Morgan’s Revenge Game – In the Collection

As a person who grew up around dreidels, I know a thing or two about poorly designed top games to keep kids quiet (I think two is the max though). And that’s exactly what Morgan’s Revenge is, a “game” where one spins a top and sees what happens. Gambling at its most basic and silly.

The package comes in a nice canvas, drawstring bag, with the name printed on. Apparently, they’ve trademarked Captain Morgan’s face though. On the back mine says “Fort Worth Zoo”, I don’t know what the relation is there since I’ve never been. As might be inferred from that I did indeed get this second-hand, and unfortunately, I have no instructions. Fortunately, the game is as simple as can be and if you know what the letters/numbers on the side of the top mean you’ll never forget how to play.

To play each player gets a number of coins (there are 12 included, half of which are silver and say “2” but should probably just be used as singles for the purposes of the game {and you’ll probably want more coins anyway if you’re playing with more than 2 players}) and then everyone places one coin in the middle. Each player then takes a turn spinning the top and doing whatever action it lands on. The six action are: take a coin from the middle, take 2 coins from the middle, take all the coins from the middle (and I think, wonderfully enough, everyone has to put one coin out at this point), put a coin in the middle, put 2 coins in the middle, and everyone puts a coin into the middle. So as you can tell it’s super fun and interesting… for children… for a few minutes. At least the top can be persuaded to spin well enough to be entertaining for a little while.

Actually, the production’s quite nice, and the coins are very realistic (besides having “copy” stamped in them) and weighty, being made out of real metal. And the nice heavy metal top is fun to fondle and spin a bit. It goes together well and fits nicely in the bag, but I suspect that, like me, people are really buying this for the coins, and not for any entertainment factor that may come from randomly taking coins out of and putting them back into a pile in a manner that is very similar to one many Jewish people know but never had any interest in actually doing. It’s a nice little souvenir if you don’t think much about it (like most souvenirs).

Cowboy Fish Finder – In the Collection

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are important. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make you laugh. Sometimes you can paint a dowel rod red, stick a black pipe-cleaner in the top, and stamp “Cowboy Fish Finder” on the side and you will be a genius. And whoever came up with this is, and it’s hilarious.

It’s really “Dynamite”

RPG LTE Supplements – 7-14-17

8 supplements, covering areas from item shops to spells, for RPG LTE S&S are now available at the download page, and can be found below. These supplements were previously only available in the printed Beta book, but are now here for everyone to try out!

Remember RPG LTE is still in beta; let us know what you think here: rpglte@dragoncompany.org

Animals, Vehicles, and Hirelings [Supplement 1] (PDF) Beta

Merchants and Stores (Expanded) [Supplement 2] (PDF) Beta

Potions and Liquids [Supplement 3] (PDF) Beta

Spells (Expanded) [Supplement 4] (PDF) Beta

Character Classes (Expanded) [Supplement 5] (PDF) Beta

Character Races (Expanded) [Supplement 6] (PDF) Beta 

Defining Key Terms (Expanded) [Supplement 7] (PDF) Beta

Empty Monster Stat Blocks [Supplement 8] (PDF) Beta

“Woodstock” Harmonica Keychain – In the Collection

As a man with many harmonicas who has been “playing” them for years (I made a couple hundred doing that once), of course I would jump at the chance to have one on my keychain, which is apparently a possibility I had hitherto not considered.

Well, actually it won’t go with my keys. If I put every novelty keychain I own on my belt I would quickly end up with many times more chain than key, but it’s the thought that counts, really. Indeed, though, if you wanted one on your keys they are available from companies like Hohner, everyone’s favorite blues harp company, and many other, likely Chinese, manufacture’s who will engrave anything you want on to them. Mine says “Woodstock” and other than some nameless company capitalizing on a famous event I have no other explanation of why it says that, nor clue a about who made it.

Fortunately they (at least mine) do play, which slightly justifies their probably-on-the-high-side (but still cheap) cost, actually being made out of brass and steel with a plastic insert and held together by screws. I couldn’t get mine apart because, while I did have a small enough screwdriver, I didn’t have anything to hold the nut on the other end. Out in the wild they seem to last for a while on the keys, and make for a nice conversation starter/intro to your new “folksy” single.

Review – Bic 4 Color Original Pen

For as much as they are almost “looked down” upon in the world of writing implements, and for as cheap a product as they are, Bic pens are very sturdy and reliable line-making machines, with newer ink formulations making them smoother than any pen in the price range seems to deserve to be. Their simple and effective designs have endured the tests of time, making the Cristal ubiquitous, and others, like the 4 color pen, an oddity many have toyed with and some people swear by. Is combining 4 pens into one really necessary? Probably not. But does it have convenient uses for those who still write thing down? Let’s take a look.

The body of the pen is quite simple, with a retro vibe that probably comes from the design being relatively unchanged from its introduction decades ago. The main barrel is a light blue (or orange for the fine version) cylinder making up 2/3 of the length that begins to taper as it gets closer to the writing end. On top of this is a black band, which connects to the white top. This top section has a very “angular” molded-in plastic clip, a lanyard hole/rotary telephone dialer on top (rather intrusively), and 4 slots in which 4 plungers of different colors sit. When one of the plungers is depressed, a pen tip of a corresponding color pokes out of the front. Unscrewing the blue portion reveals that the mechanism here is quite simple: the 4 ink tubes (with tips) are situated equally distanced from each other inside the barrel. When one pushes the plunger, an ink tube is moved forward and bent via the barrel taper to come out the hole in the center, and a catch holds the plunger down until depressing another one causes it to spring back up. Unfortunately, the way things are constructed, the ink tubes are not replaceable, so if you run out, you’re stuck. The only other thing on the body is the Bic logo and “made in France” molded into the side of the white upper portion. It’s nice that it won’t rub off, but it doesn’t give you very much information to go on.

The performance is decent. The inks are quite smooth for a ballpoint, and don’t cramp the hand too much, but there is more blobbing than I would like and some of the lesser-used colors (like green) often have startup problems from dried ink on the tip. Despite being a shiny plastic, the pen holds well in the hand. Being a bit larger than your average pen to accommodate 4 ink tubes, it has more surface area to hold on to and it isn’t slippery. It might not fit in some smaller pencil holders, though. I’ve taken a look at the more common Bic colors before, and they aren’t changed here. All are a bit more wimpy than I would like, especially the green, followed by the red, but they go down well and are recognizable while having the standard ballpoint advantages like being water-fast. The clip is pretty bad if you ask me, having almost no flex, but it will probably do its job.

For art, this pen probably isn’t worth considering unless you’re challenging yourself. But for those that like stay organized with different colors in their planners, need a red pen and don’t want to keep track of 2 pens, or don’t want to run out of ink on the fly, this is a pretty good option. It’s got a nice retro feel if you’re into that sort of thing (understanding that it’s a little unprofessional) and even through it’s disposable, the materials are quality enough it won’t fall apart on you. For someone like me, who carries around 4 pens in 4 colors this might be a lifesaver. It’s not the end-all pen, but it’s a nice office-weight pen, designed to be inexpensive and get things done, which it does quite well at.

Book Review – How To Traumatize Your Children

How To Traumatize Your Children is one in a series of intentionally dubious “how-to” books by the publisher Knock Knock. Artfully called the “self-hurt” series, these books are put together like a standard how-to or field guide, but cover topics that one would likely rather not have happen. So it’s all a joke, kindof, and if you see the cover and think it looks funny, you’ll probably think it’s funny.

The construction of the book itself is very nice, with a plastic-y feeling cover that reminds one of water-resistant guidebooks or first aid manuals. It’s a nice size and it feels good in the hand, being both substantial and slightly textured, though it is prone to creasing, and when it does it is quite unsightly. The pages are nice and thick, with a substantial binding that really locks everything in place. The presentation is just really nice and evocative. I’m a fan.

Unfortunately, once inside things start to go downhill a little bit. The book is divided into 10 chapters, 7 of which are various types of parenting styles, bookended by an introduction and conclusion like this is some kind of essay. It starts off pretty funny, with an interesting rationalization for the book’s existence at the front and a nice step-by-step guide on how to traumatize kids in different ways. The first problem here is the graphic design: little yellow “bubbles” with competing thoughts start to pop up in chapters as little asides, but these quickly start coming in between connected paragraphs, or in some case in the middle of paragraphs, running the flow of reading into a brick wall at inopportune moments. And the second is that the joke gets old pretty fast, and the writer(s?) makes no attempt to get more creative with it as time goes on. While the book lists many “different” parenting styles, they all end up being described in the same way, and the list of effects they have on the children is essentially unchanged each chapter. There’s nothing new, it just keeps talking and talking and talking. If I had read the introduction, two middle chapters at random, and then the conclusion, I would’ve gotten all this book had to give me, and maybe even had a better experience.

It’s not too egregious, and I wasn’t frustrated or angry as I continued, but it just got boring. And for a book that is basically a joke, that’s forgivable. I don’t think anyone was really intended to read the entire thing. It seems more like something you’d leave lying around for when guests come around, or give as a gag gift (or get tricked into buying at a store) that someone will pick up, laugh, leaf through a few pages, laugh again, and then put down. And it does that quite well. Whether or not that’s worth the cover price is up to you.

I was disappointed, but only mildly. My expectations for a book called How To Traumatize Your Children were justifiably quite low, and this book actually surpassed them for a moment in the beginning, but failed to live up to its own promise. It’s a well put together item, with well done if… lifeless artwork, and questionable graphic design/layout. The contents are funny, but not too funny, and maybe at bit too cynical. It just left me really ho-hum on the whole matter. If you read the title and thought it sounded funny, this might be the book you’re looking for, but it really has nothing more to offer than that, and to some it might still fall flat.

Discovery Planet 10” Human Torso – In the Collection

If you’re as excited by scientific models of the human body as I am (that sounds weird), there are quite a few options to go for, some even ranging into the thousands of dollars. I don’t have that kind of money to spend (I didn’t even get my model new) so I’m gonna talk about one that’s quite a bit cheaper today.

The 27cm (10”) version of the 8 part human torso by Discovery Planet is the smaller of the two I could find (the larger being simply double the size). There are technically 8 parts to the model, but this includes the base and the main torso frame, into which slot/peg a heart, liver, intestines, stomach, and 2 lungs. Included in the box that unsettlingly says simply “Human Torso” is a small “manual” in full color that describes the basic shape and positioning of all the removable bits as well as some of the other “exposed” organs. Unfortunately missing from mine is a “Bonus Instructional CD”, but I don’t believe that has any effect on operation. The material is a slightly flexible plastic (vinyl?) with a very strange feel. It’ll probably hold up to some abuse from children even though it’s hollow, but then again there’s not much you could really do to it. Probably as a result of this material being hard to paint, the paint application is very minimal, but precise. It certainly doesn’t look real but it’s not all one color. Though, if I were a child I don’t know what I would actually do with it, because it’s more of a classroom “toy” than an actual one.

These kids are far too happy

This is backed up a bit by the company “Discovery Planet”, which is just a brand used by the Hong Kong import company Bowen Hill. Neither the brand nor the importer have a functioning website, but a few branded items can be found around, and there is an abysmal “Bowen Hill” Amazon Store that does sell science class product(s). This model is surprisingly still available in several places (Toys R Us for one but it can be found cheaper elsewhere), I suspect mine is quite a bit older, but there’s no copyright date on anything to indicate that.

My little statue will be going either on the shelf of weird things or the one of random artistic aids. I can see this being a nice, decently accurate model of a torso for a science class or drawing reference, and it was/is fairly cheap to aquire. If nothing else it’ll freak some houseguests out.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Truckiness

Dragon Co. has launched a Kickstarter project that can be viewed here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dragonco/the-truckiest-truck

“What is this project about?” I hear you ask. Well, have you ever been looking with your eyes, seen a truck and thought, “that truck looks really trucky, but is it truckier than the other trucks?” That is a question that calls out to be answered. And now it finally can be with this project, which will fund a website where photos of trucks can be submitted and rated by viewers to finally determine which truck is more trucky (may change with additional trucks).

-Austin

Book Review – Of Mice and Men (By: John Steinbeck)

I must say before getting too far into this review, that Of Mice and Men is my favorite book, and has been for quite some time. It probably has the award for the book I’ve read the most times, but for me “more than once” is a rarity. I’ve been using the book as a benchmark for what makes a good book since I first read it, but is had been some time since my last (subsequent) reading, and I felt I needed to refresh my memory. I must say I was not disappointed.

At the risk of potentially sounding more biased than I already sound, I believe I can safely say that my barometer for what is a good book has been reset so high with this one that I almost feel myself going “why do I even read other books? Couldn’t I just read this one again and again forever?” Even from the very beginning, which in and of itself is a master’s course in how to do exposition, I was wrapped up and engrossed again. Of Mice and Men does not wait to hook you, or need to spend pages of setup to allow you to understand it. At only a little more than a hundred pages it doesn’t have time for that. You are there, and it has you, and it will not let go.

The story is one of Steinbeck’s California workers’ collection, about two men: George and Lennie, who are working bucking barley in the hope of saving up enough money to buy a farm of their own. Lennie is big, strong, and “not bright”, while George is slim, quick-witted, and… harsh I guess. They were “kicked out” of the last place they worked at because of a misunderstanding with Lennie and now they’ve just come to a new place where they only have to keep a low profile for a little while in order to get their money and get out. Of course as the title alludes, these plans “often go awry”.

The rest of the cast of characters is pretty small (indeed, the book was meant to be half-novel, half-play, so it stands to reason): there’s Candy, the one-handed “swamper”; Curly, the boss’s son who’s “just mean”; Slim, the cool-headed team leader; Crooks, the “negro” stable-buck; Curley’s unsatisfied wife, and Carlson; a man who has a Luger (and a couple of other people there for convenience). Most are simply stereotypes, but instead of that being a “narrow-minded” or “easy-way-out” writing trick, here it is used as a way to introduce characters and themes without having to go into too much depth in the setup, allowing for more depth subsequently without bloating the size. For instance, Crooks isn’t just “cursed” to be black, but crippled, and his separation from the others gives him both a certain amount of freedom and a certain amount of dependence. And Curly’s wife (only identified as such) is a “flirtatious” “tart” but she had to settle for the life of a farm as opposed to the social life of an entertainer she yearned for.

With very few words, the stereotypes turn into people, understandable and empathetic people. One could suppose that there is an antagonist, and most would call our main characters protagonists, but in the end it’s just a story that happens to have them as the center. The book really gives the impression that things are happening because things happen, bad and good, to people, bad and good. There isn’t anyone malicious planning everything or being a villain “because”. It feels real, like you know these people and this actually happened.

And in my mind, my words don’t do it justice. I keep mulling over time and time again what exactly it is I have to say about this book, or how much there even is to say. really, and I come up with so many things that just never go down on paper quite right. It’s hard to express how much I enjoy it. Even with its flaws (both typographical and narrative) it just stands head and shoulders above any of the competition for me. It works, and it works as a story that is relatable on so many different levels for so many different people: for farmers, for workers, for friends and family, for planners and dreamers. It’s a cautionary and sad tale, but realistic. It doesn’t wallow about in its misery, it moves forward, as people tied to time are forced to do. Sometimes it’s a bit fast, and the transitions don’t always feel like they’ve adequately explained the amount of time that has passed (if any), but if picks it back up so fast after that little fumble that one barely notices it.

With my opinion already fairly obvious, I’ll say I’d recommend this book to most people. There are a selection of people who prefer very specific genres, books about non-serious topics, and who really don’t like less-than ecstatically happy endings. Those types of people I would not recommend this book to, but it’s not often I find one of them around. And even if one doesn’t enjoy the book it can be finished in a few hours and you’ll likely take away something major from it.

Blog 6-30-17 – About Face

Well here I am, back a little more than a month after the last update to give another one, as is custom for this type of thing, and I’ve made a decision that has been a personally difficult one to make. When starting, and during, my hiatus I was very adamant about not only it being a temporary thing, but something that would eventually “disappear” as I would work to make up all the content I had missed postin when I was on it. It’s more than a year later now, and while I have been working to catch back up, I haven’t been seeing the returns I’ve hoped for. My original intent was to just power through this section, creating both my backlog material and moving forward into new stuff. But, as many people who try to finish large project know, something like this creates a mental block. The sheer amount of things you are telling your brain it “has” to do dissuades your brain from doing those things, and as it puts them off, they only get bigger.

While I have been making some headway in this “power through” area it hasn’t been as much as I had hoped, and my “re-warm-up” phase has been much slower than expected, All the while things I was “supposed” to do kept piling up, and it got to the point where my mental resistance to moving things forward was preventing me from getting back up to speed. Looking at things now, it could potentially take me years to catch back up on a reasonable schedule (especially for a person with a house, job, and schoolwork). If I wanted to catch up by the end of 2017, I would have to do more than triple-time on my work, and that just isn’t coming from a person who wasn’t able to keep “regular time” for the last year. And extending that deadline only increased the mental block. Devoting that much time to catching up makes the brain think it’s failing, and that just isn’t good for work.

So the decision I’ve made is to “give up” on the idea of catching up. And that has been a possibility from the start, but it was shunned by my more optimistic side. Now the idea’s still there, and maybe sometime in the far-off future when I’m being super productive I’ll be able to go back and catch up on everything or something close to it, but right now I’m going to focus on what I can do next. Nothing is going to stop getting made at this point. In fact, I intend to increase my output, but I won’t be re-instating the schedule and might even make up a new schedule sometime in the future. My current new goal is to get myself back to putting up at least one thing a day, but none of this will be trying to make up for lost time, and there will likely be many new projects introduced.

And even though this has been a difficult decision for me personally (doing this essentially makes my last year a creative failure), I know that both my few dedicated followers and those many on the internet just passing by really just want more things they can read/view to enjoy, and that me making nothing for months at a time isn’t what they came to see, nor is it satisfying “artistically” for me. This will hopefully end up with a better arrangement for all of us, and allow for my various sites to improve.

I always want to thank everyone who has viewed (liked, and commented on) my content, and I appreciate the patience of those of you who have stuck with me. I’ve got a lot of cool ideas and new projects in the works that soon we can hopefully enjoy together.

-Austin

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