Last night’s tragicomedies and a Call To Adventure

Cups ran over last night. So much to keep up with. We’ll start tragically and move to comedically and end with…adventure?

legion_of_doomLast night was the first major Republican debate of this election cycle. It was entertaining—featuring much bombastic strutting, sniping, dishonest or ignorant claims (your pick), and a generous amount of self-congratulation. This last item might have made the whole affair seem tragically comic were it not for the lack of any redeeming qualities held by any of the candidates. For a tragicomedy to work, one must sympathize somewhat with the subjects.

If there was any “winner” last night (assuming we set our bar very low) it would probably have to have been Governor John Kasich who managed to sound like an adult almost the entire evening while touting various liberal-sounding social programs such as drug addiction treatment and prison reform, and a seeming support for gay marriage. It struck me as a cynical ploy to independents and some Democrats. He talked very fast and didn’t want to remind anyone of his attacks on education, his strident support of an anti-gay marriage amendment, and the scandal-prone, trigger-happy police in his state.

Moving on… and note that I’m not even going to comment on the kids table debate that happened earlier in the day. Lunatics.

*  *  *

jon-stewartAs for the tragically comic, my favorite definition is from that episode of The Simpsons with John Waters guesting in which Homer thinks that “the tragically comic” is when a clown dies. Jon Stewart didn’t die. He’s just moving to a farm where he can run and play with other animals. In New Jersey.

Last night, Stewart received an incredible send-off. Good for him. Good for him. He’s earned some downtime and while we’re going to miss him terribly, we assume—have faith, if you will—that we’ll see him again.

*  *  *

This morning I am reading through an old journal I found at an estate sale which hints toward the existence of fortune and glory to the person made of the right kind of stuff. The right kind of stuff might be wrong, of course. There is always that chance.

new-york-public-library-lionsInterested in an adventure? Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

  • Three eggs: one robin, one turtle, one rooster
  • A fireplace poker
  • A _bent_ fireplace poker
  • A pre-World War II set of architectural plans for the New York City Public Library
  • A three-inch long piece of chalk
  • A portable Tesla light
  • Two matching pairs of farmer’s boots
  • A raincoat. You will most certainly need a good raincoat
  • An unassembled crystal radio kit
  • An alibi

Obviously, this adventure features the use of subterfuge and some trickery. This is what I mean about right stuff and wrong stuff. I can tell you this; however…don’t feel bad for The Belgian. He has it coming.

If interested, leave your resume with the hot dog guy on the corner of 34th & 5th. Expect a reply by nightbird.

Until next time…

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Letters to Monster Wednesdays

11025275-stack-of-old-letters-on-white-backgroundI’m still trying to make up for some time lost due to a 30-hour power outage and other unexpected wrinkles to my work schedule. Today has been a furious flurry (flurryious?) of activity. Still, I didn’t want to entirely miss one of my scheduled update days, and fortunately I had been able to write this on my Kindle before the battery died yesterday. I meant to post it this morning, but you know… flurryious times. But the afternoon beats never, so here we go… Letters to Monster:

If I had such a thing as an alter ego, it would be Monster. My current ego is just fine, so I tend not to need any alters–just the same I have fun being Monster whether its calling in a dinner reservation, signing a painting, or stalking a stretch of beach an hour before sunrise. Now Monster is handling some of my mail–to-whit, my Q&A mail. Word has apparently already gotten out, and perhaps Monster has started reading and answering mail without me. This is some of what Monster (me, I guess) has been up to in that regard:

 

Dear Monster,

My boss says to work harder, not smarter. That doesn’t sound right. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Kenessa Popcorn, Kennesaw, GA

Dear Kenessa,

The Japanese have a word for working oneself to death–karoushi. You should check with HR to see if your company has a life insurance policy out on you.

Yrs,

Monster

 

Dear Monster,

Our teacher wants us to make a diaphragm commemorating the Oregon Trail. What does the westward expansion have to do with birth control?

Sincerely,

Calvin Watterston, aged 9

Dear Calvin,

Everything.

Yrs,

Monster

 

Dear Monster,

My husband says I keep him up all night with my snoring and that he is considering sleeping in the garage from now on. Thank you for the suggestion. My snoring doesn’t bother me at all.

Much love,

Grenadine Psalter (Mrs.)

Dear Grenadine,

Happy to be of service.

Yrs,

Monster

 

Dear Monster,

Every morning when I wake up my feet are covered in mud. There are no footprints tracking in our out of my bed or bedroom. I live on the 8th floor of an apartment building in the middle of a concrete jungle. What gives?

Silas Silo, Chicago, IL

Dear Silas,

This is not an uncommon issue with people from the Midwest.

Yrs,

Monster

 

Dear Monster,

My boyfriend has taken to wearing blue nail polish. Should I be concerned?

(signed)

Concerned

Dear Concerned,

No reason to be worried. Your boyfriend just wants to be more like Monster.

Yrs,

Monster

 

And that’s all we have for the moment. If you want to write in and ask Monster a question… well, I wouldn’t recommend it. (If you’re insistent, then that’s what the comments section is for, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Until next time…

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Announcing availability for reviews: Indie Comics and Games

I’ve recently announced my intentions to present some reviews here and elsewhere on a regular basis. For those interested in the details, they are as such:

Reviews will focus mostly on independent, creator-owned comics and pretty much anything non-electronic game oriented.

Why?

Source: HannahBlumenreich

Source: HannahBlumenreich

For the indie comics, it’s an underserved niche, and as a publisher myself without a huge PR budget, I can appreciate the need for reader-generated reviews. I’m also a real old school comic nerd who has always had a special love for the indies. That said, I’ll be happy to fairly and honestly review any indie comics sent my way. While I’m old enough to appreciate the tactile experience of reading a printed comic, I also understand the realities of the indie publisher budget (i.e., no budget) and will cheerfully accept PDF copies for review. If you want to send me a dead-tree edition, ask me for a mailing address. PDFs and other inquiries can be sent to me at john@merryblacksmith.com.

As for games and gaming-related material, I’m likewise looking to focus on indie developers who just want to get the word out, and receive honest and fair reviews. This could be for anything from a gaming resource book or adventure module to a full on RPG setup or boardgame.  I don’t expect much of the latter due to the cost for indie developers, but as with the indie comics described above, I’ll cheerfully consider PDF materials where possible. Queries to john@merryblacksmith.com. (I’m not currently considering computer/console/mobile app games…they get plenty of reviews already.)

Onward To Venus: Good game, troubling premise.

Onward To Venus: Good game, troubling premise.

The review roundup will be a weekly or bi-weekly affair depending on what I have on hand. If I don’t have anything new to review, I may just pull something off the shelf and review that instead. But you don’t want that. You want fresh and new.

Reviews will be posted here first—most likely on the weekend–and then promoted via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and any other social network I think appropriate. Later in the week, I’ll get them up on other sites where applicable such as Goodreads, Amazon, BoardGameGeek.com, and so forth. Feel free to suggest additional venues.

And that’s pretty much it. Announcement made, let’s see if we get our reviews on.

Until next time…

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Reboot 2015

Looks like I’m back…not that it’s a big deal or anything. Well, maybe a little bit of a big deal as it’s a sign that I’m returning to making writing a more daily event outside of either business writing or writing in an editorial capacity for whatever book project I happen to be on at the moment.

working-in-a-coffee-shopOh, and savor the cliché for a moment, if you will…I’m writing this whilst sitting in the middle of a trendyish coffee house–the sort that serves alcohol after a certain time of day. Almost a year ago, when I was regularly writing, I would have eschewed the cliché. Most times, if I wasn’t writing from home, I was writing in a laundromat, or a library. More than likely I was writing from home, and will likely continue to do so, but I can appreciate a change in environment in order to charge the creative juices as much as anyone, and I’ve come to enjoy the trendy coffee shops–partly because someone is waiting on me rather than me fending for myself, and becsause they’ve become regular places for me and mine to go gaming. Big tables. Ready food and drink. No cat jumping into the middle of play. What’s not to love?

Plus, this trendyish coffee shop is open at five in the morning. Perfect. I can’t afford to come here every day for this, but I can come often enough. And I can, of course, continue to write from home. It’s where the heart is.

So what does this mean for you, dear reader?

Not much at first, probably–mainly because you don’t exist yet, or at least in not great number. You’re likely a Facebook friend, or saw me post a link to this and you’re being nice, or maybe you’re a new chum on Twitter who has heard I’m going to start writing reviews again.

In either case, welcome to it, imaginary throng of readers. You’ll be real soon enough.

Special Mail collection 006So what else am I planning on in addition to reviews? I’ll likely be bringing back the Friday mailbag in which I reveal what strange letters from strange lands I’ve received. I may offer odd, unasked-for advice again. I’ll discuss recent adventures both mundane and fanciful. I may bring back some short fiction and scripts again.

And reviews, of course. There are plenty of places to get your book reviews. I’m going to try and focus on independent creator-owned comics, and indie game materials. So stay tuned.

For those wondering why updates here so abruptly stopped, the truth is that most of my blogging was done from my venerable iPad, and its sudden loss hit me harder than expected. By the time I recovered, I just got too damn busy. Life is still busy, but it’s also more managed right now. I also have a new tablet device with a keyboard, so blogging on the go is now more of an option. But if you want the real reason, as in the really real… it’s because I’ve missed doing this.

Ever since I’ve gotten back into going to geek-related conventions (Templecon, Readercon, GKENE, Boskone, Arisia, Philcon, etc.) I’ve been hankering to prime my geek pump and return to the ever-loving, all-encompassing flow of geek culture.

So boom, here I am.

The internet trembles. (Or perhaps has gas.)

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My last Simpsons post for a while… swear to D’Oh!

I promise… this is going to be my last Simpsons post for the foreseeable future. As suddenly as it arrived, the FXX Simpsons marathon came to an end at midnight on Monday. I enjoy the show. I find it clever in many spots, and overall not a bad show. Am I a superfan? Or even a regular fan? Meh. I like my animated features a touch more edgy and/or weird, but the Simpsons comes pretty close. Close enough for me to take part in the national experience of having the Simpsons playing on the TV for nearly two weeks.

Now don’t think I spent the entire time on the couch in front of the tube. I worked as usual and did other things. But the Simpsons was usually on in the background. A subversive and surreal soundtrack for life. Oh, and we did switch the channel a few times. Auburn football is back, for one thing. Priorities, man.

I think what it came down to was that the whole marathon thing was an absurd event we got to share as a nation.

But now that it’s over, here are some random observations:

resizedimage600337-BartOnBench01132419In nearly all of the “what does their future look like episodes”, Bart has been divorced at least once, and typically has two sons–one kinda nerdy looking, the other more Bart looking but with more self-control. What Bart needs in the future is to successfully woo and settle down with Mary Spuckler–one of Cletus and Brandine’s daughters. She’d be good for him. He’s probably be good for her as well. Maybe. There are hints in one episode that Bart might still have a chance.

Maggie Simpson is criminally underused as a character. She’s begging for some proper character development. The few peeks we get into the interior-Maggie are fascinating and we want more. I swear… she will save that family.

Hank_a13538_537843We want Scorpio! We want Scorpio! We want Scorpio! Seriously. Hank Scorio was the best one-off guest character ever. I had high hopes he’d feature big in The Simpsons Movie, but the closest we got was the same actor for the voice–Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill.

Speaking of the movie… whatever happened to Colin? Seemed like he just disappeared without a word.

With 552 episodes and counting, the Simpsons just might be the first television show that could get away with its very own channel. All Simpsons, all the time. Whoever gets to be programming manager for that channel would have it easy. It looks like FXX might be thinking the same thing as it looks like their future programming is looking very Simpsons-heavy.

300px-Moes_Tavern_2Noticed a major goof in the opening credits. I’m sure others have noticed it as well, but I don’t recall seeing it mentioned anywhere. During the opening credits, Bart skateboards through Springfield. Along the way he passes in front of Moe’s tavern, and then a store that sells TVS. In the show, however, the store next to Moe’s has always been (since season 1) King Toot’s Music Store. There are no TVs in their front window.

BatThruTownCallback

Opening sequence in first episode after movie.

Finally–I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I hate the Halloween specials. Pass.

And that’s it… for now. No more Simpsons talk from me.

Your long nightmare is over.

Cheers!

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Jay Lake Challenge Week #13 – Dr. House Meets the Simpsons

The Simpsons Meet Dr. House, M.D.
(a rather short play)

SCENE: Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital morgue. Four tables hold four shrouded figures. Situated around the room are DR. GREGORY HOUSE, DR. CHRIS TAUB, DR. CHI PARK, and DR. ERIC FOREMAN.

Reg.11658.17FOREMAN: These four individuals arrive in our hospital and immediately die. We have the whole hospital under lockdown until we can determine the cause of this. What do you think?

HOUSE: Pff. What do I think? What do you think? What do I think, you ask. It’s perfectly obvious. Taub?

TAUB: Well, their yellow skin condition suggests catastrophic liver failure–

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Friday Mail: The Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole

Woodland_Vole_Microtus_Pinetorum (1)

Mysterious! Oooooooo!

Today’s letter arrived in a brindle-brown envelope. The addressee’s name is obscured–as is often the case with this mis-delivered mail. There is no return address. Merely an animal print of some sort. It reads:

Dear Brother or Sister,

Welcome and congratulations regarding your impending initiation into the Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole. You are fortunate and honored to join one of the world’s oldest secretive organizations whose members have included Egyptian pharoahs, Russian czars, hangmen, leaders of professional dentist organizations, presidents, Irish authors and kleptomaniacs, and at least one major prophet to one major world religion. (Try to guess who. We think you’ll be surprised!)

Enclosed are two pair of official initiation ceremony pants (one size fits all). Please bring both pair to your initiation ceremony. You’ll know why when it happens. [note from John: I don’t see any pants. Just as well.]

The secret and mysterious handshake for members of the Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole is as follows:

  • two high fives
  • cracking of knuckles
  • simultaneous punches to left shoulder, then right shoulder
  • a loud guffaw
  • gentle kiss to forehead (elder member initiates)
  • two low fives

Yes, the handshake doesn’t lend itself well to secrecy, but it’s still plenty mysterious.

There is a lodge here somewhere.

There is a lodge here somewhere.

As members often have to move around a lot, we do not assigned individual members to individual lodge locations. Lodges exist in most major cities and national parks. Just look for the numbers 1, 6,and 7. The password of the day will be whatever color I’m thinking of right now. (Hint: It’s not red.)

With membership come responsibilities. Such responsibilities include providing alibis, comfort and succor, pocket change, proofreading, and the occasional back shave.

But with responsibility also come privileges. Among the many privileges you’ll enjoy are: horse racing tips, low deli numbers, free usage of the term “raison d’etre”, boxing gloves on demand, and 10% off admission to all zoos. There are more (and like-wise more responsibilities), of course. You’ll be introduced to these by your lodge mentor.

Member since 1534 BC.

Member since 1534 BC.

Your lodge mentor is a ghost. Deal with it and try not to bring it up too often.

Welcome to a road to adventure and knowledge. Approach membership with an open mind. It makes it easier.

Salve!

–Ron Bothright
Membership Secretary
Sacred Lodges of the Mysterious Vole

————————-

And back work. A lot of projects underway. Here’s but a sampling:

thinpas

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Twenty Nuggets of Knowledge Gleaned from the Simpsons Marathon (thus far)

FXX (who has been getting a lot of free advertising lately) has been running a Simpsons marathon—all 552 episodes (and counting). An absurd event which, of course, I highly approve of. I can’t say I’m a rabid Simpsons fan, although I do enjoy the series overall.  I am a big fan of the absurd, though.  We’re a little over halfway through the marathon and I thought I would share with you twenty nuggets of knowledge I’ve learned along the way. (Or maybe have dreamed.)

  1.  homer7Mr. Burns was never shot. It was all staged in order to distract from the stealing-the-sun plot. Yes, the baby was in on it.
  2. One out of every ten chalkboard gags contains either an obvious typo or grammar mistake.
  3. The alien language used in Futurama first appeared on The Simpsons. Look at the alphabet chart in Lisa’s classroom.
  4. Over the course of the series, Homer is seen reading a total of 93 books. There is only one visible bookshelf in the Simpson household. It’s Lisa’s and is much too small to hold that many books. At least five times, a book has ended up in the fireplace. Three times in the trash.
  5. While Krusty is supposed to be of Jewish ancestry, his actual last name, Krustofski, is a common Catholic surname in Poland.
  6. Sideshow Mel is Sideshow Bob’s third cousin. There is a genealogy chart showing this which briefly appears in Sideshow Bob’s prison cell. It is suspected that Sideshow Mel is not aware of the relation.
  7. Moe, the bartender, is colorblind.
  8. Maude Flanders had a crippling shoe fetish. This is one of seven reasons why her character was killed off.
  9. Maggie Simpson has fewer spoken lines than Santa’s Little Helper (the dog), yet is tumblr_lobol2FC3O1qgkai1o1_500 paid twice as much.
  10. Cletus (the slack-jawed yokel) was based on George W. Bush from when he was a managing general partner for the Texas Rangers baseball franchise.
  11. Tim Burton, a longtime associate of Danny Elfman, was to guest-direct an episode. The project was cancelled when the producers realized that was a really, really, really, really dumb idea. Tim Burton should never work with someone else’s creation.
  12. The Simpsons theme music is the most popular marching band tune in America and Japan not composed by John Philip Sousa. In Russia, it tops Sousa.
  13. Hans Moleman is based on L. Ron Hubbard.
  14. As of 1990, Simpsons trivia competitions are more popular than Star Trek trivia competition.
  15. 421408943_smallMilhouse’s appearance and personality were based on the appearance and personality of Richard Milhouse Nixon as a child.
  16. Matt Groening has said that hidden behind every plot is the possibility of a nefarious CIA experiment.
  17. Judging from climate conditions, racial and economic demographics, and architecture, the “real” Springfield is situated in Luxembourg.
  18. There are no limes in Springfield.
  19. The term “beer goggles” was first coined on The Simpsons, although its meaning was more literal, i.e., a pair of goggles made using beer bottles.
  20. Marge Simpson’s hair is said to weigh nearly 50 lbs. Aside from the hair itself, one must include the added weight of conditioner, blue hair dye, and raven eggs.

There you go. If you don’t believe me, watch the shows yourself.

71

I dare you.

Bonus fact: The National Egg Council is everywhere. Everywhere.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I’m keeping busy as ever with books, journals, and art.

Bills gots to be paid and all, right?

Cheers!

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Jay Lake Challenge Week #12 – In Search of Ira Plato [sic]

In Search of Ira Plato [sic]

A Short, Silly, Three-Act Play (more or less)

 

Dramatis Personae

Major “Hump” Hessel (NSA officer in charge of nationwide manhunt)

Lieutenant Robert “Rigamarole” Davies (Major Hessel’s aide)

Private Ernest “Earnest” Wilde (earnest young soldier)

Detective Molly Molly (A police detective)

Officer Dan O’Dannon (a man of Irish ancestry)

Barry (a barrista)

Ira (radio host)

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