Entry for January 15, 2007 — politics, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and role-playing

Friends, I hope you had a good long Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and that his ideals of universal brotherhood (and sisterhood) through the use of nonviolent protest can still inspire the disenfranchised today.

Jim J.D'B. and I have been debating U.S. foreign policy again, but aside from agreeing on the need to protect U.S. interests and address conflict in the Middle East, we have different assumptions and goals. Some friends, such as Steve A.L. and liberal Democrats in Congress, prefer peaceful disengagement, arguing that we've overstayed our welcome and effectiveness. Others, such as Erik B.L. and me, recommend international protection of the rights of ethnic minorities and women while clamping down on violence, preferably through the U.N. and similar multinational institutions.

Some conservative Republicans such as Jim and Ron J.K. share the president's determination to use the U.S. military to try to gain control of the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and hopefully the entire region (including Iran). While I respectfully disagree, we do need to support the troops now or soon to be overseas and devise a more comprehensive policy to deal with terrorism and its causes.

Alas, the proper conditions and political will for nation-building are not present in the Near East, Middle East, or much of Africa right now. If the U.S. government has been too slow to rebuild New Orleans and too trusting of private contractors, the problem areas of the world will need more than our so-called leadership. Americans shouldn't expect to be popular abroad in light of such policies.

Last week was a bit sketchy at work. After taking a half day off on Monday, 8 January 2007, because of an intestinal bug, I was out another two days at midweek because of Janice. However, her parents did visit, and we received our new dining room set–a pub-height one.

Although selling our old table and six chairs initially seemed easy on CraigsList, the first three people who agreed to take them fell through on us. By the weekend, Janice and I were feeling well enough to venture out to Shopper's World near where I work in Framingham, Massachusetts. Service at "Olive Garden" was surprisingly slow at lunchtime.

We then met Beruk A. and Thomas K.Y. at the AMC Framingham 16 to screen "Pan's Labyrinth," which we mostly liked. Guillermo del Toro's modern fantasy set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War had some nice surrealist elements and drew from the darker side of folkore, but it was a bit depressing. I'd give the film about an 8 out of 10. We then had a decent dinner at "Bugaboo Creek."

David I.S., Ron, Dexter V.H., and Steve M.R. all telephoned this past week, but there was relatively little news to share since the holidays. However, we're looking forward to birth announcements from Cliff & Eliza Y. and from Peter & Kelly. We're also concerned about the health of nieces on Janice's side, including Jessica W.

On Sunday, Jan. 14, I played "City of Heroes" solo. Actually, "Nightfall IIb" joined a party, but not the usual team of David I.S./"the Excoriator" and Kim M.E.A.G./"Lady Bewilder," who had helped "Gwydion" with a particularly difficult mission last Thursday night. We're still waiting for Steve and Thomas to come online.

Speaking of games, I again have an embarrassment of riches in my D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains" Arabian fantasy campaign on Tuesday nights, since I've had to again turn away prospective role-players! Both the Yahoo/eGroups Web club and Meetup.com site have been productive.

When Paul J./"Rache" and Brie/"Rhiannen" return to college, I may allow one into the current Boston-area group, although with Byron V.O./"Kemosh" participating by videoconference, most of the guys prefer to keep the party small. If any more potential female players come through, however, I'll welcome them, just to help round out the team.

Thanks to Paul, I did take advantage of online sales to replace more books lost in the basement floods of autumn 2005, as well as to pick up some miniatures and shadow boxes for my extensive action-figure collection (see photos). Now, all I have to do is file hundreds of photos and comic books! I did catch up on newspapers while in the waiting room last week and during this past weekend's football games–Go Patriots!

Speaking of superheroes, in addition to playing "City of Heroes" and D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed., reading comic books/graphic novels, and watching various genre movies, Janice and I caught up on some DVDs this past weekend. We watched the excellent animated "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman," which had a strong voice cast, continued the style of the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm (et al.) cartoons from the 1990s, and had actual character development and plot. The "Chase Me" feature on the DVD was a fun wordless mini-episode.

Although I'm off today for the holiday, I've been busy with errands. I have a dental appointment before tomorrow's D&D3.5 session, and my annual review at work should be this week. In the meantime, take it easy… Next time: Music!