Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Putin

I thought I'd post highlights from tonight's MSN conversation with Bluefish. I am Monkey Ninja, while Bluefish is The Artist As A Young Man.

Monkey Ninja says (9:26 PM):
Putin is ready for zombies. While everyone else is looking around, he's keeping his eyes on the casket, just in case Patriarch Alexy returns from the dead:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Dmitry_Medvedev_9_December_2008-1.jpg
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:27 PM):
He's got his candle, ready to breathe fire on the beast if it arises.
Monkey Ninja says (9:28 PM):
He can make a molotov cocktail out of a sock and his own urine.
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:32 PM):
In fact, 90% of the molotovs you find in L4D were left by Vladimir Putin just to help you survive.
Monkey Ninja says (9:32 PM):
And the rest were left by Putin as a personal stash, in case he gets thirsty.
Monkey Ninja says (9:38 PM):
Putin once made a Molotov cocktail out of a juice box.
Monkey Ninja says (9:39 PM):
If you ever need to light a Molotov but you don't have a lighter or matches, just say the word "Putin."
Monkey Ninja says (9:42 PM):
Putin is, himself, a Molotov cocktail. But only he can light the fuse, and when he does, the whole world will burn.
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:43 PM):
Yes. The whole world burns. He doesn't.
Monkey Ninja says (9:46 PM):
Putin was once told to make a Molotov cocktail out of a bowl of borscht, a Russian flag, and a copy of War and Peace. He ate the borscht, including the bowl, read the book in five seconds (causing it to crumble into dust in the process), and wrapped the flag around his manly torso, where it became part of his skin.
He then calmly handed the Molotov to the person who had asked him to make one.
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:47 PM):
Also, War and Peace, having accomplished its purpose in the universe, had every copy in existence disappear.
Monkey Ninja says (9:48 PM):
Well, it's kind of redundant anyway, with Putin around.
Monkey Ninja says (9:48 PM):
What's the point of having a book on War and Peace when you have Putin?
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:48 PM):
Putin is War AND Peace!
Monkey Ninja says (9:49 PM):
He's both the crime....
Monkey Ninja says (9:50 PM):
....and the punishment.
Monkey Ninja says (9:58 PM):
When calling a coin flip, Putin doesn't say "heads" or "tails." He says "Putin." Putin has never lost a coin flip.
The Artist As A Young Man says (9:58 PM):
Putin is the reason Napoleon couldn't invade Russia. The only reason Napoleon got as far as he did was Putin wasn't born yet.
Monkey Ninja says (9:59 PM):
The fillings in Putin's teeth are made of depleted uranium.
The Artist As A Young Man says (10:00 PM):
During the war in South Ossetia, Georgia made the mistake of invading the country while Putin was away at the Olympics. This caused them to be able to get across the border, which only made Putin angry.
Monkey Ninja says (10:02 PM):
Putin brand breakfast cereal doesn't get soggy in milk.
Monkey Ninja says (10:02 PM):
It does, however, make the milk 120 proof.
The Artist As A Young Man says (10:03 PM):
Every other country spends billions on weapons development. Every few years, Putin gives Russia the secret to the next stage in their arms design.
Monkey Ninja says (10:04 PM):
Putin can hug with nuclear arms.
The Artist As A Young Man says (10:05 PM):
Putin once dropkicked a dragon for looking at him funny.
Monkey Ninja says (10:06 PM):
Any lycanthropes in the same room as Putin will instantly shift into their most powerful forms. This is so that the fight will be a little more even before Putin kills them.
The Artist As A Young Man says (10:07 PM):
Putin is the reason vampires can't come out during the day.
Monkey Ninja says (10:08 PM):
Contrary to popular belief, Cthulhu is actually waiting for the stars to be right *and* for Putin's permission.
The Artist As A Young Man says (10:10 PM):
There is an eighth day of the week. Only Putin is allowed to enjoy it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thinking Way Too Hard About Leveling Up

Warning: This post rambles quite a bit.

The necromancer Vektar sat on his throne, overlooking the armies of the dead standing between him and the great doors to his inner sanctum. He allowed himself a phlegmy chuckle. Surely the heroes who even now approached those doors were doomed! Then, a moment later, the great doors were blown from their hinges and smashed down onto the front ranks of the necromancer's servants. Framed in the doorway was a gray-skinned figure, his eyes glowing beneath his cloak, his hands still crackling with energy. The necromancer recognized his former apprentice, Kazrel, whom Vektar had banished for refusing to sacrifice a maiden for a dark ritual. As the undead horde, oblivious to their comrades' recent fate, surged forward, the a massive figure stepped forward form beside the Kazrel. The necromancer stood from his throne at the sight of Wulfbeorn, the black-haired barbarian prince from beyond the steppes. Vektar had heard that Wulfbeorn had left his clan to regain his honor, though the dark servant who had brought that news had known nothing more.

Wulfbeorn, his muscles bulging beneath his simple fur garb, strode forward, his great two-handed blade cutting a great swath through the necromancer’s forces. Kazrel followed behind him, weaving dark energy around him as he walked, sometimes unleashing it when the mindless forces of Vektar threatened to overwhelm the brave warrior who strode before him.

Finally, they reached the throne. Wulfbeorn was covered in a dozen wounds, and blood dripped from his mighty form onto the black stone of the courtyard, yet his eyes were still bright and his strength undiminished. Vektar stepped forward, hissing a black word from behind yellow teeth, and magical energy in the shape of gossamer bones reached for the mighty warrior. Kazrel stepped forward, however, and with a word caused the deadly magics to dissolve. Now the two sorcerors were locked in battle, and soon the air stank and crackled with the power passing between them, as their dark chants caused even the stalwart Wulfbeorn’s heart to tremble in his chest. Nevertheless, the tireless warrior kept the necromancer’s intact minions from interfering, and soon a pile of bodies lay before him.

Then Vektar’s tongue slowed. His joints moved painfully, and his breath came short. He had reached his limit. Kazrel stepped forward, pointed a finger at the man, and spoke a single word. A moment later, the only thing remaining of Vektar was a pile of gristle and shredded robes. Instantly, the dark army, which had a moment ago seemed on the verge of overrunning Wulfbeorn, collapsed into dust.

“It is done,” said Kazrel.

“I feel stronger,” replied Wulfbeorn.

The gray-skinned wizard turned to his companion, glowing eyes questioning. “What?”

The barbarian shrugged. “I can’t explain it. I feel like I’m a better fighter now. Like fighting all those guys taught me new moves.”

“That’s ridiculous. What could you learn in this ten-minute fight that you didn’t learn in your years of training on the steppes?”

“I dunno. Don’t you feel stronger, though?”

The mage was silent for a long while. “You know those spells I have been trying to master? I feel like I should give them another try. Maybe now I would have more success in learning them.”

“Also, I think I can lose more blood before passing out, and survive falls from greater heights,” said Wulfbeorn as they walked away.

“Now that’s just stupid,” said Kazrel. “But yeah, me, too.”


Leveling up has become such a big part of games these days that we've all started taking it for granted. These days, even first-person shooters have characters that gain skills and abilities, and nearly every RPG has some method for leveling up. In theory, it's meant to represent the process of a character going from a starry-eyed youth full of enthusiasm and ideals but with little to show for practical experience, to a battle-hardened professional who has survived hardships and learned from them. In actuality, it serves as a carrot dangled in front of players to constantly keep them interested. Sure, you're just a Goblin-poker now, but just imagine how much ass you'll kick when you're a Dragon-smiter! Right now, you're pleased as punch to drop a Bubba's Discount Singeing, but play for another few months, and you'll be hurling Merlin's Meteor of Fiery Armageddon Death.

So part of the problem is that leveling serves as a way to promise future ass-kicking, rather than simply handing it to players. I think that this is a lot like the FPS Pistol Syndrome I described in my review of Painkiller: game developers, whether they're making an FPS or an RPG, seem to feel like gamers won't appreciate kicking ass unless they're forced to spend an appreciable amount of time being weak as kittens before they're allowed to start stabbing giants in the face.

This is bull. Conan might not have started out as King Conan, but right from the start he could take on three hard-as-nails barbarian dudes and kick their asses hardcore. Elric of Melnbone starts his books as an expert sorcerer. Aragorn can fight off Ringwraiths before they party even gets the backstory for the campaign in Rivendell. And, as Bluefish once pointed out to me, Luke Skywalker didn't have to kill worrts before he could use the damn Force.

One possible explanation for this is that the characters really did have to go through all that, we just didn't see it. Conan trained with his tribe of Cimmerians, Elric studied in the libraries of Melnibone, and even Luke bulls-eyed womp rats in his T-16 back home. It all just happened off-screen. Well, my response to this is that there is a good reason it happened off-screen: because it's boring!

The only time starting a player at such a level is justified is if that player is unfamiliar with the rules, and you're easing him into it. Most RPGs start the character off with just a basic attack, for instance, and special attacks, spells, and items are gradually introduced to the player as the character learns/gains them. This makes sense, but should be optional. If the player already knows how to play, why not skip the toad-stabbing and get right into it?

My other problem with leveling up is how, for whatever reason, characters tend to get better all at once. Suddenly, not only do I become better at stabbing faces, but I also become harder to hit, better at blacksmithing, and able to take more arrows to the chest and fight on. I realize that this cuts down on bookkeeping, but it immediately takes me out of the game. The whole point of RPGs is to think of your PCs as characters in a story, rather than as stats on a sheet, and the minute the DM says, "Okay, good job. You all gain a level," suddenly the spreadsheets and rulebooks come out and instead of thinking, "How did my character grow as a person when he killed the man who betrayed his clan to their blood-enemies?" I'm forced to think, "Would I rather be able to cleave through armor like butter with my broadsword, or scramble my enemy's intestines with my throwing daggers?"


The other side of this is that, when I level up, I worry that I'm taking the wrong abilities. Will I need to be able to move heavy objects with the Force, or should I instead learn to jump insanely high? Jumping isn't going to help me much when the giant idol crashes down in front of the tunnel we have to get into, but moving heavy objects is going to suck if I have to chase down the bad guy's speeder as he gets away. Even worse is getting to a high level and finding a cool ability or prestige class that fits your character perfectly, only to find that you didn't take that ability or skill two levels ago that you need now, so you're stuck being a Horse Patter for another few levels when you could have been an Ogre Smiter if only you'd treated your character as a statistic instead of a person.


Well, if I'm going to think way too hard about something, I should at least come up with an alternative. Ideally, I think it should be up to the Gamemaster when players gain skills, abilities, and spells. When the GM notes that a character has spent a lot of time fighting duels, for instance, that character may gain an ability that gives a bonus when engaging enemies one-on-one. Or when a wizard has spent enough time in the chaos lands beyond the veil of sleep, the wizard's mind may be opened enough to comprehend the next powerful spell.


The problem with this is obvious: players are going to gripe. Some might grow in power better than others. A player might prefer a different ability to the one the Gamemaster gives out. Worse, a lot of players like to plan out exactly how their characters are going to progress when the character is first generated. The character's progression then has nothing to do with what the character does in the campaign, but everything to do with which abilities the player wants to use and thinks are the best.


A good compromise might be to use a leveling system like the one seen in the World of Darkness, where a character spends experience points to get better bit-by-bit. First an attribute may go up, then a skill, then another skill, then maybe the character will gain some resolve. It feels a lot more organic than everyone suddenly getting better at everything all at once. In my perfect, happy world, where all GMs are wise and just and all players are just so excited to be playing that they go along with what the GM says, the GM would be the one deciding how the experience points are spent. In the real world, the player and the GM should have a serious conversation about what the character learned and how it should affect that character's stats.


And, for the love of Gygax, please don't make me start by stabbing roaches. Because that's just no fun at all.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Are you happier than you've ever been?

My favorite professor, Chuck, used to joke that the purpose of philosophy was to make people unhappy, so he would start every class by asking, "Are you happier than you've ever been?"

I'm happier than I've ever been.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meme Watch: Zombies

With Halloween less than a month over and Left 4 Dead recently released, the Restless Dead are currently on everyone's mind. Better keep your chainsaws and cricket bats handy...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Where have you been? It's all right, we know where you've been.

Sorry about the quiet lately! My computer, Lovecraft, has been unwell lately, and though Lady Grey was nice enough to lend me a laptop, I have mostly been using it for novel-writing in this month of November. Okay, novel-writing and Facebook. Loads and loads of Facebook.

I'll try to post on here sometimes, but there's no guarantees. This laptop tries its hardest, but it takes forever to do anything internet-related. Sorry!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New "There She Is!!" Videos!

The Korean series "There She Is!!" is probably the most charming Flash cartoon on the internet. After the original episode and the sequel, "Cake Dance," a long time passed before the next episode was completed. The series got sponsored by a corporation, but this meant that the availability of future releases was in question. Eventually, I stopped checking the site, having somewhat given up on seeing the rest of the series.

Today I checked the site and, to my surprise and delight, there were not one, but two new episodes! You can check out the entire series here:

http://www.sambakza.net/amalloc/tteotta_main.htm

The story focuses on a girl rabbit, Doki, who falls in love with a boy cat, Nabi. In their world, however, love between rabbits and cats is forbidden. The series explores prejudice and its effects on young love.

I should warn you that the episodes get darker as they go on, as societal pressure mounts on our two adorable heroes. The fourth episode is especially dark, but I have no doubt that the fifth episode, when it is released, will make everything all right.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Are You Prepared for the Zombiepocalypse?

True, the man in the video does not mention zombies, but he might as well. After all, what seems more likely: that the power will go out, or that the dead will rise and attack the living? Exactly.

Thanks to Kawaika for finding the video!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Heart of D&D

As I was sailing the aether of the Google Nebula, trying to discover the hidden secrets of Dungeons and Dragons, when I came across these videos. Known as Dungeon Majesty, they feature four female players and a male Dungeon Master playing D&D, with much bluescreen and simple animation being used to illustrate the action. The link I originally found described the show in not-entirely-flattering terms as lacking polish and production value, but at least partially making up for that in heart and enthusiasm. I transferred the file to my computer via the aetherospheric network, expecting to watch maybe a minute or two and get a chuckle out of it. I found myself watching the entire show. True, the effects are lackluster, though they are better than I expected. It is also true that the show tries to sell itself with the appeal of women playing D&D.

What surprised me, however, was the nostalgia involved in the show. The players really seem to enjoy playing their characters, and the Dungeon Master tries to breathe new life into the stale air of the dungeon crawl.

This is what D&D should be all about: friends gathering together to have fun and tell a story. They did not need fancy races or exotic abilities. They just need friends, dice, and a dungeon. If you like D&D, or if you have long wondered what this game entails, check out the video.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lord Admiral Discovers How Berkeley People Can Be

Today I was afforded the opportunity to attend a parade of eccentricities known as "How Berkeley Can You Be?" Accompanying me were my friends Kage and Lady Gray. It consisted of all sorts of organizations and causes, from Free Tibet to campaigning politicians to high school marching bands to brutal alien warriors. Yes, Klingons made an appearance. Based on a web search, I believe they were the crew of the formidable IKV Bloodlust.
Fiendishly, that person with the Selawsky sign just had to interpose her message in front of some of the Klingons as I was taking this picture. Curses!

The Vaqueros of Unity showed off some dashed impressive horsemanship.

Unfortunately, this next picture also turned out to be less than impressive, and unfortunately the sole picture I took. As I remember, it was of a Polyamorous group, and the reason I didn't take more is that the people handing out flyers sought out my friends and I specifically to give us a flyer. Though we were two gentleman and a lady, I can assure you that I am merely a friend. Before I could demand satisfaction for whatever the flyer-hander-outer was attempting to imply, the ruffian had already absconded. Harumph! In any case, the conveyance in the picture was still quite impressive, featuring a sort of expanding-contracting system that lifted the chair and lowered it.


The parade ended with a veritable parade... very well, a literal parade of art cars. I would like to share my favorites, though there were many, many more. Some were merely painted, while others had such elaborate designs that they could only be called works of art.





Of course, it would not be Berkeley if there were no political statements:


I saved the best for last, my friends. I now present my personal favorite vehicle from the parade:
It's hard to see in the picture, but that panel in the back was open to reveal several large cogs. Also, the gentleman driving it had a delightfully anachronistic driving costume on.

All in all, quite a colorful exhibition, wot wot!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lord Admiral Meets Wil Wheaton 2: The Revenge

Remember when we met Wil Wheaton back in May? You've probably forgotten all about it, but I'll tell you who hadn't: Wil Wheaton. That's right, my friends and I went to From the Land Beyond, a sci-fi and horror convention in Sacramento, and we ran into Wil Wheaton there (okay, so Wil Wheaton was pretty much the reason we went). As we were waiting in line for his show, having only just arrived, he came up to us and stopped to chat, telling us that he had gotten into PMOG on our recommendation. So he totally remembered us!

After talking for a bit, he kept going, and then the presentation that had been going on ended and the people started filing out. One of the people filing out was Richard Hatch... holy frak! I must have looked like a deer in headlights, as he gave me a smile, said "Hey," and kept going.

Wil Wheaton's reading was the same as the one we'd heard at SuperCon, but the interesting thing about it was that he tailored his presentation to the audience, with more horror movie references and such. Also, reruns of Wil Wheaton presentations are nothing to turn your nose up at. His impression of Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

We (well, mostly my friends) talked to him about the state of things today and "serious" topics that were the sorts of things you talk to your friends about while hanging out, not the sorts of thinigs you talk to famous people about at cons. I asked him if he still plays Warhammer 40K, and he told me about the Space Marines he had when he was a kid ("Blood Demons or something," he laughed, not sure what he had called his chapter). He said he no longer plays, as that was one of the hobbies he had to give up when time became a bigger concern. He also said that he used to play Magic: the Gathering when it first came out.

Which reminded me of something I've come to realize: Wil Wheaton really is "Just a Geek." When I first heard that the kid from Star Trek: TNG had a blog where he wrote about geeky things and that he had just (at the time) published a book entitled Just a Geek, I thought, sure, this guy is obviously just trying to wring some money out of having been on a SciFi show. Boy, was I wrong: Wil Wheaton is the real deal. This man is geek to the core, in the best and most endearing sense of the word. You name it, he's done it: D&D, WH40K, M:TG. He reads comics, loves Star Wars (and that other "Star" show you may have heard of), and countless other shows and books.

We bought a copy of both volumes of Star Trek: the Manga, both of which had Wil Wheaton stories in them, so he wrote "Collect them all!" in both, crossed out "all," and wrote "both."

As my friend Kage had bought a box of Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game cards, we looked through it, hoping to find a Wesley Crusher card for Wil Wheaton to sign. We didn't get one; however, we did get a card of Wesley Crusher's girlfriend. We decided that was close enough, and Wil Wheaton obliged and signed it. He even took my suggestion and wrote "I hit that!" on the card.

I also got the chance to talk to Aaron Douglas, who plays Chief Tyrol on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was very jovial and easygoing, and he cracked me up with what he wrote on the picture I bought of him. At first I asked him if he would beat up Wil Wheaton if Wil Wheaton called him a "toaster." (Since he and Wil Wheaton had been talking when I walked up). He said no, he was okay with it, since that's what he was. And so we got to talking about the show, and the new Caprica show they're making (which I forgot took place before the invention of the Cylons, so I looked like a total noob, but Aaron Douglas corrected me very patiently). I then bought a photo (I had figured I would talk to him first, and if he was cool, I would buy a photo, but if not, I wouldn't). He asked what he should write, so I said I'd think about it and so he asked for my name. While he wrote my name, I suggested he write "What up, my toaster?" and asked if that was offensive. "Oh, I know what I'll write," he said with a glint in his eye, and he happily wrote:

For Benny: If you call me a toaster again I will kick your FRAKKIN ASS!!"



Then there was a charity art auction, and nobody was bidding. Everything was going for between five to twenty dollars, I kid you not. The auctioneer seemed to not be sure whether to laugh or cry. So when I looked up from the conversation I was having with Wil Wheaton to see this piece of art going for ten dollars, I stepped forward and bid twelve. And won.


As it turns out, it's from a comic called Pigeons from Hell. Sound good? I was dubious, but the picture is awesome, so I figured it was a good purchase. Then I looked up the Pigeons from Hell comic upon returning home and found this:

http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/14-789/Pigeons-from-Hell-1

A Dark Horse comic? Adapted by the guy who wrote Bubba Ho-Tep? Based on a story by Robert E. Howard?

Boy, did I luck out on this one.

And the picture looks awesome, too.

It was a truly unique experience, I must say. The con was much more lively than SuperCon had been, with Wil Wheaton's audience being much larger. People also seemed to be more into it, with some costumes here and there, and lots of people dressed to the nines in "dark" looks (some of which were quite impressive indeed). I am quite glad I went, and most indebted to my friends for the ride and the good company. Of course, special thanks go to Aaron Douglas and Wil Wheaton.

As a last note, we ran into a friend and coworker who was there with her fiancee. She loves Battlestar Galactica, Chief Tyrol, and especially Wil Wheaton, so getting to talk to them meant a lot to her. She's been through a lot lately, and that's quite an understatement. I should mention that when she spoke to Richard Hatch he, as a tongue-in-cheek favor, sealed her to her fiancee for 24 hours, in character as Tom Zareck. Now there's a great story to end this blog on, and huge thanks to Richard Hatch for being a truly classy gentleman.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cool Link: Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator

So after spending some time watching the "I'm a Marvel and I'm a DC" videos on Youtube, I decided to check around the internet for other superhero-y things. I came across Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator, and I decided to take a crack at it. The results were too hilarious and awesome not to share. So, with commentary:

The awesome Death Man
Power(s): Radar sense, Plant control
Source of powers: Metahuman
Weapon: Stellar Thorns
Transportation: Megacatapult

Clearly this guy was depressed about his awful powers and silly means of transportation, so he tried to overcompensate with his name. I dunno. Too much?

The adjectiveless Doc Flower
Power(s): X-ray vision, Force field generation
Source of powers: Unknown
Weapon: Silver Mace
Transportation: Commander Nag

Would be right at home here in Berkeley.

The invulnerable Gorilla Soarer
Power(s): Illusion casting, Autonomic function control
Source of powers: Soul sold to Devil
Weapon: Astral Jambiya
Transportation: Suicide Jet Pack

It's a good thing he's invulnerable, because he clearly didn't read the fine print under "Transportation" on Old Scratch's contract. I think he's going to be doing more soaring than he anticipated when he tries out that jet pack. Good thing he's got autonomic function control, or it might get embarrassing. Speaking of embarrassing...

The strange Vibro Queen
Power(s): Density control, Reinforced skeleton
Source of powers: Magic
Weapon: Flaming Neutralizer
Transportation: Brain Car

I don't really want to think about why the Vibro Queen has a reinforced skeleton.

And, rounding out the list, my personal favorite:

The enigmatic Z-monkey
Power(s): Explodes, Glows in the dark, Telekinesis
Source of powers: Genetic engineering
Weapon: Web Carbine
Transportation: Senor Forklift

I don't know where to begin. He's the enigmatic Z-monkey, he's got some of the coolest powers ever, and to top it all off, he rides around in Senor Forklift. Come on! Senor Forklift could have his own show, even!

If you want to take a crack at it, set the machine to "20", turn on "Show Adjectives," "Powers," "Source of Powers," and "Transportation," and be sure to share any good ones you find1 Bonus points if they're super-heroic!


Oh, and today was Talk Like a Pirate Day, so arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coolest Music Videos Ever?




Lyrics:

Мой парень снова влип в дурные дела
Подрался, наглотался какой-то мути
Он так меня достал и я его прогнала
И я хочу теперь такого, как Путин

Такого как Путин полного сил
Такого как Путин чтобы не пил
Такого как Путин чтоб не обижал
Такого как Путин чтоб не убежал

Я видела его вчера в новостях
Он говорил о том, что мир на распутье
С таким как он легко и дома, и в гостях
И я хочу теперь такого, как Путин

Такого как Путин полного сил
Такого как Путин чтобы не пил
Такого как Путин чтоб не обижал
Такого как Путин чтоб не убежал

My boyfriend is in trouble once again:
Got in a fight, got drunk on something nasty
I've had enough and I chased him away
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

I've seen him on the news last night
He was telling us that the world has come to crossroads
With one like him, it's easy to be home and out
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

The English lyrics (all I've been able to find... good luck understanding the second verse)
My boyfriend is dumb, he smokes and he’s drunk
My boyfriend is dumb, more than Powers Austin
I told him get out, I need a new boy
I thought and I know he must be like Putin.

He must be like Putin, that to begin
He must be like Putin, then I’ll give in
You must be like Putin, there’s just one way
You must be like Putin, you’ll not run away.


Here's a bit of background from this blog:

Five years ago a mysterious Russian all-girl group, called Poyuschie vmeste , came out of nowhere with a catchy tune devoted to the Russian president called "Takavo kak Putin" ("I want someone like Putin"). The lyrics are about their regular boyfriends, who get stoned and have too many fights and don't look after them properly. They've had enough of that and are now looking for a man just like Putin.

But where did this girl band come from? No one had ever heard of them. Their CDs weren't for sale and the Russian radio stations didn't seem to know where the their copies had come from either.

Then it was revealed that the band's promoter was a press secretary from the Russian supreme court. The speculation was that the tune had been manufactured by the Kremlin spin doctor's in aid of the "Putin Cult Project".
I have to say, this is some of the coolest propaganda I've ever seen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go ahead and laugh; Yeah, I'm a funny guy

I finally bought my two favorite songs from the Dr. Horrible soundtrack from iTunes. Incidentally, they are "My Freeze Ray" and "Brand New Day." Apparently a lot of artists are complaining about things like this, when people buy just a couple of songs from albums instead of the whole album. Naturally, this means the artists make less money, so they're calling shenanigans on us skinflints. Well, I say, if you want us to buy your albums, make albums we'll want to buy. That's not so hard to figure out, is it?

The title of today's blog is a lyric from "Brand New Day," and personally my favorite lyrics on the album.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sir Trent Reznor and the Nails that are Nine Inches in Length

I attended Friday's showing of Sir Trent Reznor and his sound apparatus. It was my understanding that he would be producing songs using nails of just under ten inches in length, but instead my senses were assailed by a show consisting of every sort of sound and light spectacle! It was truly a daunting experience.

Sir Reznor must be a mesmerist, for I found myself unable to control the motion of my head, which rocked forward and back in time with his music in a most singular fashion. At times, I was even impelled to "throw the goat," as they say, and "rock out" with little thought to personal embarassment.

It was a most fantastic show, with highlights being "March of the Pigs," "Terrible Lie," "Closer," and "1,000,000." Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the songs from the "Year Zero" album, as I did not yet own a copy. I have remedied that now, and I am working to familiarize myself with the songs on that album.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stop the presses! Sockbaby four!

Sockbaby Four.

http://www.sockbaby.com/

Now that I've seen it, I can only say: Sockbaby is back.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shall We Throw the Goat Once More, Chaps?

Ah yes, I have again entered the local music-selling boutique for the purpose of acquiring an electronically recorded disc of sufficiently metallic properties. With the intrepid help of a friend of mine and her sister, I was able to choose not only a new recording for my project, but find several additional albums worthy of note and mention in this log.

Without any further ado, allow me to present the winner: Lair of the Minotaur's "War Metal Battle Master."

It has proven especially difficult to decide on a single track title as being the best on this album, so please allow me to share instead the entire track list, with my comments:

Horde of Undead Vengeance (Generally agreed to be superior to regular vengeance in nearly every way)
War Metal Battle Master (With the word "metal" in the title right there, in case any would dare say this album is not metal)
When the Ice Giants Slayed All (Think of a boring anecdote you have had to listen to many times. Would it not be improved if it began thusly?)
Slaughter the Bestial Legion (About time, I say. They've been in need of a good slaughter for a while now.)
Black Viper Barbarian Clan (Cut at the last moment from Diablo II, they now finally have their time in the sun.)
Assassins of the Cursed Mist (I can only assume that the assassins come from the cursed mist, and are not attempting to assassinate the cursed mist itself, as that would be somewhat less metal.)
Doomtrooper (George Lucas's favorite track.)
Hades Unleashed (A solid, simple track title to end on)

The music itself combines throaty, growled vocals in somewhat staccato delivery with more screeched, though still somewhat throaty, parts. The guitars and drums are suitably metal, and the album as a whole solidly embraces its genre.

The cover is simplicity itself, focusing on a horned helmet so firmly rooted in the swords-and-sorcery fantasy genre that you can almost see its stat bonuses.

If any doubt remains in your mind that the band members have played their fair share of Dungeons and Dragons, please see this video. I must warn you that the video is unsafe for work in more ways than one.

This does not conclude my report. As you recall, there are several more albums that deserve mention! Let us begin, then, with "Effortless Regurgitation...", by Regurgitate.

That image should give you something to work with if you intend to attempt the activity named in this album's title.

This album, it turns out, is the band's previous album "Effortless Regurgitation of Bright Red Blood," with additional tracks.

Beyond the cover, what earned this album its place in this list was its truly inventive and gut-churning song titles. To those of you with delicate constitutions, I must recommend skipping this list and going straight to the next review.

The best (or possibly worst) song titles were:
Torsion of the Testicle
Worm Eaten Rectum
Purulent Discharge From the Urethra
Cloudy, Grayish Vomitus
Bulging Vaginal Septum
Phrenetic Chainsaw Slaughter of a Crippled Infant
Forced Abortion Through the Rectum
You can see the full track listing here.

My problems with this album are twofold. First of all, it seems to have completely abandoned the fun that comes with metal. Metal is supposed to make a good soundtrack for dragon-slaying, rather than simply being an overuse of a doubtless very embarrassed thesaurus. Secondly, I previewed some of the songs at the store, and they seem to have taken the idea of "Effortless Regurgitation" as a business model, as every song I listened to sounded exactly the same, with a slightly different lead-in.

Moving on, then, we come to "Of Beatings & the Silence In Between" by Chthonian.

Not much more to be said for this album, though. The title is brilliant, and there are some decent track names, especially "Weep Human, Weep," they do not show any real inventiveness.

Also, "Larvae, Nymph, Decay" is a good, though somewhat head-scratching, title for another song.

Unfortunately, the cover is far too classy to qualify.

Moving right along, then.

Here we have "Pro Patria Finlandia" by Impaled Nazarene. A good, play-it-safe name for a black metal band, with a confusing, potentially jingoistic title for the album.

The winning song title here was, without a doubt, "Goat Sodomy." In fact, looking at their other albums, we noticed that they had something of a goat theme going on. We chuckled a bit over this, but as I was working on this article I saw that the blog "Lugar de Obscuridad" lists goats as one of the band's lyrical themes.

So it's not just us, then.

Again, like Chthonian, the cover was just too classy to win. To paraphrase Ramgar from the sadly defunct web comic Chainmail Bikini, "This ain't no fine art workshop!"

So we move on once more to another band, Dead Raven Choir. Well, that's about all I have to say for them. There is a band called Dead Raven Choir. I am filled with awe and jealousy, having never been able to come up with a band name that awesome when playing Rock Band.

So we move on to Cattle Decapitation, with their album Homovore, featuring the song "Colostomy Jigsaw Puzzle." I challenge you to say that out loud without laughing.

Of course, this band seems to have once again gone the route of "create truly revolting pictures and titles" rather than "create something one can headbang to while playing D&D," so it really doesn't fit into the category of metal that I prefer.

That said, one of their albums is called "Humanure."

Its cover has to be seen to be believed.

Well, it essentially looks exactly as one would expect the cover to an album entitled "Humanure" would look. Needless to say, it is unsafe for work.

Maybe you are wondering what I would consider a good dragon-slaying, dice-rolling, head-banging cover to look like.

I give you: "Thrash Metal," by Blood Tsunami.

This was a very strong contender for the final purchase. I think the cover's similarity to one of the previous winners might have cost it the game, though.

That said, "Thrash Metal" does have "I Pledge Agrievance." Heh. The others aren't great, though "Dragon Pie" deserves a mention. It has the word "Dragon," after all, but the word "Pie" makes me think of little old aunties. I cannot imagine a group of wizards, warriors, and thieves celebrating their epic victory by cooking up a lovely dragon pie. Dragon burgers, sure. Dragon jerkey, wonderful. But dragon pie? Not so much.

Let's end strong. I give you Nomans Land and their album "Raven Flight."

I would be hard-pressed to find a better cover to an album. Also, the title "Raven Flight" is brilliant, and the band name, while hard to make out in that font, isn't bad, though I'm forced to wonder why they chose to break it up the way they did.

The song titles are all good and solid, like "To the Far Lands," "Mjolnir" and "Dragon's Grin." Unfortunately, there is no single song title that raises itself above the "good and solid" into the ranks of "quite inventive" or "definitely metal." After all, if I had a dollar for every time "Mjolnir" appeared in a metal song, well, I could probably buy many, many more of these albums.

So there you have it, my latest foray into the world of metallurgical electrogrammaphonic recordings. What do you think? Shall we throw the goat once more?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cinematic Trailers of War-!

Yesterday I discovered that there are new cinematic trailers available for the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion and for Warhammer Online. Most of you are probably already aware that the trailer to Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is my favorite video game cinematic of all time, but this new Warhammer Online video comes close. In fact, if you haven't seen these yet, I would recommend watching the World of Warcraft one first, just because the Warhammer one is so far superior that the Warcraft video, though impressive in its own right, will seem boring in comparison.

While we're here, I thought I would run through some of my other favorite video game cinematics:

You already know it's coming, so let's start with the Amerigo video from Starcraft.
On the topic of Starcraft, my other favorite video from the game was the intro video to Brood war.

Warcraft 3 also had some excellent cinematics, most notably the human ending and orc ending.

Diablo's cinematics were never as good, somehow, but this one from Diablo 2, featuring a fight between the Wanderer and Tyrael, is okay.

The opening cinematics to the original Dawn of War and the upcoming sequel are both very impressive.

And the opening cinemat of what would have been Starcraft: Ghost wasn't bad, either.

I'm sure we've all already seen the trailer to Starcraft 2, but have you seen this meeting between Raynor and Zeratul? (Not a true cinematic, but still cool)

I realize that all of these are either for Warhammer games or Blizzard products. What can I say? They do seem to have the best cinematics.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Labels!

I've gone through my blog and added labels, so if you'd like to read posts of a certain nature, you can do so.

"Ruminations" are my thoughts on things, and they are usually the most Steampunk-themed posts.

"Trivia and minutiae" are shorter posts, usually links.

"Ideal steampunk movie" posts deal with my dream cast for a truly great Steampunk movie.

"Moving pictures and sound" posts deal with television shows and movies.

"Meme watch" posts watch memes.

"Bound tomes" deal with books.

"Personal" posts are self-explanatory.

"Computational engine-based entertainment" posts are about video games.

"Shared storytelling involving assumed personas" is the category for RPGs.

And now the real dilemma: what to label this post?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Painkiller


The first thing I have to say about this game is: where have you been all my life?

Or, more precisely: why hasn't anyone told me to buy this game yet?

One thing I've been meaning to blog about here is what you might call the "FPS Pistol Syndrome." This is the annoying tendency of games to start you off with crappy, boring weapons, supposedly to make you appreciate and enjoy the big, fun weapons more. Even when you do get the big weapons, ammo for them is scarce, so you're stuck using the crappy weapons most of the time anyway.

Of course, the game I'm referring to is the grandaddy of the genre, DOOM, which forced you to start the game with the nearly-worthless pistol that takes several shots to kill even the most basic enemy. It takes ages to get the famous BFG 9000 which, though fun to use, eats through the rare plasma ammo like a fat kid with a jar of caviar. And what happens when you run out of plasma ammo? It's back to the good ol' shotgun and minigun.

The question I have is: why? The point of playing a video game is to have fun. Wouldn't the game designers want to maximize the amount of fun their players are having? If you ask me, forcing a player to run around with the pistol is like forcing Sonic to spend half the game walking, or making you go through boot camp before deploying to Normandy.

In Painkiller, your starting weapon is awesome. I can only describe it affectionately as the "spinny killy blade," as this is exactly what it is. Essentially, you dice your enemies to pieces with a madly spinning weapon. Its alternate fire shoots the blades from the gun, allowing you to either do impact damage when it hits enemies or, if you hit a structure, you can create a lazer beam between the blade and yourself to hurt enemies that cross it.

And that's just the starting weapon! The second weapon you get is a fairly standard shotgun (though it's still very satisfying to blow apart monsters at close range, and it can freeze enemies). The third weapon is the famous stake gun. If you've heard of Painkiller, you've heard of this weapon. I played the demo first, and the experience of nailing a crawling enemy to the floor through the head was what sold me on the game.

So far, most of the enemies can be killed with one shot from the stake gun, a close-range blast or two mid-range blasts from the shotgun, or a split-second meeting with Mr. Choppy.

I haven't gotten very far into the game, so I've only seen the first few levels. I imagine it probably gets somewhat tedious after a while. Nevertheless, I must tip my hat to the game designers who really went out of their way to make the game fun to play.

I should also mention that the weapons in this game are delightfully Steampunk. It's fun to watch the moving parts of the weapons... when you're not employing those weapons on the twisted minions of darkness, that is.

(Side note: Steam told me that I'd be buying Painkiller: Gold Edition, but when I installed it, said Painkiller: Black Edition. From what I understand, the Black Edition comes with extra DRM. I understand this can be a deal breaker for some people, so you have been warned.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Taking the day off from work

It feels strange, but I'm at home, somewhat groggy and flu-like. I used to never stay home from school, so it feels somehow like a loss to stay home from work. That said, it's been sort of looming over me for a while now, like I've been sort of sick but not sick enough to take the day off. Then today I decided that I had nothing scheduled for the day and I felt pretty lousy, so I was just going to rest.

Sorry for not blogging much lately. I've got some ideas, I just need to write them up. We'll see where that goes.

Cheers!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Meme Watch: Silence

The latest meme seems to be silence. Many bloggers have, for some reason, either slowed or stopped their posts. Neil Gaiman is taking a break, for instance, and Wil Wheaton commented on how quiet it's been. Stephen Fry admits to having taken a break. My Google Reader is empty for the first time in a long time.

"It's the middle of summer," you might be saying, "of course people are going to be more sluggish."

But is that really the reason? Or is it something more... sinister?

That, as they say, is the Question.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meme Watch

You know how I commented that bacon was making its memetic rounds lately? For some reason, it was just popping up everywhere.

I think, for whatever reason, the M3 Grease Gun and the living dead are next. Not necessarily together, but that would be awesome.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (Spoilers Galore)

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is the most wide-spread internet phenomenon since bacon. (Really, have you noticed the memetic rise of bacon lately? It seems like there's bacon everywhere.)

It's by Joss Whedon, starring a bunch of people from disparate but equally nerdy sources, and it's a musical, and it's free but only available until Sunday, etc. It's even fairly steampunk-ish, in the appearance of the sympathetic Dr. Horrible and his lair/apartment. Well, now the third release is out, and I have to say:

==========If it needs to be said, the spoilers are below==========

huh?

A friend of mine and I were talking at work about what would be the worst way to end it: I suggested that Penny might die as a result of Dr. Horrible's fiendish plot, while my friend suggested that it would be worse if Dr. Horrible became good.

Well, now that we've seen the end, we know that Joss Whedon decided that he really did want to ruin his instantly beloved series, and he chose door number A. Which leads to the question: why? Before the final part was released, I was speaking with another friend of mine, and he reminded me that Joss-face Whedon-face had previously inserted melodrama into an otherwise happy and light-hearted plot (see: Buffy), and he was apt to do it again.

Which only leaves me to wonder why he would do it again. Why, after everyone and their blog went out of their way to give him free publicity and glowing praise, hyping it to the sky before anyone knew how it would end, would he stab us all in the throat by giving it such a disappointing, depressing ending? Why the sudden shift in tone? I can only compare it to the miscarriage story arc in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Well, that and a kick to the nuts.

I watched the last few minutes of Dr. Horrible, including the end credits, waiting for Joss to say, "Psyche! Now this is the real ending..." I mean, the tragic death of Penny happens with five minutes left, so there was plenty of time for it to all have been Dr. Horrible's imagination, or for a time-traveling superhero to give him another chance, or for him to invent a Life Ray to go with his Death Ray, or.... But nothing. Just bleak blackness of depressing darkness.

I have just under thirty dollars in iTunes store credit, and I had already decided to buy the Dr. Horrile season pass. Now I can't get myself to do that. I want to support these actors, all of whom I like, and Joss, who I hope will make more stories that don't feature his fetish for barefoot girls kicking butt, and the medium of digital delivery. But I can't support this. It's not a good product.

So here's my alternate ending: everything is the same until the point where Captain Hammer knocks down Dr. Horrible and sends his Death Ray flying. But in my version, Penny picks up the Death Ray and, having obviously realized that Captain Hammer is a douchebag, she shoots Captain Hammer with the Death Ray and becomes Dr. Horrible's evil queen, Bad Penny.

That would have been so much better, don't you think? Now we can only hope that Joss will come up with an "alternate ending" for the DVD. I have to say that there's a part of me that's hoping for that: that the whole ending was a marketing ploy to get people to buy the DVD, in order to see the real, happy ending. If only....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More on this movie; Also: A Gruesome Find

Because I know you're not bored of this movie yet...

...Colin Firth is going to be playing the absent-minded genius scientist.

Also, if you'll remember my CD collecting project, today I cast back to those good old days and, to celebrate my paycheck, stopped by Amoeba for another crack at it. The CD I ended up getting was....

Of Blood and Nobility, by A Gruesome Find
Best song title: Among the Smouldering Remains

This was, believe it or not, the first CD that I saw in the rack today. It was love at first site. Er, I mean, it was brutal hatred and loathsome disgust at first sight. I mean, look at that cover. An evil warrior in dark armor, with glowing red eyes, swings a mace from the back of his demonic-looking steed. That's metal.

And now, a Steampunk review:

I have recently been given the opportunity to listen to a new set of grammaphonic recordings of the latest experiments of Lord Mininger, Naberius, Lord Albrecht, and Lord Cessna. Strange, I do not recall seeing them at the House of Lords before.It seems that these gentlemen have invented a new form of surgery, and have recorded several of their early operations for posterity. The fast-paced tapping sound of the strokes of their steam-driven galvanic engine combine with the distorted electrics of the articulated pneumatosurgical operating apparatus, though they cannot drown out the bizarre growls and shrieks of the patients.

What? Er... music? No, I do not recall hearing any music...

Steampunk aside, the music is quite good. Based on the cover design, I expected another half-assed job like Inquisition, but the design of the CD case is very professional, and the music sounds polished. It's generic, sure, but these guys know what works. It's also nice that two piano pieces are thrown into the mix. All the other songs sound the same, with manic drumming, fast chords repeated endlessly, and lyrics that alternating shrieking and bellowing, but these two songs are actually quite nice.

For some reason, iTunes imported the track "Into the Realm of Darkness" as "Intro The Real Of Darkness." Still sounds good, though.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In Honour of Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford's Birthdays...

Since today is the birthday of both Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford, they're both welcome to be in my Steampunk movie. Harrison Ford can play as the rich American investor who is eager to sponsor the young hero's invention, while Patrick Stewart has a darker role as a shadowy lord who may be an ally or an enemy, or perhaps only an observer to make sure things work out the way he intends....

Also, as per other recommendations, Cate Blanchett is welcome to come along, as Patrick Stewart's agent who becomes a little too interested in Ewan McGregor. I think Laurence Fishburn would make a brilliant airship pilot (who the audience suspect is a pirate). Vinnie Jones would be one of Gary Oldman's agents in England, under the direct command of the deceptively cool Jason Statham.

Wow, this movie's starting to pull in a lot of stars. I hope we get a good enough budget!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Steamlol!

Today's lolcat gets special notice for his steampunkish appearance and manner of speech:But my favorite is still:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dream Cast for Steampunk: the Movie

I didn't know what to write about today, so I thought I would roll out the old standby of bloggers and think about casting for a hypothetical movie. So who would you cast in Steampunk: the Movie? Here are my thoughts.

The heroic young scientist: Ewan McGregor
His straight-laced, straight-shooting fiancee: Keira Knightley (nobody is surprised)
The mad scientist bent on world domination: Gary Oldman
His daughter, who is as beautiful as she is dangerous: Natalie Portman (ditto)
Mysterious agent from the far Orient: Tadanobu Asano
Large-mustached colonel: Stephen Fry

I'll add more as I think of them. Perhaps you would like to contribute?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Brilliant (or Mad) Steampunk Idea

Pocket watches are awesome and very steampunk, but these days nobody wears pocket watches any more. So how do we recreate the look without being unnecessarily anachronistic (assuming we don't want to be unnecessarily anachronistic)? I'll tell you: someone has to design headphones for mp3 players that look like pocketwatch chains.

It's a goldmine, I tell you!

With the possible hurdle of pocket watches not usually being stuck into people's ears. Okay, so the idea still needs some work. But there's definite promise here...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Diablo III

So I was going to blog some more about makers vs. writers, or maybe about whether anyone is lurking my blog, or about the next few stories in the Steampunk anthology (they're all good so far), or maybe the possibility that I might be playing a Steampunk game of Mutants & Masterminds soon.

As it turns out, this will all have to wait (or rather, it will all have to be summarized in the preceding paragraph, and possibly expanded on later). Because, you see, Blizzard has announced Diablo III.

If you have not checked out their site yet, you should go there now. NOW.

I played a crapload of Diablo with my brothers back in junior high and high school. I remember many an afternoon when homework and chores had to be put off because we had died and dropped our items in some godforsaken corner of the dungeon, and we couldn't quit or we'd lose al our loot. Usually, spitters were involved.

Then Diablo II came out, which was like Diablo, except better in almost every possible way. Okay, so there was less emphasis on dungeon exploring, but it still rocked. In many, many ways, it was much more playable than its predecessor. And then the expansion came along, with new levels, characters (though I was never a big fan of the Assassin or Druid), and best of all, an improved resolution.

So you should all check out the new game. If you like video games, you'll like Diablo III.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hats Off to the Makers

They may be all style and no substance, and all that other matter I groused about on Tuesday, but Steampunk certainly wouldn't look as cool without them. For those of you who don't subscribe to Brass Goggles (and why don't you?), I hereby pass on the art of Sam Van Olffen:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bollocks to the Makers

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: In my original post, I had forgotten who had written the introduction, and tried to keep it vague by using the pronoun "they" for the author. This ended up making it sound like the VanderMeers had written the introduction. Jeff VanderMeer won't stand for such rubbish, and corrected me in a most gracious manner, pointing out that the introduction was penned by Jess Nevins.

ANOTHER NOTE: That means that the publisher of the book I was writing about commented on my blog. How cool is that?

THE ORIGINAL NOTE: I should point out that the following represents my own views, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Ann or Jeff VanderMeer, Jess Nevins, or anyone else involved with the Steampunk anthology.

I recently read the introduction to the VanderMeers' Steampunk anthology, and I must say, it's rather gotten my blood up. At the moment I forget the exact words Jess Nevins used, but they described the current Steampunk movement, which they call the second generation, as a cliche and a fashion trend. This really struck me, as I quite like Steampunk fashion, but they explained that Steampunk was originally a way for people to make a statement about our culture and our time. It was a way to raise an outcry against society, to put the -punk into Steampunk, to show how really we're just modern-day Victorians who all too often believe that money is the measure of a man, progress should benefit the rich and be built on the backs of the poor, and that other cultures and viewpoints are strange, alien, and best when forcibly "civilized."

This sort of Steampunk was created by the writers: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and others. As storytellers, they were interested in the ideas behind Steampunk. They used Steampunk to spread a message and make a statement. Like the best science fiction, they used a fictional setting to say what could not be said in a realistic one. By transporting our problems to another place, they threw those problems into sharp relief.

The new generation of Steampunk is created by artists. It's about a look, a fashion and a trend. This is the Steampunk that is exemplified by the Makers: Vladislaus Dantes and Datamancer and their kind. It exists not on the written page but in Deviantart and forums and livejournal, with people squeezing themselves into dresses and putting on goggles and boots to show themselves off and prove to everyone how Steampunk they are.

I think it's obvious whose side I'm on. I never realized it, but I miss the message behind Steampunk. I really like the Steampunk aesthetic, don't get me wrong, and I am full of admiration and jealousy when it comes to the works of the great Steampunk artists and crafters. But I do think that we have lost something. The style has overwhelmed the substance, and Steampunk is the poorer for it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Steampunk Arrived

My copy of the Steampunk anthology arrived today! Now, to read through it super-fast so I can be the first person to review it on Brass Goggles!
=|;3
That's a kitten with a monocle and a top hat, in case you can't tell.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Latest Hellboy TPB, and It's Not Good News.

EDIT: please also see my retraction of this statement

So it turns out that the latest Hellboy trade paperback (TPB), Darkness Calls, has been out for a month, and I had no idea. Then I noticed the artist: Duncan Fegredo.

What.

The.

HELL???

For those of you wondering what the big deal is, let me spell it out for you: I love Hellboy. Not like, love. It's my favorite comic book series of all time, and, as far as I'm concerned, it can do no wrong. It features a demon and some monsters from folklore fighting other demons and monsters from folklore, with generous dollops of Lovecraft and steampunk-ish Nazi superscience thrown in for good measure. I own every Hellboy trade. I've lent them out to friends. I've bought them for friends. The art, the folklore, the characters, and the storytelling all combine to make a series that's head and shoulders above anything else in the graphic novel format. It all comes down to Mike Mignola's use of blank, black spaces, both literally in his art and metaphorically in his storytelling. Mignola's minimalistic art evokes the dark spaces of Lovecraft and Nietzsche. I especially love his gorgeously gothic sculptures and manuscripts. Nobody does darkness like Mike Mignola.

Okay, so Mike didn't write or illustrate Hellboy: Weird Tales, a series of stories featuring Hellboy and nominally set in the Hellboy universe, but produced by a variety of authors and artists. No worries; I just didn't read it (I've looked into it, and wasn't thrilled with what I saw, but I let it go). And he consulted on, but didn't do the art for, the BPRD series. No worries there, either. I bought them all and learned to accept Guy Davis's art for what it is: he can't draw people worth a damn, and he insists on giving Johann noodle arms that pretty much ruin the character for me, but his monsters are stunning and imaginative.

My biggest gripe with BPRD, other than Mike's lack of involvement in it, was that it reads like a superhero story. The characters fight monsters to try to prevent the end of the world, but the folklore elements fades into the background as the heroes tend to go up against the same sorts of bad guys again and again. One of the great things about the "real" Hellboy stories was that they always featured something new. Hellboy would find himself in the middle of a folktale, and he would have to see it through to the end. There was no grand, overarching scheme, other than the general Right Hand of Doom, apocalyptic stuff that would be sprinkled on without dominating the plot.

So I learned to live with BPRD, and even like it. Like I said, Guy Davis does some great monsters, and the collection of bizarre items and relics in The Universal Machine really made me happy. Just so long as Mignola was still doing the regular Hellboy series. Sure, there was a huge wait between Conqueror Worm and Strange Places, but it was worth it. Another long wait between Strange Places and Troll Witch? A bit painful, but no worries. Again, it was worth it, and again Mignola was on top of his game. True, Troll Witch brought in a guest artist for a pointless dream sequence in which Hellboy has a dream in which he stands in for Makoma in Makoma's story. It was one of the laziest bits of storytelling I've ever seen in Hellboy, but hey, the rest of the stories were original and drawn by Mignola, so I was happy.

So I thought I had things figured out. Other people would be working on Weird Tales and BPRD, while Mike continued plugging away on Hellboy. He would move slowly, as was his right, but it was his baby. And now this.

And now this.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The webcomics they kill get up and kill...

There must be no room left in webcomic hell, because dead webcomics are walking the earth!


Just recently, I posted about Joe and Monkey returning to life. Well, now I've got even more amazing news. Gone with the Blastwave, which has described itself as "Going for the slowest-updating webcomic award," has a brand-new comic!


I've gotten used to thinking about Gone with the Blastwave as a noble failed experiment in webcomic design. The art is fantastic, and the idea behind the comic is very simple and generic, but the author kept getting sidetracked and never committed to an update schedule. For these reasons, I never seriously expected it to return, and I must say that I am extremely pleasantly surprised now that it has. Of course, there's no guarantee that this will last, but I'm just happy to see that it's not as dead as I had thought.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

50 Rumors About D&D 4th Edition

If you haven't seen this yet, here it is in all its glory. You may say it's obsolete now that 4th Edition has officially been released, but I say this video will always and forever bring the funny like only CreativeJuices7 can.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avatar: Hilarious, Fun, and... Steampunk?

Most of you already know how I feel about Avatar: the Last Airbender. It's well-written, has good voice acting (any any lapses are easily forgiven when you remember that most of the voice actors really are kids), well animated, and has good action. The dramatic parts work. The plot stays fresh, and doesn't try to change a winning formula. I like every single major character. I often spend entire episodes with a dopey grin on my face when watching this show.

But is it steampunk?

Well, no. The technology is mostly medieval swords-and-sorcery type stuff, and the setting is pseudo-Asian. But wait... what's this?!

In Season Three, the Fire Nation gets zeppelins (not really a spoiler, but still cool). Now, while this hardly makes Avatar a Steampunk show, it does mean that it has more zeppelins than Last Exile did. And Last Exile is supposed to be Steampunk.

Can you have Steampunk without zeppelins? Of course. But why would you want to?

On an unrelated note, I have found the karmic opposite of Avatar. A show as wonderful as Avatar must have something out there that's equally horrible, to balance the universe. It's a homemade roleplaying game called FATAL. Whereas Avatar is well-written, fun, and just generally well made, FATAL is a steaming pile of festering... something. It's indescribable. Just as "fun" can hardly describe Avatar, there is no word in the English language to describe how very not good FATAL is. This review tries to do so. It goes on and on, but fails in the end. I'm convinced that the reviewers spent so much time on the review to try to get as much out of having forced their brains to endure the abomination that is FATAL.

Don't waste your life reading the review. Just trust me: FATAL is a horrible waste of everything. Spend the time you would have devoted to curiously reading the review watching Avatar instead. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Joe and Monkey is BACK!

Joe and Monkey, one of my favorite web comics of all time, is back! They've been on hiatus since forever, but today they just posted a new comic. The comic is sort of like Calvin and Hobbes, if Calvin had been a slacker delivery guy and Hobbes had been a sarcastic monkey. Head on over to check it out! I must warn you: it's Dangerous When Awesome.

http://www.joeandmonkey.com/

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Electrogrammaphonic Recording Collection Adventure

When I first came to the place of my current residence, I resolved to go down to my local merchant in audioautorecords and buy a new electrogrammaphonic recording with every paycheck I got. Rather than taking the usual route and seek out albums that I knew to be good, or at least from artists I enjoyed, I decided to take a rather more puckish approach to it. I decided to buy albums based entirely on four criteria:

  1. Cover artwork
  2. Band name
  3. Album title
  4. Song titles
Another rule was that I could not have heard of the band previously.

The result was quite fun, though obviously rather draining on my bank account and time-consuming to boot. I have therefore let the project slip of late, and now I think that it is time to finally put the whole thing to rest. So, as a sort of send-off, here are the albums I purchased, in order and with commentary:

Inquisition - Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult

Best Song Title: Mighty Wargod of the Templars (Hail Baphomet)

This one was chosen with the help of my associate bluefish, who was visiting at the time. Great album and band names, and songs like "Summoned by Ancient Wizards Under a Black Moon." Unfortunately, the songs themselves aren't quite up to snuff, and on closer inspection the cover art looks like something from the cover of a high schooler's notebooks. Not the strongest start.











Pig Destroyer - Painter of Dead Girls

Best Song Title: Blank Dice

This one is an absolute gem in terms of both album title and band name. I also thought that I was doing well when I saw no less than seventeen songs on the back: if the band was less than stellar, at least I'd be getting a lot of music for the money. Unfortunately, the songs are rarely even a minute in length, and the whole album is not even twenty minutes long.

However, one nice surprise was that their book of lyrics, which clearly has no connection with what they are singing, has some very imaginative and disturbing poems in it. I especially enjoyed Rejection Fetish.

At this point, I was seriously considering giving up the whole enterprise....




Amebix - Arise!

Best Song Title: Axeman

...so I cheated somewhat, and got one that was recommended by the people at the store. Amebix turned out to be quite a solid blend of punk and metal, and a fine addition to the collection. The cover is also excellent: just shady enough to make out the weapons flourished by the people in silhouette. Classy! This is the first of my purchases that I have saved permanently to my computational engine.






Trivium - Ascendancy

Best Song Title: Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr

I later discovered that one of my friends knew of this band, much to my chagrin. Nevertheless, I had never heard of them, so it's a fair purchase. I should also point out that this was bought with the help of two of my friends who, to the best of my knowledge, do not have blogs, so I cannot link to them in thanks.

Their sound is sadly generic, being neither good nor bad.









God Forbid - Gone Forever

Best Song Title: Soul Engraved

This one wasn't a true entry, as it was bought concurrently with Ascendancy. It was also disqualified for having a cover that was, while awesome, too "classy" and not "metal" enough. ("Metal" in this case defined as "something to play Dungeons & Dragons to")

I found them to be about as generic as Trivium, or even more so. Still, not bad.









Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters

Best Song Title: I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots

Besides having, hands down, the best name for a band in this list, Wolves in the Throne Room is also my favorite album to listen to. With only four songs, they still manage to clock in 46:16 of sound. Now that's metal! Their sound is probably the most melodic of the group, starting the album with the sound of rain.












Mastodon - Blood Mountain

Best Song Title: Bladecatcher

Rounding out the list is Mastodon, another surprisingly good album. I think that, in the end, what really killed the project was the knowledge that I had gotten lucky with the last two and ended up with better albums than I should have, which led to the realization that I would probably not be as lucky again. Well, that and the expense, of course. This album was used, and therefore mercifully cheap; if you can find it thusly, I would very much recommend you to give it a chance.





So what have I learned? Choose one of the following proverbs to finish:
  • You can't judge a book...
  • A fool and his money...
Do you have any suggestions of albums that you would recommend based entirely on their presentation?