Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
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Monday, 30 November 2020
I've grown to love horror films with a pulse-pounding passion since my teenage years, but there are a handful that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Not only great horror films, but great films, great works of art.
And leading that pack is The Exorcist.
Thus, when I learned the other day, that there was a "making of" documentary, on the BBC iPlayer, by this country's premier film critic and Exorcist superfan, Mark Kermode, I had to check it out.
Complete with a new introduction from Kermode, this is the "film festival" cut of The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist - previously only screened on the festival circuit.
Like the film it is chronicling, there have been several different iterations of this 1998 documentary, but this is considered the most complete, best reflecting the vision of the documentary makers.
With access to most of the key figures - both in front of and behind the camera - involved in bringing the legendary 1973 horror film to life, this 80-minute look behind-the-scenes is "must watch" material for anyone who loves The Exorcist and wants to dig into the processes involved in its creation.
As well as various practical tricks used for the various horrific effects, it was simply fascinating to hear the different ideas, interpretations, and approaches from actors and technicians to the material.
It was also an eye-opening insight into the "unique" working practices of director William Friedkin, whose gung-ho attitude probably wouldn't be tolerated these days... but it got results.
Kermode posits that The Exorcist works so well because of the creative friction between Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty, and he's definitely onto something there.
Although Friedkin and Blatty were clearly great friends, having two powerful - and clashing - intellects at the heart of this project clearly help shape it into something very special.
Whether you're a fan of the horror genre or simply enjoy learning about the filmmaking process, if you have access to the BBC iPlayer, I cannot recommend this documentary highly enough.
This version includes interviews with Mercedes McCambridge (the voice of the demon) and James Ferman (head of the British Board of Censors at the time), that weren't included in any of the other iterations of The Fear of God.
You may remember that for the longest time The Exorcist was essentially "banned" on home video (not that that stopped us from tracking it down), with Ferman making the point that it shouldn't be seen not because it was "bad", but because it was "so good".
This tune is described as:
"an experimental piece fuelled with drone guitars and ambient sound design fitting the dread demiurge of the reeking Rotlands."
Sunday, 29 November 2020
I think this is the earliest we've put up Christmas decorations, but... 2020, am I right?
This afternoon, we (well, mainly Rachel) retrieved everything from storage and got to festooning the kitchen, dining room, and lounge.
The garden snowman has also returned from last year, as has the Christmas train around the base of our main tree.
The Christmas village has found a new location, on the island in the kitchen, which I think is perfect... but Rachel still needs some persuading.
|The lounge is home to the smaller tree and my parents' manger (mum crafted the figures)|
|A new home for the Christmas village|
Friday, 27 November 2020
Thursday, 26 November 2020
Check out the glamourous Anna Diop (above) going full Starfire in a spectacular costume truly evocative of her comic book roots..
The first season was surprisingly great, the second not so much, but while details are few and far between we do know the third will be Gotham-centric, featuring such well known characters as Barbara Gordon and Dr Jonathan Crane, as well as Jason Todd's transformation into Red Hood.
The show has now moved to HBO Max in the States, but, hopefully, will remain on Netflix over here.
If you've read my roleplaying game musings for long enough, you'll probably have come across a mention of the various 'bucket list' scenarios I would like to throw at my players one day.
Top of that is "sending the characters to Hell to rescue the soul of a beloved comrade".
I've dreamed of this scenario since first reading anecdotes about such an epic adventure in Dave Hargrave's original Arduin trilogy back in my very first days as a neophyte gamer.
Since then, I've nabbed as many Dungeons & Dragons-y supplements about Hell and demons as I can find, as well as a few non-fiction works on the subject, hording them all for the day that an opportunity presents itself to dispatch our heroes on the ultimate rescue mission.
That is why, this article, Medieval Visions Of Hell, Satan, Demons And Cabbalistic Signs From A 1775 Compendium Of Horrors, over on the excellent Design You Trust blog, caught my eye.
It features a selection of illustrations from a deliciously over-the-top 18th Century tome entitled The Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros ('A rare summary of the entire Magical Art by the most famous Masters of this Art')
You can flick through the entire book here at The Wellcome Library, but in the meantime check out this selection of inspirational images of demons that your player-characters could be battling with their holy weapons, vorpal blades, mystical magic, and divine enchantments.
Having cleaned up, rested, and stocked the stolen chariot full of stolen treasures and baubles, we headed off down the mountainside, with the confused animated skeleton (who we cleverly named 'Boney') in tow, glad to have left The Amber Temple behind us.
Dolly (Clare's character) led my magical ox, which was pulling the chariot, while Fenrys, the dire wolf companion of Imogen (Meredith's character), took point and sniffed ahead as we all carefully made our way along the narrow path.
[Once again, Erica was unable to join our fortnightly Dungeons & Dragons virtual meet-up and so her character - K'Ao the annoying elf - was assigned the job of guarding Boney, while her badger companion, Norman, just pootled around her feet]
We came upon a fork in the road, the safer branch of the trail led to a sturdy-looking bridge, while the other disappeared off into the mists, so we made for the bridge.
It took us almost half-a-day to reach the ominous sounding (doesn't everything sound ominous in Ravenloft?) Tsolenka Pass.
Rufus (Pete's halfling rogue) bravely scouted the east side of the bridge, where we had arrived, scaling the archway like a spider, surveying the surrounding landscape, and checking the empty guard posts on either side.
He was joined by Ragar (Kevin's dwarven cleric), so the dwarf could check the crumbling masonry of the bridge and ensure it would be safe for our treasure-laden chariot.
As self-appointed group leader, I led us across and hailed the rider. Although he was blocking the road, he didn't react, even when I walked up to him, then passed.
Rufus and Ragar then walked either side of him, and he appeared to be drawing his sword when whatever magic had summoned him dispelled, and he erupted into a cloud of ash.
We called K'Ao and Boney across, telling them to bring the ox and chariot, and continued on to the large watch tower that Imogen and Rufus were keen to "check out" - even though the rest of us just wanted to get on our way.
Ragar and I put our shoulders to the barred door, and forced it down, allowing the pair of thieves in to hunt for loot.
Turning to the final archway, which was blocking the road ahead of us, we realised it was criss-crossed by sickly, green flames in lieu of a metal lattice.
As we were trying to figure out a way to circumnavigate this, we heard the cawing of a pair of strange giant vulture-like humanoids (vrocks).
They circled us, attracting a hail of arrows and several javelins hurled by yours truly, before landing and engaging us in hand-to-claw combat.
One belched a cloud of bilious spores over Imogen and Rufus, poisoning both and making them rather nauseous.
Unable to really fight, Rufus hurled his new rapier into the air, muttered a magic word quietly, and the blade started to dance in the air, attacking the bird-creature as though wielded by an "invisible Zorro".
Ragar quickly cured the poison infecting Imogen and Rufus, and we turned our attention back to the archway and its flaming barrier.
There was talk of getting Boney to walk through first (based on a presumption that he would be unharmed), but then Rufus scuttled up the brickwork and over the other side.
It was definitely hot. And it definitely burned.
So, Syr Edvard walked through.
The flames hurt, but all they did to me was burn off the surplus energy I had recently gained [bonus hit points, via my Blood Spear, from slaying the treacherous barbarians back in the Azure Temple]
Dolly followed suit, but didn't have the benefit of "additional life energy" that I had, and so got quite singed by the flames.
However, as she stepped through, the flames did subside, allowing everyone else to pass under the arch, and Ragar to heal to our slightly crispy heroic warrior.
As he was doing this, the sound of mighty wings beating the air behind us caught everyone's attention.
We turned to realise the sky had been blotted out by the most enormous avian fiend any of us had ever seen, as the beast swooped down upon us.
|It's a bird, it's a plane... no, it's a BIG bird, you muppet!|
To Be Continued...
The Tuesday Knights:
- DUNGEON MASTER - Simon
- Imogen - Meredith
- K'ao - Erica (absent)
- Dolly Spartan - Clare
- Ragar The Wise & Humble - Kevin
- Rufus Longhole - Pete
- Syr Edvard The Bloody of House Dobbin - Me
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Having completed its month-long world tour, from Chicago to London via Tokyo, the errant 'zine I was awaiting has finally arrived today.
Posted on October 24, through some bizarre aberration of the US Postal Service, my copy of Joshua Burnett's Them's Monsters left that country via O'Hare airport in Chicago, then disappeared for a time before showing up in Tokyo, Japan,.
It was finally flown to Heathrow Airport in the UK, where it wound its way to its destination (my home) this morning.
|Not the most direct route - but it was tracked, so I could follow it!|
Was the wait worth it, you ask?
Why, yes, it was.
This 44-page mini monster manual includes just under 20 new weird and wonderful critters, as well as a new playable race of beetle people, a couple of comic strips (which, themselves, feature monster stats) and a one-page 0-level funnel.
All this is beautifully illustrated by the writer himself, the amazingly talented Joshua LH Burnett.
Many of the black-and-white drawings are full-page, making them easy to hold up to players to show what they have just encountered.
I'm already particularly keen to find a way to throw a Terrible Infant (a giant human baby, twice the size of an elephant, with wailing fanged mouths in the place of eyes) at my players.
And the real kicker is that I'm not even particularly a fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, the old school system this 'zine was written for, but I love much of the material that the game's hugely talented - and eager - fanbase puts out.
As a game on the edges of the OSR, it's very easy to convert DCC material to other systems inspired by the earliest iterations of Dungeons & Dragons.
A product of February's Zine Quest 2 drive on Kickstarter, a pdf of Them's Monsters is available from DriveThruRPG.
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
After these 'bonus' episodes, the show enters its final (eleventh) season, spanning two years and 24 episodes.
I suspect, at this point, I may be in the minority, but I'll be sad to see this go. After a bit of a dip, I feel the show has regained its footing and the last couple of seasons have been gripping viewing.
I guess it's the old school comic book reader and roleplayer in me, but I liked the original suggestion that this was an open-ended series that would - soap opera-like - simply follow the lives of survivors adapting to the 'new normal' of a world overrun by zombies.
I'm determined that next year I shall get more use out of my lovely gamesroom than simply as an incredible-looking storage space.
Recent months have, increasingly, seen me using what is supposed to be a wargaming table as a 'rest spot' for new miniature deliveries (either from Kickstarters or random, well-intentioned, purchases), and even just a flat surface to put random RPG books on!
Today, I knuckled down and cleared it all off.
New miniatures were packed up into plastic containers (as I've done before) for cupboard storage upstairs, terrain was moved to boxes under the gaming table, new homes were found for books, and packaging and rubbish went in the recycling.
Now, all that's left on my gaming table is a newly acquired, 3d printed Mandalorian and Baby Yoda (scaled for use with Star Wars: Legion)... as a not-so-subtle hint to Rachel as to what I would like for Christmas.
I'm also thinking of painting the table black (something I've long considered doing), so it can double as "outer space" when I finally cracked open my old copy of the X-Wing Miniatures game.
Monday, 23 November 2020
I loved the first season and can't wait for the second.
To be honest, barring the character names, it has nothing to do with Batman or even reality (with its Tarantino-esque approach to history), but is still a wonderfully over-the-top action series featuring a powerhouse, Michael Caine-inspired performance from Jack Bannon as the titular Alfred 'Alfie' Pennyworth.
I guess, like the first season, it'll come to StarzPlay over here, eventually, which means I'll need to reup my subscription to that service at some point.
|My parcel is getting to see more of the world than me!|
The last I'd heard from the United States Postal Service (USPS) was that my copy of Joshua Burnett's Them's Monsters! fanzine had been flown out of O'Hare Airport in Chicago on November 4... and then disappeared.
I'd, pessimistically, presumed it was stuck in some bureaucratic customs nightmare at Heathrow or Gatwick airport in the UK, although I couldn't see why a little 'zine would be of any interest to the officers of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
Then, this morning, I got a notification from USPS, that I, at first, took to be phishing spam until I checked the reference number for the parcel from Joshua.
My 'zine had just left a transfer airport in... Tokyo, Japan!
Slightly worrying, the notification says it's "in transit to the destination."
I don't know if that means it's flown out and is heading to the UK or that it's been loaded into a local postal van and is currently looking for my address somewhere in the Land of The Rising Sun?
I suspect the latter. Which would be bonkers as it's still actually around 6,000 miles from where it should be.
Either way, my copy of Them's Monsters is getting to see Japan before I do, which is rather gutting as visiting that beautiful country has been on my bucket list for years.
I have a theory that the USPS scanning computers read my phone number from the address label as a Japanese postcode and - ignoring all the words - decided that was where the parcel was headed.
I'm now picturing a very confused little old Japanese lady getting a letter from the States - addressed to someone in the UK - containing a fanzine about roleplaying game monsters!
|The journey my zine still has to make|
Marvel 616 is a collection of eight self-contained documentaries, each averaging roughly an hour in length, produced by different directors on different aspects of geekdom as they relate to the ever-expanding Marvel empire.
So, we get a fascinating look at the history of the legendary Japanese Spider-Man, a brilliant examination of the key role of women as creative forces in the comic book industry, a study of behind-the-scenes work that goes into cosplay (featuring, among others, CutiePieSensei), a look at the world of action figures and Funko Pops, the emotional story of a school putting on a pair of Marvel superhero plays, and so on.
I can highly recommend any of these episodes if, like me, you are fascinated by the geek culture that HeroPress just skims the surface of.
You can pick and choose which ones you watch or binge through the whole set.
With the variety of directors bringing different visions to the project, each documentary is therefore stylistically and tonally different to the others.