, etc), while the Festival is more of a middle or filler episode, fun but not too serious or anything. I don't think my MCing was quite as awesome as it had been that afternoon, but we still had an excellent time. We had a Fireshaper, Watershaper, Earthshaper, and Spiritshaper. I took my usual path through the cave and running into wolfbats event, and went in and had a creepy social encounter at the monastery. This is where I felt I handled the MCing worst - it was a discussion type thing, and didn't trigger many social moves. It was very fulfilling in an emotional way though, and then I capped it off with a really good final encounter that tied in a character's backstory, one of the answers from one of their scenario sheets, and a vague hint from earlier. That was one of my better MCing moments of LotE in general. I had sat there for like five minutes (with players on break of course) just thinking of what to do there, because I had like an hour left, I hadn't had a great combat encounter yet, and I very easily could have ended the game right there. I just happened to stumble upon this great idea, and I'm so glad I did cuz it let me end the game on the perfect note.

Saturday night after the game I went out with Morgan Ellis, Jeremy Tidwell, and Ryan to go find food and soak in the Pride nightlife. It was very fun. We had street meat hot dogs and they were excellent.

Sunday I didn't go in promptly on time, but I still hooked up with Johnstone Metzger to play some Fall of Magic! Despite all the time I spend in Olympia, this was my first time playing it. Before we really got started, two other late-comers showed up and we invited them. Andrew and Chaz were also first-time GPNWers, and they were only here for the Sunday. I played an Apprentice of the Magus whose character arc was losing faith in the power of magic as he felt how much stronger the power of death always seemed to be. We made it through the Hall of the Woods. I would definitely play this again.

Sunday afternoon was the one game I'd scheduled to play in ahead of time: Apocalypse World. Karen Twelves ran it, and I played with Eric Fattig, Jackson Tegu, Jeremy Tidwell, and Sean Nittner. We played Karen's Olive Garden scenario, which is a frame where we play the staff at a still-running Olive Garden that serves as an oasis in the blasted nightmare of the post-apocalypse. I was the Host and Gun Lugger, we had a Bartender/Skinner (art: mixology), a Manager/Hardholder, a Savvy Head/Janitor, and a Brainer/Server. It was so much fun and I really want to play more Apocalypse World.

Sunday evening I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Jay and Drew weren't around so I couldn't do Dungeon World with them, so it was ended up as a toss-up at the pitch circle of either My Daughter The Queen of France (intense but very fun) or Splendor again (very laid back). I went for the laid back and ended up playing a couple of very quiet and contemplative games of Splendor with Ross and Myra, both of which I won. #undefeated

Then we all went to dinner at 8oz Burger. It was fantastic. I got to hang out more with Tomer and Jerry, as well as with Chris Paul and Dan Behlings. All of them were also first-timers at GPNW, so that was fun.
You see, I had a secret goal at this year's GPNW: if I saw anyone sitting on their own and they didn't look actively busy, I would go up and make sure they were okay, or just strike up conversation in general, or invite them over to whatever else I might have been doing. This is an extension of last year's goal of being actively outgoing and sociable, and it really worked out last year, and it did again this year! I introduced Chris to a bunch of folks, and in general I just tried to be as inviting as possible.
I have this consistent fear of our story games culture going clique-ish, driven largely by our selection of players. Not maliciously! After all, we all come out here and many of us only see each other at this con, so we want to play and hang out together while we can! We'll cherry pick our friends into our games, and then not have new people experiences. I'm doing it too; my Monsterhearts game was that, as was the Apocalypse World game (though I wasn't doing player selection for that, there was never even a public signup or anything). The games I ran had new players because I'd opened up public signups ahead of time and new folks filled in the spots.
Truth is, we're not that clique-ish. But we can look that way from the outside, and it's really hard to break through that! I felt that my first year at the con - I spent a lot of time on my own. I said it was fine, and that I needed the time to recharge, and some of that was true, but really I was just not sure how to break into these existing friend groups. So now I go out of my way to not let other people get trapped in that. And I've made some good friends that way! That's how I met Andy last year, and that's turned out pretty awesome. I'm really looking forward to seeing Chris and Ryan and Jerry and Dan and Tomer and Andrew and Chaz next year as well, and I'm looking forward to meeting new faces too!
And you know what? I don't really do this in my regular life. I've never been good at it. But in talking with another friend recently who recently moved somewhere where he doesn't know anyone, I kinda realized that I'm almost getting good at making friends with strangers. That boggles my mind. The benefits of story games!

A truly excellent Go Play NW. I'm very excited for the next one already.

Come back in a few days and I'll give y'all some Legend of the Elements news. The Kickstarter is coming!
End Recording,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Big #500

It's really happening.

1) This is post #500 on The Logbook Project. I've been doing this for three and a half years, since my second semester at university, and now I have 500 posts. I'm feeling great.

2) To go with that...today was my last day as an undergraduate at university! I'm free!

3) I received these in the mail today:
No, it's not done done, but it's pretty darn close, and holding a perfect-bound copy in my hands is helping make it feel that way.

4) You can come see my copies at Go Play NW this weekend! I am running Legend of the Elements twice at least, one game of which is full. Sunday morning still has two spots open, and I might open a third session if I see the interest.
I hope to see you there, and look forward to keeping you all up to date on the imminent release!

End Recording,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Songs 2015: Alesso's Sweet Escape and Zedd's Addicted To a Memory


This week is a little bit different! I could have split these two into different weeks, but I've had both of them on the blog before so I'll combine them. Why am I featuring musicians again at all? Because both Alesso and Zedd put out new albums this month, and they're both pretty great!
Alesso released his first LP, Forever. I'll be honest - not unilaterally his best stuff. There's some great gems on the album, but especially his choice of singles is a bit disappointing - he did not make the best use of Tove Lo on Heroes, and Payday is the opposite of what originally attracted me to Alesso. In general, the album takes a more EDM-powered tact, rather than use the trance inflections in a lot of his work. In general, Heroes is a fluke; Alesso knows how to handle vocalists, and needs to do so more often. Under Control (with Calvin Harris and Hurts) and his remix of If I Lose Myself are two of the best songs on the album by a while, but they've also been in circulation for almost a year. That sound, the intro track is a really good lead-in to Payday.


Zedd has the exact opposite problem that Alesso has - he needs to lay off the vocalists. He just can't manage them! They're repetitive, uninspired, and seemingly there just because they're "supposed to be" in the modern dance world. Seriously Zedd, it's okay to just be a kick-ass producer of beats! You don't have to include lyrics! It's really not the vocalists' faults - Hayley Williams and Foxes and Bahari are great vocalists and were kinda wasted on their songs. Despite that, Addicted To A Memory is a great song and the back half is great.
(I will note that he worked really well with Selena Gomez, I Want You To Know actually elevates her performance, and I say this as someone who actually likes Selena!)

Project Update:
I play the Example of Play session tomorrow for Legend of the Elements! It's exciting. I'm also currently remaking the cover to stretch around the spine and back. I'm also painting it! Watercolor and acrylic. I'm, uh, not a painter, but I wasn't really vector artist before this project either, so I think it's going well!
I played Shining Void last week and it taught me some things! this game is going toward a revision.
I haven't started on Learning Pixel Art 2nd Edition yet, that's in the information-gathering stage.

End Recording,