Archive for seattle

Something Completely Different

Posted in nature, photos with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2013 by vagabondsaint

As those of you who live outside of the Seattle area probably don’t know, Seattle has been under a cloud of fog for the past few days.  (Real fog, not weed smoke.)  Coming out of the house one morning, I saw some spiderwebs in the backyard still covered with fog and dew, and so I decided to get a few pictures.  Enjoy!

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The Thrill of Being An Extra

Posted in movies, travels with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by vagabondsaint

Last weekend (November 17 & 18), I got to be a part of something awesome.

I was an extra on the set of The Gamers 3:  The Hands of Fate. How did that come about?  I’m glad I asked!  I’ll tell you.

As I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned before on this page, I am the tournament organizer for the Legends of the Five Rings (L5R for short) playgroup at my favouritest comic shop in the world, Dreamstrands Comics and Such in Seattle (which is also the highest-level Stronghold Store in the state, at level 6 as of this writing!).  As an L5R player, I’ve traveled to other cities, like Tacoma and Portland (so far) to play in the big tournaments, and at those I met a guy named Casey, who is the TO for tournaments at Game Matrix in Tacoma.

Well, it so happened that Casey became the extras coordinator for The Gamers 3: The Hands of Fate and placed a call for extras on the Western Washington L5R Facebook page.  Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, I could only make two days of the shooting,  the 17th and 18th.  But I, with another member of the group, went down to Game Matrix Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 9 AM, hoping to be. . .an extra!

I’ll tell you, it was a blast!

Being just background players was a lot of fun.  Doing multiple takes can get a little repetitive, and miming playing a card game was something new for me, but you know, it worked out well!  I can’t give away too much information because I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone (and I don’t remember if I signed an NDA or not), but it was really fun, the movie will be really funny, and with any luck you’ll see me in the background of several scenes (and one stellar turn as an arm double)!  All of the crew was friendly, easy to talk to, and a lot of fun to work with!  Also, Brian Lewis is a really cool dude and Trin Miller makes really good cookies.

While I was there, I got into several good games of L5R with people who beat me mercilessly but taught me mechanics I hadn’t thought of and learned to play AEG‘s new game Smash-Up, which was really easy to learn and a lot of fun to play.

You know, being in front of and behind the camera, being on the set, talking to the director and actors. . .it kinda makes me want to get back into theatre work. . .

VS

P.S. If you haven’t seen The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising, check it out here, then buy the DVD for some sweet extras!

Best Comics-Related News Story Of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, brilliance, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by vagabondsaint

The year of 2010 was filled with superhero-related new stories, as more movies, events, and merchandise based on comic books made their way to Hollywood and retail stores.

But the best story, to me, was about a character that had not, until December, appeared in a single comic book.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but in case you haven’t, here’s their deal:  they grant “wishes” for children with life-threatening medical conditions.  These wishes run the gamut from going to the US Open to being a pyrotechnician for Disneyland.  (My personal favourite was the wish for a pirate-ship playhouse; hell, I want one of those.)

Enter 13-year-old Erik Martin of Seattle.  Erik is living with cancer and had one wish:  he wanted to be a superhero.  One Thursday in April 2010, he got his wish.

The day began with a phone call from Spider-Man, who told Erik that the Seattle Sounders (our local soccer team) had been trapped in a locker room by the villainous team of “Dr. Dark” and “Blackout Boy.”  Erik was needed to defeat them in his alter ego of “Electron Boy.”  Taking up his provided costume and lightning rod, Erik was taken by his sidekick Moonshine Maid (who has an entirely different set of powers, several of them inappropriate for children, in the South) to Qwest Field (in a DeLorean, no less), where the Sounders were trapped in a locker room.  After freeing them with the aid of Lightning Lad (whom I hope was not forced to evade lawyers from DC Comics), Electron Boy posed for pictures and received an autographed ball and jerseys.

Good day, right?  And a good story?  Of course it is.  But it’s not even half over yet.

The Jumbotron sparked to life and showed the villains, cackling and taunting Electron Boy with pictures of a utility worker that they’d trapped in the top of his bucket truck.  Again, it was Electron Boy to the rescue, as he, with a 25-vehicle police escort, traveled to Bellevue to rescue the worker.  That job done, there was only one thing left to do: capture Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy!

After getting a tip that the villains were in the Space Needle and had trapped people on the observation deck, Electron boy and his team raced back to Seattle to free the trapped people and have a final showdown with Dr. Dark!

In the end, the villains defeated and Electron Boy stood triumphant, posing for pictures with the vanquished villains.  Electron Boy was presented with a key to the city and had the date of his adventures declared “Electron Boy Day” by the Seattle City Council. Said Erik, “This is the best day of my life.

Before you think, “Well, that was easy; you just get some people to dress up in costume and there you go,” well, you’re wrong.  This took hundreds of volunteers, some of them semi-famous (the Sounders themselves, and Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy were played by two of the stars of The Discovery Channel’s hit Deadliest Catch). The 25-vehicle police escort required off-duty officers to give their time and close I-90 and I-405 for brief periods.  It was a massive effort from local actors, police, politicians, and athletes to give one little boy his greatest wish.

And it was totally worth it.  If you read that story without at least getting a lump in your throat, you have no soul.

But it’s not over yet.

In December, Capstone Comics published a comic book of Erik’s adventures defending Seattle, with all proceeds going to Erik’s family.  As everybody knows, you haven’t made it as a superhero until you have your own comic book, and now Electron Boy has been immortalized in print.

There was definitely bigger news in comics, but nothing so heartwarming, touching, and providing such a positive statement on humanity in general and Seattle in particular as this story.  It should be obvious as to why this was my choice for Best Comics-Related News Story of 2010.

2011’s winner will probably be about the team of real-life superheroes running around the Seattle area, but the year is young, so who knows what will happen.

VS – 1.7.10

Cirque du Soleil Kooza: A Brief And Overpriced Review

Posted in brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by vagabondsaint

So, last night (July 1st), I went to see Cirque du Soleil: Kooza, currently playing at Marymoor Park in Redmond, just east of Seattle.  I went with my 9-year-old daughter, as the tickets were my Father’s Day present.  It was the best Father’s Day present I’ve ever gotten, and yet it was also the most expensive for me, due to the ABOMINABLE PRICE GOUGING.  Let me say now that the HORRENDOUS PRICE-GOUGING did not in anyway detract from the show itself, which was more incredibly freaking awesome than the human brain can tolerate.  I recommend buying the DVD of the performance, because there’s no way you’ll be able to remember all of the unbelievable feats of acrobatics and gymnastics that you’re going to see.  You will, however, have no problem remembering the TERRIFYING PRICE-GOUGING.

Before I talk about the show itself, let me take a few minutes to discuss the RELENTLESS PRICE-GOUGING that occurred every step of the way, from parking to seating.  In fact, I’ll just give you an itemized list:

  1. Parking that was less than half a mile away from the door: $15 (Dear Downtown Seattle:  I will not complain about your high parking lot prices ever again for a long time for at least a month.)
  2. One hot dog that was clearly the runt of the litter, one large popcorn, one “souvenir cup” orange Fanta: $16.20
  3. One souvenir program that was only 1/2 advertisements: $13
  4. One hat ($19, but it was a really cute hat for my daughter), one DVD of a previous Kooza performance ($25,) two buttons ($1 each), one pencil ($2): including tax, $51
  5. Gummi Bears, Peanut M&Ms, 20 oz. Minute Maid Pink Lemonade: $12
  6. Gas getting there and back: $12 (I can’t blame them for that one, though)

So, if you’re keeping track, I’ve already spent $109.20, thanks to the GODAWFUL PRICE-GOUGING, and haven’t even seen the show yet.  I spent nearly as much as was spent for the tickets.  I swear, going to see DMB at the Gorge is actually cheaper (including gas), but let’s see those guys do high-wire acts.  I haven’t had a date that expensive since the one that earned me a daughter, and even then only if the price is adjusted for all subsequent costs.

Okay, enough about the MULE-CHOKING PRICE GOUGING. On to the show itself.

After the PRICE-GOUGING THAT MADE BABY JESUS CRY, we found our seats and waited for the show to begin.  Clowns and performers did various sketches in and with the crowd while we waited for the show to begin; one gave my daughter a balloon sceptre with a heart on top that was very cute (and free, which made the DANGEROUSLY VIRULENT PRICE GOUGING a little easier to take).  They even chided members of the audience that were late arriving (“Eight o’clock looks like THIS!” said one clown, spreading his arms in mimicry of a clock.)  Then the show began.

Kooza is the story of a young, innocent clown, who is just trying to fly his kite and having no luck when a Trickster appears (in the most awesome pimp suit imaginable) and uses his powerful wand to whisk the boy away to Kooza, a land of many mysterious and magnificent wonders.  The Trickster takes the boy to meet the King and his two clowns (one of whom has a leg-humping addiction) and see the many sights of Kooza.

Where to begin?  The dancers/tumblers were great in their own right, but warm-ups for what followed.  The band and the singers performed excellently, and I may be in love with one of the singers.  Let me also mention now that the costumers for this show deserve every praise that can be heaped upon their heads; the costumes were always elaborate, always stunning, and eye-catching without being distracting.  They were as fantastic and colourful as the world they were supposed to represent, and I fervently hope the costumers get their fair share of the CORONARY-INDUCING PRICE GOUGING money.

The first jaw-dropping, eyes-widening, heart-stopping moments for me, though, came with the contortionists, two ladies who are either quadruple-jointed or do not actually have bones.  I didn’t think human bodies could be bent that way even once, let alone repeatedly, and still survive; I do believe that, during their performance, several chiropractors fainted.  The part that sticks out most in my mind is one of the ladies, who I may also have fallen in love with, doing the familiar breakdance move “The Helicopter,” in which a person rotates their legs in the air from side to side while also rolling their upper body on the ground.  Imagine that, but imagine the upper part of the body not moving at all, laying fixed upon the ground as the legs spin around and even touch the ground in what appears to be a demented, but fascinating, lower-body tarantella, pivoting 360 degrees at the spine.  Seriously, get the DVD, because my feeble description does not do it justice.

This act was followed by the trapeze artist, a lady who also claimed a fair stake in my romantic future by sheer dint of having far more testicular fortitude than I ever could possess.  My daughter assured me that she could do some of the moves this lady did, and I’m sure she could given her gymnastics training, but as a father I could never allow her to try until cybernetic replacement body parts become widely available.

Next came the unicycle duo, about whom I will say this:  any man who can ride a unicycle in a steady circle while spinning a woman about his head and shoulders is a man I will never, ever f@$% with.  Not even if he was directly responsible for the APOCALYPTIC PRICE GOUGING.

The last act of the first half was the double high-wire act, and, as any good high-wire act should make happen, this one stopped my heart a few times.  It’s one thing to stand still on a high wire with a pole to help your balance; it’s quite another to be the guy who has to leapfrog over the first guy and land on your feet.  (He blew it the first time and spun around the rope, but nailed it the second.  I often wondered if the “mistakes” were intentional and designed to heighten the tension; if so, they worked very very well.) And it’s another thing all together to be the guy that has to stand on a chair balanced on a pole held up by two people riding bicycles that are balanced on the tightrope.  That caused some breathless moments too.

At the end of this, the innocent naive clown gets hold of the Trickster’s wand, and manages to use its power in the exact wrong way; as the Trickster laughs maniacally, the world of Kooza is plunged into darkness, and the first half ends.

I should mention that between the acts, while the stage crew is doing setups and such, or even just to fill breaks, the King and his jesters are on stage, performing hilarious acts of silliness and performing magic tricks with the audience.  The balloon-gifting clown also reappears, being pursued by the police (who would also be wise to investigate the CRIME-AGAINST-HUMANITY PRICE GOUGING going on outside); there is also a pickpocket/magician providing entertainment as well, when he is not being pursued by the police.

Second half.  Kooza has been plunged into a dark, nightmare world; the King and his jesters are chased away by an army of rats and the dancers/tumblers, brightly clad in red and white in the first half, are now dressed as skeletons with an awesome fashion sense and led by a Skeleton King in a pimp suit every bit as awesome as the Trickster’s, but a lot more sparkly.  After some dancing and tumbling, we finally come to the act that truly took my breath away banished all thoughts of THE PRICE GOUGING MOMMA WARNED YOU ABOUT:  The Wheel Of Death.

The Wheel Of Death is actually two wheels, joined by struts and suspended around a suspended floating axis.  The wheels are hollow, allowing someone to stand inside of each as they rotate, and you’ll come to realize it is their motion that dictates the revolutions of the wheel.  Then you’ll forget about science the first time you see them jump inside of the wheels as they rotate and realize they could very easily fall to a messy death.  It’s an incredible feat of balance and motion and rotation that is only matched in spectacle by the point at which they stand on top on the wheels, riding them around and jumping rope on them in a heart-stopping, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, physics-defying display of gymnastics and. . .hell with it, just buy the DVD already.  It will really just blow your mind.

The Hoop Mistress came next, and really, seeing a woman that’s able to rotate several hoops around different parts of her body at different speeds is just incredible.  She’d make one hell of a dance partner, and I may be in love with her as well.  At the very least, I want her to be my date to the next hula-hoop contest I go to, and if you thought you were hot s#!^ for getting 1000 spins on Wii Fit, she’ll make you feel really really bad.

After the hoops, the chair-balancing act, and I have to give that guy a lot of credit for both being willing to get up on a 30-foot-high stack of chairs and for wearing a sumo diaper while being the size of Bruce Lee.  He was good, but just not as breathtaking as some of the other acts were.

Last, but certainly not least, was the teeter-totter board, which was a see-saw put to gymnastic use.  Tumblers were launched onto pyramids, off of pyramids, through the air. . .and as difficult as that looked, imagine people doing it on stilts and landing standing up – on stilts.  It was, well, awesome.  Their costumes, it should be noted, reflect the brighter colours of the first half of the show, signifying, I think, that the darkness wrought by the innocent clown is finally wearing off.

At the end, the young clown bids farewell to Kooza and returns to his own world, albeit with a new crown, courtesy of the King, and a new, much more colourful kite that he now can actually get to fly.  Maybe a little thin on story, but on performance, there’s no beating it.

Kooza was awesome, incredible, fantastic, unbelievable, smooth, breathtaking. . .every adjective I can throw at it.  It was the best circus of any sort I’ve ever seen, and one of the best parts is that there wasn’t a single mistreated animal within miles of the place (unless you count the contortionists’ spines).  If you have a minimum $200 to spare, and don’t mind GIANT ALBACORE PRICE GOUGING, I heartily, fully, and fervently recommend going to see Cirque du Soleil: Kooza.

VS – 7.2.10

Why Superheroes Have Secret Identities

Posted in comic books, legal system, politics, rant with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2009 by vagabondsaint

So why do superheroes have secret identities?

Because no good deed goes unpunished.

You’d think, that in this time of deep recession, social strife, and political infighting leaving the American people largely bereft of inspiration and leadership, that those brave few willing to stand up to the worst elements of our society would be recognized as such as rewarded for their efforts, right?

Like Jim Nicholson, the Seattle bank teller who, at the end of July of this year, responded to a bank robber by lunging at him, demanding the robber produce a weapon if he had one, and then chasing the unarmed would-be robber out of the bank and restraining him until police arrived.  He helped apprehend a bank robber who could have committed more crimes had he not been stopped, and saved the money of hard-working bank customers, right?*  Of course he did, and as it turned out, the vagrant robber had a long history of theft and burglary charges; he could have used the ill-gotten loot to buy himself a gun and become really dangerous!

As a reward for his heroism, Nicholson received the coveted You Don’t Work Here Anymore Pink Slip Award.

Key Bank declined to comment on the firing.  However, Seattle police and an FBI special agent agreed that the proper course would have been to simply give the robber what he wanted and be a “good witness.”   That’s the safe way to do it, and that, as I understand, is the bank’s policy as well.  But did Nicholson deserve to lose his job for standing up to a robber?

Before you answer that, let’s look at the case of Josh Rutner, an Ocala (Florida) “loss prevention officer” (or “asset protection officer;” the article call him both titles and, really, they both mean “dude what stops shit from gettin’ stole”) at the local Wal-Mart.  Since it’s his job to stop unpaid-for merchandise from leaving the store, he says (and I agree) that he was “just doing his job” when he restrained a shoplifter.  But then things got serious: the shoplifter pulled a knife, slashed at Rutner’s face, and ran away.

Now, most of us would have our self-preservation instincts kick in at this point, and we’d just let the guy run his happy ass away and become someone else’s problem.  Not Josh Rutner.  Josh Rutner gave chase, thinking, as he says, that the man was a danger to the public and the city that needed to be stopped right then and there.  With the aid of a customer, Rutner apprehended and restrained the shoplifter until the police arrived.

The next day, Rutner was fired.  In addition, the customer was banned from ever shopping at any Wal-Mart in the US ever again.  Okay, I’m kidding about the second part.  But seriously, Rutner did get his ass canned the very next day.

The same reasons were given as Mr. Nicholson above:  it’s not policy to give chase or interfere.  Despite Rutner’s job specifically being preventing losses, his attempts to do that very thing got him fired. . .because he gave chase to an armed suspect, which store policy prohibits.  Never mind that he kept an armed person with no fear of, and a demonstrated armed resistance to, law enforcement from reaching the streets and maybe harming someone else somewhere else.  If this had been a comic book, he wouldn’t have stopped the guy; instead, he would have let the guy go and the guy would later kill Rutner’s kindly old Uncle Ben, resulting in Rutner becoming the hero known as the Amazing Rutner-Man.  I should really stop writing these when I’m sleepy.

So why do superheroes have secret identities?

Because no good deed goes unpunished.

Clark Kent wants to keep his job.  Bruce Wayne, God rest his soul, didn’t want to get kicked out of the Wayne Foundation by cowardly, superstitious shareholders.  Peter Parker wants to keep taking pictures for a living (or keep teaching science, whatever the hell he’s doing nowadays).  I could go on, but really, the majority of you wouldn’t know who I was talking about anyway, so I’ll put my geekiness away now.

Point is, in a society in which criminals do not fear the law and depend on no one else standing up to them, we’ve put in place “policies” and “corporate rules” to make sure that no one does.

Maybe criminals, like politicians, need to remember to fear the people. . .

VS – 11.8.09

P.S.  I am not by any means saying that I want people to go out and become vigilantes, or take stupid chances fighting off criminals.  I am saying that those of us who do stand up to crooks of all collar colours should be rewarded, not punished.  So if you become Captain Long-johns and go fight crime in Hoboken, whatever happens to you is totally not my fault.

FurLife For Life

Posted in travels with tags , , , , on July 9, 2008 by vagabondsaint

Over the weekend, I attended a meeting of FurLife, a Seattle-based group of furries. (For those unfamiliar with “furries,” click here for a Wikipedia entry about the furry lifestyle. For those too lazy to click the link and read the damn article, I’ll sum it up: furries like literature, cartoons, and drawings about anthropomorphic animals and adopt furry personas, sometimes including a full costume, for roleplay online or in real life; sometimes for sexual play as well.)

Having seen this Youtube video (watch it for the song, if nothing else) a few days before the meeting, I was a bit apprehensive about, well, going there and seeing something I couldn’t unsee, particularly sexual aspects of the fur life. I was a bit calmed by the knowledge that the meeting was in a public park, but still a bit wary; it was my friend G who told me that, if nothing else, I would at least get something interesting to write about out of it. That decided it for me.

Well, I went, and I honestly had a good time. The people I met and talked to weren’t super-obsessives (as I’d feared), they were just normal people with the hobby of occasionally putting on costumes or role-playing as anthropomorphic animals online. I unfurtunately (ha!) did not get a chance to conduct a deep interview with anyone; hopefully, that will come later. From the conversations I had, though, they’re just like anyone else with a hobby; really not much different from model railroaders (i used to be one), comic-books fans (of which I am one), gamers (one of those too), obsessive readers (me again), or people who spend way too much time online (starting to get worried about myself here. . .).

You know what? I’m probably not a good judge of what constitutes normalcy. Whatever my capabilities of judging such may be, I went, I had a good time, and didn’t get freaked out or hit on (to my knowledge. . .I tend to miss such things when they happen) by anyone in or out of a furry costume.

Here’s what I learned about furries, this group in general and the lifestyle in particular, with pictures (where applicable) from the meeting:

1. FurLife (also called “Seattle’s Fur Mafia”. . .think of that what you will) started last year, on July 8, and this was their first anniversary meeting.

the original FurLife members

the original FurLife members

2. The costumes are expensive as hell; a good costume can cost $1500 and up. Some people make the costumes themselves, which is arduous but cheaper and involves a lot of trial of error.

Treever and Hush, wearing about $4000 worth of fur costume

3. The costumes are hot; of the members that actually had their costumes with them, they didn’t keep them on for long.

You can't tell from this picture, but this guy sweated off about 10 pounds that day.

4. A “furpile” is, well, pretty self-explanatory; a bunch of furries get into a big pile. While the reasons for such escape me, I have to admit it looks like it would be fun if there were more women and fewer men involved. (I should note that personal boundaries are well-observed in such piles.)

Furpiles: an easy way to get some tail (sorry. . .I couldn't resist)

6. Some furries feel their hobby has been given a bad rap by the “Fur And Loathing” episode of CSI, which has its own Wikipedia entry. From that entry: “Members of the furry fan community felt the show deliberately misrepresented elements of their subculture for the purpose of entertainment. Complaints ran from the lack of any real (or fun) events on the convention schedule to the incredibly high proportion of fursuiters, participating in novel activities (the “furpile orgy”) which would lead to hyperthermia almost immediately. Several singled out Rocky’s projectile vomiting scene as particularly unrealistic, as well as the fact that his suit was lined with latex.” Having seen and felt those suits myself, I have to say: lining one with latex would be akin to climbing into an oven set on “broil” and locking the door behind you.

The "Fur And Loathing" episode of CSI

The "Fur And Loathing" episode of CSI

7. Being a furry does not automatically mean you have to be vegan or vegetarian; most of those that attended were omnivorous. Only one person asked my dietary preference, and I explained to them that I am becoming a “compassionate omnivore” (thanks to Solitary Vegan for that term) and then had to explain what that meant.

8. Furries are just normal, cool people having fun and indulging in their hobby/escape from reality without harming anybody. While I can’t say I have any desire to become a furry, I can say that I enjoyed hanging out with them and may do so again in the future.

Some random pictures from the meeting:

FurLife, The Furry Mafia

FurLife, The Furry Mafia

A furry with her fans

A furry with her fans (she's a girl under there; I checked)

Ummmmmmmmmmm. . .

Ummmmmmmmmmm. . .

VS – 7.9.08