Monday, November 29, 2010

Fallen off the wagon.

yup.. not proud of it.. but I've gone back to playing world of warcraft. I kept hearing all about all the changes that were being made to the game preparing for the launch of Cataclysm and I just had to check it out. The rumors of changes vastly shortchange the scope of the change. For all intents and purposes, this new game is WOW 2.

Even though I was never a very serious WOW player, I can already state unequivocally that it is a vastly different game, even while the mechanics are generally unchanged.

The general storyline has been advanced by about 5 years, which in my opinion vastly improves the general game. As some one who is generally concerned with the "big picture" rather than the small details, it always bugged me how despite all the enormous changes which were supposedly undertaken, the game never really altered because of them. Partly this was simply logistical, it costs money to change the game, and partly because the game designers didn't want to make new players feel as if there was no reason for them to stick around. This time however its not the case, the implementation of phasing has been brought into great effect on several zones, this is something I felt that Lord of the Rings online did very well. Now if Blizzard will implement the ability to move backwards through the phased zones in order for you to be able to help your lower level friends, they will have caught up to Turbine.

I decided that rather than using my old character, I'd simply start a new one, on a new server. I'm glad I did as its a vastly different experience this time. Dare I say it, being a low level character dosen't suck any more. The developers have redesigned nearly every zone in some way or another, they have re aligned quests so that they radiate around central hubs, making it much easier to do more than one quest at a time and cuts down on the backtracking which used to plague the game. Especially in the 30's to 40's which required tremendous amounts of travel and must have been some what similar to the "Doldrums" in the days of sailing ships.

They've clearly taken note of some of the most gregarious examples of these problems and fixed the majority of them. Some of the most obnoxious zones however, such as the dreaded Stranglethorn vale, still require a rather obscene amount of out-and-backing, but nothing to the extent to which it used to do. As a bonus they have also added a "Calling all heroes" bulletin to the capital cities, so that if you are at a loss as to where to go next, the board will provide you with a quest to seek out some one at the first quest hub in which ever zones you are currently at level to play in, this is a very nice touch.

I'm not sure yet how excited I am for Cataclysm itself to launch, the idea of having all those flying mounts circling me while I'm on a low level character is unnerving. And I'm still not entirely sure why, now that the events of the Burning crusade and war against Arthas are over, that we still have to go through the expansions in order to get to level 80. I could be mistaken, as I've not gotten far enough yet to find out, but I doubt seriously if there will be any attempt to explain these excursions via the story.

I doubt I will play for any considerable amount of time, but it is definitely enlightening to play it now, especially after having played several months of Lord of the Rings online, and previously over the year other MMO's such as Everquest 2 and Guild wars. It's nice to see what aspects of all these games are becoming standard for all MMO's.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I admit it.

I managed to succeed in my goal of reading 150 books in the year 2010, with just about 36 days left to spare... A few times I was afraid I wouldn't succeed. it brings my total for the previous 10 years (since I've been keeping track) to 1400 books. Not all of the books I read were good, some were longer than others, but the average worked out to be about 300-400 pages per book. So a good estimate would be about 60,000 pages this year. could be slightly less, could be slightly more.

I won't post a complete list yet as I want to see just how many I can actually get completed. If I'm feeling particularly bored I might add up the actual number of pages I read too. It's maybe not that interesting.. but last year I only managed about 75.. so I'm certainly doing well in doubling that. but next year I doubt I will press myself so hard. rather than saying bluntly I've got to finish a book every 2.3 days I'd rather take my time and enjoy them all a bit more..and I also slacked off a lot on my non fiction reading this year in order to meet my goal. Reading dry non fiction just takes longer than reading novels.

Now that I met my goal, I'm going to go back and finish off Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.. and then if I have enough time try again at reading Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

movie review - Comic Book Villains

From Dweomera Lagomorpha

Comic book Villains starring DJ Qualls, Donal Logue, and Carey Elwes was an interesting sort of film. It was most certainly not a comedy like Netflix advertised it as being. It was gruesome and tiring.. and beyond a few gags had very little in the way of levity.

The basic story of the film is that in a small town some where in America two competing comic book shops are looking for an edge, one which is run by the extremely knowledgeable comic guru played by Donal Logue is struggling to make ends meet. The other run by a husband and wife team who care little about comics but more about making money. One day they are both separately visited by the character named "Conan" (as I mentioned previously) who is "Switch Hitting" meaning he opportunistically shops at both stores, where in he informs both shop owners of the recent passing of a man who had been collecting comics for some 50 years or so.

The race is now on for the two owners to convince the mans elderly mother to sell them the books, which turn out to be the equivalent of Aladdin's cave of comic books. She's not interested however in selling to anyone.. and things inevitably break down from there as the two owners become more and more desperate to get these books. Throughout all of this, Archie (DJ Qualls) is legitimatly making friends with the old lady. Helping her around the house and listening intently to her stories of visiting Europe, Something which has been hinted that Archie longs to do.

Eventually Donal Logue enlists the aid of Cary Elwes's character, Carter, who used to beat him up in school.. and also used to really like comic books. There follows a long series of back stabbings.. and culminates in Carter simply stealing the collection... by the end of the movie essentially everyone except Archie is dead and the comic book hoard is dissolving in a fish pond.. As mrs. Cresswell expends her final breaths she tells Archie to look in the closet, though the comic are gone her son collected something else. something far more valuable than even comic books. Baseball cards. So we end the movie with Archie having sold the vast collection of baseball cards, and is now sitting in a cafe in Spain. The End.

Over all I was admittedly disappointed in the film. Not least of all because I'm not used to seeing Cary Elwes as the bad guy.. I grew up with the Princess Bride being one of my favorite movies.. And I also disliked the message that the old lady seemed to be setting out to send to poor Archie. That comics are for kids and that he was to old to enjoy them and should be liking more adult "Literature" like Hemingway. And it is mainly through his acquiescence to this goading that endears him to her. Essentially he fulfilling the job of her own son to 'Grow up'. I especially felt that towards the end of the film when the death toll begins to mount that it was gratuitous.

I'm glad I didn't buy it, and I seriously doubt I'll watch it again. It just wasn't that great of a movie.. and thats probably why it's taken me nearly 10 years to even find out about it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An REH mention.

Watching a movie on Netflix called "Comic Book Villains" and theres a character in it with the nickname "Conan" because he claimed that "Robert e. Howard was his great uncle"

The "Conan" character is played by the same actor who played Hyde on That 70's Show.

Its nothing earthshattering.. and I'm sure others have mentioned it in the REH fandom.. but I still found it to be neat.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Flanders Fields,...

Today, is Veterans Day, or if you are not in the USA, Armistice day or Remembrance day. The point is the same however, to remember the Veterans of the Great War. And all of them since. Every year, around this time you might, if you look hard enough, see people wearing a small red poppy. The material differs from paper to silk, and many things in between.

The idea for selling the red poppy was thought up by a lady named Moina Michaels who was born near Good Hope Georgia in 1869. Good Hope is a small town in Georgia, barely a blip, but it is close to where I live. The town light posts are typically bedecked with hangings depicting the red poppy, and there is a Georgia Register of Historical places plaque and signpost at the corner of Moina Michael road and US 83 just outside of town. Most people in town though don't realize the significance of this.. It is after all only the second most famous event/person from this small corner of Walton County Georgia*

Ms. Michaels had the idea after reading a poem written by a Canadian by the name of John Macrae entitled "In Flanders Fields", She wrote a response to that in the form of her poem "We shall keep the faith" and while working at the YMCA war secretaries headquarters in New York, purchased the first 25 red silk poppies and distributed them among the other workers. Two years later at the American Legions national conference it was decided to make the Poppy the official National remembrance symbol. Field Marshall Douglas Haig liked the idea so much, he founded the Royal British Legion and adopted the Poppy as their official symbol as well.

From Dweomera Lagomorpha

*unfortunately for the small town of Good Hope, being able to boast this unique and inspiring citizen has not been able to overshadow the most famous event to take place there. Some 5 miles from town there is a small bridge called Moore's Ford. And in 1946, after a long string of unfortunate circumstances, one evening culminated in the murder of 4 African-Americans, one of whom was pregnant. The murders have never been solved, and every year attract regional and sometimes depending on who is in attendance, national attention.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a post about nothing, something and Video Games

well not exactly.. but of late I've been finding it really difficult to think of anything that anyone else might actually be interested in reading. This is of course the busy time of year for me, so I've been at work a lot more than normal which sort of saps one's creativity. Going back to work after a week off really does this worse than normal too. Sometimes it almost feels as if it isn't worth it to take time off you get so behind while you are gone.

I'm trying to decide if I want to spend the 60$ on Fable 3, I've really enjoyed the first two games. But its a tough choice since I know if I buy it now, in 6 months they will release a better version or some DLC. They did it with both of them so far.. I can't help but think they will do it with this one as well. So It's a tossup between that and getting the Dragon Age set with the expansion and both DLC's in it. That seems like a better deal personally, and will probably be a bit cheaper too.

I'm still slogging away on LOTRO, it was really a lot of fun up until about level 32 or so, and now it's just way to much travel and not enough pay off. so I'm not 100% on whether I will keep playing it or not. Further out on the MMO front, the new World of Warcraft expansion comes out in middle December, I'm relatively certain I will get it and play it, but for how long I'm not sure. It only adds 5 levels but it more or less completely revamps the entire world.. so there will be lots to look at.

After a month with no posts on my other Blog, Hyborean Apocrypha I've jumped back into it with reviews of the first two episodes of 1997's Conan the Adventurer TV series. If you have never seen it, do yourself a favor and avoid it. It really is that bad. I've also got a bunch of reviews ready to go for Robert Jordan's Conan the Magnificent which I will be posting soon and hopefully get back in the groove of reviewing more than one of these books a month. Some of them are just so soul crushingly bad though its beginning to feel like a job just to read them.

Maybe one day soon I'll hit on something thats actually interesting.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It takes dedication.

Coinciding on the day I came back to Georgia from Oregon was the release of Towers of Midnight. Well, I went out to the west coast with a friend of mine. He is the one who insisted I read the Wheel of Time in the first place.. and I thank him for it.. mostly.

On the 1st, he tried valiantly to get the good people at Powell's books to sell him a copy of the book using the logic that it was midnight in New York.. so it would be ok to sell to him at 9pm on the west coast.. they didn't buy that.. so we board our flight from Portland, sadly Towers of Midnight-less, for our 4 hour layover in Charlotte. upon deplaning we made a line direct to the book sellers in the airport. they had no idea what he was talking about. Again balked.

But just short of our boarding time, he goes to check again. And comes back with the biggest smile I think I've ever seen on him. Clutching the much coveted tome. He payed a whopping 32$ for the book too.. which is above its MSRP.. but was able to start reading it on the plane home.

I really think it makes him some sort of chief among the Wotheads...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Magic is in the Hole.

Alright so I'm back from my holiday/fact finding.

The Flight out was atrocious. US airways deserved the low ranking they recently received. My plane was taxiing onto the runway in Atlanta when the tornadoes were starting to come through.. and water actually leaked into the cabin. I realize that planes swell when they become pressurized.. but it was amazingly disconcerting. The flight was overbooked and way to crowded.. 2 rows of 3 12" seats has to be one of the worst plane layout.. only behind the dreaded 2-5-2 layout.. Airbus's A320 series planes also send my claustrophobia into overdrive in ways which Boeing's do not. I won't fly on any airline who uses them again. All in all, including my wait at Atlanta, and all the delays along the way.. It took me just shy of 20 hours to cross the US from one corner to the other. But only roughly 9 to get back, including a 4 hour layover...

Atlanta airport as usual was a nightmare.. but Portland's Airport was wonderful, and security was a breeze. It wasn't intimidating like Atlanta's is.. it was courteous, efficient and quick. Once you actually get into Portland's airport there is no need for a car at all unless you are leaving Portland and its suburbs. The Tri-Met system is comprehensive and a steal at 23.50$ for a 7 day pass. Just get on the Red Line Max, and you are in down town and munching a Voodoo Doughnut in about 28 minutes.. or an hour and 28 minutes depending on the line at Voodoo Doughnut.

On my way out there and back I read two books, the first Yatzhee Croshaw's "Mogworld" and the second Bernard Cornwall's "Redcoat".. I really enjoyed Redcoat.. but Mogworld left a lot to be desired. It had Yatzhee's normal sense of humour but lost a lot due to being a print medium rather than his video game review which is audio-visual.. I'd love it if he did an Audio-book... Redcoat was just like a Sharpe novel.. except set in colonial America. Some bits of it were odd, but over all I enjoyed it and finished it all in the transit phase.

Once I got to town though I instantly remembered why I loved it so much. It's packed to the gills with all sorts of things that are near and dear to me. Quite a few good pubs which served good local brews, a Huge book store by the deserved moniker "Powell's City of books". The aforementioned public transit system which by US standards is top notch. It's an extremely pedestrian friendly city, where car drivers sometimes even stopped at green lights if we were waiting at the crosswalk. It's actually an extremely friendly city in general. It has none of the normal arrogance and anti-social feelings of your normal big city.

I'm not sure if anyone is actually interested in my fact finding.. so I'll refrain from posting it.. but its a pretty decent chance I'll be attempting the move out there sometime next year after getting all of my affairs in order here. Lots of stuff to be pared down, inventoried, alphabetized and put into storage. Not to mention money to be saved. Thankfully the public library is free as I will likely be cutting down on my book purchases.. and more than likely ramping up my reading as all other activities get pruned in an effort to save up at least 6 months worth of money on which to live while I try to establish myself in a town 3000 miles from where I grew up in a city where I know nobody.