Nanakorobi yaoki

Two weeks ago…


And now…


When I was 18 I considered getting a tattoo. I didn’t, mostly because I instituted a series of stages. First, I must design the tattoo. Perhaps not a fully fleshed out design, but I had to have a solid idea. Second, I had to sketch out that design and let it sit. I’d put it in a place on my desk or somewhere else I’d see it often, so that every time I saw it I’d ask myself, “Do I want that on my body forever?” Third, temporary tattoo. You can make a temporary tattoo yourself. Just draw/print your design onto a piece of paper – in reverse. Then use a pen (or pens if it’s multi-color) to go over the design – really heavy on the ink. Wet your skin, lay the paper ink-side down and then wet the back of the paper, hold in place for a while and then peel off the paper. Fourth a final step, get the tattoo.

The rules were a good idea. The first tattoo I came up with was terrible and I would have hated it within months. And over the years, many ideas never made it past stage 1. Most ideas died in stage 2. With the drawing sitting on my desk, or my PC as a JPG, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t like it enough to have it forever. Once or twice I got to stage 3, but within a few days I would wash it off and not put it back on.

Getting to stage 4 was going to take an idea, a design, that had great meaning. It would have to resonate through me, to ever fiber of my being. The wife and I have been working on a tattoo we would share, but it’s been a slow road going through several iterations and isn’t quite ready yet. But this one…

I first encountered “nanakorobi yaoki” in 1993. I had just transferred from Southern Tech to Kennesaw State, and in my efforts to try to find something that inspired me to learn, I signed up for Japanese 101. We immediately jumped right in to learning the katakana, hiragana and kanji. The teacher wanted to forego the basics and get right to smothering us in Japanese, so along with the traditional lessons the school required her to teach she also brought in magazines and books. And art. Seeing large paintings peppered with the picture writing was inspiring. I took two years of Japanese. I loved it. And in there, somewhere during that first class, we were given a sheet of proverbs.

Seven fall, eight rise. That’s the most literal translation. When a person is born, they literally rise the first time. They learn to walk, their family and community lift them through childhood. And when they fall, and they will fall, it levels out the rises and falls. And you get back up. Get up more times than you fall down. Or as Chumbawamba might say, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.” Or Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart you said, “Never give up, never surrender.“ Seven fall, eight rise.

I like to think that this, more than anything, describes the core of my being. Despite many failures, both internal and driven by outside forces, there is always a point where I get back up. And so, I made a design. I printed it out and had in on my PC. I made a temporary tattoo. I got a tattoo.

Shhh… it’s a secret!

nomailThe past few years, I’ve participated in a Secret Santa event from a community I belong to. Two years ago, it was just Quarter to Three, and last year too. This year it’s Quarter to Three and Broken Forum. The first year I participated in it, I was lame. I bought items from my Santee’s Amazon wish list based on a theme – all comic book related – and wrapped/packed them in old Comic Shop News issues. Last year, however, I took it upon myself to again pick a theme but to include something crafted, something unique. It went over extremely well.

Last year, I bought my Santee a couple of book in the Steampunk genre, and then I took a copy of his wedding photo and redid it as Steampunk. It’s the first image below.

This year, I was participating in two exchanges. For one, I went with a space theme – more specifically, Gundam. I got him a model that he wanted and then made up a photo to go along with it. It’s the second image. For the other, my Santee did not provide his wish list and he was fairly difficult to stalk because he actually keeps to himself a lot, but luckily he said he’d be open to anything. Since I’m a big zombie fan and he’s a chemical engineer, I decided to get him a selection of my favorite recent(ish) zombie books and created a photo of him working on zombie formulas in his lab. It’s the final image.

I’ve really enjoyed doing these, and I look forward to doing more of them in the years to come.

Browsing the Aisles

This month’s Gamer Banter: “How important is cover art to you?”

Back in the day, we’d go to the store as a family, and in the electronics section there would be the wall of Atari games.  The cover art was pretty much always like a million times better than the actual game graphics.  The art mattered, because that’s what got you to pick up the box and flip it over to see a couple of game shots.  Even into the Nintendo and early PC eras this continued.  The art of a King’s Quest box didn’t match the game, but it drew you in.

These days, I almost never go to the store to browse games.  I check websites, I browse Amazon.  I buy games there too, and the only time I ever see the game box is when I’m getting the disc out to put it in the 360 or installing the game on my hard drive… though Steam has pretty much ended the latter.

If I did, though, game box covers are like a movie poster.  It’s art, meant to catch your eye.  And much like movie posters the same layouts get used so often that I have become almost immune to them.  They fail to catch my eye.  And yet, now and then a movie poster comes along that I have to find and buy and I have to put on my wall.  But game boxes are so small.  Perhaps I might display a particularly good one if it was sold in a poster size, but so few are.

So to answer the question, the cover art is unimportant to me.  I barely even notice it.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.

Other takes:
Silvercublogger: Don’t Cover The Art, Unless…
The Average Gamer: Cover Art
SnipingMizzy: In the eye of the beholder
Extra Guy: On Books and Covers
Zath: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art? Cover art? No, thanks!
Pioneer Project: The game box’s big moment
Man Fat: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?

Games as Art

Oh God, I think I’m going to crash the Internet with all these links.  And that’s just from searching for “Ebert” in my Google Reader.  You should probably read this one too.  All of those are worth clicking on and reading.  The comments also.  I think I even made a comment or two in there somewhere.  On the subject at hand, I’m not certain I’m decided.  Though if pressed, I might have to say that games are not art, or at the very least that the majority of games are not art.

One of the nice things about most forms of traditional art is that they don’t change.  The Mona Lisa is The Mona Lisa still.  Casablanca is Casablanca.  The text of Hamlet remains.  That last example begins to get to my line of thinking.  No one would argue that Hamlet is a work of literary art, but individual productions of Hamlet will be heavily debated.  In fact, in the artistic world, a production of Hamlet would be considered performance art, not simply art.

When you go to a museum and look at a painting on the wall, that painting will be exactly the same every time you go to see it.  What changes from viewing to viewing is YOU.  The same can be said for books and films and most of the traditional art forms.  If I were to load up World of Warcraft or Crysis or even a game like Flower (which many people consider to be art) and just watch it, it might be art but it wouldn’t be a game.  If I go to YouTube and watch videos of people playing games, it might be art, the video, and it might be a game for the person who made it, but for me it wouldn’t be a game.

A game is like Schrödinger’s cat, it is a collection of potentials that are, in actual terms, useless until we open the box and see if the cat is alive or dead.  A game isn’t a game until we play it.  To me, it seems that video games are more like sports than they are like paintings or books or movies.  A baseball player might have a beautiful swing, and there may be many artful things in a game of baseball, but I don’t believe that anyone would call a baseball game “art”.  Unlike most art, not only do you change between visits to a game, but the game changes too.  Sure, some games are so simple that they don’t change much at all, but those aren’t usually the games people claim are art.  Saying a video game is a single piece of art is like saying that all the productions of Hamlet are a single piece of art.  A game is ephemeral.  Unless someone video tapes it, you can’t return to the game exactly as it was before, and if you do it through video the subsequent times you return they are movies, which might be art but aren’t games.

As I said, a game isn’t a game until we play it, so the gamer is part of the game since we can’t have one without the other.  Many people bristle at the idea of video games being a sport.  Face it, many people who play video games do so to get away from sports.  (I kid, I kid!) (Not really.)  So perhaps we should stray back towards plays.  From the audience, a play is performance art, a performance of art.  But what is a play for the performers?  Is the act of acting “art” from the perspective of the actor?  Or is the performer the artist? A painting, completed, is art, but is the act of creating the painting art?  I don’t believe it is.  From that view, game developers aren’t creating art, they are creating paints and brushes and easels, production notes and outlines, tools from which art can be created by the gamer.  A game, completed, might be art, but again if you are experiencing a completed game you are probably watching a movie, not playing a game.

All of this talking around in circles leads me to believe that since I find it so hard to define a game as being art there are only two options.  Either the words and terms and methods to define a game as art don’t yet exist or at least are not known to me, or that games are not art but might just be a medium through which art can be created.  In the end, I’m liking that second option better because if games are art that make me an art consumer (or connoisseur if I’m fluffing my ego), but if games are a medium then I am an artist.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Two

When it comes to Dragon*Con, four hours sleep is a lot.  And remember, you can’t be hung over if you are still drunk.  Really, it doesn’t take much too keep yourself going all day, that canteen I have isn’t water, its vodka and Crystal Light Lemonade, because, you know, I’m trying to watch my diet.

The day begins with a car alarm.  I shit you not.  Not even seven in the A.M. and there is an annoying *BEEP BEEP* alarm that I can hear… in my room… on the 38th floor.  Jeez… So, once awake, I figured I’d just stay up.  Three hours later I’d find myself sitting in the Free MMOs panel, listening to Krystalle tell us about some nifty free MMOs some of which I knew about and some of which I did not.  Expect to see a few of them tested out and reviewed here, because these days in this economy I am all about the free.

Made my way over to the Hyatt for a panel on How To Draw Monsters.  Interesting stuff, will definitely utilize some of that in my Saturday doodles when they return.  While I was in the area I sped through the Art Show… Some people like to take their time and carefully examine the art, but I’ve been to enough Dragon*Cons that, no offence to the artists, I’ve seen most of this before, either exactly these before or items very similar.  Lots of the same artists with the same styles they always have, and almost all of it is incredible stuff… but its not new, and most of it is not the kind of thing you stand considering for hours letting the emotion of the piece work into your soul… its fantasy art, with dragons, and women showing boobs, and guys with swords, and little monsters, and fairies, and women as the seasons, and aliens, and henna, and Celtic knots, and all the stuff you would expect.  Good stuff, but at this point I can speed through the hall and if it doesn’t jump out and grab me then I’ve probably seen it before.  This year didn’t even have one of those awesome miniatures scenes I’ve enjoyed from the last couple years.

I also took this opportunity to make a first trip through the exhibit halls… much like the art show, it is a lot of the same stuff every year.  As is typical, I spent a little time in some of the book sellers looking for deals or books I’m missing, but overall, great stuff that I’ve seen before and so really easy to speed through.

Then it was off to the MMO Roundtable.  People from Cartoon Network, CCP Games, Funcom, Hi-Rez Studios, and Sony Online Entertainment answered questions about the MMO industry.  Lots of good stuff here.  I ran in Ferrel from Epic Slant, and he gave me a t-shirt.  Woohoo! Free stuff rocks!

With my head full of MMO industry goodness, I wandered over to Watch the Guild where we did exactly that: watched season one and two uncut.  It was interesting to see each season without the breaks, the credits for every short segment.  It played well.  Ms. Day was great.  Being that she’s a bit of a geek herself and a big reader, she seems to really like Dragon*Con, so hopefully this means she’ll make many returns, even if it means she has to miss PAX.

It is important to break for dinner prior to going out to party and drink.  I did so, and then did so.  Frankly, as much as I love the MMO track people and the MMO track, the WoW Party getting the giant room was a huge waste when you consider to do so meant pushing the BSG party into a piddly half-ballroom.  They reach max capacity very fast and had a massive line.  Seriously, on the first Dragon*Con after the series ended, did they expect attendance to diminish?  Its the funeral, the big send off… BSG had a huge turn out.  The show may be over, but fans always swell and linger at the end.  The Firefly Shindig, forced to use just half a ballroom as well was in a similar boat, though not anywhere near at severe.  Meanwhile, I strolled right in to the WoW party, took one of the many empty seats and almost immediately got up to leave.  I wanted to party, but I couldn’t get in to the good parties… so instead I resorted to the Marriott lobby, people watching while sipping spirits.  I did manage to run into and catch up with quite a few friends, but still, I’d rather have been able to get into a party instead.  That said, I still enjoyed myself and made it well beyond 3AM of another day at the Con.

Day two ends as day two should, exhausted and drunk.  Not the highest of highs, but high enough.

Does He Enjoy the Irony?

After Jeff Freeman linked to this site, I read through a bunch of it.  Most of it is bile.  The author loves stringing together insults, an equal opportunity hater, because he does, in point of fact, hate everything he writes about.

The bulk of his reviews of webcomics boil down to “that’s not funny” although most times he does make comments about the art as well.  The irony I speak of in the title comes about in this post, a mere 15 posts in to his run.  He takes a moment to explain that the people who think he isn’t funny just don’t get it because he writes the site to entertain, “Like, seven or eight people.”  The irony is that most webcomics actually start the same way.  Looking at many of them now, you might not be able to see their more humble beginnings, before they got enough traffic for ads to matter, before they put up message boards, or ran charity drives.  Everyone starts somewhere.

If the author keeps it up, he might one day sell out just like Maddox, someone who probably started his website to entertain, like, seven or eight people.

Alliance: Silithus and Tradeskills

The land of Silithus has been very good to Ishiro, as he is pleasantly making his way through level 59, well on his way to never needing experience again… until they raise the level cap that is. Its exciting. I’ve never been at the level cap of an original game before.

But, Silithus is a very dreary land. I guess it is a testament to the art skills of the guys at Blizzard that this desert wasteland actually depresses me. Or maybe its that the Hive bugs are a constant reminder that I actually sat through Starship Troopers 2… on purpose.

Besides the levelling, I have been doing what I can to work on Ishiro’s tailoring and engineering. Since I’m not rich enough to buy felcloth from the market, nor bored enough to farm it, my tailoring these days consists of making mooncloths when I can, which is one every 4 days. I can usually find 2 felcloth in 4 days. Engineering on the other hand is going even slower. Lorilai is an armor smith, and her skilling up is using all the materials, and since she’s the miner she gets first dibs. I did manage to make myself a mechanical dragonling which should be a fun toy once an hour.

I really want to spend more time in the PvP battlegrounds, but I think getting 60 first will be a good thing, because as much as I love the BGs, I’ve always felt like a runt. Well, soon, runt no longer.

11 November 1999

The joys of having your own place…
There are a few good things about having your own place that I thought I’d spout off about.
First… The TV. You always get to decide what to watch because you always get the remote. And if you get too tired to go to bed while watching the tube, just sleep right where you are.
Second… Storage and Product Placement. Put everything where you want it. No “My Space” and “Your Space” because it’s all “My Space”. All the closets, all the shelves, all of it. Any poster or piece of art you want up… it goes up. Wanna put the TV on that wall and the couch on the one over there… done. One cabinet for glasses, one for plates… One shelf for chips, one shelf for canned goods… done, and done.
And finally… Clothing. Put dirty clothes wherever you want. I happen to WANT to put mine in the hamper in my bedroom closet, but if I felt the need, I could leave them on the living room floor it I desired. Most importantly about clothes with a place of your own though… they are optional. No roommates to look out for, no family to be wary of… your own personal nudist colony.
Now I just need a few female members to visit now and again and I’m set.