Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wisconsin: The Other Arctic

After yesterday morning’s get-out-of-the-parking-lot fracas, I was quite pleased to come home last night to a neatly plowed parking lot. That meant that pulling out this morning was just a matter of not slipping on the ice, which really wasn’t too difficult. The real trick came right before that, when I was scraping the frost from my windshield.

I scraped, and then scraped some more. I didn’t seem to even be making a dent. Indeed, as I ran the scraper across the windshield, I encountered not the rough sheet of frosty ice that I expected, but instead a smooth, unbroken expanse of glass.

And then it hit me: the ice was inside the car. It was so cold last night that a layer of solid ice had formed on the inner surface of both the windshield and the rear window. I was not amused.


It snowed a foot or two over the weekend, and then high winds piled up three- to four-foot drifts. It took Kristy and me 50 minutes to dig my car out this morning, all in -4 degree weather. I’m really not sure why I moved here, though I do have a totally awesome wife.

Further reading shows that this weekend’s storm was officially a “blizzard,” apparently the worst for this time of year since the early 1900s.


I think we let the wishbone dry a little too long. It just shattered into four pieces, one of which has yet to be found.

The trend toward dark and gritty

Popular media tends to ebb and flow through various trends. Yesterday I read an article about a new “relaunch” of the Tomb Raider video game franchise. The article included a picture of Lara Croft’s new look: photo-realistic, with blood and grit ground into her face and her mouth twisted into a half-grimace that conveys equal parts pain and determination. In short, they made Lara Croft “dark and gritty.”

Ignoring Tomb Raider entirely (I don’t particularly care about the games or the franchise), I see this more and more in movies, video games, and even books. More often than not, protagonists are emotionally (and, often, physically) tortured anti-heroes who find no joy in life and–heaven forbid–never actually smile. Television shows of all genres are thinly veiled soap operas where everyone is miserable. Action movie protagonists are emotionless fighting machines, and video game heroes are much the same. Dramas are little more than stories about a bunch of people and how much they hate each other. Heck, that seems to describe most of television’s current offerings, actually.

I have no real desire to analyze the psychological and/or societal reasons for this trend; it just seems rather indicative of the direction that the world is moving. The world thinks that things are sliding down toward depression and misery, and I suppose that it makes sense that people would want their entertainment to reflect “reality.”

That said, it seems to me that what we really need is a movie, television show, video game, or book that is the darkest and grittiest of all. So, let me propose a title for this nebulous piece of entertainment media: “Midnight Sandstorm.” It just doesn’t get any darker or grittier than that, period, end of discussion.

On further reflection, “Midnight Sandstorm” sounds like an awesome name for a heavy-metal garage band (a band whose lyrics are all about the dark and gritty futility of life and how miserable we all are, of course).

Dungeons & Dragons, Brenna-style

After days of Brenna incessantly bugging me to play Dungeons & Dragons with her, we finally sat down to play last night. Now, unlike the last few times we’ve played D&D as a family, this wasn’t some mini-adventure that I put together, where Kristy and Brenna controlled individual characters and fought monsters. No, this was Dungeons & Dragons, Brenna-style.

A year or so ago I bought Brenna a pack of D&D Minis, and she’s also acquired a few others (a fire elemental and a water elemental, I believe) from me as well. She now has ten minis (of which she is very proud–she displays them on her dresser). It was with these that she wanted us to play D&D. Kristy and I agreed, put Jonas down for bed (for the first of many, many times last night), and then retired to Brenna’s room to play.

Brenna had already decided that I was going to play the “bad guys,” whom she’d set up in various locations along one side of her room. I controlled four or five of her minis, along with the “boss”: a massive, three-headed dragon that she received for her birthday a month ago. Brenna got to control the good guys (five or six minis, including a mountain lion), while Kristy ostensibly was to control the two elementals that Brenna’s wizard could summon. Brenna co-opted control of the elementals, however, so Kristy ended up just watching. I think she rather enjoyed watching the antics that ensued.

Brenna’s idea of D&D was more like playing a fighting game with dolls or action figures than like actual roleplaying. There was no plot. There was no treasure. There was simply a battle royal between Brenna and her forces of good and me, with my forces of ineffective uselessness. The game boiled down to this: I’d march one of my bad guys out to the field of battle, where Brenna’s entire squad sat waiting. Brenna would then declare that it was “her turn” and would promptly smack my guy aside and declare him dead. This was repeated for the next few of my bad guy minis.

Finally I took some initiative and fought back, using my guy’s mace to knock over her mountain lion. Brenna promptly declared that the fire elemental used its magic to bring the mountain lion back to life. Yes, Brenna’s minis were literally invincible. Any of my attacks was met with “they have magic and come back to life” or “he’s too strong for that attack and is still alive.” A very one-sided battle indeed.

Finally I got a little more forceful and had one of my guys cast “Bigby’s forceful hand” and knocked her guys aside. It was all in the spirit of fun; I fully expected Brenna to declare that they somehow lived based on some heretofore undefined bit of life-restoring magic that her characters seemed to have an unending supply of. Instead, Brenna stood up and threw a fit. “You can’t do that!” she shouted. “That’s not the way to play the game. You’re not playing fairly, and you’re not allowed to play anymore.” With that, she stomped out of her room (waking her brother up in the process) and went to pout in our bedroom.

Kristy and I could only look at each other and do everything in our power to keep from laughing. From the other room came muttered declarations of “you’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons right,” “those aren’t the right rules,” and “your character can’t cast that spell.”

“It’s a real spell,” I said to Kristy in my defense. “It’s in the Player’s Handbook.”

Finally we coaxed her back into her bedroom, sat her down, and explained that we didn’t realize that we’d broken any of her rules, as she’d never explained the rules to us. Brenna took this in stride and matter-of-factly listed off eight rules (there were two Rule 4s, and at least one of the rules directly contradicted other rules). In essence, her characters were supposed to win and mine were supposed to just stand there and gleefully accept a sound thrashing and painful death.

It was bedtime about this time anyway, so I quickly let her pound the three-headed dragon into dust head by head (I think that the dragon was able to swing its tail at one of her minis once–of course, any injury caused by said attack was instantly nullified by epic Brenna healing magic). The game was over, Brenna’s concerns over fairness were assuaged, and we got her into bed.

Kristy told me that next time I’d better prepare the adventure, since Brenna-run D&D adventures tended toward a chaotic melee that only made sense in Brenna’s head.

Note to self: Brenna is a burgeoning power gamer.