I met with the oncologist yesterday. I’m going to the chemotherapy orientation today. I start chemo treatments day after tomorrow. I want to get a haircut before then so I don’t have to pick up long hair everywhere.
I will be under a TCHP regimen: three-week cycles with four drugs — Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta — for a total of six cycles, expected to be followed by surgery. The oncologist recommended starting with chemo because my cancer is aggressive and it’s possible that cancerous cells have started migrating through the body, in which case going to surgery first only gives them more time to multiply. Moreover, the exact same course of chemotherapy would be needed afterwards if had surgery first. Starting with chemo gives a chance to shrink the tumour and stop progress before surgery.
From my perspective, I’m hoping that maybe facing chemotherapy before I have started feeling sick from the cancer and before recovering from surgery will give me more strength through this part of the treatment. I also prioritize the oncologist’s recommendation for treatment over the surgeon because she’s the one who will oversee my case for months and she is the most knowledgeable about the expected progress of cancer.
Fun fact: I learned that the reason to keep my head covered once I lose my hair is not only vanity nor even protection from the sun but also because it’s easy to get an infection through the damaged follicles if I’m exposed to germs.
In more fun activities yesterday, we toured the Walnut Creek Marriott with Big Bad Con and filmed raw footage for a Kickstarter video. As announced a few days ago, Big Bad Con will take place at the Walnut Creek Marriott this year; we were pretty much bursting at the seams after five years of growth at the smaller Oakland Airport Hilton. The contract was signed so it’s official. I’m using a stock photo here but soon the footage will be available. The hotel has lots of nooks and crannies like this where you can chat, exchange stories, or set up a private game. It’s a beautiful space, the personnel was nice and helpful, we’ll have more space, people are coming up with new ideas — it’s going to be another fantastic convention.
This is a health status update. Since the previous one I have seen the surgeon who would operate on me if I go directly to a mastectomy or a conservative breast surgery, the two primary options; and I met with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction options (none at the moment because I’m too overweight, but may change in the future.) I have spent most of the other days dealing with bureaucracies and financial options to understand what I’m eligible for, schedule counselling, try to understand the different types of coverage I might have access to. Finally, I’ve been renewing my travel documentation while I’m still physically able to deal with this sort of detail (in case I want to go recover or even get treatment in Canada.)
Medically, the Kaiser Permanente system has been as prompt, efficient and helpful as the American health insurance system is crappy, opaque and frightening.
On Monday I am seeing an oncologist to discuss clinical trials which I’ve been told by the surgeon I might be a good candidate for. I don’t know yet what it entails, but I understand that it would take place prior to any surgery to try to reduce the tumour size. I expect I may be invited to attend the class on chemotherapy on Tuesday; then I need to decide pronto what I want to do and schedule it. The medical team wants to begin treatment within four weeks of the biopsy, and Wednesday will mark the half-point of that period.
Friends have contacted me with information, resources, calls and cards, offers of financial assistance, well-wishes and understanding. I have not responded to everyone the way this kindness merits, but only because I’ve been kept busy. Thank you all so much, you’re what makes it worthwhile to go through times like these.
I just learned that I have breast cancer. On the anniversary of my grandfather death from cancer, that’s a fun coincidence. I’m skeptical about the concept of “beating” cancer; we all die anyway. In the end, I have likely passed the mid-point of my life, no matter what happens next. I’m an atheist so I feel no worry about an afterlife, whether toasty or cloudy, and I’ve always known that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to get tired of the things I love (like friends, family, cats…)
But I’m already dealing with depression, so the thought of the chore that is being sick, being miserably poor, experiencing pain and side effects, is daunting. So I’m not going to live forever, I’m not going to be rewarded or punished in an afterlife, and the world will keep on moving along just fine whether I keep a positive attitude, rage against the dying of the light, or ignore the whole matter.
But I’ve thought about the whole thing and decided that there is one thing that matters to me: whether I die this year or survive another few decades, I’d like to have been a decent human being. So my plan right now is to do all the reasonable things I can to buy myself as many good years as I can, but to spend as much time as I can on the things I care about — from friends and family to social justice to geeky pursuits — and to place people first.
Welp, having used the example of the Frankie West character from Deep Dark Blue (Evil Hat Productions) in yesterday’s post, I was then haunted once again by the wish to play or run in that kind of setting. (I loved Fantasy Flight Games’ Blue Planet v2 way back when). I loaded the first season of seaQuest DSV on Netflix, and longingly thumbed through David Brin’s Startide Rising.
After the stupid kerfuffle about whether you could have a character who uses a wheelchair on a science fiction submarine, and looking at Streaker and seaQuest built to accommodate frickin’ dolphins throughout their length, I want to yell at people who lack both empathy and imagination. Even as I wish I could play right this minute!
How can you not see how great it would be to have someone like this:
Popping out on the bridge or in the lab alongside this dolphin:
I swear as soon as I get a chance, I will play this character. How is that not the coolest thing in the middle of a big battle scene for the character to unlock their powered wheelchair from the gunner station, dive into the nearest moon pool opening, swim to the lab, get the macguffin, dive back in, zip to the torpedo bay, fix the problem, and swim back to their station?
—This is Part 2 of a reflection on the efforts made towards inclusiveness in the role-playing game subculture and by extension, in related geek subcultures. You can read Part 1, where I talk about the background of this push for inclusiveness, here. Holy shit, I think I made it way too long but I really tried to make this constructive.
Let’s move on to what we can do about our own knee-jerk reactions to change in the face of pushes for inclusiveness. I’m addressing a reader who does not want to deliberately exclude anyone from our gaming hobby on the basis of gender, race, religion, orientation, disability, and so forth, but is nonetheless bristling at some of this newfangled stuff.
How far should we go in the name of inclusiveness?
I ran ICONS (1st edition) for Edmund, Karen and Jesse and had a fun time. They decided to play Spectre, Risk and Cheshire Cat (nemesis: Turbo-Cat) — a corporate-sponsored black ops industrial (counter-)espionage team working for Standard Industries. They stayed unknown and unappreciated, unlike Standard Industries’ public super team, the Standard-Bearers.
Two of the best moments were when Cheshire Cat, in her secret identity as mild-mannered teacher Mr. Myerson, met with his student Angel on the train and had to both save the train from a super-villain and protect his cover; and when Risk intimidated The Troll by sheer force of gumption, even though she was outclassed in terms of power.
I enjoyed the game but next time I run ICONS, I will hit the Fate-like elements harder.
All right, today is a long snark-free post (really!) about the efforts made towards inclusiveness in the role-playing game subculture and by extension, in related geek subcultures. Some people may recognize their point of view and even their own words in the examples I will use. If this is you, please understand that I am not mocking you or criticizing you. I am spotlighting attitudes and underlying assumptions in our geeky hobby that too often remain unexamined.
I want to address people who are not already entrenched in an opinion but do feel jostled by new language and new attitudes promoting inclusiveness. I’ll providing some background in this first part, then in the subsequent ones I will discuss some recent examples and use them to illustrate solutions, i.e., how I suggest we, as individual gamers, approach those moments when we feel jostled.
In a society where women get paid three-quarters of what a man makes and where people of colour are at risk of being jailed or even shot just for existing, some game publishers are now releasing books showing not only women and non-white persons in a variety of roles but also characters who are explicitly gay, trans, non-binary, disabled, aged, fat, or from other previously ignored groups. They may use weird pronouns like the singular “they”, “s/he”, “xe”, or “zhe” for certain characters. In real-space, game event organizers are posting codes of conduct, declaring bathrooms to be non-gendered, adding braille signs, and similar actions intended to signal inclusiveness.
A lot of of this can be shocking if you face it for the first time in your life. As such gestures become more frequent, game books, stores or conventions can look very different from what they were decades ago. The question can be raised: how far should we go toward inclusiveness and representation of groups that appear to be tiny minorities in an already small subculture?
Trigger Warnings: Feminism, Sarcasm, Social Justice
Hey, it’s time for dude derision! A couple of days ago the trailer for the Ghostbusters reboot was released and unleashed a wave of anger, sorrow, and reportedly flaccid penises among the U.S.A.’s most vocal minority, Insecure White Men. The new movie’s four female leads, which do not even include any bikini babes, in lieu of the 1986 all-male line-up have left the MRA contingent weeping tears of impotent rage.
This is not the first time in recent years that a cinema classic has been completely stricken from loving memories after a sequel or remake made the original completely unwatchable. There is too little attention paid to this phenomenon, which has left the lives of too many IWMs joyless and tragic. How can true fans find any satisfaction in re-watching these classics, knowing that out there someone is enjoying a different version?
But the harm is far more insidious. These are not, in fact, merely different takes on the fictional universes so savaged: they represent visions unapproved by IWMs. Please take a moment to consider the pain of a self-respecting dude, a real man, a genuine bro forced to see headlines, images, friends’ Facebook statuses and perhaps even entire minutes of movie trailers containing fully-dressed, normally proportioned female characters with speaking parts. And not only that, but the lack of a strong central white man as the focus of the plot, which may irretrievably shatter fragile IWM psyches.
Even when male actors are given a heroic title role, as in last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, the damage done is considerable.
Sure, a white man may have the title role, but is it even worth it if he is forced to exchange lines of dialogue with women as if on equal footing? If we are forced to consider women’s points of view? The mere fact that he had to go through this ordeal somehow robs us of all satisfaction when the woman actually agrees with the man’s arguments.
And those who suggest that IWMs simply not watch forget once again that this does not address the problem: these offensive movies would still exist.
It’s not just about women given *shudder* major roles either: while the two examples above generally steer clear of this additional outrage, sometimes these remakes and sequels have also included people of color in speaking parts other than criminal, victim, or enabler.
But IWMs remember that the Star Wars universe never had people of colour before (or women), just like Mad Max’s barren wasteland was never polluted by strong female protagonists.
And it’s not just among main characters either; while a brodude can be generous and tolerate your occasional chick, usually a cool girl, and the token minority, perfidious SJWs have made incursions among supporting cast in disruptive ways. Sure, it’s fine to have women and visible minorities in support roles — but they should be just that, supportive. Not all, you know, assertive and threatening. How can stormtrooopers be feared and respected throughout the galaxy if units can be led by women?
Mark my words, this undermining of everything that makes action movies cool and exciting was foreshadowed by so-called “fan works” years ago.
Hell in a handbasket, gentlemen. That’s where this is all going. Action movies are dying.