Recent Media 6/25

Prepping Dash-Dot-Dot-Dash, my article about the brainstorming stages of my minicon scenario.

I didn’t mention a few shows last time and I’ve listened to a few more. I wanted to listen to even more, but forgot to update my memory stick. Today I’ll fix that…

Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff #37 and 38: Solid shows and interesting topics, but I don’t think I retained much. Robin did discuss Hillfolk, and I appreciated the podcast. Speaking of which…

Hillfolk Actual Play, Part 1: Genesis by Nyerd. A fun session covering character generation for Hillfolk. Another rules light engine I’ll have to investigate.

The Jefferson Hour, Show 1026 Writing Styles. An interesting discussion about the craft of writing, both in 1800 and 2010.

The Jefferson Hour, Show 1027 Higgeldy Piggledy. A very interesting discussion about Thomas Jefferson and his rivalry with Alexander Hamilton. They are each interesting, and their interactions are even more so.

The Jefferson Hour, Show 1028 So Much to Know (6-9-13). A better episode with Kristen Hedger, veering into very North Dakota specific topics and histories but still interesting.

Recent Media 6/10

I’ve listened to less than you’d think, and the episodes have been less impressive than I’ve come to expect. The books, on the other hand, have been wonderful.

Books
A genuinely good, provocative book was The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A history of steam, industry, and invention. A very interesting book that ties a number of elements together as necessary preconditions for the industrial revolution. I particularly appreciated the details on pre-coke patents and how the change in standards–especially moving from “secrecy” to “legal protection” as the framework for patents.

The details of the development of the various improvements was fascinating; I hadn’t realized how inefficient the original engine was, and how many different improvements went into making the combustion energy efficient enough to drive a train or steamship.

For pure pleasure, it’s hard to beat Scalzi’s new Old Man’s War book, The Human Division. The world advanced interestingly; the perils of negotiation and diplomacy are a great way to expand the universe beyond a grunt’s eye view. (This follows the trend from the previous few books.) Jennifer warned me that the book ends on a cliffhanger… and threatened poor Scalzi’s life if he wasn’t at his desk writing the next episodes. So, hopefully he’s doing that. [I enjoyed the book and am intrigued by the mysterious opponents… I’m also looking forward to the finding out more.]

Podcasts
The Jefferson Hour, Show 1024 Etiquette (5-12-13). A conversation about a perennial thorn in democracy’s discussions. While the historical bits were interesting, the conversation never really escaped grumpy old men and “get off my lawn”.

The Jefferson Hour, Show 1025 Political Process (5-19-13). An odd mismatch; the guest host played up techno-wonder at our problems and solutions, never really addressing Jefferson’s (very predictable) counterpoints. Unfortunately, the net effect was to make the guest host look terminally naive and Jefferson look 200 years out of date. The problem came from both ends; Ms. Hedger has a great deal of practical experience with governing that didn’t come through as she delved into technological capabilities and the role of money bought too into the insiders’ perspective. To have a better debate, Jefferson might have been better playing up the inventor side, discussing with wonder the idea of observing the far side of the globe, etc. As it stood, he was able to dismiss modern complexities convincingly, but had no where to go after his “victory”.

This American Life 495: Hot In My Backyard About getting discussion of climate change “unstuck”; interesting, but not captivating.

Recent Media 5/7

It’s been a while, so I’ve listened to quite a bit and read a few books.

Books
Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. A good book with a good thesis to organize things around. Early in the book it seemed like he was trying too hard to hook everything into power, but it all fit by the end. A good overview. I learned a lot about Jefferson’s early life.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. A nice fantasy novel, with magic that’s costly. The setting achieves its goal; it doesn’t feel ‘exotic’, instead, everything just makes sense with a middle eastern flair.

Currently Reading: Are you my Mother? by Alison Bechdel.

Dice Tower 301 and 302–Fine as always; though the top 10 list of 302 was blah… in part due to the wide divergence in what counts as a “political game”.

Play on Target
Episode 8, Table Management Strategies– Wandering, but a good group of guys (yeah, all guys). Their solutions stay in the center and seem pitched towards traditional GM/player splits. Their positions are completely reasonable, if not broad.

Special 1– Great interview; Rite Publishing re: Lords of Gossamer & Shadow. It also had a good segment where Steve Russell admitted that kickstarter really does cut retailers out of the loop, threatening them.

Roleplay DNA Episode 21– Lots of filler to start the show. The topic was “Balancing Act”, balancing gaming and life. Unfortunately, over-gaming’s not an issue at the moment. The solutions discussed seemed tangential to the problem as my friends and I experience them.

This American Life
493: “Picture Show”. On “Mapping” as an intimidation strategy in the occupied West Bank and Painter Schandra Singh on fame and the world of wealthy artists. Interesting views; mapping’s intimidating force seems real and chilling.

104: “Music Lessons.” Okay, but forgettable.

Thomas Jefferson Hour
1020: Archaic and Evil. A discussion about Jefferson’s “tear up the constitution every 19 years” comment. Interestingly, that was tied to the length of 50% of the population changing over–it’s much slower now. I wonder if he’d stick to ~20 years, or still go with “half the population is new”?

1021: Military industrial complex. A threat foreshadowed by Jefferson’s fear of standing armies as a threat to free republics. The show wandered widely, but interestingly.

Recent Media 4/17

Recent Books:

I’m currently reading Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I’m currently up to his time in Paris, which is coming to a close. He’ll soon be returning to America.

Recent Podcasts:

The Dice Tower, episodes 297-300.
297: A solid episode, Fantastiqa sounds like a game I should play.

298: A great science fiction games list, with a guest who didn’t detract much from the standard “Tom and Eric talk about stuff” formula.

299: The talk was about GTS, the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas. It was detailed enough for nostalgia, but even with their lighter schedules, they were also exhausted by the show’s end. Unfortunately, their interviews were focused on designers, publishers, and distributors, so I didn’t hear much about our peers. And it sounds like the big presentation this year, on Kickstarter, was hopelessly one-sided instead of a decent debate. As they commented at the end, it’s unlikely that retailers’ fears were quelled.

300: The culmination of several weeks of lead up, the Coup was fun for the first few spots, and amusing for a few more. I had just about given up on the whole episode and was going to skip the whole week when they finally broke character and ended the bit. [I very much understand how once the contributors started pouring in spots, it became difficult not to feature their hard work. I’m glad they had the restraint not to give the whole episode over to their “April Fools Coup”.

I liked the rundown of Worker Placement games; it’s a category that’s more distinct than I had originally thought. I haven’t waded deeply into these waters, though Lords of Waterdeep did get held up as a great intro to the genre. Agricola is fun in the light two player variant that Jennifer and I have been tackling, and Keyflower also features a lot of worker placement elements.

Recent Video Games: I’ve been enjoying Starcraft [Wings of Liberty]; it’s taken up a couple of evenings a week for the last few weeks. I like the update; it feels like a faithful continuation. The single player campaign is a good storyline, and I like the illusion of choice that the branching structure provides. I just completed my first mission on Char… whew!

Recent Media 4/7

Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A great experience; I picked it up Friday night and read through it from an early bedtime straight through to completion. It’s been a very long time since I got a chance to just read that way…

The book is fun and light. It’s quite heavy on 80s nostalgia, which is a bit over the top (to me), but it’s there with reason. Benign dictators for the win.

The Dice Tower: 295 & 296 (Live at Total Con)– Fun episodes that felt gimmicky due to the live audience. It was fun and mostly formula; nothing particularly stood out.

Roleplay DNA Ep 20: A lot on gamer ettiquette; an expansion of their earlier Social Contract episode. It paralleled my Gaming Charters and Social Contracts in Detail article in noticing that there’s a lot that goes on that may be technically social contract… but is treated differently at the table.

The rest of the episode was a good look at “dream games”–stretching and trying something new and exotic, getting out of ruts.

Ask Me Another (w/ Jad Abumrad, host of WNYC’s Radiolab)– Fun, good puzzles, no thought required after the episode’s end.

This American Life Ep 490: The Disability Show. Though provoking, this was an excellent beginning of a discussion. Hopefully the discussion will continue; Kevin Drum’s post today was an excellent continuation of the discussion. [He illustrated that the disability trend matches 15 year old projections, which makes it unlikely that ‘gaming the system’ or recalculation of qualifications is that big an explanation.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour:
Show 1017 Lesser Known (3-24-13): This week host Steven Jager speaks with President Thomas Jefferson about some of the lesser known individuals of the American Revolution.

I was already interested in Abigail Adams, and this did a great job of reminding me to follow up with more about her and Thomas Paine. It also introduced me to a female author [Wolcott?] who wrote a history of the revolution during Jeffersons’ presidencies. Google isn’t helping me find her; it would be interesting to see what the American Revolution looked like less than a generation later.

Show 1016 Up the Missouri (3-17-13): This week host David Borlaug speaks with President Jefferson about Lewis and Clark.

Less big picture; this episode was two people enjoying a discussion about topics that interest them.

Show 1015 Interview (3-10-13): This week host Steven Jager interviews Clay Jenkinson and asks about his about his career as a writer.

This was a very interesting article, about writing versus being a writer, and introduced me to a man the both appreciate as a writer: though, again, google fails me.

Recent Media

Currently Reading: The Roman Forum by David Watkin. He’s opinionated, but that makes less inherently interesting topics (architecture and archaeology) engaging, encouraging you to form your own opinion even if only in opposition to his hobby-horse.

Dice Tower 294: A decent episode. I was amazed at how many of the games I like were from 1998–including Jennifer’s old favorite, Cities and Knights. (I think Suburbia may have passed it recently…)

Ken and Robin talk about stuff 25-28: All solid, all interesting… but not a lot stuck. I do remember realizing how erudite they seem… their vocabularies are extensive in a way I haven’t experienced publicly in a long while.

Roleplay DNA #19: Only two podcasters this episode, which worked well as a natural format. The topic was a straightforward one, Bank Heists–specifically, how little you can prep, how to prep flexibly, etc. A good topic mix.

Ask Me Another, Special Pundits Unit: Fun, as always.

This American Life 487 & 488. A big two part episode about Harper High School. The interviewers probably had several more episodes of material on the cutting room floor–there was a lot of interesting discussion, and some clearly sculpted storylines that could have gone very different directions with different viewpoint characters. The idea was simple–go to Harper High for a semester, which had 29 current and recent students shot last year, and see what life is like. The details, particularly the “auto-signup” nature of local gangs, and the chilling history of Terrance Green. It’s an amazing world–horrific on the edges, but understandable and empathy inducing. It’s crazy that the surrounding neighborhood situation exists, is understood, acknowledged… and insolvable.

TAL 489- Coincidences. A very light episode, particularly in contrast to the last two.

Wait Wait 03/02– A guilty pleasure, and much like Daily Show, about as close as I get to politics most weeks.

Recent Media 2-5

Books
Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. It turned out to be a good novel, set in an interesting time; I haven’t read a lot of revolutionary era historical fiction. The magic system is interesting, but I do wonder about the lack of limitations… as the final battle revealed. Still, it was good, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Thieves’ Quarry, due in July.

Directive 51 by John Barnes. I’m about halfway through. It’s very interesting so far; sympathetic to all sides. I do wonder about a department of the future and why it had to be introduced… though it sounds gimmicky enough that I can buy it. I like the idea of the mutually incompatible passions getting tied together into Daybreak.

Podcasts
The Dice Tower Episode 290: A solid episode.

TJ Hour: Episode 1007 – The Art of Power, part 2. I’m very much looking forward to reading the matching book; it sounds like a good generalist book with an interesting skew.

TJ Hour: Episode 1008 – Commonwealth: Mostly listener mail, with the first in a series of guest hosts. The first three minutes were rough adjusting to the new voice, but it went along fine.

Wait Wait: 1/12 and 1/19. They were fine, but didn’t really stand out for good or bad. It’s good to be past the repeats.

Nathan Lowell’s Talking on My Morning Walk 1-20: Vaguely interesting, but I don’t know him, so his offhanded references to his books are mostly lost on me. I won’t be downloading more.

This American Life #173: Three Kinds of Deception. Interesting stories, but not revelatory. It felt like a filler episode.

Recent Media

Books:
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold is a 1956 novel by C. S. Lewis. It’s quite good, and seems like a very unusual approach to both Cupid and Psyche. The self reflection, particularly of Orual, is amazing. He does a good job of capturing the inward directed nature of our thoughts and musings; Orual is convincing both as a relatively selfless person and as someone who turns her back on difficult knowledge.

Cold Magic by Kate Elliot. I really enjoyed her writing; the book was compelling through. Cat and Bee seem authentic as young women from the striving class in an industrial age analog. A nice job is done mixing industry and magic without stretching into steampunk; the airship that amazes everyone is off screen.

Dresden Files: Cold Days by Jim Butcher. (Book 14) A good continuation of the series; Harry recovers, and it’s quite a journey. The Winter Fae are cruel (as we’ve seen before) and complex; Winter’s deep purpose is revealed and its machinations threaten to strangle everyone. It’s very good, but leans heavily on previous books–after 14 books, I don’t think he expects you to start with this one. (It’s still very accessible, but more than before, it will lack depth and meaning without prior books.)

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. An incredibly interesting book, set in the real world, today. The lives of the characters feel realistic–and further from my experience than a fantasy hero. Engaging, amazing, well done.

Love in the Time of SeiĆ° was designed by Jason Morningstar and Matthijs Holter, and is based on Matthijs’ excellent game Archipelago II. It’s an interesting game–or at least an interesting, very bare bones, scenario. I can imagine it running for a long session, or a few short ones. The mechanics are mostly consensus seeking, hinging on application of six ritual phrases. Very cutting edge; I look forward to trying it. Online resources are available, so you don’t have to cut up your book.

I also read Hollowpoint, which was intriguing. It deserves another read; it looks to do hyper competence well, with a strong emphasis on violence and its consequences.

I’m currently beginning Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. Set in Boston, 1765, it’s a window on a period where I’ve done little novel reading.

Podcasts:
Dice Tower 289: The first non-special episode in a while. Several good games; a good comparison of super hero games [avoid DC, Legendary and Sentinels are both excellent].

Board Games to Go:
131 – An rambling session, mostly talking between friends about other friends. I came away knowing that there’s an online show called Game Night, similar to a less slickly produced Tabletop.

132- The first in a series, a count down of a top 100 board games, as rated by 60+ designers and reviewers. Mark Jackson was one of the presenters, a big part of why I picked this series up. Well done; I look forward to the top 85, which will come in future episodes.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff:
21 – Interesting; I particularly liked the first segment on Showing up to Play vs. Showing up to be Entertained. They also wandered into the fields of fudging. The topic was well covered, with divergent views.

22 – The discussion of the roles of mapper and caller was quirky, particularly as we transitioned to their modern equivalents. As usual, it was curious to see what dimly recognized things they’d shine light on.

Roleplay DNA, Episode 16 — Post-Apocalyptic gaming.
Handled unusually, with a particularly nostalgic bent; certainly no mention of Apocalypse World, and no real depth about Savage World’s Hell on Earth. Their theory, that apocalypse roleplaying’s often silly nature unleashes better roleplaying didn’t seem earned–or justified by their examples–but it wasn’t a bad podcast episode.

Recent Media

Just a quick list of things I’ve listened to of late.

Thomas Jefferson Hour shows 1002-1004:
Show 1002 was about a letter Jefferson wrote touching on his view of historical political rights, mentioned the Whig view of history, etc. A very interesting topic that the letter touched on were “Ward Republics”–a level of government within the county of about 100 families. The idea of extending democracy to such a local level is both inspiring and intimidating.

Show 1003 was a response to the Newtown massacre; emphasis was placed on pausing, empathizing, and not reaching for the stock talking points. Purely OOC.

Show 1004 It Came to Pass was a rebroadcast of the 2010 Christmas Special. This was the first time I heard it; interesting elements include a history of Christmas in early America, including its banning in puritan New England for 80 years, and differences in celebrating then and now.

This American Life
482: Lights, Camera, Christmas! 12.21.2012
Interesting stories about building extravagant Christmases, with a particularly interesting interview with a family that built personal myths about Santa, the north pole, elves, and so forth.

481: This Week 12.07.2012
A fascinating series of “day in the life” stories, covering the previous 7 days.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Episodes 16-20
All four episodes were strong; each episode is basically four 15 minute mini-shows, often with one self-indulgent topic (that is still presented interestingly), while the other three are experts talking about their fields. Weird research for roleplaying, system design and play, history, and many other intriguing topics filled the hours.

Roleplay DNA
Episode 15: Contract Negotiations inspired tomorrow’s Gnome Stew post. I really enjoyed the show, will be sorry to see Ron and Vern depart, and enjoyed the stories and examples that surrounded the theme. I hope it keeps going strong when the crew drops to 3.

The Paulcast Episodes 6-8
Episode 6 was an interesting interview of Meghann Robern. I enjoyed it so much I shared it with Jennifer.

Episode 7 was a talk about not-gaming and the path he’s been taking.

Episode 8 was a fun episode about buying experiences and trying out new things, hung on a trip to a brewery on 12-12-12. It was a great example of why I enjoy The Paulcast.

Exemplary DM Season 3, Episode 1
Good, not great. I’ll keep an eye out for their efforts going forward (which will be erratic, given their relocation to separate cities), but am not at all compelled to go through their backlog.

The Dice Tower Episodes 284 and 285
284 was a solid episode; it’s been long enough that I don’t remember many specifics. I only listened to part of episode 285. (I was listening, then we skipped to something else, and there’s no “fast forward” for podcasts in the car stereo system to skip the stuff I’ve already heard when it resumes.)

I’m not yet willing to listen to the stuff I heard once to get to the new stuff. In fact, I’ll delete it, since I’m a few episodes behind, and this is a show whose use to me is very anchored in time.