10 Nov 08
Brawling monks at Jesus’ tomb The religious world microcosm.
10 Nov 08
Brawling monks at Jesus’ tomb The religious world microcosm.
17 Oct 08
A friend sent me this fantastic promotional photo for Battlestar Galactica. Great stuff. Also note, Fantasy Flight Games have just released a Battlestar Galactica board game, which has been getting great reviews. It’s a co-operative game–that is, until, one or more players are revealed as Cylons …
PS: No spoilers please! I haven’t got hold of Season 4 yet.
22 Sep 08
12 Aug 08
As I get older, I never cease to be amazed at the petty selfishness of your average human being as he or she goes about their daily tasks. I just popped up to the post office and, as often happens, all the streets within quick walking distance were bumper-to-bumper with parked cars. Except, that is, for one space which could have comfortably accommodated two and a half cars, which a woman had just parked her 4WD smack bang in the middle of. As she walked from her car I pulled up and politely mentioned that she had taken up two large spaces and that it wasn’t very considerate.
Of course, the modern method of dealing with any problem that is your fault immediately kicked in–denial. Not “you know, you’re right, I wasn’t thinking” or a slightly embarrassed “whoops, sorry, I’ll repark”. No, she gazed like a stunned mullet at her car and muttered some excuse about needing the room to back up. I kid you not, if she needed that amount of room to park, she must spend half her life looking for parking spaces in Sydney. I sighed, said “forgedabouddit” and drove off. I found a place to park a few streets away. Hell, at least I got a little exercise.
Now, is it just me that finds that selfishness annoying? Every time I park my car I think about other people, making sure that I’m not taking up unnecessary space that can be used by others.
#46873 of a continuing series.
30 Jul 08
Starbucks announced today that they were closing 71 outlets in Australia, in part due to Australia’s “sophisticated coffee culture” (ie, we can actually tell the difference between crap coffee and good coffee).
It’s times like these that put my faith back in Australians. It broke my heart to see the cloying corporate culture of Starbucks start to spring up in Sydney. Now if we can only get rid of the bloody Gloria Jean chain, a Starbucks wanna-be run by the Hillsong evangelical church, we can get back to enjoying good coffee in cafes run by locals.
17 Jul 08
Work is almost finished on Tales of the Arabian Nights, the big game design project I’ve been working on for Z-Man Games. Finally, the cover is confirmed:
The cover features three illustrations from the original 1912 edition of Arabian Nights illustrated by the wonderful artist René Bull.
Since my first preview, I’ve done more work on the cards and improved them somewhat. The card front design has been simplified a bit, and the type of card is now shown on it. These types may yet be differentiated more, probably by colour.
This sample city card shows how players can easily find the location of a city both by a thumbnail image of the board and an image of the city and surrounding area.
This status card gives you a sample of the many wonderful and horrible things that can happen to adventuring characters. And of course there are many creatures and people to encounter in the world of the Arabian Nights: for example, this card and this card–not to mention the 3,000 or so paragraphs in the Book of Tales!
Fortunately, there are many wonderous treasures to be found as rewards for the brave and lucky–here’s just one of the many. All the encounter and treasure cards are illustrated by the talented Dan Harding.
And finally, a look at the entire board, close to final approval. Hope you like it, even if the sea isn’t blue. Note that I was careful to put the numbers for the score tracks outside the actual spaces!
Hopefuly you’ll all grab a copy of this great game when it’s released–I know I’m looking forward to playing …
07 Jul 08
01 Jul 08
Warning: some spoilers!
Well folks, I finally got to see Indy IV—despite the fact my original plan to see it in luxury La Premiere style (comfy chairs, waiter service, bottle of wine) was scuppered by family visits and various other commitments. Instead, I took an afternoon off work, swallowed my pride and went alone to Hoyts where, as usual, you get treated like scum that they must begrudgingly provide with a minimal service in exchange for being fleeced (already it’s on the ‘put it in the loungeroom-sized cinema for those few losers who didn’t see it in the first two weekends’ list).
But this isn’t the place to enumerate my numerous complaints with the soul-sucking Hoyts chain of cinemas; that’s for a later post. This is about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the one film all us life-long Indiana Jones fans have been champing at the bit to see, the return of our beloved hero and his whip-cracking adventures. And the verdict?
Oh, it’s OK. It’s light, predictable fun. I had a good time, walked out of the cinema, and promptly forgot all about it. Because you could beat yourself senseless agonising about all the things this film could have been. You could scream that that they should have left Indiana to ride off into the sunset at the end of The Last Crusade, that Harrison Ford is too old to play the character anymore, that there’s no magic, no Indiana Jonesness, to the whole exercise. Or you could just pay your money, have a laugh, and forget about it afterwards.
The question is, it the films themselves, or is it us? I watched the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull the other night, and it seemed clunky and slow, and in places (especially the Joan Baez songs) silly. When I saw it as a kid that film blew me away. It seems all our old popular culture memories are either being plundered and destroyed, or held up to a light far too bright for them to endure. Nobody has an “I remember that, that was fantastic” moment anymore, because we see all the old films and TV shows again when we buy the lavish DVD box sets, and replace the warm, special glow of childhood with the harsh glare of experienced adulthood.
So maybe I’m too experienced now. When Indiana flies to the Nazca lines in Peru, my ten-year-old self would have been wrapped up in the exotic mystery of such a place. But now I’m 42 and I’ve actually been there myself, and flown over them in a light plane. I know there’s no hill overlooking the spider symbol with an old Peruvian graveyard on the top. Of course suspension of disbelief is all part of the fun, but there are plot holes and unbelievable sequences here that reach out of the screen and slap me in the face.
This brings me to my next question, has it all been done before? Have we seen all the good ideas in cinema, and especially in the ‘wisecracking adventurer’ genre? There’s nothing about the plot in Indy IV that surprised me or that seemed clever or new. There were no memorable lines that people will repeat to each other for decades to come (“snakes … why did it have to be snakes?”) There’s very little wit.
Of course, I have to lay some of the blame at the feet of George Lucas. He seems to see storytelling as a railroad track his characters follow against their will—a bit like Indy strapped to the rocket sled in a sequence at the start of the film. Anakin Skywalker never seemed to make one damned decision in the whole three of those odious Star Wars ‘prequels’. It gets worse here towards the end—Indy and his little Scooby gang go through the motions, not affecting anything around them. Indy doesn’t make a difference, do anything heroic, he just becomes a cardboard cut out following the scriptwriter’s dotted line. He doesn’t do any of what he so famously used to do—“make it up as he goes along”.
There was a lot of potential here. Indy could have been dragged successfully into the 50s, with its McCarthy paranoia, cold war conflict, 50s B-movie aliens. It just needed a script cleverer than this one, which makes perfunctory nods in the direction of these plot devices and then doesn’t go anywhere with them. Cate Blanchett brings a lot of charisma to her sexy Russian, but there’s no chemistry between her in Indy, and nothing is done with her character except fill the boots of bad guy. Shia LaBeouf is a good young actor and there could have been some great father-son stuff with Indy, but it never really happens. Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) could have been Marion Ravenwood instead of the strangely two-dimensional character here. Steven Spielberg still knows how to direct an action sequence, but this time they feel pasted in, with no relevance to anything, and there’s none of that brilliant ratcheting up of the stakes that was done so well with sequences like the flying wing fight in Raiders.
Yep, it could have been a great film. But by some combination of lack of ideas, the feeling we’ve seen it all before, and the fact that I, and the filmmakers, and the actors, are all a lot older—well, it just never gets there.
But I’m still giving it three fedoras out of five. It’s an OK couple of hours, even though Indiana Jones should have been left to ride into the sunset.
19 Jun 08
Kindly sent to me via the Reverend.
15 Jun 08
Update: Excuse me while I wipe the egg off my face–I’ve since been informed that this is not in fact an American government conspiracy, but a setting in Microsoft Outlook my father must have hit by accident. I don’t know if I’m more embarrassed that I jumped to a conspiracy theory conclusion (though let’s face it, call it a terrorist surveillance program and you can do whatever you want), or admitting my father uses Outlook!
My father, who is Australian, has lived in the States for more than 20 years, and has gone from being pro-American in most things to disgusted with the way the country has been run into the ground by Bush and his minions. Here’s a little example of how the Land of the Free treats its citizens these days.
He recently sent an email to my brother and I which contained this paragraph:
“… of course we have this stupid election process to elect a president and that has gone on for about 10 months and has still months to go! I can’t believe how any intelligent country can have such process that is so long it gets boring and and costs millions and millions–Hillary Clinton is already 20 million in debt. Everyone I speak to agrees the process in Oz makes so much more common sense.”
He was checking his ‘Sent’ folder to make sure the email had gone through when he noticed a line written in red at the top of his message that he hadn’t put there. It read:
“This message is being watched.”
I kid you not.