Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wow… Just Wow

I’m on my last 16 days in North Dakota and these will be the longest 16 days in the history of mankind for me… until further notice, I’ll be failing to post anything new on this site. You know when I’m done, and they can’t hold me, so just be patient… I will return… in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

[[If this was the end of a Marvel Studios movie, that would have been what you’d see.]]

Fitness Specter 21 – Super Setback

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Did you know the Super Bowl just happened? Were you aware that a great many people eat a great many things that aren’t good for one during the Super Bowl? Well, I was one of those people.

As I write these words, my wife is 1500 miles away from me. Well, more, really, but that is a nice round figure. I didn’t have anywhere to go for the big game, so I went ahead and went to one of my favorite local establishments (for what will end up being the last few times since I plan on one more trip). They had a free Super Bowl potluck laid out for anyone to eat and, well, I ate. I ate too much, I ate too poorly, and I gained 6 full pounds.

IN ONE MEAL.

In and of itself, the gain is not terrible. I’ve already shed some of the weight that I put on and I’m working on getting back down to my most recent gains that I was so proud of after getting back on a healthy diet. This leads me to start talking about something that people don’t realize when one is “eating clean.”

Cravings.

I started the night out with a salad a few hours before the big game. I had intended to buy a burger and enjoy that, too, keeping a lot of the protein sources I usually eat on the burger added to prevent me from getting super hungry (peanut butter, fried egg, bacon… just to name a few). Well, the allure of free Super Bowl food won out and I have now paid the price. I gained a butt ton of weight.

Since I began the final stretch of my time in North Dakota I started eating clean. Plain chicken breasts and rice. Bags of vegetables. Protein based cereals. Meal bars that are healthy. Soup. These are the things that helped me lose 10 pounds in 5 days. I gained 6 of those pounds back in one sitting. Damn me.

Writing this I am preparing to go lift weights until I sweat good and heavy. I am going to do squats until my legs cry out in agony for me to stop. I am going to do deadlifting that will cause my muscles to quiver when I’m done because they’ll have gotten such a workout that they think I’m done. I will curl, pull, fly, and press everything until I’m so tired that I want to just sleep right then and there. This is how I plan on getting back on track.

This is what I need to do.

The weight has always been an issue for me since I got out of the Navy. There is a constant struggle with losing the weight and the almighty “number” I am supposed to be at. The number isn’t so much important to me anymore as the fact that I don’t want to look “squishy.” I want to have muscles. I want to be less pudge and more muscles. I don’t want to look down and see a gut. The “number” is still in the back of my mind but the definition of what I’m after is less about the number and more about the health.

It’s time to reclaim my body.

Lift.

Chess Specter 5 – The Entertainment Equation

chess_specter300I have titled this one something I plan to expand upon. There is some confusion as to exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about turning chess into a commercially viable form of entertainment and I decided to just lay that all out in this column.

First and foremost, get the idea of live chess on TV (I will be using “TV” for any form of video presentation, whether on actual TV or on the Internet) out of your head. Live chess events, unless there is a severe time limit placed on them and some wicked great commentary, are not going to work. Nothing that we can do will jazz up live chess short of making that into something closer to WWE rather than actually just playing chess. Having said that, there are ways to turn chess into something interesting to watch.

I’ve mentioned the Master Game and how they did it. I think that is a good means of presenting chess, especially if there is some great and hard work put into recreating the game for video. There is a more recent effort, though, and an effort that I thought had a lot of potential but ended up being an “Entertainment Weekly” version of chess, which in my opinion didn’t do anything justice. I’m talking about the Xtreme Chess Championship.

The commentary was interesting, the players had some personality, and the players also weren’t rated so highly as to be “politically correct” when they were speaking. What I mean by that is how Anand or Kramnik speaks, like “my opponent is very skilled and he played great.” There wasn’t a lot of “smack talking” but there was still a little bit about the players themselves.

The presentation was too much about getting to very specific points in the game without seeing how we got TO those points. The presentations were too short and not enough talk was done about the game or explored into what should have happened. I’m critical of this effort because there was a lot of potential here and that just didn’t get developed correctly.

Why? Why would the potential not be brought out when they have all the time in the world to work on it? What could possibly be the problem with the game and the people that created the Xtreme Chess Championship?

The people that created this are too close to the game.

The three people responsible for creating Xtreme Chess Championship are Daniel┬áMeirmon, Jennifer Shahade, and Greg Shahade. The Shahades are married chess players and Meirmon is some sort of photographer/videographer… of chess. They, together, are too close to the product they hope to bring to the entertainment side of things. They made what they hoped would work rather than making what will work.

Stop trying to do reality TV. Stop trying to present chess AS IS. Stop trying to dive into commentary like a bunch of IM or GM level players are the only ones watching. These things are what chess players think people want… and they aren’t what people want.

Look at the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and other poker entities producing poker for TV. There is a concentration on the players’ personalities, the important parts of the game, and commentary that is down to Earth. This is the template, but isn’t immutable.

If I had the time, I’d produce the whole experience from the latest World Chess Championship. I do not currently have that time, though, and maybe in the next column I’ll mock up what I would have done instead to make the event a little more “general audiences” friendly.

Until then, though, I’ll let you think about what I’ve already written.

Your move.

UFC Specter 4 – Some People Are Stupid

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There is some build up to the title of this column but I’ll go as quickly as I can.

UFC 184 was to be headlined by Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort… until Weidman cracked a rib or something and now can’t fight. The co-main event, Rousey-Zingano, was moved to the main event, with another Women’s Bantamweight fight moved into the co-main event slot. Basically, two women fights are headlining over all the men.

On the comments of the thread, one guy had posted “hope I can get my money back for this one.” Several others posted similar sentiments on the same thread and I posted the truth about the situation… which is why people are stupid.

Why would you want your money back when the best fight of the night has been moved to the main event?

That comment has gotten me almost 50 likes so far.

There is a subset of humanity out there that is too stupid to see talent when the talent is presented to them. They are biased beyond biased and have other tendencies, too, like they don’t like black people, they hate gay people, and they think that women can’t do anything but cook, clean, and put out. Well, those people are the stupid ones.

Weidman-Belfort was destined to be a decent fight, yes. Would that fight have been the best one on UFC 184’s card? Not by a long shot. Ronda Rousey has not only proven that she’s the baddest woman mixed martial artist on the planet but she’s proven that she can draw… and UFC 184 is going to prove that she can draw as THE main event instead of the secondary main event. Rousey-Zingano, however the match comes out, will be the best fight of the night.

I’m professed to be a lady fight lover. I admit that I have some bias. What I don’t have is a blinding tunnel vision for the other fighters out there. Weidman is a champion. Aldo is a champion. Johnson is a champion. Pettis is a champion. Velasquez is a champion. Jones is a champion. None of these are women and I will watch all of them fight because I know I’m in for a good fight. I also like Benson, Cerrone, Dos Santos, and the Spider are all also awesome. There are countless others that I’ll watch, regardless of who they’re fighting, because I know I am about to be treated to a good sight.

But the ladies rule the day for me.

Why? Well, this stems all the way back to female kickboxing that I used to occasionally watch. Those women, regardless of weight class, were out to kill each other. MMA fighters aren’t quite so vicious after the fight but during the fight, they’re trying to kill each other. That is a damn good time.

Rousey-Tate was better than I thought it was going to be… that was really the first live fight I got to see. That was the fight that solidified the idea that the ladies are tops. As a Tecia Torres fan, I’m also looking forward to seeing more of her.

All in all, though, if you have a bias because of skin color, sexual orientation, or gender, then you’re stupid. Yes, actually stupid. Because you can’t see talent when talent shows you it exists.

Fight on.

Storytelling Specter 9 – Building From Scratch

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I have several superheroes rolling around in my head that were going to be the basis for a big launch of an epic universe which everyone would love and adore. After my last column on this subject, though, I come to understand more deeply that the epic-ness of, let’s say the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” is due to the fact that there are 75 years of backstory to these characters that everyone wants to see on the big screen. No one cares about Captain Schmuckatelly and the Infinite Nobodies. That is on me to create those characters and MAKE them that epic.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been working on my own shared universe for a long time. I have also mentioned that some of my characters started out as blatant rip offs of other characters and have either since become their own character or have been moved to the wayside. What I need to do now is take what’s left, combine ideas to make them more unique, and start writing SOMETHING in order to actually prepare to publish my own series.

Yeah, I’m going to concentrate on writing a single, monthly comic that will be distributed digitally… and probably initially free. I’ve got a name for this title, which I won’t reveal at the moment, but I do have a name for the company that I’ll be publishing this as… you guessed it, Emerald Specter Comics.

This single monthly is either going to be an anthology of smaller stories (i.e. four 6-page stories) or will concentrate on a single character (or team) for a specific number of issues for an arc (let’s say 6 to 8 issue arcs). That will allow me not to be roped into a single character and to develop a larger world (which is what I’d like to be doing). Unlike writers out there who claim they’ve always wanted to write a single book all their lives, I want to write all kinds of stuff. I’m not married to any single character, team, or book. Hell, these days, I can’t even say I’d like to write Action Comics because the damn thing reboots every few years. What the hell?

My idea is simple: tell stories in a pseudo-linear fashion with the characters I have created and then actually start producing an end product. I think my own personal art style isn’t good enough to accomplish what I would like to see the book to be but if I’m going to do this I don’t really have a choice. I can’t afford to hire an artist for between $300-$1000 to draw my book without any guarantee of making money in the end. I know, I’m told that this is how comics are made… but if I do this all myself then I’m not spending anything to produce (essentially) a PDF of a finished product. Maybe that will eventually attract an artist to want to work with me.

This means I need a schedule. If I’m doing this monthly then that means I need to be able to draw so many pages in a month. I can write here and there, fitting that in with all the Pages apps and whatnot when I have a chance, but actually sitting down and drawing is another story. That is something I’ll have to figure out as I go.

Maybe it’s time I changed the cover art for this column to be more “comic style”?

Write on.

Game Specter 11 – Odds and Ends

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There is something going on in the world around you, at all times, and you must really pay attention to catch the nuances that involve these things. Do you do that? I doubt that you do, on most things, but you may catch something now and then. Granted, you are not an investigator, on a job, researching something that may or may not affect you for the near future… but you should still be paying attention. Why? Well, we expect our RPG characters to pay attention, why wouldn’t you want to practice that a little in real life?

This column is going to be all over the place, I’ll be honest. I’m squeezing in writing here and there and I don’t really have a lot to talk about at the moment because I’m between games. I am interested in testing out Fate but I will be running WoD in the near future. I have a potential online group to run with and I’m investigating groups in my NEW local area. Yes, that’s right, I’ve moved. No more terrible winters for me!

I wanted to start out with the “taking notice of things around you” because we often think our characters are always catching the little details that we’d like to think that we are. Think, though. You went grocery shopping this morning and I guarantee you saw at least three people. What were they wearing? How many earrings did the old lady have in her ears? If this were an RPG, you’d be able to roll and figure that out but when you rely on just your memory, I bet you don’t realize how much you’re missing.

As a game master, I shouldn’t be making things too nuanced, either, but I also expect a lot of buy in from my players. That’s why I require backgrounds… and from here on out, failure to provide a background before play will result in said background being created for you… meaning I’m going to create something that you may not like but will serve the story DIRECTLY. Yeah, that’s the whole point of a background.

Gaming is about getting out of our normal lives and doing something more interesting… what about doing that more interesting thing just outside our normal lives? For example, Fantasy Flight Games has released a series of apocalyptic adventures designed for you… no, YOU. Not “your character,” you. These would be interesting to play, especially if you were getting someone new involved in the hobby. I think they’d be interesting to get to know your fellow players a little (in a realistic situation where they’re playing themselves) and might also help coalesce a group that has never played together before into a nice little unit.

Now you’re interested in checking those out, aren’t you?

I showed up to write this knowing I didn’t really have a topic. I think you should pay more attention to your surroundings, where you’re going, what you’re doing, and what kinds of things are around you. I also think you should check out those adventures, if for no other reason than to try something a little different.

I’m going to.

Game on.