22 March 2013

Why I Don't Go to the Movies Any More

I'd like to see The Hobbit. I'd love to see Django Unchained. But I won't, for a good while yet. Not until they're out on DVD (and even then I'm likely to wait until I can get them for a more reasonable price).

The truth is, I haven't been to a movie theatre in several years. Why? Well, it's a whole... confluence of reasons, really.

There's the people. Yeah, the chatting, munching, laughing, shuffling people... I think the ideal, if not only, way to watch a movie is utterly alone. I can't abide distractions of any kind while watching a movie. (The one exception might be immediate family members, 'cause I'm used to watching movies and TV with them.) I'm not sure if I've come to hate crowds and noise more as I grow older, or if I've actually always been this way. But, Hell is, indeed, other people...

Then there's the 3D. I have never seen a 3D movie, so I guess I shouldn't really judge, but... On the one hand, the whole thing sounds like a pointless gimmick that doesn't add anything to the story. On the other hand... well, I'm just kinda scared of even trying to watch 3D. I mean, I wear glasses, I already tend to get headaches relatively easily, etc. The whole thing just sounds very inconvenient. So at this stage not watching 3D has almost become a matter of principle.

But the most obvious, and possibly most important, reason is, of course, the cost. A ticket at the local theatres currently costs €10.80 on weekday evenings, €13.50 on Saturdays. Plus an additional €2 for 3D movies. Considering that for the same money I can buy a CD or a DVD, or several older ones, which I can enjoy in the privacy of my own home, whenever I please, there is simply no contest.

So, unless the movie theatre industry suddenly goes through a miraculous transformation into a much more pleasant and economical environment, I can't see myself setting foot in a theatre for a long, long time to come...

21 March 2013

A Brief Exploration of the Beauty of RPG Books, or, The Drool Factor

I like RPG rulebooks. This is no secret. I've talked about it before. I like owning them. I like reading them. (Except, apparently, when it really counts, i.e. just before I'm set to run a game. Then it just feels like a chore...) Even though it's obviously the content that really counts (and, in the end, actually playing the games, not even that, but the company you play with), I must admit I have a soft spot for pretty, colourful, high quality printing... So here's a little procrastinatory post about a few rulebooks, past, present and future.

Recently, I backed a Kickstarter for an experimental game called Alas Vegas. This is actually a ready adventure or mini-campaign rather than an open-ended game system. Not something I usually invest in, but it sounded pretty interesting. Plus due to the success of the Kickstarter, the book is getting lots of extras, including additional adventures for use with the rules. The main reason I decided to buy it, though, was the persistent nagging of John Kovalic (author of Dork Tower) on Twitter... I'm only getting a paperback version, though. 'Cause, you know, money not growing on trees and all that.

Another book much on my radar currently is Monte Cook's new science fantasy game Numenera. I missed out on this when it had its own Kickstarter last year, and only discovered it recently when people were talking about the new computer game based on the setting, currently in its own Kickstarter campaign (Torment: Tides of Numenera, supposedly a 'spiritual successor' of Planescape: Torment, a classic I never played myself). Anyway, the concept of the game sounds pretty cool, as does the book. A phrase like '416-page, hardcover rulebook and setting guide filled with beautiful full-color art' is just music to my ears... The game is currently available for pre-order. And... as expected for a book this size, it ain't cheap. Currently pretty much a no-go for me, I'd say. Hm, maybe a b-day request?

As for what's going on right now, I've been running a game recently using the Buffy/Angel rules by Eden Studios. I ran a campaign with this system a few years back as well, and I've always liked it. The system is (mostly) fairly simple, yet (in my mind) robust enough. The rulebooks are pretty high quality (full colour hardbacks mostly), the writing fun and tongue-in-cheek (as befits the topic of course). They're some of my very favourite books in my RPG collection, in fact, right up there with my Pathfinder books. Of course you have to be a fan of the shows to really appreciate them (which I am)... (EDIT: I meant to clarify that neither of the games I've run with the system have been directly based on Buffy. The system is flexible enough to accommodate other modern day supernatural stories.)

Looking back further, one of the first RPG's I remember fondly, as an object as much as a game, is probably the Star Wars RPG by West End Games (2nd edition, revised). This was a shiny full colour hardback volume at a time when most of my RPG books were flimsy booklets in cardboard boxes. (With the exception of the 2nd edition AD&D books, which, while not bad, aren't quite as pretty and colourful as the SWRPG.) Looking at it now, the edges of the pages are rather yellowed, the paper slightly crinkled, but it's still a cool book.

In summation, so many cool games, so little money, so little time to play...

1 March 2013

A Quick Comic Book Update: Saga, Vol. 1

One of the shameful things in my existence is the minuscule size of my... um, comic book collection. A fact which I again came to notice while recuperating from my recent appendectomy, during which time I devoured most of the comics within hand's reach. I'm lucky to acquire one or two new trade paperbacks a year. If any. And there's so much cool stuff out there I'd like to read, old and new. But... with all the games, music, movies etc. that I also need to get my hands on...

Anyway, earlier this winter the (quite brilliant) webcomic Weregeek happened to mention a new comic book series called Saga. It sounded cool. So, on a whim, I decided to order the first volume to check it out for myself. I've had a chance to read it twice now, and yeah, it is pretty cool.

The book's written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples. It is not the easiest comic to describe. It mixes up fantasy and space opera. There's plenty of humour. There's also plenty of sex, violence and bad language. There are some crazy, imaginative creatures and ideas. And I mean crazy. Like 'robots' with humanoid bodies and TV heads. It's been described as 'Star Wars meets A Game of Thrones', although I'm not sure that quite does it justice. Anyway, the story involves two lovers, and their newborn baby, from races divided by a long war, escaping assassins sent after them by both sides. There's a strong message of pacifism intertwined with the action.

The art's pretty good, too. If I must whinge about something, it's that the computerized lettering doesn't look particularly inspiring. Most annoyingly, it uses lower case style, which to me just looks plain wrong. I'm used to comics being lettered in all caps.

The big problem at this point, though, is that the second TPB volume won't be out for a while yet... Dammit.

Digging Roots: A Semi-Random Tom Petty Post

Around the time I was in my late teens, I was really into Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. For many years there, if you'd asked me what my favourite band was, the answer would have been pretty obvious. And I still love them, of course, even if my listening habits over the years have naturally changed. When I'm idly strumming guitar at home, if I happen to play a cover song, it's still most likely to be a Tom Petty number.

During those early years I bought most of their studio albums (and Tom's solo albums, of course). However, for a long time, a couple CD's were missing from my collection. I'd copied CD's from the library, of course, but that's never quite the same. So recently, out of the blue, I got the inspiration to finally buy these couple missing albums, the last one of which arrived just this week.

(Actually, I'm still missing Mojo, their most recent release. But that can wait. I haven't actually heard it much, and first time... I wasn't really quite as impressed as with most of their work, to be honest.)

I also took this opportunity to re-rip my entire Tom Petty collection in lossless (flac) form. These days I mostly favour lossless when I rip new purchases, but updating my old collections (largely still as 128 kbps MP3's, since back in the day disk space was a real issue) has been slow progress at best. To be perfectly honest, I'm often not sure my ears can really tell the difference... (But that's no excuse to use less than perfect copies, of course.)

(Yeah, I said 'my entire Tom Petty collection' there, but actually I hit a snag along the way. It seems my CD drive and/or ripper software really does not like a few of the more recent CD's. These are all albums released by Warner, or its subsidiaries. I did a little googling, and it seems other people have had problems ripping Warner releases as well...)

So now? I'll listen to all these Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers albums, from first to last, of course!