Tick Tock Tick Tock

Marching into senilityI’ve been noticing it quite a lot lately, but tonight it really hit hard–I am old now. It crept in sneakily with stray gray hairs. An inexplicable little silver streak shot down one side of my beard almost overnight, before starting to gentrify the entire neighborhood. Nagging little aches and pains plague me more and more. I sense a gradual shift to an ever more curmudgeonly outlook on stuff and things. I am strangely at peace with it. I’d even go as far as to say that I’m happy about it.

Many people seem to try delay aging as much as possible. Hair dyes, expensive moisturizers, fad diets, mid-life crisis sports cars, boner pills, or even plastic surgery… It’s really no wonder why. We are constantly fed an endless stream of celebrities who never seem to age. Instead of viewing that scenario as the sad, hellish, and transparently desperate limbo for which it is, for some reason we seek to emulate it. “To hell with that,” I say.

Honestly, I never thought I would live past the ripe old age of 27. I tried my hardest to make it so. When that didn’t work, I doubled down to no avail. Believe me, I really gave it my best (or worst, upon reflection). I have actually been clinically dead for extended periods on two separate occasions. It shames me deeply to admit that fact, but it is what it is, and I am a stronger person now because of it. Mercifully, I’m quite glad that the stupidity of my youth did not compromise my then future, and today present. As a society, we seem to elevate people who died young to some mythical, reverent status. That notion seems completely backwards. We should be celebrating the ass-kickers who stuck it out and just got better with age.

So why do people seem so ashamed to age? I really see no shame in it whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve more than earned every single one of my gray hairs. Every new line on your face should not be cause for a cringe, but a badge of honor. The knowledge we accumulate over our lives lets us constantly reevaluate the world in an ever more nuanced and sophisticated manner. That is a beautiful thing. As our understanding and view of the world expands, books, movies, music, art, and so much more seems to reveal previously hidden layers. In many ways, aging is vastly empowering. It is the difference between seeing the world in black-and-white or in color.

That said, by no means should we abandon everything we loved when we were young. Many people seem to fall into this trap. I still shamelessly love bike rides, comic books, video games, cartoons, and laying flat on my back in the grass while looking up into the sky as my imagination runs wild. At times, simply enjoying such undignified things earns a degree of contempt or pity from certain people I know. Ironically, I really worry about some of them in return. Some seem to be living the exact inverse of my life. It has made it difficult to maintain some relationships as I age. Maybe I’m just immature, but if your entire existence revolves around social or vocational climbing, trying to keep an underwater mortgage afloat, or the endless pursuit of material things, I pity you in a way. Age gracefully and live life to the fullest. Old. New. Balance. Maybe come lay in the grass and look to the sky with me when you have time. Let’s compare notes.

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I Hate That I Like Football

HawksMemeGuyI have a strange relationship with football. At its core, I hate everything football stands for: the spectacle of neo-gladiators distracting the masses from vital issues, a system that has repeatedly been accused of exploiting unpaid collegiate athletes and their likenesses for profit, the NFL somehow having a tax-exempt status (REALLY?!) as it rakes in astounding sums of revenue, egocentric millionaire owners bilking taxpayers of vital funds to build ridiculously expensive stadiums, the looming risks to players who suffer severe injuries and concussions, the gross commercialization (do we REALLY need THAT many television advertisements for pickup trucks?), insufferable diva coaches and players, the woefully uninsightful pundits asking the same tired questions ad nauseam, inconsistent regulation from the league in regard to player misconduct, always controversial (and at times downright incompetent) refereeing, the fabricated drama, the relentless media coverage, meaningless stats with stupid qualifiers,  asshole fans (looking at you in particular SF, PHI, PIT, and DAL), the Washington Redslurs (it just boggles the mind that they still have such a fucking racist name in this day and age)… Need I go on?

Despite all of those factors, for some reason I still enjoy football–as do nearly half of all U.S. citizens. It’s no wonder our nation is in decline. If only people played such close attention to how their elected representatives were voting while, ahem, supposedly “representing” the interests of their constituents. Yay us! But I digress…

This weekend, the “Emerald City” of Seattle is hosting a coveted NFL home playoff game. It happened here last year as well. The Seahawks even managed to win it all, gracing the city with its first ever Superb Owl victory. I’ll admit, it was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many passionate fans visiting our fair city and supporting local businesses. There were some negative aspects, but the good far outweighed the bad. I’d never seen anything quite like it to be honest.

Up until that point, Seattle had been a pretty dismal city as far as sports went. Yeah, the departed Sonics franchise were champs way back in ‘79, but fans here were starved for the sweet, sweet civic validation that apparently comes with winning a national championship (from a real sport–not any of the recent pseudo “pansy” MLS or WNBA titles which, for some reason, were ignored by the citizenry for the most part).

So after the Seahawks won the Owl, of course fans responded in a classy, graceful manner befitting of long-suffering underdogs with something to prove to the world. By that I mean: they became completely fucking insufferable. Don’t believe me? Go look on any internet message board or comment thread. “The 12th Man” is collectively despised and renowned as copycat, shitposting, bandwagon fans all throughout the internet. Success breeds contempt, but many of the ‘Hawks new fans take it way too far at times. One must wonder where all these fans were when our home games were blacked out on local television due to poor attendance in the “bad old days” of which we must never speak? Yes, it is great to finally have a brilliant football team, but ferfucksakes, can “12s” at least make an effort express their joy while reining the unchecked trolling in just a bit? I like to believe that citizens of our fine region are above such petty displays.

Anyhoo, what I’m trying to get at is as follows:

–Please, be kind hosts (and your usual pleasant, passive-aggressive selves) to the Panthers fans from out of town this weekend.

–Try not to be caught vomiting or defecating in public view–especially where I might have to witness it.

–Throw Skittles at everyone like they are Mardi Gras beads.

 –Remember, the police here apparently don’t give a shit about what football fans do, so show those damn liberal hippie protesters how civil disobedience is done, you magnificent, drunken, rowdy, suburban bastards paying $60 for parking.

–Also, GO HAWKS!

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Things We Heard Too Often in 2013 That I Never Want to Hear Again, Ever

stop sign2013 can’t end soon enough. The continuing rise of 24-hour news cycles, government partisanship and ineptitude, celebrity worship, and blind consumerism has run rampant. Just switching on the news most mornings makes me want to go drown myself in the toilet—before I’ve even had coffee. The decline of western civilization continues to accelerate unabated. I’ve come to begrudgingly accept that. Certain stories and phrases quickly went from overexposed, to downright abused ad nauseam.  Below is an incomplete list of stories and phrases that can promptly fuck right off and go burn in Hell (but I know they won’t). I hope we never have to hear about or read them EVER again. Feel free to add YOUR most loathed stories and phrases in the comments below. Please, have a safe and Happy New Year!

fireworks animated gif

debt ceiling
fiscal cliff
transvaginal ultrasound
legitimate rape
job creators
Super PAC
Tea Party
Rand Paul
Rush Limbaugh
Sara Palin
Michelle Bachman
legitimate rape (again)
Muslim Brotherhood
tax haven
war on Chritianity
war on Christmas
Black Friday
Duck Dynasty
stand your ground
stop and frisk

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PAX Prime 2013 Mayhem!

PAXLogoEvery summer, video game companies and gamers from around the world descend upon Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX Prime). PAX Prime is the largest nerdy convention to take place in Seattle. The event not only occupies all the space at the Washington State Convention Center, it also manages to branch out to other local venues like the Paramount Theater and Benaroya Hall. Elaborate industry parties take place every night around town before, during, and after the event. The entire thing is just a massive spectacle that one has to witness firsthand to fully appreciate.

Securing passes to PAX is a clusterfuck of the highest order. In past years ticket servers have crashed leading to mass anger and confusion. Months ago, badges for PAX Prime 2013 went on sale and promptly sold out in an hour flat. As they went on sale during the middle of the day on a weekday, many people (such as myself) who happened to be at work had no chance to buy tickets directly. Scalpers start posting badges for sale on the internet for three to four times their face value almost instantly. This year I was fortunate enough to secure a Friday badge from a friend at face value the morning of the event, won another one on Ebay for face value, and actually scored another day’s badge for $5.08.

On short noticed I arrived at the Washington State Convention Center Friday morning to meet my friend and pick up my badge. My hair was still wet from a hasty shower and my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. Slightly panicked that it was so loud she couldn’t hear me on the phone, and I in turn couldn’t hear her, we nonetheless finally managed to meet up. She had been waiting in line since an ungodly for the doors to open and be one of the first people in. To complicate matters, no banks were open yet, and I of course didn’t have correct change. She had left her purse back in the queue, so she told me to just follow her back there and we’d sort it all out. This was easier said than done. Convention Center staff would not allow her to go back in, citing new rules this year and instructing her to go to the back of the line. I felt horrible. The entire incident played out like some twisted comedy sketch. Every staff member instructed her to speak with a different staff member three feet away. After speaking to a dozen different people in about two minutes, they started telling her to talk to the original person who had set this whole chain of events in motion. The entire thing had a very “Who’s on first?” vibe to it. Finally a nice gentleman agreed to escort us to her place in line, but warned that if her bag wasn’t there he’d escort us right back out. Thankfully everything worked out in the end.

PAX 2013 statue

With five minutes until the doors opened (and because I’m a horrible person) I just stayed in this prime spot in line. Nervous staff members reminded everyone not to run when we were allowed inside. Camera crews jockeyed for position to capture the mayhem. The “do not cross” tape was lifted and the mad scramble began. The writhing mass of humanity surged forward like a tsunami. I heard screams from behind me and looked back just in time to see multiple people fall and be trampled. “Those poor bastards,” I thought. Nothing could be done to help them at that point. I comforted myself with the thought that they’d surely respawn in a couple of minutes.

So why the insane push and uncivilized behavior? Sure, some people were eager to get their hands on the games. Many others were more interested in making sure they got their “con swag.” Con swag loosely translates to free, first-come-first-served trinkets which are given away by the different companies. There’s usually nothing very special about these trinkets besides the fact they are “PAX Prime exclusives” and you can only get them here. Within hours these items would begin appearing on Ebay. Nearly all of the items are little more than an attempt by developers and publishers to make sure attendees remember their products once they get away from the shock-and-awe of the show floor. Most attendees will not think twice about cutting ANY motherfucker that stands between them and the opportunity to get free stuff. Consider yourself warned and exercise the proper level of caution.

The first half an hour of PAX is the most pleasant time of the entire day. You can actually get your hands on quite a few games without waiting in ridiculous lines. If you want to play any games, the majority of your time at PAX is going to be spent waiting in lines to do so. Expect to wait anywhere from 15 minutes up to 2 hours in exchange for 5 minutes of actual gaming. I’m pretty sure some of the lines even have lines. It can be confusing. I highly recommend asking someone who is working the event which line goes to what, or you could easily end up waiting in the wrong line. At least most of the lines were set up in a manner which doesn’t impede foot traffic (attendees pushing and shoving or staring blankly at their phones took care of that).

I tried to get hands-on time with as many PS4 and  Xbox One games as I could. Obviously, neither system has been released yet, so PAX offered me my very first opportunity to check out the next generation of console gaming. I liked what I saw quite a bit. While higher frame rates and advanced particle physics lays the foundation for what we can expect from next gen consoles, the new games don’t completely blow current games out of the water quite yet. There’s a definite polish to the new graphics, but they aren’t as dramatically superior as one might expect. On the PS4 I played demos of: Killzone Shadow Fall, DriveClub, Blacklight: Retribution, and (I can’t believe I have to type this) Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Xbox One games I played included: Battlefield 4, Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct, and Forza Motorsport 5.

Some of the other biggest, most highly-anticipated games were also in attendance, but not for hands-on demos. The very first game I rushed to see upon entering the expo was Sucker Punch’s inFamous: Second Son. As a huge fan of this series, I’m elated that the next installment is set in a police state controlled virtual Seattle. About 14 other people and I were ushered into an enclosed booth with a large screen and metal benches. What we saw was about one minute of new footage, followed by a live play-through of the demo which looked identical to footage that came out months ago at E3. It was so close it could have been the exact same footage with someone sitting in the room with a controller pretending to play, and I would have been none the wiser. I couldn’t even inspect the tech at the front-left corner of the room to determine if this demo was actually running on a PS4 or was still running on a PC build equivalent. Nonetheless, I still remain excited to play the game. Con swag was pressed into our hands as the demo came to a close, the door opened, and we returned to the show floor. Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had similar setups (but with the opportunity to dress up like a pirate for a photo op in the case of the latter).

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag PAX booth

The PAX Prime show floor is truly awe-inspiring. Gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the world, and judging from how elaborate the presentations were, business is booming. Giant screens, massive statues, and concert quality lighting rigs lend the entire scene a surreal Vegas-like atmosphere. Explosions boom out of powerful audio setups from every direction. Even at 10:30 in the morning, the overpowering scent of gin and vodka hangs heavily on a surprising number of attendees. You get the impression that many people won’t get much sleep throughout the entire expo. Ironically, the PlayStation and Xbox areas were set up directly across from each other. I imagined all the fanboy internet flame wars coming to a bloody head right here in one giant Battle Royale. I tried to snap a couple of pictures in the Xbox section and was quickly approached by one of their reps and asked politely not to. I raised an eyebrow, looked over at multiple people with their phones out recording videos of the demos, and responded with, “Sure. No problem.” Bethesda’s set up stretched the entire length of the eastern wall of the expo. Elder Scrolls Online ran on dozens of screens. It looked amazing. Bored looking “booth babes” handed out swag and looked like they’d rather be anywhere else.

PAX 2013 statue

A couple of hours into the convention I had started thinking about all the germ-laden hands touching all those controllers, mice, and keyboards. The thought of all those sweaty heads putting on those headsets made me shudder. Surely it was unavoidable that I was going to contract some nasty form of SARS or ebola. I promptly went out to buy some Purell in a feeble effort to avoid “con crud.” By the first night my throat was already scratchy. By Sunday my voice was little more than a pathetic croak.

It would take me an entire novel to detail all of the awesome things I saw at PAX Prime 2013. This post was just meant to offer a general overview, and hopefully make you smile in a couple of parts. There were droves of journalists in attendance again this year. (And not just lowly people like me sitting at a computer and writing. “Real” journalists, live up on stages, wearing tons of makeup and mugging it up for the cameras). I’m not sure how much actual news is going to come out of this year’s PAX, but it was a fun and exhausting event nonetheless. My friend, Dan Morrill, has posted a bunch of great event and cosplay photos over on his Studio5Graphics site. Be sure to check them out. Got any funny PAX stories or random commentary? Feel free to share them below. As always, thank you for reading and your continued support. I’m off to drink some lemon tea and rest.

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Filed under Nerdy Stuff, Seattle, Video games

Homeless Outreach With the Rain City Superhero Movement

RCSM logoThis week I had the pleasure of officially meeting and going on a homeless outreach/walk-along patrol with Phoenix Jones and members of the Rain Hero Superhero Movement. For now I wanted to write up an account of the night here on my blog where I have complete editorial control. I have been assured that citizens who make the effort to actually go out, participate, and learn firsthand what the RCSM is all about, will be given priority for such opportunities in the future. With that in mind, I decided to stay attentive and in the moment, not even bothering to take the notepad, camera, or digital recorder out of my bag during the patrol. The patrol was live-streamed on two channels (here and here), so I figured I could always go look them up if I really needed to.

I arrived at the designated meeting place (near one of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks) with a pack full of sandwiches and Star Wars fruit snacks at twenty minutes before midnight. Waiting in the warm night air, I pondered how surreal it was that after all the years of reading comics and writing hundreds of articles about them, I was about to meet and go on patrol with people who had taken inspiration from the concept of superheroes and made it into a reality. At times these people are written off by the press and general public as silly, or worse… Indeed, many hatchet-job articles have been written about Phoenix Jones by writers who clearly knew what kind of piece they were going to write before even meeting him. I’ve met Phoenix and other members of the RCSM on many occasions (even back when he wore a fedora and didn’t have a proper suit), but never for more than just a quick handshake, “hello,” or photo. Being a writer who lives here in Seattle, I’ve also written quite a few news articles about him as well, though I always made an effort to stay fair and objective while doing so.

RCSM members started showing up right on schedule. Midnightjack arrived first and quickly located the other guests who would be coming out on the walk-along. He briefed us on the night’s patrol, answered questions, and proudly showed us various gadgets from his extensive utility belt. Soon Evocatus (“Evo”) in his wicked metal helmet that looks like something out of the Dead Space video game series, and Evasius (“Eva”) arrived. Team medic, Aqua Stone, (who actually works during the day in the medical field) appeared. El Caballero, rocking a wild green and purple getup topped off with an easy smile and a purple helmet, arrived. Before long an impressive contingent had, ahem, “assembled.”

While waiting for Phoenix to arrive, all the guests were patted down to ensure that we weren’t carrying weapons. I admit, this step in the process kind of surprised me. At first it sounds like an unorthodox policy, but if you think about it, it actually makes sense from a safety standpoint. Things could go sideways real fast if some jackass was packing a gun or something. Phoenix arrived just as the last pat-down was completed and grinned, remarking, “Sorry about that, but there’s people who would like to stab me again.” He has a great sense of humor and cracks lots of jokes, but I’m still not positive if he was joking about that or not.

Everyone was introduced and the night’s plan was laid out. We would make our way through downtown Seattle, hitting various places where homeless people camp out, and offering them food and water.

Phoenix addressed us all without wearing his cowl. His secret identity was blown long ago (though honestly, with a little research, it wasn’t impossible to figure out). Maybe that’s one reason why fans and the press really latched onto him in particular. Whatever the reason, he’s a perfect spokesman for the movement. He’s naturally charismatic, genial, and savvy.

Phoenix Jones Ustream art

Even though I often do homeless outreaches on my own, I was a little worried that as a writer, my motivations for coming along on this patrol might be suspect. Like I said before, in the past certain writers have been, shall we say, “less than kind,” when it comes to covering Phoenix and the RCSM. Any doubts I had were quickly discarded, as every person on patrol that night proved to be quite genuine and outgoing. Nearly everyone made an effort throughout the night to talk with me individually and make me feel welcomed. There was a definite spirit of comradery within the group which was quite infections. Stories were exchanged and jokes were cracked, but all the while everyone focused on staying safe and the tasks at hand. These were sincere, kind people, out feeding the homeless—and inviting other people to come along. That level of charity and transparency is a far cry from how real life superheroes are often portrayed in the media.

While Phoenix is the spokesman for the RCSM (and clearly the most well-known member), the overall team dynamic is important and often overlooked. Even I have been guilty of this in past articles, mentioning the other members and the RCSM as a whole, but usually in passing. When writing for a national or international audience, many readers might not be familiar with all the RCSM members—but chances are they have probably heard of Phoenix. Throughout the night, I really came to understand just how important the team dynamic really is. Each member has individual assignments and a role to play to ensure that everyone stays safe. Without a team, there’s no possible way we could have packed along as much food and water as we did—thus feeding that many more homeless people.

After a successful stop in nearby a park to distribute supplies to those who wanted them, we headed south towards Pioneer Square. Along the way the crew playfully gave Midnightjack a hard time about his belt full of gadgets (“How many hands do you think you have? Have you ever even used that baton?”), while reflecting on the past. There isn’t really a handbook for what these people do, and you can tell their experiences have taught them a lot throughout the years. Phoenix told me a story about the first time he found a dead body. Surprised, he started preforming chest compressions on this corpse (already stiff with rigor mortis). Legal precedent mandated that once he had started performing chest compressions on someone (whom he quickly realized was well beyond saving), he was obliged to keep it up until paramedics finally arrived.

I asked Phoenix about he and his wife’s (Purple Reign) recent trip to the UK. “Did you feel safer patrolling over there due to the tighter restrictions on firearms?”

“Not really,” he answered, “Lots of people over there carry knives.” He admitted they really didn’t get to see much crime during the trip (not even the UK’s infamous soccer hooligans), then went on to tell a funny anecdote about a visiting British constable turned real life superhero.

Many of the stories told were similarly humble. People have accused the RCSM, and Phoenix in particular, of only pursuing this path for attention. That accusation just doesn’t jive from what I observed. If anything, being a member of the RCSM requires quite a personal investment of time, training, and resources for equipment. If these people were only in it for some personal gain, why not sign on for the rumored reality TV show offers? Why debate and decide against company logos on their suits to help cover the costs? Why would they remain so dedicated to helping others after all this time if their hearts weren’t in the right place?

Further evidence that the RCSM has sincere motivations can be found in their sharp knowledge of the city. The patrol took us through neighborhoods that I have been walking through for over a decade, and I was really impressed by their knowledge of individual homeless people, local street dealers and shady characters, business owners, residents, and the police officers who work these beats. The only way to know such things is to spend MANY hours out there pounding the pavement—which the RCSM clearly has.

After hitting a nightly homeless encampment on the outskirts of Pioneer Square (where a former collar leered uncomfortably at Phoenix), we made our way to a park on the waterfront where many homeless people camp out. Again, this shows an intimate knowledge of the city and its homeless residents. A few months ago only a few people could usually be found camping in this park. With the influx of homeless people which happens here every summer, the park is now a hotspot. The beautiful scene of lights reflecting off the obsidian waters of the Puget Sound, with majestic multi-million dollar skyscrapers rising up to the east, stood in stark contrast to the number of people calling this place “home” for the night. Everyone was warned that this park could be rough (indeed, a man who had previously attempted to stab Phoenix was camped out here) and instructed to partner up and stay safe.

Phoenix told me how he had once come across a man openly shooting up here during another homeless outreach mission. What he said next surprised me a little. He talked about how he originally had a zero tolerance policy towards street addicts, but had quickly come to see how that ideology didn’t work in practice. The police couldn’t do much, and jail wouldn’t really help these people either. He now embraces a more progressive harm-reduction stance, offering people information about how they can get help. Apparently a few people have even taken him up on it. I find it encouraging that a person who is actually out on the streets seeing these circumstances firsthand can make that leap in logic so quickly. I wish America’s ineffectual war on drugs could catch up as fast.

Finally out of food, the homeless outreach portion of the night was drawing to a close. We regrouped and plans were discussed about how to help homeless people more in the future. The weather will change here in Seattle before too long, with blankets, sleeping bags, socks, and warm clothing becoming vital to people living out in the elements. The RCSM was already planning ahead on how to meet this future need. A call was put out through the live-streams, and plans were made for a supply drive through social networks. Plans were also discussed for the next week’s outreach effort.


Evocatus photo by: David Carnahan.

Next we were offered the rare opportunity to come along on an actual crime patrol as the clubs and bars closed in Pioneer Square, which I happily agreed to tag along on. Since this piece is already getting fairly long for the average internet attention span (“Squirrel?!”), we’ll break this account up into two parts. Next time we’ll talk about the actual crime patrol, as well as learn more from RCSM members: Midnightjack, Evocatus, and Evasius. Thanks for reading. Please be sure to follow the various RCSM members on social networks to stay up to date with their efforts.


Filed under comics, Editorials and Rants, Seattle