Saturday, April 21, 2012

[Onion Wedges] Shamed Ophthalmologist Concludes Hindsight Is Actually 20/10

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO - After an awkward, failed attempt to ask out a long time crush, veteran ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Pfeiffenberger concluded that hindsight is in fact, 20/10, far better than the traditional score of 20/20 given for perfect vision. "Looking back on it, Tracey was giving me zero signs of interest, and had actually been regularly mentioning a guy she'd just starting seeing. This is in addition to telling me how much she valued our friendship," Dr. Pfeiffenberger said during a presentation given at a recent ophthalmology convention. "The kind of unbiased clarity I'm having now, after the fact, is the eye equivalent of detecting a ship coming over the horizon from twice the distance someone with 20/20 vision could have." He went on to list other important details that, noticed earlier, could have helped him avoid his embarrassing encounter, such as the fact that Tracey wasn't wearing any makeup, and didn't even seem to care if he heard her belching. Dr. Pfeiffenberger closed out his speech shaking his head said, adding: "God it is so, so obvious now. But you know what...maybe I just picked the wrong day to do it," he started saying before being drowned out by a chorus of boos.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Here's a short story I wrote for a class recently. The assignment given was that one of the characters in the story "lived in a world where the rules didn't apply to him/her," and while this was license to create something incredibly fantastical, I opted to go with something a little more mundane, though still very interesting, in my opinion. Enjoy!


Peter watched Nancy sleep. He’d watched many others sleep before - his mother, his best friend Dougie Cuthill, his cat Inky. He found each one fascinating in their own way. Nancy was a back sleeper - and her nose would often twitch in a way he found utterly adorable. He was taken aback when he saw her eyes open halfway, followed by the movement of her mouth frowning in disappointment.

“You know I hate it when you stare at me like that. Go downstairs and do your thing,” Nancy mumbled, turning her head away from him.

What Nancy didn’t understand was that Peter was actually trying to do his thing. He was trying to figure out how to fix things between them. At least he had plenty time to think about it, since he wasn’t going to be lying down that night, or any other night for that matter. His body and mind had no need for sleep.

He had been scrutinized by all kinds of doctors as a child, after his parents finally realized something was wrong. Their infant never closed his eyes for more than a few seconds. What they discovered was that his mind was different than everyone else’s. Rather than needing a total shut down after a full day of activity, he was able to rest parts of his mind while the other parts stayed awake. They called it “Asomnia,” and it hadn’t been seen outside of species of fish before. Sometimes it was the logical side of his brain, sometimes it was the creative side. His body didn’t require extended periods of rest either. If he ever over-exerted himself, he would simply need to sit down and rehydrate, but other than brief (and incredibly boring) bouts with food poisoning and the flu, he never felt the need to lie down in a bed.

Peter made his way downstairs, his steps louder than they needed to be. He didn’t like being ordered away, especially after the fight they’d had earlier. He could sense a gap growing between the two of them, one he didn’t quite know how to bridge. He used to spend hours making her breakfast from scratch before she woke up - eggs florentine, served with hash browns and freshly squeezed orange juice. And he used to write her songs that he’d play on the violin, or build a new piece of furniture. But at some point she started enjoying the things he did for her less and less. Or maybe he stopped putting in as much effort. He wasn’t sure which came first.

He went into his usual nightly solo routine - forty minutes on the treadmill, twenty minutes of crunches and push ups. Then, since it was an even numbered Tuesday - when he knew his more logical side would be asleep and his more creative side was fully behind the reins - he drew. He took out his sketchbook and began sketching the only thing burning through his mind at the moment, which was the image of Nancy, lying asleep on her back. He tried to capture the moment just before she woke up, when she was in between two worlds - the world of waking consciousness, and the world he’d never been to: the world of rest, sleep and dreams.

He heard shuffling, then footsteps. Nancy was awake. The upstairs bedroom door creaked open, and he listened as the sound of her footsteps slowly made their way toward him. Their eyes met at the bottom of the steps. She was wearing a short purple nightgown that he’d sewn for her (after five other failed attempts) many nights ago.

“Did I wake you?” he asked. He’d been accused of doing that in the past, and though he denied it fervently, the eventual compromised they’d reached was that perhaps he was doing it subconsciously. Still, he’d come a long way from his life as a child, banging pots and pans or whatever else he could get his hands on together in order to keep his parents awake and paying attention to him.

“No, honey. I’m just having trouble sleeping.” Nancy said, punctuating her statement with a yawn.

“Maybe you’re finally evolving and becoming like me,” Peter said, jokingly. Or half-jokingly, at least.

“You know I like sleeping, Pete,” she said. “What you have is a very special gift, but I wouldn’t trade my life for yours.”

Peter was set to defend his biological anomaly, and decry her but he stopped himself, realizing that he wasn’t in the mood for another philosophical discussion. Especially not with someone with such antiquated biological needs, and so few precious “waking hours” to spare for him. Besides, he knew he was more prone to get angry and irrational while the creative hemisphere of his brain was in charge, so he went back to his drawing. Nancy went into the kitchen and set a kettle of water to boil for tea. She came back out and walked over to him, took a look at his picture and smiled, running her hands through his hair.

“Why am I always sleeping in your drawings?” Nancy asked him.

“Because I get to stare at you longer that way,” Peter said, just before realizing this was what had upset her just a few minutes before. There was no reaction though, as she just continued staring at the drawing, and running her hands through his hair, which Peter enjoyed.

The tea kettle in the kitchen started singing, and Nancy let out another yawn in response, then leaned in to Peter:

“Honey, I’m feeling tired again. I’m going back to sleep. Would you mind turning that off for me?”

“Sure,” he said.

Nancy pinched Peter’s ear as she let go of his scalp and then made her way back up the stairs. Peter made his way into the kitchen. He turned the flame off the stove, and figured he might as well not waste a perfect good kettle of boiling water. He poured the water into a tea cup, then picked out a bag of tea from the cupboard labeled “Dream Time Chamomile,” and smirked as he placed it into his cup.

“She needs her rest,” Peter mumbled to himself as he dipped the tea bag in and out of the water.

He carried the cup of tea over to the kitchen table, set it down and sat down alongside it, watching the heat slowly escape its source.

Then, finishing the thought, he muttered aloud: “But what do I need?”



Monday, April 9, 2012

Kittens In A Blender: A Slice of PAX East 2012

PAX East 2012, the semi-annual gaming convention I've attended and gushed about on this blog for the past few years, is officially over. I'm back from my latest holy pilgrimage, and as always, I amazed with how much fun I managed to squeeze out of less than 72 hours. Rather than go through all the details discussing what I enjoyed about this year, or what I discovered, or who I met, I'm going to sum up my PAX experience with a quick story. One that contains the very essence of my love for event, and the people who attend with me.

During the late afternoon of the first day of PAX, I'm sitting at a table with a hodgepodge of friends from home and people I've met at PAX who've become a very specific subset of people in my life (call them PAXpanions...or, on second thought, don't) who I only see at the event each year. As of last year, I'd discovered that if you love gaming and nothing but gaming, this is one of a few places worthy of your time. Every other part of PAX features lines for demos, panels and swag, of all which are decidedly not gaming. Well, I guess demos are technically games, but a one hour wait for a five minute demo is a poor investment of one's time in my humble opinion.

We've just finished playing a game of Dungeon Petz, a game my friend Kevin bought sight unseen because he was a fan of the developer. Right then Patrick, Kevin's brother, and fellow PAXpanion of mine (ok, it's officially retired now) brought out a game he bought on a whim called Kittens In A Blender. Here's a picture of the box, in case the title wasn't clear:

Kittens In A Blender, or KIAB is a simple card game containing the disturbing imagery of stuffing your opponent's living, breathing masses of too-cute kitties into a deadly blender while attempting to save your own. I won't elaborate on it too much since it was far from my favorite game at PAX (that award goes to a game called Ninjato, which I'll probably discuss and review later) nor the point of this story, but it's worth noting that my "team" of cats, the blue team, had a cat named 'Chicken Noodle,' who was blended almost immediately after making his appearance. Also, I really think the game could benefit from forcing players to beg: "pwease don't bwend my kitty!" with pouty lips as a kind of secret power that works at the cost of one's dignity, but I digress.

Rest in peace, M.C. Catnip
Everyone at the table looked at the box and immediately agreed to play. After that, we played something else. And then we got some food, and came back with a stash of wine and chocolate and played some more. We stopped playing to fill out basic human necessities, but otherwise, it was a non-stop gaming orgy all weekend.

I point out the KIAB moment specifically because it was a stupid looking game purchased by someone on a whim, introduced to a group of adults who were all free to do whatever else they wanted to do with their time, and we all immediately said yes to it. Why? Simply because we all love playing games together. That's really what makes PAX so amazing. There are probably not a whole lot of people in a world that you could round up, sit down at a table, and convince them to get pumped for about 13 hours of non-stop gaming. But PAX is a siren call for those of us that couldn't imagine a better way to spend their time. And I'm forever grateful for it.

Thanks to the organizers, the game developers and most importantly, to all the friends I've met or convinced/dragged along for the ride - because really, without people to share this with, I'd just as soon stay home and find something to play there.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

That's PUBLISHED Egomaniac To You

Exciting news everyone! I submitted a short story about zombies (or more specifically, survivors of a zombie outbreak) that I wrote a little over a year ago for an upcoming collection of short stories about zombies. And they liked it enough to put in it! The anthology is called "Zombie: The Other Fright Meat" and it's available on Amazon right now:

Do you all realize what this means? I am now officially a published author, which changes EVERYTHING. I have no doubt that within a few weeks I'll be living in a high-rise apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan, dating all kinds of super models, and attending all kinds of hoity-toity parties where masters of their craft meet to discuss philosophy, eat exotic cheeses, and play exotic games like "Gentrification!" and "Please Belize." I'll try to do my best to keep my ego in check, but the reality is it's already begun to spin wildly out of control. I quit my day job, told my roommate she needed to move out so I could convert her bedroom into my own 'idea space,' and if someone looks at me on the street or subway, I smile and nod at them, whispering: "yeah, it's're welcome."

They stuck my story towards the back to give the other authors a chance to shine first.
It's been nice being a regular old schlub with all of you these past 33 years. But fame has called, and I pretty much picked up on the first ring. So with that, humble, non-published Matt Shafeek bids you all adieu. Or rather, his body just twitched for the last time, since he's totally dead. All future posts will be written by the published author henceforth known as Matteus Shafein, who enlightens you with every word he types and is worthy of nothing less than all your attention and dollars and admiration. Also sexiness if you're a lady. A sexy lady.

Per Aspera Ad Astra!