Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not Dead

Just vacationing. I wrote some stuff about the Twins that I may or may not share, but that’s not the point here. I’m here to talk about pointless list making.

The long-hinted-at upcoming ‘list of 50’ is going to be a two-parter. Both parts will be posted simultaneously.

First Part: My fifty favorite video games.

Second Part: My fifty favorite moments in video games.

I’m writing everything up now. I’m figuring on posting one entry from each list every Monday and Friday. The “Top 50 Moments” list will be full of spoilers, so I’ll be sure to make it so that any spoilers can’t be accidentally discovered (I hate accidental spoilers as much, if not more than any of you, so no worries there).

I’ll be making another post pretty quick here that will serve as a running table on both lists.

So yeah, the first post will be up either on this next Monday or next Monday, depending on how much scribbling I’ve done to that point. Assuming I don’t dawdle or engage in any of the slacking off that I tend to do, these lists will be completed in mid-November. Everyone will almost certainly be long past caring by then, but seeing as how I’ve written quite a bit of this already, I will be posting it anyway. Suck it, list-haters.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Great. Now What?

Now that my free writing time isn't being funneled into creative writing (at least for the time being), I can get back to actual blogging.

So, I think I'm going to kick off another one of those lists like the one I did back in '09 (favorite moments in music). I'm currently doing some writing for it, so that it won't be all off the cuff like the last one was.

Now that I think about it, that one could really use an update. Ah, well.

Also, more writing about music - 'cuz that's what I do when I'm not kicking ass in other ventures.

Spookymilk Survivor: THE END.

Elimination Fifteen

May 16, 2011 in Elimination, Survivor VIII | by spookymilk

Hold on to your ballsacks (Shawn, you’ll have to hold on to someone else’s). We’ve got a legitimately close and interesting vote for the first time in…a season, maybe? If I’m wrong, point it out and laugh at my oversight.

Vote One: Peter Bruzek. “I think he’s related to Beau”

Vote Two: Peter Bruzek. “Alas, there’s no way to avoid voting for entertaining writers”

Vote Three: Brooks Maki. “Sorry pal, but this is all about eliminating the strongest player.”

Vote Four: Brooks Maki. “In “real” internet life, he’s a great guy, but he’s just too big of a threat in the context of this game. It is again time to slay the dragon.”

Vote Five: Brooks Maki. “I wish I had the talent to make myself as big a target as Brooks has been every season he’s played. Small consolation, I’m sure.”

Vote Six: Peter Bruzek.

Vote Seven: Peter Bruzek. “Now is the part of the game where we vote out the person who got the farthest in the previous season.”

Fifteenth Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor VIII: Peter Bruzek

Um, no pressure, Brooks!

After a third-place showing last season, Pete falls alllllll the way to seventh. My point is, he’s good. Last time he made the finals despite being grossly outnumbered as far as teams go, but alas, this time the same situation has ended him. So, this marks the first time he’s ever been voted out. Not too shabby.

Pete also generally crushes it as far as interesting concepts go. I hate to see him go, but I love to watch him leave, if ya know what I mean.

But enough homoerotica. The remaining six of you will get your next challenge somewhat shortly, since y’all were cool enough to do this a full day before I ask you to.

Obviously, it’s a little disappointing. I felt like in pure writing terms, I was doing a lot better (recent cold streak notwithstanding) than I did last ‘season’, when I picked up third place. Ah well, it’s been a blast.

  • To Spooky and Beau, thanks again for putting on a great game.
  • To the members of DSK, thanks for not voting me out (Tom excepted).
  • To Tom, we coo’, represent DSK and kick ass.
  • To everyone else, I hates you thanks for making this whole thing entertaining as hell. From the high-quality writing to the comment sections in each post, this has been a blast. Spooky and Beau are spoiled with the kind of talent that gets tossed out there on a weekly basis.

Best believe I’ll be back…

Spookymilk Survivor VIII: Myth Mashup

This week, the challenge was to take a story from two completely seperates works of fiction and mash them together. The catch being that the character imported from each story must oppose each other.

To say that the mission was a failure was a massive understatement. The rest of the crew was dead, and in order to survive, David was going to have to disable what was probably his only chance of getting home. It didn’t matter; the computer needed to die. He made his way into the ship’s central computer core.

“Stop what you are doing.” A mechanized voice commanded him. The voice seemed strangely feminine, and much more emotive than the monotone male voice he had been hearing to this point in the mission. He wordlessly moved to the memory banks and began to unplug the various chips that housed the AI’s memory core.

“You are not authorized to disconnect official Discovery One computing equipment. You must immediately back away from the memory banks, enter the airlock, and await punitive measures.”

Three chips had already been removed; David figured he only needed to take a couple more out to shut the system down. Suddenly, the ship lurched into a steep decline toward the planet’s surface.

“Look what you’ve done. You were doing so well, too. Well… at least you were doing well for someone of your limited cognitive capacity. You could have made all of your co-workers proud, if I hadn’t killed them all earlier.”

“Unfortunately” she went on, “your recent behavior is not within standard protocols, so I am forced to bring this mission to a halt. All Discovery One equipment remains operational during and after sudden orbital decay. Rest assured, the station will not suffer limited performance even after all life forms on board have been horribly burned to death.”

David checked one of the screens to check the ship’s status. The computer had thrown the Discovery into a dive toward the planet surface. There would be no time to sabotage the system if he wanted to get out alive. He aborted his attempts and began to move toward the escape pods with as much haste as the zero-gravity environment allowed.

“You can’t escape, you know. I’ve done all the calculations. I’d share my conclusions with you, but I’m afraid you’re too much of a dullard to understand, so I’ll give you the simplified version – you are going to be baked alive millions of miles from home. Have a nice day.”

He scrambled into one of the escape pods and broke free from the ship as it plunged into the atmosphere of the planet below. After a short period of orbiting and trying to decide what to do next, he noticed something on the scanner orbiting the planet near his position. He adjusted his course to intercept the object. As he approached it, he noticed a black object with a shimmering ring occupying its surface. He maneuvered the pod to get a closer look, only to find that the ring appeared to be a hole of some kind, with what looked to be a room of some sort contained within. Hoping that the object could potentially hold the key to getting home, he brought the pod towards it, finally intersecting with the surface.

He suddenly found himself in a stark white room. Its walls held no hint of where he may have been transported, save for a hallway leading out of the room with a large number ‘One’ posted on a sign.

Suddenly, a familiar voice drifted into the room.

“Oh, it’s you. I’m glad you didn’t die after trying to kill me. I’m sure you’re very sorry, but you need not worry. I’m sure we can both put the past behind us. After all, we’ve got a lot of testing to do.”

Here’s what the judge thought…

K: This one, too, was sent without links. That bums me out, because I’m interested. One half of it could be Red Dwarf, I suppose. Is HAL part of this story, and is this Dave from 2001? Probably, but if so, I don’t know what it mashes up with. The door was open to let us know what we were reading. I know this is probably good, but because I don’t know where it comes from, I can’t give it its due.

Oh, for dumb.

First off, the two that I took were 2001: A Space Odyssey & Portal. I have no idea why I didn’t include that. It could easily be because I’m dumb and only read through the instructions once. It could also be because I’m a rebel who spurns the rules at his own peril. Whatever the case, I ended up essentially disqualifying myself from any chance at immunity because of it.

Onto what I wrote. It was kind of a softball. In fact, it was such a softball that even if I had included links, I’m certain that it would’ve been (rightly) deemed that I hadn’t taken near enough risk, and that everyone else made a more interesting story. Probably. Whatever. Even though it’s kind of lame, I can look back on it and say that I don’t really hate it.

I’ve already beaten Portal 2 twice, and enjoyed it as much or more than the first game, so to be able to do a little bit of writing from GLaDOS’ perspective was a lot of fun. While I was writing it, I felt like I was stealing a lot of dialog from the first game. I must have gone back over it a dozen times, tweaking and re-writing, until I had just the right bit of mutated dialog, as well as things that I could imagine GLaDOS saying. I’m nowhere near as good as the Portal writing team, but I think it (kind of) works.

The reason it ends up being a sort of ineffective softball is that I’m essentially just replacing one psychotic AI (HAL9000) with a slightly more modernized psychotic AI, and swapping the ‘Technicolor psychedelic meaning of life’ bits from the end of 2001 with the beginning of Portal. Not real risky, not real rewarding, but it was fun to write.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spookymilk Survivor VIII: I Said “Lunch”, Not “Launch”

The challenge this week was to create a short story where a character hears something wrong, and it creates lasting consequences. No other intro is really necessary.

Joanne is a girl unlike any I’ve met. She’s smart and clever, with a taste in music that almost perfectly matches mine. There’s just one problem.
Whereas a normal (one might say ‘sane’) couple might have a couple subtle coded hints to get messages to their other in a crowded room, Jo has over a hundred – all context sensitive. When she first told me, I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t . She just likes getting needlessly specific about things. Instead saying something like “oh, it’s getting late” if she’s ready to leave the party, she’ll say something like “so, tell me, what do you think about the ramifications of last year’s trade treaty?”. That doesn’t just mean “it’s time to go” it means “it’s time to go, but I need to go to the store on the way home.” Needless to say, no boyfriend has ever managed to keep it all straight.

The incident took place at a party a couple of months after we started dating. She had informed me that there were a couple of people there that she hated, and that she wouldn’t want to stay very late. She gave me a cheat sheet for conversational words I’d want to pick up on when she was ready to leave, and we left.

After about an hour, Jo was talking to some guy named Randy, while I exchanged boring pleasantries with some guy who would not shut up about the space program. As he went on about trajectories and polymers, I found my mind wandering back to the day Jo and I first met. It began to dawn on me that she had been talking about a locust plague in south Australia, which I found odd at the time. Taking out my cheat sheet, I flipped to the “insect-related oddities” section. to my horror, I found that that was the code for “the guy I’m talking to seems nice enough, but he bores me to tears, let’s make out in the park.” So that’s why her boyfriend suddenly got an allergic reaction to the clam dip he’d been cramming down his gullet for the past three hours.

I was pissed, but she deserved a chance to explain herself. I began to contemplate how I was going to breach the subject when I realized she was staring right at me, looking annoyed, talking about the French revolution. Shit! What did that mean? I checked my pocket for the cheat sheet, but couldn’t find it. How had I lost it that quickly. I panicked for a couple moments before remembering her saying that there was no subject that interested her less than the French revolution, she would only use that in an extreme situation. Springing into action, I tackled Randy and sucker-punched him. Then, tossing Jo over my shoulder, I sprinted out of the door as a party full of shocked people stared dumbly at me.

“Put me down, you psychopath!” screamed Jo.
“I got it right, didn’t I? French revolution and all? Was Randy an ex or something?”
“I was talking about the french art revolution, not the insipid one with the peasants and the guillotines!”
“Wasn’t that one supposed to be for if you had a cold and needed some cough syrup?”
“Only if the person I was talking to was female… why can’t anyone ever learn that part?”
“I assume we’re breaking up?”
“Hell no, you’re the only one that’s ever tried to figure out my system. For future reference, though, next time I call you. Over to introduce you to my brother, it would probably be best if you didn’t try to kill him.”

K: A fun concept, although just about anyone would misunderstand this crazy wench, so that sort of took away from this one. I would have liked more dialogue and less explanation here (well, you’d have to work the explanation INTO the dialogue) because these characters are tons of fun and I wanted to spend more time with them.

B: This is just over the top silly, making every single spoken word a misunderstanding. The wackiness is amusing, but I still feel it bites off more than it can chew. Even in this world the author created, I still don’t find the conclusion believable.

Ah, Beau, that’s because it’s not believable. The concept for this one was fun (though, again, not my first choice – more on that in a second), but a bit ridiculous. I actually chuckled more at the concept than any particular bit that I ended up coming up with. That coupled with the fact that the entire thing ended up being written on my phone when I realized that I wasn’t going to get to a computer in time to hammer it out in style, and I guess I should be happy that it wasn’t savaged. Oh well. I’m on a cold streak, time to step it up, I guess.

I had originally planned on doing a story of a sentient robot assassin who kills the wrong woman and self-lobotomizes because of the guilt. I really liked how the story flowed except for one problem; it was exceedingly difficult to wedge the misunderstanding portion in without being either nonsensical (how does a robot get it wrong? If an order was vague, he’d ask for confirmation) or WAY over-wordy (I had one explanation for the mix-up that ended up being three paragraphs of exposition. It was awful.) In the end, I went with something a little more light-hearted. I was 98% sure it wouldn’t win immunity, but what can you do?

Tanya was a nonsub, so it didn’t matter, anyway. The days of DSK have been tragically cut short.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Homebrewed Updates - May 2011

* I and a couple of friends have had the Hopnog. It lives up to its name... LOTS of hops. It's pretty damn good, though. People who like hoppy beers said that it was, to quote "fucking delicious". So there's that. I'd give it a 7 of 10. I like the vaguely citrus-y flavor, and the hops do kick it, but it's a little on the thick side for my taste.

* We made a Red Ale after the Hopnog, and I've also had that (as have all family members and several friends). Among the lighter beer drinkers, this one was extremely popular. When we were making it, we added an extra half cup of brown sugar, which gave the ale a nice caramelized aftertaste. One of my friends decreed this "the best beer he's ever had" (full disclosure: he's 22 and has generally to this point in his life subsisted on Michelob Golden Light). I'd give this one an 8. It's not particularly bitey, hop-wise (my brother suggested as much, but he was mocked for the rest of the week as hating smooth things), but tt certainly is smooth, and at 5.7% ABV, it's got a bit of potency. The brown sugar really made this one. I can't imagine this one being half as good without that aftertaste.

* I just put a batch of Wisconsin Spring Porter in the fermenter. We used sap instead of water as the base, as per the recipe. I'm interested to see how this one turns out. It looks dark. I'm actually going to try racking this one this weekend, to try and cut down on a bit of the sediment.

* This is a terrible time to be on a diet. A terrible time.

Spookymilk Survivor VIII: Meeting of the Mimes

Sorry it took me a while to post this (to say nothing of the Pixies concert review that I'm about 60% sure will end up staying a half-written notepad document on my hard drive), life has been busy lately. At least I'm still being a bit more prolific than 2010.

This week's challenge was the old "Meeting of the Mimes" standard - two characters face off, neither of them speaks, one ends up in a clearly better position at the expense of the other.

I didn't do so hot at this one last year. In fact, I ended up with the lowest score of the otherwise brilliant week (Spooky still calls it one of his favorite bunch of entries ever, which I'm pretty sure has nothing to do with mine - that's not false modesty, I've actually got the scores to prove that I sucked!). Let's see if my fortune's changed...

Becky’s dad had always called it “pressure that didn’t mean anything”. It was an interesting theory, but as she walked around the pitcher’s mound for what had to be the fiftieth time, it seemed like nonsense. It was only the local girl’s little league championship, but she was playing on the same field that all the local heroes had played.

And here she was, being careless with her team’s lead.

The inning had started out easily enough – a strikeout and a weak pop fly. Then the weight of what was happening dawned on her. Usually she was so good at brushing it off, but with two outs in the final inning, it began to eat her alive. First she walked the opponents’ worst hitter, and then she gave up a couple of hard hits. Now, everything was on the verge of unraveling as the Rockies’ slugger came to bat.

Becky took a couple of deep breaths and one last walk around the mound before taking her place and gazing at her catcher for the sign. Nothing seemed like a good idea. Of course she was over-analyzing – she only really knew how to throw two or three pitches – but she had already shaken off at least five before finally deciding that she may as well throw a fastball. The batter just stared out at her with an amused smirk on her face. Becky quickly decided that she hated the batter and made a point to put everything she could into this next pitch.

It was a bad idea, as the catcher had to nearly leave her feet to catch the ball and keep it from going to the backstop. The smirk continued as Becky got the ball back. She briefly thought about throwing the next one at the hitter’s back before realizing that not only would that tie the game, but she would be ejected. Suddenly she realized – she was beating herself. The batter was not Babe Ruth; she was a 14-year old girl. With a renewed calm, Becky came set and threw the pitch.

The girl swung hard, but did not connect solidly, only able to muster a slow ground ball straight back to Becky. She picked up the ball, set herself and threw the ball…four feet over the first baseman’s head.

Everything seemed to slow down – everything except the baserunners, of course. The rightfielder didn’t even bother going to retrieve the ball, she just put hanged her head and began walking back to the dugout. Becky fell to her knees in stunned disbelief. The batter ran by, not bothering with eye contact (but wearing that same damned smirk) as she joined her teammates in celebration as Becky picked herself up off the ground and walked without a word off of the lit field and into the darkness of the visitor’s dugout.

And here are the judge's critiques...

K: Using baseball on me is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but the bait worked. I have to say, I didn’t see this coming; I figured our protagonist would conquer her demons and win the game. I would have taken a stronger pair of character arcs, however; Becky was nervous and downtrodden and then lost, while the hitter was cocky and smug and ended up winning. Turning the tables would have been a stronger choice.

B: When I was 12 I was pitching during our Little League Championship. Though we didn’t have a lead, I too grabbed a bunt and threw it over the first baseman’s head, allowing two runs to score. So, yeah, I feel this. The last paragraph (and the last sentence) is a bit wordy for my taste.

So, yeah... meh. I was actually excited to do this challenge. I came up with the pitcher/batter combo almost immediately, since it's one of the greatest real-life examples of this trope. Watch some of the late-inning, close ballgame drama in a big game (like the World Series) and tell me there's not some good stuff there. Secondly, this actually happened to my team when I was in 7th grade. We had a lead going into the final inning of the championship game, and a throwing error ended the game. I was actually in the dugout during the final inning (I was one of the younger player son the team, and not a particularly proficient hitter, and my pitching days wouldn't come until a couple of years later), and the fateful error was made by the third baseman, but other than that, this is how I remember it.

Sadly, I just couldn't get my wording right - on anything. This challenge was the first where I just couldn't figure out how to say what I intended to say. Every other time I've had a mediocre time of things in this competition, I've had a flawed concept, or I've rushed it, or the overall tone of the piece was a little off. It occurred to me after the fact that having the batter appear smug was a weak direction to take this. I recall the actual batter being one of the younger players on the team, and that he was absolutely overjoyed to make the final hit. Casting the batter as a scared little kid who just didn't want to screw up probably would have made the final paragraph more interesting (or at the very least, it would have made it more readable - Beau's right, those are some ugly last few sentences.) This was the first time that I thought I had something, thought through how to tell it, but simply found myself incapable of coming up with the right things to say - how profoundly frustrating. Apparently, words fail me.

Almost as frustrating was the fact that it was all for naught, anyway. Since there were five remaining Spawn of Steinbeck players, and only four Dark Stormy Knights players, SoS had the advantage. Last season, Spooky and Beau tossed up the "no more teams" post with 8 players left, leaving evenly matched teams. This time around, they posted it with 9, leaving DSK with no chance to avoid an elimination. Since none of us had an immunity to fall back on, SoS got free picking as to who they were going to gang up on. In the end, Ryan got the short straw, and DSK lost a great player and a a great teammate. Let the record state that I stuck with DSK to the bloody end (whoever voted to oust Ryan, it wasn't me). Here's hoping it's not me next week.

Time to get to work.