Work has been busy as of late, so I’ve not had a chance to Blog.
Tampa Bay wins!
I was right about the winner, wrong about the margin. I thought that Oakland could only be slowed down, not driven into the ground by Tampa’s nickname-less defense. Sure, I saw that the referees were absolute idiots on several calls, but fortunately they did not decide the game, or else Oakland fans would really think the NFL was out to get them (the infamous “tuck” in the New England-Oakland game last year, for example).
Tampa paid a high price in $ and draft picks to steal Gruden, and it has paid off. Even if TB doesn’t win another Super Bowl for the next 25 years, they, like the Jets, say, or the Bears, now have one, and it can’t be taken away. I do feel bad that Rich Gannon and Tim Brown, to name two of the older Raiders, might have missed their best chance to get that Super Bowl ring.
Anyway, this will be the last sports entry in BJS for likely five or six months, so enjoy it, o football haters. I don’t follow Baseball much, or Basketball, or Hockey. I’m a one-sport kind of guy. Monogamous, you might say.
Just before Jimmy Kimmel’s show, there was a clip with Ted Koppel that left me laughing like Mutley.
He explained that there was not going to be a special post-Super Bowl edition of Nightline, “So that ABC can bring you the following
piece of garbage.”
Yes, I know it was scripted, and self-depreciating and ironic and all that. But to see Ted Koppel light into Jimmy Kimmel like that was damned
Well, I’ve finished China Mieville’s breakthrough fantasy novel,
Perdido Street Station. I actually read it after reading the lackluster (and out of print) Factoring Humanity, by Robert Sawyer.
What did I think of Perdido? Well, the denouement was a little bit of a downer and disappointment to me but the world building was absolutely breathtaking. The city comes alive in his words, a quasi Victorian fantasy megaopolis which seems to owe much to London and third world metropolises, with a lot of different species sharing space. Intelligent cacti! Weird half insect-half human bipeds! The depth and breath of the denizens is often suggested, seen in glimpses, intimated. The magic systems tend toward the quasi-scientific, the rigorous, in line with the 19th century sort of steampunk feel that the rest of the city has.
The characters are quirky and interesting, never devolving into stereotypes or one line notes, either, although one major character’s storyline feels a bit off, I think, he is so alien that China doesn’t quite pull off getting us to understand the universe of the Garuda and their ethos, and how the character violated it. But aside from those quibbles, the universe of Perdido Street Station is dark, huge, complex and very much well worth your time visiting.
Ginger’s WISH #31
Is there any addiction to the feedback gaming provides in the weaving of stories? Unlike traditional tales, gaming allows the input of the players and GM into going �other places,� depending on the interests and desires of those involved�but can that lead to feeding the audience too much of what it likes and not enough challenge? Where in that scale do you measure?
Ginger found it a rather tricky question, and I concur with that assessment. In the game, do you indulge on what your players want too much, thanks to the feedback between players or GM, or do you manage to put up what makes a good story or experience?
It’s hard. It’s easy for a GM to over-indulge on the players. Ginger mentions the Monty Haul syndrome in D&D and that is a good example of a GM who wants to hold the players by giving them everything they ever wanted. It’s a sign, I think, of loneliness, of the need for attention, the need to be liked. I’ve been there, I understand those motivations all too well. Indulged too far, the game goes to crap and the players soon grow tired of endless +5 longswords and magic items galore.
A D&D campaign I ran a long long time ago suffered a bit from this, and I realized that I was giving the players too much, being too indulgent. So, I trimmed back, ramped up the challenges and made the PCs work for what they had gotten, throwing in twists and turns and bringing the game back to the challenge level that they had once expected.
In Amber, though, for example, the nature of the game sometimes makes this entire question irrelevant. My good friend Scott on the Amber Mailing List expressed a dislike of plot-driven games. It is in those Amber games where this problem can come to the fore. In games where the players have their own plots, their own plans, the tendency toward over-indulgence is tempered when the players conflict with each other (as they invariably do–and Scott is excellent in such situations). Now, in SB, I do have a plot and a very large universe, and one player at least has expressed concerns that the game universe is much larger than it used to be. SB started off small and intimate, and has grown in scale and scope since. I’ve tried my best to cut the bloat and keep the players interested and the primacy and immediacy of things on the forefront. I think I’ve succeeded, since I do throw curveballs at the players to deal with, to react, to enliven them. In fact, one character is about due for one, and I think now is a good time to throw it. In the large plot-arc of SB, with the Omphalos and everything else, I do like to throw in non-story arc related things.
Turbulence, without reference to the Steve Howe album, is a cure for the complacency expressed in the feedback gaming. And I get a thrill, and I think the players get a thrill when I do unleash something unexpected at them. Not the +5 longsword that the kobold had in its lair, but, for example, the fact that the town they have been staying in for weeks really has an underlayer of things going on which, when the PCs get an inkling, suddenly have that intimation that things have been too quiet and now the real trouble begins for them.
One of my Christmas gifts, thanks to the inestimable Bridgette, was a three month subscription to the DVD rental-by-mail service Netflix. I’m sure that you have seen their pop-up ads.
The funny thing is, so far, I’ve had a decent experience with them. The mailing time for some of their DVDs has been very inconsistent (sometimes getting a DVD mailed later before one mailed earlier) but the mail around here is kind of kooky. I’ve avoided going for new releases on the theory that they will be the hardest to rent due to popularity. The way it works is, you can have up to three (sometimes four I’ve noticed) DVDs out at any one time…and as they receive them back from you, they send you another. Thus there are no late fees, but if you hold onto those DVDs, you won’t ever get new ones.
So what have I seen thus far? Well, the following movies/DVD’s:
Shakespeare in Love
The Prisoner (Episode 1)
The Five Doctors (Doctor Who)
Flash Gordon (The 1980 movie)
Three Musketeers (1974 version)
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Mask of Zorro
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
The Man who knew too little
I’ve been stealing ideas from things like ginger’s recent WISH on movies for gamers, as well as movies I’ve wanted to see, see again, etal. Any ideas you have I would greatly appreciate.
>From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Etymology: Middle English tresoun, from Old French traison, from Latin tradition-, traditio act of handing over, from tradere to hand over, betray
Date: 13th century
1 : the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY
2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family
It’s also the title of Ann Coulter’s next book Actually the subtitle of the book is “Liberal treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.”
Treason is a very serious charge, not to be bandied about lightly. It’s one of the things specified in the U.S.Consititution. What does it say? I’m glad you asked.
>From Article III of the Constitution:
Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
Basically, what Ann Coulter is implying, insinuating is that liberals are levying war against the United States, or giving aid and comfort to our enemies. Pretty strong stuff, Ann.
Is there dissent against George Bush? Absolutely. But that is the American process. Was I being treasonous when I thought that William Jefferson Clinton was a lying sack of crap who diminished the office of the US with the antics of his personal life? I think not.
For my friends in cold places (basically most of the country besides Southern California):
Temperatures and Europeans
I love the California reference:
-5�C / 23�F People in California almost freeze to death.
I should do one for New Yorkers, Minnesotans and Californians. 😀
Something to play around with when I get a MT Blog:
Intro to RSS
Thanks to Julia (Society for Aesthetic Deletions–gotta love a Heinlein reference) for inspiration, as well as ***Dave ,here is my Friday Five.
1. What is one thing you don’t like about your body?
Considering my penchant for self-loathing, I will limit myself to my height. 5′ 7″ (5′ 7 1/2″ if I am generous) is too short for my taste. I am the runt of my family.
2. What are two things you love about your body?
Good grief. Okay, I like my eye color (hazel is just as nice as blue!) and I can get my leg briefly behind my head still.
3. What are three things you want to change about your home?
Get a home, first and foremost. My apartment doesn’t feel like one. California doesn’t feel like home…
4. What are four books you want to read this year?
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (next on my queue as it so happens)
A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
Evolution, by Stephen Baxter
His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman
5. What are five promises you have kept to yourself?
Get out of my parents house (unfortunately into another bad situation)
Open my heart to love again after Lisa passed away
Learn to cook at least passably
Learn to live on my own
Keep my chin up enough to not give into the maw of darkness
Messing with a good thing.
One of the few TV shows these days that I make a point to watch is Alias. If you haven’t seen it (and the ratings have been somewhat underwhelming), go do so. I am not usually a fan of the spy genre or at least not compared to some other genres, but I discovered Alias by accident one Sunday and have watched it henceforth.
Salon has done a profile on the show. that unfortunately mentions they are jettisoning the complex, byzantine multi-episode story arcs that got me hooked, and going for more self contained individual episodes. I LIKE the complexity, however. Even though I did not watch the entire first season, I caught myself up gradually, picking up stuff in every episode about the mythology and the world of the show. I don’t mind the occasional one-shot, but I’d take the long story arcs (a la Babylon 5 and the last seasons of Ds9) over just an ordinary series of “spy adventures” any day of the week.
But go do watch it. Jennifer Garner is a good actress (she will be Elektra in the upcoming Daredevil movie), and having Victor Garber and Lena Olin as her feuding parents is great television. Characters have complexities, shades of grey, and I was happy in the last episode where the major antagonist managed to extricate himself from the monstrous organization he had created and escaped to reunite with his thought-to-be-dead wife. Mind you, Arvin Sloane, while being the amoral head of Sd-6, also was a father figure of sorts to Sydney, and never devolved into a cardboard character.
Besides, for my RPG friends, ALIAS is also is a wonderful fount of ideas for games of various sorts. The byzantine machinations and plans suit Amber very well, and if you are playing something like Modern D20, you can lift things wholesale from this show. Pacing, plotting and world-building really shone through, it took me a while to get into the world, not starting from the start, but you can get a sense of what a complex, integrated world looks like over time.