Tags: vancouver

Cocktopus

Passport Woes - Vancouver people, a little help here?


So, I'm beginning the process of getting myself a passport so that I might go down to the uninhabitable wasteland of Arizona in order to visit my brother (coincidentally also named David). He and I actually haven't seen one another in seven years now, since I took the unbearable and astonishingly eye-opening two day bus journey from my home here in Vancouver to Tucson Arizona (Highlights included a young woman sitting across the aisle of the bus from me repeatedly interrupting me while I was holding a conversation with the person next to me in order to inform me "Yo, the way you be talkin; be trippin' me out", talking to a sixteen year old about where I was going, showing him a map of his own country, the United States, in order to indicate my destination, only to have him stare in blank incomprehension at it before asking me what this was a picture of - causing me to have to explain what a map is and that this was a map of his country - and trying to get a water bottle filled up at a bus terminal restaurant, only to have the manager snatch the bottle out of the hand of the server who was about to help me and pointedly inform her "YOU DON'T NEVER GOTTA DO THAT FOR THEM. TELL 'IM TO GO FILL IT UP IN THE BAFROOM." Honestly, it's a charming country).

Indeed, there had been one occasion on which my brother travelled as far as the Canadian border, hoping to get across so that he could see our dying father one last time, only to have Bush issue one of his periodic "Keep 'em scared an' keep 'em guessing" meaningless and pointless terror warnings which closed the border to this type of travel, thus preventing my brother from crossing and seeing his father again before he died.

So now here I am, ready to make the trip, and I'm discovering that the process of getting a passport has one very significant hurdle which I'm not sure how to get across: You are required to have a "guarantor"; someone who will co-sign your application form and your passport photo, who has known you for at least two years, and who either has a current Canadian passport, or who has had one recently. I'm not sure I know any such a person in my immediate social circle, really. I'm sure my friend Paul could help, but he's out in France, as indeed are most of my travel-prone friends out and about in the world.

And so I ask you, Vancouver-area internet friends, who have known me so well through this blog over the course of years, do any of you have a passport or have had one recently, that you might be able to aid me in this endeavour? I'd really like to see my brother again, you know? 

I wish the operator I'd spoken to had been able to answer my question: "How on earth did the FIRST person get their passport, then?" 
Cocktopus

Intimidation statistic apparently approaching maximum


Virtually without fail, every day I go to work, there's this little scene that plays out.

I'll be walking down the hall, someone will catch sight of me, they will gasp with unspeakable horror, sometimes scream with alarm, often clutch at their chest, and then, after a bit of nervous laughter while I give an increasingly half-hearted and insincere apology for frightening them ("Yes, yes, I know. I am a being of inconceivable horror and the sight of me is a sure portent of doom and destruction for those unfortunate enough to gaze upon my grim visage," I will say), they will go about their business.

I have long since come to accept this as the reality of my workplace experience, and to a lesser extent other social activities. Some months ago, I was hanging out with my friend Ray and his then-new girlfriend. The day was spent amiably enough, with nothing but casual and friendly conversation, I thought, but when I asked Ray about it afterwards, he reported back to me that she was apparently scared of me. I berated him for dating a woman of such weak character and timid bearings, and then accepted his apologies on the basis that she's soft and she smells nice.

Indeed, to a certain extent, I suppose I've come to embrace it; there is some wisdom, after all, to playing to one's strengths. I acknowledge that I am a huge and looming figure, towering over and dwarfing all around me. I realize that I am a black-clad mountain, with a long mane of hair like a barbarian chieftain of old. I suppose that I have even come to live within that role; stealthing through the corridors like the spectre of death, with a bearing of stern and silent condemnation of all the works of mankind upon my mighty brow.

And yet, even in light of this, last night there was an occasion which even I felt was in some sense beyond the pale.

I was standing in the elevator, arms crossed upon my mighty chest, waiting patiently to get to where I was going. A young asian woman was standing outside, and as the doors opened up, she immediately yelped with fear, clutching at her chest as she visibly jumped backwards in alarm. At this, some measure of my composure slipped.

"Oh, come on!" I demanded, "I'm just standing here! I get it when people are horrified when I come looming around a corner or savaging a corpse or something, something, but I'm just standing here! What in the world is so scary about that?"

She offered no coherent response, and for all I know that may have just been a product of lackluster English language skills. It could as easily be the case, though, that I had so traumatized her by my mere presence that I had destroyed her capacity for verbalization, reverting her to a state of atavistic, lizard-brained horror. I choose, in fact, to embrace this latter as being the better version of the story to tell.

I begin to suspect that I have leveled up my intimidation statistic entirely too much, and it is now beginning to become a hindrance rather than a merit.
Cocktopus

The Story of Family Man, Part 2 of 2

So, yesterday I told the first part of the story of Family Man.

To sum it up briefly, a player in a large live-action Vampire: The Masquerade game which I was running, who was not apparently taking the game seriously at all, had his ill-conceived character’s life torn apart as a result of careful and painstaking machinations by another player character. The player freaks out, threatens to attack me physically for not having prevented him from doing so, and in this childish tantrum, tears the gaming group in half.

And now for part 2.

Before I go any further, there’s a couple of other people important to the unfolding of this drama that I should introduce you to. The first, I shall call Coma Kid. Coma Kid was the subordinate storyteller who approved Boris in the first place, and was a close friend of him and his entire clique of casual players. Coma Kid was a diabetic of a fairly dramatic sort, and had a number of other mental and emotional problems to boot. This was a terrible combination for a number of reasons, the first of which is that he would often show up to a game with his blood sugar way out of whack. Part of this was just irresponsibility on his part, and part of this, his friends candidly confided, was a cry for attention. On several occasions, I had to take him aside and tell him “Okay, no storytelling for you tonight. You’re incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence or navigating your way across the room. If you must hang out here, you can play a character, but you’re not making decisions for anyone else while you’re like this.” A few years later, he died at his computer desk, playing City of Heroes with a jumbo Big Gulp cup in his hands. He was not a guy, in short, who had his shit together. He was also a close friend of many of the casual gamers.

Then there’s the fellow I’ll call Moriarti. He was the Domain Coordinator, and in that sense theoretically my partner, though he was quite firmly in the other camp; those players who wanted nothing more than to hang around and chat. The Domain Coordinator was an elected position, as was my own position as Domain Storyteller, and had been elected a couple of years running because nobody else really wanted the hassle of dealing with all of the endless out of character politics and bullshit which CONSTANTLY plagued this organization. He would turn out to be far more adept in this position than I ever gave him credit for.

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Cocktopus

The Story of Family Man, Part 1 of 2


I posted this on the community bad_rpers_suck  this morning, and it seems to have been pretty well received, so I figured I may as well post it here as well, for those of you who are into this sort of thing.

This is a story from years and years ago – some time around 1999, if I remember correctly.

I was the Domain Storyteller for the local Camarilla group – the official LARP community for Vampire: The Masquerade (basically, the head GM for the city), and was running a weekly game for all of the local players. It was a pretty large affair, with around 30 or so players.

For those of you unfamilliar with Vampire LARP (and in this perhaps you should consider yourself lucky), these games tended to attract a lot of very casual players. This isn’t a knock against them per se; different people look to get different things out of their roleplaying experience than others. The casual players I’m talking about are those who were just interested in showing up and socializing in-character... and sometimes only just BARELY in-character. I had one occasion where a player was hanging around in-game, when I quietly asked him, out of character “which character are you playing tonight?”, only to have him impishly smile, shrug, and reply “I don’t know. Whoever”, immediately before I expelled him from the game area until he had a proper character I could approve.

This story involves one of these fellows who quickly found himself out of his element when he was reminded that he was playing in a game which is supposed to be about “gothic horror”.

I will call this fellow, for the sake of this story, “Family Man.” Family Man had been playing for years, and was a friend and room-mate of the fellow mentioned above. He had created a character who I shall call “Boris”, who was one of the most irritating Vampire characters I had ever seen. Boris was a Brujah; a clan of vampires known for their brutality, violent tempers and wild, out of control frienzies. They were modeled loosely upon the vampires in the original Lost Boys movie. In spite of this, Boris was a fellow who, before becoming a vampire, had a wife and kids, a house in the suburbs, and a thoroughly middle-class life. After becoming a vampire... he still had all of these things. He just faked continuing to be a human, worked a graveyard shift, and everything was hunky-dorey for him.

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And this is where things got really ugly. But I’ll tell that story tomorrow.


tl;dr: a player in a large live-action Vampire: The Masquerade game which I was running, who was not apparently taking the game seriously at all, had his ill-conceived character’s life torn apart as a result of careful and painstaking machinations by another player character. The player freaks out, threatens to attack me physically for not having prevented him from doing so, and in this childish tantrum, tears the gaming group in half.
Cocktopus

Having Ventured Behind Enemy Lines, Part 2

The other day I told the first part of my encounter with a christian revival tent rally, and one of the believers there. Today, let me tell you about the latter half of my evening there.

As the evening went on, there were a number of speakers interspersed between the songs. Lay people, so far as I could tell, who were giving their “testamonials” about how they had managed to screw up their lives and only subsequently got their shit together after a conversion to christianity. It reminded me heavily of a conversation I had had a few months ago with my mother, in which I was talking about how christianity requires weakness in its followers in order to function. It needs some void within a person – real or imaginary – that it can claim to fill. It can be financial, emotional, social, medical or mental, but there needs to be something you see as fundamentally wrong with you that only their god can solve, or forgive, or what-have-you. If no such flaw exists, then they will create the illusion of one, through their catch-all of “original sin”, and then provide the illusion of a cure for this through a lifetime of service and cash donations. Like a drug dealer who creates the problem of an addiction in a user’s life, and then offers to solve the problem of the cravings thus-engendered through regular financial transactions.

This sense was re-enforced a short while later as one of the staffers – and I can’t say I’m sure I know what his role was, though I suspect he must have been some sort of deacon or something – came up to the podium and started asking if anyone had any ailments, down to and including a medical dependence upon prescription drugs. He promised that through the magic of his imaginary god, these illnesses could be cured, and that the sufferers could simply stop taking whatever drugs it was their doctors told them they needed. At this point, I recall my demeanour towards these charlatans becoming decidedly more hostile, as it became how dangerously ignorant and irresponsible they were. It was fortunate that nobody took them up on this offer, because this is the sort of behaviour that really can get gullible believers killed, when they stop taking their life-saving treatments thanks to their irrational belief that the magical sky daddy has cast a magical spell of healing upon them.

Finally, the preacher got up to preach. His sermon was rather unpleasant to listen to, at least for me (though naturally I do not pretend not to have a bias here). His voice was frantic, nearly shrieking, as though what he said was SO URGENT that it needed to be conveyed with the same sense of immediate panic that one might communicate to a rescue worker that THERE ARE TWO KIDS TRAPPED IN THAT BURNING BUILDING LISTEN TO ME NOW AND DO NOT TAKE THE CHANCE THAT I AM NOT 100% CORRECT. He gesticulated about wildly, so as to keep all eyes and all focus upon him, and seemed at times almost ready to burst into carefully-rehearsed tears.

His sermon revolved around a small part of the story of Jacob and Esau, in which Esau, starving, comes to Jacob and begs for a bowl of soup. In his moment of need, he short-sightedly offers to trade away his inheritance and birthright in return for this bowl of soup, and later comes to regret having done so. This, the priest used as an analogy for trading away one’s chance to get into heaven in return for a BOWL OF SOUP, whatever that BOWL OF SOUP may be, whether your BOWL OF SOUP be money, your BOWL OF SOUP be sex, your BOWL OF SOUP be drugs, or whatever else it is that distracts you from the better use of your time which is to spend it groveling before his god. A simple metaphor which takes all of ten seconds to explain, but which he spent the better part of an hour belabouring, shouting the phrase BOWL OF SOUP some hundred or so times after doing so had already lost any rhetorical or theatrical value. Towards the end of his sermon, he asked all in attendance what that BOWL OF SOUP was for each individual; what distraction it was that kept us from fully embracing his god. I remember laughing out loud as I thought to myself “A desire for moral and intellectual integrity.”

Finally, the sermon came to an end, and with it, the service proper. People began milling about and chatting, joining one another in various prayer groups and suchlike. It was at this point that the priest, who could not help but to have noticed me standing outside of the tent the whole time, came over to speak with me.

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Cocktopus

Having Ventured Behind Enemy Lines, Part 1


So, as promised, I attended the Freaky Weirdo Brand Deluxe Christians’ tent rally on Saturday. 

I had never attended one of these events before and really, really did not know what to expect. It was a relatively small and unspectacular affair, as I had expected it to be; I doubt there was more than twenty-five people present (aside from the eight or so who were running the show) at any given moment during the three hours it ran for. To their credit, though, the organizers seemed to have a fairly realistic view of this, and there were maybe forty seats within the tent, anyways.

As I arrived, they were booming out a lot of music from their loudspeakers, all played live by modestly talented but extremely enthusiastic players. I decided I would observe the affair from a comfortable distance; the tent was wide open, and so there was no need for me to come within 20 meters of the place, as I could easily see and hear everything (and with the added benefit of not being deafened in the process) from there. The songs were of a type which I suppose a habitual church-goer wouldn’t find peculiar, but from my outsider’s perspective were kind of revealing. It was all songs about “we” and “us”, with lots and lots of prompting by the organizers to the audience to stand at certain points, wave their hands at others, and so on. There was a strong group identity vibe going on, as everyone was having it re-enforced quite aggressively that they were all one group, and all under the command of the central authority there. It was a little crude, but obviously effective in terms of bringing together the flock, so to speak.

One of the songs in particular vexed me somewhat; I would hazard a guess that it was entitled “Jesus Set Me Free”, as that was the primary theme and refrain of the song. It was at around the time that I was listening to this that a woman – plainly a believer, based upon her many pins and medallions – came out to speak to me.

After a little bit of chit-chat, during which it was established that I was interested in the topic of christianity but was not a christian myself, I turned the conversation towards the topic of the song. I figured I would ask her a few questions about her particular beliefs, since, as I would repeat throughout the evening (and have confirmed for me repeatedly), “You can ask two christians a single question about any fine point in their mythology and get three different answers.” Specifically, I asked her if she believed that her god created hell (yes), that he set the criteria for who goes to hell (yes), if, being omnipotent, he could have chosen to set any specific criteria that he had wished (yes), and if she believed that Jesus was, in fact, her god, clothed in human flesh (yes).

“If that is the case, then does it not then follow that the only reason that hell is even a threat to us is because Jesus, as god, created that threat and then hung it over all of our heads? To that extent, does he not simply offer to save us from himself? Is that not essentially like having Jesus point a gun at your head, and then offer to NOT shoot you with it if you offer to serve him faithfully? To me, this is not the action of a hero, but of a slaver, promising to murder anyone who doesn’t agree to be his slave. How is this praiseworthy, especially if you then watch him going around shooting the vast portion of the population that does not agree to his terms?”

(I didn’t fire it all at her at once like that, but over the course of some five minutes or so of conversation, with various pauses for clarification and such; I can’t promise to be able to reproduce an absolutely accurate transcript of any discussion I had this day)

Her response was hardly a novel one, but one which I had never given any real thought to up until that moment; “No, no! God is LOVE, okay? He loves us!” with various emphatic clarifications and exhortations to this effect.

And so I asked her, “Do you believe an evil person is capable of loving someone else?”

She thought about this for a moment, and responded “Yes... but it’s usually a selfish and destructive sort of love.”

“Okay, good answer,” I replied entirely honestly. “I can buy that. Now, let’s say your god is real, and is more or less as you describe him. He loves you, but if you don’t do what he says, he will viciously punish you for all time, and has regularly done so to the majority of the world which he claims also to love. He has sent his people in the past into the lands of Canaan and told them to murder every man, woman and child there, where they died without having heard The Good News, and so were consigned to hell merely for having been born into the wrong culture. To me, that sounds like the ‘selfish and destructive’ love of an evil being that you describe.”

She was quite taken aback by this, and emphatically denied that her god was an evil being. I asked her if she believed that abortion was murder. She affirmed (as I suspected) that it was.

“In all of the lands of Canaan, do you believe there were any pregnant women? There must have been some. And of course, your god told his followers to murder everyone in Canaan, and made no provision where pregnant women are concerned. Your god ordered the murder of all of those unborn children. If that’s murder in your eyes, and an evil act, then how can a god who ordered it be anything but evil?”

This one shook her pretty badly, and indeed, later on I heard her discussing it with some of her fellow believers in fairly unhappy tones. Nevertheless, her response was to assert that, no matter whether or not these acts might SEEM evil, there must have been a good reason for it, because anything that her god does is automatically and perfectly good. I asked her if she could imagine a good reason to go into a city and kill everyone in sight, from the youngest boy to the oldest woman, for no other purpose than to steal their land. Of course, she could not, but asserted that there must be some reason, simply because “god is god.”

“So, it’s basically a might makes right type of situation?” I asked.

“No! It’s just that the bible tells us that god is all good, and all perfect.”

“What if the bible is wrong?”

“It can’t be wrong. It’s the perfect word of god.”

“And you know this because it’s written in the bible, right?”

“That’s right.”

“What if, when your god claimed to be all good, and incapable of lying or being mistaken, he was lying?”

“Well he can’t lie. He’s god.”

“What if you only believe he’s incapable of lying because he tricked you into believing that he’s incapable of lying, thus ensuring that all future lies would thus be covered? Would this not be the perfect smokescreen?”

The conversation went on for some time, with this poor woman becoming increasingly flustered. She agreed that these were all very good questions and that she would have “about five serious questions to ask my pastor about tomorrow.” She further said that I should talk to a professional theologian, who might have the answers for my questions (which I doubt, but it might be worth my time as a mental exercise). Nevertheless, she continued to assert that “you just have to have faith.”

“Faith that I’m wrong and that your god is right?”

“Well, basically...”

“Because your god tells you you need to have that faith?”

“Yes...”

“That, too, sounds like a perfect smokescreen to me.”

It was at around that time that she decided to break off her conversation with me, but not before asking me if I would mind her praying for me. “I have no objections to you talking to yourself in my presence, no.” I responded.

Her prayers were of a predictable sort, revolving around wishing that I would embrace the conditional and viciously-mis-expressed love of her monster god (though she did not phrase it in specifically these terms), before rejoining the rest of the flock under the tent.

(Tomorrow, in part 2 of 2, I get a chance to monopolize the priest's time for a while. It is a peculiar exchange.) 
Cocktopus

Venturing behind enemy lines?


For the past week or so, I've been seeing signs all over my neighborhood for what would appear to be an upcoming old-timey christian-themed tent rally quite near to where I lived.  I gave it almost no thought whatsoever, as this is really not a very christian neighborhood - according to the last census data, over 30% of the local population chose "no religion", and were the largest single segment of the population - and figured it would come and go with no consequence whatsoever.

While I still feel this is essentially the case, I saw, this morning, a big white van parked a block away from my place which was plastered with crudely-rendered signs advertising this event, and moreover, some weird imagery. It had, in place of your usual christian imagery which involves either a tortured and suffering or else meek and mild Jesus... a sword, surrounded by swirling flames. This momentarily arrested me. This was not the sort of vibe or imagery I was expecting at all. These were apparently not merely christians: These were Freaky Weirdo Brand Deluxe Christians.

And at that moment, I became curious. I spend a good amount of time discussing this religion on my blog here, and a part of the reason that I do so is that I have no other outlet for it. I don't know any christians. I never get to interact with them in a situation where discussing their religion is appropriate, much less Freaky Weirdo Brand Deluxe Christians. And it occurred to me, it might be interesting to try to delve into the belly of the beast here a bit.

My aim here is not antagonism PER SE. I think I would like to show up, be conspicuously out of place (this is inevitable, given the way I dress, groom myself and carry myself), and, should anyone strike up a conversation with me, just be 100% honest, and see where the discussion takes us.

And it occurs to me, this might be a fun little outing.

And so I put it to Vancouver-area people: Is anyone interested in joining me in this expedition behind enemy lines? It should be an entertaining and enlightening experience, and, in the hopefully-unlikely event that these Freaky Weirdo Brand Deluxe Christians (which I emphatically do not intend to refer to as such to their faces) should turn ugly on me, a bit of backup might not be a bad thing either.
Cocktopus

Allow me to share a dream with you

There’s a dream I have been chasing – in an admittedly often fairly passive way – for many a year now.

In fact, it goes so far back, the details are now in large part lost to me. It was first conceived of about ten years back, and I cannot now tell you what it was that inspired in me this sublime vision, but the specifics of the vision are as plain to me now as they were then. Let me share this vision with you, so that you might bask in its glory and wonder.

Envision: Four people, standing at arms length from one another, all in a row, on a crowded city street. All four of them are dressed in costumes. Terrible costumes. The sort of terrible costumes that people who are invited to a sci-fi-themed costume party and who have no interest in or knowledge of sci-fi might create. We’re talking cardboard box robots with tinfoil antennae here.

As one, the four of them produce books. Each of them has a different book. Each of them is a Shakespearean play. And as one, each of them begins to put on a one-person performance of their respective plays.

These are not “good” performances per se; they are not acted out in any specific way, beyond perhaps different characters being given different voices (to the extent that any of the participants are capable of mastering some thirty or so different voices, or indeed willing to try to do so). The result is a spectacular cacophony of 16h century English literature which arrests the attention of one and all who bear witness to this brazen display of madness.

At their feet, there is a sign. The sign reads “The Sci-Fi Shakespeare Cavalcade. Donations welcome”. Set next to the sign is a bucket, such as one might fill with change.

The change, in my mind, is a bonus, and it is almost a certainty that the monetary compensation – especially when divided four ways – would be unequal to the effort which would go into the work. The value of the spectacle, however, would be beyond that which could be measured in cash or words.

Naturally, we would wish to have this recorded, in part or in full. YouTube would need to be notified of these proceedings, of course, in the form of a series of uploads.

Over the years, I have occasionally taken this dream down from the dusty shelves of my mind and polished it up a bit, paraded it about my social circle and shown it off. Over and over again, I’ve had a handful of people who expressed an interest in taking part, and indeed, at one point early on, there were three would-be collaborators who seemed earnest enough that I spent the money on a busking permit which would insulate us from hassles by “the man”. Sadly, their dedication was not the equal of my own, on the long run, and it never came to pass.

This summer, I have decided I would once again like to make the attempt. And this summer, I am putting it out there, beyond the mere confines of my social circle, to see who else would like to participate in this profound folly. Indeed, I suspect I may end up posting this to the livejournal Vancouver community and see if there’s anyone out there who finds this as titillating a notion as I do.

So! What say you, gentle readers? Do you have what it takes? And by this, I mean primarily “too much time on your hands, and a lack of capacity for shame”? If so, we could accomplish something altogether remarkable together.
Cocktopus

So now the grim spectre of death haunts my spare bedroom.

The past few months have been trying ones for me, where housing is concerned. Granted, the last year and a half has been more or less continuously exhausting in varied and unpleasant ways, most of them involving Vince in one way or another. But these past few months have presented me with new and unexpected trials, the latest of which is so absurdly unlikely, so outlandish and vile that I begin to feel my grasp on reality buckling as a result of it.

But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

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Cocktopus

I’m thinking of starting up a roleplaying game group. Who’s interested?


My regular gaming group has rather collapsed, it seems, sad to say. With one player suffering a debilitating injury which renders him bedridden, another finding his life too busy to keep up with all of his various responsibilities and a third simply withdrawing into himself for reasons which are as yet obscure, I find myself bereft of roleplaying goodness for the first time in many years, and this bugs me something fierce.

So it seems once more it falls upon me to rectify this. I once ran a regular twice-monthly game at my place which lasted fully three and a half years, which most of my players confidently asserted was the best game they had ever played in. The combination of longevity and enthusiasm tells me that I was certainly doing SOMETHING right.

Those of you who enjoy my gift for language and the telling of stories might be in some way interested to see what it’s like to take part in one such story, and if you are, then here is your opportunity!

My ideas are still a little un-formed at the moment, but I’m feeling like running a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 / Pathfinder game, tending towards low fantasy and high horror (especially as the latter is sort of a specialty of mine), though my ideas remain at least for the moment in a mutable state. What I’m interested in right now is the question of who would be in principle interested in taking part in a game at my place – located quite near Edmonds Skytrain Station and Highgate Village Mall in Burnaby – every second weekend. Probably Friday, possibly Saturday evenings.

There’s a few of you in particular I have played with in the past and would love to game with regularly now (and some of you who will be reading this – prolixapostasy , pipkin , fallenthropy , etc, know I’m speaking of you), but I’d be quite interested in expanding my social and gaming circle with anyone reading this in the greater Vancouver region who has the time and interest. Even if you have no prior experience with this hobby, it’s never too late to learn.

Let me know if you think you might potentially be interested, and we can see how things proceed from there!