Poem — Tea for Who?

I once thought that I knew who
I was put on this world to be,
But then I was thrust into a new view
And ’twas not my cup of tea.

To learn that you have never stood
Where you say you had grown up
Would mess with your head for good—
It sure overfilled my cup.

All those friends I thought I knew,
Had all just been a dream.
A clever reconstruction, brewed,
Though that place had no cream.

To push ahead, I know I should,
But still I want what never was.
Things are better now than childhood
But I want to scream—as the kettle does.

(Proud to say I slammed this out in 15 minutes, though the sloppy flow probably makes that glaringly obvious. It was an hour past my bedtime before I even started. Whoops.)

Prompt: https://www.deviantart.com/sandara/art/Tea-Party-800368122

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Review — The Mandalorian

It’s been a while since I’ve actually reviewed something, and since I watched the whole first (and for now only) season of The Mandalorian in one sitting while staying home sick from work, I thought now would be a great time to talk about it, since it’s still fresh.

Since it is relatively new, though, this review will be completely spoiler-free. I was intending to add a spoiler-section at the bottom as I normally do, but my typical commentary went on long enough, and I didn’t feel I had much to add that required spoiling. So if you’d like to chat, feel free to comment and I’ll add spoiler tags if necessary.

My understanding is that everybody loves this show. It’s got everything from Space John Wick to Baby Yoda, what’s not to love? Well, I’ll tell you something contentious (to incentivize your reading): I thought the show was okay at best.

The biggest problem I had can be tied in a nice little bow, too. Every character the show told me to root for felt… edgy. The Mandolorian is the resident Batman/John Wick/whatever of Star Wars. So cool he never even takes off his helmet. He gets a pass because this is long-established Mandalorian lore, but I believe it is still worth mentioning. You have Cara Dune. Ex soldier and so awesome she can mop the floor with several guys at once ’cause she has a huge gun. You can tell she’s competent because our resident Batman likes her and wants to team up. You have Kuiil, who is so wise and obviously always right that you’ll be facepalming every single time the other characters don’t listen to what he has to say. And of course, you have Baby Yoda, who is so adorable that even when he’s being stupid you can’t help but ugly cry every time he’s on screen. And so on. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea.

Tied to the concept of edgy characters, this show had a serious problem with presenting and solving problems to the character. Often, these problems would arise without warning, or worse, would be solved out of nowhere, or both!

It felt like everyone was cool stereotypes that had X amount of their #cool scenes, and only failed when the plot felt it was necessary for them to be less competent. Successes and sudden salvations felt unearned because the show taught me that success and failure alike cannot be predicted.

For example, in the very beginning, when Mando (which is a stupid abbreviation, given “Lando” is already a character) is fighting the blurrgs, he is suddenly attacked. He does not hear footsteps and has no inclination that danger is near. Interesting that a master bounty hunter failed to notice a huge primal beast. Then, in the same fight, he is saved, again without warning, by Kuiil. This is more forgivable, as Mando is a little preoccupied with possible death to notice a tiny man coming to his rescue (even if he is on another blurrg). The stakes feel weird in this scene because danger was both presented to and taken away from our hero without his input in the situation at all. He was just… there. If the actor had been replaced with a punching bag, the entire scene could have played out exactly the same way (given that blurrgs are a punching bag’s natural predator, of course). This scenario happened multiple times throughout the show, but this is the best example of it because it shows both problem and answer being solved suddenly, and in the same scene to boot.

How do you solve this? Easy. You present the characters, and the audience, with a problem that seems like there is no way out. Then, when the character makes a clever use of the resources they have available to win the day, that success feels earned. If the character notices a crumbling wall earlier that day and later uses that crumbling wall to get away from the bad guy, it turns into foreshadowing and makes our hero look more competent. When salvation comes out of nowhere, the opposite happens.

The show, as a whole, also does a poor job making me care. The Mandalorian protects the asset in a way that is—as the show tells us—uncharacteristic of somebody like him. This is fine, I have no problem with that concept, but it fails to tell me why I should believe he would do such a thing. Spoilers I won’t mention aside, character choices like this are important enough to at least hint at their root. Also, the Mandalorian has a very strange gauge for who he can and can’t trust. He implicitly trusts some strangers with the most valuable baby in the galaxy while he goes off to kill people, then doesn’t trust a droid who was practically designed to protect him. Now I know what you’re going to say. “But the plot! But the plot!” And I get it. The reason he doesn’t trust droids makes sense. My point is more that he trusts random people for no reason. Also, he doesn’t trust that protector droid, but in a previous episode he leaves the baby alone on his ship with a droid he knows even less.

Overall, though. It’s a great series and has some awesome moments. The scene where he gets trapped behind a door (and the way he gets out) is incredibly well done, and did a great job at making the Mandalorian feel awesome in ways other scenes failed. The Mandalorian Armorer very much feels like a “rest zone” in a video game where you come back to upgrade your gear, and while the armorer herself is pretty one-dimensional like the other characters, I couldn’t help but enjoy every minute of screen time she had. Maybe she was my edgy OC whereas the other characters simply didn’t vibe with me.

P.S. I thought the way they ended the season was weird, as they revealed a thing that seemed too important to throw into an “after credits” style scene, but after talking to my brother about it, he made a good point. You need something to tease the next season with, and revealing it earlier in the episode/season would have left nothing to be excited for for later.

Post Will be Late (Sorry)

Hey everyone! I know this is a bad start to the new year, but I’ve been battling a fever the past few days. I’ve stayed home from work and been sleeping when I can and watching The Mandalorian when I can’t. Long story short, I binged the whole thing.

So, since I usually stay up a bit later to write a blog post, I’m going to do my body a solid and postpone this blog post, hopefully only a day. Catch my review of The Mandalorian soon!

Me — Building Progress by Months

So, one thing I’ve decided to do—perhaps even the defining thing—is pace myself by monthly goals. In the past, I’ve done things like “Read 50 books in a year” or even just “travel more” or “be more social”. The problem with those goals is that the first is easy to procrastinate and set yourself up for failure, and the second type is vague enough to be neglected and, eventually, forgotten. The challenge, supposedly, is to be strict enough to push yourself, but not to go over the deep end and burn yourself out without making any true progress.

What I’m doing this year solves both of those issues, and I think it’s fairly obvious what I mean by monthly goals. Specifically, I have the goal that I’m working on for this month, and that goal is intended to lead into the next step, which will be February’s goal. After that, I have ideas, but I’m not going to worry about what March’s goal will be until February hits.

Right now, in January, all I’m doing is forcing myself to really consider my dietary intake and get into the habit of looking at what I’m eating and tracking how I feel (weight, energy levels, etc). I’m also trying to build a routine of getting up at 5am to work out for 30-60 minutes (or else get some other form of productivity done), but since that isn’t the primary goal, I’m not beating myself up when I don’t accomplish it. That, as it turns out, is February’s goal, and I’m just trying to get a head start because I feel I’m doing a great job at eating more and better food as well as cataloging my progress. Right now I still feel that eating basically nothing is the “norm”, so the habit definitely isn’t there yet, but I’ve made good progress.

February will be all about building an actual workout routine instead of doing what I can when I feel like it, because the latter part of that statement means I don’t do a whole lot. My long term goal is to get to a point where nobody comments about my appearance at all. (Because society says it’s okay to call people skinny). So, in light of that, I’m going to try to gain anywhere between 30-50 pounds, which obviously won’t be easy with my habit of skipping lunch because it’s the cheapest option. I won’t try to achieve that in February. Just like this month, the goal is more about building routines and sticking to them than achieving deadlines and hitting targets.

I also want to start painting minis regularly, spending more time with my brothers, and recording audiobooks. Those are goals for future months. The current me has no idea how to fit any of that into the schedule, as I’m freaking out a bit struggling to get normal stuff done. Hopefully, built routines will allow me to have more energy and willpower to accomplish more with my days.

But I’d be foolish to try to do all of this at once, and I suggest and encourage you to build incremental goals like I’m doing. It’s working out great so far.

 

Me — January ’20 Monthly Update

This one will be a bit different because, in addition to the normal monthly update, I’m going to introduce the changes I’m making to my life to make 2020 the best year it can be. Let’s waste no time.

The Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I will tentatively be changing the blog schedule to twice a week: Wednesdays and Sundays. I say tentatively because I may come to realize I’m asking too much of myself—only time will tell. I will also introduce a self imposed rule that I cannot publish two blog posts in a row that cover the same subject (referring to “Me”, “Review”, “Stories”, etc). This will force me to think of a new post if the only thing that’s on my mind is work, or me being lonely, or whatever it happens to be. I feel like there’s no point in having a blog if I feel like the only thing I have to say is “life sucks” in different ways once a week. However, this is another reason I might not be able to do twice a week. We’ll see.

Writing has been going well. The passion project has been making concrete plans on the road to Patreon, and so far I am very excited and optimistic with our trajectory. The second draft of the Lisa Stenton screenplay has been done for a while now, and I have no plans to edit it at the moment. I’m shelving it for now because putting more time into it at my current state is not helpful. Meanwhile my second short story anthology is still on my to-do list, but it is unfortunately getting pushed back by my 2020 resolutions.

Work has been alright. Not much to say about it, though I have been spending the last several days reorganizing and moving all the tables and machines around the shop. I even made a 1:12 scale model so that I can plan ahead and look at different layouts before I commit to anything.

I am done with school! I should be getting my degrees soon, but honestly, I’m just happy to be done, because now I have more time to focus on me. (If only that simply meant “more free time”…) As such, I will be removing “school” off the Monthly Update Topic Order™!

Friday is Session One of my brother’s new adventure, in which I will be debuting my new Drow Shadow Monk. He is DMing this campaign in my world, using characters that have, as of yet, only been mentioned by name. He claims to have an overarching plot that will solidify historic points in history, and I am both terrified and excited to see what he means. After he’s done (he only plans for this to be a couple of months), I will once again don the mantle of DM to tell the second half of the Knights of Fire’s story! I don’t expect that to start until June, to be honest, but only time will tell.

I have had little time for video games. As of right now, I am exclusively playing World of Warcraft, with a single Heroes of the Storm or Magic: The Gathering match if I only have 20-40 minutes to spare for something. Lately I’ve been turning on autopilot and farming gold, because I’ve been too tired to do anything else.

I haven’t been reading or listening to anything lately, but that’s mostly because Critical Role is still on it’s holiday break. I’m hyped to start watching the stream again this Thursday!

Alright: 2020 changes. It boils down to one thing that manifests in two ways. And for once, I’m very basic with my resolution.

I’m going to try harder to give myself an appearance I am proud of.

That is to say, I’m eating food, for one. These past several months I’ve been taking a nap at work for lunch because it was cheaper than buying/preparing food, but I realize that’s not healthy. So, for as much as it hurts my wallet, I’ve been buying things like meal bars and protein shakes and stocking up my bag when I go to work. I also got an app to track what I’m eating every day and what I should be eating to put on weight. I’d like to put on 20-30 pounds, and I think I need to be actively working out in order to achieve that result in a way I like. I don’t have the money for a gym membership and my house is full of people, so being self conscious makes working out hard, but I’m fitting it in where I can.

Lastly, I’ve been framing my actions in terms of what the “Ideal Kollin” would do, and I’m trying as best as my willpower will allow me to achieve it. I’m also keeping track of everything I do and how I feel, even more than I did last year. If I felt like I was productive, I mark that down. If I took a nap, I mark it. I’m tracking my weight every morning and when I wake up. I’m hoping to sync all of these stats with each other once I have some data so that I can maybe come to some conclusions, but it will be a couple months before I can start to do things like that.

So far, 2020 has yielded exactly 0 depressive episodes, and though not every day has been stellar, I’m content with how things are going so far.

I hope you’re all having similar experiences, and despite the upcoming struggles, you and I will overcome them.

 

 

 

2019 — A Year in Review

2019 took a lot out of me. I would say that overall, the year kind of sucked. I spent a good portion of it depressed to varying degrees, but in the end, we made it all the way through, didn’t we?

My next blog post will be about looking ahead, but I thought it prudent to look back first. I’m making the choice to point out the positive changes here, as it does nothing to dwell on the bad stuff. I’m also going to try to keep it chronological, but there will be some stuff moved around for organization’s sake.

  • Exactly one year ago, my brothers and I embarked on our first long-term D&D campaign: the Knights of Fire, and last Friday was our last session before we put those characters away for a little while to explore other parts of the world we’re creating. I DM’d for eight months straight, and once we tell the second half of this adventure, I plan on seeing it through to the end. I have plans. Plans within plans even.
  • In March, I started tracking my happiness and writing daily notes on what I did and how I feel. As you can imagine, I learned a lot about myself. And I’m expanding my channels of self-diagnosis in the new year because of it. More on that later.
  • I’ve been traveling more this year! In January the siblings and I flew to Chicago and drove back home. That was amazing and awful in all the ways you can imagine. Then, in October, I spent a whole week in the Washington/Oregon area. That in particular changed both short and long term life plans. This year alone, I’ve been to four new major cities.
  • Over the course of this year I wrote a full screenplay, and even gave it a complete pass for a full second draft. I hate it, unfortunately, and it should never see the light of day, but I’m proud it exists at all.
  • The passion project I’ve been working on made some huge bounds in 2019, and we’re continuing to build our world and our backlog of content to show. I’m hoping that we can go public with the project some time this year. Getting it ready for monetization is one of my main goals for 2020.
  • I also finished my last semester of college. I’ve yet to receive my degrees (and part of me suspects they’ll neglect to give them to me for stupid reasons), but I do not plan on continuing school, as I need room to grow and spending my time in school is hindering me at this point. It costs money, is time consuming, and my trajectory doesn’t align with that path.
  • In August, WoW: Classic launched, and over the course of a few months I’ve met some of the most amazing people in that guild, all of whom I am proud to call my friends. I cannot wait for the journeys we’ll go on together.
  • About two weeks ago now, I started wearing contacts. There’s more to this, but for now, suffice to say that it’s a small change that has big implications.
  • Around the same time, I was handed the keys to my first car. It’s an amazing leap forward, as it is probably only the second thing I have ever owned that I can refer to as “exclusively” mine. That said, the car payments are not fun and money is tighter than ever. Let’s hope that changes in the next couple of months.
  • And lastly, but most important by far, is that I found the strength to ask for help on a day I was really struggling. That person doesn’t know what the phone call was really about, and hopefully they never do, but I thank them for their presence all the same.

 

Overall, I spent a lot of 2019 in a depression, and I felt like nobody heard my calls for help. Even the ones that did kept on walking like they didn’t want to be held responsible, and I don’t blame them. For better or for worse, this taught me that nobody can be trusted, and that I can’t rely on anyone to make me feel better when I’m down. I have to do it myself.

Somehow, I’ve been kicking productivity into high gear the last few days of 2019 to prep my 2020. I’m all but making an outline for my plans, but most importantly, I have a checklist. A checklist that I know will kill me inside if I don’t fill in with as many check marks as possible. So that in and of itself should be ample motivation.

See you in the 20’s.

Alright. So I don’t like doing this, but I’m going to take the next two weeks off. I don’t really have anything to talk about other than my plans to organize and set up for 2020, and I think I would much rather reveal what I did rather than promise what I will do. I have lots on my to-do list (10 major things to get done outside of the normal stuff), and between that stuff, sleep, and my blog, well, I need to make my priorities clear here.

Rest assured I am doing much better than the last several weeks, and hope to be doing great come January.