Saturday, April 30, 2011

Superman Wishes He Could Quit Us, Does

This comes at the end of a story where Superman shows up to show support for Iranian protesters and the government uses that to link the protesters to the United States government and political fallout ensues. Image is from an article on the subject by Comics Alliance(read the comments; they are insane!).

Why This Is Happening
I saw him kicking around this ball in mid-2002. It was issue where he had spent the entire day answering emails from around the globe. Superman has always been a man of the world, and his own Batman-like journeying around the world to find himself in his early years is one the pieces of his mythology that I have really liked.

Superman represents the best of America. In a lot of ways, America belongs to the world as much as Superman does. The difference is that The United States has to face certain political and cultural realities--even the DC Universe United States--and Superman does not. Superman represents the ideals of democracy and freedom better when he’s not being linked--however erroneously--to the US government.

But Superman cannot represent the American government. Standing for The American Way was a product of a more defensive time; it implicitly meant defending the culture of the United States from fascists and socialist dictatorships masquerading as communism. Now that both The United States and Superman are, shall we say, slightly, more proactive players on the world stage, the contrast between people’s fear of the projection of force and influence by governments and by legitimate independent agents is much sharper and more relevant.

Whenever Superman’s in space fighting Darkseid, punching Brainiac, thwarting Zod, or doing something else, it shouldn’t be because it’s in the US’s best interest. If Lex Luthor wanted to rule Russia or Iran, it’s not like Superman would just stand by and let it happen because it was happening to America’s enemies; he’d intervene because it’s the humane thing to do.

Ultimately, the world must know that Superman stands independent of US government policy and politics.

However, more importantly, Superman is a property and an icon. He’s a legally contested property, but he’s a property none the less, and a globally popular one. No, it shouldn’t matter to comics readers where Superman pays taxes(?), files his marriage certificate at(?), or fills out as his home address on his health insurance forms(?), but it does. They want Superman to be a citizen of the world, someone who ideologically transcends borders as easily as he does physically. The editors of Superman apparently suspect that the cost of alienating a few people who actually read Superman in the US will be offset by the increased readership abroad. It is, and has always been, a business. Sorry.


Why this Doesn’t Work
He’s still American and nothing has changed. Superman was raised in Kansas. He works in Metropolis. He speaks English. He works in Metropolis. His home is in Metropolis and most of the time he spends saving people is there. He is white as fuck. Until the next Crisis whenever he gets a darker, pan-cultural appearance and starts speaking a polyglot language and Metropolis is retconned into being a free city floating in The Pacific Ocean, he’s still going to be an American (no, that's not going to happen, but I'd love to read an explanation for why that would be a terrible thing).

Also, this happens on a backup story after a run on Action Comics that focuses primarily on Lex Luthor. The past two Superman stories (I’m aware of) are New Krypton (where Krypton comes back and Superman goes to live on Krypton as a regular schmo working under General Zod before Krypton is destroyed by Zod, Braniac, and Luthor) and Grounded (where Superman walks across the United States because he feels out of touch).  

None of these stories (as far as I know) touch on the conflicts caused by Superman aligning himself with America. If anything, he tries to reconnect with America right before he relinquishes his citizenship, which is either poor storytelling or a clear sign that even though Superman is no longer legally connected to the US, his connection to it remains.

My biggest gripe with this is that it comes out of nowhere and has little to no support in anything else Superman is doing. It’s treated like a non-issue (which it largely is) whenever it could have been made into an actual story about Superman and his relationship with the United States that not only could have established a better foundation for this, but could have also made it so that The United States asked Superman to relinquish his status instead of the other way around.


Why People Are Angry
Because that’s the bee in everyone’s bonnet. I mean, there’s a lot of knee-jerk “You’re raping my childhood” outrage out there, but the real issue is that no matter how justified, obvious, irrelevant, or overdue this decision is, in the eyes of some, Superman is still rejecting America. If there’s anything I’ve learned that’s brought me special feelings of shame in some of my fellow Americans, it’s their personal--and sometimes collective--ability to take any sort of rejection damned poorly.

Fuck Superman; I’m going on a rant here...tomorrow:


Question
What does it matter if Superman calls The US his home? What if he never presented himself as an American (assuming he could pull-off a pan-cultural appearance alongside flawless linguistic skills)? What if he was from another country and was inspired by American democracy? What if he was from another culture entirely, but held the same ideals? If those ideals could not be the same if he came from another culture, what would the differences be?

Heads Up

I wanted to go on a bit about "Said and Sadness," but I'll do it later.

Next week is (hopefully) my last week out here. That means that a lot of my time is going to be spent working on DnD adventures five and six and the next two The Doom Effect episodes. That's not a lot of time for blogging, but...I think the past few weeks have shown that more is definitely less in the blogging area.

Oh, and I totally have a poll up that you can vote on. I'll try to have one up constantly from now on and post whenever a new one goes up.


Anyway, I'm only planning on having five blogs next week, plus a been-too-long Sunday Morning Soapbox tomorrow.


Be seeing you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's the Magic: New Phyrexia Previews, Part 1

With New Phyrexia coming out in two weeks and me still not sure if I'm going to preorder it, I thought I'd take this opportunity to review some of the cards coming out for it, to work out my problems via discussion. The cards below are rated on a simple system:


I don't like the big, over cost Blue dudes. I know, I know, it's Blue's weak point. I don't contest it, but I've never really liked it. At least Chained Throatseeker is a wall. Albeit a wall for six mana, but isn't a wall and it does have infect. I don't know how many really big infect creatures there are, but my impression is that there aren't a lot in common. So if you need an infecting fattie to finish your beat down, for one blue mana there's Chained Throatseeker. Not bad. No Flensermite, but not bad.

Dispatch is the second card to get me excited about Metalcraft (the first being Concussive Bolt, which I can list other complaints for, but...). I like it because it's a "Do something, or do something better" type of card. The art doesn't hurt and I won't oppose exiling or the shenannagans that go with Metalcraft, so I Like it. I don't think I'll mind playing against it too much either; what are you going to do, exile my Flensermite? We both lose in that scenario.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Timewalking Archive Trap: Video Collection, vol 2

Hooch...

...is crazy!


And Hodges. Because Hodges rocks.




Based on this commercial. It should come as no surprise I like the Shatner one better.












Yeah, sounds about right. All it's missing is Slappy Squirrel at the end telling us how that's comedy.



I forgot that when I make something, I waste half a night's sleep making things too good. And don't read too much into those placements; they're random.

The song is Piebald's "Karate Chops for Everyone But Us."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Linkstorm: Said and Sadness

The following post is rated:
 
Patrick Stewart says he now supports assisted suicide. Is there anything else that can get people to crowd around a water cooler and talk about something old like it's new again, it's celebrities and their opinions. The type of assisted suicide that Patrick Stewart talks about here sounds reasonable and it is kind of mind-boggling that it's a topic of some debate or import.

Also, he's seventy? Damn. And how scary is that Alzheimer's/Irumodic Syndrome thing? Well, not that scary. I guess that wealthy people do tend to live long enough to have neurological and cardiological issues that older people have. Given that he has both, it was a fifty-fifty shot that he'd have a disease similar to that of one of his characters (of which he has had quite a few. Again, a function of being older).

But it seems like an interesting coincidence on the surface, right?

There's a lot of talk about A Game of Thrones being dude-centric because of its genre. io9 says that's not true in the slightest. If we're going to fault a series for being "for men," we should at least fault it for the (apparently, various) right reasons. Also, technically well done.

Illegal immigrant college students speak out about their rights. No. Just no and get over yourselves.

A report from Britain says that we should be careful about the lowered threshold of violence that autonomous military systems present. Yes. We will do that. Now if you excuse me, I need to get back to the business of the economical projection of power overseas without public outcry. This is the kind of truly relevant report policy makers enthusiastically nod their heads about and voice approval for while changing nothing.

Mr. President, you know I like you, but this spending cut thing is a "get on board or get left behind" train. I like all of the programs that are being cut. I don't want them to go away, but we can't just keep spending more than we make. It's been a political mantra for years and everyone I know has cared about this issue, yet this is the first time I'm seeing my government do something about it. Why not counter with spending cuts that affect the people who are calling for these things or some taxes to meet these guys halfway(or however the math plays out)?

This is an opportunity. One that the--ugh--tea party of all people are exploiting. Take their thunder and make some change. This is your thing.

Somali pirates are taking ransom money then keeping hostages. New idea: quit paying these guys and kill them.

With bullets (or lasers).

io9 breaks down 28 movies coming this summer. My responses:
No.
Yes
NO
No
Hmm
Nah
Insufficient Data
Meh
Maybe
LOL, no
We'll see
N.O.
No
Not Yet
Hell yeah!
Want to, but no
Yes, actually
NPH vs CGI?!
Totally want to, but won't
LOLNO
No. No. No.
Zzzz
Eh.
Farrel + Chekov + Tennant = ...maybe
Riiiiight
...
Malcom McTicketbought!
Uninterested Viewer $5 Richer

No High Scores postulates that DRM encourages piracy. Duh. Howevercomma if you are tempted to buy Witcher 2, maybe the fact that its publisher had the cojones to sell it without DRM might put you over the top?

Rumor has it Nintendo might be working on a next-generation Wii or an HD Wii. Laughter abounds on the issue.

But seriously, if they are, then screw those guys.

So hard.

Speaking of people on my bad side, Hamas is trying to deal with violent extremists in their territory. It's like, I could just switch "Hamas" in that article with "Israel" and switch "militants" out with "Hamas," and no one would be able to tell the difference, save for how angry people would be at Israel.

I laughed throughout most of this thing, honestly. I do feel bad when a child dies, but I don't feel quite as bad as when a few hundred children die in, say Japan. So if you're really angry at me, instead of maybe impotently railing about it on the internet, throw a few bucks Japan's way. Nothing you say will ever make me a better person than I am now, but donating to help out Japan (or the Red Cross in general) might just make you think you're a better person than you are now.

School Shooting. More tragic for what it means than for who actually died. Worse for people who think that a free government can protect its citizens from all harm. It can't. What the lawsuit happy families of the dead want is a totalitarian state where, in the end, the police will kill students and no, you can't sue them.

Speaking of which, how the hell about Syria? Whenever I last mentioned them, I thought they were one of those "not gonna happen" places on this Mid-East reform/democracy/liberation wave. I was wrong. So effing wrong. They were breaking up protests back in February and just weren't on the radar. Damn. The deaths are regrettable, but the movement isn't. Good luck Syrians.

In Massachusetts, a mother withheld lifesaving medication from her kid. The title makes it seem pretty bad, but she was actually a single mom with multiple kids. The child in question had pretty bad autism and was on the road to recovery from the lymphoma, so she stopped giving him painful in-home treatments. I don't really know what to say to that. What she did was terrible, but I couldn't imagine taking all of that on and having to inflict pain on my own kid on a regular basis and have anything resembling human empathy left at the end. That this woman could afford the medication is astounding, but what more could have been done to help her? Maybe it's all the Batman I read, but I'd like to think there was another way.

A veterans advocate (and veteran) kills himself. It does hit close to home and parts of me want to condemn and condone this, but how could I?
How could anyone?
It just sucks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 18

Every Tuesday, I post excerpts from my best-selling at not-selling super blog, Playing Favorites

Huh. Cloud 9 and All-Star Superman both have some good moments. All-Star Superman's Crowning Moment of Awesome was definitely punching out Lex, because...c'mon, that was great, but Cloud 9 didn't have any particular moment of cool. She had a moment where you saw most of her early arc end. Whenever she's saving a kid who's as psyched by flying as she was when we met her. The kid's mom tells him to quit being a spaz; Cloud 9 flies all the time because it's her job. Cloud 9 doesn't respond at all; she's completely impassive about the entire encounter, focused on saving the family from their apartment fire. The reader sees that the enthusiasm for her abilities is completely external. It's a great moment, and it defines her character.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Brave One

This is what Photobucket gives me when I search for "The Brave One"

I can sum up The Brave One in three lines.

Terrence Howard: "If you try to kill any more criminals, I will bring you in."
Jodie Foster: "I will kill this criminal!"
Terrence Howard: "Use my gun."

The movie is good, but the ending is just...baffling. Props to it though, Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard are friends in this movie. There's this scene where he mentions his wife and then I realized that this man and this woman who had just met each other and became so friendly so quickly weren't going to have sex. Mind....blown.

What? Seriously. Good for you. Good for you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's the Magic: Remember


Shiny!

 
I've liked Reassemble from Memory for a while. My roommate saw me working on it and asked what it did. I told him it removed the creature from the game when you cast it, then returned it once the spell resolved. "So, it will save it from Wrath of God?" "No." "When what does it do?" "I don't know." It (potentially) saves a creature if you would lose it to a targeted effect. It can even exile an enemy creature if you manage to counter your own spell. Yes, there are more (and probably better) spells to do that, but I like it.

A case could be made that it should be white, and I wouldn't argue with that. I could see a blue version that bounces a creature when it triggers, then lets that creature's controller put a creature card with the same named as that creature onto the battlefield when it resolves. It would be wordier. I don't know if you could do equivalents in Red or Black. 

The original added damage, then removed damage as an instant, which would have been good for walls, but it was certainly outside of Red's purview. I like the current incarnation better. No, it's not even as good as Volcanic Hammer, but it is hard to counter. I'd like to give it more damage, but then I look at Magma Rift, Burn the Impure, and Flame Slash and it seems like even four damage would be pushing it.

The "Remember Damage" part of it doesn't work if you destroy the creature(the spell is countered with no targets), so it's hard to uptick damage to balance that out. Maybe 3 at Instant is the best course after all.

Question
I want you to take a few minutes and imagine that you’re introducing someone to Magic for the first time. If you’re reading this you probably know the game. Imagine someone’s interested and they’ve asked you “What all that Magic stuff is about?” They’ve played a few tabletop games before and they seem ready to graduate to the hard stuff. What do you say? Nothing long and rambling. No paper or cards for demonstration. Just a pitch.

What is Magic?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Timewalking Archive Trap: Video Collection, vol 1

Doom stands up:

Awesome.


Music.


Music.


Shatner music.

If you're not keeping up with these, you should be:








Star Wars cut up over the voices for a Departed trailer.


TMNT over Reservoir Dogs. :D


Someone asked about Wilford Brimley the other day.

He's cool. Also, he's the unofficial spokesman for Diabetes(diabeetus).


He has, naturally, been spoofed by the interwebs.


Really, this shit goes on, but they're all variations on the same theme:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zombie CCG: Big Pictures, pt 2

I spent most of last week working out the fundamentals of a Zombie CCG. Next week is CCG Week, but it's admittedly light on specifics of a Zombie CCG. In light of that, I thought I'd share some big picture ideas of my concept to tide you over. Yesterday, I talked about game elements and what I'd like some of them to do. Today, I'm talking about some problems those approaches bring up.

Problems:
Reaction/Items: So if you draw a new hand (basically) whenever you go to a location, then what do you do about the zombies you draw? If anything, an opponent drawing and/or playing zombies should be the result of your going to a new location. I’ve thought about a dedicated “Zombie Phase” where players can either draw and play zombies or just play zombies before all of the turn’s zombie attacks are totaled. Maybe even letting them check out their top X cards for zombies and play one, where is the thing for their opponent’s location. It wouldn’t forbid keeping zombies in your hand and playing them more tactically, but it would make sure the zombie quotient is kept high without clogging up your hand.

Alternate Win Conditions/Competitive Play: So if I can get a win by letting the zombies kill Major Rhodes and my opponent can win if his zombies kill a Military guy, then win-win; next round of the tournament please. However alternative, degree-based, or point-oriented the system is, there should be a clear winner regardless of the situation. That might be hard to balance out, but I think that a varied point system that’s conducive to doing stuff would help even that out.

Inconvenient Survivor Locations: If you’re playing your own survivors, then why are you ever going to play them into an insecure playground surrounded by hungry undead? It’s either a point-objective for playing the playground or the child, or your opponent has a hand in how you deploy your survivors. Sounds interesting. In fact, it might be possible for your opponent to “queue” zombies on the board so that they’re ready to pounce whenever you turn up something interesting. Granted, you still have concerns about other survivors that you are trying to rescue starting in locations other than where you are, but it’s something to look at. If you keyword it and force survivors to be played on certain key worded locations, then you’re making some cards dead in your hand. On the other hand, you could just institute a ‘reduced karma’ for playing those survivors into keyword location. It still might be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment of play, which means I’d like to work on it more, but it’s something to go on at least.

The Best Part of Waking Up: If there is a phase of pre-realization play, what is it? Can you score points for going into work in the morning despite the masses of dead walking the street? Can you play and win an entire game without your survivor ever becoming aware, a ‘Magoo’ deck or some sort?

The Solo Campaign. A lot of my assumptions here are based on the concept of one starting survivor (which I’m not a fan of in any case) meeting with a bunch of other survivors. But what if a player wants to have a solo deck. It’s very dangerous to go alone, and I’d be hardpressed to think of a good piece of equipment to take along that would be better for someone going along (though some ‘collateral damage’ type of effects might be interesting). What’s more, additional survivors do act as ‘extra lives’ once your first character dies. Without that, a player can get removed. I can see a solo/zombie archetype deck, or even a sidekick deck where it’s one main character who only rounds up one survivor at a time to be a meat shield(Jubilee/Robin joke here). In combat (which I haven’t really worked on yet), can the opponent pick which survivor is killed by zombies, or does the survivors’ player? Random?

Victory? While I’d like for there to be some victory cards, I point out next week why I don’t like them. Having cards that define game rules is a tricky proposition; if you want to play a certain way you have to wait for the card, then you might even get a rules card whenever you really wanted a different card. I think the best way to deal with that is to do what I wanted to do with zombies; simply roll point values and victory conditions into other cards. Doing certain things with certain zombie hordes, survivors, locations, or even equipment can win you the game. Having a rooftop of a location that can support a helicopter might have a built-in helicopter escape victory clause. On the other hand, it might be a very dangerous place indeed, gain you a lot of Karma, or even Claimed by the Military. Would it be great if pistols held a 5 point Suicide victory condition? Or utterly tacky? Unbalancing?

Linkstorm: Everything Sucks Forever

The following post is rated:
 

Japan's doing shitty, but it doesn't actually hit home until you see the before and after pics. Harsh. If you've got some money to spare, send it their way instead of blowing it on comics. Ooor, send some money their way then blow the rest on comics. Think this thing through.

The N-word is getting taken out of Huckleberry Finn. Because people are morons. Some people have started an (admittedly dated) campaign to change it to something else.

To make matters worse, even Pi is wrong now. Well, it's not wrong, but it's apparently not as great as Tau. I know my friend Derek has some investment in mathematics and some investment in a certain gun-bearing race from Warhammer 40K, so I anticipate this being a painful issue to find a side on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zombie CCG: Big Pictures, pt 1

I spent most of last week working out the fundamentals of a Zombie CCG. In fact, next week is double-sized CCG Week (coinciding as it does with the first official week of New Phyrexia previews). Granted, those fundamentals are for CCGs in general, with a lot of asking the questions from the answers' point of view. Much of that is because I've already worked out a few things in my head which will (sadly) have to have a lot of kinks ironed out whenever I start putting specific concepts onto paper.

Because next week isn't particularly promising for actual content on an actual Zombie CCG, and because I know time is passing far more slowly for you than it is for me, I figured I'd take this opportunity to pitch the general ideas I've been kicking around and see what comes out.

The Plan. A lot of talk about Zombies is about a person's plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse. People want to think that they're prepared for things, and I don't discourage that. The only problem with zombie plans is that they don't really account for the realities of a situation, which Max Brooks effectively lampoons in The Zombie Survival Guide with adequately vague directions on just when to start enacting your plan. After the second mysterious medical mystery on page ten of your local newspaper has you skipping work to head for the mountains, you may start noticing some problems with how practicable they are.

At this point I'm obliged to also mention four-lane buffets.

The concept of something ordered thrown into disarray might be germane to a CCG. A little bit. The locations are the ones your character might think of as safe (or perhaps, accessible), the items included are the ones your character might think of as useful and be looking for. The other survivors in the deck might be people that he cares about or might want to save (also, they're worth points; let's not be unreasonable here).

Zombies. The zombies in your deck are harder to justify. Ideally, I'd like players to play Zombies on other people's survivors. This runs into some issues I talk about next week, but there's a paradigm of theme versus player interaction that makes it very hard not to run into those issues. None the less, the 'zombie part' of your deck represents the zombies that populate a shared outbreak area that your survivor(s) and your opponent's survivor(s) share. You act like the protagonist of your half of the zombie story and the director/dungeonmaster for your opponent's half.

I'm not entirely happy with the flavor here, but the only two alternatives I have are either a dedicated Zombie Deck (which involves two decks, which I don't like) or having cards that double as zombies, and I don't think in a CCG about zombies that zombies should be sharing face time with locations or items.

Survivors. I've nailed down three parts of a zombie survivor's story: realization, survival, security (with possible twist). Look at Shaun of the Dead; they go quite a while before finding out there are zombies. They then scramble all over town to find their loved ones (survival) and get to The Winchester(security). Then The Winchester gets compromised and they're right back to survival(or not, as is the case with most of their friends). Just when they're ready for more surviving, they find security by accident (no twist). The remake of Dawn of the Dead has a similar cycle; our protagonist tunes out the reports of the zombies, has a moment of realization via little girl, survives to get to the security of the mall, then repeats survival and security (twist!).

Victory. Note that surviving protagonists don't survive all the way through the movie. Whenever the dude from Dawn of the Dead is bitten, he stays behind and shoots himself rather then become one. That's a fine victory condition. Well, not fine, but you get my point. There's victory and then there's Victory. You could outlast the apocalypse (28 Days Later), simply make the most of your last moments with a loved one (reference not found), or resolve to go down fighting(like Liz and Shaun planned to do). You can't defeat a zombie horde (well, you can, but...); they won't feel defeated or resigned. They won't give up or realize the futility of their hunger. Realization of humanity as a victory is one of the greater lessons the zombie genre has to teach. That humanity is incredibly versatile and preach preach preach, you get the point: multiple victory conditions. With those different conditions come particular points. There is a difference between saving everyone and shooting your own son before he turns. Sure, they're both victories in some way, but they are victories on different ends of a scale. You'd much rather sacrifice yourself to save your loved ones and survive to watch them die, right?

Stuff. I like the idea that when you play a location, you get to put your hand back into your deck and draw X new cards, where X depends on the location. You can only carry so many items at a time (say, four), but quite a number of them are expendable (guns, food, batteries, coats/amor), so they end up going to the discard pile a lot so you can play more items. Granted, that involves tracking their status (rounds remaining, or a general approximation thereof), but substituting cards for that might work out. Instead of using a card as whatever it is whenever you pull it for a location, you can put it face down underneath a gun or a flashlight or whatever and get more uses out of it, up to a point, naturally.

Karma. Of course, the inevitable turn of bad luck/stupidity that always dooms any secure location to zombie attack is a necessary part of this. In addition to giving lagging players the ability to catch up with advancing players, it also provides a currency in-game for certain actions; if something massively bad happens to you, it's because your karma was a bit too high. If only you can give yourself karma, who's fault is that? While it has the ability for a game to play out conservatively, it still allows a player to take risks, if they're bold enough.

Meta game. I don't mean competitions between different archetypes in deckbuilding or the general pool of cards from which a certain set of decks pull with. No, in this case I mean making Game A matter where Game B is concerned. I mean making a deck that represents something, whether it's The Cleveland Outbreak of 2013 or the story of one man who finds himself stuck in a world rapidly falling under the shadow of the undead. Having a mechanic or ability for there to be an overarching...narrative to a series of games is something I would dearly like, as ridiculously pie-in-the-sky as it is.


Tomorrow: Problems

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 17

Every Tuesday, I post excerpts from my best-selling at not-selling super blog, Playing Favorites
 
Alright, I think it's easier for me to break down the characters I like into four distinct groups:

Characters in a Great Story: So, maybe I like these guys more for the story they're in. All-Star Superman, Cloud 9, Adrian Veidt, Rorschach, Cable(Cable & Deadpool)

Like them Because They are Jerks: It is a shitty reason, though I worked really hard to come up with that 'righteous violence' thing, which I stand by, but it is just a fancy way of saying “I like a character because they are a jerk and I'm just going to go ahead and act like it's actually a call-out to the fundamental nature of the medium.” Midnighter, Ultimate Captain America, Damian Wayne.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Due South #1


I've been wanting to do this review for a while. Due South is a quirky, hour-long comedy drama action amazing show of awesome about a Chicago detective (Ray Vecchio) and a Canadian mountie (Benton Fraser) who first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father and--for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture--remained, attached as a liaison with the Canadian consulate. It was a show I watched with my dad back in the nineties, and it was just so damned good it got canceled three times slower than Firefly.

The comic is something I’d been quietly waiting for before it came out and something I enjoyed privately afterwards. I have a lot of comics I don’t really gush about because I know most of the people around me wouldn’t care. Yes, Batwoman: Elegy might be artistically notable and a really good character study, but the actual story is weak and I only care about the character for certain personal reasons. Yes, Black Hole is great, but I never really find myself talking to a friend and thinking, “Man, this guy would probably love to read a black and white comic book about teenagers in the seventies with a creepy, mutative STD.” Due South is certainly one of those comics. It’s something I can gush about, but don’t really know who to gush about it to.

Thankfully, The Internet is here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Prisoner: A, B, & C

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.
A, B, & C gets us to the point that I expected when I first started watching this series; a battle of wills in a "low-sci-fi" setting. The new Number 2 is under fire to produce results, but not given any freer of a hand to deal with The Prisoner than any of his predecessors. He begins abducting The Prisoner at night in the hopes that an experimental procedure to read the man's dreams will reveal why he resigned and who he was going to sell out to. The Prisoner resists.

Timewalking Archive Trap: Greatest Idea Ever

What If Rorschach Took Up Gaming?

It was Kovacs who said "Mother" then, muffled under a Doom Blade. It was Kovacs who was put into a graveyard. It was Rorschach who was Unearthed and exiled at end of turn.


"Dan said his Kor Firewalker had protection from red. It didn't have protection from hairspray + pack of matches."
* * *

It's the Magic: even more Timewalking Archive Trap

Shiny!
Submitted without comment:



That's Funny
Sharing some other answers to the essay question portion of the GDS2. Questions in bold. Commentary in italics.

8. Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the best designed? Explain why.

Persist is awesome, and yes, it’s awesomely designed.

Persist is effective; it gives you two creatures for one card. It functions very simply; even a novice player can discern how it works.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Zombie CCG: CCG Basics

Apparently, I have Google’s top result when people search for “Zombie CCG.” Because my initial ideas were sound, and I don’t see any reason I wouldn’t firmly grasp this sliver of internet relevance, I’m continuing that project.

Before I get into the specifics of what I'd want a CCG for any game really to do, I need to get into just what a CCG is and how it works.

CCGs are games in which any two players can meet with individually-constructed decks of cards pulled from an identical, larger pool and compete with one another to accomplish an in game goal to determine a winner.

Most CCGs have a few common elements:
Deck: This is where most of a player's cards come from during a game. Technically, a Deck is where a player usually Draws from to fill their Hand, either at the beginning of the game and/or during the game. In practice, the "deck" is used to refer to all of the cards a player brings to a match. This definition would include sideboard cards for Magic: the Gathering, or starting units for a game like Pokemon, Rage, or Star Trek, which have cards that begin in the Play Area and are never Drawn. World of Warcraft and certain versions of Magic also feature extra-large cards and/or additional decks which could never be shuffled into the Deck a player Draws from, but would still be considered part of a deck, as they're part of the set of cards that player brings to the game.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Prisoner: The Chimes of Big Ben



Ouroboros, aka Dude, this review of a thing is a good thing!

I occasionally read No High Scores, which is a pretty sweet site. Recently, Michael Barnes did a review of Dragon Age 2 (Part 1, Part 2) that I couldn't love more.The winning quote for me:

In a game where politics, intrigue, characterization, and dialogue are more compelling than swordplay, it gets to the point where the fighting just becomes pointlessly grueling.

That defines much of the tone of the article that I identified with, and in fact coincides with much of my thinking on roleplaying games in general. Killing things with numbers is something that a computer will always beat a tabletop game at. For now anyway, humans beat computers for making a universe that allows a person to interact, react, and generally feel like another person in that universe. I'm not saying the two can't fuse; quite the opposite. I'm talkin' 'bout Dragon Age 2 after all.

I only know about DA2 the same way I know about every video game but Braid: I watched a friend play it. Granted, for DA2, I watched a friend play it a lot. Enough to speak authoritatively about the game as a roleplaying game, even if I can't talk about things I don't care about (like how good combat is ["shitty to watch," if you're that curious]) or things I'd like to be able to talk about (all those little papers that built on about the universe that Richard never read, that kill-happy illiterate).

Dragon Age 2 is great. The interactions are organic, and even though when Anders asks you for a secret favor that involves distracting one of the most respected figures in the city you know he's going to fuck shit up for the final pat of the Act, and even though any doubts you have about that are erased when he starts wearing black and apologizing all the damned time after you do that favor, what he did is still shocking and fucked up, and even when I was chanting "Kill this fucker!" though out the entire scene that followed, I still voted to spare his life by the end of it, it still love it. I don't know if that means I was forgiving of obvious plots that are well-executed or just drunk (maybe both), but it was an experience that even as a person who had no stake in it at all, I cared about.

Isabella's borderline Deadpool routine is so great that people who write Deadpool should take notes from Bioware on how to break the forth wall without erecting a boorish, self-congratulatory sign in honor of having done so. Your friends in general are great, coming across as clearly defined characters you can get a handle on after a single scene (as I did after jumping in during the middle of Act I), while still having a satisfying amount of depth to them. The NPCs are great, with only Meredith wobbling a bit in being just a bit too crazy at times to believably be where she was in the story (which is mostly explained by the end), and what Michael Barnes says about the blood magic getting used excessively...let's just say that Evil Dead 2 reimagined as a Hemophiliac Emo Suicide Pact anachronistically adapted into an Eighties anime wouldn't have more blood than Dragon Age 2.

I only noticed the reused environments when it came to people's estates, but even that was fun because it was fodder for jokes about the diversity and training of interior designers in Kirkwall. In the tunnels and on the beach, there was little enough of interest for me there that I never noticed the recycling.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 16

Every Tuesday, I post excerpts from my best-selling at not-selling super blog, Playing Favorites

On the other end of that spectrum is Plastic Man. Originally a small-time criminal who something something chemicals in the Silver Age, his entire body became plastic and he started using his newfound powers for good. Plastic Man is great because he is pretty much another normal guy, albeit with materialistic proclivities, who happens to hang out in the big leagues. He's great because he, like the Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern storyline, gets to interact with other heroes and show us what's heroic about them, and thusly, about him. Deadpool also did this, so I guess it's common for newly-minted heroes to have a series of team-ups so they can meet other heroes, get their autographs, and learn an important lesson about heroism (I did actually try to do this for Mutants and Masterminds, with the exception of the fact that the player-characters were supposed to be the heroic ones and the city natives...not so much). His powers are versatile, but limited enough that he's still provided ample challenges.

He's also a great seasoning for other heroes; I have an issue where he needs Batman's help to set this kid straight. It's naturally his own son, who has an improved version of his own elasticity powers, but instead of dealing with the kid himself, he lets Batman traumatize the tyke into not screwing around with gangs anymore. It's a great scene for Batman doing what he does best (cowardly, superstitious criminals, etc), but it's also great because we can see that Plastic Man is afraid, like I think a lot of parents are, that trying to be a parent to a kid is just too big a job for them. That Plastic Man has serious flaw, and one that isn't his inability change color or some other bullshit, but an actual fear that actual people have makes him pretty compelling.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Prisoner: Checkmate

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.

 
Okay, in my deepest heart of hearts, I was hoping this was the episode where The Prisoner finally breaks and the other thirteen are all just him hanging out with The Keepers doin' cool stuff, or maybe all the Number Twos just hanging out in a bar telling stories about The Prisoner's crazy hijinks before he became a hollow shell of a man.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Offers

Hey, who wants to proofread a three page thing about Shale Sunblade, the Halfling warlock? #DnD

Friday, April 08, 2011

It's the Magic: Timewalking Archive Trap

Shiny!
Submitted without comment:

This Week's Best Thing Ever!
This is actually an old one (in keeping with the theme), but it's a good one.

3-Way EDH Planescape Archenemy Game

Life Totals:
Josh - 4
Kris. - 20
Terry - 13

Josh's Turn: Plays Walking Archive. Puts 2 additional +1/+1 counters on it, forcing everyone to draw three extra cards during their Draw Step.

Terry's Turn: Draws four for Walking Archive. Schemes for A Display of My Dark Power, doubling everyone's mana until Terry's next turn. Planeswalks us to Feeding Grounds, reducing the cost of Red and Green spells.

Kris.' Turn: Draws four. Schemes into Your Puny Minds Cannot Fathom to draw four more. Plays a land. Taps out for 28 mana of varying levels of each color. I play Enchanted Evening (everything is an Enchantment), Patrician's Scorn for free to destroy all Enchantments (everything), then follow up with Lord of Extinction, Meglonoth, and Gleancrawler. Has 8 mana left over. Rolls for planeswalk four times, getting Chaos twice putting 6 +1/+1 counters on both Meglonoth and Gleancrawler. At EoT: 51/51 Lord of Extinction, 12/12 Meglonoth(tramples), 12/12 Gleancrawler(tramples), and a justified sense of smugness.

Josh's Turn: Schemes Your Will is Not Your Own, gaining control of Kris.' Lord of Extinction, giving it trample and haste. Plays a forest. Attacks with Lord of Extinction, which is blocked with Meglonoth. The Meglonoth's ability triggers to kill Josh and the Lord of Extinction tramples to kill Kris.

Terry's Turn: Wins.

Field Manual Kris: Blogging Updates

The stats are in for March, and let me tell you; the characters in The Prisoner have higher numbers.

The big winners for me, historically have been Linkstorms, offbeat humor, and that strange combination of both: Stormcrows.

I've got some Bladerunner stuff in the pipe, additional scripts from Denver 5, a Lucio Pavlec story, and about two Sunday Morning Soapboxes that need to get done. So, expect more things like those things in the near future.

Also, someone made mention of wearing polyester on deck. Mentioned my jacket and apparently it's not a great idea. I'll be getting with some guys on just what kind of jacket I need to wear, but it looks like I'll have to be doing some rebranding, so I've been looking at jackets.

While it's certainly not going to ever be an offshore jacket, this little baby is pretty amazing. It's terrible, but it's so...awesomely terrible. I don't think it's $135 awesome, but it's tempting none the less.

Speaking of vast sums of money, with the end of my Magic buying hiatus in sight, I'm thinking of preordering the next set (New Phyrexia *fake gasp*) here in the new future and/or making good on that promise to buy DS9 on DVD (I looked into the gold-plated Blu-Rays and it turns out that was something I just made up).

We'll see what happens when I get in...around May 5th now. I'll probably spend some time with family and working a few of my projects out before going back offshore around the 19th. I'll be out for a month, and be back in June. Here's the big part: I may be able to go to a certain State to the West around that time.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Prisoner: Dance of the Dead

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.
This was my favorite episode of The Prisoner so far. Don't get me wrong; it isn't any better. It's not on the road to Badville, but it's just a few blocks shy of the corner of What Did I Just Watch Highway and Really Just Pretentious Boulevard.  It just got me more invested than the others. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Forever, ever this



You are welcome.

The Prisoner: Free for All

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.

Let's be honest. I gave "The Arrival" a lot of benefit of the doubt. Reason one, obviously, was the reputation. Reason two was the fact that it was the first episode, and first episodes have to get busy establishing the premise, creating hooks, and introducing people. I'd usually give the whole first season of a show some slack because it does take a while for a show to get into the swing of things, but again...only seventeen episodes. Whether the creators knew it or not, this show is on a clock.

Blog in Exactly 1000 Words: Obvious

"It is obvious to all but the simpleminded that it is of an inferior breed."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 15

Frankly, it's more interesting to watch Batman work with limitations. I mean, it's his one straightforward moral that serves as a way to prevent him from just blowing something up or hitting the 'easy' button for someone who's as well-established a badass as The Goddamn Batman. His unwillingness to kill not only makes him think in new ways, but builds on the characterizations of redemption and turning it into hope because he always believes there's another way. Now, I'm not a huge fan of 'hopeful redemption Batman,' but it adds light to a character who is, as you may have picked up, pretty dark. I know that forgiveness is more Superman's schtick, but hope and belief in redemption shows that Batman is doing more than taking revenge for his parent's deaths. Now, I know the quest for redemption versus the quest for vengeance versus the quest for stopping the guy that you have a pretty deep hate-on for are all pretty worn out tropes, but for Batman they tend to work again. No one tests the Batman's principles more than Joe Chill. Bruce Wayne's begins his quest wanting revenge, and one of the good things “Batman Begins” does is deprive him of that chance early on, leaving him struggling to find a face to put to the chaos and violence which has hurt his life. He ends up looking at the larger picture and realizing that Gotham needs more justice than vengeance. The second movie gets to the hope part and maybe redemption will play a part in the third. I doubt it. There aren't a lot more “I Am the Night” episodes left in the Batman mythos.

Hope is a facet of Batman that I want to see explored more. I like it when hope leeches into the character. I understand that it's hard to work hope into Batman without overdoing it. It's not like he can just give speeches about hope without looking corny. If it's one quality of certain Batmen that I like, it's that they're doers, not sayers. Granted, it takes a bit more analysis to parse out their actions (though not always a full-length essay-novel), but I'm finding that it's usually worth the trouble.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention heroes who did kill off their villains. Many people say that a hero is defined by their villains. The gritty, anti-heroes of the nineties aren't that distinct from one another aside from the source of their powers and just how terrible their dialog was. Can you even name one memorable Cable villain? That's right; Strife. Clone Cable who was deadlier than Cable was. Oh, and Time Traveling Dick-Bishop, who isn't Dick Greyson as Bishop, it's just Bishop being a dick. A time dick. Heroes who are hard-edged enough to kill their enemies and skilled enough to do it easily are a dime a dozen; because it violates a hard and fast rule of serials: never give your aggressive, repressed, vicariously-living readership everything they want. From the comics like this I've read, the only real plot variation you have is irrelevant personal shit that always works out in the end and determining just how evil they guy they're killing in this arc is.

To sum up, I like Batman because he is fun to read. Because his comics have to be clever. I like Batman because for every nine times his hypervigilance serves as the groundwork to defend what would be a deus ex machina win for any other character, there's a time when someone steals his files on how to kill The Justice League and everyone thinks he's a dick. I'd love to go on about how he has flaws. About how he's a dick and only begrudgingly compliments others. About how he doesn't trust anyone and won't just solve his problems once and for all. But really, all of his flaws are indeed merits nine times out of ten. I should be angry about that. I wouldn't take that crap from any other hero.

I think that one reason I can take it is because Batman has no ego (except All-Star Batman, who's cool just because he's ridiculously fun. Dude painted a whole room yellow just to fuck with Green Lantern.). Batman doesn't ask anyone to like him him. He is an island of purpose and even his peers are largely a means to an end (the better scenes that handle Wonder Woman's flirtations with him show this conflict pretty well. He does seem to feel strongly for Diana, but he doesn't want to get close because he might have to take her down one day [though eerily, as she is one of the most powerful members of the DCU who isn't vulnerable to kryptonite, it actually behooves him to get close enough to her to leverage emotional ties in the event of an eventual showdown and--oh my god, that's what he's doing with his brooding!]).

What's cool about that the thing that I said about him getting close to a female as a contingency because he has no other way to stop her is something that fits his character; he has almost no restrictions on what he'll do because he is solely devoted to his war on crime. Not because he'd form a convenient-for-him faux relationship with a woman who's a comrade in arms who's seen him through multiple threats of a global scale. His character is hard-edged without being an asshole who sees everyone solely as a potential threat.

He would do anything for crime-fighting; but he won't do that.

I think that's what resonates with fans; Batman is wholly devoted to what he does, save for his soul. His life isn't distracted or petty or irrelevant. Every moment of his waking life (and some of it sleeping and meditating) is devoted to developing ways of protecting the world and Gotham City, but as righteous as that is, as worthy as it is and as much as he ultimately gets to pursue his goals on his own terms (something that as, an aspiring writer who is very, very lazy, I consciously think about), he is ultimately beholden to his own conscience. While he could be a solitary figure of the night, prowling rooftops and hurting predators more and more each night, he finds a way to connect with others (whether its Robin or The Justice League) and reconnect with his own humanity and be encouraged to look at himself from the outside to keep his perspective.

I think is strange balance between him as a human and him as The Batman is what makes him a compelling read between arcs where he's outwitting The Joker and shooting Darkseid.

So Batman, because he's a wish-fulfillment character who has flaws I wish I had, and because he kinda has to have well-written comics.

Also, because he's a winner of cultural icon darwinism.

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The Prisoner: Arrival

 
I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.
 
The Prisoner is considered the classic man versus government story. Created in 1966, it features our protagonist (played by Patrick McGoohan, and so far only referred to--much to his disapproval--as Number Six) who's resigned from the service of his (ostensibly British) government. 

If you ever wanted to resign in style, start strong.

Unsatisfied with his reasons for giving his resignation, his government has whisked him away from his home to a remote, idyllic village that--as Hollywood has taught me--like all idyllic villages is only idyllic for certain (very sarcastic) values of "idyllic." There, his point of contact with the government (and primary source of exposition), Number Two, begins his campaign to destroy The Prisoner's free will in the name of bureaucratic certainty.


When they make the movie of your life, will they replace all of your dialog with thunder? No.


This is all from the first episode. The series was halted at seventeen episodes; if there was a twist coming it never got delivered, there's no other mimetic quality to it that's made it ubiquitous (My biggest concern in that respect would be Rule 34 for Number Two and The Prisoner [or even Rule 34 for Numbers Two]), and I haven't looked it up online so I haven't got any other framework to go on besides, like, two You Tube clips. I'm going into this fresh.

 
I know you're a go-getter, but today is the day to just hit snooze.

I say that The Keepers of the village (who are probably the government the prisoner served, but in the interest of hedging my bets and to keep this from popping up on google searches by conspiracy theorists), I'll just call them The Keepers.) are out to destroy The Prisoner's free will instead of abiding by their stated purpose of verifying his reasons for leaving ("a matter of principles") and his loyalties because of the bureaucratically vague goals (thus far).



Certainly, that's not justification for us to do whatever we want all the time. Oh, wait...

According even to them, The Prisoner has served well and faithfully for years. The only reason they give to question his loyalty is his resignation. A most inconvenient affair for them, given his prized service. The implication here is that defying their will is grounds for mistrust. "If you love me, you'll do as I say," is not by any means an effective method of gauging loyalty. Further, it presumes that principle is not a reason for action; that it is an empty buzzword that people put up to hold their real motives. An unsettling presumption from your own government, and one that might exhibit a character of operation that would drive a man of principle to resign.

 
Dude, smile. It's a compliment.

In addition, The Keepers already have extensive information on him. Most of it could have been acquired by raiding his mom's house for baby pictures, but they demonstrably have hidden camera footage of him on previous assignments, as well as presumably years of reports and even access to coworkers to inform them of his character. The desire for more information indicates to me one of three possibilities: In keeping with the point above, they cannot institutionally accept that he would disagree with them on principle (with the corresponding assumption that if he truly does, then his principles are compromised, not their own), despite a glut of information, it is intolerable to them that even some aspect of the life of one of "their people" is off limits to them (presuming the unknown is dangerous, and they have every right to all information if it means safety, even if their incapable of understanding it), or that the information is irrelevant; the pretext of uncovering his motives and loyalties are a smokescreen for their real goals. In this third scenario, The Keepers are not his government, but are trying to extract vital information from him, and possibly once that's done, they'll simply blackmail him into their service.

Well, yeah, that sounds reasonable.

Raising questions like this is something that a first episode (and a good series in general) should do. Questions keep the audience coming back. I'm sure that The Prisoner's blank past, The Keeper's opaque methodologies, and the village's various, strange inhabitants are all things that the series has fostered curiosity about and promises to answer via exploration (in sixteen episodes or not at all). I'm eager to watch the second episode, partially because of the hype, but also because it's established quite a few hooks for me so far.

Something else it does well is establish boundaries. The Prisoner tries two of the most obvious escape methods in the first episode, and they're both shown to be futile (partially due to plot-device driven white spheres of incapacitation). The Prisoner can't hide; he can't run. 

Nobody teabags like The Keepers.

Here's to watching him fight.

Other Episodes
Free For All
Dance of the Dead
Checkmate
The Chimes of Big Ben
A. B. & C.
The General
It's Your Funeral
A Change of Mind
Hammer Into Anvil
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
Living in Harmony
Living in Harmony, Part 2
The Girl Who Was Death
Once Upon a Time
Fall Out


You will probably never hear this phrase again.