A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

25 June 2012

Thinking of Dad

This month marks the first anniversary of my dad's passing. It's been a long year, full of pain and grief, but the time has flown by it seems.

James over at Dreams of Mythic Fanatay just lost his father. His post and this post by Tim over at Gothridge Manor got me thinking a bit more about my dad, especially his influence on my entertainment and gaming life. Dad passed just before Father's Day last year and it's taken me a few days to be able to write a companion post to my friends' posts.

My dad didn't approve of my RPG-ing. But he loved games. He and I had epic one-on-one Trivial Pursuit battles. He taught me how to play solitaire, hearts, and cribbage long before Windows decided to teach me. I think the last game I played with my father was one called "Exasperation"--a homemade version of "Aggravation" that my brother made in Shop class in the 1970s.

He never begrudged me a bit of graph paper, however. He was an engineer by trade and got the stuff free. He even brought home a huge desk-blotter pad of graph paper once, just to watch me fill it up with mazes and corridors. Dad didn't realize it, but he fed my dungeoneering hunger by taking us on yearly trips to Lehman Caves. I'd return home and sketch winding caverns and make ham-fisted attempts at drawing rock formations.

Then my parents fell prey to the "demon-worship, mind-control, it's-all-evil" Pulling propaganda of the mid-80s. Gaming stopped completely for over a decade under my parents' concerned and watchful eyes.

He was more tolerant of my gaming in later years. Once I was married, I suppose he had resigned himself to the fact that I was going to play whether they approved or not. He would sit, watching bemused as I painted miniatures in the corner of our time-share in the mountains, or as I idly sketched maps while watching videos or sports with him. I DID keep a secret from him; I cannot imagine what he would have thought, said, or done if he'd learned I had introduced his grandchildren to the hobby. His resigned ambivalence would never have extended that far.

All the game-playing with him petered out over the last year or so of his life. We just couldn't get him interested in playing--except for the aforementioned game of Aggravation. He played with me and two of my kids who took great delight in sending Grand's marbles back to home base.

Like with James, my father was also my main introduction to media, although with slightly different tastes. I can only presume my dad and James' dad did not share the same generation. My dad taught me to enjoy opera and the Tijuana Brass. Yeah, kinda square I know, but still.... He also introduced me to Robert Heinlein, Louis L'Amour, Wilber Smith, Michael Crichton, David Morrell. and ERB's Tarzan books. He was a voracious reader and instilled that in me.

He loved movies and introduced me to John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, and Charles Bronson. While he could never understand my fascination with Fantasy, he loved Sci-fi. He and I would sneak away from my mother to watch any Sci-fi we could find...except for Star Wars. I think that got too close to fantasy for his liking.

Dad was a pilot as well as a Sci-fi fan. Together we watched the live television coverage of the first launch of the shuttle Columbia. I thrilled for him when he was able to be present at a live launch himself; he brought back fantastic photos and descriptions of the noise, colors, sights. He worked for years in the aerospace industry and shared with me (what he could) tidbits of what he was working on, as well as pictures and sketches of engines, rockets, etc.

I miss my dad greatly.... But I'm also immensely grateful for the things he shared with me, for the inspirations and fascinations he instilled in me. And for the excellent example of fatherhood that he was to me. There's a lot he did that I didn't realize or appreciate at the time...and I appreciate more and more as time passes.

18 June 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day (one day late) to all my friends and readers out there. Hopefully your day was filled with dice, "lead-free white metal" figurines, and plenty of character sheet goodness.

I know mine was.

My family took me to see a double feature of Men in Black 3 and The Avengers at the local drive-in. Great, fun flicks. MIB 3 makes a nice closing bookend for the series, if they so wish, and definitely redeems the series from MIB 2. The Avengers? There were several moments where I was giggling like a little boy. Loved it. LOVED it.

In addition, the accompanying image is the beautiful homemade card I received from one of my daughters yesterday. (And what thief wouldn't be proud to nab an emerald THAT size, eh? Definitely worth risking the dragon's wrath....)

I think I've done well as a father, that my kids love dragons nearly as much as I do. (I have other signs of my paternal success as well, of course.)

Let me know what loot y'all scored from your wives and kids yesterday.... I'd love to know.

12 June 2012

Professional Cryptozoology

Image property of Para Abnormal
This morning I'm seriously considering a career change from the practice of law to Professional Cryptozoolozy.

No, seriously.

Part of that decision comes from the fact that I am spending the day at the back of a conference room learning about "The World of Depositions." You see, attorneys are required to participate in a set number of hours of "Continuing Legal Education" or "CLE" in order to renew and maintain their license.

I have a double-digit amount of hours left to take prior to June 30, 2012. I'm in a little bit of trouble and as a result, I'm taking a lot of hours that have nothing to do with my actual area of practice. For example, depositions...it's been twelve years and two months since I took or attended my last deposition. So obviously today's presentation is quite useful and relevant.

But I digress.

Today's CLE is only one reason for my desire to change careers.

The other was the episode of Grimm I watched last night. I've developed a real taste for Grimm. I wrote about it here at the start of the season.

I'm going to assume here that most of my readers know the premise behind Grimm. If you don't, hit IMDB or Wiki. Better yet, go here.

I badly wanted to like Once Upon A Time as well, but as that show quickly de-evolved into a soap opera, I stopped watching after the third episode (or so). Grimm on the other hand has not only maintained the quirkiness and intrigue throughout the season, most of the characters have grown, the story line developed, and even the mysteries and twists have been developed and followed without becoming contrived (see: Lost). While some may be irritated with its "monster-a-week" premise, I believe that we'll see that change once we, as viewers, have an idea of the breadth of the Wesen universe; i.e., as Nick learns, we learn along with him.

It's not exactly young-child-friendly, so our DVR saw great use this season. The wife and I have been squeezing in a couple episodes every couple nights the past week in an effort to get caught up with the story. Suffice it to say, I think most of the fears I had after the pilot have been addressed and countered.

My wife and I have also become addicted to Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet (check your local listings). It's kind of a guilty pleasure. It's where we go to slum, intellectually, when our brains are worn out. In case you don't know, the premise here is that a group of "researchers"--three true believers and one skeptic--go from state to state following leads and rumors of Bigfoot sightings. Much of the program is devoted to a "town hall meeting" where they call witnesses together and invite them to share their stories. Then, having documented the stories, they take the two or three most reputable (or promising) witnesses out in the field to the loci of their sighting(s). Then they spend the night running through the forest with night-vision goggles, cameras, and directional microphones while making various grunts and screeches.

Needless to say every episode ends with the true believers being sure that the state in question has a Sasquatch population, the skeptic still not convinced, and not a blessed piece of evidence or camera footage.

One of the true believers--a man that goes by the nickname of Bobo--may be their best evidence of the existence of Sasquatch. This guy literally looks like a freshly-shaven Bigfoot. Slack-jawed and shaggy-haired, somewhere around 7' tall, Bobo believes every twig-crack and animal-howl is "without a doubt" a "Squatch." In fact, this quickly becomes his catch-phrase: "It's a Squatch!" Of course, the veiwer is (hopefully) saying to him- or herself: Ummm... it sounded like a twig snapping or it sounded just like a coyote.

Yeah, I know, real brain-twisting, hard-hitting, overly-intellectual television fare. It's made me want to play in a good, d20 Modern paranormal game. Heck, a paranormal game of any ilk, actually, if I can find a good one.

So, back to Grimm. The episode we watched last night was entitled, "Big Feet." In the opening teaser/set-up sequence, we see a group of Bigfoot researchers doing guess what? They're out in the woods at night, with cameras and miscellaneous gear, making grunts and howls. Then they come face to face (off-camera) with some crazed being that tears through the researchers like they were paper. On camera we see a hint of the carnage: one researcher thrown at an enormous tree with bone-shattering force. We see the aftermath after the first commercial: one researcher lying on the ground with his torso torn open. Another researcher is transfixed on a five-foot-long, two-inch-diameter branch on a fallen log.

And that's when I turned to my wife and said, "This is what Finding Bigfoot is missing; I want to see Bobo thrown through the air. THAT'S when I will believe it's a Squatch."

But it made me think again: these guys with the BFRO ("Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization"). I want that gig. I want to be paid like that. (Yeah, before you say it, this is their hobby, their side-job. I understand that.) C'mon, who out there will throw me a wad of cash to go camping and looking for mythical creatures?

Call me. I'm your guy.

06 June 2012

Ray Bradbury, RIP (1920 — 2012)

Just got word that we lost another giant to time yesterday. Ray Bradbury has entered the Great Hall of Fame in the sky.

Bradbury was a great, a master of the art. Fantasy, Sci-fi, Horror: he did it all, and did it all well.

Growing up, I must admit, he was not a terrific influence to me. Don't get me wrong, he was still an influence. But I was raised with a father who--while he read voraciously--refused to read fantasy or horror. He just couldn't comprehend the attraction people might find in those genres. He loved science fiction and had a full shelf of Robert Heinlein in his study. Heinlein, therefore, was a much bigger part of my young life. Secretly, though, I always harbored a little favoritism for Bradbury outside of my father's sphere of influence. We nearly shared a birthday, after all. That's a "bonding point" to a young child, after all. Plus, one of my favorite literary quotations came from Bradbury:
"You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world."
I had this quotation prominently displayed in my daily planner and carried it where I could see it nearly every day...at least until my planner disappeared a few months ago. I must confess that this is exactly how I feel about libraries, old bookstores, and books in general. That was another bonding point for me.

Three of his works stand out as influences in my life. Of course, they're probably also the three for which he is best known, but there you have it.

Martian Chronicles, I believe, may have been the first Bradbury book I ever read. I vaguely remember being confused beyond belief by the story the first time I read it. I didn't fully understand it, but I liked it...if I had known the word back then I suppose I might have said it was "quirky." I also remember being excited by the news that it was made into a mini-series (Yes, I'm that old) and then being "somewhat" let down by the actual television production. I believe that may also have been my first exposure to the idea that the book is always better than the movie.

Something Wicked came to me in Junior High. Sci-fi wasn't popular at my school, and horror even less so. A sci-fi author writing a horror story? Unthinkable. I can still remember the grief I took for being seen with this book in my hands. I also remember it being knocked out of my hands more than once by someone thinking they were being funny. "Hey, lookit what I did to four-eyes' stupid baby book!"

Wow. Where did THAT come from?

Anyway, I clearly remember the news that this book was being made into a movie. I was excited, but tried to remain cautious. I was still too close to The Martian Chronicles incident to be overly optimistic about the movie's chances. To this day, I remember having SEEN Something Wicked but I cannot tell you anything about it. And that should speak volumes.

In thinking back, I think I may have read Fahrenheit 451 before Junior High and thus before Something Wicked, but I know I didn't understand it. I read it again in Junior High and appreciated it more. Then it fell off my radar until my college years. When I read it again, it came alive for me. The images, the characters, the ideas? Exploded into life for me. I now own several copies, including an absolutely beautiful copy of the 50th Anniversary edition. It is one of my all-time favorite works.

Needless to say I have never seen the movie version. In fact, IMDB suggests there's more than one movie version; I didn't even know that. Neither do I care at this point. Why try for a third strike?

I'm not sure that Bradbury was ever a great household name. He certainly wasn't in my home. I have always felt that--as far as Science Fiction went--he worked in Heinlein's shadow, that Heinlein had the action and the flamboyant characters while Bradbury had the art and the darker edge. That was my perception, at least, colored as it was by my childhood and by those around me. How he was actually perceived? I suppose I will never know the truth; those in the hobby and the fans of the genre will praise him to the roof. I feel a bit ashamed; I should know him better than I do, both as an English major and as a fan of the genres for which he was best known. But I find as I type this morning that I really don't know him as well as I should, or as well as I thought I did when I started this piece. I must change that.

He certainly had some mainstream following; he had a range similar to Asimov, spanning multiple genres (although likely not as broad or as prolific as Asimov was in this way). My guess is that most out there in the world will know the name but know very little about him. Will he have a spot on the evening news tonight? National programs, probably. Not my local station. And that says a lot about our modern culture. He ain't Lindsay Lohan, after all.

Which is a good thing.

He was -- IS -- a master. Godspeed, Mr. Bradbury.

04 June 2012

The 'Zine That Ate The Stronghold!

Y'all know that I like 'zines. We won't belabor that point. But now I've come to a place where I need some help and advice from you 'zine lovers (and 'zine publishers) out there.

They're taking over The Stronghold.

I need storage suggestions. The full-size 8.5" x 11" 'zines are fairly easily managed. Dungeon Crawl and Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols both went into sheet protectors into their own binders. Encounter (when it was still being published, at least) went straight into a plain three-ring binder and Lapsis Calumni, for now, remains digitally-available on my laptop, simply because I haven't decided the best course of action, printing-wise.

But what to do with digest-sized Loviatar and The Manor? I really don't want to hole-punch these, after all, to put in a "short" three-ring binder. I have debated using regular magazine storage solutions, but the digest-sized 'zines will be dwarfed by the size difference. I've thought about Ikea storage boxes and Rubbermaid/Tupperware solutions, but they don't seem overly shelf-friendly. What I'd dearly love is a binder that uses vertical elastic straps rather than rings to hold the 'zines inside. Something that you'd imagine seeing in an old library. I would imagine such a creature would be expensive and not really as good of a solution as one would imagine (the elastic bands could not be tight enough to hold the 'zines tightly enough, for example). Try as I might, I cannot find such a beastie anyway.

I don't want my 'zines to get lost, spindled, folded, or mutilated. But the solution has to be reasonably-priced, shelf-friendly, and protective. So far, such a solution evades me.

So I throw the question out to you, my friends. Any suggestions? What do y'all use for your 'zines?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...