The Art of Goofing Off now has its own official category! If you’ve missed any previous episodes and want to read them, or if you want to remember what it was I talked about that one time, now you can find all the episodes in one handy category. You’re welcome :)
Stories on the Big Screen (Movies)
This is a weird movie. And a beautiful movie. I want to explain the story, but I also don’t want to because of how human it is, even with the bizarre central premise. Which is acknowledged within the movie as weird. It also gets bonus points for a psychologist who is wonderful (this from someone with a psychology degree who will poke holes enough holes through most movie psychology that you could use it as a spaghetti strainer).
It also has Ryan Gosling in it, if that matters. :P
Warning: you will feel things. You will cry. I almost never properly cry at movies. Occasionally, I’ll get teary. But this one had me actually crying.
It’s not a sad movie.
It’s a weird movie.
And a beautiful one.
Stories on the Silver Screen (TV Shows)
Erica is a 32 year old whose life is not at all what she wanted it to be. She has a Masters degree in English, but keeps working at call centres. Plural, because she keeps losing her job. Then a therapist who calls himself Dr. Tom gives her his card, saying that his therapy is the only kind she’ll ever need.
Turns out, he can send her back in time to redo her regrets. But not in the way I expected.
This is where I admit to myself that I really, really like psychological stories (Lars and the Real Girl wasn’t going to be in this episode originally, but then I realized that I couldn’t mention Being Erica and not that movie. All of the psychologicalness and helping people work through their problems! :D ).
Also: the series has an actual ending, not some awkward dangling cliffhanger. It wasn’t ever actually cancelled. The writer just felt like it had come to a natural end, and so they stopped making the show. WHICH I LOVE. It seems to me a brave thing to do in an industry where the logic is to keep a show going for as long as you possibly can.
Also also: there are some awkward product placement moments in season 4. Grit your teeth and move on – the story is still good.
I don’t know what it is with British TV and mystery novels, but they obviously have a happy relationship going.
Father Brown is about a priest who helps solve crimes due to being incurably nosy and curious. It’s funny, well paced, and clever. Each episode is self-contained, so you won’t have to worry about being tempted to binge until you get to the end of a season. I mean, you still might want to just for how fun it all is, but it’s also easily watched in bite-sized pieces.
It’s also fun to try and figure out what’s really going on behind all these murders. :D
Interactive Stories (Video Games)
If you’ve heard of Minecraft and you’re like “I don’t get it,” let me explain the appeal: It’s essentially Lego on your computer.
If you never played with Lego as a child because building your own world really isn’t your thing, you won’t like Minecraft.
I’ve had Minecraft since it was out in beta. In other words, I got it during my first semester of university. While finals were happening. I know, I have terrible timing.
In Minecraft, you’re alone in a world made of blocks, in which you must survive. You need food, shelter (to keep out the monsters that spawn at night), and ideas about what you want to do and create. My mainstays are a house, a farm, pastures for animals, and a mine. But I’ve also build a restaurant on top of a tree and roads to various outposts. I’ve also explored, both above and below ground, braved the Nether (the hell dimension, accessible only by obsidian portals), and traded with villagers.
And that’s just single player survival. There are a lot of multiplayer servers you can play on, with all kinds of ways to play. And, if you’re more of a solitary player (like I am) people have made all kinds of maps you can download, where you can play through adventures, solve puzzles, and survive long enough to discover hidden secrets.
There are also mods that can change a little or a lot of the gameplay, adding storylines, magic, technology- you name it, someone’s probably made a mod for it. The strength of Minecraft is its flexibility, and I love how calming it is to play (despite occasional moments of sheer terror as you avoid getting exploded by a creeper or falling into lava).
If you’ve never played it before and you want to try, you’ll also want the wiki handy. It has all kinds of info, including tutorials, to get you going. :)
Now that I’ve talked about Minecraft, it’s time to talk about my favourite mod for it. That used to be a horses mod (in conjunction with a thirst mod), but then Minecraft added horses to the vanilla game. It’s still my favourite update, and I refuse to play with mods that don’t work with that and later updates – thankfully, even though TerraFirmaCraft 1.0 is no longer being developed, it works with a version of Minecraft that has horses.
I just really like horses, okay? :D
The point of TerraFirmaCraft is to make Minecraft more believable. Because Minecraft is… special. You can have floating dirt, for one. And you make bread by sticking three things of wheat onto a crafting table for another. Which is part of its charm, really, but I love what TerraFirmaCraft has done to make Minecraft into something completely different.
Everything takes longer and has more steps for one. I’ve played a whole in-game year and I still can’t make leather yet, because I don’t have all the necessary materials. But a lot of the way those steps have been implemented are wonderful. There’s actual seasons (it’s spring right now on my map and some of my fruit trees are blooming :) ), which makes growing and harvesting plants more interesting. You can do gold panning to get metals (sort of long and frustrating, but less risky than venturing underground, especially at the beginning), and you can create alloys and smith these metals on a forge (I’m not there yet).
It’s a huge overhaul, enough that I could spend hours explaining it. If you want to play this, you’ll want to check out the official wiki (the regular Minecraft wiki will not help you for most things). Just be warned that the official wiki isn’t quite caught up with the latest version of TerraFirmaCraft, so I’d also recommend keeping this unofficial wiki handy to fill in some of the holes.
If you don’t want to play this yourself, but it’s interesting enough that you’d watch someone play it, I have a Twitch channel for that, and I export all the broadcasts to a Youtube playlist, so you don’t have to miss a single episode:
Digital Visual Stories (Webcomics)
I discovered Evan Dahm’s work first through Vattu, the webcomic he’s currently in the middle of, and I love his work so much I’m currently supporting him on Patreon (he’s also in the middle of making beautiful black and white illustrations for Moby Dick).
But Rice Boy is complete with a beginning, middle, and end, so I’m talking about it today. It’s about Rice Boy, a visually bland character (on purpose, according to Evan) who learns he might be destined to save Overside. What follows is his colourful travels (literally and figuratively) through the world as he and T-O-E, a Machine Man, head out to fulfill an ages-old prophecy. The art is gorgeous, the world is fascinating, and the story is worth reading.
If you’ve already read Rice Boy, Evan’s doing a rerun blog for it, including commentary and art from when he was making the comic. As you probably guessed, it’s cool as heck.
Here’s the basic premise: what would it be like if the DC superheros were 8 and went to the same school?
The result is equal parts adorable and awesome. The main characters in it are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, the Flash (Barry Allen, specifically), J’onn J’ones, and the Green Lantern (I think Hal Jordan? I don’t remember). Other characters, like Alfred, make appearances as well.
Some of the pages are self-contained, but most of them go in small story arcs. Things like dealing with school bullies, going on camping trips (and a Bigfoot hunt), birthday parties. Except the school bullies are super villains, the camping trip is with the other Green Lanterns (like a Boy Scouts thing), and the birthday party… well, that one’s just a birthday party. For Diana. But you know.
Neil Gaiman also has a cameo, giving Clark advice about storywriting. :)
Also: the facial expressions in this comic are the best. Just wait until you see Bruce trying to smile and wave.
tl;dr: It’s cute, go read it.
I LOVE THIS WEBCOMIC.
The characters and art are wonderful. Reading the new pages each Thursday is one of the highlights of the week. The creator (Stephan McCranie) is such a cutie-pie, too. He puts up some of the fanart he’s received after each episode (not at the beginning, but more or less regularly now) and comments on it.
I would say more, but that means you have to wait longer to read it. JUST GO READ IT ALREADY.
Audio Art (Music)
Need some epic music as a soundtrack to your day? Pandora Journey is a Youtube channel that posts mostly 2-hour long mixes of trailer music, coupled with art from deviantART (all the artists and pieces are named- in the description for the music, on the screen for the art). I love this channel for stuff to listen to while I’m working. Especially if I’m writing.
One of the hard things for me about finding writing music is finding stuff that’s consistent in mood and sound. Soundtracks are great for hitting all kinds of emotional notes, but they tend to have too much fluctuation for me. If a song is too different in mood from what I’m writing, I slow down or stop altogether and have a really hard time coming up with words. Thus, hours long, emotionally focused mixes are perfect for me. This one is my favourite so far:
That’s it for this week!
While I don’t take requests for what to write about, I do appreciate recommendations of cool stuff. I might highlight it in a future episode, if it stands out to me somehow. And perhaps someone else reading your comment will try out what you recommend and enjoy it.
For best results, tell me why you think I’d like the thing you’re recommending. Tell me how it’s like something I’ve already talked about, and how it’s different – it’ll help other people reading your recommendation figure out if they’d like to check it out, too.
Now go forth, all you who insist on reading things to the end, and have fun this weekend. :D