Category Archives: Entertainment
Ready Player One Review
Izzie’s Rating: 3 / 5
Characters: 3 / 5
Story: 3 / 5
Pacing: 3/ 5
Ending: 2 / 5
Ready Player One was suggested to me by a fellow geek and literary fan after I mentioned my goal to read more in 2013. When she explained the premise, I was instantly sold – in a not-so-distant dystopian future, real life is so broken and miserable that the vast majority of humanity spends most of their time in a super-high-tech, fully immersive virtual world called the O.A.S.I.S. (very reminiscent of Caprica’s “V-World”). Previous to the timeline of the book, the creator of this technology, James Halliday, has died and left Earth with the ultimate quest – find the “egg” hidden deep within the virtual world and inherit his entire fortune, including control of O.A.S.I.S. Needless to say, this puzzle piques the interest of the entire planet – including greedy uber-corps that threaten the freedom and sanctity of the otherwise open world (sound familiar?).
The story plays out like a typical hero’s journey, the adventure of four young enthusiasts as they try to be #1. The whole spiel sounds great, in theory. And it was certainly fun at points. But unfortunately there were a handful of issues I had with the book that greatly hindered my ability to enjoy it as much as I could, or perhaps should, have.
While the book includes footnotes detailing the infinite culture references that are literally strewn about on every page, it’s still at times distracting and almost shaming. I’m sure author Ernest Cline had no intention of assuming every person who picked up this title would know everything referenced, hence the notes, but it takes away from the fun.
I’m a nerd for sure, but a selective one. I’m just not the type of person who’s going to try and know everything about the entire history of geek culture, and I’m completely content with this. But since the vast majority of story centers around a man’s obsession with 1980’s geek and pop culture, and the 80’s is a decade I just personally do not have much of a fondness for, much of what should have spoken to me was lost.
Because of this, many of the moments that I knew should have been “Hey, that’s awesome!” were just mediocre. Every now and then I’d get a reference or an outright mention of something I loved, and those moments were pretty fantastic. So it seems as though the more you know, the better the book will be.
My other big issue was that it felt like the story was way too “try-hard”, ironically because of its obsession with smashing in as many nerd culture references as possible, including aggravating use of “leet”ish verbiage. Newb, Hax0r, faggot, pwned. Spare me.
It reminds me not too much of the movie Gamer: in both instances the focus of trying to be authentic ultimately feels unnatural and forced – and it detracts greatly from an otherwise great concept. Some stuff just doesn’t translate well from fantasy to “reality”, so to speak.
The protagonist is relatable to a point but also a bit two-dimensional. He just feels so typical. Awkward, socially inept, and with way too convenient of a skill set.. His companions aren’t much better, but as a group they are a well-rounded crew. The most in-depth personas belonged to secondary characters – from the cold hearted main villain to the almost jolly fairy-god-poppa we find in Og.
It isn’t a terrible book, by a long shot. It does ask us to reflect on a lot of issues we presently face – battles between free information and corporate control, the steady decline of modern society, loneliness and companionship, and the ever-growing use of entertainment media as a means of escapism. But all of that seems vastly under-explored and overpowered by the desire to make this feel like we’re following a character through a game.
I think anybody who’s looking for quick, easy to digest read who happens to love the 80’s will greatly enjoy it. The more casual among us may find the book more frustrating to get through, though.
In either case, Warner Bros has the rights to the book, and I have a good feeling that the story will translate a lot better into film and is something I would look forward to seeing. Cline has also mentioned in passing that a sequel is definitely being considered, but is not a priority for the time being. He has said that he plans on doing more stories within the same world, if not a direct sequel.
It was brought to my attention recently that there’s an Assassin’s Creed movie in the works, which got me a little more excited than I expected. The honest truth is I’ve played maybe two hours of the entire series (which I promise I’m hoping to change very soon). But it’s always intrigued me a ton; the whole idea of the Animus and past-lives, assassins, and the style and art of the game have totally drawn me in.
Even with little experience, I’m pretty stoked about the movie and will definitely be seeing it, especially considering Ubisoft’s allegedly firm stance on retaining creative control. Most of us gamers have been sorely let down by film adaptions of popular franchises, so it’s easy to be cynical on whether or not the film will be worth seeing. I’m hoping it will.
So here’s what I’m not too excited about: they announced the casting of Michael Fassbender apparently as a lead according to this article from Variety. It’s specficially worded as:
“Michael Fassbender was our first choice” to play the franchise’s iconic hooded hero
That’s kind of a let-down, assuming they follow the games and that hero is Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, a very Syrian kind of guy. It’s ironic to make such a casting and then conclude with these sentiments:
By controlling more of the creative through UMP, Ubisoft hopes it doesn’t wind up with another “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,”
Funny, since one of the biggest critisims was that film’s casting of predominately white actors.
Izzie’s Rating: 3.5-4/5
Spoiler-free review up to the jump.
I ended up with Hunger Games in my hands after it was being passed around dinner among my hometown friends. A good chunk of them had read it and they all kept gloating about how it was really, really good. After they described it as Battle Royale meets Battlestar Gallactica with a touch of Lord of the Flies, I decided to give it a solid go.
The premise is a bit complex. Some time in our eerily possible future, a natural-disaster and post-war ridden North America has fallen into a a new nation called Panem. It’s a totalitarian system of the luxurious, indulgent Capitol, the privileged inner districts, and the severely impoverished outer districts. A revolution breaks out, but due the the Capitol’s strategic location and superior weaponry, the rebellion fails and the 13th district completely obliterated. As punishment, the remaining 12 districts are forced into a blood-sport each year called the Hunger Games. Each must send two children, one male and one female, from the ages of 12 to 18 to a televised fight to the death. 74 years later is when the trilogy begins.
Through circumstance our protagonist is sent to the games and we follow her story of survival and defiance, and how it transforms her, the people around her, and the nation as a whole, for better or for worse.
I have to say- I really could not put this series down. I devoured half of the first book in one night, and the second half over the course of the next day between reading on the bus and at my desk when I should have been doing work. I ended up buying the set and finishing up the rest by the weekend. Since then my feelings on the series have varied greatly.
I’m a sucker for post-apocoypic Orwellian revolutions with a touch of sci-fi, and the Hunger Games delivers on these fronts. I also admit I did get caught up a bit with the love-triangle, perhaps for the wrong reasons, but that enjoyment started to fade quickly with the second book as it became aggravatingly prominent. The trilogy is targeted for a younger audience… older teens / young adult readers, so the style is a far cry from, say, A Song of Ice and Fire. Collins plays up the romantic melodrama a lot. It’s also written in first person from the point of view of our protagonist Katniss Everdeen, so our views of the world and events are through the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl. It’s believable to a point. She is mature and cynical due to her circumstances, and she’s certainly no Bella, but she still has her flaws. And boy are they major.
If I had to sum up the series, I’d give it a solid B+/A- rating. Over all, the story is really intriguing and unexpectedly addicting. The characters each carry their own unique personalities and rarely falter outside their natural evolution. For the most part there is a good mix of drama, action, suspense, and yes, even romance. The three books feel solid together but each carries its own theme and mood (something I imagine would have been distracting when waiting for the next one to come out, however, in one go it works). Now the ending is.. well, hotly debated among fans. Many people aren’t happy with it, myself included, but the whole adventure is considerably worthwhile.
I’d still highly recommend it to most, especially those interested and informed on the subjects of social issues and discontent within society. Panem and its situation strikes a little too close to home with the recent surge of demonstrations worldwide and it’s hard not to compare our turmoiled world and this very possible outcome. Could this be our future? The sudden burst of popularity for the Hunger Games during these hectic times is something to keep a keen eye on. And despite its target audience, it’s still mature enough to handle for most readers and touches those little guilty pleasures with just the right amount to give us a wonderful world to disappear into and reflect upon.
Spoiler Warning: The rest of the review is going to include some major spoilers, including character deaths. I suggest you stop now if you haven’t read it. Additional Warning: comments may ultimately contain spoilers.
Open Forum: For those of you who’ve read the series, what do you think? What are your views on Katniss as a protagonist? How do you think the film will affect, if at all, the recent uprising of protest? How did you like the ending?
I managed to spend about an hour at the NY/NJ Tech Group emergency meetup / protest yesterday. Listening to the very influential speakers and just the general chatter really got me thinking about what SOPA/PIPA means to me.
I’ve never been an angel. I was a huge pirate during my high-school / college years; at my most ignorant I’d brag at how many thousands of dollars worth of stolen content I owned.
But now, as a functioning adult and someone who’s hoping to break into an industry that is victimized by piracy (gaming, and art to an extent), I am doing my best to rectify those choices by paying for the content I enjoy as much as possible. I can thank Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, Steam and even iTunes for that. Through these websites I have discovered new shows, movies, games, music, books, and the like, all of which I am able to watch and enjoy knowing I paid for it or supported it legally.
Something of note, though: In my many years as a rabid fangirl of many franchises, I can say with upmost confidence that 90% of the time, discovering the series’ and artists that I currently love was through a method that would be considered illegal either by current or future “laws”. I think that stands true for a lot of people in my generation, and likely most in those after me. I can’t even tell you how many songs and artists I discovered from fan-made music videos on youtube or gaming streams. Or how many shows I got into because I saw them at a college meeting or a clip online. How many games I discovered playing on a friend’s account. How many old passions were rekindled because I ran into a great fanart or fanfic or an animated GIF.
Legislation like SOPA and PIPA would do nothing but hinder this process of discovery and the spread of quality entertainment. In fact, I believe it would cause the complete opposite by encouraging a shadier and perhaps more risky internet “black market” by making content harder to discover and enjoy.
I’m a hoarder. A hoarder of art supplies.
I’m sure you’ve heard all those rumors about how crazy artists tend to be. Well, it’s pretty true. We each have oddities that make us who we are. Call it a different perspective.
We all share a few traits, too, and compulsive hoarding of art supplies is one common habit you’ll find. You see, artists revere their tools as an extension of themselves. If you think of art feudal wars in ancient Japan, and artists as hulking samurai following the code of bushido, than the tools and mediums we use are akin to our katana. That came out way more poetic than I meant it to be, but it’s fairly accurate.
Anyway, putting it that way, you might see why we pretty much never, ever throw out our art supplies. I still have bottles of india ink that I stole from my high school art class, afterall. Dried up and everything, and I can’t seem to throw them away. It’s like blasphemy.
Anyway, today I pooled together my sketchbooks, specialized papers, reference books, and cavases to show the world, and to remind myself next time I get the urge to buy a new one.
If you hear me mention it ever… STOP ME.
Exibit 1) Sketchbooks & Specialized Paper
This is probably the worst of it. In all, I have 11 sketchbooks in the first 2 columns. Eight of those are pairs. The last 4 columns are all specialized paper. I’m in love with the grey graph paper with white lines (newest additions). Green notebooks were given to me in highschool and so they have about six years of random doodles. The progression from terrible to not so terrible is fun to see in one notebook. Not sure where the cat one came from, though.
Exibit 1a) Pairs
I don’t even know what this is all about, but if there’s a baby version, apparently I must have it.
These are my top 9 instruction books. First column is an amazing collection of reference photos!! I swear by those for dynamic images. The second column is basic drawing instruction. Fashion helps me with poses and clothing. Drawing helps me with basic anatomy, and the anatomy is another good source for poses. Last column: Artist’s handbook is an overall reference for different media and technique. Virtual pose has alot of naked people, and style school is a Japanese (backwards!) book on color technique!
Exibit C) Canvas
Once upon a time I used to paint, a lot. And I bought a whole bunch of new acrylics and canvas during a phase. That was about a year ago, and I have 2 finished paintings and about 15 half finished ones XD.
Way back in the days of yore (my freshman year of college) we had to make our on canvases. Which mean, buying a roll of canvas, getting the wood, frakking STAPLING that shit together, AND PAINTING THE GESSO ON DX!!!
Next time I think I’ll go through my supply box (markerssss!!!!) and get some lulz out of how much of those I own, as well.
If people didn’t know any better, you’d think all I do in New York is eat (well.. that’s kind of true.)
Grand Central Terminal (AKA Grand Central Station) is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It’s a mix of classic architecture and design with modern-day functionality. Which makes it awesome.
I’ve always been a fan of the zodiac and astrology, and the ceiling of Grand Central is a giant painting of the constellations.
On each level, you have tracks (metronorth and the LIRR) leaving for Connecticut and Long Island. I decided to grab lunch today down in the dining concourse, which is in the “basement” so to speak. It’s home to a huge variety of food; pretty much any classic ethnic meal you’d want, you can find (I went with falafel today!) And a few popular chains like Juniors and Hale & Hearty Soups.
The station itself is pretty huge. Several levels and lots of wings, I always end up finding someplace completely new every time I go just to wander. I’ll have to go back and take pictures of the shops you can find (the fresh market is EPIC).
Stuff I have coming up: Port Authority Bust Terminal (ugliest building in NY) and Bryant Park!
So yeah, I’ve been writing a novel… I started it for NaNoWriMo and got about four chapters in before work destroyed any chance at me fishing. I’ve picked up on it lately after reading Hunger Games and being dissatisfied.
Anyway, I decided I wanted to try my hand at actually illustrating my characters so I went ahead and drew about five of them, scanned them in, and I’m hoping to get them all colored.
First one is Kayla, which is technically cheating since I’ve used the same character for RP purposes about a billion times, but whatever. She’s not the main character in the novel, and I might end up changing her name at some point. Who knows?
This is Kayla:
Everybody loves redheads, right?
Other sketches of Jaycee and Evan. They are the main characters. I realized that my fully shaded drawings look like those criminal renderings from shows like COPS. I promise when colored she won’t look like a creepy axe murderer. The other sketches are too embarrassing to post so I’m just gonna wait til they’re completely finished.
I will probably never publicly post my novel cause I’m a complete wuss.
IzzieBytes Rating: 3/5 , C+
Sucker Punch is one of those movies you that if you go in expecting nothing but eye-candy, you come out with a little more. But if you had high-hopes for an in-depth, moving film, then you’ll end up pretty disappointed.
Sucker Punch is visually stunning; amazing effects, dramatic fights, and boasts one of the best complimentary soundtracks for an action flick I’ve heard in a long time. Unfortunately, not only does it lack in just about everything else, but we kind of getting tricked into believing this is supposed to be about female empowerment, when it feels far from.
The issue is that it has a really get premise to grow from and just failed at that entirely.
The protagonist, Baby Doll (all the girls are known by their stripper names. seriously) is the target of alluded physical and sexual abuse by a vengeful, evil stepfather. When her attempt to save her little sister from the same fate results in an accidental death and framing, she’s institutionalized. Here, young women who have suffered greatly in life are treated to a unique form of therapy which involves acting out their fears and traumas.
A week after being committed, Baby Doll is lined up for a lobotomy in order to forget everything that’s been done to her, which could result in said stepfather being jailed for abuse.
The story takes place in that week. In order to better cope, the girls involve themselves into deep fantasies. This is where it gets a little confusing and Inception-like. There are 3 realities: the real world where the girls are in an asylum, Sweat Pea’s fantasy of them being in a brothel (where most of the story takes place) and then Baby Doll’s highly anime / video-game influenced action world.
Baby Doll’s super power in the brothel-world is her extremely saucy exotic dancing, which allegedly captivates all the men around her. But every time she dances, we’re taken into her world where she is a kick-ass super hero with guns and swords and dragons and explosions. Although it’s never shown or said, my guess is her “dancing” in the real world would be her therapy sessions of acting out sexual abuse.
During that time, she causes a lot of trouble for the brothel. The girls hatch an intricate escape plan to get out and be free again. There are many sacrifices along the way and it all results in a small “twist” to make you wonder, who’s head am I in anyway? The ending is sad and dramatic; we learn what’s really been going on and when you take the time to think about it, it’s much deeper than the rest of the movie implies.
Tangent begins here; it’s supposed to be empowering to women but that’s a huge joke when the girls are basically strippers and run around fighting crime in high-heels and miniskirts in what could only be described as the ultimate nerdy wet-dream.
The acting, though, was pretty good although it’s difficult to really relate to any of the characters. Emily Browning’s tortured child is disconnected, and the other girls are hard to care about, really. There’s so much action that you never get a chance to give too much of a damn about them. The star of the movie was Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones. He translates through reality and sub-reality wonderfully. He’s a creep and a baddie but extremely complex when you realize the he is just as messed up as the rest of them.
All in all, Sucker Punch is an OK flick. Good to see once to kill time and nerds will love the references and nostalgia. Probably worth the 3D effects, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
Spoiler Warning: This article is spoiler-free up until the indicated point.
So I -finally- got around to finishing EoD. I know a few people were nervous since I gave Ghosts of Ascalon a pretty harsh assessment, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed this book. It really blew GoA out of the water in terms of characters and action.
The characters had much more depth this time around and went beyond their stereotypical roles. Unlike in GoA where each person seemed to be more or less the personification of their race, here they were individuals with quirks, talents, and habits that pushed them into the realm of having substance. Their interactions with one another was also satisfying and believable. Although the dynamic between Logan and Rytlock sometimes teetered on a little ridiculous, it was also the primary source of humor and so it served a purpose making it acceptable and welcome.
There wasn’t much individual growth other than from Caithe, and everybody’s ultimate reactions at the end, but I think that’s because the focus wasn’t on them separately but rather as a team. It wasn’t about individuals so much but rather Destiny’s Edge: How they came to be, what they meant to the world, and how it ended up. It was important to set that up to make the conclusion that much more significant, so there wasn’t much time, really, to focus on them seperately. So they started out pretty solidified already, which isn’t a bad thing here.
The overall story was entertaining because it was a good mixture of telling the tale of the rise and fall of a band of heroes while also setting the stage for GW2. It fulfilled the later much better than GoA did, in my opinion, as the main antagonists were the very dragons we’re expected to challenge in the game. There were a few twists and a few frustrations. But the ending definitely had a bit of a wow-factor to it.
The greatest part was the action. It was relatively non-stop, but done in a way that isn’t overwhelming. We get a lot of build-up for the first big victory which allows us to get to know the characters and exactly what they are capable of, paving the way for the subsequent battles to be told in an increasingly swifter manner without feeling like you missed anything.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed it. Once again we have to keep in mind the purpose of these books: they are to fill us in on the story of the game. As such, we can’t expect Tolkien-level writing since it needs to be accessible to people who may not be regular readers. But for what it is, EoD provided an easy to read, enjoyable adventure that was well-written and dramatic. It gave us a ton of answers and even more questions, and really allowed us to see what challenges we are faced with once it’s our turn to step up to the hero plate in Guild Wars 2.
To The Readers: What did you guys think? Better or worse than GoA? Favorite characters / parts? How do you think this will affect the stories in GW2? Any other forum discussions / reviews I missed, let me know!
Discussions: GW2G | Quaggan | GW2 Forums | IncGamers
Reviews: Hunter’s Insight | MMO Gamer Chick | JohnnyV
So now for the spoiler-ridden in-depth part, follow the jump
Entire post is spoiler ridden. Do not read if you care. You’ve been warned.
While for the most part The Shattering was lighter on the action than other novels, it was still enticing because of the political drama and feeling of impending doom we get throughout the book. We know the Cataclysm is coming. We know the shifts in power that are happening. We know who dies and who takes their place. Shattering takes us on the journey to these ends and keeps us hooked because it builds up to what we already know is inevitable but aren’t sure why and how.
Part of that drama is the almost-but-not-quite butterfly effect of the major events. Almost all of them could have been avoided and it’s very clear at what points in the story certain characters made the decisions that would seal their fate and that of others. That’s part of what makes this book one of the best in all of Warcraft’s lore. It was expertly written to reflect how this group of individuals, some powerful and some not, had lasting impacts on the entire world of Azeroth, and beyond.
It starts early. Drek’Thar’s visions of the cataclysm and desperation to talk to Thrall, and his attendant’s choice to ignore it was the first turning point in the story. Had Polkar done as Drek asked, Thrall would have taken the visions very seriously, gone to Nagrand much earlier and could have possibly stopped the cataclysm, or at least better prepare for it.
Had Cairne taken more time to think about his challenge, perhaps he would have never died. If Garrosh hadn’t been so absorbed in his reputation, he may have noticed his weapon was laced with poison. What if Thrall had listened to Cairne and never made Garrosh acting warchief in the first place? What if Jaina had never given Anduin that hearthstone?
It brings a level a frustration, but each decision and the series of consequences after have all attributed to setting the entire stage for what we get in Cataclysm.
The only thing that I wish could have been avoided was the coup of Thunder Bluff because of its brutality. Dozens of innocents were slaughtered helplessly in their sleep, and the Tauren being one of the most peaceful races makes it all the more difficult to bare. But even in it’s ill-fated conclusion, this event has a clear place in the theme of this next chapter of Azeroth’s lore.
Likewise, Moira’s claim of the throne in Ironforge is an important lesson. Despite her morally questionable tactics, she and her son are the future of the Dwarven people. Her claim is her right, and her marital situation makes her child the unifying element of the separated clans. It feels unfair, sudden, and selfish, and in many ways it is. But that’s exactly the point. It’s a difficult catch-22 for the Iron Forge dwarves.
I think the tragedy of Thunder Bluff, the coup at IF, the slaughtering at the Druid peace meeting, and the loss of Cairne and Magni are symbolic to the death of innocence, peace, and stability in Azeroth. It all lends itself to the chaos of this new world. The Tauren have always exemplified the ideals of peace and respect in it’s most basic forms, holding everything the world offers to the highest regard and as a blessing. And the dwarves have been the pillar of perseverance, honor, and overcoming odds without losing sight of humor and celebration. Both cultures celebrate life to the fullest in different ways. Both leaders were deeply loved by their people, and highly respected by their allies and even some of their enemies. I think it’s no coincidence that this is why they were the ones who suffered the most while the impulsive and arrogant races and leaders were left to continue their participation.
The shifting of power within the factions is one of the most important changes to take into account, largely because the three new leaders and one future king all stepped up to the plate. As Thrall said, the wars have left the orcs, and likely all races, with large numbers of the old and young but missing many of those in-between who have died in battle. Thus, the contrast between old and new, age and youth, experience and novelty is a powerful influence.
Each situation was different: Thrall and Garrosh, Cairne and Baine, Varian and Anduin, and Magni and Moira, but they all result in the young trumping the old in one way or another. Not all were hostile. Some were tragic. But the younger generation have finally taken their places in the world. They are the future and the future is theirs; as such they have made it clear that they, not the elders, will be the ones to choose what that future will hold. Which leads me to the last part.
The final of the three big themes was accepting who we are and what we are meant to be despite what the world expects or demands of us. This was the journey that Thrall, Anduin, and Stormsong among others took personally, and one that Jaina, Baine, and the Dwarves took politically.
• Thrall accepted his role as a humble shaman and formally stepped down from being warchief. It was both what was best for him and what was best for the world.
• Anduin discovered his true desire to heal, not harm. Tended by Mangi’s warmth and support, he was able to bestow that wisdom to Baine and hopefully set himself up to follow his own path even if it’s against Varian’s wishes.
• Stormsong, despite his loyalty to Magatha, was able to realize what the loss of Cairne meant and chose to side with the Bloodhoof, both saving the Tauren people and securing a place for the Grimtotem among them.
• Jaina and Baine’s pact to do what they could to uphold peace is significant. While Thrall’s efforts with Jaina were important, Baine’s could possibly be even more so because the Tauren, as a people, are more willing and desiring of peace than the orcs ever were.
• The Dwarves willingness to accept Moira and try to unify their race even in light of their loss and the circumstances was a brave and honorable decision.
• Even Gazent, the goblin who helped supply Baine’s troops with bombs, surprised us all when he only took the money he needed to provide them because he supported their goal.
The book was somber, dark, bloody, and depressing. There is a lot of loss, and a lot more frustration. But the events are there to help us realize and toughen up for what’s to come. Once Deathwing’s dark reign comes to fruition, there will be chaos all over. Innocents will die. The world will crumble.
But at the same time, hope refuses to be shut out. The political and personal stories all end with hope. Anduin and his father are reconciled. Baine has taken back his home and forged a quiet alliance with Jaina. Thrall has set the stage for a new future with Aggra and to fully realize his potential. Among the chaos, many positive seeds have been planted.
Magatha’s words, brutal as they were, could be applied to all the world: “Like a child, Thunder Bluff would be reborn in blood.”
So will Azeroth; but the key word to all of this, of course, is rebirth.