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Friday, August 28, 2009

Thing Palette Doesn't Understand

  1. Why does a razor, which is metal, become dull after cutting hair, which is so much softer than metal? That's like saying knives get dull after cutting butter. WTF?
  2. Anything more complicated than basic algebra. There's no joke here, I simply can't wrap my brain around it. The irony is that I can understand extremely difficult mathematical concepts as long as they are explained in English rather than math. I can go on about gravity, and quantum mechanics, and spooky action from a distance, but ask me "Why?" and I can't answer because I lack the mathematical grounding to prove it. Math is sort of an article of faith for me... I know it exists but I can't prove it.
  3. Pi. No, really. True story: I once told a friend "I don't get the rationale behind Pi." Those of you who speak math are no doubt laughing your asses off at the pun I just made, but I assure you that I was being completely serious at the time.
  4. How Vampires replaced ponies for tweenage girls. I remember when liking vampires was enough to get you branded a freak, a weirdo, and have authority figures look at you funny when you walked past because you might be carrying a gun under that coat. I guess this is what happens when fans of Anne Rice have kids?
  5. Where the past week went. Wasn't it Monday just yesterday? Damn allergy hangovers...

Monday, August 24, 2009

A small taste of Friday

I'm working hard on the next portion of Curse/Or and I hope to have it ready on Friday for your entertainment.

So, no real blog post tonight. However, I shall leave you with a phrase which pleases me:
"Someone," she hissed, "needs to tell me, using very small words, what the hell happened back there, with the exploding cat and the weird shouting girl and the cheeseburgers and OH FUCK WHAT HAPPENED TO MY HAND?"

It's the little things in life that bring joy...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Curse/Or: Chapter 3 Revised

As I mentioned earlier, I discovered an issue with the pacing of the big fight scene in chapter 3. This issue was so large it demanded a fairly extensive re-write to make it work effectively.

In order to provide context, I am posting the entirety of Chapter 3 now. I apologize to everyone who is now grumbling about "having to re-read stuff". These things happen when one is essentially liveblogging the novel-writing process. Still there is new stuff here, so I encourage you all to read it again.


Chapter 3: LULZ is the law, LULZ under LOL

It wasn't until much later that Teresa learned the exploding cat had actually been a plush toy with a stun grenade stuffed inside. Surprised and off-balance, the force of the flash-bang beneath her knocked her up and over, the right side of her torso striking the edge of the table with enough force to make her wince.

As she fell, the serrated pain of a cracked rib tearing inward from bone to lung to tumor, she knew -- with an animal certainty which bypassed all thought -- that everyone in the dining room had seen the flash and heard the bang. They had shared the experience. They were all interconnected with her.

They had all been breathing her air, just like the inmates at Frontera.

The magic flared within her at the speed of instinct, burning from her tumor outward through the searing pain in her side, spreading her blindness and deafness and disorientation across a network of arcane second-hand smoke and into the two dozen customers and waitstaff.

As one, the entire population of the restaurant coughed wetly. Their lifetime chances of contracting cancer increased by a statistically significant percentage.

And then Teresa could act again, shoulder-rolling as she hit the floor, coming up into a kind of half-crouch. She could see the girl crouched beneath the table, wiping her mouth with the left sleeve of a bright pink cardigan, right hand buried inside a matching vinyl purse-slash-tote bag. Their eyes met.

The girl looked to be about 12 years old, but the eyes that looked back at Teresa weren't those of a child. They were hard and deep and dark, as black as her glossy Asian hair, a gaze made of obsidian knives. They were the sockets that remained after her innocence had been scooped out with a melon baller.

They were the same eyes Teresa had seen in the mirror every day for the past twenty years.

"OH HAI THAR," the girl exclaimed, and pulled a pistol from her bag. It was the exact same shade of obnoxious pink as her purse, except in anodized aluminum, and the kitty face painted along its extended barrel matched the picture on the girl's dress. She cocked her head to the side and smiled brightly, waving cheerfully with her left hand as the laser spot under the gun barrel traced a hot pink line to Teresa's heart.

"U DIEZ NAO KTHXBAI."

The gun made a soft mewing sound as it fired. Pain blossomed inside Teresa's chest, twice, and then she was falling face-first onto the carpet, oblivion thundering upon her like an oncoming train.

"LOL," announced the girl. "ENDCAT HAZ ENDED JOO." She pivoted smoothly to her left, humming tunelessly as she took careful aim at the still-stunned Esther's head.

Yarrow gasped. "You… !" He was on the floor next to Esther, his hands clawing at the clutter of the broken dishes around him in a feeble attempt to end his disorientation. The girl brightened visibly at this, squatting by his head to regard him curiously, pervious target forgotten. Her grin was feral, her slender body quivering with predatory glee.

"YA ME RLY." She wasn't shouting, but every word that came from her mouth seemed to be at full volume. She poked him in the cheek with the muzzle of her pink kitty pistol. The action was careless, whimsical, like a child poking a strange object with a stick. "WAT U WANT? U CAN HAZ LAST WISH."

Yarrow blinked, trying to resolve the rosy haze above him into some kind of recognizable form. Teresa had taken the brunt of the blast, stretched over the table to throttle him, but even so his proximity to an exploding stun grenade had sent him reeling. And yet despite the roaring in his ears, he was still able to hear the pink catgirl assassin with perfect clarity.

"I… can haz?" he stammered. The young fool seeks me, he remembered. Youthful Folly has success. He thought for a moment, then swallowed hard. "Can I wish that you don't kill me?"

The girl smiled fiercely, and with a casual swipe of her hand broke Yarrow's nose with the butt of her gun. His scream of pain only seemed to excite her, her butt wriggling back and forth as if she possessed an invisible tail and was twitching it from side to side. "SILLEH BUNNEH," she cooed. "IF I NO KILL U THEN IZ NOT LAST WISH. AMIRITE?"

"Just stop hitting me!" he screamed. Her smile widened and she aimed the gun at his head. "Oh crap," he squeaked, mouth suddenly very dry as the blurred form of the barrel slid into his field of view.

(On the other side of the restaurant, a short-order cook who had been smoking all his adult life coughed twice, clutched his chest, and died as the burgeoning tumor within his lungs increased a thousandfold in volume before metastasizing and devouring his heart. He was thirty-two.)

Youthful Folly has success. At the first oracle I inform. "Cheeseburger!" shouted Yarrow.

The girl's body went rigid. "WAT U SAY?" she demanded through clenched teeth. The muzzle of her gun visibly wavered in front of Yarrow's face, her muscles nearly vibrating with barely-controlled tension. The feral Cheshire grin was gone, replaced by a far more human expression of indecision.

"Cheeseburger," he said with increasing confidence. "This is a restaurant. They make cheeseburgers. They're over there." He pointed in the general direction of the kitchen. "You Can Haz," he directed, with as much conviction as he could muster.

At the first oracle I inform.

Behind them, Teresa's body spasmed, as if CPR were being administered through repeated vicious kicks to her chest. Nicotine roared through her bloodstream, jump-starting her body with the fierceness of a habit that would not, could not, be denied. Roaring darkness receded from the edge of her vision, the cancer magic sparing her in exchange for claiming the life of the cook.

"Fine," spat the child. The hollow boom in her voice was gone, replaced by the normal soprano pitch of a preteen girl. She squared her shoulders and drew another pistol from her bag. Even with the second gun, she seemed diminished in some way. "I don't need the LOLcat to finish this." Next to them, Esther moaned.

Teresa felt like she had just walked up thirty flights of stairs. There was a concrete block inside her chest, and each breath was agony. Her arms were wooden, her fingers lifeless cigarettes. Her mouth tasted of ash and the stink of burnt filters filled her nostrils. Her eyes ached with the yellow-brown stain of nicotine. She thought she might vomit.

The girl's back was to Teresa, rising from beside Yarrow's head to a firing position. Her twin pistols were tracing dual pink lines towards the center of Esther's chest. "The Godcaller dies first," the child said to Yarrow. "Then you. And then I Can Haz Cheezburger."

Tommy would be about Yarrow's age, Teresa realized. Another dumb kid, another mother's precious son, another stupid, senseless death…

The rage returned. In that moment the tired, half-dead Teresa was gone, consumed by all the anger and the guilt and the rage of the past two decades. Her nausea was forgotten, burnt away by the rush of emotion. What remained was something pure, primal in its direction and purpose. "Bitch," spat the Camel, pulling the lighter from her pocket to hold before her face. A flame the color of hemorrhagic blood licked into life.

"I will fucking smoke your ass."

She exhaled sharply, and the air before the cancer mage wrinkled as serpentine tendrils of heat writhed towards the catgirl. The child shimmered slightly, the haze wreathing her in an infernal halo, and then she was shrieking as every hair smoldered, every piece of plastic melted and every scrap of clothing on her body threatened to combust.

The girl crumpled into a fetal, screeching ball, the smell of scorched flesh crawling up Camel's nose. For an instant it all seemed intensely familiar, sickening and yet somehow terribly delicious.

*** *** ***

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cranky Palette is Cranky

To whom it may concern:


1) Requiem for a Dream is an awesome piece of music. Please, for the love of God, stop hitching it to every banal piece of Hollywood shit in existence (I'm looking directly at you, America's Got Talent).

2) 420 stainless steel is complete and utter shit and suitable only for dinnerware and pocketknives. If the knife catalog only says "stainless steel" then I guarantee you it's 420-440 because if it was anything better, they would say so in the ad copy. For more information about what steels you should choose, go here.

3) There is a special circle of Hell reserved for people who replace C's with K's and I's with Y's, and vice-versa. If you have named yourself Kandi Magyk, I will bludgeon you with the collected works of the Brontë sisters until you learn that there is a difference between English adapting to changing times and being lazy for the sake of sensationalism.


Kisses,

Palette

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fixing my mistake

I had hoped to have another installment of Curse/Or out by now, but there is a slight problem with that:

I completely fucked the dramatic tension in the last installment. Camel recovers from her gunshot way too quickly.

Sure, it seems all right to you guys, because you read it in a serialized fashion and therefore time passed between installments. But when I read the entire chapter in one sitting, she just gets up too damn fast. In movie terms, she'd be down for like, 30 seconds tops.

I need to stretch the dramatic narrative out thusly:
  • Camel is shot. Readers go, "Oh shit. Did the protagonist just get shot dead in chapter 3?"
  • Focus then shifts to something else for what would be 5 minutes of screen time -- enough to make you forget about Camel and worry about something else.
  • Then, and ONLY then, do I have her do her "cancer resurrection" schtick.
Because as it reads now, it's not a dramatic "Oh crap" moment. It's a speedbump wherein Camel falls down and then immediately gets better. Ugh.

Okay, now that I've actually admitted to this, I have no choice but to sit in this bookstore and fix the damn scene.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Goldpecker

Once upon a time, there was a plutomancer named Chom Skee. History does not recall his race; he could as easily have been a dwarf as a halfling. But it is generally agreed upon that he was in fact a gnome, because his ideas occupied the intersection of "brilliant", "deranged", and "dangerous use of magic", which is pretty much synonymous with "gnome" these days.

Chom, it turns out, was obsessed with chickens. But not just any chickens; no, only dire chickens would do. This was mainly because, as a plutomancer, Chom was also obsessed with gold and magic, and he became convinced that if could concoct the proper alchemical elixir, he could find a way to bestow a plutomantic ability upon his chickens, specifically the ability to lay golden eggs. Dire chickens, being larger and stronger than their lesser counterparts, not only had a better chance of surviving the alchemical transformation but also had the nice side effect of laying much larger eggs. This, as they say, is win-win.

After a few tragic mishaps resulting in dire chickens being converted to gold, Chom was ready to give up. But then, as he stared at the golden chicken statues adorning his front lawn, he had an idea. And oddly, it made him think of owlbears. And then he began to giggle.


The problem, he realized, was that a dire chicken wasn't sufficiently magical to handle the alchemical transformation of calcium-into-gold within its reproductive organs. But, if he took an animal which was already magical, well then! That should work just fine.

The Dire Chickenbear project was an unmitigated disaster which resulted in a hasty night-time relocation, the destruction of a small farming community, and a hefty price put on Chom's head.
And the less said about the Dire Perytons, the better.


But three kingdoms later, Chom finally hit upon his masterpiece: the Dire Cockatrice. In retrospect, this should have been his first choice, since it was already a magical chicken-thing which could turn men to stone with but a peck of its beak. Matter of fact, Chom could have bypassed the whole Dire aspect altogether and just enchanted the Cockatrice further, but by that point he was, as the folks say, "toys in the attic nutso" and fond of wearing a suit of chicken feathers.


Thus was born Goldpecker: the fearsome Dire Cockatrice who could turn men to gold. This was Chom's masterpiece, a self-perpetuating species with the potential to generate massive profit. He even thought about hiring himself out as an assassin and/or body-removal specialist: after all, when a body is turned into a gold statue and then converted into loose change, nothing short of a Wish is going to bring that person back.

Sadly -- or perhaps fortunately -- Chom perished in a tragic mishap involving too much ale, a late-night booty call, and a misplaced Periapt of Proof against Petrification.

And so, the legend goes, you can hear the dreadful cackle of Goldpecker carried on the early morning breezes of the scrubs and plains as he greets the golden dawn with gold of his own: the freshly petrified body of a hunter, trapper, or adventurer too sloppy to post guards during the night.

Ask not for whom Goldpecker crows: he crows for greed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

GTA: SS

Some of you may recall that last month, I entered a contest to become a columnist for McSweeny's Internet Tendency. Their website stated that winners would be announced August 7th.

You noticed that nothing was said on the 7th? Yeah, me too. I assumed, since I hadn't been contacted, that I had not won. Still, I obsessively refreshed the page all weekend, because I wanted to know who had won (and therefore against whom I could plot massively violent and needlessly complicated revenge.)

Some boilerplate "We will contact winners this week" appeared on Tuesday, the 11th. This gave me renewed hope that my writing career might actually have a snowball's chance in hell. In retrospect, I should have known this was false hope, as nothing good has ever come from a potential employer missing a deadline announcement.

So, as you can guess, I didn't get the gig. Apparently I didn't even make it to the finals. However, my soul-crushing loss is your win, since you get to read my submission. No, go on, read and enjoy. I'll just be over here in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably...


Ladies and Gentlemen:

My name is Erin Palette, and I intend to be your next writer. My column, titled "One from Column A, one from Column B" (because "Chinese Fire Drill" is apparently racist and insensitive these days, or so my anger management counselor tells me) is what happens when you take something popular – be it a movie, an activity, a game, etc – and bash it over the head with a completely arbitrary and contrary style, author, or genre until something allegedly funny emerges. Step three: profit!

Hey, it worked for that Grahame-Smith hack with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


Example column:

Grand Theft Auto: Sesame Street

"I gotta problem," the Grouch had told him, "a problem only you can solve, Niko." Of course no one had told him that the problem was retrieving a blue Muppet out of his mind on LSD-laced cookies, who even now was trying to eat the steering wheel while screaming at the top of his lungs.

"Motherfucker!" Niko growled as he pulled the Shelby GT Cobra through a bootlegger reverse and into a narrow alley. He was desperate to find the hospital, because he wanted this job done and because those wide googly eyes were freaking him out.

"God damn it!" he shouted into his cell phone, cranking the wheel hard to avoid getting t-boned by a garbage truck as he exited the alley. "Ernie, I don't care about your duckie! I just wanna know if you can tell me how to get to Sesame Street!"

And then the police were on his ass, red and blue on black and white like a Muppet orgy, their siren rising in hideous counterpoint to the keening howl of Cookie Monster on one hell of a bad trip. The traffic lights went green, yellow, red – red means STOP – but Niko didn't stop for anything.

Alto, said the radio. Alto means stop in Spanish. Alto. Alto. Aaaaaaaaltooooooooooo.

Against his will, Niko started counting the number of traffic violations he was committing. One, two, three – THREE points against his license for failure to obey a traffic light.

Ernie was now singing something about sheep, or maybe sleep, Niko wasn't entirely sure. "Jesus, Ernie, if you aren't gonna help me then hand the phone to Bert!"

Bert began muttering something about pigeons and their roosting patterns and how Niko needed to look for a brownstone with a particular shade of pigeon crap on it to know when to turn left to get to Susan's Clinic. Just then, something small and red and furry bounded out into traffic.

Screaming. Squealing. Smashing. Shattering. Smearing. Slaughter. All begin with the letter S. Small as he was – small also begins with S – the shattered form of Elmo was little more than a speedbump (also S) to Niko's speeding (S again) car.

S stands for Suspended License, intoned the radio.

Thirty – THIRTY, ah ah ah ah ah – moving violations later, Niko screeched to a halt in front of the Friendly Methadone Clinic to deliver the OD'ing Cookie Monster into the waiting arms of Nurse Susan Robinson.

He slumped, exhausted, in one of those cheap plastic waiting room chairs that had probably been there since the 70s. This was America? This was the land of opportunity his cousin had told him about?

And that's when he saw it, the Sunny Day to sweep all his clouds away, a beautiful vision beckoning him to come and play, that everything would be a-okay.

"Hiya, Niko!" shouted Big Bird. She looked beautiful, if a little trashy, naked under that bright yellow plumage. "You looked sad so I brought you some 'hot coffee'!" She winked knowingly and nodded towards the nearby broom closet.

X is for X-Rays, paged the intercom.

(Today's episode is brought to you by the letters C and J and the number 420.)


Other installments of my column:

Magic: the Bond-ing:
"The name is Bond. Fastbond." With that, secret agent 007 tapped a forest and let a handful of land cards tumble from his hand. The countess across the table from him gasped as he insouciantly dialed his life counter back seven points. Of course, little did she know that this was a special Q-Division life counter, one that would surreptitiously increase his life by one every 3.5 turns – enough to give him the edge, but not enough to win the game for him. For that, he would need to up the stakes.

"Just to keep things interesting, why don't we make this a hand of Strip Magic? Say, for each point of damage I do to you, you remove an article of clothing?" With that, he winked and sipped his martini…


Star Wars, written in the manner of a gay sex romp:
Luke gasped at the magnificence of Ben's lightsaber as it extended to its full length with a low throaty hiss. It throbbed with power, and yet Ben wielded it with the ease and confidence of a man experienced with all aspects of his weapon.

"Your father's lightsaber," Ben murmured softly, almost sensuously, the words round and velvety across his lips. "Not as clumsy or random as a blaster." Luke ached to touch it, to hold it, to use it as his father once had… no doubt under Ben's expert tutelage.


Power Rangers as if written by Frank Miller:
Green. White. Red. Black.

Money. Innocence. Blood. Death.

I've been them all, seen them all, done them all.

(Well, except for yellow and pink, but those are pussy colors. And I'm no pussy. I'm anything but.)

I'm the God Damned Tommy Oliver, and I will morph you a new asshole if you fuck with me.

HOLY SHIT IT'S HENRY ROLLINS

Okay, I lied about "last post on this topic" but that's only because I hadn't discovered this until now.

This is a long-distance dedication to my friend, Shawn Sage:



Starring
Laz Alonso as Doc
Alexis Bledel as Lady Jaye
Billy Crudup as Zartan
Zach Galifiankais as Snow Job
Tony Hale as Dr. Mindbender
Vinnie Jones as Destro
Joey Kern as Tomax
Joey Kern as Xamot
Chuck Liddell as Gung Ho
Julianne Moore as Scarlett
Henry Rollins as Duke
Alan Tudyk as Shipwreck
Olivia Wilde as The Baroness
and
Sgt. Slaughter as Himself

I bow before the master

Topless Robot has the best summary/FAQ of Gee Eye Schmoe that I have ever seen. I grovel before its comedic brilliance. A sample to whet your appetite:


Grr. Okay. Now terrorists have a bomb and are heading to Paris to use it, right? G.I. Joe must bring out the big guns for this battle. How many troops do they send? How many jets and jeeps and tanks and things?
Five.

Five tanks?
Five people. But they rent a van.

FUCK YOU.
I mean, I'm assuming. They're in a perfectly nice white van with no technological upgrades at all, such as one might rent at Enterprise.

FUUUUCCCKKK YOOOOUUUU
Look, it makes more sense when you realize they're only chasing after two people in an SUV.

Oh my fuck that's horrible.
At least the Baroness' SUV has this spiky bumper thing that somehow flips cars 40 feet into the air. And the Joes do have the accelerator suits.

This is not the epic G.I. Joe battle I wanted to see on screen. Please tell me at least the five Joes put on those goofy accelerator suits --
Five? Ha ha! No, there's only two. And they give them to the new guys, Duke and Ripcord. Ripcord falls down a lot.

This is pitiful.
Would it make you feel any better if I told you Scarlett stole some random French guy's motorcycle and gave chase?

Not really.
Good, because eventually the Baroness shoots her bike, Scarlett leaps 40-feet vertically off it (strong thighs!), Ripcord catches her, sets her down, and then she gets back in the van anyways.

Please tell me they actually manage to stop the SUV in the accelerator suits.
No, but they do cause millions in property damage throughout Paris.

Does Snake Eyes stop the car at least?
Kind of.

Kind of?
Well, it's hit by a train. But it's implied Snake Eyes wanted it to get hit by a train, so maybe there's a connection there.

...
...uh, but Storm Shadow fires the missile at the Eiffel Tower and it gets destroyed anyways.

Of course it does.
Still, Duke manages to use his accelerator suit to leap into the departing Cobra jet, turn off the fail-safe switch on the bomb's remote thus saving the rest of Paris, although he immediately gets captured.

In his superpowerful accelerator suit.
He took his helmet off.

Wait, I thought Destro just wanted to destroy the Eiffel Tower anyways. So did G.I. Joe just fail utterly?
Not exactly. At some point the bad guys' plan morphed into annihilating Paris.

Then couldn't Storm Shadow have just fired his nanomite rocket launcher anywhere in Paris? Wouldn't that have worked perfectly fine, and gotten to the Eiffel Tower eventually?
Yes, but it's the principle of the thing.




Last post on this topic, I promise.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WNW: Porkchop Sandwiches

I haven't been to bed at all today. At 1:30 this morning I took my father to the emergency room (he's fine now) and, because I have Shit What Needs Get Done Today, there's no point in going to bed until Shit Gets Done.

Therefore, this is fucking hilarious:



And that means this is nothing short of sublime comedy perfection:



Porkchop sandwiches!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teehee Lesbianism

Just a quick mini-rant before I go to bed.

Am I the only one who is more than slightly annoyed at the current fad of young women pretending to be lesbian or bisexual for the sole purpose of garnering male attention?

I call this "Teehee Lesbianism" because in my head I can hear these girls thinking, "Teehee, I'm being so naughty by groping my friend's boobs in this picture! I bet Johnny will get so hard just thinking about it!" It's just so patently transparent that it's about as sexualized as a naked five year old running around going, "Teehee! I'm nekkid!"

To be clear, I'm not exactly incensed into dire hatred about this -- more like I'm exasperated. Are these girls fooling anyone? Are they arousing anyone?

Or is just another case of Cranky Palette Is Cranky?

EDIT: I don't care who or what you fuck as long as it's consensual. It's the patent falseness which bugs me, not the genders involved.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yo Schmoe

Frankly, I was shocked that it took this long to make a G.I. Joe movie. I figured that in the wake of 9/11, a movie about an elite counterterrorist unit would have gotten the greenlight within 3 months and be out in time for summer 2002. Sadly, the movie which is out now was not worth the seven year wait.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra is, as my buddy Tom Foss pointed out, a "flaming piece of crap-gilded crap." I knew it was going to be awful the moment I saw that Snake-Eyes had Schumacher-esque foam rubber lips molded onto his mask, and my beliefs were confirmed with each additional trailer I saw. I said I would never see this movie, but I was dragged along anyway, and even with a free ticket I still feel I paid too high a price.

No, I'm not going to review the movie. Tom did an excellent job of that above, and it's currently hovering at the 40% mark at Rotten Tomatoes. The last time I checked, the profits had dropped by 18% between Friday and Saturday, so it seems pretty likely that word of mouth is spreading about its awfulness. Instead, I'm going to quote myself from earlier posts, because they are relevant:
  • "This is the Hollywood machine, people; its entire purpose in life is to take a giant stinking shit on beloved memories in an attempt to wring cash from your pockets." -- 7/05/07
  • "There is a practice in Hollywood whereby films that are expected to do poorly -- usually cheap horror films and teen comedies -- are not sent to film critics to review. This is done so that the films can at least reap the benefits of opening weekend receipts before poor critical review and word of mouth can do any damage." -- 6/10/08
  • "Neener." -- 5/05/09

At first pass, you'd think that the concept of G.I. Joe is too simple to screw up: a team of uber-elite soldiers uses bleeding-edge weapons to fight a terrorist threat. It's Men in Black, only without the aliens. How hard could it be to get right?

Then you think of the 80s cartoon with the red laser vs. blue laser battles, and you realize that when studios pander to the lowest common denominator, you get utter crap.

(Yes, I realize the G.I. Joe cartoon was meant for kids and therefore mass bloodshed was inappropriate. So was Gargoyles, but it was excellent, and it was produced by Disney of all things. "Appropriate for children" does not have to equal "stupid." It's just usually easier to produce that way.)

So this movie is basically a live-action cartoon. The stupid mid-80s cartoon where enlisted personnel could fly F-14s, everyone had lasers and parachutes, and basic science was ignored in the name of cool. I mean, ice floats on top of water, right? Rise of Cobra gets this fact wrong.

So if you have a hankering to watch some G.I. Joe without having your brains ooze out your ears (or scream in poisonous outrage at the screen, as I did) then I have two recommendations for you, depending on if you were a fan of the comic book or the cartoon.

If you liked the cartoon, then you will enjoy G.I. Joe: Resolute. It's basically the cartoon you remember, only with an intelligent plot, better art, decent voice acting, and action scenes that are probably closer to how you envisioned them as a kid. There are still a few funky artifacts left over -- Duke is still a sergeant yet commands officers, tandem-seat helicopters are piloted from the front seat, etc -- but at least it doesn't make Baby Jesus cry.



You can watch the entire series here.

If you were a fan of the comic book series (which was written by Larry Hama, a Vietnam veteran who tried to make the series as military-accurate as possible) then I suggest you go watch reruns of The Unit.

No, really. They have code names (Betty Blue, Snake Doctor); they are an elite unit which technically doesn't exist (303rd Logistical Studies Group); they often use cutting-edge technology; they fight terrorists. It really is a "real life" version of the G.I Joe team. Sadly, it's been cancelled, but it lives on in syndication.

Now you know... and we all know what knowing is.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Dire Chicken

A while back (May 27th, to be precise), Chgowiz posted on his Old Guy RPG Blog an essay about economics in a D&D campaign. Quoting the relevant bits:
The name of the game for human civilization in the current time of my Dark Ages game is survival. Civilization is sliding backwards thanks to a cataclysmic event. Food is the "driver" of the current economy, moreso than property. In better times, property and goods were more of a basis, but it was related to food. Now food is king. People want to eat and the economy drives on the unit of food - how much someone eats per day.

What you're about to read below will probably make you wince. It's not an accurate simulation by any means. I used my cost for a chicken (10sp) as a starting point. Why? Because it "felt" right to me. I'm not much of a simulationist, but I am trying to be somewhat reasonable in my thoughts - and I needed a starting point.

I've calculated that it costs roughly 3sp a day to eat a portion of meat, bread and beer/water to have a decent living. This does represent a change to what I had originally just "winged" as a cost of living. How did I get there?

Let's take a chicken and a cow. On "just pulling numbers from books and whatnot", a chicken costs 10sp in Enonia, and a cow costs 20gp. I think that came from the 1EPHB, or perhaps OSRIC.

This means a chicken, which can feed 10 people (8oz meat per person, 80 ozs, 80/16oz in a lb is 5 lbs which is a reasonable weight of a chicken) costs 1sp/day/person. A cow, which can feed 820 portions from a 1,000 lb cow at 42% usage (rough estimates), would cost about 82gp on the basis of meat alone. A cow and chicken have the ability of reproducing and bringing more animals and therefore increased profits, so they should cost more. This is all "napkin math" to get us to a certain point. I like the feel of a chicken feeding 10 people a day, so I feel good about the 1sp a day for meat.

Then someone else said in the comments:
Not sure if this feedback will be helpful or not...

But your meat yields are off.

An average chicken is about 4lbs, with about 2.5 - 3.0 lbs of usable meat per.

An average cow will give you about a 65% yield of meat ... maybe as high as 75% if you take a liberal view of "edible".

I know this is extremely retentive, but I figured since you were going to all that trouble anyway...

And then I weighed in on the subject in my typically helpful manner:
Maybe they're Dire Chickens?

Okay, I originally meant that as a joke, but why not? If there are dire versions of other animals around, including herbivores (I know I've seen a Dire Caribou in one of the books) then why *not* a Dire Chicken?

On the upside, it would feed more people, do better in harsh environments, produce larger eggs and could actually defend itself against thieves and/or predators.

On the downside, you'd need a much sturdier coop; getting eggs would be a potentially life-threatening experience (which is why you have level 2+ peasants running around); they'd eat more than regular chickens; and beware the randiness of the Dire Rooster...

And now, months later (mostly because I only just now remembered it) I am proud to present to you the stats for....


Chicken, Dire

Small Animal (Dire)
Hit Dice: 2d8 +2 (10 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (clumsy)
Armor Class: 17 (+3 dex,+3 natural, +1 size), touch 14, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/-1
Attacks: Flurry +5 melee (1d4 +1)
Special Attacks: Crow, pounce
Special Qualities: Ferocity, limited flight
Face/Reach: 1 ft./1 ft.
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +1
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 16, Con 12, Wis 12, Int 2, Cha 12
Skills: Balance +9, Bluff +3, Escape Artist +7, Hide +9, Intimidate +3, Listen +3, Spot +5, Survival +7
Feats: Weapon Finesse (a Dire Chicken gains a feat every 3 HD)
Climate/Terrain: Any temperate or warm land
Organization: Solitary, 2-4 Clutch, 5-20 Flock
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always Neutral
Advancement: 3-6 HD (Small)
Level Adjustment: --

It's unclear if the dire chicken is an atavistic throwback to a fiercer, more primordial breed, or merely the product of a sufficiently mad wizard. However, one thing remains indisputable: pound for pound, the dire chicken is hardier, more adaptable, and can feed more people than any other kind of domesticated poultry. Their eggs are large and healthy, and only the most foolish of foxes will raid a dire henhouse more than once (assuming they survive a first time.) Just be careful not to lose an eye when you go to collect -- dire chickens have been known to kill their handlers.

(In fact, dire chickens nicely explain the existence of peasants of level 2 and up. Suddenly, the grizzled old farmer at the edge of town is now the scariest dude around.)

Combat
Dire chickens are bluffers, pretending to peck the ground and search for food, sometimes even walking off, before suddenly flying into the air to strike an opponent with a Flurry of beaks, claws and spurs. They spread their wings to intimidate and appear larger.

Ferocity (Ex): A dire chicken is such a tenacious combatant that it continues to fight without penalty even while disabled or dying.

Crow (Ex): As a full-round action, a dire chicken can utter a piercing crow that will awaken those that slumber naturally within 200 feet and can be heard for at least two miles.

Limited Flight (Ex): A dire chicken can fly, albeit poorly and for short distances. It can use its flight ability to prevent taking falling damage or to fly upwards up to 30 feet. The dire chicken must always land at the end of each round of flight.

Pounce (Ex): When a dire chicken charges, it can follow with a full attack, including a spur attack (+5 melee, 1d3 damage).

Skills:
Dire chickens have a +2 racial bonus on intimidate and bluff checks, a +4 bonus to balance, escape artist, hide and spot checks, and a +6 bonus to survival checks. While in tall undergrowth this hide bonus increases to +6.

(Base stats for the chicken derived from Vorpal Tribble's stats for a gamecock, which is essentially a rooster bred for fighting, and "improved" using the Dire Template from Necromancer Games' Tome of Horrors. The section on skills and combat qualities is entirely the work of Vorpal Tribble. Basically, 90% of the work here belongs to other people, I just had the crazy idea and adapted it.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Allergies Suck

This summer has been kicking my ass like no other in recent memory. Let me try to describe it as partial justification for why I only posted once last week. This is kind of graphic, so the squeamish should take heed.
  1. I awake with the peculiar feeling of the Sahara having taken residence in my mouth. This is because earlier in the night, while I was sleeping, my nasal passages closed and so for the past four hours I've been breathing through my mouth to avoid suffocation. My tongue has a delightful coating of dried phlegm along its surface whose consistency resembles epoxy. My morning coffee and grapefruit juice are at industrial strength just so that I can taste them.
  2. My head aches almost immediately after I get up, due to the air trapped inside my sinus cavities. Said cavities also feel like they've been filled with cement. I have my daily fantasy of drilling holes into my skull and installing purge valves which allow me to rinse my sinuses with warm saline before vacuuming the mess out. I conclude that with body piercing and tribalism on the rise, I could totally rock the industrial-goth look with a rig like that and not look at all out of place. Perhaps even devise a line of fashionable valve accessories, like colorful caps which match my nail polish.
  3. Now that I am vertical, the mucous within my skull sloooooowly drains under the inexorable force of gravity. Half of it decides to go out my nose, which I am constantly blowing and wiping. The other half goes down the back of my throat, requiring me to make that age-old female decision of spit or swallow? I go with swallow, because it's easier and over the course of my life I've already consumed liters of my own snot. But regardless of which choice I make, I will still sound like the worst cold you've ever had giving an exceptionally messy blowjob.
  4. Oh look, it's noon. I've finally managed to expel most of the mucous from my head and am feeling mostly normal, but my nose is as red and raw as a W.C. Fields character. But god dammit, I can breathe now.
  5. I have about three hours of grace in which I must perform all tasks requiring higher brain functions. Lotsa luck, Erin.
  6. Around 4 pm, the Florida Afternoon Thunderstorm arrives. Now, I love thunderstorms, but these things push a pressure wave in front of them that causes excruciating headaches. Depending on my current sinus status and the direction of the storm, my head either feels like it's going to explode (low pressure front) or implode (high pressure front). I begin to ache fully an hour before the storm hits. Sometimes I take various painkillers but at this point I've built up a decent tolerance to anything that isn't prescription-strength.
  7. As the storm hits, I crawl into bed with the lights out and desperately try to relax. This is roughly equivalent to not flinching after receiving a static shock. I briefly contemplate the virtues of monastic asceticism and meditation before realizing I couldn't last a day without an internet connection.
  8. I wake up between 7 and 8 pm. Repeat steps 1-3, only this time now I have to deal with my family, walk my dogs, and fix and eat a dinner that's about 2 hours too late for my hypoglycemic ass.
  9. Try desperately to be productive between 11 pm and 2 am, which is the period after my family goes to sleep but before I go completely loopy from exhaustion.
  10. Say "fuck it" and play City of Heroes or Dungeons & Dragons Online before going to sleep.

I cannot wait for Fall.

The Fine Print


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