The Orville

The Orville
The Orville

i just wrapped up season 1 of The Orville. i’m not a huge fan of McFarlane’s other work, particularly Family Guy. i appreciate some of the humor and i’m convinced that McFarlane is this generation’s Mel Brooks. He’s able to make jokes few others would get by with. There is just a sort of self-congradulatory feel to much of Family Guy that leaves me feeling like i’ve just had dinner with one of my ruder, more arrogant aquaintences.

So i rolled into The Orville with low expectations.

Maybe it was my lowered expectations, or the strong cast, or the money they clearly sank into the special effects… or a combination of all of those factors. i wrapped up season 1 pretty satisfied overall!

The Orville starts off as a parody of the much loved (by me and many, many others) Star Trek universe. Just a few episodes in it seems to switch gears from parody to tribute. The Orville uses it’s platform to address current social issues that our world is dealing with today, and it often does so with a great blend of tact, humor, and irreverance. It’s got a softer edge than some of McFarlane’s other work but it drives points home possibly even harder than they do.

i started watching The Orville because i’m a Trek fan, i wanted to see how bad a Family Guy version of Trek would be… and now:

i’m just waiting around for season two to drop!

 

#57- Small Gods- Terry Pratchett

Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
Small Gods (made my favorite list!)

i’d read Pratchett before, and liked his work. It’s tough to secure Nerd-Card credentials without dipping into Discworld at least a little. Here’s my confession though… i’ve only liked Pratchett’s writing before, never really found myself a huge fan of it. Here’s an addendum to my confession: i LOVED Small Gods!

Small Gods makes you laugh your way into uncomfortable introspection in a magical sort of way that i’ve only really ever seen Adams pull off with the Hitchhiker’s series. One second you’re laughing at the absurdity of belief, or philosophy, or patriotism and then; you’re not laughing anymore! You are wrestling with the realization that you’ve just wrapped one of those things around you like a blanket on a stormy night trusting in that thin cloth to protect you from the boogeys under your mental bed!

Brutha, the main character, is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. His development arc is amazing, heartwarming, inspiring, all those Hallmark movie things without leaving you feeling like flimsy gross noodle-creature (that’s the best descriptor of the effect of Hallmark products, transforming us into bland, flaccid, creatures with lightly warmed hearts.) Vorbis is an amazing baddie, and Brutha’s responses to him are part of the power of the book. Another bonus: you don’t have to know anything at all about the voluminous story-line of Discworld (in which Small Gods is set) to dive into this book. IF you are a Discworld junkie, then there’s plenty of little crumbs dropped along the narrative trail for you too! Great balance of being accessible to those not acquainted with a well developed world while not feeling flimsy to those who are.

Book Club of One Score: A+ Read this one for sure! Small Gods will earn a spot on my bookshelf as a favored read of mine.

i love D&D! (and the best lesson i’ve learned from it)

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i LOVE table-top RPGs!

i played them when i was young (often in secret, since the evangelical backlash against them had instilled a dread terror of them in the hearts of many who were authority figures in my life at the time)

i play them now, as a 40 year old man who’s primary function on this planet seems to be paying bills. Judge me, i don’t care!

Table-Top gaming is tied with Cycling as my top distraction from the day-to-day stressors of life and all that entails. i love most things about it and here’s some reasons why (plus the most important lesson it’s taught me at the end):

  1. Collaborative Story-telling: One of my favorite things in life is telling a good story. There have been MANY times in my life where i did something knowing it was a bad idea but my rationalization was: “This is gonna make a great story!” Table-top RPGs provide a scaffolding (the rules, sometimes voluminous amounts of rules) for a group of people to tell a story together. Granted the DM/GM holds more power than the others at the table in that process BUT a good DM/GM shares that power and lets the PCs actions, words, or even inactions influence that story. There’s something about any creative process that is rewarding, and when a collaborative endeavor is successful it’s often even more rewarding.
  2. The Escape: Life is life… by which i mean sometimes it gets tough. In those moments a little distraction can do the mind a great deal of good. When i was a young gent sitting around a table in some friend’s basement trying to save a world, or universe, or just pillage some village, i was an uncoordinated blundering mess. i fit the template for “potential D&D nerd”. Those long nights spent with the handful of good friends i did have were some of the best nights of those years. Using the theater of our minds to do heroic (or villainous) deeds sure beat wallowing in self-pity. It also beat the chemical escapes i dipped into a few years later… Today, though the nights spent around a table with friends are shorter (i’m too old to pull an all nighter and my brain gets tired after about 3 hours anyway) they are still just as welcome as an escape. Weather i’m playing a outlandish character bent on adventure, or juggling a detailed universe as DM/GM, i always feel refreshed when we pack up our dice and other implements of nerdom and head home.
  3. It’s Community Driven: Community is an idea that is a central pillar for my family. The life we live with others is often so much richer than the life we live alone (i could slip into a treatise about the dangers of “social” media here, but i won’t). It’s literally IMPOSSIBLE to play a table-top RPG alone! The minimum requirements are TWO people. (but 5-7 are ideal in most situations). i like that you sit around a real-life physical table with other people! It’s true that you can play online, using the digital world to connect over vast expanses, but i still prefer face-to-face play time. i love it all: the sharing of snacks & beverages, the laughter, the heated debating over the minutiae of rules. It’s good to see the same faces weekly (or bi-montly, or monthly, or whatever your gaming schedule for your regular group is). Also; It’s great to do something shorter and sit around a table with a group of brand new people. The main thing is the community, continuing or temporary, that occurs around that table.

 

The most important life-lesson i’ve learned around a gaming table: Don’t Yuck someone else’s Yum! Its an adage that i’ve heard the most in RPG circles. Someone wants to study for hours to build the most ideal character; tuning every stat and ability for maximum effectiveness within the structure of the rules (or exploiting a loop-hole in said rules)? Good for them

Someone else makes a character that can do a certain feat extremely well… and then NEVER does that thing because they feel like that’s not the personality of their character? Good for them

Someone builds a warrior straight out of high-fantasy honor-bound to break the bonds of tyranny that oppress the less fortunate; someone else creates a bumbling wizard who’s main contribution is comedic effect… its ALL GOOD! At the end of the day people play RPGs to HAVE FUN! That looks different to different people. If someone’s Yum doesn’t make sense to you, that’s ok. Let them have it!

How does that translate to the real world?

Well to quote myself fourteen words ago: “If someone’s Yum doesn’t make sense to you, that’s ok. Let them have it.”  Yum-Yucking is often the easiest reaction to something we don’t understand or don’t like ourselves. But i’ve learned a lot from people whose interests were vastly different from my own over the years so…

i won’t Yuck your Yum if you don’t Yuck mine!

NPR’s Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books, a personal project

Things i enjoy include: good books, good book clubs, nerdiness! Those three things combine into one mighty personal project!!!

To Read ALL the Things on NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book list!!!!!

I’ve been a part of a book club for a while now, i recommend a good book club (focus on the GOOD book club part of that) if you’ve never been a part of one give it a whirl. Book Club pushed me to read so many books i’d never have given a chance on my own, and i was blown away by the experience. Due mostly to the chaotic and hectic nature of this thing we call life: that book club may be on an extended hiatus. So, i, in an effort to push myself to read more started: Book Club of One! (Discussion in my book club can get really heated, which garners some real looks when Book Club of One is held anywhere public!) NPR’s list of Sci-Fi books has become my source list for this project: to push me to read books i may not otherwise pick-up but that are still well within my personal wheel house.

Many of the books on the list i’ve already read. Some will be re-reads because it has been literal decades since i read them last. I’m a quite a few books deep into the project and it’s been quite fulfilling so far! i’ll be posting reviews here on a fairly regular basis from here out so keep your eyes peeled to see what a middle-aged fellow thinks about books that have been deemed worthy by a troop of reviewers and voters.

If you want to check out the list for yourself click here, it’s very good and hopefully it may steer you to read something new for yourself: NPR’s article and link on their top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books

 

If you want to see the most up-to date data on my progress you can click here, this is a current doc of my journey through the books with a color code of recommendation (Green = Read it, Yellow = Read it if you have time, Red = pass on it); there are also brief notes on my overall thoughts on the books here as well:  My Progress on NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books 

(a link to my list is also on the side-bar of my blog page)

What am i doing here?

Years ago i had a blog…

i would regularly write as a way to collect my thoughts, and post them there. Over time that collection of my thoughts became something that i cherished. So i did what came naturally: i deleted them all and stripped that old blog down to absolutely nothing… No need getting soft, right?

But here i am, a few years older, probably not much wiser, and thinking it’s a thing i’d like to do again. It provided me with a time of reflection and introspection and gave me a spot to ruminate on ideas. So i’m endeavoring to post something weekly here, for at least the next 3 months (and hopefully beyond). i’ve sprung the minuscule funds to get my own domain, and set-up this woefully simple site; so here goes!

To provide some structure for myself, and whoever else may misstep and find themselves here, i want to post within a few categories, categories pertinent to who i am. So, who am i? My bride once wrote a great 6 word biography for me, “My life is love and mischief.”  In my Instagram profile (the only social media i’m really very active on by the way) i’m self-described as: “Part time curiosity seeker, reader of things, spreader of mirth, and Oxford comma advocate.”  My everyday friends know that i’m an avid cyclist. My cycling friends know that i’m a pretty hard-core nerd. Life, work, and my quest to seek out curiosities mean that i like to go new places, aka i’m a traveler.  At the root of things i’m spiritual, just maybe not like everyone wants me to be.

Those things fairly concisely describe me and most of my interests so i’m going to catalogue my ramblings as follows:

Reading: Books i love, books i hate, books i read, ingredients on shampoo bottles, book club stuff (when i’m involved with one) etc etc etc.

Travel: i go places, i see things, i drink in life. May have an addiction to the National Park Service! When i ramble and my mind rambles i’ll hammer away on my keyboard under this heading.

Spiritual: i made a living as a professional minister for years, my faith is VERY important and sacred to me. It’s probably the thing i wrestle internally with the most in this life. i’m prone to doubt and question… Spiritual moments will be filed here!

Cycling: Life is better on two wheels. traveling down road or trail with only yourself as an engine! Reflections on life as a two-legged-motor will be under Cycling.

Nerdity: i’ve been a nerd for my entire existence.  i will passionately debate the finer points of the LOTR mythos, am in a razor thin minority who loves Kirk AND Jean Luc, get frustrated when people can’t tell 12 sided dice from 20 sided dice, have a solid strategy for winning base Catan a majority of the time, and will smite you down (left handed) if you bad-mouth The Princess Bride!    i also love Carl Sagan and what he did to make real science accessible and alluring to the average person, think it’s a great time to be alive when Neil deGrasse Tyson is a public figure, want to give NASA more money to do cool space stuff, and have a near encyclopedic knowledge of mammalian life forms on this planet! i’m a sort of renaissance nerd! Post containing Nerdity will be posted under this category.

Life: Someone once said, “Life… It just keeps coming at you, right up to the end.” i have no idea who said that (it could’ve been me, i dunno) but it’s true. Life just keeps happening. The vast majority of the time i drink it in, sometimes though it knocks me on my butt. Posts that fall under all things life and living will be sorted thus.

 

So… thus this thing begins.