Friday, February 29, 2008

Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance

My list of Blogs That Aren't Mine was getting a tad long, so I went through and deleted links to those guys who haven't updated in 6 months or more. Yeah, I know I live in a glass house when it comes to that sort of thing. I'm totally at peace with my hypocrisy. I hope, some day, you too will be.

Oh, and the counter is back. I thought about starting it off at 184,359 or something, just to make my blog look popular, but I'm really not that insecure. Right? You guys don't think I'm insecure, do you?

Googler? I Don't Even *Know* Her!

Here's something kind of funny that my buddy Silver sent to me.

Marissa Mayer was Google's first female engineer, and is currently serving as the Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. When San Francisco magazine recently ran a profile on her, they referred to her as the "gorgeously geeky Googler" and went on and on about her glamorous clothes, opulent lifestyle, net worth, and love of frosting. So, in other words, hard news.

But here's the funny part. Apparently the editors of the magazine aren't up on the hip lingo that perverts and naughty people use on Nobel Prize winner Al Gore's Internet, and they cleverly referred to Mayer as "Googirl." The online article got yanked almost immediately, but some 115,000 copies of the magazine made it onto the newsstands.

I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure those bastards at Yahoo! are to blame for this...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Once You Go Barack, You'll Never Go Back

Last month, I joked that I was going to vote for Hillary just so we'd have a Bush -> Clinton -> Bush -> Clinton order of progression. But after watching the debates, I've decided to throw my support behind Obama. Yes, that's right, Barack. Your pasty white geek contingency just went up by 0.00003%. You could probably quadruple that if you learned to speak Klingon.

And here's the weird thing... it wasn't really the issues that made me a fan of Obama. They may differ in the details, but for the most part, Hillary and Barack come down on the same side of the major issues. No, what made up my mind was the way they're running their campaigns.

Perception is everything, and whether it's 100% true or not, the perception is that Obama is running a clean, above-board campaign. Clinton went negative pretty early on, and it backfired on her. I think a lot of voters are sick and tired of all the retarded mudslinging and have finally come to see just how insulting and condescending those negative ads truly are.

Take the debate in Austin last week. Clinton brought up the issue of Obama's alleged plagiarism (an issue that, like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, should have been DOA from the beginning). Obama dismissed the whole thing and blamed it on "the silly season in politics." Clinton came back with the prepared line, "Lifting whole passages is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox." And she looked out smugly at the crowd as she said it, no doubt imagining a roar of approval for her witticism. Instead, awkward silence. Crickets. And a smattering of boos. Obama just shook his head in disbelief. And as a result, Obama came off looking rather noble while Clinton just seemed petty and spiteful.

Taking a lesson, Clinton did a quick turnaround and tried to take the high road at the end of the debate. She praised Obama and said that if she did not win the nomination, the nation would be served well by him. It earned her more applause than anything else she had said all night.

Unfortunately, Clinton's civility was short-lived. Obama's team recently distributed a pamphlet highlighting the differences between their guy and Hillary. Clinton's team responded almost immediately by accusing Obama of printing misleading information and outright distortions. Now was there any merit to the accusation? Who knows? But perception is everything, and at this point, I think everybody except the most diehard Clinton supporter is willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Clinton went so far as to claim that Obama had "taken a page from Karl Rove's playbook." Meanwhile, the Clinton team released a photo to conservative muckraker Matt Drudge that shows Obama dressed in a turban while visiting Kenya. It was a transparent attempt to play on the inherent racism of American voters, and I guess it was successful, since a lot of conservatives really seem to be up in arms about the whole thing. And to add insult to injury, when Obama's team accused Clinton's team of "fear-mongering," they responded with the statement, "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed."

That kind of shit plays well amongst the Republicans. Back in 2000, Bush pretty much snaked the Republican nomination away from McCain by spreading the rumor that McCain had an illegitimate black child from an extramarital affair. Karl Rove all but owned up to it, claiming it was legal because he hadn't actually *told* people that McCain had an illegitimate child, but had simply asked them what they would think *if* he had an illegitimate child. Karl Rove is a slimy, unctuous bastard who probably hunts the homeless for sport.

The negative hate-mongering has become such an ingrained part of Republican politics that many of them simply shrug it off as "part of the game." I honestly can't believe anyone was retarded enough to believe half the crap that their man Bush was spewing about John Kerry back in 2004, but they simply embraced it because hey, them's the rules.

The Republicans claim that anyone who buys into Barack Obama's hype is naive and misguided. Of course, most of them still believe that a secret cabal of Jews controls the liberal media, that Bible verses are science, and that the world will be safer once George W. bombs all the terrorism out of it. So I guess naivety is a matter of perspective.

Ironically, Clinton's team has jumped on the "naive and unexperienced" bandwagon as well. Hillary has been totally mocking Obama's optimism that things can be better, while doing everything in her power to paint him as an indecisive coward, a plagiarist, and a terrorist. If anybody is taking a page out of Karl Rove's playbook, I'd have to say it's her.

Optimistic does not equal naive, no matter how much the cynics would like to pretend otherwise. Nobody thinks the change is going to be easy, or come quickly. Whoever wins the election this year is going to inherit a massive shit sandwich eight years in the making. I don't think the situation is hopeless, but I think we're going to need to adjust our way of thinking if things are going to get better. McCain and Clinton represent more of the same. Obama is promising change, and I *really* want to believe him.

So is it naive to vote for a candidate because he represents something better than we've had for a long time? No, not really. It's not nearly as naive as, say, reelecting a cocaine-abusing, warmongering, illiterate retard because of something you read in an email or saw on FOX News. I'm looking at you, lower 51% of the American voters!

Obama 2008!
Change you can (reluctantly) believe in... maybe!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Lost Geekend, Part II (Electric Boogaloo)

The Lost Geekend, Part I

Saturday (cont.)

The Beagle Has Landed
After a couple more panels (The Haunted City: Urban Fantasy Today and Playing in Someone Else's Sandbox: Franchise Fiction), Stephanie and I went to the signing table to meet Peter S. Beagle. Stephanie, who is usually the epitome of poise and composure, was utterly giggly about meeting her favorite author. But of course, she was charming and lovely when we got up to the table. Which is a good thing, because I was my usual gobsmacked self. Mr. Beagle was astonishingly nice and soft-spoken, and seemed genuinely delighted to meet Stephanie. He signed her book and DVD of The Last Unicorn, and even sent us to the Conlan Press table in the dealer room to get a new DVD case (hers was worn and covered with security-tape schmutz).

Stephanie chatted with Connor Cochran, who has been Peter's business manager for the past four years. She pointed out that she had purchased her DVD directly from Conlan Press, instead of buying it retail, and Connor thanked her profusely. When we were walking away, I asked her what the deal was, and she told me that Peter had been screwed over royally by Granada International, which owns the rights to The Last Unicorn film. When Peter discovered that Granada had sold nearly a million copies of the DVD without paying him royalties on it, Conlan Press began campaigning on his behalf. Conlan and Granada are still in negotiations (which are being mediated by an unnamed but "eminent" third party), and Connor is optimistic that the situation will soon be resolved. In the meantime, Lionsgate Entertainment has released a special 25th anniversary edition of the DVD, and has agreed to let Conlan Press market it directly, so at least Peter is getting some money from sales.

Later, after attending the Pop Culture Explosion panel (hosted by our old friends Glenn Yeffeth and Chris Roberson), Stephanie and I went to a reading by Peter S. Beagle. He read a couple of selections from his book The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche and Other Odd Acquaintances. His first piece, a clever short story entitled "The Naga," was a lot of fun. But for his second, he chose the non-fantasy story "My Daughter's Name is Sarah." It's a simple story, elegant and moving, told from the point of view of a father who marvels at his young daughter's happiness and desperately longs to protect her from the inevitable hurt and heartache he knows she'll one day feel. Peter wrote the story when he was 18, and hadn't looked at it in decades. His voice broke and his eyes teared up while he was reading it, and I think the entire audience got a little choked up. Seriously, if you're capable of listening to Peter S. Beagle read that story without getting all teary-eyed, then thank you visiting my blog, Vice President Cheney.

Mmmm... Just Love That New Author Smell
That evening, after hanging in the bar with my new best pal and droppable name Chris Roberson, Stephanie and I attended a book launch party for J.M. McDermott's Last Dragon. This is McDermott's first novel, and he was positively giddy with the experience. Not that I can blame him. I jokingly asked him if he'd provide a blurb for my first novel, and he said he'd be glad to read it, but couldn't promise anything. I really hope he likes Space Jesus.

Anyway, there was booze and Xbox 360 and raffles for several prizes. I won a nifty tote bag! I also bought Stephanie a copy of the novel, and she asked McDermott to sign it for her. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I have to admit the opening paragraph is a real grabber.

These Boots Were Made For Walking
After rubbing elbows with the McDermott entourage, Stephanie and I ran down to the lobby to see the results of the short story contest. I had submitted "But I Digress..." and "Orange Alert" for the judges' consideration, but somehow my literary genius was overlooked. Personally, I blame the Jew-run liberal media.

So we were making our way back up to the room when we passed a couple in the lobby. I wasn't really paying attention, but Stephanie immediately made a beeline for the woman and said, quite dramatically, "You must stop right now and tell me about your boots."

The woman's name was Shai (pronounced "shy," as she frequently introduced herself "I'm Shai, but I'm not.") and she was wearing turquoise boots. Stephanie was wearing what she lovingly calls her "bitch boots," and she and Shai fell into a discussion of all things bootational.

The guy, Paul, stood next to me while this was going on, watching with great interest. When Shai and Stephanie discovered they wore the same size, they swapped boots and walked around the lobby. Paul turned to me and confided, "I'm totally into boots, man. This is so hot."

I had assumed that Paul and Shai were a couple, but Paul told us that his wife was upstairs at a party and insisted that we should go up and "see her boots." I was a little leery, because I was imagining some kind of weird gathering of boot fetishists clomping around, listening to Boots Randolph, watching Das Boot, eating boot-shaped cookies and drinking Piña Coladas from, you know, boots. But Stephanie was game to check it out, so we went on up.

It turned out to be a fairly normal gathering of nerds who were there to promote their own convention coming up in May. We immediately spotted Paul's wife, who was parading around in a pair of shiny pink hip boots straight out of Frederick's of Hollywood. There was cheap champagne in plastic cups, and lots of joyous geeky chat. I know I say a lot of snarky things and you probably think I'm being a smartass, but I swear I mean this sincerely. I'm a total dweeb, and it can be downright exhilarating when a bunch of nerds, unfettered by public decorum, simply cut loose and let their geek flag fly.


All Good Things...
On Sunday morning, Stephanie's friend Heather made her way to the hotel to join us for a day of geeky fun. By the time she arrived and Stephanie got dressed, we'd missed the beginnings of the 11:00 panels. No great loss, although we had been mildly interested in hearing the presentation on the "open-source space program" entitled Luna City or Bust! Since the government and the military no longer have any interest in going to the moon, it's up to the general public to make our way up there and start staking out territory.

But we blew it off and went to grab lunch instead. We made it back for The Phantom Returns: Pulp Fiction for Modern Writers, which was a lot of fun. There was one guy in the audience whom Stephanie and I had seen before. He was tall and clean-cut, dressed in a button shirt and a sweater vest, and he was constantly stopping the panelists to ask them how to spell things so he could write it all down in his little notepad. So when he interrupted the discussion to ask the panelists for author recommendations, I let out a weary sigh and Stephanie whispered for me to be nice.

One of the panelists, an editor named Scott Cupp, suggested that Notebook Guy look into the works of "an up and comer named Christa Faust." Notebook Guy started scribbling furiously, then stopped and asked, "Is that Christa with a 'K' or with a 'C-H'?" I sighed again and muttered, "Is that Faust with an 'F' or with a 'P-H'?" and Stephanie nudged me in the ribs and told me to knock it off.

Afterwards, the three of us were having drinks at the bar and waiting for the It Was His Time: Killing Off Characters with Style panel to begin. It was obvious the convention was winding down. The crowds had dispersed, the booths in the dealer room were packing up, and the Klingons were on their way out the door, suitcases in hand.

Just then, Stina Leicht wandered by. Stephanie had spotted her at the hotel a couple of times that weekend, but we hadn't really had a chance to say more than hi. Stephanie waved her down, and she came over to the bar to chat with us. I even bought her a drink, and when she protested, I told her I didn't get the opportunity to buy drinks for real writers very often. Smooth, huh?

Of course, the subject turned to writing, as it inevitably does, and Stina let us in on a little secret. (I sincerely hope I'm not damaging her mystique by revealing this little tidbit to my threes of loyal readers.) Stina said that she honed her writing skills through... Dungeon Mastering! Yes, that's right! Stina parlayed her years of playing Dungeons & Dragons into a successful writing career. I think she may be my new hero.

So that was it. Our weekend in Nerd Paradise (or Nerdvana, if you will) was finally at an end. We said our goodbyes to Stina, and headed on home. But the good news is that both Stephanie and I are all gung-ho about writing again. Stephanie's already cranked out one short story that's totally brilliant, and I'd say that even if I weren't sleeping with her.

And me? I've been too busy writing this damn blog entry. But as soon as I'm done, I'm going to get right to work on my novel about Space Jesus and the guy who is half pirate and half race car. Don't miss Chris Irby's Space Jesus vs. Cap'n Bony Jack McZoomatron: Apocalyptic Smackdown in the Year 3000!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Lost Geekend, Part I

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I am dating a beautiful, smart, funny, and astonishingly nerdy girl named Stephanie. The fact that she and Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper both exist in the same universe is proof that God likes me, regardless of the mean things I occasionally write about Him.

Despite her love of all things geeky, Stephanie had never been to a Science Fiction or Fantasy convention when I met her. So last year, I took her to ConDFW, which is a "literary science fiction convention in the Dallas-Fort Worth area." Basically, authors and artists of some renown show up, along with small press publishers, rare book dealers, and vampire belly dancers. Throw in some folks dressed like Klingons and playing Risk, and you've got a heady brew of geekdom, my friend.

Although the event runs all weekend long, we just showed up for Saturday's festivities last year. It was me and Stephanie, along with Sean (my playwriting buddy) and Silver (whom I can't mention without bringing up our homoerotic Valentine's Day dinner). Stephanie's friend Heather showed up as well, dressed adorably like Dr. Who.

Since we were only there for a few hours, we didn't really get a chance to immerse ourselves in all things nerdy. We attended a couple of panels and met with a couple of authors. Stephanie got a book signed by Emma Bull, while another author (whose name I won't mention) spent several minutes staring straight down Stephanie's cleavage while he was chatting with us. We also met Stina Leicht, a writer from Austin who's friends with Silver. She's nifty.

Stephanie had a blast, and said she'd be game for another convention. We toyed around with going to Comic-Con in Los Angeles or VCON in Vancouver (where I got to meet my hero Tim Powers in 2002). But when we learned that Peter S. Beagle was going to be the guest of honor at ConDFW 2008, Stephanie got all excited. It turns out that The Last Unicorn is one of her favorite books of all time, and she was giddy at the prospect of meeting the author. So we decided to hit ConDFW again this year. And although the convention was only about 20 minutes away from my apartment, Stephanie and I decided it might be fun to get a room at the hotel and make a weekend of it.


In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Laugh
Friday night was pretty much a bust, as far as nerd content goes. We got to the hotel in time to catch a panel titled Comedy in Space! Humor in Science Fiction. The only problem was that the five panelists, while admittedly humorous in print, were tragically unfunny in person. On the Universal Comedic Scale™, these panelists ranked somewhere between the comic strip Mallard Filmore and a clown dying hilariously in his sleep. Here's a highlight from the evening's discussion:

Nerd in Audience
You mentioned that a lot of science fiction is about feelings of awe and majesty. How can you reconcile that with humor? How can you make that funny?

Panelist #1

Panelist #2
Oh, um... like...

Panelist #1
Oh, okay. Like, let's say you've got a guy on a spaceship and he's discovered this alien city. And he's like, "Oh, this is so beautiful! This is so majestic!" But then he's like, "Oh, damn. I forgot my camera."

Panelist #3
Right! Right! Or like, he's discovered this new sun or something, but he forgot his sunglasses!

Panelist #2
Right. Something like that.

We also spent about half an hour at a screening of Hercules Goes to New York (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, billed as Arnold Strong). Audience members were encouraged to shout out hilarious comedy à la Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it turns out that moviegoers just aren't that goddamn funny without a team of writers. After 30 minutes of listening to people simply describe what was happening on the screen in wacky voices ("Oh, he's crossing the street! Hey, a car!") Stephanie and I finally decided to call it a night and start fresh on Saturday.


Putting the "Pub" Back in Publisher
We started Saturday morning off with the panel Starting Your Own Publishing Company. I really didn't have any interest in the subject matter at first, but Stephanie was curious, and I'm totally whipped, so there you go. Anyway, unlike the dud on Friday night, this was actually an entertaining and informative discussion. I still have no intention of starting a publishing company, but at least now I know what the hell those guys are thinking when they're poring over manuscripts.

The panel included Glenn Yeffeth, from BenBella Books. Back in 2003, when I decided I was going to be a Writer™, I figured I could skip past the whole "honing my craft" step and go straight to being a famous author. I imagined everybody would be chomping at the bit to sign a writer of my caliber. "Oh my God," they would exclaim as they immersed themselves in the genius of my prose. "This is his first book? Get me a wheelbarrow full of money and warm up the copter!" Anyway, long story short, BenBella was the first publisher to send me a rejection letter and disabuse me of that notion. But unlike these guys, they weren't dicks about it.

Also on the panel was Chris Roberson, the founder of MonkeyBrain Books in Austin. Stephanie and I ran into him at the bar later that evening, and wound up chatting with him for an hour or so. Actually, Stephanie did most of the chatting. I tend to get dorky and self-conscious when I'm around anyone who's been published. It's like this mystic veil that I've yet to pierce, so some retarded part of my brain makes me act all awestruck. But the upside is that my social awkwardness spared Mr. Roberson from hearing me pitch my brilliant idea for an epic novel where Space Jesus fights a guy who's half pirate/half race car*. I only hope he comes to realize how close a call that was.

(Incidentally, Chris informed us that someone wrote a Wikipedia article about him. I looked it up, and was surprised to learn that he's an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles. Then I realized I was probably reading the wrong article.)

Coming Soon: The Lost Geekend continues with Peter S. Beagle, hot chicks in boots, and nerds partying like it's on sale for $19.99.

*When I first mentioned half pirate/half race car guy to Stephanie, she immediately said, "So I guess his favorite sport is NASCAAAAAR!"

Sigh... she completes me.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hey, You Kids Like Candy?

Back in 2001, my buddy Ego (who, sadly, no longer blogs) introduced me to his online circle of friends. Since he'd already told everybody that my name was "Irb," I never really got a chance to come up with one of those really cool online handles, like DarkPhalcon or AssMagnet844.

So anyway, one day when I was supposed to be working, a bunch of us were logged into a public MSN chatroom. While we were babbling away inanely, some girl named "Meredith" popped into the room and said, "my name is meredith and im their ne1 else my age in here"

The youngest of us at the time was around 28 or so, but that didn't stop one of the girls from saying, "irb's 16... aren't you irb?"

So I played along. "yeah im 16. i wear big pants and ive seen titanic 34 times."

Meredith replied, "ooo i luv that name is meredith cuz my favrite singer is meredith brooks"

I said, "rly? my name is irb cuz my favorite singers are peaches & herb"

This resulted in a bunch of LOLOLOLs, ROFLs, and ROFLMAOs from the peanut gallery, and suddenly Meredith realized she'd been had. "ur not 16!!!!!!!!!! u suk!!!!!!!!!!" And then, she logged out.

It was all good, clean Christian fun, but that kind of crap would never fly today. Ever since NBC Dateline started airing their To Catch a Predator segments, people have become convinced that Nobel Prize winner Al Gore's Internet is a massive community of pedophiles, perverts, and freedom-hating terrorists. And a geezer like me claiming to be 16 years old would probably set off all kinds of alarms. Especially if anyone ran across my evil twin in the Plano Registered Sexual Offenders database.

In case you haven't seen To Catch a Predator, basically it works like this. Members of a volunteer watchdog group called Perverted-Justice set up fake online profiles of underage kids and enter chatrooms as decoys. They are inevitably approached by an adult and, more often than not, the conversation turns sexual. Anyway, the adult makes arrangements to meet the underaged chatter. A youthful looking 18 or 19 year old poses as the minor and meets with the adult. And then, Chris Hansen comes jumping out from behind a tree or something to confront the predator. As the culprit tries to worm out of it, Hansen often reads incriminating excerpts from emails and chat logs and badgers the bastard until the police show up to take him away.

So a few months ago, after watching a few uncomfortable confrontations with Chris Hansen, I finally turned off the TV and went in the other room to play some World of Warcraft. I'd been playing my character Verbal for about 10 minutes (and chatting in the general channel) when a player calling herself Batwoman whispered to me, "ur so funny".

I replied back, "thanks" and went on with my life. But Batwoman was in a chatty mood.

Batwoman> ur hilarious. how old r u?
Verbal> probably old enough to be your father
Batwoman> im 17 but all my dad's friends say i look older
Verbal> that's great
Batwoman> so how old r u?
Verbal> 40
Batwoman> thats not so old
Verbal> well, thanks
Batwoman> yea my dad's friends say i look at least 21
Verbal> that's great

And so it went. I didn't want to be rude, but I was getting a little creeped out by how she kept on trying to convince me how mature she was for her age. And that whole To Catch a Predator thing was still fresh in my mind, so I kept imagining some old, fat guy sitting at his PC, trying to trick me into saying something inappropriate.

Finally, I decided I'd give up and log on as another character. So while she was going on and on about how she's always dated guys that were older than her, I informed her that I was logging off.

Verbal> well, i gotta log. see you later.
Batwoman> wot do u mean youve got a log?

At that point, I panicked and glanced out the window to see if Chris Hansen and his camera crew were standing outside my door. Hurriedly, I corrected her.

Verbal> no, i've got to log off.
Batwoman> o lol can i add u 2 my friends?

I signed off without answering and waited a couple of days before logging back on as that character. I haven't run into Batwoman again since that night, so I'm hoping that means I won't be showing up unexpectedly on Dateline anytime soon...