Monthly Archives: January 2014

I’ve Been Watching Fringe. . .

So can we talk about Fringe? I hope we can talk about Fringe.

I’m so mad I missed this show while it was on originally. You know what happened though? Picture it, Sicily, 2008. LOST had been shitty for a while(I think the point at which Lost got shitty is different and personal to each of us, but for me it was season 3), and I was beginning to curse J.J. Abrams’ name. So when this new show came out, Fringe,  I only knew two things about it:  It was science-fiction (Yay! Something modern television desperately needs!) . . .but it was created by J.J. Abrams.

no

At that point, Abrams had already stomped on my heart once and I’m not that kind of girl. I’m not going to let a man treat me like that twice, no sir. So I ignored this new show’s siren call and trudged through Lost until it started getting better and then getting worse.

(I am really trying not to go off on a tangent about how good Lost could have been had it only been a few seasons shorter, but I so want to. It was still a great show, but it had the potential to be art.)

Anyway, Fringe. I managed to avoid it up until this year when my good friend James suggested I watch it. JJ Abrams is literally James’ nemesis (it’s the lens flare, I think), so if he managed to watch it and love it, then I thought maybe it was time for me to give it a chance.

Oh boy.

I was pretty much hooked from the first scene of the pilot onward.

I was kind of halfway watching it while writing, but as soon as I saw a dude’s face melting off, I put down my pen and started paying attention. Fringe is like the X-Files, except better – and that’s saying a lot, because I loved the X-Files. There’s a little bit of a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits feel in there, too, and – of course – echoes of Lost, except so far Fringe has a lot more satisfying answers than Lost did.

It deals with a lot of awesome subjects. Shapeshifters. Mind readers. Crazy experiments. My personal favorite – alternate universes. I find alternate universes especially fascinating, because no matter what one says, you’re always going to have regrets or at least wonder “what if” about decisions you’ve made, you know? What if I had stayed in Florida? What if I had dated Guy B instead of Guy A? What if I had stayed at Job One? So many what ifs in life, and to think there’s a version of you that did make those decisions out there. . .it’s weirdly comforting, somehow.

It also doesn’t hurt that Joshua Jackson is in it. I was never into those Gilmore’s Creek of Five shows when I was a teen, and I remember thinking he looked kind of goofy back then, but oh my has he ever aged well.

I don't know if it's the scruff and the beautiful eyes or the pea coat that makes him so attractive.

I don’t know if it’s the scruff and the beautiful eyes or the pea coat that makes him so attractive.

In any case, Joshua Jackson’s dashing good looks aside, the entire cast is amazing. I do mean every single cast member. They all have such amazing chemistry with each other. I think the standouts are John Noble as Walter Bishop and Blair Brown as Nina Sharp. Noble plays Bishop, a brilliant but mentally fragile scientist, with the perfect balance of humor and sensitivity. The scenes between him and his son are some of the most touching I’ve seen on television. Blair Brown is just. . .great in anything, but she’s especially great as the secretive, wily Nina.

I’m about halfway through season four right now, and I’m sad that I’m almost to the end, as the show only lasted five seasons. But – and here I’m bringing up that show again – at least it didn’t go on as long as Lost, and risk losing its way. This is some powerful television.

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Snow day

So we got an epic – for us, here in the balmy south, land of magnolia trees and trailer parks – snow. We were sent home from the office yesterday at 11:00 am, closed today, and god only knows what will happen tomorrow. Yetis, maybe. With all this new-found free time, I’m going to finally get around to waxing my floors and deep-cleaning my craft room.

Lol, no I ‘m not. This isn’t that kind of blog. I’m going to get drunk and play video games.

I’m still playing Black Flag off and on – it’s the only game that currently interests me for the PS4, so I’m trying to make it last.  At first I couldn’t tell if it was actually a good game or if I had been so blinded by the piratical aspect that I couldn’t form an accurate opinion. Apparently other people agree with me, though, which is refreshing – the last few Assassin’s Creed games have all bled into each other. Boring, repetitive gameplay, boring, repetitive plot – I never even finished AC III. I mean, mea culpa, but American history is kind of boring to me because it’s full of humorless, dour puritans and people who are not 17th century buccaneers, but even in the rich Old World setting of the previous games, AC III would have been too much like its predecessors to hold my attention.

But Black Flag is fun. The combat is still pretty easy  and I know that pisses off a lot of people, myself included, but the game is so much fun to look at. The ship battles are fun. The sea shanties are even more fun. The multiplayer is fantastic – I have no idea what the multiplayer community itself is like because I came from Xbox Live and just automatically muted my chat so I wouldn’t hear any twelve year olds tell me what they did with my mom last night .

Fan “Art”

I was digging through old files on my computer earlier and came across these. I get bored and/or drunk sometimes and make ridiculous fan art. I don’t know why people don’t recognize my immense talent, haha.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze. So noble. So graceful.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze. So noble. So graceful.

masseffect

This is from Mass Effect, which is probably my favorite video game series of all time. I always imagine my Shepard as a raging drunk. Much like myself, actually.

My Inner 10-Year Old Just Wept With Joy

Take a look at this! A 1990 Nintendo World Championship Cart has made its way onto eBay again. These buggers are rare. At the time I’m writing this, the bid is up to $6,001 and I’ve got to tell you. . .if I had thousands of dollars to throw around for a plastic hunk of childhood nostalgia, that cart would be mine. Unfortunately, it’ll just have to wait until I’m a billionaire and I fill my carriage house with rare games and gold-plated Neo-Geos.

Picture courtesy emuparadise.me

Picture courtesy emuparadise.me

I remember the Nintendo World Championships. I’m that old. I was eight years old in 1990, but already very attached to my NES, which explains why I grew up so chubby and pale.  The Wizard (it’s not THAT bad) had just come out, so the idea of video game competitions was already something I was familiar with. The closest competition to us was in Atlanta, and I begged my parents to let me compete. I had some pretty vivid daydreams of standing on a platform with my medal, Mario and Princess Toadstool standing on either side of me, and an adoring and stunned crowd gazing upon this ingenue of an eight-year-old girl. I had no idea what the prizes were. Apparently it was a Geo Metro, so it’s a good thing I didn’t take the world by storm with my leet gaming skills.

Still, I can’t help but to entertain a fantasy where I grab a few of my gamer friends, fire the cartridge up, and hold our own damn Nintendo World Championship.  Instead, I’ll just have to settle for digging the NES out of the closet and making them play Excitebike until their eyeballs bleed.

EDIT:  The bid is up to $30,000 now. I don’t even know that Alternate Universe Millionaire Casey would pay that much for a cartridge with the label torn off.

The One About Cosplay

Making a misshapen and horrific abomination of a felt doll is the extent of my sewing skills, I’ll tell you that right at the start here. That doll, man, it was like Phantom of the Opera all up in my craft room for a while until I finally put it out of its misery.

The point is, I can’t sew. I am surrounded by fantastic seamstresses – no less than three  of my dearest friends, my mother, some lady at work. . .and yet it is a talent that forever eludes me. My fat little hobbit fingers can’t work the needle and I end up with a yard of taffeta sewn to my thumb.

So that, in part, is why I am amazed by excellent cosplays. I firmly believe that cosplay should be for anyone – any size, any gender, any race, any skill level – but damn if it isn’t satisfying to see a really well-done cosplay.

I am particularly fond of Warcraft cosplays, because I played WoW from about 2006-2010, with occasional bouts since. It holds a special place in my geeky little heart. The lore does, too. I don’t strictly play games for the storyline OR the gameplay – they’ve really got to have a perfect mix of both for me to enjoy them; ie, the Mass Effect series, Red Dead – oh lord don’t make me cry about cowboys – Redemption, the first twenty Final Fantasies or whatever. Now if you know anything about Warcraft’s lore, you know that it can be shoddy at best in parts, there are retcons everywhere, characters are seemingly forgotten about, almost all of the female characters are either vilified or marginalized. However, there are some really good story hooks in there – like the Scourge and the fall of Prince Arthas Menethil and his transformation into the Lich King.

It’s not an original story. Fallen heroes abound in literature and other media. I don’t really have a problem with that, though. Almost everything has been done, these days. Just. . .you know, do it well, and most people are not going to have an issue with it.

Here’s a short version of the story: Plague is attacking Arthas’ homeland of Lordaeron. It’s turning people into ravenous undead ghouls. It’s called the Scourge. Arthas goes a little nuts, burns down a town – even the innocents – to keep the plague from spreading, follows who he believes is the mastermind behind it into the snowy wasteland of Northrend, finds a magic sword that steals his soul, becomes a death knight, becomes part of the Scourge, goes back to Lordaeron to butcher everyone including his dad. And in addition to destroying his own homeland, he pretty much obliterates a kingdom of elves, which makes the survivors all bitter and sad of course.  It’s pretty grim!

I digress, though. What I would like to show you is an excellent Arthas cosplay created by Chris Vernel, a French crafter. I’ve seen plenty of Arthas cosplays before, but they all looked kind of cheap. This guy has put a lot of effort into his costuming and appearance – and it shows. When I first saw the pictures, I gasped. To me, this is exactly what Lordaeron’s fallen prince should look like.

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Here are the rest of his Arthas pictures. He’s done plenty of other great cosplays too, including an especially nice Lestat.

Vernel’s deviantart page is here, and his Facebook is here. Do check both of them out because it seems like there are slightly different pictures on each one.

The Desolation of Smaug (and Casey)

Sammi and I went to see The Desolation of Smaug last night. The first movie was good. This one? Not so much. It’s supposedly three hours long, but it felt like days. When we finally stumbled out of the theater, night had turned into day, winter to spring.  We grew long white beards and our relatives were all dead. This movie is just that long. Of course, the first one was that long too, but it was more fun somehow. There was more going on. There were eagles. Dwarf shanties. Goblin throw-downs. This one had about 72 minutes of Smaug crawling around on a pile of gold, engaged in the most boring game of cat and mouse ever with Bilbo. On the bright side, Smaug is voiced by Bandersnatch Cinnabon Benedict Cumberbatch, so if we had to sit through his boring griping, at least it was pretty sexy sounding boring griping.

Now, Tauriel. I was one of the ones who was glad that Peter Jackson was including another female character in the movie, because let’s face it – LotR and the Hobbit are both pretty bereft of women. I was a little shocked that he chose Evangeline Lilly (aka Kate from Lost) of all people to play Tauriel, but. . .you know. I’m not a casting director, what do I know? Anyway, it turns out her British accent was not quite as cringe-worthy as you’d think it would be, but we’ve got to talk about her hair. Oh my God, that hair. Thranduil should have said something. I can’t believe someone as fabulous as him would let his captain of the guard go around with a cheap bottle dye job. “Sweetie,” he should have said, “We’re elves. We have magic. You don’t have to dye your hair with a kit from the Mirkwood Dollar Store.”

Tauriel’s budding romance with Kili was kind of weird, too. It seemed forced, and I don’t even know why there had to be a romance subplot in the movie anyway. I happen to have my doctorate in fantasy biology, so let me tell you something. Elves and dwarves are different species, with dwarves clearly being the superior of the two. It’s like a teacup poodle mating with a great dane. It just ain’t gonna work out right.

(Besides, Kili is mine. Girlfriend better step off my kool-aid.)

Of course, the rest of the cast was wonderful, just like the first movie. Martin Freeman makes a perfect Bilbo Baggins. He’s got that “I don’t want to be brave but I’m going to be brave” manner down just right. Kind of meek, kind of perturbed. He’s great. All the dwarves are great. Radagast! It was nice to see Legolas again, and he didn’t feel too shoehorned in. (As an aside, Orlando Bloom – Legolas – is three years older than Lee Pace, who plays his dad Thranduil. Elves, man.)

Overall, though, the pacing just killed this movie for me. I imagine the third one will be better – usually the second movie in trilogies kind of serves as a bridge, and that can get boring. There was a lot of action, but. . .I don’t feel like it went anywhere. I don’t think it was necessarily a wise idea, creatively speaking, to split a less-than 300 page book into three movies. Two movies? Okay, sure. But at this rate, I could read the whole book in a shorter amount of time than I could watch all three movies.

Skin.

Occasionally, I participate on a message board dedicated to writing prompts. They’re just little vignettes, you know, but it’s fun. I don’t often share my writing with folks under my own name because I write some really weird shit and I want to keep my friends. This particular prompt resulted in something fairly normal though, so I thought I’d put it up here.

“Physical contact is now illegal, but there are hug dealers and shady hand-holders in the dead of night.”

The prompt was probably supposed to be funny, but I just love angst too damn much, guys. Thirty minutes later I had the following written:

Emily hesitated at first, slender fingers trembling – uncertain, clumsy – but the man’s own fingers flexed and entwined with hers. His skin was so very warm against hers, so unlike the impersonal and unyielding metal of the medic androids when she was ill, so unlike the glass screen of her tablet at work, or food, or makeup or — anything else she could remember touching, really. She and her fellow humans were filthy, Emily was well aware of that; humans spread disease and hurt each other and used each other. It was better if they had as little contact with one another as possible. After all, they were among the most vicious of the planet’s animals, were they not? It is a measure we take to protect you, the Collective’s metallic voices said as they poured from speakers at every street corner.

The draw was too great for many, though.

Good men and women did as the Collective told them. They did not make more eye contact than they had to. They did not talk more than they had to. And of course they most certainly never, ever touched. If two humans brushed up against each other accidentally, then punishment was light – reduced rations at times, extra work at others. The Collective was very generous and understood that humans were fallible beings who often made mistakes, and so these types of punishments were meant as more of a gentle reminder, like teaching a wayward child.

(Emily had no first-hand experience with children, of course – no one did – but she’d come across the analogy in an old book once and thought it might suit the situation well.)

However, when humans dared to openly defy the Collective, intentionally making physical contact with each other – whether it was holding hands, hugging, or even sexual intercourse (the idea of the latter confused and repulsed Emily, who thought it sounded unhygienic in the extreme)- why, they were killed outright if they were lucky. No one knew what the other punishments might be, but there had been numerous reports of humans missing, not killed, after raids. Labor camps, maybe. Experiments. Food.

The thought of the danger Emily had so recklessly put herself in sent a shock through her system and her hand jumped. The man – Emily did not know his name – smiled down at her and gave her fingers a quick squeeze.

“It’s okay, you know. Everyone’s nervous when they haven’t done this before.”

Emily blinked up at him. His manner was so easy, considering the inherent risk he was in – the smiling, even. No one smiled. It was unnecessary. And it had initially unnerved Emily, but she found herself smiling back at him now, rarely-used muscles twitching to life at the corners of her mouth.

“No, it’s lovely,” she said, rubbing her thumb across his palm. She still marveled at the softness of his flesh against her own. She knew her own skin must have felt close to the same but touching it did not send a surge of warmth through her body. “Honestly. I’m just nervous about the Collective. How often do you come to these parties?”

The man lifted his head then and cast a quick glance around at the other people scattered throughout the dimly-lit warehouse, hugging or holding hands or talking with each other in halting, timid voices – taking tentative steps into learning how to socialize after the Collective had taken all these aspects of humanity away from them.

He turned to back to Emily and smiled again. “I’ve been coming here for the last year and a half. No raids so far. And if you keep on worrying about that, you’re not going to enjoy your time here.”

As he finished speaking, the man grabbed her other hand and placed it against his chest so she could feel his heart beat underneath his shirt. Emily’s eyes widened. Another heart, beating beneath another ribcage mirroring her own – both such fragile, mortal tangles of muscle and bone, but something the droids in the Collective would never have. Spite and triumph twisted Emily’s mouth into a little secret smile. She had spent so long never questioning the Collective, even being grateful for their leadership, but now — humans, though filthy and vile they may have been, were suddenly so much more real to her. So much more than automatons crafted with steel and code, but no warmth and no heartbeat to keep them truly alive.

Brief Thoughts on the PS4

So I picked up a PS4 on launch day (thank you, Amazon, for making it so neurotically antisocial people like myself never have to talk to other people unless absolutely necessary), and honestly I’m kind of regretting it. There’s nothing wrong with the newest iteration of the Playstation – it’s a great system. Sleek, quiet, good interface. It’s just that the launch titles leave a lot to be desired. It’s my own fault, because I checked out the titles that would be available and saw nothing that caught my eye except for cross-generation titles (ie, Injustice, Black Flag) but my eyes were filled with visions of what would come – Dragon Age: Inquisition! Final Fantasy XV! The Witcher 3! All in glorious 1080p! I bought a new television, for Christ’s sake!

Oops.

The only other time I’ve bought a launch console is when I got the Wii. Now the Wii had a fairly decent launch or near-launch lineup, along with the allure of the Virtual Console. Of course, the system ultimately ended up sucking as an actual gaming console because of the sub-par graphics and the lack of third party support. Poor Nintendo. My inner 10-year old aches for them. But that’s a story for another time.

I made a lot of assumptions. I assumed that Sony would have a decent catalog of past games on PSN, if not at launch, then soon after. I assumed that even on cross-gen games, the graphics would blow me away. I assumed that there would be more to occupy my time than Black Flag (which is surprisingly good, by the way.) All my fault. I should have waited until there was a better selection of games out, but I have never been a particularly patient person.

I will admit, the XBox One’s launch catalog is slightly superior. However, I’m one of the many still butthurt over the privacy issues with the system, even if MS has backtracked on them. I love my 360, and I’m not saying I’ll never get an Xbone, but I’m going to wait for a while and see how things turn out with it. Ultimately, I think I would have been disappointed had I gotten a launch One, too.

So yeah, probably not ever getting a launch system again. I don’t completely regret my purchase, because I know good games are coming and I know that the PS4 is going to do amazing things – look at graphics from early PS3 games compared to PS3’s The Last of Us, for instance. But right now, it feels like a marginal step up.