I have decided that I would have no chance surviving a zombie apocalypse, unless my glasses had a colossal nerd band. Otherwise, I’d lose them, and some stranger would just shoot me while I staggered around, whining, trying to find my specs.

(Originally posted June 11, 2014)

Laugh It up, Fuzzball

Okay. Yeah. According to IGN, there exists a 2004 Dark Horse Comic called Into the Great Unknown, where Han Solo and Chewie hyper-jump to old-timey Earth. They crash in the Pacific Northwest, and Native Americans kill Han Solo. Then, centuries later, none other than Indiana Jones and Shortround find his grave. And they’re out here in the first place, because they’re investigating sightings of Sasquatch. And guess who that is. . .

(Originally posted May 17, 2014)


Dearies, here’s something that annoys me. This morning, NBC posted an article revealing “chilling details” a knife-wielding kid who went amok at a high school. The lead paragraph says, “an X-Box, a Nintendo Wii and a Sony Playstation, along with dozens of games and gaming paraphernalia, an iPod, an iPad and three computers were taken from the home of…” stabby guy. The second paragraph describes the kitchen knives. The final paragraphs describe how, before he went on his spree, the suspect had made some threatening phone calls. Now, shouldn’t the details go: 1) threatening phone calls, 2) kitchen knives 3) gaming equipment? I realize that as both a writer and a gamer, this article has me flying two of my geek flags, at highest dudgeon, at the same time. But really? Gaming devices? Between the two of us, James and I have an X-Box; a PS3; “along with dozens of games and gaming paraphernalia;” many iPods; many iPads; what amounts to a computer petting zoo; and a coffee mug from an RPG comic that has a stick-figure necromancer saying, “I just had an evilgasm.” This does not make us shooters, or stabbers, or even under tippers. We give to charity; we go to a sane church; we leave nesting materials out for the mama squirrels (whose offspring we don’t later eat, mangle or stuff in our underwear). We just also happen to be introverted, reasonably-well-off, creative types whose hobby centers on–you know what? Regularly pretending to save the universe. Sheesh.

(Originally posted April 15, 2014)

My Review of The Last of Us

I just finished playing The Last of Us, and I feel compelled to write about it. I know this post won’t resonate with most of you, but The Last of Us has given me so much to think about, that I don’t really mind. The Last of Us is a zombie-survival video game. That’s what it is. You play as a hardened smuggler who has to protect an orphaned child. It’s also the first game that has made me cry. 

I have a stress-knotted neck from this game. We say I have zombie cruft. The undead are horrid. The humans are worse. I had the subtitles on, because it’s hard to hear over gunfire–and at one point a human committed something so tragic that I said, “Oh my god!” And right then, the sentence appeared on the screen. This was clearly because a character had said the same thing. But the confluence felt right–because it also felt like the game had heard me, that it had registered my line, because I too was a living part of the story. It’s the dialogue and the resulting relationships that give a player such a profound connection to the game. You care about that little girl. And among all the alternating shooting and gnawing, you realize that you’ve walked out of a video game and into a cross between Blood Meridian and True Grit. 

Now, the ending fails. In my head, I’ve already rewritten it. The ending abuses the players, the characters, and maybe also the story’s own rules. It made me mad. In fact, it made me indignant. Poor James heard about it for half an hour–and you’re hearing about it now. I can’t say any more without crashing into whole stacks of spoilers, but I will mention that even in my disgust, I admire the story’s attempt. This is the first game that has ever gotten me talking–even critically–about character and narrative. (To say nothing of player rights–which is an area that is completely new.) What I mean to say is that The Last of Us asks a person to treat it as serious fiction. Regardless of its flaws, it exists as art. And that, dearies, is cool. That is Mario-smashing-into-bricks-and-having-Athena-come-out-of-his-head cool. The Last of Us is alive. For some of that very reason, I don’t recommend it for children. Nor do I recommend it for people who most deeply care for the welfare of children. The game is disturbing for what it shows–but it is astonishing for what it promises.

(Originally posted January 10, 2014)

Worth Watching

 I had insomnia over the weekend, so while I lay there, listening to the cat in his box, I came up with my list of Top Eight Television Shows. This is utterly useless information, so of course I’m passing it along to you. I don’t have access to all the triple-A cable shows that make the news these days, so all my picks come from hulu. But then, you already know about Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Deadwood and The Sopranos. Here are some other shows that reveal that not all television is a waste of time.

8. Hillstreet Blues: Oh, it’s old and grainy and full of wide hair, ties, and tire walls. But its writing is understated and unflinching. And from what I hear, it was one of the first shows whose scene-shifts jumped around in all the subplot puddles, the way most everybody does these days.

7. The Shield: Wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for Hillstreet Blues. But if the Hill is the complicated high ground, The Shield goes where decisions are gray and dark, and ultimately inevitable. The realism of that last bit is the scariest part of the program. The Shield is not for the faint of heart. But somehow it still makes me wish that CCH Pounder was my auntie.

6. The Good Wife: Kalinda Sharma and Eli Gold are two of the best characters on television–and the surrounding lawyers anchor the show enough to let these other two exist. The writing is excellent. It’s fast and smart, and it isn’t afraid to leave things unsaid. It works so well that even when you do see the plot twists coming, you can’t wait to watch the characters’ faces when everything hits the golden fan. 

5. House: Science and sarcasm enough to fit a valedictorian’s dream. The show is about doctors, yes, but it also points toward patience. And in the end, it pushes through to straight-up loyalty.

4. Downton Abbey: I avoided this show for a while, because I thought it was another toot at Sense ‘n’ Sensibility. Actually, it’s a wide story about even wider changes. Oh, it has a soapy plot that keeps everything moving along–but you also get Maggie Smith staring at Shirley MacLaine with such petrified rancor that you can actually read Avada Kedavra on her thinning lips. 

3. LOST: My sister and I rented the first season of LOST when we had three days to move me out of my old farmhouse. Each day, we worked for twelve hours, ordered pizza, and then watched LOST for four hours. We were absolutely exhausted–and I still don’t know where my potted fern got dumped. But in my mind’s eye, it’s sitting somewhere in the jungle, splendid and plump, atop a titanium hatch.

2. Twin Peaks: There is so much to love about Twin Peaks. In all my life, I have never been so disturbed by a person wearing in a horsey suit, or a person chewing gum, or a person sitting in a wheelchair. And I’ve never been so convinced that evil could find such visceral symbolism in a guy who would otherwise just need to wash his hair. Yes, the show meanders a bit. But for those who say it doesn’t end, I say that it actually does–if not in the way that you wanted.

1. Battlestar Galactica (the second): I don’t care if you don’t like sci-fi. I don’t care if you think that “frak” sounds like a word that a middle schooler invented so he could cuss without getting a detention. BG investigates what it means to be both human and humane. And it’s got one of the greatest, slow-burning love stories of all times. That, and from beginning to end, the show invites enough wonder that it culminates in nothing short of a scary, inclusive, heartfelt hymn.

That’s it. I don’t have another two shows, because I fell back to sleep.

(Originally posted October 14, 2013)