Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I don't quite know why my reviews have slipped to Tuesdays. I shall try to correct this defficency in the future. But anyway, this past weekend the Lady and I took in three or four episodes of Legend of the Legendary Heroes on Netflix.
First of all, the title is kind of dumb. "Saga of the Legendary Heroes" might be a little better.
Second, a brief overview: Ryner Lute, the bestest mage ever even though he's kind of a lazy dufus, is on a quest on behalf of King Sion to recover the (possibly fictional) relics of several ancient heroes so he can set up a mutually assured destruction scenario in the kingdoms of the realm, thus bringing an end to the continuous wars that have ravaged the realm for years.
Which is an interesting way of going about it, one supposes.
The characters are pretty cool. Ryner is the classic Anime slacker hero. He's good-looking and the bestest mage ever (Really, because he has the ability to copy any spell he's ever seen, and even beyond that he's damn smart when he cares to put forth any effort) but he's lazy and kind of a jerk. Also, he has a terrible, destructive superpower that can destroy everything because it's terrible.
Ferris is a beautiful, fairly arrogant swordswoman the king sent along to keep Ryner on task. She hits him a lot.
That actually makes me kind of uncomfortable. Love Hina was the same way. There's this profound streak of mysandry that goes past funny, especially when the male protagonist does literally nothing to earn the abuse. It leaves me feeling all squishy inside, kind of like the over-the-top fan service in High School of the Dead, Sekire, and Heaven's Lost Property does.
(Tomoki is really a perv-- like "should be in jail for sex crimes" level of perv.)
I suppose it's somewhat like all the cartoon violence of the old Warner Bros. shorts, but it rubs me the wrong way these days. (And the really old Bugs and Daffy were not the harmless fun you think of today, for that matter...)
But I digress.
There's a lot to like in four episodes. The show presents a really layered cast, where almost no-one has straighforward motivations or unencumbered loyalties. Friends betray friends for what seems like good reasons. Allies are sacrificed for expediency. Hardly anybody is really dedicated to the same ideal-- yet a critical mass of them manage to move toward a somewhat compatible goal. It's neat. I wish I could pull something like that off in a game.
And speaking of gaming, the setting is fairly gamable with a really neat magic system where spells are propriatary. Each nation has its own magic, and if you get caught using spells from another nation, that nation's people will probably want to kill you for stealing state secrets.
I'd think that while you can get away with that in the closed story of an Anime, you'd have trouble in a gaming group, because PCs will immediately try ot learn all the best spells. In the real world, it'd probably work about as well as any other attempt to restrict information, which means ultimately not very well.
That was one of the things I liked about Castle Falkenstein, though: the various mystical orders had limited spell selection because they all kept a tight lid on their proprietary grimories. It made for some neat interplay of magicians.
Friday, November 29, 2013
In the (moderately edited) words of Paul the Apostle, "I would not have you ignorant brothers."
Thanksgiving has passed, so I will now address Christmas related topics here on the blog. I know I'm about two months behind compared to various retail outlets.
Every year this time, we start hearing stories about the War on Christmas. I find it odd that we always hear stories from repressed Christians about how they're being repressed by the repressive nasty athiest repression machine, but we never seem to hear about the actual repression actually occuring in the actual world.
Wait, not odd. The other thing. Disgusting. Because it's a mix of wrong-headed thinking and outright lies.
Lying in the name of God disgusts me almost as much as deliberately taking up more than one parking space at the mall. (And for comparison, I have to restrain myself from vandalism when I see some over-priviliged asshole of a human being's expensive car straddling multiple parking spaces so his precious baby won't get dinged.) Here's the truth. There is not a vast athiest conspiracy to remove Christmas from the public sphere.
Actually, here are two truths:
* There is no War on Christmas.
* Christmas is as much a Christian holiday as Halloween is.
That's a lot to take in, so let's take them one at a time.
There is no War on Christmas.
Really. There's not. You only think there's a war on Christmas because lying, self-serving men (and women like former vice-presidential candidate and current vile excuse for a human being Sarah Palin) have told you there is. You trust them because they crow about how Christian they are and how bad the rest of the world is, and because you're used to being in a position of privilige in society. (More on that later.)
Rather than a War on Christmas, there is an "Opting-out on Christmas." A number of people have decided they don't want to celebrate a religious holiday they don't believe in. Some of them are Jewish, and think this Christ guy is kind of overblown. A few are Athiests who find the whole mess off-putting. Quite a few are Christians who think we shouldn't go around celebrating holidays God didn't tell us to celebrate. They have a point, in fact.
For most of this country's history, Christians dominated everything, so all those people had to suck it up. Over that time (actually, from before that time), Christianity degenerated from a religion of true believers ready to sacrifice everything for their faith into a giant members only club peddling influence, excluding anyone who didn't fit in, and enriching itself on the fat of society. Look at how morally bankrupt your average state or national politician is and realize that one of the things he did to get elected was pose for photos at his church.
Now, the Christian Club's influence is slipping, and of course the members of the Christian Club don't like it. But that's not a War on Christmas. That's just other people standing up for themselves. They're not trying to take anything away from you. They just want their share as well.
Further, you're not being oppressed if you're asked to say "happy holidays" rather than "merry christmas" while you're at work. You can still carry the true meaning of Christmas in your heart and do whatever you want on your time off. All you're being asked to do is show respect for people who believe differently than you do for the good of your employer.
(Since I find a high correspondence between Conservatives and War on Christmas Veterans, I expect you all believe that it's your right as employees to find other jobs if you don't like your current situation. Right around Christmas. Should be easy, right? Since anybody who really wants a job can always find one. It's just those slackers who suck on the public teat instead of finding honest work.)
Christmas is as Much a Christian Holiday as Halloween Is
Jesus gave his followers exactly one regular religious observance: Gather together and partake in the Lord's Supper. The first century Church codified that into a first day of the week gathering, and added some teaching and singing and a bit of administrative business.
That's it. The entire officially sanctioned Christian religious calendar would fit on a post-it note.
But many of the first Christians were Pagans of various stripes: mostly Roman or Greek at first. The Greeks and Romans loved to party, and had a regular schedule of religious festivals, and they worked excuses to continue partying into the Christian religious structure.
Halloween roughly corresponds to Samhain (pronounced "saw-in") in the Celtic calendar, and to a bunch of other autumnal equinox celebrations around the world. Christmas similarly filled the niche of the Saturnalia, Beltaine, or what-have you. Because it's on a long, dark, cold night and folks wanted to gather around and think about happy stuff.
So that's fine. I like hanging out with my extended family once a year. I love getting presents. And celebrating the birth of Christ seems like a nice thing to do. But you should never for a single second believe that it's a special honor to God. God asked for one thing. Anything else you do is for your own amusement.
I will spend a moment here also wagging my finger at those who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it's not a proper way to honor God. Let's be honest here; Christmas doesn't celebrate the birth of Christ. It's a festival in honor of Toys-r-Us and the Coca-cola bottling company. Go forth and have fun giving presents to your loved ones and eating cookies.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109627/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Sorry I’m late. I got
busy yesterday and forgot to write up my movie review. Fortunately, it was a really abysmally bad
movie, so I don’t feel like you missed much in not seeing it immediately.
Dinosaur Island is bad.
Really, really bad. It’s not good
action. It’s not good comedy. It’s not even particularly good porn. The special effects make the original Land of
the Lost look like Jurassic Park. The
acting is rudimentary. The topless cave
girls aren’t all that hot. And it feels
like picking on a developmentally disabled kid to point out the stupidity of
Basically, to play to its strengths, in every scene where
there is a soldier or a dinosaur, there should instead be a topless cave-girl. Then the movie would be slightly less
inadequate than it is.
But then again, I don’t get the sense that the makers were trying to create
anything better, so that’s a thing.
So what else can we talk about?
I saw Woochi over at Steve’s house the other night.
That was pretty good.
The Tao magic is a nifty change from traditional western folklore. Jun Woochi is a pretty neat protagonist. Never a reluctant hero, he’s just not a very
good one until the end of the movie.
Also, Steve’s kittens, Osiris and Sobek, are adorable. During the movie, they curled up on my chest
and napped. That made it hard to reach
my drink on the coffee table, but it was sooooooo cute.
Almost Human is really cool, isn’t it? They’ve managed in 3 episodes so far to
really sell the tech as plausible and making new kinds of crimes possible
without giving anybody a Deus ex machine.
(Hehehe, I made a pun) I was a
little disappointed that Dorian was straight-up superhuman in his
abilities. I’d kind of hoped that the
android cops were instituted because they were expendible instead. But I guess it’s okay. He’s not THAT superhuman, and the show’s
Agents of SHIELD comes on tonight. I hope it’s awesome.
I guess I could confess that I’ve utterly failed to finish
my novel over my vacation. I wrote two
really difficult chapters, and I’ll probably get one more done. I hope that means I’m in the home-stretch, where
it’s easier to figure out what happens from scene to scene. But it probably doesn’t.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
This week's (sort of) Review is a day late because I decided to watch both new episodes, and when the last one was over I was tired and didn't feel like writing a review.
So anyway, obligatory IMDB Link
Almost Human, new series on FOX, and therefore just watching it makes me feel a little bad because FOX supports FOX News, and FOX News is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Also, FOX has a history of canceling good genre shows just when they're getting interesting. But mostly, Glen Beck.
The premise: it's the future, and cops have android partners to protect them from the dangerous world. That's nothing we haven't seen before, but it's done in an entertaining way. Karl Urban gives good world-weary cop, and Michael Ealy is a pretty good post-Data android with a soul. The rest of the cast is solid, but nobody really stands out yet.
The real focus of the series is future-crime. The first two episodes were entertaining and interesting. As we go forward, the show will live or die on the writers' ability to come up with plausible futuristic crimes. They'll also need to keep portraying the world as dangerous, but not totally dystopian. I've seen plenty of stories about how the future will suck and all our progress is for naught. I really want to see a show about how we're a pretty smart species, all in all, and we'll adapt to changing circumstances.
And, of course, the question of artificial intelligence and the morality there-of looms large. Dorian seems pretty much as human as a human, but he spent 4 years shut down because his owners didn't have any use for him. There are many lesser androids, like the MX units that accompany all the other cops and the sex-bots in the second episode. Where do they stack up?
The second episode really highlighted this with some very interesting and nuanced portrayal of androids closer to human than the MXs, but not as human as Dorian.
I shall continue to watch this for another few episodes. I think I'm sold.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I just finished the first season of this nifty Anime: LINK
I'm also hideously behind on my writing, so I'm going to have to keep this pretty brief. The high concept of Ghost Hunt is that it's the normal world, except that paranormal activity is reasonably well-documented and accepted. The main characters are all associated with a psychic research institute, and are hired to investigate and deal with supernatural problems.
Standard ghost-hunting technology as used by real-world ghost hunters works, so no proton packs, but plenty of infrared cameras and low-frequency microphones. And basically everybody's spiritual practices work as advertised, which is neat since it means that some spiritualists are better at given tasks than others.
Occasionally scary, generally interesting and pretty much always fun. It is not, unfortunately, something to watch when you only have half-hour incriments of time. Almost evry story is a three-part series.
Check it out.
Monday, November 04, 2013
While I was supposed to be writing yesterday, I watched this little film.
Here's the summary from IMDB:
28th century, 200 years after the Great Earth Exodus. Naia, a feisty, young singer/songwriter, falls in love with the beautiful saxophonist Parker in Ganymede, one of Jupiter's moons. The two form a band - and now they have to not only make it as musicians but also to fight for their freedom. Dramatically rendered in rich, hand drawn animation, Strange Frame brings us into a world of space pirates, indentured slaves and genetic mutations - infused with music throughout, to create a dreamlike tale unlike anything you've ever seen.
- Written by GB Hajim
So... the problem with my current blog plans is that I only really had time to watch one review-worthy film last week, and this was it. And it didn't turn out to be wildly interesting.
From a technical standpoint, this was fairly poor in the quirky way that I often like. The animation was a mix of hand-drawn characters that were animated by stop-motion manipulation of the drawings and computer generated backgrounds. The art was expressive, but not great. Characters had odd proportions that I believe were a styalistic choice, rather than a lack of technical ability. I didn't dig it.
The plot was pretty straightforward. Girl meets girl. Girl loses girl to evil entertainment conglomerate. Girl hooks up with a pair of quirky spacers and an AI driven insane by centuries of sensory deprivation and rescues Girl in a wildly improbable action sequence.
Music was really woven into the story, and the composer was ALMOST up to the task. In places, the music was great and perfect. In others, I could see what they were going for but they didn't quite get there.
I did really enjoy a motif of inserts from The Duke is Tops playing in the background. That brought home the timelessness of the story.
And the setting was kind of interesting. Earth is long-dead, and the people had moved out into space, but at the cost of indentured servitude to big corporations. A very large portion of the population were "debt slaves" who could never pay off their indenture contracts, and were forcibly bio-modded into more useful forms for their corporate masters.
Not since Josie and the Pussycats and Repo Man has a less subtle critique of the modern debt-driven consumer culture graced the screen.
It's a pretty gameable setting. The PCs could be society's underdogs trying to scrape together anything they can just to get out of debt and be free in a world where you don't even own your body. Nothing we haven't seen before, of course.
This movie did not blow me away, by any means, but it was an okay way to spend an afternoon. If you have Netflix streaming, you could do worse. I'll give it 3 hot lesbians playing saxaphone out of 5.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
I knew these would come in handy. The post I wanted to write today didn't come through. I was going to go down and take the kiddos trick or treating (because in this household, we fight back against the war on Halloween. Halloween is a CHRISTIAN holiday that happens to coincide with some old pagan holidays... just like Christmas does. So get over it, you ignorant, milksop morons). But instead I decided to feel like death warmed over, then left out to cool again. Thus, I have no pictures of adorable nephew, niece, nor future granddaughter to post.
So here's some pictures of my giant demon mini from Reaper. This is a Bones fig, but not part of the basic Vampire box I got a while back. Which means I'm never going to get all those minis painted, because I keep buying more. :)
The purple ghost is one of the first Bones figs I pained, before the Kickstarter. The green one behind it is one of the Kickstarter figs, and is made of neat translucent plastic. The skeletons are also Bones figs. In the foreground is the mace of a cleric figure I painted a long time ago.
Front view. You can see a nifty ghost with a skull. He's also translucent green plastic. I think I overdid the shading on him a little. The other one came out much better.
A group of adventurers face off against a horde of undead and a pit fiend. The guy with the spiked chain is really going to wish he had a bludgeoning weapon. Fortunately, they've got two clerics (one being off-camera). The banshee on the left is another green fig. She came out just about perfect, maybe a little light on the shading up top.
And that's all I've got the energy for. Happy Halloween, y'all.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A few (ie, a lot of) years back, Jackson ran a Champions game where we played students at the Massachutses Academy in the X-Men Cinematic Universe. It was a pretty cool game. The X-Movie verse is more internally consistent than the comicbook universe. There's one kind of superpower: Mutants. The fact that the world fears and hates mutants doesn't have to be held up against the idea that the world isn't afraid of cosmically powered freaks or guys who build suits of powered armor that can take out a fighter jet.
Today (actually, Monday) I thought a little bit about playing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the world created by the current crop of Marvel movies: Iron Man (1-3), Hulk, Captain America, Thor (1-2), and The Avengers, with a side-order of Agents of SHIELD.
* No "Mutants." People with inexplicable powers are fine, but you can't call them "Mutants." Further, there isn't a widespread "Mutant Hysteria." The basic MCU man on the street seems to think the idea of superpowers is pretty neat, but any individual super can be pretty scary.
* No FF or Spider-Man, either. Thus also no Dr. Doom, Sinsiter Six, etc.
Beyond those, anything goes. Depending on who I played with, I might go one of two ways. The purist in me says it'd be cool to put together a MCU Defenders team or something similar, using as much as possible real Marvel characters as they might be transformed into movie characters. My main group, though, doesn't have enough comic book fans, so I'd be more inclined wiht them to go the Agents of SHIELD direction: make up original characters who could exist in that world.
Option 2 provides more freedom, of course. You can do whatever you want. And you have less risk of being completley contradicted by the next couple waves of movies.
Without cheating, your possible origins are: Supersoldier Serum derivatives, Extremis, Gamma Radiation, Power Armor/Cybernetics, Otherworldly, Alien, Advanced Training, and the Centipede, which is just a coctail of origins taped to your arm. So far, nobody has displayed psychic abilities, according to SHIELD.
With extrapolation, you have: Terragen Mists, Spontaneous Expression (which is to say something else activates the "expansion slot" in your brain and brings on biological changes), and probably magic in some form.
With outright cheating, you can do just about anything but Mutants. You could even have cosmic-powered heroes, just not the FF stable.
Proper game flavor is a little different than the bog-standard supers game. In one of the big two comic book worlds or a derivative, it's easy to say "a mutant, a wizard, a Greek God, and a cyborg meet up and decide to fight crime." But the flavor of the Marvel movies doesn't run that way. Characters' adventures are heavily tied in with their origins, and the only team we've seen came together to fight a literally world-destroying threat.
Some fun game possibilities (which I will not be running in the near future):
* Runnaway Supersoldiers: The PCs are experimental subjects of a supersoldier process who were created for nefarious ends. Now they're on the run from their creators and trying to bring down the evil [Government agency, Crime syndicate, Underworld Conspiracy, Whatever]. An AIM side project is an obvious choice, maybe with a ramped up version of Extremis that grants different powers so everybody doesn't have to have the same set. It'd be cool if they still had the heat regulation issue, though.
* The Superlative [Number of PCs.]: You can't have the Fantastic Four, but you COULD have another group of humans exposed to some kind of strange energy and transformed into amazing beings. I'm not sure how well the cosmic exploration of the FF translates into the slightly more grounded MCU, but hey, it's your game.
* (Some Other) Agents of SHIELD: spinning off of Coulson's team, there might be other rapid response units. Personally, I believe that if there's going to be superpowers in the game, I want some, so I wouldn't dig a pure SHIELD Agents game. So maybe Nick Fury assembles a second team of Avengers or something similar-- maybe lower-powered and lower profile than the main team, and a little easier for him to manage. The Avengers are majorly heavy hitters. Calling them together is the equivelent of ordering a nuclear strike (literally, as it turns out). They're also very high-maintenance and most of them have their own agendas. Fury would probably like a more managable team.
I didn't really like Ultimate Spider-Man (the cartoon), but the idea of a SHIELD training team is pretty cool.
But, as I said, I'm not running any of this. I'm writing a novel.
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