Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Salem Wants To Watch A Movie: Black Panther

Look, you all know I'm an unrepentant MCU fanboy. I've seen them all multiple times, with even my least favourite hitting three re-watches. Yes, even Thor: The Dark World; I make apologies for that one all the time. Despite popular opinion, Iron Man 3 is not only one of my favourite MCU films, but it's also one of my favourite movies.

As we're staying on a theme, you might remember two weeks ago I explained why I hadn't yet seen The Last Jedi, mainly because of the controversy around it. There's a similar situation brewing with Black Panther. 

Look, SyFyWire, I'm not sure where you've been for the last hundred years or so, but science fiction frequently stars people that are not just white dudes, but women and people of other ethnicities. Hell, a lot of it is people of other species, be they fantasy races such as elves, dwarves, and orcs, or alien races such as Cardassian, Gou'ould, or Turian. Since the MCU movies started hitting theatres, our main concern hasn't been "Are we going to be able to identify with the white dude in the movie?" so much as "Is this movie going to respect the source material and give us something fun and compelling?"

And the MCU has yet to disappoint (okay, except for maybe The Dark World). Literally nobody looking forward to Black Panther is mad that there's not a white dude in the lead role. Quite the opposite; anyone familiar with the source material would probably be livid were they to re-cast T'Challa as a white man. You saw the reaction to Tilda Swinton's casting as the Ancient One, right?

I'm still hyped for Black Panther. It's another addition to the MCU canon, and it's looking pretty good so far. But some of us are concerned... not that we won't, again, be unable to identify with the lead role; I'm sure I can identify with the king of a xenophobic, isolationist African country that's technologically advanced and prosperous due to extra-terrestrial mineral resources and has a super suit and cadre of female bodyguards as much as the next person. I can  possibly identify with it as much as I can identify with a woman who grew up trained as a super-assassin by elements of the Russian military, or a brilliant scientist who put himself in harm's way and was rewarded by turning into an uncontrollable green rage monster, or a demi-god who had to learn a lesson in humility before daddy would give him his powers back.

No, I'm worried because a lot of people are playing up the minority element in this movie. Not to the same extent it was played up in Ghostbusters; Feige and Disney would never release something on the same level of quality that Sony somehow managed. But I guarantee you that a lot of people who wanted to watch it won't, because you've talked them into the idea that they don't want to see it.

The same thing nearly happened to me with The Last Jedi, and it's been happening for a while. Lord knows the progressive fandom has been doing its absolute level best to convince me that I'm not at all interested and in fact am outraged at Jodie Whittaker's casting as The Doctor, when I have no idea* if she'll be good or not.
* Aside from the fact there's never been a bad Doctor. Shut up, there hasn't. Colin Baker was fantastic.
In short, knock it off. Stop propping up strawmen to try and convince yourselves that your ideological enemies are mad that something cool is coming out. Stop pretending like it's never happened before. I feel like slapping the next person that forgot that Blade had two fantastic movies (and one questionable one) before the X-Men franchise even started picking up any real steam.

Hype it up. Share the love. Celebrate it if you feel you need to. But when you start celebrating how what you love is going to piss off some monolithic and imaginary ideal of the people you hate, you're doing fandom absolutely the wrong way. It's worse than the gatekeeping that you preach against. It's sub-cultural gentrification, and it's annoying as all hell.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

State of the Sword 2018

It is my honor and privilege to apprise you all of the current status of Operation Blazing Sword and what we have accomplished in the past 18 months. Since this is happening on the same day as the President's State of the Union Address, I shall call this our first annual State of the Sword Report.

Even though Operation Blazing Sword was born on June 12, 2016, it was not granted 501c3 status until late November of that year. 2017 was a year of building foundations and networks, things which are necessary for our continued prosperity but which are invisible to those outside the Board of Directors.

While the Board was busy in the background, members stepped up to fulfill our core mission. Operation Blazing Sword has over 1500 volunteer instructors in nearly a thousand locations across all 50 states, as well as trainers in Canada, Australia, and the US Virgin Islands. Since our inception, these volunteers have trained at least 35 people in the basics of firearm safety and operation. (I say "at least" because as a matter of policy we do not require those we help to "out" themselves as having received training.) Of those 35 trained, 15 of them went on to buy firearms; 11 of those 15 applied for a concealed carry permit.

We have also raised nearly $4,000, all of which has been from private citizens. While this seems small, keep in mind that we are truly grassroots and do not have the backing of corporations or a New York billionaire. For a pro-gun, queer-friendly niche group, this level of achievement is astounding.

Put another way, our volunteers trained two people per month in firearm safety; 45% of those trained became gun owners, and therefore gun voters; 73% of those gun owners went on to become lawful concealed carriers; and all of this was done without government or corporate support, but instead through the efforts of individuals like you who believe that the Second Amendment is for everyone and that all human life is worth defending.

We achieved amazing things in 2017, and I look forward to surpassing those achievements in 2018. We will hold community safety seminars, host open range days, and sponsor concealed carry courses. Our goal is to help people — not just queer people, but all people — protect themselves from crime and violence in a lawful and responsible manner.

Through this instruction, we see each other through new eyes and tear down old boundaries. Gun owners gain an understanding of what it is to be queer, and queer people discover that gun owners do not hate them. Once you see someone as a human being, it is difficult to relegate them to the category of "the other".

As J.R.R Tolkien said, “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”  Likewise, I do not love Blazing Sword for its accomplishments; rather, I love those people whom it has taught protection. In 2018, let us come together as one people and declare that the lives of gay people and straight people, of transgender people and cisgender people, of those on the right and those on left all have value and are all worth defending — because we love them. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I Am Witty

One of things people need to know about me is that I am fucking hilarious and that I should be applauded for my quick wit on a regular basis.

Example: I am a player in a Pathfinder game Wednesday nights, and my character is an elf rogue whose personality can best be described as "Quiet like Fluttershy, except replace her love of animals with a near sociopathic dislike of other people and a tendency to classify them into People I like; Things that need stabbing; and Things that I'm not sure need stabbing but probably do. "

So last night, my sociopath was trying to get the location of the Thieves' Guild from the local priestess of Calistria (goddess of lust, revenge, and trickery -- in other words, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) and said priestess was not being forthcoming about it, probably because my character has all the warmth and empathy of a surgical tool.

Her charismatic half-sister, who is both the Face of the party and who is also a cleric of Calistria, rolls diplomacy on my behalf to help her socially awkward sibling. She gets a result of THIRTY.

Out of character, I quip "Hook a praya up?"

Cue sound of other players spitting beverages through various orifices and onto screens and keyboards. 

I reiterate: I am fucking hilarious.  That is all.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Salem Watches Star Wars: On The Last Jedi Weekend

OK, there's actually spoilers in this one... for a month-old movie.

I saw it. So, after my trepidation last week, how did it measure up?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is... a movie. Goodnight, everyone!

[Salem's attempt to sneak out has been intercepted with Erin carrying a very large shotgun.]

Thanks, Erin. That brings to mind the perfect metaphor. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is what would happen if you took a bunch of Star Wars, dropped it down the barrel of a very large shotgun, and fired it one-handed without aiming at a theatre screen. Minus the monetary damages and police inquiry, of course. Now please put the shotgun down?

There's a lot to love here. There's a whole lot of things that work really, really well, but there's also a lot that either doesn't work at all or could have been easily avoided (and made for a tighter, more focused film). Let's talk about the good, shall we?

I have found my spirit animal, and it is Grumpy Luke. Grumpy Luke, living on his own on an island, surrounded by the bones of an ancient religion and waiting to die. Grumpy Luke, who so casually tosses his (and his father's) lightsaber over his shoulder and stalks away. Mark Hamill may have voiced reservations about how his character was handled, but I think he did a magnificent job with what he was given, and I feel what he was given wasn't all that bad. I've heard complaints about how he wouldn't have tried to kill Ben, given his choice to save Vader, but in the context of the scene, he faltered for a moment and that's what caused the whole thing. "Just one faltering moment causes catastrophe down the line" seems to be a running theme with Jedi, as what created Vader was Obi-Wan's cockiness and underestimation of Darth Maul that caused a worthier teacher to die. The entire sequence with Rey and Luke on the island is really great, and I wish the movie would have focused more on this.

And speaking of Rey, she has finally grown some kind of character with the revelation of her parents being absolute nobodies that sold her for beer money, and is starting to earn what she was given in the first film now that her defiant self-image has been shattered. Something seems visually off about her, though, and I can't put my finger on it; given that it's been 2 years between movies but mere seconds on-screen, the difference is a little jarring.

Most of the rest of the cast does well. Leia, Finn, and Poe are well done, Poe especially getting a lot of character arc, and you can't screw up Chewie and R2. I've heard complaints about Leia's "Mary Poppins" moment, but given we saw her Force sensitivity first flare way back in Empire and it's been 30 years, I'm more than okay with her having a strong Force moment.

Kylo Ren finally becomes interesting, with a more fleshed-out backstory and real personal vulnerability. His moments of flirting with the Light really make me hope that by the end of the next movie he and Rey switch places, with Rey falling to the Dark side and Ren redeemed, but having to live with the atrocities he's committed. The throne room fight scene, with the most hilarious red herring of the entire series, is fantastic. Hands down, the best fight scene in all of Star Wars, topping my previous of Chirrut taking apart a squad of Stormtroopers in Rogue One. When I try to explain what I like about fight scenes to people, I always point to Liam Neeson in Rob Roy. Swinging a sword for more than a few seconds turns into hard work, and Rey and Kylo take a real beating from Snoke's guards, nearly losing several times.

Now onto the things that don't work.

Admiral Holdo. Look, I was going into this biased, as Holdo herself is a meme already, but I'm going to look past the joke of Vice Admiral Gender Studies and criticize her by her actions and her words. From the moment that Poe first speaks to her, she takes every opportunity to be insufferably smug and snide. I understand that Poe was recently demoted and has a reputation as a hothead, but I've been in a position of leadership. I wasn't the admiral of a military, but even I know that if you have a recently disciplined hothead under your wing, you let him know that you're aware of that, but you keep him at least somewhat informed and you give him something to do. Holdo basically blows him off and at no point even drops a hint that she has a plan other than "Keep flying that-a-way." All she had to say was "Thank  you for your input, Commander, there is a plan, and this is what I need you to do" and then tell him to go make sure all the ships are properly fueled or something in case we need them. Holdo reminds me of those Civil War generals that were promoted because they contributed monetarily and became war heroes, but were absolute disasters when it came to actual leadership.

Which brings us to Canto Bight. If Holdo had told Poe there was a plan, there would have been absolutely no need for Finn and Rose to go there. There would have been no need for a Disney film to bash rich people, no need for an alien horse race, and no need for us to pretend that Finn and Rose have any chemistry whatsoever. And no need for Benicio Del Toro's squinty, stuttery face to show up and be absolutely pointless. The entire casino planet subplot was unnecessary, and only served to distract from the opportunity for more quiet character moments and training sequences between Rey and Luke, or the opportunity to maybe make the already tech-savant Rose the one that breaks the security on the Imperial ship.

I'm torn on the salt planet. It was a neat idea, and those crystal foxes are adorable, but there were parts that worked and parts that didn't. The face-off between Luke and Kylo Ren was hilarious, as the movie turned into an absolute anime by the end of that sequence with Luke's casual "See you around, kid." The salt-speeders were terrible, though. They had no guns, no offensive capabilities on display, and couldn't even fly, instead just sort of skimming on a single ski. They weren't even really big enough to damage anything they crashed into, despite how bad of an idea Finn had.

Also, let's stop fooling ourselves. Captain Phasma is not a good character. Captain Phasma is a waste of a character. She shows up, looks cool, gets smacked down in a humiliating way, and exits the movie ingloriously. I give up. They're not going to do anything with Phasma.

There was a good movie in there, somewhere. The Force Awakens was a better movie, even if it did play it safe, but I'd have left a good third of this movie on the editing room floor, as it's so incredibly uneven in its current state. This is still worth a watch to keep up with the Star Wars mythos, but it's a hard sell.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Riding Shotgun With Charlie

I had the privilege of being interviewed by many people at the Gun Rights Policy Conference last year. One of them was my friend Charlie Cook, who took time out of his busy schedule to get me into a car so I could "ride shotgun" during the interview.

The interview is broken into three parts, but I've embedded the playlist so they ought to play one after the other.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Hey Erin, your schedule has been weird lately

Yes. Yes, it has.

This is because my life has gotten really stressful in the past week due to a family crisis. I'm working with my mom to fix it, but right now it feels like we're using buckets to bail out the Titanic. I'll let you know how it turns out.

The other thing that's been going on is something in the firearms world that intersects with the interests of Operation Blazing Sword. I can't talk about that yet either because I was asked not to (although if you've been paying attention to things you might know what I'm talking about), although the situation looks good for a swift resolution that ought to make both sides happy.

This is my life right now, a lot of "I'm working on things that I either can't talk about or which have no noticeable affect to anyone other than me." It really sucks and I hate it, but what can I do?

I feel like I need more to round out this post, but I'm not sure what else to say here.

Ah, okay, here's a nice little rant I wrote this past weekend, perhaps you will find it enlightening and/or amusing.

This is a TERF: a person who simultaneously believes that men have an easier life than women, and yet "men who choose to dress and act like women" (to use their words) somehow gain privilege by doing so.

That argument isn't just wrong, it's wrong on multiple levels:
  • If men are privileged, then a transwoman has lost that male privilege through transition to female. Conversely, if a transwoman gains privilege through transition, that must mean that female privilege must exist. As my friend George Strong put it, "it is straight up a logical fallacy to say that 'the most privileged class gains additional privilege by joining a less privileged class.' "
  • It's a hell of a difficult thing to transition, with severe medical, financial, legal and social repercussions. No one does it lightly. 
  • Femininity is not a limited resource which is somehow reduced the more women there are in the world. There's enough to go around for everyone. 
  • If this is a "man's world", you'd think that having more women in it would make it easier for our voices to be heard. Women are not a brand to be diluted.

To make an analogy, your sex is the country where you were born but your gender is the country of your citizenship.

Most people are happy being citizens of the country of their birth, but some people want to immigrate to a place where they can be happier. That doesn't make naturalized citizens any less American than those who were born here; it just means they had different life experiences growing up, and that gives them a different perspective on the American condition.

Similarly, transwomen aren't any less women than those who were born female; it just means they had different life experiences growing up, and that gives them a different perspective on being a woman.

Saying that "only those born female can be women" is like saying "only those born in America can be American", which is a terribly limiting mindset.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ranger Traps

I have a character in my current Pathfinder game who is a ranger with the trapper archetype. The concept is rather neat: by giving up spellcasting at lvl 5, the ranger gains the rogue trapfinding ability at level 1, the ability to set stationary "ranger traps" at level 5, and the ability to place magical traps on her arrows.

The problem is in execution. While the traps themselves are workable, they are treated like spells for somedamnfoolreason in that the ranger can only learn one trap every other level, can only use those traps a fixed number of times per day, and (humorously enough) can create a trap as a full-round action... which means a trapper can quite literally dig a 5' pit in six seconds.

Because I didn't like this implementation, I did was I always do and take a chainsaw to the rules to make them fit my vision of how the game should work. I took the base ideas from Ultimate Wilderness and Heroes of the Wild, but I changed them a bit to make the creation time and difficulty make more sense, and the CR of the traps to actually follow the rules for trap creation in Pathfinder.

These rules have not yet been tested; my players are, of course, my guinea pigs in this experiment.

Trapper (Ranger Archetype)
  • Remove Trap ability. 
  • Give bonus of Ranger level to all Craft (Traps) rolls used to create wilderness traps.

Wilderness Traps
Skilled hunters and trappers are adept at fashioning effective, if simple, traps from humble materials.
  • Each wilderness trap has an associated terrain wherein the raw materials for the trap are commonplace. Within these associated terrains, the base cost of each trap is calculated in silver pieces rather than gold pieces. 
  • When in a trap’s associated terrain, instead of paying one-third the item’s price in raw materials, the trap maker can attempt a Survival check against the normal Craft DC of the trap + (2 × the trap’s CR). 
  • If successful, the trap maker finds the necessary materials in the wild after 1d4 hours of foraging + 1 hour per CR of the trap; each 5 over the DC reduces the roll by 1 hour, to a minimum of 1 hour. 
  • She can then attempt a Craft (traps) check, also at the normal Craft DC + (2 × the trap’s CR), to build the trap, which takes another 1d4 hours + 1 hour per CR of the trap; each 5 over the DC reduces the roll by 1 hour, to a minimum of 1 hour. 
  • However, traps built with such crude materials don’t last long without maintenance; they have a cumulative 20% chance to break for every day they go without being tightened and reset (which requires 10 minutes of effort).
  • Foraging may be eliminated through the possession of proper equipment (example: a shovel to dig a pit, ropes to build a breakaway vine, etc).
The base DC for these traps is 20, which increase based on the following:

Perception DC
  • 15 or lower: -1
  • 16–20: 0
  • 21–25: +1
  • 26–29: +2
  • 30 or higher:  +3
Disable Device DC
  • 15 or lower: -1
  • 16–20: 0
  • 21–25: +1
  • 26–29: +2
  • 30 or higher: +3
Reflex Save DC (Pit or Other Save-Dependent Trap)
  • 15 or lower: -1
  • 16–20: 0
  • 21–25: +1
  • 26–29: +2
  • 30 or higher: +3
Attack Bonus (Melee or Ranged Attack Trap)
  • +0 or lower: -2
  • +1 to +5: -1
  • +6 to +10: 0
  • +11 to +15: +1
  • +16 to +20: +2
  • Touch attack: +1
  • Average damage: +1 per 10 points of average damage
  • If designed to hit more than one target, multiply this value by 2.
Miscellaneous Features:
  • Automatic reset: +1
  • Multiple targets (non-damage): +1
  • Attacks an area: +2
  • Proximity or visual trigger: +1
Note: Unless specified otherwise, traps are assumed to be at the highest level of their category (for example, if a trap has a Perception category of "16-20" then it is assumed to be crafted at DC 20 unless you otherwise specified).

Example Traps

Breakaway Log CR 1

  • Forage DC 22
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location (20' long line)
  • Reset: repair
  • Associated Terrain: any forests, jungles, or swamps
Fallen trees often form excellent natural bridges over rivers or chasms, or they afford routes to climb more safely over a wall or other barrier. Breakaway logs have been sabotaged so that they collapse once they are used. At the end of a round when a Medium or larger (or two Small) creatures use the log, it collapses. All creatures on the log then fall, taking appropriate damage from the plunge. The typical breakaway log fills an area that is 5 feet wide and 20 feet long, and it results in a 20-foot fall which deals 2d6 points of falling damage. A creature that succeeds at a DC 15 Reflex save can cling to the log or leap to safety and avoid the damage entirely.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per add'l 2d6 Damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Breakaway Vine CR 1
  • Forage DC 22
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: touch (timed)
  • Reset: repair
  • Associated Terrain any forests, jungles, or swamps
A breakaway vine has been sabotaged so that it snaps not long after someone begins using it to climb. A breakaway vine trap can be crafted from a length of rope as well, but this ruins the rope for other uses. When a Small or larger creature climbs a breakaway vine, the vine snaps just before the creature reaches the top of the climb. A creature can grab a handhold and avoid the resulting fall with a successful DC 20 Reflex save. This breakaway vine assumes a 20-foot fall for 2d6 points of damage; longer falls increase the CR of the breakaway vine by 1 per additional 20 feet.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per add'l 2d6 Damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Spring Snare CR 1
  • Forage DC 22
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 15
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: any forests, jungles, or swamps
A spring snare consists of a strong sapling that’s been bent down with a noose affixed to the end. When a creature enters a square trapped by a spring snare, the noose attempts to snare the triggering creature with a +15 on its combat maneuver check to grapple. If it succeeds, the tree snaps upright and flings the target into the air for 1d6 damage. The creature then remains suspended 10 feet off the ground until it breaks the grapple.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +5 grapple bonus; +1 CR per +1d6 damage; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Swinging Log Trap CR 1
  • Forage DC 22
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: forests or jungles
A large, heavy log is suspended in the canopy of a forest or jungle and attached to a trip line. When a creature passes through a 5-foot-square that’s been trapped by this trip line, the log swings down and makes a melee attack with a +5 bonus (1d6+5 points of bludgeoning damage). A creature damaged by this log must succeed at a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid being knocked prone. Affixing a number of sharpened sticks to the log adds an additional 1d6 points of piercing damage and increases its CR by 1.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per add'l +5 Attack bonus; +1 CR per 2d6 Damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Musk Shower CR 2
  • Forage DC 24
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: none
  • Associated Terrain: any
This trap hides a jury-rigged container of absorbent debris that has been soaked in the musk of prey animals. When a creature enters a square trapped with a musk shower, the trap makes a +10 melee touch attack against the creature. On a hit, the musk shower deals no damage but douses the target in its strong scent. Creatures with scent double the range at which they can smell a doused creature for 1 week or until the musk is washed off with alcohol or another solvent. Creatures tracking the doused creature by smell gain a +10 bonus on Perception and Survival checks to track that target.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm; +1 to attack 10' square or 20' line.

Foot Snare CR 2
  • Forage DC 24
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: automatic
  • Associated Terrain: any
A foot snare consists of a shallow pit filled with tar, sticky mud, quicksand, or even downward-pointing stakes that allow the foot to entire but not exit, that is then covered with a layer of debris to disguise its presence. When a creature steps into a square trapped with a tar snare, the trap makes an attempt to grapple it with a +10 bonus on the combat maneuver check. Sharp sticks can be added to the pit as well, increasing the CR of the trap by 1 and affecting a creature grappled by the trap as if it had walked on caltrops.
  • Improvements: +1 CR to add caltrop effect; +1 CR per +5 grapple bonus; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Lifting Net Trap CR 3
  • Forage DC 26
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location (10' square)
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: forests, jungles or swamps
A net is concealed on the ground and attached to a spring snare. When stepped on, the trap makes a touch attack with a +10 bonus; if successful, the targets are hit by a net as per the exotic ranged weapon and lifting them 10 feet off the ground and controlling them with a +5 Strength bonus. This trap targets all opponents in a 10 ft square areas.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per add'l +5 Attack bonus; +1 CR per 5 Strength of control; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Pit Trap CR 3
  • Forage DC 26
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location (10' sq)
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: all except aquatic
A covered 10' deep pit that triggers when stepped upon. A DC 20 Reflex saves negates damage; failure results in 1d6 damage from falling.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +1d6 damage (not 2d6 due to the difficulty of digging deeper); +1 CR for every add'l 10' sq; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Razor Grass CR 3
  • Forage DC 26
  • Perception DC 25
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location (10' sq. or 20' line)
  • Reset: automatic
  • Associated Terrain: any with undergrowth
By hiding lengths of sharpened sticks or bones amid undergrowth (traditionally tall grass; when used in coastal or underwater areas, this trap is instead called a razor kelp trap), the trapper can lay a simple but effective trap. Whenever a creature moves into a square that contains razor grass, it takes 2d6 points of damage and must succeed at a DC 20 Reflex save or its speed is halved for 24 hours unless it receives magical healing or benefits from a successful DC 15 Heal check.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +2d6 damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR for every add'l 10' sq; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Spring-Arm Spike CR 3
  • Forage DC 26
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: any forests, jungles, or swamps
A spring-arm spike is similar to a spring snare trap in that it incorporates a strong sapling bent into a taut arc. When a creature enters a square that contains the spring-arm spike’s trigger, the sapling snaps forward, driving a pointed spear into the target. The spring-arm spike makes a melee attack +15 (4d6 damage) against the target, which is also knocked prone unless it succeeds at a DC 20 Reflex save.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +2d6 damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR per +5 to hit; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Infected Punji Pit Trap CR 4
  • Forage DC 28
  • Perception DC 20
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location (10' sq)
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain all except aquatic
As pit trap above, but there are sharpened spikes covered in feces or other infectious matter at the bottom of the pit which attack with a +10 bonus and deal (1d4 spikes per target @ 1d4+2 damage each) plus disease (usually filth fever) or poison.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +1d6 damage; +1 CR for every add'l 10' sq; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Avalanche Trap CR 5
  • Forage DC 30
  • Perception DC 15
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: none
  • Associated Terrain: hills, mountains or underground
When triggered, this trap causes a landslide, tunnel collapse, or other "heavy things fall" effect which affects a 10' square area. All targets in the area must make a DC 20 Reflex save; those who fail suffer 4d6 damage and are knocked prone. Once triggered, the affected area becomes difficult terrain.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +2d6 damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR for every add'l 10' sq; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

Deadfall CR 5
  • Forage DC 30
  • Perception DC 15
  • Disable Device DC 20
  • Trigger: location
  • Reset: manual
  • Associated Terrain: any forests, jungles, mountains, or underground
Similar to an avalanche trap, but using a log or other long, heavy object. When a creature enters the deadfall’s trigger square, the weight drops in a 20-foot line. All targets in the area must make a DC 20 Reflex save; those who fail suffer 4d6 damage and are knocked prone. Once triggered, the affected area becomes difficult terrain.
  • Improvements: +1 CR per +2d6 damage; +1 CR per +5 DC Reflex save; +1 CR for every add'l 10' sq; +1 CR per +5 DC to Perceive or Disarm.

I'm curious to see how this plays out. It looks balanced to me, but I could be mistaken. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pellatarrum: Elemental Energies

Back when I first started talking about Pellatarrum and the elemental seasons, people were mystified as to why I placed earth opposite fire instead of the more traditional water.

My initial explanation was along the lines of "Sleep outside at night without a ground cloth. The earth will suck the warmth from you. Ergo, earth is cold, the opposite of heat." People didn't completely buy that explanation, though, because both wind and water can pull the heat from you.

I think my original explanation failed because it was rooted in trying to explain Pellatarran metaphysics from inside the universe instead of outside. Therefore I will explain it using game mechanics.

Each elemental state/plane is associated with a form of energy in Pathfinder: fire is fire (duh), water is cold, air is lightning and earth is acid for some damn reason. Now fire and air are fine and sensible, and while I can see water being cold, I just cannot see earth being acid. Why is the "liquid" energy not associated with the only elemental liquid? Water erodes solids; acids and bases corrode solids. There's a similarity there. Conversely, water can be hot: just look at hot springs and steam and humid days.

Then I had an interesting thought: if I make acid the water energy and cold the earth energy, then there's an interesting balancing act going on with the elemental planes. Fire, the element of change and heat, is opposed by earth, the element of cold and stasis; air and water, the two fluids, then balance each other out. This gives us a really interesting set of poles (heat/cold, change/stasis) separated by a yin-yang pairing of opposite sides of the same coin -- air and water can be both clear or opaque; they are seen yet unseen (you see fog but do not see air; you see water but also see through it); and they exist within the other (bubbles of air within water and rain falling through the sky).

I found this really compelling and poetic, and yet nontraditional, which is an excellent summation of how Pellatarrum ought to work.

So that's why in my game setting, earth is the element of cold and water is the element of acid.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Salem (has not) Watched a Movie: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

That wasn't a typo. I haven't seen it yet.

Spoilers? I don't know. Can I spoil a movie I haven't seen?

I'm not boycotting it or anything. I literally don't care enough about Star Wars to worry that they're casting the wrong types of people or pushing the wrong types of messages. Hell, I was there for the prequels. Whatever they do, it can't be worse than that.

There's a woman at work who is a massive Star Wars fan and was part of the training process for my new job. She's asked me several times and gets increasingly frustrated when I tell her I haven't yet. Curiously, she's a little confused as to why she hasn't gone to see it a second time, but we'll get to that.

I meant to go on Christmas, when I had a 3 day weekend. I meant to go on New Years' Day, when I had 5 days off. I meant to go this last weekend when I had another 3 day weekend, and every other weekend in between. And granted, I'm in the middle of a major depressive episode, but I went to go see Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League. I even had a $5 movie ticket coupon that could have gotten me into a 3D showing, and I kept putting it off until it expired.

I've quite enjoyed watching the YouTube criticism videos. The memes are fantastic. Luke's Milk and Swolo Ren in particular, and I have no idea if she's a good character or not, but I get a giggle out of Vice Admiral Gender Studies.

What I haven't enjoyed are the conspiracy theories about an insidious plot to undermine western society. Granted, while there are some things to criticize (such as the one-of-each casting that looks like the attractive, yet non-threatening, racially diverse cast of a CW show - thanks, Cat Grant), I don't think Alex Jones needs to worry so much about Star Wars. On the flip side, I also do not enjoy the hyperbolic two-pronged assault of "Star Wars being a triumph in diversity" and "anyone who criticizes it is an evil Nazi Gamergater MRA Drumpfist manbaby." Seriously, knock it off. Stop being so obnoxious about your celebration, and stop attacking anyone who disagrees with you over it.

The Chinese have a word for this now, by the way: "Baizou." This translates roughly to "white lefties" and translates literally, or so I'm told, to "libtard." I don't know if it's related in any way, but despite casting an Asian in a prominent role and putting her front and center in the marketing (which China usually loves), China went to go see The Last Jedi once and never went back.

I guess you could say The Last Jedi had a little trouble in big China.

I'm so not sorry for that.

I think the thing that spurred me to write this was this incident. One guy, somewhere, anonymously edited a cam version of The Last Jedi to remove the prominence of the female characters, which probably took maybe just a few hours, uploaded it to ThePirateBay, and set off yet another internet firestorm. No declaration of intent, just a description of what he did, and some jumped-up lefty lifestyle blog gave him exactly the reaction he was assuredly looking for.

I really should go and see it sometime this week, but I can't help but shake the feeling that I've already had the Star Wars: The Last Jedi experience.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pellatarrum: Crunchy Bits for PC Races

I've been running a Pathfinder game set in a modified* Pellatarrum since the summer, and over the course of it I've realized that some mechanical changes need to be made to PC races to fit them into my setting.
* Modified because the players didn't completely grok the whole "Church of Light/ Cult of Dark" thing, so I just ruled that the old gods were killed but the heroes of the four Elder Races became the new gods as a result of creating Pellatarrum. I lose some flavor this way, but it means I don't have to re-write a lot of stuff and there's a lot to be said for ease of implementation.
Note: the following rules apply to standard examples of their race. Player characters or notable NPCs may deviate from these standards.

While I am sorely tempted to give dwarves Damage Reduction 5/Piercing to reflect their elemental origins, I fear that this is just me being a dwarf fangirl. If I did do such a thing, it would replace both Defensive Training and Hatred.

Elves are graceful and smart and beautiful. Elves are not strong, nor are they tough. There is a reason why their racial weapon proficiencies are based around weapons which use dexterity. If they need strong, tough warriors, that's what humans and half-elves are for.

Gnomes were created by elves to be an ambassador race to the dwarves, so having both low-light and darkvision is reasonable. They also don't hate kobolds like traditional gnomes or go to war with giants; most Pellatarran gnomes live with or near human settlements, so pick something that replaces defensive training and hatred to make your gnome more interesting. 

I actually wanted to do so much more with these guys, but I didn't want to turn them into a race of Mary Sues.

    This is essentially "Choose which culture in which you grew up." Half-orcs raised by orcs ought to be very different from half-orcs raised by humans.

    • No changes at this time.
    Pellatarran orcs are creatures of fire, and as such suffer no ill effects from bright light.

    Kobold PCs are weaker than PCs of other races. Giving them +1 natural armor and a 1d8 breath weapon that takes 1d4 rounds to recharge in exchange for a feat goes a long way towards making them playable.

    EDIT:  I had forgotten that all kobolds had +1 natural armor anyway. So 1 feat to allow them a 1d8 cone or line elemental attack every 2-5 rounds seems incredibly fair to me, given how they have -4 Str, -2 Con and +2 Dex. There needs to be some reason to play a race like this, and for me that reason is for people who are fascinated with dragons and want to play one.

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    On the Upswing

    Last week was pretty bad for me, which is why I didn't write anything.

    I'll spare you the details, but the general idea was "monthly depressive cycle coincided with some personal drama and the three-month anniversary of my attack, so I spent a lot of time either feeling sorry for myself or being angry at people for breathing too loudly."

    Part of the problem is that it's mid-January and the swelling on my face, while slowly diminishing, still isn't gone. The plastic surgeon said it would be gone in January, although he didn't specify when, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it MIGHT go away in the next two weeks. I'll book an appointment with him when it does, or when it's February, whichever comes first.

    Someone bought me a package of ScarAway silicone sheets for Christmas and I've been using them. I think they're helping, but I'm not sure; it does feel like the bumps on my upper lip are softening and receding. I can't wear them as often as I'd like, because the scars are on my mouth, which means eating with them on is out of the question. I put them on right before bed, though, so I get at least 8 and sometimes 12 hours with them on.

    I'm trying to carve out more time to write, especially fiction. I'd like to get back to doing that on a regular basis.

    One thing that I have been able to start doing, and which makes me happy, is a return to blogging about preps. I've written two posts on Blue Collar Prepping since the New Year and I hope I can keep it up. I like how it makes me feel.

    I'm not sure why I didn't post the links to those posts here until just now. Maybe it's because I feel strange about not being able to call them SHTFriday, or maybe I'm worried that I might not be able to keep it up.

    I have been creative lately, though. I've been working more on my Pellatarrum setting... which is cool and all, although there are times I wonder why I do it. To say that fantasy settings are a dime a dozen is to severely devalue the dime, and other than you loyal readers I'm honestly not sure who else gives a crap about it. Why does that matter? Well, I had hoped to one day sell it as a setting on Drive-Thru RPG.

    Truth be told, I've had a lot of hopes about being a writer and so far, they haven't panned out.

    Sorry, I'm getting maudlin. Maybe I'm still not 100% over this depressive streak. Anyway, that's what is going on with me, and hopefully I'll have more interesting content for you tomorrow.

    Thursday, January 11, 2018

    A Time to Live, a Time to Die... a Time to Regenerate

    Man, I was *not* looking forward to this.. 

    Has it really been six months? Spoilers...

    So begins the final reprieve of Peter Capaldi, he who is too pure for this world, good enough to transcend any writing problems and turn any bad episode watchable, any decent episode memorable, and any great episode an absolute masterpiece. Sylvester McCoy may always remain my Doctor, but Capaldi is unequivocally the best Doctor. Which is why, even after two excellent seasons, two fun Christmas specials, and one hit or miss season, I wasn't at all looking forward to this episode. To paraphrase the Tenth Doctor, I didn't want him to go. To paraphrase the Twelfth Doctor, I did not want him to change.

    But as he's taught me over many years, all things do change. We have to let go of things, let go of people. They won't always be around but we can always remember them. So how will we remember him, based on his farewell?

    In a word: Gorgeous.

    I am such a nerd. 
    This may well be Moffat's best episode since taking over the show (let's face it, nothing's going to beat The Girl In The Fireplace), and definitely in the top 3 for director Rachel Talala who, for the record, is no slouch herself, having not only directed rather good episodes of Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supernatural, Haven, and Continuum (all... or most, at least, excellent sci-fi shows) but also Tank Girl and one of the better Nightmare On Elm Streets. Talalay seems to be Moffat's directorial big gun, as he's put her in charge of all of Capaldi's finale episodes, most notably the masterpiece that is Heaven Sent. She's got a real gift for Capaldi's style.

    Let's get one thing out of the way first, as it's the only real complaint that I have about this episode and I need to be very clear about why I have a problem with it: the First Doctor was not a raging sexist, and the lines about Polly or Bill cleaning the TARDIS or a man being a nurse are horribly out of place. One was not discriminatory in being a grumpy old asshole. Unless your name was Susan, you were fair game. Just ask Ian Chesterton. I'm trying to pretend that most of those comments were for the Captain's behalf.

    OK, you get a pass for one of the most beautiful moments in human history.
    Getting that out of the way, though, David Bradley's performance as the First Doctor is absolutely spot-on. While his face my be different, his performance is eerily reminiscent of William Hartnell's original portrayal. He hit all of his marks perfectly, catching the nuances of being a man both younger and older than Capaldi's Twelve, and the chemistry between himself and Capaldi's Doctor's is brilliant. Possibly the best I've seen, even better than Smith and Tennant's interactions. The disapproving looks Bradley shoots Capaldi, and the uncomfortable embarrassment of twelve extremely long lives between them on Capaldi's behalf speak volumes more than could be expected.

    One thing I thought I'd have a problem with, but didn't, was Bill Potts. I'm on record as saying that Bill turned out much better than I'd hoped and expected, and her ending was just that: an ending. A clean break, with a satisfying end that had been telegraphed properly and tied up all the loose ends. So when I heard she was coming back, it felt wrong, but tying it into the main story gave us an opportunity not to continue her story, but to give a proper coda, an epilogue. "The post-script of Bill Potts", so to speak, and it was handled unexpectedly well. What was really unexpected, and handled even better, was the gift given to Twelve: his memory of Clara. By this point in the episode I was already tearing up (especially after the Captain identified himself), and when she appeared to him by way of the glass constructs, I audibly sobbed.

    The most important takeaway, though, is that this episode was small and quiet. Very little actually happened, the vast majority of the episode being character-based moments: a final bit of growth for some, and a proper farewell for others. And I bring this up because it's what Christmas specials mostly aren't. From The Christmas Invasion all the way through The Return of Doctor Mysterio, Christmas specials have been all about giant spectacle and high-level emotional moments, with a healthy side dish of absolute silliness. Twice Upon A Time bucks that trend, and for its own benefit, as the big action-packed scene lasts maybe 30 seconds and is over halfway through the episode, leaving us time to become involved with the characters and invested in them.

    Have you ever had to say goodbye to yourself?
    Which brings us to the regeneration. What are we able to glean from that short moment?

    • There's the obvious: Jodie Whittaker is the Thirteenth Doctor now. 
    • She's kept her accent, from what I can tell from the one phrase we've gotten: "Aww, brilliant!" 
    • She can pull some great facial expressions so far. 
    • Most importantly, they let her crash the TARDIS. This genuinely had me worried, as every modern Doctor so far has done so in their regenerations, save maybe War-to-Nine, and Thirteen has managed to crash the TARDIS in spectacular fashion, perhaps only second to Eight-to-War (which I'm barely counting, considering that he only parked inside a crashing ship). 

    This was very important to me, considering the highly-charged gender politics of the Current Year™, as I was afraid that Thirteen would be treated with inappropriate kid gloves and land the TARDIS safely or leave it parked during her regeneration. Turns out they went balls out (no pun intended) and not only did she blow out the console with her regeneration, but she managed to detonate the central column and get unceremoniously ejected out the front doors mid-flight to fall to her apparent death. Good show, Thirteen. I can't wait to see what happens next.

    I'll have you know I made it through this entire review
    without a single woman driver joke.
    This is absolutely a cannot-miss of an episode. It's emotional, quiet, intense, and touching. The only negative points are the blatant and out-of-character sexism of the First Doctor, and so many things that simply shouldn't work actually end up working really well.

    Friday, January 5, 2018

    Life Post-GunBlog VarietyCast

    People have been expressing various levels of disbelief regarding the sudden cancellation of the GunBlog VarietyCast (that website will be going down at some point in the future; all episodes and show notes are archived at Libsyn and you should be able to listen to the episode on Sean's YouTube channel), and more than a few of you have contacted me by email or private message saying "This is all a joke, right?"

    Sorry, it's no joke. The GBVC is no more. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-podcast.

    Believe me, I'm as irritated about it as you are. Back in October, about two weeks after I'd been mauled by my dog, Sean told me over the telephone that he was going to cancel the show at the end of the year. (He also reassured me that the cancellation had nothing to do with my injury.)

    This was both a disappointment and a relief to me:
    Disappointed because I enjoyed doing the podcast and was proud of all the work we'd done. We've made a lot of great friends, interviewed some amazing people, and put together a stellar collection of information for the past three years.

    Relieved because the podcast ate a HUGE amount of my time. When I started doing it, I was blogging regularly on this nerd blog and editing BCP while writing once a week for it; doing the podcast just meant doing what amounted to another blog entry. But then I was asked to take over as co-host when Adam left, and that increased my workload substantially: instead of just needing a few hours to write my segment and about an hour to record it (that included driving to a quiet location, setting up, breaking down and driving back), I also needed to record a full show which included
    • Creating introductory blurbs (or throws) to the various segments;
    • Helping to create and participate in the Main Topic;
    • Coming up with Plugs of the Week. 
    This effectively doubled the amount of work I needed to do, which all but ate up a day of work for me... and all of this was before the Pulse Massacre and the creation of Operation Blazing Sword, which was another demand upon my time. Since I know that Sean put in even more time on the podcast managing the audio quality, I understood how he could be burnt out. 
    So I was sad to see it go, but I welcomed the time it would open up because now I can devote more time to blogging (I've always preferred writing to speaking) and to making OBS a nationally known name.

    If I may speak frankly, though, I'm not a fan of how the cancellation was handled. My personal feelings on the matter are that we either should have ended the podcast immediately, perhaps with a farewell episode in November, or we should have been straight up with everyone and announced that the podcast would be ending in two months. I was overruled on this. Ultimately, this was Sean's podcast and not mine, because he paid all the bills on it and I didn't.
    By the way: if you joined the podcast FB group in the past two months, you have my sympathies. If you donated to the podcast in November or December, you have my apologies and I hope you're not angry with us. If you are angry, then my advice is that you request a refund. 
    So that brings us to today. This is the first week in a long time where I've had nothing podcast-related to do, and it feels weird. I have a large podcast-shaped hole in my schedule right now and while I can definitely find things to fill that hole, none of them fill it perfectly.

    For those of you who also have a podcast-shaped hole in your lives right now, I offer you this comfort:  Weerd Beard isn't ready to give up on doing This Week in Anti-Gun Nuttery segments. I suggest you go read his entire post on the subject, but here's the money quote:
    Yes I’m planning on starting a new podcast. That’s pretty much all I can say right now, because really that’s just about all I know right now. For fans of the Gunblog Variety Cast, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the “Patented Weer’d Audio Fisk” as Sean called it, so there is a VERY good chance of that being heard again.
    Weerd has asked me to be a part of this Podcast To Be Named Later, and I've accepted. I'm not sure what my role in it will be -- given what I said above, I can co-host or I can do a segment but I don't think I can do both on a regular basis -- but I'm happy to be a part of it. About the only other thing I can tell you is that it won't happen soon, because we're trying to get all of our ducks in order first, but I think it will happen around summer-ish. (Don't quote me on that, though.)

    So yes, GBVC is dead. But long live its successor!

    Thursday, January 4, 2018

    Baruch 'em, boychic!

    Facebook occasionally impresses me by reminding me of an awesome post I made however many years ago via its "Memories" thing. I must say, it's quite cool to read something I wrote and forgot about.

    Back in 2011, I had a hankering:

    Yitzak "Numbers" Deuteronomy, former forensic accountant for the FBI. Now he's traded in that white collar for a black yarmulke as he solves financial crimes that the police are too busy to handle! He's laying down the law, and the bad guys are paying the price. Baruch 'em, boychic.

    A friend replied with:

    Then I came up with Jude Revelations, a jazz saxophonist out of New Orleans with a pack-a-day habit and a voice like miles of bad road.

    Then other people chimed in:

    I rather like the notion of Jeremiah Lamentations and Jude Revelations teaming up, a la Blues Brothers.

    I'm guessing he either has sonic powers or has a multi-purpose gadget that looks like a ram's horn trumpet. 

    I wonder if there's a love triangle between her, Jude, and Jeremiah. 

    I would actually change this to "Ruth Leviticus" and make her a nun who kicks much butt. I honestly want to give her...

    ... wait for it...

    ... nun-chucks.  (grins, ducks, and runs)

    So, new fun challenge for you creative types:
    1. Take two books of the Bible and create the name of a noir or exploitation hero.
    2. Bonus points if you use consecutive books. 
    3. Yes, the apocrypha is allowed.

    Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    Salem Watches A Movie: This Is Not "TV But Better," This Is Life...

    This week, around New Year's Eve, Erin gave a recommendation of the movie Strange Days. I commented that Strange Days is a fantastic movie, and I've been a big fan of it for years. Erin, as she's wont to do, suggested I write about it. This is actually not a terrible idea, as I have a glowing recommendation of this movie as well.

    I make no secret of absolutely loathing the 1990s. The weird middle child of Gen-X decades, the 90s always felt like a half-assed attempt at continuing the craziness of the 1980s while toning it down in shame. The 1990s wanted to be as weird as its big brother, but was afraid to commit. A few good things did come out of this period,  though, and Strange Days is one of those memorable genre films that, alongside Fight Club, The Matrix, and The Crow are known for their anti-establishment nihilism and excellent soundtracks.
    The stars of the show on the craziest New Year's Eve of their life
    And the soundtrack for Strange Days is a real cracker, too, the best soundtrack I've heard in a movie apart from The Crow's. It manages to set a mood for the gritty and violent near-real world of the movie while also standing alone as an excellent collection of music. Listing the tracks that aren't top-notch would be shorter (if not more difficult) than the stand-outs, so just click the link instead of worrying about looking it up.

    Director Kathryn Bigelow hasn't made many movies that I've seen, but the ones I have, namely The Hurt Locker and Near Dark,  I've thoroughly enjoyed. I don't normally follow movies by their directors, but now that I've sat down and had time to think about it, I'm definitely going to look up more of her films. She's got a tendency to not hold back at all with emotional, impacting moments, and this movie is no different. 

    Remember when we all thought this was the end of the world? God, I feel old..
    The world that Bigelow built is definitely a product of its time, with a severe but charming case of schizo-tech. Good science fiction, it's said, takes one outlandish or futuristic element and builds around it, and in this case it's the SQUID headsets, that allow people to records and play back memories… from Sony MiniDiscs apparently. Memory capture and playback, but no cellphones? Madness. Then again, if our "hero" Lenny had a cellphone, the entire plot would have fallen apart.

    Bigelow certainly isn't pulling her punches with the story, too, which deftly touches on themes that were highly relevant at the time: a famous black performer is executed by two LAPD officers (played perfectly by Vincent Donofrio and William Fichtner, two guys that are always playing 'that corrupt official'), and one of the girls with him was recording it on a SQUID. The evidence finds its way into Lenny's hands, and there's a mad chase that ensues to ensure the evidence isn't intercepted by crooked officials before it can be properly exposed.

    Themes of loss, racism, escapism, and family are interwoven throughout the story. There's two stand-out moments in the movie that I guarantee will stay with you: an amputee living out a nice run on the beach, and the brutal murder of a character utilizing a pair of the SQUID headsets that, depending on how strong your constitution is, will either disturb or disgust you. 
    Yes, that's Top Dollar from The Crow. And yes, I had a crush on Juliette Lewis, too.
    This is also one of the most well-casted movies I've ever seen, too. It's got a few big guns in the cast -- Fiennes and Bassett are at the top of their game here -- along with some B- or C-list actors putting on uncharacteristically great performance. On paper, Ralph Fiennes is slumming it, but in reality he's working the room well both metaphorically and literally. His Lenny is gloriously sleazy around 90% of the cast, but when the veil drops, you can see the loss and sorrow in his eyes. Angela Bassett is the other one slumming it, and she has the same dual presentation, all steel and ice around most of the cast and all maternal instinct when they stop looking. Juliette Lewis is totally believable as that weird ex-girlfriend you just can't let go of, and special mention goes to Michael Wincott and Tom Sizemore's performances.

    Overall, this movie is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. From the dialogue delivery to riding the absolute bleeding edge of cyberpunk sensibility, this movie will hold your attention the whole way through.  Even if the movie didn't take place on New Year's Eve, I'd still recommend watching it regardless of the time of year.

    Strange Days is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time. I am genuinely hard-pressed to criticize this film in any way. It's got nearly everything you could ask for. 

    Monday, January 1, 2018

    Happy New Year!

    Hopefully it will be better than this... but I am expecting more of the same TBQH.

    The Fine Print

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