Monthly Archives: August 2011

my bard has a thaco -2 dragon skin

8/31/11

Perhaps some of you already know about Alyssa Bereznak, a writer for Gizmodo who went on two dates with a nice-seeming guy on OKCupid, then returned home to destroy his character online because he happened to be a world champion at “Magic: The Gathering”. Internet reaction was swift (as internet reactions tend to be) with headlines like Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Date Alyssa Bereznak, written by women, no less. Even Gizmodo Australia berated their own co-worker.

This is a remarkable turn of events, if you have any memory of childhood occurring before about 1985, when dissing someone for being a dork was not only unremarkable, it was mandatory. The worm has finally turned, and the geek has indeed inherited the earth, when the whole internet turns against a girl for disdaining fantasy role-playing gamers.

I’m glad I’m here to see it, and enjoy it while I’m still young enough to remember the humiliation I endured at the hands of similarly close-minded yahoos (next stop: absolution for ham radio enthusiasts?) But I think the outrage is slightly misplaced.

First off, Alyssa Bereznak is a chick, and we still expect our women to be less judgmental and more accepting of the weirdoes among us – which has no doubt amped up the criticism of her. Yes, a man would have also gotten a ton of shit for writing something like this, but when a woman does it, we see it as… I dunno, a betrayal of some sort.

I’ve also read a few online defenses of “Magic: The Gathering”, as if Bereznak would have behaved differently if she’d known how cool it really was. My own interaction with MTG was limited to several days at the wifi/arcade/gaming center in Jasper, Georgia circa 2002, where Salem and I would check our email and play Galaga.

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Were some of the players morbidly obese and wearing oversize rayon print T’s with wizards on them? Sure. Was the gameplay oddly quiet and arcane? Yep. But were there a bunch of normal teenagers in there, even a couple of girls, escaping their parents and having fun? Fuck yes.

It’s not Bereznak’s criticism of the game that I find most reprehensible, nor her general shallowness of character. For me, it’s her closing statement:

for all you world famous nerds out there: Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have a post written about you. We live for this kind of stuff.

Two things about this. First off, he didn’t “go after” two Gawker Media employees, he merely selected two people with similar interests who ended up working for the same corporate parent company. And believe me, I was a world-class cad with seemingly no moral compass, but even the nicest guy in the world can look predatory if he is observed in the act of dating.

Secondly – and worstly – and neither of those are actual words – this is just another example of a person not living her life for life’s sake. It’s all just part of the package she presents to the social media world. She doesn’t have inner monologues or meaningful experiences, she only has Events to be Shared Later for Social Currency.

People turn to games like “Magic: The Gathering” because they’re missing a magical part of themselves they used to indulge – the lush, anything-goes dreamscapes my daughter lives in right now. I did the same thing with Dungeons & Dragons, and I do it now while inventing stories for our job.

This woman’s crime isn’t that she’s mean-spirited, or that she doesn’t “get” gamers. Her crime is a failure of imagination, a failure to sense greatness. Diving into someone’s else’s passions, no matter how weird they might seem, never fails to stoke your own. This woman is worse than mean; she’s boring.

anatomy of a letdown

8/29/11

The Last Four Days: A Pictorial History

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Lucy walks Lily before our flight to NYC

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flight delayed, Lily rides it out on Doggie Xanax

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flight canceled. Frequent Flier lounge men’s room features gold piping against black porcelain

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finally arrive in Queens the next day – we’re 24′ high here at Sean’s, but decide to evacuate anyway (East River Hell Gate in background)

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Sean cleans the gutters atop his house before deluge (basement still floods a little)

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upstate, everybody (my mom, Marlena, Lindsay and Dana pictured) ate under the ubiquitous Weather Channel

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we picked all the vegetables and fruit before the storm

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waters rise

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the eye passes over our farm, but no wind yet – we allow Lucy and Barno a few minutes outside

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hours after the “storm” is through, winds rise and we lose power – saving backup batteries by using candlelight

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like I told Lucy, the day after a hurricane is always gorgeous

her name was mud

8/28/11

Quick note to readers – thanks for the emails, we are doing totally fine despite having been in the eye of Irene. Power was out, but solar kicked in… only house in this part of Columbia County with electricity, motherscratchers!

It rained upwards. That was cool. How are y’all?

More tomorrow.

“come on irene” insulting to eileens, film at 11

8/25/11

Boy, what a great day to try and fly to NYC! WHOO-HOO!!!

Got bumped to tomorrow’s (today’s) flight, which may get us in under the wire Irene-wise, but will tell the story later.

In the meantime, code word question accidentally courtesy of my mom, who asked this rhetorical question about livin’ in New York City this week:

Earthquake and now this hurricane. Don’t these sorts of things come in threes? What’s left?

I said “plantar fasciitis”. What about you?

delivery, please sign here

8/23/11

I know full well that this is the sort of blog entry that makes those people without kids want to roll their eyes, put their finger in their mouth and pretend to blow their brains out – especially on big news days (we move to LA and frickin’ NYC gets an earthquake?!?) – but TOO BAD!

I shan’t bore you with the details of how Lucy’s first tooth began to wiggle, and how it finally fell out tonight, and how she and Tessa freaked out so much that they lost it on the carpet, only to find it again when all hope was lost… but I will say this. She put it inside her Carolina pillow – the one with a tiny pocket – with a letter she wrote to the Tooth Fairy.

We can’t remember which one of you awesome folks sent us that pillow when she was a newborn, but she has been waiting for this day for years. Tonight, after Tessa slipped a little note in there (and I added a copper tuppence left over from the Kensington tube stop), it took all of my careful energy to turn her over to get this picture. She had been clutching it all night long, with both hands, tucked under her head.

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Yes, being a parent turns you into a sap who can no longer do Rumplemintz shots on a Tuesday night, but [insert *sigh* here] it comes highly recommended.

speak where we can hear you, dear

8/22/11

Yes, I realize I’m slacking here, but that’s for two reasons: one, it’s the dregs-end of summer and I’m resting up for another inevitable victory, and two: MY WIFE IS ABSOLUTELY DESTROYING IT ON THE HUFFPO.

To whit: her article on the Breast Milk Baby doll has (as of this writing) more than 3,700 “likes”, 1,136 “shares” and 655 comments. She probably has more page hits from two blog entries than I have, total, in almost ten years of keeping a personal blog – and I couldn’t possibly be prouder of her.

Sure, they are vastly different platforms, but it just goes to show the level-of-scale certain lecterns have. Also, there’s a built-in audience of parents who love to heap scorn on other parents – it’s the blood sport of the twenty-teens.

Can we call these the twenty-teens yet?

Anyway, Tessa’s new article is about a doll that suckles on a little breastfeeding halter your li’l one can wear, and naturally, it grosses out a few conservatives. Man, do they have hearts of alabaster, or what?

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Lucy at 4, multitasking

the flying reptiles of columbia county

8/18/11

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Whilst reading one of her Dinosaur Atlases, Lucy and I came across a creature so stunning that we both lapsed into mini-daydreams just hearing about it. Apparently there was a pterosaur called a Quetzalcoatlus that is believed to be the largest flying animal in Earth’s history. Even conservative estimates give its wingspan as 35 feet, with some venturing it was 43 feet, putting it in the same category as a small passenger plane.

We always have a hare-brained scheme for each Jartacular, and we decided building a life-size Quetzalcoatlus would do nicely. While the Lulubeans designed the basic color scheme (since nobody knows what it really was), I tried to figure out how to pull it off.

I asked several people about working with fiberglass, like those big, smooth climbing creatures you see at city parks and kid-friendly malls, but it looked daunting, and I couldn’t find any decent “how-to” guides for anything north of a speaker cabinet for your truck.

A few days before we got to the farm, there was a violent storm that pulled down trees all over the county. When I inspected our property, I noticed this:

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One of the massive halves of an ash tree, about 45 feet long, had crashed into the swampy area that freezes over for Tessa’s ice skating shenanigans, and suddenly, my problem was solved. I got our yard man Ernest to cut twenty feet of the trunk, shaved off the bark, then three of his friends dragged it behind my car to the other yard. We counted the rings: 53, and that was only for that side of the trunk.

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You have no goddamn idea how heavy that thing was. Or maybe you do. If that tree had fallen on our house, it would have gone through two floors like a soldering iron through butter. So I constructed a massive “mount” for the log (leading to the injury mentioned here) and with all of our strength, my buddy Lars, my brother Steve and I hoisted it up. Then we all barfed. Or at least wanted to.

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How about a more evocative shot, eh?

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The most distinctive part of the Quetzalcoatlus is its beak, which is disturbingly long. Check out Dr. Mark Witton’s art for how they might have used it (although Lucy and I like to think they just soared along the Cretaceous lakes and scooped up fish). So I did some quick geometry with two 4x8s, put in a gate hinge for the jaw, and a screen door spring to make the mouth move.

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Mounting the head on the log was easy once I took off the branch that was meant to be its crest – it was backwards anyway.

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Per Lucy’s instructions, we painted the crest shiny red and bolted it back on, facing the other direction. Then I got two ballet barres left over from the Lucy Dance Room hare-brained scheme and two pieces of PVC pipe left over from the ice-skating Zambiani hare-brained scheme and created the bones for the wings:

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By now, both Lars and Steve had gone back to NY, so getting the tarp onto the wings would probably have been funnier if it were in black-and-white, sped up and shown in a movie theater in 1921. But once it was bolted to the wings, something vaguely magical happened as I was holding the razor blade to cut it to shape… it was like I was sculpting the tarp, the plastic dropping to the ground so effortlessly. I made swoops, and aerodynamic divots, and it felt… artistic and satisfying. I can’t exactly explain why.

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Later, as the sun set, Lucy came out to inspect the mouth, and as the wind blew, the wings gathered up and flapped slowly up and down, and the beak chattered like it were actually talking. She named the beast Siantaugh – pronounced shaun-tah – and said it was from Ireland. And no, I have no idea where she got that from.

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The next day was our last at the farm that trip, so we brought Mommy out for a grand presentation. She and I had just seen the mesmerizing documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, where ancient artists had used the natural curves and bulges of the cave wall to make the horses and panthers come to life. Our Quetzalcoatlus, Siantaugh, is crude and deeply silly, but the natural twist of her trunk makes her oddly lifelike. If only she could take flight, like her forebears once did, how awesome would that be?

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completely awesome, that’s how much awesome

analog summer theme song

8/17/11

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[verse:]

D                            F

Analog summer! Texting ain’t words!

Bb                                                     A7

Facebook is for weenies and The Twitter is for nerds

Crank up the AM! Wax up your Jarts!

I don’t need an app to help me name all my farts

[pre-chorus:]

G6                                     F6              

Raided my Ol’ Grandad, keep it in a flask

G6                                      A6

Gonna wear a mood ring, gonna grow a ‘stache

[chorus:]

D

An-a-log

C     A7

sum-mer!

Analog sum-mer!

Analog summer! Got any weed?

No worries if you don’t (but it’d be cooler if you did)

My ham radio squawks to a dude in Trinidad

We’re fresh out of Effexor so we might get really sad

Our kids been free all day, grabbed their bikes and then took flight

Excuse me and the missus for some afternoon delight

Analog sum-mer!

Analog sum-mer!

Analog summer, suck my fucking balls

Dropped my iPhone in the hot tub, I shan’t be taking calls

I SHAN’T BE TAKING CALLS!

Analog sum-mer!

Analog sum-mer!

FUCK YEAH!

[I hereby double-dog dare chaircrusher, or Block or Brad Sucks to make this song. or YOU.]

when there was no crawdad we ate sand

8/14/11

That’s it. I’m declaring this to be Analog Summer. I won’t have a functioning computer for another two weeks, it’s the middle of August when nothing works anyway, and besides, what are we doing in front of a computer monitor ANYWAY?

I’m not trying to be a Luddite, I’m just mindful that we – yes, WE – are going to be the last generation that remembers a time when we weren’t so goddamned tethered to a working internet, and wireless shit, and constantly being updated by what both Libya and our 5th-grade lab partner were doing today.

We are going to be the last cohort of people with a fairly broad range of non-digital skill sets at our disposal… you want calligraphy? I can do that, just give me the right pen. You want sleight-of-hand tricks? Give Salem an afternoon, he’ll make your motherfucking dime disappear. You want potato enchiladas from memory? My brother Kent will make ’em all special like.

On Tuesday, I’m going to Napa Valley to help my dad recuperate from Lyme Disease, which means assembling their new barbecue, setting up his office, and hooking up his turntable (ANALOG!). At the same time, Tessa will be outlining a new script idea while taking breaks to work on a new jump in ice skating, and Lucy will be attending a week of local theater camp, all of which I consider fine analog activities.

I will be dispatching this blog from a balustrade of semaphores lining the roof, then sent through a vacuum-tubed oscilloscope and flung out on a forty-meter radio wave to reach you. How you then translate this information is your digital secret, but as long as it’s Analog Summer, can you list some skills you’re able to pull out if there’s a full electricity blackout and internet shutdown?

I’ll start:

• the aforementioned calligraphy (including Gothic and Celtic, fuckers!)

• gardening, with emphasis on tomatoes, peaches and strawberries

• crown moulding and chair rails

• Morse Code, violin and quiz questions (the Please Beat Me Up Triumvirate of childhood)

• fireplace technology

• proletariat astronomy

• 3-point shot

• when that isn’t sinking, then callous scorched-earth profanity

• animal husbandry

• actually, I don’t have that skill, but it always sounded so awesome

• Boggle, Connect Four, Stratego, Othello, Spades, and Rook

and you?

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a partially-damaged B&W Polaroid of my dad on an old B&W television show, next to wired phone circa ’66 = awesome

ionosphere, troposphere, blogosphere

8/11/11

Before we start the weekend proper, I wanted to THANK ALL OF YOU that went over to Tessa’s blog and made it one of the most-commented personal essays the Huffington Post’s Parenting section has run. It was even picked up in the U.K., and here in the U.S., they put it above-the-fold with a hilarious stock photography image:

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All of this is wonderful, because there’s a book idea brewing in there, and if you take out the comments that misspell Lucifer and Job (among others in the Bible), there’s a pretty good dialogue going on. Many of you fine folks made that possible.

There’s always so much judgment from others when it comes to fertility issues, which makes most women leave smoke bombs in their wake, obfuscating their true intentions, or glossing over shit they’d rather not explain. In a nutshell, here are a few observations about the World of Not Having Babies By Simply Bonin’:

• there is a vague but insidious notion that women over a certain age – let’s say 43 or 44 – are not worthy of pregnancy, and should just get over it already.

• as I’ve stated before, jack-off rooms for guys involved in IVF have the worst pornography curation imaginable. Seriously, I’d rather they have Cat Fancy or Scientific American over the crap in there.

• when you go through a bunch of miscarriages, and everyone around you effortlessly pushes out another child, it pisses you off. It is not your finest emotion, to be sure, and it’s not really directed at them, but there t’is.

• many women, especially actors in their late 40s, are using donor eggs but not telling anyone about it. They have a right to privacy, of course, but it is extremely misleading to the rest of women who think they can have their own biological child at 48 because of the miracle of science.

• the more involved you get in fertility efforts, the more you feel like Icarus flying too close to the sun, not just because people “tut-tut” your supposed freakish determination, but because you yourself start thinking you’ve moved too far away from The Way Things Are Supposed to Work.

• that, however, is an illusion, because none of us knows the way things are supposed to work.

• the day when women are able to reliably freeze their eggs for later fertilization will mark the real beginning of female emancipation. Currently, there is no good way to do it – but when you can harvest 50 eggs at the age of 20, flash-freeze them, and actually wait until you meet a decent partner… then the biological clock will stop ticking, and a generation of women will set that clock on fire and throw it into a canyon. It will be the game-changer Roe vs. Wade was, maybe bigger.

There’s so much more, but for now, I’m just proud of my wife, able to turn such a rotten 4-year experience into something positive. One correction, however: on the front page shown above, the article is titled “A Would-Be Mom’s Search”. As hundreds of you already know, Tessa is no Would-Be Mom. She is already one of the best moms on the planet, and I feel blessed every second I watch her do it.

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