Tuesday, April 26, 2011

He's Evil, I Tells Ya! EEEEEEE-Vil!

Greetings, Pugnacious Political Pundits!

Have you ever felt like the guy that designed the Titanic?  When that fateful iceberg scraped the starboard side of the great vessel the dude that built the thing knew right away that all of the compartments were compromised.  Instantly he just knew the ship was gonna sink.  When he went about breaking this news to folks, they reacted in different ways.  A small segment of people were paralyzed like well-attired deer in headlights.  Another tiny group immediately panicked.  But the lion's share of those passengers wrote the warning off as the ravings of an alarmist asshole and then went right back to smoking cigars and sipping brandy.

Well, politically here in Canada, I fear that there's a big ole' iceberg "roit ahead" and only a few people can see it let alone grasp its ramifications (pun intended).  But I'm convinced that if we hit this frosty behemoth we're all gonna go down faster then a groupie at a Buckcherry concert.

Of course I'm referring to the May 2'nd election.  Now, if challenged, I would normally confess that this farce we're all going to engage in will likely have all the societal impact of an episode of Blue's Clues but this time out I really do believe that electing the lesser of several evils is particularly clutch.

Now, before I go any further, a few disclaimers are in order.  First, this isn't a blatantly partisan political diatribe.  I'm very inclined towards independent research.  I've checked out everything I'm about to present and, frankly, I don't want people to arbitrarily believe these claims without doing some of their own digging.  In fact I'm begging you to prove me wrong!

Also please know that I've voted for every political party under the sun and I'm definitely not slavishly devoted to any of them.  The American concept of a "registered voter" is repugnant to me.  In fact, if didn't think it was as unlikely as Carlos Mencia writing an original joke, I'd spend this entire blog post trying to convince people that we should all vote for independent candidates.  But, hey, I'm a realist.

In fact, as soon as I had the legal capacity to vote, the first ballot I ever cast was for Brian Mulrooney's Progressive Conservatives.  Why?  Because prior to that I'd been brainwashed by all my teachers that FREE TRADE IS GOOD.  Plus I was also kind of a stupid, know-everything, conservative d-bag back then who was iffy on gay rights, supported the notion of capitol punishment and humored the completely ludicrous concept that the state can control what women can do with their own bodies.  But then I went to university, read stuff and became passably intelligent.

I'm hoping that confession is a truism for everyone.  When confronted with new information, will it give you pause for thought and re-consideration? Or will you vote the same old way you always have just because yer daddy, grand-daddy and grand-pappy were always "true blue"?

So, yes, there you go, in the past I've voted for an asshat like Brian Mulrooney.  I wish I could take it back, but I can't.  See what happens when you're young, stupid and uninformed?  Hell, in retrospect, I think I was better advised when I cast a protest vote for the Yogic Flier Party in 1993 (Google it, kiddies!).

Because we seem to have absolutely no muck-raking, Lois Lane style old skool nosy independent journalists left in North America anymore (not to mention a head of state that refuses to answer more than four questions per photo op), we've entered into a very dark time in politics.  Never in my worst nightmares did I ever expect to see political chicanery this cheap north of the 49'th parallel.

Look at what we've stooped to: tasteless attack ads, partisan divides, finger-pointing, white washing of real issues, fear, censorship, doublespeak, and outright lies have all infiltrated our political process.  Now, I'm not saying Canadian politics has always smelled daisy-fresh, but in my lifetime I've seen these extreme and decidedly American tendencies continue to infiltrate our landscape.

Any why?  I believe it's mainly because one slick, subtle and unquestionably devious politician is positively terrified that if we get so much as a lingering glance into his closet we'll find more bones then what's currently housed in the Catacombs of Paris.

If the mainstream media hadn't been systematically gutted and defanged (particularly over the past ten years or so), I'm confident that we'd be more informed about such things.  So, since we can't rely on the real watchdogs to wake up and start barking, I feel I must do my duty, however penny ante, to drag the carcasses out of the closets and rub our collective noses in a dose of reality.
Seriously, would you actually vote for a guy who...

(1) Actually said something so patently offensive regarding the supposed "sanctity of marriage"?
    (2)   Has such a shameful record of women's rights?


    (3)  Keeps insisting that he'll preserve a woman's right to choose, but his actions speak louder then words?


    (4) Harbors some pretty wingnutty, George Bush-esque  religious beliefs? 


    (5) Flip-flops and then then doesn't share his real, duplicitous reasons for keeping Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan?

    Not to mention the shameful stuff he does to veterans?

    (6)  Displays utter contempt for Parliament? 

    Not to mention contempt for the people he supposedly represents?

    Or just tries to shut it down when tough questions start to fly (such as what happens to Afghan detainees?)

    (7) Has such woefully inadequate environmental practices?

    Or offers huge subsidies for big oil to inefficiently strip-mine parts of Alberta?


    (8)  Is okay with such batshit insane spending that you can't help to think about ulterior motives?

    Wants to build more American-style mega-prisons even all they seem to do is make criminals more hardened?

    (9) Is able to sleep at night by convincing himself that big corporations will share it's generous tax breaks with it's workers? A guy who seems to believe that trickle-down economics actually works?

    (10) A guy who would employ a clown like John "Cujo" Baird:

    (11) Or the seemingly oblivious Bev Ota?

    (12) A guy who's done the single scariest thing any Canadian Prime Minister has ever done: arrest and illegally detain a thousand peaceful protesters during the G20 summit?

    (13) Who doles out taxpayer money to preferential ridings only to surreptitiously write it off as G8 "improvements":

    (14)  Who keeps referring to his administration as THE HARPER GOVERNMENT.  Actually, no, it's still the Canadian government, you tin-plated ego-maniacal f#@$-knuckle. 

    One of Rick Mercer's trademark rants perfectly encapsulated this one for me:

    A man who doesn't mind stocking the lobby of the House of Commons with grandiose and gratuitous self-portraiture:


    Or usurps honors normally reserved for the Queen and the Governor General?

    (15) Knows that the first step to a dictatorship is to muzzle the media?

    (16) Adopts joltingly tasteless American-style attack ads? Here's the Conservative's already in-born ironic attack ad they used against Paul Martin in 2006:

    And here's the same ad humorously re-tooled and feeling just as relevant:

    (17) Bars people from events and rallies just because they were in a photo with a political rival?

    (18) Who was proud to say: "Ordinary folks don't care about the arts."  Spoken by a clearly unimaginative, culturally bankrupt yahoo who's only idea of "the arts" is criminally mangling Beatles songs in public.


    (19)  Who has little regard for some of his fellow Canadians?  Does anyone remember this Harper?

    "There's unfortunately a view of too many people in Atlantic Canada that it's only through government favours that there's going to be economic progress." (Stephen Harper, Toronto Sun, May 31, 2002)

    Like that?  Here are a few more dillies:  http://www.lilith-ezine.com/articles/canada/Stephen-Harper.html

    (20)  Who takes creative license with election spending?  http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/03/01/federal-court-sides-with-elections-canada-in-dispute-with-conservatives/

    Seriously?  It only took one hyped up Liberal scandal to serve as Stephen Harper's Reichstag fire.  He used that to fuse his unpalatable Reform Party together with what was left of Mulrooney's devastated Conservatives to claw his way into power.  What will it take to sour the nation on these jackanapes? 

    Yes, I've voted PC before, but Harper's Conservatives aren't PC!  They're Alliance/Reform, which is the closest Canada has ever had to a friggin' fascist party!  Anybody remember those clowns?  Anyone remember how out-to-lunch Preston Manning and Stockwell Day seemed at the time?  Well, I hate to break it to ya, folks, but Harper has managed to hold onto his job not because he's that different from those two idiots, but because he's better at concealing his true, reptillian nature!

    Is there anyone left in the United States left who would be willing to claim that George W. Bush did a bang-up job?  No?  Well, honestly, if you scratch away at that "methinks thou dost protest too much" Canadian pin Harper is always wearing, you begin to realize that he's the closest we've ever come to installing a Neo-Con in office.  The fact that this country is poised to hand this freak a majority (despite most of the country voting against him) just terrifies the bejesus out of me.  

    Look, folks, I didn't want to do this entry and tell you who to vote for, I just wanted to give you some real food for thought as to why you shouldn't vote for THAT GUY.  I have no vested interest in whether he wins or looses.  But I know that most people are very, very busy with such things as day to day survival: trudging through fifty hour work weeks, trying to balance kids, bills and responsibilities.  I know that a lot of you have grown very jaded and apathetic about politics because you never see any positive change regardless of what organ donor is in office.

    But I've been very vigilant.  I've been doing my research.  I've been keeping a close eye on this motley crew in power right now.

    And frankly I think Rick Mercer summed it up best when he said "I have a hard time trusting a man who has the eyes of an alaskan malamute."

     Just think about it...

    EPIC  I'm tellin' ya, this guy is evil, Palpatine-style evil!



    EPIC SITE Which partially inspired this entry...


    PHOTOGRAPHIC PHAILS"The horror, the horror..."

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    I Hit It With My Axe - Part II - How Exactly DO I Hit It? With My Axe, I Mean?

    Hail, Spell Slingers! 

    Well, after learning about this mysterious game Dungeons & Dragons in an article in Starlog magazine, I knew I had to investigate further.  Unfortunately no store in my small hometown of Stephenville, Newfoundland sold the game.  I had to wait several weeks for my parents to take a drive into Corner Brook, where I knew that the Coles Bookstore in the Valley Mall had D&D box sets on display right up front.

    Thinking about this amuses the hell out of me.  To consider that Dungeons & Dragons was such a huge cultural phenomenon that it was once prominently displayed in the same place now reserved for the latest Dan Brown, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling book is pretty high testimony.

    Unfortunately that self-same article in Starlog inadvertently resulted in some "point of sale" confusion and subsequently caused me to buy the wrong thing.  I'd completely misinterpreted the following part of Lenny Kaye's article:

    "Those with more serious bent, or who know they want to make a full hobby of these games...would do better to begin with the 'Advanced Dungeons & Dragons' set.  Along with the expected enlargement, it also relies on a different combat system, though the possible rewards awaiting your character are much greater.  The basic set only takes your character up three skill levels (a continuum which makes the game more of a serial then a one-shot); in 'Advanced D&D', you not only progress further in riches and power, but the number of possibilities open to you at any one level of skill are more varied"
    Hmmmmm..."Greater Possibilities"?  "Further Riches and Power?"  Hells, sounds good to me!

    Given what you've just read, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'd purchased one of the more complex hardbound  Advanced D&D books by mistake.  Nooooo, that oversight would have been somewhat forgivable.

    Standing by that sidewalk display in front of Coles Bookstore I was confronted with the following two colorful box covers:

    I guess my undercooked brain must have interpreted "Expert Set" to mean Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.  I went to the cashier with the "Set 2: Expert Rules" box in my fevered little mitts and just as soon as I was strapped into the backseat of my parent's car, I had the cellophane ripped off that sucker quicker then Tila Tequila's prom dress.

    Half way home a sinking feeling came over me.  As I flipped through the already-daunting 64-page rulebook, I finally noticed a chilling disclaimer on the back of the box: "THIS IS SET #2.  DO NOT BUY THIS SET UNTIL YOU HAVE SET #1".

    In the intervening week I began a merciless campaign to pester my parents into taking me back to Corner Brook as soon as possible.  In the meantime, I studied the Expert Rules as best I could.  From what I could glean, the preliminary findings were tremendously exciting.  If the game delivered as promised, I'd soon be able to create a fantasy alter ego of sorts: either a brave fighter, a wise and holy cleric, a spell-weaving magic-user, a wily thief, stout dwarf, a nimble elf or a diminutive and sneaky halfling.  Once "birthed" in the game world, my plucky little avatar would then be able to explore a world rife with travel, adventure, battle, traps, riddles, exploration and tremendous in-game wealth.  

    Sorry, but for a socially awkward 13 year old kid weaned on Star Wars and The Hobbit, this held a lot of promise.

    Equally evocative was the incredibly convincing art contained inside these rulebooks.  I mean, c'mon, just looking at this map, who wouldn't want to create a heroic fantasy avatar, hire a ship and sail across the sea to the ominous-sounding Isle of Dread?

    As if the last two weeks weren't torturous enough, the following six days were chronological agony.  My dad made up some half-assed excuse to take me out of school Friday afternoon and we were soon en route to the Promised Land.  When we arrived in the parking lot of the Valley Mall I jumped out of the car while it was still moving, rushed to Coles Bookstore and snatched up a copy of that precious red box.  

    "Okay, we can go now," I said when I'd reunited with my ever-patient parents.  They just shook their heads and promptly ignored my persistent requests to set course for home post haste.  

    On the drive back I greedily studied the contents of the box.  It included a set of weird-looking, barely legible dice.  In addition to the standard-issue six sider, it also had a pyramidal four-sided die, an eight-sided die (which looked like two four-siders stuck together), a ten-faced pentagonal trapezohedron (try saying that five times real fast), a 12-sided dodecahedron and...the mother of all die, the exotic-looking twenty-sider.  This alone was intriguing enough.

    What didn't make sense was why a simple white crayon was included in the box.  I studied it quizzically for a moment and then moved on to the books contained therein.  Now that I was actively looking for such things, I heeded the screaming instructions on the cover to "READ THIS BOOK FIRST"  and set aside the "Dungeon Master's Rulebook" in lieu of poring over the "Player's Manual". 

    The Preface on the inside front cover contained the very first Dungeons & Dragons related words I would ever read:    

    "This is a game that is fun.  It helps you imagine.

    'As you whirl around, your sword ready, the huge, red, fire-breathing dragon swoops towards you with a ROAR!'

    See?  You imagination woke up already.  Now imagine: this game may be more fun then any game you have ever played!"

    This infantile but arresting little hook instantly cast a spell on me.  Just as soon as I got home I began to delve deeper into the precious tome.  First off, the mystery of the crayon was finally revealed:

    "During your first adventure you will only need one of the dice in the box.  The others will be used later, for now all you need is the roundish one with the numbers 1 to 20 on it.  Use the crayon to fill in the numbers and rub off extra wax with a tissue so only the numbers are colored in."

    After I'd made my enigmatic dice imminently more readable I continued to dive into the section entitled "What is role playing?":

    "This is a role-playing game.  That means that you will be like an actor, imagining that you are someone else, and pretending to be that character.  You won't need a stage, though, and you won't need costumes or scripts.  You only need to imagine." 

    Intrigued, I plowed onwards to discover what my debut role would be:

    "Imagine: it is another place, another time.  The world is much like ours was, long ago, with knights and castles and no science or technology - no electricity, no modern comforts of any kind.  

    Imagine: dragons are real.  Werewolves are real.  Monsters of all kinds live in caves and ancient ruins.  And magic really works!  

    Imagine: you are a strong hero, a famous but poor fighter.  Day by day you explore the unknown, looking for monsters and treasure.  The more you find the more powerful and famous you become."

    As if that wasn't enough, the section earmarked as "Your first adventure" really stirred up my yen for the noble quest:

    "Your home town is just a small place with dirt roads.  You set off one morning and hike to the nearby hills.  There are several caves in the hills, caves where treasures can be found, guarded by monsters.  You have heard that a man named Bargle may also be found in these caves.  Bargle is a sort of bandit, who has been stealing money, killing people and terrorizing your town.  If you can catch him, you can become a hero!"  

    Let me assure you, Kind Reader, in the simple days before Blu-Rays and Streaming Video, this was pretty heady stuff.  As an already imaginative kid, I could picture my fighter character striding confidently away from the relative safety of his small town, hoofing uphill with an equipment-laden backpack slung over one shoulder and a long sword's scabbard clattering against his armored leg with every stride.

    The brief quest that followed saw my hero venture into a dimly lit cavern.  Inside the cave I had a brief dust-up with an evil goblin and then a deadly rattlesnake.  As I ventured deeper into the labyrinth, the simple yet brilliant mechanics of this completely original game began to reveal itself.

    If I intend to accomplish anything at all with this blog series, at the very least I want to debunk the stigma and mystery around how this game works.  Let's face facts: to the casual onlooker an average game of  D&D can easily inspire some serious head-sctatchery.  With it's odd cardboard screens, out-of-context ad-libbing, seemingly complex record keeping and hopeful throws of gemstone-shaped dice,  it's no wonder people just glance at it and conclude that its just something weird, cultish, ritualistic or exclusionary.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  

    When Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented D&D their goal was to was to give players the ability to exist within a realm that was considerably more romantic, daring, adventurous and scarier then our own.  They did this entirely within the frame work of a game.  And if I can communicate anything at all, it's that.  D&D is just a game.  

    And as such it has rules.  Although there's plenty of over-the-top drama, danger, escapes, heroics, battles and close calls it's still kept fairly "realistic" by the framework of it's rules.  Like real people, each D&D character is born with it's own unique strengths and weaknesses.  Before they play, prospective adventurers roll dice to generate their characters ability scores in six key areas.  They are:

    Strength: Which determines how easily you can smite someone, how much damage you cause and how successful you are at performing feats of strength like lifting a beam off a fallen team-mate or opening a particularly stubborn jar of mayonnaise. 
    Intelligence: Which represents how much your character knows, how well they learn and how many languages they can speak.  It's also a clutch ability if your character uses magic; since it often giving you bonus spells.
    Wisdom:  Whereas Intelligence is a measure of booksmarts, Wisdom is your character's common sense and willpower.  This one's critically important if you're trying to avoid being bespelled, for example.
    Dexterity:  This illustrates how nimble your alter ego is and how proficient they might be with a missile weapon like crossbows and such.  
    Constitution:  This one determines how hearty your l'il avatar is.  It influences how much damage they can soak up before they croak and how resistant they are to disease or trauma.  
    Charisma:  Will your character be a Poindexter or Suave Motherf#@$%^?  High Charisma gives your characters a chance to talk your way out of sticky situations as well as easily gain friends and influence people.

    Just like real life, we don't get to choose our high and low points and the same goes in the world of D&D.  To generate random ability scores, players roll three 6-sided die for each characteristic and add 'em up, creating a nice bell-curve result from 3-18 (with most scores falling into the 9-12 or "average" range).  The higher the number, the better the ability.  

    Needless to say, just by rolling these die you already get a built-in hook on how your character might behave.  For example, a fighter with a Strength of 17 and a Intelligence of 4 might habitually get through locked doors by headbutting them open.  In the same breath, they're also probably not smart enough to figure out why they're having periodic dizzy spells and persistent ringing in their ears.

    So, in that first introductory adventure my pre-made warrior character had the following stats:

    Strength           17        Constitution    16      
    Dexterity          11        Wisdom           8
    Intelligence         9        Charisma        14

    So, with these numbers in mind, it isn't difficult for me to describe this dude.  He's likely got little to no discernible neck, isn't likely to slip on a patch of ice when running for the outhouse, reads nothing beyond the odd issue of How To Hit Stuff With Your Axe digest, doesn't usually get the flu, does alright downtown with the ladies and might one day be voted "most likely to have all of his gold grifted by a fake Jamaican with fast hands and a card table."

    Also, unless your Peter Griffin, most people can only take a certain amount of abuse before they konk out.  In D&D terms, this is referred to as Hit Points (an affectation that's already been stolen by countless video games).  Often times your character's Hit Points are determined by your class (rough and tumble fighters can take more abuse than, say, your average pencil-necked, pasty wizard) and it's augmented by how good or bad your Constitution is.  

    But the whole idea is not to get hit in the first place, right?  In the wacky world of D&D this is simulated by a simple little stat called Armor Class.  Armor Class (or A.C. for those with a fetish for abbreviations) is determined by what kind of cool, medieval-style armor your character is wearing and how good their Dexterity is.  For example an agile knight wearing a suit of chain mail armor is gonna be a helluva lot harder to hit and damage in battle then say, Steve Urkel.

    Man, I just wanna smash that little...*Ahem*...sorry 'bout that. 

    Ergo, whenever you get in a scrap, your chances to successfully concuss your opponent before they brain you is determined by how armored your opponent is and how strong your l'il paper champion is.  When you want to try and hit something, your success also isn't a foregone conclusion.  You have to roll the big 20-sided die, add any bonuses or penalties based on your Strength and then check the results against your target's armor.  Generally, the higher the roll the better.  

    In addition to all of his of her physical properties, you can laden your character down with more equipment  then a Manhattanite going on their first camping trip.  You can buy backpacks to carry all the phat lootz you find, lanterns to light your way in the darkness, holy water to splash on nasty undead things, mirrors to see around dungeon corridors, wooden poles to safely poke around in scary piles of refuse, rations for your character to nosh on, rope for climbing and/or assorted kinky stuff, spikes to keep dungeon doors propped open, tinder boxes to light fires ("Heh, heh, heh.  FIRE!!!  FIRE!!!"), waterskins to keep your whistle wet and wolvesbane to keep the Lon Chaney Jr. types away.

    Also in a painful simulation of real life, when your intrepid character starts his or her career, they're often poorer then church mice.  In fact, one of the main motivators for your character to venture out into a monster-filled world is to rake in a few Benjamin and, as such, make enough coin to buy the medieval adventurers equivalent of a 50" plasma T.V.  

    1080p LCD Progressive Scan Crystal Ball, mayhaps?      
    All of this stuff (character name, gender, profession, Hit Points, Armor Class, Ability Scores, equipment, money, sexual orientation, political affiliation, blood type, favorite color) can all be summarized on a handy-dandy Character Sheet which you'll be asked to refer to periodically during the adventure.  Taken as a whole, that Character Sheet is kinda like your Permanent File, but in this case, it's a good thing since it encapsulates your character at a glance and makes him or her a breeze to play.    

    Back in Adventureland, my fighter managed to slay the giant snake and claim it's modest treasure of scattered coin.  Marginally wounded he staggered further into the darkness and stumbled across a figure in the dark who appeared to be meditating or praying:

    Her name was Aleena, a cleric and member of the local clergy who, through her faith in a higher power, receives spells of healing and protection in addition to her martial combat prowess.  After she healed me by laying on hands ("Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, knowwhatImean,knowwhatImean?") we formed a temporary alliance and forged ahead together in the darkness.

    After Aleena used her holy influence to turn back a horde of slavering undead monsters we both finally managed to reach Bargle the evil magic user and his goblin henchman.  In the ensuing melee I managed to slay the goblin piss-boy but sadly, Bargle used his dark arts to kill my new found friend.


    In the end, Bargle managed to escape.  As the undead ghouls closed in again I decided on an expeditious retreat and fled from the dungeon carrying Aleena's body with me...

    Although Aleena had been laid low, I'd had some pretty hairy adventures and lived to fight another day.  Still using that magical "Players Manual", I soon continued on an even more elaborate quest.  After purchasing some new platemail armor from Armorer Baldwick, I soon ventured back to the same caves via another entrance.  In my subsequent delve the following adventury things happened:
    • A statue revealed a secret note giving clues to the dungeon's other denizens.
    • I managed to scare away one giant rat but was forced to tangle with two more of it's nasty brethren.
    • "O-T-T-F-F-S-S!"  A giant disembodied mouth suckers me into a twisted game of "riddle me this".
    • Goblins!  Goblins!  Goblins!
    • I face a diabolical creature that I wished threatened my own hide instead of my shiny new expensive armor!
    • I ask myself if finding a treasure chest is worth losing my head over.
    • I recreate my own version of the Sinbad vs. Skeleton fight:

    After this harrowing delve, I soon created my own fighter character and ran him through a series of randomly generated adventures.  Eventually I grew tired of this and decided that the time was right to come out of my imaginative closet and let a couple of my friends in on my little gaming secret.

    Ultimately it was the following tempting words that swayed me to get others involved:

    "Most of the fun of a Dungeons & Dragons game comes from playing in a group.  To play in a group, one person must be the Dungeon Master (or DM).  The DM is the person who plays the parts of the monsters and runs the game."

    I let this sink in for a bit.  Playing these heroic, swashbuckling characters was undeniably rewarding, but for aspiring Dungeon Masters, who's role it is to craft the stories, design it's evil traps, act as the realm's denizens and be final arbiter of everything that happens in the game the lure was even stronger:

    It was the chance to play god.

    EPIC  If Tarantino directed my D&D adventure, this would be the poster.  There's a whole generation of geeks out there that have spent the past 28 years wishing that there was some way to save poor, hot, fictional Aleena and kill that f#@% Bargle.

    EPIC QUEST  This is, without a doubt one, of the best books you can read to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons.  It's written from the perspective of a real "girly-girl" named Shelly Mazzanoble who began working for the company that currently produces D&D.  Eventually she got suckered into playing the game and, to her suprise, managed to look past all the societal stigma to discover one of most consistently enjoyable and rewarding pastimes.  A hilariously funny and very candid read.

    EPIC DOC  A decent little doc about the game although the lines between fantasy and reality seem to be bleeding together for the guy with the giant beer mug...

    ARTISTICALLY EPIC  The beautiful sketches that culled from my old D&D Basic Set to use in this blog were drawn by the truly magical Larry Elmore.  Do yourself a favor: check out his site and prepare to be amazed!
    FAIL  It's because of freaks like this that D&D will always be somewhat "stigmatic":

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    April is National Poetry Month. Here, I got you a Haiku...

    Greetings, Persistent Purveyors of Poesy!

    Wait, I didn't catch that...did you just say that you don't like poetry?  Why the hell not!?  What's wrong with you?  Were you dropped on your head as a kid or something?  Sheesh.

    You like music, dontcha?  Music has lyrics, right?  You like lyrics, capish?    

    I've always personally defined poetry as "an economic concentration of meaning in as succinct and artistic a manner as possible".  Ever send a text message to someone?  What can be more succinct and meaningful then a text?

    Okay, maybe "can i use ur washroooom i realy hav 2 pee" isn't the best example of art, but in this age of insta-communication, I really wouldn't be surprised is poetry doesn't have a major resurgence soon.
    When you're an English Major, like it or not, there's just no way you can avoid poetry.  Through a mix of dedicated study, personal predilection or even osmosis, you eventually become intimately familiar with Shakespeare's sonnets, Blake's head-trips, Wordsworth's daffodil fetish, Dickinson's vigorous verses, Coleridge's epics, T.S. Elliot's dirges and Shelly's romantic surrealism.  Eventually it begins to bleed into you.  You become obsessed with seeking out works of renown, analyzing everything for deeper meaning and reading it aloud to people in the hopes of possibly having sex with them.

    One of the coolest things that a bunch of us did while we lived in residence was compose poetry during some of our more pedestrian classes.  At the end of the day, we'd gather in someone's room and read what we'd composed.  Mercifully this never resulted in us having sex with one other.   *Shudder*  

    So why did we do it?  Beat's me.  It might be because that, at the time, some of us considered folks like Leonard Cohen and Jim Morrison to be kinda "pimp".  Maybe it's because we had no creative outlet otherwise.  Maybe it's because we were just stone-cold bored in class.  Or perhaps we wanted to write something good enough to impress the ladies.  

    Whatever the reason, we were pretty prolific there for awhile.  Our efforts certainly weren't limited to weirdo English Majors, either.  There were International Studies and Commerce students in the mix as well.  Generally what we wrote was pretty crappy.  I know my first few efforts were alternately waaaaaaay too heavy handed and/or pretentious to see the light of day.

    Periodic boredom in the classroom eventually gave way to chronic boredom in the workplace.  Call centers, with their regimented protocols and lack of innovation, are a veritable breeding ground for composing verse.  I wrote a fair bit during this time and some of my cubically contained inmates followed suit.  Occasionally my pathetic plea for a creative outlet would raise it's head when trying to cope with the sometimes surreal office environment  or worm its way into supervisory emails sent to staff members prone to fleeing the work place:

    Revealing A Mystery...

    "Reading fleetly 'tween the calls
    Phone and clock upon the walls
    Scream in your ear 'You must take flight!'
    Alight in carriage, bold and bright.

    Epiphany strike, a thought declare:
    'I left my book and notes back there!'
    Dawn a class comes, naught to show.
    'I'll skip the damn'd thing, I WILL NOT GO!

    So knowledge gain'd and lesson learn'd
    Accoutrement all I must confirm
    Before the mad dash to the brink

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.   You'll find your Edgar Allan Poe book and binder at the Coaches desk.

    P.S. Make sure you read The Tell-Tale Heart.  Good stuff."

    When finishing my book became priority one, poor, neglected verse fell by the wayside.  That is, until this time last year.  I had the good fortune of reading the following article in Halifax's Weekly Dose of Realistic Optimism, The Coast:


    For those of you too lazy to click on ye olde link (I'm lookin' at you, bub!) it tell the story of one Donal Power, a former journalist turned editor who's been passionate about poetry since High School.  In this wacky modern world he just can't wrap his head around why an art form which was once so pervasive and easy to practice has fallen into cultural oblivion.  He can't conceive as to why reading, sharing and publishing poetry has become so academic and insular.  He struggles with how local institutions seem more concerned with creating a cottage industry for people already published versus fostering talented but yet-unheard voices.

    His solution to this deficit was so simple it was brilliant.  He created Open Heart Forgery, a self-described "grass roots, guerrilla journal of poems and lyrics that seeks to energize the writing community in Halifax and the HRM".  Every month Donal asks creative folks (just like you, Gentle Reader) to email their lyrics and poems to him.  He then turns his aesthetic, analytic and editorial eye on each submission, separates the wheat from the chaff and publishes the ten-point font, 28 line max results on a tri-fold sheet of colorful legal paper. 

    In addition to his own distribution efforts, he invites readers to literally "forge" every issue by going to the OHF homepage, printing it, copying it and then scattering it all around the Halifax Regional Municipality.  If you live in the area, keep an eye out for it the next time you're out and about: it could turn up on a bus, in a coffee shop, at the library, in a pub, in a bookstore, at the laundromat or in the waiting room of the place where you routinely get a high colonic ("Hey, waitaminit, this isn't a Doctor's office!").

    And I'll tell ya right now, folks, OHF certainly makes for more soul-nourishing, karmically fulfilling lunchtime reading then say, that crappy Flying Cow ad rag.   

    Since I've been chasing the dream of official publication for years like Jeremy Wade after a River Monster, I decided to throw caution to the wind, nut up and send in one of my poems.  For the record, here is the very pram in question:

    An obligatory glimmer of promise provided.
    The unconscious optimist now resurrected.
    His sermons of hope are ever-alluring.
    The masses will follow, never returning.
    Empowered, he usurps the throne of despair.
    Just as the bullet will dagger the air.
    The flock and the spirit will perish within him.
    But that's the way it is without him.
    The martyr must fall from the golden barony.
    All for the sake
         of a little something
                       called "tragic irony".
    To my amazement, here was Donal's reply a few days later:

    "Hello David,

    Thank you very much for your submission 'Anticipation' to Open Heart

    Forgery (I particularly enjoyed the deft line  'the bullet will dagger
    the air' - very deft and evocative). We've got it queued up for the
    upcoming June issue.

    Thanks again David and happy writing!

    This led me to my first public poetry reading at Local Jo's cafe at the end of May.  Being forced to do presentations in university as well as training and presentations at work really served me well.  It was a major ego boost to realize that I'd completely conquered my crippling fear of speaking in front of crowds.  It was also inspiring and enriching for me to witness other shy people screw up their courage, march up to the podium and pour their creative little hearts out in front of total strangers.  Bless 'em...often they'd be up there with their voices cracking, bodies trembling, clutching sweat-soaked sheets of parchment in their white-knuckled mitts.

    But in the end, they conquered their fears and survived the process intact.  I watched with growing pride as they became increasingly confident and bold.  I soon found myself falling in severe like with this crowd of supportive, interesting, quirky and sometimes wiltingly sensitive misfits.  

    I was also amazed by the ever-increasing turnout.  Partnered with the already well-established Left Bank Poetry Reading group (featuring such local literary luminaries as David Rimmington, Meg Baird, Heddy Johannesen, Anna Quon, Steve Vernon and David Williams) we eventually outgrew our available space and moved into the tres popular Just Us! coffee shop on Spring Garden Road in downtown Halifax.

    During this time I was fortunate enough to be published in Open Heart Forgery three more times.  I was so taken by Donal's contagious enthusiasm and his noble struggle to foster creative awareness that I pledged my ongoing support to help distribute new issues every month.  A few months later, I became OHF's official Distribution Manager.

    April 2'nd saw us hit yet another milestone.  On the occasion of OHF's first birthday (and in honor of National Poetry Month)  Donal managed to bring the whole concept to its logical extension by publishing the periodical's first Anthology.  Readers and listeners alike gathered to celebrate it's launch at Halifax's venerable Seaport Farmers Market.   

    I was blown away.  For the first time ever, I could open up a book and point to something I'd written and say: "Hey!  Check this shiznit out!  I wrote this!"

    So where will Open Heart Forgery go from here?  Frankly, the sky's the limit.  We're starting to take our new issue launches on the road to libraries all over the HRM.  Our last gathering at the North Branch of the Halifax Public Library was a resounding success.  Frankly I'm not surprised that, despite a change of venue and a two-month hiatus, it's still growing.  In an age of people communicating vicariously though social networking and smart phones, there's something primal and visceral about gathering together in a common space to share stories, songs and poems with real people face-to-face.

    If this blog has inspired you at all, then get choppin'!  Compose some verse!  Come to one of our readings!  If you're reading this in some far-flung corner of the earth and you feel compelled to act, then email Donal @ editor@ohForgery.com and see if you can start up your own regional version of Open Heart Forgery

    Above all, stay creative!  The world really does belong to people that bring beautiful and artistic things into being versus taking things away.

    If you're already one of those people, please know that your not alone.  When you're ready to share your unique voice with others, be heartened to know that you already have a built-in audience out there.

    Open Heart Forgery's official site and on Bookface.

    For any readers not in the area (or for those who missed the launch event), you can pick up a copy of the anthology in person or request a mail-order from local independent bookstore the Bookmark on Spring Garden Road in Halifax. 

    The next Left Bank Poetry Reading will be Thursday April 28 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Just Us! Cafe on 5896 Spring Garden. 

    Hey, if Stimson J. Cat can write a poem, what's your excuse?


    Friday, April 8, 2011

    I Hit It With My Axe - Part I - The Axe Is Forged

    Greetings, Fellow Dungeon Crawlers!

    Dontcha just hate it when you've chosen what class you want to level in, added your new attack modifier, adjusted you base save bonuses, rolled up your new hit points, increased your skills, picked your new feat and just when you're finally ready to gank some undead your Dungeon Master cancels just because he has choir practice on Sunday.  I mean, c'mon?  How many times has this happened to you?  Anyone?  Ladies?  Holla?

    Alright, I admit it.  I'm a forty year old man who still occasionally plays Dungeons & Dragons.  I can just visualize my blog's hit count withering and dying like a gelatinous cube hit by a fireball.  Indeed, I fear this confession is tantamount to openly admitting that I have four gigs of transvestite midget pron on my hard drive.

    It's only two gigs, BTW.  

    At some point in time Dungeons & Dragons was officially declared the crown jewel of geekdom, maybe just a shade below the ability to speak fluent Klingon.  But I'll tell you right now, if D&D had Hugh Grant's PR person and not Mel Gibson's, the Trekkies would be standing alone with their scarlet letters.

    Truth being, a slew of people have played this game.  As many as six million at last count in 2007.  As an experiment, just ask the people in your own circle of fiends...er, friends to see if they have any past experiences in trap detection and orc slayage.   And then there are all the celebrities that harbor this dark secret like Troy McClure's fish fetish (and that includes Troy's overseer Matt Groening).

    Matt's in some pretty awesome company.  The following people have either confessed to making saving throws, have been inadvertently outed or have made so many references to D&D that you just know they're a closet case:  Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Mike Myers, Dwayne Johnson, Dame Judy Dench (turned onto the game by Vin while filming The Chronicles of Riddick), Jenny McCarthy, Wil Wheaton, Daryl Hannah, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Matthew Lillard, Jon Stewart, Jim Breuer, Marilyn Manson, Kevin Smith, Eddie Izzard, Jon Favreau, Curt Schilling, Todd Pratt, Tim Duncan, Jacques Villeneuve, Rivers Cuomo from Weezer ((but more like all the members of Weezer), Seth Green, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt, Stephen King, Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Jack Black, Metallica, Conan O'Brian, Andrew W.K., My Chemical Romance, Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies (but more like all the members of The Barenaked Ladies), Kari Byron (of Mythbuster's fame), Brian Posehn, Jason Mewes, Weird Al Yankovic, Billy Crystal, David Duchovny, Insane Clown Posse, Emilio Estévez, and Glenn Danzig. 

    Hmmmm, if Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Stephen King, and Glenn Danzig all got together to play, I wonder if they'd ever play any other campaign besides Ravenloft?  Also, I wonder if "Juggalo" is a playable class when ICP start chuckin' their 20-siders around?    

    The invention of Dungeons & Dragons pre-dates my involvement by about nine years. It sprang from the war gaming hobby which was all the rage in the Sixties and Seventies.  Presumably bored with the limited variables of chess, developers created complicated rule sets that read like legal documents in order to simulate past battles of history.  Legend has it that even the Kennedy family was obsessed with the entry-level war game Diplomacy.

    Many of these early games (one of which was developed by War of the Worlds author H.G. Wells) involved the use of miniature figures to depict units, squads and platoons arrayed on three-dimensional terrain dioramas lovingly constructed from HO scale props.  Avid wargamers E. Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren eventually created a medieval-flavored rule set called Chainmail:

    Perhaps due to the era's focus on the individual versus the group, Chainmail's scale was considerably smaller.  Instead of figures representing groups of twenty or so men, each miniature stood for a single person.  Being a devout historian of the Middle Ages, Gygax made sure his game adequately covered things like mounted charges, veteran heroes, melee fatigue, leaders, sword and spear-wielding footmen, crossbows, siege engines, morale breaks, tilts, jousts, duels and other opportunities for daring-do.

    But what really set these rules apart was the optional fantasy supplement that followed a few years later.  Inspired by the growing popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gygax added sorcery, dwarfs, elves, monsters and giants to the hypothetical mix.  As such, Chainmail made quite the splash in the war gaming community.

    When a Minnesota die-chucker named Dave Arneson used Chainmail to guide his players into a dungeon underneath the fictional Blackmoor Castle the resulting surge of adventure was seen as revelatory.  Arneson recreated the scenario at a convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Gygax was there to witness it.  Inspired by the giddy narrative the experience generated, the two collaborated to expand Chainmail's fantasy supplement into a realm which ultimately became D&D's most venerable and hallowed campaign setting: the world of "Greyhawk".

    The two added a veritable dragon's horde of fantastic new foes, wildly imaginative spell effects and just enough rules to invoke the imagination while keeping everything contained within the framework of a game.  Despite their excitement (and the enthusiasm of an ever-expanding troupe of willing play-testers), Gygax and Anderson just couldn't get any of the established game companies to give them the time of day.  So, the duo stood true to their convictions and in 1974 founded the company TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) just to bring their radical new design into the world.

    But what to call it?  As a veteran designer, Gygax new the importance of a good, catchy name.  He wrote down about thirty keywords (like magic, monsters, treasure, castles, giants, labyrinths, mazes, spells, swords, trolls...etc) divided into two columns and played "mix and match" for awhile.  With the aid of his wife and two kids, Gary eventually settled on the alliter-rific combination of Dungeons & Dragons.  A few days later, the new-christened first iteration of his unique brainchild was sent out into the world.

    The game was an instant smash, especially amongst college kids.  Game conventions and societies sprung up seemingly overnight, and despite the game's initially poor presentation and slip-shod amateurish proof-reading, the underground swell of support for this unusual new experience became impossible to ignore.

    With every new iteration Dungeons & Dragons began to venture into the realm of cultural phenomenon.  The game was revised by several notable outsiders who brought increasingly slick levels of presentation to the game.  First there was the 1977 version edited by J.Eric Holmes:

    And then this 1981 edition which was overseen by Tom Moldvay:

    The game became so popular that even Steven Spielberg chose to kick off his seminal 80's flick E.T. with a session of something approximating D&D in progress.   When I first saw the movie in theaters in 1982, my curiosity was understandably piqued.  What was this imaginative, co-operative fantasy storytelling game of complex characters, strange dice and high adventure? 

    But it wasn't until November of 1983 did Dungeons & Dragons really demand my attention.  I read Lenny Kaye's illuminating article "Role Playing: The Ultimate Fantasy" in Starlog magazine's "Space Age Games" column.  The concluding paragraph quickly had me saving up the modest shekels that constituted my allowance so I could further pursue Sir Kaye's invitation to venture forth with him:

    "It's the Grand Quest of Gaming, and who knows what chills and thrills lurk behind the next door - a planked wooden gate barred ominously on your side.  There is no window or keyhole you might peer through, and you can't go back the way you came because the wererats have summoned their giant brethren to help in the assault on your party.  You are Ragnok the Halfling, traveling with Anika the Magic-User and the Cleric-Adept Gen U. Flect.  A kings ransom - in fact, the king's ransom - awaits you if..."       

    I knew nothing about the game or how it worked.  I just knew that this article was like tinder in my imaginative, thirteen year old brain.

    There was no way I could buy the game in my small town of Stephenville.  It would be a week or two now before my parents would be going back to Corner Brook where I knew I could pick up the box set I'd seen on display outside the Coles book store in the Valley Mall.

    Until then I read and re--read the article over and over again during breakfast every morning and pondered my future life as an adventurer.

    I was not to be disappointed.      

    Next time: After a tragic miss-step two books in a red box with some funny-shaped dice and a crappy crayon (?) results in a lifetime of imaginative exploits.  Plus, I break it to you gently that you've probably already played Dungeons & Dragons in some shape or form yourself.


    EPICHmmmm, if I've never once talked in another voice or unsheathed a sword during one of these games does that mean I'm actually less geeky than Vin Diesel?

    EPIC +1:  It's hard to believe that D&D was once so popular that it was advertised on television.  In retrospect, I'm sure this commercial did little to debunk the myth that all gamers were mutants...

    CURSED MYTHIC FAIL OF THE AGES: (Yes, this is real...)

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    State of the Union

    Hello, Curious Onlookers.

    It's nearly impossible for me to conceive that it's been a full year since I tendered my resignation at my last place of employ.  Honestly, I know I've kept busy and all but this time has flown by like a three-day weekend in Vegas.

    So, with a full twelve months now in my rear-view mirror, I suppose I'm due to compose some thoughts of affirmation if only to convince myself that the time is well-accounted for, the decision was sound and I made the right call.

    Too bad that, even after doing so, the jury's still somewhat out.

    First off, here's some evidence for the defense; a listing of all the things I certainly wouldn't have done had I stayed the course this time last year:
    1. Created the blog that you are now reading, which now warehouses 124 entries and has over eight-thousand visits.  ¡Ay, caramba!  Thanks, peoples...
    2. Appeared (at least in theory) in three local film productions.
    3. Met some amazing people like the band Weezer, Roy Batty/Shotgun-Armed Hobo Rutger Hauer and legendary Hollywood royalty Mickey Rooney.
    4. Read my poetry and stories in front of several graciously charitable audiences.
    5. Finally had another answer other then "Um, no" when people ask me "So, can I read this mythical book you supposedly wrote?"  Now I can come back on the wise-asses with the infinitely more positive: "Why yes, yes you can...right here in fact!" 
    6. Designed a physical copy of the self-same book.  With any luck I'll get the proof copy in the mail this week (fingers and various other appendages crossed).  
    7. Volunteered with the Atlantic Film Festival.
    8. Finally managed to get formally published when my poetry appeared in the Year One Anthology for Open Heart Forgery.  
    9. Went through an extensive personal inventory that will eventually see me return in school in September. 
    10. Completed a six-week voice acting class which I'm hoping to parley into a few auditions (hopefully more on this later). 
    11. Shot video for a local commercial (again, details to follow).
    12. Sat in on a pre-production meeting for a local short film slated to lens in a few months (also, hopefully, a future ECD entry).     
    13. Managed to get through winter without sporting the equivalent of a spare tire around my traditionally very sedentary mid-drift. 
    There's more but these things are what I'm particularly proud of.  Thing is, however, with the world in it's current fix, will it be enough to justify leaving a job that paid so well for so little effort?  Who cares if it was slowly causing my brain to atrophy?  Who cares I couldn't come close to reconciling the effort I wanted to do with what was asked of me?  Who cares if the job did me some physical harm?  The more time that goes by, the more I realize that, ultimately, life still comes down to the filthy lucre...

    Seriously, folks, it's great and all that I've self-published a book, but c'mon.  If a tree falls in the forest and that tree is debarked, chipped, washed, bleached, beaten, refined, screened, pressed, dried, printed, made into paper then my book is printed on it and no-one reads it does it justify killing that poor tree in the first place?   

    Although the E-book is selling better then I expected, I got a loooooong way to go to move the ten-thousand copies that I believe will be needed to grab a traditional publisher by the lapels and yell with some authority: "Hey! Pay attention to me!"  Unless I can do some pretty miraculous single-handed promotion for it over the next few months (or enter into a Faustian arrangement with dark forces for immediate financial stability), I'm afraid that it's gonna be all for naught.

    I won't lie to you folks, I miss the endless wellspring of cold-hard cash.  I did save a ton of money before telling my last employer to cram it with walnuts and I've tried to be very frugal over the past year.  I really don't buy a ton of stuff, just the odd book, Blu-Ray, CD, movie/concert ticket, decent meal or board/video game.

    Thank the Maker that I don't have expensive tastes.  Mercifully my particular brand of mid-life crisis doesn't seem to involve splashy sports cars, powerboats, motorcycles, phat palatial mansions, hair plugs or bottles of cognac.  Well, at least not yet.

    No, honestly, the only real thing that I truly miss is the absence of travel in my life over the past two years.  My last two trips (Scotland and Ireland in 2008 and London in 2009) were life-altering.  I wanted to go AWOL at the time and now I'm desperate to go back.  I want to tour the English countryside and poke around in Wales, one of my two ancestral places of origin.  I want to spend at least half a month in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Greece respectively.  But given the current state of the union, I have no clue when I'll be able to do this again.

    The net result: Happy Dave is starting to run out of happy...

    Not to mention having to eschew those things that most people take for granted.  Since I constantly felt like walking off the job for about five years before I finally pulled the trigger, my life in general has been in a holding pattern.  No house, no kids, no major investments.  Hell, I can't even ponder replacing my venerable, ole' 2003 Corolla, who, like it's owner, is gettin' kinda long in the tooth.  I feel like I'm in limbo.

    I dunno, maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be.  Maybe that's the lot in life for most jobbers on this wacky planet.  Perhaps all we're really supposed to do is toil away at some thankless, anonymous enterprise, trying to rake in as much coin as possible while occasionally eking out small blips of happiness between stretches of repetitive dreariness.

    Some days I feel like I'll never be able to generate the sort of scratch I was making at my last job by doing creative things, things that I'm actually good at and feel happy doing.  Right now I'm trying not to do the employment equivalent of jumping out of the frying pan and into the flash fryer.  The jobs I'm applying for are gigs that I think I'm well-suited for and with companies that seem to enjoy a positive reputation for trusting and nurturing their employees.

    If I can help it at all, I don't want to say the following words to a stranger ever again...

    "Hi, thanks for calling (insert name of crappy call center employer here), my name is David.  How can I debase myself today for your edification?"

    I don't want to do it anymore because I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that I'm better then that.  It's a waste of my unique (if decidedly modest) talents.  It's not what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.     

    I know, I know.  Eighty percent of humanity can probably make a similar claim.      

    Was this whole thing set off a year ago for the right reasons?  Did I leave work because it was slowly killing me?  Was it just because I was bored?  Was it due to the fact that conditions were getting worse every year and no-one I talked to gave a crap about making it better?  Was it to pursue ventures that I would never have gotten around to had I stayed the course?   

    Or did I leave because of some kind of midlife crisis?  I hate to think that anyone would make a decision just because hair stops growing in places where it's supposed to and begins to seek out brave and creative new avenues.

    But could it really have been something so shallow?

    I'm hoping this debate winds down a bit when the demo copy of my book arrives in the mail sometime over the next week or so.  Or I hope the parley is instantly silenced when someone of power and/or influence reads this blog, sees something with promise and decides to grant me some semblance of a palatable future.

    Because just as sure as Dr. Johnny Fever refused to play disco tunes at W.K.R.P, I can't do call centers any more.

    I'd rather sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door.
      EPIC: One of the best episodes of one of the best sitcoms in T.V. history.  I patterned large tracts of my early life after the teachings of John Caravella.  Which I suppose goes to considerable lengths to explain my current fix...

      Mike Fright, Part 1 by giebergoldfarb

      Johnny's rant @ the 4:40 mark here is priceless...

      Mike Fright, Part 2 by giebergoldfarb

      FAIL: I'd say #2 was a tell, but the job really did suck...