Friday, October 29, 2010

Minutes of the Lovecraft Studies Institute (# 2) [Cthulhu]



ATTENDANCE: Patrick, Bloch, King, Joshi, Cannon (Members). Five Guests.

2:15 P.M. Meeting Convened

2:20 P.M. Approval of Minutes for Meeting of April 10, 2010

2:23 P.M. Chair proposes reading of "Harbingers" manuscript Chapter 2 ("Deeper Than a Grave"). UNANIMOUS.

6:30 P.M. Reading Concludes

6:31 P.M. Chair proposes open discussion. UNANIMOUS.


PATRICK: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. Chapter Two of the lost Lovecraft manuscript "Harbingers", titled "Deeper Than a Grave" was written in a cypher much more complex than the prologue and first chapter, and thus took several months to decode. However, I think we can all agree it was worth the effort and the result bodes well for the remaining chapters of the manuscript.

BLOCH: To start with, I thought it surprising that Lovecraft brought the characters to the very edge of Dunwich (Gilmore's farm) in Chapter One, and then swept them back to Aylesbury for the beginning of Chapter Two, where we realize the protagonists have been arrested for arson and property damage. This was a twist I hadn't expected, since I assumed his intention was for the characters to get drawn into the strange events of that famous backwater village.

CANNON: Perhaps he wants to build the reader's anticipation? Or perhaps the inclusion of Dunwich is a classic fake-out, and the characters won't visit it at all?

PATRICK: In any event, Aylesbury seems to have some mysteries of its own. A small town that seems to be thriving in the midst of the greatest economic crisis known to mankind? The presence of Aylesbury Days--mere flavor or something significant? And the scene that begins this chapter, with the protagonists locked in a jail cell, includes some clues that other strange events may be happening.

KING: Before we go further, I have to say I quite liked the character of Deputy Bickford "Bickie" Roberts. He's brutish, short-tempered, and violent--a person in a position of authority but one that the protagonists cannot rely on for assistance. A character I could imagine putting in my own works.

JOSHI: We do see some of the familiar tropes of the horror genre: the main characters find themselves trapped far from home, in an isolated place difficult or impossible to escape from, and then frightening things begin to take place.

PATRICK: Quite so. We have a fellow inmate, Kurt Caughey, muttering about how he's "gotta dig, gotta dig it out" and then being brutally beaten by the Deputy for causing a disturbance; the creepy scene of the hapless protagonists forced to listen while another inmate seems to be murdered by something horrific and disturbing; and the appearance of this strange fellow, a lawyer for the "Gilchrist Trust" named Zeituni Wanjiku--described by Lovecraft as "a tall, coloured fellow from blackest Africa, impeccably dressed, uttering an English that is comprehensible but oddly accented."

CANNON: An interesting character for the time period. We know Lovecraft had some rather dicey views of race, so I hope the character doesn't become objectionable in future chapters. Also, I thought Lovecraft's rendering of the character's speech seemed more akin to stereotypical "Chinese English" than that of "Central African English."

KING: He sounded like Charlie Chan!


CANNON: And then we find out Wanjiku has some sort of connection to Aylesbury's sheriff, Tim Glasby, and has read Sheriff Glasby's report of the incident on the train. Wanjiku thinks he can get the protagonists released in his custody if they're willing to assist Sheriff Glasby in an investigation of some sort. In any event the protagonists are more or less stuck in Aylesbury until the circuit judge returns in a few days time for arraignment.

JOSHI: My research into early twentieth-century Massachusetts legal procedure indicates that this may not have been "on the up and up" as it were.

KING: Lovecraft wasn't a lawyer. Who cares?

JOSHI: The reader should care. Does this demonstrate sloppy writing and forced motivation or is it a clue that Wanjiku wields a disturbing influence in Aylesbury?

PATRICK: Gentlemen, I believe we should move along--we have a lot of ground to cover. The protagonists agree to Wanjiku's terms--some more reluctantly than others, but all with the understanding that more will be explained at dinner the following evening. The Catholic priest, Patrick Murphy, is the last to give in. Lovecraft's depiction of Murphy is an interesting one--the character seems heroic and sensible, but also prone to believing quickly and whole-heartedly in the efficacy of occult rituals. We talked about Murphy's reliance on spellcraft in the basement of the Gilmore farm, and then he tries (and fails) to use mysterious magicks to banish that foul and demonic monstrosity that attacked a fellow inmate.

CANNON: Also interesting in that incident is that the only character to actually witness that "houndlike, humanoid perversion" was one of the characters who was not marked as a "Harbinger." And yet, Blackstone distinctly heard it growl "Harbingers lead the way, Harbingers act the play." Strange diction, especially the last part. But of more significance, I believe, is that Lovecraft later slips in the fact that a similar attack occurred while the protagonists were sleeping at the Miskatonic River View Inn the night prior. A pattern may be developing.

PATRICK: When the protagonists are eventually released on what we're told is the morning of Monday, March 23, 1931, they make their way to the location Wanjiku said they could find Sheriff Glanby. Behind the house on Dillard Street, they encounter a strange sight: a young laborer named Richard Doggett is digging out a huge pit which is already several feet deep and ten feet to a side. The bystanders, the young man's parents, and Sheriff Glanby all agree that Doggett has been digging 16 hours a day, more or less nonstop, for days now. Kurt Caughey, the inmate the protagonists overheard being beaten by Bickie, had been digging alongside Doggett until Caughey's father tried to stop them and ended up with a shattered jaw from Kurt for his trouble. No one can figure out why the boys are so hell-bent on digging, and nor will the boys themselves explain.

KING: At this point Lovecraft decides to split the characters up as they pursue clues alone or in pairs. Narratively, this has the advantage of "spotlighting" characters who may tend to fade into the background while in large groups. If I remember correctly, Father Murphy and the butler, Harleigh Matheson, decide to search the Doggett house for clues but turn up little of interest. The book salesman, Hoyt Symmes, visits the local five-and-dime and the Aylesbury County Library, but again his investigation bears little fruit. A potential breakthough comes when Blackstone and Scarlet Warren visit the textile mill where the Doggett and Caughey boys were employed.

JOSHI: Your coarse summary overlooks several interesting details. For example, the frequent whispering between Murphy and Symmes about the occult texts they found in the Gilmore farmhouse--Simia Daemon Futurus (Latin for "The Coming of the Daemon-Kind") and Damanomagie (German, of course, for "Diabological Magicks"). What role will these books, and the increasing obsession of the two characters with them, play in the story?

CANNON: And there's the issue of the dreams--the Harbingers share an evocative vision of a carnival atmosphere gone mad, while Patrick Murphy experiences something very different. And Blackstone, courageous debunker, forces himself to stay awake the night through!

PATRICK: Gentlemen, I again remind you--these asides, interesting though they may be, draw us further from the heart of the story and time grows short. Now, as Mr. King was saying, Scarlett Warren displays a penchant for charming young men when she convinces a mill worker to tell an unflattering tale about the Caughey and Doggett boys. Apparently, the two came across the body of a supposed "hobo" while on a hunting trip near Dunwich a week ago. They joked around and "posed" with the body before informing their parents, who in turn reported the discovery to the authorities. Sheriff Glasby and his brother James Glasby, the county coroner, arrived the next day. Dr. Glasby performed a brief examination and pronounced death by hypothermia. A day after that, the body was interred at the local cemetery.

KING: I quite liked the end of this chapter--a classic twist that drives the reader to turn the pages. Three of the characters end up at Dr. Glasby's clinic to question him about the body of the "hobo." He explains that the body was somewhat malnourished and dehydrated, that the corpse's hands were bruised and callused, and that a large bug-bite was visible on its left forearm. However, just as the investigators think they may be on the right track, Glasby suddenly announces he's remembered something important and dashes out of the room. The investigators wait patiently for several minutes and then decide to look for him. They walk outside and hear strange sounds coming from behind the clinic--and there is Dr. Glasby, on his hands and knees, covered in dirt, digging furiously with his bare hands and muttering "Gotta' dig!"

PATRICK: Agreed, an intriguing ending to the chapter, although one that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Why the compulsion to dig? What links the victims? Will it continue to spread? Is there a link between the strange events at the Gilmore farm and the events in Aylesbury? And perhaps most importantly, what are the "Harbingers"? Harbingers of what--or whom?

7:45 P.M. Chair proposes adjournment. UNANIMOUS.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Torchwood: "Sleeper" (S2, E2)

"Okay Beth, you make light bulbs blow, we can't break your skin, what planet are you from?"

Sleeper (Season Two, Episode Two)

("When a burglary turns into a slaughter, Torchwood suspects alien involvement. Who is Beth, and can she be as innocent as she seems?")


* Owen tricking Gwen into staying at the hospital, when in fact Jack asked them both to stay.

* The actors hired to play the alien, Beth, and her husband. Both made the most of their scenes, and helped to give viewers some emotional investment in what happened to them.


* Torchwood basically torturing Beth in the hopes that her sleeper personality will come out. Aliens have civil liberties too! Though I guess it does play into Jack's cryptic comment in a previous episode that he used to be a torturer.

* The scope compared to the budget. Sleeper agents trying to put together a plan to take over Cardiff (and presumably the world) needs to be a big deal, at least a two-parter if not a season-long arc, and it just isn't enough to see an evil mom blow up a building and an evil businessman try to break into a secret nuclear arms storage facility. In other words, the show came off looking cheap which it normally manages to avoid.


* The aliens' plan. Bear with me. The aliens have the means and technology to create almost-perfect human duplicates and transport them to Earth in order to plant sleeper agents. Why do they pick sleeper agents in roles that give them no access to important secrets or defense facilities? Further, we're told the idea behind stealing nukes outside Cardiff is to irradiate the planet and open the door to colonization--well, if the aliens can occupy an irradiated planet and don't need it to be intact, why not just nuke Earth from space?




* The challenges of adapting such a loaded script within practical limitations of money and time (the producers apparently think they succeeded admirably).

* The planning of the explosion of the building in downtown Cardiff.

* Discussion of Gwen's compassion for Beth.

* The actress who played Beth talking about what it was like to get shot on set.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fantasy Football 2010 Week Seven

The good news is I'm still (tied for) second place in my division.

The bad news is I got creamed again. Bad. By The Wife.

I lost 69-112, and it would have been worse if her starting QB (Tony Romo) hadn't been injured early in the Monday night game. I had four players score in double-digits which sounds good, but then I also had four players score less than five points each. Ryan Mathews has continued to under-perform at RB and my QB Tom Brady hasn't really been stellar. I guess I'm lucky my kicker, Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders, got to kick seven extra points in their mauling of the Broncos.

Speaking of the Raiders, I lost by 43 points. Can you guess how many points Oakland RB Darren McFadden scored for The Wife's team? 43.

Next week looks like trouble too, as my two consistently-producing starting running backs (Peyton Hillis and Ahmad Bradshaw) are on byes. That means I'm stuck with Ryan Mathews again, and have had to go to waivers to pick up the Patriots' Danny Woodhead (from Chadron State!). With Woodhead starting along with Tom Brady and Wes Welker, I'm putting all my eggs in the Patriots' basket.

Accelerated Sun Runners (69 Points)

QB Tom Brady: 10 Points
RB Ryan Mathews: 1 Point
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: 11 Points
RB/WR Peyton Hillis: 12 Points
WR Terrell Owens: 14 Points
WR Jabar Gaffney: 5 Points
TE Marcedes Lewis: 4 Points
D/ST Falcons: 1 Point
K Sebastian Janikowski: 11 Points

Team SuperLoudRupert (112 Points)

QB Tony Romo: 5 Points
RB Darren McFadden: 43 Points
RB Brandon Jackson: 15 Points
RB/WR Louis Murphy: 2 Points
WR Johnny Knox: 14 Points
WR Derrick Mason: 4 Points
TE Zach Miller: 12 Points
D/ST Ravens: 5 Points
K Stephen Gostkowstki: 12 Points

I know I've Been Watching Too Much Football Because . . .

while waiting to start teaching a class this morning, I overheard a student talking to another about "Kafka" and my first thought was "Mike Kafka, the Eagles third-string quarterback?"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Buffy Comic Project: "Love Sick Blues"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 14

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Andi Watson (writer), Cliff Richards (penciller), Joe Pimental (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Angel, Spike, Drusilla, Willow, Xander, Oz, Giles, Cordelia

Major Original Characters: Todd Dahl (singer), Selke (vampire), Dr. Flitter (Selke's aide)

Summary: After Buffy saves him from a vampire attack, dooshbag musician Todd Dahl falls madly in love with her. He begins following her around, sending her gifts, etc., much to Buffy's dismay. Her problem is conveniently solved, however, when some of Selke's super-charged vampire cronies kill Todd. Guilt ensues. Meanwhile, Spike and Drusilla have come to town to watch the Selke-Buffy fight play itself out. And as for Selke, she has her pet doctor perform an occult ritual to create an evil duplicate of Buffy; but the strange brew doesn't ferment and all that happens is a puddle of slime.

Review: It's great to see Spike and Dru make their first appearance in the main Buffy book, even if they don't do a lot. Selke as a recurring villain still isn't particularly interesting, nor is there a sense that the series is building towards a big confrontation. Dialogue and characterization-wise, the Scoobies seem well handled, but the trademark Joss Whedon wit is missing. In other words, it's all kinda okay without ever being awesome.


* It's never really explained why Dr. Flitter's evil-Buffy experiment fails.

* It looks like Spike & Dru try to poison the special blood Selke uses to make herself and minions stronger.

* Not sure what to think about the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Collectible Bears." On the one hand, they're kinda cute. On the other, they're perfectly generic and very much in the vein of "slap any old logo on a fuzzy bear and wait for collectors to snap them up."

Next Issue

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign: A'tel Por'Ten, Jedi Poet

A'tel was a Jedi PC that joined the group at the beginning of the crucial City of Sand storyline. The character added an interesting element to the group, because he was idealistic, heroic, and even prone to oratory and poet writing--in all respects, different than the other PCs that then made up the group. This created some excellent role-playing opportunities, even if the other, more cynical PCs seemed to think of him as a "naive kid brother."

The character got a chance to shine during the Hostile Takeover story-arc set in the Corporate Sector. A'tel's brother, Garritt Por'Ten, lured him and the other PCs there to continue a long sibling rivalry. A'tel managed to defeat his brother in a duel (which a little help from some friends) and lead a successful attack on a fortified Separatist encampment at the Joriander Beacon.

As time went on in the campaign, A'tel seemed to lose some of his initial faith in the Republic and drifted from cause to cause: the Jedi Order, Clones, his friends, and more. In a shocking turning point, the character decided to voluntarily undergo the Acceleration process at a forgotten Arkanian colony. A'tel was reborn as a vastly more powerful and intelligent being, but also one inhuman and soulless. In his new incarnation, the being formerly known as A'tel only wanted one thing: complete mastery of the Force.

A'tel Por'Ten
Level 12 Jedi Knight

Human Male, Age 20, Height: 1.9 m, Weight: 73 kg

Strength: 12 (+1)

Dexterity: 16 (+3)

Constitution: 15 (+2)

Intelligence: 14 (+2)

Wisdom: 16 (+3)

Charisma: 12 (+1)

Fort. Defence: 16 (house rule), 26 (normal)

Reflex Defence: 17 (house rule), 27 (normal)

Will Defence: 15 (house rule), 25 (normal)

Hit Points: 99

Damage Threshold: 26

Speed: 6

Initiative: +12

Force Points: 6

Languages: Basic

Combat: Lightsaber + 14, d. 2d8+8; Combat Gloves +11, d. 1d6+4

Skills: Acrobatics +14, Climb +7, Deception +7, Endurance +8, Gather Information +7, Initiative +14, Jump +7, Knowledge (Jedi Lore) + 13, Mechanics +8, Perception +9, Persuasion +7, Pilot +9, Ride +9, Stealth +9, Survival +9, Swim +7, Treat Injury +9, Use Computer +8, Use the Force +13

Talents: Weapon Specialization (lightsaber), Battle Meditation, Forceful Warrior, Lightsaber Defence, Build Lightsaber, Ataru Lightsaber Form, Force Point Recovery

Feats: Force Sensitivity, Weapon Proficiency (lightsaber), Weapon Proficiency (simple), Martial Arts I, Acrobatic Strike, Force Training, Weapon Focus (lightsaber), Strong in the Force

Force Powers: Battle Strike, Force Stun, Surge, Force Thrust

Equipment: Lightsaber, Combat Gloves, Comlink, Pocket Scrambler, Code Cylinder, Datapad, Aquata Breather, Breath Mask, Electrobinoculars, Glow Rod, Fusion Lantern, All-Temperature Cloak, Synthrope, Binder Cuffs

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Fantasy Football 2010 Week Six

I had high hopes going into Week Six, since I was facing off against an 0-5 team. And then I got blown out (66-94), and fell to 4-2 and second place in my division. Starting Matt Ryan instead of Tom Brady was the right move since he did score more points (14 to 11), but it wasn't enough to make a difference. My running backs did okay (21 points total), but were outmatched by my opponents' surprise 38 points out of usually low-scoring players. My receiving corp also tanked, and one of my players (Austin Collie) got injured and will be out for at least a few weeks.

I'm putting Tom Brady back into the lineup next week and Terrell Owens will be back from his bye, but I'll have to play the Falcons D/ST instead of the Jets. The big news, however, is that I'll be going head-to-head against The Wife for Patrick-family bragging rights. She's lost some interest in the league after two straight losses, heedless of my words that a football season is a marathon, not a sprint. I will show no mercy.

Accelerated Sun Runners (66 Points)

QB Matt Ryan: 14
RB Ryan Mathews: 7
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: 14
RB/WR Donald Driver: 3
WR Wes Welker: 5
WR Austin Collie: 11
TE Marcedes Lewis: 1
D/ST Jets: 5
K Ryan Longwell: 6

Sacks in the City (94 Points)

QB Ben Roethlisberger: 20
RB Joseph Addai: 16
RB Ryan Torain: 22
RB/WR Brandon Lloyd: 7
WR Roddy White: 8
WR Percy Harvin: 9
TE Dallas Clark: 5
D/ST Chargers: 3
K Matt Bryant: 4

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cage (1992) [Comics]

In the 1970s, Luke Cage was the co-star in a long-running Marvel series, Power Man and Iron Fist. When the series was suddenly cancelled, Cage floated around in the background of the Marvel Universe forseveral years before being awarded his own series in 1992. The book only lasted twenty issues, and its cancellation sent Cage to limbo (figuratively speaking) for several more years before he became a star in New Avengers and other recent books.

The premise of the 1992 series is that Cage, recently exonerated in the death of his former partner, lives in Chicago and is a "Hero for Hire." When a new newspaper, the Chicago Spectator, needs a hook to distinguish itself from competitors, it offers Cage a sizable fee in return for getting the first scoop on all of his adventures. Fashionistas out there should know that Cage no longer wears the bright yellow open-vest shirt and headband he sported in the 1970s. However, and although I'm somewhat color-blind, I think he's running around in skintight purple pants in this series.

The first four issues set up some elements that recur throughout the series: Cage's poor relationship with his father, whom he thinks is dead; supporting characters like Dakota North (a private investigator) and journalists from the Spectator; and a mystery villain named Hardcore who seems to have insights into Cage's past. Hardcore is a weapons expert of some kind with an odd (Jamaican?) accent and is the villain for the first issue, while # 2 features Nitro, Tombstone, and a kinda-goofy limited time-travelling character named "Kickback" as antagonists. Issue # 3 is the inevitable guest appearance by an established star, intended to bring in readers from other books. You can guess what era a Marvel Comic was written based upon who the third-issue guest star is; today, it would probably be Deadpool; a few years ago, certainly Wolverine; in the 1980s, Spider-Man. But in the early 1990s, there were really only two options: Ghost Rider or Punisher. The Big P gets the call for Cage, and his appearance continues in issue # 4.

Issues 5-8 feature a storyline titled "The Evil and the Cure." Cage rescues a boy named Troop and is hired to find the kid's guardian. The search takes him out to Colorado, where Cage is lured into a trap by villains who have been trying to duplicate the "Power Man" process that made Cage invulnerable and super-strong. Even with the help of the West Coast Avengers, Troop's guardian is killed. There's some interesting mixture of current and flash-back narratives in this story-arc, and the big reveal at the end is that Dakota North has discovered that Cage's dad is alive.

Issues 9-10 involve Cage getting mixed up with the recently-escaped Rhino in a fight against the Hulk. A well-done slugfest between Cage and ol' Greenskin takes place on the Chicago El. Issues 11 and 12 see Cage trying to find the recently-runaway Troop, but getting captured by Hardcore. Dakota North and Iron Fist race to rescue Cage, but not before an old villain's son (Cruz, spawn of Bushmaster) steals some of Cage's power and becomes "Power Master." From the letters pages, I think a lot of fans were expecting a big deal out of the years-in-the-making reunion of Cage and Iron Fist, but the book didn't do a whole lot with it.

Crappy art begins in issue # 13. Was the writing on the wall and the Powers That Be decided to save costs on the book? Issues # 13 and 14 involve Cage linking up with the Tinkerer's son ("The Agent") to battle the Corporation. If my notes are correct, Cage's brother becomes a super-villain named "Coldfire." They could be wrong. Issues # 15 and 16 are parts of the "For Love Nor Money" crossover with Silver Sable and Terror Inc., discussed here.

Issue # 17 is an "Infinity Crusade" crossover, but actually has some important plot points. The Chicago Spectator prints Cage's real name ("Carl Lucas") and details of Cage's mom's murder by gang members are revealed. In addition, we see the first clues of a mysterious killer of homeless people, the resolution of which will see the series through to the end. It turns out the mysterious killer is an entity capable of possessing people and is named "Bogeyman." Yes, apparently an old Power Pack villain, but all the same fairly well-done here. Cage ends up getting possessed and tearing up Chicago. When he finally manages to break free,
he flees to New York and hides out with the Fantastic Four. Johnny Storm goes "semi-nova" and burns Bogeyman to death (or the equivalent). Cage is presumed dead by the mainstream media, and Dakota promises to help him "tie up [his] loose ends back in Chicago."

Cage is actually better than the standard super-hero comic it may seem at first blush. The creators worked hard to give some depth to the creator by telling stories about his family and background, and his unique angle, being a "Hero for Hire", could have had potential. Unfortunately, Cage is simply somewhat bland as a super-hero--basically, he can punch stuff real good and get punched real good. The character needs a certain attitude and edge to really come alive, and his more recent appearances reflect this better than the 1992 series.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Elak of Atlantis (Planet Stories # 4)

The fourth book in the Planet Stories line is Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner. The book is a collection of six short sword-and-sorcery stories originally published in Weird Tales between 1938 and 1941. Four of the stories feature Elak, a (voluntarily) exiled prince adventuring through a fairly standard generic medieval-Europe style land called Atlantis. With the help of his always drunken friend Lycon and the mysterious druid Dalan, Elak gains the thrown of his native land over the course of the stories after battling evil wizards and the like. The last two stories in the book feature a character named Prince Raynor as the hero, who has similar adventures assisted by a loyal (but always subservient) bodyguard named Eblik and a sword-wielding love interest named Delphia.

Despite the glowing introduction by Joe Lansdale, there's nothing particularly noteworthy or memorable about these stories. They are competent, straight-forward noble hero vs. evil wizard adventure tales, but whatever originality they may have had in the 1930s is definitely gone by now. For the hardcore sword-and-sorcery fan only.

After reading several, I'm pretty bummed with the Planet Stories line of novels--there's a lot less in the way of hidden gems than stories deservedly forgotten.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Torchwood Online Game: Mission # 6

It's been several months since I've posted about the Torchwood Online Game, but since the posts are apparently about as popular as anything on the site, I'll try to finish the game before the websites and links eventually die out.

When we last left off, we discovered that Natalie Blake had killed her twin sister Naomi and geneticist Fischer on behalf of the New Eden research facility led by John Winters, but was then mysteriously murdered herself at the Century Hotel in Cardiff.

The goal of Mission # 6 of the Torchwood Online Game is to discover the identity (or pseudonym) of the leak inside New Eden that had been feeding information to Fischer. The following documents are provided as clues:

1. An Internet access log of Natalie Blake, showing that, before her death, she researched some unusual stories on the BBC, looked up Wikipedia on twins and heart defects, and visited an usual website: The last website is password protected.

2. A newspaper reporting how mysterious figures (including one wearing an old-fashioned greatcoat) trundled a body into a waiting black SUV outside the Century Hotel (i.e., Torchwood recovering Natalie's body).

3. A letter from "Aaron" at "the Pharm" advising "John" that Natalie's nose-job should be performed by "Laura" (Laura Winters at the Venus Clinic).

4. A Torchwood autopsy report confirming that the body found at the Century Hotel is indeed Natalie, and that she was killed by a poison administered by the Pharm.

5. A note from Ianto, reminding investigators, as always, to listen to Dark Talk.

Dark Talk this week consists only of a long eye-witness account of Torchwood removing the body from the Century Hotel. I like the concept of a conspiracy-oriented radio show, and wouldn't mind seeing Abigail Crowe written into some flashback fiction.

Discovering the solution to the mission requires visiting the Blake Enquiries website (# 1, above) and putting in the password "Naomi". This brings up a video from Natalie in which she appears disoriented and confused about having killed her sister, blames John Winters and New Eden for planting something alien inside her body, and claims that the whistleblower inside the organization will use the codeword "Blue Sky" to contact her on the next episode of Dark Talk.
Thus, the solution to Mission # 6 is "Blue Sky"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fantasy Football 2010 Week Five

This week I won a relatively low-scoring affair, 70-41. Seventy points isn't enough to win a lot of games, but if your opponent does that badly then I'll take it. It was actually relatively close until the Monday night game, as I went into it with just an 11 point lead and we each had our D/ST going head to head (me with the Jets and my opponent with the Vikings)--fortunately, I got 16 points out of the deal and he got -2, so I ended up with a comfortable victory.
I had to start Matt Ryan and Austin Collie since Tom Brady and Wes Welker were on byes, and they didn't produce much for me, nor did my Packers TE, Jermichael Finley, who went and injured himself (some reports indicate he's out for the season). Still, I've already equaled my entire number of victories from last season and I'm tied for first in the division (the league actually has four teams at 4-1, two teams at 3-2, three teams at 1-4, and some poor bastard at 0-5).

For next week, I've dropped Finley and will be starting the Vikings' Visanthe Shiancoe. I'm also thinking of staying with Matt Ryan at QB simply because Tom Brady is going up against one of the best defences in the league (the Ravens). I've got a few players who are somewhat injured and still in the "will they/won't they" play status. The good news is that I'm up against that 0-5 team.

The Wife's team had its worst performance to date by far, and fell from perfection in a 68-122 rout.

Accelerated Sun Runners (70 Points)

QB Matt Ryan (9 Points)
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (8 Points)
RB Peyton Hillis (10 Points)
RB/WR Donald Driver (5 Points)
WR Terrell Owens (16 Points)
WR Austin Collie (4 Points)
TE Jermichael Finley (0 Points)
D/ST Jets (16 Points)
K Ryan Longwell (2 Points)

775 Socially Inept2 (41 Points)

QB Drew Brees (13 Points)
RB Arian Foster (2 Points)
RB Thomas Jones (1 Point)
RB/WR Mike Tolbert (7 Points)
WR Andre Johnson (9 Points)
WR DeSean Jackson (2 Points)
TE Tony Moeaki (5 Points)
D/ST Vikings (-2 Points)
K Neil Rackers (4 Points)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buffy Fan Fiction Challenge, Part III

The third and final installment of the Buffy Fan Fiction Challenge posed to me by The Wife has been completed (here's Part 1 and Part 2). This time around I read (most of) the nine-part fan fic Every Day I Write the Book, which sees Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Anya visiting London, where Spike is named Buffy's Watcher (!), but the evil Lord Ternis has spies within the Council and plans some mayhem.

I guess the fact that it's taken me well over a year to complete the challenge is proof of my general antipathy towards fan fiction, which I acknowledge is somewhat hypocritical since I've written plenty of stories about characters from my Clone Wars campaign. The fic I've read for the Challenge has never been bad--just weird (to me), since it involves such a divergence from established character relationships on the show. There's nothing wrong, of course, with stories set in "alternate universes"--indeed, the idea is a staple of genre fiction (Star Trek's famous mirror universe where everyone is evil, Buffy's alternate world created by Anya, the "Days of Future Past" stories involving the X-Men, etc.). The difference for me, I think, is that those stories are all told in the context of visits from the "normal" characters we're familiar with, whereas the fan fiction is very much its a product of an idiosyncratic view of the characters and requires the reader to accept certain premises (that Spike & Giles could become best friends, for example) that I just can't swallow based on how I think about them.

I can understand the allure of fan fiction--for writers, it's a chance to tell stories using characters that are known and loved, with the option to have them grow, change, or even die; for readers, it's a free, and (almost) limitless resource for stories about characters after the "official" ones have been exhausted (after all, there are plenty of people who can't afford DVD sets and published novels). Still, I gave the fic in this Challenge a more-or-less fair shot and I can safely say it's just not my thing.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign Recap # 41

This session saw a group of villains stun an old lady, shoot innocent technicians in cold blood, and set a civilian power plant to overload, bathing a chunk of the city in deadly radiation. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to the PCs. Were this D&D, I'm guessing "Lawful Good" would not be their alignment. As the director, I felt a little like Palpatine luring Anakin to the Dark Side of the Force. What fun!

Other highlights included: the idea of a Gammorrean being greased up with oil in order to squeeze through a narrow vent; an Ewok shooting down starfighters with his sniper rifle (I do what the rules tell me . . .), and, because karma apparently operates even at the gaming table, the player who shot at the bound, unarmed technician rolled a natural 1, and the critical fumble table indicated he had blinded himself. I had fun improvising exactly how that happened.

Devotees of the The Wheel of Time will recognize yet another swipe in the leashed Force-wielders.

Korkoth and the never-seen-again Blinky were NPCs given over to a player since his character (Krevlax) was (chronologically) still at the prison break from last session.


The battle for Mongui has begun. From their hidden base in a scavenging yard, the new resistance has split into two teams – one found surprising success in saving noted crime lord Bel Sekand from the hangman’s noose, while the other plans to destroy the civilian power plant. However, Marshall General Pedron Rhiall has faced setbacks before and ultimately triumphed. Already, his thoughts turn to plans for a counter-attack…
Having retrieved their possessions from The Rakish Charm, Arresta and Stefan Cassadine reconvene with Array, Doxen and Korkoth back at the Scavenger Yard. They review their strategy one last time: The Cassadines will make their way to the rendezvous point above ground, while the others travel via the sewers. Once they arrive, Array, wearing the armour of a Purity First soldier will attempt to gain access to the facility in order to open the blast door. Once that is accomplished, Arresta will make her way inside to handle the computer, while Doxen, Stefan, Korkoth and Array will hold the line outside. Just before they depart, one of Corinne’s resistance fighters, who is also secretly a member of Arresta’s personal intelligence network, provides her with an update. Arresta shares the news that Purity First has unleashed two new experimental weapons programs in response to the actions of the new resistance (the attempt to free slaves on the city’s outskirts, multiple attempted landings by unknown ships and the attack on the mining facility outside the city).
Arresta and Stefan make their way across the surface of the city. Given the fear that she might be recognized, Arresta dons dark glasses and pins her hair up to obscure her appearance. This appears to pay off when a passersby momentarily appears to find her familiar, but then turns away. Moments later, they notice a fleeing Bothan slave running towards them, with Purity First guards shouting for the civilians to stop the escapee. Thinking quickly, Arresta pretends to faint into Stefan’s arms to avoid assisting in the capture. One of the guards runs past to take down the Bothan, but the other stops to make sure that Arresta is alright. Once she assures him that she is fine, he departs. The Cassadines continue to the power plant without further incident. Once there, they meet a demolitions and computer expert that Stefan had privately arranged to join them. Arresta continues to be frustrated that Stefan has not included her in his plans and the estranged couple waits for their friends in an uncomfortable silence.
When Doxen, Korkoth and Array set out to enter the sewers, they must first contend with a stubborn manhole cover, which refuses to budge until Doxen contrives a make-shift pry bar. Once the cover is removed, a new problem presents itself: Doxen and Array can easily fit through the narrow opening, but Korkoth’s larger size will make it difficult. He grunts and decides to grease himself up with oil he finds laying around the yard and is thus able to squeeze himself through. The map they were provided by Lt. Jaarza leads them to a small crack in the wall which is again challenging to the bulky Korkoth. With Array pulling from the front and Doxen pushing from behind he pops through like a cork from a bottle.
On the other side, they find a fast moving river of noxious waste that they must cross to continue on their way. Doxen uses Array’s ascension gun to swing himself over to the other side, carrying a rope. The plan is for Korkoth to climb across the rope, but he is not agile enough to land on the other side and tumbles into the “river”. The current is powerful and he is instantly swept away from his companions. With Korkoth getting further away every second, Array bravely leaps into the river himself, and attempts to throw the Gammorean a rope. Unfortunately, Korkoth ends up pulled into a room where the water is collecting in a deep pool – and where strange ripples in the water indicate that he is not alone. Managing to avoid the tentacles that seek to grab hold of him, he finally pulls himself from the river – alive, but cut off from his companions. Korkoth contacts Doxen, but they are unable to communicate so he reaches out to Arresta. She tells him to find an exit, but to stay put so as not to reveal his location. She informs her husband that they will be a man down during the attack on the reactor.
Meanwhile, Array pulls himself from the river and joins Doxen on the other side. When they emerge from the sewer, they encounter “Blinky” the saboteur that Stefan had hired to assist them in the attack. Array, who is garbed as a member of Purity First, arranges for Blinky to carry his guns but finds his encounter with the newcomer frustrating, as the saboteur has a relaxed attitude which angers the serious clone. Doxen seeks out a place of concealment to set up a sniping position. Realizing that he would be best-placed inside an apartment, he enters stealthily and carefully stuns the lone occupant – an elderly woman who he ties up to keep out of the way. Just as Stefan prepares to give the word to commence the operation, reinforcements arrive for Purity First – in the person of a human guard, wearing a metallic bracelet attached to three cable-like leashes – each one leading to an alien who kneels at his feet, awaiting his commands. The team quickly decides that the “leash-holder” should be the target of their attack.
Array stumbles across the busy road, insisting to the regular gate guard that he was attacked by “Xenons” in the sewers. His story is swallowed whole by the guard, who escorts him inside. As the door opens, Stefan gives the word, and taking his wife by the hand, he dashes across the road. Doxen readies his weapons to fire once the attack begins and Blinky slowly makes his own way across. Stefan feints that he is there to deliver a code cylinder, which, when the leash-holder reaches for it, is revealed to be a poison-coated dagger. Despite being concerned at the odds her husband is facing, Arresta draws her slug-thrower pistols and dashes inside, where she startles the two guards who are waiting with Array. She begins to fire on the guards, while Array tries to steal a weapon. When that fails, Arresta tosses a pistol to Array and makes her way over to the computers to begin the hack.
With Array still inside and out of position, Doxen and Stefan are facing down the Purity First leash holder and his three Xenon prisoners – one of whom is revealed as a force user. Luckily, the two assassins are up for the challenge, concentrating their attack on the one holding the leash. When he falls, two of the Xenons die with him, leaving only a stunned Wookie. Blinky makes his way over and assists Stefan in removing the leash from the dead guard and unhooking the two dead aliens. Stefan puts the leash on his own wrist and waits impatiently for the team inside to finish their assignments.
Arresta and the newly entered Blinky work to improve access to the computer in order to send the reactor into overload. Despite her most grisly threats and a well-placed shot from her pistol, Arresta is unable to intimidate the technicians into helping them – they remain more frightened of Purity First. While the Princess returns to the computer, Array takes over and is far less forgiving – he kills them both. His vicious action has an unexpected consequence – a blowback of blood temporarily blinds him. Somewhat shocked, Arresta sends the remaining technician outside, warning him to say nothing to anyone. Despite her attempt to let him go, Stefan finishes off this last witness. Doxen, who has been monitoring the skies, spots incoming reinforcements and begins to fire upon the aircraft, causing damage even at that great distance.
Eventually, the computer is set to blow and, with Arresta guiding him, Array and the Princess make their way outside. Blinky hangs back, continuing to sabotage the computer area and the blast door. Outside, just as they emerge and rejoin Stefan, several IRDs arrive on scene and immediately commence fire. Although the lithe Princess is able to avoid injury, her husband and Array are not so lucky – nor is the wookie that Stefan has attached himself too. The wookie seems to take even greater injury and eventually succumbs, forcing Stefan to struggle to remove the leash in order to make his escape. While Doxen lays down cover fire and takes out the two IRDS, the others escape to the sewers.
Blinky finally emerges from the power plant and begins to make his escape above ground. Just as he begins to move away, there a sudden silence as the computer overload commences. Moments later, the sky erupts with a cloud of radiation as the civilian power plant is destroyed in a shocking reign of fire.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fantasy Football 2010 Week Four

First, apologies for sparse posting--teaching, finishing the dissertation, and being out of town every weekend (it seems) has made it hard to find time.

Another big win in week 4 (109-71) brings me to 3-1 and tied for first in my division. I'm glad I kept Terrell Owens (28 points) even though he had been getting few points in previous weeks (and I'm especially happy that, despite his great game, the Browns got their first win!). Strong production from running backs this time around, with Ahmad Bradshaw (17 points) and Peyton Hillis (16 points) combining for about a third of my total. My big mistake, which fortunately didn't cost me the game, was leaving in Garrett Hartley, the Saints kicker who didn't play because of some mistakes in previous games. Next week I'll be starting Ryan Longwell (Minnesota) in his place, and adding some subs in since Tom Brady & Wes Welker are on byes.

I'm not sure why, but my opponent's kicker, the Bengals' Mike Nugent, apparently didn't play either. Reggie Wayne (17 points) and LeSean McCoy (15 points) were productive for that team, but no one was outstanding.

And The Wife moves to 4-0, the only undefeated team in the league! Week 7 we go head-to-head, and I'll be bringing my A-game . . .

Accelerated Sun Runners (109 Points)

Tom Brady: 10
Ahmad Bradshaw: 17
Peyton Hillis: 16
Donald Driver: 14
Wes Welker: 7
Terrell Owens: 28
Jermichael Finley: 9
Jets D/ST: 8
Garrett Hartley: 0

Kentucky The Garrs (71 Points)

Donovan McNabb: 10
Cedric Benson: 6
LeSean McCoy: 15
Malcolm Floyd: 4
Reggie Wayne: 17
Chad Ochocinco: 5
Brent Celek: 8
Saints D/ST: 6
Mike Nugent: 0