Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Grover's Mills, Population: YOU! - Discussion Thread for the October 2016 Monthly Marathon

In no way is this image a metaphor for megalomaniacs potentially overestimating the size of their own hands
Just in time for the coming cold and flu season, it's a new monthly marathon!  Let's get to it!  

They're adaptations and spinoffs of HG Wells' The War of The Worlds, and they are coming to heat ray our souls into oblivion!

This month, we're watching:

There will also be a lot of listening to the Jeff Wayne musical here in the Geekery, and perhaps even a re-reading of Volume 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue - Episode #020: Knock On Words!

Episode Twenty of The Chippewa Valley Geek Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue is complete and can be found here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

This installment is all about stories and writing!  We're tellin' tales out of school (and occasionally singing into a can)!

0:00:00 Intros
0:01:22 The Up Front: On nerves of steel and the courage to tell stories
0:05:59 The Interview:  Publishing agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock talks about the world of pitches and queries, reveals her favorite storytellers, and takes on the Geek-del Test!

0:51:13 The Roundtable:  Monster Mike and Jetpack Jack talk about storytelling, misattribute famous 70's gangster movies and give readings from their favorite works of fiction!
2:33:34 The Community Calendar and
 The Monthly Marathon: Grovers' Mills, Population: You!

2:38:38 Outro & Credits
2:40:03 Bonus Track:  "Rocket Into Space"

Some Show Notes and Links!

Meet our special guest, literary agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock of Liza Dawson Associates!

Jennifer's guest post on Carly Watters' blog!


Gilmore Girls

Gossip Girl

Jennifer's Top 5 Storytellers (off the top of her head)

Follow up for more of our guest out at:!


Better Off Dead

Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence"

Curtis Hanson's "Wonder Boys" and Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys"


Izzy Stradlin  

What the World Needs Now


The Roundtable gives a lot of storytelling shoutouts to:

Shit Pitches on Twitter

The Roundtable Readings:
Jim Butcher's "Summer Knight"
Stephen King's "Salem's Lot"
Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast"
Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club"
Patrick O'Brien's "The Reverse of the Medal"
Vladimir Nabokov's "Pnin"

I also highly recommend the Dark Horse adaptation of Mike's REH reading in "Conan, Volume 13: Queen of the Black Coast".

Mike also drops some P.G. Wodehouse on us.

Then there's Lolita...

"Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose

For the record, Scorsese is pretty cool, but:
- Dog Day Afternoon was directed by Sidney Lumet
- The Godfather was directed by Francis Ford Coppola
- Scarface was directed by Brian DePalma

The final reading is from The Stranger by Albert Camus.

Luke Cage!

The backing sound effects used in this episode included:

-  "Pirate ship at bay.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Electronic music loop 2 M1", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Lightning crash.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Incoming Artillery.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Explosion 2.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.

I also cribbed a bit of the first episode of Futurama.

All apologies to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats

The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast 031 - The One Ring: The Darkening of Mirkwood - Session 17: A Gift For The Dead

Episode 31 of The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast is up and in stores near you (i.e. iTunes)!  

Remember: it's on a different feed from The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue, so you will need to subscribe to this feed separately if you're into it!

The game is The One Ring, by Cubicle 7 Games!  The campaign is The Darkening of Mirkwood!

Don't remember much about The One Ring?  Check out the Geek's game review of it here!

Or check out the TOR community forums here!

Here is Tales from Wilderland!

Here is Ruins of the North!

Check out the campaign's Obsidian Portal page!

And now a quick breakdown of our characters:

PC:  Denethor Lightbow
Player:  Nick
Culture:    Elf of Mirkwood
Background:  Diligent Defender

Calling:  Scholar

PC:  Fendegil
Player:  Monster Mike
Culture:  Ranger of the North
Background:  Solitary Vagabond
Calling:  Wanderer

PC:  Brand, son of Gorm
Player:  Jack

Culture:  Barding (Man of Dale)
Background:  Rediscovering the Past

Calling:  Treasure Hunter

Remember to show your love and support for the Geek out on Patreon!  Actual play episodes don't count for our Patreon contributions, so every time we play a game, you get a freebie!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Monster Mike Watches TV! True Detective - Season One

There are two things in life I dearly love...  One, of course, is bein' the Alan Trammell of bein' a sunovabitch. The other is "spreading the revolution", whatsoever that might be, any chance I can get - which is why my friends and associates often get unsolicited CDs or DVDs thrust at them with  little to no warning.

So, given the opportunity recently to challenge Monster Mike to exit his comfort zone stage right and take on what is, for my money, the best, most consistently good eight hours of television I've ever seen, I leapt at the opportunity and eagerly passed over to our own luddite grognard the blu-ray for the first season of True Detective.

I suppose I wanted to recreate something of the "bookclub" discussion from the Fuzzy Typewriter podcast's fantastic episode-by-episode discussions of the show when it first came out (sadly evidently no longer available from their archives). Besides the obvious character studies and basic mystery, the themes of the show - religion's role as a cult, systemic violence against girls and women in society, the comfort of nihilism in the face of evil - as well as the techniques of story-telling, narration and foreshadowing through non-linear plotting - all warrant a good deal of rumination and analysis in my book.  After I proposed to Mike that he not only watch the show, but also write out his thoughts and theories on it as he goes along for the blog, he responded with a disappointing "grumble grumble fucking grumble no fucking way grumble grumble Junior Wells".  

However, guilt trips and moping can get one a lot of things in life... 

So with no further ado, I present:  Monster Mike's True Detective!


Once again, Brian has forced a stack of DVDs into my hands with a command to watch them.  I have a hard time watching TV.  I have guilt when I watch TV.  It feels like a waste of time.  I have so many other things to do, and besides, it cuts into my reading.  Reluctantly, I agree, hoping I can just find the Cliff Notes version online and fake my way through this like so many of my college classes.  My torment is to be season one of True Detective.  Rather than give an analytical review full of hindsight at the end of the season, I'm going to just jot down my stream-of-consciousness observations at the end of each episode.  You have been warned.

Episode One - The Long Bright Dark

Okay, I'm watching it with my wife. I'm digging the music for the opening credits.  I guess I can bear an hour of this.

Two Louisiana homicide detectives are being questioned about the particulars of a case long closed. Woody Harrelson plays the role of Martin Hart, and Matthew McConaughey plays Rust Cohle.  The two are partnered up for a case involving the ritualistic murder of a young woman, Dora Lange.  There's an immediate tension between the two - they operate very differently.  Cohle is deeply insightful into human nature and finds a rich symbolism and deeper meaning in things, while Hart is more of a hard-working plodder.  When we get to the crime scene, I can tell this is going to be my kind of story.  The victim is nude, ritually tattooed with what looks like Eldritch symbols, bound, drugged and wearing a crown of antlers on her head.  Clearly, we are in for some shit.

I find the pacing of the storytelling a little hard to get used to. It simmers along at a Louisiana slow burn, with plenty of side plots and tension between the two protagonists.  In addition, it swaps back and forth in a non-Euclidean fashion between the live events of the investigation, and the years-later separate interrogations of the detectives where we gain some insight about what they thought of one another as people and as detectives.  My wife picked up on Hart's infidelity with the first subtle foreshadowing, so I have to consider myself suitably forewarned about her acute powers of observation.

Episode Two - Seeing Things

The investigation grinds along getting seemingly nowhere.  Weird stick voodoo teepees are discovered that match ones found at the crime scene as the detectives trace the last months of the life of Dora Lange.  It turns out that in the final month of her life, she was going to church.  But not nice upper-midwestern Lutheran church with green jello and hot dish, no.  It's some sort of weird bayou church instead and who knows what the hell they get up to.  Hart's infidelity is solidly established and the duo are threatened with having their case turned over to a governor's commission on Satanic activity.  They beg for more time and follow the victim's timeline to her stay at a swamp Bunny Ranch - kind of an all-hooker trailer park. There, they find her diary which contains references to "The Yellow King" and "Carcosa" - references straight out of H.P. Lovecraft that the investigators seem to be unfamiliar with - I thought this was a particularly cool touch.  The diary also leads them to her former church.

The church turns out to be a burned out shell.  As swirling flocks of starlings form occult symbols in the sky, Cohle finds a crude painting of a towering antlered figure painted on one of the interior walls, partially concealed by Spanish moss. Clearly, the screenwriters have a nice feel for how to end on an Oh Shit moment.

Episode Three - The Locked Room

I'm really starting to identify with Rust. He's an extremely Nihilistic, fatalistic atheist who makes some great jabs at the purpose and consequences of religion.  There's a feeling of a definite shift between who is the good guy and who is the bad guy of the investigative team.  At the start, Hart was the straight man saddled with an eccentric and unlikeable partner.   This notion was reinforced by the modern-day scene cuts where Hart is clearly now an older and more senior investigator while Cohle is apparently a part-time swamper and full time drunkard living in a single room behind a sleazy bar.   But the more that present-day Cohle talks, the more you think he's actually spot-on with all his fatalism.   Meanwhile, Hart appears to be a man in the process of losing it all - it's apparent that present-day Hart is now divorced and this is reinforced by the growing chill between him and his wife during the investigation.

Leads turn into more leads and Cohle's guesses turn out to be right.  Their visit to the revival tent that now contains the congregation who formerly worshipped in the burned-out shell reinforces the insignificant differences between truly evangelical Christianity and flat-out Cthulhu occultism.  The episode ends with a sneak preview of their suspect, a "monster" who we get a very uncanny glimpse of running around in his skivvies and what seems to be a gas mask right before the closing credits.  Oh Shit again. 

My favorite moment in this episode is Martin Hart's line: "You don't come here and mow my lawn.  I like to mow my lawn."   Both of these guys have great acting chops.

Episode Four - Who Goes There

Their investigation uncovers a hot lead on the killer.  The former cellmate of Lange's ex-husband is a meth cook.   All the evidence points toward him.  But Rust has to go back into his narcotics cover to get to him through a biker gang.  He works up a plausible cover - he disappeared to Mexico for a few years and has gained contacts there that want to trade meth for cocaine.   He digs up an old contact with the Iron Crusaders who seems willing to deal, but he wants Rust to act as a gunman on robbery they are going to pull against a drug dealer that night. Rust has no choice but to agree.

As one might expect when a bunch of coked-up bikers try to rip off a drug house in a black ghetto, things go south in a hurry.

In many ways, this episode felt like filler.  It was cool and exciting to see Cohle go back into his narco deep cover and immediately get embroiled in some messed up shit, but the real drama was when Martin's wife was notified by Martin's mistress of their affair.  While full of tension and action, it felt to me like this episode didn't really do much to move the story forward.

Ed. Note:  Hey folks, Brian here again.  I just wanted to drop into the discussion to say a few things in defense of Who Goes There.  The main plot does simmer a bit on the back burner while we explore some of Cohle's messed up backstory through a typical "quid pro quo side-quest" that gamer readers should understand all too well.  But if nothing else there were two big meta-moments that made this episode priceless for me:

A)  Harrelson's Hart threatening a bartender for information and, in the process, demanding of the series' author/creator Nic Pizzolatto (in a cameo as the barkeep) "Why do you make me say this sh*t,man?" during the shakedown.

B)  The six+ minute single-take tracking shot of the raid in the projects which (nearly) closes out the episode - an astounding feat of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination.

Alright... back to Monster Mike.

Episode Five - The Secret Fate of All Life

Loads of cool twists in this episode.  The legendary gunfight at the meth lab turned out to be a fake and both detectives had to live with looking like heroes for what was in truth a brutal act of murder.  But the real fun starts when we confirm that they didn't, in fact, get their man and the police detectives doing the interviewing suspect Rust Cohle of the crimes.  I'm glad they aren't trying to carry the interview scenes through the whole series.  I think McConaughey got the most mileage he could out of chewing the scenery with cigarettes and beer cans as props.  These scenes absolutely burn, but after five episodes, it was starting to feel like he was running out of things to do with his hands.

In the historical timeline, we jump forward several years after the "closure" of the case with Rust and Martin working successfully as promoted detectives.   While interviewing a murderer, Rust discovers that they did not, in fact, get the right man.   We also see Martin's home life painfully patched back together after the affair with his adorable daughters growing up and getting into trouble of their own.

At the end of this episode, my wife said, "I have absolutely no idea what the hell just happened, or what's going to happen next."  My own hunch is that this is just the twist between Act I and Act II.   Somewhere around episode 10 we will get the second twist and find out that Martin is actually the killer. Time is a flat circle.

Actually, the more I think about this idea, the more I like it. I think we're going to see a number of episodes where, in the present-day timeline, Martin works with the two detectives conducting the interviews to build a case against Rust Cohle.  Rust was confronted with evidence that he was near the scene at the time of later murders.  However, I believe this is a red herring of sorts.  My guess is that what is really happening here is that Rust has continued investigating the Yellow King and is getting close.  Episodes two through five dropped some hints that Martin's kids may be suffering from some sort of sexual abuse - They were playing with dolls and made a ring of clothed men around a prone, naked woman. Later, one of his daughters was caught making highly sexualized drawings at too young of an age.  And in their teen years, they both turn out to be troubled messes.   In each of these cases, Martin deals with the situation the best he is able, but is he actually covering something up?   Or perhaps it's his wife?  Is that also why Martin, after discovering the kids at the meth lab, rushed out to execute the cook?   Was it simple rage against child abuse or was he trying to eliminate a witness that could point the finger at him?  My money is on Martin here.

Episode 6 - Haunted Houses

In the historical timeline, Rust Cohle continues digging into unresolved missing persons cases linked to the Tuttle Foundation schools. He ignores his supervisors order to quit digging up these dead cases and is suspended after bracing the Reverend Tuttle himself.  Marty, who has quit drinking and has generally cleaned up his act for about seven years to mend the broken trust with his wife finally falls off the wagon and ends up in a bar hooking up with a formerly underage prostitute from the Bunny Ranch in Episode 2. Eventually, Martin's wife finds evidence of this affair and in revenge, executes the world's fastest seduction of Rust. And then confronts Martin with it. Needless to say, Martin and Rust have a falling out over this, which terminates in a fistfight in the police station parking lot.

In the present day timeline, everyone is lying to the two interviewing investigators including Martin's ex-wife. The episode ends with Rust flagging down Martin on the highway to talk in the present day. However, it's unclear whether this occurs before or after their interviews with the detectives.

Like Episode 4, this one does little to advance the storyline of the mystery itself, focusing more on the relationships between Martin, Rust, and Martin's wife. However, at the end of this episode, I remain convinced that Rust can't possibly be the culprit. Also, I actually checked the DVD case and saw that the series is only 8 episodes long, so the second mind-blowing twist cannot be far away.

Episode 7 - After You've Gone

Okay, now we're cooking with gas. The second twist is that despite their troubles in the past, Martin agrees to continue investigating with Rust Cohle in the present timeline after their interviews. Everything from this point forward is in the present-day timeline and plays like a test on how well you were paying attention in the previous six episodes. Rust opens up his storage unit and shows Martin the evidence he has collected, up to and including a completely damning VHS tape. This links up child abductions that were later covered up as "filed in error" by higher-ups in the state police, and a broader conspiracy that goes right up to a prominent state senator.

We learn that Martin had actually quit the state police a few years back and has been a rather unsuccessful private investigator since then. But he still has the contacts to pull old case files. There is a lot of good investigative work in tracing down the big man with the scarred face, but it's Martin, rather than Rust, who has the key flash of insight about "green ears".

The episode closes with the interviewing officers asking directions of a man who does mowing on public spaces for the parish. The same guy that Rust talked to back in episode three or something who was mowing the lawn of the abandoned Pelican Island school. And you see the scars on his face and his huge stature and realize it's him.  He's the Yellow King.

My daughter screams with indignation at the thought of being denied the final episode for another night, and we decide to plunge straight into it.

Episode 8 - Form and Void

Martin and Rust have found their guy and find where he lives. We see some of the domestic scene. He's got dad chained to the bed in a back shed. He's doing creepy sex things with his half-sister. The whole place is a psycho nightmare. And then Martin and Rust show up.  Martin gets into the house and subdues the half-wit half-sister and calls for backup from the state investigators. Rust goes into Carcosa itself - a madhouse warren of creepy shit overgrown in vegetation.   The guy has seems to have weird superpowers and seems to be throwing his voice at Rust, calling him things like "young acolyte."  Holy shit.  I am delighted to realize that I have been suckered.   I thought this was going to be some grubby investigative procedural drama, and it turns into some full-blown messed-up Call of Cthulhu shit.

We get to the room with the vaulted dome and an oculus open to the sky. There is literally a stick-man with tattered yellow rags. My wife and daughter are screaming.

Mind blown. 

Well, they get the guy but the cover-up keeps covering up. Martin and Rust are both hospitalized and have some great cathartic moments at the end. You can see that their futures are going to be about recovery from the trauma. Both of them show signs of significant SAN loss.

"What the f*** was that? What was that?" my wife and daughter keep asking as the credits roll. 

I shrug. "I dunno. Just some crap Brian asked me to watch."

So, yeah. A+ on this stuff. Great writing, great acting, and creepy as clowns.


The Chippewa Valley Geek - bringing families together!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Haiku Movie Review! Yoga Hosers

A Kev flick I could
share with my kid!  (Only slight

(What?  Were you expecting me just to give it an "Eh"?)

The CVG Interview Series: Jay Reiter at Clearwater Con!

Jay Reiter of Satyrn Studios was a special guest at Clearwater Con back in July.  Star reporter Caitlin Holcomb sat down with him afterwards for an interview...


Jay Reiter is an Eau Claire comic book artist, musician, and soon-to-be screenplay director. Following his appearance at the 2016 Clearwater Con, he agreed to meet for an interview.

Jay went to art school. Like most people, he changed his mind while in college.

“When I first went to college, my first goal was to be a drawer.  And I was terrified of coloring; I just didn’t understand it well.  Pencil and inking is very time consuming.  If you’re trying to produce comics quickly, you need to have someone else do part of it at some point.  Once I learned the techniques for coloring, it makes a lot more sense for me to do it.  College demystified the whole coloring process for me.  Once I started becoming more comfortable with coloring, with the software and hardware, I color and letter, get it prepped and ready to go.”However, he had a plan before he went.  Jay talks passionately about his future franchises of characters and the themes that are available to be explored with them.

“Well, I went to art school specifically to start up my own franchise of characters and (…) I knew before I started school that I had stories to tell. While I was in college I realized that I had a lot of stories with a lot of characters running around in my head, and college sort of helped me to compartmentalize these characters. That’s how my first franchise, Arise, was born.  I’ve always had recurring nightmares since I was a child about zombies and the apocalypse.”

The first three issues of Arise are out and available for purchase at Clearwater Comics and other local retailers, as well as from Jay himself.

“For me, I wanted to have a character that was an ass-kicking guy from day one, right out of the door. A lot of stories that have zombies in them are about normal guys thrust into an extraordinary situation. I wanted an extraordinary person that feels that the zombie apocalypse is a normal thing. I wanted a guy that’s not afraid of them right off the bat. (…) That’s where this Thanatos character got created. I wanted the notion of a guy who’s been prepping, kind of a conspiracy theorist, someone who thinks something’s going to happen any day.

“I’ve got some ideas for other franchises that I want to develop and create over time. Arise and zombies aren't exclusively what I want to do; they’re just a starting point. It’s ironic that it all started off during the zombie craze. That was unintentional, and in some instances good timing. Some people are sick of zombies, so it’s good and bad at the same time. Some people are saying, 'You’re riding the coattails of The Walking Dead'. It just happened that I was interested in zombies and that’s what was happening at the time.”

Currently, Jay is self-publishing with the Arise series, but will be looking to go through a publishing company with his arsenal of other ideas.

“It’s going to be my sci-fi fantasy franchise. There are six franchises I want to develop. Arise is available for sale. Descendants of Cain is going to be coming out soon; that will be about vampires, with a more adult story; Skullhunters is sci-fi fantasy, more like PG 13. I have two more, Techno Mecs and the Stone Warriors—they’re going to be really dependent on each other. You can do Techno Mecs without the Stone Warriors, but to get the full story, you’re going to need both. And I’m really into the Transformers, so if I’m going to have my own storytelling vehicle, my own franchise, then I’m going to have my own Transformers line. The Techno Mecs is that.  Transformers is about robots coming from a different planet to Earth, bringing their war to Earth. I don’t want Earth to be a part of that equation. It’s not anti-human, really, there just aren’t going to be humans in the story. It’s going to be about the mechanoids and their political system. I’m very interested in politics, so with these two I’d focus a lot more on the politics present in the story, the way their political systems work, and how to rule a civilization. The Techno Mecs would be a lot more civilized. Terrorism is going to be a big theme. Stone Warriors is going to be the opposite of that, kind of. Communism and “How do you live in that society?” Which is better, which is worse, that kind of thing. That’s going to be the theme, with robots and rockets and things that beat each other up.

“Skullhunters is more simplistic, but more morally complex. Skullhunters is a group of people, like pirates. Pirates meets Star Wars. It’s this group of pirates that go around and hunt things, right? So
imagine you’re a queen in a faraway land and you have a dragon problem. It’s killing your crops, eating your people, burning your villages. This dragon needs to be exterminated. So you put a bounty on it.  They’ll come to your land and kill the dragon to claim the bounty. And they’ll kill it, cut its head off, and clean off all the meat and the tissue and everything, leaving a nice, beautiful, polished white skull. And they’ll present it to you, kind of as proof to say, “We killed it, now give us our bounty.” And you’ll have a nice trophy that you can now mount on your wall. So in that storyline, there are complex dynamics of friendships, relationships; you have this group of strange people together that are always on the road, and maybe they’ll get irritated with each other. How much of a home life do you have? Maybe the ship is your home life. Maybe some people don’t like that. Maybe there are many skullhunters. Maybe they don’t all get along. Maybe they’re all fighting over the bounty. Meanwhile, while you’re trying to claim the bounty, you’re trying to calm down your teammates.

“The last one is Dream Phaser. This is the superhero book, guy with tights and a cape. I’ve always had very lucid, memorable, vivid dreams. Have you had the flying dream, where you can’t quite control it? I have memories in my dreams and so I learn each time; my dreams are progressive. I thought it would be cool to have this guy with a boring day life, but has these awesome dreams, and maybe he’s a superhero in his dreams; maybe it’s everything that his day life isn’t. With Dream Phaser, I wanted these powers that he’s learning in the dream world to manifest in the real world, and as this is happening there’s a lot of drama involved and all that. But as his powers manifest, his dream world is becoming more boring and bleak, and he’s not getting the sleep that he needs. It’s kind of like his kryptonite. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not able to function in reality.”

Jay writes the script, does the lettering, and colors the pages for his comics. But he needs someone to draw to make the process go more quickly.

“At the convention, there was a guy named Dann Phillips. He and I started talking and connecting; he’s got some great work and he’s a great artist. He’s interested in possibly working on one of the storylines that I have outside of Arise. He’s interested in a concept called Skullhunters, which is actually the first storyline that I thought of before going into college.”

Currently, Jay is working on producing and directing a movie. The script is heavy and the first few pages read well.

“The movie is called the Telemarketer and it’s a story about my life and my experiences working at various telemarketing firms. Telemarketing is a strange job. You’re calling people you’ve never met and you’re begging them for money for this or that service. You don’t know who I am. You don’t know that I am who I say I am. My job is to convince you to give me your credit card information. Is that ethical? Is that okay? That in itself is a story to tell. At the time, I was madly in love with a friend of mine. She wasn’t that interested in me. How do we meet in the middle? Do we meet in the middle? The fodder for telling stories is crazy situations that aren’t normal.”