Then Again, Maybe I Won't
There are a lot of fucking psychos out there whose self-esteem is so low they have to go make negative comments about people they have never met to feel better. Didn't happen to me (no one even used my comments, sniff sniff), but I spent some time reading others from that site. If you want to abuse me, you'll have to use good old-fashioned email, so I can track your IP address if you piss me off enough.
Saturday, January 31, 2004
Then Again, Maybe I Won't
Fun With Google
Sometimes I like to put my name into Google to see what pops up. Here's a new one: apparently, someone named Jason Mical Abernathy divorced his wife on October 22, 2003. A cache of that page is here.
I apparently have doppelgangers all over the place. I moonlight as a cyber-security consultant, and a Honeywell employee.
A few places I have really appeared: as a supporter of Tulsa mayoral candidate Paul Tay, as a provider of fractal images, as an Eagle Scout, a film reviewer for the Panama Times, a Shakespeare scholar (for which I got ripped by real Shakespeare scholars), and as a writer of RPGs.
What's "taters?" Nothing. I figured out how to add comments to this blog, so now you don't have to spend time to email me to tell me I'm a dipshit because I don't believe as you do, or that I'm so far off-base in my movie tastes that I might as well be on some crummy little Pacific island. Thanks to HaloScan for the free comment software.
Thanks to Amanda at the blog "Hot Abercrombie Chick!" for the link to HaloScan. Amanda's blog is one of the many I find at random when I sit down to do some blogging. I have a pretty short attention span as it is, and when I log into Blogger to make an entry, they always display the ten most-recently-updated blogs on the left part of the page. Inevitably, I try to visit one or two just to see what other human beings are up to at the same time I'm writing. Most of them are pretty lame, but occasionally I find a good one, or a just plain crazy one (and when I do, I try to link to it here). I admit, I checked out Amanda's blog because of the name (which, I might add, is appropriate), but stayed for the links to the commenting software and the nifty things she did with the template. I'm still screwing around with my template, trying to get it to look right, but it's not real high on my list of concerns. I doubt my web design skills will ever touch what they were when I knocked out The Original Pirate Ship, but I just don't know enough anymore to duplicate or expand upon that design.
Today started busy. Circuit City is delivering a loaner TV in an hour or so, and we're cleaning up for the Superbowl party tomorrow. Gigantor is taking it easy in the office room, covered with a sheet and looking very pathetic. I'm hoping to make it across the water today so I can pick up some comics and see what new gaming stuff has come out, and I'm gonna try to run to Kinkos because I've got a poster I want them to print for me (the third in the Lord of the Rings mini-posters series, that I had to make myself because they never published one). Then to Michael's to get the glass for it. I've already done two loads of dishes, cooked Liz breakfast, and cleaned up most of the apartment. In fact, I've never seen it look this good.
Oh, I should also mention my little exercise routine. I've started walking to work in the mornings. It's exactly 2.1 miles from my apartment to my office, and there are a couple of nice hills on the way, so it's a pretty brisk 30-minute to 40-minute jaunt. Mornings seem to work much better for me walk-wise, because when I did it in the evenings not only was it dark, but it really "woke me up" so I couldn't get to sleep very easily at night. Now, the walk can take the place of a cup of coffee or two, which is pretty bad for your metabolism anyway.
Even Political Debate
Recently, I've taken steps to try to avoid becoming the kind of hate-filled, misrepresentative bigot that I fear and despise (although some of my posts to this blog probably don't give that impression). One of my favorite websites is Spinsanity, a site that chronicles misrepresentation and spin by both liberals and conservatives in the media (and, unlike most places that profess to do this, really does give equal time to refuting lies by both sides). Now, the Spinsanity editors have a weekly column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the first of which you can read here about political hate speech - both the practices of the left that have been labelled as such by the right, and the right's inflammatory use of the term as a political tool.
If you are interested in real, reasoned political debate, check it out.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Apple.com posted a batch of new movie trailers yesterday, including this one for a German flick called Good Bye, Lenin! The premise seems to be that a kid's mom has a heart attack before the fall of the Berlin wall and is in a coma until the present day, when she wakes up. The doctor warns that she shouldn't have any more shocks to her system, so the kid preforms many elaborate and humorous schemes to deceive her into thinking that Communism is still alive and well. It received six major awards in Europe, and although it's in German with subtitles, looks really great. Hopefully it will swing through Seattle. Release date says 2/27/04, so I'll keep my eyes peeled.
Now I just need Bubba Ho-Tep on DVD.
Oh yeah, now's as good a time as any to add: I bought the first season of "Jeremiah" on DVD, JMS' post-apocalyptic series that's been running on Showtime. I'd seen many of the episodes before, but had to download them because I didn't get Showtime. Liz and I have watched the first three. It's really amazing stuff - why can't normal TV be this thought-provoking? Instead, we get "My Big Fat Fiancee" and "Who Wants to Bone a Millionaire" and "When Animals Attack 6!" It's really pathetic that the later can command millions in advertising dollars while hardly anyone has heard of "Jeremiah."
Thursday, January 29, 2004
My buddy Bob found an online version of Connect Four. As I played through a couple games, I remember back to one of my first "real" gaming experiences - a bunch of classmates and I loved playing this game during recess on crummy days back in Ohio.
I was in the fifth grade, and I developed my first real circle of friends. During the warmer months, we played four-square during recess. We invented a very complicated set of rules for the game, which still involved a lot of heated arguing, hurt feelings, and occasional bouts of anger and pouting, but were an enormous amount of fun, not only because we were eleven-year-old boys (and the oldest kids in school) but by that token we had the best gig around. Sometimes there were lines twenty people long to get in a game of our four-square, and sometimes you could go an entire recess without playing - but, we took down everyone's name and position at the end of each recess so we could pick up right where we left off the next day.
There was a group of us that suffered through Mrs. Bonar's horrible fourth-grade class together and come out alive (I've got more to say about Mrs. Bonar, but that's it's own blog entry - hell, that's a psychological novel). There was me, Tom Plunkett, Ryan Horton, Eric Stricker, and Chris. Time has erased Chris' last name, but I can still see his face. I haven't seen many of these people since I moved out of Granville in early 1991, but I did hear that Eric became a drug dealer in high school and bought himself a Beamer. The other guys, I have no clue what happened to them. We were in the same Cub Scout den together, we played Super Mario 3 for the first time together, and we played Connect 4 together.
We didn't have checkers or chess tournaments, but we had a vicious Connect 4 thing going. It happened any recess where we couldn't go outside and play four-square, and it resembled a chess game more than a Connect 4 game. Connect 4 is supposed to be played very quickly, but we turned it into an art form of feints and counter-feints, forcing each other to move, and planning strategies far in advance. I would have to say that our Connect 4 games were really my first introduction to heavy game strategy and power-gaming, even though it's basically a larger version of tic-tac-toe.
It was a fun time. Sometimes I wonder what became of some of those guys, if Eric really turned out to be a drug dealer, and how I would have turned out differently if I'd stayed. But not today; today, I'm just having a great time remembering those hardcore games of Connect 4.
Waitin' On The Shower
We live in an apartment, which means that we have to deal with a tiny hot water tank, so there's always some lull between when Liz showers and when I shower. I thought this morning I'd use that time wisely.
I've been keeping an eye on the Democratic primaries, and so far it's been an interesting ride to say the least. I had Dean pegged to win, but the media has been savaging him incessantly for the last month, and John Kerry won both Iowa and New Hampshire. Frankly, I don't give a shit which Democrat wins as long as it isn't Lieberman (he's the one who led the push to ban violent video games in the early 1990s - not presidential material) and as long as that Democrat can oust Bush.
It's still too early to call anything, though, including which Democrat can beat Bush, because they are all going to return to the center instead of sticking to the left like they should. The recent polls on CNN say that only 20% of Americans think Weapons of Mass Destruction will be found, and that only 40% of Americans think the war in Iraq was "good" even though there are no Weapons. The American people were lied to and deceived, to the detriment of our foreign policy for years and even decades, and 40% of Americans still think that's a good thing.
At least it's only 40%.
Your Silver Grin
The title comes from the song I'm currently listening to, because I didn't have the time or the inclination to think of anything clever. Today has been a real ball-buster. Gigantor has died. Apparently, the lamps on a certain number of Sony 50" LCD TVs are prone to going out, and they have ordered a repair kit, but it will still take about five business days. Fortunately, Circuit City is being pretty chummy about the whole thing and is loaning me a replacement TV until the lamp assembly comes in. They're even delivering it on Saturday so I don't have to take off work, but I can still watch the game on Sunday. Not that I really care about football, but it's a great excuse to make chili and wraps.
So after that bullshit sorted itself out, I walked to work (still pissed) and walked into a hell of a day. Friday is a major day for deadlines, which basically means that a bunch of projects are due all at once. I suspect that I'm going to end up staying late on Thursday to finish everything, largely because living on the west coast means that the rest of the country (which apparently lives on the east coast or in the midwest - aren't there any fucking magazines in California?) is always two or three hours ahead of you, and when they need something by 5:00, it really means they need it by 2:00. My mornings, which are usually hectic because of fires that have sprouted overnight, are now prime real estate because I've got to get everything done by 5:00 New York time. I almost wish I lived in The City, because I'd be able to boss tired fuckers on the west coast around.
Speaking of, I get to spend almost six days in New York for Toy Fair in February. And it's looking like that, for real, I'll be going to Poland for a couple of weeks. I'm thrilled about both - I'm heading out to Queens for some Greek and I might pop up to Harlem and see how the old neighborhood (Dinerbar!) is getting along. Poland is a whole different story. I'll be with my mom and grandfather for most of the trip, and they are talking about doing a package tour (yuck, days locked in a bus with grayhairs!) and I'm trying to find something to do if I hang around for another week or so. I thought about heading down to Romania or something; I've got a friend in Wroclaw that I'd love to see, but he sounds like a bit of a square (no drinking, and he's Polish??) More details as I get them.
Other than that, I was going to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre tonight, but Crabby called eleven minutes into the flick, so I decided to come out and blog for a while and see if I can squeeze some more of Crocodile Man out. I know how the goddamned book is going to end; the problem is that I don't have the inclination to sit down and finish it, which is really too bad because I think it could be a salable novel.
Also, the Skull & Bones game I've been running has begun to even out, and it's really got me itching for a Ravenloft game. But I'd really like to play in one, not GM it.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Spirit of 1670 Campaign, Week Four
Tonight was week four in the Spirit of 1670 Skull & Bones campaign, and it was a blast.
Last week, the party was in the middle of being attacked by troglodytes, a small, lizard-like race that lived in the catacombs beneath St. Augustine. They valiantly fought through the battle, eventually breaking their enemies morale and allowing them to retreat. As the sounds of more troggies echoed through the catacomb walls, they ran back to the level's entrance and barred it just as the troggies burst through a reinforced door and were hot on their tails. After resting for a few hours to get their strength back, Ronald and Rodrigo convinced Aleida and Zanna to return below, as the Fountain of Youth is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All seemed quiet, until they got to a room full of coffins, from which burst a small army of troggies.
The battle was truly joined. The troggies were led by an enormous warrior, wearing an old helmet and pieces of armor, wielding two large axes, and supported by several "soldiers" with swords as well as a handful of grunts. The battle raged, and The Porcupine fell to the warrior's axes, only to be decapitated a moment later. The party barely survived their first real fight, but collected a large sum of gold - as well as the leader's head, from which they couldn't quite detach the helmet. It seemed to have some kind of magical properties - perhaps this was the helmet they were looking for.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
So head on over to Jaime's blog and give it a read. She's just getting started, but she's got the beginnings of a good one.
Tonight, I had to run into Seattle because Liz forgot something important at the office. I got to wear my fuzzy slippers because I didn't get out of the car at any point until we got there, and there was no one at her office to say anything about it.
Today was a really good day at work for two reasons, neither of which I can really share but both of which are exciting. Tonight, I've got to plan for tomorrow's Skull & Bones campaign. I think I'm going to cut the dungeon crawl part short, because they'd rather be out on the open seas, which is totally fine. So it's time to introduce the villain. He he he.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Non-Comic Book Summer Flicks
Although this summer is going to see the release of three comic book movies, Punisher, Hellboy, and Spider-Man 2, I'm more interested in other kinds of films. I don't want to dub 2004 as the "Year of the B Movie" yet, but there's a lot in the bullpen that might lead one to believe that is the case.
First, we've got The Day After Tomorrow, a big-budget disaster flick by the guy who did Independence Day. The previews show some great footage of cities being destroyed but not much else, so the actual storyline isn't clear yet. But this is one to watch.
Then there's Van Helsing, which looks like everything Underworld and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen could have been. It's got a nice, gothic feel to it, even though it's got a few slick action-movie elements. I'd compare it to a live-action version of Vampire Hunter D.
Next up is Dawn of the Dead, a remake of the classic Romano horror flick of the same name. It's a big-budget, big-bang zombie flick. Not like 28 Days Later, and not CGI like Resident Evil, but done classically, with makeup and effects. I'm really looking forward to this one, too, for many of the reasons listed above. They seem to have deviated a little from zombie mythology - their zombies act somewhat intelligent and move pretty damn fast, at least from what they're showing in the trailer.
Another offering is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (AKA Crimson Skies 2: Electric Bugaloo). I've talked a little about Sky Captain before, and I'm pretty excited about this flick, too. I found out later that only the actors are actually "filmed" - no sets, everything else was rendered, and the actors filled in slots originally occupied by CGI characters. So this could kind of be the counter-balance to the Dawn remake, an all-CGI actioneer that is totally over-the-top. The premise (alternate history where evil robots attack a big city with giant Zepplins) is straight out of Crimson Skies, as are the symbols on the planes, but I think this could be a great movie, a lot like The Rocketeer.
OK, then there's another horror remake, this time of The Stepford Wives. Unlike Dawn, this film doesn't seem like a remake would enhance it whatsoever - the original was outstanding, one of the last true suspense / horror films before Halloween and Friday the 13th re-invented the genre. Hitchcock would have been proud of the original Wives. The new one, I'm not too sure about. The trailer (linked above) ruins the "surprise" ending of the movie right there in the trailer. Blah.
Then there's Resident Evil: Apocalypse. The trailer itself is goddamned cool, it's basically an ad for an Umbrella Corporation product (hehe) that ends with Milla Jovovitch in the same pose from the end of the first flick. I thought the first Resident Evil was OK, but like the video games it relied too much on "jump" moments and ass-kicking. Which is fine, but not really what I care for in horror films. That, and the CGI monsters were pretty bad in some parts (even though the zombies were great). This one may be a renter.
But wait, there's more! No less than two big-budget historical epics, one starring Brad Pitt, Sean Bean, and Orlando Bloom called Troy, which looks like the best of the two, and another called King Arthur, starring the lovely Kiera Knightly (in a leather outfit worthy of some costume designer's paycheck). Troy looks pretty good from the trailer, definately fishing for an Oscar but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Arthur is by the same crew that did Pirates of the Caribbean, but instead of acting like a big-budget, over-the-top action flick, it bills itself as a historical epic, down to the "this is the true story" nonsense in the trailer before they show Romans, Saxons, and Picts (huh?) fighting outside of a Norman castle. Which is a little bit like the Nazis, Napoleon's armies, and the Vikings fighting outside of a 22nd-century moon base (dear God, I hope that doesn't seem like a good idea to some movie writer a thousand years from now).
If you've read this far, congratulations! You deserve a big award for sticking out what could very well be my most boring blog entry if you're not into movies and hearing me run my mouth about them. One more film I wanted to mention - Kevin Smith's latest, Jersey Girl, which may or may not be any good. The trailer makes it pretty hard to tell, although Jennifer Lopez (I refuse to call her "J Lo") does die ten minutes into the film, which can't be a bad thing.
I can't believe I just spent so much of my time yacking about movies. I should probably go write my columns for the RPG Times.
A Full Weekend
It's been a very full weekend. It's 4:00 on Sunday, and I feel this is the first real chance I've had to sit down and relax since Friday night.
So Friday, Liz and I went out for dinner. Then, I finally kicked my Playstation 2 into the grave and got another one - this time, with a warrenty. So I spent the night playing my new Castlevania: Lament of Innocence game, which I'm really enjoying. It's got a very Ravenloft-ian feel to it, and it's a good example of how to translate a side-scroller into a 3D game. So cheers to Konami for a fine game.
Saturday morning, the cable guy came bright and early to hook Gigantor up with digital cable, which costs all of $5 more a month (woohoo!) It's hooked up, but since Gigantor only has two component video inputs, I had to disconnect the PS2 so we would have a place to plug the cable. Fine, because the cable also has a DVI output, which will allow a direct digital connection to the TV similar to a VGA cable on a computer. The cable guy assures me that this will work, so I trot out to Best Buy to pick up a (very expensive) DVI cable. I bring it back, diddle around with the connection, and - nothing.
So I think that the digital cable box needs to be told to output in DVI. I try for a half-hour to get into the magic cable-guy-only setup screen. No luck. So I break down and call customer service, which means another half-hour of pressing 1 and 2 on menus and listening to horrific Muzak and hold advertisements before I get to speak to a customer service rep, who in the span on 30 seconds told me that no, the cable guy was wrong and the boxes don't output in DVI yet because Comcast's contract hasn't been finalized with Motorola. So, my options are to either switch the cords every time I want to play the PS2, or to buy a component video switcher. I like the switcher because it also converts optial or digital RCA audio to either format, which is great because my poor receiver can only handle one input of each type. It's also great because I could hook up the cable, the PS2, an X-Box, and a Gamecube all into the same input and be good to go - and if the cable company ever activates the DVI output, that frees up a slot for a next-gen console. Which is all well and good, except that's a lot more money than I was hoping to spend. It's more than just a hobby, it's a money pit!
So I returned the cable to Best Buy, and mind you this is all before noon. Then, I drove up to Lynnwood to help Sean out, because he needed a lift to Sea-Tac airport to pick up a rental van for his fiancee's bachelorette party. So, I drove him down (which, if you know Seattle geography, meant that I drove 20 miles up to Lynnwood, 40 miles down to Sea-Tac, 40 miles back to Lynnwood, and then the 20 miles home later that night). After the girls left, Chad came over and we had a great time testing Sean's audio system (which puts mine to shame), eating steaks from his new grill, and watching movies. Oh yeah, and talking about guns.
Sean's into guns the way I'm into movies. He's got enough to arm the beginnings of my revolution, which is awesome. It was a great, guys night in.
Today was a Game of Thrones tournament at the WizKids store. I took third place, and probably should have taken second, but my opponent took her sweet time in the final round. Never mind - I had a fantastic time, because it was a sealed tournament, which means that people like me (without suitcases of cards) stand a fighting chance. It also means that people like me, who aren't as familiar with all the card interactions, get to see how things work together that we wouldn't normally see. My deck had some really nice combos that I think I can incorporate into my tournament deck, so I may try to rebuild it soon. And, I think I've found a good use for the Great Khalasaar - in a Greyjoy deck! Muwahahahaha!
Tonight: relaxing in front of the TV, chilling out.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Electronics Gone Bad
Somehow, I've written a less-than-stellar record with electronics, specifically laser devices. In my time, I somehow managed to break a couple of portable CD players, a portable MP3-CD player, my old Aiwa (although, to be fair, I had that thing for a good six years and used it almost nonstop), and now apparently my PS2.
The PS2 never worked quite right. When watching a dual-layer DVD, it would start screwing up at the layer change. Then, a couple of months ago, it decided to quit working while I was in the middle of games. Like, it would just freeze. Now, it's taking forever to even load the games in the first place. I'm not a major video game player, at least not anymore. I might sit down once every two weeks and play something. So it's not like I've got this thing on all the time, where it can get worn out. I've got a cleaning disc I run through it periodically, and that doesn't seem to help, either.
To make matters worse, my new TV is having problems, too. Luckily, it's under a full warrenty, so I'm having the service people come out to my house ASAP to resolve this matter.
And now it's time for my rant. You would think that, once you have money to buy really nice electronics, they wouldn't fuck up. These aren't those stupid, plastic knock-off toys you get as a kid because your parents don't think you'll notice the difference because they can't afford the real deal. Those, I would expect to break and be fixed with masking tape and my imagination could take care of the rest. Fuck that. This is serious fucking business, and I would hope, hope, that with having financial security, I could expect my fucking television to fucking work.
I hate electronics.
Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows how much I dig B movies. B movies are those flicks that aren't factory-produced Hollywood blockbusters, but still manage to entertain. They don't pretend to be intellectual, and they serve no purpose other than to allow you anywhere from ninety to a hundred and eighty minutes of quiet time. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're scary, and other times they're cheesy action flicks.
For example, this evening I watched The Warriors, a fantastic adventure-action flick made in 1979. You know a film is great when it can hold its own for twenty-five years and still come out looking great, which it does. I think anyone who was a kid in the early and mid 1980s remembers The Warriors.
This is the premise of the film. The Warriors of the title are a streetgang from Coney Island who head to The Bronx for a big gang meeting. At the meeting, the guy who called all the gangs there is wasted, and The Warriors are accused of the crime - so, they have to fight their way from The Bronx back to Coney Island in Brooklyn, across Manhattan. That's all. It's a series of fight scenes, held together by a pretty loose premise. But you know what? It's entertaining. It's lots of fun to watch.
I guess I'm feeling a little punchy about the whole B-movie thing because of Cabin Fever. Cabin Fever was one of my favorite movies of 2003, because it was a goddamned entertaining piece of horror flick. It had some nice funny bits, a lot of over-the-top gore, and enough of a dose of psychological horror to keep things interesting. It never pretended to be anything else, and it was the most profitable horror film of last year. And yet, film snobs can't quit ripping on it.
The bottom line is, I just can't fathom the rancor with which these guys go after Cabin Fever. A lot of them are horror junkies, and a lot of them like some really shitty films. With a genre like horror, it's really hit or miss, and a lot of it depends on taste, I suppose. But it's not like Cabin Fever is supposed to be high art or anything. I mean, it's about a bunch of college kids who rent a cabin and die one by one to a flesh-eating virus. Citizen Kane it is not.
Here's a fact about my wife I learned today. In high school, when she worked at Arby's, sometimes she would eat pieces of frozen cookie dough. A chick after my own heart.
Gigantor keeps fucking up. I've had it less than a week and the power button is fucked up. That really pisses me off.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The Spirit of 1670 Week Three
Last night, I ran the third week of my Skull & Bones campaign. The whole time was spent in a dungeon, so there really isn't much to tell story-wise.
After fighting the centipedes, the party rested before descending deeper into the sewers. The next level was much more clausterphobic. They wound their way through older catacombs, avoiding opening coffins, until they found a series of doors blocked in with large slabs of stone impeding their progress. They backtracked until they found another way around, this time through a room with a disgusting pool of old sewage in it. As they made their way through the room, four humanoid shapes formed out of the muck and attacked.
After a brief battle, the party progressed until they found a large, open chamber with a wooden barricade across the floor. Hiding behind the barrier were a bunch of Trodlodytes, tiny humanoid lizard-like creatures. Zanna cast a spell that allowed her to understand their language, but brandished her voodoo doll at the little creatures, causing them to panic and attack. The Troggies swarmed over their barrier and began attacking the party in earnest. Aleida, Zanna, and The Porcupine withdrew, leaving Ronald and Rodrigo to fight the swarm on their own.
The game ended in the middle of that fight. Unfortunately, the random dungeon generator I used didn't give the players too many options, so the dungeon felt as if they were being herded rather than making choices, and I didn't like that. I'm also going to shorten the dungeon a bit, as I think they are getting tired of dungeon crawling rather than open-sea adventuring, and I'd like to introduce the bad guy and move the story along a bit.
Are You Being Told Your Point of View is Illogical? Blacklist Your Teachers!
Check out this story about college Republicans at the University of Colorado. They, with the help of the "fair and balanced" Fox News Network and David Horowitz, have started a website where students can report "liberal bias and indoctrination" by "liberal" professors. This plays to the Reagan-era myth that universities are somehow controlled by this cadre of liberal professors with an evil agenda for world domination, who want to teach their students evil acts like tolerating homosexuals and giving health care to children before building landmines to blow them up. You know, the usual evil liberal stuff.
I'm frankly really fucking tired of hearing this. Conservatives trot it out every now and then, especially during election years, and even moreso during election years when Osama Bin Laden hasn't been caught and the economy looks equal to a three-day-old turd floating in a public restroom toilet. I heard this at Drury, a school run by a very conservative President, whose main source of income was the enormous Business School. In fact, the Board of Trustees asked for my resignation from the position of Opinions Editor from the school paper because I wrote a liberal column - twice. Hardly the kind of school where conservative voices are being stifled in favor of liberal ones.
I have no doubt that, in the arts, the majority of professors lean to the left. People say this is because of a liberal bias. Is it? Naturally, these people are some of the most intelligent individuals in American society. You typically don't find one of these professors defending, say, the theory of creationism. Why? Because it's fucking moronic bullshit that anyone with an ounce of logical thought can see right through. And yet, this is used in pulpits across conservative America as evidence that schools are liberal in nature.
Wrong. I say they are intelligent. I say they use reason. I say they employ logic. I say they are educated. I say they use facts as evidence to make reasoned and informed arguments. That isn't a liberal bias, that's a smart-person bias.
If you dig deep enough in the news story, you find this quote:
Conservative lawmakers introduced a resolution last week calling for the defense of students' First Amendment rights, including expression "based solely on viewpoint."
Note the part in italics at the end, in quotes. Based solely on viewpoint. In other words, these students should be able to say anything they want in class, based solely on their viewpoint, and professors have no right to say, "um, wait a minute, that's completely illogical." Nope. If they want to stand up and preach that God hates fags, they should totally be allowed to do so, supporting arguments or not, logic or not.
When I did my paper on Holocaust denial, one of the conclusions at which I arrived was that some factless opinions have no place in a venue dedicated to learning. Holocaust denial has no facts to back it up. In fact, the very notion that there was no organized plan by Nazi Germany to extinguish Jewish people flies in the face of many facts - not unlike the notion that Earth was created in six days, or that God has a special vendetta against homosexuals, or that building bombs is better than feeding children. But these things should all be tolerated, right? No, they should not. If someone makes a statement like "the Nazis never had a plan to exterminate the Jews," or "God will stike down all you queers with AIDS," then the professor has the right - the duty - to stand up and say, "if you cannot prove that logically, then I'm gonna call it what it is - fucking bullshit - and ask you not to share such uneducated opinions with the class again without backing it up with reason."
And hey, if conservative points of view can't hold up to the scrutiny of logic - which the College Republicans at CU seem to imply - maybe they should consider finding some points of view that can.
States of Unions
During my Skull & Bones game last night, my mom called to see what I thought of the President's State of the Union speech. To be honest, I'd forgotten all about it. So, I got up this morning and read a transcript of it. I didn't really know what to write - it seemed so bland and devoid of real content, blogging about it would have been a chore.
But, thanks to Mark Evanier, I noticed something else about Bush's speech. It wasn't what he said that was important, it was what he didn't say. Here's a list of words that did not appear in Bush's speech:
Osama. Environment. Haliburton. Mars. Global warming. Equality. Fairness. Enron. Withdraw.
But he did take a moment to deride and condemn "activist judges" (as if this were some kind of insult, that judges shouldn't be activists - and he had the balls to do this the day after Martin Luther King's 75th birthday). It was in reference to gay marriage, of course, and Bush went on to say that he wouldn't stand for judges who issue "court order[s], without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives."
Except, of course, when those court orders stop voting recounts in Florida.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Maybe I Won't
Kytte rented May last weekend, a horror movie I heard about a while ago that dropped of my radar, and I was reminded of on a recent trip to Best Buy. I thought about buying it blind, but decided not to, so when Kytte loaned me her rental, I thought, "hey, great, now I don't have to rent it either!" I'm goddamn glad I didn't buy it or rent it.
May starts out by ruining the film's entire premise, which is really all it had going for it. The opening credits are done over scenes of clothes being cut and stitched, before cutting to a scene in the title character's patch, where in rapid succession we learn about her lazy eye, her rejection by the other kids because she wears a pirate-like eye patch, and her overly-protective-yet-obsessive mother's attempts to help May compensate by introducing her to the world of making dolls. Then, the film's "horror element" is blown nary four minutes into the movie, when May's mother tells her that "if you can't get a friend, make one."
And that's basically it: May sees perfect parts of people, but she can't see perfect people, so she decides to make a perfect person by cutting people up and sewing herself a new doll-person. People have compared that to Frankenstein, but it's not even in the same ballpark: the Doctor's motivations for creating his monster ran much deeper than an underdeveloped, overly-sensitive goth's lack of social adjustment. Don't worry, I didn't ruin anything for you that wouldn't have been spoiled either on the box cover or in the first five minutes of the film.
My problems with this movie (and I've obviously got them) is that it spent zero time developing Young May as a character. None. We are treated to one scene where kids reject her, one scene where her mother tries to help her and most likely passes along some of her own mental quirks. And that's it. We're supposed to accept, from this tiny amount of film, that May is a seriously maladjusted individual, and that these are all logical reasons for her to cut herself with a scalpal and sew pieces of corpses together to make a new person. Didn't work, not for a second. Maybe it's because I've seen too many people in the world who have a lot worse problems than an overbearing mother and a small personal handicap, and not a single one of them grew up to be a murderer. That may be it in a nutshell (pardon the pun): this film had zero verisimilitude. Armageddon had a more believable premise.
Which only goes to show me that indie film does not always equal good film. May was far, far worse than other indie horror flicks that have come along recently - two that come to mind are Cabin Fever and Frailty. The first nailed you with some of the same gross-out tricks that May pulls, but managed to tell it in a way that didn't lose the viewer. The later is practically the form of psychological horror; while there's very little actual blood and violence, it is disturbing on a far deeper level than May, which only leaves you wondering why her parents didn't put her in counselling a little sooner, especially her father who, for the two seconds we see him on film, seems normal.
Gosh, I'm being awfully harsh. Then again, I just wasted a lot of my time.
Monday, January 19, 2004
Satan and Saddam
Check out this interesting Salon.com article. It's an interview with a scholar who studies literary and popular culture references to Satan and the occult, although the headline is somewhat misleading: it isn't necessarily about how a belief in Satan relates to right-wing beliefs about the War on Terror, but how popular impressions of Satan have changed in the last fifty years as the pendulum of religion has swung once more towards the experiential rather than the intellectual.
What is most startling, though, is the author's descriptions of how his colleagues respond to his books and research: with disdain, that such things are beneath the realm of intellectual study. It seems to me that a large religious movement with well-funded political connections and influence should never be beneath the realm of intellectual study.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Goodbye Lazy Sunday
Since all I've done today is clean the house, I'm not going to talk about today as much as I'll talk about yesterday. Before noon, Liz and I met Brook and Wendi at the Bellevue Library, which is only a branch of the King County Library System. It was amazing. Larger than my college's library (probably about twice as big) and jam-packed full of books, it looks like a great place to do some heavy research. I couldn't believe that a public library could be so well stocked, but I suppose if any place would have such a library, it would be here.
After that, we went to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington to catch an exhibit on death customs that Wendi wanted to see. It was really nifty, although their portrayal of Celtic culture was a little more fanciful that fact-ful. There seems to be a growing movement to portray the Celts as a unified empire under one ruler, when in reality they were as unified as the American Indian tribes when Columbus landed. Which is to say, not at all. There were other great exhibits too, including a mastadon skeleton that came from Burning Tree Golf Course in Newerk, Ohio. I once got a gander at its intestines. How cool is that?
After that, we swung by my comic store and I picked up some funnybooks, including the trade paperback of Superman: Red Son, which I'm really digging, although the introduction makes it seem much more self-important that I think it really is. The concept itself is what makes it cool (that Superman crash-landed in the Ukraine instead of Kansas, and grew up as a Soviet super-hero instead of an American super-hero), but the introduction attempts to make connections to current American foreign policy that I don't think are present. I'll post more of my thoughts after I'm done. The next issue of Captain America was in there too, a comic I'm really coming around to liking. I'd love to start penning my own Cap script. That's one of my goals when I'm done with my novel (about 25,000 words from now).
Then we came back here, watched Reign of Fire and Out Cold, and it's amazing how good brainless post-apocalyptic sci-fi and brainless stoner humor look on the new TV. Then, we played Munchkin, which is a fantastic card game from our pals at Steve Jackson. And a large amount of alcohol found its way into our systems, which made the evening much more fun. We've finally got Amaretto in our liquor cabinet, so I can have my favorite mixed drink, ye olde Amaretto Sour.
Oh, I should also mention that I picked up two indie newspapers to check out the indie film scene, and I have to say the pickings are pretty slim right now. Some theaters are showing Perfect Blue, which I despised when I bought it blind on DVD three or four years ago. There's a new Robert Altman ballet movie called The Company, which reviews either say sucks or is great. I think I'm going to spend my indie film time getting caught up on Below, May, and The Fast Runner, which all should be easy rentals. But, I'm going to try to take advantage of the Seattle Film Festival as much as possible when it comes. Then, I shall be a real film schnob!
Saturday, January 17, 2004
A Large Invader
My house has been invaded by an enormous 50" LCD television. It is, to put it simply, stunning. We got home, I showed Liz the basics, and we plugged in Support Your Local Sherriff, followed by Terminator 2. Support was a western farce with James Garner from the late 60s, one of Liz's movie choices and not at all bad. Quite entertaining. You can see the roots of the '94 version of Maverick clearly. T2 was T2, I think I've seen it close to fifty times. I thought it was appropriate, since it was one of those movies that just made me fall in love with, well, movies. I set the system up with Jurassic Park, also one of my long-time favorites.
Needless to say, I'm very very very happy with this TV. I've got a Christmas present from my mother that I'm going to watch, and a lot of other movies too. And some TV shows.
On a more personal level, I can actually say that I'm somewhat keeping my New Year's resolutions. My first was to try to cut out candy, which aside from a couple pieces of red licorice this last week, I've managed to do without a problem. It helps that chocolate really fucks with my acid reflux - that's a nice incentive. The other is portion control, which is a little harder to manage. I've done pretty well, but I have spells where I feel like gorging myself, and when I try to drink water, which normally helps, I just end up having to pee a lot and I'm hungry ten minutes later.
My other New Year's resolution, which I haven't kept at all, is to try to take advantage of more of the indie cinema offerings and culture here. I have less and less desire to go see Hollywood blockbusters, especially since I can now pretty much watch them in better quality in the comfort of my own home. But, I think it's a shame that there are so many good independent movie houses here and I've pretty much been ignoring them. My plan is to get The Stranger every week and start keeping up on what's coming to town. Maybe a good website would help, too.
I've got some stuff to rent, stuff I've missed or haven't seen. I want to grab Below, written by Darren Arranofsky (Pi), and a horor flick called May, which is supposed to be creepy as hell. Both American Splendor and Lost in Translation come out on video next month, so I don't feel a burning desire to pay money to see them in a movie theater, but I will go watch Big Fish, which I keep hearing great things about.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Passion about The Passion
I've made comments about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ film on and off since starting this blog, and I have to say that this thread about the movie at the IMDB just floors me. The utter ignorance with which both sides are arguing their points is really nothing short of amazing, but this is exactly what passes for "intellectual debate" these days - a bunch of uninformed yahoos yelling at each other on a message forum (as opposed to a bunch of uninformed yahoos yelling at each other on TV.) I'm beginning to think the Neil Postman was right. Debate really is dead.
An Interesting Day
For some reason, it seems like we haven't had a chance to slow down lately. Between my company laying people off, Liz's boss' boss fucking with her life, the car wreck, food poisoning, the big TV, and everything else, it's like a never-ending barrage of input and I'm beginning to feel overstimulated.
Which is why I don't want to talk about my day at all.
I'd rather talk about President Bush's planned trips to Mars and the Moon. This is another time when I find myself agreeing with Bush. That's twice in two weeks. Like I said, something's wrong with this picture.
I'm surprised not by Bush's announcement, which makes sense: it means a lot of taxpayer money going to defense and aerospace contractors, and the space race was a great way to boost the economy back in the 50s and 60s. Its the perfect tax-and-spend Republican strategy: give money to gigantic corporations. Most of the liberal backlash to Bush's announcement has been very critical of this very fact. Why can't we use that money to feed our people? To educate our children? To cure cancer?
If we were simply flushing that money down the toilet, like we do in useless Middle Eastern wars for oil, I could see their point, but manned space travel has a technological side-effect as well. Who's to say that a cure for cancer won't be a byproduct of research on the lengthy effects of radiation on human beings during an 18-month journey to Mars? Who's to say that, should we find microbes on Mars, it won't inspire children to become astronauts themselves? The space race gave us a lot of things, from microwave ovens to velcro to teflon, and it could give us so much more. In a word, it's better than throwing that money at corporations because at least this gives something back rather than a state-possessed vacation home when another Enron occurs.
And besides, anything that gets us closer to living in Star Trek can't be a bad thing.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Alone at 8:30
I've been in quite a funk this afternoon. You'd think between Gigantor and the WizKids Galactus announcement today that I'd be in a great mood, but for some reason the opposite is true. Maybe it's because I've been sitting at my computer all hunchbacked for the last hour trying to work on a novel that, for whatever reason, just isn't coming. It probably doesn't help that my music keeps switching between Lou Reed, Jimmy Eat World, and The Pixies either. It's just kind of one of those existential moments when I feel alone. Not that Elizabeth isn't here (well, she's at a dog training class at the moment), but it's worse than that. I still feel like the new kid, the intruder, at work - not necessarily in a professional context (although I've certainly gotten that vibe more than once lately), but in a social context. For whatever reason, I still feel like the outsider looking in, like I still can't quite let my hair down and be myself. I can't really put my finger on why, no matter how much I try.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
It really isn't an exaggeration to say that I've wanted a great home theater system for the entirety of my adult life. With the recent acquisition of my DVD player, that dream seemed closer. Last night, it was completed. We stopped by Circuit City because I was inspired by my parents' recent luck in open-box specials. There, with a nice, low, open-box pricetag, was the TV I'd been looking at. Well, it was one of two TVs I'd been looking at, but not the one I was going to buy because I thought it was too expensive. Except, at open box rates, it wasn't. And lo and behold, the store was also having a sale, which included that TV. So, we decided to get it. The television arrived at the store on Monday night, went to the guy's house on Tuesday morning, he decided it was too big, and he sent it back. It was displayed at open-box at 1:00 PM, and I bought it a little after 5:30. Woohoo!
The TV arrives on Friday. I'm pushing for an early morning delivery. I have a feeling I may be playing hookie from work that day... or "working from home."
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Monday, January 12, 2004
Books and Movies While I Was Away
As planned, I read quite a bit of Love in the Time of Cholera on my trip. I'm more than halfway through it, and I'm finding it very hard to stay interested. Marquez' literary abilities are amazing, but while I was enthralled by One Hundred Years of Solitude and its plot, I cannot same the same of Love. On the way home, I picked up Stevie King's From a Buick 8, which made fine airplane reading. King's certainly mellowed out in his later years, and 8 is a pretty mellow, short book. It's not really horror per se, but it's good some very nice, sinister elements, and a sci-fi twist that's more Dark Tower than anything else. In fact, I'd be willing to bet there's some kind of connection there.
As movies go, I watched League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which wasn't as bad as everyone says, so long as you can forget the comic book. I also saw 21 Grams, which was a pretty good movie with one of the best acting performances I've ever seen. I'm referring to Naomi Watts' amazing job as a traumatized housewife. Granted, Benicio del Toro and Sean Penn both did great jobs as well, but Watts really stole the show. The movie itself was pretty good, but suffered from two things: its focus on fate, for which I have an existential problem, and its composition. The story was told in a non-linear fashion, which is fine if it has some bearing on the story (example: Memento) but here it only seemed to serve to muddle things up. I'd figured out the plot 20 minutes in, even though the non-linearity of the film made it seem like a big mystery until the last 20 minutes. The story would have been stronger without that distraction, and in a way it only served to de-emphasize the excellent storytelling and acting.
Someday, I'll write something about Mexican cinema and its obsession with fate, but not today.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Skull & Bones Spirit of 1670 Week Two
Last night, we finally sat down for week two of my Skull & Bones campaign. We only had four players attending, and I suspect that players five and six probably won't be part of the campaign; four is on the low end of what I'm comfortable running (I'd prefer five or six), but it's a party that works pretty well together. There's two strong fighters; a hougan spellcaster; and the navigator, who's a bit of a scholar but can hold her own in a fight as well.
The game picked up directly after the incident with the rats (see my previous entry about Week One). Randomly, the party encountered a merchant ship flying French colors. Captain Snickerton ordered general quarters, and readied the cannons. He strutted around the deck, explaining to anyone who would listen that France was still the enemy of the English crown, even though the two nations are technically at peace. He started talking about Cromwell's influence on the French, and how everyone had to be careful.
As the Queen's Justice approached the French ship, it became obvious that it was in pretty bad shape - obvious sail and rigging damage, plus a noticeable list. The masts were recently repaired, and it seemed like only a dozen or so men were on deck, trying to make what repairs they could. The French ship struck her colors, indicating surrender and flagging that they needed assistance. Claiming a Cromwellian trick, Lord Snickerton ordered a warning shot fired at the French ship. The crew grudgingly complied, and the shot obviously angered the French crew. After a brief debate, the Captain ordered them to sail on, having already committed what could be considered an act of war and involving the entire crew in the process. As a small act of rebellion, First Mate Connors and Commodore Brumwell dropped a few barrels of supplies over the side of the ship, hoping the French crew could use them.
That evening, after the officers ate, they met on deck to discuss the situation. Connors explained his plan: the Captain needed to be removed from command, from the ship, and possibly from this mortal coil. Brumwell said that he agreed with the plan, and the characters who sailed with Connors and Brumwell realized that the Commodore was speaking mutiny and treason, which meant the situation must be dire. After removing the Captain, Connors explained, there would be a general election for a new Captain, and since sailing for the West Amsterdam Company was no longer an option after the attack on the French ship and the removal of their appointed Captain, plus the fact that it would now be very difficult for the crew to find work with another merchant company, their best course of action might be to attempt to obtain a letter of Marquee and become privateers for the English crown.
Mr. Rontacourt spoke up and explained that he had connections in English society who could speed the process, and that he stood by the crew - in fact, he wanted to go with them, as it sounded like his style of adventure. With that decided, the officers knocked on the Captain's door. Angus, the ship's carpenter, had to remove said door from its hinges, and the Captain, surprised at the intrusion, fired his pistol at Connors and nicked him in the arm. The officers then stormed into the Captain's cabin. Commodore Brumwell produced his mighty Deltoid Blunderbuss, a specially modified gun that only he can fire correctly (Brumwell is six-foot-six and weights about 350 pounds, all muscle). Unfortunately, it exploded in his hand, but the noise snapped everyone into combat mode. Behind the scenes, Miss Zanna, the cook, removed a small doll from her skirt and jabbed a pin into it. Shortly after, Rodrigo de la Cruz stormed into the cabin with a flourish and demanded that the Captain halt - which he did (with a little help from Miss Zanna). Amazed at how well God protected and helped him, Rodrigo and Alieda the navigator bound the Captain with his own sheets.
After the spell wore off, the Captain, in a stream of curses, was dragged to the side of the ship. By now, the entire crew had assembled to watch, and not one of them offered a word as Brumwell picked up the screaming Lord Mars Snickerton, still bound, and tossed him overboard.
The next morning, after roll call, the crew assembled and took nominations for Captain. Rodrigo nominated Connors, who won unopposed. His first course of action was to outline the plan to the crew, and order the ship to make for Saint Augustine for provisioning and careening before the crew attempted to contact English authorities. The careening would take a minimum of six weeks (the goods in the hold helped grease the process), so the crew was left to its own devices.
Mr. Rontacourt met with his contact, Professor Alan Smythe, at a local school. The Englishman, a student of Spanish culture, was overjoyed to meet Rontacourt, who made up a story about the Royal Society being interested in Smythe's study of the Fountain of Youth. Smythe explained that the Fountain was impossible to find without a map to the Fountain itself, and he only knew of one such map, and that from scraps of legend and hearsay: supposedly, the map was inscribed on Ponce de Leon's silver conquistador's helmet. The helmet was buried by one of de Leon's men in the old sewers beneath Saint Augustine, which were used as catacombs to bury plague victims during outbreaks of disease in the city. Smythe himself was too old to venture underground, but recommended an Indian guide that people called "The Porcupine" to help Rontacourt venture into the sewers.
With a few weeks of preparation, the crew was ready to descend. They found The Porcupine, named because of his tendency to push long, thin pins into his skin during drinking games for money, in a bar and recruited him for the princely sum of 100 Pieces of Eight and all expenses paid. Rontacourt brought Rodrigo, Alieda, and Zanna along the next day at noon, when they descended into a tunnel in an old churchyard.
The catacombs, they found, were a dry, awful place lined with old bones. Skeletons sat in niches along the walls, while piles of less-important individuals were piled pell-mell on the floor. After descended deeper into the earth, things began to get moist. They eventually came to an underground river, where The Porcupine was dragged under by an enormous alligator while trying to swim across. With some luck, they pulled The Porcupine out, but the alligator, denied its meal, attacked the party. Rodrigo was amazed to feel God's grace fill him during the fight, and didn't notice Zanna poking pins into her doll behind the scenes. After a fierce struggle, where Rodrigo was almost dragged to a watery fate, they dispatched the creature. The party then rested for a time while Zanna tended to The Porcupine's wounds.
They managed to cross the river, using the alligator's body as a makeshift raft, and descended further. After a time, they came to a stone grate, which The Porcupine said they had to open to continue. Zanna's loa sent her a message of impending danger, so the party prepared for the worst to come swarming out of the grate. When nothing did, they tried to lower a torch down to see what horrors existed below. That's when two gargantuan centipedes dropped on them from the ceiling. The party fought bravely and dispatched the creatures with little trouble, but not after being poisoned in the process while taking some strong hits from the creature's large mandibles.
That's where the adventure ended last night, and they still have two more levels of my little funhouse, and it's only going to get worse from here on. Everyone seems to be having a great time, and I'm certainly having a good time writing it. This is really the introduction to the "meta" story for the campaign, which may or may not always influence adventures. I have a feeling that Captain Snickerton will be back in some form, and John Robinson is hot on the trail of the Fountain himself, so the party is going to have some competition... if they even want the Fountain at all!
There's also a great dynamic developing between the devoutly Catholic Rodrigo and the Voodoo-practicing Zanna; she has to keep her practices secret from him, but whenever he sees their effects, he becomes more and more convinced that God is blessing him. I can't wait to use that in a plot somewhere...
All the President's Men
According to a new book by former Bush Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, a conservative Republican with real morals instead of the John Ashcroft fake kind, the Bush administration planned to invade Iraq even before September 11th. In fact, they had been planning it since a few days after Bush took office. From the article:
'"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told CBS, according to excerpts released Saturday by the network. '
'[Author of the book] Suskind said O'Neill and other White House insiders gave him documents showing that in early 2001 the administration was already considering the use of force to oust Saddam, as well as planning for the aftermath. "There are memos," Suskind told the network. "One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'''
'Suskind cited a Pentagon document titled "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," which, he said, outlines areas of oil exploration. "It talks about contractors around the world from ... 30, 40 countries and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq. It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this,'" O'Neill said.'
There's a special on CBS tonight about it. I hope to God we can finally flush the turd that is the Bush administration this year. We should probably charge them all with the murder of more than 500 American troops who've died for those Iraqi Oilfield Contracts, too.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
Fourth Post-Trip Blog: Christmas
My feelings on Christmas are pretty bipolar. On one hand, I really enjoy being with friends and family, and I enjoy giving (and receiving, of course) presents. On the other hand, I hate the pressure to see everyone and do things for everyone else. It is my firm belief that everyone feels this pressure to see all their friends and family, and therefore no one has a good time, except for those who have only one friend. And I just feel kind of sad for those people.
It gets worse when you're traveling, because you only have a limited amount of time in which to work. It gets even worse when sickness cuts into that time. I spent the first part of Christmas day at my parents, when I picked at my food and then slept for two hours. Then, I went to Liz's sister's house, where I tried not to do the same thing.
I can't say I had a bad time, because I didn't, but the entire experience left me feeling wiped out in a way that not even work can manage. At least at work you have weekends, during which you can recharge and forget about work (well, admittedly, when you work with comic books and games all day, which also happens to be your hobby, sometimes those can get pretty sickening on the weekends, too).
Friday, January 09, 2004
Take the Black
Today, I took the black, which to those unfamiliar with George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones books, means that I became a volunteer for Fantasy Flight's A Game of Thrones CCG. I'm going to help Kytte run GoT tournaments at the WizKids store, and hopefully continue to run them at my comic shop, too. Plus, I get a really bitchin' Night's Watch t-shirt.
Wish I had more real content today. Sorry. There's just not that much going on in Jason's life these days.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
My friend Kevin posted a great directory of pictures showing the recent freak snowstorm, as seen from his Bellevue apartment. Pretty strange!
This will cover tomorrow's blog of the day: a freakshow who's stalking his wife after she left him. The fact that someone feels the need to make personal shit like this available to the public scares me.
Somehow I've gotten in the habit of waking up really early. That's OK, because I get to come out and work while Liz is still sleeping. It allows me to do things like blog entries, surf the Internet for inane shit, and work on my novel and other stuff. I also realized it might give me a good opportunity to do some morning exercises, if I could get off my lazy ass long enough. Which I may try to do in a few minutes.
There's not much to talk about at 7:00 AM on a Thursday, except that I'm already looking forward to the weekend (Skull & Bones Part II!) and my job is basically a constant, low-level stressor. Jon gave me the name of a doctor, and I'm going to see if I can get in next week - this acid shit is royally fucking with my life. I know part of it is weight, and I came back to Seattle with all the best intentions of starting a regular exercise routine, but the snow pretty much took care of that. I figure, at least doing some stretches and whatnot here in the apartment should help.
Off to write and stretch.
Blog of the Day: Here's a great reason to avoid homeschooling, other than the obvious stunting of social growth.
Halloween in January
The second John Carpenter movie I've watched in the last month, Halloween is a goddamn great piece of horror flick. Very little gore - we're talking a few red streaks on a knife and a little blood on Jamie Lee Curtis - and a hell of a lot of suspense. Everything hinges on the brooding, building terror from the killer, who is like a relentless force of nature that the viewer can see but the characters can't. It's the ultimate dead-babysitter movie I think. I got the 25th Anniversary DVD for Christmas, and it looked great. I'll confess, I had to stop the movie twice. I really need to get Liz to watch more of these flicks with me. I'd like to scrounge a copy of Assault on Precinct 13, as it's supposed to be a great suspense / action flick, and I'm beginning to trust that Carpenter really knew his shit back in the 70s.
Next time I order from Deep Discount DVD, I'm going to have to score Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original), Assault, and Once Upon a Time in the West, which was voted Best DVD of 2003. Or, I could pick them up from Best Buy when I venture out to get Cabin Fever in a couple of weeks...
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
I Agree With Bush
No, really. Reading about his new immigration plan that would allow some illegal immigrants to keep their jobs, and actually begin the immigration process, I'm stunned to learn that I actually agree with one of Bush's policies!
Turn up the thermostats in Hell.
Game of Thrones Humor
I spent part of the evening last night building a new Game of Thrones deck, which I hope to try out on my unsuspecting co-workers today at lunch. Plus, I put it in some really nifty card-protecting sleeves and a metal box, so they will know that I am the 133t pow3r gam@r!
Here's a list of "Game of Thrones" archetypes I pulled off Fantasy Flight's forums. I'll substitute this for a real blog entry.
Ned: You spend money on the game but not too much. After all you have a family to support, and a card game simply cannot be too high of a priority in your life. You attend tournaments when you can, and try to treat all players equally regardless of their rank or experience. Because of this, you are sometimes seen as cold and unsympathetic. During tourneys, you avoid looking at other matches, as that would give you an unfair advantage over future opponents. Under no circumstances would you attempt to spoil the Wildling Deck
Cersei: You want to win tourneys, and you will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. You spend too much money on cards, and exploit every loophole you can discover to ensure victory. If that means attending 6 tourneys in as many days, so be it. During tourneys, you surreptitiously steal glances at other matches, anticipating your future opponents. If possible, you will attempt to spoil the wildling deck.
Theon: you would like to spend more money on cards, but find yourself unable. Therefore, you can't quite construct the ruthless deck of a Cersei player. Tournament losses leave you bitter and bloodthirsty, wins provoke you to much gloating and strutting. You are as unscrupulous as Cersei, yet lack her finesse.
Bran: You are compassionate and have a sincere desire for challenging gameplay, but find yourself unable to compete. Perhaps you have unavoidable commitments elsewhere, or lack the money. Yet, you do what you can, whining and complaining all the while.
Sansa: You enjoy attending tournaments, but do not focus too much on the winning and losing of them. Tourneys are above all social events, and you make new friends with unbridled yet courteous enthusiasm. Often you will bring snacks to share with the other players. You do not care to play with Apprentice, as it is too impersonal.
Tyrion: Like Cersei, you are unscrupulous in the advantages you can accumulate over others, and the money you can spend to make it happen. Yet, you do not use your power to win, only to challenge and bait the other players. You stay one step ahead of them, granting them the hope of victory before you neatly finish first. When facing a Cersei player in a tourney, you lose your composure and restraint, and generally act as badly as she does, attempting to turn her joy to ashes in her mouth.
Jaime: You used to be a Cersei player, but are turning into a Ned. Winning is no longer as important to you as it once was, and fair competition is becoming more of a priority. You favor sealed deck tournaments.
Samwell: You collect the cards, but do not often play. When you do find time to attend tournaments, you tend to lose clumsily, yet amiably. You enjoy studying your cards more than actually using them. You play by Apprentice more than anything else, and cannot afford an complete collection of any set. You are afraid of the wildling deck.
Jon: You do not spend overmuch on cards, yet have been incredibly lucky, drawing the most desirable rares. You win at tournaments without exploiting the "broken" cards and combos. You are neither a sore loser nor winner, and are well-liked by all. Under your influence, Samwell players attend more tourneys and have more fun.
Arya: You barely have enough money to play this game, and your collection is sparse. Although the odds are against you, you throw yourself against the more experienced players with a fierce abandon. You are not discouraged by your losses, but they still affect you deeply. You find yourself staying awake at night, desperately hoping for the opportunity to destroy them once and for all.
Catelyn: You are an average player with an average collection. You are a pessimist prophesying doom and it is no fun to play against you. You declare both your wins and losses with a dispirited, "I told you so."
Littlefinger: You switch between all the different player archetypes at random, successfully throwing off all your opponents. Your moves are impossible to anticipate, and you come up with some truly original combos.
Shaggydog: You saunter in and sniff around. After peeing on a chair leg or two, you sniff your opponents ass and then lick your own balls. You lose gracefully because you don't understand that you're even playing a game... you're just a stupid animal. You will eat the Wildling deck.
Daenerys: You have to travel hundreds of miles to reach tourneys and, after arriving, spend most of your energy just trying to acquaint yourself with the people, places, and strategies you encounter there. After dreaming of finally winning a tournament, you realize that your dreams were simplistic and naive, and the world is a more complex place than you thought it was. Most of your most valuable cards were aquired as gifts from other players, who think you are hot.
Considering I just posted about fifteen anti-Bush ads, I thought it would only be fitting to give the other side a little equal time. Does that make me fair and balanced? Oops, can't say that, it's copyrighted (if Bill O'Lie-ly is correct, which he's not).
So here you go, the difference between the ads at MoveOn.org, and a sample of a right-wing organization's ad running in Iowa. The 15 ads hit on facts: 451 dead American soldiers, billions taken from health care, a budget that went from the largest surplus in history to the largest deficit in history in three years. And, of course, the 3.3 million Americans who have lost jobs in Bush's great economy (waiting for the spin, you business majors!) Those are all hard numbers, backed up with facts. You can look them up in newspaper archives. You can probably find them on the Internet, too, but I wouldn't trust anything I read on the Internet.
The right-wing ad, sponsored by a group called Club for Growth, features:
"In the ad by the GOP-leaning Club for Growth, an announcer asks a couple leaving a barber shop, "What do you think of Howard Dean's plans to raise taxes on families by $1,900 a year?"
The man responds: "What do I think? Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ...," and the woman continues, "... body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs."
Now, the $1900 number is something they pulled out of the air. Why? Because Dean has promised to repeal Bush's tax cuts, the ones that hosed Social Security and Medicare. The $1900 is a figure based on one tax bracket from the Clinton administration (the time when the budget was at a surplus and 3.3 million more people had jobs). While that would technically expand government - you'll need more paper-pushers to run those programs - the rest is, well, conservatives for you. They ignore hard numbers and facts (3.3 million unemployed, a $1 trillion deficit, and 0 weapons of mass destruction but $20 billion in Haliburton contracts) for "sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show[s]."
Maybe it was all those logic puzzles my mom made me do as a kid, but I'm gonna throw my hat in with the hard numbers and facts, rather than the insults and stereotypes.
Bush in 30 Seconds
MoveOn.org, a political website begun in 1998 to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton (remember when Presidents were impeached for lying about sex? Now, you can't get one impeached for lying about war!), sponsored a contest to see who could come up with the best 30-second anti-Bush ads. They are down to fifteen finalists, which you can view here. Enjoy!
So it snowed four inches in Seattle today. For the Northwest, that's a lot of snow, especially since people here don't know anything about driving in it. I used to think Okies didn't know anything about driving in snow, but the point was driven home when the weather person was explaining what freezing rain was, because it never happens here.
So I worked from home for most of the day, and I'm pretty much killing time by watching Futurama. The last two days at work have been pretty frustrating - the two aspects of my job I really hate, people not taking responsibility for their fuckups and people obsessing over tiny rules details in HeroClix - came out in full force. I realized that part of good public relations is to sometimes accept responsibility for a fuckup that's not yours, which goes against every fiber of my being. Now I'm beginning to understand why they describe this job as "soul-crushing."
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Monday, January 05, 2004
Terrorism and Coffee
I got up early because I was nervous about going into the office today and what I might find when I get there (ya never know in this job), so I started deleting and responding to (and then deleting) my emails. I've got my inbox down to a nice, calm level and I'm ready to go crank myself up on coffee and get to work.
In the meantime, I was browsing Salon.com and found an interesting opinion article. On December 10th, Salon ran an article (correctly) identifying three Christian, American, White, Conservative terrorists: Clay Waagner, Eric Rudolph, and James Koop. Waagner gained noteriety (and a spot on the FBI's 10-most-wanted list) by mailing white powder and letters threatening anthrax attacks to family planning clinics in the US. Eric Rudolph bombed the Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996, and James Koop shot and wounded or killed a doctor, nurses, and patients outside of a family planning clinic. To this list of fine gentlemen, I would add Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 of my fellow Oklahomans because he believed that the big federal government was going to take away his right to own, well, giant truck bombs made of fertilizer. Why? Because the government, how dare it, was providing free of inexpensive health care to poor children.
The first three, identified in the Salon article, remind me of a 17-year-old kid who tossed a firebomb through the window of a Planned Parenthood office in Broken Arrow during my senior year of high school - the same Planned Parenthood office where my girlfriend got her inexpensive birth control, because her parents wouldn't have let her see the family doctor about that (birth control is evil!) When asked why, the kid, who had never attended a public school in his life and whose parents insisted on homeschooling him in the ways of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, said that he wanted to kill abortionist-murderers. And here's the kicker: Planned Parenthood of Oklahoma does not provide abortions, and has never provided abortions. Although no one was hurt in that attack, it certainly opened my eyes to the brainwashed, uneducated, illogical state of mind of these, well, terrorists. When you visit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, it might surprise you to learn that of the more than 2000 terrorist attacks since 1985 on American soil, less than 1% of them were perpetuated by Muslim extremists. By the numbers, you stand a better chance of being sniped outside of an abortion clinic, dragged behind a KKK member's pickup truck, firebombed by an ingorant home-schooled Soldier of Christ, or blown up by a fertilizer bomb than you ever would of being killed by the Taliban or al Quaeda.
What do these attackers all have in common? They are conservative, white, Christian, and generally Republican males. Sometimes females, but not likely. I mention this only because me, a part-Lebanese, darker-skinned, darker-haired, liberal male has had his luggage searched more than five times in one summer (out of 7 trips), has had my website labelled "crime" by John Ashcroft (no, really!), and has been told by Ann Coulter that I'm a traitor and should be shot because I questioned our motivations for the war in Iraq.
But don't take my word for it. Still don't believe these clowns are dangerous? Take a look at this letter posted on the Army of God website. The Army of God is a self-proclaimed conservative, Christian terrorist movement. That's right, they call themselves terrorists, right there on the webpage? I wonder if John Ashcroft, who has said many of these things himself while campaigning (and losing) against a six-week-old corpse in Missouri, has labelled this website crime? Read it if you have the stomach for such things, and then tell me with a straight face that we liberals, who demand truth from our president (and woudln't mind the capture of Osama bin Laden someday) and inexpensive health care for babies, are scarier than these people.
Today, I accomplished much and little. I wrote a review for RPG Times, worked on my novel, and got some thoughts down about a graphic novel I'd like to tackle. I'm not sure how to proceed with it, whether I should query Marvel about it first, and then write it down, or write it down and then query. I'm probably going to do a little of both; I've got the names and numbers of some people at Marvel who might be able to help, and I've got some other contacts in the industry, too.
As for the rest of my day, I caught up on comics, read RPGs until I fell asleep for a nice nap, and watched about 15 episodes of "Futurama," which I'm beginning to think is (was) one of the best shows on television.
My thought for the day: I wish they'd release "Brisco County, Jr." on DVD.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Third Post-Trip Blog: Horses and HeroClix
One of the best parts of my trip home was visiting Larry and Cindi, who just got another new horse. They got Chloe about a month ago, and got Private Prospect, a thoroughbred with 2 wins, while I was in town. Private is beautiful - check out some picures of them both, courtesy of Larry.
Liz and I had a great time hanging out with Larry and Cindi. Cindi made roast beast with gorganzola sauch, which is too good for words (and my waist). We watched Coupling, a seriously funny Britcom about people, well, getting together to have sex. It was hilarious in that dry, British humor way, and the chicks (especially the blonde, although I don't know her name) were not hard on the eyes, either. It's basically a riff on Friends, but with less drama and more sex. Notably, it stars Jack Davenport, who played the stuffy Norrington in Pirates of the Caribbean. After that, we took a spin on their new dartboard, and Liz accomplished the impossible by jamming a blunt-ended, plastic-tipped dart into their drywall.
The next day, Larry and I ran the Tulsa Mega-Huge Christmas HeroClix event. We conceived of this event back in October, when I knew I was coming home and we were trying to figure out how to get all of my friends from different venues to meet in one place for a big event. We ended up running a charity event, and I brought a lot of my LEs to give out as prizes, and some extra factory sets that I found around the office. Everyone had a great time. The guy who took second place played some of the best 'Clix I've ever seen, and he tore a turtler to ribbons in the last round, which is always exciting (I hate turtlers about as much as I hate whiny rules-lawyers). It was a great afternoon. Larry's also posted some pictures of this event. I'm the one in the red "Magneto Was Right" shirt (as if you couldn't tell...)
Stay Tuned, more to come!
And Why I Hate Bush and Ashcroft
I've never understood why anyone would ever vote for Bush, when the man is so obviously a tool of a very manipulative, self-interested party who don't care two shits about the family values and religious foundations they claim to care about (in order to get votes from people who genuinely do).
According to this article in the the San Antonio Current newspaper, the PATROIT Act II, which Bush just signed (sounds kind of like an action movie sequel, eh?), "if the F.B.I. now wants to know anything about you and what you do with your money, all they have to do is hand a letter to whoever you do business with that says you are suspected of involvement in terrorism. They never have to prove you have any connection to any such activity. They just have to say that they think you might be, and the other party has to hand over all info on you, and is forbidden to tell you they have done this." Thanks to ME for the link.
That flushing sound you hear is your civil liberties. But by God, those Republican'ts sure can quote the Bible, can't they? Let's elect them again!
Why I Love Religion
I've never understood why so many progressives hate religion so much - often irrationally. While I certainly don't care for some of it's practitioners, on the whole I find religion to be a beautiful thing. This article about a 72-year-old pastor in Lexington, Kentucky who is trying to organize a national religious movement of moderate and liberal congregations to attempt to counter the religious right is one of those reasons. Here's an excerpt:
"If, as you say, countless religious people are largely progressive, why do you think religious conservatives have dominated the political debate in America? How do you see the media's influence?
The media finds itself attracted to two things, controversy and brief, neat answers. I recall speaking at a meeting several years ago in Seattle about the political influence of the religious right. Six hundred people were inside and three people (from the religious right) were outside, and the media, in this instance television, gave equal time to both sides. "
End of a Saturday
I'm mostly done catching up on all the WizKids forums since I left for vacation, so I guess that's been a productive evening. It's only 7:20 here, but it got dark like two hours ago, so it feels a lot later. This "dark at 5:00" bullshit is for the birds, I cannot stand it. Although, I did browse over to Dave's Blog, which is now located on my right nav bar as well. Dave was my GM back in Tulsa during the incredible Spelljammer campaign I played there, and he's a damn fine artist as well. His blog is just starting to take off.
I've got an MP3 of Blur's "Sing" playing from Trainspotting, and it's making me goddamn lonely for London. Sometimes I wonder if what I miss about London isn't the place itself, but the ultimate freedom I had when I was there. If I could do my life over again, the one thing I would do differently would be to stay in London another semester and travel a hell of a lot more at that time. I mean, I guess there's the future for that kind of thing, but it's always going to be different - I just pray to fucking God that by the time I can do that kind of thing again, I'm not going to be some geezer in a Winnebago who can't drink the beer, can't shit properly, and gets sick every time he drinks the water. Hell, I'm some of those things now - in fact, almost everything but the Winnie. Fuck me, fuck me, I feel old.
Today, we went to Seattle to pick up my comic books. Aaron had a copy of the Ravenloft Gazeteer IV which I also picked up. And, he had a copy of Darwin's World d20, which I've had my eye on for a while. That, combined with a bitchin' BPRD mug, was my first stop of the day.
Well, technically not - I finally bought my DVD player this morning. The player I had my eye on, the Panasonic XP50, is now officially out of production, so I went with my second choice, which may be the better choice in the long run. It's the Malata DVP-520 modified to be region-free. I can also play my PAL DVDs on it, and it will correctly scale them to my television, which is a big plus. Believe it or not, buying Trogdor isn't going to cripple my home theater plans as much as I thought.
So then we decided to stop by the mall because we both needed some socks. Lo and behold, Penny's was having a one-day sale with most shit in the store 60% off, so Liz went shopping for some clothes and I popped into the WotC store because I heard they were all going out of business - which turned out to be true, and everything in the store was 20% off. I scored a groovy tournament chess set, a chess clock, a game from Looney Labs called "Chrononauts" and some deck stuff for my GoT cards.
Yes, it was a good day. Now, we've got a lot more laundry to do. Today, I translated the first part of a segment of a Polish RPG I'm helping with, and I'm planning on curling up with Darwin's World as soon as I finish here. Inspiration struck for Crocodile Man whilst I was on vacation, so I know how I'm going to finish the damn thing. Only 29,000 more words to go on it!