Tag Archives: Places to Go People to Be

#500: A Five Cent Review

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #500, on the subject of A Five Cent Review.

As I was posting the four hundred forty-ninth mark Joseph “young” web log post, I realized I was approaching half a thousand, and wondered whether I should do something to note that milestone.  I decided that a quick look back picking out some of my favorite posts might be worth the effort.  If you missed these, well, I won’t say that there weren’t other good posts nor even that these are all necessarily the best, only that they are the ones I remember fondly.

Unfortunately, on my first pass through those original four hundred forty-nine posts, I marked sixty-five as significant in one way or another, and realized that I would be publishing another fifty before I hit the milestone in question, so I was going to have to go back and read quite a few articles and pare down the list a bit.  I did remove some of those originally included, but I added one or two as well.  Hopefully I’ve succeeded in producing something of quality.

Of course, I have made a practice since this mark Joseph “young” web log began of posting an annual review of almost everything I published over the previous year, here or elsewhere.  The most recent one was #490:  Looking Back, and the previous ones are linked from there.

  1. I test, politically, as a moderate slightly left of center, but I hold a number of more conservative views; one of those is on abortion.  I somewhere suggested that conservatives needed to find way to promote and explain their views to people on the fence, and this, #7:  The Most Persecuted Minority, was a proposed television spot.  It was eventually turned into a radio spot and aired on Lift-FM for a while.
  2. Also on the subject of abortion, #9:  Abolition compares the pro-life movement to the abolition of slavery, in an unexpected way.
  3. #10:  The Unimportance of Facts is my proposed explanation for why voters don’t care what the facts actually are, only whether the politician holds the same views as themselves.
  4. Written a few days after my father died, #51:  In Memoriam on Groundhog Day memorializes him with my recollections.
  5. Having read that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (now deceased) believed that abortion should be strictly a woman’s decision as an equal protection right (and not a privacy right to be decided by her and her doctor), I wrote #63:  Equal Protection When Boy Meets Girl, suggesting that in regard to unexpected pregnancies most of the advantages are with the mothers.
  6. I’m glad I wrote #65:  Being Married, because I have referred quite a few young couples to it in the years since.  It is a collection of some of the best marital advice I ever received, and worth a read even if you’ve been married as long as I have.
  7. #72:  Being an Author discusses how to identify such a person, that is, how to know whether you can call someone, including yourself, an author, or indeed a poet, artist, or musician.
  8. Having read that Neil DeGrasse Tyson stated it was highly likely that the universe was a similation, I suggested in #76:  Intelligent Simulation that this was entirely inconsistent with his assertion that the theory of intelligent design was not scientific.  The article quotes from my then-pending book Why I Believe.
  9. A satirical article becomes the springboard for a consideration of #79:  Normal Promiscuity, which looks at the fact that what were once identified as illicit and abberant sexual liasons because they were dangerous are now embraced and encouraged as normative.
  10. I genuinely enjoyed writing #83:  Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body!, a satirical look at the notion that our gender is dependent on something we believe about ourselves.
  11. #84:  Man-Made Religion challenges the notion that the diversity of religions demonstrates that they are all human inventions.
  12. A famous landmark ice cream shop in Milwaukee faced a protest and a boycott when the owner would not permit customers to order in Spanish, and in #87:  Spanish Ice Cream I explain why expecting him to do so is unreasonable.
  13. #88:  Sheep and Goats explains why the popular parable is so badly misunderstood and what it really means.
  14. I almost cut this one as I reread it, but it struck me that #90:  Footnotes on Guidance, as a recounting of my own experiences, might be useful to those whom God is leading to places they did not expect to go.
  15. #93:  What Is a Friend? describes two different understandings of what constitutes friendship, and how that matters.
  16. The notion of government taxing the rich to help the poor is put into perspective in #105:  Forced Philanthropy, asking whether we want the government eagerly awaiting our deaths so it can spend our money.
  17. I wrote what I consider a very valuable nine-part series about ministry, how to recognize and identify it, and how music sometimes fits into it.  The last of those, #107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries, is not the best of them nor the most useful, but it does briefly identify and link the other eight, and so is the easiest to include here.  I would recommend the entire series, but usually find myself recommending specific entries in it which relate to particular ministries.
  18. Reacting to a discussion of my previously mentioned article on forced philanthropy, #108:  The Value of Ostentation looks at how ostentation actually helps the poor, and why it is a bit illogical to object to it.
  19. I explain why so much current popular Christian music is comprised of simplistic songs, and why this is not so bad a thing as good musicians tend to think, in #109:  Simple Songs.
  20. #114:  Saint Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles responds to the argument that God cannot exist if He allows priests to abuse children.
  21. Inspired by a television show, #115:  Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference applies it to reality, noting that people who deny a connection between environmental factors and homosexuality are ignoring facts.
  22. #120:  Giving Offense is primarily about tolerance, that it does not mean declining to state opinions but only willingness to respect those with whom we disagree.
  23. #126:  Equity and Religion addresses the argument that governments should not provide funding for pre-school education run by religious organizations.
  24. #130:  Economics and Racism explains why racism, by and against everyone, rises when economic conditions fall.
  25. #132:  Writing Horror gives a few tips on writing horror stories and running horror in games which must be worth reading, because Places to Go, People to Be republished it in French as Maîtriser l’Horreur.
  26. A misunderstanding of what it is to be “racist” inspired the composition of #135:  What Racism Is, clarifying that blacks and other non-whites can be and frequently are racist against whites, and that assuming that because someone is white she is racist is a racist assumption.
  27. I wrote a four-part miniseries on the sin and judgment in the first chapter of Romans.  The fourth part, #141:  The Solution to the Romans I Problem, links and summarizes the first three, and gives the solution, that we Christians need to repent of our hidden idolatry.
  28. Responding to a foolish statement from PETA, #162:  Furry Thinking discusses the proper relationship between humans and animals.
  29. In the 70s and 80s I asked a lot of major contemporary Christian musicians their advice for anyone wanting to do what they do, and in #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician I consider the best of that advice, and what we should really want.
  30. I refer people to #168:  Praying For You frequently–whenever someone asks me to pray for them–as it explains what I think is a correct understanding of the obligations created by such prayer requests.
  31. I was hesitant to write #193:  Yelling:  An Introspection, which discusses the futility of yelling and the negative counter-productive impact it has, but several readers thanked me for it.
  32. I would be remiss were I not to mention at least one article about temporal anomalies, and my list includes #199:  Time Travel Movies That Work, a few films in which the outcome is not disastrous.
  33. #200:  Confederates actually argues that the American Civil War was about modern issues like state drug policy and immigration rules.
  34. #207:  The Gender Identity Trap suggests that the idea that someone can be a different gender inside than their physical sex is entirely about prejudices and stereotypes, with nothing to support it in reality.
  35. #208:  Halloween is one of two articles I wrote about the holiday (the other Faith in Play #11:  Halloween) examining Christian attitudes toward it.
  36. Following up on #207:  The Gender Identity Trap, #212:  Gender Subjectivity observes that no one can know that he feels like the wrong gender inside, because that isn’t more than that he doesn’t feel the way he thinks society expects him to feel, and in this case society is simply wrong.
  37. #215:  What Forty-One Years of Marriage Really Means is an addendum to the previous #65:  Being Married, providing an important understanding of what it means that marriage is a covenant, not a contract.
  38. #216:  Why Are You Here? answers the existential question, that is, why do we exist.
  39. #230:  No Womb No Say challenges the notion that men, not having uteruses, should not be able to express an opinion about abortion, by raising a different issue in which men lack the requisite anatomy but still are expected to express an opinion.
  40. #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild answers suggestions that involvement in fantasy role playing games is detrimental for Christian faith.
  41. #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests explains why I think they are theologically invalid.
  42. In June of 2019, after attending The Objective Session of The Extreme Tour, I began publishing my songs on this web log.  I ranked about forty of them based on music, lyrics, and the quality of the performance and recording I had available, and began with the one I thought (with a bit of input from one of my sons) best, #301:  The Song “Holocaust”.  It includes a link to a recording of the song.  Additional songs are chained beginning with the second, at the bottom of the article.
  43. #309:  Racially Discriminatory Ticketing highlights and explains a blatant example of racial discrimination by blacks against whites.
  44. In March of 2018 I began a miniseries about early contemporary Christian and Christian rock musicians, still ongoing, with Larry Norman.  Two years later the thirty-ninth entry in that series focused on one of the best bands of the eighties, #342:  Fireworks Times Five, with extensive links to videos from all four of their excellent albums.  It also links the previous thirty-eight such articles.
  45. In 2020, after COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the live Origins game festival, Black Lives Matter protestors demanded that the corporation running the gaming convention make a public statement in support of their position or face a boycott, which shut down efforts to launch an online convention.  #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement? attacks this divisive and destructive policy as a blow against the constitutional right not to speak about something.
  46. A frustrated musician asked the question on a Christian music Facebook group, and I offered an answer in #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs, which I think might be a must-read for those who aspire to any creative endeavor.
  47. In the discussion of the polarization of America, I suggest in #375:  Fixing the Focus that many Christians have our eyes on the wrong things.
  48. The old economic principle derived from sheep grazing on common land finds a new and problematic application in the world of online retailing, elucidated in #377:  A New Tragedy of the Common.
  49. Normally I link reviews, but this one was sent to me privately, and was the first review I saw of my book Why I Believe, so I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention my reprinting of it in #386:  An Unsolicited Private Review.
  50. A popular song, a friend’s pregnancy, and the recollection of a spoiled surprise party prompted me to write #394:  Unplanned, suggesting that there aren’t really any accidents, and, again, talking about abortion.
  51. The question was asked, specifically in relation to worship, and I offered an answer in that context which extends beyond it, explaining #396:  Why Music Matters.
  52. #406:  Internet Racism gives reasons for rejecting the call (in Great Britain) that those who post racial slurs against the poor performance of black athletes should be brought up on criminal charges.
  53. I was personally asked to respond to a long article giving ten reasons why the Biblical account of the exodus was untrue, so I wrote an eleven-part miniseries.  It concluded with #425:  Do Similarities Between the Accounts of Moses’ Birth and Certain Myths Make Him a Fictional Character?, which also links and briefly summarizes the ten previous articles.
  54. One of my patrons asked me for #426:  A Christian View of Horror, which suggests that to some degree it can be embraced, but ultimately there is one insurmountable problem.
  55. #429:  Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts speaks of the legacy of a small school whose campus has been almost completely obliterated by time.
  56. A couple decades back, the respected Australian role playing e-zine Places to Go, People to Be launched a French edition, and asked my permission to translate articles I had written for them to release in another language, and subsequently to do so with articles I had published through other sites.  Late in 2021 I finally got around to compiling a linked list of what was was then twenty-six translated articles, in #431:  Mark Joseph Young En Français.
  57. #434:  Foolish Wisemen draws a lesson about celebrating Christmas versus the rest of the story from the account of these visitors.
  58. #444:  Ability versus Popularity discusses contests in which the public is asked to vote for the best, and contestants encourage friends who know nothing of the competitors to vote for a friend.
  59. I had recently seen the argument that laws restricting abortion were an impingement on the religious practice of Jewish women, and since I had heard the same argument decades before in Senate hearings I wrote #446:  The Religious Freedom Abortion Argument, and decided to include it here.
  60. #449:  Cruel and Unusual is not exactly about the death penalty and expresses no opinion on it, but does find fault with the protest that opposes it by attempting to make it more painful.
  61. #459:  Publication Anticipation provided a list of my books recently published in 2021-2 plus my expectations for 2023 and beyond.  Those mentioned there which have been published since are listed in the 2023 review article mentioned at the top of this page.
  62. I’m listing #469:  Church History because it was an answer to the last question I was asked by my long-time friend John Mastick which I answered in a web log post before he died.  His question was about what distinguished Calvinists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics from each other, and I threw in Catholics, Lutherans, and Evangelicals for clarity.  He had previously prompted #413:  The Abomination of Desolation and #465:  Believing in Ghosts.
  63. The issue arose in our study of the Gospel According to Mark in the Christian Gamers Guild’s Chaplain’s Bible Study, leading to an expanded exploration of it in #475:  The Mother of Jairus’ Daughter, which I contend is the woman cured of bleeding in the healing nested in the middle of that miracle account.

#497: Game Ideas Unlimited: Vivid Recovered

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #497, on the subject of Game Ideas Unlimited:  Vivid, Recovered.

Decades ago I was writing the weekly Game Ideas Unlimited series at Gaming Outpost.  It was in the main lost when that site crashed.  Then about six years ago the monthly series RPG-ology launched, and the webmaster at the Christian Gamers Guild said he hoped to see ideas from the earlier series revived.  I had a few saved on my drive, and converted them to repost, and rewrote a few from remembered ideas.  Then editors at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be discovered that quite a bit of the series was preserved at the Internet Archive, and provided information for me to access it.  Conversion of many of the articles to the new series began, with an effort to keep them in the original sequence, although interspersed with new material.

However, some of the earlier ideas were recreated in articles in the new series before these were recovered.  In some cases, it made sense later to recover the original as a new entry.  However, the rewritten RPG-ology #15:  Vivid was similar enough to the original Game Ideas Unlimited version that a second article on the same point would be overly redundant.  Still, I was reluctant to lose the original.  Hence I made the decision to include here: Game Ideas Unlimited:  Vivid

[Five weeks A few months] ago, in an episode of [this the RPG-ology] series entitled Senseless, I spoke of my terrifying trip through Skinner’s Falls during the flood.  Then I told it in order to look at those moments at which we are completely robbed of our ability to think or act; but I also said that I usually tell it for another reason, and that when I do I tell it with another story.

This is that other story.

We were hiking through some caves.  The plan had been for us to enter in one place and exit from another, so we had our gear with us.  But things did not go well; a weak ceiling collapsed, and we were cut off from our guide.  We were not certain even whether our guide had survived.  Fortunately we had food and water, and some reliable lamps which would last quite a while if we were careful.  So for lack of a better plan, we began exploring the caves beyond where we were in search of an escape route.

We kept pushing ourselves, exhausting every path we found.  But eventually we were faced with the possibility that there was no other exit.

There was one chance.  We had at one point come to what we had ruled a dead end; but it was not a dead end–there was a crevice, a wide crack in the floor like something from the mines of Moria, and another passage on the other side.  The heat rising from this fissure was intense, but the way it split there were islands, pillars, fragments of floor between us and the far side.  There were also stalactites within reach above us, good heavy ones that would probably suffice for safety lines.  We had rope; we had other gear.  It appeared that we would either cross here, or wait in the hope that someone would dig us out.

Over the course of the next several hours we built a pair of makeshift bridges–catwalks, really.  We doused ourselves with water to help tolerate the heat.  Plotting a route across the gap, one at a time we moved from the edge to one of the nearest columns, to another, moving the bridges.  We tied ropes around our waists and had someone hold the other end; we tied ropes to stalactites as well as we could, and used these for extra security.  It seemed like hours.

In the end, all six of us collapsed in the corridor on the far side.  We were not out yet–we would still face several obstacles–but we would never forget this.  I can still see the makeshift bridges, the eerie light from the depths, the exhausted look on the face of my Yazirian friend as he collapsed next to me.

That’s right, it was a game.  You probably knew that–there are enough things in it that are unrealistic even with my editing.  We had built the bridges from strange mushroom-like growths we found in the caves; the pillars were huge crystals, and the crevice was flowing with hot magma about thirty meters below us, and we made a two hundred meter crossing.  But I remember it.  I remember it vividly–I see these things in my mind’s eye, as clearly as the images I see of Skinner’s Falls, the four-foot walls of water coming at me as I stared helplessly into the surf.  The place comes alive in my mind, as if I had been there.

Total Recall [(1990)] suggested the idea that when a vacation is over all you really have of it is the memory of the vacation.  Thus if you don’t have the time or the money to take a truly exotic vacation, you can spend a couple of hours at a memory implant center and have them tailor the memory of a wonderful holiday.  You never actually experience the trip itself, but you have the ability to go back over it in your mind, recalling the high points and telling people what you never did.  It is a brilliant idea, and if the technology is ever developed I’m sure it will become very popular.

But we have something of that reality now.  Through our role playing games, we visit exotic places.  We can visit Mars, Titan Colony, even Middle Earth and Talislanta–places that don’t exist at all save in the minds of people; yet in our memories they are as real as anything else we remember.

And normally having told both stories and explained that the second is from a game, I would say that this is one of the great things I enjoy about games:  that I remember going places and doing things that were completely impossible, yet the memory is the same as if they were real.  It is one of the great things that sells me on this hobby.  But today I’m going to push beyond that point to something else.

Why is that game moment so clear in my memory?  There are other game moments I can call to mind–the time I in desperation challenged a skeletal warrior to a psychic duel to save the lives of my party, the time the illusionist accidentally opened a partial portal for a demon lord and I had to find a way to prevent it from coming through, the time we tricked a batch of space pirates into bringing us a second jetcopter so we would be able to carry all of our equipment with us when we left to assault their main base.  I certainly don’t remember every moment of every game; I probably don’t even remember every life and death moment (particularly not in Gamma World, in which it seemed that life and death were a regular crisis, occurring several times per session).  But I do remember some moments.  What is it that makes these moments so memorable, so vivid?

In every case in which I can remember clearly the moments of the game, in which they come alive in my mind’s eye, there seem to be two factors at work:  setting and tension.  Both of these must be present in some measure; but more than that, they must somehow connect to each other.  That is, the moment must be tense, in that there must be something at risk to the characters; and the setting must be clear, described in terms that make it easy to visualize; but more than that, understanding the scene must be important to resolving the tension.

In the situation described above, in order to get my people across that canyon I had to make myself aware of the details.  Where were these crystal pillars?  Could we trace a path that would take us across?  What was the stuff growing in these caves?  Could we make bridges from it?  How hot was it here, and what could we do to mitigate that as a problem?  What else could we see in this cave that would help us?  Getting a complete picture of where we were enabled us to overcome the obstacles–and also left that image imprinted in our memories.

In another game, we were being pursued by mind flayers into a vast cavern, a home of myconids (fungus men) which was heavily overgrown with exotic underground plant life.  They were going to catch us; it was a matter of time.  So I ordered a battle plan that would split us into three groups and catch them in our midst–an ambush in which one group would be the bait and the other two the trap.  In order to do that, I had to see the lay of the land, the nature of the bush, and be able to plot it.  I still remember it, because I needed that visual information to succeed.

Another fight was inside a prefabricated building.  There were security cameras on the walls, and we were caught in a firefight around a corner in the halls.  The terrain was part of the battle–we had to maneuver so that we could all fire at them while maintaining some degree of cover for ourselves around the bend.  That image comes to mind.

Yes there are images in my mind that do not involve battle; but even then, the scene was important to success.  Trying to break into that compound in which we had that fire fight involved us in identifying security measures and countering them, disabling a security robot on regular rounds, doing reconnaissance from the roof of the building–in all, trying to visualize the situation because our character’s lives might be on the line.  The settings were not all unusual, but they all had memorable features; the situations were not all life-and-death, but they all had the feeling of danger.

So I think to create truly vivid memorable moments, bear these things in mind.  You need to describe a scene clearly enough that your players are able to visualize it; and you need to create a sense that the scene itself matters in a way that makes them pay attention to the details.  Those are the moments they will recall, of which they will say they were there.

[Next week, something different.]