Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Time to play the Feud!

I just noticed, laying around the office, a screener DVD for Celebrity Family Feud.

This, I have a hard time picturing.

Or maybe not...

Insert wavy "flashback" lines here...

The setting: Family Feud set. The Hiltons are on the left. The Hogans are on the right. Richard Dawson hosts, of course.

Dawson: All right, now we go over to the Hilton family. The topic: Popular celebrity quotes. Paris?

Paris Hilton: Umm...

Dawson: Show me, "Umm..."!


Dawson: Number 5 answer! Now, let's go to the Hogans. The Hulkster... Give me a celebrity relative most likely to embezzle!

Hulk: Well, brother...

Dawson: Show me "Brother"!


Dawson: Number 1 answer!

A thousand remotes click over to re-runs of Are You Being Served?...

Friday, June 13, 2008

I could've used a shot. Or a gun.

Last night, during a bout of insomnia, I caught an episode of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.

I think my IQ dropped about 10 points.

Look, I friended her on MySpace. I'm a lemming.

But dear God, is that show a train wreck of the first order.

And that's from a guy who watches American Gladiators.

By the way, I realize she's a pinup queen, so I'm in the minority, and maybe it was just late at night, but for my money, Tila's not really as smokin' hot as I expected? Great bod, no doubt, but not that great a face?

And no, I'm not posting any pictures. Go Google them yourselves, perverts!

Do you know what day it is?

Happy Friday the 13th!

Hey, you didn't think I'd let the day pass without a little tribute to my favorite horror movie series,did you?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A quick survey

Stole this from jin.

A few clicks, and it's generally, depressingly, spot-on.

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have low extroversion.

You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.

A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.

You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.


You have low conscientiousness.

Impulsive and off the wall, you don't take life too seriously.

Unfortunately, you sometimes end up regretting your snap decisions.

Overall, you tend to lack focus, and it's difficult for you to get important things done.


You have low agreeableness.

Your self interest comes first, and others come later, if at all.

In general, you feel that people are not to be trusted.

And you're skeptical that anyone else really feels differently.


You have medium neuroticism.

You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.

Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.

Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.

In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.

You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.

A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Funny how real life intrudes...

I should be fairly delighted right now with hockey.

My latest Strat-O-Matic season in the Jack Adams Memorial Hockey League has faced off, which is always a thrill - you want proof I love it, I'll e-mail you the first annual East Coast Earthquakes media guide, all 3MB of it.

And this is my year - I've mortgaged two seasons' worth of the future in draft picks with a vow to make the playoffs this year (after two years out of the money) or bust.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, my two favorite hockey teams, made the conference finals, with the Pens going to the Stanley Cup finals (where they lost, but still...). You'd think that would psyche me up big-time.

But somehow, there's a shadow over my season.

For one thing, my buddy Philbert had to resign his post as coach of my division rivals, due to a new job and stuff.

That's bad enough, but we'll still keep in touch. In fact, the Earthquakes have already made him a job offer as associate head coach.

The weird thing is, what's really thrown me, is something that happened far away, to someone I don't know, who doesn't even play for my team.

A couple of weeks ago, Vancouver Canucks rookie Luc Bourdon, the team's first-round draft pick in 2005, got himself killed riding his motorcycle.

He was 21.

Why has this affected me so? Besides the obvious tragedy, of course; the odds are pretty good that a professional athlete dies every year. Very few have really bothered me, in the way this has. Maybe when Stacey Toran, the Los Angeles Raiders safety, died - he was the first player on my favorite team to die so young and tragically, that I was aware of. Since then, of course, I've been aware of many more.

But I guess here's what gets to the bottom of it: In my old league, the Federal Hockey League, I was the Vancouver Canucks team.

I resigned at the end of last year because, quite honestly, I couldn't keep up with two leagues, so I stayed with the Jack, where I'd been a member longer.

But for two years, I ran the tie-in Canucks team, and one of the fun parts was that you get a "territorial" pick, to choose the best rookie from your team before the draft.

Needless to say, I did a lot of scouting, particularly since in the Fed, you could draft "uncarded" players, anyone who'd played even a single NHL game. (In the Jack, you have to draft "carded" players, who have received a full card in the game.)

And, of course, one of those prospects for this season - remember, it's a simulation game, we're always a year behind reality - was, of course, Luc Bourdon, who made his debut in 2006-07, before playing his first full pro season in 2007-08.

In fact, in the draft I never got to run in the Fed, I was - as the coach of a distinctly lousy team; I never said I was good at this game, just that I love it - debating how to wind up with a trio of Canucks rookies of '06-07: Alex Edler, Patrick Coloumbe and Bourdon. If I territorialed the best of the three (Edler), I'd have to take the best prospect (Bourdon) with a "regular" pick and take a chance he'd still be there.

It was a tactic that worked well the last season, when I'd territorialed the guy who was the most immediate help (Alex Burrows) and drafted the guy I really wanted (Kevin Bieksa).

Meanwhile, in the Jack, where my team has a distinctly Vancouver flavor - I was on something of a quest to have similar teams, full of players I liked, in both leagues - I was figuring on Bourdon as a mid-round pick next year, because he didn't have much of a rookie season.

Remember when I said I'd traded away most of my future to make the playoffs this year? Well, that meant the mental debate whether or not Bourdon would be around when I got to pick in the third or fourth round, having traded my top two picks.

In essence, I'd been scouting this kid for two years, strategizing around how to draft him in two different leagues. Thinking of all the potential he had as a player.

It wasn't so much that he was by all accounts a leader and a great guy, it was that he seemed like such a great prospect all around, but one who was struggling to break into the NHL and therefore, someone to draft and follow, "groom" as it were, for a bigger role.

I love hockey. I love playing Strat because in its own way, it gives me my own team to obsess over. And I love the draft, and all the scouting and intrigue that comes with it.

I love following young players and watching them bloom.

But that's not really what's got me down. What's got me down is that this kid, so full of life, won't get the chance to bloom. At hockey, at anything.

I'm 33 years old, two months from getting married. I've got a lot on my mind.

But somehow, this kid, this great, beloved kid who I never knew, he's on my mind, too. It's hard to explain why, and it's hard to explain why without sounding selfish or silly ("waah, my fake team won't get to draft him"). But I guess it's a combination of three things: a) A fan's love of sport always gives him a kinship with the players he watches; b) He was just a kid, and had everything ahead of him...

And c) I guess, like anyone else in my position, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, trying to imagine the joys ahead, and trying not to think of what disaster's around the corner.

Whatever it is, this tragedy has thrown me for a loop this season. My heart goes out to his friends, family and teammates.

Rest in peace, Luc. I just keep thinking I might draft you anyway. Like, if I do, I'll wake up and it was all a dream, and you'll still be that top prospect, taking the ice next fall, and none of this ever happened.

I wish I knew why I feel this way. But not as much as I wish you'd made that curve OK.

Luc Bourdon,

Monday, June 02, 2008

Eloquence and envy...

My old classmate Blakeslee has a song called "Opiates and Envy," but this is probably a little different.

This is a writer's lament.

Well, assuming it's fair after assorted journalistic endeavors, a college degree and a direct-to-DVD movie to call myself a writer.

Sometimes, as a reader, you hit a passage in a book or story that just sucks you in. Just insists you must, must read more.

Perhaps he scarcely cares for fame, though he will do his full duty. He has lost both wife and child and finds himself the last of his line. He goes on a difficult mission down the ridge of South Mountain, where he lacks adequate support, and he does not come back.

It's a wonderful feeling, if occasionally costly (in terms of tracking down, say, the full-length biographyof someone mentioned fairly briefly in another work).

This is Douglas S. Freeman, the famed Civil War historian.

His two claims to fame - besides Douglas S. Freeman High School and Freeman Hall at Richmond University, of course - are his seminal biography of Robert E. Leeand its follow-up, the magnificent Lee's Lieutenantsabout the Army of Northern Virginia's subordinate generals.

(Blatant off-topic mention: The University of Richmond, home of Freeman Hall, is also the alma mater of brand-new Oakland Raider Arman Shields.)

He is alloted a glorious day on Groveton Heights, and then he has a narrow escape at Sharpsburg. After that, at Fredericksburg, there is a wound, an affecting interview with Stonewall Jackson, and the long, long silence.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, Lee's Lieutenants.

Let me tell you why I love this book, for more than just its fascinating history.

I love it for the writing. Not just the overall scholarship and eloquence, but for the little bits. The little moments, phrases, expressions that draw you in, as a reader, and make you - demand - you read more.

With them, under Jube Early, he goes to the Shenandoah Valley, and there, at a moment when he did not know the battle was lost, he leaves unanswered the question whether he would have realized fully his promise as a soldier.

Why the envy?

Well, obviously, as a writer... I hate this man. Well, not really. For one thing, he's dead. For another, it's not so much hatred as...


See, I often say that there are few things quite so pretentious and cutthroat as a college creative writing class. Of which, I might add, I survived more than a few, with the psychological scars to prove it.

But one thing I never quite got the hang of, was why writing need meaning. Could writing as entertainment not serve its own purpose? That being, of course, to entertain for entertainment's sake?

This, perhaps, is why my fiction so often got shredded in workshops. But the point is, my writing was often aimed at bringing out an emotion in my readers, something visceral and fundamental.

Be it fear, laughter, love, whatever.

As the army enters Pennsylvania, this new major general tries to relieve the concern of his young wife that the Lord will not bless the Southern cause if the Confederacy does more than defend its own territory. He knows, as a trained soldier, that a whole-hearted offensive often is the most prudent defensive. The campaign must be fought. So run his letters. Then, abruptly, they stop.

And one of the best ways to do that, I've found, is an eloquent turn of phrase. You can capture a character in an action novel in a well-crafted paragraph, and make you care in that moment whether this man or woman lives or dies over the course of the next 500 pages.

It's one of the reasons Ice Stationis my favorite action-fiction novel. Matt Reilly makes you care about his characters, even as he blows them away a few pages later. A quick phrase, a paragraph, even a short chapter, and you want to see one soldier survive even as another dies.

Freeman's work, though historical nonfiction, has that essence. That way of catching your eye, exciting your mind, making your heart race just a little faster.

Ramseur has the promise of something dearer than military distinction. One day, when a battle is in prospect, he hears that the crisis is past and that the baby is born. More than that he never learns.

Remember Starship Troopers when that voiceover keeps asking, "Would you like to know more?"

That's what a great phrase is, that voiceover that makes the answer "yes."

Freeman does it over and over again in Lee's Lieutenants.

And yes, as a writer slogging through Novel No. 1, I'm jealous. In so many ways.

Editor's note: If you're curious, every one of these quotes was from the introduction of the Dramatis Personae that opens the book. That's right... they're not even from the meaty part. The descripions are of, in order:

• Samuel Garland, killed at South Mountain
• Maxcy Gregg, mortally wounded at Fredericksburg
Robert Rodes, killed at Third Winchester
William Dorsey Pender, mortally wounded at Gettysburg
Stephen Dodson Ramseur, mortally wounded at Cedar Creek