Friday, July 18

Jesus Pickle

Okay, wait. I am the pickle? And electricity is the power of Christ? So God is ConEd? And I need to be jabbed in both ends with what? The church?

(via Filled with Chocolate Pudding! via Boing Boing)

Thank You, Robot. Tonight.

TYR has not had a performance with all of us in eons.

Tonight we do and I am very very very excited.

I'm also excited about the opening teams. We Can't Live In A Cave is super kinetic. Watchng them is like sticking your head into a pinball machine at the moment "MULTIBALL!" begins to flash. Bad Data are good ol' improv team friends (and just plain friends) so I know the stage will be filled with love.

Under St. Marks
94 St. Marks
Tonight (Friday, July 18th). 10:30pm.
$6. And good A/C.

(I want to come up with an improv form called MULTIBALL!)

Wednesday, July 16

Is that a d20 in your pocket?

It’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t blogged about this yet. Oh, I’ve mentioned it in passing. Heck, my screen name is a reference. (“Six sider” is a term for a six-sided die. A “twenty sider” would be a 20-sided die. Not hard to figure out. If I were being a big big nerd, I would have called myself 4d6 or some such. That means a four six-side dice. But I digress. I imagine there will be a lot of that in this post.) But I’ve never actually written about it. Perhaps because I haven’t done it since I moved to New York in 2001, at least until recently.

I am a gamer. I roleplay. Paper and pencils, sitting around a table, drinking soda or beer, pizza, dice of many shapes, character sheets, assorted overpriced books of rules and systems, hit points, attribute stats, leveling up roleplaying. I do it, I love it and I’m not ashamed.

As much as I enjoy it, it is something that is hard to bring up in conversation. My friend Allan once equated it to masturbation: it is something you do in the privacy of your home, enjoy and have not quilt over, but you don’t talk about. That’s not quite right. Everyone masturbates (give or take) but you do it alone (give or take) and no one really feels the need to talk about (give or take). Roleplaying is something that very few people do, you need to do with others, and, once you do it, you want to talk about it.

In some ways telling people you roleplay is similar to telling people you do improv. If they know improv, they get it right away. Otherwise you find yourself trying to explain what it is and, inevitably, they just stare at you with glassy eyes. Sometimes they have a bit of reference (most likely the show Who’s Line Is It Anyway?) and you have to explain the difference of what you do. Often when you say “I roleplay,” their first response is “Oh, Dungeons & Dragons? Like wearing capes and stuff?” You sigh and try to change the subject but they insist that they’re interested it, they just don’t understand it. Nine times out of ten they are interested in the way people are interested in someone who was born with lobster claws for hands.

(At this point, I feel like I should make some disclaimers… which shows I’m not as unashamed of my hobby as I claim.
  1. I am very choosey whom I game with. Many gamers are socially maladjusted. They take the game too seriously or are into just the stats and numbers. I’m into story and characters.
  2. I think I have played actual Dungeons & Dragons once. It is the game very one thinks of and I imagine it can be quite fun. But I find the rules convoluted and the “world” cliché. So I always feel I have to qualify my “I roleplay” statements with “but not D&D.”
  3. I have never LARPed. LARP stands for “Live Action Role Playing.” This is where the capes come in. People dress up as their characters, move around physically embodying the part. Like a How To Host A Murder party deal, but weirder. The most common type of LARPing is probably Vampire, because being goth is fun. I have nothing particularly against it. I like live theater. It’s just that a lot of LARPers I’ve met have a harder time distinguishing game from reality. And there often seems to be a weird sexual undercurrent to those things. Just not my cup of tea and/or blood.)
There is an interesting moment when the subject does come up between two secret gamers. Usually an over heard comment will start it off.

“I overheard you back there. You mentioned the game Shadowrun.”
“Um… yeah. I… um… well, back in high school you know.”
“No no. Me too. Not for years though. No time, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. Not that I don’t sometimes wish…”
“Wish you could play now?”
“Um… yeah…”
“Me too! Yes!”
“Oh god! I want to play again!”

A question that is usually lurking behind those classy eyes of the people who don’t understand it, is “Why would you do that?” or “How is that fun?” The answer isn’t simple.
• It is actually social. Roleplaying has been tied to the term “anti-social” forever, but that’s only because the people who tend to do it in junior high and high school are the types that get slapped with the label “anti-social.” The misfits, the ones dressed in black, the ones that enjoy science fiction and comic books, the ones that enjoy math class a bit too much, the theater geeks. But roleplaying is actually a social thing that draws those you have a hard time fitting in elsewhere. My friend Kirk explained roleplaying's draw as being an after school spots activity for people who aren’t good at sports or just don’t like them. It has aspects of teamwork, bonding, competition, etc..

But all of that isn’t why I did it. I actually came to roleplaying late, my first semester of college. It wasn’t about finding some place to fit in at that point. But it was a way to hangout with friends for hours that didn’t involve getting wasted or whatever else. It’s like playing bridge. It’s an activity that you can share with others that doesn’t involve paying money or actually going anywhere. Certainly it is more social than watching a movie or going to a club.

• It is both a “game” and “not a game.” The “game” part of “roleplaying game” often confuses people. “How do you decide who wins?” The thing is, you don’t. You aren’t competing against each other (normally). It is not about “winning” or “getting points.” The “players” are characters in a story. The “game” is the story. But there are game aspects to it. There are rules to help decide what and how well your character does things. You want you character to pick a lock? Roll dice, compare it to some number, see what happens. It makes things unpredictable. If you are writing a story, you just decide. “The main character needs to search the office so I, as the author, decides he can pick the lock.” In a roleplaying game you can fail at an activity and then have to come up with a new plan. My favorite action movies are not where the hero is good at everything and succeeds at everything she does but the hero has set backs and must overcome them. Die Hard is a great movie in part because John McClane gets beaten around so much and yet manages to pull some insane, balls out plan. In roleplaying, it can be very exciting to have you character do something incredibly daring and difficult (say jump from the wings of one biplane to another while shooting your trust revolver at the attacking demonic bat creatures) and succeeding against all odds. It can also be great fun when you fail (say missing the jump, grapping at the planes wheel but dropping your gun, and suddenly being swarmed by the DBCs).

• It’s playing pretend. I have a very active fantasy life. I want to be a badass adventure at the turn of the century. I want to be the hotshot starship pilot. I want to be able to shoot fire from my fingertips and fly. I want to save the princess. I don’t get much opportunity to in my day-to-day life. So, yes, I like to pretend. But it isn’t just about imagining that you can do those things. It’s about putting it into the context of a character and a story. Han Solo was not cool because he was a great pilot. His personality was cool and flawed. His progression from only acting in his self-interest scoundrel to hero for the rebellion was what made it cool.

• It’s all about story. Related to the above, it is about telling a story with other people. You have a group of characters that might not all get a long, moving through a story, creating a story. Characters change, they learn, they fail, they succeed. People they care about my die. People might fall in love. They might betray each other. There is humor and thrills and horror and moments of quite. It is problem solving and problem causing. In the end, it is weaving a tale that can be as exciting and moving and rewarding as any book. Often more so because you helped create it.

So, yes. I roleplay.

Tuesday, July 15

Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog

Joss Whedon. Nathan Fillion. Felicia Day. Neil Patrick Harris. Superheroes. Super villians. Songs. Moist.
Just watch it.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog

The teaser -

Asimov's 30 Laws of Robotics

From Something Awful's complete list:
10. A robot, when given contradictory orders by two human beings, and assuming those orders do not violate the First Law, must decide which order to follow based on which human being has a deeper voice.

13. A robot ought to spend some time outdoors, because it is such a nice day.

23. A robot must shut up around girls and let me, Isaac Asimov, do the talking; however, a robot may bail me out if things start to go haywire.

24. A robot must plant two trees for every cat it kills.
(via Boing Boing)

Y: The Last Man

Like many things in life, I arrived at comicbooks relatively late. I didn't read as a kid and it wasn't until college. The advantage of this was that I tended only to read things that were being recommended by people who'd done all the filtering for me. But I also learned to read them in book form (as opposed to individual issues). Beyond Dark Knight Returns (which I somehow found in my hands in high school), I believe I started with Sandman The Doll's House. So I came at comics from a point of literature.

This is both good and bad. On one hand, I didn't have to be convinced that comicbooks could be more than fluff. I knew that they could be as powerful as any novel or movie or whatever. The bad side is that I expected them to do that.

Y: The Last Man is a series that ended recently. It began in 2002 and I had been told over and over that I had to read it, but as always I held off until the series came to an end so that I could read it all in one shot. (I also learned that I like series that have an end and don't keep going on and one, being passed from one author to another. This got me in a bit of problem since it meant that I stuck with Cerebus until the bitter end (or bitter 2nd half as it were), but I am drawn to the idea on one authors vision.) Y: TLM, created and written by Brian K. Vaughan, is about a world in which a plague as killed every male on the planet save one young man (Yorrick) and his pet male monkey (Ampersand). (Vaughan is obviously drawn towards verbal puns/double meanings, especially in names. It becomes slightly overly clever at times but at least he sticks with it and makes it a motif.)

Well, I do love monkeys. And apocalypses. And speculative fiction (if this, then what... how does society respond and restructure itself... all the jazz). So Y: TLM was right up my alley. Vaughan does an admirable job. It is interesting watching a man explore what a society of only women would become. (I do so wonder what a woman's take on the same story would be.) Sometimes I felt the series fell into the trap of just presenting these ideas and not actually exploring. At other times I worried that it became too focused on Yorrick and the rest of the world was just an obstacle. But this is actually the book's strength.

See, Y: TLM, is actually a love story. That aspect can get lost in everything else, but in the end that is what it is. A simple "getting back to my true love" story. And I love those. I do wish that some of the more powerful elements of Yorrick's emotional growth had more of an impact. I would catch myself thinking "Oh, I'm supposed to be shocked/moved here more than I am." Perhaps the light tone of so much of the book under cut the more powerful moments. Or maybe the long list of red herrings Vaughan scatters through the story. But when the last pages are turned, the accumulation of events add up.

Did it live up to the hype? Maybe. It didn't come close to the emotional impact of Sandman The Kindly Ones.

But, hell, what does?

(Vaughan has gone on to write for the tv series Lost and thank god for that. He has also managed to slip a few references in - Ben's extending baton for one.)

Monday, July 14

Poll results: The hair is getting longer

The masses have spoken! Okay. The small group in the corner have spoken.

I have been shaving my head every couple of months for years. I haven't actually grown it out since my first year of college so I really have no idea what it will do. Last time it grew UP for a while. Finally gravity hit and it settled into a fluffy circle parallel to the ground. It never reached the point that ever grew down... just kept going out. We'll see how long my patience lasts.

I also wore black turtlenecks and vests during my first year at college. Look, it was '89-'90. I'm not going to bring that back. (Although the idea of having a TYR show where we all dress like we did as Freshman as some appeal.)

Sunday, July 13

Two shows you should see tonight!

VEAL, my musical improv team at Under St. Marks at 7pm. We do a musical harold. If you know what a harold is, this is pretty darn cool. If you don't, it is still pretty cool. IRON RUCKUS is also playing. They are all kinds of sweetness.

THANK YOU, ROBOT/Ladies Edition is playing at The Parkside Lounge at 8pm. This should be a super exciting show. BAD DATA/Ladies Edition is also playing. So is BEAST. This could be a show people will talk about in awe for years to come.

Sadly, I can't make either. I have a class starting. But you should go. No, you must go. All 4 of you who read this thing. (Except the one of you who is in my class. So the other three of you should go.)

Thing that I WILL write about during the next week

  • Finally write that superhero movie thing. Especially now that I've seen Hellboy 2. And I want to have it done and up before I see The Dark Knight... because it will probably add another layer to the whole conversation.
  • Yes, I roleplay... and why I don't talk about it.
  • Science of Crushes. Part 5: Contextualization... or why some women make me stupid.
  • The Lady and The Chicken Leg: Tonight's Subway Ride.
  • Science of Crushes. Part 6: Why Online Dating Appeals To Me
  • My Thoughts On Y: The Last Man.