What if

Cache Miss, the story about game sprites swapping between living in a ghost town and re-enacting stories…

Was also Piqha, the cast of colorful shelled bird-man gremlins and…

Was also Stardogs/Starlancer, my answer to the Berenstain Bears and Star Trek?

What if the handheld game console on which the sprites lived was a spaceship. Or more accurately, a ship designed to navigate the Dream, where stories have substance. And a piqha family uses that ship to rescue story characters who are being jettisoned by a mind virus that is ravaging the fictional worlds of the Dream.

It’s Wreck it Ralph meets Kingdom Hearts. Except politically too on the nose.

But the on-the-noseness will abate as the concept sees development. As I work out the rules of the reality and the motivations of the characters.

I think this is it. I think I’ve solved my story equation.

Only problem is this thing. This thing ain’t no spaceship.

Let me fix that for ya.

Now that’s a spaceship!

Captain’s Log 0210326.071

Proof is in.

Blanket Octopus : pics

Oops. That’s not my proof. That’s a blanket octopus. The females fly through the sea with superhero capes. The males went undiscovered until very recently because they max out at an inch long.

Ahem.

Image
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Work on getting my paperwork squared away for the Kickstarter proceeds slowly. My first read through of the book as already identified multiple grievous errors.

And I feel this close to figuring out my ‘golden path’.

wait, what?

Rise and Fall of the Mouse?

Arkhaven has a three-part series on the rise and fall of Disney (or more accurately, the rises and falls).

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I don’t 100% agree with all the assumptions or conclusions of the writer. I find myself more in agreement with Sam Lively’s Trojan Mouse assessment, though I have caveats even about that. But both Lively’s book and the article series can serve to give you a rounded gloss of Disney’s history both in terms of animation production, and ideology. On matters of inference, ideology, and artistic integrity there is room for some debate; on matters of fact, both resources are quite good.

Anyway, I’m not here to push my own quibbles with the assessments. Merely to note them as resources.

Perhaps I will write up my own thoughts at some future point.

Art Under the Shadow of the Gun

I have nothing new to say. Only a new audience and a new occasion. This essay is nothing more than my ripping off of C.S. Lewis’s Learning in War Time.

I have maintained for the last decade or so that I expect my country, the United States of America, to fall apart in the early 2030s. This belief is not due to my own expertise, and I am ill suited to defend it. It is the considered opinion of historians and philosophers I trust.

Of late, however, men are starting to take my premise seriously. Except they expect the collapse much sooner. Next week, perhaps. The foundations are shaking. The public mood is turning. And being ill-suited to the task of defending my 203X date, I’ve heard a question floating around my circles:

What role has an artist in all this? Should he set down his brush and take up a gun? Or, if he holds his brush, should he seek to use his art to aid his friends and defeat his enemies? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while Rome burns by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

The Christian has a more serious question. For of course, wars and rumors of wars are nothing but birth-pains to us. Every man who dies on the battlefield will rise again to live in eternal glory or eternal torment. But nations and political groups are mayflies, creatures whose lifespans are measured in mere centuries.

Should the Christian artist throw aside his brush, then, and spend all his effort tending his own soul in a monastery or nunnery, or seeking to save the souls of others as an evangelist or priest? Or if he holds on to his brush, should he seek by his art to aid the angels and defeat the demons? Does he adulterate his art by ignoring the Muse for the sake of propaganda? Does he fiddle while souls burn by ignoring propaganda for the sake of the Muse?

Clearly, whatever answer suffices for eternal matters must also be strong enough for trifling matters like a world superpower at war with itself.

And here we can cheat on our impromptu philosophy exam. We already know what the Apostles told us to do in the light of eternity: To use our gifts for the glory of God. To do whatever lies before us with all our strength, as if God and not some man had set us the task. To be content in our station, whether master or slave, though to cast off the chains of slavery whenever peaceful means to do so present themselves. To be good fathers and good sons, good soldiers and good grocers. And good artists.

Neither religion nor war can stop men from drawing pictures, composing poems, or singing songs. Art is more endemic to humanity than war. We are born in the image of a gardener king, not a warrior king. We are made in the image of a gardener God who is a warrior God — but only because a serpent invaded His garden.

Moreover, we find men who are seriously at war writing books, singing songs, and celebrating Christmas. Even when the bullets fly, we will not give up culture. That is who we are.

To set aside the brush for the gun, then, is a foolish proposal. Even if it is a good idea, we could not do it except in the extreme moment of the emergency itself. Once we have taken up the gun and marched off into combat, our hand will itch until it seizes upon a new brush, or pencil or pen, and we shall find ourselves painting in the trenches.

So much for the question of whether we ought to set our art itself aside. Now for the question of whether we ought to prioritize the muse or the mission.

Let us stop thinking for a moment of books and games, and start thinking of houses. Let us pretend we are stonemasons and carpenters. What we are asking is whether we ought to stop building houses, and instead build barracks and chapels.

The answer is situational. A carpenter hired by the army ought to build barracks as the army directs. A carpenter hired by the church ought to build chapels as the church directs. But a carpenter hired by neither ought to go on building houses, to the glory of God. The best, most beautiful houses he may, given his talents and constraints.

A cobbler serves God best not by putting little crosses on his shoes, but by making good shoes. And a storyteller serves God best not by putting little crosses in his stories, but by telling good stories.

Now you may want to tell a story that makes a theological point. Very good. C.S. Lewis wanted to do so, and the Narnia books are great art. But perhaps you want to leave all moralizing and philosophizing out of the story, except as the tale itself demands. Very good. Tolkien hated allegory so much so that he openly disdained Narnia, and Lord of the Rings is great art.

If you are a musician in the army, and the army wishes you to write a march, then by all means write a march. If you are your own man, and you wish to write a march, then by all means write a march. But if you wish to write, instead, a sea shanty, do that. You are not fiddling while Rome burns. You are making a mark on immortal souls, while the mortal things crumble.

I make it sound very grand. I am not inviting you to put on airs. What deeper mark is made on a soul than the marks a mother and a father make? And yet our culture casts these aside as unworthy pursuits. The pictures I draw are nothing, in the end, next to the diapers I have changed. The pictures were as much a product of my vanity as any gifts and callings God has given me. But a dirty diaper is a clear and unquestionable sign from Heaven that there is work to be done, and work of an unambiguous sort.

A dirty diaper very cleanly cuts through the weight of emotion around all this talk of fiddling while Rome burns. Whether bullets fly through the air, or indeed, souls hang in the balance, the thing has got to be done.

But whatever pictures I feel a need to draw, let me draw them with all my might, as unto God and not men.

Hymns and Hims

There’s a quote made the rounds of late. Something about singing hymns with the same gusto as marching songs and sea shanties — because that’s what they are.

Something like that.

Problem is most hymns are not fight songs and sea shanties. And for some, that’s fine. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is perfect as is. Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand needs no improvement. It is Well With My Soul would only be worsened if it were changed. Thy Strong Word is… well, it’s already a sea shanty.

Being a convert to the Lutheran tradition, however, I am confronted with a problem. Most of the hymns were clearly originally written in German. They don’t go well in English. The poetry of the translation is good enough, but the meter of the music was plainly meant for different words.

Sometimes a German Hymn does fine directly translated. Usually, if it is full of sturm and drang. The aforementioned Built on the Rock and Lutheran Theme Song A Mighty Fortress Is Our God are good examples.

On the flip side, nearly everyone who suggests changing up the music in the divine service is trying to sneak in a Baptist-style worship service long on blue jeans and guitars and emotional manipulation and short on anything that actually confesses the catholic faith. I have fended off a couple of attempts to recruit me for such campaigns, due to the fact I have a decent ear, and can thus sing slightly better than average.

I didn’t go to all the trouble of converting just to attend a second-rate version of the church I left.

Thing is, the church has been around since at least when Cain and Abel went to make sacrifices (I would say since Adam first heard God curse the serpent), and in those 6000+ years permeated every culture there is. We have no excuse for bad music. We ought be able to skim the best of tunes and the best of poetry off the top of that great cataract of culture. We ought to have a giant book chock full of verified bangers.

I lack the training to right this wrong. But there it is, and it pains me greatly.

Anyway, I’ll be listening to sea shanties for a while. Sea shanties are the anthem of the broken spirit discovering after the breaking that somehow it has won. That is a very Christian spirit, even if the shanties tend to be long on whores and rum. And I have added “Shanty Hymns” to the list of things I’m making, even though I’ve no skill for the task.

What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?

Breath of the Gameboy was at one point my dream game: a game that combines the open world and chemistry system sensibilities of Breath of the Wild with the tighter mechanics of Link’s Awakening.

Here’s a mockup someone did for Reddit.

Obviously, not 100% identical, and not using Nintendo’s precious properties or graphics. But a rough idea.

That’s a 10 year game or more, especially for one guy. So I pondered how to break it down into smaller pieces. The idea was, if I made each piece a game, that game could fund the next piece, and then the next, until the final product was finished.

My best plan was 8 Lives Left. It’s a good product plan. Just the combat system. You are a cat who has been murdered, and you decide to use your remaining 8 lives to get revenge. Like John Wick, only you are simultaneously John Wick and his dog.

These projects are not currently under development. I like them; I don’t like them enough to devote years of my life to them. I bring them up because a very sensible way to undertake a big project is to turn it into little projects. A great way to make a big game is to make part of that game into a small game.

So what’s the 8 Lives Left to my Licensed RPG?

Continue reading “What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?”

Imposter Syndrome?

Here is a panel from an Asterix comic:

I will never be this good.

Here is a bit from Dog Man.

I will never be this bad. And the creator, Dav Pilkey, didn’t even color it. One of the advantages of being a famous producer of authorized children’s literature is you can just do the bits you like.

Mind you, Pilkey can draw. He just chooses not to.

Here’s a bit of One Punch Man.

Cómo hacer tu propio webcomic y publicarlo en Internet sin ...

It’s unpleasant. But we’re all glad One decided to go ahead and do it anyway, aren’t we?

I am unlikely to ever make anything half so gorgeous.

Alright, here’s my work:

Better art than Dog Man and One Punch Man (as for story, I guess we’ll have to wait and see). Worse than Asterix and Black Hops.

So long as actual comic books like Asterix and Black Hops exist, I have no excuse to put on airs and act like I’m some sort of visionary genius.

So long as things like Dog Man and One Punch Man find a market, I have no excuse not to produce and sell my books.

I understand Imposter Syndrome plagues creatives. Well, I think all of us could stand to improve. But if you take an honest look at your own work and at the other work that’s out there, I think you’ll tend to find that while you ought to up your game, your current game may still be good enough to make a few dollars.

Anyway, in my last post I intimated that I’m better suited to vidya than comic books. I wanted to demonstrate to everyone it’s not because I think I’m hopelessly bad at comic books. Its because the areas where I stand to improve the most are also A) areas I’m not especially interested in, and B) areas where I wouldn’t need so much improvement if I were making vidya. It’s a matter of focus and interests, not scathing self-criticism.

Hypostasis

Growing up with an artistic bent, I constantly received two sermons.

  1. Art is just work. Do the work, research the market, get paid. Thinking about muses and inspiration and all that baloney is just the excuses of the lazy and incompetent.
  2. Art is this epic, painful struggle where you pour out your soul, and then have to defy the crass moneylenders who want to change this hallowed thing you have have created.

Neimeier neatly solves the conflict.

The ancient Romans had a saying, Ars longa, vita brevis. Moderns take it to mean that life is short, but works of art last.

We post-Renaissance types get the, “Life is short,” part right. But ancients and Medievals didn’t restrict the meaning of ars to “fine art”. For them, it could apply to any craft.

The equivalent Greek word is techne. That’s a big clue that everybody before the Modern era would have put Michelangelo and Steve Jobs in the same general category. Both made stuff according to a standard.

That’s really what writing is. A carpenter makes a birdhouse by putting wood, nails, and glue together in the right configuration. An author makes a book by doing the same thing with character, setting, and conflict.

Art is craft. Craft is art. That simple.

Ancients and Medievals understood that man is spirit and flesh at once, and thus all of his actions have a spiritual dimension. There is a role for both Martha and Mary. The shoemaker is no less holy than St. Anthony.

Cartesian philosophy, with its crude mind-body dualism, caused a rupture between the mystical and the mundane that’s since plagued Western thought. The body perishes, but the soul is immortal, so the soul must take priority.

Christendom has always had a bent towards the Gnostic. John writes against it in his first epistle. And of course, we’ve always called it a heresy from the first, but a heresy wouldn’t last long enough to get a name if it were not easy to slip into.

Especially in Baptist circles, which is very much the heartbeat of the American religious heritage. Part of the impetus in claiming Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are mere symbols is the very wrong instinct that God wouldn’t act using crude matter.

Entangled minds and the evidence for your psychic ...

But He does. He always has. E=MC² tells us even luminous beings are crude matter. God was up to His elbows in the material world from the instant He said “Let there be light.”

Conversely, physical acts like kneeling, breathing, speaking, are at once also spiritual acts.

This is one of the unique points of Christian theology.

C.S. Lewis held that religions tend to fall into two camps. You either deny yourself, take up your cross and reject the material world. Or you embrace the material world. You slaughter a bull to the gods and feast on its flesh, and then sleep with a ritual prostitute, or else you practice austere self-discipline. Christianity is a middle way. No! It is a both way. It is an incarnational way. A hypostatic way.

To worship the Muse, to agonize for her embrace, this is a Gnostic thing. We are not gnostics.

To reject the Muse, to subject goodness, truth and beauty, this is a materialist thing. We are not materialists.

Artistic integrity, as it turns out, is nothing more or less than when a carpenter has an opportunity to lay down a sloppy floor in a corner or a closet, and save a few minutes or a few dollars, but chooses to do it right, right down to the bones of the house, because he is a carpenter and that is his job.

We are artists with skin in the game. We are craftsmen with soul in the game.


Here’s the head of an epic tweet thread discussing the creation of Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure how this accords with my philosophy. It’s a necessary data point, however.