Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Or however you celebrate the holidays! Hanuka, Kwanzaa, whatever! Have a safe, happy and wonderful time. Enjoy a few days rest, text or call people you haven't spoken to in a while, just generally do something nice for someone.
Oh, and do me a favour: Wish really hard for snow. Maybe if we all wish together, we can get some!! I had a Christmas jump on a frost covered trampoline at 8am this morning, which was fine, but snow would be great too!!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This review is short and sweet.
I love it, some of my friends love it, some don't. A free-roaming sandbox game from the creator of the GTA series, Crackdown puts you in the place of a future cop with a crazy suit of armour that allows you to leap small buildings, pick up trucks, snipe with a heavy machine gun, and cause company cars to transform from G1 Transformers to Bayformers. Freakin' sweet! Admittedly, that's what you can do once you have leveled up a bit, but that really doesn't take very long. I was fully dotted before even starting the last of the three city zones.
I love the freedom, the leaping around, the crazy action, the pick-up-and-play aspect. I love the leveling up process, the cell shaded animation, and the sharp dialogue. I just love how much fun I find this game to be.
But I can't recommend it. You have to play it yourself. If you can, rent it, or even better, if you're on Xbox Live, just download the free demo. The leveling up speed has been ramped up so that you can almost max-out your athletics or weapons in the hour and a bit the demo allows you have. If you enjoy it, you can pick it up for about €25-€30 new, and €15-20 second hand. That's all it's really worth. Even I know when I get stuck into my other 360 title, even the colourful graphics and equally colourful gameplay won't pull me back. Though, as a rule of thumb, I'd say that if you enjoyed Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, you'll love this.
I love playing computer games, but find anything that makes me too frustrated is not worth my time. Often, if I get stuck on a particular level, or a certain area, I'll just give up and never go back. If a game annoys me to the point of cursing or even anger, it's not worth it (I should note that this is different from getting excited to the point of cursing. Chu-Chu Rocket had me screaming like a sailor for hours, and I loved every second of it!). I can turn it off and try again tomorrow. If I still get angry at it, then I know I'm not going to finish it. This is entirely independent of how good the game is.
A quick glance at my games on my game rack brings lots of examples to mind.
Mercenaries: Made it to the second Ace. Couldn't capture him alive. Replayed it too much. Never even got to play on the second map.
Gun: Stupid frackin' last boss. In fact, I didn't even play the last part of the game. Jp played it.
GTA: San Andreas: Got bored.
GTA: Liberty City Stories: Couldn't get into it.
Metroid Prime 2: Fish boss killed me too often, and every time I died it was a ten minute trawl back to his location. Nope. Not again.
Punisher: Started something else... damn. I liked that game. Must go back and play it again...
Add to that a list of PC games a mile long, and you see the problem I face any time I consider buying a new game. If I play it, will I enjoy it? Will I finish it? Even if I don't complete it, will I put in enough time to make it worth the price?
Mario Galaxy took up more time in my life for the two weeks after I got it than eating, and arguably breathing, did! Certainly I got far more of a sensorial response playing Galaxy on the Wii than I did with any of my meals during that time!
From start to finish, this is a masterpiece exploding with humour, creativity, intelligence and a level of complexity to make the game challenging without being frustrating. The hardest Stars to get (once more, the goal of the game) are often on the most fun levels to play, so dieing ten times in quick succession doesn't seem so bad! Collecting purple coins on a pixelated Luigi is awesome, but I've lost over 20 lives to it already and still don't have a Star to show for it.
Galaxy is the first game I've really played in a long time. It's certainly the first in a very long time that I have totally enjoyed. Every new level is a thrill, every new Star, a burst of adrenalin. While the big Stars might power the space station, it's collecting the little ones that power me forward. Races, time-trials, quests, and other challenges divert from the platforming for a while and add to the fun. And while I'm talking about platforming, returning to the classic 2D styles in a 3D game without a break in the action is beautiful to watch! Mixing those up with altering gravity fields and mind warping puzzles is just fresh strawberries on an already perfectly iced cake.
There is nothing bad I can say about the game. Sure, the two-player mode leaves the second player with little to do, but Claire loved it while I was Mario, and I loved it while other people controlled the main action. It's not much, but it's damn fun to do! The bosses are colourful and varied, the levels are amazing to play on, and the innovative gravity elements are mind bending to play with. Running around to the underside of a platform to avoid enemies can be confusing at first but you eventually get used t... no. No, you never get used to it! It's amazing every time!
If you have a Wii, you need this game. Mario 64 on the N64 redefined platforming, bringing it into the third dimension. Mario Sunshine was weak, created to fill an unusually long gap between Mario games. But Mario Galaxy is a shining achievement that Nintendo is rightly proud of!
It's been almost a full month since I last updated, and it's been a busy month! Preschool work kicked into overdrive in the run up to Christmas, and I've been putting in extra time at home on arts ideas for the class, as well as buying supplies in town. My other work has had me in for more hours, both in the health food store and the comic shop. This is great, because I really need the money! Rent this month is on the credit card!
And on top of all this, I got a new game for the Wii, and an Xbox 360! The Xbox was a Christmas present from Claire, and I bought the games for it myself through ebay. In fact, most of my Christmas shopping was done through ebay! Sweet!
Edit: Oops! Silly me. I almost talked about what I got people, before realising that some of them read this!! Heh. Anyway...
But tonight I have a little time to say hello to the world wide web again, and blog a little. Poor Flickr is still feeling cold. I haven't really taken any photos at all recently, even of action figures. I guess I'm allowed take a break now and then, but I really want to get back into it. Maybe in the New Year. I'm not going to make a resolution to photograph or blog more though. I feel I did a lot this year, certainly more than I expected to do, given my reputation for starting and ending things with reckless abandon! Still, hopefully I'll have time to blog a bit more before the end of 2007.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Today, I cleaned the living room and bedroom, washed all the dirty wear, and vacuumed the entire house, including kitchen and bathroom. I would have mopped, but I didn't have time. Then, I headed off into town, paid my rent, bought two nice graphic novels on massive sale prices and went and played the latest adventure in the Traveller playtest I'm part of.
Basically I had a long, fun-filled, packed day that explains why this is all you get to read today. Tomorrow, I might talk about my new character in the RPG and some of the ideas I have for his background. It's great that none of the other players, even Claire, read my blog!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Working seven days a week is as draining as it sounds, but at least I'll have some cash for Christmas. Because of the pressure on my frail system, as soon as I got out of work yesterday, I ended up sleeping from 7pm Saturday night until 10:30am this morning! Taking into account a half hour that I was awake around 9pm for a cup of tea, I slept for 14 and a half hours!
That explains why I missed a day posting.
Posted by Denis at 4:30 pm
Friday, November 16, 2007
Just about made it for today. I was at Beowulf and am home in time to post something for the 16th of November, officially putting me over halfway through the month.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure what to actually post about! So I'll direct you towards my newest infatuation. Do you think it would look good on me? I really, really want it, and it works out at just €350, which puts it cheaper than the leather jacket I saw in town for €500 that looks like the one Doctor House wears!
I really want that jacket, though. I can then get the helmet and make a jet pack! My life would be geekplete (geekplete: adjective: gee'k pleet: 1. having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole; entire; full; 2. finished; ended; concluded; relating in both cases to a single-minded obsession with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: to own all issues of a comic run, to possess every piece of merchandise related to a particular character), though not complete. I have lots to do before I can ever consider my life complete.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Recently, I've spent a lot of time complaining about the ills of the newest season of television, suggesting, perhaps, that there was very little worth watching these cold winter nights. That could not be further from the truth, and while I still have to say that I cannot in good conscience recommend Heroes right now, there are some other shows that you should at least try and see if they're your kind of flavour as well.
How I Met Your Mother is a rare treat when it comes to Stateside comedies. In a show that proclaims from the outset to be about relationships, love, life and above all, friendships, all the cliches are avoided. No secret loves (even if there is a season long mutually obvious, but mutually avoidant one), no best friends sleeping with best friends girlfriends, and no "We were on a break" moments. It's hard not to see parts of yourself and your friends in the characters. They are realistically thought out, and deal with situations in a realistic manner... well, almost. This is a comedy after all. Sometimes things just get wacky! Worth watching for Barney alone, an ingenious idea for a character that feels so real, yet I hope doesn't actually exist in reality anywhere in the world!
House. What can I say about some of the best writing on television. Every episode follows an identical format. Patient arrives with unexplainable illness, team look at combination of symptoms and come up with the answer, treat, treatment fails and patient gets worse, team reassess symptoms, come up with new answer, treat, patient gets better for a while, then- OH NOES!!- patient crashes, almost dies, team stabilise patient, Dr. House remembers some random, inane fact from Act One, such as patient doesn't like hospital food, and suddenly the answer is obvious! Team treats patient, patient recovers, everyone goes home happy. What makes the show spectacular is that, despite this, every episode is griping TV, and the few that break the pattern are some of the best 45 minutes of drama you'll ever see. The patient and the treatment are not the important reason for the show, and only rarely for the team. Instead, it is the relationships, interactions and friendships that the extended cast of characters go through. Season four has added a new excitement, as House picks a new team, starting with a class of over thirty and eliminating it down week by week. Wilson still ranks as my favourite supporting character in any series.
Balancing karma has never been funnier than in My Name Is Earl. Jason Lee is almost unrecognisable as the title character, Earl, who, after winning $100,000 on a scratchcard and then getting hit by a car, realises he has to make up for all the bad things he's done in life to everyone. He creates a list, and, in a random order, begins to do good deeds related to the bad in order to cross them off. Some are easier done than others, and as the show continues, the list gets slowly added to, either because Earl remembered something new, or his emotions got the better of him for a moment. My Name Is Earl is kind of like Quantum Leap without the time-travel element. Both have to right wrongs, and both are controlled by God, fate, karma or whatever. I'm gonna leave that analogy there, because some people don't see the genius in connecting those two shows.
Top Gear is the reason I originally started this post. Claire and I watched episode five of season ten last night and both of us almost died of laughter and excitement! What other show could follow up a mind-blowing trek across the spine of Africa with a trek across London in rush-hour Monday morning traffic and have the London episode come out tops on the "Edge-Of-Seat" scale of television viewing?!? If you have yet to see it, the episode involves a race between James May in a four-wheel drive people carrier, the Mercedes GL, Richard Hammond on a bicycle (skin tight shorts and t-shirt included!), Jeremy Clarkson in a Cougar sport racing boat on the Thames, and finally... well, some say, when he was born, his heart was replaced with a miniature Formula One engine, and that because all he knows is speed, he has no concept of money or mobile phones. All we know is, he's called The Stig, and he took public transport. The race was from the extreme west of London, Knightsbridge, to the extreme east, at London City airport. It was riveting viewing, side-splitting all the way, and totally unpredictable in it's craziness. Favourite moment: The Stig stares blankly at his mobile phone, seemingly with no idea what this funny little noisy thing is for. The ring tune is the Coronation Street theme. But who won?!? You'll have to watch for yourself. The results are just too good to give away here!
So there's a selection of viewing material to watch while it's dark and wet outside on these long nights. Have I missed anything? Is there something I should be watching? I know there are lots of other good shows out there, but I only have so much free time. I need to blog too, you know!
I really dislike seeing Christmas advertising when it's still early November, and worse if we haven't even had Halloween yet, but sometimes someone comes out with an advert that is simply inspired! This year, everyone will be hard pressed to do better than the genius piece created for Marks & Spencers. An absolutely stunning ad that actually works! There are a tonne of great ads for which I can't recall the brand they were selling, but even a week after seeing this, I was still able to find it on a single search of YouTube.
Well done M&S. Simple, elegant and completely free of the usual Christmas schmaltz.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
The butt of the handgun smashed a small hole in the corner of the church window. Quaid pushed the barrel through the opening and fired twice into the thick cloud of dust and hooves. One of the riders fell.
Immediately two rifle-shots rang out. The one hit below the window, sending splinters of wood into the air, the other caused thick, warm fluid to run down Quaid's face. Recoiling in shock, Quaid rubbed the blood away from his eyes and felt for the wound. Instead, he saw the villager beside him slump to the floor, the right side of his face missing several vital components, first and foremost of which was his cheekbone.
Explosions went off overhead. A grenade exploded somewhere above, shattering the remains of the window on top of the few that could still shoot. Within seconds Quaid and the others in the church could see the old, dry wood of the roof begin to smolder. Firing twice more at the attackers, he spotted Anna being dragged across the graveyard by the bounty hunter.
"Ta Ma Duh. That ain't gonna end well."
Vaulting out the window, Quaid ducked a nearby handgun blast and returned the favour with pin-point results. The bounty hunter was gone, but there was only one place he could possibly be heading for. The Nirvana.
The streets were filled with dust kicked up from a dozen horses, and racing behind a nearby building was easy, even with his peg-leg. Quaid decided to bee-line for the General Store and from there, grab some guns and head for the ship. Rounding the first corner brought him face-to-face with one of the raiders. Arms full of looted goods from some locals home, even Quaid's less than stellar reflexes were fast enough to but a bullet cleanly between the opponents eyes, dropping the body before the goods could even hit the earth.
Across the main street was the store. From here, the high-tech holo-field windows and glistening polished steel of the store front stood in stark contrast to everything around it. Quaid looked up and down, considering his options. He had seen the weapons that the store sold earlier that day, and right now he knew he needed something more than his six-shooter. Pausing to reload, he darted across the empty street and ducked down below a window. Inside, the android sales assistant was repeating "Defense mode" over and over again in her soft, Chinese accent. He smiled for a moment, before kicking in the main doors.
"Chui se, ya wong ba duhn!" A lone raider standing firing at the android received a round to the temple. Quaid jumped sideways behind a counter as a shotgun blast juiced the hydrated apple stand. "Aw. Not the apples," Quaid exclaimed, as he took aim in the direction of the shotgun blast, squeezing tightly on the trigger. He never even saw the third raider.
For just a moment, everything stopped. The pellets seemed to freeze on his ribcage, and thoughts of Emily flooded his mind. Sweet Emily. His only love, his only reason. The sun rising through the upper layers of the gas giant. Even a billion miles away, it was still where he wished to be. On a colony station, orbiting a gas giant, wrapped in her arms.
Then everything started up again, and a blackness darker than anything the Verse could throw contain swallowed him whole.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
NaBloPoMo has been running now for just 10 days, one third of the month, and I have had a post a day at least, and more some days!
Anyway, to keep things moving without break, let's just mention Heroes, 'cause, you know, everyone else is!
Season two, in my humble opinion, sucks. Thankfully, I'm not the only one to think so! In fact, so many have agreed with me, that Season Two may well finish with the December episode. Ok, so the Writer's Guild Strike is a factor as well, but seriously, the creative staff obviously know that they've failed to meet any potential. I found this article which summarises the contents of an interview in The Los Angeles Times, as well as my feelings on the show. Unfortunately, I've lost the link to the source of this particular piece. Sorry for the shoddy reporting, but here you go (emphasis by me):
Tim Kring not bugged about criticisms of hit NBC show, says episodes seven to 11 are "best episodes we've ever done."Now the "last week's episode" they mention at the start is actually Episode 6, from two weeks ago. The article is a bit dated. Anyway, I find the last line, "We haven't deviated that much [from last season's formula]" hilarious!! He says this like it's a good thing! That's one of my biggest criticisms about the show. Why am I watching the second season if it's gonna be just the first one again?!? I should go back and watch that. At least that had a focus right from the opening episodes. This season is all over the place, and I have little to no idea where the show is going. Also, the special effects are atrocious. Everything is poor green-screen sets with either dull stock photography or awful photoshopped images! In particular (related to Episode 6, so spoiler hidden just in case), Peter in the empty "future New York" was laughably bad! I've seen better quality green-screening on Bosco's Magic Door!
Heroes has been on the tips of television-viewers' tongues a lot this year, but not for the same reason as last season. The superhero show was a breakout hit last year, but this season it has been the target of critics who cite disjointed storylines, too many characters, and a lack of direction for disappointing fans. Viewers have also tuned out; last week's episode rang in the worst numbers in the key 18-49 demographic ever for the series, according to Nielsen Media Research.
But there's one man who isn't fazed and thinks fans shouldn't be worried either: series creator Tim Kring.
Speaking with The Los Angeles Times, Kring dismissed the numbers much like many other television executives have: DVRs, online episodes, the Internet. What's more, ratings drops are taking their toll on almost all shows, not just Heroes.
As for the rest of the criticism, Kring is promising that it will all make sense. "It will all be paid off by episode 11," Kring said. "From seven to 11 are the best episodes we've ever done." The Heroes crew has always said that this current season would be split up into "volumes," with the current one, titled "Generations," concluding midseason.
"One of the things that we found is that, by the end of the (first) year, we were dragging a tremendous amount of story behind us that had to be paid off in that final episode," Kring said during a conference call, according to Salt Lake City's Deseret News, "which made for an episode that the (audience) expectations are so high that it's hard to meet everybody's expectation."
But that didn't stop the writers from adding several new characters in the offseason, and the result is too much story to pack into one hour of television per week to satisfy everyone.
"Part of what happens on any show is that you enter a relationship with your viewers where you teach them how to watch your show and they teach you what they seem to be responding to," Kring said, reports the Deseret News. "And we, I think, are in this process right now of teaching the audience how to get used to the idea that not everybody is going to be in every single episode."
Some think that Heroes is just undergoing a sophomore slump. However, Kring may be thinking that viewers are looking at season two a bit too harshly by elevating season one unrealistically. "People tend to look at last season and see things in it that were not in it. We haven't deviated that much [from last season's formula]."
And this week, creator Tim Kring admitted as much! He actually apologised to the fans for Season Two. Now, I have to give the man credit for admitting he's wrong, but this is ridiculous! NBC have spent millions upon millions on six, possibly more, episodes of tripe! Despite hoping to start "Volume Three" on a clean slate, I have an uneasy feeling that the ride is over. The only reason they still have a chance at Volume Three is because they are with NBC. If this was Fox, we wouldn't even get the resolution to Volume Two!
Friday, November 09, 2007
Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed drawing and writing. While I have never been great at either, I can at least admit to some level of ability in both. However, the third of the three biggest fields in the discipline of the Arts has forever eluded me, and to this day I have to admit that I just don't understand the process that goes into bringing it from something behind your eyes to the real world for others to enjoy.
When I see a book or a painting I understand the basic principles behind creating either. First, you create an idea, a plot or concept of what the finished product will roughly resemble. You sketch out your ideas, characters and setting, then begin the meat of the work, filling in the details, colouring the world and making the finished product appealing to look at or read. There's more to it, yes, but this is the basics upon which everything else is built.
But music is different. When I listen to a piece by my favourite modern composer, John Williams, I hear the majesty and power in every note. Nothing is fluff or filler, everything is important. It is lean and perfectly built, and more precise than a book or painting ever has to be. When John Williams creates a piece of music, how does it begin? How does he "sketch" his idea, or "colour" his world? Does he hear the piece in his head and then break it down instrument by instrument?
The composition of music fascinates me. I can hear music in my head when I'm happy, sad, lonely, or thoughtful. When I plot out ideas for RPG scenarios, or write short stories, I begin to hear the soundtrack for each scene playing behind my ears, just for me.
But I can never write them down. I can never imagine breaking them into their component pieces, defining what instrument does what. I can't imagine plotting out the highs and lows of an epic movement, or the dramatic tensions of a piece like "Duel of the Fates". I mean, look at the sheets of music that appear in the linked video! I spent years learning the piano and it's still an alien tongue to me!
How do they do it? I don't know. Obviously, natural talent is a vital factor. I think it would be difficult to teach someone to be a good composer. You really have to be able to hear the music.
But I would love to spend a week in John Williams' company and just watch and listen in sheer awe. That must be how God felt as He created the heavens and the earth, and He watched as the some caveman picked up a stick and started tapping out a rhythm. God only knows He must have been impressed.
Heh... see what I did there?!?
Thursday, November 08, 2007
While writing my post about Spirit of the Century I googled around for some interesting art of pulp-era, or pulp styled characters. I spotted a number that looked interesting, in particular one of The Shadow, one of my favourite actual pulp era characters. There was also one of Doc Savage and Tarzan that looked nice, and when I started to open them in larger sizes, I noticed they all held a similar style.
That was when I discovered Paper, Pencil, Pixels; a blog showcasing the art of Scottish digital artist Euan Mactavish. Euan's work has a beautifully painted look to it, despite being entirely digital. In one post he mentions how he started out using paper sketches which he scanned in, but now works entirely on the computer. He has a broad range of material, from comic book characters to real life celebrities. He is equally comfortable drawing non-human characters, as in the most recent update with Mighty Mouse, as he is with the colourful cast of humans he has on display!
My personal favourite is used as the image for this post, with kind permission from the artist himself! Those of you who know me know of my love for all things Rocketeer related. Those of you who don't, now do!
The site is well worth a visit, and he updates regularly. As well as the Rocketeer, have a look at The Shadow, Doc Savage, Midnighter, some Bonds, a female Hellboy... in fact, just go through the archives! There is something eye-poppingly good every month! Oh, and check out July '07. Only one image, but it's incredible!
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Sometimes you find something online, or someone tells you about some wonderful site they've found, and you laugh and enjoy it, and return for updates and hilarity on a regular basis, but you forget to spread the joy! No, I'm not trying to get you to promote my personal effort among friends! I'm here to tell you about one such site I visit regularly, and think you might like.
Zero Punctuation is a work of genius by a madman. Now part of The Escapist, it started life as simply another random computer games video review piece on YouTube. Admittedly, they were designed and put up there in hopes of being offered a paying job to continue them, but honestly, given how often that has ever happened, our madman's dreams were...well... mad!
But seemingly dreams do come true, and living in a world populated with three-minute attention spans meant that Yahtzee's reviews were akin to opium for the sound-bite generation of "brighter, shorter, faster" internet addicts who consider Bebo contacts on different continents their "bff". The people behind The Escapist were quick to see the new big-thing was talking to them at 100mph, and snapped him up after only two reviews. Since then, to date, thirteen new reviews have put, among others, Half Life 2, Super Paper Mario, Bioshock, Halo 3, and the consoles themselves into the firing range and mowed through them with the speed and power of a gattling gun, but far funnier.
So what makes these worth watching? The sheer speed at which Yahtzee talks is certainly a factor! Ireland's own motormouth Dave Fanning sounds like a moped next to Yahtzee's Formula One racer! The humour is top notch as well, coming across like a stand-up comedian who is blurring our razor sharp witticisms to an unforgiving audience! The metaphors, analogies and tangential tales keep you shifting back and forth between gut laughing out loud and gasping shock at "I can't believe he just said that" moments.
But possibly the most enjoyable element of the Zero Punctuation reviews are the videos themselves. All done in Flash, the videos have a simple cartoony style that often reflects the audio in an odd, strangely literal fashion! One of my favourite examples of this is when Yahtzee is describing one feature as "sublime", and a little cartoon submarine and a photo of a lime flash up onscreen! Simple, effective and hilarious!
Trying to write a review about a video-review site seems a bit pointless. In the length of time it can take some people to read these few paragraphs, Yahtzee would already be cutting whatever game he has been playing this week to shreds! In light of this, I'm going to wrap up and leave you with my own personal favourite review embedded below. Remember, there are lots more available on the official site, and he updates every Wednesday, so mark your calenders! Enjoy.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Having played and enjoyed the RPG Deadlands, as well as having a passing interest in card games, I invested in a set of poker chips. Two decks of cards were included, but they were paper thin and two cards got their edges marked while I was trying to shuffle one as soon as I opened it! So I also bought a shiny new, high-quality pack.
I've never played poker, and had to learn the rules, so I can't say I've learned to control my "tell" yet, but then, I don't even know what it is! My current guess, based on games of Cluedo, Fluxx and Chrononauts, is that I smile like a maniac when things are going my way, and try to play it cool. So... not really that hard a tell to spot then!
Anyway, I also plan on using the chips to track Fate Points in Spirit of the Century, and hope to see them flying back and forth across the table throughout the games! I love the clink of the chips against one another, and find myself playing with them on the table while I'm watching cartoons at home. I'm also slowly learning how to flip one across my fingers like they do in the movies! I would love to be able to sit at the head of a table of players, describing the scene that lies before them, slowly turning over a chip from one finger to the next, threatening to compel any one of them!
Monday, November 05, 2007
I almost forgot, but today is V For Vendetta Day!
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
- Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
- To blow up King and Parliament.
- Three-score barrels of powder below
- To prove old England's overthrow;
- By God's providence he was catch'd
- With a dark lantern and burning match.
- Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
- Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And on a related note, David Lloyd, artist on the original V For Vendetta comic will be coming to Cork to do a signing promoting his work, particularly Kickback, I believe. He'll be doing his signing in Other Realms, which is cool, because I work there! Yay! If you're in the area, call in and say hi! I'm sure he'll be happy to meet you, and there should be a fairly pleasant turn-out, as Cork isn't a huge Cork area, but V For Vendetta sells constantly. I can tell you from working there that we get in three copies every two weeks and they sell before the end of the first week on the shelves!
Why don't we get in more, so that there's always some on the shelf? If you know Realms and the management, then you know exactly why.
Update: David Lloyd will be in-store on the afternoon of Saturday, December 1st. As mentioned above, he will be signing copies of his newest Graphic Novel, Kickback, as well as his other works. While you are more than welcome to bring along your old, tattered copies of his work, Other Realms will also be getting in unusually large numbers of trades featuring his art. Please come along and show your support for a great artist who is kind enough to travel outside Dublin for signings!
This speaks for itself. Watch.
That sensation of something running down the back of your thoat? That's you melted brains, slowly seeping out of your skull.
No? Not doing it for you? Then how about this, or this?!?
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I really, really want to run a Spirit of the Century game that lasts ten to twelve episodes, concluding in a two-part high budget season finale! (How do you do "high budget" in an RPG where everything is imaginary? Props, people. Props.) I just love the system, and GaelCon has gotten me all excited about role-playing again, and gaming in general. Tonight, at the time that I'm writing this entry, I'm setting up to play Settlers of Catan with Claire, Mark and Wanqing, which should be fun! I'll let you know how it goes (if you don't hear from me, assume I lost and am sulking in my room... I do that a lot).
Anyway, when it comes to writing a campaign, I'm kind of a noob. I tried once or twice before, but failed. So this time I'm going to write up the episodes as much as possible in advance. It certainly helps that I already have an idea of where I want the story to go. Any hints from me readers? How do you run an on-going game? One session at a time, or with a arcing plot? Do you have a site that stores handy scenarios for use in a pinch, or just steal the plots from books or movies? Generally, I'm looking for nuggets of wisdom you've picked up while playing or GMing yourself.
I guess after that, all I need are willing players!
Edit: I lost. Horribly. I came last. Mark won by transforming a town into a city and then dropping a "Victory Point" resource card. Good game. Just as I was beginning to feel like it should wrap up, it did! Sweet.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
While playing in an awesome GURPS Traveller RPG scenario at GaelCon, one of the kids at the table I was at pulled out his Chicken Walker model from the Star Wars Miniatures game and left it on the table. I started to sketch the cab between actions while the rest of the players squabbled among themselves.
Not a bad attempt for something drawn in just a few minutes, and in between trying to rescue civilians from a crashed cruise ship.
I found that, even after I was finished, I was constantly adding lines, shading, roughing up parts. So I signed the corner and that stopped me doing anything more to the image.
What artist or group hold the record for the highest seller album in Ireland?
U2? Enya? The Dubliners? Michael Jackson? Westlife?
David Gray, with White Ladder.
I can't say I ever would have guessed that even if I tried guessing from now until the end of next week! How extraordinary.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Quick! What year is this?!? I feel like I've just slipped into an alternate 1999 where The Matrix is about to be released after some very, very minor rewrites!
- A main character with super human hidden abilities living a boring life in a facade of a world
- Bullet time
- Snappy sound bites
- Older, black mentor
- White female trainer
- Cubical office scene
Morgan Freeman as Morpheus: It is a choice, Wesley, that each of us must face. The red pill, or the blue...
Why is it that every time I use Blockquotes in my blog it seems to break the text formatting from that point on? Just look at my post on G.I. Joe. The first paragraph is nicely spaced between lines. Then I put in the quote and the rest of the post is crammed together like in the style of the Blockquote. This annoys me greatly. Any help?
As many of my friends know, despite having never set foot in the Americas, I am, and have been an huge fan of G.I. Joe ever since I was a kid. I collected Joe's almost exclusively through my childhood, in the manner I now collect Marvel Legends. Between myself and my brother Philip we had the largest collection of 3-3/4-inch figures among all our friends, including vehicles of all shapes and sizes! We called them Action Force for a while, then G.I. Joe, the Action Force, and finally, just G.I. Joe.
So when I heard that there was going to be a live action movie, I was thrilled. When I heard the blurb, I was... well, less thrilled.
A European-based military unit known as Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity (G.I.J.O.E.), a hi-tech, international force of special operatives takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arms dealer.What the heck? European based? Acronyms? And no Cobra Commander? Urg. This was sounding terrible!
So you can imagine my joy when I read this official statement from Hasbro today on Entertainment News International:
Hasbro’s G.I. Joe Team wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some of the facts regarding the G.I. Joe live-action movie that we are developing with Paramount Pictures."Yo Joe!! Looks like things are back on track! That sounds much better! I'm glad those awful rumours are 100% false", he said, trusting Hasbro to not mess everything up! Then Denis looked at his collection of Marvel Legend action figures since Hasbro bought the license, and cried. And cried and cried, long into the night...
First and foremost, we are not changing what the G.I. Joe brand is about. The name “G.I. Joe” will always be synonymous with bravery and heroism.
The G.I. Joe brand has enjoyed a successful 43-year history, spanning two key generations. The first was the line of 12-inch “realistic military” figures that were popular with kids in the 1960s and 1970s.
The second generation, was created in 1982, and is based on a cast of fictional heroes and villains that make up the “G.I. Joe vs. Cobra” fantasy. The premise of this fantasy is the story of the G.I. Joe team, led by Duke, and their “fight for freedom wherever there is trouble” against the evil Cobra Commander and his Cobra force. This storyline was an instant hit with kids in the early 1980s, spawning a highly popular 3-3/4-inch action figure line, comic book collection and animated series.
This movie will be a modern telling of the “G.I. Joe vs. Cobra” storyline and its compelling characters that Hasbro created 25 years ago. The G.I. Joe team will not be based in Brussels. Instead, they will be based out of the “Pit” as they were throughout the 1980s comic book series. And, in keeping with the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra fantasy, the movie will feature characters and locations from around the world. Duke, the lead character and head of the G.I. Joe team, will embody the values of bravery and heroism that the first generation of G.I. Joe figures established.
G.I. Joe is a very important property to Hasbro and we thank all of our fans for their enthusiasm. Without all of you, the brand would not be where it is today.
Dammit! I forgot that yesterday was the start of NaBloPoMo! Last year, Karen did a great job, and it looks like she's starting it again. I really wanted to give it a try, and so I will!
Did You Know: There is a small east-African tribe that, due to a spacial anomoly in 1913, exist one day in the past. This post is for them.
Welcome to November first!
Got out of that one...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
It's been a busy few weeks for me, so much so that I've had little time to enjoy photographing toys, blog, or do very much online at all! In particular, the last two weekends have been jammed with excitement and fun!
On Saturday the 20th of October, I was home in Tipperary at a wedding. Not my own! No, this was for a friend of the family that we've known for years. Although she's from Coventry in England, her parents are Irish and her fathers family is from the area. She wanted to get married in the small parish church of Killea, the village I'm from. It was a great day, and both the Bride and Groom looked amazing. I spent most of it babysitting their daughter, who was simply adorable. She's only 15 months old, but so well behaved throughout. I was surprised when she took to me so fast, and spent most of the day in my arms. I guess it helped that I brought her brightly coloured toys she can safely chew on.
The meal was great and after a break to watch some big rugby match, we went back in for the dancing. Woo! I'll tell you, I could have danced through until the sun came up the next morning! It was a blast. I just had loads of fun. And I got to dance with a bridesmaid! I took loads of photos up until the music started and then I was far to busy jumping around looking like an idiot to stop to take any more.
Which was exactly what happened this weekend as well! I was having so much fun, I have no photos at all as visual aides to relate my awesome weekend through! For the October Bank Holiday weekend Claire and I travelled to Dublin for GaelCon... and to escape the Cork Jazz Weekend.
This year, Claire and I decided to do something different. Normally, we go to GaelCon, meet friends, go into the city, shop, go to the con, hang out for a bit, sit around bored, get the bus back into the city, go to the hostel we're staying in, go to sleep, travel back to the con and so on and on. This year, Claire and I booked ourselves into Clontarf Castle, where the con itself was on! This made some huge differences to how the weekend unfolded right away. No travelling once we reached the hotel on the Saturday morning. No having to leave early to get the last bus to the hostel. No pressure to go anywhere. In fact, for the first time I can remember we didn't leave the castle for the entire day on Sunday! And we got awesome all-you-can eat breakfasts in the hotel. How can you possibly top that?
And we played games! Claire tried to get into an RPG in every slot, I tried out a few, though not every slot, and while we weren't playing organised games, we were playing games like No Thanks, Guillotine and Tsuro in the main hall with anyone that walked past. All in all, it was a busy, eventful, fun weekend. Add to that getting to meet Lynn and Graham for the first time in ten months, hanging out until 2am with Mulcahy, Killian, Fiki, Sarah, Farrell and Lorna in the lobby telling stories and gasping for breath between fits of laughter and getting to meet a tonne of new people and you could say I had the best damned convention of my life!
Right now I'm exhausted! I hadn't even recovered from the wedding weekend when we left for GaelCon! Next weekend, Claire is heading back up to Dublin for another wedding, and I'm here in Cork. I plan to keep up the great run of weekends with a gaming night in my house on Saturday, and possibly even Friday and Sunday evening! Well, at least Saturday. Maybe Friday will be drinks in the Well. If you're reading this and around for the weekend, just let me know! I'm sure we can fit you in.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Back in October 2002 Marvel attempted to put a fresh look on their First Family. Although that first issue didn't actually have "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" that above the name, it didn't take long for Fantastic Four to rightfully regain that title under the care and direction of new creative team, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo.
This is it. This is the issue that started it all for me. Not only did it ignite my love for Fantastic Four, but it rekindled my love of comics in general.
Around this time I was getting bored of comics. We still had no comic stores in Cork, and I was in Dublin for a few days when this came out. I have to be honest, I didn't even buy this issue. As you can see from the cover, it was selling for just 9cent in the US. Instead, Forbidden Planet must have gotten in hundreds! When I bought my graphic novels, random singles and a t-shirt or two the guy behind the desk threw in this for free.
"You'll like it", he said. "It's a new creative team. Pretty good stuff". I looked at the cover and agreed that the art was nice anyway, but it was Fantastic Four, a comic series that was anything but fantastic. I had little or no interest in reading cheesy adventures of aliens and mole-people. In my bag was the first 12 issues of something called Ultimate X-Men in a single hardbacked book that looked far more exciting! But what the heck, it was free! I thanked the guy behind the desk and walked out.
Today I cherish this issue. It's far from mint condition having been read by all my friends that weekend, and many, many times since then. It is well read, and well worn, like a good comic should be.
Ultimate X-Men sits on my shelf, unopened in months, if not years. I stopped collecting the hardbacks once I realised I couldn't remember what happened from one issue to the next.
Anyway, back to Fantastic Four, and the Waid/Wieringo run. Time moved on and I couldn't collect the issues that followed. But in the meantime, a new comic store opened in Cork, and I had everything at my fingertips. I was reading all sorts of comics, but the darker tone set by movies like X-Men and the then rumoured new Batman was sapping my interest in a lot of the Big Twos work. Admittedly, I was never a fan of DC, but even Marvel was loosing money to smaller publishers like Devils Due Publishing (DDP). G.I. Joe was bright, flashy action, full of silly costumes, code-names and ninjas. This was a song to my heart in an era where the X-Men wore black leather and Wolverine was more-often referred to as Logan than his code-name.
But the cover to the first issue of Mike Wieringo and Mark Waids Unthinkable story arc in Fantastic Four 496 grabbed my attention. It was bright and flashy. And it had Doom! And Doom is always fun. Plus, I remembered the issue I had from a few months previously. The art was great. The writing was fun and easy to follow, without being simplistic. So I added Fantastic Four to my pull-list, an act I thought I would soon regret.
At the time I couldn't name a single artist or writer working in comics. I was relatively fresh on the comics scene, especially up-to-date US stuff. Essential X-Men and Spectacular Spider-Man, the European reprints of US comics, were up to four years behind their US counterparts. Besides, with them, I didn't have to work about creator names. It wasn't like I had a choice in what I read. But now I could choose, and these Mark and Mike fellows made an incredible team!
Marks dialogue was sharp and witty, but it was Mikes art that nailed it! I fell in love with this art style as soon as I read this issue. It was bright, colourful and cheery, it had chunky fingers, cartoonish faces and minimalistic line usage. As Victor wandered around the small village, I almost expected the sun in the background to have a big-eyed, smiley face! And that big reveal on the last page! Wow! I was blown away! Maintaining the style I loved, but filling it with a foreboding menace and threat greater than the Fantastic Four had ever faced before!?! How did this man, this god among mortals, manage such a feat?!? I had liked the art direction of the Onslaught Saga, Joe Madureiras style, and Mikes art was sufficiently similar to catch my attention, but distinctive enough that I could compare both and agree that this was my style of choice.
And with every passing issue the Unthinkable arc just kept getting better and better, living up to its name in every way possible. The villain separated the family, attacked the children, sacrificed all to win. The story moved in unthinkable directions, as Mr. Fantastic took up weapons to even the odds. And with every twist of the writing, the art maintained the pace, panel after glorious panel of stunning visuals. For the first time in years (decades?!?) Marvels First Family were right back in center stage, and the buzz across the internet was electric.
Of course, I need not mention that Mikes depiction of Sue Richards as adventurer, hero, wife and super-hot soccer-mom has yet to be beaten in comics. She was beautiful without being sexual, strong without being butch and proved that you didn't need to have revealing cleavage and big bosoms to keep every readers eyes glued to the panels.
I bought every issue of the Waid/Wieringo run of Fantastic Four from the Unthinkable arc onwards, picking up the missing six earlier issues in trade paperback. I still have them all. I still pull them out occasionally to read myself, or when someone asks me to recommend something. I still count the first issue for that creative team as one of my all-time favourite comics, and the start of Unthinkable as a master-class in story-telling and deception in literature.
Mike and Mark thought me how to enjoy comics again. After their run on Fantastic Four finished, the comic was taken off my pull-list. I had no interest in seeing what others were going to do. I followed Mikes works closely with Marvel, and he's the reason I read comics I would never have thought to before.
On August 12th of this year I was at home in Tipperary, away from fast internet and the wider world. I was home for a holiday, but as it turned out, I ended up attending two funerals. One was for an elderly aunt of my mums and was a fairly nice affair. She had been sick and everyone was prepared. The other was for the father of a school-friend of mine who had walked out his front door a few days previously and dropped dead in a field. Minutes beforehand he had been in having tea with his wife and seemed fine and happy. The heart-attack had been massive and unexpected.
I was sitting at home, as I said, away from fast, easy access interent, watching TV and preparing to go visit the family house and give my condolences to the family. It was late morning or early afternoon. I got a text message from a friend. He knew I was at home and wanted to let me know what news was breaking the internet in half. He also knew I was a fan.
At just 44 years young, Mike Wieringo had passed away from a massive heart attack. My favourite artist. My idol. The man whose style I most enjoyed. Taken. Without warning, or reason. This hit me harder that either of the funerals I attended over those days. A man I'd never met, never spoken to. I'd never emailed him, though I read his blog regularly, and commented once or twice. I'd commented on his brothers blog as well, and all I could think of was him. As terrible as Mike's lose was, I couldn't help but imagine how Matt must feel to have lost his older brother, and than upset me more. It was obvious from both blogs that the two brother loved each other very much. This death was insane and meaningless.
So when I heard of the immediate outpouring of grief from artists and writers across the industry, my heart sang with just a little joy. I didn't know how to describe how I felt, but these writers could put into words how we all felt. The artists illustrated our shared grief with tribute art that seemed to come from each of our own souls. Mike had touched more peoples hearts than I had ever expected, both inside and outside the comics industry. And the tributes continued to pour in.
And then the art went up on ebay, with proceeds going towards the Hero Initiative. I had to have one! But, as I was broke, I figured I didn't have a chance. One piece was going fairly cheap. So I bid. If I couldn't win it, I could at least push up the final price a little!
The thing is, it seems someone was watching out for me. I won!
Drawn by Nate Lovett, it shows Koj from Tellos roaring in sorrow at the news of Mikes passing. Along with the original pencil art was a beautiful, high quality print. The bottom right hand corner has the artists signature, as well as the words We'll miss you Mike! No truer words have been written.
We'll miss you. But we'll never forget you.
A Story From Two Years Ago
Vancouver Fan Expo: Stuart Immonen
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Stepping out into another time was a really weird feeling. It did not matter if it was your first time doing it, or the last. It always felt odd.
The air was different. John breathed it in in deep gulps. A noticeably higher level of oxygen per breath. Not just that, but it smelled different too. This air lacked the additives and nutrients that home had. And the ultraviolet radiation was greater. The control centre had been right to advise him to wear a sunblock and carry vitamin tabs.
John looked up to see that the sky was blue. Heh. Now that was something that people at home had not seen in a long time, he thought, and felt an unexpected jump in his heart-rate. He missed the old sky of home already. This was going to be a long trip.
Intro One: Drip
Intro Two: 6,000
Intro Three: Storm
The lightning flashed in the night sky, illuminating the thick clouds below. Sam stared out the window and counted slowly. The thunder clap reached the station, and Sam guessed that the flash was roughly 10 miles below. The lights in his quarters were off, not for any safety measure, just to avoid any glare on the window and provide a clearer view of the storm.
If they had been on, he probably would never have seen it. A tiny shifting of the clouds, visible against the flashing storm further below. It could have been mistaken for an air current causing the clouds to churn from their resting place, except that, as he watched, it took a ninety degree turn and started towards the station.
"Shit." Sam reached for the siren.
Intro One: Drip
Intro Two: 6,000
Intro Four: Blue
The Empire was over 6,000 years old at this point. It's creation was bloody, the final outcome of a civil war across six planets and two star-systems. But it had dominated for so long that its age was now meaningless, a group of digits to celebrate whenever the last two were "zero-zero".
Much had happened in those years. Technology had moved beyond anyones wildest dreams, new planets had been colonised, and older planets had been abandoned. The Empire had spread to sixteen new stars and dozens of planets.
But none of that mattered now. Nothing for the last 6,000 years matter once war starts again within the Empire. 6,000 years mean nothing when you are grateful to have survived the last five minutes and are praying to survive the next five.
Intro One: Drip
Intro Three: Storm
Intro Four: Blue
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The summer sun glared through the window. Outside, the seasons flowers were in full colour. Despite the location, there was little sound from any nearby animals. Presumably they had all found some shadow in which to sleep off the worst of the midday heat.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The thick red fluid fell from the table, making a loud sound in the empty room. A puddle of blood was slowly spreading across the wooden floor, and the sun was doing its best to dry it out before it spread further.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
James stood over his own body.
"Dammit. Now I know why I should have gone with the cheaper floorboards."
"I feel as though I should have warned you", replied a voice to his left.
Intro Two: 6,000
Intro Three: Storm
Intro Four: Blue
I want to smash things, throw things, rip things.
I want to punch through a glass sheet to see what it feels like.
I want to scream so long and hard that my voice goes hoarse.
I want to kick, lash out, not hold back. I want to throw myself body and soul into a fight, crash off walls, through doors, across tables.
I want to sweep everything off a desk with outstretched arms.
I want to do a lot of things. But I won't.
Instead, I want to direct that energy toward creativity. If I was a painter I would throw paint at an easel. If I was a sculptor I would mash clay into a grotesque form. But my choice is writing. I'll write instead.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
me: How is the jaw? Feeling better yet?Ooops!Wrong chat box.My other friend had her wisdom teeth removed earlier this week!Sinead: what the fuck was thatme: Sorry.It reads like I'm implying something!Domestic Violence.And now our chat has turned up on some Federal Computer.Sinead: look naturalweather huh, howbout thatme: All I need do now is mention terrorist, bombing, and Islam and this is being read by a top NSA agent!Shit.Sinead: shit thats like mentioning anthraxdohme: Or smallpox.Sinead: or warcraft suxsshe knows!!!!me: EEp!Sinead: she knows i said it!!!!11hide!me: Already under the table.Sinead: i got to go, im scared, chat later when its safe, delete delete delete
Friday, September 14, 2007
This summer I really did do very little bar work and sit around at home bored. Oh sure, I spent three days in London with Claire and my family, which was simply awesome from start to finish. Even Spider-Man got to enjoy it! But other than that, I've spent the summer broke and bored, looking forward more and more to getting back to work in the preschool.
Worse, everyone else seemed to be travelling to far off lands in search of adventure and comic stores!! Cian spent a few weeks in Seattle (on business, but still awesome!), Jp hit the Big Apple and a variety of comic megasuperstores, Noel and Hazel visited Bob and Sinead in the gloriously futuristic city of Toronto, Colin saw NY and Boston, and Brian spent three months all over the United States. And they all seemed to get back around the same time, regaling me with their tales of wonder and mirth.
Well, I've had enough! Next year shall be my year of epic adventuring!! I shall start saving now, and embark on a journey northwards along Americas Pacific coast that will be truly legend- wait for it- dary!! Oh, and Claire is coming too.
The plan is to start just north of the Mexican border, flying in to San Diego and spending a few days seeing the sights and attending San Diego Comic Con, or SDCC for those in the know! We're not sure how long we'll have there, because we need to be in LA the following weekend to go to Blizzcon. Being a huge World Of Warcraft fan, this is one of Claire's life dreams, so I guess I have to put-up and shut-up! Heh. No. I'll have a blast there too, even if I just never leave the StarCraft 2 stands!
After that, things get really interesting, as we head further north to the great city of San Fransisco, and the bestest American we know; Karen!! Yay! We'll get to spend a week to ten days in the beautiful Bay area and hopefully get to see some of the sights.
The final leg of our journey brings us just south of the Canadian border, nicely mirroring out starting point, as we end everything in Seattle. As well as being home to our favourite comedy series, Frasier, Seattle is the location of Microsofts head office and, most importantly, PAX! Yes, Penny Arcade Expo is held close to the end of August, and next year, we intend to be there! Also, conveniently, Cian might be living there by then... hint, hint...
And as much fun as this stellar road-trip sounds, it's made all the more exciting by the friends we'll have along the way. Some, like Colin, will be meeting us for SDCC, some for PAX, like Jp, and of course we'll have Karen in SF, so while we'll have lots of time to ourselves (Blizzcon. Who would have guessed only Claire would be interested in that one?!?!), we'll also have lots of shared adventures with people we know and love!
So watch out America! Claire and Denis are on their way, and they expect a party, a celebration, a legendary five(ish) week epic adventure across three States and three conventions, over 1,292 miles, four (possibly five) important stops, two great friends that we won't have seen in such a long time, thousands upon thousands of photo opportunities, and infinite possibilities to make new and exciting friends!
It's going to be the kind of summer they make movies about, and we're the stars!