Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bears Repeating

My Memorial Day post was directed towards thinking about our soldiers who have sacrificed through a number of wars in our history. NikChik is thinking in a more immediate sense, and is worth checking out here.

More later,

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

National Desk: Bizarro World

And then you hit a scandal that just keeps on giving.

In this case it involves a House Rep from Louisiana named William Jefferson, who is from all apparent data is corrupt as all get out. No brag, just fact. His aides have been indicted. His own records have been subpoenaed. He was on the receiving end of a successful FBI sting operation. He kept ill-gotten gains in a number of refrigerators. And about a week back the FBI raided his office, looking for more data. This is the first time that a congressional office has ever been searched in this fashion.

I read about this first on the net, on some right-leaning blogs that sniffed that, since WJ is a Democrat, the mainstream media would ignore it.

And ignore it they did, unless you count things like Page 1 coverage on the Seattle Times. Usually they put the corruption of Other Washington back in A5-A7 area.

And in addition, many of the progressive blogs that I follow also carried the story, with the idea that any corrupt politician is bad news, even if they are Democrat. ESPECIALLY if they are Democrat. But still I expected it to be a one-day story, if that. Louisiana is not exactly on people’s radar (but that’s a rant for another day).

So imagine my surprise when Representatives got all hot up about the FBI raiding Jefferson’s office. Not Democrat Reps (Minority Leader Pelosi actually called for him to step down from his commitee seats), but GOP, led by Majority Leader Denny Hastert. How DARE the government raid the offices of a government official? Give that stuff back now!

OK, I’ll admit this point, I had to blink in disbelief. These are the same people who have been presiding over a slow (and not-so-slow) disassembly of the Constitution, shouting things like “War on Terror!” and “The innocent have nothing to hide!” But when the investigative eye turns on them, they suddenly get concerned about rights?

Then it gets even better. The WHITE HOUSE comes in a throws a seal on all the papers the FBI for 45 days – nobody gets them at all. And this happens after, it turns out, the recently-appointed Attorney General (who had no problems with covert wiretapping sans warrants) and the FBI director threatened to bail if they gave the papers back.

All of this conservative sturm and drang, by the way, is playing out back on pages A5-A7 of the paper, so you can be forgiven if you think its just about finally finding a corrupt Democrat in modern DC.

Now, I’m very interested in how this all turns out, since this seems to me to be a no-win situation. Either Justice was right to go after a sitting member of Congress's offices, which extends the power of the FBI and the Executive, or Congress is has an immunity that they are unwilling to extend to the rest of the nation. Either one is a pretty disturbing thought.

Similarly, we have Rep. Rick Santorum (R-?), who has showed up in these pages before. Short form – he moved in down the block from my folks’ house, got elected to Congress by getting everyone roused up about how the current incumbent wasn’t even living in the district, then moved out again after getting elected. Well, for a while he had a house in Penn Hills, which was his official residence as far as making the local school district pay for his kids’ cyber-school. But when it was revealed that he didn’t really live there, there was a hue and cry, and he bailed on making Penn Hills pay the tab. And without THAT bennie to keep him in town, the house in Penn Hills is now apparently empty.

Which upset Mr. Santorum to no end. How dare people come and look in the windows of his abandoned house! Again, I have sympathy, but the folk complaining here are the same people who are cool with the government keeping an eye on you, who suddenly bridle at the notion that anyone keeps an eye on them.

Which is silly because, you know, the innocent have nothing to fear.

More later,

Monday, May 29, 2006

Day of the Dead

Have you noticed how wonky our holidays are? They seem to have evolved from their original notions into things very different from what was originally intended. The obvious ones are Christmas (Celebrating the birth of the Savior with the arrival of Santa Claus) and Easter (Celebrating the death of the Savior with Bunnies and Chicks), but I'm starting to think that all holidays have their own secret history. Heck, even Mother's Day originally had an anti-war component to it, before Hallmark got ahold of it.

And then we have Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is an interesting challenge because we can't say for sure WHERE it came from. A quick run through the web turned up that it was first celebrated by a) Liberated slaves in 1865 at a Charleston SC racetrack that had been a prison camp and mass Union grave during the war, b) Natives of Boalburg, PA who were decorating the graves of the recent war dead in 1864, c) Women of Columbus MS who were tending to the graves of the Confederate dead and chose to extend the same courtesy to the dead of the Union army, or d) War hero John "Black Jack" Logan of Waterloo, New York in 1868. The last one is the official one, but it in turn is admitted to be based on earlier Confederate Memorial Days for their war dead.

And it wasn't even called Memorial Day, but rather Decoration Day, and it was intended to clean up and leave flowers at the graves of Union soldiers. The general time for a seasonal cleaning for the honored dead makes sense (fresh flowers are available, and the long grass needs mowed about that time), but I have yet to find a reference as to why it had to be May 30th, though it was the conclusion of the Siege of Corinth, where Logan led a brigade.

Initially, Decoration Day (Memorial Day started popping up in the 1880s, but didn't get the national nod under 1967) was solely for the Union dead, and the Confederate dead had their own memorial days, varying according to state. After WWI, the doors were thrown open for all the American war dead, and the US South began to commemorate the day as well after WWII. In 1968, it was moved from May 30 to the fourth Monday of May, which provided the handy three-day weekend that most people connect with the holiday. As of 2000, the government asks for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM.

Memorial Day, more than a commemoration of those who have sacrificed in battle, has evolved into the official, governmentally-sanctioned start of summer (Labor Day is the other bookend of the season). The Indy 500 belongs to it, and every major city seems to have its Folk Festival this weekend (no lie - I was on the phone with my mom in Pittsburgh yesterday - she mention the Pittsburgh Folk Festival is downtown, and I responded that Folklife is out at the Seattle Center as well).

This does not sit well with some Vets, who feel the commercialization hides the true meaning of the day. And, indeed, where are the Fox blowhards thundering about the "War against Memorial Day"? (Answer: They're out on their boats). The vets would like to move the day back to the 30th, so the sheer inconvenience can remind people that there WAS some sacrifice here, and not just so you can haul out the grill for the first time this year. And I agree with the sentiment, but I just get frustrated trying to figure out why the 30th was chosen in the first place, and where the holiday really came from.

More later,

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Movie: Oh My Stars And Garters

X-Men: The Last Stand Directed by Brett Ratner, written by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg*, starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Barry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Kelsey Grammer, and a surprising number of Victoria's Secrets models.

I really liked this one. It surprised me that it did. Halle Barry as Storm actually showed her chops as an actress. Ian McKellan's Magneto and Patrick Stewart's Professor X could be hosting a talk show on Fox and command complete attention for two hours. And Kelsey Grammer as the Beast . . . well.

OK, I really didn't know what to expect on this one, and readers here know that I am a fan of the beautiful blue-furred Beast, but Grammer just nails it. Either he's a big comics fan from the same age that I hale from, when Hank McCoy was strong, agile, thoughtful AND humorous, or he's done his research. I expected the Beast to have a secondary role, much like other comic mainstays like Colossus, but he was a key figure, embodying one of the major plots, and portrayed incredibly well. I was impressed.

And the movie stayed mostly true to its material, though it takes that material in different ways with unexpected (though perhaps more realistic) outcomes. The period it harks back to is the post-Jim Shooter, post-John Byrne, still-Chris Clairemont X-men (author Clairemont has a cameo in the film as "Man with Lawnmower". Stan Lee is "Man with Hose"). We have a whole fistful of plots all playing out at once. The threat is Magneto's mutant terrorists. No, wait, the threat is that Angel's father has come up with a "Mutant Cure". No, wait, the threat is that Jean Grey is back from the dead as Dark Phoenix and is disintegrating people. And then there's a pair of relationship triangles. And Magneto and Professor X both pushing their own agendas. There always has been a great ethical murkiness with the X-Men and the whole "Mutant Problem", and the movie embraces that murkiness. By the end of the film you're saying "Charles Xavier is right, but . . ." and "Magento is a bad guy, but his point is valid . . . "

It's philosophy in spandex. And the plot unspools neatly and quickly AND the fight scenes are choreographed well, in that they are have a structure and it is clear where the characters are what they are doing, as opposed to just a collection of high-speed wire stunts and CGI. AND everyone gets their moment - its closer to an ensemble cast than the story of one particular character. Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Mystique, Iceman. Heck, even Jamie Maddrox, the Multiplying Man, gets a good bit.

The thing is, I'm enjoying this film at the same time as I'm dumping most of my X-books from the weekly buy. The mighty marvel mutant marching society has been spiralling out of control for me for years, producing some interesting tales (Grant Morrison's extremely weird tenure) but mostly just line maintenance. A writer will get on the book, add his favorite X-Men from his personal golden age, advance a few ideas, then be replaced by another writer, who brings on his favorite characters and ideas. Rinse and repeat. Even Clairemont's latest version deals with characters that I don't really care as much about. The breaking point was a nasty little mini-series called "Deadly Genesis", which retconned into the mythos another set of X-Men, gave Cyclops another long-long brother, killed off a favorite old-timer X-Man, Banshee, and firmly established Professor X as being a complete cad. So I'm down to Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men (though he is deeply engaged in "torture the characters" mode, so the clock is ticking on him) and Peter David's new X-Factor, which seems to be the source material for the Multiplying Man's character in the film.

Anyway, this is a good movie to catch - the Summer Blockbuster, a fun afternoon. You can follow it even if you don't have "Geek" on a second audio channel, but you do have to pay attention. And, of course, the Beast is really cool.

More later,

*Interesting thing - I started this writeup last night, after seeing the movie, using the Imdb for names and spell-checking. On Friday night, the screenwriters were listed. As of Saturday morning they were missing. Will someone seeing the film check to see if there is a script credit on this film?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dave Mendez

Presenting newly-minted King County Sherrif's Deputy Dave Mendez!
Flanking Dave are the Lovely Bride and Gaming Visionary Steve Miller. As they play RPGs with Dave, this means they get +2 to hit him because they are flanking.

More later,

Monday, May 22, 2006


Typical Americans - first you're upset that your government isn't paying attention to you, and THEN you're upset that the government IS paying attention to you.

Got a question? Why not ask them about it?

More later (Oh yeah, this is going on my permanent record),

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Little Self-Promotion

So a number of things have popped up recently which I want to tell you about.

First off, I received a copy of the tentative cover for the Beowulf short story collection. My contribution to the collection is "Beowulf and the City of the Dark Elves". The collection, edited by Brian Thomsen, contains stories by Ed Greenwood, Lynn Abbey, and Wolfgang Baur, better known to the readers here as The Monkey King. It will be coming out at the end of the year.


Second off, Dyvil: First Edition , my infamous 30-Minute RPG, is now for sale at the following fine on-line shops - and For those of you that missed out on getting it for free, here's your chance to spend digital money for it.

Lastly, a while back, I was contacted by Dragonlance chronicler Michael Falconer about the origins of the gods of Dragonlance, which had evolved out of the gods from my original D&D campaign. I told him that if I ever found my original notes, I would send him a copy. Well, I did find them, and I did send them, and he has posted them here. On one hand its an interesting look at the foundations of the DL mythos. On the other hand, it was written over 25 years ago, when I was college, and it looks it. I mean, parts of it are positively painful (I'm talking about demigods whose names are the Beatles spelled backwards - ideas so bad that it never really got any traction in my campaign). So its a good look at the Burgess Shale that was pre-Dragonlance, and makes me appreciate everything that has been done to and for it since.

More later,

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Remember what I said about cat vacuums? No, not an appliance to vacuum your cat (though that's a darn fine idea) but the fact that the universe knows when you have insufficient cats in your house and provides new ones to take up the slack. Well, its happening again.

Once we were a three-cat household - Rogue, Longshot, and Emily. Both Longshot and Rogue passed on, and we thought we would let Emily be an only cat for a while (she was a hot-tempered calico). Then Brainstormfront moved back to Wisconsin, and we gained two more cats - Harlequin (Harley) and Victoria (Vicky). So we were back up to three.

And then Emily passed on, and we were fairly comfortable with a two-cat household, particularly since Vic and Harl were used to each other. Then, on Tuesday, our friend Charles called. He and his wife Tammy and two kids were relocating to England for a new job. They had thought they had done everything in a timely manner to arrange for their cat to come with them. Well, there were some hitches, and the soonest the cat can join them is August. And their plans to have the cat stay with relatives back east fell through. So they were looking for someone locally who could take in a cat for a few months.

And we become a three-cat household again.

The new cat's name is officially Sparks, since she was found as a kitten during a lightning storm. But soon she gained the unnofficial name Gozer, as in Gozer the Gozerian from Ghostbusters. And, yeah, looking into her kitty eyes, she looks like the kind of cat that would be summoning Elder Gods in the basement when you're sleeping (By comparison, Harley looks like she is thinking of her next meal, and Vic like she has ALREADY conquered the world, thank you very much). Gozer is a tortoise-shell tabby with just a spot of calico, her medium length hair has a silvery sheen to it.

Every cat is different in my experience, and Gozer has already surprised us. She's a climber and an explorer. We put her in the laundry/furnace room the first day, and she immediately climbed into the most inaccessible spot in the room, on top of the furnace ductwork, a spot she could only reach by crossing the ceiling on half-inch wide pipes. Now, there is a small space in the far corner of the ceiling where she could conceivably get under the house itself, if she swings under two more sets of pipes and squeezes through a two-inch opening. So we aren't keeping Gozer in the laundry room anymore - just to be safe.

Relations with the other cats are slow and ongoing. Vicky doesn't like the new arrival one bit, and as I write this, the two are on either side of my feet, growling in low tones at each other. If my ankles get shredded before I finish this entry, I'll tell you. Harley is curious but unconcerned, as Gozer is not bringing her food. Both Harley and Vic are larger than Gozer, but Goze still has her front claws. In addition to her tendency to get onto the ductwork, Gozer likes to perch on the backs of chairs, chase the light-pen dot across the floors, and hates harmonicas (I only know this from Charles' report, and have yet to try it myself). She sleeps like a rock, her legs a tangle underneath her, and she rises at dawn, which is currently 5 AM up here, which delights the Lovely Bride to no end.

So we are back to three cats, at least for the moment, and are dealing with the uneven settling process of cats determining their place in our reshuffled pride. I'm good with is as long as they realize that I am one of the pride leaders (hanging out with the Lovely Bride, or as the cats call her, the Food Goddess). So there will be some growling in the immediate future (and only some of it from the Lovely Bride being woken up at 5 AM)

More later,

Thursday, May 18, 2006

President Gore

Al Gore is back in circulation, promoting an new environmental movie, and with him seems to have come almost a national level of buyer's remorse about the current inhabitant of the White House. It is almost like the entire nation ran into its old girlfriend who they jilted at the prom, and discovered she's thinner, fitter, smarter, and cooler than the person they DID take. The highpoint of the return of Al was last week on Saturday Night Live, where they did their cold opening with a speech by "President Gore" - Here's one of the many versions you can find on the web.

He looks fit. He looks relaxed. He looks happy. He looks like he's having fun. Where is that stiff, pedantic, grim figure that the press foisted on us back in 2000? Of course, one of the reasons he looks relaxed is that he hasn't had to lead the country for the past six years. And the SNL bit, while amusing, does underscore the mental image that "everything would have been better" if only we had taken the path less traveled.

Oddly enough, I had my own Al Gore Presidency bit written up. A local cartoonist for the PI had a "burning question" that he does every week, and a few weeks back it was "What would the Gore Presidency be like?". From the response, he mostly heard from wingnutters accusing him of treason for even thinking about it. I sent in my take, but it was a bit long, and wasn't used. So here is what I think would have happened (sorry, no glaciers in Maine).

The Albert Gore presidency (2001-2004) has been compared to both the elder George Bush and LBJ presidencies. In all three cases the chief executive had to deal with his predecessor's problems while being compared unfavorably to that predecesssor by the press and the nation at large. Inheriting a weak economy, Gore helped create a shallow recession with early recovery in 2001. However, he was pilloried in the press for the recession, for the mildness of the recovery, and for claiming credit for it.

The events of September 11 changed America, in that there were Congressional demands for an immediate and full investigation, which three weeks later exposed weaknesses in American security, for which Gore was held responsible. For the next three years, congressional opponents regularly condemned the administration for not doing enough to find Bin Laden, or complained about military adventurism when he did do something. In addition, a conservative congress and a compliant media revealed a slew of minor scandals within his administration, which tainted the office.

His approval rating hovering at a dismal 51% and gas prices approaching $2 a gallon, Gore in March of 2004 announced that he would not run for re-election. The Democratic party split between Vice President Lieberman (who had distanced himself from the president over policy while still calling himself the party's front runner) and John Kerry in a vicious battle that left the victorious Kerry weakened and easily finished off by Republican George W. Bush, who benefitted from a deep war chest, campaign director Karl Rove, and a deep-seated feeling that the GOP was robbed in 2000 and things would have been better under a Republican.

The new president has had to deal with new challenges. The sluggish delay of help arriving for victims of the Katrina Hurricane, nearly a day, has kicked off another round of Congressional hearings, which again held the Gore administration responsible. At the same time, Bush has brought to light the growing threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and endorsed reports that Al Quaeda fled Afghanistan for Saddam Hussein's regime.

But then, call me a cynic, even in alternate worlds.

More later,

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No Surprise

I amHastur!

The Unspeakable One is the master of those who seek to unveil the mysteries of death. It is through meditation upon the Yellow Sign that the devotee of Hastur seeks transcendence to the city-realm of dim Carcosa. Through a complex series of visualizations that expand the aspirants void-consciousness, the final age will arise. Ruled by the ominous King in Yellow, a new stage of reality will come to fruition. Of the Olde Ones, Hastur is considered to be one of the most difficult to work with, his teachings being reserved exclusively for the Cthonian Adepts and Lords.

Which Great Old One are you?

More later, Ftaugn!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Shorter Presidential Speech

So we underfunded the Border Patrol, and now we're going to dispatch the National Guard to handle things, right?


You know, I blew off mowing the lawn last weekend, and its going to be a little long by Saturday. Yathink you can have a few National Guardsmen swing by and run the mower for a few hours?

And the hedges. They need work, too.

More later,

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rant: Global Warning

So, you ask yourself - what can I do about Global Warming?

Well, you can stop calling it Global Warming. At least around me.

That's not to say I'm in denial about the fact that the planet is getting warmer. It is, and at a rate clear to anyone who is not getting their paychecks from the current adminstration or its cronies. However, it is part of a larger framework that is Climate Change, which deals with the fact that, as the supreme species on this planet, what we do has an effect on our environment.

Global Warming is one of those phrases that, like "Theory of Evolution" brings out the stupid in some people. They remember that heavy snow back in February or those cool days in May and use that fact as a refutation - since it is obviously not hot every day of the year, therefore this Global Warming thing must be a bust.

Well, sadly, no. While you can have a few cold days, on the average, its been getting hotter. Think of each day as a single game in a baseball season. You're going to have games where your team makes great plays and wins handily. And you're going to have games where they stink up the field. And if you are a supporter, you tend to remember the exceptional good games more than the really bad games. Its only over time that you realize that you team is losing more games than it is winning, and your team may not be very good. But by that time you're up to your ankles in seawater and realize you've been rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates (12 games out and its only May).

And indeed, with Climate Change, some places may actually get more rain or "better" climate. I'm not talking about Albertan rainforests or beachfront condos in Greenland. Of course the changed climate may prove to be pretty bad for the plants and creatures that are already used to the original format. And you can bet that corporations with the money to throw around are trying to refine the science on this, if for no other reason than to find the best place to put the new company HQ.

Now, the latest refuge for those in denial is the old/new concept of Global Dimming, which I seem to remember from some disaster book I read in the 70s (which ends with a glacier collapsing the west wing of the White House). In short, the idea is that more particulate pollution in the atmosphere causes more sunlight to bounce back into space. Less sunlight means it should get cooler. And in fact, in the days following 9/11, when no planes flew in the US except for those to get the Osama clan out of the country, the days were hotter than normal . Fewer jet contrails to block the sun. Global Dimming makes things cooler. Global Warming makes things warmer. Should balance out, right?

Wrong. What is ignored is that the NIGHTS following 9/11 were colder than normal as well. Folk who live in the normally cloud-covered territories of the Pacific Northwest know that a clear day usually means a cold night, because there are fewer clouds to trap the heat. So we have narrower swings of temperature as a result of Glboal Dimming. Further, as a result of these reduced temperature swings and cloudier days, we're messing with weather patterns elsewhere. It is a cyberpunk-chaos-butterfly. We kick out too many particulants from a wasteburning plant in Ohio, and the monsoon fails in Somalia.

So Global Dimming is a manmade modfication to the climate. And so is Global Warming. Both of these (and other things we're mucking about with) contribute to the entire prospect of Global Climate Change, which is the large-scale challenge that we and our descendents are going to have to address.

Everyone complains about the weather, said Twain, but no one does anything about it. Turns out we have been doing something about it for more than the past century - we just haven't been paying attention to what we've been up to. And now we're at the stage of seeing dramatic results in Climate Change.

In the meantime, Go Pirates!

More later,

Friday, May 12, 2006

Three-Dragon Ante

So my regular Thursday night gaming crew got together last night. Usually we play D&D 3.5, an Eberron campaign, but because of absences instead we decided on doing traditional games. And we wanted something relatively easy because our brains hurt, so we opened up Rob Heinsoo's new game, published by WotC - Three-Dragon Ante.

And it was real good. A straightforward game that links the D&D multicolored dragons with a playable card game. Each color of dragon is a suit, numbered 1-12. Each dragon has a special power, but that power only activates if its card number is equal to or lower than the previously played card. You ante in at the start of of a three round "gambit", and the player with the highest total in their "flight" of three cards at the end of the gambit wins the pot.

The interesting thing is that this mechanic pulls the player in two directions at the same time, creating a nice tension. You want to play high cards so you take the pot, but if you play high cards, you don't get to use your cards' powers, which range from taking money back from the pot to forcing other players to give you cards or chips. So you have to weigh the option of long-term versus short term gains. Plus the fact that you have a limited resource in your card hand, which does not replentish at the same rate as you lay down cards. As a result, you often have to buy additional cards (paying the pot), which makes the pot even larger.

Add to this special mortal cards, each card a special power, and unique cards like Bahumat and Tiamat, and you have a fast, involved, engaging game. Its a perfect "wait for the D&D game to start" kind of game, and stands alone as well. Check it out.

More later,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On The Road Again: Bumper Stinker

So I'm on the evening drive home, and I'm stuck behind a vehicle, color of baby puke, nicely washed, festooned with bumper stickers. The vehicle is a Kia or a Daewoo. The bumper stickers are right-wing jingo about gun ownership and flag-loving. I'll leave aside the amusing irony that, back in the 70s, this same mindset thought of owning a foreign car as being the equivalent of knocking boots with Khrushchev, but rather one of these gummy-stickered protests caught my eye.

"Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Rossi".

For those who have tuned in late - Dino Rossi was the loser in our gubernatorial elections, in a hotly-contested, razor-thin election that had to be settled in court. Christine Gregoire was the winner, and there were a lot of hard feelings from the losers on the matter.

At first I giggled, then I got irritated.

I giggled because, things have been pretty durn good for the past two years in Washington State. We've roared out of the dot-com bust, employment is up, housing is booming, our statehouse has more wonks than scoundrels, doing wonky things as opposed to scoundrelly things, there have been budget surplusses and honest-to-gosh plans for the future (The latest - what we're going to do about bird flu, making the assumption that we'll get no help from the National level). In comparison, I'm looking at the train wreck that is consuming the other Washington back east, where graft and corruption are rife, response and responsibility are missing, and the answer to every problem seems to be to give rich people more money.

But then I got irritated. The whole "Don't Blame Me" mentality is a cop-out, a disconnect, and a false understanding of one's civic responsibility. Government, particularly local government, is not something you're responsible for just on election day. It is a continual, ongoing process, a question of how the individual fits in with the greater whole. The false message of the "Don't Blame Me" crowd (Right or Left) is that once you lose on an issue, you are somehow absolved from everything that follows. Even if you are ignored or marginalized (like the hordes the Anti-War protesters that our mainstream media seems to continually miss seeing), you civic duty is to make your voice heard. The fact that you don't control the bus doesn't make it any easier for you when it drives off the cliff. On a national level, the next administration, GOP or Democrat, is going to have to spend the bulk of its time cleaning up the mess left by the current clowns in charge. And it doesn't matter who voted for what at the time.

So I won't blame Baby-Puke-Daewoo for voting for not voting for Gregoire. But I will blame her for promoting the idea that her civic responsibility ends with Election Day and a snarky bumper sticker.

More later,

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Comics: Cosmic Reset Button

And when I’m thinking Deep Thoughts, I’m often thinking about comic book universes.

DC’s big universe-changing maxi-series, Infinity Crisis, has finally reached it conclusion with another cosmic reset button being mashed, but to talk about it, I need to back up a couple maxi-series, to the other Crises we seen.

Oh, right – Spoilers are all over the place here, and it’s a long one. And my geek flag will be flying throughout.

Let me start in with the nature of the various DC Crises in the first place. DC continuity from when I was growing up in the Silver Age was considered to occur on Earth-1. Earth-2, right next door, was where we had the golden age heroes and events (Superman fought Hitler, Batman carried a gun). At one point they had a Crisis on Earth-2 where the heroes from Earth-1 teamed up with those of Earth-2. Justice League meets Justice Society. Cool stuff. And they added over time Earth-3 (bad guys in charge), Earth-X (Hitler won WWII) and Earth-S (Captain Marvel Family). But eventually, the multiple earths got to be a bit much (and the fact Earth-1 was getting a bit long in the tooth – Superman met Kennedy?) and there was the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, which supposedly simplified the universes by merging them down to one.

Everything came down to one timeline. The only characters that remained unfolded into this "One Earth" were the Original 1938 Superman of Earth-2. the Lois Lane of Earth-2, the SON of the good Lex Luthor from Earth-3, and Superboy, who was not Earth-1 Superman as a boy OR Earth-2 Superman as a boy, but the only superhero from Earth-Prime, supposedly our non-super world. They got to go through an energy portal to a supposed paradise. Exit stage left.

So there was a big event and a restart. And there were a couple other restarts since then, like Zero Hour and Hypertime, over the years. Every so often, like a troublesome appliance, the DC Universe needs a good whack on the side. And there were lesser restarts that were ways of launching new lines and freshening up old characters.

So a few years back they did this with Identity Crisis, which I mentioned elsewhere in this blog. And while I didn’t care much for the ultimate story – The wife of a JLAer is brutally killed, and after some huggamugga the villain is revealed to be the suddenly-insane wife of ANOTHER JLAer, it did have an interesting tweak. When the initial victim is discovered, some of the JLA decide that the culprit had to be Doctor Light, who years before had attacked the victim. And they knew this because after the attack, these member of the JLA had mentally crippled Light, turning him from maniac into more of a joke villain. And while they were doing warping Doctor Light’s Brain, Batman came in, and they had to erase HIS memory as well.

Which brought up an interesting question that I don’t think was ever really dealt with in that series as it played out – where do you draw the line? In the old Silver Age stories, memory erasure was common (I think Supes once took out Lois Lane’s memory by using one eye with X-ray vision and the other with heat vision, a trick which ONLY COULD BE USED ONCE, which really amused me). So that wasn’t the problem, really. I mean, over in Flash’s comic, they worked a Doctor-Strange level spell that made everyone FORGET that Wally West was the Flash so he could have a fresh start. The memories of natives of the DC universe must look like swiss cheese at this point.

Mentally handicapping Doctor Light was a tougher call, but still could be argued as in the necessary category. Again, in recent times, the JLA had an entire race of baddies (The White Martians) who they hypnotized into believing they were humans and turning them loose on the world, supposedly cured of antisocial tendencies (No, it didn’t work).

But putting a mental hoodoo on Batman? That was apparently over the line, and laid some of the groundwork of what was to come, though I never really saw it laid out as such. That question of “What is necessary” sort of spilled over books as OTHER villains suddenly started getting their memories back, Bats got more secretive, and there was the question of the culpability of Superman, who could supposedly HEAR EVERYTHING. All this was left open.

So its not the crime – it’s the cover-up, and I was wondering how they could resolve it. In the process Wonder Woman killed a villain on who took over both Superman’s mind and the orbital Sentinels that Batman built out of his paranoia, the big three broke up, the JLA crashed, and a new threat appeared.

That threat was shown in the recently-finished Infinity Crisis. Remember Supes-2, Young Luthor, Superboy-Prime, and Lois? Well, they came back. Lois got ill, Luthor put out the idea in that it was the fact that the wrong earth was saved, and Superboy and Superman punched their was back into the DC continuity to clean things up.

And again, this series has an interesting initial question – how did the post-crisis universe stand up to the previous incarnations? It was a tougher, darker universe – how much of that was the fault of the heroes? How do we demonstrate that they have done well?

And the result was a mess, with very little of the tight focus that we had in the earlier Identity Crisis. The main book was made up of a lot of action shots which would then lead into supporting books. The whole Amazon supporting cast for Wonder Woman was dumped, the Speed Force that powered the Flash (a post-Crisis evolution) was shelved, along with Wally West flash. No real clue about what happened to Atom and Aquaman, though they have “new” editions of them coming along. Hawkman is missing (don’t know why).

Young Luthor, a hero in the first Crisis, was a bad guy because Luthors are always bad guys. Superboy-Prime turned out to be a true ass, and tore through a huge swath of minor characters, including the current Superboy (who still isn’t Superman as a boy, but rather a clone made up of Superman AND Luthor’s DNA). Original Lois dies anyway. The Infinite Earths reappear, briefly. Superman-1 and Superman-2 defeat Superboy-Prime, though Superman-1 gets depowered (for the moment) and Superman-2 dies (which is kinda sad – I liked the idea of the concept of Original Supes being out there “somewhere”).

And the world is remade with a bunch of little tweaks to the history (Wonder Woman now helped found the JLA, Bats has some resolution to his origin story, the Smallville TV show is part of the Superman history), and things go on.

And Superboy-Prime is locked up in a double-talk prison surrounded by Green Lanterns, so he can pop out whenever they need another murderous Superbeing.

And here’s the thing – the whole question of a hero’s right to deal with the villain was a big subtext of Identity Crisis, but remains pretty much unanswered. The Insane Evil Superboy Prime is a great candidate for capital punishment, or at least a mind-wipe, which was the big question in Identity Crisis. You mindwipe him, toss him in the Phantom Zone, and 1000 years later, he’s Mon-El from the Legion of Superheroes.

The OTHER big bad (Young Luthor) gets a more traditional comic book exit – Batman gets the chance to shoot him, decides not to do it (thereby redeeming Batman as less-bloodthirsty), a falling building allows Luthor to get away, and Luthor gets shot by Joker instead. (Thank goodness we have villains to do the karmic clean up after the good guys).

Yet Infinite Crisis, despite the sturm und drang, does not answer the initial questions raised by either the Infinite Crisis OR the Identity Crisis. At what point is ultimate action justified (Identity)? Have the heroes of the Post-Crisis of Infinite Earths been good stewards of the universe that they were left (Infinite)?

But I guess those questions have to either be ultimately ignored, or will wait for the NEXT Crisis.

More later,

Monday, May 08, 2006

Going Away Party

Also this weekend, we had a going away party for Tammy and Charles, who are moving to England. Stan of the Stannex came up from San Diego and NikChik took photos, including this one.

Quite good looking, I must say.

More later,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blatant Plug

So I've spent most of yesterday and today thinking deep thoughts. Like - Can the New Testament truly be thought of as fanfic for the Old Testament, and does that make Jesus a Mary Sue figure? I've also been drinking rum punches. Real good rum punches.

But otherwise, I should note that I, Monkey King, and Dthon will be speaking at the upcoming Writer's Weekend in June, doing panels on worldbuilding and shared worlds. Just in case you're interested.

More later,

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Office Space: starring Ron Livingstone and Jennifer Aniston, written and directed by Mike Judge.

So what makes a classic movie? I think part of it is catchy, repeatable lines, but a big part of it is continual and repeated exposure. Wizard of Oz wasn't big when it released, but became beloved by America by a relentless Thanksgiving Day pummelling. When I was a lad, It's a Wonderful Life was just another Jimmy Stewart movie, but when it suddenly (and briefly) became public domain, it popped up everywhere, and entered our stream of consciousness. Star Wars and The Godfather have the advantage that people were willing to pay for multiple exposures (at least for the early ones in the series). As a result, the lines from these movies became part of our discussion.

And so we have Office Space, which has reached that status where I knew all the bits (TPS reports, red swingline stapler, no, I can't say I missed it at all) without ever having to physically watch the movie. I mentioned it to a co-worker, who was kind enough to lend me a copy. And the Lovely Bride and I hunkered down to watch it last night.

And it was OK. Not bad. A mildly rebellious comedy in the same was that a Dilbert coffee cup is mildly rebellious. Work sucks. Your boss is an oaf. Your co-workers are morons. The other lane always moves faster. Most of the characters put my teeth mildly on edge, except for the old codger worried about his job. Him, for some reason, I liked. I've lived through these types of jobs before, mostly in my previous incarnation of as an engineer - the life of a corporate creative is a lot wierder, and usually more fun.

In a nutshell - Peter (Ron Livingston) hates his job, is hypnotized to relax, as a result has a breakthrough that he doesn't really need to care about his job, gets promoted, defrauds his company, experiences remorse, seeks to come clean, but is saved by a nebbishy co-worker (Steven Root, the heart of the movie) finally going postal. The movie is a collection of encounters more than an overarching narative flow. And that's OK - it has a handmade feeling that it was not spit out by a script-processing program. There are a few plot holes and a lot of missed opportunities that would have been picked up in a revision that sought to wrap everything up neatly. And the general moral is - you are victimized in your job only so long as you choose to be victimized.

Uplifting message. Not horribly threatening. Nothing as active or progressive as, say, 9 to 5. Has the deeper meaning of Ziggy cartoon on a cubicle wall. If you're seeing yourself in such an environment, its time to go hunting for another job. One with more flare.

More later,

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Quarter: And The Winner Is:



Meh. Its a pretty innocuous design, nothing that really stands out or, by the same token, brings great sadness upon our land. And it is a definite improvement over the dog's breakfast that was the jumble of images with the state outline.

Of course, this is only the poll, and the final result lay with our elected officials. so I expect the apple lobby to be busy for the next few weeks.

More later,

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Weekend

So over brunch, the Monkey King and I were talking about his Friends List - he had made some shakeups recently - adding some people, removing others. He pulled a couple because they were TOO much bogged down in their daily life ("I had a sandwich just now. It was a good sandwich"). And he mentioned in passing that I don't talk ENOUGH about my everyday life.

And he's right. I guess I think my day to day, even my weekends, are kind of boring. Everyday life stuff.

But how could I miss out on plugging my company's big project - Guild Wars: Factions? The new game has just rolled out this past week, and even as I write the servers are giving off a cheery, warm, red glow from use. Part of the lack of mention probably has been due to the wave of exhaustion that set in immediately after going live, and another part the fact that everyone was "playtesting" the live build at the end of the week (That's our story and we're sticking to it).

But that's business - how was your weekend, Jeff?

Not bad. Kate and I got together with our semi-regular poker group Friday night, and though no poker was played this time, a good time was had by all. And Saturday morning was the aforementioned brunch at Salty's with the Monkey King, Shelly in Seattle, young Heidi Katarina, the Monkey King's sister visiting from Chicago, our resident Tolkien scholar, his social security administration spouse, and the Lovely Bride. A veritable Algonquin roundtable of discussion.

And then I came home and had a long nap. It was a good nap. It was a necessary nap, as I was still worn out from the week. When I got up, I ended up watching the Mikado on a local college channel. It was a 2001 version by the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society, with Dave Ross as tailor-turned-executioner Ko-Ko. Yeah, and it looked like radio host and house candidate Dave Ross as well. Came as a complete surprise, and made Kate's gaming group wonder what the heck I was up in the basement.

Sunday the Lovely Bride and I went clamming. A long, beautiful drive around the sound to Duckabush, which sounds like a Marx Brothers routine but is really a long, wide beach on the far side of the Hood canal. Its relatively remoteness makes it a good clamming beach, and Kate and I spent a couple hours digging up butters, manilas, and littlenecks. Which were then served with garlic and wine over a bed of pasta.

And that's about it. You know, a typical boring weekend. How was yours?

More later,