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January 28, 2004

Slightly Less Minor Domestic Chaos

Remember this?

Well, it turns out the reason the mortar is so crumbly isn't just the freeze/thaw cycle of New England. No, the real reason is that the unlined chimney is not up to the acidity of the smoke from my quite new oil burner, which means the smoke is eating away my chimney from the inside even as I type.

This also means I need to get a liner added to my chimney STAT. Which will take about 2 weeks to schedule and achieve, and a fair bit of cash to make happen.

All of which means there's a bit more strain on my (somewhat fat, thankfully... I'm a conservative budget-maker) re-roofing budget a few months before I really wanted to start the project.

Of course, this sort of thing is never fun.

(Also, you really don't want to see the pictures of the yuck that had built up in my chimney... 3 feet of bat-bones, bird crap, crumbled mortar, etc. was vacuumed out and carted off today. Yuck!)

Posted by ghoul at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Advancing The Plan

Today, I have posted the first, rather vague announcement message of my soon-to-start new fantasy RPG at Dreamlyrics.

This will be a re-start for a handful of people, and a new game for most. It is set in my own bronze-age fantasy setting, where two mutually misunderstood cultures are pressing against one another just as each experiences significant internal strains. In fact, this will run as two games, one from each culture, and mostly as single-player sub-games (allowing each player to, in effect, collaborate with me in fleshing out parts of the setting).

I will likely be opening the games to some e-mail players as well. More information will be coming as I complete the basic cultural information documents (about 2-3 weeks for one, 2-3 months for the other).

The game will be played using my own original cultural, occupational, and religious keywords with the HeroQuest system, chosen for its extreme narrative flexibility and strong support for player-unique abilities and magic. For those not wanting to purchase a new game but still wanting to participate, I will explain the essentials. Of course, many game rules vanish when you move to PBEM anyway.

Posted by ghoul at 11:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Minor Domestic Chaos

While watching those DVDs last night, I noticed the wind really kicking up outside. But it's winter in New England, wind is hardly unusual.

Then there was a loud thump, a clattering, some more thumps. My cats bolted from the room, just as there was a crash outside my window.

I paused the movie, put on my coat and went outside, to find the cap from my chimney and several bricks lying in my driveway (and, in the case of the cap, against my neighbor's wall), a dozen feet or so in front of my car. I'd known the mortar on the brick chimney was about done in, but I was hoping it would last until the spring, when I'm also replacing my roof. No such luck.

I've already made an appointment, so a week from now it'll all be cared for. And, as a bonus, I'll know how much the full chimney repair will cost this spring.

Posted by ghoul at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And None To Go

I sat down and watched the last two DVDs I already owned for the top 100 films list...

Once Upon A Time In the West represents a move in Leone's westerns from the more comic elements of the Man With No Name trilogy (which I love) to more gritty melodrama. And to actually filming in the American West. The familiar deliberate (some would say slow or even glacial) Leone pacing is on display, the cinematography is amazing, and the story... Well, what we have is good, but it's told in a rather disjointed style, making it seem more complex and confusing than it actually is. Still, the characters are striking and bold, the acting perfectly matched to the Leone style (which means the actors often stand in place as another part of the carefully framed set), and the tough guys are classic. The Ennio Morricone music (essentially one theme repeated over and over again) doesn't quite work for me, particularly the numerous times when it is halted mid-theme to comment on the on-screen action; this seems too comic a technique for the film. Still, that's just a minor flaw. Well worth the 2 and a half hours!

Amelie is another recent film, sitting a bit higher on this list than it probably deserves, but still well deserving of a viewing. Here, we have a charmingly off-beat story of a strange French girl, not quite part of the world she lives in, trying to decide if she's willing to engage with others or remain aloof, manipulating events but not letting herself join them. Much of the film is told to us by a narrator, who gets to explain each character as we meet them and to comment on everything we see, often playing up minor-seeming events to monumental importance... And, within the world of this film, he's always right. The characters are alternately charming or disturbing (depending on what role they play in the tale), and the central two are oddly likable despite their quirkiness. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, more known for seriously offbeat work like Delicatessen or City of Lost Children here tones down the weirdness just enough to keep this film tangential to the real world, resulting in a seriously fun romantic comedy. Maybe not in the top 25 movies of all time, but certainly well worth seeing.

Posted by ghoul at 08:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Two Down

Found time over the weekend (once gaming was done) to watch another DVD.

Touch of Evil was Orson Wells's last Hollywood film, and it features all the innovations that mark his work but are so tricky to even notice today. Wells invented and/or celebrated many of the uses of the film camera that are now commonplace, including long tracking shots (the opening is nearly 4 minutes of uninterrupted tension, as we wait for a bomb we saw planted to explode), unusual follows (that same opening follows the car with the bomb through busy streets and a customs station; later shots follow actors from the street through the lobby and into an elevator), and sharp use of shadow (it's a black and white film that revels in black).

Today, this film is more remembered for Charlton Heston's unlikely casting as a Mexican policeman, Wells's fat suit (which proved prophetic of his later appearance), and some cheesy, dated drug references. But, particularly to the directors who would anchor the New Wave in France, this film was a call to arms. And, as a big fan of directors like Wong Kar Wai and John Woo who started with the New Wave to develop their own style, I can't help but like this glimpse of how it all started.

(I watched the DVD version of the approximate "director's cut", a re-edit of the film based on an extensive memo by Wells after he viewed the studio edit, which he felt dramatically undercut the style and point of his film. He was probably right, as few people at the time understood or could approximate the powerful originality of Mr. Wells.)

Posted by ghoul at 01:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

One Down...

Well, last night in an attempt to withstand the cold, I wrapped up with some hot popcorn and cider and watched one of the movies on this list that I hadn't seen yet.

Donnie Darko is at #92 on the list, and likely will drop off in time. The list (which is from the IMDb) is significantly time-sensitive, favoring more striking recent movies dramatically. This film really isn't "top 100" material, and is taking a spot other, superior, films will eventually assume.

Which is not to say that Donnie Darko isn't a very good movie, because it is. It nicely twists the audience between wondering if it is a psychological thriller or a science fiction movie, if Donnie is crazy or if he's actually experiencing something otherworldly, and the performances are quite solid (though I agree with several reviews, the fact that Drew Barrymore was, at the time of release, the films most bankable performer resulted in her scenes being under-edited, especially given how tight most of the rest of the film is). In a clever (if a bit artificial) bit of information-era cross-pollution, some of the critical questions of the film are only answered by exploring the movie web site (the DVD contains the crucial screenshots as a supplement); this doesn't really make the film better, but it does create an artificial "mystery cult" surrounding the film, which may well explain why it makes the IMDb list. I would recommend seeing the film before hitting the website, however, as knowing the answer (if you work it out, and it isn't all that hard) spoils some of the film's misdirections.

All-in-all, a good way to spend a cold New England evening.

Posted by ghoul at 08:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

New Blogroll Links

R. Sean Borgstrom's Hitherby Dragons, which showcases regular samples of the creatively offbeat fiction also found in the RPG Nobilis, is well worth giving some time. Some of the pieces are quite astonishingly good.

Also recently added is Amadan's A Gathering of Fools. I met Amadan via the Compuserve RPGames forum back in the day, and he remains as opinionated and thoughtful as ever. We don't always agree (though we often do), but it's great to see him create a forum for himself. I just wish he pinged updates...

Alton Brown has promised to update his Rants and Raves page more often, and since leaping into the Mad Cow issue he's certainly kept his word.

Check 'em out when you have a moment.

Addendum: The Creative Guy has moved to Cabbages and Kings, which is now reflected in the Blogroll as well.

Posted by ghoul at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Movie Meme

100 movies... bold the ones you've seen.

1. Godfather, The (1972)
2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)
5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
6. Casablanca (1942)
7. Schindler's List (1993)
8. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
10. Citizen Kane (1941)
11. Star Wars (1977)

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
14. Rear Window (1954)
15. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
17. Memento (2000)
18. Usual Suspects, The (1995)
19. Pulp Fiction (1994)
20. North by Northwest (1959)

21. Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain, Le (2001)
22. Psycho (1960)
23. 12 Angry Men (1957)
24. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
25. Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
26. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)

27. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
28. Goodfellas (1990)
29. American Beauty (1999)

30. Vertigo (1958)
31. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
32. Pianist, The (2002)
33. Matrix, The (1999)
34. Apocalypse Now (1979)
35. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
36. Some Like It Hot (1959)
37. Taxi Driver (1976)
38. Paths of Glory (1957)
39. Third Man, The (1949)

40. C'era una volta il West (1968)
41. Fight Club (1999)
42. Boot, Das (1981)
43. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) (Spirited Away)
44. Double Indemnity (1944)
45. L.A. Confidential (1997)
46. Chinatown (1974)

47. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
48. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
49. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)

50. M (1931)
51. All About Eve (1950)
52. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
53. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
54. Se7en (1995)
55. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

56. Cidade de Deus (2002)
57. Raging Bull (1980)
58. Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
59. Rashemon (1950)

60. Sting, The (1973)
61. American History X (1998)
62. Alien (1979)
63. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
64. Leon (The Professional) (1994)
65. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

66. Vita bella, La (1997) (Life Is Beautiful)
67. Touch of Evil (1958)
68. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
69. Wo hu cang long (2000) (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
70. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
71. Great Escape, The (1963)
72. Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
73. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

74. Annie Hall (1977)
75. Amadeus (1984)
76. Jaws (1975)
77. Ran (1985)

78. On the Waterfront (1954)
79. Modern Times (1936)
80. High Noon (1952)
81. Braveheart (1995)
82. Apartment, The (1960)
83. Sixth Sense, The (1999)
84. Fargo (1996)
85. Aliens (1986)
86. Shining, The (1980)
87. Blade Runner (1982)

88. Strangers on a Train (1951)
89. Duck Soup (1933)
90. Metropolis (1927)
91. Finding Nemo (2003)

92. Donnie Darko (2001)
93. Toy Story 2 (1999)
94. Princess Bride, The (1987)

95. General, The (1927)
96. City Lights (1931)
97. Lola rennt (1998) (Run Lola Run)
98. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
99. Notorious (1946)

100. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)

Now, some of these I've seen partially and a few (#21, #40, #67, and #92) I have on DVD but haven't actually watched yet (I've seen bits of all 4 and for two I purchased them based on that and their generally great reviews... the other two were gifts). In fact, given that I own most of the ones I list as seen on Laserdisc or DVD, I may well own as many or more than I've seen!

There are some significant "classics" I have to admit to not seeing (I'm being strict... I've seen all of, say, #2 in bits, but never all in one sitting). And some of the films here are high on my "I want to see that one, I just haven't" list (#14, #50, #52, #57, #78, #80, for examples). But I don't find time to watch the films I have, so I'm not chasing these too quickly.

(Taken from Scott)

Posted by ghoul at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

My Mac History

I was a fairly late arrival at the Mac world relative to some, inspired in that direction when I realized my main computer use was for online (play by email or CompuServe based) RPGs and was shown just how cleanly Macs did lots of the things that called for (which included falling in love with QUED/M as the perfect text editor to replace nice but less-than-perfect XYWrite). And I really disliked Windows. So when my IBM PS/2 (yeah, I owned one of those) gave out, I made the jump.

LC (the first one sold in the Cincinnati area)
PowerMac 7500/100 (currently in a classroom in Brooklyn)
G4/400 Tower (still sitting upstairs, used as a file server and backup-holder)
17" Powerbook (current primary computer)

(picked up as a 20th anniversary meme from Population One)

Posted by ghoul at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AC2004 Game

Okay, it isn't much, but since I haven't managed to work out the bugs in my more original Amber one-shot idea (the big problem being compressing it into a managable timeframe and/or making it worth a long slot), I'm going to be bringing Tall Tales of Pattern and Shadow back from ACN2003. That's my Amber elders game run using The Adventures of Baron Munchausen rather than ADRP.

I'm currently looking at Friday afternoon or morning as the slots (that's 3 or 2), in case others are interested.

Posted by ghoul at 07:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Ahh! Turny-button things!

Which Eddie Izzard line are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

And it's pretty much right, too.

(Thanks, Julia)

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January 05, 2004

It's All Sticky!

Another in a series of Eddie Izzard quotes inappropriately applied to current events.

The quote above (actually about the moon landing) is used only because his Mars material (from Sexxie) isn't available recorded yet.

Posted by ghoul at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack