Saturday, January 22, 2011

A fairly nerdy day in New York City

'Cause everyone's your friend in New York City/ And everything looks beautiful when you're young and pretty/ The streets are paved with diamonds and there's just so much to see/ But the best thing about New York City is you and me
New York City, They Might Be Giants

It's been a while since I'd really gone anywhere, so I decided to take a trip to New York City.The result turned out to be fairly nerdy, though I definitely had fun. If you enjoy video games, I went to the Nintendo Store. If you like strange foreign cartoons, I saw The Illusionist. And to round out the day, I stopped at the Complete Strategist, one of the biggest hobby shops on the East Coast.

Here's the day, with some pictures.

Getting there:
The weather was in the high teens and low twenties, which made walking a little unpleasant, but also helped keep the crowds away. On the train up, there were empty seats, which is a nice thing. When I go in the summer or spring, I find that by the end of the trip it can be standing room only, but in this case I was able to get there and back without sharing a seat.

There were some kids in front of me on the ride up there. One of them, who I guess was about seven, had a cute morbid streak. At one point, the train tilted a little to the left as it was going over some uneven ground. "We're all going to die," the kid said. "We're all going to die." Just before we were about to enter New York, when we paused in the tunnel for a minute or two (I assume to let some other train pass), he turned around and said to me, "Mister, do you think we're trapped underwater?"

When I got there, I was surprised at how little snow there was on the ground. It snowed in New Jersey four weeks ago, and much of the ground is still piled up. In New York City, it's largely melted or cleared away, though you can still see some patches, such as on the New York Library:

 But most of the other places have only relatively small patches of snow and ice. Because of this, I mostly walked the streets and put up with the cold, rather than take the subway (though I did a little of that after seeing the movie, when it was getting darker and windier.)

Thank-you Mario, but our princess is in another castle
My first stop was the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza. It's a two-story affair dedicated to all things Nintendo. It's nice, but I was hoping for a little more.

The store has two stories. The first is dedicated to DS games, with a special section for Pokemon. The second has Wii games and other merchandise. For both, there are a lot of demos available, probably a dozen DSes and Wiis loaded with the popular games to try. There was also a small exhibit of Mario games and merchandise through the years, clothing, candy, and dolls of the more popular characters. I bought myself a Goomba cap and this completely awesome baby Bowser.

Note the adorable little bib Bowser has, with razor-sharp teeth.

I had been hoping the store would have a slightly more exotic selection: obscure games from Japan, titles that got great buzz but have been hard to find, etc. But most of the selection was what you could find in any store that sells video games. So that was a bit of a disappointment.

My next stop (ignoring lunch and stuff) was the Paris Theater, where The Illusionist was playing. This is a French film (though there's very little talking, and some of that is in English or a very thick Scottish brogue). I saw it at the Paris Theater, which was an unusual experience for a modern movie goer.

The theater has only one screen, and there's a curtain in front of the screen drawn before the movie. Furthermore, the place is carpeted, there are no cupholders on the chairs, and there were no clips asking patrons to turn off their cell phones or visit the lobby and buy snacks.

The coming attractions also looked interesting. There was one for Home: The Movie a documentary. The premise seems fairly ordinary to me -- we're destroying the environment -- but the images on the screen were totally gorgeous. There was another documentary called The Last Lions, about a female lion whose husband, head of the pride, was killed, so she was driven out and has to struggle to raise her cubs. It's narrated by Jeremy Irons, who seems to like this plot. 

I'm glad I saw The Illusionist, which isn't likely to come to Monmouth County. It's set in the late 50s, and involves a past-his-prime magician, whose act is losing favor to things like rock bands. After he gets a temporary gig in a rural village in Scotland, he shows some kindness to a young girl, who becomes a fan.

I know this sounds like the typical "young girl gives old man a new lease on life" plot, but it's not. I don't want to say how it verges from that -- too spoilery -- but don't go to the theater expecting to see that.

Is it really complete?
The Complete Strategist is on 33rd Street, a block away from the Empire State Building. Given how niche the roleplaying, wargaming, and other hobby games are, I'm surprised they can afford to stay in what must be a pretty expensive neighborhood, though I'm happy to go there every few years.

They have a very extensive selection of RPGs, some of them rather old. There are plenty from older editions of games, and some cutting edge ones too. One of the books I bought was for a game called Exalted, a system and setting which is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating. They had both the first and second edition of the book, which are entirely different. I also picked up a copy of Spirit of the Century, a pulp-action game. I actually bought it because a few months ago I purchased a game called Diaspora, and the authors of Diaspora heavily recommended Spirit of the Century. (They practically assumed you had read it.) Maybe I'll write more about those if I think there's anything worth putting on the blog.