iPod’s Last Waltz

I recently heard that Apple is discontinuing their line of iPods. This has filled me with a mix of emotions. I never really cared for Apple’s iPods, mostly because of their software. I was fairly young when I got my first iPod. My older sister bought me an iPod Photo one year for a birthday. It was a brick of an MP3 player. It must have cost at least $400. It was the newest iPod on the market at the time. Cutting edge technology with a low resolution full color display. It even had games on it, like solitaire and one where you shot things out of the sky. This monster of an MP3 player had 40 gigs of storage. I loved it until it mostly died. It still will play some of the old stuff I used to listen to for a couple of minutes at a time every once in a while but I’ve since realized it’s better as a paper weight.

To be honest, I didn’t get another iPod until 2009, when I received one as a gift for Christmas. It was the royal purple iPod Nano. It had 16 gb of storage. This one came from my older sister’s ex-fiance, and yes, he was an ex-fiance at the time. I never did thank him for it, so let me take a sentence to do that here. Dick, thank you for all the gifts at Christmas. they meant a lot and were enjoyed far beyond their years. Unfortunately, this iPod too stopped working. Frankly, it can’t have been a cheap gift. Not as expensive as the iPod Photo, but certainly better in every way but storage.

If I’m completely honest, I miss having a dedicated MP3 player. I miss having something to go to just for my downloaded music. I miss not having to allocate space to my phone to ensure that I don’t have to limit it’s other multitude of uses. The iPod is certainly the most famous of the MP3 players, but their discontinuation could mean a shift away from MP3 players as a whole. I’d like to treat this as a terrible thing that couldn’t be any worse, but honestly, I’d moved on without them.

I’m going to go listen to exactly 120 seconds of “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance to say goodbye.

Magically Drawn In

I’ve begun creating magical items for my players in my Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but I’ve decided that I also want them to create their own magical items. This may seem like a foolish idea, but I feel like it will populate the world with items that the adventurers actually want. It gives them a chance to build up their world without me. That said, this could raise some interesting problems. For one, if they create magical items exclusively for a store that they’ll have access to, then they will just create overpowered items. I could try and out price them, but they have a ton of gold accumulated from prior adventures and tournaments, so that isn’t necessarily a reasonable thing to do.

Instead, I’m doing the only reasonable thing and threatening to give any overpowered items to villains. If they want it, they’ll have to fight a monster for it. If they steam roll the monster and I’m not satisfied that they won’t then be able to steam roll every other monster, then I’ll destroy the item. The team still gets to see their creation brought out into the world, but they don’t get the benefit of their creation. If they barely beat the creature and I think they’ve earned the item, I’ll include it with some caveats. Caveats like finding the true name of the item in the correct tongue to unlock its true potential. A trick I’ve already begun working on a randomly rolled magic item that proved simply too much.

All together, I’m not actually all that worried about their creations because I think for the most part they will be able to keep their minds off of making things too easy on themselves. Players don’t want an easy stroll in the park, they want adventure. They want to look death in the face and laugh. They need something to spend their earnings on that will help them with the laughing part, so the in game store will be there for them to fulfill their greatest imaginings, just as much as it will be available for everyone else.

Now, I need to go plot my players inevitable in-game demises.

Dog Days of Summer

Dogs are such interesting creatures. I’ve only ever met one person who doesn’t like them and he only doesn’t like most of them. He makes an exception for pugs. Dogs are so beloved that people will actively spoil a movie to keep from seeing them die a fictitious death. I know several people who are allergic to dogs that suffer those allergens for the sake of keeping their pets. Some may argue that cats are equally loved, but I feel it isn’t as universal. You don’t have strangers approaching you to ask if they can pet your cat. You don’t see a stray cat and think, poor baby must be lost. You think, that creature will probably scratch the shit out of me if I try to touch it (unless it’s rubbing all up on you, in which case you’re probably going to pet it). If it was a dog, you’d assume it was friendly up until it growled, and afterwards it would be a matter of what you did wrong in approaching it.

I have had several dogs throughout my life. When I was a baby, our Akita named Sensei carried me around by my diaper. When I was a bit older, I got a beautiful Shetland named Bret that kept me company throughout the day. Then there was the dog that was my best friend for the majority of my life.

Buttons was a full size chihuahua. I begged my mother to get her because I wanted to grow up with that dog, and boy did I ever.  I got her when I was five, and named her for the cartoon dog that was a part of Animaniacs. I wanted a dog that cared about me so much that they would take the blame. As a child, that was the pinnacle of love for me. Buttons never needed to because it was more often that I would have to defend her. She was always climbing over the fence and nipping at joggers heels. She is my favorite little war dog. As she grew older, she mellowed. She stopped climbing the fence. She stopped chasing joggers. She stopped doing most things, but she never stopped loving me. When she realized she didn’t have much time left, she took one last leap over the fence to give that one last gift that so many dogs give to their owners. The gift of uncertainty. The logical side of me knows that Buttons is dead, but that irrational hopeful side still holds the belief that she’s out there somewhere going all over the place and wreaking joyful havoc on all she meets.

Let’s all go adopt a friend for life today.

Mounted Head Canons

I saw Atomic Blonde last night and it was good. It was an action pack movie that kept me guessing and second guessing the entire way through. I’m sure a lot of people will say that they got the ending the first time through. Just like people say that they never had any doubts as to what was happening on Shutter Island. The fact of the matter is that so often people say this kind of thing to sound smart. They don’t. They sound stubborn. I guessed the ultimate end to the movie early on too. But you know what? I also second guessed myself and got caught up in the twists and turns of the distractions presented in the film.

When you have the sort story that messes with your brain, it can tell you exactly what the truth of the matter is at the very beginning but then rain so many lies that you don’t know what the truth was by the end. Only later will the truth bubble to the surface like oil, and you’ll be asking yourself if that really is the truth. That is both the fun and frustration of the genre. Fun because theorizing makes us feel smart and important and respected by the authors. Frustrating because you’re never quite sure that your point of view is the correct one. People who think that they have to be write and that it’s a competition with the writer are missing the point.

That said, there are bad instances of this. Instances where the writers had a specific version that they wanted everyone to perceive. This, like the people who insist on only one truth per story, is entirely missing the point. They ignore the intelligence of their audience, instead condescending them like they are toddlers trying to play with their big boy toys. This leaves the frustration without any of the fun, because the fun of second guessing has been taken from them. They could emphasize the story that they want without over emphasizing. There is a fine line there, but it can so rarely be achieved.

Remember, don’t be a condescending big boy. Let others figure out the story you want to tell.

Preparation T

You’d think that it was a bit early to be planning out the Christmas holiday, but perhaps you don’t have a conflict about where you’re going for Christmas. Last year, my girlfriend and I went to her parents for the holiday. It would seem like it would make sense to spend this Christmas with my parents, especially when the plans are to go on a holiday cruise with my family. Her mother has requested that she and I come back for Christmas this year, too. It would be entirely fair to say, sorry, we can’t. We have plans with my family this year, but at the same time I want to be able to please everyone I can. My girlfriend rarely gets to see her folks because they live a good long drive from us. I know how much it means to her to go see them.

So this summer, I’m looking at how I’m going to spend my Christmas break as restlessly as possible. If there’s one thing I need to plan everything out it’s time. Time is the biggest component to any project, be it planning a vacation or writing a book. It’s important that we use this time for those projects. Too often have I set a deadline only to realize a day before that deadline that I haven’t done anything to meet that deadline. If I’m to be prepared for the deadline I have to actually work towards the goal in a timely manner.

I’m terrible at this. I’m a procrastinator through and through. I’d much rather be playing games from a recently purchased Humble Bundle than the strenuous tasks of writing, or creating a logo, or designing a purse. The thing is, playing video games by itself won’t get you any sort of credit. Even on mediums like Twitch or YouTube, where playing games is profitable, there is so much more going on behind the scenes. Because of this I spend more of my time planning now. I used to think planning was a waste of time, but it has helped me keep a schedule and meet my deadlines.

Now that I have one more deadline under my belt, I’m going to go play through Sam & Max season 2. Or maybe do something productive.

A Lack of Irreverence

The new series of The Tick is coming out at the end of next month on Amazon Prime. I know a lot of people are excited for it. I’m not really one of them. It’s not that I’m not excited for the franchise to have more going for it, or that I think that the show will be bad, I just don’t feel it will really be The Tick. I watched the pilot and it didn’t fill me up with hope the way it should. It was a darker take on the series, but without the humor that is the series hallmark. There are occasional funny moments but for the most part it’s just a series of depressing events in the life of Arthur. Sure, the Tick being a bigger part of the show might make it funnier. Arthur was always the straight man of the two. But the more serious overtones don’t suit the parody nature of the previous two shows, or the comic book. But it isn’t the only thing that does this. It feels like so many shows have forgotten to laugh at themselves and their genres.

Take CW’s Arrow and The Flash. These two characters are the biggest jokesters in the DC universe. What are their television personalities like? They are constantly acting like moody teenagers with a sense of gravitas that would make Batman look lighthearted. Green Arrow is definitely the worse offender in this. In the first season he is killing people, boxing glove arrow nowhere to be seen. He goes up against super-powered villains and doesn’t make a single quip. His smart aleck nature has gone the way of his ridiculous goatee, at least in the show. The writers seem to miss the point of what makes the comics so popular. It’s not that there is a guy fighting crime, not entirely, but the way he deals with it. They don’t take it too seriously. They show they’re in real danger in other ways, like by being in real danger, but they keep the tone light.

There’s just such a lack of irreverence. They don’t insult the way these guys do business, their intelligence, or even act like they aren’t a threat. Hopefully, that feeling will start coming across in The Tick, but frankly, I’m not holding my breath. I guess what I’m trying to say is, we don’t need another hero, we need someone who can make us laugh.

Contentment of the Court

Every once in a while, I find myself completely satisfied. My needs have been met, my major desires have been satiated, even some passing desires are satiated. I’m at peace with the universe. And it is terrible for my writing. I’ll sit here and think, what am I going to do next? What is there to write about? Usually, I find something about which to ramble. On so many occasions, I’ve trudged through the great swamp of creative nonfeasance until I’ve found myself on the other side, pounding the keyboard, with no idea where my fingers are taking me. And in that moment I’m truly content.

Contentedness is such a strange concept in this modern age. So many want it, but those who get it tend to be mocked and ridiculed for having it. Largely because other people don’t believe that you should be content while they are not. The world is such that internet culture has turned to a strange worship of mental illness. Anyone who’s someone has one that makes their life so much harder than anyone else’s. A popularized bastardization of intersectionality by armchair scholars are the name of the game on several websites, especially Tumblr. Instead of moving towards a more egalitarian society, the misinterpretations, generalizations, and celebrations of malaise contribute to an unrest that isn’t potent for change.

This isn’t to say there isn’t change happening out in the world. There is. There are marches, protests, and incredible discussions and debates happening. Things are moving as fast as they are staying still. There is unrest and rebellion, peace and hope, all springing up all over the world. And it’s important to be able to take a step back from all of that, to find a moment to reflect on things away from that, to look at yourself and say to yourself, “I am content.” It may not be true for how you feel about the world as a whole, I know I’m not content with everything in the world at the moment, but it could be true for the part of the world you take up. Today I’m satisfied with my small part of the world. I hope you are, too.

Now, I want sushi. There goes my contentment.

The Rosebush

Outside my window, there is an heirloom rosebush. The roses that bloom on this bush are a rich pink color with a scent that relaxes me with every bloom I sniff. I’ve made the flowers into potpourri before, but the fresh scent of the just bloomed flower is my preference. The petals on these roses are softer than any other petal I’ve ever felt before. They feel the way clouds look and the way a rich velvet is described. They are a rare flower, that I’ve never seen elsewhere, and, indeed, probably are hard to find outside of my neighborhood. To some this might make them all the more valuable. The whole economic and simplistic idea of supply and demand working on people’s minds. They are far more valuable than that. In fact, they are too valuable to keep to oneself. They are valuable enough to share.

A few years back there was a knock on our door and a neighbor from down the hill had spotted our rosebush. It was in bloom at the time and they were astounded by the beauty of its appearance and scent. They asked if they could take a cutting of the rosebush. We said of course. Then,  there were two rosebushes like mine. Theirs seemed revitalized. It is far taller than ours, blooms far more often than ours, with far more flowers than ours. Sometimes, I must admit, I’m a bit jealous of their plant. But every time I pass by, I get to appreciate the beauty of the bush. I think that is a sort of payment in and of itself.

Elsewhere, another person asked to make a cutting of our neighbors bush. Theirs has grown, but slowly. The third bush is very small. It doesn’t produce as much as the second or even my plant. Yet, I’ve seen that neighbor gloating over the small buds that appear on his plant. I’ve seen him fawn over it and love it in a way I haven’t seen the bigger bush fawned over. In a way that I haven’t fawned over my own bush in a while. It reminds me that my own bush still has value. More, even, than it did before, because now it has brought happiness to other people.

Still, it was a bad idea to hug it.

Vertical Railroad

There’s something strangely liberating about being in an elevator with a bunch of strangers. It’s true of other forms of public transportation, but the elevator is, ironically, the place I feel most liberated. This isn’t a liberation of movement, but of prejudice. When I enter an elevator, I don’t expect anything from any other passengers. I don’t expect them to be of any particular race, job description, socio-economic class, or disposition. Heck, I don’t even expect them not to fart, though it is preferred that they don’t. 

There is one simple expectation I feel I have that makes me feel liberated in the elevator, and that is for everyone to mind their own business. Sure, people will come on and acknowledge other passengers. People will come on and have conversations with other people, some they might not even know, but these aren’t probing conversations. Perhaps it is the public nature of the forum that causes this. Perhaps it is an even deeper expectation that the elevator is there to get you where you’re going quickly. So quickly that you don’t have time to sit down. So quickly that you don’t have time to look up from your paper, or your bagel, or realize that your little microcosm of routine is being observed by a writer. 

Elevators are a great place to people watch, to find the believable minutiae that make up everyday vertical commutes. There is a reason that they are on everything, and not simply because elevators are a simple way to move people around. Elevators are important because you’re not required to do anything on them, and you don’t normally take the time to think about what you’re doing on them. You’ll be just as likely to be next to a family of five arguing about what to eat as you are to be next to a couple of executives that are arguing over an important merger. Each new elevator provides a new challenge and a new experience. 

This post written while trapped on an elevator over night. 

Self-Appreciation

Like many true patriots, I’ve recently been watching a ton of Futurama. The show is renowned for basically everything for which a show can be celebrated. One of the things that becomes ever more apparent as time goes on are the little details and jokes that most of us miss until they’re pointed out to us. Most of these details seemed mostly to be for the people who created them. The writers, producers, animators, voice actors, all did it so that they could appreciate it. An important lesson for every creator.

When you have the ability to create something, it should be something you love. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t love what you’ve made, why should anyone else? If you’re writing a horror novel that doesn’t scare you, does it really count as a horror novel? If you’re painting a picture of a moment of sadness that doesn’t make you want to cry, why should anyone else? If you’re filming a gooey romantic scene, but you don’t care much for your co-star, then how are you going to convince the audience that you two belong together? I’ve heard people talk about how they know the human mind, the human psyche, well enough to emulate these things, but it misses out on the sincerity behind good works.

Futurama has several episodes that hit me square in my soft squishy feels. They get sappy, sad, romantic, horrifying, not because it thinks that is what will make people watch (though I’m sure they often asked what would help their ratings) but because that’s the kind of show they want to watch. Because of that, so many others remember it as being an incredible show on so many fronts. People still clamor for it, wanting more and more.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the only reason that the show is great. The creators are all incredibly smart with heaps of experience in the creation of shows like this. That said, what has made the show last is passion. Without passion it wouldn’t be the same show. It wouldn’t have gone for as many seasons as it had. It wouldn’t have had a great revival. It wouldn’t be Futurama.

Now I have to go and cry about Seymour. If you’ll excuse me.