Thursday, December 24, 2009

"To train the mind to its full potential, you got to train your body" - Full Metal Alchemist

Avatar. Was it worth the 10 year wait, the hundreds of millions of dollars it cost to produce, and deserving of all the hype? Probably not. CGI aside, it wasn’t really anything ground breaking. But still, I really liked it.
The story has been done before many a time. People encroaching on others territory, trying to drive them out because they have something of value, and getting their butts handed to them because they’re essential cornering a cultural badger. Pretty much it was Cowboys vs Indians wrapped oh so well in Fernguly trappings. The aliens were so blatantly Native American rip offs, it was laughable.
The acting was decent enough to make you care about the characters over all, but it wasn’t anything to cry over. The pacing was actually pretty good. It didn’t make you feel you weren’t watching a movie that was just shy of 3 hours long.
Graphic wise, it’s going to knock your socks off. The CGI flawesley flowed from one frame to the next, where you couldn’t tell where human and computer interacted effortlessly. In some CGI heavy movies, you get the occasionally scene or 2 where it’s painfully obvious there was someone standing in front of a green screen.
I don’t think this movie is going to change the way you watch movies like the way they were claiming, but it was damn good. I wish I would’ve seen this in 3D, because that’s what this movie was made for. It was good enough I might have to go see it again, just so I can have the 3D experience. I will urge you all to see this in the theatres, because it’s of such a scope that you won’t be able to realize it in a living room. I’m giving it 3.5/5 stars. Now for Sherlock Holmes this next weekend.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books." - Bell Hooks

What good is a great imagination if you cant write it down and share it?  I love reading. Especially books from the Fantasy genre. I’m a sucker for them. It helps me escape to a grand, mythical realm of dreams and possibilities. It’s a universe of books that, admittedly, I need to expand my habit of reading from. But there has been so many great authors that he journey with me through their books. I realize that a lot of ideas in Fantasy writing have been blatantly rehashed and reused with abandon and without apology. Which The Fantasy Novelist Exam kind of puts into a light. Some I like, some I didn’t, and very few had something original and refreshing. And I’ve come to terms with it, and always return to this type of writing because it’s a style I grew up with and have come to love.
I’ve always been tempted to start writing my own work of fiction. A full blown novel? Not quite yet. That’s a little above me at the moment. But to do something of the likes of a short story? It’s been gnawing at my subconscious for a good while now. There’s a few things that have been delaying me. I’m inherently lazy. Why I should I start writing when I could go play a game or watch TV? And another is where do I start? That aspect just seems so daunting it kind of puts me off it all together.
I want to do something original, but what? Do I just want to start off easy and do a piece of Fan Fic? It can get overwhelming. Which reverts me to the first dilemma. The gaming publishing company Paizo did a design your own adventure path a few years back. I didn’t hear about it until it was too late, but I did a portion “Design Your Own Country” on my own. This is what I came up with:

Realm of Blackire

"Beware the Ire of Black"

Alignment: LN

Notable Settlements: Iron Hill (pop. 11,445), Brass Hall (pop. 12,600), The Steel Warren (pop. 13,266), The Market (approx. pop. 1500)
Ruler: The Council

Government: An elected council of 9 Dwarves which is contrived of each City sending one senior delegate from their respective Military, Religious, and Arcane guilds.


The great Cities of Blackire are carved out of the bellies of three extinct volcanoes that, when looked upon, roughly form the shape of a triangle. The great valley that once nestled in the central hub of these great mountains of fire no longer exists as a natural feature of the landscape. Where these volcanoes once joined is now a great strip mine of great proportions. So much Obsidian was found here, it is the single most influencing factor of this area. Through dwarven ingenuity, major buildings are built from it as well as their military weapons and armor. The later are of such great quality and durability that they are only brought to life from their secret rune forges that they only have deep within the cities.
One would think that such a mine would leave a quit significant scar where it was mined, but through the brilliance of dwarves mining and constructing methods, it has been transformed into the regions largest open aired market that is practically a small city itself. As the raw, excess material was being removed from the pit, it was being put to the use of constructing the three great walls that linked the volcanoes and raising the multitude of buildings that are within the market. If you would look from above, it would look like a great, fortified coliseum.
Rising from the bottom from the very bottom of this Dwarven made wonder stands a magnificent tower of which only the hands of the most skilled dwarven architects could erect. The purpose of this tower, which has been named ‘The Black Sentinel’, is not only for Political decisions and for Military applications, it is also the main channel through which the flow of goods, services, and people runs to the three cities below. Three major shafts spread out from below The Black Sentinel to each of the cities: Iron Hill, Brass Hall, and The Steel Warren.

The most common ore found within the area is Obsidian. The creating and forming of this particular substance is the most guarded secret of the Blackire Dwarves. Because of dwarven magic and their natural attunement and connection with the very earth itself, obsidian is brought to life in their buildings and forging. When it is applied to a more militaristic application is when the secrecy deepens. Through the ranks of the Military, Religious, and Arcane guilds flows a secret and ‘unofficial’ guild who’s only purpose is the forging of obsidian weaponry and armor. It is only through the combined efforts of the guilds are the strenuous art of combining obsidian and Rune Forging are possible. For one small mistake will render the brittle ore unusable. The secret of this process makes it possible for the dwarves to make a relatively common brittle material into a substance hard as steel to outfit their armies with.

The Market:
The Market is the hub of the three cities and the only access for foreigners to enter the underground. Considering that The Market is the “front door” to the cities underneath, it has the most variety of races then your standard dwarven establishment. Shops and their owners’ dwellings sit snugly up against the wall of the wide lane that corkscrews and winds its way down the bottom were The Black Sentinel sits. The Black Sentinel is one of the dwarven populaces’ most prized accomplishments; for it is made totally out of Obsidian, which helps to give it its name. The tower has rooms running along the inside of the outer wall with a staircase spiraling upwards connecting them all. The top most room is the largest and most spacious, and it is where The Council Meets. The central most cavity is a concave shaft that houses the giant operating lift system called by the local populace “The Sky Well”. The Sky Well is connected to the giant bridges that stretch from the side of this great tower to different levels of The Market to help the flow of services and goods to the different areas of the old mine.

The Cities:
The cities are, as you would suspect, is comprised mainly of dwarves. They are an open dwarven society compared to others from having a massive market place sitting above their heads. The one and only subject that they are fairly guarded about is the process of their making Obsidian related items. Iron Hill and Brass Hall both make heavy use the natural vents and chambers of their respective volcanoes for city development, but The Steel Warren had to be made by more of a conventional and traditional means of dwarven underground city making. The Cities are named after the most extracted metal from where each stronghold now resides.

Surrounding Area:
The Cities of Blackire sit within a large and rugged mountain range called The Demons Back Range. The main road the runs through Blackire, The Backbreaker, are one of the few major roads that run all the way through the range. As such, it is also a Trade Route of notoriety because of the bandits and wild monsters inhabiting the dangerous countryside. Law and order are still enforced though for the reason that there are frequent and well-armed patrols sent out from Blackire.

Yeah, it’s a rough sketch at best and needs work. But I love Dwarves, so I decided to do something with them. I’ve come with Ideas for a world for it to inhabit that I need to put to paper. Writing is an art that I need to explore more fully. There’s a fair chance that it would be any good, but I know I should do it because it makes me happy.
I did start on a story set in this realm for National Writing Month (which is forthcoming in a sec) entitled Shadows of an Obsidian Flame, but I got distracted and didn’t get very far. I only got like 500 words, if that. I wrote the following:

The main tunnel echoed with noise from the multitude of people coming and going as Thorick Shadowforge made his way up from the dwarven city below. On his way to the entrance of the large tunnel, a view of The Market with its thousands of hectic people opened up before him. As he continued walking, his eyes couldn’t help taking in the large tower that dominated the view of the entire skyline. And that’s to where he was summoned.

“Why can’t we dwarves build smaller things” Thorick grumbled to himself as started his long walk to the top of the big structure. In the middle of the Market, the Black Sentinel stood more than five hundred feet in the air and it shown like a black mirror . Made from pure Obsidian and reinforced with magic from the very earth itself, it was the hub of the three underground cities that surrounded it.

Walking through the one of the two large gates at the base of the Tower, Thorick started the long climb upwards. As he ascended, he couldn’t help to be amazed at the ingenuity of the construction and architecture of The Sentinel. There was a large vertical shaft that ran the length of the building that commerce and supplies were trafficked. A system of pulleys and gears lowered and raised large containers full of goods to different levels in the tower. From there they were transported to that level of the Marketplace over sky bridges.

Thorick couldn’t help getting a little vertigo by climbing the stairs, for they lined the wall of this shaft as they spiraled towards the top. Hundreds of corridors led from the staircase to different parts of the structure. As he got to the top waiting chamber, the dwarf was quit out of breath and was a little glad that the two guards stopped him before entering.

“What is your purpose here? “ asked the senior of the two guards.

“I was called by the council, more importantly I was asked for by Regdor Morlaki to come and meet with him.” Thorick replied breathlessly. The Senior guard nodded to the other, which entered the room. The guard came out a moment later and said, nodding towards a nearby empty room “They are in Counsel right at the moment, and you can wait in there.”

The room provided an excellent view of the Marketplace below. From above, the land looked like an Elder God had taken a giant corkscrew and twisted it into the earth below. The valley in which the marketplace and the Sentinel sat was a byproduct of dwarven mining. It was an old strip-mine. Most visitors that came here could never tell, for peoples shops and houses lined the spiraling, every widening road upwards. Were there was gaps in the terrain, the Dwarven masons had used the mining debris to make fortified walls so it looked like on big bowl.

Like I said, I didn’t get very far. I should just start on it again and just go for it. With enough prompting I just might. But as of the moment, it’s something that is always there that my fickleness can always come back too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"You have to know where you are to know where you need to go" - Me

Where I’m at, its finally frozen and winter has finally settled in like an old, cold hearted hag. And that makes me sort of sad. I love the cold, but I hate the snow that comes with it. But until it starts to warm up again, I don’t see myself wearing my Kilt.
I did a blog about my Kilt a few months back, and I have come to love the thing. When the weather finally gets warm enough so that I don’t risk anything falling off to frost burn, I’m going to try wearing it every couple weeks. It’s really mighty comfortable. Even with the weird stares I get while wearing it. Sometimes I like the stares, because deep down I know what they're missing.
There’s a sense of wild freedom and abandonment that one can’t achieve with shorts or pants alone. And the range of flexibility and movement is amazing. All you dress wearers know what I’m talking about! All I doubt should try on a dress or skirt to see what I’m talking about. Don’t deny wanting too.
But anyways, I had a good conversation with a good friend the other day. We talked about a few things, and we touched upon me losing weight, and what was kind of the motivation behind it. Ever since I had the “What the Hell am I doing to myself?” moment that started all this, I’ve been rather kind of contemplative. I told said friend I had to know where I was to know where I had to go. And it’s been a good, productive trip since I realized where I was. Since the beginning of July, I’ve lost 80 pounds. It hasn’t been all fun and games. It hast been easy. Trust me, giving up drinking at least a liter of soda and eating a lot wasn’t easy or fun.
It’s come with a life style change that I’m surprised I made. I’ve always had people nag me that I needed to lose weight, and deep down I know they were right, but I never changed. But in July, something just finally snapped. From somewhere, I got the desire to make it happen, because I was sick of what I had become. I’m walking away with a new respect for that particular emotion. Without desire, who would you be? Where would you be without the ever driving emotion?
But without dedication, desire can get you so far. I’ve witnessed that first hand. I haven’t made the best food choices lately, and I think that’s why my weight has stabilized recently. I didn’t go back to the way I was eating before, but still I could do better. Now to recommit and start the right path again. I’ve got about 120 more pounds I want to lose, and they aren’t going to work themselves off. And to all you nay Sayers that think I’m not going to make, you might be right. But I’m going to try my damndest to get there. So cheer me on or get out of the way!