Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now that’s a bitchin’ tent!

As I am an avid reader, it might surprise some of you out there that I have never read any of J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. (Stunned gasp…pregnant pause). Okay, now that we are over the shock of this post we can move on to the point. I am however, or more-so because of the above stated fact, a fan of the movies. The Potter films are an exercise in well-executed fantasy. I most recently saw the first half of the finale, the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

At this point I could launch into a sweeping review of the movie filled with spoilers and the like, but there are so many sites out there that can do it much better justice then I can. What I want to talk about is the totally sweet tent that Hermione has for camping. What looks to be a British campaign tent from about the 1870’s that sleeps two, is in fact a spatial rending deluxe multi-level home-away-from-home portable house on poles. I mean this set piece is huge and there are quite a few scenes set in it, from meals, to a brawl, to a dance hall moment of fancy. I could not help but think of how awesome it would be to have a tent like that.

I have some experience with tents. Ten years in Scouting will do that to you. I have slept in almost every style and make of a tent there is. I have survived blizzard conditions in a WWI era mountain tent (reversible brown/white, with sweet tube door you can pull in and tie closed), which turned out to be the warmest domicile I have ever had the pleasure to sleep in to the recreational family retreat (a nylon affair with “rooms” and enough space to sleep 10 with a “porch”) which had the added benefit of providing enough room to stand. Of the close to 300 tents I have slept in, nothing compares to the digs that Harry travels with in this movie.

I know most of you are heading out to see how the story begins to wrap up, but I implore you to keep an eye out for this tent. It really is a wonder.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Long Live Boris!

For those of you who do not know, I loved N64's Goldeneye. It is the granddaddy of the FPS, split screen, trash-talking smackdown that invaded my life for several years in the late 90's. We played every variable in the game. We played story mode, co-op mode, and vrs. mode. We played knives, handguns, rifles, automatics, mines, mines, and more mines...and when you thought you had had enough we played slap fights.

My group of friends played so much we ended up having to play round robin in brackets. There was even the famous "I have a friend who plays Goldeneye and he's probably as good as you" conversation. That led to a meeting, at which the ground rules were established as to who would be crowned the undying King of Goldeneye. The three round match was ultimately decided in a stunning fashion. Round One was a dead heat, 8 to 7 in automatics. Round 2 will go down in history as a clinic round. I mercilessly pounded him to a final score of 12-1 in handguns. (It worked out well that we had decided to set aside all house rules, including my own of No-Gun/No-Shoot.) Once he was put down, I hunted his spawn points and made short work of him, it was the most painful 5 minute round of his life. After that the third round I phoned in. Remote mines...I didn't even have to try. I may even have lost that round, taking a dive to prevent the sweep.

Well now it is 2010 and Nintendo announced that Goldeye makes its return to console life! At first I was thrilled..."Sweetassed! Goldeneye!" Then horror set in..."Oh, no! Rare isn't making it! Activision has the license and the fucked up Roge Agent!"

So here it is...I have laid my hands on a copy (rental!) and played through the introduction and I loved it! It is not exactly like the N64 days, but between the idyllic remembrances and the overall brilliance of the game at the time I do not believe any game will match those standards. What is does do is feels like Goldeneye! I can already see new epic firefights in the near future! Projectors and Wiis abounding! Smack talk and head shots are soon to be in my future!

I put out the call to Goldeneye fanatics everywhere! Suit Up! And long live Boris!

Now for my one complaint...no Hawaiian shirt. Crap! Well there it is, the only thing wrong with Goldeneye Wii 2010!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Finding art in 28 millimeters...

I have always been fascinated in miniatures. I remember my dad building a ship in a bottle, more specifically the Cutty Sark. He then built a 1:72 scale model a couple of years later. It was amazing to see the whole thing com together. Not unlike a jigsaw puzzle, starting with a picture and then taking individual components to create a perfect replica was something that imprinted on me.

Now this minor obsession has cropped up a few times in my life. When I was a preteen I started painting 25mm miniatures for a D&D game that I was a part of. Then in college I took great delight in building scale models of my set designs. Now here is where my Lilliputian fetish flared up a little bit. The requirement was to build the sets at a scale of 1/4" equals 1'. Not bad, a full sized set would be about 18 inches by 24 inches. When I heard that famed Yale professor and Broadway set designer, Ming Cho Lee preferred to work in 1/8th inch scale I could not help myself. My next half dozen projects were done that size. My fingers and eye sight still curse the day I sat in that 400 level Scenic Design class and heard Mr. Lee's name.

Most recently, I find myself enamored with 25mm terrain and props for tabletop wargaming and D&D. In my scouring of the internet I stumbled upon a fallow website with the most amazing scale props.
Hand crafted by a mad Dutchman named Gerard Boom, I was instantly mesmerized by his attention to detail. I did not see any recent updates to his site (the last having been almost 3 years earlier), I clicked on his email link and sent off an inquiry about his status. This correspondence kicked off to date an 18 month discussion about the hobby of scale miniatures. We talk now, via Skype, fairly regularly and I have become almost evangelical in my attempts to introduce his products in as many people in the gaming community as possible.

I have decided that Gerard may be completely insane, but his work is truly inspired. He sculpts from the heart and paints with a clinical passion reserved for the masters. If only to reinforce my point, he has taken to creating cobblestone roads and sidewalks. After trying to sculpt a small sample and then repeat it over and over to create a large surface, he literally threw out the result because you could discern the repeated pattern in the cobblestones. The consequence was he carved every one of the more then 10,000 stones in his "cobblestone base plate". What scares me is that he carved them in less then two days! He has an amazing eye, and put out there a superior product! If you ever have any need for 25-28mm scale terrain, check out my facebook fan page.

The Idiocy of Modern EnterNewsment Broadcasts...

Well I have to apologize to my three readers out there, I have been swamped at home.

Rant of the day:

There is a "news" story going around that has so inflamed me that I have stopped watching those broadcasts altogether. On each of the big three networks, they opted to cover this non-story about a small town religious leader who has elected to burn (Nazi style) holy texts from another organized religion.

Now on the surface I support his right to burn these books, but I have to shake my head in disbelief that he would want to. In my humble opinion, this is a publicity stunt to raise monies by exploiting the emotional overreaction of the small minded. The fact that this moron can get on television for espousing bigoted concepts wrapped in faithful communication with his god is downright appalling to me. This is not news, this is emotional terrorism and hate speak. The best thing would be for this guy to not get another second of coverage from any media outlet!

I am equally horrified that our political leaders even give this guy any credibility by weighing in. Hillary Clinton props this guy up every time she comments on how poorly conceived his motivations are. And I heard General Petreaus voicing his concerns that this action will endanger the troops stationed in the Middle East. What a laughable statement! How about being moved into operational readiness in Afganistan and Iraq? I think putting them there is what places them in harm's way!

How can we, the United States of America, melting pot of the world, place of tolerance, continue if we fail to be balanced and moderate in our understanding of other languages, cultures, religious views, and customs? Now it is my belief, that America is in general a Centrist ideal based nation. So I also believe that extremists in any form will always be in the minority, but we cannot give that minority an unbalancing amount of leverage to move their agenda.

An Update:
Recently released on Der Spiegel, this same Florida moron was booted out of Germany by his previous congregation! Some members are still in therapy trying to rehabilitate from the "spiritual abuse" they suffered at his hands!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Title 34

I find myself in a reflective mood today.

The reason for this is I mark another year of life today and still it baffles me that I am alive. I know that may strike you as a peculiar thing to write, but if you interview any number of my friends you will find that I had a pretty solid feeling that I would not live to be this old.

There is not a hard and fast reason for this logic, I did not survive some horrible accident and I am not overcoming some genetic illness. I have just known that I would not live past the age of thirty. Now that might give some of you a chuckle, or it might just seem fatalistic...but it is what it is...a rock hard belief that 31 was an unreachable age for me.

Now that I am passing the age of thirty four, I am at a bit of a crossroads. Knowing that you are destined for a short life makes you extremely reckless with your life. But now that certainty is gone and I am left wondering what it is I am supposed to be doing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Give me back some attack Options, please.

Just to give you a little background, I played D&D when I was a kid. I am a survivor of 1st and 2nd editions. I am now entrenched in a couple of 4th edition games and find myself fascinated by the dichotomy of the mechanics. Long gone are the 5/4 attacks and the improvised attacks that required DM rulings. Considering how many things that are available in the game, it strikes me as odd that there are not more "Minor Action" attacks built in. I bring this up because there are many times in combat that I am wanting to deliver a primary attack and slip in a secondary or tertiary attack for minion sweeping or damage multiplying. I find that the required Standard/Move/Minor structure is useful, but even with the ability to downgrade "superior" actions there are few direct damage dealing attacks that are classed as minors.

My hope is that Essentials will resolve some of this issues. Some of the preview materials indicate a differing mechanic for the martial classes which seems to follow along the lines of the psionic augment powers. I am hopeful that this opens up unarmed secondary attacks and shield based bashing attacks. These changes will add a different flavor to the hack and slash types the some of the other classes. I realize that it may seem like an oversimplification of the rules, but I am confident that these new mechanics can be implemented as a build type as opposed to rewriting the entire attack matrix already in place. Of course I could be completely wrong about this and Essentials will turn 4th Edition on its ear. Only time will tell.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ramblings and a Reboot.

So over the summer I had this brilliant idea to inspire my friend to reboot his fallow blog. He had some really insightful posts about all things gaming and comic books. His blog approached a nearly epic level as he closed in on a post a day for a month. And then the universe conspired against him and his blog is now only spotted by the rare post. So I proposed to him to write a blog a day for a month. Actually as we are both computer geeks, I picked the nice round number of 64 posts in 30 days. That was about 5 weeks ago and we had agreed to some ground rules. So in that vein, here we go with post number 1 of 64. We have until midnight on September 30 to get a combined total of 64 posts up.

Do you think we can do it? Keep watching to find out. For my part, I will be blogging about game racaps, character histories, interesting news stories, and a short feature I have entitled "The Divorce of Sense". I know that may not be terribly interesting to most folks out there, but that is the great thing about having a corner of the internet to spew diarrhea of the keyboard.

To wit...Check in on aherotwiceamonth.com as well and keep us honest!

Well that is a pretty sorry post, as it does not meet the minimum word count that was prescribed. Now on to the filler:

I have recently discovered a television show that I somehow missed. Well not really I think it originally aired on Showtime and I am not vested in the premium channels. Six Feet Under is an interesting black comedy about a family who owns and operates a funeral home in California. Now, I normally would have skipped by this show completely, if I had not seen the majority of its cast in other projects which I enjoy immensely. Peter Krause plays the eldest brother and is now on Parenthood. Michael C. Hall plays the middle child and is eerily similar to his role as Dexter the serial killer. And finally, quite a split from her current role as a single mom on Brothers and Sisters I find Rachel Griffiths portrayal of the sex driven intellectual very appealing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Despicable Me....

When you find the time check out Despicable Me. At the outset it seems like a corny villain flick, but it has a lot more heart then that.

It starts out introducing Gru our antihero protagonist. He clearly has some issues, which really appealed to me. As a flawed character he has issues with his dog, his mom, his neighbor, and the Bank (formerly Lehman Brothers). He needs to up his evil mojo to reclaim some of his self confidence.

We are also introduced to VECTOR!, the up and coming tween aged scourage of civilized society. As annoying as I found him, I did love his lair. Anyone with a shark tank in their place is okay with me!

Dr. Nefario is the bumbling version of James Bond’s “Q”. I think they could have written him a little bit differently, but his restricted screen time does not damage the overall story.

The orpahage girls are cute but a bit of a plot device to advance the conflict. But they do have a couple of good oneliners.

The caper is the impossible task of stealing the moon from orbit. All of this by itself would really have left me thinking that this movie is a bit on the lame side. And then I met Gru’s minions. They might look like pill shaped cyclopses, but they steal the show. A lot of sight gags for the kids and a couple for the parents, really made this movie for me. I actually think that the Minions could have their own show. And they might, if enough people go and see it. Not unlike the breakout stars of Madagasgar’s penguins, I hope to see the minions return to the screen soon!

3.5 Minions out of 5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Network TV pisses me off Part 2

This whole thing about "Defying Gravity" really has left me in a tizzy.

My time is precious and television has to engage me. I look for smart dialog, interesting environments, clean effects, and strong casting. Clearly I am not cut out to be a television executive. Now I know that I do not actually have the knowledge required to run a television network, but seriously, how hard can it be? Maybe it is the need to placate the lowest common denominator in the audience.

Reflecting, I am moving farther and farther from network television offerings. I despise reality competitions, all daytime programming, and most formulaic sitcoms and dramas. I like thinking and being engaged in the shows that I watch. I can only think of two shows that I followed that ended on their own terms, one was Star Trek: The Next Generation and the other was Law & Order...oh wait that spin off maker is still going. So just Next Gen. Wait wait....Sopranos! Ooops that was cable. Okay, just Next Gen. then.

Looking back at the graveyard of shows struck down before their prime for me includes: Everwood (the CW), Gilmore Girls (the CW), the Unit (CBS), the West Wing (NBC), Firefly (FOX), Defying Gravity (ABC), Alias (ABC), What About Brian? (CW), and E-Ring (NBC). If you've never heard of some of these shows, that is okay. Many only lasted a season or two, if they were lucky.

I have wished for years that shows, when it was decided to take them off prime time, would be allowed to finish out on a cable channel. I am starting to see this transition a little at a time. Leaping to mind is Law & Order Criminal Intent making its home on USA for new episodes. Also, Southland was just canceled and then revived to live on TNT as it was too dark for NBC's evening line up. So what happens to other shows. I would love to see full seasons ordered and then if ratings are not strong, given the chance to move into other media, be it cable channels, Hulu, or iTunes. There has been evidence that shows can find audience bases if they are given the time. Would shows like Friends, Sienfeld, Sanford & Son, the Cosby Show make it in the modern programming climate? Would they have made it past episode 3 (the dreaded cut off point)?

What could happen if Joss Wheadon's Dollhouse took flight from FOX's chopping block to find refuge on Mike's Savior Network? Would it build its fan base into something more? Move from cult favorite to rival something like 24?

Speaking of 24, I have to say I loved Season 1. I loved the idea and the presentation, but FOX went and whored that concept out as well....seriously we're on what? season 6? They "Die Hard"'d that one way too much [John McClain is the MOST UNLUCKY cop in the world]. My suspension of disbelief does have some limits.

Interestingly, (to me at least) I have become an actor stalker of sorts. Nathan Fillion is one who steps to the forefront. I became a huge fan through Firefly and Serenity, but ended up following him to Wisteria Lane? What the hell? Luckily my wife watches that show, so I got to tv stalk him while spending quality time with my spouse. Now he has moved on to his own show Castle (ABC) and I am thrilled to find him with smart dialog again. Another one that I have followed is Mark Harmon, now leading the cast of NCIS, but had gotten me hooked by his performance as CJ Craig's secret service detail on the West Wing. In a happy convergence of talent Michael Weatherly I stalked from Dark Angel...

So 10 years ago I had a bunch of shows that I loved. Now I have two different time delay recording technologies that I barely tax to maintain my televsion needs...

As soon as NCIS & Castle's ratings dip and they get axed, I think I'll be done with network programming completely.

Eff 'em, I hope Hulu and iPad put them out to pasture...greedy bastards.

Network TV pisses me off Part 1

So...how to begin. This always seems to happen to me and I never think to rant about it. Well, last week I was shopping for a DVD and came across a TV series I had only caught an episode or two of. It piqued my interest and on a total lark bought it.

This show had been a summer release on one of the big three networks and I had stumbled across it twice before. Now, I never have to opportunity to watch "live" television as my schedule generally precludes that from me. But there I sat chatting with my wife and kids while randomly catching bits and pieces of dialog and plot from these two episodes.

What struck me was the production value. Normally, sci-fi on tv either looks really good or really cheesy and
(to my way of thinking)...this show had to be on solid ground because it looked great and was in a prime slot. So I was looking forward to catching up on it in reruns.

Back to the present: Now it is January and I'm standing in the electronics department and see this show sitting there on the shelf...I'm game. I pick it up and bring it home. I figured I'd watch the Pilot episode and based on its merits decide when I would watch the rest of the series. Again, I was struck by the production value. The casting was good and the story and manner of plot delivery was really enjoyable.

Now before I get too far, I'll reveal that I had had a similar experience once before. I found a movie that looked good, I recalled that it got some really interesting reviews and then it kind of disappeared. That movie was Joss Whedon's "Serenity" and my infatuation with it led me to research as much about it as possible. How was it that I missed a television show by the name of "Firefly"? It was right in my wheelhouse. I was the target demographic. Well some how I did. And I must say that I really dislike Fox for that mismanagement.

So here I am again with a fabulously interesting and well done Pilot episode. What can I do? I watch the rest of the disc, 2 more episodes and I am hooked. All in all, I watched the entire series of 13 episodes in the course of a few days and each episode got better and better. The plot got more twisted, the mystery deepened, the characters evolved (and grew on me), the story was enriched. Now that I have watched the entire first season and as I have come to learn the entire series. I am pissed off again, this time at ABC. ABC also pulled all of the content from Hulu and iTunes, destroyed the sets and released the cast and crew, to add insult to injury I learned they only aired the first 8 episodes! So no second season for me.

Fortunately, I found an interview with the creator, who read from his show bible and revealed (to my eternal thanks) several of the secrets and resolutions of the first season.

So here I rant, cursing ABC and all the other network television executives who cut well written shows mid-season.

Oh, I forgot to name this sci-fi gem for you...it is called "Defying Gravity" and if you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.