My First Boardgame Design

I have been playing modern boardgames for a little over a year now.  I have been amazed by the variety of themes and even stories that boardgames are able to tell.  This is the first time I have designed a board game.

As with most creative projects, people create what they are interested in or passionate about.  For myself, one of my interests is following NASA and their space program, the International Space Station, as well as plans for future space travel like NASA’s and SpaceXs plans on going to Mars.  This topic has been explored in books, movies, and also a good number of boardgames.

I started working on a design in August.  After a while, I stopped working on it because I thought there were just too many Mars board games already on the market.  In late October, early November I realized that the focus of my initial design was actually more than just about Mars but about humanity’s presence in space.

Here is a link to a further explanation and pictures of the design and work done already on my board game.   It has been an exciting experience so far.  It is very much like writing a book or making a movie, where you are creating a world from initial ideas to a completed vision.

I will have more updates as the design process progresses.

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B&W Photography Challenge 2017

I had given up photography for a bit to focus on drawing.  Then an old school friend of mine challenged me to the 7 Day B&W Photography challenge.  Each day, you take a B&W photograph, with the only limits bing there can be no humans in them, they should be about your life, and they need no further explanation.  (Each day you also challenge another friend to take the Photography challenge, spreading the fun).

The first day I had, as usual, only read the rules partly, in that I focused only on getting photographs without humans in them.  So they weren’t really personal.  I realized this so by the second day I was trying to get at least something that showed my personality more, and finally photos about things in my life.   Below are the 7 photographs I chose.  I took 100s of photographs over the course of the week.  More, that tI felt were of more professional and artistic quality, I posted on Facebook, others of a similar artistic quality I will also post.

It was also nice seeing the feedback people had to the photos, sometimes just in ways of likes, sometimes with comments that started conversations about photography and film. So that was a little boost to my ego or self-esteem (being someone who doesn’t really use social media so doesn’t usually share interesting of funny or thoughtful things that people like and comment about).  And it gave me a better understanding of what people like and ideas for things or subjects I should take more photographs of.

Shooting B&W taught me a lot.  It also gave me time to practice and perfect my skills as a photographer (not that they’re perfected, only that I got to practice and I got better).  So with everything, the time spent practicing made me better.    Each day I learned new lessons.  The spectrum of things and places to photograph also increased in my mind.  Most of them I did not get to.  But the possibilities seemed infinite after a few days of intense focus, of continually thinking: what can I photograph, what can I photograph, and taking 100s of photographs everyday to get a few really good photographs.

Sometimes I took many photographs during the day but none that were personal so they wouldn’t fit the challenge.  I’d end up lost for ides and photograph anything just to satisfy the day’s requirements.  Other days I took my time even when I felt my personal life was not nearly as interesting as the wider world.  But I’m happy I got to do the challenge.  It gave me a renewed chance to spend time with photography and gave me a renewed view and appreciation of the world around me.

 

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MOVIES AND MARKETING

Blade Runner 2049’s sales for its opening weekend were not what Warner Bros. had hoped.  (Although down 30% from expectations, it may still do well in subsequent weekends).  According to an article in the Los Angele Times, 71 percent of the opening-weekend ticket buyers were male.

All too often, I myself see better trailers for films AFTER their opening box-office than the trailers made available to audiences before a movie’s opening weekend.   I often wonder, why don’t they show those better trailers in the first place, because in my mind better trailers mean more people wanting to see the movie.  And if a studio is able to create those better trailers later on, why don’t they create them sooner and have them advertise a movie before it’s opening weekend?  That is just one element to this story.

This problem with Blade Runner 2049 probably isn’t surprising in hindsight, as the trailers for the movie had no female actresses, except for an oversized purple hologram. The sum impression one gets from the trailers are that Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling are on the run from Jaret Leto, end of story, no other supporting cast are shown.  So it seems like just an action movie in a sci-fi world largely free of women.  Even the short films released before the movie’s official release had minimal female presence.  So by all impressions, and despite its rich universe and the performances of Daryll Hannah and Sean Young in the original, Blade Runner 2049 looks nothing more than an action movie that happens to have Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.

Movie trailers range in quality just like the movies they represent.  Trailers don’t always tell the whole story. (Sometimes the tell the whole story to a fault). Sometimes it is like the game of telephone. From a trailer I think a movie will be one thing and it’s really something else. A trailer doesn’t sell me on an otherwise good movie. In the larger context, the marketing doesn’t connect a movie’s natural audience with the movie.

Sometimes when a movie performs badly, it’s not the filmmakers’ fault, but purely because of bad marketing, which is more than just the trailers. If critics can fault directors, produers, writers, or actors for their parts in a movie, it should be acknowledged the part marketing can have in a movie’s performance.

The roll-out to Blade Runner 2049’s premiere had endless interviews with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gossling.   Had it been for the original film, there ‘d have been interviews with Darryl Hannah and Sean Young talking about the unique and complex characters they play. How would that have affected womens’ interests in seeing the film?  Another aspect of marketing are movie posters.  Classic and iconic posters are memorable.  The marketing for the original Blade Runner seems to be that.  The movie poster for Blade Runner: 2049 is unfortunately in its strange color palette mostly confusing and ugly.  It does not match the rich visuals of the original or of the sequel itself.

Simple fact: Star power alone is not a reason to go see a movie. Although the above seems to contradict this, it really doesn’t. With interviews, audiences get to understand the story and characters of a movie. Uninteresting story or characters, and what reason is there to spend the money to see such a movie. Its not even that there is so much content available to people. It’s that any movie or original series has to stand on its own. A lot of younger critics hadn’t seen the original, only knew it was a classic for some reason or another. How much might that be true of the wider movie-going audience. Given the original is indeed a classic but only within a niche of the larger and popular sci-fi genre (see Star Wars).

 

Without relying on it’s being a sequal to a classic, a movie’s story and characters are either unique, exciting and interesting to audiences or they aren’t.  The movies and within the Alien, Terminator, and Star Wars franchises are all looked on differently by fans of those franchises.

Good story, good characters, and good filmmaking are in the eye of the beholder. What one filmmaker or editor finds exciting might not be where audiences are at. A movie or trailer may hit all the right beats for what its trying to do, but is what its trying to do enough to satisfy its intended audience? It may still feel formulaic, or unoriginal to an audience and give them no reason to see the movie. Even for genuinely good movies, one might say: sure the trailer looked good, but what does the film offer that the trailer doesn’t? What are the reasons for an audience to go during their limited time to pay money to see a movie?

Art and Illustration: Technique vs. Style

The ideas outlined here are not new and have no doubt been discussed by professional artists.  This is just my take on the topic, mostly for my own sake in my own evolution as an artist.  And maybe or hopefully it will help other in their journeys as artists.   (After finishing writing this, I realized I didn’t even cover philosophy  and how that will influence an individual artist).

There is a lot to learn about the techniques artists and illustrators use to create their art.  Aspiring artists spend hours, and years practicing to get their techniques better.  What I want to talk about is another aspect to the creative process: Style.   Or, what makes one artists’ work unique from another.  Or to put it another way, the true goal each artist is working towards.  (And yes, a super realistic style is a very very valid goal as well.)

I’m am just trying to comprehend the elements that go into making it as an artist.  Also, knowing that styles of all kinds are not only valid but cherished by millions of people is a really empowering thing.    So if anything, I’m trying to view “technique” in its relationship to the many other elements of art and illustration.   If Art is about communicating, and mood, and character, technique is a tool for realizing that, but tools alone do not make art or illustrations, it is people who do.

Often you notice established artists have a certain, unique style to their work, or maybe they are just really really good at a particular style, like a particular way of drawing superheroes.  (I know, Marvel and DC both employ artists and illustrators with so many different styles, and that to me is an awesome thing).

For artists (from here I’ll just say artists as short for artists, illustrators, concept artists, and the like), there is a shared knowledge of various knowledge and principles that span the spectrum of styles.  Things like, Anatomy, Light and shadow, dynamic movement, portraying emotions, and everything else related to the craft and technique of drawing and painting.  For me, Style comes in when an artist decides what they want their work to “look like,” the types of techniques used to achieve the desired effects, the end result itself, what the finished work will look like.

And yet Style is also an end product, an end goal the artist strives for.   Artists are often known for the style of their work.   Its nothing new that I am saying here: that technique is learned, and yet technique itself does not create an artists style without the artists’ conscious and sustained effort to be consistent in drawing a particular style.   Techniques are used by artists to achieve their style.   The philosophy of the artist, their worldview, always unique to every artist, often also shared and similar to the worldview of other artists, will also effect their choice of subject matter and genres they might work in, and their choice of the Styles of their work.

I recently spent an afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute and looked at paintings from the 15th century to the 19th century.    There were several styles I could discern.   One, an more idealistic Greek-like style that was idealized but realistic.   A more illustrative style, and even semi-cartoonish in nature style as we’d view it today(almost like comic books today), but also where the trees clearly illustrations and not meant to pass for trees you’d see in nature.  And another that went for as much realism as possible.

I could spent the next several months researching historical events, schools of thoughts, prevailing cultural trends and philosophies, to try to figure out why certain artists painted in the styles they did.   Everything style that existed in the 19th century, there were also artists and their students, even if not the most popular or famous of artists, creating the same style in the 16th century.   And in the 19th century, not everyone created in a realistic style, but retained some elements of illustration and idealization in their landscapes.

And there’s the fact that there was a certain amount of realism in Medieval art before the Italian Renaissance.   (Even without the use of perspective).

And so there it is:  technique and style and even that word philosophy, if you like.   The choices for every artist to make.  And its not even as binary as: more cartoonish or more realistic.   There are so many styles, so many unique goals artists have for their work and for themselves.   I guess what’s important is knowing what style or styles you yourself as an artist want to create, and then put all of your art knowledge and techniques toward creating THAT particular Style.

Magical Worlds and Monks in Eastern Popular Culture and D&D

I recently purchased the 5th Edition of the Dungeons & Dragon’s Player’s Handbook. Looking through its pages, studying each class and their attributes. I played briefly when I was younger, so I felt that nostalgic feeling of studying the nuances of each class and of the abilities unique to each.   It had been so many years that I was also looking at the Player’s Handbook like someone completely new to it’s world.  (Being a veteran of the MMO Neverwinter Nights, many other video game RPGs influenced by D&D).

I was fascinated by the qualities and abilities of some very unique classes, from Bards to Rangers, and not only their unique qualities, but their use of magic.   It seemed like the nature of the world is basically a world filled with magic, even if its practiced by a select few.  It’s still basically, in many ways than one:  a world full of magic.  When I came to the Monk class, I was surprised to see no magic at all for the Monk, mostly from a perspective of a fan of  the history, myths, legends, of “warrior monks” and the magical arts in the popular culture of China.

You can scroll down to see a potential list of Spells from 5th edition that could be learnable by Monks.  It surprisingly makes the Monk a different but unique and equal adventurer alongside the magical Bards, Rangers, and Clerics.

Chinese and Japanese pop culture fantasy worlds are also filled with magic.  The tradition from years and even ages past to today, is as rich as that in the West.    I know Monk class has Ki points that allow for some magic spells at later levels, but this separate system doesn’t quite allow for the same amount of choice that other classes have with regard to magic.  I appreciate the inclusion of the Monk as a class, and see the ability for it to be better incorporated into the magical world(s) of D&D.  (And it is in later books like Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide).  But there is still room for more of the richness of Eastern fantasy and magic to be included in D&D.

THE MONK IN LIVING TRADITIONS, LEGENDS, and POPULAR CULTURE

China, to say nothing of other countries like Japan and Thailand, has no shortage of movies, myths, and stories set in fantasy settings.  I will focus on China, but similar traditions exist in Japan and Thailand.

The adventuring monk is a type well represented in Chinese myth and popular culture, but a lot of the truth of this character is rooted in reality. The Temples of Shaolin and Wudang are world reknowned in popular culture and movies that are embraced around the world. They are also active and living communities that continue to train monks and people from around the world who seek enlightenment and are drawn to learn the martial arts from the monks themselves.

Shaolin-large selection

SHAOLIN AND WUDANG SWORD

THE SUPERNATURAL: GODS, MONSTERS, WHITE MAGIC, BLACK MAGIC

Just as important as their “warrior monks” skilled in athleticism, martial arts, and in wielding the Chinese longsword, is the spiritual and religious traditions of Buddhism and Taoism that cultivate the minds and spirits of their monks. The monastic life of study and meditation instills in the monks a connection to the natural and spiritual worlds, and a devotion to a life of helping others. In popular culture, Shaolin priests and monks also use their skills to defeat evil spirits, demons, vampires, and the undead, while Taoist magic is used for the same purpose.

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CHINESE FANTASY MOVIES  (right-click on image and open in new tab to see enlarged version)

 

The sword-skills and styles of Shaolin and Wudang are world reknown due to popular culture. Their sword styles make them excel particulary with longswords, using both piercing and slashing style of attacks in both styles.  Shaolin and Wudang monestaries both have their own unique martial arts styles, training that gives their practitioners amazing acrobatic and athletic abilities, and a training in meditation and spirituality that gives them a connection to and a life in harmony with all living things of the world.

Given the nature of these hero monks, their role in Dungeons & Dragons is unique.   Like the bard they are proficient in melee weapons and should be proficient with the longsword (And with subclasses they are).  Like Clerics, Druids, and Rangers, they possess a connection to both the spiritual and the natural worlds that makes them unique among adventurers.

It would seem Barbarians, Fighters, and Paladins share some common traits as classes while each having unique features. Classes specializing in Magic: the Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard also are of a type. In the same way, Monks are unique from Rangers and Bards, but should share a little bit more in common with these other two classes, namely their use of magic and proficiency with certain martial weapons.

 

SPELLS FOR MONKS IN D&D: WHAT SPELLS SHOULD MONKS BE ABLE TO LEARN?

 

Therefore, because of their traditions of magic and spirituality used to help others, it seems only right that just as Bards and Rangers have the ability to learn multiple spells at multiple levels, the Monk should have the same ability.  Also, it just makes them better adventurers and heroes, the kind that are depicted in the epic stories of Chinese popular culture and movies that are often filled with their fair share of magic and monsters.

The following is only one person’s views and opinion. While subclasses address the martial aspects of Monks, they do not seem to address the magic and “magical” aspect or lack thereof in a satisfying manner.   Since Daoists focus on Divination, and Shaolin on the spiritual aspect of living, and both have a connection with the natural world, I chose spells that met the criteria of these three aspects.

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CHINESE DIVINATION

 

Taosit Magic-Large Selection 3

TAOIST MAGIC

 

To show the reasonableness of the following list of Spells, that the number of lower level spells are no more than those available for a Ranger to learn, and the number of higher level spells are no more than the number available to a Bard to say nothing of the more religious natured classes of Clerics, Druids, and warrior-like Paladins.

As for how many spells should be allowed to be learned per level, that is something I have not considered, but it probably should not be much different from the Bard or Ranger.

 

MONK SPELLS

 

CANTRIP

Guidance

True Strike

 

1st LEVEL

Animal Friendship

Comprehend Languages

Cure Wounds

Detect Evil and Good

Detect Magic

Detect Poison and Disease

Divine Favor

Expeditious Retreat

Feather Fall

Jump

Protection from Evil and Good

Speak with Animals

 

2nd LEVEL

Aid

Blur

Calm Emotions

Enhance Ability

Protection from Poison

See Invisibility

Lesser Restoration

Locate Animals or Plants

Locate Object

Pass without Trace

 

3rd LEVEL

Beacon of Hope

Clairvoyance

Fly

Remove Curse

Tongues

Water Walk

 

4th LEVEL

Divination

Locate Creature

 

5th LEVEL

Commune

Commune with Nature

Contact other Plane

Dispel Evil and Good

Divine Favor

Greater Resoration

Legend Lore

Reincarnate

 

6th LEVEL

True Seeing

 

8th LEVEL

Holy Aura

Mind Blank

 

9th LEVEL

Foresight

What exercise equipment should astronauts have onboard spacecraft sent to Mars?

 

 

          It is estimated that a trip from Earth to Mars will take 5 months.   We know that astronauts on the International Space Station do 2 hours of physical exericise a day to maintain muscle and bone mass during their stays on the ISS.   It is worth considering that astronauts on a 10-month trip to Mars and back may require regular physical exercise while they live and work in a similar zero-gravity environment.

 

          A Study has shown that a 10-month mission without any exercise by the astronauts would result in Astronauts unable to do basic tasks:

 

TRIP TO MARS WOULD TURN ASTRONAUTS INTO WEAKLINGS | NBC NEWS

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38770561/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/trip-mars-would-turn-astronauts-weaklings/#.WNK89Rjoo7j

 

           “Astronauts on a mission to Mars could lose nearly half their muscle strength during the long trip, giving them the physiques of senior citizens by the time they arrived, according to a new study.” writes Mike Wall.

           NASA has years of research and data on what is needed to mitigate bone and muscle loss for crew onboard the ISS.   The same technology will must likely be needed for any manned missions to Mars, as research suggests significant bone and muscle loss during a 10-month trip.  

           NASA has already determined what is needed to mitigate bone loss during long-term stays for astronauts onboard the ISS:

 

PREVENTING BONE LOSS IN SPACE | NASA

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/benefits/bone_loss.html


Not only is regular exercise needed, but a certain diet also supports healthy bone and muscle.  According to the above research, the keys to promoting health in the elderly are the same for astronauts:  “The three key elements for promoting the health of elderly people…. are nutrition, exercise and medicine.”

          At this time, no Spacecraft in production for missions to Mars are designed with any exercise equipment onboard.     As the research suggests, can a manned mission to Mars be successful without the necessary exercise equipment for the crew?

 

NASA ORION SPACECRAFT

https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

 

 

SpaceX  RED DRAGON (A Modified SpaceX Crew Dragon)

http://www.spacex.com/crew-dragon

 

EXERCISE EQUIPMENT ONBOARD THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

 

Yogurt Sundae Recipes

Here is a recipe for Yogurt Sundaes.

I’m not a chef.  I envy the chefs who are the actual artists at what they do.

Plain yogurt works best.   There are two versions: one with 2 yogurts, and one with 1 yogurt.  The 2 yogurt one is a normal sized dessert.    The 1 yogurt ones are nice for snacks.

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