Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:05 on 19-09-2014, Alula
Alison Bechdel has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (aka genius grant). That's pretty awesome.

I took a class with her a couple of years ago, and she's genuinely awesome in person, too, which is always a nice bonus. (The class required me to write my own graphic memoir (a short one, obviously) and when I told her I was worried about being unable to make characters look consistent across panels, she told me not to worry at all because my drawings had a "primitive charm." In a nice way. She also told me she genuinely laughed at an in-class comic I drew about Googling myself, since I happen to share my name with a a c-list serial killer. Good times.)
at 16:08 on 19-09-2014, Michal
I see that Scotland remains squirming under the English boot.
at 01:23 on 19-09-2014, Sonia Mitchell
Alison Bechdel has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (aka genius grant). That's pretty awesome.
at 14:17 on 18-09-2014, Alice
Thanks for the board game recs, James, Arthur, Jules! Ibmiller, I have a copy of Settlers of Catan (which I enjoy a lot), so I'll definitely keep an eye out for that expansion pack.
at 19:23 on 16-09-2014, Cheriola
Ah, okay, thanks. I thought it was held last weekend, sorry.
at 19:08 on 16-09-2014, Jamie Johnston
Cheriola, I don't know anything about Germany's federal states but what you're describing in terms of policy areas sounds similar. Scotland has a fair bit of control over culture, education, health, and things like that. At the moment I think there's little or no revenue-raising power, so the total amount of money available is determined by London, although I have a feeling there's already been legislation to enable Scotland to raise some of its own taxes from 2016 onwards.

There's no federal upper house: the Scottish government has no formal role in deciding on UK-wide legislation (although the UK Parliament does include members representing Scottish constituencies).
at 19:08 on 16-09-2014, Sonia Mitchell
Sorry, bad brain moment. I thought it was Wednesday today.
at 19:00 on 16-09-2014, Jamie Johnston
Or, rather, on Thursday, with results on Friday morning.

An overnight count with results in the morning is pretty standard for UK elections. Sometimes the full results aren't known until the following afternoon, but I imagine Scotland will be quicker than a whole-UK vote.
at 18:55 on 16-09-2014, Sonia Mitchell
The referendum hasn't been held yet.
It's on Friday, with results expected Saturday morning.
at 18:48 on 16-09-2014, Cheriola
Re: Scotland
I had heard that several large UK companies were threatening to leave Scotland should the independence thing go through. Also, Scotland would keep most of the UK's North Sea oil reserves, right? I can't imagine London ever letting that escape their grasp. So I wasn't holding my breath.
But I still want to know: How did it go? Wikipedia says that the results aren't in yet. Which seems odd to me - my federal Land of Brandenburg just had elections on Sunday, and they were done calculating seat allotments by Monday morning.

(And can I just briefly mention that I'm almost glad about that weird new "Alternative for Germany" party now? At least they've cost the old neoliberal/libertarian party almost all of their seats. (They also lost all their seats in two other state elections that just happened, meaning they aren't involved in any state government anymore, and just in 6 states they still have a few seats in the opposition. Oh how the mighty have fallen.) And the not-quite-nazi-enough-to-outlaw party even lost some of their 'protest votes' to the AfD, so that's a bit less of an embarrassment now. And weirdly, they also seem to have got half of their voters from formerly extremely socialist-voting people, so that should balance out their right-wing conservatism. Or at least keep them occupied with internal arguments.)

Granted, Brandenburg has far fewer inhabitants than Scotland, but still... What's taking so long? (And why did Scotish people have to specially register to vote? Why not use the same mechanisms as during elections?) Is there some controversy going on with the vote count or something?

By the way, how independent are Scotland and Wales, compared to German federal states? I mean, here the states can decide some stuff pretty autonomously, like subsidies for cultural things or most of school politics. And a council made up from people sent by the state governments acts kind of like the "Upper House" in that they get to veto laws that the federal parliament decides upon, in most cases. Is Scotland more independent? Or do they have reason to chafe at the leash for more than historical reasons?
at 18:39 on 16-09-2014, Jules V.O.
I'd recommend Eldritch Horror over Arkham Horror. It's kind of a second edition of that game, and has been greatly streamlined while retaining most of what makes AH engaging. Much more user-friendly.

I would also recommend (if you can find a copy) The Island of Dr. Necreaux, which is quite simple, a lot of fun, and very portable. You get a pulp-style action character composed of three cards from the character deck (e.g. Lucky/Pyrokinetic/Rocketeer or Stone Cold Killer/Gadgeteer/Rogue) with each card having its own abilities, and then you have a limited number of turns to make your way through the encounter deck to rescue the scientists and find a way off the island before it explodes.
at 18:43 on 15-09-2014, Ibmiller
Settlers of Catan's expansion Cities and Knights has a cooperative element, though it's still ultimately individually competative.
at 15:39 on 15-09-2014, James D
Not so much, actually - this kind of co-op boardgame is always more fun when there's a serious challenge to overcome, and losing just reminds you that yes, the game is indeed challenging and worth playing. I'm the type of player who gets motivated by losing. For me, there's nothing more depressing than when you and your team sail through the session with no real bumps or setbacks.
at 15:31 on 15-09-2014, Andy G
Isn't it quite depressing when, at the end of the evening, *everyone* loses? At least that has been my experience with the Lord of the Rings and Battlestar Galactica board games (OK, the latter isn't quite team-only, but there's a good chance almost everyone involved will be on a losing team together when the humans get wiped out).
at 14:36 on 15-09-2014, Arthur B
Several of us have had fun with Forbidden Desert, which is enjoyably tactile (you're trying to rebuild your airship to get out of the desert), easy to get the principles of, but remains challenging even so.

Space Alert is gloriously good fun - you're the bridge crew of a spaceship with some profound technological limitations - namely, you need to pre-program all of the ship's activities in battle ahead of time, and some needs to regularly waggle the mouse on the main computer or it goes into hibernation. The game comes with a CD containing mission data and you listen to the CD and plan out your moves together accordingly. Then, when the track is done, you process all the moves and see how you ended up destroying the ship.
at 14:13 on 15-09-2014, James D
I haven't actually played Pandemic, but I have played a few co-op boardgames aimed at adults. Arkham Horror is pretty well-known, and definitely recommended if you like Lovecraftian horror. Basically you and your teammates play a set of investigators who are the only people who really know what's going on when monsters start popping out of portals in Arkham. It's a race against time to close and seal enough portals before the Great Old One awakens and destroys the world - or can you defeat him in a last-ditch battle? What makes the game really cool is that there are a lot of investigators you can play as, each with their own stats and unique abilities, and there are a lot of potential Old Ones to be the Big Bad for the game, each with special negative effects you have to deal with. This means the game can end up very different every time you play. Also, there are a shitload of expansions that add an absurd amount of stuff, and if for some insane reason you played with all of them at the same time, you would basically be going up against all of Lovecraft's fiction at the same time! The learning curve is pretty high at first, but it's not so much that there's anything super complex going as that there are a lot of details to remember.

Another, lesser-known game that I enjoyed is Ghost Stories, a game based around Chinese mythology. You and up to 3 other people play as Shaolin monks who are trying to defend a village from an army of ghosts and various other undead. It's a lot simpler than Arkham Horror, but god damn is it a brutal game. It has difficulty settings, and even though I've played on the easiest one every time, out of 5 sessions I've only one once! Don't let that put you off, though - that victory was worth all the losses.
at 12:56 on 15-09-2014, Alice
On another unrelated note, I'm looking for board game recs, and thought this would be a good place to ask.

A friend just introduced me to Pandemic, which is the first cooperative board game I've ever played, and I really enjoyed it. Basically, I'm too much of a softy to enjoy very competitive games: it's not the "someone has to win" part I mind, it's the "someone has to win by beating everyone else" part (which in my mind is somehow quite different). So I really liked the fact that you play as a team, and all win (or lose!) together.

So I'm keen to try more cooperative board games! To which end: does anyone have any recommendations for similar games they've particularly enjoyed?
at 12:35 on 15-09-2014, Craverguy
Hey, guys, whatever happened to Kyra's review of Crusader Kings 2? I can't find it anywhere.
at 02:13 on 15-09-2014, Arthur B
It looks like the media are desperate to portray it as a tie, even though the actual polling tends to suggest that "No" remain in the lead unless you go through various contortions to reappraise them.

My hunch is that the "no" vote will win and will win by a larger margin than expected, simply because most polls are still showing a fairly significant "undecided" bloc and I think most undecideds will opt for staying in the Union if they aren't persuaded by the case for independence by election day. (And if they aren't persuaded by now, after months of campaigning, it's going to be a hard sell to persuade them at this late stage.)

Those who are closer to the business of government than me have suggested that in the long run it may make little difference: our interactions with Scotland under "Devo Max" (not independence, but a bunch more powers devolved to Holyrood including income tax) would look remarkably similar to our interactions with an independent Scotland after various negotiations on currency union, open borders, etc. wrap up.
at 01:56 on 15-09-2014, Daniel F
Well, this continued a bit after I bowed out as well!

Apologies for my silence; I thought it best that I took a break to avoid any anger. I don't have anything more to say about GamerGate myself.

If no one minds an awkward change of topic, I've been following a bit about the Scottish referendum from down here. I know most Ferretbrainers (Ferretneurons?) are from the UK. What does it look like over there?
at 16:16 on 13-09-2014, Cheriola
...Well, if you could excuse me for engaging with the derail for a moment. I don't actually have anything more to say about the way anti-feminists use the phrase "social justice warrior" so I'm okay with dropping that topic if Pear is, especially given that I apparently came too late to a discussion that had been over for a few days anyway. But the case that Robinson mentioned did make me think a little today, and I believe that discussion is worth having as well, for intersectionality reasons and to maybe get some advice on how to handle this - if we still have some people around here who aren't white.

Because I can imagine a few scenarios in which I, as a white woman, wouldn't call out a POC author on shitty things. And, even if I'll probably put my foot in my mouth with the following explanation somewhere, I feel that it's not quite fair to fault or mock me for that and to act like it's based on mindless or knowingly careless support.

I mean, for example if I read a book by a Han chinese author I'm sure I wouldn't notice if it includes stereotypes or racism against any of the Chinese minorities. I just don't have the cultural context to notice that the way someone closer to the culture, like Valse, might have, and I think it's a little unfair to expect me to. (Obviously, it's not too much to ask for a Western author or professional critic to do extensive research before engaging with non-western cultures in literature. But someone who just wants to read a novel, perhaps in hopes of broadening their horizons with the first-hand account of someone belonging to a different culture, instead of going to textbooks or travelogues that would most likely be written by Westeners?) Instead, I'd probably just support the author on the basic principle that it's good to have more non-western authors' works translated into English and increase their access to western markets. Of course I could just shut up and not give my knowingly incomplete opinion on non-western authors at all, ever - but that would create the problem of non-western or POC authors getting even more ignored by the vast majority of fandom than they already are and getting actively deprived of free word-of-mouth publicity. Which seems worse to me than missing some problematic aspects of individual author's writings. Though obviously, it's not okay to keep pretending the writing is perfectly okay once someone with more cultural knowledge has pointed out the problems to you - as long as they tell you they actually have the necessary context and aren't just talking out of their ass. (Which unfortunately would be my first assumption when conversing with someone in English - because I've met quite a lot of people online who think they have an educated opinion just based on a single college course or extensive viewing of Asian cinema.) So maybe Valse was refering to people stubbornly disagreeing with her like that, or refusing to trust her credentials.

(Note: I can see that this would come up in anime/manga fandom far more often than my theoretical example of books by chinese authors. I just couldn't come up with a clear example of racism in Japanese pop culture - at least not racism against anyone but Western people or Chinese. And I'm not sure if that's not like claiming 'reverse racism', even if it's something as obviously offensive if a white person did it like the way African American people are usually drawn in manga. I mean, yes, Japanese people are the dominant majority in their own culture, and as far as I know they don't suffer nearly as much from the same problems with respectless Western tourists the way the rest of Asia does, but they've also been under US military occupation for a long time, so I can understand some animosity towards Westerners, white or otherwise.)

Secondly, I would never dare to call out for example an African American author on race issues, even if I privately thought they might be showing internalised racist ideas in their writing. I'd instead give them the benefit of doubt and assume they're doing it intentionally to make a point, or engaging in some kind of play with stereotypes or slur reclamation that I could never fully understand. Same as I wouldn't call out a gay author for using the word "queer" (or even the f-word) or a female author for using the word "bitch", the way I would feel entitled to call out a straight male author.

And even if it's not about race... I wouldn't feel comfortable criticising a female Muslim author for sexism, for example. I've been told many times that it's presumptuous for a white feminist to tell a Muslim woman what she should feel oppressed or offended by, and that they hate seeing their culture and religion judged in this regard by Westeners or other people who aren't actually part of that culture. So I try to be respectful and bite my tongue.

The same fear of appearing all "mighty whitey" when criticising works by POC authors or set in non-western cultures applies to a lot of contexts, really. Again, does me having to shut up about some aspects that I feel might not be okay because I have no way of truly understanding the details and no right to make the call based on my own cultural background, automatically mean I shouldn't cheer the parts of the narrative that I can understand and agree with? (For example the movie "Before Night Falls": Was the oppression and persecution of gay people in mid-to-late 20th century Cuba really that bad, or is this heavily embellished to serve as anti-socialist propaganda? I have no way of knowing. If asked, today's Cuban people would probably say it's designed to make Castro out as a malicious dictator, but then, most of them are straight and not very sympathetic to gay people, on account of the Catholic religious culture. My knowledge of how things went when my own country was socialist makes me lean towards the author's viewpoint, but then again East Germany and Cuba had very different cultures aside from the socialism. In any case, I find the movie cheer-worthy just for the sympathetic portrayal of historical gay people, and for making a movie out of a gay POC author's biography and thus working against heteronormative and cultural erasure in the cinema.)
at 15:30 on 13-09-2014, Robinson L
Apologies to all. Bowing out now.
at 13:38 on 13-09-2014, Pear
Robinson L., you describe 'having been' That Guy.

Well, congratulations, you are being That Guy right now! WAHEEEY *party poppers, kazoos*

It's okay. Have a seat.
at 13:28 on 13-09-2014, Jamie Johnston
Robinson — I think we can safely assume that Pear and Cheriola did not mean that literally anyone who ever refers to 'SJWs' in a critical way is necessarily wrong and should be ignored.

Of course it's possible to use that sort of term, like the way 'minority warrior' is used round these parts, in highlighting how some attempts to oppose oppression are actually unhelpful. But it's abundantly clear from the context that that is not what we're talking about at the moment, and I'm not sure it's useful to turn it into the topic of conversation.

Both '~ah but what you've just said is not literally true in every single case because of this counter-example that is clearly nothing to do with the substance of what you were saying~' and '~ah but let's scrutinize the terminology you're using even though we all understand what you mean by it and there's no suggestion that it's harmful~' are fairly classic derails, even if not intended as such.