... because life would have no meaning after she left.
I just saw The Golden Compass, the first installment of the movie trilogy of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Very nicely done. The major change from Northern Lights (the first book of the trilogy), being in recasting the enquiry into Dust to be more of a scientific enquiry than a theological enquiry, and elevating the actions of the Magisterium (who will probably fully replace "The Authority" as the "villian" of the third book). They handled the animation of the daemons and armoured bears very well. The costuming and scenes were excellent, especially the Tartar soldiers. Dakota Blue Richards was quite good as Lyra, although the best actor by far was Sam Elliot who stole every scene he was in as the american aerialist Lee Scorseby. And Eva Green was perfectly enchanting as the witch Serifina Pekkala. <sigh>
Well worth seeing, and almost complete in and of itself, it will serve as a good introduction to what follows. But as far as I was concerned it had the bears and the witches, which was what I'd been looking forward to since the movie was first announced.
I think my friends are willing to award the Rail Baron Award For Unplayable Games to Reiner Knizia's Beowulf.
Admittedly we tended to get into extremely expensive competition early in the game by being unwilling to abandon the pot we had already heavily invested in, but what really broke the game for them was my entering the penultimate challenge with absolutely no cards (I had discarded my hand for 5 Fame because I had exactly 1 of every type of card, which was of little use of use in the conventional bidding, especially at the levels we were raising it to). In doing so I was forced to use the Risk mechanic and draw cards directly from the deck (after all, the worst that could happen was I gain a scratch [which would have had negligible effect at this time]). So after a wee run of luck (about 10 rounds of successfully drawing cards from the deck), I ended up winning that contest, gaining the dragon hoard and using that to finance the killing of the Dragon (because all the other players were bankrupted by my previous run of luck).
The odds of this strategy being successful were less than 1 in 3000 (actually a lot less, since it had to be predicated on the ability to draw the double value cards when needed early on), but as far as they are concerned, the game is totally broken.
Also, after only managing modest success early in the game, I switched to gaining as much fame as possible through sources other than direct competition with the other players, whilst they kept focusing on the ability to place well in future contests. The result of this was that I probably would have won even if the outrageous run of luck hadn't happened. But that isn't an excuse our local luck martyr is willing to accept (and good luck he suffers is ignored; and bad luck is complained about endlessly).
We also had a trial run of Khronos, getting used to the time-rippling rules. And yes, it is a poor man's version of Tigris & Euphrates (a good game in and of itself), except in three dimensions rather than two. I'm not really impressed with this game, as the game length seems too short and the options available each turn are both too simple and too complicated (in that you have a limited ability to implement any action and you need to consider future consequences to enact them appropriately). Then again, in this game I was the Luck Martyr (in that I never really had the cards to do anything really useful), and this may be tainting my enjoyment of the game.
On the good news front, they really enjoyed Struggle For Rome, thinking it was a well-done variant on the basic Catan concept, although the early game restrictions on the ability to gain resources was a might tricky, and it is important to realise that occupied cities, unlike barbarian hordes, are treated exactly like normal villages in Settlers of Catan. Unfortuneately it is only a 4 player game, so I lent it to them to try out without me (as I was busy the last time they met), and am therefore unlikely to be able to play it. So once again I ask myself, why am I buying these games?
The new Beowulf movie (in 3D) does a good job merging what is essentially two seperate stories (Beowulf vs Grendel and Beowulf vs the Dragon) into a single cohesive whole through the mechanism of the third major monster in the tale (The Sea Hag, or Grendel's mother). However in doing so it adds something new to the subtext of the tale which was definitely was not in the original. As to what this new message was supposed to be was never really made clear, perhaps beyond an essential encouragement to practice safe sex.
As a movie itself I felt it was marred by two things.
Firstly they overused the 3D card by taking the opportunity every chance they had to assault the audience with sharp pointy things. This both dilutes the impact of when such things could be used to good effect, and would probably make the 2D version of the movie quite uninspiring. But I suppose that eventually the directors will get used to the new technology and just use it to tell the story and not be the story. In this sense the ad for the new Journey to the Centre of the Earth looks more encouraging (although substituting a father and his kids for a prepared scientific expedition is of dubious reality).
The second was the gratuitous nudity in the film, or rather, the double standard they applied, and how they applied it. Both the Sea Hag and Beowulf had exquisitely rendered full frontal nudity shots, however in the case of Beowulf, a ridiculously comic succession of objects "conveniently" prevented the audience from seeing anything. The sequence went on so long the audience laughed at the ridiculousness of it; while such things work in a comedy like The Simpson's Movie, it doesn't work in a serious movie. They would have done much better to show Beowulf's admittedly heroic tackle (to judge by the appreciative reactions of the women in the mead hall), and not make a point of it. Meanwhile, we get a very slow pan down the body of a highly textured Sea Hag as water slowly and sensually "ungrasps" her body. Very sophomoric, and just what you'd expect from bored male CGI programmers.
Still rather jazzed from an excellent CD launch by Clare Bowditch & The Feeding Set. ( An incredible inadequate review of a most excellent show follows... )
 Appropos of which, Persephone has just launched a new CD Letters to a Stranger which is currently winging its way to me from Forn Climes. Apparently it is based on their recent series of
Just received my copies of Colosseum, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, and Caylus. [Maybe I should have looked at other letters of the alphabet too...] I must say that a good bit of the fun in getting a new boardgame is punching out the pieces, although this is rather expensive fun compared with, say, popping the bubbles of bubble wrap.
I have to admit there were bits I liked about Day Watch and bits that I didn't. Overall I was rather unsatisfied on leaving the cinema. Don't get me wrong, I liked the film and they managed to maintain much of the ambience of Night Watch. It's just there is a technique to telling a story that I really don't like, but since it involves a fundamental part of the resolution of the movie I shall write it in white in a white box so as not to spoil people.
I still think Zavulon (the King of Darkness) continues to be one of the coolest Dark Lords around until he loses his cool that is. He continues his manipulations par excellance from the first movie. I was absolutely jealous of his ability to tango (at his wedding with Alicia) great choreography. And I adore the fact that he and Gesser (the Lord of Light) keep ending up having "friendly" conversations with each other. If one is currently in a truce with one's opponent one might as well be civil about it. You constantly get the feeling that in the chess game between the Light and Dark Gesser is outmatched (which is true) and just relying on the fact that "Good always triumphs in the end." [While there was a hint of the traditional flaws of Evil in the conclusion of the "wedding subplot," it seemed to have little effect on the overall conflict.]
I suspect that a lot of this movie ended up on the cutting room floor in order to reduce its overall running time, leaving it rather disjointed in places. Then again, I admit that I was constantly being distracted by attempting to read the russian signs (which considering that I have to transliterate the cryllic alpabet into the greek alphabet and then into the latin alphabet means I definitely lack a certain fluency). But at least I am starting to remember a little bit of spoken russian. Then again there is some good (if slightly surreal) cinema coming out of russia these days (and if it is nor directly surreal it's usually a James Bond style action movie starring the russians, which is surreal in it's own way).
( spoilers within )
It will be interesting to see what happens in the third film, although a number of people who saw the film are lamenting with me the fact that the next film will be produced by Hollywood. Hopefully it won't lose the fundamental Russian character that suits the genre so well.
And maelorin will be happy to know that a song from his favourite Ukranian band (Verka Serdyuchka) was playing during the party scene.
|Underworld, by Gareth-Michael Skarka of Synnibar Creative Systems, is a traditional role-playing game set in the magical reality that exists beneath New York, in much the same manner as Neverwhere was set beneath London. However in this case subways play a much more important role in the generation of this magical realm. ( Review continues... )|
And for a bonus treat, people should consult the Mystic Moo's oracle for convention attendance at least my shoggoth still loves me.
|Ten Thousand Clicks|
One of the reasons I like Moloko, apart from the fun music, is the sheer physicality of Roisin's live performances as she wraps herself in her music (and silk and roses and leather and chains and...). It makes me sad that I didn't get to see them on their last Australian tour. Then again, they didn't play Adelaide, so it totally escaped my attention until the day after they had left the country. Damnation!
This is Vernor Vinge's new near-future novel of overally ubiquitous and cheap computing and virtual reality. While it has some interesting ideas, such as the sensation of touch becoming a marketable quantity, it does show his libertarian leanings (viz The Ungoverned), which is at extreme odds to the sheer autocratic control that enables and facilitates such a future. I don't think the author really ever escapes the conflict between the two mindsets. Most of the interesting ideas (idea futures, personal certification, etc) have already been presented elsewhere, such as in Marc Steigler's Earthweb, or in the more pedestrian venue of academic papers in information systems. The good news is that Microsoft has finally fixed their problems by making it illegal to have knowledge of, or physically modify, the Secure Hardware Architecture on which all trusted computing relies. Of course, this has the side-effect of making a Linux (well Hurd to be precise) laptop a highly illegal item in a world were Homeland Security have their own nukes...
There are very few role-playing games that simply floor me with the possibilities. Nobilis was one, although that was more for the perfection of the writing (in both versions), than the world or system. Underworld had a game setting that just bled magical reality and flavour text to match. Kult knew how to step on the reader's psychoses... There have been others, albiet very few of them really when you consider the number I've read, all the way back to when a friend brought back a strange little boxed game called Dungeons & Dragons from a vacation in America in the late 70s (back then the whole concept was exciting and intriguing and new). But Chad Underkoffler's Dead Inside is the latest of games that make me go "wow" (and probably the best to date).
The basic premise of the game is simple. You have no soul. Perhaps you were never born with one or you let it wear out. Perhaps you lost it somewhere or had it stolen from you by a mysterious stranger. Maybe you sold it for that new expensive sports car and trophy wife, or simply staked it on that last hand at the casino - the one you knew had to win! Or you should have read the very small print in that too-good-to-believe sales contract before you signed. Whatever method you chose, you are now lacking a soul, and the world is now a cold and discomforting place. As Lois McMaster Bujold put it in Memory: "The one thing you can't give away for your heart's desire is your heart."
But all hope is not lost. Perhaps you can convince someone to give them their soul. Maybe you could just steal it from them. Or eat a ghost. Or hardest of all, cultivate a new soul in it's place. And now that you are lacking the confining armour of a soul you are noticing new things you didn't see before. Like that Ghost who just walked through the wall. Or that zombie bagging groceries really is a Zombi. And that rainbow shining gate seems to be leading somewhere rather strange ... a place which reflects your inner nature.
Chad has created a vibrant cosmology to support this premise, the lynchpin of which is the Spirit World, a place of the Jungian collective subconscious that changes as you do. A place of magical reality that can be manipulated, either purposefully or accidentally, and which will change as you do. A place where a rock may not simply be a piece of stone, but a symbol of a burden you must carry. Where the Woods are alive . And your shadow is your Shadow (a Jungian archetype term).
And once you have managed to re-ensoul, if that is your desire, the game doesn't need to stop. You can continue your spiritual evolution along alchemical/philosophical lines to gain a higher level of understanding. If you can manage to wed your anima/animus in an alchemical marriage (the syzygy), officiated by the Trickster, you can even become a powerful mage. And true enlightenment beckons if you can defeat your own Shadow. Perhaps even True Immortality.
In many role-playing games characters tend to grow more proficient with time, or gain a measure of economic, political, spiritual or magical power. But in very few games do the character's actually grow or evolve as themselves . And this is the focus of Dead Inside. It's a game where not just your actions which are examined, but the reason for why you took them, and your actions have more than the obvious consequences .
 I knew there was something about Juliette...
 Pendragon, with its personality traits and passions was one, although it was rare for a character to progress beyond the level required to aquire certain advantages. Kult has the whole spiral down into madness or ultrasanity (both as bad as the other) thing going for it. But in most other games such changes in character were really only detailed in the character generation sections of the rules.
 I always thought it would be interesting to run a pseudo-hawaiian game, where the greatest threat to a warrior was being haunted by the ghosts of your victims.
|I just got the latest issue of Girl Genius (#12) and ... what the?!?|
What actually did happen at the end of issue #11?
We all knew something had to happen to save [censored] from the [censored], but... what?
Maybe Kaja will be nice and tell us in her Secret Cypher Society Message...
And for all of you who are unfortuneate enough not to know what I am talking about, then head yourselves over to Studio Foglio and check out the free issue #1 online (and be prepared to be hooked).
All Hail The Winslow!