Sunday, September 30, 2007

German Soccer Ladies

After the World Championship of the men last year, the Soccer World Championship of the women is this year - and the German Soccer Ladies are playing in the final today - quite well as it seems, and even against Brazil.

I've been thinking for quite a while that our female players are better than the men - even though most men until quite recently (when we won the Championship for the first time) thought that women couldn't play 'real' soccer. That was for men only.

Today the women in Germany seem to play better than the men - and with much more enthusiasm, too. But isn't that the case with a lot of things? (Don't worry, I won't start something about feminism here, I'll do a post about it soon enough, anyway.)

Personally I hope we win. I did even feel that way when the German men entered the semi-finals last year, but for the women I hope much more feverishly.

Update: They did it! They are World Champions again! Hooray!

The seedy sites of the net

Over the last couple of days I've been surfing the seedier sites of the internet. It was both amusing and disturbing - but on the whole more amusing, I should say.

It all started out with the only "Echi"-link I had before ("Echi" has been coined as a synonym for "Hentai" - Manga/Anime with sexual content -, because "echi" is the way Japanese pronounce the letter "H"). Starting there I travelled blind, clicking on links that seemed interesting (and included words like "free", because just for looking around I surely won't pay any money) until the number of links in my "Echi"-category went up by 300 percent (as I've added three new links, featuring manga-styled flash games, mostly).

What I've found, was disturbing sometimes, as a lot of "Hentai"-movies (and games) are hardcore and there's still the strange category of tentacle-movies out there. ("Tentacle-movies" come from a Japanese Law, that might have been withdrawn by now, but I'm not sure. Originally showing genitals, especially male genitals, was forbidden, so the producers of animated porn-movies created demons or aliens with loads of slightly penis-like tentacles. You might start up your imagination now as to where that leads to in a porn movie. Go on, I'm sure you can't think up anything the movies have not shown by now.)

The more amusing parts came from most of the games, though. Part of the amusement is the question of what the creators took before actually creating games like those, part comes from the graphics - and the sounds. I rarely watch websites with my speakers on, but in this case I did and got more terrible and unfitting synchros than ever before. Especially the German accent of one character in a small movie clip was hideous and rather made me laugh.

A lot of feminists out there might state now that porn of any kind is belittling and humiliating women - and on the whole they're right -, but as most of the stuff I found is animated and largely exaggerated, I can't really take it serious. In addition, as it only happens to animated characters instead of real people, I see it as an abstraction rather than a reality.

The seedier sites of the internet - I wouldn't want to live there, but it was fun to take a look around. And I surely learned a lot about human nature...

Size Double Zero

People are strange sometimes - and some seem to be outright mad. As I've learned today, there's a new size out there: double zero. (By the way, in Germany 00 is a sign for the toilet ... think about the strange coincidence.)

The article with mentioned it, also mentioned a couple of really thin actresses who mostly have thinned down because of their husbands/boyfriends. That is something I would never do.

Those women are famous by their own rights (there were Keira Knightly, Angelina Joli, Terry Hatcher and some others mentioned), why should they even heed the commands of their boyfriends/husbands? It's not as if they would be left in poverty after getting a divorce.

And if a producer told me (provided I had a normal shape, which I haven't, admittedly) I had to get really thin, just because that's fashionable at the moment, I'd ask him to get a brain and a firm grasp on the concept of 'healthy' body shapes. It's not as if those women mentioned up there could not live off their money for the rest of their lives...

I've stated before that I don't see the point in "Size 0" - or in women looking like they'd just been found locked away in a basement for a couple of months without food. A woman is a woman and is - in my book - supposed to look like one. That means a female shape with some nice padding above the waistline (and I'm sure men would appreciate that, see post above for more details on the seedier sites of the net) and around their lower backside. It's what makes us women, damn it!

Yes, there are women around who are very thin by nature, but even they don't look as skeleton-like as the models and more and more of the actresses do these days. The way she looks now, for example, I don't want to see Angelina Joli as Lara Croft again. Lara has often been accused of not looking realistic, but she was never accused of being thin, either.

"Double Zero" is even more of a fallacy from my point of view. Women are reduced to little more - at least in looks and weight - than pre-pubescent girls. That's not 'girl power', that's rather power over girls (and women). A woman that unnaturally thin (as opposed to a woman naturally thin who will never look like that) is easy to control and to overpower. A woman that thin is not a strong woman, although she might think differently. She is caught either in a nightmare of her own (like a lot of people with eating disorders are), then she needs professional help. Or she is caught in the dreams of people who don't want her best (like actresses or models that have to heed to their producers or designers dreams), then she should free herself from those restrictions.

Yes, in a way you could even say that "Double Zero" is a proof of the fact that feminism still hasn't really caught on... What a shame.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Post 300

Aw, come on, you knew this would be happening. Have I not made a point in putting in such a post whenever I felt the need to celebrate a certain number? But don't worry, from now on I'll only go for the round hundreds.

Well, it's three hundred posts already and it's not even been a year (as I've started this post at the end of October 2006). On the whole I'm quite proud about this as I'm not in the habit of keeping things going that long - except for writing and stuff I do for a good reason (like learning to be a web-master).

But to me, blogging has already become a normal part of my life. It's a way of sharing my ideas with others and it's fun. After all, I can write whatever I want - especially as people can't easily find out that it's me who is behind the blog. Here I'm 'Cay Reet', but that's not my name in the real world.

But, to be honest, I wouldn't even mind if people knew. I don't write anything here I wouldn't tell people face to face either (especially as my father is sometimes browsing my blog, too, despite his weak English).

Well, that's my "Post 300" - see you again in 100 posts...

Gate to Hell

"Hellgate: London" will be published in Germany at the beginning of November (the 2nd of November is the official launching date). It has been through the USK (where the ratings are decided) by now and not been found suitable for children, meaning it will get a mature rating of 18+.

To me that's not a problem, I'm a good deal over eighteen and thus can buy the game easily enough. And, to be honest, I have been waiting for this game (and I've even mentioned it in a post before). I like role-playing games - although I like those who feature a strong story more than those with a lot of action - and "Hellgate: London" has an unusual setting.

Most role-playing games are set in a fantasy environment with dwarfs, trolls, elves and so on. "Hellgate: London" is set in a modern, high-tech environment. The enemies will mostly been demons, monsters and the walking dead. The pictures I've seen - both static and in movement - are great. The character classes are great, too - I'm already set on the blade-master as the first character to play, as I simply love strong close-quarter fighters. And the systems around it (character development, augmentation of weaponry and so on) seems to be good as well.

But what fascinated me most from the very beginning, was the fact that the game was not set in the usual environment. Seeing people fight in underground tunnels (complete with railways), in modern city streets and other places of our modern world, has gotten me interested immediately.

Besides, the game is fast-paced, more some sort of new "Diablo" (and gamers are still waiting for "Diablo 3", it's a running gag come true) than an epic game. I played the first "Diablo" for quite some time, but never got much out of the second - too much like the first, too little my taste.

I will buy the game as soon as I find it, that much is for sure. Hunting demons is fun - and something I always wanted to do in the modern times.

Something from the dojinshi

© Tanja Meurer

I wrote about a dojinshi I got (dojinshi are manga drawn by fans and/or artists who publish them themselves) some time ago. I've read the stories by now and I really liked them, both the stories and the styles in which they were drawn (as two artists have done the work together, both of them supplying stories and artworks).

The artwork above is from one of the artist, named "Golden Dawn" and showing a man - although it doesn't really look like it. I might add another artwork from the same artist during the next days, this one showing someone in a kilt, just for Kate.

Raising a bean

For her birthday I gave my mother a bean with her name on it - among other things. And I bought one for myself as well. By now it's grown considerably, as you can see on the picture. And I have re-potted it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Kaori Yuki

As I have stated more than once, I'm not only a manga-fan, but also a fan of Kaori Yuki's work. Currently luck seems to be on my side, as far as this is concerned.

Two of her manga are going to be published this year, "Perfume Master" has been published now, the second volume of "Ludwig Revolution" will be published in December.

"Perfume Master" is the story of a young man with exceptional talents. His sense of smell is keen enough to even smell out a certain type of rose perfume on a person wearing a large bouquet of roses. And this is was usually gets him into trouble. And it's his cousin who gets him out of it again - the girl does not only look like a model (she's from France, her father married an aunt of the perfume master and brought her into the marriage), but also is a very dangerous fighter. Although, admittedly, sometimes it's his cousin who gets both of them into trouble.

As usually, the story of "Perfume Master" (or rather the three stories) is a very dark one. The secrets the young man finds out about usually have to do with murder, death and revenge. And the characters all have the special look I like so much, the rather unusual look only Kaori Yuki draws.

The first volume of "Ludwig Revolution" on the other hand was published quite some time ago, including four different stories based on European fairy tales. They were connected by the main character, Prince Louis (or Ludwig, as both names have the same base) who is looking for a bride. Ludwig/Louis is a rather strange character, looking for girls with big breasts (although in a side note the author admits it's rather more her obsession than his...). He also tends to fall for murderous, endangered or cursed girls, which in turn gets him into trouble as well, very much to the dismay of his servant William who then has to try and get him out of that trouble again. Neither Snow White (who, in this story, really is a scheming little bitch), Little Red Riding Hood (who was William's childhood crush and has turned into an assassin), Sleeping Beauty (who dies upon being awaken after a hundred years - what do you expect, honestly?) or a girl wanted by Bluebeard (who's quite a weakling, and stupid, mistaking the over six feet tall prince for a girl) have proven to be the right bride.

The second volume will feature four more European fairy tales and I'm already really waiting for it - I always thought one volume wasn't enough. And I hope Dorothea, the witch from "Sleeping Beauty" (in the first volume) will be making another appearance. So I'll wait for volume two and hope for more ghastly, bloody and scary stories to feast upon.

And I hope for yet more manga by Kaori Yuki who is just as fascinated by the dark side of the human mind as I am...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ten years change a lot

On Saturday I bought the anniversary issue of my favourite game magazine "GameStar". The DVD inside contained the whole first issue (from ten years ago) in .pdf-format - minus advertisements, of course.

The title was "Hexen 2", based on the "Quake 2"-engine and long forgotten. I played it in 1997 and it was good - but compared to ego-shooters today it's just crap. But it already featured four different types of heroes and it was hub-based (meaning the levels weren't build linear, but connected in a way players could move back and forth between them). Among the demos on the CD (DVD was far in the future then) was "Monkey Island 3" - with which the downfall of the series started, if you ask the true fans.

The games featured in the issue, both in reviews and previews and just as news, are mostly forgotten today, too. There's "Incubation", one of the few games Blue Bytes produced which were not about the settlers. There's "Turok", then a hit, today just ugly. "Lands of Lore 2" might have been a good role-playing game, but nobody is interested in it these days, it's not very smooth and it surely can't hold a candle to today's 3D role-playing games (like "Gothic" or "Two Worlds" or "Dark Messiah of Might & Magic").

"Tomb Raider" wasn't even a series then, part two is featured with a preview. "Unreal" still looks pretty 2D, "StarCraft" was just a preview, too.

Strategy still mostly meant round-based and hexagonal. There were lots of flight simulations (they're almost extinct by now, except for "Microsoft Flight Simulator"). Role-playing games were thought to be dying and it would take another couple of years before games like "Baldur's Gate" or "Diablo 2" were really going to revive the genre.

There was the swan song of the single programmer who could produce a whole game on his own. That was no longer possible in 1997. The first MMORPG was being planned: "Ultima Online". 3Dfx was an important topic - but those additional cards didn't catch on, graphics cards with a 3D-chip on it were going to win. Games also were considerably more expensive then. Today a computer game in Germany usually is around 30 to 40 Euros, then there was hardly a game under 100 Marks (which comes down to about 50 Euros). I've paid up to 120 Marks/60 Euros for a game in the beginning of my gamer career.

Optimum pc was a Pentium 166 with 32 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM drive, a 3D-card and OpenGL (a 3D standard that has caught on). You couldn't install "Windows Vista" or even "Windows XP" on one of those...

Yes, ten years change a lot, not just in computer games, but there as well.

Munchkin ... finally

I promised quite some time ago to write a post about "Munchkin". Now I've remembered and I have the time, so I'm doing it.

Originally "Munchkins" were those little guys in "The Wizard of Oz" who are so happy after the house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the West (or East? or North? I'm damned if I still know...).

Among people who play role-playing games, "Munchkin" seems to have another meaning, though. "Munchkins" are players who only seek their own benefits. They are not above betraying or even back-stabbing the other members of their party. While that's a bad trait in a role-playing game, it's the goal in the card-games of the "Munchkin"-series.

Actually, the goal is to reach level 10 before the other players. Every time the player kills a monster (monsters are door-cards - there's door-cards and treasure-cards in the game), he gains a level. Being defeated by a monster usually means loosing a level - and other things ... terrible things. Death, on the other hand, is not final. But that is not all the game play. There's other cards around, too. Some are for use - abilities, weapons, armour. Others are to make gaming easier - or harder. There's curses and traps and ways to make a monster more powerful or weaker (depending on whether you're going to attack it or somebody else is - back-stabbing, remember?).

Currently I only own "Munchkin Bites!", the horror-variety of the game. The original "Munchkin" is situated in the dungeon-world of the average role-playing game, but the series also includes games set in space ("Star Munchkin") or in the Far East ("Munchkin Fu"). There's spies ("Munchkin Impossible") and even superheroes ("Super Munchkin"). Unlike with other series of games, though, all "Munchkin"-varieties can be thrown together to create a high-elf-vampire-catgirl with a laser sword or something like that. There's a basic variety and at least one pack of additional cards for every variety of "Munchkin".

The game itself is easy to play, but fun. It's the right thing for people who usually spent evenings for weeks on end to finish their latest campaign of role-playing.

What originally got me interested in the games, was the fact that role-playing guru Steve Jackson had the original idea and John Kovalic, creator of "Dorktower", did the graphics of the cards. The game itself really is fun and quick enough to learn, too.

And, of course, there's a little Munchkin in all of us...

A novel concept

New ideas might come from everywhere. But a new concept of marriage coming from a female conservative politician surely isn't an everyday occurrence.

Of course, all the magazines and newspapers jumped to it immediately - what did you expect, honestly? A conservative politician - and a woman at that - saying that marriage should be restricted to seven years and afterwards the couple should decide whether or not to continue it. That could easily lead to the bankruptcy of all lawyers specialized on divorce...

And about two days after she said it, a comedian claims it was his idea all along. That's strange, because I can remember such a law being the basis of an episode of "The Dinos" years ago... Besides needing a licence to raise kids, the dinosaurs had to renew their marriage every couple of years - no wonder they're extinct...

What surprised people a lot more than the idea as a such, though, was the person who voiced it. Gabriele Pauli is, as I pointed out already, a conservative politician - and all conservative parties in Germany keep a 'Christian' in their name. And, if they haven't changed it completely while I wasn't looking, marriage are still meant to last "until death does us part" in the Christian churches - especially in the Roman-Catholic church. Seven years normally do not mean "until death does us part" - unless, of course, you marry at the age of eighty or so.

On the other hand - considering the rate of divorce in Germany - the idea of limiting the duration of marriage to seven years could safe an awful lot of people an awful lot of money.

Nevertheless, I can't shake off the suspicion the whole thing was just supposed to bring her some publicity. To bad, the idea is good...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Plans for a nice weekend

My weekend is - again - overshadowed by horror. But it's the kind of horror I really like - the movie kind.

"The Hound of the Baskervilles" (the version with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee) and all three parts of "Scream" will be running in my DVD-drive and I've got a doujinshi aptly named "Dreams and Nightmares" to read. There's even, now that I think of it, some Japanese short stories I haven't finished. So I guess I'll be entertained and I'll try to write some more posts for my blog instead of getting lazy.

By the way: there's a lot of versions of "The Hound of the Baskervilles", but I prefer two of them: the one with Basil Rathbone and the one I'll be watching this weekend.

Annoying Necessities

There are a lot of things which are both annoying and necessary - like work or virus scans.

I'm running a virus scan as I'm writing it which is why I've been thinking about the topic. I use Anti-Vir, a very good and above all cheap program (it's freeware as long as you're not using it for a company). I can't say the program is bad in any way. I can do regular updates without worrying about costs, I get information about the last update and - by now - even about the last time since a complete scan. I tend to forget them, admittedly. As I'm only looking most of the time - except for a few pages I know I can trust - I'm not as endangered as other people might be, but a virus scan is important for everyone who's surfing the internet.

Nevertheless, working while the scan is running always annoys me. It is a necessity I'd love to avoid.

Work is another thing I find both annoying and necessary. I'm not one of those careerists who want to climb the ladder to the top an one day make thousands of Euros every month. Enough to live off it is enough for me.

Especially as I'm working in a job I can't say I really love - telemarketing -, I don't really miss work when I can't go or don't have any (like at the moment, but that will soon be past, I hope). I have enough to do during the day even without work - especially at the moment as I'm studying to be a web-master. And I think it will be different once I'm working in that job. Telemarketing is hell on earth, that much is for sure.

My next work could prove to be different and be some kind of a mixed blessing. I've had an interview on Wednesday for a back-office job with a energy company in my area. It's something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand it will mean less phone calls and more office work - something I'd love -, but on the other hand it will also mean commuting (luckily by train - I love train rides and I could learn while travelling then) and rising early. I'm not an early riser by nature and was quite glad I could work close to home during the last two years. But every good thing must end and I cherish the idea of getting another job than telemarketing far more than I bemoan the fact I'd have to rise early for it.

After all, I'd get to travel to Karlsruhe every day of the week then. I could check for my favourite manga there, the local comic shop has more of them than my favourite bookshop in my hometown does. As I'm living alone, nobody would mind if I came back late one day a month (or even every week). But what can I say? I'm a creature of habit.

Yes, sometimes life can be full of annoying necessities and virus scans and work are but two of them...

Monday, September 17, 2007

On my booklist

Those books are currently on my mind and on my desk (and other surfaces - I almost drown in books sometimes):

The Temeraire-Triology by Naomi Nowik, consisting of "His Majesty's Dragon", "Throne of Jade" and "Back Powder War" (volume 4 is about to be published).

It's a great story about an alternate reality (I love those a lot, they're a very interesting type of fantasy stories) in which even during the Napoleonic Wars aerial warfare was possible - because every fraction had dragons.

The story starts in the first novel with Captain William Laurence, a captain of the Navy, taking a dragon egg as a price during battle. Unfortunately the dragon is about to hatch and cannot be transported to specialists immediately. As dragons need to be bound to a human immediately after hatching, Captain Laurence ends up with it. So he has to leave the Navy behind and become an aviator, a dragon handler who will have to keep away from most of society and lead a rather solitary and unusual life. Nevertheless he soon realizes that his dragon, whom he named Temeraire, is more important to him than all that.

At the end of the first novel it turns out that Temeraire is not just a Chinese dragon, but even a very special breed - a Celestial, only to be ridden by emperors. Bad for Captain Laurence who is a gentleman, but not an emperor. As both he and the dragon refuse to be parted, they travel to China together, to find out more about dragons and to stumble into a plot against the crown prince. (I have only read about half of this book, but I've cross-read a bit before buying it.)

Finally, when Captain Laurence travels home from China, he and Temeraire stumble in the middle of the Napoleonic War, only to find that their absence might have saved Temeraire's life. (This one I haven't read at all, but done a little cross-reading as well.)

Volume 4 will centre around saving the British dragons, but I can't say more about that, as it's not even out yet.

Another novel I went through at high speed over the last couple of weeks was "Bareback" by Kit Whitfeld. In another alternate reality most humans are werewolves. Only very few humans are not born that way and considered 'crippled' because of it. They all work for one organisation, taking care of the security during full moon, but being shunned, feared and belittled by the 'normal' citizens for the rest of the time. One of them finds herself in a problematic situation one day after one of her colleagues was first injured heavily and then killed by a werewolf.

The story is centred around the criminal case, of course, but it also does a terrifyingly correct picture of a society which shuns one minority just because of something they can't help (as those non-werewolves are born that way). The reader sees this world not through the eyes of a respectable citizen, but through the eyes of an outcast, fighting for herself as much as for her colleagues, balancing between justice and self-justice, between giving in to temptation to just act on her own behalf and keeping to the laws. Not an easy read, or a nice one, but an interesting and catching one, even if you're not into werewolves as a rule.

Then there's two "Trinity Blood"-novels I've bought around the same time as "Bareback". They are based on the same story as the manga I've started reading quite some time ago, but go deeper as the novel can also tell about the feelings and thoughts of the main characters.

"Trinity Blood" also kind of features an alternate reality - although in this case, the reality is a future one and rather dark. After the Armageddon - which in this case was an atomic war -, mankind came into contact with creatures that called themselves methusalems and are some kind of vampires. They have conquered quite some part of eastern Europe and Asia, while the Vatican (now not just open for men, but for women as well) holds against them with troops and special agents. One of them is a seemingly incapable priest called Abel Nightroad who really is another monster, dubbed 'Kresnik': a vampire who feeds on other vampires.

In former Budapest he meets with a young nun named Esther Blanchett who leads a rebellion against the local leader - a vampire. After the fall of said vampire (and most of the city, too), Esther accompanies Abel and his colleague Tres Iques (a cyborg with very little to none human emotion) to Rome and becomes engulfed in the whole story herself.

"Trinity Blood" is a quick read and both full of action and humour (the latter most due to Abel, though).

So, those are the books I have read - or still am reading - and can recommend to others ... at least some of them (I could easily recommend more).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Postponing Posts

As a sign of respect towards all those who have lost loved ones on 9/11, I have postponed posting other stuff for a day (even though my post about 9/11 was published two days too late, I know).

So expect a couple of posts today ... and something more during the weekend, I should guess.

The mad rabbit is back

"Sam & Max Hit The Road" was, is and will always be one of my favourite adventures. The Freelance Police just rocked and it still does.

"Sam & Max", a team of a man-sized dog in a cheap suit and a psychotic, but fluffy white rabbit, is very, very strange. Sam (the dog) is the brains of the outfit, obviously, and Max (the rabbit, what else?) is the tool of destruction (virtually). But together they're a great team and the game was just as strange as they were.

The game was one of the last big successes of LucasArts, at least when it comes to adventures. There were "Full Throttle", "The Dig" and "Grim Fandango" afterwards, but on the whole LucasArts switched to "Star Wars"-related games, ego-shooters and action adventures with the switch from floppy disk to CD.

And I've never found a game that combined cartoon-like graphics and psychotic characters the way "Sam & Max" did.

So, why am I writing this now, about a decade or more after the game was published? Because "Sam & Max" have returned. Originally published online, the six episodes of "Sam & Max Season One" (no cartoon, a game) have finally been released in Germany - and I bought them. I've already started with episode 1 and, apart from the fact that they're now in 3D, everything was just like I remembered it. Crazy characters and dialogues, a cartoon surrounding and an interesting story, as far as it has already unfolded.

The mad rabbit is back and it's still mad! I'm so happy!

RIP my Sims

Yes, I have done it again, I've bought the new Add-On for "The Sims 2". I just can't help it, I really like the game and every new Add-On really adds new possibilities to it.

Now my Sims can travel to three different locations for a holiday trip: Asia, the Caribbean and a mountain area. But that's not what this post will mainly be about. Although I could probably write two pages or more about the fact that those damn Sims are always practicing Tai Chi once they've learned it, you can't leave them alone for a minute or so without seeing them change into their sports suit. Grrrrr.

Apart from playing several families in Strangetown, one of the neighbourhoods you get with the original game, I'm also building Oakdale, my own neighbourhood.

Oakdale has - or will have at any rate - all the areas possible with the current Add-Ons: The main neighbourhood where most Sims just live, a college, a downtown (with clubs and so on), a shopping area and now, with the last Add-On, three areas for a vacation.

With the second Add-On (Nightlife) a neighbourhood could also have a cemetery (before that you had to keep your dead relatives - or former inhabitants of the house - around, either as urns [inside] or gravestones [outside]). As Oakdale has a custom downtown (meaning I'm building all those shops, clubs, discos and so on by myself), it also doesn't have a 'grown' cemetery.

Now, creating a cemetery that's devoid of graves would be quite stupid, so I've build a special lot to 'harvest' them. In other words: I'm creating whole families of Sims just to kill them, so that my 'Grim Reaper' (she really exists, a female with the family name Reaper and the first name Grim ... yes, I know, I need help) can pick up the gravestones/urns and take them to the cemetery (that works, as Sims have their own inventory in which they can keep every object they want). The lot, aptly named "The Deathtrap", consists of two large rooms without roofs, a wall for holding the doors of the rooms so Sims can't get out of them and die of starvation and three pools, one very small and just meant to hold the ladders so Sims can't leave the pool and drown when getting too tired. Have I mentioned already that I need help?

The first victim of my 'killing spree' actually was killed in Strangetown and he's still in the garden of his former house (now inhabited by a Sim I created to test those various vacation sites). I've even seen him spook around during a night, he scared the hell out of the new owner, actually. The next morning she dutifully cleaned the debris (dead flowers) off his grave and he's been a dear and stayed in his gravestone ever since.

There's two easy ways to kill a Sim - drowning and starvation, the methods I use on my deathtrap-lot. But, because Sims imprisoned in a room without a door, need to pee as well - and I don't want the next Sim with a death warrant on his head to have to clean everything away - I've put a toilet in my two rooms. The pools don't need one, although peeing in the water doesn't make the Sims very happy.

Six more Sims will have to die, the rest of the cemetery will fill up all by itself once I really start playing the neighbourhood - as people will die of natural courses or accidents and quite likely families moving into a lot where someone has died before will put the gravestone/urn in the cemetery instead of keeping it at home.

Now I wonder is this just my own build-in darkness or do I kill all those Sims because the "Killerspiele" have finally gotten me?

It gets more bloody

With the third OVA, the Anime-series "Hellsing" has left the German youth behind. No. 3 has been sorted into the category of movies only suitable for adults - and with good reason, admittedly.

The story of "Hellsing" definitely isn't one for kids. It's about vampires and soldiers and war. Ultimately it's about blood, therefore.

The new OVA-series (called "Hellsing Ultimate") is very close to the manga, as I have pointed out in past posts. And, after the first two volumes of the manga, the war against undead Nazis is about to start.

The war starts in Brazil - which is quite fitting, considering how many Nazis went to South America after WW II. And everything definitely gets more bloody from then on. Alucard, the main character (and monster) of the story, has only killed vampires and ghouls (as those victims of a vampire that are no virgins and therefore don't get changed into true undead are called in the series) before - well, during the stories, that is. But Alucard's main principle is "those who attack me have to die" and it doesn't matter whether they are human or not. So a whole squad of elite soldiers is disposed by him before it comes to a fight with the first vampire who has sided with Millennium (that's the name of the organisation the undead Nazis have build up). It's a very bloody fight, of course. Two predators going at each other never is nice.

Technically the third OVA is as great as the other two - and as future ones will be, too, I guess. The graphics are better than those of the old TV-series (the end of which does not fit with the manga as it was produced before the main story started), the character design is more true to that of the manga. And it encompasses all the main scenes (including a rather funny scene in a museum where Seras Victoria leads a group of Japanese tourist right between Alucard and Anderson who want to start a fight).

Currently I can neither wait for the next OVA to come up (as it will include a very young Walter and I always wanted to know why he's been named "Angel of Death") and volume 9 of the manga to be published in Germany. I hate waiting!

Sometimes I wonder

...if men will at some point realize there's more than one way to get a woman hot. They think flexing muscles and showing off wealth is a sure-fire way to get a woman into bed and forget that seduction is a subtle art form.

While I was thinking about the new role of men in society I wondered why men seem to be allergic to housework. I mean, they're always going on about being so strong and knowing that much about technology. What would be better for them, then, than to take a vacuum cleaner (which is a technical machine) and move aside the furniture to get the room cleaned? That's a lot more 'male' than to sit behind a desk at work and let the secretary write the letters you just sign.

Do not misunderstand me! I do not want to put a man in a maid's costume. I don't think it would suit most men. But think about what you could tell a man to motivate him to do more housework.

"Darling, seeing you with that vacuum cleaner makes me so hot, the way you handle the big, big pipe. I think, while you're finishing the living room, I'll slip into the bedroom and put on something more ... comfortable."

"I never knew you looked that good on a ladder while cleaning the windows, darling. Couldn't you climb up one more step? I think tonight we'll pretend it's Saturday already..."

And so on. Put in your own thoughts. And think about how manly a man can look while ironing his own shirts and pants, especially while doing those sharp creases...

Yes, I know it fits more into the category "hot dreams", at least currently. And I don't think it's necessary for a man to do the housework nude - although that shouldn't be a reason to stop him from trying -, but I think every woman would like coming home after eight hours of work and seeing her boyfriend/lover/husband going through the flat with the vacuum cleaner so she can just sit down and relax.

Who knows? It really might lead to some more sex...

Finally Justice!

...or so some people might say after the demise of Eva Herman. Ms. Herman has finally been fired because of her views.

But, as I don't expect everyone in the world to know about her, here a few basic informations. Ms. Herman is what you could call a career woman. She has climbed the career ladder in the media almost right to the top. As co-moderator of a talk show and news anchor, she was an important figure in German television. Then she wrote her first book "Das Eva-Prinzip" (translation by me: "The Eve-Principle") in which she claimed that women could only be happy - and children only grow up right - when women stayed at home and took care of their children. Given the fact that she, although mother of a son (which she got rather late in life), has never really considered doing the same, it didn't sound very sincere. More than one feminist in Germany asked openly "if she thinks that's the right way to live, why doesn't she just shut up and do it?" and so did I, too.

I won't say it's wrong for a woman to stay at home and take care of her kids, if that's what she wants to do, but I'm against saying it's the only right way for a woman to act. There's about the same number of right ways to live a life as there's people in this world.

Besides, all her theories about how a working mother would harm the children psychologically have been proven wrong quite some time ago. Statistics show that the work life of a mother - unless she's really, really, really working hard and barely at home, something that doesn't happen very often - does not harm the children at all. They might grow independent sooner, because they have to learn faster, but they are not stunted in their development or anything like that.

But Eva Herman did not stop there, writing a book that could have come from a man twice her age - because that's the group which usually thinks woman should act like they used to sixty or so years ago. She wrote another book - and every emancipated woman in Germany said or thought "oh god" - and basically put in the same stuff again. "Das Arche Noah Prinzip" ("The Noah's Arc Principle") followed the same lines, only it was more based on how a whole family should work.

Old virtues have to be re-discovered, she wrote. Children should learn about the good, old-fashioned German virtues again and everything would be good. Men should be real men again (although she's lost me when it comes to define 'real men'). And, of course, women should remember their primal role in this world and go back to having and caring for children. The whole spiel I would expect from a conservative politician, but not necessary from a woman right on top a career ladder.

Only - she's not up the ladder any more right now.

Ever since the first book she has been quoted saying things that are considered distinctly 'right' in Germany. Old theories and ideas that are mostly connected to the family politics of the Third Reich. Women should stay at home and get many children. Men should stop being sensitive and helpful and go back to being the machos they once were. Children should be taught the value of honesty, diligence, respect and obeisance. And so on. That's not very far from politics which awarded medals to women with five or more children and taught men to be mean, hard fighters. And, of course, a youth organisation would be a great place to teach the 'right' values to children.

She's been warned about that before. She's been put in a corner with Neo-Nazis before and always claimed she couldn't understand why. Maybe she really doesn't understand it, but a woman who's been part of the media and always claims to be so clever, should be able to understand why those values she writes about are mostly seen as part of the Nazi ideology today. Honesty and diligence are not, but respect (based only on authority) and obeisance (without thinking for yourself) are.

A few days ago she actually dug her own grave. Confronted with her 'brown' ideas again, she claimed that although Hitler had been a power-hungry maniac, the values and virtues of the Third Reich should be brought back. That's why she was finally fired completely (as some time after the release of her fist book, she was already replaced as a news anchor).

So, theoretically, Eva Herman should be quite glad. Finally she will be able to do as she always preached and stay at home, caring for her child and husband. She should be happy about it, shouldn't she?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

9/11 and me

During the last days - due to the day coming up again - there were a lot of documentaries about 9/11 even in Germany. This made me remember where I was, what I did and what I thought when it happened.

I was at home then - only, back then it was my parent's home, actually, as I have moved out after that day. I was working as a free-lance editor and had a job to do, so I sat in the living room (my parents had gone for a walk) and had the TV running while I was working. Then the normal afternoon program (as Germany is several hours before the united states when it comes to time) was stopped for a news flash. A plane had accidentally crashed into the World Trade Centre, they said. I saw the pictures of the smoking tower and thought "what a tragedy" when I saw - on live feed - the second plane coming in. It actually did a turn to hit the second tower and the only thing I could think of at that moment was "there's no way in hell that was an accident". My work was forgotten, I switched to CNN and stayed tuned, following the news that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon and the passengers of a fourth had just managed to steer it away from the centre of yet another big city.

As I was born in 1974, 9/11 was one of the few major things that happened in my life time up until now (and I still was quite young when the Berlin Wall fell - although that surely had more of an impact on my personal life, with about 50% of my relatives living in the former GDR). And there I was, basically watching live an event that would, in years to come, change the world greatly. Afghanistan and Iraq, two major wars, were started basically because of 9/11. George W. Bush only got re-elected because of 9/11 (which I still see as a major mistake). Security around the globe has been heightened because of 9/11. Taliban, Al Quaida and Bin Laden have only entered the vocabulary of the Western World because of 9/11.

I do not really dig into all those conspiracy theories that have evolved around this date. I have read quite some of them, but most are just like all the other conspiracy theories. They sound interesting, but they can't really sustain themselves. (Although it is a strange coincidence that 9/11, the English way to write the date, comes terribly close to 911, the American emergency number.)

Yes, I do believe the American government might have had a hint something would happen, but I doubt they knew what it was. Yes, I know nobody would have thought it possible the impact of a plane - even a large passenger plane - could completely destroy a tower of the World Trade Centre, but static is a bitch to calculate and I don't think anybody really expected a plane to crash into the towers anyway. I don't think there were additional bombs in the buildings. I think even Al Quaida didn't know they would create such a heavy damage and actually destroy the building. There is such a thing as coincidence in the world.

I have not lost a member of my family or a close friend in the events of 9/11, but I feel with those who have. It's a traumatic and tragic thing. I do not live in a country which is constantly threatened by Al Quaida (although some people are supposed to have planned an attack on an American Air Force base in Germany not too long ago). Even if I did, I live in a small town which would be an unlikely target for a terrorist act.

I'm not easily scared by possible danger to my life or health. I think that, if I took all the possible threats to my life serious, I could just jump off a high building and be done with it. Life is dangerous, that's why it's considered life - as opposed to death which is static.

I hope I've not hurt anybody's feelings with this post. I know that as somebody living far from where the tragedy took place, I can't really grasp all the grief it has caused. But, due to both the impact on the world and the media reporting it immediately around the planet, I was affected by it to a certain degree as well - everyone has be. It brought to my eyes the fact that people will always find new ways of attacking, as nobody ever thought of crashing a plane full of innocent people into a building to destroy it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A scary weekend

Isn't he cute? That's the Monster Shark.

After getting all those DVDs, as I wrote already, I spent the weekend watching them, naturally. So my weekend was rather scary.

I started with "Monster Shark" right the day I got the DVDs. Nothing new there, the story and the creature were as hideous as I remembered. Thursday and Friday were spent with "Final Fantasy VII" and "Kizuna", a lot less scary, but very amusing (especially "Kizuna"). Saturday and Sunday, on the other hand, were spent with "Vampire Bats" and "Jeepers Creepers" (both parts).

I surely got entertained by the movies. "Vampire Bats" is, basically, your normal 'human action created mutated monsters' movie. But while the "Monster Shark" was at least build on purpose, the bats just mutated because they were near poisonous stuff. So they started sucking humans dry - and I found it difficult not to pull out some pompoms and cheer them on "Go, Bats! Go, Bats! Just one more! And now the mayor! Go, Bats! Go!". Nevertheless, Lucy Lawless was great in the movie - and I can imagine watching it again soon. That's a good sign when it comes to movies.

And then I watched "Jeepers Creepers". I'd watched the movies before, but only partially and on TV (where ads pretty much destroy the tension). This time I watched them completely and I enjoyed them. The Creeper surely is one of the most interesting monsters I've seen in a horror movie - and I've seen lots of them. To me it's an interesting mixture between a teen-slasher movie (as the main characters are mostly teenagers or young adults) and a real monster movie (as the Creeper is not going after teens on purpose, he feeds on those who are best suited to sustain him).

In addition I will state here that the fast-paced action sequences of "Final Fantasy VII" were breathtaking and the fun I had while watching the domestic dispute between the main characters in "Kizuna" was almost too good to be legal. (And, as "Kizuna" is Shonen Ai, meaning a homosexual couple, in some countries it might be.)

The weekend was basically the way I like them most: with lots to do (got the new "The Sims 2" Add-On and killed some Sims to fill my graveyard, too) and a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New DVDs

Given the fact that I had ordered some DVDs some time ago and some last week, I got two packages with DVDs today, a total of four new movies:

- Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

- Kizuna

- Vampire Bats

- Monster Shark

In addition I also got volume 6 of "Trinity Blood", but that's a manga and doesn't count here...

What can I say about movies I haven't even seen yet?

A lot, actually, since I know what I've been buying (except for "Vampire Bats").

For those of you who have seen "Final Fantasy" and now wonder how they could miss part 2 to 6: You haven't missed anything. The movie I mentioned above is based on part 7 of a series of games for consoles. As it retells the story of the seventh part of the series, it has been named like the game it's based on. The characters are computer generated (which is good in this case, because almost all computer games they filmed with real actors were crap), as is the surrounding. The scenes I've already seen (and which, together with the low price, inspired me to buy the movie) were great.

"Kizuna" is the third movie based on a Shonen Ai story I bought (the first was "Fake" and the second was the "Gravitation" OVA). I like the manga a lot and so I'm sure I'm going to enjoy the movie as well. "Fake" and "Kizuna" still happen to be my favourite Shonen Ai stories.

As I wrote already, I can't write much about "Vampire Bats", except for the fact that the movie features Lucy Lawless (aka Xena) and I like movies about blood-drinking monsters - especially if they were created by humans. Which, accidentally, brings me to the next (and last) movie on the list:

"Monster Shark" (which I mentioned already in a post about the dunkleosteus) is a horror movie I've seen before (and sure as hell would not have bought for more than the few Euros I spent for it now). What I like most about the movie is the hideous "shark" which looks like a mixture between an octopus and a dunkleosteus (that's an extinct fish with bone plates all around the front part of its body). I always wondered why they called it a shark - the creature sure looks scary enough even without being named a shark. What about "Monster Fish"? Or "The creature that can strangle and dismember you at the same time"? Or "Tentacles"? (That was a reminiscence to "Jaws" ... at least it was meant to be.) Well, Davy Jones would have liked him, smaller than the Krakken, but not less dangerous...

I see some good evenings coming, even with the bad TV-program you get in Germany these days...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I've not forgotten about "Size 0"

Admittedly my two crusades have been taking the back seat for quite a while. I've written something new about "Killerspiele" not too long ago, but I haven't commented on "Size 0" in ages.

The whole concept of "Size 0" still bothers me a lot, to be honest. I've never been thin (being normal-sized would be nice, though) and I've never wanted to be either - rather unlike a lot of women.

Whenever I see a woman - or more often a young girl - with a good figure saying things like "I really need to loose some more weight, I'm still too fat" I want to jump into the TV (or whatever) and ask "Where the hell do you want to loose weight? Your brain?". That was bad even while I was still a teenager myself, but over the last years, with the blasted "Size 0" and the actresses getting thinner and thinner, it has gotten even worse. I really pity girls these days, their role-models are a lot thinner than those I grew up with - and even they weren't what became of me.

The modern means of manipulating pictures make it even worse, of course. In the past a photograph was, more or less, a precise picture of the object (or person) on it. "The camera doesn't lie" they said - and it was true then. What the lens saw was what you got.

Even then a picture could be manipulated, but then it meant a lot of work - quite usually with a pair of scissors - and a good chance people would see it had been manipulated. Then the computer came and with it - rather soon, at least for those using the Mac - the possibility to manipulate graphics. By now a lot of rather cheap programs can do the same stuff only high-quality, very expensive programs for specialists could do. In other words even I can manipulate every picture to the extreme, if I want to.

I know that, so I don't trust the pictures in the glossy magazines. I know the models there aren't that perfect. I know a specialist has been at work with them, has removed every imperfection the model might have had, has made her look even slimmer and less like an 'ordinary' human being. But the young girls who buy the magazines and want to look like the models don't know. They really believe a human being could look that perfect. And so they diet, they visit the solarium, they spent time, money and quite often health trying their best to look like that - and they can't make it.

Today nobody really knows what will become of this trend. It will, in some cases, take years until the effects on the health and lives of the young girls can be seen. One thing seems sure, though: it's not really healthy. Neither is being overweight like I am, of course, but there's no fashion model making people think being that heavy is fashionable.

"Size 0" should not be worn by grown - or almost grown - women, no matter what fashion designers and the editors of glossy fashion magazines say.

I might grow to love PHP

In my course for becoming a web-master in the near future, I've been learning a lot about PHP lately. It's the first server-based programming language I've been introduced to - and it seems to be extremely useful. So I think I might grow to really love it.

PHP, as I was informed in the beginning of this part of my course, is a language for dynamic website programming. HTML, CSS and JavaScript on the other hand are languages for static website programming. The different is easy to describe. A static website is created once and will always look the same - pretty much like my websites which are currently build with HTML, some CSS and a little bit of JavaScript. Dynamic websites on the other hand consist of static parts (like menus or titles or suchlike) and dynamic parts. The last posts on this website actually are a dynamic part. I put my texts online over a form and they are transformed and displayed on the website. I don't have to reprogram the website every time I add a new post - and I don't have to create the HTML-sites for each post on which they and the few comments can be seen even after they're no longer on this first site. I just put in the new post and the dynamic programming of Blogger does the rest. The same can be achieved by using PHP, I've already learned how to do a simple forum or a program for uploading files without an FTP-program (which you normally use for it).

So PHP seems to be very useful - and XML, too, which will be really covered in a few months. Now I only have to find out whether or not I can use PHP on my current webspace or not. It would really help me to get my quizzes up - with which I still do have a lot of problems (but more in the next post).

PHP, coupled with MySQL, might also be the solution for my main problem with "Geschichtenschmiede". Currently every new story I write means creating a new website. With PHP and MySQL I could feed the text to the database and simply add it to the site this way. But currently that's still dreaming. In the future? Who knows?

Finally we're getting somewhere in the web-master course. I could, theoretically, do a complete web-shop or regularly updating online comic (if I could draw, that is) with the knowledge I have already gotten - and will get in the future - about PHP.

The Quizzes are driving me nuts

When I did the last change on my website "Night-Shade", I promised to do some tests and quizzes on the site - using my other website for my stories. By now I have to admit that the quizzes are getting the better of me.

I thought with JavaScript I would be able to get the quizzes done. I mainly needed to make sure I got the points counted during a quiz, after all. JavaScript can do that.

But now, after searching the internet for various scripts to create a quiz, I'm still not getting anywhere - and I hate that. I'm quite sure I've got the points-gathering part right by now, but I can't get the damn site to give me the results, no matter how hard I try. Now, looking at PHP (see last post), I think it might be easier to achieve my goal with PHP. But, unfortunately, I'm quite sure I can't work with PHP while using my current webspace. Too bad, but then, on the other hand, it didn't cost me any money.

I'll still continue to work on the quizzes, maybe I'll find the solution for my problem - as those writing the scripts I found online obviously think it would work. There has to be a way to do this - and I'll find it, that much is for sure.

And afterwards I might do an English version of this site, too. Unlike "Geschichtenschmiede", which mostly has German stories as I write this, "Night-Shade" would work for English-speaking visitors just as well as for those from Germany.

I'm going to solve this problem, even if it kills me!

Almost like flipper

Not much of a comment in this post. But did you know before White Sharks could jump like that? Always takes my breath away when I see it in documentaries.

About 1.000 kilograms of fish jumping high in the air ... it's amazing...

I hate blue screens!

This post was brought about by my computer crashing when I tried to turn it off.

I like blue as a colour, it's my favourite colour actually (although my websites might suggest something different, especially "Night-Shade"). But I hate the blue screen you get when the computer crashes. I almost hate it more than I hate it when the computer freezes. That's what the restart button was created for, after all. Just press it and everything is well again...

Again and again I thought "I'll switch to Linux or UNIX, they're safer", but I didn't. I love computer games and most don't run under any other operating system than Windows. Damn Bill Gates! And as I'm not a programmer (yet, unless you count websites, but I plan on learning about Flash-programming after the web-master course), I don't really need an absolutely stable environment - or so I usually think until I get the damn blue screen again!

I don't like using Microsoft products, but I don't have much of a chance when it comes to the operating system and my word processor (when I started working with one, I had Works, later on I needed Word for my essays at university - Open Office wasn't out then). I'm too used to Word to just give it up. That's a weak excuse, I know, but it's the truth. I switched from Wordpad to Word once and had to redesign my texts, I'm not doing it again! (Thought I wouldn't have to do, Open Office can read the Word format ... but then, I already decided not to buy another Word version a long time ago.)

I will turn off the computer again now, and may God have mercy on Bill Gates' soul if I get a blue screen again ... for my revenge will be devastating!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Afraid of the dark?

You better should be. The charming person next to this paragraph is ... the Tooth Fairy. Or so the movie "Darkness Falls" says.

I like horror movies and I don't care whether people tell me I'm to old to do so. But what I like most are horror movies that work without all that modern technology. It's possible to create every kind of creature with help of the computer, so creating hordes of half-decayed zombies is possible. But that doesn't make them any better.

So I often go for b-movies instead. Less money for the movie usually means less computer generated effects and more traditional special effects stuff like masks or puppets - or simply damn good lighting techniques.

"Darkness Falls", a movie I hadn't even heard of before I found the DVD for a couple of Euros in my local store, does work a lot with lighting - or rather with the darkness, just as the title suggests. There's also gristly murders, a close-to-reality background legend (which, or so a documentary on the same DVD claims, comes from the fate of a woman in an Australian town) and a well-paced story. That's all I actually demand of a horror movie. Not enormous special effects, not a budged of millions of dollars, just some good effects, a good story and actor which are up to their task (and the actors in this movie definitely are).

The small town of Darkness Falls (if this isn't a town that's been aptly named, I don't know one) has it's own dirty secret in the basement. About 150 years before the movie starts (retold in the movie with a couple of old photographs) a woman named Mathilda Dixon lived in the town. She was a kind woman who gave the children small change for their teeth when they lost them. One day she was caught in her burning house and suffered severe injuries. Most of her body was burned, actually, and the skin became extremely sensitive to light, so she only ventured out at night afterwards, always wearing a porcelain mask to hide her burned and twisted face (especially as she had been a pretty woman before). Then, one day, two children disappeared and the people in town thought it was her doing, so they hanged her and ripped the mask off her face - only to find the children alive and save shortly afterwards. With her dying breath she cursed the town, saying she would take that which she had taken out of kindness out of revenge - for ever. Since that day the Tooth Fairy Mathilda visits the children of the town when they loose their last tooth - and kills those who wake and see her face - or rather her mask.

We jump into the future (or rather our present) to a young boy called Kyle who has just lost his last tooth. Unfortunately, during the night, he wakes up and sees the Tooth Fairy. He escapes her by staying in the light - as she can't venture there, an important fact in the movie -, but his mother, who (as it should be in a horror movie) doesn't believe him, is killed by Mathilda. And he is blamed and spends the next couple of years in mental hospitals - and later on in a flat where there's always some light burning.

Then he is phoned by his childhood friend Caitlin whose younger brother is going through the same fear of the night - because he, too, has seen the Tooth Fairy. So he returns to Darkness Falls and the story takes up speed.

Both he and the boy, called Michael, are stalked by the Tooth Fairy, they are attacked whenever they are in the dark, in her realm. As nobody believes them (another topic used in almost every horror movie), they are pretty much on their own. There are murders committed by the Tooth Fairy (for most of which Kyle gets blamed, just like it was when he'd been thirteen). It's only after the Tooth Fairy attacks the police station (because Kyle is kept there and the electricity is down) and almost all policemen and -women are killed, the son of the sheriff actually believes him, having seen Mathilda himself.

There's a long action sequence in the hospital where Kyle, Michael, Caitlin and some doctors and nurses are stalked - and all except for Kyle, Michael and Caitlin are killed, of course, that's how it works in horror movies. Kyle and the others are rescued in the lobby by the son of the sheriff who drives into the lobby with the car lights on. Light drives Mathilda away at the very last moment. In the lighthouse - where Mathilda lived when she was still alive - they try to get the large light running by activating the generator, but that proves difficult - and even afterwards Mathilda still wants them until…

Well, that would really be spoiling.

What I want to say with this rather long summary of the story is this: the movie is damn good. If you have the chance to watch it - and like horror movies - you should do it. It might scare you - but that's what horror movies are for, isn't it?