Roleplaying for Fun and Pleasure

I’m a rather huge nerd. It is not a lifestyle I chose. Life took one look at me and said, here, wear this moderately witty, hand-me-down shirt relating to dice rolls that normal people won’t understand. Fortunately, being a nerd is all the rage. Games that were once frowned upon are now a valued part of people’s social lives. In an ever expanding world where you can very easily choose your friends from whatever place you’d like, games are there on the computer to help you cope with crippling depression from a lack of physical interaction with others because all your friends are from the internet.

One of the first kinds of video games I really got into were RPG’s. Specifically JRPG’s, because when I was growing up Western RPG’s were so complicated they were basically unplayable by anyone without a couple years of college. As I was a child I found the Japanese version much more palatable. The first series I really got into was Suikoden. It was poorly written with copious amounts of melodrama and a healthy side of cringe-worthy sexism at a critical point in the first game. I loved every minute of it.  It opened my eyes to the potential of storytelling in a game. I played the first two games with my cousin and later sought out further installments whenever I could. The series had such an impact that my cousin and I tried making our own RPG with a game called RPG Maker. To this day I dream of writing for video games.

Perhaps that’s part of why I love being a dungeon master for those friends I have that are local. Games like Dungeons and DragonsGURPS, even The Dresden Files: Roleplaying Game are staples of my social life. The creation of worlds appeals to my inner fantasy novelist. Rolling with the twists and turns that my players throw at me appeals to my inner improv comedian. Challenging the players and rewarding them makes me feel like I’m keeping my brain sharp. Altogether, it’s a great experience so long as the players remember not to argue with me. Most have. Others may never be found.



Exploding Bees

When I was growing up we didn’t usually do anything with fireworks. The Fourth of July was celebrated by watching other people blow things up from a great distance. When I tell friends about the lack of fireworks and they take it to mean I had a lackluster childhood. I get a pat on the shoulder, the occasional tutting, and looks of pity. My childhood wasn’t devoid of fireworks, however. I do have one prominent memory of that ancient Chinese art.

It happened when I was about six, maybe seven years old. The actual event is mostly a cloud of memory that blows away at the slightest breath of conscious thought. As far as I know we were celebrating American Independence day with my cousins. Their family was much more accepting of explosions than my immediate family. Someone lit a bee helicopter firework that flew up and stung me on the face with it’s fiery propulsion. It also inspired one of my most memorable nightmares to date.

In the nightmare I’m sitting in the back of the old van that my mother used for her interior decorating business. The doors are open and a cool, gentle breeze is blowing through the early evening sky. A few stray lines of orange from the sunset still hang about the horizon, like party guests lingering by the door for one last goodbye. I’m smiling from the top of the van. My parents are smiling. They light the bee. I jump and run down to watch it ascend. It leaps into the air and stings me square in the face. In the dream, I’m reminded of begging for the firework. I had thought it sounded so cool I just had to have it. It stings me again. I run, it chases. My parents look on, smiles stagnant on their faces. Again and again it stings me. Every where I turn it finds me and stings me. Hot tears stream down my face. I cry out for help. I see my little sister. She sits on the ground, a growing worm uncoiling from the tablet in front of her. She looks confused. I run away from her, determined for it not to sting her. Finally my mother grabs hold of me like she had only just noticed the stings. The paper bee flies around, but doesn’t dare attack my mother. She leads me out into the sun room at the back of the house and tells me to be more careful with fireworks. My face is covered by large brown scabs. I’m no longer crying. I’m not speaking. I’m immobile with pain and humiliation.

I bought a bee for this year, so we’ll see how it goes this time around.

Bad Movies

I love bad movies. It’s a weird little addiction of mine. I love going to thrift stores and going through old VHS collections and finding the weird and ridiculous. Most often these tapes seem to be old horror movies, or the kind you might find in a Sunday School room at your local church. Without fail they are bad. If they were good I would try and find them online or at the very least on DVD. Good movies deserve better quality than VHS can provide.

It’s a weird phenomena, the enjoyment of bad movies. Some might attribute my enjoyment to schadenfreude. I disagree with this analogy. My enjoyment has less to do with enjoying the failings of others than recognizing those failings in myself and in my writings. I once received a piece of advice that if I want to write then I need to read, but not just good things, not just things that I want to write but also bad things. You have to know what’s bad and why it’s bad to be any good. I’ve long since forgotten where that advice came from. Maybe a book or maybe a teacher. I really can’t tell you. I can say that the advice has stuck with me.

I think I like bad movies because for a movie to be well and truly bad a lot of things have to happen. It’s not like literature where only a small handful of people have to see it before it’s published. A multitude of people see the film in various stages of development. Sometimes one person’s vision can push a movie through, like The Room with Tommy Wiseau, but more often than not you have directors and producers at multiple levels who can see when something isn’t working. Even beyond that, actors and production crew are there with a more limited ability to voice their opinions about the film. Yet, every once in a while, some movie gets produced and gains a star of infamy. These are the ones that we should take to heart as much as we do the Oscar winners. They will show so much more that we have to understand to write well. Learn from others mistakes.

I’m thinking of getting a Betamax player.

Wedding Deadline

Today, I attended the wedding of a couple I’ve been good friends with for a while now. It was a beautiful ceremony with a great reception. As wonderful as it all was the part I want to talk about was the card I made for them. With an xacto knife, some heavy paper, and a can-do attitude I crafted one of the best looking cards I’ve ever seen to celebrate their commitment.

I started with a base of purple construction paper, then a layer of pink leaving a third of the bottom exposed, then a layer of orange that left half of the pink exposed, which was then covered by a carefully cut silhouette of the couple with added bush and tree to create a more interesting asymmetrical design that ties the underlying colors together. This entire card, from inception to completion, took only about an hour and a half to make. It was all done on severe time constraints and can I just say, what a rush!

There is nothing quite like a tight deadline to make work exciting. While making this card I was rushing the editing process, making concrete design choices that I wouldn’t be able to alter later. Time constraints played a part in some of those decisions but in ways that I felt made the project better, as opposed to detracting from it. Inside I worked out wording for a proper card and printed it on paper. I painstakingly cut the minuscule details of hair and kissing faces. I drew, free hand, the silhouettes of of a tree and bush. I did math on the fly.

I hope that my friends appreciate the card, but that has become secondary to my appreciation of the card. Having completed a project has made me feel revitalized, reinvigorated. So often when working on long projects I feel myself begin to wain. I feel my task becomes mundane, dull, Sisyphean. It’s important to take a bit and do a side project to show yourself that there is such a thing as an end. You can complete something and the completed piece will turn out well. Thereafter, you will have a reminder of your own ability and worth to help fill your sails and guide your rudder.

I just realized I completely forgot to take a picture of the card.

Cleaning the Bathroom

I, like many red-blooded Americans, hate to clean. The bathroom, being the sanitation station that it is, feels like the paradox of cleaning. To me, nothing in the world could be more detestable than cleaning the space that is for little more than cleaning. We “go to the bathroom” to clean out our innards, we shower to clean off our outsides, we brush our teeth to polish exposed bones, we shave to remove unsightly hairs (particularly misogynistic beard growths). So why does the bathroom never seem to stay clean.

No other room in the house gets as dirty as fast as the bathroom. This is, in part, to the amount of cleaning we do in the bathroom. In the kitchen you clean up as you cook but it’s never over the top. It isn’t as bothersome as cleaning the bathroom. It’s small, incremental, and varied. I tend to stick to making food in the kitchen, and the cleaning is a small part of the pu pu platter preparation procedures. I like food. It’s delicious and keeps me energized. So when I need to clean my kitchen it’s not a big deal. The bathroom is contrary in this way. When the food is involved with the bathroom it has somehow lost it’s appeal. I view the other dirtying factors of a bathroom similarly. I’ve just cleaned myself on several different fronts and no longer want to do any more cleaning, especially not in this room.

While both disgusting and dreaded, cleaning the bathroom is just as important as cleaning the kitchen, more important than cleaning most other rooms of the house, and only truly second to cleaning oneself. So, I cleaned the bathroom. I hated most every second of scrubbing shower, toilet, sink, and walls. I only stopped because I couldn’t stand another moment of harsh chemicals and harsher scrubbing. I stood back and nitpicked the work I had done over four hours dissatisfied with the result. Never is the result as good as I hope it should be, and this leads me to wait too long to clean again. Procrastination through perfectionism is a motto that I would use, but it’s not perfect so why workshop it.

Tonight I hope I dream of self-cleaning appliances.

Once Upon a Time

The titular phrase passes through my head every time I sit down to write. A tired cliche for some, the hot breath of childhood nostalgia for others, and a well-known writing trope. Personally, I think it’s under utilized for the middles of stories as it’s become so ingrained in the beginnings.

Once upon a time, I started writing a daily blog. It was a terribly heavy undertaking that I wasn’t sure if I was at all prepared for so I took the leap off the bridge into the waters below. Silently, I am hoping that the waters are not so distant that their physics resemble more closely those of concrete than those of cushions. Once upon a time, I’m praying that my form proves more swan dive than belly flop. Once upon a time, this will matter.

The thing about once upon a time is that so few people need it at the beginning anymore. Those of us who still follow the fairy tale motif read it in at the beginning regardless. Others either try to ignore or don’t hear the insistent chant. Everything was, is, or will be once upon a time. Once upon a time there was a beginning. Once upon a time there is a middle. Once upon a time there will be an end. Maybe sooner than I think. Maybe not as quickly as you fear. Once upon a time, it was too late to go back.