You might know them, but they don’t know you.

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So, apparently Anne Wheaton started to receive harassment because she offered cash support to Feminist Frequency, and once the inevitable creepy tweets started, she decided to donate extra for every jerk she had to mute.

Then, inevitably:

Apparently, this ridiculous threat is a copypasta meme, and that supposedly means that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. Wheaton was supposed to recognize it, then dismiss it as a non-issue.

But really, even if she’d recognized it (I’d never heard of it before), why should she write it off? It’s coming from a (now-suspended) user account that she knows nothing about. Why’s the burden on her to make assumptions about strangers?

Yeah, a big part of the answer to that last question is “Sexism,” but other more knowledgeable people can address that better than I can. I’d rather talk about illusory internet friendships.

I’ve seen people on social media shit-mouth writers, artists, and actors as though they were old college pals who talked trash all the time. I’ve seen fans of a TV show criticize the creators in the most outrageous ways. And I’ve seen authors and other non-celebrities asking people not to glom onto them in public spaces.

Yes, the anonymity of the internet contributes to these problems, but too often I’ve seen people insisting they were not trolling, not trying to be awful. They’re just being friendly with someone they know, and were treating the person the way they treat their friends: with good-natured ribbing and straight talk. Sometimes the harassers act like casual acquaintances; not friends, but people who know you and feel they have the social capital to set you straight.

And that’s the problem: because they have someone in their social media, they think they have them in their social circle.

The thing is, it’s only friendly trash-talk if the recipient thinks it is. And while the trash-talker might have donated to cover a vet bill, or have closely followed months of complaints about a contractor, or a child’s learning disability, or a new job, the recipient might not know that person at all.

Now, to be clear, it’s unlikely that Wheaton’s harasser was simply misguided, treating her like a pal. It seems pretty obvious that he’s a straight up shit eater. The people I’m talking about are the hangers-on, who slide into her mentions telling her how she’s supposed to feel about a threat against her life. I’m also talking about the times John Scalzi has posted pictures out his hotel room windows while on book tours, then had to ask people not to track him down and stalk him in the lobby. I’m talking about the people who drove Damon Lindelof off Twitter because they didn’t like the last episode of LOST; in fact, if Lindelof’s harassers had faced, in real life, the sort of contempt they showed, over something as minor as their shoes or their haircut, they’d have been griping about it to their friends for a week. But they felt perfectly comfortable lashing out at him over a project he spent years of his life creating, which they got to watch for free.

This isn’t to say that people should never try to interact with others online–or that they should be obsequious about it–just that it’s important to understand that it’s the recipient who decides how “jokes” and criticisms will be interpreted.

Actually, that’s a useful writing tip in general, but never mind.

Randomness for 4/23

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1) The day Hank Aaron’s bodyguard didn’t shoot.

2) Onlookers mistake fallen construction crane at Dallas Museum of Art as an art installation.

3) Yelp reviews of new-born babies.

4) A person is creating 3d printing templates for every creature in the Monster Manual.

5) The simple brilliance of David Aja. This dude is half of the reason that the Hawkeye comic has been so amazing. I really love the design sense that artists bring to comics now. They’re so much more interesting than they used to be.

6) Why don’t our brains explode when we see movie cuts? (What a sensible way to phrase that question.)

7) Pictures of food that very little kids “can’t eat” and why.

Amazon is having a huge sale on tabletop games

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I don’t usually pay attention to the sales that Amazon puts on, but this one is interesting: a big sale on tabletop board and card games.

“Up to 50%”, they say. I always love that “up to”. Obviously, it’s better to buy them at a local gaming shop (assuming you have access to one) because most have a library of games and let you try them out in the store.

Still, Ticket to Ride and Labyrinth are fantastic games, and I’ve become kinda obsessed with the iPad version of Sentinels of the Multiverse, since the fam doesn’t really like superheroes and I prefer to let the software track everything (SotM can be complicated to track).

And if you like RPGs, Fate Core is on the second page. Have I mentioned that I’m working on a Fate Core rpg supplement for The Great Way and Key/Egg? They’re Kickstarter rewards, and I should be typing in those documents rather than this one.

In fact, I think I’ll go do that now. In the meantime, check out my books.

Spoiler-free: Marvel’s Daredevil

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I wasn’t originally planning to stay up overnight to watch DAREDEVIL, but frustration with my current WIP and a 20% off deal on beer at my local supermarket seemed to suggest that the world was conspiring to make me blow off a little steam. Which I did.

There won’t be any serious spoilers in this post, but I do want to talk about it in a general way. The show does several things very well:

In the first few episodes, Foggy is charismatic as hell. His relationship with Matt is funny and real, and the delight they take in their interplay contrasts powerfully with the pain in disillusionment they feel as the story progresses. And he’s not the only one. This show is really well cast.

Obviously, D’Onofrio has the flashiest role as Wilson Fisk, the crimelord villain of the piece, and he plays it against type. Instead of the smooth and commanding figure of the comics (and the previous movie), he plays Fisk as perpetually awkward and uncomfortable, without any of the presence and charisma of movie crime bosses. It’s a weird choice; it undercuts the power and efficacy of the show’s antagonists, making them seem less threatening.

But this isn’t really about the power fantasy of overcoming a seemingly unbeatable foe. There are power fantasy elements, obviously, but the show wisely undercuts them. For instance, after a (blessedly brief) origin scene which lasts less than two minutes, the show cuts to Matt Murdoch in the confessional, talking for at least three times the length of that “origin” scene about his dad, his father’s boxing career, and the violence he had inside him. The show is much more concerned with the characters’ histories, their damage, and their vulnerabilities than they are in feats of power.

Not that there aren’t plenty of fight scenes. There are, and they’re also well done. Guys who choreograph ARROW, take note.

Early trailers had a lot of viewers complaining that Daredevil was sporting all black with a Dread Pirate Roberts mask rather than the costume from the comics, but once the costume shows up, it doesn’t look nearly as cool as that black suit did. Sorry, I’m a DD fan, too, of a sort, but the simple black costume was way more effective than the devil suit.

But what really makes this show work is the paranoia and helpless despair the characters have to endure in the face of wealth and power in a thoroughly corrupt system. No one can be trusted. No one is safe. The hero can venture out in a mask and kick the crap out of bad guys, but he takes a helluva beating doing it.

Frankly, this is the first superhero show/movie to capture a winning noir tone since BATMAN BEGINS. Everyone, heroes and villains alike, are in tenuous positions. Everyone has loved ones they fear for. Everyone has powers working against them. Everyone thinks of themselves as the hero.

It’s a good show. I recommend it.

Randomness for 4/9

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1) A map of all the places mentioned in Tom Waits songs.

2) An autobiographical webcomic imagining Conan the Barbarian as a spirit guide.

3) Reader, I LOL-ed. Reaction Table: High Level Cleric of Law Asked to Raise Dead Associate(s).

4) Every Frame a Painting on film editing, video essays, and creating narrative. Video.

5) When Nerf Modding goes too far.

6) Understanding Art: The Death of Socrates. Video. Interesting to see a tool as simple as masking in Photoshop used to such good effect.

7) Risky Date: a lesson in a webcomic.

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented an art form, and it’s awful

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For a long while now, I’ve believed that tabletop rpgs were an art form in its infancy, and that there’s a potential for gaming sessions to be a kind of performance art based around collaborative improvisational narrative.

I also think that, as art, rpgs are mostly terrible and have been since their beginning. Recently, that’s begun to change.

Last Sunday night, my game group wrapped up a campaign in a fun and satisfying way (don’t worry, I won’t tell you about it[1]). How amazingly different it was from the games I played as a teenager.

I’m old enough to have played D&D before it became AD&D, and while I had fun[3], the game itself was a crude simulation of the books I loved. It was all numbers, hex paper, and moving little figures around. My friends and I moved to a new, simpler system[4] that struck us as more realistic, but we still played dungeon crawl after dungeon crawl.

After many years and a shitload of other systems, we moved to superhero games, which gave us narratives beyond “Kick down the door and murder everyone inside, then take their stuff” although it was hard to break the characters from their lawless power-gaming habits. We had fun, but a spectator would have been bored out of their minds.

And thanks to YouTube, people are playing games for spectators. I’m not going to link the ones I’ve seen, but most are as interesting as a dude telling you about a workout routine he’s thinking of doing later[5]. In short, it’s the worst art imaginable: lifeless, irrelevant, and utterly lacking in enjoyment for people outside the circle of players.

Before games become actual art, they’re going to have to become pop art[6]. They’re going to have to become as fun as pulp adventure, and at the moment, (typically) they’re not. But! Games have changed. They’re much more collaborative and focused on narrative than they were when I got into games, and I’m sure there’s someone out there, somewhere, making collaborative improvisational narrative art with the verve of the old pulps.

Which brings us to this:

Will this be the kind of pulp adventure fun that can grow into something more serious? Well, it’s combining something I really enjoyed (Thundarr) with something I hated except for the boobs (Heavy Metal), and it’s Wil Wheaton. Also: Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. So maybe.

Of course, Wheaton has already aired a two-part gaming session, and there are lessons to be learned from that show. Have they been? I guess we’ll see[7].

What about my gaming session from last Sunday? It was art, and I sure as hell enjoyed it. However, it also was not designed to be a performance the way that Wheaton’s is, or those guys who record their sessions and post them on YouTube.

I guess the question is: What would have to change in role-playing games for them to become art that could be enjoyed by people who aren’t playing? I do have some ideas.

[1] Probably.[2]
[2] And isn’t that part of the problem? If you describe a great movie, you can make it sound wonderful. Describing a game session? OMG, get this weirdo away from me.
[3] Like most activities you do, the fun comes mostly from the people you do it with not the activity itself.
[4] The Fantasy Trip, by Metagaming, if you care
[5] “First I’m going to do five push ups, then flip over and do five crunches, then roll over for more pushups, without any pause, and I’m going to keep doing that wait where are you going…”
[6] Video games don’t count. I’m talking about tabletop now.
[7] And by “we’ll see” I mean “someone else will have to watch it and tell me how it goes.”

This is the way football ends

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It’s been a few weeks since this news report came out, and I’ve been wanting to comment on it, but life keeps getting in the way. But here it is: NFL player’s retirement at 24 prompts new debate about football concussions.

Borland was the fourth NFL player age 30 or younger to retire in a week… the article states, and while age 30 is pretty old for a game where players have careers that average 3.2 years (although the NFL disputes that number) that’s a lot of people dropping out in a short time.

And this is the way that football could actually fade away: not by legislative ban, and not by organized activism. It’s by young men who decide that the damage is serious and can’t be ignored, viewers who change the channel, and parents who refuse to let their kids play.

Randomness for 3/31

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1) Man trolls bookstore w/ fake self-help book covers.

2) A super-tall webcomic about unhappy stories.

3) Double space after a period? Single space? A history.

4) Arnold Schwarzenegger went to reddit to encourage a guy who had a rough day at the gym.

5) Joy Division + Teletubbies = This video

6) A businessman’s affair with his secretary, meticulously documented.

7) Thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon eye remedy proves effective against MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria.

Randomness for 3/15

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1) Movie posters redesigned using only circles.

2) Completely amazing: All the silences in an episode of Dr. Phil. Video.

3) An analysis of one of The Dark Knight’s action sequences, to examine why so many people found it incoherent. Video.

4) Concepts With Which Boys at Parties Have Asked Me if I’m Familiar: a Spreadsheet

5) Best OKCupid profile ever.

6) A brand new thirteen-story apartment building in Shanghai tipped over. Only one death, because the building was so new it was unoccupied.

7) Ten “Things You Didn’t Know” about Led Zeppelin IV.