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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Currently...

I thought I'd start a new feature here where I can list some of the things I'm reading, watching, etc. and say a few words about them. Assuming I like or approve ofe them, they'll wind up in the handy dandy new Amazon store I've set up with things I'd recommend to others without reservation (at least, when those things are actually sold on Amazon).

So here goes:

Currently reading:

The Crime Writer, by Gregg Hurwitz. Very impressive so far. I'm not sure where I read about this first, but I put it on my Amazon wish list, got it as a Christmas present, and have really been enjoying it. The premise is that the narrator is, himself, a hardboiled crime writer in modern Los Angeles. He wakes up in a hospital on the first page to find out that he's had some kind of major incident and that he's the primary suspect in a murdr.

The real trick here is that as he begins to find out what's happened to him and to attempt to regain memories of a lost, traumatic night, he does what he knows: He writes about it. It plays around with metafiction in interesting ways. I'm not to the end yet, but am thoroughly enjoying the ride so far.

I'm also reading Pulp Hero and boy is it getting me jazzed to run some pulp adventures. The Hero System really set the stage for great pulp gaming materials with Justice, Inc., years ago, and the latest incarnation, Pulp Hero, seems very meaty. It's hard to go wrong with a book that has a section header reading "Add More Yaks."

Steve Long is sometimes a bit long-winded and a little dry (I miss the zestier writing he used back in the days of Watchers of the Dragon), but the pulp background details and genre concepts are well-researched and interesting.

There's a lot to this book. Some of it (biographies, timelines, etc.) is more general historical reference that feels kind of like extra weight, but on the other hand, it's all very useful information for anyone role-playing in the genre and it's pulled together with an eye for what is going to be most interesting and relevant for gamers.

If you're interested in Pulp Hero, check out the Hero Games store (I could give you an Amazon link so that you could pick up a used copy and I'd get a small kickback from Amazon, but I'd rather that Hero Games got the money here). Some of my best gaming moments ever were at GenCon at the Justice, Inc. events. This is firing me up to play some pulp adventures. Big time.

I also picked up The Best of the Spirit from the library not too long ago. Wow. Will Eisner is a legend in the comic book industry, but not one whose work I'd explored in any depth. These stories date back to the first appearance of the Spirit back in 1940 and advance beyond. They feel particularly advanced and sophisticated for that era and laid the groundwork for a lot of stories that followed.

It's just a fun, fun read, and makes me wish I'd started exploring the Spirit earlier in my comic book reading life. On the other hand, the fact that I haven't read the Spirit up until now means that I have a lot of very good stories in front of me to discover, something else I'm excited about. I haven't delved too deeply into the book yet, but I look forward to doing that, and maybe picking up a copy for my home library.

Currently watching:

Through a combination of working on my book, a conflict with a show that Dina and I watched together, and timing, I ended up missing Lost season three, deciding to wait for the DVD instead. It was a long wait--I'd expected it to be released in September or so like the previous season, but when they decided to delay the season four premiere, they delayed the release of this DVD set, too.

I got a set for Christmas, though (thanks, Mom!) and have been trying to plow my way through them before the show returns at the end of the month. I'm not likely to make it (I've watched eight episodes so far), but I should be close enough that I won't fill up my TiVo with season four episodes before I can start watching them.

It had been more than a year since I'd seen my last episode of Lost, so there was a bit of a learning curve there (I wish that the DVD set had included one of those "everything that happened in season one and two in an hour" episodes), but boy howdy, I've been enjoying it. The characters, the setting, and the mythology are all just enjoyable as all get-out and I've really had fun with each episode so far. I've heard enough about the season to know that it ended with a creative flourish, so I'm looking forward to that. And I know it got some flack for being slow at times, but so far I'm not having any problems with it. Makes me want to pop an episode in right now and watch it...

Currently listening to:

Sophie Milman's jazzy, eclectic, velvet-toned new CD, Make Someone Happy, lives up to its name. I smile when I listen to it and it's just got some very nice tunes. I always enjoy "Fever" and her take on it strikes me just fine. I also like the title track and "People Will Say We're in Love"--the whole CD, really.

I heard Milman first in a profile on NPR and was intrigued enough to drop the CD onto my wish list. She's a Russian-born, Canadian, Jewish jazz singer. And she's awesome.

I highly recommend this one. It's good for quiet contemplation and for adding a little romance.

I'm a sucker. My buddy and I went to see I Am Legend and I was enjoying the music and Will Smith held up a CD and said that it was the best CD of all time and of course I had to have it.

The CD is Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Its use in the movie was a good, unusual fit and a good riff on the the names of the movie and the CD.

Of course, it is a pretty damn good CD. Can't complain about Bob Marley and this is a good overview of his greatest songs, perfect for someone like me who is buying his first Bob Marley album. I particularly like "Three Little Birds," but the whole thing is solid and good to listen to in a variety of moods.

That's it for today. Like the feature? Hate the feature? Let me know.

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