Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dogmatic Angels Green Spot and Red Spot

I had to listen to these two tracks back to back several times before I was sure that I could tell that they were in fact different from each other.  Same length, same structure; their waveforms in Audacity even look almost identical.  But they're not the same, although the differences between them are more subtle than obvious.

The third song in the "Spot" trilogy—"Yellow Spot" is more obviously different, though.



B&W

Just a quick note.  Just because Ansel Adams took some iconic black and white photos (in a time when color photos weren't very good, mostly, I'll point out, although certainly he stuck with black and white long after he could have migrated) doesn't mean that they're better, or more artistic, or anything else.  A big part of the reason Adams did black and white and continued to work with it was because of technological limitations of his time, and the solutions that he developed to deal with them, which led him to continue to prefer black and white.

When you post black and white pictures in this day and age of your hiking trips, you just look like a poser.  We all know that 1) you took those pictures in color, because you don't have a black and white film camera, 2) you turned it either black and white or sepia in Photoshop or some other comparable image manipulation software.  It's not a question of some artistic technique, it's a quick drop down menu, and 3) it looks better in color.

I seriously wish hikers would knock it off with the fake Ansel Adams black and white shots.  They look ridiculous by now.

Ansel Adams' famous shot of the Tetons and Snake River

A modern color shot from almost exactly the same spot—albeit admittedly with much less dramatic lighting in the sky.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday Art Attack

I haven't done a Friday Art Attack the last two Fridays, so I better not miss a third.


I'm not quite sure what his is, but I find it really evocative and creepy.  I like it.


An older Warhammer Vampire Counts army book cover.  I do sometimes wish that Warhammer wasn't so focused on armies, but it is, after all, Warhammer, and I don't think that that was really meant to just be evocative of the specific weapon.


Here's a Ken Kelly (I believe) fake Frazetta style cover art piece.  Nice work, Ken!


Some more Conan stuff, from the comics world.


Another great Michael Whelan book cover, based on a mediocre (if you're generous) work by Asimov.  I suppose Foundation is... important, in its way.  But it's not good.  Asimov, along with Campbell and a few others (L. Sprague de Camp and Michael Moorcock were purveyors of this travesty too) got caught up in the excitement of speculative fiction as a genre, and then made it nerdy, self-righteous and emasculated.  On purpose, even.  Even when they were writing stuff that has some merit, I still despise them and everything that they stood for.


On the other hand, here's some stuff from the real Golden Age of science fiction.  I don't even know what this is, but I already suspect that it's a better story than Foundation.


Wayne Reynolds is a modern day artist I quite like. Sadly, the material he's given to work with is often subpar.  Why in the world in a market who's consumers are overwhelmingly white males would the blatant tokenism and discrimination against white males in terms of their heroic "iconic characters" even be considered a good thing?

Oh, right, because we live in Clown World, and Paizo is made up of virtue-signaling traitors who hate their own people and their own customers.


I'm not 100% sure what's going on here, but these Fake Egyptian undead fighting these fake Orientalist heroes is kinda cool.


Another of the monstrously ugly and unlikeable iconic characters from Paizo in a work that would be excellent with a better subject.  I actually find the demon more charismatic, myself.


Adrian Smith's dark fantasy stuff is really cool.  This is what the Frankenstein monster should look like.

So there you go.  In DH5, this is the flesh golem.  Wham!


I'm not quite sure what's going on here either.  This is probably a little too much gratuitous exotica to make any sense.


One of the actually kind of interesting Paizo iconic characters, although it's essentially just "Zorro except in the Fake French Revolution country instead of Spanish colonial California."


Another great Wayne Reynolds Paizo piece, with the iconic villain of their second adventure path.

I think those little girl guards are kind of silly, though.


I'm also not quite sure what is happening here; maybe this is an illustration of Call of Cthulhu (the actual short story, not the game.)  Whatever; gratuitous Lovecraftiana is never unwelcome here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

PCT

Last night I watched the Pacific Crest Trail documentary made nearly ten years ago by National Geographic.  It's a bit cheesy, and focuses too much on "human interest" stories that—honestly—aren't that interesting.  I bought this thing years ago, and I watch it from time to time, mostly because it's short and plays quickly, while showing some great scenery.  That said, most of the people that it focuses on are not very likable (they really seem to think that the stubby packrat girl is cute or something, but I find her irritating.)  Honestly, I've had better experiences watching amateur thru-hikers on YouTube, although a lot of those folks are weird too.  I wonder, sometimes, if what motivates people to do those YouTube videos is some kind of social dysfunction and desperate need for attention, but some of them are tons worse than others.  Usually, but not necessarily, watching the videos by guys is better than watching the videos by girls, because the guys will tend to focus more on the actual trail and the scenery, and the experience, while for most of the girls, it's all a "Look at me!" exercise.  But that's only a trend, not an absolute, so caveat emptor.  In spite of the technical difficulties he has in the first video or two, I think I like Backcountry Banter's PCT and CDT hikes series the best.  Homemade Wanderlust does OK, although she does tend to do more "Look at Me While I lecture you about something idiotic," moments than I'd like.  But she does also actually show the trail, the scenery and the experience better than most even so.  And Baskets is pretty good too; his videography is as good as anyone's, and he really focuses on the experience of hiking—although sometimes he obsesses maybe a little more than most about what day it is, exactly how many miles he's walking, his water sources, etc. and while I actually really appreciate that he hooked up with that guy Nope and kind of took care of him, I didn't find Nope a very compelling character to watch in the youtube channel, if that makes sense. Not that that's all he is, which is why what Baskets did in taking him on and staying with him so long is so admirable, and I can really respect that.  I've only watched his CDT video, but he's done an AT one in 2017, and he's doing it again this year.  With a more charismatic hiking companion, although they're kinda coy about exactly the nature of their relationship.  His female "hiking companion" that stays with him all of the time and sleeps in his tent?  Hmmm...

An interesting thing about the National Geographic video is that it's also sloppy in its claims and inferences.  It suggests very strongly, and unless you know better, you'd believe this based on what they claim, that the PCT spends the better part of 500 miles trekking through the Mojave Desert, which is the hottest desert in North America.  Neither of those inferences are really true; the PCT skirts the edge of the desert but doesn't really go through it; it goes through the semi-desert mountains and chaparral of Southern California without going through the actual boundaries of the actual desert.  Plus, the Mojave is normally considered a high desert and is relatively cool compared to, say, the Sonoran or Chihuahuan deserts.  On the other hand, Death Valley is in the Mojave Desert, and it is a singularly super-hot location because of its super-low elevation.

So due to a nit-picky technicality, I think they can get away with making a claim that's factually incorrect in general about the Mojave Desert.  But they're still on the hook for suggesting that the trail plunges right through the desert rather than avoiding it by staying in the higher, wetter country around it.

Disney WANTS to destroy Marvel and Star Wars

At least, if you accept that model, their behavior makes more sense.  Quoting the following article, with comments of my own:
I previously wrote how Brie Larson is a huge gamble for Disney and Kevin Feige - especially following the failure of Star Wars: The Last Jedi - and now the Captain Marvel movie looks to be in big, big trouble, unfortunately. 
Back in January, following the NCAA trailer, it was reported that Captain Marvel was projected to have a massive $160 million opening weekend with some estimates even offering $180 million. 
However, the bad news for Kevin Feige and Captain Marvel is that those projections have now dropped upwards of $80 million, as it is reported the flick may only open around $100 million. 
The latest projections come from Deadline, with the site offering Captain Marvel will now open in line with other Marvel origin films, but won't come anywhere near Black Panther's $202 million. Interestingly enough, further evidence Captain Marvel is not as highly regarded among fans comes from the fact that Black Panther supporters have not supported the Captain Marvel gofundme to get girls to go see the movie.
Wait; what?  Marvel is creating a gofundme to get people to see their movie?  What in the world?

The main reason Brie Larson is a gamble is because she's uncharismatic and joyless.  To be fair, from what everyone is saying about her character in the actual comics lately, that describes her as well.  What nobody seems to understand is that women who act like fake men, who are uncharming, unpleasant to be around, and unfeminine, are not likable.  To anyone.  Girls don't like them.  Men don't like them.  Nobody likes them, and at an instinctual level, we understand that such semi-women are flawed and dysfunctional.  It's probably subconscious, and most people can't articulate why it's true, but most people at a bone-deep level understand, however, that it is.

I'm curious where these projections being tossed around above come from, but it should be obvious to anyone at all anywhere that Black Panther was an extraordinary opening.  It wasn't that great of a movie, but because it spoke to black identity, it got black people to see it in numbers that are unusually high.  Because of the dysfunctional nature of our society, it also got virtue-signaling white people to go see it like crazy, because they wanted to demonstrate how ... whatever, non-racial or something that they were to everyone in their life.  And then, the movie was only mediocre, and was based on tier 2 (at best) level characters—which means that they'll never be able to pull off that kind of thing ever again and have anywhere near the same financial results.

Did they think that they could recreate that same bizarre and unique perfect storm of events again except with feminist identity?  I dunno, but it kinda sounds like they did, yeah.
There is also a huge problem with Brie Larson who has been spinning Captain Marvel as a feminist movie, essentially isolating the audience, and she even recently came out against white males for some reason. I'm actually surprised and disappointed in Kevin Feige that he is allowing Larson to destroy the MCU audience, and that Disney and CEO Bob Iger haven't learned anything from Star Wars. It's never a good thing to split the audience or insult them. Do they not want white males to go see the movie?
No, not really.  I mean, they'll take their money, but one thing that Disney has signaled very loudly and very clearly is that they hate white males.  They hate white culture.  They hate white identity.  They hate, hate, hate, hate hate white people period.

Which is why the Left is always running around accusing the Right of hate, which confuses and demoralizes the Right, because the Right doesn't really hate anyone.  (Yet.)  With the Left, it's always projection.

And arrogance.  And a shocking lack of awareness.

THE WRATH OF THE AWAKENED SAXON
adapted from Rudyard Kipling

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy -- willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.

Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not suddenly bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.

But yeah; they won't and in fact probably can't stop doubling down.  The author of this article seems surprised and shocked and disappointed, but that's because he's slow to realize what's happening.  Those of us (like me) who have already seen the pattern and already know what's happening, (and in fact, at this point, can't unsee it everywhere we look—even when we want to just take a break from it) are not surprised, shocked or disappointed—because we already know what's happening and why.
As I have been tweeting and responding to fans, the storyline surrounding the character is also cause for concern - something Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo have recently responded to - as the character's movie is not even out and already she is said to be this overpowerful character, the new face of the MCU, reason for the formation of the Avengers, new leader of the Avengers, etc. The same arguments apply to any male character as well, as Feige is retconning Captain Marvel as a be all end all character in the MCU, which is coming off as more and more ridiculous, especially as Larson does more and more interviews (with non-white males, because why - white males are bad?? Larson does realize her bosses are white males, right? Guess that didn't come into question when she signed her $5 million deal for Captain Marvel and her 7-picture MCU deal, right? Is Larson buying any young underprivileged girls tickets with that multi-million dollar contract??).
Just what Marvel needs; to create for itself a Superman problem.  One of the big advantages Marvel always had over DC was that it didn't have a Superman.  Yet now, they're trying to create one, except of course, that she has to be a grrl-power Superman.  When she makes every other character superfluous, the convergence of Marvel will be complete, and everyone will have lost interest in it.

In any case, no—Larson's bosses are not white males.  They are Jewish males.  Totally different.  She's probably doing exactly what they want her to.  With some few notable exceptions, Jews in America are probably tied with blacks for being the most unassimilatable population subgroup that lives here.  They simply don't become Americans.  They maintain themselves apart, and are openly hostile to traditional American cultural institutions, and want to hobble them when they can't openly destroy them.

But yeah; Larson herself, as well as the execs at Disney, all belong to the soi-dissant elite caste of "Americans" who's main point of identity is their hatred and contempt of America and any American institution.  They want nothing more than to grind white males beneath their heels.  Which is why pop culture has become an open lecture over and over again of hate propaganda against masculinity, Christianity, Americanism and whiteness.
Disney, Feige and Marvel Studios could be banking on having a zombie audience that will simply go see all their movies no matter what is said or how good they are; however, that scenario has been played out with the aforementioned Disney Star Wars movies and also Marvel Comics. As a result of The Last Jedi, Disney has put the movies on hiatus for what looks to be at least another two years (no movies are coming out after Episode IX that have been announced). Regarding Marvel Comics, the past seven years or so saw them insult fans and force characters onto fans - all shades of what is happening with Captain Marvel - which backfired big time for Disney as executives were fired and sales are dwindling (it's so bad that Disney's consumer products, which includes Star Wars and Marvel Comics, is the only division at the company to have reported a loss). So will the same happen with the MCU? Brie Larson and Captain Marvel are supposed to be the face of the MCU for five more movies following The Avengers: Endgame, what happens when fans turn their backs? The MCU goes on a hiatus?
Yes, probably.  Then again, Star Wars and comic books are the last descendants of various boy's adventure stories that epitomize being a white male.  So naturally this hostile over-caste of people who hate white males don't really want it to succeed.  They want to subvert it, but they aren't really all that bright, so they don't understand (or believe) that subverted Star Wars and subverted comic books will lose all of their appeal to any paying audience.  But their secondary goal to have destroyed something that white males value is worth it to them anyway.

UPDATE: I thought the following comment was pretty funny, by "Chief_Tuscaloosa_welcome_white_man":
Marketing (via Brie Larson) to potential girl audience: "Come see this movie with this girl who's prettier than you and stronger than you and invulnerable to you stabbing her in the back metaphorically via social media in order to have a better chance at getting Chad on the soccer team to like you."
.
Marketing (via Brie Larson) to potential boy audience: "Go screw yourself, white boys, I'm probably into purple crayons so keep your filthy money and see something else."
.
Awaiting box office results of this one-two punch! 

Friday, February 15, 2019

D&D and Tolkien

For many, Dragon #95 has a super-important article by Gary Gygax about Tolkien and his influence on the game.  I think there are some reasons to take some of this article with a grain of salt; after all, at the time, TSR was struggling with legal issues between Saul Zaentz's Tolkien Enterprises.

That said, I think he's probably largely correct when he states that he doesn't really like Tolkien all that much, and mostly only included Tolkienisms because of perceived strong demand from his players.  Let me reiterate a few passages:
By the tender age of twelve, I was an avid fan of the pulps (magazines of those genres), and I ranged afield to assimilate whatever I could find which even vaguely related to these exciting yarns.  
Meanwhile, I was devouring ancient and medieval history, tales of the American frontier, historical novels of all sorts, and the Hornblower stories in the old Saturday Evening Post. Somewhere I came across a story by Robert E. Howard, an early taste of the elixir of fantasy to which I rapidly became addicted. Even now I vividly recall my first perusal of Conan the Conqueror, Howard's only full-length novel. After I finished reading that piece of sword & sorcery literature for the first time, my concepts of adventure were never quite the same again. 
From these literary fruits came the seeds which grew into today's most popular roleplaying games. The concepts bloomed, producing their current forms, when fertilized by my early desire to play games of all sorts, my interest in devising my own, and my active participation in military simulation games. The last employed either miniature figures and models, or boards and counters, or combinations of all those. As a matter of observable fact, both game systems are still growing, ever changing, and I do not expect them to slow let alone wither for many years to come! 
A careful examination of the games will quickly reveal that the major influences are Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, A. Merritt, and H. P. Lovecraft. Only slightly lesser influence came from Roger Zelazny, E. R. Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Philip Jose Farmer, and many others. Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit, I found the Ring Trilogy . . . well, tedious. The action dragged, and it smacked of an allegory of the struggle of the little common working folk of England against the threat of Hitler's Nazi evil. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Professor's dedicated readers, I must say that I was so bored with his tomes that I took nearly three weeks to finish them. 
Considered in the light of fantasy action adventure, Tolkien is not dynamic. Gandalf is quite ineffectual, plying a sword at times and casting spells which are quite lowpowered (in terms of the D&D® game). Obviously, neither he nor his magic had any influence on the games. The Professor drops Tom Bombadil, my personal favorite, like the proverbial hot potato; had he been allowed to enter the action of the books, no fuzzy-footed manling would have been needed to undergo the trials and tribulations of the quest to destroy the Ring. Unfortunately, no character of Bombadil's power can enter the games, either  for the selfsame reasons! The wicked Sauron is poorly developed, virtually depersonalized, and at the end blows away in a cloud of evil smoke . . . poof! Nothing usable there. The mighty ring is nothing more than a standard ring of invisibility, found in the myths and legends of most cultures (albeit with a nasty curse upon it). No influence here, either. . . .
Of course, his reading of Tolkien is extremely facile.  He's much less likely to incur the wrath of Tolkien's fans by being bored by Lord of the Rings than he is to have made the ridiculous claim that it's allegorical of World War II (especially odd considering that it was at least half written before the war.)  I've rarely ever found anyone who thought Tom Bombadil was the most interesting character and wish he'd... what, gone and fought Sauron in a duel?

Well, whatever.  Nobody has to like the Lord of the Rings, even if one's reasons for not doing so are banal and based more on an obvious misunderstanding than anything else.  But rather than talk about whether he should have included more Tolkienisms, I think the more interesting question is in this small selected quote:
The seeming parallels and inspirations are actually the results of a studied effort to capitalize on the then-current craze for Tolkien's literature. Frankly, to attract those readers  and often at the urging of persons who were playing prototypical forms of D&D games  I used certain names and attributes in a superficial manner, merely to get their attention! I knew full well that the facade would be dispelled by the actualities of play. I relied on the power of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game to overcome the objections which would naturally occur when diehard Tolkien enthusiasts discovered the dissimilarity. This proved to be the case far more often than not. Tolkien fans entered the D&D game fold, and became a part of its eager audience, despite the fact that only a minute trace of the Professor's work can be found in the games. As anyone familiar with both D&D games and Tolkien works can affirm, there is no resemblance between the two, and it is well nigh impossible to recreate any Tolkien-based fantasy while remaining within the boundaries of the game system.
See, that right there was always my primary disconnect with D&D.  Maybe almost everyone else did get over the bait and switch, but I didn't.  I found D&D more and more strange precisely because it became obvious that I couldn't recreate anything that resembled what I loved about fantasy literature while remaining within the boundaries of the game system.

And not just Tolkien, although obviously that was my favorite.  Quite honestly, in spite of the fact that Gygax claims inspiration (and it can be found here and there) in authors like Howard, Leiber, Lovecraft, Merritt, Burroughs, etc. the reality is that the game doesn't really resemble anything that any of them wrote either.  And I cordially (or maybe it's not as cordial as it should be) dislike the nebbish, anti-pulp crap of guys like Moorcock, de Camp, Farmer, and Zelazny, etc. that Gygax cites as as important as guys that I do like much better.

But let's face it; when my junior high colleagues were spending their time during class doodling dungeons on graph paper, I was doodling Christopher Tolkien style overland maps instead.  The degree to which I couldn't replicate something that felt more like the Prydain books or the Tolkien books, or some of the other high fantasy that I was mostly reading at the time was a major turn-off to me.


Today, I read much less high fantasy, but it's not really fair to say that I like sword & sorcery better than high fantasy, or that dungeoncrawling bears any more resemblance to sword & sorcery than it does to high fantasy anyway.  To be perfectly honest, I'd have had the exact same complaint about D&D if I had focused more on the Burroughs and Howard rather than Tolkien as my main inspiration back in junior high.

I'm not actually quite sure what to call the kind of fantasy I prefer now, honestly.  Certainly I'm a  big fan of stuff that borrows liberally from both high fantasy and sword & sorcery in many ways; much more of the themes and characterizations of the latter but with literary structure that more closely resembles the former.  And clearly I'm a huge fan of some genre splicing, particularly with regards to horror conventions, which create a weird hybrid of swashbuckling action and dark fantasy horror.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Music Is My Life

As my last post shows, the 80s were a great time from a pop culture perspective, all things considered.  Musically especially, and not only do I love 80s New Wave even today, but for many decades, most of the music I listened to was literally and only marginally evolved from 80s New Wave to begin with.

That said, the last five years or so has been my big exploration of a totally different musical scene; the rave scene of hard trance, hardstyle, progressive trance, some hard house here and there, and the various permutation of acid into techno, trance, and other styles that flourished from the late 90s to the mid 00s in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, northern Italy, etc.  The scene is still going with new stuff even today, but most of the real classics come from that window.

Anyway, here's two versions of one of my favorites from this era, DJ Dean's "Music Is My Life."  While there are actually several really good versions of it, the best one, I think, is the Dave Joy Remix.  Dave Joy is actually Michael Hunziker, a Swiss DJ who had a few hits of his own, a few hits under a collaborative name with a few friends (Basic Dawn and Schattenmann) and who did a few great remixes here and there too.  The other version is by A*S*Y*S and is called the A*S*Y*S Acid Is My Life Remix, which shouldn't be too surprising, but it actually has a lot less of the iconic acid sound than you'd expect, and is instead a real percussion pounder with complicated, head-crushing breakbeats.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

For some reason, I've had that song "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something stuck in my head this morning.  I think I heard it somewhere a few days ago and now I can't get rid of it.  It's a curious song; as far as a one-hit wonder jangle pop song goes, I suppose it's not bad, but I can never stop thinking about the fact that actually Breakfast at Tiffany's is a phenomenally terrible movie, and one of the few things about it that is a positive note is Andy Rooney's hilarious portrayal of neighbor Mr. Yunioshi—which naturally people now complain about as "problematic" although nobody (including Asians) ever thought so for at least thirty years after the movie was made.

No, mostly the problem with the movie is that it romanticizes the exploits of a a bunch of dysfunctional, psychologically broken people that are unrelatable and unlikable.  It really makes me wonder what kind of person would write the novella on which it was based, and who would have thought that it was a good idea to film.  I also wonder about it's "classic-ness"—in the days before the internet and the ability to personalize our experience and taste, it seems very likely to me that it's considered a classic because the broken, dysfunctional Hollywood and media types who eat this kind of crap up tell us that it is.  Other than the guy in the song by Deep Blue Something, I don't actually know anyone who likes the movie.  And curiously, he actually wanted to use the movie Roman Holiday, which is a much more likable movie, but he thought the title was too plain.  It's a rather sad commentary on how early the rot and decline of America had already set in that such a movie was made and was a major headliner title with major stars even as far back as 1961.

On the other hand—the famous theme song of the movie, by Henry Mancini, which is of course "Moon River" is an astounding track, and I even think Audrey Hepburn's inartful, unpolished, vulnerable performance is a big part of why it succeeds.



Of course by 1961 we know that American culture was about to take a nose-dive into the nihilistic and hateful counter-culture that poisoned the better part of a decade and a half of fashion, music, movies and more until there was a revival of sorts in the 1980s, right in time for my own adolescence.  But what we didn't understand at the time, or even until many years later, was that the 80s was merely an echo, a last gasp of a Western civilization trying to assert itself before being overwhelmed by anti-Western Civilization which followed and throttled it in the years since.  I don't even say Americanism necessarily; one aspect of the 80s (especially with regards to pop music) was that it was Anglic rather than specifically American.  And it's no accident that both America and the UK were presided over by last gasp champions of Western civilization, at least in some respects, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

But their efforts were doomed to failure, not because of defeat from without, but because of betrayal from within.  The "Right" as encapsulated by George Bush and the neo-conservatives was never part of the Right at all; they were always Trotskyite anti-nationalists who wanted to destroy America and Great Britain so that they could rule over the deracinated globalist empire that they tried to forge using American blood and money.  Sigh.  That said, the 80s did leave us with a few gems of pop culture nonetheless, and although American culture was healthier in the 50s and early 60s than it was in the 80s, in most respects, I still prefer the 80s because it's my generation.  And even the American music that I like from the 80s tries to sound British half of the time, but my favorite music is usually made by actual Brits.  For instance; another movie track is "If You Leave" by OMD.  Curiously, when the original ending for Pretty In Pink tested badly (any normal person could have told Hughes that it would, but of course, who in Hollywood has ever understood the psychology of normal people?) he asked OMD to whip up another song to match the re-recorded ending, and with less than 24 hours to do it, they came up with their biggest hit by far, and still to this day one of my favorite songs of the entire 80s milieu.

From a movie that isn't nearly as terrible was Breakfast at Tiffany's, of course, but which is also not really all that great either.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Rise of the Runelords and DH5

I like poking around in the online catalogs of public libraries near me, and using interlibrary loan to get stuff that's often out of scope for my own public library.  When I was younger, I was a HUGE proponent (and user) of the public library; my experience is somewhat soured lately both because like every other facet of the government it's turned into a profound well of anti-American virtue-signaling, and like every other public commons, it's been over-run and taken over by Fake Americans who make the place unappealing as a destination.  Who would have thought?  When I was 13-15 or so and couldn't drive yet, I would literally ride my bike more than half an hour one way deep into downtown Bryan (OK, Bryan wasn't a super big town, so downtown was modest) almost weekly during the height of the hot, humid Texas summers to spend a few hours browsing the shelves of the library, coming home with a backpack full of material to keep me busy that week.

Now that I obviously can drive but don't even need to because I live within a 15 minute walk of the public library, I rarely pop in except to pick up something that I've put on hold remotely.  Sad how that's changed.

But regardless, I found that the Anniversary Edition combined, compiled, and updated Rise of the Runelords campaign was available via interlibrary loan, and I went and requested it.  I just finished this morning the last few pages (to be honest, I skimmed the last sections which were new rules and new magic items, because I don't care that much about mechanics, and I don't play the Pathfinder system anyway.)

But it was interesting to read, and other than those specific last appendices (and some monster and character statblocks, although I did skim them to make sure I had the gist of them, at least), I actually read the whole thing.  I actually played almost half of it once long ago when it was still a 3.5 product, so it's not like I didn't know what to expect.  I was disappointed yet not surprised to see it swamped with D&Disms; references to not traveling because of the expectation of various teleportation spells or whatever, everything is a dungeon, everywhere is built on top of a dungeon, etc.  There are actually quite a few interesting and compelling ideas in there, but they are often breezed over and then loving detail is given to describing room after room after room with idiotic traps that make no verisimilitudinistic sense whatsoever, etc.  But although I was disappointed to see that, it's hardly like I was surprised.  What I hoped to find was that there was value to be had in the thing anyway, even if it had to be carefully extracted like a miner working a difficult to reach vein of precious metal buried in a difficult matrix of gangue.  How's that for a tortuous metaphor?

One thing that immediately leapt to mind, although it's a very big picture idea, and unrelated very much to the specific details, is that Varisia, the region in which this takes place, is very much what I need from my Hill Country DH5 development, and one or two of the details strikes me as superbly usable in my own milieu.  By this I mean specifically that the region is a frontier or backcountry region, but is subject to the influence of two large, rival city-states.  There are a number of other towns and settlements, but many of them—probably most of them—have some sort of loose vassalage or client relationship with one of the two city-states.  This doesn't mean that they aren't small and isolated and largely either independent in their day to day operations, or at least autonomous, but it does also mean that there's reason for them to exist, trade relationships, occasional feudal/vassal obligations to be fulfilled, etc. that makes for some interesting and believable reasons for them to exist and for people to travel from one to the other, especially people like the PCs who aren't likely to be rooted artisans, farmers or laborers or whatever.  And the fact that there are two rival city-states out there means that there is also reason for politics, skulduggery, intrigue, and more.  Even in the hinterlands, where agents of Magnimar and Korvasa might vie for influence with a settlement looking for protection from one or the other against hazards of the wilderness in exchange for exclusive access to mineral or lumber rights, or control of a strategic pass or ford or trade route, or whatever the case may be.

Anyway, I'm certainly not going to go and do a whole Rise of the Runelords Deconstructed, or anything like that.  In fact, I'm not going to do any of those types of posts anymore, I don't think.  That experiment was kind of played out already, and I can't imagine that I'd enjoy doing it again very much.  But reading these at high level and seeing if anything looks so compelling that I need to strip mine it out of the modules might be workable.  I'll probably read the Curse of the Crimson Throne too, which is the next Adventure Path after Rise of the Runelords, and which is set in Korvasa, the rival of Magnimar, which plays a significant role in this one.  I'll get to see both sides of the city-state rivalry, as played out in the adventure paths.  Not that either actually focuses on anything other than internal affairs, but still.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Bell Beakers role in forming modern Europe


I really wish this chart had marked Unetice.  It's curious that the Bell Beaker seems to be extremely close to Corded Ware, but pulling more towards the EEF-like genetics, but rather not as similar to Yamnaya as you'd have expected given the popular theory that it represents the superimposition of R1b Yamnayas over (among others) an earlier spread of R1a Corded Ware.  Looks like that is unlikely after all.

Anyway, the "Beaker Folk" and their role in turning Neolithic Europe into a Bronze Age Europe that resembles much more closely modern Europe is still unclear.  Where did they come from?  Who exactly where they?  What language(s) did they speak?  What was their interaction with the various material cultures with which they seemed to coincide in time?  And where did they go?  Are they the immediate ancestors (for example) of Unetice and additional later cultures, like Urnfield or Villanova?

For example, finding out that only about 10% of the Neolithic Stonehenge builders of England were successful in passing their genetic legacy to later British populations, who are overwhelming sourced to the Dutch Beakers doesn't necessarily mean much if you can't identify who they were.  They are too early to be Celtic, too late to be EEF, and the Beaker origin is hazy anyway (Dutch Beakers, both archaeologically and genetically seem to be most closely related to the Corded Ware subgroup called Single Grave Culture.)