Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Apparently Really Didn't Like Fear Itself

I don't really feel like picking a topic. I feel like just sort of floating around and writing about whatever.

Last night I read the Fear Itself trade I am not sure why I expected it to be any good because it wasn't. I mean not really. I think I am being spoiled by DC. Having zombies that eat emotions? Yeah that was cool. The Sinestro Corps war? Oh yeah I loved that. I actually really love Flashpoint and the world without hope. I really really really hope they go back and visit it as an elseworld. The idea of batman's father becoming batman and his mother becoming the joker is just to appealing to let go. I loved the Final Crisis and all sorts of other things DC does. Fear Itself is a big bad snake bringing some thor like hammers to earth and having his new avatars spreading fear and whatnot. Whatever. Everyone lost hope except Captain America and Iron Man and human kind pulled together and the good guys won. Yawn. Whatever.

I was disapointed. Marvel events just don't seem to have the same amount of heart as the dc ones do. The characters don't really stop or reflect or even slow down. They slip into emergency mode then they keep going until whatever is going on is over. There isn't any paticular amount of character development but rather character reaffirmation. We know who everyone is and it gets reiterated even to the point where at the end you have Captain America forsaking his SHIELD command and swinging around Thor's hammer on the front lines because that is where he belongs. This event does nothing to shake up the status quo but rather to reaffirm it as something solid. This is who everyone is.

Contrast these events with the Marvel Space books and you'll really start to get a sense of what I mean. Over the course of the Space events the stakes are incredibly high and yet each of the main characters finds time for some real honest to god development through all the action. The people involved in these events were people. We got to know them, and we get to seem them change. In some cases they get redeemed, in others they fall from grace and become cosmic threats in their own right, in still others try their best and fail due to temptation or something else. These are amazing events and something everyone involved should be proud of. They are more than just relentless action scenes with "KEWL" moments. I mean fucking hell the whole Fear Itself story line feels like it was written by hero clix designers who really wanted a new excuse to stat out a new Mjölnir wielding captain america along with an ultra powered Tony Stark.

So whatever. Man I am disapointed in that book. Looking back it has been this way for awhile now. Ever since Avengers Disassembled. But I liked House of M, and I even really liked the Civil War, and I fucking loved the Dark Reign. Everything after that though just feels blah. The Secret Invasion was a massive misstep. See the thing is it could of been good. Very good in fact. The Skrulls became really well developed people in the space books who had needs and culture. Howeverm during the secret invasion they were just reduced to the villians of the week. They had no more motivation than conquest and they went back to being faceless mindless greened skin villians. The same thing happened in this event and in Siege to a lesser extent. Marvel is forgetting that great villians make great heroes. It also takes more than some magic hammers and killing paris to make people into great villians. Hell the hammer wielders didn't even speak english so there was no real way to get to know them. We had a name show up next to the newly empowered person who explained who they now are and then they went on a killing spree. Pure and simple, but not effective. Osbourn is a compelling villain, the Skrulls can be compelling villains, Doom, Magneto, Sin (red skull's daughter), et cetera. There was nothing compelling about the fear monger people except art design.

Whateva. Alright well lunch is over and looks like I found a topic pretty damn quickly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fighting the Rising Tide

I was going to write this about something else but then I realized almost immeadiatly that I didn't really wanna. So here we are with a NEW topic. My month is rumbling to an end and my writing goal will more than likely go uncompleted unless I make a Herculean effort on Friday. I might be able to swing it, we will see though. In other news this issue of Foreign Affairs is hella interesting and it I think I will adress the NATO thing I mentioned earlier on my facebook wall. This will, in all likelyhood, be broken up into two parts.

Okay so here is the deal. More and more the smoke and mirrors effect that has been in use for the past 40 years or so to mask our stagnated incomes is failing. Now that we have to pay the piper and stuff like that we aren't really able to get the same popular support to go stomping all over the world like we used to.

In 2007 the US Government published a document that I am sure had a boring name. I recieved it along with my copy of McSweenies and it is called "Where to Invade Next" it is document that lists 7 problem countries, why they are problem countries, and how we as a unified nation can deal with them. Top of the list in that book is Iran. In this issue of Foreign Affairs there is an article about how now is the time to attack Iran. Iran has appeared all over the place in publications on Foreign Policy and what we as America need to do about it.

One of the more interesting articles I read on the Iran problem came out either last year or the year before and it was dicussing the idea that if we do not step up and stop Iran from making the bomb then we are essentially stepping down from the unilateral leader of the world stage. I personally think it is time we did this and there are other smart people who agree with me. I think that Iran isn't just a US problem, it is a world problem. There are specific issues with Iran that make diplomacy difficult and time is now running short.

So we should let NATO take the lead with us in a supporting role and let things happen. We won't get an Iran that we will be 100% happy with, but then again that wouldn't happen anyway so I don't know why we are so upset about that. There is also the very valid point that we need time for our military to heal, replenish its troops and for the military leadership to digest what it has learned in both Iraq and Afganistan. The conflicts we have been getting into since Vietnam are totally new and we are slowly getting better at them. That said our armed forces still function more like a board sword and less like some focused pressure combined with long term support and assistance to nation building. There might also need to be some revisions to how we train people so that they are better able to withstand long term deployments but I haven't been able to find any reading on veteren suicides since WW2 so it is hard to know how out of the ordinary the current suicide rate is.

The point is that we have been carrying the world for to long, the middle east is to big, and due to the current rules on how the world works we mostly have to play wack-a-mole with our various problems instead of going in and claiming decicive victories. Let me be clear I much prefer us playing wack-a-mole to us gobbling countries up and turning them into vassals. However, the way we are doing it now is much harder.

So lets bring in NATO. There are lots of reasons why I think this would be a good time to do it. (The next post will be about my concerns).

1) Unlike many of the other countries in the region which are both oil filled and annoying Iran represents a plausible threat in the form of both nuclear warfare and becoming a haven for anti western terrorism.

2) my lunch is over TA!

Monday, January 16, 2012

I have no Paticular Topic

I've been doing more reading and watching than writing recently. I am not sure why. Partly it is because I keep running around and doing things every night, and partly it is because it is cold. The temperature is a factor but hey it is a nice time to hibernate and get some things done. On a whim I picked up the Invisables again. Every time I read it I am amazed that a comic like that could be written, let alone published through a mainstream outlet and become legendary. From, voodoo, Aztec religions, the head of John the Baptist, everything involving De Sade, John Lennon being a god, UFOs, and the fact that just about nothing gets a concrete explanation of any sort I can't help but wonder how something like this could possibly excist. I also have to wonder if the book would still be able to be published today? I think it would be but it would be under Image not Vertigo. As of late Vertigo's lineup has become remarkably more conservative. The argument could be made that they just don't write comics like that any more. But that is crap. I've read Young Liars and Morning Glories. Still it is worth thinking about.

Moving on I finished the 3rd season of Lost. I did this awhile ago actually. Now that I think about it I've watched the 2nd season of Boardwalk empire too. At any rate LOST! The 4th season is where the writing strike is going to take its tole. Man I had forgotten all about the strike until Courtney mentioned some of the seasons being vastly truncated. I am still interested in the show though I can see why many people's complaints happened. Overwhelmingly the biggest complaint about the show is that it introduces new mysteries without solving old ones. However as the french chick said, "I have never been here before but I have survived this long on the island by avoiding such situations. I'll meet you back by the river."

Overwhelmingly this seems to be the main theme for most of the survivors. They moved out of the caves back onto the beach and they all huddle in one place waiting for whatever comes next, hopefully rescue. Meanwhile Jack is off galavanting around doing whatever he can to piss off the others. I'm not going to say that the others are the greatest people ever. But holy hell they could of all done a little bit more of coexsist peacefully. This season told us what happened to the Dharma Initiative which is something I am curious about. They started dropping hints that everyone on the island is really dead but Jack's flash forward in the final two episodes shows that what they actually are is much more complicated than that and that they get off the island. Charlie finally died and man could that of ever been prevented. Just a little forethought and he would of been just fine. This isn't even really a hindsight sort of deal either because fucking hell they knew it was going to happen and that there was scuba gear. Why he would go into the horrible drowning room without that scuba gear is beyond me. Still had to get the hobbit off the show somehow.

The point I was going to make though I am almost out of time is that the island is currently at its least mysterious. We know lots about the others, what happened to Dharma, some more about the smoke demon, where the polar bears came from, and some other stuff.

Now sure there is the question of Locke's dad, why Walt shows up every so often, the temple, and the house, but for the most part the island is alright. Oh yeah we don't know what happened in the first hatch they found but in all actuallity it doesn't really matter. The electromagnetic death field seems to have done its job.

Well I am out of time and I need to go back to work. We'll see what the 4th season holds eventurally. I wanna finish up the samurai trilogy, some Kurosawa films, and maybe sword of doom before going back to Lost. TA!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Post, New Games, New Year

Happy New Yea-

Yeah enough of that. If there is one thing I've learned is that the new year will be just as good or bad as the old year. Who gives a fuck. I'm not bitter. Not really. But there are so many people out there who think that they can just sit back in their easy chairs, legs spread, with the mistaken assumption that even though they have exerted zero effort their lives will get better because it is a new year and everything is going to be different. When I want to change my life I don't wait for calandar dates I just do it and move on.

...on that note I've done a TERRIBLE job coming up with Eclipse Phase characters. It isn't even that I am blocked up or anything. I am in the middle of this movie watching frenzy which is pretty awesome. Currently I am plowing through lots of Samurai movies from the 50's and 60's. I swear the damnedest things will catch my interests. I am thinking of using this escapade to take the time to rexamine the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise and maybe send a little while picking apart a lot of the anti colonialism rhetoric around it. Then I will more than likely rebuild that rhetoric but mine will be better.

So games! This year for reasons unknown I've decided to focus a considerable amount of resources to two player gaming. I am doing this for a variety of reasons.

1) There is just something a little bit more intense about 2 player games. It is the fact that it is just you and the other person and you are either against a neutral 3rd party or the game board. Either way it has a different sort of intensitiy.

2) There is a different stradegy involved. Saying there is no stradegey in multiplayer games makes you look stupid. You live in a world with Diplomacy, Twilight Imperium, Axis and Allies, and several others. But it is different. You don't have to worry about the person next to you, or make deals, or any of that other stuff. It allows for a more focused sort of game play.

3) The variety. I got myself an abstract chess like where you aren't allowed to know how your peices move, a card based miniature war game, and a game simulating the battle at Segikahara or however the hell you spell it. Next up is one of the most complex WW2 simulations out there in the form of Advanced Squad Leader, a tacticle card based game called summoner wars, and Twilight Struggle which depicts the struggle of the world's two super powers during the cold war.

I am excited. Though I think I might take a break and pick up two upcoming scable games, Wiz-War and Fortress America.

Of everything I've bought the thing I am most impressed with is sekigahara and the Hinterlands Dominion expansion. Sekigahara is apparently a block war game. I didn't know there were such things as block war games before I bought it but there it is. After I finnished the rules I was skimming the design notes and the author talked about striving for elegance and usability over endless amounts of fiddly complexity. Holy shit was he ever right. After a few awkward first turns Cory and I were playing the game like we'd been slinging blocks around our whole lives. Everything fit together magnificently and there wasn't a single choice that wasn't hard to make. As the game unfolded the depth of it all became clearer, everything from hand management to army composition to the importance of knowing the game board and controlling the highways all started clicking in place for us more and more. While the game essentially ended in a stalemate we both had learned much and I know I am eager to play it again. I wish that guy would go work for fantasy flight games. Thous people need some serious lessions in rulebook layout and clarity. Yet despite everything being clear and laid out pulling it all together in a coherent stradegy is awesome. Not only that but the two sides play very differently from each other which is neat and there is just enough randomness in the set up to keep the game fresh.

I only have ten minutes left so I am going to save hinterlands for another day. The only problem I really have with Sekigahara is that it is a little hard to teach. It has not one but two hidden elements and both of them are absolulely vital to game play. You don't know what's in the other person's armies and you don't know what is in their hand. As a result both players need a pretty firm grasp of how the game works before play begins or else you are just going to spend three hours pushing blocks around until the game ends. The two hidden elements work amazingly but because they work so well and because they are so interagal it makes it a little hard to teach because people will want to show you things and ask questions. Like I had forgotten to explain loyalty challanges to corey so when he asked about them I made damn sure to keep units in reserve for that shit. Where otherwise he could of seriously punked me. Most people learn games as they play and while I found running a sample combat wasn't the fix all I hoped it would be.

Still the game went great and after the first game a whole world of tactical possiblities opened to us. And I am greatly looking foward to playing it again. Maybe tonight, but prolly not though cause tonight I am thinking we are gonna rock out with either cosmic encounters or super dungeon explore... depending on how I feel after work.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lunch times is good time

I got to go on lunch early and now I am just sort of hanging out. I was planning on making some Eclipse Phase characters but I decided I wanted to spend my 40 minutes doing something else. That and I know that my first EC character is going to take quite awhile. The plan for this month is to make anywhere from 15 to 20 characters, fully stated, and then to write background information, habitation, notes, and plot hooks all involving them. That way should I ever play the game I'll have a nice little resource of people to draw from and use. I find this more useful than writing actual game sessions out as I can build something quickly, like say on the fly, out of a jumble of characters and situations rather than having a whole session planned out and hoping that my players comply. Cause they don't. This isn't even when they misbehave but like when Brian made best friends with the campaigns arch villian. I didn't expect that. I expected Andrew to back hand that kid and he was about to until Brian stopped him. Excellent roleplaying all around from everyone and we moved on.

So I think that is what I am going to focus on. I think I am gonna start going in cycles too. Some for Eclipse Phase, some for Mutants and Masterminds, some for SLA, definitely shadowrun and I'll intermingle it all with essay and fiction writing just to keep myself well rounded. Like I said I did alright for December, especially loosing a week a like I did but now it is time to do even better. Also there isn't really any better way to learn the ins and outs of a game system than to make characters that explore all its nooks and crannies. I think once I really start doing this I'll be better versed in my games of choice and of course I'll be able to better focus on the stories and stuff. Gaming systems don't really come naturally to me. I don't know why but they never really did. I can keep in my head the rules for dozens of board games but then with roleplaying games it all starts to go out the window. And it isn't like d20 or Shadowrun is any less complicated than Arkham Horror. I guess it is partly because the idea of telling a story and coming up with dice modifiers are things that don't share the same spot in my head.

The other thing is that when I play board games and what not I like to keep my opponents reacting to me. If I can keep them reacting then they aren't acting and I am free to do whatever. I generally found that as soon as I start reacting I start to loose. Gming isn't like that. Setting aside the lack of win/loose condition, Gming is all about reaction unless you are running a dungeon or something else I rarely do. Though that sort of situation does seem to crop up in Mutants and Masterminds. But that game works out to being fun enough where you don't have to worry about that over much.

Anyway, 15 characters and stuff if I do one character a day that's me writing for about half the month which I don't think is an unreasonable schedual. The problem is publication of course. How and where am I gonna do it cause I don't wanna keep all this stuff to myself. Though that problem is for another day cause for now I need to go back to work or something like that.