Friday, August 31, 2012


Today is my birthday.

I'm 43.

Jesus, that's old.

When I was a kid, I couldn't imagine me at 43. Back then, 43 was ancient. I lacked a concept of middle age. Hell, I couldn't envision life beyond 30.

But here I am. All 43 years of me.

Fuck, this is depressing.

Getting old is a penance, a price we pay for hanging around, for breathing another year, of existing on this dirt ball hurtling around the sun.

I think about the absolutely shitty year I've had, 365 days of vapid, wretched sloth and humdrum routine, and then I realize how privileged I am to make it this far.

Life is a game, and if you stay in it long enough, you might just see flying cars.

That's my hope anyway. Some day there will be cars flying through the atmosphere, taking us to a bright future where mankind stands as a shining bulwark of progress and Todd Akin works as a rape crisis counselor.

Because the future is tinged with irony.

Today my girlfriend bought me my birthday present: two suggestive T-shirts from Spencer's. Now my taste in T-shirts is eclectic and bizarre, dabbling in everything to pop culture, gaming and other weirdness I wish to wear emblazoned across my chest. I'm very picky about my T-shirts, any buy them for myself, rarely seeking any out as a gift.

So my girlfriend bought me two shirts, both of which I cannot wear in public for obvious reasons.

Though I curse like a Brooklyn sailor let loose in a Shanghai brothel, I don't enjoy profanity on my clothing. It's not edgy or cute, just profane and vulgar. However, as hanging-around-the-house-shirts and sleeping shirts, these two tees are perfect.

"I Killed the Honey Badger 'cause I Don't Give a Shit" is from a viral video about the honey badger, who acts all badass because, like the narrator proclaims, "he doesn't give a shit."

"Fuck you thunder! You can suck my dick!" is from the hilarious comedy Ted, a story about a talking bear who sings the "Thunder Song" with his adult owner, or "Thunder Buddy" as a way of calming them both during thunder storms.

While these two shirts aren't the peak of fashion and will probably get me arrested in public, they're a nice addition to my personal wardrobe.

One added bonus today: We had a day off from work. Labor Day is on Monday, instead of taking off then like the rest of the normal population, we have off on Friday. So not only is it my birthday, it is the beginning of a three-day weekend.

Tonight my girlfriend and I are headed to Atlantic City to celebrate, and tomorrow we're going to see one of my favorite comedians, Louie C.K.

Maybe there will be cake, ice cream or alcohol. Who knows? At age 43, I'm too old to care, just like the honey badger.  Like that hardy and ravenous critter, I just don't give a shit.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

GenCon 2012 Report

This post is a little late, as I've arrived home from GenCon in Indianapolis a week ago, but I had to catch up on a few things in the hectic circus that is my life. Anyway, this is the fourth year in a row I've attended GenCon, and attendance seems to grow each year. A few things changed during this year's sojourn, however, some good and some not so good.

Like last year, I brought my girlfriend along. What I find uncanny is how she actually enjoys gaming and all of the juvenile geek crap I do. Finding a woman who'll tolerate your cartoon collection, library of RPG games, Xbox and other hobby paraphernalia indicating a state of perpetual arrested development is a sure sign things are meant to be. Geek girls are hot.

We stayed at a different hotel this year, one a little farther from the convention center, and had to take a shuttle. Other than the distant hotel, the thunder storm on the first night, my girlfriend tripping and hurting her hand and me not being able to connect with a few people I saw in previous years, GenCon was a blast. Agents of Oblivion, a spy/horror setting from Reality Blurs, was nominated for an ENnie, but didn't win, however attending the awards ceremony in a restored Victorian train station was awesome, not to mention seeing and chatting with friends from the gaming industry. Just being nominated was an honor, and I congratulate all of the winners and nominees.

We ate like hungry pigs. Indianapolis has a collection of superb restaurants, and our appetites were not disappointed. This year we dined at The Ram, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Harry & Izzy's and Buca di Beppo. Part of going to the convention is snagging good food and relaxing. I deftly accomplished both objectives.

Did I mention GenCon is the largest gaming convention ever?

The highlight was meeting Wil Wheaton and Nichelle Nichols. My celebrity encounters are rare, and I've wanted to meet Wheaton since his GenCon appearance in 2010, and this year I can confidently say I made that dream come true. Wheaton is the only man in the world who could wear a kilt and an octopus T-shirt and still garner undying accolades and respect from his legion of fans. He saw I wore my Reality Blurs polo shirt and immediately began complimenting the company's game lines, especially Agents of Oblivion and Realms of Cthulhu. I informed him about Ravaged Earth's second revised addition dropping later this year and he said he'd check it out. That brief conversation made the half hour wait in line totally worth it.

(It's also great to have a girlfriend with an iPad to record this momentous occasion for posterity.)

Saturday I attended the Pinnacle Entertainment Group's panel, where Savage Worlds licensees (like Reality Blurs) had the opportunity to discuss what products are in the pipeline. I plugged Ravaged Earth, and even showed some sample artwork and plot-point outline to a few people after the event. During Savage Saturday Night I ran my Ravaged Earth adventure, "Dutchman's Fortune" for six lucky gamers. The pulpy adventure had a treasure map to gangster Dutch Schultz's loot, which contained a Martian artifact. Our intrepid heroes had to battle Lucky Luciano's gangsters, break an inmate out of Sing-Sing Prison, collect two halves of the map, fight rocket marauders and a Martian spy before searching the woods in upstate New York. The grand finale really had them fighting for their lives against a supernatural menace.

I snagged some dazzling plunder this year which shall satiate boredom during those frigid winter nights. Deadlands: The Last Sons, Hell on Earth, Redneck Life, Star Trek Catan, Wench! and some really nifty metal dice.

The older I get, the more I lament my fleeting youth. Stuck in the doldrums of a perpetual grinding wheel existence, I find moments of levity among the things I enjoyed when I was younger. Now that I'm a middle-aged relic, I have the freedom to indulge myself in gaming, comic books, movies and other fanciful diversions. What used to be a blemish of shame is worn as a shining badge of honor. I'm happy in this geek life. As a game designer and creator, I'm fascinated with people's experiences playing RPGs, the characters they create, the hard-fought battles, the banter around the gaming table and the way a bunch of polyhedral dice sound when rolled. It's a world I entered late, but one where I'm most at ease. Thanks for making me feel comfortable, friends. To me, GenCon is family. One big, silly geeky family.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Rednecking of America

"I am a redneck myself, born and bred on a submarginal farm in Appalachia, descended from an endless line of dark-complected, lug-eared, beetle-browed, insolent barbarian peasants, a line reaching back to the dark forests of central Europe and the alpine caves of my Neanderthal primogenitors."
- Edward Abbey "In Defense of the Redneck"

The twisted cultural depiction of so-called rednecks from the Southern United States is sapping our collective consciousness as a civilization. Like a virulent plague, the over saturation of selfish and destructive behavior on TV is having a negative effect on our internal psyche, as if the American zeitgeist is forced to listen to Travis Tritt while banging its cousin.

Early depictions of rednecks in popular culture were ones of good-natured fun. Popular entertainment showed them as backwoods and inept, and blissfully ignorant of anything other than hog sloppin', moonshine-swillin' and makin' babies.

In short, they were stereotypes.

Negative stereotypes, but stereotypes nonetheless. As far as the effete Manhattanites were concerned, rednecks remained clutching their Bibles and guns and stayed confined to their trailer parks.

Remember the Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, the Dukes of Hazzard and the Grand Ole Opry? They proved to be popular, yet there was a cultural divide. Rednecks were still looked down upon in those early days.

Popular culture's influences remained centered on Hollywood and New York and if you were a college-educated snob, you prospered on TV. The archetype of articulate, suburban or urban educated people dominated the airwaves.

All that changed with the rise of blue collar comics like Foxworthy who showed pride in his southern upbringing and did a brilliant bit "You Might be a Redneck If..." in 1993.

Suddenly, the representation of uneducated poor people from rural areas became widely circulated in popular media. The rise of country music in the mid-1990s to mainstream audiences, and the image of rednecks as "poor but happy" folks who were always surrounded by family became more widespread. Their comic milieu explored themes of laughing at life's absurdities, and recorded the universal struggles of the everyman, both were accessible to everyone, hence their growing popularity.

When George W. Bush became president in 2000 America had a Commander in Chief from Texas with a southern drawl, and redneck mania heightened. NASCAR became popular as a sport. The derogatory stereotype of the poor farmer became highly visible thanks to reality TV.

Comedians such as Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White brought the trials and tribulations of redneck-hood to mainstream audiences.

Then, something happened.

We went overboard, and the rednecks shown in popular culture went from being friendly and kind to being total assholes.

There was an influx of redneck culture in mainstream American society. Stupid shit such as the show Jackass hit the airwaves, followed by a steady stream of shows featuring rednecks. All of a sudden, television became a smorgasbord of cussin', ignorant people whose behavior reflected badly on the rural South.

Southerners are proud of their heritage and culture. They're friendly and helpful to strangers, are God-fearing people with a strong sense of community and tradition.

This tradition is cheapened by American Hoggers, My Big Redneck Wedding and Redneck Riviera.

Yes, these are all real shows.

But the worst offender is a show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The show - and it's more like a nightmare vision of what America would be like if Fred Thompson were president - follows an obese family of rednecks from McIntyre, Ga. This dysfunctional family consists of daddy "Sugar Bear", ogress mother June who resembles Brian Baumgartner from The Office, and their fucked up kids, the star of course is Honey Boo Boo, who reminds one of a possessed demon doll.

Yee Har.

Honey Boo Boo, whose real name is Alana, is a beauty pageant contestant who appeared on Toddlers & Tiaras, a show which is akin to abusing your child by tying them to the basement with bungee cords and broadcasting every painful second. Honey Boo Boo talks like Jodie Foster from the movie Nell. Most of the time, you can't understand what this kid is saying. She rocks her head back and forth, gurgles some unintelligible garbage and acts like she either has ADD or some mental disability.

This is on The Learning Channel. Learning. As in 'education'. The only thing anyone can learn from this show is that our standards have shrunk. 

Remember when the extraordinary and talented would receive much-deserved acclaim and kudos from a public? Now TV has become a freak show, a circus of deformed, uncouth and uncivilized misanthropes who degrade themselves just to gain a piece of the spotlight. They're not entertaining. Their exhibitionist scum performing for the jaded voyeuristic public. We're a nation of moronic hedonists getting off to Hillbilly Handfishin' and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. 

We're wallowing in the shallow end of the pool.

And that's what the rednecking of America is about. We're so blithely ignorant, so rotten to each other, so uncivilized. I know several people from the South and all of them are mannerly and treat people with dignity and kindness. But rednecked America? That's just a mean place, where if you're different, if you think and speak with clarity and conviction and have something intelligent to say, you're openly mocked as being a snob.

Our current political climate is scary, where guns are brought to political rallies and discourse has degenerated to guttural grunts. Is it any wonder why political ads have gotten so vicious on both sides? Is it because it's easier to manipulate people when they've become conditioned not to think critically or question anything?

The only thing you need to remember is America is a Christian nation and anyone not like you is an enemy. It's a time when words incite violence, when shouting someone down is better than listening to them and rebutting and when Honey Boo Boo is a plump little TV diva.

All hail our crass, unshod bumpkin overlords!