Showing posts from October, 2016

Music Review: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

We move under cover and we move as one
Through the night, we have one shot to live another day
We cannot let a stray gunshot give us away
We will fight up close, seize the moment and stay in it
It’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet
The code word is ‘Rochambeau,’ dig me?
You have your orders now, go, man, go!
And so the American experiment begins
With my friends all scattered to the winds "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside)"

What first got my attention about the music from Hamilton was how bad-ass Lin-Manuel Miranda and his cast made The Battle of Yorktown sound. I love history in general but the founding of my nation has a sepcial place in my heart. The music of Hamilton captures this era so well - how a bunch of rebels against incredible odds managed to found a nation. How that nation needed a federal government and how fortunate it was in its first president was a man who understood the importance of refusing power - of teaching a nation "how to s…

Non-Fiction Review: The Proud Tower

Though it's an older book, Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 makes for a very readable presentation on what the world of 1890-1914 was like. It is worth noting her focus was on the western world, centered around the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, and the United States, as well their interactions with other countries.

Tuchman noted that she deliberately does not discuss World War 1. It's an interesting choice, given how well we know it is looming over this book. As she explained it, given the people she portrays were not aware of what was to come, she wanted to present their world free of it. That's not to say they were totally ignorant of the possibility of the coming war - many times she mentions the feeling that various personalities she covers have about an upcoming war - often looking forward to it with a nationalistic pride. But clearly, none could know what a disaster for humanity the war would prove t…

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play: The Case of Mister Nichols Part 1

This adventure writeup is a little different, taking the form of the note characters might take while pursuing a case.


Actual Play: First Impressions of Pulp Cthulhu

We just had our first Penny Dreadful Cthulhu game, giving us our first opportunity to try out the Pulp Cthulhu rules changes. We decided to go with the default level of pulpiness - PCs have double their normal hit points, more skills, and possess talents that provide minor enhancements or supernatural abilities.

As I'd suspected, the game is definitely still Call of Cthulhu - creepy animated dummies are still a bit endangering to one's sanity. I did notice an overall improvement in character competence and the fact that some characters had psychic abilities did make a difference as well. I noticed that for the most part these abilities sped up play - psychic powers proved a nice way to make sure characters had enough information to proceed. Also, luck being more flexible kept things moving nicely.

There wasn't a whole lot of combat so I cant yet comment on what sort of a difference the changes make for that. I feel a bit guilty about a low-combat pulp game, but there was …

Fiction Review: 'Salem's Lot

The town knew about darkness.
It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when roatation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul. - 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, Chapter Ten

There's a point of view that one should only read a book once. After that, why read it again, you know what happened.
Truthfully, for some books, most even, that's definitely the case. But for me, there's certain books I read over and over again over the years. Not to find out what happened, but to experience the book again. And to take away something new from it. The best books don't give up all they have of value on the first read. I mentioned a few posts back 1984 is a book I tend to read once a year or so. 'Salem's Lot is another book that finds its way to me multiple times.
Set in the then-contemporary early 1970's, 'Salem's Lot is the story of a vampire infestation of a small Maine town. But it's more than that. King brings t…

Getting a Feel for London 1889

My initial Penny Dreadful Cthulhu game was postponed by a week - I had to do some unexpected repair work on our front yard zombies, taking up time I'd planned on doing homework. Real world can be a bit rough sometimes... But hey - check out zombies at the end of this post.While the first game has been delayed a week I do have the first adventure ready - though I might do a bit of refining, map-making, etc.

I do have to confess I find Victorian London to be a bit challenging. None of us are British so there's going to be no one going after me on details, but one thing I find intimidating is there is so much information available on Victorian London it is possible to fall victim to analysis paralysis. Part of the challenge is London is a real city that I don't know all that well - I've only been there once so I don't have an intuitive feel for it. When making a superhero city or a game set in a fictional city, I feel a bit more emboldened to make it my own. The odd …

Fiction Review: From Hell

"One day men will look back and say I gave birth to the twentieth century."

From Hell is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell. It concerns itself with the murders committed by Jack the Ripper in the late Victorian era.

The story is not a mystery - we are privy who the murderer is from the very start. It is William Gull, physician. There is a theory that Gull was indeed the murderer, though it is not one that Moore says he found credible - he did, however, find it made for an interesting story.

In the story, Prince Albert Victor ("Prince Eddy") secretly marries Annie Cook, a shop girl. She has a child by him. Needless to say, when his grandmother, Queen Victoria, finds out about this, she is not amused. To stop her from talking, William Gull effectively lobotomizes her. However, her friend, Mary Kelly, already knows of the royal baby and she and her friends, all prostitutes, attempt to blackmail the royal family, Which sends William…

Controlling the Past

"Who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

-George Orwell, 1984

1984 is on my list of favorite books. It's possibly my all-time favorite. If you've not read it, it's hard for a summary to do it justice. I'm not sure of the original source of this, but I've heard many times online people state that North Korea is a country that could be described as someone reading 1984 and deciding that's the perfect model for their country.

Every year or so I read 1984 again. And every reading I appreciate it again, in different ways. Sometimes I take notice of how well constructed the novel is. Sometimes I notice how astute some political observation is. Sometimes I'm amazed how well he imagined the future.

One of the ideas behind the novel is the control of the past. Big Brother, the near-mythical leader of Oceania, is never wrong. If some news story in the past shows him to have been in error, it is the story th…

Humbert Humbert is a Jerk: Reading Lolita for Banned Book Week

[Slight divergence from my normal blogging. Feel free to move along...]

In honor of Banned Book Week I decided to read a book I hadn't read that was on the list. I listened to the audiobook version of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, as read by Jeremy Irons. Irons also played the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, in the 1997 film adaptation of the novel.

Lolita deals with some pretty dreadful people, none more dreadful in my opinion than it's protagonist, Humbert Humbert - a self-made pseudonym developed by the protagonist while in prison for the memoir he wrote. The fact he is in prison is revealed at the very start - I'm not giving away anything as the fact he is incarcerated is revealed at the very start.

Humbert Humbert is clearly an unreliable narrator. He is certainly an interesting one, full of odd asides, observations, and even the occasional poem. The Jeremy Irons unabridged reading is phenomenal - though I've never seen the 1997 film, I've no doubt he did a phe…

Examining Cthulhu Mythos Tales Through a Pulp Lens

As I embark on a Pulp Cthulhu game, albeit one set in the late Victorian era, I've been thinking about what really differs between a pulp-oriented game vs. a purist one.

The answer is surprisingly flexible. There is a style of play that embraces the belief that all the characters are, quite simply, doomed. They are in a race between dying, going insane, or living long enough to see the end of the world. And Lovecraft certainly wrote a number of stories in that way - "Dagon" comes to mind quite readily. On the other hand, in many ways "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" has a strong touch of pulp - a narrator who makes a hair-raising escape, leaping out windows, hiding from pursuit, etc. One can expand to members of his writing circle like Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, both of whom have told tales of action in the same cosmos that Lovecraft defined.

I think Lovecraft's letter to Farnsworth Wright in July of 1 1927 sets a good agenda for what a tale of th…