Saturday, June 30, 2007

Finally another good Vampire Story

Vampires are among the creatures of the night that are most portrait in novels, comics and movies, but to find a descent vampire manga is quite difficult. This week I managed.

That might have something to do with the fact that there aren't vampires the way we see them in Japan. They have blood-drinking and life-sucking ghosts, but that's not the same. Nevertheless, the Western vampire is quite known in Japan these days. There are some good vampire stories in Manga, Kaori Yuki, forever one of my favourite artists, has done quite a few of them. The first "God Child" story featuring Jezebel Disraeli and Delilah, "Kafka", has a strong vampire motif, although the vampire is man-made. There's a short story about genetic vampires in the short story collection "Boy's next door". And then there's "Blood Hound". Apart from that I can only name "Model", "Rebirth" and "Hellsing" as stories mainly dealing with vampires (but "Model" and "Rebirth" technically aren't manga, because they come from Korea).

Since this week I can add another series to that list: "Trinity Blood". I'd completely ignored it before, because the few things I'd read about it weren't very interesting and I didn't see any of the manga until volume 5, because I wasn't going through the manga at the shop at the train station for a while and my favourite book-shop didn't have them.

But this week I stumbled over volume 5 - and then ordered the other 4 over amazon. The story is good, the graphics are, too. And, in addition, the whole scenario (set in a future in which the vampires have taken control of most of the world and only the church is still fighting them) is quite interesting. And two of the main characters just make up for a lot of funny situations ... that's what I like in a manga with a lot of fights.

And with "Fairy Cube" and "Detective Loki - Ragnarok" complete (since this month) and "Ludwig Revolutions" volume 2 coming 'sometimes' in the future, I can afford starting a new series...

I just love vampire stories!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bye-Bye to my firs

Ever since I've moved into my flat, there were two large fir trees in front of my living room window. But now they're gone without a trace, cut down today.

I can understand my landlord had them cut down, they were huge (taller than the three-storey house I live in) and might have cause a lot of damage in a storm. On the other hand they served as a protection for me - and I could watch birds a lot who came to sit there for a moment. I still have a yew in front of my bedroom window which has grown considerably during the almost three years I've been living in my flat. Maybe, if I'm lucky, my landlord plants some more of these - as I can't imagine any 'normal' tree to grow on the grounds where two firs have stood (firs and other trees with needles 'poison' the ground underneath in order to keep all the good things in it to themselves). I'd love to have some yews to replace my lovely firs.

Where are the strong women?

It's a question I ask myself frequently. We've had about 40 years of emancipation and still most heroes are male. What for, honestly?

Admittedly, I can live without a female substitute for Bruce Willis in "Die Hard" (whatever part of it). And there's other action heroes I won't deny them their place either, but where's the women in this business? There are some, but not many. "Dark Angel" was one of them, "Buffy" too, of course. Lara Croft still is (although, looking at Angelina Jolie's current body, I don't really want to see her as Lara Croft in a new movie). But for everyone of them there's five or even ten male heroes.

And most women in the action movies? Either they're strong and evil, but always fall for the hero (how's that - does the male villain fall for a female hero?) or they're in dire need of help. And, sometimes, there's the female specialist who's basically neutral anyway, because her only job is to give the hero information or some gadgets.

Where do women play a leading role? Usually in romance or melodrama. They are in love (unhappily at the beginning, usually) with some good-looking guy and he gets to impress them with something (once he's fallen in love with the heroine, too). Sorry, if I make it sound too easy, but I'm usually too bored by love stories to watch them for a long time. And melodramas aren't much better. They start out horrible and get worse from there. One of those can you make want to cut your wrists on a fine summer day. Yes, I'm not exactly one for those stories either, although I can stand them as long as they're not going all the way (meaning the heroine leaves the hospital after she's been cured from cancer just to be driven over by a truck or something).

What does that tell the audience? Anything that requires strength and/or intelligence also requires a 'true man'. And everything that centers around emotion is the right thing for women. Admittedly, I probably wouldn't like a love story any more if the protagonist was a man. (Well, if there were two men in the story and there was more than just two hours of 'I love you' to it, we can talk about it.) But sometimes I wonder why so many women love those movies. Then, on the other hand, that might have something to do with the title of my blog.

We've spent years fighting for our rights and trying to be treated equally (which hasn't completely happened yet, but we're on our way). But on screen, at least in most movies, the women are mainly portrayed the same way as they were before the whole emancipation started.

As long as the movie-bosses think people don't want to see a strong woman who doesn't get 'punished' in the end, we're not truly equal.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Boo, I'm a ghost

Don't worry, I haven't died and I'm not a spirit walking on earth. I've just played two adventure games that deal with ghosts and demons and so on: "Delaware St. John" volume 1 and 2.

I bought those games in a package, for about 16 Euros - which isn't bad for two games, even though they are quite short. I'll replay them for sure and thus they will pay off. (I've just investigated, in English the two games are called "The Curse of Midnight Manor" and "The Town with No Name".)

And even though the graphics aren't that advanced (the games aren't that new either), the shock effects from ghosts just turning up seemingly at random - and a strange, cat-like creature suddenly attacking which results in a flight to certain places which are "safe" - are quite good.

Most ghosts aren't evil, but souls caught in two places which have become a prison for them. One is an old manor that was transformed into a hotel, the other is a town whose inhabitants disappeared overnight (and at the same time it disappeared from the maps). But actually the 'town' is just the combination of two houses, the local cinema and the local orphanage which were led by the two children of the town's founder. Those two also are responsible for the demon (one of the two cat-like creatures Delaware encounters in the two games, called hunter) that has killed every being in the town. And - as Delaware finds out - who wanted to sacrifice him as a child to bring an even more powerful creature into the world. But two other nuns (Helena, the daughter, was a nun and led the orphanage) exchanged him for another child and sent him away.

After the two games, not everything is clear (there's at least one more, as I have gathered on the website I found when searching for "Delaware St. John"). The real initiator of both incidents isn't found yet (as the siblings are not responsible for what happened in the manor) and why Delaware was chosen (although his ability to see and hear the dead does set him apart from others), isn't completely clear either. The third one has just been released under the title "The Seacliff Tragedy".

At first, the games look a lot like "The 7th Guest" and the many 'interactive movies' that followed it (and such games as "Myth"), but even though the movement through the rooms is the same, the game offers more than just a couple of simple puzzles. There's an inventory that gets filled and there's a lot to do, as well.

Admittedly, there's two situations which made me want to puke. The first happened in the second chapter of the first game (both games have two chapters, the second one can't be played before the first one has been finished) when I had to unlock the elevator of the hotel/manor in order to reach the second floor. The three-digit code necessary for it was coded in a way I just couldn't figure out (and still can't, I looked into the forum to get an answer - the same went for the situation in the second game - and I found an answer there, which means I wasn't the only person who couldn't find out). The second situation happened in the first chapter of the second game (the second chapter was easier there - or at least more fair). In order to open a hidden door that leads beneath the stage of the movie theatre, Delaware has to find a coin and play an arcade game (!). That's a bit far fetched, even for someone who's rather used to that sort of stunt.

Apart from that, the puzzles can be solved with looking around and thinking. And even though it's theoretically possible to 'die' in some situations, the game is fair there - if Delaware dies, because the player isn't doing the right thing, he's transported back to the beginning of the situation and can start anew. Sooner or later (and as there's always tips on how to do it right on screen) everyone can make it.

The whole surrounding is nice (in a very un-nice way, of course), though some of the places look a bit sterile (like the entrance hall in the manor). But once Delaware has reached the first floor of the hotel, it get's a bit more interesting. Actually, the two games remind me a bit of "The White Room", a freeware-adventure set on a derelict space station which also features ghosts and other scary incidents. And with the ghosts suddenly turning up, there's always some suspense.

On the whole the games aren't bad - although I wouldn't pay a full price for them (which, in Germany, is about 30 to 40 Euros per game). But even when I saw them for the first time - the first one, at least - they were sold for less. As far as such games go (and I wouldn't call them 'real' adventures), they are pretty good, a lot better than other games of that type I have played (although "The 7th Guest" was quite scary sometimes). I can still remember "Dragon's Lair" and "Brain Dead 13", two 'interactive movies' of the worst type, and "Delaware St. John" is much better.

Friday, June 22, 2007

News from Far Far Away

I've been to the movies yesterday - a lot sooner than before, this time it has just been about a month since "Pirates of the Caribbean", last time it was a lot longer - and seen "Shrek the Third". (And I'm already planning the next trip to the movies - on the 12th of July when "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" starts. By the way, Lucius Malfoy is to be found twice on the large advertising that's been positioned in the movie theatre of my hometown. Life can be so nice...)

But back to Shrek. I've been a big fan of the other two movies, so I wanted to see this one as early as possible. I haven't been disappointed at all. The movie had everything I expected: a lot of humour, shrewd characters, an interesting story and more allusions to other movies, stories and so on than ever before (including the whole story of King Arthur, who turns out to be the looser Arty at a medieval high-school - and don't ask me about Merlin, I couldn't go on writing, because I'd be on the floor laughing my head off).

My favourite ogre has a big problem (well, three, actually): his father-in-law has just died and so he's to become the new king of Far Far Away. But with his dying breath his father-in-law also spoke of the next in line behind Shrek and Fiona, the only other suitor to the throne: Arthur Pendragon. While Shrek is on a mission to find Arthur, he has to deal with two more problems: becoming a father and having the infamous Prince Charming taking over his kingdom. Charming is easier to deal with, on the whole, because ogres aren't really known for their parenting skills.

Charming has managed to talk the other villains into helping him to conquer Far Far Away. But even though he can hold the kingdom (after all, he's got an army of bandits, pirates, witches and other evil beings behind him), that's not enough for him, he wants to kill Shrek once and for all. And with Fiona and the other fairy tale princesses (apart from Rapunzel) imprisoned, he thinks he's well prepared for the great show in which he will kill Shrek. But the fairy tale princesses aren't as helpless as they might seem - and Fiona's mother can literally push her head through a wall ... or two.

I'm not going to write much more about the story, because otherwise it would be pointless to go and see the movie. And I'd recommend it, even for those of you without children. Shrek isn't just for kids, there are many layers to the story (oops, back to the first movie and "ogres have layers") and a lot of it is only funny for an adult, because kids won't understand it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I see more work coming

After finishing the booklets about JavaScript, I've decided to overhaul my website (again) and change a few things. My stories will, after the changes have been completed, be found at "Geschichtenschmiede" and I will change "Night-Shade" into a website with quizzes and suchlike (that should be easy enough to realize with some JavaScript). I will never finish what I had in mind for "Geschichtenschmiede" and that way I can use both domains.

Of course, that's the plan now, but wait until I've started the whole work...

Oh, and just because I couldn't help it: Here's a Nodwick-cartoon I found highly amusing. (Although it's the currently last comic, I've included the archive-address here, because the current comic changes.)

EDIT: I've changed a few things about my old "Night-Shade" site and transferred the data. The stories are now online at "Geschichtenschmiede" and "Night-Shade" will get changed whenever I get to it (by the way: I've got a new job!)

My special collection

Those books are rather special for me. First of all because they represent a kind of book you don't find too often, so they are special as a rule. But there's a second reason, too: I doubt I can write something like this, although I've tried.

Those six books each contain three books that were originally sold separately. They were all more or less written by the same authors, namely Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The six books on that photo were only sold once, they're not republished at the moment - as far as I know.

They are not meant to be read the normal way, meaning starting with the first page and reading until you've read the last one. Instead they are separated into about 400 small paragraphs, each of which tells a part of the story and at the end of each you can decide what to do next by choosing between two or more different options. For example:

"You have reached a cross-road. A street leads towards the east where you can see a mountain range. Another one leads to the west towards what seems a large city. The street towards the south seems to lead to a large forest full of old trees. Do you want to

go east read 215

go west read 350

continue south read 19"

After deciding on an option, the reader will continue with the paragraph belonging to the number mentioned. This way the whole story unfolds slowly with a lot of moving back and forth in the book. In addition - just like in a role-playing game - there are fights, there are things to be found and used. The books actually are some sort of one-person role-playing game that can be played everywhere: at home, at the beach, in the train or plane etc. I can even remember "Das Schwarze Auge" (a German role-playing system) publishing single-player campaigns working that way (I owned one, as far as I remember) for players to level-up a new character.

Of course, it's easy to cheat in such a game, you can read all possibilities before deciding, you can decide you've gotten all you need for the final fight, even if you haven't. I personally mostly assumed I was winning every fight, because I was more interested in the story than in figuring out the numbers for every fight in the books. And in the final battle it paid quite often to choose the decision with the highest number, because the "happy end" usually came with the last paragraph and number 400. (Although not always, I can remember there was at least one adventure for which this wasn't true.)

Most of the stories were fantasy - after all, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are the founders of the "Game Workshop" and thus among the 'fathers' of role-playing everywhere. Nevertheless there's a few science-fiction inspired stories and at least one horror story. And there's more than one type of fantasy worlds, too (even though some adventures mention places from others).

I got one of the original books, "City of Thieves", when I was about twelve or thirteen, but soon after the books disappeared from the market for quite a while. Later on they resurfaced in a rather shabby paperback-version before being collected in those six large volumes (which together contain all the 18 books published by Jackson and Livingstone).

In a time before computer games became a prominent feature in the world, those books were a good way to play a role-playing game (or at least something of that type) alone. And even today they're a good way to spent some time, because they don't need any hardware (apart from a lamp, provided it's dark outside) to run.

Nevertheless, up until now I've never managed to write such a story myself, it's extremely hard to organize all the paragraphs.

But I'll go on trying!

EDIT: Just found out that the English name for those books is Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. (Link taken from Bitchy Jone's Diary and leading to Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

News from the games front

I've written about the games I got online before, last when I wrote about finally cracking "Ravenhearst". Now it's time for another update.

I've got a few new games by now (making good use of the fact that the Euro is currently quite strong compared to the Dollar). Three of them - the last three - will be the topic of this post.

First of all there's another "Mystery Case File" (I got another one, "Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspect" some time ago and I've cracked it already, but it takes quite long). The first produced game of the series is the last one I bought (actually I bought them in reverse order), "Mystery Case Files: Huntsville". It takes the player to Huntsville in the United States where strange crimes have been happening (see picture above for the starting screen). Just as with the other games, you have to find a number of objects on each screen in order to be allowed to solve every case by clearing a picture of the site of crime (one ingame screen on the left of this paragraph). There's quite some crimes before you can go after the boss of a strange organisation: S.T.A.I.N. By now I'm quite familiar with most objects and know a lot of names for some objects I would never have learned by just reading English texts. Talk about not learning anything from gaming...

I've already finished the game twice, as it takes about two hours to do so and I'm quite well trained to find those objects by now (see picture below this paragraph). In fact I've realized by now that it is quite useful for my own quickness of mind to play such games - they train the brain while at the same time providing some reprieve from writing or working at the computer.

The other two games are arcade-based, meaning they've got less to do with thinking and more with reaction (or rather with quick thinking and reaction). Nevertheless they're both interesting and challenging.

The first game is "Shopmania" and its looks are more cartoon-based. It tells the story of a young man named Lewis and his gerbil Gerry (who's got a terrible cold and needs medicine). Lewis works in a shopping mall, starting in the fashion department and working his way upwards. Now, unlike in a normal shopping mall where you're supposed to give the customers what they want, this shopping mall requires its workers to fill the shopping carts of the customers with as many things as possible.

Each shopping cart has a certain free space, starting with a grid of two on two and building up from there; depending on the money earned and the happiness of the customers, the shopping carts can be upgraded to store more - and earn more money with them, naturally. A shopping cart filled enough will turn from the grey you see on the screen beside this paragraph to yellow and a green button with a Dollar-sign will be activated. Then the customer can be send off to the cashier. But Lewis earns more money by filling the carts completely (twice the worth of the contents) and filling them completely with goods in the same colour (three times the worth of the contents). And especially in the higher levels with their high quotas (the minimum of money Lewis has to make during his shift), it's very necessary to learn all those tricks and fill the carts as efficiently as possible. Of course the objects on the belt (in some levels the belts) aren't all shaped easily, some of them are (one on something objects aren't too hard to pack), but most of them are not. And it really is an art to pack them into the cart without leaving hard-to-close gaps.

The fact that the customers are different in type doesn't make the job easier - some will wait quite long, others are quite impatient. And they all make requests you can (but don't have to) meet. Some want a certain colour, others a certain object. To keep them happy (or optimize their carts), Lewis has a couple of tools at his disposal, like sweets (makes customers happy to wait a bit longer) or wrapping paper (turns objects into gifts that count as any desired colour). But the most useful tool for Lewis is Gerry who can be stored in a shopping cart (he turns up on the belt later on again) and will count as any desired colour, too (and in addition can be an object of three different sizes). That's necessary, because a customer who grows too impatient will leave without buying anything - which counts as a mistake for Lewis. An object that falls off the belt and is destroyed by the shredder also counts as a mistake and after three of them, the level is considered 'failed' (just as serving all customers without meeting the quota of the level). Luckily, there's no real 'Game Over' in this game, you just have to retry until you manage to get everything right.

There's two different varieties of the game, too. One is the story mode, in which the gamer follows Lewis' career from the lowest level (fashion) throughout the shopping mall (past toys, household items and garden stuff) to the highest level (luxury goods). Once a level (which contains a certain number of different sub-levels) is unlocked in the career-mode, it can also be played in 'Overtime' mode, in which Lewis has a certain quota and a certain time to serve the customers and can buy additional stuff with the money above his quota. The 'Overtime' mode runs until Lewis fails to meet the quota or makes three mistakes in one level.

The third new game is "Mystic Inn" and it surely has the best graphics I've seen so far. It tells the story of Daphne who wanders into a strange inn one day and finds out she's unable to leave it, because it's cursed. So she goes on working there and serves various portions to her customers (who are all wizards and witches, but seem unable to help her with her problem). The magic she earns is used by the inn to rebuild itself, adding more tables or even changing the station which produces the potions.

Level for level the game gets more difficult - and more interesting, too. The basic principle stays the same: customers arrive and have to be seated (the first difficulty, because they can only be seated at appropriate tables - there's no way to split up a large group, even though smaller groups can be seated at a larger table), after a short time they'll start ordering and want their potions as fast as possible. They pay for the potions in magic and leave a tip, provided they've been satisfied. In addition later on an owl turns up to take orders away and a little dragon appears which steals the potions from the bar where they whiz past until they're picked up by Daphne. As long as there's only one or two groups to serve, it's quite easy, but the more of them you get, and the more impatient once are in, the more difficult it gets. There's a quota you have to meet in every level in order to advance.

The process is always the same, though, but it gets tougher every level. Seat customers, walk to their table to take orders (that's what you see on the picture beside the paragraph; two from two different tables can be taken at the same time), order the potions from the bar with the icons you can see in the lower right of the screen, pick up the potions at the bar, take them to the table and repeat the process with every group and every table until they leave, upon which you have to collect the tip before the table can be used for the next group of customers. Ever level runs from morning to evening while the inn is open for customers (but you finish serving the customers after the inn is closed, of course). It gives the gamer a good insight in the work of a waitress, actually.

All three games are quite interesting and worth their money, I'll get weeks (and, in combination with the other games I got that way, even months) of fun and reprieve from them.

"Killerspiele" Update (The "Why the EU can't define Killerspiele" Edition)

The European Union wanted to present a unified front against the producers of the so called "Killerspiele" - and they couldn't do it. And that's a good sign, because in the end it means there is no such thing as a "Killerspiel".

The members of the EU tried to define what a "Killerspiel" is, but they couldn't find the characteristic of such a game. That's not much of a surprise to me, because even in Germany we have not been able to define the "Killerspiel", as much as the conservative politicians tried.

What surprises me far more than this is the fact that they still pull out the topic whenever they need something to talk about that does not have anything to do with our real problems in Germany. I think, it's basically because they still think it's only a teenage phenomenon and thus their voters (although not their future voters) think the same way about it than they do.

And it's usually the older politicians who are very set about the whole topic - in other words: It's those politicians who have already fought against violent movies in the past and see this new topic as pretty much the same. The younger ones don't talk a lot about it - even though 'younger' in German politics doesn't mean 'young' the way everybody else would define it. A 'younger' politician in Germany is someone younger than 60. (And that's only a very little bit sarcastic.)

There are even some fair reports in the media by now (there's a good heise-article I can only recommend, although it's in German). Not many of them and not where the majority of those who don't know much about games can find them (most of those articles are online), but it's a good sign.

Nevertheless, the great discussion seems to be over (and unemployed people make a much better subject for the various TV-programs anyway) and until the next person runs amok in Germany, there's probably not going to be a lot of talking about.

For one thing a council deciding on art in Germany has proclaimed that computer games - no matter of which kind - are art as well, thus forbidding them would be censorship, something politicians in Germany don't like doing (too many unwanted parallels to the past).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Whatever world politicians inhabit

... it surely isn't the same world you and I live in, that much is for sure.

I was reminded of this when I watched another of those numerous political discussions on TV. The politicians participating in it obviously had no idea how life is for the average person on the streets these days.

For example they always state that we need to work much longer throughout our life, starting earlier and working a couple of years longer than at the moment, too. The whole idea does have merit, I have to admit it. If, and really just if, there were enough work for everyone, we should all at least work longer in our lives, because today we get a lot older than in the past. The problem, as you might have guessed already, is that currently we're missing about 4,000,000 jobs, so what I'd like to know from the politicians is how we are going to be able to work those five or ten or fifteen years longer.

Another example is pensions. In Germany we have - as I've already pointed out in past posts - a pension from the state that is financed by the working population paying and the older generation getting the money. On the whole that principle works - or rather, it would work if everyone could currently work -, but calculations by the European Union show that even if it works out and even if by miracle we manage to work longer without having months or even years of unemployment in between, the future will only bring each of us about 39% of our last income before we switch to pensions. The argument of a politician against that problem: The calculation does not take company pension plans into account.

Pardon me, but which company pension plan? In my case it's highly unlikely that I will ever get such a company pension plan, even though, in the future, I will not work as a telemarketer forever (but become a web-master in about a year). Small- and middle-sized companies can't afford such pension plans any longer - and even if they did, people do not spent a long time at one workplace any longer. Low-paying jobs like telemarketer, cleaner or waiter don't have pension plans as a rule, so especially those who don't earn much anyway will be left with next to no money after a long, hard life of work. When did those politicians last check over the reality in German companies? Surely not after the late 70ies or early 80ies.

And then one argument against minimal wage (another thing politicians argue a lot about at the moment): all the call-centers could go to India! Oh, please, yes, make them all go to India! Fact is, those call-centers working for a special company, only doing stuff for that company, surely won't go to India - and we'd all be better off without those call-centers who exploit their workforce and cheat their customers. Yes, let them leave for India immediately - it will at least give some people a short-time job, helping them pack.

I know we Germans have a very special problem that stunts the development of our economy. We don't like to serve - which is bad, given the fact that most new jobs will be created in the service-sector. This probably also is the reason why jobs in service usually aren't paid well, too - together with the fact that most jobs in service are done by women.

Apart from that I really doubt we'll have enough work for everyone soon (meaning sometime in the next 35 years while I might still be working). And that's a problem, because Germans tend to define them over their work (as I've already posted before).

Massive unemployment and the problem this brings for our pensions is something the politicians should lean to deal with, instead of denying it does exist.

Would you have recognized him?

Picture taken from "The Raven", AIP 1963

Believe it or not: this handsome, charming young man is ... Jack Nicholson.

It's actually, if the text on the back of my DVD-package isn't wrong, his very first movie role as the son of the rather untalented mage Dr. Bedlo in the AIP-movie "The Raven" - very freely after Edgar Allan Poe's epic poem. (And, for the female audience: He really looked good in those tights then.)

The movie is quite a good mixture between horror and comedy, featuring the three greatest horror actors of their time: Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Dr. Craven (Vincent Price) leads a rather withdrawn life with his daughter Estelle (Olive Sturgess), bemoaning the death of his second wife Lenore (Hazel Court). One night a raven arrives at his house who turns out to be a fellow magician, turned into an animal by another mage. Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre) is changed back into human form (thought that takes some time) and coaxes Dr. Craven into coming with him to that mage, Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff), by telling him that he has seen Lenore there.

On the way to the castle of the evil Scarabus, they meet Bedlo's son Rexford (Jack Nicholson) who accompanies them. Of course Lenore is still alive - and has decided to leave her husband for the supposedly more powerful Dr. Scarabus - and of course there's finally a duel between Scarabus and Craven, but it's a good one with a lot of humour in it.

I'd still recommend the movie, if you happen to find it somewhere, as a nice way to pass an evening at home. Even though Price, Karloff and Lorre are more at home in a horror movie normally, they play their parts in this comedy very well. And even though the effects are nothing to write home about today (the movie is from 1963, again, if the text on the back of the package is correct), the whole story is quite funny with a few little shock effects and some action mixed in.

EDIT: after watching the theatrical trailer on my DVD, it seems as if AIP really advertised this movie as a horror movie - which it surely isn't today. But nevertheless, it's funny to watch and surely not worse than a lot of the stuff produced this day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'll become a little more aggressive now

Now, if you just know me from this blog - and most of you will only know me from this blog - I probably appear quite straight-forward to you. But in my everyday life, things are a bit different - and that's going to change.

This whole week was a very fine example of why the more feminine approach to life - and work life - isn't the most successful one and - especially due to the fact that I'll start doing a 'man's job' in a year or so (when I'm finished with my webmaster course) - I'm not going to settle for second place any longer.

During work I've usually been a rather soft-speaking and polite person, towards colleagues and superiors as well as towards customers (as I have pointed out already, I'm working as a telemarketer). After half a day's trial yesterday, I have learned that in some areas of telemarketing (and that's a job I'd rather have) being a straight-forward and decisive person who's ready to tell other's what they should be doing is needed. In addition Monday showed me that with decisiveness and a bit of aggressive behaviour I can get along better. I said I wouldn't take this job under those circumstances and I didn't even stay to have a look at it. Their problem is not my problem and too few workers are their problem and not mine.

Of course, I will not become rude and abusive, as I consider politeness a virtue for everyone, not just for a woman, but I won't hold back any longer. I can do a lot of stuff and I would be an asset to every company I chose to work for. That's how men communicate things and that's how I am going to do it from now on as well. If men can get jobs by metaphorically standing up and beating their chest like a gorilla, then I can do that, too. After all, I've got more of a chest than the average man (cup D, currently)...

I'm fed up with trying to be feminine, anyway. I've never really seen the point in it (even as a child, as I already pointed out) and I don't really see where it would be helpful. I don't want to be a man (even though, during "that certain time of the month" it would be handy), I just want to be myself ... and that's definitely not trying to be a nice, little woman. In our world chivalry is dead - at least mostly -, so a woman has to look out for herself. And we can easily look for ourselves, so why should we act like we couldn't?

Women are as intelligent as men, today more girls than boys went to higher school types in my home country and more young women than men go to university. And at the same time we should act like we're not able to speak for ourselves? No way, José!

So from now on I'm really going to advertise myself. If I don't tell other people what I can do, who will?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Scary Stories

So, now, after a few stories inspired more or less by current events, I return to a post I've meant to write for quite some time. It doesn't contain anything about torture (well, some day I'll get over this) or my regular crusades. It's about a couple of novels by Paul Doherty. I've read only a few of his novels and all of them were horror stories: "The Plague Lord", "The Soul Slayer", "The Rose Demon" and "The Haunting". But I'll only write about two of them, "The Plague Lord" and "The Haunting".

All of the mentioned novels are set in historical environments. "The Plague Lord" is set in ancient China (during the rule of Kublai Khan) and features Marco Polo as a main character. "The Rose Demon" is set during the time of the crusades and "The Soul Slayer" during the rule of Elisabeth I. "The Haunting" finally is set roughly in the Victorian period. But the historical periods aren't the reason why I like those two novels better than the other two. It's the stories they tell.

"The Plague Lord" features Marco Polo living in China. There are quite some historians who these days doubt he ever reached this empire, but then, that's not important for a novel, because it's not a scientific book anyway. Incidentally another thing the book implies is today considered a possibility: That the plague started somewhere in China and came to Europe via Venice. As Venice then was one of the most important harbours for everything coming from the Far East (via the dessert on caravans to Asia Minor and from there with ships to Venice, then the harbour doing most business with Asian countries), if the plague has come from Asia, it came landed in Venice.

But the "Plague Lord" featured in the story is not a virus. It is an entity that existed before, trapped in a tomb somewhere in the middle of China, acting (just as in real history) through a new kind of rat, a black rat, not a grey one - a plague rat. During the story it is freed, it comes to the forbidden city, to one of the largest capitals of the world, and only a handful of people can stop it (as is usual in horror stories). Of course, as always, there's also human agents, people who freely help this entity. "The Plague Lord" - pretty much like the other demons in Doherty's stories, jumps

from body to body, using human and animal minds to reach its goal.

And just killing all its human helpers doesn't completely stop it ... the end contains a hint that the rats have made it to Venice (as we, the modern readers, know - the plague has, after all, come to Europe in the Middle Ages).

Doherty, and that's obvious in all the stories by him I've read, is extremely good at picturing the historical period his stories are set in. So, while reading an interesting and sometimes quite scary novel, people actually learn something about history.

The work of the human agents - which also brings Marco Polo as a trusted acquaintance of Kublai Khan in - starts with killing those responsible for taking away the junk and cleaning the streets. Clean streets mean less rats and less rats mean less chances of the plague spreading among the humans. As China at that time had a more efficient waste disposal system than Europe, it was necessary to sabotage it for the "Plague Lord" to rule again. Marco Polo is ordered to find out who killed those men and why and this makes him cross paths with the "Plague Lord's" helpers - and after a while with the "Plague Lord" himself. There's scary parts in it, ghosts coming back to haunt Marco Polo and his household are the scene I can recall most easily, even after more than one year since the last read.

There's ages in history between "The Plague Lord" and the second novel I want to write about, "The Haunting". As the name suggests, the novel is about a haunted mansion somewhere in Victorian England. Main character (at least among the living) is a rather shy and withdrawn Catholic priest whose biggest talent is exorcism. The story starts off with him banning a ghost in a flat somewhere in central London. But central London is not a haunted mansion somewhere in the country.

His adversary is the first lady of the mansion, a dangerous and deeply evil woman who does not want to move on, who has anchored herself deeply in that mansion (in which she was murdered by her stepdaughter after a true reign of horror) and taken over the minds of various other ladies of the mansion (and is attempting it again).

Slowly the young priest and his sister unravel the story, finding clues end even, finally, the remains of the woman - necessary to drive her from the mansion completely. But the lady fights back, bringing up the ghosts we all have in our past, creating horrible nightmares and nightly haunting (thus the title).

In the end, the lady is banished for the moment, but - just as the ghost he drove out of that flat in London - she might come back some day. Some evil, that seems to be the basic line of the story, cannot be eradicated.

Again Doherty writes a masterful story in this book. He depicts the period, the people and the place - which this time is a lot closer to us than ancient China - in a very vivid way that makes it easy to imagine them. And as you can see the huge mansion with its long stone halls and large rooms in your mind, it's easy to imagine the "haunting" part with words being written in blood, a man falling down the stairs to the crypt, another man being hung in a large tree by his own scarf and so on.

Both novels - and the others as well - are very well written and can surely cool you down on a hot summer day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Advices on certain offers...

In those almost 33 years on our nice planet, I've learned a few things. One of them is to be careful with certain offers.

The first kind of offers to be careful about is the one where you have to decide on the spot. That's okay when it comes to deciding whether you want to eat vanilla- or chocolate-flavoured ice-cream - the worst thing that might happen then is that you realize halfway through your cone that the other sort would have been better. But when it comes to buy something worth more than a couple of Euros or when you're deciding whether or not to take a job offer (and yes, it's still an offer, no matter how much the employers these days act like they're doing you a favour by inviting you to a job interview), you should be able to sleep over it and think about it in peace. If someone wants a decision immediately, from my experience, the only right answer is "No".

The second kind of offers to be careful about is the one where the vendor is talking fast and not really answering your questions. Now, you don't know me in person and so you can't know I talk pretty fast myself. And if I think someone's talking fast, they're talking damn fast. You see, from my experience, people only talk very fast and don't answer your questions when they want to make sure you don't understand all of it.

Why am I writing this today? Because I had a job interview this morning and it was abysmal (and that's seeing it positively, something I don't do as a rule, normally). First of all I had the interview set at 8:30 - and the woman doing the interview was late. But that's not a problem for me, something like that can happen even in the best possible companies. Then it turned out that something had not been communicated right. I have been invited to this interview via a temporal employment agency (about which I've already written my share) and the woman there told me to expect it to last for a couple of hours, but what she didn’t tell me was that it a) would last the whole day as I was expected to go through a trial day of work today and that it b) would mean deciding this afternoon at five whether to take the job or not. In addition, she didn't answer any questions about that job beforehand, telling me I'll be "seeing about that in a few minutes anyway". Sorry, but I ask questions to get information when I think I need it. What's wrong with giving me a short summary of the job? I have another interview tomorrow and I don't hurry to say "Yes" to one offer before I have heard the second one. So I have done as I have advised above and said "No" immediately, not even staying for a day. What's the point in a trial day when you know you'll decline the offer anyway?

She was a fast-talker, she didn't answer my questions at all and she wanted to press for a decision. That's three good reasons to say ""Sod off," and if I ever meet you again, it'll be twenty billion years too soon" - though, of course, I declined the offer more politely. (And that, by the way, was quoted from the "Black Adder" episode "Sense and Senility")

Now, what I could gather about this company (which I had been to before, but they didn't really leave a good impression then either) is that they have a new project running and need new personnel immediately. If I were leading a company in this business (and let's all have a good laugh about that thought ... go on, I know you're not finished yet ... okay, that's enough), I would make sure to go through the interviews with possible employees beforehand. I would invite them in, talk to them, tell them that there might be a job open at a certain date and I would call them back then and wait calmly for the company I deal with to make its decision. That way I wouldn't land in that company's trouble: Having a new project and not enough people to deal with it.

After all, a new project doesn't come out of the blue, it takes time until you get it. First you have to find a possible new project, then you have to decide whether it fit's with your ethics (let's all laugh a bit about call-centers and ethics ... that should be enough), make your offer and wait for them to decide. Surely that takes longer than just a few hours (although possibly not that part about ethics, that should be done in a couple of seconds at the outmost).

I'm no genius when it comes to economics, but even I know that one should always be prepared.

Anyway, keep those advices about offers in mind, they might help you to avoid a lot of trouble. And always listen to your gut instincts (of feminine intuition or whatever you personally call it). It's your subconscious speaking and subconsciously you always gather more information to work with than with your mind alone.

Relationships I don't want

A lot of people would say that I shouldn't say anything about relationships, as I don't have one at the moment and didn't have any really long ones in the past. That might have to do something with the fact that I'm a loner ... or maybe I've just not met the right one for me.

On the whole I can't say anything bad about my friend Heike's boyfriend Franz. I haven't met him very often (just once, actually), but he seemed an okay guy to me. But what I really don't like about their relationship is how much my friend depends on her boyfriend.

I know that relationship means 'two people', not just one. And where there's more than one person, compromises have to be reached and sometimes one person has to take the lead. But, even though I personally don't have a long-time relationship, I've had years to study one that's held over forty years now: my own parents' relationship. Now, to a certain extend my parents are both quite headstrong, but they've learned to make compromises and work together.

Heike's relationship with her boyfriend is quite different. She leaves almost all the important decisions to him. For example: I know that she likes to surf the internet, but her friend thought that she would do it too often if they had a connection at home, so they didn't get one (even though, with today's flat-rates, that wouldn't have been too expensive). Or right now: They do have internet now, even broadband, and they got themselves a new computer for it (as I've already written in another post some time ago), but, because her boyfriend thinks it's handy for work, he has hogged it completely. It's not the fact alone that he wants his own computer for work, but he can, in fact, write such a computer off on taxes - and could, provided his boss is okay with it, even get one from work. This way, Heike again has to go to an internet café or so in order to get online, even if it's just to check her emails. And with her shitty job, she doesn't really have the time for that.

I wouldn't allow someone else to rule my life like that, neither would any of my parents. But Heike seems to thrive on it, during her short marriage as well as in her current relationship. I don't know whether it's because she has seen this in her own parents' relationship (but given the fact that her father's a soldier, it's possible) or whether she thinks it's the only way to keep a boyfriend. As my parents are a good example for the fact that it doesn't have to be this way at all, I simply can't understand a woman submitting herself to someone else like that. I wouldn't do that, even if it were for the man of my dreams. Too proud? Maybe. But I'm rather my own person and alone than in a relationship and just someone else's puppet.

And she always tries to fix me up with someone... She probably thinks I need someone. She probably even thinks I would be more happy in a relationship like hers. But I wouldn't and I have stopped trying to talk to her about it. She wants it that way and nothing I could ever say will make her change her mind.

As I'm saying, I don't think her boyfriend is a tyrant, but he probably just assumes the role because she lets him and he's almost ten years older than she is. And I don't think the age-difference is the main reason.

I, personally, don't want a relationship in which I have to submit, I'll rather stay alone than spent the rest of my life submitting to someone just because he happens to be the 'man' in the relationship.

Unfortunate Events

First of all I thought that "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is a rather strange title for a series of children's books. But on the other hand, it's quite fitting.

I've bought the whole series of 13 books on amazon in a very nice box (it's part of my "luckily the state gave me my money back" action). I'm halfway through, too (volume 7, "The Vile Village"), but had to put a few other books in while reading. (I'm also still in the middle of "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman.)

And yes, just in case you wonder: I also read children's books when I think they're interesting. And especially for a writer analyzing the work of others on stories and characters, looking at children's novels (which usually are a bit less complicated) is quite educating.

What I personally like about the series is both the style of the author (I like his many 'definitions' of words in the text) and the fact that there's no "everything will turn out well and they'll live happily ever after" message in the text. Given the fact that most books for children end happily, that's a nice difference. And to a certain degree - if your definition of the word "happy ending" is "the main characters survive" - the stories do indeed end happily.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Diablo 3

This post isn't really about "Diablo 3", which has, by now, become some kind of running gag among gamers worldwide. Just like the latest part of the "Duke Nukem" series, "Diablo 3" has been 'in production' for years - and by now nobody knows when and if the game is coming out. This post is about a game dubbed by some 'the new Diablo 3', because it promises to be pretty much what fans of the former two parts of "Diablo" are waiting for: action-packed role-playing gaming. The name of this game is "Hellgate: London".

As the name already suggests, the main enemies in the game are undead creatures and demons. And, unlike many other role-playing games released for PC and consoles, "Hellgate: London" is set in modern times, so the player can choose from a large variety both of modern and ancient weapons.

One short look at the ingame-scenes of the latest trailer I downloaded shows that "Hellgate: London" looks a lot like a modernized version of "Diablo". It has the same two bubbles set on the lower end of the screen "Diablo" has - even using the same colours for health (red) and mana (blue). Between them are the fields for quick-use items like weapons or health-packs. And, of course, the new game is completely in 3D - not much of a surprise either, the 2D-levels of "Diablo 2" were even outdated when the game came out. "Hellgate" looks pretty good, that much can be said.

And in that new trailer I've even seen a female close-combat warrior! That's an unusual thing in role-playing games which define class by using various main characters (as "Diablo" has from the very beginning, making the player choose between the muscle-packed male barbarian, the thinner, but also male mage and the female Amazon as a fighter with ranged weapons). The trailer shows both a female fighter that is obviously the modern equivalent of a mage and a female fighter with two katana going for close-quarter fights with the undead hordes. And, of course, there's the loads of male fighters from huge, armour-encased tanks (which is game-speak for close-quarter fighters that can take a lot of damage and thus pull the attacks on them so the ranged fighters like mages can attack the enemies without being taken down - which can happen quickly with a mage) right to the male equivalent to a make and the agile assassin (in the add-on of "Diablo 2" a female character, actually).

The trailer looks as if the game will have a very fast game-play, which is good. It also shows great graphics, which won't hurt either. But only time will tell if it can gain that many fans about the non-hardcore role-player, just as "Diablo" and its sequel did. Good graphics aren't everything, even to gamers.

Mr. Sherlock Holmes

As I already announced before, this is a post about "Sherlock Holmes", or rather about a series of movies featuring Mr. Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Nigel Bruce (I might have given a wrong name in one of my last announcements, but currently I'm too lazy to check) as Dr. Watson. Here it is.

The movies I'm referring to are in black and white, naturally, as they were filmed in the late 1930s and early 1940s by Universal. At that time movies in colour were still some years away (though I've not researched how many exactly. They are released in Germany at the moment in four DVD-boxes (three are currently out, I got No. 3 this Saturday) and that means they're digitally remastered and - in this case - also complete. They were first released in Germany - for the movie theatres - in the 1950s and had been cut (although today it's hard to say why ... but then, that's usually the cause with censorship after a few decades). The DVD-boxes contain the complete movies, fitting in the cut scenes with the original English voices (and, of course, the English version is on the DVDs as well).

Technically speaking the movies aren't great these days, but then, that's to be expected. During the time the movies were produced, it was normal to do no - or almost no - outside production. Instead of taking the actors and all the other stuff (automobiles, coaches etc.) to some place in the countryside, the countryside was filmed and then replayed in the studios with the actors in front of it ... and so on.

But technical means is one thing, a good movie is another one. A new, technically up-to-date movie can be boring and uninspired and an old movie (or one made by amateurs) can be interesting and great to watch. And, as a lot of time has passed, the real bad movies from that period are mostly forgotten, so the modern viewers don't have to deal with them.

The movies are loosely - in some cases extremely loosely - based on the original stories and novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There isn't one story which is true to the original from Doyle, but on the whole that's not too bad, either. Some of them (only a few) have nothing to do with Doyle at all and were produced in the early 1940s to serve - at least to a certain degree - as anti-Nazi propaganda. From my modern point of view that's not a problem, but it's one explanation for some of the cuts in the German version. (And, in fact, there's two German versions of most movies, because at that time there were two German states, after all.)

When I first saw those movies I was still a child (and I didn't see all of them) and - as those were the first - and in some cases only versions of the stories I saw - they are still in my head and I'm reminded of them every time I watch one of the innumerable versions of "The Hound of the Baskerville" (which is one of the most filmed stories ever since the beginning of the art of movie-making).

So even today, after all those years, I really like those stories and am fascinated by them. It doesn't matter to me how old they are.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Post 200

Yes, I've not grown sick of it up to now. This is post 200 of my blog and therefore it's a special one, not dedicated to any of my usual topics.

(And yes, Callum, if you're still reading my blog, although I'm just a "dumb cunt", I'll also continue with femdomish posts - including submission and torture. And believe me, I know more about it than you, I've been researching actual torture from the beginnings right up to modern day from my teenage years onwards, so why don't you just add "sick pervert of a cunt" to your vocabulary? I'm sure it fits perfectly with the rest. I didn't get my history major for nothing.)

But back to more happy prospects: There's a post about those "Sherlock Holmes" movies comic up (which will not include any comments on torture or Callum) I promised in the post about "Cat's Eye", I'd also like to write something about "Hellgate: London" because today I downloaded a very cool movie with actual in-game action today and was floored by it. Then there's a post about "A Series of Unfortunate Events" I'm going to write. And of course, as soon as something happens, my crusades about "Killerspiele" and "Size 0" will come up again. I'm currently regrouping, I've not given up.

If I've not grown sick of it by then, I'll do "Post 250" in near future as well.

You've been warned...

Now I know I'm doing it right

While finally going through my comments today (and yes, I'm ashamed, but I presumed that I'd get a notice when there was any comment posted as I remembered something like that in my blog settings), I stumbled over someone who obviously didn't like my post about heroes and decided that a "dumb cunt" like me deserved a flame for it.

Now, I can understand that people don't like my views and it would be a boring world if we all shared the same, but I absolutely dislike people who can't comment on something in a mature way. (And insulting someone and just writing "it's shit" isn't a mature way for me. You didn't like it? Give me your views and do it in a normal way without insults and I listen. Just insult me and I ignore you - or I might show you one day that torture is indeed cool, provided I'm the one doing it and you're the tortured person.) Anyway, flaming isn't exactly new to me and I ignore it on principles (even though I answered that comment, telling the person to read other blogs and to realize that "dumb cunt" isn't the right word to address a woman).

But on the other hand, this comment and the other two I got showed me that at least someone is reading my stuff (and that I must have hit a nerve with the "Heroes" post - just in case you didn't notice: I was referring to a) fictional characters and b) situations in which the tortured person actually likes being tortured due to being a masochist).

Oh, and by the way: "Teria" was just something I came up with while working with "Terra", a name sometimes used for Earth. It's nothing special, but I like the sound of it.

Cat's Eye

There are only a few old anime series - or series of any kind - I can still recommend today. There are some movies (and I'll soon add a post about the old "Sherlock Holmes" movies produced by Universal in the late 1930s and early 1940s) I might recommend, some books I'll always love, but not many series, and especially not many anime series. "Cat's Eye" is one of them.

"Cat's Eye" is a story of three young women, sisters, of a trio of very talented art thieves (the same three sisters) and three members of the police force who try to catch those thieves. In 73 episodes the three women steal back their father's artworks, because they contain the last message he could give to them, a secret they really need to know. In 73 episodes three detectives from the Japanese police (one of them enamoured with the middle sister and one - the only female - suspecting the three sisters from the beginning) try to catch "Cat's Eye", as the mysterious thieves call themselves on the visiting card with which they announce each theft.

I first watched the series in French TV, some years before it was first shown in Germany. I couldn't understand much of the story then - my French has always been quite basic, enough to get through the day as a tourist in France, but not enough to understand everything on TV (or write a blog in French) -, but I got the basics.

For an animated series (and at that time, anime wasn't main stream, not even in France) it was quite action filled. The three sisters all had their jobs to do: The oldest, Nami, usually did the reconnaissance, dressing up as an elegant woman that would not be suspected when looking at an art collection. The middle sister, Hitomi, did most of the thefts (normally helped by her older sister when two people were needed). And the youngest sister, sixteen-year-old Ai, created the technical gadgets the sisters needed for some thefts (like backpacks that unfolded into gliders). There is quite some action as well, the three sisters are very agile and use that in order to commit their thefts. There's a lot of climbing, running, jumping and then there's all the gadgets.

The graphics are not too unusual for animated series of that time and often remind me a bit of "Lupin III" (and there's another thief as a hero of an anime series). Unlike what most people expect when they hear 'anime', the female characters aren't cute and child-like (the way most people expect girls in an anime to look), but have normal proportions. The same goes for the surrounding as a such - it looks quite realistic, too. There's no unrealistic hair-colours either (like pink or light blue), most characters (except for those from Europe or America) are either black- or brown-haired (as is to be expected in Japan). The picture I have included shows all three sisters Nami, Hitomi and Ai from left to right in their attire as "Cat's Eye".

The German translation isn't bad on the whole (even though, except for all other characters who still bear their original names, the youngest sister has been renamed and is called "Love" - which is a correct translation of the Japanese word "Ai", but a stupid name for a person in a TV series) and I don't mind the Japanese original isn't on the DVDs Anime Video has started to release this March.

"Cat's Eye" is still a series I can only recommend, especially since the topic (it's a crime story with elements of love story and adventure) isn't exactly 'for kids only'.

Happy Anniversary

Ten years is a long time - and it's even longer in the computer games business than it's in everyday life. Lara Croft has survived in this business for a little over ten years (as the original "Tomb Raider" came out late in 1996, not in 1997). That's a long time for every game character - and it's even longer for the first woman in the action adventure genre (which, accidentally, also brought the first mass interest to the genre).

But back to the beginning. When "Tomb Raider" came out in 1996, it was a large success and gave birth (more or less) to a new genre: the action adventure. "Tomb Raider" was not the first game of that type (there's, for example, "Deathtrap Dungeon", a game based on a special role-playing-book-type created by Ian Livingstone - who, these days, by pure coincidence, is a vice president of Eidos, the games company owning the "Tomb Raider" licence). But "Tomb Raider" was the first highly successful game of that type featuring a female main character (actually, one of the first games of any type featuring a female main character). Admittedly, most of the gamers were men, but men playing computer games quite often find it quite difficult to get into contact with attractive women - and here was their chance to actually control a good-looking woman.

Lara then did not look very realistic. She was extremely well developed (and would have had trouble walking straight, leave alone climb and jump like she did), but she was also very tough - and still is. For a woman with her curves (which then were a little sharp-edged because the high number of polygons necessary to create a round shape could not be processed by a computer in normal game-play at that time) she wasn't stereotypic at all. From the very start of the game (the intro sequence) the players saw Lara fight. She shot a couple of wolves (the scene is semi-automated in the new game) and climbed around in the icy heights of the Andes (dressed in shorts and a top ... but at least with boots).

And all through the game Lara stayed true to her character. She never, ever was the damsel in distress and got out of troubles by using her mind, her athletic skills and her trusted twin pistols.

I learned from the bonus-disc of the new game that the name "Lara Croft" actually came from the London telephone book. There's a "Lara Croft" listed there (or at least was in 1996) and her name was chosen for the heroine (which in the first drafts had been a man, but then she would always have been compared to "Indiana Jones" - who has, by now, become an action adventure hero as well).

Not everybody liked the idea of a woman looking and acting like Lara - and quite some of them were women. Especially after the advertising campaign of "Tomb Raider II" and "Tomb Raider III" - which worked a lot with the 'feminine' image of Lara - a lot of women just saw her as some digital play toy or even "a man with balloons shoved up his shirt". I don't really like that ridiculous description, it's pretty much like saying a man who's showing feminine traits is "a woman with a banana shoved down her pants". (Both descriptions don't come from me, the first is from an American feminist and the second is from the creator of Lara Croft.)

The series sold well right up to "Tomb Raider IV - The last Revelation", but went downhill from there. "Tomb Raider Chronicles" - the first game without a number and a sub-title since the first - didn't sell too well. As the game designers had 'killed' Lara in the end of "The last Revelation", the next game portrayed four adventures which had happened in her past, splitting up the game into four different stories told by her friends after she had been presumed dead - even though her old mentor still searched for her in the Egyptian tomb that had become her grave as well.

The game designers decided to try something new. The newly 'reborn' Lara (who was rescued from the tomb at the end of "Chronicles") wasn't sent out to find another strange artefact, just as before, she was thrown in the middle of a hunt for a killer. In "Tomb Raider - Angel of Darkness", Lara became the prime suspect in the murder of her mentor (who'd been rescuing her from the tomb). She was on the run and at the same time trying to find the real murderer (stumbling over some supernatural things even then). But the graphics weren't good, the handling and the controls were even worse and the whole game could have easily been the swan song for the series. The new idea didn't work out.

Time passed until the creators realized that they needed to go back to the roots, to sending Lara out to find a mystic artefact. In "Tomb Raider Legends" Lara went back to doing what she did best: find an artefact.

But the team had been doing a lot of remodelling. Lara looked more realistic, her body now showed muscles at the right places (and looked well-rounded, but with modern graphics cards that's not difficult). The controls have been changed and are quite intuitive, especially long chains of movements up the wall (climbing and jumping between small ledges), swinging on poles and using her new grappling hook to swing over chasms or run along walls. Everything can be done quite well now and one major problem of the first games, Lara only grabbing an edge when the player manages to press the right key at the right time, can be turned off if the player wants to (which doesn't make the game too easy, but takes away quite some of the frustration of having pressed a key a split-second too late). Within minutes the player can manage even the most difficult moves Lara makes - and at the same time the level design has become much more interesting. With the grappling hook, the abilities to swing on poles, the ability to climb ropes and poles (not new in "Legends") and various other possibilities, Lara can do so much more than she could then.

"Tomb Raider Anniversary" (and it took me two pages on my word processor to get here) is based on the same engine, giving Lara the same wide range of movements. The grappling hook has been included, too, but the light she had in "Legends" has been removed - as the levels are bright enough to work without it.

The game splits into two games, actually. There's the main game which is based on the very first "Tomb Raider" (looking for the same artefact and travelling through the same areas - although you wouldn't recognize most of them). And there's a little bonus game set in "Croft Mansion" where the player must perform almost everything apart from shooting adversaries in order to get everything working and opening the door to the gallery.

I'm not through with the main game yet - as I bought it on Friday and spent quite some time with "Croft Mansion" to get a feeling for the controls -, but I've just met my old 'friend' again: the t-rex of the lost valley in Peru. He looks far more dangerous and realistic than before - but I haven't killed him yet ... it's more difficult in the enclosed space that fight is set in now than it was in the large valley before. And I haven't managed to fully understand the Adrenalin Moves now that would enable me to kill the dinosaur quickly.

Nevertheless, from my point of view the new version of the original "Tomb Raider" is a worthy remake and fun to play.