18 November 2010

Famous Monsters of Filmland is back

As a kid I was really into horror movies and monsters and cool stuff like that. I would buy issues of Creepy and Eerie magazines. Eventually I started to collect Famous Monsters of Filmland, but I had to drop collection the other magazines due to the fact that my allowance would only go so far. Famous Monsters had won out.

From the late seventies and into the first few years of the eighties I would pick up the latest issue of the magazine. I remember bugging my father to take us to World Wide News downtown every month so I could pick up my magazine. I ordered a number of back issues and wanted to order half of the stuff advertised in the back pages.

Famous Monsters was a black-n-white magazine printed on newspaper quality paper, but it was always entertaining. I collected it until shortly before it stopped publication. Luckily at that point I was getting pulled into comic books to keep my allowance burning a hole in my pocket.

Today I was at a book store during my lunch break and I saw a copy of the latest issue (#252) on the rack. It's back! And they continued the numbering from where they left off!

My old issues are mostly long gone except for a couple of ragged copies now stashed away in plastic bags but this new one looks great. Full color glossy pages with some great articles. Right out of the gate I get to read about some of the old Hammer horror films (I loved those when I was a kid), an article on the new Walking Dead television series, the remastering of Metropolis (I have to see this at some point), and the creatures form Nightbreed. There is a lot more in there too, I'll have to finish reading it this weekend.

The one drawback was the $12.99 cover price. Dang! Thirty years ago it only set me back $1.75. The price has gone up at the same rate as comic books have the last 30 years.

I'm not sure how long I'll be picking up issues. I'll have to see how the quality is. I've given up on collecting anything so I won't be rushing out to pick up every issue. I'll just have to flip through each issue to see if it is worth the hefty investment. But in either case I'll have to go browse the next issue at World Wide News and see how that place has changed over the last 28 years.

Search Amazon.com for Famous Monsters

17 November 2010

My Kiva Update November 2010

I’ve just made my 11th Kiva loan today. This time I loaned money to someone in Sierra Leone who sells clothing. I have now made loans to people in eleven different countries across the world.

Repayment has been mostly on time as well. Three of my loans have been fully repaid and only one of the people I loaned to is having trouble making payments on time, but they are eventually getting made.

At this point I have now loaned more money than the average Kiva user. I haven’t lost any money yet while the average user has lost $1.52. So far, so good.

I’m now seeing more loans for being offered for people living in the United States. At first I didn’t want to see that on Kiva, but I’ve changed my mind. Any micro-lending should be available on the site, if it happens to be someone from the USA people who are interested have one more option for lending. It’s just when I see someone form America, Canada, or Western Europe needing a loan I just begin wondering why they can’t get a regular loan.

When I’m looking for loans to make I won’t loan to groups. I personally prefer to read about an individual and their plan, not a mass of people. That’s me, but I’m glad they have groups available for those who would like to loan to groups.

So, anyway, 11 loans down and many more to make in the coming months. I still have to do some research on this whole micro-financing thing, but I do know that the individuals who have received these loans are grateful and nearly all of them manage to pay the loan back.

16 November 2010

The Graying of Comic Book Fans

When I go to comic shops these days I’ve rarely seen anyone under the age of about 20 in them. I’m not sure if that is good for the comic industry in the long-run. Sure a thirty-something overweight comic collector may be able to afford stacks of overpriced comics, but who will replace him in twenty years when heart attacks have culled the herds of collectors?

Perhaps in this age of the internet, DVD players, video game systems, and such kids may not be as inclined to read comics like our parents & grandparents were, but the ever increasing cost of comics isn’t helping.

1938: Action Comics #1 – cover price ten cents. The regular price for a comic book would remain at this level until about 1962.

1979: comics were crossing into the 40 cent range from 10 cents over a 17 year period. This is when I got the first comic book I remember having (Action Comics #500, which was a huge issue so it cost $1.00). A dime from 1938 adjusted for inflation is about 52 cents, so comic books are still a great value.

1982: Cover prices increase to the 60 cent mark. This was the time I was getting into the Legion of Super-Heroes. Despite the 50% increase from just a few short years ago, the inflation adjusted dime from 1938 is 69 cents. Comics still cost less than in 1938.

1986: The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics start to show cover prices of 75 cents. Our good-old Action Comics #1 cover price adjusted for inflation is 78 cents.

1988: $1.00 for a comic book! Are they nuts?!? They sure were, our inflation adjusted dime is only worth 84 cents. Looks like things are going to get ugly.

1992: Now that the dollar point has been passed the increases continue. $1.25 is the new price of your average comic book – That dime from 1938 is adjusted to $1.00.

1995: $1.50 – a few years have gone by since the last price increase. I’m sure no one will notice if we round up to $1.50. Adjusted for inflation our old dime is worth $1.08.

1997: $1.99 – Just two years after a buck & a half we get another big jump in the cover price of a typical comic book. Our dime is not able to keep up, it’s sitting at $1.13.

2006: $2.99 for a comic book? If you are lucky you can find one that cheap from the two big companies. Small press books go for a lot more. The big publishers are also tempting fate by pushing up towards $3.99 by 2010. Insanity. That inflation adjusted dime is worth $1.42 in 2006. Comic books now cost more than twice they did back in ‘the day.’

The change in the type of paper used in comic books is factor in the price increase. I’m sure the overhead at the largest publishers has gone up considerably over the decades as the business world continues to increase in complexity. That doesn’t change the fact that kids aren’t going to be able to buy as many comics as they did in prior years.

On top of that the stories today are overly complex. Part of this complexity is just an attempt to hook the reader into buying additional books every month as well as special issues that explain the ‘universe-wide’ story arc. So now the reader is buying perhaps three books just to keep up on his hero for $8.97 when his grandfather could just buy one book for the inflation adjusted amount of $1.42.

Oh, and that Action Comics #1 could fetch up to $1,500,000 today. In 2082 issues of a comic bought today won’t appreciate in value by nearly as much. That better paper I mentioned earlier, as well as mylar bags, climate controlled storage, etcetera will keep too many copies of today’s comics in good condition to reduce the supply and drive up prices.

11 November 2010

Sports, Black-Outs, and Tax Money

This Sunday’s Buffalo Bill’s game will not be televised.

Back when I was younger and still had a television I would get ticked off when my usual weekend viewing was interrupted by sports. Nothing is more annoying than looking forward to the latest episode of your favorite show only to have it replaced by a bunch of grown men playing a silly game. At least now that I don’t have a television I watch what I want when I want online or on DVD so there are far fewer disappointments in that regard.

I’m not much of a sports fan. Football…. or I guess it should really be called Tackleball, is certainly not something I would watch. A bunch of overweight men in tight pants bending down around a ball is not my idea of an entertaining time.

However, as a taxpayer I find the Bills being able to black-out the game as highly offensive. While I don’t like football many other people do. Millions of taxpayer dollars went to help pay for a frickin’ playing field for a bunch of millionaires and now that the locals don’t want to buy overpriced tickets to sit in cold weather and watch a terrible team play the high-up muckity-mucks in the Bills organization black-out the game.

Screw them. That stadium is owned by the government not the Bills. When you don’t pay your own way you shouldn’t be able to decide if your game is televised or not. Everyone in western New York is owed a lot by these ungrateful schmucks. If you won’t televise all the games then give us our money back.

Of course the government won’t ever make such an interpretation of things. How many communities have been fleeced by various professional sports teams. Countless times have crybaby millionaires complained that a ten or fifteen year old stadium is no longer suitable for their childish little game and if they are not given tens or hundreds of millions of dollars they will take their toys and go somewhere else. Next comes the stream bureaucrats telling how the community will actually make more money by keeping the team in town and push through the funding.

After the taxpayers get fleeced for the stadium next comes the police overtime. Then if the community is really lucky the team is good and wins a couple championships… and then the related victory riots burning parts of the city that the police don’t dare try to stop without hearing cries of police brutality.

In return we get some low-paying seasonal jobs at the stadium, increased traffic accidents as tens of thousands of people (many of whom are drunk) try to leave the city at the same time, increased sales of multi-colored body paint (and the related sales tax revenue!), and an over-inflated sense of self worth because we have a big sports team.

And another thing; how can anyone have any loyalty to a team? Players are traded and move with more frequency than they did thirty years ago. The team is made up of a bunch of carpet baggers not local talent.

I have no problem with people who play sports for fun. It’s great exercise and competition is a good thing. I just hate having my money stolen for something that doesn’t benefit me or at least the community.

Finally, I’ve heard a number of people say that the Bills have a chance this weekend to defeat the Lions and get their first win. I still have faith in them. They are going to what they are best at… finding a way to fail.

#1 The average football fan that goes to a game weighs 220 pounds. With 70,000 people crammed into the stadium that makes 7.7 kilotons of flesh and bone. With each person consuming an average of 1.7 pounds of food at the game… almost like 541 additional people leaving when the game is over!

#2 Enough urine is excreted at the stadium on game day to fill a 12 by 24 foot in-ground pool 3.5 feet.

#3 For every person that thinks the fan that the camera always zooms in on who is shirtless and covered in paint is cool there are 577,314 people laughing at him. While these 577,314 don’t want that guy in the gene pool, the are more than willing to push him into the pool mentioned in fun not really fact #2.

10 November 2010

Star Wars Campaign Development & Stuff

Campaign Thoughts
I'll be running a few more sessions of my Star Wars role-playing campaign before I have to put it on pause again. It has been overall an odd campaign over the last two or three years. I've pulled from numerous expanded universe sources including the Marvel comics series, the River of Chaos series, and other places.

As I think about what to do next I have to decide if I'm going to go a more normal route with the game or continue to build on what has transpired so far. If I make things more normal there is a chance that things could get bogged down in the mundane and the efforts of the heroes during the Yuuzhan Vong war will be an insignificant ripple in the conflict.

If I ramp up the storyline it will become something it may have been lacking a bit lately. It will become an action-adventure series on a grand scale with the heroes actually having a chance to save the galaxy (or watch it burn when they screw up). I need to through in more exotic locations, bigger explosions, more bizarre aliens, and things for the players to care about. We have relatively short sessions for Star Wars, but as I learned last night it is possible to get a lot done if we get to it and I'm properly prepared... I just have to make sure I don't run out of material and do what I can to keep tangents from happening.

As I've been getting more notes together I've even realized I've made some major oversights on a couple of small scale things. It's probably hurt the characters a bit, but I'll make up for that oversight before things go on pause.

With the mysteries of Splendid Ap and Centerpoint Station mostly solved and other revelations it would be anti-climatic to have the team running a droid factory churning out hundreds of thousands of droids for a war that involves trillions. The players deserve better than that so I think I'll have to put them in the position of being the heroes of the story. Now If I could just get them to act heroic.

I'll give some details of what I have planned at the end of next month after the last session before the break. I don't want to spoil anything for any of the players.

Unrelated Thoughts (Stuff)
Again timing seems to be off for me. A package I've been expecting actually arrived at the main Rochester post office this morning. I was hoping it would get delivered but now I'll have to wait until Friday since to-morrow is a holiday.

I've been reading some of the stories in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Some are good, some are bad, and some are mediocre. Thinking about putting it aside for now and jumping into L. Neil Smith's Lando Calrissian trilogy.

Finally, I'm behind schedule on my NaNoWriMo again this year. November just doesn't seem to be a good month for me to try to write a novel. June has worked much better for me. I'll keep at it a bit, but it's starting to morph into something I plan to merge with my first novel and some other material. More details next summer as I get things organized.
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