Being the random thoughts of Greg Tito, age 29.

Announcements for my standup comedy gigs are here at gregtito.com.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

D&D = Dorks and the Devil

I've spoken in depth before of the prejudices against those who play video games in our culture. In some people's minds (read, assholes), gamers are all wasting their time when they should be doing their homework. If they are too old for homework, then they are peter pan-types who desparately need to grow up and/or become miserable like the rest of the country. Most of you can agree that this line of thinking is complete bullshit. Of my circle of friends, I may be the most voracious gamer but I am not alone.

But there is one game for which I receive plenty of scorn and derision.
My wife Mephistopholes, god bless her, is the worst culprit. She practically holds up a cross every time I tell her that I'll be playing that night. But even my dorkiest friends shudder when I mention that I play *gasp* Dungeons and Dragons.

I don't get it.

I mean, I suppose that most of this bad reputation comes from the whole D&D backlash in the early 80s. Two suicides, 1 in 1979 and 1 in 1982, were blamed in the press on the victim's obsession with D&D. Never mind that these 2 kids were extremely sick mentally, were drug-addicts and exhibited all of the warning signs typical of suicides months before their deaths. No, let's blame it all on a game that not many people knew about at the time, that makes more sense than placing any kind of responsibility with the parents.

One of these mothers, Pat Pulling, did more for damaging D&D's public perception than anything else by forming
Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD), an effective propaganda machine. Of course, the tactics employed by this radical group are just as much in question as their stance against role playing games. They were thrown out of courtrooms throughout the 80s and even committed mild brainwashing of an accused murderer, Darren (not Paul) Molitor, into releasing a statement which blamed D&D for his actions. PS. I got all this from a quick Google search which brought up this page.

While BADD was eventually discredited and dissolved, the attitude of the Christian conservatives and nervous mothers across the country were irrecovably aligned against a game where the players pretend to be fantasy fighters and elves. I'm not sure how religion got mixed up into it but you need only read this Jack Chick pile of shit to figure out how easy it is to damn something you know nothing about. (The advocation of burning books in that comic is more creepy than D&D if you ask me)

Growing up in an extremely Catholic environment (I was forbidden to watch the Simpsons, MTV, Steve Martin), I was never able to play D&D as a hobby. Having been an avid reader of fantasy since my introduction to the Hobbit, I was fascinated with a game that would let me be a part of the great epic stories I was reading. I guess it was the writer in me wanting to imagine wonderful, complex worlds and create characters which would have compelling stories to tell. At any rate, my mother, being the impressionable Catholic she was, listened to all the warmongering of the above-mentioned crazies and did everything she could to discourage my interest.

I can understand my mother having a attitude predilection against D&D, my mother is nothing if not predictable, but I don't understand my recent conversations with my peers. The trickle-down effect from people like my mother to New York City hipsters is quite surprising.

Let me try to explain what exactly happens when one plays D&D, to avoid any confusion. One dude is a DM and he's the one who, in effect, writes the story. He figures out what challenges we will face over the course of an adventure. The players, which have invariably formed some kind of team like The Fellowship of the Ring and have as many disparate parts, then go about solving the mystery, defeating the monster or finding the treasure, whatever the case may be. This is done by saying stuff like, "I search for secret doors" or "I attack." Whenever something like that comes up where there is a chance for failure, a die is rolled. That's it. The players must continue to communicate, work together, and problem-solve until the goal is reached.

It's important to keep in mind that D&D is just a game. It is no different than poker, or chess, or Monopoly, or Pictionary, or fucking anything made by Milton Bradley. Sometimes there is a board or map which you can place miniatures, but that is really just an aid to help the players visualize their relative positions. The majority of the game is played in your imagination, like a book.

Which is what appeals to me about role-playing games, really. It is different from its computer or console counterparts which show you exactly where your chracter is at any given moment. Traditional pen &paper D&D forces you to imagine what the DM is describing to you, which, if he is worth his salt, can be as interesting as any novel. But unlike a book, I am able to act in this imaginary world as if I was a character.

When I talk about playing D&D with my peers, I invariably get the same response. They think it's somehow terribly uncool. "Only dorks with no friends play D&D. You don't want to associate with some pimply-faced nerds, do you?" My own Mephistopholes has gone so far as to accuse all roleplayers as gay faggots who all want to penetrate my virgin ass. Why would I want to spend my time with such losers? "Why are you such a loser?" "It's weird." "Do you all prance about in costume casting spells at each other?"

The closemindedness is somehow frightening to me. Have we not graduated past all of that prejudice when we graduated from high school? Are you all as impressionable as my Mother and the Christian right?

Let me dispell a few demons: The handful of people I've met who play RPGs in New York have not been weirdos or rapists or devil-worshippers. They have been mostly male 20-40, professionals, about 50% are either married or married with children. One works in the administration of U.S. congressman. One was a teacher in a Manhattan school for 20 years before becoming a live-at-home Dad. Two were illustrators, one just staring out and one accomplished. In short, they are kinda like me. They are on average more intelligent, better spoken, and more well-read than the kind of people I meet at my boring job full of people who "are normal."

We don't sacrifice animals while playing. There are no occult symbols drawn on the floor or demon summonings going on. There is no mind-controlling or brainwashing from death cults or homosexuals. D&D is just a bunch of guys sitting around playing a game they are all interested in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish making my half-elf ranger.

Friday, October 21, 2005

National Fuck Challenge

This weekend, I am participating in the NFC which basically goes down like this:

  • 7pm on Friday, receive a genre, a line, a prop and a character via email
  • Write a fantastic short film
  • Saturday, begin filming said short film
  • Sunday, edit footage of fantastic short film, begin to panic because you only took one take of a very compelling scene in which the protagonist tells the antagonist to fuck off and the antagonist's toupee is awry
  • Monday, slap shit together, burn a dvd, put a stamp on it and send it off to be judged by those who judge such things
All in all, it's a great way to spend a weekend. Despite the above tone, I am actually pretty excited to embark on this challenge. I've been trying to convince Savage to do one of these things (there are several such contests including the 48 hour Fim Project, NYC Movie Madness, and the 24 Hour plays) for many years. There is something great about being forced to make a movie in a such a constrained time limit. And seeing as I haven't made anything since August 2004, this is long overdue.

I'm trying to speculate what genre we are going to get. The examples are things like Sci-Fi, Comedy, Romance, Police, Superhero, Fantasy (which should be lumped in with Sci-fi in my opinion but who's counting?) and Action. We have tried to brainstorm what we would do if we had each of these genres, but what if they throw us a ringer?

Could we make a Porn in a weekend? If so, we will die trying.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I will not blog about the Red Sox until 2006

The title says it all. After reviewing the last few weeks of posts, I see that most of my rambling has been about the team from Beantown. At the risk of alienating my fans, I promise not to indulge in any more Red Sox related ranting until the sun has risen on a new year and spring training is imminent. I will not participate in any hot stove discussions involving Millar or any other ineffectual first-basemen. My mind will be devoid of any musings involving Damon's (lack of) contract or Scott Boras's assholeness. I will not even consider whether Papelbon should be converted back into a starter or if Kelly Shoppach should be used as trade bait to secure some decent releivers. From here on out, I will not think about the Red Sox anymore.

...


...


...

Jeter swallows!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Word of the Week: schadenfreude

Dictionary.com says:

scha·den·freu·de (sh├Ądn-froid) n.
Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

I've seen the word on at least two Sox-related sites in the last few days. I have schadenfreude because the Yankees tanked in Game 5 against the Angels, looking like fools no less. The headlines in the city today, which I read every morning on the subway when people hold up their papers [who actually buys the Post or the Daily News?], are all about how George Steinbrenner is going to nuke the team. Joe Torre's once-secure job is in danger. Everybody is pointing fingers here in New York City, at Gay-Rod to the Big Unit (I don't even have to come up with a snappy re-nickname, he's already known as a Big Dick.)

And I couldn't be happier.

The only downside to the Yankees being out of the playoffs is that I now don't have any team to root against. I guess I'd like Guillen and the White Sox to succeed, ending their drought but also (and more importantly) making the Red Sox lose to the eventual World Series Champions. It's somehow better to lose to the best team in baseball.

Incidentally, a co-worker (Mets fan, not Yankees) pointed out a piece in the Wall Street Journal describing the Soxaholix. I realize I am late to the party but this site is, in a word, fucking awesome. It's 1 part webcomic, 1 part blog, and 1 part literary journal. The author uses allusions to poems and literature to describe the typical Sox fans in an Office-like environment. All the art is clip-art that shipped with Microsoft Office XP and the text is actually html, which means you can copy, paste, and hyperlink it. He even annotates each comic so that you know where the more obscure shit comes from. Soxaholix basically proves the famous quote:

“All literary men are Red Sox fans. To be a Yankee fan in literary society is to endanger your life.”
-- John Cheever

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I knew it

I hate to say that i called it, but whatever. These Boston players didn't look like men poised and ready. They didn't look like they were ready to pounce on any pitch left in the strike zone (there were a lot of called first strikes.) Boston didn't look like the same team, ready to pick each other up and work together to manufacture a win at whatever the cost. They just looked tired.

It's a shame really. An embarassment. To be swept like that in Fenway with a billion fans watching is a crime which will not be forgotten easily.

The team knew that they were on the ropes. Despite amazing shots from Ortiz and Manny (2,) the offense which led the majors couldn't string together any kind of hits. They're best chance in the sixth, bases loaded with no outs, was squandered. When Varitek, our supposed captain, fouled out, it set the tone. We would get close, but never close the door on what is a inferior Chicago White Sox team.

That's right, I said it. The White Sox, to a man, were not better than their Red opponents. But they played like they were. Konerko and Everett do not compare to Manny and Ortiz. I would even argue that their pitching staff doesn't have the same raw talent that ours does (or did.) But the performance wasn't there because Boston didn't want to win.

Who can say why? They could have had enough. After 162 games in 5 months, they wanted to go home to their families. Damon is more worried about his contract. The big news on Friday was Ramirez's search for a new agent, not what he was going to do to win that night. And even after hitting two home runs, manny didn't seem to care that the season was over.

And I'll reiterate what I've been saying to Rain Delay for almost a year. It was a mistake to let Pedro and D-Lowe go. The 2005 postseason might even be a refutation of the whole Money Ball concept. The numbers were there, but OBP doesn't mean crap if nobody wants to win. I do think Epstein is a brilliant young GM, and it would have been impossible to recreate the magic of 2004, but the gambles didn't work this year. The OC would have been a bigger asset than Renterror, and I'd rather have D-Lowe as a No. 3 starter than Wade (shoulder never healed) Miller.

We can play second-guessing all winter long but the fact is that the season is over. I predict the core team of 2004 will dismantle. Damon is gone. Manny is gone. Schilling will retire (if he knows what's good for him) and so will Wells. Varitek and Wake are locked in, but you can kiss Millar goodbye. If Epstein is smart (which we all know he is,) 2006 will be about bringing in the young talent. Papelbon, Shoppach, Hanley Ramirez and Craig Hansen will get the time they need to develop into the stars they have the capability to be. And hopefully Theo will get a us a fucking bullpen.

But overall, the 2005 did more for Red Sox nation than is first realized. The Red Sox are not comfortable being favored to win anything. Defending Champions is a hard moniker to bear. Every team has your number and wants a piece of you. Let's face it, the Red Sox are not built to be a dynasty. How many fans were quoted, "I don't know what to do, now that we've won"? And it's true, the Red Sox are underdogs. We'd rather be losers with a fool's shot at winning than a powerhouse that everyone expects to dominate. Leave that to that evil franchise to the south.

So the real Red Sox are back. We have a new hard-luck story (Graffanino's gaffe [how's that for an already overused headline?] in Game 2) and our underdog status has returned. 2004 is part of the history now, not recent news. We have a new cross to bear.

And to be honest I felt like they did. I was tired. I didn't know if I could wear my heart on my sleeve for the rest of the postseason. I was not looking forward to defending my passion for the Sox against the onslaught of Yankee jeers at work. It's over. It was a good run, I invested a lot of emotion into that team, but now I'm busted. I am at zero.

The perfect place to start 2006.

Friday, October 07, 2005

My First Escapist

In other news, the article I mentioned earlier ran here today.

I love the way The Escapist crafts their pages and they did a great job with this article in particular. I like the quill on paper with a computer screen in the background. In fact, that actually looked like my room when I was in Montauk (except I was using a stylus on a clay tablet but who's counting?)

Take the oppurtunity to look at the whole magazine, there are some good pieces in there. Mark Wallace's piece is intriguing for anyone who has lived through a beta-test and/or an economics class. There's one piece in there about the American Girl phenomenon and why there should (or should never) be a video game based on those buxom ladies of history. There's even a meet-the-press kind of section in which all the contributers were asked a question. I won't spoil it, but my answer involves tranmogrification and forever altering the space time continuum.

There's also a mini-debate surrounding this issue's inclusion of full-page advertisements (for beer!? how could they?!) I personally don't know what the hell these "irate" readers are talking about. The Escapist is a magazine, albeit an online one, how do you expect it to make any money (or pay me any) if it doesn't sell something? And the only thing it can sell is space. These guys who are writing into the editor, saying that advertising doesn't effect them and that beer ads shouldn't infect their precious independent games magazine (saying that only ads for games would be acceptable) need to step back and look at publications as a whole. Does the New York Times selling of its advertising space make it any less credible? Publisher Alexander Macris makes a good point, it's probably BETTER that The Escapist sells advertising to other products besides video games lest the advertisiers begin to expect favorable reviews. To all the naysayers, fuck off.

Red Sox - Champions of Choke

That's a little harsh, but they had Game 2 of this ALDS in their hands. Wells was pitching well (aptly) and the offense had provided ample runs to support him. All it took was Graffanino's glove to not reach the ground and a hanging curveball (thrown immediately after a ... hanging curveball) and the game was over.

There are tomes written about how the Sox have been in this position before, how they know about adversity, etc. I don't refute those but I don't think this team has the same magic as in '04. They are not the tight-knit bunch of idiots who buckle down and get things done when it's needed. They don't have the desire to win.

I'm not giving up all hope. I am still going to watch the game and want the Sox to win (or listen to the game as I will unfortunately be en route to Boston with Mephistopholes and her friend in the car. We are going to my father-in-law's 60th birthday party, which should be a hoot. I'll be sure to turn WEEI up as loud as I can to drown out the catty conversation of who was wearing what on Laguna Beach last night. I can't wait.)

Anyway, it's not over till it's over but i'm prepared to wait till next year.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Boston Red Sox - 4 Time Wild Card Champions

I can't help but feel a bit disappointed. The Sox led the way in the AL East most of the season after taking the lead from the O's in July. Then they fall apart in the final weeks as the Damn Yankees surge. Still we battled back and tied the bastards in the last series. I was getting ready for a showdown at that Cess Pool in the Bronx the likes of which hadn't been seen since Bucky Fucking Dent in 1978 (which incidentally happened 4 months after my birth whilst my parents were moving to Southeastern CT from Syracuse, NY, forever cementing my fate as a Sox fan).

But no, the rules state that a one game playoff for the AL East crown would be redundant, as the sox and yankees both qualify for the playoffs after Cleveland tanked in Chicago. The game would basically determine who was champ and who was the wild card. I admit that is kind of pointless but then again, we've been second banana in the division to the Yankees 3 years in a row (even though we all know who came out on top last year.) Christ, the Jankees have won the division something obscene like 8 times in a row. That's just wrong and should never happen again. I thought we deserved the chance to put those suckers in their place (2nd) to signal the end of their money-grabbing dynasty. Alas, Bud Selig could not be reached for comment in the commissioner's office, despite my clamoring for his head. He was probably stroking Raffy's biceps while testifying before Congress that noone in MLB takes steroids anymore.

Anyway. The Sox did make it into the playoffs, something I was not positive about one week prior. Tonight, they open up against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park. The Battle of the Soxes begins. The White Sox haven't won a world series (let alone a playoff series at all) since 1917, one year longer than the fabled 86-year drought of the BoSox. They don't tecnically have a Curse associated with them, unless you count the fact that the last time they were in the World Series in 1919, they lost on purpose creating the biggest scandal in baseball until ARod wins the 2005 MVP. 8 players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, aka Ray Liotta, were dubbed The Black Sox and banned from playing professional baseball. If that doesn't start a freaking curse, then Babe Ruth is a slender shortshop and a doting husband.

In this best-of-five Division Series, the starting pitchers will determine everything. The team which has their starters go 6+ innings before turning it over to the bullpen will be the winners. Call me biased, but I have a feeling that Boston's bats will punch a huge hole through Chicago's league leading ERA.

But you don't have take my word for it. Matt Clement goes on the mound today against Jose (I used to suck as a Yankee) Contreras. Clement was amazing in the first half but went 3-4 since the All-Star break. Contreras on the other hand has been lights out, winning 12 of his last 14 games. All is not lost, however. Clement has been underacheiving and is due to have a fucking great outing. And this Boston lineup has seen a lot of Contreras from his days int he Bronx and have alway been able to hit him. That's why George got rid of him, in fact, he just never pitched well against the BoSox.

All in all, I know I will get no sleep over the next 3 weeks as Boston succesfully defends it's first World Series title since 1916.

Edit: I just remembered that today's game starts at 4pm today. That means in addition to wasting my time blogging all day, I can also waste my time watching the game via MLB.TV.

Edit: Or not. I just checked and I won't be able to watch it online during any nationally televised game. Which means all of them. Dang. Well, I'll be forced to follow the stats a few seconds after they happen. Wee.

Linkage

I also updated the links section over there. I've mentioned a few of them before like the POD and Alien Loves Predator, but there a couple I didn't.

  • The Daily Photo Project. This guy is an artist who is doing something pretty interesting. For the last 7 years, he has taken a picture of himself everyday with a digital camera. He always has the same expression-less face yet he looks very different now than he did. Sometimes he has glasses on, sometimes his hair is long, sometimes he is not wearing a shirt. The project is staggering. He began the project when he was 22, I don't like to see how much he is aged in that time. It makes me think about my own mortality.
  • NerdNYC.com. Just as it sounds, this site is all about dudes with like minds getting together and playing games. Nearly everything is represented here from tabletop strategy games like Axis and Allies (plus a bunch you've never heard of) to Dungeons and Dragons to World of Warcraft. This is where I found my recent group of gaming nerds, much to the chagrin of Mephistopholes and Savage. Next game is coming up in a week, I'll fill you in on what's happening with my fighter/cleric while we attack a castle of hobgoblins in a whole 'nother blog.
  • The Escapist. I like this gaming mag. Instead of the standard preview, first-look, review articles, the writers here talk more about what it's like to be a gamer and actually play games. It's not about the next big thing, most often the articles are about the golden days of the 12-year-old fascination with electronic media. They are critics of the current gaming landscape without being pessimistic or pedantic. Maybe I'm biased because I've been writing for them recently but you should all check the shit out.

Some new blogs that I check:

  • Popstar. She's the new kid on the blog but I like her lawyering talk. Expecially since she's hanging out in southeastern connecticut where I used to live.
  • Singapore Sox Fan. This guys lives and works halfway around the world but he still follows every sox game as if he were on Landsowne Street. An inspiration for us all.
  • The Baseball Collector. He has collected over 2000 baseballs from major league games over his whole career. The blog is entertaining for anyone who has a passion for the game, regardless of team loyalties. Over the years, he has picked some uncanny talents like being able to judge a foul tip from merely hearing it and coaxing a baseball from a player during batting practice.

Selling out

I didn't really expect to get in.

On a lark, I applied to the Google Ad Sense program. It will basically give me money everytime one of you clicks on the brand new adds I placed in the sidebar. I have two thoughts on this:
  1. I get money for doing absolutely nothing.
  2. It's kind of ugly

The former only works if people actually click on the ads, which means I will probably not get any money whatsoever while I've tried to alleviate the latter by making them unobtrusive and to complement the color scheme of the site. We'll see how it goes.

One thing that I'm actually kind of pysched about is the google search bar. I get to add functionality and get money for it each time people use it.

Jesus, this blog is turning into an Ad for the Ad-Sense program. I have sold out. I'm going to stop before I make myself choke ... on all of the pennies I will earn from this charade.