Friday, May 29, 2015

In which I am made (in)famous

Leeman Kessler at Ask Lovecraft answers one of my questions.

And yes, we actually did that once.  Fail a SAN roll, remove an article of clothing.  :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

On writing

One of the reasons I started this blog was an attempt to get into the habit of writing something every days.  As you can tell, that's not happening.  Though I am pleased that I am posting more than once in a while.

What I really want to do is write science fiction and/or fantasy fiction.  My brain is full of ideas.  The problem has always been getting them out of my brain and down on paper.  Or electrons as the case may be.  So by getting into the habit of blogging I am hoping it will carry over into the habit of writing fiction.

My main problem with fiction writing is that while I am very good at characterization and world building I stink at coming up with an original plot.  My characters and backgrounds are lush and realistic and full of detail.  My plots, however come across as boring and derivative.  Sure I understand there are so many basic plot ideas out there but I can never seem to come up with that twist to make mine unique.

I am wondering if working with some sort of writing collaborator, ideally one good at plots but iffy on characters/backgrounds, may be a good solutions.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gaming and PDFs (or what happened to my bank account?)

Last month there was a discussion on the Breakfast Club podcast about how PDF files are used in role-playing games.  The general opinion is that they are rapidly replacing dead tree versions of rulebooks and, especially, supplements as they are cheaper and take up less space.  It was also pointed out that a great many people nowadays buy gaming materials not necessarily to actually play the game but to read the books for entertainment purposes.

Yesterday, I purchased the Shadowrun 4e Bundle of Holding.  The month before I bought the Ars Magica 5e Bundle of Holding.  For those not familiar with the Bundle of Holding, it is a website that sells bundles of various role-playing gaming materials at very low prices and even then a portion of what you pay goes to support a charity chosen by the game designer/company.  For Shadowrun it was the Electronic Frontier Foundation and for Ars Magica it was, though the charities don't necessarily match so nicely to the games as they do in these cases.   You can pay more than the minimum if you like and the extra all goes to the charity.  It's a great deal, you get cheap gaming materials and support charity.

Now I haven't played Shadowrun since the FASA first edition came out back in the mists of time and I have no plans to in the immediate future.  I've never played Ars Magica though I have always thought it was a very well designed game.  And these are just a couple of the bundles I have bought in recent months.  Like the Yoggies posited above, I got them as reading/entertainment material and a large part of the reason I did so was that it was convenient to do so.  I have neither the space nor the money to get hard copies of all the gaming stuff I have bought this way.

It's not just through Bundle of Holding too.  I've got an account on DriveThruRPG and I am often on the site looking for deals.  I recently grabbed some 6mm Napoleonic miniatures* rules through their sister site Wargame Vault at half off the regular PDF price.

If it wasn't for the technology of the PDF format and the tablet e-reader I would not be able to enjoy these hobbies as fully.  And yes, just reading the rules for entertainment is part of enjoying the hobby.  I joked in the title about how this has hurt my bank account but in truth it barely makes a dent in it.  If I bought all of these rules the old way as dead tree books it truly would have caused financial distress.

Which raises the question on the flip-side, would I have bought them at all then?  To a certain extent many of these were impulse buys.  I get an email from one of the websites with their latest offerings and think to myself "What a deal!" and break out the credit card.  I doubt I would buy a whole bunch of Shadowrun or Ars Magica books if I was just browsing at the friend local gaming store.  For a gamer I can be depressingly financially responsible.

The more I think about it, the more it becomes a chicken and the egg problem.  So I've decided to stop worrying about it.  I am happy, the game companies and e-gaming websites are happy and where applicable the charities are happy.  Wins for everybody.

* Yes, 6mm.  I really like that scale for historical wargaming.  You can actually get the whole sweep of a large battle for a comparatively small sum of money.  Plus I enjoy the challenge of painting minis that small.  What can I say?  I'm weird.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

"After all when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite." --Winston Churchill

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Axioms of Administration

Power corrupts.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Petty power corrupts all out of proportion to actual power.

Eric Flint strikes again

I really don't have anything to add so I am just going to post a link to Eric Flint's exquisite rant about the alleged Social Justice Warrior control of science fiction & fantasy publishing and fandom.

I've been a fan of Flint's fiction for quite a while (Please write more Joe's World books, Eric!) and am rapidly becoming a huge fan of his blogging.  This post and his first one on the Hugos are enough that I plan on nominating for Best Fan Writer next year.

Civilization and its discontents

(With apologies to Sigmund Freud.)

I've been a big fan of the PC computer game Civilization ever since the original version way back in 1991.  I think I've played just about every version that has come out since and while there have obviously been improvements over the intervening 24 years some editions were better than others, and to my mind Civ5 was the pinnacle of the series.

So when the science fiction version Civilization: Beyond Earth came out and it was based on the Civ5 engine I was originally very pumped.  Then I got a copy.

There are some definite improvements there.  I like the tech web rather the old tech tree which helps make every game different.  And I like the idea of affinities where by the decisions you make in game and technologies you learn have an effect on your units and what you can and cannot build.  And I liked that you had control of how your colony starts out by being able to decide on the load out of your space ship.  Various types of satellites as units is also a good addition for a science fiction game.

But in many ways I felt it was something of a step back.  The fact that there are only eight playable factions compared to the 30 or so of Civ5 limits game play choices at the start.  Not to mention it gets redundant seeing the same faces over and over again among the computer opponents.

The stations of C:BE are supposed to be the equivalent of Civ5's city-states but they are much less interesting.  Unlike the city-states which have territory and units and do things the stations just sort of sit there and wait for you to either trade with them or attack them.

And while I like the tech tree and affinities as I said earlier, it also became fairly easy to exploit the system to get the biggest advantages towards winning by ignoring techs that favor affinities you aren't interested in in favor of those that you are.

Plus while the diplomacy AI in C:BE is definitely improved over Civ5 it's still a bit...quirky.  In my most recent game I was twice condemned by Polystrilia even though they had a friendly attitude towards me.  Cynics could say something about realpolitik at this point but it just struck me as odd.

And the less said about the dark grey on black mini-map the better.

In short, I've been getting bored with the game.

Then yesterday 2K and Firaxis announced the first expansion called Rising Tides and I perked up.  Don't get me wrong.  I doubt this is a panacea.  But it sounds like a good first step.  They are adding more factions (though only four?) and added new units and rules for the oceans and new terrain types, all of which can only add to the game's enjoyment.  Rules to make gathering alien artifacts more important seem to me a great way to exploit one of the uniquely SFnal aspects of the game.  And I very much like the idea of new units that exploit having a wider base of affinities rather than homing in on one as is the tendency now.

True, there is nothing in the press release addressing my complaints about the stations but I can hope and that complaint is really rather minor I must admit.  But overall this expansion looks like a big step in the right direction and when it comes out in the fall I hope it will re-ignite my enjoyment of the game.


One final note about the game play of C:BE that I find a bit irritating, namely that unless you choose a satellite in your initial load out you have to completely explore every aspect of the physical geography of the new world.  In the earlier science fiction attempt at Civ, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri this made sense in the games back story as everyone had to make an emergency landing on the planet to a shipboard disaster before they could scan the world. But in a controlled colonization situation it seems to me that the various colonists would take the time to orbit and scan the world before landing, if for no other reason than to help pick a site.  I get that discovering the geography of the world is part of the fun of the game but realistically any future space colonists would at least know where the shorelines and major mountains of a new world is.

Yes, I know I'm over-thinking it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

You have not been forgotten.

I'm still here.  I'm still keeping a blog.  I'm just having a hard time writing lately.  I have a bunch of half formed posts in my head, including ones related to:

  • Snow Crash
  • GalaxyQuest
  • Call of Cthulhu role-playing game
  • The crappy weather we're having in Reno
  • Complaints about the Nook App for Android
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth and it's announced expansion
  • and many, many more.

Consider yourselves lucky I decided I was not going to blog about the disaster area that is my love life.

So once I get out of my funk there will be more blogly goodness here.  Hopefully soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tim's Vermeer

Last night I watched the film Tim's Vermeer, a documentary produced and narrated by Penn Jillette (and, incidentally, directed by Teller) about his friend Tim Jenison and his fascination with Johannes Vermeer's ability to make very photo-realistic paintings.

Jenison is an inventor and designer of television equipment and he became fascinated with Vermeer after reading British artist David Hockney's book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters in which Hockney posits the idea that Vermeer may have used optics, that is lenses and mirrors, to make his paintings.  Jenison, coming from a background of video technology became obsessed with Hockney's thesis and set about to prove it correct.

The film records the five year process by which Jenison sought to replicate Vermeer's Music Lesson using 17th century optics.

Along the way Jenison taught himself how to grind lenses, make his own pigments, wood-working, even how to paint to a certain degree.  He replicated the room that Vermeer used as his primary studio.  Jenison is a man obsessed and the viewer follows along with his obsession.  However, unlike many obsessive types, Jenison remains a very personable and likable guy throughout the process.

There are several points in the film that discuss the physics of optics and how they would have been used and the neuroscience of light and vision and they provide excellent background context as do interviews with David Hockney.  One of the key points the film makes is that the idea that art and science are forever and always separate is very much a modern idea and did not exist in the 17th century.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Of elvish discrimination and contrarian role-players

A few years back I ran a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 campaign for friends.  My main motivation in dungeonmastering was it was a chance to indulge in my passion for world building.  In this particular case I decided to turn some well worn tropes on their head.

For example, one realm was ruled by a red dragon but rather than being the typical Smaug-like, ravening monster this particular dragon realized that his life span would be greatly extended by not despoiling the countryside and eating virgins.  Instead he put a human council in charge of day-to-day affairs of the country and only asked for a reasonable monthly tribute of gold pieces for the hoard and cattle for his meals and in return he actually protected the peasants from outside depredations.  In return said peasants tended to take a rather dim view of wandering bands of adventurers coming to "save them from the tyranny of the monster".

There are other examples but the most important trope subversion was I decided to make elves a hated and feared minority.  A millennium before the major elvish kingdom was responsible for a magical disaster that almost destroyed the world.  Even then there was still massive, destruction and famine in its wake and those elves that survived the initial disaster soon became the victims of a widespread pogrom.  Flash forward a thousand years and while there are still small enclaves of Elves about whenever an elf leaves one they are shunned, feared and generally abused.  The only thing worse than being an elf in this world is being a half-elf, who are treated as despised half-castes by both elven and human communities.

All of this was written up in the world description I gave to the players and was emphasized by me during character generation.  I actively wanted to discourage the players from playing elves as I tend to think they are overused.  So of course, out of the nine players in my game two made elves and a third made a half-elf.  After much eye-rolling and asking if they were sure they wanted to do this I allowed the characters.  I don't really believe in needlessly restricting character design choices unless there is a good reason, like if I had said there were no elves in this world rather than a few hated ones.

On one level having some players play elves could have been really cool if there was desire to actually role-play the experience of being loathed minority.  Instead most of the players, not just the elves, were more interested in typical D&D hack and slash, kill the monsters and take their things.

As a digression, this is why I tend to find D&D and similar fantasy games to be rather tedious nowadays.  I find the actual character interaction with each other and the world far more interesting than the party just being a bunch of murder hobos wandering the countryside looking for monsters to kill and loot.

This of course led to a lot of tension whenever the party left the dungeon for civilization.  Those three characters could rarely get service at an inn or tavern and when they could they were charged totally unreasonable prices.  The players started to complain I was picking on them.  My response was usually along the lines of "Yes, I am.  You chose to play a hated and despised minority.  I told you ahead of time that elves were that minority and I gave you the chance to change you mind in character generation.  My NPCs are acting in a manner wholly normal and consistent for the world I created and that you knew the details of."  Not surprisingly the game eventually died in favor of something else.

On one hand I recognize that I bear a certain amount of responsibility here.  Clearly I misread what the players wanted in a D&D campaign in the first place and the things I liked did not mesh really well with the things they liked.  But on the other hand I still have a hard time understanding how anyone (and bear in mind I'm playing with experienced gamers in their 30s and 40s, not a bunch of teenagers) can whine about a characters treatment when they choose to play something that has a lot of negative strings attached.  This was probably three years ago but it still mystifies me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Random miscellanea

I'm sorry there haven't been any posts recently.  Life has been busy and then I was out of town for a bit.  So below are some random thoughts and events from the past few days.


First on the British election, boy howdy did everyone screw that up!  Talk about your Shy Tory effect in the polling.  When the BBC exit poll came out showing the Conservatives gaining seats, I like everyone else was convinced it was completely wrong since it flew in the face of all of the final polling.  But as I sat there watching the results coming in and it looked like they were right I just couldn't believe it.  And even the Beeb's prediction that there was still going to be a hung parliament turned out to be wrong.

There are a lot of pollsters in the UK with egg on their faces still.  It will be interesting to read the most mortems on that subject over the next few weeks.  Polling is not an exact science but for so many operations to miss by that much is stunning.

At any rate I would like to offer my condolences on the next five years to my friends in the UK.  Chins up, guys.  It will get better eventually.


One of the reasons I hadn't posted is that I took a long weekend and went to visit friends in the Bay Area.  I needed a change of scene and I needed to be in a real city.  So I went and hung out with my friend Elaine in Oakland and we had a chill weekend playing games.  We went into San Francisco do some shopping.  She wanted some new lingerie for a trip this week and I was there to offer my advice.  I know, it's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

We stopped in at an independent bookstore (yes, there are still a few left) and I bought myself a copy of The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft.  On the long drive back into Oakland (traffic was worse than usual for SF) Elaine asked me to explain who HPL was and after explaining that he was the father of modern horror I came to the realization that it is really hard to explain the attraction of his work to the non-fan.  Between his hyper-materialist worldview, his racism and anti-semitism and his incredibly verbose style of writing he doesn't sound all that appealing to the non-fan.  I need to work on a better explanation.


On Sunday, after leaving Oakland I stopped in Sacramento to have lunch with my friend Jen and her fiance, Matt.  This was something like the first time in 20 years I had seen her and it was so nice to catch up with her.  It was even more nice to see that not only had we both grown up over the past two decades but also that we were both still the very same twisted people underneath.


Lastly I'm going to sign off with a few Hugo related links.  Consider yourself duly warned.

The first is a post from John Scalzi on just why the Hugos are not actually being destroyed.  Basically Scalzi echos my argument that they found a flaw and exploited it but now that it's been exposed it can be fixed.  There may be a couple years of pain in the mean time but in the end the Hugos will come out stronger.  Of course since Scalzi is an excellent writer he says it better and with more wit than I could ever muster.

The second is a post from Jim C. Hines about how the Sad Puppy campaigns have broken a recent trend towards gender balance in Hugo nominations and that calls into question the whole puppy premise of promoting "good stories" rather than defending a white, male preserve.  As someone who is a statistician I think the Ns are too small to draw a really effective conclusion but he makes a good argument on the face of it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On the British general election

Tomorrow there is going to be a general election in the United Kingdom.  I am almost as big of a British politics junky as I am an American politics one.

This year the outcome is going to be very interesting.  There has been some very good analysis on regarding it from a couple of British political scientists.  It looks like the Conservative party is going to get the most seats with around 280 or so, and Labour will get about 265-270.  British parliamentary elections are generally harder to predict than an American presidential election.  Instead of figuring out which way 50 states are going to vote, you've got to predict 650 individual constituencies and there is usually a dearth constituency level polling data to work with.  History is often a good guide but not always.

Also in Britain third parties have far more influence than in the US.  Though again it often shakes itself out at the constituency level.  So while national polling in the UK may show that the truly loathsome right-wing UK Independence Party may be in third place nationally, the bigots who support them are spread fairly evenly across the country so it looks they will only get one or two seats in the next Parliament.  On the other hand the Liberal Democrats who in the old Parliament had 52 seats and were coalition partners with the Conservatives are now polling in fourth place they are still going to come out of tomorrow's voting with around 25 seats because there are parts of the country (the largely rural constituencies along the edges of the country) where they have always had strong support.

All of this brings us around to the Scottish National Party.  You need 326 seats to form a majority government in the British Parliament and if the predicted numbers I cite above hold out that means neither the Tories or Labour will have that majority and they will need a coalition partner.  The LibDems are a spent force for the near future since they basically went back on everything they promised when they became the Conservatives' junior partner last time out.  But everyone agrees that the SNP is going to pretty much sweep Scotland (all but four or five seats) this time out and have about 50 seats thus putting themselves in the position of kingmaker in deciding which party will be running the UK for the next five years.

This surprising jump for the SNP, who presently have six seats, has less to do with Scottish separatism than straight right versus left politics.  Last year's defeat of the Scottish independence referendum shows that many Scots aren't that keen independence that is still the heart of the SNP platform but they are very much in favor economic equality and fairness.  Ever since Tony Blair and New Labour took control of the Labour party they are no longer the socialists or even social democrats of old.  Their policies are really only slightly to the left of the Conservatives.  But the Scottish Nationalist Party's policies are old school European left and with the state of the British economy up north ever since the Great Recession that has a lot of appeal.  In fact if the SNP had run candidates in northern England I would be surprised if they picked up seats there as well.

All of this mean's that the outcome of the election is going to be riding on who is willing to do a deal with the SNP and for how much.  If the Tories come out with the most seats, as seems likely, they get first crack at forming a government. And while I can see a certain advantage in the SNP joining up with the Conservatives, mainly to make them hold to David Cameron's promises after the independence referendum, in the end I think this unlikely.  The SNP doesn't want to be put in the position the LibDems are in now as essentially a fig leaf to cover the worst of Conservative policies with left wing respectability.  So it all comes down to doing a deal with Labour, especially as there are still plenty of old Labour types that would like their help pulling the party back left.  Where I am having a hard time deciding is if they will formally enter the government as coalition partner with seats in the Cabinet or if they will unofficially support a minority Labour government.  I am tending towards the latter because that gives them more power to withhold votes on key pieces of legislation if they don't like the way things are going and thus create a no confidence vote to force an early election.

Voting No Award

One of the big things being talked about to respond to Puppygate is an effort to vote No Award in those categories where the Sad/Rabid slates control most or all of the nominations.

Last month Kevin Standlee wrote an excellent blog post on what how that it done and what it means.  Rather than trying to distill his expertise I'm just going to link directly to the post.

If you are thinking of voting No Award (and I'm one of them) I urge you to read and think on what Kevin has to say.  He explains both the process and the effect without engaging in politics.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which while an important holiday in Mexico is not nearly as big a deal as it is here north of the border where it's a good excuse to get drunk on tequila.

Most of the folks getting drunk think they are celebrating Mexican independence day but that was actually September 16, 1810.  What Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates is the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Without getting bogged down in the details, while the United States was busy with its Civil War, Napoleon III of France thought it would be a good idea to turn Mexico into a French client state and so invaded it.  The Battle of Puebla was the first victory of the Mexicans over the French.

So really you have to ask yourself, what's the big deal.  The Mexicans beat the French.  Everyone beats the French.  If we had a party at every French defeat we'd all be perpetually either drunk or hungover.

Snark aside, the Puebla is in fact something for Mexicans to be proud of.  It's not every day that 4,500 militia men can defeat a larger (6,500 man) army of crack regulars.  My point is though, if you are going to use a foreign holiday as an excuse to party at least know why you are partying.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Age of Ultron (Now With Extra Added Spoilers)

This is my second post on The Avengers: Age of Ultron and it's going to be chock full of spoilers.  If you want spoiler-free first thoughts on the film, read my earlier post.

Here beginneth the (somewhat random) spoilers:

The minute we were introduced to Hawkeye's wife and kids, I pretty much wrote him off as a dead man by the end of the film.  After all it's a Joss Whedon film, someone has to die.  Giving a character who in both the film and comic canon doesn't really have that much of a backstory a very loving family life is basically the equivalent of putting a great big target on his chest.  So when he ran to save the trapped boy my first thought was "Yep, Clint's dead."  I was very surprised that he didn't die and I have to give Whedon a lot of credit for not falling for the obvious trope.

Conversely I am surprised he killed off Quicksilver.  It lacked the emotional oomph of the character deaths in his other work.  We feel pain for Scarlet Witch over her brother's death but at least in my case it lacked a direct emotional contact for me.  Maybe it's because I tended to view him as probably the most two-dimensional character in the film, just a smart-ass punk who wants revenge on Tony Stark that he just didn't click.

In my first post I complained that there were bits that seemed missing.  One of the more important ones was when Thor went into the Pool of Light to get a better understanding of his dream.  It felt like there was something missing in his conversation with Heimdall and how he realized the importance of the Infinity Stone was cut out.  Yes, we get exposition when he helps bring the Vision to life but the first rule of good film making is show rather than tell.

I really liked Ultron as a villain and James Spader was spot on to play him.  He's so good at evil and banal at the same time.  And I very much like the fact that Ultron took control of Jarvis fairly early on in the film.  Iron Man's reliance on Jarvis in combat had a tendency to make him rather omniscient and removing that crutch forced Stark to think for himself.

Another thing that I find confusing and I suspect is on the cutting room floor is just how does Nick Fury fit into this.  He appears in the middle of the film, out-of-nowhere to give a pep talk then disappears to reappear as a deus ex machina in the final fight.  Then in the denoument he's talking about the Avenger's as "my team".  What does that mean?  Has he rebuilt a new, proper SHIELD?  Is he actively running the Avengers now?

I'm not sure how I feel about the romance between the Hulk and Black Widow.  Granted Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov are two of the more broken characters in the Avengers but being emotional cripples is not the basis of a relationship.  And are we really supposed to believe that Nick Fury sending Black Widow to recruit the Hulk in the first film was him playing matchmaker?  Ack!

Finally I am curious about how the Avengers are going to be going forward.  The final scenes showing both Thor and Tony Stark leaving make a certain amount of sense as Chris Hemsworth has already stated he's getting tired of the part and I suspect the studio wanted to position themselves to write out Iron Man if Robert Downey becomes too expensive, so I'm good with that.  Replacing Iron Man with War Machine also makes sense as Rhody took part in the final battle as well.  But adding the Falcon, more or less out of nowhere strikes me as odd.  At any rate, I look forward with where they plan to take this in the two part Infinity War film.

Age of Ultron (Spoiler-Free)

Due to family commitments I wasn't able to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron until Sunday night.  These are my initial impressions and they may change over time, especially after multiple viewings.  I am going to keep this post as spoiler-free as I can but I do have some plot point specific thoughts that I am going to put in another post.

Overall I give it a B+.  The script was chock full of the witty banter that we have come to expect from the word processor of Joss Whedon and the general plot was well thought out.  That said I can't shake the feeling that bits were missing.  We know that there was a scene with Loki that hit the cutting room floor [1] and it seems there were several other small bits of dialogue that would have made various plot points clearer and they were excised in favor of action sequences.  AoU clocks in at two hours, twenty minutes long so I'm not surprised things had to go.  However if I may indulge in what I call the "Peter Jackson/Hobbit Rule of Action Films" if a film director needs to make a cut and it's a choice between 30 seconds of dialogue to advance the plot or 30 seconds of the good guys fighting be bad guys, cut the latter.  It's an action film, we know and expect lots of fights and explosions but I'm willing to sacrifice an explosion for a bit of plot to help tie the whole thing together.

That said when it comes to those action sequences I do think Whedon is the present master of action choreography.  Last week I noticed it again while watching the DVD of the first Avengers film and I saw it again last night watching AoU.  Whedon gives a great deal of thought to what everybody and everything on the screen is doing.  Not only are the moves of the characters well thought out if it's a one-on-one fight but also what everyone is doing in larger scale shots.  Plus he things about the what happens to the various bits of collateral damage as cars and buildings go flying around.  A superhero slugfest is essentially the same thing as a war with very similar effects on the bystanders and their surroundings and Joss takes this into account.

Getting back to the script, despite its occasional defects it still does a great deal towards getting into the heads and motivations of all the characters, making them more three dimensional people rather than the cardboard cut-outs that superheros tend to become on film.  Especially noteworthy were the attempts by various Avengers to come to grips with Scarlet Witch screwing with their heads.  Plus the conflicts between various characters seemed much more realistic in terms of each one's past and motivations rather than the rather simple optimistic, team-player Captain America versus cynical, loner Iron Man of the first film.

In conclusion, still a very good film.  It could stand some improvements but I very much enjoyed it, plan on seeing it again and will own it when it's released on DVD.

[1] And this scene had better make its way into the DVD release, Mr. Whedon, or else we shall be having words.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Three geeks walk into a con...

First allow me to show you the re-animated corpse of H.P. Lovecraft interviewing a couple of game designers at Cthulhucon in Portland, OR:

This video is a wonderful nexus of three strings of on-line geekery that I regularly follow.

First is the Ask Lovecraft series of videos, in which my friend Canadian actor and all around hoopy frood, Leeman Kessler plays a reanimated H.P. Lovecraft and in the normal course of things answers the questions from his viewers whether it be on his writing, his thoughts on 21st century life and culture, or advice for the lovelorn.  His answers are often filled with wit and occasionally a surprising bit of wisdom and is not to be missed.  Ask Lovecraft posts three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Leeman is also one half, along with his wife Rev. Rachel Kessler, of the podcast Geekually Yoked, which they describe as "the world's best married, Christian, geek podcast."  Leeman is the child of missionaries and was born and raised in Nigeria.  Rachel is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Toronto.  They look at the intersection of faith and fandom, and while they and the podcast are explicitly Christian it is not the militant, in your face sort of Christianity some find off-putting.  I'm a Jewish American Pagan and I listen to them regularly for their insightful look at the deeper meaning of the geek culture we all participate in.  Geekually Yoked drops every other week on Saturday.  Or when Leeman gets around to is.

Lastly are the two victims of Leeman's HPL persona, Ken Hite and Robin D. Laws of the podcast Ken And Robin Talk About Stuff.  Ken's and Robin's gaming and writing CV's are far too long and varied to list here but suffice it to say when it comes to geek culture both know what they are talking about.  Their weekly podcast (dropping on Fridays) covers everything from games and gaming, writing, food, cinema, time travel, and conspiracies, to name just a few things they cover.  Ken and Robin are both incredibly knowledgeable and witty and the podcast is great fun to listen to.