Monday, 12 January 2009

On the Beautiful and Ironic Randomness of Life

Today I was at downtown Athens once more, in order to take care of some business that the Saturday protests had prevented me from completing. At least, this time the protests were rather peaceful (as far as I know and in comparison to the last couple of weeks' riots - it never ceases to amaze me that protests involving large-scale international events, such as the Gaza massacre in this case, are usually not fraught with violence and destruction, but that is another issue).

At any rate, having concluded my business, I was too far off and too weirdly woken up to go to the nearest comic book store, so I went to an RPG, Wargames and Hobby Shop instead, where a number of old books (up to 10 years old, I think) were on offer. When I say old, I mean only pertaining to their publication date, since there is absolutely nothing denoting their age appearance-wise (OK, except for a small batch). Hitting myself over the head for not having purchased AEG's Swashbuckling Adventures from the offer stand, I found it missing, so I went ahead and dug through EVERYTHING else. In the end, I came up with the following items:

Pax Dei: A Sourcebook of the Dominion
for Ars Magica 3rd Edition
(White Wolf)

Middle-Earth Role-Playing:
Southern Gondor: The People

Nameless Cults: The Cthulhu
Mythos Fiction of Robert E.
(Chaosium Books)

Now, one might wonder what possible value these books could have for anyone OTHER than an RPG afficionado with archaeological tendencies, let alone one who, in fact, finds the Middle-Earth Role-Playing system one of the most constipated and hard to use and who has only played Ars Magica 4th Edition (I think they are at their 5th one at present and of course, White Wolf is no longer the publisher). Well, these RPG books come from a time and age, when writers and publishers actually had the high ambition of young (or even, not that young) people to read and then use their creativity and imagination to forge long-lasting, good stories. These books are damn good reads, with a bare minimum of actual rules pertaining to the game, but a wealth of lore to be cherished and become a source of inspiration. In fact, Pax Dei was written after extensive research at the Carnegie-Mellon University, in order to attain the optimum fusion of Mythic Age Church power, with actual Medieval Church history, politics and mystery.

As for the third book, well, it contains every bit of Cthulhu Mythos written by Robert E. Howard, the literary father of Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Among the many tales included in the 350 pages, are "The Black Stone" and "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth", in case you were wondering where the metal band got its name from.

For these three books I consider treasures, I payed a grand total of... 9 euros. This pertains to the irony in the title of today's post, as, a few years back (well, up to 5, probably), these books would have cost me around 65 euros! That is very nearly the sum I would pay for the Deluxe Edition of Hyoborian Adventures MMORPG, for the PC. A little food for thought on the progressive value of literature versus the value of the rather mindless act of gaming. Do not get me wrong, I am a PC gamer too (though I loathe MMORPG) but still, I realize that, counting out a few masterpiece Adventure Games, it is a mindless activity. Incidentally, the images above are my scans of the actual book covers, who are as if they shipped from the companies only yesterday.

Following these purchases, I decided to go over to my publisher and buy some more copies of the short story collection containing my "Double Substitution Crime", to make gifts of. As I was making my way towards a main avenue, to catch a cab, I chanced upon an acquaintance I had not seen for over a month: a sweet young woman with mischievous green eyes. After the exchange of a few words, I noticed she was looking at me in a peculiarly amused way. When I looked at her questioningly, she said:

"You smell like... something out of a mountain."


"I don't know, something between a Sage plant and Mountain Tea..."

"Um... do I?"

"Yeah. I think it's really nice, but also kinda funny. Don't you?"

"Well, it's the first time anyone has ever told me such a thing, but I will take it as a compliment."

"It was meant as one."

Though it would have been completely out of context to discuss at the time, I knew why that remark brought a rather weird, even silly smile to my face; once, what seems like a very, very long time ago (in fact, around 10 years), when it seemed to me that it was impossible to be unhappy on this small blue world, a very different girl had whispered tenderly into my ear:

"You have the scent of wet earth. It's a good scent."

So there, a totally unexpected remark, from a completely unexpected quarter, brightened the rest of my day, for no (rationally) good reason at all. That, in my opinion, is the beautiful randomness of life.


Friday, 2 January 2009

Post Media Magazine - The Right Kind of Ambition

Happy New Year everyone! Seeing as this is 2009's first post, I though I would start with a message of hope (well, that's what it is to me, anyway), so read on.

For me, being part journalist, part translator and (recently) part writer, translates into keeping my eyes open when I troll around, especially near magazine stands and keeping my mind open to new possibilities, opportunities and above all, ideas. Hence, during one such foray downtown, I was killing time while waiting for a friend, browsing through magazine after magazine: war journals, historical magazines, science mags, popularized or not, culture magazines and cinema stuff are always the ones that draw my eyes. However, this time my eyes fell on the exceptional cover of PhotoNet, a magazine (as you can probably imagine), involving cameras, shooting techniques, new technologies and all sorts of updates from the field, so I went ahead and bought it.

When I came out the store, I shot a customary glance again, before leaving and that is when I saw it, sitting there patiently for me to notice: Post Media #01, of a simple and elegant design, the only intentional cacophony being a pink graphic, proclaiming: "100% AD-FREE. This publication does not include even a single advertisement!" Then I read the fine print on the cover (well, fine in comparison to the magazine's title), where the expletive was placed: "Bi-Monthly Publication for Independent Journalism / Issue 1 / November-December 2008 / Price 9 Euros". I felt a heartstring being tugged somewhere inside: "INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM"!!! Someone was spying on my most secret thoughts and hopes and I as it turned out, I was grateful for it. Before you move on, I must warn our non-Greek readers that all of the following concerns a Greek publication.

Post-Media is just as its cover proclaims, an independent publication, free of any sort of advertisement, containing 100% reader material, presented in a clean, easy-to-read way, along with all sorts of original illustrations, photo-montages and such. I do not know if they plan on following a theme in each issue but in this case, they did, taking their proclamation a step further by analyzing the history of advertisement, its evolution and current domination over almost any and all media. Various angles are discussed by different journalists, bloggers and even academics, in relation to capitalism, its "green" or "ecological" counterpart, over-consumerism and even misogyny.

As for the main feature of this issue, it covers the so-called "Free-Press" Magazines (and to an extent, the very internet that most of us are using), who are in fact slaves to the advertising vices of their sponsors (and in that sense, not much "free" at all). The article is written by a friend I met through COMICDOM, Leda Tsene and I would argue that it's strong point is in its not being mere polemic or criticism, but a presentation of information with available sources and quotes, that not only tries to extract a conclusion, but also provoke the readers to examine the situation for themselves.

I would not go as far a saying that Post Media is light reading, since that depends largely on the author of the article (and the subject matter has quite a bit of politics and economics) and of course, the reader, but I must commend all the contributors on using good, concise language and writing as clearly and straightforward as possible. I believe the most accurate term would be "eloquent journalism".

A final, important word before closing off: Post Media's ambition is to be a "reader-funded" magazine, so to speak. That is, under no circumstances will the publication rely on "outside funds", such as advertisements and the price will fluctuate according to the readership. Hence, the more successful the magazine, the more its price will be lowered. It's the right kind of ambition and a fair deal, if you ask me - I wish them the best (and THIS is their blog).

Oh, and do get a copy on your way out...