November 2nd, 2014
October 23rd, 2014
Not everyone I know will be aware of what Gamergate is, but it's not just a video-game thing. It's something with much bigger ramifications. So for those who don't know, here's a quick summary.
For many years now, there's been a growing environment of toxic misogyny (and racism, and homophobia, etc) within the video game industry. It's been an unfortunate truth of the industry, powered by a small but vocal minority of gamers (and tolerated by a larger swath), and those who have spoken out against it have been targeted for acts of terrorism. You might think that strong language, but it's exactly what it is. It's threats of rape, violence, murder... often accompanied by the victim's home address and phone number. These are realistic threats to push a political agenda. That's an act of terrorism.
Two weeks ago or so, a jilted ex-boyfriend made an unsubstantiated claim that his ex-girlfriend, a game developer, cheated on him with a game reviewer in exchange for a better review. Despite the fact that this was unsubstantiated and obviously the sort of talk that a jilted ex babbles about, a conservative celebrity coined the phrase #gamergate. Ostensibly about ethics in game-journalism, it quickly became a lightning rod for all those involved in threats of rape and violence. The ex-girlfriend was forced to flee her home. She would not be the first woman forced to seek safety away from her home.
There are a number of excellent articles about Gamergate out there; I'll link to them later. But I need to speak out myself.
Video games have NEVER been a boys-only-club, despite what some people might try to tell you. Despite what the industry itself has long tried to convince itself of. I've played video games alongside women as long as there have been video games. My wife is better in a wide range of video games than I, and she's been playing them just as long as I. I have female friends who work in the industry.
I can speak out against Gamergate, and I don't fear any kind of threats of violence, because I'm a man. And because I can safely speak out, I ethically must speak out, in support of my friends who cannot do so without fear of retribution. I've had some female friends speak out, including those in the industry, and I applaud their bravery. I stand with them. I stand with those calling for more representation in video games. I stand with those who refuse to bow to threats of violence from those who attempt to make video games into a place where straight white cisgendered men feel safe, but no one else is welcome.
I stand with my friends. Diversity in video gaming will not be shouted down by threats of rape and violence.
Some people might say, "But this is actually about video game journalistic ethics!" To which I reply: If you want that, really... sure. Nothing wrong with arguing for ethics, if you're ACTUALLY trying that. But to use the Gamergate hashtag to try to discuss ethics is counterproductive to your points. Gamergate, as a hashtag, is ethically bankrupt. Find a new hashtag. This one's ruined.
Why Gamergate is bigger than just the video game industry.
A genuine message buried somewhere in Gamergate... and why it's still toxic.
How Gamergate became so rife with vile ideas.
Why Gamergate isn't just "first world problems."
Chris Klue, football star, with various creative insults for the Gamergaters.
The Onion's take on this whole situation.
Felicia Day, internet celebrity, speaks out on Gamergate...
...and had her fears immediately proven justified.
Gamergate is doomed to failure.
October 24th, 2013
Time once again for my ballot, and my own thoughts on how I got to the results I did. This will probably only be of interest to those local to me, with some issues being only for those who live in my immediate neighborhood, but I'm listing it off anyway:
( How Gavin Voted:Collapse )
June 3rd, 2013
I was challenged to expand and improve upon this list of 20 superheroines of color you've never heard of. So, here we go:
( 40 Superheroines Of Color You've Never Heard Of:Collapse )
So, there ya go. There are others I could have included, such as Renee Montoya (the Question), or Katana -- but compiling this list was already taking a very long time, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive list at all. In fact, I strongly recommend doing more research and finding more heroines of color and commenting here.
Oh, and I would be deeply amiss if I didn't mention the animated movie: "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman". The identity of the Batwoman is part of the mystery of the movie, so I won't say who it is, but I will say that two of the three obvious "suspects" are women of color -- and one of them dates Bruce Wayne (and remains my favorite romance for Bruce Wayne I've seen in any format).
Superheroes are a much more diverse community than most realize -- including the writers and publishers themselves. The problem isn't that great characters of color don't exist -- it's that they don't get screen time, or they're fridged to give other characters angst, or they're marginalized and shoved off to the side. Fans need to celebrate, discuss, and encourage more of these characters to get screen time, to be written as heroes in their own right, not as sidekicks or marginalized side-characters to be slaughtered to give the "real" heroes angst. Use some of these characters as they SHOULD be written: to inspire, to astonish, and to make us wonder.
May 2nd, 2013
February 20th, 2013
November 19th, 2012
November 7th, 2012
October 19th, 2012
June 6th, 2012
I was in 6th grade. For Christmas that year, my brother gave me one of the most amazing gifts he's ever given me. It was a doorway to a deeper understanding of literature, of imagination, of beauty and horror in the world.
It was a collection of (at that time) the short stories of Ray Bradbury.
I was reading at a fairly advanced level, of course. But Bradbury was something new. I read the short story Kaleidoscope, about a doomed man, coming to grips with his own mortality, while speaking with other doomed men. About a man who transforms into a small child's wish. And my life was changed. I devoured story after story. The woman who, terrified of the mummies in the tourist attraction, soon becomes one herself. The child who is bullied into missing the one day of summer of her entire childhood. The men trapped miles from shelter, with unending rain, slowly losing their minds. The deep, unspeakable loneliness of a sea creature older than mankind by untold millennia. An automated house enacting empty rituals for a family which is no longer there. A whole life experienced in just a few short days on a distant planetary colony. The strangeness of the Family and Uncle Einar.
When I was younger -- probably 7 or 8 at oldest -- I had seen the movie-version of the Illustrated Man on some Sunday afternoon TV show. I remember being hypnotized, yet terrified, by the parents torn apart by the holographic lions in their children's nursery. And when I read the Illustrated Man as its own collection, instead of picking my way through the amazing book Todd had given me, I recognized the tales, but Bradbury's telling in text came alive for me so much more than the movie had. The Martian Chronicles followed, required reading in my 7th grade English class. But I loved it. Fahrenheit 451 came much later -- I was already dating Michelle before I sat down to read it. But read it I did, and in a single sitting. Something Wicked This Way Comes was a different experience -- read in small bits, here and there, like sipping on tea... or dandelion wine.
Bradbury showed me what storytelling could be. Deeply personal. Beautiful and horrifying. Nostalgic and forward-thinking simultaneously. Reading Bradbury was always a warm experience... familiar and warm, even when the story could be frightening or disturbing. He wrote somewhere between prose and poetry; he did not tell stories, but painted them with a medium of words which came alive as you read them.
Whenever I read Edgar Allen Poe to students, I always finish with Usher II from the Martian Chronicles. I read it aloud to students, because Bradbury is, in my mind, more enjoyable when you hear the language, when the words flow off the page and into your ear to coil through your brain and paint the beautiful pictures there.
Late yesterday, Ray Bradbury left us. Today, the world is a little more empty. There will be no more stories which his brilliant mind puts to paper. No more Bradbury paintings in the medium of words. And that saddens me.
But his immense volume of work continues to inspire me, as a writer, as a teacher, as a human being. He opened my eyes to what is possible, and he encouraged me to look forward while never forgetting my roots. For that, he has my thanks. And any time I read his stories, I will feel that same warm comfort I have always felt through his works.
He said that it was a carnival sideshow act which inspired him to write. "Mr. Electro." Bradbury, at a young age, was the volunteer in the act, and Mr. Electro, at the height of the act, pointed to Bradbury and commanded him: "LIVE FOREVER!"
He may have been a sideshow act, but in that case, he was successful. Bradbury's works inspire and drive. If humanity reaches beyond this blue orb again, it will be in part due to his incredible vision. Through the best of humanity, Bradbury will indeed live forever.
April 23rd, 2012
(crossposted to good_rpers_rock)
Years ago -- about 19 or so, when I was still in high school -- I picked up the tabletop RPG Ars Magica, with the idea that I would someday want to run a campaign in the setting. Ars Magica, for those unfamiliar, is a historical fiction roleplaying game, set in the late 12th and early 13th century, focusing on mages. The mages gather in Covenants, which are like mini-feudal systems -- the mages protect mortals, while the mortals serve the mages as guards, servants, farmers, cooks, etc. Covenants have seasons, however, aging from Spring, when they are young and fresh; to Summer when they are a little more experienced; to Autumn, at the height of their magical and political power; to Winter, when they are past their prime and have lost a great deal. If they are lucky, they might survive to renew into a new Spring.
I wanted to do a campaign focusing on a single Covenant through the shifting seasons.
In October, 2009, I started running this campaign with some amazing players. Most players remained throughout. Some came and went as real life opened up and intruded. Some came later and remained throughout.
Tonight, the Covenant of Lakehaven, deep in winter, renewed into Spring. The last of the old characters fell away, making room for a new generation.
I could go on for pages and pages, telling amazing stories about the characters, the themes, the amazing work the players did. Instead, I will say this: in the 22 years that I have been GMing, this is one of my top two campaigns I've ever run, and I have the absolutely amazing players to thank for it. They gave this campaign life -- this campaign I've wanted to run for over half my life.
They deserve praise and thanks for helping me tell a truly amazing story.
You are all great players. Thank you so much. If you were there for three session, or for every single one, you all helped make this amazing. And this amazing story will forever live in our minds.
February 22nd, 2012
November 16th, 2011
This is fascinating. Iceland is writing its own constitution... online, by regular citizens.
And it's not being reported, for the most part, in any American media outlet.
November 4th, 2011
For my birthday, several people got together and got me a gift.
It seems that Henson Studios will make a personalized Muppet for you. My friends discovered this.
They made me a Mr. Downing muppet.
This = awesome.
September 27th, 2011
Copyright. We’re all told we have to obey it, and I agree; it is the law. But rarely do we ask: is copyright ethical?
I suggest that copyright law, as currently written, is actually incredibly unethical. Copyright was originally intended to help defend the artist, to protect their creation from being stolen. It was to protect a small creator who had created something he loved from those who could steal his idea and distribute it faster, with no credit ever being given to the original creator. It was to assure that the creator would have enough time to make money off of the creation, and to encourage greater and greater ideas. Originally, within the United States, copyright law defended an item for fourteen years. If, after fourteen years, the original creator was still alive, he could file for an extension of copyright for another fourteen years. After that point, the item would enter public domain – for if something was so popular for 28 years, it certainly would have entered the dominant culture by that point.
But copyright law has shifted over the years. Ideas can be purchased from the original creator and held indefinitely by corporations, who hold the ideas back if they don’t like them, or who milk them on ad nauseum far longer than the original copyright laws would allow. Consider, for a moment, the characters of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Superman, or Darth Vader. Can we honestly say that these are not characters who have transcended a single company, and now belong to the greater culture? How are these any different from characters like Robin Hood or King Arthur – legends and folktales which culture needed to grow… and which grew alongside the culture. Robin Hood and King Arthur took elements that the culture gave them, and bits and pieces of cultural flotsam attached themselves to these legends along the way. They grew organically, and were a voice of the era from which they emerged. Current copyright law stifles that growth, locking concepts and ideas into what corporations decide are sanitized for our consumption.
Not to say that the corporations are evil. They are not. But they are motivated primarily by money – not by cultural growth or artistic expression, which is what copyright is intended to defend. Today, however, copyright defends the rights of those corporations as they make money, often at the cost of the cultural growth of our culture and society.
Do you agree? What do you think about the ethics of copyright law? Should copyright law be changed? What alternatives do we have? Do you think it's ethical? Why or why not?
April 27th, 2011
April 18th, 2011
It's all over the blogosphere, particularly in geek circles, and I don't have anything to add that someone somewhere hasn't already said, but I'd like to address it anyway.
The "review" of HBO's A Game of Thrones from the New York Times.
I put "review" in quotes, because there is no mention of plot beyond a hasty (and apparently inaccurate) parallel to global warming, no note of characters, no note of actors. It is merely a diatribe against fantasy fiction as a whole, and a rather sexist one at that. For fantasy is "boy fiction," and doesn't appeal to women unless there's lurid sex as well. Because we all know that sex scenes are just there for women, and men don't enjoy such things at all. And, worse, this story is too confusing and unless you are a brilliant card-counter (in other words, if you're a typical woman, it implies), you should go back to "Sex in the City" reruns.
Full disclosure: I haven't read any of the books in the series, or indeed any books written by this author. I had no specific interest in seeing the series. (This review, and the fallout one can find all over the blogosphere, has convinced me to remedy both these points immediately.)
However, I wish to stand up and take note of the blatant sexism and bigotry in this so-called review -- and from a female reviewer, no less. I feel it is particularly appropriate to do so here in this season just before NorWesCon, which I will be attending this upcoming weekend. Science-fiction fandom owes a great deal to women. It was female fans of Star Trek who began organizing science fiction conventions in the first place. It was a woman who was the first science fiction genre author, writing two novels which could be considered the foundation of the entire genre (Mary Shelley, who wrote both Frankenstein and The Last Man.) I know far more female geeks than male geeks, truth be told.
I remember the heartbreaking tale of Katie which was all over the blogosphere a few months back, a little girl was teased at school for bringing a Star Wars thermos to school because she liked "boy" things; she was willing to pretend to stop liking Star Wars and just have a pink thermos if it would help her fit in. The fan community responded, and Katie was shown she doesn't have to hide who she is. She was visited by actors from the Star Wars TV show, who encouraged her to be proud for who she is. And her school made a "proud to be me" day where everyone was encouraged to be themselves, differences and all (a good way to turn a moment of early-grade bullying into a learning experience, I think).
But it's not just at the elementary school level such bullying takes place. Reviewers such as Ginia Bellafante prove that it does not stop when one moves on from 3rd, 6th, or even 12th grade. Women should stop playing make-believe with epic fantasy and go back to Sex & the City, and book groups involving only realistic (and depressing) fiction. There is "boy fiction" and there is "girl fiction," and ne'er the twain shall meet.
So my male friends who like Sex & the City (who, admittedly, are predominantly, though not exclusively, gay)? They need to stop, or they're weird. My female friends who like Dr. Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and superheroes, or who enjoy RPing? They need to stop, or they're not "real" women. People who enjoy plots that are somewhat complex? They're card-counting wierdos.
Okay, she doesn't like the genre. That's fine. It's not for everyone. My mother doesn't much like the genre overall (with some exceptions -- I recall she enjoyed Star Trek: the Next Generation), though she has been very patient putting up with my brother's and my tastes. To excoriate those who like it for being strange, particularly if they have a uterus, is not only lazy, but socially irresponsible as it feeds all sorts of negative stereotypes.
It's sad to see such obvious and disgusting sexism and bigotry come across in a mainstream paper such as the New York Times. It is, however, heartening to learn that geek culture has responded, and responded strongly.
To my fellow geeks, regardless of what type of anatomy you possess: thank you for being so awesome and for standing up and saying "no" when confronted by such terrible bigotry.
April 7th, 2011
In honor of what would have been her 96th birthday. Happy birthday, Billie.
Two days ago, I celebrated my 10 year wedding anniversary with Michelle. I look back at pictures of that day and think, "Man, I was young." And I was... but I don't think I was too young. I was pretty zen about it -- I felt it was just something that was right for me. I hadn't rushed into it; I'd put a lot of thought and consideration into it, for a year before the proposal, and another year since. If I'd waited another 5 years, I wouldn't have had my dad there, or Samantha, as within a little over 4 years later, both would be claimed by cancer. Other people commented that I was the most cool and collected groom they'd ever seen. M, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. In the years since, it hasn't gone perfectly smoothly -- there have been arguments, and things have gone wrong. It's been hard work, at times, to make it work. But it's been worth it.
Yesterday, if my grandfather hadn't passed last autumn, would have been my grandparent's 70th anniversary. They served as inspiration for us both, on so many levels. Opa had been an elementary school teacher, then principal, since... I want to say the late 30's but no later than 1940, until he retired, with only one break to join the Navy in WWII. Omi had been an elementary teacher since shortly after my mom was old enough to go to school, leaving Omi home alone a lot. They served as an inspiration to my own teaching career, and I still speak with Omi quite a bit about teaching. They were from a different generation of teachers, of course, when there were different concepts about what makes a good teacher, but they were still pretty compatible with my own ideas. They never hit their students; they tried hard to help all students learn; even in the 40s and 50s, my grandfather worked hard to reach out to immigrant students, because he understood they needed the help more... and he was successful. They were incredibly progressive.
But their decades of marriage also helped serve as the inspiration to Michelle and my own marriage. We married the day before their 60th wedding anniversary, so there was family already in town for one celebration. M & I stayed in town one night so we could celebrate their anniversary with them before we headed out on our honeymoon.
I spoke with Omi yesterday, and we had a good talk. We both cried, of course, missing Opa deeply, as yesterday was the first anniversary she'd celebrate without him since WWII. But I also told her how much they had inspired both Michelle and me. Without them to serve to show me it could be done... I don't know my life would even remotely resemble what it is today. And I thank them both for that, from the bottom of my heart.
March 31st, 2011
I have an awesome laptop. It is lovely, and it was a gift for Christmas a couple years ago from Michelle's aunt and uncle.
The power cord for this laptop is less than awesome. It has died and needed to be replaced a couple times now.
We now join our hero, as he has ordered his third power cord. It was shipped January 20th. As of March 20th, it was acting buggy, and finally stopped working.
Tuesday, I contact Dell. After getting transferred a few places, I finally get someone who says that, yes, the power cord should be under warranty. A new one is ordered, and I am promised it will arrive soon.
Wednesday, I get a package from Dell. It is... suspiciously small. I open it... to discover only half the power cord. And it's the half that still worked.
I contact Dell once more. After getting the runaround for a bit more, I get someone who assures me that they'll send out the whole adapter this time.
Today, I get home... to find a slightly larger, but still suspiciously small, package.
...it's not the power adapter. It's a laptop battery.
...FOR A LAPTOP MODEL I DON'T EVEN OWN.
I call Dell once more. I get transferred through about four different departments in about 20 minutes, including through at least one loop, before I finally lose patience and hang up. I try their chat program again, and the first thing that I'm told upon explaining this whole story?
"You laptop isn't under warranty anymore. It will be $50 to verify the problem."
After a bit more explaining, he FINALLY tells me that he'll get this solved.
At this point, the theory is that the real adapter, the whole adapter, the accept-no-substitutions-or-mysterious-random-batteries power adapter, will be arriving in 1-2 business days (probably Monday). After three days and four hours worth of runaround and communication with them, this SHOULD finally solve the problem.
March 24th, 2011
So I just got an album in the mail today.
This album is 20 years old. Unless you lived in San Francisco in the late 80s and early 90s (or unless I inflicted my musical tastes on you after I moved up here), you've probably never heard of Voice Farm. Most of my copies of their songs were on a tape that was well-loved when I first met Michelle 12 years ago; this tape has long-since vanished.
The other day, I discovered that my favorite album from Voice Farm, "Bigger Cooler Weirder", from 1991, was available used on Amazon. It arrived today.
I'm on my second listen-through now. And I am quite happy.
And here's a little taste of their musical stylings:
TEA! @ 09:21 am
I've shared this with a few people already, but... damn, this just made me giggle repeatedly.
March 17th, 2011
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, it's time for me to dust off my annual horrible joke.
What's Irish and lives in the back yard?
( Answer below cut!Collapse )
February 27th, 2011
Pulpy webcomicness! There's even a decoder ring with secret messages. Come on! It's going to be awesome!
February 13th, 2011
Me (6:34:29 AM): I am awake because of kitties.
Me (6:34:33 AM): Damned kitties.
Anna (6:34:41 AM): aw XD
Me (6:34:43 AM): HI, ANNA!
Anna (6:34:47 AM): hey
Me (6:34:58 AM): I have had four hours of sleep.
Anna (6:35:08 AM): You can't put them in the other room?
Me (6:35:27 AM): They already knocked over something, making a loud sound.
Anna (6:35:34 AM): haha
Me (6:35:36 AM): And it's after when I get up on a weekday.
Me (6:35:44 AM): THUS... brain says, "GET UP!"
Anna (6:35:47 AM): aw
Me (6:36:02 AM): My brain is like this. It peers in my face, saying, "ARE YOU SLEEEEEPING?!"
Me (6:36:12 AM): Looking something like this: http://500px.com/photo/207899
Me (6:36:30 AM): "HEEEEEY! PSSSSST! ARE YOU SLEEEEEEEEEPING?!
Anna (6:36:58 AM): ah that's a creepy photo
Me (6:37:38 AM): Brain: *peeeeeers*
Me: ...*cracks open one eye*
Brain: HI THAR.
Me (6:38:04 AM): That was my morning, and that discussion makes sense in my brain
Anna (6:38:11 AM): XD
Me (6:38:12 AM): THAT should tell you how tired I am.