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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.


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.


As Queen, I keep dying

This post might contain spoilers for the games Reigns and/or Reigns: Her Majesty.

Reigns was a game that really kind of blew my mind when it came out. I guess the idea was to sort of frame a narrative around Tinder-esque interactions, which I didn’t really grasp (Tinder seems like the polar opposite of how I wish to find a mate). To me it was just this story, played over a whole bunch of games (some of which you had to fail), each game potentially affecting future games, and all handled via this incredibly simple decision tree mechanic. For the most part, you have two decisions at any given time (swipe left or right, that’s the Tinder-y bit). It was an oddly engaging game.

Now, in Reigns, you played as a king. So if they were to make a sequel, it would only be fitting that you would play as a queen. This is Reigns: Her Majesty. I don’t really make a habit of reviewing mobile games1 on this blog, but Her Majesty is fucking phenomenal. I don’t know if Leigh Alexander was involved in the first game, but she definitely has a writing credit on this one, and it shows. Reigns was clever, but Her Majesty is ridiculously tight, smart, and progressive.

Part of my draw to the game is likely bias — you play as a woman, a woman who I deeply respect wrote the thing, and the entire game just oozes with femininity and feminism. This has always been a sticking point for me, I will become far more invested in a game where I can play as a woman vs. one where I’m stuck as a man. That’s not necessarily a knock on any given game (or unwarranted praise on any other given game), it’s just my bias. But, trying to look past that bias, this Queen’s world undeniably gives Her Majesty far more depth than its predecessor.

If you never played the first game, it’s worth briefly describing what swiping left or right accomplishes. For any given scenario, swiping either direction may raise or lower one or more of your piety, popular favor, might, or financial2 stats. If any given stat maxes out or reaches zero, you die. This is the same in Her Majesty, but there’s a much bigger struggle (at least, how I’ve played it) with the church. Part of this is that a major aspect of the plot involves astrology and the occult, and diving into that essentially requires you to defy the church. Part of it is that you’re constantly given the opportunity to flirt with all the other women in the game and I mean, how could you not!? Oh, and occasionally the Cardinal asks you to conceal your pendulous melons (or something), which… no, I dress how I want.

And this is why I think the feminine aspect really gives the game depth. Personally, I find it hard to play in a way that defies my feminist sensibilities (and, in fact, a random owl occasionally pops up to tell you how feminist you are or situate you in various fandoms3), but this is often detrimental to my score – you are, after all, ‘just’ the Queen, and in a sense must maintain your place. But beyond my personal hangups, this still adds a great depth to the game. Choices aren’t as clear-cut, and your level of control isn’t always what it seems. Layer the whole astrological woman magic icing on top, and it’s an even more impossibly complex swipe-left-or-right game than Reigns.

This complexity and my desire to be an empowered Queen means that I have been losing very quickly, very often. Which might be grating in a lesser game, but somehow losing Her Majesty usually feels pretty damned virtuous.


The Lazy He

While searching through the rule book for ‘Raptor’ (an admittedly great game by everyone’s favorite Brunos) for a bit of errata this weekend, I came across a grossly irritating footnote early on:

Note: throughout this document male pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity and readability. It should be clearly understood that in each instance, we mean to include female players as well.

This is bullshit on so many levels. The most inclusive choice would, of course, be to use the singular they. The most sorry-gaming-is-horribly-patriarchal choice would be to use female pronouns throughout1. And while I hate enforcing the gender binary, the most ‘readable’ choice would be to use male pronouns for Player A and female for Player B or vice versa. ‘Raptor’ is exclusively a two-player game, so all of the included examples rightfully include two players. Switching between two people with a shared set of pronouns is far less readable than unique pronouns for either. Ambiguity is always a potential pitfall of pronoun usage, easily avoidable when you’re dealing with two purely hypothetical humans.

Failing all of the above, however, I’d almost prefer they just used male pronouns throughout and cut out the nonsensical and condescending footnote. The footnote reads as though ‘some woman complained that we did this once and rather than adapt we’re just going to make up a bunch of excuses.’ Whose ‘simplicity’ is this for the sake of? The reader’s? Are we to assume that they are so caught up in the masculine gamer trope that a single female pronoun would cause their brains to shut down, eternally paralyzing them, rulebook still in hand? Or is it for the sake of simplicity on the part of the writers and editors, so lazy and consumed by male hegemony that they can’t even bother to do a find-and-replace on their masculine-as-default pronouns? The message put forward by the footnote is a brutally honest display of privilege: ‘we know we should be more inclusive, but we think it’s simpler not to.’ The footnote does not read as a statement of inclusiveness, rather an outright denial of it and a mockery of the very idea.