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Jason Panella

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Everything posted by Jason Panella

  1. Similar to the New Stuff Worth Hearing thread, just minus the 'new' bit. I got my eMusic downloads yesterday and picked up two releases that I am not regretting. Buffalo Tom's Let Me Come Over is fantastic. It's one of those '90s albums that slipped through the cracks...it was probably too nuanced for mass audiences, but too straight-ahead for the underground kids that were still reeling from the '80s. But it's relentlessly melodic, the lyrics are quite good, and it's incredibly heartfelt. It's great to hear a tune like "Stymied," a tune that manages to be a pop song with sadly reflective lyrics--but also sport a Harrier jet wall of distortion and still sound delicate. And Pinback's Offcell EP is just great. Period.
  2. I thought this would be more appropriate for game updates than the "Favorite Board Games" thread. One of the goals I made for 2012 was to actually try to play games, rather than gripe about missing opportunities (our of laziness or shyness). So far so good — I've managed to play as many games in the past few weeks as I normally would over half a year. 7 Wonders — One of 2011's "hot" card-based games, and a lot of fun. For Catan fans, there's a good deal of resource collection and trading here, and games can go quickly (seven players and under an hour? Excellent.) Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game — I cannot stop playing this. It's one to two players, has beautiful art, and has enough challenging elements to be quite repayable. The game's system really fits thematically, too. It's also a living card game, too, which is cool...it's similar to a collectible card game (like Magic: the Gathering), but the expansions aren't randomized. Plus, you can just play the game with the core set and never buy anything else...unless you want to. Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition — The most recent edition of the grand-daddy of RPGs has some aspects I don't like (some of the newer rule changes make the game more like a video game than a tabletop RPG), but I've played a few times with a co-worker and still had a blast. Android — Still my favorite board game. Still incredibly misunderstood. It's always a struggle to get any of my friends to actually play with me, but when I do, I savor the experience for months afterward. The game is an incredibly hard sell, even for avid board game players ("Hey, want to play a sci-fi noir game that is heavily focused on postmodern storytelling aspects? No?"), but I will continue to be an evangelist for it.
  3. Jason Panella

    What board games have you been playing lately?

    Keep in mind that this is a Living Card Game, with (as of now) over 50 expansions. They want you to buy more stuff, including more Core Sets. And, as someone who owns most of those expansions, it's very much a deckbuilder. Certain "types" of decks have different strategies, but that's stuff that's not really evident in the core set or its encounters. The rules in the core set are trash (FFG recently released a completely new version that has much, much better rules, from what I've seen), and the game is more of lifestyle choice than one-and-done deckbuilder. If you just want a single game box to play on occasion, Legendary is probably the better choice. But--looking at the whole expanse of what's been released for both games--the amount of diversity in quests, cards, and options in the whole of LotR blows Legendary out of the water. Oh, and I should add—I think Legendary is a really good game (especially the Encounters version of the system), but the nuance of LotR, which really starts becoming clear with the third big-box expansion and its connected quests--is right up my gaming alley. EDITED: Also, the game does have a tableau-building aspect—you're playing cards that (hopefully) stay on the table for a bit—but deckbuilding is a huge focus. If you're just playing with the Core Set, you're probably not seeing this; there are barely enough cards in the Core Set to make a "real" deck (at 50 player cards), let alone a good one. Once you begin adding more cards to the card pool, card draw and deck fishing become more and more important.
  4. Jason Panella

    What board games have you been playing lately?

    They have Patchwork? I need to check their collection out more often.
  5. Jason Panella

    What board games have you been playing lately?

    Really thorough look at these games, Ken. Thanks. I'm interested in Betrayal Legacy. Betrayal at House on the Hill is a really flawed game, but it's still goofy fun. The Legacy version is, from what I've read, a soft reboot and refinement of the existing rules, which can only be a good thing.
  6. Jason Panella

    What board games have you been playing lately?

    Which season are you playing? I played season 1 on its release—it wasn't my favorite game, but it was hands down the best board gaming experience of my life. I've heard raves about season 2, but don't have a consistent enough gaming group to play it just yet.
  7. Jason Panella

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    My wife and I bought the super-special Blu-ray version on deep discount not long after one of her many surgeries a few years ago, and we plowed through the trilogy as she recovered. I think Fellowship still holds up as a genuinely good movie (with major flaws). The other two? Ugh. All of the criticism here for the past few pages is accurate, I believe. It's interesting how bulletproof the movies are in fantasy geek culture, too (outside of Tolkien fans, that is). Last year, I made a comment while playing D&D with my regular group about how hokey and goofily gratuitous the Helm's Deep / Battle of the Hornburg section of the Two Towers film was, and I immediately got pushback from everyone else. Tolkien's version was too boring and short, they said. Ooooooookay.
  8. Jason Panella

    A&F Site News -- Please Read

    Thank you, Ken.
  9. Jason Panella

    Await Your Reply

    There's a sense of dread that hangs over Dan Chaon's latest novel, Await Your Reply — it envelops the three separate story threads as they're introduced, and just continues to escalate until the three tales intertwine at the end. And, to give Chaon's ability as a writer deserved credit, the feeling of dread continues well after the novel's closing chapter. Chaon — a National Book Award finalist for his short story collection Among the Missing — rotates through the three stories here: recent high school graduate Lucy runs away from her old life with her compelling history teacher, George Orson; perpetual underachiever Miles travels to the Arctic Circle after receiving a cryptic, paranoid letter from his long-vanished twin Hayden; and Ryan, a depressed college dropout, abandons his life for a new one — new ones, even — as a identity thief. It's hard to talk about Await Your Reply at length without giving too much away. In fact, the less you know about the novel going in, the better. Chaon does a great job of shifting the novel's chronology around to trickle the plotlines out as he sees fit. It's a gimmick that could have been hackneyed, but Chaon makes it work here. He seems more interested in filling in the lives of his characters than constructing some complex whodunit — and result is a more nuanced, creepy affair than sensory jarring thriller. The crux of Await Your Reply is the nature of identity, especially with how fluid the notion has become as people's lives have become inseparable from digital technology. The characters all struggle with age-old identity issues, but these musings are filtered through modern trappings; the fear of becoming a non-entity and existential angst manifest into something more elusive, shifty and — ultimately — unnerving. As one character mentions, after referencing Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," why can't you take both paths? Chaon's use of language helps move the novel along, too. His sentences are punchy, never losing lucidity or veering into the over-descriptive territory that hinders many of his peers. Chaon paints wonderfully clear autumnal scenes, too, ones that keep feeding that sense of dread: abandoned Nebraskan motels, sparsely populated Yukon moonscapes, lonely cabins hidden in Michigan forests. The list goes on, and never gets too gothic or heavy handed. There are a few wooden conversations in the novel, but they're not common. Await Your Reply works so well because Chaon seems to effortlessly blend together horror and mystery, provocative cultural critique and hushed philosophical meditation, and — well — a whole lot more. The Lovecraftian build-up of dread might be off-putting to some readers, but I had a hard time putting it down.
  10. Jason Panella

    Await Your Reply

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but the linked article doesn't seem to be written by Chaon (or mention him).
  11. Jason Panella

    Podcast Recommendations?

    I've been listening to Omnibus regularly, and it's jumped to the top of my "favorites" list. From the website: I think what makes this a tad different from other "wow, crazy history/facts!"-type shows (which the How Stuff Works network seems to thrive on) is the hosts. Ken and John are Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, and John Roderick, the frontman of the band The Long Winters. They've been friends for a long time, and their banter is wonderful. If you're looking for an episode to start with, I'd recommend the one detailing the history of Milli Vanilli.
  12. Jason Panella

    What board games have you been playing lately?

    I played Sagrada at Origins this past year and absolutely loved it. I'm thinking of asking for it for Christmas.
  13. Jason Panella

    Kill List

    Kill List writer/director Ben Wheatley just had a movie premiere at TIFF (Sightseers), so I thought I'd bring this, his previous film, up. Just watched it, and I'm still trying to formulate some thoughts for a review. Has anyone seen it? The movie follows two British ex-soldiers/hitmen (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) as they pick off the targets of the titular list. What starts off as a pitch-black crime film/domestic drama mash up adds another element into the mix, but it's hard to discuss it really without spoilers. Basically, the movie goes into full-tilt Wicker Man mode by the end. I didn't love the movie, but man is it effective. It's unsettling on a number of levels — the violence, for one, is unflinchingly brutal, including one scene I actually had to turn away from for a bit. But where it really gets under the skin is when the line between mundane and surreal becomes more and more blurred. There's some really normal stuff in the movie that becomes really eerie in the context. Two scenes involve the simple act of waving hello, and both are pretty chilling. The sound work is top-notch, too, and vital to the sense of dread that creeps more and more into the movie.
  14. Jason Panella


    As Justin predicted, Netflix opted to give the show a 2-hour finale. I broke my A&F hiatus just to report this! I grew to love this show, warts and all. And man, there were a lot of warts. The show was able to reach emotional highs so often, though, that I fell for it hard.
  15. Jason Panella

    2016 lists

    My favorites of 2016. Tweaked slightly from the version I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago: 1. Pinegrove — Cardinal 2. Mitski — Puberty 2 3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Skeleton Tree 4. David Bowie — Blackstar 5. Adam Torres — Pearls to Swine 6. Eric Bachmann — Eric Bachmann 7. Miranda Lambert — The Weight of These Wings 8. Kevin Devine — Instigator 9. Sleep Experiments — Passages 10. Lucy Dacus — No Burden 11. Starflyer 59 — Slow 12. Tortoise — The Catastrophist 13. Anohni — HOPELESSNESS 14. Sturgill Simpson — A Sailor’s Guide to Earth 15. A Tribe Called Quest — We got it from Here….Thank You 4 Your service 16. Frank Ocean — Blonde 17. Teenage Fanclub — Here 18. Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book 19. Jeff Parker — The New Breed 20. Lydia Loveless — Real 21. John K. Samson — Winter Wheat 22. Paul Simon — Stranger To Stranger 23. Leonard Cohen — You Want It Darker. 24. Vince Gill — Down To My Last Bad Habit 25. Cass McCombs — Mangy Love 26. Brad Mehldau Trio — Blues and Ballads 27. Angel Olsen — My Woman 28. Nada Surf — You Know Who You Are 29. Wussy — Forever Sounds 30. PUP — The Dream is Over Favorite EPs: Adam Remnant — When I Was a Boy EP Mint Mile — The Bliss Point EP Honorable mentions: Mary Halvorson Octet — Away With You Solange — A Seat At the Table Mick Harvey — Delirium Tremens Drive-by Truckers — American Band Mogwai — Atomic Deftones — Gore Shearwater — Jet Plane and Oxbow De La Soul — and the Anonymous Nobody…. Neko Case, Laura Veirs, k.d. lang — case/veirs/lang
  16. Jason Panella

    The Expanse

    In April, the SyFy channel announced they ordered a ten-episode season based on James S.A. Corey's sci-fi series, The Expanse. Corey is the pen name of co-authors Daniel Abraham, an excellent fantasy writer, and Ty Franck, who served as George R.R. Martin's assistant for a number of years. I think the first season is going to correspond with the first novel in the series, Leviathan Wakes. It's a big book with a lot of plot, so ten episodes seems right. I just finished the second book in the series, Caliban's War. I loved both it and Leviathan Wakes. The books fit into the space opera mold, and they're page-turners. If you had to break it up into an ingredient list, it'd be three parts hard sci-fi, one part mystery, one part Lovecraftian horror. The mix works well, and there's some interesting sociological and world-building aspects that keep this from being merely enjoyable fluff. And as simple as it is, I think the prose is (often) good too. I've read that industry insiders are hoping to bill the show as "Game of Thrones in space." I can sort of see that—"Corey" has several viewpoint characters for each book, like Martin, and switches back and forth between them. Franck and Abraham also play a bit with some of the thematic issues that Martin explores in the ASoIaF series. But if the industry folks are hoping to capitalize on the crazy violent aspects and crazy sexy parts that some folks like about the show, well...they'll really have to change a lot. Attached so far: Breaking Bad director Terry McDonough, exec. producers/showrunners Mark Fergus and Hawk Osby (Iron Man and Children of Men), and actor Thomas Jane starring at Detective Miller.
  17. Jason Panella

    Home Alone

    I return to A&F just to defend Home Alone 2. Objectively, it's not a good movie, let alone a great one. And having a general idea of what you like and don't like, Peter, I'm sure you'd loathe this one as well. But man, do I love this movie. I've watched it at least yearly since the mid-'90s, sometimes more than four times in a season. It's a carbon copy of the first Home Alone, maybe with some more weird cruelty in it, but I adore it. I love the jokes, I love the pacing, and I love how it treats NYC. I love Brenda Flicker in it. I love how it makes fun of Florida, a state I generally loathe. I love how it takes the traps from the first time and shoots them into the stratosphere (I mean, Marv and Harry would've been dead this time around before the even entered Uncle Peter's house). I've used so many lines from this movie in day-to-day conversation that I've basically become a walking HA2 quote generator. I think it has a few genuine moments in it, but I really won't try to argue for them. Is it better or worst than Die Hard 2? Good question. That said, I'm also of the mind that Die Hard 2 is one of the worst sequels of all time, so I might not be the right person to ask.
  18. Jason Panella

    In a Valley of Violence

    Doing my quarterly pop-in to A&F to update this thread. Film festival reviews so far are mostly positive. Lots of reviews are noting how funny the film is.
  19. Jason Panella


    We rarely play with the expansions, and with the two-player, we've NEVER made it past age 8 before someone won with achievements.
  20. Jason Panella


    This is (sometimes) my favorite game. Or, it's the one I get to the table the most often. Yes, there's definitely some luck, but it's rare for the game to actually make it to the age 10 cards that are overly luck-based. I found the game plays much better as a 2- or 3-player game than with 4, too.
  21. Jason Panella

    The Winds of Winter

    I'm about the finish the audiobook of A Game of Thrones (my second time through the series), so all things Westeros (and Essos) are on my mind. I've been wading through lots of interviews and convention reports these days, and it actually seems like Martin is making significant progress on The Winds of Winter. As he's mentioned in a recent Amazon interview, he's devoting most of his time to the book. He also unveiled two new chapters recently at a convention and, well, they sound incredible (link to a forum post that covers what happens. It's spoilery in a general sense, but also Awe. Some.). I'm guessing (and really hoping) that he'll finish up the book and have it out by the end of 2014. Also, here's the interview I mentioned earlier. Prediction:
  22. Jason Panella

    Is Artsandfaith.com dying?

    There was a time when I thought commenting on *everything* would make me part of the crowd. :-)
  23. Jason Panella

    Is Artsandfaith.com dying?

    The music section is one the few I look at when I occasionally pop in, Joel, and what brought me to A&F to begin with back in the day. I've always valued the weird little gems that would pop up there that weren't the usual Over the Rhine/Lucinda Williams/whatever roots stuff (not that those are bad). In a lot of ways, the music forum was how I discovered many favorites in the late '00s.
  24. Jason Panella

    Is Artsandfaith.com dying?

    I basically bowed out of A&F a year ago, though I've popped in here and there since. Since everyone is doing lists... I agree that a lot of my casual conversations or friendly banter have moved to social media. Thems the facts. Like others have noted, I was single when I first started posting. Now I've married, have a time-consuming job, and I commit my little free time to other hobbies in lieu of movie-watching (D&D, board games, cooking). I never see films in the theater these days (just don't have the time to drive to and from Pittsburgh for the limited release ones, nor the money). To be blunt—I've always felt like an outsider here. Which isn't a problem, per se, but you can only spend so much time trying to fit in before realizing it's not going to work. My interests have strayed more and more toward the niche since I joined in 2006, and my initial enthusiasm for whatever droopy arthouse was the go-to A&F pick of the year has shifted toward weird junk that gets no traction on the forum. Which is fine! (And I still like plenty of droopy arthouse movies.) I just learned to not even try. Seeing personality clashes on the forum over the years has bummed me out. And I direct this at myself—a decent number of the posters here drive me crazy, which is probably one of those "it's me, not you" kind of things. Keeping a distance has been healthy for me, though, and it's been I'd like to keep it that way. I love A&F and what it's meant over the years, but it's been better for me in the long run to keep some distance. I'll still pop in to check on game-related posts or see if there's anything that jumps out in the music or TV forums, but that's probably it. But hey, say hi on Facebook or Twitter!
  25. Jason Panella

    D&D Next

    I could very well be typing to myself with this, but Wizards of the Coast announced a few months ago that they were planning the next edition (the fifth) of Dungeons & Dragons. They're calling it D&D Next. I'm really interested in the development of this. If you haven't been keeping up on D&D in the past decade or so, here's my synopsis: D&D 3E changed the game's rules up quite a bit in the late '90s, and made the game even more popular. That said, it also lost some of the old-school fans. WotC then debuted D&D 4E a few years ago, and that was even more different than 3E. (Many gamers complained that the new edition was geared toward winning new fans instead of keeping old ones, as the game's core mechanics became a little bit more video game-like.) Scores of D&D fans left 4E behind and started "clones" of older editions of D&D. So many left, in fact, that a modified version of D&D 3E — called Pathfinder — has been regularly outselling anything from WotC over the past few years. So it seems like with D&D Next, the design teams is asking gamers — old and new, alienated or fanboy — what they think should happen with the next edition. More and more, it looks like WotC is planning making a tool-box style game, one that will actually involve mix and match elements from all previous edition (even the earlier Gary Gygax white/blue box versions). Want a more heroic game? You can add these things. Want a more powers-based game, like 4E? You can add this or that. I don't know if this tool-box approach will be the final result, but letting people weigh in on decisions for the entire process like this has never really been done before in the gaming world, at least to this degree. Here's a link to one of the key blog posts they made.