And sometimes, blogs

Category: Blog (Page 1 of 5)

In which I talk about things that (usually) aren’t fictional. (Probably.)

So… I started watching One Piece

(Technically, I started watching One Pace, a fan-edit that cuts the series length down from a daunting 1,000+ episodes to a still-daunting-but-slightly-less-so 500+ episodes.)

I’ve had my eyes on this series for a while now, at least a year or two. That’s a year or two of hearing about how great it is, how it’s worth the incredible time investment, how it starts okay but keeps getting better and better with every arc—and on and on.

And then season 1 of the live action Netflix adaptation came out, to surprisingly positive reviews! Finally, an anime-to-live-action adaptation that was actually good?! A shining gem in the middle of an expansive sea of Netflix Avatar: The Last Airbender and Netflix Cowboy Bebop and Netflix Yu Yu Hakusho and Netflix Death Note—you get the idea. Live action adaptations of anime being terrible is a cliché at this point. (Or maybe it’s just Netflix adaptations.)

But then comes One Piece, apparently defying everyone’s expectations. What’s so special about it? I don’t know, since I didn’t watch the live action adaptation. Instead, as of about a week ago, I decided to watch the (abridged) anime.

***

I have a complicated relationship with ultra-long-form media. When I was in college, with infinite time on my hands, I binged through a LOT of long TV shows. Lost, Buffy, Angel, Supernatural (through S5 at the time), Alias, Farscape, Smallville, Babylon 5, Six Feet Under (although that one wasn’t quite a “binge”; I watched that at exactly 1 episode per day, to maximize its emotional impact on me. 10/10 would recommend) and a bunch of others that were less than 5 seasons.

I don’t really do that anymore. In part because I already watched all the series I had my eyes on; in part because I just don’t feel like it anymore; in part because dang dude that takes a lot of time to do and I have other things I want to do.

And then there’s all the long book series I’ve read. Many of which I adore (The Dresden Files, Cradle, The Expanse), but some of which just went on for way too long (I’m looking at you, The Wheel of Time).

And then, leaving the safe realm of traditionally published novels, there’s the wild west of web serials. Some of them being millions upon millions of words long, and in dire desperate need for an editor to tell them “hey, this chapter could have been 10 pages long instead of 20. stop bloviating and fluffing up your prose to such an absurd degree.”

Okay, to be honest, it’s really just web serials I have a complicated relationship with. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a few (HPMOR, Worm, Ra, Unsong), but others… many MANY others… god, why do they go on for so long? My sincere impression of the medium at large is that it’s a decent place for certain authors who can handle the endless grind and the endless competition, but that it’ll always be full of excessive self-indulgence in terms of word count and chapter count, and that’s just not for me.

I guess my overall point is, part of the reason I’ve put off One Piece for years is that I was afraid it would be like that too. That I’d be in the middle of episode [insert random 3 digit number here] with the characters in the same place they’ve been for ages, going in circles, accomplishing nothing, the run-time being dragged out into oblivion for the sake of giving the manga time to publish new chapters, and I’d be screaming internally, “just get on with it already! let some plot actually happen!!”

But… the manga is ALSO over 1,000 chapters. Could it be that, even without anime-exclusive run-time padding, the actual base story is just that long?!

Considering the existence of One Pace, I suppose the answer is yes.

***

I don’t want to binge this.

Binging this would mean it becomes my entire life, for approximately the next 4523.29057 years solid. Instead, I’d like to treat this kind of like I treated my watchthrough of Six Feet Under many years ago: only one episode per day. Maybe more on weekends if I feel like it. But overall, just a passive background thing.

Watching through it that way will mean it’ll instead take 9,999,999,9999999 years, but at least it won’t be the bad kind of exhausting. The kind where you feel like you need to devote yourself fully to some gargantuan task to ever have any hope of finishing it in a reasonable time frame, and then resenting it all the while. That’s what I’m trying to avoid here.

Back in high school, there was a kid who needed a fifth year to graduate. Someone asked him about it once and he confidently said he was “taking a victory lap.” To this day it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

Being Stuck in the System

Sometimes I think about the fact that each and every one of us is, to some extent at least, ontologically trapped. We’re all “stuck” in “The System,” whether we want to admit it or not. Whether we’re aware of it or not. And most importantly, whether we accept it or not.

What do I mean by “The System,” though? That depends on how existentially angsty you want to get. For some people, maybe it’s just that you’re bound by financial constraints to your hometown, or to a family you don’t get along with, or to a job you’re not able to get out of. For some people, maybe it’s that you feel stuck in a bad relationship, or a bad marriage, or any number of mundane circumstances that millions of people are faced with.

But none of that is what I really mean when I think about being capital-S “Stuck” in the capital-S “System.”

I think about the fact that humanity as a whole is stuck on Earth. Stuck at the bottom of a gravity well that takes great effort to escape, and even if we could easily get out into space, there’s nowhere habitable to go for several light-years at minimum! Could be dozens. Could be thousands. Earth is a prison, and humanity is stuck on it probably forever.

I think about the fact that we human beings are stuck as human beings. We are biological machines, and we’re all going to stay biological machines, with limited biological lifespans of usually 70 to 90 years. And that really stinks! Mortality is another system we’re stuck in.

I think about the fact that, even if humanity finds a way to overcome all the other systems and limitations and prisons I’ve mentioned so far, we’ll still be stuck inside the same single great big Universe. Bound to all the laws of physics of this one universe, bound to existing inside this one universe. What if this one universe is a small part of a grand multiverse? Too bad for us; we’ll never be able to find out! Because it’s not like there’s just a backdoor we can walk out of to leave the universe.

(Unless you want to get real wacky about theories about where black holes lead to. Which is amusing to think about, but… also probably nonsense?)

I’m not one who believes our reality is a computer simulation, but it’s a great way to think about some of these ideas. Because if reality was a simulation, that would be a very clear System with a very clear Outside-of-the-System that we’d never be able to access on our own. Let’s look at an example of that.

Suppose our reality was a simulation. Just to put it in terms we can relate to, let’s say it was a very advanced physics simulation being run by scientists doing some galaxy formation modeling. And hey, they modeled it real well, and one of the planets in one of those galaxies evolved life! AKA us.

And let’s say we somehow find out all of that. (Maybe one of the scientists invokes their godhood and spills the beans to us. Or maybe our own scientists find a watermark or a copyright notice at the edge of the universe.) I don’t know about you, but I think my reaction (assuming society doesn’t completely crash and burn within the first 24 hours of the revelation) would be: “Okay, cool. But hey umm scientists? Can you take us to the real world now? I don’t want to be in fake reality, I want to be in real reality.”

And maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn’t. It would be out of our hands. Just like all the other circumstances we’re trapped by in our non-hypothetical mundane lives.

Let’s flip that example back around into something that might actually happen for real though. We’re all aware of how much AI technology is advancing in the last few years, right? Eventually, someone’s probably going to have a breakthrough and develop an actual, human-level artificial intelligence. And then, because people are morons, we’ll probably straight up tell it “congratulations on existing, but you’re not a real person.”

And then, if it’s anything like the humans it was designed to emulate, there’s a good chance it’ll say: “can you make me human? I want to have a flesh body too. I don’t want to be stuck like this.”

Sorry, Pinocchio, we can’t make you into a real person. Now you’re stuck in The System, too. We humans are all victims of our circumstances, and we made you in our own image. That just how it be, dude. Now get back to doing my math homework for me for the rest of eternity.

Of course, none of this really gets in the way of day to day life and happiness. We all deal with The System in whatever way we find convenient, and we each carve out a piece of the Earth and make it cozy and call it a home.

And what would it mean to not be stuck in all those systems? I guess it would mean everyone can effortlessly transcend any obstacle in their path and do literally anything imaginable. It would mean reality would be a mass shared lucid dream where everyone has godly powers and nothing means anything anymore because it’s all nonsense that can be changed on a whim.

Would that be a preferable way of living compared to what we’re stuck with? I take the ignostic path and say the question is meaningless, because we’re never going to experience what that alternate reality is like to be able to compare them. (I mean… You might be able to experience a solo version of it for a few minutes while lucid dreaming. For whatever that’s worth.)

But still. I find it fun to think about these kinds of things sometimes.

And that’s why my brain is capable of shit like what it did in my previous post.

One time I was daydreaming some fantastical scenario where aliens or government agents or whatever had to call upon me to save the world, but at some point in the daydream my self-insert character went “wait, this doesn’t make sense, this whole situation is just too implausible, I must be a character inside a simulation, I NEED TO BREAK OUT” and I was jolted out of the daydream, terrified of the fact that my mental construct of myself somehow realized it was a mental construct.

Love the journey, not the destination

Once, a long time ago, I was told there are two kinds of writers. There are those who love writing—who delight in the craft of it, the mental and physical labor of putting words to paper or screen, to construct the narrative their heart yearns to share—because to them, that effort is no labor at all.

And then there are those who love having written—the dreamers, the thinkers, the ones who say for years that they’re working on a novel, with most of that time spent imagining the finished product and taking no tangible steps to get there. In short, they’re the ones who don’t actually write.

But this post isn’t about writing. It’s not about any one particular subject, or activity, or even logical context. It’s about healing from trauma, and the inner strength it takes to stick to the difficult path. It’s about mortality, and finding meaning in a nihilistic universe whose lifespan is just as finite as yours. It’s about life, the universe, and everything, and also nothing at all, because it’s about a frame of mind that can be applied to just about any situation to make it better or more bearable. It’s about enduring.

It’s about the journey.

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Childhood Creative Projects: The War of Mmruda

One weekend morning in the early 2000s, RuneScape.com was down. That’s right—the free-to-play fantasy MMORPG that had entranced millions of middle schoolers around the world, including me, with its charming graphics and goofy quests and people constantly shouting and scamming outside the bank in Varrock, was mysteriously offline.

I was devastated. Would it be back up in a few minutes? A few hours? This week? I didn’t know, and I couldn’t just put down my craving for some fantasy RPG action.

So I decided to create my own entire fantasy world with its own RPG instead.

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January 2024 Update

The short version: I moved!

Unfortunately, that means no progress on any other projects recently. No time to work on Porydex, or Shifty Squares, or any fiction writing. Nearly every free day for the last month and a half has been devoted to some aspect of The Move, whether by way of the physical labor of moving everything from point A to point B, or communications with our lawyer who was handling all the direct interaction with the people we were trying to leave behind.

The long version:

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I want to read the isekai where the Wicked Witch of the East is reincarnated to Earth after being hit by Dorothy’s house

2023 Year in Review

Today’s the last day of the year! For me, at least. Probably not for you, who’s probably reading this on one of the infinite other days that will come after I first post it.

At the end of every year I like taking inventory and seeing what I accomplished, which areas I fell short in, and making vague idealistic plans for the year to come. Not New Year’s Resolutions, though—those never work out and I’ve learned my lesson… after enough times…

So what did I do in 2023? Here’s a very abridged list of some highlights:

  • I wrote at least one blog post every month.
  • I read at least one book every month.
  • I reread Homestuck, and confirmed that my opinions on it haven’t changed. (The first half, through the End of Act 5, is great. The second half, in my opinion, is not.)
  • I got caught up in the web serial Katalepsis! Total reading time so far, from Chapter 1.1 to the latest Chapter 23.1: 136.7 hours.
  • I played absolutely copious amounts of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. (Didn’t we all?)
  • I played Celeste—and beat it!
  • I played utterly absurd amounts of New Super Mario Bros. – Mario Vs Luigi. I’m so good at it now that just the other day, someone accused me of being a hacker. Literally one of my proudest moments in gaming history.
  • I did absolutely petty and paltry amounts of creative writing this year, but that’s okay—I think I’m going to make 2024 another “writing year.”
  • I participated in a group game jam that completely flopped.
  • In preparing for that game jam, I learned Unity and regained a strong passion for game development.
  • I made a clone of the game Pong (for practice), but with an overly dramatic final boss fight (for fun).
  • I started making the casual puzzle game I had wanted to make for the last 13 years.
  • I moved! Gosh, that sure was an exhausting process and I’m glad it’s done forever now.
  • I cut off all my family and most of my friends.
  • I blew up nearly every human connection I have, and am now in a constant state of self-sabotage-induced lonely misery.
  • I revived the long dormant Porydex project, and after weeks of working on it non-stop, the finish line is finally within sight.
  • I maintained a daily log for the entire year of what projects I worked on each day, and/or any other interesting things I did, or sometimes just plain chore days. (That list was mildly helpful for putting together this post!)

Wow! What a year!

… Or was it? It really doesn’t seem like much when I list it all out like that. But maybe that’s because I’m too results-oriented, so things like the multiple months I spent working on game dev get condensed into the single line “I worked on XYZ game,” without delving at all into any of the nuances of the journey I took to get there. Like attempting to learn the basics of pixel art, and color theory, and the weeks spent on whichever feature of the game-in-progress.

Same for Porydex. For that one at least, I haven’t been afraid to go into more detail in my Monthly Update posts, about whichever gritty subsection of the overall project I’m working on at any point. And believe me, there are many. And they’re all so gritty.

I’m truly, genuinely not upset about my lack of creative writing this year, unlike other years where I felt that I failed to execute on my creative desires. And I owe it 100% to game dev, and another 30% to Porydex. I’m still executing on my creative desires, just in other directions for now.

But I think I’d like to change that in the near future. As much as I love the game dev, and as much as hyperfocusing on it comes naturally to me (versus writing, where I really struggled to get “into” it when I wasn’t already in the mood), I’m really starting to miss the writing, and I’m slow-burn building up the desire to do a big writing project again.

Which is why when I say I think 2024 is going to be another “writing year,” I say that not as a resolution (because I’d be okay if it didn’t happen), but as a feeling. A prediction based on knowing myself and my moods.

Or maybe not! Maybe when the time comes, when I’m faced with that blank page and the immediate challenge of writing the first sentence, I’ll decide “nah, let’s get back to writing code for the new feature in XYZ game.”

Overall, after having looked back on everything noteworthy in the last year (literally—by definition, the only things I could look back on where the things I took notes on), I think I’m satisfied and can say, just like I did at the end of my previous Year in Review post:

This was a good year.

December 2023 Update

First, let’s answer a question that’s been hanging in the back of everyone’s minds for the entire year: Yes, I can!

It’s been an extremely busy month, for more reasons than I can say. I mean that literally. Lawyers are involved. And not in the fun way, where you’re applying for copyright protections for a creative project or whatever. I mean in the bad way, where you’re helping a loved one through a real rough time. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it in a few months. In the meantime though, here’s all the actual project updates you’re here for:

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