Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Neverending Story

The Neverending Story is a re-re-re-read for me. Insert a couple of 're's more. I think I got my edition when I was ten, I still own it and I've read it so often I've lost count. I grew up with this book and it grew up with me, offering new things to discover and to think about every time I read it.
Ende has been accused of escapism, for this book in particular. Allow me to quote Neil Gaiman:
"People talk about escapism as if it's a bad thing... Once you've escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn't have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality."
And this is the Neverending Story in a nutshell. Bastian does escape his life for a time. And he makes mistakes, he learns from them and he comes back. It's not a book about taking refuge in fantasy and losing touch with your life. It about fantasy and imagination as part of your life.

I'm not a great friend of the movie, it reduces the book to the bare bones of its story (not even the full story) and takes away pretty much everything that makes it so special. It's a nice adventure movie, but nothing more. If you have seen it and never read the book, you've missed out on such a lot.
Older editions are set in green and red print, with beautifully designed initials from A-Z at the beginning of each chapter. Do yourself a favour and look for such an edition.

Michael Ende's father was the surrealist painter Edgar Ende. You can see his work here and I highly recommend that you browse a bit, the painting and drawings have a dreamlike quality that I find fascinating. I don't know if it's intentional, but the character of Yor the Miner strongly reminds me of Edgar Ende. Yor searches for pictures from human dreams in the darkness of his mine. Edgar Ende locked himself in a dark room and came out again with ideas and sketches that got turned into drawings later. And the pictures Yor brings to the surface resemble very much the actual works of Ende's father. Michael Ende also wrote a collection of short stories based on his father's work, The Mirror in the Mirror. It's one of his 'adult' works and has a much darker, surreal quality than his children's books, but if you like Ende's works, you should give it a try.

1. book for the Classics Club
Reviews 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Endland: Glowing Lights

Here's the recap of the last session ... that we played about two months ago. Sorry about that.

The glowing lights are inspired by cave Glowworms, a gnat species that produces sticky silken strings with glowing beads as larvae to attract and catch prey. The strings are very strong and can catch quite big insects. It's probably for the best the grub exploded on impact, they would have been quite nasty to fight.

Endland will continue in November or December, I hope. We have found a third player. Having played with both two and three players, I have to admit that it's more fun with three. Not because my players are not excellent - I loved every moment of their roleplaying. But the dynamics between three or four characters are much stronger, in positive and negative ways. Much harder to get everyone to agree, for example. And it's always nice to have some more diversity in a group.

Book of choice: Nothing

Nothing has any meaning. And so nothing is worth doing. On the first day of school after summer, Pierre Anthon leaves his class with those words. His classmates are flabbergasted at first, then angry when Pierre Anthon keeps insisting that nothing they do or will do can have any meaning. After a while, his conviction gets to them and they decide to show him that things can have meaning. They start to gather up everything they think has meaning, but their first collection of old photos, keepsakes and discarded favourite things doesn't even convince themselves. The class starts gathering things that are not that easy to give up to make a mountain of meaning that surely must shut up Pierre Anthon - and their own doubts.

Some stories are like a train speeding towards a burning bridge. You just know that this is not going to end well, but you cannot stop reading. Nothing by Janne Teller is like that and it's not an easy book to read, but one that is very much worth reading. Just be prepared for it to stay with you far longer than it actually takes to read.

The book has been banned for a short time in Teller's native country Denmark, citing too much violence and the possibility that teenagers might become depressed and even suicidal after reading it. There is very little actual violence and while the story is very dark, I think teenagers should be given more credit regarding what they can and cannot deal with. Incidentally, Nothing is in the good company of Anne Frank's diary when it comes to getting banned for being too depressing to read. An argument I find rather ridiculous - unless you plan to leave your kid totally alone with what she has read. And then the problem is not the book.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Caleb Meyer

I love me a good murder ballad and this one has a nice twist to it.

I first heard Gilian Welch on - people make playlists for every imaginable theme and occasion there that you can listen to. It's a brilliant way to discover new music and it's the site I go to when I want to listen to music but nothing in my (huge) collection seems to fit.

Friday, October 11, 2013

7th Sea: Reunion

last time

The campaign is on Obsidian Portal. You'll find characters and more background information there.

Dear Marisol,

I still owe you the rest of the story how we found your mother and sister - we had so much to talk about, I'm sorry.
After we had found the empty cave, we called down the others and investigated further. Logan found some kind of mechanism that he believed to be of Syrneth origin or at least constructed using Syrneth technology. He wanted to search some more before simply trying out the mechanism. I tried my best to be patient and held back Ramon who had already reached out to pull the lever. Alain did pull it, to Logan's dismay, and opened a portal that showed us a tunnel leading further into the ground. Logan punched Alain for his, as he thought, foolishness. The technology used in the mechanism usually sets free uncontrollable amounts of energy, Logan has seen it destroy entire ships, and Alain had probably been lucky that he had just been mildly stunned.

Click for a maze of tunnels

I have to admit I did not pay much attention to their quarrel, I had better things to do. Alain stayed behind, feeling that he could not be asked to stay in Logan's company any longer until an apology had been given. While he had a shouting match with Logan, Ramon and I pressed on, overpowering two guards on the way. We found a system of tunnels, many of them closed by heavy iron doors or caved in. And we found another portal, so we turned back to get the others. In the meantime, Logan had found a tool to activate the mechanism without danger and had brought Lucia to our side of the portal.

We stepped through the second portal and found us in the upper storey of a tavern, unnoticed by the people drinking at the bar. A quick investigation turned up nothing of interest - except for the fact that the tavern was in Marcina. Normally I would have been eager to explore, but we had been following the noise from the tavern and had ignored a couple of tunnels. And in one of them we finally found Isabel and Alba, alive and unharmed. I was so relieved, I felt faint and it was a while before I was ready to let go of the two.

We took prisoner one man who stepped through the door, shouting at people and slamming the door behind him. Logan punched him right after that and he didn't have any time for a warning, so we had no problems leaving as quietly as we had come.

I had been travelling alone for so long - having almost my complete family with me was overwhelming. I think I was very quiet that night, I apologise if I seemed distant. I was just enjoying seeing you all together. It made Juan's absence only more conspicuous, but I have the feeling that he may be lost to us or at least to me. I could have forgiven him anything he did to me, but risking the life of his mother and sister, I don't know if I can forgive that. It may be better if we did not meet again.

Alba...well. She is angry at me and I can understand that. Her life has not exactly been easy, with a heretic for a father. She says she knows that Isabel and I wanted the best for her, but still. She asked to give her time and I certainly do not expect her to come around immediately, but I do hope she will, eventually. As for me, I will need some time to get used to the fact that she's almost a woman now. I missed so much of her life.

You will hear from me again once we reach Paix. Please give my regards to Frederico and Constanza. I promise that it won't be five years until we see each other again.



Now Marcello's travelling with his family. Isabel doesn't want to be left behind and Alba is determined to see Paix and eventually Charouse. I didn't plan on that, but it might make things interesting. I'd like to play Isabel if the occasion presents itself.
In any case, Marcello can no longer write letters to Isabel or rather doesn't need to. So he'll be writing to his daughter and maybe I'll do some posts as entries from Isabel's diaries.

The quarrel between Alan and Logan was eventually resolved by a duell between Logan and Ramon, who fought in Alain's stead. I have my doubts that Marcello is going to forget the fact that Alain stood by and watched while Marcello's family was in danger. He understands that Alain's honour had been compromised, but Alain did put his honour above Isabel and Alba, as Marcello sees it. This will influence Marcello's relationship with Alain one way or another.

Marcina is a LONG way from Altamira, across the sea in the Midnight Archipelago. We are definitely keeping that in mind if we ever need to go there in a hurry.

next time