Critical Hit!

Matt Mercer and friends have taken the multiverse by storm, tearing gigantic rifts in the very fabric of reality

Hey everybody, in case you haven’t heard there’s this phenomenal show streaming on Twitch called Critical Role which features a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sitting around playing Dungeons and Dragons, and they just launched a Kickstarter to create a half-hour animated special based on the exploits of Vox Machina, the legendary adventuring party they played as during their first campaign. All they needed, they said, was $750,000. Well, they met that goal in the first forty-five minutes of their launch and as of this writing the pledges from their fans, known as Critters, have surpassed an astonishing $5.8 million! Because of this, the animated special will now become an entire series!

All right, now for those of you who didn’t just crawl out from under a rock, HOLY SHIT IS THIS A WAKING DREAM? Seriously, did I wander into a fairy ring or follow the will-o’-the-wisps into some illusory pocket dimension in which nerds rule the universe and everybody loves each other? If so then please don’t rescue me.

The Cast of Critical Role, tl to br: Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffe, Marisha Ray, Matthew Mercer, Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Travis Willingham

I’ll never forget when I first discovered Critical Role and Vox Machina. I was thrilled that a show like this even existed, so imagine how I felt once it dawned on me how successful it was. And it didn’t take me long to start fantasizing about an animated series based on these characters, though at the time I didn’t think it was likely to happen anytime soon.

Funnily enough, I was led to this uncanny web series by another strange phenomenon which I’d once considered an unlikely success, the television show Supernatural, when Felicia Day made an appearance on it as Charlie Bradbury, a lovable nerd who instantly became my favourite recurring character. I also recognized that actor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and when I learned that she had a web series called The Guild I had to go check it out. It was then that I was introduced to Geek & Sundry, and thereby the Vox Machina campaign of Critical Role, which Day also guest-starred in.

I was a latecomer though. By the time I started watching the first campaign the second one, featuring a new adventuring group called the Mighty Nein, was already beginning. So when I joined the ever-growing online community of Critters on Tumblr and Twitter, I kept seeing spoilers everywhere. This eventually prompted me to just jump right in and start watching the live stream of the second campaign every Thursday while I struggled to catch up on past episodes the rest of the week. Now that I’m all caught up with the second campaign, I’ve gone back to catching up with the first one. But I’ve still got a long way to go.

The great thing about the upcoming animated special SERIES!!! though is that it will deal with events from before the campaign started streaming, so I can take my time and not feel pressured to neglect my real life in order to get up to speed. But then, another great thing about this show is that once you get a feel for each of the characters, it doesn’t really matter where you start watching. I mean, I tuned into the live special The Search for Grog when the VOD became available in February despite having only seen episodes 1 -18 of Campaign 1 at that point, and I was still able to thoroughly enjoy it.

Travis Willingham plays Grog the Goliath Barbarian in Campaign One of Critical Role

Needless to say, I’m very, very, VERY excited about the upcoming animated series The Legend of Vox Machina and I hope we’ll eventually get to see one featuring the Mighty Nein as well! Huzzah!

A Bard Bards, Always…

And I don’t mean they cover their horse with protective armour, though they may certainly do that as well. No, when I say that a bard bards I’m Englishing in a time-honoured manner, turning a noun into a verb because I damn well can.

But the truth is I haven’t been barding much lately, largely due to this Tumblr debacle which hath called me to the front in impatient defence of my fallen fellows (and aye, I consider “fellows” a gender neutral term), sith that it so hath rankled me and ruffled mine feathers and all that.

Even my Tumblr has a tendency to veer wildly off topic, though, an inclination perhaps induced by the very nature of the microblogging medium itself, if not mine own chaotic bent. But be that as it may, this blog is just getting started; ’tis a fresh field, free real estate, my new hearth and home wherein I may sit and rest from my journeys across time and space and bend thine ear a bit.

And yes, I will be dispensing bardic lore at some point. So whether thou art a bard thyself, in real life or just fantasy, or whether bards and their lore merely tickle thy fancy, welcome. I’ll also be blogging about pop culture and politics from time to time, and I have a penchant for filking as well.

Wassail!

Why You Should Care About Tumblr’s NSFW Ban

Tumblr has banned all NSFW content from its site as of December 18, 2018

Even if you don’t post or reblog porn or nude pics on Tumblr, you may have noticed that many (if not all) of your posts are getting flagged by the site’s idiotic bots, or even that you’ve been shadowbanned. But suppose for a moment that Tumblr’s algorithm or whatever it is really did work like it was supposed to. Why should you care about the NSFW ban if your blog is safe for work?

Well, for one thing, Tumblr has long been a safe space for LGBTIQA+ people to gather and support each other, many of whom are otherwise isolated, and particularly young people who are looking for others in the community to guide them when no one else can or will. As the user in the post I linked to above states, Tumblr was “home to a queer getaway in a politically regressive world full of censorship. This was where I gained extraordinary knowledge of Queer politics, inclusivity, and further strengthening my intersectional feminism. This isn’t just about porn. This is an act of violence against the queer community.” The ban is also harmful to women and feminists as it demonizes the female body, even insofar as to explicitly state that “female-presenting nipples” are verboten.

And it’s undeniably true that the ban has never really been about porn, for as we’ve all seen, the porn bots still exist. The bottom line is that those who own Tumblr now just want us gone. They don’t care about individual users and their idiosyncrasies, they don’t care about small and/or marginalized communities like ours, or fandoms, or artists and writers. What they care about is revenue and what they want are cash cows; users who can be marketed to because they have money to spend on their advertisers’ products.

It’s also not about protecting minors. While it may be true that Tumblr’s App was removed from Apple’s App Store because of some instances of pedophilic porn (I for one have never seen any of that on Tumblr and I’ve been using the site since 2010, but then I didn’t go looking for it in the first place), it would seem that the real impetus behind this ban is a new law known as FOSTA-SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act/Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act), which basically puts the anus–oops! stupid autocorrect–onus on sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to remove any proscribed content and also holds them responsible for said content if it is not removed.

Tumblr already had a way of flagging NSFW blogs in order to hide them from minors, and let’s face it, if a minor wants to view porn there’s really not much that can stop them from doing so, short of raising them on a desert island free of modern technology. But even if the ban really worked and wasn’t flagging things incorrectly (including, laughably, Tumblr staff’s own post about what would and wouldn’t be allowed on the site), who gets to decide really what is porn and what isn’t? Are artistic nudes porn? Should the works of Mapplethorpe be banned?

According to Tumblr staff, content that is still allowable includes “nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, specifically sculptures and illustrations.” While they admit that some of these may be mistakenly flagged they assure us that submitting false flags for review will result in a human being making the final determination as to whether the flag should be removed or not. But either there really isn’t a human reviewing them or that human believes that a picture of the statue of David, to use one notorious example, is pornographic. Either way they lied.

Even those who of you who don’t use Tumblr should be concerned about where this is all headed. Many of us who were around in the early days of the Internet remember when it was a vast network of thriving online communities, a haven of freedom of expression for writers, artists, and armchair philosophers; not the corporate money-making monster it has become today. And we’ve watched with sadness as that wonderful old World Wide Web slowly but surely disappears.

As one user put it, Tumblr “was (and is, at least for now) very much a part of the Old Internet, the internet of the early 2000s, where you had a space to be weird and experiment and play around however you want”. And if history is any indication, the likes of laws like FOSTA-SESTA will eventually lead to the strangulation of freedom of expression on every site, not just Tumblr.