GUMSHOE GM Jam

Last weekend, I participated in a GUMSHOE GM Jam hosted by the Play on Target podcast. It included some fantastic GUMSHOE folks: Stephanie Bryant, who’s worked on some of the same GUMSHOE projects I have this year (Book of Changing Years, Dracula Dossier scenario); Yohann Delalande, a French translator for Pelgrane who I met on Twitter thanks to our mutual love of GUMSHOE; and Steve Dempsey, who’s basically the ur-GUMSHOE GM.

We talked about why we run GUMSHOE, what we love about the system, and people’s misconceptions about how it works. In particular, the oft-discussed issue of whether “you get all the clues” == “railroad” came up. For reading beyond the podcast, I’d recommend Will Hindmarch’s No Clues Without Consequence series. I’d also recommend his his piece on RPG railroads which questions whether they’re even a bad thing (or looks into how to do them right).

Film Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

It was a combo of words which basically required me to go: female director, Iranian, vampire, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT…a powerful phrase in itself. Something I’ve done. Something I’ve been scared to do.

The film is black-and-white, filmed in California and set in the Iranian town of Bad City—BadBad. On the nose, but it’s also not a big deal to the plot. This is a no-place, a Western town-in-trouble. It’s not loudly in trouble, its trouble is malaise…and a mysterious trench where bodies just keep ending up.

The film isn’t about vampirism or about some great story. It’s about loneliness. It’s about characters. It’s about mood. The main characters are:

  • The Boy — a gardener who works at the one rich mansion in town, knows exactly how many hours of labor went into his beautiful car, and supports his drug-addicted father.
  • The Old Man — addicted to various drugs, in debt to the local dealer/pimp, probably on both fronts.
  • The Worn-Down Woman — a sex-worker who knows she’s aging out of her job.
  • The Cat — a cat. It’s very, very fluffy.
  • The Girl — who wears a chador over her hippie-beatnik clothes as a combo of societal requirement and eerie callback. She walks home alone. After dark.

When the Girl comes into their lives, ridding them of the dealer/pimp, she sets off the possibilities of this scenario. What would the boy be like if he got ahold of the man’s drug cache and money? What would the old man be like if his son stopped supporting him? Would the worn-down woman be able to do any better for herself without her pimp in the picture?

As plot goes, that’s about it. The Girl sets off chain reactions which spark what action there is in the film. Keep your expectations set on “foreign film,” particularly “European film” and it’ll feel right.

Visually, the film is stunning. I came to this backward but I was not surprised at all to see that it was based on a comic book. It had very much that feel, in the shots, in the lighting, in the costuming. In particular, the use of chador was magnificent. The Girl could stand in the street, staring, giving every indication of being a vampire, wearing a what looked like a black cloak, and yet in Iran this is also exactly what she should have been wearing. The contrast of her cute outfit in her art-and-music-themed apartment jarred.

I appreciated the use of The Girl’s makeup. It wasn’t much, eyes and lips, but it showed up even in the black and white and created a difference between the personas she was enacting—whether she was Hunter or Girl.

I wish I could say more about the music. I don’t know enough about music for it to have struck me at the time, but it seemed to carry themes that a music-lover would appreciate.

I’m not sure what else to say. It left deep visual and scene impressions on my brain. It was a bit bizarre, a bit whimsical, a bit depressing. There were deeply satisfying moments, like the murder of the pimp (which is early and is implied in the trailers so I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler). There’s almost something lonely or pitiful in him, something desperate for approval. But you cheer a bit on the inside when she [redacteds] his [redacted] and [does redacted with it] (not what you’re thinking if you haven’t seen it). You have never enjoyed a man being so wrong about a woman’s intentions as he is.

If the combos of words in my first paragraph make your ears perk up the way they did mine, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Thoughts Five Years After Donating Marrow Stem Cells

Four years ago I wrote a post on my thoughts one year after donating bone marrow stem cells. For medical information about the procedure and my experience with it, I refer you to that post. At the time of the post, I had not yet met my recipient. I knew that he was still alive but that his health wasn’t yet in a state where they’d introduce us. I signed a form, I don’t remember know if it was right after or a full year after, letting them know I’d be willing to have my info given to the recipient and receive theirs.

About 18 months after donation, one random day I answered an unknown number to hear a shaky older Southern man on the line. Through tears, he introduced himself and told me that he was my recipient and that I’d saved his life. I sat down and cried too. It was about a year after I’d lost my mother, my brain was in a difficult place, but I was so happy that this stranger was still alive.

We exchanged email and phone numbers (I got his info in the mail shortly after, from the Marrow Foundation) and then he told me that he was well enough to travel and he and his wife wanted to come up to DC to meet me. They had some friends in the area, too, ones they hadn’t seen for a while because of his illness. We worked it out over email and then he and his wife met me at a metro station and took us out to dinner.

It was a bit surreal. Here was this man, this person I knew absolutely nothing about, and yet my stem cells had produced every bit of blood that flowed through his veins. I can’t describe that kind of relationship.

He was still frail, still recovering. The post-transplant experience had been rough on him. He was in his late 60s, his cancer had been serious enough to warrant the nuke-his-marrow-and-transplant method which recipients get, and transplants are rough on the body. But, with tears in his eyes, he told me about his grandkids. He brought copies of their photos for me, and of his two adult children as well. He would be alive to see the grandkids grow up now.

Years Following

We friended each other on Facebook and have kept in touch periodically ever since. They send birthday and Christmas cards. We like each other’s Facebook statuses. I see his grandkids getting older, see pictures of him taking his granddaughter to a school event or of their Christmases and birthdays.

It is still strange, this relationship between us. I know from talking to him that I will never be able to understand the depth to which my transfusion mattered to him. His wife told me how, while I was undergoing ER treatment for side-effects of a painkiller I’d taken during donation prep (see my other post, it was a personal problem, not one necessarily related to the transplant), she was getting news that he wouldn’t live long enough to receive my donation a few days later.

Sometimes, though, I look at my body and marvel that it could have produced things not just to keep me alive but to save the life of another human as well. On my worst mental health days, I sometimes recall the family to mind and remind myself how his grandchildren—pre-schoolers and lower-graders when he was first dying, are now old enough to really know their grandfather as a person.

We passed the 5-year mark in November, and just a few days ago he posted an update on Facebook that he had been pronounced 5-years cancer-free. It has not been an easy 5 years for either of us, I think. But I am so very glad that all those years ago in college I visited a marrow donation drive, got my blood taken (I think it’s just a cheek swab now), and filled out the paperwork for the marrow registry

Joining the Marrow Registry

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or contact me and I’ll do my best to answer.

The process for joining the marrow registry has been an ever-changing one since I signed up. If you are between 18 and 44, joining is free. You can join at an event or have a swab kit sent to you. When you "check out" after completing the health screening and other basic info, they’ll ask for a donation to cover labs & processing.

Aside: Adding a new member costs about $100. As I noted in my previous post on the subject, the Marrow Foundation covered everything related to the donation, including my surprise ER trip. Some of that was through the recipient’s insurance and some was the Marrow Foundation paying for my parking, my food the day of, etc. They’d have flown me and a companion in and put us up if I didn’t live within easy driving distance of the hospital. However if you cannot donate $ and are between 18 and 44, joining is a million times better than not joining, so don’t let that scare you. There is, at time of writing, no charge to join. I believe they briefly did.

If you’re 45 to 60, you can still join but they do require the $100 donation. Your marrow/marrow stem cells may still be used. But because of the decreased likelihood of your being the best choice, they charge. You can read more about that and other FAQs on their site

If you’re over 60, well, the risk of your stem cells working well and the risks to you are so greatly increased that their age restrictions keep you out. You can still donate money or, if you don’t have money, look for ways to help in sign-up drives, fundraisers, etc. for the organization.

There is some of the same BS that keeps gay men from donating blood, although you can donate if you’ve been celibate 5 years…which is asking a LOT but may also be true for some gay dudes with less-than-ideal love lives or bi dudes who’ve been w/a woman 5+ years which is why I’m including the specifics (as of today).

Introducing the Arkham Archivist

If you came to the site expecting to be at either cthulhuchick.com or beingruth.com, I’ve merged the two into one, The Arkham Archivist. I’ve been pondering this change for a while, but had to sort out how exactly I wanted to do it. All my redirects should be working.

(It’s possible there may be a few hiccups. If you’re reading this after 12/7/2014 and having an issue, please let me know!