I recently saw the latest in the alternate universe that is J.J. Abrams Star Trek series.
Action packed and a fun ride, but filled with problems.
There was a lot of references to Wrath of Khan. A lot. And before I go on, I’m gonna warn you now, there’s a few spoilers.
Star Trek into Darkness deals with a lot of very close to home issues, that being terrorism. We see London attacked in the movie and a madman leading the charge to destroy as much as he can on his way to proving himself superior to Starfleet and the rest of the world. He’s introduced as John Harrison, but we later learn his real name is Khan Noonien Singh. We’re also introduced to Carol Marcus, who will be notable as being Captain Kirk’s ex-wife as introduced in Wrath of Khan.
Two major problems arise with this movie (and these don’t include the plot points of having Kirk die and brought back to life and Spock shouting KHAAAAAAN!). The first is the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. Khan’s name is very South West Asian, and to be more to the point, very East Indian. Yet, here’s a Whitey McWhiterson cast as the role, only because Cumberbatch is really big in television and movies right now. Seriously, couldn’t have found an actual man of colour to play the role? Worried that it might have insulted sensibilities because a man of colour is playing the role of a villain? Or just white washing a role that is known so well in Star Trek universe? To be fair, the original Khan was played by Ricardo Montalbán, a Mexican radio and television star. He wasn’t East Indian either, but during the time of the 60′s when the original series aired, there was a lot of racist actions that appeared in television (the “chop suey” accent of Chinese characters, and let’s not go into how Nichelle Nichols was paid as a day worker, and the execs tried hard to limit her time, thankfully the writers ignored that). Still, we live in the 21st Century (or at least we’re supposed to) so how hard is it to put in the casting call “East Indian decent” for the role of Khan?
The second is the treatment of Carol Marcus in the movie. She’s a brilliant scientist but as soon as we see her, she’s objectified by Kirk. Spock makes mention that the Enterprise already has a science officer, which is odd, considering the crew compliment of the ship (seriously Spock, do you do all the science?).
But let’s skip past that.
Obviously, it’s a bit of a setup (and shout out) to events in Wrath of Khan where we learn Carol Marcus and Kirk used to be married and they have a son. However, it’s done rather cheap, like a last second thought. And the scene where Carol changes in front of Kirk so the audience has a shot of her in her undies…
What was the point of that scene? Really? It was obviously gratuitous, and objectifying of the character of Carol Marcus. And before someone says “but she’s beautiful”, please note that she’s also pretty hot FULLY CLOTHED! The scene had nothing to do with the plot except satisfy the perverted fantasies of a bunch of fanboys who wanted a bit of on screen wank time for themselves. If it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, then toss it out. Was there a purpose that she had to change in front of Kirk? Not really, she probably could have found a small change room and change just as easily. If it was purely to have some form of nudity in Star Trek, then that’s stretching it. I really adhere to the Alfred Hitchcock school of nudity; showing less is showing more. That scene, if it really needed to be in the movie, could have been done with Carol Marcus seen in head and shoulder view on the screen standing behind a divider from Kirk.
Abrams has taken Star Trek and gone astray from what it originally was. Philosophical exploration was just as much a part of the franchise as was the action involved. The movies before Abrams came along even explored this concept, and they managed to do it in the heat of battle. In Generations the main point brought up is that time is the enemy with teeth that stalks her prey. Voyage Home was a big eco film, displaying that shit gets real if we keep screwing over the planet. Undiscovered Country was about change and that some people are very resistant to change. Those bits of philosophy were still able to breathe in the movie along with all of the action.
As for the current run of Star Trek films, they’re action filled and fun, but they are a far cry from Star Trek films and television shows of the past.
Or at least, while scrolling through your tumblr dashboard.
I ran across this awesome little tutorial that one of my followers (and obviously someone I follow) had posted and it works great. It’s an HDR effect and really works best for older photographs that have been scanned.
Here’s the rundown.
- Open your picture.
- Duplicate layer (Ctrl+J)
- Overlay that shit 50%
- Flatten image (Ctrl+E)
- Duplicate that one layer that you have now (Ctrl+J)
- Desaturate (Shift+Ctrl+U)
- Invert (Ctrl+I)
- Gaussian Blur it to 40
- Now overlay that B&W Blurred image
- Duplicate and sharpen if necessary
The result works on any image, whether it’s a photo or a screen capture through a video game. I took a video game screen cap from Guild Wars 2 and gave it a try.
It’s subtle but you can see the brighter colour in the ship’s sails behind the building Shani is standing on. Even the sky looks a bit brighter. Now, what about a photograph?
Even in this image, there’s things that appear just a bit brighter. But, what about an image that was taken by a camera like a Kodak Brownie and then scanned?
I am going to add this to my list of things to do when working on photos.
Often, this is the point when I’d start doing a shameless self promotion. But in this case, I’m not. I’m here to tell you about an author I know and have known for a while. Although we know each other, we actually haven’t met face to face. Because we met before we actually wrote a full book. John G Walker is the author of a series called the Statford Chronicles. Three books which look at the investigations that private investigator Tom Statford looks into. But he’s not just an ordinary private eye.
Now you might be asking, why John and I have never met face to face (possibly has a lot to do with the fact I hate traveling). We first met, of all places, through the MMO City of Heroes. Through that game, there was an entire community that played together and even role played characters together. And we all did a lot of writing (I’ve mentioned Moondancer Drake on this blog before, I met her the same way). There’s been some incredible projects that have been born from the old RP Congress that was active in City of Heroes. And these three novels are the result of John G Walker’s work, all of which are available for the Kindle.
Life was simple for private detective Tom Statford. Sure, being the Keeper, the first, last and only line of defense between gods and mortals could make for interesting times, but a mundane existence in south-eastern Virginia kept things on the boring side of life. Boring, until bodies appear with all the trademarks of ritualistic homicide. Now, the Keeper must not only stop a psychopath, but also the end of the world.
Easy enough, if the killer doesn’t find him first.
A novel by John G Walker.
Private detective Tom Statford has a problem. A priest has been murdered in Hampton Roads, Virginia. That’s bad. His killer is claiming the Devil as an accomplice, sending the forces of Heaven after the fallen angel. That’s even worse. Lucifer comes to Tom to proclaim his innocence, which makes Tom’s life more interesting than it needs to be, and he’s the only one who can prove the Devil didn’t make the killer do it.
But who would believe the Prince of Lies?
A novel by John G Walker and illustrated by Starla Hutchon.
In the third outing of private detective of the gods Tom Statford, a woman shows up in his office claiming to have been murdered. What’s worse is she’s a target of a fire god. With four other bodies involved, along with Chinese organized crime, Tom has to figure out who killed the girl, and who is using a god as an assassin. No big deal, right? Before it’s all over, this case will give the phrase “May you live in interesting times” a whole new meaning.
A novel by John G Walker and illustrated by Starla Hutchon.
Instead of inserting a large number of pictures into this post, such as the one above, I decided a video might suit better to this cause. It details the different incarnations of one of the main characters from Black Mask & Pale Rider, Shani Wennemein.
It’s a history, of sorts, of where the character of Shani Wennemein came from. I could also produce character sheets for that, considering she originated as a character in Dungeons and Dragons. The first video game aspect of her came in Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights. She’s still there and active from time to time, as I played a lot on a persistent world server called Legacy of the North. The server’s still there, just hasn’t been as populated as it was in its heyday. In truth, Shani never started out life in the video game world as an elf. She began as a tiefling, the half demon creatures of the Dungeons and Dragons world. But, thanks to the fact I was a bonehead and never asked for permission for a tiefling character (the DMs were strict on those rules), Shani became an elf instead. Which is fine, really. Being an elf is a lot easier to pass off as human in the Union and Confederacy of 1863. Whereas a tiefling would probably have been hunted down with all intentions of killing her. The horns and tail would have been a major pain for her. As it stands, with her Neverwinter Nights version, it’s hard to conceal a pair of wings as she is a Red Dragon Disciple (dual classing is awesome) as well as being a bard. She still has her roguish nature, however, as she started off as a thief (and considering you can have up to three classes in Neverwinter Nights, thief is not out of the question to add).
The latest incarnation is in Neverwinter Online, Cryptic Studios entry into the fantasy genre MMO, and Neverwinter’s first appearance in an MMO (the was the Dungeons and Dragons Online MMO, but took place outside of Neverwinter). As is the case in NWO, Shani is a thief, and uses all aspects of stealth and daggery goodness available to her. Sadly, NWO does not allow for dual classing, nor does it have a bard option (which I’d grab for Pania in a heartbeat). There are “coming soon” options, which includes a race (which I can only assume will be Drow) and a class (which I’m not certain of consdering many of the D&D classics like paladin, barbarian, sorcerer and monk do not exist).
I should add something about DDO, considering I did make Shani in that game, but didn’t get very far. She was rogue, and it was an interesting game, but it was very team heavy, which wasn’t always great if you just wanted to log on and run around for a bit on your own. Needless to say, DDO wasn’t very memorable for me.
Also, two other games that I don’t have in the video where Shani was created were both superhero MMOs. One I didn’t get Shani up very high in level, the other sadly doesn’t exist anymore, which next to Guild Wars 2 is possibly one of the best representations of Shani. The former is Champions Online, the latter is City of Heroes. In CoX, Shani was a dual pistols blaster, and she was a lot of fun. As I said before, it’s kind of sad that the game doesn’t exist anymore, considering it had it’s fun elements about it. I often like going back to a game I haven’t played in a while, even if it is online, and with CoX I can’t do that.
Lastly, which is the first part of the video, is Guild Wars 2. Quite possibly the best representation of Shani from what I’ve written in the book. A dual gunslinger who can swap out to dual blades should the need arise. A very acrobatic woman with the ability to cloak herself in darkness and disappear from her enemies. Unfortunately, there is no elf race in Guild Wars 2, but I managed to pick the smallest size available for Shani and gave her hair that covered her ears (which still stick out and she’s received the comment that she looks more like an elf than a human).
Shani did begin her life, so to speak, outside of the realm of the pages of a book, but did eventually end up there. But she still exists in the game world in many different facets. This happens to be where she began, and the constant aspect of role play developed the story that eventually did become The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider.
Next week, I’ll do part two to this which explores where Pania Alow came from. It’ll include a video as well.
And now, time for shameless self promotion.
Both my first book, Black Mask & Pale Rider, and my second book, Canyons of Steel, are available for purchase online through many different online book sellers.
Lulu.com (where both books were published)
- Tim Holtorf Author Spotlight the front page store for my books on lulu.com.
Amazon.com (both in paperback and in kindle versions)
Amazon.co.uk (both in paperback and in kindle versions)
Amazon.ca (price not listed and currently out of stock)
Barnes & Noble (for the Nook)
iTunes iBook store
Originally printed in The Outlook weekly newspaper as an open editorial, May 9, 2013.
At one time, not long ago, the biggest insult you could call a comic book collector was “nerd”. Anything nerdy was to be seen in a negative light. I got that a few times when I was a kid, it happens. And I will be the first to admit, I was quite nerdy in my youth and still am today. Only now I wear it with a bit of pride.
Here’s four little stories for you about being a nerd. Two are related to a pair of very well known authors, one is regarding the changing world of comics, sci fi and fantasy and the fourth is a little more personal.
Back in the 1960s lots of kids would write to the big comic book companies about the ongoing stories that would come out month to month. During that time, it was a big deal to get your letter in the letters page of a Superman or Batman comic. Some became regular writers. One such regular letter writer was a young George R. R. Martin. Now, back in the 60’s, it was standard practice for the comic editors to add the letter writer’s full name and address with the letter (simpler times). Young George ended up corresponding with many other comic readers across Canada and the United States, and this eventually gave way to an invitation to a home made fanzine. Fanzines are magazines dedicated to science fiction or fantasy or even comic book characters. They were often photocopied and stapled together and either sold or given away. This is how Martin got his start writing, which after many years he ended up being noticed in Hollywood and scripted several Twilight Zone episodes. Now, Martin is famous for the novel series Game Of Thrones, which has gone onto critical acclaim on HBO. Quite the step from being just a comic book nerd who’d write letters to the editor of his favourite comics.
The world of comics, sci fi and fantasy is changing. At one time, there was a stereotype that it was only boys and would always only be boys. In today’s world, it’s not just boys anymore. Girls, and women, are filling up the fandoms of many different comic book, movie, television and even video game franchises. That old lament about there being no girls in comic shops has changed. But, there is a new stereotype in place which often questions girls whether they are “true fans” or not of a certain genre. My personal belief has always been, if you really enjoy something and make a good hobby of it, then you are definitely a fan of that thing. No one should question someone’s love of their hobby.
This moves into something I heard best selling author John Greene (author of Searching For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars) once said. “Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. [W]hen people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness‚‘.” It’s true because now a lot of people have added the term nerd for something they really love. Science nerds, computer nerds, math nerds, music nerds, Shakespearean nerds. Basically people who are really enthusiastic about something they really love.
Being a nerd has it’s down side but it’s also got a great upside to it. Sometimes that upside won’t become evident until years later. Which leads me to the more personal story, and involves my own writing. Years ago, thanks to my nerdy love of comics and science fiction and fantasy, I had created whole worlds and characters in my head, and wrote them down on scratches of paper. Amazingly, I kept them, and it wasn’t until recently that I’ve found them again. But thanks to never growing out of my enthusiastic love of stuff, those things I wrote when I was 12 years old have expanded, and even helped with my own writing.
Being a nerd isn’t a negative thing. Being a nerd is probably one of the most amazing things to be called.
Just a word cloud roundup of the recent completion of Rocket Fox: Flight of the Nighthawk.
Click it for embiggened version.
That is a damn fine uniform. It happens to be one of the really cool things you can unlock in Star Trek Online. There’s a lot of things you can unlock in the game, more than just uniforms. There’s weapons, armour, ship weapons, shields, devices to help in space and ground missions. Naturally, as you progress through the missions and episodes of the game, new missions and episodes unlock (the main story missions are called episodes, where there’s a series of missions that focus on one arc). If you collect certain weapons, shield and armour types together, they will unlock additional abilities to help you in combat.
The above uniform, I opened up while performing the duty roster missions (what I call XP while you are away from your computer, because you just set the mission and then walk away). Four ranks in Diplomacy of the duty roster missions and you unlock the uniform, plus the ability to transwarp to DS9 (at the other ranks you can transwarp to Starbase 39 and Deep Space K-7), plus you get the option to have an bridge officer from an enemy faction. I picked an Orion (I wanted a Ferasan but those are a species you have to buy in Cryptic’s C-Store… which I’ll get to in a bit).
You can also do actual missions that help to unlock ship items (weapons, shields, consoles, impulse engines and deflector) which unlock additional abilities, as well as personal shields, armour and weapons. I managed to unlock the entire M.A.C.O set of armour, shields and weapons for M’iaa (above) which gives the ability to replenish personal shields and remodulate weapons on the fly while fighting against the Borg.
That’s all great, it takes a long time to unlock this stuff and there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you do so.
However, for as much as there is this stuff you can unlock, it’s really annoying to see how much stuff you can unlock just by buying it. Cryptic has the C-Store, which uses real word dollars to buy in game currency. It is a lot of in game currency, mind you, as $20 will get you about 1500 which can buy some decent things. You can buy additional ship skins and types. For example, M’iaa’s ship is the U.S.S. Ocelot, a Defiant Class Escort ship complete with cloaking device. There is a Defiant Class ship you can unlock when you reach the captain’s level, but it doesn’t have the cloak. You can even buy playable races (like Caitian and Ferasan) and certain bridge crew species (like Caitain and Ferasan). I’ve taken advantage of that, plus I’ve taken advantage of all of the costume add ons. This I have no issue with, because it’s a quality of life aspect to the game. Customizing things so that you stand out in the game just a bit.
What really annoys me is one aspect of the game which manages to drop lock boxes. These lock boxes contain special additions for your character to use. Weapons, shields, duty rostes to complete your duty roster crew, costume pieces, and in the case of the Ferengi lock boxes, lobi crystals which can be used to buy a few other add ons. You even have a chance to open a box with a ship (Cardassian, Jem Ha’Dar, Tholian, Ferengi, Mirror Universe ships available). What picks at me is that the keys required to open the boxes require real world money to buy. And they aren’t cheap. Over 1000 in game credits to buy ten of them. Which isn’t so bad, but at the frequency of which the lock boxes drop, it can get very expensive.
These aren’t achievements you can unlock, but achievements you can buy. And even then, the chance of getting a ship is remote.
Costumes and ship skins I don’t mind paying for. It’s an added bonus to the game to help make you look unique. I do have an issue with being forced to buy keys to open boxes in order to have a chance of something really different. What I’d suggest is keep the keys in the store, but have certain missions that will offer the chance to get a key as a reward on completion of the mission. Make that drop rare enough, so when a player does manage to get one, it’s a real accomplishment. If players want to shell out cash to buy keys, so be it, be at least give players the opportunity to be awarded keys in game. Even make a key bundle of ten a reward option.
It’ll make the reward actually feel like an achievement.
I haven’t done this for a time. So here’s a round of quotable quotes.
I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be. – Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865
Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It’s the cheapest of the pleasures, costs nothing and conveys much. It pleases him who gives and him who receives, and thus, like mercy, is twice blessed. -author unknown
You never have to change what you see – only the way you see it. -author unknown
You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred. Woody Allen
The world would be better off if people tried to become better. And people would become better if they stopped trying to be better off. ~Peter Maurin
The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. -Harper Lee
I had a post. I really did. It was fully thought out and well written and long and I was almost done and Google Chrome crashed. Of course, I failed to do the one thing always thought of when on a computer; save my work. Maybe if I remember what it was, I’ll rewrite it. Maybe.
So, in lieu of that post, here’s some random stuff.
The crappy part really begs repeating. Having Google Chrome crash while attempting to write a long post, nearly at the end, and you become so dejected you just don’t care about writing it again.
Also crappy: the fact Microsoft’s internal spell checker still thinks Google is misspelled.
The Awesome and the not so
Something really awesome: Waking up at five in the morning and the sun is there to greet you as you get up.
Something not so awesome: You look at the temperature and see it’s only -9 Celsius outside.
You never realize how dusty your computer monitor is
Until you’re trying to read something and the light is hitting it in such a way where every dust mote is highlighted and then you suddenly get the urge to dust your entire house.
Gifs and memes
Seeing all of the gifs and memes based on different television shows like Game of Thrones, Community, Parks and Rec, Walking Dead, and others makes me realize that I may actually want to get cable television at some point.
But then I realize just how expensive it is and decide it’s just as easy to “watch” Game of Thrones by reading the books.
With just two chapters left (technically, I need only write one, and in truth only half, because I’ve written about half of it already), time for some random Rocket Fox stuff.
The Rocket Fox Soundtrack
As the inevitable ending to the first series draws nearer, I complied a soundtrack of music that really helps out with the universe (star system) I created. These are out of the epic background like music of Two Steps From Hell.
So, in no particular order:
- Starships: Nicki Minaj
- Cosmic Castaway: Electrasy
- Over My Head: Lit
- It’s My Time To Fly: The Urge
- Magic Carpet Ride: Steppenwolf
That’s a short list, but it’s what I’ve listened to at times when I’ve been writing and plotting.
Rocket Fox covers
New cover designs for Rocket Fox. The first draft is almost complete.
As the story is two chapters away from completion (technically one, as I’ve already written the last chapter), I decided to share a couple of things with everyone. The first is more on an inspirational note, while the second is about names of ships.
Starships were meant to fly
Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high
Let’s do this one last time
It’s interesting the things I find inspiring for writing. Now, normally, I don’t listen to Nicki Minaj, but the fan video with her song that intertwined several sci fi television shows and movies along with the beat of the music was really, really good. I have to honestly say, I’ve been listening to it (not watching it) while writing up some ideas for Rocket Fox: Pau Theta II.
So far, the Rocket Fox series has been a build up to what’s coming. What’s coming is going to have a lot more action to it. From action in the city of Rondu on the plaent’s surface, to the fighter pilots lead by Left-tenant Chloe Grivana, to the actions of Left-tenant Mia Talon in the pilot’s seat of the Nighthawk herself.
I’ve even toyed with the idea of borrowing the line “starships were meant to fly” and have it being said by Aria Sharpspear or Captain Felix at some point (most likely toward the end).
Sorry for the ramble, but I just find it interesting what things can help bring out ideas when it seems the well has run dry.
A brief history of ships in Rocket Fox
With one chapter left in the Rocket Fox series (the first book), I felt it necessary to divulge the naming convention for the ships.
As it will become clear, all ships will be dubbed the name of a bird, whether that be a bird of prey or a song bird or nautical bird. This includes the Osprey (which was originally called the Tritan), the Kestrel, the Peregrine, the Kingifsher, right on up to the Nighthawk.
On a personal note, I like birds, I find them fascinating. Particularly birds of prey like hawks and eagles and falcons. For the story, I added that aspect into the first attempts at flight by the Vulpinian people.
The first ship was called the Kitty Hawk (a hat tip to the location where Orville and Wilbur Wright had their historic first flight), which was the test craft to see if it was indeed possible to create a craft which could fly. The first passenger transport air craft (terrestrial ships) were named the Kitty Hawk after this first historic voyage. Since then over a thousand years have passed, and the interplanetary passenger ships are named the Kingfisher class shuttle craft.
As space exploration really began to take off, the first satellites were also given some of these names. Such as the Puffin, the Night Owl, the Gull, and the Parrot. As massive space exploration vessels were created, they were named after larger birds, with even one getting the rather embarrassing name the Turkey Vulture (since that time, it was decided all names will be no more than one word in length, and no longer than ten letters).
As the Vulpine and Felanus began meeting hostile species in space, they had to build vessels for war, and they were given very intimidating names. Such as the Peregrine, the Kestrel, the Falcon and the Eagle. The most recently named class of vessel in the Osprey, which is the flagship of the Royal Vulpine Armada.
There have been exceptions to this rule, as the fighter craft of the fleet is called Maverick (named for the engineer who developed the first jet engine). With the launch of the NIghthawk, the name Maverick is no longer in use, as the Nighthawk’s fighter craft are often called the ‘Hawks, shortened version of the Nighthawk. Another exception is many of the cargo cruisers in the Vulpine Trade Commission. In particular, the Barrow, or as the refit is now called, the Barrow’s Revenge. The Barrow was named after the farm and construction implement which is used to carry large amounts of material from one location to another. The Revenge, as she is known, is refit with a hangar bay which houses the now famous Midnight Squadron of attack fighters, along with an expanded cargo bay,and forward and aft photon torpedo launchers and forward phaser cannons.
Actually a pretty catchy tune and it features a lot of starships, from the Millennium Falcon to the Enterprise to Serenity to Voyager. Also, I don’t listen to many Nicki Minaj tunes, but the music is pretty catchy. Just a random find while cruising through Tumblr and Youtube and Vimeo.
Sources include: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien/Aliens, Apollo 13, Archer, Battlestar Galactica (2004-8), Cocoon, Community, Doctor Who (2005-), Dune, Farscape, The Fifth Element, Firefly/Serenity, Forbidden Planet, Futurama, Galaxy Quest, Independence Day, The Muppet Show, Odyssey 5, Planet of the Apes (1968), Spaceballs, Star Trek (TOS, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager; movies II, IV, VII, VIII and XI/Reboot), Star Wars IV & V, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate SG-1, Sunshine, Superman (1978), Toy Story 2, Virtuality, WALL-E.
I am struttin’ my stuff today, because I am quite close to completing the first book of Rocket Fox.
There were times when I took a look at what I was doing and just thought…
It seemed a great deal larger than I had originally planned. But, I managed to carry on and pounce on the idea.
Oh, I know there are going to be those who will bemoan what I’ve been doing, saying it’s not worth it, you really shouldn’t try, so on an so forth. I, however, have a few things to say to that.
There are those that have stuck by what I’ve been doing and have taken note of several things. This is a first draft, after all. While the writing of the first book is near completion, there’s still a long way to go. So, to those who support me…
So, because I’m in such a good mood, and my work is nearing completion…
(animated gifs are not all of my creation, save for two from Champions Online, the remaining are from YouTube, Star Wars, Star Trek, Treasure Planet, Firefly, the Office, Pirates of the Caribbean, M*A*S*H, and Robin Hood)
I don’t often promote other works here, but in this case there’s a major exception.
(okay, I actually do promote other works here, carrying on…)
Modo: Ember’s End is a proposed graphic novel by Saskatoon author Arthur Slade and illustrated by Christopher Steininger. Based on Slade’s best selling novel series, The Hunchback Assignments, there’s 13 days left in Slade’s crowdfunding at Indigogo, and over $6,000 of the required $15,000 has been raised.
I could talk more about it, but why not let Arthur Slade do that.
Here’s a trailer to get you even more pumped about this project, and go support Slade and Steininger and bring this project to reality.
Wanna help them out? Click here and help support their Indigogo project!
Remember the days of video games that you bought in a box and had paper instruction manuals? In some case, more than one disc? Fortunately, this was on a DVD, so there was disc changing. It’s the diamond edition of Neverwinter Nights from Bioware, and took me two minutes to punch in the serial code.
Mind you, I still have the original discs that have been quite badly scratched (thus, why I bought the diamond edition which has both expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), but can you imagine swapping out discs to install a game now? Especially when the current trend is to digitally purchase it and download it. But I still have those discs, and the only way to play it now is to have a friend who might have an extra copy (such as me having two copies).
Along with all three of the original manuals.
And… apparently a Far Side book was tucked in next to them.
Light reading material for later, to be honest.
Ah, but forgive my brief nostalgia. It brought back wonderful memories.
Since the Internet has had it’s users there have been online games. And during all of that time, there have been several varied attempts to create a Dungeon and Dragons video game. Especially with the name Neverwinter.
While the game Neverwinter Nights, created by Bioware in 2002, was the most well known and most popular game (there is still content being used to create modules and there are still active servers that host complete worlds created by different people) it wasn’t the first. The first came out in the early 1990′s and was a text based MUDD that featured Nasher as a character questing through a complete story. Since then, there’s also been Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, created by Obsidian. The first Massive Multiplayer Online game was released in mid 2000′s with Dungeons and Dragons Online, and while it had references to Neverwinter, it didn’t start in Neverwinter.
Now, Cryptic Studios has developed their own MMO called, simply Neverwinter. It’s a throwback of sorts, to remind players of the original Neverwinter Nights, even using the font that was popularized by the Bioware release. However, that’s the only similarity (along with the fact it takes place in Neverwinter). There’s some good with this game, but there’s also a lot of bad.
It’s standard Cryptic development, which they used in both Champions Online and Star Trek Online, and is becoming their own sort of stamp on online games. Many of the animations used in the game are used in both Champions and Star Trek, as are many of the voice actors. The game was only in Beta, so I’m not going to be too harsh on the character creation system. It was very lax compared to Champions which has a much more indepth creation system. You could literally spend hours just creating a character in Champions, whereas in Neverwinter, they have a series of cookie cutter choice that you can tweak, or you can make your own additions and changes. Again, not nearly as extensive as Champions, but it’s also only in Beta.
Game play itself is pretty decent, and something which can be expected from Cryptic. After all, this is the fifth MMO they’ve created (they created City of Heroes and City of Villains as well). Even the system for levelling up is a familiar one for those who play D&D. However, it’s all very cookie cutter, and there’s very limited customization. You get feats based on your class with some racial feats levelling up as you go. You can swap out certain feats to use at various times, and as you battle you gain advantage points to unleash a massive attack.
It was a decent system for adding to attribute points which includes Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Every ten levels you add in more attribute points, two at level 10 and 20, and six at level 30 (only one point per attribute). I only managed to get to level 30 in the two days I played. There are 60 levels, which means even at casual play, one could reach the maximum level very quickly (hardcore gamers might do that in a day).
Early on, you get a quest that sends you to a livery, and you can then purchase a horse, which is pretty cool. However, they don’t allow for attacking while in the saddle. Any prompted attack automatically takes you off the horse and you’re planted firmly on the ground. Even in Neverwinter Nights, Bioware had made allowances for riding combat (it was one of the last patches that Bioware released with the game, which was patch 1.69).
Getting a mount isn’t the only thing available. You can also have a companion to help you with your quests. The choices are a devote cleric, a warrior, a guardian or a wolf. I went with a devote cleric, because I have a tendency of losing hit points fast. Having her along for the ride helped keep me topped up. Your companion will even level up as you progress, which does take time. Longer for higher levels. You go to your character sheet, click the companion tab, and click on the level up button for your companion and they go off and level up (which you just have to imagine they are doing something else and not presently available for an hour or so). Handy to have a backup companion, that way you can swap to that one as the other is levelling up (I had two clerics).
The vistas were actually nice, the area is well done and looks much improved from what Cryptic did in Champions and in Star Trek. The only problem I have is… it’s still the same. It’s very cookie cutter, whereas they took their work from Champions, tweaked it and made Star Trek, then took that work, tweaked it and made Neverwinter. Even the quests are of similar design, right from having a spawning point in dungeons. There were lots of “go collect x things”, which is really tired and boring (yes, let’s do the same thing that every other MMO from time in memorial has done). Even the big dungeons are copy and pasted from what Cryptic did in Champions and Star Trek. Five player teams needed to do a major dungeon. Even the monetary system is similar, right down to mining and refining a particular type of ore that can be used as money. This ore is one that can be acquired through quests.
I didn’t get a chance to go through the crafting ability, which has been titled as professions, so I can’t really comment on that at all. The combat was actually fairly good, and it looks as though they’ve done away with the tab targeting that most games use (you have a targeting reticle and your target has to be in front of you in order to attack). It makes it a bit more fluid and dynamic when you’re in battle.
The biggest downer is, there’s nothing really new with this, with the exception that they seemed to over use the word “Never” when naming things. Seriously, having a leader of a city of Neverwinter named Neverember, and have the Neverdeath graveyard. What next, Neverwater for the city port and Neversobber for a pub?
The game is only in Beta, but there was a severe number of races and classes that were missing from this outting. No paladin, no ranger, only wizard, no sorcerer. And I believe that Wizards of the Coast ditched druid for the D&D 4.0 release (which Neverwinter is based on). But there was also a lacking of races. Wood Elf was it’s own race, which I don’t understand why you can’t just have “Elf” and a series of subraces in there (such as Sun Elf, Wood Elf, Grey Elf, Drow).
As I said, it was only a Beta, so there may be more changes on the horizon, but so far it seems to be standard Cryptic design, which isn’t bad. They were successful with the two previous outings, but it’s also not great because it’s nothing new. I’ll have to see what changes come about with the next Beta weekend.
Some have said that the Ouija, or spirit board, has been something that’s been around for centuries. That it has the ability to speak to the dead and that it has been warned continued use would bring about a threat of demonic possession. In truth, this object has a far less ominous past.
Because originally, all the Ouija board was created as was a board game.
That’s right, this board which has been connected to demonic possession, speaking with the dead and all things evil was nothing more than a board game. In fact, it was only created in 1890, by businessman Elijah Bond (probably no relation to a Bond who has a penchant for shaken martinis), and has been distributed by Hasbro ever since. It never even began as an object that could be used for spiritual communication until World War I when American Occultist Pearl Curran began popularising it that way. As a matter of fact, the Ouija had popular use and was second only to Monopoly as a board game until 1972, when it’s decline was rather sharp.
All thanks to the movie the Exorcist, which used a Ouija board in the movie.
But all traces of the Ouija board having some sort of connection to demonic or spiritual use is pure fabrication. Especially when one knows the history of the board, that it all began as nothing more dubious than a board game.
Yes, I just signed up to Bloglovin, yet another in the long list of social media experiments that I have.
So far, wordpress and tumblr have had the longest run.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since the entire debacle with Damian Wayne was announced. For anyone who doesn’t know, Damian Wayne is Bruce Wayne’s son, born to Talia al Ghul. Damian became the new and latest Robin, coming in after Stephanie Brown was Robin for a short stint, and following the legacy set forth by Tim Drake, Jason Todd and Dick Grayson. Damian Wayne was killed, and according to writers and editors, it was done to give more tragedy.
Anyway, that should bring us to the fore front of the conversation, now, before I really get into it, I have to build myself a protective fort.
Okay, now that the fort has been constructed, onto my talk.
Batman, by himself without his backup cast, is really, really boring. There, I said it. Batman, who some think is the star of his own series, is actually the least interesting character in his own series and his own universe. Had it not been for the Rogue’s Gallery of Batman’s (which was a phrase ripped off from the Flash), then Batman would have continued to be really dull. Had it not been for that succession of Robins, then Batman would have been pretty much a third tier hero. Had it not been for the three Batgirls, then Batman would have had zero interesting aspects. Even having the Huntress, both Helena Bertinelli and Helena Wayne, was actually making Batman interesting.
To be honest, Batwoman in her current run is far more interesting than Batman.
Even with the backup cast of Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Red Hood, Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, and Batwoman, Batman is still a really boring character. The only time since the post DC Crisis of the mid 1980s that Batman has been interesting was when Dick Grayson became Batman for a short period of time. Let’s face it, the current version of Batman is just as Reginald D. Hunter said; a conservatives wet dream. He’s a rich guy who bought and made lots of toys and goes beating up bad guys in street level crime. Why not go after a corporate shill who happens to be pushing through bad legislation in order to make more money. That would be interesting.
But no, Batman has to go beating up guys who can’t make ends meet and are forced to work as henchmen for the Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and others. Batman sure helps out the private prison industrial complex, making sure that those cells remain filled at all times.
A while back Stan Lee had a hand in “creating” Batman in his Just Imagine series with DC Comics. That version of Batman, an African American boxer who had to deal with corporate crime, was far more interesting than what the current version of Batman has become.
Batman is only as good as his supporting cast, and that being said he must be good, because his supporting cast is awesome. From Nightwing to Robin to Batgirl to Batwoman. But the real problem is that while is supporting cast is awesome (of that, there is no doubt), Batman is still really boring.
We all do this. While talking with friends, we make this statement about some obscure factoid and spout it out, never knowing if the factoid is actually true or not. In today’s world, it’s a little easier to prove points and find out the real story, but sometimes it’s rather difficult. Especially when the story is so old, or there are no clear records, like yesterday’s post I made about Laura Secord. No one really knows what she took with her on her 20 mile walk, and no one even knows if she actually did take the walk, or if it was even her first hand information that was told to FitzGibbon warning the British about an American invasion.
Such is the case with something I read about a lot, and it’s one of those things drummed up to make one group look really foolish and another to actually look smart by using the simplest of things. The story I’m talking about has to do with writing implements and space exploration.
As the story goes, which is kind of an anecdotal joke, the American space program spent millions of dollars in order to create a pen that could write in zero gravity. Meanwhile, the Russians just used a pencil. That story is partially true. Partially, in that yes the American space program did spend a lot of money to create a zero G pen. And partially true that the Russians did use a pencil. In truth, the Americans used a pen as well. That was the first tool used to write with, it made sense, it was simple and many believed it to be cheap. But there was a problem with it. Pencils break, and in zero G, a broken lead just free floats and has the danger of getting into equipment, into people’s eyes, into places where you don’t want it. That can have disastrous results. Think of it like that broken lead bunging up one of the major systems in the space capsule that is to ensure safe return to Earth, or, lodging in a space suit and thus not making it air tight.
So the reason why millions were spent was actually because the simplest thing, ie; the pencil, was not necessarily the most practical.
This story is an example of a myth that is turned around to make one group look like a bunch of idiots, while another gets to be smug and smart. In truth, the American space program spent the millions on an anti-gravity pen because pencil lead in zero G was dangerous. It’s always good to check on stories, but, it’s sometimes good fun to relay these classic tidbits. Just don’t be too surprised to learn if these tidbits aren’t actually just a huge load of bollocks.
I could go into a huge number of posts, but there are three women in particular I wanted to point out here today. I may do this again later this month, after al, there’s lots of days left in March.
The woman pictured above is Pocahontas, and her life is a lot sadder than what is depicted in the legend or in the Disney film. You could say that the film is complete fiction when compared to the real woman.
Pocahontas was captured by the English during the Anglo Indian wars of 1613 and held for ransom. During her capture, she converted to Christianity and took on the name Rebecca. Eventually she married John Rolfe and bore him a son. Pocahontas marriage to Rolfe in 1614 was the first recorded inter-racial marriage in North America.
The married couple travelled to London where Pocahontas became a bit of a celebrity of the civilized “savage” in order to create investment opportunities in Jamestown. When they were planning on returning to Jamestown, Pocahontas took ill for unknown reasons and died in Gravesend. The exact location of her grave in Gravesend is unknown.
It is believed that she was born in 1595, as no actually record of her birth was kept. This would have put her at about 18 years old when she captured, and 19 when she married John Rolfe. As for the romance with Captain John Smith, while Smith did have dealings with Powhatan indians in the area (some friendly, some hostile), Smith never met Pocahontas until one time when he was captured. In a letter to the Queen, Smith details how Pocahontas risked her life to save his. Never once did they have a romantic affair, but would have been considered more good friends. One must also remember, if Pocahontas birthdate is correct, when Smith met her in 1609, she would have been 13 or 14 at the time.
When Smith was injured and sent back to England, the Powhatans were informed that Smith was dead. Pocahontas never visited Jamestown after that, and did not learn the truth of what happened to Smith until after her marriage to Rolfe.
The picture above depicts Laura Secord, who is famous for her 20 mile walk to warn FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Damn during the War of 1812.
The year was 1813, and having learned information about the proposed attack, Secord walked from Queenston in the Niagara district all the way to Beaver Damns to warn James FitzGibbon (not him personally, but he happened to be the commanding officer). With this information, FitzGibbon rallied British troops and Mohawk Warriors to ambush the advancing Americans. By June 24, 1813, the Americans had been defeated with high casualties and prisoner captures for the Americans. Some say this turned the tide in the war and the colonies of Canada (because Canada was still under British rule at the time) went on to victory.
Secord’s walk is disputed several times throughout history, and some even say that Secord herself changed her story over the years. Some say she left with a cow so that she would not be stopped by American troops on patrol. Others say that Secord was escorted by Mohawk warriors (as pictured above). Even FitzGibbon mentioned very little about Secord’s involvement until after the war, believed that it was done to protect Laura and her husband James.
Whatever the true story is, it is agreed upon that Laura Secord did sacrifice a great deal in order to warn the British and help turn the tide of the War of 1812. She lives on In Canadian history.
Elizabeth Jane Cochrane
The charming photo above is a picture of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, or by her pen name Nelly Bly. Nelly has the distinction being the world’s first investigative reporter, and worker for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World magazine. So valuable was she that once she threatened to take her skills to another newspaper if she wasn’t paid for her abilities in a fair way. Pulitzer gave in, paying her equally to the other journalists.
Nelly is known best for two events, the first being her undercover investigation of Bellevue Hospital. This exposed the mistreatment of inmates and patients within the hospital.
Her other impressive endeavour was traverse the world in 80 days, which she actually did in 72 days, 11 hours and 14 minutes. This was brought on by the book written by Jules Vern, 80 Days Around The World. Bly completed the trip not by balloon, but embarking by steamer. She is the first person recorded to take part in this venture, and in her travels she met Jules Vern in Amiens, France.
Bly got into reporting after her family moved to Pittsburgh in 1880, where she read in the Pittsburgh Dispatch, an aggressively misogynistic editorial to which she wrote a rebuttal under the name Lonely Orphan Girl. The editor was so impressed with the letter, he invited her to join as a reporter, until he learned that Nelly was indeed a woman. Nelly was a good talker, though, and persuaded him to give her a job. She was given the pen name Nelly Bly during this time, as was custom for female writers. The name was chosen from the popular song of the same name by Stephen Foster.
There you go, the first person to travel the world in less than 80 days was Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, best known as Nelly Bly, but equally important was her work exposing the treatment of patients at a New York hospital through her investigative journalism.
I read more with my Kindle now than I have in quite a while. I’m not sure why, it may have something to do with the fact that It’s one thing to hold onto and it’s rather easy to use. Plus, I can store all sorts of books on it. I’ve even begun categorizing the different books I’ve got. I love the fact you can buy books anywhere, and it’s uploaded to your Kindle right then and there. I recently bought Phil Rossi’s book Harvey for the Kindle. I bought it through Amazon on my computer, because it was a special offer through Rossi’s facebook event page, and within seconds it was updating on my Kindle.
I also like the fact there’s a ton of free kindle books out there, direct from Amazon in many cases. I picked up the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for free. That’s all the short stories, the couple of novels and the serial series as it appeared in the Strand Magazine.
I even love the fact you can categorize your books into different shelves. So far, I’ve got two; sci fi and fantasy. Soon, I’ll be adding western, nature, drama, and a couple others. Though, it will be difficult to categorize a book; Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy can be both a comedy and a sci fi. Even my own Black Mask & Pale Rider can be a fantasy and a western. Though, I doubt I want to go that far with organizing everything.
Needless to say, I do find this device addicting. But I also find it wonderful that I’m able to carry a library around with me in my coat pocket.
We’ll start this off (we as in the royal we) with a quote for this Monday morning.
I was born with a reading list I will never finish. ~Maud Casey
Where we goin’? HIGHER!
Over the weekend, here in Saskatchewan, the 37th Telemiracle Telethon was held in Saskatoon. It’s one of those events that begins on Saturday night and runs for 20 hours. It’s broadcast live on television, and at one time both CBC and CTV ran the broadcast (I am not certain how it works currently for broadcast times). This year the telethon raised 5.5 million dollars for charities to help mentally and physically disabled people, from children to adults. Over the course of the 37 years, Telemiracle has raised over 100 million dollars. The Kinsmen Telemiracle at one time was in the Guiness Book of World Records for the most amount of money raised in a region per capita. When the event began, Saskatchewan had less than a million people. 37 years later, we have slightly over 1 million people. One of the longest appearances at Telemiracle happens to be Bob McgGath of Sesame Street fame. He has come to Saskatchewan to be a part of Telemiracle for all but one of the 37 years, and before this weekend Premier Brad Wall awarded McGrath with a Distinguished Service Award for his service to the Province of Saskatchewan (the award is open to those not from the province, but who have helped make some contribution to Saskatchewan). During that time, the host city has always switched back and forth between Saskatoon and Regina.
Now, the 2013 edition of Telemiracle has come to a close. This is an event that has come a long way since 1977.
You ever have one of those times when you think of something really profound, and think how awesome it would be written down in a notebook, on your blog or posted to twitter? But you happen to be nowhere near a smartphone, notebook, laptop or desktop computer, and so you think “Yeah, I’ll remember that because that was some profound stuff”. And then you sit down at a computer or smartphone and suddenly…
You’ve forgotten everything about this most profound aspect of life. Gone. All of it. You can’t remember a thing at all. And you know for a fact that it was the most incredible thing ever to exist on the planet. Because for some reason at 2:30 in the morning when you wake up to get a drink of water or go pee, you think of this thing and it sounds so good so you end up going back to bed and think about it some more, all the while reminding yourself that you will write this down in the morning when you get up. I’m not mocking that, I’ve been there. Because there is a part of me that thinks “that think you thought of that you thought must have been profound… probably not so much”. Some really good ideas go down the tubes just because of that.
And it’s happened to me right now. But it wasn’t something I thought of during a middle of the night pee break. It happened while I was driving to work. But the constant barrage of stuff and things (TWD reference again) that happens when I get to work, I sometimes forget this profound thing I thought of before. Never to return. Which is often the case. My day continues, and this thing I thought of never gets thought of again.
Walkin’ in a winter wonderla…. SHUT UP ALREADY!
I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough. I hate winter, with a huge passion. I hate winter when the snow falls. I hate that crisp bite in the air. I often glare and narrow my eyes whenever someone says “oh, I’d love snow here in (insert name of warm climate region here)”. Really, I say. You want snow. Then you want the windchill, the freezing temperatures, the ice, the difficult driving conditions, all of that along with it.
Snow comes with a huge amount of really crappy baggage. If you’re in a warm climate region, consider yourself lucky. How fortunate you are that you don’t have to deal with a constant temperature shift that makes your genitalia crawl up into your body cavity just so it can stay warm. And I’m not talking about just dudes, it can happen to women too. That’s how freakin’ cold it gets up here. Snow, you can keep it. Winter is a novelty that has seriously worn off on me a long time ago.
Since that day I skinned my knee on a crazy carpet going down a snow hill.
You’re so addicted
I was accused the other day of being addicted to my smartphone. Which, I’m totally not.
Yes, I know first step which proves the accusation right is that I go right into denial. But there’s some facts I need to dole out here. My smartphone, while being black and having a keyboard, is only 4.5 inches tall by 2.25 inches wide. I only check the weather on the device, or answer texts. I do not go onto facebook, I will post witty comments on my twitter that sometimes accompanies a photo, or I might check my email. I sometimes even (gasp) use my smartphone as a phone. And answer calls. Now, at the time when I was accused of this addiction, and not really given the opportunity to defend myself because the accusation took me aback, I was holding onto a device that is about eight by six, still black, has no keyboard, but I can read stuff on it. And things! And it has a completely different name from my Blackberry. Last I checked, Kindle and Blackberry have no common link, save for two letters (the “L” and the “E” for those keeping score at home).
So no, I’m not addicted to my smartphone. I am with my Kindle because it’s awesome. 500 books and counting.
They’re becoming more common in circulation now, but our money has two windows. They’re also made of polymer not paper. Everyone complains they stick together, forgetting that the other twenties would also just stick together. They complain about what happens if you forget them in the wash, forgetting that the other twenties would also become rather wrecked if they went through a good washing.
In other words, when someone does something new, people just like to complain about it. Which sort of brings me to a conversation about new stuff.
When we develop something, it’s to help with a chore that we used to do, which took longer. Shovelling snow, for instance. Back breaking work, unless you’ve got a really short walk. So snow blowers were invented to make the job easier. Fuel efficient vehicles with better safety regulations. Communication devices such as cellphones, smartphones, and so on. Reading tablets like the iPad, Kindle, Nook and so on. But still with all of that stuff, people still complain.
“Oh, whatever happened to books,” people will often moan. They still make books, but it’s a whole lot cheaper to buy a digital copy of a book than something you can stick on your shelf. Books are just huge dust collectors. Whereas a Kindle or iPad can contain a huge number of books on them. Consider this; while I’d need an entire room of bookshelves to house a few thousand books (seriously, that would still be awesome) my 6″ Kindle can hold the same amount. This cuts down on things like picking a book to take with me when I travel. That’s a hard choice, because I often think, what if I finish the book and my travelling hasn’t ended yet. What do I do then, buy another book somewhere? With my Kindle, I’ve got them all, right there. And even if I do want to buy another book, I can do that with my Kindle.
We live in a society where we like to complain about new things, always saying “back in my day” and then detailing a long list of hardships as though it made you a better person. Well, some people who went through those hardships stopped for a moment and though “waitaminute! This is bollocks! There’s got to be an easier way to do this”. And so, innovation was born, and that thing we did became that much easier.
I swear, we’ll eventually move onto a time when all you need is your debit card, and currency of any physical kind will become obsolete. And at that point, people will still find something to complain about. Same thing with phones. Those who complain about smartphones often say that we’re more in touch but we’ve forgotten how to communicate, often pointing out that we’ve developed a whole text language and that the English language is on it’s last legs. Not to say anything about any other language. But that’s how language evolves. We don’t talk like they did in Shakespearean times, and in a few hundred more years, the words we use now will most likely be considered dead. But all of this complaining and worry is absolutely pointless.
It’s like Stephen Fry said once: Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.