Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Gen Con 2022: Still the Best Carpet in the World

I went back to Gen Con this year. It was better than I expected. For one thing, I didn't see any sign that attendance was down. I don't know what the real numbers were like, but the crowds didn't look any smaller than the last time I was there.

I listened to Children of Hurin on the way over. Poor Hurin, cursed by Morgoth to watch while his wife and children blunder their way across Beleriand, getting all sorts of people killed for no particular reason. 
    Melian: Y'all know this magic sword is cursed, right?
    Beleg: It's magic? Sweet! I'll take it!
    Thingol: I don't think you heard--
    Turin: RAMPAGE!

I showed up in Indy on Friday evening but didn't do any actual convention stuff until Saturday. Tom gave me my Peryton Gamers badge and I went to get my vaccination bracelet so the door wardens could see that I'm not a moron. That went a lot more smoothly than I expected, so I poked around a little in the exhibit hall, where insufficient air conditioning made my plague mask really unpleasant.

Tom was running TerrorHog, so I went back to the JW to watch that. Upon arrival, I was immediately shanghaied to play one of the unused characters (I had actually promised to do this a long time ago). It was fun seeing someone else run my adventure and I always enjoy playing Crawlspace. The other players seemed to dig it. It's a pity they knew who I was when I joined the game. Would have been interesting to hear more candid thoughts.

After a bite and some drinks, Tom had another Crawlspace game, this one about a haunted radio station. I didn't play this time, just sat nearby. I worked for a while, then stopped to listen in. Had a late dinner and drinks at the fancier of the two JW restaurants afterwards.
Sunday was shopping day. I came back with Swords of the Serpentine, a fold-up dice box/rolling tray, and some sparkly purple dice. I already had the tote bag. Swords of the Serpentine looks really promising. In many ways, it seems to be what I've wanted from a fantasy game for a long time. Even though it's made with darker stuff in mind, it might be a better Middle Earth rule set than the games that were made for Middle Earth. Whether I can or can't find both the motivation and the players to actually run the game remains to be seen.
Tom picked up some stuff too, including a couple of setting books and a cool picture consisting of several layers embedded in a clear acrylic block. I think that's about it. We had some good Mexican food and enjoyed a quiet evening. I listened to Conan stories on the way back, but got tired of them somewhere in Missouri. I like Robert E. Howard, but the dosage was just too high.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

Friday, May 20, 2022

Strange New Hell Yeah!

Discovery and Picard both tried to give us Star Trek with modern sensibilities. They didn't really succeed at either. The first part came off as self-indulgent and insincere. The second part came off more like parody than representation. Strange New Worlds gets it right.

I thought Star Trek -- any kind of Star Trek I cared about, anyway -- was gone for good. Strange New Worlds is proving me wrong. 

Let's start with the look. The original Star Trek was strikingly colorful. It wasn't just the uniforms; they'd splash walls in the background with bright colors. It looked like a comic book. You can say it was just to cover the cheap sets, but you'd be missing the point. Intent is beside the point. If you think it matters, you don't understand art at all. The point is that the original series had a unique style which has largely been abandoned. Until now. Strange New Worlds doesn't do what the original series did with the lights; modern audiences, myself included, would think that was silly. What it does do, though, is give us a delicious rainbow of bright candy colors. I could watch it in Hungarian and still sigh at the beauty of it.

And it's an episodic sci-fi show! FINALLY! Much as I loved Deep Space Nine, I don't need another long story-arc show. Even DS9 started out episodic, anyway. If arcs develop, and they probably will, I'll take them as they come. I'm just happy that we're starting out with fun, interesting science fiction stories that start, develop, and are resolved in one hour. 

And let's talk about those stories. So far we've had The First Contact story, The Godlike Alien story, and The Outbreak story. Classic sci-fi stuff when you boil it down to basic elements, but each one of those stories is its own original story. It's not like when The Next Generation copied the original series episode where everybody gets drunk and all they added was robot sex and a slightly different explanation. 

What we're getting in Strange New Worlds are new stories. As with any story, someone has written the log line before, but it's not the idea that matters; it's what you do with it. I was especially impressed by the most recent one, in which we're left wondering if maybe a cherished Star Trek law is actually a kind of bigotry. And they didn't do this in a "you liked that show because you're an idiot" way. They did it the way artists do it; by letting the details work themselves out. And they resolved the legal dilemmas in the Star Trek spirit, with humanity and mercy over reflexive judgement.

I'm not going to go into detail on the way the characters are written, but I love it.

So yeah, go watch Strange New Worlds. If you don't wanna subscribe, maybe wait until the season's over and pay for one month to binge it or something. I don't know. Do whatever works for you. If you like Star Trek, though, I think you'll really like this. 

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Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Words, Words, Words

People say writers love words, but I think it's more that writers are driven to understand words, because we know they're inadequate, and we have to use all their quirks and ambiguities to say things that nobody else knows how to say.

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Define Yourself

Elektra in the Daredevil/Defenders shows accomplishes something no version of Phoenix ever did. She's a woman who defines herself in spite of what everybody tells her she's supposed to be. She dies (twice) because that's better than being anything other than who she really is.

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Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Chapman Challenge

My Iron Mutant Certificate is finally here!
When I posted a picture of this on social media, one of my friends responded, "Oh yeah? I dare you to watch a double feature of The Beast of Yucca Flats and Manos: The Hands of Fate. I double dog dare yah." They were both on YouTube for free, so I did it.

I watched The Beast of Yucca Flats first. It wasn't particularly hard to watch, just really, really, really boring. The narrator made it feel like we were watching a National Geographic special about radioactive man-beasts instead of a horror movie. 

A particularly funny moment was near the beginning, when the evil Soviet assassins were trying to kill Tor Johnson. During the gun fight, he just started shambling off into the hills, even waving back like, "Y'all go on. I'm gonna hang out up here." Despite the fact that he had no cover at all, NOBODY SHOT HIM. I liked when the hapless father made it back to his wife and was like, "You stay here where crazy people are shooting at us from an airplane, honey. I'm gonna take the car and go get help." 

At least, unlike Ed Wood, these people had the sense not to give Tor any actual lines. It was pretty funny watching him stagger around in the desert with his walking stick, though.

Next up was Manos: The Hands of Fate. I actually enjoyed this one. Yes, it was bad, but it had some fun ideas and I actually did want to see what was going to happen next. You could make a really good horror movie out of this if you had some money.

I had a good laugh when Mr. and Mrs. Clueless were getting all worked up over that painting of Borat, after deciding that spending the night with Torgo the Constipated Meth-Fiend was only a mild inconvenience. Also, I guess one of the powers Manos grants to its cultists is the ability to slap people to death. Fits with the "hands" thing, I suppose. It was funny when Borat was watching his brides argue with this exasperated look on his face, but that might have been intentional. 

And of course you have to love when, after they've seen the altar and the standing stones with a whole crowd of women stuck to them and they know something perverse and almost certainly dangerous is going down, Mrs. Clueless goes back to the room and decides that this is a good time to get undressed for bed.

I thought the ending was cool.

I made it through the whole thing without even finishing my drink. Now let's see you get through Sledgehammer and Things, Mister Chapman.

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