being the mental and scholastic wanderings of Collie Collier
Copyright © 1999 B. A. "Collie" Collier
Things do not change, we do.
Well well well... it's been what, two years? Welcome back, all -- I'm glad to see IR alive again. Unfortunately I don't have anything thoughtful, pithy, and insightful all prepared, as I'd previously thought IR was no more. Therefore I'm going to put in a quickie posting that's vaguely relevant to my last ish - I had promised, after all, to mention how various cultural beliefs could be used to influence a game. After that I'll just stick in a bunch of comments this ish. We are, after all, somewhat behind, and I like the chatting back and forth we tend to do in such commentary (c'mon, admit it, you've all done ego-boo scanning through APAs for your name, yes? ;-). Also I find commentary easier than coming up with something erudite, brilliant, and perspicacious... or even just coming up with my usual finals paper for interesting filler. ;-)
This posting was casually tossed off to a mailing list. You can, perhaps, imagine my surprise to hear from someone much later that they'd liked it so much they'd put it up on an on-line zine they ran. It's a cool zine, incidentally. Check it out at this location.
Firstly, there's the issue of law. If I wanted to surprise the PCs in a game, I might have a culture where there are no limits on the types of weaponry people are allowed to carry. However, as soon as any of the (usually heavily armed) PCs tried to throw their weight around, they'd quickly find out that the civilians are not just armed, but are quite insistent on the rights of the individual to not be abused. Libertarian land, if you like.
Then there's variants on that theme. How about a world where all the guns are outlawed unless you have a permit for them -- but diligent searching reveals no available paperwork, and thus it is impossible to register your weapons? This is the case in Chicago for handguns. How would the PCs handle that? Or the situation in New York: NO HANDGUNS!!! ...unless you're connected to the right political heavy, or have enough money, or something similar... or the situation we generally have here in the United States now, exaggerated slightly: a religious war over whether the masses should or should not be able to carry weapons.
[At the time this was written] I live[d] in Sunnyvale, CA. Here, in order to just apply for a concealed carry permit, one has to pay for and pass a physical and a mental health checkup, be fingerprinted 5 times, be photo'd twice, pay $40 for the application fee and another $60 if it's granted, demonstrate "good moral character" (the cop I spoke to had no idea how that was done, btw), show proof of insurance for one million dollars of personal liability, authorize and pay for a background check, demonstrate that you were in immediate danger (self-defense isn't enough, apparently), demonstrate proficiency with the weapon, and give two medical releases (the cop didn't know why one would not be sufficient). All this... and at any time the Chief of Public Safety can just change the rules if desired. If you ever wanted to tie up your PCs for just a little bit longer, there's nothing like red tape!
Okay, so enough of that. How about studies that demonstrate the gun "haves" and "have-nots"? Those also have interesting results, and could be used to help give form to a society. For example, in a society where some of the people are unarmed and some aren't, the usual result is a lack of concern for human life to some degree. Mexico springs to mind, although I know it is a generalization. There will also probably be a high suicide rate amongst the "lower" (read unarmed) class, and crime will be of a different sort amongst them -- more confidence games, "white-collar" crime -- robberies would be more open and more violent, since a burglar has nothing to fear from an interrupting householder -- just beat them up!
Lower class women will probably be considered chattel to some degree, as they are not usually as physically strong (due to things like malnutrition or abuse) or aggressively trained (due to social customs like 'machismo' etc.) as men. They definitely are not allowed access to guns. Guns are the great equalizer, in a way, and a local noble certainly wouldn't want his droit du seigneur (sp?) interrupted by 'uppity' serfs with bullets.
Guns might become symbols of status, jealously guarded and prohibited to the lower classes. The black market would be wide ranging, ruthless, and very powerful -- after all, they've got the weapons the lower classes don't. As long as the mafia equivalent doesn't piss off the "nobility", they'd pretty much run rampant through the lower classes, and no one could stop them. It might be interesting if the PCs tried to eliminate such a mafia equivalent, and discovered a 'noble' was sponsoring it as a money making scheme and slow way to get the despised 'lower' classes to kill each other off.
What else... there would be a (probably mostly unfounded in reality) sense among the "nobility" that they were in some way more worthy, more valuable than the unarmed. This might be reflected in the religion, and could vary from little sneers from the haves towards the have-nots (e.g. the way women are sometimes viewed by men in society today) to outright slavery. A hierarchy of nobility based on the gun, if you will.
This might be interesting for several reasons. What class would the PCs fall into, or be automatically categorized as? What would happen if the PCs decided to "liberate" the have-nots? What if the PCs were of a slightly higher technical capability than the haves, and the haves wished the PCs to join them, showering the PCs with all kinds of wonderful gifts -- riches, beautiful clothing, works of art, slaves.... Moral dilemmas fascinate me. I'd try to set something like that up for my PCs, were I GMing.
I'm afraid the commentary may be a little terse in spots - I'm pressed for time by homework, and I want to get this zine in on time.
Thanks re the nice commentaries on my zines! I must say, I think your children hit the nail precisely on the head in regards to the real message of the Disney version of 'Hunchback.' No, I didn't go see it - I couldn't bring myself to do so, as I hadn't enjoyed the book that much in the first place. So... I asked friends about it, and their commentaries pretty much mirrored what I feared I'd see if I'd gone.
Yes, I have left gaming groups due to 'bad chemistry.' Once I know I'm making someone angry/unhappy/uncomfortable, it's no longer fun for me to game with them - especially if we can't seem to work out whatever issues we may have.
Modesty Blaze was a character in a series of men's pulp books. By 'men's pulp books' I mean that genre where you have a protagonist that goes through myriad adventures in myriad slim, quick-read little paperbacks. I think the Modesty Blaze ones were written during the '70's mostly, but I don't know for sure. Umm... I can't think of any other examples off the top of my head now, of course... oh! The Casca series, about the immortal Roman centurion, is one, as are the ones about Doc Savage and the ones about umm... what's his name, Remo Williams? the 'perfect' martial artist guy.
They get pretty silly after a while. The most extreme one I know of has Willy Garvin, Modesty's sidekick, tied to a chair by enemies. He manages to throw himself out of their airplane while still tied to the chair... then he angles himself somehow so as to direct and slow his fall so he ends up crashing through some trees (which conveniently tear off the ropes binding him), then has his remaining inertia killed by smashing into a herd of sheep - and he walks away from the landing! ;-)
Joe and Kiralee, first of all let me publicly say thanks for bringing back IR! Now, on with the comments...
Joe, I don't know if you're still looking for PBeM players, but I'd certainly be interested. Thanks to both of you for the complimentary commentary re my paper on gamers, and yes, it did serve me well in the grade department.
Kiralee, re the study on rhesus macaques: males and females both have hierarchy, but they're differently based, and hierarchy for them is very different in feeling and meaning to them than what it is for a human. Female macaques have a very loose ranking style, which is based partly on their families. A high ranking female macaque will not only be strong and healthy, but will also have a lot of female offspring, of several generations, that hang around with her - a family that fights together in support of each other. Young male offspring, of course, eventually get driven off to live in the surrounding areas.
Male macaques, on the other hand, establish a very strict hierarchy - if you're familiar enough with the troop you can point to any one male monkey and confidently state precisely who ranks above and below him. It's true that in a one-on-one fight a male could overpower a female, but you don't see that happening much usually. Any male that starts to push a female around is likely to get mobbed by an angry rush of that female's relatives. That's why you frequently see what is often astonishing to human viewers - a tiny female pushing a much larger male around. She has back-up - and so she ranks higher than him.
Re ranking itself, most humans (at least in the United States) see that in terms of what they're used to. We're taught as children that all are created equal, after all. Hierarchy, to us, is frequently a 'bad' word, meaning oppression and injustice, which causes depression and pain. To a macaque (and possibly to most monkeys?) the concept doesn't exist. He or she knows that they can, if necessary, push this monkey around, and should flee if that monkey gets angry. That's all it means to them. In some ways they have a much healthier attitude about it than we do. ;-)
Also, it's a common human trait (due to cultural conditioning) to assume females are passive, waiting for the active males to notice and act upon them. In reality it's far different - in macaques alone there've been repeated recorded instances of females determining who would mate with whom. Two quick examples: high ranking males have been artfully dodged by females that wish to mate with a lower ranking male (which a higher ranking male would drive off if he noticed). Also females have decided on which mate they wanted, and furiously driven off all other receptive females.
This is not to say that only females are active, of course - it's merely to point out that our common conceptions of the passivity of females and activeness of males are really completely culturally constructed. Females and males both can be either active or passive.
Joe, nice explanation of polyamory. Couldn't agree more. However there are some other good arguments for extended families that I think most folks haven't considered. Consider how much it saves money and effort. Using your example of 6 couples in one house, I'm guessing they have one dishwasher and one washer/dryer. They didn't have to buy a full set of household appliances for every two adults, and that adds up to a tidy savings.
Extended families also mean that none of the adults are 'stuck' in their jobs. Are you tired of housework and/or caring for kids? That's okay - there's enough adults in your extended family to make sure others can take the kids for a while, and you can get a part time job if you want. Are you sick of your 40 hour a week job extending into 60, 90, over 100 hours? That's all right - there's enough income that you can afford to quit and find another job.
With probably at least half the adults working at least part time, you now have the luxury of enough time and money so you can find a job you really like. Or you can afford to go back to school and increase your skills, so you can command a better salary when you return to the job market. Furthermore if you wish you can only work part time - 6 adults working part time means there's still enough money to maintain the standard of living you want, and still have time left over for your own personal creative endeavors.
I would dearly love to be part of such an extended household, and I've seen the benefits for all when there's even just 3 roomies. Unfortunately my sweetie and I have yet to find all the folks we want to live with... I'd like to have a polyamorous household if we can, not just extended numbers of roommates. Wish us luck. ;-)
Strong agreement re the responsibility organized religion (all of them, darnit!) bears for the miseries inflicted on the often too-trusting laity.
Warning... rant on here! ;-)
It's in the name of 'christianity' that we get crap like the poor boy who was beaten to death because he wasn't heterosexual, and the minister who carried a 'God Hates Fags' sign to his funeral. Christian beliefs also apparently 'inspired' the anti-abortion hate-website that publishes information about family planning doctors. They publish the doctors' names, home addresses, family members (including children!), work addresses, routes to work... they put a black outline on the names of murdered doctors and gray around those that were 'only' injured.
You know what really scares me about stuff like that? What scares me is that there are actually clergy that proudly calls itself christian, that condones and encourages (often openly) assassination! That's not christian... that's sick. And lest people feel I'm bashing christianity unfairly, I'll note that every organized religion I know of has similar modern-day instances of twisted manipulation of their dogma to benefit the clergy's perverse beliefs. Perils of a good anthropology/sociology education, I suppose.
What I still don't understand, however, is how organized religions that have at their base the belief in the inherent goodness and equality of humankind can somehow corrupt, bastardize, and basically rape those beneficent beliefs into the horrible, perverse standards that they assure us we all must live by or forever suffer the torments of hell. My thought's always been that I'd rather not serve such an atrociously disgusting deity as theirs, thanks all the same... I'll risk hell in the hopes that their Adversary is someone/thing that's fighting all the perversions their god supposedly stands for.
Whew... rant off. Sorry. ;-)
Glad you liked/understood the original version of the paper on gamers better, Chris - that's not something to feel like a dummy about! ;-)
Glad you liked "The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer's Bible," Rich. Sean's an acquaintance/friend, and it's nice to see something he wrote get accolades. It's a pity Prima Press only did one printing of it. Thus goes the publishing market, alas.
Aww... you're sweet! Thank you for the lovely compliment on my zine for #26! Re your comment on the timing of technological change... if I understand correctly, when graphing technological change across the years one does not end up with a slow but steadily increasing line. Instead it starts almost flat-lined, stays there with almost miniscule change for hundreds, even thousands of years... and then its own development starts to affect its growth. It starts its very slow upturn - then almost literally turns into a skyrocketing upward line as each new technological advance creates and encourages more.
Don't know how that would affect the Star Wars universe, but thought it might be interesting to bring up.
Thank you for your compliments re my paper on gamers! Re your questions about counter-hegemonic activities: I believe that they are created and enjoyed precisely because they are counter-hegemonic - they don't fit the social mold, they defy it. It is the nature of subcultures to start as a reaction to the main culture, just as it is the nature of main cultures to either assimilate, ignore, or obliterate the subcultures it accidentally spawns.
Do you remember how punk was initially a bit scary? Then it became 'cool' - it became commercially viable. That's an example of the main culture coercing and assimilating the subculture it used to fear - they redefined punk as something desirable rather than something that was in effect thumbing its nose at them.
It happens in gaming too, of course, although since gaming's not as scary as punk it doesn't draw as much attention from the main culture. We can, for example, see efforts to obliterate gaming in the foolish and misguided (IMNSHO) attempts to brand gaming as satanic, and to outlaw it.
Thus, as far as a gaming 'holy grail' that makes gaming 'big' (or commercial and assimilateable by the main culture) I'd have to say that I hope there isn't one. I've yet to see any small, dedicated group that is doing something they love, survive the move to national or international corporation with their integrity intact.
Hm. I think what I most dislike about marriages is the emotional baggage that goes along with them... the 'happily ever after' stuff, the 'this one is MINE!' attitudes, things like that. It's the sort of socially expected norm which makes folks get married sometimes without really thinking through what they're doing. If marriages were well and thoughtfully planned for by all participants, for example, why do we have a 50% divorce rate?
To me this says that marriage as a social institution isn't doing what its participants need, and as a consequence is being constantly re-evaluated and revised. I'll be glad when marriage has been re-defined enough that it actually functions smoothly again, and is of some use to its participants.
As far as rites of passage, I'm all for them, and wish we had more of them - a ritual of adulthood would help quite a bit, I think, in reducing some of the anomie many young adults feel. To me, as an amateur anthropologist, rites of passage add meaning and richness to life.
Thank you for your kind comments re enjoying my zine on Minoan Crete. I'm afraid I disagree about your feelings on the internal, inter-contributor chat though... I very much enjoy it, and it is what I most enjoy about IR, even more than a chance at vanity press.
I found your 'Heal 1/2' amusing... but I admit, I didn't know anyone didn't know about hydrogen peroxide! Perils of an animal-centric upbringing, I suppose... ;-)
You may already know this, but you don't shake hydrogen peroxide, and you don't store it in direct sunlight or in clear containers. It's a bit chemically unstable, and doing any of those things will cause it to break down from H2O2 to H2O.
We always had at least 2 one gallon jugs of it in the barn. We used it immediately on both ourselves and the horses whenever we got scratches or bites or whatever... great stuff. We also used it instead of alcohol one year to swab the horses right before giving them their yearly shots. That's when we discovered it lightens fur color quite noticeably. This wasn't a big deal on the white horse, but on the black one it looked rather startling.
In fact, we tended to use the medical stuff used on the horses a lot for our own use, although from separate and distinct containers, and vice versa. After all, if it was good enough for us it was good enough for them. This led to the occasional highly raised eyebrow from our non-horsey friends... like the time my father needed a leg bracer and wash for his tired horse and discovered we were out of Absorbine, which we usually used, so he used some alcohol-based human mouthwash... which was bright red!
We occasionally used Absorbine on ourselves, of course... and there was some antibiotic that to this day I do not know the name of. It came in a black, screw-top jar, and was a virulent, gloppy neon-yellow goo. It was marvelous stuff to swab onto larger, bleeding cuts after the hydrogen peroxide had caused most of the blood to stop flowing; tasted awful; and kept flies and dirt off open wounds for the animals. One jar for the horses, dogs, and cats, and one for the humans, of course. ;-)
I also find Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series a um... little difficult to read -- I find the actual champions annoying and depressing. If they know everyone around them is going to die, due to association with them, why don't they leave? Would that not be the only ethical thing to do? Indeed, if I remember correctly (it's been years since I read these), all of the champions knew they themselves were doomed to die horribly - so why insist on dragging others along?
In defense of my character I will point out that she decided it was best for her to leave her home and friends, for their own safety. She was on her way to live on her own when they caught up with her and convinced her she was wrong. She could have effectively disappeared from all human contact, too - her talent or ability or superpower was the ability to communicate with animals, and she'd been mostly raised by animals as well, rather like Mowgli.
You ask what happened to the 'amazingly immature jerk' GM. Last I heard he was as unpopular in his new locale as he'd gotten here, with the added complication that he now had a reputation as an illogically fanatical quarreler. I do not miss him.
Like you, I do not think gaming should take the place of professional help. However, I do know that I have on occasion used gaming to help me work out ethical and moral problems, or to carefully, closely, and slowly examine subjects which I initially found somewhat disturbing. I think the qualifier here is that in all these cases I trusted my GM to stop immediately if I said I'd had enough and this was too much for me (which I didn't have to say, but it was nice to know I could), and I never felt I was out of control, e.g., when things got too tense for us within the game we could always walk away from it for a bit, and take a snack break. From what I've been told and seen, it's when you feel helpless both in your daily life and within the game that you tend to succumb to either anomie or panic.
Your article on "In Response: A Survey of Ideas for Increasing Circulation" was well written and interesting. I found myself strongly sympathizing with one of the points you make, namely your uncertainty regarding the usefulness of saying there should be more constructive commentary. Firstly, I agree profoundly with the idea that one should mention both,
...one or two good things about the piece, and one thing that needs work, under the assumption that giving the author something to work on is more useful than stroking their ego.
I don't consider that too harsh at all, but rather thoughtful good sense. Critiques should be constructive, not destructive, and it sounds like what you're aiming for is constructive critique.
Secondly, I'm afraid I agree that just saying there should be more commentary won't necessarily work. I know, for example, that I've put most all my school papers that I thought were any good up on my web pages (Collie cleverly inserts a plug for her web site at http://www.uniblab.com/collie/ ;-). Indeed, I've specifically asked some folks to read particular papers because I valued their opinions and/or because the paper had some significance to me. My finals paper for my damn excuse for a masculinity class was one of that latter category -- I was quite angry by the time that class ended, and my paper showed it... and I wanted cooler and more objective heads to critique it for me. Should anyone be curious as to what irks me, it's here.
However I have, in two years on the web, gotten very little spontaneous commentary that wasn't specifically solicited by me, re my web site. It's a pity... I'd love to discuss some of the issues my papers were written about.
Your point on misunderstandings in roleplaying is well taken. Some folks, I think, just shouldn't play together. *sigh* It's a pity.
Glad you enjoyed my article re "the line" - I admit it was fun to write too. I'm not sure why folks seem to be getting generally ruder nowadays, but I think part of it may be due to the anonymity the net provides you. I read about a study once that determined that antisocial behavior increased as the participants realized they couldn't be identified. It's an interesting topic of research, and if you're interested in it I can recommend a really excellent on-line scholarly journal that explores the (relatively) new field of 'computer-mediated communication.'
Oh, you've seen "Black Magic: M66"? I loved that short clip at the beginning, where the mechanical constructs are fighting the military group. To me that was precisely how real superheroes might move and seem and appear to 'normals' - as amazing, almost unstoppable, lethal and amoral forces of nature. It was an enlightening bit of visuals that helped me play superhero characters more interestingly.
Glad you enjoy my articles! Thanks very much for the compliments re my papers too. I'm going to the University of California at Santa Cruz, since you ask... yes, it's a terrifyingly liberal college. I just hide my true beliefs and keep putting out the best work I can... much like real life... ;-)
Hm... what was managing a comics & games store like? Much like my other jobs, when it came to disgruntled customers, idiot distributors, and employee firing. On the other hand, it was lovely to have a product to sell that I really enjoyed and had faith in, and it was wonderful having a store owner that thought I should pretty much run things as I wanted. I'd have to say overall it was a very worthwhile experience - I got to help people have fun, and had fun while doing it.
It's been my experience that most folks treat the bible as a sort of moral and mental smorgasbord - pick and chose what you want to believe, then loudly declare that everyone else is anathema. Good for you, re knowing there's more to the story than that. Hm... I'm not sure if you enjoyed my article on guns that much though. Hope it wasn't too discouraging. If it helps any, when I started that paper I was taking a 'side' that I disagreed with, and over time, as I researched it, I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with my previous beliefs.
I firmly believe we should let kindness, logic, and rationality determine our lives and decisions. Thus, when faced with overwhelming evidence that my previous stance on guns was both illogical and down-right unfair to some folks... I changed my mind. I must admit, that's the same mental process I went through when I decided to reject organized religion. I don't consider myself aspiritual... just firmly against organized religion. Please don't take this as a slam, however... I have nothing but admiration for folks that are willing to bravely buck the social tide to attempt to keep kindness and tolerance in our world. It's why I like Bishop Spong too. ;-)
That's it for now, I think - I want to get this off so it makes the new ish. To everyone else, RAEBNC!
Last Updated: Mon Mar 29 1999