Archive for John Owen

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Thought Hammer Receipts

I discovered BGG in '05. Not surprisingly, my board game purchasing then exploded. There were several websites that I ordered from over the years (and I also patronized local game stores), but Thoughthammer was the king of online board game sales in those days. The price was right and they had great service. Here is a record of my purchases between November 2005, when I registered for BGG, and one year later.

I posted the first of these receipts a while ago. Here's a full account of an entire year. I was motivated to look these up after reading Almost Every GIPF Project Game Ranked. I wanted to know if I could find when I first purchased a gipf game. Sure enough, I could. June 21st, 2006. YINSH was still in the Top 20 on BGG at that time. Top 20! The presence of the GIPF games on BGG and the respect they were given seemed natural to me then (and seems natural to me still now), as I had grown up with not only traditional abstracts, but many commercial abstracts. I remind everyone that the SdJ has roots in abstracts and has appreciated abstracts many times in its history (though more so in the first couple of decades).

Tue, Nov 29, 2005, 11:46 PM
Dear John
Welcome to Thought Hammer.

Tue, Dec 6, 2005, 11:24 PM
Thought Hammer
Order Number: 7221
Detailed Invoice: [dead link to website]
Date Ordered: Tuesday 06 December, 2005

1 x Gulo Gulo (RGG 223) = $24.67
1 x Tigris & Euphrates (MFG 0491) = $32.50
1 x War of the Ring (FFG LTR-07) = $40.77
1 x Through The Desert (FFG KN-01) = $19.47
1 x Lost Cities (RGG 124) = $14.92
1 x Hammer of the Scots (COL 3215) = $42.49
1 x Pass the Pigs (WIN 1046) = $6.80
1 x Bohnanza (RGG 155) = $11.38
Sub-Total: $193.00
Economy Shipping (continental US only) (7 to 14 days): $0.00
Total: $193.00

Wed, Feb 22, 2006, 10:51 PM
Thought Hammer
Order Number: 10707
Detailed Invoice: [dead link to website]
Date Ordered: Wednesday 22 February, 2006

1 x Bang! - Dodge City Expansion (MFG 4707) = $7.00
1 x Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, The (ASM KG01US) = $6.99
1 x Descent: Journeys in the Dark (FFG VA-11) = $51.97
1 x Pick Picknic (RGG 216) = $11.38
1 x Crusader Rex (COL 3226) = $50.99
1 x War of 1812 (COL 3002) = $33.99
Sub-Total: $162.32
Flat Rate Shipping (continental US only) (3 to 7 business days *): $0.00
Total: $162.32

Wed, Jun 21, 2006, 9:21 AM
Thought Hammer
Order Number: 14183
Detailed Invoice: [dead link to website]
Date Ordered: Wednesday 21 June, 2006

1 x Bang! A Fistful of Cards (MFG 47015) = $3.00
1 x Hive: Second Edition (SZG HIVE001) = $22.46
1 x Balloon Cup (RGG 214) = $14.92
1 x YINSH (RGG 224) = $21.42
1 x Trias (RGG 228) = $14.92
1 x ZERTZ (RGG 161) = $21.42
1 x Commands & Colors: Ancients (GMT 0509) = $39.00
Sub-Total: $137.14
Flat Rate Shipping (continental US only) (3 to 7 business days *): $0.00
Total: $137.14

Fri, Nov 10, 2006, 11:11 PM
Sat, Nov 11, 2006, 12:35 AM
Order 19758 will ship when the following games are available:
1 x Pompeii
1 x Shogun (re-themed Wallenstein)
Your in-stock games (if any) are reserved during this waiting period.

Thought Hammer
Order Number: 19758
Detailed Invoice: [dead link to website]
Date Ordered: Friday 10 November, 2006

1 x Wyatt Earp (RGG 176) = $14.92
1 x Modern Art (MFG 4402) = $17.50
1 x Go Away Monster (GWI 0303) = $7.80
1 x Pompeii (MFG AMG5000) = $31.50
1 x Shogun (re-themed Wallenstein) (RGG 060) = $42.22
1 x 10 Days in Europe (OTB 1012) = $14.99

Fri, Dec 15, 2006, 11:13 AM
Hello John,

I am writing you with some disappointing news. There was an error in our
inventory program affecting Go Away Monster, and your copy is missing from
the shelf.

We apologize for the error and for the disappointment you are most likely
feeling. We would like to go ahead and send the remaining in-stock games
at this time, and then Shogun will follow when it is available.

Before we ready your order for shipment, is there an in-stock game that
you would like to get to replace the Go Away Monster? We can make the
change and then ship the games to you.

If you would rather, we will refund your purchase of this game within two
business days. Once the refund has been processed, you will receive an
email notification.

We apologize for our error. We do appreciate your business, and we look
forward to hearing from you soon.

Thought Hammer Customer Service

Dec 18, 2006, 9:35 PM

Okay, that is disappointing, but I can live with it.

As a replacement, I'd like to take the opportunity to add a few games,
if that's okay:

Thurn & Taxis ($21.42)
Tikal ($29.22)

Just charge me the price of the games minus the price of Go Away Monster ($7.80)

I think that it would be fantastic if you could ship the games right
away and then ship Shogun later. That would more than make up for
this small error (of which I've already forgiven you!).

Thanks so much.

Still very much a ThoughtHammer fan,
-John Owen

p.s. Sorry that it took me a few days to get around to responding to
your email. I fully understand that you're also busy right now and I
am not concerned if the games don't get sent out right away. If it
makes you feel any better, none of the games are Christmas presents
(though Go Away Monster was going to be!).

Mon, Dec 18, 2006, 9:49 PM
Hello John, We have added Thurn & Taxis and Tikal, and removed Go Away Monster. We are sending this money request for the balance due since we do not store credit card information in our database. Thank you for your patience and please let us know if you have any questions.
Christi - Thought Hammer Customer Service


That's it. One year. A lot of new games. Some I still love. Some I'm glad to have played but don't care to return to. Somewhat embarrassingly, three games in the lot that I never played: War of the Ring and Crusader Rex, both of which I half-heartedly solo'd at the time, then sold or traded, and Wyatt Earp because I just could not get excited enough about it to ever want to play it.

And then there were a surprising (maybe not so surprising since I consider this mid-00s period better than most of what followed) amount of hits that are still in my collection:
Hammer of the Scots
Tigris & Euphrates
Lost Cities
Through The Desert
War of 1812
Go Away Monster (the original copy got shredded by children, but we still have a replacement copy and maybe need a new replacement replacement copy)
Gulo Gulo
Pick Picknic
Werewolves of Miller's Hollow
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Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:19 pm
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Robot Artists Love Board Games

Over in OG chit-chat, some OGers have been sharing AI-generated art. I can't remember the name of the first program. The most recent thing is dall-e mini, which I tried to use last night, but I think it was crashing because too many OG fans were running Knizia prompts through it. So, I did a quick search and settled on the first other Robot Artist that I came across. Here's what happened.

PROMPT: darryl german pizza game CANADIAN - OG ('knizia')

PROMPT: Sam plays Llamaland for the first time.

PROMPT: I'm playing Tigris & Euphrates online and not having fun. At the same time, I got a draw against a strong Hive player already familiar with the pillbug which made me feel pretty good.
From gallery of trawlerman

(I love this one. It somehow does capture the idea of Hive taking over T&E)

PROMPT: I sometimes tell people my favorite game is Bladder.
From gallery of trawlerman

(I think 'nightmarish' is the appropriate descriptor here)

PROMPT: No one takes NaNeNaGaMo seriously. (yes, I somehow misspelled NaNoNeGaMo when I did this; oh, the irony)

This morning, I returned to DALL-E.
From gallery of trawlerman
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Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:41 pm
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On online plays

I thought I was itching for Tigris & Euphrates online. Nope. It turned out that I was just itching to play Tigris & Euphrates. Playing with my three oldest kids at the table was great. Playing online has been... frustrating.

I'm currently in two separate games of T&E and doing not-so-great in either of them. That's okay. I don't mind losing. What I dislike is that I can't seem to follow the "narrative" of the play in asynch online mode. I come back to a game and I'm confused (at least two times I was totally confused and forgot which symbol I was playing, but that's a longer story and likely due to my old and feeble brain rather than inherent to online play). I'm confused because the board state has been altered by three other players and I haven't seen it happen. I have to puzzle it out. BGA tracks what happens and documents it, but there's no playback button. It's a bit of extra work to read the log and apply it to the board, and I haven't cared to do it. For whatever reason, I'm just not invested enough in these plays to put the effort in. I just come back to the game and sometimes it makes sense to me and sometimes it doesn't.

I think this is inherently a problem of asynch multiplayer games.

I'm also playing a game of Las Vegan on BGA. It's terrible in its turn-a-day slowness. I can't even pretend to remember what cards have been played. It's a game I love. It's a play that I'm hating. Slow asynch trick-taking is the worst.

Maybe not surprisingly, I'm enjoying the 2p stuff a lot more. I crushed Pete at Haggis. :-) (We're in a very close rematch session now). I've enjoyed the moments that the games almost became real-time while still allowing for the flexibility of asynch.

I'm playing Carcasssone with a stranger. It's fine, but also too slow. I used to play Carc regularly via the iPhone app many years ago, but that was 10-20 moves a day with a close friend. This play has been 1-2 moves a day with someone I don't know.

And the real treat has been Hive. Hive is the only game that I've played every once in a while on BGA, picking up a game every few months when I'd log in. I've got a decent rating and am considered a "good" player. I'm currently playing my second match against a "strong" player. What's even better is that in these matches I'm playing with the pillbug (completely game-changing) and ladybug (less so) for the first time. I am good at Hive. I placed in the Top 8 in a boardspace tournament in '08, losing a match to the guy who won the tournament. That was also a different time and most of today's best players weren't even around to destroy me then.

I thought I understood the game. I knew there were better players, but I felt confident in my own skill. The pillbug changes everything. I don't know if it makes the game better. I'm still undecided on that. But it does shake everything up and needs to be reckoned with. I lost the first match and it looks like I'll be losing the current rematch (offered by my opponent, which means either that he respected my play or thinks I'm an easy target). I'm excited by a pillbug? Yes! I don't know that Hive needed this expansion. I don't know if it will or will not become my new default. What I do know is that it is fascinating and I want to keep playing. I doubt that I'll keep playing regularly online, but I also know that I have no community that would want to play locally offline. So, I don't know. I'm probably going to buy copies of the expansion pieces before today is over.

So, what do I think of online play?

It's fine. It's what you make of it. It's how you approach it.

I'm stupid in that I play nothing online for months, then set up a stupid amount of games, then start to play more online chess as something to do while waiting in between BGA games. It's all or nothing. And I get irritated waiting for my turns. It's not even because I'm impatient to play. It's because I want all these games to be over. Asynch gaming isn't for me.

Which is the signal for Sean to extol the glories of scheduled synchronized online gaming. And I think he's right. If you're going to do it (if I'm going to do it), then scheduled synchronized is the way to do it.

But then there's the scheduling part of it. Ay, there's the rub. There's also a bit of half-presence going on. When I schedule a night of gaming with friends outside my own house, I am fully present. When I schedule a night of gaming online in my own house, I am at best half-present online and half-present to what is happening in the house.

Back when I was playing weekly online D&D with close friends, I would go down in the basement, pour a drink, light a pipe, and close myself off physically from everyone else in the house. That's what I'd need to do if I did commit to regular scheduled online gaming. And again, I seem to be all or nothing. It's either regularly scheduled, something to anticipate and then count on happening every week, or nothing at all. Irregularly scheduled gaming doesn't work for me.

Ah, all of the above is just cranky rambling.

I'm thinking of taking a summer break from the entire internet for the month of July. Post-NaNoNeGaMo, I'll play lots of Llamaland, and I'll start cracking through some other new games. Then again, maybe I'm fooling myself. The weather has been lovely here, my family has been busy, and I've hardly played anything offline at all. Then again, maybe if I set my own screens down for a month, I'll be more likely to pick up a deck of cards and corral any and all I can into some sort of gaming.
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Fri Jun 17, 2022 12:36 pm
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The Destitute Prince

Barbarian Prince is a story generator. I've read that some players have had epic tales of successful heroism told about their Princes. Me? I've encountered broad comedy and meaningless deaths every time. I suppose this could lead to despair or a lack of "fun" in the playing, but I find it all gloriously ridic. (I watched The Lost Weekend recently. There's a minor but important character who shortens many words as a sort of street slang. I can't help but use the ridiculous 'ridic' above and think that this must be the source behind The Chronicles of Riddick, none of which I've seen, but it certainly seems ridic).

I played Barbarian Prince a few evenings ago, then told my family the story at the supper table. I hammed it up and embellished the story; everyone was laughing a lot, including myself as the children responded. I'm sorry that I can't reproduce that experience here. I'll just give a brief (and probably too dull) overview of Barbarian Prince instead.

This most recent play generated a story of a young prince who was turned loose in a heartless world driven by greed and self-interest. Is this the kingdom that his father had created for him? A world in which no one would help a fellow citizen unless there was a financial incentive to do so. Sad, maybe, but my Prince felt more like Chaplin's Tramp than anything else.

Every game of Barbarian Prince starts with the following event:

e001 The Adventure Begins
Evil events have overtaken your Northlands Kingdom. Your father, the old king, is dead - assassinated by rivals to the throne.
These usurpers now hold the palace with their mercenary royal guard. You have escaped, and must collect 500 gold pieces to raise a force to smash them and retake your heritage. Furthermore, the usurpers have powerful friends overseas. If you can’t return to take them out in ten weeks, their allies will arm and you will lose your kingdom forever.

Now consult r201 to determine the starting
attributes (r202) of yourself as the Barbarian Prince, and then return to this event and read the paragraph below:

To escape the mercenary royal guard, your loyal body servant Ogab smuggled you into a merchant caravan to the southern border.
Roll one die to see where the caravan takes you (while poor Ogab faces the wrath of the royal guards back home), you are in:
1-Ogon (0101); 2-hex (0701); 3-Ruins of Jakor’s Keep (0901); 4-hex (1301); 5-Weshor (1501); 6-hex (1901).

Now, at dawn you roll out of the merchant wagons into a ditch, dust off your clothes, loosen your swordbelt, and get ready to start
the first day of your adventure. See r203 for possible actions available to you.
You always get dumped in one of those six locations above the river. There are mercenary guards hunting you in every area north of the river, so you are highly incentivized to cross the river as soon as possible.

Where you're dumped off by Ogab greatly influences where you'll head next. I got dumped in Weshor, so I tried seeking audience with the mayor, who did not recognize me and was convinced that I was a bum trying to take advantage of his hospitality. He told me not to come back until I could find a priest or a monk who would personally vouch for me and my cause. This might have been the last honest person that I met in my adventures, yet he was so jaded and cautious, made so by a society that I would increasingly discover was driven by mercenary self-interest. You don't help someone unless there is something in it for you.

How does this work "mechanically"?

I rolled a d6 to determine my start location.

At the start location, I have several options for what I can do:
r203 Daily Actions
At the start of each day, you select one action for yourself. All other followers in your party will perform the same action (support and helping you) - they can’t be trusted to act on their own! Each action has separate rules, described in the appropriate section.
Possible actions include:
Actions allowed in any hex -
• Rest in current hex, to heal wounds (r222) and improve hunting (r215)
• Travel to a new hex (r204), your most common choice
• Search for a previously placed cache (r214)
Actions allowed only in certain types of hexes -
• Seek News & Information (r209) in town, castle, or temple
• Seek to Hire Followers (r210) in town or castle
• Seek Audience with local lord (r211) in town, castle or temple
• Submit Offering (r212) at temple
• Search Ruins (r208) in ruins only
Each action has its own rules and tables, which often reference an event section, and perhaps an encounter with new characters, or
special dangers. After you finish all these events, at the end of the day you must provide food for your entire party, see r215. If you
are in a town, castle, or temple you must purchase lodging too in many cases, see r217.
After all actions, events, food and lodging are resolved, the day ends. Advance the markers on the time track to the next day, and
start it by selecting another action. This continues until the end of the 10th week, when the game ends.
The game ends sooner if the Barbarian Prince is killed. Better luck next time!
You can continue to perform the same action day after day, or you can vary actions, as you desire. Normally you are limited to just
one action per day, but some action events allow you a bonus action that same day. Other times you may be required to advance the
time track forward a certain number of days, skipping any opportunity for actions.
I chose to "seek audience with local lord (r211) in town."

So, I consulted r211:
r211 Seeking an Audience with the Local Lord
As a daily action, you spend the day trying to gain admission to the hall or court, for an interview with the town mayor, high priest
of the temple, or the castle lord. Roll two dice and consult the appropriate table below.
Seeking an Audience at any Town:
2 Grievously insult the town council, e062.
3 A slanderous aside about the mayor’s wife is blamed on you, e060.
4 Meet hostile guards, e158.
5 Encounter the Master of the Household, e153.
6, 7, 8 Audience refused today, you may try again.
9, 10 Audience permitted, e156.
11 Meet daughter of the mayor, e154.
12 Audience permitted, e156.
I rolled 2d6. 9. Audience permitted. To e156:
e156 Audience with Town Mayor
You have private discussions with the mayor. Roll one die:
1 he is insulted, see e060 immediately.
2 he hears your story, but remains stone-faced, unwilling or unable to help. However, you are free to seek audiences with him again any day.
3 he hears your story and gives you free food and lodging for tonight, as a distinguished(if dispossessed) visitor from the north. You are free to seek audiences with him again any day.
4 he hears your pleas with favour, and gives you a letter recommendation to the Lord of the nearest castle (e157). You cannot seek another audience with him until next week, at the earliest.
5 he hears your story with interest, gives you a letter of recommendation to the Lord of the nearest castle (e157) and 50 gold for expenses. You cannot seek another audience with him until you have used the letter.
6 if your party includes a monk or priest, he will support your cause for religious reasons. If not, he dismisses you, and refuses any further audiences until you have such a character in your party. If he supports your cause, he will provide a letter of recommendation to any castle or temple you request, will give you wealth 100, and his trusted assistant as a member of your party. This assistant is combat skill 4, endurance 4. You cannot seek another audience with him until you have used the letter or the assistant is killed or leaves your party (other than by you voluntarily dismissing him).
I rolled a '6'.

As you can see above, there are many alternate realities that could have occurred instead, in both r211 and e156.

A player has some agency in deciding what action to take at the start of the day (and usually some agency during encounters in the wild, deciding whether to talk, fight, or flee), but is then at the mercy of the dice.

Did you catch this bit above in the daily actions?
After you finish all these events, at the end of the day you must provide food for your entire party, see r215. If you
are in a town, castle, or temple you must purchase lodging too in many cases, see r217.
Food. Barbarian Prince teaches you to be grateful for food.

In my recent play, food was scarce. I (randomly) started the game with no money. I could not buy food in town. I slept in the streets. If I had had any followers (ha!), they would have likely left me at this time for such an insult. This was the beginning of my Barbarian's starvation diet.
Character Starvation (r216b): if a character goes, without food for a day, on the following day his ability to carry loads (r206) is halved, with fractions rounded down, and his combat skill is reduced by one. If he goes without food again, load carrying and combat skill is reduced again. When food is available and eaten again, each day’s normal meal also eliminates the effect of one day of starvation. A double meal can be eaten to eliminate the effect of two days of starvation, but triple or larger meals have no additional effect. A character cannot die of starvation within the scope of the game, but after a certain point progressive starvation makes him nearly worthless!
I was "nearly worthless" for much of the game.

Another rule is that one must check to see if you can even leave the hex you're on. Often (so, so often), you face the possibility of being lost. I was lost often. Don't go in the swamps. Don't.

Lost and hungry.

And every day requires a check (dice roll, natch) whether a random event happens or not. These can be great. They can be awful.

The recurring humor of my most recent play (besides being pathetically lost and hungry, unable to find food or friendship) was driven by my repeatedly meeting characters unwilling to help me.

Met a couple of elves. They're willing to help... for money. I'm heir to the greatest wealth in the kingdom, yet right now... I have no money.

Met seven murderous Amazons, completely unwilling to do anything but murder me.

Met a wizard and his henchman. They're willing to help... for money. I'm heir to the greatest wealth in the kingdom, yet right now... I have no money.

Met a traveling monk, who is willing to help... for money. I'm heir to the greatest wealth in the kingdom, yet right now... I have no money.

All of these encounters could have gone differently. Through the decision of the dice, I was given the same harsh response (almost) each time.

After being lost and hungry for several days, meeting no one but mercenaries, I finally find a beacon of hope in the Temple of Zhor. I'm permitted an audience with the High Priest. And yet... I'm so incoherent from my lack of food and time away from civilization, that I don't know what I'm saying. The priest interprets my words as insults, and calls the guards to arrest me. I am thrown into prison.

Now, here's the high humor of Barbarian Prince. All of that was randomly determined. As I've shown above, this audience at the temple could have gone differently (there's a slightly different table to roll on than the town one, but it is similar). In certain plays of the game, getting thrown in prison would have been disastrous. In this specific play of the game, it was the happiest moment in my Barbarian's life! Food! Shelter! Free from being rejected once again!

The prison encounter has the player roll 2d6 to try to escape each day. A success only happens on a '1' or '2' roll. Those are poor odds for someone who wants to escape, but someone who is delighted by his imprisonment? Oh so great. I made the judgment call to determine that the prison was feeding us three meals a day and so adjusted my Combat Skill accordingly. But, of course, this Barbarian cannot be happy, cannot get what he wants, so defies the odds and escapes his second day. Basically, the guards just left the door open for him.

The rules for the encounter state:
If you escape, it takes the entire day. After it, you must find food for your evening meal.
One could almost cry out in horror. Back to the grind. And I fail to find food. Despair sets in. Yet, I travel south, looking, hoping, yearning for any kindness.

In the mountains, I meet another elf. I strike up a conversation. You know how it goes. He'll follow me... for money.

Except this time, after the conversation, instead of the elf losing interest and going on his way, this elf decides that I'm an easy target, and attacks. The elf surprises me and gains initiative. Of course he does. I'm weary with the world. I don't want to fight. I don't even want to live anymore.

The elf gives me the sweet release that I crave. A nerve gas bomb to the face.

It barely hurts at all.

One deep breath and the pain is gone.

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman

From gallery of trawlerman
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Sun Jun 12, 2022 1:59 pm
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Babylonia Wind

YouTube recommended this to me today. Just thought I'd share. Something to put on during the next Babs play.
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Thu Jun 2, 2022 5:44 pm
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May 2022 - "A fool must now and then be right by chance." -WC

Board Game: Dickory
Board Game: Tak
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: Amazons
Board Game: The Rose King
Board Game: Qin

 10   Dickory (22 all-time)
 8   Tak x2 (33 all-time)
 8   Bacon
 6   Amazons NEW!
 6   The Rose King (10 all-time)
 5   Qin x4 (5 all-time)

Springtime arriving meant more time outdoors and less time at the table. It was a busy month. I'm hoping for more regular gaming in June.

I added another Parlett game to the database - Arm's Length
I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I'm eager to do so.
Parlett wrote about it: "Much to my surprise, I've invented another card game. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, as I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a fourth player, not to mention a third and a second. Let me know if you get a chance to try it out."
I love this. I love that he is carelessly (in the best way) making this available "whether it works or not". I love traditional card games and I love David Parlett.

This comment that I wrote regarding Strategies for Staying Sane on BGG is good enough that I'll share it more broadly here.

It's not too late to sign up for NaNoNeGaMo.

For those following my drama over the last few weeks, an update. I stayed strong in my rasolve to not pra-order any new games. I rasisted the strang temptation for NewRa.


Other Stuff

I don't think I finished a single book in May. I dipped into several, scattershot, nothing sustained. Mostly non-fiction and a few short stories. I haven't had any desire to read any novels. I need to either find something that's great, pulpy plot-driven fun or find something with lovely language to savor slowly. Maybe I need to re-read something. Anyhow, no significant book reading to share here.

If you want, you can stop reading now and read another John's great old blog post: "Doing" Vs. "Having Done"

External image

From gallery of trawlerman

Sentient was mostly good, though its ending is rushed, consequently unsatisfying.

I still have a lot of Pluto left to read, but I'm enjoying it. I'll keep reading.

I've also read the typical amount of random new-ish Marvel comics. Meh. Mehrvel.

I was recently reminded of The Holy Consumption. I thought I'd have to access it through the Wayback Machine. But, nope, the site is still there. And it's still worth checking out. I'm still fans of all of those guys. I'm trying really hard to not spend any money on anything right now, but I'm tempted to catch up with Nilsen's Tongues, both the five issues that have already been printed, and the subscription for the next five.

Scorsese wrote:
I mean, On the Waterfront [1954] was different, because that became, in terms of behaviour, the way I understood people around me. My world. But noir, the tone of it, and the locations, not simply The Naked City [Jules Dassin, 1948]. You go to Night and the City [Dassin, 1950], for example, it takes place in London, but that is the story: a man running in the middle of the night, in a double-breasted suit, owing money, to somebody. A loser. No happy ending in that one. This guy is doomed. And I saw it, I saw it happen. It’s all gone now, they’re all dead now, but it just was…When people say, ‘Oh, melodrama’ – well, yeah, but it was happening. It was the reality around us.
Chesterton wrote:
Some innocent educationalists and philanthropists (for even philanthropists can be innocent) have expressed a grave astonishment that the masses prefer shilling shockers to scientific treatises and melodramas to problem plays. The reason is very simple. The realistic story is certainly more artistic than the melodramatic story. If what you desire is deft handling, delicate proportions, a unit of artistic atmosphere, the realistic story has a full advantage over the melodrama. In everything that is light and bright and ornamental the realistic story has a full advantage over the melodrama. But, at least, the melodrama has one indisputable advantage over the realistic story. The melodrama is much more like life. It is much more like man, and especially the poor man.
I chose not to write anything last month about moving images. I'm overcompensating here this month by writing a little something about everything I watched. For whatever reason, it was this art form that got me the most excited in May.

The Pirate was the best new-to-me movie that I watched all month, maybe all year. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. Starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. The writing is great. The direction is great. The acting is great. Judy Garland is better in this than anything else I've ever seen her in (and yes, she's consistently great). Read Josh Larsen's excellent review if you're at all interested.

I also recommend the new Potrykus short film that premiered on the Criterion Channel: Thing from the Factory by the Field. If you've got a Criterion subscription, go ahead and watch it without even reading the description if you can. I won't write anything about it except to say that it was a pleasant surprise and it's currently my favorite film of 2022. Potrykus is one of the few American film directors (the list is probably less than 20) that I'll watch every new film eagerly without any hesitation.

The next best thing I watched, also on Criterion (if you don't have a Criterion subscription, why not?) was Railway Station.

I didn't recall ever even hearing of Stick It, so when someone told me that it was the film they've re-watched the most in their life, I felt compelled to check it out. And it's a lot of fun. I don't know if I would have appreciated it in '06. I appreciate it now. It was written to be quoted. There are so many perfectly stupid lines, knowingly delivered. The message at the end of the film, basically that joy in play together (there is an argument for worker solidarity embedded here) is superior than biting and devouring one another, was a surprise and a delight as it played out. Surprisingly, I recommend this one.

I finished Outer Range, which disappointed me in all the ways I thought it would. It gestures at big mysteries, but fails in both directions. The attempts at answers are unsatisfying. This being so, the show fails to ever go full bonkers into the unknown.

Better Call Saul season 6 initially started slow (and maybe the distance between this season and last season had muted my interest), but it ramped up fast, with the midseason finale ending on a brutal and shocking scene that encapsulates everything I love about "the Breaking Bad universe," in which all actions have consequences, intended or unintended.

I've had superhero burnout and it seems that that's all that has been playing at the local cinema. I haven't even wanted to see Eggers' viking movie. But the Saver had Father Stu, which seemed like it might be a pleasant enough drama. It didn't quite work for me because Wahlberg always plays Stu as charming, when he is a washed-up boxer and when he becomes obese and disabled, all the time, charming. This was the fault of script and direction as much as Wahlberg being unable to dial back the charm. I think the film fails because Stu is never pathetic and disgusting, like all of us are so often, and I'm sure the real Stu was.

Another "religious" movie that didn't work for me was Resurrection from 1980, a film that has largely been forgotten, still remembered mostly for Ellen Burstyn's performance, which is fine. It's just barely competently made. It has weird tonal shifts and a central idea that is undercooked and underexplored. Because of a lack of serious following through on ideas (Sturgeon's "ask the next question"), its basic idea becomes implausible and absurd, making the whole thing implausible and absurd. I'm willing to "suspend disbelief" for all kinds of ridiculous reasons, but only if there is some sort of internal coherence in what is being presented.

I re-watched When Harry Met Sally and feel the way I've always felt about it. There are some good to great individual moments, but I don't have the patience for the basic romantic comedy structure in which two characters are presented as obviously meant for each other, then are presented for two hours as repeatedly making decisions, that sometimes seem artificially bad decisions, that delay their coming together until the end when the obvious is accepted and made manifest. I can only guess that many people love this structure, as it is an enduringly popular one, but it usually frustrates me more than it delights me.

And I watched some cartoons and pre-1900 Muybridge stuff that I hadn't seen in a long time.

I wrote above that I had superhero burnout. That's true. I also found myself at the end of the month sucked into a matinee of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, drawn in by Sam Raimi's involvement. After every superhero movie, I shake my head promising that it will be my last. It was no different here.
Scorsese wrote:
Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.
Overall, I hated DSitMoM. What's not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. But. There are a few moments in which Raimi did seem to exert control over the franchise committee, in which visually interesting scenes were allowed to play out, which is maybe the best I can hope for in a Marvel movie. Two notable sections were the music duel, with its lovely (and deeply silly) evocation of Fantasia, and the dead-soul-powered-zombie-Strange, with its mix of practical and digital effects that hearkened back to Drag Me to Hell Raimi, if not further back to Evil Dead glee in gore.

This is all you need.


You still want more?
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Tue May 31, 2022 8:40 pm
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More Fun with Geekbuddy Analysis: Guess the Game

Today, I was talking with a non-gamer and she told me about all of the games that she grew up playing. She doesn't have any favorite games, doesn't care about games, but does have some good memories related to playing games, most notably a traditional card game that her grandparents taught her that her family played often. It was such a big family tradition that each of the kids got their own personalized set when they graduated from high school. Sounds like a fun family card game, right?

She couldn't remember the name of it and was going to look it up and get back to me tomorrow. In the meantime, I did some digging around and figured out what it was. I found it here on BGG.

She gave me details that would make the game obvious to anyone who is already aware of it, but my only hint to all of you is that it has a commercially published version (versions, actually) and requires a custom display in addition to a deck of playing cards.

One more hint. Martin G. had this to say about the game:
From gallery of trawlerman

10 geekgold to everyone who guesses the correct game. Please use spoiler tags in the comments.

(It's silly, but I might make this a semi-regular feature here, picking geekbuddy comments and running a stupid contest to see if anyone can guess the game.)
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Tue May 24, 2022 11:47 pm
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You're still tempted by NewRa? You're wRAng!!!

Nick makes a strong case for backing NewRa. I'm almost convinced by this argument:
if you want to see more genuine passion projects and stone-cold classics coming from fellow fans like Chad at 25th Century Games, or us at Bitewing Games, or the many other indie publishers out there, then you’ve gotta support them directly.
Should I throw money at 25th Century Games just because I want to see more projects like this? Maybe.

I'm tempted for two major reasons.
1. Many fellow gamers whom I respect love the game.
2. Nick's argument above that supporting things like this is overall good for the hobby, especially for those of us who cherish "the classics".

So far, I've resisted. I've played Ra once (in the distant past) and I was underwhelmed by it. I'm trying to not buy new games/stuff/whatever. Why buy Ra when I can play more High Society? Some people have room in their hearts and on their shelves for both. I don't think that I do.

To strengthen my resolve, I reviewed the negative comments (anything less than a 6) from my geekbuddies once more. I share these comments with you all now.

From gallery of trawlerman

See? Ra sucks. What was I ever thinking?

Yes, I'm still tempted.
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Mon May 16, 2022 5:30 pm
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Remember that thing I said I was going to do that I then almost forgot about entirely?

Here it is: NaNoNeGaMo 2022 - take the pledge! (an annual celebration of the old)
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Fri May 6, 2022 1:18 pm
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Let's stop messing around.

It's the 25th Century. What do you do?
      40 answers
Poll created by trawlerman
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Wed May 4, 2022 9:36 pm
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