Time to go hunting.

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Writing has turned into some kind of mythological beast that I saw once while camping as a child. I know without a doubt that it exists. I’ve seen it. I got so close that I could smell the musk of it. I heard its low growling breath as it moved past me in the dark. Now all I can do is talk about that time I saw it and how one day I will find it again and somehow that will change not only the minds of those skeptics but my entire life.

I pretend to look for him. I peer around corners and talk to my friends about him. I look back at the last place I saw this magnificent being of power and promise and think about how difficult it would be to get back there. The world was so different for me then. I had time for grand adventures. Now I feel the weight of my responsibilities and it seems as though traipsing through the wilderness attempting to rediscover once held magic would distract from those things I have to do. Even with those thoughts I think I can hear him. He’s far away and entirely too lethargic from lack of attention but I am determined to find him.

I love my job

Posted: November 16, 2011 in True Story

So two Thursdays ago at around 1:00pm this guys comes into my store. He wanders around for a bit and I do the whole “If you need anything let me know” schtick and we both go about our business. He looks at the Magic singles in the case and eventually makes up his mind and spends around sixty bucks on some random cards. He seemed a little odd like he never made eye contact and he seemed nervous but we deal with gamers every day. People who act weird are kind of our bread and butter. He was about 6’1” or so and wore the redneck uniform. Dirty jeans, Marlboro jacket and some kind of hat that had never been cleaned. He leaves and a few minutes later we notice that he had left a D ring notebook full of Magic cards on the table. This happens on occasion so we didn’t really think anything of it. An hour or so later the guy comes back in, sees his binder on the table where he left it and says loudly and kind of angrily “Thanks for not stealing my binder!” We were a little taken aback but ignored the odd outburst. The guy sits down at a table and starts looking though his binder, I assume to see if anything had been stolen. He pulls out a $15 card and stares at it. For ten solid minutes. He then rips it to pieces, tosses it in the trash and walks out. Strange? Yes, but nowhere near the strangest thing we’ve had people do so we laugh it off and go about our day.

Sometime around 5 he comes back in. At this point there are about ten of us in the store. My employee Eric is helping our friend Dave work on a new deck so they are pretty deep in a conversation when the guy comes back. He makes a lap of the store, looks in the showcase again and then stops and looks Eric right in the eye and says “Yeah, but if you take Intrepid Hero and change all the words it takes what you just said and throws it out the window!” and he walks out the door. We all kind of stare at one another for a few minutes and let it go. (Side note, Intrepid Hero is a Magic card but it was not one of the cards being discussed.) We all give each other “WTF?” looks and just go on with what we were doing.

15 or 20 minutes later he comes back in, does his lap around the store and once again looks Eric in the eye and says somewhat forcefully “Yeah, but what about the GREEN decks?” and walks out the door. At this point we are split down the middle. Half of us think this dude is just fucking with us and the other half think he’s on drugs.

15 minutes later and he strolls in again. He does his lap and he starts talking loudly at the far end of the store, never breaking stride. “Papa John’s will no longer be the official pizza sponsor of the NFL, Pizza Hut will be. You know how I know? I’m Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL! Don’t believe me? Look it up online. You’ll find my picture. I can be anybody I wanna be. You know how I know? Role playing games!” and he walked right out the door.

At this point Eric says, “I’m calling the police!” I head to the bar next door to ask the bartender Red if he’s seen the guy. Red says nope but he’ll keep an eye out. I head back to my store and Dave is outside with my friend Quinton. Neither of these guys are small. Dave is a former meth head who can dribble humans when he has to and Quinton is one of the only people in the world I have ever actually been afraid of. I’ve seen him break a windshield with a nickel and I have heard eye witness accounts of severe ass beatings he’s laid down over the years. Also, I helped bail him out the night he punched out a police dog. Long story…. anyway they are both standing outside the store looking around for the guy.

Dave asks if its ok with me if they tell him he’s not allowed in the store if/when he comes back. I said “of course!” and headed back inside to talk to Eric about what the cops said. While I’m inside talking to Eric Red came outside to see what was up just as the police officer got there. They knew each other so they stand in front of the bar talking about what’s going on when Dave and Q spot the dude and point him out to the cop. The officer says “Excuse me sir, can I talk to you for a minute?” the dude says “Nope.” and keeps on walking.

The cop tries to restrain him, as I said this dude is like 6’1” and the cop is like 5’5” so that didn’t work. Q said when both the officers feet left the ground he got the “Help me?” look and immediately grabbed the guy to try and keep him out of the store. He and Dave told him he wasn’t allowed to be in the store and he said “Frank Miller (the store owner) says I can come in here any time I want!”

Eric and I are standing by the counter when the door flies open and this guy comes through with Quinton in tow ranting like a lunatic the whole time. “I have been the chairman of Papa John’s for eight years and I KNOW they are KILLING people!” Q got his arm under the dude’s adams apple and picked him up off his feet and choke slammed him to the floor. When I heard the dude’s head bounce off the floor I thought we might be in trouble but he never stopped ranting about suing and police brutality and Papa John’s killing people. Quinton tells him “You picked the wrong night to come in here high” and the dude loses his mind. “I AM NOT ON DRUNGS! I DEMAND A BLOOD TEST RIGHT NOW!” At this point Q has the dude on his side and he’s holding one arm, the officer is holding the guys other arm and somehow Red got inside and is standing on the dude’s feet. The officer keeps telling the guy to roll over and finally Q gets pissed and says “This officer will not hurt you, but I will! Now turn over!” That seemed to do it because he went face down. The officer gets one cuff on and the guy starts struggling again so Q puts his thumb against the pressure point behind the guys ear and tells him to “Stop it!” to which the guys answers meekly “Yes sir.” Once they have him on the floor and cuffed he seemed completely calm. Serene even. The officer asks him “Have you ever been arrested?” and he gets irate again. “NO!” so then the officer asks “Have you ever been detained” and the guy answers, kind of exasperated like just thinking about it makes him tired, “I’ve been detained more times than I can count.” So the officer asks “What were you detained for?” and this bright young man answers, “uhhhh…. I would like to plead the 5th.” At this point the tension breaks and we all crack up. Three other officers show up and take him out to the curb. He looks at the black officer and says “I’m not riding anywhere with officer Dookie.” Luckily the cop had a good sense of humor and laughed it off. While the cops got statements the dude starts ranting again.

“I’m calling the Justice League! Batman and Superman will back me up!”

“I am a DEA agent and when I call my secret agent friends you will be sorry!”

I’m calling Dan Severin and he is going to come stomp a mudhole in all your asses!”

(he also threatened us with Tito Ortiz)

At some point in his ranting he also said he had Yellow Fever.

DVD Review: The Dungeon Masters

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

I heard about this little documentary a while ago but the promotional pictures of the young lady dressed as a dark elf in full makeup made me think this was another in a long line of “LOL LOOK NERDS!” kind of things. I decided to take a chance when this popped up on the “new this week” list for my game distributor. I sat down last night to watch this and I thought I would share with the class what I think in lieu of comments for the booklist this week.

The movie is book-ended with clips from Gen Con. We see these game masters in their natural habitat as they take a group of adventurers through some perilous journey using paper, dice and imagination. It gives a good overview of the experience of running a role playing game. Each of the people highlighted in the movie has a distinct and different style of running a game and the diversity shown should help the novice gamer decide what type of game master he would want to game with. Sadly, I doubt many novice gamers will watch this movie except in a frat house “look at the nerds” kind of viewing.

Each of the people this documentary revolves around is in a very different place in life. One is married, in the military and going through a conversion to Judaism while having a crisis of faith about his gaming. One is married, unemployed and trying to finish his first novel. One is recently divorced and trying to find her soul mate while dressed as an evil elf. The thing that struck me is that unlike most films, documentary or otherwise, there are no heroes here. There are just people trying to get through life the best way they know how, using games as an escape from the dreary reality of life instead of going into a more self destructive direction. I couldn’t help but notice similarities between the people shown in the film and the people I know in my life. Most gamers are starry eyed optimists who pretend to be cynical and surly. We all fight epic fights to right wrongs and rescue the helpless while pretending we don’t care about anything. We are a funny conundrum gamers.

There isn’t a lot of diversity in the extra features on the DVD but what is there is pretty fantastic. We get to see more interviews with various gamers, some who make cameos in the finished product. There are a bunch of clips from Gen Con that are pretty funny even if you aren’t a gamer. I highly recommend watching the extras in their entirety once you finish the movie. There is about a half an hour or so of footage.

If nothing else this movie gives gamers a glimpse into how very much the same we all are in our dreams. We all want to be happy and successful but rarely do we know how to go about doing that. I expected the movie to end with the gamers finding success and moving boldly into a brighter future but instead they don’t seem to be much farther along in life than they were when the movie began. Some may find this a little depressing but the thing I took from it was that no matter what happens, keep fighting. Keep trying to move forward. Don’t give up.

To quote Joss Whedon through the voice of his character Angel, “If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.”

An excellent theme for a movie about my people.

Hemp and how it could save comics

Posted: January 31, 2011 in comics
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been talking a lot about the cost of comics lately. Just about every customer I talk to has had to cut back on the number of books they read due to cost concerns. Trimming down to just the bare minimum, usually sticking with a certain character or team. There are a bunch of weird side effects of this that I have been noticing especially of late. Those people who stick with their favorite character often become disenchanted with the books they read because they keep reading that character no matter how awful the story might be. I have noticed a much higher level of comic book satisfaction from the people who follow creators as opposed to those who follow characters. For the most part, if you know you like a persons work, it doesn’t matter what they are writing at the moment. You are going to like it. I’ve started taking that road when shopping for comics. I follow people like Brian Wood, Gail Simone and Ed Brubaker to whatever book they are working on at the time. I wasn’t really excited for the “Fear Itself” event this summer until I heard that Brubaker was the mastermind behind it. Reading books that are good as opposed to sticking with your favorite regardless of how good it is can help keep your love of comics alive and in the process, make you a more satisfied consumer.

That doesn’t really address the issue with cost though. I can help you find books you will love but that doesn’t mean much when you can’t afford to buy them. I’ve been doing some research about pricing trends especially where comics are concerned to try and combat the “comics cost too much” argument. I agree that $4 a book is a lot to pay, especially if you consider comics disposable entertainment as so many do. I see a lot of people pointing at Marvel and complaining about the cost of their comics and trades and hardcovers. On average Marvel books are around 20% more expensive than their competitors. For a long time I looked at it as corporate greed but I have changed my assessment of late. But we will get back to that in a moment. First I want to mention DC’s new PR campaign, “Drawing the line at $2.99.” That is some extremely clever marketing going on there and at first, I was stoked to see one of the big companies listening to their fans and doing something proactive. I thought, “why can’t Marvel do that?” Now I’m thinking “What is the reasoning behind this?”

From my limited perspective it seems to me that both companies see comics as something of a loss leader. They keep making books and creating characters they can put on tee shirts and turn into action figures and movie franchises. Who cares if the company makes a profit on the comics when the movies will bring in big bucks? The argument can be made here that DC couldn’t possibly be doing that because with their track record in film. I disagree. Cartoons featuring DC characters have been huge for decades and licensed merchandise is always a big seller. It seems to me that the lowering to $2.99 is DC’s way of saying “we care about you more than those other guys.”

However you look at it nobody makes a lot of money from actual comics. Even with Marvel charging 20% more than the other guys they aren’t making a lot off their comics. Why do these major companies keep making comics if they aren’t profitable? Movies, toys, merchandise.

Maybe that’s why so many people see comics as disposable entertainment.

As for the price of paper, there is a very simple solution to that problem. Sadly I don’t see it happening any time soon. Here is part of an article from Hemphasis.net.

Making paper from trees is kind of a joke, because trees are made up of only 30% cellulose. The other 70% of the tree must be removed using toxic chemicals, until the cellulose can be formed into paper. The higher the percentage of cellulose in a plant, the better, because fewer chemicals need to be used, and less work needs to be done before the paper can be made. Almost any plant in nature with a strong stalk is better suited to make paper than trees, especially hemp because it can be 85% cellulose.

Hemp makes paper stronger and which lasts centuries longer than wood paper, which could be very valuable for people who want to keep records aside from on computers. Hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or otherwise deteriorate like tree paper does now. The acids which are needed for wood paper eventually eat away at the pulp and cause it to turn yellow and fall apart. Because of this publishers, libraries, and archives have to order specially processed acid free paper, but they could just buy hemp paper which already meets their quality standards.

Hemp paper also does not require any bleaching, and so does not poison the water with dioxins or chlorine like tree paper mills do. The chemicals involved in making hemp paper are much less toxic, in fact, both paper made from hemp hurd, and from the long bast fiber can be made without any chemicals at all, but it takes longer to separate the fiber from the lignin. Making paper from hemp could also eliminate erosion due to logging, reduces topsoil loss, and water pollution caused by soil runoff.

One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle, but hemp stalks only take four months to mature, whereas trees take 20 to 80 years. This information was known in 1916, according to a USDA report. Hemp paper can also be recycled more often, though this fact is not of much value, since hemp is a reusable resource.

Anyone else feel a need to call their congressman?

The Wretched

Posted: September 11, 2010 in True Story
Tags: , ,

I’ve never been the bad guy before. I mean sure, there have been people who didn’t like me for whatever reason but I’ve never felt like a bad person. Until now.

It’s a very odd feeling to know that one of the best parts of your life has been completely destroyed and it’s all your fault. I watch Amy when she doesn’t realize it. She is so much happier now that she is free of me. I honestly didn’t realize what a draining effect I had on her until she was no longer burdened with my bullshit. She’s vibrant and alive in a way that I haven’t seen in years and I am ashamed of myself that I robbed her of years of happiness.

Saturday you asked me if things with me were going ok. I lied and said that yes, things were fine partly because I didn’t want you worrying about me and my stupidity while you were in Baltimore and partly because I have a hard time telling you when I’ve been a complete idiot. You’ve put an incredible amount of trust in me and I don’t want to do anything to make you think you’ve made the wrong decision.

The past few months have been a little rough on me. I tell everyone how easy this breakup has been and how it hasn’t really affected me at all but to tell the truth its kind of felt like someone died. I’ve been dwelling on that a bit too much and ignoring everything unless it directly involves Richmond Comix. And that is where my stupidity comes in.

Because of my persistant memory issues the very nice lady at my insurance company always calls be about a week before my car insurance is due to remind me to pay it. When I got my new phone number in May I didn’t think about giving her the new number. I think you can see where this is going.

Friday night I got pulled over leaving the shop because my brake lights were stuck on. The officer informed me that my license had been suspended due to lack of insurance. He did not give me a ticket as DMV had never informed me of the suspension (I also never saw anything from my insurance company) and he told me as long as I could get someone to come get us he wouldn’t tow the van either. I called Ian and we parked the van behind the shop and took Jess home. Ian spent the night at my house and took me to work on Saturday. He also brought Jess in on Sunday. He then picked Amy up on Sunday and brought her to the shop so she could drive the van (and Jess) home. I asked Jess not to say anything to you so that I could tell you.

I am now working on getting the insurance and license fixed but it might take a couple of weeks. I have things worked out so that I can get to work so that is not a concern. I am going to inconvenience a few people but I will be able to meet all my responsibilities.

I can’t even tell you how sorry (and embarassed) I am about this. I know you have a lot on your plate right now and the last thing you need to do is worry about my stuff. I will have it taken care of as soon as possible.

Life takes funny turns. I’m in the process of getting a divorce from someone who is still one of my best friends. I take her advice into account when I do things even when I don’t actually follow it. She and I will be linked forever because of our children but I think our bond is actually a lot stronger than that. We can still do everything we used to do as a couple. We talk about our day, we ask each other advice, we buy each other dinner. This is going to change soon because I am moving out at the beginning of October. For the past two years I have been a resident of the living room, sleeping on the sofa and generally trying to be as small as possible (a humorous visual for anyone who knows me). I’m tired of sleeping on an uncomfortable sofa and not having my own space. Amy would never tell me to leave but I know she’s looking forward to being on her own for the first time.

On the work front things are moving along nicely. My boss is still in the middle of his move to Norfolk and by the time I’m in my new place he will be in his. The plan as of today is for him to come up and work on Wednesday for new book day. My part timer will be moving around the same time so I’m trying to hire someone new. I have a candidate but my boss needs to interview him before making it official. I don’t know when that will happen but I hope its soon.

I tweeted a little while ago, “If you aren’t reading Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross I don’t wanna be your friend anymore.” I’m not exactly serious about that but it is the best comic I’ve read in a long long time. It is brilliantly written as a murder mystery / fantasy /crime noir /history of literary geography. It is impossible to put this book into any one genre of fiction but borrows heavily from several. The series is only 16 issues deep and the second volume collecting issues 6-12 just came out last week. This is one that would be easy to jump into from the beginning and for any of you I see on a regular (or semi-regular) basis I would be more than happy to loan you my copy.