Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night... (Where's My Hoodie?)

Greetings, y'all! Dave the Goof here, with another blast of hot air, to warm you up on those chilly Winter nights... but during the day, you're on your own! My hot air is ineffective when the sun is up. I know that leaves a burning question in your hearts, though... and that is... "Why on earth did you capitalize "Winter", Dave?"

I don't know... I just don't know...

As I type this, it is cold and rainy and a little windy here in San Diego. In fact, in Ramona, it is snowing tonight... I know what you're thinking... "Big deal!" And yes, you're right. But remember... in San Diego, we get exactly 3 days of bad weather per year. So consider yourself lucky! Yes, lucky! Lucky that I live in the best place on earth (weather-wise) and that you live in some other sucky town/state! How lucky you must be, to be able to think of how it feels to be me... living in a place that is paradise for 360+ days of each year... only to have to suffer through a mildly-miserable rainy night like tonight! O, the humanity! You're so lucky!

Only one thing could be worse...

*Shudder* Great... now I won't be able to sleep tonight! Such shocking imagery! How inconvenient that would be... to have to go an extra block to the next Starbucks, to get a cup of overpriced coffee!

Man, this post is just filled with horrors tonight... I can't believe you haven't run screaming for the theater door yet. You must be a glutton for punishment. Or a putton for glunishment, one of the two...

A button for banishment? Or maybe you'll eat mutton to finish Lent...

I don't know... I'll never figure out women...

So I had a rare opportunity given to me recently, which I promptly blew. Now I will tell you about it (in brief), so you can mock me mercilessly (as though I don't get mocked enough for wearing briefs!). The author Greg Hamerton said he'd answer some questions for a "author interview" post for my blog if I wanted -- only if the questions didn't involve story spoilers! It would have been my first legitimate interview in my blog's history! Of course, I immediately took him up on it, and set out to write some questions. Funny thing was, when I wrote out the novel- and craft-related questions I wanted to know most, all of them dealt with things that would reveal things about the story/characters, etc. All the "safe" questions I might have asked have already been answered by interviews more official than I...

So I submitted the questions anyway, knowing that none of them will make it out here, for others to read. And you know what? I'm ok with that. It was awesome that he even offered to begin with. And even if he doesn't answer any of my questions, knowing that he at least read through them is truly enough for me, if only to let him know the types of things I wondered about as I read his books. As an author, I'd kind of like to know that myself. But my chance at a real, official "author interview" was DOA, because of my own lack of creativity, I suppose, in finding benign-yet-interesting questions to ask him.

Ah, well, there's always next time.

That reminds me, the friend that was primarily responsible for getting me my autographed copy of Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire (my all-time favorite book) told me late last year that he'd be interviewing Pressfield again sometime this spring, and that if it happens out here in SoCal again, he'd invite me along to lunch, to meet the author. How cool would that be? We'll see if it actually happens or not... not many celebrities I'd get a kick out of meeting, but Pressfield is on that short list. Along with ... um...

Holy cow... I've just sat here for several minutes, mouth agape, pondering Famous People I'd Like To Meet... I can't think of a blessed soul! Who? Michael Savage? Maybe, but he already knows he's a genius, he doesn't need me telling him. Kurt Angle? One of the greatest wrestlers ever, but probably not. Frank Caliendo? Maybe, if only to beg him to please come up with some new material. Daniel Day Lewis? Amazing actor, but apparently a bit of an odd reclusive type... hmm... well, I guess my list is one name long after all...

So since finishing I Know Not (JD Ross), I've dabbled with a couple more titles, and dismissed them. Alice in Deadland (M. Dhur) is a zombie novel, which was too corny for me, so I abandoned it. Taming Fire (A. Pogue) was a bit too shallow and cliche (not to mention it decided to dive into Chaos vs Order... unfortunate mistake, especially since I've just finished reading the masterful Second Sight) so I abandoned that one as well. Embedded (D. Abnett) is a sci-fi yarn, but it was too gimmicky and self-impressed for my tastes, so out it went. Of Blood and Honey (S. Leicht) is an urban-fantasy book that had an interesting premise, but it lost me after the prison rape scene, so I abandoned that as well.

So I took a deep breath, and began the mammoth The Way of Kings, by master author Brandon Sanderson. Didn't know if I was going to be up for a giant book, but I pulled the trigger anyway.

Are you proud of me?

You are? Good, let us move on, then...

And now, a video that some creative yahoo made using in-game footage from Skyrim...

Awesome (IMHO). I wonder how he crafted that?

Not into fake, epic computer-generated battles, eh? Well, SORRY! Gee, aren't you picky! You're just too classy for me, aren't you!? Oh, look at you, all "I'm far above being taken in by some dumb Skyrim battle video, Dave! Try again! Cater to me! Post a video that matches my level of classiness! Or I won't be your friend anymore!"

Fine, here... an Aussie with a mohawk in a kilt, doing a cover of Queen's "We Will Rock You" on a set of bagpipes...

It doesn't get any classier than that... see? Now we can remain friends!

Well, I believe I've expelled enough hot air for one evening. Gonna go lay in bed and listen to the rain, and contemplate life and all that hipster/psuedo-philosophical/spoiled-American nonsense...


Dave the Sleepy

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"I Know Not," by James Daniel Ross: A Book Review

Surprise! I have another book review for you!

Since finishing Second Sight (G. Hamerton), I've marched through a few more Kindle samples, looking for (and finding) a few worthwhile books -- most notably Homeland (R.A. Salvatore), The Revisionists (Thomas Mullen) and Nation (Terry Pratchett). I added them to my List of Books To Buy When the Price is Right, and moved forward.

One book sample that I randomly selected hooked me so hard and swift, I bought the full book (only $3!) and devoured it in less than a day. This is the book I review for you today -- a fantasy book I'm sure you've never heard of, by an author who is at once incredibly talented and careless...

I Know Not, by James Daniel Ross
A man slowly wakes, finding himself in the stinking courtyard of a large keep, surrounded by corpses. A great battle has taken place here, and the gruesome aftermath surrounds him. He is severely wounded, exploding with pain, and he has no memory of how he got there, or even of who he is. Barely able to summon the strength to move, he begins the process of extricating himself from the massive fortress of death.

This is how I Know Not, by James Daniel Ross, begins.

Now, before you dismiss the tale outright because it employs one of the oldest tropes in literature (Amnesia? Seriously?) keep this in mind: sometimes it's acceptable to use a tired trope IF it is done really REALLY well. And in this case, Ross employs it to incredible effect.

The story is told in first person perspective, from the POV of this nameless warrior. He knows things instinctively that reveal to him the type of person he is (as far as his skill set), without knowing the full truth of who he actually is. He has no idea if he is a hero or a villain, or which side of the battle he was fighting for. As he escapes and heads out into the realm, seeking first to survive, and then to find a healer to help patch him up, he wages an internal war, as impulses to embrace extreme violent tendencies threaten to overwhelm his desire to help, to do right.

A sequence of events sees him joining a small caravan to protect it as it heads for a capitol city, while he struggles to discover who he is -- all the while dreading what he might find out.

It is a remarkable character study, skillfully shoe-horned into a visceral, violent, tightly-scripted action story. It reminds me of what I love best about Joe Abercrombie - the action, the humor, the violence, the good "bad guys" and the bad "good guys"...

And yet, the Kindle version I bought was literally riddled with typos. I couldn't go two pages without catching something that even a moderately-skilled proof-reader should have flagged immediately. It speaks volumes to me about the author that he could so enthrall me, in spite of the grating formatting. That, plus the rather limp cover design, screams the kind of careless apathy of a person who is naturally gifted at many things, but doesn't care enough to polish up what he does before moving on to the next thing that he/she wants to do.

The story is extremely compelling, very well-told, with some flashes of truly incredible phrasing and laugh-out-loud dialog. I cannot stress strongly enough how surprised I was at this book. And yet, it screams out for a little more love and polish and professionalism. It could use a deft editor's hand as well. When a perfect descriptive phrase is used, it greatly enhances the reading experience... but when that same phrase is used a second, and third time, it detracts as much as it initially enhanced. Redundancies and typos -- how the author can offer something like this, which is at once so half-baked and brilliant, puzzles me to no end. It's almost like the reader has to contribute to the writing process, which is really unnecessary.

Summary: 4/5 I can't help but dock it a star for the formatting problems. Everything inside me wants to give this a 5/5 and tout its praises. For what it is, it's a terrific ride and an even better character study. If gritty, violent fantasy is your cup of tea, you will love this book. But be prepared to wade through lazy formatting. I am so glad that I read this book. Plus: it is a stand-alone tale -- no sequels to wait endlessly for!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Chutney" is a Funny Word

Hello, fellow web-lurkers! I've decided, for the first time ever, to have a "guest blogger" write tonight's message! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to... um...

Dave scans the crowd, looking for a volunteer. Most of the chairs are empty. Two people near the back are asleep. Several teens are texting. One person near the aisle is investigating his own nose with some intensity.  Two ladies walk in, see that this isn't a Starbucks, turn and leave. That left the man in the clown suit in the front row...

Umm..... well, I think I'll start this post first, and we'll get to the "guest post" part later on... so, like a piano, stay tuned!

Finished writing the script for the short Easter film we'll (hopefully) be making between now and April 8th. The tone is quite heavy - it could be vetoed by the powers that be, if they feel it is too strong. The Easter Program we're doing this year is pretty cool, actually. The idea was to have a series of skits, each about 5 minutes in duration, each unique, but with the common theme of "death and resurrection", tying in with the Easter season. We plan on having a half-dozen skits, then maybe a half-hour of worship afterwards. So I thought it would be cool if we filmed one or two of the skits instead of doing them all live, so we could mix film and live-action. But as I brainstormed on ideas for my skit/film, the story I kept cooking on was a strong, serious one, rather than light-hearted.

We'll see. If we get the green light, I'll elaborate a bit more on it.

And now, this... be sure to give it a chance... it's cool until about the 1:30 mark, then it really takes off. I think you'll enjoy it.

Very creative.

On an unrelated note, I may soon be modifying my review of Second Sight, by Greg Hamerton (newest member of my "Favorite Authors" List), to edit out some inadvertent story spoilers. I haven't quite learned the art of providing the right amount of detail without spoiling surprises in the story. When I wrote the review, I suppose I was just so absorbed in the experience, I lost objectivity. I suppose I feel if I'm too vague, you won't want to read it! Anyway, apologies to anyone who felt I crossed the line. Bottom line, I highly recommend both the author and the series.

So, now, to the Guest Blogger portion of tonight's post! Allow me to introduce... uh...

Dave raises the house lights again and scans the audience once more. The clown is gone. The teens have stopped texting, but they are in the back, seeing how many stacked chairs they can jump over. A janitor is slowly working his way down the far aisle, vacuuming. And the sleepers are heading for the door, thinking that the raising of the lights meant that the show was over.

Hmm... well, it seems the Guest Post will have to wait...

And now we get to the part of the show you've all been waiting for, I'm sure!

No, no, not time for tickles, sorry...

It's time for the latest Pooter Video!!!!

Yeah, I know... color me 'juvenile'... that lady at the end there was great.

So that's that for now, I suppose. I'll try to get a volunteer for a Guest Post for you soon. I'm sure you're all sick of me by now.

Dave the Passe

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Second Sight by Greg Hamerton: A Book Review

As usual, I feel the strong, though admittedly illogical need to qualify the following book review by stating the obvious: I'm just me. I'm not a genre expert, a literary degree-holder, a well-read and -traveled industry pillar... I'm just a fantasy fan with a small forum in which to express my thoughts on a variety of subjects, including books that I feel are worth commenting on, be they awesome, mediocre, lame, etc. I am obviously under no obligation to voice such opinions; I am moved by sheer whim only. These are the thoughts of a reader, not unlike yourself, I'm sure.

That having been said, I present to you the following.

Second Sight, by Greg Hamerton: A Review
It was with no small amount of trepidation that I continued reading the story of the adventures of Tabitha Serannon and her friends/adversaries, which was begun so wonderfully by Greg Hamerton in The Riddler's Gift. My history with fantasy series' has, for the most part, been spotty at best, and I really didn't want to taint the wonderful experience of my time with Riddler's Gift by consuming a sub-par sequel. Ultimately, after dabbling with a couple of other titles in my library, I took a deep breath and dove into Second Sight, which is the next volume in the Tales of the Lifesong.

In short, I need not have worried.

If reading The Riddler's Gift is comparable to enjoying an amazing, detailed work of art in an art gallery somewhere, then reading Second Sight would be the equivalent of stepping outside the art gallery and enjoying/contemplating the stars.

The vast bulk of The Riddler's Gift takes place within the confines of a relatively small, protected kingdom called Eyri, which is squirreled away within the much larger realm known by the (rather unoriginal) name of Oldenworld. Eyri was protected under a shield-dome of magic and hidden from the rest of the world so that it could be kept safe from the ravages of a fascinating, multi-layered sorcerer-villain named Ametheus, who is every bit as powerful as the Gyre of Wizards that oppose him. The eight members of the Gyre combine their might endlessly in an effort to thwart Ametheus, and part of their plan has been to keep Eyri safe and hidden, so that a ninth Wizard could be produced there, in order to help the balance of power against Ametheus to sway in their favor. If they can defeat him once and for all, the world could be saved from his unbridled chaos and destruction.

So once the long-awaited ninth wizard appeared (Tabitha, the Lifesinger), the next step was to get her out of the protected environment of Eyri and convince her to join the Gyre in their struggle against Ametheus, out in the real world.

Thus, Second Sight sees Tabitha and a handful of other Eyrians leave Eyri and embark on an epic journey across Oldenworld to face unfathomable challenges and obstacles, en route to a final face-off against not only Ametheus, but against the God that created him to begin with.

Second Sight works on many levels. It has a fascinating cast of characters, both major and minor. It has interesting, varied environments. It has plenty of action and suspense, with near-perfect pacing. But to me, most  importantly, it dealt with huge issues, both temporal and eternal, mortal and divine, in a way that not only didn't distract from the story-telling, but greatly enhanced it.

Tabitha is in over head her, swept along by forces far greater than her, trying not only to get her mind around her unique gifts, but also to understand the gifts/abilities of the other wizards, and those of her enemy Ametheus as well, all while attempting the impossible task of finding and freeing a captured God.

The Riddler is one enigmatic member of the Gyre of Wizards, who is tasked with helping Tabitha mature faster than is likely possible, due to the pressing needs produced by the dire world circumstances, all while keeping her from being mishandled by the rest of the well-intentioned members of the Gyre, and trying to unravel what could be a betrayal-in-progress within the Gyre itself.

Ashley decided on whim to tag along with Tabitha as she made her exodus from Eyri out into Oldenworld, and quickly finds himself separated, alone in a crazy, dangerous world, with only his wits and his unique gift to help him survive... and ultimately thrive.

Ametheus is a demi-god of sorts, the product of a union between a human and the Destroyer. He has three very distinct personality facets, represented as three brothers trapped within the same body. His unrestrained goal is to destroy all magic and bring total chaos on the world. Initially presented as pure evil and chaos, the layers are slowly pulled back until, as a reader, you begin to wonder if you could be rooting for the wrong team after all...

That is the tip of the iceberg. I could elaborate on other characters, such as the spoiled Prince Bevn, seductive shadowcaster Gabrielle, the duplicitous Black Saladon, conflicted former Swordsmaster Garyll Glavenor, the other members of the Gyre... but those words would be wasted at this point, confusing the point I'm trying (ever-so-amateurishly) to make.

There are grand issues tackled in these pages, transcending the basic story. Issues dealing with the balance between chaos and order (and the pitfalls of allowing either to dominate unchecked); issues dealing with understanding and correctly employing power(s); issues dealing with the benefits and pitfalls of both mortality and immortality; issues of courage and fear, apathy and ambition, violence and love/life. One the one hand, it's a straight-up classic fantasy epic. On the other hand, it is so much more. I suppose what a reader brings into the reading will determine which hand dominates the experience.

I realize that the odds are high that I am simply the perfect target audience for this particular book/series, a happy case of literary serendipity whereby the perfect reader and the perfect book find each other in the midst of the vast sea of options out there. Your reading experience may end up being different than mine, for any number of reasons, especially now that I've propped this series up on a pedestal as I have. So be it. All I can do in this case is present my honest opinion, unmotivated by anything beyond my desire to share something wonderful with those that give my opinion of such things at least a modicum of weight.

Summary: 5/5 A thorough "win." A grand adventure, with memorable characters and events, resolving itself brilliantly. A massive amount of "food for thought" included, for those that like to eat while they read. Not perfect, per se, but perfect for me. As much as I enjoyed The Riddler's Gift, I enjoyed Second Sight yet more and more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Typical Smattering of Nonsense

So, let's hear it... how was your Valentine's Day? Was it full of love and other unpredictable stuff? Mine was! Took Wifey to dinner, bought her some shoes, etc., and basically spent quality time with her. Lucky me, eh?

Pretty mellow week thus far. They released the first full 3-minute trailer for that documentary I'm going to cameo in.

I'm not in the trailer at all, but I certainly didn't expect to be. I'm not an eater, I'm a curiosity, a product of serendipity. But, hey, if I can get some screen time out of it, good for me! Looks like the film is well-made, so that's a plus. It's still in post-production at the moment. They have a Kickstarter project going, to help defray some of the costs of post-production. I chipped in some dough - why not? For donating, I'll get a free copy of the movie on DVD after it comes out. Now I don't have to buy it!

I'll let you know more info, as I find out.

And now, check out this library...

Ladder-accessible, built into a tower over the office-proper. How cool is that? The Link. Of course, one good earthquake and it's "look out below!" Buried alive by books... I don't know if that's sad, or hopelessly romantic...

And now, for my brother John, here is today's Nic Cage video...

Meet The Man Inside The Nicolas Cage Costume

I always suspected Nic Cage was not human!

On the rest of the entertainment front, I'm about 70% through Second Sight by Greg Hamerton, and it is terrific. I'm almost done playing Portal 2, which is also terrific. And I watched the newest Star Trek flick (JJ Abrams 2009) and while it wasn't quite terrific, it was far better than I thought it would be. I was seriously annoyed by the fake Russian accent that the actor that played the new Chekov foisted upon us. Nothing grates on me like a bad accent. I posted such on my Facebook, and several people said that the actor was Russian, like that made it better or something. Turns out yes, the actor's parents are both Russian, but they came here when the guy was 6 months old! He normally speaks with a purely-American accent - not even a hint of Russian. So, yeah, having Russian parents mean nothing in this case. They were probably disappointed in him!

OK, fine, I'm sure they still loved him.

An armed Abe Lincoln riding a big bear! Your argument is invalid!

That reminds me, there's a new movie coming out called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. You can watch the trailer here. Not sure what to think about it. On the one hand, it's fun/funny. On the other hand, gimme a break, you know? But it is produced by Tim Burton, so it might be worth seeing... even if it is in 3-D.

Well, my theological ramblings have been getting the most response lately... but I don't have one burning at the moment, sorry. I don't want to force an issue just for the sake of doing so. You'll just have to start one yourself in the comments section! Or if you're craving a good theological discussion, you could check HERE or HERE or HERE...

Well, gonna hit the road. I'll have more nonsense for you soon.


Dave the Nonsensical

Friday, February 10, 2012

Come Roam the Gallery with Me!

There was this one time when you popped in here to see if I'd updated my blog, and I just happened to be standing there, and I said "Oh, hello there!" And you were so surprised, remember? Usually this place is deserted, so my presence was as unexpected as it was awkward.

We briefly exchanged greetings and quick pleasantries. I was just leaving, and preparing to set up the donation box by the front door to accept the 50 cents admission fee, but I decided to let you in for free that time, to nose around and see what goodies I posted for you that night. You remember, right? I bade you farewell, apologized for the mildly unpleasant lingering aroma (I mentioned a bowl of chili, I believe, in passing), and then left you to your devices.

You were relieved, of course. I mean, I'm a nice person to visit with on occasion, but you certainly don't want to hang out very long with me. I am quite annoying, after all. I tell the same lame jokes, my eyes dart around the room in that weird way I do when I'm feeling socially insecure, I shuffle my feet, I "casually" rub my nose on my sleeve a lot, paranoid that there might be something (shall we say) visually unpleasant in there...

Still, I sometimes post enough amusing items to make dropping by worth while, and that night you had 5 minutes to kill, so "why not?" you thought. Remember? So you moved your way through the gallery...

I'm sure you remember that night clearly. You stopped first by the Video Room...

But all I had posted was that video of a Chinese guy dropping a firecracker into a sewer and almost getting killed by the exploding manhole cover. Sure, you marveled a bit at how the man's jacket got instantly shredded off his body, and you were glad he and his kids were ok... but you questioned why on earth I would feel the need to share such a thing. Remember? You decided to give me the benefit of the doubt, and assumed I didn't have anything better to post. That was nice of you, thank you by the way. It was actually all about exploding methane...

So you left the Video Room and wandered the photo gallery. You saw the funny T-shirt design I posted, which was a riff on the "Can Haz Cheezburger" meme, but presented in the style of the old Soviet propaganda posters from the cold war...

While you generally find cats amusing enough, and you could appreciate what the artist had been attempting, nevertheless you found the color combination jarring and ultimately off-putting. You moved on.

Next, you saw that I'd posted a photo of a soldier over seas, holding up a letter he'd received from a well-intentioned schoolkid somewhere back in the states...

You chuckled a little, if you recall... and you tried not to read too much into the expression on the soldier's face. Was he more amused than concerned? Was he proud of that kid? Or did the letter drive home the truth that we'd been at war over there longer than some grade-schoolers have been alive? Will it end?

Pushing aside those thoughts, you moved on to a photo which could only be described as patently absurd...

You sighed, unamused, remember? People posing with statues, in an attempt to be funny. You paused... as you scanned your memory banks, you had to admit that there have been a couple of these types of photos that you've seen that have been funny... but this was not one of them. You plunged your hands into your pockets and moved onto the Theology Corkboard, hoping to find some reason to be glad you dropped by that night...

You skimmed my latest theological conundrum, and even though you vaguely recalled me waxing similar before in this blog, you had to admit it was an interesting topic to chew on.

"It's safer to not hear what God wants of you," I'd written. "If you don't know what God wants of you, you can't be accused of disobeying Him. It's safer to basically guide yourself through your day while keeping an umbrella of random Bible verses over yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be holy as your Father is holy. Don't lie or cheat. General verses/concepts that deal with the way a representative of the King should go about his or her day each day. But as for really buckling down and finding out something specific from God, as far as what He'd have you do *right now*? Talk about terrifying! What if He asked us to do something embarrassing? Or that we didn't want to do? Or that we thought to be impossible? If we find out something specific from Him and we don't do it... then we are in trouble! If we find out and we don't do it, we are disobedient and rebellious! Thus, it is safer to not find out, and rather live in vagueness, trying to live by general rules and guidelines, as presented in the Bible."

You knew that I wasn't advocating such a life, but was merely confessing my own faults in a form that gave me a little bit of distance, to avoid having it be too uncomfortable to read. See, I had no clue whether other people wrestled with the same thing or not... but I sure wrestled with it. It was true of me - by nature, I'd rather live each day trying to be a good boy than risk the punishment associated with directly disobeying the clear request of an easily-angered God... of course, the rewards for actually obeying Him (what a novel concept!) are worth the risk to any sane person (not to mention the fact that God will assist such a person endlessly, for obvious reasons), but the fear and selfishness within me combine/conspire to keep me in the dark, day upon day, as my life crawls by, sadly free of concrete examples of obedience... I am apparently content with a form of Godliness, but deny the power thereof.

You pursed your lips a bit and nodded. You decided it was worth stopping by the blog that night, if only to learn from me by "reverse example".

As you shuffled to the door, you dropped 50 cents into the admission box. Thanks for that, by the way. That helped to fund my next caramel macchiatto.

But you didn't leave a comment! O_O

Dave the Goof

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things...

Well, la dee freakin' da!!!!

OK, fine, so another week lurches its way to a slow close. The weeks, as they say, are flying by. Super Bowl was today. I watched exactly none of it. Last year I watched the entire thing, this year, zippo. I have no answer for that, sorry. I didn't care for the teams this year or last year...

Of course, it might have had something to do with the fact that Vye came over to install my new video card for me! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!! Vye the Conqueror saves the day YET AGAIN! I got my work-related projects done yesterday, so I can play on my newly-revamped system for a few days, guilt-free! Lucky me! Yeah, I know... I'm petty like that... sometimes...

If you're into indy gaming, there's a little gem called LIMBO that is very fun, atmospheric and challenging, without being too difficult...

The whole game is black and white, and kind of dark and flickery, like old film. There is no music sound track, just sort of an eerie, windy, cold vibe that is very fitting and just a hint creepy. There are also some soft, appropriate ambient sounds, depending on the level...

You play as a little boy, who appears as a silhouette with two glowing eyes. The movements are extremely simple - just movement keys (including "jump") and an action key for throwing switches or grabbing onto items to pull them.

The puzzles are all physics-based puzzles, so if that is your cup of tea, you will love this game. But be prepared to get killed often, as you experiment and discover through trial and error what each of the stages is asking of you. 

There is a macabre vibe to it, and lots of very creative ways that the little guy can be done in, including being impaled, shredded on spinning saw blades and smoooooshed. The first time a giant (and I mean GIANT) spider makes its appearance, the chills in your spine will be legit. And figuring out how to defeat it is incredibly satisfying.

There were only two particular stages that gave me enough trouble to quit and go find the walk-through video on YouTube. I'm glad it was only two - it was almost more! I came close. But sticking with it and finally figuring out how to proceed on your own is immensely satisfying.

It took me about 4 hours total to beat, so a couple sittings and you're done. Very fun game, and the professional critics seem to agree. In fact, PC Gamer considered it one of the Games of the Year for 2011 and also listed it in their latest edition of the 100 Best Games of All Time (at #76). I got it during the Steam holiday sales for next to nothing ($2 I believe). Money well spent - and you don't need a powerful rig to play it. Highly recommended.

OK, enough of that....

On the book front, I'm 31% into Second Sight (the sequel of The Riddler's Gift) by Greg Hamerton, and, as hard as it may seem to believe (given my shamelessly gushing review of Riddler's), this book is even better, in almost every way. It deals with much deeper themes, which the author attacks with full confidence... good thing, too... a less confident author would certainly make shipwreck of what Greg is conquering thus far. He's already secured his place on my Favorite Authors list, but if this book continues strong and ends powerfully, he'll end up in my top 5 for certain. No small feat, for someone I'd never even heard of before December...

If you haven't read Riddler's Gift yet, by all means, read it and tell me if I'm wrong.

So I've been feeling the rather strong urge to dust off my "A Few Of My Favorite Scenes" video clip concept and make some new episodes. I got my Flip Video ready, and a stack of movies/scenes to share, so look for some new episodes soon. I think I'm going to be a bit more creative with them as well (I've got ideas! MUAHAHA!) For those of you that haven't been following this blog long enough to remember them, I would usually share a scene from a movie I like/love and talk a bit about it and the movie it came from. I enjoyed making the clips back in the day (you can see most of them HERE if you are so inclined), but like most things I do, I burn on something while the fire's there, but then I reach a point where I'm just done... so I stop. Well, looks like the fire's stoking back up again. 

Speaking of "Favorites", here's one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Brian Regan. He's goofy, I love him.

The problem (for me) with watching clips like this on YouTube is that I watch another... then another... and then three hours has gone by...

OK, well, another week begins. Thanks to all who participated in the comment exchange in the last post. Good stuff. I don't have any real discussion-starters this time, sorry. But that doesn't mean you can't leave me a lengthy rambling comment again if you want to! By all means! Let me hear your lovely voice!

Have a good week. That's an order.

Dave the Gump

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Artlessly Dodging My Way To Mediocrity...

Ok, so I'm seeing a trend here... when I'm under the gun on some work-related project, like I am tonight, I find that I suddenly have an overwhelming urge to post a new blast of hot air on my blog! Weird, ain't it! I just can't quite figure it out! I suppose I must just be a professional crastinator (or "pro-crastinator" for short). Hey, it takes a lot of practice and hard work to be this good at slipping out from under responsibility and justifying it. Not to worry (I tell myself), the night is still young! Plenty of time to get things done!

So if I know I'm like this, and I know it's at best counterproductive (and at worst, offensive, or even outright sinful), then why don't I just stop doing it?

Lovely, now I have to segue into theology... prepare thyself. For those that aren't of a religious bent, you may now skim the rest of the post looking for funny pictures and cool videos...

So I was at Stan's tonight, for the weekly prayer meeting thingy that we do, and the topic of idols came up, and it led to both an interesting conversation and to much chewing on the topic in my head on the drive home. I kicked it around a bit with Wifey, but I also want to kick it around in here, to see your thoughts.

I suppose, going into this discussion, it should be said that I'm coming from the understanding that we all have things in our lives and/or personalities that could be labeled "idols", from a certain perspective. Definitions and conditions vary, of course, depending on your particular personal theological mental construct, but I've heard preachers of many denominations preach the ol' "put away your idols" subset of sermons. So I shall proceed.

Is there such a thing as an "idol" that we simply cannot lay down, and have to have God take forcibly from us? Is an "idol" by definition something that we have the power to lay down and walk away from? Is praying "Lord, please take this idol from me" really just an admission that this thing (or habit or person or whatever) is something we don't want to give up - and won't give up without God ripping it out of our clutching hands? When we pray that prayer, are we actually saying, "Lord, I don't want to stop doing this behavior because I like what it does for me, so I actually want you to say that it's ok for me to do?" Like we're really wanting Him to change its label so it isn't "bad" anymore, and give us permission to do it?

What's the difference between an "idol" and a goal? Is a "goal" just a healthy, positive version of an idol? If an idol is something we fixative on and/or turn to instead of God, and we realize this, don't we then have the power to set it down and walk away from it? Or is it like an arrow stuck in us that we have to merely allow God to remove (since we can't remove it ourselves)?

So, when preachers say "put away your idols", what do they mean?!?!?!?

OK, enough of that. I certainly have opinions and possible answers to each of those questions, but I'd rather hear what you all have to say without sullying the air with my own takes.

That pic is a good segue!

So, I bought a new video card for my computer. It's a radical step up in power over my last card(s). I got it in the mail on Tuesday, but I still haven't installed it. Frankly, I'm a little afraid. I've never installed one before, so I'm a little nervous about messing it up. But the instructions seem pretty loser-friendly, so I'm not too nervous. The other, more substantial reason I haven't yet installed it is the potential lose-lose response to having that much new power... if it's AWESOME, then I'll never get my other projects done, since I'll be spending tons o' time playing all those games I bought for the holidays, most of which I haven't played yet, since my rig has to this point been underpowered. OR maybe I'll install it and I'll be like, "Meh, whatever. It's nice and all, but who really cares?" Then I will have spent a fairly substantial amount of money on a new card + a dozen games for nothing.

Gads, I am a wealth of first-world problems today! It's a wonder you actually take the time to read this nonsense!

Here, lemme embed an awesome video...

Buncha crazy Frenchies. That guy at the end walked that skyline with absolutely no safety gear, and nothing to help him balance beyond his own arms. Small mistake = certain death. I don't know whether that is staggeringly impressive or monumentally stupid. Probably equal parts both.

Well, speaking of amazing game graphics, you need to watch this newly released trailer for a forthcoming game called The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition... the game is one I likely will never get, because it apparently has a TON of offensive "adult" material in it, but this trailer has none of that. It is fairly violent, but it is ridiculously cool. If your connection can handle it, I highly recommend watching it high-res full screen. The gist of it is that an assassin sneaks aboard a ship to kill a king.

I'd say we've come a long way from Pong and Space Invaders, eh? Again, I won't be buying the game, but the trailer was awesome.

I guess that could segue into a discussion about wading through nonsense to get to good stuff. Like with this game - I know there's a lot of great content in the game, but to experience it, you have to also take in a bunch of rubbish. It reminds me of GRRM's Fire and Ice series. Terrific writing, lots of great characters and action... but a healthy serving of (needless IMHO) adult nonsense, foul language and extreme violence (although the violence isn't really an issue for me). Is it worth it? The exposure to the yuck in order to feast on the yum?

My good pal Josh had a rather interesting piece on his Blog of Manly today, about when and if a man should let himself cry. It's a good read - it made me weep (lol)! Check it out, it's a quick read, and let me know what you think in the comments...

On a completely unrelated note, my personal trainer Mark is now training one of the WWE Divas, as she prepares for her appearance in this year's Wrestlemania. He didn't seem to have any idea how big a deal it is for a wrestler to be in the Big Show like that, or any idea that she's kind of a big deal herself... those ladies are tough. They have to look good and be extremely athletic, and be good showmen as well, plus the year-round schedule is brutal. To him, she's just another client that needs to get in better shape. Everyone has a cool story, he thinks. I suppose that's the best attitude to have. Some people get all caught up in celebrity. It's nice to know Mark is too down-to-earth for that. Anyway, I thought it was cool.

Well, I think I've put off doing my work for long enough. Gonna hit the road. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts, in reference to the "idol" business, the "good with the bad" business, or the "men shouldn't cry" business... or, heck, anything else is cool too.

Dave the Artless Dodger