Monday, March 24, 2008

Bloggy Bitching

It is the natural state of human beings to be dissatisfied. There are those that maintain that it is the ultimate force of evolution.

Say I win the Amazing Lotto Lucky Super Jackpot Bonus Raffle and first prize is a brand new McLaren F1. I promptly loose my mind, running around, pumping my fist, yelling and screaming... utterly lost in a sea of ecstatic euphoria that I have acquired, for free, such a fine automobile. For the next few days, I'm floating on a cloud of happiness, spending every spare second not working, eating or sleeping with my new baby. Either driving it, showing it off to friends, relatives and (when I run out of everyone else) anyone who I can pin down long enough to tell them ALL about it, even rubbing it with a diaper.

But no matter how much I may wish otherwise, sooner or later, I've told everyone, taken more than my share of pointless trips into the countryside and talked about my new car till I'm blue in the face. Finally, it's time to go back to work, get on with life. It's still fun, getting in the car every day to go to work, driving it on the weekends and answering the occasional "Hey Pari? How's the new car?" question with a big grin and a thumbs up... but eventually, I find myself driving to work, all the way there, thinking about something else. Life intrudes and the thrill starts to fade... fade... fade into the backround. Eventually, even the neatest car becomes... just another car. On occasion I may be reminded how awesome my car is (like having to drive a rental or somesuch), but for the most part, compared to the happiness I felt when first winning my car... the thrill is gone.

That is life... it sucks but it's true. We get used to things. We adapt, whether we want to or not.

Now, it's not ALL bad. We don't just adapt to good things, we're good at adapting to bad things as well. We get over stuff. Eventually we return to the background, baseline state of the human mind.

It has, however, been noted that the baseline state of the human mind seems to be that of vague dissatisfaction. The feeling that, no matter how things are, they could be better. The grass may be green, but over the fence there, I'm sure it's a few shades greener.

What a wonderful, horrible trick.

A feeling that pretty much ensures that the human race will never be able to sit still. That we will constantly be pushing and pushing and pushing to improve our standings and surroundings.

"Dammit, I'm sure the Henderson's grass is greener. That's it, I'm going to invent a new fertilizer... and a new breed of grass... and a new irrigation system..."

Guaranteed progress at expense of a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. Good for the species, not so hot for the individuals involved.

It is to this particular trait of human nature that I credit the over prevalence of Bitchiness that tends to pervade the blogosphere.

When there isn't much else to talk about in the day-to-day world, too often, people seem to fall to complaining about the littlest things in lieu of content.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I wasn't going to spend my time bitching about every little thing. I will not focus on the daily dissatisfactions and petty whining. I won't invent things to complain about and I will try to keep my posts on the positive or at least neutral side on average.

One can, and should, fight this annoying trend of human existence with the liberal application of stalwart philosophy and self-confidence, something I've worked very hard at for most my life. This becomes increasingly difficult, however, in the face of the LONGEST winter I can remember, more setbacks than I would care to blog about, a stressful job, a crappy shift and the fact that lately I just can't seem to find anything fun to do to cheer me up.

So if you are wondering why the content is starting to slack a little bit... take heart. I do have plans for this blog and you will hear more from me... but these last couple weeks have sucked like a hull breach at Warp 9. I'm trying to stay positive but, if I don't have anything nice to say... I'd just rather not say anything at all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Death of the Progenitor

Apart from my wife, nothing in my life has brought me as much joy, humor, anguish, pride and disappointment as being a "Gamer".

I use the word "Gamer" in the old school sense. A sense hardly in use anymore. Growing up, a "Gamer" was a kid who played Role-Playing games... not a video gamer. A kid who played video games was just... a kid who played video games.

I started playing with a few friends when I was fourteen years old. We borrowed books and dice from an older sibling and took turns being the Dungeon Master. Eric, Chris and me. Eric wanted everything to run like a military campaign (he was the son of a soldier and a big fan of the Army), Chris... well, Chris didn't have much in the way of imagination and would often forget to add things to his descriptions... "You can't go that way!" "Why Not?" "Because the monster is that way!" "What Monster?" "Oh, there's a Adolescent Black Dragon in the middle of the room." "Nice of you to tell us now...".

It wasn't too long before the job was passed firmly into my hands. Say what you will about my many, many character flaws but I do have a flair for narrative and the dramatic. I stepped behind the DM's screen at 14 and didn't step out again till I was 34.

There are few single elements in my life as influential as my years playing RPG's. From the people I met to the... the people I met... and the... yup.. the people I met. Come to think about it, it's all about the people I met.

Being a Gamer, being a Dungeon Master, has been a wonderful medium for me to meet people and make friends. If you can tell a few good stories and get a person's imagination flowing, it makes people want to play. Everybody who has ever watched a fantasy or sci-fi movie or read a fictional book and thought a character was cool, that their moves were slick and dangerous, that YOU wanted to be the guy with the flowing black cape, the mask, the sword, the hook, the blaster, the fedora or the crown... here was your chance to have a little piece of that for yourself.

I can't tell you how many campaigns I have run. I'd probably have better luck telling you the systems I haven't run. I've made people cry. I've made players laugh on countless occasions. I've even made people storm out on various occasions (looking back, I'm amazed that didn't happen more, but then again, I'm amazed I didn't storm out on occasion.)

In doing all this, I've learned some interesting things... about what people think is a hero... about personality and perceptions... about what kind of people that people think they want to be and think they should be. I've learned how far people will go for "good" and how far they will go for fun. I've learned that everyone enjoys a good fart and dick joke. Most importantly, I've learned that what people really, really want, whether they admit it or not, is a good story.

Interestingly, this post has taken me over a week to write. It started the night that Gary Gygax died. It was meant to be a simple eulogy and thank you to the man who is responsible for something like 40% of the fun I've had in my life. But in thinking about the effect that his work has had on me, I can't help but think about the effect that gaming has had on me in general.

There are no friends in my life who have had their adoption tried quite so well as my fellow gamers. We played at making "fellowships" so many times that we probably couldn't help but be bound up at some level in something more than friendship.

In the past, I can't remember how many times I jokingly said that we'd all wind up at the same old-folks home, with our wheelchairs pushed up around some old utility table, still drinking room-temperature Mountain Dew and rolling dice. Still telling all our old jokes. "What's in the Wine celler? Wine!" "Hey Brett, you're still falling!".

The thing about it is, I wasn't really joking. I miss my old gaming crew and I can't image any scenario where I wouldn't want to spend an afternoon rolling dice and killing orcs with them for the rest of my life. Why not? We always had fun, I can't imagine a reason on this Earth to stop.

Now-a-days, we're all moving off in different directions, though if this past weekend has taught me anything, we're all still friends after a fashion. We've just all got our own lives to lead and our own fortunes to seek. I can't really fault them just as they don't fault me. We all can't stay in one place, doing the same thing forever. We've grown up, for what that is worth.

Maybe the death of Gary Gygax has left me a little sentimental for the olde days.

Maybe I just miss my friends.

The Empty Chair
Eulogy for a Gamer
With thanks to Kenzer and Co.

There is an empty chair,
at the table this day.
A hallowed place where,
a friend once played.
The roll of his dice,
my ears long to hear.
Or perhaps it would suffice,
if he should suddenly appear.
With character sheet in hand,
and a bag of Cheeze-doodles to share.
All his friends would stand,
as he sat in the empty chair.
I hear his voice a-callin’,
and it ties my heart in a knot.
For he cries, “Though a comrade has fallen,
You must play for those who cannot.”
We conquered worlds on the run,
he and I in the name of fun.
And as others may come and go,
I make both both friend and foe.
But what I long for most,
is our past now long a ghost.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Internet Is Really, Really Great...

Archetypal Blog Post Specimen #458: Check it out, I've done something neat... and you haven't so neener, neener, neener.

By the grace of my lovely Bride, I had occasion to spend the evening at the theater.

Beenie and I drove into Milwaukee to see Avenue Q at Uihlein Hall... but before you accuse me of being all snooty and upper crust I would just like to point out, for those of you who don't know what Avenue Q is... there are puppets involved... dirty puppets. If you should be so lucky as to attend a performance, I recommend the outlay of the extra four buck for opera glasses so you can get a real close look at the puppet sex scene. You'll be glad you did, I was. The Karma Sutra has nothing on them.

What can you say about a show that has such lovely songs as:

Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

Sucks To Be Me.

or perhaps...

The Internet Is For Porn.

If you think the songs are funny, I offer you every assurance that the performance is that much better.

I'd also like to point out that it was awfully nice to get a little gussied up and step out for a night on the town. It occurred to me that people need to do this more often. It does wonders for your self image. Trot out the best dressed, most sophisticated and genteel version of yourself on occasion, it's important to remind the world at large that you are a sexy bitch.