I Have a Confession to Make

I by no means mean this to be an afront to his greatness; it is a personal feeling. I grew up with Labyrinth and bought Scary Monsters fairly early in the 80's and would listen to it at night endlessly on headphones (and still do). Still when Let's Dance came on MTV, I found it boring, too mainstream. There were always the few other songs like Space Oddity that are just wonderful, and a few months ago, I, in my adultness, realized I had only one Bowie album and should buy more, because I have credit cards and my musical library is probably lacking records that should have long been in it. So then I sat with wikipedia discography entry for Bowie and YouTube and listened to at least two or three songs off every one of his albums. To be honest, at the end of it, except for Scary Monsters and the odd few songs that I had already heard, there was nothing I found that I liked. Not to say it was bad, I would describe it mostly as unoffensive to my tastes which is better than many artists even in genres I like, but nothing I liked and wanted to buy. Before SM, nothing is quite to my tastes and afterward, I found everything too bland.

Sometimes, it dawns on me how much of an 80's child I am. There will be bands I've never heard of but will be referenced and upon listening to them, I'll love them. They almost always are from the early 80's if not 1980 itself. Something about that time just led to result in things that I like, and I am not alone. There are certainly people my age who seem to feel the same. Much of this happened before I even listened to music, for which I had no interest in, until I started hearing this music that was somehow different and spoke to me. American Hardcore, New Wave, all the bands on Urgh! A Music War, etc. It's not like that was the music I was brought up with. I sifted through and discarded lots of music, and much of what I liked was obscure and hard to find, yet still there was this period of a few years, much recorded before I had even bought a record pretty much that I latched onto, to the point of only liking the one album made at that time by a consistantly good artist. Just sort of weird when I think about it sometimes.

2015/2016 Yearly Goals

It's 2016 and time to go over last year's and this year's yearly goals. Last year was pretty good. Some bad things did happened. My mother had a heart attack and my father has broken his hip. Hopefully, they'll get better and nothing will happen in 2016.

For 2015, we have the following goals:

-Politics: Goal was to read some books, keep track of things and get rredy for the election cycle. Pretty much did this.
-Convert VHS to DVD: Got all my old VHS that don't have DVD equivalents converted to digital form. Still working on getting DVDs created but the main goal of backing up all that stuff such as Wax Trax Video Samplers and Propaganda Video Magazines has been done.
-Publish Family Tree; I was well on my way after last Christmas, but my computer died and all the work I spent on that was the one thing I lost. I'm still trying to get back to where I was last February so I can try and convert it into an easy to look at format to give to the rest of the family.
-Buy a House: Fallen farther behind than I was last year. Still wanting one but need to get new pre-approval letters and talk to a realtor and actually look at houses.

For 2016:
-Refit wardrobe: Carharts and black tees are great but I feel I really need something a bit more stylish. If nothing else, I need to actually get my suits that I do have altered to fit me properly.
-Get Art Hung: I have a bunch of unframed art and a great deal of empty wall space in my apartment. As part of my "no longer a college student" goal, I'll try and get those two things solved.
-Paris: Plan is to go to Paris this year, and hit Wave-Gothic-Treffen too. It's the 25th anniversary of WGT and I think several other friends are going this year.
-Election: Time to pay attention to the election if just to keep track of what is going on. Besides the usual issues, I'll probably look at the caucus process and perhaps show up at one.

Several other (past) goals were done:
-Go to Bolivia: Originally it was to go to Paris which has been a goal for the last couple of years (and moved to 2016 now), but my dad wanted to go on a hunting trip to Bolivia with me, so I was able to add another new country to my list. Didn't see much of the cities, people or culture, but did get out in the rural area, saw eagles and owls in the wild areas between farmland where we hunted doves. Met the local menonites and some locals whose land we hunted on and that we gave the doves to.
-Redid Voltagemagazine.com: Finally got off my ass and redid the website and am keeping it updated with new content weekly. New content for the new website anyway, but mostly just old band photography of mine. Now I need to work on getting more content, either creating it or seeing if I can get other people to help. Grand goal is to not only have a place to host my photos, develop my web skills, but to get the site to a point I can use it to get photo passes into shows.

Back to LJ

I've tried it before, let's try it again. Hopefully, if nothing else, this little FB shake up will get me back to checking other social networks. LJ is my favorite, but for all the hours I spend on FB, I really do dislike it, or at least find it unproductive. I really need to get back to checking all my different web pages, favorites, social networks, etc rather than just clicking refresh on FB all the time. Sure, there's always new stuff there, but signal to noise is quite low.

Prelude to Yearly Goals

2014's Yearly Goals I am setting for myself will most likely include a lot of reading, so I am starting early. One of the goals will be to read Appendix N, which to those who don't know is the list of inspirational reading in the back of the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary Gygax, in other words, the inspirational material for the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. I stopped by the book store after dropping off my ballot today and bought a hand full of old fantasy paperbacks by some authors I have never heard of, let alone read. Many others I skipped because specific series were mentioned. I expect this will easily be two books a month for the year of 2014.

Add in my normal reading and that another yearly goal will involve reading books too, and there is lots to be read next year.

Fantasy Fucking Vietnam: Basic Training

For the first game, there were two players that were able to make it on short notice. I decided upon third Thursday of every month as it danced around my upcoming time on call for work and going to Burning Man. Thus the first game was "this Thursday" and many of my friends have busy lives. I had just watched Full Metal Jacket again and was interested in doing some boot camp stuff, but felt that it would be hard to really get the sort of personal pathos portrayed in the movie without yelling at the PCs in character the entire time. Instead, it was used to try and introduce the setting as well as describe the military style of the game.

The game will be fairly unique for a couple of reasons. FIrst, it takes place in my own personal homebrew world. This is pretty much insignificant except for the military theater where they will be fighting in. Going back to their normal D&D style world, either dead or alive, is the end of the campaign. The part of the setting we're playing in is something I'm creating as we go which is a large jungle surrounded by mountains on the Southern Continent below the equator. The terrain is a large river which goes inland and curves to the south. On the outside of the curve are wooded mountains and on the inside is a jungle plain. The people and culture are unique and strange being modeled after not only on SE Asia but also the Trolls of WoW. The Gods are unique and in many cases animist spirits. They are all the remnants of a much older culture with ruins scattered in the jungle. The other way the game will be different from what they are used to is that it will be a military game. They will be part of a military unit with officers above them they must obey or risk suffering military discipline. There will be ranks, basic loads, unit organizations, officers, assigned duties, busy work, and the sorts of things that adventurers do not normally have to deal with. The players will be part of a platoon of around 40 guys. The PCs attending for the session will typically be in one or two squads the action will center on with the rest filled out by NPCs.

In our first session, we find a cleric and halfling ranger on a ship to the war. They are from a large and powerful kingdom that sees itself as having a long and proud history of being lawful good. To the point that even evil nobles will be offended if you described their country as anything but lawful and good. The kingdom has been at peace for quite some time as none of their neighbors could threaten them seriously even if they tried. It is still mostly medieval and while most eldest children will inherit their parents stations and land, the younger children of well to do families are often only provided for by the (PC class) training they receive before expected to find their own way in the world, most of which are of a martial nature. Being at peace in a civilized land means their options are leaving to find adventure in a distant land, turning to banditry, or being hired by a patron to kill bandits. In this case, the PCs have opted to join the army to seek fame and glory in a foreign land.

In this case, their kingdom has been approached by the elves to aid them in an ancient battle. They have long battled the forces of chaos and in the jungles of the Southern Continent have been fighting against the forces of an empire in service to such a power and ruled by six liches. Their forces are on the move and the elves sought to stop them. The elves, however, find themselves unable to deal with it on their own and have approached the PC's king to aid them, and the king has agreed. An army was raised by both taking on volunteers as well as conscription and sent to aid in the battle of the Souther lands. The PCs are skilled citizens who have enlisted for whatever reason at a higher rank and pay (than the conscripts) with the obligation of providing their own armor and weapons.

Our two begin their adventures stepping off the ship with a group of other soldiers onto an island fortress of the elves. Some fifty miles off the coast is a collection of islands ruled by the elves. They are on an island fortress, perhaps one mile by three, which the PCs kingdom has been allowed to also use to stage and command their war efforts. Here, they will be officially inducted into the military and given basic training. They disembark from the boat onto the docks to find a collection of barrels next to them, each one with a name on it. One of the PCs is looking for their own names when a dock worker tells them that "the officers get brandy instead of vinegar to preserve them on the way back home" as they figure out that each barrel contains a dead soldier going back home in the hold of the ship they arrived on.

Shortly, a soldier arrives who announces that his is their drill instructor and they will do what he says. His first instruction is to line and up and follow him. Along the way, they see a formation of 30-40 griffins and riders heading off the island to the East towards the mainland. While passing a bar, as there is essentially a town inside the walls of the fortress, one of the PCs asks if they can stop for a drink. The drill instructor announces to everybody that the PC has graciously asked to buy everybody the last beer they'll see for some time. He has the bartender line up a beer for everybody including himself, makes the PC pay for them all (1 sp each), downs his beer in one gulp and tells everybody else they have five seconds to finish theirs before they start marching again. Nobody asks him any more questions along the way to their destination.

Their destination is a large warehouse filled with a row of tables with mean and gear on the other side. They are instructed to line up and go to each table to get their kit. The first table is for their paybook the instructor tells them. They will fill out the book with their name, home, etc as well as finger prints and signature (if possible). Duplicate entries will be made in the armies ledger. The book will be their record of time served, pay,meals, and equipment issued, as well as acting as their identification. The next table gave them a metal box as they are told that for the next two years (the time of their enlistment) all their worldly possessions must either be carried on them or in their box. The other tables issues the rest of their basic load of equipment. The last table issued squad equipment which usually consisted of a shovel, 50' of rope, grapple hook, or sewing kit. Luckily, or 6 STR cleric got the sewing kit which is the lightest of all items.

They were then taken to their barracks and began their training. Training began by teaching them how to march, instructing them in military command structure, ranks, orders, by laws, etc. as well as how to march, and how to take care of their gear, plus a little bit more of how to march. They are instructed in the laws of combat and engagement, military discipline, and so forth. A large part of training is also not for teaching the characters skills, but to see what skills they already have. The stipulated pay they have been told is one gold piece per level per day while in the army. The fine print of their contracts actually has modifications that can be made for having or not having certain skills. Fighter type classes for example are expected to have some degree of Knowledge, Engineering, clerics, healing, etc. and not having such skills can result in a 1 cp/day pay cut. Likewise, having skills such as ride, or fly, can result in pay bonus or assignment to cavalry. This training lasted two weeks, and then they were shipped to the mainland to be assigned to their units.

Once on the mainland, they talked to the sergeant to assign them to their units. There was some hemming and hawing by the sergeant before he seemed upset and assigned them to a unit. As they were being taken to their unit, it was explained to them that the sergeant was wanting a bribe to put them in a good (and safe) unit, but having failed to provide the bribe, they are being sent to a rough one. The two arrive at their new barracks with their iron box just in time to be told they have ten minutes to put away their stuff and get ready to march out on patrol.

Next game: On Patrol

Fantasy Fucking Vietnam

“The thief, the one they called Blackleaf, was from Waterdeep. She was wrapped too tight for the Dungeon, probably wrapped too tight for Waterdeep. Elfstar with her magic missile spell was a famous mystic from the woods south of Shadowdale. You look at her and you wouldn't believe she ever cast a spell in her whole life. Ironwolf, Morgan Ironwolf, was from some South Neverwinter shithole. Light and space of the Dungeon really put the zap on her head. Then there was Frederick, the Dwarf. It might have been my quest, but it sure as shit was the Dwarf's party.”

The term "fantasy fucking Vietnam" was first used as a derogatory manner when describing what was seen old school Dungeons and Dragons playing style of clearing dungeons room by room. Each step in the dungeon dealt with traps, monsters, and tactical decisions which would mean the survival or death of the PC in question. The first time I ran across it was in an rpg.net thread that the above quote was taken out of. It was a thread that took the meaning at face value and people described a fantasy Vietnam war where the grunts were adventures, the dungeons were full of VC equivalents with all the Vietnam movie and literary tropes added. I thought this was a great idea and posted the below as an introduction to the game I wanted to run:

"This is fantasy fucking vietnam. The PCs are sent by their kingdom to a pantheon forsaken jungle to fight an expanding necromantic empire while ordered to fight under Lawful Stupid rules of engagement by naive nobles of a lower level while the real reason they are there is to keep the gold mines open and flowing into the coffers of people who aren't even in country. River cannibals led by a rebel lord. Mountain barbarians. Flights of elves on griffens that fly in and burn a village down with wands of fireballs simply because some wizard sent a message spell back to base saying they found undead activity. Add in usual tomb crawling and such too.

This is an experiment in playing D&D while exploring Vietnam war tropes of movies, novels, and pop culture. Will it be an alignment hellhole or a murderhobo paradise? It is an on going D&D game on the 3rd Thursday of every month. Due to the infrequency and experimental subject matter, each night should move quickly and be self contained and handle whoever shows up each month. There will be role play as well as combat, probably in equal amounts.

Character Creation: using Pathfinder Core Rulebook and http://www.d20pfsrd.com/. 4d6, drop lowest, then re-roll 1's; six times and arrange for stats. Only Core races and classes. You only need to buy weapons and armor with starting money."

I now have players and we are meeting once a month to play said game. I've been watching every Vietnam movie I can get my hands on. I've checked TV Tropes. I've started collecting The 'Nam comic and reading it. I'll be posting updates about the games here and otherwise looking for comments or neat ideas I can add.

Next game: Two characters go to basic training.

Burning Man 2013

2013 was a good Burning Man. Probably not the best but, although some bad things happened, certainly not the worst. Several people this year said "You don't always get the Burning Man you want, but hopefully, you get the Burning man you need." In thinking it over, the event is a sort of spirit quest. I do not necessarily mean that is even a spiritual manner, but rather it is a major undertaking where people find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, with different social rules and mores, while suffering from the inevitable heat, cold, altitude, dehydration, sleep dep, alkaline attack of the environment, and stresses that come from trying to get things done under those conditions. After a week or even a few days of that, even when prepared, things start to crack. It's no surprise that there are common stories of friendships, camps, relationships, and even marriages breaking up before it's all over with. This is not always in a bad light. Just as often people get a look at themselves and those around them to realize what it is that is important to them and the time to be introspective about it. Another common story is that Burning Man is a life changing event, and I do not doubt that. It is a physically harsh environment which takes its mental and emotional toll and just making it through is an achievement in itself.

Anyway, some bad things happened. Several of our normal campers in Black Rock City Hardware Shoppe could not make it. Two were running a business after their partners left and could not spare the time. One was working on a tall ship during that time and would not be able to make it. One could not make it as she had no healed up enough from surgery to go and had to back out two weeks before leaving after finding even the highway trip down to Olympia putting her in too much pain. Despite being short staffed we headed down in good spirits and this was helped by making good time and a stay over at hot springs in Oregon. Then, perhaps 10 minutes after we had gotten onto the playa and been shown our assigned camp location, we opened up the truck and started throwing out the sleeping pads we had used the previous night. The first two people in line picked up the pads and began carrying them off to the side. Along the way, they began to bounce off each other like sumo wrestlers when Piston rolled her ankle, put her weight on it, and suffered a tib fib fracture. We had to stop, locate medical help, and then arrange for a car for her boyfriend to driver her into Reno. Meanwhile, the county sheriffs department and other law enforcement, in what is essentially a dispute over money since they tried to change their charges for the event but got spanked in court because there were already contracts in place, were ticketing anybody they could. They ticketed the DPW for not having a BRC DMV license weeks before the BRC DMV were even on site. They ticketed one friend who was telling other people who had gotten tickets to talk to the law enforcement liaison for Burning Man and fill out the forms asked for by law enforcement for "Obstructing Justice".

Good things happened too. Everybody joked about their tickets as they will almost assuredly be dropped. Camp got set up with no disasters despite being down many people. Our neighbor camps were old friends on all sides. Piston showed back up in good spirits. The mobility camp next door who help the disabled around the playa loaned her an electric scooter to get around on. The Clown Camp behind us offered their art car to driver her (and us) around on and watch the burn. Instead of our friend that had surgery, we took down a doll to represent her in pictures. We proceeded to spend the week getting pictures with her doing interesting things, making out with Frenchmen, and in the shower with hot girls. We met with all sorts of friends that we hadn't seen since last Burning Man, met new friends, and there were at least three different (actual real, binding) weddings on the playa between friends. The art was amazing. The Burn was awesome. There was too much to do.

My 2013 Burning Man Photos

Trey Ratcliff's Burning Man Photos

Burning Man 2013 Time-Lapse: Seen Miles Away From A Mountain

IRDeep's 2013 Burning Man Photos

The Atlantic Magazine 2013 Burning Man Photos (#24 is a bad picture of the art car I was on during the burn. The one in front of the octopus.)

Scott London's Photos of 2013 Burning Man

Hello Again

Hello, Livejournal! It's so nice to see you again, with all your content from people I know. You're not filled with nothing but links to website lists, internet rants, or cat macros. We should hang out more often. I know I've said that in the past, and I've meant it. I just procrastinate a lot.

Trip from Portland to Communist Poland

Ah, the things that one thinks up on long lonely drives between Seattle and Portland. I just remembered a rather long and detailed idea I had for a video series while heading down there at the end of last year for the Vespertine Ball. I had been wanting to do some video that year and thus had it on my mind and came up with the idea, or rather a couple of ideas and over the trip stitched them together into a whole story in my head. Now writing them down so I can remember them better.

Story starts out with the words "Communist Poland, 1996". As we follow our protagonist, we discover that the iron curtain did not fall. Rather than let Poland and other countries open up, Russia opted for war rather than collapse and declared martial law and occupied the Warsaw Pact states. The Cold War continues hotter than ever with constant threat of World War 3. This is all learned from context as it is way above our protagonist, a lowly factory worker who has is own problems as his wife and only child have recently died in an accident. The episode ends with him in his kitchen drinking with the radio playing while holding the letter that informs him that he is no longer employed. Most episodes were meant to end this way, him drinking at his kitchen table after something bad has happened, and we learn a little bit more about the world via what is on the radio. The second episode ends with him being broke and facing eviction. The series was to follow the model of Breaking Bad and the Eastern European saying that "Things can always get worse." (This will not be a nice story.)

From there, he falls in with the wrong crowd in an effort to make money and things look better for him. He ends up doing some horrible things, and betraying some old time friends and burning some bridges in the process. After a warehouse torture scene, his new friend and ally reveals that he is not actually working for the mob, but for the KGB in their take over of the Polish mob. Our protagonist is dumbstruck till his new, only friend not only insults Poland which our protagonist takes in stride, but his dead wife and kid. At that point, he picks up a length of 1" rebar and beats the KGB agent to death with it. From there things go downhill with him having burned his bridges and killed the only person protecting him. He ends up caught and sent to a prison camp with one suitcase of clothes.

In the camp, he deals with prison life, makes more mob contacts, and finally is adopted into a group that is going to escape or die. Some escape and some die, but our protagonist and his new friend end up in Warsaw. There with his new rep having escaped the camp with a mob boss regaining his status, he starts to move up in the ranks. One of the main visual points I built the story around happens at this point. For his status, he needs a suit as all the Polish wiseguys wear suits. Indeed, all the important people wear suits, and those that are part of the establishment wear communist pins on their labels. He has no good clothes and is being made fun of by those around him for it so he goes to have one made only there is no good material due to Russians, rationing, etc. He thus opts to have one made out of gaudy material, perhaps upholstry, so he now has this nice tailored suit of this horribly guady material. While the girl tries to sell him a communist lapel pin, he says no and instead tells her to give him a pin of the Polish flag as a joke. Of course, everybody laughs at his suit, but continues on. As he moves up in the ranks and gains status, the other younger wiseguys start appearing dressed in similar suits of gaudy material. Eventually, even the older guys start wearing them as it becomes a symbol along with the Polish pin on the lapel.

More later.

2012/2013 Yearly Goals

First, we look at the 2012 yearly goals:

1) Work on videos/movies - I did not even buy a video camera. I'm a bit up set this never happened. Seemed like a good skill to have and despite my work asking for something along the same lines, the answer was easy and doable with photoshop.

2) Build props/costume - Did this. Bought a bunch of stuff and worked in Luke's shop and made a Van Haller lightning gun that I entered into the SteamCon costume contest with. It was fun and I want to do more prop making in the shop.

3) Gothic Tea Party - Set up, bought stuff, invited people over and had a nice party but never even took any photos. Didn't get my pig but did have absinthe. I'l consider this one done although I do like bigger, more elaborate parties.

4) Compose a history of Oklahoma Hardcore - Got on this early and wrote some and contacted many people in the OK HC scene I knew from back in the day. I downloaded some music and pictures and was getting a good start on the thing. Then I never did any more. Still want to do this and put it out as a separate small book.

Two out of four isn't good but I also did my NaNoWriMo task from the early 00's and finished a 50k story in one month. So all is not lost. I expect to continue on the two I didn't do and eventually complete them.

Yearly Goals for 2013

1) Work in new media, painting - I figure I'll try something besides photography. So I'll attempt to paint some photos I've done and experiment. If I can get them into some art shows, that would be even better.

2) New event - I'd like to commit to the Edwardian Ball (a dance based on the works of Edward Gorey) but I'm still waiting for the lazy SOB of a manager to get my on call schedule done for the next year. Anyway, if I can't do that, I plan on checking off some event that I want to attend that I haven't yet.

3) New Country - Once again, I'd like to commit to something more specific, but I don't have my schedule for next year. Thus, I'm just putting the goal out there for a new country. I currently have plans to attend WGT in 2013 and visit either Paris or Greece before or after, but in the end, I'll settle for flying to Iceland.

4) Do Christmas - The plan for 2013 is to do all the Christmas stuff I never do, cards, presents, cookies, etc. So, December of 2013, I expect to be a buzy little beaver getting presents and coal ready for all my friends. Back in college, I did cards a couple of times and liked it. This year, I'll try and get on the ball and do all that.