Voices in Unison

Maybe it’s the environmental regulations that are being abandoned.  Maybe it’s the armed thugs who barged their way into an active legislature without being, at the very least, surrounded by SWAT if not arrested and hauled away.  Especially given that unarmed marginalized groups have largely suffered much worse while protesting peacefully, often while on their own land.  Maybe it’s that large corporations received huge sums of relief while small businesses continue to be shut out in the cold.  Maybe its that those same corporations have been blithely rewarding their shareholders and CEOs with record profit payouts while paying their employees poorly and, most certainly, not building a reserve to bridge this exact kind of downturn.  Maybe it’s that the tippy-top earners have seen their wealth grow by 200+ billion in the past few months while 36+ million people are suddenly unemployed and waiting for relief that may never come.  Maybe it’s the states that are purposefully ending their emergency orders in order to prevent people from collecting unemployment.  Maybe it’s the companies who call their employees ‘heroes’ but then turn around and refuse to pay them a living wage or to even give them proper protection.  Maybe it’s that trillions continue to be spent on military adventurism yet they resisted tooth and nail to spend anything to help the homefront.  Maybe it’s that there has been more domestic deaths now than there were in some of those wars (or things that started wars).

And maybe it’s just the general ineptitude, narcissistic nepotism, and the absconding of responsibility while claiming all the glory.  May you would just like leaders to be competent, thoughtful, and to, well, actually lead.

Maybe it is any of those things, and more, that have you, on some days, wanting to flip a table.  Yeah.  I feel you.  I’m there too.  This crisis has not only exacerbated the f-ed up parts of our system(s), but even more so has made them eminently visible.  It’s enough to sap one’s feeling of agency and the will to do right in the world.

But there is a salve.  While there are many conversations to be had to change the narratives we hold around these issues, it is equally and more worth remembering that these are and are held in place by systems, and specifically they are systems shaped and driven by policy.  And policy can be changed.  We have a kind of superpower we sometimes forget, and it is called the ballot box.   But, like everything else, it is only power if we use it.

If you live in the USA, please check out this YouTube channel aptly named:  How to Vote in Every State 2020.

And know that it may not be easy.  From closing polling places to misleading mailers to gerrymandered districts to limits on absentee ballots to onerous and unnecessary ID laws to dark money groups to all sorts of things, there are many forces trying to limit our voices.  And that doesn’t even count the day to day difficulty of managing work and childcare and everything else that renders our time a precious commodity, and adds to the strain of going to one of those limited voting spots and actually casting a ballot.  Democracy is being limited (and to be clear this is primarily and especially being done by right wing interests and legislators) because the less that we speak, and the less that we can speak, the easier it is for them to hold onto power.

Which is why it is important to start planning now.  Doing the work to register now so you can find what’s needed before the deadline comes.  Making plans with friends, family, co-workers now to ensure things will be covered that day such that and will you have a much higher chance to reach the poll to cast your ballot.  And maybe even to prepare some backup plans.

All so that we can get out there and get legislators and executives – nationally, stateside, and locally (All are important!  Most of what affects us on a day to day basis happens at the local level!) – to alter policy and set up the systems that work for the most good for the most people, moving the needle towards a more just, verdant, healthy, and equitable future.

Gaming Thursday

As you’ve likely noticed, I haven’t written anything further on crafting the ruleset for our upcoming Star Wars campaign.  That’s because the starting date got moved up a bunch and my time had to be focused on writing the rules rather than writing about the rules.  Our first session was last weekend and it went well!  And there’s already a few tweaks to make, which is cool and exciting – I knew there would be plenty of things to fix and refine and it’s great to do some honest actual playtesting!

I’m prepping like mad for this weekend’s game (and I need to make the opening crawl, of course), but I fully intend to return here to share the rules writing process, the nuances of the rules themselves, and to demonstrate how to take the core Aurora engine and craft an entire system out of it that supports the style of gameplay perfect for the game and campaign.

Until then, let’s talk a bit about… Kickstarters!

For the first, I got my copy of the Cortex Prime book (in PDF form) and W O W.  It is a thing of beauty in terms of graphic layout (and hopefully in terms of organization too… I haven’t given it a thorough enough read with a blank perspective to assess it yet).  I already had experience with the rules and liked them, so there was no disappointment there either.  But what really caught my eye and has me super thrilled was reading all the contributors.  Because many of them worked on other systems I have enjoyed, some of which were systems that they created.  Which means that these creators – and sellers! – of their own rules nonetheless helped develop and play with other rulesets and enjoy them.  It’s this great circle of everyone having fun and supporting each other (again, even if some might otherwise see them as “competitors”) and playing all sorts of different types of games and using the rulesets that support them.  That’s just super heartwarming to me.

For the second, a new campaign just launched today on Kickstarter for something that, if you’re picking up on the theme here by now, has me giddily excited:  an RPG based on the genre of Franco-Belgian graphic novels (aka bandes dessinée).

In other words, this is essentially the Tintin RPG, and if that isn’t 1000% right up my alley, I’m not sure what is.  Go and buy in!

Philosophy Tuesday

It wasn’t long ago that I was again mentioning this… but it’s very much worth a revisit right now:

For one:  We often (as in, nearly always) talk about “the economy” in the same way we talk about gravity, as some fundamental physical and organizing force in the universe that we have no choice but to follow its laws.  Yet, from the grandest galaxies to the humble quarks that form all matter, the economy is not present.

For two:  Therefore, the economy is nothing but our invention.

For three:  We invented the economy to serve us.  Not the other way around.

For four:  In other words, money is all pretend.  People are real.

For five: “When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character.  This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor.  But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw.  Stigmatize those who let people die, not those that struggle to live.”  — Sarah Kendzior  [To which I add, especially those who do so to enrich themselves.]

For six:  Continuing from the above, our belief about meritocracy has some serious downsides.  Namely that when we believe so much that things are, currently, truly, meritocratic, then it becomes easy to moralize and demonize people.  Especially since things are, currently, absolutely not very high on the meritocratic scale, especially when it comes to wealth and wellbeing, and even if things were, chance and happenstance play so much a role (compounding into the future) that it is still highly erroneous to ascribe saintliness or rottenness or slothness based on that metric.

For seven: If a system isn’t working for creating what we want in the future, then – remembering that we are the authors of it – we ought to alter the system.

For eight:  If we do think the system is working correctly, then say out loud how it operates in reality and what its results are, to be sure that it does indeed match our rhetoric.  If it does not, then we have a break in authenticity.

For nine:  We are the authors.   We often forget, and we often abdicate our role, but we are.  When we participate, when we create, when we make our presence and our mark known, when we work to building a community and the ideals we say we stand for, then we are mighty.

Architecture Monday

Wow, here’s another project that exudes an amazingly beautiful simplicity, sitting lightly on the land and calling outwards while not overbearing the beauty in which it sits and gazes upon.

A frame of pristine and shockingly white smoothness, this building basically speaks for itself.  And it’s the articulations of its otherwise-perfect form that really make the project, most noticeably the delicious inset stained-glass windows (and I do so much love stained-glass) with one (but not the same one, adding a touch of dynamism) on each side rising upwards to the steeply sloped roof.  On the outside, the window recesses are articulated further with angular cuts that carve out the insets, while on the inside, small niches and built-in benches (that pull down from the wall) give rhythm as your eye draws out to the completely windowed end, peering out towards the sculpturally-cast cross that sits surrounded by the immensity of nature beyond.

How the building changes in each season seems especially magical, the white forms contrasting in the summer and blending into the snowy landscape (yet still an object that draws the eye) in the winter.  There’s some magic in that.

Beautiful work. It may be of small proportions but it is of immense effect (but not in an ostentatious way), a place of quiet contemplation never separating itself from the world.  Great stuff.

Chapel Maria Magdalena by Sacher.Locicero.Architectes

(Complement this one with the Nossa Senhora de Fatima Chapel as well as Ando’s Church on the Water)

Architecture Monday

Nowadays, the word factory conjures up images of big and dark voids full of machinery that is, and the workers within are, much removed from delight and the world around it.  Not that it needs to be that way!  Not in the least.  Here’s one that accomplishes everything needed within (ie, making stuff) while being mighty fine for both the workers within and its neighbors and passers-by.

While in plan the building is in a very typical (and straight-edged) L-shaped configuration, with its vertically zig-zagging walls you’d never guess it, helped even further along by the great texture striations that embellish the protruding concrete wedges.  All around, the ground rises up to follow and meet these chiseled shapes.  Similarly, up top, the roof tips down to reveal a planted surface, studded with skylights.  Besides the great energy and maintenance benefits of the roof (coupled with the insulated thermal mass of the concrete walls), it helps the building blend into the nearby pine forest, especially for those peering out of the window as their plane departs from the nearby airport.

 

Inside the spaces are large and continuous, befitting its manufacturing purpose, broken up by inviting atriums that work double time to bring light deep into the interior.  Multiple paths, gardens, and more let the atriums be amazing spaces to view and use for the surrounding offices.  (Also… let us simply marvel at the horse-lamp and the pig-table…)

Great stuff and a sweet reminder that good design that honours us as people is possible no matter what type of building.

Coffee Production Plant by Khmaladze Architects

Odd Nostalgia

I miss flame wars.  (Weird thing to say, I know, bear with me…)

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that term, or seen it used in any fashion to describe something happening online.  So long, in fact, that I wonder if I need to define it because there may be some reading this who are not familiar with the term at all:  A lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum or other discussion area.(src)

But wait, you say, that definition doesn’t sound unfamiliar.  Not at all in fact.  That kind of thing happens – well, it happens all the time.

Exactly.  That’s just it.

I don’t miss flame wars per se, and I certainly don’t miss the animosity and the vitriol, I miss the fact that they used to be rare enough, confined enough, and specific enough that they had their own term to differentiate them from the more ‘normal’ online interactions.

There were certain topics that were known to be flamebait.  Or occasionally a thread may strangely devolve into a flaming pile, full of hyperbole, personal attacks, and back and forth screaming.  But they were outliers.  Today, it seems that just about everything can, and often does, devolve to that level.  It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve lost the need for any specific name for it.  It’s just “the comment section.”  Or “Twitter.”  Or “Tuesday.”  Post you don’t like a certain kind of cake?  Look out…

So that’s really what I miss (while fully acknowledging all the rose coloured glasses effect that goes along with nostalgia):  A time when flame wars were flame wars, and there was still a greater chance than not for good faith discussions.  Discussions that might well become quite heated, but nonetheless remained squarely in that realm.

 

* To give an example, there’s this one online forum for D&D that I occasionally frequent… my usual thing is to read the first page or two to get a sense of the discussion, then jump to the last few pages to see what consensus seems to be forming.  Or, at least, that’s what I envision.  Instead, those last few pages have typically become five random posters hurling barbs and insults back and forth ad nauseum.  Most unfortunate.