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Rope in Fate

Watching the latter part of Hitchock’s Rope, it seems to me that you could run that whole long psychological and investigative cat-and-mouse game in Fate, with most of the movie consisting of Investigation, Empathy, and Deceit rolls, trying to assess and declare aspects, leading up to a big Will conflict at the end.

Also, that scene at the end where Jimmy Stewart’s character summons the cops by firing a gun out the window? Hope there wasn’t anyone standing where the bullets came down.

An encumbrance mechanic

An idea for D&D-like games: Give each player an (empty) Altoids tin, or some other small container. This is a holder for the items their character is carrying. For small items (scrolls, flasks of potion, daggers) use scraps of paper or business card. For larger items, use pieces of wood or Lego or other substantial items. You’ve got to write the names of the items they represent on these objects, so if you don’t want to write on your Lego blocks, use something else.

If you’ve got several different sizes of small box, give the larger ones to the players with stronger characters. If all you’ve got is the same size box, give the weaker players null items (Lego blocks with nothing written on them) to represent a smaller carrying capacity.


Feb. 15th, 2007 10:31 pm
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I got a Barnes & Noble gift certificate, and [livejournal.com profile] mister_wolf had reminded me a few days ago that I’d been meaning to pick up the DVD of Nausicaä, so yesterday I did. I also discovered that the official English translation of Pom Poko was out; I figured Disney would never release that story of magical shape-changing animals who make weapons out of their own testicles. Yet there it was! I got both.

Today I watched Nausicaä, which still holds up after all these years. I just love all those great designs — the planes, the armor, the giant bugs. And probably more facial hair than in all the rest of anime put together.

One bit that I’d never noticed before: Towards the end, the valley people are under attack, and take refuge in the hull of an ancient abandoned ship of some kind at the edge of Acid Lake. The ship has a conning tower, and looks like it might be a submarine, but it could be a surface ship with a rounded body, sort of like this. It’s even got some fins towards one end, like in that picture. And one of the characters says about it “It was supposed to have been built before the Seven Days of Fire. They say it’s been all over, even to the stars.” (That’s Disney’s English dub translation.)


Feb. 7th, 2007 02:00 am
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I’ve been watching lots of westerns on DVD recently. Once Upon a Time in the West for one, and the second season of Deadwood for another. And, um, that’s it. So maybe not a lot, but hey, it was a whole season of Deadwood. The mustache on this guy here was inspired by a photo of the historical Seth Bullock, hero of Deadwood.

Western scene

Once Upon a Time in the West is a classic spaghetti western by Sergio Leone, with Charles Bronson as a man with no name (but a different man with no name than the one Clint Eastwood played in other Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy) seeking revenge while he plays the movie’s background music on a harmonica. The harmonica is important, a hint about his secret past, the reason he wants revenge, and when that bit of backstory is revealed, it’s the cruelest damn thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. Henry Fonda is the villainous villain, in a great job of casting against type. Jason Robards is the less-villainous villain, the one we don’t mind cheering for.

Deadwood is fascinating to me for a few reasons. One, it’s all about power and law, and the establishment of law in an unlawful place. I’m always kinda fascinated by that. Another, it’s got a great main character in Al Swearengen. (You may think Seth, the hero, is the main character. You’d be wrong.) Just like in Once Upon a Time in the West, there are two villains (actually more, but two main ones), but Al’s the beating heart of the show, driving all the action, swindling and murdering and organizing, a joy to watch, an engine of swearing. Third, the dialog is fantastic. There’s a strong Shakespearean influence (If the Bard had been inordinately fond of the word “cocksucker”), with bits that sound like they might be iambic pentameter, lots of monologs, and bits of stage direction in the dialog. Here, a sample from the second season premiere, Al and his henchman Dan stand on Al’s balcony, watching telegraph poles being raised:

Invisible messages from invisible sources, or what some people think of as progress.
Ain’t the heathens used smoke signals all through recorded history?
How’s that a fucking recommendation?
Well, it seems to me like, you know, letters posted one person to another is just a slower version of the same idea.
When’s the last time you got a fucking letter from a stranger?
Bad news about Pa.
Bad news! Or tries against our interests is our sole communications from strangers, so by all means, let’s plant poles all across the country, festoon the cocksucker with wires to hurry the sorry word and blinker our judgments of motive, huh?
You’ve given it more thought than me.
Ain’t the state of things cloudy enough? Don’t we face enough fucking imponderables?
Well, by God, you give the word, Al, and them poles will be kindling.

By the end of the second season, Al’s even wandering around talking to a severed head. The third (and final) season isn’t out on DVD yet. I don’t know what the holdup is.

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I just joined a Flickr group for faking up the covers of Nintendo DS movie and book tie-in games. (No, I wouldn’t actually want to play a DS games based on Lolita. But a Blazing Saddles game would be awesome.) Here are my mock-ups.
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I’m ashamed of myself for not having noticed till today that Seinfeld owes a tremendous conceptual debt to Annie Hall.

Pirates 2

Jul. 23rd, 2006 12:54 am
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[livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I saw Pirates 2 today.

Me: We’ve gotta see Pirates! I’m wearing my pirate underwear!
She: I shudder to think what sort of underwear you’ll wear for A Scanner Darkly.

Not as good as the first. Not terrible, but just not as good. Not as coherent, the characters’ motives aren’t as clear, the double-crosses aren’t as clever, the wacky fight scenes seem overdone. And, of course, not one but two references to the rum joke, because it’s easier than coming up with new material.

Even the incredible tentacular special effects (now the Pirates slash ficcers can branch out into hentai) don’t match the sublimity of the underwater march scene from the first film.
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So, if I went and saw An Inconvenient Truth, but I left my air conditioner running while I was out, is that a net gain or loss for the environment?

That was the day, pretty much. Walked about Manhattan a bit, sat in a Starbucks and did a bit of sketching (came up with a new design for a character that I might eventually wind up including in the webcomics that I’ve been not doing for three years now), met [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana for the movie, then we had dinner at Congee Village, and had a view of the fireworks as we walked down Allen Street.

The movie’s really good. Gore’s smooth, confident in his material, and funny, totally blowing away the media’s invented “wooden robot” stereotype from 2000. The scientific errors are so few and so minor that the oil industry’s shills have been reduced to nitpicking his word choices or lying about the content of Gore’s presentation.
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[livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I saw Superman Returns on Friday. This is pretty directly a sequel to the 1978 Richard Donner film, but holy crap, it’s half remake. Seriously, this thing slavishly recreates entire scenes and incorporates chunks of dialog from the original. Hey, Brian Singer, could we maybe have had more new stuff in our new movie? And what the heck was the deal with that meteorite at the beginning?

And I like a bit less Jesus in my Superman. Sure, the Clark Kent/Superman thing has maybe an echo of the whole “wholly God, wholly man” thing, but a key part of the Jesus myth is that Jesus’s death and resurrection redeemed mankind from sin. This isn’t part of the Superman storyline — Supes’s death and resurrection in 1993, for all of the ham-fisted gospel parallels the writers put in, was just a crappy DC marketing ploy, and is too recent to have really shaped his myth. And, frankly, it’s just too awful a story for me to take seriously, so I don’t like to think about it. But then, that’s why I’m hardly buying any Big Two superhero comics anymore.

Superman’s mythological roots don’t lie in the gospels, but primarily in the stories of brawny-yet-clever heroes like Hercules and Samson. Supes being a sun-god makes him even more like Samson, and Lois in the old Silver Age comics made a pretty good Delilah.

If you want the feel of the old Silver Age Superman written with modern attention to dialog and plotting, pick up Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quitely’s bimonthly All-Star Superman, up to issue #4 so far. Morrison knows what myths to draw from; Samson and Hercules even show up in issue #3 to flirt with Lois, arm-wrestle Superman, and generally cause trouble.
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Via [livejournal.com profile] mcroft: Add your own subtitles to a short Bollywood movie clip! Here’s mine, from a script by E Gary Gygax!
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This was a two-movie weekend! Friday night, I couldn’t get tickets for X-Men 3, so instead [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I saw Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, a South Korean revenge flick I first heard about through Enrico Casarosa’s blog.

Lady Vengeance sounds like a chop-socky wire-fu flick, but it’s not. It’s about a woman who had to take the fall for a crime she didn’t commit, and spent her years in prison working out a revenge plan, and then discovers that she’s guiltier than she’d thought, and her vengeance gets complicated. The climax is brutal and remorseless — no redemption here, just accounts being balanced — and moreso for being set in an abandoned schoolhouse, with the participants acting almost like schoolkids working on a project. (Do South Korean students handle cleanup in their schools like the Japanese do?) Directed by Chan-wook Park, and now I may have to track down Oldboy.

X-Men 3, well, it was nice to see all the splashy fight scenes and fanboyish shouts-out (Hank McCoy! Moira McTaggart! Jamie Madrox! Juggernaut! The danger room!), and this movie handles better than any other big-name superhero property film the sense of taking place in a crowded superhero world, but really, much of the dialog was almost Claremont-level clunky, and the whole Dark Phoenix plotline (stand here for half the movie looking moody, then turn into the level boss at the end) could have been left out entirely, and that would have left time for adding some actual causal relationships between the set pieces. Yeah yeah, sit through the credits for the surprising revelation that you might actually care about if you’re writing post-third-movie fanfic.
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devilFree comics day! [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I started at Jim Hanley’s Universe up on 33rd, walked down Brodway to Cosmic Comics on 23rd (which was also having a 30% off sale, so I picked up the first volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha in paperback), and then down to the Forbidden Planet on 13th. My bag was about full, so we skipped St Mark’s Comics and just kept going down to the Angelika to see Art School Confidential.

From what I’ve seen of the comics so far, it looks like most of what I got is new material, short stand-alones actually written for the free comics, rather than the excerpts from regular stories that some companies were passing off a couple of years back. My fave so far is Joel Priddy’s The Preposterous Adventures of IronHide Tom.

Art School Confidential, well, the first half hour or so is pretty hilarious if you’ve been to art school. The rest of the movie suffers from having a mainstream Hollywood plot; there’s a romance plotline that gives the protagonist a lame motivation for his art, and a serial-killer plotline that feels like it belongs in an entirely different movie.
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Snakes on a Plane: The Prequel

Badgers & Mushrooms on a Plane

([livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana’s idea, my mad Photoshop skillz, Jeffrey Rowland’s original t-shirt art)
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Iain Anderson made a short animated film using AIGA/DOT icons. Design Observer has scored an interview with the star.
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Saw V for Vendetta tonight with [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana. It’s a real shame Alan Moore had his name removed (mostly because of disagreements with DC), because it’s a good, faithful adaptation.

Events are moved around from the comic, a couple of the least convincing bits are rewritten, a couple of sub-plots are dropped. The leader character (Susan in the original, Sutler in the movie) goes from being an introverted cypher to being a caricature, which plays better on film.

The lumpy, unattractive, middle-aged characters are played by lumpy, unattractive, middle-aged actors! There aren’t any in Hollywood, so they had to import them from England.

The general sensibility of the setting is updated. The comic — written in the early 1980s, set in 1997-98 — seemed to have a real year some decades earlier than that. The art seemed to depict a shabby, worn-down England, one where radio announcements were still a major part of people’s lives. The movie has cellphones and desktop computers, most things seem clean and in good repair, and television is the central information and entertainment source. (Maybe that’s a bit behind the times. The movie mentions something called the “Interlink”, but it’s literally just mentioned; we see nothing of it.) I much prefer the movie’s version of Lewis Prothero.

The really important bits of the story — and if you’ve read it, you know what I mean — are all there, and mostly presented very faithfully.

And here’s what people reading at Barnes & Noble look like )
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In keeping with ancient Jewish tradition, [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and I saw a movie and had Chinese Vietnamese food today. The movie was King Kong, which was pretty visually spectacular, and blew the doors off my childhood memories of the original and teenaged memories of the ’70s remake.

I gotta take issue with the crowds, though. We caught a 7:30 PM showing, and got there half an hour early, tickets in hand, and there was a line to get into the theater. Not a line to get tickets, I mean a line inside the multiplex to get seated. And most of the people on line did not look or sound Jewish.

WTF, people? Aren’t y’all supposed to be home with your families on Christmas? Maybe in church or our caroling or having sleigh rides or something? The reason Jews go to movies on Christmas is because the rest of you don’t! Don’t you goyim go screwing up our sacred Jewish Christmas traditions!
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Y’all seen The Shining, right?

Ever wonder what it’d have been like if made by, say, the Lifetime Channel?

[livejournal.com profile] immlass and [livejournal.com profile] mcroft just showed us.
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Y’know what’s distracting? A dream about a sequel to Sky Captain featuring a love scene between Angelina Jolie and Aishwarya Rai, that’s damn distracting, pretty hard to wake up from.

And speaking of things that aren’t lingonberries, I’ve been thinking of starting up my old blog again. Well, more like starting up a new blog, making half-hearted plans to import my old content into it, and then not getting around to it. And more than thinking, I’ve been doing some set-up work, fiddling around with plug-ins and templates.

See, Dreamhost (where I’ve currently got all my domains hosted for only $10/month, and if you decide to sign up with them, be sure to tell them that “avram” referred you, and then I get money) offers one-click installation of WordPress. It actually turned out to be three- or four-click installation (hint: when they say they need a unique name for the database, they mean unique across all of Dreamhost), but still pretty simple. Now I’m cooking up my own theme, figuring out how the Ultimate Tag Warrior plug-in works, and downloading freeware fonts and playing around with color schemes.

I’m not sure why I’m actually doing this. I think it’s partly ’cause I’m just not satisfied keeping all of what I want to say on LJ. But mostly it’s just an impulse, and I’ve been learning to heed my impulses.

Oh, Dreamhost also offers one-click installation for MediaWiki. Anyone else have a hankering for a Lexicon game...?
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Last night, for [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana’s birthday, we went to see The Aristocrats, Penn Jillette’s and Paul Provenza’s documentary about the filthiest joke in the world. More like the skeleton of a joke, really. It goes like this:

A family walks into a talent agent’s office to audition their act. The agent asks to see what they can do. They then proceed to perform a variety of incestuous and scatological acts. When they’re done, the agent asks what they call the act. “The Aritocrats!”

Not much of a joke, is it? Well, that depends on how you tell it. As Jillette says in the film, the joke proves that “it’s the singer, not the song.” Each of the comedians they interview adds his or her own details to make the joke his own. One of my favorites was George Carlin’s version, which has the father of the family merely describing the act to the agent, but with a staggeringly repulsive load of technical detail. Whoopi Goldberg ads a bit of performance comedy to her telling, Sarah Silverman portrays her own family as the performers, the editorial staff of The Onion brainstorm a version of the joke (and come up with a brilliantly offensive new act), Matt Stone and Trey Parker provide a South Park clip of Cartman telling the joke to his friends, and on and on.

One of the trailers beforehand was for a movie called The Man, the premise of which is that a professional-looking white man is less believable as an authority figure than a street-talking black man. The world’s changed a lot since the days of Dragnet.
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[livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana is spending the long weekend over here. We’re on a movie-watching binge! So far:

Fight Club, which I’d seen before, but she hadn’t. It’s a very different experience the second time through. Lots of scenes read very differently when you know what’s really going on.
Plan 9 From Outer Space, which she’d seen but I hadn’t. No number of watchings can save this movie. It can teach you a lot of about movie-making, by negative example.

Batman Begins, which we actually had to leave the house for. It was worth it. This movie gets Batman in a way that Burton’s never did. Certainly the best live-action Batman movie ever; I’d have to see the animated Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm again before I removed the qualifier.
Moulin Rouge, because I’d already seen it and wanted something I didn’t have to pay attention to, and she wanted something different from Batman Begins. Me: “It’s a little over-the-top....” She: “A little?!”
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Busy day today. First, a life drawing session at Spring Street Studio; I need to do that more often. (Results posted over on [livejournal.com profile] sketchblogs.) From there I immediately wandered down to get more art supplies (a thinner sketchbook for everyday use, a pad of brown kraft paper and some black and white conté for the next life drawing session). I hoped to be able to pick up some foam rubber (for another project) at the industrial plastics store opposite Pearl Paint on Canal St, but (shock! horror!) it seems to have gone out of business.

Then I walked uptown to 6th St for [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk’s birthday dinner at Brick Lane Curry House (excellent food, a bit pricey), after which we went down to the Landmark Sunshine Theater to see Howl’s Moving Castle (subbed). The movie has a good beginning and a great middle, but Miyazaki indulges his weakness for fairy-tale endings even more than usual.

And I found a used copy of REM’s Monster for $3. Used CDs rock.

April 2017



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