Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Table Incident

AKA That Time I Bled All Over My Sister

In 1988, my family moved into a duplex on Gillespie Street. It was a little closer to the main part of Pine Bush than our old house in Lake Estates. The streets were often empty and therefore open to us kids. Our living room, however, was an obstacle course of death and destruction.

Everything my parents owned was made of wood and sharp corners. Our old country style couch had a solid wood frame with sturdy blue velour cushions. It was flanked on either side by heavy, solid wood, sharp cornered end tables that Dad had built. On top of them rested two tall table lamps. More wood, more corners, more sharpness. In the middle of the room sat the coffee table: another of Dad’s sharp, solid wood monsters, created as a companion to the the end tables.

One morbidly hot and humid Saturday morning in 1989, Mom was at work at Epco, building transformers (not the robots in disguise). Dad was in the backyard, mowing the lawn. My brother, Harry, was playing Legend of Zelda in the living room, and my sister, Sandi, was in the kitchen, talking on the phone with her boyfriend. I, however, was running around the house in my Superman Underoos, gassed up on Froot Loops, Fruit Roll-ups and episodes of The Real Ghostbusters, Gummi Bears, and Captain N: The Game Master.

At some point in my sugar-infused state of mind, I decided that my Underoos were symbolic of my own character. I was Superman. As such, I was nigh unto indestructible. I could fly. With my newly discovered powers needing demonstration, I wrapped my blue baby blanket around me like a cape, ran to the living room, and hopped up onto the velour couch cushions. I turned and I jumped, soaring through the air with grace of a superhero… right up until the moment I smashed my right eyebrow into a corner of the coffee table. Blood sprayed. I screamed. My sister hung up the phone to tend to me. She picked me up off the floor and held me and I screamed and bled all over her shirt. She ran outside and called for Dad who promptly came inside, looked over my bloody visage, and brusquely told Sandi to call Mom at work.

It took fifteen minutes and two phone calls to finally get a message to Mom at work. None of her coworkers bothered to deliver the message the first time. She was less than pleased at the fact that no one would take me to a doctor which forced her to come home from work early. When she finally arrived, Mom and Dad packed me up into the car. Dad drove and Mom sat in back seat with me. She kept me from bleeding all over the car, kept me calm and held a cloth wrapped ice pack to my wound. Mom explained on the way that I had to be good and keep calm so that they wouldn’t try to strap me down (which happened to me once).

At the hospital, the doctors wanted Mom to wait outside while they stitched me up. She didn’t think it was a good idea… after all, she knew me. She also knew that two years prior I had broken out of a Papoose as a writhing, screaming, bloody mess. She assured the doctors I was going to behave. While I got my nine stitches, mom talked to me about my playing Superman and why that may not have been my smartest idea. When the doctors had finished, they offered Mom a job handling other children in the hospital. She refused outright.

Over the course of the next ten days, I had this set of nine stitches in my head. Much to Mom’s chagrin, I managed to pull two stitches out by myself. Dad told her to just pop the remaining seven out herself, but Mom thought that would be unsanitary and just incredibly gross. Instead, we returned to the hospital and the remaining stitches came out with no further incident.

I, however, learned absolutely nothing. Three weeks later, in true super-heroic fashion, I went right back to attempting to fly. Our back porch had no stairs leading into the back yard; yet I was in dire need of getting back there. The porch hovered roughly fifteen feet off the ground and a multitude of slats caged me in, but that meant nothing for me. I scurried up the railing as quickly my small frame could; perched high on the railing, I prepared for my next dive… and then Mom caught me, dragged me inside and paddled my behind for my utilizing my imagination to the fullest.

And that’s just one story of how I busted my head open.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comedy, Gender, and So Forth.

Obligatory bullcrap about my not posting stuff. 

If you know me, I like to be funny. Or at least I like to think I'm funny. I could be dead wrong. But you know who is funny? Jen Kirkman. Jen has been in this comedy game longer than I have and she's got quite the flare for it. One of my favorite shows she wrote for is Home Movies. She has a new book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself... (Details here).

She's also kinda sick of being objectified. I implore you all to please go read this:

I agree with her. Female comedians don't need to put up with this kind of bullshit. In reality, no woman does; however, for the sake of scope, we're going with female comedians specifically. Sartre may argue that objectification is only natural, but let me tell you, I think Sartre is a bunch of crap. This sort of behavior is unwarranted. And eventually this behavior leads to articles like this: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.html

Maybe it's my inner idealist, but women shouldn't have to write blog posts and articles like this. Men should not have to speak out on their behalf, either. But the reality is that we all have to because the problem doesn't seem to be going away. Despite what Adam Corolla (that's a timely reference, right? Are people still mad at him?) thinks, women are hilarious. Hell, Jen Kirkman is way funnier than a lot of guys I know and it's not because she's a woman. She is just damn good at what she does. Some of the funniest writers I wish to emulate are women. 

Just as a side-note, one of the comments Jen says she gets goes along the line of “I used to think you’re funny but you’re acting hysterical and like a bummer.” Folks, let's be real. No one is funny all the time, even if it's their job. She's human. She has thoughts, feelings, and concerns. And no one should have to shy away from voicing them.

So, as I said on Twitter, I am no male comedian and she sure as hell doesn't know me, so I may not count in this, but as a male, and as a humorist of any kind, I voice my support for Jen Kirkman and any other female comedians on the shit end of this equality-stick.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Adventure Ho!

Or How I Learned that LARPers Can’t Make Babies


This is the story of the one and only time I ever went LARPing. For the uninitiated, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Think of it this way: take the kids who play D&D* then dress them up in costumes and send them off into the woods to act out their brave little fantasies.** It’s fun if that’s the sort of thing that blows your skirt up, Marilyn.

Back in 2003 I dated a girl – for the sake of this post, we’ll call her Liara – who was really into LARPing. And I mean really into it. And she wanted me to be into it, too. She had a particular “professional” organization that she frequented. I have no recollection of what it was called – most likely something generic like “mythical journeys” or “journey through the realm” but no matter. I just remember it was based in Connecticut on a 4H campsite.

In October of 2003, Liara asked me if I would actually like to go with her to this particular organization’s (heretofore referred to as The Valiant Spellbinders***) event in November. I wasn’t really interested, but she wanted me to go so badly. I agreed and she got me signed up as a volunteer actor. A volunteer actor doesn’t really get play a character. Volunteer actors for the Valiant Spellbinders typically take the roles of NPC (Non-Player Characters) or monsters scattered through the land. AKA Valiant Spellbinders’ cabana boy. Whatever they asked me to play, I’d play. I was going there for free after all. 

We left for Connecticut on a Friday afternoon. Her mother drove us there because 1) She didn’t have her license and 2) I’m directionally challenged in the days before good GPS. We were dropped off on the campgrounds that evening. If you’ve never been to Connecticut in November, let me tell you this: it is cold. It is bitter cold. I don’t mean Pacific Northwest cold. We’re talking “Holy shit, is it going to snow!?” kinda cold. And me without any kind of a heavy jacket. Way to start the weekend off.

Let me let you in on a couple of secrets right off the bat. First of all, not very many women LARP. It’s an incredibly male centric activity. Second, what few women do LARP are prized possessions. They are placed on pedestals, objectified,and worshipped. I’ll give you a moment to think about how obscenely wrong that is on every level.

Liara and I stepped out of the car and onto the frozen gravel driveway of the entrance. she quickly spotted people she knew over by the main gate, smoking. She brought me over to them and introduced me as her boyfriend. Connecticut had suddenly gotten colder as I was met with several cold, steely looks. Oh, they all spoke amicably to me, but the looks were undeniable. I was an outsider and I held one of their women. One cloth-armor clad fella, we’ll call him Damon,even went so far as to flirt with Liara right in front of me. Game on, indeed.

The first night:
After spending about a half hour at the entrance to the camp, and smoking like chimneys, and the guys showing off their boffers – I’ll leave that where it is and let your minds work that one over for now -- Liara took me to “The Barracks.” This is where I’d receive orders, change costumes, eat, and sleep. We dropped our gear upstairs and Liara took off to change into costume: an all black outfit with a red sash draped over one shoulder and tied around the waist and a cliché insignia pinned above the breast. She was outfitted with a miniscule boffer (I promise, I’m getting to that). I stifled a laugh, especially since a moment later I was called over and put in the very same outfit. It was easily two sizes to big for my 120 pound frame. But off we went, dressed as soldiers of some evil ruling army in the land. We really used it as more of an opportunity to take a walk around the campgrounds. It was cold, but it was clear, and a full moon hung over head. That was the last nice moment I was going to have that whole weekend.

Day 1:
Mountain Troll:
For some reason, someone thought I’d make a good mountain troll, despite me being, well, kinda short, and really skinny. I joined up with a group of five others of varying heights and weights. I was given a boffer, and dirty Halloween wig, and a caveman singlet to be worn over my jeans and my jacket. I was the picture of hotness. Ok, really I looked more like Captain Caveman than mountain troll.
My rowdy group of trolls was sent to the top of a hill. Our job was to wait for a wandering group of adventurers, pop out from over the hill, and engage them in battle. And, of course, lose. The losing was the easy part. The hard part was making it down the hill. As the first group wandered past, we sprang up and barreled down the hill, grunting and yelling. Then everything was a blur. Next thing I knew, I was sprawled out on my stomach. Somehow, I had managed to trip so spectacularly that I flipped and twisted at the same time, crashed to the ground, and skidded across the dry, frozen dirt path.

This isn’t the story of the character so much as the aftermath. Now, according to the rules of a combat for Valiant Spellbinders, defeated characters must return to the barracks holding their boffer (sit tight, it’s coming)on their head to signify that the character is out of play. Given that my job was to lose to actual player characters (AKA people who pay to play)I was defeated pretty swiftly on this particular mission. On my walk down the path back to the barracks, boffer on head, I found myself being accosted by a low-rent musketeer, complete with a feather-plumed hat. He insisted on prodding me and taking swings at me with his boffer. Hard.
Ok, let me (finally!) explain a boffer to you, dear reader. A boffer is a foam weapon. While they are available for purchase, most people take the DIY approach: they start with a length of thick schedule PVC pipe, then they place foam padding around the pipe. The foam is meant, not just to protect, but to aide in designing a unique weapon. Then duct tape is employed in various colors to ad the final details to the design and hold the foam in place.
So, despite any foam padding this weapon provided, this guy cracked me in the ribs with a piece of PVC pipe. I reacted the way any reasonable man who had been hit in the ribs would. I took a swing at him myself. Now, where were on the path had a roughly ten foot drop overlooking a wide stream (Not wide enough and certainly not deep enough to be considered a river and the solid dirt walls of this drop had several thick bushes protruding like would be safety nets. When I swung at my assailant, I missed. Big time. He jumped backward, stumbled over his own feet, and landed in an awaiting bush. I glared at him for a moment. Several people had witnessed our altercation and came over to help. Three people helped him out of this bush where he sheepishly claimed fault. Satisfaction all around. “Game on” was declared and marched back to the barracks.

Nightfall/The Undead:
What’s a game of pretend at night without the undead? That night I was conscripted to play some kind of magical zombie. Word must have gotten around pretty quickly about the bush incident. Between that and my relationship with Liara, I suddenly became public nerd enemy #1. Everyone who possibly could wailed on me with their boffers and they were not pulling their swings. The thing about being hit full force with a padded hunk of PVC is that at certain point, the force of the hit outweighs the padding. And I was taking a lot of these hits.
Liara would later explain to me that they were just passionate about protecting their characters. I’d have bought that excuse more if I had not been the primary target out of eight other “undead” walking around. That night, I didn’t sleep well. Every time I moved, pain shot through my ribs. So, this is fun, eh? Thanks, Valiant Spellbinders. I’ll be sure to come back.

Day 2:
The Final Hours or The Epic Battle of the Nerds:
I learned an important lesson on the last day of Valiant Spellbinders: LARPers are incapable of procreation… that’s probably for the best.
The final day of nerd camp culminates in an all out nerd war. The nerds congregate into one part of the field (in this case we went into the woods), half of them representing the aforementioned red-sash brigade, and everyone else as their characters. The head-nerd-honchos count down and a nerd melee begins. Everyone just taking blind swings. In my case, this became literal. At some point, I took a shot to the face that actually knocked out one of my contact lenses. I couldn’t see. I shut my bad eye so I could see, but my depth perception suffered for it. Out of my limited peripheral vision I saw someone running toward me. I took a swing to that side, not really expecting to connect. It took me a moment to realize I’d made direct contact with a crotch. Not only had I scored an unfortunate solid blow, but my quarry seemed completely unphased by this. He kept bounding through the trees unimpeded. I’d have to file it away, though There was no time to ponder this, though. I had to keep running and swinging wildly at anything that moved.
A whistle cut through the air. This game was finally over! Sore, out of breath, craving a cigarette and the comfort of my own damn bed, it was at this moment it dawned on me whose crotch I’d Falcon-punched. It was Damon. I Johnny-Caged Damon… and he didn’t go down. Well that was certainly interesting. All the same, one does not go around blasting guys in the hippity-hops. I felt I at least owed him an apology. Before I went back to the barracks to pack my stuff for home, I saw Damon at the entrance smoking. I strolled up, bummed a smoke from someone else there, took a good deep drag, looked Damon in the eye and said “So, uh, I think I may have tagged you in the nuts back there, man. Sorry.” Truly a master of eloquence.
Damon smiled and responded with an air of casualness reserved for, well, normal conversations “Did you? Oh, it happens so often I don’t even notice it anymore.”
Really, I have nothing more to add to that story. Just contemplate that. This man has been smashed in the primary male weak point so many times that he no longer feels it. To reiterate: “LARPers” plus “procreation” equals “not gonna happen.” That particular information, much like watching that guy fall in a bush, was incredibly satisfying.
I returned to the barracks and helped Liara pack up our stuff and pack it all out to her mom’s car. The trip home was quiet, outside of Liara’s mom asking questions and the sound of lighters being flicked to light cigarettes. Things were a little tense after that. However a month later Liara called me to let me know when the next event was and asked if I wanted to go. I hung up on her.


*Or any table top RPG. Your mileage may vary.
** I know this is a pretty broad generalization, but bear with me. It was one experience 8 years ago. I’m not claiming expertise in the field of LARP.
*** It was either that or “Boffer Brigade”
There’s actually been some good things written about the male gaze in gaming and geek culture in the last year. It’s worth checking out. Remember dudes: ladies are people, not things.

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Proper Citation

Check Yo Source Befo’ You Wreck Yo Source*


This morning I saw a cute little chain-poem floating around my Facebook news feed. It’s a sweet little number on the importance of nurses. And it’s also true; nurses are rather important people. Here’s the poem as I read it:

Somebody asked: "You're a nurse?!? That's cool, I wanted to do that when I was a kid. How much do you make?"
The nurse replied: "HOW MUCH DO I MAKE?" ...
I can make holding your hand seem like the most important thing in the world when you're scared...
I can make your child breathe when they stop...
I can help your father survive a heart attack...
I can make myself get up at 5AM to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live...
I work all day to save the lives of strangers...
I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of...
I make myself skip lunch so that I can make sure that everything I did for your wife today is charted...
I make myself work weekends and holidays because people don't just get sick Monday thru Friday.
Today, I might save your life.
How much do I make?
All I know is, I make a difference.
Repost not only if you are a nurse or you love a nurse, but most importantly, repost this if you respect their work!!


See, isn’t that nice? Now, for those of you who know me, or at least have literacy skills somewhere in the realm of “observant,” you have probably figured out that there’s a problem here: this isn’t an original work; at best, it’s a mimic and at worst it’s plagiarism.

No, I’m not a paranoid conspiracy theorist. Shut up. Go read the poem again.

Done? Good. Now watch this Taylor Mali video:


Notice the repetition of the phrase “I make…” all the way through to the end. This repetition is really the only case I can make for the above poem being a mimic. It fails in every other aspect of mimicry: in particular length and tone.

Ah, tone. Listen to Mali. He’s an unmitigated fireball exploding on that stage. That is nothing but pure passion for what he is saying. Whereas the nurse version, outside of a moment of “Z0MG AWL CAPZ!?Interrobang!!?” lacks that passion. It’s sweet. It’s nice. However, it lacks passion. 

To take this further, this poem doesn’t work as a mimic because absolutely nowhere is there any reference to the original work. Someone somewhere tried to pass that cutesy thing off as their own work. “But what if it was submitted anonymously?” you may be asking or I may just be prepping a response to such an argument. Well, to that I say someone cowardly tried to pass off that poem as an original work.

The truth is, plagiarism is never cool. Passing off work as your own and/or not attributing works to their proper sources is the sort of thing that makes baby kitties cry. Do you want to make baby kitties cry? Do you, you monster? If you said no, then you’re a good person and should probably maybe not pass off other peoples’ works anymore, ok? If you said yes, then you should seek help. Maybe talk to Dr. Phil.   


*I toyed with a few different subtitles for this post. These deserve honorable mention:

  • Every Time You Plagiarize, God Green Lights a Michael Bay Movie
  • Just Because It’s Cute Doesn’t Make It Yours
  • How Basic Google Searching Can Get You In Trouble (Sans Sex)
  • Public Domain Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Does
  • That’s Not Yours. Put It Down