Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Random Thoughts on Turning 41

In the industrialized West, we mark birthdays by eating cake, receiving plastic novelty gifts made in Taiwan and pontificating on one’s life. Pausing on the day on your birth and reflecting about another trip around the sun and just what those 365 days brought is only reserved for the truly introspective. Everyone else does body shots off a coed’s abdomen before vomiting on her tits.

Everyone but me, for I choose the introspective path.

Turning 41 is a supreme letdown in the grand scheme of things. The Big One is turning 40, when a person officially enters the dowdy realm of middle age and must make due with a shabby wardrobe, an ever-expanding paunch and the fact that one day you will die. Nothing like reflecting on your mortality to liven up a party.

But reaching 41 doesn’t pack the spiritual wallop as cracking the Big 4-0. Turning 41 just tells the world that you’re getting older. With age, comes the fact that a majority of the world is younger, thinner and better off than you’ll ever be. No wonder people drink on their birthdays. It’s not to celebrate some milestone of living another year on this planet. It’s to deaden the pain of getting older.

So upon reaching 41 I’ve got a few things I’d like to put out there. Call it wisdom, advice or quirky observations. The older I get, the more daring and impervious to criticism I am.

Here are some things that have been bugging me as of late:

Why is it that movies or TV shows that feature young, attractive female reporters has them fucking her sources? Can’t the bitch just ask questions? Why does she have to sleep around to get information? To be fair, I’ve known female reporters and most of them aren’t wanton sluts who’d blow a politician for a story. Many of them are articulate, intelligent and professional ladies dedicated to newsgathering. Some of them, however, are insecure whores who screw men for an interview and then say it was “empowering.” Yeah, it’s really empowering that a politician can use you like an Atlantic City escort.
I’ll admit I’m at a disadvantage here. I have to use my sophistication, wit and interpersonal skills to persuade people to talk to me. That’s why I win journalism awards and don’t have a raging case of chlamydia.

If there’s something called Yankee pot roast, I wonder if there’s a dish called Confederate pot roast. I’m sure it’s the same thing as Yankee pot roast except African-Americans cook it and serve it to white people at a long table.

I loathe Sarah Palin. I think she’s a phony hypocrite who represents everything dysfunctional about 21st Century politics. She doesn’t annunciate concrete ideas or graspable logic, instead preferring the murky world of jargon, platitudes and feel-good bullshit. Palin is as nasty as a pit viper when she wants to be, and uses this taunting teenage snark to demean her opposition. It isn’t enough that she’s superficial and disingenuous, but her whiny, nails-on-the-blackboard, cunty whine irritates me. At a time when we need specifics, Palin floats on generalizations and playground insults masquerading as folksy chatter. Why do the conservatives give her or her bumpkin family so much attention? Does she embody the Republican principles of less government and prudent spending or is she just a redneck who dragged herself from the wilds of Alaska and gained followers by playing poor victim to the merciless liberal media, blaming them for accurately reporting that she’s an empty pantsuit and a vapid torchbearer for the Tea Party Republicans?
And while we’re on the subject, doesn’t Todd Palin look like Sarah nails him with a strap-on? What’s with his neatly-trimmed 1980s gay beard? Did he sing backup with the Village People as the lumberjack?

Do ghosts watch you masturbate? If they do, I’d hate to have my grandma watch me jerk off. That would really be uncomfortable having her float above my computer as I’m doing it.
“He used to be such a nice boy,” her disembodied voice would say eerily through the void. “But he touches himself more than a zoo monkey. Must he do that all the time? He’ll ruin the rugs.”

One in five Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. Interesting enough, one in five Americans also admits to drinking and driving. I guess that whole Muslim stat makes a lot more sense now.
The only thing Obama is guilty of is being pretentious and uptight, which is what presidents ought to be. The right rants that Obama is turning America into a socialist nation like the former Soviet Union. I disagree: I think Obama is too ineffective and weak to do anything of the sort. See, socialism historically came from a groundswell of popular support in the form of revolutions and armed insurrections. Obama can’t even get five people in his own party to agree on anything. Of course when you’re chain-smoking and drinking Chablis in Martha’s Vineyard, it’s hard to gauge the true pulse of the American people.

I think that women who find my humor crude and off color are ironically the same women who need a cock in their mouth.

Why do some fat people dress like they’re thin? They wear clothes a size too small and strut around with their bellies hanging out. If you’re 25 pounds overweight, then spandex or Lycra is not an option. Find the largest thing in your wardrobe and wear that. Please. For the love of God. Nobody wants to see rolls of fat sticking out of your shirt. It doesn’t look sexy at all. It’s the anti-sexy.

What’s this obsession with deep frying foods in this country? Every county fair these rednecks try to outdo themselves by taking food that obviously should never be deep fried and deep-frying it. There’s deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Oreos, deep fried pickles. Now they have deep fried beer. No wonder everyone in this country is obese and stupid. The zest for invention and experimentation in American migrated away from useful science towards deep frying junk food. Forget about developing a cheap source of renewable energy. That’s too difficult with our puny American brains. Deep-frying high-sodium, high fat foods? That’s where we excel as a nation!

I’m sick of how petulant and shallow Americans have become. We used to be revered for our strength and determination and for our willingness to compromise. We were once the good guys. Now we’ve devolved into a nation of whiny, spoiled, narcissistic children who want the latest shiny toy. We have to have six iPods or iPads or whatever Apple is shilling at the moment. Instead of holding face-to-face conversations, we text each other, our fat little thumbs running over the keyboard as if our very lives depended upon conveying this vital information that’s absolutely trivial and banal.
The worst offenders are twenty somethings. When I was in my 20s, we were computer literate, but we read books. We contemplated life. We used the phone for calling people, not for sending photos of our genitals to each other. That’s all people in their 20s do. Sexting and sending photos of their genitals. Where’s the mystery and romance anymore? Where’s the allure of love and the promise of passion if you get a text with a photo of your date’s junk? Young people are morons.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

The buzz around news desks, the blogosphere and the punditdome is the $1 million donation News Corporation, owner of Fox News, The New York Post and Wall Street Journal made to the Republican Governor’s Association in June.

This is causing a lot of tittering, sniggering and giddy schoolgirl laughter from liberals and other free thinking humans that Fox News, a network accused of bias toward Republicans is actually giving a yachtful of money to Republicans.

In fact, the donation has caused many to note that Fox News is admittedly in the GOP’s pocket. It’s no secret that the pundits such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are Republicans who interview Republicans and push the Republican agenda of less taxes, less government regulation and less minorities besotting God’s glorious nation of America.

Fox News is not “Fair and Balanced” as the network’s moniker proclaims, but functions as a spin machine and Ministry of Propaganda for the Republican Party.

How bad is Fox News from an objective and newsgathering standpoint? The well-dressed mannequin robots and beauty queens are specifically programmed to regurgitate clichés, banal extractions of partisan hackery and inane observations and blend them together in a pile of foul stinking offal that doesn’t remotely resemble fair play or journalistic ethics.

This is the same Fox News that employs Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, all three of them potential presidential candidates in 2012. How can a news organization claim it’s “Fair and Balanced” when the politicians, the very people journalists and networks should keep at arm’s length, are right under their noses?

It’s true that Fox News wraps itself in the American flag, hires conservative pundits and kisses more right wing ass than a retreat with the Log Cabin Republicans. Yet its smugness and inflated bravado when speaking for and about the United States, only serves its target audience and ratings. Its content is tailored specifically for a certain political agenda, a kind of “tell me what I want to hear” ethos. The network parades itself around as the top rated news network, yet there’s very little objective news. Its content is mostly opinion and political commentary from anchors that look like yuppie serial rapists.

The $1 million donation to the Republican Governor’s Association was a clarion call for watchdogs who’ve known News Corporation was biased towards Republicans, that it was only pretending to be a serious news organization.

News Corporation spokesman Jack Horner (no relation to ‘Little Jack Horner’ of nursery rhyme fame) said his company donated $1 million because “the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at the most critical time for our economy.”

And what would those priorities be? More snappy Obama insults during Fox & Friends? More dour-faced reporters interviewing hedonistic Hollywood moguls? More politicians who want to chip away at the citizenship and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?

Yet we can’t blame Fox News for being the parasitic whores they are. It’s in their nature and part of capitalism to shuck journalistic standards for money. More power to them for being an entertaining puppet show for the right wing. Without Fox News, conservatives all over this great land would be watching an endless loop of “Triumph of the Will” and shooting dusky hued immigrants with BB guns.

But the so-called “liberal media networks” such as CNN and MSNBC also donated to political candidates. They have their own blank-faced idiots and raw sewage masquerading as special reports and hard news. Anyone who watches Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow knows that snark, whining and urbane witticisms will save the day and secure the 21 to 40 year-old demographic until The Daily Show with Jon Stewart comes on.

Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, donated $70,500 to Democratic candidates and $41,500 to Republican candidates this year.

General Electric, owners of NBC donated $688,900 to Democrats and $410,100 to Republicans for the 2010 election cycle.

Viacom, parent company of CBS donated $108,700 to Democrats and $64,000 to Republicans this year.

And Disney, home of Mickey Mouse and owners of ABC, gave $110,500 to Democrats and $95,000 to Republicans.

News Corporation’s $1 million donation pales in comparison to the money given to Democrats by media outlets, proving they’re all a bunch of pandering sluts.

Corporate media PACs lobby politicians for influence when it comes to media regulations or legislation that affect networks or communications.

That’s the real problem here. The system is based upon donations and buying influence and paying for your agenda. By donating anything – even $1 to politicians – news organizations discredit themselves. These giant media behemoths influence society by starting the national dialog on various issues. They have a tremendous platform with which to espouse viewpoints, whether liberal, conservative or batshit crazy. Such an awesome responsibility demands tempering through insight and objectivity. It demands an atmosphere where news organizations lead by example and prove they have no connections with political outsiders who might push their agendas.

Politicians are corrupt to the core, dwelling in a self-perpetuating system of cronyism, naked partisanship and troughs of money. News organizations shouldn’t be obligated to buy influence with such wretched people. Journalists write stories about how awful pay-to-play is upon our political process. Now that they’re part of the same cesspool, it smacks of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There Goes the Neighborhood...

Rendering of proposed Islamic center in Manhattan that will plunge Earth into a black hole and destroy the galaxy.

The Cordoba Initiative, a moderate Muslim group, has plans for Lower Manhattan, and if you’re not living under a rock or are blissfully ignorant of the 24-hour news cycle, then you know what those plans are.

The group wants to build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in an abandoned building that housed a Burlington Coat Factory store. The store, by the way, was struck by airplane landing gear during the September 11th attacks and closed in 2001.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement as a way of bringing American Muslims and non-Muslims together through various programs. He is the Imam of a mosque that’s 12 blocks away from Ground Zero and wants to create a community center that would function as a cultural exchange for Muslims and non-Muslims.

The plans to build a “Ground Zero mosque” has morphed from a simple local zoning issue to one of great national debate, as politicians, citizens and the media duel over its significance in the aftermath of 9/11.

This backlash against the development began months ago when right wing bloggers covered the story. The issue gained momentum when a few Republican politicians, namely Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio expressed their opposition to the controversial plan.

Palin wrote, “We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?...If those who wish to build this Ground Zero mosque are sincerely interested in encouraging positive ‘cross-cultural engagement’ and dialogue to show a moderate and tolerant face of Islam, then why haven’t they recognized that the decision to build a mosque at this particular location is doing just the opposite?”

Gingrich wrote, “there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

By the time the news media got the story, it turned into a titanic shit storm, especially after President Obama weighed in:

“Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -- particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.”

After that eloquent support for the U.S. Constitution and clarifying that it wasn’t Islam but Al Qaeda that we’re fighting against, Obama reversed himself, saying his comments referred to the right to build the community center and mosque but was not an endorsement of it.

Democratic Senator Harry Reid also affirmed the right to build the mosque, but condemned its location.

And the location makes it controversial to those who believe Ground Zero – the former site of the World Trade Center and attacks by radical Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda where 3,000 people were killed nine years ago - is hallowed ground and to build a mosque there defiles the memory of the victims.

But there are already two mosques that exist in Lower Manhattan already: the Masjid Farah, 12 blocks from Ground Zero and the Masjid Manhattan, which is four blocks from Ground Zero and near City Hall.

Why haven’t the detractors protested these mosques? Perhaps they weren’t told of their existence for a reason.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the center, calling it a true definition of American religious freedom:

“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.”

It might happen here if the people get their way.

According to the Siena College Research Institute, 61 percent of New York state residents oppose the planned community center and mosque’s location. The poll stated that 85 percent of conservatives, 52 percent of liberals and 55 percent of moderates oppose the project’s location.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 68 percent of Americans surveyed oppose the project, while 29 percent support it. If you don’t think this is a political hot potato, get this: 54 percent of Democrats support the building while 43 percent are opposed to it; 82 percent of Republicans oppose it while 17 percent support it. The poll found 70 percent of independents are against building the community center and mosque while 24 percent favor it.

Feeling the heat, the Cordoba Initiative changed the name of their proposed project to Park 51 because it was more cosmopolitan-sounding and less scary than Cordoba House.

I get that branding is important and putting a positive spin on your project is essential, but no ad campaign will win over people’s hearts to this project. No espousing the importance of religious tolerance or freedom can quell the anger felt over this proposed building.

There has to be some kind of sinister ulterior motive these Muslims have for building this community center, right?

According to the Park 51 website, the organization will “uphold respect for the diversity of expression and ideas between all people; cultivate and embrace neighborly relations between all New Yorkers, fostering a spirit of civic participation and an awareness of common needs and opportunities; encourage open discussion and dialogue on issues of relevance to New Yorkers, Americans and the international reality of our interconnected planet; commit to social justice, dignified human development and spiritual growth for all; pursue the development of American Muslim identities, engaging New York’s many and diverse Muslim communities and promoting empowerment and compassion for all…”

Well if that doesn’t sound like a recipe for world domination, I don’t know what is.

Okay, I’m being facetious.

It’s hard not to be skeptical of this group. They seem too good to be true. Like Dick Cheney telling the American people that the American forces invading Iraq in 2003 would be heralded as heroes and have flowers thrown at them by grateful Iraqis.

According to the Park 51 website, the group will be “dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and a deep respect for our planet.”

Just what exactly will be constructed a stone’s throw away from sacred, hallowed ground?

The Park 51 website said the proposed community center will contain: “outstanding recreation spaces and fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court); a 500-seat auditorium; a restaurant and culinary school; cultural amenities including exhibitions; education programs; a library; reading room and art studios, childcare services; a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park 51 but open to and accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community; and a September 11th memorial and quiet contemplation space, open to all.”

So it’s not just a community center like some are claiming and a portion of it will be a mosque. But according to Park 51, it would be run separately from their organization, which could throw up a red flag of concern for those who think Glenn Beck is some kind of doomsday prophet and wise soothsayer.

What’s even stranger is a proposed September 11th memorial planned for the site, a fact that all the right wing pundits and talking heads seem to be conveniently omitting.

There's a missed opportunity here. Instead of meeting the group half way and welcoming the community center and mosque, Americans are proving themselves to be the closed-minded yokels the Muslim world thinks we already are. That can’t be good for relations that are already strained. Many Americans view Islam with suspicion and a jaundiced eye. The religion is equivocated with terrorism and violence. Critics have charged that if Islam were a peaceful religion, then why, immediately following 9/11, didn’t the Islamic community rise up and condemn the attacks?

Politicians are using this wedge issue to their advantage. Republicans see it as a golden opportunity to ride the angry wave and create a backlash against Obama and the Democrats. The Democrats are also plugging into this issue to show they can be just as patriotic and xenophobic as conservatives.

Other politicians are asking Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf be called onto the carpet for denying Hamas is a terrorist organization and questioning where the $100 million funding will come from to build the mosque.

Just playing devil’s advocate here, but if a Catholic priest or Protestant reverend were held to the same scrutiny and witch hunts, would the public support the politicians or the concept of religious freedom?

Critics claim that this is all part of some dubious Islamic plan to gloat over the mass casualties of 9/11, that this building will be a triumphant edifice Muslims can rally around and cheer the demise of the West. Maybe they can use the community center to host couscous and kebab night while secretly plotting ways to kill more Americans. Maybe they’ll have macramé and jihad classes.

One opponent of the project held up a sign that read “Islam builds mosques at the sites of their conquests and victories.”

America does the same thing, except we don’t build mosques. We build McDonald’s, Starbucks and 7-Elevens. Capitalism is our religion, and we spread that throughout the globe, much to the chagrin of other nations. When foreigners complain another American franchise is going up in their historic neighborhoods, we balk and say it’s progress and that corporations have the right to expand.

That’s what’s so troubling about this stupid mosque issue. It’s just a non-story that’s garnered so much attention has become part of our national dialog and fodder for the mid-term elections.

Islam didn’t murder 3,000 people nine years ago. A group of Islamic fundamentalists whose warped religious views and anger at the United States’ support of Israel killed those people. There’s a difference between condemning a religion and condemning members of that religion with their own agenda.

If we equivocate Islam with evil, if we treat Muslims like the Catholics and Jews were treated by the Protestant majority 100 years ago, we fail to bridge the divide between them and the West. This creates more tension, prejudice and violence.

If we believe what the Cordoba Initiative tells us, then the center will be used as a place of understanding and learning and not an indoctrination factory worthy of Osama bin Laden’s endorsement.

I cannot help but see a population persuaded by the media and political leaders transform itself into an intolerant, dangerous mob. They are sheep led by manipulative shepherds, fed on a diet of false patriotism and outrage and willing to destroy their sacred American freedoms without really understanding how precious they are. They're gleefully ignorant of their past and volatile to the core. This is not so much a national debate than it is a national tantrum, one where fury trumps logic and fear beats courage.

I think we’re better than that. Freedom is not just a buzzword you put on a bumper sticker. It has to be a living, breathing entity.

“Liberty and justice for all.”

Not for some. For all, even if a religion is misunderstood or unpopular.

The First Amendment must be preserved, lest we lose something that makes us quintessentially American.

Then we run the risk of being the very monsters we’re fighting against.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gencon 2010

Another Gencon has come and gone, bringing with it thousands of gamers from cross the country and world who converged on Indianapolis for four days in August. This year, which marked my third Gencon, I had the honor of working the Reality Blurs booth and selling copies of their newest game, Iron Dynasty. Though I felt a little under the weather and had other things on my mind, I managed to meet new people and people I've heard of in the gaming industry but haven't met, and hang out with the folks from Reality Blurs. I enjoyed meeting Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams and Robin Elliott of Triple Ace Games, Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, and Kurt Wiegel of Game Geeks.
I got to hear Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation tell stories about his gaming experiences and relate how gaming played an important role in his life.
As part of the Savage Saturday Night event, I ran a Ravaged Earth adventure "Throne of Amenhotep" for six lucky players who fought desert nomads, made a deal with Lord Amenhotep aboard his mighty airship the Eye of Horus and explored the secret chambers beneath the Great Sphinx and eventually discovered the legendary Hall of Records before the Nazis could.
All in all, a good experience and fun time this year. Already looking forward to 2011 with optimism that I'll finish the 23-ounce Scotch ale at Scotty's Brewhouse.

Hello, Indianapolis!

The Reality Blurs booth at Gencon.

Some of the Reality Blurs games for sale.

People in costumes will pose for photos if you ask nicely.

This TARDIS was set up at a Doctor Who store across from our booth, giving me the perfect opportunity to take photos of various Doctors.

The David Tennant Doctor and Amy Pond.

The Peter Davidson Doctor and some cavegirl.


Felicia Day of The Guild signing autographs.

Wil Wheaton and his flagon o' dice.