Friday, May 28, 2010

The long overdue RPG post

I hinted at it in the Dio post, then got sidetracked again by Avenue Q, but now it is time. In all honesty, I am not an RPG guy. In the East Cobb suburbs where I grew up, I didn't know or know of anyone into pen and paper RPGs. By middle school, someone did turn me on to the Forgotten Realms through some licensed novels (the works of R.A. Salvatore, naturally), but I still couldn't have named one person playing the game behind the setting. Despite that, I became what I call a lore whore.

I've never experienced a campaign and wouldn't know anything about the mechanics of various systems, but I can recite 'historical' facts from certain settings all day. Something about constructed worlds has always fascinated me, whether speaking of an RPG setting or background for a series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. No matter how dry the presentation, I never get tired of reading even the most minor of minutiae defining a new setting and its history/culture. It ties into my love of history, I imagine; I reap great enjoyment from reading up on real civilizations far removed from my own. I took four years of Latin not for the language itself, but for all the Roman cultural and historical lessons mixed in.

I've finally reached a point where I'd really like to try my hand at the underlying games, but everyone I know is either completely uninterested or an old hand. I guess I feel like I'd be a burden on my few experienced friends by trying to get involved with their games. Maybe I'll find a group that can tolerate my newbie ass. Someday.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It sucks to be me

You know what doesn't suck? Avenue Q. I've owned the CD of the original cast recording for years, but I've never seen the actual show before. I remedied that yesterday while the current tour was in town at the Cobb Energy Centre. Nice venue, by the way. I especially appreciated the vents under each seat, because it got hot in there once the room filled up.

For those unfamiliar with Avenue Q, imagine an R-rated Sesame Street. Same mix of human and puppet characters, but they're all adults dealing with adult issues. Oh, and there's a bit of puppet sex in there as well. The cast for the current tour is amazing, but I thought Jacqueline Grabois (Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut), Lisa Helmi Johanson (Christmas Eve), and Nigel Jamaal Clark (Gary Coleman) stood out. Ms. Johanson especially, since I really have to respect anyone playing the role of Christmas Eve. Maintaining the deliberately terrible engrish for 2+ hours can't be easy.

I'm generally not a fan of musicals, but Avenue Q hits all the right notes. It skillfully parodies a fixture of my youth, doesn't take itself seriously, and the songs are catchy as hell. After seeing the show and revisiting the original cast recording this morning, I'd have to say my current favorite songs are "There's a Fine, Fine Line", "Schadenfreude", and "For Now". I can't say any of the songs are bad though, and my favorites change nearly every time I listen to the entire set.

Avenue Q video response to this Muppet video.

Sidenote: I am never going to this sort of show solo again. I figured it would be like going to a movie; most people in groups, but a fair number of people on their own. Not so. I have never felt so conspicuously alone in my life. I didn't have much of a choice this time, since I didn't realize Avenue Q would be in town until the last minute. I simply lacked time to coordinate with my friends. I'll know better than to allow that to happen next time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The man, the myth, the metal

The next post was originally going to be about pen and paper RPGs, but fate saw fit to intervene. Ronnie James Dio was falsely reported dead yesterday, but, unfortunately, it happened for real this morning. I am actually tearing up a bit as I type this entry, because no man has shaped my taste in music as much as Dio. I got into metal fairly late (college), but the works of Dio hooked me on the genre more than anything else my roommates exposed me to. I own nearly every album by him and other bands he's been a part of during his illustrious career. I listen to those albums more than anything else in my collection.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see him in concert a few years ago. I was blown away; not just because I was finally experiencing music that had meant so much to me live, but because of the man's energy. Even in his 60s, Dio could put on a performance that puts frontmen a fraction his age to shame. Shame, I say. I can only think of one other concert out of the many I've been to that comes close to that Dio show.

I won't try to pretend Dio's music is deep and meaningful. He had the odd moment of brilliance, but much of his work has more in common with the cheese that is power metal. And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes a person just wants to rock out and have fun, and Dio is my go-to artist when that's what I'm looking for in my metal. The man had an amazing voice, crafted music that pleased my ears with a consistency matched by no one, and only influenced nearly every prominent metal band to come after him. Dio has rocked for a long, long time; now that's all that really needs to be said on the subject.

The afterlife just became a much more metal place.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crippling variety

Since entering the 'real world' six years ago, I've been lucky enough to be capable of buying most video games I have the slightest interest in playing. Yet I still reactivated my GameFly account recently. It took too damn long, but I finally realized I keep going through the same cycle over and over again. The game collection expands, I reach a point where I have so many games I can never settle on one when I'm in a gaming kind of mood, and then I trade most of the game pile in at GameStop or Amazon for credit. Credit that ultimately ends up rebuilding the pile. Lather, rinse, repeat. I rarely finish what I start, and it has been foolish of me to spend so much on that which will never be completed. Two weeks ago, God of War III became what is probably the first game I've finished in two years. Two years!

Age and my ever-changing gaming habits fuel the cycle to a large degree, I must admit. I simply don't have as much time for video games as I used to, and I have even less patience for certain unpleasant aspects common to the genres I once loved. Minor annoyances have transformed into game breakers, yet I never learn to keep any of this knowledge in mind when I read the reviews for the next hotly anticipated title. And when I have so many other games I could be playing instead, all the less reason to hack away at any walls I run into.

New personal rule: I will endeavor to avoid buying sequels or other games by established developers. Nothing against either, but if I'm going to lay down cash for something I'll probably never finish, better to support the new IPs and/or upstart developers.  Ah, who am I kidding? A sufficiently awesome pre-order bonus will always possess the power to part my money from me. Preferably something non-digital though. Some people appreciate the intangibles in life, but I'm not one of them.

 The Tangibles in their place of honor within my office

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A study in contrasts

Anyone who has ever been in the Electronics department of Wal-Mart or Target has seen the cheap, double/quad-feature DVD and Blu-Ray packs you only seem to find at the discount stores. Most of the time, the movies in any given pack are of comparable quality, but on occasion one throws you a major curve. I find surprises occur most often with the horror packs, such as the Blu-Ray horror pack I picked up a few days ago.

Mortuary - Mortuary is bad, but I would say hilariously so. For starters, the movie opens with a family moving cross-country because a single mother randomly decides her new life's calling is to be a mortician. When they arrive, the mortuary is in disrepair, and locals are leery of the place due to the murder of the previous owners by their son. Not ominous at all, right? The first 30 or so minutes are a little painful to watch, but Mortuary takes a turn for the funny when creepy things start happening and the zombies show up. Oh, did I mention the zombies are the result of a fungus? A fungus created using hideously cheap looking computer graphics. A fungus that spreads through the inky black projectile vomit of the infected. I think you get the idea. When they resurrect MST3K decades from now, I expect Mortuary to be on the shortlist.

Salvage - In stark contrast to Mortuary, Salvage is genuinely good. Maybe even fantastic. The movie kicks off with the brutal murder of Claire by a man called Duke. Claire wakes up at her job and carries on with her life as if the murder was a dream. Until she starts picking up on oddities in the world around her and is eventually killed in the exact same manner as before, only to once again wake up at work as if nothing happened. Now painfully aware of the fact that all is not right with the world, Claire's attempts to discover the truth lead to a well-played reveal that actually caught me by surprise. The performances are generally solid, the pacing is excellent, and though made for cheap ($25,000 according to Wikipedia), Salvage never seems cheaply made. Some of the dialogue could have used a bit more work, but I wish more horror movies aspired to the overall level of quality demonstrated here.

Salvage alone is worth the $10 price tag; the unintentional comedy included in the package is a bonus.