Friday, May 29, 2009

Bikinis & Berettas

As anyone who has ever looked at my sidebar can attest, I've been a fan of Kevin Dart's work for quite some time. In addition to doing everything from illustrating 20,000 Leagues under The Sea to doing promo art for a No Doubt tour, Dart has created a series of posters for movies-that-never-were (but damn well should have been). Movies like Cannibal Girls of The Forbidden Island, The Secret Agent Girls of Danger Cove, and The Deadly Bikini Girls of Shark Island. The prize flower of Dart's garden, however, is Yuki 7, a sultry Japanese superspy who makes Erin Esurance look like Velma from Scooby Doo. According to Dart's posters, Yuki was played by Kimiko Suzuki in such films as To Catch A Temptress, Danger Is A Female, and Roman Rendezvous.

To promote the release of Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7, Dart recruited young French creative director Stephane Coedel to animate his graphics into a theatrical trailer for the 1964 Yuki 7 movie A Kiss From Tokyo. Coedel's animation really does Dart's work justice. The grain is perfect. The action, especially the old school car chase, is great. And Cyrille Marchesseau has the whole John Barry/Lailo Schrifin/Hoyt Curtin vibe down-pat. The video perfectly captures Kevin's retro spy-fi.

"A Kiss From Tokyo" Theatrical trailer from Stephane coedel on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quiz Thing

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?...

Michael Moorcock (b. 1939)

19 High-Brow, 13 Violent, -3 Experimental and 21 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

Michael Moorcock is one of the most influential fantasy writers of all times, his impact rivalling that of Tolkien's. Perhaps China MiƩville described it best when he said: "I think we are all post-Moorcock." Apart from being the editor of New Worlds twice in the 60s and 70s, thereby being instrumental in bringing on the so-called "new wave" of science fiction which changed all fantastic literature forever, Moorcock's own work has been an inspiration to more recent writers. He is also known for not hiding or blunting his views on fiction which he regards as inferior, a trait which has lead him to apply harsh criticism on authors such as J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis an H P Lovecraft.

His most popular work are the Elric books. Elric was originally conceived as a sort of critical comment to or even parody of R E Howard's Conan, but the character and his world soon grew to form a tragic and somewhat fatalistic drama. Elric's world is, in turn, only a small part of the huge Multiverse, a set of stories from all sorts of worlds (including our own) which is forever locked in a struggle between the two powers of Law and Chaos. Whenever one of these powers is threatening to become too powerful, an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, a group of warriors possessing the same spirit, is forced to fight to maintain the delicate balance between the two. Moorcock has worked several of his heroes into this cycle of books, including Hawkmoon, Corum and, of course, Elric.

Moorcock's stories are often stories about warriors, however reluctant they may be, and are usually explicitly violent, even if the purpose of all the hacking and slashing is to free humans and other beings from oppression and, ultimately, fear. There is little happiness, though, for those who are forced to do the fighting and all they can hope for is a short time of respite, sometimes in the town of Tanelorn, the only place in the multiverse that the eternal struggle between Law and Chaos can't reach.

It should also be mentioned that, even though Moorcock has done quite some experimenting in his days, it can't be ignored that a major part of his books are traditional adventure stories that become more than that by their inclusion into a grand vision. A little ironically , perhaps, for an author who has criticized the "world-building school" of fantasy, Moorcock achieves much of his popularity through building, if not a world, a world vision.

You are also a lot like China MiƩville

If you want something more gentle, try Ursula K le Guin

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Katharine Kerr

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetic, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 19 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 13 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don't hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received -3 points, making you more Traditional than Experimental. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, traditional people don't change winning concepts, favouring storytelling over empty poses. At their worst, they are somewhat narrow-minded.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received 21 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.

Author image by Catriona Sparks from Click for license info.

Take Which fantasy writer are you?
at HelloQuizzy

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Christian X-chatology

Christian X-atology
richochet h/t cleireac

Thanks to Br'er Cleireac's picking up the torch of the RNT (Random New Table) from Berin Kinsman (, I ran across Comic Book Resources May 22, 2009 interview with X-Force creator and former Levi's 501 spokesmodel Rob Liefeld. The focus of the interview is Liefeld's project with his pastor Phil Hotsenpiller: Image Comics Armageddon Now. From what I've seen, it's Cable meets Left Behind. I hope that while Righteous Rob has maintained his ability to cut his ink with anabolic steroids, he has has lost his ability to abandon projects in midstream and to miss seemingly every deadline on those projects he does follow through on.

[ watch ]

In the video, he mentions a series of bizarre "end times" films that he compares with old grindhouse flicks. I remember seeing one of these when I was a kid: A Thief in The Night -- which is available in its entirety courtesy of

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dispatches from Dying Earth

h/t Hill Cantons

The Dying Earth. If those three words bring to mind an Al Gore-inspired apocalyptic vision, then read no further. However, upon hearing those words, you hear "angel trumpets and devil trombones," then read further, my friend. I bring great tidings.

Neil Gaiman, Glen Cook, and a host of other literary luminaries have contributed stories set in (or should that be on?) Jack Vance's Dying Earth. Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Songs of the Dying Earth has some wonderful illustrations courtesy of Tom Kidd.

The 526 signed-by-Jack-Vance copies have already been swept up by my greedy fellow Cugelphiles. Were it not for the fact that this blog's entire readership could fit comfortably in the old '72 Beetle I had in high school, I would probably be hesitant to post this announcement lest the other 1474 copies be swept up before I can stake my claim on a copy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

...and The Meme Raths Outgrabe

D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium


I'm a chronic doodler. Put me at a table without a book or a keyboard, and I can't help myself. Inspired by my reborn interest in gaming, this doodle features a Telmarine-inspired human, a kraken (a PC race which is basically a human with a cuttlefish for a head), and a jambiya-fightin' monkey (inspired by Monkey of the Red Pagoda and the knife-fighting monkey craze.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Please, Please, Please Tell Me What to Buy This Time...

"It's never too early to start beefing up your obituary"

In a fit of insomnia this morning, after a session of filing, I decided to do a little research on my new favorite ad campaign: The Most Interesting Man in the World. EuroRSCG, the company that spawned the ad, analyzed the product thusly:
The Dos Equis brand represented a small, thriving beer franchise. The flavour, authenticity and distribution potential of the brand meant that there was a huge opportunity to expand sales and penetration. However, qualitative and quantitative research showed a lack of a distinctive identity other than Mexican-ness.

t I think they hit the nail on the head. I always just thought of it as "the other Mexican beer." The challenge, as they saw it:
The beer category is one of the most competitive categories in advertising with over $1 billion in spending and myriad new products, flavours, seasonal variants and packaging innovations adding to the noise. For Dos Equis to succeed it needed to do more than just create awareness, it needed to extend its media dollars by generating conversation among the target audience. Euro RSCG needed to find a way to insert the brand into culture, to present Dos Equis in a way that would spark chatter and pique curiosity, and, most importantly, look beyond the conventional Mexican imagery of beaches, burritos and burros.

The CBI (Creative Business Idea):
Our idea was borne out of a simple truth: Dos Equis’ drinkers may be pretty average in their habits and attitudes, but most want to be seen as unique and different, and are terrified of being perceived as boring. Here was the opportunity for Dos Equis: as a brand with an unusual, original and underground status, it could become an outward sign that its drinker was decidedly not average. Dos Equis could become the symbol of a life more interesting. And we would share this truth through The Most Interesting Man in the World.

The strategy:
We introduced the eccentric, swashbuckling, charismatic character of The Most Interesting Man in the World (MIM). Seasoned in years, deserving of respect and grey-haired enough not to be a viewed as competition, the Most Interesting Man is a magnet, rather than a mirror. He is a man rich in stories and experiences, much the way the audience hopes to be in the future. Rather than an embodiment of the brand, The Most Interesting Man is a voluntary brand spokesperson: he and Dos Equis share a point of view on life that it should be lived interestingly.

The results:
Full year case sales are up 20% and total dollar sales are up 33.7% vs. YAG - significantly exceeding the 2.7% category growth rate (Nielsen). Sales in TV markets are outpacing sales in non-TV markets, 21.1% and 15.7%, respectively. Velocity gains for the Dos Equis franchise are 45% and an incredible 85% for lager, which is featured in the campaign. Distributors, the most critical and important constituents, are calling the campaign ‘the strongest work in the [beer] industry’. Plus, Millward Brown LINK places the spots among the top 5% most enjoyable ads ever tested, for any category, and the ads doubled the norm in both AI and persuasion.

[ source : EuroRSCG ]

Lest we forget, here is the original Most Interesting Man in The World:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Zombie Culture

“Vampires are Brad Pitts. Zombies are more like the Steve Buscemis. We can relate.”
--S. G. Browne

Over at Andrew Breitbart Presents BIG HOLLYWOOD, S. T. Karnick links the current trendiness of zombies with America's present shuffle toward socialism. He cites a recent Chicago Trib article which reports that the one of the what-if scenarios addressed by representatives from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the like at the University of Chicago annual Model United Nations conference was a zombie outbreak.

Perhaps that's why the Russians just had a good, old-fashioned Sov-style military parade in Red Square. Prepping for World War Z, anyone?

And perhaps the potential for friendly-fire in a a war against an enemy that must be shot in the head to be taken down is the true impetus behind recent efforts by the British to develop bullet-proof turbans for their Sikh officers.

( Read more ... )

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Own Private Appendix N

Zachary the First over at RPG Blog II hearkens back to the old AD&D DMG, specifically Appendix N (in which E. Gary Gygax Himself lays out the literature that influenced the development of his campaign) and challenges his readership to discuss their own private Appendix N: "What fiction has influenced your campaigns, play styles, and writings? If you want to include TV or movies, by all means."

The Hobbit by Rankin-Bass
The Adventures of Robin Hood
John Coyne's Hobgoblin
Stephen King's The Stand
The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
Michael Moorcock's Elric, Hawkmoon, and Corum books
Tom Baker-era Dr. Who
The Prisoner
Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe
DC Comics Warlord
The Savage Sword of Conan
Both Conan movies
BBC's The Chronicles of Narnia
Epic Illustrated
Heavy Metal: the movies, the soundtrack, and the magazine
Jonny Quest
The music of Blue Oyster Cult
The music of Saxon, especially the Crusader album
Ronnie James Dio-era Sabbath
Jack Vance's Lyonesse books and, to a lesser extent, the Dying Earth
Werner Herzog's Nosferatu
The Star Wars trilogy
Raiders of The Lost Ark
George Romero's zombie movies
David Lynch's Dune
Land of The Lost
The works of J. R. R. Tolkien
Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories and, to a lesser extent, his Conan stories
Robert Asprin's Thieves World
Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & Gray Mouser tales
Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber
The art of Los Hermanos Hildebrandt
The Wild Palms comic strip from Details magazine
John Carpenter's They Live
Overdose levels of Mountain Dew
The works of Clark Ashton Smith
The works of China Mieville
The works of Gene Wolfe
Magic: The Gathering
Planet of The Apes
The Shannara stuff by Terry Brooks
Piers Anthony's Xanth series
Hammer horror films, especially Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

The Who's Who of Modern Gaming give their "Appendix N". And so do Jeff Rients and Matthew Conway

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Suharto and The Shire

A couple of years ago, the blognardosphere was all abuzz about the "hobbit" remains found in Indonesia. Now there's more evidence leading to the conclusion that the Indonesian "Bagginses" were actually a separate race, not modern pygmies.

( Read more ... )

Say It Ain't So, Benedict

h/t Feral Jundi

According to Reuters, the Swiss Guard, a crack unit of Swiss soldiers entrusted with the life of the Pope whose history dates back to the 16th century, may open its doors to women. Hell, they may as well open up the ranks to out-of-shape, middle-aged, married, Protestant Americans.

( Read more ... )

The Most Interesting Man in The World

I can't believe I haven't posted any of these before. After all, the guy is what Race Bannon would be like after retirement.

For more, go to

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mercury Men

The cliffhanger has risen from the grave, and its latest incarnation can be found at The Mercury Men Director Christopher Preksta points out that “the web video format seemed the perfect opportunity to reintroduce the old serial style of storytelling." Available this fall on both the internet and via iTunes, The Mercury Men is the story of a middle-aged civil servant who finds himself trapped in his office building by otherworldly invaders and pressed into service by a pulpy pistol-packin' aerospace engineer from a mysterious organization. Their mission: to stop the Mercury Men and their doomsday device.

h/t ... I forgot....

More On Book TV

During my C-SPAN2 binge, I also caught David Grann, the author of The Lost City of Z, which is the story of the mysterious disappearance of British explorer Percy Fawcett while searching for a lost city in the Amazon. Fawcett's expeditions were like something straight out of the adventure pulps. He claimed to have encountered all kinds of cryptozoological treats: giant anacondas, small cat-like dogs, and double-nosed Andean tiger hounds. It has been alleged that Fawcett was the inspiration for everything from Indiana Jones, to Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost Word, to Kent Allard.

View it here

Apparently, John Grisham has discovered The Lost City of Z as well. Maybe it will inspire him to write something other than courtroom drivel.

And while Fawcett may have ended up as an entree, his spirit lives on. Seventy-year-old Colonel John Blashford-Snell, late of the Royal Engineers, has taken up his mantle. The Times lists the following as his acts of "derring-do":
—Colonel John Blashford-Snell is a former officer in the Royal Engineers who helped to found Operation Raleigh. He will lead the 20-person team on the two-month trip on June 21

—He has twice been shot at by Ethiopian bandits, bitten by a vampire bat and ate a Panamanian spider monkey

—Blashford-Snell is the founder of the Scientific Exploration Society

—He led the first descent of the Ethiopian Blue Nile in 1968 and the first vehicle crossing of the Darien Gap in Panama in 1972

—He invented a jungle hat that is mosquito-repellent, Teflon-coated and has a refrigerated headband

—He said recently: “I often say at 6am as I climb out of a soaking wet hammock, ‘God, I must be mad. Why am I doing this?’ ”

His official website is here:

Church organist required for jungle meteorite hunt

Monday, May 4, 2009

C-SPAN2's Buck TV

C-SPAN2's Book TV had an excellent interview with Christopher Buckley. Usually, I can't suffer through In Depth's full three hours, but Buckley's three hour block was so interest, touching on so many different subjects, it was over before I knew it.

Among other things of interest, I found out that Buckley dispatched his father to the Great Hereafter with a jar of peanut butter, the t.v. remote, and the deceased's favorite rosary. He touched on his endorsement of Barack Obama, praising him as "a very fine guy possessed of a first class temperament" while predicting that Obama's deficit-doubling economic policies will "bring this country to its knees." He also spoke of Dubya's ruinous deficit spending, his love of Dubya's dad, his time in the merchant marine, the war between his dad and Gore Vidal, and, of course, his works -- especially his latest, a memoir, Losing Mom and Pup.

Watch it here.

While checking his blog at The Daily Beast, I found out that Tucker Carlson is a fellow Flashman fan.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

World-Buildling Magna Carta

Whether he intended to or not, one of my favorite bloggers Berin Kinsman started something. He takes a writing exercise from Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! and applies it to fantasy RPG world-building:

In the book No Plot? No Problem? author Chris Baty discusses creating two “Magna Cartas” before tackling a fiction project. One is a list of things you like about the genre, what makes you want to read it (or, in the case of a roleplaying game, play it or run it), the things you’ll want to include. The object is to keep you focused on the things that will make it fun to work on. The other Magna Carta is for things you dislike and want to avoid. You make this list to remind you where you don’t want to go, cliches to resist and paths of least resistance to avoid traveling. It’s a process I apply to worldbuilding and campaign building, and a topic I cover at length in the forthcoming Worldbuilding 101 book.
Because I’m currently working on a 4th Edition D&D campaign, partly as a practical lab to test my Worldbuilding 101 principles, I created a Magna Carta. Here’s what I came up with. Note that there are some system-related things in there, because I will avoid creating encounters that I dislike or find hard to run, and do more of the things I think are fun.
Magna Carta: Fantasy RPG Likes

  • Heroic PCs with a purpose other than kill and loot

  • PCs with back stories and NPC connections

  • Villains with actual goals and motivations

  • Political intrigue and conflict between like-aligned powers

  • Setting-based consequences to PC actions

  • Skill challenges

  • Monsters as PCs and NPCs

  • Scary monsters that are actually scary

  • Magic affecting the economy and ecology

  • Period-appropriate technology — stuff that actually existed

  • Conflict between faiths and ideologies
    Magna Carta: Fantasy RPG Dislikes

  • Yet another Lord of the Rings knockoff

  • All-combat adventures

  • Illogical treasure (how’d the monster get that? Why didn’t they use that magic item against the party?)

  • Kitchen-sink ecologies and economies - everything and anything exists without consequence

  • Too much anachronistic tech

  • Absentee gods that grant powers without reward or consequence
    All of this is written in my purple drakeskin journal, of course, to be referenced and amended as I go along.

  • noisms of Monsters and Manuals fame followed up with his own:


  • Non-European influences

  • Capricious gods, spirits and suchlike

  • Characters who relax the way people relax in the real world (sex, alchohol, drugs)

  • A cold-hearted universe

  • Ancient ruins

  • Mutations of some variety, and/or fear of mutation

  • Good old British fantasy malaise/fatalism

  • Dwarves having disproportionate influence

  • Elves and their imitators

  • Anachronistic real-world modern-day politics/beliefs

  • Characters who kick ass all the time or who are overly awesome

  • Magic item economies

  • Gods who dispense quests

  • Giving new names to traditional fantasy races to try to appear innovative. If it's an orc, call it an orc, for God's sake!

  • Not to be outdone, I came up with my own:
    Magna Carta: Fantasy RPG Likes

  • Dying Earth

  • Intrigue and conspiracies.

  • Episodic sword & sorcery REH stuff.

  • Vancian magic

  • Religions that have differences other than which deity they worship.

  • Non-European influences (yeah, I stole that one) and semi-European influences -- especially Aztec, Mayan, Timurid, Khazar, etc.

  • Making the cryptozoological (i.e. Cameroon Flashlight Frog), Yeti, etc.) and extinct live (i.e. aurochs, mastodons, etc.) and making the living (i.e. horses and their ilk) extinct.

  • Golems

  • Telmarines

    Magna Carta: Fantasy RPG Dislikes

  • Middle Earth. Don't get me wrong. I loved JRRT. But I loathe his imitators.

  • Dragons. Maybe it was Dragonlance overkill. Maybe it was having to wade through too many Pern MUSHes when trying to find a good MU* back in the day. But I prefer my Dungeons sans Dragons.

  • Anarchronisms. I'm not talking about a flintlock or a pocket watch in an otherwise medieval world. I'm talking laser guns and tricorders. I hated Expedition to The Barrier Peaks.

  • Epic quests. I don't mind quests so much, but there's life outside of "The Quest Is The Quest." Right?

  • Idyllic Celtic/Proto-Wiccan cultures

  • Elves and those like elves.

  • Japanese stuff. There is an excellent game called Legend of the Five Rings. If you have a yen for Japanese stuff, go play that.

  • Orcs that don't have snouts.

    Speaking of orcs, Tony DiTerlizzi has a great post explaining the evolution of an orc he drew:
  • Saturday, May 2, 2009

    I Wish G.E. Could Bring This Good Thing To Life Again

    Jack Webb. Gene Roddenberry. True: The Man's Adventure Magazine. The trifecta of men's adventure entertainment if ever there was one. Well, apparently these three greats came together thanks to their good sponsors at G.E. to give early sixties television viewers G.E. True, an anthology series based upon the stories in True.

    The Executive Producer

    The Writer

    The Source

    The following is from the October 12, 1962, isse of Time magazine:
    Even Jack ("dum-de-dum-dum") Webb is back. This time he is retelling stories from the files of True Magazine. The first one was set on a hospital ship off Okinawa, where a doctor operated on a marine who had a live and sensitive shell in his body capable of blowing a six-foot hole in a steel deck. It was a hell of a moment, but Webb sank it. "At 1830 hours exactly," he intoned, "the operation began on a human bomb dead center in the circle of death." He hosts the program in an echo-chambered voice, while he stands beside the word TRUE, spelled out in block letters 22 feet high, or roughly ten times as tall as Jack Webb.

    The cast included such "guy show" luminaries as James "Scotty" Doohan and Werner "Col. Klink" Klemperer.

    I don't get it. G.E. gave my dad's generation this, and all they give me are those crappy Al Gore light bulbs. Go figure.

    Policia: Uno, Zetas: Zero
    h/t Feral Jundi

    I've been following the Zetas for quite some time now. For those who haven't, they are a Mexican narco-gang who started out as a special drug interdiction unit trained and armed by the U.S. government, then realizing the money to be had playing for the other team. B'rer Jundi reports that Mexican authorities have nabbed one of the Zeta leaders. Hats off to the Men-in-Black. Whew, I made it through a post about federales without mentioning "steekin' badges." Doh!
    Note the anti-Swine Flu masks.

    Friday, May 1, 2009

    There and Back Again: An Atheist's Christian's Tale

    In the April 2, 2009 New Statesman, A N Wilson recounts his conversion experience ... to atheism and his "slow and doubting" return to faith.
    By nature a doubting Thomas, I should have distrusted the symptoms when I underwent a “conversion experience” 20 years ago. Something was happening which was out of character – the inner glow of complete certainty, the heady sense of being at one with the great tide of fellow non-believers. For my conversion experience was to atheism. There were several moments of epiphany, actually, but one of the most dramatic occurred in the pulpit of a church.

    ( Read more ... )