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Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Let's shout into the void.

April 7th, 2015 (05:17 pm)

current mood: stressed

I'm not even going to look through my old posts. I feel like I've come home to pick through a long deserted attic. Everything I owned's all boxed up and I don't have to open a thing to know it's all dated and vaguely embarrassing, like Beanie Babies and troll dolls, like last decade's lightest pop music, like being just out of my teenage years and sporadically miserable and sporadically talented.

I'm well out of my teen years. But I'm still sporadic.

My friends page, pretty dead. People I knew personally long-departed. Only posts I'm seeing are the big public ones made by artists and authors I admired and still do. I don't expect much movement back here. People move on. Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook and your various independent blogs maintained apart from the steady, codified ebb and flow of watching and being watched.

I sporadically enjoy blogging. I used to enjoy it more. Back before I got concerned with platforms and social marketing and that killed it for me. You know how it is. Books and lists and buzzfeeds and what-have-you about how to achieve success through slotting A into B and keeping it up at a rate of C. How to turn raw material into commodity, and we are all raw material, friends.

Eh, I'm not here to say that success is inauthentic (nothing could be more sour grapes) or that there's nothing to be said for a talent and a fervor for marketing. I just, me, personal-like, gotta do this for love or not at all.

So hello. How've you been. How've you been.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

My dog's emotional spectrum, based on keywords/actions (latter in parenths)

June 10th, 2011 (05:23 pm)

Cut to be less obnoxious.Collapse )

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

(no subject)

June 10th, 2011 (12:00 am)

Okay, this article on YA books being too dark has been making the rounds and being duly torn apart. I'll let someone else handle Hunger Games. I wanna talk about Sherman Alexie's Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which has apparently been "challenged" quite a bit in libraries. So Alexie says something about being impressed his book has that much power when you can find much worse on the internet. Article writer potshots "It is no comment on Mr. Alexie's work to say that one depravity does not justify another," but the comment is implicit, isn't it? Depravity's a loaded word.

I am really quite curious about why Part-Time Indian was challenged. Possibly it was only mentioned in this particular article so the author could quote Alexie for the purpose of slapping YA authors on the wrist. Possibly she never read it. I can give her the benefit of the doubt. It's a little rough content-wise (although not so rough that my local, quite conservative-town library doesn't carry it proudly in the teen section, like Hunger Games), so let's suppose we removed the swearing, and maybe anything marginally sexually or violently psuedo-kinda explicit (not really present, but we'll pretend). What about the depiction of despairing alcoholism? Is that okay? Interracial relationships? What about the concept that leaving a reservation school for a white-dominated school could have serious social repercussions (repercussions that are, by the by, largely overcome during the book through time and effort)? What about racism?

Depravity is a very loaded word. I haven't read a lot of these books and for all I know, some of them are shock-value style trash. But I have read Part-Time Indian. You would like it. It's engaging, it's instructive, which is what teen books should be, right? Just because the life experience isn't one you recognize doesn't make it invalid. And that is the trouble with hand-wringing about darkness. Some things are dark because the author just thought a bit of nastiness would be awesome and edgy or because angst and torment is deep. Some things are dark or "dark" because not every kid grows up in an idyllic situation where everything goes well (well, does any kid?) and these experiences are worth writing about. You can usually tell the difference between the poseurs and the thinkers.

And not every YA is dark any more than every fantasy is dark. If you go looking for the unhappiest stuff in the pile (which I don't think I would rank either Part-Time Indian or Hunger Games in, frankly), then you will find it. And kids will read what they very well want to read, even if they have some swearing or mention the existence of sex or are kind of downers. Duh. Look, I happily ran around picking up Brave New World and Carrie and Invisible Man (Ellison) in my teens, and I was a really late bloomer. Just saying.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

These good deals are murderous.

May 10th, 2011 (02:45 pm)

Perhaps you have heard of Good Old Games. If not, here is what they are: a company that provides older games for 10 bucks and under.

This isn't always a good thing.

When a site offers Planescape Torment, all the old Fallouts, Arcanum, BG 1 and 2, Gothic 1 or 2, if you like RPGs, Gabriel Knight if you like adventure games, Master of Orion 1 and 2, if you like strategy . . .

Today, the Witcher is on for five bucks, and I know of a mod to make it safer for wusses.

I am being nickle and dimed to death, and I'm perhaps enjoying it a bit too much.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

(no subject)

April 5th, 2011 (05:14 pm)

The Mountain Goats is my punk.

At least, the Mountain Goats is my punk in the sense that if I play it for sensitive friends or parents, the reaction is inevitably, "oh my, turn off that awful thing," faster than I can say "But, but, 'my love is like a Cuban plane!'"

But I am not alone in liking John Darnielle's lyrics! I hear that people studying clinical depression find them quite instructive!

Or, if I am more serious, you can find Mountain Goats in your average Barnes and Noble if not your average radio station, which just about makes John Darnielle mainstream. He's just a special kind of mainstream. That special kind of mainstream where you can say "The Mountain Goats is my favorite band" and people will still go "who?" It can be gratifying to the ego.

Anyway, the Mountain Goats is my punk and my favorite band. And I just listened to Sunset Tree and Tallahassee all but back to back, so I wanted to get out my periodical Mountain Goats glee all at once. Just, you know, focused on those two albums rather than John Darnielle's other two thousand albums.

John Darnielle does not write nice songs. He writes songs about self-destruction (but not the appealing sexy kind. Self-destruction is never any fun under Darnielle's pen), alcoholism, toxic relationships, abuse, game shows, and peanuts. He does not write songs you can play at weddings or birthday parties, and people at funerals would not really appreciate them either. However, he is really quite talented and can not only write pretty lines about the moon, but also about spittle. The Mountain Goats is very democratic with pretty. And although these songs are often densely metaphorical and occasionally densely allusive, they are also often conversational and veritably filled with concrete detail, so Stephen Sondheim might not disapprove. Darnielle also is a good enunciator, so you usually do not need to refer to a lyrics sheet. This is also a plus.

I have now gathered what I consider the three catchiest songs each from these two albums below these two cuts, with lyric snippets. Try not to overheat with excitement, although it will be difficult not to.

The Sunset TreeCollapse )

TallahasseeCollapse )

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Business Book, actually pretty good

March 18th, 2011 (10:41 pm)

I'm mostly finished up with Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki, and while I tend to find business books short on content, and high on fluff and smug (</vastgeneralization>), I have to recommend this one. Snarky, direct, honest, and believe me, it's refreshing to read once in a while that work and drive are important, but life is much more than work, that college should not be approached as a stepping stone to an occupation, that a bad job situation/partnership/business plan is not worth sticking with, and that having a really good product is what really matters - the rest is just converting people to your passion. Beyond that, lots of solid practical advice with a focus on being honest, treating other people well, and marking measurable instead of imagined progress (or decline).

Anyway! Recommended.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

On packages

March 9th, 2011 (08:45 am)

So Dragon Age 2 came to my door yesterday, and I was outside kinda waiting for it while I phone-chatted with my Mom --

And I locked myself out of the house.

It was that kind of day.

Fortunately, although I have never been the helpfully sexy kind of skinny, there are occasionally advantages to being able to fit through dog doors.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

A little girl gaming!

March 7th, 2011 (10:41 pm)

So I have Dragon Age 2 on preorder and it'll be here tomorrow. I'm pretty excited, but I have a few mild concerns for BioWare. Oh, nothing major, minor eyerolls, but they are minor eyerolls endemic to a genre.

Concern number 1: Considering that protagonists can be either male or female, do you have to always focus on a male protag in marketing? (Look. Female Shepherd? Far superior.)

Concern number 2: Do female villains / monsters have to be so sexualized when they're sexualized? I'm afraid we have to bring up the button-bikini desire demons. You do recognize that this got a little weird in the first game, don't you? I mean, a little weird. Since your own codex noted that desire is not synonymous with sex, why not occasionally play up other aspects? Or if you must, maybe have the demon change shape according to the protagonist? Not that I am honestly looking forward to purple guys in tiny speedos, but I am just saying.

Concern number 3: Can we have a female companion that has just slightly less impressive boobs?


*There are also some endemic guy problems. Maybe I will cover them in another post. (Or - male elf companions. Discuss.)

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

A Little Thing on Player Freedom and Subjectivity in Games.

March 6th, 2011 (01:43 pm)

Inspired by teza posting me this thing on player agency and holyspigot posting me TriadCity. Both of which I'll be discussing as we go.

I'm an avid player of RPGs. Being a dedicated, compulsive, gluttonous kind of reader, I like books that are 2000 pages long, and I like any kind of entertainment that generates story. I especially like any kind of entertainment that helps me generate story, or lets me feel like I am. An RPG may be partly an engagement in team strategy and stats, sure, but unless it's entirely a combat RPG, there's usually some talking, reading, and interaction between the two activities involved. Further, in a given situation, you can say different things, or at least say the same thing in different ways and get different reactions.

The trouble, or perhaps the "trouble" with most Western RPGs is that the freedom of choice that implies is usually very limited. Take BioWare - and I'm going to pick on BioWare a lot, not because I don't think they do a good job (they do), but because they're sort of the flagship of Western RPGs right now and I've played 'em and enjoyed 'em plenty. BioWare games are essentially Aristotlean, to reference teza's link above. Most Western RPGs are. Player choice is carefully constrained. Even a big, sweeping game like Dragon Age that prides itself on player choice will not let you do too much to alter the main narrative. You can anger and kill party members, make the good or bad choices at a number of pivot points, act selfishly or righteously as a rule, be asexual, monogamous, opportunistic or just skanky, etc, etc, but the frame narrative remains the same. You have to be a Grey Warden, you have to fight the Blight, and you have to do all the main quests in more or less the same fashion. A game like Mass Effect 2 is at once more and less limited; your in-character good and bad actions are more constrained, but you can skip essentials, if with horrible effects. The quests themselves, though, usually follow the same framework and your ultimate goals do not change. This is not really a complaint. Games of this size, writing, complexity are extremely difficult to make open-ended - their replayability depends on the different reactions engendered by these choices, whether major or cosmetic. Their replayability depends on the idea that I might be playing a however subtly different game than you are.

Persuasion and Containment - Affecting NPCs versus Being AffectedCollapse )

The Other Extreme?: Free-form RoleplayingCollapse )

TriadCity and the Subjective ExperienceCollapse )

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Writer's Block: Round and round

February 26th, 2011 (11:28 am)

Is there any song you could listen to 20 times in a day without ever losing interest?


Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Brian Jacques, Redwall, and Babble.

February 7th, 2011 (07:46 pm)

So I got into Redwall when I was in elementary school. Then I promptly got out of it because it was far too violent and I was too sensitive for such things. Except when I was not. I used to play pretend on the playground with my little brother and dude friends, and I would always be a badger, because badgers were the coolest of the goodbeasts. Who wanted to be a sissy little mouse?

Semi-autobiographical stuff.Collapse )

Now, here we are. I'm a librarian who desperately tries to be a starving artist in my spare time, and one day I'll finish this sweeping epic about gods and religion and human choice and dumb poetry or maybe I won't. But it's as far away from Jacques's world of grand feasts and faintly archaic language and thick accents and noble mice warriors and wicked rats and foxes as I can get. Little anxiety of influence maybe. There was always something charming about the well-written simplicity of it all, the straightforward horrors and the straightforward heroics described with unfailing craftmanship, the stable regularity of Jacques's publication schedule. There would always be another book, even long, long after I'd stopped reading. Until there wasn't.

Rest in peace, Jacques. You done good.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Oh boy New Years

January 1st, 2011 (09:51 pm)

In lieu of a new place and a new job, here are some off-the-cuff resolutions.

1. Stop worrying about everything. Even if you lose your legs on a car crash on the way to work, at least you will not also have an ulcer.

2. Self-improvement does not mean self-flagellation. Be the best you you can be, but do not beat yourself up for not being someone else. You have some pretty okay qualities!

3. Finish book (working title still "that stupid novel").

4. Read print every day.

5. Take your vitamins.

6. Cook occasionally. Also, remember that it is great to get necessities like detergent and paper at Walmart, but if you neglect to get food, this may present some difficulties.

7. Draw sometimes.

8. Make new friends. Keep contact with the old ones. No, really. Even if it means using Facebook.

9. Take pictures. This means you have to go back to Walmart to get new batteries.

10. Keep random time-wasting to a minimum. Productive! But don't feel guilty about down-time, as long as there is some up-time.

11. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour, stupid.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Books and books.

November 23rd, 2010 (09:55 am)

It's local book awards time and I'm going through a list of teen lit. Two down, a zillion to go (although I won't be reading more than a sampling myself. Many hands and all).

Lockdown - Walter Dean Myers

Simple, straightforward style lends well to an almost haunting psychological/social realism. Depicts juvenile prison with tight insight without taking sides. Eye-opening. Consistent characters and reactions.

Thirteen Days to Midnight - Patrick Carman

Intriguing premise and the middle of the book really brings the intrigue, but the writing is rather clumsy (if never as bad again as the confusing clunker of a prologue). Suffers from plot threads that never quite resolve and some cliched characters you recognize the moment you see their faces, but not a bad read--just seems like a missed opportunity.

Dragonfly, by Julia Golding, is next on my list. Of course, I finally got a copy in hand of Mockingjay, and, further, a copy of Scorch Trials free for my volunteer work during the summer. If only I'd already read Mazerunner. Good job, me! But Dragonfly first. (Likelihood of ever finishing Grass's dense, engagingly weird and beautiful Tin Drum steadily decreasing, if not surprising. Oh, oh, I love your prose, but the meandering near-plotlessness makes you a tricky read.)

Also, do most of these just seem a little dull?: http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Reviews-Essays/Judgment-Day/ba-p/3613 National Book Award finalists. The horse book won and the prose was kind of interesting, but eh. I Hotel seems most promising of the bunch. Maybe I just Hate Literature. (Or maybe it's because the first set is either about the Beauty of Horses or Cancer or The Holocaust. These are all fine subjects, but ain't they been done a bunch?)

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Fallout New Vegas: A Technical Preliminary

November 10th, 2010 (09:37 am)

I would not normally post this sort of thing before a review(s), but because a lot of the information I've seen about this in the Internet is wrong or incomplete, I thought I'd throw it in.

For those of us who are a little squeamish about exploding limbs, in Fallout 3, we could use bDisableAllGore=1 in the .ini file, which, as far as I am able to tell, turns the gore level of the game into the German version, i.e. null. In New Vegas, the rumor has been (although it is slowly starting to dissipate) that this tweak did not work at all. Not so, my friends! For this is merely a more nuanced gore tweak. Someone, somewhere has decided that perhaps bloody human death is unacceptable, but everyone should be able to enjoy the macabre delights of watching a molerat head bounce down the slope. I.e. the tweak makes human and humanoid combat completely bloodless, but beasties and bugs still squish. Now, while the bug squishiness is occasionally (if not v. frequently) pretty gross, I have long inured myself to the suffering of insects. Since I did not really enjoy slicing adorable liddle gecko heads off, I cheated. Add the animal friend perk via the PC ~console and skip the gecko killing tutorial. Voila. As far as I can tell after a playthrough and more, this leaves animal gore so incidental as to be mostly negligible. Animals will occasionally get killed by NPCs and environment elements such as mines, but pretty rare. (If you get the second version of the perk and have beasties killing for you, no promises.) Of course, you do have to refrain from hunting them for their delicious irradiated meats.

A last word of caution. Three types of beasties (that I have found) are unaffected by the perk. Deathclaws, lakelurks, and fire geckoes. The last two squish, the deathclaws don't, but will totally eviscerate you in two seconds.

THERE YOU ARE. New Vegas for wussies.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Them Gullible Gals and Their Feelings

October 30th, 2010 (12:00 am)

current mood: grarararar

So I read/plowed through Sham: How the self-help movement made America helpless, because having been extremely cynical about self-help since I was, oh, about 8, sometimes it is nice to read largely citation-free psuedo-exposes that reinforce your own prejudices. Unfortunately, although I enjoyed the book to a point, and enjoyed the points, near the end, a subtle, but persistent thread through the book emerged explicit and I'm afraid made me a little angry. I will quote from the chapter on education:

"Ironically, despite its determination to downplay winning and losing, the self-esteem movement, by privileging introspection and sentiment over action and intellect, naturally sorts the genders into winners (girls) and losers (boys)."

And in the last chapter, "More to the point, the eagerness to involve women in traditionally male realms, buttressed by all those statistics on women's superior skills at 'conflict resolution,' speaks volumes about what SHAM really thinks of men and masculinity." And later: "Such intensely patronizing attitudes toward men fairly scream the same premise that lurks behind all those quilting and journal-writing programs that have taken hold in schools: how wonderous life would be if all boys could just learn to be girls!"

So okay. Look, Mr. Salerno. Your book has a slightly confused thesis, shouting down self-help for over-simplification of complex issues one moment, and shouting it down for putting too much ambiguity in straightforward issues of morality the next. Even taking this confusion into account, where do you get off reducing my gender to introspection, sentiment, and all around wussiness, and where do you get off using the "feminization of society" as a reason to keep women out of certain professions because they will just muddy 'em up with their feelingness? Where do you get off implying that schooltime mediocrity is due to all these efforts to make chicks more comfortable at school? Your citation fu was pretty weak, man, and your evidence was often anecdotal, so I am going to have to hold you to these opinions as opinions. And now I am going to be an introspective, sentimental girl and make some conclusions with little data backing, but I think we'll be in good company together, hmm?

Things get maybe a little long and ranty.Collapse )

Grararararararar. The end.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Sneezing, sneezing

September 17th, 2010 (09:42 am)

I think I am allergic to the bathroom and the library in equal measure.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Problem with writing tools

September 8th, 2010 (12:15 am)

Sometimes they are more fun than actually writing.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Sometimes we write strange things instead of book reviews.

August 16th, 2010 (11:16 pm)

The Final Confrontation Between Harry and Voldemort, as Written by Ursula Le Guin*Collapse )

*Assuming Ursula Le Guin relied on a ton of dialogue, was a considerably worse writer, etc.

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Percy Jackson, Absolutely True Diary, Dragon Age

August 13th, 2010 (09:17 pm)

So I spent my first day of break reading my butt off. I read plenty of academic crap, but Hunger Games and Catching Fire are seriously just about the only YA fiction I've read in a long while. Well. Okay, and Compound, but I keep wiping that from my mind. I have intended to go with "popular, at least around here" over "something I actually want to read," but I have not proven strong enough. So as long as it's a YA novel and I read a fair share of both categories (sometimes they intersect!), I'm good. I need to start making a popular adult fiction list as well. Fun, fun.

First on my list was Percy Jackson series, namely The Lightning Thief. I am attempting to read more than just the first book, but I'll admit, I had a hard time with this one. The world didn't work for me. If you're going to play lightly with mythology rather than carefully construct a vision of how Greek gods would function in today's worlde, please pick a style and tone and stick with it. I feel like an old fart saying that, since I really have no problem with folks distorting and adapting on their source material or trying to balance humor with pathos. But Athena having a billion kids for some unknown reason (!) and Demeter and Aphrodite's demigod children being unimportant because, duh, you can't fight monsters with AGRICULTURE and BEAUTY and Hades being compared to Hitler(!) in one breath and complaining about his realm's urban sprawl in the next-- I got rubbed the wrong way and often. I couldn't tell whether Riordan wanted me to take his story seriously or not. I kept leaning toward the not, because Percy is just so darn overpowered and after you've been in quickly negated peril one too many times, the oh no starts to wear off. And then there will be some serious real world issue tacked onto the silly derring-do and my already strained suspension of disbelief strains a little farther. I also couldn't buy that demigods were, like, magically predisposed to read Ancient Greek and fight. Not in a serious story. In a satire, yes. I liked the book best when it approached satire.

Anyway. I'm willing to believe these get better and a lot of brilliant folk like them. I am just not able to as yet.

Picked up The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian next, which does balance tone far more artfully, but this is Sherman Alexie and he definitely knows what he's doing. Good book with fantastic cartoons, very quick read. Funny and sad and lively. If all first person was this engaging, self-depreciating, and warm . . . oh, right, Percy Jackson is also first person. I'm just saying. There's a lot of first person YA works, a lot of first person fantasy. If first person fantasy could be less explanatory and more exploratory, I would just be so happy. There. That's my lame review of a delightful book that does, indeed, deftly handle real world issues. (None of them involve Hitler.)

And here, have more evil Dragon Age adventures as a bonus. All such adventures from hereon out will be spoilerific.

Dragon Age - How Bad Can You Be: Part 2Collapse )

Wicked Baggins [userpic]

Evil and Games

August 12th, 2010 (10:37 am)

Evil in games is often funny.

Have you ever watched a movie where you were rooting for the bad guy because all the good guys were just so -- you know? Sometimes, you are that bad guy. And in games where you have total freedom, you have to start testing the bounds a little. You have to see what happens. Now, slaughtering villages of generic people is honestly not so much fun that I will do it more than rarely, although it can be entertaining when it's unpredictable. (Mini-game for Oblivion players. Hey, any Bethsada game players. Pick a generic NPC saying, such as 'where is that slave' in Morrowind or a different piece of gossip for each Oblivion town. Every time an NPC says that, you have to get offended and punch them in the face.) But you will note that this is the kind of evil we might call "puppy-kicking." It's funny because it's ridiculously over the top. It's also funny because you're reacting to NPCs that are obviously randomized pixels pulling from randomized phrases. (I guess we can also argue that a steady diet of it is bad for you, but if we're talking on principle? We'd better ban Overlord as well as Grand Theft Auto and our very tame Morrowind. Those hobbits had hopes and dreams, you know.)

But the thing is that total freedom games are often not really total freedom. You often can't just punch an NPC in the face and not have an entire village attack you. You really do often fall into three categories: law-abiding citizen, otherwise law-abiding citizen that will occasionally do really horrible things that are nonetheless arguably in character, and random puppy-kicker.

These are the same categories that more railed RPGs also fall into. As my semester of death draws to a close, I am playing Dragon Age: Origins again, which prides itself (not altogether with warrant) as dark and edgy. And I am playing it as a puppy-kicker.

Not all games allow puppy-kicking. I've been slowly reworking through Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 as a "bad guy," but Mass Effect will only let you be so evil for the most part and I have to confess, I didn't go as far as I could for plot reasons (sometimes the long-term consequences are boring, okay?). When I'm able to play Planescape: Torment again, I intend to test the limits of its purportedly more subtle evil. But Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic - oh did that allow puppy kicking in the extreme. And based on some of the conversation options I passed over in Dragon Age playthroughs like WHAT, WHO WOULD EVER DO THAT? Dragon Age also allows for a crazy amount of puppy kicking. (By the way, I do not consider puppy-kicking terribly dark and edgy, because it usually makes so little sense that it is something the player does to see what happens. It is usually hard to justify in character and is so easy to satire that sometimes even the game satirizes it with giant what the hecks in bold letters. But hey, they let you do it!) So without further ado, behind the cut is my itinerary of raw, purposeless evil in the early gameplay of Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: Origins - How Bad Can You Be?Collapse )

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