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.

A Man's Story (Varon Bonicos, 2010) @Ozwald_Boateng

Despite my nerd status, I have recently become more fashion conscious; leaving behind the t-shirts and jeans that are the uniform of the IT department in favor or button down shirts, slacks and ties. The problem is, aside from very standard (though classic and reliable) forms of fashion, I am not always hip to new and/or interesting things. This led me to watch A Man's Story when I found it on Netflix.

The film is a ten year documentary, looking at the life and career of British designer Ozwald Boateng. It is a not always flattering look at a man with a great drive and great vision, who experiences great victories and great losses. Boateng goes from being the first black tailor on Savile Row, to director of men's fashion at Givenchy, then off to take on the United States with some help from Hollywood stars like Laurance Fishburne and Will Smith.

This is, I think, and interesting look into an artist's mind. Boateng could be a sculptor or writer, but as his medium is fashion he must also contend with business. Few people with skill or ambition create clothing purely for the joy of doing so, therefore if fashion is your calling you must attempt to make it your livelihood; be it as a designer or working in a fashion house.

As a film, it is put together quite well from a narrative perspective. The editing and selection of material creates tension, and there is an arc to the story which life doesn't always provide on its own. There are sections where the sound and picture quality are not great, but it is likely much is archival footage shot before a full documentary was conceived. This is well worth your time. At an hour forty-seven minutes, it moves along nicely and despite covering ten years it is not a whirlwind of material. Check it out, even if fashion is not your thing.

Side-note: I have been doing a bit of a fashion blog on Tumblr. Stuff I wear and stuff I like, if you care for such things. I am a closet narcissist, but many of you know that already. The blog is Put Some Damn Clothes On! here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It Happened at Nightmare Inn (Eugenio Martín, 1973)

Spain in the 1970s could be a strange place for filmmakers. Jess Franco fans know that he left the country to avoid government censorship. Granted, Uncle Jess has a reputation for lurid films. Despite pressures there were some exploitation films being made, such as the series of The Blind Dead films, as well as this entry, A Candle for the Devil, aka It Happened at Nightmare Inn.

I will get into what happens, so if you'd rather watch it first, it is at Dailymotion. See you in an hour.

The basic plot involves two spinster sisters, Marta (Aurora Bautista, La Bambola di Satana) and Verónica (Esperanza Roy, El Lobo Negro), who run a hotel in a tourist village. The pair is prudish and superficially religious, but deep down are slaves to their own lusts. A new guest, Laura (Judy Geeson, Carry-On England), has come to town to meet her sister only to discover she has disappeared. Another guest, Helen (Lone Fleming, Tombs of the Blind Dead), raises the sisters' ire by "causing a scandal" in the village with her provocative clothing and loose behavior. When a new guest, Norma (Blanca Estrada, Kilma, Queen of the Amazons), comes to town with a baby in tow but no husband, the two go completely over the edge.

The sisters are a mismatched pair in some ways. Verónica seems genuinely religious, though is under the thrall of her sister. Marta was jilted in her youth, and has turned her religious prudishness into a bitter hatred for women with any sexual liberation. Bautista and Roy do a wonderful job of pulling off the sex-starved spinsters. Bautista was age 48, and Roy was age 38 at the time of production. Both are very plain to the public, but pull off sexy well when called for, and unraveled in the end. Esperanza Roy is a favorite of mine, and the main reason I watched the film. I can't vouch completely for their acting as the version I saw was an AIP dub, but both certainly have presence.

There are a few interesting things about this movie. Oddly, I think the edit improves the story. I have read that in the full version we see that Marta has killed Laura's sister. In the edit, we get some indication that this happens, but it is never spelled out for us. Marta continues to discuss the matter as if the girl just ran off, even to her sister. Whether Verónica knows or not is also unclear. I think that improves the tension. You don't know the sisters are killers until they actually kill someone. If that happened in the first 20 minutes it would have been too-much too-soon for me. Secondly, there are some interesting things done to avoid the censorship laws. Marta is really quite the horn-dog. We see her watching several men skinny dip (there is no nudity in the film), then cut to her going home. She is walking the streets disheveled. Her blouse is half open, and her hair is a mess. When she gets to the house we see she is also rather dirty. There is dirt or mud on her arms, and she is frantically washing while avoiding Verónica. Was she just watching? Was she "polishing the pearl"? Did she take on a group of guys down by the water? It is hard to say, but that sort of mystery really adds something to the film. I am by no means pro-censorship, but let's face it, you know exactly what is going on in a Jess Franco film, down to Lina Romay's nether-grooming habits. At this point in It Happened at Nightmare Inn, we have not seen Marta kill anyone, and to see her in such a state makes you wonder just how depraved she is. Not knowing is part of the fun. Lastly, the film ends with no resolution. The townspeople have massed out in the street, Marta and Verónica have Laura gagged and subdued. The picture focuses on Laura's crying eyes, and that is it. Sue me, but I like that as an ending.

Ultimately, not a great film, but an interesting one. I have a feeling that if you are making a B-Movie and have to avoid the "Three Bs" (Blood, Breasts and Beasts), you have to push the story and the mood. The cinematography is good, with what looks like two camera dialogue shots (though that might have been a luxury), and the actresses are quite good. When you take showing your tits off the table, you can probably get a better class of actress. [For the record, Roy appears in the all-together in Franco's X-312: Flight to Hell that same year, and at 38, she is bangin'.]

The 68min version at Dailymotion looks to be the same length as the available DVD versions, so is likely the same.

Verónica has one of those dreams.
Marta doesn't approve, though she is sitting creepy-like by her the whole time.
Verónica has a thing for the house boy. Don't let Marta find out!
Helen's booty-shorts are too much for the sisters to handle.
Marta watches some skinny dipping men... and maybe more?
Later, she decides to get prettied up.
Helen needles Marta about her new look.
Helen is pushing Marta too far.
Esperanza Roy, because she is awesome.
Laura, it is not looking good for you.
The big ending.
The town discovers the sisters' hobby.
Caught red-handed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nun Attack x3 (@NunAttack)

Being a long time fan of the Macho Women with Guns games, in their original form at least, every now and then I look for things that fit that genre. Going along nicely with the Renegade Nuns on Wheels entry are three games from Frima Studios; Nun Attack, Nun Attack Run & Gun, and Nun Attack Origins: Yuki's Silent Quest. Each game is different, but with a common thread.

First, Nun Attack, pits four of the characters against a fallen evil nun. Each nun has a different special power and strategy.
  • Eva, the leader, can place ghostly decoys of herself on the battlefield.
  • Rosy, the sniper, can become invisible.
  • Olga, the tank, has intimidation powers.
  • Mandy, the healer, has, well, healing powers.
The game is built on several quests on a large place map, then a smaller scale picture of the place with obstacles and battlefield markers, and finally the individual battlefields.

The Quest Map
Wide View
The Battlefield
Gameplay is pretty straight-forward, and there are descriptions of how to play in the early missions. In the wide view screen, touch and drag your team along the path. In the battlefield, touch and drag to move, or to attack. Scores are built on quality of mission completion, i.e. did everyone survive? Was all the evil destroyed? Collect gold along the way to upgrade your nuns' weaponry. This game was 99¢ at iTunes when I purchased it.

Next, Nun Attack Run & Gun is a side-scrolling endless running game. This one has the four characters from Nun Attack (Rosy is your first character, others must be purchased), and includes new characters Yuki (a ninja) and Simone (armed with a bazooka). Characters are bought with coins or gems earned during gameplay or purchased.

Like Temple Run, there are numerous power-ups like the coin magnet, dash and invulnerability. Unlike Temple Run, this is a one way course, though it has multiple levels (like lane changing).Obstacles may be jumped or slid under, and there are enemies that can be shot at or dodged. Also unlike Temple Run, different characters are actually different; not just different looking. Rosy is the slowest shooter, Olga's shotgun hits above and below. Eva and Yuki are likely the fastest shooters.

Controls on left: jump up/jump down. Controls on right: slide/shoot.
Coins earned in the game can be used to upgrade the nuns and the power-up durations. Once you have purchased all upgrades with coins, gems are necessary to further advance you need to use gems to continue upgrading with coins (there are three, I believe levels; bronze, silver, and gold). You do earn gems along the way by completing daily challenges and skill acheivments (always in groups of three). They also do events where you can earn more gems.

The gameplay is straightforward, and the stages becomes progressively more difficult. To see the challenges, touch the trophy in the bottom center above. This game was free on iTunes when I got it.

Next, an interesting game, Nun Attack Origins: Yuki's Silent Quest. Here, you play Yuki the ninja nun. The story is an attempt to save the orphans of your village. The gameplay is puzzle-like, in that you swipe away from Yuki to make her jump. To complete each stage, you must kill all the bad guys, but to score big you must save all the orphans on the stage, finish under deadline, and only use so many moves.

The top of the screen shows how many orphans are in the stage, how many swipes you have left, and how much time is left.
This one also has a stage, every five stages, that is like (I assume) Fruit Ninja (which I have not played). You have so much time to collect so much bread for the orphans, while avoiding the ocassional explosive device. The better you do on a stage, the more shurikens you collect, and completing a bread stage gives you more shurikens. These are used to rebuild the village. This game was $1.99 on iTunes when I purchased it.

I enjoy all three games, but Run & Gun is the favorite. The three have a nice consistency of look, and the characters carry well from game to game. Many of the basic opponents in Nun Attack appear as opponents in Run & Gun. The games on my iPad 2 run nicely, and seldom have issues. Ocassionally there is a crash when Game Center is connecting, but I believe that is a Game Center issue common to many games.

These are lots of fun, and worth checking out. Nun Attack and Nun Attack Run & Gun are rated 17+ on iTunes (I don't see why), but Yuki's Silent Quest is rated 9+ on iTunes. Check out the Frima Studios web site for more info.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Anaconda Meme

So, Nicki Minaj has a new album coming out, which has her on the cover in a thing. This rapidly spawned a meme.

So, I decided to take part. Many of the memes paste Nicki into famous art. Some are just childish. I tried to do some good and/or fun takes. The first two below she reposted on her Instragram (not linking back to me, I might add, but I digress).

The first one I did pastes Nicki into Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco. Here, instead of reaching out to Adam, he reaches out to Nicki's behind.

Nicki as the Statue of Liberty. Someone asked on Instragram why she is green? Because the freakin' Statue of Liberty is green, silly.

I am not sure who this artist is (I am too lazy to find out. Nicki takes the place of a cherub who's butt is turned toward the viewer.

This one I like because of the subtlety. Nicki is replacing Babi, the Egyptian baboon god of the dead and virility. Because of the Air Jordan shoes she wears in the picture, I decided to add the Air Jordan logo to the hieroglyphics.

Finally, I tried to recreate Picasso's "Blue Nude", a picture we have in our house. I am not a good painter, but like the overall effect. I closed her eyes and changed her hair to better match the original.

That's all for now. I may do more. I tag all my posts on Tumblr with "anaconda meme" here

Monday, July 21, 2014

Clerics Get No Love & Gay Nerd Representation

So, the other night friend of the blog, Darla Crane (not always safe for work, but a lovely person), posted a link to the book Ill Met in Tanivar: A Sinjin and Asamir Adventure, which is a D&D-like, gay erotic story. I mentioned that I thought gay nerds were under represented, which Darla retweeted. A few people favorited that retweet. This got me thinking.

In Clerics Get No Love, I have often considered making Wizard gay. Not for any reason other than to add some missing dimension. The main characters in the comic are mostly aspects of myself, and the side characters are either other aspects or based on players or gaming experiences. Wizard was often the least well defined. The reason I did not decide to make Wizard gay previously is that I am typically of the opinion that in a perfect world sexual preference and race would not be an issue. After listening to comedian Todd Glass on The Kevin Pollak Chat Show, and seeing the response to my tweet I began to feel this was an unrealistic stance, and decided to go ahead. Here are the two comics published last week.

(the floaty hearts were a suggestion by the lovely and talented Sparkle Jew Barbie)

My intention here is to not make a huge deal out of Wizard being gay, but to in my own small way add a sense of normalcy to a more common than many of us know situation. I have been in games with gay players, and there was some closeting going on. In one instance, I am sad to say, when one player's preference came to light, that was sort of the end of our playing relationship. I hope that I was not a party to the split. To be completely honest, I did not get along with him, but I do not think his being gay was a factor.

Anyway, I assume some of you are asking, "what the hell does this have to do with anything?" It has been a rambling, semi-pointless post. Hopefully it has given you something of interest. A large part was as a way for me to explin the comic, since Tumblr is not the best forum.

Will I do much more with Wizard being gay? Maybe, maybe not. Just remember that the people you play D&D with are your fellow party members. You don't have to be best friends, you don't have to hang out when you are not playing, so why should it matter if their orientation differs from yours?

Comments are, as always, more than welcome. That's the other reason for posting here.