Monday, September 24, 2007

Breast Cancer and the World of Warcraft

This last weekend a beautiful woman who happens to have breast cancer met a bunch of her husband’s crazy friends from another country who showed up to support her. Feather is the woman, Chris is her husband, and I was one of his friends. Chris, however, had never seen most of us in real life, yet we had played together for years. We had only met online, playing World of Warcraft.

Chris is a skilled World of Warcraft player, where we know him as Esstatum. He’s part of our guild, The Twilight Folk. Night after night, we log onto our computers and play together. We talk in chat boxes and over headphones. That’s how we knew about Feather, and her cancer.

Feather’s chemotherapy prevents her from working, and her paycheck was critical to keeping their household afloat. Chris is a talented musician, as is his brother Colin (another Guildie) and sister Kelsey. Canadian health care pays for a lot, but not everything, and not the cost of extra child care and the bills that Feather’s paycheck used to cover. So Chris and his sibs put on a benefit concert.

Colin posted information about the benefit to our guild’s web site, and before you could say “WTF, dude” about a dozen of us Twilight Folk from Washington and Oregon were heading up to Abbotsford, British Columbia for the Janz Family Benefit Concert.

Chris, Colin, and Kelsey are children Paul Janz, an award winning singer/songwriter who topped the Canadian charts in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I suspect that is why, out of the hundreds that attended the benefit concert, I was not the oldest. As a 51 year old, live music lover, I’m used to being the oldest one in the house.

Kelsey led off, with a fantastic folk rock set. Kind of like Ricky Lee Jones meets Beth Orton in Sheryl Crow’s basement. We kept whispering about her accompanist. “Is that Colin?” No, it wasn’t, but Kelsey’s voice was amazing, so we shut up and listened.

Next up, Colin, known to us as the naughty dwarf priest Kierkegaard in WoW. Loud, proud, and amazing, backed by a guitarist, bassist, and Chris on the drums. If I had to compare Colin’s music, I’d say it ranged from Coldplay to Tool. Only better. The drumming was insanely intense and complex. Well, Chris pwd that drum kit, it never stood a chance. Colin’s got a great voice writes powerful material. He’s working on a CD now, I can’t wait. Entropy rocks, it was my favorite song.

Then we got to meet Feather, on a big screen video. What a beautiful woman. Feather (her parents were hippies) had breast cancer before, so having it again is so unfair. As a side note, the Best Westin in Abbortsford, where Feather used to work, put us up with a sizeable discount, since we were coming up for the benefit. She loves her community, and it comes right back.

Chris was the main act, and, backed by a bass, keyboards, and drums, he did most of the music from his CD Fly. Chris is a songwriter and balladeer with an amazing voice. On some songs he reminded me of Jackson Browne, others Sting, but mostly he was his own man. Fly’s been getting airplay in B.C., and I’m sure people where there just to hear him sing.

Afterwards, we got to party with the Janz’s and a houseload of their friends, most of whom turned out to be Twilight Folk. Everyone was so welcoming, and happy to see people they had only played online game with come out and support Chris’ family. Feather might even think his time wasting hobby has some redeeming social values. After this weekend, I certainly do.

I followed some friends out onto the porch, it was a fine night, but found that was the smoker’s lounge. Do what you want, but think about it. Just out of a cancer benefit, and people are lighting up. Too much bad irony there.

Some of the “Warcraft Widows” would ask the women in our group “you play too?” as gaming is known as a bit of a boy’s club. The funny thing was, these particular women lead our guild. They’ve not only joined the club, they’ve taken it over.

BC was wonderful. Some of us brought little ones, and we took them to the Vancouver aquarium, to see the ice-white beluga whales. Followed by a dinner at Feather and Chris’ house, with his extended family and friends. Chris cooks almost as well as he sings. And composes. And plays guitar. And drums. I wonder if he does brain surgery on the side?

All this, from playing an online game.






The Twilight Folk

World of Warcraft

Friday, September 7, 2007

Empty Nesting Rocks -- Time to Write

Kids are great, but when they leave, you're ready. Or at least I was. Connor kept up the drama until the day he left, (don't ask about the car!) but we got him safely ensconced at the University of Montana.

Once there I had to hike up to the giant M that overlooks the university and town. I'm sitting on the bottom of the right "foot" of the M, as seen from the ground. The hike is a bit more of a workout that it looks from the ground, with a 2,100 foot elevation gain. The day I climbed it the air was a bit smoky from the wild fires that had been ravishing Montana all summer. Still, great views of the campus and city. By the way, if you do this hike, bring water.

The thing about living in a dorm, is you end up living in a dorm room. Here you see Alison helping Connor set his up. We didn't get to meet Elijah, but Connor likes him a lot. Although we didn't see him, we saw his stuff, which included an electric bass guitar and a skateboard. Bodes well, we thought.

So writing! I'm still in the Longridge writer's program, working on short stories with Mary Rosenblum. I've got three ready to be seen by magazine and webzine editors. I try to be patient, but I really want my first sale. I mean, come on! ;)

I'm working on a con-game SF story at the moment. My working title is Mirrors and Smoke. It should be about 5,000 words when done. I'm having fun with the point of view. It's first person, told by a somewhat unreliable narrator.

Of course, I can't be without a tabletop role playing group, and I have a good one. We are playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (think dark humor fantasy in the Holy Roman Empire) and the players have decided they want to be pirates. So think Lovecraftian horror mixed with swashbuckling action off the coast of renaissance Italy.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ticketmaster is the Devil

Thickheadmaster, how I hate thee. Let me count the ways...

Tonight we were planning on seeing Spamalot at the Keller Auditorium. I had bought the e-tickets online. Huge fees on top of the Keller prices, but I didn't have time to drive down and buy them in person.

So I go online today to print out the tickets.

Your Ticket(s)

This order was cancelled.

For more information on refunds, please contact customer service.

Yikes! Was the show canceled? Or cancelled?

I called. They canceled my order because "your billing address does not match our address for you." They had my old address from a year and a half ago. The thing is, I had gone to their web tool and changed it after they mailed my Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tickets to the wrong house in the wrong state. A year ago.

And no, they can't get me tickets for tonight. And tonight is the last night for Spamalot in Portland.

Curse you Ticketmaster!

And curse you Keller Auditorium for using them...