Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

The Dimvale Dungeon by Matthew Lowes

Matthew Lowes, a connection of mine over at G+ social network, has come up with a very simple, neat, and compact way of making an RPG adventure. 1 page. A small hand-drawn map on a post-it sticky note and, BOOM—you are good to go. I love this. I showed my older son and he is already taking cues from Matthew's great and simple idea. 

The Dimvale Dungeon
Innovation is the core of any good RPG. This micro-adventure, above, on a single sheet of paper by Matthew Lowes is exactly the type of free thinking that makes gamers extra awesome. Bravo, Matthew. 

Above is another work-in-progress Matthew posted today. You can check Matthew out over at his web page: or seek him out on G+.

Happy Halloween everyone!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Time To Talk About The Smiths

There is The Smiths, and then there is everything else.

So in case you have not heard, Morrissey has cancer, which basically sucks. It's not that I'm being selfish or anything, like I just want him pumping out new music forever. I just hope he gets better.

I still listen to The Smiths all the time. They are, by far, my favorite band of all time. Over the decades of my music-listening adventures, my tastes changed wildly. I started listening to music of my parents generation—60s and 70s music. In The Year 2525. Even some 40s and 50s music, like Hound Dog. Then there was all the pop crap that I absorbed through osmosis in the 80s, mostly stuff I sort of hated at the time that I somehow enjoy listening to now. Belinda Carlisle. Foreigner. Journey. Somehow this stuff became stuck in my head and I enjoy it now. I don't fight it, I just go with it. In the face of the auto-tuned crap from today, Belinda Carlisle looks like Mozart now.

After a brief stint with some heavy metal like Iron Maiden, which attracted me more with its cover art than its music, I left my local school district and went to art high school in Manhattan. At my high school, I was exposed to more progressive music. The Smith's Louder Than Bombs was the first album I bought at Tower Records. After that I was hooked. Heavy meal vanished for me and was soon replaced by The Cure, Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire, New Order, Big Audio Dynamite, and Fishbone. There were lots more too.

After high school I delved into darker, harder music. Bauhaus. Then industrial bands like Front 242, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, Einstürzende Neubauten all filled up my ears.

After college my younger brother introduced me to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd beyond just The Wall. Then came techno music. Aphex Twin. The Orb. After that was Smashing Pumpkins. Nirvana. Then came Portishead. Massive Attack. Thievery Corporation.

Throughout all of this there was always The Smiths. Even when I foolishly gave away all my Depeche Mode CD singles to some jackass (who probably does not even have them anymore) I never dreamed of giving away my Smiths CDs. I eventually stopped listening to hard industrial music. I rarely put that stuff on anymore.

I am always listening to The Smiths. Always. They never get old. I never get tired of hearing them.

Someone once asked me—referring to The Smiths—why do I like "listening to music that makes me what to slit my wrists?"

I just brushed it off, unable to give an in-depth response then. Now I'd say that The Smiths music runs that fine line between happy and sad. Life, if you are living it correctly, should often have you in poignant moments where laughter and crying are wrestling with one another in your head. The Smiths feel that way to me—the melancholy that comes from extreme happiness or the way sad moments are so bleak because of the happy times in contrast.

The Smiths songs make me happy. They may be melancholy, but that is far more than I can say for much of the other trite pop junk I also enjoy. Much of what I enjoyed from other groups was just vapid songs with clever melodies. The Smiths were more like Bob Dylan, poetic lyrics that have a soul, and music too. Kind of a sad-happy.

The Queen Is Dead was named the greatest album of all time by New Music Express, or NME. Many might not agree. Still, The Smiths have obviously left a big mark on the music world.

I hope Morrissey gets better just so he can live out his years and enjoy some down time. He's already given us so much.

This is one of my all time favorite songs by The Smiths. I know it's Over.

The Queen is Dead

Skylanders Trap Team Review (by my 7 year old)

This is a guest post from my 7-year old, ultra-amazing son.

"The game is awesome. The Screamer was necessary to be in this game, but that is fine. The Doom Raiders have every element except magic, which would be cool in the game. On the poster there are question marks, which are two new elements. That is weird. Wouldn't they put everything in before the game comes out? The lock puzzles got insanely hard. It took like 20 minutes to get through. The Chompie Mage was in Skylanders Giants. He did not go to jail at the end of Giants. He was in the credits.

I am glad the Gulper is the only villain you don't fight. Crank Case is Spy Rise's dad, and he fights his own son. The villains don't die until the time runs out and you turn back into a Skylander. Broccoli Guy and Buzzer Beak were trappable, but I could not trap them. I liked the noise Shortcut makes."

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Adam's Horror Film Picks For Kids

Can a kid watch a horror film? Hell yes! It is perfectly legal to take your kid to an R-rated film. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian (age 21 or older). Every kid is different, though. You need to know your own kids and what they can and can't handle. Some kids can't handle much. That's fine. There is no media I have found yet that will undo good old-fashioned parenting.

So until your kids can sit and watch The Exorcist without crapping their pants, here is a good solid list most kids should be able to handle.

It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. This is not a film but if you don't start here, well, you might want to reevaluate why you had kids in the first place. Peanuts in any form should be the cornerstone of any serious child-rearing a parent embarks on.

Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This film is a masterpiece pure and simple. It is my favorite Wallace & Gromit film and also the most clever work created by Aardman Animations. The film operates on multiple levels, able to satisfy both adult and child side-by-side with finely-honed humor. Criterion should seriously consider this for inclusion in their catalogue. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is the Cadillac of holiday films. Tim Burton's masterpiece is a Halloween film that blends in Christmas as holidays collide. This film was a classic the moment it came out. No childhood is complete without this film.

Monster House. This is one of my all time favorite seasonal Halloween films. I never seem to get enough of this film and it's one of the few from this batch I'll watch year round. The story, humor, animation, style, music, and acting is all exactly my taste and I'll be singing this film's praises till the day I die. We need more films like this. 

Coraline.  I read the novel to my son when it came out. Once the film came out we were all over it. While book and film do not perfectly mirror one another, they are both above par works that should both be experienced. 

Paranorman. This is a good solid Halloween film for kids. It borrows heavily from The 6th Sense, but that's fine. It retools the basic premise enough that it stands on its own as a fun-filled kids spook film. 

Corpse Bride. This film is many notches below Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas but it is still a good fun film. 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. You should be showing your kids Abbott and Costello. At the very least, show them this. This is a good film to begin to cross the threshold from kids' horror to young-adult horror. The fact that it is old and black and white with dated special effects will help any kid enter live-action scary/horror/spooky films. 

Ghostbusters. Eventually everyone must watch Ghostbusters. If you are 13 and you have not seen it yet, sit your parents down and ask them why this has been omitted. 


E.T. and Poltergeist. It's rumored that Speilberg directed both of these films at once. It does not feel like Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist. They seem shot in the same area of California, too. E.T. is the space-kids tear-jerker. Poltergeist is the safe-suburbia haunted house film. These are both for sophisticated kids. Try 7 years old and older for E.T., depending on your kid. 10 and older for Poltergeist. I was 12 when I saw it because that's when it came out in the theaters. 


Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. These films are both very much a tween/teen films. The humor is sophisticated and the films will lag for younger kids even though they are not particularly terrifying. If other Burton films have been tackled then these are both a good next step. 

Something Wicked This Way Comes. I love this film. It is dated now for sure and may land softer with today's kids as a result. Still, it can be genuinely scary and should be administered with caution to only older kids. 

The Birds. Hitchcock needs to be fed to a teen at some point. This is a great place to start. Unfortunately there is so much character development going on here that today's kids might be bored to death. I suggest this film be administered with the lights out and no distractions. A family night to introduce a more sophisticated type of film. Once someone is fed Hitchcock properly they will always be the better for it. 

Carrie. The original only. Stay as far away from the Chloë Grace Moretz 2013 version as you can. It's horrible. The original is raw. The original has teen nudity, back before this country became afraid of its own shadow. A whole host of famous actors are in this too. Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Piper Laurie too! This is graduation. Once you see this you get your diploma. For sophisticated mature teens only. 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Adam's Obscure October Horror Film Suggestions

It's October and that means you should be watching nothing but horror films! Every year at this time, I pull out all my old favorites such as Halloween, The Thing, Exorcist, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Everyone's probably familiar with those, right?

Here's a list of some more obscure films as possible suggestions to help add some variety to your horror season. This list is by no means meant to be all-inclusive or exhaustive in any way. It is simply my short list of suggestions. Some are great. Some suck and are great because of that. Some are just off-kilter enough to be fun.

Nosferatu and Shadow of the Vampire. First up is Nosferatu, the classic 1922 silent vampire film by F.W. Murnau, and the modern, fictionalized, behind-the-scenes making of Nosferatu, Shadow of the Vampireby E. Elias Merhige. Both films need to be watched back-to-back in whatever order you chose. They are both masterpieces, each singing across the gulf of cinema to one another. Both are on Netflix streaming now!

Begotten. You will need to track down Begotten on Amazon or Ebay. This is the first film by E. Elias Merhige, the same director who did Shadow of the Vampire. I can safely assume that not only have you never seen it, but you have also never seen anything like it. 

Berberian Sound Studio. Not to be missed, Berberian Sound Studio is a cinematic love letter to horror films in general. In addition, it also shines a light on the importance of sound in films as well as the hidden beauty related to the dying art of traditional filmmaking. Berberian Sound Studio is a like a Russian nesting doll that offers up surprises as it goes. The last time I checked, this was still on Netflix streaming. 

The Dunwich Horror. The Dunwich Horror is an old horror film from 1970, loosely based off the H. P. Lovecraft story of the same name. Until this year I had never seen the film. Despite it's age, often poor construction, and many other hits against it, I still enjoyed it a great deal. With old horror films, their age and poor construction sometimes give them unintended charm. This film is a new old favorite. On Netflix now. FYI... there are a zillion old horror films on Netflix now. I don't have the time to check them all out. Any recommendations? Please post! 

Cthulhu. Continuing with the Lovecraft films is Cthulhu. The film is a slight adaptation of the Lovecraft story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The film is often foolishly overlooked because the main character is gay. This film is not great, but it is still one of the better Lovecraft-styled films I've seen. I keep coming back to re-watch it every year since I've seen it, and that is reason enough to list it here. You can easily track this down on Amazon

The Midnight Meat Train. The Midnight Meat Train is not that obscure, but just in case I'm listing it here. I read the Clive Barker short story while riding on the NYC subway on my way home from high school in Manhattan in the 80s. The story taking place on the NYC subway stuck right in my gut as I read and rode. I'm rarely spooked, but this short story had me looking up and glancing at the real life wackos on the subway.  The film does not disappoint at all. And Leon is shooting with a Leica as he roams the NYC subway. Vinnie Jones as Mahogany is perfectly cast. A must see. 

Beyond the Black Rainbow. I'll end here with a new favorite. Beyond the Black Rainbow was made as if it was an obscure film from the 1980s that was lost or somehow overlooked. It's a beautiful film in every way I can think of. A gorgeous fever dream that keeps on giving with a great cast, soundtrack, photography, story, and more. I can never seem to get enough of this new old classic. Buy the blu-ray on Amazon. Here is my Beyond the Black Rainbow review that I posted here on a while back. 

Mindflesh. Here is one more to keep you busy. Dig this out and you will not be disappointed. 

Enjoy October. 

Enjoy fall. 

And enjoy Halloween. 

Feel free to list your own obscure horror favorites here in the comments section. 

As always, thanks for reading.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

John and Yoko on the slab
I saw David Fincher's latest film yesterday, Gone Girl. As a whodunit it was OK—pretty much on par with any number of decent thrillers, or an above average Columbo episode. Naturally that's not all that's going on in Gone Girl.

While back at the start Fincher's films were more overt and obvious, he has lately trended into the far more subtle territory of sociological undercurrents and what makes us tick.

Gone Girl has a simple premise. Wife goes missing. Where is wife?  At first glance, this seems to be it. It's not. What is going on here is subtle, and Fincher plays with our expectations of thrillers like he did with The Game. He takes us on a ride. What is the ride? It's that of subtle metaphor. Through a girl-gone-missing story, our own lives are referenced as we watch.

Film thriller media marriage references real life marriage.

We are looking at an off-kilter marriage that is just a bit too clever to be real, but just normal enough to have us maybe not notice. On the surface everything seems normal, but as we listen we find money problems, sex problems, fertility problems, and identity problems. A big perfect house—that's rented. No kids. No friends. No goals. No jobs. It's not real. It's almost real, but with just enough missing so that it's not. And the ever-so-clever way Amy and Nick meet. Their dialogue is too clever. The sugar storm is too contrived. This is farce. It's meant to be perhaps mistaken for real only because we have seen too many fake celebrity marriages and made-up film romances that we might not notice. At first I didn't notice how fake their relationship was, but it gnawed at me as the film progressed. This exaggerated domestic front is analogous for domestic life and marriage in general.

Amy—a very typical American name—goes missing. As the days go by we learn a lot of surface facts about the off-kilter lives of the players in this mystery.  I was reminded of Eyes Wide Shut, another film in which the protagonist is a male wandering around lost and searching. There is a Fincher/Kubrick connection but I'm not going to get too deep into that now. Even the way the days progress in Gone Girl with the type on the screen echoes The Shining some, which is also about domestic life falling apart. 

The more I watched the film the more I could sense the undercurrent pointing to the often varied facades we all put on in real life—with the different people we know and what is expected of us in marriage. We are reminded how ancient biological sexual urges often incongruously attempt to align with the modern idea of domestic tranquility and sociological expectations that are all around us. The film scratches at the things going on in our minds that we never say to our friends or spouses—the chatter in our heads that no one ever hears. Gone Girl is just clever enough to let traces of that leak out onto the screen, buried under the guise of a thriller. 

The media also plays a huge part in Gone Girl. It is depicted much as we know it in real life—a voracious and ever-fickle shark darting from prey to prey, only concerned with the flavor of the moment. The media cares nothing for the real truth—it only thinks it does. We don't need to see a film to realize that, but the media as depicted in Gone Girl is like every judgmental, know-it-all op-ed commentator you have ever seen, all rolled up into one big hot mess. We have the sort of Fox News commentator that is meant to remind us of the real-life Nancy Grace, and the black lawyer who conjures up a bit of OJ Simpson's media spectacle, shattering the idea of domestic bliss right before our eyes as we all gawked safely from home, watching it on TV.  

The wacky fake friends and media depicted in Gone Girl points to how we all think we know what's going on. We all think we know what the deal is with everything. And we are all usually spectacularly wrong. Yet we continue going on every day, still somehow smug despite all the evidence to the contrary. We keep playing the game. We keep putting on a good face. You know, the one the media tells you you should have. 

In the end, Nick stays. He's living with a busted Stepford wife—but he's equally as busted, so he does not care. He cares more about what everyone around him thinks than about his own safety and well being.