Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creating my new character in "Fallout 3"

I am going to create my neutral character and have juggled numbers and perks/skills and this is what I've come up with:

S.P.E.C.I.A.L.
Strength: 7
Perception: 7
Endurance: 4
Charisma: 3
Intelligence: 7
Agility: 6
Luck: 6

Skills:
Small Guns
Lockpick
Repair

Perks:
Black Widow/Lady Killer (lvl 2)
Intense Training (lvl 3)
Entomologist (INT 4, SCI 40)
Comprehension (lvl 5)
Gunslinger (lvl 6)
Bloody Mess (lvl 7)
Commando (lvl 8)
Impartial Mediation (lvl 9)
Animal Friend (lvl 10)
Finesse (lvl 11)
Sniper (lvl 12)
Silent Running or Fast Metabolism (lvl 13)
Adamantium Skeleton (lvl 14)
Light Step (lvl 15)
Action Boy (lvl 16)
Better Criticals (lvl 17)
Concentrated Fire (lvl 18)
Mysterious Stranger (lvl 19)
Grim Reaper's Sprint (lvl 20)

Quests after leaving Vault 101:
Securing a home in Megaton.
Operation: Alaska
Seek out all possible Bobbleheads.

Helpful Hints?

Operation: Alaska is a really easy set of missions, even for an early level character - it is supposed to be a VR training mission after all. The major bonus of completing this mission ASAP is power armor that does not degrade in quality, stealth armor - nice but eventually useless at higher levels, and my personal favorite the Degauss Rifle. The Degauss is a solid sniper rifle that will knock most targets (Deathclaws in particular) on their ass.

Securing a base at Megaton rather than Tenpenny Tower allows, not only better karma, but a more central home base. The sooner you save Megaton the better - allowing you to complete the Wastelander's Handbook and get a shit ton of XP in the process.

Bobbleheads:

First thing - DO NOT max your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. or Skills. Your stats do not go past 10 or 100 so use your points where actually needed. I suggest tracking down all the Bobbleheads you can from the get go. It may be tough and you might actually, gasp, die every once in awhile but it's totally worth it in the long run.

If you do plan on destroying Megaton get the bobblehead from the Sheriff's house first. There's another in the Enclave fortress that you can't miss, rather shouldn't.


Okay,

Now that Broken Steel is coming out I would suggest starting a new character and holding off on The Pitt. Apparently Broken Steel boosts the level limit from twenty to thirty so you need all the XP you can get.

Pending reviews and assorted good stuff:

There should be a few more movie reviews coming down the pike pretty soon. I haven't played anything new to really jump up and down about. Pretty much kicked the hell out of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix and went back to playing Fallout 3.

By the by:

NEW DOWNLOADABLE MEGA-CONTENT FOR FALLOUT 3: BROKEN STEEL COMES OUT MAY 5TH.

I am very excited. Very, very excited. I might even have to start yet another character (It will only be my third character, I have one good and one evil right now). Happy dance!

Oh suck. I have finals right after it is released. Stoopid skool.

Amusing Fallout 3 story: My "evil" character has gunned down, bludgeoned, or incinerated almost every character in the game. In particular - Three Dog. I never really liked Three Dog. Loud mouthed jerk.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let the Right One In (2008) Dir. Tomas Alfredson



Let the Right One In is, quite possibly, one of the best vampire movies ever made. I imagine it will be remade with Zac Ephron or some motherfucker from The Suite Life in a few years and it will be completely ruined.

Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist have put together a well made, well written, and at times genuinely creepy vampire/coming of age/revenge movie. There's a lot going on in Let the Right One In and to go into any of it would ruin the impact of the movie.

This is available on Netflix download so most of you fine folks have absolutely have no excuse to miss this movie.



Monday, April 20, 2009

Of Cooks and Kung Fu (1979) Dir. Chung Ting

It's been a long time since I watched an old skool kung fu movie. That's mainly because Tarantino loves them. If I have to explain it to you then you'll never understand.

That being said Of Cooks and Kung Fu was one of the best late 70s kung-fu movies I think I've ever seen. It's pretty much 75% chop socky and 25% story (and the story was pretty standard but suprisingly good). Oh yeah...

IT HAS COOKING KUNG FU!

Seriously, Fried Rice style could fuck your day up.

The end fight is pretty awesome too.

What's really bizarre about this movie is the soundtrack. Tarantino wishes his soundtracks were this awesome. Of Cooks and Kung Fu has a totally insane soundtrack, I think the high point is the cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird" done by...I don't know how to describe it. Imagine an evil Casio played by the insane Korean Christian yelling lady who used to preach on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the late 90s. I shit you not.

Dead Ringers (1988) Dir. David Cronenberg

Amanda and I decided to watch this because, well, sometimes a David Cronenberg movie just kind of hits the spot. Personally, I'm a Videodrome kind of guy but I figured what the hell.

If you've never seen Dead Ringers here's the plot summary from imdb:
The Mantle brothers are both doctors - both gynecologists - and identical twins.
Mentally however, one of them is more confident than the other, and always
manages to seduce the women he meets. When he's tired of his current partner,
she is passed on to the other brother - without her knowing. Everything runs
smoothly, until an actress visits their clinic, and the shy brother is the first
to fall in love. Will they be able to 'share' her ?

Okay. Hmmm. Yeah. Well maybe there won't be a grotesque birth/licking scene like in The Brood right? Yeah.

I don't know if I can really recommend Dead Ringers. To anyone. Ever. It's not bad, per se, it's just kind of aimless and less Cronenberg-y than his other movies. Stick with Videodrome, at least Debbie Harry gets naked in that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easy Star All-Stars remix "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Found this over at skablahblah.com.  I am a fan of their Dubside of the Moon but not a fan of Radiodread.  This might be cool but I'm not 100% sold.  Cool advert though.


Steampunk bands that "love the machine but hate the factory".

There seems to me to be two schools of Steampunk music, though there are probably many more than that:
  1. A cocktail of Brechtian punk, squeezebox, plinky racket, and morbidly humourous lyrics a la The Dresden Dolls, The Decemberists, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For NothingDarcy James Argue's Secret Society, Thomas Truax, and Tom Waits circa The Black Rider.  Not exactly my favorite sound in the world but I know quite a few people who enjoy it.
  2. Good old fashioned - no pun intended - dark wave/electronica/trance/techno/IDM/70s score inspired/"World Beat" for flying to Mars in your brass and wood space faring craft. This is defnitely much more my style though I am not such a fan of the noodly stuff, y'know nine minute tracks with no beats or hook.  Two bands that fall into this school are Abney Park and Hopeful Machines.  See also: Barry Adamson, Greg Edmonson, David Newman, and Damon Albarn & Michael Nyman's Ravenous score.
I personally lean towards the second school but then again I'm a score/soundscape kind of guy. Check them out, see what you think, etc. etc. etc.





"I say Waddington, those rogues are absconding with our dirigible!"

So we saw a new show on G4TV this evening hosted by Morgan Webb Underground.  Apparently the show features documentaries about fringe culture a la current.com, only on a smaller level. The first segment focused on "urban spelunking" - a.k.a. wandering around urban environments and the second focused on Steampunk and featured the band Abney Park. Steampunk is a subculture based on a "vision of a future that never was": where dirigibles sail through skyscrapers, Victorian style abounds, and the imaginations of Wells, Burroughs, and Haggard have become flesh. 

I have to admit I was a bit confused.  I had noticed some stuff on the Internet - Macs modded into typerwriter cases, steam engine contraptions, and assorted weirdness - over the last year or so.  Bart's passed a lot of this information along.  Thanks Bart!  However, I didn't think a subculture was building.

The first time I heard of Steampunk it was in regards to manga - Kia Asamiya's Steam Detectives comes to mind.  In 2004, Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy came out.  It wasn't bad but really didn't do much for me.  A new Vampire Hunter D movie came out around that same time.

Side note:  I remember a sci-fi/fantasy/Victorian series of books back in the late 80s/early 90s (19 not 18)   called Philip Jose Farmer's The Dungeon.  The books featured British guys with mustaches commiting acts of derring-do.  Actually the books were awesome and I'd like to reread them.

I suppose in the early/mid-00's there were several other pop culture releases: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, del Toro's Hellboy, Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Firefly, the reprinting of Robert E. Howard novels, and some other items that escape my memory.

Oh yeah and there was the absinthe craze too.  

I kind of dig the current style of Steampunk but I don't know what exactly to think.  A snarky part of me scoffs and thinks that it's a sepia-toned neo-Goth/Victorian shake & bake movement that's a knock-off of Harajuku fashion.  Maybe it's just an excuse to wear Abe Sapien goggles. The not so snarky part of me thinks Steampunk fashion and it's brass gewgaws are pretty fucking darn cool.  I have to admit that if I could get away with dressing like an aeronaut and waving around a steam-powered repeating firearm I would be pretty happy.

There's definitely more to Steampunk and I'm going to look into it.  There's a sensibility beyond the fashion that is appealing that I can't quite put my finger on yet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Gladiators vs Werewolves?

Thanks for the guys over at dreadcentral.com for bringing this to my attention:

Rob Green - director of The Bunker - is set to direct Gladiators Vs. Werewolves.

Okay, undead Nazis may be cool but dude, seriously, I think Gladiators vs werewolves is cooler. The only way it could be cooler if there were time-travelling undead Nazis.

I'll keep an ear out for this one.

Mein Gott! Der Todt! (A supernatural Nazi double feature)

Now that I have Netflix downloaded to my XBOX I am watching a lot more movies. One of the things I love is I can watch a few mintutes of something and then if I don't like it I can just stop watching it guilt free and watch something else.





Last night I watched a movie I had been wanting to see for quite some time, Outpost (2008) dir Steve Barker. Here's why I wanted to watch it: Mercenaries vs Undead Nazis. Need I say more? It was actually a pretty solid little movie. Sure it wasn't Cherry Orchard but I wasn't really expecting or wanting much. Outpost was more along the quality lines of a really good episode of Tales From the Crypt. Very satisfactory.





I remembered another movie, The Bunker (2001) dir Rob Green, that I saw many moons ago. This time it's a period piece (1944), German soldiers vs things that go bump in the night. It was actually a solid movie - granted Englishmen play Germans again - but The Bunker is one of those movies I've always wished I owned.



These two movies would be a top notch double feature if any of you are so inclined.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (XBOX Live Arcade) available tomorrow!

AWESOME! Finally after much dilly-dallying Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is going to be available for download tomorrow (04-08-09). This makes me very happy. I am tired of going snowblind while squinting at my DSLite. Of course I'm probably not supposed to marathon game on the DS.

Asylum (2008) dir. David R. Ellis

Asylum was a straight-to-video C level teen horror movie. It wasn't absolutely wretched - it had gore, nudity, a fairly decent villian, and had a higher production quality than most horror rap * cough Hatchet cough* I've seen lately. If you're looking for something to stare at vacantly at 2am on a Saturday morning then Asylum is a good bet.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ahmad ibn Fadlan: The Historical Roots of "The 13th Warrior"

Ever since I was a child I have loved ripping yarns and tales of adventures in far off, forbidding lands. One of my favorite tales early on was Robert Nye’s classic Beowulf. When my Aunt learned of this she lent me her dog-eared copy of Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead. What imprinted itself upon my young mind was that the book was not simply a work of high fantasy, but based in fact. Crichton based his novel upon the rihla (an Arabic term for a travel narrative [Dunn x-xi]) of Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rašīd ibn Hammād, commonly referred to as ibn Fadlan. I could scarcely believe that an Arab emissary from Baghdad travelled up the Volga River, met Vikings, and then went off to fight cannibalistic Neanderthals.

More than a decade later (c. fall 1997) I saw the teaser trailer for director John McTiernan’s screen adaptation of Eaters of the Dead. I was ecstatic; one of my favorite action movie directors was helming one of my favorite childhood books. A few days later I picked my own copy of Eaters and tore through it one lager filled afternoon. This time reading it I was fascinated by the time and research Crichton had put into the book. I felt compelled to track down information about the Vikings, the Age of Classical Islam, and revisited Beowulf all in the efforts to prepare myself for what would surely be one of the great sword swinging movies to be released. I waited eagerly for Eaters to be released but it had seemed to have dropped off the radar. Nearly a year later I saw an extended preview for the movie and was confused to say the least. The rip-roaring title Eaters of the Dead had been replaced by the milquetoast The 13th Warrior. The rousing piece of classic music that had been used in the teaser trailer had been replaced by ethereal European electronic music. What had happened to the tour-de-force I had been promised? Sullenly, I packed away my copy of Eaters of the Dead, my reference books and hopes for a rousing Hollywood period piece.

Disappointed as I was by the failure of Eaters of the Dead to appear when I wanted it to, I did not come away empty handed. As I had dug further into the history of ibn Fadlan, I learned that while the man did not join a hearty band of adventurers and battle Neanderthals he did have a fascinating tale of his own. On June 21, 921 AD (11 Safar 309 H) ibn Fadlan set forth from Baghdad on a diplomatic mission regarding a funding request from Almish, king of the Volga Bulgars (though Almish was a vassal king under the Khazar), to the Abbasid Caliph al-Muktadir of Baghdad in order to build a mosque and a new fortress. In exchange, Almish offered to convert to Islam and to, “enter into a formal subordinate alliance to the caliph, political ruler of the Islamic Empire” (Gordon 21). While ibn Fadlan was not in command of the mission (according to P.H. Sawyer the leader “was a eunuch called Susan al-Rassi” [Sawyer 27]) he did play a vital role as presenter of gifts and the Caliph’s letter and was, “to supervise the lawyers who had been sent to teach the Bulghars Islamic law”(Sawyer 27).

Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s journey to the court of Almish would range over 5000 miles through Central Asia. The caravan was made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of camels and extended for miles along the ancient trade route. By fall 921 AD they had crossed the river Amu Darya and reached Bukhara (now in modern Uzbekistan), a major trade city on the Silk Road with a fascinating history that will have to await further investigation by this author. In Bukhara, ibn Fadlan learned that what lay ahead in his journey was roughly 2000 miles of desolate grassy steppes and a fast approaching winter. A decision was made to return to the Amu Darya and travel north (approximately 400 miles) to the city of Khwarizm (site of modern day Khorezmskaya). Ibn Fadlan writes about this part of the journey being so cold that they were only able to travel part of the day (Gordon 27). By the time the caravan reached Jurjaniyah (on the Southeastern edge of the Aral Sea from which the Amu Darya feeds) it was cold enough for ibn Fadlan to have ice in his beard in the time it took him to walk from the public bath to his abode. The mission wintered in Jurjaniyah and when the thaw came in February ibn Fadlan found that he had to go on alone. The rest of the diplomats had been told by the emir of Jurjaniyah that civilization stopped there (civilization meaning Islamic influence) and that between Jurjaniyah and Almish was filled with infidels, bandits, and Allah knows what else.
Ibn Fadlan continued his journey, joining a caravan heading north. Over the next few months he bribed, coerced, and occasionally escaped death by the skin of his teeth across 3000 miles of steppes. He forded the Ural River and finally reached Almish’s camp May 12, 922 (12 Muharram 310 H), “at the three lakes of the Volga north of the Samara bend” (Muslim Heritage). While ibn Fadlan received a warm welcome from Almish at first, the King’s mood soured when he found out ibn Fadlan had not been able to bring any of the requested money with him. The diplomatic mission was a complete failure.

Ibn Fadlan’s journey was not a total loss. As Stewart Gordon writes in When Asia Was the World:

Ibn Fadlan remained a keen observer of everything around him: clouds, snakes,
local fruits and cuisine, clothing, and the complexities of the five required
daily Muslim prayers during long summer days. The later portion of the memoir
includes an account a people he terms the Rus (probably Norse, though the issue
has been debated by scholars for more than a century) when they arrived to trade
at Almish’s capital. (Gordon 30)


It is the section of ibn Fadlan’s memoir that describes the Rus which has drawn the most academic attention and debate in regards to the Normanist Controversy. James E. Montgomery sums up the Normanist Controversy neatly, “the principal, but by no means the only, controversy concerns the extent of Viking involvement in the Viking involvement in the creation of Russia” (Montgomery 1). To some Normanist scholars it is “a remarkably valuable source of information about one of the areas of Scandinavian activity in the early tenth century” (Sawyer 28). For anti-Normanist (those who support the Slavic development of Russia) views about ibn Fadlan’s memoir, most works on the subject are unavailable in English. Regardless of which side of the Normanist Controversy may be correct, ibn Fadlan’s memoir remains a central text, “for the history, ethno genesis and polity formation of a number of tribes and people who populated Inner Asia”(Montgomery 1).

In ibn Fadlan’s description of the Rus he paints a picture of a noble savage. He says he has never seen more perfect physiques, tattooed, and richly adorned. Then again, he calls them “the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: they do not clean themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity (i.e. after coitus) and do not even wash their hands after food.” He goes on to describe (at length) their trading habits, social habits, love of strong drink, and most interestingly ibn Fadlan is privy to a chieftain’s funerary rites (complete with human sacrifice).

Of ibn Fadlan’s return to Baghdad, he luckily survived the trip to pen his memoirs, and his later life there is sparse information. A large section of his manuscript (of which a complete copy was found in 1923 however; this manuscript was dated around the 13th Century AD [Muslim Heritage]) has disappeared or has been destroyed. It is doubtful the missing sections involve ibn Fadlan fighting Neanderthals.



Works Cited:
Crichton, Michael. The Eaters of the Dead. New York: Random House, 1988.

Dunn, Ross E. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta. University of California Press, 1986.

Gordon, Stewart. When Asia was the World. Da Capo Press, 2007. http://books.google.com/books?id=qiOEpXRRFfQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=ibn+fadlan#PPA21,M1

Montgomery, James E. “Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah”. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 3 (2000) http://www.uib.no/jais/v003ht/03-001-025Montgom1.html

FTSC Limited, “Ahmad ibn Fadlan in Northern Europe: A Survey of his Account of Russian Vikings in the 10th Century.” Muslim Heritage.03-04-08
http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=911

Sawyer, P.H. Kings & Vikings: Scandinavia and Europe AD 700-1100. New York: Methuen & Co, 1982.

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