The hateful eight

Just quicky review. I went to see The Hateful Eight over the holidays, which was perfectly timed to coincide with the Boot Hill campaign my gaming group is now running.

If you usually like Quentin Tarantino’s films, you’ll like this; if you like Westerns, you should like this; if you enjoy ensemble casts, you’ll also like this movie — but only if extreme violence is not is a problem. The level of gore and blood is far beyond your normal Hollywood movie and fairly strong even for Tarantino. The (minor spoiler) effects of a poison reach horror-movie levels of gore. If you’re still in, it’s a really fun movie. The three hours it takes to tell the story never feel overly drawn out. In fact the time flew by. The writing is good; the 70mm panavision is used to good effect for about 10% of the film when the action is outdoors, but oddly wasted on a movie that mostly takes place inside a single-room building.

It’s tough to say too much about the plot without spoiling the mystery aspect of the movie, but my one complaint about the plot is that the bad guy(s) has to know that a blizzard with detain the main character(s) well before the blizzard hits. I’m not sure how good forecasting was in the 1870s, when I guess the action takes place.

Some of the other things that caught my attention:

  • great music
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh was great, and I wonder if the script was written with her in mind, as a few incidents (like the poisoning) seemed to reference her role in the somewhat obscure movie Flesh + Blood.
  • the voice-over midway through the film was unnecessary, or should have been

On a scale from derringer to buffalo rifle, this one’s a freaking Gatling gun. The best Western I’ve seen since Unforgiven.

Published in: on January 8, 2016 at 9:00 am  Comments (3)  
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The Force Awakens (no spoilers)

  • They did not resurrect Mr. Spock
  • Jar-Jar Binks played a pivotal role which redeemed him for his crimes against the galaxy in previous films
  • Highlights from The Life Day celebration featured in the 1978 CBS Star Wars Special are included in the end credits

OK, maybe not. I was kind of holding out hope for Jar-Jar to return though.

Anyway I had the opportunity to see the movie last night and it was WAY better than I would have expected. I’d been avoiding news, spoilers, and even trailers for this, so my expectations were pretty much based on knowing Lucas is doesn’t make the best judgement calls, and Abrams was pretty roundly criticized by fans of the Star Trek franchise for straying so far from canon. My only thought was that straying from the prequels would probably be a good thing. I still haven’t even seen episodes 2 and 3, but I guess I will have to give them a fair shake.

Anyway The force awakens was pretty terrific. Does it owe a lot, in terms of plot, to episode 4? Sure it does. That actually didn’t bother me too much because after all the franchise itself is an homage to old serials that were themselves very derivative and repetitive. Does treat the old characters with reasonable respect? Yes. Does it introduce new characters that are as engaging as the old characters? Yes, pretty much so. Presumably they’ll more of a chance to develop in sequels with less involvement of the older characters. Maybe the best thing about the movie was that it was slightly darker. My brother commented that the action seemed pretty consistent with the old d6 Star Wars RPG, and I think he’s right about that, so that’s another plus. Overall, a good sci-fi/fantasy film, a really good action film, and one of the better Star Wars films — I’d rank it right up there with episodes 4-6, especially considering that as an adult I know I’ll never experience any movie the way I did the original Star Wars as a child.

Published in: on December 18, 2015 at 9:49 am  Comments (10)  
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Die Geburt Krampuskind

nat-der-kra-2

In just ten days, I believe, we’ll be celebrating the nativity of the Krampuskind. Left to right we see a manger animal (Reaper Miniatures), an angel (Ral Partha), Joseph (Heritage Models), the Krampuskind (Dollar Tree),  Mary and two magi (Metal Magic), and a third magi (Grenadier).

Krampus gloriam in excelsis!

Amen!

Click the image below to embiggen…

nativity der krampuskind

Published in: on December 14, 2015 at 11:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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Christmas ghost stories, 2015 edition

I recently  read Ghosts : a natural history by Roger Clarke. For the record it is much less a natural history than a social history, and it really only covers the last 300 years and mostly in England. Clarke tries to be impartial but admits that he is fascinated by hauntings and seems to want, pretty strongly, to believe in ghosts. But I did find some really neat, perhaps gameable tidbits: (1) The ancient Greek taxonomy of ghosts; (2) the modern occultist taxonomy of spirits; (3) medieval lore on the color of ghosts; (4) what ghosts most fear.

  1. The Greeks believed in the mutilated dead who haunted battlefields (the biaiothanatoi, or the souls of those who dies violently); plaintive spirits of children and babies (aôroi) ; wandering spirits of those who were not properly buried (ataphoi); and the spiteful spirits of those who never married (agamoi).*
  2. Modern occultists apparently prefer the taxonomy developed by Peter Underwood, which has:
    Elementals (primitive spirits that haunt a location, often pagan fairy-folk, or demons connected to black magic or Satanism)
    Poltergeists (spirits that cause noises and pranks, often hurling objects at people which land so softly they cause no injury, associated especially with pubescent children)
    Traditional or historic ghosts (the souls of the dead which interact with the living)
    Mental imprint manifestations (a residual effect of powerful emotions, often repeating some action like closing a door or crossing a room like a loop of film)
    Crisis or Death-survival apparitions (the appearance of someone you know well or are bonded with, when they are either dying or facing a deadly ordeal)
    Time slips (a sort of flashback, where a whole ghostly setting is experienced; time slips were a bit of a fad from 1911-1915 but are otherwise very rare)
    Ghosts of the living (appearances of people who are alive, most often seen by people in the twilight between waking and sleep)
    Haunted objects (beds, chairs, weapons, or jewels that have ghostly phenomena connected to them)
    Underwood’s list omits the ghosts of animals, of which Clarke provides a few examples.
  3. Ghosts, to the medieval mind, must be the souls of those not in heaven (for why would they ever leave) or hell (who cannot escape), which is to say the souls of people in Purgatory. Therefore they are still expiating their sins and so they appear in various shades from black (for the most recently dead, still stained by sin) to white (for those nearly finished with Purgatory and nearly unblemished by sin). Of course Protestants would have to therefore deny that ghosts are possible, for there is no Purgatory in their doctrine. Any “ghost” must be a demon.
  4. Finally Clarke notes that exorcists held that the threat of banishment to the Red Sea was the most fearful threat one could make to a ghost (or a demon pretending to be a ghost). Clarke admits he has no idea why this is so, which is surprising. The legend of Solomon using a magic ring or seal to control djinn should be familiar to anyone who has researched magic beliefs. Solomon supposedly sealed the djinn in bottles and dumped them the Red Sea, where they have mostly languished since.

 

=======================================================

*A pretty decent overview of ancient ghost beliefs is here.

 

Published in: on December 13, 2015 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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CIP for self-publishers

Did you ever open a book and notice that back of the title page has, probably beneath a copyright notice and a mailing address for the publisher*, a little block of text that says “Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data”? For those of us of a certain age the layout is familiar, as it is pretty much what you’d see on a catalog card from the pre-digital library catalog**. If fact it is there for exactly that reason: it give librarians a head up on how to classify the book, what the main subjects are, and it presents the author’s name in a form that will distinguish it from other similar names. So part of the function is that the cataloging in publication (CIP) provides an analog catalog record which can be copied into a library’s catalog. But CIP’s other function, when it come from the Library of Congress (of some other national library like Library & Archives Canada or the British National Library) is to tell librarians that this book is serious enough to have been submitted to the national library. (Actually they just submit a title page, table of contents and/or summary, and biographical info about the author, since the book may be unfinished. That’s why CIP doesn’t include the page count and other details you will find on an actual catalog record, and occasionally the title changes by the time of publication, and in some cases the subjects don’t really match the finished book.)  Getting CIP is a detail the big publishers bother themselves with because it makes sales to libraries that much easier, but it also demonstrates the publisher cares about details, and might have performed other traditional publishing roles like fact-checking, proofreading, and editorial review. Small presses and self-publishers might do all that too, but in my experience a lot of them don’t. Sadly getting CIP isn’t very easy for them either. The Library of Congress has some requirements about the number of books and authors published by a publisher before they will even be eligible for CIP, which effectively shut out self-publishers.

Naturally a number of companies are happy to fill this void, and they charge from $50-120 for the service. Of course most writers of fiction probably don’t need to bother with CIP, since the subject analysis and call number assignment of fiction is not a big issue for libraries. But nonfiction — especially nonfiction that the author thinks has some lasting value and would like to have preserved in a library — has a much better chance of getting into the libraries with CIP. I wouldn’t say it is as important as having an ISBN but it is on the same list of priorities. You can read more here, if you are interested in why CIP is important and how to get it. (The linked article mentions three companies that provide CIP for a fee. I’d also add Special Libraries Cataloging, Inc., to the list. The owner “Mac” Elrod has a fairly impeccable reputation.)

Anyway all this is a preamble to say that if you

  1. are self-publishing a book on RPGs, miniatures, or other topics likely relevant to this blog, and
  2. would like CIP as a small measure to help get your work into libraries

I’d be more than happy to provide CIP. I am professional cataloger, so I won’t screw it up too badly. And I’ll do it for free because I want to promote the hobby and the DIY community. Depending on response, I ought to be able to do this pretty quickly for you — quickly enough that it shouldn’t delay publication. All you need to do is send me

  • a mock up of what you title page will look like (front and back) — preferred title, author, and publisher place/name/date
  • a table of contents listing chapters or sections if that helps explain your content, and/or a summary, and
  • enough information about yourself that I can distinguish your name from others already in the national authority file (NAF)

See, I’m not asking for a free copy or anything like that — after all your book is presumably unpublished if you plan to add the CIP, right? I’d be doing this on my own time, not my library’s, so unless we do actually acquire a copy I can’t add your record online to WorldCat, nor can I actually add your name to the NAF if you don’t already have works in WorldCat or in my library like I do for books at my library; it will just be an email back with text to cut and paste onto your book’s title page verso (verso=back, recto=front, in bibspeak). Also I will be doing this from home, since it would not be kosher to use library resources for outside stuff. So it’s not exactly a guarantee of anything, you’re be getting what you pay for, etc., but it could help.

 

——–

*And perhaps a series of numbers like this: “15 14 13 12 11 10 09     10  9  8  7  6  5  4 3”, which printers use to note printing year and number; they just pull off the previous number, so in this case the first group of numbers might be the year and the second group the printing number, so here we see a 3rd printing made in 2009.  Other printers don’t bother with the year and list numbers out of order: “2 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 1”.  This is kind of dying out as printers no longer need to literally remove the numbers from the printing block, but for older books if you see a “1” in the sequence you know you have a first printing.

**Actually the CIP standard has recently been updated to match changes in cataloging rules and to be, theoretically, more web-friendly.

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Return of the son of the bride of rats-on-a-stick!

 

hot-rats-1

Yes, ’tis the weekend before Samhain (/sa-ween/)  or Halloween again and there is a party and rats on a stick. This year I varied the recipe again, using a can each of cannelloni, navy beans, and red kidney beans with about 1 1/2 cups of plain bread crumbs, four chicken eggs, and maybe a quarter cup of teriyaki sauce, with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste (i.e. tons) for the outer cores and 1/3 or 1/4 of a string cheese stick for the core of each rat. The tails are bucatini, a spaghetti-like tubular pasta. They will be served with teriyaki sauce to dip (rats on a stick can get pretty dry when reheated). Bon appatite!

hot-rats-2

Published in: on October 24, 2015 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Canton cannon!

Last month I spent some time visiting a veteran’s memorial in Canton, Ohio. It was a weekday and the place was pretty empty — no doubt fact that the memorial is right off an interstate highway, and not really in a residential area, I suppose.

Anyway apart from a pleasant gazebo to sit in, and a path around a small pond, the things that really caught my eye were a couple of pieces of 18th century artillery that were mounted there on stone pedestals. Both were looted late in the 19th century from the Philippines and eventually found their way to Canton, Ohio. The amazing thing about them is that although they are utilitarian military weapons, they are also intricately sculpted and decorated. They were made at a time when everything was basically made by hand and decorated because why the fuck wouldn’t you make anything you are making beautiful as well as functional.

Here are some pictures, taken with my primitive flip-phone. Both are obviously bronze.

First up, a cannon.

cannon-0

Looking at it from the end the crew would see, there is a face — perhaps a ‘green man’ — sculpted onto the butt.

cannon-1

He’s a little cross-eyed.

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The whole barrel of the thing is covered with reliefs and inscriptions. The touch-hole (where you’d insert a fuse to set it off) has a fire-burst decoration.

cannon-3

Futher along the barrel is a nice sun face.

cannon-4

Happily there is also a plaque explaining the Latin inscriptions;

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Next up, a mortar.

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I like the face on this one even more.

mortar-1

There is a set of loops that I think were used to adjust the mortar’s elevation. I guess you’d have chains or ropes threaded through them. They are sculpted into stylized “dolphins” typical of the sort you see in Renaissance art.

mortar-2

There is a plaque for this too.

mortar-3

This is just displaying my ignorance now, but back when I first saw the art in various Warhammer Fantasy Battle books (and the corresponding Citadel figures) of artillery with faces and other grotesquery on them, I assumed it was the drug-fueled visions of John Blanche, Ian Miller, and the other Games Workshop staff artists. I didn’t realize they were just depicting how old artillery really looked.

 

Published in: on October 17, 2015 at 12:41 am  Comments (3)  
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Podcasts

Here’s a brief rundown of some podcasts I’ve been listening to during my commutes and during some the more routine tasks I do at home or work. Not all are swords and/or dorkery related.

Save or Die! : a podcast about OD&D and the various “Basic” sets and their clones. This one is worth listening to only when the guest is a good one (e.g. John Peterson) or they are covering an interesting old supplement. Most of the time, there is far too much chit-chat among the hosts. My issue with the hosts is that they are very prone to saying some opinion or ruling they prefer is the only one that “makes sense” without making much effort to understand alternatives. That just gets on my nerves. YMMV. B.

Nerd Poker : a podcast about Brian Posehn and some comedian friends of his playing D&D. This is definitely not for people who are hung up on rules, as they stumbled through 4th edition for something like 30 sessions before giving up and going back to 2nd edition, which they actually don’t seem to understand any better than 4th. But this the only “actual play” podcast I’ve liked, because the table talk is always pretty funny and the campaign settings have been imaginative, even though the actual play part is mostly horrifically slow combat. Table talk is probably 50% or more of the run time, meaning they rarely finish an encounter in one episode if it involves combat. A.

System Mastery : A podcast devoted to making fun of RPGs, I think. I’ve only actually listened to one episode (about the Galloway Fantasy Wargaming), and I probably picked a bad one to start with because I actually know a fair amount about this one and have a soft spot for it. In this case they went directly after the low hanging fruit (sexist comments in the literature review, stat mods for females) but they did give some begrudging kudos for the magic and religion ideas. Listening was a good reminder about how incredibly easy it is be snarky and hypercritical of something if you studiously ignore context and only half pay attention. (I don’t think the podcasters here would disagree, since they bragged about doing “no research” and made a lot of bizarre errors about history.) As a comedy podcast, it had its moments though, and I’ll check out a few more before firming up an opinion. C.

Heavy Metal Historian : I don’t know how I found this one, but it is not bad at all. Each episode looks at some part of the development of and influences on heavy metal or a subgenre within it. The narration is mixed with excerpts of music and from interviews or documentaries, and this is a big plus. I was kind of impressed with an early episode that illustrated the influence of classical music on Black Sabbath (cf. Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war” juxtaposed with Black Sabbath’s eponymous song), and I really like being able to hear snatches of obscure bands that I’ve heard *of* but never heard. A.

Welcome to Nightvale : I know this one has been around a long time and has been praised to death elsewhere but so far I’m really enjoying this too. I can’t listen to it at work for fear of laughing out loud. If you haven’t heard of it, it is supposedly a broadcast from a small town in Arizona where rivalry with the neighboring town, eccentric locals, and cosmic horror are all facts of life. A+.

Stuff you should knowStuff to blow your mind / Stuff they don’t want you to know: Howstuffworks.com has a whole portfolio of podcasts, blogs, and whatever the word is for video podcasts. So far I’ve really enjoyed a lot of them. In particular I’d recommend the ones on Vultures, Ergotism, spiders, and of course Dungeons & Dragons. A.

WTF with Marc Maron: This one is evidently really well-known too, I am late to the party, whatever. Comedian Marc Maron just has really in-depth conversations with people. The best on I’ve listened to so far is with Wyatt Cenac, a distant second is Jason Bateman. Bob Guccione Jr. was great too. Maron has a way of really probing his subjects and getting them to open up in a way you don’t often hear. A+

 

Published in: on October 8, 2015 at 6:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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Turbo Kid! (with no spoilers)

So Turbo Kid ran its limited release in Akron and I did get to see it.The regular D&D group was down two players that week so we decided to catch a flick, and gathered an hour or so ahead of time at the hipster cinema to drink and loudly discuss politics while we waited for the show to start. It turns out that the several beers we tried were all ridiculously strong craft beers (9% ABV or so) so by showtime I was a little tipsy. I expected chemical enhancement to improve the viewing experience anyway and was not disappointed. Though I’ll need to see it again some time stone sober to see if it dampens my enthusiasm.

From the opening credits (listing the distributor as “The leader in laser disk sales”) it was pretty much perfect. Low budget? Yeah. But special effects can still look pretty decent these days on a budget, and the mix of computer and practical effects was never distracting, even though there were exploding bodies, geysers of blood, and laser-powered glove weapons. It all worked. The landfill sets and BMX chase scenes were filmed with love and the cheesiest lines were delivered with heart. You can tell everyone involved was having a great time and wanted nothing more than to make this gory retro sci-fi epic.

The actors are mostly obscure, apart from the always entertaining Michael Ironside. But they all do a great job. Even the wild-eyed, overly enthusiastic Laurence Labeouf doesn’t get old.

Someone has surely already described this movie as “The Road Warrior on BMX bikes,” or “Cherry 2000 directed by Luigi Fulco,” or “The Troma version of the Power Rangers,” so I won’t try to compare it to anything else. Go see it. You’re welcome.

Published in: on September 9, 2015 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Are you freaking ready for 1997?

Warning: link is to a trailer for an independent post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi movie that is rated R and shows graphic (but unrealistic and cartoony) violence.

Still with me? Great.

Go ahead, click THIS.

This.just.opened.

Review to follow after I see it in Akron next week.

Published in: on August 28, 2015 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  
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