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January 2014

Friday Five: 5 Ways to Stumble Into an Obsession with Old School Games

This week's Friday Five is from J-P Voilleque, known as "lawduck" on Twitter and the internet (and "Mr. Duck"  in our initial communications). After becoming obsessed with contract bridge, he now occasionally blogs about his adventures at Cards Down. And when he's not fooling around, he works as an attorney at Immix Law Group.


Let's get this clear - I'm not talking about 'old' games like Zaxxon or Commodore 64 classics. I'm talking about old games - older than computers, older than Milton Bradley, sometimes older than the hills themselves. Games that your grandparents played. These are the byroads and alleyways along which you may discover the classics.

Great writing

BridgePeople have been writing about games for as long as they've been writing about anything. The ancient Egyptian game Senet appears to have gone from parlor diversion to a part of the rituals of the dead, and the writing and depictions of the game underwent a similar transformation. In our modern era, much ink has been devoted to the classics, and we sometimes encounter people who wrote about games (because they happened to be exceedingly good at them), but who were also fantastic writers. As we know, this is not always a requirement for writers in niche subjects.

It makes it all the more wonderful to read Victor Mollo's books about contract bridge technique, as well as his anthologized vignettes of the bridge exploits of his "Menagerie" of characters at a London bridge club. David Bronstein is a phenomenal writer who just happened to be one of the greatest chess players of his era. From the moment he picked up a pen until his death in the last decade, he provided incisive and astonishing insights into the mind of a chess player, the pressures of tournament play, and the wonder of chess. You can read these two authors without a drop of understanding of the game in question and still be the better for it.

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Completing Dahl: Introduction and The Uncollected Shorts

We proudly present a new series of guest posts from Molly Tanzer - 

Roald_Dahls_MatildaWhen I was a little girl, my father used to travel a lot for work - he was away nearly every week, for at least a night or two. When he was home, however, he used to read to me every night. It was our ritual. I would get into my pajamas and cuddle up in my parents’ big bed, and he would take me to other worlds, one chapter at a time.

One of our favorite authors was Roald Dahl. My father read me many of Dahl’s books, including (of course) Matilda, The BFG, The Witches, Boy (my favorite), and so on. I loved Dahl’s writing so much I still remember him sitting me down, oddly enough on the staircase of our house, to tell me gently that Mr. Dahl had died, one day late in 1990. I don’t know why that memory has stayed with me for so long, but it has.

My father also read me stories from The Roald Dahl Omnibus, an enormous best-of collection of Dahl’s adult stories, but after reading “Taste,” about a repulsive oenophile pulling a fast one on his host in an attempt to obtain his beautiful daughter, the famous “Lamb to the Slaughter,” and “Man from the South” he decided maybe those stories would be better left for when I was older, and wanted to read them on my own.

Continue reading "Completing Dahl: Introduction and The Uncollected Shorts" »


Review Round-up: Nunslinger and Rapunzel is Dead

Two distinctly disconnected books - Stark Holborn's Nunslinger and Rapunzel is Dead. Two books that revisit - and directly challenge - established genres: the Western and the fairy tale.

Nunslinger-jacketStark Holborn's Nunslinger (2013) as an object is already interesting. Hodder & Stoughton were pioneers of "yellow-back" fiction - with a bit of effort you can still find relics of this era, with Hodder's doughty brand emblazoned on "low literature" as wide-ranging as The Saint and Zane Grey. Although certainly the imprint has a range of overtly commercial genre fiction (read Lavie Tidhar on Christopher Farnsworth, for one example), Nunslinger is an overt move to embrace this heritage: see the unrepentantly goofy name, striking covers and the  serialised format. 

The latter is an important part of Nunslinger's unique appeal - in the post-Wool days, a lot of publishers have been tinkering with this, but few works are actually created with that exact purpose in mind. Nunslinger strikes the balance of being both independent and interconnected, the individual episodes begin, resolve and immediately lead into the next. This is a "book" meant to be consumed (pardon the terrible pun) "religiously" - everything about the serial experience is intended to engender loyalty: the emotional highs and lows, the shared 'event' of a release, the continuous (if punctuated) reading. [I suspect that, with the still-rapid growth of digital and the success that's come with migrating fanfiction authors (who have naturally struck on this format) to traditional publishers, we'll be seeing a lot more of this. And, frankly, about damn time.]

But enough about Nunslinger as a book, what's so interesting about Nunslinger as a text? Is there more than a goofy name? Well... yes. A lot.

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My Year of Disney: Quarterly Progress Report #4

At the the start of 2013, I decided to embark on a (possibly insane) quest to watch every single feature-length official animated Disney film and to blog about it at my site, Dreampunk.me. You can find all the posts here.

And ever since then, I’ve been making quarterly progress reports here at Pornokitsch, and I am happy, kind of proud, and more than a little incredulous that I’ve...somehow...finally finished. Counting all Walt Disney Animation Studio animated films and the live-action/animated hybrids (Mary Poppins, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, etc.), that’s 62 posts on 62 films on my site, and--including this one--an additional 4 here. Jinkies!

So, for the last time, here we go with my very final Year of Disney post (*sniffles*)...

And these are the films that it covers:

Rapunzel47. Dinosaur (2000)

48. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

49. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

50. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

51. Treasure Planet (2002)

52. Brother Bear (2003)

53. Home on the Range (2004)

54. Chicken Little (2005)

55. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

56. Enchanted (2007)

57. Bolt (2008)

58. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

59. Tangled (2010)

60. Winnie the Pooh (2011)

61. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

62. Frozen (2013) 

Best Film: Rather than launch right into my answer, I’m going to need to preamble for a moment. Of all of the slices of Disney history I’ve covered so far, this one is, in many ways, the most schizophrenic, as it encompasses both the very uneven period that arose after the Disney Renaissance ended, as well as the Disney Revival or New Renaissance that has emerged in the last 5 years. And even within the second “Dark Age” period, there are flashes of genius, as well as genres/plots that are so divergent from one another that it makes it very difficult to compare them to one another. In many respects, the “Disney formula” was thrown out the window for many of these films. It also has the curious distinction of being host to some of the worst films in the company’s nearly 80 years of cinematic entertainment, as well as some of the best it ever produced, and those “best” are all so fantastic that ranking them has proven very difficult.

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Fiction: "Georgia" by Jenni Hill

Georgia“Here you go darlin’, two whiskies on the rocks. Six dollars.”

“I don’t suppose there’s anything else you’d take? A lost treasure? That promotion you’re after? A broken heart mended?”

“What?” The barman paused, pointedly not letting go of the two drinks.

“I didn’t think so.” Lilith sighed, paid up and slid a glass to the demon sitting beside her at the bar. “See, Amy, nobody takes us seriously anymore. Even if we’d cut a deal he’d probably weasel out of it. He’d turn out to be a secret violin virtuoso or a chess grandmaster in hiding.”

“It hardly takes a grandmaster to kick your ass at chess, Lili.”

“Don’t rub it in. It’s not like I don’t have other talents. I’m a pro at drawing up contracts. If you want to grant someone’s heart’s desire, I’m your woman. But chess? When I took this job no one said anything about board games! And I have all the musical ability of a dead raccoon.”

The two women stared silently into their drinks. Across the bar, one of the regulars keyed a mournful Tom Waits song into the jukebox and a brave couple slow-danced their way across the sticky hardwood floor.

“Songs!” scoffed Lili. “It’s all down to the songs. Some country singer writes a song about the Devil fiddling with a musician and now it’s all 'Foul demonspawn, I challenge you to a game of Scrabble.'"

“Scrabble?”

“Yeah. I don’t want to talk about it.”

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Film 101: Prince Valiant (1954)

Prince ValiantFilm 6: Prince Valiant (1954)

(Home, DVD, etc.)

Prince Valiant started life as a serial comic in 1937. By the time this film was greenlit (1952 or 53, I presume), the comic’s storyline was so complicated that the screenwriter wound up simply choosing bits and pieces at random and producing a script from them.

It’s possible that that shows.

(Spoilers!) As the film opens we learn that the Christian king and queen of Scandia have been exiled to England and given a nice castle to live in by King Arthur. There they live with their unfortunately-behaired son, Valiant, played by a young and terrible Robert Wagner. (You probably know him as Number 2 in the Austin Power films.) We’re introduced to Valiant in a scene clearly meant to showcase his athleticism and bravery,  when he, like, rappels down the castle wall then strips off and plunges into the sea to swim over to some friends (Christian Vikings) who’ve come a-calling in their little Christian Viking boat. (The clever viewer will infer that they’re Vikings by their horned helms, shaggy beards, and animal-skin loincloths. Also because the word ‘Viking’ is used about 3 million times in this film.)

Tangentially, Robert Wagner has a nice abdomen. I googled 'Robert Wagner shirtless' to prove it to you, but couldn't find a still of the scene in question. Sorry!

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Friday Five: The Apocalypse in Music (2000s Edition)

This week's guest is radio host and book reviewer Mahvesh Murad. Mahvesh can be found interviewing authors for 89 Chapters and spinning the blues [does one spin blues? I'm so not cool] for Voodoo Nights, both for City89, Pakistan's top radio network (and both shows can also be heard through your computerbox). 

As an afficinado of both genre fiction and fine music, Mahvesh has done a list of... well, er... see for yourself. It is pretty spectacular...


Making a list of songs about the end of the world is easy. Making a list of songs from the last decade about the end of the world isn’t as easy - especially when you’re looking for good songs from a decade you don’t appreciate so much. But, it isn’t impossible. Here’s my list of five songs about the apocalypse from the last decade, in no order of preference. 

Britney Spears - Till the World Ends

When Britney was good she was fantastic. When she was bad, well, she was a mess and we all know it. What was the very worst though, was when she was neither good nor bad - tracks like If U Seek Amy languished in that middle ground: so boring, so bored. Britney with her dead eyes and her limp moves; Britney, with everything that made her that glistening snake goddess in 2001’s I’m a Slave for You stripped away; Britney, hair grown out, sobriety claimed, and without soul. This Britney tried very hard to fake it, but it didn’t always work. What did work though, was 2011’s Till the World Ends. A solid dance floor anthem with a chorus that even Cher would have been proud of in her 90s disco days, Till the World Ends is probably Britney’s best song, post-comeback.

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The Kitschies - 2013 Shortlists

Here they are!

Also the list of 'special mentions'

And the breakdown of submissions (charts!)

A huge thanks to the judges - who approached a monumental task with unflagging enthusiasm, rigour and a wonderful sense of joy.

And to our board, who, as always, have been supportive and innovative.

And, finally, to The Kraken Rum, our noble and tentacular sponsor. 

<applause>

Now, how about those books?