Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So I Married The Love Guru

Mike Myers' new movie, The Love Guru, is not doing well at the box office.

Well before it came out, Hindu leaders were calling for a boycott, saying that it was offensive to their faith. I'm fine with their choosing to express their displeasure in that way; it's certainly better than the traditional Muslim methods of media criticism (car bombs and decapitations).

Now that The Love Guru is, shall we say, underperforming, some Hindu leaders are suggesting that the boycott was a significant factor.

Yeah, right. And their refusal to eat cows has Burger King on the verge of bankruptcy.

(Handy tip: when the people of your nation are starving, but cows are allowed to wander freely through the streets, snarling traffic and pooping all over the place, there's an easy way to solve a couple of problems at once.)

I think it's far more likely that the movie isn't doing well for a much simpler reason: it isn't very funny. I haven't seen it, so I can't personally attest to that. However, I've read and heard a fair amount about it, and it doesn't sound even remotely amusing to me. It looks like a litany of silly accents, bad puns, and bodily function humour.

The critics at Rotten Tomatoes certainly don't like it - it has a 15% rating at the moment. Here's my favourite quote from one of the reviews, by Matt Brunson: "A splinter in the eyeball would be less painful than sitting through this debacle."

Mike Myers is a talented comedian who has succumbed to wanting to be liked by the mainstream. He's taken on projects ranging from mediocre (the Austin Powers series) to terrible (The Cat In The Hat, and apparently The Love Guru) over the last several years.

He was terrific on Saturday Night Live, and started strong in the movies when his SNL tenure wrapped up. The Wayne's World movies were both at least passable (the first was far better than the second), but Myers' true masterpiece was So I Married An Axe Murderer. That was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Office Space and South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut are its only other serious competition that I can remember just now (I'm sure I'll think of others as soon as I post this).

Unfortunately, SIMAAM (sorry, but I'm not typing that title over and over) bombed too. Myers reportedly went into a depression, thinking his career was over, in its aftermath.

Oddly, Tim Burton went through a similar experience in the wake of The Nightmare Before Christmas - it performed well below commercial expectations, and was for a time believed to be the end of his career. In both of these cases, I loved the moves and didn't realize they were considered anything but great until well afterward.

I'd love to see Myers try another movie like SIMAAM. A small comedy, based around normal, likable characters instead of broad parodies and cliches. No silly puns, no fart jokes, no picking Verne Troyer up like a doll (although it's entirely possible a part could be found for him in the type of movie I'm considering, it would not be based on demeaning him). More "We have a piper down" and less "Yeah, baby!" (or more "He'll be crying himself to sleep tonight on his great 'uge pillow", less "Tugginmypudha" - which I wouldn't have found amusing when I was fourteen, much less now) and Myers could be a comedic force to reckon with once again.

The failure of The Love Guru is probably not due to Myers failing to pander to the vast North American Hindu audience. It's more likely because his comedy is getting more juvenile, even as the audience that remembers his glory days grows older. I hope to see him in a better movie soon.

(For that matter, I'd like to see the other Mike Myers in a better movie than his last several soon too!)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of race cars queueing up at the starting line.

Conduct Unbecoming

Let's start with a story that's almost true.

A male police officer has an affair with a fellow (female) officer. One evening they have a fight, and he expresses his emotions by pulling out his service sidearm and firing nine shots. Thankfully he either doesn't want to hurt anyone or is a really bad shot, so no one gets hurt.

The incident gets reported. Our rogue officer, for attempting to use his firearm to settle a domestic squabble, is suspended from duty for ten days.

Naturally, the outraged protests pour in. Everyone, it seems, understands that a police officer with such poor self-control is not fit to be a police officer anymore. In addition, since anyone else firing a gun haphazardly would be criminally charged, this hopefully soon-to-be-former policeman must face charges as well.

Oh, wait. I've got a personal detail wrong in the opening paragraph, and the entire last paragraph is fantasy stemming entirely from that error. Let's take a look at what really happened:

More than a year after a South Shore Mountie fired her service pistol nine times through a wall after a dispute with her ex-boyfriend, the force punished her by suspending her from work without pay for 10 days, an RCMP spokesman said... An internal probe handed down its decision on Nov. 15, 2007, nine months after a Bridgewater provincial court judge gave Const. Zahara a conditional discharge.

Unless I can get mad at my wife and start shooting our house up with no consequences except a ten day no-pay vacation, then it's completely unacceptable that a cop can get away with doing the same thing. Neither of the differences between us - the fact that she's a cop, or the fact that she has no Y chromosome - should make the slightest difference in a court of law.

Actually, I need to correct that: police officers should be held to a higher standard of behaviour than the average citizen. If we're going to trust them with handcuffs, guns, and (heaven forbid) tasers, they need to earn that trust.

This woman should be removed from the police force, and quite possibly sentenced to jail time.

The article continues with more fun details of the night when she had enough of that wall's guff. Check out the bolded part to blow your mind:
Const. Simm, who was on duty at the time, broke down the door and took the gun away from her. When Const. Zahara calmed down, he gave her back the pistol, and she headed off to start her shift. Const. Simm reported the incident the following day.

I'm pretty certain that if Const. Simm caught me shooting my house up because my wife burned the pot roast (which she would never do - disclaimer inserted to prevent an actual shooting in my house), he wouldn't (a) hand me back the gun, and (b) say, "Hey, here's a thought - why don't you go enforce the law on other people for a few hours? We'll maybe talk about this tomorrow."

I hope Const. Simm was also subject to investigation, which hopefully lead to severe disciplinary proceedings for him, but the article makes no mention of it. My guess is that the Big Blue Wall protected him from the consequences of his flagrantly irresponsible actions.

Now the article gives us some background on these lovely individuals:
Const. Zahara was married to another officer when she began a relationship with Const. Simm. During their two-year relationship, which ended in late December 2005, Const. Zahara and Const. Simm had a son together.

Does the RCMP have no regulations concerning conduct unbecoming an officer? Constables Zahara and Simm should both have been stripped of their badges when they decided to strip off everything else with one another. Then she wouldn't have had the gun to fire, and he wouldn't have been in a position to commit the serious crime of covering up her serious crime. In a slightly better world, they would have just been throwing pots and pans around their double-wide with their Trailer Park Boys brethren.

Back to the article:
Const. Zahara pleaded guilty to a charge of careless use of a firearm for which she received the conditional sentence and was placed on probation for a year. She was also ordered to stay away from weapons for two years, except at work.

"Careless use of a firearm" - gee, ya think so? As for those last three words, the criminal justice system should not make "except for work" exemptions about anything for anyone. If you commit a crime whose normal punishment would render you unable to practise your chosen profession, that goes under the category of "Stuff you should have thought about before deciding to commit the crime."

Last year, two senior officers with the RCMP spoke with The Chronicle Herald under the condition of anonymity stating that they felt Const. Zahara had received preferential treatment both in the criminal case and the internal investigation and that her actions hurt the entire force’s reputation.

It bears repeating: gee, ya think so?

It's too bad these officers had to request anonymity. These other two officers commit serious crimes, it all gets covered up and whitewashed, and the people pointing it out are the ones who need to remain anonymous. This is a terrific example of why people have lost trust in The System.

Of course Const. Zahara received preferential treatment. If she and her boyfriend hadn't been police officers, she'd have correctly spent some time in jail.

However, as my opening implied, she also received preferential treatment because of her gender. If anyone would like to make the case that everything else would have played out the same way if the genders of the officers involved were reversed, please do so. I haven't had anything really good to point and laugh at in a couple of days.

Perhaps the judge feels that firearms aren't as dangerous when carelessly handled by a woman. "Girl bullets" can't hurt anyone, right?

This entire case is an embarrassment to the RCMP and Canada's justice system as a whole. All involved are disgraces to their professions (the RCMP officers, the "internal probe" panel members, the judge if they had any latitude in the ridiculously lenient sentence, and the legislators if they didn't). They should all be ashamed of themselves, getting fitted for paper hats, and preparing for their future careers asking people whether they'd like to supersize that.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a grid.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Resurrecting George Wallace

Here I was, thinking that we had all pretty much agreed that ethnic segregation was a bad thing. I mean, even Alabama is on board these days. So imagine my surprise when I found this article about how some people, here in 2008, want to set up a separate race-based health care system:

Calling it a solution to government oppression, several chiefs representing Treaty Six territory took the first steps Thursday afternoon towards creating a health system autonomous from the federal government.

Their vision includes Indian-run hospitals where patients can receive either contemporary or traditional healing methods, the latter relying on holistic and natural medicine from plants and roots.

Besides the obvious problem with operating hospitals based on race (if you don't see them, go read my opening paragraph a few more times, and maybe do some Googling based around this post's title), there's another problem with this idea: if you've been diagnosed with, say, leukemia, I'm not sure that the best first course of treatment is a week in a sweat lodge.

(Update and Errata: it has come to my attention that a sweat lodge is not considered treatment for leukemia. Proper leukemia treatment under this system would instead involve chewing the bark of a birch tree.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a palm.

They Trot Out Some Pocketbook Philosophy

I used to get frustrated by thinking of a joke when I wasn't in a situation where I could get it written down before forgetting it. But when that happens now, I just remember this bit of wisdom:

If you love a joke, set it free.

If it doesn't come back, then it wasn't really funny in the first place.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my nephew climbing into a chair.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chop Chop Hockey Stick

During the Sunday morning services at my church, sometime before the sermon we send the smaller kids down to the basement for "Junior Church". A few brave adult volunteers and teenage helpers tell them a Bible story, they colour, have some juice, and play for a while while the folks upstairs listen to the pastor preach, most of us taking notes, a nap, or both in rotation.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the teenage helpers came upstairs to get me during this time, saying that my son had been injured. Nothing terribly serious, I was assured, but he was upset.

I went downstairs to find him sitting in the lap of one of the supervising grownups, crying. He told me that "a bigger boy chopped (his) finger". He held his hand out, and his middle finger was a bit of a mess. It was swollen, and had a long scrape along its length. No blood, but lots of torn skin.

I went to find a bandage - they always seem to make it feel better. By the time I got back, the swelling was noticeably worse. As I put the bandage on - a mistake in hindsight, as we'll soon see - the adult assured me that the incident had been an accident. The kids were playing with hockey sticks, and one got a little too high off the floor. No malice had been intended. I never even found out who the "bigger boy" was, and since it was an accident, I wasn't too worried about it.

I was worried, however, at how swollen my son's finger was by this point. It was turning black, and seemed to be bent at an odd angle. I ran upstairs to get my wife, and we took a family trip to the emergency room.

My son is very resilient. For most of our time in the waiting room, he seemed to have forgotten all about his finger. He looked at books, chatted with the other waiting patients, and generally made a good-natured nuisance of himself.

Things changed a bit when we got to see a doctor. She, of course, needed to see underneath the bandage. By this point he had grown quite accustomed to the bandage, and was not at all inclined to cooperate with its removal. The doctor finally cut it off, after much cajoling and not a little bribery (if I remember correctly, the promise of a popsicle may have been involved).

His finger looked pretty grotesque by this point. He could not bend it on his own, and reacted very badly to the doctor's gentle attempts to help. Unable to tell if it was broken, she sent him for an x-ray.

Thankfully, the x-ray quickly showed that his finger wasn't broken. The doctor recommended ice and aspirin, and the swelling went down over the next couple of days. By about Wednesday, you could hardly tell anything had ever happened to his finger.

Here's the punchline to the story. At some point during the afternoon, I asked him for more detail about how he got hurt. Once again, my son said, "We were playing a game, and that bigger boy chopped me."

"What game were you playing?"

"Chop Chop Hockey Stick."

.....Oh. Well, that explains everything. With a name like that, what could go wrong?

As we drove home from the hospital, my son and I had a conversation that we've had far too many times already.

After reconfirming the name of the game he was playing when injured, I asked, "What did you learn?"

Unhesitantly and confidently, he replied, "Nothing."

I had hoped for "Not to play Chop Chop Hockey Stick again", but I knew in my heart what the answer would be.

As a postscript, I was concerned about how some members of our church might react to this incident. Even though the injury turned out to be minor, I feared overreaction. Perhaps a ban on floor hockey (a ban on Chop Chop Hockey Stick wouldn't bother me as much) and other potentially risky play. As it turned out, nobody overreacted that way. We got a few phone calls over the next week asking how things turned out, and it ended there.

My wife and I were glad it went no further. It's the nature of children to play, sometimes roughly, and sometimes somebody takes a hockey stick to the finger. It happens, and trying to pack kids into nice safe bubble wrap will never change that.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of my son's injured hand, taken not long after we got home from the emergency room. Sadly, I didn't get a nice clear shot of it. In this picture, he's attempting to crush Indonesia.


I've got a few bones to pick with some statements in this article, in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accused of racist motives for not trying really, really hard to get Omar Khadr freed from Guantanamo Bay, returned to Canada, and (I'm speculating a bit here) given a job teaching Canadian Studies.

Let's start with a quote from the article and let the nitwittery speak for itself:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is indifferent to Omar Khadr's plight because the Guantanamo Bay prisoner is ``brown-skinned" and a Muslim, the leader of one of Canada's largest Islamic groups said Monday.

Harper's resistance to calls to repatriate the Canadian citizen shows he is pandering to Islamophobes, said Canadian Islamic Congress president Mohamed Elmasry.

"In this case, Mr. Harper is playing politics because of the backdrop of Islamophobia in this country," Elmasry said.

"This is where a leader comes in, to say this is really wrong and I have to correct that wrong by bringing this person (back to Canada) even if I lose some political points with Islamophobes."

[Snip some more of the same, then....]

Elmasry contrasts Khadr's case with that of dual Canadian-British citizen William Sampson, who was freed from a death sentence in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

Prior to his release, Ottawa had said it had made pleas on Sampson's behalf to the highest levels of Saudi government.

"Why is Stephen Harper so callously indifferent to Omar Khadr's case?" Elmasry wrote.

"It's painfully obvious: William Sampson is a white Westerner while his fellow Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr, is brown-skinned and a Muslim."

Ahhh, where to begin.

First up, let's take on the opening charge: that Harper's "indifference" to Khadr's "plight" is because Khadr doesn't look like a member of the Osmond family.

Does anyone with half a brain even need it explained that this is nonsense? Omar Khadr was not imprisoned for his melanin level. He was imprisoned because he was on the battlefield in a foreign nation, fighting against the troops of Canada and her allies. That is not in dispute. He committed a clear act of treason, and should count himself lucky that he wasn't killed in battle or shot down like a dog after playing possum then throwing a grenade at medics who were trying to help him and his friends. Whoops, I forgot - the reader should mentally insert an "allegedly" somewhere in that last phrase.

Mr. Elmasry knows full well that Omar Khadr is not in prison because of the colour of his skin. He is being treated the same as anyone of any complexion would be in the same situation. However, that's not good enough for Mr. Elmasry. He wants the Prime Minister to intervene because of Omar's skin colour. He wants Omar treated differently because of his ethnicity, which is not at all relevant to the matter. Just to refresh everyone's memory, this means that Mr. Elmasry's entire argument is racist.

Mr. Elmasry then accuses Mr. Harper of pandering to "Islamophobes", thereby labelling presumably large numbers of Canadians as such. Since the gauntlet has been thrown, let's talk about "Islamophobia". This will be fun.

A phobia is defined as an irrational fear. I won't bother linking to any of the (one quick Google check later) million-plus websites confirming that definition. Two words: irrational, and fear. They both matter. Let's look at each of them, in reverse order, shall we?

Most Canadians do not fear individual Muslims. They may be intrigued or frankly puzzled by their beliefs, which the majority do not share, but only on taxpayer-funded CBC sitcoms do normal Canadians generally react to Muslims as though they're radioactive. They may mistrust Muslims - more about that shortly - but mistrust and fear and not necessarily the same thing. You may have noticed that they're two entirely different words. That's not an accident.

(This is the tip of the iceberg for me on this subject - if I ever write about "homophobia", we're in for a lot more fun.)

However, it must be admitted that there is some fear - not so much of individual Muslims as of Muslim ideology.

This leads me down another path.

Islam is not just a religion. (Though I am sorely tempted to remove the fourth word from that sentence, that would make it inaccurate.) It is an all-encompassing ideology, comprising religious, social, and political systems. Given that Islam is a political system as much as a religion, being opposed to is no more religious discrimination than opposition to communism, libertarianism, or paleoconservativism would be. Free but politically correct citizens of the world rejoice: you can criticize Islam without being a religious bigot!

Second - we're into pet peeve time here - even if you move from opposition to Islamic ideology to having issues with its adherents, that is not racism. Lots of people disagree, explicitly claiming that opposition to Islam is by definition racism. They're being silly when they do so, failing a basic logic test. Say it with me, kids: Islam is not a race. Opposition to it therefore cannot be "racism". Specific words matter. That's why we have so many of them.

Now let's look at the other word from the definition of a phobia: Irrational.

Is fear of Islam (or mistrust, or even active opposition) irrational? I would say no, for several reasons.

First up, as already discussed, Islam is more than a religion. Whereas it is a complete ideology, I can oppose it - and I do - just as I oppose totalitarianism. I wonder whether the ancestors of modern leftists were critical of European Jews in the 1930s, calling them Naziphobes for expressing reservations about Hitler. "What do you mean, you don't want to get in the oven? What are you, some kind of anti-Aryan bigot?"

Second, Islam teaches that it is superior to all other belief systems. I disagree with that, but as long as it remains a theological belief I don't care about it. Christianity does the same thing. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He didn't add, "Oh, or by being a really nice person. And God's cool with Buddhists, too, so they're in."

So, Christianity teaches that it is superior to all other religions in that it's the only one (by its own teaching) that allows access to God (i.e., entrance into Heaven) for its followers. I expect that most religions have a similar "it's our way or the Hell-way" teaching somewhere along the line. In fact, a religion that openly said, "Hey, come with us, or not, it doesn't matter" while simultaneously putting any constraints (moral standards, etc.) whatsoever on adherents wouldn't have many followers. It would have even fewer who were capable of rational decision-making.

This is all fine. As long as the debate remains theological, I don't care whether followers of other faiths think I'm headed for Hell. My faith teaches otherwise, and so I disagree with them. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure. As long as we can all peaceably disagree, which can even include some vigorous discussion and debate, then there's no problem.

Where we have a problem is when a religion teaches that because these other people are theologically incorrect, you have the right to mistreat them in this life; that they are somehow less valuable than yourself because of their beliefs. It is shameful that Christianity has been used this way at different times throughout history, but it is certainly not the general situation today.

Sidebar on religious oppression: there have been times when overzealous professing Christians have done terrible things in attempts to convert nonbelievers. Coercion of various sorts, including torture and murder, have been used to try to make nonbelievers accept Christ. This makes no sense whatsoever. First of all, Christ cannot be forced on anyone. It is supremely unloving, and therefore un-Christlike, to even attempt to do so. Although Islam proudly spreads itself at swordpoint, it is both immoral and logically impossible for Christianity to even attempt to do so.

Second, I don't get the logic in threatening to kill someone - or even going through with it - if they refuse to proclaim faith in Christ. The Christian duty to witness is all about trying to tell people about their need for Christ before they die. My very Protestant position is that this short lifetime is the only chance you have to make that choice. No purgatory, no indulgences, no second chances. I acknowledge that I may be wrong about this, but the logic of Pascal's Wager makes it unwise to take that chance.

That being the case, why on Earth would any Christian risk killing someone who didn't believe in Jesus, thereby condemning them to Hell by their own actions? If someone isn't a believer, then Christians have a duty to protect and preserve their life as long as possible, in hopes that they'll convert before their death. (This, incidentally, is a good theological reason to oppose the death penalty, although Scripturally based counterarguments are certainly still possible.) Attempts at violently coercive proselytizing make no sense whatsoever.

Islam, quite contrary to Christianity, openly teaches that non-Muslims are inferior and can be mistreated with impunity. Their existence is to be tolerated only if they submit to Dhimmitude, a subservient status. Infidels are to be constantly reminded of their inferiority, so that they "feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29). Not trusting people who cling to this ideology, who profess a belief system that says they want you subjugated, is not irrational. It is, on the other hand, perfectly rational and possibly the only sane position to take.

The classic retort at this point is that not all Muslims adhere to that teaching, just like not all Catholics go along with the Vatican's position on birth control. My answer to that is simple: the sincere ones do (in both cases).

Then we get to the "moderate Muslims" (Cafeteria Muslims?). They will protest that they don't believe in Dhimmitude, don't want Sharia law, and generally just want to get along peacefully in society. Most of them are probably telling the truth. However, some of those making such claims are practicing Taqiyya, an Islamic doctrine that says it's permissible to lie to infidels (that means me, and probably you) as long as it serves Islam. Lulling the gullible into a false sense of security is a textbook example.

Furthermore, when a mullah (Islamic clergyman - I don't know and frankly don't care whether the title should be capitalized) in a modern (i.e., non-Muslim) nation gets caught red-handed preaching hatred and promoting violence, all these supposed peace-loving moderates are nowhere to be found. The wagons get circled to some degree, but for the most part their only response is the sound of crickets chirping.

I can assure you that if my pastor ever got up on Sunday morning and preached that we should subjugate non-Christians, it would be dealt with swiftly and severely by our congregation. He'd find himself at the unemployment office on Monday morning, but have a hard time finding any work due to the cloud of negative publicity we would raise. He'd certainly never again be invited to the pulpit of another church in our denomination.

Something similar would happen if a clique within the church started that kind of talk (not everything bad - or good - within a congregation begins with the pastor). If violence were advocated by anyone for any reason, the authorities would be alerted immediately, and everything possible would be done to stop the trouble before it started. When these mythical moderate Muslims start acting like this, rooting out and reporting the terrorists in their midst, then maybe they can gain some credibility in the grown-up world.

Actually, there would be no need for anyone to infiltrate or spy on my church to find out what's going on. Our services are recorded, and frequently broadcast live over the radio. The recordings are freely available to anyone who wants them, church members or not. We have no secret agenda. When all you want really is to proclaim the Gospel and love your neighbours, whether they share your creed or not, then there's no need for secrecy, silence, or wagon-circling.

It's been said that you only have reason to fear a Christian when he does not follow the teachings of his faith, but reason to fear a Muslim when he does. That pretty much sums up the situation. Fortunately, I think that most Muslims are as weak and nominal in their faith as most Christians are in theirs.

So, to summarize: Mr. Elmasry is being racist, dishonest, and very, very silly. It's probably best to ignore him; I've obviously chosen mocking, which comes in second.

As for Khadr himself, I love that a video of his interrogation, which was edited and released by his defense attorneys in hopes of generating public sympathy, was met with a resounding yawn by the Canadian public. Furthermore, of the minority that did report changing their opinion of his case based on the video, some actually feel less sympathy for him now than they did before seeing the video. Imagine if his defense attorneys hadn't edited out the parts where he calmly states that he continues to support jihad against the west.

I went though something similar a while back, when Rolling Stone ran an attempted tearjerker piece about Khadr, trying to make it sound like those awful Republicans abducted an innocent kid on spring break. By the end of the article, I was convinced that Khadr needs to be kept locked up forever in the interest of public safety. Frankly, how he got to be this way (his parents probably qualify as monsters for what they did to him as a child) is less important than the fact that he's now a very small step above being a rabid animal.

Can he be rehabilitated? Yes. I believe that anyone can be rehabilitated from any situation. However, I also believe that it's very unlikely, and there's only one realistic shot at doing so. Even if he were willing to try it (which is doubtful at best), political correctness would prevent the authorities from offering it to him. (Hint: it's Jesus.)

A great editorial about Khadr appeared in Canadian papers this week. The title says it all (even though the rest is pretty entertaining to read too): Keep Khadr Where He Is. Whoever wrote it better be careful. If word gets out that they have common sense (at least on this issue), their journalism career could be over.

Finally, just in case my overall position on Islam isn't clear: Islam is a demonic false religion, fabricated by a murdering pedophile. There's nothing irrational about realizing that.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son beginning to doubt that his horse is alive.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ambush Bug: Year None # 1 Review

After a sixteen year absence, Ambush Bug is back in his own title! For many comics fans, the Bug is a favourite character. However, despite all the fond memories, he's never quite hit the big time. Perhaps the sales weren't there for his previous starring vehicles, or perhaps the powers that be at DC decided he works better in small, occasional doses (they may be right). Since 1992's Nothing Special, he's been relegated to cameos, some of which can't even really be considered appearances by the character (like showing up as a stuffed doll in Young Justice).

Ambush Bug was unique in comics. He talked to the audience (and the book's creative team), gleefully ignored continuity and consistency, openly mocked the more embarrassing characters from DC's history, and was prone to solving problems by such methods as going back to an earlier page of the book. Why? Because it was funny, that's why.

Now, after a few toe-in-the-water guest appearances over the last couple of years, the Bug is back in a book of his own. I was particularly pleased to see that his sidekick, Cheeks The Toy Wonder, is still present as well. Cheeks is a stuffed doll that Ambush Bug adopted a while back. A.B. treats the toy as a son and crimefighting partner. Perhaps it's worth mentioning here that one of his only consistent character traits is utter insanity.

On to the issue at hand.

The cover is well done. It's bold, and sets the tone nicely. Even to those who've never heard of Ambush Bug (probably the majority of the current potential audience), it clearly says that this is a book about DC comics, but is not to be taken seriously. (Non-comics readers will find that sentence deeply ironic. Trust me, some of us geeks take our comics way too seriously.)

After a throwaway gag about Jack Kirby's Fourth World (which has never interested me), we dive into what passes for the plot. The plot of this book is really just a line on which to hang the jokes. There's at least one gag per page, and usually one per panel.

Jonni DC, Continuity Cop, is murdered, attempting to leave a clue in the form of a word balloon lettered in her blood. (Are we laughing yet?) (Sadly, yes, most of us are.) We then meet Ambush Bug trying to buy a new refrigerator, but finding that in the DC universe it's tough to find a major appliance without the corpse of a supporting character already inside.

At this point, I realized that while I find this funny, and I think most of my fellow comics nerds will too, it's probably way too inside for any uninitiated audience members. I laughed out loud at a weapon deployed later in the issue - a corpse catapult - but I suspect that better socially adjusted readers will find it offensive or simply puzzling.

This book is crammed with inside comics jokes, including plenty of callbacks to the Bug's two previous miniseries. The Green Team, Egg Fu, Glop, fake covers of nonexistent but frighteningly plausible vintage comics, and Argh! Yle, the Bug's archenemy (and sock) all make appearances. We find out how Ambush Bug was behind the scenes of Identity Crisis (my understanding is that future issues will place him at other recent major DC events).

We even get an appearance by a member of the Zoo Crew. That's especially fitting, since the Crew is another 80s icon, beloved by the same audience that remembers the Bug fondly. Like Ambush Bug, the Zoo Crew was recently brought back in a miniseries after a couple of guest appearances, but I sure hope that this revival turns out better than that one.

DC seems thoroughly trapped in a diminishing-returns spiral of pandering to the nostalgia audience. Continuity porn like Final Crisis and 52 and revivals of 80s and 90s concepts seem to be all they can really count on to succeed of late. Since I'm a child of that era, I'm happy to see Ambush Bug, the Zoo Crew, Hitman, and Suicide Squad back, even if some of their returns haven't, frankly, been very good.

However, I'm not the audience DC Comics needs to pull in (and keep) to survive in the long term. I don't even generally buy any comics these days (and we'll say no more about that), so counting on people like me for a revenue stream is not a sound financial plan. I don't know what DC can or should do for long-term growth, but I'm glad I don't have to figure it out.

Back to the book: it's good. I had worried that after all these years of idealizing and polishing my memories of Ambush Bug, the new material could only be a letdown (a phenomenon known as "Free As A Bird Syndrome").

There's at least a smile on every page, at least for those of us old enough (or well-versed enough in comics minutiae) to get all the references. I don't think it would work as well for newer (or less obsessed) readers. I hope they at least give it a chance, though, because I'd like this book to succeed. I don't know if the Bug can (or should) hold down an ongoing series, but a miniseries or special once a year or so would probably be just right.

One disappointment: no text page. The letters pages were always a highlight of the old A.B. comics. Hopefully Giff, Flem and the gang will rectify this in future issues. If they add a text page, keep the jokes coming, and maybe throw in a nine-panel grid or three, this series will easily stand alongside Ambush Bug's first two classic miniseries. Maybe we can even get that Showcase edition! (Now that I probably would actually buy.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of an overturned school bus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me

Hey, Kids! It's time for Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me!

Random Co-worker: "Remember, there's no 'I' in 'team'!!!"

(Yes, they said it with three exclamation marks.)

Me: "No, but there are four in 'platitude-spouting idiot'."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of... something... in my kitchen. Whatever it is, I'm guessing it's got Cthulhu on speed-dial.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Enchantments And Other Cards

Another one about my Magic: The Gathering decks. Non-gamers, move along - nothing to see here except the picture at the bottom.

The active deck count currently stands at 16. Yes, sixteen fully built, ready-to-shuffle-and-play decks are sitting on a shelf a few feet away from me. This is neither necessary nor rational.

Last weekend, I bought my customary couple of packs from Crave Manga. One pack of Planar Chaos held a very nice surprise - two rares! Neither was foil, so I'm stumped as to why there were two rares in the pack. If memory serves, one took the place of an uncommon (i.e., the pack only had two uncommons in it). Even better, they were both very good rares: Gaea's Anthem, and Akroma, Angel of Fury. (As always, if you want a look at a card I mention, type its name into Gatherer's search field. I'd link to each card's individual entry, but I'm lazy.)

This reminds me of a time a few years back when the local card shop I frequented had a box from some set - based solely on the timeframe, it would have been around Prophecy's release - whose packs contained far more foil cards than normal. Foil cards normally show up once every few packs. However, packs from this box routinely contained two to five foils each! The patrons of that store were more players than collectors, so nobody got especially excited over this (i.e., nobody snapped up all the packs just for the foils), but it was interesting.

Sidebar for the uninitiated (as though any of you have read this entry this far):"foils" are normal Magic cards in every respect except that they are shiny. They're printed with reflective metallic inks, so they catch the light and look pretty. There have been foil versions of every card since the late 1990s. They're inserted randomly into packs, usually taking the place of a common card no matter what the rarity level of the foil card is (maybe I'll go extra-basic sometime and explain Magic's rarity system). They have the same art, same backs, and same rules text as a normal card. Some collectors like them, and they're worth more on the secondary market than their non-foil equivalents. Some players consider a foil-heavy deck something of a status symbol. Others - like me - don't care about them, and would be just as happy with the regular version of the card. The good thing is that if you feel that way, you can usually trade your foil card for a copy of the regular version plus more.

So, here's what's happened to our decks since I last wrote about Magic. My wife took the red / white Giants & Kithkin deck and the Warrior's Code preconstructed deck and merged them into a red / green Giant Warriors deck. The Kithkin (in fact, all the white cards) have been evicted, and will soon be used for a Kithkin / Soldier deck I have in mind. In tuning this deck, we also had to scavenge some Plains out of one of our Shadowmoor decks, which meant removing all the corresponding white cards (I left most of the hybrid cards that included white), but the deck itself survived. This new Giant Warriors deck is the first deck that my wife has taken the lead in building, and it's quite effective.

I also built the Plague Spitter deck I'd been planning for a while. It's black and white, built around (surprise!) Plague Spitters, lifelink-granting enchantments (Spirit Link, Vampiric Link, Soul Link), Sadistic Glees and an assortment of "destroy target creature" effects, damage prevention / reduction (Urza's Armor, Rune of Protection: Black, Lashknife Barrier, etc.) and creatures with protection from black (Obsidian Acolyte, Duskrider Peregrine, etc.).

It's also got a few lose life / draw cards effects (Phyrexian Rager & Gargantua, Minion's Murmurs). They're all in there because I'm pretty much incapable of building a deck without at least a little card advantage. I'd toss Necropotence or Yawgmoth's Bargain into this deck if I owned either, but I don't, and won't pay as much for singles as they cost. Some graveyard recursion is also a must for my decks, so this one includes cards like Recover and Disturbed Burial.

Necropotent sidebar: I distinctly remember the first time I saw Necropotence. It was in the early days of Ice Age's release, and Ice Age was very hard to get. I had only been able to get a few booster packs at my store. None of us had so much as seen the new Ice Age rules, so we were even guessing at what Cumulative Upkeep meant. Al Gore hadn't quite finished inventing the Internet yet, so you couldn't just go online to look things up.

When somebody opened up a pack with a Necropotence, we all gathered around to read its tiny text - and were thoroughly unimpressed. Why would anybody ever play a card that made you skip your draw step, then pay life to get new cards into your hand? This junk rare was tossed aside and forgotten so that we could return to discussing Arcum's Whistle and Gorilla Pack.

About fifteen minutes passed before one of the gathered players said, "Hey, guys? It doesn't say anything about only using it for one card a turn." The light came on as we realized you could empty your hand, then refill it at a cost of a few life. Add in some life gain (we all still played our Thrones of Bone back in those days), and maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

As it turned out, that was an understatement. Veteran Magic players will remember the Black Summer when Necro decks completely dominated the serious tournament scene. Then, just as we all breathed a sigh of relief when its day seemed to end (so we could play different decks and still have a shot at winning), Wizards reprinted it in the base set. Yeesh.

Our other two new decks are both based on the Odyssey repacks and grab bags I talked about last time. I separated them by colour, then took all the black cards, threw in some Swamps, and called it a deck. I got the Swamps by taking all the black cards out of our 10th Edition common decks, which are now down to just green and blue. The new black deck hasn't been played yet, so I have no comments on its performance, although it looks like it has far too many cards that focus on removing cards from graveyards to be effective. I also took all the red and white cards, saw that neither colour would be able to stand on its own as a deck, and mixed them all together with some Plains and Mountains. Again, it hasn't been playtested yet.

Our current deck roster looks like this:

- Plague Spitters (black / white)
- Cantrips (blue / green)
- 10th Edition Commons (blue / green) - we have two of these, identical.
- Rebels & Soldiers (white / black)
- Thallids (green with splashes of black and white)
- Black (no real theme, although it has a lot of discard)
- Elementals (red)
- Shadowmoor I (a tournament pack and booster, shuffled together and untuned other than removing the white)
- Shadowmoor II (another tournament pack, shuffled and mostly untuned)
- Giants Warriors (red / green)
- Slivers & Other Multicolour (all five colours)
- Merfolk (blue / white)
- Odyssey & Grab Bag Green (all the green cards from my recent grab bag / repack order)
- Odyssey & Grab Bag Black (all the black cards from my recent grab bag / repack order)
- Odyssey & Grab Bag Red & White (all the red and white cards from my recent grab bag / repack order)

Note that we have no Odyssey & Grab Bag Blue deck - this is solely because I don't have the spare Islands to build one. That will change soon. I just placed another order with Magic Arsenal and included 40 to 60 of each basic land type. Plus, of course, a bunch more repacks, grab bags, and bulk assortments. I'll probably write about those when they arrive.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a chain-link fence and A Bit Of Finger.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


My wife and I just took our son to the Exhibition. It's the same kind of event that would be called a county fair in other places - some carnival midway rides, and a bunch of people bringing in crafts / livestock / produce / etc. in hopes of having ribbons pinned on their entries.

My son and I are pretty much just interested in the rides. The Crazy Bus was one of his favourites last year. It didn't enthrall him to the same degree this year, but he gave it a try or two. Here's a picture of him boarding this year's model.

One benefit of his getting older is that he's also getting bigger. Perhaps there's some correlation there, which I could use as an excuse for my waistline's annual expansion. This year he could ride the Crazy Bus alone, whereas last year I had to go with him. I felt a bit out of my element, because it's a much longer bus than I'm used to.

Discipline in our household has always been complicated by the fact that my son isn't afraid of anything. Threats are an important element in any parent's toolbox, but a fearless child makes threats difficult. I've long held that if I could find something that frightened my son, I'd brandish it like Lex Luthor with a chunk of Kryptonite.

I kind of hope Michael Jackson never gets convicted, because if he goes to jail then I lose my "If you don't knock it off, I'll sell you to Michael Jackson!" threat. (My understanding is that Mr. Jackson prefers rentals, but I hold out hope of interesting him in a lease-to-own arrangement.) Unfortunately, my son isn't worried by that threat in the least. Perhaps his not having the slightest clue who Michael Jackson is removes a bit of the sting.

At the Exhibition, I finally found something he fears: The Spider. The Spider is a ride where the passengers sit in cars at the end of a large "spider's" legs, getting spun around and swung up and down. My wife went on it with him, and it was the only ride he didn't enjoy. After the first rotation, he turned to her and asked if he could get off now. Once the ride finally stopped, he had absolutely no interest in going again.

So, clearly, I have to get a Spider and put it in the backyard. "Eat your supper, or we're going on the ride!" Hey, maybe the next out-of-court settlement will force Michael Jackson to sell one of his at a discount price!

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son boarding The Spider. He was still excited about the prospect at this point. Little did he know.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Education Confrontation Part 3

It's been roughly three-quarters of forever since I posted part 2 of this series, but I might as well circle around to wrap it up. For those who came in late or don't obsessively memorize every word I spew onto this page, here are links to the earlier parts to refresh all of our memories: Part 1, an Interlude between parts 1 and 2, and Part 2. The Interlude was a response to my first (and so far only, to my disappointment) silly flame comment. As far as I can tell, the person who wrote the comment did so mainly to make me chortle. I especially enjoy the bit where they claim to be a small-government libertarian while simultaneously calling for my arrest on charges of disagreeing with their opinion.

A lot of troubled water has passed underneath this particular bridge since part 2. In fact, things got really weird right after I finished that part, which is a big chunk of why the series got derailed. Perhaps I'll go into more detail later. A lot of it involves things that would be news to some friends who read this, and I'm not sure whether they should find out by reading it on here. For now, I'm going to try to carry on as though much of what has happened over the last couple of months didn't. (The new developments are inconvenient, not dire, but they have necessitated some rearranging of short and long-term plans.)

I had always expected to wind up gritting my teeth and going along with a lot of nonsense from school system bureaucrats, for most of whom "useless" would be a step up. Now I pretty much know that's exactly what's going to happen. For various reasons, our son is definitely entering the public school system this fall. Extensive preparations are being made at their end for his arrival.

My philosophies have not changed. However, as almost always, I will be making some concessions and compromises. It just means a little more ulcer medication than usual. (One of my favourite moments from NYPD Blue was an episode where Andy Sipowicz glared at a suspect for a while, then rasped something like, "I'm gonna have a headache tonight because I didn't beat you." I can relate, almost anytime I have to deal with almost anyone.)

Sidebar (first in a series): I have long understood the word "compromise" as being a euphemism for "a partial solution that won't make anybody happy." I generally don't see it as a good thing.

To recap my earlier parts (and make a few underlying principles more explicit), the school system (meaning primarily the teachers and bureaucrats) has no rights beyond those specifically delegated to it by parents. I'm not qualifying that in any way. No "should", no "in my opinion". Homework is no more acceptable than your employer ordering you to do some work at home, on your own time, for no pay. (I understand that's effectively the situation for, ironically, schoolteachers. Maybe the fact that they put up with it explains why they think it's acceptable to do to others. They shouldn't, and it isn't.)

Detention, without explicit prior parental consent, is unlawful confinement. As is any "requirement" that students stay on school property beyond classroom hours (i.e., not letting students who live near the school go home for lunch) if their parents have given them permission to leave. Either one should legally be treated the same as any other hostage-taking.

An awful lot of what's wrong with modern society comes from petty bureaucrats overstepping their authority, and being allowed to get away with it. I'm as guilty of that second part as anyone. I exemplify what Paul said in II Cor 10:10; I'm much easier to get along with, and much likelier to defer to authority (either legitimate or delusional) in real life than you'd expect from reading this. I'm pretty pragmatic in everyday interactions, and it's often easiest to let someone think that you actually care what they think.

This, of course, makes me part of the problem.

Each time one of these dime-store tyrants throws their imaginary weight around and doesn't get knocked on their metaphorical backside for doing so, it emboldens them. In psychological terms, it reinforces the behaviour. Writing this makes me realize that maybe I should stop being so agreeable with them, for the greater good. The sooner these petty bureaucrats (words that I need to use together all too often) understand that they are small cogs in the big machine of society, and that their personal opinions are worth the exact midpoint of "jack" and "squat" in the course of performing their duties, the better for all of us.

Sidebar of an example (and a True Story From One Of My Jobs): once upon a time, I worked in a government office where photos of citizens were handled. I can't get too specific for various reasons, not least of which is the protection of my secret identity. One day, the staff encountered a client photo that some of them felt was inappropriate. Let's say, the client was wearing a shirt with something bluntly critical of the government written on it (not precisely accurate, but close enough).

For the purposes for which we needed the photo, it didn't matter at all. It would be cropped in such a way that the fellow's protest would never even be seen by anyone except a few of our staff. However, some people on our staff wanted to reject the photo, and there were suggestions of further retribution. Some wanted to delay his paperwork unnecessarily, and one or two even speculated that perhaps the client could be charged with something.

I was disgusted by the attitudes of my co-workers. You could argue that the client was being rude, at worst, and there's no law against that. We had absolutely no right and no basis to so much as question his photo. I argued on his behalf, but ultimately a supervisor walked by and got involved in the discussion. After glancing at the photo, the supervisor decreed that it was unacceptable. The client was to be told that he needed to have another one taken. I asked for a legal basis for this, but the supervisor refused to discuss the matter (justifiably, in a way - I answered to the supervisor, not the other way around).

This is a textbook example of what I'm talking about. The personal opinions of some insignificant cogs in a huge bureaucratic machine were allowed to override all legislation and regulations. That should never, ever happen. The client's photo was perfectly acceptable by the letter of our regulations, and that should have been all that mattered. I'd like to say that was the day I realized I wanted out of there, but I had already realized that and become a self-loathing civil servant well before then.

In my experience, the school system in even more infested with this mentality than most organizations. Perhaps it comes from working with children, who are even easier to bully than most adults. However, school system employees tend to forget the difference when the time comes to deal with parents. They quickly forget their role: they are there to support the parents, not the other way around. My wife and I are in charge of our child's education. The school system is there to assist us toward that end. Their suggestions are welcome, but we are not here to do as they say.

So, back to the main narrative of this series. We return now to April 8, 2008, in a classroom where the school principal is telling a group of parents what to expect when their children start school in the fall. Part 2 left off with my evisceration of their monthly "award assemblies".

The next thing in my notes (part of the problem with the long delay is that my memory has largely faded, so the notes become more important) is that the principal used the phrase "statistics show that" far, far more than I would have liked. I'd estimate that she said it 14,256 times - a number as valid as most reported statistics.

Along the way to my degree in psychology, I took a few courses in "research design and analysis", colloquially known to the students as Stats. There was more to the subject, especially in the advanced courses, than statistical analysis - although there was a lot of that as well.

I don't remember offhand anymore how to do a T-Square Analysis, or how to run a multifactor ANOVA. However, remembering exact procedures is not the point of education (for most fields, emergency room physicians being a notable exception). Instead, students should generally learn principles to apply, logic, and methods of researching specific questions. Memorization of specific methods, while useful in the short term, is not a good long-term strategy because methods change. Consider for a moment someone who got a degree in computer science in the early 1990s, but hasn't glanced at a computer beyond playing an occasional game since. How valuable would their dated knowledge be these days?

The main principle I took from my Stats classes was that statistics can be manipulated to say whatever the speaker wants them to say with trivial ease. It's actually extremely difficult to craft a survey, on any topic, to return reasonably objective results. That being the case, while statistics interest me, I don't put a great deal of stock in them. I've often said that I could design a survey on any issue that would return results showing that an overwhelming majority of the population feel however I want them to feel. The sponsor of research can essentially always get the results they're hoping for. The hard part is avoiding that problem, in the case where you want research to be broadly useful, as opposed to just supporting an agenda.

So, getting the impression that the principal seems to be a disciple of whatever USA Today says on their front cover pie chart doesn't excite me. Maybe she's very discerning, or very lucky, and winds up looking at useful research (which is rare) instead of agenda-bolstering nonsense (which is rampant). Maybe.

Second, when it comes to dealing with individuals, statistics are never more than starting points. Remember what I said about bullies back in part 2? Most of them do not have low self-esteem. However, some do, and trying to treat one who really does have low self-esteem with methods meant for the majority is only going to make matters worse. That principle applies to everyone that is dealt with on an individual basis for any reason. Children are not widgets, and running a school like an assembly line is doomed to failure, as are most students of such a school. Everyone deviates from the norm somewhere along the line.

Now, frustratingly (probably more so to me than the reader), I'm ending this part here, having dealt directly with a whopping one point that came up during the meeting. It's late, and I want to sleep. I'm already breaking my general rule of only posting on spiritual issues on Sunday, since it became Sunday in my time zone about an hour ago (although there is some Bible in this installment, if I wanted to be really pedantic). Now that I'm back onto this series, hopefully it won't be over two months before the next installment.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture taken out the car window.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Everybody Looks Down On Somebody

Homeschooler raised a very good question about the journalistic philosophy behind the recent story about the pedophile school employee. From her comment (the first bit is quoting the original news article):

"Evidence included photos that were downloaded from the Internet as well as ones taken of girls under 16, both native and non-native."

What does the ethnicity of the victims have to do with anything? Is it worse to victimize "white" girls? Or maybe it's worse to victimize "native" girls. Then again, maybe some of the victims were black, or Jewish, and the reporter just missed that part!?

Victims, no matter ethnicity, are victims. Why divide them? They are all dealing with the same horror. I just don't see how it's relevant.
It would appear that the reporter wanted to make sure everyone knows this guy is an equal opportunity pedophile. He may have some truly perverted inclinations, but he's no bigot.

The reporter may have feared a libel suit. It's one thing to be known as a pedophile, but suspicion of racism could have harmed the accused's career prospects within the public school system.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture taken down the front of my son's shirt.

Everything's Funny If You're Cynical Enough

The true part of this story is that a guy got tanked up and took a spin through a cemetery, tearing up the sod and generally making a mess.

A police investigation continues into an incident in which a car failed to stop at an intersection and ended up in a church cemetery.

Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the incident.

The car, a 1993 Mazda, was travelling east on McHardy Road in Millbank when it barreled through the T-junction where the road meets Route 11, flew through the air and ploughed into the All Saints Roman Catholic Church cemetery, clipping a headstone on the way.
Now for the made-up part.

Investigators are baffled by the incident. First responders reported no apparent injuries, but on closer examination by the police, twenty-six bodies have been found so far.

Even more puzzling to investigators, the medical examiner says that some of the victims appear to have died before the car even entered the cemetery.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of a chain-link fence in closeup. In case you were wondering, I'm almost out of these.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Scavenger Hunt

I just spent a day with my family at a water park. I came up with a great item for a scavenger hunt, or a "car bingo" type of game.

Here's the rare thing you need to look for: A woman, between the ages of 18 and 30, wearing a bikini, who doesn't have a "tramp stamp".

Good luck to you. They're out there, sure, but they're far from common. For bonus points, try finding a woman in that age range who has other tattoos, but nothing on her lower back. Now you're into Loch Ness Monster probabilities.

When your bold statement of individuality has become a de facto uniform for your entire demographic, it's time to try finding some other way to shock Daddy. I hear marrying the father of one or more of your children is this year's hot rebellious gesture. Give it a shot!

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the sky and some hair.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Evil Has Survived

At long last, Diablo 3 has been officially announced!

The writing's been on the wall for a while. Blizzard have been quietly taking over the domains of fan sites (with full consent of the site owners, who were no doubt excited to be part of the announcement), and a writer told Slashdot a while back that he had been commissioned to write Diablo 3 tie-in books (sorry, since 10 seconds of Googling didn't find the exact article, I give up). When asked whether that meant the game was coming, he pretty much laughed at the question. If not, then why would Blizzard be paying him?

It's understandable that Blizzard was in no hurry. Diablo and Diablo 2 are still selling, at pretty much full retail price (for 2, at least). There aren't many games released back around the turn of the century whose publishers can say that. So, why put out a third installment, thereby sounding the death knell for full-price sales of the first two? I expect we'll see the price of the Diablo Battle Chest (the first two games plus some extras, like an expansion set) drop around the time of the new game's release.

It's also still a long way off. That's OK; Blizzard has a history of releasing games when they're ready. Patches are inevitable, but there's absolutely no excuse for any game getting to retail release with showstopper bugs. If you need to download a large patch (or any patch) immediately to make a brand new game playable, then the publisher messed up horribly and should be avoided in the future. Blizzard's track record means there's an excellent chance that the game will be released with all major bugs ironed out, and that it will be very, very good.

Diablo 2 was the game that turned my wife into a proper gamer. She had always played a lot of casual games (LBreakout2, Minesweeper, etc.), but Diablo 2 turned her on to the hard stuff. She eased in with a little Sword of Fargoal, moved on to Diablo 2 (LAN play is a big part of why we now have a home network), then got heavily into Neverwinter Nights. A copy of the Baldur's Gate II Collection sits next to our newer PC, as yet untried, because she knows that when she starts playing it she won't resurface for a long time.

We will definitely be purchasing Diablo 3 when it eventually ships. Maybe even two copies, if it supports LAN play and a separate copy is needed for each PC. I will be upgrading PCs as necessary. However, since Blizzard has historically been more interested in people being able to play their games than in showing off how hard they can push a system, I won't be surprised if I don't need to.

I really hope it supports LAN play. I have very little interest in playing on I like playing a little bit at a time, as I get the opportunity. The prospect of dealing with Leet Haxx0r twelve-year-olds (physical or mental) who have nothing better to do with their time than level up and yell "STFU, N00B! LOL!!1!" at anyone with a life offline doesn't appeal to me.

I'm guessing I'll be watching that play demo video a lot over the next year....

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a chain-link fence in closeup, partially obscured by a finger.