I read that, giggled, and decided that he was full of shit. There is no way that actually happened.
Turns out that he was not full of shit. It was real, and it was spectacular.
I read that, giggled, and decided that he was full of shit. There is no way that actually happened.
Turns out that he was not full of shit. It was real, and it was spectacular.
I've been reading my friend Pauly's blog and following him on Twitter while he's at the World Series of Poker, and even though I don't play nearly as much as I once did, it's making me wish I was there with him and a lot of my other friends, not just to play, but to write about it, as well.
Though I can't be there (yet) I thought it would be fun to bring back The Wheetie poker tournament I used to host every week on PokerStars, even if it's only a one-off.
So, here's the deal, if you feel like joining me for a silly $5 no-limit hold'em tournament on a Sunday morning:
Back in the glory days, we'd get about 100 players per tourney. On such short notice, I think we'll be lucky to get two tables ... but it should still be a lot of fun. I hope you'll come out and play with us.
When I worked on TNG, I spent most of my free time doing two things: painting Warhammer 40K miniatures, and hanging out in the art department.
I loved the art department. From the very first time I walked into their workspace, Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach let me look at their sketches, geek out about the science part of science fiction, and gave me a place to go every day where it was okay to be a huge nerd who loved science and design.
They became my friends, and like my other cow-orker Guy Vardaman (who was my stand-in), they nurtured my geeky side so much, I was never "at risk" like other teenage actors who bought into the myth that all young actors should party their lives away in Hollywood night clubs.
I just saw this on Doug Drexler's blog:
WOW! Congratulations, Mike. This is an award that is richly deserved.
Each entry in Memories of the Future is broken up into sections: the synopsis, some quotable dialog, the obligatory technobabble, a behind the scenes memory, the bottom line, and a final grade.
I'm striving to strike just the right balance among the main sections, and working very hard to be humors, reflective, and insightful in the appropriate places. I'm done with the synopses (the largest part of the book) and today and tomorrow I'm working on the behind the scenes and bottom line sections.
I've worked my way up to The Battle today, and I wanted to share its Behind The Scenes part:
And, totally unrelated, in case you missed these two things on Twitter:
Anne and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in November. That's awesome.
This weekend, I had a last-minute change in plans, and discovered that I had the free time to go play in World Wide D&D Game Day, which was set up by Wizards of the Coast to promote the release of the Monster Manual 2.
I went to my friendly local game shop, where I was able to join a session that was just starting out. I picked a Dwarf Paladin, because I've never played either of those things before, and I thought it would be pretty fun. As it turned out, I was correct. Even though it was a dungeon crawl with people I didn't know, I role-played the Dwarf, as they said in Sherman Oaks in 1983, like totally to the max.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun, even though I had to leave before the final encounter because -- you know, it's easier if I just tell the story:
I told the guys I was playing with what had happened. Luckily, my friend Martin had just come into the store to meet me, so I handed my character over to him. I reminded him to keep role playing heavily, and make sure he didn't roll higher than 7, just to keep things consistent.
I left, and spent the next few hours taking care of Nolan's friend (who was ultimately fine, but isn't going to be climbing any trees for a few weeks.)
When I got home, I called Martin and asked him how the rest of the adventure went. He told me that Eomer (the Dwarf we played) pulled off some last-minute heroics, and the PCs ended up "winning" the delve:
All of this is preamble to the whole reason I'm writing about it, though. I read this gaming blog called critical-hits. It's awesome, and if you like RPGs, you should read it to.
Anyway, there's a post today about playing the WWD&DGD, written by a guy who ran the delve.
Brief interlude about the D&D game days: I love the Wizards does these things, because it helps build the gaming community in a number of ways. An obvious one is making it really easy for new players to give tabletop RPGs a try, but a less-obvious one that I don't hear people talk about is how fun it is for all of us who play, all over the world, to share our individual experiences playing the same characters in the same encounters. It's so fun to hear how some other party handled the rust monsters, for example, and how other players who chose Eomer decided to use his powers.
Okay, back to the reason I wrote this post: I was reading the post at critical-hits, enjoying myself thoroughly, and then I saw this picture near the end of the post. I may have let out a little squeal of joy, because the DM was wearing the shirt I designed for shirt.woot.
I love that. I love that so much, I wanted to share it with the world. Which I just did.
Well, the most creatively demanding part is over. About an hour ago, I finished the first round of de-blogging, cutting and rewriting on Memories of the Future.
The next step is to take all the individual reviews (which are in their own files) and combine them into one big document so I can see how it all works together. Based on my first round of rewrites, I'll be watching for a few things:
* Duplicated jokes that need to be cut. The original
reviews were written months apart, so I used a few things – like "Bat
Country" – more than once without realizing it. That's forgivable
online, but it doesn't really work in a book.
* Places where I can examine something from Behind the Scenes a little bit more, or places where it's just not that interesting and can be cut out.
* How The Bottom Lines all interact with each other. They should reflect how the series and we who made it evolved and developed over the course of the first season, and I'm not entirely sure I accomplished that in the first draft. I have to make sure it's not repetitive, and that each one truly reflects something unique to the episode and when it first aired. (Yes, this is a very public NOTE TO SELF. Please enjoy it.)
Just to keep with the tradition of posting something from the book with each post, here's a little bit from The Big Goodbye. This is one of those episodes that's actually quite good, so the humor in the recap is entirely different from the humor in, say, The Naked Now's recap:
Picard decides that playtime is over, and it’s time to get back to work, but Dr. Crusher wants to check out his office. Any chance of that being a euphemism is reduced when Data and Whalen tag along. When they get to his office, the euphemism possibility is eliminated completely: Felix Leech, a Peter Lorre-esque hired goon, is waiting for them. With a gun. And he’s pissed.
There’s another great moment here where the gun comes out, and Picard and company all look at each other with this wide-eyed grin, like it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. It’s one of the rare times on TNG when we in the audience feel genuine suspense, too, because we know that gun’s going to go off and someone is going to get hurt. Those of us who are longtime fans also know that, for the purposes of this holodeck program, the part of Ensign Ricky Redshirt will be played by the ship’s 20th-century literature expert Mr. Whalen, who dutifully takes a bullet in the gut from Leech. This leads to another great moment, when everyone realizes that, holy shit, Leech just shot Whalen. Like, for reals.
Dr. Crusher tells them that they have to get Whalen to Sickbay, Picard smacks around Leech, and they can’t get the computer to give them an exit. This is sort of a problem because Whalen is dying, and back in the real world the Jarada will be expecting the Captain to speak to them pretty soon. Just to make things a little more tense, tough guy Cyrus Redblock shows up with Leech and another hired goon. It turns out that Redblock hired Hill to find an “item,” which Hill hasn’t produced. Redblock and his goons intend to help Hill find it, using their guns. After Leech pistol-whips Picard, McNary arrives, and we’ve got ourselves what you could call “a situation.”
Picard tries to talk them out of the situation, using the old “Hey, man, we’re from another world” routine, but Redblock and company ain’t buying. Data tries the well-known, “Hey, man, these characters aren’t even real” line, which all of us actors perfected during years of Star Trek convention appearances. Unfortunately, Data’s effort meets with similar results.
This is so close to being finished, I'm almost ready to go pick out a bottle of Scotch to open when I'm done.
(Image: flickr user Hjelle)
Remember when you had some huge project due in middle school, and you really didn't want to do it, so you just kept putting it off? Then, when you finally get to work on it, it's actually more fun than you thought it would be and you wonder why you didn't want to work on it in the first place?
Welcome to me, working on The Last Outpost. Yes, the episode is still tedious and the Ferengi are so fucking lame if they were horses we'd have to put them down, but once I decided to just relax and not worry about making the damn thing something it's incapable of being, I found some amusing bits.
Picard asks Troi is she's sensing anything from the Ferengi ship. That's good, since it's kind of her whole job and everything. She says she's sensing nothing, so maybe they can block their thoughts and emotions. That's bad.
Data says that we don't know that much about the Ferengi, which is bad, but we do know a few things about them that seem to be reliable, which is good. Data says the Frogurt is also cursed.
Riker tells Data to just get on with it already, so Data says Ferengi are like Yankee traders from 18th century America. This indicates that, in the 24th century, the traditional practice of using 400 year-old comparisons is still in vogue, like when you're stuck in traffic on the freeway, and say, "Man, this is just like Vasco de Gama trying to go around the Cape of Good Hope!"
Tasha, Worf, Geordi, Data, and Riker all head to the transporter room, where the writers try to make us believe they’ll be in real danger on the planet, but we know it’s pretty safe when they beam down, unaccompanied by even a single Red Shirt.
The planet looks really cool, and it's one of the first times we can see the difference in budgets and technologies available to the original series and the Next Generation. It's misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers. We discover that energy in the atmosphere has messed up the transporter's coordinates, and Riker's been beamed down alone. He quickly finds Data, who again uses the word "intriguing" to describe things. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
Riker and Data scout around, and find Geordi suspended upside down when – oh! here come the Ferengi! Holy shit! The evil Ferengi! They're finally here, in person! We can see more than just their moderately scary faces, and they are…uh…short. And bouncy. And they wave their hands over their heads a lot. And they don't like loud noises. And they carry whips…and wear Ugg boots. Um. Wow. How…intriguing.
Oh, and one more bit, which – I'm not going to lie to you, Marge – was the part I had the most fun writing, for reasons which will reveal themselves momentarily:
Back on the Enterprise, we discover that, like the script, things have gone from bad to worse. The lights are out, the ship's heating is nearly gone, and Picard has had the remaining power rerouted to the family decks, where he asks Doctor Crusher how Wesley is doing.
Now, listen, fan fiction writers: It's not because Picard is actually Wesley's father, as many of you will argue on Usenet over the coming seven years; it's because Picard knows that Wesley could totally figure a way out of this, and he’s right. Off the top of my head, I can suggest that Wesley would generate some sort of Enterprise-enveloping control field with one of his science projects, using an electro plasma system energy converter, to reverse the polarity of the Navigational Deflector to emit an inverse tachyon pulse through a subspace beacon, while rerouting the power from the impulse engines through the Okuda conduits to the forward sensor array's antimatter pod, using the auxiliary fusion generator to turn the power back on and save the day.
Sadly, we learn that Dr. Crusher left Wesley in their quarters to stare death in the face alone, without even the benefit of a sedative. Picard reassures her that leaving Wesley alone and fully conscious was great parenting, because he has the right to "meet death awake." Legions of Trekkies agree, then curse Picard for getting their hopes up.
It truly is one of the most tedious episodes of the first season, but I realized while working on the rewrite that I'd somehow managed to spread some funny bits fairly evenly throughout the synopsis, so even though it's not slap-your-knee funny, it's not boring, which was my primary concern.
I don't include many bits that aren't in the synopsis, so here's part The Bottom Line:
TNG's struggle to find its way continues with this episode. Obviously, it fails spectacularly with its introduction of the Ferengi, who were intended to replace the Klingons as a terrifying and worthy adversary to the Federation, but were a total joke until Armin Shimmerman brought Quark to life on DS9, and repaired much – but not all – of the damage.
However, If you take away how outrageously lame the Ferengi are, this episode has some cool elements to it. The planet looks great, and the effects that lead to the revealing of the Portal, its point of view about itself, and its interaction with Riker are straight out of classic Star Trek. In fact, the entire story of the titular last outpost would have been a very strong one, had the Ferengi not been so weak and laughable. Imagine, for example, the relationship between Kirk and the Romulan Commander in Balance of Terror, and put them into this situation, where they are forced to cooperate.
See? It's not all jokes and snark. I manage to sneak some semi- thoughtful stuff in there between the facepalms.
When I send this to Andrew, I'm done with the bulk of the work on this book. All that's left is transcribing some interviews I did with friends from the show so I can include a few of their thoughts (I'm not saying who I talked to, nyahh nyahh) and then I have to put everything together in one big tile and read it all, looking for jokes or phrases that I repeated and areas in the behind the scenes stuff where I can add additional material.
Yep, this is dangerously close to being finished.
...let me tell you all about the pain.
I've written enough books and things to identify a few milestones along my creative road. When I was ... well, I almost said 'still figuring this out', like I have it all figured out, which I don't, so I'll try again: When I had even less figured out than I do now, it would freak me out when I was convinced that something was horrible and I sucked and I was stupid and they were all going to laugh at me and cover me with pig's blood. Now I know that feeling that way is just a landmark on my creative path, and when I feel that way I can recognize it as just part of the birthing process.
This isn't to say that I don't know how to recognize the difference between feeling like something sucks when it actually doesn't, and feeling like something sucks because it really does suck and it's time to let it go and move on to something else. I think it's really important for all artists, especially those of us who work independently, to train the hell out of this skill, and get good editors (or the editor-equivalent) to make sure we use it.
I've recently discovered two new labor pains, and they're driving me crazy: "I hate this and I just want it to be over so I can do something new," and "I hate the sound of my own stupid fucking voice." Unsurprisingly, they arrived together and made a lot of noise until I recognized them for the labor pains that they are.
Speaking of labor pains, I have accepted that the Farpoint entries in Memories of the Future aren't going to be as funny as Justice or Naked Now. I was making myself crazy trying to force into being something hilarious, when all it's going to be is amusing, which was wasting my time and annoying the pig, so I've put the Farpoint entries to bed. Here's a little bit from part two that I think doesn't suck:
Picard bids farewell to the Hood and walks onto the bridge, just in time for Q to appear on the main viewscreen. Worf, full of Klingon piss and blood wine vinegar, leaps to his feet and draws his phaser. Picard whacks Worf on the nose with a newspaper and tells him to put his toys away, because blowing a hole in the viewer isn’t going to get rid of Q any faster. (It is at this very moment that the Big Dumb Stupid Old Worf drinking game is born, one of the few Star Trek drinking games to span multiple series and movies, joining the infamous “Transporter Has Capabilities Never Seen Before Or Since” and “Scene With The Character The Writers Really Hate But The Goddamn Suits Made Us Include” hangover-makers.) Q tells Picard that he needs to solve the Mystery of Farpoint within 24 hours, or he will be summarily judged by Captain Q's Kangaroo Court, where he faces death beneath an avalanche of ping pong balls.
Hey, speaking of things that are lame, here comes Wesley Crusher, who is so busy talking about how awesome the holodeck is, he falls right into some of its totally awesome and entirely realistic water, soaking his awesome brown sweater in the process. Luckily for Wes, he has a closet that is filled with those horrible things, and in the very next scene, we see he's changed into a spiffy green number (which, if I must be honest here, was the sweater I hated wearing the least. Yes, it was ugly as hell, but it was much more comfortable than the other ones, and was nearly baggy and lame enough to pass for something you'd wear if you were 14 in 1987 and had a huge crush on Debbie Gibson. Not that I ever did. The posters were just up there for show, man. And I did the autographs myself with the same marker I used to draw tanks for Ogre. Uh . . . I’ve over-shared again, haven’t I?)
So, it isn't hilarious, but it's amusing, and that's just fine with me, especially because it means I'm nearly finished with all the heavy lifting on Volume One. All I have to do is set a course for The Last Outpost and make the synopsis less tedious (very hard to do because the episode is two things: tedious and more tedious). Once that's done, I go through the whole thing one more time to polish it up and make sure that the behind the scenes stuff is just right.
I'm still on my release schedule (well, maybe a few days behind) but it's all coming together. This is pretty awesome, because on the horizon, I can see my favorite milestone on the creative path: "Holy shit it's done and I finally get to share it with readers."
A special evening (it was the first time Anne and the kids saw them perform live) was made extra-special for me because I got to open the whole show.
Earlier this year, Paul and Storm ran this thing called Geek Madness, which was a bracket competition designed to choose Obama's Secretary of Geek Affairs. Somehow, against all odds and a final round matchup against Joss Whedon, I emerged with the most votes. I think I can thank GeekDad and Fark for making sure that my platform ("a d20 in every dice bag and a slide rule in every pocket")* was heard.
Paul and I talked about a week ago, and decided that it would be fun to do something together at the show, and ultimately decided that it could be awesome if I wrote and issued some kind of proclamation in my official capacity as the Secretary of Geek Affairs.
I did some research on the wording of these things, grabbed a list of some of my favorite JoCo songs, and came up with this:
DEPARTMENT OF GEEK AFFAIRS OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION
On behalf of the Department of Geek Affairs, I hereby make this special salute to Jonathan Coulton and hereby officially proclaim that Jonathan Coulton is the 2009 recipient of the Presidential d20 of Geekdom, in honor of his many contributions to Geek Culture. Jonathan Coulton, like Tom Lehrer and Al Yankovic before him has and will continue to inspire geeks, dweebs, dorks, nerds, spazzes, dorkwads, and neo-maxi-zoom-dweebies forever with his unique musical talents.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton reminds us that it will be the future, soon.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton makes us feel fantastic.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton is not unreasonable, and will not eat our eyes.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton singlehandedly preserves the rich historic legacy of Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton keeps trying, until he runs out of cake.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton risked his life to deliver greetings from Chiron Beta Prime.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton uses passive voice to show how gentle he will be.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton brought the lonely plight of the giant squid out of the depths of the ocean and into our hearts.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton likes Fritos, Tab, and Mountain Dew.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton makes the first of May extra special.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton wears the fanciest of pants.
WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton is a Rorschach test on fire, and changed the world in a tiny way.
NOW, THEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS BY JONATHAN COULTON TO THE WORLD IN GENERAL, AND TO GEEK AND MUSICAL CULTURE SPECIFICALLY, IT IS HEREBY PROCLAIMED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF GEEK AFFAIRS THAT
JONATHAN COULTON IS THE 2009 RECIPIENT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL d20 OF GEEKDOM
So say we all.
I read this in front of the sold-out Coronet theater, doing my best not to tremble with excitement, and the audience seemed to really dig it. When I was done, I presented the Presidential d20 of Geekdom (a giant d20 I bought at Orccon last year) to Paul and Storm, who accepted it on behalf of Jonathan (who they joked, "couldn't be here tonight,") as they took the stage to start the show.
The show was awesome. Paul and Storm were fantastic, and Jonathan was as wonderful as ever. They were joined by their friend Molly, who plays the hell out of the ukulele, for a few songs, and she was incredible. They all did a song together where they stepped in front of their mics and played 100% acoustically to a theater that was filled to capacity and utterly silent, hanging on every note that was played. It was delightful.
After the show, a few of us got together for this crappy cellphone picture, which makes me squeal with nerdy nerdosity, even though it's a crappy cellphone picture.
Also, there was an earthquake about 5 minutes after I walked off the stage. Coincidence? YOU DECIDE!
*not actually my platform. I made this up just now because it made me laugh. Have I mentioned that I'm easily amused?