Monthly Archives: July 2009

Something on my Desk

Just recently Watchmen came out on DVD. Of course it was immediately purchased and watched in my apartment. As far as comic book adaptations go, this one was superb. When I read the graphic novel, I was mildly entertained, philosophically provoked, and very curious as to how they would make this into a movie.

For today’s something on my desk, I choose the Nite Owl (Modern) figure. Nite Owl is by far my favorite character in Watchmen. The characters are deep and flawed, but the irony is they are all the same. Rorschach, who will kill in the line of his work, even those who are not “evil” (like the guy he dropped down an elevator shaft). Veidt, who realizes that one on one he has no hope of making a true difference and must commit terrible acts of terrorism to achieve his ends, regardless of the cost to humanity or himself. They have the same goal, the same methods for achieving their goals, but the scale of which they do it varies. But throughout the entire movie one character carries the flag of hope and valience. Nite Owl still believes, even now that they can make a difference, not by destroying the world, but by working within it and doing their part to move it forward. He clings to the old thought and school of Hero. In the face of it all, he remains as he has always been, a man who wants to be a hero.

Who watches the Watchmen? Hopefully the one who believes in humanity and holds the flag of hope and goodness.

Harry Potter Movies

Harry Potter and I have an interesting relationship. I first encountered Harry Potter when an Aunt of mine gifted me with Book 4 for Christmas. I had not read the series and I absolutely refuse to read books out of order, so I tucked it on a shelf and continued about my merry way reading Wheel of Time. (More on that Later.) Six months later I was in England and visiting Oxford. Here my best friend and I stopped at a bookstore to pick up a CD from one of our favorite artists. I noticed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. One for collecting odd or rare editions I decided to pick up this book, as in America is was re-named and heavily edited from the original version. Our last night of the trip I was tired, bored and felt like reading, so I opened PS and started reading. My the time our plane landed in Newark, NJ, the next day I had finished the book, astonished at the quality and depth of writing for a “children’s” book. While waiting in the airport I discovered the news stand had Book 2 on sale, and picked it up to read. By the time I arrived home, I had finished that one as well. The first day after returning home I went and purchased Book3. Two days after returning home, I had dug out and finished Book 4. Then I joined the thousands of other “Potterphiles” waiting for Book5. I was hooked so completely and utterly.

J. K. Rowling had managed to write a “children’s” book that did something no other book I had read did. It grew up with the characters. I remember reading Nancy Drew novels and finding it interesting how many times she got early 18th Birthday presents. Nancy Drew, forever 17 years old. But here was a well written book that the characters seemed real. They are children in the first book. Do you notice how many times candy comes up in the first book? Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts, Fizzing Whizbees… almost constantly they are discussing, eating, or carrying candy. But then, they are 11 years old! It makes sense. Now candy plays a part in the later books, chocolate with the dementors and whatnot, but it falls off as they get older. These characters are by far some of the most realistic I have read in any fiction novel. They are conflicted, wishy washy, confused, intelligent, idiotic, emotional, complicated and annoying at various point throughout the books. In short, I was impressed and admired not only the complexity and depth of the world she created, the humanity of the characters, but also the sheer quality of writing.

When they announced the intention and began filming the first few movies, I was excited, but with cautious optimism. Fortunately for all of us, the producers and directors took the movies very seriously and gave us good quality production. After the third movie, I realized something very important. These movies were no longer “Cliff’s Notes” versions of the books, but rather supplemental to the books. The best way to experience them is to read the book then watch the movie. As we walked out of the theater, my father looked at me and said, “I don’t understand. How did the professor know it was a map?” It took me several minutes to identify what he was asking. In the movie, you are never told who Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs are. In fact, you are never full told that James was an Animagus. Those of us who read the book knew that Professor Lupin knew it was a map because he MADE the object. But my father was horribly lost.

I love the movies. I loved the most recent movie. I thoroughly enjoy seeing the visuals and hearing the proper inflection given to each line. I enjoy watching the actors become better at their craft and slowly grow into adults. I really enjoy that they have extended the story a bit since the completion of the final book. But to be completely honest, the movies are nothing more than a supplement to the books and anyone who watches the movie without reading the book is doing themselves and the story a great disservice.

Something on my Desk

Last week was a holiday. I got the day off work and spent it NOT at my normal desk, but rather my home desk.

Which begs the question, which desk item should I write about? One on my work desk like I normally do? One on my home desk? Or an item that miraculously appears on BOTH! How strange that there is in fact two items that appear both on my home desk and my work desk.

Of course, any RPG gamer knows this is a vital part of your gaming kit, and is often used in other games.

Magic the Gathering uses them for life counting and calls them “spin down” counters.

Erick Wujcik insists you don’t need them to play RPGs and he might be right.

They can be as small an eraser on a pencil to as big as pillows.

They can have anywhere from 4 to 100 sides.

I have hundreds of them in various shapes, sizes, and colors. I love collecting them.

Guess it yet? D20s, or 20 sided dice, are the mark of a nerd and gamer.

I have three of them on my work desk, each taken from a Magic the Gathering fat pack. I have two on my desk at home, both purchased for playing D&D that got separated from the bunch and now sit looking pretty. I often pick them up and hold them, much the way I will do with a book, to simply feel it in my hand.

When working with Erick Wujcik I was privileged to get to participate in a game he ran that was diceless. It was completely fascinating to see the game and the player response to not having a random element to it. Before this I had played pen and paper RPGs for years and had amassed quite the collection of dice. I was foolish enough to believe I had seen “everything” there was to see with RPGs. (I had even LARPed.) At least I was delighted to discover how wrong I was. Since then I have reveled in learning about the ways other people play RPGs.

As an added point of interest it is quite amusing the rituals and superstition people have about their dice. For instance, I have “friend” sets that my friends can use and I have my set. Don’t touch my set. You will contaminate it and I will start to roll poorly.

Movies and DVDs

Now that we are deep in the midst of Summer Movie Season I am once again reminded of a singular annoying trait of of Movies. They are awesome and I like to watch them multiple times.

Seems kind of backwards? Well it should. I am one of those types that eagerly anticipates movies and often goes and sees a movie on opening weekend, if not opening night. The ritual of picking the proper t-shirt, going out to eat, but saving room for popcorn, then getting the tickets, managing to get the center of the center seats, finally to snuggle down into the seat, gleefully watching the trailers and munching my popcorn.

I am one of those who gets really annoyed at people who don’t silence their cell phones, text during movies, or chatter. (For the record there is a difference between chatter and quick quiet comments to the person sitting next to you. If anyone further than 1 person can hear you, you are too loud.)

But I still love going to the movies. I will go see a great movie a few times. I am also one of those people who would pay 20 dollars for a ticket if it meant it was in a theater with no one under 21 admitted that served alcohol and food. (There was such a theater in Memphis and in Dallas, I wish now I had taken greater advantage of them.)

So why does a movie being awesome mean it has an annoying quality? During the Summer Movie season, when the time a movie is in theaters is cut purely due to the large number of large movies being released, even good movies are out for maybe 4 weeks. If they are popular. Unless you live near a Second Run theater, you are out of luck for seeing a movie after it has been out for a month. Then comes the long long wait until it comes out on DVD and you can watch it again. I have been dying to see Watchmen again for months… I am already beginning to feel the desire to see Star Trek again. I try to console myself with Iron Man, Batman and other big movies from last Summer, but it isn’t quite the same. I can even remember walking out of several movies and saying… When does this come out on DVD again?

I know that all of the industry seems to fight the idea of shortening the time from theater to DVD, but with a few changes this could quite wonderful for all us movie goers. Adapt current theaters to be “starred” quality, much like hotels, and then have the DVDs follow at most two months after a movie begins its run. At this point surely they see the value of DVD sales when considering how well a movie does. Surely theaters would like to have a better delineation of their market and be able to fill their customers needs better. Also, why is it do you suppose that theaters have never gotten in into the habit of selling DVDs? Not of the movies they are showing, but of new releases. Think of it, a small counter with a few shelves of the last months new releases, for your Home Theater!

Let the movie revolution begin!