Thank Q’uq’umatz!

Nasa officials recently offered up the cheerful news that the world really isn’t going to end on December 21st, 2012, as supposedly predicted by the Mayans and their impressive stone calendars. Someone once told me that the fact that the Mayan calendars ended on the day we describe as December 21, 2012 was of no significance; it just meant that by the time the Spanish arrived and started killing them, that was as far in the future as the Mayans had bothered to calculate time… although part of me likes the idea of some ancient Mayan calendar carver, dying of whooping cough, thinking to himself, “The joke’s on you, Spaniards — according to this calendar I just finished, in about four hundred and twelve years from now you guys are FUCKED!”

Of course, the skeptic in me thinks that if the Mayans had the power to predict the end of the world more than 400 years in the future, they also would have had the power to prevent a bunch of unwashed Spaniards with fancy hats to destroy their civilization. 

Q’uq’umatz is apparently the Mayan feathered serpent god whom some claim is much like the Aztec god, Quezcoatl (and others say that Q’uq’umatz is nothing like Quezcoatl — me, I don’t have an opinion because I don’t know). Quezcoatl is cool because they also call him, “The Smoking Mirror” which is an excellent name. I chose Q’uq’umatz’s name from a list because I was wondering how you pronounce it. “Kwu-kwu mats? Ku-uk-oo-matz? Kwuck-oo-matz?”

Note to self: Never agree to join any Mayan sport team. If I understand it correctly, the winners usually eat the losers and my softball skills are so woefully poor that I am more likely to find myself among the eaten rather than the eaters.

World War Z and Zombie Fantasy

I previously mentioned the Max Brooks books, World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide, on this blog. I just found out that the World War Z movie (starring Brad Pitt) will be out in July 2013. My friend Jon C. has been so excited to see this that I wonder if he will be able to stand having to wait that long? I also wonder if I’ll be able to convince Annie to see it with me?  She hates scary movies.

The preview looks like it was inspired by Brook’s book rather than a straight translation to film, mostly because the book is really just a series of anecdotes from different people in different countries following the zombie plague — recollections of people in China who saw the first outbreak contrasted with stories from Frenchmen who exterminated zombies in the catacombs beneath Paris, for example.  It looks like the film makers stitched the different vignettes together with Pitt as a central character; he apparently is some sort of U.N. crisis specialist who is jetting around the world while they try to deal with the whole ‘Z’ situation. Hopefully Pitt is better at his job than that  Brownie guy from FEMA was during Katrina.

The preview doesn’t tell me much, but, wow, rivers of people surging forward instead of the usual shuffling hordes of rotted zombies is a welcome change… it looks like this film might manage to make zombies scary again! With ‘The Walking Dead’ on T.V. and movies like this coming out, zombie fans are getting a lot of entertainment.  What makes us love this zombie stuff so much?

I have a theory. I think one of the things people love about zombie movies is that these films allow us to imagine ‘killing’ people without moral consequences. I remember hearing about how the rationalist, Rene Descartes, used to say that animals didn’t feel pain; he claimed that if a dog howls after you kick it, the ‘pain response’ of the dog was of no more significance than a squeaking of a wheel on a cart. I have no doubt that Descartes was wrong; I believe animals do feel pain, but maybe Descartes was actually seeking to excuse how horribly people treat animals by saying that it didn’t matter. And maybe that’s part of the appeal of the zombie fantasy. Descartes statements about animals have (thankfully) been mostly discredited and Hollywood has discovered that Americans actually don’t like to watch people killing animals (just ask artist Tom Otterness; he was videotaped shooting a dog in way back in 1977 as an ‘art project’ and a lot of people (including me) still think he’s a douche).  We hate to see animals getting killed, but we do like to watch people killing other people (well, at least simulated versions of people killing other people).  One of the advantages of ‘deactivating’ a zombie is that it is not potentially immoral in the same way that shooting another human in the head might be immoral simply because you are not actually ‘killing’ the zombie; it is supposedly already dead. In fact, by ‘deactivating’ the zombie, you are performing a public service since that zombie will just wander around trying to infect other humans, right?

I think another reason that the ‘zombie apocalypse’ has common appeal is that most of us live fairly trammeled lives in which we travel back and forth between work, home, school, etc., and little that we do in our day to day lives has much significance.  Whatever else one might say about a world in which the social order has been destroyed, zombies shuffle or surge up and down the streets while the survivors seek to live just another day (or even another few moments), at least it wouldn’t be boring. Romero had his zombies shuffling up and down the escalators of a shopping mall, and the appeal of that image probably said a lot about how many members of the audience felt like they were not really living, either.  The survivors, on the other hand, need to be quick and clever and resourceful. The irony is that in television shows like ‘The Walking Dead,’ the priciple characters spend a lot of time saying how horrible life after the zombie event is — they are always on the run, dirty, hungry, scared and afraid of losing their humanity — but I can’t help thinking they will also never have to sit in traffic or listen to a mind numbingly boring sales pitch/teacher’s lecture/sermon/power point presentation again.  The zombie apocalypse takes away a lot, but, at least in it’s fantasy form, it appears to give a lot too — bursts of adrenaline as we try to outrun the shuffling hordes, a ‘first person shooter’ experience that would be more immersive than any video game and the chance to remake yourself in a brave new world where the old social order has been swept away and the population is defined in one of three ways: dead, undead and still living. Basejumping and other more pedestrian thrill seeker activities pale in comparison.

I never needed a drink that badly

How is it possible that this slipped under my radar for so long?

UT Student and Phi-Kappa-Alpha brother Alexander “Zander” Broughton denies butt-chugging. Apparently, at some point “Zander” was hospitalized for extreme alcohol poisoning and the whole PKA frat was placed under suspension for this (and possibly other) alcohol related incident(s). Somehow the rumor started that “Zander” had been ‘butt-chugging.’ ‘Butt-chugging’ is when you take alcohol and, instead of drinking it, you put it up your butt… I’m guessing butt chuggers use an enema bag or something. It apparently gets you really fucked up really quickly… maybe butt-chugging is for busy multi-taskers who don’t have time to stand around drinking through your mouth anymore like they did in Grandpa’s day.

The best part of the video is where all the dudes are standing around looking serious as ‘Zander’ and the Fraternity’s lawyer sternly deny butt-chugging several times. ‘Zander’ wants to make it clear that he is NOT GAY… because, I guess, that’s the first question that he thinks should come to mind… and wants to clear his good name — he is not a butt-chugger and he wants those who have called him a butt-chugger to pay the legal consequences for damage to his reputation and the reputation of his fraternity. He wants us to know that the alcohol poisoning that landed him in the hospital was the result of him drinking a whole box of Franzia box wine through his mouth… not by using a hose to put it up his butt. Franzia? Nice choice of beverage, by the way. How the whole topic of butt-chugging came up when ‘Zander’ (or is it ‘Xander?’) landed in the ER is discussed at length in the video.

“Butt-chugging” has a long history.  The pre-Columbian Mayans were notorious butt-chuggers, as this ancient statue proves:


Look at that Mayan; he is so happy to be butt-chugging!

Brave Dungeoneers

Halloween… so it’s time for people to go to haunted houses.  I found these pictures on the web of people visiting a haunted house in Niagara, Canada. I wish some enterprising photoshop jockey would substitute dank stone walls for the wallpaper and dress the people up in armor, helmets, bacpacks, etc., and add torches, pointy hats, coils of rope and all the other impedimentia of dungeoneering, so these could be ‘monster eye views’ of ‘moments before the TPK.’

The guy in the yellow shirt perhaps thinks that they are being attacked by a basilisk and has closed his eyes. The young girl’s strategy of coiling herself around her mother will get them both killed.
These dudes are all squeezing together in a clump that is as tight as possible.  Rookie mistake. One breath from the hell hound will take them all out.
Not heroic, but running seems like a solid plan.
The man looks like he is trying to draw his sword or dagger.  Unfortunately, having his date grab his arm like that is going to cause at least a -3 on his initial attack.

Unhappy Camper

Life is full of disappointments.  This morning I was running late and just grabbed something from the freezer for lunch.  Trader Joe’s Filet of Sole. Compare the picture on the box to what I got.  After I cooked it, it looked even worse.

Son of a bitch, Joe! You really let me down!

only 2 more weeks

In less than 2 weeks, Americans will cast their ballots, and, after lots of drama over the count of both the electoral college AND the popular vote, the man who serves as US president for the next 4 years will have been decided. Like the Christmas fatigue that strikes me late in the year every year when I have been “BUY MORE NOWed” to near death, I can’t wait for the election thing to be over.

I’ve already written (on this very blog!) that I think it will be Obama (and I think that’s still true). There’s been a lot of drama in the past couple weeks, especially over Romney’s performance in the debates, but I think the vast number of voters don’t pay attention to debates or issues[1]or parties or platforms[2]. I suspect the vast majority just vote for the person they like most who happens to be in the party they aspire to identify with, with some vague idea that voting for a rich man will make everyone richer or voting for a black man will make other people less racist. These seem like naive reasons to choose a president, but I think people have the right to choose presidents the way they make any other choice in their lives — I might think it is short sighted to choose Geico over another insurance company because you like the gecko with the Australian accent on their commercials, but I can’t deny that it is the consumer’s right to pick Geico because of the gecko. Similarly, if Romney’s Mormonism or his helmet-hair or his wife’s horses makes him seem like a better candidate than Obama’s Christianity or his close-cut hair or Bo the dog, then go for it. It is your right as an American to make a decision for stupid reasons.

I think the main reason for all the media drama is that reporting that we already think that Romney won’t win makes very unexciting television. By continuing to indulge in the shared fantasy that it really will be down to the wire up until election day is in the best interest of pundits, experts and peddlars of infotainment.  Speaking of exciting television, did you hear that Donald Trump has ‘very big’ news about President Obama? Even Mitt Romney (who will presumably benefit from whatever bullshit Trump reveals) can’t pretend to be interested. It’s Geraldo Rivera excavating Al Capone’s vault all over again. (edit: the “very big news” was revealed… and it was not big news after all. Surprised?).

The one issue that doesn’t seem to get any press is environmental stewardship. Yes, I think climate change is real. Even if I didn’t care about the other issues[3] that have already made me think that 4 more years of Obama would be preferable to 4 years of Romney, I’d have to vote for whomever was the ‘greener’ candidate simply because I believe we are destroying the planet faster than it can heal itself… and I think that is an extraordinarily stupid thing to do. Why that isn’t an ‘issue’ in the campaign and abortion is makes me think of Churchill:

Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

[1]”Issues” seems to mean so many things to so many people that I don’t even know where to begin.  Earlier in this election cycle, gay marriage and the ironically named ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ seemed to be “issues” for some people, although, if you are a God-fearing Christian heterosexual, how your marriage needs to be defended against other people getting married is beyond me.  I mean, if you believe in a vengeful, mean spirited God who will make people want to “be gay” (or “act gay” or “live the gay lifestyle” or however the conservative minds currently phrase the gay ‘condition’) and then send them to hell for that, then why would you want to attempt to interfere with his will by making laws that will presumably prevent sinners from doing the sin that God will want to punish them for?

[2] I remember reading a poll from a few years ago where they discovered that almost a third of Americans polled apparently don’t know who the Vice President is or that Washington DC is not in Washington state — and the Republicans are worried about illegal aliens voting in the election? Could a Nicaraguan nanny without a green card who speaks English as a second language really be a greater threat to democracy than the people who were born here and still don’t understand basic geography or what job Al Gore had before he became the bête noir of Fox News and the American Petroleum Institute?
[3] See ‘DOMA,’ athlete doping scandals, prayer in schools, etc. In short, the softball topics that politicians and the press concentrate on when they really should be concentrating on other things.

Twilight of the Grogs

Teenage boys and grognards want this…

Onan the Barbarian’s mighty boot knocked the temple’s door from its hinges and his sword cleaved the first baboon-man guard in twain.  Blood spattered as the dead creature hit the moss covered flagstones and the massed baboon men, who were gathered around something on the altar, turned and hissed in anger at the mighty barbarian.  “Come and die, you stinking sons of monkeys,” Onan roared. The gigantic gems in the eyes of the baboon god idol glittered in the torchlight. Those sapphires will leave here in my pouch when this butcher’s work is done, the mighty warrior thought as he turned and slashed at a baboon-man who snuck soundlessly from the shadows with a curved knife.  Blood flew through the air as the baboon assassin’s head rolled across the floor, cloven from it’s hairy body with one fell stroke…

Sometimes the D&D ‘grognards’ are unintentionally funny. Take this forum discussion where some of the grognards go off on the “Twilight” books (and/or movies), for example.  Dudes who roll dice while pretending to be elves and wizards fighting goblins and gelatinous cubes (mostly dudes, I guess — 99% dudes?) think it is silly that teenage girls and their moms like to fantasize about hot vampires that sparkle in the sunlight and werewolves that look like they belong in a boy band. I almost don’t know where to begin.

…the last of the baboon-men died with a groan, cut to ribbons by the Onan’s whirling blade. There, upon the altar, lay a woman bound with crude ropes of leather with only a scrap of silk to hide her loins. Her hair was as black as the night in far Khemnet where neither stars nor moon adorn the sky, and her heaving breasts were like piles of whipped cream topped with cherries most sweet. “Please, barbarian master,” she moaned, her virginal breast heaving with fear and desire, “I am yours to do with as you will.”

Teenage girls and cougars want this…

Look, I know my D&D love is some dorky-ass shit.  That’s part of what I love about it. But (and I’m being brutally honest here), Howard’s “Conan” books were never great literature to rank with the likes of Conrad, Austen or Twain, okay? I can enjoy Conan novels like I enjoy zombie movies (and Annie enjoys her occasional ‘chick flicks’). People used to call these things ‘guilty pleasures’ but I don’t feel a lot of guilt over it, so that doesn’t quite fit, but call it ‘eye and mind candy’ if you like.  I observe that some people watch NASCAR the way I play D&D.  Rolling dice and laughing with friends  seems as good a use of my time as watching cars covered in corporate logos drive around in circles at high speed, so I’m comfortable in my dorkery. I’ve never felt tempted by ‘Twilight’ (are those books really written by a Mormon woman? That’s pretty weird…), but I also understand that I am not in the target demographic. And I’m OK with that.

More Megadungeons

Put a few bones or a torch stub in it if that will make you feel like it’s more exciting.

Megadungeons:  I can no longer keep track of who said what or when or why, so I won’t pretend that I even know anymore… but I think there is still some juice in this topic, so I’m going to keep at it. 

As anecdotal evidence, reading Evereaux’s campaign journals, it certainly sounds to me as though they had fun… so I guess I’m a bit skeptical that some declare the megadungeon to be an automatic recipe for a snore fest. On the other hand, I think successful social events are successful because there is a willingness on the part of the participants to participate. As an example of an unsuccessful social event, I would offer up the story of ‘Jack and the koosh ball.’

‘Jack’ was a former boss of mine. He was the kind of guy who would walk up behind you and give you a back rub without asking if you want a back rub; a trait I’ve always found annoying and creepy unless the backrubber is a spouse or girlfriend or professional masseuse whom you have asked to massage you.  I suspect that he read a lot of breezy and simplistic books on ‘how to be a better manager’ and thus loved ‘get to know you’ games and ‘think outside the box’ exercises which he substituted for actually managing.  In short, if you have ever seen the US version of ‘The Office’ with that flakey guy from ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ movie, you know Jack (except he was probably even more of a self serving douche than the Office guy). One day, Jack called us all into the ‘big room’ and made us sit on the floor and told us that he thought we needed to ‘get to know each other better’ or some similar condescending bullshit. He took out a ‘koosh’ ball (which is some sort of a soft, rubber thing made for throwing around) and told us we had to throw it around at random and who ever caught it had to tell the first story from their childhood that popped into their head.  We spent about half an hour throwing the koosh ball around and then pointing to the person next to us and saying, “I think that’s yours” whenever it landed near us. The ‘fun and whimsical team building game’ was a failure because none of us wanted to play it, one reason being you can’t force trust and spontaneity on a group of people who a) don’t trust each other, and, b) know that the longer they spend tossing a koosh ball around and hearing stories about other people’s happy childhoods = more time they are going to have to spend catching up on actual work (the thing that they came to ‘work’ to do). I don’t know if such an exercise could or could not work in the right environment, but ‘sharing childhood memories’ was not what this group wanted to do with one another, so the exercise failed. The fact that they guy trying to force us to share our childhood memories was a delusional, self serving wanker did not help. It just remains one of those cringe-worthy memories, like realizing that you have been walking around all day with a big old toilet paper streamer stuck on your shoe. Similarly, if your group isn’t interested in spelunking through the megadungeon, any campaign based on megadungeoneering is bound to fail.


Which is why, after having heard everyone else at my regular bi-monthly game table say, “No thanks” to megadungeons, I decided that my bi-weekly group was not the right crowd for megadungeon spelunking.  My saying that doesn’t mean anything other than exactly what I think I said.


More hand sanitizer, please…

Plague zombie!  Lookout!
There is some dude who works in the next row of cubicles who is constantly coughing and wheezing. He sounds like his lungs are full of yellow mold. I hope whatever it is that is wrong with him is not catching – if the world is coming down with The Red Plague, I don’t want to die here.
Speaking of disease, did you know there is a list of fictional diseases on Wikipedia?
 And still some snobby people claim that Wikipedia is useless?  Where else are you going to find a list of several dozen made up dieseases with thumbnail sketches of the symptoms and cures and footnotes telling you which book or movie said fictional diesease has come from?

‘Please don’t do this to me!’

I don’t really know what ‘reddit’ is or why it is.  I barely know what Gawker is. Every once in a while someone send me a link to some site like ‘Jezebel’ saying, “You might like this,” or “I think you would hate this” or whatever.  But ‘reddit’ is apparently another one of dozens of ‘content aggregate sites’ on the web where people post shit and other people look at it and they post +1 and similar stupid stuff.  And although I don’t really understand ‘reddit’ nor do I care about it, it has passed in front of my radar recently because other news sites I follow have been reporting on some dude named Michael Brutsch.

Fat and creepy looking, plus he has a (surprise!) goatee. Looks pretty much like I expected he would.

Brutsch is one of reddit’s “power users” who has, for years, specialized in trolling and what he affectionately calls ‘creepshots’ (and others have called ‘child pornography.’ I’m not sure they fit my definition of pornography, but they don’t make me like Brutsch). ‘Creepshots’ are where Brutsch or his followers scour the web looking for pictures of under-age girls who look sexually provocative for ‘wank material’ or they photograph under age girls they see in public. So, yeah, they follow 14 year olds and leer at them, then post the pictures they snap online and make comments about the girls.  Illegal? I don’t know. Fucked up and creepy? Definitely.
Brutsch served as a moderator (or sorts) for ‘reddit’ and established his own moderation policies for ‘creepshots.’ Among other things, he would immediately delete any pictures that were of women/girls old enough to give legal consent. Anyone who crossed him would be hunted down and harassed on the Internet by Brutsch and his cronies. Among other things, they would flood their network of sites with the targets real name and contact information coupled with insults and accusations. And he and his cronies did all of this from behind anonymous user handles.  Brutsch used ‘Violentacrez’ as his screen name, and, as Violentacrez he was infamous. Brutsch/Violentacrez is unpaid (he does (or did) this for fun), but ‘reddit’ is owned by Conde Nast, who disavow any role in the creepiness of 49 year old men posting pictures and comments that describe their sexual fantasies involving young girls and pictures they have appropriated from facebook and other sources.
Cutting to the chase: The residents of ‘Gawker’ and ‘reddit’ were caught up in some sort of flame war.  Adrian Chen of Gawker somehow found out that Violentacrez = Brutsch and called up Brutsch to tell him that he was going public with the information. Brutsch begged him not to, citing the fact that this would embarrass his family and cost him his job, ignoring the obvious — as Violentacrez, he made his reputation by bringing grief to other people. But when the shit lands on his doorstep, he begs Chen to show some mercy and let him off the hook. He tells Chen that his wife is disabled and this will embarrass his son (never mind that as Violentacrez, there was nowhere Brutsch wouldn’t go in his attempts to humiliate those he though of as his online enemies and he had no qualms about invading the lives of others by posting pictures of teenagers in his online gallery). I’m glad to say that Chen didn’t listen. After the news got out, Brutsch was let go from his position at a financial firm’s IT department, presumably because he had been moderating a glorified porn site and championing free speech by fucking with people from an anonymous account while on the clock. Ooops.
Why are these Internet tough guys always such pathetic, fat worms in reality? When they finally reel out enough rope to hang themselves, they always seem to think that they don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of what they have been dishing out.  What’s up with that?