Friday, March 03, 2006

Just in time for Oscar

In case you wondered, my thoughts regarding Brokeback Mountain are up on the Daily Page.
Hey gay journalists

You oughta know that a Wisconsin chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association looks to be getting off the ground. So if you're gay and you're a journalist, see me after class.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I do enough role playing as it is

Wisconsin's most significant cultural export after Steve Meisner, the game of Dungeons & Dragons is having trouble staying relevant in the digital age. Or so I read. People want to use computer networks to rove the dungeons, it seems, and not mess around so much with the graph paper and the dodecahedrons.

The prosperity of the broader Lake Geneva region is at stake, and for that reason I hope Dungeons & Dragons pulls through. But you won't find me rolling for my charisma score anytime soon. I had my one experience with the game about 15 years ago, over the course of a week, and that was enough.

I was living with some D&D devotees at the time -- I was in college -- and their playing sessions intrigued me. Certainly I was familiar with the game. It figured prominently in the film E.T., and when I was a child I contemplated taking it up. (From the beginning, the game was denounced by various right-wing Christian groups, so I reasoned that it must have a lot going for it.) Still, I kept choosing sunshine and fresh air instead.

But I kept getting invitations to play from my housemates, especially the one who had no job and spent most of his time churning out various D&D-related maps and essays. So finally I relented. I decided it could be an act of sociological inquiry -- much like the first and only Phish concert I attended, years later.

And so we gathered around the dining room table one Friday evening. We had provisions (cigarettes, tequila), and we commenced by designing our characters. This I enjoyed. It seemed like an act of creativity, but largely amounted to filling out forms. I wish creativity were always so easy.

Then the game began. And then, 12 hours later, we were finished. It was light outside. I was pretty sure I hadn't enjoyed myself. I went to bed.

The next Friday my friends asked me to join them again. I said I wasn't willing to make that kind of time committment. "That last one was pretty long," they promised. We bought more cigarettes and tequila. We played once more.

Eight hours in, I was ready to stop. "Can I just kill myself?" I asked. No, they said. Eons later the game was done, and I renounced Dungeons & Dragons forever.

Since then I've stuck to gin rummy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Curling 4-ever

I posted to about the fact that for me, the Olympics are never going away. Kudos to Jason Joyce for the brilliant photocollage.
Good word

"I've been alive forever, and I wrote the very first song."

-- Bruce Johnston, "I Write the Songs"

Monday, February 27, 2006

Electric wha?

Some time back I reported that the Music Box Theatre in Chicago was having late-night screenings of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. I started to wonder: why Breakin' 2? Why not Breakin' 1? Would audiences be able to make sense of the sequel without knowing the important groundwork laid in the first installment?

They probably managed. But it's interesting that the Music Box showed the sequel only. Presumably that was to capitalize on the phrase "Electric Boogaloo" itself, which at some point entered the parlance -- or at least the snarky Gen-X parlance -- as shorthand for any second act that is needless, gratuitous, silly or otherwise objectionable.

At this point, though, the phrase is a cliche, a lazy laugh line. It reminds me of how I can tell I'm watching an inferior sitcom if one of the characters utters the "she is dead to me" line.

So I hereby pledge never to use the "Electric Boogaloo" gag in my writing. Unless it's an especially panicked deadline. Here's the work of some journalists who also need to take the pledge.

"I had to make the intellectual leap from Pitfall to Pitfall 2: Electric Boogaloo, or whatever it was called."
-- Jeff Vrabel, Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 5, 2004

"The sequel to Gone with the Wind is titled: a. Scarlett, b. Tara's Last Days, c. Gone With the Wind II: Electric Boogaloo. (The correct answer is a.)"
-- Laura Robin, Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 21, 1999

"Even in Hollywood's long history of producing implausible sequels, Phil Jackson's return to the Lakers still seems as unfathomable as James Cameron returning to direct Titanic 2: Electric Boogaloo."
-- Michael Lee, The Washington Post, Oct. 6, 2005