Archive | August 2013

Laze Hero

laze heroI don’t know what game my students are playing while I’m trying to teach them the past conditional tense. But whatever it is, I want to play it.

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The NASA Voyager Recordings

Music and bands are the dullest conversation topics 99% of the time with that 1% for actual musicians and people engaged in courtship seduction rituals. These conversations tend to quickly veer into the realm of status posturing and one-upmanship.

“Oh yeah, well have you heard of this stoner-core, emo, noise, dark ambient, anti-rock, Bolivian band?”

Blah. Who the fuck needs it?

But that said, I feel the irresistible need to share my latest musical obsession with you all: the NASA Voyager recordings. Five hours of pings, whirls, whoops and whistles mixed with persistent hums and the occasional shrill squawk, much of it stemming from non-audio data such as radio waves trapped in a planet’s atmosphere and particles bouncing off of a magnetosphere. Not to mention plasma and other junk distorted by pressures beyond imaging. The audio is actually just a way to make the data comprehensible, much like the colors on most space photography doesn’t exist unless you start fiddling with the data and making radio waves and the like visible.

Anyway, I recommend this stuff and say give it a listen.

And remember the best thing about ambient music, is that even when you turn it off, you’re still listening to ambient music.

Project GutenBLARG!

Screen shot 2012-04-02 at 11.20.10 PMEvery now and then I think of spending a whole year reading nothing but books on Project Gutenberg. I’m unsure if this would be a great idea or a terrible one. To this end I will download heaps of books and put them on my kindle. This is what happened yesterday, and while I don’t know if I’ll spend a whole year reading Gutenderp it’s likely a lot more forgettable Victoriana and Alexandre Dumas will enter onto my to be read pile.

The picture is from Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blog. I have dozens of screenshots taken from there. Unfortunately I can’t always remember the artists, so I’m not comfortable posting them. This picture is from this anti-Communist comic. After Comrade Colonel Sanders says this about the old books he burns the Bible.

 

Nero’s Megadungeon

I finished Gilbert Highet’s Poets in a Landscape. It was pretty great. I recommend it.

It’s the type of book you can read a chapter of and then put aside for weeks or months and then pick up again when you’re on the way to the can or wherever, read another chapter, and continue on this way until the book’s done. It’s a collection of biographies, so it never feels like you missed anything.

Here’s a bit about Nero’s swinging megadungeon:

“What they saw as a labyrinth of rooms within a mound of earth, with tunnels and cells buried deep in darkness and trees growing high above its topmost story, had originally been a large and sumptuous mansion on the street level, open to the air and sky all around, and that it had simply been buried by age, disaster, neglect, and oblivion. They looked at the richly decorated halls, far beneath the level of what they knew as Rome; they saw the elegant and comparatively fresh decorations, satyrs and garlands and wreathed columns, sacrificial emblems and trumpeting tritons; they decided that such fantasies were appropriate for the subterranean orgies of a bad emperor, and that, just as Tiberius had gone to the topmost summit of Capri to indulge his nameless vices, so, Nero, to hide his delights from the eye of heaven, must have buried himself in a subterranean cave, a grotto, secret but brightly lit and brightly decorated.”

Lastly, in all the books I’ve read about Rome’s history (this is three books) there’s always mention of how in the Middle Ages Rome consisted of mostly fortified noble houses from which the nobility would fight one another in the ruins. AND THAT’S IT, like one little footnote. I want to read a book all about that. Seriously. If there was an Osprey Book, Gangs of Medieval Rome, I would eat that shit up.

In other news, Pelican died. I was sad. Now I have to play a paladin. It sucks.

And, Elmore Leonard died, which also sucks. I’ve only read one book by him, though I have a few of his Westerns here on my shelf. His books are one of the half dozen or so ubiquitous ones you find in expat used book store coffee shops.

Damn, Horace!

“Lonely people write letters, so that they can communicate with those whose eyes are turned elsewhere. Often such letters are merely negative, calls for sympathy, cries of despair. Often they are dreary personal reports, tedious self-analyses, lists of miniscule happenings within one tiny system.”

From Poets In A Landscape by Gilbert Highet (the Horace chapter).

Assorted Game Updates

I’ve been gaming with some regularity. Here are various updates:

In Ur, the party hired a cohort of orc magi and assaulted the ghoul stronghold, where they slew plenty, and one or two of them was nearly slain themselves. They encountered one Helemor the Awakened, but were unable to defeat him. He escaped down to the lower level where strange machines emit eerie lights and a column of pitchlike darkness rises to fill the sky above the complex. They’re peering about, regrouping, and preparing to go below.

Then I started playing in a 3.5 Pathfinder game out in Gyeongju. The game’s a bit more character design oriented than I like, but fun just the same. Here’s Pelican, 16 year old sorcerer, and hillbilly son of a dryad. He likes to burn things for fun and profit:

Pelican

Next, Dennis ran his own megadungeon campaign and I got to play in that. This game is more my speed with roll 4d6 drop lowest and place in order. In that game, I rolled up a halfling named Paisley Frogsbody, and based him on Glum from the old Adventures of Gulliver cartoon. He’s a hoot to play, and his battle cry is: “I foresee the worst!” So far it has served him well.

Finally, I’m finishing up my summer classes by playing games. I’ve got one class playing Condottieri, and they seem to enjoy it. They know the game’s set in Italy, but don’t really care about Renaissance history. Mostly I’m using it to teach numbers with the lower-level class. What I really like about that game is how it’s simple to learn, but spirals upward nicely in complexity.

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My other class I have exploring the Haunted Keep from Moldvay Basic.

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No, it’s not actual D&D, but a much simplified creation along the lines of a Fighting Fantasy game or something. I just called it The Ghost Fighter Game, and had them each make a Ghost Fighter. We did character gen one day along with drawing the playing pieces, and then started playing on the other.

They’re my advanced class, and enough of them have taken to it that those not so into it don’t mind getting swept along. They all like rolling dice to open doors, hit monsters, and stuff. Plus it beats memorizing words in English. For my part it’s fun to see them get excited at, well, the exciting parts:  can we get initiative and attack first? Who can hit the monster? etc. Two of them are really in character gen and two others are into killing stuff. (The last is just sort of into doing this funny dance whenever she has to roll the dice.) Here’s some of the party:

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From left to right, it’s Sparta Ghost Sword, Wolf Girl, Super Blue, and Witch Tiger. Meteor Crocodile, the last party member, can be seen in the other picturet behind Wolf Girl and Super Blue on the left.

That’s all. Vacation begins in 21 hours.

Last Rites Audio

The audio podcast of my story “Last Rites For A Vagabond” is now available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s 21 minutes long and read by Rajan Khanna. Listen to it as you drive to work, do laundry, or any other task in which you might listen to stories. Ideally, you should listen to it at work, so that way you make money while you listen.