Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Chanbara is in Layout

I'm working on layout for print and ebook versions of Chanbara in my spare time. Unfortunately, the past two weeks or so I've been grading final papers for the semester (along with a few other work-related duties) so I haven't made any progress in that time. But it's coming along, if slowly.

I'm optimistically planning to get it all done during my winter vacation, preferably in January rather than February. I'll release the ebook as soon as I'm done with it, and once I get a print proof and decide it's good (with international shipping that may take a bit more time than I'd like) I'll release the print version.

I'll be selling it through One Book Shelf (DriveThruRPG), and plan to have a full color paperback version. I may also release a deluxe color hardback "collector's edition" if there's demand for it. But at only 64 pages or so, I don't think many people will clamor for a hardback.

Thanks again for all of your patience with this project of mine. I'm really glad I didn't try Kickstarter or GoFundMe for this. I can see exactly why so many one-person RPG projects on it are late or fail to come to completion.

Anyway, rejoice! Your chance to play old school style D&D with a jidai-geki twist is coming sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Star Wars The Last Jedi Review

Yes, I'm going here. Murky waters, I know. I saw TLJ a week ago, when it opened in Korea. My son was a little sick...he technically could have gone to school...but he took a sick day and he, my wife and I all caught a morning matinee. I've been thinking about it, and reading others' reactions to the movie, all week. I should probably go see it again, but it's the holidays, I've got a mountain of papers to grade, etc.

Now, as usual, I get people googling "[movie name] curse words" and landing here because of the title of the blog. So are there curse words in this movie? Nothing big. Nothing you can't say on normal broadcast television, just like in all the other previous Star Wars movies.

Next, my mini capsule review: This is not the Star Wars movie you're looking for. Move along. /waves hand/

Oh, Jedi mind tricks don't work on you? Fine. This is both a typical Star Wars movie and a totally atypical Star Wars movie at the same time. And I think that's why it's getting such a love it or hate it reaction from people. There are really two different movies being shown together. One of them I loved. The other was entertaining but frustrating to me. It's complicated, and that's another reason why I think some people didn't like it.

If you're wanting more of what we saw in The Force Awakens, you're going to be disappointed. If  you thought TFA was fun but sort of a let down because it was so derivative, you may just like what's happening in TLJ.

I'm going to avoid specific spoilers to specific incidents, but I'm going to have to give thematic spoilers in this review. So if you don't want your experience spoiled, you may want to stop reading here. I won't tell you any of the big reveals, but I will have to expose a few of the plot twists of the film in a general way. You've been warned. 


So first of all, we've got a story about the WAR. And it's apparently got all of the typical derring-do of the typical Star Wars film. Poe is leading sorties of snub fighters against First Order capital ships. Finn and Rose are sneaking around trying to get some macguffin to save the day. Princess Leia and Admiral Holdo are trying to keep the Resistance together against overwhelming odds.

Typical sort of Star Wars stuff, right? Except this is like a Coen Brothers version of Star Wars. It's like The Big Lebowski or Burn After Reading where a lot of stuff happens but it's all fairly pointless in the end.

Next we have the story about the FORCE. And it's apparently subverting all of the typical Star Wars stuff we're expecting. Luke doesn't act the way we expect him to act. Kylo Ren doesn't act the way we expect him to act. Rey and Snoke are pretty much as I expected, but the fact that Luke and Kylo go against expectations is what really makes this part of the movie stand out for me. And really, none of this surprised me. I'd heard that Disney threw out all of George Lucas's ideas for where the story should have gone, but everything that happens in this part of the movie follows logically from what happened in the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. And it was really satisfying for me. And in the end, this part of the movie felt COMPLETELY RIGHT for Star Wars to me.

So you've got basically two parallel and interweaving narratives. One sets you up to be familiar but ends up being unfamiliar. The other starts out seeming unfamiliar but ends up being familiar. And this tension between the two movies makes it stand out.

Yes there are plot holes. Yes, there are things about it I didn't like (more so with the WAR part of the movie than with the FORCE part of the movie). But in the end, I was satisfied with what Rian Johnson did with the movie, and where it's positioning things to head into Episode 9 (and beyond).

If this movie had been what everyone had expected it to be, I think in the end people would have started to see Disney as just milking the alien sea-cow for all the green milk they can get. This movie shows that they're not just out to make money off of something we all love. Some people, at least, have an interest in expanding the universe and opening it up to more than just aping the young genius of George Lucas and the original trilogy.