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October 31, 2006
Halloween Odds & Ends
The Vanishing Date
I wrote one of the many ghost story endings appearing in The Morning News today.
Speaking of The Morning News ..
TMN and I are holding a contest, in which we're asking participants to make a display campaign paraphernalia for fictitious candidates. And while the event has attracted considerable notice on Teh Intarwebs, it grieves me to report that submissions have been scarce.
The deadline for submissions was supposed to be today, but they have extended it to November 3rd. Also, all participants now get buttons!
I've heard a few people say that they would participate, but they lack a "large-format printer." The assumption, apparently, is that I used one of these new-fangled contraptions to print out the examples. Honestly, I don't even know what a large-format printer is. My signs were mocked up in Microsoft Publisher; printed out, section by section, onto normal-sized pieces of paper; and then taped onto a real political sign that I had appropriated from a local median. (Fun fact: in Seattle it's illegal to place political signs on medians, traffic circles and other conspicuous roadway locations, so if you filch one from one of these locations, you are actually enforcing the law.) I realize that sounds like a lot of work, but, honestly, I made all three signs shown in less than an hour. And you don't even have to go this route, if you don't want to: handmade signs are welcome. In fact, my favorite of the signs we've received thus far is a pen-on-posterboard affair.
Also, you are not limited to political signs. Although that's what I made by way of example, the contest calls asks you to create a "sign, banner, flier, etc," so less ambitious stuff is certainly acceptable.
Anyway, I know you guys are a literate bunch, so please send something in if you have the time and inclination. Plus, TMN gets a lot hits and they'll include a link to your site along with your entry, so this is a perfect way to simultaneously showcase your creativity and drum up traffic.
Last week I heard a radio commercial for Fred Meyer advertising Christmas decorations. They spent most of the 30 seconds justifying their decision to unleash the yuletide juggernaught in October. "As you get older, your family gets bigger," the announcer said. "Which means you need more time to prepare for the holidays. So, see? We're only hawking these dancing Santas nine weeks early as a favor to you!"
Sure enough, I stopped by Fred Meyer this morning to grab another bag of candy (I ate all the ReeseSticks -- saw-whee), and found the "Seasonal" aisle cram-packed with wrapping paper, artificial trees, and wreaths -- and no candy, except for a few picked over bags of sugarfree gum and Hershey BigYuk Bars (semi-sweet chocolate with creamy asparagus filling).
American holidays have become like suburban strip malls, expanding outward to the point where they've merged into one continual year-long festivity. I have no doubt that the Fred Meyer guys have Peeps and Easter Basket grass all queued up, ready to put on display come November 12th.
Why don't we just make up a new holiday: Tomorroween. Tomorroween is the holiday which, regardless of the date, falls the day after today, the one where people exchange gifts, eat candy, send cards, drink alcohol, bake pumpkin pies, set off fireworks, plant trees, put colored lights on the eves of their house, wear costumes, buy roses for their loved one, and fly the flag. Stores could just have an aisle devoted to Tomorroween merchandise, and never have to rotate their stock; the guys who make M&Ms could stop changing the color of their candy every three months (black & orange in October, red & green in December, shades of pastel in March).
And maybe, in exchange for Tomorroween, we could ask the stores to keep their mitts off our Holidays. Wouldn't that be a treat?
October 30, 2006
I'm the eternal optimist -- even in the realm of contemporary politics, where optimism is as out of place as an oyster on an ice cream sundae. So while my friends agonize over which political party will have control of Congress come January, I like to point out that, regardless of which way things turn out, this election will almost certainly result in a number of positive trends:
October 27, 2006
The Bad Review Revue
School for Scoundrels : "To call it slight is to slight the word 'slight.'" -- David Elliott, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
Man of the Year: "Many actors were paid to pretend Williams is still funny." -- Chris Hewitt, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS
Employee of the Month: "It's simply too depressing that people sat in a boardroom, read this script and said, 'We're ready to go!'" -- David Gilmour, GLOBE AND MAIL
One Night With The King: "Dear Lord, why must Your most ardent followers unleash such bad movies in Your name?" -- Josh Bell, LAS VEGAS WEEKLY
Flyboys: "If the current legroom in economy class doesn't make you resent the birth of the Wright Brothers, Flyboys certainly will." -- Michael Booth, DENVER POST
The Grudge 2: "Likely to induce deja vu. Not the cool, eerie deja vu, but the 'Hey, isn't that exactly what happened in the first movie?' deja vu." -- Michael Ordona, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The Covenant: "Movies like this are why we have eyelids." -- Colin Covert, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
October 26, 2006
Apparently I have been "tagged" with an "Internet" "meme." I don't generally do these, but the tagger, Mother Reader, was kind enough to play along with my silly little game, so I feel obliged to reciprocate.
Five Little Known Things About Me
October 25, 2006
Analogies Bush Has Drawn Between the Iraq War And Assorted Punctuation Marks
"I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, [the current violence] will look like just a comma."
"Our commitment to a free Iraq must end with an exclamation point, not an ellipsis."
"The overthrow of Saddam was an apostrophe, indicating possession of Iraq by its long-oppressed people."
"The only way to stop the sectarian violence is to find a bridge between the Sunnis and Shiites, a hyphen that will join the two separate party into one compound nation."
"We have enclosed the insurgents in parentheses, marking them as little more than an interruption to the rise of democracy that can be ignored without changing the overall meaning of the region's struggle for liberty."
"Though Saddam and Al Quada had no direct links, their relationship was that of a semi-colon, joining related but distinct proponents of terror."
"Setting a timetable for withdrawal would be like starting a Spanish sentence with an inverted question mark, a signal that all that follows is uncertain and conditional."
"When I sent my Secretary of State to the UN to make the case for war, I jokingly referred to him as Colon Powell, as he served to introduce an itemized list of our grievances against the Iraqi dictator."
"Victory is still possible in Iraq -- albeit a victory enclosed in scare quotes and followed by an asterisk."
October 24, 2006
Do all graduating high schools classes have a "senior song?" Or is this just something we did out in the suburbs to compensate for the lamentable fact that were we raised in the suburbs?
My buddy Matt and I lobbied hard for "Road To Nowhere" by the Talking Heads. But, in the end, the popular kids convened a secret meeting and chose this.
I'm not bitter. But I would like to point out that our selection has proven to be more considerably accurate than theirs.
October 23, 2006
Ice, Ice baby
When a friend of mine saw that they were selling tiny yetis at Burger King, she thoughtfully picked one up for me.
(Let me take a moment, here, to interject a rather shocking announcement: I don't give a rat's ass about yetis. Or abominable snowmen. Or bigfoot. Or even Sasquatch, native to our region though they may be. Honestly, I just picked this site's name out of the ether, not out of any love of or interest in cryptozoology. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate it when you send me links to yeti ornaments or yeti flash games or yeti bicycles or yeti, the knowbot or yeti@home, but only because it's nice to occasionally receive email that doesn't have a forged paypal.com return address. If you guys keep giving me yeti stuff I'm going to eventually wind up like The Lady At The License Renewal Place Whose Cubicle Is Filled With Tigger-Related Paraphernalia. And nobody wants that.)
Anyway, I did what I do with all unwanted gifts: coated it in catnip and threw it at my kitties. But at some point The Squirrelly's must have got a hold of it, because a few days later it resurfaced in his room.
If I'd known then what I know now, I never would have let this fall into the hands on an innocent child. Yesterday, while picking it up from the floor, I noticed for the first time that it had a tag on the back.
Star Wars?, thought I. There were no yetis in Star Wars. Only then did I realize the truth. This was no yeti, this was a Wampa Ice Creature, the creature that savagely attacked Luke Skywalker on the planet of Hoth, nearly killing the young Jedi and snuffing out the hopes of the fledgling rebellion.
My god, what are we teaching this generation of children? First we have the prequels, portraying Darth Vader as the kind of sensitive romantic more likely to join a boy band called "Ready 4 Cuddles" than the Sith, and now the Wampa Ice Creature is being recast as an adorable, pocket-size moppet? Where will it end? Grand Moff Tarkin getting named "#1 Grandpa?"
Why don't we just tell them that the terrorists are the good guys and be done with it?
October 18, 2006
Didn't See That Coming
I'm going to write a psychological thriller for the blind. It's not all plotted out yet, but I have a great, surprise ending: the last Braille letter will be replaced with a thumbtack.
October 12, 2006
Tips On Parenting My Toddler, Supplied By Dylan, A 13 Year-old Relative, During A Recent Visit
Has he seen the Lord Of the Rings movies? He should see them because they will make him want to read books like the Harry Potter books.
If you keep kissing him so much you're going to make him gay.
If you keep throwing him in the air like that he's going to get like a brain injury.
He's probably too young to play [the name of some absurdly complicated trading card game that I didn't quite catch] but there are easier games like Pokemon and he could learn to play that. I could loan you some of my Pokemon cards since I don't play it any more, but I would just be loaning them to you, not giving them to you, because some of those cards are worth a lot of money, like a hundred dollars for one card.
You know what would be really cool? If instead this baby music you played Eminem.
When he falls down and cries you should just tell him to be tough because then he'll learn not to fall.
If you keep hugging him so much he's going to be gay.
If you bought him an Xbox then he could play it while you did stuff around the house. Also then when we come here I won't be so freaking bored.
October 11, 2006
I was walking down a long hall at the gym today, and a flusteringly attractive woman was walking toward me.
I never know what to do in these situations. Obviously, given my druthers, I would just stand there in slackjawed amazement and openly gawp, but apparently this is considered "uncouth" in some quarters. An alternative is to resolutely stare to one side of her, as if a friend I've not seen in decades stands at the end of the hall, or drop my gaze and focus on my feet as I pass, but this makes me look like a zombie or an introvert respectively, and that's not the impression I want to make.
So, instead, I took a keen interest in the walls, scrutinizing the fliers posted on the bulletin boards as I sauntered past them, and craning to peer around the corners of intersecting hallways. This, thought I, squared the circle rather neatly: it kept me from looking directly at her, and also gave the impression that I was the intelligent, sophisticated sort, always studying my surroundings with curiosity and inquisitiveness.
MEMO TO SELF: Members of the fairer sex will not think you intelligent or sophisticated if one of the "intersecting hallways" you peer down is, unbeknownst to you, not a hallway at all, but in fact an open doorway to the very women's locker room that the person you are trying to impress is destined.
October 10, 2006
Uggh. MSNBC's coverage of the 2006 Nobel Prize Awards is awful! I hate how they only air categories that Americans are way into (Medicine and Physics) during prime time -- I had to stay until until 3 AM to see Chemistry. And the "bios" of all the participants are so sappy -- every scientist "overcame adversity" and "stayed true to his vision" and blah blah blah. JUST SHOW US THE CHEMISTRY ALREADY??!
Honestly, half my irritation is just because I can't stand the commentators, how they are always pointing out every mistake of the contenders. Yesterday I was watching Ryszard Kapuscinski compete for the Literature prize and Bob Costa was all, like, "Ooo, he didn't put a comma after the third item in the series -- that's gonna cost him" and "While the regulations against starting a sentence with a conjunction have been eased in recent years, the judges might still frown upon that opening 'but'." Eventually it got so bad that Kapuscinski turned around and asked Costas to shut up because he was trying to finish his essay, and after that Costa whispered for a little bit, but a few minutes later he was back to his normal, bellowing self. I don't even know why Kapuscinski let the camera crew into his house in the first place.
Plus, it's just gross the way they have the "PRIZE COUNTER" in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen all the time. Okay, yes, it's USA 6, the rest of the world 0 -- we know, you don't have to keep rubbing it in!! That's exactly why I usually watch my Nobel Prize coverage on Canadian TV. But, you know, I don't even know if I'm going to watch it at all any more. The whole doping scandal in the Peace prize category is just disgusting.
Apparently Iceweasel -- a fork of the popular Firefox browser -- is in need of a logo. So I thoughtfully created one for them. What a nice guy.
October 09, 2006
Encyclopedia Brown For District Attorney!
I am hosting a contest -- the sort that my literate readers should excel at. (Yes, I'm talking to you, the one who just shuddered upon seeing a sentence end in "at.") Get the details at Encyclopedia Brown For District Attorney.
October 05, 2006
Fantasy RPG Boardgames
I've answered the same question twice in a week -- the first in a reply to an email from a reader, the second in response to this Ask Metafilter thread -- so maybe I should just stick it here on the site, so I can just refer people to it in the future.
The question: you talk a lot about German games on defective yeti, but what about good old-fashioned American games? Specifically, are there any good boardgames that faithfully recreate the feeling of playing Dungeons and Dragons, RuneQuest, or any of the other fantasy role-playing games I no longer have the time to play?
The short answer is yes. In the last few years there have been a spate (perhaps even a glut) of quality "American" games; that is, games where mechanics take a backseat to theme. These are not the elegant, 90-minute games I usually write about, but long, sprawling, epic struggles, often with each player playing a specific character, each with his own unique attributes and abilities.
Many of these titles are coming from a single company: Fantasy Flight Games. As expected from their name, FFG specializes in games centered around mythic worlds -- J.R.R. Tolken's Middle Earth to George R.R. Martin's Seven Kingdoms to the World of Warcraft -- though they have a few non-fantasy offerings as well. (I have previously raved about the abstract domino-esqe Ingenious, and Through the Desert is in my all-time top ten.)
But fantasy titles are FFG's mainstay, and, perhaps because of the company's success, more and more companies are releasing games designed to induce flashbacks of twenty-sided dice. Here are some of the best:
Descent: Journeys in the Dark: A couple years ago I went completely nuts and forked over good money for Doom, a boardgame that couldn't possibly be good yet inexplicably was. The year following, Fantasy Flight Games adapted the Doom engine to Descent. The result is a game even better than its predecessor. As in Doom, one player assumes the rule of the Dungeonmast-I-mean-Overlord, and controls all the bad guys; everyone else chooses from among 20 possible characters, and plays as a team, striving to complete some objective. The game is played on a module board, which can be configured for any of the -- Descent is played on a module board, which can big configured of any of the scenarios in the Quest book. This is as close to fantasy roleplaying as you are going to get in a box. But a word of warning: a typical scenario takes about four hours to complete.
Lastly (and leastly), I'd be remiss not to mention Munchkin, I game I pretty much loathe but is nonetheless adored by an astounding number of people. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it, but I'm sure two dozen people will do so in the comments.
October 03, 2006
Thinking Of The Children
Yesterday, as the Foley Instant Message scandal continued to snowball, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds held a press conference, in which he surrounded himself with youngsters. You truly have to see this masterful political maneuver to appreciate it:
Yes, that's right: a press conference on a topic that the press is unable to ask about because of the conditions of the press conference.
Today, as more details were leaked about Foley's shenanigans, the Republican National Committee took the unusual step of ordering all GOP Congressmen to wear safety vests until the upcoming election.
Chris Matthews: Our guest today on Hardball is Bruce Sierra, one of the many Republican fighting an uphill battle for re-election this November. Senator Sierra, thank you for joining us.(The funny joke here is Chris Matthews asking tough questions of a Republican.)
GOP legislators have also been told to remain inebriated from now until November 7th, so they can be whisked off to rehab when their indiscretions come to light.
October 02, 2006