Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Night on Bald Mountain





This is a damn fine piece of music for a spooky Hallowe'en night. BOOOOOOOOO!



"Night on Bald Mountain" was composed by Modest Mussorgsky and most famously arranged by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Who Can It Be Now?

"Who can it be knocking at my door? / Go away; don't come 'round here no more"

I totally copped out for Hallowe'en this year and wore my hula kahiko recital costume from five years ago. I know it doesn't stand a chance in our annual Hallowe'en costume contest at work, but it's a lovely costume and I spent a lot of time making it, so I trot it out once in a while. The bonus is that I can eat all the Hallowe'en treats I want and nobody will be the wiser. I just hope that Laka, goddess of hula, will forgive me for wearing this for non-hula purposes.

Tonight, I will be doling out candy to the handful of trick-or-treaters that come to our door every year. Last year, we got about nine or ten kids total. I'm hoping that the absence of snow on the ground will mean a bigger turnout. Having a white Hallowe'en is always a bit off-putting: "Oh, you're Spiderman! In a snowsuit! And you're a princess! In a snowsuit!" But at least those kids are actually wearing costumes.

One of my biggest pet peeves on Hallowe'en: teenagers who just can't be bothered. They shuffle up to my door, wearing whatever they wore to the mall that afternoon. They thrust dirty pillowcases in my direction and mumble something that only vaguely resembles "Trick or Treat!" The sullen looks on their faces say they are entitled to this candy simply because they made the Herculean effort to ring my doorbell. Seriously, kids, if I'm more dressed up than you are when we meet at my doorstep, the only reason I'm giving you candy is to keep you from egging my house.

After my candy-doling duties, I also hope to set aside a few minutes to celebrate the new year. My Sisters and I gathered early for Circle this month, so we will be celebrating Samhain separately. When I celebrate alone, the ritual is as simple as lighting the candles on my altar, sending thanks out to the Universe for the many blessings I received this year, and calling upon my ancestors and recently-departed loved ones. As the veil between the worlds is thinnest at this time, I strongly feel their presence in my life. I like to give them all spirit high-fives for helping to make me the person I am today, warts and all.

Friends, I wish you a blessed Samhain and All Hallows Eve! May you wake to a happy new year and a house free of eggs and toilet paper.


"Who Can It Be Now?" by Men at Work

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Poetry Sunday: 10,000 Letters

I once read that "great works are never finished; they're abandoned." I think this is especially true of poems. One can always tweak a word or a turn of phrase or the meter of a line to make a poem more perfect. Maybe this is why I love poetry so much. In a given year, I may only write a handful of poems, but with my penchant for constant editing, those poems can be steady work for years. I'm all about job security, baby.

I wrote the first version of this poem in May 2005, revised it slightly in June 2005, and revised it again just five minutes before posting it. The second version was published in Rags in Fall 2005.

10,000 Letters

Since the time of our separation
a president and a King have been killed
two and a half unjust wars have been waged
the Wall fell
everyone learned how to spell tsunami

I could’ve written you
10,000 letters
but I can barely read
10 letters
you wrote to me

I wish I knew
how many letters spell
I am sorry.




Friday, October 26, 2007

Bitch

"I hate the world today / You're so good to me, I know / But I can't change / Tried to tell you but you looked at me like maybe / I'm an angel underneath / Innocent and sweet"

Dusty and I watched the three-part finale of Justice League Season Two last night. Damn, that is good TV. JL Season One was Folding Laundry TV, but Season Two had deeply engaging stories and real, believable characters. Also, I was right to hate her: it turns out Hawkgirl was a backstabbing, lying bird-spy. She went all Quisling on the planet that she had called home for five years! More importantly, she betrayed her friends and teammates! Yes, yes, she turned her coat back to help the JL once she figured out the Thanagarians' nefarious plan, bittersweet redemption at the end, blahblahblah. Hawkgirl is a BITCH.

Why? Okay, so the Thanagarians are building this giant generator, right, and they enlist the JL's help. The JL think that the generator is going to power a forcefield to protect the Earth from the Gondarians, the sworn mortal enemies of the Thanagarians. [Umm, hello, Justice League. RED FLAG, darlings.] When the fit hits the shan and it becomes clear that the Thanagarians are a bunch of filthy rotten bird-liars, and they used the JL as manual labor to make this weapon against the Gondarians, the JL is all, "It's on."

They fight, and fight, and fight, and fight, and fight. But the Thanagarians hit Superman with a kryptonite blast, the Flash with a gravity ray, and GL with a yellow-colored laser. For the first time in a long time, the members of the JL are handed their superasses.

How did the Thanagarians know the JL's weak spots? Hawkgirl filed detailed reports on each one of her friends, reports that included their greatest strengths and their greatest weaknesses. BITCH! When the Thanagarians finally encase Supes, Flash, J'onn, and GL in a forcefield cage, Hawkgirl approaches the cage and tries to talk to GL.

With a busload of hurt in his voice, GL says, "Whose side are you on?" She softly says, "Don't you know?" and makes these wee wounded sparrow eyes at him. GL's green eyes soften, too. And then. AND THEN. Hawkgirl whallops GL upside his head with her mace!

The last five minutes of that episode made Karincita and Tricky tear up [Tricky reportedly had some shit in his eye], but that moment--when Hawkgirl hits GL IN THE FACE at his most vulnerable time--kicked me square in the ovarios. I wanted to reach through the screen and give GL a big ol' hug. I know honeybee needed some hot cocoa and cookies right about then.

See, that's when I know I've been watching good TV. When I want to break the fourth wall and be part of the characters' lives, I know that the writers have done a great job making them real for me. So to the JL writers and creative team, I say, "ROCK ON WIT' YO' BADASSERY!"

And Hawkgirl? You stay away from Green Lantern or I will cut you.



"Bitch" by Meredith Brooks

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Superfreak

"She's a very kinky girl / The kind you don't take home to Mother / She will never let your spirits down / Once you get her off the street"

Dear Hawkgirl,

We need to talk about your new relationship. First of all, congrats on finally sealing the deal with Green Lantern. I have a profound weakness for green eyes, too, and GL brings the yummy. I'm a little concerned about your compatibility, though. GL's idea of a date was frolicking in the snow and making you a snowman. Your idea of a date was getting him involved in a giant bar brawl. Oh, you don't remember? You might have been drunk at the time, so let me refresh your memory.

You were generally unimpressed with the adorable snowman that GL built for you on the winter planet you helped save. [He made the eyes, nose, buttons, hat, and arms with his power ring! Do you have ice in your veins, woman?!] So you suggest that the two of you celebrate your most recent heroics by doing something you like. Sounds reasonable so far. You take him to a Blade Runner planet and make a dramatic entrance into a dive joint. Everyone seems to know you at this place and you high-five some people on your way up to the bar. Still okay.

You order two mugs of a nasty grayish drink with worms floating in it. You pound your drink before GL even has a chance to taste his. Yellow flag right there. You let out a giant burp, which I can respect, and sortof impress/disgust GL. And then. AND THEN. You declare that you really need to ratchet up the fun, so you smash a hugemongous alien's hand with your entirely-too-powerful electric mace and HAND THE MACE TO YOUR UNSUSPECTING DATE. The alien, naturally, bum-rushes GL and the aforementioned giant bar brawl ensues.

I don't know what that makes you back on Thanagar, but here on Earth, that makes you a BITCH.

Later on, when you two are admitting your feelings to each other, you say, "We can't worry about each other getting hurt when we're fighting the bad guys." Oh, but it's okay to deliberately put GL--the man you are supposedly in love with--in danger so you can get your jollies? 'The hell? On the up-side, when GL takes your mask off and leans in to kiss you... HAWT. [Incidentally, you are supercute, grrl! You're still an insane bitch, but at least you're a cute insane bitch.]

Don't get me wrong. My husband and I seem like complete opposites, too, and we make it work. So I have some hope for you crazy kids, mostly because I have faith in GL's ability to soften your bitchy little bird heart. You may, however, need to look into couples counseling. Or at least a fetish club that caters to superheroes. Just try not to kill your new boyfriend and end up on a CSI crossover episode.

Good luck,
Cookie

P.S. When you're in bed with GL, you may not want to make that "HUAAH!" noise you make EVERY SINGLE TIME you hit something with your mace. It's really fucking annoying. Just some friendly advice.



"Superfreak" by Rick James, bitch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who Are You?

"I really wanna know / Who are you? / Who, who, who, who?"

Betsy told me during our weekly chat last night that her only issue with my blog is that she doesn't know the source or singer of many of the blog songs. Mostly she treats the lyrics from these unknown songs as bits of random poetry, but sometimes she is intrigued by the lyrics and would like to know who sang it or where she could find it.

Betsylove, have you heard of this newfangled thing called Gooogle? It's what the kids call a "search engine". Apparently, you type your query into a magic box and it gives you answers! It's fantastic! Maybe if you typed the name of the song and a few of the lyrics into it, you'd get the singer. Try it. It just might work. [End Snark. Lovvve youuu.]

Seriously, though, Betsy is supercrazybusy raising two darling boys, and I'm lucky she even gives this blog the time of day. So! From now on, I will list in tiny letters at the end of the post who the artist is or, as in the case of "The Scotsman", the source of the song. I already began with last night's post, a song by India.Arie.

Below is a list of the other artists and songs that have appeared on my blog so far, in alphabetical order. I live to serve.

ABBA: Thank You for the Music

a-ha: The Sun Always Shines on TV, Living a Boy's Adventure Tale

Alphaville: Forever Young

Joey Ayala: Bathala

Barenaked Ladies: These Apples

Chic [sortof]: Le [Geek]

Elvis Costello: Every Day I Write the Book

Crowded House: When You Come

Dido: Here with Me

Dixie Chicks: Wide Open Spaces

Patsy Cline: Walking After Midnight

Cowboy Junkies: 200 More Miles

Duran Duran: Too Much Information

Michael Franti & Spearhead: Everybody Ona Move

Nellie Furtado: I'm Like a Bird

Garbage: Special

Great Big Sea: Summer

Haddaway: What is Love?

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: I Hate Myself for Loving You

Carole King: Where You Lead, You've Got a Friend, Beautiful

Annie Lennox: Legend in My Living Room

Madonna: Beautiful Stranger

Barry Manilow: I Write the Songs

Bob Marley: Three Little Birds

Sarah McLachlan: Push

No Doubt: I'm Just a Girl

Oingo Boingo: Who Do You Want to Be?, No One Lives Forever

Queen: The Show Must Go On, We Are the Champions

Corinne Bailey Rae: Put Your Records On

Malvina Reynolds: Little Boxes

Sarah Slean: Day One

Soup Dragons: I'm Free

Spandau Ballet: Gold

Stray Cats: Stray Cat Strut

Cree Summer: Soul Sister

Telepopmusik: Breathe

Jill Tracy: Evil Night Together

The Turtles: Happy Together

U2: Where the Streets Have No Name

White Stripes: We Are Gonna Be Friends

[Folk song]: The Scotsman

[Hairspray Soundtrack, Nikki Blonsky]: Good Morning, Baltimore!

[Lion King Soundtrack, Elton John]: Circle of Life

[Pirates?]: A Pirate's Life for Me

[TV show theme]: Wonder Woman



"Who Are You?" by the Who, for my under-30 readers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Little Things

"Ain't nothin' in the whole wide world / Like the peace that I have found / It's the little things / And the joy they bring"

I got into the elevator at work this morning and was followed shortly thereafter by a mom and her two little boys, presumably headed to the kid dentist office on the floor above mine. The boys were about three and five years old, with identical brush cuts and faces scrubbed clean. The three-year-old looked up at me curiously so I crinkled my nose and smiled at him. Then:

Three: [proudly showing me his Tonka truck] It's fixed!

Me: Awesome! That's great news!

Three: [big smile] It's fixed!

Five: [shows me what he is holding] Well, I have a race car. This is Hot Wheels!

Me: That's very cool. I like that shade of blue.

[My floor comes up and the door opens. I get out. The boys toddle after me.]

Mom: Uh, boys . . . BOYS!!!

I had to sort of gently push them back onto the elevator. As the doors were closing, I waved goodbye. Just before the doors shut, I saw that their faces were crestfallen.

They totally made my morning.


*Betsy, this song is by India.Arie.

What Is Love?

"Baby don't hurt me / Don't hurt me no more / I want no other / No other love / This is your life"

Romance: These orchids are gorgeous , darling! And how did you know Bernard Callebaut chocolate is my favorite? Let's run away to Venice! I just ADORE you!

Love: Can you come help me pop this zit on my neck? I can't get a good angle on it. Thanks, baby. Luv ya!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gold

"These are my salad days / Slowly being eaten away / Just another play for today / Oh but I'm proud of you / but I'm proud of you"

Mass Effect Goes Gold! w00t! For those of you who come here for the hippie content: the Underlords of Publishing at Microsoft have blessed and released our game. Praise the Goddess!

This may be the first time my name has been connected to something so geeky and awesome since my wedding day. I am really proud to have been part of this project. I've said it before and I'll say it again: BEST. FRICKIN'. VIDEO GAME. EVER.

Stray Cat Strut

"But I got cat class and I got cat style"

Now I remember why I don't have pets:

[click image to view full comic]

I never want to utter the phrase "My cat's asshole needs to be juiced."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Untitled

I fall in love 1000 times a day. Luckily, 999 of those times is with my husband. [Look, every once in a while I come across a photo of Ewan I've never seen before and I fall in love with him all over again. Don't judge.] My Binkylani is just 999 kinds of adorable, from the top of his salt-and-cinnamon head to the tips of his uncut toenails. Smooshy!

It has been fabulous having Dusty home more often. We have both been such homebodies lately, lounging in bed with our books and games rather than going out on the town. We've even had our usual Sunday brunches at home these last couple of weeks. Never again will I underestimate the value of the two-day weekend. It gives me more time to fall.

I wrote this poem in June 1999. It wasn't the first poem I wrote to Dusty, but it was the first one I wrote for him.

Untitled [for Dusty]

Fire engulfs Earth
in a baptism of
creative destruction.

With only the desert behind you,
take my hand...

We can dream of the Sea.

A Pirate's Life for Me

"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me"

It's been ten days since Dusty and I got back from our trip to Las Vegas, and I still can't shake the feeling that I miss it. Or, rather, that I miss this:


That postcard bears the image of the once-glorious Treasure Island, now branded TI. [The hell kinda name is TI?! That's a high-tech firm selling microchips, not a destination hotel and casino!] We stayed four nights at TI and still could not get used to the absence of the piratical skull and crossbones on its sign. We bemoaned the loss of the Spanish village that once graced the back entrance of the hotel, and the skeletal pirate once guarding his treasure chest right outside the bridge to the lobby. Yet even those tiny indignities are no match for the "Sirens of TI".

Once upon a time, there was an awesomely piratical show in front of Treasure Island. Every night, there would be a battle on the high seas between Pirate Ship Left and Pirate Ship Right. There were swordfights between the dashing captains! There were pyrotechnic explosions and swabbies flying through the air! There was swinging on ropes! There were multiple utterances of "Yarrr!" and plenty of pirate trash talk! Pirate Ship Right would sink, and the captain always went down with the ship. It was fantastic! Everyone would applaud and cheer when Pirate Ship Right came back up and the pirates took their bows.

Then, somebody decided that Vegas should be a playground for spoiled 25-year-olds with too much time and money but not enough panties or good sense. It was decided that these brats didn't need a funky Spanish village outside Treasure Island; they needed a generic nightclub lounge. These youngsters would not find the pirate battle exciting. Apparently, what would be appealing is a bunch of generic, scantily-clad J.Lo-backup-dancer-rejects dry-humping everything within booty distance i.e. "Sirens of TI". There was a weak clashing of swords, a sad excuse to set off expensive pyrotechnics, some swinging on ropes, and the sinking of Pirate Ship Right. Yet there was no "Yar!" and certainly not much applause after the show. I found myself yelling, "Boo! You pirate-killing whores! Boo!" I wanted to gouge my eyes out and wash them in memory-erasing acid.

Thankfully, the trip itself was an absolute blast. Jen and I got to spend a few hours lounging by the pool, under the desert sun, hoping that it would not be snowing when we got back home. I played blackjack for the first time, aided by Drew and Jen's guide sheet. [Tip for next time: I should actually follow what the sheet says.] Jen and I played craps with Drew and Dusty at New York New York; I had a great run and our energy attracted people to our table. Dusty and I got hooked on the Aliens penny slot machines, where we had our biggest winnings [$4 for Dusty and $5 for me]. We didn't win big, but we lost much less money than we thought we would.

We saw SPAMALOT at the new Wynn Hotel on our second night. The show was uproarious fun! As a sign in the lobby proclaimed, they had "Knights! Girls! Killer Rabbits! Girls! French People!" and a diva-licious Lady of the Lake whose wardrobe I coveted. Also in the lobby:


That Wednesday, we saw Zumanity, which bills itself "the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil". It is supposed to be part circus, part bawdy burlesque. I don't know if I'm getting jaded in my old age, but I found the show neither amazing as a circus nor titillating as a burlesque. There was entirely too much audience interaction for Dusty's comfort. He couldn't relax and enjoy the show for fear that he would be called up next. I found most of the audience interaction to be tedious; I paid good money to see professional circus performers, not Roger and Linda from Des Moines. So what if it is their 47th wedding anniversary? I will only give two flying fucks when I see two actual flying fucks, suspended from the ceiling on silk cloth. Now this is the kind of audience interaction I like:

Our last day in Vegas was mostly spent walking around, with designated pit stops for everyone. We stopped at the Mirage for Drew, so he and Dusty could take one last run at craps. Jen hit the Shops at Caesar's Forum to buy her gorgeous dress at Nanette Lepore. [That stop was a bonus for me. Oh, Victoria's Secret, how I've missed you.] I got to enjoy a taro bubble tea and pan de ube at the ticky-tacky Hawaiian Marketplace. We had a monorail adventure to the Luxor so Dusty could see if the arcade, last vestige of the old theme-park Vegas, was still there in the middle of the pyramid. [It was.]

As we were leaving the Luxor, we saw a giant ad touting Nicky Hilton's birthday party at the LAX lounge the following week. It was placed under a giant banner advertising Absolut Vodka. Oh Vegas, I have faith that one day you shall once again be deliciously tacky. Until then, darling... adieu.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Legend In My Living Room

"I knew that I was going to be a legend in my living room... / But I've shed my tears in bitter drops until the thorn trees bloomed / To take the spiky fruit to crown myself the Queen of Doom"

I am a huge fan of tiaras. I own a stunning tiara, which my beloved gave to me on my 30th birthday. [Why? Because Thirty Is A Radiant Age. Duh.] I have given tiaras to some of my most favorite ladies and I'm thinking of starting a campaign called A Tiara for Every Woman.

One of the women I hope to reach with my worldwide campaign is Priscila Perales of Mexico, Miss International 2007:

Darling, the Ice Queen of Narnia called; she wants her Christmas bonnet back. Listen to Tita Cookie, miha preciosa. A proper tiara has no CHIN STRAP. A proper tiara has no polar bear fur, no fake gold unicorns, no red felt, no pearl-like beads. A proper tiara is all shiny diamond[elle] radiance to match a shiny smile. Like this:


That's Jennifer Berry, Miss America 2006. Mira! Look how her diamond[elle] tiara is as shiny as her smile. I covet her tiara. Not her life, just her tiara. Priscila, unstrap that abomination from your pretty little head and go tiara-shopping with this bitch. Ahora mismo, miha.

Dusty, my beloved Binkypoots, if you are reading this, remember that Thirty-three Is [Also] A Radiant Age. I'm just sayin'. You gots a couple months. Lovvve youuu.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Little Boxes

"There's a green one and a pink one / And a blue one and a yellow one / And they're all made out of ticky-tacky / And they all look just the same"

Nine years ago this month, I packed up all my worldly belongings and moved across the United States to California. I had just graduated from University of Maryland with a double degree in public relations journalism and Chinese language and literature [I thought I would be a diplomat. HA!] and I had gotten a job as Assistant Product Manager at a Filipino American telecommunications company. I had visited the San Francisco Bay Area a few times during college and fell head over heels in love with it. San Francisco has a hip, but not too-cool-for-school vibe that seems to welcome everyone, give them a hug [and maybe a toke], and say, "Hi! You're neat. Can we be friends?" SF had a storied hippie past and a promising geeky future and I wanted to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, then as now, apartments in SF were astronomically unaffordable for a single person. The next best thing to living in SF was living in Daly City, the next town just south of "the city". Daly City's population comprised a gargantuan Filipino community. It was said that when the fog rolled in, it was because all the Filipinos in Daly City took the lids off their rice cookers at the same time. Living in Daly City was like living in a gentler, cleaner, less crime-ridden Manila. I could speak Tagalog to the cashier at Target, eat a decent longsilog [spicy longganisa sausage, sinangag or garlic fried rice, and itlog or fried egg] breakfast for dinner if I wanted, and get my favorite pan de ube [sweet rolls with purple yam filling] at 7-11.

I lived in Daly City's Westlake district in one of the ticky-tacky little boxes that Malvina Reynolds describes in today's blog song, which she wrote after driving through Daly City. My ticky-tacky little Westlake box looked a lot like this:


The in-law unit I lived in was located behind the garage, with a sneaky back entrance. When I stood in the middle of the sidewalk outside this house, I could see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Bruno Mountains on the other. Let me repeat that: ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Sometimes, when I find myself driving for miles upon miles upon miles of prairie flatlands here in Alberta, I miss geographical distinction.

My Westlake house was within walking distance of a grocery store, a Fiipino food store, and a pho place. This was the beginning of my Pho Proximity Requirement: anywhere I live MUST have a readily-accessible pho place. I'll live somewhere that doesn't have pho nearby, but anyone who lives with me in such a place would really wish there was pho nearby. Why not just get a recipe so I can have pho anytime I want? Good idea! I also want a framed reproduction of Caravaggio's Medusa. So I'll print this out and color it while I'm eating my crappy homemade pho. [Can you tell it's been a week since I had pho?]

My first home was basically one big living/dining/bedroom that I subdivided with creative placement of bookshelves and furniture. There was a tiny kitchenette and a small bathroom with no tub. My pantry and closet were both just part of one huge shelving unit with doors. Most of my furniture was borrowed or second-hand, but I felt like it was all mine. I felt like I was A Real Grownup for the first time; after all, the bills were in my name.

A few weeks ago, I came across the Telstar Flickr photo set of Westlake. The photo above is from the set. It turns out Westlake was "one of America's first master-planned postwar suburbs." dooce called this photo set "mid-century modern porn." I call it fond memories of the first place I chose for myself as home.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Spring Birds

I've had an incredibly busy week, and I'm still catching up on sleep. My arms are sore from helping a friend build his garage today, so this update will be in bullet-point form, with some bits to be expanded upon later:

  • Vegas trip was FANTASTIC! Do see Spamalot! It's spectabulous! Don't stay at TI. It's suck-o-tash.

  • While we were away, Electronic Arts bought BioWare. I'm ok. Dusty's ok. We're all ok. For now... [dun dun DUNNN!!!]

  • My panel with Tricky at Pure Spec III went pretty well, probably better than it should have, considering the general undercoordination of the event itself. Big hugs to everyone who came out to support us!

  • No-nos, my one-year-old nephew, said "bye-bye!" to me on the phone today. For the very first time! My womb hurts.

  • Below is today's poem, written back in June 2005 when I was still going up to St. Albert every Sunday to write with Poet's Ink. The core group just had their first collection of poetry published. Hooray for them! Boo-urns to me for quitting because of the 30-minute drive. Do you smell that? I think there's a fire being lit under my ass.


Spring Birds

In the back seat of a car
that is too big for its parking space
spring birds
fluttering, fussing
spring birds
chattering, chirping

In the back seat of a car
that is too small for its passengers
baby birds
changing, trying
baby birds
growing, flying

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Special

"Do you have an opinion? / A mind of your own? / I thought you were special"

Tomorrow, Dusty and I are headed to Las Vegas for a few days with our friends Drew and Jen. We are all celebrating the unofficial end of Mass Effect, savoring the culmination of our hard work. We're seeing two shows--Spamalot and Zumanity--checking out all the casinos built since we were last there nearly five years ago, and, of course, rollin' dem bones. Vegas, baby, yeah!

Speaking of celebration, my niece sent me a DVD compilation of her talent show performance, flute recital, choral concert, and fifth grade "graduation." I admit that I fast-forwarded through the entire ceremony; I slowed down to 1x Fast Forward when Munchkinface went up to the stage to get her certificate, then sped up to 3x again. I am almost sure the Seventh Layer of Hell has a section where you have to sit through your child's "I am a special and unique snowflake, just like everyone here!" certificate-bestowing ceremony. And your last name is Zyvtrushky.

My friend Melanie and I had a lengthy conversation last night about this celebration of mediocrity. Before coming to work at BioWare, she was a teacher who struggled with making sure her students felt special while maintaining a healthy sense of competition. We both cringed at the thought of kindergarten "graduations", complete with mortarboards and "diplomas" wrapped in red ribbon. Congrats, kid! You color inside the lines! You do not run with scissors! You no longer shit your pants in public! Here's a certificate printed from the teacher's home computer. Good luck with the rest of your life!

How much celebration is too much? Too little? I remember bringing home a math test for my dad to sign when I was in fifth grade. He solemnly looked over the test and the red 98% grade, then asked me what happened to the other two points. I didn't know what to say, so I just bowed my head. "I know you can do better," he said, and handed me my test. I did better the next time, but I still felt like I had been punished for my 98% grade. The same thing happened for a few more tests, instilling in me a sense that nothing I did was ever enough.

How do we find the balance? How do we celebrate our kids' real triumphs while still encouraging them to do better next time, especially if we know they can? How do we stop ourselves from overcompensating, making them feel special, wanting to protect them from the harsh reality of "survival of the fittest" as long as possible?

A few days ago, I called Munchkinface to thank her for the DVD. I told her she was awesome for doing all these extracurricular activities and still maintaining good grades. She said she was "ohmigosh, like, SO nervous" about her flute and singing performances, but glad she didn't mess up too much on any of the songs. She was proud of herself for working hard to learn the songs, practicing every day after school, and performing well. She didn't mention the graduation ceremony at all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We Are the Champions

"I consider it a challenge before the whole human race / And I ain't gonna lose / We are the champions, my friends / And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end"

I just completed my first Mass Effect playthrough. Critical path took roughly 26 hours and I achieved Level 37. I found myself getting pretty emotionally invested in the game, especially in my henchmen. I'm usually not a play-with-henchmen kind of gal; I can't bear to play a hunter in World of Warcraft because I always feel bad sending in a cute widdle bear into a teeming sea of murlocs.

In ME, though, my henchmen helped me survive so many tough boss fights, I no longer worried about sending them in first. And I so enjoyed interacting with my henchmen that I gave them all nicknames. One of my favorites was Sexy Wrexy, my krogan grumpalumpagus.

Awww, Sexy Wrexy is so cute when he's about to rip your head off!

Over dinner last week, I excitedly related to Dusty--who has been too busy making the game to play through it--what kind of ammo and powers were really handy during which fight and what armor he might consider wearing when he goes through this one really tough level. After I finished speaking, he mumbled something about my "l33t gaming skillz" being "t3h hawt".

Then suddenly he yelled, "You shall be mine, Woman Warrior!" All my clothes fell off at the sound of his battle cry and my husband fell upon me like a zombie on brains.

BEST. FRICKIN. VIDEO GAME. EVERRR!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Le [Geek]*

"Aaahh! [Geek] out! Le [Geek, Not] Chic / Listen to us / I'm sure you'll be amazed / Big fun to be had by everyone"

This year's Pure Speculation Festival [not a convention, a festival], Pure Spec III: The Search for Spec, is happening on October 13-14 here in Edmonton. It's organized by Worst Ninja Ever/Best Doowopper in Town, Stan Woo! There will be tabletop and pen-and-paper games, local artists will feature their work, comics-and-games stores will ply their wares, people will be wearing costumes that illustrate they have inordinate amounts of free time -- it will be an epic spectacle of geekery!

If you need one more reason: Trickster and I will be presenting a panel on Multiculturalism in Games. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I strongly support the fair representation of people of color in video games and media in general. Whenever I play a human character in video games--particularly RPGs--and there's an option to customize the character's appearance, I always make the character look a little bit like me: brown skin, almond-shaped eyes, dark hair, flat nose. I'm not narcissistic [much], but it is more fun if I can pretend it's me whomping on zombies. A stronger, faster me wielding a badass assault rifle, but me just the same.

So come on down and let your geek flag fly! Tricky and I would love to see your bright, shining faces at our panel. No, I will NOT wear my Princess Leia slave bikini outfit. I mean--er, um, ah... No, I do NOT have a Princess Leia slave bikini outfit.


*With a thousand apologies to Chic.