Friday, January 30, 2009

Amazing Exploits and Relics & Rumors

Reality Blurs announced two upcoming support products for Ravaged Earth:



Amazing Exploits are exotic journeys into the unknown, far-flung reaches of the globe. Quest for the Lost Oasis takes the heroes to Egypt where they'll search for the fabled oasis of Zerzura in 1936. Along the way they'll face supernatural horrors, Fascist Italian soldiers, a greedy archeologist, nomadic tribesmen and the harsh, unforgiving fury of the desert. The adventure comes complete with six character archetypes: Orientalist, Explorer, Mercenary, Mesmerist, Playboy and Bedouin Nomad.
The first Amazing Exploits (written by me) is due out in late January.



Relics & Rumors will be a monthly release featuring five relics each month. Written by "Weird Dave" Olson and yours truly, the first installment of R&R is due out in February and contains information and individual adventures for the following relics: Aaron's Rod, Aladdin's Lamp, Amulet of Tiamat, Ankh of Osiris and the Ark of the Covenant.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The First Day

FADE IN:

INT. OVAL OFFICE -- NIGHT
The Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House contains a lavish oak desk, a sofa and some plush chairs. Paintings of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are here, along with an assortment of decorative Americana. The hallway outside is filled with loud, boisterous revelers. BARACK OBAMA and JOE BIDEN enter the Oval Office, ecstatic and laughing. Both men wear tuxedos with white ties. Biden wears a paper party hat. They are sloppily drunk.

OBAMA
Wow!

Obama sits at his desk, while Biden slumps down on the couch.

BIDEN
Did you see all those people? Jesus Christ! Didn't anybody go to work today?

OBAMA
Let's hope they're not the unemployed I keep hearing about.

Both men look at each other, then burst out laughing.

BIDEN
Man, you're a trip!

OBAMA
I did it! I can't believe I freakin' did it!

BIDEN
We did it.

OBAMA
What? Oh, yeah. Right. We did it.

BIDEN
We made history.

OBAMA
I made history, you mean.

BIDEN
Eh? Oh, sure. Sure. What a tremendous night. The first African-American president and the 47th white vice president. What history!

OBAMA
Leader of the free world? Me! Commander-in-Chief? Me! Little Barry O from Chicago. The One. The Prophet. The Messiah.

BIDEN
You showed them.

OBAMA
Damn straight...

BIDEN
Now all of America loves you. It's just not Chris Matthews. He's totally gay for you.

OBAMA
(rolls eyes)
Ugh! That guy! He keeps sending me flowers. It's very stalkerish...

BIDEN
The guy's a creep. And he spits during every interview.

OBAMA
Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow think I can walk on water...

BIDEN
An egotist and a lesbian.

OBAMA
Yeah! Where do they get these people?

BIDEN
Well, it's better than those brainless dickweeds at Fox, or as I call them, the Ministry of Propaganda.

OBAMA
No more, baby. Not under my watch. Things are going to be different now that I'm in charge. Hannity is out, Limbaugh is out. It's just the New York Times and Variety. Maybe GQ and Vanity Fair if they play their cards right...

Biden reaches into his tuxedo pocket and pulls out a beer bottle. He takes one hearty swig.

BIDEN
Ah, Pabst Blue Ribbon. That's a workingman's beer.

OBAMA
What, doesn't POTUS get a beer?

BIDEN
Sorry. They didn't have any 40 ounce 8-Ball malt liquor.

OBAMA
Fuck you.

Both men look at each other and crack up laughing.

OBAMA
Did you see Bush's face when he shook my hand? I had trouble keeping a straight face. That guy is a total asshole.

Biden walks over to the desk.

BIDEN
(laughs)
Yeah! What about Cheney in a wheelchair? I wanted to roll his ass down those steps! Twisted little hunchback!

OBAMA
Yeah, yeah...Those motherfuckers are long gone. Now it's all me, baby. It's my turn. Eyes on the prize. Nose to the motherfucking grindstone!

BIDEN
Word.

Both men bump fists.

OBAMA
Two million people at the mall came to see us, Joe. Two million retards braving the cold, bundled up like Eskimos in January came to see history. That means something, Joe. That's a commitment. They're invested in us. We've got one thing we need to do.

BIDEN
What's that, Mr. President?

OBAMA
We can't mess up, Joe. We can't make mistakes. There are people out there who want me to fail, who want to see me flounder and fall. We can't let that happen.

BIDEN
Right, Mr. President.

OBAMA
I mean, I have the media and Hollywood on my side. I have all of the blacks and the suburban and urban whites. I've got the northeast and California. But what else do I have?

BIDEN
I believe Virginia went for you.

OBAMA
Virginia? I can't rely on them! That was a fluke! The military hates my guts despite the olive branch I extended to them!

BIDEN
Mr. President, the military wants strong leadership. They want mutually assured victory and hate weakness.

OBAMA
Weakness?

BIDEN
Some of the troops are critical of you threatening to eliminate the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

OBAMA
You shitting me, J-Man?

BIDEN
J-Man?

OBAMA
Bush had nicknames for everyone in his cabinet. I can't do that?

BIDEN
Whatever. Anyway, some officers think ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell might have a chilling affect on morale.

OBAMA
Yeah, because you know, letting gays serve openly will totally destroy morale. Like being stuck in a Third World shithole for six years isn't already killing their morale.

BIDEN
Another thing, Mr. President, is the economy. Some on Wall Street are critical of your plans to fix the economy and reinvigorate the work force.

OBAMA
So? What's their beef with my plan?

BIDEN
They say you haven't got one.

OBAMA
Oh.

BIDEN
They say your lack of any substantial plans or specifics to fix the economy is more than troubling, it's reckless. Your selection for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, admitted he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes.

OBAMA
People make mistakes.

BIDEN
It was $34,000, Mr. President. That's quite an oversight.

OBAMA
Maybe he forgot to carry a decimal point or something. Look, those tax forms are complicated. Besides, the guy has a lot on his plate, right?

BIDEN
I'm afraid that's not all, sir.

OBAMA
Great. What else?

BIDEN
The whole Israeli-Palestinian thing.

OBAMA
I don't want to deal with that now, J-Man.

BIDEN
Please don't call me that.

OBAMA
You going to tell me to hush up like your wife?

BIDEN
You...

Obama and Biden start laughing.

BIDEN
I can't get that woman to shut her piehole!

OBAMA
And since when is she known as Dr. Biden? She's a teacher!

BIDEN
I know, I know. It just makes her feel important is all...

They both start laughing for several seconds, which trails off and ends in an awkward silence. Obama and Biden look around at the office.

OBAMA
Man, this really is going to be a wild ride.

BIDEN
You'll both love it and hate it, sir.

OBAMA
True dat.

They both bump fists.

FADE OUT:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration



Everyone who braved the freezing temperatures or watched the inauguration on TV witnessed history as an African-American man was sworn into the most powerful office in the world.
President Barack Obama is, in many ways, the fulfillment of our destiny as a free and equal society, a breathing embodiment of our most cherished idealistic hopes of a colorblind nation. He is, quite simply, a pioneer and transforming figure, one representing the future of the 21st century – where multiculturalism and diversity aren’t frowned upon nor feared.
Obama is not a Baby Boomer; he’s from a generation sandwiched in between the Boomers and Generation X, whose ideals were shaped in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He’s not a child of the 1960s and carries no baggage from that tempest-tossed era. He is a product of a multi-racial, multicultural family, whose story is quintessentially modern and American and whose charisma and drive has made him admired and successful. His critics hate him and his supporters love him, yet he’s not as polarizing as many politicians. If anything, he’s a unifying force, one with optimism and intelligence.
Now if this sounds like a gushing love letter from Chris Matthews, it isn’t.
I’m just stating that Obama is different than what we’ve seen in the stogy halls of power in Washington. He’s a breath of fresh air, and a contrast from the last eight years.
George Bush swaggered into office with all the chutzpa of a Texas cowboy with sights on remaking the political landscape into his image – a GOP patchwork of Bible thumpers, neocons and warmongers. Eight years later he left Washington without the swagger. He couldn’t wait to get on Marine One and fly the hell out, with over a million people on the National Mall jeeringly singing Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Them Goodbye.”
Dick Cheney had an ignominious departure, hunched over in a wheelchair and resembling the villainous Mr. Potter from “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Liberals gushed over the exit, which closed the book on eight years of bungling, lying, vindictiveness, pettiness, criminality and hostility.
Yet it wasn’t closing the door on the Bush years that mattered, but the start of the Obama administration which began with an oath of office that included a name unlike any that came before it.
Barack Hussein Obama.
So foreign, so exotic, and after 9/11 so forbidden.
He didn’t back away from using his middle name, which became a liability during his campaign. Oft-mocked and teased from the rednecks, Obama’s middle name was a sticking point, yet he used it at his inauguration, flaunting it, holding it in his critic’s faces as if to proclaim, “Yeah, this is who I am and where I come from. This is my family’s heritage, yet I’m American.”
I watched the event with the local Democratic leader and a friend from California who opened her house to us and served champagne. While they enjoyed Obama’s inaugural speech, I found it to be boilerplate.
Obama’s speech lacked the oratory rhetoric and eloquent platitudes as FDR or JFK. The absence of quotable or lofty ideals was a shrewd move; instead of impressing with sweet words, Obama conveyed a somber, sobering agenda amid a rebuke of the Bush years.
His speech was straightforward and to the point: this isn’t business as usual. This is how far we’ve cone and what we still need to accomplish. The times call for seriousness and action, and partisan bickering and prejudice are counterproductive.
It wasn’t a stirring or moving speech – it was a necessary speech.
It wasn’t dad lecturing you on morals after you broke a neighbor’s window playing baseball; it was dad telling you that you need to pay for the damage.
Some notable highlights:

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.”

“We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.”

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.”

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

The only real notable thing about Obama’s speech is the inclusion of “nonbelievers” in the parade of religious affiliations. Atheists have always gotten the short end of the stick in our society, and I was glad to see Obama address that.
Will Obama instantly alter the American zeitgeist overnight, magically curing our social and economic ills? Of course not. Obama is no more a panacea than Lincoln was. Presidents are not perfect and can only do so much. He will fuck up and let us down. He’s not infallible. Yet when this happens, will the multitude of ObamaZombies still be with him, or will they be the first to lambaste and chastise?
Whatever happens over the next four years, good or bad, we’ll weather it together, our eyes turned eagerly to the future, with the past a humbling reminder of how far we’ve journeyed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back on the Air

Went back to Crusin' 92.1 WVLT for the Rick and Ron Radio Show, formerly the In-Between Diapers Radio Comedy Hour. Big Rick and I started the show two years ago as a way to export our comedy over the airwaves and corrupt young, impressionable minds listening to a Vineland oldies station at 11 p.m. Friday nights. I did a few shows in 2007 but declined to do more, and Rick really has taken the show and made it wonderful, especially with the addition of Ron DiPrimio, president of Grindhouse Pictures. Since Ron couldn't make it last night, Rick asked me to go on the air. The show expanded to two hours of madcap insanity months ago, so we had plenty of time to do more comedy.
Hijinx and hilarity ensued with Matt's Weird News, Rick's totally wrong impression of Dick Clark and a new bit we improvised, Brittle and Stiff: Geriatric Crimefighters.
Callers included Ron, who talked about horror movies; Mike Quinter from Nineteen/Stone, an AC/DC tribute band; and Teddy, who does impressions of Ivan Kolov and Arnold Schwartzenegger. Eddie the Egyptian from Camel Toe Cuties finished the show.
It was really great being back on the radio. The energy in the room was electric with the banter between the callers, breaking balls and cracking up on the air.
Just another night in a small studio in Vineland.
Or as Teddy would say to shatter the levity: Gary Papa.


"Testing...Is this thing on?" Me trying out that new-fangled communication medium for the 21st century: the radio.


Big Rick makes a point about something.


Matt Carr, the show's board operator and whipping boy. We love ya, Matt Dog!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Letter to God

Dear God,
Well, here I am in my 39th year of life on Earth. Thanks for creating Earth, by the way. Lovely planet. Really nice place with a great atmosphere. I enjoy the ducks immensely.
Anyway, I just thought I'd write you a letter posing a few questions. I know you get prayers all the time, but I thought writing would be a bit more personal. Sorry. I'm a stickler like that. It's how you made me.
First, I'd like to know what's up with all of the violence, killing and bloodshed done in the name of religion? I mean, you don't see wildebeests slaughtering each other over divinity or whose God is greater. Slugs don't strap bombs to themselves and blow up other slugs who don't believe the way they do. So why do humans practice this grisly behavior? Why do people feel the need to prove their faith by murdering scores of their fellow humans? Sounds pretty insane to me.
Secondly, why do you let innocent people die? I understand life and death are natural processes in the universe and all that, but why do you let children get cancer? Why do you let devout people who trust in you and who've done the right things get sick and die? Why not just let all of the vile and murderous people die? That's the way it was in the Old Testament. You were always striking down the wicked with plagues or boils or some nasty thing. Yet today children and good people, the innocent and just are dying while malicious and evil people get to live on.
I'd also like to know why you take away love. I understand that God is love and all that, but why do you cause people to fall out of love? Surely, something as magnificent as love can endure forever, with love lasting a lifetime. Why do people break each other's hearts by pulling away, by losing a close bond of love they once felt? I guess it's that freewill thing you gave Adam and Eve. Not to be critical, but what was that about? You put them next to something called the Tree of Knowledge and tell them not to eat the fruit. That's like tempting somebody by placing them next to the ATM Machine of Free Cash and not having them grab a handfull of bills.
Another thing I'm curious about: Lifespans. I know the average human lifespan is increasing, but we get, what, 80 years if we're lucky or 100 if we're really lucky. But the tortoise lives for 170 years. Maybe a life in a low-stress environment will do that, I don't know, but you do. Old Testament prophets lived for 800 or 900 years, which I understand because of the Mediterranean diet.
Not to blather on; I'm sure you're very busy, but I have additional questions:
Death: I prefer taking things as they come, but could I have some lead time on when my actual death would be and the circumstances surrounding it? I'd like some notice so I can plan accordingly and max out my credit cards beforehand.
Sex: What are some tips for attracting women, because what I'm doing now is simply not working. I bathe regularly, keep my appearance neat and clean and don't stuff cheeseburgers into my mouth or fart in public. I'm nice and courteous and articulate, with a silly sense of humor. So obviously, women aren't attracted to me. What do I have to do to woo a female? I understand Biblically it involved a lot of heady-scented oils and silks, and frankly that sounds expensive and a little bit gay.
Wealth: If the love of money truly is the root of all evil, then are millionaires hell-bound?
Life: Is there really life on other planets, God? I'd hate to think Earth was like a country club where humanity exists in a tiny oasis in space. And if aliens are real, why do they abduct our rednecks and perform anal probes? Again, it sounds expensive and a little bit gay.
Christmas: Did your son get the birthday card I sent him last year? It was the one with the $10 bill inside. I thought he'd like to spend it on something nice, like ice cream or a sweater.
Animals: The platypus. What were you thinking? Were you high during the design phase? It looks like a beaver with a duck's bill. I've seen a lot of weird-looking creatures, but the platypus looks like it could've been in the cantina scene from Star Wars.
Mysteries: Stonehenge. Who built it and why? Was it a bunch of druids with nothing to do on a Saturday night? And who really killed JFK? The government says it's one man, but I have my doubts. Who was really on that grassy knoll? Was it the CIA, Mafia or a druid with a grudge?
Humans: Andy Dick. Why, God? Why?
Fate: Will I find the love of my life soon? See, I've had my heart broken before and I'm on this dating website and it's a total trainwreck. The people are freaks. Well, you probably know what I'm going through. So if you could send me a woman who won't drive me crazy and actually means what she says, I'd really appreciate it. I'd even sacrifice an animal to you. You like meat, right? I read that somewhere.
Looks like I've prattled on way too long, God. Sorry about that. I'm a writer, you know. If you could just answer the questions I've posed, then I would be eternally grateful. If I sounded brusque, I apologize. I just have these nagging questions.
Praise you.

- E

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Goodbye, Number Six



Patrick McGoohan, the brilliant actor who starred in The Prisoner, died at age 80.
I first discovered the 1960s TV show when I was in high school. It was one of those old British programs you'd see on public television like Doctor Who or EastEnders and you'd think just how wonderful and unique they were and how nothing on American TV compared with them.
The concept for The Prisoner was pure genius: a secret agent is knocked out and wakes up in a mysterious, quaint-looking village, aptly named The Village. The prisoners and even their captors are assigned numbers and go about their confined existences monitored and scrutinized. It was more than just a show about people in a prison - larger themes were explored, such as freedom, society and submission to authority.
McGoohan, who played the titular hero Number Six, made the show enjoyable. Leo McKern, a fine actor who portrayed McGoohan's nemesis in a few episodes also added to the series as a functionary who tried breaking Number Six's resolve.
The Prisoner's kooky surrealism was indicative of the 1960s, as were the main themes, yet the show was McGoohan's best acting work. One of my favorite episodes was "Hammer into Anvil" where Number Six drives his captor insane out of revenge for the death of a female prisoner. It shows a different Number Six, one that did not let the system break him, one where he manipulates the paranoia and distrust of authority to his advantage. I don't think any actor could have pulled off the role as great as McGoohan did, with a genteel class and unflappable elegance as a prisoner who knows he's being toyed with, but combats that with the English stiff-upper-lip attitude of soldiering on.
McGoohan's show was one of the best on TV; a dynamic portrayal of authority and society played against a warped Alice in Wonderland looking glass of The Village, roaring weather balloons and midget butlers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Fan

Someone I know through my job, a nice man who is head of one of the local organizations, had lunch with me today. The lunch invitation came from a meeting in an elevator, when this guy cornered me and said, with admiration, how it must be really great to be an investigative reporter. Displaying my usual charm and all the friendliness of a rabid dingo, I sarcastically said it was about as fun as being a janitor at Auschwitz.
Anyway, he wanted to have lunch and learn about the fantastic and mystical craft of listening to people and writing things down for the newspaper.
Hence, what the circle of wizards refer to as the arcane and eldritch art of reporting.
The lunch went well, but I wondered why he thought being a journalist was a worthwhile endeavor and lucrative career. The fan, a baby boomer, experienced Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate break-in. Investigative reporting was big back in the 1970s, when digging through the government's dirty little secrets and holding public officials accountable was something you did because you were patriotic and wanted the public to know. Now, the mainstream media is just the opposite, slogging around in the murkiness of infotainment and obstructing the truth.
I guess journalists to him were romanticized figures who rode into town to challenge the status quo, digging around public records, filing Freedom of Information Act request forms and filing their stories on deadline, hunched over a manual typewriter, their teeth stained with coffee, their gums reeking of cigarettes, a tiny flask of whiskey an arm's length away.
My job is nothing like that, though I wish it would be. I wish journalism was like that again, and the public more trustful and open to what we do without the cynicism or loathing most feel about the press. The fact is, the press deserves the raw feelings and low public credibility it's received. By putting business and the bottom line over their mission to inform the public objectively and without fear of repercussions from the powers that be, journalists and the media have shrunk in stature to that of just a business, a beast obsessed with making money and profiteering on the latest tragedy, celebrity breakup or war rampaging across the globe. They're the clueless anchormen and women who have hair stylists who tell you with a smile that scores of people were killed, they're the paparazzi taking photos of celebrities sunbathing, they're the political commentators whose smug, blatant partisanship is taken as gospel by their brainwashed minions.
In an age dominated by video and the Internet, where's the print reporter, wading through documents and files, collating everything, putting the pieces of the puzzle together and following an almost Byzantine set of standards they're taught in journalism school?
So I gave my fan some pointers on how to advance your career as a working journalist:

1. Know how to write. Very important if you want to work in print news. If you understand how to string a bunch of words into sentences and a bunch of sentences into paragraphs, and a bunch of paragraphs into stories, you've mastered 95 percent of journalism.
2. Play dumb. You have to convince people you talk to that you're stupid and don't understand anything, that way they'll tell you more information than necessary. This works especially well if you're a woman reporter and twirl your hair a lot. Men can't resist that and will blurt out classified state secrets to impress you.
3. Build alliances. Network and meet sources from every facet of the town you're covering. Get to know the people in all of the social clubs, the politicians and the politician's enemies. Everyone knows something and a giant list of contacts and sources can only help you.
4. Safeguard your reputation. Build a reputation of honesty, integrity and professionalism. I know it's hard when you work in a field that attracts so much mediocrity, but be that one shining example of competence in a sea of retards.
5. Write in your spare time. Don't go to the bar and fill your gut with booze like so many degenerate reporters. Write that novel, screenplay, blog or memoir after hours. It's healthy to keep writing and creative writing will make you better at your job. This hasn't happened with me yet, but one can only hope.

The fan liked my words of wisdom, but I confided in him that I felt jaded in my career. He understood perfectly, and said when he was living in California when he was about 40, he decided to switch his career and go to law school, which he did and became an attorney. He told me that you're never too old to reinvent yourself and try something new.
I told him that I always thought of myself as a college professor, teaching journalism and media studies. I said I'd teach young minds what a morally bankrupt profession journalism was and to quit now before they turn into an angry crank like me, a lone wolf gnashing his fangs and howling in the darkness.
"If I could just save one student from making that fatal blunder, then I would have saved a life," I said.
The fan was not impressed, and waxed eloquent about how investigative reporters are sorely needed today and even urged me not to quit or abandon my profession.
"We need you to get in there and keep digging," he said. "You need to find things out."
Reluctantly, I agreed with him.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Flog the Vlog

video

From Mac Photo Booth... The first installment of Flog the Vlog, the video blogging portion of my blog.
A tribute to YouTube and fellow Jersey guy Gary Brolsma to start off the New Year.