Saturday, October 01, 2005


There's a new Dungeons and Dragons movie (or perhaps series?) starting Oct. 8 on the Sci-Fi Channel. It looks pretty bad but I can't help but watch it. It's a shame because in the wake of Lord of the Rings, and with the upcoming Narnia movies, there's no reason one can't make a good D&D show or movie -- all you have to do is put a little thought into it. Even the Harry Potter movies are an example of how people will respond to the genre if it's done well. Battlestar Galactica is proof that Sci-Fi knows how to make a decent show. And the Dune mini-series wasn't too bad. I'm even getting into the new Stargate series (with the dude's from Farscape in it, though I never cared for Farscape itself). So there's really no excuse for making a bad D&D TV show.

Unfortunately, I think when a production company sees the name Dungeons and Dragons, it immediately assumes it should embrace all the fantasy cliches and execute them with hack dialogue and lame SFX. Yes, in a way D&D is all about the embracing of cliches in the form of broad character archetypes -- the valiant Knight, the bearded wizard, and the wily rogue -- but within that framework it's possible to create characters and adventures that are strong, eccentric, and unique. In fact, most of the stories that fantasy and sci-fi fans love accomplish exactly this; they are the same, but different. Star Wars is a great example of this, and, within the realm of D&D specifically, there is R. A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale series.

This new D&D movie (or show), looks like it's built around the same bland thinking and production quality that made 2000's Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie so disappointing. It was structurally sound, as movies go, but no fan of the game could watch it without feeling like the people who made it simply couldn't have cared less about what they were doing. Considering the wealth of imagination and resources at one's disposal when writing for the world of D&D, that's a real shame.

Worse, it's long past due for role playing in general, and D&D in particular, to shake the stigma of being a solely dork-ish pastime. Let's face it: fantasy is a huge genre enjoyed in many forms, from movies to books to video games, by tons of relatively normal people. If it were just the basement dwellers who liked stories with elves and sorcerers, Lord of the Rings would have been a box office flop and video games like Everquest would never get made, let alone evolve into MMORPGs. Sure, there will always be LARPers to give fantasy gaming a bad name, just as there will always be Trekkies who don't know how to wear a communicator badge without a sense of geek-culture irony. But there's no reason for us to let the lowest common denominator drag the genre down.

A D&D television show deserves to be made with care and respect. We fans who have stuck with the game through its (and our own) awkward puberty, helping it grow into a cornerstone of both geek- and popular-culture, have earned it.

Here's hoping my suspicions are wrong and the Sci-Fi Channel gets it right.

Bail me out?

Am I too old to have my parents come bail me out of jail? Not that I'm in jail, but I'm thinking of going, since I've never been and all. I figure 16 thru 22 are the ideal years for having your folks come bail you out. The absolute max would be 26, but that's only if you're arrested for some sort of political action. 30 is definitely too old, I figure, which is a shame, because I don't have anyone else who'd come get me.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A political post

For a while now I've been exploring the pros and cons of transitioning to a world with smaller governments and more private autonomy. Part of this process has left me to wonder what services should a minimized government still be expected to provide. I used to feel that one of those services would be disaster relief -- until we all saw how badly FEMA responded to the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

I would like to believe in a West Wing style vision of government that truly wants to serve the country as best it knows how. I would love it if there were idealists like Sam and Toby running every department (brought down to Earth with the occasional reality check by Ainsley Hayes). But we now have a government that is the exact opposite of that sort of vision -- a government of self-serving cronyism, incompetence, and graft. I'd like to think it'll all be over after 2008 when the country comes to its senses and puts some decent people back in charge. However, we just can't depend on that. It should have been painfully obvious last time just how bad this administration is, and the country put them back in charge again anyway. And now New Orleans has paid the price for it. Thus my desire to make government as small and harmless as possible. So that every few years when half the country loses its mind, we don't all have to suffer for it.

Now, though, my questions is: if a strong federal government isn't going to respond to a disaster like Katrina, who is? Can we count on the private sector to take care of it? On the one hand, I think yes. During Katrina we saw how Wal-Mart was able to get supplies to people in places FEMA couldn't figure out how to get to, and we saw how every private news organization had more information about what was going on than Michael Brown did (the most famous example being Ted Koppel's incredulous remark: "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio?") And of course there are NGOs like The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Doctors w/o Borders, all of which do a great job and to which Americans give generously in times of need.

But are those organizations enough? It seems to me that Americans are largely neglectful of charity when horror isn't staring us in the face. And we can't afford to wait until after a disaster breaks out to make sure that our police and fire departments are well funded, well trained, and well supplied. Without the government demanding people fork over a significant portion of their income every year, could the American people be trusted, on their own, to give as much as necessary to making sure we have services in place to handle the next Katrina or 9/11?

I don't think so. Culturally, we are not yet capable of understanding how we help ourselves by helping our fellow man, by putting money away for the proverbial rainy day. We are now too dependent on having someone else think about and plan for our problems, and it will take a painful cultural upheaval before that changes. I'd like to think that the events of the last few years, as they continue to culminate in things like the disastrous FEMA response, would serve as the starting gun for that change, but I somehow doubt they will. So now I am left to wonder, what will it take before we start imagining a new type of government, and embracing a new philosophy of responsibility for our selves and fellow countrymen?


Today I'm experiencing the joys of a sinus infection. It's fantastic. My nostrils feel like they're on fire while at the same time they're producing an endless supply of mucus. Rock!

Having grown up with the world's worst allergies, I'm no stranger to feeling like this, or at least feeling a certain degree of this. Nose-wise, this feels worse than a normal allergy attack. Anyway, I've experienced symptoms like this often enough that when it gets bad, I have zero patience for it. While a normal person could probably tough it out, I immediately bombard myself with drugs and then eat, sleep, and consume as many fluids as possible so as to give my body all the reserves it needs to kick this shit out of my system. Unfortunately. this process makes for a long, boring day where all I can do is narrow focus on how lousy I feel.

The good news is that I have Absorbascon to help get me through it. (I'm glad I'm not as bad off as Aquaman.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Stairway to Heaven

After hearing it for about the 10-millionth time on the radio, I have decided that Stairway to Heaven is a bad fucking song. There is a part towards the end where it starts to rock out a bit, which is OK, but the whole song leading up to that is so goddamn annoying that it makes me want to steer my car into oncoming traffic. The only other song that is anywhere near that bad -- so bad I'd rather be dead than to hear it again -- is that one by Maroon Five, which I don't know the name of, but it is so whiney (not like sad whiney, but cheery whiney, because the singer has this wrist-slitting whiney voice) it makes me wish the terrorists would win. Tomorrow I am buying a gun to keep in my glove compartment. It is not for shooting myself or other people on the road. It is for shooting the radio the next time this shit comes on.

Blog reflects life

This was originally a comment sent on a private email list, but I felt like it was worth adding as an actual blog post:

The blog has become an interesting phenomenon in terms of how much it reflects my life -- or at least how I perceive my life. On the one hand, you're absolutely right that what's up there is big important stuff to me. On the other, whenever I go back and read it, I think "anybody who doesn't know me is getting a really narrow and skewed sense of who I am." But at the same time, now that I'm out on LI and don't get to socialize much, what's up there really is the bulk of my private life. I'm definitely at my most dynamic when I get to be around people as much as possible, but when that's the case, there's no need for those people to check in with my blog. When that's not the case, my life becomes narrow and I feel like it's not really representing me actual life even though, in a way, it is.

downs and ups

One week after starting weight watchers, I've lost 3 pounds. Pretty happy about it. Especially since I didn't really know what I was doing at the time. Now I have a much better understanding of measuring/judging my food intake, so hopefully next week will have similar to slightly better results. Lot's of guys actually would have had much better results their first week just by virtue of being on a diet for the first time. The shock to their system causes instant and dramatic weight loss. But I've been dieting and exercising for a while now, so the impact wasn't as great. Still, I'm pleased with the results. If I can get myself to lose about a pound and a half a week, I'll be halfway to my goal weight of 190 by January, which would be fantastic. If, at the same time, I have at least 50,000 words of my book finished, the GRE taken and grad school apps finished (those have to be done by November, actually), and have some money in the bank for moving to Cali, then I think that come my 31st birthday I'll be able to feel like my life is mostly on track. That would be quite a feeling. In other news, I set a new personal jogging record today. Can't actually put any numbers to it in terms of time and distance, but I could feel I was pushing myself to go farther than ever before. I'd say I got "most of the way" to the beach, and then I felt like I was going to throw up. It was awesome! And that was after a nice upper-body workout on the weight machine. I think next time I'll reverse the routine, jogging as far as possible while I'm fresh just to see how far I can go. On bike I recently peaked at a 20 mile ride at an average speed of 14.8 miles per hour. I'm happy with that too, but the rule of cross-training is coming into play and I need to vary my exercises a bit I think before I can expect that to improve again. Thus the jogging.