Saturday was a lost day for me as I had a headache kick in.
On Sunday, I got to my Saturday work and fixed the oven. The oven's gas safety regulator was malfunctioning, so I took the time to track down an affordable part (or pay literally 8x the price for the unaffordable part). Then I had to get the oven out, shove over a cabinet, shove over the fridge, unplug the fridge, and wedge in behind the oven to discover that I couldn't find the gas cutoff. (It turned out to be under the sink, but I had forgotten that.) I cut the gas off at the meter. I found a youtube video with almost my exact model getting disassembled. Did the work. Reassembled. Done.
Yay. Done. The oven reached temperature, beeped, and maintained temperature for several hours.
And the fridge didn't work any more. So I had to pull crap back out to replug the fridge.
And the hot water didn't work right this morning. So I had to go down the basement and relight the pilot for the water heater.
While I was at all that pulling crap out, I scrubbed down the oily top of the fridge. It was that truly and epicly icky.
Also in work yesterday was changing out the driving lights for my wife's car (one was out) and replacing the air filter (because the thing had a decided bad power response). Next I have to hook up my car readout thingie to find out why her car wants maintenance.
On Saturday, we got out to the redecorated Taipei Tokyo cafe. They had a considerably adjusted menu and a different vibe, although the place still felt cafe style. I got the feeling that the restaurant had changed hands, now leaning a bit more Japanese than the previous iteration. They had a steady stream of customers, so life still looks good for them.
With several new Lego Elves sets released, I've bought her a few dragons sets over the last few weeks, allowing her to have all the dragons. I envy that in her, because that's something that I never accomplished with any of the toy sets that I wanted when I was little. I can support that because there's only so much time left for this, and I get to live vicariously through her pleasure. However, from here, she'll need to earn more because we need some carrot for school work. That, and she'll need presents for her Christmas list.
The work is an epistolary novel, one told entirely in letters and writing. The protagonist Bax is an ex-con doing his best to keep his head above water when he gets a plan to squat in a haunted house. From there, things slowly get inexplicable with the mud thick unclarity that only a Gene Wolfe novel can provide.
I found the front half of the story interesting and engaging, introducing characters at a nice pace and deploying them well.
I enjoyed the setup and the slow reveal and the inexactness of the magic system. About halfway through, the number of characters increased, and for me, they didn't fit as well nor add as much to the story as I would have preferred. By the end third, I was utterly baffled by the almost random way that the character's threw themselves at the oddest circumstances, losing every bit of charm that the first third possessed.
Stories make promises. I feel that this story set up a number of promises that it left behind, never fulfilling, and instead fulfilled a completely different set of promises, which is why this book, though excellent, had a hollow ending for me.
You see, early on, Bax does a bit of magic that he doesn't do right, and that's supposed to cause him a bit of trouble. Naturally, you would expect that this would cause him trouble, and it seems to, but the story should then progress to him actually doing what it takes to resolve that issue, but the issue gets dropped and is never seen again. His quick wealth accumulation and his status as a felon should also come back to haunt him, but it really doesn't. This is what I mean when I say that the story promised certain things, but then dropped them.
Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the format. The quick chapters made for lighter reading, rarely bogging down. There's some indications that the narrator was unreliable, but not enough that it became a true plot issue. The secondary characters all seemed a bit one dimensional, sometimes with a good explanation, and sometimes not. The action scenes didn't work, nor did any scene dependent on tension.
Lack of tension control kept this from being a true horror novel. While there is some tension in Bax's circumstance, and the general threat of the unknown, when the bad stuff does arise, the stakes are too nebulous and the rewards too inexact to allow any true increase in tension.
A dink is a person who uses their knowledge of facts to increase social status among their peers. For them, knowledge is social competition, so for them to lose any conflict about that knowledge represents a measurable loss in social status. This myopic focus on facts leads them to lose any sense of context, and at its extreme, leads them to measure everyone by that knowledge.
Not all knowledge experts are dinks.
With shovel and pick, I yanked out about six rogue plants, some more difficult than others. (One had a freaking huge tap root that will surely be back next year.)
And then there's the wildlife zone that has become wild grape vine central. I've done two shifts so far, the first one freeing the fig tree, and the second one hacking back the zone. My primary tool is an electric hedge trimmer. I've done this by hand before, and even with this freaking dangerous finger amputating auto-maiming device being the world's most awkward tool, I'd rather use it to wade in. Generally, I need to do many downward cuts before I begin with horizontal cuts. Eventually, enough stuff gets cut apart and I can put the foliage out.
On Friday night, we made our way down to the Woodside Deli for dinner. The trip was agonizing because the traffic was awful, and Jenny has a hard time ordering anything because of her soy issues. Even so, I was determined to actually make it to this location because the other (an more convenient location) now closes at 4pm.
This location is decorated with headshots of famous people, mostly actors. We had fun pointing out who we knew. I was also impressed by how well and gorgeously some of those actresses were stacked. (Insert cartoon wolf.) Oh, baby. For other actresses, those 50's bras were horrors. What also struck me was how staged so many photos now looked. In theory, I knew these shots were mostly staged, but in that format, the staging screamed.
That black and white format survived far later than I anticipated, but I guess it's because black and white is so much cheaper than film, especially with those head shots that were mostly given away as publicity. I didn't see any that dated later than the late 80's. Most likely, any head shots which were in color would stand out too much.
In gaming, my Talisman addiction continues onward.
Is this book SF, fantasy, horror, folklore, fairytale, or myth? In Gene usual challenge-the-reader style, yes, the tale is all these things and none of them.
Is this book in the past or the future or an alternate timeline? Who can say?
The book wanders in too many ways for my taste. Too many plot lines are picked and dropped, relationships built and forgotten, experiences build this way and that, none leading anywhere. Even the primary relationships seem to simply rock about as the narrative walks about, tilting in whatever direction the narrative happens to be in.
"Why did Cassie just do that?" often presents itself as a question. Usually, there is no good answer. Sometimes she acts according to her character, and sometime, it's as if she's a different yet similar characters. Earlier on, she feels more consistent, but about 2/3 of the way through, her characterization grows erratic, often expressing itself in unanticipated and inexplicable ways.
As a tale, you must resolve yourself to either not understanding the nuances of the work, accepting the narrative for what it is, or you must learn to understand, so that it makes sense on a deeper level. The problem with that is that you don't care enough to plumb the deeper levels, yet just accepting everything for what it is leaves too many questions unanswered to be satisfying, leaving the hapless reader in a middle-position devoid of any satisfaction at all.
While the book ultimately takes a stab at Cthulian derived horror, because we care so little for the characters and the setting, we don't care much when bad things start happening. The book simply feels too remote to leave us with much emotional reaction at all. That leaves us with intellectual horror, which isn't really a thing.
Through the sweet green icing of MacArthur Park
All along the Watts Tower
"All Along the Watch Tower" by Bob Dylan
Watched my ship sail in, watched it sail away
A clever turn of phrase on having your ship sail in.
At one point, I had more, but I've forgotten.
My friend skills then were pretty poor. There were places inside me where friends never went, which weren't developed because no one ever went there, and no one ever went there because when they did, they found it empty. Looking back, I can now see, to more extent, how Christina proffered a way of interacting that I couldn't see and couldn't respond because I had not developed that. I had nothing to offer because that space had nothing.
Today, I like to think that I have some furniture in that space, but it's still sparse. I don't have mementos of all my war stories stacked up to make it interesting, nor have I decorated it in the latest fashion.
If I could go back and change anything, I would have said to her far sooner, "It's going to take me 9-18 months to get through to you, and I have six weeks to do it. I'll be screwing up in your estimation pretty much constantly. I'm still here because keeping up with you will help make me a better person." In my way, in just holding on, in trying and faking it until I made it, I turned myself into a liar.
I don't pretend that Christina was a saint, because she wasn't, but that intersection between us was worth my time. She stopped talking to me because it wasn't worth hers.
I still miss my friend, even if that friend was an illusion in my head.
Getting a true Mary Sue into a film or video is nearly impossible as so many hands touch a film. When it is done, its almost entirely done on purpose.
What follows is a tool to help you think about a character. The tool is an aid, not proof.
1. Can you easily fix the problem in the script?
Position: Rey is a Mary Sue because she hops into a starship without being able to fly it.
In order to fix this particular problem, we only needed a line of dialog, anywhere in the script, saying that she knew how to pilot, or at least pilot this craft in particular. As the fix is just a bit of dialog, and not a problem intrinsic to the character, the problem lies in the script, or in the editing room, not in the character.
In general, scripts have setups and payoffs. Scripts establish bits of information or objects early, and then they don't seem random later on when they matter. Sometimes this is necessary, like when a character is a brain surgeon, and sometimes it's not, like when a skill is so widespread as to be generic, such as driving a car. In the Star Wars universe, flying a ship is such a generic skill that it can easily be assumed. In fact, we see multiple character fly with no in-film explanation. (Yes, outside of film there are explanations and meta-explanations. I am limiting the argument to film here.)
2. Does the character suffer reversals?
Hero and lead character do amazing stuff all the time. That goes with the territory. They also suffer setbacks all the time because an action film without setbacks has no tension and tends to be a very short film. Reversals in fortune are the stock and trade in such films. Mary Sues tend to succeed and see no reversals in fortune.
Does Rey see any reversals in fortune? She gets paid badly. Somebody tries to steal her droid. When TIE fighters attack, she runs for her life. The freighter that she's escaping in gets captured. She pulls the wrong part when trying to close the doors on the freighter, letting out the horrible monsters. She gets kidnapped by the First Order.
That's enough reversals in fortune to make me think that she's not a Mary Sue.
3. Does anyone else succeed beside the character?
Mary Sues are the engines of success. Often, they are the only source of success. Is this character the only engine of success, or does the character share success with others?
Rey is one engine of success. When escaping in the Falcon, she needed Fin to fire the guns. They laugh when the fight is done, congratulating each other on their successes. Clearly the character don't think that they each succeeded on their own. Poe blows up the planet. Han gets to the planet and Chewie blows up the thingies. Clearly there were more successful characters than just her.
4. Is the character opposed by forces as strong as herself?
In this theory, a character's power is measured in their opponents. This is why many Mary Sue like characters aren't Mary Sues, because their opponents are as influential as the lead character. They may be Mary Sue's when measured against us, but when measured against the all powerful superbad, they're going to need all their Mary Sueness just to survive.
Rey is opposed by circumstance, by being abandoned by her parents. Later, she opposed by the First Order. Finally, she's opposed by Rylo Ken, an up and coming Sith. That's a mighty impressive array of opponents. Given that the First Order is pretty much an unstoppable force in this film, you have to be similarly unstoppable to oppose them.
5. Does the character bypass the universe rules too much?
All heroes bypass the rules. We get that. Yet, there are some rules that even heroes don't get to bypass. When that happens, the audience cries foul, or at least wonders where the hell that came from.
In the film, Rey suddenly uses very powerful force powers and fights well with a lightsaber. I'll concede on this one. When it comes to the force, she comes to it all rather too easily compared to the other films. In this particular case, I lay the blame not on the character, but on the screenwriters attempt to satisfy audience expectations that there should be force-power stuff and lightsaber fights. We have a case for why the bad guys should have force powers, but because the good guys have no force powers, the only one who can possibly show them is Rey because Luke isn't in most of the film. Because of this decision, it then becomes inevitable that Rey will show too many force powers too quickly.
We could have had a lightsaber fight where Rylo Ken dominates and shows his superiority, but I don't think that the audience would have enjoyed that.
6. Are challenges reduced to trivialities?
In order for a film to have tension and excitement, there needs to be stakes and threats. Stakes are what's at stake, and threats are those things that threaten the stakes. The bigger the stake, the more prominent the problem gets.
A Mary Sue will reduce a high stakes problem to a triviality. A Mary Sue will remove tension and excitement rather than enhance it.
Does Rey remove tension? I don't see that, but I'm open to discussion. She doesn't defeat the First Order. She doesn't defeat Starkiller Base by crawling around its guts and disabling their gun. She does get a job offer by Han Solo, but that'a job offer by Han. Do you think that's going to be a great job? She does sort of skate through the film, but is that the Force at work?
I don't think that Rey is a Mary Sue as she fails to satisfy most Mary Sue criteria, but I made up the criteria, so I could be biased. However, failure to be a Mary Sue doesn't make Rey a good character. A bad character is not the same as Mary Sue. Rather than point my finger at a character, I think that pointing your finger at the script makes far more sense.
Bonus: She gets without earning.
A character getting something, like success, without earning it is a highly problematic criteria for detecting a Mary Sue. Context here is everything, and so is opinion. I think that this criteria is too subjective, too open to personal opinion. Film, in general, is constantly using sleights of hand to move the plot along, to get the audience to pay attention to one area while sliding around another. If you spot those sleights, you'll realize how much tomfoolery happens.
For Rey, I think that much of her paying for it happens before the beginning of the film, showing the audience how she lives a hard and hopeless life. She also fixes the Falcon and gets a job offer from Han Solo. Did she earn that? We know from the film that she literally works and literally lives in machinery. It's her living. The idea that she's great at knowing how things works is well telegraphed. Yes, she knows much more about how the Falcon works than Han does, but has Han ever shown great expertise is repairing the Falcon? His mechanical skills are a joke through the films. Chewie is the better mechanic. So for all her mechanical and technical feats, I think that the film does a good enough job to let the audience buy in. (It could have done better, but you already knew that.)
As for getting the Jedi powers without earning them, where Luke needed training, yeah, that stretches the continuity. For escaping, it would have worked better if they had just locked her into a room, and the she had used her mechanical knowledge to bypass the lock somehow. As for the light saber fight, that was just a hopeless cases. No mainline Star Wars film getting made could have skipped the "light saber fight" checkbox. Unless you got Luke, there was simply nobody who could credibly do that fight.
Because the film approached Rey's force power as a surprise, the film couldn't set her up properly. Seeing her use a few force powers earlier int he film, learning how they show up under stress, with her not understanding them, would have gone a long way to setting up a better ending. That makes me lay the blame at the script and the direction, not the character who was tasked with doing too much, too fast.
We had Christi's kids over on Friday for a day-long playdate, followed by Christi and Terry over for dinner.
On Saturday, it rained. Oh, did it ever rain. We got what was left of a tropical storm. Jenny and DesignGirl kept at her room. My daughter has removed most toys from her room, voluntarily, mostly because she hadn't been in most of them for years. She's not a little girl any more, especially as she's now 5'+. I'll feel bad giving the MLPL ponies away. We had so many good times together playing ponies. I've already snagged a Twilight Sparkle for my office at work, so now I'm tempted to snag another.
On Sunday, my parents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Congratulations to them. All the family showed up to my sister's house, and we generally had too much food and slummed about. My oldest sister's boyfriend brought his camera and took portraits. I made pickles, with my mother snagging an entire jar for her and dad.
On Monday, I actually got work done around the yard, working through the front and side lawn. Not quite a jungle fortunately, but still mighty lush.
Today, we return to the school schedule. We won't have any homework tonight. That won't start in earnest until next week. Our challenge this year will be having the girl get through her homework in her own space, get herself ready consistently, keep her work sorted out (which makes school far easier), and generally following through, being a more independent student.
Multiple players run around seeking wedded bliss, and the one who reaches Mr/Ms Perfect wins the game. In a blistering commentary on today's run-around dating and wedding system, this game shows us the worst and best of everything marriage.
Followers are still followers, but some followers are suitors. Most other card types remain the same. (Yes, this does mean that you drag you suitors around and use them with no intention of ever marrying one. You want Mr./Ms. Perfect.)
Annoying Aunt, Craft 3
Bouquet, +1 strength
Deathly Boring Date, lose 1 life
Hangover, lose 1 turn
Your Crazy Ex, 6 str and 6 cr, against your weakest stat
Killer Outfit, +1 str and +1 craft
Sports Car, Roll 2 dice for movement and add them together
Motorcycle, Roll 2 dice for movement and pick one
Cell Phone, reduce movement to 1
We would need Mr/Ms. Right Ending cards. All insultingly stereotypical, of course. Each would have a different win scenario for that particular Mr/Ms Right.
And the rule about getting turned into a toad would remain. It makes a certain spiritual sense.
As for expansions, one would be Vacationland! (With the exclamation point, of course.)
Spell: Intervention - Target character is now sober.
The four corners would be The City, The Bar, The Town Center, and The Coffee Shop. (This is where you can sober up.) The Graveyard can stay the graveyard.
If you want to sober up a little, you can skip a turn, but it's really better to just press ahead. This is marriage, people.
In the middle region is Your Parent's House (castle), Rocking Party (the hidden valley), the DMV (cursed glade), Your Job (the warlock), and The University (the temple).
I suppose that the middle would have its own theme. God knows what.
Characters (none of which are politically correct)
Convenience Store Clerk
Social Justice Warrior
I started off thinking that this idea would be stupid, but now I think this has potential, especially if I could write funny cards and play with a group of highly irreverent people.
2+ drinks, On a 1 the person to your left chooses the direction that you move
3+ drinks, On a 1-2 the person to your left chooses the direction that you move
4+ drinks, On a 1-3 the person to your left chooses the direction that you move, reroll all successes once.
5+ drinks, On a 1-4 the person to your left chooses the direction that you move, reroll all successes once, you must stop any any space with a card as you move
6+ drinks, On a 1-5 the person to your left chooses the direction that you move, reroll all successes once, you must stop any any space with a card as you move, you draw one additional card for every space encountered
Alternately, drinks give you a short, one-time bonus, but also give you drinks.
Let's talk SCA. My understanding is that the organization is on the decline, and I'm here to offer a few not well researched observations and suggestions, along with slaying each and every sacred cow that I come across.
The SCA exists in four parts: historical reenactment, recreating historical European arts (including martial arts), role playing, and politics.
Every organization has politics, so we can't eliminate that.
So the SCA's first and biggest problem is deciding what it is. Decades ago, it was the only medieval game in town, and everybody played it. Now, there are competitors for that medieval game, and they offer far less headache for each group. For role players, there are dedicated LARPs, for artisans and martial artists, there are dedicated clubs, and for reenactors, a world of reenactment. The SCA is now competing against each of these specializations while bringing along all the penalties of the other two interests.
For those wanting to learn weapons, there's HEMA, and that comes without any of the formality of the SCA. It also comes without all the rules. This makes it far easier for a young man (or woman) to get into the club, start learning, build their kit, participate in tournaments, and do that one thing that they're interested in doing.
Likewise, LARPs offer very interesting long-term games on a variety of times and subject, ones that don't require so much organization and setup, where a new individual can make a difference, as opposed to the SCA, which is so large that you're bound to be another nameless face.
As for reenactment, the SCA isn't a reenactment except where the participants want it to be a reenactment. For those who want to be historical, the organization offers as much frustration as advantage. Recreation groups are often better off splitting off, creating their own group. This is more work, but offers the advantage of being more focused, especially as the internet now allows entire forums dedicated to niche subjects where people worldwide can interact.
So, what's the solution to this? I don't know, but the SCA will need to change in order to sustain itself. Something in there has to change. Some sacred cow must die. Some part of the SCA must surrender to failure. Being all things to all people means that it will eventually succumb to being nothing to nobody.
In its way, the SCA reminds of churches that have seen a decline. How do you bring people back in? It's the same problem. The pressure that once washed people through the door is gone. The easy part is over. Now recruitment will take work, buy what is it that you're offering recruits? Do they value what you have? Do you have anything of value?
Community is the SCA's biggest asset and worst impediment. "Come and join the SCA and do things our way." Most kids these days aren't impressed and don't want to do things your way. The numbers tell that story. If you want young folks joining, you need to look at their wants and needs and provides for those wants and needs. That means changing what you provide, and I don't know what that is or what it could be.
In my opinion, I do not believe that the SCA can solve its problems.
I do offer a few humble suggestions, some of which are self-contradictory. Excuse me if my ignorance shows.
- Identify unnecessary barriers to accessibility and remove everyone one that you can.
- Separate role playing from politics. While nobilities are great symbolic roles, the real running of the organization, from the bottom to the top, must be far more democratic and accessible.
- Groups should be named after real world regions and localities. Help, rather than hinder, people finding each other.
- Fighting should adopt best HEMA practices.
- SCA should host HEMA style nationwide tournaments.
- Focus on fun. Not your fun, but the newcomer's fun. What's fun for them?
- Examine which groups are growing and learn from them.
This brings me to Joss Whedon. Who is he? And what about Kai Kole? Who is she? Is he really a terrific guy or a louse? Is she a crazy ex or is she an injured woman? What binary should we apply to them? None. That's the binary that we apply. None. Joss can be a terrific director, a great friend, a feminist, an amazing lover, and a terrible husband, all in one fell swoop because he's a person, not a binary. The same goes for Kai. The same goes for anyone no matter how wonderful or horrible. What we've learned about them doesn't replace what we knew, it adds to what we knew.
When presented with binaries, I will do my best to reject them, but I won't always be successful because I'm just a person, as much a hypocrite as anyone else.
Sadly, my wife perfectionist eye couldn't stand the imperfections in the paint, so she'll be applying another coat of paint today.
Meanwhile, the weather has been nice. Too nice. August is supposed to beat you with a baseball bat until you cry. This August didn't even bring a pool noodle. Last night it was 59 degrees. Weird. This makes me very afraid that we'll have another horrid freezing winter with too much snow.
There has never been, and should never be, a moral litmus test on being a feminist.
If a feminist woman was to cheat on her husband, and got caught, would she stop being a feminist? No, that would be stupid. Well, the same applies to Joss. His poor behavior towards his relationship does not constitute the abandonment of a philosophical position.
Think of it this way: a bad artist is still an artist, and a bad feminist is still a feminist.
If we reserved feminism only for the morally worthy, feminism would be in dire trouble. Just about everyone would get kicked out, because we humans are a bunch of lying hypocrites who can't keep our pants on. If feminism becomes the bulwark only of the morally worthy, then feminism loses. Quite the opposite, feminism is the bulwark of all women and men of all moral standings, because moral standing is used as a weapon by oppressors against basic equality. Not only do the morally bereft deserves their place in feminism, they might comprise the majority.
What the Abominators raise are very interesting questions, ones that deserved examination rather than villainous dismissal. In this act, McCaffrey missed a grand opportunity.
Pern has existed for many centuries, operating under its own evolving system. Using their self-determination, they have drifted from the original charter to create something that works for them in their circumstances. Should a document from the past be able to simply nullify their developments? If we discovered a 2500 year old document telling us what our political system should look like, would we accept it? And if we do change, how do we approach it? Should any document be accepted as whole, or should the political system accept the best parts of it? Should all new things be accepted uncritically, all embraced, or should they be examined in order to better understand the good and bad that will come out of them?
Anne's Pern addressed none of these issues, which is a shame, because these are the issues of modern humanity, and their exploration, at that point in Pernese time, is the heart of the story. What will Pern be after its transition? What will be gained? What will be lost?