Sunday, March 29, 2015

The River, the Bough

"Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones"
Florence and the Machine - What the Water Gave Me

When it comes to harnessing the elemental forces for dramatic effect, pop-culture proves itself hopelessly one-dimensional. Fire is power. Water is surrender. Forests are dark. Without getting into the larger issue of underused natural iconography for now, I'd like to ramble on the subject of water. Water has started to bore me. I want some trees.

"All this time the river flowed
Endlessly like a silent tear"
Sting - All This Time

Maybe I'm hearing too much of this because I've listened to too many Sting songs. Sting's an Englishman, in or out of New York, and Britannia rules the... do they even have forests anymore atop the sparkling cliffs of Albion? In any case, desert roses aside, Sting sees shadows in rain and sails to his islands of souls.

"If a prayer today is spoken please offer it for me
When the bridge to Heaven is broken and you're lost on the wild, wild sea"
The Wild Wild Sea

And hell, it's not just the Brits. I suppose it's no accident that last song reminds one of notable suicide-king Aegeus. European civilization was long dominated by the water at the middle of the earth, and that ever-present, untamed wasteland dominated the thoughts of the rich aristocrats and merchants whose denial of funding choked artistic expression. Such imagery has been carried from empire to empire into public consciousness. If you've listened to at least a few songs about suicide, you may have noticed that oceans, seas, rivers and any puddle deep enough to inhale tend to make frequent appearances.

"And I descend from grace
In arms of undertow
I will take my place
In the great below"
Nine Inch Nails - The Great Below

Or perhaps you're a fan of Poe? He may have mentioned the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir, but still all the night-tide he lay down by a tomb by the sounding sea. One of Poe's fanboys, Lovecraft, has done a great deal to maintain our fear of the clammy, unknowable deeps, but though the tides are occasionally portrayed as a menace, water in general remains the ultimate oubliette.

Take The Cat Lady, for instance. Much of its effect, as with many roleplaying / adventure games, depends on helping the player identify with the playable character. Thus, much of The Cat Lady hinged on the interlude provided by chapter three, the snippet of Susan's lonely existence, a nearly inevitable descent toward a nervous breakdown. Her attempts to trudge through the minute, neverending chores and indignities of mundane life are bracketed by quotes from a poem about suicide by drowning.
Which is kind of odd, since water plays little or no part in the rest of the game. Not that the notion of a sack of drowning kittens is lost on me and it's a beautiful scene in a great piece of interactive fiction, but I can't help thinking a poem about suffocating clouds or premature burial might've served the same purpose better, in context. Maybe something about maggots gnawing at roots.

See, I'm not a scion of an ocean-spanning major empire but happen to be descended of hill-folk and to me, forests hold at the very least equal symbolism to running water. Someone to whom I gave a few of my attempted short stories for evaluation noted that a couple of them ran along the same theme: suicide by plant. In fact, much of European folklore was imagined by dirt-farming peasants who would never see the great salt waste. To many of our ancestors, woods held the secrets of magic and dread, doom and escape, inhuman life both bountiful and fearsome. The stories collected by the Brothers Grimm grew out of the outskirts of the Black Forest, as did the Celtic faeries out of the equally defunct foliage of Caledonia. Baba Yaga in her endless incarnations lurked just beyond any East-European forest's edge and even the seafaring ancient Greek mythical bestiary included both Naiads and Dryads. Aegeus could have his pick, really.

Maybe the issue is one of accessibility. Poe, bless his psychotic heart, really did acknowledge the charm, grandeur and melancholy of plants - and those are the stories no-one bothers to read. Everyone can envision death by suffocation and the sinking feeling of depression translates quite easily to slipping beneath the waves. Forests are too diverse, wear too many faces for their symbolism to be worked into most narratives. Even sticking to flowers alone, can anyone remember the interpretations of pansies, rue, myrtles and roses? How about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme? I wrote a page-long piece of flash fiction on the assumption that readers would know oleander leaves are poisonous. That's the sort of thing which just doesn't get you staged as a musical.

However, some of the best authors manage it. Princess Mononoke mixes water, a forest glade and vulnerable flesh into a single memorable icon of nature. Tolkien, reviving European folklore amidst the giddy technocratic progress of the interbellum, painted nature's uprising not only in the rise of the Bruinen against corruption but the march of the Ents. Poe's Morella borrows nature as symbol of inhuman, saprophagous renewal. Occasionally, you'll get a song in which water is used to paint more than wistful melancholy.

"It's you that moves me, hydroelectric"

Yet it's difficult to portray such melding of symbolism concisely, whether depressive or uplifting, rooted or flowing, past or future. How about all of it in a single image? Back when DeviantArt used to be worth browsing, before it became utterly choked by highschoolers drawing My Little Pony fanart, it was actively populated by some truly gifted artists. Arcipello's Forget Me Not manages more in a single frame than most artists can do with ninety minutes.

I am not seeking a complete shift but a growth and interconnection of subjects which are too often treated as facile set pieces. If you're tempted to write of the fanged wood, turn it into the assault of the tide against a rocky shore. If you seek surrender beneath the waves, find it in deciduous rot instead. Watch a high-altitude forest after a rainfall. That should be our inspiration. Water flows to plants which exude water and every wer-wolfe needs a water-hole. Blood flows and ice can cut. Forget-me-nots grow in muddy riverbanks, nurtured by the rich decay of corpses upstream.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All You Zombies' Predestination

"I create the things that haunt me
The ghosts you see here came with me
I create my consequences
I have weaved my history."

Ego Likeness - Weave

Read All You Zombies. Watch Predestination. If you're a Heinlein fan or not, if you like time travel stories or need a crash course in their twists and turns, if you're just in the mood for a thought-provoking bit of speculation, just do it.

As a rule, nobody wants to adapt the big names of Science Fiction. Good SciFi tends to be just a smidge more cerebral than Star Wars and what's worse, pushes some heavy-handed social commentary. Sure everyone's heard of Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World and 1984 but as long as you don't make big-budget movies out of them, as long as you keep them out of pop-culture, you can censor them by inundation and relegate them to the status of high school English class homework assignments, chores to be forgotten and not thoughts to be engaged. Meanwhile, look at the shiny new lazorz by Industrial Light & Magic, conveniently fired off by an anti-intellectual messianic bad-boy whose every action is dictated by his mechanical devotion to his mate and tribal unit.

Nobody adapts Robert Heinlein. Aside from The Puppet Masters the mass-media have succeeded in linking Heinlein's name (if known to the public at all) to the cheesily militaristic Starship Troopers. Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress or the rest of his commentary on sex/race relations, religion and individualism, well now, that's safely excluded from the zeitgeist. I dare you, just try pitching a faithful adaptation of Job: A Comedy of Justice to Time Warner. You'll never get past the snipers and attack dogs.

But hey, we did get an amateurish rendition of Atlas Shrugged pushed onto the market recently, so maybe it's time to acknowledge Heinlein too, the guy who called himself so individualistic he'd make Ayn Rand look like a communist. Maybe some Hollywood studio can make some money off paying lip-service to one of the greats, get in on that niche market of... nope, keep dreaming. Gotta depend on the Aussies for that (though to their credit, Sony did step in to leech some money off grabbing the distribution rights, right neighborly of 'em.)

And damnit, it's good. Not great, but good. It respects the short story both in form and spirit in all but one aspect, which I'll address in a moment. Granted, they did pick a very short story to give themselves wiggle room, but still, it's all there. I don't mean just All You Zombies, though the bar discussion script plays admirably to Heinlein's... err, leines. I mean the somewhat industrial take on SF which comes through in most of his writing, the characters' lives as active professionals and the unapologetic emphasis on individual action. The brothers Spierig do him justice.

Except for one glitch: Mr. Robertson.

All You Zombies is a story about self-determination. In lending such an influential plot role to a character outside the, let's call it "continuity" of the main characters, the film's script undercut Heinlein's central theme. That outsider orchestration, though relatively light, diminishes the main characters' agency. The better or worse, the pain or satisfaction of their choices are nothing compared to the choice itself, to refusing to surrender the power of choice, that refusal to become one of the zombies who know not their own selves. It's not the proper role of one of the zombies to judge the necessity of those actions.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Names of the Guilds

Though our expectations of multipayer games have careened abysmally over the past decades into our current WoW-induced stupor, it's nice to know some things haven't changed. Guild names, for instance, are as painfully trite and uncreative as ever. It varies from title to title, of course. In PvP twitch-games, you might run across the usual babbling swarms of leet-kiddies calling themselves "The Flaming Skulls of Dark Doom Blood" but not to be outdone, roleplayers have consistently refined their own brand of shallow sensationalism. Drah-mah rulz. Everybody and his mother is "the heir" of something or the guardians of the other thing and one or two words are never enough to express just how important we are. "Goblinslayers" just doesn't carry the same chest-puffing tenacity as "The Slayers of the Goblins" right?

Not that there's anything wrong with that... in moderation. I myself think "Imps of the Perverse" would make a great guild name, especially in a game with no protections against harming your own character. However, if you look around and every other guild is "of the" something, it might just be time for you to hit the backspace key and rethink your purplelicious prosing. I mean, it's worst in Lord of the Rings Online, for the reason of the obvious, but it's not like we weren't doing it a decade ago in earlier online games, before MMOs even went pop. Enough already. Just... just stop... hit that delete key. Come on, just... oh, hell, you people can't help yourselves, can you?

Okay, fine, tell you what: I'll give you some inspiration. If you're gonna do it, do it right. Go full hipster and play that postmodern post-ironic post-cerebral card. I look forward to seeing the following guild names in every game I play from now on:

People of the Category
Thing of the Stuff
The Lack of the Creativity
Subjects of the Object
The Position of the Pre
Bast of the Bom
The Us of the Pretence

P.S. - and before you ask, no, I am not on "the drugs." This is your brain on teh internets.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Them's Fightin' Words

Skill checks are often used counterproductively in cRPGs, diplomacy being the most obvious example. You enter a ten foot by ten foot room with an orc guarding a treasure chest. He is carrying a +1 shortbread sword. Do you:
A) Eviscerate him (get treasure plus one sword, plus 42XP for the kill)
B) Talk him into leaving the room (get treasure)

Because most RPGs still idiotically reward players for kills through character experience accumulation, the correct choice tends to be A as in a roaring AAAAaaaaaargh! as you charge into battle slicing and dicing everything in your path for maximum exp gain. Though more and more titles have begun compensating for this by offering exp rewards for successful skill checks, diplomacy implementation retains its core caveat. It makes you skip content. If you pass the skill check above, the orc denies you the pleasure of eviscerating him. If you convince the guards to take you directly to the king, you skip past the luxuriously decorated palace grounds.
I doubt this is much of an issue in tabletop games. Everybody's got work tomorrow and you kinda want to get this leg of the campaign over by nine. One of the advantages of a single-player cRPG however is advancing at your leisure, taking your time to smell the dire roses. Content quantity and not just density long ago became a crucial fixture of game reviews, with the number of hours the campaign takes to complete sometimes being displayed right below the game or module's title. Thirty-one hours of uncut, imported escapism? Damn, dat shit right there got some high street value!

So instead of punishing players for passing skill checks by denying them access to part of the product they've paid for, start punishing their characters by making these prerequisites for fights. For most of the classic skills or attributes it wouldn't be much of a transition. Pass a strength check to open the warg cages and fight them. Successfully climb up to the roc's nest to fight it. Pick the wizard's pocket for his little black book, not so you can slink away but so you can dangle it in front of him saying "neener-neener, keep-away, keep-away."

Diplomacing yourself into fights seems counterintuitive and may require conflating the concept somewhat with taunting, but can also be addressed by using diplomacy checks to get NPCs to give your character particular jobs. How do you convince the king that you're trustworthy enough to rescue his daughter from the ogre? Diplomacy! How do you convince the daughter to leave the ogre she loves, after you so cruelly beat him up? You guessed it, diplomacy. How do you convince the town crier that your story about the princess'... predilections... is true? Diplomatically, of course. Now get ready to fight the king's guards.

Diplomacy can be a pass to evisceration, not just a shortcut past it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Templar, Arizona

"Men go crazy in congregations
They only get better one by one."

Sting - All This Time

Ah, crap, not another stalled webcomic. Breathe, damn you, breathe! Don't die on us!
And just when it was getting... heh, nah, Templar was always good.

No elves, no giant robots. Not a college comic, not a gaming comic. Not a pop-culture clutter of vampires and switchblade-wielding bunnies. Yet Templar dodged the "slice-of-life" pigeonhole as well by widening its scope from central characters to a maelstrom of social movements butting heads in a city delightfully unworthy of being called realistic. In simple terms, Templar's a place where everyone's militant about something. Anything. Pick your poison: freedom, equality, sex, drugs, music, construction, destruction, bloodsports, the apocalypse, veganism, truth or the old gods of the Nile. The main character could very well die on the next page and the story would easily, seamlessly shift amongst the supporting collage of slogan-chanting head-cases. 'Nother crop o' lunatics comin' right up.

In the desperation for creative novelty, it's easy to forget the distinction between surrealism and sheer randomness. Complete abstraction does little to promote thought. It fails to jar existing thought patterns out of their traditional stream-beds. Templar, in its lively flutter of cannibalistic ideologies, memetic life playing itself through its human hosts, is not unreal but surreal, presenting viewers with a constant barrage of human abnormality turned up to eleven, yet still coexisting. Well, not just that. No-one in Templar would be content to merely exist. They co-depend, co-inflict, co-repress and co-empower. In many ways Templar embodies the idealized city as cultural center, focal point of human advancement, Babel gathering its bricks and mortar, inseparable from its vibrant, proactive dwellers.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brothers in Entitlement

"Everybody's someone else's nigger
I know you are, so am I.
I wasn't born with enough middle fingers
I don't need to choose a side."

Marilyn Manson - Irresponsible Hate Anthem

Ah, so the piggies in Ferguson, Massourah are crooked after all. Color me unsurprised. On second thought, please don't color me. Seems to be a bit of a liability. Then again, what isn't? Back in the seventeenth century, Russia decided to dispossess and torture a sizeable segment of its population to death, basically for holding up the wrong number of fingers while crossing themselves. In various parts of the world, having ancestors that were undertakers makes you society's spittoon. Africa's littered with civil wars between villages which have been living so closely for centuries that they can't even smell each others' farts anymore.

There's always something. That's the point. If there isn't, you make something up. It's what humans do as living creatures. From the cellular level to the social, self-nonself recognition expands pretty seamlessly into kin recognition and own-group bias. It's a natural process, and nature produces no ethics. The hypercompetitive human ape will always fabricate an in-group for itself and an out-group to justify its greed and aggression. It works a bit like that old joke about playing poker. If you look around the table and can't tell who the mark is, it's you. Our social instincts operate on that sort of insecurity. If you look around and you're not part of a group that's out-competing outsiders, well, you'd damn well better find a winning side to side with, and quick! Otherwise, tag, you're it.

Many human social institutions work by hijacking the kin recognition instinct to fabricate arbitrary in-groups, institutionalizing individuals into new tribal loyalties. Wear the same sports team's emblem, brand yourself with a company logo, get the same gang tattoo, wear the same uniform, and what you're doing is tricking your brain into reconsidering its ties of similarity, its perception of family and clan. Not accidentally does the word "brother" crop up in so much of slang and propagandistic jargon. Is you a brutha? Brothers in arms? Our brothers in faith? Sister cities? How much of this crap do you have to swallow before you realize you're being sold a mind-numbing bottle of snake-oil?

"If you'd like to examine a granfalloon just remove the skin of a toy balloon."

Granfalloonery becomes especially destructive when coupled with an increase in social rank. When you institutionalize a bunch of knuckledraggers as the hired muscle of a power structure, legitimize their actions as moral authority, reinforce the sensory reinforcer of in-group advantage, what the hell do you think will happen? You're worried about abuses of power? The very awareness of power already embodies the beginning of abuse. Yet power doesn't corrupt nearly as much as the ethical umbrella of enforcer legitimacy.

Even the best of the media are selling the Ferguson case study as a racial issue, because that's how you sell an issue to tribal apes, especially to a population as institutionalized as contemporary America: make it a selling point for some interest group. Scribble it into some political lobby's day-planner; otherwise no-one gives a flying fuck about injustice. It is apparently true that in this case the victims were selected largely on the basis of skin color. Fine. Let's fix that idiocy while we're at it, but don't forget it won't actually address the issue of abusive power. If it weren't the blacks it'd be the Jews. If it weren't them it'd be pot-smokers. If not them, it's the people on the other side of the street (think they're so much better than us with their curbside parking) because in this case, the cause is an effect. The pigs wanted someone to beat and shake down and skin color was the most obvious demarcation.

Scroll down to section three on page nine of that DoJ report. Law enforcement focused on generating revenue. Well, no crap. What the hell did you think traffic tickets are, other than highway robbery? Mob enforcers collecting protection money, entire countries pillaged to justify reconstruction contracts, gang-bangers shaking you down on the sidewalk, piggies filling their trough from fifty-dollar grass-clipping fines, high school jocks taking your lunch money... there is no fundamental difference. This is how muscle acts. Thus the granfalloon inflates.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Versatility, Omnipotence and Scrapping

You know, it's a funny dance you get to see in role-playing games between specialization and utility of said roles. Really, it falls into the greater issue of challenging complexity versus facile simplicity. A product line initially boasts nuanced features to capture a core base of jaded connoisseurs, then strips itself to the lowest-common denominator. Apropos of nothing, Cocaine-cola initially tried to pass itself off as a health tonic.

Though they've been given a bad name by MMOs, RPG classes remain a valid notion, feeding into a player's identity and utilizing the capacity for cooperation. Yet there's a balance to be struck between canalizing a player's tendencies and restrictively dictating a role. A wizard would still be expected to use some kind of weapon. A fighter still needs enough intelligence to learn a few skills. If your thief goes down, it pays to have a second character with at least rudimentary trap-dodging skills. You may be playing a role, but in the basic pen-and-paper RPG scheme (at least as I see it from the outside) you're still supposed to be able to create and act out a relatively balanced, internally consistent alter-ego.

In contrast, most cRPGs are created for min-maxing munchkins. It was a relatively gradual process, sure. In older single-player RPGs like Planescape:Torment, the capacity for playing a well-balanced character was there and all that was missing was varied enough content to warrant varied player strategies. As a matter of development time and cost, fleshing out more than one gameplay aspect (hack and/or slash) didn't pay. As it turned out that players actually liked not having to think, classes became more and more narrowly defined, paralleling D&D's own swelling roster of over-specialized prestige classes. MMOs have truly exacerbated this human failing by continually having players compare themselves to each other. Fearful of being caught using a weaker build, players constantly demand their own build be the best. The logical solution for developers is to restrict options to... well, one option. If you heal, pick the green skill line. If you want to do damage, pick the red one. Problem solved.

However, such stupidity has a corollary, of which I was reminded while playing Smite the past few months. Like most online team games, Smite uses a rock/paper/scissors role set to force players into interdependency, or as they're more commonly known these days, tank/healer/nuker. The specifics don't particularly matter. Yes, there are three kinds of nukers, since most gamers are petty sadists who want to inflict damage, but the point is that min-maxing, as in online RPGs, is written in stone into the game's basic ruleset. If you're a magician, you max your magic. If you're a hitter, you max your hitting.

Now, because these roles truly are so restrictive and dull, companies used to introduce "hybrid" classes to spice things up like, say a scissor-shaped rock or a rocky paper. Sometimes these can get subdivided further and pigeonholed again, as happened in WoW. Druids / Shamans / Paladins were originally meant as hybrid classes with moderate utility in various aspects of gameplay. Gradually, switching specializations became trivialized and the specs streamlined so that players could pick unambiguous "right" skill tees focused on either healing or tanking or damage. Problem freakin' solved, amirite?

Now, one thing these online multiplayer RPGs have in common is their supposed team-oriented setup. That is after all the whole rock-papering point of scissors! Then again, if stroking players' egos by giving them characters with one single "correct" min-maxing choice so they feel like they're amazing at that one thing just sells like hotcakes, won't telling them they're amazing at everything and don't even need a team sell like even hotter cakes? Enter the scrapper.
I speak of course of City of Heroes. To their credit, its creators were very honest about the original playable classes. Ya had yer tankers, defenders and blasters, plus the controller archetype which sprang up in the early days of MMOs while companies were still putting some effort into making PvE interesting. Ah, but you could also play as a Scrapper. While the others were built around interdependency, Scrappers were meant as the solo option: lil' bit o' toughness, self-healing and plenty of damage and what's this about a multiplayer game? You're a one-man army. Can I have your autograph?

Scrapper classes are the foremost evidence that players in such games don't actually understand or care what it is they're playing, that they're in it only for a facile pat on the back. Getting back to AoS games, League of Legends popularized the concept of a "solo" lane. While the other four members of your team get into little 2v2 and 3v3 skirmishes all throughout early game, you, the team's soloer, sit in your own little lane and exchange potshots with the enemy team's soloer for twenty minutes until everyone else is done with their lanes. This non-role attracted various skill/item setups revolving around self-sustaining and 1v1 dick-measuring. Of course being less intellectually challenging than having to figure out how to use just a sheet of paper, pair of scissors or rock with their built-in weaknesses, it became wildly popular. Smite standardized the solo role by coming up with a class called "warrior" composed of characters whose abilities share no synergy with anyone else on the team, helping no-one but themselves. Self-healing, self-protection, self damage-boosting, self-speeding, self mana recharging, etc. Thus the problem of having to play as part of a team in a team game was solved once and for all.

Hard-coded min-maxing was idiotic enough, but scrappers completely defeat the purpose of a team game. The point of hybridizing one of the main archetypes is not to make that character self-sufficient. An arcane trickster does not get plate armor. If you give a tank a self-heal, you don't also give him nukes. These mixes of abilities must still integrate into the larger concept of RPG interdependence. There is no place in a team game for the little snots who simply want to run around doing their own thing. It's bad design, kow-towing to a segment of the audience which will only continue to drag down the quality of gameplay because they simply fail to grasp its most basic aspect.

It's actually quite funny to think of why CoH implemented Scrappers to begin with. The cause has a name: Wolverine. Ironically, the core element of Wolverine's personality is that he's a freaking terrible team player! Wolverine's a crappy, squishy self-healing tank who gets knocked out of fights, gets baited and runs off constantly dumping the aggro on Cyclops and Jean. Beast, Colossus and Iceman, now them was the good tanks.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Leonard "Spock" Nimoy

As a Science Fiction fan and overall nerd, I might expect myself, were I playing to type, to be more broken up about Spock's death. That is what we're talking about here. Despite the hordes of fans he met face to face, the vast majority of those who feel the need to mourn him know nothing about Leonard Nimoy, and should not. If you do, you're probably a damn stalker and should've left the poor man alone. But even if you were just a fan-atic who read everything he wrote, memorized his speeches and kissed your autographed picture of him every night before doing other things before bed, odds are your anchor to the personality cult was Spock. Who was Leonard Nimoy? Nay, an' I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you in the face again. For mine own part, he was Spock to me.

Spock was smart. That's all you'd consciously know about him as a nine-year-old just starting to get into SciFi. Of Star Trek's various stock characters, Spock was "smart guy" yet somehow he endeared himself to the audience much more than so many other characters filling the same niche. Spock was dignified. In this he distanced himself from the degrading, cringing nebbish mad scientist pop-culture pigeonholing of nerds, from the ceaseless tirade of disgustingly bumbling Urkels and Screeches. The self-contained dignity partly lent by Nimoy to the character turned him into a show-stealing role model for generations of young nerds and geeks... who then proceeded to throw dignity out the window and, as trekkies, act out with mathematical precision the pop-culture geek stereotype which Spock had broken.

I liked Spock. I wanted to be Spock. I also wanted to be Lord Elrond Halfelven. You'd think between the two of them I'd own at least one pair of pointy ears, but no. Y'know why? I also wanted to be Ender Wiggin and Paul Muad'dib and I have especially wanted to be Jubal Harshaw. At some point I realized none of these characters would want to be each other. Spock would not dye his eyes blue and Jubal would not own pointy rubber ears. Their integrity, that personal agency which we neurotic over-thinkers valued so much in our youth as proof of other ways to be smart than accepting our social role as whining punching bags, would only allow them to grow as themselves.

I won't tell you to grow "up" since there's nothing more childish in the hero worship of he-who-was-Spock than in the hero-worship of a sports/military persona or other fictional or fictionalized figures... like Jesus. However, this needs to be said:
Star Trek was at least in part about exploration and discovery, and Spock embodied that moving goal. Live long, prosper... learn and grow. Be fascinated.