My Queer Eye Makeover

This week, I have been miserable and Mother Nature is to blame.

My eyes have been red, my throat has been raw, and my nose and ears have been unbearably itchy. The culprit, the canola fields surrounding my town are in full bloom and are spewing their devil pollen all over my life. I am miserable and I have been stuck indoors all week, trying not to die.

To while away the hours, I have been rewatching the show Queer Eye, which is a beautiful, sweet show that makes me cry every single episode.

So, I am assuming you know what Queer Eye is, Daniel, but for all the people out there who do live under a rock, let me explain. Queer Eye is a show about five gay men who change people’s lives for the better. The original version of this show, called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, focused solely on sloppy, straight men, helping them update their wardrobes and learn proper hygiene. The Netflix reboot, which I have been rewatching all week, has made over straight men, gay men, trans men, and even women. Like the show’s tagline says, it’s more than just a make-over now.

Watching the episode about the woman, I started imagining what would happen if I was nominated. How would the Fab Five help me? What would my episode look like?

My episode would start like every episode, with the Fab Five driving to ambush me. In this scenario, I’m not sure who would have nominated me, but I feel like they would have nominated me because of how externally focused I am. I focus so much on keeping the people around me happy and content that I usually skip taking care of myself.

So the Fab Five would swoop in, see how cluttered and unstructured my life is, and they would make it so much better.

Bobby is the interior designer. He would take one look at my mismatched, college student apartment with piles of junk in all the corners and probably lose it. He would redecorate, finally giving me an adult apartment, and he would set up organization systems for all my books and craft supplies and clothes. He would also help me purge all the stuff I don’t need.

Jonathan is the grooming specialist and I think he would be somewhat proud of me for having a regular skin and hair routine. However, he would probably take one look at my medicine cabinet and throw everything out. I always buy the cheapest options when it comes to beauty products, and I’m pretty sure Jonathan would not stand for that. He would teach me everything I need to know about beauty products and would show me the best places to get things and would teach me how to make amazing beauty products at home. I would be so cool after meeting Jonathan.

Antoni teaches the clients about food and I think he would have the biggest challenge when it comes to my eating habits. He would probably sit me down and explain to me all the things that do not count as full meals that I have been using for full meals. Cereal is not dinner, saltine crackers are not dinner, a spoonful of peanut butter is not dinner. You need to start actually eating food. And of course I would listen and nod and as soon as he leaves, I would eat a jar of peanut butter for dinner. Not all of their lessons will stick. Sorry Antoni.

When it comes to fashion, Tan is the expert of the Fab Five. I’m pretty sure he would appreciate how varied and colorful my closet is, but would be a little confused by how I use that color. I have a tendency to find an outfit that works and then wear it over and over and over again. I need more pieces that I can mix and match for work and for play instead of statement pieces that only look good one way. He would also teach me where to find clothing that actually fits my bizarre body and throw out all the jeans I own that are way too short for my long legs.

Last, but not least, Karamo would just help me get my shit together. He’s supposed to be the culture guru, but more often than not ends up being a therapist for the client. I’m sure he would hear me speak and think to himself, this girl needs to get back into her therapy routine. He would start by helping me find a good therapist and getting my self care routines back so I could properly recharge my energy for once. I think he would also help me layout my career plans, which have been amorphous and undefined since I left college. Karamo would not stand for that. He would sit my butt down, tell me I need to take risks, and lay out a fifty year plan for me. Boom, done, set for the rest of my life.

I so desperately want to meet my five gay fairy godfathers.

-EMS

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Loss of Technique

The year is 1851. You are a small child—with eyes full of wonder—beholding the Crystal Palace. It’s a massive structure made of cast iron and plate glass. You’ve never seen anything like it before. It seems like a mystical palace from your bed time stories.

You walk inside, holding your mothers hand, and you see massive crowds milling about, beholding wondrous artifacts from all corners of the globe. Constructs and machines, made with materials you don’t recognize, fill the space. You aren’t aware just yet, but this is one of the first gatherings celebrating the Industrial Revolution.

The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition, an event where inventors from all around the world were invited to display and share their work and innovations. Up until that point in history, this much steel and glass hadn’t been readily available to build such a structure.

File:Crystal Palace General view from Water Temple.jpg
The Crystal Palace

Steam power and machinery were becoming more and more prominent in factories, and greatly increase the amount of goods that factories can manufacture in a year. New advances in chemical manufacturing and iron production make glass and iron much more readily and cheaply available to everyone. Before this, glass and metals were time consuming to create, and were usually reserved for those who had money for more luxurious additions to their homes.

It’s a massively interesting time period for me to read about. In college, at The Art Institute of Portland, there were several required classes called “History of Material Culture.” They were classes focusing on manufacturing and architectural history. The topics ranged from the beginning of architecture, such as wattle-and-daub housing, all the way to Neo-Modern architectural movement; covering innovations from ceramic pottery all the way past the automated assembly line and beyond. The class was far more fascinating than I thought, although now I remember far less than I had hoped to retain

Bill Bryson, who wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything, wrote another book called Home: A Short History of Private Life where he dives into the history of how the modern day house came to be. It discusses a wide range of topics: explaining things like how salt and pepper became common dinner table staples, to why the Presidents cabinet is called a cabinet. I highly recommend reading it—it answers questions you didn’t know you had.

Back to class: I remember my instructor explaining that the reason we need to learn all of this is that eventually, people won’t remember how to create these things the way they used to be created. I distinctly remember him saying, as an example, that no one today knows how to traditionally carve housings for grandfather clocks anymore. You know the classical grandfather clocks with the intricate wood carvings near the crown and the feet? No one is skilled enough to do that by hand anymore—so he claimed.

I’ve never really fact checked that statement, but I think even if it’s not true there is still a lot to digest from that idea. When our tools change, our work is forever affected. Many of my favorite papers and essays from those classes talked quite a bit about how the authenticity of craft is whittled away each time a new, massive manufacturing technique is invented.

I desperately wish that I could find the essays I had read in school, so you’ll just have to follow along with my rhetoric. I know that a lot of them were in the compilation book The Industrial Design Reader, edited by Carma Gorman.

Several notable designers at the time of the industrial revolution spoke against machine innovations, stipulating that the scale of manufacturing required a loss of authenticity. Designers no longer created beautiful designs and built them by hand, they now created new works that were specifically meant to be easy to manufacture. You started to see simpler designs imitating older, more refined designs, but made them cheaper so that the lower and middle classes could start to have finer furniture.

Imagine being an artist who could draw nearly perfect straight lines by hand, and then someone invents the ruler, allowing a far wider range of people imitate your technique. It’s without a doubt an amazing innovation, but many artists would be quick to claim that the ruler removes the need to practice and refine your technique.

An outspoken designer by the name of William Morris feared the changes that technology had on design and craftsmanship. At the first exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1888, William Morris set up a loom and began traditionally weaving to demonstrate the skill and technique involved in a dying art—one that might fade from the world one day. I think about this a lot.

William Morris giving a weaving demonstration

A drawing by Edward Burne-Jones depicting William Morris weaving during his exhibit. An ode to lost authenticity.

It makes me wonder how many things I’ve taken for granted around me. The furniture we have, the cars we drive, the food we eat. They each have a rich history that we slowly forget or omit as new techniques present themselves. There are still people who celebrate this antiquated techniques—there are still people who practice blacksmithing and glassblowing as examples—but for how much longer?

When I first got into design, I was taking drafting classes. Classes that taught you how to draw up manufacturing blueprints or architectural drawings for design. Then during my last year of middle school I was introduced to AutoCAD. A software that drew straight lines for you, that classified line weights for you, that created isometric views for you.

I no longer needed to know how to draft. With the implementation of a single technological innovation a useful, sought after skill was obsolete.

I wrote my final paper for those college classes on how designers need to constantly change their perspective and learn to adapt to their new tool sets. You don’t stop painting because someone gave you a new paintbrush—you need to learn to paint with your new brush.

I think I need to re-visit this concept and apply it to myself. I love to lament that skills I have learned aren’t useful, but I fail to spend any time playing with new tools that are presented to me. Yes, it is sad to see things we’ve worked hard for become obsolete, but your skills don’t evaporate just because your tool is no longer used. It’s just hard because learning those skills required long portions of your life— portions that you feel like you can’t get back.

What I frequently forget during my lamentations is that I might have trained to be a 3D artist, or a product designer—and those jobs might get replaced—but beneath that I am a creator. You don’t stop creating just because something came along to make creating easier. You keep creating because it’s what you do, regardless of the standards of the industry, regardless of what you trained with, regardless of what you thought you could do.

There will certainly be a loss of technique, but what we all need to remember is that the technique isn’t what made us as a designer, a writer, or an artist. It might be hard to let go of all you learned, but to truly be part of the changes throughout history we need to remember that nothing ever stays the same. Clinging to the past only prevents you from being one with your core desire, and you will likely be lost to the movements of history.

—DTM

My Distinct Lack of Music

I’m a daydreamer. It’s bad—I would say I’m daydreaming nearly half of the day. If you see me, and I’m being quiet, I’m definitely somewhere deep in my mind imagining vast battles, heroic triumphs, or solemn goodbyes. This is especially true if I’m listening to music.

Cutaway to tiny Daniel sitting in a movie theater with a bowl cut and a slack jaw. Watching [insert movie] and getting caught up in the climax. Those pivotal scenes always punctuated with a score that enhances those moments. The crescendos when the protagonist wins, and the diminuendo when all feels lost.

Half the time, I wouldn’t remember the exact scene in the movie, but whatever song is was gets stuck in my head for the rest of time. This still happens to this day—certain scenes in shows and movies and games have a score or soundtrack that just fucking crushes it.

Furiosa being stabbed and desperately trying not to drop Max.

Raiden facing off against metal gear Ray.

Colonol Mustang bringing his enemy to their knees.

I look at the image and I can hear the music. I know not only the song that plays, but  very nearly the exact part of the song that is playing.

I think I was 12 when our parents bought me my first portable CD player. I listened to CD’s laying around the house for a while, but I soon learned to burn my favorite songs to CD’s. Dad showed me KaZaA and how I could download my favorite songs and then burn them, and that moment basically defined my imagination for a long damned time.

This gave way to MP3 players which I used until 2014. I still have one or two of my borked MP3 players in a box somewhere. For a good long while I used my PSP as my music player. I can remember walking around the adidas campus, listening to music, and daydreaming about stuff.

Then I was given my first smart phone. This changed everything. Not only could I store my own music on my phone, but I could stream music to my phone. My daydream game had been improved significantly.

It’s been a couple years now. I still get lost in daydreams all the time, usually about Rogue Trader, Dungeons and Dragons, or some other thing I need to write. I listen to music and try to carefully curate music for when I’m running a game for my friends. The problem I’m facing now is that I am basically out of music. I’ve listened to everything I have way too many times.

Now that I can search for a song from my phone, I don’t discover music anymore. I’m always listening to the song I was thinking about. I don’t listen to the radio, and I don’t see enough movies or shows to really find more. Now when I find a song I really like, I listen to it on repeat for sometimes hours until I’m over it.

I’ve been using things like YouTube Music and Amazon Music to help me branch out and explore, but it doesn’t really help me find more because that requires me to listen to the music.

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I am simply terrible at listening to music and enjoying it. Songs take me somewhere—somewhere I’ve been before; somewhere I want to be. New songs struggle to do that. Most of my favorite songs and albums were accompanied by something else, and I’m taken back to that moment while I’m listening. It’s really difficult for me to find new music because it frequently feels soulless or that something’s missing. I think this is a big reason why I don’t like rap and country—it’s hard to daydream over it.

I’m sure someone reading this is like, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” And I agree! I frequently wish I could switch it off and just enjoy an album for what it is. But that album needs to inspire me, or take me somewhere in my imagination for me to really want to listen to it again and again.

There was a massive period of my life where I was listening to a lot of symphonic metal (black metal or heavy metal depending on who’s categorizing it). Bands like Epica, Nightwish, Kamelot, Within Temptation—most of their songs are metal but include symphonies or choruses. It just makes it feel epic—like a soundtrack. And that really clicked with me. I couldn’t even tell you what half of the songs were about, but the melodies, crescendos, and diminuendos all played nicely to whatever scene was playing out in my head.

I have trouble finding new genres that make me feel that way. I will sometimes stumble upon something, but I wear it out way too quickly.

I wouldn’t really call myself a music lover, but music is critically important to my imagination and my inspiration. Half the time when I’m trying to write a quest for one of my games, I need to find the right song first. I’m not sure what music means to all of you, but in many cases I feel like music is an I.V. drip to my soul, and without it my imagination begins to dry up.

#SendMusic

—DTM

Quest Writing

So I’m about to come out of hiatus for the Nemo crew and their DnD game. We took a break because during the holidays we couldn’t consistently have everyone there. It was a good time to take a break as well.

I used some of that time to talk to them about alignment and character motivation. A couple times now characters have used a version of the phrase, “Why are we doing this again?”

That’s fine if you are losing track, or your attendance hasn’t been perfect, but there was one line said that made me really start thinking about characters and quests. The tiefling cleric player said to the other players:

“I know Dan is trying to steer us towards this…”

I have been thinking about that line basically since she said it. I want my players to feel like they have choices, but more importantly that those changes matter and will affect the world around them.

Around the same time, my Rogue Trader players were busy trying to figure out where they belong in war on Port Footfall. Without any discussion, or even any questions, they sided with one merchant over the other. The decision made sense to them emotionally so I wasn’t too worried, but what I found interesting was that they sided with him without knowing what he was asking them to do.

It occurred to me (and was revealed to me by some more experienced GM’s online) was that I was doing this all wrong. I was writing grand scenarios and plot twists and stuff, when really that should be on the players. They were playing like they were actors in a play. There was a script, and they followed it.

Now— that’s not a bad way to play. But what was missing was character engagement. The players were doing what was asked of them, or picking from a limited number of choices instead of making their own.

Players making their own choices is what the core mechanic of RPG’s is. In my quests, I still put plenty of things in their path that they could choose to interact with and would change the course of events, but even more fundamentally, the players didn’t choose this quest for themselves. They didn’t say to themselves, “Hey! Let’s bring a Merchant Fleet to the Koronus Expanse and establish Battlefleet Koronus.” or “Hey! Let’s go bring down a rival merchant and steal a bunch of his assets.”

I had inadvertently made the choice for them. This gets tricky the more you think about it though, because the GM needs to prepare and the like. But what I missed was that I didn’t provide them options. I can still prepare quests, but it needs to be their choice to go on them.

It’s why my players went to Rain all died that one time. For the first time in the game I had let them loose and they chose an adventure to go on.

It’s why some of the greatest stories are simple. It’s why the heroes journey is so prevalent. There is a deed that could be done, and the hero wants to do it. Whether it’s taking down Darth Vader or riding eternal on the Fury Road; adventures need to be fun because someone wants to do it.

So I’m going to change the way I write quests. I will present issues and let the players decide what to do. I’ll still write all of my planned quests, but they will have to be the ones to choose to do them. I will instead present them with some primal reward, whether its rewards or revenge, but I think the possibilities will be a lot more satisfying to discover if the characters are finally in the story. So to speak.

—DTM

Lowering the Bar for 2018

 

Let me just say that I’m super proud of you, Daniel. You did so many cool things this past year and listening to you talk about everything you achieved inspires me to do more with my time.

While you did achieve a lot of what you wanted to do this past year, I feel like I barely did anything. I had some lofty goals at the beginning of 2017, including running a half marathon and teaching myself calligraphy. Did any of that happen? Well, I did read forty books, which is pretty cool. Still feel like I could’ve done more, ya know?

This year I’m going to set goals for myself again, but instead of creating incredibly lofty goals, I think I’m going to keep mine simple. Some may call this lowering the bar, I call this celebrating the little steps I can take to help me reach my incredibly lofty goals.

Here are my incredibly simple, straightforward goals for 2018.

Read more books.

This past year I read a lot and I’ve told myself a couple times that, in 2018, I’ll push myself and read 60 books. Well, we’re only five days into 2018 and I already feel like that goal is too high. I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure by dedicating myself to five books a month.

So, instead, my goal is just to read more. I’d like to read 50 books, but as long as I match what I read last year, I’ll be happy.

I also want to read more horror novels by women and people of color. I realized over this last year that a lot of my favorite authors are white guys, which is just sad. I’m not saying Stephen King and Jack Ketchum and Joe Hill aren’t good writers, I just want there to be more diversity in the books I read. And the only way to make things more diverse is to actively try to make it so. I can’t just hope more women and people of color get popular, I need to work for it. If I just keep reading horror novels with great reviews, I’m going to read a lot of stuff by white guys. I want to give other people a chance.

Watch less Netflix.

Now when I say watch less Netflix, what I actually mean is I need to stop using streaming services to “fill time.” More often than not, I’ll spend a few hours on the couch watching something I’ve seen a million times just because it’s comfortable. It’s safe, in a way.

My goal for 2018 is to do that less. I don’t just want to fill time, I want to enjoy my time and I can do that by only using Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Youtube to watch things that I actually want to watch. Stop re-watching the same things over and over and broaden my viewing horizons a bit. There are thousands of horror movies I haven’t seen and yet I’m re-watching Roseanne. Sad. 

Save money.

This has literally been goal of mine since I graduated college. I just need to save more money so I don’t end up going into debt every time a big bill hits. To help me achieve this goal, I’m going to try to do less retail therapy. I need to stop spending money on things just because I can. Now, I can still buy things I want, but only if I really want them and not because I need to “treat myself.”

I also want to spend less money on beer that’s just for me. I like craft beer because it’s something I can share with my friends. It’s an experience! Well, it’s not an experience when I’m sitting at home watching a movie by myself and drinking a beer I’ve had millions of times before. Basically, I sometimes treat beer like I treat Netflix. I spend my money on beer I’ve had before because it’s safe, not because I’m enjoying it. Of course, I’ll still buy beer for myself once in a while, but I don’t need to be spending $60 a month on Black Butte Porter. I could be spending that on stuff I’ve never had before!

Write more.

Again, this is literally a goal I’ve had since the dawn of time. I just want to write more.

In middle school, I wrote every single day and I had notebooks full of fanfictions and funny stories and poetry. Nowadays, I write like once a week and it’s not because I’m passionate about something, it’s more because I feel obligated.

Well, guess what, if obligation is what gets me writing then I’m going to need more of it.

What I specifically want to do is set up a writing schedule for myself and stick to it. No more of this waiting for inspiration or to feel passionate about it bull crap. That doesn’t work anymore. I need to change up my tactics.

Now, my goal is to write a novella and maybe a book of poetry by the end of the year, but that goal comes later. Right now, my goal is just to write more than once a week and to start writing things for myself rather than for work.

Take time for education.

Like I said in my last post, I work at an institution that gives its employees access to college level courses for $5 and yet I’ve only taken advantage of that a couple of times.

Of course, I have big, lofty goals for my education like going back to grad school and becoming a certified cicerone, but for now I’m going to start simple. I just want to make more time for my education, take more time to learn new things because it’s fun.

There are so many free online resources I can take advantage of. Last year, I was enrolled in a introduction to law course and a course on HTML coding for free through Coursera. Did I finish either class? Nope!

That just means I need to make more time for it.

Do more things with my time.

And to wrap up my 2018 goals, I just want to do more things with my time. Right now my free time is taken up mostly by Netflix, reading, crocheting, and work, which means I’m incredibly boring. I want to change that. I want to do more.

Some things I’m planning to do more of this year, mostly because it will give me things to do during the time I’m usually re-watching Gilmore Girls, are play more video games, get back into drawing and painting, listen to more podcasts, and try out different types of exercise besides running. I want to be an interesting person and right now all I can list under the hobbies section are reading and crocheting.

So there you go, those are my goals for this coming year. Yep, I pulled the bar way down for this year, but it’s worth it if in January 2019 I can look back and feel like I accomplished something. Setting myself up for failure isn’t a good thing. 

-EMS

 

My Collage Experience

Man I totally remember making collages. I remember making a bunch for various projects. Same as you, however, I threw them all away promptly because I half-assed them anyway.

As I’m getting older I’m learning that my memory isn’t supremely effective anymore. I now carry a notebook around everywhere I go specifically because I can no longer trust myself to remember things.  I started doing this about a year ago and its far more effective.

If you had asked about collages, pinterest, and vision boards a year ago I might have scoffed at you. Hell, even to this day my response to Pinterest is something like, “I don’t get it.”

Last month it occurred to me that I need to start being on Pinterest more. No because I believe in using it as a memory bank, but most of my good ideas come from viewing someone else’s cool ideas.

Most of my ideas aren’t even full thoughts as much as they are cool puzzle pieces I write down that need to be linked together later. I’ll have a cool idea for a Rogue Trader encounter, or a strange monster, or a weird side quest and I’ll jot down the idea.

The funny part is: when it comes time to write shit I always forget to look at my notebook. My written collage of ideas is gone mostly untapped because I’m a space cadet.

Anyway: collages. I wish I made more of them. I would love to have enough time to freakin’ collage and storyboard each and every quest I write. I would love to spend time really look-developing each planet, town, enemy, and NPC I create. I can’t really do my formal collage because my more cleverer players might figure out what’s going on inside my brain.

But here, in no particular order, is my vision board— not including RPG specific ideas.

  • Finish the Rogue Trader campaign
  • Finish the Nemoria campaign
  • Run a Numenera campaign
  • Run a Coriolis campaign
  • Anime
  • Christmas monsters
  • Not having college loans
  • Long weekends of playing video games
  • Dark Souls + Bloodborne
  • Music that gives me goosebumps
  • Not having college loans
  • The strange voices I talk to myself in
  • Learning various accents from around the world
  • Not having college loans
  • Writing a book
  • Working at a tabletop gaming company
  • Doing freelance writing
  • Not having college loans
  • Wishing I could draw
  • Wishing I could matte paint in photoshop
  • Robots
  • Cigars
  • Tül Pens

Now my faithful reader, do me the favor of imagining what that might look like.

-DTM