For those of us Americans who care about things like civil rights, or environmental justice, or even just plain justice, it’s important now more than ever that we not lose perspective over the results of the recent presidential election. First off, if Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders had won the election, it’s not as if they would have suddenly gained the power to work miracles. Even Bernie couldn’t break the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry in our politics and our economy, or convince police departments to root out their racist officers, or give Mitch McConnell a soul. Those things really aren’t within the President’s power to begin with.
When you break it down, Obama’s presidency hasn’t been terribly progressive. Under the current administration, we’ve drilled and fracked more oil and gas out of the ground than ever before. Obama is still pushing for that ridiculous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which is practically a step below giving private corporations extraterritoriality. As a friend of mine is fond of pointing out, under Obama we’ve killed more Muslims around the world than under any other president in U.S. history, both directly, and indirectly through questionable foreign policy decisions. And for some reason, the city of Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have safe tap water! (Granted, that should be the responsibility of the state of Michigan, but the feds deserve their share of the blame for the continuing crisis.)
You can’t depend on government alone to make the world a better place. So now, as always, President Trump or not, it’s up to you and I to do the real work.
Fortunately, there are some well-organized NGO’s out there that can save us the trouble of starting from scratch. They all need our help to do their great work, financially, and in body as volunteers. You’re probably familiar with a few of them. Let me introduce you to some of them again for the first time. You’ve got your pick of the issues…
Concerned about the ongoing erosion of and blatant disregard for civil rights? That’s the bag of the American Civil Liberties Union. How about the rise of bigotry and xenophobia? Or mass incarceration? The Southern Poverty Law Center fights back with education (also lawyers).
Anyone who’s head isn’t stuck in their rectum is concerned with climate change, and knows enough to believe the world scientific community when they tell us the causes are human-made. The National Resources Defense Council is one of my personal favorite non-profits, as they’ve got the attorney power to make the government enforce it’s own environmental laws. The Sierra Club, and Greenpeace are are two other powerful environmental advocacy groups with a wide-range of projects and good respective track records of getting shit done.
Worried about protecting our national parks and wildlife refuges from those who want to exploit or steal them for the benefit of the few? The Wilderness Society is another enviro non-profit (besides those I already mentioned above) that fights for our public lands.
Toxic water? Toxic chemicals in our food? Food and Water Watch is all over that, baby!
While I’m bringing up our food supply, I should mention a non-profit that another friend of mine works with, Farm Forward. They’re all about sustainable agriculture, independent farms, and ending the abuses of factory farming. Worth a look if those things interest you.
Worried about the future of women’s healthcare? Planned Parenthood needs your support.
Oh, and we can’t forget about homelessness. At the national (and world) level, there is good ol’ Habitat for Humanity. There are numerous local non-profits that fight homelessness as well.
Headlines about ethnic cleansing in yet another part of the world driving you crazy? There are lots of organizations that work to end genocide in their particular geographic areas of expertise. One I’ve supported is Jewish World Watch, which primarily active on the African continent.
Want to do your part locally? Try supporting your local women’s shelter, wildlife center, social services non-profit, etc., etc. I think you all get what I’m saying now.
Don’t let shitty politicians and billionaires stop you from trying to make a piece of the world, however small it might be, less shitty for someone else. Decide what you’re most concerned about, find your people, and see what you can do to help. Money makes a difference when you don’t have the time, and time is often a more important contribution than money.
We still don’t know if Donald Trump intends to really pursue even half the insane promises he made during his campaign. His entire career thus far has been built on fraud and breached contracts, so broken political promises probably don’t mean much to him. Maybe he really is the fascist hate-mongering pile of guano that he portrays himself as, and it will be a tough four years. Regardless, it’s not like the fight to make things better ever stops. EVER.
So let’s get to work people.
(Edited for an unfinished hanging sentence. That’s what happens when you write these things at 1 am.)
So, lest yesterday’s post lead anyone to think that I’m suffering from serious depression, I just wanted to say that I’m doing OK. Really. There’s serious emotional stuff, but I’ve dealt with, and I’m dealing with it. I have a wonderful wife, and we have wonderful friends who have been there for us when we’ve needed them.
What I wrote yesterday felt like something I’d been waiting to say for a year. Writing it down and putting it out there felt therapeutic. After writing it, I had a brief debate with myself about whether I should post it publicly or not, and then decided, “eh, what the hell”.
Yesterday itself was alright. I took a day off work to spend more time with my wife and son. It’s hard to be sad when I’m around this little guy.
Fiction and fiction-related things are in the works.
My father killed himself one year ago today, and surprisingly I haven’t written much about it. Sure, initially I wrote a bunch of angry thoughts down in my moleskin journal, then I wrote a somewhat random list of memories that I shared at his funeral. That was pretty much it. In fact, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing since, though there are other reasons to attribute that to.
(This is probably not a feelgood post. Be forewarned.)
When you suffer a traumatic loss in your life, the usual advice you get is to not rush into any other big life changes right away. So naturally my wife and I waited until a whole month after the funeral to go back to our plans for finding a house and having a baby. This was partly my decision to not let my dad’s selfishness derail our lives. (You can tell me some other time about how suicide isn’t actually a selfish act, yada yada.) We did find a house, and we moved in. By the time we moved in, my wife was entering her second trimester.
Right after we moved, I started an eight week support group for survivors of suicide. It was helpful in dealing with my grief, and somewhat helpful in dealing with my anger. (And if you tell me I don’t have a right to be angry with my dad I’ll rip your fucking ears off.) It got me to where I needed to be to try writing again. I managed to produce a little something that my critique group liked. (Hopefully I’ll get around to editing it soon for submission to somewhere.)
Also not too long after our move, I discovered that I had an inguinal hernia. Maybe I got it from lifting something too heavy during the move (I know who it was that packed that box). Maybe I got it somehow from martial arts. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how I got the hernia. With a baby on the way it was vital that I had the surgery to correct it as soon as possible. While waiting for insurance to do their thing and approve the surgery, the hernia got progressively worse, to the point where I couldn’t stand up for more than 15 minutes at a time before the pain forced me down. You can imagine what a pain in the
ass groin that was.
I eventually had the surgery, and while recovering, I dusted off a story fragment I had begun a long time ago, and expanded it into a full story. (My critique group mostly liked that one, but we all agreed it needed a little more work.) That was pretty much it for fiction until very recently.
(Side note for men who may one day need lower abdominal surgery: That post-surgery trickle of blood and fluids needs to drain somewhere, and that somewhere is often into the scrotum. This leads to scrotal swelling, which leads to one side of your jewels being extremely sensitive for several days until the fluid is absorbed and the swelling goes down. By extremely sensitive, I mean that anything that slighly jostles your janglies, like standing up and sitting down, can result in an excruciating wave of pain. Just thought you might want to know, because no one saw fit to tell me this before my hernia surgery.)
To cap off the year, about five weeks ago, our son was born. So for most of the past five weeks, my sleep-lacking life has very much revolved around baby, and various house-related things to try to keep the place in decent condition. (Have barely started baby-proofing so far.) And now the day job again.
What this all amounts to is very little time for deep thinking and reflection this last year. Pockets here and there. Father’s Day was spent drinking and playing video games, because this is the only year in my life when I would be able to make Father’s Day all about me, and fuck everyone else.
Questions I do struggle with: What will I tell my son one day about his grandfather? How old should he be before I tell him how his grandfather died? Will I ever tell him the story of how a text message sent to his girlfriend had us rushing over to my father’s apartment early one morning, in the vain hopes that he might not have gone through with killing himself yet? How old should my boy be before I talk to him about the dangers of asphyxiation from a car in an enclosed garage?
You know who I would ask for advice about this sort of thing? My dad.
Did I take my father for granted? In hindsight there were definitely signs that he was planning his demise for a long time. It still pisses me off that he looked me in the eye the week before he killed himself and agreed to meet for dinner the next week.
Since his death, I have a house and a child, both which need my near constant attention. My dad is the person I would want to turn to for advice and help. The person I could most depend on. (After my wife of course.) So where is he when his family needs him?
Running away from his financial troubles. And perhaps escaping the memory of a marriage that he sabotaged into failure. But the day he took his life was the first time he ever ran away from his children.
I look at my son and I feel hopeful. We may have another child, but even if we don’t, he completes our lives. I feel something almost like healing just watching him achieve new things, like pushing himself more during “tummy time”, and learning to hold his pacifier in his mouth. Just have to be careful not to burden him with expectations. Even so, when I hold him, when I comfort him, when I read to him, and when I rock him to sleep, I keep wondering is this how my dad felt about me when I was a baby? Is this how he held me? What hopes did he have for me at this early age, and did I fulfill any of them?
I don’t expect to come up with satisfying answers today.
So in the last 12 months or so, my father committed suicide, my wife and I moved into our first house together, and just a little over a month ago, our first child was born. This post is about none of those things. This is a post to see if I still show up in anyone’s RSS feed after not posting anything for more than eight months. So here are some opinions of mine that no one asked for.
Banning “assault rifles”, or specific types of guns is generally a dumb way to prevent mass shootings. Gun manufacturers will simply produce new weapons that are just different enough to avoid the ban. Restricting the size of ammo magazines that can be legally sold/possessed is a much better way to limit the casualties that a suicidal active shooter can cause. Military-style rifles like the AR-15 are pretty weak compared to hunting rifles to begin with. They become a lot less useful for mass murder if a shooter has to reload after every 10 shots (versus 30, or 60).
I’m all for augmented reality gaming, but Pokémon has never been my thing, and the Go version doesn’t excite me. I’m holding out for a Highlander game. (All your virtual heads will belong to me!)
Jews who support Donald Trump should be charged an oxygen tax. I mean, how stupid can you really be? Can you not see all the swastikas being displayed at his rallies? Do you think when Trump supporters act out violently toward Muslims and Mexicans, that they’ve somehow forgotten how much they hate Jews? If you can’t see how empowering neo-Nazis is hazardous to your own well-being and that of your family, you truly aren’t deserving of the right to vote.
If you’re an NFL quarterback, and you’re upset about how cops treat black people in this country, there are more effective ways to communicate your message than by offending your fans’ sense of patriotism.
The only reason to separate public restrooms by sex is so that men don’t have to wait in the ridiculous lines for the women’s room.
Season 2 of Dare Devil did not have nearly enough ninjas in it.
Meaningful blog post to follow soon(ish).
Star Wars is one of those cultural super-memes that’s so enormous, everyone is entitled to their own headcanon. And my headcanon, just like yours, is totally true until proven otherwise (by the
lucky bastards people that get paid to contribute permanent canon).
So here are a few completely authentic facts about the Star Wars universe and the upcoming Episode VII that I bet you didn’t know before. Sorry for any spoilers.
I. The Gungans all died on the first Death Star!
Oh, yes they did! What most of you may not realize is that between the events of Episodes III and IV, the entire Gungan species were conscripted into the 501st Imperial Legion. Those stormtroopers we saw in the first movie? All Gungans. This explains why a dozen stormtroopers couldn’t manage to shoot Han Solo at close range.
The good news here is that the Gungans all died when the first Death Star was destroyed. The entire racist caricature of a species- all gone. (Rejoice!)
II. Kylo Ren is really Ezra from Rebels.
Think about it. In Star Wars: Rebels, we’ve got three Jedi- no wait, technically all three arejust padawans- who play key roles in the founding of the Rebellion. That’s Kanan Jarrus, Ahsoka Tano, originally from Clone Wars, and Ezra Bridger. We know that all three will never meet Luke Skywalker. (Right?) So what happens to them all before the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV?
It’s a safe bet that Ahsoka and Kanan die. Probably at least one them at the hands of Darth Vader. But what about Ezra? He’s the series’s main protagonist.
Well, it turns out that he is turned to the dark side and trained secretly as an assassin by Darth Vader. We never see him in the original trilogy because he’s off slaughtering rebels at the other end of the galaxy, and Vader doesn’t want another force user mucking around in his family business. And that’s why he doesn’t surface until years after the Battle of Endor.
It all makes total sense, doesn’t it?
III. The new heroes of The Force Awakens are siblings.
That’s right, Finn and Rey, the somewhat-hyped protagonists of Episode VII, are half brother and sister. Their shared father? Why, it’s none other than…
You can see the resemblance now, can’t you?
So what are some of your totally true facts about Star Wars?
Let’s do something fun now. Because after the last few weeks, it’s definitely time for some fun.
A few weeks back, I was turned on to a little contest being held by fellow RPG gaming geek, Kevin Smith at his blog, Melvin Smif’s Geekery. The contest was to see who could pitch him the best ideas for both a Deadlands: Reloaded adventure, and separately a Dungeons and Dragons adventure for him to run at the upcoming AcadeCon. Well, I decided to write up a little idea I had been holding on to for Deadlands and sent it to Kevin. Turns out he liked my adventure pitch, titled “The Lady & The Casket”, enough to name me the winner. Thanks Kevin!
My little adventure write-up is now in Kevin’s hands, and it’s his to post publicly (which I assume he will do after the Con he wants to run it at). But I decided that I would like to flesh out some similar ideas that I had bumping around in my head. So, for your enjoyment, and the benefit of all mankind, here is a pirate-themed adventure pitch, in much the same style as my winning Deadlands pitch.
Personally, I highly recommend running your tales of ship battles and swashbuckling using the Savage Worlds rules, but you should of course adapt this to whatever game system puts the wind in your sails. There aren’t any rules-specific stats used below anyhow.
The Wreck of La Diabla Plata (or perhaps El Angel Plata?)
Adventure Ideas for Pirates of the Spanish Main, 50 Fathoms, or any other piratical campaign setting you might have in mind.
Not far from their home port, the player characters spy a Spanish galleon run aground on a reef, far from shore. Her sails are flapping in the breeze, loose and tattered. There are more than a few cannonball-size holes in her hull. There is no sign of her crew above decks.
So what’s going on, and what’s inside the ship? Funny you should ask. Draw a card and look at the suit:
Spades: Treasure! The hold is filled with silver and valuable timber. The few remaining Spanish sailors on board are wounded, and are below decks. Among them is a passenger, the beautiful young daughter of a Spanish nobleman. The ship full of pirates that has been pursuing them arrives on the scene minutes after the PC’s discover the wounded crewmen. If the PC’s represent themselves as proper Brethren of the Coast, the pirate captain may be willing to let them bargain their share of the treasure, but the lives of the sailors are forfeit in this case. If the pirates discover the girl onboard, they will insist they have “the right” to hold and ransom her.
Hearts: Xitlanhualpilli, and ancient undead Aztec priest. (If you have Deadlands: Reloaded, you can use the stats for Aztec Mummy.) He is disguised as living human, and a particularly charismatic and persuasive one at that. He will seek the PC’s help in establishing his cult in the Caribbean, beginning with their home port, and will promise each of them their heart’s desire. Just don’t ask about what happened to the crew , or the bodies of sailors stashed in the hold that are missing their hearts. (It’ll make him angry.)
Xitlanhualpilli is pursued by a religious monster-hunting privateer and his crew, who arrive by ship approximately an hour after the PC’s meet the ancient one. The privateer will stop at nothing to track down the undead priest and see him destroyed.
Diamonds: The Holy Grail! (Feel free to substitute the Ark of the Covenant or any other religious artifact of your choice.) The surviving monks onboard are members of the Catholic Church’s secretive Order of Saint George. They discovered the Grail in the Andes Mountains, and were attempting to return it to Jerusalem when they were attacked by a ship of the Knights Templar (who just happen to have a letter of marque from the English governor of St. Kitts). The monks won’t easily divulge the exact nature of their mission or the artifact that they are carrying, but they will promise “great earthly rewards” and the gratitude of the Church to those who aid them. The Knights Templar who arrive on the scene shortly after will make similar promises about spiritual power and a place in the “new order”.
Clubs: It’s a trap! The hold of the ship is loaded with gold, but there’s a terrible curse laid upon it. Once any living person touches the gold, the undead pirates who last attempted to claim it materialize and attack. (Use stats for zombies. These are the somewhat intelligent, weapon-using kind of zombie pirates.) They will attempt to trap the PC’s in the hold if they can. Whether the undead are defeated, or the PC’s simply escape, the cursed dead will show up later to reclaim their gold if any was removed from the ship. The curse can be lifted if either the gold is all thrown overboard, or if the galleon is blown to smithereens. There are twelve barrels of gunpowder on board that should do the trick, but at least eight of them have to be gathered in one place for a concentrated enough explosion. The power of the curse will prevent the galleon from simply burning.
Joker: Ninjas! Come on, you need a write up for this one? OK, fine. The descendants of the Koga Clan have tracked a lost sacred scroll of theirs to the Caribbean, and are onboard the galleon torturing the crewmen who can possibly tell them where to find it. One of the crewmen does know the scroll’s whereabouts, but he doesn’t want the ninjas to know that his ancestor helped steal it in the first place. If the Koga reclaim the scroll, they will use it to summon a water demon to plague pirates and smugglers throughout the Caribbean. (It’ll be a test run for when they summon a demon to overthrow the Shogunate back home.)
I tend to keep my scenarios open-ended so I can to give the players the opportunities to make the big choices in the game. If anyone gets any mileage out of any of these ideas at the game table, I’d love to hear about it. I’d like to run a game for my friends soon, but right now, I just don’t know when I’ll be able to make time for it.
Good sailing everyone!
So much I can say about the recent loss of my dad. I’m not quite sure yet how much I want to say in this space. I have been inundated with condolences, support, and offers of various kinds of help from family and friends over the past 11 days. Now it seems I come to the quieter stage of the grieving process. Let’s just start with this, because I’m pretty sure it’s not just me that feels this way.
Despite whatever happens while he’s alive, it’s hard to see your dad as less than invincible until he’s gone.