Building A Mission Statement: Part 0: Overview

I didn’t really try to articulate a vision for this blog when I started it and I think it shows, so let’s start Reconstruction by fixing that. This should eventually result in a mission statement, but I’m not there yet. There’s a recommended structure to that which I don’t want to grapple with at this moment. Later for sure, though.

Actually, let me indulge in my passion for over-organizing before I do anything else. This “mission statement” thing will be a multi-step process.

  1. Zeroth is this, the organizational overview explaining how things will, and eventually do, go.
  2. First, I’d like to answer some personal questions about the identity of this site in a loose, rambling personal essay.
  3. Then I’d like to introduce those ideas of what a mission statement should address by turning some online templates into a questionnaire which I’d subsequently fill out
  4. (and post as an attachment to an article describing the experience of filling out that questionnaire).
  5. After that, I’d like to turn those answers into the actual document, which is partly its own process story, especially if I do drafts,
  6. But would also be posted as the final installment of what is now a series.

And then I’ll post it separately as the 2016 Mission Statement for The New Miscellany. So it’s a simple six step process, all of which I plan on documenting because I am incredibly dull. This will go well.

A Period of Reconstruction

I’m going to be renovating the site for a while, so expect it to look even worse than it does now.

When I started this site, I didn’t pay much attention to its construction. I just wanted someplace to write, and I thought if I worried about the layout, I’d never actually create any articles. This was a good idea: As my still non-existent Digimon Adventure articles demonstrate, format absolutely strangles me.

It’s been two weeks, though, and the blog has moved from just something I should give another shot to something which occupied a lot of mental real estate. I want to actually do things with this place, over long periods of time, and that means I need this place to be more organized than it is now. This means really taking stock of what I plan to write about, how I want to present it, and what it means to me, which is what I think I’ll do today.

Aside from a brief post about the tag system I’m experimenting with.

Digimon Adventure: Coverage Introduction

Welcome to my coverage of Digimon Adventure, the 1999 adventure series which produced a number of more interesting shows! I’ll post my thoughts on the first episode later today, but I thought it would¬† be a good idea to lay down some guidelines.

Episode reviews are currently planned to consist of a few sections:

  • The Plot: Yep, it’s an old-fashioned plot summary! I’ll try to keep it to one or two paragraphs in length, but I think it’s important to contextualize my thoughts within the content of the series. The synopsis gives me a chance to do that by presenting a brief narrative of each installment’s events.
  • General Thoughts: This is a free discourse section, where I just write whatever crosses my mind, in contrast to the parts of the review where I try and narrow in on particular elements.
  • This Time, In Young Women: Digimon tends to focus on the boys when it comes to drama, but they often include a fair amount of female characters as well. This section will check in on what they did in any particular week, which will hopefully serve to provide some food for thought about how the portrayal of women in action series. Especially over time, since we’ll be covering three years of
  • The Coming-of-Age: Did anything happen this episode to highlight our character’s growth into a mature person? I’m mostly including this because it’s a relevant subject that could otherwise take over the entire column.
  • The Search for Data: In which I attempt to compile various relevant numbers, like screen time per character or the amount of discrete attacks in a fight scene, to make statements about the series.
  • World-Building: Digimon Adventure is always developing its setting, expanding it to create new places for children to be endangered. Some of these elements don’t last, but others become recurring elements of the series, to the point that their presence or absence really changes things. Alright, that’s mostly come Digimon Tamers.
  • Translation Trivia: It would be a waste to ignore the topic of translation and localization when discussing this series. There’s an entire website dedicated to documenting what changed in the series when it was brought to the US, after all. Why not make use of that information?

Announcing the North-Central Massachusetts Chronicles of Darkness Setting Project: Fred

I’ve wanted to make a setting for the The Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness Role-Playing Game for several years now, and I’m finally going to sit down and do it. I’m going to make a phantom North North-Central Massachusetts. But what does that entail, exactly?

Let me start my describing my circumstances. I live in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. It’s a small town on the border with New Hampshire, and like a lot of towns in the area, it’s struggling. Half a century ago, the furniture factories and lumber operations which powered this town’s economy closed, and the town hasn’t found its feet yet. There’s very little industry, and not that much in the way of commercial real estate either, so most people work and recreate out of town.

This means you cannot model Ashburnham on its own, because it relies a lot on neighboring areas. It shares a school district with the similarly small, if somewhat more affluent, Westminster. If you want to go shopping, you either head to New Hampshire (usually passing through the border town of Rindge, NH), or you visit one of the adjacent small cities (Gardner, Fitchburg, and Leominster). Ashby and Winchendon aren’t talked about much, but they’re more important than most give them credit for. Ashby is one the major ways into town, and Winchendon provides a close alternative to a lot of Ashburnham’s stores.

So that’s eight towns or cities, and that’s only discussing places in the immediate vicinity of town. Boston looms over the entire state even though it’s off to the east, and Worcester (to the south) serves as the closest thing to a big city (even though it’s still pretty small) within an hour’s drive. Off to the west, the Pioneer Valley communities have banded together to create a pocket of prosperity in western Mass. To the North lies southern New Hampshire, which is its own complicated beast, a weird patchwork of incredibly small towns and surprisingly dense arts communities.

Translating all this into fiction means creating several small towns bordering a few small cities, along with several regions to describe the major “elsewheres” people would go. There should probably also be a write-up of the detailed setting area as a region as well, mostly to cement how alll these towns relate to each other, but also to describe they sort of political organism created by their union.

Each location needs multiple write-ups:

  • One covering the “mundane” geography, history, political situation, and population of each town, along with several “hooks” for games.
  • One which is essentially the supernatural version of the above, describing the “secret history” of the area.
  • One for each game-line explaining how that particular population relates to the town, with its own takes on each of the sub-sections outlined above (or a discussion of why that group doesn’t have a presence there). So it’s actually eleven “layers” of geography and history.

That’s a lot. I think I should get started, but I haven’t set up a name yet, and the abbreviation for “North-Central Massachusetts Chronicles of Darkness Setting Project” is the decidedly long “NCMCoDSP”. So let’s just call it “Fred”.

Concept: Empty Home Chronicle

I’ve been watching “Sousei no Onmyouji”, which is a somewhat mediocre new shounen series (erk, do I need to do an article on anime demographics?),¬† and I found myself rather interested in one of the story elements. The two main characters thus far, Benio and Rokuro, are prophesied to wed and produce a child (the messianic “Miko”). They are, however, rather resistant to the idea, and understandably so. Of course, they’re also 14 years old in a show aimed at young boys (definitely need to write that article now), so this isn’t exactly a central concern to the series. Six episodes in and it mostly leads to jokes about how bickering like married couples.

But I’m sort of interested in the dynamic! Two characters who aren’t in love, but are forced into a romantic relationship, struggle to either escape their situation or to come to some kind of understanding between them. What do they do with this connection which has been forced upon them? How do they react to each other? What about their relationships with others?

I could easily see this being a novel, or forming the center of a visual novel, and I think I’d like to play around with the idea a little bit. This wasn’t developed as part of an existing fictional setting, and I think I’d like to keep it that way. That said, I am playing around with making a Pathfinder campaign out of it, so there’s a bit of tension between making it a game versus a more literary object.

Maybe this is too early to be talking about this? Anyhow, I’m giving it the title of “Empty Home Chronicle” for now.

Digimon: Half-Assed Historical Overview

I’d like to revisit the history of the Digimon Franchise at some point, but for now I’ll settle for this brief. It’s quite undercooked, but I wanted to have at least an incomplete historical primer for folks before I started covering the series proper. I’ll do the citations when I have something more complete.
—————————————————————————
Digimon is a multimedia franchise with its roots in the virtual pet industry of 1997, but for most Americans it’s primarily a series of television shows describing the adventures of young children with their friendly digital monster friends. The first, Digimon Adventure, was produced by Toei in 1999, and proved popular enough to launch a new series in each of the following three years: Digimon Adventure 02 (2000), Digimon Tamers (2001), and Digimon Frontier (2002). Further entries would be produced in 2006 (Savers) and 2010 (Xros Wars), along with a series of films which are still being released (Adventure Tri), and a new series which has only just been announced (Appli Monsters).

I don’t know if Savers and Xros were popular when they were released (as “Digimon Data Squad” and “Digimon Fusion” respectively), but the first two series proved very successful. Airing during television network FOX’s children’s programming block, creatively called “Fox Kids”, the first three series served as a rival to the then-popular Pokemon series airing on the competing WB network (which joined with the similarly struggling UPN to form The CW).

Tamers and Frontier were never quite as popular as the Adventure series, which prompted FOX to drop Digimon from its line-up after Tamers during the first of many attempts to re-brand their kids’ programming. Frontier would air in the States on UPN, but there was no attempt to explain this attempt to viewers on FOX, so I’m not sure how much of the audience made the jump. That, combined with that installment’s creative choices, probably explains why Frontier is missing from a lot of streaming services.

A Brief Note on Style

Early posts might be a little light on images, because I’m still working out the technological and legal mechanics. I can’t entirely figure out what my legal burden is with screenshots, so I’m just going to try and do my best: Scene description, originating work, and property owner.

Digimon Tamers Coverage: Dubbed vs. Subbed

Digimon Tamers came out in 2001, and aired in America on Saturday morning during the Fox Kids programming block.

Like many shows of that time, the dub (the English-language version) is not terribly good. The voice acting is largely fine, but the script is rather changed. Most of the edits are just added jokes, such as one Digimon Adventure villain’s mournful cry for pizza equality, but there are a few times it really changes the feel of a scene. In fact, watching the subtitled and dubbed version of the first Tamers episode is a fascinating experience: The English version includes far more dialogue, and it really highlights some differing values.

This makes it tempting to either go for the subtitled version or to try to watch both versions at once. Perhaps, at some point, I’ll try that. For now, however, I’m going to stick with the dub. This is partly because I want to revisit the series I watched as a child, but mostly because the dub is just easier to find. It’s streaming legally for free on Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll. I can find the subbed version for free, but so far only on places of questionable legality.

In the interests of gathering the widest audience possible, I’m going with the dubbed version.

Digimon Tamers Coverage: Announcement

Alright, let’s start.

“Digimon Tamers changed my life, man!” I know it’s a silly phrase, but it really did. Digimon Tamers was the first time I recognized themes and philosophical questions in any kind of pop culture, and given that I’m now studying literature, that was a big development. I’d like to go back and revisit it now that I’m older, or at least a somewhat more experienced viewer.

But, after spending several days trying to write this entry, I’ve decided I can’t entirely talk about it alone. It is, after all, partially built on a post-modern move: That the events of the previous two seasons of Digimon are themselves just a popular work of fiction. The work is very consciously reacting to over 100 episodes of adventure, and it would be a bit silly to ignore that. Yet I don’t want to cover 100 episodes of another show just so I can talk about 50 which I do.

So here’s my pointlessly complicated method of handling this: I’ll do a week of preview articles, highlighting some particularly relevant entries from across both seasons of Digimon Adventure, along with some overview articles about the franchise in general and Digimon Tamers in particular.

Also worth discussing is the age-old issue of dubbed versus subbed, but I’ll tackle that separately.

EDIT: So that week of preview articles? Gone. Instead, I’m just going to cover Adventure 01 and 02 first. I was sketching out the articles and found that I wanted to talk about over half of each series anyhow, so… Instead I’m going to cover two things I didn’t want to, all so I can adequately cover the one thing I did, probably over a month from now.

Welcome

Welcome to The New Miscellany! My name is Travis Stewart, and this is sort of a directory for anything I might do. This site is still under construction as of this posting, so there’s not too much to say just yet. Still, there’s a lot on my mind these days, and I’m eager to get started!