Friday, September 20, 2013

Riddick - Take my $5 and leave me alone!

It's a big, normal world out there and we nerds need to stick together, support each other.

Despite dire reviews, I determined to support a fellow nerd and paid to watch Riddick.

For those of you who don't know, Vin Diesel has played D&D for years and wrote the forward to "30 Years of Adventure:  A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons".

Enough history - To the review!

Riddick is betrayed by the Necromongers (remember Chronicles of Riddick?  Yeah, the death cult) and left for dead on a desert planet.  After setting his broken ankles, Riddick sets off across the planet with his pet hyena-dog and finds an abandoned station.  He triggers a beacon which reports he's a dangerous criminal and summons two ships.  One is filled with rag-tag mercenaries; the other with a militarish group of bounty hunters.

The movie quickly descends into a testosterone fest as the mercenaries and bounty hunters jockey for position.  Riddick picks them off and peeps on topless Dahl (Starbuck from BSG) while she bathes.

Real classy, Riddick!
As epic rain begins armless dinosaur creatures with venomous stingers in their tails emerge from their dormant state and attack the station.  Queue the Pitch Black 2 sequences.  Survivors race across monster saturated terrain to retrieve fuel cells so they can escape the planet.

In the end, Dahl, who throughout the movie has been a ball-busting lesbian, asks Riddick to have relations with her.  Wait.  What?

Apparently, the writer(s) of Riddick think the cure for lesbianism is to throw a testosterone fueled man-thug at the lesbian.  Surely she'll see the error of her ways if confronted with enough juvenile come-ons and boorish leering.

The end basically turns Dahl into a mere object of contention between rutting males, to be awarded to the winner.  Man fights, wins, has woman.  What do you mean, she might have her own thoughts and feelings?  

I am disappointed in Vin, in the movie and most especially in Katee Sackhoff for playing such a shallow, stereotyped space bimbo.  

What would Starbuck do?
Back off or I'll kick your @$$!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Likes, Upvotes, Views, Re-tweets and Shares - Social Media and You

Long, long ago, my fellow nerds boldly went where none had gone before.  The interwebs...

I know.  I know.  Nowadays everyone is on social media - all the time.  In order to maintain social cred, you must Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Reddit, Pinterest, VineTumblrInstagramGoogle+ and more!  There really aren't enough hours in the day to be as social as you have to be.

Not to mention more specialized sites - like GoodReads (for literate types), DeviantArt (for peeps who like pretty pictures) or YouTube (when you need moving pictures and sound)

It looks like the web, once the sole province of the socially disinterested and the technically elite (nerds), has been taken over by teens posting selfies, numerous cat videos, and the NSA (Hi Guys!).

So what's a nerd to do?

  1. Stop - just breath and realize you don't have be into everything.  You're a nerd remember.  It's ok to be really, really into your thing.  
  2. Find your community - believe me, whatever you're into, it's on the interweb (See Rule 34 - NSFW!).
  3. Sign up and lurk - watch forums and blogs.  Follow interesting people/topics.  You don't have to contribute
  4. Contribute - if you want, when you have something to say.  And try to be nice - we don't need more trolls!
    From Munchkin Card Game - Use with as much adult supervision as you can find
  5. Schedule - if you're running a blog or posting to some social media site and you want a ton of people watching/following you, schedule your posting times.  Around 6-7 Eastern is when most people are online, so you have the most chance of people seeing your stuff before it's lost in the shuffle if you schedule your uploads.

Does that make the interwebs a bit less scary?

Remember, my dear nerds, the interwebs is ours!  We had it first and we know it best.  Make it work for you.

What are your tips for surviving the social media jungle?

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Word on Worldbuilding

One of the wonderful things about nerds is their creativity.  In my recent post I listed a number of traditionally nerdesque stories and ideas which have gone mainstream.  One of my friends from Writers' Bloc asked me about how my creative process works.

From talking with other writers/creators I've found there tend to be a few different approaches to story creation.  There are the Outliners and those who fly by the seat of their pants, also known as Pantsters.
Whether you're a Outliner or a Pantster, there are a couple of approaches to how you arrive at your main story.  Some use a character based approach.  Others start with a world.  A few base their story on an idea - usually a "What if...?"

If you've done a little writing, you might already know - am I a Pantster or an Outliner?

I am definately a Pantster and so, it seems, is one of my favorite authors, Stephen King.
“There’s no outline, nothing like that. That freezes it, it takes what should be a liquid, plastic, malleable thing to me and turns it into something else. Hey, to me it’s the difference between going to a canvas and painting a picture and going out and buying a Craftsmaster paint-by-the-numbers kit.”  - from “Digging Up Stories With Stephen King” by W.C. Stroby, March 1992 WD
If you've done more writing, you might also have an idea of how the story comes to you:

  • A character who whispers in your brain, demanding their story be told, as Robert Jordan claims Conan did to him
  • A world, complex and rich, full of mystery and wonder, like Dune, or the London Underground of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
  • A 'What If' idea - What if soldiers where deployed overseas at the behest of evil corporations run by vampires, seeking blood, not oil?  - What if a man sat in a jail cell and waited, stocking footed (the image Stephen King says inspired his screenplay for Storm of the Century).
Maybe you're some combination of all of these.  What gets your creative juices going?

Here's more info on worldbuilding:

On Worldbuilding - Ilona Andrews

YouTube - Brandon Sanderson

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nerds go Mainstream - GoT, the Matrix, LotR, TBBT and comic book movies

Look out world!  The nerds are no longer huddled in dark corners like Morlocks.

Increasingly we're seeing pillars of nerd culture encroaching into the mainstream.  You know what it says to me, when office workers cluster around to discuss the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones?  This is so acceptable even 'cool' people admit to it in public.  Wow!

Yes, nerds are everywhere.  We first saw nerds making stealthy inroads in to normal society with The Matrix.  What could be more nerdy than Buddhist philosophy, comic book style fights, trench coats and leather outfits and a dystopian future ruled by machines?

Next up, Aragron, Legolas, Frodo, Gandalf, Eowyn and the rest of our friends from Middle Earth took the normal world by storm.

Then there's the Big Bang Theory.  Here I have some doubts about who's side this show is really on.  I recommend you read this The Problem with TBBT .  Some excellent points and I discovered the awesome show Community.

Of course, many normals are lured into Nerdvana through the simple, yet effective trap of summer block buster movies - X-men, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Avengers and of course the TV rip of X-men, Heroes (first season rocked - after that don't waste your time).

I leave you with this clip of people reacting to the Red Wedding.

Reaction to Red Wedding - Game of Thrones

For us true nerds who have read the books, or for the beginner nerds, testing the waters with floating things on their arms who watched all of Season 3 - Please don't spoil it by explaining why everyone's so upset.  Let this be a recruiting tool for the great nerd army :)

Have I missed any cherished bastions of the brainy and socially disinterested?

Friday, June 21, 2013

5 Reasons Why It's Good To Nerd Out

I love being a nerd!

I didn't always.  No, high school was a cruel place, even college was skewed toward the normies.  I imagined, "When I grow up, none of this popularity BS will matter.  We'll all be mature and appreciate each other for who we are, our diversity of viewpoints and life experiences.  It won't matter who's cool and who's not; who has the most toys/cars/clothes.  We'll be beyond all nonsense."

And then I grew up...and guess what?  We're not.  We still climb the social ladder and gossip about our co-workers, just like study hall.

But here's the difference - Me.  I'm no longer that nervous kid, trying to figure out who I want to be.  I know myself and I love being a nerd.  I proudly quote lines from Monty Python.  I have a favorite bacteria, favorite genes and favorite virus.  I think anime is neat and comics should be a serious storytelling medium.  I love sci-fi and fantasy books and I read Game of Thrones before the TV series!

My top 5 reasons why it's good to be a nerd (special thanks to my FB friends for your suggestions):

5 - Nerd clothes are way cheaper and more comfy.  Jeans and a T-shirt with an ironic saying or Dr. Who reference is haute couture.

4 - Adventure!  Books, movies, places, people, hobbies, food, careers.  Nerds try new things.  We have more interests and are less bored.  We're early adopters and trailblazers, quietly trend setting.

3 - Accepting others, no matter how strange.  Nerds are always a little out of step, a bit out of sync.  We know what it's like to be weird, different, other.  We're ok with people being not normal.

2 - I'm smarter than everyone else.  Nerds are expected to be witty, clever, sarcastic/sardonic.  No more pretending not to know the answer so I won't get labeled 'Teacher's Pet'.

1 - The huge relief of not having to try to be cool, hip, groovy, superswank, in, boss, etc.   I can be myself and love what I love without it ruining all my carefully hoarded social points.

What are your favorite aspects of being a nerd?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Songs To Game By

We all know music is an important component of setting the right vibe for role-playing.

Here are some of the factors I consider when compiling a playlist:

1.  Fit the story - no rock'n'roll music in a high fantasy setting, folk music is not ideal for ShadowRun, etc.
2.  I prefer not to have lyrics, but if there are lyrics they should support the themes of your story.  I have several songs I've added to playlist because they match a character's situation or mindset perfectly.
3.  No sudden loud, jarring changes - avoid music with trumpet blasts, drum fanfares and heavy metal ballads where the lead singer screams incomprehensibly for 30 seconds

I recommend the following:

For traditional DnD / medieval settings - Lord of the Rings soundtracks, the Fountain soundtrack, the Road soundtrack, Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack, Enya, Loreena McKennitt

For adventurous settings - Gladiator soundtrack, Last Samuri soundtrack, Battlestar Galactic soundtracks, Children of Dune soundtrack, Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

For horror/creepy settings - Nox Arcana

Light/Fun settings - Chocolat soundtrack

Future/ShadowRun settings - Transformers:  Rise of the Fallen soundtrack, NIN, Paul Oakenfold (DJ), Break of Reality, Kopas, The XX

Random settings - Putumayo has various world music that can fit a lot of different settings

What are your favorite soundtracks/playlists to game by?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Orpheelin - Amazing comic and she's a SHE!

I've been to a NYC ComicCon a couple of times.  My honey is a fantastic artist.  Here's a picture he did of Marius, a character who re-iterates a lot in our RPs and in my writing -

Hotkins aside, in Western comics there's a consistent lack of female influence. Considering the fastest growing readership is girls and women, this seems like a marketing no brainer.

So why aren't Marvel, DC, TopCow, BOOM!  IDW, Image, Zenescope and the rest running out to find female writers, editors and artists?  Well there a few, but most of them are colorists, like Nei Ruffino, who while she does an amazing job bringing life, light and color to her work, isn't creating the content.  The boobies and crotch shots she colors were drawn by guys.

Recently DC decided to restart their universe.  They put Wonderwoman back in her undies and did an opener of Catwoman where you never see her face!  Just TnA, as if women wander around their lairs in tiny outfits as a hobby.  Don't get me started on how "empowering" Witchblade's teeny bikini outfit must be.  Imagine trying to walk, let alone fight in that - Ouch!

Then there's Red Hood.  In a feeble, juvenile attempt to show she's a "strong, liberated" woman, the writers made her into a joyless nympho.  I'm fine with females having and liking sex, but making it a compulsion says a lot about the content creators and their target market:  Boys.

Turning now to our ray of hope.  The talented Orpheelin, whose work is sooo amazing I would buy the French books just to see more of Faust and Cendre.  The art is stunning and while there's boobies aplenty, there's also plenty of pics of Faust and other male characters and their naughty bits.  The story never treats the females as afterthoughts.  They are important and even when they're having a rocking time bouncy-bouncy on some Norse half-elf, they're treated with dignity and respect.

Check out Orpheelin at

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Starve - An Addiction We Can All Enjoy

Like many of you I have a busy life.  Full time job, hobbies, chores, family, etc.  One of my guilty pleasures is indulging in video games.  My favorites are Civ V, WoW and GuildWars 2, with a few mobile games like PvZ rounding out my on-the-go entertainment.

I'm in the process of getting a novel published (the beginning, looking for an agent portion of the process).  The last thing I need is another time sink.  Enter my loving spouse who insisted I try Don't Starve.  I was hooked!

You initially play Wilson, waking up in a strange world.  You run around, gather materials, make tools and prepare for night.  Rinse repeat.  Sound fun?  Believe me, it's so addictive!

You have to keep an eye on your tummy meter (so you don't starve), your sanity meter (if it gets low you start seeing things) and your health meter (so the spiders don't kill you).  Different resources keep one or more of these up.  You can craft increasingly complex devices.  Exploration is important to locate resources and dangers.

If you survive long enough you unlock other characters.  I won't ruin it for you by saying any more than that.  The great joy and frustration of this game is discovery.

A final note on the graphics - they're fantastic!  Creepy and well done, cartoony with a dash of Nightmare Before Christmas flavor.

My recommendation - support an indie game that's cheap, fun and won't nickel and dime you to death with in app/game purchase options.  Oh, and there's no subscription fee :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Little Something Extra - D&D Miniatures

I recently started playing a new Pathfinder campaign.  For those of you who don't know, Pathfinder is very similar to D&D.  My DM (Dungeon Master - and no, this is not a 50 Shades of Gray thing) is a big fan of miniatures.

I've always shied away from miniatures, those tiny, chess like pieces which represent PCs and NPCs.  It'll take all the imagination out of the game, I thought.  Miniatures make it into a board game.  I'm here for role-playing, not to count squares and move little plastic or metal figures like a grown-up Candyland.

My DM had laid out an impressive dungeon map and provided us with a plethora of miniatures to choose from.  I and the other female player had a hard time finding female figures both armed and clothed.  Big boobs and wee bits of leather or chainmail?  Check!  Fully clothed and adequately armored? Not a chance.

This is a really common problem, especially in anything that has to do with fantasy   Don't believe me?  Check out  Funny commentary on the typical bikini armor female characters are stuffed into.

That aside, miniatures did make it easier to judge distances in combat and figure out attacks of opportunity.  I have to admit, they do add a little something to the game.

Still, why can't my female elf ranger wear pants?  All the males get pants.  Why is she stuck in a loincloth and ity-bity top?  Maybe she should loot some pants in her next random monster encounter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A for Effort - Iron Man 3 tips his helmet to women

The summer blockbuster season is upon us and we open with the return of our beloved Tony Stark, the Iron Man.

Overall, Iron Man 3 lived up to my expectations of a comic book movie, especially one produced by Disney.  The plot is fairly simple:  Disillusioned genius scientist puts his skills on the free market and turns to evil.  Our hero, aided by his sometimes sidekick, Col. Rhodes, his steady girlfriend, Pepper Potts and a plucky kid with a knack for causing panic attacks, must face his own PTSD demons while battling the growing threat posed by the Mandarin, played quite ably by Sir Kingsley.

The story picks up after the events of the Avengers and Tony is having problems sleeping due to the the trauma of learning both aliens and Norse gods exists.  Strangely, the US is still more concerned about religiously motivated terrorism than they are about OMG ALIENS and GODS!  Anyway...

Mr. Bad Guy Pants has recruited wounded vets and using an experiment process created by Tony's one-night-stand Maya, turns them into super soldiers.  Queue the final showdown - Tony, Rhodes and Potts vs. an army of super soldiers and Killian.

This movie takes a few faltering steps away from the comic cliches in its treatment of three female characters.  While none are the main movers and shakers, they have their own moments to shine.  Sadly, these are almost immediately overshadowed by the boys.  When Maya takes a stand, demonstrating her moral courage, she's shot.  When Brandt fights Tony, she's blown up.  When Pepper saves Tony and herself from Killian, she turns right back into the uncertain girl, full of quivering pleas for comfort "Am I going to be alright?", thus putting a lie to her single moment of badassery.

I'm encouraged that scriptwriters and movie producers are trying to give their females roles outside of the classic damsel in distress or femme fetal.  I'm looking forward to more efforts and a day when women feel just as included at a Marvel movie as men do.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Zombies on my freaking lawn! Why I still love PvZ

Yes, once again, there are zombies on my freaking lawn!  I feel like Crazy Dave with a pot on my head...or butter, no, he wears a frying pan.  Anyway, I love PvZ (Plants vs. Zombies)!  No matter what the iOS game de jour is, I find myself humming along to the soothing sounds of my zen garden, or trying to break my streak in Vase Breaker Infinite (currently, up to 18).

So what keeps me coming back?  A couple of things:  I'm a completist and I still haven't achieved all the achievements.  Yep, OCD, that's me.  The game play is simple to learn and changes enough from level to level that it doesn't seem too repetitive.  There are mini-games and puzzles.  Also, you really feel like you're getting a lot of content for your money.  In the age of $60 games with a play thru time of 8 hours (about $7.50/hour of play time), considering how much I play PvZ, I probably paid fractions of pennies for each hour.

I, like many other fans of PvZ, worry that EA will fill PvZ2, coming out this summer, with in-app purchases and take it down the same rough road they have with other IP's they've acquired (cough SimCity).  We'll have to see when it comes out.  EA has a bad reputation from trying to squeeze every penny out of the consumer.  While PvZ currently has in-app purchase available, they're not necessary to enjoy the game, which I really appreciate.

The game's not big, it's not flashy.  It has nice graphics, a great sense of humor and you get more than your money's worth.  Let's hope it stays that way.