Dungeons and Dragons: New Commons Project Nomination

Around two years ago, the university where I work was awarded a grant to start something we called the New Commons Project. I wrote about this a while ago, but if you’ve forgotten, it’s an effort to select works that are important to us today for a variety of reasons. For example, finalists so far have been everything from the FEDCO Seed Catalog to the Canoe to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony to The Wire to The Simpsons to Persuasion. Tons of variety, with each work nominated by a person in Maine.

Finalists each get a month of programming here at UMF, with guest speakers and events and lectures to discuss why the work is important. I’ve nominated a few things over the space of the last while (True Grit, Arrested Development, and Libraries themselves), but I really wanted to put something together that would push the envelope in terms of nomination videos. I wanted something that would be fun to watch. Something along the lines of a lot of the videos I enjoy watching online that combine humor, media, and thinking in one.

Six months ago, I decided a nomination for Dungeons and Dragons would be perfect for this. I wrote a script for the video, and I even photoshopped some pictures of the faculty members involved in running the program, but after that, I just ran out of time. I’ve made enough videos to know how much work can go into making one, and I just didn’t have it in me to get over that final hump of sitting down and getting it done.

The deadline is March 15th, however, so I finally decided that needed to change. I recorded the narrative and pushed myself to complete the thing. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. For one thing, I discovered that the script I’d recorded was really bland and boring. When I’d recorded it, I thought I was reading in an interesting tone and that it would be fine, but when I played it back, it just sounded like snoozeville. So I rerecorded it, this time trying to push things over the top. Honestly, I felt like an idiot, reading it in that tone. Like I was doing way too much. But when I played it back, it sounded much better. Lesson learned. To make things really interesting, I need a ton more animation in my voice.

From there, I needed to figure out how to import movie clips and GIFs into my video. Movie clips could be done pretty easily with a Chrome add-on called Steam Video Downloader. (It doesn’t play nice with YouTube, but it’s great with Vimeo.) Then I taught myself how to capture video on my screen with QuickTime Player. Once that was done, I was off and running.

In the end, I’m quite happy with how it turned out. It’s a great mashup of all sorts of things that could have been good nominations on their own, but it makes my argument well: picking Dungeons and Dragons essentially picks a ton of works that it was influenced by and has influenced in turn. I would love to see the programming that would come from a D&D selection. Crossing my fingers that it will happen.

Also, now that I’ve done the video and know what goes into it, I’m tempted to try my hand at a few more. I’d like to do some video essays around different topics. We’ll see if that ever comes together, though. It took me forever just to do this one . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Everyone Needs a Reset Now and Then

I use my computers day in, day out, each and every day. And if there’s one thing I don’t like doing, it’s sitting around wasting time. However, I also still do some amount of technical support off and on, and I have years of experience in that area in the past. And if there’s one thing I know when it comes to tech support (and you probably know it too), the first thing to always try before you get too frustrated with anything that plugs in is to . . . try turning it off and on again.

Just today, I was trying to get something done on my work laptop (a Mac). Things were dragging. The colorful spinning wheel was popping up left and right, and it was seriously impacting my ability to get things done. I knew what I needed to do: it had been a couple of weeks since I rebooted the computer. (I usually just put it to sleep and wake it up.) I didn’t want to reboot it, though, because I knew doing that would mean I’d have to wait around for a few minutes doing nothing while it got itself back in order.

Eventually, however, enough was enough. Five minutes later, the computer was back in business, with nary a colorful spinning wheel to be seen. The best thing I could have done for my productivity was taking that time to reset the computer, and I should have done it much sooner.

The thing is, I firmly believe the same thing can be said for me as a person. If I don’t have the time to reset myself on a regular basis, my operating system just starts to behave strangely. It takes me longer to get work done than it should. I get frustrated more easily. I get distracted. I feel overwhelmed. In the grand scheme of things. taking an hour or two off each day isn’t a big bite out of my productivity, though sometimes it can feel like if I don’t take that time, I could get so much more done.

It’s just not true, however.

So today, consider this your reminder to take the time you need to reset. Read a book. Play a video game. Play an instrument. Watch a movie. Play a board game. Go for a run. We each know what resets us, and we should be given the time and space to get that reset in on a regular basis.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Back in the Writing Group Saddle Again

I’ve been in a number of writing groups over the years. For a long time, it was the main way I made myself feel like a writer. Eventually, my hectic schedule managed to elbow writing group out of my life, and it’s been about four and a half years since that happened. In the intervening time, I haven’t really found a good mechanism for getting feedback on a regular basis. When I was out in Utah in January, I was talking to some authorly friends about it, and I decided to give it another whirl.

The current plan is to meet via Google Hangouts (or something like it) once a week. There will be 4-5 of us total, and submissions are capped at 5,000 words each. That means each week I’ll have up to 20,000 words to read and critique, which will certainly be an added item on my To Do list, but in return, I’ll get 5,000 words of my writing critiqued. Yay for that.

Better yet, the plan is to have our meetings during the day. Lunchtime here on the east coast. One of the biggest drawbacks of my last online writing group was that we typically didn’t start our meetings until around 9pm my time. (As I remember? I could be wrong on the exact start time . . .) We had members from Utah to Maine, and so it had to be late enough for people to get home from work in Utah and get kids squared away before we began. With this new writing group, we still span the country, but a good number of the members (all but me? not sure on that one) are full time writers. And if there’s one thing full time writers have going for them, it’s flexibility of schedule. So they’re all able to meet in the morning in Utah/Idaho, so that we can meet at lunch for me.

How am I going to carve out time to do this? Well, I already spend time each weekday jogging in place. (Yes, I’m still doing that.) I’ve actually been known to mute myself during phone conferences so that I can jog in place during them as well. Usually I’ll watch movies, tv shows, or Magic: The Gathering videos while I jog and eat my lunch. On Wednesdays I’ll just jog and offer writing critiques. In other words, my hope is that all I’ll be “giving up” for this is the time I’ll spend reading the submissions. And since I’ll count that toward my yearly goal of a book per week, even that won’t really be giving up time. The whole endeavor shouldn’t make an impact on my overall busy level.

In theory.

But even if it does, in practice I think it’s worth it. My approach to writing right now is to write a first draft of a novel and then shelve it for 6 months, at which point I drag it out, reread it, and give it a second draft. The only person’s input I typically receive on it is my own. From there, I send it off to my agent, and we bounce it back and forth for a while. My hope is that with some good critiques from a writing group, this will show a marked improvement in the process. Plus, writing is often a solitary process. It’s good to be able to hear from other writers. Double plus, I’m already a fan of two of the writers in my group, meaning I read their stuff anyway, and I really respect their skill level. (Even if one of them already admitted that they liked Parasite. I’m trying not to hold that against them . . .)

All-in-all, I’m pretty excited for the new adventure. Wish me luck!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Giving Up on Outlander

I always assure people that yes, I do have standards when it comes to what movies and media I’ll consume (even though my standards might be different than others’). Generally, my standards adhere more to quality than to content. The fact that something is well-written, impactful, and well-executed–storytelling at the top of its craft–is more important to me than anything else, and I’m willing to go a long ways with a show or movie the more it adheres to those high standards. I’m much more likely to abandon a show if I feel like it’s wasting my time. If the plot is formulaic, or if it all seems to just be running on rails, or if I feel like I’ve already gotten everything I want to from a show, then enough’s enough.

(In general, I’m an advocate for everyone deciding where they draw the line on what they will and won’t watch. I recognize that where I draw the line will be different from where other people draw it, and I have nothing against that (just as I would hope others would have nothing against where I draw the line). I respect people’s ability to decide for themselves what works and what doesn’t.)

But there are still times when I just decide even quality isn’t enough to keep me hanging around. Fleabag was one such instance. I’ve heard great things about it. It’s won multiple bit awards, but in the end, I just felt like the content of the show was something that was more than what I wanted to keep coming back for. There are so many wonderful things out there that I want to watch. Why should I spend time with something that I don’t just love? So I get that there’s likely something there I’m missing. That’s okay. I don’t like lobster, either. And just because everyone else thinks it’s an awesome food doesn’t mean that I have to order it from the menu ever again. It’s not you, lobster. It’s me.

I just gave up on another show over the weekend. I’d hung around with Outlander for a season. I enjoyed the time travel aspects of it, and the scenery was always worth a watch. It seemed to dwell on gratuitous sex and violence more than I would have preferred, but I’d heard good things about the show as a whole, so I kept with it. It’s done by Ronald Moore, the same creator behind the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and I was very curious to see what it was going to do with time travel as the series progressed. Yes, it’s heavy on the romance, but there was enough fighting and intrigue and historical tidbits to keep me interested.

The finale of Season 1, however, really pushed things beyond what I was willing to put up with. Some spoilers ahead, so if you’re thinking of watching the show in spite of my experience, you’ll want to selectively read the next part.

I have a fairly strong stomach, and a fairly strong bias against censoring things. I don’t recall the last time I skipped a scene for any reason. But Outlander’s first season finale made me lose that streak, as it spent something like 15-20 minutes dwelling on a sadistic torture/rape scene. It just kept coming back to it over and over and over. I finally started hitting the fast forward button, and I was glad I did, since the scenes lasted a long time even in then.

That scene was enough to make me begin to question just what was in store for me in the rest of the season. Was it worth hanging around for? I checked out the reviews on AV Club, and I discovered that while there were some A’s and B’s in the future, there were also a fair number of Cs and even some Ds. In spite of my hesitation, I watched the first few episodes of the next season, which trades Scotland for a Parisian setting. (Filmed in Prague, actually, but who’s counting?)

It took away one of the main draws the show had for me (that cool scenery) and traded it for a bunch of random subplots that didn’t really connect to anything. To compensate, it upped the sex, throwing it in gratuitously whenever it felt like things were getting slow. (Which was often.) Game of Thrones made the term “sexposition” famous, since it would throw exposition into the middle of sex scenes, so that people didn’t get bored. Outlander decided to ditch the exposition altogether and just have sex.

To make things even worse, the show started dipping into pure soap opera territory. Characters died and then came back from the dead. Dramatic developments abounded. Random coincidences left and right, all designed to heighten the tensions even more.

Enough was enough. There was no longer anything I could see worth hanging around for. Yes, I was still interested in the ultimate fate of the characters, but I wasn’t willing to slog through the rest of the show to get to those answers, especially when I wasn’t sure the answers were going to be worth the slog once I got there.

So I turned it off.

I know there are fans out there. More power to you. Let’s just say I’m leaving more of the show for you to enjoy. For now, I’m watching the third season of Mrs. Maisel. After that’s done, I think I’ll head over to the latest season of The Crown.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Green Eggs and Trump

For the past while, I’ve been toying with a Green Eggs and Ham approach to the election this year. Why? Because I’m easily amused, I suppose. And going on the assumption that some of you are easily amused as well, I now present to you:

Green Eggs and Trump

I’m a Chump. I’m a Chump. Chump for Trump.

That Chump-for-Trump! That Chump-for-Trump!

I do not like that Chump-for-Trump!

Would you like to stump for Trump?

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that horse’s rump.

Would you like his trades or wall?

I would not like his trades or wall.

I would not like that man at all.

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that pimple bump.

Should he stay inside the House?

He has such a lovely spouse.

I do not like him in the House.

Who cares about his lovely spouse?

I do not like his trades or wall.

I do not like that man at all.

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that racist lump.

Would you like him, for the Court?

Our judicial last resort!

Not for the Court. No last resort.

Not in the House. Not for his spouse.

I would not like his trades or wall.

I would not like that man at all.

I would not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that rotten grump.

Would you? Could you? For some cash?

Democrats will make us crash!

I would not, could not, for some cash.

You may like him, you will see.

Only he can contain Xi!

He cannot, will not, contain Xi.

Not for some cash! You let me be.

I do not like him, for the Court.

I do not like his golf resort.

I do not like him in the House.

I do not think about his spouse.

I do not like his trades or wall.

I do not like that man at all.

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that garbage dump.

The corps! The corps! The corps! The corps!

Could you, would you, for the corps?

Not for the corps! Not for XI!

Not for cash, Chump! Let me be!

I would not, could not, for the Court.

He will not be my last resort.

I will not like him in the House.

I will not like his trades or wall.

I will not like him in the fall.

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that moral slump.

Say! For health care? For good health care!

Would you, could you, for health care?

I would not, could not, for health care.

Would you, could you, for a war?

I would not, could not, for a war.

Not for health care. Not for the corps.

Not for some cash. Not against Xi.

I do not like him, Chump, you see.

Not in the House. Not for the court.

Not for his spouse. No last resort.

I will not like his trades or wall.

I do not like that man at all!

You do not want to stump for Trump?

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

Could you, would you, for the oil?

I would not, could not for the oil!

WIll you wear this hat tinfoil?

I will not wear that hat tinfoil.

I will not, will not, for the oil.

I will not like him for a war.

Not for health care! Not against Xi!

Not for some cash! You let me be!

I do not like him, for the Court.

He cannot be our last resort.

I will not like him in the House.

I do not think about his spouse.

I do not like his trades or wall.

I do not like that man at all!

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I do not like that Forrest Gump.

You do not like him. So you say.

Try him! Try him! And you may.

Try him and you may, I say.

Chump! If you let me be,

I will try him. You will see.

[Three seconds later]

Nope.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Joe Biden or Buttigieg

Either one I won’t begrudge.

Michael Bloomberg has my vote.

Warren is an antidote.

Tulsi Gabbard, Thomas Steyer:

Better than a garbage fire!

Klobuchar or Bernie Sanders

Vote for both! They would be grander.

I would vote for my friend, Daniel.

I’d elect a Cocker Spaniel!

I will not wear that hat tinfoil.

I will not, will not, for the oil.

I will not like him for a war.

Not for health care! Not against Xi!

Not for some cash! You let me be!

I do not like him, for the Court.

He cannot be our last resort.

I will not like him in the House.

I do not think about his spouse.

I do not like his trades or wall.

I do not like that man at all!

I do not like him, Chump-for-Trump.

I’ll never vote for Donald Trump.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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