Why I love The Peacemakers:
- They were sharp enough to stab another hole in the sky,
Hard enough to make the proudest diamond sigh,
Faster than the rockets on the Fourth of July,
Strong and cruel enough to make a statue of Mary cry.
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.
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This blog contains the opinions of Jason Mical. Those opinions do not reflect those of his employer, or his employer's client(s).
Why I love The Peacemakers:
I ignored the warnings and Netflixed this anyway. D'oh.
It started with promise and ended with stupidity. It was as if the writers squeezed the bits out of Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, and Session 9, added a bit of their own fecal matter, swished, and spat on the script.
I called the ending twenty minutes into the movie (really: ask my housemates). I kept hoping (quite vocally) for a cool Satanic cult or something, but it was not to be.
You have been warned.
Take this, fate! My new iPod has arrived! Thank you for warrenties! In a couple of days, my car will be 100% fixed! I'm losing weight and I feel amazing because of my exercise! I'm working on my novel(s) again! Work is going great!
I expect the anvil to fall on my head right...
Dear Senator Clinton,
Although I am not a direct constituent of yours, I have been a Democrat since I could vote and until recently thought that you would make the best choice for our party in the next Presidential election. Furthermore, I have been a longtime supporter of both you and your husband. Your success story has always been an inspiration to me, and should I end up with a daughter when my wife and I make a choice to have children, I would certainly use you as a role model for her.
However, I have been following the recent controversy surrounding and generated by your comments related to the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," and I have begun to reconsider my support for you should our party nominate you as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
It seems that many of your comments are not based on actual experience with the game, but on hearsay from your political advisors and organized parental groups who also have very little experience with the game itself. This has created a cascade effect to those of us who are familiar with the game, where you have appeared - to us - as though, quite frankly, you don't have a real clue about the subject matter. The effect is that you appear to be interested not in actual examination of the game itself, or a dialogue on the appropriate avenues for dispensation of adult entertainment.
The most troubling aspect of this situation is that you chose to push for investigation not because of the game's violent aspects, but for its sexual overtones. I have played through the game twice on two different systems. Both times, the in-game character killed over two thousand other in-game characters. If the character were classified as a serial killer (an appropriate label), he would have the dubious distinction of having killed more people than any other serial killer in United States history. The methods of killing vary: running over a team of police officers with a tank and crushing them to death; walking up behind a homeless person and slitting his throat; or even beating a woman to death with a bouquet of flowers.
More troubling is that the game has been on store shelves since late last year. Rockstar Games has an exclusivity agreement with Sony - for the first six months of sales, the game is only available on Sony's Playstation 2 console system. Therefore, one can only conclude that since you did not lead an inquiry into "San Andreas" late last year or earlier this year, that the thought of murdering an entire squad of SWAT team officers is socially acceptable - but the idea of having sex with a significant other is not. Intentional or not, that is the message you have communicated to our nation's youth - far more damaging, in my opinion, than seeing two adult video game characters make a choice about whom they wish to have as a sexual partner.
To further complicate matters, the sexual content you have described is only available on one gaming system - the personal computer. It is not available on the Playstation 2 or Xbox systems, nor will it ever be due to Sony and Microsoft's dilligence regarding the protection their source material. But the game does not come ready-made to simulate sex right out of the box, either: a user must find a third-party-created program called a "mod" (short for "modification"), as the publishers of "San Andreas" gave the user no way to access the sub-routine for the sexual content otherwise. As Rockstar has said, the sub-routine was originally supposed to be included in the game, but was removed without taking out all of the code. A third party found the code and exploited it - something for which you can hardly hold Rockstar accountable.
Unfortunately, the examination of "San Andreas" has resulted in the ESRB giving the game a different rating: "Adults Only" instead of its original "Mature" rating. This change has crippled Rockstar's sales of "San Andreas," as many stores will no longer carry the game because of it. However, this decision was not based on the game's ability to simulate cutting open a homeless person's throat with a knife and watching them bleed to death on the street, it was based on nudity and simulated sexual content that a user couldn't even access without an unauthorized third-party program. Again, if I were a teenager who understood the situation, I would look at the adults responsible and think "these morons are the ones in charge of my country?"
Additionally, other games featuring even more explicit sexual content - "Singles" and "The Playboy Mansion" - continue to carry the "Mature" rating, leaving one to conclude that "San Andreas" has been unfairly demonized by people who just don't know better.
Senator, what the United States needs is not politicians using a hot-button issue they do not fully understand for political gain. Rather, we need a dialogue about how a village of people (yes, I've read your book and I agree with it) need to support each other to prevent children from making poor decisions regarding these kinds of entertainment.
Parents need to be aware of what their children are purchasing and playing, or of what they are purchasing for their children. Clerks at stores need to know when it's acceptable to say "no." Teachers need to watch for warning signs that children might not be able to seperate fantasy from reality. These, Senator, are the kinds of long-term solutions that will lead to a healthy American society, not the kind of cheap political posturing that unfairly singles out one form of entertainment over another for the sake of gaining a few votes in the Red states. Frankly, those kinds of tactics are what seperates you from the Christian Right - until now, you have been the kind of politician to encourage dialogue and long-term change.
Senator, I urge you to educate yourself on the topic you have chosen - over so many other more relevant topics like the Iraq war, rising costs of health care, minimum wage, and campaign finance reform - and reconsider your stance. You are in a position to encourage the kind of dialogue we need. But, as you have seen, you are also in the position to cause trouble based on - pardon the phrase - your own ignorance of the topic.
Because you are still in the position to do the right thing and win my vote in the next Presidential election.
Seth directed me towards this excellent op-ed piece about Senator Douchebag's "investigations" into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is shaping up to have some fairly profound and unforseen consequences for my industry. The FTC investigation is the most troubling.
Money quote from the op-ed piece:
There's a move to update OED now
A huge daunting task, so you see how
If there's help you can give
for as long as we live
(And your turn could come up any day now.)
Arizona band Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers is one-half of my favorite 90s band, The Refreshments, and 1/2 of another band called Dead Hot Workshop that never made it big outside of the Phoenix area. They're a nice mix of country-alterna-rock (think Reverend Horton Heat, but a tad more traditional) and some Mexican-influenced "salsa rock," and a little less poppy than The Refreshments were.
In preperation for their upcoming show in Seattle, I downloaded their new album, Americano!, from iTunes. While I've enjoyed listening to the Peacemakers, they never became as obsessive for me as The Refreshments used to be - but damn, Americano! is one fine album.
Standout songs: Switchblade, one of Clyne's signature ballads about self-destruction, and Your Name on a Grain of Rice, one of his postmodern love songs.
This one is going to be in my lineup for quite a while, methinks.
When I lived in Granville, my neighborhood butted up to an apple orchard where my friend and I used to go to liberate fruit from the trees in the summertime. I mentioned this to my parents during their visit, and somehow we got to talking about the large house right next door to the orchard - an enormous rural farmhouse with an equally-large guesthouse right next door. The house was empty most of the time I lived there, and it was only occupied in the last year or so I was in Granville. I saw it on my trip back in 2001, and it looks great - nothing like the decrepit structure it had become while I was there.
I knew vaguely from stories that the person who lived in the house was killed by someone shooting him while he slept on the couch, and then robbing him. After that, the house sat empty.
But it wasn't until I Googled it this afternoon that I realized that killing was part of the late-1970s string of serial murders called the .22-caliber murders. Two brothers apparently killed people as a pair, robbing them afterwards. The person who lived in this house was Jenkin T. Jones, who was killed April 8, 1978.
And it seems that the last of the two killers died in prison last year.
I wish I had a picture of the house, it was an amazing structure and beautiful in that sinister, Midwestern-gothic sort of way.
I have exactly a week of normalcy. It is being gobbled up with work and plans to see friends. Seeing friends is the best way to spend this time.
I haven't mentioned in a while that I'm still hitting the gym at a rate of about 5 times a week (a little less when I'm travelling). I'm at the lowest weight I've been in about four years - since my wedding. Next stop, lowest weight since I came back from New York. After that, lowest weight since Freshman year of college. And then, lowest since high school.
And the best part is, it's totally do-able if I eat well and exercise. That's really all it takes.
After that, I'm working on my posture.
One of the things that struck me as I was wandering around the San Juans last weekend was that, although people of 150 years ago often did not leave the 20-mile radius of their homes, the kinds of homes they owned were far more diverse than what I think of "property" today. For example, my backyard - although large by Seattle standards - is really nothing more than a big grassy area with some trees, a rock wall on one end, and an overgrown area on the other end. Contrast that with a 160-acre farm, which could contain forests, streams, rock outcroppings, and so forth.
I find it difficult to conceive of owning a piece of land so diverse, and being so familiar with so many different kinds of things within my own property - but by many standards, I'm much more "worldly" in that I've travelled to different continents, been all over the US, and have made a tradition of going to Canada every summer.
I still haven't seen The Passion of the Christ (it's in my Netflix queue though!) but Mel is already looking to do a follow-up of sorts: a movie set in ancient Mexico, using unknown Mayan actors, entirely in Mayan.
The movie buff in me is intrigued!
OK, this didn't suck nearly as bad as I thought it would. I expected a festering sore on the anus of cinema (stolen from Mr. Cranky) and I ended up with a passable movie. I admit, in the fight on the bridge I was thinking, "come on, Stretch, you can save that guy! Go Ben, lift that firetruck!" which ups my GQ (Geek Quotient) exponentially. The whole Von Doom / outer space thing I didn't really care about. The only thing I really didn't care for was the love story between Reed and Sue, and the contrived "past" they had - it really didn't fit Reed's character at all. Oh well.
I'll buy it when it comes out on DVD. Take that as you will.
There's a new Harry Potter book? Really? I might have to take a break from my funnybooks to check it out!
Seriously, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince struck me as much for its great editing as it did for the story. The last two books, especially Goblet of Fire, were overlong, rambling, and very poorly edited, and reading through Half-Blood Prince, I kept thinking about how much tighter it was - the prose was tighter, the storytelling was tighter, and the action was tighter. I saw the ending coming from a mile away (at least as far as character death is concerned), and I still don't think it's all that meets the eye. I'm curious to see how she wraps it up. Overall, the book is surprising in its maturity not so much for its subject matter but the ways it handles the subject matter. And because I can't say it enough: the writing was so much better.
Some authors might disagree with me, but having an editor who has the cojones to say "no" is one of the most important things a good writer can have.
We took a break this weekend and hit the San Juans with my parents (San Juan Island itself, and Friday Harbor in particular). We found a nice little guesthouse that was about halfway between a hostel and a B&B, which made for a nice stay. We explored Friday Harbor thoroughly and hit the San Juan Islands National Historic Park, where the US and the Brits almost went to war over a shot pig (remember "54' 40" or Fight! That's this place.) It was just a very relaxed and peaceful trip - I can't remember the last time I just chilled out with my parents and had so much fun.
Today, I'm back at work. Icky.
So Rockstar Games originally programmed a sex sub-game into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. On the PS2 and the X-Box, this wasn't a problem because the old code couldn't be unlocked (OK, it probably could but only by 0.001% of the overall gaming population). But on the PC, it's a huge problem because you can sort through the code, figure out what's there, and then make a "mod" (a modification program) to make it accessible.
So that's what someone did. This "explicit" sex sub-game was originally part of the game, taken out but most of the code left in. Someone "modded" it to go back in, and politicians like Hillary Clinton, looking for a cause, latched on and said "no way."
Now, for a little perspective.
This isn't a porno film. It's characters rendered from polygons - boxes and triangles - doing sexy things. So there's no close-ups, no money shots, no pearl necklaces, no DVDA, no golden showers. It's a sub-game.
And this sub-game resides in a larger game. This larger game is quite violent. I have, in no particular order:
Run over and entire SWAT team with a tank, squishing them.
Stood on the front steps of a casino with a sniper rifle, shooting pedestrians in the head.
Beaten people to death with a bouquet of flowers (I'm not making that up).
Driven a combine harvester around a farm and sucked the workers into the machinery, grinding them to a pulp.
Walked up behind a homeless person and slit his throat with a knife.
Randomly killed sunbathers on the beach for money.
But all of that stuff? That's OK. It's only a sub-game where characters made from triangles and squares simulate the act of procreation that's bad.
How bad is it? Rockstar bowed to pressure and re-rated the game "Adults Only," which will kill its sales in almost every market because the vast majority of stores will refuse to carry it. Apparently the "MA" rating - for Mature Audiences (17+) - wasn't good enough. I'm not surprised, since I've personally witnessed clueless parents purchasing this game for their 10-year-olds - and act, I might add, that led me for the first time to fantasize about carrying out the fantasy violence of video games in real life, because if there's any people who need to be beaten to death with a bouquet of flowers, it's people who purchase games like San Andreas for their 10-year-olds.
I must say that I lost a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton for her response to this. One of the reasons I did not vote for Gore in 2000 was Lieberman's opposition (Inquisition) to Mortal Kombat back in 1993. I'm sorry to say that Miss Clinton will not receive my vote should she decide to run for president for this insipid attempt and political grandstanding through hypocrisy, double-standards, and misinformation.
Let this be a lesson: kids, remember, driving a combine around the beach to grind people to a pulp is OK. But if you want to engage in a sexual act with a person you're dating, no way!
And parents: for fuck's sake, buy a clue about the games your kids are playing! If you don't start taking some responsibility, those of us who do are gonna be screwed by your laziness when none of us will have access to fantasy entertainment.
I'm getting very excited about Mirrormask, the upcoming Dave McKean / Neil Gaiman / Jim Henson Co. project. McKean is probably my favorite living artist, and Gaiman's stories, while they can get a bit repetitive in theme, are always interesting. Check out the trailer here.
My prodigious record for murdering electronic devices has grown yet again - two within twenty-four hours this time. My iPod quit working in the middle of a Rage Against the Machine song yesterday, and my DVD player has decided to quit being anything resembling a DVD player.
But that's not the bad news.
My parents are coming into town this weekend.
I've been cleaning so obsessively, my hands feel like leather gloves from the bleach.
Oh yeah, and here's another piece of good news: I somehow managed to lose my wallet. It occurred to me this morning that I should probably call the credit card company and see if there's any strange activity on the card. I'm pretty sure I lost it in the house, or maybe the car (last remembered sighting of wallet: when I showed my ID to the rental car people at the airport). Maybe I'll try calling them too. It leaves me with no ID, no way to get into the gym, and more importantly no way to pay for anything.
Edited to clarify: the bad news about my parents' visit is the work I had to do on top of returning from the con, not the visit itself.
Sometimes my job requires me to post on the Internet. This means I have to deal with the fact that 99.9% of the Internet is stupid.
I present for your satisfaction a picture that embodies what it is like to do this aspect of my job.
Rather than a magical-realistic book, Carter Beats the Devil is a bit of historical fiction where stage magic plays a major role. The title character, a magician known as Carter the Great, grows from boy magician to one of the most reknowned stage illusionists of his time, lauded by Houdini and loved by audiences. The book is a bit of a thriller, and it's got my favorite kinds of things: elaborate conspiracies, over-the-top villains, protagonists who outsmart their self-righteous opponents, and more.
It's whimsical at times but carries with it a serious undertone, but manages to avoid being heavy-handed. First-rate writing combined with an excellent story. Check it out.
I know I don't post much about my job here, but I had to bring your attention to this article where I'm quoted as WizKids' spokesperson. My boss joked that "it's now official." I guess it only took two and a half years. I gotta say though, I'm pretty proud of getting the word out about this promotion we're doing - it may be the best PR campaign I've run so far.
I'm fully back from Comic-Con. It was, overall, an interesting show and fun most of the time. The last day, towards the end, where everyone was extremely tired and cranky wasn't as much fun, but whaddyagonnado.
I'm four chapters away from finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I'm ready to sleep right now. I'll post something more substantial tomorrow, hopefully between working and gaming.
Another Comic Con. Highlights from this year: Greg Rucka (writer for the Adventures of Superman, Wonder Woman, and more) is a huge fan of our Pirates game and signed a comic over to me after I gave him a free Pirates ship. I attended an amazing panel with Richard K. Morgan (author of Altered Carbon), which ended up being like a master class where he gave me some excellent one-on-one advice about editing my novel and finding an agent. I ran into Bruce Campbell's kid in the elevator. And I've seen several interesting Electrical Tape Girl variants. I have to get a phone with a camera so I can share the awesomeness that is Comic-Con with my readers.
I'm having a great time, and I keep thinking: man, I could be doing PR for a yard rake company at a convention. My blessings are many!
So last week I got back from Origins, and my in-laws came into town, so I had to squeeze a week's worth of work into three days. Last weekend was relaxing at least - I crashed around 9 PM on Friday and slept until about 9 AM on Saturday before tackling some Grand Theft Auto. The rest of the weekend was spent intermittantly with Liz, cleaning or arranging the house, or shooting gangstas.
Yesterday was an Alliterates meeting which I thought I was going to have to miss, but I managed to haul ass down to Renton about 7:00. This would have been an easier task but we still don't have our car back. Story goes like this: State Farm didn't want to pay to fix our speedometer/odometer, because it wasn't immediately obvious the break wasn't a part of the theft. I explained that we weren't the kind of people who would let our speedometer break and not do anything about it, and they said "oh no, it's not that - it might have been ready to break and simply done so after the theft." So their theory was that sometime in the half-tank of gas between when my car was stolen and after it was recovered, the speedometer, which was on the verge of breaking, went kablooie. On a 2003 car with 40,000 miles on it. Not that the speedometer breaking had anything to do with the fact that Mr. Duane Bates of Sea-Tac ripped (literally) my stereo out of my car and shittily installed his own stereo.
So asshole insurance company considered the matter closed and made us give up our rental. But, if we wanted to try to prove the speedometer was part of the theft, we could take the car to a Mitsubishi dealership and have them start to work on it.
That was a week and three hundred dollars ago. Yesterday we got a call: it was most definately related to the theft. Congrats, asshats, you wasted your own damn money and my damn time because you wouldn't cough up initially to fix the speedometer, which you will now fix, in addition to the hundreds of dollars it took to examine what was wrong with the speedometer, in addition to the rental car I should have been driving the last week.
The original is one of my favorite horror-comedies, so I was pretty reluctant to see the remake. There's just something about the subtle mix of zeitgeist and twisted thinking in the 1975 version that makes it timeless, and by the end of the movie you realize that the main character has ignored every opportunity for escape and has been doomed to her fate.
The remake is not subtle. It's about as un-subtle as a brick to the back of your head. For the first hour or so, it plays like a farcical version of the first Stepford Wives. Then, it goes into new territory for the wrap-up - not a bad choice overall, but I still felt like the writers sat around saying, "you know what, I don't think people get it, let's make it more obvious!"
So rather than a classic of subtle and timely horror, we're left with a minor thriller. It still has its moments, but I wanted better.
I'll give it one hilarious line that made me fall out of the couch I was laughing so hard:
I bought this movie because it was billed as a "thinking person's zombie movie." That should have been my first clue. Also, it's French, and with very few excpetions, I am not a fan of French movies (and no, it has nothing to do with them being French, it has everything to do with them being about a) sex, b) cheating on a significant other, or typically c) both.) But I picked it up anyway - the premise sounded great. Thousands of people who died within the last ten years have come back to life, and the loved ones they left behind are trying to grapple with having these people back in their lives. They aren't the flesh-rot maggotty zombies, these are (as the original French title suggests - apparently too cerebral for us dumb Americans) Revenants. Revenants are more like ghosts, and have a purpose when they come back. So too do these undeads, but that purpose is never really very clear.
I felt the movie lacked any kind of payoff. They spent almost an hour and twenty minutes building tension to a near-breaking-point, and simply dumped a pile of poop in my lap that really smelled bad.
I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. Although, in its defense, the directing and acting was top-notch - there were a good deal of very long shots where the actors did a lot of complicated stuff, and you don't often see that in movies these days. So credit where credit is due and all that.
Last Call is the first of two Seth-recommended books I read on my recent trip to Ohio. Magical realism, done well, is one of my favorite genres and Last Call certainly didn't disappoint.
It's set in Las Vegas, and the story is a re-imagining of the Fisher King in modern times. It practically drips with symbolism (and T.S. Eliot references); the main character is fighting for his soul in games of poker played with Tarot cards. Bugsy Seigel makes a guest appearance.
My own experience in Vegas was that of a city with a severe lack of soul. Powers paints a far differet picture, finding a kind of spiritual meaning in the mundanity of randomness, applying complexity theory to cards, dice, and roulette wheels as the storm gathers around the soul-searching lead.
The prose is lush, and Powers does an excellent job of not wasting a word.
It's not an easy book to summarize, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. If you dig magical realism, you'll want to give it a read.
A couple of months ago, InQuest Gamer ran a "gamer purity test." The good folks at that publication have now put it online. Ever wanted to know how pure of a gamer you are? Take the test.
Roman armies were sub-divided in two different ways, one before the reforms of Gaius Marius and the other after the reforms.
Before Marius, 80 men made a Century. Two Centuries made a Maniple, the standard military unit of manuever. 25-30 Maniples made a Legion. Before Marius, a Legion would be between 4000-4800 soldiers.
After Marius, 80 men made up a Century. 6 Centuries made a Cohort, the standard unit of manuever. 10 Cohorts made a Legion. After Marius, a Legion would be exactly 4800 soldiers.
It's just the sudden stop at the end.
Yesterday, NASA's Deep Impact probe smashed a lander into comet Tempel 1, driving a device (the "impactor") into the comet's nucleus to determine what's there.
NASA has released an incredible movie from a probe's-eye view as the impactor approaches the comet and slams into it (culled from various pictures).
I should have taken out a video camera last night. Imagine the best fireworks show ever mounted by a city, then put it in 360-degree panoptivision (or something), and then it lasts for hours.
Last night's crankiness aside, I have a feeling I might have enjoyed the show more if I was in lawn chairs in my front yard watching the spectacle (and notice I'm not necessarily referring to the fireworks) than inside after being on the road for six days, averaging about four hours of sleep each night, and after having returned at midnight left at six AM for Canada to get my in-laws, whom I feel like judge me at every possible opportunity.
On this, my day off, I'll be dealing with getting my stolen car back from the shop, trying to convince the insurance company that indeed my speedometer did work before Mr. Duane Bates stole my car, and taking my inlaws to the airport.
Here's one way to celebrate what it means to be an American: turn your neighborhood into a little section of Baghdad. That is what my neighbors have been doing all day long - literally, since we returned from Vancouver at 3 this afternoon with Liz's parents, fireworks have been going off constantly. Yes, these are the kind of fireworks that make a loud "boom" without much shiny stuff (because, as I write this, it's still pretty much daylight here). So imagine, for six and a half hours, being entertained - in fact, having the time of your life being entertained - by things that make a loud "boom."
This, friends, is Redneck Amerikkka.
Watching this mixture of NASCAR fumes, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Trans Ams and zero brain cells, I'm finding it exceptionally difficult to put aside my feelings of superiority.
But first, I'm keeping an eye on my new house, making sure I don't have to put out any fires caused by my neighbors (illegally) celebrating the birth of our nation.
Somehow, I doubt that Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson, and George Washington would have been entertained by loud booming noises for six and a half hours.
In fact, it might have made them wish for the sensible dictatorship of a monarchy.
Here's an interesting question. You've got a friend you know relatively well. Your friend is married. Completely by happenstance, you happen upon your friend's spouse kissing - petting - with a person who is not your friend.
Do you tell your friend, or just erase it from your memory and forget it?
As far as I know, this does not concern anyone who reads this blog, or anyone who anyone who reads this blog knows.