Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Critic's Nightmare

I came to a realization last weekend while I sat in the audience and watched a concert given by the Louisville Winds*, of which my youngest plays in.

It was a pops oriented concert with a lot of standard wind ensemble fare --John Williams soundtracks mixed in with arrangements of some older popular tunes-- and then this made an appearance:

Oh yes. 

MacArthur Park, that song written by Jimmy "Wichita Lineman" Webb that Richard Harris sung in 1968.

I'm being generous when I say it's a song, because to a lot of people --myself included-- that song feels like so much pretentious bullshit. 

While introducing the piece, the Winds' music director admitted that the song has its detractors, but she programmed it anyway. And much to my chagrin while the Winds played, there were people humming along or softly singing the lyrics. Including my wife.** 

Okay, I thought, I'm going to have to re-evaluate a few things.

I got on good ol' Google and punched in the "is MacArthur Park one of the worst songs" query, and got a Wikipedia link to an aggregate list of songs across the decades that groups have considered "the worst songs ever". Among the songs on that list were:

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Beatles
True by Spandau Ballet
Sussudio by Phil Collins
Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice
What's Up? by 4 Non Blondes
Barbie Girl by Aqua
Nookie by Limp Bizkit
You're Beautiful by James Blunt
Rockstar by Nickelback
Yummy by Justin Bieber
and of course MacArthur Park.

What, no Bee Gees? No Kajagoogoo?

I sighed and listened once more to Richard Harris' rendition of MacArthur Park, searching for why that song resonated with so many people. 

To be fair, you can tell the song was written and orchestrated with an American Musical in mind. Richard Harris had just starred in movie version of Camelot, so he was used to singing in that manner, as can be seen with his rendition of Camelot on the Ed Sullivan show:

And yes, the orchestration of MacArthur Park is overdone in a way that would resurface years later in The Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station, and an orchestration that according to the liner notes of The Best of the Grateful Dead CD the band hated.

So I could see how it pushed all the right buttons at the right time which catapulted the song into global popularity, but to a lot of people --including me-- the song is just pretentious bullshit.


And THAT was when it hit me: ALL music is just pretentious bullshit to somebody.

It's more a matter of the reality being that you can't please everybody, so what one person loves another person hates. Sometimes popularity breeds contempt, such as how Toto's Africa was so overplayed in the early 80s that I simply couldn't listen to it for well over a decade.*** Other times a generation came of age hating that what the previous generation liked, such as how those of us who lived through Disco as kids grew up despising the stuff, yet the generation after us was quite okay with Disco.****

Even some of our generation came out as being fine with Disco. Such as the Foo Fighters.

I guess I should have known better, since after all I'm a huge Rush fan. Rush is one of those bands that had a cult following, yet were frequently dissed by the major music critics of the day. 

So that I liked a band that was often overlooked or dissed by the music tastemakers should have given me the clue that it's okay to like something other people don't, and that maybe songs or bands I don't like do have some merit after all. 


Yes, I can roll this back to gaming... and pretty much everywhere. Outrage and dismissiveness brings eyeballs to whatever you're opining about, and in this modern internet world the concept of shades of gray seems to frequently get thrown out the window. 

This little revelation is just a corollary to the black and white we paint ourselves into, because it's so much easier to view things through that lens rather than actually use our noggin and understand the shades of gray***** that life is populated with. 

From XKCD #2184.

*A community driven wind ensemble in Louisville (naturally), composed of people from high schoolers up through retirees. It's not affiliated with the University of Louisville, but several students in the School of Music play in the Winds and that's how my youngest found out about it.

**I knew she liked the song, but I figured she was an outlier.

***And in the strange case of deja vu, Weezer's rendition had the same fate. Good thing I don't listen to the radio that much these days or I'd have been driven crazy by the same song twice in my lifetime.

****My wife and I were at a wedding in the late 90s, and one of the people at our table at the reception worked as a DJ in his spare time. When Stayin' Alive came on during the reception, we watched in stunned amazement as all of these teenagers flooded the dance floor. "Oh yes," our table-mate informed us, "the teenagers all love this disco crap. I put on Disco Inferno on request once, and all of these big high school football players ran out onto the floor and were boogieing away, doing the Saturday Night Fever dances."

*****Or the 50 Shades of Grey. /rimshot

Monday, May 29, 2023

Meme Monday: Outdoor Memes

As Monday is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of Summer here in the US, I figured that it'd be a good idea to mix RPGs, video games, and the outdoors. Because.... why not?

Having done a bit of hiking,
I can attest to watching where
you're going. From 9GAG.

From Pinterest.

Time to embark on that
great adventure...
From fyxt.

And for those that need to go
outside a bit more...
From imgflip.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Another six months have passed, and I figured I ought to check in with an update as to how ol' Red is doing.

I had a checkup in April with my Cardiologist and in early May with my primary care physician, and both were pleased with my progress. I've maintained a steady weight* and exercise, and my shoulder and knee are behaving themselves. My physician wants me to begin adjusting my medication so I can start weaning myself off of the insulin, and now that my son's graduation is finished I intend to start that process. 

Of course, my medications occasionally kick me in the ass and I end up spending the night in the bathroom, but considering the alternative I'm okay with this side effect.

Hey, I take that drug!
From ifunny.co.


Let's talk about the rest of it all.

It's been a year and a half since my life has been upended, and while physically I've done quite well --my body's stubborn inability to push past this weight I've been stuck at for 8-9 months notwithstanding-- my brain is finally realizing that this is going to be my situation for the rest of my life. I could cope quite easily with that first year, because I had to spend time learning how to deal with my new condition and being hyper vigilant to any changes. Now that I have more than a full year's cycle under my belt, I'm starting to unclench a bit, but that has also allowed the enormity of the situation I'm in to seep into my consciousness. 

I suppose it's not a great surprise, then, that people with chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension are at greater risk for depression. 

And I completely understand this, even before mental issues kicked my ass. Trust me on this one.

I'd be foolish to not admit that my bout of congestive heart failure has also taken a mental toll on me, with the long term survival rate of people with congestive heart failure having an on average a 10 year survival rate of 35%. On the bright side, the younger a person is who has had a bout of CHF the greater the chance of long term survival. So my having congestive heart failure at age 52, being less than age 65, works in my favor. Kinda sorta, but I feel like it all evens out in the end; people who are over 65 might not live that long but if you're under 65 you do but that gets you caught up, age-wise, to about the same age as the over 65 person kicking the bucket. For example, someone aged 55 has a better chance of survival and they live another 20 years, that gets them to 75. Then, someone aged 65 lives only 10 years and they live until age... 75. 

So, like someone who is diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I do have a time limit on my lifespan. It's not a question of if, but when.**

All of that knowledge doesn't exactly help with this:

Uh... Thanks, I think. But is the Sindorei
the person I'm supposed to have a fling with?
Knowing Elves, I'm pretty sure she's NOT
younger than me. (From this Etsy site.
I'm seriously impressed.)

Yeah, helluva time to have a midlife crisis. Although I suppose you could argue that it might not be a mid-life crisis but a full blown "rest of your life" crisis.

"You have my axe..."
From 9GAG.

As I pointed out in the links above, this is not an unusual situation to be in. And I totally understand that. That doesn't exactly make things easier, but it makes it understandable. From there, I can cope.

In a bizarre way, playing WoW Classic Era has been a panacea because I don't have to worry about any external pressure to perform to a standard that I can't maintain without a lot of effort. (If at all.) Without any existential fear of letting the raid down --or worse, getting "The Talk"-- I can at least hang out and just be me for a while.

Not you again.

Okay, I'll pretend to be someone else for a while. Happy now, Card?

Anyway, I now have yet another thing to keep track of going forward. Barring any other surprises, however, my cardiologist expects to see me on a yearly basis, and my primary care physician concurs. Carry on carrying on, I suppose.

*Occasionally my weight drifts upward, and an extra diuretic pill takes care of that. Before you ask, yes, my Cardiologist told me to do that if I have weight gain without any changes to my diet or exercise, and that excess water will get flushed out. It's only if that isn't working then I'm to give her a call.

**Okay, we all have a time limit. As the old saying goes, we start to die as soon as we're born. Still, the direct knowledge that I know what will kill me in the end isn't exactly comforting.

EtA: Replaced "older" with "younger". Older, younger, same difference, right?

Thursday, May 25, 2023

They Actually Did It Part Two: Preach-ing to the Converted

Okay, excuse the bad pun.

Preach of Preach Gaming came out with a video that does a pretty good job of explaining why some of the WoW Classic playerbase has gone ballistic over the introduction of the Wrath Classic WoW Token:

Of course, if you are part of a progression raid team and don't partake in GDKP, the introduction of the WoW Token won't have an impact on your ability to play Wrath Classic. (Myself, for example.) However, there will be inflation in the prices found in the Auction House, and that might just have an impact on me.

After all, I'd like to do the Quel'Delar questline on Linnawyn at some point, but I do realize that given my history of getting that Battered Hilt to drop* I'd expect the AH to be selling said Hilt for well over what I paid for it back in the day. Then the question becomes "Do I want to farm for the gold to buy the Battered Hilt on the Auction House, or do I want to buy gold via the WoW Token?"

Or maybe a better question is, "Is it worth it to try to recapture some magic from the old days when I know it's destined for failure?"

At this point, I'm starting to think that it's not worth it. Era has been a shot of adrenaline to my system, and I'd be foolish to give that up.

*Narrator: It didn't drop for Quintalan in original Wrath, and Q had to pony up 5000 gold on the Auction House for the Battered Hilt.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

They Actually Did It

Well, MadSeasonShow was right.

In addition to the return of Joyous Journeys to Wrath of the Lich King Classic, there was this little ditty hidden below the top of the news section:


The WoW Token has come to WOTLK Classic, which means you can pay money to buy a WoW Token for Wrath Classic, and in turn sell the token to buy gold in game. You don't need to go spend money on a third party site, just give it to Blizz instead.

The details upon clicking are this:

So the Token is for Wrath Classic only --for now-- but I guess you can go out and buy your way into Ulduar runs legally via in-game gold you purchased by selling said WoW Tokens.

To say there are some unhappy people is an understatement. Reddit's r/classicwow has suspended their rule banning promotion of private servers, and it wouldn't shock me if Blizzard gets ClassicWow suspended shortly for promotion of basically pirated content.

This won't end well.

I kind of presume that Blizz is adding the Wrath WoW token to not only boost their bottom line, but they figure that people will come back when Icecrown Citadel opens and they'll want to gear up as quickly as possible. Or, to be blunt about it, to pay people to get them geared as quickly as possible.

Or to put it a third way, the Kingslayer title is now officially for sale via GDKP runs and carries, with Blizzard approving. For Blizz to keep the Random Dungeon Finder out and bring the WoW Token to Wrath Classic, I have to wonder who Blizz was listening to. Most of the heat generated over Wrath Classic was from the RDF, not from any lack of the WoW Token. But the Token directly generates profit for Activision Blizzard, and the RDF does not.

Oh well. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Big Problem of Epic Proportions

There are only so many times the characters can save the world before it becomes old hat.
--AD&D 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (1989), page 123.

That little quote from the 2E DMG highlights a big problem in a lot of consumable media today. Every conflict has to have bigger and bigger stakes, and each movie or book or game's conflict has to be earth shattering to draw your attention and give the protagonists something to do. While I realize that some might blame this on the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe --or Star Wars, for that matter-- this issue of constantly raising the stakes has been a staple of SF&F for decades. 

Works such as Lord of the Rings, Dune, and Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories have all had epic consequences that result in a heightened form of dramatic tension. Even Michael Moorcock's Elric short stories, while typically not so epic in scope, over the course of the cycle build toward a world shattering conclusion in the sixth collection, Stormbringer. You could even make the argument that stories that may not have such dire circumstances, such as Isaac Asimov's original Nightfall or The Martian Way, still present a conflict epic in scope.

Yes, yes, I know, it's right there in the name "Epic Fantasy". Duh.

The thing is, the SF&F genre and the media industry as a whole (movies, television, video games) has a big epic problem: everything needs to be epic in scope or in conflict.

And to borrow that oft used term from The Incredibles, if everything is epic, nothing is.

Yes, this one is back again...

I didn't realize just how pervasive this was until I started rummaging around the SF&F section of bookstores, looking for something new to read after being away from the fiction section of bookstores for several years. The shelves were full of massive tomes with taglines such as "Every age must come to an end" or "The greatest sagas are written in blood" and... I couldn't get excited about any of them.

That lack of interest has nothing to do with who is writing, and neither does it have to do with the setting. I'm sure that some people would tell me that it's because of "woke" culture or a "politically correct" setting or some other bullshit answer, but the thing is, I don't have issues with any of that. Yes, I read a lot of "Classic" SF&F back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s* so I have my street cred, and I have absolutely no issues with new voices or settings for Science Fiction or Fantasy. It's just that I'm tired of the same old "the world/universe/nation needs saving" Epic story trope, because in the end the stakes are of the same variety that I've seen countless times by now. 

And video games aren't exactly helping.

I've said it before about World of Warcraft and it bears repeating now: I prefer the original, vanilla version of WoW because of the overall lack of an Epic plot to the extent the expansions put into place. Sure, there are storylines riddled throughout the leveling areas, but nothing so laser focused on an epic conflict to the extent that you see in the latter expansions. You've got Nefarian, C'thun, and Kel'Thuzad, but you didn't have two continents' worth of quests focused on the storylines behind those three. That lack of an overall epic narrative meant you could forge your own story, picking and choosing what to do and where to go, without having an overarching epic story to direct you.

Let's be honest here: video games and novels are one thing, and movies are quite another. I mean, look at the tons of movies and shows that are churned out year after year in the MCU alone, not to mention the DC Universe or Star Wars. Everything is epic in nature where the MCU is involved, and even a movie such as Captain America: The First Avenger Goes Fishing would somehow turn Steve Rodgers' catch of the day into an epic worthy of Ernest Hemingway. 

I had no idea this existed... I SWEAR!!!
From a YouTube video by Reel Hazardous.

But therein lies the blandness of it all: you've seen this story a few times, and it all starts to blend together. And trust me, given the amount of books, video games, and movies I've consumed over the decades, I've seen far more than just a few versions of the same trope. 

I need to be perfectly clear: I'm not saying that "[insert content here] sucks", I'm saying that I'm tired of these stories. These books could be incredibly well written, the video games programmed and designed to an exquisite degree, or the movies insanely well crafted, it's just that I've seen it all before. And to get my attention something else needs to be done. 

What doesn't need to be done is do what's been done to death in video games: the moving goalposts problem. You play a video game with an epic story, finally defeat the big bad, and then either in the final cutscene or a lead-in to the next expansion/installment in the series there's a revelation that "it wasn't this Big Bad who was behind everything, it's this NEW Big Bad!" 

Or the "Princess is in another castle!" meme.
From knowyourmeme.com.

Or you saved your town in this video game? Now you get to save an entire province! Then the next expac is "Now you have to save your country!" Then "the world!" Then "You now have to save the Afterlife!" (Oh wait, that's Shadowlands...)

That's a huge trap that authors and developers alike fall into, where the stakes have to ratcheted up more and more to keep people's attention. (After Infinity War, what then, Marvel? Multiverse Mayhem? Well crap, that's exactly what they're doing now...)


What's the solution? Hell if I know.

And besides, if I did know the way out of this, do you think that publishers and developers and producers would be beating a path to my door? Oh HELL no. Right now, the sound of dollars from the people who consume their content is louder than anything I can say or do. If I've learned anything in this world, content creators want a sure bet on where to put their money, and it's a lot easier betting on the same old same old than trying something new. Of course, game companies discovered that breaking their games up into pieces got them a lot more money than release it all at once...

Dorkly, don't ever change.

That doesn't mean that I've turned into a costume drama loving highbrow (or lowbrow, or midbrow-or-whatever the Hallmark Channel fits into) consumer, it's just that I want something more than what we've got right now. 

It also doesn't mean I want to eschew standard novel formats and instead go with modern novel constructs; I had to read Virginia Woolf in an English class at university and that experience alone put me off of reading any novels designed to be "modern" for a couple of decades. The English professor who taught the class I read Mrs. Dalloway in warned us away from taking his Modern Novel class, because non-English majors sign up expecting to get to read modern popular novels, but that isn't anything at all what they actually read.

Probably the best way to put it is that maybe the sentiment "go big or go home" is missing the point: perhaps not going all out will result in a better story. 

*And part of the end of the 00s/beginning of the 10s.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Meme Monday: Allergy Memes

If you're like me, seasonal allergies kick your ass multiple times per year.

The one major drawback to my son's graduation last week was that Meadville, Pennsylvania, where Allegheny College is located, is in the middle of their big pollen bloom for the Spring. And for me, that was, well, kind of hellish.

"Just when you think you're done with seasonal allergies, they drag you back in!"
--Michael Corleone, maybe

So in honor of those who scarf down a bottle of Zyrtec every Spring and Fall...

Yeah, kid, I feel it too.
From Science.abc.

From imgflip.

Don't get me wrong, Benadryl works.
Faaar too well. From izismile.

Yeah, Geralt, I get it. Really do. If
you're a hypochondriac, Covid offers
a whole new set of paranoid fantasies.
From Reddit via mematic.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Lessons You Learn Along The Way

It's funny just how much our perceptions and playstyles are influenced by those first early hours playing a game.

For example, when I first started playing a Cleric on my recently concluded 20+ year D&D campaign, we faced an enemy that decidedly had the upper hand on us. Our Fighters and Rogue had whiffed repeatedly, and the enemy we were engaged with was getting ready for a killing blow against one of us. My Cleric was all out of spells, and the only thing he could do was make an attack with his spear (he was a Cleric of Zeus, hence the spear as the chosen weapon). My Cleric charged in, hoping just to get a hit in and distract the enemy, but I rolled a natural 20. Then I hit on the critical roll, and, well, the enemy dropped.

Out of that little fiasco, my Cleric learned that charging into battle with spear out was a good thing, so he began to use that early and often. Not exactly the smartest thing for your Cleric to do, but hey, it worked that first time and he just kind of ran with it.

This happened four years before
Leeroy Jenkins! From ifunny.co.

Fast forward to my first year of playing World of Warcraft, and I was in Souldat's small friends and family guild that was a holdover from Burning Crusade. Sometime when my Paladin was in his mid....20s (maybe?)... we had someone new join the guild. Seems the guy was originally Alliance and decided to switch to Horde, so Soul offered him a spot. No big deal, I thought.

A day or two later, Soul and I were on and the guy logged in. After a minute or two of pleasantries, the guy asked if we had any spare bags he could have. Quintalan wasn't a Tailor*, and I said as much, and Soul didn't have any spare bags either.

"Oh," the guy said, and faded into the background.

Soul whispered me a short time later saying he couldn't believe that this guy would want to mooch off of us like that. "We're Horde," he said, "not doing it yourself is an Alliance thing to do."

"I didn't know that," I replied.

"Yeah. Back when WoW started, most people played Alliance, and those of us who played Horde had to stick together because if we didn't we were going to get overwhelmed. It made us strong and self-reliant."

I had no reason to doubt the truth of it, so quietly I acknowledged his side of things.

While I still have no idea whether Soul's comment about how outnumbered the Horde were back in the day really was true or not, what I do know is that little exchange did impact the way I played MMOs for a long time. Namely it was to never depend on other people for help in game, and to do things yourself instead of asking for help.

Who knew Blanche Dubois was Alliance?
From UtterDigital.com and QuoteMaster.

The strange thing is that I've no qualms at all as far as giving assistance to someone in need --I mean, I've been known to assist members of the opposing faction if it looks like they're going to lose to a mob-- so the fact that I'm happy to give help but not receive it is kind of... odd. So if my questing buddy ever has wondered about the origin story of my reluctance to ask for help, now you know. 


Of course, I now play on the Alliance side, and outside of some quests from the Forsaken there's not much difference playing either faction in the various forms of Classic WoW.** But you know, that didn't matter. My mind was already biased.

In the almost 14 years since I've started playing MMOs, I've found those few offhand comments have had a huge impact on how I approach this genre. I still prefer to do as many things on my own as possible, and I've even taken that to an extreme by not using any assists from Wowhead or other third party player aids for quests. Well, within reason; I do set a mental timer for trying to figure out a quest, and if I exceed that timer I pull out Wowhead and bitch a little bit while I research. 

But that's me, and I think it's important to note that these internal biases are simply that --a bias toward a certain viewpoint-- that might not be, well, correct. I'm not talking about "politically correct", but rather "actually correct". Since I don't know what the status of Horde vs Alliance population was back in the day, I can't really say whether Horde was significantly outnumbered to any degree. I also can't make the assumption that the "do it all yourself" mentality would arise from being outnumbered; on the face of it, you'd expect any group that was outnumbered to share resources and information more than normal, because communication would be key (especially on a PvP server, like Stormscale-US is).

I have this gut feeling that the underlying event that influenced my playing behavior wasn't a real one. Oh, I'm sure that Soul probably believed what he was telling me, but I've a suspicion that he played that way and used circumstances as justification for that playstyle when it's entirely possible that the playstyle actually encouraged the opposite behavior among the Horde in those early days. 

Still, without any real data, it's all conjecture.  

Not this Data, but the data. /sigh
From memegenerator.net.


So what does this all mean?

Well, that our internal biases can be based on unreliable information, for starters.

That's a polite way of saying "what we believe in is frequently based on bullshit." Doesn't matter where the bullshit originated or who said/repeated it, bullshit is still bullshit.

Another point to consider is that everybody is susceptible to this problem. Again, it doesn't matter who you are, you can spew bad information quite easily if you believe in it.

The question then becomes how do you fix the problem with biases?

That, I don't know. I wish I did, but I've discovered that people don't like it when you point out the flaw in their own beliefs. Nobody likes to be told they are an idiot; no matter how nicely you polish it, it's still a turd that people will refuse to accept. And if you bring in religion or politics or race into the mix, you might as well drop some TNT onto the mess.

Maybe some compassion all around would be helpful, but there are always assholes who look to exploit any compassion for personal benefit. (Again, look at religion, politics, and race for numerous examples.) But maybe, just maybe, getting people to figure out the mistakes on their own would be most helpful, because the realization comes from within rather than being told what to do by someone else, which can make people resentful.

Why do I say that might work? Because it does for me. 

I haven't changed my self-reliant playstyle (much), but I am more open to reaching out for and accepting help than I have in a long time. I'm sure that my questing buddy is having a good laugh about this right now, because it sure doesn't seem like I've changed very much, but when I figured out what I know now the ego that fueled my playstyle kind of deflated and went, "Oh...." Which isn't a bad thing, because egos do deserve to be deflated from time to time.

So... baby steps, I guess.

*He was a Miner and Jewelcrafter, for the record. Originally Inscription, but Jewelcrafting was much more lucrative.

**Cataclysm, naturally, changed all that. Those changes to the story in the Old World are big part of the reason why I don't play Retail, but you knew all of that.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Meme Monday: Rogue Memes

Despite my love of Mages and Clerics, I do like playing Rogues.

My last Retail WoW main was a Rogue, Azshandra, who made a reappearance as both my first WoW Classic toon and my first new WoW Classic Era toon. I've also played Rogues --or their equivalent-- in Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and Elder Scrolls Online.

I may take playing Rogues seriously, but not so seriously that I can't laugh at them. Or their memes.

Okay, this is the Dad Joke of memes, right here.
It's from several places on the net.

I do love the scouting capabilities
of Rogues, but I truly do appreciate
their innate ability to resist backstabbing
their teammates.
From Pinterest.

Rogues in WoW and other games
do have that ability to sap someone,
which can drive enemy players absolutely
bonkers. I know, because it used to do that
to me! From memesboy.com.

But far and away the calling card
of a Rogue is being able to move in
the shadows and stab people
to death when they least expect it.
From fakeposters.com

And one bonus meme:

Oh yes, this. Except when you leveled straight
back in Mists and went from Cata at L85 to
the first Mists of Pandaria zone in quest greens.
Oh boy, was that one ugly. From the
Otherworldly Incantations FB group.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Wheel of Time Moves On...

...and ages pass.

When Souldat and I began this blog in 2009, the mini-Reds were 6, 8, and 11. 

They are now 19, 22, and 24.

This past weekend my son graduated from college, and armed with his Bachelor's degree in History, will be attending graduate school in the fall to work on his Master's degree.

In his time away at college, 
he got into paining minis.
(From John Kovalic's Dork Tower.)

And he plays FFXIV. When he asked if I was going to attend Gen Con this year, he mentioned that at least one of his guildies was planning on attending. (Heh.)

He put a version of this, from
Final Fantasy XIV, on his cap.

Congrats, kid. Onward and upward.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

What the F is Filk?

If you're not familiar with the term "filk", it's a specific subgenre of music that references SF&F media, placing the SF&F topic into a musical framework. We're not talking about a soundtrack, or even something like Toss a Coin to Your Witcher...

...but typically a replacement of lyrics of an already existing piece of music.* Like oh, say, replacing the lyrics in the Beatles' song Penny Lane with an ode to Middle-earth:

From my copy of The Tolkien Scrapbook,
Page 144. Apparently a lot of people
on Goodreads don't understand that
The Tolkien Scrapbook's origins
are long before Tolkien himself was
ever taken seriously by academia,
much less the Peter Jackson films.

Filk appeared with the rise of the SF&F convention scene, and I suppose you could argue that the bastardization of the words "folk music" is where "filk" got it's name. My guess is that we're talking about, oh, the 1960s or so given the rise of folk music in the popular consciousness at the time. 

Despite it's age, some people have issues wrapping their heads around filk; even if they are inclined to accept cosplay there tend to be raised eyebrows at filk songs and performers. My suspicion is that because cosplay is primarily a visual medium --and let's be honest, there are a lot of attractive cosplayers out there-- it's easier to accept cosplay than filk. 

You get the idea.
From BlizzardTerrak
via Pinterest.

Now, if you like your football/soccer, you're probably familiar with the replacement --or insertion-- of lyrics specific to your team, such as that found with such creative editing of Classical Music or Hymns, so the basic concept isn't completely unfamiliar to people. This isn't the adoption of an existing song as your club's theme song, such as Cincinnati Bengals' Welcome to the Jungle, Liverpool FC's You'll Never Walk Alone, or Crystal Palace's Glad all Over by The Dave Clark Five,

but something like a full version of this sort of thing, taking the melody from Land of Hope and Glory to tell Nottingham Forest (among others) to go piss off:


You're probably wondering where the hell this post came from, and I'll be honest this wasn't what I had in mind when I sat down to write on Tuesday. (That post will come later.) In this case, I pulled up YouTube to listen to something --I was originally thinking of something mellow to get through my morning workload, such as French Impressionistic pieces, but instead this old chestnut appeared on my feed:

And so I went down that rabbit hole for the next half hour, listening to piece after piece, because when you start YouTube just starts throwing everything vaguely similar at you.

A lot of those pieces are listed as "WoW Parody" or "[insert franchise here] Parody", which I guess filk could fall under,

but I also would argue that the term parody makes light of what is clearly a labor of love. It's fine for the music to be self-aware and not take itself seriously, but I typically think of a parody as something that can be easily dismissed when people want to discuss "real music". Sometimes, however, the "real music" gets overshadowed by the parody to the point where the parody is more well known than the original piece it was based on, such as Weird Al's I Lost on Jeopardy eclipsing The Greg Kihn Band's (Our Love's in) Jeopardy

This isn't a plea for filk to be taken seriously --after all, it already has its own website at Bowling Green State University in northwest Ohio-- but more a celebration of the form. Or raising some visibility to it.

Locally we have a true community radio station, WAIF-FM 88.3 MHz. There are only a handful of community radio stations in the US these days where you can donate money, become a member, and actually get air time for your show/program. These are distinctly different than public radio stations, which are far more organized and tend to be affiliated with colleges/universities or other non-profit organizations. Community radio stations are just that; they take their mission very seriously, even if the programs themselves can skew very oddball at times. (I personally recommend listening to the Rockin' and Surfin' Show on Saturday nights; if you like your surf music, you'll love that show.)


And when I said anybody could put on a program, I meant anybody. Back when I first started working in IT in the mid-late 90s, I knew a guy from work who had a radio show on WAIF that was strictly filk music. You might think that a once a week hour long show might run out of filk music to play after a short time, but he was able to come up with new filk pieces on a regular basis. I've no idea when he stopped producing the show as it's no longer on their lineup, but it's still a nice reminder that there have been people out there, raising filk music's visibility.

So have a couple of pieces of filk music for your day...

It wouldn't be Christmas without
HP Lovecraft, I suppose...

For those Honor Harrington fans...

And it wouldn't be a filk session
without a Star Trek song, by way
of Kermit the Frog...

*That's not to say that some people don't expand the definition of "filk" to cover new pieces of music based on SF&F topics. Or RPG topics. Or video game topics. I mean, there is the band Harry and the Potters, after all.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Meme Monday: Video Game RPG Memes

If you're like me you have played your share of RPG video games. I'm old enough that I played Colossal Cave Adventure back in 1981 on a remote teletype machine at a neighbor's house, Tunnels of Doom on the TI-99 4/A Home Computer, and even programmed in video game adventures for said TI Home Computer in BASIC and Extended BASIC to play.* 

Ah, Tunnels of Doom. My old friend.
Now the question is whether I have a
working cassette tape player to save
my progress. From Necropraxis.

So there are memes out there. 

Lots and lots of memes. 

Here are just a few of them.

I am most definitely NOT a
speedrunner. I realize some people
derive enjoyment from blasting
through a game, but that is most
definitely NOT me. From imgflip.

And this is why I don't have my
"Show Helm" option selected if
at all possible. Well, also because
a lot of helm artwork is pretty crappy.
From Cheezburger.

This is one of the reasons why I'm
not a fan of this staple of the RPG
genre (and MMOs in particular).
From Reddit.

And speaking of staples, why is it that
the best item(s) in a video game tend
to drop at the end? You'd think that you'd
want to find the best weapon in the game to
then go and defeat the Big Bad.
From imgur.

*Thus starting my interest and eventual career in IT.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Musings on God Mode and Other Pay-to-Win Items

(Congrats to Mage for winning the 149th Kentucky Derby. Sometimes you can't make these names up, and as I teased my questing buddy, "Alas there isn't a horse named Druid." "I would totally name a horse Warlock though," was her reply.)

Although I'm sure that some of my fellow bloggers --you know who you are-- would disagree, the original Nintendo Entertainment System came too late to draw my (or my friends') interest. It released in the US the Winter of my junior year of high school, and I was far more interested in what video games were at the local arcade girls, music, and cars than a new game console imported from Japan.* Still, my brother --who is 2.5 years younger than me-- was more in the NES' orbit. He managed to scrounge enough money together while he was in college to purchase one (~1990), and amassed quite a few games. Alas, my brother had issues finishing some of the games he had, so he eventually bit the bullet and bought a Game Genie to assist him in finishing those games.

You know, this.
From Wikipedia.

He once described what to me was a hilarious encounter with Nintendo customer support about a game he was playing (using said Game Genie) and was experiencing a technical issue in the game. "We don't support those devices," he was rather frostily told and then the customer support person hung up.

"What the hell did you expect?" I told him.

"I thought it was worth a try."

"Come on, it's a device designed to cheat at the games by providing you with god mode; why would they want to support anything like that?"

"I SAID it was worth a try."

I dropped my next bit of needling, because I could see I was getting under his skin. I was the more physically active of the two of us, and while my dad rode me hard on improving at the sports I played, he rode my brother even more for most definitely NOT being any good at sports.** So I'm sure that insecurity fed into the purchase of a Game Genie, and the more athletically inclined older brother teasing him about it didn't help.


I've been thinking about the humble Game Genie lately because of all of the so-called Pay to Win systems inherent in a lot of video games these days. I'm not talking about difficulty settings, because those were designed with varying skill and coordination abilities in mind, but paid systems that give a player a boost over their competitors (in a multiplayer game) or the environment  (in a single player game). The Game Genie proved that people were willing to pay for an "unfair" advantage over many NES games in the same fashion as that cheat code you could input into Sim City 2000 to get a ton of free money.***

Or, even older than that, people who used juiced dice or marked decks of cards to cheat at so-called games of chance. The difference here is that you're paying someone --whether a third party or the game company itself-- to provide the advantage.

Yes, this is a video designed with magic and
in mind, but cards such as this have been
used in the past by swindlers working
a crowd of people for easy money.

No, this sort of behavior didn't magically appear with mobile games or MMOs, and I think it's good to remember that apparently it is part of human nature to attempt to find advantages like that. And if it's not a part of human nature, then why is it so prevalent? Because it's learned behavior and somehow okay to seek every advantage possible, whether or not it is considered an unfair advantage?

And really, if it's considered okay to seek every advantage, is there really such a thing as an unfair advantage in any competition at all?

From imgflip.

I do have my own spirit of what I consider to be fair play,**** so I'm not speaking for myself, but I am playing devil's advocate here. Is it really an unfair advantage if the game company itself sells the advantage? That lack of morality and/or ethics surrounding cash shop items that impact a video game --whether mobile, single player, or multiplayer/MMO-- is what gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. If you are poor and you can't afford to pay for the extra items in a cash shop but your richer opponent can, how is that not a form of class privilege? When your inability to pay extra leaves you at a disadvantage against wealthier opponents, that certainly does imply that your social class affects your ability to win. The game company obviously has no ethical issues selling the products, given that they run the cash shop, and given the way companies are currently run it certainly seems like anything is ethical if it makes the investors happy. 

Still, in the end it falls on the players as the ultimate arbiter as to whether something is ethical or not. Whales notwithstanding, if nobody plays your game and nobody buys anything, a game company can't remain afloat for long. 

*To be perfectly honest, I struck out on the girls part. And my car, well... A 1976 Plymouth Volaré is not the definition of a cool car. More like the opposite, in fact.

The 1976 version of the Plymouth
Volaré and Dodge Aspen twins.
The Volaré is on top, and ours was
silver that was so faded that it was
repainted. And that repaint was faded!
From this article by Curbside Classics.

**Yes, Shintar, you can insert the "Gee Red, your parents were kind of shitty" comment right here. I totally and completely agree with you on this. That being said, my brother was on the chess team at his high school and holy crap could he wipe the floor with me. I spent hours unsuccessfully trying to beat him (and my dad), and I was understandably jealous of that sheer skill that seemed to have skipped me entirely.

***Hold down the SHIFT key and type "FUND", and you'll get something like $100,000. Maybe more, as I can't recall the exact amount. Or, if you wanted to be naughty, holding down the SHIFT key and typing "PORN" will cause the game to play a voice saying "Makin' looove!!" My wife was not pleased when I discovered THAT little easter egg, although she has since mellowed out on that point.

****And yes, I realize I'm a bit more hardcore about what I consider to be fair play than most. I mean, I'm the guy who said I would have passed on receiving a legendary item when I was a raid lead because I felt the optics behind a raid lead getting a legendary item were quite poor. You already know about why I volunteered to switch to a Shaman in TBC Classic so I don't need to rehash that, but you probably don't know about the amount of pushback that I got from people (especially those in positions of authority) who told me point blank that they had no qualms about making other people in the raid level toons instead of them. The attitude I got was more akin to something you'd hear Leona "Taxes are for the little people" Helmsley say than anything else.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Meme Monday: Evony Memes

I was perusing memes that I'd saved for the ::Wink Wink:: Meme Monday, and I stumbled across a meme about Evony. 

You remember Evony, don't you? The "Play Me, My Lord" graphic that basically showed a pair of breasts? FOR A CITY BUILDING AND BATTLE GAME??!!

This is one of the milder ads.
From arhg.net.

Well, although there's actually a website detailing the evolution of the Evony ads, there's also quite a few Evony memes floating around. Even today.

From knowyourmeme.com.

What you'd have expected if the ads were real!
From knowyourmeme.com (Again!).

Thank you, Kojiro, for this parody.
From Kojiro from DeviantArt.

And Nerfnow.com provides a funny
Reverse Evony...