Tuesday, April 30, 2013

World-Building Exercise: Cosmology of the Western Isles

This is a continuation of last week’s world-building exercise, which started as a discussion of how Hasbro could potentially market D&D with specific characters in the same way that it markets soldier-based toys via G.I. Joe.
Every fantasy realm needs a Cosmology.  To keep this one simple, I decided to use Roman mythology as my base, simplifying and abstracting as necessary.  What follows may seem ludicrously over-complicated, but in reality, it’s but a fraction of what the Romans’ true religion actually contained.  I’ve tried to cut this down without changing its essential nature—as I understand it—more than was absolutely necessary.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Triathlon Training Diary: 4/22 to 4/28

This was one of those weeks where I kept trying to get one more thing done, but I never quite got there.  Which isn’t to say that it was bad or anything like that, but it wasn’t the kind of great training week that I had last week.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Mad Science: They Call Me the Working Man

Before we start today, let me own up to the fact that I got Sally a subscription to the New York Times Weekend Edition, and it came with an all-access pass to their internet content.  So if it seems like all of these articles come out of the Times, well, that’s kind of what’s happened.  
What can I say?  I’ve been reading the Times a lot lately.

Friday Hair Metal: Under Pressure

What a show this must have been!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

World-Building Exercise: A Brief History of the Legion of the Red Lord

I posted something last week about how I thought Hasbro ought to market and monetize D&D in a way that was similar to what they’ve done with G.I. Joe.  I noted in passing that D&D has miniatures in much the same way that G.I. Joe has little green Army men, and that I thought that D&D could therefore have named character personalities for marketing in the same way that G.I. Joe has done in order to make some of the typical “green Army dude” archetypes more marketable as individual characters.
I’ve wanted to expand on that idea ever since, but time being what it is, I haven’t been able to until today.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Surprising Red She-Hulk

I picked up a couple of issues of Red She-Hulk for my daughter Emma a couple of weeks ago, issues 63 & 64.  Emma is way into comics, but being a girl, she likes girl-power comics, and there aren't so many of those.

So I figured, why not try Red She-Hulk?

Red She-Hulk #63, from Marvel Comics.
Yes, that is a version of Machine Man in the car with her.
Who knew that it was gonna be terrific?  

I only got around the reading the issues myself this afternoon, and I gotta say that they were super-entertaining.  Smart and trippy and not at all what I expected.

Why is Red She-Hulk covered in poop?  Gentle readers,
there's only one way to find out.
Needless to say, Emma will be back for more.  And she'll be bringing me with her.  Ha!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Close Call

Dude turned right in front of me today, leaving me less than a foot of space between my front wheel and the hood of his car! Honestly, I can't believe I survived and didn't wind up as street pizza. Yesterday was close, but this was absurd.

It's twenty minutes later, and I'm still shaking. Think I need to say a little prayer tonight.

Triathlon Training Diary: 4/15 - 4/21

Last week was Week 1, the start of a new 4-week training cycle and the week after my first multi-sport race of the season.  I took it easy early in the week, but by Wednesday, it was business as usual  Actually, this past week turned out to be the heaviest training week of the year so far, at least in terms of the number of aerobic points I put in.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Winter Seasonal Sale

I'm trying to decide if the savings here is worth the social faux pas of buying beer out of season.

Swam 2500 yards on Wednesday.

Ran five miles Thursday.

Swam 4000 yards yesterday.

Ran eight mile just this morning.

Now I feel like I need a beer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Living in a Geek's Paradise

It's been a crazy week, and mostly not in a good way.  This week, we're just gonna have to fight back as best we can.

From G.I. Joe Classics, Volume 2.

Friday Hair Metal: Now She's Gone

I don't love Steelheart or anything, but it's a dreary, overcast day here in Connecticut, and this song kind of fits my mood.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Muddy Puppy

G.I. Joe Classics, Volume 2

I'd expected my little G.I. Joe obsession to last about a week, but I've gotta admit that I'm digging the comics a bunch.  As was advertised, the G.I. Joe: Cobra mini-series was excellent.

But as much as I've loved that, I've also loved the G.I. Joe Classics comics from the '80s.  I finished volume one on my Nexus yesterday, and damn if I didn't go right back to Comixology and buy volume 2.  I loved this cover by J. Scott Campbell:

G.I. Joe Classics, Volume 2.
I loved this cover so much that I had to share it.
Actually, it was a terrific week for comics all the way around.  Superior Spider-Man #7 was good, Hypernaturals # 10 was really good, and Cutter #1 from IDW was also really good.  

Of course, the best comic of the week was, without doubt, Saga #12, but at this point, that almost goes without saying.  Seriously... holy shit!  Saga is amazing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Capcom D&D Video Game

Wizards put this up on their Daily D&D site the other day, and now I can't decide whether to be excited that there's a new D&D game coming or insulted that it looks like they only spent  about ten minutes putting it together using an old arcade engine from the late 1980s.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I just cannot understand why anyone would attack a marathon.  The act itself accomplishes nothing, says nothing, makes no statement that rational people can understand.  It is a blip on the radar.  A vain and useless gesture that was doomed to failure before it even occurred.

The bombing is tragedy for a few handfuls of families, and my heart and my prayers go out to them.  I run races, I was in New York on September 11th...  I know well the truth that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

But like New York before it, Boston is still the great city that it was yesterday, and no single instant--no matter how terrifying--can change that.  This moment will not stop that city, will not even slow it down.

That's the truth, and no handful of lunatics can change it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Triathlon Diary: Brian's Beachside Boogie 2013 Race Report

After four working weeks in a row, last week was a Rest Week.  That was convenient for two reasons.  First, I had to go to Albany for work, and it’s always tough to train when you’re on the road, and second, I had my first multi-sport race of the season yesterday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thought Experiment: When Is Hasbro Going to Realize That It Owns D&D?

"When Is Hasbro Going to Realize That It Owns D&D?"

This was the question posed by the Comic Dorks Podcast last week, and it kind of caught my imagination, especially since I've been on something of a G.I. Joe kick this past week.  The reasons for that kind of vary, but for now, we'll blame it on a lack of exercise and a lack of female companionship during my week away from home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

Happy Friday, everybody.
From issue #5 of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
P. Diddy says he is not banging Kate Upton.  So I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief?

Eh.  The Internet seemed shocked by this story--shocked, I tell you!--especially because of the age difference.  But I personally didn't care... until I saw the link on TMZ to their retrospective of Upton's Sexy Twitter feed.

As it happens, that is worth your time.

Friday Hair Metal: Goin' Home Tonight!

This was always one of my favorite White Lion songs.  Unfortunately, it seems like I'm one of the very few folks out there who likes this song, however, because I couldn't even find any decent concert footage.  So we're stuck with just the studio cut and a shot of the album's over.

On the bright side, you can listen to this while you do something else, which is probably what you ought to be doing anyway.

We're playing today's song in honor of the fact that my trip is coming to an end, that I'll be headed home in just a couple of hours.  Hooray!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Baroness

It occurred to me yesterday that what we were missing on the blog was one of those ridiculously hot pics of the Baroness that IDW always runs on their GI Joe comic covers.

So there's an itch that's scratched.

If you need more, there is a whole Tumblr devoted to these, some of which involve cosplay.  Just sayin...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stray Voltage: April 10th, 2013

I'm in Albany on business this week.  Yesterday, we discussed a bit about the Free Market, with a mechanic's eye to the possibility of bolting on a steering wheel and stick shift, so that we could drive the market in whatever direction we wanted.

No, not really.

What we really talked about was gas/electric coordination and reliability and the reality of the fact that the whole country--but New York and New England in particular--are becoming increasingly dependent on natural gas for power generation.  Which in turn makes the electric business increasingly dependent on natural gas pipelines.  That's not exactly a problem, per se, but pipeline capacity is a limited resource, and while we can address it at some level with fuel diversity, reality again is that gas is much cleaner than the alternatives--and usually cheaper, too.

In case you missed it, the Washington Times today has a story on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, who apparently studied in the West as a kid.  The story's kind of what you'd expect, so much so that I think it's proof positive that you simply cannot trust the quiet ones.


I started reading some of the GI Joe: Cobra mini-series yesterday, and I gotta say that it is as good as advertised.  The story here is that a Joe washout gets sent undercover with Cobra... and wackiness ensues.

Actually, that's as far as I've gotten.  But so far as it's gone, it's been pretty good.

Also read some of the old 1980s comics yesterday, too, and those were a riot as well.  Very different stylistically from what's being put out today, but I liked that old style.  

More talking, more exposition... more story.  I get that it's less "cinematic" or whatever, but the fact is that I still think of comics as an at least partially literary medium, meaning that words are fine.  You don't have to deconstruct everything to the max and make it widescreen.  Sometimes, you can just tell a story in simple terms, and if it's a good story, we'll all still like it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Movie Review--G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Finally got out to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation last week, and I gotta say that I liked it.  I don't know that it was necessarily more fun than the first movie was, but it certainly made more sense and was ten times more authentically military than was that first flick.  And considering that they dropped Rachel Nichols in favor of Adrianne Palicki... I mean, that was a tough sell in my book.  But Palicki definitely proved that she was the better action actress.

Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tri Training Diary: 4/1 to 4/7 (Week 4)

This was kind of an unusual week.  I normally train on a four-week cycle--three working weeks and then one rest week.  But that didn’t work out last week, both because of my race schedule and because I’m traveling for work later this week.  So instead of resting last week, I wound up using it as a fourth working week with the caveat that I wanted to be careful not to either overwork or exaserbate the little injury I’ve been struggling with in my left knee.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Dad and Me

This is me and my dad running in my first road race, a
5k somewhere in San Diego.

Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Page 27)

Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method, page 27.
Click here to see this page at full size.
I don't know that there's a lot to say about this page.  However, if you're one of this story's new readers, I do want you to know that I appreciate you coming by.  If you'd like to get caught up on the story and see what's going on, the easiest way to do that is with the tags at the bottom of the post.
  • Use the Sunday Comics tag to read Bronx Angel from the beginning, including the Born Leader ashcan that was this story's original #0 issue.  Most everyone likes Born Leader.
  • Or use the PBAM tag to just start at the beginning of Politics By Another Method.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Beginner's Guide To Triathlon Training

My editor put up the first two pieces from a series of articles I wrote last month that I collectively called "A Beginner's Guide to Triathlon Training."  I mention that only because Chris, my editor, decided not to use that title.  But I liked it, so there you go.

Anyway, the articles that went up were:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Learning What's In It For You!

This week in Friday Mad Science, we:

  • Discuss the art of "What's In It For Me?" and how you can a voice, both here and elsewhere.
  • Talk about the shit with North Korea and why it might have repercussions for you!
  • Learn about "The Star Wars" and how it's different from plain old "Star Wars".

More after the jump!

Friday Hair Metal: Tool!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Comic Preview: Cutter from IDW

IDW and Wizards of the Coast released a preview of the new R.A. and Geno Salvatore comic mini series Cutter yesterday, and I gotta say, it looks pretty good.

Click here to download the preview.
The D&D comics have been a mixed bag, especially in terms of their art, but I do believe I'll be picking this one up.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Punisher MAX and the New Hickman/Opeña Avengers

I read the first trade of the Garth Ennis Punisher MAX series yesterday, and while I'm not gonna say that the book was bad or that I didn't like it, I will say that the book was deeply anti-social. 

A lot of comic writers envision the Punisher as a kind of Chaotic Good character; he becomes a guy who is a mean-ass vigilante, yes, but a mean-ass vigilante who is ultimately trying to bring justice to the world.  That is the take on the character that we saw in the first Punisher movie, and I think that’s the take that we generally see in most all-ages comics.  Punisher loses his family and goes on a rampage, but he also at least attempts to connect with an informal community of weirdos in whatever storybook universe he’s involved in.  He's a mean and violent guy but not a complete bastard.  He's still human.

That is not the Punisher that Ennis has going in the MAX series.  Instead, Ennis gets back to the character’s roots.  Punisher started as a villain for Spider-Man and Daredevil, an out-of-control vigilante to contrast with their differently styled and motivated heroics.  In the MAX series, Ennis is basically writing the Punisher as a serial killer, a guy who was broken all the way back in Vietnam and who's now using the excuse of his family's deaths to do what he really wants to do anyway—kill people who have it coming. 

This Punisher is evil.  The story opens with our protagonist attacking a mafia birthday party with an M-60 machine gun, and honestly, it goes downhill from there. 

Like I said, I'm not gonna say that the book was bad because the truth is that in a lot of ways it was well-crafted and entertaining.  It reminded me of some of the weirder parts of Sin City, the parts where Marv is cutting off dudes' arms and legs and feeding them to dogs and such.  That said, this is a book that lives and dies by anti-social lone-gunman killing, and I wouldn't want it to go into the hands of the mentally unstable.  But that's a kind of thing that I think recent history has proven to be tough to control. 

I mean, yeah, all these MAX series are clearly labeled as adult books with “Explicit Content” and all that, but I'm not sure what that proves.  I remember reading The Dark Knight returns at the age of ten or eleven and reading the first Sin City books as a very young teen shortly thereafter.  And it's not like my folks were hands-off parents or anything; they just didn't know the first thing about comics and didn't care to learn.  But there're a lot of really ultra-violent comics out there, especially stuff like Sin City, and I don't think it's doing good things to the young, angry, and impressionable.  Unfortunately, that description potentially covers a lot of young male comic fans.

Which is not to say that I want to ban Marvel MAX books or that I particularly think that you personally shouldn't read this one.  I read it, and I'm probably going to read the rest of the series, especially since they have the complete collection of trades at the local library.  My issue is more that the trades are in the Young Adult section of the library, that these days it seems like there is a school shooting literally every week in this country, and that this is the kind of thing that influences people looking for an excuse to do seriously anti-social shit.  And the fucking reality is that a lot of parents—even basically good parents—don't have the first clue what their kids are doing, reading, or getting into.

What is there to say about that?  Reality is that angry kids are gonna find influences.  They're gonna get inspired, maybe even to violence.  I'd like to say that there was some way to deal with it socially, but I don't think there is, I think it's up to parents, and lots of parents are just too busy to be bothered.

If you liked the Avengers movie, and you're looking for an Avengers book to read, the one you want is the Jonathan Hickman/Jerome Opeña book, titled simply Avengers.  I mention it because there are lots (and lots!) of Avengers books on the stands, and finding one that doesn't suck and is both relatively accessible and worth your time can be something of a challenge.  Hickman's Avengers is that book.

Which is weird because it's the Avengers book that gets no hype.  At all.

Avengers #1
I honestly don't understand how the Big Two do their marketing sometimes.  I used to go to church with Jim Krueger (Earth X, Paradise X, Universe X), and I remember when he was working on Justice with Alex Ross.  Ross is one of the biggest, most influential artists in the industry, a lot of his books are literally legendary, and Krueger was coming off a very successful, long-running event in the Earth X trilogy, but Justice just got buried by DC Comics.  As I remember it, the book came out around the same time as the weekly “52” stunt and some of the Final/Infinite Crisis books and at about the same time as All-Star Batman and Robin.  And while I think a lot of folks liked 52, pretty much everyone agrees that All-Star Batman and Robin was a train wreck, and the Crisis books were at best a mixed bag.  If they sold fairly well, it's also true that they were one event too far for legions of otherwise loyal DC Comics fans, and they made what were, I think, ultimately destabilizing and untenable changes to the DCU.  Which is how DC came to the point of having to re-launch its entire universe.  Meanwhile, here's Justice, a book that could have been an Event all by itself—with art by Alex freakin' Ross, no less—but instead of hyping the thing to the moon, DC instead let it pass through the marketplace with barely a ripple.

That's kind of how I see Hickman's Avengers book, too.  Terrific story, really great, game-changing art; totally buried under the cover of Age of Ultron.  Which, by the way, looks like total crap.  Not that I've read it, but still...  I was seriously annoyed this month when Dan Slott's super long-running Superior Spider-Man story was interrupted for a useless Age of Ultron one shot tie-in, and that's as much interest as I have in that shit. 

Anyway, my advice to those who care is to ignore the Events but jump on board the long-running monthly titles that tell good stories.  Hickman’s Avengers does that, and it only just started, and the art is literally the best art that Marvel’s had in a book in recent memory.  Why they’re not hyping it more, I can’t understand, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

D&D Next Homebrew: Shadar-Kai

I’m still working on the concept for the adventure I discussed here a few days ago, the one that starts in the Shadowfell and then works its way into the City of Brass.  It was slow going at first because I'd been struggling to come up with a hook to get the thing going, but then I decided to just hew a little closer to what I have in my current game, and things kind of fell into place.  In story terms, that basically means using Bane instead of Lloth as the evil church du jour, meaning that this is going to be the story of the Church of Bane vs. the Church of Shar--which is exactly what I have in my actual campaign, The Sellswords of Luskan.  
So anyway, now I feel like I have a plan, but I need time to start slicing it together.  Time, however, has been in short supply lately.  
In the meantime, the actual Sellswords have broken into the Fire Cultists’ citadel in the Shadowfell, and as a result, I needed some shadow-based fire cultist soldiers for them to fight.  So I made some.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Triathlon Training Diary: 3/25 - 3/31 (Week 3)

It wasn't a bad week of training this week, especially considering that I hurt my knee last week but still managed to put in some decent work this week without re-injuring it.  But it was a little frustrating, both because I feel like I've reached the limit of my wife's patience with this whole triathlon thing and because I kept feeling like I needed to hold back to avoid re-tweaking the injury.

Bottom line, this was kind of a big biking week, and it was a huge week for aerobic training, rather than the kind of harder, more uptempo interval work that I prefer.  Still, if it keeps me in the race, I guess that's all I can ask for.