Monday, December 29, 2008

A throttling...

The first time I read Blood Meridian I got lost. I think a better word actually is overwhelmed. I hadn't read prose like that since my last foray through Middle Earth, only this time instead of hooming Ents and galloping wizards it was scalped natives with sun dried bones and slaughtered babies hanging from trees by their ankles. I loved the book but it caught me off guard and therefore was a bit tough to chew on, and that comes from a dude who digests graphic violence like kettle corn. Salty and sweet? "Woot" I say.

When it was first recommended to me my buddy said "This is the most violent book that has ever been written." I never categorized him as one to fib, but he could spin quite a yarn. Liar: no. Exaggerator: yes. Regardless of the level and potency of said violence, it had been writ to the menu. I brought my bib. But while I was fully equipped to put my brain through the mental meat grinder, what I wasn't expecting was the beautiful and eloquent delivery of such a horrifying story. Imagine Mary Poppins narrating The Road Warrior.

The second time I
read Blood Meridian I was ready for it, and loved it even more. Long story short it's one of the best books I've read as an adult and despite the lack of any morality, hero, or other general goodness whatsoever I still connected to it on a level one can only describe as special. I still think about it daily. It's my new water mark, my Michael Jordan, My Sgt Pepper. Every book I read for the rest of my life will be compared to this one until it is dethroned and sent to the catacombs of lesser diction, not an event I see happening any time soon.

However, this post is not about "books" or "reading" or "smartness", it is about movies, because according to rumors painted true there is a Blood Meridian film in production. I have to come right out and say that it is completely impossible to accurately portray
this story. It will change, probably very dramatically, in being imported to the film medium. As stated above there is no protagonist, there is no morality, there is no uplifting ending, there are no lessons learned or wrongs righted, or any other Hollywood film staple. There is only pain. The story follows a group of scalp hunters in the early years of America's development who ride through 'the west' in a literal path of destruction, slaughtering and destroying everything they come across. They murder, kill, rape, steal, kill, violate, murder, fornicate, rape, pilfer, pillage, destroy, kill, and massacre every-fucking-thing in their path without so much as a single "oops" or "sorry about that." You are disgusted with the characters for the entirety of the story, yet somehow you keep reading like the words are a trail of cookie crumbs. The only somewhat neutral character is Judge Holden, who is just as much an instrument of chaos as he is a balancing mechanism for the abandon with which the gang behaves. I'll spare you all the "Cliff's Notes", but the point I'm trying to make is clear: Using the Hollywood sheen on this story will not do it justice, and there is little to no room for compromise.

From what I hear a lot of people said the same thing about
No Country For Old Men, and clearly the Cohens pulled that off like it was effing Fargo 2. But NCFOM was a much different story with a plot one could sympathize with and characters that could be seen in a positive light. Who wouldn't try to run with all that drug money? All of us can connect to that excited fantasy of happening across a shit fuck ton of money that has no rightful owner, making one's early retirement a mere address change away.

Ridley Scott was originally slated as the director for this, to which I heartily shrug. Yeah, Alien was good. So was Blade Runner, but after seeing American Gangster I pretty much wrote Scott off my "I care about this" list. Unless he was going to dress up Ruby Dee in cowboy boots and a neclace of dried Indain ears then he could get bent. But in a surprising display of wisdom, especially considering the success of McCarthy's material with No Country and the soon to arrive The Road, he apparently hates money and so backed out of the project. He was quoted saying the following just before officially withdrawing as director:

"It's written. I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel. If you're going to do
Blood Meridian you've got to g
o the whole nine yards into the blood bath, and there's no answer to the blood bath, that's part of the story, just the way it is and the way it was."

Cheers Mr. Scott. You are close to a pardon for American Gangster, although judging by the synopsis of Nottingham I will most likely be choking on these words this time next year.

So now we have Todd Field slat
ed to direct the film. Who is Todd Field? You don't know, right? I don't know either. Todd fucking Field is a no name, bit actor, with about as much directing experience as I have from an afternoon with a digital camera, my cat, and a laptop. Todd Field has to be stoked. Todd Field is about to make my ever lengthening shit list with a fucking vengance... and a couple million dollars... for ruining art... real art... not a "painting of blue" or "poem about sex" "art"... but fucking art!

heh... butt fucking art.

So without further hatred slinging, I will meander to the poin
t of this post: My picks for Blood Meridian cast and crew. Based on my own outlandishly narrow minded and jaded opinions of films and their participants, here is what I would consider the best bet to getting as close as possible to an honest portrayal of McCarthy's hell ride through the desert.

PRODUCER - Mel fucking Gibson
The movie is going to
need people at the helm who aren't worried about showing too much violence or grossing out the audience. Few directors/producers have showed such a hearty commitment, nay, dedication to painting the screen red with drippy gibs than Mel Gibson. I still stand behind Passion of the Christ as an awesome movie, and I hate Jesus! That is the level this movie needs to be at in the violence department. No apologies and no consideration for the weak of stomach. A few authors consider McCarthy insane, and we all know Mel Gibson is bat shit, so this will totally work.

DIRECTOR - Werner Herzog
Gibson isn't allowed to direct because while he enjoys a good cerebral fountain of gore with his $9 ticket, he has too much bravado and is far too showy with his movie presentations. The story needs a director who can keep the film grounded, grim, and keep the Hollywood glitter to a non-existant minimum. Herzog is the man for the job, the key bullet point on his resume' being Aguirre: The Wrath of God. A pacing and delivery similar to that film would be perfect for Blood Meridian.

When I first pondered who might play the crucial role of The Judge, Gene Hackman briefly fluttered into my mind and I rejected it with flame and shield. The more I think about him though, the more I think he'd actually make the role seem real and not so super natural. In the book, The Judge almost comes off as omniscient or super human, and having Hackman take the role I really think he could convey that sense of power with the body and voice of a mortal. Not only that but he's a practical actor, he isn't going to over act the part or try and make it into something it isn't. He can take a character as exaggerated and large as The Judge, and make him exist as a real person within the period the story takes place. Plus it'd be awesome to see him dressed up like a hairless, naked albino.

THE KID - That skinny guy from 3:10 to Yuma
This role needs someone with a "look", rather than actual acting skills. The Kid has almost zero dialogue but is a central part to the story. Ben Foster has the right image for this part, and he's actually not that bad an actor either.

JOHN GLANTON - Kurt Russel
Glanton needs to be played by someone who can be an alcoholic hurricane, a drunk with zero conscience who completely allows his rage to drive him
. I almost wanted to say Mickey Rourke but his face is out of control. I almost stopped at Michael Madsen, but he's a bit too "cool" for the part. Kurt Russel! And not Tombstone Kurt Russel, but R.J. MacCready, Stuntman Mike, fucking Snake Plisskin Kurt Russel.

TOADVINE - Sam Rockwell
Toadvine is a fucking scarred maniac. I can't remember any specific roles but for some reason Sam Rockwell stands out as being completely insane in a lot of movies (and no, I'm not thinking of Green Mile, asshole). I think he'd be awesome with no teeth, no ears, covered in mud and draped in scalps.

- Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Yeah yeah, I know everyone has a boner for the 'Hoff these days, but he pretty much already played this role in Cold Mountain.

THE IDIOT - Jack Black
I fucking hate Jack Black. Nothing would make me happier than to see him naked in a cage covered in his own shit... Goddammit, look at that asshole.

Monday, December 15, 2008

my musical hero...

...looks like this.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You mean... it's OK to be an asshole?

I've been completely ob-fucking-sessed with Fallout 3 the last week. I have to quickly admit that this is my first experience with the sandbox/RPG like Oblivion and shit, so pardon the n00bile over enthusiasm, but the game is a fucking gem and I can't recommend it enough.

The biggest compliment I can pay to the game is the sheer freedom it allows one to be a complete and utter asshole to the virtual world as you progress through the game. I started the game with the goal of being an evil motherfucker, because I figure if they'll allow it, why not push the envelope and see how far you can go? Well, you can go far. Far enough that I actually occasionally feel real world guilt at some of the actions I am responsible for in fake video game land, and this is the kind of experience that truly makes games art: When they can reach out of the screen and really cause one to emote.

In the last week there have been a number of poignantly, excessively awesome experiences that need to be dished right goddamn now. Here are a few.

ahem... spoilers n' shit...

My first foray into the town of Megaton was a chaotic stroll along the salty brine of the devil's colon. Long story short, you show up to town, the sheriff tries to intimidate you into following their rules, you meet a guy who wants to pay you to arm the benign nuclear bomb in the middle of town, and are then left to explore. I got about as far as the place where you sleep with the hooker when I decided I needed to start flexing my evil bone and see what kind of shit you could get away with. I found myself alone with a friendly AI in a motorcycle helmet in a secluded room of the commons. Entering the crouch, slash, sneak position, I attempted a feeble level 2 pickpocket and of course failed. The "man" freaked out and began to run away, at which point I beat him to death with a baseball bat and looted the items I had sought to procure in the first place. Much to my shagrin, the local security was on my ass and chased me out of town. With bullets. So I followed through on the "blow up the town quest" and about 30 minutes later I was safely on the balcony of Ten Penny Tower watching the town that had dealt me so sourly go up in a mushroom cloud. Catch me pickpocketing? I kill you dead. Chase me out of town? I vaporize all you fuckers!

Later on, I'm doing this weird side quest that involves mutated fire ants that spit flame thrower style flames at you and are a huge pain in the ass. So there's a doctor who has genetically altered these ants and accidentally turned them into giant, flame spitting bitches that need to be effing annihilated. The doctor implores you to only kill the soldiers and let the queen live so he can continue his research, promising you riches AND a shot that will boost one of your stats (that's a big deal if you haven't played RPGs before). So I agree, complete the quest to the T and return to the good doctor with his nasty soldier ants bubbling piles of guts and the bloated queen still rummaging around her ant hole. The doctor thanks me, rewards me, gives me my stat boost, and then goes on his way to continue his research. Right as he turns around BOOM I blow his head off with a pistol, loot the corpse, and head back into the ant cave to kill the queen and suck up the experience points like nectar, reaping all the benefits of completing the "good quest", but still getting the material rewards of stealing his belongings and raking up the ant queen experience.

All I can say is: Thank you, Bethesda. Thank you for not only allowing us to explore the darker side of sand box gaming, but actually facilitating the fun with a unique experience that only dick-ish players are privvy to. For me this is an easy "Game of the Year".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bach Core

I was on the fence about buying Children of Bodom tickets until my coworker sent me this...


Friday, July 11, 2008

Chainsaw Maid

Chainsaw Maid! My vote for best zombie clay animation short film, as it's the only one I've ever seen.

(links to eBaums world. might be NSFW depending on your job.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tour Diary: Biafra 5-0 in San Francisco

Playing in a band, one that travels anyways, ends up putting one in all kinds of bizzarro situations. Planned or unplanned. I'm not particularly motivated to open this particular vellum of the Akimbo encyclopedia series, but let me just conclude my preface by saying that having the flexibility to travel and experience music on the road allows one to indulge in all kinds of adventures.

Enter Jello Biafra's 50th birthday party, loftily dubbed the "Biafra 5-0". Being a band on Alternative Tentacles, I wasn't overly surprised or shocked that we were asked to open one of the two shows in San Francisco this June. We were at our last show of the west coast tour in August 2007 to support Navigating the Bronze, in Oakland with our buddies Walken and Triclops!, trying to make the best out of a dismal turn out and possibly the most belligerent, asshole, straight up naive d-bag club owners we have ever co
me across. My anger that night for this awful show that would actually leave us with an all night hell drive back to seattle churned like a tsunami of magma, but our political angst spitting benefactor, Mr. Biafra himself, ended up coming to the show to watch us wiggle around to the loud noises and offer his to expected criticisms. It was during this time that he mentioned his 50th birthday and extended the invite, a meager nugget of treasure amongst a night plagued with rancor and bullshit.

The nature of the event itself is what makes it an adventure to me. Sure, we've toured about as hard as a band can with whatever assets and resources we can possibly assume are out there in the void and then grasp with desperate, spiny tendrils. Going out on the road doesn't quite hold the excitement and potency it once provided in years past. Eight years of playing the same fucking shit show in every town across
the nation will do that to you, me, and anyone else that qualifies as sentient. The gems are out there though, waiting to be sifted from rubble. However, the Biafra 5-0 was a no brainer. Of course we'll play that show. We're honored to have even been asked and wouldn't dream of not being there, just to effing be there. I grew up on a healthy diet of Dead Kennedys, Nomeansno, and the rest of the Alternative Tentacles salad. This is the modern incarnation of one of the most important periods in my own personal musical journey, and I get to share the stage with it, be a part of it, help it evolve. We marked the date, cleared the calendars, and had Michelle graciously book a few buffer shows to get us there and back. It's a reincarnation of our weekend warrior tours of yore, when we'd take a 3 or 4 day weekend and drive down to San Francisco to play a show, with no other reason than just to play in San Francsico. Because it is awesome.

Day one has us rolling out in the all too familiar Akimbo fashion: unprepared and awash with procrastination. I leave the air conditioned luxury of my video game job and meet the guys in our stuffy, ungodly hot, filth pit of a practice space for a last minute refresher on some old tunes we're revitalizing for the three shows. On the walk there I'm wrapping up some loose ends with work on the cell phone and almost get ran the fuck over by a meaty douche bag who didn't see me crossing the street as he took an aggressive left onto Pike. I look at him with the stoicism of a Vulcan as he slams his brakes and reflexively throws his hands off of his steering wheel in sheer surprise. "Nice sunglasses, asshole" I think to myself as I continue my phone call without missing a beat. As I continue walking, once again amidst the safe bosom of the sidewalk, the guy yells at me to "Watch where the fuck you're going!" I see red. It was clear that he assumed that because I was on the phone I had no idea what was going on around me and was just haphazardly walking through intersections hoping for an accident settlement. Little does this man realize that I always check the street before I cross. I have to. It's a behavior that is so deeply ingrained into my psyche that not checking left, then right, would be like leaving the house with a bra tied to my head. When I looked the street was clear, and that guy was waiting to turn left towards the crosswalk that I was about to walk through before he gunned it right towards my knees which would have smeared me like mustard. He seemed to gloss over that part. I politely ended my call, close my phone, and hollered "FUCK YOU!" which prompted a slow-drive yelling fight for half a block as we accosted each other about our displayed merits of civilian traffic laws. I haven't even smelled the musty guts of the van yet, and already it is apparent that I'm 'on tour'.

The practice is short and sweaty. We load the van and unanimously agree that we are not to drive a foot without first partaking of a frosty beer in the inviting cool of the Cha Cha basement bar. We do so. Relish. I have a Mannny's, which I love ordering because 4 out of 10 times the bar tender thinks you're asking for a "mayonnaise" and you get that telling glimpse of "Oh shit, this guy is crazy" as they ask you to repeat your order. The next hurdle to clear is picking up our merch from El Corazon where Nat works. Aaron drives home to drop off his car, Nat and I go to El Corazon, get the merch, print the driving directions, choke down another High Life, and then head north to Ballard in 5 o'clock rush hour traffic. For those reading who don't kn
ow, driving from downtown to Ballard in Seattle traffic is probably the closest mortals will ever get to experiencing limbo. During the drive, as my delicious double beer buzz is setting in, Nat asks me to drive. I say no. He asks again. I cave. Garbage. After an hour and fifteen minutes of mental pain, we have Aaron and can finally be on our way. As I take the wheel I jokingly ask "Would you guys be pissed if all I listen to on this trip is obnoxious metal?" They chortle, but I think "what if I did!?!?" Three hours of Rhapsody, Cradle of Filth, Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, and Lucca Turrilli later, we were in Portland.

The show is at East End, and we're playing in a basement bar underneath the somewhat fancy bar. Tiny stage, cramped quarters, low ceiling, should be fun. The turnout is surprising for a Monday, and we're pla
ying with the ever savage Black Elk. Their set is unrelenting and inspiring, their new drummer is a human metronome and hits like a cannon, the guitar is earthy and shrill, and I have a new favorite band from Portland. We go on after them and do our best. The new/old songs come out well, and the crowd is whipped and barking for more when we're done. We throw them a bone and play our Nirvana cover of "Breed" which we save exclusively for just the right crowds that are rowdy enough to rally behind that gem.

Post show is lazy and drunk, we feed on surprisingly decent bar food and load out. When we're waiting to leave we are stopped by Aaron's friend Nicole who had procured various slices of fancy cakes for us from her work and dropped them off in our van. One thing that seems to happen on tour is you end up collecting a weird variety of foods as the trip progresses. People offer you things you may or may not want, but considering your situation you end up taking the offerings, because you know, just in case. A few weeks later your van looks and smells like a QFC dumpster and you can't find your fucking ipod because the crushed loaves of bread, cans of soup, empty coffee cups, and jar of peanut butter with a single defiant finger swipe through the top layer are all encroaching on every available inch of space. These cakes, however, were no such burden. They were nice. The good shit. Quality, individually packaged pieces of richness. Thanks Nicole.

My sister Ailsa who has recently relocated to Portland is at the show and we go back to her place for the night. It's the first time we've hung out in her new city together and it's great to see her again. As
well pull into the driveway of her house I start rummaging for my nightly things and to my surprise find that my sleeping bag is not in the van. I remember it being in the van. I retrace my steps: I checked my closet where it lives at my house, I checked the practice space (where I found my pillow), I asked Nat if it was in the van and he said "Should be..." It wasn't. I'm not one to rage, not without a little bit of humor at least, but the frustration at losing my sleeping bag manifested in a minor hissy fit tearing through the van, hastily throwing things around in search of my little buddy. I hate being unprepared, and I hate having to ask people for something as brainless as a blanket or sleeping bag when they're putting you up. Luckily we were staying with my sister so it was no problem asking for a blanket, and luckily we had a spare sleep sack in the van, and luckily I was marginally drunk which curbed the man rage before it got absurd. Ten minutes later I was passed out in a bed dreaming of CoD4 and coffee with french vanilla creamer. Nom nom nom...

Our dance with Lady Sleep was merely a flirt. That bitch. The alarm went off at 6 and I managed to wrangle an extra 20 minutes before giving up and rising from my slumber, my exhaustion justified at the knowledge that assholes in the world were also waking up now to work in customer service centers and soulless legal departments. Some young republican shitbag nick-named "Bozz" or some garbage was on his way to a lifeless office rat race while we get to drive to the Bay Area and play loud rock and roll. Fuck yeah. Get up. Van. 10 hours to a 5:00 load in. Go.

Aaron takes his first ever
driving shift on tour after wrestling his license from the Washington state courts and gets 'er done into south Oregon. I try to sleep in the shotgun seat which always a losing battle while Nat slumbers on the bench seat like a wee lass. Moldy beer farts happen. It can't be helped. Gas is almost $5 a gallon in California and we blow through our money from last night in two stops. I eat a piece of van-hot, white chocolate strawberry cheesecake and find that when coupled with a hangover it could be considered unwise.An endearing quality about touring with Aaron is that he never gets sick of funny freeway signs. We've been down I-5 together possibly 20 times now and he still laughs every time we're in Northern California and pass "Balls Ferry Road". Cute.

The drive is long and draining. I conquer a few armies in Advance Wars before my DS charge dies, and then finish book one of Dune. We arrive in San Francisco to a flurry of text messages informing our local friends that we're here and have a healthy guest list. The Great American Music Hall is a beautiful venue, I've always wanted to play there and this show will be our first opportunity. The staff was remarkably friendly and helpful, and they had a great meal of turkey with gravy and potatoes ready for the bands. Jon gets Thanksgiving in June, bitches. We eat and relax in the band room saying hi to our good friends Maiko, George, and Jess
e from Alternative Tentacles and the dudes in Triclops! as the doors open. Our friends start showing up as well and shortly the downstairs is a triumphant reunion.

First up was the Melvins performing their demo stuff from 1983, with Dale Crover playing bass and their
original drummer on drums. It was a great set and totally awesome to see those old punk songs played live. We played next and I felt really good about the set. No heavy screw ups and good energy from the crowd. I couldn't really tell how it sounded in the room as I was stuck right in front of my bass rig but I could hear the drums and the monitor mix was surprisingly clear. I guess thats how the pros do it. We played a quick six songs and got the gear off the crowded stage. People were not shy with their compliments which is always nice, and also answered my questions about how the room sounded. Victory!

Up next was Triclops! (pic below) and I still have to say they are one of my favorite "new" bands around. They play a perfect swirl of progressive rock and classic punk. They're one of those bands where every member is disgustingly talented and plays their instrument with a unique sense of individualism that is entirely its own feel, but as they play the music together as a band that individualism blends into a cohesive sonic experience where each part compliments the other. That and they're all great performers as well. They're a band that i
nspires me, renews my excitement in music, and I'm happy to know them.
So now that the openers were officially out of the way it was time for Jello to hit the stage and justify his 50th birthday party. I can't think of many 50 year olds who would choose to celebrate their birthday by running up and down a stage, hollering, sweating and shirtless. Come to think of it I can't think of many people who'd want to watch the average 50 year old sweat all over a stage and be hollered at. An odd night indeed. Fortunately for us, Biafra overcame any disadvantage his age might cause and delivered. His show was excellent. His new band with guitarist Ralph from Victim's Family and bass player of Faith No More was surprisingly awesome, a great batch of songs that maintain the drive and sheer impact of simple power punk without sounding overplayed or rehashed. One of those groups that somehow pulls off an original sound while playing a very classic style. I'm really excited for them to record and start touring. Jello with the Melvins was the ruthless locomotive I remember it being, only this time their bass player was Andy from Monorchid and Wrangler Brutes, who sadly did not escape a fan boy freak out from me later that evening despite our knowing each other through mutual friends for a few years now. It's such a rush to see all those Dead Kennedys classics performed with such a phenomenal group. You can't help but fist pump and yell along.Towards the end of the set I was informed that Nat and I were to deliver Jello his Alternative Tentacles birthday cake during the encore. As they finished up "Holiday in Cambodia" we lit the candles and hand delivered the bat logo in cake form to one of punk's most prolific and outspoken founding members. I grabbed the mic out of his hand and led the crowd in a sloppy round of Happy Birthday, and returned back stage in marginal shock. It's been years now that we've been lucky enough to know, play with, and be around artists like Jello, the Melvins, Neurosis, Tad and other such musicians that have helped inspire us as kids learning to play our instruments, but there's a part of me that will always be the giddy excitable teenager when shit like that happens, and I hope that never changes.
Post show we finished the beers, packed up, and headed out to Johnny's (singer of Triclops!) place in Berkeley where we continued the liquid festivities and, as most great parties inevitably conclude, ended the night in tears laughing at each other's various youtube gems.

Next day was a lazy morning, breakfast on Telegraph, a stop by Amoeba to pick up that live Kraftwerk album I've been meaning to purchase for years, short relaxation in the shade, and then back in the van on our way to Eureka. Traffic on the way out of town was maddening, but once we cleared it I stopped and got a milkshake and drove into the evening, the sunset's orange roast coloring the beautiful hills of Northern California a robust shade of awesome.

We pulled up to the venue in Eureka which was a small bar called The Little Red Lion. After some delicious and free pizza, I plopped down and watched cage fighting until it was time to play. I've always found an inherent humor in the sheer homoeroticism readily available in UFC fighting matches. It's like the dudes shadow box each other for a few seconds but immediately give in to their deep desires and before you know it they're on the floor dry humping like curious drama students, half making out and half performing for the invisible cameras. Occasionally they remember they're supposed to be killing each other so one
will toss a few lame punches, feigning exhaustion, and then they're back to mashing their groins together spread eagle, whispering "Ahh Fuh Fooh" through split lips and teeth guards.

The show was okay, not our best in Humboldt County but far from our worst. During our last few songs the circuit breaker kept crapping out and after the 4th try we took a hint and ended the set.
We went to the promoter's house after the show and after flirting over a few PBRs and a pipe of Eureka's finest, they busted out the Wii and we played Wii Sports into the wee hours of the morning. If I had my way, this would be protocol for every post show party. Very awesome.
I cashed all my driving credit the next day and let Nat and Aaron take care of the return trip, opting to delve further into the wastes of Arrakis and bring numerical destruction to slews of cute little soldiers on my DS. It was a relaxing drive until the last few hours of the home stretch. After a gas stop in Northern Oregon our van's engine started running extremely weird. It was shaking and putting and we were losing power. We pulled over, let it sit, started it up and drove off for another 70 miles before it started acting up again. This time we had no such luck and after long breaks off an exit in Olympia and brainstorming people we could hit up for a ride home, we only just got the thing started again, leaving us jerking along the shoulder at 20 mph with our hazards flashing. We limped to another gas station, poured a few gas additives into the tank, splurged on some supreme and crossed our fingers. It seemed to work, and after a few miles the van was running excellent as usual. We thought we were going to be stranded 60 miles from home after a brutal 1800 miles in three days, but it turns out it was just bad gas. Heh.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Like a goddamn toothpick...

...that's how easy I snapped. Caved. Crumbled. It was disgusting. Years of rigid defense crafted of iron-tongued arguments and witful snobbery, dashed like the courage of an Aquilonian slave under the might of Cimmerian steel. Here's how it went down.

Since the inception of Everquest I have been an outspoken mud slinger of the MMORPG. I've seen co-workers fall into the dreaded tar pits of warm, monitor screen glow, forever gone and waving the banner of loot and rare drops. I've lost friends at the unrelenting hands of coordinated raids and group quests, eyes crusted the next day after 11 hour sessions acrosss the plains of Azeroth. I've always loved games, and always made time to give them the dedication they deserve in my life, but the time-sink that is the MMORPG has been an intimidating precipice that I have steered clear of since the start.

My big gripe with them, and always a delicious trump card when arguing my point for not playing them, is the monthly fees associated with the game. I always figured if I paid for the system (PC), and paid for the game disc, I should be able to play as much as I fucking want to. Adding a monthly internet service fee on top of the regular internet service I'm already paying for is insulting. That's just too much money to play one game when there are so many others out there, not to mention other humans to interact with, beers to drink, kitties to pet, and so on. I look at it with the diamond cut logic of the "nine to fiver" condescendingly watching the crack addict dig through the gutters for apple cores from the comfort of my SUV. From this lofty vantage point, the choice to try crack-cocaine and see what all the fuss is about is clearly unwise. But once you're in the shit, sudddenly the gutter isn't that big of a deal when there's delectable crack spoils to be had. Make sense?

The other prime motivational means of avoidance has been the fact that I am well aware of my own weakness and susceptability to the gravitational force of the RPG. I know with grim certainty that if I were to indulge in the MMORPG, my fall from grace would be swift, violent, and decisive, leaving me a 300 pound, unwashed, patchy-bearded poster child for unhealth. I loved the Warcraft games, and I consider it a monumental personal feat of will power that I never so much as asked a friend to try a game of WoW on their account. I knew the consequences would be dire, and rather than flirt with the succubus I shut my eyes and ran the other way.

And then I heard about Age of Conan. The visceral and immensely detailed MMORPG based on the world Robert E. Howard crafted over decades of masterful authorship, seemingly just for guys like me who could use a little more blood and beheading with our Tolkien, and a little less poetry and song with our marauding warriors. I avoided the previews and screen shots in the following months like a recently recovered alcoholic avoids bars and nightlife. I ignored the guild planning and class plotting "water cooler talk" taking place during breaks at work, hoping I could possibly enjoy the fruits vicariously as a fly on the wall from the back row.
And then the fateful day arrived... I arrive to work and as I pass my co-workers' office I happen to look in and see a big red box with a shimmering golden lion head on the front, AGE OF CONAN: Hyborian Adventures proudly declaring the contents nestled within the special edition limited release. I had to peek. They were abuzz. The install was already under way. I drooled over the packaging, the map of Hyboria included, the art work. We talked, I chided, they rallied, trying to get me on board their slave vessel. I balked, left, and fought back the tears. Pondered, doubted, wrestled with years of logic I had defended like a goddamn citadel, and then made the last mistake before my epic tumble into the forrays of MMORPG... I returned to their office and watched character creation.

Now for normal RPG nerds the character creation in AOC is already top notch. The level of customization available to the player is a fucking bouquet of scars, wrinkles, skin tones, markings, hair cuts, and facial features. I was already 60% sold, but when I saw the available geographical selection where one could opt between Cimmerian, Aquilonian, or Stygian, and that selection would then offer an entirely new original pallet of selections with which to customize your character's look (based on the region they're from!) I swooned. The developers had done their research, and they knew that if I had an unnatural obsession with how inhumanly bad ass the sect of Set followers were, and that if I so desired I could create my own follower of Set with the unique features and cultural genetic traits of generations of Stygian blood, I could do so. With relish. It was a glimpse into an interactive experience within one of my all time favorite fantasy worlds. The damage was done, and I caved like a diabetic in Baskin Robins. Twenty minutes later I had procurred the disc, signed up with Funcom, and committed to 3 months service... just to try it out.
I think my one saving grace that will keep me free of the perils that come with embracing the pure amount of raw time I could possibly sacrifice in the name of Hyborian domination is the fact that I can only play this game at work. My home computer is a Mac lap top and I'd like to think that if I tried to install the 40 GB game on the poor little guy, the screen would manifest into a giant boxing glove that would continuously punch me in the face until I cancelled the install. Buying a PC at home for this game is completely out of the question. Not only do I not want a big old PC in my tiny apartment, even if I got to that level of desperation I already know how quickly that conversation would be snuffed by Maria. The task before me now is balancing my work time with Conan, and making sure that "playing a little during lunch" doesn't snowball into a legitimate issue that will involve HR.

So there it is. It was nice knowing you all, and now you know why
I no longer exist. If you need me for anything urgent, please contact the Stygian Tempest of Set traipsing across the Hyborian plains in search of Cimmerian allies and nubile blood with which to wet his cudgel... at least for the next 3 months...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Overdue update

It's been a good few months since I updated. Too much shit has befallen to write in the interest of accuracy, so in the interest of efficiency I'll gloss over some of the jibba jabba I wanted to write about but didn't.

After Microsoft dangled a carrot in front of my face, saying I could go back to work at Bungie as soon as my 100 day mandatory vacation was up, I was suddenly getting some "we're not sure" and "we'll have to see" and "go fuck yourself" type answers on a return date. Garbage. Not like they were going to hire me full time anyways, but promising a place after the break and then peeing in your mouth whenever you try to ask about details on said place... Not so shocking new levels of mouth peeing from Microshaft. For those who don't know, MS only allows contractors to work for them for 9-12 months before you're forced to take a 100 day break. It's so they don't have to burden you with things like benefits, a salary, and an overall sense of being appreciated by your employer.

I got a new job. A better job. A grown up job. By some fluke of fate I landed a Test Lead position at the upstart WB Games. WB stands for Warner Brothers, as in, fucking Warner Brothers. I'm a big kid now, with big kid pants at the big kid table. The job is great, so far I've attained three completely free, completely unwatchable DVDs of garbage movies I had no intention of watching as "perks", and am working on Project Origin, the sequel to F.E.A.R. The game is looking great, and is a sweet first project to sink my bitter teeth into at the new company. Here's the latest trailer.

Gary Gygax passed. QQ.

I went to Jon's (my DM) birthday party, where we rolled up characters and played a quick adventure in true, 12 year old, social reject, too old for ninja turtles, too young for beer, birthday party fashion. He invited Todd Gamble, his son's art teacher who also happens to be the guy who built all the p
rofessional terrain for D&D miniature advertisements, and also contributed a lot of art to the various TSR worlds. It was pretty cool meeting him. He was very humble, very excited that he had contributed to the D&D legacy, and ironically has never played the game. He sat with us and sketched out scenes as they were happening (fucking incredible!), and at one point even leaned over to the Forgotten Realms map we were using and said "This looks familiar... I think I drew this."

My Xbox broke. The video output shat as I was about to embark on a rampant evening of Halo 3 n00binating, leaving me at the mercy of the peanut gallery in my headset. It's been a long time in "the shop". It comes back on Monday. We will embrace, make love, and then resume our frolicking across the fields of Valhalla.

Maria and I went an saw Shutter. My one word review: Shitter.

I started playing Call of Cthulhu table top RPG with a group of friends. It's a pretty jarring change from the "kill orc/loot orc/level up" formula I've always known with AD&D. The game is much more mental, you have a lot more thinking to do, and I've found that there are a lot of points in the adventure where we all get silent, I go "uuuuuuuh" and then someone says "I don't know what to do." There's no leveling up, your awareness of Cthulhu lore is directly tied to your sanity, and there's no real objective other than "find Cthulhu and try not to blow your brains out".

Lastly, I'm getting a sweet tattoo right now featuring Neptune rising from the depths in order to smite some fools. Check it:

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pac Man Cake

My little sister, Ailsa, just sent me this photo of a birthday cake she made for some dude named Josh. I don't know this Josh character, but he scored a pretty fierce cake. I hope he appreciates how highly this rates on the awesometer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

AD&D Terrain

Ever since age 12 I've been a huge fan of and have played pen and paper role playing games. About a year or so ago my childhood friend, cohort of many teenage adventures, and easily the best DM I've ever played with got in touch and we started playing AD&D 2nd Edition in Forgotten Realms again for the first time in years.

I play an elf thief who has reached 7th level so far and has narrowly escaped death in just about every gaming session we've had. He's almost been annihilated by tribal Uthgart Barbarians, a 100' tall demon spider known as Bebelith (twice), hordes of Demon-Elf half breed warriors, a shifty backstabbing asshole thief named Tiger Bloodshanks, a Carrion Crawler (totally embarrasing), a Gnoll fighter/mage and his giant serpent familiar, and a necromancer that summoned more Wights than would ever be considered reasonable.

Aside from being a great DM, Jon (pictured below) is also an amazing terrain builder. Here are some pictures from some of our recent games.

New(ish) music...

I've been listening to these newish bands a lot lately. All very very good. I won't bother with elborate self serving descriptions, but if you're curious here are some links. Check it out if you want.

TRICLOPS! (San Francisco/Oakland)
New label mates of ours and ex members of Fleshies, Victim's Family, Bottles & Skulls, Lower Forty Eight and a bunch of other bands.
Recommended track: Salton

OM (Oakland)
Ex members of Sleep, gloriously loud live.
Recommended track: At Giza (this is the ending of their 20 minute epic from the first record)

Ex members of Maclusky.
Recommended track: Small Bones Small Bodies


"Fuck you, okay?" the first line of Stallone's latest "remember how awesome I used to be" revisiting of his classic characters. Sadly, I doubt we will see his lumpish, botched face adorn any Oscar nominations, but as soon as the academy allocates an award for "Best Explosion of a Human Body" or "Highest Body Count in a Motion Picture" then Rambo may get the respect it deserves. The acting and story hold about as much water as you can cram into a thimble, as expected, but the film's true triumph is a return to the action movie formula of yore, conjuring classics like Commando, Cyborg, and the Death Wish series. The iconic villain is so heinous it's almost beyond human capacity, smirking behind a cigar and aviator shades from the passenger seat of a jeep as his cronies mow down hundreds of innocent Burmese villagers with automatic weapons. No real plot or reason is provided for this, other than Stallone's token slur saying "It's a war zone up there." and it basically gives us the black and white distinction required for the mindless slaughter to come. These are the bad guys, and they are so bad you will be happy when Rambo kills them. Happy is an understatement. Rejoice. Make merry. Here are just a few of the selling points in convenient, organized, anal retentive bullet points.
  • Rambo ends every argument with "Go home."
  • Stupid christian missionaries run into Burma, get pwned hard, and must rely on angry Rambo to save them by killing everyone, thus rendering "God's work" irrelevant.
  • Rambo forges his own choppin' sword.
  • Numerous deaths by bow and arrow, including a zinger where the arrow enters through a dude's chin and comes out his eye socket.
  • Fastidious attention paid to the graphic violence that occurs when the human body is exploded by mortar and/or trip mine.
  • Sylvester Stallone's lumpy face is laughable proof that plastic surgery has come a long way since he turned 40. He looks like he pissed off a bunch of bees.
  • Rambo sets off an atomic explosion in the woods using a rigged claymore and a dirty rag.
  • Rambo says "Fuck the world."
  • Awesome night vision scope scenes of dudes getting shot with a massive sniper rifle, causing heads to explode and bodies to go flying.
  • Dude gets dangled over hungry pigs who eat his feet.
  • Rambo spends a literal 20 minutes on a machine gun turret killing people. He's up there so long they even shoot an elaborate relaoding sequence of him changing the ammo drum so that he can continue raging.
  • The following chart (Please note the last line; Zero sex scenes in any Rambo film!):

Please take care to catch Rambo if you're a fan of the action classics, it does not disappoint. I recommend pre-gaming with friends and showing up loaded.

Honorable mentions also go out to Cloverfield and There Will Be Blood.
Cloverfield was totally killer, a disaster movie told from the hand held video camera perspective of people trudging through a giant monster attacking Manhattan. The minute the action starts it doesn't let up until the end, the monster is not hokey at all, acting is well done, overall a pretty brilliant take on a monster movie. If you can stand the shakey cam on the big screen then check it out.
There Will Be Blood was all the oscar fodder you'd imagine it would be. Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoe in for best actor this year, he's a treat to watch. Without any spoilers, or exaggeration for that matter, this film had the best ending I think I've ever seen.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An open letter to the East Coast

Get off Xbox live. Do not come home from work. Do not turn on your Xbox. Do not log on to live. You can do anything you want, as long as it is not done within the realm of Xbox Live, which I will now dub "The West Coast Was Here First. Fuck Off." Just leave it. I know it's microsoft, and they should be able to handle the traffic, and they should have thought about it before the holidays, and it shouldn't cause us to sit in lobbies for MINUTES AND MINUTES, but that's not the case. Leave me alone. I was here first. You have to wait, not me. Daddy needs a zoom scope for his G3 assault rifle.