22 November 2014

Elven Intellectualism

Re-watching The Desolation of Smaug and the elven torture scene got me thinking about Elven Intellectualism. 

The idea of alignment in D&D is fairly straightforward:
Source: http://throughThePrism.blogspot.com
  • You are either good, evil, or neutral.
  • That orientation, is determined by one of three worldviews: Law & Order (lawful); Good & Evil (chaotic); Libertarian (neutral)

The whole system is easily systematized and graphed (see right), and play follows general rules proscribed by the logic of this system.  Players generally play good (or perhaps neutral) characters, so wanton slaughter of innocents is reserved (again generally) for the monsters, and quests to save personages of historical significance, or more often to enrich PCs personally, are undertaken.

Others, and in particular Degolar, from whom I swiped this rendition of the chart, have put more thought into the concept and viability of alignment theory for socio-philosophic application.  Just search "Alignment Matrix D&D" on google image search, at the poster meme of applying alignment to fiction and real world environs is readily apparent.

I want to think instead about the historicity of alignment.  Namely, how good and evil (and law and chaos) might be affected by the passage of time. 

If you're a person who is capable of (or perhaps it's fairer to say 'in the habit of') thinking historically, or if you're an elf, who has lived through centuries and millennia, and passed time has warped notions of good and evil, law and chaos: what then might alignment mean to you individually, and socially?

Note: this is a work in progress, and will be continued (and perhaps even concluded!), but I wanted to get the thinking out their in its nascent form for consideration...

02 November 2014

Vote Happy

Election Day will soon be upon us, once again.  Milwaukee has a Socialist running for Sheriff (she seems really lovely, smart, and on the right side of history!), and a Green Party candidate for State Treasurer (and in September, his numbers were pretty okay!).

In this sad/silly era of bought & sold candidates, dangerous zealots (as well as more clown-ish zealots), and a political campaign and lobbying system that encourages corruption, a progressive looking for genuine reform options often doesn't know which way to turn.  Of course, Democrats being in charge of things is less bad than Republicans.  So, the sensible choice seems to vote for Democrats in close races, and vote more radically (Greens, Socialists, liberal Independents) when it's expedient.  The fear-mongering lessons of Ralph Nader loom large, despite the fact that they're misguided.

Nationally, there are a lot of interesting races.  That said, the US House is guaranteed to remain in Republican hands, despite the fact that more people will probably end up voting for Democrats.  Thank you gerrymandering.

Unfortunately, the same reason can't be given for why the Senate seems poised to fall into Republican hands as well.  Though it would be awesome, wouldn't it?  To re-draw the state lines to re-organize people into more culturally appropriate regions? 

  • East and West Dakota - East Dakota would be a 40 or so mile wide strip surrounding the I-29 corridor, stretching from Grand Forks all the way down to Kansas City (anything north of GF we can give to Canada).
  • Up North - the northern part of Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with the UP.
    Source: www.pastemagazine.com
  • The Middle Bit - a utopic plot of mostly rural farmland, focusing primarily on the biography of me, including Clinton, Wisconsin, stretching up north to Madison, then over to Decorah, Iowa, then up to Minneapolis.  It looks a bit like those Tetris pieces that go down one, over one, down one again (see picture, except the other one, and turned vertically).
  • Austin, Texas - Austin, Texas.
  • Yellowstone - Just a really cool state to visit.  First bear governor.
  • Iraq - I know we're mostly moved out, but it's time to start colonizing, people.

The State of Wisconsin has a useful resource for figuring out what all is going to be on your ballot

At the top of the ballot, of course, is the Mary Burke / Scott Walker race for Governor.  This one will come down to turnout, and while I'm not overly excited about Mary Burke, she's the choice.

Down the ballot a ways is our rootin'-tootin' Sheriff Clarke, running against Angela Walker.  It seems the last time the Journal Sentinel deigned to mention her in an article was August 8th, when Chris Moews was being backed against the gun-loving sheriff by Michael Bloomberg. 

14 September 2014

Thoughtless Chess

This afternoon, I invented a new game, "Thoughtless Chess".  You probably own this game already, though you may not have realized it.  The game is played on a standard chess board, with the standard chess pieces, and the pieces move exactly like they do in the normal game.

The difference, is the player.  The rules of Thoughtless Chess are few:

Source: theliftedbrow.com
  1. Of utmost importance is to realize that the object of Thoughtless Chess is not to win (nor to lose).  The object is to let the game unfold as it will, and see what happens.  There is an infinite number of possibilities for a game of chess - the goal of Thoughtless Chess is to create a random, human-generated chess match (though don't intentionally be random - see rule #2)
  2. You must make your move in a very short amount of time; and you are not permitted to plan or strategize your move (or future moves).
    • Patterns are permitted ("I feel like annihilating all of the pawns", or "I wonder how long I can go without taking a piece", etc.); any such patterns, which seem to be amounting toward a larger strategy should be called out, by any player or observer.  If that person can articulate the strategy being enacted, the player who is carrying out should desist, and will be shunned with pursed lips and shaken heads.
  3. While moves should not take time to plan, the players should be mindful of legal moves later in the game.  A player in check must make a move to get out of check.  After an initial check and un-check, however, a follow-up check is no more likely than any other eventuality (at least theoretically).
Chess theory is a long, proud tradition - The Lifted Brow published the image above as part of a lengthy investigation of the chess scene in Blade Runner (I know, you're probably saying, like I was, what chess scene in Blade Runner).  Poorly written villains use chess as a metaphor for the game of life (at least the sort of life where there is royalty and expendable little people).

Chess is a beautiful, noble game.  Players furrow their brows and stroke their chins to show how deeply they are considering their options.  Thoughtless Chess is an opportunity to experience the game itself, without the pesky mind games.

30 August 2014

Lake Express

Riding on the Lake Express Ferry for the first time.  We’ve just left behind the last of the birds doing the “Boat Challenge”, which I assume is a contest which consists of a dare to outrace the ferry for as long as possible.  Once the Lake Express gets up to its full cruising speed, it’s passing even the fastest moving birds like they’re standing still… except they’re flying parallel to the ship.

The Wisconsin coastline is still very visible, and Michigan, up ahead, is still just a vague notion.  At the mid-point, I’ll show you what both coasts look like.
It’s an odd blend of people on the ferry this morning.  There is a palpable sense of adventure to many of the groups.  It’s difficult to pin down any generalizations about the socio-economic status of Lake Express-ers.  Even more difficult to figure out is any kind of cultural mean.  There are a couple of foreigners, several “older couples”, a smattering of little kids with a parent or two, and a biker couple.  There are several people dressed like drifters, and an inordinate number of people wearing bright neon, which makes me constantly mistake them for crew members.  I can’t figure why they chose such bright attire, whether it’s their norm, or they felt it was befitting the water voyage.
The terminal, naturally, has the ooky borderland feel that almost any kind of station has.  A multitude of ennui from the people waiting, coupled with the dense feeling of mass anticipation, makes any transit hub a jumble of weighty unpleasant-ness.  Airports are particularly interesting examples of this, because the ‘average’ passenger is so much more bourgeois.  You expect a certain amount (that amount being large) of heavy despair when you’re at a bus station, but when you’re at an airport, it doesn’t seem quite as ‘natural’.  That sense of despair and foreboding is foreign for most passengers preparing to fly, and they don’t like it, and they don’t know where it’s coming from.
Now that we’re en route, though, things are looking up.  The side to side* canting of the boat aside (I’m riding up top), the ominous feel of the terminal is left behind, and the anticipation of arrival has captured the collective imagination of the passengers.  The air up here is heavy with humidity, but feels good, in conjunction with steady wind, and the forthcoming sunshine from Michigan (as you can see, the sun has long since risen, but not above the cloud-line quite yet) gives the trip a sense of hope.

* As I typed “side-to-side”, I tried to cast back to my nautical terminology, but only came up with port and starboard (which I think is back and left – a la JFK)… I then looked at the bottom of my shoe, because one of my pairs of shoes (boat shoes, natch) has the labels for all 4 directions of boating terminology (I think a third is aft – I can’t discover the fourth yet).

04 August 2014

On Tim

Reading through The Wind Through the Keyhole tonight - the story (within a story) of the brave boy, Tim, on a grand quest.  In terms of volume numbers, it means I'm more than half way through The Dark Tower series for another pass.  In terms of page numbers, I'm not so sure I'm there yet.

Before I'd tuned back in, I'd flipped on About Time, which I think is my new favorite terrible great movie from the folks at Working Title Pictures.  Man, they no terribly good movies (or goodly terribly movies).  In this latest mastersluice, a mild-mannered ginger named Tim, is told at a coming of age New Year's Day that he and the men-folk in his family are capable of autobiographic time travel.  Tim, being a Tim, uses this power to optimize his life and the life of those around him.

Tim is a noble name, with literary and historic pedigree.  I think timothy is some kind of grass.  Something understated and cool. 

I think there was probably a Timothy in the bible, and I'm quite sure there was a Saint Timothy, though I can't say what he helps folks out with. 

There's Tiny Tim - who may be no Little Nell - but certainly is one of the more obnoxious fictional characters in history... But he has such a good heart...

I can't think of a single villain named Tim (though when I asked google the same question, they introduced me to @timTheVillain twitter feed).  At the same time, I know of no super-heroes named Tim (maybe a alter ego) , no 'Great Men' who wear the name come immediately to mind. 

Instead, when Tim is a hero, he is an unexpected hero.  He's someone who rises from the everyday to perform the extraordinary.  Tim defies odds.  No one ever expects it to be Tim.

That I have a brother named Tim, of course, makes this a topic near to mind.  I'm not sure how well my theory holds for the non-fictional world.  Tim Curry, Tim Duncan, Tim Johnson, Tiny Tim (ukulele, not crutches)...  not sure what kind of conclusions to draw, but to paraphrase the Byrd:

A Tim to weep, and a Tim to laugh; a Tim to mourn, and a Tim to dance;
A Tim to cast away stones, and a Tim to gather stones together (useful when there's another Tim around casting them away); a Tim to embrace, and a Tim to refrain from embracing

Now all we need is a Tim to comment...

26 June 2014

Environmental Theory

Of late there has been a ghastly pall of fog drifting over the spires of downtown Milwaukee (also, I've been reading some H.P. Lovecraft).

I hadn't given it much thought until
Brooke asked about it this morning, musing (sorry - HP) that the cause had something to do with the lake temperature, and theorizing that this perma-mist would last through the summer until the overall lake temp rose sufficiently to no longer need to release it's loamy essence. 

I said the theory sounds sound. But it certainly looks cool to me. And befitting my current reading. 

27 April 2014

Star Trek - the Chronology

An attempt (again, wildly incomplete until it's not) to watch the Star Trek Universe chronologically.  A straightforward version exists on Wikipedia.  Others have put together lists as well, which do good work.  I'm curious about how such a viewing alters the experience - not recommended for the uninitiated.

I would love some help with this, if anyone is a Trekkie novel buff, for example.  There is real value in seeing things in new ways.  Seeing  the Star Trek world in its imagined unfolding, from our past to our present and future, helps envision what Roddenberry's world might have to offer us, if we were to work toward inhabiting this future.

I'll make note of when to watch in particular episodes in [bold face in brackets].  Real world dates will be outlined in 'far left' italics.  I'll track watching //within slashes//, both in the timeline and viewing notes

3.5 Billion Years BCE

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24-25)
  • Q and JL bond at the erstwhile beginning of life.  [Briefly near the end of episode 24 (22 min. from end on Netflix)]

2731 BCE Era (approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock and Bones bounce back to some Ice Age era, when humans may or may not exist in the world (and it may not be earth).
Spock's ability to overcome his primal instincts, which are taking over throughout the episode, is the earliest (chronologically, at least) example of the common Star Trek theme that people are a product of their environments much more than they are innately good or evil (or greedy, etc.).  This is an important Utopian theme that runs throughout the series.  The implication is that if we can successfully build a good and just world, people will become good and just naturally.  It's an argument for creating the change that we want to see in the world, and trusting that we inhabitants of that world will deserve it, eventually. //4.29.14//

 16__ (very approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Kirk lands in a sort of late-17th Century version of the English Restoration-style religious fanaticism.

"Time's Arrow" - ST: TNG 
  • "Maybe it's worth giving up cigars for, after all"- Mark Twain ca. 2369 (in response to Counselor Troi's explanation of how the 24th Century has eliminated poverty, despair, hopelessness, and power run amok generally).
One of the 19th Century's greatest humanists remarks on the achievement of the humanist project (at least seemingly) in the Star Trek universe. //5.5.14//


"The City on the Edge of Tomorrow" - ST (Season 1: 28)
  • The re-write of this episode famously has Kirk making the ultimate decision to allow his new love, Edith Keeler, to die, rather than his being held back from saving her (to the detriment of the entire future) by Spock.


"Storm Front" - ST: E (Season 4:1-2)
  • An alternate history in which Germany occupies the Eastern United States during the Second World War.
At times it's obnoxiously utopian, reading the racist/sexist American 1940s as magically cured by a common enemy.


2269 - StartDate 5943.7
"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock recognizes (and accepts) he can't go back to the ice age he's been longing for...

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • "Encounter at Farpoint" - JL's arrival on the Enterprise [Throughout Pt. 1]
Picard comes across a bit crazy in these moments, which is cool.  Interesting will be to view this episode alongside "Farpoint" when the chronology gets there. //4.26.14//
- StartDate 479.88 
"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Worf and Deanna days - JL in a low-cut gray shirt [Throughout Pt. 1]


"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Jean Luc's present - in the Vineyard, and beyond - (25 years after JL and Geordi served together) [Throughout Pt. 1]. Troi is dead, unmarried to both Riker and Worf.