Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Cracking Nuts

Liz and I got back a little bit ago from our Christmas present - the Pacific Northwest Ballet company's production of The Nutcracker. The cool thing about this production is that Maurice Sendak, author/illustrator of one of my all-time favorite children's books Where the Wild Things Are, did the set design. The whole thing had a very surreal feel to it - the Mouse King was gigantic, and the costumes and set pieces were more like a strange comic book. Needless to say, I liked it a lot, and Liz did too. We also had a great time together just going out and doing something. And, Zee New Car seems to be running fine.

The other big thing in our lives is the trip back to Tulsa. Because of this, I don't think I'll be able to update the blog as often as I'd like, but I'll certainly try. The massive-huge HeroClix event is this coming Sunday, which is going to rock. I'll try to post some pictures afterwards. We're lugging a suitcase full of presents back, so hopefully people will be happy (and hopefully we didn't forget anybody!)

I'm taking Love in the Time of Cholera to finish, and The Once and Future King to start.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Pre-Holiday Fun

I'm taking a ten-minute breather in an otherwise hectic day. Zee New Car seems to be working out very well. I think we made a good decision.

I found a really cool blog from a guy who's apparently a teacher in Kazakhstan. It's good reading, check it out. Lots about the foibles of language and teaching Russian children.

My list of things to do today includes going to the post office, taking Kytte to Blockbuster and Best Buy, and of course Elizabeth's Christmas present tonight. And, returning the rental car. Plus, I've got to ride our art department about getting an ad done, get some stuff in the mail, and write some quick copy before I leave. Lots of work. I'm so looking forward to this vacation.

Zee New Car

State Farm settled up today on paying off our old car, so we went to a dealership and bought a new one. Go us!

It's not as rash as it sounds. We ended up with a used 2003 Mitsubishi Galant with a 5 year, 100,000-mile warranty on it. It's a very nice vehicle - mileage was pretty high for a 2003, but it was part of a corporate fleet, so that's not surprising. The mileage drove the price down, and we ended up bargaining with them for a damn good deal (and they agreed to fumigate it and fix a cigarette burn in the upholstry). Not too shabby, and it's a pretty cool color of pearl white to boot.

So that's one less stressful thing in our lives. Tomorrow, Liz gets the first part of her Christmas present, which she's going to love. I'd mention what it is, but I know she reads this weblog.

Today at work, I wrote two 3000-word newsletters, six 500-word articles, and a 250-word press release. I was a writing mofo. I think my ass actually grew into the chair and put down roots. And, to be honest, the last thing I want to do right now is sit at a computer and write, so I'm gonna say "g'night" and go veg out in front of the TV.

Proof I'm stressed out: I coughed today and ended up spewing some chunks of my Subway sandwhich. I need to relax...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Movies and More Movies

Just saw an exciting trailer for an upcoming film called Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Got a great pulpy feel to it - reminds me a lot of Crimson Skies, with gigantic Zeps and all. I'll have to keep my eye on that one.

Also, saw a trailer for Osama, a movie about a girl who becomes a boy to foil the Taliban. Debuts in January, and looks great. There are so many arthouse cinemas here, I should really start taking advantage of them to see movies like this. The problem is, everything I hate about going to the movie theater is usually amplified in those places, because they are so small and cramped and bad-smelling.

Yesterday, I watched three movies - Escape From New York, which I haven't seen in years (and has certainly lost some of its luster!), The People Under the Stairs, and an old favorite, Young Sherlock Holmes. Today, I clean house. Speaking of which, I'd best get started. I've got a shitload of work to do.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Joy of the Season

We just finished the last leg of our Christmas shopping. This year, we ended up spending more on Christmas than we have in all other years combined. This is partially because we decided to get presents for all 12 nieces and nephews, and partially because we've got friends in Seattle we have to buy for as well as friends in Tulsa when we go back. Our Christmas cards are sitting on the table unmailed, because we haven't gotten that far yet. And, there's only two days left until we fly out. I just love the holidays.

See, I'm a bit of a humbug. I like Christmas for these reasons: I get to see my friends and family and spend time with them; I really like Hickory Farms cheese and sausage; and I can make people happy by giving them things. Which would make you think that I like Christmas, right? Not really. I don't put up decorations (what's the point of putting up something once a year that you have to keep in storage for the other eleven months?) I don't put up a tree (our cats would destroy it if we did). I believe that we should remember those less-fortunate than ourselves 365 days a year, not just 2 days a year (Christmas and Thanksgiving). And, since I quit believing in that whole Christianity thing, there's no real reason for me to celebrate Jesus' birth.

That being said, this holiday season is worse than others. It isn't any colder than it was over Thanksgiving, and it's certainly not snowing. The car wreck thing put off my plans for my Christmas present, combined with the higher-than-normal cost of other people's presents. At this point, I'm just looking forward to the few days off I get to take when I go to Tulsa.

Liz has been working late and on the weekends a lot, so I hardly get a chance to see her. I just wish the car thing would go away, I could sit down and finish the work I have to do before I leave, and my bills would magically pay themselves.

Adding up everything, we're right back where we were. Six months of progress in paying off debt has been erased in two weeks, and I don't have a new TV or a DVD player to show for it. Instead, we're going to have a car that's smaller than the old one, that I bang my knees and elbows on every time I get in and out. The good news is, the stupid piece of shit might not require $500 to fix every six months.

Bah fucking humbug.

Playin' Some MUME

I've been playing a MUD here at work, mostly because it's the Friday before Christmas, no one's around, my wife is working late, and my work is all done. MUME, short for Multi-Users in Middle Earth, is one of the largest MUDs around, and is a pretty good representation of Middle Earth. It's kind of a pkill MUD, but I don't mind that - hunting orcses is fun.

So here's one from the Religion and Politics Mixing deparment. Apparently, the Assemblies of God church, which has its world headquarters in Springfield, Missouri (where I went to college), tried to get the city to rename Boonville Avenue "Ashcroft Street" after John Ashcroft. Ashcroft, who started his political career by campaigning at KKK rallies (among other places), is best known as the architect of the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to tap cellular phone conversations without a warrent. Ashcroft has used the Department of Homeland Security to shut down a strip club, which no doubt appealed him to the less-than-moderate folks at the AoG church.

Happily, the people of Springfield told them to shove it up their self-righteous asses.

Friday, December 19, 2003

More on ROTK Part 1

As promised, now that I've had a couple of nights to catch up on my sleep and to digest Return of the King, I thought I'd come back and write a little about it. The requisite life-update: Liz and I went shopping for an evening dress for her last night (for my Christmas surprise, hehe) and the insurance company is going to give us a nice amount towards the car, which will allow us to pay off the loan from the old one and put a nice down payment on a new one. Of course this all means that I won't be getting my TV or DVD player anytime soon, but Liz is going to love her Christmas present, so it's all good. That will be enough for me this holiday season.

OK, so the movie. I thought ROTK was nothing short of incredible. The Pellenor Fields battle basically rewrote the book on what you can do with a large-scale battle in a film. I'll keep this spoiler-free, but to see more than a hundred thousand individuals fighting at the same time is something that will take your breath away. This is a movie best seen on the big screen. The sound was amazing - I literally sat with my mouth open, watching. The rest of the film was good, too, although it felt as if they cut quite a bit out (they did), so I'm expecting that the extended DVD version will add about an hour back in, including Saruman's death scene and the Faramir - Eowyn relationship. In the book, the battle with Shelob was over too quickly - here, it is almost symbolic of one of the main struggles in the film.

It seems like the overarching theme of these films is that the characters are always divided between two or more selves. Frodo tries to give in to the Ring, or ignore it. Smeagol / Gollum are the most obvious, with the "split personality" shots. Faramir is the good son and the good soldier. Aragorn is the reluctant ranger and the good king. Gimli and Legolas are basically the same character that reconciles his/their differences by the end. And Pippin and Merry walk the line of responsibility.

The main complaints I've seen about Return of the King - indeed, any of the Lord of the Rings movies - is that they screwed around with continuity, or didn't adhere to the letter of the books. Translating a book to film is a bit like translating a book from French to English - you're not going to get every word right, you're going to put some of your own interpretation into it, and the spirit is more important than the letter. The average fanboy doesn't understand this concept, but don't let that discourage you from seeing these films: they capture Tolkien's spirit perfectly, and will go down in history as some of the finest films ever made.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


I'm still not fully recovered from my movie event, but I feel better. Things are starting to wind down at work for the holidays, and I had my six-month review yesterday that went really, really well. Things are looking up.

The insurance company is going to be cool with the car, so we can pay off the balance and make a nice downpayment on something new (to us). We've been looking at 2002 Galants, which are made in Normal, Illinois. Nothing like a little hometown pride.

James got a pack of love from the guys at Fantasy Flight, which included a bunch of Game of Thrones cards from the new expansion, which he shared with us. How cool is that? House Greyjoy is going to rock now. I'm also going to build a Night's Watch deck (me and everyone else). I love the emphasis on themes in this set.

Whenever I log into Blogger to update this, they offer a list of the most recently-updated blogs. I love clicking on random blogs and reading them. From now on, I'll post links to good / interesting / amusing ones here. Here's one from a girl in Vancouver.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Best Movie Ever

I did it, I survived. After thirteen hours in movie theater seats, and very few hours of sleep afterwards, I can look back and say "that was cool!" And, I got a nice little memento courtesy Sideshow Weta.

So Return of the King was fantastic. It was amazing. It will re-define massive battles in movies, because it's highly unlikely that anything will ever top this - hundreds of thousands of figures on a battlefield all at once. And there were large CGI creatures that didn't make fart noises! (take a hint, Mr. Lucas!)

I'm so tired I'll be surprised if this is coherant, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Going the Distance

Now I'm waiting for my ride. This is gonna rock in so many ways. Like a good grasshopper, I've been studying tips on how to make it through this event.

Hopefully, adrenaline will help too!

Waiting, Watching the Clock...

Tomorrow the Lord of the Rings marathon begins. The details are: free refills on popcorn and pop throughout the film; $1 hotdogs and nachos; cards that hold our seats; a pizza party; and the fact that I get to be the first to see the movie. I'm psyched. I doubt I'm going to sleep much tonight.

In the meantime, I've been searching through some of the other blogs around blogger for intersting stuff. I managed to find this, a page that uses Moby Dick to tell the future! Well, not really - it uses Moby Dick to debunk the Bible Code, as it manages to find references to a dozen or so major assassinations in Melville's book. Pretty funny stuff. I wish I had more to add as content. I guess I can tell a personal story.

Yesterday, Liz was in a pretty bad car wreck (she's OK - do you think I'd be blogging if she wasn't?) The car is pretty much a gigantic garbage heap though, so we're probably going to have to go car shopping. And to think - we just spent $500 on it so we wouldn't have to go car shopping for another year. Them's the shakes, I guess.

I need to find something to occupy my mind....

Sunday, December 14, 2003

We Captured... Someone Other than Bin Laden!

Remember Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behing the WTC attacks on 9-11 and the reason the United States went to war? Neither does Bush, most conservatives, and their media lapdogs as today they celebrate the capture of another leader who had nothing to do with 9-11. And across the country, conservatives are cleaning the cream out of their jeans.

The Guy Who Isn't bin Laden:

Threw the families of dissidents in jail, just like Bush.
Executed tens of thousands of ethnic minorities, just like dictators in a dozen of other countries who didn't piss off Bush's daddy (and who still, right now, can enjoy the security of being able to execute ethnic minorities thanks to the openly hypocritical Bush foreign policy).
Now has a nice, big beard. Good look.

In a month, I doubt any of this is going to matter. Troops will continue to die, Iraqi army members will still be deserting near 50%, and the American people will go back to our choking economy (the Dow is not an indicator of economic success - jobless claims are, which are the highest they've been during Bush's selection to the White House), our dying friend and family, Cheney overcharging taxpayers to make himself even more money, and will throw these shit-slinging monkeys on their asses like they deserve.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

The Passion of the Christ Trailer has posted the trailer for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. I discussed the contraversy around the film at some length a month or so ago. The film has apparently been renamed - it used to simply be The Passion, then The Passion of Christ, and now it's The Passion of the Christ. I think the addition of "the" in the title is fairly significant - the language now tends more towards what scholars use rather than people discussing Christianity in a casual manner.

I still have very high hopes for this movie. If anything, the trailer shows some nice costumes and sets.

Speaking of movies, I got up bright and early this morning to head down to the University District because a arthouse cinema there was having a movie poster sale. I was hoping to score a Blue Velvet or Lost Highway poster, but no dice (did get the Naomi Watts Mulholland Dr. poster though). There was a long wait - it took me about an hour from the time I arrived to get into the poster room - and I couldn't believe how many people were buying ten, twenty, and even thirty posters. There were some big movies in there, and quite a few artsy ones, too. They advertised two Seven Samurai posters (how cool would that have been?) but of course they were gone by the time I got there. So, too, was the Kill Bill poster. But, I managed to get an awesome poster from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, so it was a good time.

Then, I bought comics. The big news at the comic shop wasn't the comics, but the Book of Erotic Fantasy, a D&D supplement featuring rules for sex, and lots of full-color photographs of goths in various stages of undress. When I saw a preview of this item at GenCon (being sold from a booth whose main draw wasn't fancy banners or artwork, but the girls in corsets manning it), I thought that it was basically a gimmick to sell low-quality bullshit to lonely gamers. After having seen the finished product, I stand by that opinion. The rules inside aren't practical for most role-playing games (unless it's just you and your lover playing "the elves get it on"), and the sticker "indended for mature audiences" seems more like a joke, because the entire thing reads like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge dick joke. I read most of the comics on the bus ride home as I tried to forget about the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I'm more than a hundred pages into Love in the Time of Cholera. Maybe the fifth time was the charm, because I'm really digging it.

And, in the "Civilization Takes One More Drunken Step Towards the Brink" category, also posted the trailer for Garfield. If someone told me they were planning on sodomizing my childhood with a chainsaw, I wouldn't be as miserable as I was after watching that trailer. It certainly makes my habit of eating Cream of Mushroom soup (cold) out of the can seem less pathetic. Speaking of which...

What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: The Moody Blues - Nights in White Satin
Movie: Anything but Garfield. Seriously.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Presidential Selector

I'm not a huge fan of Select Smart's various tests, but they do occasionally have good ones mixed in with the multitude of bad ones. In particular, their religion selector nailed me (100% Theravada Buddhist). I found a link to their Presidential Selector for the 2004 season, and here's where I ended up in relationship to the major candidates:

1. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (73%)
2. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (73%)
3. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (70%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (63%)
5. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (55%)
6. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (52%)
7. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (52%)
8. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (51%)
9. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (32%)
10. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (28%)
11. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (10%)
12. Bush, President George W. - Republican (7%)

The real surprise wasn't that I agreed with 7% of Presidunce Bush's views (which means that seven times out of a hundred that man opens his mouth, I should agree with him - which I don't), but that Dean is my closest match, followed by Clark. I think that means I'm becoming more moderate as I age, which isn't a bad thing. I'm surprised that a psychopath like LaRouche and I are even 52% identical. I'll have to try harder, I guess.

Republican't Censorship

Don't believe for a minute that Republicans are the protectors of free speech when they do things like this. Whether it's censoring art, painting those who dare speak opposing views as traitors, or just opening their mouths, Republican't's prove their hypocrisy again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The End of the World

My French friend Cyril sent me this link about the end of the world. You need Flash. It's fucking hilarious.


One of the best computer games ever made is Sid Meier's Pirates!. Launched in 1987, it set the bar for action-RPGs, as Sid's Civilization would do for strategy three years later. I found this site today, which contains a freeware game called Pirates II. Apparently a fan of the first game made a few tweaks and re-launched the original Pirates! as freeware. How cool is that? I just downloaded it, and I'm going to install it shortly.

If you like old computer games, pirates, or both, go play this game. It's a real classic.

Lynch for Peace?

Who'da thunk it: according to this article from The Guardian, David Lynch has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1973 and is a big proponent of using TM to bring about world peace. It makes for interesting reading, and certainly offers a new perspective on Lynch the man.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A Feel-Good Story

Wendi sent me this story about a cat on a British Navy ship in the 40s.

Making Myself Tired

As Liz has been sick, and it's impossible to go to sleep in a bed next to a coughing person, I've been entertaining myself by checking my favorite forums and browsing around the Internet, which is actually helping to make me sleepy. It's also distracting me from a pretty shitty day at work, which I'm not going to write about because I'll probably just get pissed off. In fact, I can feel myself getting less sleepy as I type this, so that's bad. Instead, I'll focus on:

DVD Resources! That's right! Many people know I'm a big movie freakshow, and I love the DVD format. Soon, the Ultimate Home Theater will be complete, and I can watch movies in the privacy of my own house in glorious digital resolution! I will have to go through my entire library, movie by movie! If I do one a night, I will have enough movies to last me over a year!

At any rate, if you are interested in DVDs, here's some good resources for 'ya. First, DVD Profiler. DVD Profiler is a great database program for DVDs - just enter the UPC code off the back of the DVD, and it logs it into your collection. You can upload your collection to their website so your friends can see what you own, marvel at your good taste, and even see what you'd like to own someday in your Wish List. Best of all, it's totally free.

DVD followers will note that sometimes the best release of a movie isn't always the one that's out in your country. See, the world is divided into seven DVD regions (well, six - the seventh is reserved for airplanes and government stuff). In order to "discourage piracy," a DVD from the UK - from Region 2 - won't play in a normal US - Region 1 - player. Most of the time, this doesn't matter. However, if you're an enormous movie fan, it matters quite a bit. Let's take two examples: Brotherhood of the Wolf and Lost Highway. Brotherhood is a French martial-arts movie set in the 18th Century (no, really, it works and it's really cool). The US Region 1 release has the original movie in Dolby Digital 5.1, anamorphic widescreen (which means it looks better on a widescreen TV), and is the original cut of the movie. The Canadian Region 1 release, however, has Dolby Digital 5.1, anamorphic widescreen, and a longer cut of the movie, restoring almost ten minutes of plot and action. So clearly, if I'm a fan of the movie, I'm going to buy the Canadian release. But wait! The Canadian release has two discs of extra features, but the French release, which contains the same specs, has an entire fourth disc full of other features. So, if I'm a huge fan of the movie, I'll buy the French version. The problem with this is that the French version is coded for Region 2, so it won't play on my player, and is in PAL, so it won't play on a US (NTSC) television.

Lost Highway, one of David Lynch's best works, is even worse. There is no US release of the film. The Canadian R1 release is in 4:3, which means it has been cropped from its original aspect ratio to fill a regular square TV. This is commonly called pan-and-scan, or pan-and-scam to people who like movies. Why? Because you're chopping almost 50% of the picture off on either side, especially on a movie shot in a wide aspect ratio like Lost Highway, which was filmed in 2.35:1. Now, the Australian Region 4 release offers the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, but the video transfer is crummy and the sound is only 2.0 surround instead of a digital audio track. The UK Region 2 release isn't much better, but does add a 5.1 digital audio track. The best version, though is the Portuguese Region 2, which has a great anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 5.1 English audio track. Obviously, if I like Lost Highway, and I want to see Lynch's original framing of the movie (he is a visual artist, after all), then I'm going to go for the Portuguese release.

So how do I know all this? A helpful website called DVD Compare. It's got an enormous database of comparisons between DVDs released in different regions. For most movies, like Finding Nemo, it's not going to matter. If you're a serious Lost Highway fan though, you don't want to get screwed with the impotent Canadian release - it will be worth your while to import the Portuguese version.

OK, now I'm tired again. Time to hope I can get to sleep.

Skull & Bones Week 1

Tonight was my first Skull & Bones game, and I had a fantastic time running it. Only four out of the six players showed, but it turned out to be a good mix, since I slightly underestimated the party's abilities when planning the encounters. The party is very fighter-heavy, so I'm going to have to adjust things accordingly - shouldn't be too hard.

The game began in March of 1670, as the crew of the Queen's Justice prepared for their next voyage to the New World for the Amsterdam East India Company. "Commodore" George Brumwell III, the Bo'sun, announced to the crew that they would be taking on a new Captain before sailing - the arrogant, foppish Lord Mars Snickerton, whose family invested heavily in the East India Company. They were also taking a passenger, one Ronald Rontacort, a gentleman of learning and fashion.

The ship left London with little incident, loaded down with luxury items to sell in Kingston. That night, though, Mr. Rontacort found himself viciously attacked by two assailants in his quarters - and the door was mysteriously nailed shut! The other officers - Aleida Newport, the navigator; Rodrigo de la Cruz, the Master at Arms; and Miss Zanna, the cook, healer, and spiritual advisor - rushed to investigate. They managed to break the door down just before Mr. Rontacort was overcome, and fought against his attackers, managing to subdue one and killing the other. The Captain, awakened by the noise, ordered the body and the attacker thrown overboard.

Disobeying the Captain's orders, the three officers and the passenger took the rogue below and questioned him, learning that he was a member of a secret order called the Brotherhood of the Drowned Men - distinguishable by the strange tattoos on the back of their necks, a skull impaled on an anchor. He said that he was to make sure that Rontacort didn't make it to the New World alive, as Rontacort knew things about the Fountain of Youth that would prove dangerous not only to him, but to the world. The crew also learned that a pirate of some reknown, John Robinson, was also looking for the Fountain, but learned little otherwise. They finally followed the Captain's orders and tossed the man overboard.

The next morning, the Captain ordered Ian Connors, the first mate, flogged for hiring such lowly men as the two assassins. Brumwell carried out the order, but did it grudgingly, and everyone noticed that the lashes seemed light.

Later that week, the Captain ordered the ship's cats tossed overboard as well, as one of them scratched him. After debating with the crew, the captain shot the offending cat and released the rest. A few days later, when a man failed to report for duty and the ship's carpenter reported the man dead in the cargo hold, the Captain ordered the officers to investigate - and Rontacort to go with them, to keep an eye on them. In the hold, they found nine enormous rats, each larger than a beagle. After a short battle, the officers dispatched the rats and found where they came from: packing from a crate in the hold. They scoured the ship looking for more, and after none turned up declared the job a success.

That's where the game ended. All in all, it went really well - the party wasn't supposed to find out about Robinson so early, as he's the main villain of the campaign, but it's nothing a little creative story-manipulation can't fix. Next week: fun with mutiny.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Whole World's Going to Hell

News highlights:

Interplay fired all of Black Isle and cancelled Fallout 3.

Ozzy Osbourne hurt himself.

Al Gore endorses Howard Dean.

Monday, December 08, 2003

More on Ancient d20 Gaming

One of the WizKids Envoys posted this to the Judges forum, where I also posted the bit about the Roman d20:

"Here's what my friend found on the die/dice: Qoute: I've done a bit of sniffing around, and this seems to be a reasonable explanation: Actually these are called Slave Dies and were popularised by the Roman Emperor Publius Helvius Pertinax in the mid 2nd century AD. During periods when professional gladiatorial combat was lacking, 400 slaves would be seperated into 20 groups of 20 each. The diplomat (or the Emperor himself) running the game would roll a Slave Die 4 times. The first time selected a group, the second a slave within the group. The 3rd and 4th rolls repeated this selection. The two slaves would then be outfitted with crude weapons and ordered to fight to the death. Because slaves had horrific medical care the survivor of the battles usually died from infection later on. If, in the odd event, the die rolls selected the same person twice then that slave would immediately be freed and given a not insubstantial amount of gold as it was deemed that the gods had smiled on this person. It was a horribly stressful thing; you wouldn't want to be rolled once, but if that were the case you'd be praying for a second roll to select you."

Good enough for me!

G.I. Joke

Gotta love Mad Magazine. Thanks to ME for the link.

Kill Frenzy!

I just finished the Rampages in Vice City, so now I have to find something else to pass the time. I think I'll read until I fall asleep.

That's kind of what the weekend has been like: very lazy. That's good, though, because I needed some rest. The WizKids Christmas Party was last night, which was an amusing way to pass three hours. It was interesting to watch the people there, even though many of them are the same people I see at work all the time. It's enlightening to study them outside of the office, in a social situation.

"The Simpsons" was decent tonight; not great, not awful. Which is how I feel about many of the episodes these days. I can't wait until Season Four comes out on DVD - I've bought the first three, but the show really didn't find its niche until the 4th.

I wrote almost a thousand words on The Crocodile Man today. Not as much as I wanted to get done, but it was a very solid start to my next chapter. I still need to go in and complete that story I keep talking about; maybe I'll have a few minutes to do so at the office tomorrow. I would do it now, but with the foggy state of my brain, I wouldn't trust myself to get the voice correct. Or even spell correctly.

The last major decision of the evening is going to be whether I start The Once and Future King or Love in the Time of Cholera. I really should try to finish Love, so I'll give it one more shot.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

The Horror! The Horror!

Liz went to a training session at the Humane Society (she's going to do some volunteer work) which meant I had a perfect 2-hour window in which I could do things that I can't normally do while she's here. Namely, watch horror movies!

I popped in Cronenberg's The Brood, which I'd never seen but found for $7.99 one day at Best Buy. Anyone who thinks Canadians are abnormally peaceful folks without a repressed bone in their bodies should watch this movie - it hit all the good horror aspects without being clunky at all. You've got sinister, deformed little monsters; psychologists fucking with their patients' minds; and gruesome murders. All in 92 minutes! I got my money's worth! Not flashy-creepy like some of the more slick Holly-horror we've seen lately, but great, b-budget, top-notch writing horror that involves you. If I sit up tonight thinking about the monsters, then I'll know it's a good horror flick.

I should get some work done around the house. I should probably take a shower. Liz just walked in, so that may very well be in my near-future.

To the Publishers!

I'm very proud of myself. Two nights ago, I put my insomnia to good use and polished up a story, rolled out a pretty good cover letter, and sent them to "Fantasy and Science Fiction." I also have a very solid idea for finishing another story that I started back in March. Now, I just need some solid ideas for new stories to start, and I'll be back in the saddle. My goal is to try to write one story a month. That's pretty ambitious considering I still need to work on my novel (before I head back to Tulsa for Christmas, too), but I think it's workable. It means that weekends and evenings need an hour or two set aside for writing - I can (accurately) call this "mental health time."

Last night I watched Aliens. I forgot how cool that movie was. Its showing its age, but it's still goddamn good. I found a nice 20% off coupon from Deep Discount DVD, so I called Liz and asked her what movies she'd like and I ordered several. Aside from the Star Trek films, these will complete my "want" list. I ended up getting them almost 50% off with the combined deals, which is pretty sweet. I just discovered that the DVD Player I want has dropped from $650 to $350. I think there might be some hardware in my near-future, too. Gosh I love having a well-paying job!

Friday, December 05, 2003


I finished Neverwhere last night. My impressions were that I should have read it before American Gods. Neverwhere shared way too much with Neil's later book, and to me it just seemed like an early draft. It wasn't bad, but Neil explores a lot of the same themes (a kind of clueless main charactger in a magical world he doesn't understand but ends up helping save). Some of the characters were strikingly similar as well.

Neil Gaiman is no doubt one of the most creative writers I've read, and I would be the first to postulate that his works redefine Magical Realism. But at the same time, he tends to get into a rut, and you begin to think, gee, I've read this before. That's why I'm digging "1602" (his current series in Marvel comics) so much - it's different for Gaiman.

I saw Neverwhere on DVD and I was tempted to get it, but I didn't like the book enough to spend money on the DVD. On the other hand, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy may be in my near-future.

I'm going to work on a short story so I can submit it to a magazine. I feel like I've put the creative writing thing on hold, with the exception of my serial novel, and I shouldn't have. Which means I have to go back to my least-favorite writing exercise: the cover letter. Grr.

Oh, yeah: I watched Alien, and for some reason that movie seemed a lot scarier when I was a kid. Liz is really getting sick, and I feel a bit like I might be coming down with Round 2 of what I had before. I hope to fuck not.

No Big Rants

I promise not to get nearly as political as I did yesterday. Today was a great day. I'm home and Liz is down sick, but she still wants to watch Alien with me later, so that's good. The Simpsons are on in 30 so I don't have much time to try to finish everything I wanted to do tonight.

So yes, today was a great day. I got a lot of shit done, including my first task that was done before the deadline, as opposed to on the deadline. I'm exceptionally happy about that - it will make firefighting much easier. If I can continue this trend, then I can master this job. The first waves of the Crimson Skies promotional cards came in. I got to write copy for about 20 of these cards (there are 55 in the set), and so far the continuity folks only changed one as far as I could tell (the one where I make a reference to my old chum Andy Cole - damn it!) There's still a nice reference to Kenyon College in there, though. As far as actual game design goes, I did several scenarios, and they turned out looking really good. I also did some weather effects cards, which are pretty cool in their own right, except I found a place where they printed the wrong copy on one of the cards. D'oh.

Then I get home, and what's waiting for me but my Leapin' Hulk that I ordered from my company back in June. I guess December isn't too late. Well, alright, it is pretty damn late, but at least I got it. And, I got the last two Heresy cards I needed for my set - I've got the entire thing! Woohoo!

I had a great lunch at Moghul Palace (this Indian buffet place near my office) today, but I overate and it was a late one, so dinner should be light.

OK, I've got 15 minutes to take care of my other shit.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

This post has been removed.

Opinion Zone

I've only been marginally keeping track of the news stories surrounding Nathaniel Jones, the man who recently died in a hospital shortly after Cincinnati police subdued him by beating him with metal nightsticks. Of course, the black community in Cincinnati is up in arms, which is understandable considering the horrific treatment of black people there by police in the past. However, it looks like Mr. Jones may not be a fight they want to pursue.

The autopsy on Mr. Jones - who was overweight to the tune of 350 lbs. and had blood pressure trouble - revealed that he had both cocaine and PCP in his system, and that his heart was grossly oversized. Apparently, it just gave out. When you're doing that much speed, that's not really a surprise. I'm overweight (not close to 350 lbs.) and have blood pressure problems, and I couldn't imagine doing some kind of speed that would speed up my heart rate - I feel awful if I don't take my blood pressure meds on a daily basis. Apparently, it was a pattern behavior for Mr. Jones, and he danced around the White Castle for a while before walking outside and rolling down a hill - after which the cops were called. Clearly not the actions of a person whose brain is free of chemical influence.

So all of this is a very polite way of saying that Mr. Jones was basically a dipshit druggie, not a poster child for civil rights abuses. Anyone with high blood pressure, who takes two forms of speed, qualifies as a dipshit, and anyone with pattern behaviors of drug use qualifies as a druggie, so I stand firm by my derogatory label. When Mr. Jones' heart finally decided it had enough of supporting his weight and drug habit and rebelled against it, I wonder what was going through his chemical-sodden brain at the time. My guess is, not much, because if you're so fucking stupid to start that shit in the first place then you probably don't have a lot going on much beyond the brain stem.

Told you it was an opinion zone.

Props to Bob

Props to Bob for discovering (read: blogging) that Rhymezone isn't just a Shakespeare search tool, but a multi-purpose search engine where you can scour literary works, quotations, and (it seems) the entire English language!

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Grand Theft Lawsuits

Although it's been a year since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City came out, the second lawsuit in as many months may be on the horizon, courtesy of the Haitian and Cuban populations who say that the game singles out their ethnic groups and may have "incited [note the past tense!] hate crimes." The news article, which erroneously calls the game Grand Theft Auto III at some point (which shows how educated these people are about the game itself, when they can't even get their hyperbole remotely correct), also quotes a Cuban source as saying: "They've made money out of the blood and tears of a whole nation."

You know what's amazing? Recall a game called "Ethnic Cleansing?" No? It was a first-person shooter that came out on Martin Luther King day of this year. Made by Resistance Records, who are responsible for promoting White Supremacist music to all kinds of poor white trash and anyone else who will listen and drop a few bucks. In it, hook-nosed Jews try to steal your money and you blow them away. Blacks, who resemble gorillas more than human beings, say a few stereotypical "black" things. And the entire point of the game is to walk around and shoot these "lesser" human beings.

As one review put it, "I'll guarantee you'll not find any other game out there that will satisfy your urge to blow away some Mexicans, Hebes, and Simian-Americans after a bad day in multi-cultural la-la-land." The same reviewer tried the game because "Of course we know the Anti-Defamation League is upset, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is upset - heck, anything with a yarmulke is upset. Reason enough for me to order a copy and give it a try." Note that the coward didn't even have the balls to attach his name to the review.

So riddle me this: why is it that these groups are going after Vice City for fictional reasons (the object of the game is not to kill Haitians and Cubans, or to wrest control of the city from either: anyone who has actually played the game knows that you work for both groups at one point), but they don't attempt to sue Resistance Records for making a game designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to "satisfy your urge to blow away some Mexicans, Hebes, and Simian-Americans after a bad day in multi-cultural la-la-land."

I'm sure money is not a motivating factor here, since Rockstar made lots and Resistance made little. No, not at all.

If you're done being revulsed at the hypocrisy from these specimens of leftist idiocy (this is why I don't like to call myself a liberal, folks), then go be revulsed at some of the specimens of right-wing idiocy who play games like Ethnic Cleansing. Then, go home and pop in Vice City and play a real game, for all the right reasons. And hope that clucking protectors of morality, who end up chasing money like a Republican making a campaign speech to a Southern church, end up in the same hot place.

That was why I liked Morris Dees, the civil rights attorney who spoke at Drury. He may have made more money suing Rockstar Games for some imagined infraction, but instead he bankrupted a white supremacist militia - in short, he did the right thing. These groups - money grubbing assholes.

Fun With Religion, Onion Style

One of the funniest religious concepts is the notion of a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." I don't know how many times I've heard that term - on the religion channel, talking with classmates in high school, at high-school assemblies where these classmates were honored as prom queens and homecoming kings, and in the office where I was a social worker helping these classmates escape abusive situations or dishing out evil, liberal food stamps because they couldn't support the five kids they squeezed out in the four years while I was at college.

Now, The Onion offers an even funnier look at these kinds of folks. Enjoy.

Strange Days

Here's an article about a "miracle" baby born in Bethlehem. No, not that one.

"The boy has gained attention for being born with a large birthmark across his cheek that roughly forms in Arabic letters the name of his uncle, Ala, a Hamas militant killed by Israeli troops after he was suspected of having planned a suicide bombing. The family, devout Muslims, called it a divine message of support for the Palestinians against Israel, although some local Christians preparing for subdued Christmas observances have quietly dismissed it as lacking religious significance."

I'm the last person in the world to believe in divine signs, but I think if God were going to send one, He might do so to tell the Israelis that just because they were targets of human rights abuses doesn't make it OK to do the same unto others.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Ancient d20 Gaming

No, it's not an expansion, it's a 20-sided dice from the Roman era.

When Reading Becomes a Chore

I'm not liking Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere very much. As I've said before, I see it as somewhat amateur, a less-refined version of American Gods. I'm maybe halfway through it, but I plan to finish if I can. I'm already trying to put off Love in the Time of Cholera, but I've still got it on my bedstand, waiting patiently. I dug out my collection of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories, and I've got it by the toilet in the front bathroom. His stories are all short enough that they make perfect bathroom reading. On one hand, I feel bad that I'm using the fictions of a man widely regarded as re-invigorating the short story genre as bathroom reading, but on the other I think this is the only way I'm ever going to finish reading them.

I'm supposed to be done with the next chapter of Crocodile Man, but I haven't even started it yet. That, and the fact that I haven't tinkered around with that short story the way I said I would. That, and the fact that my Skull & Bones campaign runs tonight, and I realized that I'm missing some important aspects of how to DM in 3rd Ed. - namely, how to make up monsters on the fly.

If there is one thing vacations are good for, it's reminding you of how much stuff you promised yourself to do and then turned around and blew off.

On the upside, everything at work is due by the end of the week. On the downside, everything at work is due by the end of the week.

Shakespeare Resources

Here's something cool: a totally searchable (and browsable) Complete Works of Shakespeare. Woohoo!

Taking a Breather at Work

I should be working, but I'm taking a break. I guess I could consider it my lunch break, since I didn't get one of those today. It's only 4:52, so I guess that's only a little late.

First of all, and I don't know whether this is big exciting news or not, I'm going to be a co-translator of a Polish RPG called Neuroshima. The game itself looks pretty cool - it's a post-apocalyptic RPG, which I totally dig - and one of the designers contacted me because he worked with me some on my Fallout game. So I translated a little bit of it, which he turned into their design team, and they really liked it, so they asked me to do the whole thing. It's funny because I don't know Polish, so I'm going to work with this guy who will translate the book into rough English, and then I'll take it from there and make it all pretty-sounding. Not a bad gig, I guess, and it will be a hell of a credit if they publish it stateside.

I found this site today, called Move On. It's a grassroots site that apparently has a lot of Republicans up in arms because of its overwhelming success. A totally online movement, Move On sponsors grassroots efforts to oust the Bush administration and, well, move on. If you're into that kind of thing, it's worth a look.

Random thought for the day: I find Paris Hilton attractive in that same trailer trash, sleazy way I find Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera attractive, but I think the Fox show she does where she lives with a family in Arkansas is one of the most bigoted things to hit television since conservatives turning fire hoses on civil rights protesters in the 1960s. There's sleaze, and then there's sleaze. Some can be tolerated and even appreciated, and some... well... no.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Sir Smarms-A-Lot

You know what I really hate? Smarmy salespeople. If I might buy something from you, the last thing I want is for you to talk down to me and act superior. Nothing is a bigger turn-off.

Random thought of the day: if you're selling something to someone, try and act like that person is very important, because they are if you care about the sale.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Lynch Mob

Well, Crabby flew out at 6:20 AM this morning, which meant that we got up at 4:15 to leave the house at 4:30 to get him to Sea-Tac at 5:00. Which meant that I went back to bed for some more good sleep. Now, it's really late and I don't want to get up early tomorrow for work. Damn.

As many of you know, I like director David Lynch quite a bit. I found this article on, a Lynch fan / analysis site. The article deals with Rabbits, a series that runs on DL's own website, but it has some interesting analysis of Lynch's other works by proxy. I don't agree with a lot of what the critic says, including the over-psychoanalytic, Freudian look at Lynch's use of animals, but this part stuck out for me:

"Mysteries are of course a quintessential theme that enables him to evade narrative resolution and concentrate on mood and atmosphere."

I don't know that I agree with this statement, either, but it's certainly something to think about. I don't know that Lynch evades narrative resolution, but I would certainly say that Lynch focuses less on narrative than mood and atmosphere, and the underlying theme of the films (my thesis is that the underlying themes of almost all of Lynch's films are normal people put into extraordinary circumstances).

In other news, I picked up Neverwhere again after taking a break to read Snow Crash. I like Neverwhere far less than I liked American Gods, and it has a certain "first novel" feel to it. My plan is to finish it and then try Love in the Time of Cholera again, or hit The Once and Future King.

Oh yeah: I came up six cards short of my Heresy set, and thanks to the trading site I mentioned before, I should complete my collection by next week! Woot! Today, I'm going to play in a Game of Thrones tournament. I'll have to bug Kytte about entering results from the last tournament, because my standings haven't changed and that is unacceptable.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, Liz is on the second book in the series. And she likes them. I'm going to try to get her to read James Morrow's "God" trilogy next.

One last thing of note: I just saw the half-page Opus cartoon in the Sunday paper. I'm so glad to see Berke Breathed back doing what he should be doing. Now, if I can just find a perfect MP3 of the songs from Billy and the Boingers Bootleg.

Calvin and Hobbes

Ever wonder what happened to Bill Watterson, who wrote Calvin and Hobbes (and a Kenyon graduate?) Check this out. Thanks to Mark Evanier's blog for the link.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Books and Stuff

So while we're waiting for the car to get fixed (it's too long of a story to repeat again), Liz and Crabby and I are getting ready to host a nice Thanksgiving dinner with Angela and John. We've got a 20 pound turkey. That's a lot of skin for me to eat! Crabby and I have alternated playing Vice City all morning. It's been a great day so far. Hopefully, the old hoopty won't cost too much to fix.

I finished Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash last night. It's a cyberpunk novel in the same vein as Neuromancer, but it's everything I wanted Neuromancer to be. I found Gibson's book hard to get into, pompous, and overrated, while Snow Crash did it right. After all, how can you not like a novel whose main character is Hiro Protagonist?

I wish I had more to share today, but I don't. I'm going to eat some turkey in about ten minutes, so I'll sign off and wish everyone else good wishes.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Day Shenanigans

As President Bush flew to Badhdad today for a surprise Thanksgiving "feast" / photo op with American soldiers, the Associated Press is reporting that the United States has arrested and imprisoned the wife and child of a suspected Iraqi rebel leader. If the was wasn't about Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was the first lie, then it sure was hell wasn't to liberate the Iraqis either - because arresting family members is one of the reasons why Saddam was so fucking bad in the first place. Congratulations and happy Turkey Day, Bush. You can't find Osama. You lied about Iraq's weapons. You can't find Saddam. And you imprison children just like the dictator you're supposed to be superior to.

You know what, George Dumbya Bush? Fuck you. Enjoy your last few months in office.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Back, But Sick

No clever title today - I'm back from Wizard World Texas, but I'm sick. It was a great convention, but I managed to catch the Texas Mung on the last day of the con. It's strange because I'm shifting from periods of feeling totally shitty, where my head hurts and my joints ache so much that I don't want to move, to periods of feeling fine except for slightly congested sinuses. It's bullshit. I hate being sick.

Crabby is coming into town any time now (in fact, his flight arrives right... now). I'm looking forward to a great Turkey Day with him. Angela and John should be coming over too, so it should be a blast.

I finished sorting my Heresy cards, and I'm only 6 rares short of the entire set. Luckily, I found a great trading site where people get together to swap CCGs, CMGs, and TCGs with equal fervor. I plan to make an account there - a lot of people trade old, out of print games like Heresy. Maybe I can finish my INWO: Assassins set, too! And get the last few pieces I need for my MechWarrior army.

I don't really have any fun or witty comments to make today, but I'll share this, courtesy of Mark Evanier's blog. On this site you can find the entire collection of "Godless Communist" comics put out by the Catholic Church in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Someone should do a study comparing these with Chick Tracts someday.

On a sadder note, 27-year-old actor Johnathan Brandis apparently committed suicide the other day by hanging himself. I liked Sidekicks quite a bit as a teenager. What a waste.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


I'm waiting for my ride to the airport to go to Wizard World Texas, and going through the 4500-some Heresy: Kingdom Come cards that arrived last night. I bought them off eBay, and I expected them to be cherry-picked of the rares and chock-full of commons. Believe it or not, they seem to be exactly what was advertised: a collection that someone used to play with. I've gone through the first quarter of them, and it's only missing two rares - plus, there are lots of duplicates of rares for trading purposes. Needless to say, I lucked out. The art on these cards is fantastic, and someday I'd like to write a novel based in this universe - the idea of angels and demons expelled from Heaven and Hell into a futuristic, decaying world is enticing to say the least.

Oh, and I think I've rescended my "no driving" pledge. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Ready for Texas

I'm ready, ready to get out of the office and away from the inevitable fires that sprout and just get out and watch some games. Maybe even play in one or two of them.

Last night, Elizabeth surprised me (I love it when she does that). She knew the girls' names on the second Joe Millionaire. She also knew his name, his backstory, and what happened in the last episodes. I wouldn't have thought that reality TV would be her cuppa, but there you go. I dusted off Vice City and gave it another spin. I've been working on finishing the Unique Jumps. I've got 7 more to go, and then I'm going to play Crazy Taxi (with the VC taxis) or the Firetruck missions. One good thing about losing my PS2 Memory Card: I can test how much better I've gotten at Vice City, because I'm ripping through the game in a quarter of the time.

Oh yes, and I wrote almost 2000 words on Crocodile Man last night - so Chapter 9 went off to the editor. That means I've written around 90,000 words - probably more, but I know some will be lost in the first revision! Only three more chapters to go! Damn!

Monday, November 17, 2003

From the Chicken or the Egg Department

According to this article, racism makes you stupid. Not to be one to disagree with medical science, but my sense is that stupid people tend to be racist.

No More Driving

Afer yesterday, I have sworn off driving in Seattle. If I need to go somewhere on my own that isn't in Bellevue, I'm taking the bus. Otherwise, Liz and drive.

Allow me to explain.

We decided to go to Beth's a world-famous greasy spoon cafe over in Seattle on Aurora Ave (99). I'd been once before, right after moving here. This would be great, we thought, because my Game of Thrones tournament was at 12:30 in the UD, and we should have no problem making it there if we got to the cafe at 11. Or so we thought. It took us an hour to get our food, which our friends agreed afterwards was atrocious. We took about 15 minutes to wolf it down (there are huge omlettes we're talking about) and busted out the door. My original plan was to backtrack up to 85h street, because I knew it went back to I-5 and down to the UD. Instead, I decided to take Aurora down to 50th (the street the comic shop was on) and cut over, even though I'd never done that before.


See, Aurora has an enormous concrete barrier in the middle of it that prevents you from turning left for quite a ways - from about 75th until you hit downtown. Then, it turns into Alaskan Way and becomes the viaduct, so you can't get off as you're four stories above the street. The first chance you have to exit is the ferry terminal, which also happens to be the exit for Safeco Field and Seahawks Stadium - so imagine how that looked right before yesterday's Seahawks game. The next chance you have to exit is another five miles down this concrete ribbon onto the West Seattle Freeway - which takes you directly into the harbor. This is where I found myself and finally got to turn around to head back to I-5. Which I then sat in traffic on for a good 15 minutes.

Long story short, a trip that should have taken 10 minutes tops took 45 minutes, and ruined my chances of placing in the tournament (I placed 4th out of 7th, because I got a bye in the first round). And, I felt really stupid for getting lost and absolutely enraged at the idiocy which apparently went into designing this city's road system. If I had been a tourist and done this, I doubt I would have found my way back.

So, I made a vow: no more driving. Unless there's an emergency.

I'll reconsider in a few days, but I'm to the point where I'm utterly sick of dealing with this. I'd rather leave it to a bus driver.

After the Game of Thrones tournament, Liz and I met up with Chad and Kytte down at the Irish Emigrant, a great little pub that features really cheap pub food around happy hour, so you can eat and drink a pitcher of beer for about $10. We had a great time hanging out for a couple hours, and then Liz and I (Liz, with me riding) drove back to Bellevue and wrapped up our DnD adventure. I hope the game continues, although it's more because I want to continue playing my character than any other reason - it's my first necromancer, and I haven't had this much fun playing a character for a long time.

After that, we came back and I finished the evening by reading my haul of comics. The only one that really sticks out in my mind as "great" is Waid's Fantastic Four. When a writer consistently amazes you with the new directions he's taking a comic that's on its 506th issue, that is a good thing.

Now, I have work. Only for two days this week, though, and then I head to Dallas for Wizard World Texas: my last convention as an "Organized Play" representative. Fun!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Longest Name Ever

I did two great things today: I met up with Karissa, an old friend from college, and I saw Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (a title which I will only type in its entirety once). Both were excellent ways to spend a day.

Karissa is one of the greatest free spirits I know. We met up with her at a cafe called Zeitgeist (!) just off of Pioneer Square. The trip there was Liz's first time on the Seattle bus, so she got to see how that worked. We spent a great couple of hours with Karissa catching up, telling each other what we're up to and how we feel about it. She's working for a nonprofit in New Orleans and living in the French Quarter. She gets to work from home and is doing great things with money from the Big Tobacco settlement. She seemed very happy, although she said that she doesn't plan to do it forever, which doesn't surprise me one bit.

We had a great time catching up. The cafe was nice, too - their bathroom was amazingly clean for a cafe. And they had little lumps of brown sugar (to flavor the coffee, of course, but I popped a couple of them whole).

After that, Liz and I headed back to Bellevue and met up with Brook and Wendi and Chad for Master. It deserves every good review it's received. Crowe does a great job acting, and the entire film plays like a meticulously crafted History Channel piece on Naval life and an English captain rather than a standard Hollywood action movie (the wooden ship's don't explode when hit by cannonballs!) I read that the studio invested quite a bit of money in the film ($130 million) in the hope that it would be like "another Gladiator." Thank God it isn't - it is so much better, it actually makes Gladiator (which I thought was OK, but didn't particularly care for) look a lot worse. I would highly recommend seeing this film - it's worth a full-price ticket.

Afterwards, the five of us wandered to a nearby mall with the most international and eclectic food court I've ever seen. I passed up a killer Russian place and a very good Mexican place for a very good barbeque place.

Tonight I'm going to either read, play a video game, or write. It will probably end up being a little bit of all three. Not a bad evening. I've had a raging headache all day, so anything to take my mind off of it would be nice.

What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: Time - The Alan Parsons Project
Movie: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Something Wicked This Way Comes!

I typically don't post stuff like this, but a treaser for the new Harry Potter flick is available online. Gary Oldman plays Sirius Black - what a great choice! Oldman's one of my all-time favorite actors. I have a feeling this one may be better than Columbus' two; we'll see.


Sadism. It's either me checking forums at almost 9 on a Friday night, or it's the movie I just watched. Tonight, it's the later.

I just finished watching Quills, a slightly Hollywood-ized bio-drama about the Marquis de Sade. This movie got incredible reviews a couple of years ago when it came out, and Kate Winslet is one of my favorite actresses. And yet, it was on the discount rack at Best Buy for $4.99 the other day when I went to pick up a copy of Carpenter's The Fog. So I picked it up on impulse. Value-wise, it was worth it.

Historical accuracy means nothing here. It's really an exploration of sexuality, pornography, and the value and danger of ideas. I've read several of de Sade's stories, and while they certainly don't hold a candle to the almost endless quantity of pornographic writing one can download for free on the Internet, they do represent a specific challenge to a status quo unimaginable to me in a day when I can download a home movie of Paris Hilton and Shannon Doherty's boyfriend by typing three words into Kazaa.

It is this feeling that the film attempts to capture, and does a decent job of it. It is more violent than it is sexual (a phrase some would use to describe de Sade's writing anyway), and it's more a study of the priest played by Joaquin Phoenix and his descent into insanity. It's about censorship and de Sade's burning desire to write, and the lengths he went through to place his thoughts on paper, for someone - anyone - to read. In a way, it was more about artistry and the dangers of creativity than anything else. And that's a good thing.

I don't think the film is as good as many people made it out to be, although it was very good. So far, I don't think Joaquin Phoenix has done a bad job acting - the range of characters he can effectively protray is amazing. Quills seemed very self-aware from time to time, although never to a fault. Overall, it was satisfying, but there isn't much to say about it that hasn't been said before - the themes are old and unfortunately it really didn't offer anything new to the discussion.

Oh well. I wonder what David Lynch's next film will be?

What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: People are Strange - Covered by Echo and the Bunnymen
Movie: Quills

Friday Afternoon

Most of my work is done for the day, so I'm kind of cooling my heels until the HeroClix FAQs and revised rules go live in a few minutes. Then, I get to watch the forums light up for a while. Everyone in the office is sick (including some people still here, which worries me greatly), so the faster I can get out of here tonight, the better I'll feel. I'm not walking tonight since I have some boxes to take home and like the grand moron I am, I forgot my backpack.

This weekend looks like fun: Karissa is coming in for a wedding, and we're meeting her for Vegan food tomorrow. That's not a nationality, it's a way of making food without any animals or animal products. Dorcas provided me with a great list of restaurants (none of them Vegan, though), so I have a feeling that dining out will be a large force in my near-future.

Saturday, that boat movie that has been getting good reviews. As a funny side note, everything that the first two reviews of it said was good, the Seattle PI reviewer said was bad. I chuckled when I read that this morning. Sunday, the Game of Thrones tournament. And next week, I depart for Wizard World Texas. That should be plenty cool - Indy HeroClix World Championships, and hanging out with Larry and David and Wrich. I'm going to try to get my greedy paws on some Fantastic Four bookends while I'm there, too, so I can bring some books for my desk at work as reference materials.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Dark City vs. The Matrix

It's time to talk about movies again! I love movies. Well, I like talking about movies after an annoying day at the office. It was damn busy, and I'm suffering from a major lack of feedback about how I'm performing my new job. You know, even a "you suck, improve!" would be better than nothing. But I digress.

I frequent a movie forum from time to time, which is thankfully not like the forum portrayed in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Someone posted a link to this site, which is in Spanish but contains some pictures comparing the films Dark City and The Matrix. The site's thesis is laid out in these three paragraphs, which I have put through Babelfish:

"The difference between original and a good plagiarism is that this one lacks all merit. "The Matrix" (The Wachowsky Brothers, 1999) is I trace in all the aspects of "Dark City" (Alex Proyas, 1998). History, the photo grafía, the atmosphere, the coloration, the illumination... everything has been copied, until very precise details. But while "The Matrix" has been a full success, "Dark City "is almost unnoticed past. Therefore, this tra- under it does not try another thing that to do a little of justice to the wonderful film that is the ORIGINAL one.

If you have the two films by hand, we recommended to you interesting experiment: To see "Dark City" first and "The Matrix "later... considering that is a year of dife-rencia between both productions.

But if you do not have both films by hand, a look throws to these 30 graphs. In each one of them it is compared photogram of "Dark City" (to the left), and of "The Ma- trix "(to the right). They are only some of I suspect them sas coincidences that exist between both films; in reality are many more, but you will become a good idea."

You get the idea. The claim is that Matrix totally ripped off Dark City. Although I like both films a lot, and I think Dark City is one of the best science fiction films ever created, I disagree with this website's claim for several reasons.

First, the pictures only present framed, still shots. This is how the film looks on a storyboard - and both films obviously borrow quite a bit from comic books both in style and cinematography (Proyas' earlier film, The Crow, was an adaptation of a comic series). Aside from some similar objects - all taken pretty far out of context - all this proves is that both movies look like comic books. In truth, they both borrow from Tim Burton's earlier work, like Beetlejuice and Batman, the later of which is also a comic adaptation (which borrows from 50s and 60s sci-fi, which borrows from 20s flicks like Metropolis, which borrows from illustrated penny dreadfuls of the last century, which... etc.)

Second, the content. Both films have a startlingly similar story: a guy suddenly "wakes up" and discovers that his powers are greater than those belonging to other people around him, and he uses these powers to free the people around him by overthrowing some kind of oppressor. Now, the term "archetype" is bandied about far too often, especially in popular intellectual circles, but here its application bears merit: this is one of the oldest types of stories ever told. It is the basis for many cowboy stories and movies (think Shane - it's all there!) And it comes from one of the oldest kinds of stories told on the planet - the story of spiritual advancement. The Bhagavad Gita, the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the story of the Buddha, all of these fit this model as well. Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" - more of the same. To claim that Matrix stole plot ideas from Dark City is a little farfetched. If the plots seem similar, it's only because the stories upon which they are based are such an integral part of global consciousness, we cannot help but retell them, whether it's the fantasy knight, the sharpshooting cowboy, or even a teenaged superhero.

Back in college, someone presented a paper at a research conference that basically argued the same thing, and I didn't agree with it then either. I think it's a shame that more people haven't heard of Dark City, and that Rufus Sewell (who I met in London, and who is an outstanding human being) hasn't been cast in many movies since (A Knight's Tale doesn't count, but guess what, it fits the archetype!)

I should probably spend my writing time working on my novel. This weekend, I'm going to see the well-reviewed Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, whose title is far too long for American advertising. Plus, it doesn't follow the gerund-proper noun formula. Hopefully this means that I will have the theater to myself.

What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: Son of a Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield
Movie: Watched the first part of Quills last night - will no doubt have more to say on this later.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


At least tonight's insomnia didn't wait until 2 AM to strike - this time, it just didn't let me get to sleep at all. I should probably think of something witty to write about, but nothing's coming to mind.

I am thinking about my Skull & Bones game from Tuesday, though. We had our first formal meeting, after a smokey but delicious dinner at Denny's (where I ordered something other than Moons). The campaign is shaping up nicely. We've got a Voodoo priestess who casts her spells using a Voodoo doll; a half-English, half-Dutch navigator; a Spanish military deserter; an English fop; and an Irish girl disguised as a cabin boy who is learning the art of surgery. The NPCs round out the party: the first mate (who will soon be captain) is an English adventurer, and the Bo'sun (soon to be first mate) is a slightly off-his-rocker Brit who calls himself Commodore and has adorned his uniform with hundreds of military medals and honors. Yes, it's going to be a great campaign. There is only one spellcaster, and her class is pretty weak in Skull & Bones, but I don't anticipate that will be a problem - on the contrary, it will be interesting to play a campaign that is almost entirely fighters and fighting classes.

I'm starting to get sleepy. That's a good thing.

We finished organizing our books tonight, which means that we're almost done unpacking. The last few things we have to do involve selling a few things on Ebay, donating a few books we have duplicates of to the library, and picking up a few loose odds and ends. I hope to finish this before Crabby gets here for Thanksgiving, which is going to rock. I have to plan a nature hike for that - if the weather is good enough, we may ramble down to Mt. Rainier. Brook and Wendi have a book of local hikes, so I'll see if I can borrow that.

Speaking of Wendi, she lent me a great book called Silverlock by John Myers Myers (not a typo). Silverlock has been out of print since the 70s, but it is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of fantasy literature. In it, the main and title character finds himself shipwrecked on an island continent inhabited by hundreds of figures, places, and scenes from Western literature that all interact with each other. Half the fun is finding what the reference is; the other half is the happy-go-lucky story. Anyway, Wendi lent me her copy and I read it and liked it, and then she gave me a copy yesterday afternoon that she found at a book sale. It was a great find - it's in pretty good shape, and has that old book smell of dry paper and aged glue. It now has a place of honor on my fantasy shelf.

Before I tried to go to sleep tonight I finished George R. R. Martin's novella The Hedge Knight, which is supposedly being rendered as a comic book but no one has ever seen anything but the first issue. Anyway, it was a nice companion piece to his Song of Ice and Fire series, even though it was much more of a PG-13 story. It appeared in the Legends collection that Michael Victorine got me as part of the Terry Goodkind series he gave me as a present before I graduated. Speaking of, I just realized I never finished reading that series, just like I didn't finish reading the Green Angel Tower series that Jessica started me on in London. I guess I don't have a very good record on finishing fantasy series'.

Before I tried to lay down for some Z's, I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera again. This is supposedly a fantastic book. It's written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who also wrote 100 Years of Solitude, one of my all-time favorites. I read the bulk of that book on the train from London to Edinburgh. But, I've tried reading Cholera twice and failed. The first time, I got about 50 pages into it and quit. The second time, I made it about 60 pages and quit. This time, I'm determined to finish the book. I even skipped ahead a little to give myself some incentive to keep reading. I really enjoy the magical realism Marquez uses (it's certainly something that has appeared in my own writing), so you'd think I could finish the damn book, but so far no luck.

On that note, my eyelids are feeling droopy. It's past midnight. If I'm lucky I can still get six hours of sleep.

More Walkin'

My lifestyle changes are going well. Today, I ate a nice lunch, four slices of pizza, and only ate 3 pieces of candy: one square of caramel, one piece of licorice, and one peppermint patty. And I walked home. I feel... good.

Today was incredibly busy, but I got an amazing amount of work done. Hopefully, I still have some juice in me to write. I've been sleeping terribly the last few nights.

And that's all. I may blog about something that's been gnawing at my mind all day, but it will be later tonight if I get the chance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


I got my Juggernaut figure from Hard Hero today. It's amazing! The X-Men Evolution figures they do blow my mind - I've got the Magneto statue as well, and it is easily my favorite Magneto (I don't particularly care for Bowen's Magneto busts or the way overpriced Magneto-Sentinel statue).

I really hope that Hard Hero continues to make more X-Men Evolution characters. I particularly like that they've made some of the rare characters, like Juggy and Captain America, who have only appeared in one or two episodes. In fact, the next time I do a trade with them it will probably be for Cap.

Two From the Love and Lust Department

According to this story, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt purchased nude photos of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the girl that the Right is trying to make into a PR symbol for the increasingly despicable "war" in Iraq. I think the best thing I read about this was Elizabeth's comment after I emailed her about it:

"I'm not sure i agree with his methodology, but the man's got a point. And if you were flocking with army guys nearly naked and let them take pics of you, well what the hell do you expect to have happen- at minimum they share the pics with all of their friends and half of a company would be whacking off to you every night- at least this way it's part of a political statement.

I can't believe I just said that, but I'm pretty sure I agree with what I just wrote."

I agree, too.

Also from the Love and Lust department, there is a 19 year old intern at my wife's office she describes as a "floozy." I like that word, I like it a lot. To make matters worse, this poor girl's name is Addie Lust. I'm not making that up. If my last name were Lust, I wouldn't name my daughter something that sounded like a porn star's name. I'm sure there's a joke or three in there, but I'm too busy at work to make them.

A Blow to Faux News - They Distort, and Deride!

Here's a transcript of the brief courtroom proceedings before the Fox News lawsuit against Al Franken over the use of the words "fair and balanced" was thrown out. I'm so glad there are still some sane people in this country.

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, a day we're supposed to remember those who sacrificed their lives (or simply served) to ensure our freedom. With it comes the usual inconveniences: the mail is in limbo today, so the set of Illuminati: Assassins that my friend Dave sent me won't be delivered until tomorrow, and the big box of Heresy: Kingdom Come cards I bought off Ebay is stuck somewhere likewise. It meant that I had to filter through several email forwards (you know the kind) from an overzealous family member.

Way back in the day, I wrote an article for the Drury Mirror about Veteran's Day. I still agree with most of it, but the world is obviously a different place today. 86,000 soldiers were just added to our forces in the Gulf and Afghanistan. One of Liz's coworker's relatives is going - he's 59 years old and a grandfather, but because President Bush changed the retirement qualifications for the National Guard, he can no longer retire until the year 2033. Although with the way the government treats our veterans, he may be better off in active duy.

And that's really the problem. This is not politically correct, but I'm going to say it anyway: most of our veterans did not fight for "our freedom." They fought for Europe's freedom (twice), South Korea's freedom, Vietnam's freedom, Kuwait's freedom, and Afghanistan and Iraq's freedom. Sure, you can say that they fought to ensure the world is a safe place for us to drive Ford Incursion SUVs without worrying about paying $2 a gallon for gas, or that their proactive stance against al-Qaeda is ensuring our freedom to live without fear of airliners flying into our buildings. But those premises are faulty as well - as the Clinton administration demonstrated, active cooperation with the CIA to bring terrorists to justice works, while invading their countries only seems to steel their resolve and offer a temporary setback. It does secure oil rights, however, and allows those who would tell us to live in fear to appear to do something to alleviate the situation. But are these wars like the Civil War, or the American Revolution? Not as I see it. Those wars were indeed fought for American freedom. These others... maybe. But it's a stretch.

Does that mean we should not honor our vets? No freakin' way. If some country were to invade us - China, for example - it would be a war for our freedom, and they would be the first to defend us. Most of us would pick up our shotguns and be there right alongside them, of course, but they would be there first. That takes balls. Now this did happen in World War II, in Alaska, but we never hear much about it (the Aleutian campaign to regain those frozen rocks was one of the bloodiest of the war in terms of the percentage of casualties).

I'm currently emailing back and forth with a member of our armed forces stationed in Afghanistan. More precisely, he's a guard at the American embassy in Kabul. This is probably the most dangerous place in Afghanistan to be, since it's the most obvious target for al-Qaeda to attack as a symbol of the United States. Every time I write him, I want to tell him to keep safe and not to die, but it's not my place. It's his decision, and one he made knowing full well what the ramifications would be. For that, he and every other vet deserves to be honored. Not for the reasons the television tells me to pay homage to these fine human beings, but because they are fine human beings. They are going to come home and try to make normal lives, and ghosts of war will haunt them forever. That, I do not envy.

I'm not going to go through the ritual motions of honor being led by the new American priests in the White House and on Fox News. I'm going to email my friend in Afghanistan today and tell him that I appreciate everything he and every soldier he knows does. I'm going to offer him some free WizKids stuff, because I have stuff like that to give away. And I'm going to hope that, when it arrives in a couple of months, it finds him safe.

Walkin' Dude Part 2

Well, not a bad walk. About 45 minutes. The rain held off, so the only thing I had to worry about was the darkness - or, more precisely, the headlights from the cars ruining my night vision. There's one stretch of the road that passes through a forest and then by a marshy swampy slough, and there are no streetlights at all. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to walk through this section, and the only illumination is from headlights or from the sky. I could see a surprising amount when I wasn't blinded by some yuppie's halogen searchlights. It was a pleasant walk. I think I'll do it tomorrow, too.

Of course, I may have ruined the health benefits of the walk when I got home. We ordered pizza, and I ate 5 or 6 slices. A lot. I'm totally stuffed, and if I'd been drinking water with my meal like I'm supposed to, I know I would have eaten less. But that's the way it seems to go with me: after I do some kind of physical activity, my body freaks out and gets really hungry. "We've got to replace those calories!" it seems to say, as if I need a gut like a beach ball and a spare tire you could put on a Harley. I must train it.

Plus, waiting for me when I got home was my credit card bill. Which contained my dentist payment, the cat's vet bill, my birthday gift, and my birthday dinner. Talk about a bummer. We made progress last month, but not enough. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails! I sat and sulked for a good ten minutes about the stupid bill. I can't wait until I can call MBNA and tell them to go fuck themselves. Like, in two months.

On the upside, I did have some good ideas on the walk home, some of which I will probably incorporate into my campaign. Speaking of, I'd better go clean up the house for guests.

What I'm reading: The Hedge Knight by George R. R. Martin
What's playing: Mike & the Mechanics - Silent Running
Movie: Nothing

Walkin' Dude

Today I resume my walking exercise. In ten minutes, actually. It takes me about 40 minutes to walk home from my office. I just noticed that it's awfully dark outside, and probably raining too. This should be an interesting excursion (I haven't walked in a couple of weeks because of the weather and my schedule).

People tell me that the trick to exercise is making it part of a routine. Actually, I think it was Jon that told me that. He said, if you can do it for a month, it becomes part of your life. That's my hope, anyway. Plus, I'll save on gas while I'm becoming more and more healthy. I'll post updates to my lifestyle change to this very blog.

Last night's D&D game was a blast. We concluded the adventure (basically), and I'm not sure if we'll continue the campaign or not. I hope so, because I like my character. He's another Goodsoup. Tonight I've got to finish some of the details for the Skull & Bones game tomorrow - namely, the encounter and the names of some of the NPCs. I also hope to work some more on my novel, so I can get caught up on my deadlines. Hell, I'm only three and a third chapters away from finishing it. I think I'll stay away from serialized fiction for a while - but I'd like to start on my "Communists From Mars" book again, although probably with some plot differences. And, I'd like to clean up some of this short fiction.

Hopefully, the 40 minute walk should provide some good inspiration. I'm taking off in a minute, as soon as I collect my things. I just remembered that there is a stretch of road with no sidewalk. This should be interesting in the dark.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Tired Inspiration

I felt inspired, so I sat down and cranked out 1000 words on my novel today. I'm about 3000 words away from finishing Chapter 9 (of 12) and I really like the way the last part of the book is shaping up. I was a little worried for a while. I can't wait to rewrite this beast. I'll have 120,000 (ish) words when I'm done and that should be enough to do a good rewrite and hammer out something worth publishing. At least, I hope so. In other writing news, I'll have articles appearing soon in both Scrye and Game Trade Magazine (the later being entirely mine, byline and all! Woohoo!) I haven't had the time or the energy to look at my old short stories and do the research to publish them, but I will probably do so by the end of the year.

I've also been strangely tired this weekend. I mean, really drag-ass tired. I'm typing this, and my eyelids feel heavy. I could sleep for an hour right now. I almost took a nap earlier today. While I was going to sleep, I thought of something that would make a really cool short story, but now I can't remember what it was. The sad thing is, I keep a notebook by my bed just for this reason, and I actually thought "I won't need that, I'll remember it." That'll teach me.

I'm going to hit the last lap of cleaning this room. Elizabeth and I did a good deal of work on it yesterday, and we're so damn close to finishing it's not even funny. I really should. Then, I move on to my next project: turning my bookshelves from a hodgepodge into an organized system (well, my comics and role-playing books are organized right now, but you get the idea.)

Here's something fun: the GamePro cases my company makes for holding Clix work perfectly for both Crimson Skies planes and Mech
Warrior 'Mechs. I still like my boxes for HeroClix though.

What I'm reading: The Ultimate Six (comic book)
What's playing: Pearl Jam - Even Flow
Movie: Watched the first part of 2001: A Space Odyssey today (which Elizabeth has never seen)

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Odds and Ends

Things have been quiet lately. I haven't seen any more movies worth commenting on, or television shows. I don't care much that The Reagans was taken off the air, but Saving Jessica Lynch and The Elizabeth Smart Story, both of which probably contain more factual errors and distortions than the other, have not. That's conservatives for you: running a war propaganda movie that the person involved said has been overblown, manipulated, and used is perfectly acceptable because its misinformation suits their political goals, but pulling another movie because of one quote is totally unacceptable, because that quote does not suit their political goals.

In other words, it's the same old story, and as long as people continue to buy what this administration feeds them, it's going to continue. Fnord.

Speaking of fnord, I picked up the Y2K expansion for Steve Jackson's excellent Deluxe Illuminati game. This has been out of print for about three years, and I found a copy in my comic shop, which either means Steve re-released it (likely) or I lucked out (less likely). Now all I need is the other expansion, Brainwashed, and I'm good to go.

I've been listening to Lewis Black's The White Album a lot recently. Lewis is best known for his "Back in Black" rants on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, but I discovered he's a hell of a stand-up comic, and does the whole angry rant thing better than Dennis Miller. I'm going to ask for his other two albums, The End of the Universe and Rules of Enragement for Christmas. The out-take CD from White, Revolver, may be far harder to track down - it's probably going to have to be Ebay or a solicited trade. So if you know where to buy rare, ranting, liberal comedy CDs, email me.

On a more domestic front, I think I found the TV I wanted, thanks to Sean C. It's a 42" Sony CRT LCD Projection (I think I got all that correct!) Now all I need is a Home Theater PC (HTPC to those in the know) to go with it. I'd also like to finish getting DVDs to round out my collection. Deep Discount DVD is going to assist with this endeavor. lists Jeremiah Season 1, a show that no one seems to care about but me, for $67 and some change, plus shipping. DDD lists is for $52.30 with free shipping. It's a no-brainer. I did a test order from them (after Larry recommended them to me) and everything came as described, except one thing that was on backorder. So I'll bite. I need those seasons of Futurama!

About the only other major event happening is my Skull & Bones campaign due to kick off next Tuesday. I'm very happy with how it's shaping up on my end, but I'm still a little apprehensive - it's been a while since I ran an adventure without the benefit of a module, and I don't want to fly by the seat of my pants on this. Then again, I don't want to pre-plan too much either. It's a fine line. I picked up the last supplies I needed last night when Elizabeth and I went to the WizKids store with Jon - a few more d20s and a wet-erase mat - so I think it's gonna go OK. Hopefully the players won't leave in disgust on the first night.

I've got a lot to do today. We're working on sorting and filing and getting rid of stuff in the office / computer room, which is the last area of the house that needs to be squared away. I want to finish it so I can relax and feel like we're really moved in. The speed with which we're paying off debts is amazing - I don't know what we're going to do when we have money. Oh, wait, yes I do - a car, a TV, and then a house.

Gosh, I've been domesticated.