Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If an eye offend thee

So over the past week or so I've learned a lot more than I ever really wanted to know about how the human eye functions.

It's like this -- your eye is basically a big sack of vitreous jelly. Inside this sack are various things like the cornea, the pupil, the lens, the iris, the conjuctiva, and many other really funny sounding words. Most of these things take in light and then beam it onto the retina, which is not, as I had thought, the center of your eye, but is, in fact, this lining at the back of your eye that essentially acts like film in a camera... the light image that is taken in and focused by all the other whatnot gets beamed onto this film at the back of your eye, where the image is then passed on through your optic nerve to the cells of your brain that interpret this data.

Now, when you're young, your vitreous jelly is, in fact, jelly, and that works really well. But as you get older, and especially if you are very nearsighted, your vitreous jelly becomes less solid and more of a fluid. And this doesn't work so well, because when it's a fluid, it doesn't press so firmly against the retina, and in fact, it kind of falls away from the retina. And when this happens, all sorts of little fuck things that were always suspended in the vitreous jelly, but which were held firmly there by the vitreous jelly and which didn't move around, start to float around.

So you start seeing flashing lights and a lot of great big hairy floaters, pretty much all the time, or, at least, half to a third of the time, and this gets very fucking annoying and makes it hard to see and you think "Jesus fucking Christ I'm going blind". Which is terrifying to any member of our species that has enjoyed functional vision for 47 years, but is especially terrifying to me, among whose greatest joys in life are reading and writing, which I will no longer be able to do if I'm suddenly fucking Matt goddam Murdock without the goddam radar sense.

Anyway, last Tuesday I started seeing flashing lights and a lot of great big hairy floaters and these phenomena persisted until they were very nearly driving me batshit and I did some internet research and found a lot of interesting phrases like retinal detachment and macular degeneration and "You too can be just like Stevie Wonder without the musical talent or dreadlocks" and so we scheduled me an eye exam. And as soon as we scheduled me an eye exam the fucking floaters and flashing lights went away so I canceled it and said "Hurray!" And then the floaters came back like gangbusters so I scheduled me another eye exam and went to that yesterday.

The eye doctor who examined me was a bona fide sonofabitch. His bedside manor was, er, brisk and robust, to say the least. When my head was not where he wanted it to be in the apparatus that holds your head where the doctor wants it to be, he would grab me by the face and move my head until it was where he wanted it to be. His fiendish assistants put nasty stinging shit in my eyes that dilated the fuck out of them, and then the doctor beamed gigantic laser photon particle rays into my dilated eyes which caused me the closest thing to pain I have ever experienced without actually experiencing pain. And he did this for hours. And when I did not look exactly where he needed me to look at any given time he would snap "No, no, down to the RIGHT" and when I finally got it correct (it was hard, due to the photonic particle death ray shit), he sneered "That's better, little learning curve there". Which made my wife kind of gasp at his rudeness.

But then he said "Well, you're fine, there are no retinal tears or detachments, this is just the sort of thing that occurs to people at your age, especially very nearsighted people. It will happen to your left eye at some point, too." So that was kind of a... relief? Although I wanted to ask him if his first name was puh-Rick. But I didn't.

Then he said "However, you're at risk for a retinal tear for the next three weeks, so I'd like to see you again at that time for another exam". Then he led us back out to the front where another of his evil assistants put more stingie shit in my eyes to undilate them (it didn't work, I was pretty much blind the rest of the day) and then yet another evil assistant charged us $140, as I am unemployed and have no insurance.

Then we left, and I made an appointment with the Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, which is much, much less expensive and has a sliding scale for unemployed people with no insurance, for my follow up. Which I should have done before I went to Dr. puh-Rick, but I tried and they couldn't get me in for a couple of weeks.

So, anyway, I'm kind of relieved that I'm not going blind at the moment, but, on the other hand, this whole "your vitreous jelly turns into snot and collapses inside your eye when you're approaching 50" thing seems like a design flaw. I'd like to sue someone, please.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lack of expertise

Over at Kung Fu Monkey, John Rogers asked people to submit their Odd Areas of Expertise, positing first that you needed at least 10,000 hours of practice in a field to qualify as an 'expert' at anything. Here's my response:

::sigh:: My odd area of expertise is Game Mastering. Sad. Hit me with the Geek Bricks now.

I GMed my first game sometime in... call it early 1980. That was college, and I was the one in my clique that would always DM, so figure I ran 30 sessions a year for the next 3 years, 10 hours a session, which is a pretty good approximation, as we often gamed all weekend back then. So that's 900 hours... throw in another 100 hours for KILLQUEST, a game that the Late, Great Jeff Webb and I invented where you had identical maps in each of 3 pizza boxes and two players running teams of 5 superheroes denoted by numbered push pins on each map. You needed a GM to keep track of all the different heroes' movements on the master map, and I did that a lot, too, because no one else wanted to. Plus, GMing individual 'conflicts', when, like, Kurt would run Wolverine and Andy would run Batman and they'd fight each other.

So, up through 1982, call it 1000 hours.

Right around there people started graduating and moving out, but there was still a core group to game with. So drop it back to 20 sessions for '83. That's 200 hours GMing... maybe more, if you factor in a few hours every week prep work, but, still, call it 200 hours. Then around 1984 The Eisner Award Winning Comics Writer (who hadn't won any Eisner Awards yet) returned to Syracuse from New York with his first regular assignment, and also, with the CHAMPIONS superhero RPG system. So we started running CHAMPIONS... 4 DMs, alternating, whenever we could. Call that 20 more sessions a year. So another 200 hours. And now we're up to 1985, when I DMed hardly anything... maybe 30 hours total the whole year, as people were moving around and the old crowd was pretty well broken up.

But around then I started gaming fantasy stuff, not superhero, with an entirely different group. In 1985 I came back from Basic Training and created my own fantasy game, ran the first session in July. Changed that around a little bit, started running it regularly in January 1986. I've run that game, and, occasionally, a few other random things, for at least ten sessions a year every year since, about half the time much more than that (like, 48 sessions a year). Run length has shortened as I've grown older gracelessly. Call it 35 sessions a year, 8 hours a session, TWENTY THREE FUCKING YEARS... Jesus. 6,440 hours. Conservatively.

Add in the 1400 hours I had in superhero RPGs and you get... 7,880 hours.

However, for, what, 10 years of that elapsed time, at least, I played probably 2 or 3 hours in someone else's game for every 1 hour I GMed my own scenarios, and I studied how they GMed for... I dunno... call it half that time. So figure at least another... I dunno, call it 5,000 hours GM training/apprenticing.

So that's 12,880 hours GMing roleplaying games.


Now. I've written 7 novels and a memoir of my time in Basic Training, call it 100 hours for each, with seems fair. That's 800 hours. I've written... fuck, I don't know... 40 LONG articles on Silver Age superhero comics, gaming, TV shows and movies, and other geek crap, and probably 50 short stories/novellas. Approximate 3 hours each, that's 270 hours. I've blogged a LOT since, oh, 2000, and posted a lot of comments on other people's blogs. Written a fuck of a lot of email. Say 10 hours a week every week since 2000, that's 4,680 more hours pounding the keyboard, trying to put words into some kind of reasonably elegant and occasionally witty order for someone else to read and understand. That's 5,750 hours right there. Plus all the plots and scripts I did in college understudying the Future Eisner Award Winning Comics Writer, and have done since on spec or just for fun. That's... fuck. Got to be another 10,000 hours writing excellent entertaining funny ass bullshit I can get five different sources to 'publish' if I don't want them to pay me, and can't get anyone with the power to cut a check to even take off a slush pile and glance at.

All this, and a lot of the time in there, I've held down full time jobs. Not voluntarily, mind you. And the last four years, I've pretty much been a full time husband and stepfather to three daughters. And that last is a 24/7 deal, so, that's 34,944 hours being a husband and stepdad.

Huh. So I'm an expert Game Master, an expert writer (of crap no one will pay me for), and a Master Class spouse/parent... and yet, while I do feel reasonably expert at throwing a game scenario together and running it, or sitting down and pounding out a story in nearly any format not intended for adaptation into moving pictures, I'm still a rank goddam amateur at husbanding and stepfathering.

So which of these things is more demanding?

Or maybe I just suck.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"It's not STAR TREK"

I saw the movie with an avowed Trek fanatic. When the lights went up, I asked her what she thought. Her response was that it was good, but it “wasn’t Trek.” Not having paid much attention to the Roddenberryverse since “TNG,” I didn’t have much of a response. But then as I left the theater I thought: “Not Trek? The movie has gaping plotholes, a skirt-chasing Kirk, time travel, and a bullshit pseudo-scientific resolution to a life-threatening situation...who are you kidding? It’s totally fucking Trek!"

Thus spaketh Pete Vonder Haar, in his review of the recent STAR TREK movie.

I haven't seen the movie, so I can't speak in any way to its actual content. Nonetheless, I will say a couple of things:

'Avowed Trek fanatics' are not good people to go to movies with. Or spend any kind of time with. They're not as bad as avowed Warren Ellis fanatics, but neither are suicide bombers. For whatever that's worth.

And, I'm pretty sure Pete is missing the point here.

The definition of STAR TREK is not, unfortunately, anything to do with sensible story structure, a sexually predatory Kirk, moronic time travel, or insanely egregious abuses of anything and everything remotely resembling science in the name of plot convenience. Now, it's true, if one were to do a STAR TREK movie or TV show that didn't have these things, the average Trek fan would be enraged, baffled, and perplexed all at once, but, still, it's possible, if only in the most extremely theoretical sense, to do a STAR TREK dealio that makes coherent sense and that doesn't scoff at all accepted laws of physics. It's so unlikely as to qualify for Dr. Manhattan's 'thermodynamic miracle' tag, but, still, it's possible. You could do a good SF movie and it could be STAR TREK.

But you'd need William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.

Unfortunately, when Pete's movie date said it 'wasn't TREK', whether she was aware of it or not, that's what she meant. This is the first time we've seen anyone try to make anything called STAR TREK that had a character in it named James T. Kirk who wasn't portrayed by William Shatner. And like it or not, this is the crux of the issue of the movie's acceptability as 'real' STAR TREK: will fans accept a non-Shatner Kirk... or won't they?

Obviously, it's going to depend on the age of the fan, and how much of the 'real' STAR TREK they've actually seen, and/or enjoyed. But it's important to note that this movie was not made for Classic Trek fans, nor was it made BY Classic Trek fans. This movie was made by young punks who don't give a shit about STAR TREK for other young punks who don't give a shit about STAR TREK.

So the answer to the 'is this real STAR TREK' question will largely depend on what marketing demographic you fall into. If you're a geezer, like me, and you have very fond memories of watching the original STAR TREK when it was actually broadcast, and you still get a nostalgic tingle when you catch the occasional old ep on G4, and you loved WRATH OF KHAN and pretty much hated every STAR TREK movie since WRATH because they all sucked, but you went to see them anyway, right up until they started making STAR TREK JR movies instead of actual STAR TREK movies, well, this will never be 'real' STAR TREK for you.

But nobody on corporate Earth gives a shit about you; you are, like me, not in a desirable target demo. And as far as everyone who makes any kind of decisions about entertainment gives a shit, nobody gives a shit. We can go fuck ourselves.

So this movie will never be STAR TREK to those of us who actually know what STAR TREK is, but it will become STAR TREK to all the young dickweeds who have no idea what STAR TREK actually is. And that would aggravate me, but, well, long ago, STAR TREK became 'science fiction' to everybody in my generation, and succeeding generations, that did not know what 'science fiction' actually was, and that was REALLY aggravating, so I have no aggravation left for this nonsense.

But let's be clear: William Shatner is James T. Kirk. Nobody else can do it. If you want to reboot the franchise in an alternate universe where you can do all new stories and completely ignore everything that is established as real, actual STAR TREK, well, do it with a new goddam Captain.


More reasons to beat the living shit out of Brian Michael Bendis

Apparently, the Wasp is dead.

I'm so much happier when I don't know these things.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Return of the Late Great Jeff Webb

Just a brief note to say that I spent most of the morning reloading much of Jeff's artwork onto two separate Blogspot sites. As blogger seems much more tolerant of 'adult' material than Angelfire was, I'm hoping this time the stuff will stay where I fucking put it.

Anyway, if you love fine fantasy art, you must check out No Costumes Required, where you'll find the majority of Jeff's superheroine good girl art, and The Fantasy Worlds of Jeff Webb, reprinting that art book of Jeff's more fantastic art that I did for an Australian publisher, who disappeared on me the minute I got it finished. But you get to see it free! You lucky, lucky person, you.

It's all definitely Not Safe For Work, though. So be advised.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

X marks the spot

So, this will make X happy, anyway --

All right.

Give me a minute to lay this out. This is tough for me.

It‘s not admitting to error that I find difficult. I don’t have any trouble with that. I’m not invested in maintaining some façade of personal perfection; I make mistakes and it really doesn’t bother me to admit to it. I’m far from perfect… as everyone who’s paid any attention to my behavior on this site already knows.

I’ve been both incorrect, and ethically wrong, in some or much that I’ve done, and I’ve caused a lot of bad feeling here. I regret that, and that’s a sincere declaration of contrition and remorse. Not so much for the consequences it’s had for me, but because I genuinely don’t enjoy confrontation or hurt feelings. Regardless of how it may seem when you look at my track record with these things, I really don’t like causing these kinds of emotional explosions that spread so much ill will so far, so fast.

These kinds of conflagrations do seem to follow me around the Internet. For what it’s worth, there are general reasons for that, and then, specific reasons for each specific instance.

In general: I’m a strange guy. I don’t fit in anywhere all that well, not really. Just as one example, while I consider myself a progressive liberal, many of my political and social opinions put me at odds with most others who identify themselves that way. I don’t mean to go into details on that here, but trust me when I say, when I get into it on things like affirmative action, or gun control, or legalized abortion, or any number of other hot button political/social issues, many if not most others who identify themselves as ‘liberal’ look at me with horror.

I try not to have knee jerk opinions. I try to think things through. I don’t think quickly, but I try to make up for that by thinking both deeply and broadly, by doing some research, by listening to a lot of different people, before I synthesize all of this, think about it some more, and then finally formulate how I feel or think on any particular subject.

Because of this, I’ve learned that whenever I voice an opinion anywhere, it will nearly always be a controversial opinion. Long ago, I tried very hard to be extremely diplomatic when I voiced such opinions. I employed circumlocutions and verbal finesse. I went to great lengths to express myself in the mildest possible terms, mortaring every statement with delicate euphemism and subtly artful understatement, if not outright vacillation. I was at great pains to find ways to state what I felt about a subject in such a way that I could not possibly offend anyone.

It was an enormous amount of effort, and it had the following results:

(a) Many, many people had no clue what I was trying to say, and
(b) there was always somebody who got offended anyway.

After this happened again and again and again, I, perhaps, overreacted. I shrugged and said what the hell. I decided diplomacy was not my bag. I decided it would be better to be clear, to be straightforward, to try my best to communicate my points and views as saliently, as openly, as simply, and as bluntly as I could. I decided that, given that I couldn’t seem to avoid offending people with a controversial, non mainstream opinion anyway, I might as well stop presuming other people couldn’t handle my truths, and start presuming that honesty really would be the best policy.

The results of this have been a mixture of success and failure. Success, in that nobody ever seems to have any great difficulty figuring out exactly where I stand on any subject I voice a view regarding. Failure, in that I now offend a great many more people.

But, again, I’m going to offend people anyway, because my opinions are rarely opinions people seem to want to hear, regardless of where I go. That being the case, my choices seem to be that I can either (a) shut the hell up about what I think on subjects when those subjects are being discussed, or (b) I can lie to make other people happy. Circumlocution and diplomacy don’t keep people from being offended, and they don’t make people happy. They simply make people more confused.

You know what makes people happy? Agreeing with them. On every subject they bring up. At all times, and under all circumstances. They will love you forever for this. Anyone will. It is nearly impossible to dislike someone who feels exactly the same way as we do about every subject that is important to us. Or at least, who presents a persuasive and convincing charade of doing so.

But I never agree with anyone about everything, and I rarely agree with any group of people about anything.

As a general rule, if you’re out on the Internet talking to people, you aren’t inclined to shut up about your views. And as a matter of personal ethics, I’m not inclined to lie about mine.

That’s how, in general, I’ve reached the point I’m at now, as regards how I communicate with others, especially on the Internet.

In specific, on this site (and I’m not trying to excuse or justify my behavior, I understand and accept my own part in recent events, and as I’ve said, I regret those events -- I’m just explaining, for what it’s worth to those who take the time to read all this):

Here’s how I remember things. And this may be wrong, and if someone with more emotional fortitude than me wants to prospect back through old threads to try and confirm or deny this, have at it, but I can’t handle that kind of stress right now. Anyway, what I remember happening is something like this:

I came on the site looking for players for my home brew campaign. I posted a lot of stuff about the campaign, mostly having to do with the setting, which, for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of, as it’s entirely original… which is to say, it isn’t based on any other game setting I’m aware of. There are bits and pieces I’ve stolen from some of my favorite novels and movies over the years, sanded the serial numbers off, and repurposed to my game setting, but still, pretty much the entire setting, and it is a very detailed setting, has come out of my head.

I heard from several site members saying things like “Sounds really interesting. I read those articles you linked to about your GMing style too and that sounds good. I’m very interested.”

And hope would soar in my heart that I had actually found someone who would genuinely enhance the gaming experience for myself, my wife, my daughter, and my buddy Nate. I would get all excited. I would actually dare to dream.

And then: “Are you running 3.5 or 4.0?”

I’d say “I don’t play D&D; I’m using my own original system.”

Please understand, I have been largely unaware until I came to this site that over the past 20 years or so, Dungeons and Dragons has come to so completely and utterly dominate the fantasy roleplaying scene. When I was younger, there was another pattern entirely. I hesitate to describe it for fear of offending people again, but, well, let’s just say, when I came to the campaign that I picked up the precursor of the system I use from, my fellow gamers there were all people who had started with D&D years before, and who had wanted to play in a different style of campaign, and who, not finding that kind of campaign commercially available, had made up their own, along with their own rules systems that allowed them to do the kind of roleplaying that D&D really wasn’t set up to facilitate.

In other words, I came out of a context and continuum of gamers who did not view Dungeons and Dragons as the only acceptable sword and sorcery system; who, in fact, felt that Dungeons and Dragons was much too limited for the kind of roleplaying they wanted to do. And I was not prepared for… well… the kind of response I immediately got from people who had told me they really liked what they’d read about my campaign and my DMing style, when I indicated I did not use D&D, which was:

They’d say “Oh. Not interested.”

And that was the end of it. Even if we’d already set up a meet. The instant they found out I wasn't running D&D, they were done. None of them were willing to try out anything new and/or different, none of them, despite liking the setting and what they‘d read about my GMing style, were willing to give me, my campaign setting, my rules system, or my other players, a shot. These were site members who had ardently advertised on the site about how much they wanted to get into an RPG… but… if it wasn’t D&D -- they were flatly not interested.

To be as fair as I can be, I didn't know D&D was a prerequisite, but by the same token, most of the members of this site have no reason to believe they need to specify, when they advertise they are looking for a game, that they are only interested in D&D if the setting is sword and sorcery. They take it for granted, and that's perfectly reasonable. I simply didn't know.

And I didn’t react well to that. In fact, I reacted poorly to that, and I'm aware of it. And again, I’m not trying to make excuses. This is simply where I was coming from. I was extremely disappointed, and somewhat insulted, and rather offended.

So, I got snarky about D&D, and by extension, about the D&D players whom I had just had such disappointing interactions with. It was never my intention that my snarkiness be taken as a general statement about everyone who played D&D, but, well, I was pissed.

So that’s specifically where all that came from. I was disappointed and angry and upset and I let it show. And that's a deep regret for me.

That, in and of itself, didn’t have to lead to volcanic insult exchanges, though. The flame apocalypse happened because of a second, compound aspect of my personality -- I dislike being disrespected when I don’t feel the disrespect is merited. (Most people feel similarly in this regard, but, still, I am genuinely strange this way; I cannot stand having people praise me, either, if I don’t feel the praise is deserved. Asskissers bother me as much or more than ad hominem attackers.) And I enjoy writing, and I love crafting insults.

The way those two combine is, if I feel someone has launched an unmerited and unprovoked personal attack on me (a flame, in other words) I will do my best to return the favor to that person ten fold. I genuinely feel that when most people flame, there is little artistry in it, little actual wit… it’s usually the same old tired sexual aspersions, genitalia references, and strings of profanity one can see on any unmoderated message board anywhere on the Internet, or hear, for that matter, in the back of any public or private school bus inhabited by kids older than 9 any where in America. I enjoy attempting to elevate the insult to an actual art form. I don’t start out going for the jugular, but I feel that if someone steps up to me and aims a kick at my crotch, well, they are licensing my response… and I enjoy accepting their invitation.

In fact, I must confess that I've lately been moved to admiration for a site member I never liked very much before this, when I read something he'd said just recently that seems to justify the flame in all its glory: [i]"In this medium, flame wars and vitriolic commentary are the only fire and acid with which to properly slay a troll. They will come back from everything else. "[/i] When I read that, I felt a genuine bond with the site member that wrote it. I cannot tell you how heartfelt and fervent my agreement with that sentiment is. If I could get a good Latin translation of those two sentences, I would carve them over my mantle. Seriously.

Unfortunately, we’ve all seen where that attitude, however wise or cogent or sapient it may seem to me to be, has led recently on this site. And however much those words resonate with me, still, I regret my part in the recent flame wars, and I sincerely apologize for my contributions to them.

One significant reason that things have gotten this far -- much farther than on other sites -- is that Sysop says he values freedom of speech, and he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. The behavior that has been manifest in the flame wars that have erupted all around my presence on this site over the past four months would be enough to get me banned forty or fifty times on any other hobby site I’ve ever been to. Sysop doesn’t want to do that. I respect that. The result of that has been that I’ve been able to be the catalyst of much more prolonged hostilities here than on any other site I’ve been to… but also, that I’ve had the opportunity to really think, for probably the first time, about the consequences on a community of (a) being extremely blunt in voicing my always non-mainstream and generally provocative, controversial opinions, and (b) in reveling in opportunities to return flames tendered towards me ten or a hundred fold back on their originators.

So I’m rethinking my approach once again, and I have this site, and Sysop particularly, to thank for that. Also, specifically, I have to thank Caesar Agumbus and DefJeff, for their sage counsel through PM and in threads, that has helped me work through all this in my head. As I say, I do not think fast. But I try to think both deeply and widely. And I try to listen to others, when I have the opportunity.

So I've come to a point where I have this to offer: my sincere apologies for the truly excessive amount of conflict I've caused on this site in the past four months, and my genuine willingness to undertake to try to be more aware, and more considerate, of the various hot buttons and tender spots of various site members in the future, all in an attempt to maintain a greater level of civility in future exchanges between me and other site members.

Obviously, much is going to depend on the reception this particular apology receives, and in point of fact that's so obvious I don't think it needs any further elaboration. Presuming that, as a result of this apology, there are further interactions between me and other site members who are not immediately involved in game sessions with me, then I'd like to make the following respectful observations and/or requests:

As I will be trying earnestly to avoid provoking further hostilities or reigniting past ones, I'd like to pray forbearance from other site members. If I offend you, and you feel there is even the remotest chance that I did it inadvertently, please let me know in as civil a fashion as you can, and give me a chance to work things out with you. Either a PM or a "WTF, Doc?" in the thread will be fine. But though I'm going to try hard, I have to say, if I write something that I don't feel is aimed at any one in particular, but which is just me saying what I think about something, and I get a truckload of obscene personal abuse back, it's going to make it much more difficult for me to stay civil.

To this I will add, I am very proud of all my stepdaughters. They are all smart and strong and they take zero shit and that's because they all take after their mother in these regards and it is the constant wonderment and delight of my life that all four of these amazing, unique and incredible women have allowed me to share their lives. My middle stepdaughter has come to this site looking to make friends and increase her roleplaying experience, and she can certainly take care of herself, and I have no problem with her making friends with anyone she chooses to. She's got a good head on her shoulders and is a very good judge of people and whatever she wants to do with her life and her time is okay by me, because she has to date demonstrated an extremely unusual level of maturity and wisdom in those choices she has made. Based on what we have seen of her intelligence and decision making abilities, my wife and I trust her judgment implicitly.

That's not to say we don't worry about her, because that would be impossible, and I'm sure those of you who are parents know exactly what I mean.

Still, barring absolutely dire circumstances, I'm going to let her take care of her business herself, and I'm not going to get in the middle of anything unless she specifically asks me to... and she won't. But anyone who cares at all about maintaining any kind of friendly or even civil interaction with me on this site should remain aware at all times that, just as everyone else has their buttons and/or sensitive spots, my children are one of mine.

If I annoy you or displease you, if you wish to maintain a grudge against me, if you don't think you can ever be friends with me, or even for the sake of politeness and the general well being of the community attempt a facade of civility towards me, okay. I doubtless earned your opprobrium and I'll wear it.

But I'd ask you to leave my daughter out of it. If you're mad at me, be mad at me. Don't snap at her. Don't put her in the middle of it.

I hope that's understandable to, and understood by, everyone.

To summarize: I've fucked up, I know it, I'm sorry, and I'll try to do better moving forward. I hope we can all play better together in the future.

In terms of pouring oil on troubled waters, this has worked very well... while responses came slowly at first, eventually a few of those I'd been feuding with allowed as to how gracious I was, and once it began, as always happens with our essentially herd dwelling race, the effect snowballed. Now I'm, if not exactly popular on the site, then, at least, reasonably well respected.

A few of those who dislike me most were very grudging in their acceptance of this apology, hedging their bets with "well, okay, as long as he behaves" type nonsense. But once a lot of other people, especially a few tribal elders, had accepted, they really had no choice; either they publicly manned up or they looked like utter tools. (Either was fine with me.)

Which was the point of the exercise. It's psychological jui jitsu. With one stroke, I turned everything upside down. When you're the guy who has offended everyone at the party and you just go sit in a corner and sulk because they're all such assholes, it doesn't matter if you're right. Everyone else at the party feels very righteous in their indignation as regards your behavior. (Especially if you're right about them all being assholes.)

But when you come back with your hand held out spouting a sincere seeming apology, they often don't know what to do. It befuddles them. It sure isn't anything that THEY'D ever do.

But it puts the onus on them. Where before I would have had difficulty meeting many of these people in real life and staying pleasant, now I can walk into any group any of them play in with my head held high. Some of them I'm sure still don't like me at all, but now they're required to either be hypocritical or look like jackasses. Either way works for me... although, to be honest, the hypocrisies that civility always requires are a big reason I don't mix much in real life.

Now, mind you, the wild card here was my stepdaughter. If she hadn't been on the site, and if certain of my jackass attackers hadn't been so willing to hold a grudge against her as well as me, I'd never have apologized. I would have made a career out of trolling those motherfuckers until either they left the site in tears or the site administrator broke his own rule by throwing me off it. I would have flamed them down to the bedrock; as Heinlein has noted, some jerks you simply have to insult until they apologize. But with someone else in the mix whose feelings are important to me, I had to take a different approach.

I don't regret it; everyone is happier now, and the apology, for what it is, is sincere... I certainly acknowledge that I played a big part in all the trouble. But here's what tact is... not saying all the shit that's really important, because all the important shit is what really offends people. And the problem with that apology is that it's a tacit agreement between me and them that (a) I will no longer point out the hypocrisy of imposing one standard of behavior on a stranger while not requiring yourself or your friends to adhere to that same standard, and (b) I will no longer express my opinion that D&D is a fucking retarded system and anyone who has been gaming for longer than five years and who claims to be a roleplayer and who is still rolling up half-gnoll ranger/wizard/ninjas who will spend their entire imaginary lives killing imaginary orcs and goblins with an imaginary sword in an imaginary underground dungeon has something badly, badly deficient in their essential character matrix. At least, if that's the only kind of game they're comfortable playing, they do.

This is a basic truth. It offends many of the people on the site, surely. Yet one of the people who plays in my regular RPG session also plays in another D&D session, mostly because he's pretty young and has a lot of free time. He admits my game is much, much better with far better roleplaying and a much more believable setting and rules system, but he has buddies at the other session. Still, he's described all the other guys at the session, and apparently he's the youngest by a decade, the only one there who weighs less than 300 lbs, and other than one of the guys who is married, he's pretty sure he's the only one there who has ever actually had sex with another human being who was conscious at the time and not being paid for their services.

And this is hardly an atypical description of an adult group of 'roleplayers' who play D&D.

Once upon a time, D&D was what you started out with if you wanted to roleplay. It was, in Nate's wonderful term, 'training wheels'. If you roleplayed and you liked it, you would invariably and naturally begin to find the inherent shallownesses and limitations of the D&D rules system and two dimensional backdrops frustrating, and look around for something else to play. And if you couldn't find another system you liked available at your local game shop, you'd make up your own that suited you better, and which didn't require your Lawful Good character to kill every Chaotic or Lawful Evil entity they ran into... or die trying.

To me, when I walk into a geek shop and there are a bunch of 30 year old guys sitting at a table playing D&D, I can't help but feel a vague contempt. It's probably a character flaw; who am I to be judgmental? I roleplay too. But to me, D&D is the roleplaying equivalent of Chutes & Ladders, while my game system and campaign setting are, I don't know, Civilization, or at the very least, Risk. You walk into a public place and see a bunch of obvious adults spinning the little arrow and getting all excited because they hit a ladder, or screeching in rage because they landed on a slide... to me, that's pretty much the same thing as watching a bunch of adults rolling d20s so their 17th level Paladin can do 12 hit points of damage to a beholder, while the thief is picking the lock on a door down the hall, and the cleric is standing by to throw a Cure Light Wounds when necessary. It's just childish. It ain't real roleplaying. And the people I know who get into their late 20s and early 30s and D&D is still the only RPG they want to play? It may be tactless to say it, but anybody that looks at these guys knows there is something badly wrong with them.

However, these are truths that I may no longer articulate, else I shall be exiled once again.

Now it will turn out that out of the three people who still read this blog, two of them love D&D and never play anything else. And I will be in deep fucking doo doo again.