"I used to do speed and sometimes a little cough syrup and stay up all night writing and writing, I mean like 25 pages of drivel about, you know, the Guess Who, or Coltrane, just to f#@king write."

Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

There are two types of people on this rock. One reads a quote like that and wonders if maybe poor Lester was sick a lot as a child. Two reads that quote and thinks, "dextromethorphan," I hardly knew thee. Or some of us knew it only too well. The disjointed near out-of-body experience is just that, an experience; weird, strange, and maybe even a little bit fun, but it ain't gonna hook ya like crack.

If you are in that second category, you undoubtedly live your life as an experimentalist. You breathe art and shit poetry. Your candle burns at both ends. Yes, you are in good company but you walk the path less traveled. I could commend you on your free spirit, and tell you you're doing a good job, but being who you are you probably don't give a shit what people think about you.

Rock on. But be willing to roll with the punches. Life will sometimes have its way with you, and you must remember to pause, and replenish your spirit as well as your body. The truly lived life may sometimes wear your soul thin. Always remember to love people, especially the intolerant and hurtful. Find a god you can trust and believe in it with true faith. Be careful with drugs. Respect them and respect yourself. In the words of Raoul Duke:

"You can turn your back on a person, but don't ever turn your back on a drug. Especially when it's waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in your eye."

As true today as it was back then. Hunter S. Thompson is a renowned experimentalist himself, and even he couldn't take the heat towards the end. Thank you Dr. Gonzo, your words light a path through the psychedelic darkness.


My words, however, will drive a body straight into the clutches of the cough-syrup bottle.

Nothing is lost.

Yet in our world there is a beginning and end to everything. Such is the curse of time, for there is a story to all great love and it is told whether spoken or buried beneath the years.

Like life itself, love stories must begin with great hope and end in loss. Great love stories climax in the death of one so loved their departure rends the fabric of the universe in jagged impassable scars beyond the ability of mankind to repair. And the hero moves on with life as it was, bravely committing himself to ignore the yawning chasm to the left of existence into which he would plummet, forever lost, with the smallest misstep. And the heroine moves ahead gallantly performing all of life's functions as if her greatest desire is not to cast herself into the pit. As they began, all things of this earth will end, my children, and so shall all life and sun and the sky itself.

But do not despair for loss. Because locked deep within the mystery of all this life's endings has been hidden an answer to a question so powerful and so profound time itself would stand still should one attempt to hold the concept within the thin ephemeral film we call the mind's eye. Oh my children, there between the atoms are spaces; down between the quarks is where the dragons live. There before you is life from black stone. Hold your hand in front of you and then peer between your fingers and see it's all around, in the light from the moon and the droop of the cookies, still warm from the oven. It's in the methane rivers of Titan and the sulfur springs on Io, between the parables in the Bible and the sound of one wing flapping. Between the moment I conceived these words to their place in your heart the answer to our simplest question winks at you from across time. Across space. Through wires conducting leptons and babies sucking their first meal. Do not be deceived by your own mind, the master illusionist, who leads you right over it, past it, through it, under it.

Open your eyes, the ones in your heart, that place in your chest where you feel her warmth go. It's everywhere and not one lover will deny, we savor the stories we become.

All life is a love story. I cannot help but stand astounded, dear ones. Because when I started there was nothing. I was alone. And from there became the miracles.

Because when I asked, "Why?"

The answer became you.

*



To the aliens, all our music sounds the same. One of us bangs on something. Someone else rubs at a taut string and someone else warbles. It's a twelve-note scale if you're from the west. It's I-IV-V if you like R&B. You can dance to it. You improvise skat to it. Your world moves to it. Your parents think it's noise and all your friends like the one they were listening to that time that guy named Freddo puked up a pint of peppermint schnapps.

But the aliens think it's all the same. Because they don't have ears.

The aliens think our movies are nonsense. One of us pretends to be doing something another one thought up. One of us records. Others add pictures made up on computers, and still others track on music that all sounds the same. Over and over. Because they don't have pretend on their planet.

The aliens think all our books tell the same story. Someone's quiet life is disrupted by a storm or a monster or another of us who wants something the first one doesn't. And fights break out and then time works its wonders and everything stops at the end. Because it has to. Because aliens don't have clocks.

The alien on the moon holds up his thumb, or the little piece of him we would call a thumb if we met him and had to name the pieces of his body. And when he holds up his thumb and squints through three of his eyes, he only sees his thumb and not the whole blue earth behind it. Just like Edgar Mitchell did when he was there.

And billions of light-years away his six alien parents don't know he's got world-wars and dinosaurs and bombings and millions of incidences of first-kissing behind his thumb. They think he's gone to collect some gray rocks. Because in their world, gray is a flavor somewhere between rose petals and and the creaking of rusted iron.

He's been away a billion billion years but they still expect him for dinner. They care about him.

If you didn't have time, no matter how far away someone was, they'd be with you. It would be that way.

*



I believe in miracles and there have been a lot of them happening lately. Take for instance this little metal owl on my zipper. The hand-painted enamel. I rub it between my fingers when I'm nervous.

Take for instance all of these words that come pouring out of me. I don't know where they come from, but I watch them appear in front of me as if they have minds of their own.

Someone says something, and then two days later, it happens.

Someone says something, and then you realize it happened two days before.

But no matter what's going to happen, or what has happened, no matter how hard you think about it, you're always in the middle of now and you can't get out of it.

That means all this other stuff about when and then are stuff we've made up.

That means we haven't lost anyone. That last time we kissed. That last argument. That time we walked across the volcano, it all still is because we are always in this right now, and I know the steps I took down the path and up the mountain, so I still am.

As long as these words exist, so do I.

Because I am not a slave to time. It's something I made up.

*



To people who cut hair, everyone is a customer.

I have seen barbers snipping scissor blades over the bald scalp of a man reading a newspaper. I have seen stylists gingerly passing the business-end of a Wahl clipper over the head of a squirming 3-year old. There are barbers that go to hospitals to trim the hair of the terminally ill. There are mothers who lift a lock of silk-fine hair from the linoleum floor of barber shops in the Bronx, and then place that lock between the folds of a glassine envelope, press it in the pages of a book nobody has read and keep it for years.

And she will never again pass through the barber shop doors.

I go to a redneck barber shop. The barber shop I go to has on the wall the embalmed severed heads of several deer, an elk, a mountain lion, and the pelt of a 1500 pound brown bear. There is a picture of Pat Tillman with an artificial rose stapled to the corner. There are American flags and faded eight-by-ten photographs of men holding shotguns and freshly killed pheasants. There is a magazine rack bulging with creased and ragged issues of Field and Stream, Guns and Ammo, Car and Driver.

It's this and that in the barber shop.

There is a barber pole out front. It spins in white red and blue spirals when the place is opened.

At the barber shop, men tell dirty jokes nobody thinks are funny, but everyone laughs anyway. And after paying Lee, they stand at the door and take big deep breaths before going back outside, like a swimmer jumping into a pool, or a skydiver gathering courage to step out of the plane.

In my barber shop there is always a game on the television. In the barber shop, it's always baseball season until football season until basketball season. Occasionally, when the Sharks are doing well, there'll be hockey on, but it just doesn't feel right to the sunshiney crowd. It's always baseball season at the barber shop and you know you shouldn't need a hair cut otherwise.

When you go to my barber shop you need to know the stats. Who's hitting what average. How many games out of first are the Giants. How many homers is Barry behind Hank Aaron, and what about the steroids? If you don't know, they'll tell you, and spend ten minutes doing it. Or you can talk about guns, or your car. The barbers know the difference between DOHC and push-rod technology. They know what octane does to gasoline. They know it's impossible to read women sometimes, and they all have wives who provide for them the love and enigma of life itself. They'll talk about pussy in hushed muted tones as if whispering the combination to the box the president uses to launch nuclear war, as if none of their wives have them. Because some things are just not mentioned in polite company. But lucky for us, it's never polite in the barber shop.

To the barbers at the barber shop, your hair is always too long and you will never go bald. They've been working in the same place thirty years and it just isn't the same since silicon valley turned the fruit orchards into industrial parks. They remember when they picked plums as children and their fathers taught them how to shoot their first .22. They all had a damned dog that brought home dead rats and ate the garbage.

Women don't go to my barber shop. Not that they wouldn't be welcome, but the guys in the back, the ones who managed to find the December 1999 issue of Playboy behind the copies of Time and Fortune, would have to find a way to discreetly conceal their viewing material and pretend they weren't imagining the skin beneath the lady's clothes. It takes a while for a guy to get out of that mode and no girl understands that, so it's best to not do it. And strange as it seems, with all the women who live in our town and all the times I've had my hair cut by Lee or Frank or Ozzie, I have never seen a girl pass through the front door. It's as if there's an invisible barrier of boyness that women find repulsive and men revel in the way a freshly-bathed golden retriever will roll in chihuahua dung on the finest Saturday in June.

Because the barber shop is a den. Its a place where germs are growing into molds that would someday evolve to flesh-eating rodents if they weren't creationists there. You can be very comfortable in the knowledge that Lee will never attempt to massage your head against your wishes. It's a place where men go to be away from the world in which they must maintain the illusion of control. If the fire marshalls would allow it, there'd always be campfire embers smoldering in the back by the toilet where the charred remains of a feral pig would lie for days before the barbers invited in the wolves to finish it off. If Frank allowed it, men would leave their clothes in piles by the back door. They'd get dressed for work in the restroom.

My mom isn't around to pick up the locks of my hair anymore. Over the years I've watched the curls hitting the apron turn from blonde to dark brown. And now there are traces of silver in every one.

The stylist across the street does great business. Girls cut your hair there. On the walls there are posters of fashion models, boys and girls, with well slicked hair that stands up on their heads in unnaturally attractive patterns. They ask you if you want mousse on your head before they finish. They insist on giving you a shampoo, even if your head is already clean. Their fingers on your scalp feel like tiny rays of goodness turning your thoughts to kisses on the nape of the neck.

They have goldfish who died and hamsters that appear to be having babies. The stylists all own cats. They are not dog people.

It is a different experience at the stylists shop. It's never any season there. There's no TV and the radio is always on the alternative rock station. It's very clean and clinical. Sort of like a doctor's office where you don't take off your clothes.

I have now discovered a place that exists between culture of my redneck barber shop and the frou-frou stylists shop.

It's called "Lou's". I have not been to Lou's. Lou's barber shop was a redneck place until Lou died. Then two lesbian barbers bought it and they kept the name. They kept the dead elk on the wall and you can find issues of Playboy in the back behind the dog-eared copies of Automotive Weekly and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

I don't know if they insist on shampoos at Lou's, or if they massage your scalp. I wonder if they have the game on.

I imagine their politics is a bit left of the redneck barber shop, but they have the rotating pole with the red, white, and blue helixes spinning out front. And I wonder who stands at their door after paying, taking a deep breath before emerging into the bright sharp world.

It must be strangely provocative to get a boy haircut at Lou's. Do the barbers talk to you about the game or your car or whisper about pussy? Do they know you want it slightly longer on top or that it's important to make the sides meet the edge of your beard? Do they understand the fundamental necessity of one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch, or the basic difference between Formula One and CART?

Maybe they have their own thing at Lou's. Maybe it's a whole different universe in there.

I'm going to try Lou's next time my hair gets long.

Life should be an adventure, I think.

I need to go on a little rant here, nothing serious, but this is something that has been mildly irritating me for several months now.

I'm sure that most readers are aware of the tech news site Slashdot. Indeed, many of you probably first became aware of E2 through Slashdot's links to this site. We're all accustomed to Slashdot's slightly fast-and-loose editorial policy, knowing that on a typical day it's a good source for juicy stories and interesting diversions from office drudgery, even if the stories occassionally come around more than once. And that's all well and good.

Then one day, Slashdot decided that it would be a really neat idea to have seperate games section, to cover happenings in the wacky world of computer and video games (and to a lesser extent, paper RPGs, board games and other things that are not really of any great interest to the section of the population that has moved out of their parents' basements.). After all, they reasoned, we like games, and our readers do too - this'll practically write itself! How hard can it be?

As it turned out, of course, it was considerably harder than they had anticipated. Slashdot Games is currently under the stewardship of a Mr. Michael Zenke, known on the site by the handle 'Zonk' (and on E2 as Dialogue). His area of expertise seems to be resolutely centred on MMORPGs. As far as I'm aware he hasn't had any professional involvement in either journalism or game development before. I don't want to make this a character assassination of Zonk, as I'm sure he's a perfectly normal and well-intentioned guy*. But it's abundantly clear that he either doesn't have the expertise or the time required to make a proper fist of editing Slashdot Games.


Exhibit A

Let's look at the last 10 or so stories that have been posted in Slashdot Games. (All posted by Zonk, coincidentally.)

Kid Named After Everquest Character - OK, fairly straightforward coverage of a SOE publicity stunt/coup. I've no problem with this kind of thing, in moderation.

Your Rights Online: 3D Games Patent Threatens Industry? - An interesting story, although I'm not sure why it's tagged 'YRO', unless that's a catch-all for any stories featuring litigation of some kind.

Bungie Unveils New Halo 2 Maps - Again, no problem here. Although you'd expect Slashdot of all places to point out the assholery of Microsoft charging for patches and minor content updates.

Tribes Franchise Quietly Strangled - Apart from the absurd headline, pretty good. (Damn, I picked the wrong day to do this.) The story submitter seems to want to turn the issue of Tribes being dropped into an 'us vs. them' of the armies of loyal Tribes fans (who bought literally dozens of copies of Tribes: Vengeance...) against the evil publishers. But I'd still question the editorial decision to run this without comment.

G4TV To Preview Half-Life 2 Expansion - Ah-ha. You'd think from the headline that this was going to be about the forthcoming expansion pack for Half-Life 2, the one where you're likely-as-not going to be playing as Alyx Vance, right? Whereas, the story is actually about G4TV doing a show about the 'Lost Coast' map, which was announced on Steam weeks ago. The confusion between 'Steam' and 'Source' is Zonk's addition. Also, note that this is fourth-hand news: G4 to Planet Half-Life to Voodoo Extreme to Slashdot (to me, to you).

News Media Links Shooting To Games - Now, this is an issue that certainly should be covered. As I've previously mentioned, I absolutely reject the idea that responsibility for violent crimes should be pinned on artists and entertainers who use violent themes. But actually reading the interview (with a Dr. Katherine Newman, who Zonk fails to actually attribute the quote to, but hey, it's just some crazy old psychologist chick, right?) reveals that neither interviewer or interviewee are blaming games for Michael Weise's actions. Only the sensationalist headline makes a link. The interview is, in fact, primarily about a violent Macromedia Flash animation that the killer made. The piece taken as a whole is uncharacteristically even-handed and perceptive - something that we should surely be encouraging the American news media to do more of. Slashdot Games jumping to the wrong conclusion about them is just as bad as the news media jumping to the wrong conclusion about games.

24 Hours In The Matrix - OK, drive through.

Soul No Longer Burns on Xbox, GC - At least they corrected the spelling of 'Calibur' this time.

PSP Launch Coverage - Doesn't mention it's the US launch, but that's a minor quibble.

The PSP's Birthday Party - But, huh? Didn't it just launch?


Exhibit B

Well, that (completely live, remember) experiment was only partially successful. So let's have a look at some general trends:

  • Rumour, rumour and more rumour. There have been times when the whole page has just been a bunch of playground-quality (or worse, scanned from American magazines) rumours, usually about the capabilities of the next wave of consoles, all of them utterly baseless. These just serve to piss people off, as they're not news, and they're not interesting outside of the heads of whichever highly gullible Ralph Wiggum-alike submitted the story.
  • Hype.
  • The 'middle class football fan' mangling of bits of semi-obscure terminology. ("Earthbound/Earthdawn", "Voodoo Extreme/Voodoo Express", etc.) I'm not expecting an intimate knowledge of every single obscure mecha game released in Japan over the last 20 years, but it's pretty obvious that there are some big gaps in Zonk's knowledge outside of the MMO sector.
  • The 'reviews' that are basically just a fucking feature list, with a non-commital comment at the end.
  • The constant racial slurs.
You're probably getting sick of this by now, but this is basically what it's like, all the time.


Final bit

Why am I getting fired up about this? After all, there is no shortage of alternative news sources about games that are quicker, more in-depth and more accurate than Slashdot Games. (The news aggregator www.gametab.com gives a good cross-section**.) My concern is that a lot of the Slashdot readership (especially those who have come for the News for Nerds first, and only have a passing interest in games) will take the crap they spew out at face value, propogating myths, re-inforcing stereotypes and generally poisoning the atmosphere. It's tabloid journalism, and I think that it's probably doing more harm than good. (Although it could be argued that more widely-read and still awful games sites such as Spong, GameSpy and IGN are a bigger problem in the scheme of things.)

So the point of this rant, if there is one, is to urge Slashdot and Zonk to take stock of the state that their games section is in, and hopefully do something about it. The options available are to employ more clued-up editors or scrap the channel. Meanwhile, Slashdot readers should keep calling out bad and broken news stories - even if the editors don't take a blind bit of notice (which invariably seems to be the case), at least some of the other readers can benefit from having the facts straightened out.


*I'd also like to apologise for the snotty comments that I've left a few times on /. when his perceived foul-ups have irked me. These are usually posted before I've had my morning coffee.

**Further up the chain there's also gamespress.com, gamesindustry.biz and trade mags such as MCV. A lot of the news sites source much of their news from Games Press.

So, for any of you who may have read my last daylog, and was wondering what happened with my missing tooth, yes I did get it all fixed up. And for those of you who didn't read it, well long story short, I broke a tooth off on a frozen Vector bar.

Headed into the dental clinic Thursday morning, quite conveniently missing a really boring lecture, by the instructor here at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School who speaks the least English. Apparently while I was gone, the platoon got in trouble for "chatting" while he was teaching. I think it's much more likely that what really happened is that he said kept saying stuff that people didn't understand, and people kept asking whoever was next to them what the heck it was he said. But anyways, I wasn't there, so I can`t really say.

So anyways, headed up to the clinic, and met the Major who would be fixing my tooth up. First off he had to fix up a cavity on the tooth next to it, and then he crafted me a nice fake little tooth. The best part is the way it's stuck in there. What they did is basically drilled a little hole in the new tooth, stuck a post in there, drilled a hole in the old tooth, and fit the post into there, and cemented it it.

Oh wait, did I say post? I meant to say paper clip. That's right, my new tooth is affixed in my face with a tiny little section of paper clip. I personally find this greatly amusing. Mind you, this thing is only supposed to be a temporary crown, something to make my smile not look so idiotic for the time being. Apparently they just don`t have the time or resources to get me set up with a permanent crown, one that'll be actually affixed with a solid post into my jaw. So, this'll do for the time being, until I get out to Halifax for my French language training.


I must say, that this whole free dental care deal that you get with the Navy is a good thing. I mean, I'd known that the dentist had screwed up this particular tooth when he had done my root canal, pretty much half a year after it was done. I should have gotten it taken care of years ago. However, during that time, I lost my dad's medical insurance, and my University's student's union dental plan was laughable. Ok, so right now it's only a stop gap solution, but it'll do for now, and it'll get fixed up right soon enough. I just gotta be sure to stay away from any more energy bars.

Anyhow, catch you later folks, and have a happy Easter if that's your thing.


Palpz's Basic Training Adventure!

Farewell, Bronchitis, Inspections, Montreal, Tear Gas, and Guns, Camping, Canadian Infantry Style, Broken Teeth, A Brand New Tooth, A Fall From Grace, and Redemption

As per my Writer's Guild prompt: Write down as many Noun-Verb-Noun combinations as you can in a minute and then pick one and write about it.

Here's mine:

Death Met Santa

This just in, Santa will not be bringing cheer and joy to the children of the world this year, he is dead. Yes that’s right and I’m sorry to say it but the bringer of toys to all the good little boys and girls is no longer. While initially it was thought that the high cholesterol diet of cookies and milk might have induced a heart attack, it is now known that Mr. Clause met his death at the hands of an enraged Mrs. Clause whose defense statement was simply, “he was a workaholic who cared more about those damned toys than he did me.” And while the elves could not be reached for comment, the reindeer seemed to be holding something back, especially that one with the glowing red nose. Our reporter is live on the scene,

“Hello bob, I’m here at the northern most pole where they have just brought in a forklift to carry out the two body bags which have been zipped together, it seems that the public all along underestimated the size of Kris Kringle. There has been quite a lot of commotion here as the elves have been raiding the workshop and stealing all the tools they can, it’s utter mayhem.”

Thanks bob, we now take you live to the president:

“My fellow Americans, it brings me deep regret to inform you all that Mr. Christopher H. Kringle, known to many as simply, Santa Clause, has been murdered. Now I know that this may come as a shock to many of you kids, especially come Christmas time, but the Whitehouse has strategerized an emergency backup procedure in which our esteemed friend Mr. Dick Cheney is going to assume the role of Santa. But instead of gifts and candy he is going to bring you a big bucket of oil come Christmas just so long as you are good little boys and girls and are sure to rat out anyone, including family members, who are suspected of carrying out terrorist activities.”

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