My Halloween Jams

This Is My Jam is a silly little website where you can declare a song your jam of the moment. You follow other people, see their jams, and can hear some neat music that way. It’s a fun little time-waster.

For Halloween I have been doing a series of spookyish jams. I tried to do a new one each weekday but that didn’t work out. Here’s the full list of my October jams:

Oct 1: Started out with “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family, a/k/a the theme to True Detective. A perfect start.

Oct 2: The obvious Shriekback track would be “Nemesis”, but I went for “Running on the Rocks” instead. It’s the Sanskrit that makes it taste so good.

Oct 3: A deliberate zig-zag, I chose “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy. A bit of 70s weirdness that spooked me as a kid.

The next week was a theme week. All songs from the 80s with creepy-ass videos.

Oct 6: The obligatory “Icehouse” by Icehouse.

Oct 7: “Draw of the Cards” by Kim Carnes.

Oct 8: “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie.

Oct 9: “Pressure” by Billy Joel.

Oct 10: “Why Me” by Planet P. This is one of those songs that only people who watched MTV at the beginning know, and they won’t remember it right away, but then they’ll go OH YEAH, THAT ONE.

Oct 13: Still in the 80s, it’s “Fly on the Windscreen” by Depeche Mode.

Oct 14: Then we jump back for a witchity song by Cher, “Dark Lady”.

Oct 15: Shivaree’s “Goodnight Moon” is probably the scariest song ever sung by someone named Ambrosia Parsley.

Oct 16: Bauhaus has a lot of go-to tracks, but I figured those were well covered by now, so I went with one that isn’t quite all skulls and draculas but still had that feel to it, “She’s In Parties”. Look at the baby Bauhauses!

Oct 17: And then you put Bauhaus through the mimeograph machine a few times and get “Waspy” by The Bolshoi.

Oct 20: We started watching Twin Peaks then and the next choice was a must. “Falling” by Julee Cruise.

Oct 21: This song still creeps me the hell out. “Mad Lucas” by The Breeders.

Oct 22: Sinead O’Connor sings us a ghost story with “Jackie”.

Oct 23: Sonic Youth does “Superstar”, a spectacularly creepy cover of a spectacularly creepy song.

Oct 27: I returned for the final week ready to hit the lighter side of Halloween. Here’s a video that cracks me up every single time. A mash-up of “Spooky Scary Skeletons” and “Gangnam Style”.

Oct 28: Rockapella invites you to a “Zombie Jamboree”.

Oct 29: New Orleans New Wave legends The Cold cover the theme to “Green Slime”.

Oct 30: Gorillaz tell us about “Dracula”.

And what could finish out this menacing melange of macabre music? I saved only the scariest for last, a song of true terror about the most foul fiend imaginable.

Oct 31: “Richard Nixon” by Christmas.

Now you must make someone else watch that video within seven days or you will become a Republican.

  

SPOOKY!

Posted in Music | Tagged ,

Behold: THE LIVING LIGHTHOUSE

This past weekend when I was all hopped down on Benadryl, I had a dream that I was back in Illinois, playing Champions, the super-hero role-playing game, with Chris and Christine. My character was THE LIVING LIGHTHOUSE and it was a full-sized lighthouse on top of a sort of gorilla body. The lighthouse beam was a sort of heat ray and it also had a foghorn sonic attack.

That, my friends, is a million-dollar character.

When I awoke, I knew what I had to do. First, I contacted Christine. I don’t have my Champions books anymore, so I went to her and Chris to help turn this into a playable Champions character. They’re working on that. Then I went to pal Dave H and commissioned a sketch from him.

So I present to you THE character find of 2014, THE LIVING LIGHTHOUSE.

LOOK AT THAT HANDSOME BASTARD.

I haven’t figured out his origin or other details yet. Once I do, I’ll share more.

If you want to send me your fan art of The Living Lighthouse, I’d love to see it!

Posted in Comics | Tagged

Wretched Hives of Scum and Allergy

Remember last year, when I got that bizarre allergy attack? It started with red spots around my eyes, and the next day my face was swollen and my whole body itched.

Welp, it happened again.

Honestly, it never completely went away. The swelling and hives eventually settled down, but I was still taking Zyrtec about once a week for random itching. Then on Thursday I noticed spots around the eyes and Friday morning, yep, all swole up. Including my lip (and possibly throat) this time.


this is all I eat now

On Saturday I went to the Qwik Klinik and they prescribed me my weight in Benadryl and some Prednisone. My experience with the latter has been second-hand; it helped my dad have tea with the Queen and notice lobsters on the hospital ceiling. I was kind of looking forward to it (it also makes people surly but in my case, how would you tell?)

After a harrowing Saturday night I started the Prednisone on Sunday morning and it was a sea change. The swelling calmed down, the itching was more controllable, and I even felt good enough to go play boardgames Sunday afternoon. I didn’t experience any untoward side effects, either. SHUT UP LOBSTER I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU GOD DAMMIT.

I’m on this regiment for six days and then we’ll see where we are. When I talked to the allergist last time he didn’t think it was food related, and I’m inclined to agree. My diet is pretty consistent, so if I was that allergic to something I’d be getting reactions more often. I think the fact that I got hit twice at just about the same time of the year points to a possible environment trigger, like some kind of mold or something.

A friend pointed me towards an allergist in Northampton who specializes in environmental allergies so I’m going to try and set up an appointment there. I sure hope it’s not something that would prevent me from being able to rake leaves, though!

Posted in Argh! | Tagged ,

I Had That! #36: Star Wars Lunchbox

(Your correspondent is under the weather, so for today’s “I Had That”, I’m reposting a blog post from a few years ago.)

Heading out to school in the fall of 1977, I of course wanted a Star Wars lunchbox. I guess there weren’t any yet or something, so my dad helped me make my own. I mentioned it in an earlier post and someone asked about it. Not only can I tell you about it, I can show you pics, since I still have it.

Here are the two main sides (I don’t know what you’d consider the “front” and “back”.)

I believe it was originally a “Dyno-Mutt” lunchbox. First we spray-painted it blue. When that dried, I went to town with pictures I’d cut out of magazines and Star Wars trading cards. We then sprayed it with a clear lacquer, which I think is the only reason it’s still in somewhat good shape.

Pretty sure the movie poster pic was actually a full-page ad from Reader’s Digest. The two cards on that side were two of my favorites, and I wanted that Han Solo one on there so much, I used a “blue” one. I guess that was the only extra one I had? (In those cards, sometimes the picture had a weird blue tint all over it when I suppose something went wrong during printing.)

Here are the two sides:

Judging from how well the R2-D2 pic is cut out, I am assuming I didn’t do it.

Here’s the bottom:

In this picture you can see the dents on the R2-D2 side from when it was taken from me by other kids and kicked around the playground.

And the top:

Yes, I hand-painted the little star and planet on there. And you see what I did with that trading card? STAR WARS IS NUMBER ONE!

So there’s my Star Wars lunchbox from oh, thirty-four years ago. When I die, I will be cremated and it will be used to store my ashes.

When did I get it? All of the trading cards are from the first (blue) set, so this is definitely 1977.

Do I still have it? I do!

Posted in Geek Stuff | Tagged ,

What Delicious Week?

I’m not sure why the script that creates This Delicious Week isn’t working, but I’m not really in a place to figure it out right now.

Posted in Delicious

Impulse: It’s Called Impulse For a Reason

Impulse is a new game by Carl Chudyk (Glory to Rome, Innovation, Uchronia) published by Asmadi Games. Chudyk is known for thinky, stripped-down designs that focus on intricate mechanisms. In the past, Chudyk’s games have not had dazzling artwork, focusing instead on just what needs to be there to play the game, and this one is no exception. The look of the game is cold and sparse (see image below). Impulse came into this world, then, with a pedigree that preceded it. It was also billed as a “4X game” reduced to its bare essentials. It’s been done a great disservice, and I’d like to help rectify that.

First, a little about the game. Briefly, Each card in the game is a planet with three pieces of information on it: the ability it confers, its color, and its size (number of icons, from one to three.)

In this image, this is a size 3 (the third icon on the left in the photo has been cut off but you can see a bit of it) blue planet with a “Refine” action. The map is made up of these cards, face-down, which are revealed as players move on them. Players have two kinds of spaceships: cruisers and transports (actually the same tokens, but if it’s standing up, as in the above photo, it’s a transport. Lying down it’s a cruiser.) Transports activate planets, cruisers are for combat. A turn consists of adding a card to the Impulse (more on this in a moment), using a tech, executing the Impulse, using a plan (a sort of personal Impulse a player can have), and drawing cards. You’re trying to be the first to get to 20 points. The cards are the heart of the game and each contains one of ten different actions. They aren’t important here; but they are things such as moving, mining, building, research, and so forth. They’re what you’ll use to get points and expand your reach. The Impulse is the neat thing here: it’s a row of actions that each player executes in order. At the beginning of your turn you add a card to it, and at the end you trim the oldest card off of it. It’s a conveyer belt of actions, and you have to make sure you’re adding cards that help you out without helping your opponents, since they’ll get a chance to use them as well. That’s the basics of the game. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is.

I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by the game. When I saw it at GenCon I really wanted to try it, but I just was not sure how good it would be, and it looked really tough. I thought about just buying it a few times but was all, “Well, I don’t know.” My pal Matt got it and taught it to me and I’m sorry I was put off at first, because I really like it. So I’m here to tell you to not be afraid and to not go into it the wrong way. I believe there are two things keeping Impulse back and I want to set the record straight.

First, I the comparison to a 4X game is inevitable, but incorrect. (For those who need to know, a 4X game means “eXplore, eXploit, eXpand, and eXterminate.” It’s a genre of game in which you start out small but gradually increase the size of your faction through gathering resources, developing technology, and warring.) There’s a lot on the surface that makes it seem like a 4X game, but the way in which it isn’t like one trumps those. The point of a 4X game is that it’s a long game; not just in actual, physical length, but in the inherent strategy. You’re not looking for what works now, you look at what is going to work later. Impulse is called “Impulse”. It’s not geared for the gradual buildup of an empire. It’s a shorter game with a steep arc; the action will come quickly in both speed and acceleration. You can not start out thinking, “I’m going to do mining this time” because there are a lot of cards and you don’t know what you’re going to get. Once you see what you’re working with you can develop a strategy, but you’re at the mercy of the draw until then. And once you decide on a direction, things are going to move quickly. 4X games can be a tug-of-war, with one faction rising in power, then being eclipsed by another, and so forth; Impulse games can be decided in a moment, when one player’s machine kicks into gear. If you are looking for an epic, sprawling game, which is what most people think of when they think “4X”, you will be disappointed, because Impulse isn’t that game and doesn’t want to be.

Yes, it’s true that the technologies available are 4X ones: Build, Refine, Research, etc. But there are ten different ones and you won’t necessarily use or even see all of them. “Trade” isn’t automatically something you’ll occasionally do as part of your plan; “Trade” more probably IS your plan, and if it is, you’re not going to be focusing on much else because you’ll want to trade early and often. So although you have what seems like a bewildering array of options, the trick is to focus only on what is going to get you points and do so quickly without helping your opponent. If Mine + Refine is your thing this time, then get rid of the orders that aren’t contributing to that. This is part of why I like it, as opposed to most 4X games. I’m not a “long game” kind of person, and I don’t have the patience or skill to make plans for eight turns down the road.

The second problem is that I think the “bare-bones” look of the cards is causing even those who are reviewing it favorably to approach it as an industrial affair, as though it’s a collection of cold metal parts and not a game. There seems to be a lot of, “one certainly has to admire the craft of the construction”, making it sound like a tech demo than a game. But here’s the thing; it’s fun. It’s full of cool combos, sneaky plays, moments where you cheer or curse. The design is minimal, sure, but it’s not cold and impersonal. In fact, having played Glory to Rome and Innovation, I prefer Impulse the most because I find it more straight-up fun and less of a mechanical exercise. (I personally like the sort of retro look of the cards and plastic spaceships, and I love that a cruiser is just a transport on its side.) Impulse games are short, as they should be, and each one of them is a little story of building tension until that snowball moment when everything falls into place. You only play to 20 points, and you can often score six or seven in a single turn. It’s all forward momentum, and the action is fast and steep.

To be fair, Impulse has hurt itself with its rulebook, which is not written that well and which is laid out in an irritating way, making it difficult to look up questions. To fit in its small box the book is smaller, but thicker, both giving it more pages to have to flip through to find something and making it look more fearsome.

I’ve mostly played it two players, for which it’s good, but it was great with three and probably four as well. I think if you go above that then the random element will take over and the Impulse itself will change too quickly and make it less fun and interesting (I’d like to try it, though). Three might be the sweet spot for it. In the first game I played, ship combat ruled the day and we never even saw some of the actions. In another, it was all about the Sabotage action (though we were playing it wrong.) I made good use of Plan cards in one game, even though we’d gone other games without them coming up. The variety is great.

Don’t let the well-intentioned but ultimately incorrect hype fool you. Impulse is a short, sharp shock, not a slow build. It’s more akin to Race for the Galaxy than Twilight Imperium. And it’s a lot of quick, exciting fun.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged ,

I Thought Maybe My Lego was Lousy But It’s SNOT

I was a little disappointed when my “SNOT Rocket” didn’t get a whole lot of traction on Flickr. I thought it was a pretty neat idea, and one I hadn’t seen before.

Looking back at the images, though, I realized they weren’t very good, didn’t really illustrate what was going on (especially at small sizes), and weren’t named that well, so this past weekend I took some better photos and uploaded them with a better description (“Upside-Down Classic Space Cruiser 826 77″).

And lo, my hard work paid off! I got blogged on The Brothers Brick yesterday!

I really feel like I’m starting to get my Lego mojo back!

Posted in Lego | Tagged , ,

Shoot and Loot on the MOOOOOOOOOON!

Why yes, I have been playing a lot of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (see, it comes between Borderlands and Borderlands 2). In fact, last night I was so much playing it that I forgot to stop and watch Sleepy Hollow!

This game takes place on Elpis, the moon of Pandora. Elpis has no atmosphere and low gravity, so you have to have an oxygen supply but also you get to do all kinds of great jumps! And they have platforms that will jump you even higher! If you’re a fan of jumping — and I’ve made it clear I am — then this is the game for you!

I’m playing as Nisha, the Lawbringer. My take on her is that she has no interested in two-handed weapons, so I’m only using pistols and SMGs (and, okay, I’m carrying around a rocket launcher because sometimes that’s what you need.) I’ve also been playing some with the new laser guns, but I haven’t found one I like enough yet to dump my pistols for. Nisha’s special ability is the Showdown, which gives you a little sting of “western” music and then turns you into an amazing gun machine for a few seconds. The skill tree I’m working on has me getting bonuses on shooting from the hip (not aiming) so that’s a fun change of pace as well.

I’ve joked in the past that Pandora, the planet the other games are set on, has a harsh climate, insane and vicious wildlife, and a population of criminals and savages. In other words, Australia. Well, Borderlands TPS was done by the legitimately Australian division of 2K, so that joke of mine is now being repaid in full. The citizens of Elpis all have Australian accents (except the few ported in from previous games and Nurse Nina) and speak in Australian slang (or at least the Australian slang they use for things like Outback steakhouse.) I’m not that far in yet, despite hours of play, so I haven’t met too many major characters yet.

Someone commented to me that it looked like “just more Borderlands” which is not entirely wrong. There are some new ideas here. The oxygen thing requires oxygen tanks, a new type of gear that doesn’t just store O2 (or “Oz”) but also allows venting some to boost or change jumps in the low gravity. You can even suddenly slam down from being airborne for an area attack. Laser guns are also new. The character classes seem to not be retreads of previous ones. There’s a new machine that can turn junk equipment into less junky equipment, a la a Horadric Cube. But a lot of it is very much more of the same. If you’re me, though, that’s exactly what you want and therefore not a problem. (I will say that the lack of variety in landscapes throws back a little too much to the original Borderlands, which some folks might not like.)

Oh, but the biggest difference? So far you’re working with a hero named Handsome Jack.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged , ,