Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Art of Laurence Chaves

I can't find out much about Laurence W. Chaves the artist, but I want to. Someone on the Lamentations of the Flame Princess facebook group posted these illustrations from Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater. This comes at a time when I'm researching an underwater hex-based adventure, so it's quite inspirational. These remind me of the work of Gustav Dore or Alphonse de Neuville. Great stuff.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Poe, Read by Rathbone and Price

If you're a fan of weird fiction, you surely venerate, if not regularly read, the work of Edgar Allen Poe. Almost single-handed, he invented the modern horror story and the modern detective tale. If you don't feel like reading (or re-reading) some of his classics, then you might enjoy listening to them. And if you're going to listen to Poe, you might as well listen to Poe read aloud by such masters as Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone. Price, of course, was the star of dozens of horror films throughout his career. He was typecast early on, but it didn't seem to bother him. His voice is of course also immortalized in Michael Jackson's Thriller. Even people who aren't necessarily into old movies probably know the face and voice of Mr. Price from the Tim Burton film Edward Scissorhands. Rathbone is not as well-known by name, but he's famous for being what most people think of when they think of Sherlock Holmes. He portrayed the fictional detective 14 times on film, and many more on radio. He was also known for swashbuckling roles. Quite often, he was cast as a villain. He wasn't the horror movie icon Price was, but he was probably a more well-rounded performer. Spotify has uploaded a virtual "greatest hits" of Poe, read by these extraordinary actors who certainly have the voice for it. This fall, as the days shorten and autumn storms rage outside, I intend to spend at least one evening before the fire with these recordings.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Proxima Centauri, Here We Come...

It seems the German weekly Der Spiegel announced that scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri - that's the closest star to our own, and it's the only one we could conceivably reach within a human lifetime. In fact, plans are already underway for a "laser-sail nanocraft" that could reach speeds of 20% the speed of light. That means we could reach this unnamed world in about 20 years - of course, it would take at least 4 and a half years to receive information from it. Nevertheless, this is exciting stuff. The nanocraft is the brainchild of a Russian billionaire, supported by Stephen Hawking and facebook dictator Mark Zuckerberg.

The only thing that bugs me about this report is that the German newspaper used an unnamed source. As a former reporter with two decades of experience, I feel pretty confident that means the discovery is not at all confirmed, otherwise they'd go public. And, as with so many other unnamed sources, that's likely an indication that the whole thing is bullshit.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, we can at least enjoy knowing our fantasies of alien life are one tiny step closer to plausibility.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Weird Ways to Die in the Ancient World

 Just in case you had too much faith in humanity, here's this.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Six Demon Bag, Vol. 2

...and here's the latest from Six Demon Bag. We're doing six "singles" of two songs each, followed by a 12-song collection. We've had some really good feedback on this one. Take a listen to "Daughters of Tiamat Come Home" and "Huge Buzz."

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pinball: Flight 2000

Here's another great pinball table I've been playing on Pinball Arcade - Flight 2000. Released by Stern in 1980, it was one of the first "talking" pinball tables (Gorgar, in 1979, was the first). It was designed by Harry Williams, who'd been working in the industry since the 1940s. He was mostly known not so much as a pin-table designer but for his pioneering work on early electronic video games, most notably Defender (which was, I think, the first popular side scrolling game). He also designed Joust, which I spent many quarters on at the old Price Chopper on 23rd St. in Independence, MO.

Flight 2000 first drew me in with the art, which is by Geraldine Simkus (Star Gazer, Split Second) and Doug Watson (Swords of Fury, Grand Slam). Usually I'm mostly attracted to pictures of people, but this one has a nice retro sci-fi vibe, with a great discolored Saturnesque world in the center, and a spaceship on the back glass that looks like it walked straight out of the Traveler RPG's famous "little black books."

Of course, Flight 2000 is considered one of Stern's most classic games, which is why it's included in Pinball Arcade at all. 

The theme is a space flight in the amazing far future (that is, the year 2000). Different "missions" or goals are tied to the idea that you're traveling to a specific world in our solar system. There are two slingshots on the table that whip the balls around very fast. This would be pure hell on a standard sized table, but this is a big wide-body. The main "wow" factor for the time probably came from the multi-ball effect. If you shoot the ball into a maze on the upper left, it will lock the ball in place and say "first stage" or something to that effect. Hit another ball in there and it's "second stage." When you get all three balls in, they all unlock and you get some amazing fast-play multi-ball action. It's pretty tough for me to pull this off but I've managed it a few times, and it's inordinately satisfying.

Here's a cool video of the real (that is, not Pinball Arcade's digital version) table in play.