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I've more or less abandoned this journal, although I'm not planning on deleting its contents, on the off chance that someone actually cares about any of my old entries. My current online home is at Grognardia and I'm likely to continue devoting the bulk of my public musings to that blog, as I have been for the last seven months. It's a peculiar, idiosyncratic place with a very specific focus, so I don't expect it to be of general interest, even to other gamers.

In any case, if, for some reason, you want me to know about something you've published in your LJ, it'd be best to send me an email directly at either jmaliszeATgmail.com or jimmythegeekATrogers.com. Chances are I won't see it otherwise. This generally includes comments on the LJ feed for Grognardia, though I do try and check it more regularly, since I know at least a couple of you take the time to post there.

Don't hesitate to email me just to say hello or chat or whatever. I'm not going anywhere; I'll still be online and as available as ever. I'm simply moving on from LJ, which has served me well for quite a few years, so I don't do so out of regret so much as the feeling that a change of venue will serve me well. Indeed, it's already done so, given how much more I enjoy Grognardia and the surprisingly lively community that's grown up around it.

It's always possible I may return here at some point in the future, but I wouldn't count on it. As I said, the people on my friends list know how to contact me and I encourage you to do so. Getting email from friends is always a pleasure.


New Email Address

My longstanding email address has been appropriate by spammers selling replica watches worldwide. I was greeted this week to 1000 or more bounced messages from this reprobate's illicit activities. Consequently, I had to delete the address and create a new one. If you are someone who wants my new email address, please put a comment below and I'll make a point of letting you know over the next day or so. It's a damned annoying thing to have to inform everyone of this change, not to mention updating all my mailing lists, online services, and so on.

I wonder what circle of Hell is reserved for spammers.

July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day to all my American friends, family, and colleagues. 
Happy Canada Day/Dominion Day to all my Canadian friends, family, and colleagues. Looks like the weather will be nice for a change, so enjoy it.

Is it just me?

Is something funny going down on the Internet today? I seem to be having trouble connecting to quite a few websites, especially anything connected to Google or related companies. The problem could be very localized, I suppose, since I am able to get some pages without trouble (LJ, for example), while others are completely inaccessible or very sluggish.

Anyone else experiencing this?

Indiana Jones

So I managed to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yesterday afternoon with rentagurkhafuriousdave, and another friend of mine. I'm glad I did, because, as I think I've said before, I have a tendency not to see movies at all if I don't see them within a week or two after their release. I'm also glad, because I really enjoyed the film. I'm actually hard-pressed to find a sour note in it. Well, actually, I can find many of them if I allow myself to do so, but they're nitpicks, the kinds of criticisms I make when I feel that my reputation for being an implacable curmudgeon is on the line. So I look for little things, like the Trek-like tracking devices used by the Commies, and point and say, "Aha! A misstep!" and hope to God that I somehow manage to maintain the appearance of objectivity despite my having loved nearly every minute of this film.

Heck, I even love the title, which I know some people felt was a mouthful, but which I feel strikes exactly the right tone. But then I also think The Phantom Menace is a great title too, so what do I know? I think the thing that a lot of people forget is that all the Indiana Jones films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark are unabashed nostalgia pieces. They're attempts by Lucas and Spielberg to relive the past -- their pasts -- in a way that's interesting and exciting to modern moviegoers. Raiders was such a revelation, I feel, not just because it was a ripping good story well told, but also because it was a kind of story we hadn't seen in movies. You have to remember that, back in the hoary days of 1981, "retro" wasn't a genre; neither was "pulp." People may have done what amounted to retro movies or pulp movies before Raiders -- I'm sure some of the cinephiles on my Friends list are even now writing comments to prove this very point -- but I'm not sure they ever did them in quite the same deliberate way that Lucas and Spielberg did.

The difference, I think, between Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the previous three movies is that it's a nostalgia movie made by old men as opposed to a nostalgia movie made by younger men. Consequently, so many of the choices made in the film, both dramatically and artistically, strike me as the kinds of things that old men, looking back on their youths, would do. I'm not trying to be deep here; none of the Indiana Jones movies is deep, after all. All that I'm saying is that, if Crystal Skull feels different, it's only because the men who made it are different than the ones who made the other films. And unlike, say, Isaac Asimov novels, I don't think that difference hurt Crystal Skull at all. In fact, from my perspective, I thought it allowed the movie to become more than the sum of its parts.

But then I'm getting old myself, so perhaps I was naturally inclined to like this film. So many of its elements struck a chord with me that I suppose it's impossible for me to be objective about it. For example, I've long been a proponent of using the Soviets as pulp villains. I think they're every bit as good as exemplars of human evil as the Nazis, often better in certain kinds of stories, such as the one told in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So, from the get-go, I was inclined to give the movie more than a fair shake. Similarly, I'm a sucker for movies that acknowledge the sometimes regretful passing of time in ways that aren't treacly or melodramatic. "You reach a point in your life." says Jim Broadbent, as Marshal College's dean, "where life stops giving you things and starts taking them away." For some reason, this line stuck with me and, although the film itself develops this theme more in the breach than in the observance, it is developed and in ways that, for me anyway, didn't overshadow the pulp sensibilities that animated the whole production.

I could go on at greater length, but I fear I would simply be repeating myself. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is a flawed but fun movie. It is not one for the ages, but then very few films are. I'm honestly not even certain that Raiders of the Lost Ark is, but that's not really the point. There is a scene in Crystal Skull, one of my favorites, that I think nicely sums up why Raiders sets such an impossibly high standard for the movies that followed. Shortly after their reunion, Indy and Marion are bickering in the back of a truck under the watch of a Soviet thug, who yells for them to shut up. Without stopping their argument, they manage to free themselves and push the Commie bastard out the back of the track. Marion is exasperated at the implication that she shouldn't have gotten on with her life after she and Indy parted ways. She states that surely there must have been other women in Indy's life after her, to which he replies, in a moment that reminded me that Harrison Ford is in fact a good actor, "Sure there were, but they all had the same problem -- they weren't you."

If Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a real flaw, it's that it's not Raiders of the Lost Ark. Somehow, I can live with that.

Some Art

One of the lessons I learned from the Thousand Suns rulebook was to use more art, so the upcoming Pilot's Guide to the Core Worlds will have more illustrations even though it's a much smaller book. Here are two pieces from it that are both pertinent to the new book and correct artistic omissions from the rulebook.

Behind cut for your protectionCollapse )

Pilot's Guide to the Core Worlds

These are worlds of wonder.

At the heart of the inhabited galaxy lie Humanity's most populous and sophisticated planets. The dizzying spires of their cities are matched only by the complexity of their cultures, exemplifying all that is best among the Thousand Suns. The Core Worlds glitter like jewels in the crown of interstellar civilization.

These are worlds of upheaval.

Sophistication breeds decadence and power inevitably gives way to corruption. The Core Worlds are no different. With each year, these planets grow ever more self-interested and debauched. The vitality and drive that gave them command of the stars is long since gone, leaving behind only a hollow shell, ripe for exploitation by demagogues and revolutionaries alike.

These are worlds of glory.

The Core Worlds have no equals in art, commerce, technology -- or power. Idealists and cynics alike are drawn here from the farthest reaches of the galaxy, for this is where the future of the Thousand Suns is written. Whether that future is a bright or a dark one has not been decided and the actions of a daring few may yet tip the balance one way or another.

These are worlds of adventure.