It's a good day when I log onto a forum related to our games, and I see this directed at me (my handle on these forums is "Brother Magneto", after my favorite mutant):
- #### YOU BRO MAGS!! I CAN'T WAIT FOR AMAZO TO ADD YOU TO HIS LIST!
A small figure of a person or animal, having a cloth body and hollow head, designed to be fitted over and manipulated by the hand.
A writer reigniting his love affair with his muse while making his way in a strange world. Visit jasonmical.com for more.
This blog contains the opinions of Jason Mical. Those opinions do not reflect those of his employer, or his employer's client(s).
It's a good day when I log onto a forum related to our games, and I see this directed at me (my handle on these forums is "Brother Magneto", after my favorite mutant):
James is sick, Liz is training puppies, so I'm home alone. Time to do some writing.
Yesterday morning, I watched Black Sunday, on old horror movie I picked up super-cheap on a recommendation and never had time to watch. Black Sunday is Tim Burton's favorite horror movie (according to the marketing blurbs on the packaging, anyway), an Italian horror film done in the early 50s before there really were such things as Italian horror films. It's a vampire flick set in the mid-1800s, with all the appropriate gothic scenery: ruined cathedrals, old crypts, crumbling castles, mobs with torches and pitchforks, the works. It was surprisingly gruesome, too: the "mask" in the alternate title is a spiked iron affair nailed to the face of a witch with a huge mallot, and they didn't spare any blood.
It seems pretty tame and cliche by today's standards, but there were certainly a couple of wince moments, and some really cool special effects. Probably worth more as a historical curiosity than a horror film, but I've seem much worse.
Sunday morning. I slept well last night, for the first night in about a week. Seems like this cold is on its way out; I had a couple solid hours of coughing fits last night, but then it all stopped. This morning, it's just a little bit in the nose.
Last week was pretty much dealing with the cold when I wasn't dealing with work. I've got a nice little extracurricular activity from the office that's taking up most of my free time, but it's one of those things that I really enjoy doing, so the time I've put into it is really more personal therapy than work. I still have a contract with some nice billable hours left on it, and I'm planning on jumping back into that this afternoon.
Yesterday, John and Angela came over. The plan was originally to see Hotel Rwanda in the afternoon, but Angela was hung over and didn't want to see a movie about genocide, so it turned into a dinner thing. We broke out the Clue Master Detective my parent's got me this Christmas (thanks Mom!) and had some fun with that, and then with Apples to Apples. We thought about seeing the movie late last night, but tickets would have been too expensive, so we stayed in and played games and talked instead. We should get together with them more often.
Today, I'm going back to the gym this morning, and I think I'm going into the city to play cards with James and Chad. And that's really all that's happnening in my life these days. The World's Largest Dungeon group appears to be breaking up, either from lack of interest, too many characters, or whatever, which is too bad. We fought the Dungeon, and the Dungeon won.
I think I need some breakfast.
Two movies in one day? Lucky me!
Well, not really. The office kicked in so I could see Elektra; again, I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It was actually really good for about the first thirty minutes: the introductory sequence was taken word-for-word and shot-for-shot from the comics, which considering a comic book is basically a storyboard, is one of the best ways to shoot a comic book movie. The beginning of the rest of the film also follows another Elektra comic story arc, but quickly degenerates into a bunch of bad martial arts nonsense. There was even a bad-guy roll-call at one point (Baroness, Cobra Commander - ATTACK!)
The high point was the trailer for Sin City (Quicktime required to view at link), which I hadn't watched yet. Now that looks like an amazing comic adaptation!
Tonight's Netflix offering was Intolerable Cruelty, a Coen brothers romantic comedy with some big Hollywood names and some usual Coen hijinks. The plot was predictable (twice, I called out what was going to happen next), but it wasn't terrible - if you're going to watch a romantic comedy, you might as well watch one by the Coens. My only problem with the film was that they spent a good deal of time creating the reasons why Catherine Zeta-Jones disliked George Clooney, and about thirty seconds on why she actually did like him, so when they (SPOILER ALERT!) end up together, it lacked a certain authenticity.
But, it was a fine way to spend an evening.
Normally, Thursday would have been gaming night, but we cancelled due to the creeping crud, which has now decided that my lungs are OK places to rest as well as my sinuses. Liz got this one day before I did, and she is still feeling bad, so I know I've got at least one hard day left.
I hate viruses.
Even though I lived in Tulsa for four years, and attended a high school with a large population of fundamentalist Christian teenagers, and I was a religion major in college (even took a class specifically in 20th Century Christian Thought), I still feel rather clueless about the conservative, fundamentalist, Protestant worldview. I think that's in no small part to my being raised Catholic, and the fluid nature of conservative evangelical Protestantism seems to run contrary to a lot of what I learned as a Catholic, but it could just be a cultural thing as well. So I Netflixed Saved!, an indie flick billed as a teen high school comedy, at an evangelical high school. It was surprisingly serious - covering homosexuality, teen pregnancy, abortion, and so on - but most of the main characters seemed to be cariactures rather than fully-developed entities, especially the school's "fundie queen" (played by Mandy Moore).
While Saved! was obviously critical of people such as Moore's characters - those for whom faith is a tool to serve their own self-interests - it really shined in its portrayal of Patrick the preacher's son, Dean the gay kid who gets the main character pregnant, and Mary, the main character and soon-to-be unwed mother who screwed Dean to try to save him from being gay. While Mary struggles with her faith, the other two don't lose theirs, and the film ended up quite complimentary of the quiet kind of Christian who isn't out to create a running tally of souls personally saved, but is merely there to help and love his or her neighbor.
The end got to be a little heavy-handed and contrived, but Saved! is still worth a look if religion interests you as much as it does me.
In another example of why talking about a success before it is certain jinxes me every time, I started feeling awful about noon yesterday and felt bad enough to come home around two. I slept until about six, woke up, watched a movie, ate, and went back to bed. Liz's version seems to have settled as a cough, while mine has migrated up into my ever-inviting sinuses. The good news is, I really do feel better today - the aches are gone, which was a major reason for me going home yesterday, so I'm going to brave the office today, too.
Liz has spent the last two days in the throes of a coldflu, and I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and a bit of a cough. I started feeling progressively worse throughout the day, and right after work I hopped out to the drugstore to get a bunch of zinc, throat drops, cough medicine, and NyQuil. I took a combination of that last night, and I seem to be better this morning - still not tip-top, but a hell of a lot better than yesterday. My throat still feels a tad scratchy, but I think I beat the system on this one.
I haven't written any movie reviews in a while, and this blog has been a little behind on content lately, so I figured I'd get back into my thoughts on what I've been watching.
A few months ago, I got a subscription to Netflix so I could catch up on movies I didn't want to buy and I didn't want to waste my time to rent. House of 1000 Corpses was one of those, but of the movies I've gotten from Netflix, it's the only one I think I would buy, if the price was right.
The plot of the movie is largely summed up in the title: like the ax-murderer horror movies of the 1970s, four kids stop at a roadside attraction and end up prisoners of a deranged family in the title house. I didn't count, but there may very well have been a thousand corpses there. It's a raw horror film with zero hope, as it's pretty clear from about twenty minutes in that the main characters are well and rightly fucked (by their own stupidity as much as anything else). Calling it a gorefest doesn't do it justice, as it's relatively light on the gore; instead, it's a repeated, crushing nightmare of human depravity, made all the worse because there isn't some supernatural force behind it: as is implied in the beginning, everything that happens, can (and has) happen(ed) from the hands of regular human beings.
Director Rob Zombie, formerly of the band White Zombie, has a strong, if frentic, screen presence. The cuts are quick, and he makes excellent use both of hallucinagenic-like cut scenes (often with regular character dialogue still occuring), and of split-screen scenes showing reactions of characters to the horror other characters are inflicting on them.
I certainly won't say House is for everyone - in fact, I can only think of a couple of people I would recommend it to - but if you're a horror fan, this is certainly one of the better American horror movie offerings to come along in quite a while.
In case you'd like to read about a real dictator whose citizens are starving (and, by some reports, eating each other), check out this book review about a tome covering the horror that is North Korea. Or, if you're interested in seeing what it's like for an American to visit North Korea (and you're into the photo thing), check out this photo essay (it will take you a while to read the whole thing, but it's fascinating reading). Or, examine North Korea from space.
If Bush had sold us that North Korea was a nation with nukes and they were ready to use them on us, I would have bought it. Hell, I probably would have enlisted.
Tonight wrapped up the third of three weeks of playtesting over at Wolf's place. He's got a cool little adventure; I especially liked the end, there were a couple awesome little details that cemented the whole thing for me and made it memorable. I also met a very nice couple who were fun to game with; they mentioned they were looking for a game, so if we ever get up and running back into a more fantasy setting, I might drop them a line.
It's 20 minutes after midnight, and I don't feel tired at all. In fact, I feel like goofing off in San Andreas for a while.
A couple of days ago, Bob posted a story on his blog titled "How the Left Betrayed My Country: Iraq", and suggested that it should be required reading for anyone who opposes our presence in Iraq. As one who opposes our presence in Iraq (and, indeed, the whole sorry mess that the invasion has created in the international community), I have it a read. The article states - basically - that the leftist media has it all wrong, and that Iraqis really are grateful that we Americans came and overthrew Saddam. The story opens:
I can't take credit for writing this - it appeared in my inbox this morning - but it's damn funny, and true.
Dear President Bush:
Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in California, so we're leaving.
California will now be its own country. And we're taking all the blue states with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and all of the North East.
We spoke to God, and He agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of California. In fact, God is so excited about it, He's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 pm EST this Friday.
Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then.
So you get Texas! And all the former slave states. We get the Governator, stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. (Okay, we have to keep Martha Stewart, we can live with that.) We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Old Miss' We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get all the technological innovation in Alabama.
We get about two-thirds of the tax revenue, and you get to make the red states pay their fair share. Since our divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms to support, and we know how much you like that.
Did I mention we produce about 70% of the nation's veggies? But heck, the only greens the Bible-thumpers eat are the pickles on their Big Macs. Oh yeah, another thing, don't plan on serving California wine at your state dinners. From now on it's imported French wine for you.
Ouch, bet that hurts.
Just so we're clear, the country of California will be pro-choice and anti-war. Speaking of war, we're going to want all blue states citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight, just ask your evangelicals. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for absolutely no purpose. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home.
Anyway, we wish you all the best in the next four years and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction.
This article is a must-read for gamers of all stripes:
Apparently the Iraqis have not only learned about democracy, but they have been taking lessons from Dino Rossi. Why, you ask? Hell, you don't even live in Iraq, or be a citizen of Iraq, to vote in their election!
Golly, I sure hope these elections really are democratic, like Bush promised, and not an excuse to empower a bunch of vulnerable US stooges, like the world suspects.
I think we're actually destabilizing now.
I haven't done a personal update for a while, partially because I've been pretty busy at work helping to transition my responsibilites onto the new guy, and partially because there's not a whole lot to update about. The new guy is OK, but he's damned slow and doesn't seem to have a solid concept of how long it should take to do some of these tasks - nor does he realize how time-sensitive some of this stuff is. It's probably because I have more experience with how our game community tends to respond to things (negatively) and how quickly they pick up on stuff and start dissecting it (almost immediately), so I'm much more sensitive to those kinds of things. Perhaps I should tell him to begin monitoring our forums.
The big news in our life is that we're buying a house. As I said in the writing post below, I don't like to talk about things until they're sure, but this one is looking good, so I'll mention it. We found a house. The price was right. The value should go up. We're looking to stay there for 2-3 years and make a hundred grand off it. We'll see how that plan works.
Good news, everyone!
Normally I don't talk about this stuff until it's 100% sure, but this is 99%, so here goes. I got an email that my Deadworld setting for All Flesh Must Be Eaten will be published!
I do believe I may have just climbed a rung on the ladder, which puts me right around rung number three.
I got completely swamped at work yesterday, so while I was following the Huygens probe data, I couldn't post about it.
It looks like everything went as planned. You can now download the sounds of Titan, see the moon in true color, and get a composite of the liquid near the landing area.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that Huygens has detected frozen water on Titan's surface. And where there's water, generally, there is life.
The Huygens probe was designed to transmit data for ten minutes after landing - and has instead transmitted for at least an hour and a half. This is very exciting - it would appear that everything fell into place, and we're going to know a lot more about an alien world very soon!
Yup, that's what President Bush said regarding his "bring 'em on" comment to American troops in response to Iraqi insurgents. He realizes that now, Bush says.
What the fucking fuck? You mean to tell me we elected a man - TWICE - who didn't realize that words have fucking consequences? I mean, isn't that something most normal average human beings learn around Kindergarten?
Yesterday, the White House quietly admitted there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and there likely never were (sorry, no article to link to - it was on TV last night, but it seems to have fallen off the radar at many news sites). As far as I know, this is the closest admission to any kind of wrong by this administration, even though I watched Bawbawa Watwaws interviewing Bush while I was on the Stairmaster last night and Bush brazenly said, no, he regrets nothing, we've freed Iraq. Yes, the country where 92% of the population views us as an occupying force is free. I suppose to a President who can't seem to get his approval ratings over that vicious 52% hump without a terrorist attack on American soil, 8% must still seem pretty significant.
I've always loved space and space exploration. As a kid, my parents took me to see Star Wars and Star Trek movies, and the later was one of my first television memories - it might have even been the Tribble episode. More than once, family vacations centered around trips to the Air and Space Museum and Cape Canaveral. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Challenger exploding, and I was moved to tears a couple of years ago when Columbia was destroyed on re-entry. I've got a great telescope my friends and I used in college to check out planets, stars, and more.
So I've been watching with some excitement the Cassini mission to Saturn. Unlike Jupiter, which we've explored thoroughly with the Galileo probe, Saturn, its rings, and most imporantly its moons remain a mystery. While Jupiter's Europa remains one of the prime candidates for finding extraterrestrial carbon-based life, Saturn's moon Titan is another candidate, along with the moon Mimas, which may consist almost entirely of water ice. Cassini has already returned startling information, like images of massive storm activity on Saturn. But the truly historical part of the mission will come next week.
One January 14th, the Huygens probe will descend beneath Titan's thick atmosphere for a two-hour ride to the moon's surface. During that descent, it will continuously radio information to the Cassini probe, which will then relay the information back to Earth. Huygens, a flat flying-saucer-like disc, contains instruments that will measure the composition of Titan's atmosphere, a microphone to record sounds (thunder will indicate atmospheric activity - and this will be the first recorded sounds from another world!), and numerous cameras to take pictures the entire way down. It also has lights to illuminate its landing area, so we can get some clear images of that, and should it survive landing, then it can analyze its landing space.
Of course, a thousand things could go wrong, from the chute not opening to the probe landing in a sea of liquid methane to the probe landing on a cliff and sliding to its doom. But we should have enough data for a unique look at a strange, new world.
The data will be rolling in on the 14th, so I'll be watching carefully and making updates as we see cool new stuff.
We watched the last five episodes of Carnivale in a mini-marathon tonight, in preperation for tomorrow's debut of Season 2. I have to say that I'm really glad to see quality writing for TV in the day of "reality shows," even if I do have to spring an extra twelve bucks a month for it.
And if anyone is looking for an apocalyptic, classical Christian, magical realist dust-bowl era fantasy, look no further than Carnivale.
This morning, we put an offer on another house. I think this is going to be a good deal, but it's scary as hell right now, and I'm trying pretty hard not to think about it.
So instead, I'm going to dink around with my website, and see if I can't come up with a cool, work-safe concept.
Yesterday, Liz and I headed to the gym for the first time in... well.. a long time. At least two years (we quit going when we moved to Seattle). My legs feel like Jell-o, but it's a good feeling - I'm committed to this whole losing-weight thing, doing it in a healthy way, and changing my lifestyle. Now I just need to follow through.
In other news, we've been watching Carnivale on the video-on-demand, a great way to watch reruns if you have digital cable. It's an impressive show with an impressive cast, kind of a magical realism but with more sinister overtones.
Speaking of, I'm going to watch another episode or two right now. And try to write at the same time.
Someone once asked James Joyce how work on his novel Finnegan's Wake was going. It took Joyce twenty years to write his book, and his response to this unnamed person was, "I've written six words." His friend responded "James, that's great!" And Joyce's response was, "but I don't know what order they go in!"
I did some work on my novel last week, but I've tried to sit down several times this weekend to pound out some words and I've been able to manage about a paragraph or so. It's extraordinarily frustrating; every time I sit down, it feels like writing even a word or two takes a colossal effort.
I've had these spells before, but I still don't like them.
Yesterday was my first New Year's Eve in Seattle, and boy howdy did they light up that Space Needle with some bitchin' fireworks. Liz and I joined Seth and Matt for drinks, dinner, poker, The Great Dalmuti, and conversation over at Brook and Wendi's, and rang in the new year with style. A good time was had by all. This morning, I'm realizing I've got an entire weekend in which to work on my book, watch a couple of Netflix movies, and cruise through the rest of The Simpsons Season 5. My stomach feels a little woozy (I was the designated driver last night, so it weren't the booze), but otherwise, I'm ready to tackle the weekend in full work-goof-work mode.
The best DVDs of 2004, based on movie, picture, and sound quality. If you're building a DVD library, these are the ones to get.
I usually don't rank the "best" movies (hard to do that when you've got over 430 of them sitting on your shelf), but I'll do a little list of my recommended films from 2004.
2004's Movies You Should See: