kent_allard_jr: (profile)
According to UrLai.com, Tales of the Blue Dolphin "is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time." Two-thirds right isn't bad, I guess.
kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
I've never seen Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but caught a few minutes of the restored print on TCM last week. The film quality was amazing, and the scene I saw -- a delirious vision of a Jazz Age Whore of Babylon -- was captivating. I hoped to watch the full movie later, but alas, our DVR screwed up the recording (damn you Time Warner Cable!) so I'll have to wait until after the holidays.

Metropolis has already occupied a corner of my subconscious, though. On Sunday I dreamed of being trapped in a Metropolis MMO. (I don't know why I have so many MMO dreams. Once I was in a distant WoW expansion, set on the Moon, where I wandered out of town and was killed by a 200th-level squirrel...) I don't think it would have much commercial appeal, since you had to toil in the factories at low levels, although you got to reset your genetic structure every time you died. (In my dream gene splicing was done with fuzzy virtual Legos.) I did get to drive through the high-level city: It was under a dome, where the city's elite lived in open-air compounds around a suburban street. Big Sister's televised messages, strident to the proles, were whining and pathetic when delivered to the elite, who jeered and laughed at them anyway. A lot like our own world, when you think of it.

Columbus

Oct. 11th, 2010 06:58 pm
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
I only realized it was Columbus Day when I ventured to the mailbox this afternoon. Now I understand why I'm hearing so much about the holiday. May I say, for the record, that I'd be happy to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus is an odd icon, after all, a lousy geographer who happened to stumble upon the Americas and who spent the rest of his life denying his own accomplishment. He was America's First Sucker. He only keep the holiday because Italian Americans make it a big deal.

I'd like to raise my pet peeve against the anti-Columbus brigade, though: Could we stop putting scare quotes around his "discovery" of America? Yes, yes, the Indians (and the Inuit, and the Norse) found the continents before he did. No one has ever disputed that. Nevertheless, from his standpoint, it was a discovery, just as you or I might discover buried treasure in our backyards or discover the great taste of RC Cola. You don't have to be the first!
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
The weather is cool, the sun is shining, and this would be a terrible time to ruin it with an angry political screed. Instead I'll say something positive and shout out to my new favorite blog, The Phil Nugent Experience. Nugent's blog is about 1/3rd liberal rant, 2/3rds cultural commentary, the latter encompassing everything from movie and TV reviews to his reminisces about Colonel Sanders. I particularly loved this bit, from one of his "October 2010 Horror Movie Diaries," insightful and funny (to me, at least) at the same time:
For a true student of the evolution of the movie monster, Plague of the Zombies may be of even greater historical interest, as one of the last full-blown depictions of the old school zombie before George Romero rolled in with Night of the Living Dead and single-handedly reinvented a whole species of ghoul, a feat comparable to rewriting the rules of the Western so that whole generations of moviegoers could scarcely imagine a time when cowboys didn't wear pink tutus and fire laser cannons. The classic zombie, as seen in this film and earlier pictures such as the Jacques Tourneur-Val Lewton production I Walked with a Zombie and memorably strange, low budget White Zombie with Bela Lugosi, were the products of voodoo...

Probably pre-Romero zombies never really caught on as movie monsters not just because they lacked personality, but because they had a workplace... Zombies were drones, dragged out of a restful grave to do the bidding of some Montgomery Burns figure. (In Plague, the villain turns out to be the local mine owner, who is callously working the non-union living dead to within an inch of their non-lives. My favorite image is that of a zombie failing to notice the hero sneaking past him because he's too busy irritably brushing dirt off his tunic, as if to say, I know I'm dead, but this still sucks.) Time and again, the real villain of these stories is the zombie master, the conscious player who is pimping out the undead. By taking the middle man out of the equation and giving his zombies insatiable appetites, Romero gave zombies greater metaphorical power and relevance, but he also made them free agents. This made them more fun to watch, and after the shock of seeing them biting into people's faces and inhaling human intestines as if they were licorice began to level out, it even made it possible to project onto them, which is why the clearest steady development throughout most of Romero's zombie movies is that, the longer he keeps making movies about them, the more opportunities he seems to find to allow you to sort of root for them.
It makes me feel bad for putting Romero-style zombies in Two-Fisted Tales (they clearly don't belong in stories from the 1930s), but those guilty discoveries are part of the fun of learning.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I'm always happy when xkcd does stat jokes:

'Dude, wait -- I'm not American! So my risk is basically zero!'

I may talk about Bayes' Theorem in class this semester (the first time I'll be doing so). For those who enjoy these little games... Assume only 1 in 2 million Americans knows 'that statistic.' If you walk down the road and find an American killed by lightening, what's the chance that he knew it?
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
As I've said many times, I've always been more interested in myth and legend than in contemporary fantasy, and this was true when I discovered D&D as a kid. So the book that most excited me was Deities and Demigods. That book was my introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos (as well as "Melnibonean" and "Newhon"), but it presented the material out of its original context. The Erol Otus artwork suggested, as you would expect with a D&D supplement, that Lovecraft's stories took place in a standard Medieval setting with castles and princesses and the rest of it. It presented the mind-boggling prospect of a Cleric of Cthulhu, armed with mace, shield and chainmail, marching into the dragon's lair with a standard D&D party, no different from any other evil cleric except that he can't say his god's name and he sacrifices virgins in his off-hours.

Lately I've been reading short stories of Clark Ashton Smith and CL Moore, part of my research into pulp heroic fantasy. The odd thing is, their "Medieval romances" resemble that hypothetical D&D pretty well. The monsters are Lovecraftian, with little resemblance to creatures of myth or legend, and pagan priests are presented as sinister and bloody-minded. As I recall this was also the case with the Conan stories I read as a teenager. I expected this from Smith, a horror specialist who (like Howard) was a frequent Lovecraft correspondent, but I was surprised to find it in CL Moore's Jilel of Joiry stories.

I don't know where this taste for tentacled blobs comes from (Hodgson? Merritt? Burroughs?), but it's interesting to see a very different approach from Tolkien when it came to the forces of darkness and evil. Ideally, I'd say, you should follow one or the other if you want a consistent atmosphere.
kent_allard_jr: (profile)
[livejournal.com profile] mylescorcoran linked to bookshelf porn on Facebook today, and it's a fine site, but reminded me of a long-term peeve of mine: The inadequacy of the common bookcase, and how much I'd love to see it improved upon.

Years ago I visited [livejournal.com profile] womzilla's house in Yonkers, accompanying [livejournal.com profile] agrumer, [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk and [livejournal.com profile] mnemex to playtest Shadowfist I believe. The great thing about womzilla's home is that just about every vertical surface is covered with books. I remember, for example, going to the bathroom late at night (we stayed over) to find a full bookcase in there. I ended up sitting on the can until dawn, reading the history of comics. (I hope no one else had to go...) I resolved to do build a similar space someday, whenever I had the money and real estate to do so.

I've made some progress, but in the process, come to a love-hate relationship with bookshelves. On the left is a photo of my RPG collection. The first two cases are cheap particle board, of which I used to have several. However, I found that most particle board bookcases will collapse if you fill them with ... well, books. They work fine if the shelves are halfway hull, or just have photos of Grandma and plastic whales and shit, but not more than that. I found they can only handle my RPGs, since many of the old boxed sets are partially empty.



Eventually I visited local cabinetmakers and bought high-quality wooden shelving. Much sturdier, but they often added fancy touches that made them harder to use. On the second photo you can see the arch on my TSR/Wotc/White Wolf bookcase. It looks nice, but you can't pull out Marvel Superheroes without removing half of the other games first. I'm glad the cabinetmakers take pride in their work and all, but I wish they'd remember what they're making.



One problem I don't have is a surplus of paperbacks, although many of my friends do. I've never seen a bookshelf that's well-suited to them: Most are too deep, and have too few shelves, to put all books on display at the same time. Most folks I know pile them two layers deep and two layers high per shelf, making them hard to catalog and causing periodic avalanches of books. Myself, I put my paperbacks in a corner unit designed to display knickknacks, as shown on the left. Works well enough if you don't have too many.

I've long been interested in alternatives to the common bookshelf: Units with sliding doors, multiple units, or what have you, and I'd love to hear ideas folks might have to improve things. Of course, I could just stop whining, follow Mom's advice and just throw all my shit out. After my last move it's a tempting alternative...
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
In the meantime, enjoy the Renaissance Fair from Hell (particularly those of you who remember how shitty videos could be in the 1980s):

kent_allard_jr: (morans)
On Saturday, after [livejournal.com profile] moonlightalice and [livejournal.com profile] wellgull showed me Extreme Dagobah -- for which I will be eternally grateful -- we slooooowly made our way to West 51st Street. (The subways were wonky and human traffic was a bitch.) Along the way, we encountered a bus from Bourgeois Tours, which provided us with endless amusement. Apparently it's a French Canadian outfit, and I guess that "bourgeois" has a different connotation for them than it does for everyone else, for whom it's equal parts "rich" and "philistine." Do they go and look at banks all day? We wondered if there are alternatives like "Lumpenproletariat Tours" where you lie in alleyways drinking beer and so forth.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
Just a couple quick hits today. First, Lou Anders tries to summarize the Grant Morrison "plot" arc for Batman R.I.P.. The results are not pretty.

Matt Springer tries to estimate the orbital period of Krypton. He figures it's about 69 Earth years, although it's based on pretty sketchy assumptions about Krypton's sun Rao. (He freely admits they're sketchy; it isn't his fault!)

Finally ... the pilot for the Japanese Spider-Man TV show!

[livejournal.com profile] ecmeyers linked to the opening credits a while ago, but this is a video of the whole episode. Admittedly, I could only stand the first 15 minutes or so. Not to spoil it for you, but they changed the origin story, so Spider-Man got his powers from aliens of the planet Spider. No, I'm not making this up. No idea why they thought this was an improvement over the original story. (Maybe because the giant robots were easier to integrate, or something.)

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