Category Archives: The Secret Lair

Situation Report: Fall 2009

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…

—Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and The Carpenter” (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

There may not be a whole lot of activity here in my little corner of this here series of tubes, but life does not stop when a person fails to update his blog regularly. To wit:

The Secret Lair

The Secret LairThe podcast is still going strong, with a new episode appearing every few weeks or so, and a new installment of our webcomic appearing only slightly less frequently. In the most recent illustrated adventure, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Irradiated Arachnid Incident, the side effects of a spider-bite are not what you might expect. Meanwhile, Chris and I managed to convince our wives (yes, there was alcohol involved) to join us in a discussion of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, that book they made into that movie with that one guy. We also sat down with Mick Bradley, with whom we have had dealings in the past, to discuss that most mysterious and misunderstood style of roleplaying, the story game.

Recent episodes of the podcast have featured staff reports from some creative (and incredibly generous) folks we are fortunate to call friends, those being Dr. John Cmar, Jay “Kingfish” Lynn, Natalie Metzger and Ken Newquist. These reports speak of schemes of ever-escalating complexity and crackpottedness, with a smattering of bizarre truth thrown in to blur the line between the real and the surreal.

Game Night

Approximately every two weeks, the gamers descend upon the International House of Johnson for one form of interactive entertainment or another. We’re currently in the middle of a Savage Worlds campaign run by Chris Miller, but last night we took a break from polyhedral dice and roleplaying to rock.

Live at the International House of Johnson - Photo by David MeadArmed with fake guitars, fake drums and a very real microphone, we took to the virtual stage in Rock Band 2 on the Xbox 360. Four adults and the aforementioned fake instruments do not fit particularly will into the area around our “entertainment center”, but that didn’t dissuade us in the slightest. Some of the songs we rocked out to:

  •  “Re: Your Brains” and “Skullcrusher Mountain” by Jonathan Coulton
  • “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Here it Goes Again” by OK Go
  • “Take it on the Run” by REO Speedwagon
  • “The Best Day Ever” by Spongebob Squarepants (featuring guest vocalist Kyle Abraham Johnson)
  • “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull (featuring Chris Miller on vocals and no one on the fake flute)

After the out-rocking concluded, we gathered at the dining room table for Monty Python Fluxx, followed by Fist of Dragonstones, the latter of which I thought was woefully underappreciated.

Olde Fartz

After a bit of a late-summer hiatus, the Olde Fartz Distance Learning Center is back in session. Our favorite game of late has been Half-Life 2 Deathmatch, though we did return to our roots for an evening of WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos a few weeks ago. There’s also talk of playing some Team Fortress 2 and Dungeon Siege, and P.G. Holyfiend keeps yammering about Sins of a Solar Empire, too. Yammering, I tell you. Enrollment in the Olde Fartz has increased to the point where we have abandoned Skype voice conferencing in favor of a TeamSpeak server. If you’re interested in joining the fun, drop me a line and I’ll take your application to the admissions committee.

Con on the Cob

Con on the CobLast year I managed to attend all four days of Con on the Cob, a local gaming, art and general geek convention. This year, Laura and I only attended on Saturday, but we still had a lot of fun. We both bought new dice (practically a con requirement) and I bought Dominion, an excellent card game from Rio Grande Games. ((Laura and I have played several times since the convention, but the four-player limit means it’s tough to include at Game Night (when we typically have six or seven people). There’s one expansion to the game (Intrigue) with a second (Seaside) on the way, both adding cards and allowing for additional players, so it might just grace the Game Night table someday soon.)) We watched a bit of the Iron Artist competition, then briefly fled to a nearby restaurant with Chris Miller and Rachel Ross for dinner, then it was back to the con for a couple of games of Dominion. Next year, I think we’re going to shoot for attending on both Friday and Saturday so we can do a little more gaming and maybe record an episode of The Secret Lair on-site.

Alas, I have no convention photos to share this year, as the battery charger for our Fujifilm Finepix J10 went AWOL right before my sister’s wedding. ((Did I mention that my sister got married? And we drove to Chicago for the wedding? And that Kyle wore suspenders? And that the bride and groom were joined “by the power of the Internet”? No? I should have. Sorry.)) A new charger has been purchased and will hopefully be delivered in time for Hallowe’en costume photos.

NaNoWriMo vs. NaBloPoMo vs. HoNoToGroABeMo

I have no intention of attempting to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days come November, nor will I make any real effort to post at least one blog entry a day in the same time period. On the other hand, I fully intend to shave off my beard on October 31st and then spend a month failing to grow anything resembling a manly face-mane. That’s right, for the third year running, How Not to Grow A Beard Month will return. Mega-kudos once again to The Cynical Optimist for creating and maintaining the website.

The Great Superhero Movie Project

Despite a general dearth of new reviews, I have been watching and rating various superhero movies over the past few months. There are currently 112 movies on the list (with more to be added soon); I’ve seen about 90 of them, rated about 60 and reviewed a paltry 11. Yeah, I have a bit of catching up to do in the review department.

The Return of the Native

Kris Johnson, OverlordWhen I asked Chris Miller if his return to Cleveland would be similar to his arrival in Los Angeles nine months ago—specifically, heralded by the blasts of ten thousand trumpets as he rode atop an eight-story-tall flaming lion-bear-shark hybrid attended by a squadron of Mark V rocket-propelled android shock troopers—I was not at all surprised at his simple, yet elegant, response.

“No,” he said.

I asked if he would instead descend from the sky in a massive dirigible, bristling with armaments such as have never been seen even in the pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine, surrounded by a swarm of insectoid attack drones, and again he responded in the negative.

“Besides,” he said. “That’s David‘s schtick.”

Would he rise from the depths of Lake Erie in a submersible, escorted by an exotic array of cephalopods, cyborg sharks and the entire race of freshwater mermen we recently subjugated? Again, no.

“I get a little queasy around watercraft,” he said. “And that’s more Natalie‘s bailiwick, anyway.”

Yes, the man said “bailiwick”.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked. “Ride a spout of molten lava through the Earth’s core?”

“I’m not going for a big entrance,” he said. “Nothing too flashy this time.”

“Well how the hell am I supposed to know you’re back?” I asked.

“I will slip in quietly,” he said, “like a ninja in a minivan. The setting of the sun in the West will announce me, and as dusk descends upon northeast Ohio you will know that the passing of the light marks my arrival, for as the day is laid to its eternal rest so shall I rise again to conquer all upon which I have set my eye, my heart and my will.”

“Sounds good,” I said.

“Also,” he said. “I’ll send you a text.”

If you’re wondering whether I received that text, the answer is yes. Nearly two days ago, in fact. Why did I not disclose its receipt until now? Because I wanted to let the feeling of dread that undoubtedly descended upon you at 11:33pm on Monday the 20th of April sink in—absorbed like so much moisturizing cream of evil into your parched skin—for a while before I let you know what caused it. That’s how I roll.

Mr. Miller is back.

Brace yourselves.

An Update from The Secret Lair

The Secret LairThere’s plenty brewing over at The Secret Lair, most of which is not coffee. While the hosts attempt to establish a more regular podcast release schedule, the Secretary of Artistic Propaganda continues to produce and publish their illustrated adventures. As of this writing, the most recent episode of the podcast involves the movie Watchmen, the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, and the adaptation of various media to film, while the webcomic deals with the upside of radioactive waste.

The Secretary of Artistic Propaganda has also created a number of images suitable for use as wallpaper on your desk- or lap-top computing device. The images can be found in the show notes for Episode 0020 of the podcast, and were one to actually listen to that episode, one would be treated to a review of the classic science-fiction film, Silent Running (so long as one has a fairly generous definition of the word “treat”).

Finally, the Overlords have created an Intertube forum that interested individuals (or hive minds) may join so as to express their thoughts on various matters of interest to thirty-something geeks. While it is not a requirement that one be a thirty-something geek to join this forum, it may be advisable to spend some time (a la Jane Goodall) with a small group (or tribe) of these geeks in order to learn their ways before attempting to communicate with the larger community.

EDIT: All those links to The Secret Lair have been lost in time, like…tears…in rain.

The Secret Lair: Expansion

Things are a bit turbulent over at The Secret Lair these days. Chris Miller, my co-overlord, has packed up his belongings and moved to California, where he will take command of The Secret Lair West, our new facility located somewhere near Los Angeles. During one of his pre-move trips to L.A., Chris managed to accidentally shakes things up a bit and our own Secretary of Artistic Propaganda, Natalie Metzger, immortalized the event as an episode of The Secret Lair Webcomic.

The Secret Lair Webcomic - Episode 008

Meanwhile, closer to home, I’ve had to deal with not only the ramifications of Chris’ departure, but the day-to-day administrative duties of running an illegal, covert facility near what passes for a major metropolitan area in northeast Ohio.

As a result of the hubbub, we anticipate that our podcast release schedule will be even more sporadic than normal, though we did recently release our final face-to-face episode for the foreseeable future, recorded during Game Night at the International House of Johnson and including a number of very special guests.

Once the dust has settled (and we’ve determined that it’s not radioactive), we’ll fire up Skype and get back to what we do best. And if anyone out there knows exactly what that is, please let us know.

EDIT: Like the sands through the hourglass, so have fallen links to The Secret Lair.

Tomorrow is Arbor Day. Celebrate with The Secret Lair.

The first panel of Natalie Metzger‘s latest webcomical creation for The Secret Lair provides an insight—one some might classify as profoundly disturbing—into the decidedly non-traditional celebrations Chris Miller and I have adopted for certain of the minor holidays observed here in the United States.

Preview of The Secret Lair Webcomic, Episode 0004.Lest anyone get the wrong impression, let me assure you that none of our festivities involve any sort of violence toward this particular holiday‘s honorees, despite the fact that certain deciduous individuals among them persist in perennially covering our lawns with their palmate-netted castoffs. Indeed, The Secret Lair is as environmentally friendly as any facility housing a trans-dimensional alien power siphon, an unregulated plutonium refinery and three separate sub-basements dedicated to various (allegedly) biohazardous experimentation possibly can be. We’re not technically a “green” facility, but there is a very nice hyacinth in Mr. Miller’s office and one of the minions has planted daffodils on the west bank of the moat. ((These are, unfortunately, no longer officially being tended, as the would-be floriculturist severely underestimated the tentacle reach of the giant squid.)) In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that the koi pond near the Visitor Center is an artifice: a hologram designed to disguise one of our surface-to-air missile batteries. ((Astute visitors will surely notice that the koi swim in a pattern that is repeated every ninty-two-point-five minutes—or rather, they would notice the pattern if they weren’t fleeing the hunter-seeker robots that are automatically deployed when our hidden DNA scanners detect the presence of unauthorized personnel near the Visitor Center.))

If you are in northeast Ohio this Arbor Day, you would do well to avoid The Secret Lair. ((The facility and its immediate surroundings are slightly out of phase with the “normal” time/space continuum; we expect the issue to be resolved no later than Wednesday of last week.)) However, admission to The Holden Arboretum is free beginning on Friday the 25th and continuing through Sunday the 27th. Mr. Miller and I are—due to the aforementioned non-traditional observances—banned from the grounds for life, but we hold no grudge and encourage you to visit the Arboretum this weekend if you are able.

The Secret Lair: Comics, Clones, Books and Budding Rivalries

The Secret Lair - Overlord KrisThere’s plenty of activity over at The Secret Lair these days. We’ve posted our discussion on Richard K. Morgan’s Market Forces in the latest episode of The Secret Library, the donations from our loyal minions have completely covered the cost of our new Samson Zoom H2 mobile recorder, our promo has been played on some great podcasts (including J.C. Hutchins‘ UltraCreatives and Geek Radio Daily) and the comic strips just keep coming!

P.G. Holyfield, who apparently isn’t busy enough recording his own audionovel, has published some comics over at Bitstrips suggesting that things aren’t exactly rosy over at The Secret Lair. I couldn’t let that kind of impudence go unanswered, so I fired a shot across his bow. Unfortunately for Mr. Holyfiend, he couldn’t take the hint, and his continued poking and prodding has awakened the dragon. I am assured by a very reliable and trustworthy source that his uppance will soon come.

Rivalries aside (and Mr. Holyfiend has more than one), I’ve ventured into morally and bioethically challenging territory with a strip that addresses cloning. “Evil Kris” introduces a new character to The Secret Lair and brings up a very interesting question from my co-overlord, Mr. Miller.

Bitstrips: Evil Kris
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Meanwhile, the Secretary of Artistic Propaganda has been busy creating comic strips the old fashioned way. The overlords and their rivals must leverage emerging technologies to bring the illustrated funny, but Natalie Metzger has something better than a drag-and-drop interface: loads and loads of talent. Episode 0002 of our web comic finds yours truly participating in a very dubious blood drive. Click the preview panel below to see the full comic (and yummy cookies!).

Blood Drive

I’ve seen the scripts for the next few episodes of the webcomic and I must admit that I’m very pleased with our Secretary of Artistic Propaganda. Ms. Metzger has quickly risen through the ranks of the various minions, pursuivants, lickspittles, lieutenants, lackeys, lobbyists, goons and thugs we employ at The Secret Lair and proven herself to be quite valuable. I have informed the Disposal Squad that they can stand down…for now.

The Secret Lair…Illustrated!

The Secret Lair has gone two-dimensional! Thanks to the efforts of some very talented (and funny) folks, the evil overlords have recently been featured in not one but two comic strips.

The first strip comes from the Lair’s own Secretary of Propaganda, Natalie Metzger. Natalie is the very talented artist who created our official site banner, community site banner and evil overlord avatars. Click the thumbnail below to view at 750 x 500 pixels. The full size image, a whopping 1500 x 1000 pixels, can be seen at The Secret Lair. This is the first of what we hope will be many, many Secret Lair strips from the Secretary of Propaganda.

The Secret Lair: New Pet
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The second strip, “Problems at the Lair?” by P.G. Holyfied, relates an unfortunate early communications problem; one long since resolved, I can assure you.

Bitstrips: Problems at the Lair?
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Non Sequitur: Badges, DVRs and More Badges

The Secret Lair: KrisCheck out my official Overlord Badge for The Secret Lair! It’s another fantastic creation from Natalie Metzger, Secretary of Artistic Propaganda. There’s more (and not just from Natalie), but I don’t want to unveil it all at once. You may not be able to make out the details, but that writing implement in my shirt pocket is an official Dungeons & Dragons 30th Anniversary mechanical pencil. Yeah, that’s how I roll.

In other news, my beloved DirecTiVo died over the weekend; one of the tuners decided that its alignment was Chaotic Good and channels above the 200 mark were made of Evil. When we attempted to watch one of these channels on Tuner 2, the response would be anything from a lost signal to a warm reboot.

DirecTV gave me a couple of options: lease one of their branded DVRs or get another DirecTiVo receiver. The former required a two-year commitment to the DirecTV service and a $20 shipping charge, while the latter would cost me $350.00 out of pocket. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of giving up my TiVo service, but every man has his price and mine happens to be right around $350.00.

When I got home from work today, the new receiver was waiting for me. One not-so-quick call to DirecTV customer service ((Seriously, you’d think these customer service reps would perform these activations so often they could do them with their eyes closed. Yeah, you’d think that. But you’d be wrong, baby. So very, very wrong.)) and I was up and running. The new ((Okay, refurbished.)) DVR has about three times the capacity the old one did, but I’m already disappointed in the “universal” remote that came with it. Funny how we take little things like the ability to turn off both the television and the audio receiver with a single press of a button for granted.

Now my young apprentice and I are watching Max and Ruby on Noggin and (in theory) Scrubs is recording on the other tuner. Ruby is trying to get yet another damn Bunny Scout merit badge while Dr. Dorian and the rest of the gang at Sacred Heart are undoubtedly involved in some wacky shenaniganery that is (again, in theory) being preserved in all its digital glory for my enjoyment at a later time. Max wants a popsicle, but Ruby is too busy putting splints on dolls to pay attention to her younger brother; I swear, if there’s a Bunny Scout merit badge for being a good elder sibling, Ruby doesn’t have it.

More from The Secret Lair

The Secret Lair

Big things are happening over at The Secret Lair. Yeah, there’s another movie episode, but more impressive than a couple of geeks blathering on about Night Watch and Justice League: The New Frontier is the new masthead ((Call it a banner, if you prefer, or even a logo; your fancy words don’t detract from the sheer coolness of the thing.)) on the website. Designed by Natalie Metzger, the Lair’s official Secretary of Artistic Propaganda, the graphic features a skull-topped mountain looming large in front of the Cleveland, Ohio skyline at dusk, its stony eye sockets glowing malevolently as the masterminds and minions who call the craggy cranium their base of operations toil within the mysterious chambers hidden deep within.

So visit the site. Download the newest episode. And if you know what’s good for you, tell Natalie how truly magnificent the new masthead is, or the next time you see those glowing eyes it will be in the company of one of our Retrieval Squads.

We’re Watching (The Secret Lair Episode 0003)

If you’re the sort who appreciates post-modern zoetropic presentations, it may be of interest to you that the fellows over at The Secret Lair have made the third episode of their pod-cast programme available for your enjoyment. There is some discussion of the feature films Next (starring Nicolas Cage, Jessica Biel and Julianne Moore) and Dragon Wars (starring Robert Forster and…no one else of whom you’ve likely heard), both of which have been encoded and are available on Digital Versatile Disc. I’m told that this technology—much like the Marconi radiotelegraph—allows for the enjoyment of a virtual theatre in the comfort of one’s own parlor.