Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I'll never be any good in Vegas...

In anticipation for the video game, Fable II, Lionhead has made three pub games set in the Fable environment available. Gold made from these mini-games will have the ability to be transferred to your Fable II character when the game comes out end of October.

Of course, the real challenge is making the gold. Gambling has never been a strong point with me. To illustrate that fact, the first time I ever went to a casino, I left it on a stretcher going to an ambulance because I had dislocated my diaphragm and sprained two ribs from the smoky atmosphere. (I tend to think it was an allergic reaction to Lady Luck's perfume.)

All subsequent casinos have luckily only taken my money. I believe that I have never actually won anything.

Luckily with these pub games, I'm not going to ruin myself (not that the entire 60 dollars I ever used and lost in real life is going to be the cause of my ruination). I'm just going to ruin my character, and if I do particularly awful I could always reset or start anew. (I might keep one with some debt, just to see what might happen. Apparently debt in this game might translate to something particularly unpleasant to my character in the Fable world.)

There are three games: Fortune's Tower, Keystone, and Spinner.

Fortune's Tower is my favorite as it's like a cross between blackjack and chicken. It also seems to be the one where you have the most control over what happens. It also is where I've lost the most money.

Keystone is a cross between craps and roulette. It's rather interesting and I've been finding new and interesting ways of losing money by experimenting with various betting strategies.

Spinner is a slot machine-type game. And like all other slot machine games I'm not a fan. I never could understand the point of feeding a machine money for that very low chance of winning some more money so you can feed it back. It all seems very much like a trial of Sisyphus to me...except in the Tournaments.

I love the tournaments. They are a ton of fun and gives me some kind of motivation for gambling. You play against NPC opponents and try to score more tournament chips to place in the tournament. Placing can reward you with gold (much better to lose later in the other games) or even an in-game item! I think that's a lot of fun and alot more rewarding to this non-gambler.

Now I must go and see what type of damage and monetary trouble I can get in to even before my poor character is born. Well, at least there's no ambulance to haul me away!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: Chaplin: His Life and Art

David Robinson's examination of the silent film comedian, Charlie Chaplin, is a must-read if you have an interest in Chaplin's life and extensive experiences at the birth of American Cinema. Chaplin: His Life and Art uses a multitude of sources to help give witness to the actor from many viewpoints and addresses the various inconsistencies found in Chaplin's own autobiography.

For those interested in comparing the two, I recommend reading My Autobiography first. His Life and Art is clearly written and includes many details about Chaplin's life, work habits, and influence on the film industry and the people around him. Other treats are sections of photos from his private and professional life as well as images of childhood photos and publicity flyers.

I found my educational experience was heightened by also watching the films mentioned in detail in both books. Sometimes a written description of how a gag had evolved is not nearly as vibrant until you can see the end result. (That and they are hilarious!) It is a rare opportunity to not only read about a man's life but get to watch his works unfold in front of your eyes in a visual way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it as essential to any person interested in learning about Charlie Chaplin or the birth of Hollywood and the movie industry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going back in time with Google Earth

In my browsing I found a really awesome application of Google Earth. It's BFI's Google Earth Tour. The British Film Institute has created a layer database that allows you to look up locations, filmmakers, and other historical film references by using the free Google Earth application found here. Really, it's an interesting way of seeing things from a different view.

I loaded it up (it wasn't too hard to do, though there could be better instructions on BFI's site) and was able to look up my favorite historical film star, Charlie Chaplin. (No surprise there.) It brought up some of his childhood homes, a school he was sent to as part of the workhouse, his home in Switzerland where he spent his later years, and of course, a few of the very important areas in California, like his studio, the cemetary in which his mother is buried, and others.

While I think it could be more robust, it is in its infancy and they say they will be adding more to their database. I look forward to seeing what BFI has in store.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Wheel of Time keeps turning and turning...

I came across an article saying that Universal pictures have optioned Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Not much other info came from the article, but it would be interesting to see how someone would interpret this seemingly never ending epic tale of fantasy.

I am on the fence for this one. I enjoyed the first half of the series (up to book 8) but as I think about it more, I am not sure if I want to watch a movie, or series of movies, with overbearing women and whining, angst-riddled boys. Of course, it's got some great moments and Jordan created a wonderful world. I'm just not sure if I want to see that movie...but I so do! It's difficult to say.

Of course, it's not like these books haven't been picked up before. There was talks before about a miniseries...but we never saw it see the light of day.

Perhaps I should start thinking at the potential casting. Rabscuttle had such a fun time with her casting picks for the new King of Kong can check it out here!

Flashback: Mother Nature's vengeance is swift and terrible

Originally published on Machinations of a Wandering Mind - April 22, 2005:

I have recently taken up gardening. The allure was simple: watch things grow, tame nature (to some degree), and make the jungle of my Dad's backyard into something that looks just a bit neater.

I also love plants (a key to gardening, I hear). And for most of my life I have sorrowfully been like death running a scythe through a glass shop. I have killed every plant that ever found its way into my grubby fingers. Even things you didn't think could be killed.

To name a few on my list of plant-murders:

African violets

And some ugly plant that no one knew the name for. My mother got it from some friend who didn't want it any more, my Dad tried killing it by hacking it away. I got it, under the faintly veiled assumption that it would eventually meet its demise under my well-intentioned care.

It grew... just one stalk and one about six feet tall. And then, not so suddenly it died. To be honest, I wasn't quite so upset. It really was an ugly plant.

So, back to gardening. With glee in my eyes and a sigh of resignation and wonderful support from my husband, we went to a nursery and bought a bunch of lovely flowers and herbs for my new garden.

I then proceeded to spend the weekend pulling weeds, yanking vines, churning soil and arguing with roots. After much sweat and tiredness, I now have a lovely garden of Alyssum and other things. (I went for simple)

I love it. I take a look at it every day and smile. My hard work seems like it paid off...and I am hoping that fate doesn't go the way it always done and the flowers live for the summer.
However, fate it seems, has a strange sense of humor and the plants have avenged their fallen brethren by giving me...poison ivy.

Yup. Despite the fact that I have lived near a forest almost all of my life, I'm still terrible at identifying the pesky plant. I probably ripped it out with the rest of the anonymous weeds lurking in the back of the house.

I wore gloves, but due to the heat I wore a short-sleeved shirt. It started with a few tiny my arms look like the elephant man - tiny replicas of John Merrick attached to my shoulders. It's hideous. I have bumps on top of bumps.

In total frustration I have looked poison ivy up and learned that the stem has enough oils to infect 10,000 people. I bet that's what I touched.

I have learned my lesson though. No more short sleeves for gardening. Plant-killing however, I have no control over.

I have now tried tons of stuff, but presently I'm on a regimen of washing the areas with dishwashing soap, patting dry, dabbing on witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide, and then topping it all off with toothpaste. (It draws out the oils and dries the area well as having the added benefit of smelling minty fresh.)

So, as the summer goes by I will take a look at my beautiful garden, knowing that I'm happy that my plants didn't die. My plants will be happy for their revenge against my herbicidal tendencies. I will sip lemonade and smile as I inhale the aroma of flowers and perhaps the minty fresh memory of all this will make me smile.

Or itch...I'm not sure.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Now that I commute every morning by train, I am able to finally regain my love for devouring books.

I decided that my first book since I came back to the land of the bookworm is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

It is an intricate and intriguing tale of a girl uncovering her family's past and their secrets surrounding the late fifteenth century history and legend of Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula to those who are not aware of the connection). Told in a unique fashion, you follow the various exploits of several historians and scholars as they get entangled with conspiracies and find themselves on a trek across countries in hopes of uncovering the mystery that involves not only vampires but the lingering threat that had been following them.

All in all, it's a book that was in need of an editor. It's an interesting tale hampered by an over-complicated delivery. Told as a woman remembering her search for her father, reading her father's letters telling the tale of his search for his mentor, in which he sites the mentor's letters chronicling his search for Dracula. The epistolary style harkens back to Bram Stoker's Dracula but it complexity reduced its effectiveness as a narration.

The odd thing was that the tone of the letters did not seem to vary from character to character, and I could only hope that if you were to meet them over coffee you'd recognize that they were different people. Also, not too many people write letters that include full dialogue, descriptions of people, and their own mannerisms when they speak...let alone the five or so people who did exactly that in the book. It's awkward and makes you forget that you're writing a letter or a journal entry only to be jarred out of that reality by mention that it was only a letter.

I enjoyed The Historian and thought the story and the characters were interesting, however it felt like a long book. It would have done better if it was told from only a few viewpoints, rather than the layered onion it was.