Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Something That's Really Starting to Piss Me Off (Rant)

So I'm starting to look through artistic organizations, as per the assignment of my Professional Practices class. I decided that I wanted to look up  stuff for my iconography-related work, since that's my primary medium. The list is... uninspiring. I found one such organization, and their website's down (but their Facebook isn't!). I returned, a bit concerned, and was told to broaden my search to Catholic art in general. That's slightly less discouraging, but only just: none of these people are backed by a diocese, near as I can tell. It's all independent work.

What in the cold hell is the purpose of that, may I ask?

The whole purpose of being a Catholic artist is that you may do Sacred Art (yes, I capitalized it, I consider it a part of Tradition, but that's another topic) for the edification of what? CHURCHES. Y'know, those ugly buildings most Roman Catholics enter to do a watered-down version of the Novus Ordo (PLEASE someone link me to a Novus Ordo with the full chant as it's supposed to be)? Yeah, surprise, those are supposed to be beautiful! But I guess it's hard to do that when people, even at a Catholic university, seem to forget that the whole point of art is to lift the mind and senses up to God! Allow me a rant for another paragraph, and I promise you something more akin to coherency.

It is my experience (all 23 years of it!) that the Church has lost something very very important: an appreciation of the physical world. You have people saying the sexual urge is holy and then condemning it in the next breath, idiots who pretend that Sacred Art pays for itself, and the ugliest shit produced by anyone and everyone in this day and age, and you wonder why we have such problems? I get a better sense of what's sacred from the Boondock Saints then walking into most churches, people! Why?

I am willing to bet money (without looking it up even!) that Mr. Duffy isn't Catholic, and yet with this opening scene I got a better sense of what a Catholic Church was about then 95% of Catholic Churches I walk into. This movie that most devout, conservative, Catholics will never watch because of its language and violence has a better witness to what they're about than most of them will ever be able to conceive of, because it actually shows beauty! Oh the wicked irony!

Sacred Art isn't cheap, Nathan, is what you'll tell me. Artists are expensive to keep around, and we can't afford it. To those wonderfully smart people I say, "No shit. Really? I've been doing Byzantine iconography for 7 years! I think I know how expensive sacred art can get!" But to the eternal shame of those who point this out I will point out that most of the beautiful churches we have in this world were built by hand. You heard me, by hand. The community put their money where there mouth was, and built their sacred space! They then hired an artist with their hard-earned cash, in economic situations that make ours look wondrously awesome, and put all their hopes and dreams into one building where they went pretty damn often. And what's the result, may I dare ask?

You really want me to go on? Really? Cause if I do I really might actually get angry, I really might. This world has been abandoned by our wondrous Catholics, and I sincerely hope we stop ignoring the people who live in it and the unarguable fact that art does more good for people than any polemical work on chastity ever will. Does it work the same way? No, but it does work better. To  those of you who wish to argue with me go take a long, hard, look at human nature. Then come back to me. You'll get a truly rational post from me at some point, but for the moment be left with this.

We will fail to convince people we are following the true Way until our art convinces them. We will fail so epically that most of us will wonder why we're so ineffective. And the answer will be so simple that it'll sting when we die and see why all these people that we want peace for so badly had so much difficulty: we forgot that humans respond to beauty, not arguments.

I should stop ranting now. Before I say something truly asinine.

Monday, January 30, 2012

G.K. Chesterton Art Idea

The title's not exactly indicative of the title, but oh well. A while back I go the idea that I wanted to make a twisted mirror, which was what the sketch NotReality was supposed to be. As I went through a bit more of the creative process, however, I realized that I wanted to do something a bit more positive than showing a person fusing into a demon. I still liked the warped mirror technique, however, and wanted to experiment with it. Well, shopping through Amazon, I found this mirror. Neat, huh? It should be here tomorrow.

I'm a real fan of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. It's a book that constantly challenges me, and I find that it reflects a lot of the beliefs I wish I could have about the world. So I'm going to find a way to put the book itself into my work as a collage. What does that mean?

I have no idea. You'll know shortly after I do, however, that much I can promise!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Ugly: Calvin and Hobbes and Relationship

Whoever made this, thank you.
OK, maybe not just nostalgia. Yesterday was my year-and-a-half with Maria (which normally would be just "nice", but this is the first time Maria and I have been able to celebrate any anniversary at all together, making it a big deal...), so I was thinking about stuff like this anyway. And then I saw this on Facebook today, and thought I'd share.

As I've talked about in earlier blog posts (like all my The Ugly posts) I didn't have a particularly peaceful childhood; most of it was spent avoiding the next beating from people who liked me not a day or two ago. There were very few things I could label a genuine pleasure that I wasn't afraid would change on me in five minutes. Calvin and Hobbes was one of these genuine pleasures. I connected with Calvin's removal from "other kids", and his odd friendship with Hobbes. Avoiding all the kids who didn't understand to tromp off into the world and go through some mishaps? Yes please! I'd read their adventures, and want a friend like that: someone who had their own unique set of foibles, but had no problem listening to me talk (for what could be hours sometimes...) and give me their point of view. Someone who would follow me into whatever hair-brained scheme we'd cooked up. Looking on it now, I suppose my ideas on what a friend was like were founded in this cartoon. I've always looked for quiet and thoughtful people who cared to be around.

I am very fortunate in this regard. Very, very, very fortunate. I have a lot of friends who are more than willing to go along with whatever hair-brained scheme I've cooked up today, and who (occasionally) convince me to go on some of their own. Probably my closest friend in that regard has got to be Carpe, who has stuck with me for four years now, always supportive and never judging, to the point that, frankly, I'm in awe. That's a friend, folks! Give him a round of applause.

And (fortunately) I've found that my relationship with Maria is nothing like that. This isn't what I have with Carpe (which is about as close to Calvin and Hobbes as I think I'll ever get, right down to the part of Carpe-Hobbes being much smarter than me).What is it? To be honest, I have no idea. Maria and I have only spent about a month hanging out on a consistent basis, so I really don't know what our relationship is like, and definitions like that are only formed with a bit of hindsight. But I know I'm really enjoying it. And that it fits that picture well. Even if Maria isn't Hobbes: probably closer to Susie (both in terms of intelligence, patience, and cuteness).

But even that isn't right. Oh well. I'm done trying to be intellectual about non-intellectual stuff for today. This rambling bit of sentimentality brought on by my favorite comic-strip of all time, Carpe and a year and a half of awesomeness with Maria.

Wait, I'm actually happy?

When did that happen?

Eh, I did say I'd stop thinking about it...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Icon as Communion: The Ideals and Compositional Principles of Icon Painting

Most of my time as an iconographer has been self-taught, just because I'm not near any iconography masters so I have no choice but to reverse-engineer what I can, and move on. So I practically devour well-reviewed books on iconography and implement whatever I can into my own iconography. It can be a bit time-consuming sometimes, but it's worth if I actually learn something. I spent a long time reading through this book and trying some of the techniques described, and it's safe to say that I've learned quite a bit.

Kordis starts his book by detailing the theory behind Byzantine art, and why it's different from typical Western art. While this isn't a new topic by any stretch (go read any iconography book), Kordis covers it in a new way: by accurately describing what's actually going on in an icon! This is the only explanation I've read in my 7 years of research that adequately explains why an icon looks the way it does.

Basically it all boils down to a completely different type of perspective: relational perspective. The piece of art, instead of pulling you (the viewer) in, comes out and towards the viewer. The icon is designed to "warp" reality towards the viewer, which completely rids the icon of artistic "depth". The reality of God is so powerful that it comes rushing out of the icon towards you. All iconography attempts to do this, to varying degrees of success.

This is not to say that the topic hasn't been covered before. It has. Exhaustively. There are tons and tons of books that detail relational perspective. The difference? The book actually covers how to do that, and shows some basic drawing techniques you can do to shift your iconography over to "how it's actually done". I've tried a few of the techniques, and I'm really happy with the results, which you guys'll see sooner than later. This is a practical guide, not a theoretical treatise. And I love it.

If you want to write icons or are interested in iconography at all, get this book. This shows how Byzantine theology has been made into line and color in the simplest and most concrete way I've ever read. Bar none.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Horrible Horrible Thought

I can't believe I'm writing a post on this...

So the other day I was praying and reading Scripture, like the good little Catholic boy that I am, when I look over at one of my impromptu book-shelves. This one happens to have most of the RPGs I own. They are:

4th edition Dungeons and Dragons (it's own section)
Gamma World, 4th edition
World of Darkness
Mutants and Masterminds
3.5 Dungeons and Dragons (some borrowed)
Vampire the Masquerade (borrowed)
Burning Wheel
Star Wars Saga (loaned out to Raphael, he's running a game in that system)

As I was considering the readings (which were about how you're supposed to do good to those who do evil to you, and that each person deserves some amount of good), this conversation sorta popped into my head. This is as accurate as my admittedly horrible memory will allow. It also made my girlfriend giggle with glee, which is just as bad as me giggling with glee.

ME: Don't you have too many of those?
Me: Um, excuse me?
ME: You heard me. Don't you have too many?
Me: Um, no?
ME: No, really, you do. Think about it. How many of these games have you actually played? C'mon, spell it out for me.
ME: I'm your maturity. I'm a bit late to the game, but I'm starting to move in.  It's messy in here, by the way. You should totally clean up.
Me: Oh SHIT, you finally showed up?
ME: Yup! And you still haven't answered the question. Oh you who are going to be my bitch.
Me: I am not-
ME: You totally are. And your girlfriend will love it. She'll start calling you responsible. Which is totally true, BTW's.
Me: *Sigh* I've played 4th edition, Gamma World, Saga Edition, World of Darkness, Mutants and Masterminds, I USED to play 3.5.... see? I've played quite a few of them.
ME: But not all of them. And you're considering buying the new Marvel RPG when you have a super hero's RPG sitting right next to your head??? 
Me: ... a collector's item? Since Marvel doesn't keep any RPG in print for too long? *Glares at the Marvel Universe system*
ME: Give it a rest, just for a little while. If only so you can eventually get to the Serenity RPG at some point.
Me: OK, now that's just cold. What makes you so mature?
ME: I happen to agree with your girlfriend, your dad, and every authority figure you've ever known?
Me: .... stash your stuff next to the giant statue of Spider-Man. Don't eat too much.

Am I the only one completely and totally horrified? I better not be. When I informed Maria of this conversation, she about died laughing. She thought it was funny!


Burning Wheel, Part 2: The Monster Burner

So, as usual, this isn't much more than a review after what's a cursory glance. The question I had when looking at this book was: will it help me make monsters in Burning Wheel?

The answer is a resounding YES. This'll help me make amazing monsters for Burning Wheel.

Wait, what's all this other stuff in here? Interesting...

OK, so there's a lot more to the Monster Burner than it looks at first glance. There's a section detailing the stats and why they are the way they are, the 100 questions for making a monster, and quite a number of monstrous races, complete with lifepaths for players, several appendices detailing the math behind shades and using the monsters. And of course, the wonderful information on how to build your own lifepaths and traits. There's more, but this is the stuff I thought was important, so I'm gonna review it!

Really, this thing is a catch-all. The sections on stats and shades I found extremely illuminating, and I'm tempted to show my future players these sections for their own education. It just seemed more informative than the Gold explanation, and a lot more in depth! The monster races I like to a certain extent. Basically it seemed like it was just loving on Orcs as far as player races were concerned, which was a bit annoying. That being said, I wouldn't mind using these lifepaths to make really detailed monsters the players would have to face. As a resource for a GM this part is fantastic, but I really wouldn't want to see these as player races.

Of course, I could be (and probably am) wrong. Dunno. Has anyone tried any of these races? If so, please comment and let me know how it went!

The custom lifepaths and traits section is just flat-out amazing. I loved looking through and realizing that creating these things would be relatively easy, especially with the guidelines in the book! I can't wait to give this particular section a whirl and draw up a few lifepaths for, say, a sci-fi game. Or a Japanese game. Or whatever. That's the beauty. These sections are so bloody simple that you could pretty much hack the game however you wanted, and the game would still have a pretty similar level of quality!

This is exactly the sort of book I've always wanted for an RPG: something that breaks down the math and shows me how to make anything I want. Rather than go and make tons of cash off of us by requiring that we buy everything that comes up into his head before releasing the math, Mr. Crane lets us under the hood immediately, and helps us do exactly what RPGs are supposed to do: make up whatever we want and have a good time doing it.

Ha, Carpe! Got here first!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review of Burning Wheel Gold, Part 1: The Main Book

... sorta. Carpe beat me to it, cause I locked myself out of my house for the weekend, away from my book and computer. So maybe there was some interference. I don't think Carpe's above that sorta thing, personally. I demand an investigation!

What's that? Carpe doesn't live in Kansas anymore? Bah. His family doesn't live that far away from me...

I'm not saying anything. Just... stating facts.


There are a lot of RPGs out there that sport "new and edgy" mechanics. These books are filled with self-important prose, proclaiming how different these games are from, well, Dungeons and Dragons really. There are so many of these bloody games it makes my head spin, so I usually avoid the majority of them, and stick with a few "trustworthy" RPGs: Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, Mutants and Masterminds, Star Wars Saga, and Serenity. Each of these games gives something new and different to my gaming experience. Dungeons and Dragons is Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness gives me my horror kick, Mutants and Masterminds my superheroes shot, Star Wars is Star Wars, and Serenity for a more story-based game, and well, DUH, it's Serenity!

Burning Wheel has joined the rotation. Officially.

Good God this book is sexy

What does it do? It's the character RPG of the group. No, really. This is the only RPG I've ever seen to go this far in making sure that character comes first. "XP", also known as Artha, is given for playing the character according to the Beliefs and Instincts outlined by the player. Your skills increase, sure, but without the Artha it would be a very gritty dungeon crawl. Unfortunately I haven't played the game yet, so this is just a read-through review (and probably a rather shoddy one at that), but Artha really is what makes the game so different. It's given for holding to Beliefs, for making everyone stop dead with laughter. The group is also much more important to gameplay than in any other RPG, since the group can give traits to players and penalize munchkins as a collective, as well as award Artha for roleplaying (unanimous vote, people!). I'm always one for increased player participation, so this stuff's AWESOME in my eyes. It also scratches the fantasy itch that was implanted right along with that pesty little Alien egg when I was kid.

I should probably have a doctor look at it.

To compare this game to Dungeons and Dragons is a bit of an insult to both games, honestly. They're both so different from each other that I hesitate to say they're even related, beyond sharing the fantasy genre (and even then they're on opposite sides). This is a game that competes well with D&D by creating a completely different experience: one driven by player and character just as much as by GM. Honestly, this game is sooo frickin' long (600 pages for the basic book!) that reviewing the whole thing is far beyond the scope of a casual gamer like myself.

I will say this, though: if you want a game system that is focused on character, with a sense of darkness and light that you only get in fantasy, a game that asks questions that no other RPG will even think to ask, if you want a story,  get this book. It's only 25 bucks for 600 pages, people! That's a wonderful steal in today's economy, especially considering that this is really all a player will ever need. Seriously, it's all in here. Are there more options? Probably, but the way this game's set up the options that are here will last a players for decades, in a way that makes other RPGs almost shallow in comparison. I know that, once I'm done with my current Dungeons and Dragons game, Burning Wheel will become my main RPG.

I will be getting the Monster Burner (basically the GM's book) today. I'll get you a basic review sometime this weekend, provided I don't lock myself out of the frickin' house again. Carpe, I will get revenge for your foul play!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On the New Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (A Rant and Trolling)

Well, to those of you who aren't under a rock in the RPG world, you know by now: Dungeons and Dragons is moving to a fifth edition. All things considered, that may be a good thing (especially since WoTC's hooked up to Hasbro). D&D looks to become a very modular game, with expansions to fit almost any type of game. In theory. That looks pretty good. I like the concept. Don't get me wrong, I love 4th edition: I play it twice a week, after all, including my 4eMOD. But if Wizards needs to do it to keep their heads above water, so be it. This is an economy, after all, and if 4th isn't making the money it needs to keep from being shut down then so be it. 

But I'll bet you're wondering why I have a double facepalm on here, don't you?

It's for those frickin' news articles. Y'know, the ones that are covering this? They're some of the most one-sided things I've read in my life. And that comes from someone who reads Jack Chick tracts so he can see the inner workings of a madman (especially Catholicism! You want a good read? Google Jack Chick and Catholicism, and be prepared to be taught everything Catholicism is not). Reading these things you'd think that 3rd edition and Monte Cook were gods of the industry, and that 4th edition brought about the apocalypse, with it's heavy focus on combat and balance and actually good design. I guess I should be clear where I stand on those first two points:

3rd edition was a broken game, and Monte Cook is not a god.

3rd scaled horribly, and each supplement broke the game in ways that I can't even begin to vent my frustration about. Go ahead, run any of those supplements you want! It just depends on how you want the game to be broken. Unless of course you were a wizard or a cleric, cause then you were always broken. The game barely works at higher levels, and by barely I mean the DM has to bend over backwards while drinking acid and yodeling without letting any of that flesh-eating acid touch the ground. Beyond 6th level the game doesn't even truly feel like a fantasy game anymore, what with the mass invisibility and mass fly spells. And that's before we start mentioning that there's not a single 1st party 3rd edition supplement I know of that's actually character centric. All of it is combat. All of it . And past 10th level it all falls apart. There's a reason E6 exists, people!

All of this designed by the guy all the people who hate 4th are hailing as the salvation of Dungeons and Dragons. Mr. Cook is going to sweep in and save them from the hack and slash horror MMO that is 4th edition. And while he's at it he's going to bring Jesus Christ back from the dead, end world hunger, and, most impressive, he'll end the Edition Wars!


Now please don't misunderstand my vitriol. I know Monte Cook's intelligent. Hell, I've agreed with a lot of his articles in Legends and Lore! But Mr. Cook's a human being, like the rest of us, and his mistakes are many and downright painful, just like the rest of humanity. If people wanted a "story-centric" game, Dungeons and Dragons is not their game! It can be done (and I am doing it), but the game has always been a combat and dungeon-crawl heavy game (As Carpe pounded into my thick skull a few weeks back. OUCH!). Don't believe me?

Go read Burning Wheel, and then come back to me. That's a story-centric game. The rules are centered around advancing a character, first and foremost. Dungeons and Dragons has never been like that. Even at it's most "story-centric", it's never done that. 4th edition took the one thing that Dungeons and Dragons had going for it and brought it to the forefront, and that was as a combat-driven RPG. Yes, role-playing is in there, just like there's a good story in the movie Fearless, or the awesomness that is Zombieland. But Fearless is still a martial arts film, and Zombieland is still a zombie film. Good characterization is there so that way your action and horror is that much better. But notice the emphasis.  Action first. 4th edition did that. If you don't like the way 4th did that, fine, whatever. But realize what Dungeons and Dragons is, and if you don't want that, move on!

Personally? I'll always play Dungeons and Dragons, 4th edition in particular. I have all the books, I've modded them to my liking, so I don't know if I'll pick up the new edition. More on that in my review of Burning Wheel, which you can expect sometime this weekend!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


This is absolutely incredible. No matter what denomination you are, this is a truly incredible story.


If you don't believe it, that's fine. But I do.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Call of Cthulhu: A Review (Of Sorts)

I really love playing RPGs. I like DMing them more than I do playing, but that's mostly because I've been doing it much more often and find it awkward to not be DMing. There are literally times when I find myself bored stiff in games because I'm still used to having to do everything. That being said, I like experimenting and learning new RPGs. It's not quite as much of an obsessive-compulsive desire like it is with Carpe (Seriously, dude, an RPG review a week? There's this thing called life!), but when I can play in a new game that sounds fun I'll gladly give it a shot. So a friend of mine (lovingly nicknamed The Spawn of Satan for all the times he's derailed my games) invited me to play in Call of Cthulhu. To say that I was pumped was a bit of an understatement. I've heard lots and lots of good things about this game, and I've always been in the want to try this game out. The Lovecraftian world has a lot of potential, and I wanted to see what could be done with it.

But first, a few caveats! This is being reviewed from the viewpoint of a player. I have never actually seen the rule book for longer than a few seconds, I don't know everything I could about the system, or anything like that. I've only made one character (Although I'm about to make another, since my dentist was just eaten by a shoggoth. He is a REAL doctor, damnit!). So this is not a real review, but more a relating of my of my experiences playing.


This is, admittedly, my favorite part of the game. Call of Cthulhu features a percentage roll-under system. Ha, I always wanted to say that! It's actually pretty simple. Each character has an exhaustive list of skills, from Accounting to Other (fill in your own). Each one has a percentage next to it. You roll a percentage and d10 dice to simulate a d100. You must roll underneath or equal to the percentage. Modifying the difficulty is also very easy. Is it a really tough check? Cut the percentage in half. Easy check? Double it. I've always been a proponent for a bit more math in RPGs (I'm not saying calculus, I'm talking about multiplication and division with addition and subtraction), so I was actually pretty excited. The system doesn't require the GM to constantly figure out a target number. Just roll, you'll know what you get! If you critically hit (1/5 of your target percentage) you put a check mark next to the skill. At a point determined by the GM you may roll your dice, hoping to get over the target number. If you do so, roll a d10. That's how much your skill increases by. No experience points that make you level up things you never used. If you used it, you'll level it. It's a great concept, and it works out really nicely in the game. I found that things I had forgotten to put points into did get better as time went on, even if I sucked at them. 

Combat Initiative is based off of static Dexterity stats. This is, admittedly, where the game gets a bit alien. Your Strength and Size scores make a damage die. Why this isn't a static bonus I have no idea, but it removes a bit of control from the player in this area, especially if the GM's the only one with the book. Your HP is RIDICULOUSLY low, meaning that one or two good hits and your character is dead. This actually makes the game an action RPG. Why? Keep reading.

The primary stat you have to worry about, of course, is your sanity. This is your Power (magic) stat times five. The stat constantly fluctuates, but it has one inevitable direction. Down. Each time something freaky happens your character is forced to make a Sanity check. Succeed? Lose 1 sanity. Fail? The GM rolls and tells you how much Sanity you lose. I've seen people lose as much as 6-7 at a single pop. And these checks come up all the time. You also lose Sanity for casting spells, having spells cast on you, for killing innocent people (even if by accident), etc. As far as I know there's only way to regain sanity: kill monsters. It might kill you to try, but if you don't kill those monsters you won't gain sanity back. There's a lot more to the system than that, but that's the basics. Now take all this stuff, and hand it to a bunch of college-aged guys, and what happens?

You get the awesomenest action game ever made. Surprised? So was I. But think about it. Lovecraft was always about how the weird and alien's gonna swallow us all, and we're only staving off the inevitable. You are going to die or go insane, possible both at the same time. What's this translate to in man?

As one of the guys I was playing with said. "I'm gonna die anyway. Fuck it!" Since then this particular dude has take on a monster solo with a shotgun and won. Another of the characters has been soloing monsters and being a general bad-ass because the rest of us weren't around to save him. The rest of us are starting to ignore the non-combat professions, because if we're going to die anyway we're going to go out with a bang. Essentially, we've made the 1920's version of Gurren Lagann! I don't think that was intended, but I think I'm going to make a martial artist as my next character and constantly say this:

Is this what the designers intended.
Hell no! 

But is it fun? 


Oh well. Who the hell do you think I am????

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

About Flannery O'Connor, Catholicism, and Writing

Y'know, one of the awful things about Christianity are the writers of Christian fiction. Don't believe me? Go to a bookstore (what's left of those), and go to the religious fiction section. Bring a barf bag, you're gonna need one. Stories about nice and pretty girls who go through some nice and pretty world where the worst that might happen is losing the farm? Or their worst idea of what can happen is someone doesn't accept the faith?


How's that even close to being something even us Christians can care about? I mean, with the Baptism of Will all we have to do is convince non-believers through our actions and words that Christianity is the best way to live a good life. If they're not convinced of that it's because we're not living right. It's our fault, our tragedy, not theirs. They get to go on and live life as they can, while we get judged for messing it up!

So I guess the problem is that it's not actually Christian fiction. It's a bunch of Christians who are making namby-pamby bullshit that no one in their right mind is going to care about, and lying to everyone and themselves that they're making something good. It's pretty sickening that we have to share the stage with these charlatans. And what makes it worse? They intend good (or at least I'm going to assume they do)!

So what is a Christian story? A Catholic one? I guess we can go through a few things that I personally hold to be Catholic, and see what they're about. The three things I'm gonna cover have a few things in common: a supreme optimism in the main character or the setting (to the point where other people can't accept it, even), a horrible tragedy to overcome, and plenty of mistakes, even in the good. I'm not gonna lie, that's probably not the only things these works have in common. This isn't a definitive definition by any stretch, I'm just trying to figure out my thoughts, and hopefully people will contribute and provide their own.

There are SPOILERS sprinkled throughout. You are warned.

Surprised? You shouldn't be, not at this juncture. The thing that makes Clannad Catholic, more than anything, is the ending. The entire world decides that even one person sad and unable to live a good life existing is unacceptable, so it winds itself back through time and corrects the problem? That most definitely counts as optimistic. And it definitely throws people off. But the show is also very light-hearted, even in the midst of the tragedy. I still laugh at the jokes, after 9 times of watching(!).

The whole show keeps making the case that Tomoya cannot be alone, and that once he picks someone he must be with them. This isn't a case of weakness, it's Tomoya's strength. Tomoya needs someone to give himself to, and his complete and total monogamy is a pretty admirable thing. I mean, who wouldn't want to be so frickin loyal that when their significant other dies they wouldn't know what to do with themselves, because their life was about the other? I know I would. But that counts as a huge tragedy. Losing someone that important is awful. The last part, the mistakes? Tomoya never stops making them. He's a good person, but man, when he messes up...

Also something that shouldn't surprise anyone, considering the review I wrote. Trigun meets these criteria even more obviously than Clannad: Vash doesn't want anyone to die, because all life is precious! He wants to save everyone, for the simple reason that they're good. And the thing is that Vash isn't being delusional.

Each and every time he makes a call on someone, he's right.

 Even the times that the other person thinks he's nuts and wrong, that momentary faith they see is enough to make them believe as well. The trick of the show, like in Clannad, is believing even in the face of overwhelming odds (and evidence).

But perhaps the best moment of the show (at least for me) was Wolfwood. Here was a man who really wanted to believe, but let the facts get in the way of reality. Wolfwood's death scene confirmed the identity of the show a heck of a lot more than anything else for me. He believed, even as he struggled and questioned and died. At the end of it all, he wanted to live, despite everything that got in his way.

Lord of the Rings
I posted this last, because this is the measuring stick for an entire generation. JRR Tolkien has said his timeless story is a Catholic work for the simple reason that he is Catholic. And when you examine the work by the criteria set out, it works. The setting is much darker and grimmer than the previous two examples. The Ring cannot be negotiated with, it cannot be conquered. It must be destroyed, and Sauron with it. The stakes allow for no compromise, no redemption for the Ring or Sauron. It (and Sauron) is evil incarnate. The optimism isn't in that. The optimism is that it's very simple.

All you have to do is drop it into a mountain, and burn it up.

Frodo doesn't have to become superhuman. He just needs a friend for the times he gets too complex for the problem. The big monsters don't have to be fought, or bargained with by Frodo. He just has to ignore them, because they're not the problem, but the symptom. All the horrible things in this world all come from one very simple problem, that can be solved by perseverance. When you think about it, that's actually very optimistic. To save the world requires no special skills. All it requires is the desire to do the right thing. The rest WILL take care of itself. Somehow. Even if it appears to be chance, in the case of Gollum falling in.

Identifying Catholic works is sorta like identifying porn: you know it when you see it, and nothing anyone else says will tell you anything different.  I'm not going to pretend that my thoughts on the subject are all-inclusive, or even accurate. But it's the best I can do at the moment. I want to make a Catholic novel. A real, honest-to-goodness, human, gut-wrenching, Catholic novel. Because I've noticed that actual Catholic works make for more hope than any other thing I've ever read, and as an artist that's what I want: to make people hope.

So please leave comments, if you will, on this one. Feedback is the life of an artist.

(And for those of you wondering, this essay was inspired by Flannery O'Connor's thoughts on Catholic writing, which is why the title mentions her. These thoughts are based off of hers.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Situational Blindness: Races

I'll be posting my campaign notes online, but to do that, I have to set up the races and cultures first. These are the race sand cultures that are a prominent part of the world and the storyline so far.

Char: Use the stats of a gnoll, but add fire damage to the encounter power. Char are a war-like race that count Bane, the god of Conquest, as their chief. They're highly competitive and simple.

Eladrin, Elf, and Drow: All three of these races form the Elvish Empire, known for their vast naval fleet. The empire is divided into four castes: eladrin, elf, other races, and slaves (drow). There is a state religion dedicated to Sehanine and Corellon, one involving ritual sex and indulgence in the finer things of life. Drow are entirely reviled as the dirty lower class.

Human: Humans are in fierce competition with the Char, and are currently at a draw with them. Humans are not necessarily all spread out, and are in their own empire.

Vampire: The scourge of the known world and the elves, vampires are the singular most important race on the entire continent. Immortal and impossibly powerful, the vampires have been held in check by the elves for centuries, despite massive victories for the vampires (including taking over the former capital of the Elven Empire, Paris, which they used as a massive slaughtering house).

Wyrms: Also known as dragonborn, wyrms are humanoid-ish draconic humanoids that can transform into drake form. They're known for their combat prowess, and are responsible for the much lower population of dragons that exist in this realm.

There are other races in this world: avians (shapeshifting flyers) mutants (kalashtar), dwarves (who are mostly underground), and halflings. But the above are the power players on the continent, which has no name as of yet.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saint Raphael: Part 5

This icon's taking a little while to complete, mostly because I'm having to fix mistakes that I keep making. The mouth, for instance, is right in the middle of correction. The last bits of detail, like the brush, wing highlights, and the medicine box, are being put in. I'm really happy with where the icon's going, though.

The icon will be done by the end of the week, so stay tuned! I'll have a picture up before I varnish it.

The Place Where Dreams Come True: Finished!

So technically this was done a while back, but I never got to take a picture of the completed work. Here it is, my first Clannad-inspired painting!

Hope you enjoy it! This painting was inspired by Clanand After Story, episode 18. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, watch the show. For those of you who know, I hope you enjoy it!

The Resurrection (Harrowing of Hell)

So, this is the last icon I managed to do last year, the Resurrection. It's 4"x6", and fits pretty nicely into my pocket. This is icon I talked about in this post awhile back. I finally got it back and had the presence of mind to take a picture.

Not the best of pictures, perhaps, but it was the best I could do with my circumstances. Anyway. I hope you enjoy it! I take it around with me wherever I go now, as a personal source of prayer and contemplation as well as a possible "proof of quality".