Friday, April 26, 2002

Gee, is it Friday Already?

Wow, what a week. Crazy hours, getting home beat, high-pressure meetings and a minor palace revolt, all in five work days. Well, at least I'm sitting at my desk with a nice tall cup of Caramel blend (with a shot of hazelnut syrup) from Shockoe Espresso and Roastery, and faced with (at long last) another slow afternoon.

So, in response to some of the responses to the previous post:

Sarah: nope, I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading Perdido Stree Station, but it's coming in the mail per your recommendation (damn you, Amazon, and your sinfully easy access to Titillating Literature!). I'm currently in the middle of rereading The Difference Engine, but new material is always welcome!

In the new-material vein, I also grabbed (and devoured in 90 minutes) the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore (of The Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke fame), which was wonderful. Imagine a world in which a shaky secret society comprising Mina Murray (nee Harker), Dr. Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo (as the morose Sikh he truly is), the Invisible Man and Allan Quartermain (a fictitious[?] British explorer) is responsible for preventing some horrible things happening to a majestic alternate London of 1905.

Mary: 'what I'm always complaining about' can be summed up in a single statement: due to far-flung geography and the fact that nearly all of the friends in question are married with children and thus have insane schedules, I don't get to see those particular cool people until late July at the earliest. So there. :-p ;-)

Hunter: I'd heard of Arcanum, but have never laid eyes on it, though it sounds tres cool. I'm looking into GURPS: Castle Falkenstein, though, which is another much-loved, out-of-print RPG property that SJ Games has snapped up.

Hmm. What else is going on? Caught The Scorpion King last night, and was pleasantly surprised. Good, clean family fun. :-D Also laundry, dishes and sundry.

By the way, Spring's here.


Friday, April 19, 2002

New Post

Sorry, everyone, it's been a crazy two weeks at work, so there's been no time to post from my desk, and as such there's been little energy to do anything computer-related after work, so of course all my myriad fans have been SOL for over a week.

That said, I've got some time right now. Ha!

Nerd Alert
I've recently begun researching spiffy things to do if I should ever be given the chance to game-master for this little role-playing group of friends I have in and around the DC area. The Steve Jackson Games system called GURPS has always been a favorite of mine, because you can mix and match genres like fantasy, far future, military, and anything else one can imagine.

The genre through which I most want to put our little group is called "steampunk," and is probably best exemplified by the novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Another (crasser) example is the film Wild Wild West that starred Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh.

If neither the book nor film reference helps, imagine a Victorian-style world and society wherein Charles Babbage had actually built his Analytical Engine (a mechanical general-purpose computer), or perhaps a twentieth century in which electricity and oil power had never risen to ascendancy (for political or other reasons), and that relied on hyper-optimized-but-still-coal-fueled steam engines. A world, perhaps, in which Edison had been killed as a boy, or in which a Great War had never happened, and thus never broken the back of British economic power. Or even a world in which different weird pseudoscientific theories were proven to be fact, like phrenology (the study of skull shapes to determine personality) or the ability to animate corpses with lightning. Fun stuff. :-)

I also want to mix in a fair portion of undead horror. Hey, the characters have to have something to fight with their clockwork needlers, steam-powered automata and swords-in-a-cane. And maybe a mysterious magical artifact from the uncharted jungles of Central America or the still-impassable deserts of the East.

Oh, and here's a little link that covers a lot of great steampunk ground.


Wednesday, April 10, 2002


In the wake of yesterday's post busting on The Osbournes, Hunter (who has no blog currently) asked me the very germane question: what do I consider to be funny?

So I did a little thinking, and for the most part it's cleverness that gets me, especially if there's a good bit of irreverence stirred in. This snags me on a lot of "low comedy," notably South Park and anything by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back -- love 'em all), but also some things like The Black Adder (can't stand Mr. Bean, though) and Monty Python (the movies and [most of] the Flying Circus episodes). I groove on about 30% of the Frasier I see (the ones that aren't predictable train-wrecks featuring "Kelsey Grammer embarrassment™"), and Seinfeld wound up being a nice surprise; I didn't really catch it until it was in syndication.

I'm infamous for "not getting" some real comic standbys: Fletch and the Vacation movies in particular have never tickled me. Chevy Chase doesn't do much for me, though, so that might be the reason there. Bill Murray, on the other hand, seems to have my number. Ghostbusters, Stripes and Caddyshack are good ones, though not screamers so much as chucklers. I also like a lot of Chris Rock's work, and Sinbad's several-hour special (where he's wearing the colorful vest) is one of the few things that routinely makes me howl. Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey (separately and together) are guilty pleasures.

Then there's some animated stuff: I'm a big Invader Zim nut; a near evangelist. Hunter introduced me to Zim a few months back, and I now have all the episodes recorded, and I never do that. Catch the episodes "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain," "Dark Harvest," "Bloaty's Pizza Hog" and "The Wettening" for Why I Like Zim. I like about 75% of The Simpsons (which is funny to me for many of the same reasons The Osbournes is not - the difference? It's fictional, and the writing is better: "Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"). Spongebob Squarepants bothers me - it seems simply vapid. Trippy, perhaps, but ultimately vapid. I've been coerced into watching Rugrats on several occasions, and there's a lot I like there.

...So anyway, there's a not-so-brief survey. Why does The Osbournes not do it for me? What's clever about it? Some of the comebacks are witty (I'm Ozzy Osbourne; I'm the Fookin' Prince a Darkness; I can't have bubbles!), but that's about it.

Me in a nutshell.


Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Back in the Saddle

I spent the weekend being face-hugged by the Dungeon Siege game I mentioned in my previous post. To add insult to injury, every time you save your game in DS, the game stamps each save file with the amount of time you've invested in that save's main character. So far I have one character at sixteen hours and one at four. Oy.


Wendy's posts seem to be getting me thinking a lot lately. Lately she's talking about commercials and what they say about men and women and whether we see or understand when we view the commercials. I can't speak for the rest of society, but I do notice when my gender is demeaned or stereotyped by an ad (or a show - I'm looking at *you,* Jim Belushi. And *you,* Tim Allen.)

But one commercial made me want to comment on it, not through any sort of demeaning message, but because I think it got its message exactly wrong, wrong, wrong. I speak of the new Enzyte ad. For those who may not have heard of it, Enzyte is a relatively new dietary supplement that purports to do for men's "endowment" what Bloussant did for women's. Translation: take Enzyte, and you'll get a longer dong (and the indicators are that this may actually not be utter bunk, for once), which is good for your manliness and good for your sex life.


Understand: I have no problem with people clutching at whatever means they please to rectify whatever physical shortcomings they may feel they have. The fact that thousands of people undergo cosmetic surgery of one kind or another every week attests to the market that's probably out there. I'm afraid that Enzyte's big commercial, though, is going to doom them to failure despite this market. I wish that hadn't gone belly-up, because this sepia-toned thing that I've dubbed the "rictus ad" will do no one any favors, and I wish I could just point people to it so they could see what I'm talking about. The pencil-necked protagonist of the ad, whose name escapes me but I'll call "Jim," is the beneficiary of Enzyte's benefits, and drifts, filmed through a fisheye lens, through a cloud of office workers with a grin on his face, that makes everyone turn, stare, and wonder what's "up" with him. This is not a healthy, "pleased with myself" kind of grin, it's a "my bowels are about to loosen" or "please don't notice my cleaver and bloodstained shirt" kind of grin. What old Batman comics termed a "ghoulish grin." Very offputting, and somehow exacerbated by the sepia filter and weird lenswork. There's a promising, nearly informative bit where "Jim" walks by his fat, phlegmatic, wife-beater-shirt-wearing neighbor who's watering his lawn with a hose that goes progressively flaccid as he watches "Jim" walk by, but the moment doesn't last. "Jim" opens the door to greet his wife (whom, the voiceover claims, also benefits), who's wearing a grin that's even more ghoulish, if possible, and exhausted-looking to boot. Ewww. What bugs me is that they had to have been trying for this weird look - it takes work to look this pained. So long, Enzyte. Nice knowing you.


...And on to the subject of The Osbournes. Mary noted in a comment here a few entries ago, and on today's entry on her own blog, that I appear to have a stunted sense of humor, especially as regards MTV's The Osbournes. I suppose some sort of explanation is necessary, if only as a hook on which people can hang their own commentary. :-)

The Osbournes, as a show, simply fails to tickle my funny bone. My best laugh (and it was more of a chuckle, as I'd already heard the punchline from the other blogs exhorting me to see the show) came from Ozzy's line about being the Prince a Fookin' Darkness and not wanting a bubble machine at his concert. As I mentioned in my response to Mary's comment, I've seen seven or eight episodes at this point, so I think I have a pretty good picture of the series and where it's going. I look at Ozzy, at 52, shuffle with his hands shaking from room to room, as he argues with Sharon, who alternates between bitchily shutting him up and pulling passive-aggressive crap like the "no, I'm not going to bring any animals back from the vet" thing. I watch as the two of their kids that agreed to be filmed mouth off, get traffic tickets, get tattoos, have hissy fits, sulk and generally demonstrate themselves to be burgeoning failures of parenting. This is generally not enjoyable to me. It's either disturbing or pitiful. I generally don't like laughing at others' foibles (I spend plenty of energy trying to laugh at my own), especially Ozzy's, whose music I actually enjoy, and who, as the one who's most completely fried his brain, is the most normal of the bunch. I do see the irony, but not all irony is humorous. Much of it is bitter.

Now, to clarify: I'm not some completely humorless Puritan; I can see some of the lighthearted spirit in the Osbourne household, and I can see that there actually is a lot of love there. I can see how the wealth Ozzy has and the weirdness he's cultivated in himself and which comes from being the patriarch of heavy metal get him and his family into zany situations.

It's not even bad TV.

But funny? Not to me. There are obviously literal millions of people who disagree with me. So be it. I never claimed to be normal. :-)


Friday, April 05, 2002

Where Did the Week Go?

So it's Friday, and I've managed not to blog all week. Sarah's going to slap me on the "no-update losers" list again. :-)

So, let's see. What's going on in my life? I've been stuck between 275 and 280 pounds for the past two months, and this weekend I'm going to grab some sweats (nope, don't own any) and start using the workout room in my apartment complex for which I've been paying so dearly.

Impromptu (the singing group of which I am a member) is singing the National Anthem for the Richmond Braves tonight, and I'll be there, downing hot dogs and gleefully not knowing who's who again. Should be fun.

In the video game department: Microsoft's and Gas Powered Games' Dungeon Siege is hitting shelves tonight, and as I'm a big Diablo II nerd, I'm looking forward to it.

And finally, in response to Sarah's conviction that people just generally suck, I disagree. Sure, there are some heinous things going on in the middle east, Afghanistan, in the American Catholic priesthood and elsewhere, but you know what? 99.9999% of the five-plus-billion-strong human race is still getting on just fine, being decent to their neighbors, buying groceries and kissing their spouses and children good-night before bed.

I think I've established where my neuroses lie, in comparison to others. Sarah and Mary, to one extent or another, seem to think that people generally suck. Human "society" is an accident, and any bright spots you can point to in human behavior are the exception to the rule. We pollute, we're horrible to ourselves and to other species, and we do stupid things like invent guns and Twinkies. Sackcloth, ashes and self-flagellation result.

My point of view is that people are generally great once you get to know them. The human animal has progressed from kissing-cousin to the orangutan to walking on the moon, writing the Upanishads and mapping our own genome in a measly few score milennia. If we've made some detours down dead-end lanes like ethnic cleansing, televangelism and nuclear weaponry, then so be it. We got to where we are by being stronger in groups than individually, and through acting out of more or less enlightened self-interest. Human movement over the ages has been almost inevitably in the direction of better standards of living and more freedom. Again, there are eddies in the stream like Communism and the Middle Ages, but the pattern is still pretty clear.

So yeah, people are pretty cool in my estimation. It's just me that sucks. Again with the sackcloth, ashes and self-flagellation. ;-)

Have a good one,