Thursday, June 14, 2012

Live From the Mosh Pit: Dale risks life and limb and eyebrows at a Rammstein show

I am a fan of Rammstein.

And not in that fanny way that most “true” fans get. I don't obsess about the band or make fashion choices based on my love for them. I haven't studied English translations of their music or posted on an internet forum devoted to them. And I have never been in a fight defending them. For me it means I really really like their music. I like it on a different level than I like most bands and when I hear them I automatically get happier, even when they are singing about a man cannibalizing his own severed penis.

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the band, I don't want that penis remark to give you the wrong idea. Rammstein are not a twisted bunch of freaks who gleefully sing about sordid subjects, inasmuch as they aren't what I'd call “freaks”. But yes, they are a bit twisted. And they do sing gleefully about some horrible things. But it's all in good fun. And their music rocks.

I bring all this up because, for the first time ever, Rammstein came to Winnipeg not long ago. So Warren, who is a much more fanny fan of Rammstein, got us tickets.

Tickets on the floor.

So to sum up: I, a 46 year old man with a job and kids and a mortgage, was about to go to my first ever Industrial Metal show to watch a band whose fan base appeared to be mainly comprised of young men who look like variations of Tom Hardy as Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises. And for many of them this includes the headgear.

Despite the looks of the crowd, we arrived in good spirits. Also, I'd noted that Warren had opted to wear a man-pouch around his waist and felt immediately better, knowing that if there was going to be a violent, Teutonic beating that night, it would probably be focused on the wearer of a man-pouch as opposed to that person's largely pouchless companion.

With my heart temporarily lifted by these thoughts, we proceeded to floor level, and into the general admission throng. The crowd was loosely packed, and we were able to move up and into a pretty good position. Close enough to feel the heat, but at just enough range to feel reasonably secure that we would be leaving the show with eyebrows. Did I mention that Rammstein are famous for the massive amount of pyrotechnics they use in their shows? Well, they are. Here is a photo I took 30 seconds in:

And here is another one from 20 seconds later:

Miraculously, I still have eyebrows

So, with a nice spot staked out, we awaited the band's entrance. And then we waited some more. At 8:15 I commented that their lack of punctuality goes against everything they stand for as Germans, and then, pleased with my cleverness, I tweeted it. Follow me @nervoushospital for more gold just like that!

Right after that, the security personnel moved into position at the front of the crowd. These are the guys who pull crowd-surfers to the ground as safely as possible and then give them a cookie and send them off to the back of the crowd, even though they clearly would rather just beat them with those extendable police batons that Jennifer Lopez uses to beat the shit out of that one guy in Out of Sight.

As the security guys moved into position I realized that one of them was a neighbour of mine, Brian, who works security at MTS Center. As he scanned the crowd I waved at him and got his attention. We made eye contact, and after a couple seconds, it registered on him that it was me. I waved again but all he could respond with was a look that said, “What the FUCK” while also somehow conveying a Danny Thomas style spit take. I swear, his look communicated a spit take.

See? Not ALL of their imagery is violence and fire.
Fuck. Never mind.

Soon, the show started, and I have to say that it was a good 10-15 minutes before the first “What the fuck am I doing here?” thought popped into my head. This occurred when the first person from the mosh pit that formed directly behind us slammed into my back and almost took me out. Now I am, as I said, 46 years old. I have never been in a mosh pit. I have never been in the vicinity of a mosh pit. And upon my first exposure to one, I admit my first impulse was to move in and hammer the little fuck who just slammed me. But I am 46, so this impulse was quickly smothered by the realization that I was wearing my glasses and no longer have a spare set, so if these ones get damaged, I'm fucked vision-wise for the next several days. And so, even though the culprit was not one of the Bane lookalikes, I turned the other cheek. Just like Jesus would have if Jesus was wearing his glasses at a Rammstein show and had just been slammed into by a walking embryo with a faux hawk.

The show continued, and my thoughts alternated between “this is AWESOME” and “I am about to die”. We got pretty good at shifting positions to stay clear of the ever-moving mosh pit. And then a second one opened up on our other side. After fighting off the same initial panic that those humans in the loin cloths in Planet of the Apes must have felt when a new bunch of apes with nets came riding in from the other side of the corn field and they all gave each other that “We are now fucked” look, we began a game of human checkers. Whenever the pit would move in on us we would hop over to an adjacent square. I put it this way only to perpetuate my terrible checkers metaphor. Just wanted you to know I was aware.

It soon became clear that the original pit was clearly the Aryan, and therefore the more frightening of the two mosh pits. The newer pit appeared to be filled with people whose moms had dropped them off at the show. There was a bit of spillover between the two pits, but the scene kid pit was clearly the less intimidating of the two, and we used that info to modify our movements, basically skirting the edge of the scene kid pit as much as possible. At one point I rescued a little Asian girl from being thrown to the ground, grabbing her by the arm and hauling her back up before any harm could come to her. She grinned at me happily and gave me both thumbs up in a “thank you” kind of way. Then she slammed herself into a blonde haired kid who went sprawling.

I couldn't help thinking, though, that the guys in the band must get a bit pissed off by these people. Rammstein may be a German Industrial Metal band, but their show is also, in many ways, a performance art piece. And if I'd worked that hard creating a spectacle on the scale they did, I would want people to watch the damn show. As opposed to spending the entire show focused on other sweaty, shirtless bald men with long chin beards and tattoos and flinging myself into them in an orgy of amped up male aggression and barely-concealed man-lust that, at any moment, could conceivably devolve into a mob of dudes violently stroking each other's dicks with one hand and punching each other's faces with the other.

So, Aryans and scene kids alike: next time try watching the nice show. You might enjoy it. After all, you're still free to come all over each other in the parking lot afterwards.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dale reports on his Hunger Games experience and laments the future of our society

So I went to see The Hunger Games. Not just that, I actually went to one of the midnight screenings on the opening weekend, which proves how hardcore I am.

Okay, not really. I actually went because I got an invite from my nephew Nathan, and honestly, midnight Thursday really seemed like the most convenient time to go. I wanted to see it because Ben and I had read the books awhile back and had both been looking forward to the movie, somewhat aware of the new youth phenom status it's been enjoying. I also knew that the studio was doing its best to exacerbate that by doing irritating things like taking its cast on a US-wide mall tour.

What we were not aware of was the zeal with which the movie was being anticipated by a certain portion of the population. That portion, from what I could see at the theatre that night, is largely made up of eleven and twelve year old girls and their moms. Yes, like Twilight , this movie's fans do include an upsetting number of very sad women over 20 (and even sadder ladies over 30 and even 40). Though, to be fair, the mom sitting behind us seemed to be along as ride and chaperone, as she spent the hour before showtime being briefed on every aspect of the plot, the characters, and which girls in their peer group had crushes on which actors in the movie.

Interesting fact: many of them seem to have crushes on the young actor who plays Peeta, Josh Hutcherson. This was a bit of a surprise to me, since the kid looks like a young and slightly puffy Will Forte character (kind of like if Will Forte had an SNL character based on Rocky Dennis from Mask). The other one makes more sense to me. Gale, played by Thor's brother, has a rugged outdoorsy look to him, and also he looks like Thor's brother.

I have no particular crushes on any of the actors in the movie, not even Elizabeth Banks or Trixie from Deadwood. And, at the risk of sounding like the 46 year old man that I admit I am, I find the whole Hunger Games crowd to be a bit dispiriting. I mean, here's this series of books about youthful rebellion against a heartless, fascist government that, despite its lead character being an independent, smart girl who does not need to define herself through the boy she is in love with, has somehow found a huge following among young teens, and what do they take from it? Well, mainly fashions, from what I could see. The girls behind us spoke at great length about what their friends were wearing, including some “epic” boots. At one point one of them also used the term “Bieber Fever” with absolutely no irony.

We are lost as a people.

And to top it off, the most common costume choice I could see in the lobby after the show was girls dressed as Effie Trinket. Now, for those of you not familiar, let me fill you in: Effie Trinket is a representative from the Capital which, in the movie, is populated by the casts of Dune and Brazil given makeovers by Tim Burton in a Crayola factory. Effie herself looks like some kind of twisted Coco Chanel Kabuki performer.

You would think that a book that so clearly throws into focus the inequities in our own society might spur some kids into social and political awareness. Maybe not into outright activism, but it would be nice if it set off some worthy conversations about how the Hunger Games world echoes our own. Instead, just today, I spotted this headline on

"Which "Twilight" character would win the Hunger Games?"

So yes, this young-adult successor to films like The 10th Victim, Battle Royale, Series 7: The Contenders, and even Spartacus has somehow become the new refuge for Twilight fans who, with the final instalment coming soon, are wildly grasping for something new and cool to obsess over. And diminishing it in the process.

And how did the night go you ask? Well the movie turned out to be pretty good while maintaining its PG13 rating, though the decision to go with hand-held cameras induced Blair Witch levels of nausea on my companions.

But, despite a prediction that I tweeted before the movie began, neither I nor Nathan had to punch a 12-year old in the head.

Because that would be wrong.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dale reports on his post-surgery activities (which include hunting cougars with a knife)

For the last two and a bit weeks, I have been spending most of my time lounging around, in recovery mode due to a hernia repair on Feb. 28. My last post was the night before the surgery, which I was kind of freaking out over, since I have never had surgery before and the idea of someone slicing open my bellybutton and shoving bits of me from the outside to the inside of my body still gives me the heebie jeebies.

This was not helped, by the way, by my friend Donna, whose idea of a pep talk the day before the surgery consisted of telling me about her friend who had a similar surgery and that the pain was like going “to hell and back”. Thank you, Florence Nightingmare.

The surgery went well, with a slight complication that I can't discuss, only because the surgeon explained it to me while I was still heavily sedated, and my memory of this discussion is very likely inaccurate because I can't think of any legitimate way the subject of unicorns could have been part of that particular conversation. Also, I don't think that, during the discussion, I actually woke up back in high school and suddenly realized I was naked and had forgotten to study for my exam. The chances that that was real are slim at best.

The upshot is that I have been unable to sit upright for long periods of time, and so have done no writing. My time has been filled with watching TV, movies, and Red Dead Redemption.

After two weeks of this I was able to take my first long walk, and was exhausted when it was done. Plus my legs were sore for the next two days. After only two weeks of inactivity. Just to be clear, for almost two years I have been working out six days a week, and part of that workout is running between one and three miles every day, depending on my weights/cardio ratio for that week. And I'm not supposed to do any real exercise for several more weeks. So I'm mentally preparing myself for an uphill battle a few weeks from now, with much soreness in the cards.

In the meantime I've watched several of the films I've been meaning to watch, including Warrior, Bellflower, Kill List, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and The House of the Devil. I've also been catching up on and/or re-watching some of my favourite TV shows, like Spaced, Downton Abbey, Dead Set, Peep Show, and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. I'd love to discuss any of these (or other) titles, so feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section. It would be cool to get some lively discourse happening.

And, by the way, I know this post may come across like a diary entry, and in the last two weeks I've had at least three topics to write about pop up, but I did not write them down and, having a shit memory to start with (and lots and lots of Tylenol 3 do not help with this state), I could not remember any of them. So I figured I'd approach this with a sort of “let's catch up” attitude and see where it took me. Not very far, apparently.

As for Red Dead, I had planned on playing through it quickly, since I have a backlog of games I'd like to plow through. These are games that I started and lost track of and need to go back to, like Bioshock, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Arkham Asylum, GTA 4, LA Noire, and Modern Warfare 2. I am also told I need to play the Mass Effect games.

But I can't seem to play through Red Dead quickly, and for that I blame my completionist leanings. With the time I've put into the game, I could have easily finished the main storyline by now, but there are so many side missions and challenges to do that I'm barely a third of the way through the game. And six years of World of Warcraft just makes this worse. I am so used to games being work that I have no problem wasting time with repetitive tasks, like spending hours trying to hunt cougars with a knife, just for a challenge achievement (I need to kill two for the challenge, and still don't have the first kill. Cougars hurt very badly. Also knives just seem to make them angry).

I am also trying to capture (and break) all the breeds of horses in the game (mount-collecting being another by-product of WoW). Horses aren't prized companions in this game, like Trigger or Silver. They die frequently and must be constantly replaced. And much of the time there is nothing you can do about it. I've lost track of the times that I've been riding along, minding my own business, when a cougar (“COUGAR!!!” he screamed at the heavens, cradling his dead horse in his arms) attacked out of nowhere, killing my horse instantly.

My all-time favourite horse-death, however, was a few days ago: I was hunting bad guys in a canyon, and decided to whistle for my horse. A second later I heard his galloping hooves, and turned just in time to watch him plummet down the side of a cliff to his doom. And I don't mean that he leapt of the cliff and crashed to the ground. It was more like he had been killed at the top of the cliff and then was rolled down like a giant bag of wet laundry. Some people see these animals as majestic, noble beasts, but this game just proves what I've always said about horses. They're just big rats with hooves.

Well, that about catches us all up, and I'll keep you posted on my progress in the game. I'm going to go for a long walk now, and then it's back to the great cougar hunt.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dale plays devil's advocate and defends the Oscars, and not even that half-heartedly

Well apparently my guarantees mean nothing.

Just as my 1000 word guarantee has gone out the window several times, so apparently goes my “Billy Crystal will make at least three jokes about how long the show is going” guarantee. Though, as predicted, today's coverage is chock full of complaints about the length of last night's broadcast. Hey assholes. It was three hours long. It is ALWAYS three hours long. Get over it.

As for the rest of it, here's my assessment:

Billy Crystal was a competent host and, as expected, his material was pretty lame and whatever the opposite of bleeding edge is. He opened the show the same way he used to in his glory days: by inserting himself into a montage of clips, doing a few of Bruce Vilanche's jokes, and then doing his “Oscar Song” (“Its a wonderful night for Oscar. Oscar Oscar. Who will win?” - yeah that one).

The montage, usually one of the highlights, was pretty lame, though you have to hand it to George Clooney; the guy's a sport. The low point was the insertion of that singing dolphin in shoes, Justin Bieber, in a lame bit about appealing to a younger demographic that was not helped by Crystal hauling out his Sammy Davis Jr. impression for one last laugh, or in this case, complete comedic black hole.

Crystal's monologue was pretty much as expected (apparently Vilanche was not involved this year – not sure why), though a few things struck me. First, is it just me, or has Crystal actually turned into that Catskills comedian he used to play on SNL and made the movie Mr. Saturday Night about? Also, his presentation seemed just a bit desperate, which may be for one of two reasons that I can think of: Jack Nicholson was not there for him to throw to every time one of his bits didn't land, and also his face kind of looked like an old catcher's mitt perched on top of a tuxedo. Was there some kind of sitcommy botched botox incident before the show? Like that episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this season?

Here's the thing though.

I love edgy comedy, and edgy comedians. I liked Billy Crystal a long time ago, but he really has become a relic of the past. But what even I forget sometimes is that the Oscars are not supposed to be a comedy show. It's an awards ceremony. The format? People get up and make speeches, then give trophies to other people who then come up and make speeches. The fact that they spice it up with comedy and movie clips is very much appreciated, but those things are extraneous portions of what, by nature, is a dull event.

Sure, it's way more exciting for me if someone with a bit of edge is going to host. I'm one of the few who loved David Letterman's hosting gig, and Chris Rock was great. But damn, as long as it's not Whoopi Goldberg, I don't really care (though last year's Franco/Hathaway debacle was awkward on so many levels, maybe Billy is a way to reset the whole process and attain some kind of equilibrium).

One last thought about the host: the pundits always talk about how the members of the Academy are so old, which is why certain types of films almost always receive nominations, and that is a valid complaint. A large portion of the membership does not put any work or thought into who they nominate. They do not do what I, were I an Academy member, would do. They do not methodically compile a list of the films they saw that year, and then scan critics' lists for highly rated movies that may have flown under their radar, then make an attempt to see as many of those as possible before deciding which films to put on their lists.

Most members pick their favourites from the past year and make all their choices out of those few films. And it is well known that a ridiculously large number of them merely wait to see what happens at the Golden Globes and other awards shows that happen before them.

However, aside from the various injustices of which these people are annually guilty, when it comes to the ceremony and the host, it's their Academy, not mine. And if they want the ceremony to have a certain amount of reverence, or blandness, then I guess that's their right. I realized last night after my tenth eye-roll at one of Billy's lame jokes (followed by that little smile that tells everyone just how pleased he is with himself) that I wasn't watching the latest Louis C.K. Stand-up special, I was watching the latest broadcast of an esteemed event that's been going on for almost a hundred years. And while it's fun to watch a host who'll take the piss out of some of them, it's their right to say “No. Ricky Gervais scares the shit out of us”.

So what we got last night was a totally predictable evening, made even more predictable by the fairly lacklustre crop of nominees and the fact that pretty much every award given out was pretty much a lock. You know it's a predictable Oscar night when the only upset is Meryl Streep sneaking in to take the Best Actress award from Viola Davis. Then again, who would have imagined a world where anyone could consider Meryl Streep an underdog?

I have a lot more to say but am going to cut this short. I may bring some of them up later. But before I sign off I want to share one quick observation. I was live-tweeting the ceremony last night (follow me @nervoushospital. Please, anyone) and late in the show The Artist won yet another award (it might have even been Best Picture). The producer started speaking, and he looked eerily like Peter Lorre back in his M days. I tweeted, “Holy shit! Peter Lorre has risen from the grave!” A minute late, Patton Oswalt tweets, “I wonder if the director of THE ARTIST realizes he has a chalk “M” on the back of his tux.”

See? This shows why Patton is one of the most successful and talented comedians out there while I am a schlub with twelve followers.

Wait! Thirteen! The gap begins to close! Maybe with hard work and much, much more talent, I'll get there one day!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dale talks Oscars. That's pretty much it. Oscars.

When I was ten years old I was allowed to see my first Mature movie.

Back then movie ratings went from General to Mature to Parental Guidance (if you were under 18, you had to have a parent or guardian with you – as the years went by, my friends and I tested the definition of “guardian” many, many times) to Restricted, which meant you weren't getting in unless you could prove you were 18. Or if you were a very tall 16 with a sprinkling of pube-like facial hair and ended up getting the box office cashier who didn't give a shit.

And then you would walk in to the Odeon Theatre to see Conan The Barbarian, feeling triumphant glee at making it past the gate sentry mixed with breathless anticipation for what was sure to be the greatest masterpiece ever filmed by humans, ever in the history of films or the history of humans. You would turn to Cole and Craig, your two friends, one of whom drove us here from Selkirk, MB in his Mom's station wagon, ready to high five each other out of pure joy. You would look around, puzzled, trying to figure out what happened to Cole and Craig. They were right behind you at the box office, after all. You would glance back at the large window looking out at the street and see Cole and Craig out there, faces pressed to the glass like little kids waiting for the unveiling of the Macy's Christmas toy display. They would look at you, sad but in an odd way elated that one of their number got under the wall. And then, to your surprise, they would signal to you that you should go ahead. See the movie for all of us. They would meet up with you later.

You don't find those kinds of friends very often.

Too bad the movie turned out to be a mixed bag. Some of the worst acting in the history of cinema combined with what is very likely the manliest movie of all time. Plus it set a new high water mark for fastest time to decapitation.

But that isn't what I'm here to talk about.

When I was ten years old I was allowed to see my first Mature movie.

The picture was Jaws and I wanted to see that movie with a zeal bordering on religious. My parents were pretty strict about which movies my brother and I were allowed to see, but they had prescreened this one and gave it the all clear. Considering the material as I look back I'm not sure what it was about Jaws that was okay for a ten year old (and his nine year old brother now that I think of it). My assumption is that, much like with the people who rate movies today, as long as there are no boobs, bush, sex or swearing, it's all good. Severed heads, geysers of spouting blood, and watching a man being eaten alive? Jaws has all those things, but I suppose the general consensus is that those are things that build character.

Not that I'm complaining. At the time (and for two more years – until Star Wars came out), Jaws was the greatest motion picture I had ever seen.

So that winter, when I found out it was nominated for something called an “Academy Award”? Well, I was on board for that. Go Jaws! And so, for the first time ever, I eagerly awaited an Oscar ceremony, not suspecting that after that first one I would be hooked, and not miss another one until I was old.

There were a few things that excited me about the show. The first was, obviously, the chance to cheer on the greatest movie of all time as it competed for glory and honour.

The second was that during the show they would show clips from Jaws, the greatest movie of all time. Yes, they actually used to do that. There was a time when the producers of the Oscars broadcast assumed that people who loved movies were watching, and so the show was geared to them, with lots of clips showcasing the work of the various nominees, and a bunch of features celebrating the history and the craft of moviemaking.

For me, that first show was magical. Transcendent even. It led me to some classic films, but the main impact was that in 1976, before I turned eleven, I actively wanted to see movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Man Who Would Be King, and Dog Day Afternoon. These were movies that would never have been on my radar at the time, but thanks to the Oscars, I was now aware of them, had seen some great scenes from them, and thought that they looked amazing.

I have watched every Oscar broadcast since then, waiting for each one with excitement, though it seems with each passing year that excitement wanes just a bit.

Each year, movies or performances I love are routinely snubbed, undeserving movies beat deserving ones (Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture in 1989 against movies like Do The Right Thing, Field of Dreams, and Glory, to name just a few), and each year the ceremony becomes less and less about the love of movies and more and more about appealing to the general population (yes, I intentionally used a prison term there). Apparently, people don't like a long ceremony - I guarantee that tonight there will be at least three jokes by Billy Crystal about how long the show is running - even though they seem to love five hours of fashion assessment by desperate, cocaine-fuelled E! correspondents (or even worse, the fistful of assholes that inhabit Canada's entertainment news networks) from the Red Carpet.

Which means, in their yearly attempt to shorten the show, they lose more clips, tributes, and montages. And yet somehow the show stays the same length. And the next day the pundits all complain about how damn long the ceremony was. You know what? Some of us actually like movies, and actually want to watch the show. And you know what? When you like something and are having fun, you don't mind if it runs a little bit long. So screw the Toddlers & Tiaras/Real Housewives/Kardashian trogs out there and make the fucking thing about movies again. I guarantee, all those assholes will still watch, and they'll all complain about the show being long and boring, but I also guarantee that they'll find it long and boring anyway, unless you find some way to start giving awards to stuff like Jack & Jill and Zookeeper. And the People's Choice Awards already does that.

I'll be watching tonight, and I'm looking forward to it, even if this is the most uninspiring set of nominees I've seen in a long time. I really liked a lot of the films, don't get me wrong, but the only one I really loved is Hugo. But since PG films rarely win the major awards I'm not holding out too much hope. So we'll see what happens and I'll share my thoughts with you tomorrow. I'm also thinking about live-tweeting the show, so feel free to follow me @nervoushospital on the Twitters!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

After a long absence, Dale's voice cries out from the Darkest Depths of Saskatchewan

I’ve been on the road for a while now and, I gotta tell ya, find it super hard to write from hotel rooms.

Part of the problem is that I’m one of those writers who can’t take any distraction while writing, not even music. I need complete silence to get anything accomplished. And hotels are rarely distraction-free. In fact, as I am writing this very sentence my next door neighbour has decided to go out for the evening, announcing this to the rest of us (“the rest of us” being everyone staying at this hotel) by slamming his door multiple times, presumably to be sure the job was done right, and then yelling to whoever is outside waiting for him. I think one of them has beer, or has plans to get beer. Their words were hard to make out, but a lot of intention can be read through tone.

Meanwhile, down the hall, some parent, or group of parents, have decided to send their kids out to participate in the ongoing Hotel Corridor Olympiad that seems to  have been running during the months of January and February in various hotels throughout Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. I myself have not been following the results, but am guessing that the home teams have been doing well, judging by the frequent sounds of celebration ringing through the halls. And two weeks ago, at the Days Inn in Regina, there was a team of eleven year old ringette players whose victory was so glorious that the celebrations went on well into the night.

So yeah, there are distractions.

The other problem is that when I’m on the road I’m stressed out and depressed. I miss my kids, I miss my wife, I miss my friends, and yes, I miss my stuff. And with a brain that’s always clanging around like a pinball on a 10,000 point run at the best of times, things like stress and depression make it almost impossible to achieve the state of near-nirvana that I need to get to to write.

It used to be easy, when I could just eat my feelings. The best cure for road-blues used to be going out, buying a big bag of whatever salty, snacky, comfort food struck my fancy, and gorge myself on it alone in my room, away from the judging eyes of others. Others whose high and mighty “my body is a temple“ outlook would never allow them to understand the need to occasionally crush up a bag of Doritos and pour the results directly from the bag into my mouth like I’m chugging a yard of ale.

But goddammit, that’s not an option anymore. It’s hard enough to eat right on the road as it is, but piling on a 1200 calorie bag of cheetos is just not in the cards for this guy these days.

Quick note: I just noticed that Microsoft Works auto-corrected the word “goldsmith” in the last paragraph and replaced it with “goldsmith”. Just thought you should know.

Anyway, I haven’t posted anything for two weeks, and above is my feeble-ass excuse for that. I need to keep reminding myself that, one: I am allowed to write a short post (in fact, I assume most people prefer shorter posts), and two: once I get going I end up having plenty to say. Too much in fact, the result being that I have broken my 1000 word limit promise twice now.

So I’ll quickly update my recent gaming and movie-watching progress.

Firstly, in GEEK TALK news, the item I mentioned sarcastically two weeks ago, the cloth shoulders my priest in WoW needs? They still have not dropped, and my kill count on that boss is now 31. I had no plans on discussing the issue again, but come on! Thirty-One times!

Aside from that, I’ve been playing some retro games on Steam. My eldest recently bought me the Serious Sam collection on sale and I’ve been running through the first one of those lately.

Serious Sam is a first-person shooter from a few years back that combines the massive, monster-filled battles of the original Doom with the laid back, comedic, misogynist tone of Duke Nukem, and the frantic pace of what I imagine Gary Busey‘s dreams are like. This is a game that features headless kamikaze bombers who run at you from a mile away, holding big cartoony bombs in their hands, screaming at you as they rush you, even though, since they have no heads, they seemingly have nothing to scream from. But that is a large part of the game‘s charm.

Since I am nearing the end of my word limit, I will wait until next time to discuss Atom Zombie Smasher, a fun little game that I was obsessing over for a few weeks of this trip.

But before I sign off, I’ll update you on my progress regarding Friday movie night: So far I have managed to get a movie watched every Friday, even if that meant putting a DVD into my laptop and watching it on the weeny screen. Last night I finally got around to watching MacGruber, which I liked very much, even though much of it was more miss than hit.

I have also watched Choke on the laptop, which I thought was okay, but it’s based on my favourite Chuck Palahniuk book and I didn’t feel the movie lived up to the book.

I also saw some movies in actual theatres, though the selection has been limited lately, unless I want to break down and see The Vow or Phantom Menace 3D. And since I feel no urge to fight the desire to pound railroad spikes into my eyes, I’ve stuck to the laptop. But I did manage to see Soderbergh’s Haywire a week or two ago, along with Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Maybe we can discuss those movies next time, along with a discussion of the Oscars that, since we’re dealing with me, seems inevitable.

1011 words. God. DAMMIT!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dale plays Red Dead Redemption and, as usual, is unjustly vilified after trying to do the right thing

News from the gaming front.

Okay, I admit I've been languishing in my comfort zone, playing World of Warcraft most evenings. Again, this is mainly because I have friends online who actually look forward to playing with me. Also, there is a set of cloth shoulders that my priest needs that just will not drop. I have killed the boss who drops them exactly twenty three times and the one time they dropped, they got ninja'd by some retarded, cheeto-eating ass-monkey of a warlock, who Needed on them to vend them for some quick gold. I mean, isn't it enough that, as a warlock, he's using me as his personal mana pool? Go back to the lame PVP realm you came from, jackass!

And that concludes tonight's episode of GEEK TALK. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Anyhoo, in the last month, outside of WoW, I have been playing a few different games.

The best one is Red Dead Redemption, a game I started right after it came out a couple years ago, but lost track of after putting in no more than a couple hours into it. I seem to do that with a lot of Xbox games. I start getting into them, but then find myself not playing them for awhile, often due to the console not being available to me for the reason of teen males in the house.

But, more commonly, it's so much work to go all the way downstairs, find the disc I need, eject whichever one's in the damn machine, put mine in, let it load, log in to the machine, and finally load up whichever level you were on. I mentioned being lazy in my last post. This may begin to illustrate the deverity of my laziness. I have actually had the moment from that Jim Gaffigan bit – the one where you're laying on the couch and your show ends, an infomercial comes on, and you reach for the remote but can't find it. You then look at the length of the path from the couch to the TV and say to yourself, “Well I guess I'm watching this then.” I told people that story long before I'd ever heard of Mr. Gaffigan, but it is comforting to know there are others like me out there.

The point is, when I find myself away from a game for more than a week or two, especially a game with a narrative, I lose my enthusiasm for it and feel like I need to start over since I've likely forgotten potentially important story elements. Because I am not only lazy. I am also dumb.

Now that I have an Xbox upstairs though, I can play whenever I want, plus I save a couple of crucial steps. No downstairs trip and the disc in the machine has a very good chance of being the one I left there last time I played. And at the moment, that disc is Red Dead Redemption.

In this game, you play a scarred gunfighter with a mysterious and checkered past. Not a big stretch since every single video game character in history has some dark back-story. From Mario and his alleged ties to the Gambino family to Sonic's suspected substance abuse , no video game character has ever been known for living the clean life (except for Pac Man, who has never raised a hand to his wife and whose reputation as a gentleman is above reproach).

But back to Red Dead. The game starts you off with a whole bunch of long cut scenes that involve you getting shot and rescued (and nursed back to health) by an attractive widow (I have no idea if she is actually a widow or not, but she might as well be). You do some work for her on her ranch to help you learn the basic mechanics of the game, and then you strike out on missions. The plot really doesn't matter, but in the few hours of game time I've played there have been a few notable moments.

Most of these moments deal with game mechanics that I didn't know were in place, so one time, as I was trying to search the body of a fallen bad guy I instead accidentally skinned his dead horse. This doesn't sound like such a big deal, but you have to remember this game is made by Rockstar, the people who brought you both the Grand Theft Auto series and Manhunt, a game which increased your performance rating based on the extremity and gruesomeness of the murders you performed. It was a delight that in no way produced a generation of potential Dexters.

My point is that, by accidentally hitting the “skin horse” button instead of the “search dead guy” button, I found myself suddenly awash in a crazy arterial spray right out of Kill Bill as my onscreen avatar chopped and hacked away happily. I don't think he was whistling, but I can't be sure. Blood was everywhere, including on the camera lens. Remember, it's a video game, so there is no actual camera. Somebody made the decision to spray the pretend camera lens with pretend blood.

But the absolute best moment so far was during some down time in the story. I was walking around a little town, exploring, when I heard a ruckus in a nearby alleyway. Checking it out, I discovered a scene right out of the opening of Unforgiven. An angry cowboy was beating on a prostitute, yelling at her. I think she may have laughed at either the size or quality of his junk, but can't recall precisely.

I step over and try to interact with him in some way; maybe open up a chat window with some dialogue options like, “Hey, stop beating the whore in this here alleyway”, or “Drop that there knife to the ground, real quick-like”. Oh yeah, by now he had his knife out and was cutting her up real violent-like. Within seconds she was dead on the ground so, like any paragon of justice would, I drew my gun to bring this villain in.

Immediately, the man ran away. Now, I had just done a mission where I brought a fugitive in, and one option was to take him alive. So when I fought him I was allowed to shoot him in the leg, incapacitating him and allowing him to be captured without having to kill him.

So, armed with this knowledge of the game and my newfound ability to take men alive, I drew a bead on the murderous scoundrel, lowered my aim to his legs, and fired.

The result? The dirty sumbitch drops to the ground, stone dead, and a game message pops up at the top corner of the screen, telling me that doing bad things will lower my reputation and people in the game will start closing their doors to me.

I remember, years ago, playing Age of Empires and sending my soldiers across the map. I would then check on my base and monitor whatever construction was going on, and when my soldiers should have reached their target I would check on them to find that they had not reached their destination. Was it because enemy troops had discovered and ambushed them? Nope, they were stuck halfway to their destination, marching in place, piled up into a cliff wall like that marching band in Animal House.

So even in this new age of sophisticated games and advanced AI, you still have to deal with dumb-dumbs.

Just like real life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dale begins to report January's re-nerding progress but gets side-tracked preaching about movies

The thing you need to understand is that I am inherently lazy. And not in the “I think I'll sleep in an extra twenty minutes” kind of way. If not for guilt and the ever-increasing and urgent needs of the body for sustenance and, more often, waste disposal, I could probably rationalize myself into a full day's worth of extra sleep. I could do this every day.

But guilt and duty pull me up (eventually) each morning and I rise to take on the world, which I realize will eventually pummel me into submission until I am old and spend my days complaining about how the nursing staff is stealing from me and lying to my grandchildren about bands that I've never seen. I will also in all likelihood hold several petty grudges and nurse elaborate planned vengeances against unsuspecting enemies for minor crimes blown wildly out of proportion by my frenzied imagination. I make this last assumption based on the behaviour of people in my own family who, as they age, have gained the ability to hold grudges like Dick Nixon, but thankfully do not have a team of former CIA operatives to carry out their orders.

I mention my tendency toward laziness to set up my lack of dramatic progress on my re-nerding project. This is not to suggest that I've made no progress, just less than I know I could have made.

So in this post I will lay out the first part of my January progress report.

On the movie front, Friday night movies have been successfully implemented. Troy was over on Friday and, as expected, we watched only one film. Since Warren wasn't present we held off on Shaun of the Dead and opted to watch The Guard. We both loved it and, based on Troy's enjoyment of it, I decided that he will also enjoy In Bruge. Both films feature Brendon Gleeson trading colourful quips with a talented co-star, they both make similar use of their settings, and both combine comedy and drama in a unique way. They also both have really entertaining villains. So we'll be watching that one soon.

After The Guard was done, I suggested that, since it was reasonably early, we could watch a second film. At that point it was explained to me that since we had just watched a movie that we really enjoyed, a second one would be anticlimactic. Or it would be too much of a good thing. Or something. I can't really recall, but suffice to say it made little sense to me. I mean, if we had just listened to a really great song, I wouldn't have told him, “Okay, that's enough music for tonight. We don't want to ruin this feeling.” I guarantee we'll be discussing this on future movie nights.

My wife, Karen, is of the same opinion, by the way, though she leans more to the “I've seen that movie, why would I watch it again” school of thought. My response to this is similar to the one above. I cannot imagine the following scenario:

Warren: Hey Dale, I just got this new remaster of Pearl Jam's Ten album! I'll just pop it into the old CD player, yeah?
Dale: Pfft. I heard those songs once. Why would I want to hear them again?
Warren: Umm, because they're awesome? And the whole album's been remastered.
Dale: Take your CD and get the hell out of my house.
Warren: What? What the hell did I do?
Warren: God, you're such an asshole now.

Correction: I can imagine certain aspects of that scenario, just not the parts where I refuse to listen to Ten.

Anyway, my point is that for people like me, movies are like music. I have certain films that, if I'm flipping channels and run into one of them? Well I'm stuck there for the long haul. This list includes titles like Rio Bravo, The Shawshank Redemption, The Big Lebowski, and rarer these days, Casablanca, All About Eve, and The Maltese Falcon. These are all movies that, to my mind, grow better with age. They are all eminently quotable, and the dialogue becomes more enjoyable the better you know it. This is especially true in Lebowski, where the more you listen to the dialogue the more you note patterns, repetitions, and callbacks that are embedded throughout the movie. Lines like “This aggression will not stand, man”, and “in the parlance of our times” become so much more meaningful and funny on repeated viewings.

None of this, however, can match the outright joy you get when you discover a film that you realize you're going to have a life-long love affair with. And no repeat viewing can ever recapture the experience of seeing that movie for the very first time. There are so many movies that I wish I could erase from my memory just so I could go back and watch them with fresh eyes one more time. The six movies I listed above are all great examples, but there are many more that come to mind, like Rushmore and Blue Velvet, two movies that changed the way I watched movies forever.

But until they actually create one of those little Men in Black flash doodads, we're stuck with our memories.

There is one thing you can do, however, that brings you as close as you can get to actual rediscovery, and is something I do whenever possible - show the movie to someone who hasn't seen it. Believe me, if I find out a friend hasn't seen Casablanca? Well guess what we're doing next Friday? It works, because for a brief few moments you kind of see the movie through their eyes and it makes you remember all those joyful little moments that you had when you first saw it. Trust me, this really works. Unless your friend doesn't like the movie.

Or should I say, ex-friend.

Of course, exceptions sometimes have to be made. Like, for example, if you were to show your wife Almost Famous, almost dancing with gleeful anticipation of the joyful discovery she was about to experience, and then for some reason, she was totally underwhelmed by it? A frivolous disagreement like that couldn't possibly be worth a huge fight followed by hours of silence and glaring, finally culminating in an unspoken agreement to never ever mention that movie again, as long as we both live.

Or so I imagine...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dale reminisces about the D&D glory days and finds pointless, wasteful uses for wondrous technology

I used to play role-playing games a lot. In high school and during university it wasn't uncommon for me and a group of friends to run late night sessions of Dungeons and Dragons or GURPS, crash until noon, and then continue where we left off. I don't recall very many shower breaks for the boys on these weekends. Come to think about it, if we did this for a whole weekend the room would start to smell like some kind of exotic, unrefrigerated meat.

During my adult years, like most of my more nerdish pastimes, rpgs became a less and less frequent activity. These days I still dabble occasionally, but some of my friends have kept it up and continue to run regular weekend sessions, though since they are old like me, these sessions never become gaming marathons like the old days. In fact they rarely make it past 11:00.

On the plus side the room usually smells great.

Part of me is jealous that they've kept up with it while I have not, but they play on Saturday nights and since my wife is not a gamer, I am left with a choice: do things with my wife and family on the one night we generally are all free, or leave them and sit around a table, roll dice, drink soda, and eventually get slain by an elf.

Sometimes this choice is not as easy as it sounds.

Once in a while (a longer and longer while as time goes by) I find myself being invited to start up a regular session with these friends on a non-Saturday night, or as we refer to it, Friday. Fridays are a bit better for me. Karen is usually tired and doesn't care if we do anything. Also, she seems quite happy to get to bed early. My kids have reached the point that they no longer notice if I'm not at home. I have literally left town for days and come back to find out that at least one of them didn't realize I had been gone.

One of the directives of this new project I've begun (you know, the one where I attempt to put all the nerdy things I love into a higher-prioriy area of my life? And decided to devote a blog to? Keep up) was based on the realization that I was not watching anywhere near the amount of movies I used to (I have literally been buying more DVDs than I've been watching, so that now, next to my unread book pile there is a sad unwatched disc pile). I decided to set Friday night as movie night. Every Friday I must watch at least one movie, from any source. Anyone is welcome to join me, but for about a month and a half now I have spent at least two hours in my basement, watching movies. Alone.

The point is, I don't feel as much guilt going out on Fridays. So we've tried to set up rpg campaigns to run every second Friday night, a schedule that I can commit to, excepting the occasional Friday where I'm out of town for work. For some reason, these campaigns always seem to crash and burn, and every time this happens, there's a longer wait period before I get invited to another.

Early last year, I got a call from my friend Dave, who is not in my usual gaming group. A writer, Dave was working on creating a campaign world for the Dungeons and Dragons universe that he hoped to submit, or at the very least get a novel out of. So to get in the mind-set and to work out some world and story ideas, he wanted to get a group together to play Dungeons and Dragons. I agreed and about once every month, we've gotten together to play. And it's not just D&D, it's 1st Edition D&D. For non-Rpers, this is the equivalent of a Halo player suddenly deciding to devote himself to his old copy of Doom. If you're not gamer enough to understand that comparison, I will break it down into total non-gaming terms: it would be like going from Wii Tennis to Pong.

But it's fun. We've all pulled out our old rulebooks, some of which haven't seen the light of day since the early 80s. And unlike my other group, most of these guys haven't played D&D since the early 80s, so I feel like a bigshot.

We were supposed to play last Wednesday night. I, unfortunately, had to be in Dryden that night, but gave my blessing to run the game without me, since this group is tough to pull together, and I was the only one unavailable. I joked about Skyping them to check how things were going and left it at that.

The night of the game, I finished my business in Dryden just after 10:00 and texted Dave to see how things were going, and asked if there happened to be a Skype-enabled laptop at the gaming table. As it happened, there actually was, and a few moments later I was sitting at the table, my disembodied face glowing out at the guys from my accustomed spot at the table.

I had planned on visiting for a few moments but instead found the game progressing and becoming involved. I even had Bob, the guy with the biggest hands, roll dice for me at an angle that created the illusion that it was my hands sticking through the screen and rolling them onto their table. It was awesome, even though my rolls that night sucked for some reason. And for an hour and a half I sat at that table, not feeling like I was missing out, joking with the guys, and playing D&D. We truly are living in a world of wonders when such amazing technology can be utilized for a purpose that ridiculous, aren't we?

The only down side was that I was also forced to watch them gorging themselves on salty snacks of which I could not partake. However, since they were unaware of this particular cruelty, I decided not to take them to task on it or hold a grudge.

As for my solo Friday movie nights, I'm trying something different. This Friday I have invited actual friends to join me. Troy and Warren will be coming over and we're having a double feature of “movies Troy needs to see”. In reality I only expect to get one movie down, since Troy isn't a double-feature kind of guy. I know this because, while discussing which movies to watch, he expressed his “strenuous opposition” to watching two movies. So I expect we'll watch Shaun of the Dead and call it a night. Which is fine with me, as long as we can push things past 11:00.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dale probes the roots of his nerd-rage, works on self-improvement, and eats soup

What is wrong with me?

There I was in the common room of the Holiday Inn Express that is my home for the next two days. Popular for their free hot breakfasts, this one does something I haven't seen before: At 5:00 they put out a cheese and crackers platter and two kinds of soup. Today's choices were gumbo and broccoli with cheese. So, as you can imagine, the place was PACKED. I mean, free gumbo, are you kidding me?

I sat alone with my little paper bowl and my plastic spoon, thinking about the fact that life doesn't get any better than this, and started listening in on the conversation at the table next to me. I couldn't help it because, one, they were pretty loud and, two, they were talking about movies.

Now I am famously dickish when it comes to movie conversations. I admit it and accept that this is just one of the many ways that I can be an asshole. I am aware of this, and am working hard to conquer this articular shortcoming. As Jules in Pulp Fiction would say, I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd. Perhaps in some future post I'll discuss my dickishness at length, but for now I'll just stick to the movies.

Now, these people weren't committing any particularly heinous sins. Nobody in their group praised the work of Michael Bay or Uwe Boll (Yes, I put those two in the same sentence - Boll fucking deserves it). Nobody made that speech about not liking subtitled movies because they "just want to shut off their brains and enjoy the movie". And not one of them mentioned 3D being the saviour of the film industry.

No, their sin was not any sort of wild declaration that offended my soul both as a movie lover and as a human being. Their sin? They said things that were wrong. And not even horribly wrong. One of the women said that she didn't think the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was worth seeing because Hollywood remakes suck. Now under any normal circumstances I would have smiled quietly to myself and withheld the compulsion to go over and hug her. Because for the most part I completely agree with her. Plus she demonstrated knowledge that a foreign film actually exists, so bonus points.

Under normal circumstances.

In this case though, I just wanted to barge over there; not to hug her, but to announce that it's "not a Hollywood film, it's a David Fincher film!" (Interesting side note - when I thought it, I could hear myself saying it in my own rich baritone voice. But seeing it typed out I can only hear it in the voice of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy. I am a sad sad man.) I also wanted to ask her if she was nervous that the horrible, upsetting rapes would be too toned down for her in the “Hollywood” version. After all, I seem to recall the tagline for the Swedish original was something along the lines of, “Come for the subtitles, but stay for the brutal raping”. Or something like that.

There were a few other moments like that, none of them really worth getting worked up over, but it got me thinking: that kind of opinionated self-righteousness is a true nerd characteristic. Which becomes even clearer when you can suddenly hear your own words coming out of the mouth of Comic Book Guy. Why the hell was I so bothered by the conversation of those nice people? Maybe it was because they had the nerve to not only exclude me from their conversation, but to not even have the courtesy to consult me before making statements about movies! Are we as nerds so touchy about having our opinions disagreed with that we even get angry at people who not only don’t even realize they’re disagreeing with us, but don’t even know we exist (and are eavesdropping on their conversation)?

Probably not. It’s probably just me.

But since I’m all about self-improvement ( mainly in an attempt to no longer alienate an ever-increasing number of friends and relations), I held my tongue and finished my soup. There’s a lesson there that we all need to learn from time to time. As Emily Post might very well have said, sometimes the best thing you can do is shut the fuck up, finish your soup, and scurry back to your room.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dale concludes his laborious introduction and begins a journey both stupid and clever

So, at the risk of this becoming a thing, I must apologize once again. I got a comment (yes, just the one, but it does help explain why I love Lindsay so damn much) after my last post that referenced the “big reveal” coming up. Let me clarify: there is no “reveal”. All I am doing in this post is concluding the introduction to my blog. There will be no fireworks or children's choirs to celebrate the announcement, and nobody reading this will make any kind of delighted exclamation and read it out loud to their spouse or significant other in gleeful amazement. Trust me, if you've read the first two posts, the point should be mostly apparent by now anyway. At the very least, you must have concluded that I am, at the very least, going to ramble at length about things that are on my mind.

Well, that's at least partially true. I tend to ramble and go off on tangents when I write, and things that I intend to keep short end up being, well, long. So one of my goals with this is to discipline myself and work on brevity. So I will not be going over 1000 words on any post. That's the Krawchuk guarantee! *this is not a guarantee.

Another goal is to get back to writing regularly. I want to keep this thing up and post at least two or three times per week. And since I actually plan to tell people about this blog, the pressure will be on and I will have to write or reveal myself for the all-talk, lying blowhard that I fear deep down in my heart of hearts that I actually am.

Now I realize that so far it seems like this whole thing is for me. What's in it for you, you ask? Well have no fear, I do plan to keep things entertaining. My anecdotes have frequently been described as “enjoyable”, though I have also heard the terms “pointless” and “in need of closure”, but in my opinion all three of those can entertain at some level.

I also plan to be honest. And when I say honest I mean I will be unflinchingly forthright about my opinions, my thoughts and feelings, my fears, my doubts, and most of all, buckets and buckets of self-mockery. I was going to say “self-hate”, but I'm really not sure if I actually hate myself or if it's merely self-loathing. I gave it some thought and decided that either way, there would be self-mockery. Oh, and of course, mockery of others.

Is that it, you ask? You're just going to post a few times every week and ramble about whatever's on your mind?

Well, no I'm not. Though I did try that a couple years ago and found it fun and the posts were amusing (don't believe me? They're still up on Blogspot. Look for Dale's Brain), I feel like I need to hone in a little bit. And that's where the story about my kids from last post comes in. It made me realize: I'm no longer a gamer. The only game I play regularly is World of Warcraft, and trust me, WoW does not count as an actual game. It has several game-like elements, but it is really a social experience and an escape for me at this point. Many may argue with that statement and perhaps I'll devote a post to it some day, but the fact remains, I would finish up my day and sink into my desk chair, fire up my Mac, and holiday in Azeroth for a couple hours each evening. Which is great, don't get me wrong. I have great fun and hang with fun people. But it does not compare to the days when I would log on to Counterstrike every night and battle for my life against incredibly skilled opponents with deadly virtual weaponry.

I have played bits of some awesome games on Xbox and on my computer, but it's always just way more convenient to log on to WoW. Plus there's competition for my Xbox much of the time. It's downstairs set up in my home theatre area, and my kids can be found down there much of the time.

Anyway, I decided that I was going to make time to play more games. Get outside my comfort zone and actually get into some of the games I've been wanting to play. And then I thought, maybe I should write about that. I'm now a lame gamer, I know, and my skills and reflexes are not anywhere near what they once were, and I'm sure I'd have some amusing tales to tell.

Then I thought, “Wait!” There must be tons of guys with similar issues. I mean, I haven't just been neglecting my love of gaming. I don't write as much as I used to. I don't watch movies as much as I used to. I don't read as much as I used to. When you're eighteen, you have energy and time to do all the shit you want, and it doesn't seem to be over in five minutes like all my activities now seem to do (Wait, maybe I should rephrase that, both for grammatical reasons and for the potential unintended implication. No! No time!). But as you get older, and things like jobs, and spouses, and kids start to demand the bulk of your time, and rightly so, how do you still find the time and energy to keep up your more trivial passions?

The answer is that I have no idea.

But I'm going to try. On Boxing Day I bought a second Xbox for my house that I've hooked into my upstairs TV, and damn it! I am going to use it. It's not much, but it's a first step. The rest I'll work at and see what I figure out as I go.

And there you are. I'll keep at it and post regular reports from the field. And I already have a couple of amusing anecdotes from playing Red Dead Redemption. But seeing as how I'm breaking my 1000 word limit guarantee by writing this sentence, I will stop here and express my hope that you'll find my musings worth your time and that you'll pop in once in a while and check out my progress.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Picture Begins to Form. The World's Longest Preamble Begins to Conclude. Is There a Point? Maybe!

Okay, first of all, a couple apologies regarding my last post. First for that comment about my sons eating the equivalent of the Gross Domestic Product of a small to moderate agrarian nation. Reading it over again last night, I couldn't help thinking that I'd started to wander into Erma Bombeck territory. Or at the very least, was now writing the kind of material you see middle-aged lady standups performing: you know, my husband's a macho buffoon, my kids are blah blah blah, yada yada yada my vagina, and so on. So once again, my apologies.

Second, the stuff about paying for autographs. I realized earlier today that one of my closest friends, Kevin, recently took his family to Dragon Con and did exactly that. Now, just to be clear, were I at Dragon Con there would be many things I would be all over, and my envy for Kevin going there is palpable and borders on rage, it's just that lining up to meet celebrities would not be one of my activities. Part of it is probably that I feel that whole process just fuels their hate for their fans, though it is more likely that deep down I believe that it would fuel their hate for me in particular. And Kevin has now met Edward James Olmos while I have not. Furthermore he has a picture of Edward with his arm around Kev's shoulder to prove it, so overall I lose.

Anyway, back to where I left off yesterday. Family man, 40s, no free time, kind of a nerd. Check.

So I love lots of nerd stuff, but to a less obsessive degree than others in my social circle. Except movies. I think most of my friends cede that one to me for the most part, and it is probably the one subject I can discuss with my friends where I don't detect a barely-concealed condescension from them. Hell, I've even gotten the occasional phone call from them to settle a movie argument.

Now coming in second among my great passions (not including Karen; I could give all these things up in a day if that's what you demanded my darling) (Is she gone?) (I think so) (*phew*), and the one that, more than any of the others sets me firmly in nerd territory, has always been gaming. I have always loved board games and have owned, played and enjoyed everything from Monopoly to Squad Leader to Settlers of Catan. I also love role-playing games and my younger days were filled with long nights of Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS. And though I never got an Atari 2600 when I was a kid (though I would have paid any price, up to and including contract murders), our family did get an Intellivision a year or two later, and for a time my life felt complete.

When I hit my 20s I got into computer gaming and started with an Amiga 500 which, a year later, I upgraded to ONE FULL MEGABYTE of RAM. Holy shit! The thing was a beast!

On and on it went through the years, with new computers and console systems flowing in and out of my house (but mostly in, according to Karen; people on our street often hear the cry of, “We don't have room for all this shit!” radiating from our windows). The last two PCs I owned were hand-built by me (with the help of a smarter, nerdier friend), and now I have a sleek, shiny iMac which has served me faithfully for over four years now. All three of my kids are computer and video game addicts, something which I quite frankly consider to be a failing on my part as a Father, but all three of them are also socially well-adjusted and seem to be functioning well in society in general, so it's unlikely that at some point I will have a 30-year old living in my basement drinking Mountain Dew Code Red and eating his weight in Hot Pockets. We take our comforts where we can.

One day, not long ago, I was talking to a couple of my kids about a particular video game and asked how long it takes to play through to the end. The response was, “About eight hours. But for you? I don't know, twenty?”, said with the kind of condescension that only a teen, or maybe an American Idol judge, can muster up.

After their inevitable high-fiving was done, I got to thinking – when did I become the low man on the gaming totem pole in my own house? Wasn't it like, two years ago that I was deliberately driving off cliffs in Mario Kart so these guys would be able to catch up to me?

The answer, of course, is no. I am 46 years old, and one of the by-products of being this age is that everything seems like it happened way more recently than it actually did. So every once in a while you find yourself spouting old guy shit and losing bets to your nephew because you insisted that CSI has only been on the air for five or six years. Turns out it premiered in 2000. So don't make that bet with your nephew. You will lose. And be mocked.

How, you ask, did this epiphany lead to my contributing to the white noise that the blogosphere has become? And holy shit, spellcheck did not try to correct the word, “blogosphere”. It's an official word now. Anyway, tune in for my next post which should wrap up what I intended to be a brief introduction to my “You Magnificent Bastard” blog. All will become clear on that day my friends, and then we will all link hands and sing songs of celebration and joy. Be there! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Why a blog? Why now? What's your point, jackass? The beginnings of an answer!

Here's the thing: I'm in my 40s.

Fine, goddammit, I am well into my 40s.

I have a family. I have a job. I also have a second job.

I have a second job because I also have three teenage sons who are capable of eating the equivalent of the Gross Domestic Product of a small to moderate agrarian nation. Beyond that, there are other rapidly mounting expenses that seem to increase daily, so I took a second job. Because I am a responsible adult male.

I also work out six days a week, and have been doing so for a year and a half now. Being in my 40s, I realized not long ago that if I hit my 50s weighing in at close to 400 pounds, I was doomed to a short and achy life, with various bits constantly failing, breaking, or, God forbid, falling off. So I made some changes. Because I am a responsible adult man. The fact that I have now spent a year and a half being sore is a small price to pay, even if the monthly gym fee is not.

So, let's recap: I have a family. I have a mortgage. I have two vehicles that need to be paid for and maintained. I do home improvement. Badly. But at least our house now has two bathrooms. Because, as I will say for a third time (to help you remember), I am a responsible adult man. Pretty typical. Nothing really special. One of thousands, if I'm being honest.

The problem with all of that is that I am also a nerd. Not the flaming version that is so popular on TV and in movies. I am smart but not a genius. I love certain areas of pop culture, but I rarely obsess over them. I have never participated in a debate regarding the merits of Patrick Stewart vs. William Shatner (lasting more than fifteen minutes). I love music, but have never worried very much about the names and personal histories of the members of my favourite bands. I love movies, but have never... okay, I do tend to obsess over actors and directors, but I still have friends who've forgotten more about film than I will ever know. I love fantasy and science fiction, but have never travelled hundreds of miles to attend a convention (though that would be awesome), and have no interest in standing in a long line and paying $50 to shake hands and get the autograph of Stan Lee. Don't get me wrong, if I ran into Stan out on the street somewhere I would totally love to buy him a beer and hang for awhile, but paying money so I can get his name on a piece of paper and maybe a photo of him with his arm around my shoulder, pretending we're best buds? It kind of seems demeaning to both of us. Me and Stan.

Now, just to be clear, I'm not saying all this to slag off people who are into all those things. To be honest, I've always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to my friends and my place in the nerd pecking order. Over the years I've come to terms with the fact that other people in my social circle are either more knowledgeable than I am about most topics, or they're at least more willing to work at memorizing names, facts, and figures, whether that refers to baseball stats, what year a certain album was released, or the cast list of AMC's The Walking Dead.

What is my point? Why a blog now? Those questions and others will be answered (or rambled on about) in the next post. This upcoming post, by the way, is already written, but having posted various essays and short fiction in internet forums before, I think that really long posts are kind of overwhelming. Nobody wants to surf over to a page and then spend the next fifteen minutes reading a long-ass rant, so I've broken up this lengthy preamble into digestible segments. Because I care about you. And because I want you to keep reading. I have things to say. And I promise, there is a point to all this, which I will make clear very soon. And then, once the foundation is laid, I will be able to get on with the actual purpose of this blog. So check in again soon.