Category: Uncategorized

On the Thanksgiving

It’s storming outside, and Lucien is nervous. The house is talking now and in many ways it is the wind that gives it its voice, not unlike how our own voices work. There’s a low groan from the fireplace downstairs because I have the chimney flute open for a fire later. There’s a pop and crack from time to time as the wood frame adjusts to the storm. The heat registers chime in as they activate to the cold trying to get in. The oven downstairs is almost finished roasting the duck, which will be basically our food supply for the next two days because it’s a larger bird than even I and the dogs could polish off in one sitting.

I am finding I like spending thanksgiving alone. It’s a day where everyone is busy making and doing things and enjoying company and, not unlike someone who works the night shift and sees how everything changes when the vast majority of humans are otherwise occupied, I feel like this day is my own private secret. It’s a good space to reflect, do some fun self-care, and actually pause for a moment to just be thankful by yourself.

Sometimes I think we should all take thanksgiving day privately, and leave the grand sharing with friends and awesome communal experience to Christmas. In a way, I think what we know of even the idea of Jesus would like that. A private reflection followed by a joyous celebration. But that would probably decimate the Turkey Industrial Complex. It would also probably decimate the Xanax Industrial Complex because there would be no political or religious arguments.

I’m thankful for so many things and, in general am happier than I have ever been. I’m thankful for growing up a lot in the past two years. I’m thankful for friends who helped me out through a tough spot. I’m thankful for my dogs Lucien and Basil without whom I simply could not function.  I’m thankful for the land that I live on and that it provides great joy for myself and the dogs. I’m grateful for the house that I live in which echoes and talks in its own way as I mentioned before and seems to be feeding my creative spirit. I love my job and the people I work with and am very thankful for the opportunity that has been provided to me.

I’m thankful for life! We spend such a short time on our planet. I wish so very deeply that I could share my new found zen sense that there is no great scorecard up in the sky for any of us. Our species moves on long timelines but our impact on it moves only in tiny bursts. History cares not in value for the victory of an election day for instance. It merely records it. Set down your baggage if you can, and stretch your arms.

I’m thankful for my privilege. I didn’t earn it nor do I deserve it, and I wish that everyone had the same privilege. My price for being thankful for it is to see it and work as much as I can to provide its benefits to everyone. Everyone. Because everyone deserves it.

The sun is setting. Dark when it’s day applies to us in Seattle. Basil is looking at me with his deep brown eyes and his serious face. I had put jazz on the turntable downstairs but it’s run through its side. It’s time to go outside and run my boy ragged with his ball while there’s light.

It’s thanksgiving. And if I was struck dead at any moment I would want my last words to be:

“Thank you for everything. I had a wonderful time.”

Thoughts on an Election

It’s not going to be ok. Not for a while. Strangely, that’s the magic of our American system.

***

I woke up this morning thinking of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. It was a fairly good one as I recall, where the Enterprise was evaluating first contact with a race who wasn’t quite ready for it.

The away team was found out, and an enlightened leader of the race seemed set to push his civilization to the next phase. But they were not ready. Institutionalized pride and fear, some religious and some xenophobia caused tragedy and in the end first contact had to be delayed. Bad for the civilization involved as the Federation could have helped them solve numerous problems. But good in the sense that forcing a change will always be met with the elements of tradition and protection and that could now let them know there was a change on the horizon. Don’t worry, just not today.

We get caught up in waves of positive change. We have a short time on the Earth. We tend to believe in momentum despite the fact history has shown us over and over again the momentum surges back quickly, sharply, and sometimes with great pain.

***

I was talking last week with a fellow Bernie supporter and we were joined in the conversation by a Trump supporter who opined:

“You guys should have run Bernie. I like him as much as Trump. He would shake things up. But Hillary, all she and her husband want is another turn at the power wheel.”

It wasn’t a sexist comment. It wasn’t a conservative comment. It was an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

***

What has bothered me most by far are my scared friends. People of color. Non-Christians. People who, thanks to the gradual removal of morality from a biological imperative, have come out as gay or gender neutral or fluid or been able to embrace their true physical identity or their religious preference openly for the past eight years.

These people are afraid not just for the direction of the country they are terrified for their marriage, their ability to use a restroom, their ability to practice their faith, their feeling that it is unreasonable for a police officer to be able to shoot them under lax rules of engagement.

I can’t tell them to calm down, they are rightfully losing their shit over what this means for them and I have zero frame of reference to help.

***

While Trump may indeed be the least qualified person to run and win, the long arc of history in general shows there have been far worse presidents. Harding, Buchanan, Hoover all come to mind immediately. Granted Trump has not started yet, but I do take heart in that we’re still here and the gradual trend while never moving fast enough for my liking is ever better.

***

The status quo sucks. Hillary Clinton was, by the traditional sense of the idea, one of the most qualified candidates in years according to the job description. Donald Trump, in objective contrast, was one of the least by the same definition. But the reality is many of my fellow citizens simply feel slighted by a system that rewards playing by Washington rules. By playing the game.

I make no apologies nor regrets for my support of Hillary Clinton. I find Donald Trump in every way abhorrent in his behavior and his inability to understand you can lie for the rest of your life to make people like you but that will not change the fact you lie constantly.

The only downfall to Hillary as a candidate is that she and her husband have consistently handed their enemies the ammo needed to build a long and sustained narrative that they are untrustworthy. I still boggle over the email server. I get how it happened, and I understand its implications are not near as severe a “crime” as one side would like it to be. But it’s still a self-inflicted wound in a career riddled with them. The sum total of controversies over the Clinton’s that have been disproven is staggering but it is undercut on an almost two-year basis by something they say or do themselves that actually can be used against them.

***

I said on twitter that Trump has a mandate now. That’s not correct and I should have put it better. You cannot have a mandate when the other candidate won the popular vote.

What the Republicans have now is unfettered control. They have the three branches of the Federal government and a majority of the state legislatures and governorships. That means effectively if the Republican party wanted to add an amendment to the constitution they could do so far more easily than at any time in recent history. (note I said more easily not easily. It’s still a difficult process)

What this means is: They have no one to blame and no excuses. If the next four years is the dawning of a new golden age of prosperity or worse the dawning of a new dark age, it will be the direct result of conservative policy and no one else’s.

***

I hope Trump is the Republican party’s Carter.

***

What does this mean for NASA? One of the “Make America Great Again” pillars is a throwback to times when America had great successes. What was a more crowning achievement of American greatness than landing on the moon? Someone tell President-elect Trump that the Chinese are headed to Mars first. That ought to do it.

***

Talk of secession and faithless electors upsets me. The former was settled over the lives of 600,000 Americans. It is settled. No state can legally peacefully secede from the United States. It is not possible.

The latter would give us a powerless democrat in the white house against the aforementioned full republican control of the rest of the governing apparatus.

Both are folly.

***

I keep coming back to that Star Trek episode. One-half of the country isn’t listening to the other half. If we’re not listening, we’re missing the opportunity to assuage fear. To address concern. To actually learn that maybe some of what we think is wrong. I used to watch that episode thinking “screw it just do the first contact and deal with the fall out” But in that fictional world the fear meant people’s lives.

On this side of the real world it’s already costing lives and the full brunt of change isn’t even realized yet. What do you actually do in that situation?

You can sit and hate I suppose. But that’s going to be a long four years.

***

Michelle 2020.

It’s End of the World as We Know It

I’m going to keep this as non-spoilery as possible. But this will require some knowledge of the plot of The Walking Dead TV show (I am setting aside the comics for now, what was depicted in the TV show was far worse for the medium used than black and white panels in a comic)

I was and remain profoundly disturbed by The Walking Dead season 7 premiere. Never before have I watched such a brutal 45 minutes of television. It is an assault from beginning to end. It’s also going to be the last episode of the show that I will watch, not because of the quality of it or that I feel offended by it; but because it’s essentially the series finale.

Let’s set aside for the moment standard complaints about the show. I’ve stuck with it through its affectations or deficiencies. Let us instead think about the world described here.

“This is how it is now.” Negan says repeatedly during the episode. In that he is correct. With his brutality and the joy in conducting it he made me realize this world simply has no hope at all.

Everyone is infected with the virus, which means this world will feature a dwindling number of humans who are forever at risk. A sudden heart attack in the middle of the night means a person in this universe will reanimate and infect or eat the loved one next to them. Who knows how many they will infect in a household before someone is awake enough to combat the threat. In the later few seasons the creatures have come to travel in hordes of hundreds or thousands. So no matter what location you fortify you are always at risk of being over run simply by numbers.

Then there’s Negan. In this universe he has embraced the lack of hope. He is riding the nuclear bomb all the way down, whipping his hat in glee. He appears to be the only character thus far who realizes his only chance of living at least long enough to die naturally is in embracing the cruelty and hopelessness of the outbreak that has destroyed humanity. Even then, he doesn’t really have living longer as a goal.

I don’t know if something broke him. I don’t care. I don’t even care if he is killed or made to pay for what he has done so far, because he would only enjoy it. He represents the purest embrace of what has happened. He is the most evolved in this world.

And that’s where the show should end. The only way out for the show now is some type of revenge against Negan (which would be a replay of The Governor storyline) or a miraculous cure. The latter would pretty much be a conceit that would bore me.

Negan was right, the image of everyone sitting down to a nice outdoor lunch around a long table being happy and carefree is never going to happen. Not just because of the actions he took during the episode, but because that future was *never* going to happen in this universe.

I don’t really care what happens from here. It represents the ultimate in the worst world a post-apocalypse can conjure. Even the monstrosities of a film like The Road were clearly acting out of fear and survival. Negan acts out of revelry. He’s not just watching the world burn, he wants to contribute in a concrete way.

I wonder if that episode went so far is to reach the zombie world nadir. Once you’ve gone this far depicting such cruelty, it’s just human-centipede level one-upping from here.

Shows like Game of Thrones or others that have showed us no one is safe somehow manage to so without the extended graphic brutality and sheer gleefulness of the perpetrator. What made the episode so hard to watch was the lingering on each horrible thing. Even the Red Wedding or the death of Oberyn were done in seconds and (almost) dispassionately. The Walking Dead chose 45 minutes of pure unadulterated torture porn with a gleeful antagonist.

Something about this episode got to me deeply. It made me realize this is the logical endpoint of the plot of this story. It could go no where but here. It could produce no one but Negan.

I can’t say it was a good run, but it was an interesting one. I’m done with The Walking Dead. Again, not out of pique or frustration with the show. I’m done with it because they reached their conclusion. Perhaps they don’t even know it.

Rose City Comic Con: Is That? OMG What? I CAN’T. WHAT?

Cypher flops down on the couch next to me and stretches out to take a nap, then leans over. “Hey do you have the new iPhone?” he asks.

“I just got mine!” Samwise Gamgee says, waving a new iPhone 6 plus.

We’re in the “special guest” room at Rose City Comic Con. I look over at my friend and we both do the eye contact thing where we mentally go “be cool.” and I concentrate on my salad. The leaves are very green and the dressing is a balsamic so it’s brown. “This is the food, that food eats.” Wil had said.

I’ve just gotten off stage from interviewing Wil. Ernie Hudson is chatting with Sasha Roiz who also drops by in a moment to say hi to us. Joe Pantoliano just asked me about an iPhone. Sean Astin just piped up to say how he got his. Nick Brendon tells us where he got his shoes from Australia. Wil’s munching a burger while he catches up with Sean.

YES I AM DROPPING NAMES LIKE A B-52.

Because of this: All of them were not only gracious nice people to us, they were happy to be at the con and seemed genuinely happy to be amongst their fans.

A lot of times we think of celebrity culture as being very fake, and it can be. But nerd celebrity culture I have found is different. Later walking the floor and getting to see fans of Gears of War or who liked my panel with Wil, then watching how a lot of the other people treated fans reminded me that while there are some outliers, most of them generally love events like these.

There’s a lot going on in geek culture that’s horrible lately. It overshadows the positivity.

But Rose City Comic Con was a great reminder of what brings us together. From the anti-harassment cosplay signs everywhere to the amazing cosplay to the gracious artists to the helpful henchmen, to the enthusiasm of the guests, it was a nerd meter recharge event and I am so happy to have been a part of it.

All That You Leave Behind: Walking Dead Season 2 Review

“I’m not going *anywhere*…with you.”

With that line I watched my choices play out at the finale of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 2, and cried.

Doesn’t that seem silly? When was the last time a video game made you cry? Has a video game even made you cry? (and I don’t mean out of frustration) I knew it was going to be emotional, I knew that I was completely invested in Clementine’s story. But I wasn’t prepared for what they had crafted.

It’s no secret I am a fan of Telltale Games’ work. I loved Back to the Future and The Wolf Among Us. Their games aren’t for everyone, if I was to take the most hostile critical view you could argue it’s mostly dialogue choices and quick time events. Some people just don’t get into that.

But that mixture of interactivity made me feel like I was part of the story. In season 1 I played Lee as I like to think I would be. It was role playing in a way a lot of RPGs have not pulled me into. I made choices as I like to think I would in that world to protect Clementine. In season 2, you play Clementine and I played her at first as a bit of a hardened survivor, how I like to think a child version of me would have to be in that situation.

But along the way I discovered something profound.

Playing a young girl in this hopeless world that had been created gave me all sorts of new perspective. By episode three I was playing Clementine not as a child version of myself. I was making her choices as I thought she would make them. I was instinctively doing things I would not normally do. And I realized.

Clementine is probably one of the most important video game characters of the past 10 years.

I’m 100% sure I could do an entire PAX panel on why. The writing is top notch, let’s set that aside my having acknowledged it up front.

It’s far more important that the unique combination of writing, situations, voice acting, and my ability to interact with it as a participant affected me so emotionally that when I sat down to play the finale I actually, in a tiny tiny way, dreaded it a little. I was scared for Clementine. She’s tough, and vulnerable, and surrounded by adults who both expect too much of her and underestimate her. Her story is rich, her character doesn’t just have three dimensions it has four because you play her.

This is astounding fiction.

Clementine is a role model. Because through her narrative, you discover things about yourself. I discovered things about myself through playing Lee but I discovered things I need to learn through Clementine. Everyone expected of her, but held her accountable. Wanted to protect her, but put her at risk. And none of it was too contrived, I felt. Forced to role play that situation I felt informed about what it means to be a “little girl” in a survival scenario. The gender role part is an element, but it’s far more important that Clementine is a person, a human. This is how we teach empathy. This, in a way, is how we help put an end to misogyny.

It can’t be any other way, but The Walking Dead game is M rated so it’s not something I can say you should show to your children or have them play role model wise. However it moved me deeply. Thank you to everyone at Telltale Games for making it.

** EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Telltale Games was kind enough to send me a code for the finale so I could play it a bit early. I think given my tweets and posts about the season up to that point it’s fair for me to say that didn’t influence my views. Smile