Monday, November 28, 2011

Movie Night: The Muppets

There's something amusingly circuitous about this film. It's a tribute to The Muppet Show, which was itself a tribute to the variety show, which was in turn a tribute to/reinvention of vaudeville. So The Muppets is an act of nostalgia for a time when we were nostalgic for nostalgia. It shows, too, in the outlandishly 50's intro and the old-school show-stopping musical numbers. All carried off in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. For example, after the first song and dance routine -- involving an entire sitcom small-town -- the main characters head off-screen on their adventure and the rest of the populace collapses in exhaustion.

I was going to complain that the human characters were irrelevant to the plot, but then I realized: DUH! This is old-school muppetry. The plot itself is irrelevant. The point is simply to string together as many gags, song and dance numbers, and celebrity cameos as they can. And in this respect, Jason Segal and Amy Adams are exemplary, as is Chris Cooper. His character is probably the most disposable of all, but he hams it up just enough and has the funniest song in the movie to boot.

This could have gone wrong in a lot of ways: too "edgier", too much focus on the plot, too self-indulgent. But they dodged all the bullets and hit most of their marks with expertise. Top-notch work. I hear it's been a huge success critically, and done rather well financially too. Sequel coming, methinks...

Fringe benefit: an awesome batch of trailers, especially for animation fans. Brave looks interesting, if cliche, The Lorax is surprisingly appealing, and Mirror, Mirror looks like it could be a good time. But the one that really got me amped was Tintin:


Friday, November 18, 2011

Blog Hopping 11/18/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. No new review this week, I'm afraid, but by Monday my thoughts on Rachel Vincent's Pride should be up. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Which books are you most thankful for receiving from other bloggers, friends, family members, or publishers?"
This is a tough choice, certainly. But I'm going to go with Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe, which I received straight from the author:

It's an unusual book, and, as my review noted, far from perfect. But I'm glad to have received it, because it shows great potential, and I probably wouldn't have tried it otherwise. One thing a reviewer should do -- and which most bloggers prefer not to -- is to explore new stories, and it's always a joy to discover a rising talent.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Board Game Night: Elder Sign

At our last board gaming night, we played Elder Sign. I'm not a real big fan of cooperative games, but this one I liked quite a bit. The basic premise is that the players work together to stop a Lovecraftian abomination from awakening. To do this, you take turns attempting to complete quests, which you do by essentially rolling dice to get specific results, and playing cards as necessary to improve your chances. Victory gets you more cards, new quests, and occasionally Elder Signs. To win, you have to get enough Elder Signs before the abomination awakens. Fail in this, you can still win by beating the abomination in battle, although the manual implies this is an incredible longshot.

I liked it because it was not too complicated, and since noone had played it before there wasn't a lot of vets ordering newbs around, something that annoys me about co-op games. The gamers who were into deeper mechanics were not so impressed. In fact, the host called it the weakest game of the night. While a game about risk management is fine, a game that's pure luck is lame.  I thought Elder Sign hit the right balance, but I can certainly see where the others are coming from. We would attempt hard quests with cards and then win them without needing the cards boosts, then attempt easy quests and fail. Still in all, I had fun and would definitely play it again.

The final battle when the abomination awakes is really anticlimactic: little strategy, surviving characters just roll dice for ten minutes straight until he dies or we do. We played against Yig, and made critical mistakes by wasting our resources early and switching strategies twice later in the game, leading to Yig awakening and promptly killing everyone but my girlfriend. She then faced Yig alone with no cards and no helpful abilities. She had 80 rounds of rolling 2-6 dice each and had to get, essentially, a pair of sixes in any 8 of them to win the game for us all. She got 7 before she ran out of rolls. So close.

It's a good idea, being able to fight the abomination, but I can't say it really works right. It's like The Game of Life, where if you're losing at the end you have that 1 in 10 chance to win anyway and make the entire preceding game irrelevant.

Still, if we had won that way, it would have been hilarious.

"With all our hearts and minds, we strove to seal off the gate, to prevent the dread beast from entering this world. But alas, we failed, and could only watch in helpless despair as he burst forth to enslave and devour all humanity. So my beloved young apprentice, who was having none of that, beat him to death with a stick. As his soul fell back into the ethereal void from whence he came, I thought I heard him cry out 'WTF HAX!!' Truly, Yog-Sothoth hath no fury..."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blog Hopping 11/11/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. New this week is Wolf Mark, a book that you probably hadn't heard of, but should definitely check out. Due to illness (just a bad cold, don't worry) there will be no new review this coming week, but tune in next week to hear what I have to say about Rachel Vincent's Pride. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Which characters from a book do you love to hate?"

Well, being in the midst of Pride right now, I can answer confidently: The entire cast of the werecats books. I'm serious. On one side you have Pride cats, with their hopelessly backwards attitudes on gender roles, draconian laws, and constricting caste and social structures. On the other, you have the South American cats, with their sadistic brutality, forced breeding programs, and willingness to take slaves for personal gain. Everyone who isn't actively enforcing the f'ed state of affairs is just sitting back and letting it continue. That includes Marc, whom the author bends over backwards to make excuses for. It includes Faythe, who talks big about her personal freedom but then runs to Marc or Greg for help whenever she's in a bind. It even includes Greg. Despite his being the most reasonable person in the cast, Greg continuously undermines his credibility with standard authority-figure dick moves like not telling his people what's going on or using harsh punishments to enforce discipline. I love the books, but it's a grim world, and there's hardly a single sympathetic character among the lot.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus Saves and his followers withdraw.

Coming out of evening mass this past Sunday, I was surprised to find a folded piece of paper sticking out of my car door. A quick glance around the parking lot indicates most of the cars have them stuck in the drivers-side doors. Some new Chinese Restaurant, trying to drum up business? If only. The following is a direct transcription, names redacted to protect the innocent:

And now in New York State they are also THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE PARTY, voting very heavily this year to pass this disastrous ANTI-FAMILY ungodly law.

How can church going, God fearing Americans vote for Democrats?
The following candidates running in Nassau County submitted questionnaires to the "Long Island Coalition for Life" indicating they agree 100% with those groups views [sic] which we to [sic] share...

[XXX] - (incumbent) republican, conservative --- [XXX] - (incumbent) republican, conservative --- [XXX] - (challenger) republican, conservative --- [XXX] - (incumbent) republican, conservative --- [XXX] - (challenger) republican, conservative.

My first reaction was ire. My second, amusement. You see, our pastor has a major beef against the politicization of religion. Every other year, when the national elections are held, he adds to the announcements a reminder that absolutely noone has the church's permission to campaign on behalf of any candidates, parties, or what-have-you on church grounds. The church is there for everyone, regardless of politics, and does not take sides in petty partisan squabbling. Since we have only local elections this year, I guess he didn't deem it important. By now I have no doubt he has heard how these Knights for Life snuck into the parking lot under cover of darkness to spam parishioners with these fliers while they were busy at Sunday services. I snicker at the thought of the telephone shouting match that awaits them.

And really, someone needs to give them a good talking-to if this is how they make their case. Even if you ignore the obvious lack of proofreading, they're WAY off-message, bringing in the same-sex marriage issue that bears no relation to abortion. The only way to connect them is to argue that they're both results of the sexual revolution, and that's an incredibly retarded tactic since no one -- left or right -- is going to vote against their right to orgasm. And the tone and the tactics these Knights are employing are not going to win them any votes they already have. Hell, they're likely to lose votes from shit like this. There's one guy on every block that disagrees with the rest of the neighborhood on everything. Sure, maybe you don't like the guy, but if some random schmo from out of town drops by and rails about how your neighbor is "pro-death", are you going to agree with the outsider? Or are you going to take a look at it and think about who the real asshole is here?


You know, a while back I took a course on biblical literature. Fun class, very informative. One story that especially stayed with me is from the first book of Samuel, right at the beginning. There's a priest named Eli, a good priest, who is Samuel's mentor. Eli has two sons, who are also priests. But they're corrupt priests, embezzling the offerings and abusing their authority for personal gain. This is a problem for several reasons, but the big one is that it drives the people away from their religion. People aren't dumb, after all. They know bullshit when they see it. And they know wrong when they see it, too. God gave us conscience precisely so that we'd be able to see the path of righteousness even when there's no one around to hold up a torch. So when people claiming God's authority go around making asses of themselves, they make an ass out of God too. God's gotten a bad name thanks to imbeciles like this, and now I have to keep my religion secret because I don't want to be associated with screaming idiots.

I hope the pastor sorts them out right. Someone's got to make it clear that inflammatory rhetoric and judgmental attitudes aren't the Christian way.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blog Hopping 11/04/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. New this week is a review of Cynthia Leitich Smith's Eternal, and the under-the-radar Wolf Mark will follow shortly. Have fun hopping!

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Which particular books opened you up to a new genre?"

Tough one, but I'm going to go with Kitty and the Midnight Hour, without which I wouldn't have this blog, or the other one, or a manuscript to sell. The book showed me how werewolves are done: external strife representing internal conflict. More than that, it reminded me that all the monsters we make from our imaginations are ultimately human, just humans with certain attributes exaggerated.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!