The Republican Super Bowl

Hey, I’m as excited about the prospects of the RNC poking The City that Sleeps at 9pm Sharp with its ashen, elephantine shaft as the next local journo, but, Jesus, it sure seems like this summer Denver might be having all the fun.

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I Always Love That One…

A young Pete Doherty on my favorite band. No, not REM.

The End of My Jonny-Diablo Guilt

Hey, remember when I asked Diablo Cody, “So let’s say $100 million gross, little gold man–does that mean ‘bye, bye Jonny’?” And remember when her husband called the question “the most offensive question anybody’s ever asked her”? And then remember when, like a month later, my stupid question actually turned out to be right on?

Remember that? Well, you would think that I felt like the Amazing Kreskin or something. Or maybe John McCain after the surge. But no, I felt shitty about it.

Really shitty.

No, really.

I mean, when the other two parts of the question came true for Diablo–the $100 million part and the Oscar part–I felt less shitty, of course, at least for her. Because the Q was just an asinine attempt at producing yet another cheap soundbyte in one of my QAs. I had nothing against either Diablo or Jonny. I’ve been a Diablo Cody guy since her original, full-frontal P.Ranch days; and then she actually edited a freelance piece or two of mine when she was at City Pages. And I knew Jonny from the music scene, so I never meant to imply that he was a loser or anything less than a catch–I mean, as a musician, dude is arguably as pretty and/or talented as Dave Grohl. Moreover, he’s possibly a better writer and definitely a better actor than me. It was just a jackassy question actually meant to lance some of the “ha ha, I bet you’re all Hollywood now” Minneapolis backlash bullshit, and I hoped to shock a laugh out of Diablo and maybe provoke a funny comeback on her part. It backfired immediately–I remember having to scramble to get her to feel quasi-comfortable again, but thankfully we got past it and she gave me great stuff the rest of the way. But I worried about it a little afterwards like I do after all my awkward QAs. And then, when Jonny freaked out on his blog, I felt even worse. And when the divorce was announced a month later, I felt I-just-killed-Martha-Dumptruck bad.

But now I feel 1/3 less terrible than ever, because evidently, Jonny Hunt is engaged again!

Well, unless we’re all being Ashton Kutchered here or something. But according to the internets, Jonny’s new(est) betrothed (I understand this will be his fourth) has a handle nearly as exotic as the last one, Miss Trixi B, and of course, a blog.

Jonny’s blog has pictures of the ring, and the Route 66 road trip the couple took to celebrate. He actually popped the question on the same day Diablo won her little gold man, and I guess the timing weirded out some internet messageboard commenters somewhere or something (Sample speculation: did he watch the ceremony live? Did he have to TiVo the ceremony?), because Jonny ran a typically neurotic Jonny-explanation a couple days afterwards.

But whatever. It sounds like everybody’s happy: Diablo, Jonny, and now Miss Trixi B. (I guess they’re all buddies too. Shrugs.)

So I’m taking this as a full pardon. I’m officially off the hook, and I can ask asinine questions again with a clear conscience in future QAs.

That was a close one–nearly had to learn something about myself there.

The Hallmark Side of Bill Rawls

His People Were Weird and had Stars in their Beards: Gary Gygax R.I.P

[Ciaran Daly, reporting]

As some of you may have heard, Gary Gygax, the father of Dungeons & Dragons, lost his last Hit Point/failed his Saving Throw vs Death a few days ago at his home in Wisconsin. Geeks everywhere observed a moment of silence. I really wasn’t expecting to hear that much about it, but then bam!–there it was on the front page of CNN.com. Hell, the guy is getting more ink then William F. Buckley at this point, which got me thinking: Could the hobby myself and my troubled loner/nerd buddies used in high school to Save Us From Girls really have had that much of an impact?

I mean, you didn’t exactly brag about your weekly D&D session in mixed company back then. Hell, I’m not bragging about mine now (and for your information it’s GURPS we play, you twenty sided die chucking Philistines – a real nerd’s game). As the old saying goes, all the world’s lonely think their loneliness is unique. Most of us played the game in a Secret Pit of Shame (that’s the rents’ basement, for those of you watching at home). Getting an invite to that secret club was pretty hard. You couldn’t ask just any outcast – high school was harsh enough for most of us without risking the added ostracism of the dreaded “D&D Nerd” tag. And you never knew which parent or teacher might have got the loony idea that instead of drinking too much Mountain Dew and laughing at Andrew because his character was eaten by a Tyrannosaurus while he was in the bathroom (“Rough break Andy!” “You FUCKERS!”), you were in fact summoning Beelzebub using your dog-eared copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and maybe a Ouija Board for backup.

It turns out a hell of a lot more people must have been doing this thing than we thought. Fast forward from Gygax’ invention of the game with co-author Dave Arneson in 1974, and Dungeons & Dragons and its offshoots are a multibillion dollar industry. Ok, the movies were unbelievably bad. Not even fun bad (rent-a-Brit gravitas of Jeremy Irons notwithstanding). And don’t get me started about the cartoon. But the LoTR movies were brilliant (Legolas’ extreme sports moments aside). If not for Gygax, I’d bet the farm they wouldn’t have happened. And tell the truth, ye geeks of America (nay, the world!) – if you had known the future would be a place where you could have your very own lovingly rendered 3d Level 70 Blood Elf Paladin capable of busting into the actual dance routine from Napoleon Dynamite at any moment – you would have cursed your own mothers for having you too soon (I may own a copy of World of Warcraft. Ok, it may be the Collector’s Edition – don’t look at me that way: it came with an art book, a soundtrack CD and a virtual pet baby netherdrake. Having read what I just wrote, I may have to shoot myself).

It’s a strange, beautiful new world we live in where a guy can have his career launched instead of buried for playing Aragorn. Saying the name “Aragorn” aloud when I was in high school was like walking down the hall with a sign that said “wedgie me, and hard”. Hobbits were girl repellant. Years later, the month Fellowship of the Ring came out on DVD, I watched it on a lucky first date with a smoldering redhead that ended with Viggo’s life-size cardboard cutout gazing sternly down upon the bed of sin. That’s a far cry from the mix of pride and dread I felt when one of my best friends signed my yearbook in Elvish (“Have thee a bitchin Summer, dude!”). Mark Hamill? He’s crying in his apartment right now over all this, don’t think he isn’t.

And before you start with your smug comments, more than a few indie rockers of my acquaintance know from a polyhedral die. I’ll out you fuckers in a second, don’t think I won’t. Quake in your skinny jeans, furtive hipster RPGers: your $50 haircuts and vinyl collections cannot hide you now. Of course, while the skinny jeans set might not always cop to it, the sound guys, bartenders and doormen of the world have no such misplaced scruples. I just finished playing a show at the Triple Rock with Great Lakes Myth Society–a band that name checks the ur-Jethro Tull, British band Fairport Convention, as an influence – and by the time we were done loading out I knew which server half the staff at the Triple Rock played WoW on (Horde side, before you ask: and don’t act surprised).

But really, if the outpouring of love for Gygax this week (I mean, uberhip indie web comic Achewood even got in on it) is an indication of anything, it’s that perhaps all this shame, faux or not, is misplaced. This crap is a huge part of popular culture now, and it’s a fun part of it. And it’s older than you think. How many times have you sung along to Robert Plant wailing “in the darkest depths of Mordor”? And was it ironic every time? If so, I’m a little sorry for you. You don’t think Marc Bolan is maybe tossing a polyhedron somewhere while he’s riding his white swan? Ok, maybe not, but if you can’t imagine it you’ve never had the universe reclining in your hair my friend. D&D and psych rock go together like warlocks and Flying Vs. So conquer your fear. Get together with your friends. Put on some Wolves in the Throne Room or Mastodon and roll up an imaginary sword-swinging barbarian (or barbarianette) and name him Crud. Or Thud. Or whatever. Let’s not be humanocentric, roll up a goblin. Bring a six pack – you’re old enough to drink and do dungeons at the same time.

You can even bring girls.