Thursday, December 30, 2004

There's No Politically Correct Way to Say This

A quote from a CNN article about a New York Times editorial:

    The Times added that it hoped Secretary of State Colin Powell was embarrassed to announce "the initial measly aid offer" of $15 million. "That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities" in January.
Did you catch that? I can't really say I'm happy to spend millions/billions on aid (I'd much rather do what Jeff did, and donate my own money), but for fuck's sake, the initial offer was less than half of what the Republicant's plan to spend for Bush's inaguration parties?

The sheer excess of spending more than $30 million on a party (must be all the pure Colombian that's gonna go up the President's nose) aside, "miserly" is a nice way of saying it. A lot of other, far less politically-correct phrases are running through my mind right now.

The Black Goat of the Pacific Northwest's Woods

Dino "Shub-Niggurath" Rossi, the Black Goat of the Washington Woods and Mother of a Thousand Dark Young Republicans, refuses to accept Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed's certification of Chris Gregoire as governor.

The picture of the above-linked Seattle Times article really says it all: his press conference seemed more like Dennis Rodman showboating for the camera than a political pronouncement, and once again, I get the distinct impression that Rossi is in this not out of any kind of political interest, but because he wants to feel special and important, and really likes the attention. Apparently confusing Washington State with Ukraine, he's calling for a revote.

Evidence that Rossi cares only about his own ego: his mantra that the election was a "mess" and that allowing Gregoire to take office would undermine voter confidence is itself doing far more to undermine voter confidence than installing the correctly-elected governor.

A Brief Musical Interlude

One of my favorite tunes that my mother used to play for me is Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," a bluesy ballad whose meaning has been disputed since its release. There was even a movie about it at one point. There isn't much in the way of analysis available online, except for this piece that does a good job of telling us what the song isn't.

At first glance, it does appear that the song is about two young lovers discarding their baby off of a bridge, and the father later killing himself over the grief. The above article pretty much discounts that, but the author takes a rather rosy view of the song which, although can be substantiated in the lyrics, is only one reading. I've always heard something a little more sinister in these words, whether it's the bits about "nothing good ever happening on Choctaw Ridge," or just the dark, sultry way Bobbie Gentry sings the song. Living in the South, one of the things I began to recognize is that Southerners communicate as much with the things they do not say as the things they do say, and there is certainly something more going on in the song than meets the eye. I doubt it was simply the narrator rejecting Billie Joe, and I doubt it was latent homosexuality as portrayed in the film. The baby solution seems suspect as well, only because it would have been next to impossible for the teenaged daughter of poor farmers in the Mississippi delta to conceal a pregnancy from her family and then kill the baby, or have it die on her and dump its body.


The song came out in the 1960s, when abortion was still illegal (and the movie sets the action in the 1950s). A more likely, if darker, reading of the lyrics is that the narrator did indeed get pregnant, but decided to terminate the pregnancy rather than face the shame of her family (and society), who obviously don't care for Billie Joe and are likely too poor to have to deal with another hungry mouth. Abortion would have been performed either by a back-alley doctor or one of those ambiguous people to whom you go to take care of these kinds of "problems," or worse, she might have tried to induce a miscarriage.

Either way, if they threw the fetus off the bridge to try to dispose of it, and then Billie Joe killed himself over the guilt (perhaps he was the one that convinced her to go through with the abortion), the song makes a little more sense. Unfortunately, we don't hear much from the narrator's point of view in the way of emotional response (just her mother talking about her not eating dinner, which is most likely a response to the news that Billie Joe killed himself), so it's difficult to tell if she's as wracked by guilt as he is. We do know she doesn't kill herself, but she spends her time throwing flowers off the bridge, conjuring an image of a half-crazy woman weeping not only for a lost love, but for a lost child.

Hey, it makes sense to me, and work has been slow this week.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Disclaimer: I do not mean to denigrate anyone's suffering by the following post, nor do I wish to minimize the horror of what's happening in southeast Asia at the moment.

Today, I logged onto over lunch to check out the latest on the tsunami fallout in Southeast Asia. I haven't talked about it, because beyond hand-wringing about what a bitch mother nature can be at times, there isn't really anything to say. Apparently, some UN representative called the US' offer of aid "stingy" - although with Bush in the process of accomplishing his vision of a manned mission to Mars by putting one on the spreadsheets that track our national debt, I can't really fault us for being conservative here - and that may have prompted Bush to actually talk to press at his Texas ranch and announce a coaliition of aid. Good for him for taking the initiative, after the fact, but good for him.

Then I looked in the Entertainment section, where they posted a review of a film called Hotel Rwanda. The film deals with the 1994 genocide in that country, and a hotel owner who tries to save as many people as he can, a la Schindler's List.

What struck me, however, was the opening statement of the review:

    "During 100 terrifying days in 1994, nearly 1 million people died in a horrific genocide in the African country of Rwanda, as the ruling members of the Hutu tribe began a calculated effort to wipe out the Tutsi minority.

    This unholy act of inhumanity was compounded by the fact that the world stood silently by and did nothing to intervene.
1 million people in 100 days, and the world did nothing. A tsunami and the aftermath in two or three days, and we're forming coalitions.

Is it just me, or are our priorities a little out of whack? And I don't mean the United States, I mean people in general.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Soon, for less than $100, you can own The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. In hardcover!

How freakin' cool is that?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quote of the Day

If Northstar were American and Captain Britian were American and they loved America a lot and they were all combined with Captain America, that's how patriotic I am!

Land of the Dead

What's that, you ask? You want news from the land of zombie films? What about a behind-the-scenes look at the new Dead movie, Land of the Dead? Is that enough for 'ya?

Political Thoughts

Following our somewhat puzzling national election results, and a rather heated argument with my mother at Thanksgiving, I've been trying to figure out exactly what's going on with American politics. I've read a lot of Andrew Sullivan after I saw him duking out out with Bill Maher on whatever that show on HBO is that is like Politically Incorrect but with more cussing. I've been reading other conservative articles when I get the chance, and I've been watching liberal sites like Daily Kos trying to figure it all out. These are some things I've noticed.

Conservative voters feel alienated by liberals because they view liberals as intellectual snobs, mostly because liberals can act like intellectual snobs (see previous post, and posts made right after the election). Our message is often this: we're smarter than you, and if you don't see why your voting for Bush is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders, then you're a fucking moron who deserves to burn in your Red-State hell.

I don't necessarily disagree with this, but this is the exact same reason I hate conservatives: because a good deal of them act like this towards us, especially those in conservative-majority areas like Oklahoma. They feel that liberals ran this country for the most part of the last half of the 20th Century, and that they have been in the minority, so when they are in the majority (be it nationally, or locally), they tend to get a little prickish about it. I can't say I blame them, but I certainly don't like watching them do it to us, and I seriously doubt they like watching us turn around and say those kinds of things back to them.

Liberalism used to be the realm of Martin Luther King, Jr., of JFK and Bobby Kennedy. Our concerns are social justice: that people be treated equally, whether that means blacks have the right to vote without fear of being lynched; or if it means that a woman should be paid the same amount of money as a man for doing the same work; or if it means that gay couples should receive the same tax and health care benefits as married couples. It means personal freedoms that do not infringe of others' personal freedoms - which means that any child, regardless of their religious denomination (so not just Christians!), should be allowed to pray to themselves at school, but that the majority should not force the minority students (who also pay taxes) into saying their prayers.

It is the realm of James Madison, who believed that a Democracy existed not to enforce the tyrrany of the majority on the minorities, but to protect and treasure the minorities and allow everyone to live under one, big tent.

We've been called a lot of things: Nazis (I'm still not sure about that one), fascists, Commies, bleeding-hearts, nigger-lovers, you name it. But we were strong, and had a purpose. Our anthyms rang from the halls of African churches in the south, and from the airwaves by way of folk singers.

But it's all been supplanted; the airwaves belong to Clear Channel, who only plays artists signed to Clear Channel-owned labels (CC also happens to donate large sums of money to the Republican parties). They have managed to convince the people in the churches that liberals are not on their side; instead, we're out to get them by destroying their families, teaching their children the ways of Satan, and taxing them to death.

We have let them subvert our most powerful weapon: Christian churches. We've let them convince us that the churches are filled with dumb, NASCAR-loving rubes who hate fags and want to teach our children evolution - when, not a generation ago, those churches were the bastions of our call to social justice. And we have let them do it.

In order to regain our country - for make no mistake, this is our country, founded on the principles of Freedom and Liberty, not shallow-minded pseudo-patriotism and the willingness to sign away freedoms for corporate security - we must rediscover that we hold more in common with the people in those churches than the fat cats who now run the house. I do not believe for a moment that those Christians are really the dumb demons it's so easy to imagine; they are, or should be, our allies. It's time to reach out, to put aside the snobbery, and take back what is rightfully ours.

Incidentally, this all ties into my novel, which concerns itself with the fact that the current conservative social system is, in the end, unsustainable, which is something in our favor. But I'd rather not wait this one out; it's going to be a long road, and we cannot alienate our allies again, but I have no doubt that we can overcome.


There are some people who think the ALCU exists only to stifle conservative Christianity. These are the same people who think that it's OK to read a prayer over the loudspeaker at a high school football game, so long as it's an evangelical, Protestant, Christian prayer (no Buddhists prayers allowed!) Incidentally, they believe the former is evil because it has a problem with the later.

But, as you can see from stories about the ACLU protecting churches from eviction, protecting public baptisms, or defending students who pass out Christian literature, the ACLU is very much not anti-Christian. They simply believe that one person's religious rights should not trample another person's: that it's wrong, for example, to use the tax money of non-Christians to support the dissemination of Christianity through public prayer at a football game.

Fact: the one element guaranteed to annihilate any conservative "thought."

And the Red voters out there wonder why us Blue voters think they are easily-misled, stupid morons.

Rummy Tells The Truth

Linked from Metafilter: Flight 93 was shot down, by Rummy's own words. A slip of the tongue, a lie, or was he simply not paying attention and contradicting the official story?

I report, you decide.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

I watched my DVD copy of The Return of the King Extended Edition a couple of days ago - it's a monster at over four hours long, but watching it didn't seem like it took so much time. Jackson really outdid himself; I wonder if, in twenty years, I'll watch these movies and think about how bad the special effects look compared to whatever films are out then, but for now, they are damn near some of the best stuff produced in a long time.

Thanks largely to Jon's thoughtfulness in getting me the Scarecrow video book, my list of must-rent and must-see movies has quadrupled in the last couple of days. There's quite a few in the theaters I'd really like to catch as well: it seems I missed The Machinist, but I kind of want to see The Aviator (I typically dislike Scorsese, but I'm willing to give this one a shot), and Phantom, and one other I can't think of off the top of my head.

Greener Pastures

I'm trying to convince Blogger to let me move my posts over to my new website, So far, no dice, it keeps timing out about 3/4 of the way through. This is, incidentally, why there have been no posts in the last few days.

Do You Really Want a Governor Named "Dino?"

I've refrained from commenting on the Washington governor's race, because other Washington bloggers love to talk about it, I haven't been following it as closely as I should, and it seems like a lot of bad karma is going to come out of this.

Personally, I voted for Chris Gregoire, because she's a Democrat and Dino Rossi struck me as a bit of a slimeball interested only in hamming for a camera and getting his fifteen minutes of fame. In fact, that's how his entire campaign seemed to me: less of a political venture, and more of a Bob Roberts-style rockstar event. Gregoire, on the other hand, is a classic politician, the kind of person I want as a leader - dignified, somewhat soft-spoken, intelligent, and very self-assured. Rossi seemed like he's been trying to convince people he's worth it; Gregoire's tack seemed to be to let her actions speak for themselves.

That's really been a decent summary of the post-election mayhem here. Rossi's team immediately declared themselves the victors, even though the difference was less than 300 votes. They selected cabinet members, and as Jeff suggested, probably waltzed around the governor's mansion with color swatches. And with a good reason: if you realize the contest is going to be a close one, it's often better to strut as the winning peacock, because it's going to put you on somewhat higher ground in the PR department, as your opponent is going to have to deal with you declaring victory rather than the both of you trying to achieve it.

See also Bush in Florida in 2000.

The Democrats wanted a hand-recount. The Republicans didn't. The Democrats wanted ballots that had been incorrectly thrown out to be counted. The Republicans didn't. The Democrat's mantra was "count every vote." The Republican's mantra was "don't change the rules." In fact, I saw a car driving around Bellevue the other day, and the entire rear windshield was taken up with a sign declaring that mantra: "don't change the rules."

Now - and here's a surprise - the hand recount has put Gregoire ahead, and the Republican mantra has switched to "count every vote" and, although they're not declaring it publically, "it's time to change the rules."

The Democrats want them to count every vote. They have stayed the course, and have not flip-flopped. A pity we cannot say the same for our Republican fellows. It's really a shame to see Rossi now, because he sounds like a petulant child who didn't get his way: he is starting to float rumors that the election was rigged or somehow tampered with. Gregoire, as a true leader should, has exhibited the same grace and poise she's had since the day she declared her campaign.

I don't know how this is going to end, but being a leader is about how you appear under pressure. Dancing premature victory jigs and then whining when it turns out you were wrong is not how a leader should act, period.

I did want to note, as Jeff did, that our Republican Secretary of State, Sam Reed, has also been a model of leadership (he's practically been a saint, all things considered). Instead of taking the opportunity to grandstand, a la Katherine Harris, he's been an incredibly cool customer, putting aside partisan politics to do his job and do it well. Cheers to you, Mr. Reed; you and yours give me hope that the current trend of the Republican party being hijacked by petulant rockstar-wannabe pandering politicos who care little or nothing for the values they claim to represent or the fiscal responsibility that has been the hallmark of your party will only be a passing fad rather than a lasting problem.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Eve

It's been great having Crabby here - last night, we watched part of a video we shot our junior year of college and did a commentary track for it, so I can put it on DVD and have multiple commentaries. It was great to watch some of that stuff again.

We put an offer on a house yesterday, but it was rejected. So it goes.

The Christmas gift I've used most thusfar was the book Jon got me, the Scarecrow Guide to Video. The SIFF tickets won't be good until May, and I haven't really received anything else, with the exception of a couple of nice shirts. Liz got a whole bunch of stuff - a high-end espresso machine, jewelry, and some clothes. From me.

I think I'm gonna spend some time setting up my new website, and seeing if I can transfer this blog over. I'm paying rent there, after all.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

More Mashes

For those interested in downloading other mash-ups, I found a decent blog of mash-up MP3s of varying quality. I've downloaded the MP3J songs, they aren't bad, if you're into Monty Python mashes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Favorite Album of 2004

The intarwebs seem to be choked with all this "best of 2004" bullshit lately, so I figured I'd throw my own two pennies into the fountain and name my favorite album of 2004.

For a while, I'd been away from the music scene - most of the "popular" stuff was shitty, and there wasn't a whole lot going on in the rock world, especially after 1998. Rap-metal is a watered-down, apolitical, corporate excuse for teenaged rebellion, so System of a Down and Limp Dickzit just weren't doing it for me.

But slowly, music has begun to swing in another direction, a more mellow and original sound, and Seattle seems to be at the crux of a lot of it. This year I pestered people in my office to let me listen to their tunes, and I met Seth, who turned me on to other stuff. So I've encountered the Shins, Elliot Smith, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Grandaddy, and that's without going through my iPod. I loved the Garden State soundtrack, and that was close to being my favorite album of the year, but I would have to say that even better is "A Night at the Hip Hoptera" by The Kleptones.

I was introduced to mash-up music inadvertantly in college, when Mr. Stick turned me on to the Evolution Control Committee via NPR (no, really). The seed lay dormant until this year, when Seth directed my attention to A Night at the Hip Hopera. The entire album is Queen songs mashed with hip-hip tunes - a term that DJs use when then sample bits of songs, speech, or sound effects with other songs, speeches, or sound effects to create a new tune, or a mash-up song.

There's a legal question here, though, and one that the Kleptones tackle head-on in Night - in fact, the entire album is more or less about it - when does an artist's work cease becoming an artist's work, and when can another artist claim originality for using old stuff in a creative manner? They don't really discuss the artistic angle, but the legal angle, as the recording industry, already reeling from MP3 downloading, has also tried to crack down on DJs doing mash-ups, and a lot of their songs have subtle (and not-so-subtle) jabs at this.

But the argument is much older than mash-up music; was TS Eliot being creative when he used quotes, overheard conversations, and literary allusions to create The Waste Land, or was he just stealing other people's work and making it his own? The design of the poem, like a mash-up, intends to create certain feelings based on the person's associations to whatever the poet/artist is sampling. It's something I studied in college, and continue to enjoy thinking about.

But Night is much more than this: it's great to listen to at work, on the road, when you're cleaning, whenever - the creation of the album was so seamless and clean that it's a pleasure to hear the songs flowing together, which a lot of mash-up artists cannot accomplish. So huzzah to them for that.

Also cool is that you can download it for free (requires BitTorrent), and they encourage you to do this.

So for my favorite album of 2004, check out A Night at the Hip-Hoptera. You will not be disappointed.

Hot Topic: Voting Tests

I had a rather heated conversation with some family members over this topic during the Thanksgiving holiday, and at the time I don’t think I was effectively communicating my reasons for believing as I do. So let me lay it out simply.

I believe that American citizens should take a test before they can vote. That test should measure various kinds of intelligences, knowledge of current events, knowledge of American and global history, knowledge of geography, and knowledge of political philosophy. Many Americans would not pass this test, and many would lose the right to vote. Unfair? Un-American. Maybe – but this is what the Founding Fathers believed as they created the Senate. My support for this argument? Read on.

Image that we’ve got a small village. Here’s a few of the people who live in the village: a gourmet chef, who graduated from a prestigious culinary school; a science teacher, who has a degree in science from a four-year university; a fast-food worker and high-school dropout who happens to be an accomplished hunter; a four-star general; a college professor with a Ph.D in political science; a medical doctor; and a computer technician.

You live in this village, too.

One day, your computer breaks. To whom do you take your computer? That’s a thousand-dollar investment; you don’t want to trust it to just anyone. The computer technician has taken classes in how to repair a computer and he’s passed several certification exams. So, do you go to the high-school dropout? Nope, you take it to the computer technician. In this scenario, you have $1000 worth of property you’re protecting.

Now, you send your children to school. Who do you want to teach them about science? There’s a science teacher – not only has this person studied science, but this person has passed a state certification exam to be able to teach. All kinds of exams to graduate from college, and finally a certification exam. This is the person you want teaching science to your kids, not the chef. In this scenario, you’re protecting your kids’ education and learning – something every parent cares greatly about.

OK, so now your kids are graduating from school and you want to throw them a party. You’ve got 20 guests coming, and you want to make sure they don’t get sick from improperly cooked ribs – after all, food poisoning can mean death! Who do you get to cook your meal? Do you go to the computer technician, when there’s a gourmet chef in town who passed several exams and tests before graduating from culinary school? No way; you get the chef to cook your meal, because you can’t risk your guest’s health. In this scenario, the health (and possibly the lives) of 20 people are at stake.

Let’s say that, for whatever reason, you’ve been drafted to organize a class in gun safety. Fifty people will attend this class. Gun safety is serious business – misusing a gun, improperly cleaning it, and disrespect for the rules could result in death. Do you go to the college professor, who has never so much as picked up a gun in his life? Or do you approach the hunter, who has passed several NRA exams that certify him as a marksman? I’m thinking the hunter might make the better choice (the general is also an option). Risk: the lives of fifty (or more) people.

OK, the country has come under attack and your town needs to defend itself. Who should lead the defense? The science teacher? Why do that, when the four-star general has passed several exams to achieve his rank, and has a life of invaluable combat experience? Unless you’re a glibbering idiot, the general would be leading the defense – because the lives of a thousand people are at risk.

Now, it’s time to choose the next leader of your country. Assuming your country is like the United States, that leader has the power to annihilate 99.9% of human life with nuclear weapons – 6.1 billion people – or at the very least, as the power to ruin your nation – 280 million people. A hell of a lot more lives than the general is responsible for, or the hunter, or the science teacher, or the chef, or the computer tech. Who takes on this awesome responsibility?

Why is it supposedly a bad thing to restrict the responsibility for the lives of six billion people to those qualified to make that kind of decision? Who should be responsible for the lives of six billion people – the chef? The hunter? The science teacher? We are willing to turn far lesser responsibilities over to others, but there is some emotional response to the threat to take away the greatest responsibility of all and put it in the hands of those most qualified to make it. Why? What is the logical reason for this? What is the mental block?

It does not make sense. Period.

Holiday Blogging

I'm starting to get a backlog of things to post. Damn these holidays and their time requirements!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Searching for Houses

Liz and I spent the afternoon yesterday with a real estate agent looking for houses. We found one that we really, really, really like; I'm going to talk to the mortgage broker on Monday and see if we can't work something out. When Crabby is here, we're going to take him through it (since he may wind up living with us for a while), but Liz and I absolutely loved the house. It's up in Kirkland, so it's not too far from work (nine miles away on the expressway), really close to grocery stores and so on, and still accessible to all the cool stuff in Seattle. The neighborhood is really nice and quiet, and the house has a large rec room downstairs that the previous owners gutted, but didn't do anything with - so it's taking away from the value right now, but Liz and I could do so much with it! Me with a chainsaw - sounds exciting (you do use chainsaws to make home repairs, right??)

Anyway, so far the process has been kind of a downer, but yesterday was a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, the trip to the mortage broker will determine whether or not that light is an oncoming train.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Long and Winding Road

This week jumped from slow to fast to slow again. The good news is that they are finally splitting my job into two jobs at work, so I can go back to focusing on what I'm really good at: PR. The bad news is, it's probably going to end up creating some animosity, because it's part of another situation that I'd rather not get into.

I had an odd experience today, when someone on a forum related to our game started a thread about cyber-stalking me - Googling my name and reading this entire blog. One one level, I'm flattered, but on another, it's more than a little creepy. Some of the stuff that comes up when you Google me is really old, and I'm not really ashamed of it, but I would rather people didn't form opinions about me based on it, either.

Crabby will be here in three days, and we're going to look at houses again (that we cannot afford). I gave Liz some of her Christmas presents early; she loved them. It's nice to have a little money to spend on each other at the holidays. She got me an awesome present: membership to the Seattle International Film Festival. Does she know me or what?

Another Member of the Family

Just got an email from my friend Arch - he and his wife Meeri had their first baby at 1:55 AM this morning! Congrats to both!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Dear Mom and Dad

A photo essay of what I've been doing in San Andreas. Thanks Seth!

A Moment of Clarity

Maybe it was the meeting last night, or the fact that my brain has been working on the premise of this new novel for the last, well, four years, but I had what I like to describe as a "moment of clarity" in the shower this morning. I'm aping Pulp Fiction, but every now and then I have moments - call it insight, or some kind of enlightenment, or something - where everything seems very bright, and it's like my pupils turn into pinpricks, and like a camera on the highest f-stop everything in the entire world comes into focus for just a second or two. I prefer "moment of clarity," because it captures perfectly that feeling.

Well, this morning I had one for my novel. I saw the whole thing, laid out in front of me like a path; I know exactly where it's going to end up, what my characters are going to do, and how they are going to get there. I saw, and I am thrilled by it.

I've got a block of marble, and I've seen the statue inside. Time to get carving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Some Things Never Change

It's good to know that there are still the kinds of people out there who think rock and roll represents...

    "squalor, inhumanity, filth, depravity, ugliness and ignorance"
Now take a wild guess as to whether this person is a liberal or a conservative.

Writerly Things

Been a bit since I did a personal update. Last week practically flew by; Saturday was a big game at work that we did for a promotional stunt to help one of our product sell a little better, and I spent the rest of the day kind of lazing around. Sunday, Liz and I met up with a real estate agent to get a better feel for what's out there and to discuss our home ownership goals, and today we're going to take a look at a house that sounds great, but might be just a tad out of our price range. It's been empty a while, so the seller might be bargained down - or there might be something wrong with it. We'll see.

Sunday evening I watched Kill Bill parts 1 and 2 in order, which I thought would help them gel into a consistent movie. Instead, it really only served to highlight their differences. The first part is almost entirely action, while the second is almost entirely story and dialogue. Not that those things are bad, but I suspect it was editing that made them so; if the movie was planned as one, long film, I have a feeling the action would have been spread over the whole thing.

Yesterday I went to an excellent Alliterates meeting, where I got some really good feedback on the first three bits of my new novel (after doing the 10,000 word chapter thing in Crocodile Man, I'm going more Kurt Vonnegut and am calling these 1,000 word vignettes "chapters.") Work keeps me busy, but not with busy work, if that makes sense; I've had the chance to do a lot of the more managerial tasks lately, and the writing bits I'm good at, while passing off the busywork to my assistant. Delegating responsibility has always been my biggest flaw, so I'm easing into it.

Oh, here's an accomplishment: at our office, time seems to get sucked into these unnatural black holes called meetings. Last week, I had no time for bullshit, and we were supposed to do an ad concept meeting for an upcoming expansion, where we figure out a concept for the ad. These are usually creative brainstorming sessions, and can get pretty (unnecessarily) lengthy, because people don't always know when to stop brainstorming and start making decisions.

Typically, five or six people attend these meetings. For some reason, only three of us could make it, which helped. Meetings are like trips to Blockbuster to rent a video: the more people you have, the (exponentially) more time it takes to choose a movie. So I came in, said "OK, here's my concept." We talked about it for a bit, came up with a good solid headline, found art we could use, and agreed.

Total elapsed time: nine minutes.

Although I doubt that session will end up on my resume as an accomplishment, it felt great to carry the big guns of authority and timeliness for once.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Violent Video Games Save Lives

Seth pointed me towards a news story that proves Grand Theft Auto actually saves lives!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Game Review: Sid Meier's Pirates! Live the Life

Pirates! was one of my favorite games back in the day; I remember seeing the box in a software store, its scene depicting close combat on a smoking ship making my fantasy-prone mind dream a thousand dreams. I picked it up out of a bargain bin some years later, having played it at a friend's house after it debuted, and to this day it is the reason I have a spare 5.25 disk drive lying around.

They released a revision, Pirates! Gold, in the mid-1990s, but for some reason I never picked it up; why bother, when I had such a great game already? But this year, I decided to grab a copy of the most recent re-make, Pirates! Live the Life, because it was on sale, and I knew it would be fun - I saw the game demoed at several conventions this summer.

I wasn't wrong; it's a lot of fun. But it's also a remake, and horribly so; I think it's one of the only remakes where they took out some cool elements from the original, and added elements that just don't work.

All the familiar stuff is here: ship combat, fencing, sailing, wooing the governor's daughter, and so on. The game structure is nearly the same, right down to the text descriptions of what's going on, even if the graphics that serve as a backdrop have greatly improved. There's a lot more ships, and now you can upgrade your fleet to shoot different kinds of shot, hold more scurvy pirates, and sail faster, but otherwise it's almost exactly the same as the original 1987 release, but with better graphics. Fencing is now 3-D, and slightly more complicated - more than once, I've found myself going for the old controls - but not terribly challenging. The trading stucture is the same, the ranks are the same, even the quests are the same - the same evil Spaniards capture the same family members and take them to the same, random, unlikely places.

If you saw a lot of the word "same" in the above paragraph, that's basically what this game is: the same thing. They never billed it as anything more than a remake, but you'd think they could have come up with more than two stock Spanish villains to chase, or some different family members to rescue (or other side-quests to distract you). Part of what made the original game so compelling was the mutitude of things you could do, at least for its time, and now it's just, well, the same.

The one notable addition is that of the dancing, where you have to perform DDR-style codes to waltz with the governor's daughter so she'll marry you. If that sounds like a nonsensical, asinine nod to pop culture, you're not the only one who thinks so. It's my least favorite part of the game, aside from the slowdown during swordfights that makes everything choppy and hard to control.

All in all, I've enjoyed playing it, I will continue to enjoy playing it, but Pirates! had its time in the sun, and I'd like to see someone offer something just as innovative, set in that era, rather than more of the same.

Friday, December 10, 2004

One-Sentence Story

After devoting more than twenty years of his life to finding happiness, Lucas realized there was little purpose in looking until he removed the elephant's tusk from his midsection.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Random News Bits

I love quotations taken out of context:

    ...a transcript listed the cat's course work and 3.5 grade-point average.
And I thought my cat was smart!

No Comment

When I was first buying DVDs, I used to love listening to the commentary tracks. I remember stumbling across this website a while back, which offers commentaries made by users for download - so anyone from amateur film critics, to philosophers, to everyone else can make commentary tracks for their favorite movies and TV shows on DVD.

Seth mentioned that the project was a few years ahead of its time, and I agree; now that you can download a commentary to your iPod (or any other of a number of ways to listen to a commentary) and play it at the same time as the movie, without screwing around with CDs and other forms of media, maybe it's time to re-visit this concept.

One of my initial thoughts is to assemble some of the Alliterates, a few of the designers here at WizKids, and some others to do a commentary track about that horrific Dungeons and Dragons movie. Could be fun!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Mr. Bean on Freedom

Actor Rowan Atkinson on freedoms, and a movement in the UK to attempt to criminalize religious hate speech. The first line is classic:

    To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion - that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. And the law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed. It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended. The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression.
Via Andrew Sullivan and the media.


What a difference 24 hours makes (via Daily Kos):


      Bush introduced Mike and Sharla Hintz, a couple from Clive, whom he said benefited from his tax plan.

      Last year, because of the enhanced the child tax credit, they received an extra $1,600 in their tax refund, Bush said. With other tax cuts in the bill, they saved $2,800 on their income taxes.

      They used the money to buy a wood-burning stove to more efficiently heat their home, made some home improvements and went on a vacation to Minnesota, the president said.

      "Next year, maybe they'll want to come to Texas," Bush quipped.

      Mike Hintz, a First Assembly of God youth pastor, said the tax cuts also gave him additional money to use for health care.

      He said he supports Bush's values.

      "The American people are starting to see what kind of leader President Bush is. People know where he stands," he said.

      "Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

    and today...

      A Des Moines youth pastor is charged with the sexual exploitation of a child.

      KCCI learned that the married father of four recently turned himself in to Johnston police.

      Rev. Mike Hintz was fired from the First Assembly of God Church, located at 2725 Merle Hay Road, on Oct. 30. Hintz was the youth pastor there for three years.

      Police said he started an affair with a 17-year-old in the church youth group this spring.
I did get a heck of a laugh out of this.


Zombies? Love 'em. Love the Romero series (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead.) I like the Fulci pseudo-sequels, and I really enjoyed the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

Heck, I even like zombie-inspired music, and I plan to protect my home against undead invasion. I plan to play the video game, and I have required reference material on my desk at work.

I'm prepared. Are you?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Writer News: There's Nothing New Under the Sun

In the latest iteration of the "plot wheel," two brothers have made a flip book designed to help struggling writers come up with movie plots.

Fire-breathing dragons / helicopters / post-apocalyptic England / American hero.

See? It works!

Evolution Watchdogs

My mom's a science teacher, and sent me a good link that summarizes what's been happening recently as Evolution is slowly whittled out of the classroom in favor of an uber-right-wing-Christian worldview. From the NSTA.

Celebrating the Great White North Abroad

When I did my backpacking in 1999, there were more than a few American kids who used to put Canadian flags on their backpacks to avoid being asked political questions, or to be identified as Yanks. I always thought that was a little squirrly, but that was before the Bush administration - I'm not sure what I'd do now. If I did decide to go the Canadian route, though, a company has made it much easier.

Ah, College

I remember writing papers like this in college, except mine were in philosophy.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Educational Video

Via Boing Boing and Seth, an educational video about How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic.

Weekend Update

It's been a while since I've done one of those "what's-going-on-in-my-life" updates, partially because I went out of town for eight days. I spent Turkey day back in Oklahoma, with friends and family. The trip had its ups and downs, but like all trips has begun to fade into memory. Since I got back, I haven't had any time to write, but I've been busy looking at houses. Liz and I were very interested in one local builder and a new development in Renton, but actually looking at the new development, the adjacent land, and the timeframe in which the lots we'd want would be available, and we're kind of returning to square one. Which is OK. Our next step is to locate a realitor, so hopefully we can shop around and find a house that way. Or a townhouse; I'd be happy with one of those, too, provided the walls weren't too close together.

That's really all there is to report; I went over to James' to test out the new Call of Cthulhu expansion, and I gotta say, the game has gotten better. Yesterday, we went estate sale-ing with Brook and Wendi; I scored an old TI-99-4/A computer, which I'm probably gonna end up selling on eBay, because it's bulky, heavy, and I don't have any games for it anymore.

I'm just Mr. Excitement these days. Maybe I need to get off my ass and put pen to paper a bit.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Quote of the Day

From Penny Arcade:

"It is like getting a ordering a pizza and getting a free walrus. Even if the walrus were excellent, I mean truly exemplary, I'm really not in the market for it and it's not why I ordered the pizza."

The Red and the Blue, Continued

For the second time in two days, I find myself linking to a thought-provoking article by Andrew Sullivan. After I watched Mr. Sullivan tear Mr. Maher a new one on whatever Politically Incorrect is called these days, my respect for him grows. Some of his views confuse me, but for the most part, he has some very interesting arguments.

Cat Problems

I've got to share something disgusting, because somehow, it's OK to write about this stuff in your blog and your friends will get a kick out of it.

Recently, we moved the cat's litterbox into the computer room. It used to be in our bedroom (I hate having a small apartment), and it got a little, ahem, stinky sometimes. So we relocated it to the computer room, which we don't spend eight hours a day slumbering in.

The last three mornings, as I've come in here to work before getting ready for Real Work, my black-and-white cat has come in to do some business. I'm not sure what's wrong with him, because they both eat out of the same dish, but Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, he's laid down some stink. Every morning, about five minutes after I get in here, like clockwork, the room suddenly gets tear-inducingly smelly.

We asked the vet about his, umm, reek, and she suggested switching him to a food that would make him use the litterbox more. I said, I'm not sure you're paying attention - I don't really want him to use the litter box more, I want him to not stink so much.

Anyone out there have any feline dietary advice they'd like to share?

Seperate From the Herd

Via Andrew Sullivan, an interesting tidbit on Nietzsche and his influence on conservatives - the premise being that Nietzsche's emphasis on personal responsibility for creating a moral framework and worldview independent of religion (taking responsibility for your actions, rather than blaming them on others) is a conservative trait. I've always been troubled by this argument, and surely there are many liberals who are willing to blame "society" for the actions of an individual, but so too are there many conservatives who would blame God, or Satan, for actions, and require those religious constructs for any manne of morality. For example, those who believe that posting the Ten Commandments in schools will somehow help children act in a moral way, rather than giving children the tools to reason morality for themselves, as Frederich would have argued.

Still, it's compelling, and contains other links to other conservatives and their thoughts on the subject.

Incidentally, on the verbage of conservatism, I'm realizing that the moniker does not accurately describe the current administration, or even the current state of "right-wing" politics in the United States. I've used the term "neo-con" before, a somewhat derisive label, to describe them. I wonder if those of us on the left, who are attempting to advocate for personal responsibility and other non-stereotypically-liberal ideas, shouldn't create our own verbage to begin retaking of politics. Put simply, if the good aspects that make up conservative thought can be railroaded by the Neo-Cons, then perhaps the bad sterotypes that make up "liberal" thought in the public consciousness can become a new label, too.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ultimate Geek

According to the Geek Hierarchy, I'm somewhere between the top of the heap and the next slot down, being that I am technically published, but so far haven't been paid for writing SF.

However, the chart may have to be altered slightly for Erotic Bible Fan Fiction. Not sure if there is any where Jesus and Mary Magdalene are Furries, but I didn't really hang out on that site long enough to find out.


Here's some practical advice about not putting pornography and pictures of your children on the same Photo iPod.

Quote of the Day

I realized what I've been feeling lately regarding the current political situation in the country is summarized in an 80s tune:

    Show allegiance to the flag, whatever flag they offer.
    Never hint at what you really feel.
    Teach the children quietly, for some day sons and daughters.
    Will rise up and fight where we stood still.

    - Mike + The Mechanics, Silent Running


"They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
'till you're so fucking crazy, you can't follow their rules."

- John Lennon, Working Class Hero


If I know all the answers,
I'm too smart.

If I keep my hand down,
I'm wasting my potential.

If I say what's on my mind,
Parent-Teacher Conferences result.

If I don't say anything,
I'm bottling my emotions.


When I make a joke,
I'm a smartass.

When I'm polite,
People tell me it's unusual.

When I use logic and reason,
I'm ignoring experience and emotion.

When I use my experinece,
They tell me I'm emotional and illogical.


I say we should care about children,
And they call me a Communist.

I say they are being illogical,
And they call me arrogant and self-righteous.

I make a generalization,
And I'm unfairly characterizing other people.

If I call them on the same,
I'm not being tolerant.


I think hate crimes should be punished,
and I'm a Nazi.

I cry when I read about dead American soldiers I knew in high school,
and I'm using them to further my liberal agenda.

I feel killing a hundred-thousand civilians is wrong,
and I'm a bleeding-heart.

I think two people of the same sex should be allowed to express their love,
and I'm amoral.

I think creationism has no place in a public school science class,
and I'm a bigot who stifles free speech.

I think Christianity has the same faults inherant in all religions,
and I'm telling people how to live.


My discarded black hoodie
let me down
as much as my own faith in humanity.


If I think I'm more intelligent,
Then I'm on my high horse.

If I want to be left alone,
I'm running from the fight.

When I do what I can,
It's never enough to satisfy the hunger.

When I ask just what the fuck I am supposed
To do and say and think and feel and believe
To finally still the
Unrelenting tide of criticism,
To simply be me,
Silence joins me to watch their words
Erode the padded brick walls locking my personalities from the world,
And with them,
Drops of me.