What Would Dumas Do?

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing for RPGs. This is happening less and less, but it still happens. The other night I went back to a story tentatively titled “Boltcutter” about mercenaries returning to an African country in which they had previously worked and getting dragged into a conspiracy involving one of the military leaders of the country.

Suburban Shopping

I’m getting very close to completing this story, but every time I work on it I hit the same problem. After an hour or so of work and enthusiasm, I have a moment where I wonder what is going to happen to it.

I am a mercenary hack. I have never made any excuses or denials. One of my motivations for writing is money, and I stand in good company in this. Looking at “Boltcutter” – and another African thriller/adventure piece I have evolving tentatively titled “the Detachment” – I wonder what I will do with them when they are done. I have no idea of the markets to which I might submit these. Worse, I have no idea of the state of the genre. I don’t read short thriller/adventure fiction. It’s more than a little presumptuous to try to sell to a market about which you know nothing.

View from the Safehouse

So I am stuck. I will likely continue to putter along with these stories, and maybe I will finish them, but they will be orphans. They are unlikely to find a home. Creating art can certainly be its own purpose and its own goal, but I am someone who has set a different goal, and I have work that I feel has a good prospect for making me money.

It’s not that I don’t love these children of mine, I just don’t think they’ll ever move out of the house.

You can read more about “Boltcutter” here.

You can read more about “the Detachment” here.

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Weekly Round-Up for 21 June 2014

Ways to Go” by Grouplove. This was the earworm of the week for me.  It popped up on the radio a few times and then when I was listening to streaming music at work (I’m a bad, bad man), it popped up again. Not complaining. It reminds me of the 80s, which I actually remember (parts of it). Seeing the video . . . that’s interesting, and somewhat off-putting. I need to stop looking up videos. I guess that’s supposed to be Kim Jong Un? Strange intersection.

Songza. The firewall at work keeps out almost anything that would allow me even the slightest break in the silence. A colleague of mine had music playing in his cubicle, so I had to ask, and BOOM, now I can listen to music at work. It has an interesting “concierge” service that provides advice, though I have been using it mostly for its genre playlists.

Urban Shadows. This RPG powered by Apocalypse World (the same foundation as Dungeon World) is Kickstarting right now. It’s been funded, but you can still get in there for early access and Stretch Goals. The Accidental Survivors chatted with Andrew Medeiros, the game designer. To be honest, I know Andrew relatively well and he’s a friend of Rob Wakefield’s. To also be honest, he’s a hell of a cool guy and is exactly the kind of person I love to see succeed – smart, capable, humble and humorous. Also, Mark Diaz Truman is on board with this, and if you don’t know that name and are interested in RPGs, you need to read up on the man. He is a force of nature. Go support this game and support great designers and their great games.

Edge of Tomorrow Soundtrack. The mighty Mark Richardson of Green Hat Designs mentioned this soundtrack on Twitter. I am a huge soundtrack junky. I find them excellent background music for writing. I got a chance to test it out on XBox music for free – the only good thing about Windows 8 is XBox music free 10 hour streaming per month. Excellent stuff. Fits really well into my existing collection. I’m buying it from XBox not because I love Microsoft, but because it lets me listen to the entire album before buying and its the same price as iTunes.

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Far Strike Cry Back

Last week was a bit odd. I had an intersection of TV, computer games, and Africa.

I got a chance to see the first two episodes of season three of Strike Back and I picked up the game Far Cry 2 on sale. Both of these were set in Africa. They just weren’t really set in Africa. It was kind of annoying. I’m not a complete expert on Africa, but I know enough to be perturbed at lazy writing.

Strike Back is not a bad show, it’s just that the show runners aren’t willing to do a bit of research and seem to be contractually obligated to include gratuitous nudity at least once every episode. The breasts don’t annoy me, per se, but it really cheapens the show. These are gratuitous of the level of Alice Eve’s bra and panties shot in Star Trek Intro Darkness. It’s just silly.

And using some urban decay areas of South Africa as a stand-in for Mogadishu is really, really lazy. I understand that there are budgetary constraints. So work within them. There are a lot of places those parts of South Africa could easily double for, including parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Mogadishu is a whole other level of decay, closer to Armageddon than abandoned industrial.

I laughed out loud when they patched into the CCTV on the Mogadishu docks. Seriously, why not say something like “our UAV is on line” or “the American drone is in place.” Honestly, that’s believable. A CCTV system in Mogadishu that is both working and networked to allow for the UK’s secret squirrels to hack it is really pushing on the willing suspension of disbelief.

Far Cry 2 kind of ended up being the same. So, it’s a computer game. I get it. It’s in a fictitious African country. I get that too. What I don’t get is why there are so many white mercenaries running around. There’s a supply and demand issue going on right now with mercenaries in Africa. While demand is huge, there is an equally huge domestic supply. This is not to say there are no white mercenaries in Africa, there surely are, but they are not manning checkpoints or chasing random vehicles in technicals. They’re flying the jets, training the armies, and assassinating the troublesome human rights advocates.

It also seemed a little crazy that the dudes at the checkpoints were only interested in shooting the stuffing out of anything that moved. I’ve got diamonds, guys. I’m willing to bribe you. There should be a mechanic in which you can carry whiskey, beer, cigarettes, stuff like that, and then use those to bribe the guys at checkpoints. The more you bribe them, the better your reputation with them, and you actually build a relationship.

Okay, probably too complicated for a game that is predicated on shooting anything that moves, but like the show runners for Strike Back, it shows a real ignorance of Africa. Yes, there are civil wars going on and there are mercenaries in those civil wars and diamonds are paying for a lot of it, but as a mercenary in that zone, your greatest weapon is a smile and cold beer.

You can learn more about Strike Back here.

You can learn more about Far Cry 2 here.

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Doomsday

Doomsday is a kind of post-apocalyptic movie from the director of Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall. I’ve pretty much liked every movie that Mr. Marshall has directed and this is no exception.

I call Doomsday “kind of post-apocalyptic” because really only Scotland is in the “post” phase, which the rest of Great Britain seems to be in the midst of a pre-apocalypse. A virulent disease caused the British government to wall off Scotland in a more complete manner than had the Romans, but when that disease surfaces in London 25 years later, that same government needs to send a team north of the wall where there is hope a cure might exist.

The team is led by Eden Sinclair whose origin is in Scotland, and who has grown to be the baddest of asses at the Department of Domestic Security. She leads the team, but their plan doesn’t survive contact with an enemy nobody expected. Even then, she does not give up on her mission.

The homages and inspirations are delivered with delightful exuberance, but this means Doomsday has little new to offer. New can be over-rated, and Doomsday is a great actioner with a good cast and some solid action and tension. Rhona Mitra does a good job of being Snake Plissken – though I liked Guy Pearce’s wise-cracking version of Plissken in Lock-Out better. There are a few idiot plot moments, but not too many.

If you dig movies like Escape from New York and Mad Max, Doomsday is definitely worth a watch. I give it four crack commando teams out of five.

You can read more about Doomsday here.

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Weekly Round-up 15 Jun 2014

So, while I’ll still tag these posts as Sunday Six, let’s re-brand them weekly round-up. Here are some things I’ve seen, read, listened, or otherwise enjoyed this past week. I really struggle to come up with six things, especially when I am working on a project and so consuming very little media.

Be that as it may, here are some things I encountered this last week.

Strike Back Season 3: I had enjoyed the original Strike Back (aka Chris Ryan’s Strike Back), although I had some real misgivings about Project Dawn (aka, Season 2). I got the chance to watch the first two episodes of season 3 (Vengeance). They weren’t terrible, and the tricked out, modded up G3s were pretty kicking. My biggest problem the use of South African locales as a stand-in for Mogadishu. Africa worked in the original series as a stand-in for Zimbabwe, but it really, really doesn’t work for Mogadishu. If that doesn’t bother you – and I accept this a very idiosyncratic problem of mine – Strike Back is a fair time-waster. Be aware, though, every episode has some gratuitous naked breasts. Nothing to do with the story, just stuff’s happening, shooting, breasts, more shooting, more stuff.

Far Cry 2: Speaking of Africa, GOG had Far Cry 2 on sale for $2.49 USD. I couldn’t pass it up. I enjoy a good shooter, but I am terrible at them. My biggest problem with Far Cry 2 is that I can never tell where the bullets are coming from. That wouldn’t be an issue if the opponents didn’t have ballistic radar and were able to pinpoint me every time I fired. Still, it’s fun, and I can cheat if it is really bothering me.

The Bends by Radiohead: This has got to be one of my favourite albums ever. It has always struck me as a very coherent work. Although I don’t believe it was meant as a concept album, everything cohered so well, it had a very specific feel. At least for me. I listened to the Bends all the way through twice this week. Don’t know what it was that drew me back, but I just suddenly wanted to listen.

I Heard I Had” by Dear Rouge: This week’s jam. Unlike others, I wasn’t influenced to purchase this one on iTunes. Nope. Instead, I went to the group’s website – which is generally my first step – and found I could buy it as pay what you want. So I paid $1.29, the standard price for a single song in iTunes. I am hoping the band sees more of this money. This song wasn’t available on the Dear Rouge store when I went to look, but I’m sure you can buy it from iTune or Amazon or something.

Acetaminophen: A week ago, I was fighting a really bad cold which included fever, chills and sweats. Thankfully, I live in the modern era in which I have a selection of drugs not only to defeat some of the heinous diseases that laid low our ancestors, but even to provide me a more comfortable level of suffering. About an hour after swallowing some acetaminophen, I felt vaguely human. I love progress.

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The Sum of All Fears

I am a fan of both spy movies and the Jack Ryan series in particular. That said, the reviews for the Sum of All Fears had me avoiding the movie until I saw it up on Netflix. This is the thing – Netflix is allowing me to watch a bunch of stuff which I had enjoyed again, or take a risk with stuff that interests me but that I haven’t bothered to watch yet.

The Sum of All Fears is not a bad movie, per se, but there is much of it that seems to hinge on an idiot plot – a plot that only works if the main characters are all idiots. In this case, it’s idiot tension, and it is at the feet of one character – Jack Ryan. Instead of passing on a key piece of information when he has the chance (multiple chances), Ryan instead gets into arguments. This drove me nuts. I wanted to yell at the screen: just say it!

The action, while unremarkable, was solid. The plot seemed needlessly complex in order to have neo-Nazis as the villains rather than Muslims. I can certainly sympathize with trying not to demonize a particularly demonized group, and I have to say that this change made the plot less complex and unbelievable than the whole “Jack Ryan figures out peace in the Middle East” of the novel, so in the end the neo-Nazi plot thread didn’t bother me too much.

The subplot of Ryan embarking on a relationship with the woman who would become his wife seemed tacked on. I’m not sure if it was some kind of fan service or if it was someone’s belief that every movie needs some romance, but I found it unnecessary.

I like Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan, but he is definitely the least of the three Ryans I have seen. Should the Chris Pine effort come to Netflix, I’ll check that out as well, but I expect he’ll deliver a very different Ryan.

I fear I must give the Sum of All Fears three uncontained nuclear warheads out of five.

You can read more about the movie at Wikipedia here.

You can read about the novel here.

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False -cough- Alarm – cough-

It turns out my wife does not have pneumonia. Some issue with reading the X-ray. Still, she’s coughing like crazy, though less crazy than before.

Less crazy is good, right?

I had four days of fever, chills, and other unpleasant symptoms, but I’ve recovered so that now I’m only coughing until I almost pass out, giving myself a massive headache. The doctor says it’s just a bad cold.

My youngest coughed so hard she vomited in bed. Her doctor thinks it might have something to do with asthma (she was diagnosed as pre-asthmatic, which I didn’t even know was a thing). She has medication, but it really doesn’t seem to be helping.

So we are all hacking along, doomed to live through our viral tormentors.

Damn you, common – or not so common – cold! Damn you to helllllllllllll!

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