Sunday, September 26, 2010


Most people who have been around me for more than a minute or two know that I enjoy a profanely idiomatic expression from time to time.  I try not to overdo it though, especially in front of my girls.  To me profanity is kind of like salt: a little adds flavour, but too much can spoil everything.  And like salt, it can be terribly habit forming; one of the longest Lents I ever spent was when I gave up swearing.

A lot of our instruction in this regard comes from our parents.  Audrey's folks, while stricter than mine in most areas, couldn't have cared less if the kids said "shit".  When a teacher called her father to inform him that her younger brother had dared to utter this excremental exclamation in class, her dad just laughed, said they lived on a farm so what do you expect, and hung up.

In my case, while my father enjoyed and valued a broad vocabulary and was a Toastmaster for a lot of years, he was practical man who often saw profanity as simply the right tool for the job: a male of questionable character or behaviour was a son of a bitch, refutable nonsense was bullshit, and he often teased my mom by saying her side of the family "wouldn't say shit if their mouths were full of it".

Mom generally came over to my dad's way of thinking, but appreciated it if he keep his 'colourful metaphors' reined in around my sister and I.  One year, I think I was in the fifth grade, we even had a swear jar, like you might still see in gift shops and the like, where for each curse you are encouraged to put perhaps a nickel in the jar.  We made up our own from a pickle jar and it was 25 cents a cuss, with the promise that the funds would be applied to souvenirs on an upcoming trip to Disneyland.  Tara and I paid a lot more attention to adult conversation after that, especially at the supper table, where our parents would often discuss the highlights and lowlights of their day.

"...So by that point, I've got the whole mess balanced on one arm," Dad would be saying, "so then Leo comes through the door and pow! it all comes crashing down, and I go 'Dammit, Leo...'"

"Dad, that's a quarter!" I'd pipe up.

My father would look at us in mock disbelief.  "Oh, hell, are we still doing that?"

"That's another one, daddy!" Tara would exclaim, and Dad would make a big production out of either putting two quarters into the pickle jar that stood above the china cabinet, or he'd just tell us to keep counting but not to bother chiming in again until he had reached at least a dollar.

One time the two of us entered the kitchen and Dad was telling Mom about something that had happened, and I don't know what it was, but it had made him seriously angry.  He said something along the lines of, "I absolutely cannot believe the goddam nerve of that asshole to go and..."

"Excuse me Dad," I interrupted, "but that's fifty cents."

Dad didn't wheel on me or anything, because in my mind's eye, it took a long time, but what he did involved more than just a turn.  His back was to my sister and I, so the first indication he'd even heard us was when he stopped talking and his shoulders tensed up.  He slowly turned his neck until he could see us over his shoulder, verified who was talking and then his torso continued the motion, followed by his legs, until he was facing us.  Something was working in his jawline and behind his eyes, but he didn't say a single word; he simply reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his billfold.  He opened it up and silently pulled out a five dollar bill, then slowly, purposefully, walked over to the swear jar and deposited it.  Only then did Dad look at my sister and I and finally speak, saying only, "Leave the room."

My disappointment got the better of me.  "Aw, dad, you've already paid for it and I'd kind of like to hea..."


And so we did.  In haste.

We had my parents over for dinner tonight, along with my sister and her boyfriend,  for an early Thanksgiving, since Mom & Dad will be pulling up stakes with their motorhome for B.C. this week.  This topic came up, and I was quick to point out the pride I have in Dad's forebearance and discipline.

"What do you mean?"  Mom asked.

"Dad spent ten years in the armed forces, five years air force and 5 years navy," I replied.  "I heard him swear in some fashion pretty much every day, but I never, ever, heard him drop the f-bomb until I was 14."

"Hey, me neither!" said Tara.  "How did you hear yours?"

"Surprisingly, it wasn't directed at me,"I admitted.  "I came into the garage, and Dad was working on something, and I guess it was just not cooperating.  I asked him how it was going, and he looked at me with  a gimlet eye and gritted teeth, and he quietly said, 'Stephen, I am so f***ing mad right now, I could just scream.'"

"What did you do?"  Mom asked.

"What, besides almost crapping my drawers?  I was terrified.  I just nodded and backed away, slowly, like you would with a bear."

Everyone laughed, especially Dad.  Tara nodded.  "That was kind of how it went for me," she said.  "After the second or third time the basement flooded, I was about 14, I went downstairs and Dad was surveying the damage with just this awful look on his face, so I asked 'What's wrong?' and he says, "I swear to God, if I had a match right now, I'd burn this f***ing place down and walk away.'  And I said, 'No you wouldn't, it's way too wet.'  And then I went upstairs.  Quickly."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Civic Doody

While I sometimes see politics as both the price of democracy and the sometimes unpleasant but necessary by-product of civic interaction, I still draw some enjoyment from elections, especially municipal ones, with their smaller budgets, doorknocking candidates and lack of constant polls.

I am hoping that this year's Edmonton election draws out more voters than the dismal 27% that came out in 2007. (I also hope we can eventually find an issue to focus on besides the airport, but that's another story...) To that end, I have assembled some links with useful information as to where the new wards are, who the candidates are and what they are about.

The City of Edmonton site lists all the new ward maps (this is the first year voting for 1 councilor each in 12 wards as opposed to 2 each in 6), shows upcoming public forums, polling stations, etc. There is also a list of all the candidates and their contact info.

Wikipedia, while dubious for academic purposes, does serve as a decent accumulation point for certain information. The entry for this election is no exception, with a tidy list of candidates, wards, etc.

Connect2Edmonton is a forum by and for Edmontonians filled with both rants and raves about our city. You can see the issues being discussed and even join in the conversation if you register. In addition to collecting posts by many of the candidates, the site is also hosting a free election forum for all candidates.

Interesting tidbits from this election:
  • Mayor Mandel faces his first serious opponent as an incumbent in Dave Dorward, who brings a lot of Envision Edmonton/ pro-Airport support.
  • Dave Dorward's entry prompted Chateau Louis owner and Muni-backer Don Koziak to drop out and run against incumbent Kim Krushell.
  • Edmonton Journal city hall columnist Scott McKeen is putting up by running for a seat in Ward 7 against the often combative, always sharply-dressed Tony Caterina.  This ward could be fun to watch.
  • Sun columnist Kerry Diotte is also running, in Ward 11.
  • A  candidate in Ward 4 has also started what he believes is the first Canadian Satanic church.
  • No acclamations for council, but not a single ward has two incumbents battling it out for a single seat.  Convenient, no?
Please pass these links on to other Edmontonians and encourage them to check out their candidates and VOTE!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Five-O 2.0: What's Not to Like?

I remember watching episodes of the original Hawaii Five-o with my parents when I was a kid; police dramas weren't really my taste when I was under 10, but I remember enjoying the exotic locale, hearing McGarrett say "book 'em, Danno" at the end of most episodes, the cool car and of course, Jack Lord's hair.

The important thing to remember about the new Hawaii Five-O is that most of its weaknesses are also its strengths, i.e.

CON: Another police procedural?
PRO: Another police procedural!
CON: Big distinction is being filmed in Hawaii.
PRO: Hawaii is much cooler looking than Detroit, Chicago, or anywhere else on the mainland, brah.
CON: Key characters have the same names (McGarrett, Danno, Chin Ho, Kono)
PRO: "Book 'em Danno" has a nice ring to it.
CON: Scott "Danno" Caan doesn't so much act as impersonate his dad, James Caan.
PRO: Sonny Corleone's kid as a tough cop?  I'm in.
CON: They didn't even bother to update the theme music...
PRO: If it ain't broke...
CON: A lot has changed since the '70s.
PRO: Whoa, the '74 Mercury Brougham that McGarrett drove gets a cameo? Sweet!

And so on.

In this updated version, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) is a Navy SEAL chasing gun-runners around Korea when his ex-cop father (Willam Sadler) is killed in Hawaii.  Upon returning, the governor offers him the opportunity to start a federalized task force with far-reaching authority that will give the ACLU fits in order to take on the bad guys too big for Honolulu PD or whomever.  All the notes are here, right?  The initial refusal, the comic-book mix up at the crime scene ("No, you put down your gun first!"), the 'I don't like you but I respect you' ballet, the wronged veteran, the rookie, and it all comes together in one hour in a package so tight, it might as well have been gift wrapped. 

If this was all Five-O had to offer, you could do a lot worse, but there wouldn't be a lot to recommend it.  But there a few bits to set it apart in a fall schedule abundant with cop shows.

CASTING: No complaints here, I have enjoyed half of the main cast in other roles; Daniel Dae Kim from Angel and Lost, and Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica.  Scott Caan is a chip off the old block, and he seems to enjoy some buddy-movie chemistry with Alex O'Loughlin, an Australian with an Irish name playing someone born in Hawaii.  Wait, what?

LOCATION: I don't care what anyone says; Hawaii is cool, and they do point out how different things are from the mainland in elements like 'where do we get an undercover cop from? The bad guys already know everyone...' and "That's the trouble with you haoles (honkies), no team spirit."

DETAILS: It's not just a bootprint McGarrett sees on the floor, he later tells Danno that the suspect wears the same size as himself but in a double E, with a custom sole.  When he calls the governor to take her up on the task force offer, he ends up swearing his oath over the phone.  When the human trafficker can't find a wire on Kono, Chin Ho explains it's because they used a laser microphone aimed at the window.  Nothing terribly new here, but it's just enough to keep you from feeling too guilty about watching yet another cop show.

DIALOGUE: Good stuff throughout here, including an early bit where McGarrett tries to leave Danno's crime scene with evidence and is told he can either leave it or get arrested.  "You gonna call for backup?" McGarrett asks.  "An ambulance," Danno replies.  I hope they give material this good to Chin Ho and Kono later on; the other two get all the good eatin' in this episode.

ACTION: The original Five-O had a reputation for decent action and great car chases, and we do get to see some of the former in the premiere.  Gunplay, tactical entries, and a couple of vehicle collisions in close proximity to humans are all handled well, as is a combat scene with a helicopter and explosions prior to the opening credits.

Strangely, none of the promo photos show Grace Park in a bulletproof vest...why do you think that is?

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend an hour in front of the tube, and unlike most shows I like, this one did all right in the ratings, so I can put off worrying about cancellation for at least a little while.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Grace of Second Chances

Given my previous posts reviling Roman Polanski, you might think I would be the last one to speak up publicly in defense of the Edmonton Eskimos hiring Eric Tillman as their general manager, but on Thursday the Edmonton Journal printed my letter doing exactly that.

For those of you who don't know, Eric Tillman was convicted of sexual assault in 2009 in a case involving a sixteen-year-old babysitter, and was subsequently let go by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

His hiring by the Eskimos has prompted a number of very emotional responses, mostly negative. While many people agree that Tillman may be deserving of a second chance, very few people want him to have it here in Edmonton, in a high-profile position like GM. Representatives from two Edmonton women's groups call the hiring "a horrible mistake" and say they are "outraged."

So why would I, of all people, speak up for a guy reviled by some as a convicted child molester? No, that strange sound is not a dog barking backwards or the sixth seal being cracked; it's not because what he did does not matter, because it does, and not because of his reputation up to that point. It is his actions since this incident took place that seem to indicate his character.

To begin with, since sexual assault can include the act of rape, that's what most of us associate that charge with, even though this was not the case in this instance. Tillman had been sent home from work due to erratic behaviour that may have been caused by a reaction to medication he was taking. At home, he grabbed the teenaged babysitter looking after his children by the belt loops and pulled her towards him in a sexual manner. The entire incident took no more than ten seconds, and while undeniably terrifying for the young woman involved, certainly is not rape.

The police became involved a week later, and charges were laid. Despite having no memory of the incident itself, Tillman eventually changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, and apologized to the victim. He asked for forgiveness, which he received, from both the victim and her family. The conviction was discharged this year, meaning that Tillman no longer has a criminal record.

He did not use a 'not guilty by reason of chemical insanity' plea, never tried to muzzle anyone, never denied what had happened. He shortened the process by pleading guilty, and by doing so, has taken accountability for his actions.

Listening to him being interviewed on CBC Radio Tuesday evening, Eric Tillman struck me as a deeply remorseful man who watched a half century of great reputation get washed away by an act he described as one of 'stupidity'. He made a point of not minimizing or diminishing what he did or what effect it had on the victim. His contrition felt very real to me, as did his genuine gratitude for this second chance.

If a man owns up to his mistakes and shoulders the blame, and is then forgiven by the victim and the sentence discharged by the courts, is he not worthy of a second chance? If he is not, is anyone? Craig MacTavish killed someone while drunk at the wheel, served time for it and turned his life around afterwards to become head coach of the Oilers; how does he merit an opportunity but not Eric Tillman?

Suppose a guy gets convicted of thieving, does his time, then gets caught trying to steal from a church while out on parole; who would give that guy a second chance? Well, besides anyone who saw Les Mis, that is.

A second chance, like forgiveness, is a pretty subjective thing, predicated as much on feelings as on facts. Do I believe this person's account? Are they genuinely contrite, or just sorry they got caught? Will forgiving them help me to move on? Everyone, from the victim, to her family, to the Eskimos leadership has had to ask themselves these questions, and have decided to offer that second chance, and I am glad they did; the idea of having my entire life defined by a single regrettable act like Tillman's pretty terrifying.

What's the message we send by not forgiving?

TIllman should not be allowed to work and should just crawl into a cave and die?
He should work, but not in sports?
He should work in sports, but not on my team?
He can work for my team, but not in such a high profile position?

It smacks a little bit of the NIMBY argument: 'sure Habitat for Humanity is a great idea, but not in this neighbourhood.'  I'm thinking the season's ticket holders vociferously proclaiming their opposition to the hiring (and their intent to stay away from future games) haven't imagined that Moccasin Mile in Tillman's shoes.

A Vancouver Sun writer posted a column lamenting how quick we are to forgive sports figures, citing the examples of Tiger Woods, Michael Vick (as well as O.J. Simpson), and while she may have a point, the first two examples were not damned by a single incident, but by a pattern of repeated behaviours either illegal, immoral or both.

Forgiveness is an act that carries substantial emotional risk, which is certainly a contributing factor to its rarity, and explains why the debate over Tillman's hiring is so heated. Granting second chances carries similar but different risks, ones to reputations, to judgment, and even livelihoods, but hiring Eric Tillman is not going to put children at risk or send a message that sexual abuse is somehow acceptable. In the end, the entire terrible experience may end up teaching us a lesson about accountability, grace, and the opportunity for people to re-define themselves.

In time, some of these vocal and judgmental people may end up asking Tillman for his forgiveness, and I would not be surprised at all if he gives it to them.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Memory Box

My parents got me a miniature fridge when I was going to school at Augustana in Camrose. In the freshmen dorms, this was a big deal, as there were no fridges on the floor, and only one in the basement lounge. It was a dry campus (a fact I am still grateful for, despite being a fan of beer), but having your own cold sodas or frozen tray of garlic ribs you could heat up in a toaster oven was a baby step on the road to independence.

After university, it was still handy to have a spare fridge that could hold a dozen beer or a a thawing roast of what-have-you, but when Audrey and I moved to Toronto in 1995, there was just no space in our triplex apartment to stow it, so it languished in the closet of the second bedroom, storing things like the toilet paper we bought in bulk at Price Club on the Queensway.

When moved back to Edmonton in 1999, it returned to duty in the basement of the townhome we rented, mostly holding recreational beverages. Since the basement was the only place large enough to setup the gaming table, it was extremely convenient to have beer and sodas on hand. Of course, the only washroom was on the top floor so it was a long ways from perfect, but still pretty good.

Once we moved in to our current house in 2006, the fridge again accompanied me to the basement, and for the same reasons as before. However, we inherited a full size fridge shortly thereafter, and once again the little one was consigned to storage under the stairs.

Last week I begrudgingly handed it off to my sister, who moved into her own house this summer, and has a distinct place for lower level refrigeration. It's a no brainer, right? The fridge has languished under the stairs, unused, for for four years, so having it go to a good home that it may fulfill its destiny AND provide me with an appropriately chilled beverage when I visit only makes sense.

And yet, I was reluctant to let it go.

Part of me wanted to plug it in out in the garage, but that dog don't hunt; I don't spend a lot of time in the garage anyway, and half of the year, no additional chilling is required in there. No, my sanctum sanctorum is the basement, thanks very much.

In the end, it's an uncomfortable truth: I just don't like to let things go. I don't think I'm selfish, but I am constantly hanging on to things longer than necessary, just in case they turn out to be useful at some point in the future. And even though I may not be greedy, I like things, all sorts of things. If I had an infinite amount of space, I would probably never get rid of anything, so I could pull that 15 year old magazine I saved for a single article at will (provided I could find it), or putty up the missing piece to that broken knick-knack that is perfect except for that one small flaw.

It is undoubtedly a blessing that I do not have a portable hole, of Harry Potter's Room of Requirement, or a subspace interphaser, or something else that would give me infinite or near infinite space. I am slowly getting better at separating needs from wants, and real wants from "really?" wants. Middle age has been a part of that; while it may sound morbid, looking at a shelf full of books and asking myself, "How many times am I going to want to read that one again before I shuffle off this mortal coil?" has been chilling and liberating in pretty much equal measure.

I recently divested myself of a bunch of games, since they were going unplayed, and because I not only have more games than I can easily play right now, but I am inevitably going to acquire more. There is talk at work of having everyone bring in their, "I'm probably not going to watch this again" DVDs, selling them for $2 apiece and donating the money to charity. Of course, at those prices, I would probably come home with more than I gave away, but hey, at least they'd be new, right?

Even knowing this, it was kind of hard letting go of that silly fridge. Part of it is saying goodbye to a part of my younger self, remembering the different places my first appliance ended up in my various dorm rooms, but the other part is the assortment of stickers it picked up over the years, especially the aviation themed ones I picked up at air shows and suchlike. One of the coolest (if somewhat ominous) is the one dad picked up from a Boeing rep while he was still in air traffic control showing the newly developed cruise missile (!).

In the end, I satisfied myself with snapping pictures of the decals, packing the fridge up on a truck and making a clean break of it. I've got a handful of stickers and a couple of magnets on the downstairs fridge already, with the hope that it will one day surpass its predecessor; after all, there is a lot more space to fill on this one.

There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere, but it's late, so I will leave that to the reader.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pilgrimage: Scott Pilgrim Review

A group of us saw Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World last night. This is writer-director Edgar Wright's first American movie following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both of which I enjoyed greatly. It's based on a series of graphic novels by Toronto's Bryan Lee O'Malley and the story follows 23 year-old slacker Scott Pilgrim, bass player for struggling band Sex Bob-omb, as he pursues the (literal) woman of his dreams. The primary struggle are the larger-than-life, video-game inspired battles between him and Ramona's "7 Evil Exes", but like most pilgrims, Scott has a couple of significant internal struggles to sort out before the story ends.

If you ever worry about how far behind you've left your younger self, see this movie. If you don't enjoy it, there is a distinct possibility that self has moved on to greener pastures and whether or not they will be missed is a question only you can answer, but I kind of hope they are. It should thus come as a surprise to no one familar with this blog's title that I had a great time, and so did Audrey.

To be sure, this film is oriented from stem to stern for a much younger audience than myself, and this is obvious before the movie even opens when the Universal logo and familiar fanfare are rendered in glorious 8-bit graphics and sound. But it this didn't matter, at least not to me; I've never played Nintendo, but I've played video-games from before and after that influential system. I've never played the music from 'Final Fantasy' on a guitar, but I own a video game score on CD (don't judge me, man). I've never literally fought for the love of another, but I've earned a score of figurative scars nonetheless.

Wright has perfectly captured the imagination and passion of young adult romance for the OMG generation, and has also made one of the best comic-book adaptations ever. The on-screen enhancements like labels, visible comic-style sound effects 'riiing's and bass notes, meters, energy bars and pee meters serve as an ever-present reminder of the graphic source material without being distracting, or worse, evoking too much of Adam West's Batman.

And since one of Wright's next projects is an Ant-Man movie for Marvel Studios, let's talk about the action bits for a moment. He says the movie is essentially a musical, but whenever a musical number would normally occur, it is replaced by a fight scene. And such fight scenes! Filled with crazy and kinetic martial arts drawn more from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat than the works of Jet Li, and including fireballs, psychokinetics and glowing swords. Numerous walls are knocked down, and in true comic book fashion, not a drop of blood is spilled. The first time Scott vanquishes an opponent who then disappears in a shower of coins (Canadian currency too!), his gleeful exclamation of "Sweet, coins!" echoed my feelings precisely. The follow up of "$2.10...that's not even enough for the subway home," got a laugh from the audience too. And if video-games and comic-books aren't enough, Wright taps into action and cop movie cliches and even Bollywood during the fights, so you probably won't get bored.

Michael Cera is perfectly cast as the mostly indomitable, and entirely too cute title character, and through some kind of special effect I cannot possibly begin to understand, looks really, really capable at throwing hands in this film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a wonderful job as the aloof and mysterious love object, Ramona Flowers, but best in show has to go to Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Scott's gay roommate, who steals a lot of scenes without ever doing that much.

Pilgrim even gets to match up against other big-screen super-heroes as well: two of Ramona's evil exes are Brandon (Superman) Routh as a rival bass player dating Scott's ex and Chris (Human Torch and Captain America) Evans as a 'pretty good skateboarder turned pretty-good action star'.

The music is another high point, and I picked up the soundtrack earlier today. Sex Bob-omb's sound is ably represented by Beck, but the rest is an eclectic mix described by Wright as a trans-Atlantic mix tape developed by himself and comic creator O'Malley during the creation of the screenplay. Since a lot of the movie takes place in Toronto's indie music scene, a lot of newer bands like Metric and Broken Social Scene are represented, but there are also tracks by T. Rex and Frank Black, and even Halifax girl band Plumtree, whose song 'Scott Pilgrim' inspired the comic that spawned the movie. They all manage to capture the spirit of youth while still underscoring the story, as when the (inevitably sleazy) record producer gets out of his limo to the strains of "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones.

I can't say this is a movie for everyone; what movie is? But if you like music and laughter and are young at heart, you owe this movie a viewing, even if comic books and video games aren't really your 'thing' any more. It's a shiny, tart candy with a soft sweet centre, and I will be picking up on DVD as soon as it becomes available. Despite its positive reviews, however, it is not bringing in big box office, so if you want to see it in a theatre (and you really do, the laughter and cheers in our theatre enhanced the experience tremendously), please do so quickly. We need to vote with our bucks to get more smart, sweet and outrageous movies like this greenlit in the future.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mob Rules

As I often say: it's as though someone left the lid off of 2010 and allowed it to evaporate. The summer barely seemed to have arrived before leaves began to appear unbidden upon my front lawn, although they are hard to see beneath the all apples that have blown off our tree.

Audrey has returned to work at her old school in a new position, looking after an autistic sixth grader. Glory has begun grade 3 with one of her best friends last year, and Fenya is beginning the transition into junior high school at Vic.

Now that I think of it, it's not just 2010 which has rushed past, is it?

As the autumn routine falls into place, familiar patterns begin to re-establish themselves. A long hiatus from boardgames, some of the lads and I got together at Earl's fabulous new digs to try out his new boardgame, Blood Feud in New York. I had seen the game a number of times in various shops, and admired the production values, but have never spoken with anyone who's played it.

We started out cold, a little later than was perhaps wise, especially since there were a large number of pieces to be sorted out, but despite being perhaps the second pieciest game I have ever played (after War of the Ring), the mechanics are somewhat elegant, and gameplay proved to be straightforward and quick, even when our decision making was not.

Said pieces include not only the various personnel you will direct, from thugs to hit men, but also speedboats, limousines and even helicopters, as well as building pieces representing your various rackets, penthouse fortresses or corrupt police precincts in your employ.

Each player represents the head of a crime family attempting to dominate the underground of New York City. They deploy themselves, family members and thugs and henchmen on a map of the city encompassing The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan and New Jersey. The early turns saw each of us steadfastly ignoring the other while we established our various illegal enterprises and recruited new muscle, but eventually you come shoulder to shoulder-holster with the other families, and gunplay ensues.

The key element of the game is the five family members who support The Boss directly. At the end of each turn, you count a certain amount of dollars for each territory you control, similar to risk, but you multiply this for each independent family member on the board. Keeping them together is far safer, but half the risk feels like far less than half the reward, especially if your opponents are maximizing their profits.

The four of us all tend to play fairly conservatively, so it was quite some time before there was a fight of any significance, and besides, you don't get paid for taking out other personnel, and it costs money to replace men you lose. However, when one of Mike's yakuza family stayed too close to the borders, my Mick mobsters ponced on him and took him captive.

A few turns later, I had a second hostage and a third had died, reducing Team Yellow's earning potential to half that of the other players. Mike did not roll over, however, instead moving his boss and virtual head quarters further down the map where I would have to overextend myself to follow, no doubt eliciting attacks from Pete's Russian Mafia or Earl's 'Always Bet on' Black Brigands.

We ended up wrapping up a little after midnight, and were probably a little more than halfway through the game proper. In order to achieve the victory condition of $6000 income on a single turn, you would almost certainly need to eliminate another player and assimilate his family into your own. Once you have a 8x or 12x multiplier to your income, I imagine it would be very hard for the competition to keep pace, although an alliance would probably arise out of this as well, so who knows? Only further playings will reveal whether being the first player to unseat a competitor is enough of a benefit to warrant the inevitable attention you will attract from the remainder.

It was my intention to turn over my holdings to Mike when I headed out, no one was really interested in playing it out that far, so my $3200 income qualified me as the leader, if not the winner, and we left Earl to sort out the hundreds of pieces and tokens. Close enough to a victory for this bog-cutting boyo; I don't usually do that well in strategic games!

Being who we are, we also took full advantage of the creative void in the game, naming most of the gangster pies we had our fingers in, and making decisions less for their tactical merit and more because they fit the flavour, or would irk someone else. "At what point," I eventually asked, "did this become a role-playing game?" but I see this as a feature, not a shortcoming. Also, since it is a game where player elimination is practically a necessity, care should probably be taken in who you play with...

The highly competitive and colourful gameplay, coupled with excellent esthetics will definitely have me wanting to return to the mean streets of New York at some point in the future. Since the game supports between two and six players, I think a change in numbers would also have a huge effect on the game, and would no doubt prompt much more in the way of negotiations and treaties than our introduction.