Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pixelpop 2016 in the STL

While at Archon, a local sci fi convention, I got a flyer about Pixelpop, which is a smaller video gaming convention. So, of course I went. It was held at the St. Louis Science Center. Although it was small, it was worth going to see, because it was fun. I sat in panels and played gaming demos. I want to highlight here a few of my favorites.


I’ll start with VR Funhouse from Nvidia.

This was my third VR experience ever, my first VR game. Before, I had only watched a dinosaur demo at an AT&T store using a cellphone VR and also I’ve experienced a roller coaster using Google Cardboard. They were… not extremely impressive, to be honest. OK. Not amazing, but cool enough.

Using an HTC Vive headset and controllers, I demoed two minigames within a carnival setting collectively called VR Funhouse. The first game was using swords to pop balloons. It was fun. Cool to have a real VR experience, too! But… let me tell you… the next one I tried did it for me…

Wall Walkers. Is. Awesome.

And dumb, but I was legitimately laughing out loud while playing it. Basically, the mini game consists of pressing a button, which drops down a slimy-stretchy octopus toy before you. Using the two controllers as hands, you can grab the octopus and fling it across the room at a target on the wall. It’s like those old stretchy hand toys you get from a quarter machine.

The physics are amazing and hilarious. When you pick one up, it slogs around as you’d expect a real one to. You can shake it like jello and then throw it. SLAP! It sticks where it hits. But you can also use two hands and stretch the rubbery toy out and even sling it like you might a rubber band. Let me tell you, it’s so funny in motion. There’s no way to describe it in text to do it justice, but man… try this one. I was laughing so hard. The mechanics of this stretchy octopus thing should be the center of its own game. I don’t know. Octo-man?

First-person text-based adventure

The other game I saw that wowed me was Text Quest (there’s a demo on the site!).

The look of this game feels very much like Minecraft. It’s first-person and the graphics are minimalist. 

However, instead of blocks, everything is literally text. Fire, for example, will be the word fire pointed upwards and pulsing like flames in orange and red font. Your sword is not a picture of a sword, it is the word sword, pointed out like a sword.
It’s really cool looking. Everything you walk up and touch can be interacted by bringing up your keyboard and typing what you want. So, to go through a door, you type “open door.”

The developer was taking notes on what I typed out while I played. I tried to push the limits and he seemed to enjoy the creative things I typed. Hopefully, when it comes out, the limits of your words will surprise you.

It’s somewhere between Scribblenauts and Minecraft in feel. If the developer releases player-creation tools then this game will be a goldmine, I swear. I would love to make my own adventures and send them to my friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Archon 2016 – Best and Worst of YA Lit Panel

October has been busy for me. Every weekend has been filled with conventions and festivals of some sort. But, this blog is about writing, and so I’d thought I’d post some of my notes I jotted down when I was sitting in panels/roundtables. The panel I’m going to write about in this post is from an awesome science fiction convention called Archon

YA trends

I went to a panel about the best and worst of YA literature. The panel included Cole Gibson, Sarah Jude, Rich Horton, Deborah Millitello, and Rachel Neumeier. Really cool, insightful people to listen to.

me and an awesome friend at Archon!
I learned that there’s a term for the “Fault in the Stars”-style of cancer-fighting-romance called “sicklit.” I sort of hate that term, because it makes light of very serious illness. The panel members were talking about trends in YA that they’d like to see end. Other bad-trends they decided were dystopian lit, vampires, chosen one archetypes, and stories where the main character has a special power.

Exciting upcoming trends (although they said that trends are almost always unpredictable) include gritty/grounded lit, non-western culture, paranormal, cult books, and a hopeful venture into space operas.

They ended that segment by saying that if you try to write to follow a current trend, you will likely be 2-4 years late by the time your work is published. 

random etc

1. Just some other random tidbits from the panel. Someone said that diversity is code for race when it comes to publishers.

2. They brought up some literary drama between authors. They said that this author, Tommy Wallach, is known for writing flat/boring non-white characters. They mentioned an article by VE Schwab that tries to pinpoint some of the issues of how a man can think he’s above other people.

3. “I used to have a baby sister” is a great story opener one of them had read before.

4. Novels they suggested we should read include The Accident Season, Ms. Peregrin’s series, Archivist Wasp, and one called something like “Bow Gap” which I don’t think I wrote down correctly. 

sum up

Overall it was an excellent panel and really recharged me as a writer-wannabe. I will be writing more about other panels I went to in the future. Thanks for reading!

You can follow me @oxyborb on twitter!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Election Update 2: WHO WILL I VOTE FOR?

I posted about the primaries awhile back and said I would do an update for the general. Well, here it is, my last post about the 2016 election (barring any major shakeups).

In case you couldn’t work it out from my personality, I’m a Democrat. I know, shocking. Why would anyone expect a theatre-loving musician, writer, and artist to be an Obama fan?

But hey… I’m the kind of person who can speak to people I don’t politically match with. Some great people I know are Republican, and we can chat politics without hating each other.

Just had to say that. My personal PSA. I don’t hate you if you’re a Trump voter. 

If you get angry when you find out that someone supports a different political person than yourself, then please close your browser window. This blog is not for you.

Still here? OK.

Spoilers! I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. 
lol ridic
I like Hillary. She reminds me of my aunt (who is a Republican, weirdly enough). I voted for Bernie in the primaries, and I still think he would have beat Trump more assuredly, but I will gladly throw my vote at Hillary in the general.

Will she win? Seems likely now… yeah

During the primaries, I thought that there was no way a Republican wouldn’t win. I thought our next Pres being from the GOP was a given, but now… Every time Trump starts to move up in the polls, he makes fun of a disabled person, attacks the family of a soldier who died for our country, says he doesn’t like prisoners of war because they were captured, or says a judge can’t be fair because of his race… it goes on and on…


In my primaries post, I didn’t even mention him.

I honestly don’t think he even wants the job.

I think The Apprentice was dying and his fame was dwindling and he needed something to put him back on the main stage. Trump is 70. He probably sees himself getting older and older. I bet he’s thinking about his own relevance. What will be his legacy? A TV show that died out? Well, after losing this election, Trump will still have all the fame he accumulated. He could start a political show. He could start a new reality show. This election will make his brand big again, and I think that was ultimately the point.

He obviously looooves campaigning. He’s fantastic at it. He is a charmer, say what you will. He loves the crowds. He loves making them go crazy—and it’s all for him. For the rest of his life, he will be able to go on campaigns for other Republicans. He’ll draw crowds and eat them up. He’ll be able to go on any network television and make commentary about anything. I think that was his purpose in running.


Make Trump Famous Again.

Why else would he do so much to work against him getting elected? The ONLY reason Trump is losing is because of himself. It’s almost like he’s trying hard to put himself right at the point where he definitely won’t win, but he still gets to have fun campaigning to the bitter end.

Trump climbs the polls up and up and then he knocks himself down by opening his mouth. We’re talking about a presidential candidate that talked about his dick size on stage at a debate. After his first matchup with Hillary, he bit into the bait about Miss Universe and told people to watch her porno. Now, he won’t even give a sincere apology for the hot tape of him saying he sexually assaults women because he has starpower.

And that’s only the recent stuff.

screen cap (Oct 13, 2016) from Nate Silver's website

Trump 's MUST WIN states include Florida, Ohio... but also Pennsylvania and North Carolina. There's no path to victory without those... and currently Hillary is leading in all of them, and Pennsylvania is not even close. 

Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or John Kasich would likely be dominating Clinton in the polls by now, but the GOP found the single candidate that will likely lose in November. Instead of any other candidate, however, Donald Trump is ripping the Republican Party apart and his nomination will likely cost the GOP seats in Congress. What were they thinking? Any other candidate would have been a lock, imo, but Trump is not even a real conservative.

What a gift for the liberals (oh yeah, and the Trumps and the Clintons are friends [#conspiracy])!

Just recently 35+ (THIRTY-FIVE! WOW!) top Republican figureheads denounced Trump over the hot tape and will no longer vote for him. Notable individuals include John McCain, Kasich, Romney, Condoleezza Rice… even Carly Fiorina asked him to drop out. And I only mentioned a handful.

But what really gets me is that Trump’s own wife (who was newlywed and pregnant at the time Trump made the comments) and his own running mate DENOUNCED HIM! I mean, they said they accept his apology… but wow. I also saw rumors of Mike Pence considering dropping out (he won’t, as he’ll be running for Pres in 2020 vs. Kanye), but this does not bode well for him.

And Trump couldn’t even say he was sorry for the comments without blaming Bill Clinton in the same breath. His lack of sincerity will cost him votes. I don’t think his political stunt with attacking Bill Clinton’s past will work, either. Bill is not running.

People, in general, I believe will not be more angry at Hillary for Bill’s mistakes than they are at Trump for Trump’s mistakes. Let’s not forget that Trump is a cheater when it comes to his wives, and the hot tape makes it seem like he also wanted to cheat on his current wife (while she was pregnant! Sheesh!).

But most of what I wrote happened within the last few days. We’re under a month before the election, now. This has staying power. I think the GOP is going to pull money from Trump’s campaign to save Congress, honestly. 


I think he’s legit finished.

The 2nd debate didn’t save him, either, and it needed to.

Debate 1: Hillary won.

VP Debate: Pence won.

Debate 2: Hillary won.

Debate 3… doesn’t matter, honestly.

Unless Hillary faints on stage, Trump is finished. For reals, yo.

He’d have to find a hot tape of Hillary saying she’s a reptilian to turn this thing around. He won’t, because Hillary has survived 30 years of political attacks and nothing has slowed her. Trump is losing because of himself.

By debate 3, there will be only 20 days left. As I write this, 30 days out, the GOP will be pulling Trump’s funding and support to save Congress. Right now, Republican politicians are distancing themselves from Trump to preserve their future political careers. Paul Ryan agrees with all of this. There’s no President alive who will be voting for Trump, not one. After this last debate and controversies, I think undecided people have decided or simply won’t be voting.

Debate 3 will be more of the same. If Hillary does “mediocre” in D3, she will win the election. Hillary would have to truly bomb for it to matter to Trump.

She likely won’t. She’ll likely play it safe, and that’s all she needs to do at this point.

So, back to Hillary

Before she was ever running for office, she was an activist for women, children, and the poor. 

That’s her when she didn’t know the mic was hot. Way before she ever decided to enter true politics or had to maintain face for Bill’s career, Hillary worked to do good things for other people, selflessly.

Say what you will, but I think she’s a good person at her core.

Trump, on the other hand, only ever did things to help Trump. Even when he donated money or supplies during this election, Trump did his good acts for photo ops and publicity. But, I think he’s also lying about how much good he’s done (and if you’ve lied about your charity, that would be a great reason to hide your taxes!).
Hillary Clinton was a law professor. She became a senator, and served in New York during 9/11, she became secretary of state. She’s had the ear of two presidents. She was in the room when they made the call to end Osama bin Laden. She’s not without her mistakes, but she’s human and humans learn the hardest lessons from mistakes. She’s battle tested and hardened. She’s prepared to be the leader of the free world.

Trump has made rookie mistakes during the campaign that could outright throw us into the path of war. He joked about using the Russians to conduct espionage against America (also, his business appears to have close ties to Russia). He threatened his opponent with “2nd Amendment people” and jailing her (which is what tyrants do to political opponents, not Americans). He originally said he’d ban all muslims (Muslims are a huge ally in fighting terrorism in muslim countries, DOH!). He says more countries should obtain nukes. He asks openly if we can use them. He made fun of Gold Star families and POWs. Wow! The leader of our military should NEVER do that. This is the kind of mistakes we cannot afford. And he doesn’t learn from them, as she does. He doesn’t admit to them. He doesn’t apologize and work toward bettering himself. He doesn’t even prepare for the debates, will he prepare for de-escalation talks with Russia?

Trump says she has bad experience, but Trump put his businesses into bankruptcy four times. He scammed people with Trump University. Rode for years not paying taxes after posting a billion dollar loss. That’s bad experience, and all of it can be summed up by the word greed.

Hillary, before politics, helped women, children, and the poor. Trump, before politics, bankrupted businesses and scraped all the money he could into his personal accounts. That’s the difference.

Political paint class

The Republican leaders have known that Hillary would try and become president for a long time now, and I believe the only reason her likeability is low is because of the narrative Republican politicians have been weaving for so many years. I don’t think she’s a bad person. She been tangled in the awfulness of politics, but I don’t think anyone in D.C. avoids that. Think about it, if liberals have been holding onto that Trump tape for 11 years, then imagine how long the Republican politicians have been trying to paint Hillary red. Much longer.

The truth is, after years and years of her political career, Hillary hasn’t been found guilty of anything. The only damage they’ve done is to her perceived personality… which is why she wins the debates. When people don’t know much more than the picture Republican politicians have created about Hillary, of course she seems unlikeable. When Hillary gets on stage and people see her actually talk… they like her. This is why her polls have been skyrocketing after the debates.

She’s not the picture Republican leaders have painted. She’s way better. 

I am not posting this to debate anyone in the comments section. I’m posting this to share my personal thoughts. If you’re going to post rude/aggressive comments toward me about my ideas, I will simply ignore/delete them.  

Please note that in the post above, I tried to make the distinction of Republican politicians vs. the everyday citizens. I believe that almost every everyday Republican voter is a good person, but the political leadership deserves to be scrutinized (for any party).

Republicans and Democrats are two weights on a balance, and the competition between the parties is an important part of continuing freedom. We fundamentally need each other, because when one party rules forever, we are no longer a democracy. Also, it's good to keep a sense of humor about yourself.

As Americans, we’re in this together, when it comes down to it.

P.S.-S. IL Peeps, VOTE FOR Tammy Duckworth! She's awesome!