Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaNoWriMo '13 Journal: Day 1 (err.. Day 5)

Let this month of madness begin! If you don't already know, November is National Novel Writing Month. During this time, authorial hopefuls such as I embark on a grand adventure with the the ups and downs of a drug-induced manic episode. There will be tears. There will be hardship. And hopefully, there will be pants-wetting, joyous celebration when December 1 rolls around and we hold up our finished novels in our ink-stained fingers.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Notebook: The Countess and the Artist

The Countess and the Artist
By Blake Tan

Reclining in a lounge seat in her parlour, her crimson shawl draped carelessly over her shoulder, Varvara Golovina did not look the commanding, imperial presence she seemed at court. She looked distraught, fanning herself with her free hand while she sipped from a frosted glass.

“Louise,” the countess said when she noticed the French exile standing in the doorway. “Oh, my darling Louise, I’m sorry for you to see me in such a state. I’m a mess.”

“Nonsense,” the painter said, coming into the parlour and taking a seat across from the countess, folding her hands in her lap. “You look beautiful as always, Varvara.”

“Louise,” Varvara said, burying her face in her crimson shawl. “I think Nikolai is cheating on me.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reflections of a Third-Year 'Humans vs. Zombies' Survivor

A properly formed firing line. Photo courtesy of HvZ Athens.
I have been fighting the good fight, resisting the onslaught of the living dead on Ohio University's Athens campus, for three years. I have played over eight games, counting the fall and spring games, invitationals, and  even a winter game. I have stood the line against shambling (and not-so-shambling) hordes of zombies hungry for a tug of my bandanna. I went from pathetic, scared-shitless noob to captaining my own strike team of hardened, grizzled veterans. When the zeds besieged us in front of Fort Ellis in the winter of '12, during final night, I stood with over a half-dozen other survivors on the left staircase -- I remember distinctly when our flanks were breached and zombies poured across the defenses, the hasty, haphazard retreat to the tower. I have died many times, risen as a member of the walking dead, and proceeded to die and resurrect countless times after that

Through it all, I've made friends in the foxholes, stolid companions in the midst of a war for our very humanity. I've seen those friends turn, our brotherhood tested when undeath took hold, and I've been on the other side, a bandanna-hungry demon, prowling and stalking my hapless human prey. These memories, these friendships, and lessons learned (oftentimes, by the skin of our own hides) are what HvZ is all about.

If you're going out there and playing HvZ in Athens tonight, let a "pro" (I use the term loosely; there are countless others with far more experience than I) share some of tips to aid you in your survival (and fun!) out there.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Character Study: Kenneth Branagh's 'Henry V'

A Darker Kind of King: Kenneth Branagh's Henry V

A flash of fire upon a matchstick illuminates Derek Jacobi’s face. He is alone in a moody sort of darkness, shrouded except for the thin light he holds up to his face. In the opening scene of the 1989 version of Henry V, the director and auteur Kenneth Branagh sets a much darker, realistic tone for the film in comparison to the earlier Laurence Olivier vision. In contrast, the 1944 film opens with a bright, birds-eye view of Elizabethan London set to swelling music as the camera pans over to the Globe Theater. In the opening scene alone, Branagh seeks to render his version of William Shakespeare’s Henry V distinctive in its gloomier vision of the famed English monarch. The atmosphere established in the earlier moments of the film is carried throughout its entirety by Branagh’s own performance as Henry, his use of music composed by Patrick Doyle, and his decision to include scenes from the text that were left out by Olivier in his version. By doing so, Branagh portrays a more complex Henry V and suggests a blacker nature beneath his charisma.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How the Legend Faltered: 'Guild Wars 2' and the Personal Story

To start, let me say that I love Guild Wars 2. Like many original Guild Wars fans, I pinned all my hopes for an MMO onto ArenaNet's return to Tyria. For the most part, Guild Wars 2 delivers. I'm as engrossed in the world and the game as much, if not more so, than any MMO to date. Unsurprisingly, of course, not everyone is happy. 

Despite Guild Wars 2's critical and commercial success, there's a portion of the player population still disgruntled over a host of varying issues. Rangers are concerned that their damage isn't up to par with other professions, more casually-oriented players cry foul over the introduction of Ascended gear, and World vs. World invaders twiddle their thumbs anticipating the promised progression for WvW in the March update.

But, for me, as a player, what bothered me most about Guild Wars 2 wasn't the bugs, the relatively imbalanced nature of the eight professions (let's be honest: Warriors are a bit OP), the lack of support for sPvP, or even the humongous foul-up that was November's Lost Shores event. No, I felt most betrayed over the disappointing mess of soulless supporting characters, unrelated narrative arcs, and lack of reward, both material and narrative, that made up Guild Wars 2's Personal Story.