Me — October ’19 Monthly Update

Greetings. I hope you are doing well. It’s finally cooling down here in Southern California (though next week will be in the 90’s again), so for the first time in months, the fan in my room is being turned off. I feel as though I have to relearn what to do about temperature in the winter months every time summer ends. Is it my goal to keep it as cool as possible in the room? Do I shut the window at night so it stays warm inside? Who knows.

Anyways, onto the updates, which I’ll keep simple, as September was relatively uneventful. As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

No blog changes. Once a week suits me just fine for the time being.

As for writing, I’m still working on a lot of things at once, though progress has been slow going. Draft one of the full length Lisa Stenton play is done, but I hate it. As it stands, it is simply a collection of things that happen, not an Aristotelian song. Edits will be on the way, and I still hope for it to finish with that by the end of the year. I’m also still making edits to the anthology, but on that front I’m dragging my feet a bit. I don’t like editing my own work, but it’s a task that needs doing. Still hope to publish Book 2 by the end of the year as well. The passion project is currently on the back burner as we just finished a milestone, and the three of us are all quite a bit burnt out. Our current plans are to get back on track November.

No news as far as work goes. It goes and goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.

School has been fun. The singular class I’m taking has been really enjoyable, and it stretches muscles I don’t use often. Plus, it forces me to socialize, which is fantastic.

In the Aleor campaign (which I am no longer DMing), the Knights of Fire have just reached the city of Aqila, the center of magic and innovation. It’s been a lot of fun to play Acelia as a player character instead of a DMPC. I feel like I’m actually role-playing! In other news, a new campaign is in the cauldron, and I’ve finally figured out the backstory for the character I’m going to be playing, which is exciting.

My free time has still been spent almost exclusively on World of Warcraft, and has been for the last month. That said, I’m still not max level yet. Classic is brutal! I hope to get there by the end of next week. I will note that a brother got me the remastered Spyro trilogy for my birthday, so I’ve been chipping away at that. Lots of childhood memories in that game.

While playing, I’m still mostly just watching Critical Role and Day[9]. The new Magic: The Gathering set just came out, so I’m excited to see what fun new decks he can cook up.

Lastly, I have news! I will be returning to the Portland area very soon! I can’t wait to see friends and family up there, but part of my is unsure how I should spend my time. Should I just relax the whole time or should I use it as a little retreat from work to get stuff done? Only time will tell.

See you next month!

Me —Getting Some Thoughts on Paper.

Let me start by saying this is going to be pretty raw. I think about stuff a lot, and I consider myself to be pretty introspective, but I came across something that made me rethink a lot of who I am and how I feel about things. After nearly 48 hours, my morale has only depleted. That said, I have no doubt that two weeks from now, I will have redefined, recategorized, and reorganized my headspace in a way that I’m comfortable with. But for now, here’s the things I’m struggling with.

As I define it right now, I can count on one hand the amount of times that somebody has shown me true affection in a way that has genuinely, emotionally affected me.

That number is three, and two of those people I no longer speak to (for no reason other than the passage of time). Those people were, ostensibly, the only people that have ever really listened to me and understood me in a way I could express.

This comes as a catalyst to a lot of my negative thoughts this year regarding every relationship I have with others. I don’t feel like anyone loves me, which I know is stupid, because obviously my family loves me, as I have (virtually) always had a good relationship with all of them. But in some way I can’t put in to words, their love feels more obligatory than it does… real. We love each other in the way that we have to, not in a way that has meaning.

I think this points to why I must be the best at everything. My family spent so much time being so big that the only thing that made me noticeable was that I was smart and good at everything. That became my defining characteristic. It became who I was, and, unfortunately, who I continue to be. I’m beginning to think that my need to be the best at everything is because praise is the closest thing to affection I can really receive. I don’t know if this makes my peers think I am above their affection, but lately… praise isn’t enough. Being the best and being told I am the best is… the minimum for me, now.

If I don’t know something on Warcraft, I will look it up myself before I admit my ignorance to strangers, who could easily (and happily) teach me in a fraction of the time. You can imagine how this translates to real life.

I’ve spent all my life trying to feel wanted, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that, even for an instant. That isn’t to say that I feel unwanted, just that my existence is arbitrary. That people’s lives would realistically be no different if I had never existed at all. (Disclaimer: I am not suicidal, and even on the worst days of my life when I had gotten to that point, my fear of hurting those around me was too great a deterrent for me to seriously consider anything so drastic.)

And so, 48 hours later, I’m at a loss. I don’t know if it’s my attitude that needs to change, or if it’s my personality. Perhaps it’s both. All I know is, the person I’ve identified the most with in any media was killed off because her one and only wish of being loved came true and her purpose in the plot was therefore fulfilled.

Rant over. Don’t let my bad day ruin yours. Pet a cat for me.

Me — Enjoyment From Productivity

According to my happiness tracker, an average day for me is about a 7/10. It wasn’t particularly good, but there wasn’t any bad things, either. It was just a day, as are most other days. I’ve been noticing a trend lately that kind of bothers me, though.

Weekends, the days I don’t have work, aren’t really any better than weekdays. On average, it’s about a .25 difference. That seems off. Relaxing doesn’t make me happier than working? Well…

I’ve found that the single biggest factor that will increase how good I feel about any given day is how I spent my time. It doesn’t matter (much) whether I had work or whether or not I had time to sit down and breathe. It’s all about productivity. How much work on personal projects did I get done. That’s the biggest thing. Hanging out with friends or playing D&D also consistently increase my happiness on a given day, but not to the same scale as getting work done.

It’s interesting to note that even after I’ve made this observation, getting work done on a weekend is still just as hard. Even when I know my day will be better the sooner I get stuff done, I still end up going to bed after only crossing one thing off my list and feeling terrible for it (which is made up for by having relaxed all day). I spend every work week telling myself that I’m going to spend the entire Saturday crossing everything off my list so I can have a blissful Sunday, but then I wake up Monday morning with only the things that needed doing getting done.

The worst part is, I don’t know where the problem is. I would love to figure out how to just get things done and appropriately reward myself for being productive, but I’m wondering if I just need to learn to relax and enjoy relaxing. I’ve tried the latter, and it certainly isn’t as easy as just ignoring the responsibility to live in the moment.

Around this time last year I was consistently getting up at 5am (on the advice of Day9) to get stuff done before work, then getting home just to relax. It worked like a charm, but I haven’t since been able to replicate that behavior. (I’d be tempted to try this tomorrow morning, but I’m still getting over a cold and I feel cutting my sleep by two and a half hours would be asking for trouble.)

I guess part of the problem is that a lot of the stuff on my to-do list already feels like work. Editing short stories for my next anthology isn’t fun, it’s just something I need to do. Writing for the passion project is fun, but it’s also not nearly as much of a priority, so it feels a bit like I’m wasting my time when I’m doing that instead of editing or fully relaxing.

I don’t know about you, but it’s nearly impossible to reward yourself for hard work when you can instead reward yourself for no work at no consequence. I imagine this is simply a perpetual struggle for “real” adults, but it’s not something I’m even close to having a handle on just yet.

Me — September ’19 Monthly Update

August set the beginning of the end for my schooling (for now, at least), and after this semester I will be done. It had a lot of ups and downs, and I would categorize September as a return to normalcy. I feel as though I’ve finally, truly, recovered my purpose, and though I still don’t have the drive of “Be productive 24/7 and get all the things done”, I’m trying to be okay with relaxing. Between working full time and going to school, pretty much every day is productive. I’m trying to let go of the idea that a day is a waste if I don’t spend at least some time working on personal projects.

Anyways, onto the updates. As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

No blog changes. Once a week still suits me just fine. I like the periodic updates without feeling like I’m chaining myself to the website.

As of now, I’m still working on three different writing projects. For the passion project, I’m currently drafting up story beats and a prologue to the first big main story arc. (The details of that story won’t come for at least two years, as the project would first have to find its feet with a following, and we would have to develop better means of telling such a big story. Suffice to say it’s at least a novel length and needs context before being presented to the world.)

The first draft to Lisa’s full length play is nearing completion, and while I do feel the plot is ho-hum at best, I am proud of myself for nearly completing a work of such length, as I haven’t finished a full draft of that caliber in years. Stay tuned for more details on that, I expect to finish this play by the end of the year.

My second short story anthology is still in the works. Unfortunately, it’s at the bottom of this list. Still, these stories only need edits, so I hope to publish it by the end of the year as my first “real” book. (The first anthology was meant to simply be a means for family and friends to access a hard copy of some of my earliest works.)

Work has been slow going. It hasn’t been stressful, which is good, but that also means its been a little slow, which means my boss hasn’t been super happy. These past few days have been okay, but I still find myself thinking and preparing for any bad news he might present to me at any given moment. I know it’s not a good relationship to have, but it’s just how it is, and it’s something I can bear for a few more months.

School has been a bit rough. The play I had been planning on being a part of didn’t cast me, which was a bit surprising and my ego took a hit, but I suppose that’s a blessing in some regards. Being turned down has made me think about how my supposedly great audition really wasn’t as stellar as I had thought it was, and now I know how I could do it better in the future (not that there will be one, but still). It’s a bummer, but it also allows me to have week nights, which I had planned on giving up for the next few months. So now I’m only taking the one class, which has been a lot of fun so far. I’m trying to be more sociable, which is sort of working.

At the end of July, I passed the reins of the Aleor campaign to one of my brothers, who is taking the party to a new destination. I’m super excited to play as a PC again, and to finally explore Acelia’s personality. It makes me feel a little bad as I’m worried about overpowering the campaign. (The other two players aren’t quite as interested in roleplay as I am, even if they go along with it.) This isn’t a concern I have directly addressed to them, and perhaps it’s unfounded, but I honestly feel like I’m playing the way I want to for the first time. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy DMing—the Octopath Traveler soundtrack has become nostalgic to me for this specific campaign, but prepping a session is a lot of work, and I could use the break.

With the release (re-release?) of WoW Classic, that’s basically been how I’ve spent all of my free time. Two weeks later, I’m level 35, so it’s probably going to be about another month at least before I hit 60, but as per my last post, it’s definitely been the time sink I needed to unwind. Even if the game hates the player.

While playing WoW, I’ve been watching lots of Day9’s Day Off playthroughs, as well as Critical Role. I plan on returning my attention to the Dresden Files soon, (I’m halfway through my reread of #3, Grave Peril), but it takes more mental effort than I’m willing to give at the moment.

I actually don’t really have anything else. After that mental blow I took in June, I feel as though I’ve gotten back to where I was. That is to say, able to enjoy life. Last time it took me six months to get back to this point, so the fact that it only took three this time is a really good sign. Plus, it’s going to start getting cooler soon, and fall is probably my favorite season. Things are looking up.

Life — WoW: Classic

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have any interest in playing Vanilla WoW again when they first announced it. After so many years of updates and so many quality of life changes, I wasn’t convinced that nostalgia could save it. There was just so much that the original game was lacking that current players take for granted. Despite this, I knew I’d give it a try just for its own sake.

It’s odd to think about, but how many games are out there that were released specifically as an older version? Even old games that are re-released get remastered with better graphics and less glitches, but WoW Classic required an enormous amount of effort to unmaster. They didn’t even “digitally remaster” the graphics or anything like that, because obviously they wanted it to be as faithful to the original game as it could possibly be.

And, for good or for ill, I’ve been playing it a lot. Nearly all my free time has been spent playing it, (though I’ve still been taking time to keep up with writing projects, blog notwithstanding) and there’s something that I didn’t expect WoW: Classic to revitalize…

Back in the early days from 2004-2007, I would say that World of Warcraft became popular for two reasons. The first is that mechanics-wise, it was the best of its time. There’s little question about that, all you have to do is look at the numbers. But more than that, it was a great way to socialize. After you got home from work, you would log onto the game, see all of your friends online in the guild, and chat with them. Hang out with them. The game made it so easy to connect with people—as well as make new friends.

Fifteen years later, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., we are so globally interconnected that people have rekindled relationships with friends they otherwise never would have met again. (For example, I’m Facebook friends with my best friend from 2nd grade, whom I haven’t seen since.) So, at least in the retail version of World of Warcraft, you really don’t need to talk to people. Partly because the majority the content can be done on your own (or at least it connects you to strangers automatically), but partly because the online connections you have don’t need to be done through an MMO like WoW.

This was my main concern. “You can’t restore a game to its original glory when its glory was so contingent on a tight-knit community,” I said. And I still think some of that is true, but oh boy did I underestimate the players.

In a lot of ways, playing WoW: Classic is like stepping into the past. The chat channels are always full, strangers are constantly inviting you to their parties and guilds, making the same jokes, you name it. If you log in at 5pm realm time, you have to wait about an hour just to log into the server I’m playing on because it’s full. In ways I can’t quite put into words, and in ways I certainly didn’t expect, I feel like I’m once again exploring a world with other people. Something I haven’t really felt in probably any other MMO.

This isn’t a review. If it was, I would tell you how awful the quest design is (which is actually worse than I remember), and how much time you have to waste running back and forth from Point A to Point B to get pitiful amounts of money and experience. I’d tell you how everything is hard, and since there’s so many people around, you have to compete against those around you just to get to the next quest, or how you constantly have to fight your inventory just to be able to maximize profits when you get back to town.

I’ve also been struggling with finding a good game to play lately. I needed a time sink so that I can watch YouTube streams and listen to audiobooks, but everything I had been playing was either tired or too high maintenance to multitask. So this came around at the perfect time.

Review — Yesterday

Alright. Time to review a movie I watched a month and a half ago. Let’s see if I remember anything? I will state two things before I start, though. The first is the obligatory “I won’t spoil anything” comment, as I always leave the spoiler section of the review till the end in a very clear distinction. The second is that in all honesty, I still am not sure how I feel about this movie. It touched at a lot of things that are still quite subconscious in my head, both good and bad.

The first thing I should point out is that the plot is nothing to write home about. The “call to action” as it were is ludicrous and is waived off pretty quick because, let’s face it, this movie is about The Beatles, not the story (apparently). Sort of related to this is the fact that the trailers did not do a very good job setting the movie up as a Rom-Com, when that ends up being nearly 100% of the screen time. I wasn’t surprised, but it did disappoint me a bit. After all, shouldn’t this movie be about… The Beatles? (See above.)

Apart from the standard plot, the characters and themes aren’t really explored very much at all. The people ‘on stage’ are painted in broad strokes and aren’t really touched ever again, and the only two people that ever show any real emotion are the leads. It’s like you gave an artist a coloring book and they spent hours shading in all the detail of the clothes, but then when they got to the background they just used a blur of primary colors. (A bit of hyperbole here, though. The lead characters don’t have nearly that much attention to detail.)

What makes it good, though? Well, to put it simply, the movie tries to do one thing: to live in the nostalgia of the majesty of Beatlemania, and reminisce about how great a lot of their songs were while having fun along the way. It accomplishes that. It does a phenomenal job, even. The fact that the group put out so much iconic music means that the writers could put in the perfect song to fit every scene, and the vibe of every piece of music hits dead on the money. On that principle alone, the movie is fantastic. It pumps you up with energy when you need it and lets the somber numbers soothe the pacing in between.

Now that said, will somebody who doesn’t know the Beatles enjoy it? I think it’s tough to say, but either way, they won’t get nearly as much out of the movie as a Beatles fan would, because they aren’t the target audience.

Alright. Spoilers ahead.

To further elaborate on my point that the plot is pretty weak, I’ll say that they missed a lot of opportunities. They don’t even try to explain what happened when the global blackout happened, or even why it happened. The other two people that remember The Beatles could (and should) have at least provided some insight, as the three of them could have all had similar stories, but we never get any explanation as to why they know, when Jack had to get hit by a bus to remember. On top of this, they touch on the idea of Jack’s impostor syndrome, but in reality, he would feel it to a scale nobody has ever felt before, so I would have liked to see the movie punch that up more. Plus, the fact that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were actively teased in both the trailer and the movie without them actually having a cameo bothered me. That felt like a really dirty move.

What I would have loved to see, and the biggest disappointment I had in the movie (beyond the fact that it was actually a Rom-Com), was that this movie could have easily retold the story of how Beatlemania happened in real life. The Beatles go to Germany, are very popular, go to America and transform music entirely, the music changes who they are, they grow apart, etc. You translate Brian Epstein into the evil agent lady (already don’t remember her name) and fit “The Beatles break up” to instead be “Jack gives up being a star” and bam, your movie is already written. You could even still make the Rom-Com the main genre, but more parallels to the actual lives of The Beatles would have been fantastic.

Also, I’m not surprised that the movie never explored this, but if The Beatles actually lived in this parallel world and simply never became who they are in ours, Jack’s story of “I remember a past that didn’t happen” is easily provable. All you have to do is have Jack tell the story of The Beatles, then track down the real band members, and see where the lines cross (or might have crossed). He would probably know so much about the lives of nobodies that it’s truth would be hard to refute. Again, the movie was right not to address this, because that would have derailed the plot off a cliff, but still. I can’t help but think of these things.

Lastly, the ending is… weird. The fact that he puts her face on the big screen and confesses his love to her, without being face to face, seems really odd to me. I mean, he’s not even confessing it to her, he’s confessing it to his audience. I always wonder how many people get proposed to at public events where it would humiliate both people for the girl to say ‘no’, but this feels like a similar moment to me. Ellie is standing in a room hearing the feedback of his voice and the distant roars of the audience, being told that that Jack apparently loves him. That doesn’t strike me as the killer finale this movie deserves, though of course it wasn’t painted that way. In addition to that, there is no way the audience would clear out of the stadium before Jack’s agent managed to find him. She would have been cutting the mics and tackled him within minutes of him rescinding his fame, which I have no doubt he would have been sued horrendously for in the real world. (Jack “loving” Ellie is a load of crap, by the way, because if he is surprised when she first confesses her love, then that means he really had no interest in her, and I do not for one second believe that anyone can develop romantic interest in somebody they’ve platonically loved for years.)

That’s about it. Is it a good movie? Well, sort of. It does what it wants to do and absolutely nothing else. I will leave off with this, though. I do not like romance in virtually any storytelling. It’s always a hard sell for me because most often, it ends up feeling unearned or contrived, and Yesterday is no exception. This movie was particularly offensive in that regard in the fact that Ellie’s character struck a lot of chords with me, as she reminded me a lot of somebody that was/is very dear to me, and I wish that that was not the case.

Review — The Boys

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed anything (one nonfiction book, a convention?, and a podcast are all that I’ve done in the last year), and it’s been especially long since I’ve done any piece of media. Wait. I still haven’t done a review of Yesterday? Putting that on my to-do list so I don’t keep forgetting. Anyway, I recently watched Season One of The Boys, which was different in a lot of ways. Two things to note here: I won’t throw in any spoiler-related commentary until the end, which will be obvious. The second thing is that it really deserves its R (X?) rating, as there is lots of swearing, gore, and sex. This review itself won’t be too graphic, though, so if you’re just interested in my thoughts, you’re good to go.

Now, I don’t really watch TV shows. As a rule, they are very time consuming and require your full attention, so as a rule of me enjoying efficiency and multitasking, I tend to spend my free time elsewhere. I was interested in The Boys though, because its premise was very similar to one of my favorite book series The Reckoners, written by Brandon Sanderson. (You can read my review on the first book here). To sum up both plots, the premise is that superheroes are evil and exploiting the world to suit their wants and needs (mostly wants), and the main characters are a group of normal people teaming up to take them down. In The Boys, this takes the form of “the superheroes are all apart of a super big corporation that only cares about making money, so superheroes are the posterchildren for printing fat stacks.

So, ups and downs of the first season? Well, I’ll start with the bad news, which is that exactly one character in the entire show has any likability (if you really need a hint, it’s Starlight), and everyone else is either evil and self-righteous, or consumed with revenge. (Okay, I do also like Mother’s Milk and Queen Maeve, but I’m not exactly rooting for either of them to succeed). Since I didn’t like any of the characters, basically anything anyone did disappointed me. “Oh, no, what have you done…? Oh no, not you, too… Really? Was that necessary?” And so on. Nothing that happened was satisfying, it was just… interesting enough to keep me going. Side note: I think the casting on this show is amazing, it’s the characters themselves that make me wince.

The show would be a lot better if Hughie, the main character, is likable. But he just isn’t. When his girlfriend is killed at the beginning of the first episode (the inciting incident, it’s in the trailers), he gets wrapped up in everything in order to get revenge. When he’s faced with some difficult decisions, he makes interesting choices for sure, but he is never painted in a light that makes him relatable. Maybe that’s subjective, but I had a hard time agreeing with any of the decisions he ultimately made. (I’ll also say that he often operates in a moral grey. When he did the ‘right thing’, sometimes I shook my head in confusion, but when he did the ‘wrong thing’, it felt out of character. His personality can be confusing sometimes.)

That said, the story was interesting, and expressed compelling social arguments, which I love. And all of those things were introduced in a very believable way. This doesn’t happen in the show, but if I’m running for president and I get the opportunity to set my opponent’s house on fire with the guarantee I will never be found out, why wouldn’t I do that? A lot of the stuff the character actions in the show fits that mentality. It also has some really good humor, like when Butcher is talking about the Spice Girls, and when the conversation ends the scene cuts to “elsewhere” and The Spice Girls is playing.

If you had asked me if I was enjoying the series after any episode, I would shrugged. It definitely wasn’t a ‘no’, as I continued watching it, but I often felt too uncomfortable with what was happening to really say I liked it. The season finale though, is really good. I love how all the pieces were put in place for the second season, because it gave me hope that I can finally start cheering some of the characters on.

Alright. Spoiler Free section is over. Now for the episode commentary.

I have three big issues with the first season. The first is the most glaring issue of the fact that Compound V is so secret and so hard to get, but later we find out basically anyone with money knows about it. I simply cannot believe that it could be so well hidden if simple folk like Starlight’s mom know the full “truth” of what is going on. That’s a simple fix, too. Tell people you can make their child a superhero as long as they grant custody for a few weeks and sign a waiver saying the kid might die in the process. The parents are provided no details on how they are superfied. Done.

Second issue is also based in my suspension of disbelief. There is no way in a million years that Vought would have The Deep “out” himself after what Starlight said at the convention. I believe it is conceivable that the public wouldn’t settle down, but basically throwing away one of the Seven to save some PR is ridiculous. What they probably would have done was hire some random guy to confess publicly, hand him ten million dollars, then shove him off to Antarctica in case anyone wants to crucify him for something he didn’t actually do. There would definitely be people lining up to take the fall if there was enough incentive. It seems especially weird that they ship him off since they don’t make any moves to replace Translucent or The Deep after they’re both gone. Why did Lamplighter need to be replaced if the other two weren’t important enough for it? I get that he publicly retired (which I just know will be revealed not to be the case), but it still seems weird that The Seven is now The Five and Vought is doing basically nothing to acknowledge that.

My last problem is that I hate how Butcher shot Starlight at the end of Episode 7. It does nothing except frustrate the viewer. It didn’t even advance the plot! Butcher might have assumed she was luring Hughie into a trap, but the fact that Hughie runs after she is shot makes it really hard for me to believe that she could ever see any good in him, especially with how that conversation ended. “Hey, you made my job even more of a nightmare than it already was, lied to me about being a nice person, ruined my whole perception of reality, then had your friend shoot me so you could run off without redeeming yourself? Uh, no, I don’t think I’m going to be seeing you again, sorry.” But also, if they wanted to go that route, it stands to reason that she should become an enemy of the Boys at least for a while. Instead, Hughie redeems himself in thirty-minutes as far as the audience is concerned.

As far as the final episode goes, though, I thought it was fantastic. Homelander really pulled a curveball on me in the situation with Butcher, and the reveal that Butcher’s wife is still alive (and has a son) wasn’t really surprising, but it was compelling, and made me very interested to see how that interaction plays out. I’m also really glad that Starlight finally joined the “good” side, and now that all the main characters are playing for the same team, I feel like I can finally root for them. Mostly Starlight though because everyone else sucks.

P.S. I don’t want to know more about Black Noir. I loved scenes like where he stole the piano from that guy with just a look.