Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Things I Never Knew

Kate and I talk in Real Life, since of course we live in the same house and everything. But she had a reason to send me an email the other day, with the following sig file –

"It seems to me that there are some very peculiar people on this beach."
        — Sean Connery in "The Longest Day"

Who knew she was a fan?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Lovecraft Years Part 2

In prepping the birthday message, I had more candidates than reasonable space. It is interesting to see where they were by their 47th Birthdays. As before, this points out that a lot of them have yet to grow, or have a lot of life ahead of them.

One thing I have noticed about author biographies is that they are detailed as to the author’s life up to point that he or she is published. At that point, the bios suddenly turn to a list of what the author has published, and any real life the author has disappears behind the wall of his own creations.

Note also that I corrected Raymond Chandler’s entry in the previous entry. It’s a little embarrassing, but at dinner I spoke aloud the “fact” that he was flying planes for the RAF at 47, and it sounded so weird to me I had to double-check. I had jumbled the numbers – in 1935, at 47, Raymond Chandler had lost his gig working for an oil syndicate and was just starting his career as a detective story author.

Mark Twain turns 47 in 1882. It’s been 13 years since Innocents Abroad, and six years since the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Prince & the Pauper has just come out, and Twain is just wrapping up Life on the Mississippi (83) and Huck Finn (84),

Joe Heller holds his Lovecraft Year in 1970, nine years after his breakout first novel, Catch-22. The movie version comes out in this year. Never the most prolific author, Heller spent part of the previous decade writing scripts, including ones for the TV show McHale's Navy and the movies Casino Royale (uncredited) and Dirty Dingus Magee.

Frank Baum is 47 in 1903. Its been six years since his first children's novel, Mother Goose in Prose, and two years since the first Oz book. He is rising in popularity, and has just stepped down from editing Show Window - the newsletter of the National Association of Window Trimmers.

Arthur C Clark was 47 in 1964. The Sentinel was 13 years ago, 2001 is only four years away for him. Clark divorced in his 47th year.

In his Lovecraft year, 1946, Alfred Hitchcock wraps up Notorious – Spellbound and Lifeboat were earlier in his career. Most of his great works were later, but he already had his own reputation. It has only been six years since his first American film, Rebecca, had won Best Picture.

Isaac Asimov hit 47 in 1967, and was an associate professor in biochemistry at Boston University of Medicine. He had moved away from his SF career during this time, but his novelization of Fantastic Voyage had shown up just the year before. Foundation was laid, but the rebirth of his SF is yet to come.

At 47 James Michener already has his Pulitzer for Tales of the South Pacific, but the bulk of Michener's work lay ahead of him - Hawaii, the first of his large, ponderous geographical tomes, is five years away.

At 47 Vladimir Nabokov is still teaching - the publication of Lolita nine years from now will let him stop and wrap the mantle of controversy around him. He lectures at Wellesley and Cornell, and is regarded as an expert in butterflies.

Shakespeare, if the numbers are accurate, has five years to go, but he is all but done. The Winter's Tale and The Tempest have been completed. The Globe will burn in two years.

Tolstoy has completed War and Peace and is serializing Anna Karenina. At the end of that, he considers himself done, but keeps writing anyway.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turns 47 in 1906. Sherlock Holmes, slain a decade earlier, returned from the dead in 1903. Doyle runs for Parliament a second time in his 47th year. For the second time, he loses.

Kurt Vonnegut is 47 in 1969 - He has been writing oddball SF as a drugstore spinner-rack novelist for nearly two decades. His semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse Five is published this year, and everything changes. So it goes.

H. G. Wells is 47 in 1913, his fantastic work behind him - War of the Worlds, Time Machine, First Men on the Moon. In 1913 his work on miniatures, Little Wars, is published, officially starting the subgroup hobby of which I am a part.

Just thought you’d be interested. More later.

Friday, August 27, 2004

My Lovecraft Year

Happy Birthday to me.

I face my future (relatively) unafraid, having today completed my 47th year on this orb. This puts me ahead of H. P. Lovecraft, a favorite author and creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, who died 5 months before his 47th birthday. Lovecraft in his lifetime wrote a large amount of “weird fiction”, but never got a cover credit in any of the pulp magazines during his lifetime. Never got the recognition due him when he was alive.

This year I pass him – this is my Lovecraft Year.

It is always tempting to compare oneself with other (successful) writers, but when doing so make the mistake of viewing their entire body of work versus one’s continuing work in process. I have written and seen published over a dozen novels, a passel of short stories, and more games than you can shake a stick at (if shaking a stick at games is your thing). I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. But writers in general tend to be a long-lived group, and so I went back and looked, not at their entire body of works, but rather where they were at the tender age of 47.

One of my favorite detective authors, Raymond Chandler was 47 in 1935. So far in life he had been a substitute teacher, a poet, served with the RAF, wrote for the Daily Express and was an accountant for an oil syndicate. It has been two years since his first publication, the short story "Blackmailers Don't Shoot". The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely have yet to be written. [Note - Corrected from initial draft, which had him born in 1870, not 1888]

Dashiel Hammett was 47 in 1941. By that time has been 11 years since he met Lillian Helman, 11 years since the Continental Op first showed up, and 12 years since The Maltese Falcon. There have been two previous attempts to film the Maltese Falcon. A third try releases in this year, this one starring Humphrey Bogart.

While on the subject, playwright Lillian Helman in her 47th year was called to appear before House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). She refused to reveal the names of associates and friends in the theatre who might have Communist associations. In a letter to the Committee she wrote: "But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions”

Frank Herbert was 47 in 1967 and was still working for the West Coast newspapers, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He will not retire from journalism until 1971, when Dune, Published in 1965, is finally optioned for a movie. The bulk of his published work is ahead of him. Dune Messiah is two years away.

J. R. R. Tolkien is the Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford in 1939, when he turns 47. The Hobbit is only two years in his past, the publication of Fellowship of the Ring is 15 years ahead of him. He writes scholarly works and meets every Tuesday Morning at The Eagle and The Child pub with fellow Oxfordians C. S. Lewis and other Inklings.

C. S. Lewis for his part hits his Lovecraft year in 1946 with the completion his Ransom Trilogy with That Hideous Strength. The Inklings still meet at this time, though one of their members, Charles Williams, had died the year before. Narnia was undiscovered country in Lewis’s Lovecraft year.

Argentinean fantasist Jorge Luis Borges loses his job this year at 47 (1946). Fired from his library position by Peronists, he becomes a Poultry Inspector, and takes up the editorship of Los Annales de Buenos Ares. The first piece of his I read, "The Library of Babel", was written five years ago, but he has a long career ahead of him.

Hemmingway is in Cuba in his 47th year, recently divorced. Its been 19 years since The Sun Also Rises and 7 years since For Whom the Bell Tolls Yet The Old man and The Sea is still 5 years in his future.

William S. Burroughs shot his common-law wife Joan Vollmer in 1951, his Lovecraft Year. Everything that was to come, including The Naked Lunch sprung from that bullet that just missed hitting the shot glass atop her head.

By 1928 P. G. Wodehouse is one of a number of exceptions: at 47 had his chops down - Jeeves, Bertie and Psmith had all made their appearances, and the pattern of a Wodehouse story already clattered along like syncopated clockwork. The author was living in NY and France, and writing musical comedies. He had found a rhythm that would last for the rest of his life. He also found tax problems, which in two years would send him to Cannes, France.

Charles Dickens was also at the top of his game when he turned 47 in 1859. Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol are behind him, and Little Dorritt had just finished in serialization. Tale of two Cities will hit this year. Great Expectations is yet a great expectation. And it during this period he starts lecturing and starts a new magazine, All the Year Round.

Ambrose Bierce is 47 in 1889. He's separated from his wife and living in San Francisco, working for the Examiner. An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge is two years ahead of him, the Devil's Dictionary more than a decade, and Pancho Villa no more than a dust cloud on the distant temporal horizon.

It is an eclectic group, and one that in general is still gathering steam in their 47th year. It gives me hope. Not everyone makes it – George Orwell died like Lovecraft, before seeing 47, but after the publication of Brave New World. Oscar Wilde has been dead over a year by his 47th natal anniversary, Robert Lewis Stevenson and F. Scott Fitzgerald are both dead three years at this point, Poe dead for seven. Jack Kerouac lives to see 47 but will not see 48.

Yet all in all, I have been part of a long-lived fraternity, and it is good to know there is still time to grow.

More later,

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


So this is an irritation first thing in the morning.

This AM, I checked the Non-Essential folder for the company, where bits and press releases are posted, and found this.

City Of Villains Adds RPG Veterans
Hands up if you still own that Manual of the Planes...

By David Smith

A pair of notable names from the pen-and-paper role-playing game world have joined the City of Villains development team, NCsoft announced today. The upcoming expansion to Cryptic Studios' MMO hit City of Heroes will benefit from the design talents of senior designer David "Zeb" Cook and senior writer Shane Hensley.

Cook is a veteran of the Dungeons & Dragons world, having contributed rulebooks and supplements to the famous fantasy role-playing game since its first edition. His noted works include the first-edition Manual of the Planes, the second-edition Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Planescape campaign setting. Hensley's most famous creation is the Deadlands steampunk/fantasy/western game, although he's also written for many different RPG publishers and game worlds.

"The addition of Dave and Shane to the City of Villains team is quite a coup," said Cryptic CEO Michael Lewis. "We want City of Villains to draw players into their roles, and so we brought in Dave, a pioneer in the role-playing game market. Shane will add substantial storylines and narratives for City of Villains. Together, they will help City of Villains maintain the high standard that fans of City of Heroes have come to expect."

The City of Villains expansion, which adds the opportunity to play as a villainous character in Paragon City and organize a syndicate of criminal henchmen, is due for release some time next year.

Now I'm real pleased that a fellow Ancient One of Gaming has a gig (Zebbo has become a wandering Ronin of electronic game design), but the writer screwed up - Zeb didn't write Manual of the Planes. I did. Zeb's big 1st edition hit was was well-received Oriental Adventures. But since the only way to send the commenter a message is to join his discussion group, this error passes without correction.

Ah well. Such is the life of the Ancient Game Dinosaur.

More later,

Monday, August 23, 2004

Electoral Storm - Potpouri

A scattering and a smattering from our Electoral Stormwatch Center:

King County Initiatives: I've been waiting for these to surface among all the other things I've listed, but they still haven't jelled. An initiative on raising gas taxes for city/county road maintenance is quietly dying from lack of support and won't go on the ballot - part of that is the presence of I-844 already on the ballot to raise taxes for schools, and our potholes aren't at the Pittsburgh level yet. Another initiative one that won't go on is the Monorail recall intiative. A judge declared "no do-overs", which means the voters can't try to scuttle the Monorail they voted for twice already. Which is a pity, because I was looking forward to putting forward my own positive views of the Monorail (I may anyway - just you watch).

Senator: The Post-Intelligencer, one of Seattle's two major newspapers, took the unusual step of endorsing incumbent Patty Murray for Senator before the primaries. Usually the papers wait for the primaries to be over before making a call. While they admire Murray's abilities and even-handed support of Washington's citizens and security issues, most of this is about presumptive Republican challenger George Nethercutt cheesing the P-I off. Nethercutt bailed on debates with his even-more-conservative Republican opponent, Reed Davis, even refusing to sit with his intermural opponent for a TV interview. Nethercutt feels he has the Republican nod wrapped up, so why bother? So the PI is dismissing him the way he dismissed his opponents.

R-55, the charter schools initiative, took a couple hits in the past couple weeks. First, the California Charter Academy collapsed under a state investigation of its finances, closing around 60 schools and leaving 10,000 students high and dry. Then the New York Times publishes a government report (one of those released-late-Friday reports) that shows that 4th graders from Charters were about a half-year behind Public students on Math and Reading. Supporters of Charter Schools wheel out the "few bad apples" theory that usually goes with corporate malfeasance, but this is not good news to the charter school cause.

President: You know, I think someone at the Republican think-tanks is reading this journal, since this is the only way to explain their most recent goofiness - mainly my idea of the Incumbent running against Washington (which was a JOKE, people!). Back in the old days, the Incumbent would tend to run a "rose garden campaign" - using the power of the office to highlight new legislation, new intiatives, and the power of his office. Let the other guy run around looking for support, the President is busy Running the Country. Yet in this spindizzy world, we have the Incumbent spending as much time as possible out of Washington, either raising support with core groups, or on vacation (though saying that a President ever really gets a vacation is a stretcher to start with - when is the press going to start calling his Crawford brush-clearing excursions "Work at Home" days?) Someone thought this a good plan, but they're forgetting you can't spell "President" without "Present".

One place that the President is not going to be spending a lot of time next week is New York City. You know, a year ago, it probably sounded like a smart thing - The epicenter of a National Tragedy, a showcase for how well things have gone since, late in the season to benefit from a bounce and take things mainstream. Instead, its going to be the Grand Central Station for protesters, and the city, a Democratic hotbed to start with, has more sympathy for the protesters than the convention-goers (there's a chance that the protesters will take in a Broadway show - the Republicans, like the Democrats in Boston, are operating in a self-sealed micro-economy of the economy). So there is ground-level mutterings that the President will do little more than parachute in, accept the nomination, then get the heckoutta Dodge (I guess that means the protesters have already won). Maybe there will be a crisis to justify his absence. Anyway, the thing that amuses me in all this is that the guy who thought up New York City for the Republican Convention probably still has his job despite all this.

And he's reading this journal. Cool.

More later,

Sunday, August 22, 2004


So Friday morning I was pulled over by the police on my way to work. It was on Lind Avenue, the main, straight drag leading to my place of business. It's a route marked with a number of warehouses, so usually the going is slow from trucks pulling in and out. That morning there were no trucks, and I bouncing along at 45+ in a 35 mph zone.

And as I was passing a non-descript dark blue car, it flicked on its bubble-gum lights on the front and back dash and the officer motioned for me to bring it over.

So of course, I took this opportunity to note to the officer that I was merely speeding to disprove the base canard that hybrid drivers were slowpokes who obeyed the letter of the law. And made the case that I was speeding only to make a point. And wowed him with my knowledge of the subject.

Of course I didn't. I pulled over. I turned off my ignition. I pulled out my license. I turned the ignition back on so I could open the window. I kept my hands in full view. I was polite. I answered all questions nicely. I admitted I was speeding. I apologized. The officer for his part was polite, efficient, and direct. He let me off with a warning. I continued (slowly) up Lind and saw in my rearview window that the officer spun his car around and immediately caught another speeder going the other way.

It wasn't a bad experience, and, as I noted in the first paragraph, I was guilty of what he pulled over for. But I'm a little more aware of the police for a while. And I'm thinking about those people heading for New York this week who got a little "visit" from the FBI, and wonder if such actions would reduce the potential for future problems or enhance it.

We'll find out. More later,

Friday, August 20, 2004


So its been a light week, since I have been engaging in my hobby, translating Aramaic tablets from the first century AD (you never knew?) in my basement. Here's one I've been working on:

In the 5th year of Nero’s reign, there arose an organization known as “Disciples for Honesty”. This group of former disciples of various holy men in the Middle East, formed to debunk the idea of Jesus as the son of God.

"I knew Jesus,” said Matthias of Arimathea, a former follower of John the Baptist, “And he wasn’t all that”.

“My brother followed Jesus, and was one of his inner circle,” stated Judas the Lesser, “And from what I understand, he was substandard as a role-model for a Holy Man. I’ve put in all in my scroll, “Unfit for Worship".

“Indeed,” added Matthias, “When he performed the miracle of loaves and fishes, he was over-estimating the house. There were a lot of people there, but not a multitude as his supposed biographers have claimed. This blatant lying shows he should not be trusted with founding of a major religion. I wasn’t there, but I spoke to those who were. I mean, there were leftovers. People took home doggie bags. So it was definitely not a multitude.”

“And deal with the money-changers in the temple?” sniffed Judas, “It was a Tuesday. Light day, as far as money-changing goes. Most of the real big changers were out playing golf. But you’ll never hear HIM admit that.”

The Disciples for Honesty have encountered their own problems, in that both Judas and Matthias were earlier heard proselytizing on Jesus’ behalf. In addition, their movement has received significant contributions from the Babylonian Church of Moloch.

Judas stated “Such accusations, even if true, are scurrilous attacks on our freedom of speech and religion, which Jesus supported,”

“Even though we don’t think you should support him,” added Matthias.

“And the wounds from the crucifixion?” continued Judas, “Over-exaggerated. They probably weren’t even done by Romans.”

“Let me clarify that,” said Matthias, “Are you saying that Christ crucified himself for purely political purposes?"

“I’m not saying that,” replied Judas. “I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that his wounds were likely not of Roman origin, and we have very biased reports as to the contrary.

Controversy has surrounded the young Christ-faith for decades, as Judas the Lesser has previously let it be known that he considered Jesus to be directly responsible for his older brother’s death, noted officially as a suicide.

“Judas the Elder’s tragic demise so close to Christ’s trial is definitely suspicious behavior. I’m not saying that Jesus or his other “chosen few” were responsible, only that it was suspicious.” Noted Matthias solemnly.

“Indeed,” interjected Judas the Lesser, “The facts we present, which are facts that we have earlier ignored, should show everyone that they should turn to other cults for veneration. Much more worthy cults. Mithras is good. So’s Jove. And I have heard very good things about Moloch.

“Very good things,” intoned Matthias, “Much more venerable than Jesus. And we’re not just coming forward now that his star is on the rise. We’ve always believed this, even when we said good things about him.”

“Which we didn’t,” said Judas, “And besides, my brother told me he was a lousy tipper.”

More later,

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

DOW Breaks 10,000!

Going the right way, this time.

But the weirdness is - through the past few weeks, the reason for the crummy market has been rising oil prices. Well, oil prices have continued to rise (though they aren't at the levels of during the LAST Gulf War - Sorry, they aren't a record save in some pundits minds), but the market puts forward a good show. What gives?

More later,

Saturday, August 14, 2004

A Year in the Life

So the first post for Grubb Street was made on 14 August, 2003. Its been a year. In that time, I've made 282 entries, averaging about 5 posts a week, for almost 110,000 words.

110,000 words. That's longer than your standard Fantasy Adventure Novel (though not quite as many as such door-stops as The Brothers' War. That's an amazing number, when you stop to consider how hard it is to write when you have a particular subject and a set deadline.

Its been an interesting year. A year ago I was working for an up-and-coming game company. Now I'm working for an even-smaller up-and-coming web design company. I've written a couple or three short stories, had published a number of game supplements, dinked around with some novels (some concepts that worked, others did not) and learned more about flash animation and information architecture than I thought I could.

In general, I'm pretty happy with both the direction of my life and the direction of this online journal. My life is pretty good (I spent the day completely crashing after a tough week). And the blog has pretty much reached out to its target audience, which is a) friends who are out of town seeking news, b) friends who are in town seeking amusement, and c) total strangers who found this site from the Google search 'Jesus Windshield Ninjas". We also a d) a few fans have found the place, and are more than welcome.

Going through the old stuff, I haven't found a lot that I was embarrassed by (well, except for the typos that pop up regularly). I'm pretty comfortable with talking about local politics. I make no bones about where I stand on the national scene. The reviews seem to hold up pretty well. There are rare flashes of brilliance and/or originality. I have tended to shy away from "Questions of the Week" and "What Marsupial Are You?" fillers of late, but they will still be around from time to time. And I only seem to get really snarky when I do poetry (hey, who knew?).

All in all, its been a fun trip. I think I'll hang out for another year.

More later,

Friday, August 13, 2004

Jesus Windshield Ninjas

So last week our parking lot was hit by the Jesus Windshield Ninjas (not my name for them, but appropriate). These are the folks that leave religious pamphlets under your windshield wipers in the hope that you will find them not an irritating imposition on your personal space but rather the first step to your personal redemption.

The item in particular was a 16 page full-color glossy newspaper from The Alamo Christian MInistry in Alma, Arkansas. The Alamo Christian Ministry is headed up by Tony Alamo, and its always a good warning when the minister gets top billing.

The pamphlet has a few articles on its good works in Ghana and elsewhere, and a picture of the center’s founder, Tony Alamo posing with the late Sonny Bono and his wife (who are both wearing Tony Alamo’s custom-made jackets). But the bulk of the 16-pager (and coming from a printing background, I can tell you that this stuff ain’t cheap) is a screed about about how the secret anti-Christian one-world government has infiltrated all branches of the US Government, and acts at the will of non-christians like Clinton, Bush, and the Pope. Waco? Oklahoma City? 9/11? All machinations of this one-world government. It waits until page two before stating to besiege you in Bible quotes.

Yep, its tinfoil hat territory. The Jesus Windshield Ninjas hit a number of local mall parking lots in addition to us, but not the FAA parking lot next door. Of cource, the FAA has security guards in its parking lot and limited access. (and may be infiltrated already by the secret one-world government)

So most of the stuff was recycled (in the east parking lot, an enterprising soul went back to everyone’s care and REMOVED the offending documents - the Reverse Jesus Windshield Ninja Maneuver). End of story. But this was posted from a fellow editor later in the day:

Wow, now there's a name I haven't heard in years.

Tony Alamo used to run a restaurant near Fort Worth, Arkansas, back around 1978-79. It was the last stop once you turned off the interstate before you reached Fayetteville on the other side of the Boston Mountains (a branch of the Ozarks). Alamo's was notorious because it was said you'd sit down and order a meal, and after it was served someone would come and sit at your table and talk to you about Jesus.

Originally it was a husband-and-wife operation, which relocated to Arkansas after they got run out of their home state (somewhere in the southwest, I forget where) by the likelihood of attorny general prosecution. The wife was a faith healer who became terminally ill with cancer after coming to Arkansas, and they announced that she would experience a miracle cure shortly before the poor woman's death. He carried on alone after that, and I never did know what happened to him. Everyone in Arkansas thought of him as a Yankee, that weird guy who gave Christians a bad name. I remember he got in some kind of trouble (again) in the early '80s, I suspect through fraud investigation under Gov. Clinton (who was Attorney General Clinton before he became governor), but I was living in Milwaukee at the time and never did get the details.

Now I want to see the flyer and see if he's changed his pitch any in twenty-five years.

Needless to say he was besieged in flyers.

I'm just impressed with the cross-connections in our lives.

More later,

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Electoral Storm - Governor

Yes, I will get the to the Jesus Windshield Ninjas, but first I want to deal with this item from last week:

Story So Far:The Washington race for governor is between King County Executive Ron Sims and State Attorney General Christine Gregoire on the Democrat side, with the winner going against unknown-but-good-looking Republican State Senator Dino Rossi in the general. Gregoire is the "establishment" candidate, supported by the party honchos, while Sims is well-liked generally in King County, a Democratic stronghold in the state.

I've noted that Sims has pushed for a state income tax, which I thought a non-starter in a state where we regularly have tax-revolts against authority. So imagine my surprise when Sims presented a detailed proposal. Imagine - a politician with a plan as opposed to a bunch of standard homilies and platitudes.

Here's the gist of it:
- Elimination of the state's part of the sales tax (effectively eliminating a 6.5% sales tax - we'd still have local sales tax)
- 4% Property tax with a credit for the first 100k of property. This bumps to 5% at 600k
- Kill the Business & Operating Tax (a business tax on receipts, not profits, which the pro-business groups hate)
- Creating a state income tax of 4-10%.
- No corporate income tax
- Institution of the plan by 2008, which would require an ammendment to the state constitution.

This sounds pretty appealing (I'd quibble at the 10% top - when you're at that level, people are actively looking for ways around it - I'd drop it to 8). No Corp income tax is a surprise, but the feeling is that this will encourage re-investment (it stays in the company, it doesn't get taxed) I'm waiting for a knockdown from any side, Rep or Dem, but it hasn't happened yet. In comparison, Gregoire talks about targetted tax breaks and state-sponsored investments to help business, and Rossi rallies around the standard of "Relieving businesses of burdensome regulation" (Code - gutting regulations to protect people).

And Sims is now gaining on Gregoire's numbers. This may be an interesting race after all.

(Now, the reason to mention is that the Reps are playing with the idea of a "National Sales Tax" just at the same time that we are trying to ditch our State Sales Tax. As noted earlier, Sales Taxes are a pretty regressive tax, and the fact that nationally they are thinking about them (or not thinking about them - there seems to be a flip-flip here) is an interesting development).

More later,

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Comic: Hell and Farewell

Cerebus: The Last Day, compiling issues 286-300, Dave Sim and Gerhard, Aardvark-Vanaheim Press

Dave Sim is a feminist.

Now, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, go to the 16 February entry on the previous volume: Later Days, (Chasing Yahweh (With a Stick)) to catch up with a previous review of Cerebus and its rather quirky creator. Then come back.

Back? OK, lets proceed with the exciting finale.

The Cerebus saga finally wraps up with the last phone book, the final attempt for the book's creator to synch up his political, social and religious views with that of his creation. As I've noted before, there is a definite schism between what the author is telling you (in various forewords, afterwords, footnotes, and the like) and what the story-teller is presenting. This is because Cerebus is, according to his own creator, is a feminist. So is the Gerhard, who does wonderful backgrounds that carry the emotional weight of the series. So are Sim's parents, Sim's friends, Sim's readership, and everyone else on the planet. So are you, though he has never met you.

And so is Sim. But first lets hit the book.

The book opens with Sim retelling the origin of the universe from his current viewpoint. This is the third time that Sim has done so in the series, and this time he does it by rewriting the Book of Genesis entirely to fit his worldview and, oddly enough, bring it in line with an oddly mangled version of modern physics. The entire universe, under Sim's current theory, are merely the result of an argument God is having with himself. Everything, from the atoms to the number of the fingers on your hand, are lessons from the Greater God of the Male Void to show the feminized part of himself, the Lesser God of Female Light, who's boss.

Yes, its slow going.

Then we open on Cerebus the Aardvark in his dotage. He's OLD. Real, Real, OLD. Moving Real, Real, SLOW. The bulk of the book is Cerebus shuffling around his room, complaining about his aches, talking to himself, talking to God, talking with an unseen guard, and trying to arrange for his son to visit him. Big yuks.

(Cerebus is trapped in the room because the rest of the world has swung back to being dominated by Feminists, who have ruined everything. Because Cerebus ended up marrying the chick-who-looks-like-his-first-love at the end of the last book. Because you always have to be on your guard with those gol-durned feminists).

So Cerebus's son visits. the son proves to be in cahoots with his mom and the whole feminist thing. They argue. Cerebus, aged and wrinkled, rises from his bed, pulls his old sword, and . . .

Falls out of bed and dies. Roll the tombstone reel. His life flashes before the reader's eyes. The light appears and in it the spirits of old friends and characters that you liked from 299 earlier issues. Cerebus goes to the light. But remember, the light is not the force of Good in the Sim-verse.

And that's it. Three hundred issues. Falls out of bed. Snagged by the evil, female light.

And if everything is a symbol for something else, what point does all this make? That life is a bunch of missed opportunities and frustrated goals, followed by death? Gee, thanks for 26 years.

So after all this, I'm going pass judgement: Dave Sim is a feminist. He's a feminist by his own definition of feminism - evil, mortal, flawed. A sinner. If he had used any of those words, he probably wouldn't get the attention and consternation he has demanded (which may be why he chooses feminist). Sims lives in a gnostic universe which is inherently evil/feminist in the first place, and all parts of it - friends, co-workers, family, creations are fallen, evil, and feminist as well.

Including him.

Lemme just give you one extreme example - in his revision of Genesis, he claims that the problem between women and men is really the problem between women and the male sexual organ (I am SO not making this up). The man himself is an innocent in this conflict. Honest, officer, I was just standing here!

That's right - in order to absolve man and show male goodness and purity, Sim castrates the man. With this he has not only moved past the (real-world) definition of feminist into the loopy scare-the-children version, he has then embraced and embodied it, in the name of his beliefs.

So after 300 issues, what's the verdict on the series?

All in all, its been an interesting trip. Parts of it have been brilliant. Various components - the backgrounds, dialogue, characters as are well-worth their praise. The theme, though, is foggy, the point muddled, and the resolution frustrating. I wouldn't say that it was Citizen Kane. Kane holds together, though it demands you pay attention, and has a ending, coming full circle. Cerebus's life is more of a random walk through a fallen world that does not provide a clear alternative.

And it is thought-provoking, and I recommend the story based upon your personal level of interest. If you like story, read through the end of High Society. If you like character development, stop at the end of Jaka's Story. If you have the stomach for "contratemporary" thought, go the distance. But don't blame me if you end up feeling a little empty at end.

Because after all, Sim is feminist (fallen, mortal, sinning) artist in a feminist (fallen, mortal, sinning) world.

More later,

Friday, August 06, 2004

Shout Out To Kij

I want to write more tonight, but I was up late finishing a major project for Hasbro (short review as of this morning - they love it and want some changes) and there is a line of thunderstorms rolling through the lowlands right now, the first real rain we've seen in a month and a half (about an inch, according to the rain gauge on the back porch - but a lot more thunder than we ever hear around here). So the notes on the Jesus Windshield Ninjas and the Last Cerebus Phonebook will have to wait.

However, I want to give a big congratulations to Kij Johnson, also known as Kijmonkey, who has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award for her novel, Fudoki. Way cool!

(Uh oh - Thunder in the distance. More later)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Gots My Galactus!

So this morning I stopped off at my old work-place, Wizkids, and picked up my Galactus figure. I helped design the Big G while I was there, and Jon of Nothing Good Can Come of This . . . was holding one for me. What with conventions and schedules, it was the first chance I had to get up there and pick it up (Thanks, Jon!).

I have to say, its an impressive figure. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Galactus is a special figure for the Marvel Heroclix Game, which is the click-based minitatures game I was working on about a year ago. Galactus, in the comic books is a god-like force that goes around the universe eating planets. He has been a long-time opponent of the Fantastic Four, and with amazing precision, he has descended on downtown Manhattan in the past, intent on a snack.

While most of the Heroclix figures are about an inch and a half tall, Galactus is HUGE - a scootch over 15 inches from the base of his booties to the prongs on his pointy hat. He was intended originally as a promotional figure for retailers (sort of a big, world-eating "Thank You" to the store-owners), but Wizkids made extras to sell at the summer conventions. Needless to say, they didn't make nearly enough extras, and the Big G has been the "hot property" for collectors over the summer.

Now that I have him, let me tell you a few Galactus secrets:

The Height: For the first four weeks of the design, Galactus's height was an active subject of discussion in the office. I actually had a graph posted showing his height fluxuations from day to day. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe puts him at just under 30 feet tall (28', 9"), but in the comic books he's towering over entire buildings. We wanted a really, really big figure, and as a result, the figure's height early on varied between 10 inches and two feet tall. I found source material in the various books to make the case to the licensor (Secret Wars has a 60-foot Galactus, the Moebius Silver Surfer hardcover had a HUGE Galactus, who was at least 200 feet tall). Finally we settled on the 15 inch version, which translates (if memory serves) at about 60 feet tall. (The two-foot tall version, by the way, required two bases, each the size of the current base, one for each foot).

The Outfit: The first paint job for Galactus was a Byrne-era Dark Blue and Purple. The licensor chose instead to go with the more Kirbyesque rose and violet. It works.

The Pose: The biggest concern was to get him on the base while giving him a good pose - if he was any taller, he would have been off the base entirely. From a mass of sample pages provided, the sculptor went with a "Lo!" pose he currently has. It turned out to be good fortune that a standard HeroClix figure, like the Silver Surfer, could fit in his hand.

He's A Lot More Active: Originally I had pitched the Big G as a piece of immobile, nonplayer terrain. He was a puzzle to be solved - can you put together a team to take down Galactus before he eats the world? As the figure neared completion, Jon and his team (I was gone by this time) put together the rules to make Galactus an more active player. On reflection, I think its a good thing, and if you are using Galactus in your game, thank Jon. If you're getting stomped by Galactus-wielding opponents . . . um . . . you have my sympathy.

That's about it. I rarely share tales out of school, but the Big G has been a Big Hit, and I thought I would share a few "design notes" on the project. And I've got my own figure now, and he's going onto my desk, next to my Maltese Falcon. Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

More later,

DOW Breaks 10,000!

Just shut up, OK? Its just not funny anymore.

More later,

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Threes

Its been a while since I've done introspection, so here's something I stole from Hygelak The Dread.

1 - Hatred
2 – Super String Theory
3 – This Whole “Death” Thing.

1 - Jeans
2 – Hawai’ian Shirt (blue and yellow)
3 – Wedding Ring.

1 – Grandfather’s pocket watch.
2 – A hourglass.
3 – A Maltese Falcon .

1 – Get on the NY Times Book List. The real one, not the extended version they put on the net.
2 – Learn to draw.
3 – Finish writing a play.

1 – Swiss Cantons
2 – Lancaster Farms
3 – Pennsylvanian Oil Fields

1 - Mind
2 - Hair
3 - Fingers

1 - Stomach
2 - Knees
3 – Mind (it never shuts up)

1 - I supported Nixon as a youth.
2 – I get insomnia about once every other month.
3 – In a fit of rage, I once shredded an entire TV Guide.

1 – (Krusty the Clown Noise)
2 – But Noooooooo!
3 – No, Really.

1 - Alaska
2 - Japan
3 – Across Canada by Rail

1 - Jeffers
2 – El Jefe
3 - Sweetie

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Folk Tale

Once or twice upon a time there was a young man who lived in a village on a mountainside. He wasn’t the brightest or the strongest young man, so the village elders gave him the task of watching for wolves in the upper pastures.

“Keep an eye out,” they said, “and shout if you see any wolves”.

So two days later, the young man appeared in the center of the village, out of breath and frightened. He said there were wolves up in the upper pasture.

“Why didn’t you shout?” asked the villagers.

“No time,” said the lad. “Come, see!”

So the villagers trekked up to the upper pastures and found . . . nothing. There were no wolves.

“They must have moved on,” said the young man, but the villagers looked dubiously at him. Then he added, “You would not have heard me down in the village, anyway. Give me a horn and I can blow it, and you can come.”

The village elders thought this was a good idea, and gave him a horn. And two days later they heard the young man blowing the horn in the upper pastures, and all the male villagers ran up to the pastures.

“There,” said the boy, “By the tree line.” But the villagers searched but could find no trace of wolves.

“You know,” said the lad, “If you gave me a gun, I could shoot the wolves.”

The village elders were dubious, but after some discussion, decided to give the lad an old musket. And two days later, there was the sound of a gunshot and the horn blowing, and the villagers came up the mountain. They found no wolves, but one of the sheep was walking with a pronounced limp.

“This gun won’t stop a wolf,” said the lad, “I’ll need a better weapon to protect you.”

More discussion, and finally the village elders gave the lad the best gun in the village, and for most of the summer and into the fall, every couple days, there was the sound of the horn and a gunshot, and an ever-fewer number of villagers would tramp up to the upper pastures. And they would find no wolves. Only the promise of wolves, or the hint of wolves, or the suspicion of wolf-related activities. And the villagers adjusted to this.

Then came a hard, hard frost, and the wolves came down from the mountains. And the young man saw them entering the pasture from the tree line, a wave of grey fur and slavering jaws. Hunger incarnate, they came down out of the mountain.

And the young man dropped his horn and the best gun in the village and fled without even shouting a warning. And the wolves came into the village and killed every man, woman, and child.

And a week later, the young man, footsore, dirty, and hungry, stumbled into another village on the mountain. And the elders of this village looked at the lad and said, “You don’t look like the brightest or strongest young man we’ve ever seen. What can you bring to our village?”

The young man said, “I am a professional wolf-watcher. I worked for the next village over.”

“The next village over was killed by wolves, to the last man, woman, or child.” Said the village elders. “That does not reflect well on your abilities.”

“I know,” said the young man, letting out a deep sigh, “If only they had listened to me, they would still be alive.”

So they hired him as a consultant, and thereby sealed their fate.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Run! Its Poetry!

OK, be warned - this post contains mature language. Or, rather, immature language. In any event, its not exactly work-safe. So be warned.

This came about in a discussion with Scarlett about the nature of the muse. Many viewpoints portrays the muse as a positive force. I beg to disagree. I thought about it, wrote this down, lost it, found it, carried it around in my shirt pocket a couple days, thought about it some more, then put it here.

My muse is right bloody bastard
Slouch-backed, leering, gutter-mouthed
He insults strangers,
- Snubs my friends
- Farts in envelopes
He has led me into the deep woods
And abandoned me, repeatedly,
Leaving me no map or compass
Only an empty lunch bag

My muse is screaming bitch-queen
Possessive, demanding, horrid
Maxes out my cards
- Make me think of her during
- Meetings, work, sex
She's dumped me in the pool’s deep end
Each time assuring me
I could make it to safety
Once I worked the manacles loose

My muse is a haughty, ugly creature
I deserve no more credit in its eyes
Than the general’s horse owns the victory
My muse looks forward to the day
When it straddles my tombstone
And tells everyone else
How they got it wrong

More later,


Sorry to stay National for the moment, but yesterday evening I got an automatic poller calling the house.

"This is an automated poll from ITC," said the female voice (I'm pulling from memory here, so the name may not be correct), "We are conducting an automatic poll that will take less than a minute - please don't hang up. First question: If the election was held tomorrow, who would you vote for, John Kerry or George Bush? Press "1" for Kerry, "2" for President Bush."

So I pressed the "1"

"You have pressed "1 - John Kerry". What were your reasons? Press "1" if you chose Kerry because you support the Democratic Party. Press "2" if you don't like President Bush."

And I hung up.

I mean, There are a lot of people who would want to press BOTH. And a lot of people who would have other reasons - "Lesser of two evils", or "Better of two candidates,"or "I don't trust any Republicans", or "I like Kerry's sense of humor," or "Because my dog told me to," and so would press neither. But no, you either are a card-carrying Dem or you dislike the President. No middle ground.

(Homer Voice On) Stupid Robo-Polls (Homer Voice Off)

More later,