Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Just before I sat down to write this I, on a whim, looked at my other subscribed blogs.  Just about all of them stopped 4 years ago like some mysterious force swept across the land leaving only a few scattered survivors in its wake.

I have annihilation fantasies.  It is one of those things.

So that Fergison thing is happening.  I've wanted to write about it ever since the first night of protests but I couldn't quite grapple onto what I wanted to say.  After all it would be easy to just go the, "pigs bad.  toys bad. capitalization and proper punctuation bad. lootars bad. everything bad."  But that's not what I do.  Well okay I do that sometimes but it isn't something I wanted to do right now.  To be honest I still want to write about the topic and yet I don't.  Well not really.  Instead I want to pull the camera back and take a look at the broader picture cause that's where its at.

Mostly though I want to talk about the problems with the police.  There are certain things that once you see them you remain effected by them for the rest of your life.  For me that is the French film La Haine which is about the day after a race riot in Paris and three unusually racially divers friends living out their day.  The movie has a lot of messages in it but the biggest one is the utterly unbalanced power relation between people, particularly poor people, and the police.  The other big issue is what to do about that power imbalance.  The movie doesn't give out any easy answers on everything and as the years roll by I find that the movie itself remains distressingly relavant.  I'm going to get back to this.

I'd like to pull back even further and talk about the Police's role in society.  Were I to ask that question to the class someone would shoot up their hand and say, "To serve and protect".  That's not really their role in society though.  That is how they achieve their role in society.  There is a difference between the two.  Their actual role in society is to preserve the order of that society.  That may seem strange but I'll break it down a bit.

The idea behind the police is that they will act as a neutral third party for when you've been wronged and they are the first step in the process of making it right.  So if I were to get robbed the police would dedicate resources to finding my stuff, returning it to me, and punishing the wrongdoer.  This work on all levels from robbery up to murder.  It is the comfort that there are people out there who possess the resources and the training to help me so I don't "have to take matters into my own hands".  We may give cops a lot of shit, hell even to much shit if that will make you feel better, but a cops response is almost universally better than taking matters into your own hands.  Look up the Hatsfields and McCoys feud that went on for years and caused a lot of death all because outsiders couldn't maintain order.  Or there is this wonderful man.  The point I would like to emphasize in this article is that he shot them while they were trying to flee.  They were running he was in no danger.  The woman surrendered and he decided to shoot her anyway.  Speaking of which to find this news story I googled man kills thief.  I had plenty of stories to choose from.

This is why we need the police.

The police may do some crazy shit.  But it isn't anything nearly as bad as what we would do to each other without them.  The interesting thing about the police is that we don't seem to need that many of them  On average we only have 17 police per 10,000 residents.  That's mostly for larger cities for smaller ones the ratio is even lower.  If we were to all violently rise up the cops would be fucked.  Even if we were to half assedly kinda rise up but not very violently we get things like Fergison.  However, in general we like our order.  It brings us comfort and security and the police are supposed to be here to help maintain comfort and security.  When things like Rodney King, The Zoot Suit Riots, Fergison happen it is because there is no longer any faith that order can be maintained.  When this happens it is a result of a cascade failure on the officers to do their job properly.  They have one job.  To maintain civil society.  To aid in the maintenance of civil society they both serve the citizens and they protect them.

So why does it go so fucking wrong?

I have opinions on answers!  YAY!

Lets do the easiest one first.  We need to stop using Police Officers as nannies.  This is a pro police officer point!  I wanted to start with it because it think it is the most critical.  Police Officers joined the force to uphold the law.  Yet they spend most of their time sitting around writing speeding tickets, checking for seat belts, telling kids to turn their damn music down, shuffling around drunks, and parking tickets.  This helps no one.  It doesn't help the public because it means that the public will be subjected to a parade to tiny annoyances that are going to fester until it turns into "fuck the police".  Our very own Gulf Breeze brags about how they gleefully pull over people going less than 5 miles over the legal limit and you know what?  Everyone hates them and their asshole cops.  Cause lets face it officers went through about two years of training.  They are men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for us.  They will try their damndest to keep us safe and sitting around doing shit work isn't one of those things.

It eats at you.  Worst it eats at us.  After enough traffic stops, trumped up moving violations, or someone tut tutting us because our tags are expired we can't help but think that cops are not here to serve and protect but instead to harass and annoy.  Our respect for them wanes.  There are any number of ways to deal with this problem everything from a separate force akin to meter maids to a probationary period that officers go through before becoming full fledged officers.  The point being is that the people who enforce silly bs nanny laws can't be the same people who will be showing up to domestic disputes, helping car accident victims, et cetera et cetera.  These people are supposed to be professionals give them the respect they reserve and maybe they won't feel the need to take their frustrations out on us.

NEXT! I just flipped a coin and we got the brotherhood of silence thing that cops do.  The vast majority of cops are good people who are good at their jobs...even if you are black.  There is a long history in this country of cops abusing their power and these cops in particular have always been.  Nothing new.  Even if you were to take my above example you'd still get the bad eggs.  However, cops are hesitant to rat out other cops.  This is for two reasons.  One good one bad.  The bad reason is that it makes other officers not be able to trust you yadda yadda yadda I shouldn't have to spell it out.  The good reason is because officers are under an unreasonable amount of regulations.  Those regulations don't fit reality.  They don't even come close and hey sometimes shit gets a little bit to real and you gotta take actions that don't exactly fit within the regulations.  Me?  I'm a dishwasher at a corporate owned retirement home.  There are all sorts of silly rules that I should follow that I don't.  The difference is that officers literally make life and grievous bodily harm and possibly death choices.  They do so quickly and being raked over the coals for doing so sucks.

However, there is a cynic in me and I can't help but think that the "brother hood of silence" thing is mostly pushed by shit cops.  Just a gut feeling.  It also doesn't help that cops have no incentive to tell the truth.  Traditionally it comes down to the officer's word versus mine and he's been entrusted with the authority to maintain the peace soooo why would he lie?  It is his job not to!  Officers need a better way of reporting misconduct and police departments need more tools available to keep cops in line.

There is the training issue but I don't feel like going into that.  Police need to be trained better.  They need to be evaluated more often, and blah blah blah.  The media has latched onto this point you don't need me for it.

Lastly, there are quite a few cops out there who need a fucking attitude adjustment.   Do what I say and you don't get hurt is what a mugger say to a victim.  Also he "gaurntees that we will come out alright but it might involve some forced cavity searches.  Cause you know forced cavity searches.  I could go on with the butt stuff (which is sad) but the point is that this is not something an officer should say to a citizen.  It is time for Cops to relearn that they are not the boss of us.  We are allowed to film you no matter how much you may not like it.  You are not allowed to search my bag, my car, my house, or me without a warrant.  If we aren't breaking any laws and I mean real laws then back off and go do something important.  It is not up to us to just curl up in a ball and take it so that we can go through the proper channels later because it is your sole job to make sure that this doesn't happen in the first place.  It is not my job to placate cops with attitude problems.

Most officers are good people who do a good job.  However, sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they are thrust into situations that they are under trained to handle, and sometimes they look the other way while their co-workers commit monstrous injustices.  When I originally was going to write this blog I was going to say if you look the other way while something horrible happens you are no better than a nazi but that's a rather pathetic take on a complex issue.  None of us know how we'd react until we are in that situation.  That said they need to do better because the buck stops with them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Let's Switch Gears Pathfinder time!

Originally when I was going to write this post I was going to write about something serious like depression, suicide, Gaza, the flood of refugees hitting our boarders and how we are still calling them immigrants, how frustrated I am with President Obama, or racism.  Then I realized deep down that I didn't really want to write about any of these topics and so I am going to switch to Pathfinder.

I've been into roleplaying games in one form or another my entire life though it wasn't until middle school that I got to take my first hesitant steps into running a game.  I've both run and played games on and off ever since.  I'll be perfectly honest I haven't run as many games as I liked and I certainly haven't played as much as I want to but it is hard when most of the people my age still don't work 9 to 5 jobs, myself included.  One of the most important things for a roleplaying game to work is everyone being on a set schedual so you can reliably tell who is going to show up.  I understand that life happens but god damn.  So there is it.  Currently I am running nothing.  I was preparing to run a Pathfinder game when a friend of mine declared that he is okay with running it and so I rolled up an alchemist and I find myself very much looking forwards to game night Friday.

It still doesn't stop me from coming up with campaign ideas some of which I am gleefully still kicking around.  I kinda want to start writing up rpg materials and start selling it for "what you think it is worth".  That thought has lead me to start writing again in this blog because I need the practice.

Anyway one of the things that I love about Pathfinder is that it seizes my imagination.  When I look at 4th edition it does nothing for me.  I see stale stat blocks and characters that slot together with little independent choice for the end user.  It just doesn't strike up my imagination.  Whatever this is old territory and I wanted to write about the stuff I had kicking around for the current game.

One is a Crusader Kings style courtly maneuvering.  Crusader Kings has provided just about everyone in my play group with a crash course in medieval politics.  What a duchy is, cassius belle, getting claims killing children you know the deal.  Throw some monsters, magic, gods, and player characters into the mix and you got the potential for a pretty rocking campaign.  The obvious parallel is Game of Thrones but this game would have fewer wars and more boarder skirmishes IE high crown authority.  However, the vassles could be plotting to get the crown authority reduced and should that happen all hell would break loose.  I really like that idea it would suit a group of rouges and bards really well.

On a similar tangent either the players themselves or the Player's duke have all recently served with distinction in a war that struck deep into foreign lands.  The king to show his gratitude forms a new dutchy with either the players of their duke in charge depending of the level we settle on.  Of course in Crusader Kings terms this is the equivalent of taking Jeruselem in a crusade while you are playing Spain and you dump off one of your least favorite vassals in the foreign land grant him independence and watch his ass get eaten.  I've done that before and it is fun.

On a similar vein but not quite.  The idea that a new continent has been discovered!  A ship got blown off course, and stumbled upon a landmass of indeterminate size.  Everyone from the great wizard colleges, to the various kingdoms want to explore the strange new island and learn its secrets.  This would give the players a chance to play honest to god explorers.  Not only would they be forging new paths and making bold new discoveries but they would also be helping to build up the settlement, fending off the natives, and generally being important.  It would be less "Heart of Darkness" and more Alan Quatermain/Indiana Jones.  I think that would be super fun.  There would be a little bit tensions like when they have to save clerics from being chucked into a volcano but in general I want it be more of a grand adventure than post colonial finger waving.

Going back to Crusader Kings and medieval politics I find it interesting that there is so much hand waving that happens with that stuff in most games, mine included.  The idea that the players just kinda get randomly hauled before the king who then tells them to go do something is kinda silly.  It is romantic in a, "Are you bad enough to rid the hills of goblins and save my daughter" kind of way but realistically the King is busy doing other things.   And there is plenty of time for swords and sorcery.  Like in order to get a claim on a neighboring country the players need to explore an ancient crypt and recover an amulet once thought to be lost but whose previous owner is the rightful air to the county and thus they go to war.  Hell the orcs could stand in for the norsemen and I mean damn there is just so much that can be done with the setting and a small dose of complexity of the government.  For example the possessed trait could take on a whole new meaning and a witches coven with a little bit of access could seriously fuck some things up.  Like one of the witches has access to the King's son due to his penchant for "ladies" who aren't his wife.

The last idea I was kicking around was SPAAAAAAACE.  A proper space sourcebook for pathfinder is coming out next month.  Until then to get reading the world the players would be playing on would be getting ready for something call the bazzar of wonders.  Once every 300 years their planet gets visited by the bazzar.  The people of the players planet have the opportunity to trade away their crafts and treasures for great secrets, powerful items, or exotic pets.  The bazaar is a grand event felt the world over.  During that time no war is allowed and even the Orcs and the barbarian tribes hold true to this tradition because the bazzar's wrath is something no one wants to behold again.  For one month Drow walk among their elven kin, Drugar with the Dwarves.  The great dragons of the world awaken from their slumber and liches from their studies.  All are welcome at the bazaar, assuming they do no harm to anyone else during the course of the week.  Dwarven kings spend decades on crafts, Elves create incredible works of arts, Dragons bring their most valued treasures, and humans innovate at a breakneck and reckless speeds.  That isn't to say that just before the bazaar there isn't some old fashioned score settling and hey sometimes tensions boil over.  The idea is that the players do something to distinguish themselves during the bazaar and they are offered passage on the ship and are allowed to see the stars.  I think that could get awesome real quick.

I have other ideas too but those are the main ones and my hour is up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing, Superman, and wanderings.

Today Robin Williams died a city is rioting over the questionable death of black youth at the hands of a police officer, someone somewhere is falling in love and I've decicded while taking a shower that it is high time I start writing in my blog again. Much like Amilie on that fateful day temporarily blackened by the death of Lady Di but with less drama, I've decided to change my life. Here it goes.

The idea is to dedicate an hour of my time before I go to sleep to writing at least on the days where I am not doing anything like a game night. I don't know if I will publish every night. Maybe I'll select the “best of the week” and publish it all over the weekend. Maybe I'll publish everything. Publishing isn't the important part. The writing is.

In all honesty this is being caused by a couple of things. The desire to run a roleplaying game, the excitement of being able to play in one, the proximity to NaNoWriMo, and some other stuff that is harder to put a specific name on. I've been thinking a lot about NaNo, what I want to write about and stuff like that. The current front runner is a sequal to what I wrote last year which I never published but whatever. It is set in the Eclipse Phase universe and it is actually my second favorite thing I've ever written. It also feels a bit like cheating. I like to try to do something different every year, to exparament. NaNo is by and large a judgement free excersice for me so I feel like if I am not trying something new and different I am wasting the opportunity. My first novel blended aspects of magical realism, Twin Peaks, and melocholic reflection and it turned out great. It remains my favorite thing I've written. The year after I wrote about a support group of people who tried to end the world at the turning of the milenium, failed, and now are adrift in a world that is not supposed to still be here. This book still has potential and I want to redo it. As is it didn't turn out all that great. The lone female character feels tacked on, the ending was forced, and some other things. It was my first time writing using a large group of people and it turned out strangely. I'd also like to talk about how dour and grey America became after 9/11. It isn't so much that we've gone mad. We are America we've always been a little bit crazy. It is just that after 9/11 we started to let the crazy off the leash and that's a bad thing.

Trying to recapture my previous glory I decided to write a sequal to the first book I wrote. The first book ended in the main character's suicide cause that was always gonna happen. As soon as I hit 50k words he was gonna pull out a gun and off himself. I was kinda hoping he'd be just walking down the street or something but no he was in the middle of an epic battle. It still worked and it even looked a little bit like I planned it. Go me! The sequal was going to be about the characters getting on with their lives. It was horrible. I want to rewrite it. I really do but not this year.

Last year my book was about a guy who everyone in power hates but he's to dangerous to kill and to useful to cut loose. He is the enemy that the keep closer and the only man for the job. He's old, mean, and haunted by his past. Trying to make up for his mistakes he joined Firewall to do good but he keeps ending up on their bad side. I loved it. It was actually a very plotty novel. Most of my otherones have a lot of navel gazing which is code for, “I have a daily word count to meet and I have no idea what to do next so we are going to stand around and think about life”. I really like doing things like that so it doesn't bother me.

It is nice to remember what you wrote. All my characters are very much outsiders, like myself. Sometimes they have a tight knit group of confidants. Sometimes they are utterly alone. Sometimes they struggle to be alone and sometimes they just struggle. Go with what you know I suppose. The thing I currently have on the burner is something that is very much along the same lines of what I've done before. The idea is that a small group of American teenagers have turned into people with low level super powers. There is a secret family of assasins who have sworn to protect such people but they can't operate in America because, well, America sees and hears to much and this group is supposed to be invisable. One of the group sets off to guard these kids anyway even though the partiarch of the family has ordered their deaths. He's alone, he's one of the most dangerous men in the world even amongst his family, and he's gotta keep these kids alive, out of the hands of the military, and away from the various groups who might want to capitalize on them. It came from the idea of, “Just because you can life and throw a car doesn't mean you can fight”. It has been knocking around in my head for a very long time. Originally I wanted it to be part of a serialized fiction thing I was going to do but it never got off the ground. However, I kinda want to do something different this year. Something new.

I'd like to write something about someone who is comfortable with his otherness. They know they are different and they are okay with it. Think of Superman without Clark Kent. Kent is more than just a secret identiy. It is a security blanket or if I am feeling uncharitable it is a type of madness. Here is a person who in modern comics could cure every disease on the planet, create and infinite clean powersource that could power the planet forever, to give us interstellar travel and to introduce us to the multitudes of alien life out there and instead he runs around Metropolis getting into trouble and pretending to be a bumbling do gooder from Kansas. Clark is Superman's insistance that he is human. That he belongs on our planet, that he thinks, feels, and looses just like the rest of us do. The crazy thing is that it works. He needs Clark to be Superman. Without him he is something differen. Something other. I find that it is this distinction that causes people to not understand the recent Man of Steel movie. That is what Superman looks like without Clark. He still loves his mom but he is torn between his Kryptonian heritage and the life built on earth. As the movie went on he piece by piece lost his connection with Kypton until there was nothing left but he and Zod. I think that even at the end Zod would of accepted him if he submitted to his will and let Krypton be rebuilt. Instead he chose us and at the very end of the movie we saw the half joking mischevious man of steel we know and love from his best comics. It was a very subtle journey. Sublety isn't something the internet is capable of.

I want someone with a confidence to be different. The modern day retelling of Sherlock on BBC is a good example. The big thing is less the character but what are they going to do? One of the most brilliant things I've ever read on the nature of heroism is, “Only villians try to change the world...” I wanted the exact quote but I couldn't find it. It is in the Runaways somewhere after they defeated the Pride. I don't need a whole lot of excuses to reread it I'll find it later. The point is that just about all my character's have ridden the line between heroism and villiany. I am okay with that I did it on purpose most of the time time especially with my first and last books. I don't know. I do know that I want to do something different this year. Maybe something truly reflective. Like a magically realistic memior. Actually that sounds really good. I might do that. The completely true story of my life. It would be more emotional than literal. Actually that wouldn't be very happy so I'd use my life like a model. Take some things fictionalize others and create something new. I like this. Imma do that. There is a 99% chance that it will turn out horribly. However, it has been an hour and I need to sleep.