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Month: April 2003

Too much of a good thing

“We expected to see a lot of meat slapping here tonight.”

I’d like to introduce the above quote as the most convincing evidence yet that the first round of the NBA playoffs should not have gone to seven games. The announcers are starting to get just a little punchy.

This man, this war

So one frequent criticism of anti-war types is this: “You’re only against this war because Bush wants it.” Sometimes it’s phrased as “You wouldn’t be against this war if Clinton were fighting it,” which is nicely non-falsifiable. Either way, though, the appropriate answer is “No duh?”

It’s perfectly reasonable to be against a specific action because of the President who’s promulgating it. For example, if Bush said “I’m going to hold an overnight prayer meeting with the cast of Bend It Like Beckham,” I wouldn’t particularly think twice about it. If Clinton said the same thing I’d think it was a rather unwise move on his part.

Some people have genuine moral objections to the war that are rooted in the fact that they simply don’t trust Bush. It’s also reasonable to say “I don’t think this war is being fought for moral reasons.” That doesn’t preclude a moral outcome — deposing Saddam, for example — it just speaks to motivation. Some people think motivations matter. Some of those people would have trusted Clinton if he’d said the exact same things Bush had said. (And some wouldn’t.) That doesn’t make them inconsistent. It just means they don’t trust Bush, and they don’t think a war should be fought for immoral reasons.

This becomes particularly relevant as the US backs off predictions of WMD. As ABC reports, “Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam’s weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.”

Tacitus thinks that the above news vindicates nobody, but I think he’s wrong. It isn’t necessary for anti-war folks to have argued against the existence of WMD. The point is that the Bush administration used the existence of WMD to tip the scales in their arguments. “Sure, it’s true that this may cause a wave of anti-Americanism, but the threat is so damned high we have to go in.” Now we’re finding out they misled us regarding the nature of the threat, and where does that leave their argument? I have to believe that the burden of proof is on the people who want to declare war — I’m not a pacifist, but surely the default state should be peace.

Which brings us back to trust. Yes, many people objected to this war because they didn’t like Bush and more importantly, didn’t trust him. And it looks more and more as though their lack of trust has been proven accurate. It doesn’t matter so much for the country if Americans decide they don’t trust Bush, although you can bet Howard Dean is praying no WMD turns up. On the other hand, it’s gonna matter a lot to the rest of the world if Chirac and Schroder can say, a year from now, “Bush lied to you.”

Dot-com fallup

Newsweek breaks the news: Jeff Bezos is funding a space venture. Some dot-com CEOs buy basketball teams; some buy spaceships. Carl’s comment: “I guess he took to heart the analysts who pointed out that Amazon’s valuation required selling to other solar systems.”

Oh, and Neal Stephenson is working for the Bezos venture. That’s funky.

I was all set to feel smart about pointing out that Elon Musk, who founded PayPal, is also doing a private space company but Newsweek got there first. Alas. Still, it’s kind of a cool way to spend all that money.

The rest of article is a nice overview of the latest space company news, including notes on Burt Rutan’s new spacecraft and whatever it is that John Carmack is doing. I suspect most of the dot-com space companies will fail, but some may succeed, and it’s a heartening result of a generation of millionaire geeks.

Picking and choosing

WISH 44 is all about picking games.

How do you choose games to join or to run? What factors influence you: timing, people, system, genre, etc.? Do you weigh different factors for different kinds of games, e.g., online vs. tabletop vs. LARP? Is it a group decision or a decision you make on your own?

Well, the easy answer is “yes.”

I’m attracted to games based on genre and people. For a new group, the genre needs to be interesting and the people need to seem suitable. I’ve never been particularly interested in random D&D games, and I’m careful about getting into games with people I don’t know.

Once I know people, though, I’ll try almost anything. If Carl wanted to run Senzar, I’d give it a try, because I’d know the people would be fun and in the worst case we could while away the hours mocking death jesters. In fact, I once joined a Lords of Creation game, fully aware of what I was getting into, because I trusted the GM.

For the past half a decade or so, my gaming group was pretty stable at the core: the aforementioned Carl (usually GMing), along with me, Brad, and Gretchen. Add a variable number of people from the greater gaming pool. This shouldn’t be taken to imply that we were the center of the gaming group, just that when I was gaming I tended to play with those three. This made decisions pretty simple. Moving out to Boston threw a wrench into this simplicity, but I’m pretty darned happy with the group I seem to have found.

All that said, the time factor is a limiter on what I can do. No matter how much I might want to play in four or five games, I just don’t have that kind of time to burn. I won’t join a game just cause I have time to do so, but lack of time can keep me from joining games I want to play.

Regarding mediums: I don’t LARP much, which is to say at all. I almost got into a cool UA LARP back in California, but knowing I’d have to move soon took some of the fun out of it and I’m probably too much of an introvert to LARP heavily. My online play has tailed off a lot; when I did RP online, it was mostly on one specific MUSH. A couple of people have been able to drag me into other MUSHes but that’s really a case of making a gaming choice based on people.

Outline tag

MyMind looks like it has potential as an outliner. I suspect it does not export OPML files. Horrors! The cool thing is the linkage to a visual mindmap; that’s going to be really useful for sketching out campaigns. Um.

Reaching for the silver

I finally got around to reading David Neiwert’s book on the Patriot Movement, In God’s Country. I’d expected it to be scholarly, given the publisher, but it turned out to be a pretty journalistic work. I suppose that’s not surprising, given that Neiwert’s a journalist.

Anyhow, it makes for a really accessible read. The bulk of the book is comprised of stories about Patriot Movement members of various stripes in the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Idaho. Neiwert is from the area, which makes a big difference. It’s never a book by some outsider telling stories about the rural whackos. Rather, it’s a book by a guy who knows what the area is like, and knows what independent-minded people are like, and can explain what’s different about the extremists who’ve come to infest the area. He speaks with an authority that (say) an East Coast journalist would lack.

The book also covers the history of the movement in the Northwest, going back to the Silver Shirts and beyond. Plenty of good context for what’s happened more recently. He talks about Ruby Ridge, Bo Gritz, and plenty of lesser-known incidents and people. There are no grand conclusions or predictions; there’s just a picture of what’s going on, some reasons why, and some questions that can’t yet be answered.

What’s missing: I’d have liked to have seen more about the links between the Patriots and the Christian Identity movement. He notes that many Patriots are Christian Identity believers, but I’d like to have seen more on financial connections and so forth. (Bonus points for linking in Scaife and Coors.) Admittedly, it might have diluted the focus of the book, but I’m still curious. I know a lot more than I did about specific instances of the Patriot Movement but I don’t know enough about the structure behind the structure. Maybe that’s another book.

Still, it’s very readable and very informative, and I’ll probably give away a few copies for Christmas this year. If you don’t really know what the Patriot Movement is beyond “those militia weirdos,” this is a book you ought to read.

Forked tongue

This story is about how the Dixie Chicks posed nude, but that’s not what I care about. It contains the following claim: “Within days of the comment being published, Maines apologized, but many U.S. country music radio stations all but banished Dixie Chicks hits from the airwaves, some fans smashed their CDs and sales plummeted.”

The thing is, that’s not true. Immediately after the controversy broke, Amazon sales of all their albums increased. I just checked the Billboard Country Top 20 Chart, and Home is at #3 — down from #1 last week. Tickets are going for a couple hundred bucks each on EBay. If this is plummeting sales, there are plenty of musicians who’d want some of that humble pie.

Under the eaves

If I was gonna run a Buffy game, which I’m not, it would be something like this. It would be set in Los Angeles, in 1976. Warren Zevon would have just released his eponymous album. Vampires would snort cocaine alongside adult film stars, and they’d both pay the price in their own ways.

Daddy, don’t you ask her when she’s coming in
And when she’s home don’t ask her where she’s been

The Slayer would be an LA child, lanky and beautiful and terribly young for such a burden; she’d wear scarves and maybe dream of a time when she thought she could be a singer. Her smile would be sad and wise and generous, and her eyes would be the color of the ocean at sunset, when you can forget all about how polluted it is.

Dry your eyes my little friend
Let me take you by the hand
Freddie get ready Rock steady
When Johnny strikes up the band

She’d have friends: musicians, grifters, dreamers, thieves. Down on Venice Beach, there’d be a Watcher who’d given up the straight life and taken to reading the future in the tattoos of the street performers. He’d read an old ratty Tarot deck for a living. Not all her friends would like one another, but the desperate need to stay together to survive.

He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
Excitable boy, they all said
And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

She’d have enemies: high gloss vampires and angry radical werewolves. There’s a demon down on the Sunset Strip who specializes in messing over drunk tourists; they wake up the next day never realizing anything happened, but when they get home they find an envelope of pictures addressed to their wives. And they say, in whispers, that there’s a sect of Hollywood stars who drink blood to keep their youth.

I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
I was staring in my empty coffee cup
I was thinking that the gypsy wasn’t lyin’
All the salty margaritas in Los Angeles
I’m gonna drink ‘em up

And there’s a bar, where the Slayer and her pals come together after something’s happened. (Rarely, they have the chance to come together before; but times are troubled and the chances to act rather than react are seldom.) Nobody lives in one place for very long, and none of the places they live are very large: so they meet at the bar, and they drink whatever the bartender is pushing that night, and they celebrate survival until the sun comes up over the hills. Not to celebrate would be to give in to despair, and despair — in LA — is the beginning of the end.