Chez Nerdingham

HERE BE DRAGONS


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Growing up, I never really related to the princesses in stories or movies. I didn’t lead a charmed life wherein I spoke to woodland creatures and was dressed by pastel colored birds. A fairy godmother never appeared in the middle of the night to present me with a dress and a carriage. Life was so unfair. I liked the stories, but truth be told I didn’t walk away from them hoping that one day “my prince would come”. The princesses were, well, a bit shallow and uninteresting.  As an adult, I’ve finally found stories that tell the other side of the story.

Some of my favorite reinterpretations of fairy tales are from the author Gregory Maguire. You may be familiar with Wicked (the Broadway show), even if you never picked up “The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” He also reimagined Snow White (“Mirror, Mirror”), Cinderella (“Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister”), and more. This was one of the first times I read a book from the antagonists point of view, giving a backstory and even more depth to some of the more interesting characters from Grimm.

If those books are a bit lengthy or you prefer more pictures, then I’d recommend the comic book series Fables. I just recently discovered this gem after playing a video game based on the story.  This reimagines all the fairy tale characters of yore as residents of NYC just trying to get by. Yes, it’s similar to the show Once Upon a Time and was actually being developed as a show itself at one point. I’m still finishing the game, entitled The Wolf Among Us, but so far it’s fun and fast-paced. It’s a darker, crime-noir type of story based game where you play as The Big Bad Wolf who is now the community Sheriff. Hijinks ensue!

Finally, I can’t close without mentioning one of my favorite evil characters, Maleficent. The only character I ever dressed as for Halloween, thanks to my Dad’s law school graduation robe (which saw a lot of Halloween costume action) and some homemade black horns. I was worried that I’d be disappointed by the movie after looking forward to seeing it but it was still amazing. It was still more of a Sleeping Beauty story, but with the background and point of view from Maleficent. It really showed that there is more to an evil queen than curses and a fantastic outfit.

 

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#YesAllWomen

So anyone that has been on twitter has probably noticed the #YesAllWomen hashtag trending the past few days. It started after the horrific shooting spree in Isla Vista on Friday night. The shooter, as we’ve come to learn, was Elliot Rodger whose writings and videos showed someone who hated women. I made the mistake of viewing a video, it’s frightening and surreal and seemed less realistic than something you’d see on a TV crime show.

The #YesAllWomen hashtag was intended to share those things that many of us deal with daily, even without thinking. Some still deal with outright sexual harassment in the workplace, some have been attacked or abused. But there are so many little things that become part of you. Checking your planned route when coming home late, being escorted to your car after dark, ignoring catcalls when you walk down the street, subsequently ignoring the “bitch” that follows when you don’t respond (are you supposed to say thanks? really?).

I’ve personally been called a bitch more times than I can recall, in such an abundance of situations, that the term has lost any meaning. In the workplace, on a plane when I failed to engage in conversation (I guess the noise canceling headphones and open book weren’t enough of a hint), in conversations when I dare express my point of view in an intelligent manner.

Now this is certainly not all men and I’m not about to change what I do and where I go because a few act like neanderthals. But it made me think, personally, about all these mindless precautions I takes all the time. Men don’t worry about that, and maybe some of this discussion will help everyone realize how misogyny is still affecting our day-to-day life even in 2014.


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May Cause…Doubt?

Look at me, blogging on a Monday night. Guess my weekends are just too busy nowadays, huh?
Anyway, I wanted to catch up and share some thoughts from a few of the events I’ve been to recently. I attended a lecture/workshop for Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, May Cause Miracles. I was excited, I’d been watching a lot of her clips on youtube and seen a few lectures. The message I was getting, opening yourself up to the possibilities in life, seemed to be coming at an ideal time after I’d been through some tough times. So I was excited to see her in person and get a copy of her new book (note – I haven’t read any of the previous  books).

So despite my crippling social anxiety I went to Hollywood on a Saturday night and crammed myself into a yoga studio with 300 strangers. Some were in turbans. I came expecting something like a Ted talk, maybe filling out some worksheets, I was even prepared for group sharing (shudder), followed by some light stretching. I did bring my yoga mat, per instructions. I did not come expecting to do Kundalini yoga with people that wholly believe it transformed their existence and then listen to 45 minutes of people testifying. I honestly left a bit disappointed that it was soooooooo out there. It was beyond my comfort zone. So I didn’t blog about it at first because I wanted to ponder it a few days. Or weeks.

So here are my thoughts two weeks later. It’s OK that it wasn’t what I expected, worst case it was one evening out of my life and it’s not like I’ve signed up for Scientology. The fact that it didn’t “transform” me doesn’t meant that I can’t take lessons from Gabrielle, or anyone else for that matter. And not being able to buy into the whole (vegan) enchilada doesn’t mean I can’t continue listening to her videos and appreciating what she shares.

I’m perhaps too pragmatic to really believe that yoga will change the world, but I’m certainly more open minded than I used to be and willing to try out new things.


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Quick Check In

No, I have not abandoned Nerdingham! Things have been busy and I haven’t had much quiet time at home in the past two weeks. When I am home, I’m tending to necessities like dog-walking, laundry, sleeping, etc. Usually I have one free day a week (generally on a weekend) that I use for errands, DVR catch up, and of course blogging. The past two weekends have been jampacked though! This week, I’ll see if I can start working on writing a little bit in the evenings after work. I mean, I can take 10 minutes a few nights a week away from games and youtube videos!

I hope to catch up soon on:
My first experience with Kundalini yoga. I felt about as awkward as you can expect.
WonderCon!
Youtube cartoons (protip – go watch The Bravest Warriors now!)
My HBO original programming obsession
Various other activities (I’ve been to three new concert venues in the past two weeks…THREE!)

If it makes you feel better, I haven’t played Diablo in over a week and have yet to check out the new expansion pack. Seriously, things are THAT BUSY.


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I’ve Got the Magic in Me*

First a disclaimer, the title of this post comes from the B.o.B. song (featuring Rivers Cuomo of Weezer fame), Magic. I LOVE that song and just rediscovered it today while downloading some of my library to the new computer. I hope my neighbors like it too since it’s been featured heavily on today’s playlist!

Now the content of this post is a bit deeper, I intend to talk about spirituality. A year ago I could not imagine those words coming out of my mouth (or in this case being typed by my fingers). Not that I was a heathen, it just wasn’t something I thought much about. And, in all honesty, I probably thought the entire concept of energy and chakras was a bit woo-woo. I liked to fancy myself open-minded, but was I really all that open to things that didn’t fit into my own pre-concieved notions? Not really.

So what changed? Well, it really began three years ago when I gradually realized a relationship I was in was not based on the person I really was. It wasn’t that I intended to be someone else, it was that I really didn’t know myself. I was too scared to think about what I really wanted and focused on what I “should” want, as prescribed by society (you know, “them”). I was more scared of being alone than maybe never finding someone. I was unhappy but thought a relationship, marriage, house in the suburbs, kids, and so on were the solution to the feeling of incompleteness I felt.  But those were all external things, and without feeling complete on my own no person, no job, no accomplishment would ever make a lasting impact.

Of course hindsight is 20/20. I had not come to this realization when I got married or bought the house in the suburbs. Like anything that isn’t “real”, cracks appeared quickly and somehow I found the courage to go out on my own after a few years. It was the right thing to do, but it was painful. Since that moment three years ago I’ve been on my own journey though, and it’s not something that happened overnight or even in a year. The next few years were very painful, and at times I felt helpless. At times = most of the time really. Somehow I got through it, I credit a lot of my sanity to my dog, Watson, who I adopted in January 2013. Maybe that’s when I started realizing that there is something to spiritual help. Having an animal to care for, and who loved me unconditionally, was the best therapy that I could hope for during this time.

I had a realization last year that life is short and unpredictable, which gave me the courage to seek out more changes. The universe responded pretty rapidly and I’ve spent the past few months transitioning to a new job that I love! I also found a new apartment in an amazing neighborhood. I began addressing sleeping issues that have plagued me for years with a combination of meditation and aromatherapy. I began thinking positively about situations when had stressed me and seemed able to finally address a few things and move forward. I began to let go of anger and disappointment, in myself and others, and have felt physically lighter and mentally calmer.

I’ve come to realize that I have the ability, within myself, to have a happy and fulfilled life. If I’m honest and truly open, amazing things can happen. Where do I go from here? I’ve actually signed up to attend a workshop with Gabrielle Bernstein when she comes to LA in a few weeks.  I started watching her videos a few weeks ago after seeing her mentioned in two other blogs I read. It’s actually part of my own morning ritual: I get up and walk the dog, then make some coffee and then watch a video every morning. It seems like a positive way to start my day! I’ve never actually read any of her books so her new book, Miracles Now, will be my first introduction to her writing.

So this cynic has become a cautious believer. I don’t know where the journey may lead but I’m no longer scared.

 

*I guess now I can’t use this title for a future post on Magic the Gathering, darn!


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TableTop Day!

Did everyone celebrate TableTop Day yesterday? It was the 2nd annual event, somehow I didn’t know about it last year. But this year I was able to get tickets to the local event in LA put on by the always entertaining Geek & Sundry. What could be MORE fun, right? Felicia Day was there, as was Wil Wheaton who announced that Season 3 of TableTop is a go and this time around will be crowd-funded. I’m a fan of kickstarter myself and have funded a few cool projects (I should do a post on that) so getting the opportunity to support a show I love seemed fantastic. Plus, cool swag! Attendees that donated at the even got a free signed game, I walked away with Unspeakable Words and Forbidden Island.

The beautiful and talented Felicia Day.

The beautiful and talented Felicia Day.

 

Wil Wheaton, calling on gamers everywhere to donate for Season 3 of TableTop!

Wil Wheaton, calling on gamers everywhere to donate for Season 3 of TableTop!

I played four games in total during the event. I’ll attempt to describe them and summarize what were often several pages long rule books!
Guild Hall, a strategy card game where your objective is to create completed decks of various guilds (Peddlers, Robbers, Tax Collectors and so on). A completed deck is 5 of the same profession in each color. When you complete a deck you buy other cards which give you Victory Points. 20 Victory Points wins the game! However, on your turn you play two actions – meaning you select from your hand. Each card has different actions so you depending on the profession you play you may be stealing from another (the Robber), selecting from the deck, selecting discards, etc. The game starts a little slowly as players build their guilds – though this may have been due to the fact we were learning the game and had to pass around the action cheat sheet! All in all a fun game that combines luck and strategy.

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Patrician Towering Glory is another strategy game, but with blocks! This one was easier to learn and we all caught on to the rules while eating a quick lunch. Essentially the board shows eight cities in Italy, where each can hold two towers. The city also tells you the total amount of stories (the combination of both towers) and your objective is to build the highest one to claim points upon reaching that max. The taller of the two towers gets the higher amount of points, and the shorter one gets the lower points. It is somewhat irrelevant if your tower is made up of multiple colors as long as you have the most stories built. HOWEVER, in the event of a tie, the person who built the top story gets the points.  On your turn, you play a card from your hand which tells you which city  you can build in. You build your tower, take the card currently on that city, and a new card is placed next to the city.  NOTE: You keep the cards that you’ve played. At the end you count up your point chips, but we’re not done! Then you go through the cards you played and match the faces, any set of three matching faces gives you another 6 points.

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Smashup is the third strategy card game we played. There are eight decks, each representing a genre (Pirates, Dinosaurs, Zombies, Ninjas, etc) and you select two genres to play. There are base cards laid out that have a total number on them that you have to reach. On your turn you play a minion and an action – the minion will have a point value that is counted towards that base card. As soon as all the points played on the base equal that amount – points are allotted (as posted on the card). The person with the greatest number of points will get the max points, and then points often go to 2nd and 3rd place as well. But action cards can affect this! They can take away minions, disallow certain genres, add additional points to your minions, etc.

Finally we played Unspeakable Words, one of the games I got as my donation gift. This is a word game, with Cthulus. Each player gets 7 cards and 5 cthulus which represent sanity. On your turn you play a word and figure the total amount of points that it is worth based on the card values. Now you have to roll – if you roll your point total or higher you keep the points AND your cthulus. If not, you still get the points but you lose a cthulu.  When you’re down to one lonely cthulu you’re “insane” and can spell a word using whatever letters you want. However if you don’t roll the point value or higher, you’re out of the game! First to 100 points wins. Watch Wil play with some friends on TableTop!

All in all it was a fantastic event and I’m so glad I went. If you want to help fund Season 3 of TableTop, then check out the fundraising site here! And…

PLAY MORE GAMES!