That Was Then, This Is Now

So Hot
So Hot

For most of my adult life, I have been in love with the girl in the right of this picture. (I would appreciate better screen captures of her from this movie if possible… this is the only thing I could find anywhere online.) Lala Sloatman is her name, but I only knew her as Nora’s sidekick in Pump Up The Volume. (To my knowledge, you don’t learn her name – Janie – until the end credits, and even then the words were so small it took until I looked at a DVD copy last night to really be able to read it.) As I’ve discovered via some Inter-Web-A-Tron research I did this morning, her cousin is Ahmet Zappa, who also appeared as an extra in Pump Up The Volume, along with Seth Green and some other strange Hollywood fringe types, which puts this girl in good company.  Sadly, her filmography is, to say the least, disappointing.  (The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Joe Verses The Volcano.)

I’m sure the particular circumstances that make me obsess over Janie are as specific and singular as any other obsession any of us develops. I can only say that, 17 years later, this obsession still has a pretty strong hold on me. Yowza.

Nora: It’s after 8 o’clock, so I guess it’s okay to kill myself.
Janie: Oh no, it’s after 3, I guess I’m totally fucked!

Back In The Day


Going to see Watchmen last night (more on that later), I couldn’t help but remember one of my all-time favorite Onion headlines:

Other infamous episodes that have occurred during the couple’s 18-month relationship include Tillich’s August 1999 insistence that Jensen listen to all of side two of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, his January 1999 failure to talk Jensen into visiting the grave of Philip K. Dick during a Colorado road trip, and his ongoing unsuccessful efforts to get her to read Alan Moore’s Watchmen, a 1986 postmodern-superhero graphic novel she described as “a comic book about a big blue space guy” and that he calls “nothing less than a total, devastating deconstruction of virtually every archetype in the genre’s history.”

I don’t know what appeals to me more: the fact that they managed to cover just about every base regarding this kind of relationship dynamic (omitting, obviously, the Area Boyfriend’s insistence on going as The Prisoner for Halloween, and the Area Girlfriend stating that she didn’t know who that was), or the fact that this is pretty much the way I interacted with my girlfriends for most of my life.

And now, I will do the dance of shame. Again.

Agreeable Sounds

If you’re lookin’ for some new music to get you through the tail-end of winter, might I recommend the bands I saw last night during one of the rare times I actually left my house:

Hearts And Minutes: My friend Tristan told me he was morally apposed to bands who don’t all live in the same town, which only turned him off of this band more given that one member each lives one Portland, LA & Oakland. I have to say I was a little lukewarm on the beginning of the set, but as they kept playing they got better and better. That’s an interesting tactic when you play live: save all your good songs for the end, and give them the slow lame ones to start with. Still, they piqued my interest enough to pick up an ’09 Tour CD, and I’ll report back if my opinion improves.

Moment In Static: Comprised of several of my friends (and one roommate), it’s hard for me to think of another band that loves Don Caballero as much as these guys. Certainly the draw when you see ’em live is their drummer and their singer / percussionist / Korq player, who dance and move and kid and look like their having more fun than just about anyone you know. They seem to be obsessed with ’80’s cover songs (Devo, Gary Numan, Wire), but the covers are generally strange and deconstructed, and more to the point, their original material is much, much better. The name is probably the only thing (anymore) that I’m not sold on… yet.

The Jezebel Spirit: I used to work with one of the guitar players for this band, and their first CD, Turtles All The Way Down, was pretty awesome (and epic) instro-rock with the emo turned all the way up. They’re still just kids, but they totally get it, and seem pretty stoked on the music they play. I didn’t get a chance to stay for the whole set, but I did pick up their new CD (Remember… Always obey, you’ll live longer than way), which (like thier first CD) is one continuous performance, broken into “suites” (or tracks). They’re playing at the Know pretty soon, so check ’em out if you can.

The Fellowship of the Dice

Fellowship Of The Dice
Fellowship Of The Dice

Yesterday I finally watched The Fellowship of the Dice, a sort of mockumentary about a group of people who play RPGs, and their experiences with a new player who knows nothing about RPGs who is a 20-something girl who has nothing in common with the group. Intermixed they showed interviews with gamers at a Con, who all share their insights on the various aspects of gaming, from gaming food, to in-depth explorations of why people get kicked out or banished from a campaign.

First, a couple of disclaimers: growing up I played a lot of roleplaying games. Mostly superhero-based games, with a healthy amount of D&D too. There was a Vampire phase for a while, I went to a couple of LARPS (didn’t like them much), and did several SCA events. As I got older, I met some people that liked to roleplay AND listen to cool music, drink beer, and (here’s the kicker), knew some girls that liked to play, too. However, I eventually stopped making time for it several years ago, despite the fact that I had a good time playing and liked the people I played with. I guess it was a sort of midlife crisis or something, but I started to substitute RPGs with going to shows and trying to meet girls.

Second disclaimer: I met two of the cast members and another person involved with the movie a while back at KPSU, when they came through to do an interview on-air to promote a local gaming event that they were showing the movie at. They even took me and Ranger Mike out for Thai food, and they expensed the entire meal. (Thanks again!) They were all really nice, really friendly, and while Aimee Graham wasn’t exactly able to role with my RPG jokes (Jon Collins knew everything I was talking about), they were really friendly for soulless Hollywood types.

Now, here’s the bummer: while the interviews at the Con are note-perfect (and well worth seeing, as I think I might have met every one of them in my years throwing dice), the mockumentary portions of the movie are sort of painful. At first I wasn’t exactly sure how to articulate it, but I think I’ve been able to percolate on it long enough to attempt to put my finger squarely on the issue: the reality of the life of a gamer is 100% more interesting than anything you could make up.

Not that they didn’t come close. The dynamic of a gaming group is a really strange thing, and I am convinced that all of the actors (minus Aimee Graham) were probably pretty familiar with RPGs and the people that play them. However, they are all ultimately actors, and even the guy who is extremely dense and is supposed to have facial tics comes off as handsome & funny rather than nerdy and uncomfortable. The quiet, shy girl who chews on her pen for the entire movie (and who pulls a Silent Bob near the end of the film) was almost spot on, if it weren’t for the Hollywood Hot makeup job she was given. (She was one scene away from taking off her glasses, shaking her hair out of the librarian bun, and posing like Farrah for her glossy 8 1/2″ x 11″.)

There are at least two points in the film were Aimee Graham’s character stays to finish the gaming session beyond the point of reason, and if we ignore the fact that she just up and agrees to follow a nerdy disquieting stranger (who has been hitting on her) to meet his gaming group (without any protests or questions of any kind), the film borders on fantasy in more ways than one.

It begs the question: why not just film an actual group of gamers actually gaming? Obviously there is a certain Christopher Guest homage that you wouldn’t be able to obtain without having a few people in on the joke, and certainly some gamers might not be able to “stay in character” with a slew of cameras filming every dice-role and rules-argument. Still, I feel that a larger injustice has been made against gamers: we aren’t all like this. Some, most definitely, yes. Some, I’m sure, are even more extreme. But many are people who love gaming also love their friends, and love to get together and play.

I would be ignoring the ugly truth by saying that arguments don’t break out during a game, and some of the observations were not that far off. (Before it happened in the film, I kept wondering when they were gonna order pizza, or show a passive / agressive DM “suggestion”; the player shouting out, “Shouldn’t we roll inish?” during a conversation was a little too close to home for me, too.) But ultimately, I felt like most of what we saw on screen were the negative aspects of gaming. Much of the plot revolved around personality clashes, arguments, and misunderstandings, while the stuff that kept the group together – the friendship – is only hinted at near the end and mentioned in monologues.

Media doesn’t seem to know, exactly, how to portray RPGs, and when it does it is always shown comically, in a negative light. (Freaks And Geeks has a wonderful roleplaying episode, but still couches the entire game in terms of it appealing to only “geeks” and, on rare occasions, a freak.) In many ways, its easy to see why TV and movies show it the same way every time: gamers are weird, gamers are quirky, and everything about gaming seems comical on the surface, from the vocabulary and diet of gamers, to the very premise of gaming itself. (“Okay, you use paper, pencils and dice to recreate a fantasy world where the group, together, makes up the story through taking on personas and characters… wait, where are you going?”)

I would like to see some positive images of gamers in media. Obviously, there is room for ridicule in every subculture, and I can’t suggest that we ignore the funny, embarassing, or even uncomfortable realities entirely. But occasionally, I’d like to see a realistic portrayal of a gamer as a functioning member of our culture, who has a lot of the same dreams, goals, and desires as everyone else, who has a job and a girlfriend and a life outside of gaming, AND… on top of all of that… also happens to wield a pretty wicked battle axe when you get down to it.

Until then, I’ll keep dreaming.

Against The Law, I’m Sure

Secretly Hot Girl
Secretly Hot Girl

I seem to recall a bill that was passed some years back that stated that there would be more hot people on TV, for the general well being of humankind. While it was delayed for some time due to W’s stint in office, and then the writer’s strike, and then the economic downturn, I distinctly remember that things had finally been settled once the election had been settled, and that we would be slated to see the results, “No later than the end of the 2008 – 2009 broadcast season.”

So, where have all the hot people gone? I have been completely unable to find any hot people on TV, and not a single current celebrity has managed to do anything for me since the Secretly Hot Girl from Freaks & Geeks. (Busy Philipps, pictured above, though I was horrified to discover that she is decidedly not hot in just about every other role she’s played.)

Take, for example, Lost. A huge ensemble cast, and every one of them is Hollywood Hot instead of using that large cast to explore the vast expanse of humanity that comes in various shapes and sizes. They were getting a little closer with the introduction of Charlotte (intelligent female Indiana Jones type with an accent and red hair), but in many other ways she was just more of the same old, same old when you get right down to it. (It didn’t take long to bore me with the uncomfortable budding romance between her and Daniel, or her unnecessarily conspiratorial attitude.) While the smart thing goes a long way, I could see her dumping you the moment there’s another Dharma Polar Bear skeleton to dig up.

I would like to re-initiate the campaign to improve the hotness of the performers on TV. I know that my roommate is on board, and there can’t be that many people out there would would disagree. (In fact, I dare anyone to find a person who would admit, “I’d much prefer to have painfully ugly people on TV.”) Sure, TV’s free. And yes, one man’s hottie can sink another man’s boner. But there were, last I counted, about 200 channels, each with 24 hours of daily programming, and most of those shows have more than two actors each.

Do the math; there is room to improve the overall hotness ratio. Write to your congressman today! Do you want to go one more week hoping that the plot of some crappy show will passably keep you entertained for the next hour, when you know that’s not gonna happen? Wouldn’t it be easier if at least one of those people fumbling their way through their lines was at least pretty?