Saturday, October 27, 2007

Get on the bus

Too much art can be dangerous. It reminds me of all that I haven't accomplished and makes me yearn for more time for writing and moviemaking and other arts, time I can't afford to give.

Tonight, Sarah performed four piano pieces at Fourth Friday, then hopped in the car with a friend of hers and me to zip off to the Stars concert at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. I know very little about the band's music, but the show--despite the typical lousy club mix--made me determined to check them out further. Though the drive home in the pouring rain--for which all of us in this area are quite grateful--was exhausting, I'm still glad I went.

In thinking about art tonight, I realized that I am on the bus, at least a little: I write every day. I find some small solace in that fact, and I hope that I will be able to carve out bigger chunks of time each day in the months and years that I hope are still to come.

Oh, lest I forget: Sarah is today's RPS sad panda, because the streak is over.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Random walk

I'm going to be up very late tonight, because I'm quite behind on work, so of course my brain is going in every direction at once. Here are the lead points of just a few of those vectors.

I'm a sad RPS panda. To see why, check Sarah's triumph.

Sarah also asked that I put here a message for Kyle: "Get in the car, Kyle!" (Don't ask.)

The galleys for Transhuman arrived today. I'm glad to have the chance to proof them, but I'm also neck-deep in work, so it's one more stress. So it goes. I am looking forward to the book's publication.

While working I listened to a couple of interviews with Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens. I was a huge Cat Stevens fan in high school and college, and I still love a lot of his music.

Dave, my one draft reader for each book, gave me a lot of great comments on Slanted Jack. For reasons related to details of the scene, one suggestion didn't work as he'd written it, but the instinct behind it was superb. Last night, I worked on that scene, and I greatly improved it (I hope) after thinking a lot about Dave's comment. Thanks, Dave.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

School concert, The Hold Steady, and a drunken jerk

Tonight was packed. I left work early (for me: 6:15) to head to a school concert. Sarah and Scott were violinists with the strings ensemble and the symphony orchestra, and I greatly enjoyed hearing them play. I also had a good time listening to the other groups that performed, but I can't help but be biased toward music my kids make. They're talented musicians, and I'm incredibly proud of them.

Immediately after the show ended, four of us--Sarah, her friend, Jennie, and I--headed to the Lincoln Theater to see The Hold Steady, a band whose most recent CD all of us have liked. The opening act, Art Brut, was better than I expected but not quite good enough to entice me to buy any of their albums.

After the usual club delays, The Hold Steady took the stage. Despite the typical club bad sound mix, I was having a good time listening to the music and shuffling my feet in place in what for me passes for dancing.

Then the problem began.

A drunken man in his twenties or thirties hit on all three of the women in succession. Jennie said she gave him a mean enough look that he moved right past her. Sarah looked away and didn't respond, and her friend did the same. The jerk unfortunately fixated on her friend and kept bumping into the girl. And we are talking a girl here, someone well under 18. I explained her age and asked the guy to stop it, but he kept finding little ways to be annoying, so we all moved to a position against the wall far away from him. First rule of conflict: walk away if you can.

That should have been the end of it.

But it wasn't. On his way to buy more beer, this idiot stopped to talk to Sarah's friend. I quickly put my body between the two of them. He explained he would always stop to talk to a sad face, and I explained that he would not, at least not this particular one. When he kept trying to get around me and would not listen to what I was saying, I used my body to move him a few yards away, where he continued arguing and started yelling at me. I told him to back off and leave the girl alone, but he persisted in moving toward her.

If you know me, you realize what a bad idea this was. If you don't know me, all you really need to understand is this: if someone is under my protection, I would die before I would let them get hurt--but first, I would do violence to any attacker. (If you think I'm being melodramatic, you don't know me.)

The jerk saw an overweight middle-aged man, so he pushed.

The next thing he saw was my arm squeezing his throat and jamming him against the wall. I explained to him, rather less calmly, that he would stay away, or I would hurt him a great deal more than I was already doing. He fussed for a moment, then went limp--his first smart move of the night. I released my grip, and he left.

A bit later, he approached her again. I intervened, and he immediately began apologizing. You might think this was his second smart move, but it wasn't, because to make the apology he again intruded on the girl's space.

Unfortunately, by this time, Sarah's friend was scared--she did not know she was safe with me, and she did not know the guy was apologizing--and went to the restroom in tears, Jennie and Sarah in fast pursuit. I followed them and waited, quivering from adrenaline, outside the restroom. What I wanted to do was pummel the jerk who made her cry, but I have enough self-control to stop myself from doing that.

We enjoyed the rest of the show from the upstairs balcony. The guy came up one time to use the bathroom, but he swerved around us and did not make eye contact--his second smart move.

Being a dad, I couldn't help but use the experience to impart some lessons to the girls on the drive home.

I hate that those lessons are necessary, but they are. Men can be jerks in many circumstances, but when they're drunk, the probability of bad behavior goes way up. So, too, does the likelihood of stupidity, because only a stupid man picks a confrontation with no data about his adversary.

I should end by noting that I'm not writing this because I'm proud of my behavior, nor because I enjoyed it. I'm writing it in part because I'm a writer and it's what I do, and in part because I'm still buzzed with adrenaline and draining some more of it from my system by relating the story is better than many of the alternatives. I couldn't communicate to that idiot that I would not let him hurt anyone with me, and I came perilously close to hurting him. I hate that I did, I hate that I ended up at a violent solution, and I hate that I'm paying for it, but words alone would not get him to stop bothering Sarah's friend, and letting him bug her was never an option. Yeah, we could have left the show, but we'd paid to attend, and we'd been enjoying ourselves, and frankly I'm simply not that good a pacifist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A qualified recommendation

A while back, I finally managed to order and receive some of Dr. Bob's ice cream. I say "finally" because it took three attempts for one to succeed. I'd read good things about this gourmet ice cream maker, and I'm always up for importing the best frozen comestibles, so I persisted.

I'm glad I did. For taste, I have to give the ice cream high marks. Its chocolates are some of the best I've ever tasted, and all of the flavors we sampled were very good or better. If you love ice cream, you'll want to taste Dr. Bob's.

What led me to make the overall recommendation a qualified one is that getting the ice cream is difficult. You can't mix and match flavors exactly as you'd like, each set of six pints must be a separate order, and I had multiple problems even getting an order to reach me. That said, the people there were unfailingly nice, and the ice cream is so good that I plan to order it again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

On game design

I've corresponded briefly with Kyle about a very good article on game design that he wrote and posted on his site. If you play video games at all or are even mildly interested in them, it's a fun, if somewhat formal and technical, read, and I recommend it.

When Kyle visits, we inevitably spend a chunk of time discussing how to design fun games and exactly what it is that makes a game fun. Why did I enjoy MechAssault so much but not bother to finish MechAssault 2? (Sales figures generally aligned with my feelings, by the way, so it wasn't simply that my taste was odd--though that is often the case.) Why are the Halo games so much fun?

These may sound like questions that matter only to geeks, but they're not. The video game business is huge, and the costs of making the big games is equally large: think $15M and up for a single game. With that much money on the line, figuring out how to come closer to being fun for the player is worth a lot.

Kyle's paper has a lot of good insights, and game designers would do well to heed them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Anderson Silva is amazing

Last night, a few of us gathered to watch the latest UFC PPV offering. The main event was a fight between the middleweight (185 lb.) champion, Anderson "Spider" Silva, and the former champion, Rich "Ace" Franklin. Silva won the title from Franklin about a year ago in a fight that ended in the first round with Silva demolishing Franklin. Franklin, who had previously looked unstoppable, spent a long time regrouping (and having his nose reconstructed), then won a couple of fights on his way to earning this rematch. Every MMA fan I know felt Silva would win, but we all hoped Franklin would make it a real contest.

He did--for all of a few minutes.

Then, Silva took over. He nearly won the fight in the first round, and he destroyed Franklin early in the second.

After the fight, Silva bowed to his opponent, treated him with great respect, and only praised him (via a translator). Silva is a class act, an amazing fighter, and pound for pound possibly the best in the MMA world. If you're at all into MMA and get a chance to catch this fight on replay, don't miss it.


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