It’s the post you have been waiting for! Or fearing. Or saying “meh” about. Or laughing at in an embarrassed manner. Well, let me tell you something, you who find Dungeons and Dragons hopelessly nerdy. It… is. But lots and lots of other things are as well. Hey, World of Warcraft player who “grinds” for 20 hours a week: do you *really* think your pastime is less nerdy than me hanging out with a bunch of my friends for 6 hours every other week? At least I have 5 guys pretending to slay the dragon with me (no, that last sentence does not help). For that matter, is there *really* a large difference between this and, say, poker night or being a “fan” of a sports franchise that has absolutely nothing in common with you save the fact that they play home games in a city near you and occasionally allow you to buy tickets to see them?

THE ANSWER IS NO. BE QUIET.

Moving on… I assume you have the DM’s guide, the Player’s Handbook, and the Monster Manual, since these are required to play the game. You also need dice, of course, and your mother’s basement. You can rent it out during the week to baseball statheads.

Monster Manual 2. I will give you Reason #1 why you need to buy the Monster Manual 2: the rust monster. Yes, for some reason this beast was left out of #1. It’s at once perhaps the stupidest monster idea and the greatest ever. Basically, when you encounter one, it is the DM telling you that you have too much cool stuff and he needs to balance the game, with feet. Now they have a new iteration of the rust monster called the dweomer stealer, which… steals dweomers. WTF is a dweomer? Anyway, it eats magic items the way the rust monster eats plate mail armor. I always find these things to be f’ing hilarious: they flat out suck but the fighter in your party who will charge at an adult red dragon will run from one of these things like a little beeyotch.

Featured on the cover, the Demogorgon. Yeah, it’s a two-headed baboon orangutan with tentacles for arms. Say that five times and you will become as autistic as Jenny McCarthy’s child.

Not featured, and by “not featured” I mean “they damn well better be in MM3”: blink dogs.

Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. I am really high on this guide, which could have been a really useless piece of crap… or could have been useful by having stuff in it that should have been in the original DMG. Instead, it’s a great supplement. It’s not as heavy on paragon-level attributes as it advertises, but that’s really fine with me – I think the other books that are out there do a good job of that, particularly if you choose to play in one of DnD’s pre-created gameworlds (more on one of them in a bit).

What the DMG II adds more than anything else is a really, really nice blueprint for adding some heavy RPG elements to your game. DnD has long been the last bastion of fantasy tactical wargaming before you dip over the edge and into Warhammer. It’s decidedly to the RP side of that but at the same time it’s built nowhere near, say, a White Wolf game of Fantasy Monster: The Adjective. 4E is deceptive in this regard: mechanically, it’s a lot more complicated for some classes and only a little bit less for others. Also, virtually all the powers, skills, abilities, magic items, and so on are designed to have some sort of direct application in combat.

The deceptive bit is that this “mechanics are everything” dynamic actually makes it *easier* to roleplay a character of your choice. First of all, there are lots and lots of decisions to make at every level for every character. No longer is your character development limited to a feat every other level, a few spells, and maybe a STR gain at 6th and 11th. Now, every time you gain a level, you literally add a new wrinkle to what your character does on the battlefield.

But that’s not all or anywhere near close to all. By moving all those BS skills like Cooking or Singing off the character sheet, you actually free your players to come up with their own backgrounds to a much greater extent. Was the character a master pastry chef (note: ridiculous example used for effect) before embarking on a life as a bard? Well, you just note it in the background and roleplay it. In 3rd, you had to spend skill points on Cooking: Pastry, skill points that would not be spent on things like Spot Hidden or Appraise and which would therefore make your character less aWesome than a guy who concentrated on nothing but combat.

The DMG2 expands on this by giving the intermediate GM a set of questions he can ask of all new characters as they’re being created. This allows the players to create a fairly complicated backstory without having to do a bunch of homework and in turn allows the DM to get something that he and the rest of the party can work with to generate a campaign around. This was, of course, possible before but it’s nice to see a game company codify things. Additionally, it provides a means of literally allowing the entire party to help provide flavor, more input in the world than “I choose to fight the goblins”, and to stay in the game when the plot calls for the party to split up or for some backstory or a major decision to be explored via a dream sequence.

Open Grave. I am not the biggest fan of zombie horror movies, or really horror movies in general. I guess that as far as horror movies go, I like zombie movies more than most other horror sub-genres. That being said, I *love* Shaun of the Dead and the video game Left For Dead and, let’s face it, what would be cooler than moving that meme into a fantasy roleplaying session (note: if you are not a DnD player I forbid you to answer this question)? Again, you could always do it without an official supplement, but Wizards of the Coast make it much, much easier with this bad boy.

Also, there are several mini-adventures in here – always helpful if you, like me, prefer pulling a campaign out of their own rear end rather than meticulously plan out every single dungeon yourself  – and lots and lots of new undead monsters, including several different kinds of brains in assorted jars, disembodied hands if you want to go with an Addams Family theme, and lots more kinds of zombies and ghouls and so on (MM1 and MM2 have plenty of “normal” undead, so the baddies in here tend to be a little creative). On top of that, there are all the elements to play a 28 Days Later style campaign with zombie-ism caused by infection, undead that sprint after you, and so on.

Dungeon Delve. This supplement actually serves several purposes. For me, it is a wonderful piece of insta-encounter that allows me to cover for when the party I am DMing does something that I did not anticipate in a big way. Boom! “You see an abandoned keep”. That buys me 2 or 3 hours, including some extra RPing I like to throw in, and might just allow me to buy enough time to close the session and spend the next week or two figuring out what to do with the PC choices.

It also helps with more or less the exact opposite situation: if you don’t really want to DM but just want to send a party on a quick, level-appropriate one-shot before the regular DM gets back from vacation or perhaps just to test out how some character designs will work in combat, this Delve‘s for you. You could theoretically take a party all the way from level 1 to 30 just by playing through this book. You’d have to fudge the XP a little bit and maybe hand out a few more magic items, but it could be done.

The third and perhaps most important thing that Delve does is plot out a whole bunch of sample encounters: 3 per level for a total of 90 in the book. You can read through this and get a great idea as to how to both set up an individual encounter that’s fun and challenging and also put together an entire day’s worth of matches. The dynamics of the encounter have changed a great deal from earlier versions. This book helps you to understand just *how* they’ve changed.

Eberron: The Campaign Guide and The Player’s Guide. Okay, I cheated on the last one because it’s two books. Since you really need both to run this gameworld, I still stand by it.

First, buying a pre-generated gameworld just plain saves time. There’s still a lot to learn about Eberron and you’d (eventually) do well to go out and buy all the 3.5 material that’s available for this world, but reading a couple hundred pages with pretty pictures and fancy graphs takes a whole heck of a lot less time than making everything up on your own. I know, I know, a lot of DMs do what they do precisely because they *get* to make up their own world, but here’s the thing: that’s really not your job as Dungeon Master. Your job as DM is to facilitate a good time through everyone involved. If that means having your party explore a detailed world because they’re all Storytellers, so be it. If that means getting into lots of combat because they’re all Slayers… well, that’s a perfectly legitmate reason to play as well. If you want to bring those Slayers out of their slaying shells and, you know, roleplay more and get into the milieu, the way to do it is not by forcing them to digest lots of world-related crap but to draw them in session by session.

Having a pre-genned world actually helps with this in that it allows you to take a step back and work more on the game-facilitation aspects of things. I know first-hand how tempting it is to just make your party play the game your way: after all, you’re the one who spent dozens of hours making that world and designing all those maps and creating all those world leaders, and now a bunch of jackoffs who couldn’t even create their own characters ahead of time want to sidestep your main plotline and just go break into houses??? ARGH. Anyway, the players aren’t hijacking things because they hate you, they’re trying to play the game their way. Using somebody else’s game world helps you to see that.

So… why Eberron and not Forgotten Realms? FR has pretty much become the generic gameworld DnD is based upon. That’s all well and good, and I guess if you are bringing older players back into the game, introducing Baldur’s Gate and Elminster and so on can help get them into it, but Eberron is just plain *different*. It’s a lot more Star Wars than the “points of light” system DnD calls its base. You’ve got individuals rather than races embracing good and evil, far-flung lands to explore, creative applications of magic that look a lot like technology (see: sending stones and the lightning rail), and lots of competing factions that can put together a really The Third Man kind of feel if you allow it to. There’s a good deal of Indiana Jones in this gameworld as well, not to mention The Maltese Falcon if you can think that way about an RPG. In its own way, it takes players just a little bit out of the genre without blowing up the game mechanics. And that, to me, is cool.

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As a big-time Anglophile making a trip to England for the very second time and also a big fan of English humor, it was only inevitable that I would go to see the area of London where the movie Shaun of the Dead was filmed. Well, I guess it wasn’t inevitable, seeing as how I didn’t go to Wells (where Hot Fuzz was set). I have to thank Dara O’Reilly from snopes for taking me here and being kind enough to stand back and just look embarrassed when I acted like a total tourist.

This is the outside of Shaun’s house. From what Dara said, right after the filming wrapped, the person who owned this house did some remodelling. Therefore, you can tell that this is THE house because it looks absolutely nothing like the movie.

This is the top floor, which I’m pretty sure you didn’t see at all in the movie. Still, I just like how it looked and I own a digital camera.

And here we have the sidewalk out in front of the house where the kid played keepy-uppy and, later, where a hung-over Shaun stumbled past the zombie version of said kid and the zombie spare change asker. This will be mother-f’ing AWESOME in 50 years. AWESOME.

Here’s the 4-way intersection right down the road from the house. One thing I like about this neighborhood is that everything’s right next to each other. In the movie the newsagent, which you can see just behind the tree in this picture, was a 20-second walk from the house. That’s right about accurate. It would have been a bummer if it was like 4 blocks away, but it’s not.

Okay, this was my major geek moment. I have to apologize again to Dara for this. I walked in here and started taking photos like I was a big fat paparazzi. I love how the place is laid out like *exactly* the same as how it was laid out in the movie. Granted, there are only so many ways you can lay out a newsagent’s but still… you’ve got the Coke machine halfway down (I bought a Diet Coke for nostalgia’s sake but did not keep the can because I’m not THAT bad) and the ice cream machine right up front. The whole entire thing’s set up just right for a zombie-fied owner to be hanging out in the back while you whip out a pop and early morning ice cream and then deposit some change on the counter.

A close-up of the Coke machine (see the Coke cans midway down) and the ice cream machine. You know, in places like this in Seattle (we don’t call them newsagents but I’d be darned if I know the American equivalent – convenience stores?) they *still* have Sleepless In Seattle T-shirts available. 20 years after that movie came out. In areas nowhere near where Tom Hanks lived. I will grant you, London is a much larger city than Seattle and therefore not liable to devote like 7392762398% of its tourist capital to the fact that one time Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan made a movie that was sort of here and named after us also. That being said, Crouch End is just one little borough of London, and Shaun was a paean to Crouch End to a much, much larger extent than Sleepless cared at all about the city of Seattle, other than how the words alliterate. You’d think there’d have been some button or gewgaw you could buy.

This is a look down the street. Obviously. Dara insists that this is like a symbolic image of England, all the houses in a row. I had to object that I’ve seen a thousand streets that look just like this in the USA. Granted, maybe US streets look like this precisely *because* they want to imitate England, but that still doesn’t differentiate Old Blighty with the New World or whatever nickname you want to ascribe to the US of A. I am particularly tempted to quote the theme song from Weeds: “Little houses, little houses, little houses made of ticky tacky, little houses etc. and they all look just the same.” But I will not give into that temptation.

This is the little green space where the zombie ate the pigeon while Shaun watched from across the street. Then a bus went by and he disappeared. It really is right across the street from the flower shop. Sadly, I got there too late in the day to actually go in there and make a fool of Dara in two locations instead of one.

And here’s the pub. No, it’s not actually the pub that’s in the movie. Apparently this was the one piece of continuity that Simon Pegg and co. had to break with. I guess the Queen’s Arms was considered too dark. Besides, how do you make a “Q” with your hands? Anyway, it’s kind of a moot point where exactly the pub is because they recreated the interior out in a movie studio way over to the west of this area.

The interior was much, much different than the studio as well. Instead of feasting on pork rinds (or whatever they call them in England) and warm beer, I had… well, warmish beer again since this is England (actually, the beer’s not that warm; it stays in cool cellars. It’s just not ice-cold like crappy American lager) and bangers and mash, which is what they call sausages and mashed potatoes. Sausages and mashed potatoes are a major English pub food. And I have to say, they are delicious. Dara’s sister also joined us at this point and drank something that was approximately half rasberry juice and half Guinness. I don’t know which country claims that concoction.

Thanks again, Dara!

With the news that my friend Dale over at popbunker.net has just received a free book to review because he reviewed some other book, it has come to my attention that as a blogger who is now approaching 1/2 of a milliWheaton* in daily hits, it is time for me to perhaps try and pimp myself out for swag. So without further adieu:

Actually, this looks kind of gross.

Roast Beefs: I am a big fan of all things, erm, slaughtered. I know this does not make me a good liberal, but still… if you give me a big mass of beef and then you cover it with some sort of cheese and perhaps add bacon, I am a happy man. It’s not that I hate animals. Well, it is partially that. They are always staring at me with their beady eyes, thinking their animal thoughts. I think you’d have to be crazy in my situation *not* to hate them. That being said, I also enjoy how they and, in the case of cheese, their entrails taste. There is a good moral lesson here: if you are going to be that obstreperous and also that delicious, you deserve to be eaten.

Related swag: ranch dressings, barbecue sauces, pastas (but only if they include chicken, beef, or pork or perhaps all of the three together), “garden patties” (but only if they are made of beef).

Trips to Far Away Lands. I’ve now been out of the United States exactly twice, both times to London** and as such can be easily impressed. Seriously, if you were to send me a ticket to some place in Brandenburg and add a hotel room for a week, I would totally write nice things about you. Just don’t expect the same for a train ticket and 3 days in North Dakota. A Greyhound bus ticket and a half-night in Spokane is right out.

Other Blogs. I’m not sure how this would work but I am certain that if successful, this endeavor would rip a hole in the space-time continuum. So let’s give it a go, blog peoples!

I HAVE CANCER OF THE ARM.

Tickets to the Gun Show. There’s nothing I like more than to get not just one, but two tickets to the gun show. Also, will you find some way to contort your arm so that you can flex your “tri”? Perhaps you could point to your shoe. I think it’s a mark of American sophistication and mastery of all the important things in the world that the word “triceps” takes too long for your standard bodybuilder to say and therefore must be replaced by a monosyllable. See also “glutes”, “delts”, “pecs”, “quads”, and “bis”. Not “lats” though because the term “latissimus dorsi” really is just plain stupid and long.

Moneys. My idea here is that you will send me lots of different kinds of currency, I will describe what it looks like, how it feels, and so on, and then I will recount my experiences trying to purchase items with it. Obviously, this is going to need to be American currency, owing to the fact that the local California Pizza Kitchen does not accept the Euro anymore. Also, I will state up front that I can be bought, and that furthermore the larger the denominations, the better you will be received. Finally, people who think they can “make a funny” by sending me Nixon $3 bills or George W. Bush Deficit Special -$1 bills, I am onto you.

*Note: if you are a swag giver awayer, please do not click this link and instead assume that a milliWheaton is a very, very large number. Look, it has the term “milli” in it.

**Canada does not count.

What is the DEAL with me not updating this ish? I was all about to clue everyone in on the Londonosity of London when a strange thing happened: I didn’t feel like it. Yes, I know what you are saying… “you, Johnny Slick? You, who possess an attention span of a fruit fly bereft of oranges, got bored with something?” To which I say, that was an awfully intellectual use of the term ‘bereft’ and I do not mean that in a good way. Also, yes it is the truth.

In the meantime, my life has entered a wacky new direction. Well, wacky for me. Probably embarrasingly nerdy for you, dear reader, who periodically checks in to see if I have updated my capybara picture collection. In a nutshell, I play a game known as the Dungeons and Dragons. You may remember it as the thing that makes children worship the devil and go into sewers in search of monsters. Fittingly, I am now the “Dungeon Master” of the group that I am in, meaning that I kinda sorta come up with the stories everyone else in the group plays out. No, there is no live action component, although I am the kind of “DM” who finds playing things out to be a lot more fun than doing things like “rollng to hit” or “ordering pizza”.

I’ll probably write something about that. Unless I get bored.

Enclosed is a longish discussion of what I did this time around. I’ll get into most of this stuff in more detail later but for now, here is the gist…

As an aside, this was *not* my first trip to London. I went here this past April/May for 10 days and while I thought it was amazing I was a little overwhelmed and didn’t experience everything I wanted to. Speaking of which, you’ll probably find that I kept a rather frenetic pace, faster than what most people may want to take. In some cases, it really wasn’t *that* fast – walking down a London street sometimes becomes a tourist experience even if all you were doing was aimlessly wandering – but overall, yes, I am a mid-30s male travelling alone and as such was not tied down with “commitment” or “anything resembling a social life I needed to keep up”.

So, bottom line: if this inspires you to go to old Blighty and you find you can’t keep up, don’t feel bad. You probably weren’t able to keep up because you are cooler than I am.

Friday

Got in at about noon and boy, was I tiiiired. I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the couple weeks previously and was kind of hoping that this would have the effect of allowing me to sleep on the plane but no, that’s not how the world works. Took the Pecadilly tube all the way from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the Pembury Hotel, which frankly is a dump but that isn’t a totally bad thing – after all, I wasn’t in London to hang out in my lodgings.

Made two very, very big mistakes the first day. First was trying a doner kebab. I was later told by English friends that they are, in fact, awful, and this particular one was probably bad even for a doner kebab (I say “probably” because I did not try one again on the trip). The heat lamp for the spit hadn’t been turned on until I came in, which right there told me I probably should have chose something else. It was dry, the chili sauce barely made a dent into the cardboardy taste, and in the end there was just too much of it. I’m lucky I didn’t give myself food poisoning!

The other big mistake, the one that cut the day short, was that I decided to take a little nap at around 4. I figured I’d get up at 6 or so and go on out to Leicester Square or somewhere similarly nighty to experience that aspect of London culture. Yeah. I woke up at 11:30, tried in vain for a few hours to use the hotel’s wi-fi, and took a pill to get back to bed at 2.

Saturday

My first real day in! I decided to take the DLR down to Greenwich, only to find that the DLR was closed all weekend. A lesser person would have decided that the entire city was conspiring against them and hole up in their awful, awful hotel, but not me! I took the alternate bus service instead – complete with Greenwich-area traffic jam at 9 in the morning – and managed to take in the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. Since I got there before those places opened I stopped in at a local pub to get some breakfast, which was interesting in its own right if you’re interested in the “little things”.

First up, English breakfast. What is your peoples’ fascination with beans? Eggs I get, sausages I completely understand, the mushroom I can figure out, even chips I can justify because they’re not too far off from hash browns, but… beans? I don’t wish to cast aspersions but perhaps this is why you folk are so regaled for your “ironic” sense of humor: just as you can never really tell whether an Englishman is taking the piss, you can also never tell whether he is about to let out a breakfast fart.

Second, it was again 9 in the morning and I counted more than one person in said pub relaxing with a fine ale. I don’t know what you call that in old Blighty but in the States that is known as “alcoholism”.

Anyway, the Maritime Museum and the Observatory were both very fine. The MM features a very large propellor from a (obviously) much larger boat that slowly turns and turns as though it were about to fall off and kill you. It also houses a 1930s era speedboat which is apparently famous for losing to a faster American boat (AHAHAHA WE WIN AGAIN LIMEYTOWN) and a good bit of memorabilia surrounding the Thames and, of course, England’s history of naval warfare. Oh, also the outfit that Horatio Nelson wore when he was shot at the Battle of Trafalgar. You can even see the hole in the jacket where the bullet punctured, although the dried blood on his socks is, I am told, from his secretary.

The Royal Observatory was, for me, even cooler, probably because I am a first-class nerd. Seeing all the clocks that were used to try and solve the question of how to figure out longitude was a very educational experience. Longitude is one of many things that we take for granted now but when you think about it, it’s not so easy to figure out when you don’t have a GPS or onboard digital clock (which you can cross-reference with at noon to figure out where, exactly, you are). Because I like to buy stupid touristy things, I got a couple of maps of London at the Observatory – one from the Tudor era, the other from 1902.

It was only around 1 even after I spent about an hour at a local Internet cafe so I took a bus down to the south end of the city to experience the Imperial War Museum. The IWR is a fantastic place, maybe the best museum in all of London (I have to give the British Museum negative marks for stealing so much of their stuff from other, poorer countries). There’s a good deal of very intricate coverage of the two World Wars, so if you’re a fan of that period you’ll likely go gaga over seeing so many relics in person.

If you’re not, it may behoove you to do a teeny bit of research for your own personal enjoyment. It’s not that the exhibits are not well-documented – if there is one thing the English know how to do, it’s make a museum – but I have found that you tend to reach a point of saturation when reading museum murals, after which point you start looking at a 1940s era Serbian Army uniform and saying to yourself, “yep, that’s a uniform all right. Just like that English one I just saw. Where is the exit?” Museums can be great places to learn but IMO they aren’t really there for first-level learning. It’s because humans generally find true understanding after experiencing a subject in a number of ways. Just as book-learning will give you an incomplete sense of a subject, so will learning only by looking at artifacts. If you remember only what you learned in high school, I’d go so far as to recommend you read a good, gripping non-fiction book about the conflicts before entering the War Museum. Stephen Ambrose’s “Citizen Soldier”, for example, has been reviled for its plagiarism and sometimes loose association with the facts, but it would not receive that sort of publicity if it were not also very, very good in its own right.

That’s about the extent of what I did on Saturday and I’ve already prattled on enough about this day too much. Next!

Sunday

On the bus ride on Saturday I’d spoken to an old friend from high school who had recently moved out to the City That Is Named London and we decided to get together this afternoon. I had the morning, then, all to myself. I strolled down Picadilly Street from the Circus towards Green Park. There are a good many places that are primarily shopping places for the rich that have become famous in their own right. The biggest example of this is The Ritz hotel, the place where the old song says that angels dine as well as the inspiration for the 1980s Taco hit “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (yes, I’m aware that it was a cover and perhaps the worst cover of “Puttin’ On The Ritz” ever). There’s also Fortnum and Mason, who sell impossibly expensive lunches and have a store facade that looks like they’re selling mermaids and dreams, and the arcades, covered avenues where you can purchase $600 sweaters.

I met up with Kaytie and her husband at Covent Garden, which we used primarily as a meeting-point but which is a sight to see in its own right. It’s a bit like Pike Place Market in Seattle, only older and a lot more dignified. It doesn’t have quite as much of the hippie anything-goes aura around it; it’s more of a place to antiques and clothing than organic food and left-wing news. Still, it does have its fair share of street performers and buskers and the facade is in and of itself reason to pick this place out.

They were torn between Spitalfields Market and Kew Gardens, so I elected to break the deadlock with Kew. Nothing against Spitalfields (which I never did get to see) but I know what an open-air market looks like and can see that sort of thing all I want at home. Kew Gardens, though… how does one best describe it? It’s like a zoo, only for plants. I was here in autumn so the leaves were beginning to change, which is a stunning effect with a park the size of Kew. There were greenhouses and little walking sections devoted to just about every climate that holds plant life in the world, from the American Southwest and its cacti (a location where children seem to enjoy running around at full speed – do they not have Road Runner cartoons in England?) to the Middle East to the South Pacific to Siberia. Some of the proceeds earned from the Gardens go towards a project that is dedicated to collecting the seeds of every plant on the planet. This is so that they can be replanted if they ever go extinct in the wild. Apparently this action has already saved at least one species that was destroyed in the Australia dust storms and fires this summer.

One minor bummerino: there is a very awesome area in Kew Gardens known as the Forest Walk where you get to walk around at the level of the treetops and experience the forest canopy. This, well, should have been a wondrous experience but I was in for a bit of a rude shock. When I was younger I was deathly afraid of heights. Anything over oh, around 20 feet in the air made my heart beat about twice as fast as normal and made me want to sit down right where I was. This fear seemed to have gone away with childhood but up at the top of the Walk I felt it all coming back. It didn’t help that the Walk swayed with the wind, or that they made it with corrugated steel where you could look down and see the ground far, far below.

That evening I got together with a couple of English friends I know from the series of tubes. We engaged in that most English of pastimes: kicking back a few pints and conversating. This was at a place near Turnpike Road; when I asked the station agent at Finsbury Park how much it was going to cost to get out there, we had this exchange:

Agent: (baffled) Why are you going out *there*?
Me: To meet a couple of friends.
Agent: Well, don’t be out there too long.

What was funny about this (and apparently hilarious to my drinking mates) was that Finsbury Park is not particularly well known as a posh, low-crime area.

So I am currently in London capybara capybara. The 3.25 people who read this page capybara are probably already aware of this because they are my parents, a friend who I pay $50 a month to read this site, and the daughter of the Humanzee who is omnipotent. Still, here I am and that means more pix when I get back. Speaking of which, if anybody wants pix locations in particular, let me know. As noted, there are no capybara in the London Zoo and I cannot frankly think of any reason why there’d be one anywhere else in the city. The Aquarium, perhaps, if they keep sharks in there and ran out of fish.

When I composed this list, it was way back in the year 2007. George Bush was still President, we still had an economy, and things were so, so much different then. The Internet did not even have pictures, which can be the only explanation as to why I did not include any. Anyway, I post this with pix now so that you may enjoy the effervescent Slickosity.

**************

Yes, it is time to compose another top X list. One of my favorite books is the Book of Lists. Another one of my favorites is Moneyball, but that doesn’t really have any bearing on this post. It’s just fun to list things, yo.

And by “top 5”, I don’t necessarily mean best. In this case I mean a combination of “most cynically conceived” and “most hilariously devoid of education content”. In that respect, I can’t really include “Trading Spaces” because, devoid of anything educational that it is (other than “don’t let the crazy lady redesign your house”), it’s not something you’d ever even potentially see a schoolteacher TiVo and then play for his/her class as a means of not having to put together a lesson plan for that day. No, these are straight-out documentaries.

Come on, now. It was just a chimp that walked upright.

Come on, now. It was just a chimp that walked upright.

“Humanzee” I think that this documentary had a lot of promise but I haven’t seen it at all on any of the channels save the one time. Basically, it’s the story of a pet chimp some couple purchased back in the 1960s that they think might have been half human. I don’t even want to think about how that would have come about. I really, really hope that it involved test tubes. But that’s not all! Supposedly there have been several human/chimp hybrids but they have all been killed by angry mobs and/or the government.

Extra credit bonus points: There’s a scene in the documentary where the female half of the aforementioned couple recounts a time when the Humanzee apparently sexually assaulted her. This was relayed in a jokey, off-the-cuff manner, which somehow manages to increase the creep factor of an already naturally creepy show.

“The Tunguska Explosion” The Tunguska Explosion is something that really occurred. The latest theories on the subject involve a largish comet that bounced off the Earth’s atmosphere and released insane terror on a remote section of Sibera. It’s actually a pretty interesting phenomenon.

However, I guess that the producers of the doc decided it wasn’t interesting enough because this is the most extreme Educational Channel Program I think I’ve ever seen. Here are the tenets of Educational Channel Programs:

It's not a matter of if, but when.

It's not a matter of if, but when.

– You never say “this was 3 miles long” or use any English or metric system of measurement for anything. When relaying size, it’s always in terms of football fields. Force is ALWAYS – and this CAN NEVER BE SUBSTITUTED FOR ANYTHING ELSE – measured in Hiroshima bombs. I forget how many Hiroshima bombs the Tunguska explosion was worth but it was worth a lot of them.

– You have to find creative ways to make whatever phenomenon you’re talking about Newsworthy and Important to your average channel-surfing, gum-clacking viewer. In the case of “Tunguska”, this is done by scientists repeatedly saying things like “it’s not a matter of if but when”.

– If you can create a corny CGI of a city being destroyed and find a good reason to include it in the doc, you must. In fact, you must repeat the image about 400 times because CGI costs money, dammit.

– If it involves a war, you are legally required to have 8 people dress up in period clothing. This will be your army, and you will do nothing but take close-up shots of their feet and faces because then maybe viewers won’t figure out that you didn’t actually send a cameraman out to the Battle of Thermopylae.

This, of course, did not involve a war, which is unfortunate because I would have really liked to see the feet and heads of 8 to 10 Cossacks at some point in this. It did have the other 3 things I mentioned and included them gloriously. A friend of mine developed a drinking game around this particular doc which involves taking a shot every time you hear the words “football field”, “Hiroshima bomb”, or “it’s not a matter of if but when”. I do not recommend doing this as it is possible to die from alcohol poisoning.

Look, God! I can shoot crap out of my butt! Can the humans please make an EXTREME animal show and feature me in it?

Look, God! I can shoot crap out of my butt! Can the humans please make an EXTREME animal show and feature me in it?

The entire Most Extreme Animals series I admit, I’ve watched most of these. But you know what? I am a man in my mid-30s and that means I get to fill my brain with whatever fluff I want to fill it with. Children, on the other hand, do not need to know what the Top 10 Most Grossest Animals Ever X-TREME are (yes, the snot eel made the list). My favorite aspect of this show is when they transform evolved animal abilities into superhuman powers. “If you could use sonar like a dolphin, you’d have to have a really big head and a protruding jaw. Basically, you’d look like Jay Leno.”

“The Real Da Vinci Code” Thankfully, we’re not seeing so many of these as we did last year. Here’s the real code: THERE IS NO FUCKING CODE, OKAY? IT WAS A CRAPPY BOOK MADE INTO A CRAPPIER MOVIE.

Somehow, the fact that this was called "Animal Face-Off" makes it even more awesome. Or lame. I don't have a good barometer for these things.

Somehow, the fact that this was called "Animal Face-Off" makes it even more awesome. Or lame. I don't have a good barometer for these things.

The “(carnivore) Versus (carnivore)” series As happy as I am that there are no more Da Vinci Code docs being made, I am saddened that this series – which was hyped to a MASSIVE degree back in 2005 – is not only not still being made but isn’t even being shown anymore. The idea for the show was this: let’s take 2 animals that could beat the crap out of your average person and see who would win a “battle” between the two. They would actually in many cases create a life-size metal animal head and have it clamp down on something to demonstrate its jaw power. This, of course, did not actually demonstrate jaw power so much as it demonstrated the power of a chunk of metal with a hydraulic thingie behind it, but that’s not the important part. They’d end the hour with a CGI animation of one animal clobbering the other and then – my favorite part – the scientists talking all kinds of trash as though one just broke the other’s ankles Iverson-style. There should be more trash-talking in science.

Well, there you have it. My top 5. To those that didn’t make the list: try harder and include more references to Hiroshima bombs.