Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fallout: Can't We All Just Get Along? Also, a Gift to Fallout Fans [UPDATE 1]

If you take a look at my gamertag on the right nav, you'll note that my picture is now the famous Vault Boy from the Fallout series.

It's safe to say I like Fallout. A lot. Enough that, back in college, I wrote and subsequently managed a pencil-and-paper version of Fallout (and doing so earned me my only entry in a Wiki that I'm aware of.) I didn't start with Fallout; its predecessor, Wasteland, was one of my favorite computer games growing up. The post-apocalyptic setting, the open environment, the different quests, the involving storyline - the game really was the first of its kind. It was the first C-RPG I actually completed, playing through all the way to the end. I participated in (and moderated) discussions about Wasteland on Prodigy back in 1990 and 1991, where Brian Fargo was an active and transparent member of the community.

My first real "short story" was post-apocalyptic, as was my first novel. I have an entire bookshelf devoted to PA fiction, and studied it in college for honors credit. Working on the Fallout PnP game was my first real introduction to game writing, and to the power of what a community could accomplish together. It's safe to say that my involvement with Wasteland and eventually Fallout had an extremely profound impact on my life.

I even signed up for the now-canceled Fallout d20 project from Glutton Creeper Games. I did my part, the check cleared, and that was that. Some projects just weren't meant to be.

So when the first Fallout RPG (sorry, I don't count Tactics) in nine years is announced - that would be Fallout 3 - I got interested. And excited. And even more interested when it wasn't Interplay or Black Isle behind it, but Bethesda, who I knew best for Oblivion and the original Terminator FPS.

They started teasing it at E3 last year, and this year we got a teaser trailer with Ron Perlman's voice and a look at a nuked-out Washington, D.C. and a member of the Brotherhood of Steel strutting around. And then the magazine previews began, and the fans starting going nuts.

Not Jericho nuts, this was more of a frenzy of "what the fuck?"

Fallout fans (and I consider myself a member of this group) are some of the most passionate, driven and vocal online communities. They never hesitated to let me know what was wrong with the Fallout PnP game, and their input helped make it better. But one middling (Tactics) and one awful (Brotherhood of Steel) game later, and they aren't really a trusting lot. I signed on to Duck and Cover (one of the two major Fallout communities, No Mutants Allowed being the other) in the early days of the Fallout d20 game to tell them to "wait and see" before calling the game bad.

I've been following the Fallout 3 discussion on fallout 3: a post-nuclear blog, which is doing an excellent job of capturing the various interviews and nuggets of information around the web and allowing fans to respond. One of the two reasons I'm writing this post is to suggest once more to my fellow fans that we need to take the same "wait and see" approach to Fallout 3. I've read some pretty terrible things online from the community - intentionally making a mod like "Hot Coffee" in an attempt to get the game banned being one of the more egregious - but we seriously need to wait and see.

Which isn't to villanize the community at all - their voice needs to be heard. But it's better heard if delivered calmly. I offer as evidence the Jericho community's reaction to their show being canceled. They didn't cry "CBS is raping the franchise!" They organized, presented their point of view (NUTS!), and got the network to reverse their decision. Most importantly, they were positive in their approach and the appropriate people responded to that.

I share many of the communities' concerns about the game. It's set in the East - awesome. Did it have to be the Brotherhood of Steel and super-mutants? Nuke-tossing grenade launcher? Ugh. My biggest complaint (and one that probably won't be changed) is the lack of turn-based combat, or even something turn-like (see: Tactics.)

First-person point of view, I don't care about. Some of the other things sound downright awesome. The idea of integrating character creation into the story of your character's early life is fucking awesome. And the graphics, if they can pull off half of what we've seen in early screenshots, are going to rock my socks.

But I've been fooled by early looks at video games before. It's more than a year before the game comes out, so again, I'm going to go back to "wait and see." I suspect we've seen only a fraction of what Fallout 3 is going to be, and I have a feeling that it's not too late for them to make some changes if necessary (like, say, the look of the super-mutants.) To put it more bluntly: some of the fans need to chill out. If it comes time, organize and be positive about it. Use what happened with Jericho as an example of how to get something done with an online community And for fuck's sake, stop using the term "rape" to describe what Bethesda or anyone else is doing to Fallout. The number of times that term is thrown around would make one wonder what kinds of Freudian things are going through our (the communities') subconscious.

The thing is, I've been through this before. Fallout was "inspired by" Wasteland. But it was a different game, and a lot of the things that the community is saying about Fallout 3 (some deserved, some not in my opinion) were things I was thinking about Fallout when it came out. When I held the box in my hand and read it, my first thought was: "this isn't goddamned Wasteland. How could they even put that on the box?"

And it wasn't Wasteland. It was something new, with its own awesomeness and its own problems. Oh, were there problems. The grinding parts of Fallout 1, facing rats and ants. Woe to you, player, if you created a character other than a brawler your first time through, and even then you could count on reloading once or twice. Or Fallout 2, rushed out the door so quickly it was (and still is) almost unplayable without a massive patch. But I adapted, and love Fallout for what it is, flaws and all. Will Fallout 3 be the same? I'll wait and see.

At any rate, here's the real point of this post. I've been toying on and off with the idea of an RPG that's user-created and user-edited. Kind of like Wikipedia, but for a game system. What could the community come up with for a PnP if turned loose on a system and a setting, with the same degree of responsibility and the ability to edit in Wikipedia?

So, fellow Fallout fans, I contacted my friend Ausir who runs the Vault. Although I've toyed with the idea of working on a new version of the Fallout PnP, unless it was a paying gig I couldn't justify the time. Mercenary I know, but them's the shakes these days. So I turned over all my PnP materials to Ausir to convert to a Wiki, and the result is this: the Fallout PnP game Wiki, completely open-source and available to the fans to edit, take apart, restructure, correct, and change as they see fit. It's not complete yet, and Ausir has some materials I don't have, but I encourage everyone to check it out.

Additionally, as I have been asked for these on several occasions, I zipped up the last version of the document I worked on along with all other Fallout PnP-related items I could find and uploaded them to my website. Get that file here. Ausir promises me that a larger, updated .zip with more materials will be available on the Wiki soon, at which point I'll either mirror that file or simply take mine down (but I'll update when I do.)

The resources in this .zip:

  • Fallout PnP "Unlimited" (a never-released, partially completed revision) .doc format
  • Psionics rules, .doc format
  • Great Wastes sourcebook, .doc format
  • The Enclave 2.0 sourcebook, .PDF format
  • Tribes sourcebook, .PDF format
  • Waterworld total conversion, .txt format
Have at it, guys. Do me, and us, proud.

Update: I talked with Ausir a little bit about Fallout 3, and he mentioned that a lot of people online would be OK with it being called Fallout X, where "X" is something other than "3." Kind of like how Heroes of Might and Magic isn't Might and Magic 10, because it's slightly different than Might and Magic. And kind of how Fallout: Tactics wasn't Fallout 3 because it's a different kind of game.

I'm not 100% convinced such a move would be the right thing to do (after all, technology has changed a bit between Might and Magic 1 and Might and Magic 8), but it's one worth considering.

I'll update with the new .zip file later.

It's a Strange World

Today I witnessed something truly odd.

As I'm getting a shot of Espresso, a Mercedes turns into a parking garage nearby and nearly clips a pedestrian. It might have actually brushed him with its mirror or hit him, I'm not really sure. But the guy yells at the Mercedes driver through his open window to watch where he's going.

The driver yells something back.

The guy walks towards the window and starts doing the whole macho posturing thing.

The driver pulls into the parking garage.

While he's taking his ticket (for which he had to roll his window down all the way), the guy grabs his arm. Then he reaches in and opens the door.

Then, the guys start fighting on the sidewalk.

The best part is? They're both white businessmen, and both were probably in their 50s.

I was cheering for the guy on the street, personally. Fuck guys who own Mercedes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Gershwin Morning

After a week of cloud and gloom, the sun decided to grace Seattle with its presence this morning, making the morning commute downright happy. The drive was easy. People were laughing and joking on the bus. Several folks smiled as I walked to my building. And I kept hearing things that reminded me of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" - the whine of the bus' brakes as the opening oboe trill, the rhythmic pounding on a dumpster the clashing of cymbals.

Maybe it's because I lived in New York (or saw Woody Allen's Manhattan, but that wasn't until later) that I somehow associate "Rhapsody in Blue" with the odd and impure joy that comes with being in a teeming mass of humanity in all its filthy and flawed glory. Days like this make me love the city, any city, Seattle or otherwise. I'm part of that pulse, and the people around me are taking a break from their own personal dramas and foibles to simply enjoy being part of it too.

So here's a little present: Gershwin's original recording of Rhapsody in Blue from 1924. Via the SA forums. Enjoy. And have a great day.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It is Your Patriotic Duty to Buy This DVD Set

That's right, Puppeteers - if you don't buy this DVD, you're not an American. In fact, you're probably a freedom-hating commie fascist terrorist.

It's Jericho: Season One! I'm sure you've been watching on CBS Friday nights at 9 pm (8 central), but you'll definitely want this DVD set - loaded with extras, and ready for viewing at any time.

In fact, if you have friends who aren't into Jericho yet, grab a copy for them too!

Fair warning: some of my friends who read this blog aren't into Jericho yet, and will probably be receiving this set as a gift from me.

The first hit is always free! Free, like the opposite of communist fascist terrorism! Free like Jericho!

And here, for your viewing pleasure, a fan-made video celebrating Jericho's return:


Friday at midnight, I met Angela and several of her co-workers downtown for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We hit Elliot Bay, a charming independent bookstore between Seattle's meatmarket-club district and Seattle's largest concentration of homeless people. Both groups were represented en masse, but a good time was had before we retreated to the comfort of our quiet neighborhood, a place where you won't be insulted for your race and hit up for money every twenty feet by people who smell like they've been drinking rubbing alcohol.

I digress, but experiences like that make me glad I'm both married and comfortably established and my worries at home include watering my lawn rather than who (or what) is looking in my windows at night.

At any rate, I celebrated Potterweekend by watching the entire Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition trilogy. Why wasn't I reading the book? Well, claimed it first (and she finished around 3 AM this morning) and I read a pirated copy off the Internet.

Seth pointed me towards the story on Tuesday, and although none of the downloads were working anymore, someone posted a link in a comments section and that did work. So I grabbed it. It sat on my desktop, and while I was tempted, I didn't give in.

For about 24 hours. Then I told myself, "I just want to read the end. I'm going to read the end of the book first anyway, so let's just find out who lives and who dies and whether Snape really is evil." So I read the last thirty pages or so.

Then I told myself, "I'll just read the first chapter."

Yeah right.

So I read the whole thing.

I rationalized this (and I'm not saying I'm right) by reminding myself that I had preordered not one, but two copies, one of which was not discounted at all and would be going to support a major Seattle institution/indie bookstore.

The book was good. Very good. Not "great," but very good. The body count wasn't as high as I expected, but it is a children's book after all. Most importantly, it was an extremely satisfying end to a series that I really loved reading. I was a bit of a latecomer to Potter, and say what you will about the literary merits (or not) of the books, reading them was like stepping back into a childhood sitting on beanbags or in my room at home with my nose stuck in a good book.

These are the kinds of books that help kids realize what good stories are and can be, the kind that inspire the next generation of writers. The magic in Harry Potter is not all in wands and spells, it's in the series' ability to help readers see possibilities. As a writer, that's pretty damned awesome.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Time to go buy the final book in a series I have truly enjoyed reading.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Series of Tubes as a Tube Map

Continuing Map Day here at the Puppet Show, a map of the Series of Tubes (AKA the Internet to the non-morons out there) as a map of the Tube (AKA the London Underground,) via Boing Boing.

Gaming Alert - Inverted World Map [UPDATE 1]

Seth sent me an inverted world map where the oceans are land and the land is ocean - perfect fodder for a role-playing campaign if you ask me. He also steered me towards an inverted world explanation that might give potential GMs an idea of the ecology of such a world. Beware random furry image 3/4 of the way down the page.

UPDATE: The blog from which the map came, strange maps, is awesome and now part of my RSS feeds.

Twitter! What is it Good For? Well...

Good question. Twitter is a Web 2.0 tool where users create an account and are given what is basically a "micro-blog" where they can record posts up to 140 characters in length - typically about enough for a sentence. These posts, called "Tweets" (yes, both "Twitter" and "Tweet" sound like something related some kind of drug), are then posted online and are automatically fed to people who have subscribed to your blog (not necessarily people who you allow to see them.) In this instance, it's a marriage of instant messenger and RSS aggregator/broadcaster: you can see what other people are Twittering about, and it can be as simple as having it delivered to a desktop client or an RSS reader. Whichever makes it easier to read.

My first thought was, OK, that's interesting - what would I use it for? So I logged in and signed up and gave it a whirl. Twitter informs you that you're supposed to use it to tell people briefly what you're doing. For example, a Tweet might be "I'm riding into work" (you can post to Twitter through the web, through text messages on your phone, or through an IM client - I use a Firefox extension, but to each their own.) That's kind of the first application.

Then there's the second, the one upon which my ilk has seized: it's a marketing tool. In fact, it's so much of a marketing tool that the New York Times has taken notice: a great blog post by Saul Hansell details how marketing and PR people have begun using Twitter to great effectiveness - not to tell the world that they're making breakfast, but for quick and informative updates their audience will care about. For example, "the art assets for Ninja Captain 3 are online at" might be a Tweet from a marketing person.

Third, and somewhat related to the second, is the use of Twitter as an IM client when you know the person you want to talk to is on your friends list. This is frankly the least attractive use of Twitter I can think of: IM is insecure enough as it is, and if I'm going to write someone a short message, I'll just use IM to do it unless they aren't on IM, in which case I'll use email. "@Jimmy: Man you were right, the Fantastic Four movie was great but Galactus sucked LOL" is an example of this kind of Tweet.

And then, the fourth application, and so far my personal favorite: I've been using Twitter kind of like a school notebook. Not to write down notes from class, but to put random brain droppings into. These can be song lyrics, especially if I'm having a hard time getting the song out of my head, or funny phrases, or just random things I think are funny. Going back and reading my Tweets, it's a pretty eclectic and random collection of crap. The kind of thing you might find in a modern George Carlin book, and I don't mean that in a complimentary way.

So what is it good for? The marketer in me definitely sees the application of a tool to inform a large number of people in a relatively small space that something's available, but hey - don't we already have email for that? How does this bring us closer? If anything, the 140-character limit forces an unnatural end to conversations that might otherwise be more informative. Maybe it's my reaction, because I tend to have diarrhea of the fingertips anyway (as Stephen King once so eloquently put it), but 140 characters isn't enough to have meaningful anything. It's barely enough to put a line from a song or draw a stick figure with a gun.

Online discourse doesn't have to be shorter, faster, better. In fact, I think that's one of the main problems with a lot of online discourse these days - it lacks the depth of traditional media and even face-to-face conversations. Not that Twitter is a bad tool, not at all. It's great for my stupid scribbles and as a marketing tool - but it's not a substitute for other kinds of discourse, either.

Web 2.0 it may be, but other than that it's just one more thing in the old Bat utility belt.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


OK, I admit: I think some LOLCats are funny. I thought they were funny three years ago, before the rest of the Internet discovered them.

What the fuck is an LOLCat? Chances are you've seen one but didn't know it had an "official" name. In short, according to the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit:

A lolcat is an image macro featuring a photograph of a cat with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption
But yeah, some LOLCats are pretty funny. They're even LOL funny. But so far, I've only really seen them on SA. And, of course, the LOLCat-specific Blog "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER," which I may or may not have as a feed in my Google reader.

So imagine my surprise as I'm browsing the classified ads today and run across the LOLCat-inspired ad attached to this post. Is there a term for a phenomenon that crosses over from obscure Internet joke into something that an advertising agency is using as a banner ad on a major newspaper's website?

If not, there should be.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Derrida, Blogging, Running Water

The Slog has a great post about one of Derrida's last interviews, where the philosopher and writer expressed worry that his work would not continue after his death. Charles Mudede, the author of the post, compared Derrida's worry to blogging:

I blog, I go away, I die: It is impossible to escape this structure in our post-newspaper, post-book age.

True, there’s more death in a blog than in a book, but it still has its beauty: Blogging is like writing on running water.
True, blogging is a bit like writing on running water. Blogs are fluid things, because you can (and I do) go back in, tinker with things you've written before, even if it is just correcting a typographical error or fixing a link that doesn't work.

But even so, perhaps a more appropriate metaphor is that blogging is like dropping rocks with words painted or carved into them into a fast-flowing stream that empties into a lake. As quickly as information flows through the "blogosphere," it does go somewhere, and even though I can change old posts there are programs that have captured what I wrote the first time, even if it's blogger's database or a Wayback Machine crawler. Nothing you write online will ever permanently disappear.

And yet, it will. If the planet were pounded by strong enough solar flares tomorrow, there is a chance that the event could theoretically wipe out enough technology to make this blog and many others irretrievable. If civilization started to collapse and in a thousand years computers were just coming back, it's unlikely that any of the Internet as we know it would survive.

This is the rub of push-button publishing: we're creating a permanent but non-permanent record of our civilization. We're more culturally attuned to each other than ever before, but unless archaeologists thousands of years from now are using Windows XP, a good deal of our cultural knowledge stands to be lost.

I don't know how I feel about that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

From a Fellow Allit

Fellow Alliterate (and really nice guy) Wolfgang Baur has taken his Open Design / patronage experiment to the next level with Kobold Quarterly, a journal devoted to Open Design and D&D. I haven't ponied up for my subscription yet, but interested parties should definitely check it out. Wolf's Open Design project is a fascinating - and by all accounts, successful - experiment, so it's great to see the next chapter in that particular story.

Which reminds me: Open Design was nominated for an ENnie Award, a really big deal in the gaming world. Voting is done by the public and starts July 16. Maybe you should give non-Corporate, people-driven game writing a nod this year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book Recommendation: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii A Day

Yeah, it's almost 11 and I'm still working. But that doesn't mean I can't recommend a kickass book.

This book was a happy accident - I ran into it yesterday while looking for the newest Richard K. Morgan novel, and it's title grabbed me. It's a history book about life in ancient Rome circa 200 AD, but it's written in the style of a Lonely Planet-like travel guide - complete with color pictures (well-done computer renders), maps, places to stay and sites to see. See if the first paragraph doesn't grab you:
All roads, they say, lead to Rome. But choose carefully which road to take, and just as importantly, when to take it. Go too early, and you will struggle against winter storms. Go too late, and all the festivals and spectacles will have finished, and everyone who can will have fled the summer heat to the seaside resort of Baiae, or the cool of the Tuscan hills. Really late arrivals will be jus tin time for the first damp of autumn - the unhealthiest time of year in an eternally unhealthy city.

And it just gets better from there. The style really grabbed me, because it does an excellent job of conveying what everyday life might have been like in terms that are easily accessible, especially to an audience not necessarily familiar with history books. It's also a really cool conceit: I'd love to do a series of role-playing sourcebooks in the same vein, similar to the Ravenloft Gazetteers or Castle Falkenstein.

But I digress. Check it out. Buy it from the link above and support this site. It's definitely worth a read.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The End of the Flat Blogosphere

Via The Stranger, a fairly high-concept story on the new liberal blog Open Left about "The End of the Flat Blogosphere." While it is very much a deconstruction of the liberal/progressive blogosphere, the lessons here apply to blogging in general - especially blogging as a form of social networking. Perhaps the best way to compare what the article says about blogging today is to see what it says about blogging in 2002:

Back in late 2002, there was a nearly universal, structural format for progressive blogging, that centered around the following five, ubiquitous characteristics:

1. Individual. A single writer produced virtually all of the front-page content. Group blogs were extremely rare.

2. Independent. Five years ago there were virtually no "official" blogs for electoral campaigns, party committees, politically focused news outlets, think tanks or advocacy organizations. Whatever blogs were around were independent of established media and political outlets.

3. Hobbies. Five years ago, political blogging as a profession simply did not exist. Advertising was non-existent on progressive, political blogs. Fundraisers for the proprietors of blogs were extraordinarily rare. No one blogged full-time and no one used blogging as a primary source of income. Blogging was a hobby that operated almost entirely outside the market economy.

4. Limited Communities. Comment sections were not moderated in any way, shape or form. Registration was never required to post a comment. Opportunities for reader generated content, such as diaries, were limited. Comment threads were sparse by today's standards.

5. Less varied and original content. Original reporting and research almost never took place. Multimedia options such as video were equally rare. Guest posts from prominent media and political figures were unheard of. There was comparatively little in the way of direct activism on behalf of candidates and causes. Overall, at the time, content in the political blogosphere could be accurately characterized as micro-punditry on current events that was driven almost entirely by reporting from established news sources.
To get the state of the blogosphere today, basically reverse those ideas. However, the writer acknowledges that the "long tail" of the blogosphere - about 95% of blogs - still follow the above rules, but the "short head" tends to do the opposite. The short head, in this instance, are giant blogs like Daily Kos that comprise a relatively small part of the 'sphere, but constitute a great majority of its traffic.

The term for large blogs like that in PR circles is "influencers," bloggers whose stories are constantly picked up on smaller blogs - the "head" influencing the "tail" if you will. I'm actually not entirely sold on the author's comparison to the long tail, because that's really more of an economic model of profits that doesn't always accurately describe what's occurring on smaller, more personal blogs, but it's a minor point. The insights about the changing nature of the blogosphere are certainly worth checking out.

If you're worried about the liberal bias, you can just substitute "conservative" for "liberal" and "Free Republic" for "Daily Kos" and the article reads exactly the same.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why I'll Never Understand Fashion

I've never been the kind of person who paid much attention to fashion. Sure, as a kid I recognized that big basketball shoes were fashionable so I went through a phase where I wanted those, and in high school I did the whole "anti-fashion fashion" thing by wearing white t-shirts and jeans. Now I know enough to not look ten years out of date, but for the most part I just dress nicely and things work out. That's the extend of my knowledge of and participation in the "fashion scene."

A few weeks ago, at the start of Seattle's summer - AKA the "not so rainy season" - I noticed a lot of girls wearing colossal sunglasses. My first thought was, and I'm not kidding here, "wow, there sure are a lot of girls getting beaten up by their boyfriends/husbands." I guess being a social worker for two years still has some effect on me.

I asked Liz and it and her response was something along the lines of "oh yeah, the Jackie O glasses are back," and it took very little Googling to determine that we can yet again thank Paris Hilton (who did more time than Scooter Libby - how's that for a comforting thought?) for this latest trend. I'm still not seeing the end of the "little chihuahua in a giant pink purse" trend either. In fact, just last night outside our local Mexican restaurant we saw a little chihuahua on a leash wearing a little doggy cowboy shirt and a little doggy pair of jeans. Putting pants on a dog is bad enough, but to make matters worse the pants were open at the ass, thus negating the point of pants - to cover up your butt and give the pants-wearing creature a sense of smug superiority over the other, ass-hanging-out residents of the planet.

I just don't understand fashion, and I don't understand accessorizing with something not meant to be an accessory - like a dog.

On a completely unrelated note, do you all have your iPhones yet?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Jericho's On Tonight!

I get a lot of emails from people asking "Jason, when can I watch Jericho?" The answer is of course - right now! You can see it on CBS' website, download it from iTunes and Xbox Live Marketplace, and as of tonight you can watch it in its native habitat - your television!

Jericho reruns start tonight, and CBS did something pretty smart. They're running the first episode, then a recap of some of the early season, and picking up about midseason when the show started getting really good. So set your DVRs, tune in your TVs, and get ready for some awesome post-apocalyptic action-drama!


Thursday, July 05, 2007

America: Fuck Yeah

Happy Independence Day, Puppeteers. Not only is today the birthday of the United States, it's my wife's birthday as well. One of those two things is older than the other, but you'll have to figure out which.

My neighborhood, being a thin slice of unincorporated King County, is one of the few places in the greater Seattle area where people can set off fireworks without fear of being fined or thrown in jail. I've complained about it before, but oddly enough this year it hasn't bothered me. It's actually kind of neat that people go to the lengths they do here to celebrate the 4th, especially since jaded anti-Americanism seems as popular as iPhones these days. So this year we're having some people over, cooking out, setting off a few fireworks of our own and we'll enjoy the show.

I also did something today I've never done in my adult life: I bought an American flag. There wasn't really room to display one at any of our apartments, and the house came with one - but I never really felt compelled to hang it before this year - partially because we were out of the country or out of town the last two 4ths, but for personal reasons as well. This year, I wanted to hang it. I have some great memories of the 4th as a kid, from the Granville street fair and fireworks after to taking a blanket to a lawn somewhere and listening to an old tinny radio play the 1812 Overture somewhat in time with the fireworks show. I guess in college and the last few years, I was partaking of a bit of that jaded anti-Americanism myself.

It's not like there aren't problems here (the Chimp in Chief being only one of the most obvious), but the principles upon which America was built - there is nothing wrong with that. Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness. My ancestors packed themselves on boats and came over from Prussia, Poland, Lebanon, Hungary. They sailed through Ellis Island looking for those things. Some ways it was harder for immigrants and the lower class then, than it is now. I'm proud (and admittedly happy) they took advantage of that opportunity when they did.

I don't feel like I should have to explain my patriotism today, and yet here I am giving reasons to a group of people that are largely my friends and family why I'm displaying a symbol of my country. Is that odd? Have I come so far that it is out of the norm to feel pride in principles upon which our country was founded? Is the problem even myself?

I don't know. I think I'll go get the brats ready, lay out the fireworks, check on the flag and go sit outside and enjoy a fine summer day in the middle of what would normally be a work week.

Incidentally, if you're looking for some patriotic (for us Americans - sorry readers in the Great White North) video games to play today, here is a suggested list, by no means comprehensive:

  • Duke Nukem
  • Rush N' Attack
  • America's Army
  • Freedom Force
  • Fallout
  • Bad Dudes

Monday, July 02, 2007

Getting My Game On

Off and on for the last three and a half years, I've run a pirates role-playing game on Wednesday nights. The characters have progressed from level 1 to level 17 (this is D&D), and in the process have become world-famous pirates and are about to save the entire human race from extinction.

But the last fight will very likely bump them up to level 20, and I have no experience running epic level games. So I'm going to try my hand at something else: running a more traditional fantasy RPG. I've been making sketches on what the world is like ("word-building") and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. Even if I don't end up running this game, I'm still pretty happy with the 20 pages or so of notes I've got about the game world and can probably find something interesting to do with it.

On a sidenote, I'm also using it to test Google Docs. The more I use Google's tools, the more I like them. A lot.

Maybe I can even set the calendar so I don't forget important days? Say, friends' birthdays? We'll see.