Liz and I got back a little bit ago from our Christmas present - the Pacific Northwest Ballet company's production of The Nutcracker. The cool thing about this production is that Maurice Sendak, author/illustrator of one of my all-time favorite children's books Where the Wild Things Are, did the set design. The whole thing had a very surreal feel to it - the Mouse King was gigantic, and the costumes and set pieces were more like a strange comic book. Needless to say, I liked it a lot, and Liz did too. We also had a great time together just going out and doing something. And, Zee New Car seems to be running fine.
The other big thing in our lives is the trip back to Tulsa. Because of this, I don't think I'll be able to update the blog as often as I'd like, but I'll certainly try. The massive-huge HeroClix event is this coming Sunday, which is going to rock. I'll try to post some pictures afterwards. We're lugging a suitcase full of presents back, so hopefully people will be happy (and hopefully we didn't forget anybody!)
I'm taking Love in the Time of Cholera to finish, and The Once and Future King to start.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
I'm taking a ten-minute breather in an otherwise hectic day. Zee New Car seems to be working out very well. I think we made a good decision.
I found a really cool blog from a guy who's apparently a teacher in Kazakhstan. It's good reading, check it out. Lots about the foibles of language and teaching Russian children.
My list of things to do today includes going to the post office, taking Kytte to Blockbuster and Best Buy, and of course Elizabeth's Christmas present tonight. And, returning the rental car. Plus, I've got to ride our art department about getting an ad done, get some stuff in the mail, and write some quick copy before I leave. Lots of work. I'm so looking forward to this vacation.
Zee New Car
State Farm settled up today on paying off our old car, so we went to a dealership and bought a new one. Go us!
It's not as rash as it sounds. We ended up with a used 2003 Mitsubishi Galant with a 5 year, 100,000-mile warranty on it. It's a very nice vehicle - mileage was pretty high for a 2003, but it was part of a corporate fleet, so that's not surprising. The mileage drove the price down, and we ended up bargaining with them for a damn good deal (and they agreed to fumigate it and fix a cigarette burn in the upholstry). Not too shabby, and it's a pretty cool color of pearl white to boot.
So that's one less stressful thing in our lives. Tomorrow, Liz gets the first part of her Christmas present, which she's going to love. I'd mention what it is, but I know she reads this weblog.
Today at work, I wrote two 3000-word newsletters, six 500-word articles, and a 250-word press release. I was a writing mofo. I think my ass actually grew into the chair and put down roots. And, to be honest, the last thing I want to do right now is sit at a computer and write, so I'm gonna say "g'night" and go veg out in front of the TV.
Proof I'm stressed out: I coughed today and ended up spewing some chunks of my Subway sandwhich. I need to relax...
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Movies and More Movies
Just saw an exciting trailer for an upcoming film called Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Got a great pulpy feel to it - reminds me a lot of Crimson Skies, with gigantic Zeps and all. I'll have to keep my eye on that one.
Also, saw a trailer for Osama, a movie about a girl who becomes a boy to foil the Taliban. Debuts in January, and looks great. There are so many arthouse cinemas here, I should really start taking advantage of them to see movies like this. The problem is, everything I hate about going to the movie theater is usually amplified in those places, because they are so small and cramped and bad-smelling.
Yesterday, I watched three movies - Escape From New York, which I haven't seen in years (and has certainly lost some of its luster!), The People Under the Stairs, and an old favorite, Young Sherlock Holmes. Today, I clean house. Speaking of which, I'd best get started. I've got a shitload of work to do.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
The Joy of the Season
We just finished the last leg of our Christmas shopping. This year, we ended up spending more on Christmas than we have in all other years combined. This is partially because we decided to get presents for all 12 nieces and nephews, and partially because we've got friends in Seattle we have to buy for as well as friends in Tulsa when we go back. Our Christmas cards are sitting on the table unmailed, because we haven't gotten that far yet. And, there's only two days left until we fly out. I just love the holidays.
See, I'm a bit of a humbug. I like Christmas for these reasons: I get to see my friends and family and spend time with them; I really like Hickory Farms cheese and sausage; and I can make people happy by giving them things. Which would make you think that I like Christmas, right? Not really. I don't put up decorations (what's the point of putting up something once a year that you have to keep in storage for the other eleven months?) I don't put up a tree (our cats would destroy it if we did). I believe that we should remember those less-fortunate than ourselves 365 days a year, not just 2 days a year (Christmas and Thanksgiving). And, since I quit believing in that whole Christianity thing, there's no real reason for me to celebrate Jesus' birth.
That being said, this holiday season is worse than others. It isn't any colder than it was over Thanksgiving, and it's certainly not snowing. The car wreck thing put off my plans for my Christmas present, combined with the higher-than-normal cost of other people's presents. At this point, I'm just looking forward to the few days off I get to take when I go to Tulsa.
Liz has been working late and on the weekends a lot, so I hardly get a chance to see her. I just wish the car thing would go away, I could sit down and finish the work I have to do before I leave, and my bills would magically pay themselves.
Adding up everything, we're right back where we were. Six months of progress in paying off debt has been erased in two weeks, and I don't have a new TV or a DVD player to show for it. Instead, we're going to have a car that's smaller than the old one, that I bang my knees and elbows on every time I get in and out. The good news is, the stupid piece of shit might not require $500 to fix every six months.
Bah fucking humbug.
Playin' Some MUME
I've been playing a MUD here at work, mostly because it's the Friday before Christmas, no one's around, my wife is working late, and my work is all done. MUME, short for Multi-Users in Middle Earth, is one of the largest MUDs around, and is a pretty good representation of Middle Earth. It's kind of a pkill MUD, but I don't mind that - hunting orcses is fun.
So here's one from the Religion and Politics Mixing deparment. Apparently, the Assemblies of God church, which has its world headquarters in Springfield, Missouri (where I went to college), tried to get the city to rename Boonville Avenue "Ashcroft Street" after John Ashcroft. Ashcroft, who started his political career by campaigning at KKK rallies (among other places), is best known as the architect of the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to tap cellular phone conversations without a warrent. Ashcroft has used the Department of Homeland Security to shut down a strip club, which no doubt appealed him to the less-than-moderate folks at the AoG church.
Happily, the people of Springfield told them to shove it up their self-righteous asses.
Friday, December 19, 2003
More on ROTK Part 1
As promised, now that I've had a couple of nights to catch up on my sleep and to digest Return of the King, I thought I'd come back and write a little about it. The requisite life-update: Liz and I went shopping for an evening dress for her last night (for my Christmas surprise, hehe) and the insurance company is going to give us a nice amount towards the car, which will allow us to pay off the loan from the old one and put a nice down payment on a new one. Of course this all means that I won't be getting my TV or DVD player anytime soon, but Liz is going to love her Christmas present, so it's all good. That will be enough for me this holiday season.
OK, so the movie. I thought ROTK was nothing short of incredible. The Pellenor Fields battle basically rewrote the book on what you can do with a large-scale battle in a film. I'll keep this spoiler-free, but to see more than a hundred thousand individuals fighting at the same time is something that will take your breath away. This is a movie best seen on the big screen. The sound was amazing - I literally sat with my mouth open, watching. The rest of the film was good, too, although it felt as if they cut quite a bit out (they did), so I'm expecting that the extended DVD version will add about an hour back in, including Saruman's death scene and the Faramir - Eowyn relationship. In the book, the battle with Shelob was over too quickly - here, it is almost symbolic of one of the main struggles in the film.
It seems like the overarching theme of these films is that the characters are always divided between two or more selves. Frodo tries to give in to the Ring, or ignore it. Smeagol / Gollum are the most obvious, with the "split personality" shots. Faramir is the good son and the good soldier. Aragorn is the reluctant ranger and the good king. Gimli and Legolas are basically the same character that reconciles his/their differences by the end. And Pippin and Merry walk the line of responsibility.
The main complaints I've seen about Return of the King - indeed, any of the Lord of the Rings movies - is that they screwed around with continuity, or didn't adhere to the letter of the books. Translating a book to film is a bit like translating a book from French to English - you're not going to get every word right, you're going to put some of your own interpretation into it, and the spirit is more important than the letter. The average fanboy doesn't understand this concept, but don't let that discourage you from seeing these films: they capture Tolkien's spirit perfectly, and will go down in history as some of the finest films ever made.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
I'm still not fully recovered from my movie event, but I feel better. Things are starting to wind down at work for the holidays, and I had my six-month review yesterday that went really, really well. Things are looking up.
The insurance company is going to be cool with the car, so we can pay off the balance and make a nice downpayment on something new (to us). We've been looking at 2002 Galants, which are made in Normal, Illinois. Nothing like a little hometown pride.
James got a pack of love from the guys at Fantasy Flight, which included a bunch of Game of Thrones cards from the new expansion, which he shared with us. How cool is that? House Greyjoy is going to rock now. I'm also going to build a Night's Watch deck (me and everyone else). I love the emphasis on themes in this set.
Whenever I log into Blogger to update this, they offer a list of the most recently-updated blogs. I love clicking on random blogs and reading them. From now on, I'll post links to good / interesting / amusing ones here. Here's one from a girl in Vancouver.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Best Movie Ever
I did it, I survived. After thirteen hours in movie theater seats, and very few hours of sleep afterwards, I can look back and say "that was cool!" And, I got a nice little memento courtesy Sideshow Weta.
So Return of the King was fantastic. It was amazing. It will re-define massive battles in movies, because it's highly unlikely that anything will ever top this - hundreds of thousands of figures on a battlefield all at once. And there were large CGI creatures that didn't make fart noises! (take a hint, Mr. Lucas!)
I'm so tired I'll be surprised if this is coherant, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Waiting, Watching the Clock...
Tomorrow the Lord of the Rings marathon begins. The details are: free refills on popcorn and pop throughout the film; $1 hotdogs and nachos; cards that hold our seats; a pizza party; and the fact that I get to be the first to see the movie. I'm psyched. I doubt I'm going to sleep much tonight.
In the meantime, I've been searching through some of the other blogs around blogger for intersting stuff. I managed to find this, a page that uses Moby Dick to tell the future! Well, not really - it uses Moby Dick to debunk the Bible Code, as it manages to find references to a dozen or so major assassinations in Melville's book. Pretty funny stuff. I wish I had more to add as content. I guess I can tell a personal story.
Yesterday, Liz was in a pretty bad car wreck (she's OK - do you think I'd be blogging if she wasn't?) The car is pretty much a gigantic garbage heap though, so we're probably going to have to go car shopping. And to think - we just spent $500 on it so we wouldn't have to go car shopping for another year. Them's the shakes, I guess.
I need to find something to occupy my mind....
Sunday, December 14, 2003
We Captured... Someone Other than Bin Laden!
Remember Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behing the WTC attacks on 9-11 and the reason the United States went to war? Neither does Bush, most conservatives, and their media lapdogs as today they celebrate the capture of another leader who had nothing to do with 9-11. And across the country, conservatives are cleaning the cream out of their jeans.
The Guy Who Isn't bin Laden:
Threw the families of dissidents in jail, just like Bush.
Executed tens of thousands of ethnic minorities, just like dictators in a dozen of other countries who didn't piss off Bush's daddy (and who still, right now, can enjoy the security of being able to execute ethnic minorities thanks to the openly hypocritical Bush foreign policy).
Now has a nice, big beard. Good look.
In a month, I doubt any of this is going to matter. Troops will continue to die, Iraqi army members will still be deserting near 50%, and the American people will go back to our choking economy (the Dow is not an indicator of economic success - jobless claims are, which are the highest they've been during Bush's selection to the White House), our dying friend and family, Cheney overcharging taxpayers to make himself even more money, and will throw these shit-slinging monkeys on their asses like they deserve.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
The Passion of the Christ Trailer
Apple.com has posted the trailer for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. I discussed the contraversy around the film at some length a month or so ago. The film has apparently been renamed - it used to simply be The Passion, then The Passion of Christ, and now it's The Passion of the Christ. I think the addition of "the" in the title is fairly significant - the language now tends more towards what scholars use rather than people discussing Christianity in a casual manner.
I still have very high hopes for this movie. If anything, the trailer shows some nice costumes and sets.
Speaking of movies, I got up bright and early this morning to head down to the University District because a arthouse cinema there was having a movie poster sale. I was hoping to score a Blue Velvet or Lost Highway poster, but no dice (did get the Naomi Watts Mulholland Dr. poster though). There was a long wait - it took me about an hour from the time I arrived to get into the poster room - and I couldn't believe how many people were buying ten, twenty, and even thirty posters. There were some big movies in there, and quite a few artsy ones, too. They advertised two Seven Samurai posters (how cool would that have been?) but of course they were gone by the time I got there. So, too, was the Kill Bill poster. But, I managed to get an awesome poster from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, so it was a good time.
Then, I bought comics. The big news at the comic shop wasn't the comics, but the Book of Erotic Fantasy, a D&D supplement featuring rules for sex, and lots of full-color photographs of goths in various stages of undress. When I saw a preview of this item at GenCon (being sold from a booth whose main draw wasn't fancy banners or artwork, but the girls in corsets manning it), I thought that it was basically a gimmick to sell low-quality bullshit to lonely gamers. After having seen the finished product, I stand by that opinion. The rules inside aren't practical for most role-playing games (unless it's just you and your lover playing "the elves get it on"), and the sticker "indended for mature audiences" seems more like a joke, because the entire thing reads like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge dick joke. I read most of the comics on the bus ride home as I tried to forget about the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I'm more than a hundred pages into Love in the Time of Cholera. Maybe the fifth time was the charm, because I'm really digging it.
And, in the "Civilization Takes One More Drunken Step Towards the Brink" category, Apple.com also posted the trailer for Garfield. If someone told me they were planning on sodomizing my childhood with a chainsaw, I wouldn't be as miserable as I was after watching that trailer. It certainly makes my habit of eating Cream of Mushroom soup (cold) out of the can seem less pathetic. Speaking of which...
What I'm reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What's playing: The Moody Blues - Nights in White Satin
Movie: Anything but Garfield. Seriously.
Friday, December 12, 2003
I'm not a huge fan of Select Smart's various tests, but they do occasionally have good ones mixed in with the multitude of bad ones. In particular, their religion selector nailed me (100% Theravada Buddhist). I found a link to their Presidential Selector for the 2004 season, and here's where I ended up in relationship to the major candidates:
1. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (73%)
2. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (73%)
3. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (70%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (63%)
5. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (55%)
6. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (52%)
7. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (52%)
8. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (51%)
9. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (32%)
10. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (28%)
11. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (10%)
12. Bush, President George W. - Republican (7%)
The real surprise wasn't that I agreed with 7% of Presidunce Bush's views (which means that seven times out of a hundred that man opens his mouth, I should agree with him - which I don't), but that Dean is my closest match, followed by Clark. I think that means I'm becoming more moderate as I age, which isn't a bad thing. I'm surprised that a psychopath like LaRouche and I are even 52% identical. I'll have to try harder, I guess.
Don't believe for a minute that Republicans are the protectors of free speech when they do things like this. Whether it's censoring art, painting those who dare speak opposing views as traitors, or just opening their mouths, Republican't's prove their hypocrisy again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
One of the best computer games ever made is Sid Meier's Pirates!. Launched in 1987, it set the bar for action-RPGs, as Sid's Civilization would do for strategy three years later. I found this site today, which contains a freeware game called Pirates II. Apparently a fan of the first game made a few tweaks and re-launched the original Pirates! as freeware. How cool is that? I just downloaded it, and I'm going to install it shortly.
If you like old computer games, pirates, or both, go play this game. It's a real classic.
Lynch for Peace?
Who'da thunk it: according to this article from The Guardian, David Lynch has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1973 and is a big proponent of using TM to bring about world peace. It makes for interesting reading, and certainly offers a new perspective on Lynch the man.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Making Myself Tired
As Liz has been sick, and it's impossible to go to sleep in a bed next to a coughing person, I've been entertaining myself by checking my favorite forums and browsing around the Internet, which is actually helping to make me sleepy. It's also distracting me from a pretty shitty day at work, which I'm not going to write about because I'll probably just get pissed off. In fact, I can feel myself getting less sleepy as I type this, so that's bad. Instead, I'll focus on:
DVD Resources! That's right! Many people know I'm a big movie freakshow, and I love the DVD format. Soon, the Ultimate Home Theater will be complete, and I can watch movies in the privacy of my own house in glorious digital resolution! I will have to go through my entire library, movie by movie! If I do one a night, I will have enough movies to last me over a year!
At any rate, if you are interested in DVDs, here's some good resources for 'ya. First, DVD Profiler. DVD Profiler is a great database program for DVDs - just enter the UPC code off the back of the DVD, and it logs it into your collection. You can upload your collection to their website so your friends can see what you own, marvel at your good taste, and even see what you'd like to own someday in your Wish List. Best of all, it's totally free.
DVD followers will note that sometimes the best release of a movie isn't always the one that's out in your country. See, the world is divided into seven DVD regions (well, six - the seventh is reserved for airplanes and government stuff). In order to "discourage piracy," a DVD from the UK - from Region 2 - won't play in a normal US - Region 1 - player. Most of the time, this doesn't matter. However, if you're an enormous movie fan, it matters quite a bit. Let's take two examples: Brotherhood of the Wolf and Lost Highway. Brotherhood is a French martial-arts movie set in the 18th Century (no, really, it works and it's really cool). The US Region 1 release has the original movie in Dolby Digital 5.1, anamorphic widescreen (which means it looks better on a widescreen TV), and is the original cut of the movie. The Canadian Region 1 release, however, has Dolby Digital 5.1, anamorphic widescreen, and a longer cut of the movie, restoring almost ten minutes of plot and action. So clearly, if I'm a fan of the movie, I'm going to buy the Canadian release. But wait! The Canadian release has two discs of extra features, but the French release, which contains the same specs, has an entire fourth disc full of other features. So, if I'm a huge fan of the movie, I'll buy the French version. The problem with this is that the French version is coded for Region 2, so it won't play on my player, and is in PAL, so it won't play on a US (NTSC) television.
Lost Highway, one of David Lynch's best works, is even worse. There is no US release of the film. The Canadian R1 release is in 4:3, which means it has been cropped from its original aspect ratio to fill a regular square TV. This is commonly called pan-and-scan, or pan-and-scam to people who like movies. Why? Because you're chopping almost 50% of the picture off on either side, especially on a movie shot in a wide aspect ratio like Lost Highway, which was filmed in 2.35:1. Now, the Australian Region 4 release offers the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, but the video transfer is crummy and the sound is only 2.0 surround instead of a digital audio track. The UK Region 2 release isn't much better, but does add a 5.1 digital audio track. The best version, though is the Portuguese Region 2, which has a great anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 5.1 English audio track. Obviously, if I like Lost Highway, and I want to see Lynch's original framing of the movie (he is a visual artist, after all), then I'm going to go for the Portuguese release.
So how do I know all this? A helpful website called DVD Compare. It's got an enormous database of comparisons between DVDs released in different regions. For most movies, like Finding Nemo, it's not going to matter. If you're a serious Lost Highway fan though, you don't want to get screwed with the impotent Canadian release - it will be worth your while to import the Portuguese version.
OK, now I'm tired again. Time to hope I can get to sleep.
Skull & Bones Week 1
Tonight was my first Skull & Bones game, and I had a fantastic time running it. Only four out of the six players showed, but it turned out to be a good mix, since I slightly underestimated the party's abilities when planning the encounters. The party is very fighter-heavy, so I'm going to have to adjust things accordingly - shouldn't be too hard.
The game began in March of 1670, as the crew of the Queen's Justice prepared for their next voyage to the New World for the Amsterdam East India Company. "Commodore" George Brumwell III, the Bo'sun, announced to the crew that they would be taking on a new Captain before sailing - the arrogant, foppish Lord Mars Snickerton, whose family invested heavily in the East India Company. They were also taking a passenger, one Ronald Rontacort, a gentleman of learning and fashion.
The ship left London with little incident, loaded down with luxury items to sell in Kingston. That night, though, Mr. Rontacort found himself viciously attacked by two assailants in his quarters - and the door was mysteriously nailed shut! The other officers - Aleida Newport, the navigator; Rodrigo de la Cruz, the Master at Arms; and Miss Zanna, the cook, healer, and spiritual advisor - rushed to investigate. They managed to break the door down just before Mr. Rontacort was overcome, and fought against his attackers, managing to subdue one and killing the other. The Captain, awakened by the noise, ordered the body and the attacker thrown overboard.
Disobeying the Captain's orders, the three officers and the passenger took the rogue below and questioned him, learning that he was a member of a secret order called the Brotherhood of the Drowned Men - distinguishable by the strange tattoos on the back of their necks, a skull impaled on an anchor. He said that he was to make sure that Rontacort didn't make it to the New World alive, as Rontacort knew things about the Fountain of Youth that would prove dangerous not only to him, but to the world. The crew also learned that a pirate of some reknown, John Robinson, was also looking for the Fountain, but learned little otherwise. They finally followed the Captain's orders and tossed the man overboard.
The next morning, the Captain ordered Ian Connors, the first mate, flogged for hiring such lowly men as the two assassins. Brumwell carried out the order, but did it grudgingly, and everyone noticed that the lashes seemed light.
Later that week, the Captain ordered the ship's cats tossed overboard as well, as one of them scratched him. After debating with the crew, the captain shot the offending cat and released the rest. A few days later, when a man failed to report for duty and the ship's carpenter reported the man dead in the cargo hold, the Captain ordered the officers to investigate - and Rontacort to go with them, to keep an eye on them. In the hold, they found nine enormous rats, each larger than a beagle. After a short battle, the officers dispatched the rats and found where they came from: packing from a crate in the hold. They scoured the ship looking for more, and after none turned up declared the job a success.
That's where the game ended. All in all, it went really well - the party wasn't supposed to find out about Robinson so early, as he's the main villain of the campaign, but it's nothing a little creative story-manipulation can't fix. Next week: fun with mutiny.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Monday, December 08, 2003
More on Ancient d20 Gaming
One of the WizKids Envoys posted this to the Judges forum, where I also posted the bit about the Roman d20:
"Here's what my friend found on the die/dice: Qoute: I've done a bit of sniffing around, and this seems to be a reasonable explanation: Actually these are called Slave Dies and were popularised by the Roman Emperor Publius Helvius Pertinax in the mid 2nd century AD. During periods when professional gladiatorial combat was lacking, 400 slaves would be seperated into 20 groups of 20 each. The diplomat (or the Emperor himself) running the game would roll a Slave Die 4 times. The first time selected a group, the second a slave within the group. The 3rd and 4th rolls repeated this selection. The two slaves would then be outfitted with crude weapons and ordered to fight to the death. Because slaves had horrific medical care the survivor of the battles usually died from infection later on. If, in the odd event, the die rolls selected the same person twice then that slave would immediately be freed and given a not insubstantial amount of gold as it was deemed that the gods had smiled on this person. It was a horribly stressful thing; you wouldn't want to be rolled once, but if that were the case you'd be praying for a second roll to select you."
Good enough for me!
I just finished the Rampages in Vice City, so now I have to find something else to pass the time. I think I'll read until I fall asleep.
That's kind of what the weekend has been like: very lazy. That's good, though, because I needed some rest. The WizKids Christmas Party was last night, which was an amusing way to pass three hours. It was interesting to watch the people there, even though many of them are the same people I see at work all the time. It's enlightening to study them outside of the office, in a social situation.
"The Simpsons" was decent tonight; not great, not awful. Which is how I feel about many of the episodes these days. I can't wait until Season Four comes out on DVD - I've bought the first three, but the show really didn't find its niche until the 4th.
I wrote almost a thousand words on The Crocodile Man today. Not as much as I wanted to get done, but it was a very solid start to my next chapter. I still need to go in and complete that story I keep talking about; maybe I'll have a few minutes to do so at the office tomorrow. I would do it now, but with the foggy state of my brain, I wouldn't trust myself to get the voice correct. Or even spell correctly.
The last major decision of the evening is going to be whether I start The Once and Future King or Love in the Time of Cholera. I really should try to finish Love, so I'll give it one more shot.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
The Horror! The Horror!
Liz went to a training session at the Humane Society (she's going to do some volunteer work) which meant I had a perfect 2-hour window in which I could do things that I can't normally do while she's here. Namely, watch horror movies!
I popped in Cronenberg's The Brood, which I'd never seen but found for $7.99 one day at Best Buy. Anyone who thinks Canadians are abnormally peaceful folks without a repressed bone in their bodies should watch this movie - it hit all the good horror aspects without being clunky at all. You've got sinister, deformed little monsters; psychologists fucking with their patients' minds; and gruesome murders. All in 92 minutes! I got my money's worth! Not flashy-creepy like some of the more slick Holly-horror we've seen lately, but great, b-budget, top-notch writing horror that involves you. If I sit up tonight thinking about the monsters, then I'll know it's a good horror flick.
I should get some work done around the house. I should probably take a shower. Liz just walked in, so that may very well be in my near-future.
To the Publishers!
I'm very proud of myself. Two nights ago, I put my insomnia to good use and polished up a story, rolled out a pretty good cover letter, and sent them to "Fantasy and Science Fiction." I also have a very solid idea for finishing another story that I started back in March. Now, I just need some solid ideas for new stories to start, and I'll be back in the saddle. My goal is to try to write one story a month. That's pretty ambitious considering I still need to work on my novel (before I head back to Tulsa for Christmas, too), but I think it's workable. It means that weekends and evenings need an hour or two set aside for writing - I can (accurately) call this "mental health time."
Last night I watched Aliens. I forgot how cool that movie was. Its showing its age, but it's still goddamn good. I found a nice 20% off coupon from Deep Discount DVD, so I called Liz and asked her what movies she'd like and I ordered several. Aside from the Star Trek films, these will complete my "want" list. I ended up getting them almost 50% off with the combined deals, which is pretty sweet. I just discovered that the DVD Player I want has dropped from $650 to $350. I think there might be some hardware in my near-future, too. Gosh I love having a well-paying job!
Friday, December 05, 2003
I finished Neverwhere last night. My impressions were that I should have read it before American Gods. Neverwhere shared way too much with Neil's later book, and to me it just seemed like an early draft. It wasn't bad, but Neil explores a lot of the same themes (a kind of clueless main charactger in a magical world he doesn't understand but ends up helping save). Some of the characters were strikingly similar as well.
Neil Gaiman is no doubt one of the most creative writers I've read, and I would be the first to postulate that his works redefine Magical Realism. But at the same time, he tends to get into a rut, and you begin to think, gee, I've read this before. That's why I'm digging "1602" (his current series in Marvel comics) so much - it's different for Gaiman.
I saw Neverwhere on DVD and I was tempted to get it, but I didn't like the book enough to spend money on the DVD. On the other hand, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy may be in my near-future.
I'm going to work on a short story so I can submit it to a magazine. I feel like I've put the creative writing thing on hold, with the exception of my serial novel, and I shouldn't have. Which means I have to go back to my least-favorite writing exercise: the cover letter. Grr.
Oh, yeah: I watched Alien, and for some reason that movie seemed a lot scarier when I was a kid. Liz is really getting sick, and I feel a bit like I might be coming down with Round 2 of what I had before. I hope to fuck not.
No Big Rants
I promise not to get nearly as political as I did yesterday. Today was a great day. I'm home and Liz is down sick, but she still wants to watch Alien with me later, so that's good. The Simpsons are on in 30 so I don't have much time to try to finish everything I wanted to do tonight.
So yes, today was a great day. I got a lot of shit done, including my first task that was done before the deadline, as opposed to on the deadline. I'm exceptionally happy about that - it will make firefighting much easier. If I can continue this trend, then I can master this job. The first waves of the Crimson Skies promotional cards came in. I got to write copy for about 20 of these cards (there are 55 in the set), and so far the continuity folks only changed one as far as I could tell (the one where I make a reference to my old chum Andy Cole - damn it!) There's still a nice reference to Kenyon College in there, though. As far as actual game design goes, I did several scenarios, and they turned out looking really good. I also did some weather effects cards, which are pretty cool in their own right, except I found a place where they printed the wrong copy on one of the cards. D'oh.
Then I get home, and what's waiting for me but my Leapin' Hulk that I ordered from my company back in June. I guess December isn't too late. Well, alright, it is pretty damn late, but at least I got it. And, I got the last two Heresy cards I needed for my set - I've got the entire thing! Woohoo!
I had a great lunch at Moghul Palace (this Indian buffet place near my office) today, but I overate and it was a late one, so dinner should be light.
OK, I've got 15 minutes to take care of my other shit.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
I've only been marginally keeping track of the news stories surrounding Nathaniel Jones, the man who recently died in a hospital shortly after Cincinnati police subdued him by beating him with metal nightsticks. Of course, the black community in Cincinnati is up in arms, which is understandable considering the horrific treatment of black people there by police in the past. However, it looks like Mr. Jones may not be a fight they want to pursue.
The autopsy on Mr. Jones - who was overweight to the tune of 350 lbs. and had blood pressure trouble - revealed that he had both cocaine and PCP in his system, and that his heart was grossly oversized. Apparently, it just gave out. When you're doing that much speed, that's not really a surprise. I'm overweight (not close to 350 lbs.) and have blood pressure problems, and I couldn't imagine doing some kind of speed that would speed up my heart rate - I feel awful if I don't take my blood pressure meds on a daily basis. Apparently, it was a pattern behavior for Mr. Jones, and he danced around the White Castle for a while before walking outside and rolling down a hill - after which the cops were called. Clearly not the actions of a person whose brain is free of chemical influence.
So all of this is a very polite way of saying that Mr. Jones was basically a dipshit druggie, not a poster child for civil rights abuses. Anyone with high blood pressure, who takes two forms of speed, qualifies as a dipshit, and anyone with pattern behaviors of drug use qualifies as a druggie, so I stand firm by my derogatory label. When Mr. Jones' heart finally decided it had enough of supporting his weight and drug habit and rebelled against it, I wonder what was going through his chemical-sodden brain at the time. My guess is, not much, because if you're so fucking stupid to start that shit in the first place then you probably don't have a lot going on much beyond the brain stem.
Told you it was an opinion zone.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Grand Theft Lawsuits
Although it's been a year since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City came out, the second lawsuit in as many months may be on the horizon, courtesy of the Haitian and Cuban populations who say that the game singles out their ethnic groups and may have "incited [note the past tense!] hate crimes." The news article, which erroneously calls the game Grand Theft Auto III at some point (which shows how educated these people are about the game itself, when they can't even get their hyperbole remotely correct), also quotes a Cuban source as saying: "They've made money out of the blood and tears of a whole nation."
You know what's amazing? Recall a game called "Ethnic Cleansing?" No? It was a first-person shooter that came out on Martin Luther King day of this year. Made by Resistance Records, who are responsible for promoting White Supremacist music to all kinds of poor white trash and anyone else who will listen and drop a few bucks. In it, hook-nosed Jews try to steal your money and you blow them away. Blacks, who resemble gorillas more than human beings, say a few stereotypical "black" things. And the entire point of the game is to walk around and shoot these "lesser" human beings.
As one review put it, "I'll guarantee you'll not find any other game out there that will satisfy your urge to blow away some Mexicans, Hebes, and Simian-Americans after a bad day in multi-cultural la-la-land." The same reviewer tried the game because "Of course we know the Anti-Defamation League is upset, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is upset - heck, anything with a yarmulke is upset. Reason enough for me to order a copy and give it a try." Note that the coward didn't even have the balls to attach his name to the review.
So riddle me this: why is it that these groups are going after Vice City for fictional reasons (the object of the game is not to kill Haitians and Cubans, or to wrest control of the city from either: anyone who has actually played the game knows that you work for both groups at one point), but they don't attempt to sue Resistance Records for making a game designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to "satisfy your urge to blow away some Mexicans, Hebes, and Simian-Americans after a bad day in multi-cultural la-la-land."
I'm sure money is not a motivating factor here, since Rockstar made lots and Resistance made little. No, not at all.
If you're done being revulsed at the hypocrisy from these specimens of leftist idiocy (this is why I don't like to call myself a liberal, folks), then go be revulsed at some of the specimens of right-wing idiocy who play games like Ethnic Cleansing. Then, go home and pop in Vice City and play a real game, for all the right reasons. And hope that clucking protectors of morality, who end up chasing money like a Republican making a campaign speech to a Southern church, end up in the same hot place.
That was why I liked Morris Dees, the civil rights attorney who spoke at Drury. He may have made more money suing Rockstar Games for some imagined infraction, but instead he bankrupted a white supremacist militia - in short, he did the right thing. These groups - money grubbing assholes.
Fun With Religion, Onion Style
One of the funniest religious concepts is the notion of a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." I don't know how many times I've heard that term - on the religion channel, talking with classmates in high school, at high-school assemblies where these classmates were honored as prom queens and homecoming kings, and in the office where I was a social worker helping these classmates escape abusive situations or dishing out evil, liberal food stamps because they couldn't support the five kids they squeezed out in the four years while I was at college.
Now, The Onion offers an even funnier look at these kinds of folks. Enjoy.
Here's an article about a "miracle" baby born in Bethlehem. No, not that one.
"The boy has gained attention for being born with a large birthmark across his cheek that roughly forms in Arabic letters the name of his uncle, Ala, a Hamas militant killed by Israeli troops after he was suspected of having planned a suicide bombing. The family, devout Muslims, called it a divine message of support for the Palestinians against Israel, although some local Christians preparing for subdued Christmas observances have quietly dismissed it as lacking religious significance."
I'm the last person in the world to believe in divine signs, but I think if God were going to send one, He might do so to tell the Israelis that just because they were targets of human rights abuses doesn't make it OK to do the same unto others.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
When Reading Becomes a Chore
I'm not liking Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere very much. As I've said before, I see it as somewhat amateur, a less-refined version of American Gods. I'm maybe halfway through it, but I plan to finish if I can. I'm already trying to put off Love in the Time of Cholera, but I've still got it on my bedstand, waiting patiently. I dug out my collection of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories, and I've got it by the toilet in the front bathroom. His stories are all short enough that they make perfect bathroom reading. On one hand, I feel bad that I'm using the fictions of a man widely regarded as re-invigorating the short story genre as bathroom reading, but on the other I think this is the only way I'm ever going to finish reading them.
I'm supposed to be done with the next chapter of Crocodile Man, but I haven't even started it yet. That, and the fact that I haven't tinkered around with that short story the way I said I would. That, and the fact that my Skull & Bones campaign runs tonight, and I realized that I'm missing some important aspects of how to DM in 3rd Ed. - namely, how to make up monsters on the fly.
If there is one thing vacations are good for, it's reminding you of how much stuff you promised yourself to do and then turned around and blew off.
On the upside, everything at work is due by the end of the week. On the downside, everything at work is due by the end of the week.
Taking a Breather at Work
I should be working, but I'm taking a break. I guess I could consider it my lunch break, since I didn't get one of those today. It's only 4:52, so I guess that's only a little late.
First of all, and I don't know whether this is big exciting news or not, I'm going to be a co-translator of a Polish RPG called Neuroshima. The game itself looks pretty cool - it's a post-apocalyptic RPG, which I totally dig - and one of the designers contacted me because he worked with me some on my Fallout game. So I translated a little bit of it, which he turned into their design team, and they really liked it, so they asked me to do the whole thing. It's funny because I don't know Polish, so I'm going to work with this guy who will translate the book into rough English, and then I'll take it from there and make it all pretty-sounding. Not a bad gig, I guess, and it will be a hell of a credit if they publish it stateside.
I found this site today, called Move On. It's a grassroots site that apparently has a lot of Republicans up in arms because of its overwhelming success. A totally online movement, Move On sponsors grassroots efforts to oust the Bush administration and, well, move on. If you're into that kind of thing, it's worth a look.
Random thought for the day: I find Paris Hilton attractive in that same trailer trash, sleazy way I find Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera attractive, but I think the Fox show she does where she lives with a family in Arkansas is one of the most bigoted things to hit television since conservatives turning fire hoses on civil rights protesters in the 1960s. There's sleaze, and then there's sleaze. Some can be tolerated and even appreciated, and some... well... no.
Monday, December 01, 2003
You know what I really hate? Smarmy salespeople. If I might buy something from you, the last thing I want is for you to talk down to me and act superior. Nothing is a bigger turn-off.
Random thought of the day: if you're selling something to someone, try and act like that person is very important, because they are if you care about the sale.