Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Wrong Number"

Yes, I have seen Avatar, but this idea was around long before James Cameron started dreaming about giant blue cat people.

Read "Wrong Number" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not so much with the Frenzy

Yeah, so I'm not going to finish Script Frenzy this month. I made a bunch of notes and wrote a couple of decent scenes, but most of April was taken up with preparations for the DASH puzzle hunt. That was fun, but also a lot of work.

And now it's the end of the month, and a bunch of other stuff is coming due, and... well, honestly, I wasn't hugely jazzed about Script Frenzy this year to begin with. Too many other things going on, and--to borrow a screenwriting term--there just wasn't enough at stake to keep me interested.

But I am still writing, and working on other projects: podcasting, volunteering at the library twice a week, and some other things which I can't talk about just yet. It's all good. Trust me, I'm a dentist. Insert your own witty catchphrase here.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SnoutCast #13: "AfterDASH"

Yes, this week's episode title is a TV in-joke. Also, a few upcoming events we failed to mention:Subscribe to the calendar at to get the latest updates!

[ Download mp3 - 38 MB ]

00:00 - Random Teaser™: aggressive squirrel (video)
02:20 - Recapping Different Area, Same Hunt...
03:55 - ...which happened in ten cities
06:08 - clue production as a final quality-control (QC) pass
08:00 - it takes two to QC
09:49 - positive feedback from Portland DASH teams
13:51 - Curtis argues that "Same Hunt" is a misnomer
17:13 - DeeAnn talks volunteers
22:48 - building a Game community in Portland?
25:58 - fast teams still have fun
27:50 - teams don't really like to travel
33:16 - why prizes are bad, dude
36:17 - see DASH puzzles, scores, etc. at Real Soon Now
39:16 - Game season begins! Shinteki Decathlon 6, 2 Tone Game, PAX, and more
40:22 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "I Feel Fantastic" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

Comic Book Report: Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: The Five Nightmares

I picked up a free reprint copy of Invincible Iron Man #1 a few weeks ago at a local game store (D was dropping off flyers for GameStorm). The female clerk on duty recommended it, saying that she normally doesn't go for Iron Man comics, but she liked this one. I read it, also liked it, and then requested the above collection from the library.

Well, there's good and then there's good. The first issue sets up an interesting dialectic of global terrorism and security, but the story arc ends in (minor spoiler) yet another super-powered fistfight. I know it's often very satisfying to see the bad guy get beaten to a pulp, but couldn't you at least do it in a slightly different way each time?

There is, however, a nice Pepper Potts subplot in here. That's the main reason I'm going to check out the next volume.

Final note: the coloring in this book really bugged me, mostly because every character looks like they've got a bad spray-on tan. Easy on the airbrush, fellas:

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Monday, April 26, 2010

Nathan Fillion on Surgery, Lightsabers, and Being Cool

Annoying pre-roll ads, and why two parts for only seven minutes of video? Hulu sucks. But in this case, the payoff is worth it:

You're welcome.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

#protip of the day

Do not engage in public debate with a professional stand-up comedian. You will lose. As shown here:

For those of you still unclear on the concept, John Rogers ("Mr. Leverage") explains:
I still have a lot of gut instinct left over from my stand-up days. You do not "reach common ground" with a heckler -- you destroy a heckler, or anyone else who threatens the fragile emotional suspension required in a successful stand-up show. Destroy them, or suffer the consequences. A thousand people's night will go wrong based on one person's selfishness or idiocy -- and your failure to control same on a split-second's notice.

That is all.


Comic Book Report: The Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

And now for something completely different. Well, not entirely. Mike Carey riffs on Harry Potter, Fables (Bill Willingham wrote the introduction to this collection), and real-world fandom, telling the high-concept story of a young man who has the same name as a fictional boy wizard in a series of books written by his father.

There's a lot of talk about capital-S Story, and a digression into the life of Rudyard Kipling feels very much like The Invisibles. (Which could be good or bad, depending on what you think of the The Invisibles.) For me, Unwritten was more accessible than Morrison's stuff, and didn't overload the narrative with literary trivia or illustrated acid trips.

I'm hoping Carey can continue balancing the mundane and the sublime for at least a few dozen issues. I know, I know, you loved his Lucifer, but that was mostly fantasy, wasn't it? Writing a semi-magical human world without underselling it or going over the top is a challenge, and Neil Gaiman just keeps making it tougher for the rest of us to measure up. Bastard.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Comic Book Report: Alias Vol. 1

Comics legend Brian Michael Bendis does noir. This was the first title published under Marvel's "R-rated" MAX imprint, and the very first word of the book is "FUCK!" Which sets the tone pretty well--the heroine is a world-weary private detective (is there any other kind in fiction?) who also happens to be a former superhero. Hijinks ensue.

Anyway, being Bendis, of course it's good, though I wouldn't call it great. It's a stew of hard-boiled genre tropes lightly seasoned with references to and guest appearances by big-names Marvel heroes. There's a lot of dialogue, but it rarely feels talky, which is something of a triumph in itself.

My biggest quibble is with the cover art--sure, it's well-done, but it feels a bit too Sandman for this subject matter. Sorry, guys, but Dave McKean didn't just steal your thunder, he's got that lightning bottled up like Kandor. (And yes, I am being ironic by using a DC reference.)

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I don't even own a blender...

...but this totally makes me want to go out and get one.


SnoutCast #12: "GAME Themes, Part 2: A Brief History of Snout"

The thrilling conclusion to last week's discussion, in which we reminisce about past Games run by Team Snout and how we selected and implemented each theme. Please try to contain your excitement.

[ Download mp3 - 36 MB ]

00:00 - Random TeaserTM: breaking the fourth wall
01:43 - how do GCs pick their themes?
05:02 - many Game themes are based on TV/movies/media/pop culture
06:05 - lessons learned: theme > story (e.g., Justice Unlimited)
08:26 - how Snout picks themes
11:07 - Homicide: Life on the Farm
11:48 - FoBiK
14:20 - you don't need a lot of story in a Game...
16:20 - ...but the players need to be the stars of the story
17:47 - the story of FoBiK
19:37 - foreshadowing in trailer, payoff in photo clue
21:08 - front-loading story in Justice Unlimited
22:46 - men in tights
24:11 - lively debate over the Hogwarts Game story
29:04 - thank you, Goonies Game!
31:05 - how is Harry Potter like the President of the United States?
33:29 - how Chris suckered us into running Midnight Madness
36:19 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Mandelbrot Set" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

Monday, April 19, 2010

Comic Book Report: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run

Dark, ironic, and hilarious. Writer Matthew Sturges tells the story of the Human Flame, a second-rate criminal who was involved in the murder of the Martian Manhunter, and manages to make him completely human, if not wholly sympathetic. Plus, actual science--not made-up technobabble/magic--saves the day in the end.

And how can you not enjoy a supervillain named Condiment King who speaks in bad food puns ("I'm so glad you mustard up the courage...")? That's straight out of The Tick. And we love the Tick.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Makin teh Tubes Werk 4 U

Unlike some people I could mention, the Muppets and Monty Python have chosen to sidestep the piracy issue by posting their own videos on YouTube. So you can enjoy brilliant stuff like this for free:

Why do this? As usual, the Pythons say it best:
For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands... We've launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube.

No more of those crap quality videos you've been posting. We're giving you the real thing - HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

What's more, we're taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what's even more, we're letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

They go on to point out that they also supply links to buy their movies and TV shows, but IMHO, the primary benefit of their YouTube channel is building goodwill with their fans. Most people, when confronted with either niceness or meanness, will respond in kind. As shown here:

Here's the thing that paranoid businessmen always ignore: people like to shop. And consumers will buy a DVD of something they've seen before if they like it, because they want the convenience of having it always available to re-watch and the pleasure of having a copy in their home collection.

Like it or not, humans still value artifacts; saying "it's on my hard drive" is not the same as being able to point to the colorful box on your bookshelf. Fans will pay to own a piece of something they love, but they won't love it unless you give them the chance to soak in it, so to speak.


Comic Book Report: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance

Strangely overwritten, with stilted dialogue, flat characters, and abstruse plotting. Follows the adventures (so-called) of Super Young Team, a group of inexperienced Japanese superheroes, but I can't tell how much of this is parody and how much is just bad writing. Perhaps anime fans would find it more accessible. I did appreciate some of the Twitter jokes, though.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Comic Book Report: Star Trek: Spock - Reflections

This, in my opinion, is a rare example of good fanfic. As the title indicates, it's a very introspective story about everyone's favorite Vulcan, and it succeeds by using small moments in Spock's life to build up a larger, character-revelatory narrative. There's not a lot of action here, but it's not that kind of story.

This book also manages to hit every single major Star Trek era in flashback (you can keep score by looking at the uniforms) without feeling like it's running through a checklist, and that is largely due to authorial restraint. Not every supporting character needs to be plucked from established continuity, and not every significant event needs to be a "shadow" of canon.

The point of writing an original story is to add something new to this universe. The contribution may only amount to one pebble on a mountaintop, but that is the scale at which we humanoids appreciate most things. Don't worry about the mountain. Just make sure your rock is the same color.

Here endeth the lesson, before my faux-zen metaphors get out of control.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "You Have One New Message"

I don't know if spies even use voice mail--I would guess not; it's evidence, for crying out loud--but the rest of us certainly do. Call it dramatic license. (I will refrain from using the obvious pun, to spare our more sensitive readers.)

Read "You Have One New Message" at 512 Words or Fewer


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Comic Book Report: Checkmate Vol. 1: A King's Game

I was still in high school in 1988, when Action Comics #598 introduced Checkmate to the DC universe, and I remember being intrigued by the high-concept, high-tech James Bond riff. Unfortunately, the execution didn't quite live up to the promise--from what I remember, they were pretty run-of-the-mill espionage stories.

But like most things in mainstream comics, the fictional organization never really went away, and in 2006, writer Greg Rucka helped restart a monthly Checkmate title, one of the many repercussions of the Infinite Crisis/OMAC Project/52 continuity clusterfuck. (Don't get me started.)

The good news is, this second-variety Checkmate behaves much more like I imagine a real espionage outfit would, dealing with at least as much info-war intrigue, intramural rivalry, and personal politics as pistols-blazing action. Did I mention that I also devoured many John le Carré novels in high school?

Rucka portrays the Checkmate organization in very much the same way as SIS in his Queen & Country comics and novels (which itself was nearly a direct copy of The Sandbaggers). And that is a very good thing. The fact that this particular spy shop lives in a world populated by superheroes is almost secondary to the real drama.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


SnoutCast #11: "GAME Themes, Part 1: John Lithgow"

Wherein we answer another quizzical question from loyal listener Larry.

[ Download mp3 - 28 MB ]

00:00 - Teaser: Bruce Campbell role-playing
03:56 - Question: Ever reject a game theme idea because it was too esoteric? Like, say, The Films of John Lithgow?
06:40 - never rejection, but always refinement
09:32 - running a Game is like childbirth. No, really!
16:17 - specific implementations of a theme have been rejected
19:05 - will teams get/enjoy this theme?
24:34 - theme == icing
28:06 - Next Week: Part 2!
29:34 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Skullcrusher Mountain" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comic Book Report: Scalped Vol. 5: High Lonesome

I don't usually think of myself as a specialist, especially when it comes to entertainment. I like to sample media from lots of different genres. Consequently, I know a little about a lot of things, but don't have true expertise in many fields (except, perhaps, TNG-era Trek trivia).

So when the introduction to this Scalped collection sings the praises of crime dramas like The Sopranos and Elmore Leonard's work, I shrug my shoulders and move on. I watched the first season of The Sopranos, until it became just another mafia soap, and like everyone else, I enjoyed Out of Sight, but it didn't turn me into a Leonard groupie.

It's pretty rare for me to love one particular author's entire body of work, especially when they write exclusively in one specific genre or idiom. I know many people enjoy the comfort of a familiar setting or well-worn characters, but I tend to like variety. I get bored easily.

That's not a problem with Scalped, a sprawling saga of a variety of imperfect people in a myriad of intertwining bad situations. You could call it Shakespearean or Roman in that way. One thing it ain't is boring.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "State Secrets"

I was having some trouble writing a story yesterday, so D helped me by supplying this idea (paraphrased): "A man finds the Holy Grail in the jungle, then gets killed by a gorilla!" Thus was I inspired, though I did not slavishly adhere to the prompt.

Read "State Secrets" at 512 Words or Fewer


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Comic Book Report: X-Men: Magneto Testament

This coming Sunday is the start of the Days of Remembrance, so it's fitting that I just read the excellent X-Men: Magneto Testament. I came to this book by another route--that of researching writer and filmmaker Greg Pak's oeuvre, the same way I wandered into Planet Hulk--and I'm glad I found it.

I generally have little or no interest in the epic soap opera that is the Marvel Comics universe (another exception: Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run), but I have to give them props, especially in this book, for adhering to historical accuracy and their own fictional continuity. It's a high degree of difficulty squared, and Pak and his editorial team handle it very well.

This is not a superhero story. It's not even a supervillain story. You could call it sneaky way to educate kids about the Holocaust using a comic book (or not-so-sneaky, given the big letters proclaiming INCLUDES TEACHER'S GUIDE on the front cover), but it's a good story any way you look at it.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon

And speaking of the Holocaust... PBS is airing the 2009 BBC miniseries of The Diary of Anne Frank this Sunday (you can watch online starting Monday until May 11th). I've seen nothing but good reviews of this show.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

SnoutCast #10: Two or More Players

New weekly format! We're alternating between puzzle hunt and general gaming topics. This week, we discuss the merits of certain tabletop games, especially in two-player versus more-than-two-player configurations.

[ Download mp3 - 26 MB ]

00:00 - a snappy teaser
02:00 - new format and topic, apropos of Gamestorm
03:29 - stressors in Last Night on Earth
07:18 - Settlers of Catan vs. Catan Card Game
09:24 - adding a third wheel, I mean player
11:20 - how to beat Curtis at board games
12:46 - bidding and other multi-player interactions
18:13 - making one-player games into two-player experiences
19:00 - anthropomorphizing video game AIs (or not)
20:50 - "Where's the not having fun button?"
22:46 - plug: DASH 2, in ten cities across the USA on April 24th!
23:27 - this anecdote would be really funny if you knew Brian Rosen, and I hadn't misquoted him
24:55 - DeeAnn's Kruschev impression
26:44 - Next Week: Game Themes!

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn Jasper

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "You Are What You Eat"

Alternate title: "The Omnivore's Lemma." Thank you! I'll be here all week!

Read "You Are What You Eat" at 512 Words or Fewer


Thursday, April 01, 2010