Randomness for 7/16

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1) Weapons confiscated by the TSA.

2) The technology to rip off your card when you use an atm is becoming advanced.

3) Turning Facebook covers and profile pics into art.

4) Casting letter shows alternate actors considered for ST:TNG. Jenny Agutter as Beverly Crusher? Wesley Snipes and Geordi? Kevin Peter Hall as Data? Yaphet Kotto as Picard? Huh.

5) Artist recreates his childhood drawing 20 years later. Wow.

6) Burned, abandoned, flooded mall has become home to koi and catfish.

7) Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time, according to Cinefex. Video.

Helicopter parent? We mock you. Not a helicopter parent? Handcuffs.

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One of the trends the media has been enjoying for *years* is making fun of so-called helicopter parents–parents who constantly hover around their kids, standing guard over everything they do. What worry-worts, right?

And yet, what happens when a parent lets their kid play outside in the park without a helicopter? They get arrested.

Is there any other developed country that hates its working poor as much at the U.S.A.?

Prince’s Recording of Purple Rain (annotated)

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[Update: I assume the copyright claim that pulled the video offline is an automated one, since this was clearly fair use. Shit.]

I didn’t realize Purple Rain was actually performed live and edited for inclusion in the album. You can see the full live version here, with notes about what was changed. I’m not a huge Prince fan, but this is interesting.

Writers inspired by D&D, from the NYTimes

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Everyone’s linking to this NYTimes piece about a whole generation of writers who were influenced by playing D&D when they were young, and they offer a nice, broad cross-section of writers. It’s not just sf/f people, but literary writers and playwrights and plenty of others, too.

It’s a nice article, if a bit fluffy (which, what else would I expect, given the subject). I’ve said before that gaming had an influence over me, especially because it taught me that the characters I was so used to seeing in movies, books, and on TV did not seek advantage as ruthlessly as characters played by actual people who were invested in their success. The old standby is the spy escaping from a holding cell, knocking out a guard, and not taking anything from the guard’s body, not a weapon, communicator, key, nothing.

More interesting to me is that the authors seemed to have a much more theatrical/improvisational experience in their gaming. We spent So. Much. Time. going room to room killing things, with little more story than that. In fact, we’d play so much that it was impossible to make up an actual story, and when I tried I often found the players utterly uninterested in exploring any of it.

By the way, we played “The Fantasy Trip”, not D&D, because we though the armor class rules were incredibly stupid.

Anyway, I continue to believe that, with the right players and genre, an rpg session could be worthwhile art. Not just “I bash the orcs” sort of thing, but an actual exploration of character in a partly improvised narrative, with added random outcomes due to die rolls and an earned ending. They could even do the closeup camera thing for the die rolls, the way poker shows show the players’ hands. The two-part Tabletop episode was a good proof of concept, even if they didn’t take the narrative beyond “I swing my mace at the skeleton.”

If you watch that video (I thought it was interesting) you’ll see that the story is compelling when the players have their characters talk like themselves. When they try to talk pseudo-medieval fake fantasy stuff everything becomes stilted and awkward.

Anyway, I’m a little envious of the writers in that article, because the games I played as a kid never managed to pull together any kind of story. In college and afterwards, things were better, but not in those early formative years.

Randomness for 7/12

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1) The best one-star review ever.

2) Ingmar Bergman’s THE FLASH. Video. #lol

3) 25 Pictures Of Lesbian Sex According To Stock Photography #15, wtf?

4) A film from 1943 or 1944 with a British major demonstrating knife-fighting techniques. Dubbed into Greek but subtitled in English. Video.

5) Books with almost identical covers.

6) Baking projects that didn’t turn out like their photos.

7) Top ten pictures of pie eaters.

Shannara makes the jump to (M)TV

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I’m not first with the news, but MTV has finally, after holding the rights for… well, a long time, given the greenlight to a ten episode season of the Sword of Shannara TV series.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to GOT, which is the project that everyone is going to compare it to, and why not? Martin’s success on the small screen made a path for Brooks’s work to follow, just as Tolkien did for the novels.

John Favreau was originally announced as the director of the pilot, but he’s apparently stepped back into an Executive Producer role. Now it’s going to be the guy who did the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I guess? The writer/producers (who are much more important in TV than the directors) are Miles Millar and Al Gough, the guys behind SMALLVILLE.

Also, the show’s not going to be based on THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (because Peter Jackson already made that movie, maybe?) but on second book THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA. Obviously, there’s an epic quest and an important magic item, but unlike LOTR, they aren’t trying to destroy something toxic. They’re trying to retrieve something good.

Which is part of the reason so many LOTR imitators felt so thin, but nevermind. Who are they going to cast as not-Aragorn? What about not-Gandalf? And I’m sure they’re not going to stick with not-Gandalf’s name, Allanon.

By the way, Mr. Brooks is local to me (Deadline calls him “the second-biggest-selling living fantasy book writer, after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling”) and I’ve heard him interviewed on the local PBS station. He explained that it’s not pronounced “Shah-NAR-ah”. It’s actually “SHAN-uh-ruh”. That’s straight from the man’s mouth.

Still, it’s the book that launched Del Rey, my former publisher, and it was the first fantasy novel to hit the NYTimes trade bestseller list.

I’m not going to be watching it, though. I read the first book in junior high, when the buzz around it was huge. My friends loved it, but I didn’t–I don’t even remember why–I didn’t read the rest. ELFSTONES… might be original and compelling light fantasy, but I’ll never know.

Then again, I don’t watch GAME OF THRONES, either, because I don’t have cable and don’t torrent things. What’s more, I can’t exactly bring home the DVDs when my kid is always underfoot. Maybe I’ll borrow them from the library when he’s old enough to watch creepy incest with his fath–when he moves out.

One thing I’m curious about: how explicit will they be with the post-apocalyptic setting? Will there be a crumbled Seattle Space Needle? Old transformer stations? “Wands of Sniping” (I just made that up) and who knows what else? In my opinion, the more like THUNDARR, the better.

But seriously, I hope it’s super-successful (I have an epic fantasy of my own coming soonish).

Randomness for 7/8

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1) How to save a rusty ruined cast iron skillet.

2) Dad photoshops young daughter into sf/f movies.

3) Insights from a real sword fight.

4) Authors dress up as their favorite characters.

5) “There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frankly, I say this fossil isn’t scary enough for the name.

6) Ten ridiculous Kickstarter campaigns people actually supported

7) Conversation with Twitter bots draws in Bank of America. #lol

Terrible Indie Author Advice

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On 6/22, I blogged about a terrible piece of advice an indie author offered, which was to harass readers who leave negative reviews until they’re deleted. Seriously awful.

Well, the link to the original post now takes you to a 404 page, because the blogger has wisely taken it down. However, on the same day I wrote that post, he offered *new* advice, recommending that authors spam Twitter hashtags with pregenerated tweets scheduled at ten minute intervals to promote their books. When people tell him that’s not cool, he plays a clip from Spinal Tap: (“Lick my love pump”). Classy.

The best marketing advice is this: Write a book that people love so much that they tell all their friends about it. Not attacking reviewers, not highjacking TV show hashtags, not advising other writers to do these things. Write books people want to evangelize for. It’s not a guarantee of success (there’s no such thing), but it’s honestly the best thing you can do.

Five Things Make A Post

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First, my Father’s Day was pretty great. I asked to get no gifts and didn’t receive any but the cards were wonderful. We also went out to brunch. My wife is pretty cool on the idea of going to a restaurant for breakfast–and my son actively hates it–so this is something I sorta love but get to do only once a year. And yeah, I ate more than I should have.

We went some distance to a little place called Mulleady’s, mainly on the rule that we could get things we never make at home, like blood pudding, boxty, scotch eggs, and other things we didn’t order. Sadly, marrow wasn’t on the bfast menu, but maybe another time. One downside of going there is that it really doesn’t many people before it becomes uncomfortably loud.

Second, you may have seen news articles everywhere recently claiming that bike share programs increase head injuries. They’re wrong. Head injuries fell after bike share programs were introduced, but they didn’t fall as fast as other kinds of injuries. Therefore, according to the media, head injuries rose because, among those injured, a greater percentage of them had head injuries.

It’s statistical fuckery. To quote the linked article: “A more critical view would be that the researchers went looking for evidence that bikeshare programs are dangerous, and upon failing to find any, cherry-picked a relatively unimportant sub-trend and trumpeted it as decisive finding.”

My wife rides almost every day and she always wears her helmet. When I rode (back in my office job days) I wore a helmet all the time, too. We also have lights, reflective vests, and all the safety gear that people make fun of. But it’s important to remember that nothing makes the streets safer for cyclists than having a whole lot of cyclists on the streets.

Third, I’ve sent out copies of The Great Way in hopes of getting blurbs for them, and the first two have come back. Both are wonderful and make me feel like dancing around my apartment singing “I Feel Pretty.”

Fourth, I’m currently at work revising my pacifist urban fantasy, and never in my life have I had so much trouble making headway. My revisions are creeping along at a pace barely better than my first draft days. Stuff is difficult, you guys.

Fifth, I bought the first edition of CHILL (by Pacesetter) way back when it first came out. I bought the second edition enthusiastically, and when I made that six-figure deal for Child of Fire, I rewarded myself by buying up all the Chill books I didn’t already own.

Even though the game is pretty much unplayable.

Pacesetter’s first ed. was fun and had simple game mechanics. Mayfair’s second edition improved on things, but still couldn’t deal with Fear checks. You could prep a haunted house, prep the monster that would be there, arrange the clues the players needed to find or the person they needed to save, but what you couldn’t do was predict who would pass a Fear check. If all the players made it, the monster would not be able to stand against them. If only one made it, that player would have to face a villain designed to challenge a party while his compatriots ran screaming into the streets.

It was impossible to create a balanced confrontation, because you could never tell how many players would make that Fear check (the first thing to happen in every encounter), so you didn’t know which would stay in the scene.

And let’s be honest, any time a GM takes control of a player it sort of sucks, especially if you make the run in terror.

So, none of the games I tried to get off the ground ever went anywhere. My friends had no interest in horror games, since they’re pretty much the opposite of jokey power fantasies, and the only truly successful Chill game I ever ran was with my six-year-old son, and it was one session.

Still, it was great fun to read, and now I’m foolishly excited to see that, after a couple of false starts, there’s a third edition on the way. The previous attempt at a third edition got as far as informal play tests, which I took part in until assholes drove me away, but I’m hopeful for this. I don’t even know anything about the game, but I’m foolishly hopeful.

Not everyone celebrates Father’s Day, nor should they.

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C.C. Finlay talks about terrible fathers.

Let’s not make everyone celebrate. And let’s not ever talk about “all dads.” That’s a category without meaning. To everyone who doesn’t celebrate Father’s Day, to everyone who avoids it because it brings up too many painful memories, this post is for you.