You’re Not Special

I was in the post office Saturday morning, waiting in line to mail some GR packages. A woman with a baby was at the center station, taking a long ass time to finish her business. She was holding her baby, but had parked her giant stroller right in the middle of the aisle, blocking its use for anyone else. Another woman was called down the counter, so she walked up to the stroller and moved it to the side so she could get by. When proud mommy realizes what the other woman is up to, she turns and shoots her a dirty look. I have seen this behavior a hundred times over and it never ceases to piss me off. Look lady, you’re not special because you got knocked up and squeezed out a misanthrope-to-be. Just because you have a baby, you don’t get a free pass on basic fucking courtesy. You could easily have left your stroller to the side, so other folks could pass by, but oh no. Your mewling infant obviously entitles you to inconvenience anyone you please. It’s the miracle of childbirth, right?

When I lived in New York City, I worked as a barista in this coffee joint. The entire store had one small aisle, with the big bags of coffee on one side and some cases with coffee makers and whatnot on the other. Routinely, these yuppie moms would roll up with their doublewide strollers and wheel them right into the store. These things would trap anyone already in the store and prevent anyone else from getting by until the yuppies had done their very important business. And if anyone asked them to move, they always got all huffy about it, like they were being put upon.

Basic fucking courtesy, it’s not that hard.

The Arrest

On a typical day, I’m too lazy to pull out the vinyl. Flipping records every 15 minutes or so is a pain when I’m trying to write. Breaks the concentration and all. CDs are better, especially those that collect the entire recorded output of a particular punk band, like Angry Samoans’ “Unboxed Set.” Still and all, there are a lot of records in my collection that either aren’t on CD or I haven’t repurchased in that format. Lately, I’ve been delving into my back catalog and spinning up more vinyl. I was in the mood for the Pagans today, for instance, so I fired up “Buried Alive”. Great stuff. “What’s This Shit Called Love” indeed.

The other day I had a hankerin’ to hear some Conflict. Classic British anarcho-punk. I was really into Conflict when I was in high school. Their smash-the-system rhetoric certainly struck a chord with me, especially their anthem “From Protest to Resistance”. So I put on “the Ungovernable Force”, which is the album of theirs on which the message eclipsed the making of good music (or so it seemed to me). One of the songs is called “The Arrest.” Its lyrics consist of advice on what to do if you get arrested. I’ve had them running through my head for the last two days. While I suppose it’s nice to know that I should “Never let them take your photograph, this is only compulsory after you have received a prison sentence, so don’t let them tell you different”, I don’t so much need that rattling in my skull first thing in the morning. And of course, Conflict is an English band, and the chances of me getting arrested there are pretty slim I think (look out, Nottingham!). Perhaps an American band needs to write a similar song about the cops or the Patriot Act. If I still lived in NYC, the only real advice I could give is “prepare for the broom handle” though.

Tomorrow I’ll have to return to my collection and see if I can knock Conflict out of my brain.

Whose Landslide Is It Anyway?

The news just gets worse and worse for the Bush administration. They’ve found no WMDs, more soldiers have been killed after they announced “mission accomplished” than during the supposedly major part of the war, any notions of winning the Iraqis “hearts and minds” were quashed in Abu Ghraib prison, and of course they can’t escape the fact that they’ll be facing a decorated Vietnam veteran in November. I read an article the other day in US News and World Report positing that the election was going to be a landslide. Interestingly, they argued that it would go one way or the other, with the least likely outcome a very close race between Bush and Kerry a la the 2000 debacle.

At this point, with even other Republicans like McCain taking the administration to task, I can’t imagine a Bush landslide. I figure it could only happen if one of two ways:

1)Pictures of Kerry screwing a goat, a little boy, or Richard Simmons surface.

2)The Administration pulls an “October Surprise” by producing Osama bin Laden at the 11th hour. You could make a great conspiracy movie out of this one if you assume that bin Laden was captured two years ago and they’ve been holding him in secret for just this occasion.

Now if what we’re hearing is true, and Osama is hiding the tribal regions of Pakistan where no one can get at him, that means that really the election is Kerry’s to lose. Well, unless we’re treated to more election fraud. I’ve seriously wondered how we can get U.N. inspectors to watch over this election and make sure it’s run fairly. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

My Wife Is Smart

We had friends over tonight for BBQ and bullshitting. There was supposed to be some gaming involved, but Tim left his character sheet at home, Evan couldn’t make it, and Jess was dead on his feet. Just hanging out and talking seemed fine by everyone, and we got to hear all about E3 from Bruce and Jess.

After they all left, Nik says, “I’m not even going to bother checking my e-mail. I’m just going upstairs.” I, foolishly, decide to just sneak a peak at my e-mail. Only two new messages; should be no problem. Well, except one of them is such bullshit that my blood pressure just went through the roof and my urge to kill is rising and rising. I should have followed Nik’s lead. She is smart, and because of that she is now ensconced in our warm bed doing crossword puzzles. I am tapping away in the vain hope that rage will exit me via the keyboard. Nope, not working.

Playing Catch Up

When I worked at WotC, it was easy to hit the local game shop every week. On Wednesdays, I’d head over with a bunch of my friends from “Spine Design”, we’d check out games, and then have Australian meat pies down the street. It was nice to be able to keep up with the new releases and at least page through the latest and get a feel for what was out there. It was also highly entertaining to go with a bunch of graphic designers because they are, as a rule, catty, catty bitches.

These days I don’t get to game stores that often. There are none near GRHQ and of course our car has been out of commission for a while. Yesterday I got together with Rick for WTO (Wargame Thursday Operation, a new replacement for our Wargame Wednesdays of years gone by) and we decided to drop into a game store. This was one of the Seattle stores I don’t go to often. Going inside reminded me why. This place is the definition of “gamers’ clubhouse.” It’s small, it’s messy, and it seems to exist solely for the regulars to hang out in. By and large, their stock is out of date and haphazardly arranged. We didn’t stay very long. On the way out, I said to Rick, “Well, my plan of catching up on new releases was somewhat reliant on the store actually having them.”

Luckily, we are in Seattle, which, even after the closure of the Games & Gizmos stores and now the WotC stores, still has a good dozen game stores in the area. There was another store nearby, so we dropped in there. This was bigger and better organized, and also completely empty. The two staffers were playing computer games when we walked in. I was happy to see the Nocturnals book displayed prominently, and was actually able to look through some new releases like Adventure d20 and Axis and Allies: D-Day. Still though, there were many new games I know are out that were not represented. It used to be that you could expect any reasonable with-it game store to have a good selection and the most current releases. Actual full-line game stores seem to be getting more rare all the time.

I know there are good stores out there. I’ve been to places like Imperial Hobbies in BC and the Source in MN. But man, we need more stores of high caliber.

Anarchy Flags at Half Mast

Please lower your anarchy flags to half mast, Silky, the non-conformist hamster, has gone to the great slam dance in the sky. Kate had been at her dad’s all weekend. Nik and I had both looked in on Silky and he seemed fine, enjoying a few days away from Kate’s constant manhandling. Nik and I would joke that Kate was going to “love Silky to death.” So Kate gets home and heads off to bed. Next thing I know she’s weeping outside the bedroom door. She had found Silky in a state of rigor mortis in the very hamster wheel that had kept me up so many nights. Poor little guy. We’re not sure what happened, as he should have lived for at least another 8-10 months. Kate was devastated, of course. Silky was her first pet and finding him dead must have bee a shock. She asked us please not to throw him away (not that we would have). She picked out a spot in the yard to bury him and she made a headstone that says “RIP” out of black construction paper. It was a sad spectacle.

Nik agreed to get Kate a new hamster, since Silky had an unnaturally short life. They came back today with a new little fellow. Kate has dubbed this one “Digger.” We’ll see if he has Silky’s rebel spirit. Hopefully, he’ll live to the ripe old age of 1 at least.

Silky, here’s to you, little buddy. Live fast, die young indeed.

Heroes and Victims

I sometimes think our culture has forgotten the meaning of heroism. Today on AOL, for instance, there’s a headline that reads “War’s Women of Glory, Shame.” Pictured are Jessica Lynch (who couldn’t possibly need an introduction after the media barrage surrounding her “rescue”) and Lynndie England (one of the soldiers involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners). The media continues to paint Jessica Lynch as a hero and I must say I find that absurd. Here’s what she did in Iraq: she rode in a convoy that got lost, she got wounded in an ambush, and then captured. That’s it. Where is the heroism here? What did she do that was above and beyond the call? And since when is getting captured glorious?

Let me point out that I am not unsympathetic to her ordeal. Going to war, getting wounded, going through painful surgery—terrible stuff, no question. But heroism requires selfless choices in my opinion (jumping on a grenade to save your friends, to cite a classic example). I find the actions of Pat Tillman, the pro football player who gave up a contract worth millions to join the military (and who then got killed in Afghanistan), much more laudable than Jessica Lynch. I may not have agreed with his politics, but I can’t deny he made real sacrifices for what he believed in and his choices ultimately cost him his life. To me there’s a difference between a victim and a hero and our culture seems to be confusing the two.

Conan, What Is Best in Life?

There’s a new Conan comic, penned by Astro City author Kurt Busiek. As a fan of Robert E. Howard, I was curious to check them out. I had liked the issue #0 preview and hoped the series would be good. Yesterday, when I was down at Renton for lunch with the Game Mechanics and some of my former WotC co-workers, I took the opportunity to go the nearby comic store and pick up the first three issues. I read them last night, after Nik went to bed, and I must admit I found them pretty ho hum. The art is nice, so no complaints there, but the stories didn’t do much for me (and one was even based on a Howard short story). I guess with Busiek, I expected that more of Conan’s canny side would come out. These stories were really straight forward, pretty much by the numbers fantasy. I’m not sure this is worth keeping up with. I think I may pick up the current reprints of the old Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor-Smith Conan comics from the 70s instead.

Special Operations Report

We get a fair amount of mail from people looking for our advertising dollars. Of course we hear from all the game mags and some comics-oriented publication. This week though we got a media kit from a magazine called Special Operations Report—Inside the World of Police and Military Tactical Units. According to the promo material that came with the sample issue (#1) this is the “first magazine to reach professionals in the covert world of global conflict.” It is described as being “written and photographed from the front lines by world-renown writers and journalists who join police and military special operations units in action, in harm’s way, behind enemy lines, with unparalleled access to the world’s true elite SWAT, commando, and covert forces—from the alleyways of Gaza to the jungle of Columbia.”

And this was sent to RPG publisher Green Ronin why exactly? The only reason I can think we got this is that we did publish a book called Ultramodern Firearms. Now granted it was a game book, but doing a 160 book about guns was perhaps enough to land us on the right mailing lists. I somehow don’t see us advertising in this magazine (“You’ve done it for real, now try pretending!”), but even if we wanted to their rates are clearly aimed at organizations with a lot more discretionary marketing money than ours. One full page ad is $7,745. That’s a whole print run of gaming books for us!

The sample issue was actually fairly interesting though. There was an informative article about the history of Hezbollah, for instance. Another profiled Hamburg’s Mobiles Einsatzkommando, a special operations police group formed after the Munich Olympic massacre in 1971. I was a bit surprised at the use of the word Einsatzkommando. I would have figured it went out of style after WW2, since it was the name of the extermination squads that followed the Wehrmacht into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Those were the units that murdered people the old fashioned way (with bullets in mass graves) before the invention of the gas chamber.

The whole magazine is very slick. Full color, lots of photos of guys festooned with weapons looking all badass. Although supposedly aimed at professionals, the mag sure tries to make this stuff look sexy. This surely is an industry for the 21st century.

Mmmmm, Satisfyin’

Friday night I felt like celebrating. I swear that day the stars were right. Not only did our announcement go off with a bang, but I had three manuscripts (two terribly late) drop into my inbox as well, and I had a very interesting phone conversation with a noted author that may lead to yet more goodness. That night we headed out to dinner with Bruce and Tim. We went to a place up the U-District called Rio, which is a Brazilian rodizio. I was first turned on to this style of cuisine in Vegas, at a place called Samba in the Mirage. It basically works like this. You get a bunch of excellent side dishes that vary from restaurant to restaurant (Rio serves yuka root in herbed butter, potato salad, feijoada, rice and several salads). They then start coming by the table with giant skewers of various meats and some seafood. They slice off portions right onto your plate. The best is that they will continue doing this until you tell them to stop. Rio has a rotation of about ten dishes, which included sausage, glazed chick wings, turkey wrapped in bacon, peppered steak, and the king of the menu, tri tip rubbed with a special salt imported from Brazil. Top that off with some caipirinhas and you’ve got a fitting celebration. The food at Rio is excellent, and it’s a cool family-run joint. Totally my kind of place.

After dinner, some of the group got ice scream down the block and then we went back to our place. Bruce had brought his own cigar and I lit up my Fuente Fuente Opus X Perfection X. We sat out on the porch in the cool night air, smoking and drinking. A little later Ray showed up with a bottle of wine. When we had taken our last puffs, we moved inside for more wino. Bruce and Tim headed home, and then Ray and I talked about games and comics until 4 am.

Eleven hours later, Ray was back by the house. He and Christine were hosting a BBQ at their place and he had kindly offered to give us a lift (our car still being out of commission). Nik stayed home for a few hours until her headache went away, then she joined us as well. It was a beautiful day, so we spent most of it in the yard. Christine made some terrific guacamole, which tided us over until evening time. Then Ray lit up the big grill and did some great steaks with a tasty sauce made of bleu cheese, cream, onions, and a smoky salsa. Christine had prepared some butter with infused chiles and we had that on roasted corn and it was out of this world. More libations followed, so ultimately we decided to crash there so we didn’t get home until this morning.

I’ve been catching up a bit on my e-mail today (I was swamped Friday). I had also very deliberately not kept up with the bullshit brewing on the various GAMA mailing lists and some message boards I occasion. I refused to waste my time even thinking about that nonsense Friday and Saturday. Not that that made the fucktards go away (if only) but dammit, I deserved a little celebratin’. And as you can no doubt tell, we had a good ole time.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work. I’ve got a lot of writing to do over the next few months and with our new developers on board, I should finally have some time to get back to design. I am totally looking forward to it.