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Showing posts from January, 2016

State of the Game January 2016: What's Distracting Me Now?

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There's a player in my gaming group who gets maximum amusement out of my ability to be distracted by shininess. He's compared it to the reaction of a kid to jingling keys...

So what are we playing now? Right now we are continuing our Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game. We are on our 7th adventure, though given most adventures tend to be multi-session, I'm guessing we've clocked in about 14 sessions, though the first session was actually a standalone D6 Star Wars session that we ended up promoting to an Edge of the Empire game. We're had a brief D&D 5th edition game in the middle but have been having a pretty nice run. The characters are starting to show competence and we're getting better mastery of the rules. It's definitely a more narrative-based game than one would have initially guessed from a flip through the rules - I'd consider it a fairly crunchy narrative game. One thing I did which was probably a good move was introducing certain concepts…

I Seem to Have Entered the 1960's: First Impressions of Music on Vinyl

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I'm a techie. For my grad school classes at Brandeis I tend to take notes on my Microsoft Surface Book. I use a Nexus 6P phone for that "pure Android experience". I very rarely buy DVDs or Blu-Ray discs anymore, streaming most of my video watching. My comic book reading is electronic, as is my reading. Which is probably why the surprise expressed by family and friends was understandable when I picked up a TEAC Vinyl Turntable and purchased the first vinyl records since picking up the 45 single for Debbie Gibson's "Lost in Your Eyes" back in late 1988/early 1989 - my musical tastes have hardened rather considerably since then and I seem to have misplaced that single and everything else from my rather small vinyl collection of high school. As I recall, most of my music in high school was on cassette tape, with the occasional 45 or 33 record for singles/remixes. And then in 1988 I got my first CD player for Christmas. No one I knew in college had a record pla…

You Don't Believe in the Force, Do You? Religion in Star Wars

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Luke Skywalker is a quick convert. In one scene he is asking Obi-Wan Kenobi what the Force is. A few scenes later he is looking down on Han Solo's lack of belief in the Force. This got me wondering as to the state of religion in the Star Wars universe.

Let's take a look at the films. We'll go in order of release. I'll be quoting scripts from the Internet Movie Script Database.

Episode IV - A New Hope In A New Hope I believe there are three references to religion/gods/etc. plus a fourth colloquial reference.
In the first, Admiral Motti is mocking Darth Vader's belief in the Force and refers to it as a religion:
                                     VADER                          Don't be too proud of this                           technological terror you've                           constructed. The ability to destroy                           a planet is insignificant next to                           the power of the Force.
                               …

Religious Sects in RPGs

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One advantage to your typical RPG religion is there isn't a whole lot of doubt. When you have priests who can heal injuries and turn away vampires, agnosticism and atheism are positions that make absolutely zero sense.

In our own world, despite the claims of various prophets, saints, and the like, we've no conclusive proof of the existence of any supernatural being or beings, much less knowledge of what they might want or expect of lowly mortals. Moreover, even within a given religion, there is a lot of disagreement. You can find the greatest disagreement among people who are essentially in agreement - consider the great controversy in the news as I write this with the Anglican leadership censuring the Episcopal church for its permitting same-sex marriages. Watch the debates between liberal and conservative Catholics on matters like economic policy, immigration, birth control, etc. The Thirty Years War devastated Europe, a war with religious differences between Catholics and …

Fiction Review: The Fifth Wave

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I wound up adding The 5th Wave on my reading list when my ten-year old daughter expressed an interest in seeing the upcoming movie adaptation after we saw a preview for it before The Force Awakens.
Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave belongs to the somewhat strange genre of post-apocalyptic young adult fiction. It takes place in the months after an alien invasion which has wiped out civilization as we knew it. The story begins following Cassie Sullivan, a 16-year old girl who is on her own and as far as she knows, possibly the last survivor of humanity. She isn't - and she realizes she probably isn't - but the fact that it is a possibility indicates how bad things have gotten.
Cassie's story bounces back and forth between her present and what led her to her now-solitary existence. Given all the previews for the movie, it's not really a spoiler to explain in very broad strokes what happened - though I'll avoid telling specifically what befell her and her family. A large…

Revisiting Star Wars (1977)

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When I went through the Star Wars movies back in November and December, I found myself frequently offering my opinions on changes from the original classic trilogy and the special editions. These comments were reliant on my memories of the original editions.

Last weekend I dug out my old DVD of Star Wars from 2004 which included the original  version of Star Wars. It’s important to note that it was just Star Wars. There was no “Episode IV” or “A New Hope”. Nor did those subtitles appear in the 1979 re-release of Star Wars. When people of my generation (and older) call the original movie just Star Wars we are indeed correct - it was originally Star Wars.

I’ll begin with some comments as to the the DVD itself. It is not a well-done DVD. It is 4:3 letter-boxed, an effect which looks horrible on a modern wide-screen television, as the screen applies black bands to the left and right of the screen to resolve a 4x3 box. That box in turn has black bands on the top and bottom. This is in con…

Remembering David Bowie

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Toll the bell
Pay the private eye
All's well
20th century dies  David Bowie, "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town", from the album 1. Outside

One of my all time favorite concert experiences was seeing Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie performing together on September 14, 1995. It wasn't the most appreciative audience. Nine Inch Nails was at the height of its popularity and the bulk of Bowie's performance was from the soon to be released album 1. Outside. My brother and I were able to get some great seats after many of the Nine Inch Nails fans left. To this day it boggles my mind that they missed out on seeing David Bowie live. It was a great show, with a transition between Nine Inch Nails' opening and David Bowie's performance. Trent Reznor and David Bowie were awesome together. My brother and I were talking about it today over twenty years later, how you had Nine Inch Nails all dark and out comes Bowie in light colors as they performed "Subterraneans"…

Minos Cluster Setting Part 2 - Adarlon

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Adarlon itself is a rugged, mountainous world. Its three major cities are located along the west coast of the northern continent on a narrow plateau between the mountains and the sea. Adarlon has a generally pleasant climate, though it does vary considerably by region. The forested regions between the mountains and the seas, where most of the population lives, are temperate and quite wet. In the cities, however, it rains only in the early mornings (climate control) and it is sunny the rest of the time.  The Human inhabitants of this planet are obsessed with pleasure and fun; they play when they work and they work at play. Throughout recent galactic history, Adarlon has traditionally been the home of most of the galaxy's best entertainers, and even today many aspiring actors, singers, and producers travel to the planet to get their "big break." (The newest "trendy act" is a rather awful band called "Boba Fett and the Assassin Droids" and a shrewd trad…

Fiction Review: Ishmael

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Hmm, a book starring a telepathic gorilla giving ecological lessons. It certainly is an interesting hook. Once I saw that I had to read the darn thing...

The novel, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, is a Socratic dialogue between Ishmael (the teacher) and the  unnamed narrator. The narrator is a somewhat cynical middle-aged man who, as a child, was disappointed that the movements of the sixties never did change the world. He feels something is wrong but doesn't quite know what. Answering a newspaper ad, he becomes a student of a telepathic gorilla, Ishmael.

I'm not quite certain how much I should do to avoid spoilers, so be warned I will be spoiling their dialogue though I will steer clear of discussing details of their lives, fates, etc. Ishmael leads the narrator through a variety of questions to explore the assumptions and origins of society. Ishmael's premise is there are two types of societies, the Takers and the Leavers. The Takers represent most of the modern world, heirs to …

The Second Amendment and Standing Armies

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Since this post has to do with the 2nd Amendment, something that generates a lot of passion, I'll begin with a few points:
The Founding Fathers were not a monolithic block. As a result it's easy for people, including me, to pick and choose from their statements to defend a particular viewpoint.In the United States, it is the Supreme Court which determines the Constitutionality of a law. The Roberts Court has determined the 2nd Amendment Guarantees an individual right to own a firearm.There is a history of Supreme Court decisions that many have regarded as "wrong". Many of the same people, for example, who support the Supreme Court decision on individual gun rights disagree with its decision on the Affordable Care Act, Corporations having a right to speech, Same Sex Marriage, Roe v. Wade, etc. Similarly the Supreme Court in its history has endorsed slavery in Dred Scott v. Sandford and racial segregation with Plessy v. Ferguson.Opponents of "wrong" decisions…

The Bestest Books Ever

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I'm not planning any major New Year's Resolution to read more - I tend to get a bunch of reading done over the course of your typical year and I'm hoping 2016 will be like that as well. I get a lot of reading done via unabridged audiobooks, either while commuting or while going for walks. What I'm planning on trying this year is making use of Goodreads to track what I'm reading. Hopefully I can figure out a way to link reviews there to this blog.

As I dusted off my Goodreads account I noticed I put a number of books as five out of five stars which was probably a tad overly enthusiastic and I tweaked my ratings. What I might try doing is delaying rating/reviewing a book until a week or two has passed to give a chance for me to reflect on it. Of course that might also make me less likely to do the review at all, so we'll see. It did give me an idea to consider what my "all-time favorite" books are. Giving an absolute favorite book is clearly impossible…