This could have been me…

Had I made a few choices differently, but only a very few.
Don’t walk, but RUN to see this. It is hilarious and fascinating.

Childhood, Kung Fu and Epiphany

On a whim, I began netflixing the old TV series “Kung Fu” with David Carradine. As I’ve been ticking off the seasons and the episodes, they all had this feeling of familiarity. Then it dawned on me that I used to watch it all the time when I was like 7 or 8. As Kwai Chang Kane’s master started quoting passages from the Tao Te Ching it hit me. The roots of my philosophical and spiritual inklings were sooo influenced by this show. It’s scary.

Then I wondered why they couldn’t have an actual Chinese actor to play Kane. Ah, the 70’s.

A Tribute to Gary Gygax: Father of Dungeons and Dragons

It was 1982 when I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons at Camp Longhorn when I was in Boy Scouts. My friend Brian was my first Dungeonmaster (this was a year before I learned what BDSM was from Oui magazine). The game was a revelation for a pubescent boy. It was a world where you could become a powerful, able individual whose choices and actions were on the scale of the heroic. It was a game that you could play with all of your friends, and they could develop differently abled but equally powerful characters of their own.

Sometimes you would face insurmountable odds, and it would take the effort of all of the characters in your adventuring band to win the battle/solve the riddle/complete the quest.  In those early days, we created characters that were impossibly powerful. I remember my first character, Phantom, culled gods from various pantheons to amass the powerful magical items they possessed. After a few months, this became boring, and this period later became known as “The Impossible Days”.

In middle school (1984), Brian and I expanded our game to include Mike and Tim. When we went to high school, the Daves were added. It was this core group that would not only become the gaming group but also would turn out to be my closest confidants for the rest of my life.  Mike, Tim, and I gamed together the most.  One year we even won a first place award for our diarama at GenCon (the world’s original gaming convention) in 1988.

Brian and Dave 1 left for college out of town.  Mike, Tim, Dave 2 and myself went to college in town (UW-Milwaukee). Tim moved into a dingy cottage set at the end of a walkway between two buildings, which we later named “Midian” after the graveyard in the film Nightbreed. For the next three years, I ran a campaign that met every sunday. We adventured across “The Forgotten Realms” and added Brent (a punk rock bassist who had an obnoxious edge but the sweetest guy you could meet).  It was this game that truly honed my skills of story-telling and role-playing. I even went as far as planning out the use of particular musical accompaniment for certain narrative parts. We also smoked a whole lot of pot and drank lots of wine.  There was one game that ended when Dave 2 began heaving his guts out in Tim’s bathroom.  We all were quiet for a second, then the sound of Dave vomiting erupted, and I said “I guess we’ll call it here” without missing a beat.

A little less than a year ago, I wed Tim to his wife. I talked to Dave in Chicago where he’s convalescing because of some chronic health issues. Dave  is a father of two back in Wisconsin, and Mike is a father of one.  Brian just called me tonight to say “Gary Gygax died this week. Give me a call if you need some support.” Tim and Brian live in Portland, and I spend time at their house pretty regularly. Tim and I have developed a wild hair recently to get a game together, and Brian has mocked us for wanting to.  It’s strange that the guy that got me into D&D would turn into the ‘cool kid’ who is too good for the game.  That’s the irony of life, I guess.

Thank you Gary Gygax for producing and endlessly entertaining game that led to deep, meaningful, and long-term friendships. Thank you for making a game that is built on collaboration, imagination, and story-telling.  Thank you for the 40 minute conversation we had at Napoleon’s in 1992 when you had your wife sport the huge diamond you bought her.  It was magical being able to find out that one of my icons was just another human being.  If I had a resurrection spell, I’d bring you back, but I know you wouldn’t want to live with a lower constitution.

The finer art of Transcription.

Since returning to Portland, I’ve fallen into transcribing the 45 hours or so of one-on-one interviews I compiled during my fieldwork studying the improv scene of Rochester, NY.  When I look at the numbers, it seems daunting.  When I look at how much time I have before I absolutely need to have a job, it makes me a little panicky. When I look at the words and listen to the interview as an analyst, I become very excited and intrigued. Sometimes I laugh out loud, and sometimes I hiss “Yessss” through my teeth while clenching my fist.

I started the draft of my thesis today, and it was exciting.

Here’s some quotes from various audience members and performers:

  • I find it very interesting to see the stumbling and recovery skills.  That’s terrific, really fun.   (Why do you think that’s terrific?)  Well because in real life we always get ourselves into jams, and, you know, the temptation is to feel terrible, just ashamed, and you know you want to disappear, die.  Please kill me. Take me now! But you know, children have this task to develop recovery skills from jams, you know, things that go on. And, you know, the better you do that, the easier the world will be.
  • It’s kind of like going to see a movie. You might not even be interested in it, but, you know, your favorite actor’s in it. You know, you know the person. You know their work.  They’ve made you laugh in the past. So you go and see them this time.
  •  Music or opera that involves a number of musicians and talents done to the Nth degree would be comparable to the best improv.
  • It wasn’t the sexual titillation of it, it was the horror of watching two people give themselves over to what developed between them in that space.
  • I was very touched [by a show]…I mean, that’s no lie, and I just said, “What if I lived that way?”   And it caused me to examine, on the lowest level, what if I said “yes, and..” to you and you [pointing randomly at people].
  • I wasn’t falling asleep like I sometimes do. In fact, they kept me awake, and I have narcolepsy. The guy that I was with kept looking at me to make sure I’m awake because he pokes me. And I said, “I’m not falling asleep”, and I stayed awake through that whole thing.
  • Man, it goes dark and dirty quickly.  It always does.  Comedy always does.  People relate to it somehow.  It breaks the ice.  It’s like ‘we all have this in common. We all love dirty jokes’. 
  • If the audience never saw human sacrifice Canasta, then I think they would be cheated.

There’s more, and only some of it will end up in my thesis.  I started writing it today, and I’m going for a draft by March.  Wish me luck.

When online quizzes get it right.

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Druid (6th Level)

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Favorite quote from an audience interview.

Ok.  So I’m in the midst of doing interviews of audience members from Improv shows out here.  Here’s a great one from the voice of the uninformed and uninitiated about suggestions.  This was this guy’s first “professional” improv show he had ever seen.

 “I like it when they don’t take those suggestions like ‘gynecologist’ and ‘proctologist’.  Any bunch of meatballs can do something with that.  You know. Come on, that’s too easy.  I liked that they took something else. I can stay home and watch a bunch of meatballs on TV do that kind of stuff.  To me, there’s more, I don’t know, ‘artistry’ or ‘craft’ in being able to take something that’s maybe more mundane and do something funny and interesting with that.”

Audience Recommendation  14: Don’t be a meatball, take the more mundane suggestion.