Food for Though: Tyrion and Miles

While reading A Storm of Swords and A Clash of Kings I got to thinking of how Tyrion in many ways reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan.  And I noted that the patriarchal and martial-minded society of Westeros wasn’t too far off from the harsh and militaristic society of Bujold’s Barrayar.  Tyrion’s mother is often hinted at being one of the few people to get through Tywin’s hard outer shell much like how Cordelia Naismith was in some ways a softening influence on Aral Vorkosigan.

Miles and Tyrion are both quick-witted and intelligent and looked down upon by societies that value physical prowess over mental acuity.  Both overcome their infirmities and manage to participate in battles of various kinds (Miles as Admiral Naismith, Tyrion in the defense of Kings Landing) and both suffer a debilitating secondary injury that increases their physical frailty and/or deformity (Tyrion in the defense of Kings Landing and Miles is almost killed and suffers from seizures as a result of his cryofreezing).

Both characters offer up interesting examinations of the nature versus nurture discussion but I think in both cases either side of the argument might prove viable.  As my brain drew the links between these characters I had to wonder that if Joanna Lannister had survived his son’s birth who or what her son Tyrion might become.  Tywin is an interesting character in and of himself and several characters comment on his feelings regarding his wife over the course of the series and you might wonder at the kind of father he might have been with his wife at his side.  I’m sure it wouldn’t have been all sunshine and roses, this is George R. R. Martin we’re talking about here, but it is an interesting thought.  I think both Tyrion and Miles are products of their environments both in regards to the world they inhabit and the people that surround them.

They aren’t quite two sides to the same coin but they are about as close two characters in different genres can be.

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(very) Late PAX Post

It is likely no small coincidence that PAX, the shorthand name of the Penny Arcade Expo, is also the latin word for peace.  As Wil Wheaton stated in his epic keynote (the second!) thanks to Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Robert Khoo, a legion of Enforcers, and a veritable army of attendees PAX is geek for home.  As Jerry stated in his own post-PAX East post:

We call it PAX East to distinguish it from the other one, it helps to make discussions about them possible, but I’ve been to every one of them and I can tell you:  this was just PAX.  Whatever entity you create when you attend, and when you play, was present in the same unaltered form we discerned years ago.   It is our task to honor it.

As an attendee of PAX Prime (as the Seattle show has become known) in 07 and 08 I couldn’t agree more.  While I browsed my twitter feed while at the show I couldn’t help note some griping about the lines (particularly from a one Rabbit).  While I agree that the lines were occasionally ridiculous I think something should be said that there is something different about lines at PAX over other kinds of lines.  Whether it be impromptu games of Mario Kart DS, elaborate pipe cleaner sculptures, or the entertaining styling of the folks from Get In Line Games PAX lines are, in addition to being a place to wait for an awesome event or panel, a place of community.  Nothing evidenced this more then the line on Saturday when the crowd, prompted by nothing more then a song we all recognized, spontaneously burst into song:

What that video doesn’t capture is the chorus of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody that followed the crowd as we marched towards the main theater; even after we left the overhead speakers behind.  Sure PAX East 2010 was crowded as hell but at least it was crowded with several thousand friends (well, except for this douche).

I didn’t spend a ton of time on the Exhibition Room floor, but managed to catch a number of smaller titles that really sparked my interest.  Myself and several friends had a blast playing Slam Bolt Scrappers over at the Indie Showcase; it is some sort of Tetris, tower defense, beat ’em up that is perhaps one of the best party games I’ve played in years.  Monday Night Combat, think Smash TV meets Team Fortress 2, looks like a frickin’ blast.  The gorgeously rendered silhouette world of Limbo was at once beautiful and disturbing.  Nvidia’s demos of 3d technology were sweet and far more impressive then I could have hoped but still tethered to glasses.

Every panel I went to pretty much rocked.  Stephen Totilo of Kotaku and N’gai Croal had an interesting panel on 10 Best Games of All Time, sort of a Video Game insider meme that looks like something everyone should be watching.  The Musical Guests panel was as entertaining as ever, the Penny Arcade Panel was hilarious, and the keynote made up for the fact that I missed Wil in 2007.  And the concerts…man…epic is even the right word.  Special nod to Video Game Orchestra and their “Vampire Killer” mix of Castlevania music; simply amazing.  Now I’m back at work and while the world around me is bit dimmer absent of PAX I am secure in the knowledge that I now have a second home here on the east coast.  See you guys in 2011.

Vacation Imminent

Tonight I jump an a train to Philly so that tomorrow morning I can jump on train to Boston for PAXEast! For those of you out there keeping track I’m still working through my Hard-Boiled reading project.  I’m somewhat relieved to announce that I have only one title left to review.  Relieved not because I haven’t enjoyed the project but because the pile of science fiction and fantasy novels I want to read has been growing considerably in the meantime.  So, before I head off, below you’ll find a list of all the posts related to by genre switch up:

A Not So Simple Art

A Short Look at a Long Goodbye

I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

The Crazy Kill by Chester B. Himes

The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death of by Charlie Huston

The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ McDonald

The Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt on Audio

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block

My last read was a difficult choice but I decided to go with The Black Hand by Will Thomas.  My initial impression is extremely positive and would never have expected one could set a hard-boiled novel in 19th Century.  I’m hoping I can plow through it on the Amtrak ride tomorrow morning.  This is a vacation I’m really looking forward as management changes at my part time job combined with potentially devastating (for libraries) New Jersey State budget cuts have left me a bit stressed.  It’ll be nice to not think about all this crap for a couple of days at least.

If you’re going to be in Boston for PAXEast feel free to drop me a line via twitter or keep an eye out on lines for the bearded dude with his buried in a nook/book.  I’ll try to get a post or two up while I’m away but I make no guarantees.  See you all on the flip side!

On Roleplaying

It’s time to Ramble On.

-Led Zeppelin

As I sat in a comfy chair last night, wearing my free Dragon Age t-shirt acquired at PAX ’07, and playing through the opening scenes of Mass Effect 2 (my Mass Effect t-shit was, unfortunately, in the laundry) I cringed as a notice popped up about earning +4 to my Renegade rating.  I stopped for a minute reviewing the conversation I, or rather Commander Shepherd, just had.  I didn’t recall saying anything particularly “bad.”   I let the moment of sick panic pass and pushed onward secure my good deeds would erase whatever slight misstep I had taken.

You see in every Bioware game I’ve ever played I’ve always been good.  Multiple play-throughs of Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, etc.  All good.  I’ve tried to play evil.  I have, really.  But something always stops me short.  A sick sensation in the pit of my stomach as I lie, cheat and extort.  A cold sweat that breaks out as I exploit the weak  or turn my back on the downtrodden.  I always abandon the efforts, returning to my goody two-shoes tendencies.  With Mass Effect 2 there is a faint curiosity that pulls me towards the glowing orange of the Renegade.  Part of it is a function of story.  I died.  I was brought back.  Two years of my life are gone.  The world around me has changed.  But, have I?  Distrust still exists amongst the various races.  The Alliance left me for dead but Cerebus, whose scientists I slaughtered as a Spectre, brought me back.  The Council sits on its hands unable to act while humanity is threatened.  They’ve turned a blind eye towards the threat the Reapers represent.  Did my old tactics of cooperation and open handed assistance even matter?

I repeat, I’m only three hours into the game.  Maybe it’s nothing Bioware did.  Maybe it’s me.  But I find myself, more than any other game recently, involved on an emotional level with what’s happening.  But I find myself wishing that Bioware made it harder to know precisely how my actions will affect my “alignment.”  Perhaps it’s a holdover from earlier games but more so than any other time I could remember I wish the game would let me just choose without the knowledge of precisely what the nature of those decisions might be.  Mass Effect’s Paragon/Renegade alignment system is fascinating but the foreknowledge of how your words and actions will affect that scale robs me of a certain level of investment in the preceding.  The system is visible, allowing me too much leeway to telegraph my actions to reach the outcome I desire.  The decisions don’t really feel like mine.

I still don’t know why I can’t be evil.  You see.  If you have ever gamed with me at the table you might be surprised to learn about my inability to be even the slightest bit mean.   Scratch that.  You would definitely be surprised to learn that.  Truth be told, you might even refuse to believe me at all since  absolutely none of my tabletop D&D characters has ever been GOOD.  Ever.

Continue reading “On Roleplaying”

Stuff that isn’t a review

Yup, I’m behind already.  I’ll try and make some headway in my reading but the series of cogs that power my brain seem to be chugging along quite slowly this morning.  December is now officially the month I will be posting about why I’m not posting.  On a side note I managed to squeeze in an episode of Dollhouse last night and was pleasantly surprised by the new episode.  The show seems to lack the spark that made previous Whedon ventures so enjoyable and the humor, when it surfaces, seems to fall a bit flat amongst the darker tone of the series.  It is still a fascinating concept and the episode I saw finally moves towards exploring the greater continuity of the Dollhouse world; which is a shame since we are a season and a half in and this the first time we’re really seeing that kind of stuff.  Anyway I’m still somewhat glad Whedon is going to be moving onto new things.

I also saw the 1986 film You’re Never Too Young To Die on Saturday night.  This gem of a film was a John Stamos vehicle prior to his appearance in Full House (which debuted in 1987) and after leaving General Hospital.  John Stamos is Lance Stargrove a college gymnast who must take up his fathers mostly unexplained to job to stop the evil transgendered Velvet von Ragnar from poisoning the water supply with radioactive waste.  Velvet is played by Gene Simmons.  It is exactly as terrible as you’d expect it to be…and then some.  In the climatic final fight there is a point when Stargrove bites Ragnar’s breast…it was both hilarious and horrifying.  If you’re desperate to know the details about the movie I recommend Something Awful’s summary.  Having watched Crossroads right before this (with Rifftrax on) I can’t even tell you which movie was worse.  No seriously I can’t.   At least the company was good and it was a much needed bit of relaxation after work.

Fake Curses

When finishing a fantasy novel, particularly a Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson novel, I typically find that I want to add their diverse list of swear words/phrases to my own lexicon.  After reading a section feature the one-eyed soldier Uno I find I want to make every other word of my sentence “flaming” or “bloody” or, before a particularly trying moment in my own life, I occasionally want to mutter ‘Blood and bloody ashes.”  Sometimes I want to throw out a “fish guts” or whisper a certain phrase in the Old Tongue before trying my luck at something difficult.

When it comes to Erikson the curses are particularly inventive and, should I ever choose to inject them into my day-to-day speech, likely all the more perplexing to those around me.  Phrases like “Hood’s breath,” or my particular favorites “Togg’s teats” and “Hood’s balls” would likely draw confused stares from friends and strangers alike.  Oddly though Jordan and Erikson are the only author’s whose made-up curses really stick in my head.  Are there others out there?  Does anyone have any other fantasy based explicatives they are fans of?

This! Is! THE PROMISED LAND!

Yes, I know the title makes no sense seeing as how God denied Moses the Promised Land, but bear with me here.

Any article that mentions Moses, Moby Dick, and 300 is well worth a look.  The skinny being:

Twentieth Century Fox will develop a retelling of the story of Moses, from his near death as an infant to his adoption into the Egyptian royal family, his defiance of the Pharaoh and deliverance of the Hebrews from enslavement…in a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Ok, I added that post-apocalyptic bit.  Though the truth isn’t any more ridiculous.

The article also mentions that the same scripwriters attached to this Moses project also worked on a  Moby Dick that “was pitched as a “300”-like reimagining of the Melville story as a visually stunning action piece, and the story of Moses is conceived similarly.”

I didn’t add anything to that quote by the way.  Sometimes Hollywood makes me question my sanity….and not in the good way.

Original article here.

The Russians have a Level 7, kind of.

In an interesting article from Wired, Nicholas Thompson details some of the specifics on a Russian doomsday device that was built during the Cold War.  It is a fascinating piece that, while chock full of information, seems to imply that Russian device is entirely automatic; a fact not refuted until the final paragraphs of the article.  In fact, with the human “fail safe” the whole system reminded me eerily of Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7, particularly in the last section of article when Thomspon states, with perhaps a touch of hyperbole:

Yes, I agree, a human could decide in the end not to press the button. But that person is a soldier, isolated in an underground bunker, surrounded by evidence that the enemy has just destroyed his homeland and everyone he knows. Sensors have gone off; timers are ticking. There’s a checklist, and soldiers are trained to follow checklists.

Not too far from push button operator X-127, eh?  The full article is HERE and of course I still highly recommend you check out Roshwald’s book.

Grave Tidings

So as I wrap up my September of Steampunk reviews I’ve started looking towards next month. Since I enjoyed working on a theme for my reviews this month I figured it might be fun to continue that next month. Since October is incoming I figured that I’d throw myself headfirst into some new horror titles. An idea that, as it turns out, isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.

I fully admit that horror is a genre I am not terribly well versed in, but it is a genre that from time to time I enjoy exploring. Over the years I have found that it has grown increasingly difficult to find new and interesting horror titles that interest me. While I am entirely open to the possibility that the problem is me it isn’t an idea I am entirely sold on. Before I delve into my misgivings about the current state of horror let me highlight the titles I’m looking to read in October.

Continue reading “Grave Tidings”