Sunday, February 26, 2006

RIP, Octavia Butler, "genius" science fiction writer

"Octavia Butler, the brilliant science fiction writer, reportedly died on Saturday following a fall that gave her a fatal concussion. Butler was the incredible writer who was the first genre author to win the MacArthur Foundation's 'Genius' grant. She was the first prominent African-American woman in the field, and her novels and short stories were an inspiration to a generation of writers of all backgrounds and both sexes (I was ready to give up writing after a five-year bout of writers' block in my mid-twenties when I read the introduction to her short story collection in which she recounted her own block and decided to keep trying)." [via Boing Boing]

Nightstalker and Christmas Story Star Dead at 83

Nightstalker and Christmas Story Star Dead at 83

"McGavin, 83, died Saturday of natural causes at a Los Angeles-area hospital with his family at his side, said his son Bogart McGavin.

"McGavin also had leading roles in TV’s 'Riverboat' and cult favorite 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker.' Among his memorable portrayals was Gen. George Patton in the 1979 TV biography 'Ike.'

"Despite his busy career in television, McGavin was awarded only one Emmy: in 1990 for an appearance as Candice Bergen’s opinionated father in an episode of 'Murphy Brown.'

"He lacked the prominence in films he enjoyed in television, but he registered strongly in featured roles such as the young artist in Venice in "Summertime,' David Lean’s 1955 film with Katharine Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi; Frank Sinatra’s crafty drug supplier in 'The Man with the Golden Arm' (1955); Jerry Lewis’s parole officer in 'The Delicate Delinquent' (1957); and the gambler in 1984’s 'The Natural.' He also starred alongside Don Knotts, who died Friday night, in the 1976 family comedy 'No Deposit, No Return.'"

2nd hand electronics sales will soon be illegal in Japan

"The customer is not always... well, rarely, right in Japan, and manufacturers don't really care about them. The second hand marker flourishes over here, and most people take good care of their equipment, so used goods are usually in a very good condition and are sold easily to be replaced by new goods. It's easy to strike a good deal when buying these second hand goods. But that's exactly the big problem for manufacturers, because this grey market is not generating them any profit, and they would like to get rid of this phenomenon. The first ones to talk to the government about this were the car manufacturers, and they convinced the government to enforce a rule that used cars have to go to the technical inspection after 3 years, and this is a costly matter since a check costs between 1500 and 3500 EUR. Once you're in the system, you have to get your car checked every 2 years, and once your car is 10 years old, you need to go there every year. This is a reson why the Japanese change cars quite fast, usually before the car is 3 years old. Important aspect is that you have no control whatsoever on the cost of possible repairs, because after the technical check, the car is driven to the garage and they do the repairs that the technical check asked them to do, you just get the bill with your car. A very nice rip-off... and this system is being envied by a lot of other domains, like the electronics domain at this moment. So from April 1st 2006, ALL electronic products sold in Japan before 2001 will be prohibited from the 2nd hand market! This means that for example a PC like the Vaio U1 (PCG-U1) will be soon not vailable [sic] on the Japanese market anymore, since it was sold in April 2002... and you still have about a month to get a Vaio C1! It also seems that a 5 yeas old product (made after 2001) will Face the same problem in the futur. [sic]"

2nd hand electronics sales will soon be illegal in Japan

Saturday, February 25, 2006

More Anagram Transit Maps!



Now, you don't have to just live in London to have an Anagram Map of your city's transit system. Yippeee!! One for Cleveland!

Boing Boing: Anagram transit maps for Cleveland, St Louis (x2), BART, and Singapore

There are also links to: Toronto Anagram Subway Map, Amsterdam Anagram Metro Map, Chicago Regional Transit Authority Anagram Map, Maps for Manhattan, Oslo, Boston and Atlanta, Vienna U-Bahn Anagram Map, DC Metro Anagram Map, Stockholm Transit Anagram Map, LA Red Line Anagram Map.

Enjoy the weirdness! [Via Boing Boing]

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze

Since this came to my email Inbox by way of John Kovalic, I figured that it was worth passing along. It is certainly a good comic that deserves (and needs) the support.

Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze


Hello, everybody.

I've never sent a mass email asking friends to consider subscribing to a comic book before, but this is a very special case. Eric Shanower's award winning 'Age of Bronze' - a 10 year project retelling the story of the Trojan War - needs subscribers to keep the book going.

You've probably heard me praising this work. It's the perfect way to tell this sometimes complex story because this comic illustrates the period costumes and architecture, carefully researched. Unlike the Homer novels some of us have read, Eric leaves out the fantasy elements of the gods and concentrates on people and politics. The gods' only influence is through the people who worship them - and interpret their will.

It's our oldest recorded adventure story retold. Fans of 'Lord of the Rings' type stories, especially, will enjoy it.

Here's how to order:
1. There are two collected volumes out in affordable softcover that start from the beginning of the story.
2. The comic itself is bimonthly. You can jump on now and soon be up to speed, if you'd like.
Visit www.age-of-bronze.com

I consider my subscription a worthwhile and fun contribution to the fields of literature and art. It's important to keep history alive for future generations. Once again, it's available at www.age-of-bronze.com

Thanks,
Gary Beatty

Monday, February 20, 2006

The New Orleans Public Library Seeking Book Donations

Because I think that this is something important, and because dorks and geeks usually have more books than they actually need anyway, try to send some in the direction of someplace that really needs them.

The New Orleans Public Library Seeking Book Donations

"The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute famil! ies or sold for library fundraising. Please send your books to:

Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112

"If you tell the post office that they are for the library in New Orleans, they will give you the library rate which is slightly less than the book rate."

Paul Kupperberg's Ragnarok

I've never really been one for comic book novels, other than the ocassional (including the The Avengers Battle The Earth-Wrecker mentioned in the interview. But this might be cool, since I am a longtime JSA fan. I think that its cool that an RPG book was used as reference material....I wonder which one?

Paul Kupperberg's Ragnarok

"When it comes to writing and editing, you could literally say that Paul Kupperberg has 'done it all'. Longtime readers (and those paying attention over the years) will have glimpsed his name attached to everything from comics and novels to non-fiction and role-playing games. Since first freelancing in ’75, Paul has walked a literary labyrinth through companies such as DC, Marvel, and Charlton, both as a writer and editor and also behind-the-scenes (at DC). He was also instrumental in the development of the !mpact line of comics and can be credited for the creation of Arion: Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate!, and Takion. Perhaps one of the most exciting projects he’s been involved with, at least for this fanboy, is the upcoming JSA prose novel, Ragnarok. That’s primarily what I’ve begged him to talk about in the following interview."

Calling Up The Spectre With Ostrander & Mandrake

In light of the suffering that the character has undergone at the hands of DC Comics lately, I thought that I would link to this interview with the creators who managed to pull off the last good run with the chracter. We can only hope that the character will go up from here. [Day of Venegence...I'm look at you]

Calling Up The Spectre With Ostrander & Mandrake

"Long time co-creators John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake (GrimJack, Firestorm) joined forces once more in the early 90s to give a fresh treatment to a character started way back when Superman was young, the Spectre. With the fantastic art of Tom Mandrake and the rich, labyrinthine writing of John Ostrander, The Spectre series they created may well be some of the finest comic book creating the world is likely to see. Tom and John graciously agreed to re-visit their work in an interview, and what follows is the result of that discussion. So now, brave readers-enter the uncanny world of The Spectre-if you dare!"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hakworld

I just thought that I would throw out a link to the new Hakworld blog. I enjoyed Hakwood's 101 Days of the Rules Cyclopedia experiment (even if it only lasted 70-some days...it still had some good stuff to it) and I am sure that something interesting will come from his new blog.

Hakworld

So much better than just a bunch of theory.

lost camera: camera unlost, but not quite found.

After seeing this on Boing Boing, I figured that it could use some reposting. A sad, sad lesson that these people are teaching their child. If there even is one.

I think that Canada should be held for the blame. But seriously, this is a seriously asshat thing to do.

lost camera: camera unlost, but not quite found.

"I hadn't posted here in a while, because just after the last post, I got a call from an excited park ranger in Hawaii that 'a nice Canadian couple reported that they found your camera!' She gave me their name and number, and I eagerly called to reclaim my camera.

"'Hello,' I said, when I reached the woman who had reported the camera found, 'I got your number from the park ranger, it seems you have my camera?'

"We discussed the specifics of the camera, the brown pouch it was in, the spare battery and memory card, the yellow rubberband around the camera. It was clear it was my camera, and I was thrilled.

"'Well,' she said, 'we have a bit of a situation. You see, my nine year old son found your camera, and we wanted to show him to do the right thing, so we called, but now he's been using it for a week and he really loves it and we can't bear to take it from him.'

"I listened, not sure where she was going with this."
[via Boing Boing]

Friday, February 17, 2006

True20 On The Way

I will more than likely be posting more information as it comes up. Particularly once the PDF update is released. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Although I was thinking of running a True20 event at our Cleveland Game Day I don't know if I'll have the time with the PDF release. Maybe.

True20 On The Way

"True20 Adventure Roleplaying, our new 224-page core rulebook by Mutants & Masterminds designer Steve Kenson, is now at print. This beautifully illustrated hardback is the culmination of three years of design and development. While first designed for the fantasy setting of the Blue Rose RPG, True20 has been expanded to handle nearly any genre. The four winners of our Setting Search (Borrowed Time, Caliphate Nights, Lux Aeternum, and Mecha vs. Kaiju) wonderfully express this flexibility and provide new GMs with a variety of ways to enjoy the True20 experience.

"With the game finished at last, I thought this would be a good time to reveal some of our plans for True20 Adventure Roleplaying. The first question, I'm sure, is 'when can I get it?!' The game went to print a little later than we had planned due to some unexpected production difficulties, so True20 won't be in stores until March. We have stopped selling the old PDF and the new core rulebook will become the standard entry point for True20. A week before the book arrives in stores, we're going to be sending out a link for a free update to the new edition to everyone who bought the original PDF. We're doing this for two reasons. First, we want to give a 'thank you' to all the early adopters of True20. Second, we hope this sneak peak will encourage you to go down to your Friendly Local Game Store and pick up a print copy of the game. We're confident that you're really going to like what you see in the finished rulebook and we hope you let the owner of your local store know that True20 is the next big thing in roleplaying.

"Over the next few weeks we're going to offer several previews of True20 Adventure Roleplaying, so those of you who haven't checked it out can see what all the fuss is about. We're also going to be launching a dedicated True20 website, which include forums for all things True20 (including Blue Rose). We'll be showing off True20 for the first time at the GAMA Trade Show in March in Las Vegas, where hundreds of the country's best retailers will have a chance to check out the finished book. GTS provides an ideal launching point for one of our most important releases of the year."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Today's Trip To The Library

[A bit later than I originally planned to post this...due to not being able to get onto Blogger]

I Went to the library today to pick up some books that I had put on hold and had finally come in. Already started, of course, and there is going to be some coolness here. I have to get a good start on Hiding in the Mirror since I was the 57th in line for it when I put it on hold a couple of months ago. I am sure that I won't be able to renew it. Besides, I'll really want to read the book on Supermodernism when it comes in.

So, the books are:

Hiding in the Mirror, the Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond. I heard Laurence Krauss a few months back on an NPR program on science and knew that I would have to read this book. This little bit, which he recounted during the radio show, was a big seller:

Two parents walk in the middle of the night to sounds of their daughter's crying out in the distance. The father rushes to her bedroom and finds her missing. He frantically searches everywhere, slowly coming to the grim realization that she is gone. His wife runs into the room soon afterward, overcome with panic. At his wit's end, he dashes out to the living room and picks up the phone and calls a neighbor. He returns to his wife and, in words that are probably unique in the history of television he tells her:

"Bill's coming over. He's a physicist! He ought to be able to help!"


That was a synopsis from an episode of the Twilight Zone, no doubt unique in many ways. He then goes on to say:

I now vividly remember (or I think that I remember) being struck by how exotic and powerful Bill the physicist's knowledge seemed, and how much respect this knowledge engendered in his frightened neighbor. I, too, wanted one day to be privy to such secrets, and to explain them. I wanted to be the one whom people in distress knew they could count on. In short, the physicist-superhero!


And how cool is that? I mourne the end of the days when physicists could be super-heroes. Admitedly, Reed Richards still is one (and a recent Fantastic Four movie would account to that) but you just don't see the scientist as hero like you once did. When overthrowing the Ivory Towers of science fiction I fear that heroes like that were disposed as well.

The next two books (which now I don't remember what lead me to the first of them, but once I found one I found the other) are both from The Disinformation Company. They are: Book of Lies and Under The Influence. Book of Lies is "The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult" and I most likely came across it while searching for something on Grant Morrison, since he contributed.

From Morrison's introduction:

Personally, I don't need to know HOW it works -- although I have bucket loads of colorful theories -- just as I don't seem to need to know how my TV works in order to watch it, or how a Jumbo Jet stays up when I'm dozing through my in-flight entertainment at 35,000 feet. What I do know for sure, based on the evidence of my senses and on many years of skeptical enquiry, is that magic allows us to take control of our own development as human beings.


Under The Influence is about the world's "War On Drugs" and sounded pretty darn interesting too. That's the last one on the list for now though.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Supermodern: Beyond Cyberpunk?

I've been re-reading my copies of Warren Ellis' cool newer comic, Desolation Jones, and checking his website about it. In a post on there that was his author's commentary on issue one he mentioned an interesting term that I've been nosing around on the internet for more information about: supermodern.

Just the sound of it is interesting. So, I've Googled and gone through the internet archive (not with a lot of luck...but I didn't find a few sites with some interesting IDM stuff). While I can't find the original PDF, not can I find an archive of it either :( I did find a thesis by Adam Montandon about supermodern. Here's the abstract:
As access to global communications technologies such as the internet increases, so too does speculation about life inside of electronic volume. Free from the constraints and boundaries of physicality, many provisional attempts have been made to create spaces without boundaries. However the entanglement of the mind within the body has created a culture that has chiefly experienced only partial immersion in virtual reality, the mind goes where the body cannot follow. This in turn leads to a new architectural sensibility based on reducing physicality in architecture, in order to give the body the same freedom in physical space as the mind has enjoyed in virtual space.

A new architecture of the physical is born from experience in the electronic. An architecture that encompasses a digital, networked, global, transient and virtual mindset. It appears that we are not, as one may expect, building virtual architecture inside computers, but instead are creating cyberspace on earth. This new architecture is the inverse of Postmodernism. This is Supermodern.

While I couldn't find the PDF, Google does have an html cache of the thesis here.

Now, I haven't read and digested all of this article yet I do think that it suggests some interesting ideas for cyberpunk (and even "regular" modern gaming) as it goes in directions that gamers would not normally think to go into.

What do people think, and better yet...what can we build out of these ideas to use in our own campaigns or settings?




Central Intelligence Agency Homepage for Kids

Great, now the CIA has a webpage for Kids. As if marketing sugary cereal to them wasn't bad enough.

Central Intelligence Agency Homepage for Kids

Foundphotos

This has been a favorite site of mine since I first discovered it (and now that I am on their mailing list I get notified whenever it is updated). Unlike what you typically think of regarding photos and the internet, this site isn't about porn. Actually it is pretty worksafe other than the ocassional digression.

You're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up on this site then. Well, a lot of the photos can be used to spark ideas for characters, locations, and campaigns. There are a lot of subtle, slice of life things in the pictures on this site that can really cause your games to take off in unexpected directions (like the Anagram Map of London below).

That spark is what can make the difference between an engaging and enjoyable campaign, and a deary one. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

"ABOUT FOUND PHOTOS:

"The Found Photos started last year while searching for mp3's using a filesharing program. I was searching through someones shared file list and saw a folder named 'pictures'. I downloaded the folder and found 20 or so digital camera pictures of this persons life taking pictures of himself, his friends etc. It made me wonder what else was out there, and after searching for more photos I found hundreds, thousands of them shared to everyone.

"The world seems like a smaller place after finding all these photos and posting the ones that are worthwhile. I can see so many of the same emotions and situations that i've experienced over the years, unique to each person but similar and instantly recognizable. I've filtered through 1000's and 1000's of photos of everyday life and not so everyday life to find the ones that make up the archives here. Hopefully the pictures as worthwhile to view as they have been to find.

"-Rich Vogel"

Foundphotos

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bradbury: LA needs monorails!

Aw, come on...every body needs more monorails.

Bradbury: LA needs monorails!

"Ray Bradbury has written an editorial for the LA Times calling on the city of Los Angeles to build a monorail network before the city's traffic becomes completely unmanageable." [via Boing Boing]

Friday, February 10, 2006

CryptoKids™ America's Future Codemakers & Codebreakers -- Site Start Page

Now, it is probably disturbing enough that the NSA actually has a "kids page" on its site. Teaching young generations the importance of code-making and code-breaking is always room for fun. Heck, I used to buy "How To Be A Spy" and "How To Be A Detective" books at the Scholastic Book fairs when I was a kid. Making it into a government program is what is making it a bit weird.

So, how would this sort of overt covert recruitment impact an espionage (or pretty much any modern setting) RPG?

CryptoKids™ America's Future Codemakers & Codebreakers

The Anagram Map of London

Here is an interesting resource for GMs who want to turn the world on its end for their players. This link is to a map of the London Underground, but with all of the tube-stations relabeled with anagrams of the station names. For example, Old Street is "Eldest Rot," Oxford Circus is "Crux for Disco."

I am sure that Urban Fantasy GMs of all stripes can find a use for something like this. This makes an interesting map to an alternate London, in a Grant Morrison inspired campaign.

The Anagram Map of London

In this case, the map is the territory. If you decide to use this in your games, please make a comment and share what you have done.

Edit: Since Greg Stolze mentioned this site in a post to the thread that I made about this on RPG.net, I thought that I would include a link to the site in this post as well. Anagrams are everywhere.

Edit[2]: Apparently legal action has forced the removal of the original map. You can find more information here. You can also find Anagram Maps for other cities (including Cleveland) here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Stephen Colbert | The A.V. Club

From an interview with Steven Colbert at the A.V. Club.

Stephen Colbert | The A.V. Club

"AVC: You were into Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, were you not?

"SC: Yeah, I really was. I started playing in seventh grade, 1977. And I played incessantly, 'til probably 1981—four years.

"AVC: What's the appeal?

"SC: It's a fantasy role-playing game. If you're familiar with the works of Tolkien or Stephen R. Donaldson or Poul Anderson or any of the guys who wrote really good fantasy stuff, those worlds stood up. It's an opportunity to assume a persona. Who really wants to be themselves when they're teenagers? And you get to be heroic and have adventures. And it's an incredibly fun game. They have arcane rules and complex societies and they're open-ended and limitless, kind of like life. For somebody who eventually became an actor, it was interesting to have done that for so many years, because acting is role-playing. You assume a character, and you have to stay in them over years, and you create histories, and you apply your powers. It's good improvisation with agreed rules before you go in."