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August 30, 2002

Axe To Grind

Do you think run-of-the-mill murderers get upset about the undue recognition axe murderers get? Man, I would. It's all so unfair. You shoot someone and you're not a Gun Murderer, or you cook your roommate some Drano Waffles and you're not a Household Cleanser Murderer, but you whack one measely guy with a hatchet and suddenly you're in a class of your own. I guess cannibals get singled-out too, but, you know, if you're willing to go that extra mile and eat someone, I figure you're entitled to some extra credit. Axe murderers, though -- those guys are getting something for nothing. They're a bunch of glory hogs, that's the real problem.

August 29, 2002

Games: Puerto Rico

An entry for Tim of Mooselessness, who is apparently on the verge of buying Puerto Rico.

I have been a board game enthusiast all my adult life, but the thrill, as they say, is largely gone. When I returned from the Peace Corps in 1997 and started collecting modern board games, each one I bought was a wonder to me, full of innovative mechanics and fascinating ideas. It helped that the first few games I purchased were among the best ever made: Manhattan, Modern Art, and the sublime Settlers of Catan. But since that time I have played scores of games, and its become ever more difficult to impress me. I enjoy board games as much as I ever have, but it's rare that I encounter one that fills me with the rush of admiration I felt for those first few. Still, occasionally a game will come along that manages to overcome my indifference and knock my socks off. El Grande did it, Euphrat & Tigris did it, Princes of Florence did it, and now I have been wowed by Puerto Rico.

In Puerto, each person begins play with his own "player mat" -- a small map of the island divided into an upper and lower half. The bottom portion is for plantations, of which there are six types: Corn, Indigo, Sugar, Tobacco, Coffee and Quarries. The first five produce agricultural goods; the Quarries enable you to purchase buildings for cheaper. Buildings, placed in the upper part of the player mat, come in two types: Production Buildings (which allow you to refine your agricultural output) and violet Special Buildings. The object of the game is to acquire the most victory points, which is primarily acheived by shipping goods to the Old World, and by constructing buildings (each of which is worth some measure of points).

Players must manage two other resources. Plantations and buildings do not "work" unless they are manned by Colonists: plantations lacking a Colonist do not produce agricultural goods (or, in the case of the Quarries, do not reduce the cost of buildings), while buildings lacking a Colonist do not do whatever they are designed to do. Players will also earn doubloons throughout the game, which are used to purchase buildings.

Puerto Rico is played over a series of rounds, during which each player takes a turn. On a turn the Active Player chooses one of the seven Role Cards, and then every player (starting with the Active Player) gets to take the Action associated with that role. The Active Player also gets a Privilege -- the opportunity to do a little more than everyone else. The Roles are:

Role
Action
Privilege
Settler
Each player takes an agricultural plantation (corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco or coffee)
The Active Player may take a quarry instead of an agricultural plantation
Builder
Each player may buy a building.
The Active Player spends one doubloon less for his building
Mayor
Every player gets a colonist.
The Active Player gets a bonus colonist.
Craftsman
Each player produces agricultural goods.
The Active Player produces one bonus good.
Trader
Each Player may sell a good to the back for doubloons.
The Active Player gets a bonus doubloon.
Captain
Each player loads goods onto the ships, and receives one victory point for every good loaded.
The Active Player gets a bonus victory point.
Prospector
None!
The Active Player gets a doubloon from the bank.
Once a Role is taken, no one else may take it that round, and at the conclusion of a round all unchosen Roles receive a doubloon. When a player picks a Role with one or more coins on it, he keeps the money for himself. So a Role that is ignored in this round becomes more attactive in the next -- a feature that ensures that Puerto never stagnates.

Whenever the Craftsman is selected, each player produces goods. One good is produced for each manned agricultural plantation that has a corresponding manned production building -- a coffee plantation and a coffee roaster, for example. This is the function of the Production Buildings. Each violet building, meanwhile, confers some special advantage onto it's owner (but only, as always, if manned). The Hacienda allows the owner receive an extra Plantation in each Settler phase; the Market gives the owner a bonus gold every time he sells in the Trader phase, and so on.

If all this sounds overwhelming ... well, it is, the first time you hear the rules. But Puerto Rico is so remarkably designed, and everything "flows" so well, that halfway through your first game you'll already have a good grasp of what to do. Managing your resources is the key to success: you need plantations and buildings to produce goods, you need goods to earn money and victory points, you need money to buy buildings, and so on. The varieties of different strategies you can use in the pursuit of victory are seemingly endless.

The appeal of Puerto Rico is widespread, and it's easy to see why. The game features quite a bit of player interaction, but it is all indirect: you cannot attack another player, but you can take the Role he wants before he gets the opportunity himself. The feel of the game is very positive, as you are building up (constructing buildings, producing Goods, making money) rather than tearing down (as you would in, say, a wargame). These two traits combine to make this a great, nonaggressive game for families. Furthermore, it works wonderfully well with three, four and five players, making it suitable for any gathering of friends.

I typically play a new game a few times and then get ready to move on; with Puerto Rico, however, I would be happy to play nothing but. One thing I have noticed is that the quality of a game is usually commensurate with the amount of discussion it engenders, and by that standard Puerto is one of the best. As soon a game ends the players are eager to talk about the strategies they employed and the ideas they have for future playings. And I find myself pondering Puerto even between matches, sipping my morning expresso, for instance, and wondering how well I would fare if I spent my next game growing nothing but coffee.

I've been suffering Board Game Burnout for a year or so, but Puerto Rico's rave reviews convinced me to pick it up. And I couldn't be happier I did. Puerto takes me back to those halcyon days when I first entered the hobby, and marveled at the skill that went into game design. Anything that can do that to a jaded old player like me must be a great game indeed.


The First Law of Soft Drink Quality

The tastiness of a soft drink decreases in direct porportion to the number of adjectives in its name.

Sprite
Good
Vanilla Coke
Not So Good
Diet Pepsi Blue
Bad
Old Fashioned Sodium-free Kiwi Strawberry Cream Fanta
Ah, no
QED.
August 28, 2002

Spam, For The Trash Folder
Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 22:24:23 +0800 From: Halina Jameel To: matthew@defectiveyeti.com Subject: matthew, For the Ladies
I am totally going to use that at parties.

"Hi, I'm Claire."

"I'm Matthew ... For the Ladies."

[ link | Spam]



In Other News

An article I wrote appears today in The Morning News.

August 27, 2002

Rumors of My Death

I had the same English instructor both my sophomore and junior years of high school. She was my favorite teacher of all time, but had two minor character flaws. First, while should could list every proper noun from Tess of the D'urberville, she had a habit of forgetting or mixing up the names of her students. Second, she was a bit cynical about the capacity for Today’s Youth to give a rat’s ass about Great Literature and those who write it.

On December 2, 1987, this teacher opened every class with the announcement that James Baldwin had died. But, as was her wont, she phrased this in a “probably not of interest to you, but FYI” kind of way. She also got her names confused. “I’m sure none of you knew this, and few of you will care, “ she reportedly said, “but last night Matthew Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France. Okay, so let’s pick up where we left off in Macbeth.”

It wasn’t until fourth period – when I, sitting in the second row, shouted “Hey!” at the announcement – that she realized her error. But by that time she had already reported my death to most of my peers. And that, combined with word-of-mouth rumor mongering, left me insisting that I was alive and comforting the bereaved for weeks thereafter.


Three Links To Stuff I Like
[ link | Links]



xxx Exclusive! Matt Drudge Dumb!!! xxx

Matt Drudge is horrified that those attending a summit on starvation are "enjoying" a meal of lobster, caviar and champagne. Yes, it must be disheartening for Mr. Drudge to see his long, hard battle on behalf of the starving get undermined like this.

People who work to alleviate starvation while eating well are one infinity less hypocritical than people who call this hypocritical while doing nothing themselves.

August 26, 2002

Will The Real Slim Shady (Please Shut Up?)

Track listing for the forthcoming Eminem CD “Me, Myself and I”:

1. Me!8. But Enough About You
2. Autobiography #19. Autobiography #3
3. Autobiography #2!10. I, Solipsist
4. Ballad of Slim Shady11. Let Me Tell You Something (About Myself)
5. Who Wants To Talk About Me? (I do!) 12. Me! (Remix)
6. Ballad of Eminem 13. [Bonus secret track] Me! (reprise)
7. Ballad of Marshal Mathers
[ link | Humor]



Books: The Botany of Desire

I have this rule. The rule is simply this: I'll abandon a book if, after reading a third, I find that not enjoying it. There is just too much good reading material out there to waste my time plowing through the final 600 pages of Underworld. On the other hand, I force myself to at least read a third, even of something that doesn't immediately float my boat. I may well miss out on some terrific novels that happen to get interesting 2/5 of the way through, but I'm comfortable with that.

The Botany of Desire is divided into four sections: Apple, Tulip, Marijuana and Potato. After finishing section one, I was ready to return Desire to the library unfinished. But, in accordance with my rule, I decided to read at least until the 1/3 point, and then opted to go ahead and finish the second chapter. I finished section two on my morning bus ride and decided to give up on the book, but then Some Random Guy In An Elevator talked me into finishing it. I entered the car carrying the Desire, he glanced at it and said "Oh wow, I just finished that and it was great. How far are you?" I said I had just finished "Tulip". He said "That's just where it starts to get really good!" Dad nabbit!

So, yeah, I read the whole thing. And, in retrospect, I'm glad I did. The problem I was having with The Botany of Desire wasn't that I found it poorly written or uninteresting, but simply that it wasn't what I wanted it to be. Picking up the book at the library, I had assumed that it was going to be a book about, well, botany - that is, the science and evolution of plants. And it even bills itself as such, claiming to take "A Plant's-eye View of the World". I had imaged something akin to Richard Dawkin's The Selfish Gene, a story told entirely from the point of view of an organism's genetic matter, being passed down from generation to generation. And according to the introduction, this is the book that Michael Pollan set out to write. But he fails, and instead resorts to telling the tale of these plants from a human's point of view - and sometimes seems to forget about the plants altogether.

Take the first chapter, "Apples" -- the one I almost quit after. He starts out talking about how the apple first reached the shores of America, and how they were propagated throughout the land. This story cannot be told, obviously, without mention of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. But as soon as Johnny strolls into the picture, he becomes the focus of Pollan's writing. Pollan occasionally remembers that he's supposed to be talking about fruit, but the "Plant's-eye view" is dropped almost from the get-go. Halfway through I flipped to the "About the Author" section to see what else this guy had written, only to find that he's not a science writer by trade. He is, in fact, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. And that's what these chapters seem to be: essays written on the topic of plants, but certainly not scientific investigations.

Worse, when he does spell out the science, he often gets it wrong. Take this passage, explaining why cloned apple tress are at risk from new preditors:

The problem very simply is that apple trees no longer reproduce sexually, as they do when they are grown from a seed, and sex is nature's way of creating fresh genetic combinations. At the same time, the viruses, bacteria, fungi and insects keep very much at it, reproducing sexually and continuing to evolve until eventually they hit on the precise genetic combination that allows them to overcome whatever resistance the apples might have once possessed.

Of the four predators listed -- viruses, bacteria, fungi and insects - the first three reproduce asexually (although fungi have been known to shack up from time to time). Lines like this drove me crazy.

But once I accepted the fact that Pollan wasn't a scientist and I wasn't reading a scientific book, I came to enjoy Botany of Desire a lot more. Take as essays, each chapter is quite enjoyable. Pollan is a fine writer, and it's clear he has done his research -- if not into the science of each plant, then at least into the people who work with them. So pick it up if you're interested in Science Lite Lite. If you're looking for anything deeper, you'll find Botany leaves something to be desired.

[ link | Books]


August 23, 2002

Jell-o Brand Pudding Pops Googlefucker

Oh hey: talking about pastimes I created and the mellifluous word "fucker" reminded me that I invented the most addictive Internet game of all time, although, for some unfathomable reason, it has failed to catch on as of yet. Remember Googlewhacking, where you would try and find two words which, when entered into Google, would result in only a single hit? Yeah, well my soon-to-be-insanely-popular meme is exactly like that, except totally different. Now the goal is to find a Googlefucker: a two word phrase in the form "_______ fucker" which, when entered into Google (enclosed in quotation marks), results in only one hit. Like, you know, "sofa fucker" or "toothpaste fucker".

Try it. This is gonna be the Next Big Internet Craze, and you'll wanna get in on the ground floor. Not only is it a great way to waste time, but you'll also have a blast trying to explain to your wife why, when she typed ma into Google, Internet Explorer helpfully suggested "mango fucker" as a completion.

" fucker"     
Update: Great news! Someone at the Jell-O company saw this entry and forwarded it on to his bosses. Well, they agree that Googlefucking is poised to become the Hugest Internet Fad Of Forever, and have agreed to sponser me! I can't tell you how much they're paying, but let's just say it's well over $50. So the site I'm working on, Googlefucker.com, will be hosted on their servers, and promoted on the Jell-O Brand Pudding Pops boxes and everything. The only catch is that now, if you find a Googlefucker and are bragging about it on your blog or to your friends, you can't just call it a "Googlefucker" anymore, you hafta say "Hey Carl, did you know that the phrase "Unix Fucker" is a Jell-O Brand Pudding Pops Googlefucker?" So be sure to do that, okay?
Update: Someone at Jell-O looked up "fucker" in the dictionary and found out that's it's quote-unquote "vulgar". So the deal's off.

Trust No One

Did you know that the X-files had a spin-off series? Did you know it was called "The Lone Gunmen" and focused on three conspiracy theorists? Did you know that the show premiered on March 4th, 2001? And did you know that the first episode was about bad guys crashing a plane into the World Trade Center?

I didn't, until kayjay pointed it out.

[ link | Links]


August 22, 2002

Should I Get a "Puddle of Mudd" Tattoo Online Quiz

Thinking of getting a "Puddle of Mudd" tattoo? Who isn't?! But having a band's logo permanently inscribed upon the back of your neck is not a decision to rush into. That's why defective yeti is pleased as pecans to offer the Should I Get A Puddle Of Mudd Tattoo Online Quiz!

  • Question 1: Will people think I look cool with a Puddle of Mudd tattoo tomorrow?
  • Question 2: Will people think I look cool with a Puddle of Mudd tattoo in 2037, when I'm a 64-year old man bearing the name of a band that's been defunct for over three decades?

Scoring Give yourself 0 points for each 'yes,' 1 point for each 'no'.

Answer: If your total score exceeds 0, then a Puddle of Mudd tattoo is not for you. Otherwise: go for it, dude! Yeah!

[ link | Humor]



Dumbass, M.D.

This is my favorite puzzle.

You have Some Terminal Condition, which necessitates taking two pills a day: one Pill A and one Pill B. If you neglect to take either pill, you die; if you take more than one A or more than one B, you die. If you don't take them at exactly the same time, you die.

This morning you are going through you usual routine. You pick up your bottle of A Pills and gently tap one into your palm. Then you pick up your bottle of B Pills and tap it, but two pills accidentally fall into your hand. You now hold three pills (one A and two Bs), you don't know which are which, and they are completely indistinguishable from each other. The A Pills are the same color as the B Pills, they are the same shape, same size -- they are identical in every respect. Man, your doctor is a dumbass. But he's a rich dumbass, because he's charging you $10,000,000 a pill! So you dare not throw any away.

Thus, the puzzle: what can you do to ensure that you take only one A Pill and only one B Pill today, without wasting any pills (either today or in the future)?

No answer will be provided here, because this puzzle is so neat that I want you to actually think it over and figure it out. It took me a few days of off and on thought but I eventually got it.

[ link | Games]


August 21, 2002

End-Users License Agreement For defective yeti

PLEASE READ THIS END-USERS LICENSE AGREEMENT ("LICENSE") CAREFULLY BEFORE PRESSING THE "AGREE" BUTTON OR READING DEFECTIVE YETI.

[ link | Humor]


August 20, 2002

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

My favorite part of The Onion has always been the "News In Brief" section (as evidenced by my attempts at emulation). Now they have a NiB Archive. Oh, oh dear.

[ link | Links]



Games: Corporation

A few years ago I invented a card game called Corporation, the rules of which I posted to my little-read website Acesup.com. As far as I knew no one ever saw it, much less played it. But last night, while egosurfing on Google, I discovered a French translation of the rules, accompanied by a five-star review and a PDF file featuring a specialized deck for the game. Great leapin' cats!

Now that I realize that I have created the Greatest Game Since Mousetrap, I feel obligated to share it with you, the defective yeti Reading Public. However this game does not come free; oh no. If you actually play Corporation, you must write me afterwards with comments and suggestions on the play of the game. You will alos want to write me because, after playing Corporation with your buddies, I may be the only friend you have left.

Corporation

Players: 4 - 10

Equipment: One or more decks of standard playing cards; a pencil and paper; poker chips or play money to keep score.

Preparation: Give each player a set of n cards, consecutively ranked from Ace up, where n = number of players. If you are playing with seven player, for example, give each player seven cards ranked A-7; if you are playing with four people, give each player A-4. A set need not be of all the same suit.

Premise: It takes money to make money. Each player will be putting up capital in anticipation of Profits. If you want the Big Bucks, though, you will have to form a Corporation with other players. A Corporation will net you Corporate Rewards if everyone cooperates -- but if any members defect (or if an outsider tries to horn in on the action) it's back to the drawing board.

Play: On the first round, each person places a card from his hand face down on the table. When all cards have been played they are all flipped face up.

Anyone who played an unmatched card (i.e. no one else played a card of the same denomination) takes his card back into his hand and immediately scores Profits: a number of points equal to the value of the card (Aces = 1). All the players who played matching cards form a Corporation. They do not score any points, and leave their matching cards face up in front of them to indicate who belongs to which Corporations.; Multiple Corporations may be formed in the same round.

Future rounds are played exactly the same, with one additional twist. If all the members of a Corporation (and only the members of the Corporation) play the same card, they all receive Corporate Rewards: a number of points equal to the value of the card played times the number of members in the Corporation. If, however, (a) any member of a Corporation plays a card different from the other members, or (b) any person not in the Corporation plays the same card as the members, then no Corporate Rewards are given. Either way, the rest of the round is carried out as usual: those who played singletons get Profits and everyone who played matching cards form (new) Corporations. Players who were previously in Corporations should take their old cards back into their hands.

Winning:

Record points with a pencil and paper, or give players chips / play money as they earn Profits and Corporate Rewards. If, at the end of a round, one or more players have at least the target score, the person with the most points wins. Points / money, by the way, is open knowledge.

Because the Corporate Rewards can skyrocket with greater number of players, a good target score for a game is 2n2, where n=number of players. In other words:


# of playersTarget Score (2n2)
432
550
672
798
8128
9162
10200



Example

Round: A plays 3, B plays 10, C plays 3, D plays 10, E plays 3.
Result: B and D form Corporation 10 and leave their 10 cards face up to show this.

Round: A=7, B=5, C=7, D=7, E=7
Result: B, having played an unmatched card, gets 5 points. A, C, E do not get Corporate Rewards because D played the same card as them. A, C, E take their 3 cards back into their hands, B and D take back their 10 cards. A, C, D and E now form the new Corporation 7 and leave their 7 cards face up to indicate this.

Round: A=5, B=10, C=5, D=5, E=5
Result: B, having again played an unmatched card, gets 10 points. A, B, D, E get Corporate Rewards: 20 points a piece ([value of played card] x [number of people in the Corporation] = 5 x 4 = 20). A,B,D,E Take their 7 cards back into their hand and form a new Corporation by leaving their 5 cards face up.

Table Talk: Table talk (and lying, and betrayal) is encouraged.  The one rule governing negotiations:  all statements to other players must be "open": conducted so that all the other players can hear them. That means no whispering or going into another room. But if someone missed something because they weren't paying attention or were involved in another conversation, you are under no obligation to repeat anything.

Tips and Notes: Team up with a few other greedy players to form Corporations and reap the big bucks, but if someone is pulling ahead don't hesitate to defect. Smaller Corporations are generally better than big ones: a Corporation with a lot of members pays off better, but (a) you'll be a target for other players, (b) it's hard to get a lot of people to cooperate, and (c) if everyone reaps the same Corporate Rewards then no one really pulls ahead. Also, pay attention to what cards the members of a Corporation have in front of them, and bear in mind that they will be unable to play these cards on the next round. Conversely, form Corporations with low cards so you can use your high cards for Corporate Rewards.

August 19, 2002

Push It Real Good!

It was, like, Super 80's Dance Party USA! at my gym today. The sound system was set to volume 8, and we were treated to George Michael, Scritti Politi, New Order, Mr. Mister, The Boomtown Rats -- The Boomtown Rats, fer crissakes! It was the friggin' "20 Minute Workout" in there. Certainly a welcome break from the usual fare of Pink and Nelly, but I felt kinda naked without my legwarmers.

Nothing leads to cognitive dissonance like hauling ass on a treadmill while Frankie says "Relax".


I, Fucker

An email I wrote to The Brunching Shuttlecocks has been printed, forever ensuring that the Google search "Matthew Baldwin Fucker" will not come up empty.


Books: Reinventing the Wheel and Supercade

In the last week I have read two Coffee Table books, each by a collector, each about the history of an interactive device. The first was Reinventing the Wheel, a book I picked up after Jason Kottke declared it "highly recommended". But while I don't doubt that Kottke actually enjoyed the book, my guess is that most people purchasing Reinventing will not read it themselves, but instead give it as a gift or throw it onto an endtable to impress houseguests.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I, personally, only read half of it before my interest petered out. Reinventing The Wheel is a compendium of photos and descriptions of "Wheel Charts" -- those cardboard calculation tools used to determine what color goes best with your bedspread, what stars you should see in your nighttime sky, and which ingredients you'll require to whip up some Devilled Crab. The book opens with an fascinating introduction covering the invention and evolution of these wheels (called "volvelles" in earlier times). It's an excellent essay, one that whet my appetite for the 93 pages of plates to follow.

But after looking at only a dozen of the plates -- each showing a photograph of a specific wheel and offering a complete description of its creation and function -- I felt like a guy at a party, cornered by someone going on and on about their hobby. (If you've ever had the misfortune of hearing me get going on the Evils Of The State Lottery or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you are painfully aware of the feeling I am trying to describe.) The Wheel Charts are ingenious and involved, but, taken as a whole, it was a bit like reading every bus schedule at the station. Eventually I put this Coffee Table book on my coffee table, and later thumbed through it a few more times while waiting for various levels of my video game to load.

I felt no such apathy towards Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age. This was a book I simply couldn't put down (except when I had to, because the sheer weight of it was making my arms tired). Unlike Reinventing, the introduction here was a bit extraneous. Author Van Burnham traces the genesis of the video game to the creation of the atomic bomb, which is as intriguing as it is arbitrary -- you get the feeling that she could have just as easily tied the origin of the video game to the transistor, the television, or the invention of fire. But the plates in this book -- wow! Nearly very major arcade game from the years 1971 - 1984 is shown, each accompanied by a description of game play, mention of the game's evolutionary ancestors and descendants, and an account of how it fared on the market. Although the focus is on upright "cabinet" games, Supercade also reviews the major home systems of the era: Atari, IntelliVision, ColecoVision and so forth.

It took me a few hours and a couple of beers, but I read every damned page in Supercade -- this despite the fact that I was already intimately familiar with nearly every game depicted, having played them all as a kid (and then watched them all played on Starcade). Some of the Supercade reviews on Amazon.com claim that the text in this book is all cribbed from other sources, but it was new to me and I wolfed it down.

So, what am I saying, here? That I recommend Supercade and give a thumbs down to Reinventing the Wheel. No. Technically, Reinventing is the better of the two -- the writing is more polished, the lay-out is superior (Supercade, like the games it covers, is terribly busy, almost on par with Wired magazine), and if you were to throw both onto your Coffee Table, more people would probably pick it up for a skim. But Supercade pushed all my buttons, and Reinventing left me cold. But it's worth noting that in neither case did I read the book the way it was intended to be read. Books like this are designed to be leafed through by guests to your homes as they wait on a couch or sit on the john. They are also designed, from a marketing stand-point, as "gift books" -- you don't have a present for Kevin's birthday, you run to Barnes and Noble, you think "Kevin likes Playstation, so I'll get him this book on video games" and you purchase it, despite the fact that you've not read it yourself nor heard it endorsed. Frankly, as "gift books" you probably can't go wrong with either of these. (If the Birthday Boy is, in fact, a boy, and in his 30's, Supercade is almost a sure thing. It's also an expensive thing, at $50 to Reinventing's $25.) It just a matter of asking yourself which the the recipient be more likely to have: a paper cut or Nintendo thumb. Choose your book accordingly.

August 09, 2002

Rewind Sketch

If your local NPR station carries the comedy show Rewind, please listen to it this weekend and laugh uproariously at the sketch I wrote based on this post, and then later go to a party, drink four too many Cosmopolitians, and try to describe the skit to some other people, but get all the details wrong, and say "And then there was this part about a shoehorn ... wait, was there a shoehorn? I'm pretty sure there was a shoehorn ..." and finally give up with a "well, you should of heard it." Would you do that? Would you do that, please? Or you can listen to it online; my bit appears 19 minutes and 15 seconds into the RealAudio broadcast. Either way, it's the drinking too much part that's important.


How To Cope With A Disfiguring Sunburn

Cover the burned area with aloe vera gel. This will make you smell so odd that no one will come close enough to touch you.

To make the Universally Recognized Sunburned Warning Noise, grit your teeth, pull back your lips, press your tongue against the back of your incisors and inhale briskly.

After receiving a second- or third-degree burn, wait at least 30 minutes before moshing.

If your spouse is insufficiently sympathetic, be sure to mention how much it hurts after each and every movement.

When showering, remember to scream from the diaphragm.

If arms and legs are burned, walk like a robot from a 1950's science-fiction movie. This will in no way reduce the discomfort, but at least you will look like an idiot.

When the eleventh coworker enters your office and says "Hey, did you know you got sunburned?," we recommend either garroting or defenestration.

If your future is so bright that you gotta wear shades, try neglecting your homework, enraging your parents, and alienating your beautiful girlfriend. This will dim your future and prevent exacerbation of the burn.

Avoid movies starring Adam Sandler. Forever.

While sunburnt, always carry and drink from a fifth of scotch. People will think you are flush from drunkenness, and not realize that you are too stupid to put on sunblock.

[ link | Humor]



Movie: Signs

The following contains very mild spoilers for Signs, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.

Previously I have mentioned that, after spending money to see the dismal Phantom Menace, I felt like Lucas owed me a movie. This feeling goes both ways. After the magnificent Sixth Sense and the terrific-in-an-entirely-different-way Unbreakable, I feel like I owe M. Night Shyamalan. I will therefore see anything he writes and directs. Unless he keeps writing and directing movies like Signs, in which case I may reconsider.

Signs is 97% fantastic. Unfortunately, the remaining 3% constitute the Big Ending. Now, if a movie has a Big Ending, I usually refrain from even mentioning this when I talk about it, as foreknowledge of a Big Ending is a spoiler onto itself -- if you'd known that The Sixth Sense had a Big Ending, the twist probably wouldn't have been nearly as powerful as it was. But Shyamalan is now a victim of his own success: people know, going into his films, that there's going to be a Big Ending, and, to judge from his previous efforts, it's going to be a Great Ending. Furthermore, Signs spends its first 97% essentially setting up and then putting off the revelation of facts over and over again. You know of the existence of a Big Ending well before you reach it, because you know that, at some point, he's going to have to explain what the hell is going on. This is different from his other films, where you think you know what's going on throughout, and The Ending serves to demonstrate that, no, in fact you didn't. You could have lopped the last five minutes off either The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable and still had a mighty fine flick on your hands, albeit it one with an entirely different meaning.

So there are two independent forces at work, here, each ratcheting up excitement for Signs' Big Ending: expectations carried over from Shyamalan's other films, and the narrative structure of Signs itself. That's a lot to live up to. And, I am sad to report, that the Big Ending didn't quite do the trick for me. Signs doesn't sprint across the finish line so much as stagger. Even half an hour before The Ending you can already see it start to stumble.

So should 3% of so-soness negate 97% of greatness? Maybe, when so much of that 97% is geared towards building up tension for the three. But, on the other hand, up until the Big Ending I was enjoying Signs more than any other film I'd seen this year. And it therefore gets a recommendation with a caveat: enjoy the ride, because the destination is something of a let-down.

[ link | Movies]



Seven-Dollar Watermelon

The other day I bought a seven-dollar watermelon. That seemed pretty expensive until I realized that it came with a free band name.

August 08, 2002

Great Name For a Blog

Speaking of which, here's a great name for a blog: "Interview With a Vamp's Ire".

No, wait! Wait! You didn't use it, did you? I just realized that that's a completely stupid name for a blog! Oh no, you did? You already used it? You already named your blog "Interview With a Vamp's Ire" and registered interviewwithavampsire.com and publicized the whole thing on BlogSnob? Ah geeze, I'm sorry. Man, it seemed really funny when I thought it up.


Books: Interview With a Vampire

I don't like chess. That is to say, I love the idea of chess -- the idea that it is essentially a mathematical battle, with every move changing the equation of possible moves and strategies -- but I find playing chess a bit of a bore. Apparently I have similar feelings about vampires. I'm a big Buffy buff, and I love the idea of vampires. But when it comes down to reading an entire book about 'em, I get bored quickly. I didn't know this when I picked up Anne Rice's Interview With a Vampire. In fact, 30 pages into it I told my wife that I was already so engrossed that I expected to finish it in a day or two. Three weeks later I trudged to the end.

The problem with Interview With a Vampire is that it is -- surprise! -- about vampires. Not about exciting vampiric adventures, or about people who fight vampires, or about the relationship between vampires and mortals -- no, it's just about run-of-the-mill vampires and their everyday (or, rather, evernight) lives. The whole book revolves around one completely unremarkable vampire, and reads like a biography of some ordinary schmoe off the street, if said schmoe were to suck blood and require sunblock SPF 94.

This is the part in the book review where I generally talk a bit about the plot. But, man, I'm serious here: not a whole lot happens. In fact, if you want a good synopsis of the few bits of action, I'd heartily recommend renting the movie, which I quite enjoyed. The film, bereft of (interminable) internal monologues, is exactly what I'd hoped the book to be. And Tom Cruise is surprisingly good.

So now allow me to qualify everything I've said thus far by adding that Interview is actually a very well-written book. I picked it up expecting a poorly-written pulp novel and found it to be the exact opposite. And if I were really into vampires -- instead of being the goth-poseur that I apparently am -- I would have loved it, would probably be halfway through the third in the series by now. So before opting for Interview, ask yourself this: do you like vampires, or do you just like the idea of vampires? (If you answered "neither" then what the hell are you doing even reading this? Besides, you're a liar: everyone loves the idea of vampires, at the very least.) If you fall into the first category then, by all means, read Interview -- it gets a hearty and sincere recommendation from me. But if you, like me, prefer your vampires one-dimensional and perpetually either on the giving (Blade) or receiving (Buffy) end of an ass-kicking, you may want to steer clear.

For the record: I thought the book Dracula was pretty pointless as well. So my track record with the undead is pretty weak all around.

[ link | Books]


August 07, 2002

defective yeti's Fashion Tip #11

Don't sleep on wet hair.

I posted this photo to FilePile. My favorite comment: "And I ran, I ran so far away ..."

Note: Insofar as this picture constitutes 1000 words, I am taking the remainder of the day off, yeti-wise.

[ link | dy]


August 06, 2002

Adrenaline Addiction

The guy sitting next to me on the bus was filling out a magazine quiz entitled "Are You Addicted To Adrenaline?" At one point he checked a box so aggressively that the tip of his pen perforated the page.


Bush Administration Reverses Position
Bush Administration Reverse Position on Child Abductions
Reversing a long-held position, the Bush Administration today denounced child abduction. "Our nation grieves with every family that has suffered unbearable loss," the President declared, "and our nation will fight the threats against our children." But Democrats were quick to point out that, in an effort to attract the libertarian and "soccer mom" vote, Bush promised throughout the 2000 election that he would seek to increase child abductions if elected. "This is a major U-turn for the President," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. "Now that Big Business is afraid of losing the next generation of clerks and cashiers, Bush suddenly becomes anti-kidnapping. The American people will see this for what it really is: an expedient, politically-motivated ploy." White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer, meanwhile, insists that the new policy of denouncing child abductions is in no way inconsistent with the administration's strong pro-abduction stance.
[ link | News]


August 05, 2002

Hello genetic engineers!

Hello genetic engineers! It seems like every week I read about how you guys invented some crazy new type of animal. But it's never anything useful like a rapping monkey, it's inevitably some dumb thing like a thirty pound squirrel or a lactating seahorse. It's pretty obvious that you guys are just making stuff up as you go along instead of fulfilling specific needs.

So here you go! This weekend I collected, like, three Hefty-bag's worth of apples that had fallen from the huge apple tree in my back yard. It was a total drag, because the apples were on the ground, and it took forever to get them all, and now my back is killing me. So here's what I need. I need an appleless apple tree. You got that? No, don't just say "yeah," write it down. Appleless apple tree. If you don't write it down you are just going to forget, and then later you'll try to remember and probably get it all wrong and make an appleful apple tree or something. And Lord knows I don't need an appleful apple tree -- I already got one of those, that's the problem.

Once you've created it, send it to

Matthew Baldwin
c/o defective yeti
1467 Park -
Ahhhhh, you know what? Never mind. I'm not going to give you my address. At that big Seattle WTO boondoggle a few years back, there were some hippies who were against genetic engineering, and they dressed up like giant ears of corn with fangs. And I'm afraid that if I gave you my address you'd just carelessly leave it laying around where a giant fanged ear of corn could find it, and I totally don't need that right now. So here's what we'll do: when you've invented the appleless apple tree, drop me an email and we'll arrange a place to meet.

I would also like a glo-in-the-dark pony and a dog that can play basketball. Thanks.

[ link | Humor]



The Myth of Sisyphus Retold

Albert Camus' Essay 'The Myth of Sisyphus"
As Retold By My Wife During a Weekend "Fun Run"
Wife: Ug. I hate these uphill parts.

Wife: [Two minutes later] Okay. Okay, I think we're at the top of the hill. Yes. Yes, we are. Ahh, that's so much better.

Wife: [Two minutes later]: Ug. I hate these downhill parts.

August 02, 2002

Close

I was in an elevator with a half a dozen others. As the doors started to close, a woman sprinted towards us yelling "wait!" I was closest to the control panel, so I started jabbing the "Open Door" button. But to no avail: the doors slid shut unabated. Our last glimpse of the woman was of her running, reaching out, desperately trying to catch the edge of the door. I turned to the other people in the car and flashed them a "well, I tried!" smile.

As we started moving, I glanced down and noticed that I had been pressing the "Close Door" button by mistake. A moment later it occurred to me that everyone in the elevator had watched me frantically press the "Close Door" button as the woman had tried to board, and then grin about her failure to make it in time.

This is why I now take the stairs.


defective yeti's Super Fun Puzzle

What single word is the name of a magazine, a cereal, a board game, and a never-ending series of soul-crushing disappointments which slowly leech away your hope and idealism until you are nothing more than a bitter husk of a man?

[ link | Humor]


August 01, 2002

I am Eating a Plum

I am eating a plum. The plum has a tiny sticker on it. The sticker bears a URL.

We live in the strangest of all possible worlds. No science-fiction writer was ever inventive enough to envision a future with hyperlinked plums.


Kafkaesque

Whoa hey! I'm seeing a lot of new faces this morning. I suspect that many of you are here because Kafkaesque was kind enough to link to the yeti on his blog. I suspect others of you are here because you and I recently had a torrid weekend of passion, and although I have repeatedly insisted that I am a happily married man and our time together was just a case of "two adults who saw an opportunity and took advantage of it," you are now searching the Internet for my home address so you can come over to my house and boil my rabbit and wind up stabbed in the bathtub.

So anyhow ... wait, where was I going with this? I have no idea.

Oh, hang on, yes I do. I was saying that it's a staggering coincidence that Kafkaesque linked to the yeti yesterday, because I had been totally planning to link to his site, My Life As An American Gladiator, today on my home page! I had been planning this for weeks. I called it "Super August First Gladiator Surprise!" And although I admit the whole thing looks a little chummy, I can assure you that neither tit nor tat is involved. No quid, no pro --okay, yeah, maybe there's a little quo, but that's it.

It's, like, you know how all those corporations give all that money to politicians, and all those politicians make all those laws that favor corporations? And it seems really hard to believe that there's no correlation between the two? But then there's that one guy, the guy with the suit on the tv, and he says there's no connection whatsoever, and he must be telling the truth because he has a really expensive haircut? It's exactly like that. A zany statistical anomaly.

So go read his site. It particular, read the entire Calamto saga.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of duck-herding sheepdogs, you should also take a gander (ha!) at this.

[ link | Links]