Friday, March 20, 2015

Partisan Triple Feature

While I dislike Nazism greatly, Nazis do make wonderful villains. So much so that we continue to make films with faux Nazis as villains, because, well, their days are over. So, long ago I had come up with my "Super Depressing Nazi Triple Feature", comprised of three wonderful films that made a bit of a timeline:
  1. The Damned involves itself with the centralization of power under Hitler and the infighting among various fascist groups.
  2. Cabaret is about the changes in Germany as the war went on, and the effect on the populace.
  3. The Night Porter is a beautiful and disturbing film about Nazis in hiding after the war.
All three are fantastic, and well worth watching, but I thought "there must be an opposite set of films, right?" So, I set out to find three films about partisans, and hoped to get the same flow as the first triple feature. The problem was, finding an opposite for The Night Porter. I think I finally have it:
  1. Casablanca is nearly perfect and covers the time when the Nazis invaded Paris through the middle of the war. The escape of a resistance leader is the plot motivator.
  2. Flame & Citron is set in the middle/end of the war and focuses on two assassins who kill Danish collaborators.
  3. Marathon Man
It took me a while to find Marathon Man. I had certainly heard of it, but it was never streaming. Now it appears to be on Netflix, so I gave it a shot. I am glad I did.

Superficially, it is a complicated story, but the complications it presents are red herrings. Dustin Hoffman is a PhD History candidate who is doing his dissertation on the McCarthy Era. We soon learn that his father was implicated by McCarthy, which caused his suicide. Roy Scheider plays Hoffman's brother, who is a successful businessman. Or is he?

The plot turns to the search for a Nazi war criminal who must come to the United States clandestinely, and Hoffman becomes involved. It is at times a rather brutal film, but not gratuitously so. The twistiness of the plot is enjoyable, but fortunately there are no "hey, wait a minute" moments that I remember. Everything is setup nicely. Sure there are a few tactical moments that I quesion, but these are not sufficient to ruin the film.

All of these films are great to watch. Casablanca is easily one of the greatest movies ever, and you should watch it. Flame & Citron is also a beautiful, albeit violent, compelling film, though it is in Danish; the only subtitled entry in my list. Cabaret is a thing of beauty, and not some happy-go-lucky romp. The Night Porter is a beautiful, tragic film, and Dirk Bogarde's portrayal is masterful. He is simultaneously able to make you despise and pity him. This is easily the hardest of the group to watch, at times, but it is so worth it. The Damned is fantastic, but is a bit like a soap opera; think Falcon Crest meets the Third Reich. Wonderful, but it can be a slog if you are not in the mood.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

True Grit (Henry Hathaway, 1969)

For all my love of fantasy and sci-fi, I am a lover of westerns as well. Last night I decided to watch, yet again, Tombstone, a film with a ridiculous cast of actors, most of which are better known now. I intended to watch another Kurt Russell film, The Thing, but felt I needed another western on a Friday night. Checking through Amazon and Netflix, nothing caught my eye. I was interested in Dances with Wolves or Silverado, but neither were available. Then I thought, "what about the remake of True Grit?" Sadly, it was not available, but the original version was.

True Grit was a fairly late entry in the John Wayne catalogue, though he did make eleven more films after it, including the sequel, Rooster Cogburn. The movie stars Wayne and singer/songwriter/session-player Glenn Campbell. The real star though is Kim Darby.

The story is a simple one of revenge. Mattie Ross (Darby) sees her father off on a trip to Fort Smith where he intends to buy horses. He takes a work hand with him, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), whom the family took in when he was in need. Mattie dislikes Chaney, and her suspicion proves out as once they get to Fort Smith Chaney shoots and robs Mattie's father. Mattie sets out under the auspices of returning her father's body for burial, and to collect his belongings, but her true aim is to bring Chaney to justice. Mattie meets up with US Marshall Rueben "Rooster" Cogburn (Wayne), considered the toughest of US Marshalls in the vicinity, and hires him to find Chaney. She later meets up with a Texas Ranger, Le Beouf (Campbell), who is looking for Chaney for a murder in Texas. The three band together, despite Mattie's insistance thant Chaney stand trial for her father's murder and not be returned to Texas.

The movie is based on a book, and as is typically the case, there is a lot left out. Cogburn and Le Beouf (pronounced as "Le Beef" in the film) do not like each other. They appear to have been on opposite sides during the Civil War. Cogburn also has a checkered past, being a bit of an outlaw prior to his tenure as a US Marshall. Mattie doesn't really care for either. She has a dislike for Texans, considering them ill-mannered, and sees Cogburn as a drunkard. There is a lot of local pride going on, which is not very well defined. It is unclear where Fort Smith or Mattie's home is, though it borders on the First Nations' territories, which is why she needs a US Marshall.

In the end, the biggest thing left out is that Mattie is the hero. The point is made subtley, but it is hard to tell if the average audience member gets this conceit. Despite the odds being against her, not to mention most of the characters, Mattie is the ultimate victor. She is young, and not as strong as the other characters. She is not skilled with a gun either. She is, however, a strong rider and has an iron will. Part of this problem is that in the end, Cogburn gets to pull the masculine fat out of the fire, saving Mattie's life and showing a fatherly care for her which was previously undescribed. It is Cogburn who rides off into the sunset, while Mattie returns to her home to take care of the family business.

That final bit is something lacking. While Cogburn goes off to continue his life without ties, living by his wits, the strength of his arm, and the sureness of his gun, Mattie takes on the responsibility of her family. She obstensibly ran the family business to begin with. One could draw a line back to The Magnificient Seven, where the town children tell Bernardo (Charles Bronson) that their fathers are cowards. Bernardo makes an impassioned speech about how there fathers are the bravest men there. They toil and sweat to take care of their families, receiving no reward save knowing they have done what must be done, and for their family's love. This is Mattie's lot in life. She is now a bit of a veteran. She has killed a man, and nearly died in the attempt. She brought honour, as she sees it, to her family by exacting justice on her father's killer; a man they saved from the elements. Easily this life could have appealed to her, turning her into a Calamity Jane or Annie Oakley, but instead she returns to her duty as her family's provider.

In the end this is a good movie. If you already like John Wayne, then it is John Wayne at his John Wayne-iest. He and Campbell are the weakest actors, but there are several good performances, including Robert Duvall as the main bad guy (who is abetting Chaney) and Dennis Hopper as one of Duvall's men. As a story, it is easy to see why the Coen brothers would want to make a new version of it. The original is a little too jocular for the subject matter, and frankly would have done better with an older Clint Eastwood; though that would have needed to wait for the '80s.

Friday, February 6, 2015

DM Tips from a Lousy DM

I can be a great source for seed ideas, but my lack of commitment, planning, and follow-through tend to make me bad at most tasks. I can write a decent short story, though it is seldom more than a begining with a cliffhanger, or a middle... with a cliffhanger. Since most Role Playing Games are stories, I am a better Player than Dungeon Master. I do have some examples of things that have proven successful with DMs I have played with. Maybe an idea or two will interest you.


First, and this was for a fairly specific case, In 4e Dungeons & Dragons, I played a Cleric, who upon 11th level became a Divine Oracle, paragon path. I thought it would be fun to get some tarot cards. I did not really know much about tarot cards, but found a simple three-card reading (as opposed to a full-on redeading) which showed past in the first card, present in the middle, and future in the final. Without any reference, I would try to determine what the meaning of the cards was, and which character it applied to. Sometimes it was easy to say, "last session this happened to the rogue, and this session we are doing this, so maybe this is the rogue's future?" Obviously, it did not matter, but the DM we played with would try to fit the prediction in. If the prediction was good, sometimes the subject got some weird bonus, or was avoided in combat. Sometimes, as with all oracles, the prediction did not quite mean what we thought. If the prediction was bad, his response would be similar. Maybe the monsters really wanted to get the rogue, or again perhaps the prophecy was inaccurate.

Obviously, you don't have to have a Divine Oracle player for this to work. Really, any spell casting class would have divination training, and in a world where devine power manifests itself daily, non-magic characters will have superstitions and/or be non-magical spiritualists. Tarot cards, throwing bones... anything like that works. It is best to leave any hard-fast rules out of the equation though, in my opinion.

Players are Indeed Heroes

This, in my experience, can be a hard one for DMs. There is a fine line between creating challenges, and treating the party as though they are worthless. This is sort of the 1st Level Party dilemma. We tend to think of the standard 1st Level character as a nobody, but if you think about it, in classic D&D, a "normal man" does not even have hit points. A 1st Level cleric or magic-user has training, a fighter has in fact seen action, and a thief at least knows the fundamentals of her trade. Point being, compared to the rank and file population of your D&D world, a 1st Level Party is pretty bad ass.

Here is an example from play, of the bad side. I was playing a 1st Level paladin in 3e. Our mission was to help evacuate a town. There was no militia or guard of any signifigance. Our party was there to save the day. So, my paladin starts giving orders to help save the towns people. The DM decided that everyone needed to argue with my decisions based on the fact that I was 1st Level. Thing is, I was a 1st Level paladin. That means I can detect evil, I can lay on hands. I can do things that no one else in town is capable of. Also, the mission is to get people out of town. If the DM does not allow the town to take any suggestions seriously, I have failed the mission. If I say, "fuck you guys, then," and leave, I have failed the mission.

In the game I have most recently played, we tend to share the DM duties. We use the framework of an established world, and embellish it. There are always people more dangerous than the PCs, but primarily the party is treated as heroes. Challenges come in the form of enemies. We are not there to be the shit heels of this gaming world. I get enough of that at work, why would I want it in my D&D?

So, don't make every peasant in town talk shit to the party. Instead, have an NPC (or NPC party) that is a rival. Maybe they don't like the party, maybe they are in competition, maybe they are evil. It makes sense that you'd have someone in town who doesn't like the party, but to have the entire populace spit in their faces is no fun.

Dangerous Items of Power

Just as my gaming group moved to the then new 3e D&D, I started a brand new character, Darius Whiteplume. He was a tranfigurationist wizard in the Forgotten Realms, from the Bloodstone Lands. Due to some ravaging in his homeland, he and a 1st Level moon-elf fighter, were fleeing through the mountains, where they conveniently met the other players. Those whose characters had not been killed recently (like mine and my wife's (she played the moon-elf)). The party found themselves in a cave, found some monsters, and eventually found an Ogre Mage who had human slaves copying a book for him. A book made primarily of human skin. A book we all know about. It was the Book of Vile Darkness.

So, we beat the ogre mage, and saved who we could of the slaves, but what do we do with the book? I was lawful good, and a wizard, so it was easy enough to think that I might know what the book was, or at least be smart enough not to touch it. So, I devised a way to get it into a heavy sack and take it with us. I was a 1sy Level wizard who was carrying around a relic; an item of near indescribable power. Why would my DM give me such a thing?

Well, in the end it is a classic trope. King Arthur was not yet a knight when he received Excalibur. Prince Adam was probably 1st Level when he received the Sword of Greyskull. Hal Jordan was a mid-level jet pilot when he got his Green Lantern ring. In each case, the item of power became a responsibility to the receipient. The difference in my case was that the item of power gave me no greatness, it was merely a burden. However, it gave the young wizard purpose. Sure, he was rather lackluster at the time, but like King Arthur and Prince Adam he was surrounded by more competent characters who took on the responsibility with him. It was not a constant plot point, but protecting the book was alway part of our party's consideration. Left unguarded in any way and the DM was free to release Red Wizards or other undesireables on its trail. Had we continued playing (the group broke up, sadly), the defense of destruction of the book could have been a great, final campaign.

Giving a low level character such a burden can be a great counter-point to giving them something fantastic. Give the party's fighter a Vorpal Weapon, and everyone wants something similar. It unbalances the game. I will tell you though, no one was lining up for a Book of Vile Darkness, yet the end game is the same. The party has a purpose, without becoming instant super-heroes.

In Conclusion

Obviously, not all these ideas work for every game. If your game is primarily dungeon crawling, many of the story aspects may not apply, but if you are playing a campaign which involves the party being the last front between some evil and the world, then they can be useful. Players and DMs do not have to be in competition. Some of the best DMs I have played with relish the enjoyment of what they created over seeing the party foiled at every turn. Making things difficult is part of the fun, but making them impossible, or just unenjoyable is an antithesis to why we play.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me

So, once again we have discussions about the rising rate of obesity in the United States (and abroad). There looks to be an increased dialogue about whether obesity is a civil rights issue, and if obesity should be considered a disability. That is, if The Nightly Show is to be believed (they devoted an episode to this recently. I have probably discussed this before, but thought I'd talk again about my battle with weight.

I was not a fat kid. I am of an age where there typically was a fat kid. Two things led to me gaining weight. First, I was never interested in sports. I was born with poor vision, but I was probably 10 before it was determined that I needed glasses. This made me poor at sports, and by the time my vision had been corrected I was too discouraged to bother. Also, I learned to hate jocks. Second, at 16 I started smoking.

Now, as a kid, I continued to exercise in a non-exercise way... Riding bikes was an important mode of transportation in the suburbs of DC, and being a student who found himself in detention a lot, there were a lot of long walks home. I also had after school appointments that meant walking home. Turns out it was roughly 5km. I assume there was mass transit, but it likely never occured to me that such a thing existed.

So, through middle school I stayed pretty thin. In high school we moved to the middle of nowhere, and there was little within walking distance. It was many miles to friends houses. When I was old enough to drive it all went down hill.

Firstly, I got a job (which kept me fairly active), but also gave me means to eat what I wanted when I wanted. A car led to girls, and an attempt to impress a girl led to me smoking. I was less active than ever, outside of work, and I was on my way to my future obesity.

Now, lets skip the narrative a minute for some numbers. As an adult, the lowest my weight has ever been (to the best of my knowledge) was 165 pounds, my junior year of college, 1994-ish. The highest my weight has ever been (again, to the best of my knowledge) was 245 pounds, April 1st, 2011. I may have been heavier at some previous point, but 245 is the important number. That is a measured swing of 80 pounds.

Between University and 2011 (16 years) I went from roughly 190 pounds to 245. The 165 pound weight was a weird anomally caused by pledging my fraternity (apparently my pledge brothers never saw me eat, though I was not aware of this). After University I got a desk job and had some health problems. I have always been prone to depression as well, which added fate to the fire. I had some swings in weight, but was on a steady road to 245. I am not sure how it started, but April 1st, 2011, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to weigh 180 pounds. I did this in a year.

Losing 65 pounds in a year is an acheivement which I have mixed feelings about. On the plus side, I was committed to losing the weight. On the negative side, I was not very healthy in how I went about it.

First, I used a calorie counter to see how much I was eating versus how much I should be eating to reach my goal. I was religious about this. Everything I ate went into the counter, and all exercise was included. I went from someone who ate a frozen pizza and pint of ice cream a day, to someone who ate veggie burgers, and only had ice cream (my favorite food) on special occasions. Second, I began running. Being a pack-a-day smoker, running was not easy, but it was the one form of exercise I enjoyed. In May of 2012, as I was approaching the one year anniversary of my weight goal, I ran 5km every day for the entire month, in hopes of meeting my goal on April 1st.

Well, I did fail in that. On April 1st I was 182 pounds. I did not lose any weight in that entire month, and it bothered me. I eventually hit 180 briefly, then hovered around 185 pounds for two years. I am currently 190 pounds.

There were a lot of problems with losing the weight. I became obsessed. I do not like to say I had/have an eating disorder as I think that belittles people with serious eating disorders, but I think technically I did indeed have one. Part of the problem with calorie counting, both eating and exercise, is that I gave me a justification to push my progress without warnings. There were days during that year which my food calories were negated by my exercise calories. Some days if I ran in the morning, then noticed I ate more than expected, I would run again to counter it. Also, I sweat a lot, and noticed that when I ran I would lose up to 4 pounds (roughly 4 pints of water). This led me to drinking less water and I developed kidney stones. I was so obsessed with losing weight that when I was diagnosed with kidney stones and my wife (a Physician Assistant) told me I needed to stop running for a while, I refused. I did start drinking more water, but my mind was in a place where losing the weight was more important than my health. This makes no sense, but it felt justified at the time.

I also became very obesessed with body image. I still looked fat in the mirror, and was insensitive to over-weight people. I would say "not to their faces", but that is not true. My wife has a weight problem, and I'd be openly rude about people on television and for some reason think that was not me being insensitive to her. It was. It is. I still do it from time to time, and feel guilty about it.

Currently, I am unemployed, and have gotten up to 195 pounds over the past several months. I am back to 190, but am constantly bothered by the weight. Some of it is muscle, as I have returned to riding a bike, and my legs have bulked considerably.

So, returning to the discussion on The Nightly Show, there was discussion of choice and lifestyle in regard to obesity. I can only offer my own experience as evidence. I did make a lifestyle change, and I did choose to lose weight. I could have also chosen not to lose weight. I have not had ice cream in months, and I feel guilty whenever I put mayonaise on a sandwich. I don't drink soda more than once a month. I would rather walk or bike to the grocery store several times a week than drive. I still smoke, but walk to the store to buy cigarettes. These are choices, and life style changes. I am 45 years old, and some days I could care less. I won't exercise, or will eat a lot. Since being out of work I have also started drinking more, which adds to the weight.

I'll finish with this (and if you are still reading this, I congratulate you on your comittment); I see many people (particularly on Tumblr) who argue that losing weight will not make you feel better physically or emotionally. I disagree on the physical part. I am an old man, and I hurt all the time. Exercise makes it worse, but it is a different kind of hurt, and oddly not unpleasant. I am mixed on the emotional part. I have always been depressed. Around 1990 I made a half-assed suicide attempt. I dislike myself greatly for many reasons. I have low self esteem. None of these things were corrected by the weight loss, however, I can and do take some pride in having lost the weight.

So, this is just my story. Lose weight, don't lose weight. If you are happy, be happy, but if your weight causes you distress, then try to do something about it. It is not easy. It requires a lot of physical and emotional effort. Try to be smarter about it than I was.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Corporate Social Media Done Right (@totinos)

Every company has a social media pressence these days, and they desperately want you to follow them on Twitter and Facebook. If you are like me you wonder, "why would I want to do this?" It is a fair question. I get enough advertising flooding my senses to not invite more. There are companies that do it well. Pabst Blue Ribbon, for example, does a nice job of interacting with their customers. Webster Bank took one of my angry tweets and turned it in to solving my problem. They are making their social media presence worthwhile. Then, last night, a thing of beauty caught fire on Twitter. The Totino's Super Bowl Tweets.

Done improperly, what would you expect from the Totino's account? "Hey, what's your favorite type of pizza roll?" or "It's Saturday night, you should watch a movie and get a few Party Pizzas!" I don't need to see this on my timeline. I will either want Totino's, or I won't. Those type tweets are uninspired. Instead, here is what the Totino's account did.

Around 6pm Eastern Time, Totino's began posting tweets about how much fun the Super Bowl is. On Saturday. For those of you who do not care (and I am with you) the Super Bowl is on Sunday, always. No teams were mentioned, and the tweets refered to fictitious activity in a game that would be played 24 hours later.

I only knew about this (as I did not follow @totinos) because there was a flood of people tweeting about how Totino's had screwed up. Popular theory was that they had created fake tweets for the Super Bowl, scheduled them to go out during the game, and got the date wrong. People were having a ball laughing at Totino's for this blunder. I saw tweets from people claiming to be marketing and branding experts who found the tweets laughable.

We are all so very smart, aren't we?

Here is the thing though. @totinos has just less than ten-thousand followers. Not a bad number, but hardly stellar. Totino's was gently trolling us. They made about 21 tweets about the ficticious game, most of which were retweeted at least five times, and some as much as 20. Not to mention the numerous times I saw people tweeting or retweeting about how @totinos had dropped the ball (sports term) in mischeduling their tweets. They were getting a lot of replies as well, so people were clearly seeing them. The first "look at how stupid they are" tweet I saw, as of this post, had 202 retweets and 176 favorites on Twitter. What does that mean? Well, @totinos turned their near-ten-tousand Twitter followers into potentially a million views of either their feed or their brand. Also, these did appear to be live or at least supervised tweets, as one of General Mills' (Totino's parent company) marketing people acknowledged a tweet I made in their defense.

If you ask me, it was a real coup. I am not a Totino's hater. I enjoy a cheese Party Pizza from time to time, but have never (if memory serves) had a Pizza Roll. I, along with a handful of others, was in on the joke. Guess what, though? I am going to buy some Pizza Rolls next time I hit the grocery. It was such an effective ploy that even though I saw it for what it was, it still worked on me. That, my friends, is masterful.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cavern v2, old style adventure (Sami Sierla @soulinhki)

Does anyone mind if I admit that I am not a gamer? Are you sure, because I hear I am supposed to be one... Really? Ok, "I am not a gamer."

That felt good.

Now, obviously, I enjoy some games, mostly casual types. I  most often enjoy lower-speed, turn based games. The first of these, in my world, was the Epyx/Automated Simulations games "Temple of Apshai" and "Hellfire Warrior" (previously discussed). Much later came the Eye of the Beholder games, but sandwiched between those loves was a lovely little game called "Telengard". Now, I get some of that love back with an iOS game by Sami Sierla, "Cavern".

The goal, as I understand things, is to make it to the bottom level (sixteen, I think) of the dungeon and retrieve the Mystery Object. Return it to the surface and win the game. You have three classes to pick; Fighter, Adventurer, Mystic. Pick a class, pick a "miniature", and pick a name. That's all there is to character creation. There is a town where you start which has shops, and there is treasure littered about the dungeon.

One thing I enjoy, that frankly confused me at first, is the Guardian Spirit that you will encounter randomly. Typically it is found with a dead adventurer you can loot. It will follow you around, fight for you, and act as a protector — particularly useful for the Adventurer and Mystic classes, who are artillery. It can be killed by monsters, but if it survives, it will follow you to other levels (strategy note, if the spirit is not adjacent to the stairs/ladder when you use them it will not follow). You can even have multiple Guardian Spirits with you, if they survive long enough.

The bit that reminds me most of Telengard is the inclusion of "chance" objects, in particular, pools and altars. You get the choice to drink or not, and pray or not, and the outcome is either great (level up, full heal, attribute increase, etc) or awful (cave-in, poisoning, summon angry devil). Like Telengard, this is a permadeath game. You die, you are dead. That, my friends, is that.

Currently, "Cavern" is $2.99 in the AppStore, and I think worth the price. It is a fun little time waster. There are no ads or in-app purchases. There is no real commitment to your character, so the permadeath is not infuriating. So far, it does not seem to recycle the app, something they advertise, so if you stop a game to go to another app or get some work done (yuk!) you can pick up where you left off. I even killed the app in mid game on my iPad and it returned to where I was.

So, if this is your kind of thing, check it out. if you already play and know what is up with the sheep (there has to be something... there is always something) let me know!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ultrasuede (Whitney Sulder Smith, 2010) @WSUDLERSMITH

Ok, second fashion movie for you all, but this time it takes the form of 1970s decadence. Well, that's not exactly fair...

So, if you are around my age, you certainly heard of Halston in your youth, but to be honest the only thing I "knew" about the man came from a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of his empire's demise. Fortunately, Whitney Sulder Smith's Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston takes this approach to showing us who Halston was, and explaining why and how he was important. For that reason, I almost don't want to describe the story. I hate the obsession with spoilers on the internet these days, but for many of us this is a new story, and unfolds nicely.

Whitney Sulder Smith (unclear if Sulder is a middle name or double last name, so I will use both) takes a journey to meet people who knew Halston, many of which you may recognize if you watch any of the numerous fashion/modeling reality shows on television. Some are people from the general sphere of his influence, particularly where Studio 54 is related, and then most famously Billy Joel and Liza Minnelli.

In many ways it is less about fashion and more about empire (if I am not mistaken, there is a short clip from Caligula, another misunderstood historical figure). Halston bursts onto the scene and is propelled to unheard of heights, only to fall tragically. Sulder Smith uses the 93 minutes nicely. There is a lot left uncovered (which is only natural), but as an overall "who is this man, and why should I care" it does a wonderful job. The story ends sadly, but the film does not end ponderously. I came away from it quite upbeat, despite Halston's fall from grace and tragic, though all-too common for the time cause of death.

The film is currently on Netflix, and I think you'll be as surprised as I by how interesting it is.

Now, the history buff in me wants to offer up some essay questions for items that would be too weighty to make for good narrative in Ultrasuede. Feel free to discuss or ignore as is your want.

1. Citizen Halston: Halston makes a trip to China with the intent (according to the AP) of helping China's textile industry know what the West wants. China was not the emerging market it is today, so was the trip an attempt to fight the Cold War with culture?

2. The JC Penny Bargain: Halston had discussed in interviews that the decision to join JC Penny in 1984 was to help better dress all of America. His lifestyle was very expensive, and he was likely bleeding money at this point. However, one shirt price discussed in the documentary was $50, roughly $115 today. The deal was a loss for both, but initially who was more desperate, Halston or Penny's?

3. Halston and the Future: The designs of Halston were rather minimalist, and led to grander designs by those who followed. Were these designers deliberately breaking with the now failed Emperor, or simply taking the natural track of difference to make their name? Also, how did Halston's demise and the move toward haute couture effect American style for the following decades, particularly with regard to trendiness? Additional credit for Tim Gunn citations.