Friday, September 21, 2012

75th Anniversary of The Hobbit

This is the version of the paperback
that I'm reading to Joy right now.
Today marks the 75th Anniversary of The Hobbit, which was first published on September 21st, 1937.

As I have recently noted, I've been reading the story to my little three year-old daughter, and while that reading has been fraught with its own set of challenges, it's been fun and enlightening for me, too. Passages that, when reading to myself, I would've quickly read over and moved past, I've found myself having to dwell over to explain, and it's generated a new appreciation and outlook on the book that I previously did not have.

I also think I can safely say that, without The Hobbit, I'm not sure that I would have gotten into role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons specifically, or even fantasy in general.

I remember first reading The Hobbit over the Summer while spending a long "vacation" at my grandma's house with my mom and sister. I had brought the book with me, which actually belonged to my older sister but which she had long-since abandoned, and read it late at night using a flashlight.

What I don't remember is how I heard of The Hobbit originally, although there's a chance it may have been the Rankin-Bass animated version that aired on TV in 1977. I would've been between six and seven years old then (depending on when exactly it aired, which I don't remember). I also don't remember why my sister had the book and who bought it for her. 

In any event, reading The Hobbit helped to instill a sense of wonder and appreciation of fairy tales and fantasy in me. I spent the next few years in school, in 4th and 5th Grade, devouring Greek mythology, Aesop's Fables, and the legends of King Arthur, along with, of course, Star Wars. So, a couple of years later, in a completely different city and state, when I met a group who was into stuff like Conan, John Carter of Mars, Heavy Metal (the comic), and D&D at my school, I was hooked. The D&D game fit right in with my sense of fantasy as originally developed by the good Professor.

It's fitting that today, September 21st, also marks my birthday, so I raised a glass of ale to good Professor Tolkien at lunch today with my daughter and my mom, and thought a bit about how his simple story of a hobbit "in a hole in the ground" helped to shape a lot about my current life - I would not have the same strong group of friends I have today had I chosen not to spend my evenings squirreled away at my Grandma's house reading The Hobbit all those years ago.

Hanging: Home office on borrowed MacBook Pro
Drinking: Eagle Rock Double IPA at lunch about an hour ago
Listening: "Road to Benares" (Bombay Dub Orchestra Remix) by Thunderball

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick Status Update

It's been nearly six weeks since my last post, which is the longest I've gone between posts on Daddy Rolled a 1 since I started the blog back in February 2011.

Here's what I've been up to in the past weeks:

RPG Sessions. My last RPG session was, I think, the one I last posted about - our Friday night AD&D/Labyrinth Lord game of "Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth." After that session, we were going to take a break to play my friend Jeff's Warhammer 40k RPG one-shot in August, but that was postponed and nothing has been scheduled yet.

My last World of Samoth game was back in July - due to people traveling for work and vacation, and then the recent birth of one of my player's first baby, the Summer just got away from us. I'm hopeful we can get back to it in mid-October.

Other Games. I have been fortunate to play some other games lately - mostly strategy board games and some fun party-type games that are good "gateway games."

Back in July (or it might have been June), I went to a game day at my friend Wil's house with a pretty huge crowd - big enough that there were several games going on at once, which is cool. Lots of companies are sending him games to see if he'll feature them on his show Tabletop, so we get to benefit from that from time-to-time to try things out to see if they'll be a good fit for the show. That particular time, I tried a few new games, but one that stuck out was "Cards Against Humanity." It's basically a really raunchy version of "Apples to Apples." I'll be honest - it was a fun game... once. But, to me, it's much like the game Munchkin (which I really can't stand) - once you've seen the cards and how funny/wrong/gross/hilarious they are, the joke is up. The first time you see cards with subjects like "Daddy Issues," "The Taint," or "The Profoundly Handicapped", you laugh a ton, especially if you're drinking a lot and cards are mixed with a really inappropriate theme, such as "What I Brought Back from Mexico." But the second, third, or tenth time you see those cards... the novelty has worn off. I really do think it's a fun, gateway party game for people who claim "I don't like games" (and seriously, I don't understand people like that), but I don't see myself buying it.

We also played "Bang!" which was fun considering who the Sheriff was (you had to be there but she's a well-known geek-celebrity actress) and also "Resistance" which is somewhat similar in theme. Resistance has been explained to me as basically taking all of the strategic elements of trying to figure out "who's the traitor" of a game like Battlestar Galactica, and boiling it down into an elegant, simple card game. And I think that's pretty accurate. The main downside of Resistance is that it really plays best with 10 people, and it's not often that we get a group together that's that large.

The main non-roleplaying game that I'm into now is "Tribune," which my friends Cal & Raellen introduced us to. We've probably played that the most over the past few months. It's a strategy game to become "The First Among Equals" in ancient Rome, and features some really creative uses of a lot of different mechanics, including auctions, card drafting, worker placement, and more. I've actually only ever played it with the expansion, so I don't know how the base game plays by itself, but from what I can tell, the expansion adds a whole other element to the game that, it would seem, would make the base game a little bit lacking. One thing that I really like about Tribune is that players are playing toward achieving a certain number of victory conditions, but there's a large list to choose from, so as the game progresses, your strategy has to continually adapt in order to deal with the cards you get, the bids you win/lose, the factions you take over (or lose), etc. From round to round, you can't always count on being able to do what you planned to do. It keeps you on your toes.

Television. So far, the only genre show we're tempted to watch for the new Fall season is "Revolution" on NBC. We TiVo'd the first episode but have yet to watch it. Any of you watch it yet? How is it? The post-apocalyptic setting appealed to me, but then I've heard sources at NBC trying to distance themselves from saying it was a post-apocalyptic show, so I'm not sure what to think.

We still have four more episodes left of "Falling Skies," but I do have to say that I've liked this season better than the first season.

Reading. I've been slogging my way through Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I'm not sure why it's taking me so long to get through this book, but I just can't seem to get into it as much as I thought I would. I like Gilsdorf's columns that he writes for various different media outlets, so I was looking forward to reading this longer version of his re-introduction to, and acceptance of, his geek side. It could be that due to long lapses between reading, it's just not hanging together and I have no urge to really continue, but I'm close enough to the end that I'll eventually finish it.

Comics. I've really gotten back into comics lately in quite a big way. As you know if you read the my blog, I mainly stick to graphic novels of outside-continuity stories, but DC's New 52 did intrigue me, even though I avoided reading the first year of issues mainly because, as I've noted before, I hate change in comics.

However, I took the plunge and dipped into the New 52 with the trade volume collection of the first six issues of Justice League. I picked it up on-sale and finally read it. I had a thought that maybe, as a story featuring the central characters of the DC Universe, I could sort of follow along of what was happening in the Universe without committing to a bunch of different books.

That ship has since sailed, and I ended up picking up the trade collections of Batman and Detective Comics and have Flash and Justice League: Dark on order when they are published. I've also been reading the monthly titles of Earth 2, Worlds' Finest, and picked up Issue 0 of The Phantom Stranger. I never really thought that I'd been back into reading monthly issues of comics after I gave it up back in the early 90s, so we'll see how long this lasts. I may just switch back to graphic novels and trade collections after a few months. But, for now, it's been fun to head to my local comic shop (which is actually the one that's parodied on "Big Bang Theory", although the two stores look totally different, but based on the location of the show, this stores fits it best, even though I know of at least two other comic stores in the same general vicinity) every week, pick up the new issues, chat with the staff, and browse through old back issues.

I'm also continuing to read out-of-continuity stuff, and picked up Batman: Earth One during a sale at my local Barnes & Noble offering "Buy 2 DC Graphic Novels, Get 1 Free." By fan-favorites Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, this is a slightly different twist on Batman's origin story, involving a very different look at Alfred, and a Penguin who is actually a pretty scary villain and not a source of comedy. If you haven't read comics in a while and are looking for some interesting Batman stories, I'd definitely recommend you pick this one up.

Geeky Daughter Update. My little one turned three back in July, and on the night of her birthday, we started reading The Hobbit. I'm using my old copy of the book, a very yellowed paperback edition that actually belonged to my sister and which I first read in the 5th Grade, around 1981 or so. So, aside from the cover and the two maps, there are no illustrations in this book, and I'll just say that it has been quite a challenge. Things started out quite strong, and at one point, with only very minimal prompting, she could recite the names of all 13 dwarves. But, after the novelty of me reading this to her has worn off, it's been harder and harder to hold her attention and I've gone from reading as many as five or six pages at a time to only reading one, or at most two pages. Joy gets distracted while I'm reading, interrupts me constantly to point out "Look Daddy! I ate all my cereal!" or "I hear Mommy!" and has lost the general sense of what is going on with the overall plot. In the past, I would just prompt her by saying, "Do you remember what's going on and what we read yesterday?" and she could give me a pretty decent summary, but now her answer is usually just "No." On the positive side, she liked the voice I did for Gollum (which I just copied from the Jackson LOTR movies), and she liked the scenes with the giant eagles rescuing Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin and Company. We just got to the part where the company meet Beorn and they're just getting ready to eat a meal with him. Joy did remember Beorn's name, and that he was "a big bear guy," so maybe she's getting back into the story. We'll see.

Joy's main likes these days are Disney Princesses, Tinkerbell and her fairy friends, ballet dancing, and "Kids Music" (she's grown weary of my jazz-house-alternative trifecta, it seems). She still has a pretty good grasp of who the various DC heroes are, but, as I recently noted on my Twitter feed, she just asked me "Daddy, is Superman real?" I have no idea what prompted this question, as she's never asked if anyone else is "real" (e.g., not Tinkerbell or Cinderella, etc.). It was pretty obvious that she was very skeptical about the existence of Superman as a "real" person, and yet she also recently suggested that perhaps we could "jump into the TV screen" to play with the people she sees on there.

Personal. Back in mid-August, my hard-drive crashed, and I eventually had to send it away to be recovered for a somewhat exhorbitant fee, but I needed it back because it had a lot of work data on it that I haven't uploaded to Dropbox (like all of my signed contracts and all of my archived work emails with attachments), and also all of my photos of my daughter. But, it's been a good lesson to me to have a new back-up plan for my data. I still don't have my old computer back yet, which is another reason that posting from me lapsed. I went out of town for about five days in August to a good friend's wedding in Washington D.C. and didn't bring my laptop with me. And most recently, I've had my second major and very frustrating sinus infection of the year, which basically knocked me out of commission for the past week. Work has also picked up with the acquisition of a new client. So, all of those reasons combined should hopefully illustrate why posting here has been sparse of late.

That's all for now. Most regular posting should hopefully start back up soon-ish.

Hanging: Home office (loaner MaBook Pro laptop, which has made me decide that I don't like Macs)
Drinking: Tap water (had a Rogue "Dead Guy Ale" last night, in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day")
Listening: "Something I Dreamed Last Night" by John Coltrane

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