Well, Crabby flew out at 6:20 AM this morning, which meant that we got up at 4:15 to leave the house at 4:30 to get him to Sea-Tac at 5:00. Which meant that I went back to bed for some more good sleep. Now, it's really late and I don't want to get up early tomorrow for work. Damn.
As many of you know, I like director David Lynch quite a bit. I found this article on Lynchlant.net, a Lynch fan / analysis site. The article deals with Rabbits, a series that runs on DL's own website, but it has some interesting analysis of Lynch's other works by proxy. I don't agree with a lot of what the critic says, including the over-psychoanalytic, Freudian look at Lynch's use of animals, but this part stuck out for me:
"Mysteries are of course a quintessential theme that enables him to evade narrative resolution and concentrate on mood and atmosphere."
I don't know that I agree with this statement, either, but it's certainly something to think about. I don't know that Lynch evades narrative resolution, but I would certainly say that Lynch focuses less on narrative than mood and atmosphere, and the underlying theme of the films (my thesis is that the underlying themes of almost all of Lynch's films are normal people put into extraordinary circumstances).
In other news, I picked up Neverwhere again after taking a break to read Snow Crash. I like Neverwhere far less than I liked American Gods, and it has a certain "first novel" feel to it. My plan is to finish it and then try Love in the Time of Cholera again, or hit The Once and Future King.
Oh yeah: I came up six cards short of my Heresy set, and thanks to the trading site I mentioned before, I should complete my collection by next week! Woot! Today, I'm going to play in a Game of Thrones tournament. I'll have to bug Kytte about entering results from the last tournament, because my standings haven't changed and that is unacceptable.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, Liz is on the second book in the series. And she likes them. I'm going to try to get her to read James Morrow's "God" trilogy next.
One last thing of note: I just saw the half-page Opus cartoon in the Sunday paper. I'm so glad to see Berke Breathed back doing what he should be doing. Now, if I can just find a perfect MP3 of the songs from Billy and the Boingers Bootleg.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Friday, November 28, 2003
Books and Stuff
So while we're waiting for the car to get fixed (it's too long of a story to repeat again), Liz and Crabby and I are getting ready to host a nice Thanksgiving dinner with Angela and John. We've got a 20 pound turkey. That's a lot of skin for me to eat! Crabby and I have alternated playing Vice City all morning. It's been a great day so far. Hopefully, the old hoopty won't cost too much to fix.
I finished Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash last night. It's a cyberpunk novel in the same vein as Neuromancer, but it's everything I wanted Neuromancer to be. I found Gibson's book hard to get into, pompous, and overrated, while Snow Crash did it right. After all, how can you not like a novel whose main character is Hiro Protagonist?
I wish I had more to share today, but I don't. I'm going to eat some turkey in about ten minutes, so I'll sign off and wish everyone else good wishes.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Thanksgiving Day Shenanigans
As President Bush flew to Badhdad today for a surprise Thanksgiving "feast" / photo op with American soldiers, the Associated Press is reporting that the United States has arrested and imprisoned the wife and child of a suspected Iraqi rebel leader. If the was wasn't about Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was the first lie, then it sure was hell wasn't to liberate the Iraqis either - because arresting family members is one of the reasons why Saddam was so fucking bad in the first place. Congratulations and happy Turkey Day, Bush. You can't find Osama. You lied about Iraq's weapons. You can't find Saddam. And you imprison children just like the dictator you're supposed to be superior to.
You know what, George Dumbya Bush? Fuck you. Enjoy your last few months in office.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Back, But Sick
No clever title today - I'm back from Wizard World Texas, but I'm sick. It was a great convention, but I managed to catch the Texas Mung on the last day of the con. It's strange because I'm shifting from periods of feeling totally shitty, where my head hurts and my joints ache so much that I don't want to move, to periods of feeling fine except for slightly congested sinuses. It's bullshit. I hate being sick.
Crabby is coming into town any time now (in fact, his flight arrives right... now). I'm looking forward to a great Turkey Day with him. Angela and John should be coming over too, so it should be a blast.
I finished sorting my Heresy cards, and I'm only 6 rares short of the entire set. Luckily, I found a great trading site where people get together to swap CCGs, CMGs, and TCGs with equal fervor. I plan to make an account there - a lot of people trade old, out of print games like Heresy. Maybe I can finish my INWO: Assassins set, too! And get the last few pieces I need for my MechWarrior army.
I don't really have any fun or witty comments to make today, but I'll share this, courtesy of Mark Evanier's blog. On this site you can find the entire collection of "Godless Communist" comics put out by the Catholic Church in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Someone should do a study comparing these with Chick Tracts someday.
On a sadder note, 27-year-old actor Johnathan Brandis apparently committed suicide the other day by hanging himself. I liked Sidekicks quite a bit as a teenager. What a waste.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
I'm waiting for my ride to the airport to go to Wizard World Texas, and going through the 4500-some Heresy: Kingdom Come cards that arrived last night. I bought them off eBay, and I expected them to be cherry-picked of the rares and chock-full of commons. Believe it or not, they seem to be exactly what was advertised: a collection that someone used to play with. I've gone through the first quarter of them, and it's only missing two rares - plus, there are lots of duplicates of rares for trading purposes. Needless to say, I lucked out. The art on these cards is fantastic, and someday I'd like to write a novel based in this universe - the idea of angels and demons expelled from Heaven and Hell into a futuristic, decaying world is enticing to say the least.
Oh, and I think I've rescended my "no driving" pledge. Maybe.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Ready for Texas
I'm ready, ready to get out of the office and away from the inevitable fires that sprout and just get out and watch some games. Maybe even play in one or two of them.
Last night, Elizabeth surprised me (I love it when she does that). She knew the girls' names on the second Joe Millionaire. She also knew his name, his backstory, and what happened in the last episodes. I wouldn't have thought that reality TV would be her cuppa, but there you go. I dusted off Vice City and gave it another spin. I've been working on finishing the Unique Jumps. I've got 7 more to go, and then I'm going to play Crazy Taxi (with the VC taxis) or the Firetruck missions. One good thing about losing my PS2 Memory Card: I can test how much better I've gotten at Vice City, because I'm ripping through the game in a quarter of the time.
Oh yes, and I wrote almost 2000 words on Crocodile Man last night - so Chapter 9 went off to the editor. That means I've written around 90,000 words - probably more, but I know some will be lost in the first revision! Only three more chapters to go! Damn!
Monday, November 17, 2003
No More Driving
Afer yesterday, I have sworn off driving in Seattle. If I need to go somewhere on my own that isn't in Bellevue, I'm taking the bus. Otherwise, Liz and drive.
Allow me to explain.
We decided to go to Beth's a world-famous greasy spoon cafe over in Seattle on Aurora Ave (99). I'd been once before, right after moving here. This would be great, we thought, because my Game of Thrones tournament was at 12:30 in the UD, and we should have no problem making it there if we got to the cafe at 11. Or so we thought. It took us an hour to get our food, which our friends agreed afterwards was atrocious. We took about 15 minutes to wolf it down (there are huge omlettes we're talking about) and busted out the door. My original plan was to backtrack up to 85h street, because I knew it went back to I-5 and down to the UD. Instead, I decided to take Aurora down to 50th (the street the comic shop was on) and cut over, even though I'd never done that before.
See, Aurora has an enormous concrete barrier in the middle of it that prevents you from turning left for quite a ways - from about 75th until you hit downtown. Then, it turns into Alaskan Way and becomes the viaduct, so you can't get off as you're four stories above the street. The first chance you have to exit is the ferry terminal, which also happens to be the exit for Safeco Field and Seahawks Stadium - so imagine how that looked right before yesterday's Seahawks game. The next chance you have to exit is another five miles down this concrete ribbon onto the West Seattle Freeway - which takes you directly into the harbor. This is where I found myself and finally got to turn around to head back to I-5. Which I then sat in traffic on for a good 15 minutes.
Long story short, a trip that should have taken 10 minutes tops took 45 minutes, and ruined my chances of placing in the tournament (I placed 4th out of 7th, because I got a bye in the first round). And, I felt really stupid for getting lost and absolutely enraged at the idiocy which apparently went into designing this city's road system. If I had been a tourist and done this, I doubt I would have found my way back.
So, I made a vow: no more driving. Unless there's an emergency.
I'll reconsider in a few days, but I'm to the point where I'm utterly sick of dealing with this. I'd rather leave it to a bus driver.
After the Game of Thrones tournament, Liz and I met up with Chad and Kytte down at the Irish Emigrant, a great little pub that features really cheap pub food around happy hour, so you can eat and drink a pitcher of beer for about $10. We had a great time hanging out for a couple hours, and then Liz and I (Liz, with me riding) drove back to Bellevue and wrapped up our DnD adventure. I hope the game continues, although it's more because I want to continue playing my character than any other reason - it's my first necromancer, and I haven't had this much fun playing a character for a long time.
After that, we came back and I finished the evening by reading my haul of comics. The only one that really sticks out in my mind as "great" is Waid's Fantastic Four. When a writer consistently amazes you with the new directions he's taking a comic that's on its 506th issue, that is a good thing.
Now, I have work. Only for two days this week, though, and then I head to Dallas for Wizard World Texas: my last convention as an "Organized Play" representative. Fun!
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Longest Name Ever
I did two great things today: I met up with Karissa, an old friend from college, and I saw Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (a title which I will only type in its entirety once). Both were excellent ways to spend a day.
Karissa is one of the greatest free spirits I know. We met up with her at a cafe called Zeitgeist (!) just off of Pioneer Square. The trip there was Liz's first time on the Seattle bus, so she got to see how that worked. We spent a great couple of hours with Karissa catching up, telling each other what we're up to and how we feel about it. She's working for a nonprofit in New Orleans and living in the French Quarter. She gets to work from home and is doing great things with money from the Big Tobacco settlement. She seemed very happy, although she said that she doesn't plan to do it forever, which doesn't surprise me one bit.
We had a great time catching up. The cafe was nice, too - their bathroom was amazingly clean for a cafe. And they had little lumps of brown sugar (to flavor the coffee, of course, but I popped a couple of them whole).
After that, Liz and I headed back to Bellevue and met up with Brook and Wendi and Chad for Master. It deserves every good review it's received. Crowe does a great job acting, and the entire film plays like a meticulously crafted History Channel piece on Naval life and an English captain rather than a standard Hollywood action movie (the wooden ship's don't explode when hit by cannonballs!) I read that the studio invested quite a bit of money in the film ($130 million) in the hope that it would be like "another Gladiator." Thank God it isn't - it is so much better, it actually makes Gladiator (which I thought was OK, but didn't particularly care for) look a lot worse. I would highly recommend seeing this film - it's worth a full-price ticket.
Afterwards, the five of us wandered to a nearby mall with the most international and eclectic food court I've ever seen. I passed up a killer Russian place and a very good Mexican place for a very good barbeque place.
Tonight I'm going to either read, play a video game, or write. It will probably end up being a little bit of all three. Not a bad evening. I've had a raging headache all day, so anything to take my mind off of it would be nice.
What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: Time - The Alan Parsons Project
Movie: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Something Wicked This Way Comes!
I typically don't post stuff like this, but a treaser for the new Harry Potter flick is available online. Gary Oldman plays Sirius Black - what a great choice! Oldman's one of my all-time favorite actors. I have a feeling this one may be better than Columbus' two; we'll see.
Sadism. It's either me checking forums at almost 9 on a Friday night, or it's the movie I just watched. Tonight, it's the later.
I just finished watching Quills, a slightly Hollywood-ized bio-drama about the Marquis de Sade. This movie got incredible reviews a couple of years ago when it came out, and Kate Winslet is one of my favorite actresses. And yet, it was on the discount rack at Best Buy for $4.99 the other day when I went to pick up a copy of Carpenter's The Fog. So I picked it up on impulse. Value-wise, it was worth it.
Historical accuracy means nothing here. It's really an exploration of sexuality, pornography, and the value and danger of ideas. I've read several of de Sade's stories, and while they certainly don't hold a candle to the almost endless quantity of pornographic writing one can download for free on the Internet, they do represent a specific challenge to a status quo unimaginable to me in a day when I can download a home movie of Paris Hilton and Shannon Doherty's boyfriend by typing three words into Kazaa.
It is this feeling that the film attempts to capture, and does a decent job of it. It is more violent than it is sexual (a phrase some would use to describe de Sade's writing anyway), and it's more a study of the priest played by Joaquin Phoenix and his descent into insanity. It's about censorship and de Sade's burning desire to write, and the lengths he went through to place his thoughts on paper, for someone - anyone - to read. In a way, it was more about artistry and the dangers of creativity than anything else. And that's a good thing.
I don't think the film is as good as many people made it out to be, although it was very good. So far, I don't think Joaquin Phoenix has done a bad job acting - the range of characters he can effectively protray is amazing. Quills seemed very self-aware from time to time, although never to a fault. Overall, it was satisfying, but there isn't much to say about it that hasn't been said before - the themes are old and unfortunately it really didn't offer anything new to the discussion.
Oh well. I wonder what David Lynch's next film will be?
What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: People are Strange - Covered by Echo and the Bunnymen
Most of my work is done for the day, so I'm kind of cooling my heels until the HeroClix FAQs and revised rules go live in a few minutes. Then, I get to watch the forums light up for a while. Everyone in the office is sick (including some people still here, which worries me greatly), so the faster I can get out of here tonight, the better I'll feel. I'm not walking tonight since I have some boxes to take home and like the grand moron I am, I forgot my backpack.
This weekend looks like fun: Karissa is coming in for a wedding, and we're meeting her for Vegan food tomorrow. That's not a nationality, it's a way of making food without any animals or animal products. Dorcas provided me with a great list of restaurants (none of them Vegan, though), so I have a feeling that dining out will be a large force in my near-future.
Saturday, that boat movie that has been getting good reviews. As a funny side note, everything that the first two reviews of it said was good, the Seattle PI reviewer said was bad. I chuckled when I read that this morning. Sunday, the Game of Thrones tournament. And next week, I depart for Wizard World Texas. That should be plenty cool - Indy HeroClix World Championships, and hanging out with Larry and David and Wrich. I'm going to try to get my greedy paws on some Fantastic Four bookends while I'm there, too, so I can bring some books for my desk at work as reference materials.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Dark City vs. The Matrix
It's time to talk about movies again! I love movies. Well, I like talking about movies after an annoying day at the office. It was damn busy, and I'm suffering from a major lack of feedback about how I'm performing my new job. You know, even a "you suck, improve!" would be better than nothing. But I digress.
I frequent a movie forum from time to time, which is thankfully not like the forum portrayed in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Someone posted a link to this site, which is in Spanish but contains some pictures comparing the films Dark City and The Matrix. The site's thesis is laid out in these three paragraphs, which I have put through Babelfish:
"The difference between original and a good plagiarism is that this one lacks all merit. "The Matrix" (The Wachowsky Brothers, 1999) is I trace in all the aspects of "Dark City" (Alex Proyas, 1998). History, the photo grafía, the atmosphere, the coloration, the illumination... everything has been copied, until very precise details. But while "The Matrix" has been a full success, "Dark City "is almost unnoticed past. Therefore, this tra- under it does not try another thing that to do a little of justice to the wonderful film that is the ORIGINAL one.
If you have the two films by hand, we recommended to you interesting experiment: To see "Dark City" first and "The Matrix "later... considering that is a year of dife-rencia between both productions.
But if you do not have both films by hand, a look throws to these 30 graphs. In each one of them it is compared photogram of "Dark City" (to the left), and of "The Ma- trix "(to the right). They are only some of I suspect them sas coincidences that exist between both films; in reality are many more, but you will become a good idea."
You get the idea. The claim is that Matrix totally ripped off Dark City. Although I like both films a lot, and I think Dark City is one of the best science fiction films ever created, I disagree with this website's claim for several reasons.
First, the pictures only present framed, still shots. This is how the film looks on a storyboard - and both films obviously borrow quite a bit from comic books both in style and cinematography (Proyas' earlier film, The Crow, was an adaptation of a comic series). Aside from some similar objects - all taken pretty far out of context - all this proves is that both movies look like comic books. In truth, they both borrow from Tim Burton's earlier work, like Beetlejuice and Batman, the later of which is also a comic adaptation (which borrows from 50s and 60s sci-fi, which borrows from 20s flicks like Metropolis, which borrows from illustrated penny dreadfuls of the last century, which... etc.)
Second, the content. Both films have a startlingly similar story: a guy suddenly "wakes up" and discovers that his powers are greater than those belonging to other people around him, and he uses these powers to free the people around him by overthrowing some kind of oppressor. Now, the term "archetype" is bandied about far too often, especially in popular intellectual circles, but here its application bears merit: this is one of the oldest types of stories ever told. It is the basis for many cowboy stories and movies (think Shane - it's all there!) And it comes from one of the oldest kinds of stories told on the planet - the story of spiritual advancement. The Bhagavad Gita, the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the story of the Buddha, all of these fit this model as well. Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" - more of the same. To claim that Matrix stole plot ideas from Dark City is a little farfetched. If the plots seem similar, it's only because the stories upon which they are based are such an integral part of global consciousness, we cannot help but retell them, whether it's the fantasy knight, the sharpshooting cowboy, or even a teenaged superhero.
Back in college, someone presented a paper at a research conference that basically argued the same thing, and I didn't agree with it then either. I think it's a shame that more people haven't heard of Dark City, and that Rufus Sewell (who I met in London, and who is an outstanding human being) hasn't been cast in many movies since (A Knight's Tale doesn't count, but guess what, it fits the archetype!)
I should probably spend my writing time working on my novel. This weekend, I'm going to see the well-reviewed Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, whose title is far too long for American advertising. Plus, it doesn't follow the gerund-proper noun formula. Hopefully this means that I will have the theater to myself.
What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera - Garbriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: Son of a Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield
Movie: Watched the first part of Quills last night - will no doubt have more to say on this later.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
At least tonight's insomnia didn't wait until 2 AM to strike - this time, it just didn't let me get to sleep at all. I should probably think of something witty to write about, but nothing's coming to mind.
I am thinking about my Skull & Bones game from Tuesday, though. We had our first formal meeting, after a smokey but delicious dinner at Denny's (where I ordered something other than Moons). The campaign is shaping up nicely. We've got a Voodoo priestess who casts her spells using a Voodoo doll; a half-English, half-Dutch navigator; a Spanish military deserter; an English fop; and an Irish girl disguised as a cabin boy who is learning the art of surgery. The NPCs round out the party: the first mate (who will soon be captain) is an English adventurer, and the Bo'sun (soon to be first mate) is a slightly off-his-rocker Brit who calls himself Commodore and has adorned his uniform with hundreds of military medals and honors. Yes, it's going to be a great campaign. There is only one spellcaster, and her class is pretty weak in Skull & Bones, but I don't anticipate that will be a problem - on the contrary, it will be interesting to play a campaign that is almost entirely fighters and fighting classes.
I'm starting to get sleepy. That's a good thing.
We finished organizing our books tonight, which means that we're almost done unpacking. The last few things we have to do involve selling a few things on Ebay, donating a few books we have duplicates of to the library, and picking up a few loose odds and ends. I hope to finish this before Crabby gets here for Thanksgiving, which is going to rock. I have to plan a nature hike for that - if the weather is good enough, we may ramble down to Mt. Rainier. Brook and Wendi have a book of local hikes, so I'll see if I can borrow that.
Speaking of Wendi, she lent me a great book called Silverlock by John Myers Myers (not a typo). Silverlock has been out of print since the 70s, but it is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of fantasy literature. In it, the main and title character finds himself shipwrecked on an island continent inhabited by hundreds of figures, places, and scenes from Western literature that all interact with each other. Half the fun is finding what the reference is; the other half is the happy-go-lucky story. Anyway, Wendi lent me her copy and I read it and liked it, and then she gave me a copy yesterday afternoon that she found at a book sale. It was a great find - it's in pretty good shape, and has that old book smell of dry paper and aged glue. It now has a place of honor on my fantasy shelf.
Before I tried to go to sleep tonight I finished George R. R. Martin's novella The Hedge Knight, which is supposedly being rendered as a comic book but no one has ever seen anything but the first issue. Anyway, it was a nice companion piece to his Song of Ice and Fire series, even though it was much more of a PG-13 story. It appeared in the Legends collection that Michael Victorine got me as part of the Terry Goodkind series he gave me as a present before I graduated. Speaking of, I just realized I never finished reading that series, just like I didn't finish reading the Green Angel Tower series that Jessica started me on in London. I guess I don't have a very good record on finishing fantasy series'.
Before I tried to lay down for some Z's, I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera again. This is supposedly a fantastic book. It's written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who also wrote 100 Years of Solitude, one of my all-time favorites. I read the bulk of that book on the train from London to Edinburgh. But, I've tried reading Cholera twice and failed. The first time, I got about 50 pages into it and quit. The second time, I made it about 60 pages and quit. This time, I'm determined to finish the book. I even skipped ahead a little to give myself some incentive to keep reading. I really enjoy the magical realism Marquez uses (it's certainly something that has appeared in my own writing), so you'd think I could finish the damn book, but so far no luck.
On that note, my eyelids are feeling droopy. It's past midnight. If I'm lucky I can still get six hours of sleep.
My lifestyle changes are going well. Today, I ate a nice lunch, four slices of pizza, and only ate 3 pieces of candy: one square of caramel, one piece of licorice, and one peppermint patty. And I walked home. I feel... good.
Today was incredibly busy, but I got an amazing amount of work done. Hopefully, I still have some juice in me to write. I've been sleeping terribly the last few nights.
And that's all. I may blog about something that's been gnawing at my mind all day, but it will be later tonight if I get the chance.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
I got my Juggernaut figure from Hard Hero today. It's amazing! The X-Men Evolution figures they do blow my mind - I've got the Magneto statue as well, and it is easily my favorite Magneto (I don't particularly care for Bowen's Magneto busts or the way overpriced Magneto-Sentinel statue).
I really hope that Hard Hero continues to make more X-Men Evolution characters. I particularly like that they've made some of the rare characters, like Juggy and Captain America, who have only appeared in one or two episodes. In fact, the next time I do a trade with them it will probably be for Cap.
Two From the Love and Lust Department
According to this story, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt purchased nude photos of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the girl that the Right is trying to make into a PR symbol for the increasingly despicable "war" in Iraq. I think the best thing I read about this was Elizabeth's comment after I emailed her about it:
"I'm not sure i agree with his methodology, but the man's got a point. And if you were flocking with army guys nearly naked and let them take pics of you, well what the hell do you expect to have happen- at minimum they share the pics with all of their friends and half of a company would be whacking off to you every night- at least this way it's part of a political statement.
I can't believe I just said that, but I'm pretty sure I agree with what I just wrote."
I agree, too.
Also from the Love and Lust department, there is a 19 year old intern at my wife's office she describes as a "floozy." I like that word, I like it a lot. To make matters worse, this poor girl's name is Addie Lust. I'm not making that up. If my last name were Lust, I wouldn't name my daughter something that sounded like a porn star's name. I'm sure there's a joke or three in there, but I'm too busy at work to make them.
A Blow to Faux News - They Distort, and Deride!
Here's a transcript of the brief courtroom proceedings before the Fox News lawsuit against Al Franken over the use of the words "fair and balanced" was thrown out. I'm so glad there are still some sane people in this country.
Today is Veteran's Day, a day we're supposed to remember those who sacrificed their lives (or simply served) to ensure our freedom. With it comes the usual inconveniences: the mail is in limbo today, so the set of Illuminati: Assassins that my friend Dave sent me won't be delivered until tomorrow, and the big box of Heresy: Kingdom Come cards I bought off Ebay is stuck somewhere likewise. It meant that I had to filter through several email forwards (you know the kind) from an overzealous family member.
Way back in the day, I wrote an article for the Drury Mirror about Veteran's Day. I still agree with most of it, but the world is obviously a different place today. 86,000 soldiers were just added to our forces in the Gulf and Afghanistan. One of Liz's coworker's relatives is going - he's 59 years old and a grandfather, but because President Bush changed the retirement qualifications for the National Guard, he can no longer retire until the year 2033. Although with the way the government treats our veterans, he may be better off in active duy.
And that's really the problem. This is not politically correct, but I'm going to say it anyway: most of our veterans did not fight for "our freedom." They fought for Europe's freedom (twice), South Korea's freedom, Vietnam's freedom, Kuwait's freedom, and Afghanistan and Iraq's freedom. Sure, you can say that they fought to ensure the world is a safe place for us to drive Ford Incursion SUVs without worrying about paying $2 a gallon for gas, or that their proactive stance against al-Qaeda is ensuring our freedom to live without fear of airliners flying into our buildings. But those premises are faulty as well - as the Clinton administration demonstrated, active cooperation with the CIA to bring terrorists to justice works, while invading their countries only seems to steel their resolve and offer a temporary setback. It does secure oil rights, however, and allows those who would tell us to live in fear to appear to do something to alleviate the situation. But are these wars like the Civil War, or the American Revolution? Not as I see it. Those wars were indeed fought for American freedom. These others... maybe. But it's a stretch.
Does that mean we should not honor our vets? No freakin' way. If some country were to invade us - China, for example - it would be a war for our freedom, and they would be the first to defend us. Most of us would pick up our shotguns and be there right alongside them, of course, but they would be there first. That takes balls. Now this did happen in World War II, in Alaska, but we never hear much about it (the Aleutian campaign to regain those frozen rocks was one of the bloodiest of the war in terms of the percentage of casualties).
I'm currently emailing back and forth with a member of our armed forces stationed in Afghanistan. More precisely, he's a guard at the American embassy in Kabul. This is probably the most dangerous place in Afghanistan to be, since it's the most obvious target for al-Qaeda to attack as a symbol of the United States. Every time I write him, I want to tell him to keep safe and not to die, but it's not my place. It's his decision, and one he made knowing full well what the ramifications would be. For that, he and every other vet deserves to be honored. Not for the reasons the television tells me to pay homage to these fine human beings, but because they are fine human beings. They are going to come home and try to make normal lives, and ghosts of war will haunt them forever. That, I do not envy.
I'm not going to go through the ritual motions of honor being led by the new American priests in the White House and on Fox News. I'm going to email my friend in Afghanistan today and tell him that I appreciate everything he and every soldier he knows does. I'm going to offer him some free WizKids stuff, because I have stuff like that to give away. And I'm going to hope that, when it arrives in a couple of months, it finds him safe.
Walkin' Dude Part 2
Well, not a bad walk. About 45 minutes. The rain held off, so the only thing I had to worry about was the darkness - or, more precisely, the headlights from the cars ruining my night vision. There's one stretch of the road that passes through a forest and then by a marshy swampy slough, and there are no streetlights at all. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to walk through this section, and the only illumination is from headlights or from the sky. I could see a surprising amount when I wasn't blinded by some yuppie's halogen searchlights. It was a pleasant walk. I think I'll do it tomorrow, too.
Of course, I may have ruined the health benefits of the walk when I got home. We ordered pizza, and I ate 5 or 6 slices. A lot. I'm totally stuffed, and if I'd been drinking water with my meal like I'm supposed to, I know I would have eaten less. But that's the way it seems to go with me: after I do some kind of physical activity, my body freaks out and gets really hungry. "We've got to replace those calories!" it seems to say, as if I need a gut like a beach ball and a spare tire you could put on a Harley. I must train it.
Plus, waiting for me when I got home was my credit card bill. Which contained my dentist payment, the cat's vet bill, my birthday gift, and my birthday dinner. Talk about a bummer. We made progress last month, but not enough. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails! I sat and sulked for a good ten minutes about the stupid bill. I can't wait until I can call MBNA and tell them to go fuck themselves. Like, in two months.
On the upside, I did have some good ideas on the walk home, some of which I will probably incorporate into my campaign. Speaking of, I'd better go clean up the house for guests.
What I'm reading: The Hedge Knight by George R. R. Martin
What's playing: Mike & the Mechanics - Silent Running
Today I resume my walking exercise. In ten minutes, actually. It takes me about 40 minutes to walk home from my office. I just noticed that it's awfully dark outside, and probably raining too. This should be an interesting excursion (I haven't walked in a couple of weeks because of the weather and my schedule).
People tell me that the trick to exercise is making it part of a routine. Actually, I think it was Jon that told me that. He said, if you can do it for a month, it becomes part of your life. That's my hope, anyway. Plus, I'll save on gas while I'm becoming more and more healthy. I'll post updates to my lifestyle change to this very blog.
Last night's D&D game was a blast. We concluded the adventure (basically), and I'm not sure if we'll continue the campaign or not. I hope so, because I like my character. He's another Goodsoup. Tonight I've got to finish some of the details for the Skull & Bones game tomorrow - namely, the encounter and the names of some of the NPCs. I also hope to work some more on my novel, so I can get caught up on my deadlines. Hell, I'm only three and a third chapters away from finishing it. I think I'll stay away from serialized fiction for a while - but I'd like to start on my "Communists From Mars" book again, although probably with some plot differences. And, I'd like to clean up some of this short fiction.
Hopefully, the 40 minute walk should provide some good inspiration. I'm taking off in a minute, as soon as I collect my things. I just remembered that there is a stretch of road with no sidewalk. This should be interesting in the dark.
Monday, November 10, 2003
I felt inspired, so I sat down and cranked out 1000 words on my novel today. I'm about 3000 words away from finishing Chapter 9 (of 12) and I really like the way the last part of the book is shaping up. I was a little worried for a while. I can't wait to rewrite this beast. I'll have 120,000 (ish) words when I'm done and that should be enough to do a good rewrite and hammer out something worth publishing. At least, I hope so. In other writing news, I'll have articles appearing soon in both Scrye and Game Trade Magazine (the later being entirely mine, byline and all! Woohoo!) I haven't had the time or the energy to look at my old short stories and do the research to publish them, but I will probably do so by the end of the year.
I've also been strangely tired this weekend. I mean, really drag-ass tired. I'm typing this, and my eyelids feel heavy. I could sleep for an hour right now. I almost took a nap earlier today. While I was going to sleep, I thought of something that would make a really cool short story, but now I can't remember what it was. The sad thing is, I keep a notebook by my bed just for this reason, and I actually thought "I won't need that, I'll remember it." That'll teach me.
I'm going to hit the last lap of cleaning this room. Elizabeth and I did a good deal of work on it yesterday, and we're so damn close to finishing it's not even funny. I really should. Then, I move on to my next project: turning my bookshelves from a hodgepodge into an organized system (well, my comics and role-playing books are organized right now, but you get the idea.)
Here's something fun: the GamePro cases my company makes for holding Clix work perfectly for both Crimson Skies planes and Mech
Warrior 'Mechs. I still like my boxes for HeroClix though.
What I'm reading: The Ultimate Six (comic book)
What's playing: Pearl Jam - Even Flow
Movie: Watched the first part of 2001: A Space Odyssey today (which Elizabeth has never seen)
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Odds and Ends
Things have been quiet lately. I haven't seen any more movies worth commenting on, or television shows. I don't care much that The Reagans was taken off the air, but Saving Jessica Lynch and The Elizabeth Smart Story, both of which probably contain more factual errors and distortions than the other, have not. That's conservatives for you: running a war propaganda movie that the person involved said has been overblown, manipulated, and used is perfectly acceptable because its misinformation suits their political goals, but pulling another movie because of one quote is totally unacceptable, because that quote does not suit their political goals.
In other words, it's the same old story, and as long as people continue to buy what this administration feeds them, it's going to continue. Fnord.
Speaking of fnord, I picked up the Y2K expansion for Steve Jackson's excellent Deluxe Illuminati game. This has been out of print for about three years, and I found a copy in my comic shop, which either means Steve re-released it (likely) or I lucked out (less likely). Now all I need is the other expansion, Brainwashed, and I'm good to go.
I've been listening to Lewis Black's The White Album a lot recently. Lewis is best known for his "Back in Black" rants on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, but I discovered he's a hell of a stand-up comic, and does the whole angry rant thing better than Dennis Miller. I'm going to ask for his other two albums, The End of the Universe and Rules of Enragement for Christmas. The out-take CD from White, Revolver, may be far harder to track down - it's probably going to have to be Ebay or a solicited trade. So if you know where to buy rare, ranting, liberal comedy CDs, email me.
On a more domestic front, I think I found the TV I wanted, thanks to Sean C. It's a 42" Sony CRT LCD Projection (I think I got all that correct!) Now all I need is a Home Theater PC (HTPC to those in the know) to go with it. I'd also like to finish getting DVDs to round out my collection. Deep Discount DVD is going to assist with this endeavor. Amazon.com lists Jeremiah Season 1, a show that no one seems to care about but me, for $67 and some change, plus shipping. DDD lists is for $52.30 with free shipping. It's a no-brainer. I did a test order from them (after Larry recommended them to me) and everything came as described, except one thing that was on backorder. So I'll bite. I need those seasons of Futurama!
About the only other major event happening is my Skull & Bones campaign due to kick off next Tuesday. I'm very happy with how it's shaping up on my end, but I'm still a little apprehensive - it's been a while since I ran an adventure without the benefit of a module, and I don't want to fly by the seat of my pants on this. Then again, I don't want to pre-plan too much either. It's a fine line. I picked up the last supplies I needed last night when Elizabeth and I went to the WizKids store with Jon - a few more d20s and a wet-erase mat - so I think it's gonna go OK. Hopefully the players won't leave in disgust on the first night.
I've got a lot to do today. We're working on sorting and filing and getting rid of stuff in the office / computer room, which is the last area of the house that needs to be squared away. I want to finish it so I can relax and feel like we're really moved in. The speed with which we're paying off debts is amazing - I don't know what we're going to do when we have money. Oh, wait, yes I do - a car, a TV, and then a house.
Gosh, I've been domesticated.
Friday, November 07, 2003
According to this post on the forum at View Askew's Newsarama site, there will be three Fantastic Four lines beginning in 2004 - regular FF, by Waid and Wieringo, Ultimate FF, and a Marvel Knights FF. Yeah!
And, I also discovered that Jeremiah Season One comes out on DVD January 20th, 2004! Thank you, MGM!
Having read reviews of this movie and opinions all over the Internet, I've come to the conclusion that I'm the only person in the world who liked it. Criticism seems to come from two camps: the first being those who never thought of the Matrix films as more than overhyped video games with nuggets of often contradictory philosophy added, and the second being those who expected more out of Revolutions and were disappointed - typically, those who expected "answers" and a firm resolution.
The first camp doesn't bother me. By and large, these are the same people who think that comic books and graphic novels are worthless as a literary medium, and I don't have the time or the inclination to fight such bigotry. It's their problem.
The second, though, I can address. Note that there will be spoilers below, so if you haven't seen the film, you might want to go play a game instead.
My problems with Matrix Reloaded, which I outlined below, is that it was too self-aware, whereas the first film was simply a bold experiment. That, and the idea that the it's been four years since we saw the first movie, so the effects aren't mind-numbing anymore - we just accept it. Which is why the second movie was such a muddled mess. I partially agree with those who say that it makes a perfect lead-in to Revolutions. It does make a good lead-in, but is still downright boring and inane in several places. I like it more as time goes on, but that's only because I'm willing to overlook its flaws. But, I'm that way with people, too.
Revolutions is far more an action movie than a philosophical ramble, but that's fine. The defense of Zion, the human city, is a stunning sequence. I've seen people accuse this of being nothing more than a CGI-pumped video game. Not true. It's really a comic book sequence. Hell, the whole series is basically a graphic novel, from the framing and the set design to the dialogue and acting. And it works.
At any rate, when Neo finally faces the out-of-control Agent Smith, he sums up what has been the overarching premise of the entire trilogy: that all along, everything he has done has been his choice. This is what the Oracle was trying to communicate not only to Neo, but to Morpheus and Trinity and even Agent Smith, and everyone else she's ever counciled. In fact, this is what Agent Smith does at the end of the movie, when he slips and calls Neo "Neo" instead of "Mr. Anderson."
As opposed to the Frenchman's ramblings about cause and consequence - which is the very definition of life in the Matrix - choice, even in the face of overwhelming odds and when the decision does not seem rational, is the only method, the only indicator, that conditioning has been overcome. Overcoming conditioning is the Buddhist definition of Enlightenment, the Hindu definition of destroying prakriti, the Islamic defintion of surrendering to Allah, and the Christian defintion of being "saved." In fact, overcoming conditioning through free will is an overarching theme in every religion - even the conditioning of reason and emotion. Which is exactly what Neo does before destroying Smith.
Did this wrap everything up in a perfect little package? No. How did Neo destroy machines in the real world? I suspect that he was tapped into the Matrix and the Machine World enough to influence it, but this was never fully explained. What happend to Neo at the end? It seems that he dispersed into the Matrix, but again this is not clear. He has become an ideal, and in the false world of the Matrix he can actively work to release others from its prison. This is the nature of the deal he struck with the machines: those that want to be released, can be. Now, Neo must begin working like Zarathustra or the Buddha or Jesus or the main character in Plato's allegory of the cave. The people in the Matrix will slowly awake, and this is the method by which humanity will be freed.
You can argue that the war was not won because there are still humans hooked up to the power supplies, but I think this is a false premise, and certainly a false moral premise. It also overshadows the fact that excercising free will before and after a release from the Matrix is necessary.
In the second movie, we learned that the One was really another fail-safe, a way of paring down Zion when it got too big (and that Zion itself was a fail-safe). While this was never specifically addressed in Revolutions, looking back at the free will theme offers some degree of explanation: Neo was expected to behave in a certain, conditioned manner. He did not, and this exercise of free will allowed him to begin working for a real change - a real revolution.
The name of the movie was not The Matrix Resolutions, but Revolutions. Change, in status quo, in thinking, and from the conditioned world to a world where one can exercise free will. Zion was indeed another layer of machine control, not in the way I originally thought (that it was a second Matrix), but in a similar one - it was a predictable system, because its inhabitants still acted out of determined responses. The prophecy of the One and the implications of determinism and fate that such a prophecy implies are only another way to keep the inhabitants of Zion from revolting (exercising free will, and beginning to influence others to do the same). That Neo really could do this is not because he's some mythic "one savior" (despite all the Christian imagery at the end), but because he was simply the first person to continuously make choices.
So yes, I liked it. I think there's a lot in this film to digest and discuss, and the theme that wove all three films together is the oldest and most important philosophical discussion - not even the nature of choice and free will, but the nature of being itself and whether or not the two are interconnected.
Thank you, Wachowskis. You did a fine job.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Fighting Terror in Strip Clubs
The self-proclaimed moral policeman, John Ashcroft (who, I will remind you, lost an election to a six-week-old corpse and used to campaign at KKK rallies), is (mis)using the Patriot Act not to fight terror, but to shut down strip clubs. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about this.
On a topic similar to my previous ramblings about Mel Gibson's film, the Conservative Political Correctness Police have all but forced CBS to pull a miniseries about Ronald and Nancy Reagan. I'll probably talk more about this later, especially about the extraordinarily hypocritical stance on political correctness that popular conservatives seem to take. I've got two hours before I see Matrix Revolutions though, and I'd rather talk about that tonight.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Avengers / JLA!
I'm a little behind the times, but I finally picked up the second of the JLA / Avengers crossover books. It had Galactus in it! Woohoo! And a possible reference to HeroClix - in one panel, Superman says "in our world, the dials go up to eleven!" I'd like to think he was referring to the fact that DC HeroClix was the first set to have an 11-slot dial. But I'm crazy like that.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Eric Boehlert wrote a very compelling article on Salon.com about the attitude of invincibility surrounding the Bush administration, conservative supporters of the War, and Iraq. Although the lead text paints it as a pundit article, it isn't. His proof of the arrogance of the administration is best illustrated by his reminder of Rumsfeld's quote earlier this year about how Baghdad is safer than Washington, DC, because of the murder rate in the later. Based on what's happened in the last few days, we know it isn't.
Tomorrow, I'm going to see The Matrix Revolutions, so I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that when I'm done. I'm also halfway through A Storm of Swords, which I find enormously entertaining.
I go buy comics tonight, too!
Monday, November 03, 2003
A few years back, I wrote a piece called Driving Problems, under the pseudonym nuke-toting psycho, because that's what driving in Tulsa was turning me into - a psycho who wanted to nuke people. I figured that after moving to the northwest, these feelings would go away because people can't drive any worse than they do in Tulsa, right?
How very, very wrong I was.
This weekend, Elizabeth and I decided to get a kitchen table. Since we wanted one that went with our china cabinet (couresy Ikea), we piled in the car and headed to Renton, which is a few miles south of Bellevue. A fifteen minute drive at most. Shouldn't be a problem.
I should point out that, since moving, I don't drive nearly as much as I used to. When I was here without the car, I rode the bus everywhere. The bus system here is amazing. And, when Elizabeth moved, she got a job in Seattle, which is a 45 minute drive. By contrast, my office is 5 minutes in heavy traffic. With only one car, she drives and drops me off. Which works well, since she only works a 7-hour day. But, this doesn't allow me to drive very much. So I typically drive on the weekends - to the store, or to the comic shop, or, like this weekend, down to Ikea.
I've had driving problems here before, but it mostly stems from the fact that MapQuest doesn't seem to function properly in Seattle. Nor do the streets, nor logic. I've navigated Tulsa, Chicago, Edinburgh, London, and New York, just to name a few cities, and have been turned around maybe five times, and lost once that I can actually recall. Although I've never been lost in Seattle, I have gotten turned around several times. Typically, every time I drive to a new destination, either because the direction stink, or the streets are laid out so illogically that I have no clue whether they are coming or going. Or, as what happened a couple of weeks ago on a trip to Lynnwood, the proper exit, the second exit, isn't labelled whatsoever until after you're halfway down the first exit ramp.
That I can deal with. That's a personal matter, and it takes a suspension of rational thought to navigate what look to be typical streets (in all fairness, it's usually just piss-poor labelling that causes confusion). The drivers, on the other hand, are far worse. I thought about this today, and decided that while drivers in Tulsa are bad and reckless, drivers here are bad and ignorant of their surroundings, which I believe is actually worse. I can't count the number of times I've seen people cut other people off without using a turn signal, two cars almost collide in a lane because they both merge (without turn signals) at the same time, or just people driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Which doesn't even take into account the riceboys and their tricked-out pieces of shit racing everywhere, the soccer moms in their gargantuan SUVs cutting across four lanes of highway (who cares what I hit and who I kill? I'll be safe in my car!)
Yesterday, this entire attitude incarnated itself in front of me. I was driving behind a silver pickup truck, about to get onto 405 to head to Ikea. Three large pieces of wood (they looked like table-tops) stuck out of the back of the truck. Elizabeth notes that the wood isn't tied down, and suggests I follow at a farther distance than normal. Also, we note that the truck is a standard (by the way it acted at a stoplight) and that the driver was acting very erratically. I hope you can guess what came next.
All I can say is, I'm glad I backed off. He popped out of a stoplight, and the wood went flying out of the back of his truck. If I had been ten feet closer, it would have hit my windshield. Instead it clatters to the ground. At this point, Liz and I are all "I told you so!" and I bring the car to a stop. On top of one of his pieces of wood. Oops, did I do that? Then, the dipshit decides to back up - straight at my car - to collect his wood. I guess that he couldn't see a maroon Mercury Sable parked on top of his wood, waiting to get out of his way. So I started honking my horn.
People in Washington don't use their horns very often, and if they do, they use it with a little "beep." When I drove in Manhattan while working on The Awful Truth, I learned to love the horn. The horn is a powerful tool, and one that, in the right hands, can make even the most assholic drivers weep. When this guy nearly backed into my car, I decided to let him have it. So I pushed the horn button in, and left my finger on it. For a good ten seconds. I wanted everyone in a hundred-foot radius to look at us, and to look at this guy, and see my car sitting on the wood that could have come into my windshield and ruined my life. And I wanted them to see the numbnuts who could have prevented it by tying it down with a five-cent length of twine. And I especially wanted to see him backing into my car so he could retrieve his precious lumber.
They gaped. They stared, and gaped, and gawked. I stopped honking and drove off. I missed the turn to the highway, ended up looping around, and found myself behind the same truck as I merged onto 405. I hit the carpool lane and left him in the dust. As I passed him, I slowed down long enough to see what a moron looked like. I don't know much, but I know this: when it's 45 degrees and completely overcast, there is no earthly reason to wear sunglasses. Of course, if you're hauling wood and driving like you've got fire ants crawling all over your penis, there is no earthly reason not to tie your wood down with some twine. So that was two counts of stupidity.
I made it to Ikea without getting turned around again, but on the way back I took two wrong turns. In the Ikea parking lot, where you have to back into spaces to load your furniture, I was honked at (a pleasant beep, but a honk all the same) by a yuppie in a green Camaro with the top down, who had an enormous sofa stuffed in the seat next to her. It was tied down, but she wanted out of that parking garage, and when I stopped to back into the parking spot, she freaked out. She was about two inches from my bumper. I nearly got out of the car and widened that space with my feet, but decided against it.
The new furniture looks great. We had to drive back to Ikea today to replace two parts, but I didn't make any wrong turns this time.
Tonight, on the way back from playing DnD (a fantastic campaign so far, thanks Jon!), a woman stepped in front of my car while I had a green turn arrow. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her, and the car did one of those screech-flop motions. She didn't even look up.
Like I said, bad and ignorant of their surroundings. I now firmly believe that there are worse drivers than Tulsa drivers.