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Nancy (ca. 2018)

Nancy is an 80-year-old1 syndicated comic strip, both maligned and studied for its simplicity in both artistic style and humor. Originally by Ernie Bushmiller, the strip has been drawn by six different people. The sixth, as of last week is the pseudonymous Olivia Jaimes, the first woman to be in command of Nancy.

That a strip predominantly featuring its eponymous female character hasn’t, in 80 years, been drawn by a woman is… Not terribly notable in this world, and I’m glad that that has changed. Somehow the bigger aspect of the shift seems to be the fact that (so far, at least) the new strip is really good. It’s modern, quirky, and real. It’s hard to take the original Bushmiller strips decades out of context2, but the most recent incarnation by Guy Gilchrist was, to me, awful even by syndicated strip standards. The Jaimes strip, so far, feels like a lightweight web comic almost, far exceeding the quality that I expect out of syndicated strips. I haven’t actually been excited by a newspaper strip in a long time, but this is seriously fresh.


  1. Nancy, the character, appeared in 1933; though Nancy the strip trailed it by five years. ↩︎
  2. Even without the context of shifts in humor over time, I can find some enjoyment in the original strips. The Jaimes strips definitely hit me in a different way, though. ↩︎

NPR's 150 greatest albums made by women (external)

A phenomenal list that really hit home for me. While some of these albums are well off my radar, so many of them were the music I needed during my formative years. There’s a nice speckling of queer representation, but it would have been nice to see at least one trans woman on the list (I’m sure Transgender Dysphoria Blues has saved more lives than, say, Art Angels or Days are Gone), but those are the breaks. Interestingly, the write-up that precedes the list itself mentions the lack of Latinx artists and the dearth of jazz – hinting at some racial blind spots without acknowledging where the LGBT community was passed by. I was surprised at just how much Taylor Swift was on the list (not disappointed, but surprised), was shocked to see Beyoncé’s 4 but not… any other Beyoncé album save Lemonade, and was delighted to see Rumours actually considered an album made by women.


FOSTA-SESTA

Content warning: mentions/links to data on sex trafficking, and murders of women & sex workers.

I know this site gets zero traffic, but regardless I regret that I didn’t take the energy to write about FOSTA-SESTA before FOSTA passed. FOSTA-SESTA is anti-sex-worker legislature posing as anti-trafficking legislature. It’s a bipartisan pile of shit, and the party split among the two dissenting votes in the FOSTA passage was also bipartisan. Since the passage of FOSTA, Craiglist has shut down all personals1, reddit has shut down a number of subreddits, and today Backpage was seized. I would implore anyone who gives a shit about sex workers and/or the open internet to follow Melissa Gira Grant on Twitter.

If you don’t support sex workers, frankly I don’t want you reading my blog. But if you’re here anyway, it’s worth pointing out that the absurdity laid out by FOSTA is a threat to the open web at large, which almost certainly explains why Facebook supported it. It’s not just sex workers who oppose this thing, NearlyFreeSpeech.net, the host I use for all of my sites, had a pointed and clear blog post outlining how frightening it is.

Obviously, it’s worth listening to sex workers on this matter, which nobody did. But it’s also worth listening to law enforcement, the folks who are actually trying to prevent trafficking. And, who would have guessed, law enforcement actually works with sites like Craigslist and Backpage to crack down on the truly villainous aspects of the sex trade. Idaho, just last month, for instance. Meanwhile, having outlets where sex workers can openly communicate and vet their clients saves their lives — when Craiglist opened its erotic services section, female homicide dropped by over 17 percent. That is to say that so many sex workers are routinely murdered, that helping them vet clients significantly reduces the overall female homicide rate.

This whole thing is misguided and cruel2, and I don’t really know what to do about it at this point. But listening to people who are closely following the impacts is a start. It’s a death sentence for sex workers, and a death sentence for the open web, and anyone who cares about either needs to keep abreast of the impact as it unfolds.


  1. Way beyond the point, but I’m having serious missed connection withdrawal. ↩︎
  2. This sucks for all sex workers, but it hits home looking at marginalized communities who often are discriminated against in other workforces. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported 12% of trans adults having done sex work, with that percentage increasing to 42% for black trans women. ↩︎

Mirror

You should immediately follow this link to the single-page tabletop RPG system, Mirror. There you will find my review, which is likely a more cohesive version of this post. You will also find a couple of other reviews from friends who playtested the game alongside me, and you will find the official description, and you will find the words ‘Pay what you want,’ to which I say… it’s worth a decent wad of cash.

Mirror does two things very well. First, it exists as a single-page ‘accelerated’ tabletop RPG system. Second, it breaks the tabletop mold in a meaningful way. It does the latter by basing character generation on real-world friendship. The former is aided by this, but is additionally accomplished by a simple dice-pool mechanic that drives interactions and health.

The dice pool mechanic is straightforward and covered by the rules, and not entirely worth expounding upon. CharGen is far more interesting, and is based upon the real human physically sitting across from you. I entered this rather nervous, and ended up playing across from people who I trust1 implicitly, but honestly have a hard time distilling to their core essence. You see, you play as an abstracted version of the person you sit across from, and during CharGen, you isolate four of that person’s strong suits, and two of their weaknesses. Without being an utter piece of shit, of course. I opted to play my weaknesses as counterpoints to my strengths — where my friend was absurdly creative, that creativity made her ideas occasionally impractical.

My best friend in the whole world games with me, and I am very grateful that in playtesting Mirror, I was not sat opposite her. Not for fear of insulting her during CharGen, but simply because I actually think I had to soak in what I love about other players in said group. A lack of closeness (let’s call it) made me feel a lot closer to the friends I played as. I guess Mirror has a way of doing that — it’s like a forced empathy, but since these are people you want to empathize with, it just makes you love them more.

And, this is important in the game, and brings me back to the first point — this is a single-pager. There are expectations for these things — quick, and simple to broach. I, personally, love Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) as a quick, accessible tabletop system. But even FAE has barriers to entry… CharGen can theoretically be as long as a campaign, and for a new player, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be invested. Something about playing as one of your fellow gamers has a strange way of making you invested. And CharGen is quick and straightforward as you are simply… describing your buddy.

In my review on the DriveThruRPG page, I describe the friendship element and the one-page/one-off element as being intimately intertwined, and that’s really the magic of Mirror, I think. To non-gamers, even a quick system like FAE can be intimidating. But Mirror allows you to build a world, build a scenario and give your players an inherent motivation and set of character attributes — these are both dependent upon someone they care about IRL.

Mirror terrified me at first. Because I’m timid, and I’m bad at breaking even the people I know the most intimately into their prime components. But there’s enough of a balance between abstraction and familiarity that the whole thing is just… really comfortable. This is probably a first: I’m going to smash a redundant link here: go check out Mirror, it’s… special.


  1. Personal reveal time: I think trust is an almost distracting force in my life. I have been burned by enough people to know where to place my energy. I may not know a damned other thing about you, but if you prove to me that I can genuinely and implicitly trust you, then you have my love. ↩︎

Trying Twitterific

[N]ot to worry, for the full Twitter experience on your Mac, visit Twitter on web.

I could not stop laughing in disgust when I read the email in which Twitter, a company known primarily for taking user experience and ruining it, announced that they were shuttering their Mac client. The idea that Twitter in a browser is in any way a palatable experience is horrifying, and the only explanation I can offer is that the entire Twitter UX team is comprised of unpaid interns.

As part of our ongoing effort to streamline our apps and provide a more consistent and up-to-date Twitter experience across platforms, we are no longer supporting the Twitter for Mac app.

To be fair, the official Mac app was horribly neglected, and just… a bad experience. It didn’t support the latest changes to the Twitter service (like 280 chars), it was a buggy mess when you tried to do simple things like scrolling, and it crashed at least once a week on me. It was a bad app, yet still infinitely more manageable than using a full-fledged web browser for something as miniature-by-design as Twitter. Enter Twitterrific.

The idea of paying a third party so that I can access a service so rampantly overrun by TERFs and nazis that I feel the need to maintain a private account never really made sense to me. But, unlike the other great UX nightmare, Facebook, I don’t hate the company and the service with every atom of my body. I guess I’m kind of a sucker for the shithole that is Twitter. So, I have paid for Twitterrific. And, it’s pretty good.

Twitter clients were once this sort of UI/UX playground, and while I don’t entirely think that’s a good thing, some genuinely positive user interaction experiences were born of it. Twitterrific (speaking only of the MacOS edition for this post) feels largely native, but still has enough of these playground interactions as to frustrate me. The biggest one is that threads (etc.) don’t expand naturally, they pop out in little impermanent window doodads, and if you want to ensure you don’t lose your place, you have to manually tear them off and turn them into windows.

There are some other little issues, like a lack of granular control over notification sounds, but all in all the thing is better than the official client has been for years. Mostly just in that it reliably updates, it knows how to scroll, and like any good MacOS app it does not freeze every other day. I’ve been using it since Twitter made their shitty announcement (mid-February), and it’s a solid product. I guess this post has been more rant than review, but the facts are simple: if you use a Mac and you use Twitter, your experience either has gone or will go to absolute shit. Unless you use a third-party Twitter client. And Twitterrific is a pretty good one.