Friday, April 28, 2006

Happy Friday Everyone!

As if things couldn't get any worse for the poor souls who thought the Republican party was actually the party of conservative values, in the space of 24 hours we get a gaggle of Republican congressfolk caught with prostitutes, and now, in a moment that warms me to the core, Rush Limbaugh arrested a second time for drug possession. As a point of context, here's an old bit of Limbaugh's about drug use:

    "There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

    "What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."
    -- Rush Limbaugh show, Oct. 5, 1995
Emphases mine.

Goodness, I certainly hope Rush follows his own advice (otherwise, he's - gasp - a hypocrite), or maybe even comes to the realization that he was wrong, owns up to it, and uses his talk show for some good.

Since neither of these things happened the last time Rush dealt with a drug arrest, I'm not exactly holding my breath here.

However, perhaps this will be the impetus some conservatives need to realize that they party they have been supporting is not what it has sold itself as; it is the party of maniupation, the party of deception and lies, and the party of unadulterated greed.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Point about Abortion

Andrew Sullivan does an excellent job of summing up my position on abortion, and he does it in the context of what "conservatism" really means. His point about the term "conservative" being hijacked by religious extremists is especially interesting:

    [T]he word 'conservative' has been hijacked by religious extremists. I find the attempt of the government to police a woman's body in the first stages of pregnancy to be a deeply unconservative idea. I find the absolutist stance of those who say a zygote is as morally significant as an infant lacking in the moderation and common sense that has long been the hallmark of conservatism. I abhor abortion as a moral matter and can never condone it. But in the balancing of goods, I'd keep it legal in the first trimester, strongly restrict later abortions, while doing all I can to facilitate care, adoption options and support for pregnant mothers. I'd also aggressively encourage contraception, the morning-after pill, and the institution of marriage as bulwarks against unwanted pregnancy. And all of this makes me part of a "party of death" because I don't agree with banning all abortion by law?
The context of the discussion surrounds a new book called The Party of Death, which, of course, refers to the Democratic party. Sully notes:
    Conservative writers have now made fortunes calling their partisan opponents traitors, godless, and now pro-death. Their rhetoric increasingly equates being a Christian with being a Republican. I never thought someone as civilized and intelligent as [the author of the book] would sink to this kind of rhetoric. But it tells you something about the state of conservatism that he has.
I'm not sure where Sully has been the last twelve years, but this kind of stuff is what earned Republicans the majority in Congress in 1994. Well, that and the people who fell for their "fiscal responsibility" rhetoric, to whom I can now only offer comfort.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say, I don't share your greed, the only card I need is the Ace of Spades."
- Motorhead, Ace of Spades

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


President Bush, with his stellar 32% approval rating, decides that the best way to ease gas prices (something he is now identifying as a "security risk," a phrase which has apparently turned into the administration's favorite label for everything from illegal immigrants to crazy Iranian presidents) is to suspend environmental regulations on gasoline production.

Um, sure. Maybe an easier way is to walk into Dick Cheney's office and say "hey Dick, can you and your pals maybe not cornhole the American public so obviously when you're still posting record profits?"

Or maybe he's still walking next door to plead with Dick, and repealing the environmental regulations so he can say, "hay guyz look! Those treehugging regulations were the reason you were paying so much! Har!"

And this is my newer, less-cynical self writing.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The poker player learns that sometimes both science and common sense are wrong; that the bumblebee can fly; that, perhaps, one should never trust an expert; that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by those with an academic bent."

- David Mamet, "Things I Have Learned Playing Poker on the Hill," in Writing in Restaurants (1986)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Meme: High School

Via Rog, a meme about high school.

1. Who was your best friend?

2. What sports did you play?
I was a grade-A band fag.

3. What kind of car did you drive?
1990 Oldsmobile Cutlas Calais.

4. It's Friday night, where were you?
If it was band season, I was at a football game. If not, probably at a movie, or making out somewhere.

5. Were you a party animal?

6. Were you in the "IN" crowd?
Sure, insofar as my own group was "in" with ourselves. One of the nice things about Union High School was that 11 and 12 grade was in one building, and 9 and 10 was in another, so my two years there were spared most of that petty nonsense.

7. Ever skip school?
If my mom is reading this, then no. If not, then once or twice.

8. Ever smoke?
Not in high school.

9. Were you smart?
Depends on who you ask. I certainly applied myself more my last two years.

10. Did you get suspended/expelled?

11. Can you sing the Alma Mater?
Uh, no. I doubt I could sing my college's Alma Mater.

12. Who was your favorite teacher?
Probably Brent Van Every.

13. Favorite class?
My English classes, my history classes.

14. What was your schools full name?
Union Senior High School.

15. School mascot?
The Redskins. We never had any complaints from Indian activist groups, despite being a bunch of disrespectful crackers who dressed up in redface (a word I just made up to describe the Indian equivelant of blackface) during football games.

16. Did you go to Prom?
I did.

17. If you could go back and do it over, would you?
No. I have no regrets. I wouldn't mind reviewing it, like a movie, but only as a trip down memory lane.

18. What do you remember most about graduation?
A friend from work telling me that she wanted to do a three-way with me and my girlfriend.

It never happened.

19. Favorite memory of your Senior Year?
Sitting outside in the sun on one of the last days of school, discussing John Garnder's Grendel and thinking "this is all going to end soon," and focusing on appreciating it while it lasted.

20. Were you ever posted up on the senior wall?

21. Did you have a job your senior year?
I had the same job all through high school (in Tulsa), a phone operator at the Mazzior's call center.

22. Ever get an MIP?
I don't know what that is.

23. Where did you go most often for lunch?
We had open lunch, so we went anywhere we wanted.

24. Have you gained weight since then?

25. What did you do after graduation?
Worked for a summer and went to college.

Movie: Brick

Just last Tuesday, Seth turned me on to an indie flick called Brick that apparently did quite well at this year's Sundance. Then, in a strange coincodence, just last Friday Seth and Liz and I all went to see Brick.

Brick is a film noir that's set in a high school. Seth used the term "postmodern film noir," and I think it's a pretty fair description, but rather than label, let me explain.

The characters are all high school kids. The plot and dialogue are straight out of Faulkner's Sanctuary or, even better, The Big Sleep with Bogey and Bacall. Although there are some funny moments, mostly because of the absurdity of high school kids using film noir dialogue, the film itself is played straight about 99% of the time.

It works. Here's why.

Brick is as much an homage to the genre as it is a new addition to it. Rather than simply make a halfhearted attempt to create new film noir, the writers borrowed liberally from some of the best sources. The knew their material, they knew what they were going after, and it's as respectful a tribute to an arguably dying genre as you can get.

Second, the setting and subject matter. The trailer makes it seem more comedic than it actually is, and it becomes very clear from the opening shot of the film that we're not in store for a spoof or send-up. How then do you justify setting it in a high school, and then occasionally reminding the audience that the characters are just kids (from the attentive mother to the "Lord of the Rings" references.) The adult response is to dismiss the setting either as "kids don't really act this way," but I think that may be exactly why the movie works so well. In high school, most people think high school is the only part of life. Aside from a few college-bound folk, the most important things are who's dating who, who said what about who, and so forth. Brick's setting makes perfect sense in that context.

You also might be able to argue a more political point, that the film serves as a metaphor for the way children are growing up faster - indeed, murdering each other, dealing drugs to each other, having irresponsible sex with each other, and so forth. If you get that out of the film, great. But it's certainly not the point of the movie.

So there you go. Noir fans, check out Brick. It's a hell of a ride, and will probably pleasantly surprise you, as it did me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Worst?

Seth sent me a great article at Rolling Stone's website: will Bush go down in history as the worse President to date? Surprisingly unbiased, and with little in the way of a damning (or redeeming) conclusion, the article examines the Bush presidency in a historical context (the author is himself a historian), and is excellent for the overall context it provides to current events.

Doubletake at the EMP

For the Seattle Puppeteers. The EMP is putting on an art exhibition called Doubletake. It's part of Paul Allen's privately-owned collection, and will cost you 8 clams to see.

The premise is that two or more pieces of art - typically one impressionist or post-impressionist piece, and one modern piece - are exhibited next to each other, encouraging the viewer to compare and contrast the pieces. Part of me thought, "well, OK, but arnen't they focing context upon me?" Which I suppose is partially true, especially if you use the little cellphone-like listening device to learn about the pieces. But it actually works in ways I never would have imagined, and if you're interested in art at all, it might be worth a trip to see.

Considering my face was a few inches away from paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso, you can't really beat the price, even if you just ignore the forced context (but hey, give it a try. You might like it.)

Book: Monster Island by David Wellington

As part of my effort to reinvigorate my own creative process, I'm making a concerted effort to read more. I typically read before I go to bed - in fact, it's so habitual that I typically can't fall asleep unless I've read a few pages of something - but lately I've gotten lazy and have simply re-read some of my favorite RPG books and/or comics. Which is not to say that those things aren't interesting or valuable, but it wasn't really expanding my literary horizons to read about Ravenloft for the umpteenth time.

My first book was Monster Island by David Wellington, a novel that interests me for two reasons. First, it's a zombie novel. Second, it was published online first, and then found a traditional publisher and is now available in any bookstore in the US.

I admit, it was surprisingly good. Wellington uses short, stacatto sentences and typically doesn't waste a lot of words. There aren't a lot of words to waste, either; rather than a long Stephen King book, I'd be surprised if monster Island topped out over 90,000 words. That being said, it's certainly gripping enough in its storytelling, and if anything Wellington's writing style adds to the sense of urgency and dread that pervades the novel.

The story follows two people: Dekalb, a former UN weapons inspector who ends up in Somalia. As the world crumbles around him, Somalia remains one of the last vestiges of civilization because it was so close to barbarism before the zombies came - having guns and armies of children willing to fight certainly helps when you're facing masses of the undead. Dekalb is sent to New York (Manhattan is the island in the title) where he meets Gary, a medical student who realized he could beat becoming a zombie by sustaining bloodflow to his brain during the conversion proccess. The result is that Gary is a thinking, talking zombie.

If not in prose and length, Monster Island does resemble Stephen King a bit in that the protagonists and antagonists follow a fairly formulaic plot: they meet, they rassle a little, they go their seperate ways, they consolidate, they meet again, shit goes down, and no one really comes out very well. That's fine, because where Wellington's novel really shines is in its explorations of the zombie genre, which I suspect may have been his intention. Similar to Romero's recent Land of the Dead, Wellington compares survivors to the zombies, and the survivors don't always appear in the most flattering light. But his addition of the thinking zombie provides an even more interesting exploration that segues nicely into apocalyptic themes. In a day when we no longer fear mass-scale nuclear war like we used to (and I mean "we" as in popular culture as a whole, rather than you or I specifically), zombies are just as good a vehicle as any other to touch on the "red in tooth and claw" themes of apocalyptic breakdown and barbarism.

The one aspect that ruined the book's verisimilitude in places was the way Wellington couldn't seem to decide on a timeframe for the events in the book. Although the action is supposed to take place a month (or two, max) after the apocalypse, things occur that shouldn't happen for much longer (soda cans completely faded from the sun and elements, gasoline turning to jelly in fuel lines, and so on). While not awful, these bits were distracting enough that they forced me out of the story, at least for a sentence or two.

On the whole, there's enough here to interest horror fans, and Wellington's book certainly stands as a great example of a commercial success in the brave new publishing world the Internet has created.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My Crimes

On June 7th, I might very well become a felon.

The Washington State Senate and House have passed an anti-online gambling bill that, as far as I can tell, makes me and any other Washtington resident who plays poker online a felon. Governor Chris Gregoire signed the bill into law on March 28th.

How this didn't make the news in some manner baffles me. But it certainly affects my life.

So will I become a patriot by knowingly violating an unjust law and possibly being arrested as a Class C felon? Or will I grudgingly buckle down and quit play poker online, only to play more poker in cardrooms, casinos, and friend's houses?

Got any suggestions, Puppeteers?

11 Years Ago Today

11 years ago today, a extremist - a terrorist - killed 168 people in Oklahoma. He later referred to those people as "collateral damage," necessary deaths in his mission to inform the world of the corrupt United States government. These people's crimes: working in the Murrah Federal Building. Or being the offspring of those who worked there, in the building' daycare facility.

In the aftermath, then-President Clinton said that we'd root out this "evil," using langauge that suggested we thought the terrorist(s) were brown-skinned Muslim extremists.

Bomber Timothy McVeigh was an extremist, alright. He was a white, Christian, ultra-conservative, all-American guy. He believe that the Big Bad Government was taking over American freedoms, led by both Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, as was a popular meme on Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk radio shows at the time. And this conservative Christian believed the only way to stop the Lib'ruls was to turn children into a sticky red paste with a truck bomb.

11 years later. The government, under a conservative Christian Republican leadership, has eroded our rights more than Clinton and Reno ever did. We're running a secret network of prisons. We wiretap our citizen's phones without a warrent. We're torturing prisoners of war. And we have all but forgotten that terrorists need not be brown-skinned Muslim extremists at all. The image is as concretely linked to the word as it was when Clinton himself used that language to describe the then-unknown mastermind of the Oklahoma City bombings.

Today, take a few minutes to reflect on why 168 people lost their lives in Oklahoma. Reflect on what terrorism and extremism accomplish, whether it's Muslim extremism, Christian extremism, or even Athiest extremism. Reflect on what happens when you respond to violence with more violence. Which is then responded to with more violence.

And I leave you with this:

    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Life on the Inside

Working in downtown Seattle has reminded me of some of the reasons I like being in a larger city. One of my favorite times in a city is the early morning. People are first starting to wake up and go about their lives: delivery trucks, people going to work, everything is fresh and new and no one has had a shitty day yet. There are more smiles than frowns. It's the most optimistic part of the day, and being in the city, you become more aware than normal of how interconnected everything is. The fruit being lowered into the basement will adorn your lunchtime sandwich. The people you see on the street are in the buildings nearby, or in the stores where you shop, or the places you eat.

There's just a sense of vibrancy and a kind of organic life I've only felt in the city (be it Seattle, or London, or most of all New York.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Oh I Wish I Was in the Land of Cotton

Liz sends me a link to a news story about segregation in Omaha. I had to check the date to make sure it was 2006 and not 1956. Yup, 2006.

Take note of the political party that sponsored this legislation and signed it into law.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Happy Manufactured Holidays

Did you ever need a comprehensive directory of manufactured holidays? There you go. I live to serve.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Writer's Block

There, I said it.

The reason I can't seem to write a single damned word of my novel. The reason I can't seem to make a blog post that isn't a link with some witty comment, a sumamry of my weekend, or some dull-witted political rant.

I can't fucking write.

Oh, I can write. I can write at work just fine. I can email, I can IM, I can make what I've taken to calling "maintenence" blog entries, but can I write? No. And it's kind of starting to piss me off.

I feel creatively numb. I've always been a little streaky in my creativity. I often write in "bursts," where I sit down and crank stuff out left and right. My last novel, for example, I choked out 40,000 words in two weeks. I typically hit a short story in a day, two at the most. And then I'll go dormant for a month or two, or maybe just write little piddling things here and there.

But now, when I sit down to work on my novel, everything I've written so far looks awful and when I try to write more, it just doesn't come. I even tried to outline it, to force myself into a structure so I could work on it like I would a project at work, and I can't even do an outline.

I admit that I've lost some of the excitement - the idea was born of a white-hot passion, which has since died down into a pervading sense of cynicism - but I can't even come up with a decent idea for a story, let alone a story.

The last story I wrote, I got the idea while I was in Hawaii. I was also doing a lot of reading, and I was reading things I don't typically read. Possible conclusions:

1. I need to read more, and I need to be more diverse in my reading selections.
2. I need to get out more, possibly reading and/or writing in different settings. These seetings would be parks and places I can relax, rather than places I have to worry about time and work.

But I've got to do something, because this is getting to the point of frustration.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Things are getting much worse for the naughty little monkey president.

Now, imagine all the ways conservatives will try to not take responsibility! It's like a game, but in real life!

Quote of the Day

From the always-entertaining Something Awful forums:

    Gradual changes in DNA over millions of years is ridiculous, but magic fruit pimped by a talking snake is incontrovertible fact?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fantasy vs. Reality Check

Jack Thompson is a conservative, Christian, Republican Florida attorney who has made it his life's goal to ban outright violent video games. In a strange sidenote, he went to school at Denison, in my old hometown of Granville, Ohio. Thompson has faced disbarment in the past over his legal practices, and seems more interested in the celebrity he's garnering that actual logical dialogue over the root cause of violence in our society. In other words, like so many conservatives, rather than take responsibility, he'd rather shift the blame to someone else.

Last fall, he offered a $10,000 bounty to the charity of a developer's choice if that developer would make a game depicting the player killing real-word game executives and E3 attendees, including one scene in which the main character "urinates onto the severed brain stems of the Eibel (sic) [CEO of Take Two Interactive, publishers of the Grand Theft Auto series] family victims." When developers jumped on it, Thompson, in true conservative fashion, ducked responsibility, explaining it was "satire." The local boys from Penny Arcade, in true liberal fashion, ponied up the money for the thing from which the conservative ducked responsibility, causing Thompson (again passing the conservative club entrance exam) to try to force both the Seattle PD and the FBI to arrest the two willing to pay for the mistakes of a conservative.

So why this tirade? Old Jack Thompson is at it again. While he's offered no reward, he posted on industry blog Joystiq yesterday, challenging Joystiq to make a game depicting the killing of Joystiq staff.

So what do you do when a paragon of conservative responsibility issues such a challenge?

Why, turn it into a contest.

It'll be very interesting to see how the conservative Christian Republican dodges responsibility this time. I wonder which liberals will be there to clean up the mess. Probably the same ones who will be paying for Bush's $9 trillion deficit - and they we'll get to be called "tax and spend liberals" by the same conservatives (is it fair to just call them "spend and spend conservatives?") we bailed out again.

Welcome to reality.

Edit: Download the game resulting from conservative Republican Thompson's original failure to take responsibility.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


So here's the megabig update.

Last Thursday, my brand-spanking new Xbox 360 came. It's all set up. It's amazing. It's everything I thought it would be and more. It continues to wow me. I grabbed Blazing Angels and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, both of which I've been having a great time playing. Angels is a arcade-style airplane game, and Oblivion is probably the best computer RPG since the original Fallout.

I tore myself away on Saturday to go snowboarding again, which was probably entertaining to someone who wasn't me. I actually had a good time, but I fell down a lot and I'm still sore. My knees especially, since I figured out that the best way for me to stand up is toe-in (facing the mountain, which means getting up on your hands and knees as opposed to standing up from a sitting position looking out over the mountain). That consumed most of my Saturday.

Sunday we tackled the tree in the front yard, sawing off several more low limbs and trimming it up so it's not covering the house quite so much. We missed a meeting with the accountant (oops), but the good news is we're actually getting tax money back this year. Having a house sure helps.

And now, I'm back at work. Tonight I'll be gaming back at WizKids, and I'm really looking forward to it. Rumor is that next week I will be running my own game, so I need to get the last of my maps together and come up with a couple more secondary plotlines and I'll be good.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools!

I'm sure the sudden appearance of this new GTA website has nothing at all to do with the fact that it went up almost exactly at the beginning of April 1 in Scotland.