Archive for August, 2013

30/08/2013

How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke

This…

Eric Clapp 4.0

If you have ears, you’ve heard Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines.” If you’ve had any amount of spare time in the past few days and have access to the internets, you’ve heard about Thicke’s performance at the VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations! You must have looked past the headlines on CNN’s main page in order to read about “secondary” news like Egypt or Syria. You can find a video of the performance here.

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter with any kind of regularity over the past few days, you’ve probably heard countless friends or followers sounding off on any number of objectionable things about the performance. Undoubtedly, 99% of things written about it throw around words like “obscene”, “offensive”, and the like.

There have been a number of different parenting websites or blog posts who have come up…

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27/08/2013

Taking a short holiday.

Well my Partner in Crime is having a wee break this week. No work, no early mornings, and fewer hassles (Come on, she lives with me.) so I’ve decided to take a week totally off, starting right now. No writing, no drawing, no nothing. Just movies, food and sexy-fun-times. Besides, my tummy is being REALLY bitchy so not a lot of sleep is happening, and that had bad effects on my sanity and writing. So see you all this day week. Laters.

24/08/2013

I don’t like your blog!

And this is how you answer haters.

20/08/2013

The very worst part of being chronically ill, is the guilt.

No really, I’m not kidding. Worse than; in no particular order,

the pain,

the tiredness,

the diarrhoea,

the bleeding,

the constant low-grade headache,

the skin lesions,

or even having to deal with tin-god junior doctors.

Seriously, worse than any of that is living with the guilt. But what do I mean by “the guilt”? Well that’s going to take a bit of explaining.

The average person can do pretty much what they want to do. Want to see a movie with a friend? No problem, “Which movie, and what time?”

Tell their partner not to worry about the housework, that it’ll all be done when they get home; yup, got that covered.

Or how about wanting to go to bed with a lover, going all out with the flirtation, the foreplay, the making them feel like they’re standing at the centre of a sexual whirlwind; then having to stop because you’ve run completely out of energy, or because your body has decided that this is exactly the right moment to need to throw up?

My own life is a huge list of cancelled plans, lost connections, and missed opportunities. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve gotten ready to go somewhere, only to have to cancel at literally the last-minute. Or how many times I’ve missed events that I was really excited about attending; many burlesque events, artistic events, movies. Hell not that long ago I had to miss one of my favourite singers, Voltaire, because my body decided that it really needed 4 straight days of bleeding from my bowel.

In essence, I am an involuntary flake. Totally unreliable where any social life outside of my own home is concerned. To be able to do something as minor as go do the weekly grocery shop I rely on medicating my body to a point where I will “probably” get a few hours of not needing to be within ten feet of a toilet. Note the “probably”, the quotation marks are there because about 1 time in 10 it doesn’t work, with sometimes rather cataclysmic results for my underwear.

Now, you’re probably thinking that this should all lead to my feeling sorry for myself. But it doesn’t, or at least it only does very rarely. I’m used to not being able to plan with any certainty. The best I can ever promise is “maybe”, or very occasionally, “probably”; I’m used to being like that. I’m used to never being able to even think “definitely”. Definitely simply doesn’t exist in my life, and I’m used to it, I’ve had to grow used to it.

But what I’ve never grown used to is the guilt that goes with constantly letting other people down. For example, I quite simply can not remember the last time I went out for a night with my Partner-in-Crime. No memory at all, it’s been that long. And I feel terrible about it. I know she loves a good night out. I know she would love to have one with me, but…

See, there’s always that but. Even if we manage to make it out the door, odds are I’ll need to come home very early when my bowel starts to voice its disinterest in staying away from its porcelain best friend.

The same goes with friends. Over and over I arrange things with friends, only to have to cancel at the 11th hour because I simply can’t leave the house any longer.

So, boom, guilt for letting them down. For cancelling plans and leaving them in the lurch.

Then of course there’s the other sides to the guilt. The the side triggered by the worry you cause people you love. Or the aspect of it caused by not being able to pull your own weight. Or the guilt that strikes when you realise that you’re just a bad girlfriend, a bad friend, a bad lover, daughter…the list goes on and on.

And all this means that you say “I’m sorry” waaaaaay too much. So you find yourself feeling guilty for being sorry.

Yeah, being ill is rotten, but feeling unending waves of guilt is worse. Now if you’ll excuse me, the toilet is calling my haemorrhoids, by name.

17/08/2013

Off to Cork for the weekend.

Yup, it’s Mommy time,  so I’m going to leave you all with the funniest YouTube clip I’ve seen in years.

And the entire of my favourite childhood animated movie. Click the link and enjoy. (Admittedly the picture quality isn’t all that good, but for a an old VHS scan it’s not terrible, and the show really is worth a watch.)

Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All.

Anyway have a good weekend, and see you all on Tuesday.

13/08/2013

A Poor Girls Guide to buying Electronics.

Everyone loves shiny new electronics. Opening the packaging on a brand new laptop, peeling off the screen protector on a new phone, that first booting up moment when you just want to jump around from joy. The problem is that electronics are expensive. Terrifyingly so sometimes, so for the girl on a budget new electronics, even if they’re desperately needed, are often nothing more than a pipe-dream. (I was lucky enough to receive a loan of enough money to cover the cost of a brand new laptop last January; if that hadn’t happened I’d probably still be struggling along with a half-knackered netbook, which could barely boot-up, much less run any of my graphics programs. As of last month I have half of that money paid back.)

So for the girl on a budget, how can you replace that netbook that smells distressingly of ozone? Or that cellphone with the cracked screen?

1: Save.

Saving is not always easy, but sometimes it’s a necessity. When I bought my current laptop, the one I’m typing this on in-fact, I had saved up a little over 1/3rd of the cost myself. It had taken me over 6 months to do so. Okay, I still had to accept a loan from my Partner in Crime to cover the last 2/3rds; but thanks to that period of saving I’d already gotten used to giving up the money needed to repay her each month. That’s the key, making saving a habit. Once it’s a habit, it becomes easier to maintain, even if it does mean less in the way of day-to-day fun-stuff.

2: Sales.

Watch the websites of your preferred electronics stores like a hawk. Most of those stores will have something on special each week, or month. So with patience you can pick up what you want at a hefty price reduction. I once picked up a netbook which had been almost 400 Euro the week before, for just over 210 Euro. It wasn’t an end of line, or any other special type of sale. It just happened to be on special that week, and had been massively reduced. Of course I’d been sitting on that money for a few months at that stage, so patience and self-control are key to this working.

3: End of Line.

Almost every year, or at most every second year, most electronics companies will release a new version of each of their various lines. This is great even if you can’t afford those prices, because the stores have to get rid of last years line, fast, if they’re to have any hope of shifting those newer up-to-date models. (Never mind that sometimes the only difference is a slightly different casing.) Often this means that to get shot of those last few examples of last years model the stores will have end of line sales where the sales price is often just barely over cost-price. Meaning huge savings can be made if, as usual, you can be patient enough to wait, and quick enough to get in there first.

4: Display Models.

I love Hewlett Packard’s Ipaq line. I’ve owned two of them, and I quite simply think that they’re the bees knees, the rats arse, the…they’re really great. My last one gave me four years of sterling work, being carried from one end of Ireland to the other as an aid to my writing, an ebook reader, and even an emergency MP3 player on more than one occasion. It was also bought as an ex-display model. Bought in the box off a shelf it would have set me back 300 Euro, but as an ex-display model I got it for just over 100. It was undamaged, unmarked, and needed only a replacement battery (8 Euro plus 3 postage and packaging at the time) to make it absolutely perfect. This sort of find needs a lot of luck, as well as patience. But are well worth looking out for.

5: Accept Charity/gifts.

I have a house rule, “No unwanted computer goes without a home.” Simply this means that if someone offers me an old PC, tablet, laptop, or mobile phone I will always accept.

Why?

Because until my current laptop, all of my performance computers had been built from the best parts of older machines. My current ebook reader, is a gratefully accepted donation of an old Pandigital 7″ tablet which had been rooted; which may be reaching the end of it’s serviceable lifespan, but still gives me hours of joy every single week. I haven’t had a “new” cellphone in almost a decade. My friends know that if there’s an old mobile that they’re replacing, well Amanda will find it a loving home.

Charity is not a bad thing. Especially if it means that an old machine doesn’t wind up rotting in a landfill, or lying gathering dust in some forgotten corner of a home. And really especially, (I know, bad grammar.) If someone, if you, might find great use, and greater joy in using it until it finally just has to be taken behind the woodshed for a close encounter with a deer-slug to the processor. Of course you should do the same to with anything that may be useful to someone else, sharing is caring.

10/08/2013

An update on my many and varied projects.

After over two years, and 300 articles I feel it’s time to shake things up a little in my creative life. I will still be blogging, but I am frankly running out of handy topics to write passionately about. So starting next week I will be writing a regular, normal blog article for each Tuesday, and when I have a topic that enthuses me Saturday also. But those weeks where I find myself struggling to find a topic for my Saturday post I will instead be setting up a linkstorm of the various things that really caught my eye over the previous week.

This is to reduce the amount of wasted time, spent staring at a blinking cursor with no absolutely idea what to write about. This time is going to be used on getting back to my webcomic.

The past few months have definitely not been wasted in that regard, I have been working hard on my drawing skills, as well as experimenting with different page layouts, lining styles, and even *gasp* colour. Beside this I’ve been developing the storylines so that they mesh, and hopefully read better. I am planning to get back to posting finished pages by the end of the Summer. I intend to restart with an honest to goodness cover page, and by redrawing the original 5 pages with my new skills, before moving on with the story. (The originals will still be on the site, more as a testament to how far I’ve come than anything else.) I’ll be putting up new pages as I finish them, rather than having a regular posting day.

Video blogging will also be restarting, I hope, in the Autumn. Again I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months experimenting with lighting, editing, and generally brushing up those skills I was seriously lacking in in the past. The end result, I hope, will be a better quality vlog, that will be more enjoyable for the viewer, while being more fulfilling for me to create. I currently have four separate streams of vlog I intend to make videos about. So, rather like with my webcomic, I won’t be adhering to a set rota, I’ll make what interests me in the moment, and post as they’re finished.

Which brings me to the main thing I’ve learned in the past 6 months of reduced output. I need to work on what I feel passionate about at the time, rather than forcing myself in to an artificial time-plan. That path leads me to slowly losing both the plot, and interest. Much better to stick with what I feel a passionate need to create at the time. Much better work always results.

And that’s what’s going to be happening from next week on.

Thanks for sticking with my blog, and don’t worry there’s still plenty of madness to come.

06/08/2013

The 12th Doctor.

Okay this needs to be said.

Thank fuck the Doctor is dead,
Long live the Doctor.

This guy, Peter Capaldi, is right for the part, even in look. The younger, and ever younger Doctors were so fucking annoying; seriously, it was rapidly reaching the stage where he was gonna have to be a fetus to be any younger. And that was beyond jarring when I personally grew up with old Doctors, the youngest in looks from my childhood was Peter Davison, and even he had an indefinable feeling of age to him. (Video has some serious swearing, but gives a good sense of why this guy may have the right stuff to fill the enormous boots that so many actors have left behind them in this part.)

Matt Smith, to me, never had the feeling of a depth of antiquity to him, a feeling which the Doctor needs to be pulled off as a character. He never felt like a lonely god, or an eternal warrior. He never felt like someone whose whole past was drenched in the blood of the innocent, and guilty alike. He never felt like a man on the run from himself.

Admittedly Matt Smith did have an impossible task presented to him as he struggled to fill the shoes vacated by David Tennent. Tennent had made the character so completely his own that even old timer Whovians, like myself, adored him. He had found a way, to somehow, convey extreme age, sorrow, and barely controlled self loathing in to every glance at the camera, every word from his lips. He was The Doctor, in a way that no-one since, perhaps, Tom Baker had been; and I say that as a hardcore fan of the Sylvester McCoy years.

So perhaps I am, somewhat, unfair to Matt; but I did stop watching his seasons after  the episode “Demons Run.” I simply couldn’t stand watching the show any more.

Now though, with an older actor, a seasoned actor, an absolutely brilliant actor taking over the TARDIS, perhaps we have a chance for Doctor Who to become more of what it used to be. Less of the warrior, more of the horrified whimsy. More desperate escapes, less blowing up entire Cyber-fleets  just to send a message. More running. Much more running.

I want to see a villain tripped in to a bottomless chasm again, using nothing more than a scarf pulled tight across the mouth of a tunnel. (The Hand of Doom)

I want to see the Doctor locked in a desperate game of mental chess again, with whole worlds as the prize. (The Curse of Fenric)

I want to see him have a relationship with his daughter, let her be a companion, and the genesis of a new, better race of TimeLords. (The Doctor’s Daughter)

I truly hope that this time we have a Doctor that can be the flawed hero of the past. Not a mass murderer who can barely live with himself, and is only a hero despite himself. A real hero,

give us a dash of John Pertwee’s eccentricity and dash,

a few ounces of Tom Baker’s fear-filled courage,

a cup of Patrick Troughton’s whimsy,

a smidgen of Colin Bakers weirdness,

a good pinch of Peter Davison’s Englishness,

a random dash of Christopher Eccelston’s anger,

Sylvester McCoy’s scathing humour,

David Tennent’s feeling of endless sorrow,

Matt Smith’s…odd fashion sense,

but most of all William Hartnell’s sense of deep age, otherworldliness and above all, mystery.

Give us the Doctor who can make us frightened of the night, the distant, the old, the new, of the whole universe again. Give us the Doctor who makes us feel unsettled, disquieted, unsure of ourselves. Make us wonder whose side he’s really on. Make us wonder if we should be glad, or sorry that he doesn’t really exist.

But most of all stop making him a FUCKING ADULT SCHOOLBOY! It’s getting old.

03/08/2013

My fears for The Elder Scrolls Online.

Tamriels darkest age is drawing ever closer, daring, dedicated heroes are needed more than ever. But a feeling of disquiet has stolen over this loyal daughter of Skyrim. What if Bethesda’s upcoming MMORPG episode of their wondrous Elder Scrolls Saga turns out to be just another MMO? What if…

* They have decided to make “their” World of Warcraft? Don’t get me wrong here. I love WoW, it’s immense, consuming, and fun. But no Elder Scrolls game has ever been similar to any Warcraft game. They play differently, they look different, they feel utterly different. But every single MMO since WoW has tried to make “their” WoW and failed. Often horrifically. My hope is that this MMO Elder Scrolls will feel more like Skyrim, with extra player characters wandering around.

* I. Stand. Alone! One of my favourite aspects of the Elder Scrolls games is that, of late at least, you can have companions, but you don’t have to. If you want to you can stand completely alone. You, your skills, and the enemy. I love this aspect. Yes, sure once in a while I wish for the ability to share my adventures with my friends; but over all I want, no I need to stand alone.  I hope that Bethesda have kept this aspect of their series in mind while they designed their new game. I may choose to team up with others sometimes; but I want to be able to solo everything as well. (Insert shameful, but much loved earwig)

* That Glorious Music. So, dearest reader, would you like to know how I play most video games? Well what would you think if I told you, in total silence. I generally do not have sound in my games. I find most game soundtrack distracting, and most game sound effects infuriating beyond belief. There are very few exceptions to this, Borderlands 1 & 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim. The sound, and music in the last two Elder Scrolls episodes have been nothing short of glorious. I just hope that in the inevitable rush to get Elder Scrolls Online out to the public that Bethesda  don’t let their perfect track record tumble down.

(Homework: Listen to the entire of the clip below. This is all three opening themes from the last three games. Bethesda if someone is reading this, you listen extra hard sonny-jim.)

* Criminality. It’s so easy to  become a criminal in Oblivion or Skyrim. All you have to do is have a finger slip, and whoops the entire town are out for your criminal blood. That said, it’s even more fun to do it on purpose. To rob every last character in the game blind. To become the death that creeps in the night. Or just the best/worst horse thief to ever walk the land of Tamriel. Elder Scrolls Online will lose something special about it’s predecessors if this is not included in this latest part.

* Dragons, Shouts, Vampirism, Lycanthropy and Dungeons everywhere.  Dragons are just awesome, and awe inspiring when you see them. They’re huge, dangerous, kind of random and deadly; and Bethesda got them exactly right. You can and do run in to dragons randomly, fire/frost breathing mountains of reptile flesh that bears down on you out of frikking nowhere. I hope that they’re much the same in the new Online format.

Shouts made for an interesting addition to the magical segment of Skyrim. And again represent something which would be a true loss if they were removed from the online game. Obviously they should only be available to Nords. And only after that Nord works her ass off finding, and developing the skills needed.

The curses of Vampirism, and Lycanthropy really need to always be a part of any Elder Scrolls game. I know people who immediately start looking for a vampire when they play, just so they can spend the game as one; complete with all the advantages and disadvantages this entails. And with Skyrim, ditto werewolves. They add an immensely entertaining, and enjoyable extra layer of game play to this series. So it would be a shame to see them left out of the Online experience.

And finally dungeons need to be frikking everywhere; and I do mean everywhere. Part of the joy of the last two games in particular has been the fact that you stumble on dungeons left, right and center. Not just a generic dungeon type either; but dungeons of every type imaginable.

Don’t feel like wandering the world? Find a hole in the ground and explore it.

Don’t feel like a hole in the ground experience? Raid a crypt filled with the undead.

Don’t feel like that? How about a day of hunting mammoths/wolves/bears/your fellow humanoids.

The greatest joy of the Elder Scrolls Saga, lately especially, is that you can do anything in this world. You can cook, you can make a home, get married, hunt, make new and better equipment, you can explore for hours, delve in to dungeons that take anything from 5 minutes, to hours to complete. It’s joy is the sheer flexibility of the games, and how that flexibility translates in to fun.

And that leads to my greatest fear.

* This kills off the Elder Scrolls. No matter what, the Online experience will not be precisely what we expect from an Elder Scrolls game. It may be close, or it may be so far away from what we’ve come to expect that it leaves us totally disheartened. I honestly see Elder Scrolls Online as a bold, and potentially dangerous experiment by Bethesda. If it’s successful, if it’s well received, and well loved by long established Scrolls fans, like myself, it will be a blinding success. But if it drifts too far from what we expect from the Elder Scrolls…it could end in absolute disaster.

But regardless of how it ends up, right now, I am holding all judgement until I’ve played it, and I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on the latest installment of my favourite fantasy role playing game series of all time.

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