I don’t normally have any trouble speaking in front of people. I’ve been a trainer. I’ve delivered speeches in front of peers. I have even acted as emcee for awards presentations. Unfortunately I have never been able to ask a woman out without this stupid stage fright. Just asking for a first date sets my stomach tumbling.
I had met a woman a few weeks ago at the liquor store. An odd place to meet someone I know, but when I was in looking for a good Scotch for a friend’s birthday she helped me pick something. When I went back a week later for some for myself, she was charming and flirtatious and we talked about our personal lives for a few minutes in the checkout lane.
Then I went in yesterday, with my heart in my throat to ask if she might want to get a cup of coffee sometime.
She thought I was joking for all of two minutes until she saw the crushed look on my face. She tried to play it off, but by then it was too late. No amount of apology was going to fix it.
So I apologized. Profusely. I know it wasn’t really my fault that she shot me down like that, but in the moment, with my self-esteem crashing down around my feet I couldn’t really come up with anything else to do or say, so I apologized while backing away slowly until I hit the door. Then I walked very calmly across the parking lot and sat in my car for half an hour before I could get my embarrassment and nerves back under control long enough to drive home without crashing into anything.
I'm not usually into realistic or autobiographical comics, but I stumbled across a review of Michel Rabagliati that just made me want to try him out. After picking this up (it was the earliest of his books I could find), I'm glad I did.
Rabagliati does a slightly offbeat kind of memoir, one in which he tells his stories through the eyes of "Paul," a lightly fictionalized version of himself. In this story, Paul is seventeen and has just quit school when a friend invites him to spend the summer as a camp counselor. This is a bit of a tricky proposition, since Paul has little camping experience and no counseling experience. However he accepts, learns the ropes (literally), and has a summer of adventures and first romances.
The story is built around completely ordinary and fairly predictable events, but Rabgliati has a keen eye and an astute sense of his younger self. He isn't afraid to let his alter ego be a bit of a jerk, which makes his process of learning and growing up both interesting and believable. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Rabgliati's life in other books.
Items in bold indicate that I am a panelist. The rest I simply plan (or hope) to attend.
Friday, March 14, 2014
12 PM Opening Ceremonies: Main Events 1 PM Furry Writing for Landlubbers: Panels 2 2:30 PM Guest of Honor Q&A: Main Events 4:30 PM Furry Feud: Main Events 7:30 PM Dealer's Reception: Cinnamon Tree Restaurant 8:30 PM Penciling 101: Panels 3 10 PM Selections from Poe: Panels 1
Saturday, March 15, 2014
12 AM Cards Against Humanity: Tabletop Gaming 12 PM Fursuit Parade: Main Events 1 PM Creating a Cast of Characters: Panels 2 2 PM Dance Competition Setup: Main Events 3 PM Fur the 'More's Fursuit Dance Competition: Main Events 6:30 PM Guest of Honor Dinner: Cinnamon Tree Restaurant 10 PM Fursuit Friendly Dance: Main Events
Sunday, March 16, 2014
10 AM Furry Writing for Captain Ninja Masters: Panels 2 12 PM Making Mary Sue Walk the Plank 1 PM Working as an Artist (Without Going Insane): Panels 2 2 PM Writing Good Villains: Panels 2 4 PM Art Show Auction: Main Events 5 PM Charity Auction: Main Events 6:30 PM Closing Ceremonies: Main Events 7 PM Feedback Session
At the table I will have "Rough House: Issue Zero" preview comics for $1 each, plus all of the usual books, prints, and on-the-spot sketches. I recommend, if you want art, you grab me early, because with my schedule as it is, I expect to fill up fast.
Mac Attack Back in October, when I was first making my transition to stay-at-home writer/artist dude, the always-awesome laurie_robey bought me a new laptop for my birthday/new career. The choice was entirely mine, and being an airhead, I naturally chose wrong.
Well, sorta. I got a Macbook Air, a lightweight and zippy laptop, on the reasonable assumption that I would only be using it to write, while the more heavy-duty machine that would be required for me to do comics on was 33% more expensive and I had a perfectly serviceable PC that I had been using for art for years.
Of course, once we were past the return period, my perfectly serviceable PC started to go south. ¬.¬ Strange hangups, DLLs getting lost, BSODs, etc. Malware and anti-virus programs helped, but did not fix the problem completely, and one of those BSODs created a recurring problem where Outlook crashes on startup and you spend the rest of the day being notified that it can't start Outlook every 10 minutes whether you asked it to or not. Productivity was dropping fast, and I was constantly paranoid that the machine would die on me while I was fighting a deadline.
So, yeah. Had I known that was coming, I would have gone with a Macbook Pro. -.- But the thing with the game of life is, you can only move forward, so I started looking at ways to finance a PC replacement. One idea that came to me was to add "Buy a Macbook" as a goal on my Patreon campaign. I have to admit, I never actually expected the goal to be reached.
It was reached within a day. O.o I nearly had (more) kittens.
So, Macbook Pro get. :) It's a "certified refurbished," which is sort of like going to the auto dealership and getting last year's model-- which in the case of a Macintosh, puts it at a comparable price to a similar PC. And it's a beefy little laptop! I spent last night and most of today getting it up and running, as well as figuring out how to avoid all the little traps along the way. ("Do you want to erase everything from your iPhone to sync with this computer?" "Hell no, what are you THINKING?") Hooking it up to the PC network was surprisingly painless, although completely nonintuitive.
The main lingering issue now is one of software. The copy of Manga Studio I have came with both PC and Mac versions, and that's my comic-creating workhorse, but there are still some things that Photoshop is just much easier for, especially when it comes to text and certain painty effects. But older (i.e., non-subscription) versions of Photoshop still go on eBay for $300+, so I'm going to have to either wince and put MORE on the credit card, or spend time hunting down a Photoshop-killer.
The other thing is cross-platform gotchas-- the scroll wheel on the trackball is reversed-axis from the PC, for instance, so I keep scrolling the wrong way. CTRL+uparrow might do anything, nothing, or several things, all dependent on the app-- there's no dedicated and consistent "Page Up/Page Down".
So, still some stuff to shake down, but I think that for this lappy and me, it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship. laurie_robey is going to take the Air as a replacement for her old never-really-liked-it PC and see how well that goes.
So, thank you, Patreon supporters! I'll make good use of it. :)
Maps and Legends Like many people who think medieval folks were stupid, this guy is wrong. This guy being Dutch geodeticist Roelof Nicolai, who believes that because the portolan charts of 14th-century Mediterranean Europe were more accurate than many maps down to the 19th century, and indeed seem in some cases to have been drafted (or partly drafted) on the (16th century) Mercator Projection, that they must be .... from the 2nd century A.D. Or B.C. Or somewhen. Just not, you know, when they are actually from.
This is exactly like the people who say "I can't imagine building the Pyramids without steam shovels" and therefore conclude they must have been built using alien anti-gravity rays, instead of with a million drafted peasants, a multi-decade contracting process, and very lax safety codes.
I suspect the portolans are in fact medieval "big data." The portolans (1290) postdate by a century or so the introduction of the compass to Europe (~1180). Lots of individual compass-bearings from a given city to its nearby neighbors, repeated for every city in which you have contacts, equals true compass bearings for the whole map, which is a kind of brute-force Mercator. The portolans probably came out of the Jewish intellectual centers in the Balearic Islands (Pisa, where the first portolan we know of surfaced, had a thriving Jewish community in the 12-13th c); it would not amaze me at all if they began as the proprietary charts assembled over decades of observations by Jewish merchants. That also explains why the portolans suddenly go to crap north of the Thames and east of the Weser.
I wanted to like this one better than I did. It's a solid premise, and I dig both techno-thrillers and disaster novels. I'll even cheerfully ignore the caricatures of steel-jawed heroes and slimy politicians that traditionally inhabit this kind of story.
However, I also want the disasters to make sense, both on a technical and a human level. Directive 51 succeeds on a technical level -- the nanomachines and bioweapons portrayed seem chillingly possible -- but I don't buy into it at all on the human level. I get that Barnes is playing with ideas of memes and autosuggestion, but there are a lot of characters taking actions that make no sense at all given their lives. The Unabombers of the world exist, but they don't have kids with asthma whose lives depend on modern technology. There are a lot of people in this book like that, and I just could not accept the idea that they would successfully form a secret movement to destroy the modern world.
There's a lot of good stuff in this book. I just wish my suspension of disbelief hadn't collapsed so regularly.
More goofy fun with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The art style is still hard to follow and the storytelling is over the top, but at its best this book reminds me a lot of the things I liked about Marvel's old Excalibur comic. Lots of humor, fun characters, and a sense that anything can happen.
Today digital preorders for Warlords of Draenor went live. ($50 for standard, $70 for digital; yes, this alone had people flipping their shit.) What went with this? A notice that WoD will go live no later than December 20th of this year. Guess what, folks? A full year of Siege of Orgimmar is now inevitable. Unless those motherfuckers get the open beta up and running soon, we're likely to actually hit that date. That shit happened for Cataclysm, and now we all know it to be the worst time of WOW's life.
Which reminds me...
Those dumbasses want to return to Cataclysm's healing model. That worked so well the first time, didn't it? (No, it didn't.) No, I don't buy their claims that they'll make it work this time; I don't buy their claims that flying hurt the game either. It's bullshit, and we know it's bullshit, and as soon we we can monkeywrench them into reverting these retarded ideas straight down the shitter the better WOW will be. (Yes, this happens; the shit Cataclysm changes, by and large, got reverted due to player rebellion via monkeywrenching.)
"We want to reduce CC and button bloat!" Sure, and the best way to do that is to listen to your Alpha Gamers because they know the game better than all of you. No, really, they do and you've lost so many arguments about this over the years that you really ought to sit down, shut up, and do what they say instead. Instead, you're doing retarded things like making Charge into a root (way to fuck over the one way Warriors have to deal with kiting) and taking away the banners (way to fuck over Warriors again; we like our free Intervene targets).
Y'know what would work? Following through on removing Resilience and Battle Fatigue from the fucking game entirely. PVP again becomes purely about player skill; where you get the gear no longer matters, so you'll have the best ones mix PVP and Raiding once more to gear up fastest and then dominate the game in all areas.
Also, no more Honor in BGs for anything but objectives. None for kills. None for being there. Just objectives; the team gets the award when one member does it, and that one guy gets a big bonus for doing it himself. That will kill fighting on the road/in mid/anywhere but on the flag or point and compel players to coordinate to get the most Honor. (Oh, and no honor if you quit before the game is won; hell, you should be banned from Arenas and BGs for the week if you pussy out like that. Fight to the end, or not at all.)
[Gaming] Scourge of the Sword Coast - Part Two Quote: "Join the Wizards of the Coast D&D team as we run through the current season of D&D Encounters, Scourge of the Sword Coast, using rules and features from the new edition of D&D slated for release this summer! In this episode, the heroes meet Jekk, learn more of the troubles surrounding the area, and set off to investigate rumors of an invasion in the nearby town of Jolkoun.
Dungeons Master: Greg Bilsland Players: Trevor Kidd, Tom Olsen, Dan Gelon, Matt Sernett"
Guest Post: Ritual & Roleplaying Games My 13th Age collaborator Jonathan Tweet does most of his social media through G+ these days. When he has a gaming blog he wants to run, I post it here. This time he's responding to requests for a discussion of RPGs and rituals.
Religion, rituals, and roleplaying games all work because people are suggestible. Maybe you’ve heard that being suggestible is a bad thing, as if it means you have weak character. But maybe instead you can think of being suggestible as being not stupid but sensitive. Your brain is whirring along unconsciously, picking up subtle cues from your physical and social environment, and adjusting your perceptions and behavior accordingly. Most of the time this all happens below conscious awareness, but sometimes we take fate into our own hands and manipulate ourselves, and that’s where you get things like religion, ritual, and roleplaying games. While early roleplaying games may have had a ritual quality to them, it’s the array of modern, funky RPGs that are really exploring this territory.
As children of the enlightenment, we atheists tend to downplay ritual or even deride it as a form of mind control or superstition. Humans, however, did not evolve to be rationalists. We evolved to use rituals, and the anthropologist and neuroscientist Terrence Deacon goes so far as to posit that our ability to think symbolically arose out of ritual practice before we had language. Whatever the origins of rituals, human cultures have innovated all sorts of them: dances, hymns, chants, prayers, auguries, sacrifices, salutes, christenings, weddings, funerals, processions, graduations, meditations, mantras, liturgies, prostrations, poses, consecrations, oaths, vows, and initiations. Rituals work on an unconscious level. As C. S. Lewis said, kneeling in prayer is qualitatively different from standing in prayer because humans are animals, and our bodies affect our souls. Lewis knew that our creator has given us instincts for humbling ourselves in front of a greater power; he just failed to identify evolution as our creator.
It’s easy to see the role and power of rituals in religions, but maybe it’s a stretch to see it in roleplaying games. I think I can see it.
Rituals have this funny way of working even if you know they’re fake, says world-renowned primatologist Franz de Waal. As he points out, a placebo works even if you know it’s a placebo. The conscious part of your brain knows it’s just a placebo, but the unconscious part of your brain gets tricked, and more often than not it’s the unconscious that’s running our lives. A college professor of mine used to attend Roman Catholic services because he was moved by the symbols and the drama. He didn’t believe a lick of the theology, but that didn’t matter to him. Roleplaying games can be like a ritual that we know we’ve made up.
Roleplaying games have built-in ritual elements. They take place among circles of initiates, who share a special reality and use insider terminology. Traditionally, one participant serves as the psychopomp or shaman, guiding the group through the game’s events. The Roman Catholic priest virtually becomes Christ during the Eucharist, and the Dungeon Master becomes “God” during a D&D session. Participants assume special roles, and they refer to each other by secret names. Players cast lots and consult the results to find out their respective fates. If you participate in enough gatherings, you progress along the game’s path, with more and more secrets revealed to you as you go. You level up. You discover the stairs to the 8th level of the dungeon. Outsiders routinely attribute further ritual elements to roleplaying, such as using candles and wearing funny hats. It’s as if the uninitiated can sense the ritual element of our games and expect to see ritual paraphernalia incorporated into them.
The player-character role resembles the role of a ritual participant in that the everyday self is left behind. In most rituals, such as taking bread and wine in Christian liturgy or the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the participants leave their public identities to become equals. In other rituals, such as the when the Huichol Indians undertake a spiritual quest to obtain peyote, the various participants assume archetypal or mythic roles. Maybe one of them always has to play the cleric.
A religious ritual often has an explicit, supernatural purpose in terms of the individual, but the natural effect of the ritual is often to improve group cohesion. The Roman Catholic Mass, for example, reportedly infuses the participant with the grace of God, but what it surely does is confirm the individual’s membership in the group. Roleplaying games likewise provide a shared experience that binds the group together, and the teamwork element of RPGs sets them apart from competitive games. When I was at GottaCon last weekend, I met a crew of D&D players who recounted how the game had brought them together as a friendship circle and had given them shared experiences that they treasure. If you’ve been part of a successful roleplaying group, you know what they meant.
Some roleplaying games have played up the ritual elements of gaming, especially the new crop of indie games. Perhaps as RPGs have moved past simulation, they have sometimes adopted more ritual elements. My game Everway (1995) features a Fortune Deck, like a tarot deck, which is used in place of dice as the random element. The card art features archetypes, symbols for astrologic signs and planets, and deities from across the globe. Polaris (2005) by Ben Lehman uses stock phrases to open and close each game session, as well as to regulate the progress of play. Instead of a GM running a group of players, the players cycle through game roles, sometimes playing their character sort of like normal, and otherwise portraying some aspect of the world while another player plays their PC. These roles have evocative names, such as “Mistaken” and “New Moon.” These esoteric references, like elements in a religious ritual, help player feel as though they are tapping into a cosmic order. More prosaically, games such as Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World (2010) channel player choices and behavior, with formal limits providing a structure that encourages the sort of order and repetition that are also found in rituals.
So even though we know we’re not medieval heroes or post-apocalyptic bad-asses, something happens unconsciously when we put on those roles, especially as part of a group. These ritual elements originally bubbled up organically, but today indie game designers are incorporating ritual elements intentionally. It leaves me wondering whether we might see more elements of ritual incorporated into games, and that that might look like.
The obvious biggie is that Suburban Jungle (Rough Housing) is up and running! We've also got a shiny new forum thanks to everyone at Crosstime Café. The story runs on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a quarterly print release (the first full issue should be at AnthroCon)-- and thanks to my Patreon supporters, there will be extra content in the form of an "Ask the Cast" page on the last Friday of every month.
"What Patreon?" You Ask? Funny You Should Mention It!
With a little prodding from Graveyard Greg, Maggie Hogarth, and others, I created a Patreon page, and so far it's been a huge success, for which I'm very grateful! Someone even took a "Commission on Demand" slot, which I didn't actually expect anyone would. :) Good thing I put a limit on those!
The Patreon program has already reached two of its goals, the Ask the Cast page and funding a new compy to replace this dying PC. The next one is the biggie-- funding another comic project that a pal of mine would like to collaborate on but that I just can't afford to do unless it's a paying gig. He's trying to raise the funds on his end, but I told him that if I got funded, I'd do the comic without charging him.
So we'll see if it happens! Please consider adding your support if you'd like to see more comics from your ever-lovin' blue-eyed cartoonist. :)
And, Of Course, FurTheMore!
Come Friday, I will be in Baltimore as one of the Guests of Honor for FurTheMore-- SO jazzed! I'll have "Issue Zero" preview comics c/o the good folks at FurPlanet, I'll be running panels, it's gonna be awesome. :)
[Gaming] Scourge of the Sword Coast - Part One Straight out of WOTC: Join the Wizards of the Coast D&D team as we run through the current season of D&D Encounters, Scourge of the Sword Coast, using rules and features from the new edition of D&D slated for release this summer! In this episode, the heroes interrupt a goblin raid and are offer some interesting solutions to the problems plaguing Daggerford. Dungeons Master: Greg Bilsland Players: Mike Mearls, Tom Olsen, Dan Gelon, Matt Sernett.
Subtle Selfie Many years before the first appearance of the Swarm, after the Final War, a young girl lived with her family near the ruins of Boston on the edge of a small village of fisherfolk and sailors. The child was tall for her age and had wiry, long hair the color of squid ink. She spent much of her time outside, and so her skin was brown as a nut.
Within a short walk of the little girl's crudely-repaired pre-War house was a large metal hatch in the ground, clean and bold as if it had grown there. The girl's mother warned her not to play near that hatch, because underneath it lived the bunker people, whose ways were strange and were dangerous when riled.
Another commission for RedLiox on the strange duality that is the fox/lion hybrid!
I have no idea why, but this commission took me all week to do. O.o Unfortunately, that means the rest I had in mind to finish this week will have to get bumped a little longer so I can do SJ pages. But I will clean out that commission queue!
Heroes for Hire Working on the next session of my Eberron game. I brought up to the players the fact that their party was short a cleric, and added a "Second Wind" mechanic to cover for it, which got three different and interesting responses.
From the muscle: Cool, that's all I need. Let's rock!
From the summoner: I have a Use Magic Device of +17 and a wand of cure spells. We're good.
From the alchemist: Pouring all of our party loot into healing items is a waste of money. How about we hire/wheedle/enslave an impressionable young cleric NPC to come along?
This amuses me. :) However, attempting to be a dutiful GM, I have therefore prepared for all three eventualities.
Eberron being what it is, there's an entire Dragonmarked House dedicated purely to healing in the cause of the almighty dollar, so I wrote up a healer of House Jurasco in case the party decided to hire one. However, my mentioning of this option didn't seem to appeal, so I started rooting around my miniatures looking for ideas for a cleric NPC.
Hoo boy, did I get one. Impressionable? No. Young? Not particularly. Potentially interesting and entertaining? Yes.
So tomorrow's session will begin with any of the PCs who are interested in looking for a healer (except the muscle, who's already established that his character will be absent at first) at the Deathsgate Adventurer's Guild, where they will get their choice between these two NPCs (or of course, doing without either). Should make for a fun scene. :)