Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dear Diary: Cutting Class

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 21

Dear Diary,

Mopeybeard's father brought him up to town today, so I skipped school to go hang out with them. Mopeybeard's dad didn't look too pleased about that. I think maybe he brought Mopeybeard during the week because he knew I'd be in school then. But he didn't say anything, he just glowered at me. So I hung around, and Mopeybeard made friends with Fluffy, and we actually had kind of a good time. I mean, we got to wander around the big market, and watch Mopeybeard's dad bargain with clothiers and rug-merchants and an alchemist. Apparently he sells the products of his forge up here, then buys stuff like that and takes it back down to resell in the Underhalls. I'll bet it works really well, too.

Anyway, after a while he let us wander off. Mopeybeard set up on a corner, singing and playing his lute, and actually got a bit of a crowd. (Even if they did keep saying things like, "Do you know anything more cheerful?") He sings really well, for a dwarf who's still too young to drink. And even if most of my people didn't properly appreciate him singing about how depressing it is to live in the dark all with a bunch of dwarves who spend all their time working, I really enjoyed it.

Then Mopeybeard's father came back and collected him again, so I went home. Mopeybeard would love to have me come visit, but I can't see in the dark (yet) and anyway there's no way my parents are going to approve a visit to the Underhalls. So I'm stuck here in Sunvalley, at least until I graduate. Or grow powerful enough to travel the roads of the dead. There's a thought. Anyway, it's going to be a while, however it finally works out.

When I got home, my dad gave me a long look, and then just said: "You owe Miss Gentlerain a page describing what you learned at the market today." Which tells me two things: first, that the illusion I tried to set so everyone would think I'd been at school all day didn't work. And second, that apparently the school just decided to go with it. I gotta say, that does make everybody's life easier. Which, since we're all treading ineluctably towards our inevitable deaths, seems like a pretty sensible idea.

Good night, diary. Tomorrow we'll try to summon a ghost again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Real Work Conversations: IT

Co-worker: "So I've got this coupon for Alamo Drafthouse, and I was looking for something to go see. I was thinking about IT, but... then I was thinking, 'Do I really want to be eating while I'm watching IT?'"

Me: "You'll have to order root beer floats."

Co-worker: {Stops}
Co-worker: {Looks at me}

Monday, September 18, 2017

A retired supervillain walks into a bank...

An attempted bank robbery on Ceti Prime went awry this afternoon when the would-be robbers encountered the retired supervillain formerly known as Technocrat. Security sensors recorded the following dialogue...
"Ah, yes. That's a good-looking weapon, young man. Very threatening. Death ray, is it? Oh, a heat ray. Yes, that *is* impressive. Your own design? Excellent. I have high hopes for you, young man. High hopes. There's just one tiny little problem with it, but overall it's really a very good design. One doesn't usually see such devotion to craftsmanship these day. Problem? Did I say it had a problem? Oh, well, I suppose I did. When one gets to my age, one *does* tend to natter on. Oh, the problem! Quite right, quite right. Well, you see, it's a lovely little heat ray, and I'm quite sure it's capable of cutting me in half or slicing straight into the vault, but... well... I'm sorry to say that the quantum subconductor is empty. What? The battery, young man. Your weapon has a dead battery. And so, as a matter of fact, do all your friends' weapons. Shocking coincidence, I'm sure, no idea what could have caused it. Still, under the circumstances, I *do* think you should maybe run away now, before the Authority arrives, and let the rest of us be on about our business. Terribly good to have met you..."
Despite a planet-wide manhunt, neither the supervillain nor the would-be robbers have yet been found.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dear Diary: Harder Than It Looks

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 17

Just a quick note, Diary: summoning ghosts? Waaaay harder than it looks. I mean, I managed to imbue my last zombie with a spark of actual creative intelligence; I didn't think a ghost would be much harder than that.

Turns out that ghosts are hard to conjure, and a lot harder to conjure in a way where they'll actually be able to hang around for more than a couple of moments.

Oh, well. All part of the research. I'll get it done sooner or later, hopefully before Midterms.

Friday, September 15, 2017

More Music: inFamous Second Son Rap

Secondborn found this one last night, and for a while there I wasn't sure I'd be able to get him off my computer again. It's a rap by JT Machinima, based on inFamous Second Son.(It'll make more sense if you're familiar with the video game.)

Music: Raining Stars

How about a bit of metal to finish out the week? The band is Lord of the Lost (featuring Formalin), and the song is called Raining Stars.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dear Diary: Pets Are Therapeutic

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 14

Dear diary,

So Mom thinks I ought to get a puppy, "like a normal boy". Yeah, she actually said that.

But it turned out to be a good idea.

I mean, yeah, Fluffy is another zombie and now my mom won't let her into the house. (Have I mentioned that adults make no sense? Adults make no sense.) But she's cute, she's obedient, and she's completely loyal to me. I need to get my own place so she can sleep on the bed with me at night.

Gladwin (That's my sister. Not sure if I mentioned her name before.) thinks it's weird that I'd rather have a dead dog than a live one, but once I pointed out that Fluffy doesn't pee on everything and won't dig up the yard unless I tell her to, she was a lot more reasonable about it. And my dad just shook his head and looked sad.

No, Mom's the real problem, even though this whole thing was her idea. I wish she could just be proud of me, for once.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Music: No Matter What Goes Right

Today, in the category of "Songs That Make Me Think Of my Beautiful Wife", I offer this one from Trout Fishing In America:

Ye gods, I can't believe we all got through yesterday. That was a very long day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hero's Journey, Virgin's Promise, and story structures

Okay, confession time:
I've always been kind of dubious about just how "Universal" the Hero's Journey really is. It's usually introduced (to me, anyway) as "Joseph Campbell claimed that all the great stories follow this pattern," but it seems to me that it's actually more "all the stories that Joseph Campbell really enjoyed follow this pattern." And it seems to me that it's a pattern that's very much grounded in what we might call Western Civilization, and to some extent in Western concepts of masculinity.

More importantly, though, it seems to me that The Hero's Journey is mainly just a template for a certain kind of Coming Of Age story. It doesn't, for example, work anywhere near as well if your "hero" is a forty-year-old man. (That's not to say that it can't be done, just that doing so requires a fundamental subversion of the original template.) For Luke Skywalker, it works fine. For a superhero origin story, it works fine. But for a character who's already established as capable and empowered, it really doesn't fit; it's not, for example, a pattern that fits well for Conan the Barbarian, or any of the Die Hard movies. And it doesn't even always work for superheroes; I re-watched The Incredibles recently, and Mr. Incredible is *so* very clearly following a Heroine's Journey/Virgin's Promise story arc. (Talk about your Price of Conformity. Sheesh.)

But the Virgin's Promise/Prince's Journey/Heroine's Journey template seems in some ways even more universal than the Hero's Journey ever was. If the Hero's Journey is fundamentally a pattern for a Coming Of Age story, the Heroine's Journey seems to work for almost any story where the protagonist is struggling against all the forces (in ourselves and/or others) that want to preserve the Status Quo and resist change.

...Which is a struggle that you can have at any age, and in a great many different environments. That doesn't mean it's universal. It's probably not going to work for a story where, say, the primary structure is built around learning enough about the monster that's eating people to either kill it, or at least successfully escape. And while it could be a single character's arc in some sort of team setup (I'm thinking of Leverage, or X-men as examples) the overall show is going to have a different setup and different story beats.

So I'm increasingly suspicious that "universal" story structures are actually just common patterns for particular kinds of stories, and that there are probably a lot more of these patterns than the two I've looked at so far, *and* that some stories may start with one template and then slide (with varying degrees of success) into another.

Friday, September 8, 2017

No, that kids book isn't creepy at all

So, I was at my father's house and he was unloading a bunch of books from back in my childhood. In the course of sorting through to see which, if any, the boys might like, I found this:

The Lemming Condition
by Alan Arkin
I have no memory of every reading this book. I mean, I might have read it, but if so I either long since forgot about it, or I blocked it out of my mind completely. So when I found it, I promptly flipped it over to read the back, and... well...
I... I just... I don't even... I mean, the thing about lemmings running off the cliff is a myth, but if I ignore that... who thought this book would be a good idea? I can't imagine.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dear Diary: Cooking Class

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Highsun, Day 28

Dear diary,

Well, that was a disaster. They didn't even let me finish the rest of my school day. In-school suspension... and then, a full suspension when

I guess I should start at the beginning, Diary. That's usually how these things are done. So...

I made myself an undead servitor to help me pass Cooking class. It was an incredible success, not that you'd know it from the way everyone reacted. I found the grave of Elvar Glorion, the greatest Halfling chef ever to live in Warmspring, and called him back. I got the full body. I mean, he was still dead, of course, but he wasn't even decayed -- just a little emaciated. And more importantly, I conjured back that critical spark of his spirit, that allowed his reanimated corpse to cook!

Nobody even seemed to notice, at first. Laurel Twinblossom asked me if I'd brought my uncle to school, but that was about it. But then, while he was cooking, Disbell Windhorn got close enough to really look at his face and started yelling about how I had a dead guy in the classroom. Okay, yeah, he wasn't wrong, but did he really need to freak out like that? And then Mrs. Dawnpetal fainted, and somebody ran off to tell the principal, and... it didn't get any better from there.

At first, Principal Brightstream was threatening me with legal action for having a corpse around food preparation. I pointed out that the corpse was properly raised and therefore completely preserved against decay -- no self-respecting necromancer is going to create zombies that actually rot -- but he just kept repeating "A corpse. Around food." Then I pointed out that the corpse was also a famous chef, but apparently that doesn't make any difference. Then I wondered out loud what it would do to the reputation of the school if people learned that we had corpses roaming the halls and preparing second breakfasts, and finally Principal Brightstream decided that maybe we'd better not mention this to anyone. Which, y'know what? Fine. Whatever.

Unfortunately, Secretary Brightbottom had already whispered my dad. So halfway through my day of in-school suspension, he shows up demanding to know what's going on and what I've done this time. And since I refuse to return Chef Glorion to the earth, the principal decides that maybe I need more time with my dad, and changes my in-school suspension to three days of regular suspension! Which makes no sense. I mean, if I'd released him there they'd just have had to clean up a corpse in the detention hall, plus I'd still be failing Cooking class. Adults make no sense, diary. I'm just going to go back and underline that.

ADULTS MAKE NO SENSE.

It's fine. I'm fine. I'll just have to try something else. Not with Chef Glorion; he's done his best for me.

No, next time I'm just going to get a ghost instead.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Some Poems Rhyme

So... Secondborn came and pulled me away from the computer and all the way into Firstborn's room, so he could repeat a poem to me. It went like this:
Poppies are red
Bluebonnets are blue
Some poems rhyme
But this one sucks
He didn't make it up himself, of course. Apparently he got it from a Minecraft/Walking Dead crossover that he was watching through my Amazon account. Still funny, though.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Two Kinds of... wait, what?

Etiquette for Elevators

1. Anyone getting off the elevator has the right of way. Let them out, then get on.

2. Shift around. Mutter to yourself about things like "you know they're made of meat" or "listening, always listening" or "the voices never stop" or "salt in the wounds adds flavor".

3. If you have luggage, keep it tucked out of the way behind you, preferably in a corner.

4. If the trip is more than three floors, punch an extra button; then look expectantly out the door when you reach that floor. Say things like, "Oh, don't mind him. He's just an old softie. Just scoot over a little bit to leave room for his tail."

5. If there are children on the elevator, look at them suspiciously, then put a finger to your lips.

6. Brood.

7. Be sure to inform your fellow passengers that these elevators always have cameras.

8. Do not make eye contact; that would be rude.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Game of Golf.

I can't be the only person who thinks that not only is Golf kind of its own special language, but that it's almost entirely made up, right? Right?

Oh, you want an example? All right. "The green on this hole is very receptive." What does that even mean? Am I trying to proposition it at a cocktail party or something? Why would you even say that about what I assume is a well-groomed stretch of grass?

"Usually this is a mid-iron shot with a bunker on the left and a bunker behind the green..." Should I be worried about machine gun fire? Do I need to elbow-crawl towards my next shot? What is going on here???

"This week's game will be a 4-Person Team Championship Stroke Play." WHY DOES ALL THIS SOUND LIKE SOME KIND OF THINLY VEILED EUPHEMISM? WHY???

Oh, right. Probably because it was invented by the Scots.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, here's how you play golf.

Step One: There's a little white ball. Set it on the ground, then hit it with the metal stick. The ball will going flying off into some wildly unlikely location, including such possibilities as Off In The Trees Where You Will Never Find It, In The Deep Grass With The Snakes, or At The Bottom Of A Pool Of Mucky Water That Some Idiot Left Lying Around.

Step Two: Drink beer.

Step Three: Walk to the edge of the area where your ball disappeared. Set a new ball on the ground and pretend that it is absolutely, without question, exactly the same ball that disappeared a few moments ago. If your companions question this, offer them more beer. Hit the new ball with the metal stick, and watch your new ball disappear to some new but equally idiotic location which might as well be the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Step Four: Drink more beer.

Step Five: Repeat Steps Three and Four until one of your balls miraculously lands near the hole. Tap the ball into the hole. Be gentle. Be graceful. Above all, do not let anyone know how drunk you are already.

Step Six: Drink more beer.

Step Seven: Move to the next hole, and repeat this process.