Games, life, whatever: a blog from Steve Lawson

My fair share of abuse

President Trump and VP Pence and Senator Gardner were in Colorado Springs this week for one of Trump’s rallies: that loathsome combination of a bad stump speech, a bad stand-up routine, a bad rant from your drunk/senile racist relative, and a Nuremberg rally.

I went to the protest outside the World Arena, and here are things I want to remember before my thoughts start to fade.

I used a cartoon from President Supervillain for my poster.

It’s not that fun

I planned to go, made a poster, told lots of people I was going, both to try and get someone to come with me and to make sure I wouldn’t back out. Starting the evening before, I really didn’t want to go. Being there was not exactly fun, though it did feel good to yell out my anger. By the time the protest was ending the sun had gone behind the mountain and it was getting quite cold. My throat hurt, my back hurt, the traffic was terrible.

It’s disappointing that more people aren’t there

I had heard that Trump’s rallies in recent years were losing attendance, but with the election less than a a year away and with the right-wing leylines of the military and fundamentalist Christianity crossing in the Springs, that certainly wasn’t the case at this event. There were 10,000 – 20,000 fascist sympathizers there to hear Trump attack the press, mock his opponents in schoolyard bully terms, and spew racist garbage, and maybe 200-300 people there to protest.

Protesting were a bunch of Boomer traditional Democrats, a smallish group of more radical leftists (anarcho-socialist flags, face masks, etc.), and a bunch of harder to classify people like me. Two small groups of college students recognized me, and I saw one other college staff member. I didn’t see a single CC professor which made me unreasonably angry. Professors are incredibly busy doing important work for the college and their students, but they are also incredibly autonomous and privileged. I was just really disappointed none of them made it out.

I can’t blame any individual for not showing up, and this is only the second protest I’ve been to in four years. But that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.

I need to help organize

So if I want more people to show up next time, I need to do more than just talk to friends and make some Facebook posts. I need to help organize on campus, help people make signs, give people rides, etc.

The opposition are happy to be seen as cruel tasteless cretins

They wear tacky crass stuff like this, or t-shirts that say “fuck your feelings.” I got flipped off by a ton of passing boomers. I did feel a little sorry for this fascist souvenir vendor who had their table set up right where the protesters completely obscured it. But not too sorry.

I shouldn’t be anyone’s pawn

One dumb thing I did at the protest was to start chanting “Nazis out!” at an InfoWars jerk with a camera and a microphone. He said, “who’s the Nazi? Me? I’m a Jew!”

So I should have probably just stuck with my original plan to just tell people to “enjoy your hate rally.” I hope I didn’t end up on some dumbass InfoWars reel, giving them free content.

There were also Trump supporters taking photos with protesters in the background. I tried to move out of the way for those.

But I also felt this from the protesters, too. The more radical protesters wanted us to get in the street which was fine, and the cops allowed it. But toward five o’clock as Trump was scheduled to start speaking, the organizers of that group wanted to try and close down the road. The assembled riot police got ready to move in immediately. This is when I left.

I felt bad at first for not being willing to get arrested, as they were hoping more people would fill the street. But then I thought of how poorly that had been planned and they shouldn’t have been expecting people to join them who hadn’t already planned on getting arrested. Plus it was such an empty gesture. It wouldn’t even symbolically interfere with the rally that was underway inside.

Cops are dangerous

Photo by Leal Lauderbaugh as published on the Gazette website

According to the Gazette,

Friday, Sgt. Jason Newton said officers issued “several warnings for the protesters to move from the street and back onto the sidewalk.”

“Several protesters decided to take that opportunity to move; a few didn’t,” Newton said. “In order to protect public safety, we made a decision to move in and make those arrests.

The protesters who didn’t move from the street were causing a hazard to public safety, Newton said, citing Colorado Springs’ increasing pedestrian death tolls over the past two years.

“In situations like that it’s extremely dangerous for community members to step out onto the street,” Newton said. “We want them to express their First Amendment rights, we just want them to do it in a safe manner. Our two main functions are to ensure public safety and to protect the constitutional rights of everybody involved.”

Does it make sense to arrest people for their own safety and put handcuff them on the only wet muddy ground in the area? Maybe that’s better than on the pavement?

Until next time

Photo by Jerilee Bennett, Colorado Springs Gazette

I guess that’s all I have for now. I thought it was important to go. I think it’s important to be ready for what’s to come. I’m anticipating the 2020 election will have tons of irregularities from Russian interference, sophisticated and well-funded disinformation campaigns, and Republican voter-suppression techniques. I’m afraid that Trump will lose the election (popular and electoral votes) but will move to throw out the results and remain in office. If that happens, I fear we will need millions of people in the streets and, I hope, the support of the military elite, who I think must absolutely detest Trump. We certainly can’t count on the cops.

Edit: One more little thing

The smartest thing I did that day was to tape a ribbon to my sign to use as a neck strap kind of like an old-fashioned sandwich board guy (I guess I was an open-face sandwich). It meant my hands were free if I wanted them to be.


I got in a dumb exchange on Facebook yesterday with a friend-of-a-friend Trump supporter. They wanted to know “what people think Trump has done” for us to hate Trump so much.

I don’t think that’s a very good-faith question, so I just suggested “read a newspaper.” Any front page of a newspaper website should make it clear why people hate Trump.

Let’s see how that advice works out with the front page of the Washington Post right now. Here are headlines that are live as I type this:

That’s one arbitrarily-chosen day of a front page of the newspaper. None of those are opinion pieces.

That’s why I hate Trump.

Upholster the dog for that new-car smell!

I had that sentence come to me while dreaming or half asleep a few weeks ago and wrote it on an index card. I forgot about it until I found it again today. I made a few sketches and then this “finished” drawing. I’m not 100% happy with the lettering, but will keep at it.

Booksmart, dir. Olivia Wilde

I mean, I didn’t hate it. But I’m probably not the target audience for a graduating-from-high-school movie since I have a son who is a high school senior right now.


But who is the audience for semi-raunchy high school comedies? I’d think the kids would find them “cringy” while people my age probably should find them a bit uncomfortable (“ooh, I hope those two teen characters have sex by the end of the movie!”).

The actresses are very good, everyone looks like they are having fun, it’s cool to have a movie like this from the girls’ perspective, it’s cool that one of those girls is a lesbian. It just didn’t really do it for me. I’d assume that Fast Times at Ridgemont High doesn’t really hold up either. I’ll stick with Dazed and Confused which I re-watched year or two ago and thought it did hold up pretty well.

Also this is the second movie I have seen in less than a week where a character vomits on another character for comedic effect. I’m not a fan.

The Prone Gunman, by Jean-Patrick Manchette

I don’t think of myself as much of a crime fiction fan, but I did read Manchette’s Three to Kill years ago. I have also been reading a lot of comics by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and their work on Criminal is reminiscent of Manchette’s novels.

prone gunman

In The Prone Gunman we follow hitman/assassin Martin Terrier as he tries to get out of the business. Predictably his old associates have different ideas and there’s considerable mayhem and bloodshed as Terrier’s situation goes from bad to worse (and worse and worse).

There’s not a lot of emotional depth in the characters, though I did enjoy Terrier’s long lost love who runs away with him and then seems to lose interest in him immediately. The book also has what felt like a pretty abrupt tone shift near the end where I felt it went from mostly straightforward and matter-of-fact to increasingly ironic and absurd. That made me wonder if I’d missed some of that irony all along, perhaps hinted at by the title.

Stray Dog by Akira Kurosawa

I think of myself as a Kurosawa fan, but I’ve only really seen Seven Samurai three or four times and Rashomon probably once. When I was grabbing DVDs to check out for winter break, I picked up his Stray Dog. I didn’t know anything about it, but it said it was a detective story, so I thought it sounded good.

Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura–both also in Seven Samurai–star as a younger and older cop who go in search of the criminal in possession of Mifune’s character’s pistol. It was one of Kuroswa’s earlier movies and is set in contemporary post-war Tokyo, rather than being one of the period pieces he’s more known for.

It feels a lot like a European Noir film to me. The style is mostly realism, but there are some scenes and effects that remind me of Fritz Lang.

The detective story is good and engrossing, but the more interesting parts to me are how it depicts the chaotic and desperate street life of Tokyo in the years immediately following WWII. Mifune’s detective takes to the streets disguised as a down-and-out soldier (a fate that the character evidently only narrowly avoided) and there is a long sequence of documentary footage edited together with footage of Mifune.

The other scene that I expect to remember for a long time is when Mifune’s detective finally catches the perpetrator that he’s come to identify with as a dark mirror to his own character. He chases the criminal into a field or high grasses and wildflowers. Throughout the film it has been unbearably hot in Tokyo and the men sweat and pant and slog through the grass until Mifune finally catches his man and they both collapse and pant and wheeze lying next to each other. Then the criminal begins to cry and moan and wail uncontrollably. Extremely affecting.


Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

I first encountered Haruki Murakami shortly after I started working at the Tattered Cover in 1993. His current book at the time was Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and I found the title and the cover interesting, and I also was interested in reading Japanese novels. And at the time, I considered anything published by Vintage International to be at least potentially interesting.

I loved that book and then read everything I could by Murakami as it was published in English, even using interlibrary loan to get my hands on books that had then been published in English only in Japan. I think my favorite Murakami books along with Wonderland are Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and 1Q84.


So I’m a bit sad that I have to say Killing Commendatore was a disappointment for me. I felt like it checked a lot of Murakami boxes (people down a well/hole, mysterious young women, connections to the past, supernatural stuff happening to bland male protagonists) but didn’t really go anywhere new. I enjoyed the description of the title painting and the role its subjects played in the book, and I enjoyed the painter’s description of his work. But a lot of it felt repetitive, either in the book itself or over Murakami’s body of work. And I found the story of what happened to the girl unsatisfactory.

Which brings me to the creepiest part of the book–the young teenage girl’s concerns about her flat chest. Bringing that up once would have been a fine believable character moment, but the fact that she brings it up again and again and again really reminds you that she’s being written by a 70 year old man and it goes beyond repetitive and unimaginative to just kinda icky.

Back to the game table

I was just the right age to be part of the first mass success of Dungeons and Dragons. I got the Holmes Basic Set probably for my birthday or Christmas at the end of 1980 when I was ten years old.


D&D consumed my imagination for several years, and I think of myself as having played the game constantly as a kid. But when I really think back, I moved at the end of 1982 across the country. I remember talking about D&D with some of the kids at my new school (with the predictable “oh yeah, I have a level 50 magic user / paladin / assassin, we killed Thor and Zeus” kind of talk) and a non-starter of a game of Traveler with a friend. I think I still read Dragon magazine, but really by November of 1982 I’d stopped playing.

And when I was “playing,” what was I doing? I had two friends who were also D&D players. I think I was always the DM. I was the one who first got the rules and actually enjoyed reading them, so I was kind of the natural DM. I read rules, I made characters, I drew maps and mazes. I bought and read and prepared modules. But I feel like we may have only played a handful of times. I frequently re-visit the blog post, what game were we playing? Like the author, a lot of my “play” time didn’t use any of the D&D rules at all.


But I do remember giving T1: Village of Hommlet a real try. I don’t remember much about the sessions, and I doubt I had much of a handle on the different factions in the town — you buried a lot of that information, Gary! — but I think my friends and I were taken with the idea that D&D didn’t have to be a dungeon crawl but could involve interacting with NPCs in a more natural way.

About 10 years ago — after more than 25 years away from the game — I started playing D&D and other role playing games with a group of friends. A week ago, I started a game with my wife and another friend of mine, neither of whom had played since they were kids themselves, and my friends’s 14 year old daughter. As one of our first adventures, I’ll be taking them through the Village of Hommlet, which I’ll be updating to 5th edition.

Minor Decks

I enjoy taking Nick to Friday Night Magic with me, but sometimes it’s a challenge to come up with the right deck for an eight-year-old to play. The major criteria are:

  1. Colors he wants to play (this week);
  2. Mechanics that are fun and not too complicated or various;
  3. Not a complete pile of unrelated cards; and, most importantly,
  4. Not using the cards that I want to use this week. (Kidding, kidding. Kind of.)

I try to interest Nick in linear, straightforward strategies, like Red Deck Wins or White Weenie. But somehow he ends up playing black/blue token/mill decks and five-color superfriends and other wacky decks. Of course he doesn’t win many games that way, so that means we have to try and balance playing what he wants with having at least a shot at winning a few games. When I first went to an SCG IQ event and came home complaining about losing every match, Nick said, “how do you think I feel every week?” How sad is that? So I’m trying to make more competitive decks for him.

This week he wants to play Izzet, so we bought the monstrous (in more ways than one) U/R Theros intro deck, and then stepped on it pretty hard. Here’s what he’ll be bringing to FNM this week:

4x Frostburn Weird
2x Water Servant
2x Wall of Frost
2x Stoneshock Giant
2x Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1x Shipbreaker Kraken
2x Hypersonic Dragon
1x Curse of the Swine
1x Magma Jet
2x Lightning Strike
3x Mizzium Mortars
3x Cyclonic Rift
2x Claustrophobia
2x Shock
1x Steam Augury
2x Jace, Architect of Thought
1x Volcanic Geyser

plus land.

I don’t think that’s a great deck by any measure, but I hope that he’ll be able to clog up the board and remove opponents’ threats early on and then make some big monsters in the late game. That should at least be fun, and perhaps steal a few games from less-prepared opponents. Luckily our metagame often includes some other young guys with janky decks, so there’s a chance Nick will have at least a few close matches. Next week, I think I’m going to try and get him to play U/W fliers or something similar.

Naya Doubts

I have been going around and around with decks. I hope to play in another IQ in Denver at the end of the month, and at first I was very concerned about the M14 set rotating in. I worried that Doom Blade would be too much for Naya Zoo to handle, or that other archetypes would just crowd Naya out. Plenty of pros have written about Naya midrange decks, but they haven’t been putting up really great finishes at top tournaments (with a few exceptions, like GP Guadalajara).

I also didn’t do very well at last week’s FNM with the Naya deck. Going 3-2 at the IQ tournament seemed good, but the same record at our FNM just seems weak and disappointing. I was looking for a different deck.

I have almost all the cards I’d need to make The Aristocrats, Act II deck. All I need are a creature or two and a set of Isolated Chapel. But a lot of the power of that deck comes from understanding all the different interactions that you can create between the cards. It’s the opposite of the Naya beats deck, in that many of the individual cards are unremarkable, but the way they work together is very powerful.

Another option that I have been looking into would be a zombie deck of some kind, most likely B/W or Junk. Zombies are pretty straightforward to play and are getting some help in the M14 set, mostly in the form of Lifebane Zombie. It didn’t seem unreasonable to think about playing zombies in an upcoming tournament.

As kind of a halfway point, I re-created a deck similar to the B/G zombies deck I was playing at the start of Return to Ravnica. Here’s the list:

4x Gravecrawler
4x Diregraf Ghoul
4x Lotleth Troll
4x Bloodthrone Vampire
4x Blood Artist
4x Dreg Mangler
4x Geralf’s Messenger
2x Immortal Servitude
2x Ghoulcaller’s Chant
2x Putrefy
2x Abrupt Decay
2x Golgari Charm

plus Overgrown Tomb, Woodland Cemetery, and Swamps.

I played against Other Steve at the Yellow King tonight, him playing my Naya deck, me playing the zombies. Zombies won our test match, 2-1. So again, I’m not feeling great about the Naya deck’s chances.

But really, it’s the deck I have been playing in one variation or another for weeks and weeks. Switching now would be fine for FNM, but if I’m going to go up to Denver and try and do well in a larger tournament, I think I have to stick with what I know, and I know zoo.