Thursday, June 28, 2012

October and Spice

Sky becomes smoked glass
October spice the air
a glow in the eastward
burning the warning home

Never is there welcome
Only outside for Him
The stranger straggles by
calling on your hospice

Golden grass well willing
fire bursting at its bones
petrol comes to quickness
the start one spark alone

Eyes in envy wanting
you to know of his wounds
A common sort of ruin
Communes our avarice

Sky still as the smoke glass
October burnt alder
Your loss not from malice
But forging you the same

Dreams becoming the hero
this stunted man believes
Need with no voice to speak
also the one to blame

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Against the Ropes

Baron Von Rasckhe from
This place has done a heal turn
Clobberin me with my back turned
Now I'm everyone's easy jobber
Red masked at the end of the show

Time to go home like the Jannety
Even the cheap heat call me jabroni
From the A team to C level talent
I'm a joke even on yokel cards

Against the ropes and hanging
just a hatchet job head busting
and then the curtain call
Exploding and ready for the fall

Each day hits like a haymaker
To the delight of the crowd
I should call the contract quits
I'm too stupid or maybe proud

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Grand Designs of Rush

Rush is one of my favorite bands that should be pretty plain to see from the titles of so many of my posts.  I have been pretty vocal of my love for progressive rock and metal.  The common ground between the two genres is somewhere that Rush has made home.  I listened to them so much in my younger days that the music feels a part of me.  Combining this love and my personal INTP deep thinking on often mundane subjects I have developed what I will call My Grand Design of Rush.

Generally it is a concept of how Rush work and evolve their sound over a course of records.  While it is clear that Rush have changed their sound over the years it is not always clear how this happens.  I personally see the movement occurring over four albums that move in an arch.  The arch generally proceeds in an order that builds upon itself.  The first album of the arch posits a sound that includes both the past and holds the seed of what will eventually become.  The next album is experimental unsure of how it is to arrive at its destination.  Personally I love the experimental records Rush have done, but these are often weak on sales.  The third record represents the sound perfected, and is often the best seller of the arch.  Finally that sound is usually repeated on the fourth album of the arch.

I am sure you are saying well wait, there are more Rush records than fall neatly into this idea of four record arcs.  Well you are correct There are three studio records that I leave out for various reasons.  They are Rush, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows.  I will explain my reasons as I walk through this arch concept.

The first of these arcs can be thought of as early Rush.  This would start naturally with Rush but I don't like to include this as John Rutsey is the drummer at this point.  While it is safe to say the first Rush record is a statement of Rush's sound to come, I feel the change to Neil on drums basically resets the sound.  Fly By Night isn't so much of a sophomore effort as it is a new start.  Because of this I think of Fly By Night as the first record in the early Rush block.  In the record you hear the sound the band will be going to in songs like Bytor but you also hear some of the individual members past influences.  With Caress of Steel you have the first of the very experimental records.  It is also of note that there was a decrease in sales with this record.  Next we hit the point that the early Rush sound is perfected, 2112!  This is regarded as a classic record and the band become multi platinum artists with this record.  This perfected sound remains more or less intact with the fourth part of the arch A Farewell to Kings.

Moving into the second arch which one could think of as the popular Rush block you see the sound changing.  It would be easy to say Hemispheres belongs with A Farewell to Kings as it does include the conclusion of the Cygnus piece.  But this record beings a tonal change that would characterize Rush in this Popular block.  You start to hear real use of the Keyboard and the guitar sound brightens a bit.  By the time you Get to Permanent Waves the tonal change is marked.  The sound has brightened and we are seeing more songs which stand on their own.  This would be the more experimental record in my theory one note it that sales were actually quite strong for the record.  That would be compared to past performance but nothing in comparison to Moving Pictures.  We all know this was a great record, instant classic and a multi platinum seller.  You don't do tours that feature a band performing a shitty record in its entirety.  Following it up was Signals which retains a similar sound though seems to also explore other ground.

Signals exploration is interesting to note.  In many respects the record fits well in with my fourth repeated part of the arch.  In may others it could serve as the first for a new arch.  It's sort of both as I consider the next two records the aborted arch.  Grace under Pressure and Power Windows while decent sellers really represent something that does not find full expression.  Sonically they feel a bit like orphans of the time.  They are almost so in line with early 80's sound that they don't gain the timeless Rush-ness other records have.  I think in some respect this was a result of the times.  The austere computer driven future stopped feeling scary and with communism faltering thoughts of mutually assured destruction were lesson the mind.

Picking up on Hold Your Fire we have something that again posits the sound that Rush is going for.  It also includes a bit of the abandoned arch sonically and structurally.  The difference is an infusion of a more organic sound.  Guitars get a touch jangley which we hear in full force on Presto.  The songs are a little more intra personal in this block.   Roll the bones is the perfection of the sound here, you will see it is also a record that wins back the Platinum status in the US market.  Our repeat of the prefected sound album is the much maligned Counterparts.  Please keep in mind that I am not saying these are prefect records I am just saying the seem to have achieved a sonic voice and presented it in the best possible form.

Our Final Arch I guess I would call the Jam block.  Here we have Test for echoes representing the previous arch combined with a bit of driven harder jam music.  This is probably best heard in well Driven.  Our experimental record in this block is going to be Vapor trails.  It takes the jam sound further and plays with it a bit.  Snakes and Arrows seems to be the perfection of this version of Rush's voice.  I have to admit I have not hear enough of Clockwork Angel to say it fits in the repeat of the perfected sound slot.  It sounds similar to Snakes and Arrows but has some other stuff going as well. 

Well there it is.  Crazy and over thought out but finally committed to paper and boldly posted for ridicule.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Video Game Review: Ninja Gaiden 3 for Xbox 360

I think I am going to be be rehashing a lot of reviews of Ninja Gaiden 3 here but I wanted to comment.  I am really let down by the game.  That is as deep as most comments go but I would like to dig into it a bit.  I love Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox, it is in my top five video games of all time.  That said most of what I loved about Ninja Gaiden is gone in this third installment.

The design has decided to go for a very story focused power run through the plot.  You are constantly being driven forward and In a way this gets very tedious.  There is no exploration and places where once I would have tried to climb or run around in, I am just running through. 

The hunt for items is also gone, this really was something that appealed to me in the original.  I was always looking around and was happy to find a new toy or power-up.  Here its just story and forward drive.  This gets tiresome as there seems pretty limited reason to look around.  Just forward.  Also I am not really powering up or getting new combos.  I run into the same enemies from the start of the game and they are just as hard as they were.  I feel like I should be shearing through these twerps but I don't.  This makes combats more of a drag than actual fun.  I never feel powerful.

I think the biggest let down comes when you do try to explore a level and find there are invisible walls.  This was never something Ninja Gaiden used.  You could at least explore an area after you cleared it.  In the jungle section of the game I floated into a communication tower then dealt with the ground forces.  Afterwards I find and invisible prison preventing me form checking certain spots.  This feel lame as hell.

Digging into the combat a bit again I am disappointed.  It uses a mechanic of after the scene refill of health.  This is sort of like ducking behind a wall to regain health in a FPS.  I have always disliked this.  Here its seems even goofier as you can barely scrap through a second of a boss battle and quickly die in the next second and you come back full health in that second section after you die or you heal up in little cinematic running bits.  This feels very cheap compared to the awesome battles in Ninja Gaiden.  Even in that game when you did kick ass without much challenge you felt like you were in the zone not the game allowing you to kick ass.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Toy Review: Pressman Toys Headshrinkers Kit and Dick Smith Monster Make-up kit

Pressman toys saddens the fuck out of me.  I am looking at their web side and all i see are goofy games that seem to be targeted at the drug store family game section. This is not the company that released the Witch Doctor Headshrinkers Kit or the Dick Smith Monster Make-up Kit.  How can a company go from the coolest crap around to the lames game in town.

The headshrinkers kit is something I would be thrilled to use every halloween and am a little sad I missed out on as a kit.  It was before my time, you ever say you wished this toy was out during your childhood for an older toy?  New awesome toys sure, yes; but an old toy that doesn't happen.

The Witch doctors headshrinkers kit was some thing that allowed you to make and paint up heads that would really shrink.  WTF that is so cool, I want it now.  I could paint up my own shrunken head custom?  Of Myself?  Take my money!

The Dick Smith stuff of the 70's was a holy grail level toy for my friends.  In my mind this stuff was like seventy bucks or so for the set.  Having seen the prices it clearly wasn't this bad but for kids living in the crappier area of San Jose it was pretty much the same. So out of the question our parents would have kicked our ass for asking.

But where are you going to get your own monster make up kit.  We thought this was the stuff from spy movies or the John Waite's video that you peel off your face after completely impersonating someone else as kids.  It was the stuff of legend.  But made real like the banned hoover board, but this shit somehow remained on the shelves. 

Special thanks to and for providing the images that make this rant possible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Prose Poem inspired by Azathoth and 2112

Upon these latter days of more solid minds one awoke feeling something wasn't right.  A slow low nagging that pierced the day like a thread in the eye.  Fluttering in the blood at the edge of sight.

To the helpful that told of wise and correct thought, the first variation arose.  Remorse at childish wonder zipped into guanine and gone away forever.  An inherent wrong bubbling under the skin in the strings it was hidden.

Ebb and flow terror came where blood bit with recognition of end.  Some preached the machine deep inside monkeys, "opiate moments with reason trivial."   Here I shake my cage, longing a solution more ideal.

Sifting for a mantle long shed off as useless and worrisome to the common good.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Toy Review: Omni Entertainment System

The Omni Entertainment System is a bit of a wonder to me.  It is a multi player quiz game that is run off an 8 track tape.  This confounds me as I can't really think of a way an 8 track could work as a tape drive. 

The basic game is pretty similar to the multi player version of the Quiz Wiz.  It allows four players at answer various questions, you are presented with a series of buttons to answer the questions.  The difference here is you were not reading from a book but rather the tape provided pre-recorded questions from a host.  Some of the hosts were the quiz show masters of the day and even Vincent Price shows up on one.  There were only a few different tapes available for the Omni, and it appears that the original launch series is it, no second series.

The odd thing about the game is those 8 tracks.  If you know how an 8 track works, its a single spool that uptakes while it unwinds.  This is opposed by a cassette tape which had two reels or even a 9 track tape drive.  The difference functionally is that the 8 tracks don't allow rewind but rather just play forward. Basically this made them an infinite forward loop.  I am not sure this could work in a tape drive.  There is the other option that the tapes were just to play the questions and that the device was pre-programmed for each quiz.  This would have made the device not compatible with expansions.  I am not sure if this or the dependence on the 8 track was the cause of the product not launching subsequent releases.

Really as a game it's sort of ahead of its time.  This would probably make a fantastic iPhone application.  Allowing people to answer each from their own device.  As I have mentioned in my Quiz Wiz review, I could even allow players to each have their own questions.  Sorry that is sort of my dream quiz game where everyone has their own area of expertize.

The 8 tracks as I know them are the original launch titles

Words Words Words
Music Music Music
Password +Plus
For the Fun of It
Sesame Street
TV Trivia
Movie Trivia
Baseball Quiz
Football Quiz
Sports Quiz
ReAction Quiz
And  a Variety 8 Track that came bundled with the toy itesel

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Using Coins to Simulate Dice

Being a Role playing game fan I worry too much about dice.  One of my more "useful" musings was how to represent Dice with coins.  This will represent a good enough solution, I came up with a fix to make the probabiliy work out correctly but it is unwieldy.

So you are going to need a ton of coins of one variety and a single coin of another variety.  I use pennies and quarters myself.  While this could be performed with several successive coin flips I normally use a hand full of coins to speed it up.  As a note if you really dont care about probablility you can use pente stones as well, you just need two colors.  One will represent the pennies and the other the quarter.

Ok the first step in this is to devide the dice you are wishing to simulate by two.  A nice thing about this method is it can represent any even dice so you can do the whole RPG dice set, but also weird stuff like a d14. Next you will take that many pennies.  Then you will add your quarter.  Shake em all up and toss them out just like you would in AD&D.  From here assign 1 to heads and 2 to tails.  For the quarter Heads is 0 and tails is -x.  In this case x is the number of pennies thrown minus 1.  Now you just add them up.

You will see this is not correct as per a single dice roll.  but taking a quick look at the rolls possible for a D6 you will see it creates a bell curve not represented on dice.

Penny 1: Penny 2: Penny 3:  Quarter 0 / -2
2         2       2 =      6     4
2         2       1 =      5     3
2         1       1 =      4     2
1         1       1 =      3     1

This makes the break down of roll probablility something like the following

1= 12.5% 2= 12.5% 3= 25% 4= 25% 5= 12.5% 6= 12.5%

This is opposed to a six sided die which all six have an even chance of hitting.  There is a solution but it gets a bit goofy. Basically if you notice my number distribution is the two numbers around half of the dice sides that get the extra percentange.  So is 3/4 on a D6, 5/6 on a D10 and 10/11 on a D20.  YOu you need to do to fix this is use a coin flips to nomralize this percentage hiccup.

What I came up was sort of a logical coin flip.  here you are introducing another coin type so lets call it the dime.  you are going to a number of dimes equal to Y where Y is the number of pennies minus 1.  Here you only use the dimes if the original throw results in half the die type or half the dice type plus 1.  Basically those are the two numbers that are most probably, the 3 and 4 on the standard six sided dice. As I have said the dimes are logical and have instructions rather than numbers associated with them.

If the Dime is heads you do nothing if the dime is tails you shift the result of the original role by one.  The direction of the shift is dependent on the number originally rolled.  Numbers equal to half the number of dice sides you subtract 1.  Number equal to half the number of dice sides plus 1, well here you add one.  Keep in mind you are probably throwing more than one die here.  But only for previous results of 3 and 4.

So on our D6 form above

Original Throw Dime one heads Dime one tails Dime two heads Dime two tails
3         3                 2         2                1
4         4                 5         5                2

Again I am just some roleplayer and the math is beyond my basic understanding of probability I wish someone with a math background could take a look and tell me if this actually works.

NOTE: In looking at this i am question the the second dime flip.  I know when I added these I was basically pushing the extra percentage to different numbers.  So in by basic system i am ending up with 3 and 4 as overly represented numbers.  After the first dime flip the more common numbers push to 2 and 5.  I almost need to add something that then splits the extra percentage in to maybe taking the first dime flip into account and saying if that was tails and the second was tails then when you have two results of tails then shift as we did in the previous example.  But here you would need to do it on results of 2 and 5 since those are the most frequent numbers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Black Mountain Bowmen Range, San Jose California

 Well on my most recent drive into the south San Jose hills I passed by the old archery range and snapped some pictures.  I used to go to this place all the time.  Its free once you have your own equipment, which worked out as great entertainment back in the pre internet days.

This place is on Avenda Espana which is close to Santa Teresa and Bernal.  You just drive down Santa Teresa a bit and make a right onto the street and follow it until you see the Black Mt. Bowmen sign.

This is a combination of field and standard target range.  You can see more of the rules from the sign posted below, but basically don't be a dick head and don't use a crossbow are the big too.

 I didn't get out and hike the field trail because I had my daughter in the car with me so you just get some shots of the range.  But the field trail is a nice little walk up the hills and has you shooting through trees in spots.  Its pretty fun though there is a distinct danger that you will lose and arrow in the rough.

The entry point has a decent little staging area with tables and stuff you can do pre and repair on.  When you get into those fields you should watch out there are tarantulas.  I say that because my friend turned into a bit of a girl once seeing on.  They blend in until  you are right on them so they can freak you out a bit.

For the local kids this is a fantastic hobby, that is low cost.  If given enough autonomy to walk or bike they could do this for a few hours of summer fun that is basically free.

One small oddity it the range is backed up to the Santa Teresa golf course,  you may be able to see in this last picture that the range begins where the course ends.  I have always had a fantasy of combining the two sports.  Shooting from hole to hole would be sort of fun for me at least probably not the other golfers.  But they are a bit of a scourge in my neighborhood so the less the better. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hair Metal I've Done You Wrong

As a bit of a follow up to my post to my post commenting on Metal an Evolution I want to talk about Hair Metal.  As some of you have guessed my own metal roots are in NWOBHM, Bay Area Thrash and Prog Metal.  In the 80's I wasn't a fan of glam / Hair Metal but at least it was rock.  I think the LA Bands were really not given fair treatment and should not be revived as they currently are.  I really think this music is due for a come back and I would be excited to see a modern take on the genre.

Looking back there are only a few genres of music that have had as strong a backlash as Hair Metal.  At least to the extend that groups or individuals take credit and delight killing off a particular genre.  In recent memory the three that have garnered this level of hate are Prog, Disco and Hair Metal.  Looking at Prog the punk bands and music luminaries like that piece of shit Ed Bicknell delight in the fall of Yes and ELP.  That's said these bands were able to stage something of a resurgence in the early 80's and have a way of maintaining life long fans that just don't seem to care what people say.  Disco hand an obvious end, that really never seemed to be an end.  Dance music just changed and has always remained popular.  House and techno seem very much like different sounds of the same idea.  For Glam this has not been the case.

For the Glam seen the eighties seem to have been the end.  Yes there are some nostalgia concerts but generally these guys are not getting work.  There are a few individuals that have turned to different styles such as country or a few individuals who have found their way into Nu and traditional metal bands.  Shannon Larkin, Dave King and James Lomenzo come to mind here.

Personally I don't hate Glam, it wasn't my favorite music but it was better than a lot of other stuff on the radio at the time.  Compared to something like UB40 or Level 42, glam was favorable for me. It was rock and had guitars with a few nice solos.  Some of you know I hate Metallica and have since I first heard them.  Even though I love Testament which is often compared to Metallica, i just don't dig em.  I like Def Leppard way more than "Tallica".  So I really don't understand the lasting hate that glam has engendered.

One aspect that all of the genres I have mentioned have in common is a look strongly rooted in the time period they came out.  Prog was very spacey with tassels and jumpsuits.  Disco had its look and Glam certainly had a specific style.  I think any new take on the music would have to focus less on the look and just emulate the music to be taken seriously.  Even something like Gun's n Rose, which was Glam or the same as Glam for me, had too much of a look to be taken very seriously today. The punk and thrash aesthetic of wearing your normal day to day clothing would need to be used.  We at least until the genre could gain some footing then it could revel in excess a bit.

I think we in the metal and rock community should rethink the Hair Bands.  I question the presumption that there was nothing of substance there.  I think there was a bit, and in the age where Skrillex is voted in the top 100 guitarists these guys at least could play.  I am pretty sure there are fans that would love to hear this music again and many of them are girls and how many chicks show up to a Rush concert?  I dare you to go out and find a new record by one of these Glam bands and give it a listen.  Europe has something called Bag of Bones out this year and Winger has a record called Karma from 2009.  I personally have heard neither but I will give em a shot.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hick's Road part 4: Sveadal

 Well trying to tackle the comments about Sveadal and how it relates to Hick's road I took a drive in that area.  There are a few roads in that area including, Croy, Little Uvas and Casa Loma.  Having my little daughter as a co pilot I didn't want to drive down them all but we did check out a couple.

Casa Loma is the first road we tried.  This normally has been a know dead end for my driving buddies and I, but there is a new part up there called Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve.  This is something new to me so I figured it was work checking out.  It's one of the new open spaces parks.  This park seems to have a heavy focus on horses which are prevalent in the area.  We checked out the gate as it does seem to be a road that would lead up to the Almaden Air Force Station per the map, but it clearly indicates residents only.  Sort of lame as there really is not high roat access at this point. THe park itself is pretty much the normal open hill country that is prevalent in the area.

Having my daughter and my wife waiting I could only make a quick stop to the park, stopping for a few quick shots and a couple of seconds to grab brochure.

You can get a feel for the country with these photos.  The park is really set up for horses, with lots of water for them and what not.

The next stop on the my trip was going to be Croy road.  This is actually a pretty decent little drive for you folks.  Croy will take you about five miles to get from Uvas to the entrance to the park much of is is windy but not particularly bad.  What I really like is this road gets you a bit out of the normal sun soaked hills of the south bay and actually gets you into something that looks more like the coastal range.  You will find red wood
trees on this road.  You will see something that looks more like a legit forest. 

You are eventually going to run into Sveadal and you are going to have to go through.  Ignore the private road and members only as you can not get to the Uvas Canyon park if you do not go through Sveadal.  The Swedes of Sveadal seemed like normal folk.  Though I didn't forget how they did me wrong at Ikea.  They have a nice little meeting hall and some play areas for kids.  All in all i sort of am jealous.  I don't know why we Danes haven't got off our asses and put something together like this.

You can see the houses are pretty uniform red white and a bit of blue trim.  I am not sure if this is to represent unity or some expression of Janteloven.   As you can see there are Albino's here.  The sign is welcoming trolls which are a common pest to the Nordic cultures.   So summing this up i really have no idea how Sveadal got wrapped up in the Hick's urban legend.  Geographically this is not really anywhere near the Air Force Station nor hicks.  Its perhaps five miles as the crow flies which is pretty distant on country back roads.  I really didn't go into the park though i have in the past.  Its nice they camping there which is supposed to be fun.  I have usually stuck with Big Basin or Henry Cal but my buddy Mark really has enjoyed the place.  It feels like a state park ass opposed to something from the county.

Here are a couple of further posts Post 2 with lost of photos and  Post 3 dealing with UTC and Metcalf road. and Post 1 dealing with Hicks Road and Mount Umanhum.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Light Shall Shatter

Growing in the east
comes another day.
Falling on our knees
we lay blessings, pray.
Hold night one more turn
with dawn a new way.

Soiled of the sun
hide our burnt skin.
Give dream a chance
for the sacred sea.
Ours a longer path
scattered in wind.

Boundless souls fly
Ever holiness anew.
But we're just walkers
only me and just you.
Two fragile pilgrims
don't know what to do.

light mars the earth
masks a solemn path.
We sightless seekers
broken on the way.
give in to wrath
and decide to stay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Metal Evolution a review

Last night i watched a couple episode so Sam Dunn's series Metal Evolution.  Obviously this is a subject close to my heart and a metal fan.  I have blogged several times in the past about early metal bands and was really surprised how few were mentioned.  In this post I want to review some of my thoughts on the show so far.  I will also try to call out a few element that seem to rear there head a lot in early metal bands.

First off this is a great series, that I think any fan of metal should watch.  Young metal heads should be forced to watch this series.  Metal as a community has always had respect for where it came from.  Knowing Sabbath and Priest is mandatory for any true fan.  Everyone should know how important Maiden is to Metal and not just think Eddie is cool!

The presentation is good though it uses interviews with musicians a bit too much.  You almost need a music historian to be talking or a professor of music.  Just to all out some of the specifics of the music.  We hear Bill Ward mentioned as a jazz drummer but we don't really get it.  Drumming at the time was more keeping a beat, metal broke away with using drumming to theatrically underpin the performance.  Ward was using drums to ad tension to Ozzy's dramatic performance, which was less singing and more melodrama.  They talk about the sounds moving away from blues, but they don't often say well they have moved from this sort of chord structure to this other.

While the show has a clear focus of showing the evolution of metal, i wished they would have shed light on a few of the one off bands.  Sir Lord Baltimore specifically is a band that really was doing some early metal in America.  They deserve more mention than someone like Aerosmith.  Aerosmith sucks! Fraction is another band that comes to mind the deserves attention.

My last criticism is the lack of mention of progressive rock.  I see they have that saved for the last episode, but I think perhaps it should have been with these early episodes.  Progressive Rock and Metal are sort of like kissing cousins. They both were birthed in roughly the same time period and often were tackled by the same bands.  King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man is often mentioned as a metal song.  The rest of the record is clearly prog.  Deep Purple often flirts with progressive rock.  Would their even be Dream Theater without Perfect Strangers.  Kraut Rock often concurrently developed metal only to forget and move onto industrial in the same song.  I really just wish they would have moved this discussion up a bit.

Moving onto a few things I kept noticing in the show that were not clearly called out.  Sam Said this is in A Headbangers Journey but industrial areas very often spawn these metal bands.  I am not sure if its a rough and tumble sort of populace or the bleakness or even the machinery itself.  But time and time again metal comes from a town associated with heavy industry.  Birmingham in England, Detroit in America, Jonquière Quebec, Even the thrash bands hail from Oakland, Martinez and Richmond here in California.  Most people say San Fransisco but really it was the industrial east bay that birthed the thrash scene.

Watching the show and focusing on the performances another element that kept cropping up was the equipment.  The Rickenbaker 4001 was almost always the bass of choice, as it was for Progressive Rock.  The guitars were split but very often these early metal guitar men were playing Gibson's with marshal amplification.  I think there may be a relationship with the increased sustain these instruments brought and the sonorous sound early metal used.

The final element I noticed as a commonality between these early metal bands was a sense of dissatisfaction with the counter culture.  Metal shares this a bit with the Hell's Angels and since that while they are not main street American they are not Haight Asbury either.  Metal always has seemed to react with a sense of suspicion to youth and traditional culture alike.  In this since Metal sets itself up as a Counter Counterculture.  Truth is a cardinal virtue of metal, as such it often finds fault in they contrivances of youth.  The hippies look like self serving frauds, preppies and jocks look to be towing the line.  Musically metal is very structured which can be seen as a reaction to the free form psych of the 60's.  Thrash was a reaction to the Glam rock of the 80's. I desires to be direct ,powerful and to the point.  While there is a side of metal that frolics through a sylvan glade we hide in deep in our records.

A last though before I sign off, Dio and Lemmy are perhaps the two embodiments of Metal.  Lemmy for direct in your face excess and Dio for the inviting and open nature of metal.  The latter of these is a crucial element of Metal that I am not sure has been said on the series.  In metal you are welcome to join us, everyone is.  You just need an honest love for the music and you are welcome, and this is extended perhaps most to those of us who feel out of place elsewhere. Dio was the greatest ambassador for this aspect of metal.  RIP RJD

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

EarthDawn a review

Earthdawn was Fasa's entry into the Fantasy genre after their success with Shadowrun.  Roughly it mixes traditional fantasy with a cosmic horror and a more barbarous setting.  Perhaps think Clark Aston Smith played in Greg Stafford's Runequest setting.  The game world is supposed to be earth in a forgotten age, in pre history.  This mean the in game history is intends to link the history with that of Shadowrun.  Many, including myself, will tell you it is a fine role playing game that did not get the credit it was due.  I personally see a lot of Earthdawn in 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, for instance.  You can do a lot worse than investing your gaming time into Earthdawn.

As I have stated the product was originally released through Fasa and was well maintained until the companies collapse.  Shortly after words the line was picked up by Living Room Games.  Living room games produced a second edition of the game which was pretty limited in the change scope.  Complicating issues the product was Also tackled by Austrailia's Red Brick LLC.  Red Brick released a line called Classic for some time and then switched over to a third edition line.  At present I am unsure of what the folks at Red Brick are doing.  I see products for Paizo's Pathfinder and Pinnacles Savage Worlds, what I don't see is Earthdawn mechanics products.  You can find them offered at heavy discount through Mongoose publishing though.  I know they had a relationship with the Mongoose people and that it has now ended, I just don't know what that means for future Earth Dawn product.

Speaking more myself, I only played the Fasa material.  In this post I think its best I stick to what I know.  I would love it if someone could educate us about the second and third edition changes, but for now I am sticking with first. 

The first edition of the game takes place in a distant pre history of earth.  Physically the locations pretty similar to the real world Caucasus mountains and Urals. Much of the game focuses on tribal people retaking the land after a magical catastrophe.  I know the third edition has expanded to include material for several other areas but first edition was primarily the area around Macedonia and the black sea. 

Certain mechanical and story factors made the game pretty appealing especially compared to much of the Fantasy that was out at the time.  Back in first and second edition AD&D the elf was pretty powerful, to the point where many took them by default. Earthdawn present humans in that mechanical sweet spot, making them desirable.  Tacking onto the No Elves thing, was the fact that elves were presented a little more fucked over than in standard Tolkienesq fantasy.  Normally elves are good and great and beautiful.  They live forever and are Eco friendly and just so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.  Earthdawn makes the elven high court horrible and dark, if a little too gothy.  They have thorn vines living inside their bodies and bursting from their skin.  The Elven queen may be horror possessed and from a general stats prospective you have to be focusing on dexterity to consider taking them.  This I like, it turns something saccharin and annoying into something with a touch of edge and enough role playing meat to be interesting. 

Mechanically Earthdawn is a joy, really a joy.  If you work into the system and start reverse engineering it, you will find its all constructed upon very solid principles.  They set the experience reward system so just being there has a base line of rewarding the player every three sessions.  The rest is calculations from there, but it shows they were starting from a philosophical idea of constant advancement even for the sit there like a lumpeyest player.  The open ended dice the system uses are beautiful.  Seriously you never see a party explode with excitement like you do when someone goes off in Earthdawn.  Its a bit hard as a GM that any player can walk up and destroy your favorite big baddy but it sure has the players jumping in their seats.  I can remember rolling well over 80 with a D4 and a D20 re rolling when the dice maxed out.  The table was full of shouts every time I hit max on a die.  That sort of thing just makes the evening come alive for players.

The horrors are another solid component to the game.  Think of Lovecraftean horror added to a fantasy game.  These guys are just goofy powerful and very unnerving in how they work.  They are there to corrupt people.  Some are mindless killer but the worse work more slowly.  The best part about it is they have stat blocks.  You can see how bad they are and they are bad.  The hunter of dragons has Raid level stats that I am unsure even a max power group could handle.  Most games leave the stats out for things these days, if they want to say its too powerful to kill.  here they wrote out the states and then multiplied them by 100.  I like that idea of coming up with the point of max achievement and then setting a big baddy well beyond those abilities, its give players something to shoot for. Give them something to fail at.

As a new GM you are going to need the Earthdawn Rule book as well as the earthdawn companion.  These two books cover the game system and allow characters to advance to 15th circle which is the game max.  You may consider the Arcane Mysteries of Barsaive as another expansion book, but one more generally for all circles of advancement.  Creatures of Barsaive is the monster book, Horrors is the nasty monsters book.  From here you will often find that the crunchy game material is inserted into more fluffy books.  This is as opposed to the modern splat book approach which is pretty crunchy stuff all in one book.  I sort of like this idea as your player may read the fluff and actually have some role playing around the character they have just created.  They will understand what a Horror is and why their new Horror Hunter is adding threads into them.  Knowing how the blood wood works may make your new blood elf character come off as less a goth douche and more of a real person.

For all the goods of earthdawn there are some factors you should be aware of.  The game works on the idea that characters are following a mystical path which is their class.  Their is pretty limited variations in these paths, and they end up being almost an arch type at the very high levels of the game.  Its not first edition AD&D where ever fighter is the same, but you are a well defined character.  If you are looking for a game that allows for heavy personalization like some of the skill based games, this may not be for you.  If you are looking for a hybrid character type, again this may not be for you.  The path to power comes from working your way up the circles.  Working on other skills may limit your rise.  This is similar to how multi classing can work against casters in 3rd. edition D&D but it effect every class in Earthdawn.  Also your high fantasy ideas may or may not be well suited to Earthdawn, something like a Knight in shinning armor feels very out of place with my idea of earthdawn.  A roman or a Greek warrior could fit in but as a villain from Thera. 

All and all this is a great game.  You can pick it up off eBay with some work. Go to mongoose for the third edition. Or wait on Red Brick LLC to reprint stuff.  Its a lot of fun and is well supported, if you work at it.  Its also pretty unique.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Age of the Play Test
I find myself at a loss, it just seems every avenue I explore I am hitting a dead end.  I would call this the age of the play test in the gaming market.  Its as if everyone has looked at the market down turn and said "I know a new edition!"  We are all well aware of the D&D Next play test that is going on.  But even smaller market games are going through the process. SSDC is working on a new version of BattleLords.  The Design Mechanism is working on their new version of Runequest even though Legend is fairly new.  Even ICE is reworking their product line after an ownership change. 

I am left looking for something to excite me in the market place.  I could shift over to minis but I am not a painter and those games would take me out of the house for longer than my four year old would be comfortable with. I say that meaning that I would want to do something seriously and not just half arsed.  I have looked over at Hordes and War Machine the Dwarves are actually appealing as are the gator men.  But setting that stuff up and getting it painted seems like something I can't commit to.  Even if I wanted I am just bad when it comes to the physical world.  Stuff and me don't mix well, art is about as far as I can get.  That's why i stick to music, writing and knowledge.  I guess Dust would be the game that most lends itself to me but again when would I play.  I don't want to just have shit taking up space.

Board games are nice but I don't know where or when I would get a chance.  I have a very much non gamer wife, oh she is cool with Cattan but who isn't?  It would require a bunch of freaks taking over my house for a few hours.  I think she would probably object to that idea, even if I could get here to play.  Perhaps something light where we turn her friends into board gamers would work.  Do you folks have any ideas on that one?

So I am back to my little comfortable world of Role playing games.  I am at a loss here, at least looking for something exciting and new.  I am all ears if you have any ideas.  I don't really want to get all nostalgic picking up Reichstar or something like Torg.

Just Cry

Give in release.
Take the strength
and let it go,
fail as others do

Fall into tears
and fall apart.
Cry out the wounds
and go for broke.

Don't be strong,
Don't tense to comfort
those that break
when they see you broken.

Don't get angry
at weakness all around.
They don't understand
it demands your strength.

Don't call it selfish
Just cry just cry

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Toy Review: Quiz Wiz

Quiz Wiz was a "toy" that your grand parents would have bought for you.  Sort of cool for the time considering it was a semi hand held that basically had cartridges but also lame in that it was a learning toy.  Also the no screen made it sort of a problematic toy to use.  The idea behind it was get the computer and purchase extra quiz books.  The computer would plug into the books sort of reversing the standard console set up.  Each book had a topic which it would quiz you on.    The original version of the toy was produced by Coleco, though the rework that came out in the late nineties was by Tiger.

I was not aware of variations of the product at the time but apparently there was a four play game version of the Coleco Quiz Wiz and a Star Wars version of the Tiger updated computer.

I am not really sure of the game play of the four player version.  I don't know if it allows you to play from a single or multiple quiz books.  From the picture that I snagged off eBay it looks like it used a single book for the questions.  That is sort of lame I have long thought a trivia game where players each brought topics to the table would make for fun.  It would make it so everyone had some topic they knew well.  I guess I will have to work on that idea for another post.  I have used the basic idea for a music party game I created.
As you can see the updated tiger version is a little different I am not sure how it work with the books from the original.  It almost looks like it would not accept the old books but perhaps the old computer would accept the new.

The folks over at hand held museum have a listing with the original books or carts whatever you like to call them

Cartridge list:
1. 1001 Questions
2. The World of Sports
3. Movies and TV
4. People & Places
5. Trivia
6. Music & Books
7. Math Mania
8. The Book of Lists
9. Greatest Sports Legends
10. Super Heroes
11. Disaster! When Nature Strikes Back
12. The Ocean- Mankind's Last Frontier
13. Energy- The Fuel of Life
14. How Things Work- Aerosols to Zippers
15. NBA Teams
17. MLB
18. Guiness Book of World Records
19. The People's Almanac #1 & #2
20. Sherlock Holmes & Other Famous Mysteries
21. Greatest Sports Legends- Volume II
22. Monsters, Vampires, Witches and Ghosts
23. Words- Used, Misused and Confused
24. Super Trivia- Movies and TV
25. Rock 'N Roll- Doo Wop to Disco
26. The Bible- The Old and New Testaments
27. Soap Opera Digest
28. Ripley's Believe it or Not
29. Celebrity Trivia
30. Fascinating Facts about Animals

Per eBay i have seen that the newer line some different 

1.   General Knowledge
4.   Greatest Sports legends
5.   Ripley's Believe it or Not
6.   Famous People
8.   All About Science
10. Rock and Roll
11. MLB players
12. Amazing Video Games
14. Computers and games
15. Travel and Language
18. TV Trivia
16. World Records
22. Dinosaurs
24. Where in the World
25. Music
30. Monster Mania
33. Movie Trivia II
36. Great Americans
37. The World Championship Games
40. Box Office
41. Heroes and Villains
43. Automobiles
44. Soap Operas
45. Music Video
46. Congo The Movie
47. World book encyclopedia Animals
49. Teams of the NFL
50. Quotes and Quotable
51. World Book encyclopedia People
54. Computers and Video Games
55. Facts about the Earth
56. American History
57. Mythology
58. Sports Stars of the 90's
59. Pro Sports
60. Fats, Events and People of the '90s

There are some more like the magic school bus - flying things but i have no idea on the number from that.  I am finishing out with the Star Wars version.  Thanks to Sci Fi Blog for the pic

Friday, June 08, 2012

Toy Review: Simon, Einstein, Merlin and other electronic memory toys

The folks over at plastic fetish give us the inspiration for today's toy posting.  Einstein was Simon for the pic n' save set by way of castle electronics.  It was pretty fun and was a solid enough alternative to Simon that no one would make fun of it.  Simon seemed a little more portable but this wasn't a piece of crap that you felt a waste of money.

This toy, just like Simon is an electronic memory game.  The object is to push button in the same pattern that Simon spits out.  It comes faster and faster and continues to create increasingly longer patterns for you to match.  The Simon toy is still available today in a backpack clip form.

At the time there were a variety of Simon Clones like the Einstein.   Atari had the touch me, Parker brothers had the cooler looking Merlin and there was something called Milton from another toy company.

The Simon line continued to spawn no versions as well.  We had the Super Simon with eight buttons, A Star Wars Simon with an xwing, Simon2 (read that as squared).  There was something called Simon Sticks that I have no idea what they are and the Simon trickster and flash.

The original Simon was invented by Ralph Baer, who you will know as one of the fathers of video gaming.  He was the inventor of the Odyssey one.

As you can see the Merlin looked like some sort of cool submarine control, like you were going to dial in a torpedo attack on a German U-boat.  They changed the buttons to have numbers later on in the toys lifeline.  I think its cooler without them though.  Thanks to tawnya marie at blogspot for the picture.

The Star wars version looks like another abomination from the phantom menace era of marketation.  Exploitation and Marketing all rolled into a fan boy cash grab of epic levels.

Atropa Belladonna

Drink down your dwale,
luminous ever dark eye.
Radiate in spiral aim
with light or word speak!
Touch again, breathe anew.
Startle me out my slumber,
give me a stumbling gait.
Spear my evolved self,
The watching one aware;
to bleed the dream; you.
Birth yet another world
for me, far from awareness.
Some faithful wild far,
from the infinite resign.
you or the dream of you

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Musings on Magic for my RPG project

you know i wrote a bit about how magic will be used in my Role playing game but it was pretty abstract.  I have been thinking of using something a little cleaner that is inspired by Runequest.  That being magic as an over arching skill and magical traditions as limited applications of magic.  An analog might be the adept and the magician in Shadowrun.  One is weak but focused the other complete in the use of magic.

I was thinking of having something like sorcery and Geth'ka the traditional magic of the Green people.  In one you were basically given the freedom to take magic that could be cast any old way. In the other you were would be limited.  Sorcery could be used to power a tradition but not the other way.  The difference being the traditions would include a few spells that including prescribed ways successes could be spent.  Sorcery on the other hand you would need to purchase everything from the ground up.  though for sorcery you would never be restricted like you are in the traditions.  Sorcery you could buy up to allow anything you can imagine, where the traditions would only allow limited power ups.

The trouble here is the power level of a high level sorcerer is through the roof.  There may be a need to add in something like spell resistance or magical absorption armor there.  That way the wizard will need to overcome something before they can start using successes for damage.

Some magic items may also allow for tradition type magic.  I have always wanted to have a character like the prince of Persia in my game.  He is a competent fighter that gains magic later in the game.  The magic is directly useful in his fighting, not a side thing.  I want something like this where it flows seamlessly into one.

The Living Years

This doesn't let up it just goes forward and when you can get off your right back and the end of whatever diversion you mustered up.  It's turned my angers to back burner slow slimmer and my fears on full boil.  I can't be myself and I don't even know if I am that guy anymore.  It's forced growth in the weakest most fragile bits of the soul.  The mild adulthood everyone walks into thrust directly on our plate, double helping.  You want a minute to run and ever then its somehow back of the mind, worrying the moment like a  light left on.  Its your own doubt brought up to terror that burns in all your blood.  Its wrongness made physical twitching ruin running wild. It's friend that don't talk to deep forced to the core of matters.  The thoughts and wisdom shoved into light and you talk about it, when there was once just a road and some music.

Record Review: Allan Holdsworth Metal Fatigue

Let me start off by saying Metal Fatigue sounds like the 80's.  It makes me think of playing pitfall! and going for an original new york seltzer.  Some will say it sounds dated to me it sounds like a musical time capsule.  This could be a deal breaker for some, I am just warning you up front.

OK we are dealing with jazz fusion here, this music is a little weird and not every ones cup of tea.  The guitar sound is not in your face shredding, instead its harmonic and tonal.  You have some traditional rocking, but for the most part its not, those sounds you hear are not keyboard but rather synth guitar.

Lets talk about the vocal pieces first.  There are three on the record.  Two are sung by Paul Williams and Mystery is sung by Paul Kourda.  Metal Fatigue is pretty solid, though the name may be a bit tricky there is no metal here.  There are some dissonant off kilter chords but not metal.  The lyrics are a bit grandiose but everything was in the eighties.  Its a solid song that works.  Panic Stations is awesome, great song with a BADASS Jimmy Johnson bass solo!  It's when you get to Mystery that I start to have a problem.  The vocal isn't bad the lyrics are fucking hoaky.  I have written better and I suck.  Its a good song it just is a bit goofy.  That sort of eighties mystery in the briefcase sort of pseudo sci fi stuff. 

I think most fans of Holdsworth are familiar with Devil Take the Hindmost.  Its pretty terrific, sick guitar work and solid composition.  I think Holdsworth has said he doesn't know what he was doing when listening to the original recording. 

I do have a bit of an issue with The Unmerry go round.  The bits of the song are good but they don't flow or fit well.  The beginning is very staccato the middle is passive and tonal.  The end does wrap up some of the themes but not as well as I would have liked.  It's just a little jumpy for me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Record Review: The Thorn's self titled album

The Thorns was a project that combined the talents of Shaun Mullins, Pete Droge and Matthew Sweet.  They only released this self titled record which is a bit of a shame as they had something there.  The harmony on the record is nothing short of amazing.  It's safe to say they were going for a Crosby, Stills and Nash sound as that is what they have captured here.  Three guys, guitars and some very full vocal harmonies.

For me the record was a bit up and and down.  There are songs I really like and others that left me flat.  It feels like there could have been more writing done that better showcased what they had here.  Most of the music you will find here is folk rock or country rock; again very much like CSN or perhaps CSN & Y.  Really even their album cover looks like it could have been something from CSN's back catalog when they were skinny and had all their hair.  Not sure if that ever was the case for David Crosby.

I can't remember or blue was the first song I heard of the record, I am not sure which.  I remember surfing internet radio stations and landing on this when I had listened through the metal, prog and hair metal stations.  The song was strong enough for me to buy the record.  Both are relationship type songs a bit melancholy and disappointed; Perhaps something like the Low Millions song statue.  Blue Skies is another stand out the strong harmonies they have going her seem to work on these more sad folky songs.  When they get into more up beat or driven songs I am not sure it worked for me.  The songs that come to mind are runaway feeling which was just a little goofy for me and dragonfly which seemed to have two competing ideas.

Generally I feel the album works more than it doesn't and is something worth your time.  If you are more into the folk sound or vocal harmonies this should right up your alley.   I think you are going to need to be someone enjoys this more sensitive music to really get the most of it though.   Full on metal heads probably should look for something else.

Toy Review: Star War Jawas Droid Factory

Being a boy growing up in the early eighties its pretty safe to assume star wars was a big part of my youth.  I had loads of figures along with the x wing and other stuff.  I enjoyed it but got out of star wars around the time the smaller line of GI Joe came out.  While I enjoyed star wars still, GI Joe was something I really ran with.  Perhaps it was the increase in figure articulation or ninjas; both were are really cool.  One of the Star Wars toys I continued to play with was the Droid Factory.  That was something that really captured my imagination.

There Star Wars droid factory was basically a play set for the jawas at least in theory.  It was actually a fun robot construction toy.  You could build several robot or droids including R2 D2, though I never really did.  I liked making my own weird droid creations and seeing how strange I could get.    It was really a really a well put together toy for the time.  Everything had a spot and most things plugged right in.  There was very little mess which my mom liked and I could take it anywhere in the house which I liked.

You can see just how nice and neat everything packed away with this photo.  Yes the orange tubing was the first thing I lost.  I decided I wanted to cut it to make my own custom lengths that would fit my droids.  That was a mistake.  The picture is lifted from this IGN article that list several other Star Wars playsets.  I actually had the Death Star Space Station set as well.  It was pretty fun after you got it out of the box and built.  The trash compactor was fun but you quickly lost foam blocks.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Hopes for A song of Ice and Fire

Having been watching, reading and listening to the series awhile I have a few hopes for the series.  Some are general and some specific.  One I will mention that is down right impossible.

1. I would like to see more of Sandor Clegane.  I really don't need him to do anything specific, just more.   I know people have mentioned some further interaction with Sansa, but I don't know if that would go anywhere credible.  I would just like to see some further mention of him.  Perhaps Stranger getting lucky with Dany's Silver. 

2. Daario Naharis needs to be killed off by Jorah Mormont.  I hate the character , its everything bad about modern fantasy.  Its Elric and Drizzt wrapped in narcissism and smothered in blue hair sauce.  The character needs to go down hard.

3. Samwell Tarly need to confront and get the upper hand on his father in some respect.  I would expect it to be in some intellectual respect but just something so he sees he may have made a mistake.

4. Now impossible with the reforging of Ice into Oath Keeper I would have liked to seen Cersei beheaded by Ice.

5. As the series is shaping up to be Varys and littlefinger sparing I would like to see more of Varys come out.  Who was he and who is he.  Is he really a eunuch?  More of his motivations need to be revealed.  Their is a history but it seems more of a fabrication.

Lost My Nerve

I wrote this with the Nick Lowe song And So It Goes running in my head on repeat.  I hope this works, I don't really know what it is a song a poem.

 In the air there is absolute devotion.
Ill stay in her arms ever after.
In the morning it wasn't like this;
I was hopeless , and alone.

I took myself to the lakeside
and thought about walking in.
clothes and all, sink like a stone.
Lost my nerve and , headed home.

In the sky, the sun was sinking
down upon the streets of Cahalan.
It felt like someone was waiting
for something that , I didn't Know----

Calling through the streets ever after
Calling for someone , I don't know
Somethings right tonight I will find her
Where she is, I don't know

She'll be everywhere that I'm not!
Next door to my favorite restaurant.
Turning late, I'm flying solo
Just my myself , and my radio----

Calling through the streets ever after
Calling for someone , I don't know
Somethings right tonight I will find her
Where she is, I don't know

Around midnight and I'm at a movie
sitting by myself in the back row.
Looking around who's next to me
arm in arm watching  , the picture show.

Calling through the streets ever after
Calling for someone , I don't know
Somethings right tonight I will find her
Where she is, I don't know

Music Review of Abra Moore's Everything Changed

Abra Moore's work on Everything Changed is a bit of an oddity.  It has some light almost poppy stuff but the core of the record is searching and introspective.  Much of the music has a dusky country rock sound that is a bit in line with the lighter side of the early seventies movement.  In places it delves into darkness with more hollow less processed sound.  Family Affair almost reminds me of Drake's Pink Moon in its starkness of instrumentation. 

As I have said the record starts out lighter and more traditionally produced with tracks like I do an Big Sky.  These are easy to listen to songs that don't really fell searching or torments.  The more contemplative tracks come with Family Affair, Everything Changed and Paint on Your Wings.  These feel almost Garbrielesq in their wounded honesty.  Apparently they relate to the death of her father, and family dynamics afterward.  They certainly feel like someone revealing an uncomfortable truth. 

The music is strong on the record Its a little sad that Abra has not release further music since the 2007 follow up record.   It's something that is going to be small market but usually anything that turns from populist to honest isn't most people's cup of tea.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Toy Review: Magic Shot and other inclosed shooting gallery toys

As a Kid I had plenty of toys, but one of the toys I liked that I never got was the Marx Magic Shot.  This was one of those toys that I never really asked for but just admired from afar.  One of those things you somehow know will get boring but still enjoy when playing at a friends house.

The toy was a pretty neat idea, basically a plastic box with a few targets inside.  Ball bearings would rolling around trapped inside the box which you would shake to the front and trap in a series of holding grooves.  Once set up like this you would use the little magnet gun to draw the buck shot up and then press the trigger to shoot.

I only played with these a few times and never got enough time to check them out to figure out how the shooting works.  I mean it cant be magnetic or we would have rail gun tech going on right now.  I guess it has to be some sort of spring but that seems like it would fuck up the plastic face plate pretty quickly. 

There were a few other toys with similar designs at the time.  The Electro Shot Shooting gallery I think was also by Marks, or Ideal.  I was checking a sight called Sam's toy box and Saw something called Midway shooting gallery that is, well lame.  You can check out Sam's description it sounds terrible.   There is a recent attempt at this sort of thing called the Executive Shooting gallery which can be picked up here.  I think the Magic shot is probably the best of the bunch or maybe the Electro just because its design lends itself to shooting rapid fire.

Record Review: The Outer Limits by Voivod

Many of you know my love of both progressive rock and metal and of course their combination.  I have mentioned Voivod in the past but I wanted to give a focus to their outer limits record here.  Voivod are sort of the velvet underground of metal, not very well know but with many fans that are musicians.  God even Ryan Adams has expressed being a fan of theirs.  It's really funny as bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche and to a lesser extend Fates Warning all had success with the prog metal sound.  Voivod was always an outsider, though their sound was actually far nearer to traditional prog rock than the others, well at least in the progressive arch of Nothingface, Angel Rat and The outer limits.

Perhaps the biggest difference her was Voivod kept an edge that was often lost in other prog metal bands.  In a word dissonance! Where prog metal often flows naturally into power metal this was never true for Voivod.  They weir raw, weird and something else all together.

The Other limits was the last of Voivod's progressive arch and the last record to feature Snake.  Blacky had left the band prior to this recording, and while I love his bass and miss it here, there is good bass work on the record.  Away and Piggy are here of course adding what no one else could.  Again Away has taken the art duties here, with the inner art being all 3D.  Even my tape came with wee little red and blue glasses so it was pretty fun.  Away has a unique and spooky style, I think the only cover art like his is Skinny Puppy's Too Dark Park.

This record is dissonant but a lot less distorted than their other work.  Some have said its not has metal but I disagree.  I think Angel Rat is not near as hard as The Outer Limits.  In any event these are not the Rockers of Nothingface and Dimension Hatross.  The songs are often long and it wouldn't be Voivod if they were not spacey.

I will not be covering all the songs one the record but i will call out three.  I really love their Pink Floyd covers they really get the feel right.  They took on Astronomy Dominae in Nothingface and here they tackle The Nile Song.  They rock it hard! The song goes from Pink Floyd's airy buzz to an absolute murk.  I always think of a camera going through swamp water when I hear the song the sound is so raw and sludgy.  When piggy's solo cuts through its almost like a golden glowing thread distinct and pure in the murk but there in it too.

Voivod often hits upon this sad and dark french cabaret sound, almost like the Bone Daddy band in The nightmare before Christmas.  They do again in Le Pont Noir they paint a picture here that almost feels like you have walked through the scream and gone to lunch in the city behind. 

Finally there is the one song that I am not so fond of, Moonbeam Rider.  This was a little too pop and goofy for me.  It is just a pretty regular song, not really proggy not really metal.  It almost seems like they are singing about the silver surfer and comic books have never been my thing.  It doesn't ruin the record just not my taste.  I would write about Jack Luminous but I think many people have covered it on the web and I don't know if I really need to.

Never squat down and crane your neck when your picture is taken

Choke back the ambivalence and listen dear. In truth this is all easy to understand.  You take it on your own in a few days, I am not saying anything to change your world.  I only want to give it to you a little earlier than it might have come on it's own. 

There is no need of yours to be other than you are.  There is no need to pretend yourself until your are just like everyone else.  No one has it figured out, every bit they say is bravado and bits they have been fed.  They are the words of youth coming from inexperience masking as wisdom.  Mostly rationalizations of dull eyed hedonism.

Your path won't be mine and that is probably best.  I have taken a hard road at a high price.  I decided long ago a set of values and worth for the world.  The thing about any measure is the first unit is always arbitrary.  The scale of things is objective but that first one never is.  Its light through a vacuum in a second or a kings knuckle bone.  For me  it was the dog, and people never measure up to a lofty standard like that. 

Your unique and authentic self is all I ask of you.  Sure try to be good but that's going to come natural or not.  Some will be taught some will come from culture.  But best I can say is go a little out of your way to help be a little bit bothered.  If you would be derailed then don't.  It would be worse if you do.  But what do I know I am just a scarecrow.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Toy Review: Kooky spooks and Kooky Spookys

I was trying tell someone about a series of Halloween costumes from my childhood.  They didn't remember or get what I was trying explain so I decided to track it down on the Internet.  The costume in question was something called Kooky Spooks which got a lot of people confused with a line of toys called Kooky Spookys.  One was a terrible line of inflatable head Halloween costumes and the other a series of ghost figures.  The later are almost cute and the former were for lame wads.

The Kooky Spooks were a series of costumes that included an inflatable plastic head and make up to paint your own face.  It's sort of a goofy idea you have a plastic head on top of your own head.  Its not even a mask just an extra head.  This was back in the days when most costumes were a vinyl smock and a plastic mask that came out of box.  The good ones looked basically like the character you were trying to be, the bad ones had that character printed on the front along with their name.  So Chachi or something like that.  I remember the TG&Y people getting made at me for opening up the little boxes to see if the smock was cool or not.  So the inflated head thing isn't totally out of the scope of reason for the time.

The Kooky Spooks had five or six variations.  One seemed to be a green pointy nosed woblin goblin, another a black cat and scarred cat.  There was a pumpkin, a goofy looking witch, a weird alien called spacey casey, some sort of red devil that looked to be sitting on your head.  And finally a skull with a candle on it that actually looked sort of cool.  Well cool except for the smock thing that had all their pictures on it. Lame!  I am going to put the year on these things around 1980.

The Kooky Spookys were a line of little ghost toys from Hasbro, that came out in 1968.  They were cute if a little contrived as they were presented as hippys.  The toys glowed in the dark which was fun they needed this as they were more figurines than toys.   They had names like Teena Terror, Big Brother Mortimer and Daddy Booregard.  You will see some in this little flyer, I think this is the first series there appears to have been more or there were many items for each figure to hold and be posed with.


Someone who blogs under the name have phaser will travel has actually done some of his own custom Kooky Spooks that you can see here.  I think they are pretty nice and get the feel of the original toys right though they seem to have taken a bit of a turn away from the hippy flavor of Teena Terror and Momma Kaskit.

There was apparently a mail away haunted house for the figurines as well.  It was not really anything other than a cardboard display with punch out windows for each of the six figures.  I am calling the figures but someone has mentioned they were intended as finger puppets.  Thanks go out to the enchanted world of rankin bass for this info.

In writing this post I wanted to thank Snagg's News and The Universal Monster Army Forum for pictures I have used.