Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top Ten Top Ten Video Game Soundtracks

Hey y'all.  So it's about time I did another top ten top ten, right?  Well, actually, it's about time I updated this thing regularly, but y'know, one thing at a time.  And for right now, that one thing is this top ten top ten.

Man, I really enjoy doing these lists.

In any case, this time it's a TTTT for video game soundtracks, as in the set of songs in a video game that is the best.  I have my own opinions in that area, but given that I haven't played as many games as other people have, it's probably not enough content for an entire blog.  I really only have three soundtracks in mind to consider for such a list.  Let's see if they appear.

As usual, my own votes do not count.  I'll be going on youtube and counting the votes done by people there.  Any soundtrack mentioned on their list, regardless if ranked higher or lower, is given one point each.  If anyone has a list greater than ten, only their top ten counts.  In the case of a tie, I'll rank the ties as the same place.  Normally I like to have some sort of objective means of why I list one over another in the case of a tie, but music is pretty subjective, so there's nothing really I can do about that.  Get ready for some really weird numbering.

Yeesh.  This was the single hardest list I've ever had to do.  There were so many people who defined "soundtrack" either too narrowly or too broadly.  That is, they seemed not to understand that there's a difference between "track" and "soundtrack" -- come on, there's a clear difference between one song and a collection of songs.  To make it worse, some people even said the entire franchise, like all the Mega Man games or all the Sonic games.  No.  Just no.  Not only do most franchise soundtracks go up and down in quality over time, but the longer-running franchises have transitioned from the MIDI bleeps and bloops of the past to modern orchestral stuff.  You can't compare those.  I had to throw out a lot of potential votes.

Seriously, it was hard to get votes this time.  Much harder than any list I've had to do before. Not to mention that Youtube is about as helpful as dirt in trying to search for things.  This isn't the greatest top ten top ten I've ever done, but it is what it is, and if you're entertained, well, that's what counts. 

Okay, so for right now, let's start with the hairly barelies, that is, those that almost, but not quite, got a spot on the top ten soundtracks. Note that all of these have equal votes.

Almost Made Its:
The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
Final Fantasy VI
Metal Gear Solid 4
Metroid Prime
Castlevania Symphony of the Night
Mass Effect
Battlefield 3
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Kingdom Hearts

And now to the top ten.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anime and Manga Overview

Hey y'all.  So I haven't posted in a while, huh?  Yeah, due to a combination of things, it's been...well, interesting.  I honestly just need to stick to a schedule, but at the same time, I don't want this to become a chore, especially since there are other things I need to be doing with my life at this point. This blog is here more or less to contain my rants on things, and is a pressure release.  All the same, nothing can be entirely self-serving, or else it won't be fun for others.

The good news is, I've been writing a lot of drafts over my break.  So I do have some blogs on their way to being ready to go.  One is even nearly complete, I just have to finish some work on it before it can be ready to go.

For now, let's move on.

I've been reading/watching a lot of manga and anime, because I want to know what to recommend to people who come into my bookstore.  I could nitpick them in detail, but is that really necessary?  Not so much.  There's a difference between a story one can surgically dissect and one that is easy to summarize.  For simplicity's sake, I'm just going to talk a little about each.

Manga: Kitchen Princess

Friday, December 5, 2014

Project Runway Seasons 11-13 Commentary

Hey y'all.  Whoo, watching these later seasons is tough.  Not only have I been a bit spoiled by critical bloggers, the show makes it all too easy to be critical of it.  It's pretty painful, and I have to talk about it.

Since I would argue that the later seasons of the show aren't really worth watching, I don't mind some spoilers.  For people who really want to watch, these spoilers probably wouldn't discourage you anyway.

Season 11:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Project Runway Seasons 6-10 Review

Hey y'all.  Let's rant about Project Runway some more!  Though I'll try to avoid spoilers, for the time being.

Okay, so season 6 is the first season where Project Runway showed on the Lifetime network.  It's a bit of a strange channel choice, as Lifetime is more about propagandizing women than plain being entertaining (there's a reason why people make fun of Lifetime original movies, much in the same way everyone makes fun of Syfy channel fare).  On the other hand, it makes sense in one way, as women are a huge part of the Project Runway fanbase.

However, this is part where producer manipulation becomes much, much more evident.  Not only are there questionable judging sessions, but there's questionable winners, manipulated circumstances to promote certain contestants, and obvious favoritism.  While this is not as extreme in some seasons as in others, it's there, and it only gets worse past season 10.

Then again, I'm someone who became a fan of the show when season 9 was on air, and that didn't stop me from watching as much of this show as I could.  There's entertainment to be had here, and you can enjoy it, especially if you watch seasons 6 through 10 before watching the previous seasons.

Season 6:

This season suffered from various things.  One is a location change to Los Angeles, despite the show having been filmed in New York for all seasons before (and since).  Apparently there was also some kind of lawsuit going on, either with the channel or with the producers of the show.  I don't know the details, but there was some question of the show not airing.  It eventually did, but this ghost still haunted the season.  There's a sense of unease in the season that's there even despite the fact that the lawsuit was never mentioned on the show.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Project Runway Seasons 1-5 Review

Hey y'all.  So one of my guilty pleasures is Project Runway, a show that has been running for 13 seasons, at the time of this writing.  So is it worth watching?  What if you're in a used bookstore, and you see some seasons of it on a shelf?  Which one should you get?  Well, it's all a matter of taste, but I'll go ahead and try to get across the general feel of each season, so you can make a choice.

Or I can use that premise as an excuse to rant about a favorite show of mine.

Keep in mind, however, that I have not seen every single PR thing there is.  Oh, pretty darn close, but not quite 100%.  I've seen seasons 1-10, most of them more than once.  I've seen PR All-Stars 1-3. I've seen a couple of episodes of season 11, a tiny bit of season 12, and as much of season 13 as I could tolerate.  I haven't seen the Under the Gunn show, but I plan on watching that.  Maybe it'll be fun.

For the record, the basic premise of this reality show is that 16 contestants are shipped to New York and forced to create an outfit based on some kind of twist or challenge.  The best outfit wins, and the worst one sends its designer packing.  The last few contestants (3 or 4) get to design a small collection and show it at New York's Fashion Week, and the best collection becomes the winner of Project Runway, with cash, cars, sewing supplies, and other fun, fashion related things.  It's hosted by Heidi Klum, and her fellow judges are Nina Garcia, Michael Kors (later replaced with Zac Posen) and a celebrity guest judge of some kind.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

George Lucas Disease: A Commentary

Hey y'all.  So George Lucas gets a lot of crap for ruining the Star Wars franchise.  The original trilogy he created back in the day was a fun romp through a science fiction world, and a great classic adventure.  And then he created the prequels, which ended up being everything the originals were not: boring, overly digital, unexciting, and having a plot so complicated no one's really sure what happened.  No one cares, that's for sure.

So what happened?  Did Lucas' head get too big?  Did he care more about the money than doing his job?  Is he really a terrible storyteller who needed lots of help from other people to create the original trilogy?  Well, I would like to submit that George Lucas is an extreme example of what can happen to potentially any writer.  Hence, George Lucas disease.

But wait, you protest, how dare I ascribe to all writers the possibility of Lucas' decrescendo? Lucas obviously lost his touch, and that doesn't happen to everyone.  Yes, it doesn't.  Not to that extreme.  It is, however, something that can happen when a writer works too much on one franchise or that franchise becomes extremely popular.  Chances are, a writer won't fall nearly as hard as Lucas, but keep in mind that Lucas had a much higher cliff to fall from; Star Wars is a franchise with lots of expectations on it.  Few writers reach that level.

So what is George Lucas disease?  It's the swelling of a story franchise to the point where people are sick of it, and the writer is incapable going interesting new directions.  There are many causes to it, but the results are all the same; people (besides uber fans) stop caring.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reviewing Spawn Year

Hey y'all.  So one of the channels I'm subscribed to on Youtube is Geekvolution, a channel where a guy, Captain Logan (as he calls himself), and his friends commentate on movies, television, and whatnot.  I originally found the channel through his "Treksperts" videos, where he nerds out about Star Trek.  There's something inherently relaxing about reviews for me, and it's nice to have longer videos to play in the background when I'm doing something, so that there's a "noise" going on.  While playthroughs of Starcraft are generally my go-to for sewing projects, Starcraft has only four games at this point.  I have to have a spare something.

Captain Logan generally comments on Pixar films, superhero films, and television shows like Arrow. Since he does a lot of content, there's always something on his channel I can put on when I'm bored. By far, my favorite of the reviews he does, besides his Star Trek stuff, is his year long project, Spawn Year.  Spawn is a comic written (most of the time) by Todd MacFarlane, and apparently was pretty popular at one time.  I didn't know much about it before, but Spawn comics and toys appeared in my used bookstore from time to time.  They never looked appealing at all.

But Captain Logan is into comics, and given that Spawn was really popular, it makes sense that this would get a review.  Despite never being tempted to read Spawn, Cap really drew me in with a creative premise: it's New Year's Eve, and, after telling his wife he'll hang out with her in a minute, continues to work on reviewing Spawn.  However, one last Mountain Dew later, and he sinks into a sugar coma, waking in purgatory.  The evil DoomsVince, the clone he created of his best friend, tells him he can leave, but only if he reviews one Spawn related item every day for a year.  If he fails, he has to be buried alive in Spawn products for all of eternity.  Since DoomsVince hates Captain Logan, he continually does things throughout the year to get him to stop reviewing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nitpickery: Sword Art Online -- Alfheim Arc

Hey y'all.  So I've got that second half of the Sword Art Online first season to talk about.   Yep.  Uh-huh.  This is where it all goes downhill.

Oh, sure, the first time I watched it, I was pretty entertained.  But when I watched it again for reviewing purposes, the story seemed to drag.  Sure, the pacing is better than the beginning of the season, but several factors bring down the overall quality of the show.

But first, a summary.  Spoilers.

Kirito and the thousands of SAO survivors are finally in the real world again.  Minus, sadly, three hundred of them, including Asuna.  Kirito is home with his mopey, melodramatic sister (who is really his cousin), Suguha, who is somehow in love with him.  For some reason.  Kirito doesn't notice, and instead pines for Asuna.  He visits Asuna in her hospital room, where he meets Nobuyuki Sugou, the man who has arranged with Asuna's parents to marry her.  Sugou reveals that he's the one who trapped Asuna, and that he's going to marry her no matter what Kirito says.  However, Andrew Mills, the real world Agil, discovers a picture of an Asuna-like person in the new game Alfheim.  So Kirito has to enter this game and rescue her from the inside so that she can log-out.  He does this with the help of the reincarnated Yui, and fellow player Leafa....who is really Suguha, but he doesn't know it.

Okay.  This is going to be far more easy to summarize than the first part of Sword Art Online. Hm...y'know, I kind of like how I formatted my Star Trek movie reviews.  I'll go ahead and keep going with that.

---- Top Ten Things to Say about Sword Art Online, Alfheim Arc ----

Monday, October 27, 2014

University of Orwell update: 10/26/14

Hey y'all.  So I've been reading some books for consideration of entrance into the University of Orwell.  Why not talk about them, shall we?

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin ---

This is a book that was at my work, and I checked it out with the express purpose of considering it for this list.  Just look at that cover.  So dramatic, no?  Besides, it's a two inch thick book on a topic I want to read about.  What could go wrong?

Well, to be a good history writer, one must learn to use a knife.  A metaphorical knife, to be used against one's own bias and the bias of the sources the writer uses.  One must have an austere, straightforward mind, free from subtle attitudes and being so sunk in a situation or culture that you can't see past the attitudes and influences of that situation or culture.  While it's not possible to be completely unbiased, the writer has to be always aware that their nonfiction is about the subject, not them.  And someone's writing will always show their attitude.

Such was clearly the case with Bradley K. Martin.  Now, most of his narrative does not involve the early life of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's first tyrant.  It's not really possible, given how little is available on the topic.  However, Martin's methods for summarizing Il Sung's early years is questionable.  For one thing, he heavily relies on Il Sung's own memoirs.  Given some of the fantastic fish stories that have come out of the North (see: Kim Jong Il's golf record), one should be very careful at referencing this propaganda.  While Martin spoke to some of the people who apparently knew Il Sung during his early years, most of the first three chapters rests on Il Sung's post-tyrant biographies.  And at least one of the witnesses involved was still loyal to Il Sung.  Yeah.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nitpickery: Sword Art Online -- Aincrad Arc

Hey y'all.  So I have been working on stuff, and despite nothing showing up on my blog for a while, it has been coming along.  One of the things I did on my break was re-watch Sword Art Online, an anime that is quite fun.  Hey, I have to figure out what the otakus like so I can recommend things, no? It's all a part of being a bookstore worker.

Sword Art Online is the story of Kirito, a boy who has gotten absorbed into gamer culture of the future, where one can now put on a helmet and enter a fantasy world.  The latest game is called Sword Art Online, created by Kayaba Akihiko.  SAO is a fantasy swordfighting game set in a giant floating castle containing 100 different levels.  However, once the game has launched and all 10,000 players log in for the opening, no one is allowed to log out.  Instead, Akihiko tells them that they will never be able to leave the game until they clear the final boss.  If anyone in the real world removes the player's helmet, then they'll die.  And if they die in the game, they die for real.

Even without knowing anything about the .Hack anime (which other reviewers compare this to), this premise didn't seem all that original to me.  Being in a game "for real" is an idea that's probably been around since the beginning of video games, and not just modern ones.  Kids have been imagining themselves inside of them nearly as long as the games have existed.

You know what?  Who cares?  If the execution of the show is good, it can make up for an unoriginal premise.  The idea of being trapped inside of a video game is not only relatible to anyone who plays games or did as a kid, but is also a premise that can be taken in several different directions.  Maybe the creator of the game is very hands-on, trying to destroy the players.  Maybe the characters are going on adventures through games we all know and love.  Maybe it's a comedy, or a drama, or a romance.  The idea of being inside of a video game is very open ended, much like a zombie apocalypse story or eighteenth century romance.  It can go any direction the writer wants it to go.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Donkey Kong Country 2 is the Perfect 2D Platformer

Hey y'all.  Sorry it's been so long.  It's just that, combined with lack of school and a sudden lack of inspiration, it's been hard to keep up with blogging.  I think I'm over that inspiration weirdness now, and I've got the beginnings of some other blog ideas started.  Besides, November's coming up, and if I want to get on that whole NaNoWriMo thing (National Write a Novel in a Month), then I better get typing.

Also, word of advice: try to avoid taking accounting classes online, if you can.  Figuring this stuff out without a teacher can be...special.

Back to the topic at hand!

So one of the reasons I wanted to do a commentary on the Donkey Kong Country series in the first place is that I wanted to talk about Donkey Kong Country 2.  This game is very nostalgic for me, and watching a playthrough again as an adult, it seems that the game hasn't aged much at all. The only "problem" is that it has 16 bit graphics, but since it's interesting to look at, that's not an issue at all.

Thus, I propose that Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best 2D platformer ever.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nitpickery: Donkey Kong Country

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking a lot at work about different video games.  It's always interesting to see how a franchise changes over time, and the Donkey Kong franchise has had its ups and downs over time, making it sort of difficult to talk about.  It started out as a game where Donkey throws barrels at a hero plumber, then went to a platformer trilogy with inconsistent character controls, then became a collect-o-thon on the Nintendo 64, then it was a rhythm drum game, and now it's a platformer and collect-o-thon!

Yeah, I know I'm missing some games in there, but you get the idea.  Donkey Kong has been pretty inconsistent.  It's hard for me personally to deal with, as I grew up with the platformer trilogy on the Super Nintendo.  These three are probably the best games in the franchise, give or take the third. What made these games for me was environment and simplicity, two things of which the later games don't quite have.  Granted, few modern games are effective at simplicity, because we're at a point in time where technology has gotten so good, game producers often risk doing too much.

But enough of that.  I'm here to talk about the first Donkey Kong Country game.  This game has good environments and simplicity in spades.  Despite the fact it's about a couple of apes trying to get their bananas back, each level is designed in an emotionally responsive way -- the jungle levels are open and fun, the factory levels are creepy, the temple levels are haunting, etc.  And what could be more simplistic than platforming in these nicely designed levels with perfect controls?  This is a game you can pick up, play, and have fun with, all without tedious storylines or scrolling through lists of gameplay instructions.

Monday, September 22, 2014

University of Orwell

Hey y'all.  Welcome to my experiment.

I read a lot of books, mostly nonfiction.  Even when I do read fiction, I prefer the books that in some way help me learn about real life, such as Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein, or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Lately I've noticed that most of my books run on anti-tyrannical themes, even when I don't directly choose a book on that basis.  For example, I just read a C.S. Lewis biography, and it turns out that his wife Joy was an ex-communist.

The more I read, the more I've realized that I'm on to something.  I'm not sure what right at this moment, but everything I'm studying makes me feel as though I'm on the verge of some great truth, one that will be revolutionary once I figure out what it is.  Revolutionary to myself, in any case.  This came to a head as I wrote my Brave New World review on the subject of pleasure vs. abstinence, and now I've finally decided to turn an inside joke into something with potential.

That truth I'm searching for in some way relates to the nature of control, both of others and of self.  It relates to individualism, and how people are so easily led astray by strange ideas and philosophies, some that seem like nonsense to anyone not taken in, and some as addictive as drugs.  Basically, I want all to be able to assess reality, without losing childlike humility and curiosity.  It's not about being smarter or better than anyone else, but about turning oneself into someone who can only be ruled by God and oneself, not by manipulators, clever liars, and those who appeal to our own egos to get us to think as they do.

Thus, the University of Orwell is born.  It's my imaginary university about the philosophy and politics of control.  In execution, it's a collection of books I feel will teach people the history and psychology of control, all arranged into departments as though they were textbooks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

University of Orwell: Brave New World

Hey y'all.  So I've just read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and it's.....well, interesting.  A lot of the time people will call something a classic and keep it on an elevated platform, but for this book I feel like it's a normal work -- something that can't be blindly praised, nor something so nonsensical that you start wondering what kind of person would call it classic (i.e. Great Gatsby).  It's a bit nonsensical, to be fair.  Of course, that's the whole point of Brave New World.  It's a representation of the human mind when it's subjected to a setting of convenient pleasure at all times, artificially generated by a techno-tyranny -- that is, a tyranny that controls by using technology.

Now, as I talk about this book, I'm going to be comparing it to George Orwell's 1984 and C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength.  These three books are all based on techno-tyrannies, and talk about it from three different angles, each valid in its literary purpose.

But wait, you ask, what's with that title?  University of Orwell?  Well, I'll explain that in the next blog post.  For now, it's about Brave New World.

Spoilers are everywhere.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Good and Bad of Deep Space Nine: Last Part

Hey y'all.  In the interest of talking about something different, here's the final part of my DS9 rant. Don't worry, I've got some buffer coming up, and it'll be here soon so there isn't only DS9 for this month.

Damar and Garak:
I don't have a lot to say about Damar.  He's a Cardassian, a soldier who worked for Gul Dukat from the time the Cardassians occupied Bajor.  He's had little to do over the course of the show, but he slowly goes from the background to the forefront of the story, and is eventually in charge of the Cardassian effort to liberate themselves from their foolish alliance with the Dominion.  His arc is a nice one, and it's great to see a glorified extra become a main character toward the end.

Damar goes from being the blind follower of Dukat, to a too-sincere soldier, to a complete drunk, to the hero of the Cardassians.  Probably one of the single most disappointing things about the ending was his death in the last episode.  It just didn't work.  For one thing, the audience never gets too strong of a connection to him until the end.  His emotional connection to the viewer wasn't well developed to the point where his death was a tragedy.  Instead, it felt gratuitous, like the writers were "cleaning up" some of the lesser characters just to have them out of the way.

Garak, on the other hand, was someone the viewers loved.  His every performance was good, even when he had to share the screen with Ezri.  And you know what?  He should have died.  And why not?  Garak's only outing was an episode, Afterimage, that he shared with Ezri so that her counselor status could be established (and never used again).  Garak doesn't get much of anything to do until the end of the season where he appears at Kira's side to go help the Cardassians rebel against the Dominion.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Good and the Bad of Deep Space Nine: Part 3, Starting the Ending

Alright, let's finish this up, shall we? Spoilers!

4. The Ending.

The first and last seasons of DS9 were sort of odd.  The first season was strange because the show didn't know quite where it wanted to go at that point, and none of the Gamma Quadrant aliens were as deep as ones created in TOS and DS9, until they revealed the changeling Founders, the Vorta, and the Jem'Hadar. Still, the first season was okay, definitely better than TNG's first season.  Not that it takes much to be better than TNG's.

The final season, however, had an unfortunate blight.  Her name was Ezri Dax.  While she's certainly no Neelix, the idea in itself of adding a new character during a final season is iffy on its own.  Sure, this would make sense if the new character were incidental to new circumstances in the other character's lives, but to bring in a new main character who has to not only become an interesting person on her own, but also correctly take on the legacy associated with all the memories of around ten past lives?  That's a heavy plot burden right there.

It doesn't help that as a young girl who hasn't at all been prepared to become joined to a symbiote and must deal with the consequences of Jadzia's death, there's a lot of plot potential for Ezri.  She has to be introduced and develop friendships when everyone else is well established and finishing up their stories.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Good and Bad of Deep Space Nine, Part 2

Hey y'all.  I've still got some stuff to say about Deep Space Nine, as I've been binging on it lately. Actually, as I'm writing this, I've started re-watching some Voyager.  It's not great, but it's at least passable.  Nowhere near as much to talk about as Deep Space Nine, though.

Now where was I?  Spoilers!

2.  Over-arcing Plotlines.

- The Emissary of the Prophets/Spirituality: Thumbs up!
So in the first episode, Sisko is revealed to be the Emissary of the Prophets.  This role is never clarified, but apparently it means he hears from the Prophets more directly than other people do.  He does things like find artifacts, bless couples, and help the Bajorans not become victims of the Dominion.  It's cool.

What makes this better is that Kira is a firm believer in the Prophets, and Worf is respectful of it.  So many Trekkies feel that God has no place on the show, but that's wrong.  First of all, Trek writers have always wanted to touch on sensitive matters, so that alone makes spirituality important. Secondly, the Prophets themselves can go either way.  You might call them gods, or you might call them aliens in a more "advanced" state than most of the other creatures in the universe.

Best of all, the characters all had various levels of belief and doubt, from the firm believers to the moderate believers, from the disillusioned to the dense materialist.  This is the exact sort of thing that allows for realistic reactions to all the things that are going on.  It gives the show a very three dimensional scope, making it feel more like different viewpoints are accepted (infinite diversity in infinite combinations), rather than the frankly self-superior feel that TNG showed far too often.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Good and Bad of Deep Space Nine (p1): the Characters

Hey y'all.  So I've been watching a lot of DS9, lately.  It's a bit of the "black sheep" of the Star Trek franchise, as it goes too far away from what Star Trek is about, people claim.  While in certain ways this claim is true, it's also partially false.

One of the more ridiculous claims about this series is that it's not Star Trek because it's not a "trek": none of the characters are going anywhere to discover new worlds and whatnot.  This is very silly, because quite often Next Generation set exploration aside in favor of putting depth into the races and worlds already created.  The "Star Trek" label is now a label of a franchise, and only the first series and Next Generation (because it appeared after a long hiatus) were obligated to trek.  It's okay for there to be a side story or spin-off that focuses on things that aren't entirely unknown.  Yes, this changes the focus of the series, but that in itself doesn't make it bad.  Of course, if it's one's personal taste to prefer exploration over a space station, that's fair enough.  It's just not an objective concern.

However, there are objective complaints about it.  The primary one is that Deep Space Nine betrays what Roddenberry intended in having an ideal universe where people learn to get along.  For a series in Star Trek, this is hard to accept.  Some argue that by having people act more realistically, the show is better.  On an entertainment perspective, I agree.  On the other hand, Star Trek is made distinct by its idealism, and the goal of Trek was never simply about being entertaining.  It was to create something new and refreshing, with the belief humanity could improve itself.  While I feel that much of this philosophy is humanistic bunk, it was hopeful and fun in its own way.  In the original series, anyway.

So if you want to say that DS9 is too non-idealistic, that's certainly true.  It can also be argued that this series is more entertaining than the others.  It's certainly more entertaining than Voyager (a collection of mostly bad actors) and Enterprise (boring and insensitive to canon).

In any case, let's just talk about Deep Space Nine, shall we?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pre-school Update

Hey y'all.  So this Monday school starts.  By some coincidence, my work gave me a lot more hours next week.  Besides feeling uninspired due to personal events, I don't think I'll be able to continue an every Saturday schedule.  This blog has always been more of a space for me to rant and rave about whatever I happen to want to talk about, and trying to put a schedule on it has dried up my inspiration.  Particularly since I do have to work on other writings for both potential publishing and friends.  For example, I wrote a piece of a joke story for a friend for his birthday.

Also, I'm pretty sure I write more blog entries when I have no schedule telling me to do so.  Yes, my brain is badly trained.  However, I'm working on a Deep Space Nine blog, and I'm not ignoring the Me and Aldaris series.  Just...well, expect updates to get pretty scatterbrained around here, from all the nonsense I need to do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make some bacon and eggs.  Then get back to my writing.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's a Rainbow of Reading

Hey y'all.  So I figured I might as well talk about some of the stuff I read that I don't necessarily feel I should go into depth about and write a full nitpickery.  Generally, nonfiction.  Nonfiction works, when they make mistakes, tend to make simple, over-arcing errors that affect the entire narrative, rather than lots of several little mistakes (when the errors aren't factual in nature).  Probably because they don't have to make up the stories they're telling.

One of the books I've been reading is Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin.  I picked up this book because of another I briefly got a glance at, one which claimed wild, factually inaccurate things about writers' histories.  The Charles Dickens fantasy was admittedly very interesting, so I figured I'd read the real story. And that's when I found out the first book was crap.

This book is okay.  It's better early on, when Tomalin isn't talking about Dickens' books.  Sure, much of what we know about Charles Dickens hasn't survived (he burned a lot of his letters at one point), but she holds Dickens at arm's length, tracing more his movements from place to place rather than telling us about him the man.  She also spends an absurd amount of time going over Dickens' books, and what each of the characters mean to him as a person.  That's not a good thing to do unless she knows for certain that Dickens would make that comparison himself.  Otherwise it's just Tomalin making assertions, and it's a pet peeve of mine when biographers always assume that characters in books resemble too closely the people around the writer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Top Ten Top Ten Robot Masters

Hey y'all!  I'm back at it again, with another Top Ten Top Ten.  This time I'll be going over favorite robot masters.  Now, you might think I should have gone for robot master themes, but I've already reviewed robot master music before.  Let's add character design, level design, and difficulty to the mix.  It's more fun that way.  I don't know, maybe some time in the future I'll do a top ten top ten for the music itself, but we'll see.

Like always, I will be going through the top ten best robot master lists I find on Youtube.  Each robot master mentioned in a top ten video list gets one vote, no matter how high or low they are on the list.  If a list is longer than ten, only the top ten will count.  Shorter than ten in a list is acceptable.  Robot masters that appear in more than one game, such as Tengu or Astro Man, will be assigned to the game of their earliest appearance.  Any ties between robot masters will be settled by game: the RMs in the games with the largest number of robots mentioned will be ranked above those with fewer (compensating for MM1 and MM&B's shortchangings, of course), and in case the games have the same number mentioned, the overall total of votes in that game will break the tie.  This is the fairest way I can figure it out.

But why go ahead and say the list when you can delay and add unnecessary tension?  Here are a few robot masters that had a good showing, but did not make the higher twenty robot masters list.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Top Ten Robot Masters

Hey y'all.  So I figure I'd go ahead and tell everyone what my favorite Mega Man robot masters are, while my Top Ten Top Ten for them is still being compiled.  These are the ones that meant to me the most when I was a kid, or caught my attention as an adult, or in some way distinguished themselves from all the rest.

Though, keep in mind that I like almost all of the robot masters.  Each one is unique, interesting, and has a lot of potential to become an interesting character based on what little information we know about them.  The only ones I mildly dislike are Search Man (his level is hideous and his music is the only robot master song I hate) and Tengu Man (I don't like his origins or attitude), but even those two can be interesting on their own. I came up with a backstory for Tengu Man that I really like when I made my Mega Man quintology.

Shameless plug!

Yeah, I'm a huge nerd.  I'm still proud of that story, though, and I developed most of my favorites from it. Also, writing the robot masters not on this list gave me a better appreciation for them.  That's the thing about robot masters -- despite being so little developed as characters, there's still wonderful potential for them, as we get to see who they are through the places they inhabit, and the data discs provided in the Mega Man and Bass game.

Speaking of which, note that I'm not counting Mega Man, Bass, or Roll as robot masters for the purpose of this list.  Also, none of my picks will count as votes toward the Top Ten Top Ten that I will write.  Not that it would have too much impact on the overall votes, but that just wouldn't be fair.

----- Top Ten Favorite Robot Masters -----

10.  Charge Man.

by Bluestrike 01

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Starcraft: Twilight, the Dark Templar Saga and Trilogy Summary

It's official.

I no longer care anymore.

Hey y'all.  So you may have noticed that I didn't put "nitpickery" in the title of this blog.  It's because this isn't a nitpickery.  I don't care enough to go into that level of detail anymore.  This book ruins whatever interest I might have had in commenting on this series.

Why?  Because it's boring.

Saturday Update

Hey y'all.  Sorry I'm a bit late with the update.  I do hope to have my post up tonight, where I'll finally be ridding myself of the Dark Templar Saga.  But that can stay in its own thread.  Also, I did find another Starcraft book by Christie Golden at work, only I've lost my taste for going on about Starcraft novels for now.  I want to go on about something that is good for once, or at least something I like.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a writer I highly admire, so possibly I'll talk about one of his works, or about how interesting Robert Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky is.  To me, anyway.  I don't think it's the sort of book that modern audiences would be too interested in, but hey, there's fun in ranting about obscure stories.

You know what I haven't done in a long time?  A Top Ten Top Ten.  I will be doing, and hopefully have up by next Saturday, a Top Ten Top Ten of Youtube's favorite robot masters from Mega Man.  I know, that's a bit of a niche topic when MM is a very hard franchise to keep going, in light of its now strange story and far too familiar gameplay style.  Thus, the fanbase has gone down somewhat.  Still, it's a franchise I'll always love, and will continue to write about.  As the mood strikes me.  Besides, I know there's people out there who love Mega Man as much as I do.  Oh, and if it gets delayed, I'll just make up my own top ten list and post the Top Ten Top Ten in the middle of the week.

As for my Me and Aldaris fiction, I'll continue it, but I was doing far too much slacking this summer (very important slacking, mind you) to work on it as much as I wanted.  That, and I'm regretting some of the choices I made in the direction of the story.  Bluntly, I feel I should have shown more of Aldaris' abrasive personality.  While his actions in the story are more or less what I think he would do if he showed up in our world, there's always that unpredictability factor in realistic characters.  That, and the plot would make more sense if I had written it in a shorter timeline.  There's no way anyone wants to spend months in a spaceship.

In any case, I will continue it, working here and there to get a post up every so often.  I just have to work on publishable stuff these days, and M+A is low priority right at the moment.  I still like the story, though, and I have an idea how to end the first chunk of it.  This is turning into another of my fanfiction obsessions, where a simple story about a character becomes a five part story.  Yeesh.  Well, if I can accumulate some fans for it and make Aldaris the civilized jerk he really is, then it can still be a fun thing for the blog.

In any case, my next blog should be up later tonight.  Until then!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Nitpickery -- Starcraft: The Shadow Hunters, Dark Templar Saga

Hey y'all.  So I'm back with another one of the Dark Templar Saga.  This time, it's the Shadow Hunters.

I'm not really sure who these shadow hunters are supposed to be, but m'kay.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Write Club: The Staying Power of a Story

Hey y'all.  My nitpickery of Shadow Hunters (part two of the Dark Templar Saga) is taking a while, so for now, here's a nice rant on the longevity of stories.

One of the important things for a writer to understand is how much longevity any given story has.  Not all stories are created alike.  This is one of those esoteric things that you have to be a writer with some experience (of writing, not necessarily publishing) to understand. When a person is young, or is simply someone who just likes reading, they may crave more of a story they've just finished, to the point where they're mildly mad at the writer for not having a sequel out.  Some fans may even send letters over it.

Thing is, some stories just don't work out with sequels.  This is especially true of intense, strange stories with lots of complicated plot twists.  A huge limiter on those kinds of stories is that the writer may run out of steam, and not have the kind of plot twists for a sequel that would make it comparable to the original.  And if the characters have settled in at the end, like gotten married or found a job that pulls them out of whatever circumstances that caused the story to happen, then it can be aggravating to pull the characters up and force them to go through more nonsense.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nitpickery -- Starcraft: Firstborn, Dark Templar Saga

Hey y'all.  It's time to talk about Starcraft official fiction again!  Next victim: Firstborn, part one of the Dark Templar Saga.

Which is mysteriously lacking in Dark Templar.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Write Club: Fiction Personality Tests

Hey y'all.  So as a fan of Starcraft, some years ago I created a personality test to determine what sort of person someone was when they told me their favorite Starcraft characters.  I refined the test after the first few attempts, so I ended up with this as my final request for information.

Favorite race
Most hated race (say none if you don't hate any)
Three favorite characters
Three least favorite characters

I also requested that if they didn't hate or really like three characters, then to only put two when that's the case.  This test hinges on people's real opinions, and having them shove in an extra character or leave out one that they really like skews the results.  Also, everyone has a favorite race, or otherwise they're probably not a big enough fan to have a favorite, and thus the analysis wouldn't have a point.

Why am I telling you about this?  Because I think it's something that anyone who is either psychologically inclined or literature-minded can do, provided they know enough about the universe in question -- which in this case is Starcraft.  Other universes can be used instead, so long as they're deep enough and you're familiar enough with the characters in them.

What I like about the Starcraft universe is that every character is deeply flawed in some way, so people automatically reveal their insecurities by telling me their favorites.  Hee hee...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nitpickery: Volition Agent

Hey y'all.  So I got in a free book on a facebook contest.  It's called Volition Agent.

I call it terrible.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Me and Aldaris (31): Stayover in Korea

Lee Cheonha poked her finger through the open wire door of the hamster cage.  She gently pushed in a small sunflower seed, slowly offering the gift to the small, bewiskered critter inside.  Pappa had been through all this before.  He knew what it meant to smell the scent of his new owner, and he hauled his pleasantly plump self through the pine bedding to go get his treat.  He didn't so much as shudder when one of Cheonha's fingers rubbed his soft little ears.

"Good boy, Pappa," Cheonha giggled.  "You are a very good hamster.  I will bring you carrots when I get home from work tonight."

"You feed that thing too much, Cheonha.  You're going to spoil it.  Besides, I thought we were meeting to do our english homework."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nitpickery: Rurouni Kenshin

Hey y'all.  So I was working some overnights in my bookstore to shift the shelves around, and we'd have lunch breaks (where I work we always call food breaks "lunch"), and we'd bought in some manga.  Now, I want to like Japanese comics, but the trouble is, many of them are just so dang weird and some outright demented.  That, and I'm not interested in looking at panty shots or girls with boobs too big to walk straight. Seriously, Japan, what's up with that?  Well, not that American comics are much better in that regard, but at least our superhero sluts are in proportion, and also of legal age.

Whatever, that's a debate I'll leave for another day.  I'll just say for now that the only manga I've really cared for to this point is Azumanga Daioh, Yotsuba to, Hollow Fields, and Sarasah.  Thing is, one of those is written by a European, two are by the same guy, and the last is Korean manhwa.  It's kinda hard to recommend a manga when that's my entire knowledge of the genre.  Well, I've seen the Lucky Star anime, but that was boring.

So anyway, during one of my lunch breaks, I picked up Fushigi Yuugi.  Well, too much rape, nudity, and mysticism meant that it was a no.  Seriously, Japan, nudity with school age girls?  Okay, fine, I'll stop blaming a whole country for one artist's perversion.  Moving on...

What did I try next?  Rurouni Kenshin, by Nobuhiro Watsuki!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Me and Aldaris (p30): Discussing Zeratul

There's nothing quite like fear cleaning.  Sure, I was supposed to be at home, finishing my tax homework, but instead I'm trapped in a house I don't know, with a hell-angry Protoss outside.  Seriously, Aldaris wasn't this mad when he found out Zeratul was the one who gave the Overmind Aiur's secret location.  I'm kinda scared to step out of the door.  Thankfully, Aldaris hasn't zapped my brain or something, but he could at any moment.  Being afraid is horrible in a stranger's house, and worse still when you're just sitting there in a dark living room hoping nothing's going to happen.

Well, I didn't have my tax homework, but fortunately for my sense of needing to do something, there was a funny smell coming from the kitchen.  I took my shivering little self over that direction, and peered into the sink.  Huh.  Someone had obviously been here -- all the dirty dishes, instead of layering the counters, now hung out in the sink.

"Eh," I said outloud, because talking to oneself doesn't make a person insane at all.  "I guess I'm not too grossed out to do a stranger's dishes.  I did work in a restaurant once.  Ugh...." I reached in the other side of the double sink and plugged it up.  "Better think of something else before the scarring flashbacks happen again."

So I did the dishes.  Still too nervous to try and reach out with my mind to see what's going on with Aldaris (assuming I can), I decided to wipe the counters and the stove.  The floor needed a mopping, so I went ahead and did that.  I went ahead and vacuumed the whole living room, while I was at it.  Best yet, there were some scented candles in the closet to lay out and get rid of that dank smell that had taken over the house.  After those were lit and the place started smelling like a field of chemical flowers, I stood there and looked around.

"Huh....I wonder if dude has any paper."

There was some in a drawer in the kitchen, and a plastic cup on the counter had some pens in it.  Thus equipped with the tools of my trade, I went into the dining room and began to write.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stuff will happen! I Swear!

Hey y'all.  Sorry for the lack of posting.

Alright, so this blog has always been sort of scatterbrained, with reviews, rantings and attempts at stories.  I never at any time had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with it, besides it having something to do with writing.  However, real life happens.  I have two things I want to get published, but work on them has been slow because of real life happenings.  I had school, and for the past week and a half I've been working overnight at my bookstore so that we can rearrange stuff away from the sub-lease.  Also, I need to get a better job, and my sister has been weighing very heavily on us for babysitting when she's at work.  I want to learn a language, and I've got to do something profitable with my sewing machine.

Basically, I'd really like to make more choices for my life, rather than have everyone take up time I want to use elsewhere.  It's not like Blogger's all that profitable if you don't post funny cats or messed up cakes, and particularly if one is not on youtube.  That doesn't mean that this isn't a commitment of some kind.  I want to post stuff, as seeing the number of views on my posts makes me happy, even if they're not large enough to garner me a lot through advertising.

What I'm basically trying to say is that I want to have a schedule.  If for no other reason than to please myself, I want a sense of consistency to what I do.  So, a really basic schedule is going to happen: I'll post something every Saturday.  It can be anything from a book review to another Me and Aldaris entry, but it'll be something.

For this next Saturday, I plan to post a M+A.  I've already started on it, but waiting until next Saturday to post will mean I can take some time to work on the blog after that.  I have some ideas for it, but I make no commitment as to what gets posted when.  So often my attentions go everywhere, so there's no way to know which blog I'll finish first.

In any case, thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nitpickery -- Starcraft: Shadow of the Xel'Naga

Hey y'all.  It turns out that my store did have the second of the Starcraft fanfiction trilogy, Shadow of the Xel'Naga.  And guess what it has in common with all the other Starcraft novels?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Media and its Influence: An Ongoing Theory

Hey y'all.  So I just got done watching the season finale of the My Little Pony Show.  I have a sort of perverse desire to watch it, mainly to see why the thing somehow has a ton of fans while not really being all that much better than other cartoon fare, and not as good in some cases.  I suppose I could nitpick it, and chances are I will, but for now I'll just say that it was a collection of meh plotting, Dragonball Z visuals (that's good or bad depending on how much you like DBZ), a half-horrid moral, and some intriguing implications for later seasons of MLP.  Of course, they mostly screwed up whatever interesting implications they created by making Twilight a princes by the way they meh'ed through season four, so this season finale is probably going to come to nothing as well.

In other words, have fun with your show, brony boys.

My interest in this show has been a part of a larger idea I'm stewing around with in my head.  Thing is, the obsession that MLP's fans have is very comparable to Star Trek's fandom.  To Trek's credit, it's actually marketed to the adults that watch it.  To MLP's credit, the fans don't seem to be fooled into thinking the future will one day be what is on their show.  To neither of their credits, they both seem obsessed with tricking the emotionally weak into molding exactly into their singular-culture, friendship is everything newthink.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Write Club: Phrases to Avoid like the Devil

Hey y'all.  So I've done my fair share of reading/listening to noobish stories.  It's gotten to the point where I like reading off stories just so that I can correct them.  Maybe it's a neurological issue or something.  In any case, one of the signs of a noobish writer is to have bad narrative.  The thing about narrative is that there are so many ways to get it right, and so many more to get it wrong.  So the only way to really advise anyone is to go through little issues that maybe not everyone has in common.

However, there are several phrases that many new writers write, almost by accident.  It happens, mainly because the writer is getting out whatever words are trapped in his head, and maybe sounding a bit too vocal or casual, or trying too hard to be fancy.  Editing is very important in making sure you aren't using too many or awkward words, and by doing an editing run after you write instead of during, you can get your inspiration out without worrying about running out of inspiration.

So here, let me list a few of the common phrases that newer writers tend to rely a little too much on.  Some of these phrases are very bad.  Others are okay, but simply overused and obvious.  In either case, they need to be dodged.

-- That really hurt.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Nitpickery: The Little Mermaid

Hey y'all.  So how many of you have actually seen the Little Mermaid in the past ten years?  Sure, maybe some of you have kids and managed to get hold of it, but for many of us I suspect its one of those movies we think fondly of just because it's Disney.  We just assume for the rest of our lives that it's a classic, without realizing that we haven't seen it with a matured, adult mind.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

End of Semester News!

Hey y'all.  So I'm not dead, but it is the end of the school semester.  My tax teacher thinks it's funny of him to give us a project where we have to form a business plan and then do its taxes as a proprietorship, S corp, and C corp.  Given that I didn't make the best grades on figuring the corporation taxes assignments, I'm not optimistic about making it out of this with good grades.  *sigh*

Okay, so I do have a Me and Aldaris entry in the works.  I want to do another top ten top ten, but I want to make sure it's on a reasonable topic.  I tried to do favorite movies, but that wasn't working out.  There were too many variables.  Probably I'm going to do favorite villains.  That sounds good, right?

Also, I may consider doing commentaries on good and bad writing styles of different writers.  I'm thinking General Patton, Margaret Thatcher, William Shatner, Sean Astin, Tony Dungy....basically, I just want to rant on all the different ways people use narrative, because I don't think it's discussed enough in writing books. This is sort of understandible, as narrative is like painting.  There's about forty bajillion ways to do it correctly.  And just as many to do it wrong.  A lot of the time you can't even call a method wrong, because a technique might work differently in the hands of different writers.

So yeah, I do need to take my blog more seriously.  I have a lot on my plate right now, what with trying to get a better job this summer and trying to work on my publishable stuff.  Thankfully, this and next week are the last of school, so hopefully I can get some blog done this next month.  Hey, maybe I can even get a once a week schedule going.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nitpickery -- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Hey y'all.  So my grandpa, whom I love, has questionable taste in movies, and also a tendency to force the family to watch them.  That's why I've seen Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean: Cash-In Sequel # Whatever, and now Desolation of Smaug.  I had no intention of watching any of these movies, but so long as Grandpa doesn't make me watch Twilight, I'll put up with it.  I was mildly curious about this movie anyway.  I asked one of my friends about it, and he immediately stiffened a bit and said he enjoyed it "for what it was."  That's never a good sign.

Oh, and by the way, blu-ray is evil on the eyes.  I thought it was just Avatar the movie, but apparently blu-ray hates my guts and isn't happy unless I have a headache.  Y'know, I'm actually pretty nostalgic for 90s VHS quality visuals.  They just work for my eyes.

Anyway, movie.  Talk.  Dragon.  Stuff.  This'll just be some notes on the movie, as all the movie's flaws center around a handful of conceptual problems.

Might I say how much I'm over the whole "jam all the characters on it" school of poster design?

The Desolation of Smaug (which I will not refer to as the Hobbit from now on), is the latest of PJ's Tolkien fanfictions.  It stretches from when the dwarves were supposed to meet Beorn (a sadly dwindled scene), goes through their imprisonment in the elvish city, and finally reach Lake Town.  From there, they make their way into the Lonely Mountain, where they unintentionally provoke Smaug into attacking Lake Town's citizens.  End movie, see next part.

- So my overall impression of the movie is this: Buh.  It's a confusing mess of action scene after action scene. The film was like an off-brand Oreo cookie: the plot wasn't enough to hold it together and it tasted funny. As with the Star Wars prequels, every was a confusing mess of overwhelming visuals, one after another. Moments of quiet in-between were short, simple, and added little to the overall narrative.  Nothing made any sense.

The sad thing about this is that you can't just call it a Peter Jackson thing.  It's been trending these days that movies are massive special effects with just enough humor to distract the audience from realizing the film has no plot.  Michael Bay, JJ Abrams, and whoever directed the latest Die Hards are all contributors to this trend, with varying levels of monetary success. Though I can't blame just them.  Probably the only people not guilty of this are Pixar and Quentin Tarantino.

But for now, let's antagonize the Jackson.  Peter Jackson has taken what was once a dignified (perhaps too dignified) franchise and made it childish.  It's really strange, as Lord of the Rings as a book series attracts readers who enjoy historical detail and character depth and variety, but the films for Tolkien's work try their hardest to appeal to the most casual of all casual moviegoers: the ones that say "I don't want to think at the movies, I just want to have a good time."  Since this movie didn't make as much as the last, maybe that demographic is tired of it too.
Sorry, Mr. Freeman, you only get to be a glorified extra in this film.

- The primary reason I find it so hard to comment on this movie is that it's so action packed, but none of the action means anything.  There are trippy and vaguely insulting images (Legolas stepping on the heads of dwarves in barrels in the middle of a battle), ridiculous scenes of unnecessary writhing (Smaug), and yet at any point that there should be a moment where the action pauses and we get a chance to actually learn something about these mofos doing all this fighting, they cut forward.  For example, when the dwarves are escape from the elves' home in barrels, they are caught quickly at a barrier.  Instead of having some deeply dramatic, threatening conversation with the elven guard, orcs out of nowhere murder the guards and on goes a very fake looking CGI battle.

The story of the Hobbit, which in the book was quite fun and high adventure until the ending parts, is totally decimated in this film.  Is Beorn the bear-like host that must be convinced to let thirteen dwarves and a hobbit to stay at his house?  No, he's a guy with a bad haircut that loses his mind when he becomes a bear. Is the forest of Mirkwood a dark place with spooky shadow creatures off to the side of the path?  No, it's a tangled web of trees that aren't dark at all and instead have "poisonous air" that causes people to see things. Keep in mind that this is where the elves are supposed to live.  Are the elves well-meaning but suspicious people?  No, they're jerks because jerks, except for Tauriel, the random elven rebel who falls in love with a dwarf for no reason.

Can we in movies agree not to use the whole "rebel who can't obey" stereotype?  I mean sure, if it's a comedy, whatever, but in a serious film people should have actual depth, and having someone disobey orders because the order-giver just so happens to be a jerk (or is a jerk for giving the order) is a really shallow move.  It feels like the movie is doing so just because it "should" do so.  This happens twice, once with Tauriel abandoning the elves to go help Kili the dwarf, and another time when Kili gets sick and complains that he can't go on the quest with Thorin.  Um, buddy, if you're sick, you're a detriment to the team.  And what kind of help are you if you're poisoned from an arrow?  Kili and Fili act as though Thorin is wrong for telling Kili to stay behind, when clearly it's the only practical choice.

I will say a good thing about Tauriel, though.  As much as shoving a female character into this story was unnecessary, and I'm not fond of actress Evangeline Lily, she had one of three moments in the film that I actually liked.  It was when she was talking to Kili when the dwarves were imprisoned, and she was telling him about the festival of stars.  That was nice, and told actual informational detail about elvish culture, unlike everything else in the movie.  Evangeline sounded like a real person delighting in something that was a part of her heritage, and it made the moment believable and cute.  Maybe it was because she wasn't trying too hard, like many of the actors were.

The romance between Tauriel and Kili was stupid, came out of nowhere, and belongs in a Star Wars prequel.  'Nuff said.

Why, Jackson?  Why did you have to feed the creepy pairings people?  *sigh*  By CaptBexx.

- The camera and music tried way too hard to make the audience believe something interesting was happening, but I wasn't feeling it.  Having swooping camera actions when actors are trying to give emotional dialogue can be disruptive, such as when Gandalf was talking to Radagast about the nine riders.  Shouldn't Ian McKellen's acting be more of a focus?  Cameras in film are like narrative in books: they should be as invisible as possible when someone is trying to enjoy a story.  The camera should move in ways that make the audience want to look at objects in your film, not fly around all willy-nilly just to prove that the director can do those shots.  If your audience is thinking about the camera (besides directors and future directors), then you're not doing a good job.

The music was too epic as well.  It didn't really have a lot of personality, and its timing was way off at parts. Do we really need a huge dramatic sweep when Beorn is petting a mouse?  Really?  Given that I'm not the sort of person that normally notices that sort of thing, that's really bad.

- Stupid for stupid's sake is stupid.  This is extremely common, but usually only in movies that don't really care and don't make that much money (see: The Bounty Hunter).  In a grand movie trilogy, we don't need a character that is dumb for no reason.  Specifically, the Master of Lake Town is a stringy-haired dolt with a unibrow crony.  That's not only offensively bad -- Tolkien tends to have characters that could be real people -- but it's just plain not interesting or logical.  For what reason would anybody listen to the Master if he's such a paranoid loser that he has to spy on his citizens and dumps fish if they're unexpected?  In the book, the Master was selfish, but had economic and political knowledge.  He wasn't a cut and dried loser, just incapable of real leadership in crisis times.  And mildly cowardly.

I also didn't like how they ruined Bard.  Bard was an amazing, heroic man, who is now some schmuck that the Master hates for no reason.  Oh, because he's the descendant of a heroic leader.  Huh.  The thing about
Bard in the book was that he represented a normal guy, one that happened to have a more famous ancestor. His past was a simple detail, one that had nothing to do with his ability to lead.  Here he's some emo boy who gets hated on because the movie calls for it.

The backstory for the black arrows is...interesting.  I guess it's too fairy tale for modern movies to have a guy to just have a special arrow, but still, if the black arrows can pierce the dragon's armor, why don't they do so? Why did the guy in the flashback have to aim correctly?  Can't the black arrow just chip Smaug's armor away, no matter where he's hit?  And if you only have one black arrow, why not make more?  It's just so random.

- Prophecy...I don't think Hollywood knows what that word means.  Just to clarify, peeps, prophecy is a message from God.  I think it may also apply to gods, goddesses, and other spiritual entities used in a work, but sometimes that's referred to with different words.  In any case, the key to remember is that prophecies come from the spirit realm.  So unless the Maiar, Valar, Iluvatar, or any other spiritual beings the casual moviegoer doesn't know about have something to say, don't use the word prophecy.

This is something I'd apply to a lot of modern movies, but in this film it's used to talk about the return of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain and their welcome from the Lake Town people.  This "prophecy" says that the dwarves will bring wealth to Lake Town when they return.  Thing is, who wrote said "prophecy"? Where did it come from?  And why would some mofo write a prophecy when only two generations of dwarf had passed?  Sure, dwarves live longer, but does that really warrant a "prophecy"?

The reason why the Lake Town welcome worked in the book was because it wasn't prophecy, it was simply a sort of legend, probably originating in a dwarven vow to get their home back, a la Douglas MacArthur's vow to return to Korea.  Lake Town welcomed the dwarves because they believed the dwarves would bring economic prosperity to the town in their quest for the mountain.  There was nothing mystic about it.

Part of me thinks it's some way to manipulate people into dismissing the spiritual, but I promised myself I wasn't going to be a conspiracy theorist today, so let's move on.

Meh, all the official pics of Smaug were at bad angles. By Anouchka Wijnings.

- Benedict Cumberbatch is unimpressive.  It's not really his fault, though.  If he were on camera and able to make a physical presence, he might could have taken the really stupid lines he was given and make them seem at least half sensible.  However, he's Smaug the dragon, which means lots of digital workers created a massive beast that moves awkwardly and does stupid things, like being fooled by dwarves who are calling out "Hey, over here!"

- One of the things that ruins Smaug (and the elf-king, and Azog, and Galadriel, and Beorn, and most everyone else) is that they automatically know who Thorin is and why he's going to the Lonely Mountain. Why would they know this?  Has someone been going around telling Thorin's business?  Middle Earth is a Medieval sort of time period, where news doesn't travel nearly as fast as today.  And that's assuming that other dwarves uninvolved in the quest had a clear idea of what Thorin intended. How do we know that Thorin told his family what he was doing?  The elves wouldn't know either way because they're secluded in the forest.  Smaug doesn't know because he's having a jolly time enjoying his gold.  Azog doesn't know because he's supposed to have died long before this movie took place.

- So much padding was added to this movie that it's a wonder PJ found time to add in the things that were from the book.  Every single legitimate thing from the book gets rushed through, twisted into something dumb, or just ignored entirely.  Beorn is on screen for maybe two minutes, Mirkwood forest is not mirky at all, the grand welcome Lake Town gives the dwarves is almost entirely truncated, and the iconic conversation with Smaug was cut short for dwarven antics.  All of it is replaced by unnecessary romance, more fights scenes than I could ever care about, digital nonsense, a random scene where the dwarves steal weapons, Kili being sick, and all kinds of boring stuff.

Padding, padding, padding.

- There was one really good part during the excessive spider fight in Mirkwood (hey wait, why did the "poisonous air" suddenly let up when they guys had to fight?) where Bilbo drops the ring and violently attacks a nearby spider to get it back.  It's a hint of how the ring will affect Bilbo and Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Sure, it's tainted a bit as a moment because Bilbo realizes that the ring is affecting him and setting up weird continuity, but it could have worked.  Though it's really weird to see him feel regret for a spider that very much intended to kill him and his companions.

- I also like the part where Smaug is entranced by the golden statue of a dwarf lord.  Sure, it's entirely implausible that a few dwarves could work decades old machinery and produce that much gold, much less do so without dying horribly, but it was an interesting moment to see Smaug stare at the gold and suddenly find himself swarmed in the molten stuff.

Yet that too is stupid.  Why would they think molten gold could hurt a dragon?  Smaug's own body glowed red with heat when he breathed fire, so obviously the dude can stand the heat.  What makes it even worse is that Smaug, instead of horribly murdering all of the dwarves, assumes they care about Lake Town and flies off to destroy the town.   Yeeaaah.  It's like Peter Jackson had to have his golden statue moment and was willing to sacrifice logic to do it.  The George Lucas syndrome is strong with this one.

From the Bakshi version of LOTR.  I must now see this.

- What's the deal with Gandalf's plotline?  Sure, I know he had to leave the dwarves at Mirkwood, but he doesn't do anything of importance.  In fact, he directly provokes the Necromancer for no real reason and gets himself imprisoned because....I dunno, it's the will of the Force or something.  Ian McKellen does good in this film, but his performance is destroyed by all the irrelevant stuff he does.  Maybe if they actually focused the camera on him instead of the fake CGI surroundings, the audience would actually care.

- Pete Jackson wouldn't know subtlety if you locked him in a room and forced him to watch the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly three times over.  Seriously, this guy doesn't let anything be implied or half explained unless it's an important part of the book, and rushing through those parts doesn't count as implying.

You know how I mentioned the Good, the Bad and the Ugly's first scene with Angel Eyes in a nitpickery? That's the part where Eyes wanders into Steven's house and sits down to eat.  Without one word of dialogue being spoken, the audience learns that Mrs. Stevens knows something bad is going to happen, Stevens is afraid, and Angel Eyes is there to do something unsavory.  And the audience is on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next.

Can you imagine Peter Jackson directing a scene like that?

Why you mess up my franchise?
Aw, I still like Peter Jackson he made some really funny comments about horror movies.  And he looks like a hobbit.  Wait....hold on, he looks like someone else...

Oh no.....Peter Jackson is Arcturus Mengsk!  Nooooo!!!!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Not to Write with Starcraft: Liberty's Crusade

Hey y'all.  I'm here to review another Starcraft book.  Don't worry, I'll cut back on the Starcraft after this one.  Well, mainly because we don't have any more at the bookstore where we work, but y'know.  I like Starcraft enough to comment even on its bad stuff.

Me and you, Starcraft, always and forever.  But for now --

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nitpickery: Pepsico

Hey y'all.  So I found out a bit ago that Pepsico has supposedly been using fetal cells in their products. Because that is clearly hyperbole, I looked further.  At this point they have no fetal cells, but they are associated with Senomyx, a company that uses fetal kidney cells to develop and test flavors.  No, I'm not joking.

I remember not to long ago having a conversation with Glynnis Campbell about genetically modified food. She was very much against it, but I was fairly indifferent.  Play around with corn genes?  Whatever.  I don't care.  I didn't expect to have to join her side of the matter.  Until I found out about this, genetic modification was only an issue for those who are afraid of it, or vegans/vegetarians worried about meat-based flavors in their food.  We are now on scale 2, where they think it's okay to put "flavor enhancers" -- which apparently don't need to be listed on the label -- in foods which are based on fetal cells.

How long until stage 3, where we're actually eating human matter?

I've done the research on this, and it's very obvious that this is real.  Doctors are commenting on it (see second link) and it's all over the place.  What worries me a lot is that the media is ignoring it.  I know that not too many people read my blog, but all the same I do want to spread the word.  If you want to join my "Ban Pepsico" diet, here are the brand names of products you should avoid.  I feel thinner already.

Starbucks (bottled products, not their barista-made stuff)
Lays  Cheetos  Ruffles  Tostitos
Walkers  7up   Doritos   Gatorade
Lipton   Sabra   Naked   Sunbites
Tropicana   Stacy's   Fritos   Red Rock Deli
Mirinda   Brisk  Sierra mist  Muller
Alvalle   H2OH   SoBe   Grain Waves
Propel   Duyvis   Nestle   Kraft
Firmenich  Ajinomoto

Oh, and here's a list of confirmed other products that use the additives associated with Senomyx:

Y'know, people like to pretend that we are better than our ancestors.  They like to go all Star Trek and say we've risen above ourselves to become extra-moral creatures with high levels of intelligence.  Then I look at things like abortion, where we kill our young for our own convenience, and realize that we are no better than those who, centuries ago, sacrificed their children to Molech.  Humanity today is exactly the same as in that age.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Me and Aldaris (p29): Secrets

It has been a hell of a week.  First my sister has to move into my apartment for a bit, and since she has two boisterous boys and I'm their Auntie Fluff, well, let's just say that not a lot of work has been getting done on my part.  Hide and seek doesn't work in an apartment this small, and that's not counting my sister's stuff everywhere.  Then Dad gets in a wreck, making this possibly one of the most stressful weekends ever.  Thankfully he's okay, but I'm getting pretty sick of all this crap happening to my family.  Where do I go to get a vacation from life?

At this point, though, I'm just grateful for having a vacation from my auntly duties.  I love my boys, but sometimes I have to do my homework.  Today, though, they moved into their new apartment, and now that my sister's boxes are out of the way, I can clear a path through my own (hey, remember my house burnt down just a week ago) and set up my computer in the "dining room" corner.

"Man, I love my box fort.  I sure hope I'm not too old for them."  I sat on the floor, plugging my laptop into the wall.  My coffee, far enough away not to threaten my precious mechanical baby, was the right temperature, and as I pushed the power button, I knew I was in nerd paradise.  I took a sip.  "Mmm.  Now let's see if we can't get some stuff done.  Tax homework ain't gonna do itself!"

I should have known.  The by now very familiar blue arms of the recall pulled me up, and the next thing I know I'm on Aldaris' ship, staring at the back of a very surprised alien monster.

"Son of a bleep!" I immediately snapped.  "Dang it, Charlie, I thought you were going to fix the teleporter!"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How Not to Write with Starcraft: Speed of Darkness

Hey y'all.  So I decided that when I review certain books, like Starcraft fanfictions for example, I'll combine the review with the How Not to Write segment unless the book doesn't deserve it, or its mistakes are stuff I've already gone over before.

Guess what book deserves it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nitpickery -- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Hey y'all.  So now it's time to focus on the most popular of the three films in the Dollars trilogy.  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a film that has gone on to make Clint Eastwood one of two most influential western actors in the twentieth century (the other, naturally, being John Wayne).  It's a great film that's possibly one of the best of all time.  It already appeared on my top ten movie list, and I have a feeling it appears on the lists of many others.


For those uncultured miscreants who haven't seen this movie, it's the story of three criminals on their quest for gold during the Civil War.  Angel Eyes, an evil man bent on getting his own, initiates the chase.  He discovers that Confederates have stolen gold from Union soldiers, and goes off after a man named Bill Carson.  Meanwhile, Tuco and Blondie, two more scoundrels, scam the countryside by turning in Tuco by his reward money and rescuing him to secure the reward money somewhere else.  Their misadventures bring the two to Bill Carson first.  Tuco learns that the gold is buried in a graveyard, and Blondie learns the name of the grave.  Keeping their halves of the secret, they go forward.  Thus all three head out to a graveyard where the $200,000 worth of treasure is buried.

---- Top Ten Things to Say about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly ----

10.  This isn't a trilogy.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nitpickery -- For a Few Dollars More

Hey y'all.  So the next movie in the trilogy is For a Few Dollars More.  The strange thing about it is, many people apparently think this is better than the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  I don't.  Granted, it does a few things that make it a huge step up from A Few Dollars More, but in my opinion GBU eclipses it as it's more of a total package.  Few Dollars More has a division of both good and not so good.

So this is a movie about the Man with No Name -- named Manco -- who is going after a new bounty: El Indio, a murderous madman who's just escaped from jail.  The reward for El Indio is $10,000, and that's something Manco has to get on.  He finds out about a rival for his bounty, Colonel Douglas Mortimer. Mortimer suggests they team up to take out El Indio, and they do so, attempting to stop Indio from robbing a bank.

Eh, that's not the best summary I've ever done, but this is a fairly complex movie, and I can't explain it out without ruining at least some of its charm.  Or at least going on too long about details that are better seen than told about.

In any case, be ready for spoilers.

-----  Ten Things to Say about For A Few Dollars More -----

10.  This movie suuuuucks.

And this time I mean it.  Mostly.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How Not to Write with Starcraft Ghost: Nova

Hey y'all.  So I promised that there would be a going-over of Starcraft Ghost: Nova to explain the problems with the writing.  This is not to pick on author Keith DeCandido -- quite frankly Will C. Dietz deserves it more -- but to demonstrate that there are lots of characteristics amateur writers have in common.  Sure, no new writer has all possible errors, but there are several errors that are common among writers when they haven't reached the true honing of their craft.

DeCandido's mistakes are what I call "honest" -- he has an unpretentious understanding of writing that other authors I've read don't have.  He knows about tension and emotion, and those things can cover a lot of flaws in writing.  After all, the manga Hollow Fields has writing and plot errors like you would not believe, but its charm and concept make it a very entertaining read that I recommend highly.

However, while DeCandido had several good ideas and knows how to make plot cause tension, his clumsy narrative prevents readers from really enjoying his story.  Though I am quite willing to believe Blizzard tripped him up in some way, at least by cancelling the game his book was meant to promote.  I'm also willing to believe they stunted his creativity in some way because he was using their plot and referencing their characters.  It happens.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nitpickery -- A Fistful of Dollars

Hey y'all.  So the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (that I shall continually refer to as GBU) is on Netflix, and I've been watching it like you wouldn't believe.  Very obsessed, much.  So why shouldn't I do a review of this trilogy?  After all, if I love GBU so much, then shouldn't I know the full story of Clint Eastwood's character, as told by director Sergio Leone?

Of course, A Fistful of Dollars is first.  It's the story of the Man with No Name -- referred to as Joe -- who enters a town full of thugs and murderers.  Two crime families, the Rojos and the Bakers, have a deadly rivalry going on, and they can't stop antagonizing one another.  In comes Joe, who, through clever thinking and good shooting, sets the two families against one another so that they can destroy themselves and spare the innocent populace.

That's what I gather, anyway.

---- Top Ten Things to Say about A Fistful of Dollars. ---

10.  This movie suuuuucks.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Me and Aldaris (p28): Things get Serious

You know when you wake up somewhere unfamiliar, with weird smells and sights, and then you get all uncomfortable because this is not your home?  I hate that.  Especially when you're in a place where you don't have spare clothes, a toothbrush, or anything to eat other than cans of beans.  I don't like beans unless they're refried.  But no, I'm in some stranger's house on the wrong side of the country, sharing the lounge with Cheonha.  She was pretty fearful of the guys last night for some reason, so she just sat with me, on the other side of the lounge.  We all fell asleep in the living room, which is pretty fine because I don't think any of us want to sleep in a stranger's bed.  Just weird, that.

Because Cheonha was with me, that meant John got to crash out on the couch all by himself.  Toby was still on the cushy chair, with one of those leg-extender things (I'm so good at words and english, no?).  When I woke up, everyone was still crashed out.  Heh, John snores.  I got up, too dang headache-y to lay down anymore.  I get that way when I sleep for too long.  Actually, I missed most of the night by being in China and staying up late with everyone the night before (We stayed up really late watching a dumb movie -- it was the only one with korean subtitles), but with all the stress of what's going on, I just can't sleep.  My laptop was in my house when it was on fire, and even if the fire didn't get going that much, who knows what the water damage is?

Stress-waking turns people into zombies, so I just kind of wandered through the kitchen until I realized that I was looking for aspirin.  No such luck.  With equal thought to what I was doing, I went outside.  Dunno why.  Sunlight makes me feel better, and I hadn't been awake for a sunrise in who knows how long.  The digital clock on the microwave said 6:07.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Nitpickery -- Starcraft Ghost: Nova

Hey y'all.  So I've read three Starcraft novels so far, and besides the world, they have one thing in common.

They all suck.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Cinderella Plot -- Male

Hey ya'll.  So in my last post I mentioned that men have their own Cinderella story.  It's true.  Granted, it's not entirely like the female version, but it's the same basic idea of the protagonist getting swept away in amazing circumstances and being judged better than his rivals.  It's the same in that it's the male fantasy, fashioned the way the male mind likes its rags to riches tales of glory.

There's a fundamental difference between mediums of the female and male versions of the Cinderella story.  That is, the female version is predominantly in book form, and the males' is in movies.  Sure, vice versa exists, but it's the result of how men and women view excitement differently.  Women are more mentally in-tune, which is why an otherwise good looking guy will become instantly hideous to us the moment we learn he's a scumbag.  We don't separate beauty from personality very much, and books work for us because they display personality traits and leave the looks up to our own imagination.

Men, on the other hand, are very visually stimulated, hence action movies.  'Splosions, hot chicks, guns and cars are all better for them when visual.  And while the male Cinderella story isn't necessarily an action film, many of these are action types, or else realistic fiction.

But let's get to the specific elements now, shall we?  Unlike for women, men don't have a set down, specific story for this, so I'll just use Rocky as an example.

1. A man from a bad, rough, or common background, or perhaps just a guy in bad cirumstances, has a hard time of handling his life.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Cinderella Plot

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking about the Cinderella trope, and how feminists are so lit up by it.  They say it's a bad thing for women to be portrayed as damsels in distress.  Though also female, I have never been really against this.  After all, I wouldn't mind being rescued by a hot guy, heh.  The only real "damsels in distress" in my opinion are those in literature or movies that literally do nothing but whine, and have no redeeming qualities.  It doesn't ruin a girl to be a daydreamer, or a glam princess, or happen to be saved by a man at the end.  Whatever.

But still, the idea that a prince saves a woman in the end and makes her life complete is offensive to the overly sensitive.  I guess the idea is that men don't automatically makes womens' lives better.  Which is true, particularly when the man or woman involved has personal issues, or outside circumstances work against them.  And you know what?  That's the whole point of the Cinderella trope.  Sure, a man is involved, but he's only a part of the "prize package" that comes along with the story of bitterness to happiness that Cinderella embodies.  Simply put, he's not the point.

Let's go over the trope, bit by bit.  There are basic elements that compose the story, and even when Cinderella's story is adapted into other forms, all the elements are relatively unchanged.  So what are those elements?

1. A girl from a noble, wealthy, or otherwise important background is forced by circumstances into a situation of servitude or disadvantage, where she is judged by her unworthy peers.  These peers are jealous of the girl's beauty, kindness, or personality (usually all three).