Friday, February 26, 2010

Obviously, kharma Hates me.

Well after my grand day yesterday I knew that the other shoe had to drop eventually. And dropped it shall, You see I work on-call, if my Boss comes down sick I have to cancel my plans and come in. So of course, this being the very first weekend I was to have had off in oh.. at least a year.. been scheduled to have it off.. some one else to pick up my on-calliness... I've been had.

Already having paid for my accommodations for going out of town.. my Boss just called me at 5:30am and woke me up and now I have to work all day. Which will put me arriving at my location late, and then I'll wind up sleeping most of Saturday because I didn't sleep tonight and well. I think I'm just going to take the loss of canceling with less than 24 hours for Friday nights room and not even bother going.

Grand Karmic Joke. But goes to prove the old axiom correct, announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh. Problem is I have no choice but to announce them in order to get the day off.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Of lackluster Book sales and an epic Goodwill find. b

I went to a book sale this morning hosted by a local library, I didn't really find a whole lot that I wanted.. just a few more books for my growing collection of dark ages and early middle ages reference works..

But then on a lark I went to a goodwill that I normally avoid, its in a very run down part of town and as a result dosen't often have anything worth mentioning.. well today I was proven wrong.

I managed to snag the whole Thongor series by Lin Carter, the whole Brak Series from John Jakes, the first couple of Kyrik books by Gardner F. Fox, 4 Moorcocks from Daw books, The first 13 GOR novels, Swords against Tommorow, Swords against Darkness IV. and a whole host of other sword and sorcery and sword and planet books from Pocket, Daw and Fawcett and a few of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy anthologies lin carter put together.. that I really haven't sorted out yet.

Best bit was.. and how they could ever consider this.. the cashier rang them all up as Kids books.. I tried to correct her, being the honest sort of chap that I am.. and she said it wasn't worth her time to void it out and re-ring them up.. so I think I got the whole lot for about 36$.

Hammer and the Cross - By Harry Harrison and John Holm

Written by Harry Harrison and John Holm (Tom Shippey) between 1993 and 1996, is an alternate history series as much as its a fantasy series.

The series has got Gods and Monsters in it, as real interactive characters who influence the story. Though to be honest that is the whole basis of the story, The Norse Gods have decided that the way the real world went, would lead to defeat at Ragnarok, due to the influence of the Christian Religion. So they set about trying to fix this by subtle manipulations..

The first of the subtle differences was the influencing of the creation of " The Way " lead by the Way-men and based out of the College of the Way, its sort of a Monastery of Norse priests, Priests of Thor, and Freyr, and Idunn and Njord and Odin and all the rest. They have the simple idea that unless they have a codified and uniform religious doctrine they will never be able to withstand the efficient Catholic church. Essentially what they have done is created a variation on the modern Asatru/Vanatru religion 1200 years or so early. With a dedicated priestly caste which is self sufficient (that's one of their main axioms.. not to live off their people but to support themselves in order to set themselves apart from the Christians) Among their other main goals is the learning of new knowledge. The Norse seem to pay lip service to them, but at the time they are every bit as much the apostates as the Protestant reformers were later. The majority of the Norse still believe in the old ways.. they still sacrifice human beings to the gods, and hang hundreds of them in the sacred oak at Upsalla. But all things considered the Waymen are not 100% effective.. only about 30% of the Scandinavian peoples seem to share their ideals of self sufficiency and hospitality.

This leads one of the Norse Gods, though i won't say which as that would spoil the story, to directly influence events.. instead of subtlety he goes for blunt force trauma. And that pretty much sets up whats to follow. The changes to history begin very slowly. The Great Heathen Army still invades England in retaliation for the death of Ragnar Lodbrok lead by his sons. They do sack East Anglia, and York.. but then a curious thing happens, a group of the Way priests and our Main Character Shef, discover some Old Knowledge.. Left behind by " The Rome Folk " and split with the violent and depraved Ragnarsons.. instead of fighting Alfred, they join forces with him and establish a new peaceful kingdom of duel religions in Southern England under Duel Kings. They fight off Wessex and the Christians, and The Ragnarsons culminating in the death of Ivar the Boneless. And the finale moments of the book the Pope declares the first crusade, To be lead by Charles the Bald, against the ' Heathens and Apostates of England '...

The second book in the series shows Shef beginning the creation of an exceedingly powerful English Navy, eventually to gain control of the whole island and most of the North sea and Channel areas.. Shef is shipwrecked on the Frisian coast and in the process of being sold as a slave is rescued by other members of the Way. This begins a series of events that at the end puts him in control as " The One King " of essentially all of Scandinavia, from Frisia to Lapland. At the same time he sees the face of his knew enemy, the future Holy Roman Emperor Bruno, on his own quest to recover the spear of longinus used to pierce the side of Christ and the indicator of the true emperor.

the third sees the new Holy Roman Empire force an alliance with the Byzantines in order to begin pushing the Islamic forces out of Europe and the Mediterranean islands, essentially re-aligning history at this point with the Reconquista. However in this case the Islamic caliphate in Spain journeys to England to speak with " The One King of the North " in the hopes that he will open a second front against the Christian forces. But the Byzantines have Greek Fire, which routes the Arab fleet and sends the Norse fleet scurrying for cover. Their Jewish translator tells them about an enclave in Septimania of Jewish separatists. The Romans lay siege to this enclave but leave suddenly when they find the holy grail. Or rather, The Holy Gradule or the ladder used by Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalane to retrieve the body of Christ. After a lot of hemming and hawing about Loki needing to have worshipers too and that all gods are inventions of man's mind... the book ends after a climactic battle. During the fighting Shef is captured by the Romans and crucified upside down. The Viking champion defeats the Roman Emperor in combat and then we get a bit of exposition from the Norse gods about how Shef has managed to bring in a more peaceful age do to their being no large empires. However, I'd say this will only make it the more likely that in about 400 years time the Mongols will sweep all the way to the Chanel. Something I'm guessing that the author didn't consider.

Bits of the series are rather preposterous.. Especially in the second and third books. but other parts are very well thought out. The two authors skillfully weave the threads of Christian chronicles and Icelandic Saga together to create a world which is amazingly similar to our own modern world.. yet firmly set in the " Dark Ages ".. Most of the alterations seem to stem from the rediscovery of old knowledge.. A copy of Vegitius here, or of some other text there.. It attempts to show what can be accomplished by a government that for all intents and purposes is distributionist in tone.. and mainly interested in improving the lots of each individual with less interest in maintaining specific class structures. The Series is not exactly friendly towards the Catholic Church, but has no specific animosity to any of the religions presented. Merely that any group who begins to control too much power over the lives of others.. and uses that as a money making venture.. cannot be entirely trusted. After all despite the churches manifold accomplishments in retaining works of learning during the Dark Ages.. they also participated in their share of knowledge destroying ventures as well.

It is an interesting alternate worlds sort of story though, certainly a nice departure from the endless " what if the confederates/Nazis/soviets/etc had won" type of junk that endlessly gets regurgitated to the public.. I'd still like to see a " What if the Spartans had sided with the Persians " alternate history.. or maybe even a ' What if Alexander had invaded Rome ' alternate history.. Its really a shame that this series is Out of Print when other less deserving alternate histories are still in print. I think this is a good companion to Poul Anderson's " A broken Sword " where the Norse gods are equally meddling in the affairs of man.. However I really began losing interest in the series towards the middle of the last volume when I realized that the author was trying to go for a huggy feely everyone is equal everyone is a winner kindergarten gold star kind of ending.

The first book works fine as a standalone alternate history, the second adds to it but in a meandering away. The third really just subtracts from it. I don't know how much of the books John Holm aka Tom Shippey actually worked on. But it would be interesting to find out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Solomon Kane and the Jacksonian Era of Middle Earth

Over at The Cimmerian Al Harron has written up an excellent review of the new film "Solomon Kane". Unfortunately for now those of us stuck in the new world will be forced to rely upon such reviews, while the film has a distributor now, we have no release date. I personally fear that due to Steven Sommers POS "Van Helsing".. no one wants to touch "Solomon Kane".

While I've yet to see any non online news about the film, I've seen some evidence of book retailers noticing the movie anyway, Living in sort of a geographically " In between " area.. I have my choice of which book store I want to drive 30 miles to shop at.. and in all of the various Borders Books I've been to lately.. they all seem to have an anomaly in the Fantasy Section.. As I noted in a previous post. One would think the stores would be promoting the newest of Del Rey's Robert E. Howard volumes "El Borak and Other Desert Adventures ".. However none of the Borders seemed to have a copy of it. What they all 3 do have is a large number of copies of Del Rey's Second volume .. " The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane ". I can't draw any conclusions from this, other than that obviously the volume is moving or was expected to move.. so the stores ordered (or were compulsorily sent) extra copies due to some unknown factor at work. It is curious though.

Now onto my thoughts on the Review. I liked how Al divided up the review, I enjoyed his imagined back story of the films Kane especially. Mostly I'm heartened that, while the script is its weakest link.. we aren't stuck with another worthless Fantasy film with no substance and saddled with poor directing, poor casting, poor costuming in addition to a bad script. Even if this isn't the Solomon Kane that REH fans wanted, if it can perform well enough to warrant a more authentic Sequel it may be the film that Hollywood needed in order to stop thinking of REH as a source of material to be mined when they want to churn out a crappy Fantasy movie to fill the gaps in the release schedule. Which unfortunately and undeservedly has been his lot for a very long time now.

After reading reviews with James Purfoy and now a more recent one with James Momoa, I see that the Actors get it. Even if the script writers, financiers and producers don't. My opinion of this is, of course they don't. Writers are a strange lot, either they love another author so much they seek to ape them either consciously or not.. or they hate all other authors because none of them can ever measure up to their own genius and how dare they get more accolades than me.. or the last option.. are actually a true genius in the field of writing..

Financiers and producers.. well.. number crunchers are all the same.. only interested in focus groups and a constant itch behind their eyes to keep the bottom line steady.. these are the same sorts of people who thought that Peter Jackson needed to kill off a couple of the hobbits midway into the first Ring's movie in order to lighten the cast a bit. Either to lighten the budget or to keep the mouth breathers in the audience who generally make up focus groups from getting distracted and playing with themselves.

Speaking of Peter Jackson.. and since this is still relevant to my review of a review.. Al likens the SK movie to the Jacksonian Rings films.. I think hes probably onto something here.. with one caveat..

As time has gone by, my love for Jackson's movies has not endured. In 2001 reeling from the blow not of September the 11th but the almost immediately following death of the only real father figure in my life. I really latched onto Jackson's interpretations of the Rings movies.. They sort of filled in that gap in my life and I put too much of a burden on them. A Burden they've not been able to live up too.

I'm of course nearly 10 years older now, but my tastes in film are much the same.. Now though I just can't help but resent the un-needed changes made to the Rings adaptions. Most of it, like with this Solomon Kane adaption.. have nothing to do with the director or the actors.. It all has to do with the script writing and the defilement enacted on it by the script writers.. Some of which we are still saddled with to this day.

I've become obsessed with these faults to the exclusion of everything else.. they've grown like a sore that I kept picking at until I simply had to abandon watching the movies.. from PJ's farting Dwarves and determined efforts to put Elves either where they didn't belong or the wrong elf where another belonged.. And especially Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyans tamponing of the male characters to the point where they basically come across as spineless unless they had strong female hands at the rudder.. (I can only imagine what life must be like in the Jackson Home... or rather I should say.. The Walsh Home.... Henpecked is probably an understatement) I hope that Solomon Kane's changes don't fester the same way.. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, I hope the next movie is more like Howard than this one was.

Rather than the case of Lord of the Rings.. where the first one was the most authentic.. and the second and third each successively became less and less what Tolkien wrote and more and more what Peter, Fran and Phillipa, the Script Writers.. Wanted.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

of comic books and pull boxes.

years back.. towards the start of the decade.. I started a pull box at my local comic book store. It was never really local though, at about 32 miles away.. but it was the closest one to me that had what I wanted and also didn't criticize my purchases the way some closer shops did.

I'd get about 30 books a month, I went weekly to pick them up. It pretty much all started when Devil's Due Publishers started up the new GIJOE comic.. Followed by Dreamwave with Transformers.. and a gazillion other revivals and tie ins.. I was never really big on " Super Heros ".. But I started getting more and more of the Vertigo Titles And then started buying Rex Mundi from Image.. Hellboy from Dark Horse.. stuff like that. Not only that, but after I'd bought the individual issues I would turn around in 6 months and buy the Trades of exactly the same stuff..

Now however.. I get less than 10 books a month, partly its because of constant changes in direction and an unwillingness to jump into a totally different version of something I'd liked.. as is the case with GIJOE and Transformers.. and Partly due to simply buying the trades now instead of the single issues... but mostly its due to distance. The " Local " comic book store which was 32 miles away, moved another 5-10 miles down the road, not that big of a deal but for whatever reason.. I just haven't been going as much. The move was accompanied by or roughly preceded by a change in ownership. It had been owned by one guy since as long as I can remember.. 1995 at least.. and then about 2006 it changed owners. Well The new crew were great, always pleasant always willing to encourage my spending in a new direction.

But one after another my pull list got smaller and smaller, to where I was having to scrounge to even make the minimum 5 ongoing titles to even keep the thing. And driving the nearly 40 miles each way to go and pick up 5 comics just didn't seem like a very good investment. So I started going less and less..

I think this is my longest period of not having been to the store, sometime before the holidays was the last time I went.. my box is long since closed...

Its a bit of an odd situation really.. I'd had it for so long it feels weird to not have the obligation hanging over me to go pick up my books.

But I think I prefer the idea of simply buying the trades.. Its easier to read and properly appreciate a story when you don't have it interrupted by ads or in my case.. 3 month breaks between new issues.

Friday, February 19, 2010

movie reveiw - Almost Famous.

Having heard of this film many times but never actually having seen it, I put it on my Netflix que and got it in the mail. I wound up watching the movie twice before sending it back.

I've seen several of Crowe's movies but never thought much of them.. But this one I really enjoyed. Probably a lot of that had to do with the music.. I'm a huge huge fan of all the rock groups from the late 60's and early 70's..

the film itself is roughly based on Crowe's own experiences growing up and writing for Rolling Stone Magazine.. specifically its based on two expeditions he made for the magazine where he toured with the Allman brothers and Led Zeppelin right before Physical Graffiti hit.. I can only imagine how amazing it must have been.. so the movie lets me live a bit of that vicariously..

The movie features an good assortment of actors.. Patrick Fugit plays the main character, William, who gets a job from Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to write 1000 words on Black Sabbath.. Unable to get in for the main act, William hooks up with the opening act "Stillwater".. whos Singer is played by Jason Lee (Mallrats, My Name is Earl) and guitarist played by Billy Crudup.. (Dr. Manhatten from Watchmen). Patricks sister is played by the always quirky Zooey Deschenal(hitchikers guide to the galaxy) and his mom played by Francis Mcdormand(Fargo).. and Jimmy Fallon as a slimy record executive.. The movie also features a cameo by Peter Frampton.

There is apparently a longer version of this movie floating around, but dosen't seem available in the US, and costs way to much to import from the UK..

Speaking of Jimmy Fallon, I also watched the 1997 original of Fever Pitch with Colin Firth, which was remade in the US to be about Baseball and starred Jimmy Fallon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fantasy = Fascism.. Whats the deal?

I've been noticing an awful lot of these sorts of posts lately.. that the Fantasy Genre is some how a Fascist construct.. At least unless its Micheal Moorecock or China Meivelle writing it..

Typically my eyes glaze over any time words like " Fascism " and " Marxist theory " start getting tossed around in concert with words like " escapist fiction " and " Metaphors " I begin to immediately consider who ever is using them to be a tad to over educated for their own good.

Apparently if your protagonist supports a deposed monarch, is male, is anything other than a base level prole who's fighting to remove oppression from other proles... then you support the status quo.. and that means you are a fascist..

Tolkien is of course constantly trotted out as being the worst offender.. I imagine Howard dosen't rank much higher.. after all Conan did become King...

bit rambly maybe but this whole thing just astounds me....

El-Borak and Other desert adventures.

This was released on February 9th, but I didn't get paid till the 12th so had to put off buying it till then.. I went hunting it last night at Borders due to having a 33% off coupon.. I went to borders and they had no copies.. what a surprise.. borders never has what I want when I have a coupon.. so I had them check to see if any other Borders in the area had it.. and apparently none of them did.. it showed up in their computers but wasn't on automatic distribution.. so if I wanted it from them I'd have to order it.. I considered it, until they said I couldn't use my coupon.. if I'm going to order it I might as well just use Amazon..

On my way out of town I stopped by Barnes&Nobel and they had one copy, apparently its not on automatic distribution there either and some one had pre-ordered it and then not picked it up..

I've not had any problems finding a copy of any of the previous REH volumes, and with the Solomon Kane movie coming out soon both of these stores has multiple copies of the SK volume..

I'd seen this post over on the Official Conan Forums about the declining sales ranking locations of each volume.. which isn't surprising to me as really each one thats come out has been less recognizable to the average consumer.. But I really hope that these incidences of stores not getting copies is just a regional thing.. I'd hate to sound alarmist but I really like this series of wonderful and brilliant (not to mention affordable) adventures and weird tales to suddenly disappear because they weren't moving enough units to continue the series.

I know how much hard work is put into each and every one of these and it shows.

But I've got it and now all I've got to do is to send off my pre-order for the REH Foundation's companion volume featuring the other chunk of El-Borak stories.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

... and Listening to the Lamentations of the Botcon fans.

This weekend was the New York Toyfair, where the different companies show off their wares to the companies like Wal-mart and Target and to a lesser extent the Press.

I've just been browsing the photos of the new Transformers Offerings, including the new " Generations Line " which is sort of a Hall of Fame series with some new toys thrown in.. One of these is " Generations Thrust " .. a domestic release of the Gentai! Gentai! Thrust released previously in Japan as a Store Exclusive.

What makes this so exciting is that a " Classics Thrust " was released as part of the Botcon 2007 Games of Deception Box Set. The reason given for the inclusion of Thrust and Dirge and Thundercracker in this set instead of them being released at retail was that " They wouldn't sell, so if you want them this is the only way you are going to get them " .. a Point harped on and repeated adnausem. See the thing is these three characters are part of a subset of Transformer character referred to as " The Seekers ", six characters who all share the same basic body type but were repainted and given different personalities. Three of these six were released as part of the first " Classics " series in 2006. But the line was ended before the first Micheal Bay movie came out, and three of the Seekers remained unreleased. Instead of waiting to release them during the already planned " Classics 2.0" series in 2008.. Hasbro allowed Fun Publications to produce extremely limited numbers of them for its convention exclusive.

Needless to say, all of us who didn't get to attend, or who have better things to spend 400$ on than a bunch of repainted toys.. were not in the least bit amused. The period after the release of this convention in my opinion fully fragmented the Transformers Fandom for me.. It made it into something which wasn't fun. Even the damage which Micheal Bay inflicted dosen't really measure up to what this convention did. It showed just how petty and self absorbed the Transformers fans were, who would rather have something exclusive and rare than have their fellow fan be happy.

Well, now that Thrust and presumably Dirge (one of the other of the 3 released in that set) will be getting released in what is essentially " Classics 3.0 " .. all I can say to the Botcon attendees who have lorded it over the rest of us for 3 years ..

Eat it.

The Lamenting of fallen after market values and general butt-hurt of those who feel they've been screwed out of some rarity.. only makes the 3 year wait all the more worth it. Now I'm off to enjoy my schadenfreude.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's a Flurry, in a Hurry!

Yes, thats right.. Its Snow.. and oddly for the south east.. its actually accumulating too..

So I'm going to use this opportunity to post what is perhaps my favorite episode of the first season of the Transformers cartoon.. due to the introduction of Skyfire.. " Fire in the Sky " .. Which is full to the gills with Snow-puns..

part 1

part 2

part 3

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Adventures in Food.

I went to Cost plus World Market on Wednesday as well, I got some UK eatables to tide me over until i get to go over again. I got some Rhubarb jam which is lovely. But my friend.. well he got some Vegemite.. Hes a huge fan of Men at Work you see.. and has been curious about the stuff for years.. I being the idiot that I am.. agreed to eat some of it..

So we came back to my place and I made some buttered toast and a pot of tea.. He ate the stuff while I was out of the room.. so I didn't get to see his reaction.. I didn't have very high expectations due to not liking Marmite in the UK..

I thought from the ingredients that it would be a bit more beerish.. sweet and malty like Guinness Jam almost.. But It wasn't. needless to say from all this blather.. Vegimite is not near the top of list of things I wish to eat again. It was way to salty for my taste, but didn't seem to have much else in the way of flavor.. it reminded me of the really cheap margarine you get here in the US which comes in a wheel covered in waxpaper.

No offense to any Australians who are reading this, but you guys can keep that stuff.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today's Used bookstore haul.

Went to a used book store today, not my normal one but one in a more built up part of the state, and managed to luck up and find several Robert E. Howard's I didn't have.
" The lost valley of Iskandar " and "The Road of Azrael" I also got the 3 volume Bran Mak Morn set from Zebra, with Worms of the Earth by Robert E. Howard, Legion of Shadows by Karl Edward Wagner and For the Witch of the Mists by Smith/Teirney..

I also got the 3 volume hardback set of "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn " by Tad Williams all in first edition hardbacks.

All of that for less than 30$ and I consider it a really good day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Drunks, their part in my annoyance.

yes, I admit it.. I did steal the idea for that headline from Spike Milligan's War diaries.. " Hitler, my part in his Downfall. " Which is both a funny movie and a funny series of books.

The Point I here you cry, where are you going with this.. what is the point of it all!

so I will try and digress no further, let us go unto the point..

I'm sitting at home, reading a book, when all of a sudden upon my door I hear a knocking.. I wonder who could this be.. its raining and storming and cold and dark.. I go to the door and see my Co worker.. Hes drunk and he's with a whole carload of other drunks.. they want me to go with them.. and help them to set up a Printer..

needless to say this isn't something I'm interested in.. so I make up an excuse not to go, but they don't want to take no for an answer.. they want to stay and talk.. I offer them coffee... but no that's ok.. they brought there own beer! .. Keystone light in a Styrofoam cooler.. my thought is immediate.. I wish them to leave.. But how is the question.. as they all begin to consume more beer in my driveway.. they won't leave till i tell them how to hook up their printer..

So dutifully I come inside, find my old 1gb jump drive I'd bought 5 years ago.. and download the drivers for the printer.. and give it over.. telling them to plug it in.. and do what the prompts on the software say to do. they seem to take that ok, but want to know if its that I want money to do it.. i say no.. I don't, though I suppose I could charge them what the Geek Squad does to hook up a printer.. but I have morals and so couldn't do that.

To skip to the end, after nearly 45 minutes of drunken rambling from them.. I convinced them to leave.. Not a good way to end a perfectly good Tuesday evening.. and will certainly make Wednesday awkward.. But at least they gave me something to write about on here...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My New Venture.

After picking up a new shipment of Books from Powell's Books of Portland Oregon yesterday at the Post Office.. I was struck by the fact that I now have all of the Conan Pastiches released between Ace books, Bantam books and Tor Books, all 102 novels and short stories featured in the William Galen Gray Chronology.

So I set up a new blog, which will chronicle my adventures through the Apocryphal Hyborean Age. That is, Not Robert E. Howard's Hyborean Age, but the adulterated and tacked on Hyborean Age. The Hyborean age which is the equivalent of Saxo's Guesta Dannorum to Robert E. Howard's 6th Century Danish Skald's version of Norse Mythology.

I hope you will have a look at it, I've posted some information to get us started and I plan to start very soon on the actual reviews.. I aim to get at least one a week done, though I understand that some of the novels are exceedingly bad.. so when I hit a stumbling point please understand.

Hyborean Apocrypha