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Thursday
Nov042010

Fable 3: Disappointing in the End

I was really looking forward to Fable 3, and for the first half or so I was really enjoying it. But it falls apart just when it should be getting great, and the more perspective I have on the game, the more I dislike it.

Read my full analysis/rant over at Moving Pixels:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/133106-ruling-albion-in-fable-3-is-terrible-gameplay-and-worse-storytelling/

Wednesday
Nov032010

Depressing but not All the Way Depressing

Despite my vow to not watch election coverage last night, I sort of did anyway. Well, I watched the last three episode of True Blood (finally!) while reading blog coverage of the election on my ipad. 

It was pretty disastrous here in Florida, with the whole Senate fiasco and local elections going badly. Even ultra-locally, one of the most pig-headed, polluted-thinking individuals I've ever personally known was elected to the charter review board. Last I checked there was still some ray of hope for the Governor's race, but it wasn't looking good. Let's check... still not looking good.

Nationally there was the nastiness in the house, but at least the moribund Dems held onto the Senate. We can look forward to two years of grinding and sniping and not much else, which isn't ideal but could be much worse. 

But on the plus side, tomorrow I'm going to buy a Kinnect! And like every gadget I've ever bought in my life, it will solve all my problems and make everything perfect. Yay!

Tuesday
Nov022010

"Sherlock" 

One of the more embarrassing and kind of depressing sites I saw in London was the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It is indeed at, or at least near, 221b Baker Street, and comprises a spacious souvenir shop full of Holmes-related gewgaws, and a three or four story home done up to look like the famous fictional detective's residence. It's stuffed to the gills with fake memorabilia from Holmes' adventures. It also has a sad and tired old man in Victorian garb who greets you in a mumbling monotone. "I'm Sherlock Holmes. This is my home. Over there is my violin. There's where I shot Queen Victoria's initials into the wall with a pistol. Please feel free to look around." He so clearly didn't want to be there, on display and looking pretty ridiculous for tourists, that I slunk out of the room at once and headed upstairs. The place was a tourist trap to be sure, but there was a steady stream of us falling for us.

My youthful exuberance for Holmes had never been lower. I enjoyed the recent Guy Ritchie-directed movie, a solid-enough popcorn flick that was a thrill ride at the time and quickly forgotten. Now comes an even more dramatic re-invention of the world's only consulting detective, this time from the BBC. "Sherlock" takes the Holmes and Watson characters and moves them to the modern era. Watson is still a doctor and still a veteran of the Afghan War, and Holmes still consults for the police. But this Watson is more haunted by his war and this Holmes is viewed by many cops as a psychopath or, at the very least, a total weirdo. They've done a great job keeping the essential elements of the character while at the same time updating many of the classic conventions for 2010. My favorite little touch is that they call each other James John and Sherlock instead of Watson and Holmes. Also, there's a lot of texting. 

The first episode was great. Nearly perfect in fact. The second one meanders a bit, but is still quite solid. The third and final episode should air this Sunday, and the stories are self-contained enough that you should be able to watch it and enjoy it if you can't catch up before then. I do hope they make more of these! And check out the new Sherlock's personal site here: http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk/ and James' John's blog here: http://www.johnwatsonblog.co.uk/

Monday
Nov012010

The Walking Dead

Damn, that was pretty good. That being, AMC's new TV series based on the Kirkman comic of the same name: The Walking Dead. My brother and his girlfriend came over last night for a little mini-viewing party for the series premiere. I don't watch much TV with others in the room, but it was nice to have come company for this tense, scary event.

I'm mostly over the whole zombie thing, having jumped into it a decade ago while working on All Flesh Must Be Eaten, I've pretty much gotten everything I want out of the genre. Like pirates, I was into them before it was cool, but now there's so much out there, it's overwhelming. I'm not saying it's no good because it's now popular. I'm saying that I only had a limited appetite for it in the first place, and once the tidal wave of options hit, I filled up quickly. Now I'm sitting at the table, full and satisfied, while the mainstream culture gorges itself on these new delicacies that are for me old comfort food.

All of which is just my ling-winded way of saying: it takes a lot to get me interested in a new zombie thing of any kind. I'd read and really enjoyed the comic, so that was intriguing on its own. Then add the network of Mad Men and Rubicon, and I was willing to give it a try. But hey, I was wary: AMC had already badly fumbled their Prisoner re-boot, so I'd been burned once. The Walking Dead is no fumble. It's gruesome, tense, and smart, and I can't wait for more!

Saturday
Oct302010

Redesign!

Time again to shake things up around here! Less black, more blue. Easier to read text. I feel better already.

The banner image is from the Bismark memorial in Berlin. I love the picture, but it didn't end up making the cut for things I printed and hung on the walls. Now it goes here! Plus, hey, she's reading. Get it? Cuz I'm a writer!

This change is indicative of what I'm up to this weekend. No serious Halloweening for me. Instead I'm organizing the house and cleaning up and doing laundry and getting ready for next month (and all the months that come after that). 

Next week there will be a review of Fallout New Vegas, which I've spent more than a lot of the last week playing. Also some thoughts on my thoughts about books I've read and the whole business of sharing your opinions about books, movies, food, and so on. 

Wednesday
Oct202010

Tivo Catch up and Mad Men Finale

Last time I went to Berlin, I shut down my cable and Tivo. This trip, with my new Tivo premier in place and a shorter stay, I left them both running and managed my To Do List from a continent away. It wasn't the best experience, as it was while I was there, you could only add new things, not delete old ones. There's since been a big update to the web site, but I'm home now and so haven't bothered to look and see if it is indeed better.

Some shows, like Mad Men and Rubicon, were just starting up when I left, so I bought episodes of those on iTunes for a few weeks, knowing that my Tivo's hard drive wouldn't hold everything. I lost 4 episodes of both No Reservations and The Closer, but that's not a big deal. The important thing was, I came home to a full DVR, which I've been slowly working my way through for the past week.

Since I'm still weeks behind on shows like Castle and The Event and The Mentalist (which is to say, OK shows), I'm not up on current events. But Sunday I went ahead and watched four episodes of Mad Men in a row because A) the show is awesome, and B) I wanted to be part of the discussion.

I know people hated it or thought it was slapdash. Amanda over at Pandagon really didn't like it at all, although she liked the core ideas of it. I didn't have any of the problems she did, though. I think the sort of ambling weirdness and sudden big surprise event really worked. I liked that the surface story of the romance unfolding on screen restrained itself from having too many (or indeed hardly any) winks and nods about what a terrible idea it is for Don to be doing this. This was one of those things Mad Men does great – leaves you with enigmatic moments where you can read a lot into them yourself but there aren't many easy answers.

Anyone else have thoughts on it? Love it, hate it?

Some shows, like Mad Men and Rubicon, were just starting up when I left, so I bought episodes of those on iTunes for a few weeks, knowing that my Tivo's hard drive wouldn't hold everything. I lost 4 episodes of both No Reservations and The Closer, but that's not a big deal. The important thing was, I came home to a full DVR, which I've been slowly working my way through for the past week.

 

Since I'm still weeks behind on shows like Castle and The Event and The Mentalist (which is to say, OK shows), I'm not up on current events. But Sunday I went ahead and watched four episodes of Mad Men in a row because A) the show is awesome, and B) I wanted to be part of the discussion.

 

I know people hated it or thought it was slapdash. Amanda over at Pandagon really didn't like it at all, although she liked the core ideas of it. I didn't have any of the problems she did, though. I think the sort of ambling weirdness and sudden big surprise event really worked. I liked that the surface story of the romance unfolding on screen restrained itself from having too many (or indeed hardly any) winks and nods about what a terrible idea it is for Don to be doing this. This was one of those things Mad Men does great – leaves you with enigmatic moments where you can read a lot into them yourself but there aren't many easy answers.

 

Anyone else have thoughts on it? Love it, hate it?

Sunday
Oct172010

Wow, it's been over a month. But I'm back in multiple ways.

I'm home! 

Actually, I've been home for a couple of days, but I'm now finally getting into the swing of things again. I started to slack towards the end of my time in Berlin, thinking I'd pick up regular updates in London. But then my internet connection in the London flat where I was staying was super-terrible and spotty and so, well, I didn't.

I had a fine time in old London town though, and my general plan is to do some recapping and highlighting here over the next few weeks.

Last time I was in Berlin, in 2008, I took a few great pics out of the 10,000 I shot (really!) and printed and framed six of them to hang in my room. Inspired by these, I set out on this trip to make a more concerted effort to capture some wall-worthy images. I've got at least 8 that I really love, and I found a couple themes as I went along.

The big one was sculptures from various ages. I looked for a wide range of eras and styles and came up with a set of four that are going up in the dining room this week. The real trick was to find not only cool subjects, but also things that I could take good pictures of. That meant they had to be well-lit and have a photo-friendly background. By the time I got to London I was actively looking for potential subjects, and found a great old carving of a knight from the 13th century:

He's nice, huh? From the British Museum.

So that's one of my many projects for the coming week, a few steps down the list from all the work I've got to do, but I'm excited about it.

 

Saturday
Sep112010

Faces from German History Museum

 I do love the German History Museum here in Berlin. Not only is it full of swords and armor, it's also got all these great images of people from German and European history. Here are some highlights:

Charlemagne!

A Bishop that looks like he came from a cartoon (like most bishops)

Oliver Cromwell!

Kaiser Wilhelm from the German Unification ceremony:


Napoleon as Emperor:

A lovely German couple:

A Distinguished German Fellow:

 

Tuesday
Sep072010

Ancient Statues In Living Color - With CALIGULA!

There've been stories running around the internet in the past couple months about the fact that ancient statues were really painted, not bleached white. They use high tech fancy science gear to figure out what was what cover back in the day. I've seen the pics, but it's not like seeing these things in bright, comic-book vivid colors in person. But for you, just more pics.

These are molds of course - they didn't repaint the originals. Let's start with this lovely lady:

And I don't know if this is a guy or girl:

And here are the pigments themselves:

And here he is, as alive as when Malcolm McDowell played him: CALIGULA!

 

Monday
Sep062010

Also, Babylon

The other part of the Pergamon Museum is the Ishtar Gate and various and sundry other ancient Mesopotamian goodness. Last time I was here, this wing was closed, so it was great to see it again. The highlight is the Ishtar Gate, a partial reconstruction of the amazing tiled bas-reliefs that once graced this gateway into the city of Babylon.

Once again, none of the pics I took of the whole thing look great, so here's a close-up of some of the many, many lions. Check out the Wikipedia link for more on the whole thing.

And here's a close-up, not from the gate, of a bas-relief soldier:

And here my friend Amy confronts a sphinx. I think she knows the answer for its riddle.