Monday, December 26, 2011

150/150 + extras

While I still have two books in progress, I've managed to meet my goal of reading 150 books in 2011.

Here is a link to the first 114 I read, I posted this back in September.

115. Hamlet's Mill by Georgio De Santillana
116. Seige of Darkness by R.A. Salvatore (Drizzt #9)
117. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
118. Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore (Drizzt #10)
119. Himmler's Crusade by Christopher Hale
120. Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #1)
121. A Portrait of the Artist as a young man by James Joyce
122. The Last Lion: Visions of Glory by William Manchester
123. The Hour of the Gate by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #2)
124. The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche
125. Dictionary of Accepted Ideas by Gustav Flaubert
126. The Day of the Dissonance by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #3)
127. Memoirs of a Medieval Woman by Louise Collis
128. The Moment of the Magician by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #4)
129. The Monkeywrench Gang by Edward Abbey
130. The Paths of Perambulator by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #5)
131. The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight
132. The Time of Transferance by Alan Dean Foster (Spellsinger #6)
133. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
134. Spellfire by Ed Greenwood (Shrandril #1)
135. A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson
136. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings (Belgariad #1)
137. Introduction to African Religions by John S. Mbiti
138. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (Alderly #1)
139. Azure bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #1)
140. Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings (Belgariad #2)
141. The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis
142. Wellington, Years of the Sword by E. Longford
143. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
144. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
145. The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham
146. Magician's Gambit by David Eddings (Belgariad #3)
147. The Wyvern's Spur by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #2)
148. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
149. Jesus's Son by Denis Johnson
150. The last Lion: Churchill, Alone by William Manchester
151. Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings (Belgariad #4)
152. Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings (Belgariad #5) In progress
153. The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner (Alderly #2) In progress
154. Song of the Saurials by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb (Finders Stone #3) In progress

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dealing with the low rolls.

In my pathfinder group, the DM and one of the players are uncle and nephew. They make up a lot of the soul of the group. They also go with me to LARP. I've known the older of the pair since High school. He's been through all the iterations of D&D with me. 3.0, 3.5. 4.0, Pathfinder. He's been with me in Warhammer since 5th edition and Warhammer 40k since 3rd edition. We've played Munchkin and Kobold's ate my baby. His nephew has been something of a fixture with us since he hit twelve. We knew how bad it sucked to be a nerd in a hick town, so we always took extra effort to include him. I've helped them both every chance I got.

Well today I was left with no way to help them. The cosmic DM rolled low. Their Brother/Father respectively died today during routine surgery. A Dislodged blood clot. 1. No chance of a saving throw.

Maybe it seems callous to parse this all in gamer terminology. But these two, a young man and a boy on the cusp of becoming a man have been such a big part of my life, and have been there during every experimental game and late night Anime session I've pretty much ever embarked upon.

I hate feeling sorry for myself. But I hate the feeling of powerlessness that comes with that dreaded phone call. I hate not being able to make them better. I hate seeing my friends upset. They are supposed to be jovial and full of quirk and witty nerd banter. Not crying in the hallway of the hospital. Not trying to figure out how to move on when a single father of 3 teenagers has just died. unprepared. unexpected. leaving his 19 year old son to take care of his 17 and 14 year old sisters, a house, a car, property taxes, all while he is still in high school. What kind of sick cosmic joke is it that this happened on Christmas Eve? You listen as they cry and moan and sob, you hug them and try to reassure them. You sputter, you inanely ask if there is anything you can do, and you probably, ridiculously say you're sorry. as if you did it and could take it back with a word.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I've got myself a Plan!

Normally I would write myself a complete syllabus for the year in what I hoped to accomplish. It generally would have about 100 books on it, and would include things like "Write a review of X Number of words" or something like that. I had to do it the last two years to try and keep up with some semblance of a reading pace for Hyborean Apocrypha. That's unfortunately been set aside due to having real syllabii to adhere to via school.

I still intend to plan out a few key series to go after in 2012, Michael J. Sullivan's Rirya books and Stephen Erickson's Malazan books are probably my top goal to read through in the new year. I'm also hoping to fill in a few more gaps in my classic Fantasy and Science-Fantasy reading in the form of Andre Norton's Witchworld and Phillip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers. Eventually my goal is to read everything on the D&D Appendix N list.


Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: "Pellucidar" series; Mars series; Venus series
Carter, Lin: "World's End" series
de Camp & Pratt: "Harold Shea" series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August
Dunsany, Lord

Farmer, P. J.: "The World of the Tiers" series; et al
Fox, Gardner: "Kothar" series; "Kyrik" series; et al
Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO'S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" series (esp. the
first three books)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manley Wade
Williamson, Jack
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" series; et al

The ones in Bold I've read, and the ones not in bold I haven't. So I'm going to see how many more of them I can read through.

Other than that, with another English Class and a History class this semester.. who knows what I'll be reading for them?

Friday, December 16, 2011

GIJOE Retallition Trailer.

I HATED the abomination that was GIJOE: Rise of Cobra. Every aspect of it was wrong. The casting was wrong. The Look was wrong. Everything about it was wrong. I'm not talking about making them an international team, I never had a problem with that. What I had a problem with was the way they ignored nearly 30 years of backstory. They made it into a dodgy sci-fi B movie and let Steven Sommers include all the dopey elements that make all of his other movies so obnoxious. They even let him include Brendan Fraser. No chance at all was given to Joseph Gordon Levitt to show us just how awesome he is as an actor in his portrayal of Cobra Commander. Heck, we didn't even get to see much of Cobra Commander. It was like watching a Live Action DIC episode.

In the new Trailer, which I will link to at the bottom, they waste little time in establishing that this isn't going to be the second movie warmed over. They liquidate the team with extreme prejudice. Leaving only three members of the original cast remaining to taint the new movie. Cobra Commander has his blue jumpsuit and metal face mask which makes him so Iconic. Roadblock actually uses the Ma Deuce for which he is famous. Essentially.. this is what GIJOE should have looked like the first time. Gone are the super suits and the Eiffel Tower being eaten by nanomites. Gone is the ridiculous glass bubble head that Cobra Commander wore.

I love the visual of the Cobra Banners being unfurled on the front of the White House. The Idea of Cobra being a organization set on world domination was something postulated by the Cartoon. In the comics, it was the United States which Cobra had its primary issue with. The United States slighted the man who would go on to become Cobra Commander. A Used Car Salesmen who identified with Jon Galt a bit too much, but decided instead of pouring his efforts into inventing miraculous new products he would gain his empire through theft, graft, con jobs and murder. Despite what Joseph Gordon Levitt says, and the cast sheet says. Cobra Commander is clearly in this trailer. Who is playing him and what role he will be playing no one knows yet. But It's unlikely that the confirmed villains of the picture, Fire Fly, Zartan and Storm Shadow, Three men who have a long and extremely checkered past.. would be interested in taking over the United States without the instigation of Cobra Commander.

I have hope for this movie, not as much as I would have had if they had completely re-booted the franchise.. But It looks better than the two Transformers Sequels anyway.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Skrillex Condundrum and Other Stories.

A new fad is sweeping America. It is called Skrillex. The stage name of a slight music producer who formerly fronted an Emo band. He has finally succeeded in a massive way of introducing Garage and Dub step to the American consumer. He is an enormous hit. Even selling out shows in my tiny college town. I can't even imagine how he has accomplished this.

I first became aware of Garage and Dub-step when I was in the UK over 6 years ago. It was nothing special at the time, simply a style of music which a certain portion of the population listened to. It was dance music. it was music you blasted out of your 10,000$ system from the back of a 8000$ Peugeot while it was idling in a parking deck.

Needless to say I was not able to get tickets to see the Skrillex Cell when they perform in Athens at the newly rebuilt Georgia Theater. It's something I truly regret missing out on. I'm not sure why I like his sound quite so much as I do, but it motivates me when plenty of other noise doesn't do anything but put me to sleep.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum are a trio of outfits that I've been listening to a lot this year is John T. Pearson. He fills his folksy-country songs with pain I couldn't imagine even if I were into cutting. His music reaches into your very soul and tugs at strings and ligaments you were not aware you possessed. Following in the footsteps of Bon Iver he brings even more feeling and emotion to his even lengthier songs. No stadium filling noise here, but simple and heartfelt lyrics which cut like paper and sting like lemon every time.

Between Bon Iver and Josh T. Pearson I have nearly had to go back to taking my anti-psychotics. All the delusions I built to protect myself from the world are stripped back by their bluesy riffs and soulful vocals. Following current trends in my life, I can't help but find the lyrics of these neo-folk acts important. Thankfully Florence & The machine are there to give me a bit of upbeat when I get depressed. Her driving vocals and outrageous costumes (including a reference to Clan of the Cave Bear) help inoculate me to the pain of the other groups.

Whether you enjoy or hate these bands is some what immaterial to me. I'm a firm believer in the idea that whatever you are feeling at the time you first hear a song is as important as the ideas behind the song itself. After all, who really cares what the creator thinks.. You are the important and active participant in the process. The creator of the song has long since finished their portion of the social contract in the process of recording the music. You however, the listener, are the active party.


Josh T. Pearson.

Bon Iver.

Florence & The Machine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Context people, Context.

I'm a major history buff. That means I know how to put things, such as facts, in their proper historical context and not get all bent out of shape about them. It doesn't make them right or wrong. It just helps you understand were to place them. So why do so many people find themselves incapable of placing historical writers in the context of the world they lived in?

Enter This guy. Another in a long list of bloggers who read a pulp story from the 1920's and apply a 2011 mindset to it.

Pro Tip. It doesn't work. You cannot separate the work from the time period it was created in or the audience it was created for! The thing you have to consider about Lovecraft, is was he exceptional for his time? Location? Class? Keep in mind that Lovecraft wrote Herbert West a scant 7 years after D.W. Griffith's A Birth of Nation came out. Look at Woodrow Wilson (yes, the President of the United States... was a horrible racist too!) and his writings of the time. He excused the KKK as a "Natural outgrowth of reconstruction". The 1910's, 20's and 30's were a time of profound racial oppression across the United States. Wilson, like Lovecraft had little compassion for immigrants of any race, even the Irish, who at the time weren't really white men either, they got upgraded later only because they were lighter skinned than the Italians!

There were books circulating at the time such as Madison Grant's "The Passing of the Great Race", Henry Ford's "The International Jew" and Houston Stewart Chamberlain's "Foundations of the 19th Century". These were books which inspired the atrocities which eventually came to Germany. Reading them today gives you a frightening glimpse into the popular zeitgeist that existed at the time. It makes you realize that Nazi Germany isn't that surprising, but what is surprising is that it only happened there and didn't spread to the rest of the western nations.

Before you begin chundering in impotent rage at some writer who lived nearly a hundred years ago, wrote for the people of his time, and was living in a time of extreme change the likes of which we wouldn't even be able to recognize. When Lovecraft was a boy, people still drove horse and buggy to town! Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to have a motor car, and that was when Lovecraft was 20 years old. You have to look at his entire life to understand where these feelings came from. He barely scraped by, his malnutrition may in fact have lead to his death. He viewed immigrants, much as many modern Americans today do, as some how taking the lively hoods of good, honest, hardworking Americans. The world which Lovecraft lived in, was in the early stages of transforming into the world we know today, but he himself grew up in, and of which he held the values from, is one which would be considered entirely alien today.

British literature is full of novels which show this transition. The transformation from the Victorian period, where people still fit into a rigid social order, to the modern day where to be a member of the upper class is to be ridiculed. In the last 50 years alone, such dramatic social change has influenced the western world that it is unrecognizable to what it once was. We have finally begun implementing the ideals which we built our nations on in the first place.

If you can't appreciate Lovecraft's work in the proper context, thats fine. To each their own. But don't act as if he was some how extraordinary in his views from that of the common man at the time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carl Macek's Robotech Universe.

I'm a Robotech Fan. I enjoy saying that. Part of my enjoyment of saying it is because it makes a lot of Anime fans exceedingly angry.

I like it for a variety of reasons. Nostalgia. The generational saga. The dense and convoluted storyline that arose from the combination of three pre-existing sagas along with new material.

Don't mistake me, I enjoyed all 3 of the original Japanese shows.. but I wasn't converted to the accepted dogma. I didn't abandon my Robotech fandom to rush into the arms of Macross. They mock, but it only makes me love it more.

Last year, the man responsible for "creating" Robotech from those three shows, Carl Macek, died. He was a talented man who gets berated greatly by the Anime fan community in general. They don't stop to think that he didn't originally want to put those three shows together, he wanted to show Macross on its own. But he was hampered by the syndication rules at the time. He took a bad situation, and found a solution to get that great material out to the people. Now you can just buy DVD's from Japan or even get them subtitled in the US, but at the time Anime was a nascent barely clinging together clump of cells.

Because of Carl, Robotech expanded beyond the confines of the TV series. It was adapted into a series of Novels, the novels expanded even further on the background of the show and were themselves integral to the creation of the Robotech RPG which went into stunning detail in filling in the gaps left by the construction method of the TV series. Many comic book series, two feature films, and an assortment of other bits and pieces followed.

Thats essentially not the story as presented in the new Documentary Carl Macek's Robotech Universe. Though it is present in its barest forms, most of the documentary is taken up, not buy the writers or technical people discussing how Carl made Robotech, but is instead mainly fixated on the voice actors lavishing praise on their recently dead friend. I understand that since Robotech was many of the VA's first job, they would wish to postulate on the man himself rather than his production. It just wasn't a very good documentary about Robotech, even though it was a decent enough one about Carl's Role in Robotech's creation. It re-iterated some of the mythology that Harmony Gold now makes use of. They've taken the tact of simply ignoring the critics entirely and creating a some what delusional world in which Robotech was the Saviour of Anime in North America. I love it to death but I think that Voltron, Macron 1, G-force, Star Blazers, and many many other shows were just as important to the burgeoning Anime fandom. I think that the role that Harmony Gold wants to place Robotech into, likely belongs in reality to Dragon Ball Z. DBZ was on multiple channels, multiple times a day, lasted forever, and it was sometime while the characters were still on Namek that the Anime bomb went off and it was EVERYWHERE.

When I was in Elementary school, Anime consisted of shows like Robotech and Voltron and Star Blazers, no one really watched it. When I got to Middle School, DBZ was on and a vast cross section of people with highly divergent interested were watching it. When I got to Highschool, Anime was literally everywhere. It was omnipresent. There were anime exclusive stores in the suburbs around Atlanta. Book stores were stocking Manga. Best buy had two whole aisles for Anime VHS tapes at outrageous prices.

I'm not trying to say that Robotech and Carl Macek played no part in this, it was back on TV at the time on Cartoon Network.. but I just feel its disengenueous to simply decide it was the most important catalyst.

Another problem I had with the documentary was Tommy Yune's casual dismissal of Transformers and Transformers fans. I'm not sure if Mr. Yune has noticed.. but while Tobey Mcquires live action Robotech film is floundering.. Michael Bay has produced a Trilogy of (admittedly bad films) which have cumulatively grossed billions of dollars. Robotech's 25th anniversary is largely remembered because of the hardcore fans of the series going back to the 80's, its high DVD sales are the result of perpetually releasing newer and newer DVD sets. Just since DVD got big around 2001, there have been no fewer than 5 different releases of the show on that format. Every one of them offers drips and drabs of new material. the first ones were just the broadcast masters, but were loaded with extras. Then they released just the broadcast show in bare bones release. Then they remastered the show using new tapes from Japan, cleaning it up and re touching the sounds. Those releases got re-released later with all of the special features from the original release. Now A&E has re-re-re-released a new set, that has all of the remastered shows, all of the special features from all of the sets along with this new documentary and a variety of other bits and pieces. They even finally acknowledge Robotech the movie, but don't go so far as to actually include it. Pity. I suppose they are holding it back, along with the new Yellow Dancer centric mini-film Robotech Love Live Alive (made from a Japanese music video and which will apparently bridge the gap between Southern Cross and New Generation) for another future release.

All of this isn't to dismiss the documentary. It was a good enough documentary, it simply wasn't what their hype made it out to be. It should have gone into more detail about the show itself, about the comics, about the controversy, about the very rational for creating it in the first place. Instead we just got a bunch of weepy voice actors talking about their friend.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Final Countdown.

Well.. not really all that dramatic but it is getting close to the end of the year and I just got my grades for my Finals from school.

A+, A, A, and C+.

I'm really pleased with the C+ as it is Math, and being as Its been 8 years since I've used any of that stuff to say I was rusty would be an understatement. I went into the class fully expecting to bomb it, and while I didn't make a great grade.. I'm happy it wasn't any lower.

I'm hoping with my schedule for next year being more streamlined, I'll have more time to get back to work on the Hyborean Apocrypha project.

In other news, due either to Holiday hiring or an upswing in the local economy 5 members of my D&D group have managed to get jobs so that's some what putting a crimp on their availability. Will the group survive? will have to roll a Fortitude save to find out I suppose.

I'm going to be posting up my end of the year Tally for books I've read in 2011 in about 2 weeks time, I mentioned earlier in the week on Brian Murphey's blog The Silver Key that I wasn't sure I was going to meet my goal of 150 books, but due to hastily reading a few slim volumes (I.E. Cheating) I think I'm going to bag it this year. I'm going to set myself a smaller reading goal next year also to cope with the class work, since next year I'll be taking classes all year rather than just in the fall. But when you have a To be Read pile of nearly a thousand books, that despite how many you read never seems to go down, it doesn't take long to feel snowed under if I'm not constantly pushing myself.

I am planning on starting Stephen Erickson's massive Malazan series in January, and filling in a few more gaps in my classic Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery catalog with Andre Norton's Witch World and Phillip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers. I'm going to try and finish up the last 6 of the Shannara novels I've got to read too. We will see.