Entry for July 19, 2006 — Pirates and calendar pileup

After my fun trip to metropolitan New York (see previous post), I still had Tuesday, 11 July 2006, off from work. Thanks again to Steve A.L., David I.S., and all those who hung out with us! Any apprehensions about driving into Brooklyn were dispelled by Steve's clear directions, and I hope to get back to the city of my birth sometime soon.

Janice also used a day of leave, and we finally unloaded our storage unit, which contained items salvaged from our basement floods of last October. She had a doctor's appointment in the morning, and I had a routine dental appointment in the afternoon. Although the Boston-area gaming group didn't meet, Brian W. and James B. stopped by to help assemble metal shelves and sort through numerous Lego sets.

It has taken much of the past week to unpack the various boxes of files, stationery, and mementos. I still have lots of comic books and gaming notes to sort, but at least the basement of our current duplex has been mostly dry, and our stuff is now stored either above the floor or in plastic bins. I've also had to reshuffle DVDs and art books upstairs.

Speaking of DVDs, Janice and I just finished watching 12-part "Flash Gordon" serials from the 1930s. It was interesting to see how so many of the conventions of space opera were established by Buster Crabbe, et al., and how, despite the primitive special effects and simplistic dialogue, each episode ended with a truly suspenseful cliffhanger. I now have gumshoe comedy "Keen Eddie" and other borrowed videos to catch up on, as well as the BBC's fine caper series "Hustle."

In other genre entertainment, I've been watching "Blade: the Series" in the hope that the horror/action television program would get better. While the expanded mythology from the Marvel Comics and recent movie versions is welcome (for example, dust from slain Undead as an addictive drug in Detroit), the attempt to mimic Wesley Snipes' style, Eurotrash villains, and weak dialogue unfortunately make it yet one more mediocre vampire show, IMHO.

Much better was "Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes," an anthology series in the style of "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits." The New England author's short stories have been adapted into one-hour episodes, and the first two were pretty good. The first, a riff on "Small Soldiers," had no dialogue, featured William Hurt, and was directed by Brian Henson, son of late Muppet creator Jim Henson. The second was a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. Although I don't have HBO, I've enjoyed the few episodes of "Rescue Me" that I've caught.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the summer return of the SciFi Channel's Friday night lineup, including the long-running "Stargate SG1" and spin-off "Stargate: Atlantis." As usual, "SG1" had the more compelling heroes and villains, while "Atlantis" had a more muddled plot. The revisionist "Battlestar Galactica" will return this autumn, and Janice and I have enjoyed the anime "Avatar: the Last Airbender."

On Saturday, July 15, Janice and I met Beruk A. and Thomas K.Y. at the AMC Framingham 16 to screen "Pirates of the Caribbean [2]: Dead Man's Chest." We were happy to escape the belated summer swelter in an air-conditioned theater. The swashbuckling sequel had fun action scenes, well-executed computer-generated monsters, and likeable returning characters from the first flick.

However, it ran long at 2.5 hours, focused on Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow rather than let him steal the movie, and had a thin plot that didn't pay off until late in the film. As others have noted, it suffers from "middle child syndrome" as part of a trilogy.

While enjoyable popcorn entertainment, I would rate "Pirates 2" only about a 7 out of 10, leaving "Superman Returns" my favorite genre movie so far this summer (despite disappointing reviews and box office receipts). We went out to an Indian restaurant for a late lunch afterwards.

This week, I've been busy with work, partly due to vacations, and I'm considering taking on a freelancing assignment in addition to my usual workload. I've also been a bit of a gadfly, following up on recent editorial meetings regarding intra- and interdepartmental communications. Despite visits to our office by an ice cream truck twice per week, I'm glad that the latest heat wave seems to have broken.

On Tuesday, July 19, I hosted and ran the first D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed.: "Drake's Port" superhero game in a few weeks. It went well: The current Player Character party, finally dubbed "Drake's Seven" (apologies to Kurasawa's "Seven Samurai," classic Western "The Magnificent Seven," and 1970s British Sci-Fi TV show "Blake's 7"), fought a sea monster. However, I now have to try to avoid allowing the six (!) costumed vigilantes from relying too heavily on more-powerful "named characters" from various comic book universes.

One role-player, James B., is trying to organize some one-shots for his nephew Joey, and some of members of our group have begun talking about the return to my D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" heroic fantasy campaign this autumn. In the meantime, I hope that we'll be able to get back to a regular schedule and develop "Drake's Port" and its heroes further. I'm also due to get back to the "City of Heroes" online game with Dexter V.H.

In addition, Ron J.K. will be visiting his folks in Brookline, Mass., this coming weekend, and the "restaurant week" promotion will reach Boston (thanks to Brian D.H., Dave and I took advantage of a similar discount in Manhattan last week). After years of discussing the idea, Thomas K.Y. has suggested a monthly outing to try various local eateries: http://thomasyan.livejournal.com/209155.html
As one of the instigators, I like the idea, but we'll see how my schedule works out during the next few weeks.

If you thought that my trips to the U.S. Southwest, Belgium, and New York have exhausted my desire to travel, think again. I have yet to get my airplane tickets for my planned visit to family and friends in Virginia early next month. Damon F.P., Dexter, and Carolyn M.P. have all expressed interest in coming up here, and Corbin A.Y. is scheduled to be in Boston in the middle of August. Stay cool… -Gene