Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Nerd Among Nerds

The line between pop culture and the mainstream gets blurrier every year, it seems. Where adult consumers of science-fiction and comic books and the like once had to indulge those interests among like-minded friends or through small-scale media like fanzines, now an event like the Edmonton Expo can attract tens of thousands of attendees from within a city considered by many to be the redneck capital of Canada.


I was nowhere near the oldest attendee, and there were lots of parents there with their children, often all kitted out in some form of costume, or at least sporting t-shirts displaying where their specific fandom lay. Attending sci-fi cons in the '90s, a significant number of the females attending (but nowhere near all!) were wives and girlfriends of a more interested fellow, but now fangirls of all ages are enjoying themselves and proudly identifying as part of the subculture.


There are probably as many reasons for attending these events as there are people; some are there to show off their costuming skills, others are there to buy collectible movies or art, and still others are there to rub elbows with celebrities from television, movies and animation. And it was quite a crowd for our little self-deprecating burg; Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict from The A Team (yes, and Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica), Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal (and Casino Royale), Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar from Big Bang Theory, Summer Glau from Firefly and Arrow, Alice Cooper, and more.

Me? Strangely enough, I was mostly there to hear the mayor.


Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson was scheduled to give a talk on cities of the future; I thought it was cool that the Edmonton Expo organizers thought to invite him, and even cooler that he agreed to come.

Having read his blog and listened to him campaign, I knew Mayor Iveson to be a thoughtful and insightful individual, and that he has a reputation as a bit of a nerd in a political sense, what you might call a 'policy wonk'. Turns out he is a nerd of many colours.

There was a bit of a delay at the beginning of his presentation as the a/v crew struggled to bring a slideshow up on the screen that was inititially intended to magnify his image for those in the back of the room. Instead of looking uncomfortable, he asked a cosplayer dressed as Wolverine in the front row to stand up and said to the crowd, "Maybe we can get this guy to be our Wolverine statue, what do you think?", alluding to the recent petition. There were some good-hearted cheers from the audience, and then he stood for a few pictures with the ersatz Weapon X.


Once onstage, there was some trouble with the mics, and he said, "That's just as well, it gives me some time to do this..." and proceeded to hang his suit jacket on the back of this chair. Then he took off his tie, and I thought, 'Man, this smacks of image management; I hope he is not going to some contrived effort to look more casual and approachable or something...'


And then he started unbuttoning his shirt.


This prompted a few cheers and whistles from the crowd, so he demurely turned his back while he finished removing his dress shirt, and then turned around to reveal a classic gold Star Trek captain's tunic.


This was immensely well received, and while the techs finished getting his mics prepped, he asked of the crowd, "Star Trek? Or Star Wars?" It started out evenly, but I think Star Trek edged out in the end.


The mayor made a point of explaining that the delay was entirely his fault and not due to the 'redshirts' backstage, as they had not known he was bringing a slides how and were hard at work making it work. Any show of humility like that will always go a long way with me, and doubly so with an elected official. Plus I thought referring to them as redshirts was delightful.

Once he got underway, Mayor Iveson spoke for about 30 minutes about what steps the city of Edmonton was taking in terms of preparing for the future, the challenges yet to come, and where we might eventually go. He started out talking about the importance of mass transit, not just from an environmental sense, but a sociological one, citing the fact that twenty years ago, 90% of all 18 year olds had their driver's license, but now it was closer to 70%.

He talked about the infrastructure needed to protect us from the effects of climate change, and the fact that in the last decade or so Edmonton has had not one but three storms in the 'once in two-hundred years' category, but that the category itself has changed, going from two inches of rain within 24 hours fifty years ago to two-and-a-half inches now, and how all our drains and sewers were built for the former, but now have to accommodate the latter.

Points were also made about the environmental impacts of various initiatives, like the new biofuel plant soon to come onstream, and the opportunity to move waste and rain water with natural looking retention ponds and medians with rocks and plant matter that look like ditches, but are called 'bio berms' because it sounds better.

All the while he spoke, he engaged the crowd, rarely referring to his notes, and peppering legit sci-fi references into his presentation. Showing the four globes needed to sustain our planet if everyone on earth lived the way we do in Edmonton, he quipped, "There are four lights...anyone?" before moving on.

It was an impressive presentation, and not just because Don Iveson is a wicked smart guy (though he is), or because he is a fanboy like so many of us; a number of things struck me as he spoke.

The first was his earnestness, sharing his fascination with trains, not just because of their role as 'energy agnostic pedestrian accelerators', but because he likes to ride them with his son, because trains are cool. How he considers himself lucky to be allowed to weigh in on complicated and important matters as part of his job.

Second was his compassion. One of the reasons he takes the train to work is because everyone takes the train, and this not only gives him a chance to talk to everyday Edmontonians about what bothers them and makes them happy, but also to see the people on the margins, and recognize that any meaningful future has to accommodate them as well.

Next was his ability to see the big picture, looking at issues of urban sprawl not just from the point of view of how difficult it can be to string transit and utilities to outlying areas, but also about impacts on neighbouring communities and the watershed, and how our choices now will affect future generations of homeowners and renters. Looking at transit, he thinks LRT is important, but is grateful and proud to have Edmontonians working on a versatile maglev system with robotic cars coupling and uncoupling as needed.

Lastly was his sincerity; Mayor Iveson was not at the Edmonton Expo to dress like a fanboy, he clearly is one. He used a comparison between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Elysium to contrast two diametrically opposed visions of the future: one of scarcity and the other of abundance. He also made it clear that he thinks the latter is more probable, because he fundamentally believes that people are good (and backs that up with his personal experience of having knocked on about 25,000 doors!), but also fears that a dystopia could be our fate due to circumstances beyond our control; a cautious sort of optimism.

In the end he came back to the question of Star Wars versus Star Trek, saying that he always felt that Star Wars is about charismatic individuals sticking it to the man: Han Solo is basically the Marlboro Man, Luke is Paul Revere, Obi Wan is Thomas Jefferson and Yoda is Benjamin Franklin, while the Emperor is essentially the King of England. The whole thing starts to take on a Revolutionary War narrative, and there is nothing wrong with the colonies standing up for themselves, but in comparison, he feels Star Trek is about groups of different people coming together to make things better for everyone. And when they've made sure that everyone at home is taken care of, they start exploring, and, guided by the Prime Directive, they try to help other to figure this out as well.


The Journal gave some nice coverage to his presentation here, and I hope the Expo organizers put it online at some point, as I would love to share it with some people, and wouldn't mind seeing it again for myself. Having been there though, I came away hopeful for the potential future some of our elected leaders see for the city I live in, grateful that talented and passionate people like Don Iveson (and a lot of others on council) choose an often thankless career in public service, and smugly pleased that so many nerds turned up to hear one of their own to talk about the future.


Plus it is refreshing to no longer feel so jealous of Calgary and their cool mayor; we have our own, and he is one of us.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rednecks at Play - Autumnal Geekquinox 2014

The Rare Hipster's semi-annual dinner party , the infamous Geekquinox, came around again, and not a moment too soon!  Our collective summers seem to get far too insular, with vacations, visits, illnesses and renovation projects conspiring to keep us apart, and this past season was no exception.  Getting together a minimum of twice a year, with Pete exercising his considerable kitchen fu on our behalf, is always appreciated.  (Full disclosure: any of the decent looking pictures below were taken by Earl, who has already documented his impressions of this tremendous event at his blog.)

I think all but one of the dinners has had a theme, sometimes so strong they almost overpower other elements of the meal, such as the food or the company (I'm looking at you, Star Trek!), but this time he kept it (relatively) simple and appropriate: a meat-themed extravaganza he called Redneck Rampage.

I was too preoccupied or slow to comprehend Pete's clue to the theme, but Scott and Ellen more than made up for it; he with his 'wife-beater' shirt, mossy-oak cap and reed hanky jutting jauntily from his back pocket (c.f.: Cooter's Garage), and Ellen with her Dallas Cowboys gear and tastefully slathered on blue eye shadow.  Sylvia's 'Daughter of Anarchy' look was well received, and I quickly jettisoned my golf shirt and reversed my Dutch football team hat in an ill-advised but still somehow appreciated attempt to maintain some sort of coherence with the prevailing trends.

A surprise visit by infamous 'Tele-Totty' DrinkyWinky, courtesy of an initially accidental photographic composition error, also helped keep the mood light.
"Whoa, even if you only dispense lime, it's still impressive..."

Time spent on a sun dappled deck imbibing margaritas and beers with friends is already as successful a party as I would ever want, but the menu beckoned!

Soon, Pete was re-heating his coals by use of an industrial torch, and while those were getting fired up, he ployed us with green onion cakes.  Now, these are not particularly rednecky unless you happen to live in Edmonton, where they are served with reckless abandon and enjoyed with much gusto at just about every open air event we have, from the Strathcona Farmer's Market to the Edmonton Folk Festival.  These were fantastic as always, complemented by a mixture of dark vinegar and sambel.

Before getting too much further into the meal, Pete insisted we try a libation with the dubious moniker of "Pickle-Back Bourbon".  Now, both of those things sound great to me on their own, but the idea of taking a shot of straight-up bourbon, possibly my favourite of the brown liquors, and chasing it with a shot of pickle juice straight from the jar, I felt my gorge becoming buoyant.  Still, knowing that the Lord hates a coward, we imbibers bellied up to the bar, even the ladies who normally find straight spirits coarse and dubious!

Preparing to do something stupid.
Doing something potentially unwise.

"Well, I'll be damned..."

Turns out, it's actually pretty good, and even works when you sip it, as Pete had some extremely nice 12 year-old Jim Beam on hand for the occasion which we obviously did not want to waste.  (More on this later.)
Proper equipment is a must, obviously.

Returning to the food, Pete served up a brisket he had been slow cooking on his big green egg since the night before, which was absolutely delicious served up on a roll.  The side was a corck of beans made in a bespoke earthen vessel for another similarly long period of time, and were leagues removed from the paltry tinned fare most of us comport ourselves with.

Sensing the fullness of his guests, Pete abandoned his plans for fried green tomatoes and returned to the grill to prepare a crowd favourite: Atomic Buffalo Turds or ABTs for short.

Somewhere between another round of pickle-back bourbon and the ABTs, succulent pulled pork was served up, which was delectable, but did impact our intake of the amazingly smoky-peppery-sausagey goodness which is the hallmark of the Atomic Buffalo Turd.  So much food!  And in the interests of health and balance, Squash Creole was also brought forth to assuage the vegetable quotient.  A high degree of preparation (and a small degree of actual child labour leveraged in the construction of the ABTs) meant Pete spent the most time ever actually visiting with his guests, which was greatly appreciated by all in attendance!

It was close to midnight before anyone had any room for dessert: an incredibly rich Texas Whiskey Cake.  "Oh, I just can't! Ooh, that looks pretty good...maybe a small! We'll share! That's it, we'll share the load..."

In the end though, as good as the food is (and it is hellaciously good, I assure you!), it's the company that keeps us hanging around when the victuals are but a memory

Well, that, and the fact that many of us didn't want to drive after demolishing a keg of Alley Kat Amber Ale at 3:00 am and much of the remainder of the Jim Beam thereafter.
Did I fail to mention there are a couple of teetotalers amongst our number?

No matter what yardstick you use: food, drink, fellowship; Pete's Geekquinox dinners (ably abetted by the lovely Ellen) set the high-water mark for hospitality and excellent times!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Metal for Mom & Dad - Sonata Arctica & Guests Sept 21

If you should find yourself looking for something to do tomorrow night, you could always sneak downtown after supper with the missus and I for some cocktails and egregiously loud music.

One of my favourite power metal bands, Finland's Sonata Arctica, are playing The Starlite Room, which is a bit unfortunate, since it is an 18+ show and the household's second-biggest fan is Fenya.  I'm far too button-down to risk trying to sneak her in, but hopefully I can at least get her a t-shirt.

Metal has turned out to be a pretty comprehensive genre; in fact, with the possible exception of 'jazz', I have a hard time thinking of a musical style as diverse or as fractured as the motley parade that falls under the metal banner.  Which is a good thing, because even though it's a big pie, there's a lot of toppings I am not interested in.

Being a fan of melody and harmony from way back, I just don't have a lot of interest in the emotive growling and screaming from a lot of the major players in modern metal.  I don't know whether it is just the cyclical trends of musical tastes, but if you order a heavy metal pizza, someone like me has to be prepared to pick off a lot of death-growl anchovies.  Or maybe it's the other way around, and my enjoyment of of keyboards and clear, powerful vocals makes me the anchovy lover?  Either way, the pie is big enough that we can all come away happy.

Power metal also employs some symphonic and cinematic flourishes in its music that I appreciate, and Sonata Arctica takes full advantage of this.  In fact, the video for The Wolves Die Young, the lead off single from their latest album Pariah's Child, looks like a direct-to-video knock off of Game of Thrones, and the lyrical content does nothing to dissuade this.

I'll level with you though; in a perfect world I would have gone to see SA two years ago, when they toured in support of The Days of Grays, my favourite of their albums.  It's always the way isn't it?

Still, lead singer and cheif songwriter Tony Kakko still brings a tremendous voice, resonant and powerful, as well as a variety of song styles that remind me of nothing so much as latter day Queen with slightly thrashier guitars.  They can even rock out a decent power ballad:

Now, opening acts for these types of shows can be a real mixed bag, but I've been astonishingly lucky at least once before, and I am optimistic about tomorrow's openers as well.

Delain is a symphonic metal outfit from Holland with a female lead singer, which can be a great juxtaposition with the right people in the right places.  They toook their name from a kingdom in the Stephen King fantasy story, "The Eyes of the Dragon."  The video for their track Stardust is powerful but easy to listen to, and has some very decent visuals to boot.

The other unknown is Xandria, another symphonic metal group with a female vocalist, this time from Germany.  They seem to have all the elements I like; drama vocals, keyboards, percussive guitars, but they are currently working with their fifth lead singer, so maybe they are better to listen to than play with?  Who knows.

Power metal is sometimes derided by the wider heavy-music community as 'happy metal', which strikes me as a little odd.  Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for every emotion in music, especially anger, but hey, who doesn't want to be happy once in a while?

Anyhow, if you are so inclined, the show is at the Starlite Room, doors open at 7:00.  I apologize in advance for telling everyone to speak up when they talk to me on Monday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ice Bucket Doggerel

Late in August, as the trend was at its peak, a couple of people where I work organized an Ice Bucket Challenge in benefit of ALS research.


This trend of challenging others to douse themselves with icy cold water has now run its course, and that is probably just as well, but I am very glad we participated. There was some spectacular trash talking, an excellent display of leadership from everyone involved (from the Executive level to the trenches!), a wonderful time shared outside on one of the last really warm days of the summer, but most importantly, $3000 was raised that might not have been otherwise.


The video at this link shows the highlights; it's funnier if you know the people involved, but even if you don't, it's worth skipping to the 2:15 mark to see how our boss kicks it off!


The whole thing came together in under a week, and I was so impressed by the efforts displayed, I was moved to verse. Not good verse or anything, but for the twenty minutes after lunch spent putting it together, it made a few people smile.


We’ve seen lots of cool things at our Windermere place

But today made it hard to maintain a straight face

When a challenge gets dropped and an event created

To see so many colleagues get so marinated

Dihydrogen monoxide saturation

Is shocking on just about every occasion

Even more so, I’m reliably told

When said liquid is almost solid from cold

With water that’s practically refrigerated

We’re glad no one had to get defibrillated

Grimaces, flinches, but no attempts to abort

Goes a long way to show that our crew are good sports

ALS is a monster that strikes without warning

But knowledge gets spread through these ice-buckets pouring

The staff will queue up for cold water parity

And raise three thousand dollars for such a great charity

Showing bravery, humility, grace and compassion

Our leaders (and others!) stepped forth to take action

Admit it, when faced with that threat of ice bucket

Most of us would probably just say…

…“Well, at least it’s for a good cause.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Harsh Gaming Medicine

You would think that the last thing a game like Dungeons & Dragons would need, what with its ever-expanding library of books, would be even more rules. They keep coming, of course, as people seek to expand either the mechanics of the game or the setting for it. But beyond the rules of the game itself, there is a meta-structure, a set of 'house rules' that helps set the tone of play, and can determine the way in which the game should be played.

Some of these expectations are arrived at organically, like setting the standard that a dice rolled on to the floor do not count, but needs to be re-rolled; it reduces the disappointment when six much-needed pips peer up, off-kilter, from the grey shag of the basement carpet, and saves the time needed to have an objective witness verify the roll of a dice whose journey ended behind a chair or underneath the table.

When we returned to role-playing about five years ago, we chose the then-new 4th edition ruleset, which places a heavy emphasis on the tactical elements of dungeon crawling, perhaps at the expense of the theatrical. This was a good fit for our crowd in many ways, long absent from this style of play, and completely new to one.

To keep the game from becoming too sterile, I introduced style points: small glass tokens I give out somewhat sparingly as a reward for playing the role, speaking heroically or in character, or occasionally passing a glib turn of phrase.

Ten of the tokens can be turned in for a miniature d20, which in turn may be used to take an additional action at need, or re-roll a failed attempt at a critical juncture. I also made them exchangeable, so one player can give their dice to another in order to help smite a particularly troublesome foe, or to save an ally on the brink of death (and a somewhat tedious character creation process!). The dice provide the motivation, but the stones set the tone and keep things lively.

Last night, returning to the dungeons after a prolonged absence, I sent things in a different direction on a bit of a whim.

The first encounter in five months saw the intrepid adventurers facing off against three shambling mounds, massive plant monsters similar to Swamp Thing, or perhaps Man-Thing, depending on where your comic allegiance lie. Very early on, Jeff's half-giant fighter found himself grappled and drawn completely within one of the creatures, which set many of the remaining hearts crosswise. After Audrey's dwarf cleric sought to rescue or avenge him but failed to make contact with the beast, I produced a box of candy and shook it. "So, there is a new opportunity for re-rolls if you are interested..." I said.

They looked at me apprehensively, knowing me to be stingy with such things, and wondering about the possible cost.

"These are Jelly Bellys, but the package says 'Bean Boozled', and there are some pretty distinctive flavours in there," I continued.

"Oh God," said Pete, "This is going to be some sort of 'Bertie Bot's Every Flavour' thing,isn't it?"

I nodded. "Well, the same idea, for sure, but I don't think the Harry Potter license would support jelly bean flavours like Dog Food or Baby Wipes. Half of them are regular types though, so your odds at having something disgusting should only be 50/50."

Someone made a gagging noise.

I continued unabated. "The way it works is as follows: your first re-roll will require you to eat two of these beans, one at a time, fully and completely, without swallowing them whole or any other sort of nonsense or trickery." (Did I hear someone snapping their fingers at an option removed from them?). "Your second re-roll will require four of them, and so on, and so forth."

Audrey looked down disparagingly at the mocking '4' on her twenty-sided die, and held out her hand. "Give me two of those damn things."

I shook out two beans, dark brown and bright green, and inspected the back of the box. "The brown one is either chocolate pudding or canned dog food; if you are lucky, the other one is lime, otherwise it's grass clippings."

Audrey considered this. "The brown one first then; grass clipping sounds a lot better than dog food." She popped the darker bean into her mouth and began to chew dutifully, as the rest looked on expectantly. She nodded in short order, her face screwing up: "Yep, dog food."

She finished off the offensive morsel, and followed it with the green one, keeping true to the spirit of the game by not chasing the dog food down with a swig of cider. Thankfully the other candy was actually lime, but it was all for naught, as her second roll was only marginally better than the first.

Rolling her eyes, she sighed, and held out her hand, into which I poured four more beans. This time she got rotten egg, caramel corn, lawn clippings and another dog food, but sadly, the re-roll still failed to connect. Rather than chance the results of eight such beans, she very reasonably ended her turn.

Beginning with Pete, other players in turn got to sample berry blue, peach and tutti frutti jelly beans, as well as the far less appealing baby wipes, moldy cheese, and 'barf'. Sometimes the results improved, and sometimes they remained the same, but the suspense and curiosity about what horrible taste might be visited upon them next became a game in and of itself.

Four of the five players allowed themselves to be Bean Boozled, with both Pete and Audrey leading the way with six beans apiece, and no one escaping unscathed. Each victim seemed to take perverse pleasure in describing the experience, as with the moldy cheese: "You can really taste the rot.." Or with the barf: "I honestly thought that would be worse, because that's the only one of these flavours I've actually had before. Actually, I recommend the barf, as far as that goes."

I certainly have a hard time picturing a more entertaining use for sixteen jelly beans, even if it did slow down gameplay somewhat. In the end, I think we all considered it time well spent, especially the two of us who stayed jellybean-free.

The best games feature difficult decisions: empty the vault to put that hotel on Boardwalk, or wait another turn? Commit your best unit to a highly contested objective or play a refused flank and hope attrition favours your side? Stand on 16 or take another card? Last night, it was fun to transcend the playing field for a moment and introduce a choice with immediate, real-world consequences, as whimsical and impermanent as they were.

And best of all, I still have at least have a package left for the next session, and many undiscovered flavours, both fair and foul!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spirit of 77 RPG - Can You Dig It?

Part of adolescence in the '80s, for myself at least, was resenting the '70s.  The previous decade was old and tired, the current one was fresh and new; wall-to-wall orange shag and dinosaur rock was played out, Nagel posters and new wave were in.

Still, the veneer of nostalgia smooths out the rough patches and adds a playful shine that makes a lot of things more appealing the further we get away from them, and the '70s are no exception.  This summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past took us back there, as did the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy.  Even before that, hip directors reminded us how intrinsically cool this era was at times, from Kevin Smith's Burt Reynolds references to Quentin Tarantino and...well, most of everything he's done, I suppose, except maybe Inglorious Basterds.  Aided by these worthies, as well as lovingly crafted spoof films like Black Dynamite, I have started to discover a long simmering affection for the decade of my childhood, a time of Steve Austin and Evel Knievel, Bruce Lee and the General Lee, Shirley Jones and Black Belt Jones.

So when I saw a crowdfunding initiative for a tabletop role-playing game set in a bigger and badder, alt-history 1970s called Spirit of 77, I got pretty excited. So much so, in fact, that I backed a Kickstarter for the first time.

Now, I don't do a lot of role-play; we get together 7-8 times a year to play a little D&D (and have for the past, gawd, five years?!?), but our nerdy circle's primary gaming mode is boardgames, cardgames, wargames and suchlike.  The very last thing I need is another role-playing rules set I am not going to play.

And yet, I went and plunked down $30 so I can get a hard copy of the rules when they get published next spring.  And I'm already starting to think up storylines and character ideas.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

First and foremost, as much fun as fighting monsters, taking their treasure, getting better gear and leveling up is, there isn't much of a narrative to it.  I could attribute some of this to the limitations of the 4th edition D&D rules, but if I'm honest with myself, it wouldn't be too hard for me to layer on a bit more story and to get more creative.  

But it does take time, and the combats do take a while to resolve, even if they are fun. In the end, it is just far easier to use pre-written adventures with their glossy battlemaps, and play it somewhere between the tactical and the theatrical.  

The mechanics of Spirit of 77 (adapted from a ruleset called Apocalypse World) lean much more heavily towards narrative and simplicity.  All results are derived from rolling two everyday, six-sided dice, and adding a single modifier: on a 10 or higher, the character succeeds; on a 7-9, they do it, but not as well they would have liked, or with a cost.  On a 6 or less, the attempt failed, and the consequences play out.  Since we learn as much from our mistakes as our failures, failing a task actually earns the character an experience point, which is a neat approach to character improvement.  A single dice roll works out whether you backhanded the villain, or put a beatdown on an entire gang.  Keeping the focus on story advancement as opposed to leveling up, and the techniques they use to keep the players involved collaboratively, has a lot of appeal to me.

Characters can be summed up in three characteristics: their Story, their Role and their Buzz, and they demonstrate this with quite a few famous characters from the period:
  • Billy Jack is a Tough Guy and Former Vet, looking for Peace of Mind.
  • Foxy Brown is a Vigilante who's One Bad Mother, looking for Payback.
  • The Baseball Furies are Boppers with Glam, looking for Respect.
  • Jim Rockford is a Sleuth who's an Ex-Con, looking for Cold, Hard Cash.
  • The Bandit is a Good Old Boy with Humble Beginnings, looking for Fame and Glory.
There is a lot to be said for the merits of operating within such a streamlined system; it actually puts me in mind of the old Ghostbusters RPG made by West End Games in the '80s, which brings me to the second, and most important reason for my backing this game:

It looks really, really fun.

Monkeyfun Studios has done a great job articulating the appeal of a high-octane '70s RPG throughout their Kickstarter page, in the rules, and in this promotional video:

The gamemaster (called a DJ) has an agenda that makes the Spirit of 77's priorities crystal clear and tells the DJ what they need to be doing, as well as a set of principles that clarify how they should be doing it.  These principles include things like "Get down with the funk", and "Address yourself to the characters, not the players", as well as "Respond with shenanigans and intermittent rewards".  As words to live by, I've certainly heard worse.

Everything exudes this spirit of playfulness: you don't fight or roll to hit, you "Deliver a Beatdown"; you don't roll a Perception check, you "Scope Out the Scene".  They describe the best approach to playing thusly:
Go Big or Go Home - Some games encourage a subtle touch,
with nuanced levels of intrigue that require careful consideration
and delicate maneuverings…. but we think that’s for sissies. The
Spirit of ‘77 is a game to be played at maximum volume at all
times. When faced with a choice of a behind-the-scenes feint
with slight reward but low risk, versus bold what-the-hell actions
that could fail spectacularly but would be amazing if they work
out… go for the gusto. If you fail, you get XP. If you succeed,
you’re a Big Damn Hero.
And the backstory!  
Richard Nixon has made a deal with aliens, and is still in the White House; renegade rock gods from another galaxy have shared with us the power of Glam; kung-fu bad-asses wander the city streets righting wrongs, and everyone is trying to stick it to The Man.
Spirit of 77 is about recreating all the classic action and adventure TV shows, movies, and comic books of the 1970's. It draws inspiration from movies like Shaft, Smokey and the Bandit, The Warriors, Barbarella, Rocky, and Enter the Dragon; TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, and Charlies Angels; and music like James Brown, KISS, David Bowie, Jerry Reed, and Issac Hayes. 

And even though Spotify doesn't appear to work in Canada yet, you have to appreciate their making a playlist for their free downloadable adventure "Cruise Ship of the Damned" on their website, featuring artists like Curtis Mayfield and The James Gang.

Monkeyfun have already met all but one of their stretch goals (which I am hoping will mean even more bodacious artwork in the final layout!), so the game seems very likely to be released. Earl went and backed the Kickstarter even before I did, so I am fairly confident this game will get played at least a time or two among our regular gaming comrades. I also received a link to this great 'thank you' video:

If nothing else, now that giant toy companies and publishing enterprises own so many role-playing games and the like, it feels pretty good to promote some independent thinking and audacity in the gaming world. Stick it to the man, indeed!