December 23, 2006

"Merry Christmas"

All I keep hearing about this year is the War On Christmas, where people who celebrate this holiday are supposed to do so in the greatest of secrecy. It's become taboo for government, businesses, even airports to put up Christian-themed displays.

Somehow nativity scenes or anything Christian is the purest of evil and, like Janet Jackson's breast, cannot be displayed in public. A Menorah or a Kinara are suitable for people of all ages, and can be displayed by businesses or in public without fear of retribution.

There is no outcry to include Santa or anything Christian in these displays, the Catholic church does not threaten lawsuits if their holiday demands are not met.

For the past two days, I've been wishing "Merry Christmas" to the people I interact with on different delivery locations. Some reply, some opt for a safe "Happy Holidays" or "Best Wishes". In one case I got "Merry Christmas - we're not afraid to say that here!"

Now here's the lesson for this season: Today, while doing my laundry, I went next door to the local 7-11 for some coffee and a paper. I spoke with the lady behind the counter who's there almost every week. If she's not there, then it's always a gentleman, both of whom are Indian and don't celebrate Christian holidays.

Know what she said to me today? "Merry Christmas!"

December 21, 2006

The Beatles - Love

Yesterday I purchased a copy of The Beatles - Love.

This album was produced by longtime Beatle collaborator Sir George Martin and his son, with the full blessing of the Beatles, for a themed show by Circe du Sole. Basically, George Martin and his son went and used the original recordings to remix the old songs, using bits from other songs.

A purist would hate this album and probably should stay away.

Me, I'm digging it. I've always been a Beatles fan. This remix is a fresh new sound for the old hits, effectively bringing them into the 21st century.

Some of the songs are stripped down, as in the opening number Because. Others have lots of stuff going on in them, lots of samplings from other songs. But these are generally small things, one instrument or drum beat that's in the same time from another song. Get Back is the first track of this type, it's the second cut on the album and (like so many of the others) is well done.

One of my favorites has always been A Day In The Life, the lyrics are interesting and the song goes through some interesting changes, plus it's got a dramatic feel. But it's one of those songs that's so distinctive, it's hard to top or even tribute properly. Needless to say, it was one of the first numbers I checked out on this disk...and it absolutely rocks!

Other old favorites on this CD include Strawberry Fields Forever, Here Comes The Sun, Revolution, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Hell, the Ringo Starr-sung Octopus's Garden is included...and even that sounds damn good!

If you like the Beatles and aren't totally resistant to change, I suggest you give this a listen at one of the bookstores (they have little music machines where you can scan and sample CDs).

Hand Dryers

The hand dryers one finds in modern public bathrooms, the ones that emit a stream of air, really don't work worth a damn most of the time. I resort to using them only when paper towels aren't available, then usually have to wipe my hands on my pants anyway.

Normally these things just make noise. Some of them actually blow out air, but so feebly that it barely disturbs the wet hairs on my digits.

Today I found one that actually works, but it was so powerful that I was afraid it would tear the skin right off my hands. And it was as loud as a jet engine. I left that restroom temporarily deaf, but with dry hands that felt somehow strange.

December 18, 2006

The Speaker In Dreams

Nicholas, who's up visiting from Florida, wanted to finish this module that he asked me to run the last time he was here. We had a good time, but I've got to get my feelings off my chest.

There was a time, back in the dawn of the role-playing era, when almost every module was good. Okay, occasionally TSR would put out something like Village Of Hommlet (a pointless bit of tease that went nowhere, for about 6 years, until it was finally followed up by Temple Of Elemental Evil). But these duds were few and far between; even then, they were still playable, just a bit on the lame side.

Truly classic modules came out in these years. Who can forget Tomb of Horrors? What character hasn't left White Plume Mountain with Wave, Whelm, or whatever-the-hell that third weapon was called? Who hasn't played through the giant saga, followed by the Drow trilogy, ultimately culminating in Queen of the Demonweb Pits? The hits just kept coming in those days.

Now we have third edition D&D, which has actually been out for a few years now, and one of their first modules, The Speaker In Dreams.

When Nick was trying to convince Jim to run this, oh, something like 6 months ago, I volunteered for DM duty. Hell, it's been too long and running a game is something I really enjoy (even if we don't do it anymore). I thought, "This module can't be that hard." Lo, was I terribly, terribly wrong!

Whoever wrote this module intended it as a starting point for a series of adventures, but there is no campaign setting or whatnot attached. The map to the city is lame, like something you'd see on Google Earth, minus all the coolness and zooming ability. There is a major fair happening in this city, which is why the characters have come, but no details on the fair are given. So are we talking fantasy Easter, a D&D version of Circe du Sole, or a Wookie Life Celebration? It seems that this minor detail is left entirely up to the DM, who should by now be jumping at the chance to get this campaign, I meant to say designed.

Now you don't have to run through all the encounters, as in most modules the players can (and will) skip around. To help the DM there's a flow chart...yes, a fucking flow chart! I haven't seen anything like this since the artifact (mal)function flow chart in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Add to this the poor writing quality, which reminds me of nothing as much as an Army technical manual. So for each encounter I must first consult the flow chart, then read the encounter and try to decypher what the author had in mind, then consult the back where all the monsters and NPCs the party fights are listed.

Now here's where I have a real problem with this module: It's designed for a 5th level party, yet by the end the group is facing Devils and a Mind Flayer. Did I mention the Ogre Magi that I neglected to include when we played? I'm sure a 5th level party of munchkins would have no problem, even if the DM had decided to spice things up with a flock of huge, ancient red dragons, but our little party of 2 players and 1 NPC just couldn't stand up to this kind of pounding. Hell, I gave Nick's character a handy item that protected him from the Mind Flayer's innate mind blast, so the group at least stood some chance.

All this, in a roughly 25 page module with only 26-28 encounters. Needless to say, I failed my check vs insanity and just winged it as best I could. I hope Nick had a good time.

December 16, 2006


I've just created a MySpace account, which I'm currently testing out. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that yet, or if I'm going to keep my account here at BLOGGER active (seeing as MySpace has a built in blogging feature).

My account name is: ryemund (I haven't started to blog on MySpace yet, but when I do you can find that here.)

December 10, 2006

Lacuna Coil - Live

Friday night I saw Lacuna Coil at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville NJ. It was an incredible show, the band definitely sound as good as their studio recording. And damn, Cristina Scabbia has one hell of a set of pipes on her...she sounded just as good live, hitting the same vocal notes as on the album!

December 03, 2006

Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning

After hearing all the buzz, I finally broke down and ordered a DVD copy of Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning.

For those of you not familiar, Star Wreck is a Finnish parody of Star Trek. In The Pirkinning, which took a few years to complete, tells the story of what happens when the Trek and Babylon 5 universes collide.

This film is subtitled, which is fine (I've watched countless samurai and anime films to start complaining now). In this case, the translation is hilarious: worm holes are now maggot holes, warp (as in the warp drive) is called twist, phasers and photons are twinklers and light balls.

In some odd way, both universes are represented fairly (albeit humorously).