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The Bastard's Blog
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Fear The Con - World Wide Wing Night 4 (W3N4)
Topic: Fear The Con

Fear The Boot's Luke Meyer is a photogenic bastard, ain't he?  Make love to the camera, Luke...

World Wide Wing Night 4 (W3N4) held last night at Sidepockets here in Saint Charles, Mo was a hoot.  I didn't do a formal head count, but there were easily a hundred people there drinking beer and eatin' wings as part of the event.

I spent much of the evening with two guys I met out of Indianapolis, Jason and Christian.  Both are long time gamers.  We shared war stories over beer, talking about systems and podcasts.  These guys were good dinner company.

Throughout the night we visited with Luke, Dan, Phil, Chad, Grungy Dan, Jake Moore, and Bob Arens among others.  A nicer bunch of gamers you'll never meet.

There were several toasts to the memory of our dear, departed Gary Gygax.  We even observed an appropriate 1d6 moments of silence. 

The Fear The Boot guys have done a marvelous job in building a gaming community both here in Missouri as well as nationally.  There were folks at W3N4 from Indy, Kansas, and DFW (me).  I know another fella was due in from Utah early this morning.  I am amazed at how passionate these folks are about their gaming and how many traveled long distances through nasty weather to come together for Feat the Con, a little convention organized by a bunch of guys running a plucky, little podcast.

It is quite the community the FtB fellas have built.  I am green with envy at what the folks in Missouri have here.  

They were running one large tab for the group.  I opened my own.  I always get screwed on group tabs (i.e. You've failed your saving throw against moochers, Aron, please pay more than you owe).  I hadn't been there an hour and the group tab had grown to exceed $1000.  When I was leaving, only half the ever growing group tab had been covered.  I'm real curious to see how that shook out.

An enormous amount of beer last night was consumed on my part.  It was so nice that the hotel was walking... or in my case stumbling... distance away from the restaurant. 

I gotta tell ya', this internet connection at the hotel is just killing me.  I've been trying to load W3N4 images since I got back last night.  Alas, no love.  I've managed to get exactly two pictures UL'd as I write this.  You can see them and eventually the remaining images at my flickr account.

Fear the Con is today!  12 hours of gaming goodness begins at 11 central time.  I'll be blogging about it later tonight, so be sure and swing on back here for the details...

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net 


Posted by Aron Head at 7:31 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2008 7:39 AM CST
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Friday, 7 March 2008
Fear The Con - Made It To St Louis, W3N4 Tonight!
Topic: Fear The Con

Despite something in the order of 9 inches of snow falling in the Dallas-Fort Worth area yesterday, my plane pulled away from the gate on time this morning.  It was a crowded flight, though.  Between Thursday and Friday, 500 flights at DFW airport had been cancelled.  The terminal was filled with people sleeping on cots when I got there this morning.

And man, people were cheesed!  Lots and lots of grousing was overheard.

Yeah, it was a full flight.  And I was the poor bastard in the middle seat.  When I booked the trip, I was so tickled at how inexpensive the ticket was that I was willing to overlook the fact that I was in the center seat.

I was in the center seat in row 30... waaaaay back there.

It wasn't awful though.  It's a short fligt from DFW to St Louis.  About and hour and fifteen minutes.  We were only delayed 30 minutes or so for de-icing, too.  So, I'm not complaining.

I checked into the hotel early and have spent most of the afternoon rasslin' with the internet connection.  Their "high-speed" connection has been down most of the day.   I've managed a tenuous connection now that more resembles dial-up speeds than it does broadband.  I'm having a devil of a time loading graphics.  If you don't see a FEAR THE CON graphic in the top left of this entry, blame it on my connection.

The Wife, who has remained back in DFW to watchover our minions... er employees at EvilBastard.net, suggested I head over to Starbucks for a coffee and use their internets.  This is why I hired her as my Executive Vice President of Thinking Big Thoughts and Dirty Trick Planning.  Instead of doing going over to 'bucks, I took a nap. 

Tonight, is W3N4 (World Wide Wing Night 4).  It's the social event connected to Fear the Con which will involve beer, wings, and lots of RPG gabbing.

I'm about to heard out the door for that.

More updates to come from FtC in Missouri!

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net


Posted by Aron Head at 7:02 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008 10:38 PM CST
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Thursday, 6 March 2008
This Changes Everything!
Topic: Comics
 
 
I have to say that I just about shot Diet Coke all over my monitor when I read this cartoon from XKCD.
 
 Aron Head
www.EvilBastadr.net

Posted by Aron Head at 3:13 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008 3:17 PM CST
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My Thoughts on Reviewing
Topic: Personal Commentary

I find that I am writing a lot of reviews these days and it occurred to me that I should probably share my perspective on my own review process.

In order for a review to be effective, I think it is important to live with the material for a bit prior to reviewing.  My perspective changes over time.  A day sometimes does the trick, but I like several whenever possible. 

For instance, I finished reading DYING TO LIVE more than a week before writing the review.  That time gave me the opportunity to reflect upon the book's impact on me.  What did I take away from it?  Which words continue to echo inside my skull?

Sometimes, you can't wait a week, though.  New releases require an immediate comment in order to be timely in engaging interest.

My DC: The New Frontier review was written nearly forty-eight hours after having watched it the first time. 

My Razor review was written hours after having seen the screening.

Something that drives me crazy about many reviews is that the reviewer reveals the entire story in the process of telling the reader what he thinks.  I find that to be unnecessary.  One can describe the flavor of an entree without need of feeding one an entire meal.

My goal in reviewing is to describe the experience in such terms as to retain the suspense and surprise of the creator's story.  After all, why read that book, why watch that movie if I have told you the whole thing?

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net
 


Posted by Aron Head at 7:35 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008 7:34 AM CST
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Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Yahoo! Groups Moderator Town Hall in Las Colinas
Topic: Personal Commentary

Tonight, my buddy Gary and I attended the Yahoo! Groups Moderator Town Hall held at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in prestigious Las Colinas, Texas.  I moderate several Yahoo! Groups, all of which revolve around role playing games.  The purpose of the event was to "share thoughts and exchange ideas with one another" and with the Groups team.

It was a well-attended event.  Hell, even the Fly Lady was there shilling for the Groups.  I'd never heard of her before, but apparently she's a big deal.

Now, Gary and I don't get to see each other very often these days, so we spent the first part of the evening chatting with each other.  We were supposed to be networking with other moderators.  Instead, we ate the various hors’dourves - spring rolls, fried chicken fingers, BBQ quesadillas, and cheese and crackers - and nattered on until the show started.

I'll confess, I was disappointed to find that there were no adult beverages being served.  The Mandalay runs a tight bar.  I'd hoped for a martini or two tonight.  Alas, no love.

The folks from Yahoo! openly acknowledged their past failures (e.g. poor customer service, failure to support and improve technology, etc.), but shared their goals.  They want to grow the groups.  Currently, there are 80 million unique Yahoo! Groups users.  Their goal is to grow that number to 209 million within the next few years.  To do this, they are investing more resources into customer care, technology, and marketing.

This is welcome news to everybody who spends much time over in Yahoo! Groups.

The moderators were all wearing name tags with our group's name on it and number of members.  It became rather amusing as people were checking out each others tags. 

"Honestly, ma'am."  I overheard Gary say to one woman, "I'm not checking out your breasts... Just trying to read your tag."

Uh-huh.

My tag listed the name of a group I've moderated for eight years in which I run my World of Darkness Play By E-Mail role playing game.  The group is called "Austin After Dark."  I didn't think about it until I noticed several people cringing away from me after reading my tag.  I think they may have thought it's some kind of porno group.

To facillitate networking, they had us talk to three other moderators and collect some information about each of their groups on a contact form.  The form asks the name of the group, year it started, and the title of the most recent post.

I filled out forms thus:

GROUP NAME: Austin After Dark, Founded in 2000

MOST RECENT POST: "Sorry, I'm All Tied Up Right Now"

See, one of the characters is being held hostage and has been tied to a chair by Phil, the nefarious talking baboon.

Of course, I suspect folks were reading it as me running a porno site with a bent towards bondage.  Really, that just tickles me.

The big entertainment at the townhall was the people.  I mean, there are folks out there who take their groups awful darn serious.

One guy got up and bitched about how there are few safe guards around naming conventions to prevent group creation falsely claiming association with other, legitimate organizations.  He was really invested in this.  The panel agreed that it's an issue.  Identity theft, spam, and multi-level marketing are all issues that have them concerned and are the subject of much strategic planning.

A woman asked what money making opportunities there might be within Yahoo! Groups.

I suggested identity theft, spam, and multi-level marketing.

Another man approached the microphone asking about improvements to Yahoo! Groups' system of categorizing content.  The panelist answered beginning with, "I hate categories..."

He went on to state that he thinks that they will move to a keyword - or tagging - system moving away from categories...

"I was hoping for a serious answer," The guy at the mic interrupted, "I was hoping you wouldn't blow me off!"

The panelist was shocked.  So was the room.  He was giving a great answer.

After the townhall concluded, Gary and I were queued up to chat with a Yahoo! developer.  As we waited, one of the other group moderators asked Gary, "And what is your role here?"

"Um..." Gary answered, "I'm a guest.  His guest."  He indicated me.

The man became very intense, "But what is your role?"

"Yes, Gary."  I turned to him, "Tell us.  What is your role?" 

Another conversation had us both chuckling.

There were a lot of beards in the room.  Ridiculously long, ZZ Top style beards.

One fellow behind us asked one of the beards, "Are you Hasid or is that a personal choice?"

Beard guy seemed dumbfounded at the question, "What?"

"Your beard.  Are you Hasid or is that a personal choice?"

Incredulously, the guy responded: "It's a personal hygiene choice."

It was a fun night.  Mostly for the people watching.

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net 

 


Posted by Aron Head at 11:44 PM CST
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I Wish They Taught Like This When I Was in High School
Topic: Zombie Apocalypse

My friend Rodger is a high school history teacher.  An innovative educator, I am often envious of the students who get to take his classes.  It was rare in my own secondary school experience to find a teacher as passionate in his work as Rodger is.

And he's not alone.

Recently, he told me about a creative writing class at his school.  They're reading World War Z. 

Like myself and Kim Paffenroth, Rodger shares a passion for all things zombie.  He introduced the creative writing teacher to Max Brooks' WWZ, which chronicles the history of the coming world war against the undead.  Rodger then shared his big dea -  using World War Z to teach collaborative storytelling.   In the proposed assignment, each student develops a character who is then thrust into a common, extreme event.  All the writers share this event to craft their story, then the whole thing is put together as one narrative.

"They probably won't be writing about the zombie apocalypse," Rodger explained, "But certainly some other type of large disaster." 

The kids have been reading WWZ in preparation for this project. 

A zombie book for assigned reading!  How freakin' cool is that?!?

Me so jealous. 

"It sticks to my theory," Rodger added.  "No happy books on the assigned reading list." 

From what Rodger tells me,  the kids love the book.  

Man, I never had a single book assigned to me in high school that I  thought was worth a damn. 

Lucky kids.

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net 

 


Posted by Aron Head at 6:27 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008 6:26 AM CST
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Tuesday, 4 March 2008
I Have Come Here to Chew Bubblegum and Caucus...
Topic: Personal Commentary

... And I'm all out of bubblegum!

So, I went back to the polls this evening to participate in the Democratic Party  caucus for the Precinct 2148 convention.  Our polling and caucus site was my old junior high school (Nichols Junior High) which is now Webb Elementary, home of the fightin' Wallabies.

I got to the caucus early with a number of others. 

As I waited in the cafe-gym-a-torium, I looked around seeing memories of myself and friends... sitting over there having lunch with Jamie and Danny and Jeff while playing a quick round of DnD before the bell rings...  Up on stage, James and I rehearsed our duet acting scene for the speech tournament... I danced with Gina Binder in this room... and Bobby Miller beat me up by those lockers out in the hall... Steve Corbin beat me up over there, too...  And over there... And over there...

My best guess is that more than 200 people were present.  So many people were in attendance because Webb Elementary was hosting two precincts - my precinct, 2148,and our neighbor to the west, 2190.

It was a zoo.  Everybody talked over everybody else.  Precinct 2190 had a microphone, whereas 2148 had no voice augmentation.

It was difficult to hear a damned thing.

We had numbers from the day's voting in the precinct, but no early voting numbers.  Obama led Clinton by seven votes in 2148, but that was hardly represented in caucus goers.  Obama folks outnumbered Clinton folks by two-to-one in my estimation.

The Obama campaign did a marvelous job mobilizing the base.  I've never seen so many Democrats in one place. 

There was a painful absence of leadership.  No clear direction provided, it seemed rather like herding cats.  By eight o'clock we had just begun the proces of signing in.

Others have reported similar circumstances. 

The new Dallas Cowboy stadium is being built practically in my backyard.  I had no idea that about two thirds of my precinct's voting population was displaced by the new construction.  The impact is that instead of the usual 16 delegates that our precinct would send to the county convention, we will send nine.  Our precinct previously sent one delegate to the state convention.  Due to our reduced population, no delegate will be sent from 2148 to the state convention.

I signed in just a few minutes after eight this evening and considered the situation.  I'd been on site since six-thirty and really, very little progress had been made.  Most likely, this thing was going to go on for at least two more hours. 

"I'm gonna go," I told my fellow Clintonians.

This pronouncement led to an argument between me and two other caucus goers.  They both tried pressuring me to stay.  

"Don't you understand that all the delegates are awarded by representation in the caucus!?!?" One woman said.

"No," I corrected her, "Two thirds are awarded based on popular vote.  The other third is awarded based on caucusing."

Idiot.

"Stay another hour!" Another woman pleaded.

I shrugged, "In an hour I could be in bed." 

I suppose I might have resolved otherwise if I didn't like both candidates so much.  I voted and signed in for Senator Clinton, but really the biggest difference between Clinton and Obama is genitalia.  Whoever wins this primary, I feel pretty well taken care of.

In fact, I rather like John McCain, too.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm a liberal Dem to the core.  I dearly want a Democrat in the White House.  It's just that this is the first time in my life that the Republicans aren't running a crazy man!  I feel like no matter who wins, I'm gonna be okay.

Mine is probably not the position either Party is looking to embrace in November.   Still, I'm happy.

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net

 


Posted by Aron Head at 10:14 PM CST
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Knowing Your Constituency
Topic: Personal Commentary

It is unusual that a candidate has not been determined by the time the primaries roll around to Texas, but here it is March 4th and no candidate has been chosen as the Democrats' nominee for President.  This is the first time in my adult memory that this has occurred. 

Texas is such a Red State that we don't get much campaigning here on the part of the Dems during primary season.  This year's different.  TV and radio have been lousy with political ads.  Both Hillary and Obama have been to Dallas and Fort Worth.  Bill Clinton's been to town a couple of times campaigning on behalf of the missus.

Yesterday, the Head house received three pieces of campaign literature from the Clinton camp.  

The first bears a proud image of Senator Clinton with text reading: "Show your support for Hillary.  Vote AND attend your precinct convention.  Tuesday, March 4.  SHE'LL GET IT DONE.  Delivering solutions for American families!" 

"2 Steps to Victory," The second document declares.  "Let's get it right in Texas!  Show your support for Hillary.  Vote AND attend your precinct convention.  Tuesday, March 4!" 

Both very positive, empowering messages, right?  Both of these articles were addressed to Suzanne.

The third document was of a different tone:  "Barack Obama voted AGAINST protecting American families from predatory credit card interest rates of more than 30 percent... American families can't afford Barack Obama." 

This last item was addressed to me. 

Suzanne gets the warm and fuzzy.  I get the attack ad.

Say what you want about Ms. Clinton, but daaaang!  Woman knows her audience!

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net


Posted by Aron Head at 7:40 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008 7:46 AM CST
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Monday, 3 March 2008
Justice League: The New Frontier - REVIEW
Topic: DVDs

Before we begin, let me make two important disclaimers:

  1. I have not read Darwyn Cooke's DC: THE NEW FRONTIER on which the feature is based; and
  2. I absolutely hated SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY the creative team's previous DC animated feature.

Okay, that said... I loved this movie.  Not liked.  Loved.  A lot.

I downloaded it on TIVO through Amazon Unbox Friday afternoon and watched it Saturday morning.  I was stunned at how good the movie is.

I've not been thrilled with much of Warner's animation of late.  As stated above, I did not care for SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY.  It seemed rushed.  The Saturday morning THE BATMAN and LEGION OF SUPER HEROES are both so heavily stylized, it just seems like eating candy.  Nothing of substance there.

But THE NEW FRONTIER has a unique look and texture.  I'm willing to bet that a lot of the credit goes to Darwyn Cooke, the creator of the graphic novel, who served as the film's art director.  It's really quite lovely to watch.

In particular, I appreciate the manner in which Wonder Woman is portrayed.  She is not some Barbie-doll character playing dress-up.  There's power in and meat on those bones

Moreover, there's a story with pacing and characters you care about!  That has to do not just with the writing, but also with the voice acting.  Now, one of my major complaints about SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY was miscasting.  Adam Baldwin was servicable as Superman in that film, but Anne Heche was horrible as Lois Lane and as much as I love James Marsters, he was misused as Lex Luthor.

New Frontier has none of those problems.

Kyle MacLachlan is great as Superman.  David Boreanaz has a spot-on turn in the role of Hal Jordan.  And I fell in love with Brooke Shields' Carol Ferris. 

The cast and crew of Justice League: New Frontier knocked this one out of the park.  Homerun city.

The movie is surprisingly violent.  Moments into the story, a character is killed with a bloody gunshot to the head.  A few minutes later, men's bodies are burned in the aftermath of a viscious battle facillitated by Wonder Woman.  Neither scene is gratuitous and both scenes are important to the story.  It is gratifying to see a mature management of the story.

Set in the Red Scare era of the 1950's, New Frontier is suspicious of not just Communists, but also superheroes in general and specifically outer space aliens - particularly the ones that "don't look like us."  The inclusion of John F. Kennedy's New Frontier speech to the 1960 Democratic National Convention is a sublime touch.

New Frontier tells a grown-up story in what is all too often characterized as a child's medium.  I am irritated by most of the animation that's out there today.  New Frontier encourages me that American animators can do it right.  They can tell serious, yet entertaining stories in the format. 

New Frontier builds an interesting play ground.  I'd like to see more of it, which is why I'll be picking up the graphic novel.

I'll be grabbing this one on DVD, too, so that I can watch it again-and-again-and-again...



Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net

Posted by Aron Head at 7:16 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008 7:15 AM CST
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Sunday, 2 March 2008
Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among The Undead - REVIEW
Topic: Zombie Apocalypse

I came across Kim Paffenroth's DYING TO LIVE while browsing Amazon one day.  I've not had much time to read lately, so it's been sitting in a stack of a bunch of other novels I don't have time to read.  Packing for a business trip a week or so ago, I threw it in my bag for airplane reading.  It's less than 200 pages, so I figured I could knock it out in transit.

And I did.

It's not your standard zombie apocalypse fare.

Early on in the book - and without having read anything about the writer - I realized that the author must be a humanities professor.  The questions he was asking were all about the human condition.  What makes a society?  What are the critical rituals?  These subjects were not examined as an anthropologist might in the application of science.

No.

The issue was studied in terms of culture, experience, and visceral meaning.  

I kept hearing my own college Humanities professor's voice while I read Dying to Live: "What is the intrinsic value...?"

And I was right. 

Author Kim Paffenroth is a religion and humanities professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY.  He's also quite the zombie nerd maintaining his own zombie apocalyptic blog as well as authoring Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth.

I had expected a care free romp through the lands of the living dead.  What I got was a book that made me think.  It's insidious how subversive this Paffenroth fellow is.

If you're thinking that Dying to Live is simply a cerebral exploration of human culture amongst the undead, you couldn't be more wrong.  I mean you could try, but you would not be successful.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book states: "This is as bloody, violent and intense as it gets..."

Boy howdy, they ain't kidding.

Building upon one horror after another, a scene in the book literally brought tears to my eyes.  I shuddered and had to close the book for a bit.  Seriously.

I am totally stealing one particularly gruesome image for my game at Fear The Con

Dying to Live is a blood-soaked nightmare of a tale provoking questions that we should be asking now before the inevitable zombie apocalypse is upon us.

Aron Head
www.EvilBastard.net 


Posted by Aron Head at 7:15 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2008 7:13 AM CST
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