Goddamn Liars

Part of my work involves testing and trouble-shooting bar code labels.  Every time I print a test label, I get 2 labels on either side of the label that are printed witht the words ‘BLANK LABEL’ in big letters… to which I want to answer, “No, it’s NOT a blank label…”

The world is full of goddamn liars.

All in a day’s work

I work most of the week as a ‘business analyst’ which is a fancy way of saying that I do a lot of different things while sitting at a desk. I research new vendors/suppliers, place and track orders with existing vendors, confirm that invoices for equipment or services that have been received can be paid, etc., plus anything else that needs doing, including writing process, procedure and policy documents.  Some of it is boring and most of it is mundane, but the people are great… and a good relationship with my fellow employees means a lot to me.

“I searched for ‘Pussy Riot’ and this was what I got.”

Every week I get a ‘web use report’ emailed automatically from some bit of software in our network that I think is supposed to keep people from surfing the face-tubes or the you-books all day long. This shows me, with colorful pie-graphs, which users are downloading viruses or pornography or making hacking related searches or violence related searches.  Unfortunately, the software is usually quite tone-deaf — recently it exploded because nearly half of the people on the network viewed something related to ‘PUSSY RIOT.’  I suppose pornography buffs would have been disappointed when the ‘Pussy Riot’ search returned pictures of three fully dressed women sitting in a fish tank enclosure in a Russian court room.  I also get alerts for ‘hacking related’ search terms whenever one of the engineers that work here read something online about ‘Cracking.’ Unfortunately, the software doesn’t know the difference between ‘how to go about cracking a password’ and ‘Lab studies of stress cracking in polycarbonate widgets.’ Plus there are other funny ones, like when it flagged someone’s search for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’  Apparently, ‘teen’ and ‘teenage’ search terms are always flagged because pornographers like those key words — go figure. Usually, the searches that people at my workplace do are disappointingly mundane.  I guess I’m supposed to just make sure no one is doing searches like, “How to build a pipe bomb” or “What gun is best for going on a shooting spree?” and watch out for obvious and outrageous policy violations.  

In other job news, there may soon be an opening in the Maryland Legislature for a Republican delegate, so if you are between positions and live in Maryland, consider sending in your resume.  Delegate Don Dwyer was piloting a motorboat while shitfaced drunk and crashed his boat into another boat, injuring a total of 6 people (including himself). His re-election was considered a slam dunk up until he went sailing with ‘Capn’ Morgan.’ Dwyer is famous for being a vocal opponent to same sex marriage, because, in the delegate’s opinion, it “hurts children.” Ironically, several of the injured in the boat that the drunken Dwyer crashed into were children, so I would have to point out that it looks to me as if drunken state delegates piloting speed boats are probably more of a danger to the health of children than gay people getting married. 

MIA – Fuck the Humans

I’ll be away for a few days.

Some Brad Neeley music & animations:

The Golem does not get it.

“The Golem doesn’t get it!”

This is the first sentence in a newletter/spam that came today from ‘Paizo’:

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game™ from Paizo Publishing is one of the world’s best-selling fantasy roleplaying games, in the true spirit of the classic dungeon crawl (more ad copy follows).

Whaaaaat?  “…the true spirit of the classic dungeon crawl“?  Since when? I mean, I’m hardly one of the “I learned to play D&D as a child sitting on Gary Gygax’s knee” people (I first played in 1978 in a location very far from Lake Geneva), but to claim “the true spirit of the classic dungeon crawl” for Pathfinder (a re-write of the 3.5e D&D rules, which were written to ‘fix’ everything that was supposedly ‘wrong’ with ‘old’ D&D) seems like a load of shit. D&D 3e and it’s iterantions couldn’t wait to tell people, “Hey, we fixed D&D!” and now that some people are saying that they liked the way it was, they are tring to climb aboard that bandwagon as well. It’s as bad as hearing Mitt say, “I know what the common man thinks and feels because Ann and I own a lot of common men, along with a stable full of dressage horses…”

The people who like Pathfinder probably don’t WANT a classic dungeon crawl (at least, none of the fans of Pathfinder that I know do).  And that’s fine.  But, please, lay off the ‘true spirit of the classic dungeon crawl’ shit, ok?

Hello Kitty

Up until today, I never knew who ‘Hello Kitty’ was.  I still don’t know very much; I only read the first paragraph of her wikipedia page. I have seen her image on shirts, hats, shower curtains, backpacks, etc., like I have seen ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ and ‘Mickey Mouse’ on hats, t-shirts, etc., but I had this idea that ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ was a ‘real’ character (insofar as he seemed to have some sort of ‘existance’ as a fictional cartoon character outside of being a reason to sell merchandise, and, one might argue, the popularity of the cartoon helped sell the merchandise). As far as I could tell, there was no cartoon behind ‘Hello Kitty.’ ‘Hello Kitty’ seems to have existed in order to sell stuff first, and THEN they made the cartoons, comic books and video games.  Which seems pretty backwards but maybe it’s just post-postmodernity in action.

Didja know you can get a ‘Hello Kitty’ AK?  They also make a Hello Kitty AR15.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2011 and 1973)

From the 1973 version: Little teddy bears with coneheads.

I’ve written before of my love for a 1973 horror movie (made for television) called “Don’t be Afraid if the Dark,” mentioning that I suspect that the critters in it were the inspiration for Gygax’s ‘Jermlaine.’  I saw that movie when I was just a kid and it scared the Bejeezus out of me. Unfortunately, one apparently can’t rent the original version of the film — I’d love to see it again.
Recently I finally sat down to watch the 2011 version of this film on Netflix (produced by Guillermo Del Toro, so, despite my kneejerk distate for remakes, I had high hopes). If I hadn’t seen the 1973 movie when I was just a little kid, I might have enjoyed the 2011 version more… although I’m sure the 1973 version would seem pretty crude by today’s standards if I could compare them.

SPOILERS follow:

1973: These little bastards scared the piss out of me

The original films’ synopsis: A young professional couple move into a creepy old house that they are renovating. There is a grumpy old man who worked for the house’s previous owner who refuses to remove the iron cover that has been bolted over a fireplace in an abandoned room that the wife wants to use, muttering vague warnings about ‘things better left alone.’ The wife unbolts the iron cover and then strange things start to happen — little scuttling figures, like rats, are continuously trying to scare her or hurt her, stealing knives and scissors, etc. Since the husband is a workaholic, he thinks his wife is losing her mind. The little critters are always whispering things like, “Let’s get her now…no, wait till it’s dark…we get her when its dark…”, etc., in these creepy, whispery little voices that only the wife can hear and they murder her ‘interior decorator’ (and, yes, being that this is 1973, the interior decorator is some flaming queen dude).  We see more of the little creatures as the film progresses — they look like tiny people with wrinkled, pointy heads and they hate the light. When the film ends, she has disappeared (I don’t remember how) and the iron grate has been placed back over the fireplace.  We can hear the woman’s voice has joined the ‘whisperers’ and it is obvious that they are waiting for the day when some new, ignorant rehabber removes the iron grating from the fireplace and sets them free again.

From the 2011 version: Howler Monkey?

The 2011 version: This is a big-budget, Hollywood film with famous actors and big money production values (the 1973 version was a ‘made for television’ movie). The ‘old house’ is a giant turn-of-the-century mansion being restored by an architect and his interior designer girlfriend in the hopes that they can ‘flip’ it and make a bundle. The architect is obsessed with getting his rehab job on the cover of some architectural magazine and spends most of the movie worrying about whether or not the snooty magazine editor is going to come to a dinner party he is hosting at the house. The architect’s daughter from a previous marriage, who is depressed because both of her parents are too self absorbed to pay attention to her, is shipped to the mansion to live with her architect dad and his designer girlfriend (played by Katie Holmes).  The part of the wife in the first movie has been split up between the girlfriend and the little girl — she is the one who sees them and no one else believes her, but the girlfriend eventually comes to believe that the girl is telling the truth.  There is also an old handyman who gets fucked up royally by the little goblins, but this is passed off as an ‘accident’ (how he ‘accidentally’ stabbed himself a dozen times with every single sharp item in his own toolbox while alone in the basement does not seem suspicious to the architect or the police).

Interestingly, the authors of the new version do some ‘Appendix N’ style* name dropping; a librarian at the local library mentions Arthur Machen in connection to legends of malevolent little people and shows the architect’s girlfriend some of the unusual drawings of ‘monsters’ that the previous owner of the house had made. The more recent version also tries to put the little creatures into context by telling us the story of the previous owner of the house, a famous artist, who was driven mad when his son was abducted by the little fiends.  When the girlfriend notices how much the drawings by the former owner resemble the drawings by the little girl, she begins to believe. And the girlfriend gives the little girl her Polaroid camera with flash-bar to help her defend herself from the little monsters (they hate the light).  The prescence of the Polaroid camera in this film set in the digital age is, perhaps, a nod to the 1973 roots of the original when Polaroid cameras were all the shiznit (do they even sell Polaroid film anymore?).  Of course, in the movies, revolvers usually hold about 20 bullets rather than 5 or 6 and Polaroid Cameras can take about 100 pictures on one pack of film rather than 12… but since the movie is about evil tiny critters that live in a pit under the fireplace, I guess I shouldn’t quibble too much.

Unfortunately, the girlfriend doesn’t manage to get everyone out of the house in time and she gets pulled into the fireplace while rescuing the little girl from that same fate.  The movie ends like the original; a new iron grating has been installed over the fireplace and the house has been forclosed on and is back on the market.  We can hear the girlfriend has now joined the whispering voices, telling them that eventually someone will open the grate again.

There is a lot of CGI in the new version, and, on my TV it looked pretty good, but one of the things that was fascinating about the old version is that the tiny creatures were played by actors in suits and masks on sets made to look like a partion of the set that the actors portaying humans would use, but with the furnishings and details blown up to enormous size, and, by cutting scene back and forth between actors playing humans on a normal set and actors in suits playing tiny monsters on a giant set, it gave the impression that the little people were crawling out of the cupboards to attack.

The new one is pretty good, I guess, but I’m less enthused because, well, it’s a remake.  My memories of the 1973 version are pretty colored by how much it scared me (in a good way) when I was just a youngster, and, like most horror flicks where a child is shoehorned in, the new one can get a little saccharine at times (although if I could watch the original I’m sure it would look pretty cheap and dated).

Here is the trailer for the 1973 version:

Here is the trailer for the 2011 version:

*It has been brought to my attention that Machen is, apparently, not in appendix N.  Mea culpa.  He should be.

Look at this:

I was looking at the back endpaper of my DCC RPG book (published by Goodman Games) and just feasting my eyes on this work by Peter Mullen:

I know it’s going to make me sound like a complete suck-up, but Mullen is, in my opinion, the best artist working in art for RPGs today.  His pictures just blow me away with their dark humor and the way in which Mullen manages to squeeze 100 different stories into the one panel.  It reminds me of many of Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings:

When I was a kid, we had a lot of ‘picture books’ (many of which were pretty old, dating back to the 50s or earlier).  My favorites were the ones with drawings that were like ‘panoramas,’ broad views with dozens (or more) small dramas all taking place in one picture, so your eye can wander around and take in all the different interactions taking place within the single panel.  Like a ‘Where’s Waldo,” there was no ‘central theme’ or ‘focal point’ in these darwings.  The one panel is a collection of little vignettes; the visial equivalent of a puzzle with a lot of different pieces that all add up to a whole. 

In the case of Hogarth’s “Gin Lane” (below), it’s a social critique of what happens when gin is cheaper (and safer) than water, milk or tea.  Bosch (above) painted hell — some say he was crazy or hallucinating because of the ergot fungus; others claim that his paintings were filled with secret messages for fellow mwmbers of ‘mystery cults,’ still others say that many of the scenes and symbols had meanings that would have been more obvious to his contemporaries but have become less familiar to the modern viewer.  I just know that I like them.

Whenever I look at work like Mullen’s “Into the Frying Pan,” (top), I get discouraged and jealous.  Discouraged because I like looking at Mullen’s work more than my own and jealous because I’s love to be able to say that I drew/painted something like that. I’m trying to channel those feelings of envy in a more productive direction and allow that maybe my envy means that Mullen has raised the bar for me and it’s time to shake things up and challenge myself to do better.

What is this blog for?

At least one of these rounds is going through my foot.

What is this blog for? I used to write here about gamey-dork-type things, and I plan on continuing to do that as the mood strikes me. For example, we will be playing another session of our DCC campaign next week which will probably eventually be preserved here for posterity’s sake (see links to session 1, session 2, etc., at right).

I’ve never been much of one for writing ‘state of the hobby’ or ‘here is what you should be worrying about if you care about the game industry’ and similar stuff.  That just doesn’t interest me and there are plenty of blogs that fill that niche.
I used to write what some people would describe as ‘political rants’ (I saw them more as ‘social commentary from my perspective’) and probably still will, even though doing so seems pretty pointless. I’ve given up on the idea that the internet is a good method of ‘winning converts to your point of view in order to make the world a better place.’ (if that is even possible — I put it in italics to show you that I typed it with a smirk on my face). Whenever I go off on a ‘political tear’ I end up feeling like I was either preaching to the already converted or telling people who were never going to agree with me what I thought. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to fire off an angry screed now and again; an esteemed author of many angry screeds, Gore Vidal, died today, so I kind of feel like being a crank puts me in good company, but I don’t fool myself into thinking that these cranky rants are anything more than me blowing of steam or holding forth on a topic I am interested in to a mostly indifferent audience.  I also think I’ve become more fatalist in the past few months; I used to believe that if you selected your positions carefully and then attempted to argue with honesty, people might find something interesting in what you had to say.  And I no longer believe that the vast majority of people have the ability to accept anything that does not fit their preconceived notions as anything other than ‘incorrect thinking.’
I suppose I’ll also use the blog keep writing about my own projects and stuff.  How much time I am able to spend on those projects (and spend writing about them) has been greatly cut back because of my new job, but you gotta do what you gotta do in this world to pay your bills, and, sometimes spending too much time ‘blogging’ about doing rather than doing something feels like being a hamster on a wheel — a lot of activity that fails to go anywhere.

(speaking of potentially political posts, “zombies” showed up when the Westboro Baptist Cult had yet another one of their almost constant protests where they shouted how “God hates Fags” and whatnot. If there was ever anything that left and right could agree upon in America, it is that WBC is loathsome. I like to picture a zombie shambling up to one of the Westboro cultists, biting into their skull and finding a tiny, shrunken walnut of a brain inside that even the undead find inedible.)