Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Gary Files # 6: Gary Gygax

(Image from his Wikipedia page.)

An explanation: Since the name Gary is going extinct, I thought it incumbent upon me to celebrate more notable Garys than myself.  This is the sixth of a series!

Gary Gygax was, according to the Wikipedia, "an American game designer & author best known for co-creating with Dave Arneson the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Gygax has been described as the father of D&D."

When did you first become aware of him?  In ninth grade, when I was introduced to D&D.  His name was on all the books: Advanced D&D (which I always called The Dungeon Master's Guide), the Monster Manual, & the Player's Handbook, all of which I acquired in time.

Were you a super-nerdy D&D player?  I wanted to be.  But the group I was with wasn't very adventurous (no pun intended).  I remember in my first game asking the Dungeon Master, after he said I did five points of damage to some creature, "What did I do?  Did I take off a limb?  Was there lots of blood?  Will he be able to have children?"  The DM looked at me blankly & said, "You did five points of damage.  Now roll again."

Did you do things to exacerbate the situation?  That's overstating it.  But once I realized that they were not going to be inventive & fun, I went ahead & had my own fun.  I had a paladin I named Perry.  I did this because they were naming their characters Frodo & Bilbo & the like.  When I got a ranger, I named him Iridium, which everyone liked, until I told them it was the name of a metal element.  Then they frowned again.

So you didn't play for a very long time?  All told, probably less than a year.  My friend Scott, who had introduced me to the game, moved away, & then there were only three of us.  Scott kind of was our common friend, we didn't really hang out as a trio after that.  It's very possible that they found other people to play & didn't invite me.  Scott & I would still talk about our characters, but I'm sure he found other people to play with, too.  I never did.

Wait.  I think there might have been an opportunity to play again later in high school, & I might even have joined a group, but my heart wasn't in it.  I was more into listening to music & dealing with my depression at that point.

Was it cool that the guy who invented D&D was named Gary?  I didn't think about it at the time, but then, I never noticed in those early days that I was usually the only Gary in my class.  But I do think the name was unfamiliar enough that for many years, some people would remember my name as Greg.

Is his name really Gary?  It's his middle name.  His full name is Ernest Gary Gygax.  I'm sure he dropped the Ernest for the alliteration.  "Gary Gygax" sounds like the alias for a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby super-villain.

So, the name, it's probably because of Gary Cooper again?  He was born in 1938, so, probably.

What the hell sort of name is Gygax?  Wikipedia said his dad was Swiss.  But.  Your guess is as good (& maybe as equally uninformed) as mine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Self Help Radio 102015: Belonging

(Original image here.)

Do we belong?  This is probably not a question that philosophers & deep thinkers have been asking & answering for many, many years.  It hadn't occurred to me, actually, until I started thinking about doing the show.  But once I did think about it, it became one of the many questions I ask out loud in public places that earn me dirty looks & threats from neighborhood toughs.

Self Help Radio this week attempted to resolve whatever issues about belonging there might be, but not with tired tactics like conversation or reasoning.  Instead, lots of songs said things like "you belong to me" or "you don't belong to me" or "I belong to you" or "I belong to nobody."  You get the drift.  Maybe some questions were answered, however, questions like, "Do heiresses belong on a university campus with their talking dogs?"  & "Is there a sense of belonging in Hollywood"?  & of course "Is the sort of guy who writes a book called You Don't Belong going to be a total jerk?"

You may find out what & who belongs yourself - it might be you, after all - by listening to this week's Self Help Radio episode.  You can find it on the Self Help Radio website.  Please pay attention to the password info there.  The show is in two roughly hour-long parts.  What is played in each hour is listed below.

Once you've downloaded it, the show belongs to you.  No take-backs!

(part one)

"Make Me Belong To You" Barbara Lewis _Hello Stranger: The Best Of Barbara Lewis_
"You Belong To My Heart" Julie London _Sings Latin In A Satin Mood_
"You Belong To Me" Cherry Vanilla _Venus D'Vinyl_

"Tonight You Belong To Me" Cubsimo Grafico _Tout!_
"This Is Where I Belong" The Kinks _Face To Face_
"Your Love Belongs Under A Rock" The Dirtbombs _Ultraglide In Black_
"A Sense Of Belonging" Television Personalities _The Painted Word_

"She Belongs To Me" Bob Dylan _Bringing It All Back Home_
"You Belong To Me" Elvis Costello _This Year's Model_
"Do I Belong?" The Hidden Cameras _Origin: Orphan_
"Right Here Is Where You Belong" Jerry Washington _Cheatin' Soul & The Southern Dream Of Freedom_

"Your Heart Belongs To Me" The Velvelettes _Does Anybody Know I'm Here?: Vietnam Through The Eyes Of Black America 1962-1972_
"She Belonged To Another" The Statesiders _Mindrocker: Anthology Of 60s US-Punk Garage Psych, Vol. 12_
"You Belong To Me" The Chesterfield Kings _Stop!_

(part two)

"We Belong" The June Brides _For Better Or Worse_
"It's The Love" The Breeders _Mountain Battles_
"You Belong With Us" My Favorite _Love At Absolute Zero_

"My Heart Belongs To Daddy" Mary Martin _American Musical Theater: Shows, Songs, & Stars, Vol. 2_
"Where Does Your Heart Belong?" The School _Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything_
"I Belong To Nobody" Flaming Hands _Tales From The Australian Underground: Singles 1976-1989_
"Belong" The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart _Belong_

"She Doesn't Belong To Me" Pete & The Pirates _Little Death_
"You Belong With Me" X-Teens _Love & Politics_
"Bengali In Platforms" Morrissey _Viva Hate_
"Your Mind & We Belong Together" Love _Forever Changes_

"Need To Belong To Someone" Isaac Hayes _Black Moses_

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Whither Belonging?

(I found this image here.)

Ah, a radio program about belonging!  This could indeed be ironic, because certainly for most radio deejays, doing a radio show is a solitary experience.  (I can't speak to commercial radio deejays, however - but they usually don't program their own shows themselves, so it's not something I can relate to.)  But those of us who love radio were drawn to it because of its ability to create a temporary community through love of music.  Sharing what one loves is surely a way to facilitate a sense of belonging.

It turns out, though, I'm kind of a loner.  I have many theories why that is, & it must have something to do with how I was raised, because most if not all of my siblings are (or appear to be) friendless.  Certainly my mother seems content to be by herself most of the time, or to have maybe one or two people whom she sees socially every once in a while.  I'm at my most gregarious when I am part of something I feel strongly about - especially non-commercial radio.  Outside of that, I'm usually reading, or listening to music, or watching a movie, or looking around the internet - stuff that doesn't require a community at all.  Perhaps I don't belong anywhere?

Today of course there are lots of songs about belonging (& not belonging) on Self Help Radio, so I hope you find your way over to 88.1 fm in Lexington (or wrfl dot fm everywhere else) around 4pm till around 6pm for this week's show.  If not, of course, I'll archive it on the SHR website, but you'll feel more like you belong if you listen live.

Just sayin'.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Preface To Belonging: That Groucho Marx Joke

It is going to take all my power to refrain, on tomorrow's show about "belonging," from mentioning one of my favorite quips of all time, by one of my favorite people of all time, Groucho Marx.  He wrote, in his book Groucho & Me: 


To this day I find that so damn funny.  But I won't mention it tomorrow.  I promise.

But it does bring to mind something very real that I often found happening back in the days when I was youngish, carefree, & dating.  I would find myself with a lovely young lady with whom I might or might not have much in common.  There was an initial attraction, so we were going out, but something was off.  I guessed I didn't like her as much as I thought, or perhaps the fact that we had very little in common was more glaringly obvious by the day, but I knew the relationship was doomed.  In most cases, the relationship would end, of course, before that time - a bright young woman would naturally see me for the mediocre human being I am.  But if it were to go on - almost as if by intertia - I'd withdraw, possibly become more passive-aggressive, in order to sabotage the thing.

It doesn't matter what or how, but the relationship, whether two dates or two months long, would end.  & then suddenly - it never failed - suddenly, magically, I would fall heels over head in love with the woman.  I would be obsessive.  I would be heartbroken.  & I thought it might be sour grapes, at first, but I think the opposite would be more true: people usually nurse hate with a broken heart.

No, for me, it was the very Marxist revelation: I admired them for having the good sense, the exquisite taste, to reject me.  Dating me was a mark against them.  Dumping me was such a tremendously wise decision that it caused me to swoon.

In other words: I found it very hard to date a girl who would have someone like me as her boyfriend.

This of course happened in the absence of real love.  When real love happened, I was never bored, or focused on how little in common we had, or anything like that.  & there was no sudden insight of love when the relationship ended - I stayed in love because I was always in love.

Anyway - I won't talk about that, or the Groucho Marx quote tomorrow.  I swear.