Tuesday, August 16, 2005

MLB Showdown 2002: Broken & Bloated

2002 was in my mind, a real low point for the MLB Showdown brand.

Tom Wiley the game’s inventor had left Wizards and the rest of Wizard’s R&D was not fond of the game at all. They disliked the game’s base mechanic, the game’s primary focus on luck and dice, but in particular a lot of people at Wizard’s R&D just felt a sports game was incompatible with Wizards as a whole.

In 2002, after Wiley's departure, the brand was given a temporary steward and a new card format. While the 2002 card format was superior to the treatment given in 2001 and 2000, the cards still suffered from ‘over-treatment’. In 2002 it had these awful ‘lines’ around the top of the card that just obscured the photo and in particular, made non-foil cards look rather cheap and tawdry.

The game also went under a small revision, players complained about the lack of ‘action’ on the batter’s card, because even the best batters only rolled on the batter’s chart 25% of the time, the game largely boiled down to high rolls on the pitcher’s chart. To combat that, the OB number on batter’s was extended higher but more outs were added to the batter's card.

This revision however made a huge mistake, it kept the 2001 cards (designed to work on the older statistical breakout) legal in tournament play. Those cards were a little broken to begin with, but when combined with more action on the batter’s chart they became lethal.

The game also had too many open ended rules, rules many of us (including myself) clamored to have changed. Cards that allowed you to draw an open number of cards based on some sort of trigger, cards enchanted an entire inning, but there were no specific cards to break enchantments and cards that could be put into stackable play. The game had never really defined how its ‘stack’ worked, which is amazing since the company created Magic, (the game that first invented the ‘card stack’ and the resolution rules within).

As an aside, I’ve always argued Showdown should have a ‘non-stack’, or in other words, have immediate resolution rules. The idea is all cards resolve immediately and in the case of resolution triggers, resolve in the order in which they were played when the trigger fires and resolve immediately. This rule, (the exact opposite of how Magic resolves a stack) solves 99% of all rule ambiguity that has arisen in the game.

The game also had useless defensive cards. In fact, the best defensive cards were used to GIVE UP runs, in favor of card draw, or ridiculously defensive cards actually used on OFFENSE, like doubling a person’s defensive ability just to increase swing pump, a combination actually ALLOWED in original tournament rules and to this day, I use a poster child of just how sloppy Wizards R&D can be with any non-Magic TCG.

The key problem with the game's strategy, (still to this day), is +’s to the pitch (the bread and butter of defensive cards) are statistically miniscule in advantage compared to +’s to the swing. Also the strength, scope and playability of +’s to the swing were far more rich and far more complimentary. Offense also had mechanisms to reroll outs in 2002, but defense had no ability to reroll hits.

It lead to the worst era in MLB Showdown history, the 2002 Aggro years and also one of the most embarrassing moments in Wizards R&D history, a national tournament, where a baseball simulation game was yielding on average over 50 runs a game. Meanwhile stunned members of Wizards R&D were forced to watch their own game butchered, hacked and exploited, making a mockey of baseball in the process.

Curt Schilling, an all-star pitcher who ACTUALLY PLAYS MLB SHOWDOWN, stopped considering the game seriously after the strategy card mess. Aggro players in their 20’s were literally crushing 10 year olds in tournaments by a score of 48 to 13 and we’re doing it by starting the game with 16 intentional walks, (another open ended rule Wizards never addressed)!

Sadly, the best tournament player that year, wasn't even a baseball fan. The 2002 national tournament prize was season tickets to your favorite team, the national winner that year proudly boasted he would just sell the tickets right away and as such wanted Cubs tickets, even though he lived nowhere near Chicago and indeed, had not attended or even cared about baseball in many years. He just knew Cubs tickets would fetch the highest price on eBay. He didn't even know who Ernie Banks was, when I asked him.

That sad scene actually affected the brand. The brand had lined up hall-of-famer and Nego-League legend Buck O’Neill to attend the National tournament that year. However, when associates of his showed up to scout the tournament atmosphere, they promptly returned to Buck with the advice of “stay away”. Who could blame them? The game was not only breeding poor sportsmanship, (evident to anyone who lingered in the tournament room for more than 10 minutes) it was also making a mockery of the great game of baseball, something any real baseball fan would and should never tolerate.

The tragedy of 2002 wasn’t that Aggro crushed the tournament meta-game, or that it actually scared away hall-of-fame sponsors and advocates. No the tragedy was that all of it could have been avoided.

Myself, and many others in the company had warned Wizards of the broken nature of the game, but our fears were ignored. In fact, some at Wizards actually thought a “breakable” set of strategy combinations would be good for the game, suggesting it brought ‘skill’ to the game. The same reasoning I suppose, that Wizards used when it was revealed just how broken the Pyschotog deck was in Magic around the same time.

You can’t develop a sports card product that way. While Aggro players were having a ball and patting themselves on the back for their strategy decks (and sometimes boasting about being the strategy's creator, when in fact most had copied the deck off just one player), that same small core of players were shredding the brand’s credibility. Remember as stated in earlier posts, if your tournament environment is not rich, your product’s longevity is doomed, that is a TCG industry rule, that I have as yet, never seen broken.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Aggro players. They just wanted to turn a 200 dollar investment into a 1 in 10 chance at earning a prize that could be converted into 10,000 dollars with a simple posting on eBay. There were probably 10 decent MLB Showdown players on the national tournament scene in 2002 and not much more, so the odds were very high you could succeed.

No, like I say, its not the fault of Aggro players at all. I blame Wizards. I blame their R&D, their marketing and their brand management, the whole kit and caboodle. They had turned MLB Showdown into a disaster and the ever so important bottom line was getting worse.

The game's initial inertia and small growth atrophied in 2002, the game's audience was shrinking.

Miraculously, despite all this, MLB Showdown survived into 2003 and we enter the Worth Wollpert era.

2003: Wollpert Downer Syndrome

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Death of MLB Showdown: 2001 – A STEP BACK, A STEP AHEAD

2001 was a tentative year for the brand and in my view, one of the worst.

The brand did not meet the expectations of the 2000 forecasts and many of the brand’s opponents within the company were crowing about how they were right.

2001 was also the year Wizards realized that the Pokemon money-bath was about to take a dive. The little yellow rat was still making money, but the company could no longer roll marijuana in 50 dollar bills at the Christmas party.

Like any Wizards brand, one of the key focuses in terms of the brand’s potential longevity was the attendance it could muster for its tournaments. Anyone in the hobby game industry will tell you that it doesn’t matter how much you sell in a given quarter, if your tournament structure behind the game is weak or poorly attended, your brand will have no longevity.

In the hobby game industry, sales of course are the bottom line; we all like sales, but if you want to know if those sales will last, look at your tournament support. If its not there you can expect your brand to die within 2 years, maximum. If the tournament support is there, you can expect steady sales numbers, even some growth over the long haul.

MLB Showdown’s tournament participation was horrendous and it had the company concerned. It meant the lower than expected sales could likely fall in its second year. Now, my apologies to hardcore Showdown players who might be reading this, who feel I am insulting them when I say the tournament scene was awful.

The fact of the matter is though, the tournament scene for Showdown was always a giant mess and 2001 was the genesis of the scene becoming an utter disaster, which culminated in the 2002 Nationals, which were one of the lowest points for the brand.

Anyway, in 2001 Wizards focused on making strategy cards more compelling. Hard code Magic players dismissed MLB Showdown immediately as a simple game of dice. The Magic snobs in Wizards would frequently mock the game, by suggesting you could reduce the game to one simple die roll, who ever rolled highest would win.

There was a large element of truth to their criticism. Indeed, MLB Showdown displayed no more real skill than say Monopoly. The problem is people at Wizards wanted the game to increase the skill capacity by creating more complex strategy cards. It wanted to lure Magic players into the game by providing mechanics such as the Hung It strategy card. A card that a non-ATCG player would look at and consider it to be a wasted card, but even a reasonably seasoned TCG player would see “CARD ADVANTAGE” in a giant neon lights, printed over the card and gravitate to it.

The thinking in 2001 was so flawed from the start and really I think the brand would have died in 2001 were it not for one saving grace, which I’ll save to the end.

Not only was providing more ‘TCG-like” mechanics to the game not the answer, it was entirely the wrong focus. The real problem with the game was not the luck factor. People play games based almost entirely on luck all the time. There really is NOT a lot of strategy to backgammon once you master the basics. There really is NOT a lot of strategy to RISK once you master the basics. People play those games anyway, because of the meta-game attached to them, because of the social ties to the game etc. etc.

That actually, was the audience MLB Showdown was starting to cultivate, social gamers, who loved baseball and loves to simulate a baseball game with dice and cards. Wizards on the other hand, still felt the power gamer was the right profile for the game. Now for a football game, that’s entirely true, but for baseball it was wrong. Seam-heads, real seam-heads are stat freaks and if you provide mechanics whereby Bret Boone can produce a 1200 slugging percentage and a 625 batting average, you are immediately destroying your base customer.

I maintain this is, to this day, the key error Wizards has always made with MLB Showdown, that and it never focused on time to market. There is a 6 month cycle between getting an MLB Showdown set out the door. In the baseball card industry that’s a death knell. 6 month cycles work fine for Magic, but baseball is different. The fact Wizards can’t crank out product faster than Upper Deck, is a total logistical failure for Wizards in my opinion, one that to this day, they spend very little energy addressing.

Wizard’s problem, at its core is it only understands one business model: Magic the Gathering. Now they have a right to want to shoe horn every game they make into the MTG business model, because MTG is a 200 million dollar annual machine. The fact is however, a sports game and the MTG model are *not* compatible and never will be, but to convince just about anyone that matters at Wizards of that basic fact is next to impossible.

2001 catered to the power gamer in spades. The strategy cards in 2001 were a power gamer’s delight and the game began to attract that kind of gamer to its tournaments. The problem was the brand had little to no R&D budget, which mean play testing was non-existent. In fact, I have some evidence that Wiley knew he had broken the game with his strategy card combinations but didn’t care, he felt it would help sales.

Because MLB Showdown had no hand size limit, had no limit on the number of cards played per at-bat, or at the time, even a restriction on playing the same card at the same at bat, because it had powerful enchantments with no specific cards to dispel or remove enchantments, because it had all the power of card draw and board control as Magic, but none of Magic’s balance, countering or hand restrictions MLB Showdown was heading towards a meta-game nightmare.

The strategy card combinations produced such inflated scores and games, that anyone who played the game internally began to ban cards left and right in their internal leagues. The high-offense game were also longer and generally, because lower score games produce more 1-run deficits, the games were often blow outs and less intriguing.

2001 sales initially did not move from 2000 and Wiley’s involvement with the game was soon to be at an end. When the game’s creator abandons the game and the sales are stagnant, you can start to hear a brand death knell.

But, MLB Showdown was given a saving grace and his name was Ichiro.

Ichiro lit up baseball in 2001 and provided the Pacific Coast rim, with a genuine star. Ichiro was introduced to MLB Showdown in 2001 Pennant Run and for whatever reason the set and that card in the set produced a notable sales spike. It was enough of a spike that people began to project serious growth for the game, hell even the word ‘hit’ was tossed around by the end of 2001.

The tournaments had shown some growth as well, because the game picked up some power-gamers along the way, mainly frustrated Magic players that found more success in the much smaller fish-tank of MLB Showdown.

But there were problems lurking underneath the veneer. The brand still had major problems that nobody was addressing, because nobody thought they were problems. Those problems were:

1. The few kids who played in tournaments were getting destroyed by adults who had found broken strategy combinations in the game.

2. The cards designs were ugly and confusing. Wizards literally had the ugliest baseball cards ever made in 2000 and 2001.

3. There were no subsets, no thematic cards and no rare vs. non-rare version of star players. It meant your average booster back yielded a plethora of Michael Tucker and Sidney Ponson, but you could spend 200 dollars and not see a single Alex Rodriguez card. The thing is Wizards thought this was great, it meant their repeat-purchase model was preserved.

4. To this day, Wizards fundamentally doesn’t understand how a set of baseball cards are structured. One 2005 Upper Deck release I saw had 5 versions of Randy Johnson in it. The 2005 base set of MLB Showdown contained no Randy Johnson at all. Then, the brand brains at Wizards scratch their head and wonder why the penetration of MLB Showdown amongst baseball card collectors is so low.

5. There was no association at all, with just about every baseball fan’s point of entry into baseball. Most people become baseball fans because they discover or adopt a favorite baseball team. But Showdown was constructed via ‘points’. In fact, even if you wanted to build your favorite team (the Astros lets say), Showdown didn’t provide enough cards for you to even field an entire Astros team. This last point is still controversial, but I maintain, there needed to not only be a team format, people could compete with their favorite teams with in tournaments (an alternate format to points, not a replacement to it), but there needed to be a SKU that catered to team play.

6. The biggest problem of all though, was strategy cards had bent so far to lure power gamers, new players (especially kids) were abandoning strategy cards altogether. Citing them as too confusing, too clumsy and most of all, citing that they slowed the game down and made it ‘boring’.

By the end of 2001, MLB Showdown had cultivate a few frustrated Magic players, who bought the game on a whim to see if they could win some tournament prizes and collected a few actual baseball card collectors who were attracted by the book value in Beckett for the Ichiro card.

In fact however, the game’s health was more precarious than it had been in 2000 and worst of all; MLB Showdown was about to make the same mistakes in 2002 and this time the result would lead to a PR nightmare. The game had taken a step ahead in sales by the end of the year, but a step back in terms of its overall product strategy.

NEXT POST: MLB Showdown 2002: Broken and Bloated

Monday, August 01, 2005

Death of MLB Showdown - Part 1

I want to talk about the death of MLB Showdown.

MLB Showdown is a trading card game, designed by Wizards of the Coast. It’s a baseball card game, similar in concept to the old Strat-o-Matic baseball game, but with actual baseball cards and a collectable scheme of booster packs and starter packs.

The game is the only game where I played some role in its design and layout. It also recently died, that is to say its latest release, the 2005 Trading Deadline release, is the last release of the game you will ever see.

I am saddened by the death of this product. I also think it’s death taught me a lot about the gaming industry and both the good and the bad of a company called Wizards of the Coast.

I know a lot about how and why MLB Showdown failed and thought it might be interesting to write down what I know. I am going to break this post up into several parts, as I have a lot to say.

First of all a disclaimer:

There are some who will say that some of my criticism of Wizards in these posts is jealousy, specifically because I no longer work at Wizards of the Coast, and therefore my criticism is rooted in that. Well, that’s a difficult accusation to defend, I’ll just say that my job now pays better, has more prestige and makes me happier than any gig I had at Wizards. Not to say I didn’t enjoy working at Wizards, I did, I enjoyed working there a great deal, but I’m happy where I am now too.

So yes, I’m going to criticize Wizards in my posts, but I am also going to praise them. I am the first to admit Wizards has great people in it, great ideas in it and still has my overall respect and admiration.


The game was released in the late spring of 2000 and was originally designed by Tom Wiley. I don’t have much to say about Tom Wiley, I did not know him well. I watched him demo the game a few times to kids one day and he seemed genuinely proud of his game.

Wiley developed the pitch/swing die roll mechanic that is largely the trademark of the game and he came up with the idea of the strategy deck. It was RE Dalrymple, a play tester for the original release of the game, who came up with the Showdown brand name.

The interesting story behind the Showdown name is it was originally disliked by many people at Wizards. Now however the name ‘Showdown’ will be extended to new games that will actually replace MLB Showdown. These will be non-sport games.

MLB Showdown was released with much fanfare and ballyhoo. It was released during WOTC’s “hey day”, the company was still knee-deep in riches from its Pokemon trading card game.

Because Wizards was ‘fat’ from the Pokemon earnings, the company’s optimism and its expectations were vastly inflated. I saw earning projections for such horrible IPs as the X-Men TCG that Wizards’ produced that were outrageous and thus fell far short of expectations. WOTC just kept thinking they could crank out smash hits back then, when in reality Wizards really hasn’t had a “hit” in years and survives these days solely off of the revenue from Magic the Gathering and the few pieces of change that D&D delivers on an annual basis.

MLB Showdown suffered from inflated expectations as well, and indeed, in retrospect, it’s a miracle the game survived as long as it did. WOTC expected huge sales numbers for MLB Showdown and while initial base set sales were arguably quite healthy, the bloated expectations surrounding Wizards at that time, made MLB Showdown a disappointment in the eyes that matter most in the company.

One of MLB Showdown’s saving graces however was it received some fairly strong reviews from the gaming community as a whole (as opposed to other IP related games Wizards came with in 2000, which were universally panned). The game also out-performed any other Wizards product that year, other than their core stable of product. In short it was the strongest ‘new game’ , totally outperforming even strong intellectual properties such as Bugs Bunny, the Looney Tunes game associated with Bugs was an outright flop.

The game also seemed to open up a new channel, the baseball card store. This wasn’t nearly pervasive as people might think most Showdown sales were channeled through regular gaming stores and online sales. However, it was enough of a ‘new’ opportunity that once coupled with the fact Wizards license with Major League Baseball could extend for five years, meant Showdown would continue into 2001.

So at the end of 2000, despite a lot of problems and despite a slew of product being shredded and destroyed because it was left 'unsold', Wizards decided to continue with the brand in 2001.

This was a significant decision, because when the numbers were all tallied, the fact of the matter is, MLB Showdown cost Wizards money. It not only was *not* profitable it was taking money away from Wizards. Also it was a significant decision because MLB Showdown was not liked by many significant personas in Wizards.

Many of the ‘high minds’ at Wizards felt there was no cross-over between an average ‘gamer’ and an average ‘sports fan’. Indeed, many exhibited downright disgust that Wizards was attempting a sports-related IP. In their minds, it was breaking the ‘heart’ of what Wizards was, or at least was in their minds.

To this day, some of the antipathy towards sports related games still exists within Wizards and while those people are few in number and are by far, a small minority, I can tell you some of them are downright happy that Wizards decided to finally pull the feeding tube out of MLB Showdown.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Extreme Left/Right Both Wrong About Terror

I am tired of my socialist friends coming up with a littany of excuses for terrorists.

Like somehow evil people with no conscience, are entirely the fault of our own foreign policy. It's a childish and simplistic notion, and it is also in my opinion, a dangerous one.

These would have been the same people that would have found reasons not to get involved in stopping the Nazis in the 40's and the same people that would have found Chamberlain's approach to "keeping the peace" in Europe, the 'smarter approach'.

Well history has taught us, that the Nazis were assholes, that the anti-war movement in America and Canada in the late 30's and early 40's was wrong and the world is a better place because those voices that 'reasoning', did not prevail. History has judged Churchill as being correct and Neville Chamerlain as being wrong.

But which one do you think Al Franken would have sympathized with, had he lived in that era?

And yes, sometimes war is not only necessary, it can, (on rare occcasions) actually improve the quality of our lives. Liberals can put that notion in their pipes and smoke it, because that is historical fact.

Now, for you Republican blokes out there, don't think that means I'm bowing down to the ridiculous rhetoric and squandering of public trust that the Bush administration has perpetuated for 5 years straight.

The Iraq war was mismanaged from day one, anyone who claims otherwise does not know the facts. The Iraq war was miscalculated strategy. Bringing democracy to Iraq is not the answer. Let's set aside that wasn't the reason we the people agreed to go to war in the first place. The fact of the matter is, democracy in Iraq is not the answer.

The single most compelling reason I can think of as to why democracy in Iraq is not the answer to terrorism, is because Iraq itself, should not even be a country, at least the way the country is drawn on the map now. Iraq's current borders were drawn up by colonial England nearly a century ago.

Someone once wrote that Iraq was 'not governable' and that insurgency would always be a problem there. They wrote those words in 1920. Do you know who that person was? That person was Winston Churchill.

Iraq's borders cross ethnic, cultural and religious lines. The borders make no sense! They never have, and as a result, bringing any form of stable and peaceful government to the region will never work. Even the mighty Ottoman Empire struggled with insurgency in that region for 300+ years! Look it up, that is historical fact.

300 years of insurgency? How does that sound to you Republican boobs out there?

It was an arrogant and blind administration, that believed that the age-old rivalries between Persians and Arabs that have existed for over 1000 years could simply be wiped away with an American flag and a piece of paper with the word 'constitution' on it.

Sure the ink stains on the old woman's thumb made for great press, but its an illusion that things 'are getting better in Iraq'. They will never get better in Iraq, because it is a country that has been knee-deep in cultural antipathy since the country's inception and indeed, for centuries before that.

That antipathy will never change, nor will it subside. Deluding yourself that it will change, at the expense of billion of dollars borrowed from China, is one of the dumbest moves in American foreign policy history.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Anarchist on Welfare

He's an anarchist on welfare
He's such a fucking joke.
The government is evil, until he needs the poke.

He's first in line for handouts
He wants the life that's free.
He's an anarchist on welfare
and he's such a fucking joke.

Anarchy's religion,
or so he likes to say,
But his mother sends him cookies
To help him through his day

He thinks that he is hardcore
Doc Marten boot spit shine
And his leather jacket artwork
helps keep his peace of mind

But he's an anarchist on welfare
He's such a fucking joke,
The government is evil, unless he needs some cash
He likes to rob the system blind,
...so he can buy an ounce of hash.

If you're an anarchist on welfare
You are a fucking joke
You think you have conviction,
but in fact, you're just a joke

The government is laughing,
because you are its tool.
And the day they decide to start the draft,
you'll be the first in line you fool.

For the sake of just dollars a day,
You've submitted to their rule
You're just an anarchist on welfare, a total hypocrite
So please don't lecture me at all,
you collosal piece of shit.

Monday, July 11, 2005

IFC's Punk Documentary

So I dial up my TiVO and was delighted to see a 90 minute documentary on punk rock had been downloaded from the Independent Film Channel.

Info on this documentary can be found here:


What a pile of rubbish this documentary was and I am just too angry about it to let it go.

First of all, any punk documentary that spends 88 minutes recording drivel from David Johannsen pontificating on how socially significant they are and only two minutes showing and playing actual *music*, is bollocks.

To me, the best visual and audio historical documents of punk are the performances themselves and other than a very cool gritty film clip of an ancient Ramones performance at CBGB's, the actual musical performances in the film are brief.

We get endless musings from Henry Rollins however, weighing the 'significance' of this or that and we get Jelo Bifra congratulating himself for how important he is. (NOTE: Score a major point for Rollins, when he said PIL was infinitely more interesting than the Sex Pistols, I could not agree more).

The sum theme of the film is essentially, that Punk is an American invention, invented by Andy Warhol and then robbed and tainted by the British. While the film gives due credit to The Clash (and the film is dedicated to Strummer), and highlights worthy bands such as the The Slits, it also takes many occasions to deride the London scene. The scene in New York which was equally derivative and shallow at times, is largely given a clean bill of health.

And saddest of all, the punk scenes and punk bands that aren't from London, New York or LA aren't even mentioned at all, with the exception of Bad Brains, which I was pleased to see, but even they are barely a footnote, compared to about 15 minutes dedicated to Nico from Velvet Underground.

Then the documentary pulls an interesting stunt, it derides previous histories of punk as always glossing over the 80's, then immediately glosses over the 80's. The film literally moves from the breakup of the Sex Pistols to Nirvana, in about 5 minutes and most of that 5 minutes, is the lead singer of Agnostic Front whining that he never made it big.

The politics embedded in punk is utterly dismissed, and even suggested here and there, that it never belonged anyway. Like somehow, "Too Drunk to Fuck" was pure punk and something like "2 Milllion Voices" were just spoiled Londoners whining about the Dole.

Also embedded in the film are each artist's contempt for one another. Rollins passively-aggressively takes a stab at the California scene, Johannsen seems to think everyone owes him a percentage of their royalties he was so influential, and just about every New York artist suggests the London scene was bollocks.

The London artists, all seem to like everyone, except Nancy...as once again, we all refuse to believe that Sid Vicious was responsible for what he did to his body and his career. Right, and Yoko was the reason the Beatles broke up too I guess? Bah.

The film isn't a disaster, its just dull. It is really more a love affair with the music scene of the New York underground from 71 to 76. I don't disagree that was an influential and fascinating time and place for music, but to suggest punk 'died' shortly thereafter, or suggest that London just 'subscribed' to whatever scene was in New York and then fucked it up, is more than unfair, its downright boring and petty.

A punk documentary shouldn't be introspective. It shouldn't take a few egos and paste them all over a canvas with insightful commentary. It should have the same kind of energy and nihilism that was the center of what made 'punk' so refreshing.

Most tragic of all, the documentary, couldn't find one interesting new band to tell me about. Are you kidding me? I saw a great punk band in Kansas City of all places, the last time I was there and the only new punk bands you see to tell me about are fucking Green Day and Rancid? Do your homework, there's still great punk out there, what kind of garbage is this?

This isn't a punk documentary, it was more suited for an analysis of Pink Floyd or Eric Clapton. It might as well have been broadcast on PBS with Ken Burns directing. It actually tried to take something as random and beautifully meaningless as "punk rock" and put it in a bottle, label it and paint a historical perspective around it.

What do I think of this documentary? Unless you want to hear other artists tell you how wonderfully terrific MC5, Television and The Ramones were, *over and over and over again*, for about 90 minutes, you are better off finding some bootleg Stiff Little Fingers video and just watching that instead.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Klub Sportowy Deby Osielko

Witaj na oficjalnej stronie internetowej Klubu Sportowego "Dęby Osielsko". Mam nadzieję, że znajdziesz tu wszystkie informacje jakie potrzebujesz na temat naszego klubu...


Steve Raible ma wąsy prawo

Monday, July 04, 2005

Ever Just Sit Back?

Have you ever just sat back and watched the human dynamic in motion?

Have you ever been to a meat market, with no self-interest other than to just observe those desperate for love and companionship?

Try it sometime, go ahead, be the nerd at the end of the bar. It's not such a bad ride, in fact, on nights like this, it's better than therapy and it will probably cost you less.

The truth is, Vodka is cheaper than Freud.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shut Up Bono

Successful rock stars are narcissistic and selfish bastards. You have to be that way in order to survive an industry that is laced with ego, greed and corruption.

If you don’t believe that, you have absolutely no experience in the music industry. I have some experience here, not a lot, but enough to know that if you are multi-million dollar rock star, you’ve achieved that by walking hand in hand with corporate endorsement, shady deals with concert promoters and attaching yourself to a billion dollar industry, that attempts to bilk every single penny out of the gullible 14 to 28 year old demographic.

So I truly think Bono needs to shut the fuck up. Any pansy that does a photo op in Eastern Africa with 500 dollar sunglasses on, is just a hypocritical piece of shit.

Consider the hypocrisy of someone who screams we need to pay attention to poverty, while they ride in limousines, stay in the best hotels and charge talks shows a fee to come on their shows and talk about poverty.

This is not charity work people, wake up. This is a self-serving marketing scheme. It is intended to get young people to believe Bono is iconic to their hopes and dreams for the world. If you happen to buy an album, or a ticket to a rock show along the way, so much the better.

I am all for helping the plight of countries crushed with debt and if forgiving debt is the best way to do that, count me in. But don’t try to convince me, that someone who made an entire career of standing in front of a stage and saying “look at me, I’m a rock star”, has any business preaching about how selfish and greedy the world is.

Shame on the media such as Charlie Rose and Meet the Press for giving Bono a free infomercial. Bono, if you must insist on continuing this charade, at least have the courage to take of your designer sunglasses and your 400 dollar shirt and talk to me like a concerned human being.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Sometimes opportunity presents itself. Sometimes elements combine to produce a shot at something unique, something special, something I can be proud of.

I am proud of so many things, and now if I do this right, I'll have something else to be damn proud of too.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Wallowing in the Gutter of Sports Media

Sports journalism has hit new lows.

It's always been the bottom of the barrel in terms of journalism. As Woody Allen once joked:

If you can't do, then teach and if you can't teach, teach gym.

So in my mind, you could rewrite that to:

If you can't write, become a journalist and if you can't become a journalist, become a sports journalist.

I have a confession. I am a hopeless sports addict, I have been since the age of six, where I would rush to get the morning newspaper and read the latest hockey scores.

So its possible my standards are too high, but I am so often very dissapointed with sports writers, sports television hosts and most especially sports radio hosts.

In fact, sports radio, is a wasteland. Our own local sports radio station here in Seattle, is easily the worst sports radio station I've ever heard. I remember one day, there was a prominent NBA playoff game, several intriguing baseball games with marquee pitching matchups the same day. Did I get to hear any of that? No.

Instead, our stupid radio station choose to broadcast an inter-squad exhibition football match for the local university. The freakin' QBs were wearing red jerseys for Christ sake, marking them as unhittable. That's not a football game, that's a freakin' extended passing drill.

That is just beyond weak and relegates sports radio in this town, to not much more than gossip columns and loud mouths.

Our local sports writers, are also for the most part, a huge joke. They are often vain, egocentric and tend to cover up a lack of analysis or knowledge of the sports, with cheesy humor and sarcasm, the kind we all mastered and perfected back in Junior High.

They also tend to be spineless. Villifying players and coaches when the lose, but turning the tables quickly should they succeed. They never hold themselves accountable to what they said in the past. In fact if anything try to ride the current tide of popular opinion, as their gospel truth. They are beyond populists, they are often, trend sucking whores, who just echo whatever the popular opinion is and call it analysis.

They are also, very often racist. Yes, racism still exists in sports, in particular with sports writers. They are often give black and latino players much less rope and room to fail, than good old white boys. Toronto is a city especially guilty of that. I will one day talk about that at length. But, Toronto is a very racist city underneath its surface anyway, so that racism doesn't surprise me.

A new ugly trend in sports programming is the increase in gossip and celebrity infomercials. Sports shows that bring in some cheese actor to promote Deuce Bigalow II and then ending the conversation with, "who do you like in the NBA finals" to clumsily tie it back to sports. The truth is you just watched a 2 minute infomercial for a movie you never intended to watch in the first place. But the canned audience applauds anyway, because the sign tells them too and they cut to a commercial.

Gossip has begun to abound in these types of shows. Who Alex Rodriguex is dating? is it true there's an imminent break up of some b-grade actress and some Nascar driver with bad teeth? The similarities between ESPN's Sportscenter and Entertainment Tonight are frightening.

The packaged segments on Sportscenter are beyond embarassing these days. I stopped watching Sportscenter for nearly a year now because of them, and when you start putting athletes on a big monitor, and then ask him things like: what's the best accessory to help 'pimp your ride'? Well ESPN, at that point, enough is enough and I just refuse to watch anymore.

The 'serious' sports shows can often be so dissapointing. Outside the Lines and the Gumbel/Costas shows on HBO are promoted as 'insightful sports journalism'. Then you actually watch a show and you realize the journalism usually very light, very shallow and often cobbled together hastily.

When was the last time you saw any real level of research or statistical information? What you get is, Bob Costas and his one guest, telling you for twenty minutes that steroids are very bad? Nobody takes an alternate view (say for example the libertarian notion that regulating what people can and cannot take to help their careers, is no business of government). They instead, just echo what everyone wants to hear, as fast, as easily and as cheaply as possible.

In fact, the last sports interview/show I saw that had any real merit was when Charlie Rose brought in guests to discuss the Red Sox last year.

That's pretty lame when you think about it, we're saturated with more sports shows, radio, newspapers and magazines than ever before, but the best sports related journalism I saw last year, came from a low budget PBS show.

Maybe there just isn't a market for 'upscale' sports journalism. Maybe if someone did a real examination of the utter corruption in the Olympics, the outright bias of NBA referees, the rampant racism still dominant in baseball, the collaboration of the baseball union and ownership to allow steroids to run rampant, the outright chicanery of the NHL that has seen millions swindled into the pockets of an elite few, maybe if there was real examination of these events, journalism will have bitten the hand that feeds them too hard.

Maybe sports journalists can't really be journalists, because they very thing that provides them their jobs, are also the very thing they are paid to analyze and critique. Maybe someone needs to do a documentary on just how shallow, passive and symbiotic sports journalism really is, I bet the media's cooperation with big league sports has provided some shameful moments.

I *do* know that sports has a million ghosts in its closet that are never examined or talked about. College sports is seething with corruption and graft, as well extremely complicit in its use of steroids. Other than the occasional weak 5 minute rant about the playoff system in college football, the rampant criminal activity of the NCAA is never discussed or analyzed.

All the real warts of sports entertainment is swept under the rug and instead we wind up talking about Johnny Damon's facial hair, or the new uniforms of the Cincinnati Bengals. We will never get beyond that, because its apparently all that America wants.

Actually to be more accuarate, we'll never get beyond infomercials and childish editorials, because the secret 'sugar daddies' of sports media, are the very owners, leagues and associations that sports media should be confronting.

When you wallow in the gutter of sports media, you learn quickly who butters the bread. The rich black athlete, can be cast as 'selfish' and 'cocky' at the drop of a hat, especially if popular opinion is already turning against him. But the greedy corporation behind the sport, the one that just swindled 800 million in tax dollars? Well you leave those boys alone, otherwise, its no more free meals at the buffet during the 7th inning stretch.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

That's America for You...

You know every once in a while, not often, but every one in a while, I am kind of ashamed of the US...


...that's just pure bullshit. 7 decades of playing friendlies and neutral game matches and a New Jersey Governor has to get his underwear in a wad, over it? Just for a little political "Look at me I'm patriotic" media time?

Like somehow America is so much more important than everyone else, that it has to break tradition, just so it can wave its flag and its anthem?

What the hell does that solve anyway?

What garbage...like somehow we all hate our country, because a silly song isn't played when we are not even represented on the field of play. Should we sing 'America the Beautiful' at Olymic medal ceremonies too, just to be sure we don't offend anyone in Hoboken?

Meanwhile our bill of rights get pissed on, our governments lie to us daily and the electoral process has become highly suspect and even possibly high jacked by powerful interests groups, anyone who lives in Washington State knows what I mean by that.

...yet our patriotic duty and concern for the day, is to apparently ignore all of that and instead gripe about the anthems played at a soccer game...


That's America for you. That's Raible for you. Love it or leave it Snazel...and meanwhile enjoy a nice hot piping cup of shut the fuck up...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Death of Paper Gaming

Paper gaming. It's a term used to describe playing a game that basically, isn't a video game. In other words, the term refers to board games, card games and dice games.

Paper gaming is a billion dollar industry still, with brands like Monopoly, Sorry and Clue leading the way - and even Magic the Gathering chiming in around 200 to 300 million a year, depending on the popularity of its expansions in a given year.

Yet, despite that success, paper gaming is dying. Those who deny that, just simply are not looking at the numbers nor are they counting the number of brick and mortar game stores that are closing down year to year.

Here’s a classic example of where gaming is today: Sale of Baldur's Gate video games (which are a D&D branded set of games), outnumber the sale of the books by a healthy margin. Here’s another factoid: if the subscription numbers are true, then World of Warcraft brings in more monthly revenue, than paper D&D makes in one year - and of course with a higher margin to boot. The active player base between the two brands, probably favors World of Warcraft by a 15 to 1 margin.

The cost of goods on your average board game means it's almost impossible to make money with them. Even a brand with reasonably high exposure and recognition such as Axis and Allies, can't make the grade, and that's with prominent placement on a Toys-R-Us shelf.

Trading card games come and go like sailors at a brothel. The market is flooded with just about every intellectual property imaginable attached to a weak TCG mechanic. Yugioh rules this world at this stage and Magic will always be king, but other than those two, every other TCG is a dog (with the exception of Pokemon which treads water every year, much to the delight of the small faction that now runs the brand).

So what to do? Well sell your Hasbro and Mattel stock immediately. I'm not kidding, those companies will do nothing but atrophy as time goes on and Hasbro in particular still carries a fair amount of debt. The stock will spike occasionally after a good Christmas, but in the long haul these shares will atrophy.

If you are interested in making games (and what self-respecting nerd hasn't dreamed of creating a new game mechanic, publishing his own D&D adventure, or revamping some war game), then take a deep breath and consider wisely…

Even if you produce the greatest RPG book in the history of time and space, your ability to sell just 40,000 units will be extremely, extremely difficult. Now factor in your high COG and your low overall margin and ask yourself if the gamble is worth it.

Want to make a new TCG? Good luck, even with a multi-million dollar marketing campaign, tied to a kid's television broadcasting prominently on Saturday mornings, Duel Masters fell flat on its back and is poster child for the "swing and a miss" trend that is predominant in the gaming industry right now.

If you are a gaming retailer, the news is worse. A reasonably successful demand for the new D&D Miniatures, did almost nothing to benefit your average brick and mortar game store. Why? Well, a sizeable percentage of those miniatures are purchased online and through auction sites. Why pay 15 dollars for a 8 figure booster, when you can acquire a case at a 30% discount and then just resell the minis you don't need, back online.

Online purchasing mean the big boys eventually win, Amazon, Toys-R-Us and those boys will eventually win the online retailing game, e-Commerce has moved in that consolidated direction since the .COM bust back in 2000.

My friends, I hate to tell you this, but we are at the dawn of the final decade for paper gaming. In 15 years, Monopoly will probably still survive, but its volume will diminish severely. The board game section at Toys R Us will be reduced to the third of its current size. Trading card games will have new digital equivalents. Paper based role playing has faded already and within twenty years, relegated almost exclusively to retirement homes.

It's sad, but I also believe it’s inevitable. Until then, I'll pull out my MLB Showdown and leave my EA Sports X-Box games to gather dust on the shelves. There's just something about rolling a twenty sided die and then slamming the game board when Vernon Wells hits a homerun that no amount of console graphics can provide.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Prestige Marketing in Video Games

Today, I promised I'd talk about secondary marketing and video games, which I believe is the future of massive online games. I use the term ‘secondary’ marketing incorrectly.

NOTE: What I mean by ‘secondary’ marketing, is the notion that Company A produces a widget and then Company B buy that widgets and resells the widget for a much higher markup based on the demand and alleged 'rarity' of the widget. I also use the term to label the idea that people will pay extra money to increase their prestige within a particular hobby. People pay extra for an “exclusive” Barbie, or a “rare promotional” baseball card. Perhaps, what I mean, is better described as "prestige marketing"...

Did you know that during the height of the "Pokemon card" craze, the demand for the product was so high, that the single biggest logistical problem for the company producing and profiting from the cards, was finding ways to increase to production? Literally, every available outlet that could produce and package the cards was tapped out. The company literally could not produce cards fast enough. At the height of this craze, production was so high that there were more Pokemon cards produced each year, than there were people in the United States.

Yet, on web sites like eBay, individual "rare" Pokemon cards were commanding 100 dollars or more. The fact of the matter was, there were 100,000 copies or more of that allegedly "rare" card.

Secondary market, doesn't work on the reality of ample supply, it works on the "illusion" of scarcity of it. More importantly, it also works on the notion that acquiring the product increases one’s prestige and reverence within the hobby itself.

The first concrete example I ever had of the power of secondary marketing, was the Upper Deck baseball card craze of 1989. Literally, a case of Upper deck baseball cards in 1989 was commanding thousands of dollars. The reality was, Upper Deck was not only cranking them out a break neck pace they continued to produce the "rare" set until 1991.

To this day, a Ken Griffey Jr. card from this set sells routinely for 100 dollars or more. There are probably at least 50,000 copies of this card in sleeves and plastic protectors, because the card is so "rare" and valuable.

Magic the Gathering proved that secondary market can drive and define a game's identity. Consider how ridiculous the notion is of a card game whereby the more you spend to acquire cards, the better you are at the game. The more you pay, the more you win and the more success you have at the game. Add to that a continuing cycle of cards rotating in and out of what is "legal" to play and you've not only tied the purchasing of your product to winning, you've also stamped a limited life span on each purchase. A Magic card, no matter how expensive it is, is only ‘legal’ for two years in the most common format of the game.

Magic players are dumb asses, they truly are. I say that knowing many of my friends and acquaintances love the game with a great passion and the game is, at its core, a great strategic game. But Magic players are scalped into a 300 million dollar a year business that is about 80% profit and that may be a low estimation. The highest cost of goods on a pack of Magic cards is the foil wrap they come in and that chimes in at about a penny and a half per pack. Rarity? I've personally seen entire boxes stacked with Black Lotuses and original foil Serra Angels. The notion some of the cards are 'extremely' rare and valuable is once again predicated on an illusion of scarcity.

How long before video games exploit this? If Magic the Gathering can command 300 million, or if Pokemon in its hey day can generate nearly 1 billion dollars in a single year, how can companies like Sony and NCSoft ignore that revenue potential?

When you consider how lucrative the secondary market for video games is already, even as a cottage industry, with no real business strategy behind it, it seems obvious to me, this is where video games will eventually. There are people who make 30,000 or more a year, harvesting items, currency and wealth on video games and then distributing what they acquire to the highest bidder in real dollars. Now 30,000 a year, isn't much more than a job at 7-11, I grant you that, but like I say, that's just one person, acting as a cottage industry.

What if the companies behind the game, started to tap into and exploit this demand and market? The idea that people will pay more to succeed in a gaming community, has been proven umpteen times over. While many will gripe about it and say the game is 'ruined', many of those same gripers will then begrudgingly pay "just to compete".

Don't think the secondary market translates digitally? Think again. Magic Online has already proven that.

Magic Online is garbage. The game crashes, it has security leaks, it is ripe with fraud and dubious practice. It has serious scalability issues and is a technical abomination. It has limited graphics and a very high learning curve for new players. It does everything wrong, that makes a video game successful. As a result, it has a fairly limited player base, a mere fraction of what a game like World of Warcraft commands.

Now, what if I told you that the average Magic Online player spends 50 dollars a month? Isn't that 350% more revenue than what your average subscriber to an online RPG pays? What if I told you because the game is very low tech, the development costs and support costs for that game are also considerably less?

In fact, in some ways, less players with a higher revenue stream actually wind up helping you. It means you require less bandwidth, less hardware and less customer support. If Magic Online has 50,000 players, this equates to over 175,000 of a game that fails to exploit secondary purchases and markets and the cost of support. The fact the Magic cards purchased online are just digital objects (you literally pay for database inserts, I suppose) and can only be tenuously converted to an actual physical card does not sway demand. People will still pay, most especially, and this is key, if the purchase increases the players’ ability to compete and succeed in the game itself. Prestige within the hobby is always something people will pay for. Games like golf and tennis figure that our years ago.

So how does a game like Everquest, step lightly into this business approach? Well it has to be done gingerly I believe, especially for the first one. It has to be sold as a 'feature'. I don't know the marketing angle on it, but it seems to me, I should have the option of paying more money to World of Warcraft, in return for prestigious quests, prestigious items and other 'unique' qualities. And yes, the initial reaction from gamers will be to holler and scream, but many of that same crew will begrudgingly commit to the purchase once they see how "cool" the additional feature/quest is, or once the competition of the game itself drives them to do it.

Tying a virtual economy to the real economy is no easy trick, but the revenue potential is too high for someone not to try it. The first few attempts will likely be clumsy and fail, but someone will get the balance right. When they do, suddenly your user base translates to a higher revenue stream. Given how expensive making and maintaining these games have become, I believe its inevitable.

So yes, one of the days, Halo 3 will offer you a special quest to retrieve a special weapon, but only if you pay 5 dollars or if you retrieve a special code from a Burger King Happy Meal. The possibilities and ties in are endless and the code can be just as simple as inserting a unique item into a player’s record. Again, as getting users to pay for a database insert, the cost of goods on such a scheme is probably negligible compared to the revenue potential.

Look for things like this, it in the next year or two. NCSoft already tried a small venture, they released a DVD version of their video game, where if you purchased the DVD you got one additional power and access to a unique cape design that regular users could not access. The DVD contained no new game code that had not already been release. Despite the fact 95% of their users already owned the product, the small additional ‘features’ and prestige, pumped up sale of the DVD significantly.

In short, if there is one thing the gaming and collectable industry has taught us, there is no limit to the demand for items (even digital items) that increase the prestige of the obsessive hobbyist and gamer. I expect that simple fact to become exploited in more and more creative ways in the video game industry as time goes on.

I have one more rant about the gaming industry in me. I have forgotten to mention paper/dice/board gaming, which is becoming more and more of a relic. I think tomorrow I will talk about the atrophy of TCGs, paper games and board games.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Slice at the Gaming Industry

So E3 is over and it seems like an appropriate time to take a slice at the gaming industry.

The video game industry is still in its wild west stage. There are still a lot of players, a lot of unconquered territory and there's definitely a gold rush feel to it all.

Walk around E3 some time and watch the suits hanging around some of the displays with their tongues hanging out. They literally smell money and are grinning ear to ear because of it.

It's also a very tempermental market place right now. Branding and game loyalty mean nothing. That can turn (and has turned previously) in a heart beat. If Microsoft thinks Halo 3 is 'assured' to keep its core audience and maybe even add to it, they are taking a heavy gamble. The core audience wired into Halo 2, could abandon Halo in weeks and adopt some new game, let alone by the time Halo 3 releases.

This is why I feel the Halo 3 strategy of Microsoft, (holding Halo 3 back to coincide with the PS/3 release, to diminish the attention paid to the PS/3 release), could back fire, and back fire hard.

This is not and will not be the first time Microsoft over estimated its customers' loyalty to one of their brands.

It also needs to be said, that "speed to market" is killing the creativity in the industry right now. It also means 70% of all video games released these days are garbage or so chock full of bugs, their innovation is not worth tolerating.

This is a similar cycle that the 'internet' suffered through from 1996 to 1999. Too many websites, too many DOT-COM companies, just cranking out crap to try and catch a genie in a bottle.

The internet, went through its Darwin phase, where the weak and the chafe died out and those bilion dollar stock option dreams went the way of the Dodo.

The video game industry is poised for this kind of cycle soon and I believe some of the casualties will be fairly important.

Look for Microsoft to ditch its online RPG soon, within a year. Look for PC based online games to slowly lose market to console based networks. Those who fail to port their RPGs to console in the next two years, will die, fast and hard, no matter how high they are soaring now.

Look for the 'life cycle' for RPGs to diminish. People will want to login and play for 6-8 months top and then abandon their characters and their game for the newest 'flavor of the month'. If your business plan is counting one a two year player loyalty cycle, you will die, because the percentage of players who will stick around that long will diminish even more.

Look for games that tap into socializing, to grow a niche market. SIMS had some popularity and boasted the highest percentage of female players than any online game ever developed. Someone will key onto this and take that style of gaming to another level and it will catch on. It may be a niche market, but it wil make money and the media will pay attention because it's the kind of "kitch" thing the media likes to talk about.

Most of all though, look for the secondary markets of gaming to become exploited by the companies that produce the games. I will talk about this in more detail in another rant, but I will leave you with this:

On various web sites, online stores and auction sites, people will actually purchase 'virtual' items to improve their experience in an online game. 'Virtual' currency, 'virtual' weapons and 'virtual' items can fetch a reasonable price. If you were to add a collectible element to that and control that market at some level through the very company that generated the game, how much more revenue would it generate? I believe the answer will surpise you and I will talk about that the next time I post.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Final Thoughts: Star Wars

The Star wars saga is over.

There will be other spinoffs, books, comics, TV shows etc, but Star Wars is a cinematic experience and that experience is now over.

The prequels were lesser than the originals, not so much because of their content, but because the time and era that surrounded them. When the prequels came out, action and fantasy movies were not only common place, they practically dominated the Hollywood menu. To the point where films of that kind had become tiresome and Star wars was therefore reduced to "just another movie with a lot of special effects".

Alas, I have to tell you the last installment Revenge of the Sith, doesn't do much to elevate the Star Wars prequels beyond that, truthfully, its strongest assets are nostalgia and eye candy. It's a little more than that, in places Revenge of the Sith is magical, but on the whole the movie wheezes, lumbers and clumsily plods away to its inevitable end.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie, I like all Star Wars movies, but the reason I like the prequels are entirely different than the reason I liked the originals. I want to share with you something I wrote, that tries to explain my admiration for the series, despite its flaws:

I am watching a scene where the Emperor goes to the opera, in Revenge of the Sith and it suddenly came to me why this franchise is so great.

If this were Star Trek, the opera house would be "a perfect replica of carnegie hall", simulated by the ship's computer to make the crew feel more at home and the opera would be "Figaro" to illustrate the longevity and humanity of Mozart. The main characters would be drinking tea and wearing military uniforms and they'd all have this 'elevated' air, speaking melodramtic dialog about the immortality of 'music' and I'd be falling asleep in my chair.

If it were Lord of the Rings, we'd get a massive helicopter shot from the mountain nearby that slowly panned into the opera house, then the camera would do a 360 degree turn and settle into on some New Zealand sunset, while some endless theme song swelled and pounded into my head for the one millionth time.

This is how and why Star Wars is different. I say this not to disparage other fantasy films, but to illustrate why Star Wars can appeal to me. Star Wars takes the road less traveled, not always, perhaps not even often enough, but when it does, it's bold, unique and for me personally, magical.

What we get for an 'opera house' in Star Wars is a lush, lavish interior, with incredible imagery and light through the window to the outside. Then during the opera itself, the music and the stage imagery, is beyond bizarre, more surreal and ethereal than even the most avant-garde glam-rock show. It just sits there in the background, completely alien and non-sequitur while some of the most important and best delivered dialog is delivered to main character.

It's this attention to detail and the willingness to polish that detail into something extremely alien and bizarre that can often make a Star Wars movie seem so magical.

Like all Star Wars movies, Revenge of the Sith is flawed. In fact, it's very flawed in many, many places. This is not a perfect movie and nothing can ever hold a candle to the hysteria of Star Wars 28 years ago. If you were a child of the 70's (like me), Star Wars was your generation's Beatlemania. The cultural phenomenon and the cinematic revolution spawned by the first two original movies, will never be duplicated in our lifetime.

However, when Revenge of the Sith works, its magical. It is the kind of magical cinema that is unique and pushes the envelope both in technical delivery of the effects, and in the detail and beauty of its design.

I confess, you could argue the prequels are largely technical films. Lucas was always this way anyway, his very first film was literally just a montage of images, called "A Look at Life". It didn't speak a word and quite frankly, its when Lucas abandons the clutter of "talking" that his films tend to shine.

Go see Revenge of the Sith. You will wince at some parts of it. You will shuffle your feet during some of its scenes as it plods along and wheezes its way through its story line.

Then later, you'll see creatures, vehicles, planets, buildings, even furniture, lights and imagery that will stun you, because simply they've never been conceived and put on film before. If you are open minded, you'll come to admit that these designs are the work of a large team of creative people, that have populated a world with such love and enthusiasm, that no detail has been overlooked.

All of the Star Wars movies (yes, even the one with Jar Jar), took cinema to a new level. They are a different kind of masterpiece than the Godfather, or Citizen Kane, or the Bicycle Thief. You can argue, they are lesser masterpieces, because their genius resides primarily in their fusion of cutting edge technology with simple childlike mythology and adventure.

That's really all Star Wars is, kids movies, done with such wonder, imagination and attention to detail, that to an adult, it can often come across as more sound than fury, more bark than bite. To the heart of a child though, its translates to magic.

I can tell you, that I sat next to a 12 year old boy for Revenge of the Sith last night and he was scared down to his bones and hinged on every word and scene. He even applauded when Anakin "died", happy that the tragedy he had witnessed, was put to death.

Ah, but he doesn't die does he? He goes on to become one of the greatest movie villains of all time. He's the Oedipus complex, Hitler and Frankenstein's monster all rolled into one. He changed the way movies are made and to this day, Star Wars takes more risks than most fantasy films would dare to tread. Even when it doesn't work, I still admire the fact Lucas insists on pushing that envelope a little further, just to see what happens.

I watched a Charlie Rose interview of George Lucas that was completed on September of last year. Lucas reflected on how he would be remembered and offered this sobering thought:

"I think in the end, I'll be a footnote, when they discuss the change in cinema from a light sensitive chemical process to a digital one, I'll be mentioned as 'some guy' who helped foster that. Other than that I just hope children find my films enjoyable for a few more generations."

George is right on the money when he says this. In the large sweep of time, much of what George Lucas accomplished will get swept under the rug, but he will be remembered as a pioneer in cinema. A technical innovator beyond a thematic innovator to be sure, but an innovator none the less.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars is Political?

I have loved the Star Wars movies since I was a boy. Never in all that time, did I consider them to be political films.

Apparently however, they are, at least some sites have taken a George Lucas quite that Star Wars was originally written during the Vietnam war and extrapolated that Star Wars is just liberal dogma:

Libertas Web Site

Pabaah Web Site

In both cases, you need to scroll down to find the relevant article concerning the politics of Star Wars, as I could not find article specific links.

If there are those on the right side of the spectrum that view Revenge of the Sith as criticism of George Bush and the Iraq war, that is their perogative.

As someone who likes to think he resides at the center of the spectrum, I think this 'controversy' is really just a sign of how much Star Wars really means to our culture, for better or for worse.

Is Star Wars a political statement? I don't think so, THX1138 was a much stronger political statement, if that is the case. Really, all Star Wars represents is all the childhood influences on George Lucas, (Christianity, Judaism, Flash Gordon, Japanese epics and cowboy movies), all kind of gloriously rolled into one.

Darth Vader doesn't represent, Bush, Republicans or American policy, he represents "fathers" and the psychological struggles we all have with father figures from time to time. I mean the name 'Vader' means 'father' how much more proof do you need?

I think there's more freudism than socialism in Star Wars, but then again, I could be wrong.

It is amusing though, to once again witness the influence of a silly series of movies about giant talking dogs, space ship driving cowboys and latent robots.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars Follow Up

The cultural effect Star Wars is everywhere. What other action adventure serial spawns an article from a PhD in Philosophy, and Religion at Boston University.

Daniel Newkirk, offers his thoughts on the 'message' of Star Wars. for the Science & Theology News

read it here

While, I don't agree with every assessment made here, it amazes me that such a learned man, would take the time to disect the themes of Star Wars.

I don't suggest this exercise is futile, or even without merit, but I do suggest that it proves the level of impact that Star Wars has on our culture (for better or for worse).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Star Wars

Star Wars is back.

Love it or hate it, it is hard to deny that you can have a pretty heated discussion with just about anyone regarding Star Wars and its impact on cinema and pop culture.

Even the most hardened cynic, has to confess that Star Wars changed American cinema. Whether those changes were for the better or for the worse is another matter.

I am a child of the 70's, which not only means I am getting old, it means I am in the exact demographic that George Lucas cultivated in 1977.

Now, the alleged "final installment" of Star Wars is upon us and I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on the "impact" of Star Wars, in general.

First, lets get the discussion of the "original" trilogy vs. the "prequel" trilogy out of the way. Yes, quite frankly, the prequels are vastly inferior, that is undeniable, simply because there is no cultural significance to them.

Even as a kid back in the 70's, there was a sense that Star Wars was 'important'. Indeed I'd argue that if you were a child of the 70's, Star Wars' impact on you was as socially significant as "Beatlemania" was in the early 60s. Socially significant when measured on the pop culture scale that is, I do realize its just a movie.

The prequels lack that cultural significance and ultimately, this is why the prequel films simply do not resonate like the originals.

Secondly, I recognize Star Wars fans can get obsessive and out of hand and I can be guilty of this as well. Those fans who line up for months or try and reverse engineer children's films into philosophical and even religious dogma, go too far. These films are meant to be a lark, a bit of escapist fun and shouldn't be elevated beyond that. Listing "Jedi" as a religion in a goverment census, might be whimsical, but it also insults the historical longevity and cultural meaning of real religion. (I say that as an atheist with no attachment to any religion, save I suppose atheism itself).

Having said all that, the last installment of George Lucas' 6 part epic, has me excited. I don't expect much thematically, because in truth, the best film George Lucas ever made in that regard, was American Graffiti anyway. I do expect a wonderful romp through my childhood affection for the Star Wars myth and I eagerly await seeing Darth Vader appear on the big screen one last time.

Darth Vader, or "dark father" as the literal translation goes, is a massive villain, with Freudian roots, a booming bass voice and fascist evil undertones, that slice through a boy's fascination with power and dare I say it, the boy's natural wonder for what Nietzsche called the 'Ubermencsh'.

Thus, Vader resonates into a young boy's psyche greater than any other science fiction villain ever created, because he represents our struggle with our own fathers but also our own selfish struggle for power and independence.

Okay, okay, I've gone too far, I've assigned dramatic weight to a simple 'action adventure movie'.

None the less, Vader is what helped sell the original Star Wars hysteria, conversely the villains in the first two prequels, were merely mannequins with no subtext or presence with which we could attach to. It left the Star Wars prequels hollow and without any energy or real conflict.

Now, the next Star Wars movie, brings Vader back, albeit just for a cameo at the end. But because the movie leads up to exact moments of his birth, I believe I will enjoy this film, like I've enjoyed no other sci-fi movie in a long, long time.

Yes, a lot of us children from the 70's assign entirely too much significance to Star Wars. I just offer that many children of the 60's make the same mistake with the Beatles or Jack Kerouac. I guess Elvis and maybe Joe Dimaggio suffer from this as well from generations before, I don't know.

Star Wars, it's just a silly space movie serial. I know this. I just think that with Vader as the central theme and nemesis in the latest installment, I believe I am going to enjoy it very, very much indeed.

EDIT: I just found a delightfully angry review of the movie at the New Yorker web site. You can read it by clicking here.

Although the review is vey funny and very accurate in its assault on the film's weaknesses, one has to wonder if the anecdote about the warm water wasn't derived by the author's personal experience as an adolescent.

Perhaps one or too many dark nights in that lonely closet, is one of the reasons the author can't just sit back and enjoy a film aimed at children.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Trendy Red Sox Fans

Trends come and go. The Farrah Fawcet haircut, the Thompson Twins, acid wash jeans and grown men using the adjective 'gnarly' have all thankfully passed away as time has progressed.

It's time for another trend to go away, alas, it will be a while before it does, for right now, this trend is at its peak.

It's time for trendy Boston Red Sox fans to die the same death, the KISS solo albums did in 1978.

Are you a Boston Red Sox fan? I have a small quiz for you then...

1. Where and what is the .406 club?

2. Which Red Sox player used to spit at the fans and/or the press box when he hit a homerun?

3. Tris Speaker vs. Jimmie Foxx discuss who was greater and why.

4. You are coming from Oak Grove to see the Red Sox, name the subway line you would consider taking to see the game.

5. In regards to question 4, what stop would you get off at?

6. In most places, Who's On First refers to a Abbot/Costello routine, in Boston though, what would most people would be talking about what when they mention 'Who's on First?'

7. Who is Thomas Menino?

8. You walk into Fenway Park from Gate C and start heading to the Bleacher Seats, what would most Red Sox fans confess is dominant smell in those corridors as you venture to the Bleachers?

Now if you struggle with more than 2 of these questions, I would now like to inform you that you are not a real Red Sox fan.

To the real Red Sox fans of the Earth, the natives of New England, the generational tradition that has permeated that region for a century, I have no argument with you. Indeed, you have my respect, as much as I dislike Boston, I confess it is one of America's greatest sports towns.

However...to the slacker, who works at Starbucks, with his Modest Mouse CD collection, surfing his favorite web site for Halo 2 cheats and exploits, who wears a Red Sox hat because he read some article about that "Babe Ruth curse" somewhere...

...or to the chubby chick that thinks the Red Sox are the charming epicenter of baseball, but have never been east of Spokane and doesn't have a clue what position Bobby Doerr played...

...or to the ultra-liberal pansy, who digs the notion of the perpetual underdog so much, that he wears a Red Sox hat to promote his devotion to all things weak, inept and vaguely conspiratorial but never once saw Yaz hit a homerun...

...or to man in his 40's, who bought a Pedro Martinez jersey one day, because his own home team has gone out of fashion at work and amongst his friends, and then places said jersey next to his Manchester United shirt, his San Jose Shark jersey and the bevy of other merchandise received from bandwagon.com...

...to all of you, who have clung to the Red Sox, because its the "nifty" thing to do these days...and especially to those of you who think that doing so, makes you a 'real' fan of baseball, I tell you this:

You are not a Red Sox fan, you are a vapid, follower of social trends. In 15 years from now, when the yarn of the "Babe Ruth" curse has lost its luster, you'll be sporting a Cubs hat, or a Buffalo Bills hat, or some other jersey or icon, which ESPN and the rest of the sports conglomerates are spinning as the 'grand epic tale'.

You and your kind will die one day, just like the notion that 'Tears for Fears' were a great and serious band.

And for me personally, it cannot happen a day too soon.

Personally, I've hated the Red Sox for two decades, and I will continue to do so with utter delight for many decades more, oh and fuck the Yankees too while we're at it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Like Data

I like data.

I like numbers and statistics, I like what numbers can mean, but I also like the fact numbers don't tell the whole story.

I like how data can give you a perspective on history or tell a tale often more real than what a historian will record in a text book. You can compare the employment rates of women in the 20th century and get a very accurate view on the progression of the women's movement (or lack thereof for that matter).

I've liked data for a long time. At the age of 6, I use to record hockey scores and hockey statistics onto paper. I'd create my own standings and I could recite just about every player and position in the NHL.

In fact, stats are at the heart of why I still love to follow sports and of course baseball is a statistician's dream. So much so, that I simulate baseball games with dice and cards just to record, review and analyze the numbers. I even built a web site to record and analyze it all here.

There not even real baseball games, yet the numbers related to these 'simulated' games still generate great interest for me. You know, some people build aquariums, or model railroads, others paint pictures or knit shawls. Apparently, I roll dice and record the results into a statistical database.

I am not sure why it appeals to me so, but somehow sorting, analyzing and reviewing good clean data is very soothing to me.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I'm Still Good

I don't know what to tell you. I was at a bar and I saw it all happen.

There was poor, there was rich, there were the desperate and the fliratious

There were those that wanted, those that neeeded and those that had so much they needed a rest from it.

Then there was me, somewhere in the middle,(where ever that is) watching it all happen, watching it all go down.

And there it was, in some obscure bar, in some corner of the universe, like a flash, it was there...

...the answer to everything...

...the very thing we all seek when see a psych, or when send a probe to Mars. The thing Orson Welles was seeking when he threw the snow globe onto the ground, or the very thing we seek when we put a pen to paper and write a novel, or every time we create in any capacity, the answer to 'why' was right there.

I had it, yes I had it, for a fleeting moment, I swear I had it and then it was gone. Gone, gone, gone.

And all I can remember was, the answer was simple and made me laugh when I thought of it.

It's gone now and all I got is this stupid blog to show for it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Trashed World of Warcraft

I trashed my World of Warcraft account today. I only had it for three weeks and before I actually had to pay for the first subscription month, I went in and trashed the account.

I can't tell you how dissapointed I am with World of Warcraft. It is, the most dissapointing game I've ever played. There are some fantastic elements to World of Warcraft. It has beautiful graphics, it is easy to play and it is widly popular with a large player base.

It also took all the mistakes Everquest made and corrected them. In fact the resentment most gamers had towards Everquest and its design flaws was highly under estimated by Everquest and heavily exploited by World of Warcraft when it released.

EQ2 on the other hand, totally miscalculated. They marketed EQ2 with the idea that the EQ brand was its strongest asset. That its previous frenzy was the key reason people would return to it and generally marketed their game and their brand as the "best".

In fact, the EQ brand had been tarnished significantly and had built a strong resentment with gamers by the time WoW released. EQ's marketing failed to communicate effectively that "your gripes had been answered with EQ2", instead seem to reflect "EQ2: same old EQ you know and love only with better graphics".

In fact, in hindsight, EQ2 shouldn't have branded itself with EQ at all and instead established a new identity, but I digress.

The bottom line is, that people jumped on WoW's free trial in droves and once they found they could level fast, with a minimum of grief and that all their previous EQ beefs had been solved, they raved about the game and killed EQ2's launch.

WOW game exploded in popularity and WOW's only initial problems were they did not anticipate demand and a lack of servers and server stability was a key issue.

It didn't matter though, fans tolerated the outages, because it was better than EQ and even more than that, they felt they finally had the last laugh on EQ, a game they perceived did not care about them or their concerns.

But to me, now that the hysteria of "hey its better than EQ2" has worn off with World of Warcraft, all that remains is the game itself. And the game itself is relatively weak in mechanics/class design, extremely weak in character customization and is endlessly, endlessly repetitive with no real significant outcome/consequence to your player's actions.

My beefs with WOW include but are not limited to:

1. The music is derivative and weak.

2. Ambient sound, is extremely weak.

3. The look and feel is cartoonish, you spend more time lauging at the monsters and creatures than being inspired or awestruck by them.

4. Everyone looks the same, the lack of customization, especially early in the game, is extremely annoying. You feel and look, just like everyone else.

5. The story and NPC character development is non-existant. I am never involved in any of the communities I visit, except to do quests which are never anything more than 'fetch, grab and kill' missions.

6. None of the missions are unique, hardly any of them develop in story and none involve any thought or skill. It's all about investing time and knowing where to go.

7. The mapping system is terrible and in fact, the game forces you to read web sites, blogs and the like to find out where things are, where to go and what is worthwhile exploring or doing.

People who are engrossed in WOW, have largely been engrossed since its release. 'New' players are harder and harder to find on WOW servers.

What that tells me is I give the game about a year before the entrenched players have exhausted the game's playabilty and begin to gripe about it, much like everyone griped about EQ when its player base began to withered and atrophied.

And hopefully what ever comes along to replace WOW next year, will be a lot more compelling to play and won't look and feel so much like a dumb Saturday cartoon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What is Raible?

Raible is not a person, it's not a thing. At least it is none of these things on its own. Raible is a state of mind, Raible is also the sound of one hand clapping, it is the joy of a young man who first discovers he can grow his first mustache.

Most of all Raible is freedom.

It is not a cult, it is not an egg, but it can be extended into your vocabulary in numerous ways:

Raible (pr: Ray-bull)

1. To possess or demonstrate extraordinary qualities. In particular, to possess the ability to shed good kharma.

IE: Brad Wilkerson has good Raible. The Democratic Convention was flat and had no Raible.

2. To pursue various acts, including acts involving dice, chicanery, shenanigans or head games.

IE: Do you want to Raible on Friday?

3. To insinuate that the cosmos itself would approve or not approve of a particular action.

IE: Raible doesn't like it when you cajole Worth Wollpert into making Todd Pratt.


Wow, you're actually playing the Twins again, Raible would be pleased.

4. An image that is distorted or altered digitally, often for comedic effect.

IE: That Raible head you pasted on to Fidel Castro was hilarious.


Isler's Raible art, is the best in the world.

5. A wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks during the first year of their existence and former cohort of the legendary Pete Gross.

6. A game, that stems from a particular original brand and involves taking the general rules of that game and contorting them. The rule contorsions are generally for the purposes of the players involved. In particular, they generally make the game more complex and more fun for the participants.

IE: I wonder if you could Raible monopoly?


You playing normal rules or Raible rules?


We Raible half of the shit WOTC R&D comes up with, 'cause they don't know what they are doing.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

State of Baseball

Are you a baseball fan? Sadly, so am I.

I say 'sadly', because lets face it, baseball has kicked us in the teeth for over a decade.

What do I think of all the latest 'steroid' scandal?

Well at the purely political level, I think its ridiculous that the government regulates any substance that a grown adult and a physician have agreed to use. The fact tobacco, alcohol and other prescription drugs are legal, while other chemical substances are 'banned' is the height of hypocrisy.

Okay, enough of the libertarian rhetoric, what do I 'really' think of the steroid scandal?

I think its a by-product of baseball's economics and I think its a by-product of the fact that in order for baseball to thrive in the days of luxury suites, 25 dollar bleacher seats and 4 dollar hot dogs, it needed to make a 'big splash'.

My passion for baseball, has diminished since the 1994 season. That strike was ludicrous and the return of baseball in 1995 brought us a baseball that famous pitchers like Curt Schilling insisted were wound tighter, to produce homeruns to bring fans back.

Curt Schilling was given a gag order for speaking out about the baseball and mixed with the heavy steroid use of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa eventually produced the 1998 season that truly brought baseball back to the limelight.

Was it a rouse? Yes it was.

Was it a sham that was ignored and perpetuated by both owners and players? Yes it was.

Has it tainted baseball? Yes it has.

Does it really matter? No it doesn't.

Baseball, is and always has been a mirror to the culture which gave it birth. Babe Ruth symbolizes the decadence of the 1920's, Joe Dimaggio symbolizes the birth of American pop culture abroad in the 1940's. The 1950's show America's birth of the "jet" era, as the west opens up and two New York teams flee to California.

The list goes on, we have Jackie's historic appearane on a major league team in 1947, the cocaine scandals of the early 80's and the advent of free agency in the narcisstic 70's.

Now, we find that in the years that fueled the corporate fraud of the dot-com and Enron era, baseball was dabbling in its own form of fraud: it produced a baseball and produced players 'enhanced' with substances. The combination of the two smashed and destroyed their own record book for the sake of money and ratings.

I ask you though, is a juiced baseball and steroid laced Barry Bonds, really any different than cooking the books to help a lagging stock on the Dow Jones?

I am not so sure it is that different at all. In fact, I think you could dial up 100 American companies and probably find transgressions that are worse a Mark McGwire who grew his biceps with chemicals and shattered the Roger Maris record.

Baseball will surive, it always survives. If it can survive 1919, it can survive anything.

And baseball will always be dirty, it will always cheat, it will always lie to its fans and it will always be guilty of the very prejudice, greed and dishonesty that perpetuates society itself.

Sadly, believe it or not, that is part of baseball's charm and part of why it is such a cultural centerpiece in America. There is something magical about baseball, primarily because it provides us with a historic link to the very aorta of America, both the good and the bad of America.

It's why I also say, that sadly, I am indeed a baseball fan, because baseball is a dirty corporate sham, a spectacle played on a stage of grass and dirt, for the sole sake of producing filthy lucre.

In other words, it's just like the very country we live in, a country I happen to admire and respect a great deal.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Yet Another Top Ten List...

There is nothing more meaningless than making up 'Top Ten' lists. However, it can be quite a bit of fun, so without further ado, my 'Top Ten' movies of all time.


  2. I first saw this movie when I was 16, late one Saturday night on television. I thought it was awesome and talked about how great it was for days. Only three years later, when I was finally able to see the movie again, did I learn it was considered such a classic.


  4. It was hard to decide which one should be second, but I chose this one. This is the best and strongest illustration of what "show biz" is really like. It also features some fantastic snappy dialog, a cameo by Marilyn Monroe and arguably Bette Davis' greatest role ever.


  6. A good list should mix it up a little from node to node. So given how the first two speak of obsession and futility, I thought this classic was well placed at third. This film is the standard bearer for farcical comedy on film. This is proven by Groucho Marx's superb timing and delivery, to the ridiculous musical numbers, to the physical comedy routines that have been lifted and borrowed so many times in tribute to it.


  8. Orson Welles makes it twice to my list and why not? This movie is not well liked and is probably the first controversial pick on my list. It's generally disliked because it takes Kafka's novel and changes both the tone and theme quite liberally. I thought the end result was stunning and so apparently did Mr. Welles, he was once quoted as saying "Say what you like, but THE TRIAL is the best film I ever made".


  10. I find a lot of discussion and reviews of this film so cerebral that I don't understand what they are saying. The film itself however, is riveting. I am not an academic, I'm just a slob with an opinion. My opinion of this film is that it is best examination of mortality, religion and the question of God, ever put to film.

  11. BRAZIL

  12. I could not devise a list like this and not pay homage to Terry Gilliam. This could easily have been one of Terry's other wonderful films. I chose this one, because it was the first of his that I really began to realize how much his films mean to me. Not just thematically (where they are strong), but also just from the perspective of sitting back and enjoying a wonderful story unfold on the screen.

  13. ROPE

  14. Similar to the last entry, this is more about Hitchcock as whole than anything. However of all his work, this is my favorite. It's a skillful film technically, but it also has a fantastic story with some chilling tension and suspense. I also find it very believable, I think I know some people in my life that have it in them to pull a stunt like this.


  16. A lot of art snobs and film academics are probably thumbing their noses at this entry. However, the universal appeal of this film is undeniable. To me, there's a bevy of prison films that I find fascinating. Of all them, this is my favorite. The film's strength is Morgan Freeman, who grabs the role of narrator and polishes it to a performance that I will never forget.

  17. GANDHI

  18. I know, a very controversial choice given Casablanca, Taxi Driver, The Bicycle Thief and so many other pieces of genius work have failed to make my list. But, I am a sucker for historical epics and I am also a sucker for superb performances. I believe Ben Kingsley's performance in this film to be one of the greatest ever and since it takes place in a grand, Attenborough epic about the rise of independent India, I adore this film.


  20. I thought about Crimes and Misdemeanors here or Malcolm X. I thought about Wizard of Oz, Woman of the Year, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Life of Brian, Maltese Falcon, The Player or even Amadeus. I haven't even mentioned Godfather, which is ridiculous given how strong that film is. Truth is, what makes these lists stupid is not what they include, but what they exclude. I chose Raging Bull again based primarily on the strength of the performance by Robert Deniro and also its unique combination of grit, horror, humor and pathos.


      On any give day any of these films could have easily made this silly list of mine, here they are in no particular order:

      • Sleuth

      • Bicycle Thief

      • Life of Brian

      • Crimes and Misdemeanors

      • Wizard of Oz

      • Malcolm X

      • Godfather I

      • Godfather II

      • Apocalypse Now

      • African Queen

      • Woman of the Year

      • Bridge over River Kwai

      • Amadeus

      • Being There

      • Rear Window

      • Arsenic and Old Lace

      • Maltese Falcon

      • The Caine Mutiny

      • Bull Durham

      • Annie Hall

      • The Player

      • Taxi Driver

      There's probably a host of other great films that elude me right now.

      Yeah the more I think of it, these lists are pretty silly after all.

    Light and Meaningless

    My last two blog entries were kind of heavy and preachy. I can get that way sometimes.

    So I am going to make this one rather light and quite meaningless. Here are ten things I can think of that fit that bill:

    1. I like City of Heroes more than World of Warcraft.

    2. I like the Seattle Seahawks football team, despite their utter lack of success for 29 years.

    3. My kids are awesome, and yes, I know all parents say that.

    4. I watch Charlie Rose sometimes, especially if he has a good guest.

    5. My wife made me a scrabbled egg bagel today with cheese. It tastes better than an Egg McMuffin.

    6. I don't like reading books. That upsets a lot of people when I say that, but I just don't. I think its because I used to read all the time when I was a kid.

    7. I can see Puget Sound and downtown Seattle from my living room window.

    8. I can see Mount Rainier on a clear day too from the same window.

    9. I have this ridiculous collection of D&D Miniatures. Which makes me the biggest nerd I have ever met.

    10. The thing is, I like being a nerd. In fact, I've done it for so long, I think I've learned how to be quite happy as one. That also upsets some people when I say that.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Atheism is a Faith of its Own

    I am an atheist. It took a while to get here, I was agnostic for a long time, but I'm an atheist now and that provides a great deal of comfort to me.

    I have respect of course, for all religious philosophy and I'm not so obsessed with my atheism that I need to mock or cajole other religions. My 'faith' brings me comfort and that's enough for me.

    Yes, I did just say 'faith', because ultimately any personal answer to the question of God, requires faith, yes, even atheism.

    Ultimately the 'science' behind life's existence will never be exact, but you can't prove or disprove God's existence with logic anyway.

    Ultimately, the question of whether you think God exists or not, isn't really a scientific question at all. It's a philosophical question. As such, it should be intepreted by the individual, for the purpose of finding 'peace' and a personal outlook on the universe as a whole.

    Does God exist? If you answer "I don't know", I am not so sure (with all due respect) that you fully understand the question.

    You probably *do know*, you just need to search your heart for the answer. It may not be important enough for you to conduct that search and that's fine, I respect that, but the answer to the question is there and it lies within you.

    My answer to the question, after some thought and reflection is NO, God does not exist.

    That answer gives me great peace, great solitude and provides me with a framework with which to conduct my life. It's this peace, that lets me know I've found the right answer, at least for myself. I wouldn't dare inflict it on someone else.

    How do I know God does not exist? Because, I couldn't live in a world where God did exist, it would be, without meaning to me, and life would lose a lot of its beauty and purpose. Basically I have faith that she doesn't exist, its as simple as that.

    You might notice these answers are similar to what a religious devotee would offer to his or her own faith. That's why and how I can respect all those with religious sentiments.

    The question of God cannot be proven or disproven scientifically, because as I say, God isn't a scientific question to begin with, its a personal and philosophical one.

    The 'truth' that is arrived by so many of us, be it Christianity, Islam or in my case Atheism, is a personal truth. It speaks to us, it comforts us and thus we adopt it. Sometimes its adopted through generations of tradition, sometimes its adopted after a personal search to the answer. Either way, the answer is valid.

    The key, in my opinion is not to promote that truth as universal, or suggest it is the singular answer to what ultimately is a very personal question.

    So if you are reading this and you think I am out to lunch, or my viewpoint is senseless, or flawed, then good for you. It means you are already adopting or sticking to your own religious convictions, whatever they may be and I personally think that can be a very healthy thing.

    Just don't try to convert me to your own philosophy. It won't work for me, mostly because the one I have now, suits me just fine and provides me with the peace I need to conduct life the best way I know how.

    That answer, as I say, for me personally, is atheism.