Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

birthday, fun

So yesterday (it's 1:09 AM as I check this) was my 27th birthday. Weird. It was pretty uneventful, overall. Jen took me out for steak at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Philly, which was pretty magnificent as steak goes. She had a portobello mushroom, not quite the same experience. Great food, but it's pricy. My present: tickets for the Walnut Street Theatre production of Les Miz at the end of May. Should be exciting.

More films I've seen recently.

- Suspiria. A Dario Argento thriller, this Italian film has some extremely explicit violence in the Italian horror tradition, but it's neither too extreme nor is it what really differentiates the film. That would be Argento's absolutely stunning use of color and the pounding soundtrack. It's a nightmarish vision that I can imagine would hold up to repeated viewings, particularly once one understands the nightmare character of the events (the murders particularly are not done in any vaguely realistic style).

- Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. I was hoping this would turn out to be a kind of cool samurai flick. Unfortunately, it tried to very literally adapt manga pictures into a film, which didn't turn out all that well. A shame.

- Waiting. A comedy shown, appropriately enough, on Comedy Central. The basic premise is that a bunch of standup comics (and the guy who plays the Mac) are the staff of a Bennigan's style restaurant called "Shenanigans." It's vaguely Clerks-ish, but relies a bit more on its ensemble and the only slightly over the top picture it presents of food service to get its laughs rather than just shooting to wow with dialogue. Enjoyable without being life-altering.

- Thriller: They Call Her One Eye. A very clearly dubbed Swedish revenge flick, I managed to rent the version that didn't have hardcore pornographic scenes left in tact. I was left with the feeling that this was much more of a grindhouse film than the two shown in the (enjoyable as pastiche) Grindhouse double feature last summer. It's very slow to develop, and the revenge sequences are marred by the extreme slow motion that characterizes all of the violence in the movie. Not the best thing to rent if you're trying to get somebody to develop an interest in cult cinema, but for devotees it has that quality of "it was worth it anyway." (If you want to get into cult cinema, Quentin Tarantino's project of releasing beautiful transfers of this sort of movies to DVD yielded gold in a little film called Switchblade Sisters.)

- Knocked Up. For some reason, the responses to this one left me expecting much more laugh-a-minute type results, and it didn't deliver that. It was funny in spots, and generally a well put together film, but again - not life-changing. I only note this because of the extremely high praise the film was garnering during its theatrical run; while it was enjoyable it wasn't really very hypeworthy.

- Zombie (aka Zombi 2). Italian horror director Lucio Fulci's entry into the late-70s zombie genre. Every bit as dripping in its gore as Dawn of the Dead, this "zombies on a tropical island" film is mostly noteworthy for the fact that scenes were added to bookend it in New York and link it somehow to Dawn, which was released in Italy under the title Zombi. Oh, and a totally awesome scene where a zombie fights a shark. It was also the film where an actor, in full zombie drag, walked into CBGB and failed to draw attention to himself. Aside from the inspired moment of zombie versus shark, this has some decent tension and is very well paced for a shorter horror movie. Very much worth seeing for the zombie afficionado, not so much for the squeamish.

Yep. I've been on a bit of a film kick. Parenthetically, I also bought some of the big Showcase Presents volumes of classic superhero stories, specifically volume 1 of Superman and Legion of Super-Heroes. Anyone interested in comics should probably do so. This Metafilter post has a great guide to a series of essays on what made Silver Age comics tick, and I'd say for those of us who think of ourselves as writers it makes them fascinating exercises in reading.
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

and in other news...

So it's been a long time since I actually updated my LJ and I'm not sure who still would read it, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Not going to go deep into personal issues or anything, just some things that have been going on over the last few days.

1. I ran D&D with the original 1974 rules on Thursday night. It was a hell of a good time. The players were people from the Dragonsfoot forum, very enthusiastic, and they cleared a lot of dungeon space because we were using the dirt-simple original rules. One player lost 3 characters running; we'll see if his next one lasts.

2. I watched a bunch of movies the last couple of days. Just going to do review-lets of them here.

- Ed Wood. A little weirder than I expected, mostly for the spot-on Bela Lugosi impersonation. I do want to see some of Wood's movies, just for the fact that I like old, bad movies. I have trouble relating to a lot of Tim Burton's films, but this was a lot better in that regard.

- Gone in 60 Seconds (1974 version). This was a lot of lead-up, modestly entertaining bunch of car heists, leading to about 40 minutes of chase scene that absolutely dominate the film. The chase scene was a ton of fun, and had enough variety that it remained tense throughout.

- The Fountain. A coworker recommended this movie because he wanted to discuss it with people during work. Unfortunately, I didn't like it. It's a movie that wants very badly to be an art film, but while it's pretty the fact is that it isn't profound, it isn't interesting, and it isn't engaging in any way. "Man learns lesson about beating death" could've been done well, and I'm sure it has been. This movie was not done well.

Anyway, just some thoughts I wanted to share. Post a comment if you're reading and want me to get back in the habit of journaling.
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

Venturing into Roleplaying Again

So:

I've been thinking about roleplaying games a lot lately. And I've decided I want to do it. But not a big D&D game or what have you. And Call of Cthulhu will have to go on hold, because I have had a better idea.

The Pool is a simple RPG system built around narration. I've probably mentioned it before, but I am again because I think it's a good step away from the kind of games I don't want to play. But I know exactly how I want to use it.

Star Wars. In the most eminently gameable setting imaginable: Mos Eisley, original trilogy era. This being The Pool, I'll have a bunch of complications at hand but no actual written plot or anything. 3 or 4 players, probably run for no more than 3 sessions. Hijinks, intrigue, taking on the Empire; it's all good.

Anybody game?
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Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

(no subject)

Tagged by Jeff

Two Words Meme
1. Yourself: Eccentric Trotskyist
2. Your car: Geo Metro
3. Your Hair: Wavy Brown
4. Your mother: Geeky chemist
5. Your father: Overworked hunter
6. Your Favorite Item: Miracleman 15
7. Your Dream Last Night: No clue
8. Your Favorite Drink: Guinness Stout
9. Your Dream Home: simple home
10. The Room You Are In: Living Room
11. Your Pet: Trouble kitty
12. Your fear: Disease, heights
13. Where You Want to be in Ten Years: Socialist USA
14. Who you hung out with last night: Several books
15. What You're Not: Insufficiently analytical
16. Your Best Friend: Somewhat geeky
17. One of Your Wish list Items: Time machine
18. Your Gender: Straight guy
19. The Last Thing You Did: Call Jen
20. What You Are Wearing: Black slacks
21. Your Favorite Weather?: Mild sunshine
22. Your Favorite Book: Eighteenth Brumaire
23. The Last Thing You Ate: Meat loaf
24. Your Life: Hectic interesting
25. Your Mood: Getting serious
26. The last person you talked to on the phone: Bunny Jen
27. Finish this sentence: with panache.

II. Name ten of life's simple pleasures that you like most, then pick ten people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not to use things that someone else has already used.
01) Doin' a monkey dance...
02) ...while wearin' my monkey pants
03) Esperanto rock music
04) Ms. Pac-Man
05) Getting a book in the mail
06) Chess (the musical).
07) Coffee that contains large amounts of hot chocolate.
08) The feeling of finishing a damn good comic book.
09) Love.
10) Saying "Ook."

Explain your LiveJournal name and its meaning.

Okay, so Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were, in the short fiction of Fritz Leiber, the two greatest swordsmen in Nehwon, a world like and unlike our own (depending on what Leiber was doing at the moment). Fafhrd is a big, robust barbarian, and the Mouser is a deft, small thief. Mike Mignola drew the pic in my icon. The Gray Mouser's on the left. It's been one of my main screen names for 7 years now; when I moved away from "Ashtar X," Leiber's stories were still among my favorite fantasy fiction. The LJ title, "Kamisama wa Iranai" is a play on the title of the Escaflowne theme song, "Yakusoku wa Iranai." The song title means "Promises not necessary." After I became an atheist, I decided to riff on it, substituting "Kamisama" -- God -- for "Yakusoku," so it means "God not necessary." My friends page, "Jesters, Dreamers, and Thieves" is taken from an old Edwin McCain song. There ya go.

So I figure I'll tag Thom and Di. Hi Thom and Di!
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

5 things about me

Got tagged by uzforce17. So, 5 random things about me:

1. My girlfriend Jen calls me "Monkey," and I call her "Bunny."

2. I have been mulling over a plot for a story about a woman who breaks up with her husband after she stops being a born-again Christian for months now. I haven't started writing it, but I may try to write it as a novel. It's inspired by a true story related on an atheist message board.

3. I do not read books one at a time. I currently have bookmarks in at least 10 books, and by the time I finish one I will have started more. If I only read one book at a time, I will get tired of it and not finish it at all.

4. If I had the money, the people and the knowledge to do so, I would write and direct a feature-length film entirely in Esperanto. The world needs an Esperanto movie that is not Incubus (a terrible 1965 horror film with pretensions of Bergman and pre-Star Trek William Shatner - not to mention the Esperanto in it is poor and the pronunciation terrible).

5. I have not seen a play or musical performed live in over a year.

So, I'll pass it on to anneheart, franzjosef, gypsyscot, iwakurajessi,and secretpudding
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

Weird DreamJournal

So anyway, here's the dream I just woke up from.

Okay. First, I'm in Trenton, I forget exactly why but I'm driving along, yadda yadda, either late at night or early in the morning. Then someone has an accident, which turns into a sort of festival like atmosphere among the people there, and we go into a greengrocer store and start singing "The Preacher and the Slave." Then when I get out, my car has been towed, but people start calling me...like Socialist Party people from around the country...and I can't call the cops to find out about my towed car. Blerg.

Lyrics to Collapse )
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

Conventions and Dogs

So: the weekend brought the Socialist Party USA National Convention; I was a delegate from New Jersey. Met a lot of people - some of them allies, some friends - and had a pretty good time. In the mean time, I got elected to the National Committee, which was a bit of a surprise to me. So now I'll be on the body that decides pertinent issues to a (minor) national party. Interesting stuff. A long-time member of the party and former chair quit because of the National Committee elected, which is on the other side of the inter-party debate from him. He is of the "old guard," and recognizes that it lost; both vice chairs of the party are under 25, and we have a pretty young National Committee all told.

In far less good news, our family dog Caesar was put to sleep today. He was 11, and suddenly started throwing up Sunday night/Monday morning. I took him to the vet yesterday, and it turns out he was in kidney failure. My dad took him in to be euthanized today. He was a good dog, he had a good life, and I'll miss him. He was a good, loving dog and he was loved.

Requiescat in pacem, buddy.
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Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

Surveyage

The \\
Last Cigarette:never
Last Alcoholic Drink:A little Bud at the Socialist Party convention
Last Car Ride:Yesterday, to the vet for poor sick Caesar
Last Kiss:Thursday, saying bye to Jen
Last Good Cry:dunno
Last Library Book:A History of Iraq
Last book bought:Socialism from Below, Hal Draper
Last Book Read:To the end - The Revolution Betrayed, Leon Trotsky
Last Movie Seen in Theatres:Proof
Last Movie Rented:The Apartment
Last Cuss Word Uttered:probably fuck
Last Beverage Drank:coffee
Last Food Consumed:fake Golden Grahams from Acme
Last Crush:Jen, duh
Last Phone Call:Likewise Jen.
Last TV Show Watched:Um...uh...Home Movies on Demand.
Last Time Showered:Yesterday.
Last Shoes Worn:Chucks.
Last CD Played:Pete Seeger, "If I Had a Hammer"
Last Item Bought:Hoagie at Nixon's
Last Download:Little thing about Rosa Parks
Last Annoyance:The fact that people don't know that Rosa Parks was part of a large, well organized movement.
Last Disappointment:It's Tuesday, no revolution.
Last Soda Drank:Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper (Now With Extra Adjectives!)
Last Thing Written:Minitrue post about Rosa Parks
Last Key Used:Tab
Last Words Spoken:okay
Last Sleep:last night
Last Ice Cream Eaten:Klondike bar (low calorie) a couple days ago
Last Chair Sat In:This one
Last Webpage Visited:metafilter.com

CREATE YOUR OWN! - or - GET PAID TO TAKE SURVEYS!
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

Update on the weekend, with bonus film review.

Decided I should use this LJ periodically for the public parts of my life.

So I got together with Jen on Friday, and we went out to play arcade games. Wonderfully geeky. My yen for great classics was unfulfilled because the machines were under repair, but I got to play a bunch of stuff, including some Crazy Taxi (a wonderful cabinet game, the brakes are much more responsive than in the home version, which I love), Blade of Honor (a sword-swinging samurai game, interesting because you swing the sword), this horrible cop game where you have to keep actually ducking, and getting my ass kicked by Jen in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. So then we went to Taco Bell and hung out and around.

Saturday I was still up at her place (this is also true about Sunday). We went to Red Bank for a while, where I bought a Transmetropolitan and a Runaways trade at Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash. Later we decided to go out and see Proof, which I'll review a little later. During the climactic part of the film, the sound cut out, and took a bit before it was restored. A shame, but I'd seen the play. We got free emergency re-admit tickets though, and can go to any Loews theater for free. Yay. I also got to play one of the greatest arcade games ever made, Ms. Pac-Man, while we were there. Despite some mighty fine games made since, Ms. Pac-Man is 100% solid gameplay. The flash and glitz aren't there; it's just a matter of being a fun and challenging game for all ages.

So Sunday we were mostly just chilling, and decided to do the fun by driving in two cars to my house. This accomplished the goal of us going yesterday to the American Indian Arts Festival yesterday at the Rankokus Indian Reservation in Rancocas, NJ, a Powhatan reservation in the woods of Burlington County. My mom took me regularly as a kid, and I always got the face paint and whatever other oddities. So we went - my mom, Jen, and me - and it was amusing. Sadly, the alligator wrestler who'd been there when I was a kid wasn't up there at the time, but the Mexican pole dancers were. They climb up this 100' pole, 4 tie themselves to ropes and a platform atop, and come down in this slow spin where they are hanging head first from ropes that are slowly unfurling. Then the fifth guy, who dances on top of this pole a bit, slides down one of the ropes. It's pretty astounding stuff. There were also hoop dancers and a bit of a show with some hawks, and some astoundingly greasy food that I still regret. I bought Jen a Peruvian hat with earflaps that had squarish llamas on it, and I got this great shirt that shows four armed Indians on it with the slogan "Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492."

Good weekend. So the movie review:

Proof was the first play I read when I got into reading plays, and has a particularly special connotation to me for that. I also saw it with Anne Heche and Len Cariou on Broadway, right before it closed. So it was pretty obligatory to see the film with Gwyneth Paltrow. Now: no one is mistaking the woman for 27, which Jen most definitely noted. Especially opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. Neither of them was bad at the acting, but film is not kind to Paltrow's casting, where stage would've been, and putting her up against a guy visibly a bit younger than her was a mistake. Meh.

So Proof is a one-set play, the action unfolding entirely on a back porch. Which works for the play, but clearly could not be replicated on film; neither could the distinct scenes of the play, which shuffle you around a little with time. The film predictably made the back-in-time sequences flashbacks, and went to extreme lengths to push the dialogue away from the house, which always felt like a stretch. They're having conversations on the street or in the clothing store that are just obviously shoved into those locations inorganically. The house scenes always felt much more natural. You see more, which while interesting doesn't contribute much to the play as such. The speech given as a eulogy was kind of embarassing. And the pacing of the big revelation seemed forced, though I couldn't actually hear it.

Honestly, if you can find a good production of the play, it was better than the filmed version of Proof. But it's worth watching.
Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser

unemployment

So: I got laid off today.

It was expected, for those concerned, at least I suspected it would happen. And I'll have unemployment and start looking a billion places for new work. And I'll finally have time to write Psi. (I've actually gotten the first issue pretty damn near plotted out, and need to work on the details.) And time to read this massive library I've been building. And to watch my DVD library. Well, maybe. I do have to do the job search. It kills the commute (something worse than working, was commuting an hour on busy highways), and the job I didn't have enough to be really busy at.

Still not in the highest of spirits. Ah well. I get to hang with mah Jen and also Thom and later Di tomorrow, and a meeting with Solidarity folks on Sunday in Philly. So I'll be keepin' busy.
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