Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekend Update

A sunny Saturday morning and another weekend update. What’s ahead of me?

  • DVD to watch: no real plan, we’ll see
  • Book to read: still reading my way through Charlotte MacLeod’s “Balaclava” series
  • game to play: some casual games, I plan to finish “Escape from Paradise”

Sun to walk in, something to read, maybe something to write, too. What a nice time of the week.


I’ve had a dream featuring one of my former friends tonight. I can’t even remember the dream anymore, but it made me think about the friends I’ve had.

I’ve never been someone with oodles of friends and acquaintances. Even as a small kid I only played with relatively few other kids (even in kindergarten, yes). And most of those were rather acquaintances than friends, of course.

When I was a kid, I had three good friends. One of them was the butcher’s youngest daughter, one was a bit older than me and related to me by X relatives (don’t ask me how many, okay?) and one lost her upper front teeth just weeks after she had gotten the final ones (life sucks, doesn’t it?).

At the end of primary school, only one of them still remained in the same school with me (Germany has three different types of secondary school). I held contact with my slightly older and slightly related friend most easily, as she lived not too far away. My third good friend I lost, though. She went to a different school, found different friends and developed differently from me.

My only friend left (the one with the missing upper front teeth, of course she wore a dental prosthesis) moved from my area when her mother married again (I’ve never met her real father, even though I first met her when we were four or so), but they stayed in town and she still went to the same school. But then she had to leave for a different type of secondary school and soon afterwards moved to live with her father (she’d never liked her mother’s new husband and her new sister much). So our friendship ended as well, we wrote letters to each other for a while and then simply let it drop. (She is the one I have dreamt about tonight, by the way.)

My slightly older and slightly related friend simply became a more and more distant friend. She went to a different school, started working a good deal earlier than me (because not all different school types in Germany take the same time to complete). She was a different type than me, too, much more easygoing (no, not that way…).

Through her I met another friend I had for quite a while. But my friendship with this friend ended, because she developed mental problems and dropped them all on my shoulders. After a while I couldn’t take it anymore (I had problems of my own, too, at that time), so I ended this friendship.

Heike, which I have mentioned before, became my friend in secondary school, but her parents moved out of town rather soon afterwards, so for most of our friendship we have mainly communicated by letter (as this was in the dark times before cell phones and texting). We had quite some breaks in our friendship, once her relatives simply made sure she didn’t get my letters any longer. Once she was on the run from her former husband, hiding from everyone, including me. Then it simply slipped away while we were both having a lot other things on our mind. Currently she seems disinterested in our friendship and has so for over a year. I have no idea why.

Friendship is a strange thing in many ways…

Monday, April 19, 2010

Me and the faeries

I have to admit that I spent most of my weekend caring for a little tribe of faeries in a new casual game. “Little Folk of Faery” is a strategy game, very much like “Virtual Villagers”, “Escape from Paradise” and some others.

Such games consist of a number of missions you have to accomplish in order to finish the game (“Little Folk of Faery” also has secondary missions you don’t have to accomplish to finish the game). In order to do so, you need to train your people (in this case gnomes, pixies, leprechauns and dryads), so they can tackle the missions. You also need to feed your people (and in this game, they are clever enough to gather food themselves if the storage is running low) and take care of them. One of the secondary missions is to reunite the whole group by organizing parties that call them back, one by one, from the forest.

Unlike in other games of that type, your faeries don’t die. That’s a major drawback I have encountered in other games of that type. You have finally maxed out one ability of one of your people and then he or she dies. And once you’ve gathered all 12 faeries together, you can actually get a lot of work done.

The main missions circle around the restoration of balance and harmony, mostly by chasing away wandering spirits that haunt and scare the faeries, repair various places and getting the light source (the King of Fireflies) back to work. In order to that, though, you have to do other things, like repairing the mirrors which multiply the light of the fireflies, rescue the Queen Bee and her hive so they can produce honey, restore the swamp so you can harvest a special kind of flower and learn a special song that will lead the King of Fireflies to his old new job.

Beside those things, you can also reunite the tribe (that’s no primary mission), repair various lights around the place, gather various objects (four collection, one of which actually makes part of the fog and a wandering spirit disappear) and do other things.

This is a leprechaun, the first of my little faeries who actually maxed out all four trades a fairy can have in this game. That’s why he’s accompanied by a chimera instead of the other, normal animals that accompany the faeries.

Usually you can tell which ability a fairy has maxed out last (or used most). Music brings a bird as a pet, nature a gerbil, knowledge a chipmunk and exploration a weasel. Leprechauns usually prefer exploration, but each fairy can max out every ability. Once they do, they are accompanied by a chimera.

It took me about 14 hours to master all primary and secondary missions (and a little extra time to max out my leprechaun). Currently I wonder whether I should start over or continue with the current game. I really would like to know if something happens once I max out all 12 faeries…

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Update

Outside the sun is shining and the weekend has arrived (well, those two facts are not related at all…).

  • DVD to watch: “Primeval” third season
  • Book to read: “Exit the Milkman” by Charlotte McLeod
  • Game to play: probably some casual game

I’ll also go out and enjoy the sun and find other things to do.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last Sunday I had the chance to watch the full-CGI movie “The Legend of Beowulf” on TV (meaning: without paying for it). I’m glad I’ve never actually paid money to see it, to be honest. And no, that’s not because of the CGI-characters, they were done well.

I’m quite well-acquainted with the story of Beowulf. I’ve read the original tale and I’ve seen a host of movies. Most movies don’t take the original tale that serious, but that’s okay. Until Sunday I thought the “Beowulf”-movie with Christopher Lambert was the worst (despite the rather inspired Steampunk setting and the great design for Grendel’s mother). Now I know better.

But where do I start? With the CGI part? No, because there was nothing wrong with it – even though I wondered what they needed famous actors for, others would have done as well. Apart from that, everything was quite well there. Not exactly perfectly realistic models, but we’re speaking about monsters and heroes here, so that’s not a necessity. One thing didn’t work out, though, and that is a major drawback: Grendel.

Stephen King rightfully describes Grendel in “Danse Macabre” (a great book about horror movies and horror novels from the 1950s to the 1980s with a few chapters about the basics of the genre) as a ‘natural born killer’. It’s a predator, a creature that kills humans just as easily as a fox kills a rabbit. The Grendel in this movie looks crippled and isn’t exactly bloodthirsty. It kills the king’s men – but just because they make that much noise. Today it probably would just call the police instead. This Grendel is everything but a natural born killer. It’s something you pity.

The story has been changed, too, making Grendel Hrothgar’s son. But that’s not really the problem. The Lambert version of the story features the same twist, but the monster still is a monster. It also makes the dragon which will kill Beowulf in the end Beowulf’s own son with Grendel’s mother (a tad unrealistic, but in this movie the mother of the monster looks hot). Still, the story takes a few turns that don’t really feature with the hero the original tale presents us.

Yes, Beowulf is, for his time, the ‘perfect’ hero without flaws. But that’s the point in a character like him. He never follows Hrothgar on the throne – he actually has a kingdom of his own to rule. And he kills Grendel’s mother just like her child, after she has avenged her son and killed most of Beowulf’s companions.

But for me, it was the design of Grendel as a crippled something that really ruined the movie. I don’t want to pity the monster which the hero slays.