Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Blade Itself: Book Review

Finally, a fantasy series I can get excited about again.

After struggling through the brutal Across the Face of the World, and getting only a few pages into some book about vampire hunters (I've since forgotten the title and lost the book, but it hasn't been missed), I tried a new author based on Amazon recommendations. My expectations were low enough to stumble over, but this book far exceeded what even the most enthusiastic user reviews had led me to expect.

Joseph Brodsky is quoted at one of the chapter beginnings, telling you exactly which direction the author's moral compass points:
Life -- the way it really is -- is a battle not between bad and good but between bad and worse.
The plot is just-good-enough, with plenty of battles and palace intrigue, but The Blade Itself is mostly character driven. And the characters are a blast! Deep, balanced, realistic, and easy to identify with...described with the author's flair for dark humor and insightful cynicism, I've already started to miss them (the next book in the series arrives tomorrow.)

Here are a couple of my favorites, with minimal spoilerage:

  • Inquisitor Glokta - A criminal investigator and torturer, Glokta is a model of efficiency. He doesn't enjoy the torture, but he's highly effective and strongly convicted that his work benefits both king and country. But he's also terribly bitter, and as a former fencing champion who is now a toothless cripple (as a result of torture, ironically) - he has little to hope for and nothing to fear. Taking on a central character with this occupation is rife with challenges, but Abercrombie surmounts them admirably. He deftly avoids the senseless cruelty that Terry Goodkind revels in, by doing most of the torture 'off-camera'. In spite of this consideration to a reader's sensibilities, Glokta retains a dark, fearsome, and bloody aura.
  • Loren Ninefingers - Better known as the legendary "Bloody Nine", this barbarian champion has matured from his cavalier younger days to an older warrior who has learned the value of life. He's given up fighting for glory, for pleasure, or for causes - and fights now only for survival. In spite of his remorse over his past, he's neither running from it nor asking for forgiveness. He just lives from moment to moment, glad to still be alive.
  • Jezal - Not a likable character at all, Jezal is the typically self-absorbed, immature nobleman with no desires other than to improve his social standing. But he's slowly showing hints of self-awareness, without understanding why. Abercrombie's doing a great job with his awakening so far, it's subtle and gradual instead of some cliche epiphany.
  • The Named Men - A group of barbarians that used to travel with Loren, they have no king, no families, and no home - but they do have plenty of enemies. Constantly insulting each other, fighting over goals, tactics, and imagined slights - these guys seemingly have nothing in common except a talent for killing (their names were earned in combat) and a hatred for their foes. They mix desperation, hopelessness, resolution, and a flawless precision for dealing death into a small band you'll be cheering for relentlessly.

More than one promising series has been ruined by a terrible ending, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be the case here. In the meantime, I'm truly enjoying reading again.

Chalky-skinned burlap sack

My favorite Family Guy episode was on again last night. Barely Legal.

Family Guy is one of those shows that is very hit-or-miss for me. I can watch three in a row and barely crack a smile, and then the next one will have me waking up my kids with uncontrollable laughter. I'm not someone who wants to argue with you about how derivative or unoriginal you think the show is...sometimes it's pretty fucking funny, so I watch it.

I'd love to link the video, but in spite of several sites claiming to have it streaming for free, I couldn't find one where it actually loads. So you just get text instead. (This clip is from the same episode, but it's the wrong scene.)

This quote from Barely Legal is pure genius. I can't recall a funnier line on any television show, ever.

Brian Griffin: [drunk] Connie, I think I have a theory about why you're such a bitch. You see, Connie, you're popular because you developed early and started giving hand jobs when you were 12. But now, you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror because all you see is a whore. So you pick on Meg to avoid the inevitable realization that once your body is used up by age 19, you're gonna be a worn-out, chalky-skinned, burlap sack that even your stepdad won't want. How's that? Am I in the ballpark?
Second place for Funniest Family Guy Line goes to this discussion between the family dog (Brian) and the baby (Stewie.) Coincidentally, it concerns Connie again.
Stewie: "Do you know that I've got a date with Connie Demico this Saturday night at Anal Point?"

Brian: "Ah. I've heard about that place."

Stewie: "Really? What's it like? ‘Cause I have no idea."

Brian: "Well uh, I suppose if you imagine it like a parking space that you think 'gosh there's no way I'm going to be able to fit in there' but then you fold in the side view mirrors and sure enough, well look at that."

Stewie: "Well in that scenario it sounds like I'd rather be the parking space than the car."

Brian: "Yeah, that's what I've always guessed."
Oddly enough, the very same quotes that I think are hilarious are used by to prove that it's the worst show on televsion. I guess not everyone finds it funny.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

W. - Movie Review

W. is a very good movie with an interesting problem.

When I say "very good", I don't mean "very entertaining." Stone has attempted to stay as true as possible to his source material - including The War Within, The Way of the World, and The Bush Tragedy. And while he succeeds at this, the story of a sad, flailing, intellectually limited narcissist who craves daddy's approval does not make for a rousing tale.

W. is a movie without an audience. If you've been paying attention to the last eight years, observing our president's actions with a critical eye, this portrait of a bumbling loser won't offer anything you haven't already seen for yourself. On the other hand, if you've got Rush Limbaugh on in the background as you're reading this, you'll see the movie as just another attempt by the liberal media to trash your hero. So who is it for?

I'll say this - Richard Dreyfuss was born to play Dick Cheney. He's nails that grandiose, evil weasel completely. Watching him manipulate Bush, then nod his head as W. reminds him that "I am the decider", is funny, instructive, and disheartening all at the same time. But that's not enough for me to recommend this movie.

I'm glad to live in a country where W. could be released, especially while Bush is still in office. You'd never see a similar movie made in Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, India, the Philippines. But that doesn't make W. worth watching. I wanted to make sure there was nothing new there...some previously uncovered bit of evidence to further damn him (if that's even possible) or cast him in a more sympathetic light. And there isn't.

I'll leave you with this quote from Stone:

Our next terrible president will not come wearing wolf's clothing or twisting a mustache. He—or she—will seem benign, friendly, and patriotic; someone who can convince us that the nuance of international relations is actually quite simple; someone with whom we'd want to have a beer. This is one of the main lessons I hope the film conveys: Will we recognize the next George W. Bush who enters national politics? Will we see the train wreck coming before we are in it?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Banner sports weekend

Imagine on Friday I tell you that by Monday the Flyers will have their first two wins of the season - against the Devils, no less - the Phillies will be a game away from a championship, the Eagles will be above .500 and Penn State will still be undefeated.

No way...nothing ever goes that right for a Philadelphia sports fan. Not ever. Give me two of those things and I'll be delighted. Three and I'm drunk with euphoria. All four? I have to believe this is historic. If there's a better sports weekend somewhere in my future, it could only include the accidental demolition of the Cowboys' new stadium on the same day the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

  • How about those Flyers? Suddenly turning their season around against the team that's given them the most trouble over the last decade. And finally playing a little bit of defense. I don't know what's been wrong, but I do know that being just a half-step out of position, or a half-step slow to recognize a cutter or jump a passing lane, can make a defense look really bad. So perhaps that's all it was - a new season, a ton of injuries on the blue-line, some young players - and they needed a little time to adjust. I sure hope so, because a season of 7-6 games, winning or losing, is not what I'm hoping for.

  • The Phils are one game away, and with Cole Hamels on the mound's the absolute perfect setup for a historic collapse, in true Philadelphia fashion. But either way, watching these two teams play, can you honestly say either one is the best team in baseball? Where's the dominating pitching, other than Hamels? Where's the clutch hitting? Where's the batter so terrifying that you walk him three times a game? This has to be the lamest World Series I can recall, and I think they're all pretty lame. Don't get me wrong, I'm dying to break the 25-year drought for Philly sports teams, but every time I watch them pop up with one out and a runner on third, I think: This is the best baseball has to offer?

  • I was at the Eagles game yesterday, and even without the benefit of multiple TV angles and slo-mo replays, I could tell this was one of the worst officiated games I'd ever seen. Watching the highlights this morning only confirmed my suspicions. The Trent Cole roughing call? Ridiculous. The unnecessary roughness against Lawyer Milloy? Ludicrous. And my God, the phantom muff that ended Atlanta's comeback? Beyond awful. I don't know how to make the officiating better...maybe giving these guys full-time jobs and full-time training programs would help, but at least let's do away with this awful instant-replay challenge system. Just review every play like they do in college. Maybe it's not as 'strategic' or something, but to see the game turn on an obvious blown call, and to see Atlanta unable to correct the mistake since they'd used their timeouts - well, it's just wrong. I'll take the win, of course, but Atlanta should have had a chance to make that final drive. These gaffes have to get fixed, because they make a mockery of true competition.

  • One more thing about the Eagles...Andy, I'm still available. Leading by 10, with 6 minutes to play, on 4th-and-goal from an inch away...the referee actually said "Fourth and an inch" must go for it. One inch to win a game, one inch to end it right there, and you don't have the stones to try? Seriously? What's the worst that happens, you're still leading by two scores and Atlanta has to drive 99.94 yards for a TD? Sending out the kicker is worse than gutless, it's begging for a loss. Without that gift muff from the refs, this game was looking like a 21-20 loss, with no one but Andy to blame. Oh - and Westbrook had a career rushing day, 167 yards, on 22 carries. Not 35, 30, or even 25 - 22. Averaging 7.7 yards a rush, Dr. Frankenreid dialed up pass after pass, from empty backfield sets that didn't even have the threat of a run. Any surprise there was plenty of time for Atlanta to mount a comeback? What's the logic here exactly? McNabb's being outplayed by a rookie, Westbrook is running all over the field, and you're winning the game, so...pass again! And for fuck's sake, practice a few short-yardage plays this week, ok? You're team looks like they have no idea how to convert a third-and-one, and that's just sad.

  • Penn State's going to finish the season undefeated. Ohio State's defense played great, like I told Deppen they would, and PSU won a physical, bruising game on the road. It wasn't a great job of coaching - way too many bubble screens to D Will and way too few carries for Royster - but the players made huge plays when it mattered. Next week's game at Iowa could be a trap, but Penn State is so much more talented that even a slow start could be easily overcome (see: Michigan.) The last game of the season will be challenging too, with MSU coming to town, but Penn State's better, and they're at home, and they know just how tough the Spartans can be. Now the question is...will Alabama or Texas lose? Or does PSU add to their record of four undefeated non-championship seasons? Fuck you, BCS, and fuck you, college football. Based on my formula of six major conference winners + the two highest-ranked non-major conference winners, imagine an eight-team playoff with Texas, Alabama, PSU, Florida State, Boston College, USC, Boise State, and Tulsa. That sure would suck, right? No one would pay to see those teams battle it out in a winner-take-all championship tournament, I'm sure. USC-Alabama in the semis? Yawn. PSU-Texas? Boring. Instead, imagine a meaningless Rose Bowl between PSU and USC, fighting it out for third place! Now that's entertainment.

Last Witcher update (probably)

The game forced me to choose between Triss and Shani. They both wanted the same thing, and I could only give it to one of them. The other refuses to speak to you once the decision is made. Shani is the cute/sweet/vulnerable nurse, while Triss is the powerful/hot/confident sorceress, so my decision was ultimately an easy one. And while I'm annoyed that the Witcher resorted to such a contrived convention, kudos to the designers for creating characters deep enough that it bothered me to choose. I can't begin to express how strange this is, but running by Shani's apartment makes me feel...wistful. I even stopped in to see her a couple times, just in case she'd change her mind, but she's having none of it.

I don't want to overstate the character development - it clearly could use some improvement - but Shani and Triss are real enough that they'll remind you of actual women you've met in your lifetime. If you're like me, they'll remind you of actual women that you've mistreated and dumped in your lifetime. So while of course they are nothing more than a collection of bytes, they are powerful enough to invoke the memories of real events and real feelings, which is highly unusual in a game.

Meanwhile, Carmen has a secret true love, which explains her inaccessibility. She needs my help, however, since he's recently (cliche alert - again - I'm tired of typing that) become a werewolf and she wants him to be cured. This is a totally optional quest, and I doubt the reward is any good (Carmen's got a little money, but not enough to make any difference to me.) It's almost like the game designers are offering you an ethical choice: be vindictive toward the one hot woman in the game who won't sleep with you, or help her knowing that she won't give you anything you want. It's an interesting choice, because as far as I can tell, it's completely without consequence. It remains true to the stark contrast between the trite content of the Witcher and the depth of choice and characters.

Later today: Comments on the banner sports weekend for Philadelphia!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing

The MTv generation once cheered: Too much is never enough!

But as we grow older, we realize wistfully that too much can sometimes be...too much.

I'm pouring back a few Kaedwenian Stouts at the local pub, and I strike up a conversation with a Knight of the Order, who's bemoaning the disappearance of his sister. As he describes her, I comment that it sounds remarkably like the blue-eyed lass working at the House of the Night brothel. (I failed to mention, of course, that comparing her eyes to sapphires, and then greasing the skids with an actual sapphire, earned me quite a discount from her usual price.)

There was something else strange about the girl, which I also didn't mention: the dual puncture scars on her neck. House of the Night. Hmmm.

It turns out - sorry for such a huge spoiler, because I know how it would shock you if I hadn't told - that the Madame of said brothel is a vampire. But you see, she's not a bad vampire...she only takes the blood she needs to survive, and never enough to kill her victims/clients. And the blue-eyed lass? Well, she wanted to get away from her brother and the marriage he'd arranged for her. She's chosen immortality and the lavish lifestyle of a high-class whore. Hey, whatever...ethical dilemmas aside, her brother paid me to bring her back, and I'm a monster-slayer, so you'll excuse me while I run this silver sword through your undead chest. What's that? A night with the Sisters of Mercy in exchange for your life? And how many of these Sisters are there again?

Needless to say, that goodie-two-shoes Knight had me followed, and rudely interrupted my menage-a-quatre with a company of his sword-waving brothers. A pile of corpses later, the vampiresses were only too happy to continue expressing their gratitude.

This made me late for a private party that I was scheduled to attend with the fiery sorceress Triss Merigold. It was hosted by a fabulously wealthy merchant, and the room was choked with nobility, including Princess Adda herself. Turns out she has rather unusual cravings for raw meat, but I looked past this oddity and arranged a private audience. Assuring Triss that I was pumping the princess for information, we retired to a room, and well, let's just say she's a beast in bed.

Which leaves me with just one question: now what?

Sure, there's the noblewoman who thinks she'd look wonderful in a silk scarf, but who needs a noblewoman when you've just bagged the princess? And the town clerk who loves diamonds, but after group sex with vampiresses, who looks at a clerk with desire?

I walk around town now, and behind my back I hear men whispering: It's the Witcher, hide your women! But really guys, your women are safe. It's been a busy day, and a man's got to have his rest, you know? If she's not royal or supernatural, I'm just not interested. And it's an empty feeling. With every worthwhile conquest behind me, somehow I have to slog through the rest of this mediocre game, hacking monsters apart and completing FedEx quests. Yawn. I even cleaned out my inventory last night - transferring the daisies, tulips, roses, jewelery and expensive women's clothing from my backpack into the bank. I can always get to them if I need to, but the urgency's gone.

Everyone wants to be at the top of the mountain, but once you're there, you realize that any way you go is down. Alexander wept when there were no more lands to conquer. Witchers don't weep, of course, but...I get it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Witcher: The Embarrassment Continues

Is the personality flaw which allows me to enjoy The Witcher somewhat abated by the fact that I openly admit it? Would it be more sinister to enjoy my shame secretly? These questions I leave for you, constant reader.

So in the game, I'm working with this young, athletically-built redhead named Shani to recover some stolen property and (cliche alert) recover my lost memories. We run into an old friend (she tells me he's an old friend) in town and she suggests we get together at her place for some drinks. And Shani insists I bring someone. "Invite anyone" she says.

My first instinct is (predictably) to push the bounds of good taste, so I immediately head over to the Eager Thighs brothel and look up Carmen, the madame. Unsurprisingly, the conversation option to invite her to the party is available, so I take her up on it. She wants money for her time, but I gladly invest 1/10 of my accrued fortune toward the potential hilarity. That life-saving armor will have to wait: my hero has his priorities.

A quick aside about Carmen: We've done some business - I killed a gang of thugs who were trying to shake her down - and in gratitude she offered me the unlimited services of her girls. Except for her. In a world where just about every woman is available to be had (including the princess of the realm), an untouchable whore is deliciously ironic. And the fact that she'd demand money to go to a party with me, while she won't accept money for sex, is intriguing. So I pay her, and mayhem ensues.

Clearly, I'm far from the first guy who had this instinct, as there are cutscenes and scripted dialog aplenty specific to Carmen. Shani is curious about my choice of invite, and makes several catty comments about Carmen's profession. Carmen replies that the two of us are "purely business associates" with a deliberate sarcasm designed to rile Shani. The old friend is flirting non-stop with Carmen, even singing her a song, but everyone is ignoring him. Soon, Carmen suggests a game of Truth or Dare, which Shani accepts, not wanting to seem the prude.

This whole scene is an elaborately constructed male fantasy. It's a microcosm of the game as a whole - beyond wantonly ignoring political correctness, The Witcher instead unself-consciously celebrates chauvinism. Someone took a lot time to think this scene through, and devise clever lines as the two women subtly (and not-so-subtly) dig at each other. I can't remember being so amused at a game - and at the same time amused at myself for enjoying something so obviously contrived to target the loser gamer.

And I haven't even tried to invite other people - some of the women I've already slept with perhaps (the ones that are still speaking to me, of course), or one of the suspects I'm investigating (another valuable Witcher strategy: get people drunk and they talk more.) Chances are good that I didn't immediately stumble upon the only option, but that the town is full of potential gems. In a game where nothing is new - the combat system, spells, and mythology are all standard - there was a ton of effort put into the interpersonal relationships, and it's absolutely hilarious.

So back to the party - the Truth or Dare game gets quickly out of hand, and Shani tosses everyone out, except for me. In spite of my boorish behavior at the party, a few comforting words and a red rose earn me another card. (Imagine your hero, armed with two swords, an axe, a dagger, and an arsenal of flowers. I never travel anywhere without fresh daisies, tulips, and roses. Because you just never know when they'll come in handy.) The cutscene of the old lady living below, looking up at the ceiling in disgust as plaster flakes off, was so boldly cliche that I laughed out loud - again.

It's refreshing, or revolting, or both that in a genre constantly striving to do something "new", The Witcher has simply taken a very familiar RPG formula and added some well-designed philandering. And somehow it works. There's a lesson about myself in there which I'm trying desperately to avoid learning. In the meantime, I have a princess to woo. You think she likes flowers?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm playing a new game called The Witcher. It's not exactly a new game, but it's new to me (ie: it's on version 1.4.5, finally stable, and includes lots of performance improvements over the original release.) This game's claim to fame is - and I'm quoting from the Game Guide directly - the biggest Polish computer game in history. Enough said.

It's just your run-of-the-mill RPG, with magical swords and grumpy dwarves, but it fills the same mindless comfort need for me that TV fills for most people.

Except for one thing.

Lots of games have meaningless accomplishments - Halo skulls, Gears Cog tags, Assassin's Creed flags - that offer nothing to the game except some possible replay value if you missed them the first time, and another way to measure your e-penis against your virtual friends. The Witcher has accomplishments too. But instead of flags, tags, or skulls, your character collects women.

Every time you get a virtual chick in the sack, and I'm past a half-dozen so far, you collect an artistically drawn card. Of course, this takes the objectification of women to a whole new level, and I should be disgusted. And on some level, I am. But...I want more cards.

Here's my favorite example: the witch Abigail, who was grateful that I slew an entire village instead of letting them burn her at the stake. As I stepped over the mauled corpses of the villagers, every time I saw a blood-soaked dress, I couldn't help but think: missed opportunity.

Maybe I'm sick (ok, no "maybe" about it.) But this aspect of the game is hilarious. I love running around town trying to find a pair of red gloves to woo the gossip, or tracking down a wolf pelt for the green-skinned druidess to prove what a manly hunter I am. It's endlessly entertaining that most of the women ignore me after sex...engaging me in idle chatter about the weather, if anything. If I'm going to pretend to be a sword-swinging, spell-slinging hero in my spare time, I might as well pretend to be a womanizing hero. (I do have my standards, however. In spite of multiple offers, I've so far refused the prostitutes and peasant girls.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cons vs. Cons

Elections tend to make me depressed. This year is no different.

The next president will not be decided by ideas, but by voter mobilization and geography. Split-ticket voters and true independents are disappearing as people with similar lifestyles and voting patterns move into like-minded neighborhoods, strengthening party allegiance. True discussion is pointless when people use the infinite choices of information servers today to read pre-filtered news already slanted toward pre-conceived notions. In this culture, political misinformation becomes more critical than truth, since the truth is ignored while misinformation serves to reinforce previously held beliefs and mobilize the base.

So in that spirit, I'm debating the "merits" of the two candidates myself, if for no other reason than to organize my ideas.


  • Charismatic and diplomatic, and completely free of the Bush taint, his election will go a long way toward restoring some international credibility to the U.S.
  • He'll appoint judges with liberal leanings, which means more support for legal abortion and other social rights.

  • His economic ideas are proven failures. And a Democratic congress will be only too happy to implement them.
  • He's a global warming true believer.
  • He's a liar and a party tool. Led the Senate in 'present' votes, and when he did make a stand, his record was more liberal than anyone else's. All while campaigning on a platform of "change" and "bipartisan consensus."
  • He'll appoint judges with liberal leanings, which means more support for class-action lawsuits and less protection for businesses from the I-need-a-warning-label-on-my-coffee-cup knuckleheads.
  • This isn't based on anything but observation, so it may be flawed...but I just can't shake the feeling that Obama is in over his head. He seems like a tremendous orator but a mediocre thinker.



  • I don't know that he'll actually do anything, but he at least talks about cutting government spending. The absolute best way to fix our economy and secure our future as a prosperous nation is to take money away from the government at every possible turn. In addition to reduced spending, McCain wants to...
  • Lower the corporate tax rate. This is necessary to compete in an ever-crowded world marketplace. America has the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world, and some of the most onerous regulation (SarbOx, anyone?) This has led to more and more companies listing their headquarters offshore.
  • I'm completely in line with McCain's energy policy. We need to drill for oil in the U.S. and build nuclear plants everywhere.


  • He's ardently pro-life, or at least he proclaims to be in order to assuage the religious right. He's promised to stack the Supreme Court with judges who will seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Palin's even worse. She's against gay marriage too. I might be able to convince myself that McCain's just lying to get votes, but Palin is the real psycho-religious deal. One heartbeat away is way too close for this chick.
  • Somehow he's bought into this carbon cap-and-trade bullshit.
  • As a former military guy who is hawkish on foreign affairs, it's very likely our international image will remain that of aggressive cowboys. Sure, he's smarter than Bush and won't ask God for advice, but he's close enough policy-wise to maintain our poor perception.

Talk about a Sophie's Choice. I guess either one would be better than Bush, but that's not saying much.

Feel free to comment additional pros/cons, maybe I'm forgetting something. Don't be an idiot, though, and post the latest nonsense you heard from Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh. Read some differing viewpoints, do some research, and put some thought into it before you post.

Big Red Incompetence

Andy, Andy, Andy.

This Eagles team is talented enough for a Super Bowl, and you're flushing it down the toilet. Again.

The last time the Eagles were a winning team, they had a 50/50 run/pass ratio and the beaten-out-by-Brian-Griese Jeff Garcia at QB. Now, with uber-talented McNabb back at the helm, we're favoring the pass 65/35 again, and losing.


I've given up hope that you'll ever run the ball, however, but could you at least stop making boneheaded decisions that cost your team close games? Look, it's easy (and mostly correct) to blame the defense for the loss against the can't give up 200 yards rushing and suck on third down, and still expect to win. But Andy made two horrible decisions that easily accounted for the 6-point difference.

First: Stop attempting 50 yard field goals when you have fourth-and-5 or less. Of his last 13 attempts over 40 yards, Akers has made three - count em: one, two, three. So the point expectation of attempting that FG is 3*3/13 or 0.7. Less than one point. On the other hand, when you miss, you give the Redskins the ball at the 40 yardline. NFL teams score about 40% of the time from that field position, and 1/3 scores are TDs. So the Redskins point potential when you attempt that FG is: (3+3+7)/3 * .40 or 1.7. Therefore, the average point expectation for trying that FG is -1.0! That decision is giving a point to the Redskins, on average. The way it worked out, we actually gave them 3 points this time (half the margin of victory.) If you instead go for it, you have ~50% chance of converting the first down, which could lead to a shorter FG or even a touchdown. And if you don't make it, the Skins get the ball at the 33 instead of the 40 (instead of the 47-yard FG they made, they would have been forced to punt or try a 54-yarder.) This isn't rocket science, it's simple math. Conventional wisdom says FG, but the math says going for it > punting > FG attempt. Still, you continue to ignore the math (once vs. Skins, twice vs. Bears.)

Second: Don't take a timeout at the end of the half when the other team has the ball 3rd and 3...especially when you're already ahead by 8! This decision gave the Redskins another FG and momentum going into halftime. If you're behind and you need to gamble to score again, I'm all for it. But this stupid/greedy decision again accounted for 3 points.

Two decisions, three points each, and the Eagles lose 23-17. After a horribly coached Bears game with equally bad decisions and worse playcalling, it's time for you to admit that you need help. This season's probably lost already, but it's not too late for next year.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Book review: The Watchmen


I've never read a comic before, but Watchmen was a good one to start with.

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children, not fate that butchers them, nor destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us.

Watchmen's scope is epic, both in plot and philosophy. The heroes are complex and terribly flawed. The questions of morality are timeless, as evidenced by the quote "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" (who watches the watchmen) taken from The Satires of Juvenal, an ancient Roman poet.

The presentation is addition to the standard comic frame, each chapter contains reprints of "documents" including police reports, newspaper clippings, marketing materials, etc., that provide background information and create an atmosphere of realism. There's also a good bit of metafiction, including the horror comic Tales of the Black Freighter. This story is told in parallel, offering a slighly different, darker perspective to the same events.

It's also very interesting as a period piece - it's set in 1985, when nuclear devastation was a real and imminent threat to our survival. Additionally, the different attitudes toward minorities and homosexuals are striking. (How much of this is the author, and how much is actually just a sign of the times, is perhaps debatable.)

One thing that detracts from the immersion is the Star Trek-level pseudo-science. Somewhere between tachyon pulses and psychic shockwaves, I just shut off the scientific part of my mind and accepted Watchmen as an epic morality play. I'm curious to see if the movie remains true to this aspect of it, or if they attempt to 'real up' some of the goofy explanations.

Overall, though, I'd highly recommend the graphic novel and I can't wait to see the movie.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Friday, October 03, 2008


The game is a week old, so I won't waste a lot of time on it, but I couldn't resist the double entendre.

Although this was a huge play in the game for the Bears, the overhead replay was never shown in the stadium. I wonder if this view was on NBC while Andy Reid still had the opportunity to challenge.

And oh yeah, see Matt Schobel on the left, #89? That's his guy with his arms around Buck's neck, preventing him from leaning forward into the endzone. Great block, genius. Of course, if I was making the roster, Schobel wouldn't be on the team.

Now on to another Choke, one that was less expensive and more entertaining than four hours in a cramped seat having my sexuality repeatedly questioned by hostile Bears fans.

Palahniuk (pretty sure I'll never type that name again) has an amusing style that combines deep cynicism and dark satire. Choke is a quick, entertaining read carried along by the lightness of his prose and the sharpness of his observations. A couple hours on a plane is all you need to get through it.

But if you've seen Fight Club, and of course you have, then there's almost nothing new between the covers of Choke. The same message of rebellion against an emasculating, materialistic society rings throughout. The same lovable (sort of) losers who hang out on the fringes, and only find redemption by rejecting all social conventions, fill the pages. The main character even attends group therapy sessions and meets girls there. His mother is basically a reprint of the Brad Pitt character, with the same disdain for authority, propensity for mischief, and conspiracy theories.

The major difference, of course, is that instead of fighting, the main character is a sex addict who spends his time banging nurses, strippers, teachers, stoners, convicts, and complete strangers. But the similarities are so striking it might as well be called Fuck Club.

The plot twist at the end is fun, but even that has a familiar feel, as it again involves a delusional person living a dual life.

And ok, I'll admit it, I'm a little annoyed that this loser addict who lives in his mom's house and works as a colonial tour guide has sex with so many women. It just hasn't been my experience that chicks are hot for poor losers who offer neither emotional attachment or romance. But maybe it's just me.