Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, jr.

I had no idea what Slaughterhouse 5 was about before I started reading it. All I knew was that it was on pretty much every single recommended book list I could find. Having never read any of Vonnegut's work before, I had no preconception of his work, or his writing style.

Let me just say that the work surprised me. I normally read science fiction and fantasy, but this is a work written in an entirely different way to which I am accustomed. The book has layers; some unravel quite easily, and some evade notice until either absolutely necessary, or until after you've read the book and put some thought into it. Hopefully, without giving too much away, I will attempt to elaborate.

The story begins with a writer's account of how he wrote this story. Already, it's a story about a story, which isn't hard to follow, but interesting in itself. Then, the "real" story begins, the focus of both your reading and the speaker's work. This story follows the life of one Billy Pilgrim, who starts off as a sub-par individual, a person who had me asking and thinking, "Why is this the main character? He doesn't seem worthy of my interest." As the story progresses, the time-line is all over the place. Sometimes you are looking at Billy's present, sometimes his present is in your past, as in you've read about that part but not from this current perspective, sometimes he alludes to future events which you've read, and sometimes he foreshadows other events. As this continues, and the threads of his life begin to weave together, I started to realize what made Billy seem so odd in the first place. I started to understand him, and thus had to rescind my earlier thoughts concerning his importance.

In addition to all this, Slaughterhouse 5 is a story of war and insanity. One of the main focuses of this story is the bombing of Dresden, Germany, in WWII, controversially seen as a tragic, unnecessary war crime by many. I won't go too far into this, but I will say that this event, very crucial in Slaughterhouse 5, adds to the calamity, and seemingly inevitable tragedy of humanity.

I feel as if my thoughts on this book are still forming, which is not only a good thing in and of itself, as I love books that stick with me and make me think, but this is also symbolic of the book itself that has more in common with a tapestry than the duvet covers of most "literature".

So it goes.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I just finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell and I think it is fascinating, if not unexpected. It's a short book, so if you want to add another classic to your list, it won't take you very long. The story follows a now predictable pattern of a society, a farm, of animals who rise up against the human-imposed enslavement and what happens afterward.

This book is a classic and it is another one that is less renown for itself and more so for its commentary and effect on the world upon which it was framed. Don't get me wrong; the book drives the point home with simple and accurate precision, but it is not a work that I would want to, nor have to, read again.

I am not sure how this will come across, but I sometimes lament reading classic books. Because the book has had such influence, I either go into it knowing exactly what to expect, or so familiar with a theme or style copied by so many others that I find myself feeling blasé by the original. This is unfortunate, as it takes a little away from the quality of a work, but thankfully, I have enough of an appreciation of history as to recognize and respect the importance of such a work.

There isn't much more that can be said about this book, despite the introduction and appendices tacked on to my addition by some other literary or political expert. Which, by the way, is another thing I dislike: Put the thoughts of others, about the book, about the significance of it, at the END of the book. I don't want to read about the book before I've read it, even if I know exactly what happens in said work.

All in all, it is a book that questions power, questions the ability of a society to live with a shared and equal prosperity, questions the incorruptibility of individuals and, if you're really lazy, the entire point of the book can be summed up by reading its last line.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Stanley Parable

I just finished The Stanley Parable, which any of you can get here: The Stanley Parable, for free, and I quite enjoyed it. This game, this experience, while not completely novice, was at least creative, entertaining, and refreshing. The Stanley Parable does not take that long to play and while it's a choose-your-own adventure story, each choice exists within the same game, within the same "world" as the others. The author commentary, again short, should be read, after you play the game, but does leave me feeling a little sorry for the designer. He remarks how long and draining creating this game was, and in the end, he seems very disheartened. I wrote him a little email thanking him for the experience and wishing him a happier future. His work, and the work of other independent thinkers out there, should be praised, rewarded. While the video gaming industry has taken off in the last ten years, now prominent and nigh corporate, it is nice to see the "little guys" coming up with fresh effort. Don't get me wrong, I love some of the bigger video game companies; they listen to their fans, and they have delivered some of the greatest games I've ever played. But, the capitalist in me just loves free enterprise, just loves when someone takes their ideas into their own hands and publishes them just in the hopes that they get exposure.

Anyway, I have gone on a bit of a rant here, so I will just finish this by saying, you should check out this game. It's a good time killer, and might make you think a little.


Passing through Union Station, I noticed a person sitting on the floor asking for money in the same place that a busker, a street performer, usually is. This got me thinking.

My immediate thought was indignation; a sort of perturbed feeling that this person was just sitting there, asking for money, instead of earning it in some way. I know that the city of Toronto actually takes street performers very seriously, even asking them to get licensed and then, after an audition, actually placing them where their talents will be most appreciated. For example, since Union Station is a busy place, those who have the better auditions usually end up playing there, whereas someone with less skill might play at a less popular area. Of course, not everyone can or does follow these rules, and sometimes people just put down a hat and pick up a guitar.

Nevertheless, my thoughts returned to the guy sitting on the floor. Who was I to make a judgement over this person? Maybe this fellow made a couple of wrong decisions or, worse yet, maybe he didn't. Maybe bad things happened to him, and he fell through the cracks of the system and our cynicism down to street level. Where was compassion for your fellow man? Where was the paying-it-forward attitude? What happened to the hospitality of old that would allow perfect strangers access to room, food, and shelter upon arriving on someone's door.

Sadly, I acknowledge this change in the world, but unfortunately, I acknowledge the necessity of such a change. I was raised with good old-fashioned ideas of chivalry, hospitality, and general gentlemanliness, but I was also raised to be observant, and to value hard work and effort. The world is a scary place, and sometimes, a lazy one. I never know whether the people sitting on the street are scamming me, those who have money but are looking for more out of boredom (there have been reported cases), or if this guy will just use my money to feed his problems. Now, I'm saying that this fellow was lazy, but I am saying that when it comes to ideas of handouts, I take on a very utilitarian perspective. Yes, I may offer you a bed for the night if you're down on your luck, but I will not buy you food every day if you are doing nothing to show your appreciation. And that's the thing: people who sit on the street are just asking for money. They are not trying to earn it, they are just basically saying, "Hey, give me money." Well, that tactic didn't work on the bullies in grade school, that tactic doesn't work on my friends, and that tactic doesn't work on people sitting on the street.

Forgive me if I sound harsh, but I think everyone has talents, and that everyone has something to offer this world. I pity the world for the state it is in, and I feel remorse for the guy who has had said sad world bring him to this level of depravity, but people need to acknowledge that there is always hope; there is always something they can do to better themselves, and the world around them.

And those are my thoughts concerning handouts, thanks for reading. I apologize if I offended anyone.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Foundation Trilogy

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

        I just finished reading this classic trilogy in science fiction and I must say I quite enjoyed it. I mean, I've heard good things, and Asimov is certainly a name to be considered a cornerstone of science fiction, but I always try to put the hype aside and judge the work on it's own.
        The plot takes place in humanity's future where we have established a Galactic Empire. All is controlled on the central, bureaucratic planet and this is where we start our journey. Seen at the Empire's prime, we learn that one scientist not only predicts the downfall, but the inevitability of such a downfall for the Empire. This scientist also concocts a plan whereupon the intervening time between the fall of one and the rise of the next Empire, known as the Great Interregnum, is reduced from the uncontrolled 30 000 years to an approximate 1 000 years. The trilogy then goes on, describing important parts of the Great Interregnum, jumping forward hundreds of years each time.
        And that's the basic plot. I won't ruin anything for you, that is not why I'm here, writing about it. My thoughts? I think the work is incredibly well-written, but not in the way I originally expected. There is a genre of science fiction, and sometimes unfortunately, where the focus of the entire work is technology, how it fits in the world and its effect on the characters and world in which it is used. Thankfully, however, this is not the case with the Foundation trilogy. Rather, the work focuses more on politics, religion, economics, and sociology. Technology is an important part of this work, but mostly its effect on the trends just mentioned is explored. The premise is interesting as it claims that the behaviour of large groups of people is statistically predictable, and that individual action only adds to the adapting, predictable behaviour. The work pokes at the human condition as it brings up themes of religion, analyzes faith in an idea even when you have no idea how the idea is to implemented, and attempts to compare futuristic, galactic trade and activity to common, concurrent practices. What is really impressive is how Asimov balances a story that is very encyclopedic in format and essence with the emotional impact and character association of a fictional work.
        All in all, I suggest you read it if and only if you are a fan on this type of work. Science fiction, especially classic, politically-driven work that analyzes societal forces, can be a bit daunting and possibly uninteresting to those who want a fast-paced, in-depth character connection.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Transformers: War for Cybertron

I just finished this game the other day so here are my thoughts on the matter. If you are a fan of the series, I would highly recommend this game.

First off, let's discuss how the game looks. The designers of the game did a great job of blending the character design between the cartoon style from the original TV show, and the more realistic design of the characters from the latest films. They struck the right balance, and the characters look at once badass and toy-like.

The story, always simple when dealing with villians known as Decepticons, basically follows Megatron's attempts at power over the Transformers' homeworld Cybertron. To put it into perspective, the plot of the game is supposed to take place before the movies, before the Transformers come to Earth. Apparently, there are endless Transformers comics, but I personally have never read them. Still, I would like some feedback from anyone who knows, as to whether or not the plot of this game bears any resemblance to a previously published Transformers story.

Without giving too much of it away, the game starts with the Transformers already at war. Megatron and his Decepticons are working to take over the planet and its resources, Megatron always believing that these same resources are being used inefficiently. Megatron quickly realizes he needs control of the skies and that's when he meets, defeats, and eventually enlists the help of Starscream and his flying comrades. Megatron then goes on to discover and utilize "Dark Energon" ( I told you, simple stuff here), a chaotic but powerful source of energy which his uses to try to take over Cybertron.

The story of the Autobots begins with an amazing cut-scene which will get any Transformers fan's blood pumping, as Bumblebee fights his way to an Autobot named Optimus, there to deliver a message that the Decepticons are revolting. The Autobots team up, fighting their way through enemy lines in an attempt to gain access to, and ensure the safety of, the Cybertronian Council (the Senate, if you will). As you play, you learn a little about the characters, but arguably, not much. Finally, Optimus and his team make it to the Council who informs him that there are no more leaders of the Autobots. The Senate may have wisdom, but they need a certified leader to bring them through this. It is quite enjoyable seeing Optimus, now Optimus Prime, Leader of the Autobots, rise to power as he does so in a typical protagonistic fashion, being humble and respectful the whole way through. I also want to add that I am thankful that Peter Cullen reprized his character as the voice of Optimus, it really wouldn't be a Transformers experience without him. The story continues with the battle between these two forces and what inevitably happens to Cybertron as a result.

The game play is quite good, if simple. The controls are familiar, and the levels are pretty linear. Still, the various weapons, the fact that every character gets its own unique set of innate skills, and the fact that you can change between a car or robot, or jet and robot at ANY time makes the game quite exciting. Seriously, you are not alive until you boost in as a vehicle, change into a robot, blast 2 guys in mid-air, and transform back and boost away without losing any speed. The 3 player coop is quite fun, the most difficult part being actually getting 3 people to be available to play at once. The multiplayer is actually really great, surprisingly. While the game has a limited player population, you get XP by playing, which not only increases your abilities as you play the game, but allows for better character customization at higher levels.

Finally, I will just say that I think you should try it. If you are a fan of Transformers at all, and you want a quick and easy game, you can't go wrong really. I know this review is far from professional, being mostly emotionally based, but I had no issue with the graphics, the plot, or anything else about the game, admitting openly that it is a simple, short game, so don't spend $50 on it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dungeons and Dragons

I like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, DnD). It is a game limited only by rules and imagination. Even the rules can be bent or broken as long as that is accepted by all involved. I will post further information regarding this interest, but should you be really bored, and if you haven't seen it already, please check out this website: Obsidian Portal: Ori Campaign, whereupon my friends and I embarked on an adventure that lasted over two years! It was an amazing experience and should you be interested, the link contains the journals, written by me, from my character's perspective throughout the campaign. (N.B. The journals are in reverse order, sorry about that.) If you yourself are interested in playing, running, or cataloging your adventures, Obsidian Portal was very helpful for me!



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