Friday, October 11, 2013

More Smatter

tl;dr: I still like Dragon Age 2, I'm an INTJ, and I'm redesigning my website because angst


Jenny is approached by a magistrate who needs help with a sensitive matter: a criminal with a life sentence has escaped from prison, and is now trapped inside dangerous ruins. Jenny's job is to bring this man safely back to justice. When asked why he doesn't just leave the criminal to his near-certain death, the magistrate indignantly says that he will not kill a man just because it is convenient. The prisoner  will serve out his sentence, but he should not be killed, either by intent or negligence.

As Jenny approaches the ruins, she meets an elf named Elren who gives her another side of the story: the criminal is Kelder, the magistrate's son. Kelder has been abducting and killing elf children for years. His "imprisonment" amounts to house arrest, as the magistrate refuses to allow his son to face a court. This is not Kelder's first escape. And each time he escapes, he kills another child. This time, the child is Elren's daughter. If Jenny were to bring Kelder to "justice," the cycle will only continue. Even if Jenny could force a court hearing, it would be the word of elves against the magistrate, and the result would be the same. It's the reason Kelder has been able to continue for so long: as long as he only kills elf children, no one cares. Elren is there to demand, not "justice," but death. The only way to stop the cycle, he says, is to kill Kelder.

When she confronts Kelder, she learns that he escaped into the ruin for the purpose of suicide by monster. He knows that what he does is wrong. He also believes that he is powerless to stop himself. He is clearly delusional, possibly schizophrenic. The demons tell him to do it, you see. Because the children are so beautiful. They need to be punished. He begs Jenny to kill him and end it.

In KOTOR, the light side response would be to let him live. Taking justice into one's own hands is never the answer. Killing in cold blood is never the answer. The light side response would be to show mercy to a troubled man, and to put faith in the system. (In KOTOR, this would have positive results, since Jedi powers are great assets in court.)  Jade Empire and Mass Effect would have the same answer, only they would call it "open palm" and "paragon." If I were playing any of those other games, I would be guided into that answer, because to do otherwise would be to hinder my progress towards my character's moral alignment. Those games give you no incentive to make decisions based on anything but receiving alignment bonuses. I never realized how much of a crutch that was until I started playing Dragon Age.

It really irks me that this symbol was never explained.  Is it mage-resistance?  Nazi dragons?

Dragon Age has no such alignment system. Not a "good v. evil" system, or even a "selfless/kind vs. selfish/cruel" system. The "good" answer is not a good answer. Neither is the alternative. There is only Jenny, and the world she wants to live in. She will be judged by the people around her, but there is no universal scale to weigh her actions. I want to put Kelder in a real institution. Somewhere he can't escape from, somewhere that might actually be able to help him understand and deny the voices in his head. I want the system to care about the outcasts as much as it does the magistrate. But that isn't an option. Jenny can only allow the broken system to continue, and hope that this one time will be different from all the rest, or she can act as executioner. There is never a fight with Kelder. She can't kill him in self-defense; that woud be too easy. The game makes certain to show that he is no threat to Jenny.

Jenny kills Kelder.  It's a broken answer to a broken system but I can't stomach the alternative.

Origins had some of these kinds of choices. Travel to the mages' tower to try to save a possessed boy, thereby risking the lives of everyone in the castle and surrounding town, or deal with the threat immediately by killing either the boy or his mother. Give the throne to an ineffectual king who will support an oppressive status quo, or to a scheming fratricide who will sieze all the power and use it to give rights to the casteless. But most of the options are much more obvious. There is no downside to saving the mages. And there is no reason to suggest slaughtering an entire tribe of Dalish elves.  There are usually options that let you save everyone.  On the other hand, DA2 is almost entirely made up of choices like this.


According to this totally scientifically accurate test, I am an octopus.


I have website angst.  I have a website, until November something, at which point, having decided that FatCow is charging too much for something I'm not sure I have a use for, that site will cease to exist.  Also, my website looks terrible and is only barely functional on a phone.  If by "barely," I mean "totally not."

I made it back when people were still using tables, which I've been told no-one does anymore.  It's <div> tags now. 

Anyway, I made a website because I was actively working to make my way in the academic/fine art world, and I needed a portfolio.  Not having a website on my CV would be almost as weird as not having an email address.

Here is a short list of people I know and their websites:

Kyla     Lisa     Allison     Alyss      Aaron      Kate      Chris       Sonya    

So I have this website which I auto-renew because it's easier to pay than to figure out what I'm doing with my website, because figuring that out would require figuring out my life.  Because I like my job.  If, god forbid, I ever lost this job, I would probably do my best to find another one like it.  And people who do my job don't need portfolios.  If I were actively producing work and submitting to exhibitions, then my artistic CV would still be relevant, and so would a website.  But, well, I'm really not doing that, either.  I have two narrative essays that I shop around (Chapter 3 is currently on the virtual desk of The Baltimore Review), but that's really it. 

If I'm no longer part of the academic/fine art world, then having a personal portfolio site seems awfully pretentious.  I mean, I already have this space here, where I can talk about myself and say LOOK AT MEEEEEEE to my heart's content.   But getting rid of my website feels like saying I'm not that person anymore and that's a scary thing.  Which is why I kept spending money to avoid thinking about it.

So I have been trying to think of what else a portfolio site could be, what it brings to me or my work or my life besides a line on a CV.  And I think that, much in the same way that I was looking for unexpected connections between unrelated images in my archives, making a website can function the same way.

So I am working on something new.  Something that deserves to exist on its own.  I am making notes about ways to organize and categorize.  I am writing new statements.  I am thinking of re-framing my pictorialist images:

When I was twenty, I thought I was taking photographs of what mattered. “The feel of a crowd, or the glow of sunlight on hair,” I said.  At the time, I was capturing moments that I was intimately familiar with.  Now, more than 10 years later, when I look at these photos, all I see are the things I can't see.  I look at these photos and see a blank space where a face might be.  I look at these photos and see what I have lost.

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