Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Cover

Reality Blurs released the cover for Ravaged Earth. It's cool sweetness!
The edits have been going extremely well and there's a slightly different emphasis on the overall plot and the game's scope widened, allowing more elements of pulp, science fiction and horror, which was my goal from the beginning.

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Moon On The Man

Not so much a tribute to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon 39 years ago, this video clearly portrays one man's attempt at reaching another moon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Joss Whedon, the creative genius behind TV cult hits Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel and the anticipated Dollhouse, created an online musical, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser himself) stars as a mad scientists struggling to get into the Evil League of Evil but is distracted by Penny, a girl he loves from afar. Complicating things is Captain Hammer, his heroic nemesis. The musical, which is available online for free until July 20, is in three parts and can be downloaded from iTunes. It's great that such creative forces are coming together and using the Internet as a unique medium for distributing multimedia. Thank you, Mr. Whedon for a fantastic and comical spin into the world of superheroes and villains.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Mayor Who Cried Wolf

One constant irritation with reporting the news is the bombardment of falsehoods, distortions and outright bullshit I’m exposed to by high-ranking officials who are old enough to know better.
I’ve interviewed politicians who see nothing wrong with lying or misleading reporters. I’m trying to figure out why this happens. When something is uncomfortable or controversial, when called upon the carpet to explain or extrapolate, politicians dodge questions and sling mud at the questioner.
Lately, with my beat, I’m discovering a city administration so protective of its secrets and so apt at sidestepping queries by the press and public, you’d think a corrupt and despotic regime uprooted itself from a Third World country and set up shop in New Jersey.
It’s frustrating and infuriating when a mayor insults your intelligence by telling you something untrue. It isn’t simply ignorance of the facts, but a willing attempt to obscure and hide the facts from public view.
Yet as a reporter and Fourth Estate scribe, I have to dutifully report the mayor’s statements objectively and without bias.
Hence, the condundrum.
The press has a professional responsibility to relate the news to the public. However, when your source is telling you something that you know is pure grade bullshit, how does this serve the public? You can't, after you quote the mayor, write, "The mayor is actually a fucking liar." That's bad form and irresponsible.
The public views the press as mistrustful of authority and cynical of power. I'm sorry, but if someone wants me to lie for them, that person doesn't think highly of me to begin with. I refuse to be an accomplice.
Unfortunately, recording and disseminating bullshit makes me less Bob Woodward and more Joseph Goebbels.
The mayor is an attorney by profession, so he’s skilled at wordplay and nimbly arguing his positions in court. He’ll turn the tables on any argument and make you look like you’re at fault, while ignoring what he doesn’t want to hear.
By controlling the message, he muzzles the messengers and turns reporting into propaganda.
Thomas Jefferson, in an 1785 letter to his nephew Peter Carr, extols the virtues of honesty and abhors lying: “It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”
The mayor’s attempts to sidestep accountability by ignoring pressing questions only hurts his administration and whatever legacy he wishes to leave. Full disclosure and honesty are the only ways he can salvage the little credibility he has in the public purview. By repeatedly lying and distorting the facts, the mayor fosters an environment where mistrust takes hold. Even if he tells the truth or is open and candid, people don't believe him because of the previous lies.
A politician who’s a serial liar isn’t a man of the people; he’s a man against the people. He has great contempt for those who put him in power and the greater public good takes a backseat to saving his own skin and protecting his intrests.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Matt Unites The Planet

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

I don't usually post links to or embed videos, but this one really got me. Meet Matt Harding. He traveled the world and danced with many people in a touching display of international unity. If you think the world is divided, watch this. It's the best video I've seen on the Internet. Period. It'll make you smile and cry at the same time and realize that despite the vast distances that separate cultures and nations, we are all one species. Thanks, Matt for putting it all in perspective and bringing the world together through goofy dancing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good Karma

I just inked a five-year contract with Reality Blurs, a Memphis-based game publisher who'll publish my role-playing game Ravaged Earth. The game had previously been in the production pipeline with the now-defunct company Double G Press, who developed and nurtured the manuscript through its young stages. Back in March, Double G Press signed the rights of the game back to me and I approached Pinnacle. They created a wiki for the game and it took up residence in cyberspace. Now after weeks of negotiating with Reality Blurs, it looks like my game (which was originally called Ravaged Earth before it was changed to The Ravaged Earth Society) will be published in book form. It'll also be published under its original name, which is like a homecoming of sorts.
I'm extremely excited about this unique opportunity. The fans who've waited years for this thing to hit print will finally get their wish, as will I. Text of the official Reality Blurs press release is as follows:

"Reality Blurs to release Ravaged Earth!

Reality Blurs has worked out an arrangement with Eric Avedissian, the creator of Ravaged Earth, to finally bring his vision to life, a project most of you know as The Ravaged Earth Society or TRES. Although available for free on the web, we felt the property was strong enough –and the demand great enough- to offer this work to you in both print and PDF formats. We’ve established the look and feel of the work and have already begun moving the Ravaged Earth into layout and final edits. We are approaching this project very aggressively and hope you won’t have to wait much longer until you can hold this book in your hands. The price point and final page count have yet to be determined, but this offering is to be a full color softback cover with black and white interior. We plan to offer a Ravaged Earth Deluxe edition, the RED book will be softback and full color throughout. Release date and price point TBA. With the revitalization of the project, Eric promises to dive back into his development of support materials with a frenzy! I’m certain he’ll have more than a few words to say on that subject shortly."

This comes as a good karma moment in my life. Lately, I've been getting rejection letters from literary agents about my novel. The Reality Blurs partnership is a refreshing change. After three years of development, it's great to see movement towards publication, and with an excellent company.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wedding Wonderland

The day of Carl and Bonnie's wedding, all of the guys (me, Carl, Ted, Bart and John) went to breakfast at the Hampton Diner. By the way, if you're naming a Chinese restaurant, do not call it Ho Ho. Please. This must be the fifth Ho Ho. I guess nobody told the owner that the name Ho Ho is too suggestive or silly for Americans. Anyway, that's probably why most Chinese restaurants have Golden, Dragon, Moon, Palace or Pagoda in their names. It's a workable theory, anyway...

In 1995, Carl introduced me to the Illuminatus trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson, and I became hooked on goofy conspiracy theories and governmental coverups as plot devices in fiction. So on the day of his wedding, Carl gives me an eye-in-the-pyramid Illuminati lapel pin to wear when I'm doing the reading. Carl also wore an Illuminati pin on his vest under his tuxedo jacket. Little subliminal details like this really matter. Fnord.

Onto the ceremony itself. A very tasteful wedding ceremony in a historic Episcopal Church in Newton. The reading went off without a hitch. They gave me the non-pornographic part of the Song of Solomon to read - you know, the part that doesn't compare breasts to baby deer. I think the Song of Solomon is more poetic and beautiful than 1 Corinthians 13.

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If you were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned."

Powerful and lyrical stuff, that Song of Solomon.

Incidentally, Carl and Bonnie wed on X-Day (July 5), a holiday celebrated by the Church of the SubGenius. Praise Bob!

After the wedding ceremony, everyone went to the reception, held at the Farmstead Golf and Country Club in Lafayette. One of the most quizzical things I've experienced is why wedding photographers act like the paparazzi. Unless they're hopping a flight to Buenos Aires, the newly-married couple aren't going anywhere. So why do wedding photographers feel they should outflank loved ones and friends who want to snap a few shots? I had to crouch down to get pictures of Carl and Bonnie by the gazebo because the two wedding photographers positioned themselves in such a way that it made a straightforward shot impossible. I'm trying to shoot a photo of my friends at their wedding. Yeah, thanks for stepping in my shot, Ansel Adams.

Besides making off-color jokes about sex and seeing how many canapes one can shove in their mouths, the wedding reception is a time to catch up with old friends. I hadn't seen both Ted or Bart in nearly nine years. Ted, Bart, Russell and I are all Carl's friends. We would hang out together, swap work stories and discuss science fiction and other subjects too devious or diabolical to mention here. Everyone had a chance to update each other at the reception.

I'm not a dancer. Correction: I'm not a good dancer. Last year I went to these big band dances and attempted to do the tango, Charleston and other dances people haven't done since 1955, but only ended up embarrassing myself on the dance floor. That's why I don't really dance. I watch other people dance, then I make mental notes on how they moved, them promptly forget and awkwardly trip myself. So I don't dance at weddings.
Another thing I don't do is drink. It would seem peculiar that a journalist doesn't drink. After all, aren't the best sotting drunks in the world journalists? Wasn't H.L. Mencken soused every time he furiously wrote a column? Wasn't Ambrose Bierce tipsy when he penned his war correspondence? Weren't Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein totally shitfaced when they met Deep Throat in that parking garage? For me, alcohol isn't a big priority. I guess I'd like to remember most conversations after I have them.

Carl introduces me as "the journalist."
"Remember when I told you I have a friend who's a journalist?" he asks one of his friends as he introduces me. "Well, this is him."
The person I shake hands with is usually impressed for about six nanoseconds and then heads away towards the open bar.
The problem about being a reporter in America today is that those who can't read hate you and those who are literate hate you more after they read you. It's really a double-edged sword: working for no money but your name is always in the paper and you receive special access the public doesn't get. I'd like to see some quality in reporting lately. I'd like to rescue the profession from its cable TV crushing doldrums and inspire a new generation of writers to not sell out or be mediocre. To use their brains and to do good. To forge out of raw words the stories that not only inform, but change people's perceptions for the better.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Updating the blog on the road, thanks to Ted's technology factory. He's a traveling display of computer and digital wonders! External hard drive, video card reader, laptop and more. Helps me update everything on the fly.
Spent the day with friends at Carl and Bonnie's wedding rehearsal at Christ Church in Newton. Afterwards, we went back to Carl and Bonnie's house in Andover for a 4th of July barbecue featuring burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken, and other summertime gastronomical delights. We even had our own fireworks display! Oh, the raw elemental powers!
The fireworks were Star Trek-themed and made in China. God bless America and global trade.
I found out my reading for tomorrow's wedding. It's not 1 Corinthians 13, which incidentally the revenered said "was too played out." I agree. Instead, I'll be reading an exerpt from the Song of Solomon, which reads like a Biblical version of a letter from Penthouse Forum.
Spent some time with Carl, Ted and some of the other evil henchmen I haven't seen in a while. Carl gave me a pen engraved with the words "I'm The Evil Twin". That is undeniable. We've always said of each other we were twins from two different mothers, only I'm the evil one.
Life is good, especially when you're miles from home, in the green mountains of northern New Jersey, with some charbroiled chicken and excellent company.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Veteran of the Love Wars

“There’s a fine, fine line
between a lover, and a friend.
There’s a fine, fine line
between reality and pretend;
And you never know ‘til you reach the top
if it was worth the uphill climb.

There’s a fine, fine line
Between love,
and a waste of time.”
- Avenue Q

In a few days, I’ll be reading at a friend’s wedding. It’s his second time around, and a considerably smaller affair than the first one, which is good.
The couple hasn’t told me exactly which Bible passage I’ll be reading. Most likely it’ll be 1 Corinthians 13, the standard boilerplate for matrimony: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I suggested to him that I read Revelations 17 – you know, the stuff about the Whore of Babylon and the beast with ten horns. He didn’t think that was a good idea.
What is it about love, that greatest of mysteries and most sublime of emotions? I could go the high road and write that love is the only power that matters, how people need love for nourishment, how love rocks the foundations of the world and all that crap.
Or I could be honest and say that I really don’t know what all the fuss is about.
If anything, I’m the last guy on Earth who should read anything about love at a wedding. It’s sort of hypocritical or a sad, twisted joke that I get up in front of a bunch of strangers and proclaim the wonder and glory of love for ever and ever.
This is because I’m largely apathetic about love. I’ve been let down by people who say they loved me. Now I’m jaded or bored or just don’t care about romance or any of that flowery bullshit.
When I was younger and dumber, I actually believed the Hallmark card crap and poetical odes and songs about it.
Now, I don’t really care. I’ve been to the Ground Zero of Heartbreaks and just see it as a complete waste of time.
Ambrose Bierce wrote that love was “a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.”
W. Somerset Maugham wrote that “Love is a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.”
Then we have Plato’s theory on love, which had nothing to do with marriage or breeding. It was all about remaining friends with no sex whatsoever. Love became a higher ideal, a mutual regarding of each other as soulmates without the New Agey feel to it.
Throughout history, people have wondered exactly what love is. Troubadors sang about it, Shakespeare wrote sonnets about it, and people have killed for it. Yet leave it to the enlightened minds of the information age to reduce love to a nagging pestilence.
Leave it to science to shatter our youthful zest for love.
Brain scans of infatuated people show that love causes changes in the brain similar to mental illness or drug addiction. That’s right: when you’re in love, your brain waves resemble that of a psychopath or junkie.
That’s not the worst part. When you’re in a relationship and time passes, your giddy romantic feelings give way to attachment. You lull yourself into a state of complacency. This is why many couples are looking to spice up things in the bedroom with lingerie, handcuffs or rubber jumpsuits.
So back to my friend’s dilemma: choosing me to read at his wedding. I hope it’s not Corinthians. I pray he’ll ask me to read something else, anything else. The screenplay to Amityville Horror would be better.
It’s just that with love, you’re vulnerable. You expose your rawest feelings, your innermost you to another human. That’s a pretty strange thing, dropping your defenses. It’s usually when you’re comfortable like that, she comes along and rips your heart out like an Aztec priest on the Sun Pyramid.
But yet we fall in love like the retarded lemmings we all are, each taking nosedives off the cliff of uncertainty, hoping the next relationship we’re in won’t go as wrong as our previous ones.
As far as relationships go, I’m not even going to comment. For me, it’s one disastrous train wreck after another. See, it all comes down to luck. Relationships, marriages, love…it’s all a crap shoot. It’s all random whether they succeed or fail. The age old wisdom is communication is vitally important, as is spending time with each other. But what if the conversation is uncomfortable or you simply can’t stand the other person after a while?
The only love I’ve experienced is unrequited love. That’s that warm feeling when you love somebody and they don’t love you back.
The most depressing story about unrequited love comes from the Middle East – you know, the place we’re bombing the shit out of now. This is a story about a Bedouin poet named Qays ibn al-Mulawwah ibn Muzahim who fell in love with Layla bint Mahdi ibn Sa’d, a woman from his tribe. Qays was nuts over this girl and composed beautiful love poems for her. Layla’s father wasn't nuts about Qays and rejected Qays’ offer to marry Layla. Qays was crushed at the rejection. He became devastated when Layla married another man. Qays wandered away from the tribal camp and lived in the wilderness, too heartbroken. Layla and her husband moved to Iraq and she grew ill and died. Qays was found dead near an unknown woman’s grave. Before he died, he carved poetry on a nearby rock to his beloved.
Because he couldn’t have the woman he loved, he went insane and ceased to live. This happened in 688. If that happened now, someone would tell Qays that there are plenty of other fish in the sea and to get over this Layla chick. Maybe his friends would take him to a strip club. I don’t know. What I do know is, you never see bittersweet love stories like this anymore.
What you see now is frustration and angst.
I’ve sunk time, money and energy into women who just didn’t love me. But they were supposed to love me. I’m a nice guy. I’m not a bully or blowhard. I don’t terrorize villages or threaten countries with chemical weapons. I'm intelligent and kind. I should be rolling in women, right?
Well, no.
I realized what women don't care about intelligent or nice. They don't even care if you're a hunchback with halitosis. What women really care about and want is a guy with money.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest asshole in the neighborhood or saint in the church choir, if you don’t have money, you don’t have love.
Scientists – ruining our illusions once again – studied several cultures, from primitive to modern, and found that females preferred males with money or possessions. Those who had stuff won the affection of the females. This is because a man with a job or with cash or with a hut can best support children. So on a basic level, it’s all about breeding and reproduction. So maybe W. Somerset Maugham does have the right idea.
Love is a driving force, compelling people to unite. It might be a temporary infatuation or attraction, but what causes the attraction? Is it physical or can it be deeper, on an almost Platonic level, where the soul is the object of desire?
I used to be a romantic poet, but after falling in love and losing it, I really don’t want any more pain. The need for avoiding pain is a healthy human desire, unless you’re a masochist and enjoy that sort of thing.
But love can’t be distilled and reduced to scientific absolutes. It’s just too goofy an emotion to put under a microscope and dissect. You could find yourself madly in love and wake up one morning and never want to see that person again. This is called “falling out of love” or in my case, what happens to every woman who’s with me.
People change and so do their needs. Yet the removal and absence of such a powerful emotion causes heartbreak. Why do we want love to stick around? What are we getting out of it, besides the free sex and companionship?
Once again, the ancient Greeks had the answer.
Sophocles wrote, “One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.”
So besides togetherness and nookie, we receive through love someone who knows us and who can share our burdens and tribulations. This is indeed a rare thing; a companion who’ll be there when the shit hits the fan and lend us a shoulder to cry on.
Maybe in spite of all the lunatics I’ve been with, this is the one thing about love that’s worth having. Maybe comfort from the storm is better than romance and roses.