Science Fiction and Fantasy

Last week’s Who

Andrew Rilstone remains dedicated to his commitment to review every episode of season four of the new Doctor Who, even on a week when it wasn’t on.

Blather Comics Science Fiction and Fantasy


  • Wishing to fritter away a pleasant evening seeing a stirring action film that evokes innocent boyish enthusiasms rather than brooding over the ongoing frittering of the curdled youth of adulthood? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not the right movie for this, being all about middle age – which, for intrepid adventuring archeologists, happens sometime in their sixties. OK, it’s not all about that, it is also about the third big loopy archeological mcguffin, after previous movies tackled the Ark and the Grail. It’s obviously more self-indulgent than the earlier movies, and not just because special effects are much easier now than they were at the time of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it’s sort of odd seeing Harrison Ford constantly alternating between being Indiana Jones and just an old guy dressed like him.
  • Steve Jackson reports that Robert Lynn Asprin has died. Asprin was responsible for Myth Adventures (a humorous fantasy that I read in Phil Foglio’s wonderful comic adaptation) and Thieves’ World, the first shared-world anthology series – both of these were/are of great interest to roleplayers, I think.
  • A Michael Swanwick anecdote about Yeats:

    When Marianne and I were in Yeats Country in the West of Ireland, we visited Yeats’s grave and Thoor Ballylee, the renovated medieval tower in which he lived. Afterwards, talking with our landlady (who was a respectable, middle-aged lady), I said something like, “Yeats was deep into mysticism, crucifying cats in the graveyard at midnight and things like that.” And, very bitterly, she replied, “Aye, well, he was one of the fortunate ones. He had money. Some of us had to work for a living!”

  • Via Rob MacDougall and the Wikipedia-blog Meine Kleine Fabrik, a Wikipedia article on Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic, apropos Laughter – first the Joker, then his signature weapon!
    However, Wikipedia also provides us with caped crusaders to fight the clown prince of crime. If Spring Heeled Jack was a bit too sinister, his Czech analog Pérák, the Spring Man of Prague apparently fought the Nazis!
  • Dark chocolate can be dipped in Peanut Butter, I have just discovered. I am going to hell for this.


Vincent Baker is the guy behind the roleplaying game Dogs in the Vineyard, but in an earlier incarnation of his website he had a great rant/howto about making pancakes which I always found fascinating. IMO it’s a much more effective stab at sarcastic cookery writing for a geek audience than Mark Pilgrim’s “sarcastic chef” posts (1, 2) – although I wonder if there’s some master of the form both of these writers are referencing, and which I am not aware of because he’s not a roleplaying/hacking blogger.

Anyway, those pancakes. I made pancakes twice using Vincent’s recipe, and wasn’t too satisfied with my results. This saturday, with only eggs and flour in my fridge, I decided to try again, but perhaps read up on some other pancake recipes and howtos. And look it up on YouTube (this is my brother’s big cooking tip – find a video of someone doing it). Apparently, although Vincent makes a big deal about it, nobody else seems to separate their eggs, for example, although several sources make a big deal about sifting the flour. So I decided to play it by ear, although keeping close to the original recipe.

1.5 cups flour, sacket of vanilla sugar, sacket of baking powder, less than a teaspoon of salt, all mixed up. 2 eggs, some melted butter. Aarg! Will the hot butter fry my eggs? Oh no! Quick, pour some water in! Since I had no milk, I used cream (38% fat, the stuff you make whipped cream from). A whole carton of that. And some more water. And whipped the eggs and stuff vigorously, to make a lot of bubbles. Then mixed with the dry stuff, and added more water.

There are two kinds of pancake batter, apparently – my mom used to make the thin sort, for crepes. Vincent’s recipe is definitely the other kind, all for thicker and smaller pancakes. Unfortunately, he makes a big deal about the batter, and my real problem is always the actual cooking part. What is this griddle he talks of? What are these Americanski units of heat? I only know frying pan, and the only setting I bother with is High. That’s what is needed for eggs, for example, or generally, to make food actually notice it is being cooked.

Unfortunately, high flame and butter (you must use butter! a lot of butter! many sources suggest greasing the pan with butter between each batch of pancakes) means a lot of smoke. All the house filled with smoke. Perhaps, someday, I should give the medium flame a try. Except for the smoke though, it seemed to work. The only other problem is my ineptness in flipping pancakes in a crowded pan without flipping one onto another, or folding them, or generally making a mess. And there are those pancakes that go into the corner where the butter pools, and get a greasier, darker tint.

But overall, the pancakes came out fluffy and yummy. Or maybe it was not eating all day that made them so good.

Must experiment further.


Comics Roleplaying

Rise of the Geeks, Episode 3d6

Some filmmakers get their start making shaky home movies, others catch the bug in a high school drama class or maybe through an art institute where they put paint to canvas. Favreau has more of an eight-sided education.

“It was Dungeons & Dragons, but I wouldn’t have owned up so quickly a few years ago,” Favreau said sheepishly.

“It’s rough. It’s one of the few groups that even comic-book fans look down on. But it gave me a really strong background in imagination, storytelling, understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance. You’re creating this modular, mythic environment where people can play in it.”

Maybe there should be a new Hollywood respect for eight- and 10-sided dice and a talent for troll tales: Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert and Vin Diesel have all professed their passion (past or present) for the role-playing game.

Jon Favreau is the action figure behind ‘Iron Man’ – Los Angeles Times, via [ Steve Jackson ]


Iron Man

Saw Iron Man at the 2:15AM screening at Cinema City last night, and apparently we weren’t the only ones who picked that show for the chance to see it in the much-hyped digital screening at theatre 7. The digital thing certainly has lovely vibrant color, although theatre 7 has the unfortunate set-up where anyone standing in the back rows casts a shadow on the screen.

Anyway, Iron Man rocks. Although it’s handicapped by the straitjacket of the full structural formula mandated for all Superhero movies, particularly the firsts in a franchise – requiring an origin story, the establishment of a love-interest, and a final battle with a villain who is a dark reflection of the hero – it does all this with a lot of flair and a minimum of melodrama. The slow parts are compensated by the constant presence of Robery Downey Jr, who is such an obvious casting choice for Tony Stark that he seems to inhabit the role instead of actually acting it. Probably best of all, he brings across a strong sense of fun – Tony Stark was described by one blog I read as “Catholic Batman”, and there is the whole life-lesson bit, but it doesn’t weigh down the sheer joy of building and flying in the Iron Man suit. If the Spider-Man movies kept whacking the viewer on the nose with the rolled-up newspaper of Peter Parker’s tragedies and paralyzing angst whenever it seemed we were having too much fun with the thwip-thwiping around the skyline of New-York, Iron Man gives us a protagonist who is unashamedly enjoying himself as much as we are.