Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gaming Quotes III

Note: Last night's Rolemaster session was truly epic largely because Eric the GM's plans got totally screwed over when in the middle of a combat the bad guy wizard totally botched a demon summoning and as a result teleported the party several hundred miles away whilst half melting himself into the  scenery.

"Lice! Lice! Baby" --Eric

"Frosty the snow sword!" --Val and I, describing her magical frost rapier

"The GM is laughing.  That's not a good thing, right?" --Stephen, finally getting the social dynamics of RPGs

Susan's new character is introduced to the party:
"Who are you?" --Stephen
"I don't know how to pronounce my name." --Susan

"That was one hell of a roofie.  That was a great battle.  Or party." --Fred, when his character returns to consciousness after the magical accident.

"I refuse to be killed by a plant." --Fred, while fighting sentient vines that have taken over a village.

"You still have one [vine] on you." --Eric
"I know.  I'm trying to get him off." --Fred

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Epic Tale, Part IV

"What ho, dear brother!" Ludmilla the Insatiable cried as she leaped from her war unicorn and bounded up the steps to the tower three at a time.

"Hello 'Milla," Spatchcock replied flatly, blowing pipeweed smoke into her face. "What brings you here?"

"I was riding through yon hills and saw this village and tower in the distance and I said to my esquire, Spunge," she indicated a put upon man who was trying, without much success, to control the war unicorn, " 'Spunge, what village is that?'

" 'Why tis the village of Fisting-in-the-Dale, Milady', he replied.

"And I said, 'A-ha! Why that is the home of my dear bother, the mighty mage, Spatchcock the Green!  Let us go bid him greetings.'"

Spatchcock puffed on his pipe for several moments.  Then blowing more smoke in his sister's face he asked, "You don't really expect me to believe that, do you?"

Irate, Ludmilla drew herself up to her full height, loomed over her older brother and then suddenly deflated.

"Spatchy, I'm in trouble," she said meekly.

[Author's Note: I stole the name Fisting-in-the-Dale from comedian Greg Proops.  He used it in a bit about the quaint names of some English villages.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

So just what is "An Epic Tale"?

You may noticed that over the past few days I have started publishing bits of rather disjointed fantasy fiction here under the the title "An Epic Tale" and are thinking "What's up with that?"

Basically, I am doing it as a bit of self-therapy.  Recent current events and especially the election have gotten me down, so my response has been to laugh through the tears.  I am indulging in my penchant for humorous fantasy fiction in an effort to lighten my mood and, hopefully, the mood of my friends.

Also I am doing this to just simply practice my writing style.  Like many of my friends I've always wanted to be a writer and while I am good at things like characterization and setting, I tend to be weak when it comes to actual plot.  Plus I have some stylistic quirks I need to work out and I hope regularly writing short bits of fiction, generally only a few paragraphs long, will help me see and fix those problems.

To that end, in addition to other geeky stuff I am putting my bits of fantasy flash fiction up here as well.  And while it may seem rather scattershot now, eventually (I hope) it will all come together.

I should say that this is not wholly my idea.  I was inspired by my college friend Daniel Myers, author of the excellent Medieval Cookery website and its companion Medieval Cookery blog.  (Check them out as they are a mine of  great information.)  When we were at Miami University, Dan kept a notebook in which he scribbled similar bits of humorous fantasy flash fiction which he dubbed The Heroes of Sachran.  I always loved the idea and while Dan's sense of humor is even more surreal than my own, it is to him I owe the credit/blame.

Finally, as this is meant to be a project for both readers and writers please leave comments about my posts.  I want to know what is working and what isn't and where I am making a mess of things so I can improve.


An Epic Tale, Part III

Grimbi Grimbison drew himself up to his full height of four feet, ten inches and shoved his crossbow into the crotch of the six foot tall thug in front of him, “What was that you called me?”

Around the tavern floor was scattered coins and cards from the overturned table. “I called you a cheat, short-arse!” the thug screamed as he pulled a short sword from it’s scabbard.

“Now that is needlessly cruel,” Grimbi replied calmly. “I thought this tavern was a safe space.”

“Huh?” answered the now confused thug.

“I don’t mind being called a cheat.  Namely because I was cheating.  But anti-dwarven epithets are just being malicious in a way that doesn’t help the situation.”

“Epi-wha?”  The thug was getting even more confused.  Indeed, the shuffling and whispering by the other drinkers in the tavern gave the impression that they were having a hard time following Grimbi as well.

“I’m saying you could have just called me out as a cheater without disparaging my race.”

The thug lowered his sword and started scratching his head, “I suppose…”


Grimbi let loose with a crossbow bolt and there was a high pitched scream as his opponent fell to the floor grasping at his family jewels.

Grimbi looked down sadly, “Some people are just too stupid to live.”

Spam, spam, spam, eggs, bacon and spam.

Last night this blog got hit by a comments spammer leaving links on at least a half dozen posts.  The spam has been duly deleted and the spammer has been blocked with extreme prejudice.

Does this mean I've finally made the big time?

Monday, November 14, 2016

An Epic Tale, Part II

Spatchcock the Green stood up, coughed twice and looked about the ruins of his laboratory.  “A little less red mercury next time”, he mumbled to himself as he made a note in his still smoldering notebook.

He gently kicked his apprentice Pune, who was still cowering behind an overturned table and said, “Clean up this mess.” He then wandered upstairs to to his library.  Like most sane - for given values of the word sane  - mages, Spatchcock did his experimenting in a specially warded, underground laboratory lest it damage his tower or indeed large swathes of the countryside.

As he ascended to the higher levels of the tower he happened to look up from his notes and and through one of the windows he spotted an armored woman riding towards the tower on a black unicorn.  His pipe fell from his slack jaw at the sight.

“Dammit!  What is my sister doing here?” he muttered.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Epic Tale, Part I

And it came to pass that when Thagwald the Incontinent was king, there came out of the Plaid Hills a barbarian hero of great skill and renown. The hero strode into the small town of P’Tang, sweat glistening of his mighty thews and when he reached the square at the center he drew his sword and cried, “I seek brave souls to help me overthrow the Seven Lords of Lower Cromden!”
The only denizen of the town square, a rather bored looking cow chewing her cud, looked askance at the barbarian.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

Looking over the burning wreckage of the American political landscape this morning I take some solace in three thoughts.

1) Trump is going to find out very quickly that being President is very different from running for President and it is nothing like being the CEO of a real estate development company.  The President of the United States is a very powerful person but he is still strongly hemmed in  by law and precedent.  In most cases he cannot simply say "Make it so" and have something automatically done.  He has to work through and with a government bureaucracy that does things their own way and in their own time.

He's also going to find that he has to deal with Congress and that is not going to be as easy as he thinks.  Sure the Republicans are in control of both Houses now but the vast majority of them are doctrinaire conservatives who neither like nor trust Trump and don't really believe (correctly) he is one of them.  His attitude is going to be like they are junior executives in his company who have to do what he says but they are going to be like "Sorry, we are members of a co-equal branch of government so if you want to do some of the things you say you do the negotiate with us, Mr. Negotiator."

The practical upshot of this is that Trump is going to get very frustrated, very quickly and I would not be surprised that if after about a year he pulls a Palin.  Sure, that leaves us with Pence who is a anti-LGBT religious zealot, but that's a separate issue and at least he has a vague understanding how government works.

2) I think I can safely predict that even if he does quit after a year, Trump will have done so much damage to the economy that the voters may finally realize that no, the cause of their problems are not immigrants or Hispanics or blacks but the very Republican policies that have been keeping them down since the Nineties.  The result will be Democrats finally getting control of both Houses of Congress in 2018.

3) The campaign for Elizabeth Warren in 2020 starts today!

Monday, November 7, 2016

2016 Election Forecast

At last the moment you've all been waiting for, my 2016 presidential election prediction.

I still feel that we are facing a Democrtic wave, albeit a smaller one than when Comey opened his mouth.  Tracking polls give Clinton a 3% to 5% lead but the likely voter screens most polling agencies use have a bit of a Republican bias since they are based on previous voting history and there is strong evidence of more first time voters among this black and Hispanic communities, so I think her lead is probably more in the area of 6% to 8%.

That's why I have Ohio going blue, especially on the basis of stories about 4,000 person lines for early voting in Cincinnati.  The enthusiasm - even if it is more anti-Trump rather than pro-Hillary - lies with the Democrats.

That said, until two weeks ago I had Georgia going blue as well and I think Comey's intervention took some wind out of those sails and has energized pro-Trump forces in those places where he already had a strong lead like the South and Midwest.  But I do think Georgia is going to be closer than many expect and don't be surprised if it is called relatively late on Tuesday night.

I think McMullin is going to win Utah on a strong anti-Trump protest vote among Mormons and that, along with strong Hispanic turnout, is going to give Hillary Arizona as well.

As for the Senate, it looks to me like the Demcrats end up with 52 or 53 seats.  But so many of the individual races are so close that I am loathe to call specific ones either red or blue.

I wish I could say we are going to see a Democratic House but while I think the Dems will claw back some districts they've lost in recent years I doubt they are going to get a majority.  That's going to put Paul Ryan in and interesting and stressful position.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Memento Mori

I called my mother last night during the Indians-Red Sox play-off game (Go Tribe!) to talk about the Heir and she informed me that she is sending me some family mementos.

One is my great-grandfather Abraham's pocket watch, which had belonged to my grandfather and now my grandmother has.  Apparently she said she wanted me to have it now.

The other are some dreidels from my Aunt Ellen's collection.  Ellen, who was my favorite aunt, died last spring after a prolonged illness.  Apparently the family split them up and all the grandkids are getting a few.

I am having all sorts of mixed feelings about all of this.  I've been coping with my aunt's death largely by ignoring it as much as possible.  I suppose having some physical reminders of her around the apartment will make finally have to deal with it emotionally.

But getting the pocket watch is really getting to me emotionally.  I never knew my great-grandfather.  He died before I was born and I'm named after him.  And while I have always loved pocket watches and have owned several over the years and would love to have this one, I can't shake the feeling that Grandma is starting to split up her stuff ahead of dying.

Now she's 98 years old and it is perfectly logical for her to have death on her mind and making preparations for it.  I just don't think I'm ready to do deal with her mortality.  I always react poorly to the death of close relatives and I don't want to think about Grandma dying until it actually happens.  This may not be the most mature thing but I'm sufficiently self-aware to know it is true.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gaming Quotes II

NOTE: We had a low turnout at gaming last night so there was less bantering off each other than usual.

“Stop interfering with my alien sex fantasy.” --Me

“What does mean to be a cavalier?” --Stephen
“You're from Cleveland and very tall.” --Me

“The door of the tavern opens. You notice it is raining and standing in the door is a knight.” --Eric
“It's a dark and stormy knight!” --Me

“Hey guys, I think there's something behind this door. The GM rolled his dice.” --Stephen

“You get there simultaneously but I'm going to let Ashley go first because she's a girl.” --Eric
“The power of boobs compels you!” --Me

“You roll to clit.” --Eric

[Referring to a broken Oreo]
“It's needs a health spell.” --Me
“Oreos are already magic.” --Stephen

[To Ashley’s wounded character]
“Don't worry, I have pain drugs.” --Candice
“Yes, she pulls out a hammer and on the side is engraved ‘Pain Drugs’.” --Eric

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Gaming Quotes I

NOTE: This is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of posts of humorous quotes and semi-witty byplay from my regular gaming group.  At present we are playing Rolemaster and during last night's session the party was flailing away through a swamp filled with nasty critters.

Stephen: I ready my battle ass!
Val: Farts of fury!

Me: My heavy crossbow is named Zelda.
Eric: You named your crossbow?
Me: At least I didn't call it Vera.
Eric: Then it would be Vera Twang.

(Ashley's ranger is repeatedly stabbing a mortally wounded lizard man)
Val: Give it up.
Ashley: I am trying to put it out of it's misery.
Eric: As she scrapes off one scale at a time.

Val (playing a bard and singing):
     For a poultice they did barter,
     It's a goo thing he's not a martyr.

Eric (the gamemaster, trying to find some papers): And I haven't even been drinking yet.
Fred: I brought you a chocolate stout.
Eric: Oh good. Now where is that xp bonus.

Stephen (aiming his bow at a flock of giant crows): Hey guys, watch this.
Ashley: STOP!
Me: Nothing good ever follows that sentence.

Val (singing as Stephen's character bleeds to death):
     La la la, not to be morose,
     It looks like death is really close.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Admirable "Admiral"

Yes, I have crawled out of my cave to make a blog post.  And while it is about a movie, it's not a particularly geeky movie.  Unless you are a history geek like me.

Last night on Netflix I watched Admiral, a 2015 Dutch film about Admiral Michiel De Ruyter who consistently beat the British Royal Navy during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars.  The film stars Frank Lammers in the title role and has Charles Dance doing an excellent job as a thoroughly debauched King Charles II of England.  There is also a cameo by Rutger Hauer at the beginning of the film as Admiral Maarten Tromp.  The film is mostly in Dutch but the scenes taking with Charles are in English.

To a large extent this is a standard biopic, but for Anglo-American audiences not overly familiar with Dutch history it provides a good lesson on the intricacies of the Netherlands' internal politics in the mid-17th century.  The film manages to get across the sometimes violent political upheavals of the time between the Republicans and the Orangists without getting bogged down in talking. De Ruyter's friend and patron Johan de Witt seeks to strengthen the merchant class and republican form of government while fighting a series or wars with England while William, the Prince of Orange starts off as a rather ineffectual buffoon being used by the aristocrats while learning to be his own man and a ruler in his own right.  Both men are not above using De Ruyter for their own political ends and De Ruyter allows himself to be used because he seems himself as a patriot first.  This unfortunately leads to his down fall.

De Ruyter, besides being a Dutch patriot, is portrayed as a loving family man who is constantly caught between duty and family.  He also seeks to improve his nation's navy and the lot of the regular sailor.  Lammers shows a great emotional range in the complex motives of the man.

This is a film of truly epic scope with multiple naval battle scenes that manage to give a really good impression of just how brutal warfare during the age of sail could be while not falling into the trap of graphic ultra-violence.  The cinematography on land is incredibly lush and does an excellent job of evoking the 17th century.  And I cannot even begin to praise the production design and costume design in it's overall accuracy.  All of this was done on a budget of about eight million euros, so there is a lesson in there somewhere for Hollywood.

Overall I truly loved this film but I have two basic complaints.  The first is that the events in it cover a period of 25 years from 1653 to 1678.  Now of course you can't cover everything that happened to the major characters.  But the film gives no idea that such a large amount of time is covered.  At the beginning De Ruyter is a middle aged man with several young children and at the end he is still a middle aged man with young children.  No one ages.  No changes.  Unless one is already somewhat familiar with the era you could come away with the idea that everything is happening over the space of only a couple years.

The other complaint, and this is my history geek coming through, is the English ships are always shown flying the Union Jack.  Since this flag didn't exist before the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707 it is a very jarring anachronism to me.  I'm sure the director thought it would make it easier for a modern audience to keep track of which ship is on which side but this could just as have been done by showing English officers speaking on the deck of a ship flying the Cross of St. George, especially since the Dutch ships were all shown flying the present Dutch tricolor.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Random Thought

Despite it's very questionable politics I am still a fan of Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". Why? Because it involves killing arachnids!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


On May 1 Madeleine LeBeau, the last living cast member of the film Casablanca, died at the age of 92.

Casablanca is, in my opinion, the greatest movie ever made.  Most Anglophone film buffs put it in the top three along with The Godfather and Citizen Kane.  There are many elements to why it is a great film including Michael Curtiz's direction, the script with it's snappy, witty dialog, and of course the stellar performances by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  And I'm pretty much a sucker for anything that has Claude Rains in it.

But what really made the film for me were the performances by the supporting actors like Madeleine LeBeau.  In Casablanca she plays Yvonne, Rick's embittered ex-girlfriend who takes up with a German officer.  It's a small role but one that has great emotional punch because during the famous Marseillaise scene she cries out "Vive le France! Vive la democracie!"

She provides that extra oomph that makes an already emotional scene even better.  And it is more believable coming from her than possibly some other actress because LeBeau was a wartime refugee.

Casablanca is a story of men and women trying to cope during the horrors of World War 2.  Many of the supporting actors in it like LeBeau and her then husband Marcel Dalio, who played Emil the croupier, had fled Nazi occupied Europe for the safety of the United States.  It is the verisimilitude of these and other genuine refugees in the small parts of this film that provided it with that little extra something that more than made up for the occasional plot hole.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Buckaroo Banzai versus the Television Executives

The big news today in the geek-o-sphere are the reports that Kevin Smith is in the process of creating an Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai television series.

I meet this news with no small amount of trepidation.  I am a very old school fan of Buckaroo Banzai.  I was a fan of Buckaroo Banzai before the movie came out.  Not many people remember that Earl Mac Rauch's novelization of his script actually hit the bookstores about six months before the film did.  And I got a copy and read it several times before the film debuted.  Needless to say, it helped make sense of the movie too.

So the thought of a BB television series fills me with both dread and excitement.  On one hand it looks like it's going to be written and produced by Kevin Smith and he is the ubergeek's ubergeek.  If anyone will treat the original material in a way that fans will appreciate it is him.  On the other hand a lot of it is going to depend on which network or cable channel pics it up.  Heaven forfend the Fox Network gets their dirty little paws on it.  The subject matter is so bizarre they will no doubt treat it in such a manner that Firefly winds up looking like Gunsmoke.  And while things have been improving over at SyFy, I still don't trust them to treat original material well  I guess time will tell.

I do like Smith's idea of essentially remaking the film so that it is the story arc of the first season.  When you read the book there are a lot of ideas and subplots that didn't make it into the film that could easily fill out a whole season.  Though I am sad for whoever they cast as Rawhide.  Talk about doomed by canon.  Also the fact that Smith himself wants to play John BigbootĂ© (Bigboot-TAY!) is a bit worrisome.

And I really like his idea of doing the non-existent Against The World Crime League sequel for season two, if they get that far.  Again Rauch's novelization goes into a fair amount of detail about the WCL and it's leader Hanoi Xan that were not necessary for the film but are a great source of ideas for television episodes.

I think in the end I am cautiously optimistic.  Kevin Smith is a fan and he knows how to appeal to fans.  Buckaroo Banzai is a franchise with an already built in fan base.  The TV series could probably be made on a relatively constrained budget for genre TV since the original film was done on a shoe string and the fans won't expect the most cutting edge special effects.  In fact the cheesiness is part of the charm.

So I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and wait for an explanation of why that watermelon is there.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why yes, I do still exist.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in six months.  Or more likely you haven't noticed because it's not like I had a lot of followers before things tailed off.

At any rate, I'm back.  I hope.

I had a bad case of depression over the winter but I think I've finally kicked it.  I won't go into too much detail save that I was always tired and there never seemed anything worth writing about.

Also when I started this blog my original intent was to try and write at least one post a day even though I knew that I was tempermentally unsuited to that goal and I quickly found myself running out of things to write about.  From now on while I will try and post more often, I am not going to hold myself to any sort of artificial goal.  If I have something on my mind I want to post about, great.  If not, that's fine too.

So what am I up to now that I've crawled out of my cave?  Well I am getting active in science fiction fandom again.  The mess that was the latest Hugo nominations list was part of it.  (A fuller rant on that subject will be forthcoming.)  I'm going to be at BayCon in San Mateo at the end of May if anyone wants to meet up.

I've been getting back into painting historical miniatures again.  This time World War One naval minis in the 1:2400 scale.  I'm starting off with the British and German ships that fought the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915.

Here is the HMS Lion.  I'm not entirely happy with it as I think I painted the yellow teak deck too gold of a shade but for a first try in a very long time, it's not bad.  The nickel is there for a size comparison.

I'm doing a fair amount of board and role-playing gaming.  I'm sure this will provide plenty of subjects for posts going forward.

And with the US presidential campaign entering the general election phase you can expect a fair amount of politics from me.  You've been warned.

That's if for now.  Until I return, please enjoy the Anonymous Orange (tm) that I received in the mail earlier this week.