Almighty Kfish: Any thoughts on the cancellation of Hellblazer?
I, personally, am looking forward to the PG-rated adventures of John Constantine! I cannot wait for John Constantine to start talking like a mid-90s Pete Wisdom and call baddies “ruddy plonkers.” Also, when he defeats the Devil with the power of friendship, and then he and Superman go out for waffles and talk about their women problems. “How do I tell Wonder Woman – who I am dating – that I do not get the point of her invisible plane?” “Oh, Supes, you plonker, you don’t know nuffink, cos my lady Zatanna, she wears these fishnets all the time and then when it is time for romance, she takes them off!” Seriously, who will not love this?
Andrew Miller: Or – for something off the wall – a discussion of why Western pop-culture audiences find tropes taken from medieval Japan – ninjas, samurai, etc. – appealing, while tropes taken from other times and places – India before the English, sub-saharan Africa, the Aztec Empire, etc. – find so little traction. I have a pet theory it has to do with Japan being the one place where European imperialism was felt the least, but I wonder what your thoughts are.
Well, Western fascination with Japanese culture started out as a fad in the 1880s and never really stopped. That was when samurai first became popular with western audiences, and ninja followed shortly thereafter. This is mostly for two reasons. Firstly, samurai and ninja translate fairly simply to Western audiences because you can – inaccurately – just make them into knights and spies, both of whom were popular fiction tropes even back when Japanese concepts were first introduced. Secondly, your imperialism theory is fairly accurate – because Japan was never really conquered in the colonial era it remained exotic, whereas, say, the Mughal Empire were just the guys the British beat up and took India from, and it’s hard for imperialist cultures to really get impressed with the guys who they defeated. That was really why Japan became such a fad in the first place.
Miles: My group of friends have really enjoyed Through the Ages, if you have time for a Civilization-type game.
I don’t mind Through the Ages, but it’s not a “Civilization-type game.” Through The Ages is a tech-tree game, which is not quite the same thing. A proper civ-game has exploration, military conflict, a reasonably complex economic engine and a tech-tree. Through The Ages has a great tech-tree mechanic which is ninety percent of the game, then a very simple economic engine to power the tech-tree, dumbs down military conflict to “make sure you have roughly the same number of troops as everyone else, because the game favours the defender overwhelmingly” and has no exploration whatsoever. Oh, and of course it’s just yet another Euro that you win only by getting victory points, and although I don’t get offended by VP-racing like some gamers do, a proper civ-game should offer up more options for victory than “get the most VP.”
I much prefer the new Sid Meier’s Civilization boardgame (the one by Fantasy Flight) for when I want a proper civ-game experience. It is, to be sure, a bit clunky in terms of its rules because it tries to adapt virtually every aspect of the computer game series into a boardgame, but: it has a good tech-tree, exploration and board control is absolutely vital to winning, the military race matters a great deal, and it has multiple victory conditions. Also, it does the “each civilization gets its own distinct special powers” thing, which I am always a sucker for because I love variable player powers in games – they offer up so much additional headspace. So that is usually my civ-game of choice. (If I want something quicker and lighter than SMC for a civ-game, I will generally go for Olympos.)
Thornae: I’d like to add another vote for the webcomics thing – what are your current weekly reads?
Nothing earth-shattering – I tend to read webcomics in chunks-at-a-time rather than weekly. XKCD, Penny Arcade, Girls with Slingshots, and Chainsawsuit (which is the funniest comic Kris Straub has ever done, by far) are about the only comics I read as-they-come. No, wait – I admit that I sort of hate-read Menage a 3 regularly. I love Gisele’s art – it’s a near-perfect marriage of classic Dan DeCarlo-style blending-of-good-girl-art-with-Archie-storytelling and anime tropes – but the fact that every single character in the comic is a terrible person and the strip doesn’t seem to get that just blows me away. I mean, I admire the strip’s dedication to normalization of the broad range of human sexuality, but Gary is a pathetic, unlikeable wimp, Didi is apparently completely amoral, Zii is incredibly irritating, Yuki is basically the worst person in the entire world, and if Dillon were straight his neverending gay crush on Gary would be even creepier and predatory than it already is, and believe me I could go on at length. But the art is lovely, so I keep reading it and hating myself for it – and it’s not because it’s porn, because it’s not even very good at being porn because the decision to avoid showing genitals is distracting.
(Also, if the sound of someone blowing a guy is “mf mf mf mf” then – I dunno. All I am saying is: I have received my share of oral sex, and I would not say that “mf mf mf” is onomatopoeiacally correct.)
Al: Ever had to give a best man speech? Any good stories about it, or advice to give?
I’ve never been a best man, but I have made speeches at a few weddings as a friend of the couple, and it’s not really a forum to show off how dazzling and brilliant you are as a speaker, frankly. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Think of two or three good anecdotes in the neighborhood of “embarrassing, but not mortifying, just funny/cute” (you can invent details out of whole cloth if they make the story better, because nobody will challenge you on this), chain them together, say that you’re happy to see them together and explain why, raise your glass, done.