Archive for May, 2012

*Warning and Disclaimer: This feature may contain gruesome descriptions of acts performed by real people, or imagined (and this one does).  People who are squeamish or easily disturbed read with caution.  While we present these ideas and stories with a bit of levity we in no way mean to belittle the acts, or underplay the seriousness of the situations.  Some of the people in these events are very disturbed individuals.  Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.*

A coworker of mine pointed me to a couple of news articles, and we got to talking about zombie related stuff, and it got me thinking…NEW FEATURE!  What geekesque blog type site is complete without a zombie conspiracy bent?  That’s right, you lucky cats get a new feature to come semi-irregularly from Frags and Beer.  I’ll let the applause die down before I go on…

Done?

Right, so I figured I’d start with two news stories that have come up fairly recently (or I was just made aware of them anyway) that are sort of creepy, but also maybe a sign of things to come.  The first comes to us out of Miami, and unless you were living under a rock, or in your ‘off the grid’ zombie bunker, you have heard of the naked man shot while eating another man’s face.

Literally like something out of a George Romero film, police stumbled on a guy eating the face of another man.  For some reason both were naked.  The police tried to break up the fight, but the assailant would not stop so they shot him.  Doctors and police are linking this to a form of LSD called ‘bath salts’ which raise the user’s body temperature (why he was naked) and causing delirium and death….zombie bath salts?  The first shot had no effect!  Did the assailant turn his head around and hiss at the officers or moan?  I’m guessing they wouldn’t share that detail but I would bet the officers expected it.

Police aren’t sharing any other details about the attack or the condition of the victim.  Is he being observed for signs?  Did the last shot strike the assailant in the head?  Is that what finally dropped him?  All serious questions I assure you.  Seriously though, whoever gave the guy the zombie bath salts needs to go to prison for a very long time.

The next story, about a man cutting his own intestines out and throwing them at police, even postulates in the headline that this might have some zombie connection.  This guy, under the influence of mental illness (zombification?) or drugs (zombie inducing drugs?) cuts off pieces of himself and throws them at cops!  This is not the work of a human being of sound mind or body.  While this one is stretching it a bit, granted he could have just snapped while trying to commit suicide, it still makes one wonder doesn’t it?

This trend is not to be taken likely my friends.  If you, or anyone you know, stumbles upon a news story like this let us know.  You can drop me an email at magus_taliesin@hotmail.com.  Stock up, hunker down, and stay safe my friends, this could be the beginning of the end.

***UPDATE***

Added this here because it happened so close to the others and didn’t feel that an entirely new post was warranted.  Seems that a man in Maryland has admitted to butchering and eating parts of his roomate!  Is anyone else starting to go over bunker plans in their head?  This guy seems more like a ‘brutal murder/cannibal’ type, but in all honesty what if it’s just a new breed of zombie that no one in Hollywood has thought of yet?  He tried to hide it at first, which denotes a certain level of intelligence, and the article says the guy is very smart.  Smart zombies?  Wouldn’t that make for a terrifying apocalypse?  I’m telling you folks, time to start preparing.

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I know I’m probably going to get flamed for this, but I’m going to say right up front, I HATE LOST!  I’m not going to try to be a critic, break down the show’s nuances, try to explain…yah I don’t even think a trained critic could do that and if they do they are just talking out of their backside.  Everything that follows is my opinion, based solely on what I know about writing stories, and what I felt as I watched some of this show.  You may like Lost, that’s cool.  I don’t understand how, but hey, there’s something out there for everyone.

So, let’s begin.  If you haven’t seen this show…great, don’t.  Run for your life.  Do not believe what anyone says, this show is not the best show ever, it is not full of mystery, or drama, or any of that garbage.  If you have seen it, I’m sorry.

I’m going to sort of start from the end here and jump around a bit, because my own ‘experience’ (even hitting yourself in the face with a 2×4 would qualify as an experience) with this show was a bit disjointed.  Recently my wife watched the last season of the show on Netflix.  I think she sat through the entire last season in just a day, but could be mistaken.  I watched as she, like a zombie, absorbed every minute of it, and at the end of each episode she would grumble, sigh, or make some other sign of frustration before hitting the button for the next episode.  I was sitting with her, because I wanted to spend time with her, so I got caught up on some comic books that I had neglected while she watched her show.  You can’t help but follow along a bit, and after a couple episodes I began to grasp what was going on, the whole bouncing back between the mainland and the island, the people’s memories gone, some remembered, etc.

I watched, in utter astonishment as people did illogical things.  Taking the hard route, instead of using what was right in front of them to solve problems.  Watched as human beings violated human nature just to present needlessly complex non-solutions to problems.  Over the years I’ve watched some of this show when my wife would watch it (can proudly say I never did, nor did I feel the need to watch this show on my own) and it’s full of so many glaring plot holes and unfinished story arcs that I just shake my head in wonder.  How did the man that gave us Alias, or Star Trek, manage to churn out this show, and keep it going.  How do shows like Firefly get canceled, but millions tuned in every week to see an island that time travels and who’s primary antagonist is an invincible smoke monster?  Watching my wife watch this show gave me the answer.

Frustration.  I don’t honestly believe anyone liked the show, they just got hooked, and were left so frustrated with unanswered questions and fabricated mystery at the end of each episode that they had to watch the next one, hoping beyond hope that their questions would be answered.  I may have found the writing of the show to be disjointed, glaringly unplanned, and unnecessarily convoluted, but Abrams did do one thing right and I have to give him props for that.  He managed to string millions of people along for 6 seasons, and deliver the most spectacularly cliche ending since Dallas.

Show’s like this and Flash Forward (another of Abram’s bombs that had potential in my opinion) were so obviously contrived.  One can almost see the brainstorming session where ideas were thrown out with the premise of making something no one’s ever made before.  That’s a great premise to start with but when it looks something like:  “Hey, how about these people crash on an island and find out that there’s a bunker that could blow it up…and a smoke monster…oh and other people trapped too…oh and how about we give the island a soul held in by a stone DRAIN PLUG!…”  A STONE DRAIN PLUG!  Come on people!  It was so obvious that nothing was planned out from the beginning, they just mashed up ideas and the writers sat down to try and explain it.  “Oh oh oh, let’s throw in a bunker with some dude in it hitting a button every few hours.”  “Well, how do we explain that, why is it there?”  “I don’t know, let’s just make something up cause that bunker’s a sweet idea.”

Not to mention all the times I looked at my wife and asked, “Why didn’t they just do that instead of this?”  I’m pulling from the last season, but I remember so many instances where taking the easy and obviously productive route was overruled by taking the hard way, or simply the way that didn’t make sense.  Or how about all time times I looked at a glaring solution that no one even thought of.  Take the sonic fence tripod stand things.  Yah, those ostrich eggs on stands that create an invisible barrier that people, and the smoke monster, can’t cross.  They are on flipping tripods!  One can assume, because of how they are set up, each one is needed in place to make the sonic dog fence, so kick one of the tripod legs out from under and and voila!  How about that damn button, the source of my ire with that show for so many years.  Jack, the pragmatic doctor and scientist, is presented with two options.  One says not pushing the button will kill everyone on the island.  The other says pushing the button will do nothing at all except reset the timer.  I don’t care if my wife was trying to convince me that pushing the button was pointless, that’s too obvious of a choice!  Push the frakin button!  Either way, no matter who’s right, NOTHING HAPPENS!  You would really take the chance against blowing up the island if the alternative was…duh duh duh (dramatic bass sound) NOTHING HAPPENS!?

I could go on for days and days about how much I dislike this show.  If you like it, that’s fine.  I know a lot of people that like it, and I don’t think any less of them.  Abrams is good at what he does, and what he doesn’t isn’t always write and direct a good show.  Sometimes he just gets tons of people hooked on a bad one.  Despite this, and other failures on his resume, I still look forward to some of his other projects.  I liked Super 8, Star Trek, and Alias.  I’m really looking forward to Revolution, and hope he delivers a post-apocalyptic show along the lines of Falling Skies and The Walking Dead.  I’ll be keeping my guard up though.  I don’t have tons of time to watch TV, so when I do it has to be good.  I’m not going to waste my time on another Lost, Alcatraz, or Flash Forward.

**FNB SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT**

Before we get started, I have to ask a huge favor of everyone that stops by this site.  I have started to consider whether I should migrate this page to a more formal website address, such as fragsandbeer.com (without the wordpress).  I want to justify it though, so I need to see if this trend of more traffic can continue and even increase.  We’ve had the busiest four days of the blog’s life this week, making it also the busiest week and month for us.  If that’s not just a fluke, it might be time to spread out a little more.  If we can increase traffic, and keep it up over the month of June it might be a good idea.  So, you can all help in several ways.  First, you can ‘like’ this post, and any others that you like for that matter.  You can also share it with the links below.  Commenting on it helps bring in traffic, and if you have a Stumbleupon account like it there as well.  Let’s see if we can get these numbers up!

Now, on to the fun…

I found out this morning, not only is this the anniversary of the beginning of the Star Wars saga, but it is also Geek Pride day, The Glorious 25 May, and Towel Day!  How did I not know about this plethora of awesome until today?!  Well thanks to my wonderful wife, and her liking stuff on Facebook, I found out.

After I found out, of course I had to show my pride in all things geek, so I am sporting my Darth Maul: Sith Lord T-shirt, brought a towel to work, and even brought in a Robotech Veritech Fighter action figure posed in Guardian Mode!  Toys on desks are quite common where I work, and my desk is sadly bare, so I figured, today was the day to start getting my act together in the department of expressing my uniqueness at work.

Everyone knows that today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Star Wars saga right?  If you don’t…oh ok I’ll be nice.  May 25th, 1977 the world was witness to, arguably, the beginning of movie making as we know it today.  Star Wars (wasn’t called A New Hope then) released in theaters on this day 35 years ago, and yes, the movie industry would never been the same.  Say what you will about George Lucas, but his influence, and the imagination of him and his team, has given us uncountable advancements in film and all that goes along with it.  That is enough to hold today in pretty high esteem for the geek community at large, but no, that’s not enough…

Geek Pride Day, whose origins aren’t all that clear cut, but most settle on it beginning in Spain in 2006 by a blogger in Madrid.  It’s fairly clear that the date was chosen intentionally for all of it’s many connections to geek culture.  It’s said there is even a list of geek basic rights and responsibilities out there somewhere.

Never heard of the Glorious 25th of May?  Then you may not be a fan of Terry Pratchett.  It is a holiday from his fictional world, called Discworld in which: “The People’s Revolution of the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May ended the increasingly tough reign of Lord Winder. Tension had been rising, and while the nobility arranged a quiet succession by Lord Snapcase in the background, the people on the streets started a revolution and attacked Watch Houses all over the city.”

Finally we have Towel Day, celebrated in honor of the late Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and other works of fiction.  Fans around the world carry a towel in his honor, and an honor it is.  He is one of the most loved fantasy and science fiction authors of our time, and will most likely go down in history as one of the greats of this era.

This holiday has it all, get out there and let your inner geek out.  You know you want to!

I was doing my morning workout the other day, flipping through the Netflix instant watch when I found the classic BSG (Battlestar Galactica) on the list.  I also saw the new one, and I thought why not?  I haven’t seen the old one in years, let’s give it a looksee.  As I was watching it, I was reminded of all the debates and arguments online about which one is better, and which one should be considered ‘official’ etc.  This also gave me a great idea for a feature.  There are pages upon pages of text devoted to arguments that are, actually, very important.  Who would win in a fight between Chuck Norris and Jet Li?  Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash?  Who’s the most immasculine vampire, Lestat or Edward Cullen?  Some debates, however, are just plain dumb, and I am going to apply my humble writing skills to explain why.  For this first installment of ‘Pointless Geek Debates’…Battlestar Galactica (the classic) vs. Battlestar Galactica (the new series).

So, first up on the block, the classic Battlestar Galactica.

What does this timeless classing have going for it?  No one can deny that the show was ahead of its time, as a science fiction show on television.  It has amazing effects and sound, some would say almost as good as anything in the theaters in that era.  It had a compelling story, humans, near extinction, struggling to survive with dwindling resources and on the run from an enemy force that seeks their annihilation.  The writing is good, for a show of that time, without too much of the expected sci-fi jargon to throw off the casual water, but enough to make you feel like you are in a different place.  The acting, for the most part, isn’t bad from the starring cast, and certainly no worse that network TV had to present anywhere else.  All of this, however, is related to the time it was released.

What does it have going for it now?  Nostalgia, plain and simple, oh and hair (the hair is big in space).  Compared to shows today it’s sorely lacking when it comes to effects, sound, and writing.  The only thing that honestly holds my interest with the show, is memories of watching it as a kid.  The dialogue is fairly basic and dated.  It does well with the ships, sets and models, for the most part, due to how well they did originally, but when stacked up against many shows today, sci-fi or not, this show just doesn’t cut it.  I know, that’s probably going to get me all kinds of hate from those who can’t seem to take off their kid goggles, but hey, this is just my opinion.

All in all I think the original BSG is a good show, for the hard core sci-fi viewers that enjoy just what it is.  Campy, science fiction with decent sets and props and a good story behind it.  Kids would probably still love it, and older fans obviously still enjoy the show.

Jump ahead a few years and you have the SciFi original show Battlestar Galactica.

I remember seeing the pilot for this show, when it first hit the SciFi channel, and being totally blown away by it.  The way the dogfights were shot, like you were actually there flying next to them.  The sound effects, the animation and models, it was all great.  There were also the touches that connected it to my childhood memories of BSG.  Some of the same terminology, the old-school viper fighters, the names of the characters.  The writing is fantastic, and it carries the same story as the first, but delivered in a much more compelling way.  I can honestly say that this show is one of the few that the family watched religiously, only missing two episodes on their air date.

Of course it has its flaws.  Not all of the acting was top notch, but the ones who were good overshadowed the ones that weren’t.  There were some plot holes, but nothing so glaring that it took away from the enjoyment of the show.  I didn’t always like what they did with characters, but that was more of an emotional reaction, it was good for the story in the end.  The end, while it was the best ending of any show I’ve seen, I didn’t want to see it end.  I like shows that have a concrete beginning and end, never like to see them struggle and die a slow death of low ratings, but I really wanted to see more.  Again, more of an emotional reaction than a logical one.  It had to end, and it ended well.

I could go on for days about this series.  It’s obvious that I liked it, and this isn’t really a review.  Would I watch it again beginning to end?  Yes.  Do I think everyone should watch it?  Yes.  Case closed.

Now, on to why the debate is pointless.  First of all, BSG the younger is not a recreation, reboot, or remake of the original.  Not in my eyes anyway.  It’s an homage to the classic show.  They didn’t mock it, or ignore its existance.  All of the touches that they took from the classic, the old vipers, the original model psylons, even the Galactica itself, all pay close respect to the original series.  Sure, Starbuck and Boomer were a girls, some psylons look like humans, and the end is different, but I think that’s a good thing.  The new show does a good job of paying respect to the old show, without trying to copy it.

Let’s be honest, both shows are good, for different reasons.  Comparing these two is completely pointless.  No sane individual is going to say that the classic show has better effects and sound than the new one, just like no one can fault the classic for its originality.  They both deal with a dark theme, but you have to admit that the new one did better delivering that sense of struggle and drama that would come with being the last remnants of humanity.  The classic series is fun, and campy, but rarely is it as blood-pumping exciting as the new one.  The new one is gritty, dark and intriguing, but not always a good fit for kids.  Face it, these are two shows that, despite sharing a name and a few key features, are completely different.  Comparing them is worse than comparing apples to oranges, it’s like comparing apples to apple pie.  Both good for different reasons, both different for good reason.

Oi lubber, watch that mud. Wouldn’t wanna git them fancy boots dirty eh? What brings ye out ta Ol’ Misty anyway? Ye some kinda treasure hunter, or fool adventurer? Well, if yer here to throw yer life away fer a bit o’ gold, there’s somat ye oughta know.  This here town, Freeport, this is the only place where yer almost safe. If’n ye stay upwind of The Salty Tap that is. Ol’ Cap’n Smythe’s place ain’t healthy fer most folks. Ye should find ye some work with the companies. Ye got them snooty sods from Waterdeep, Tallstaff and Jameson. Down the road from them ye can sign on with the Luskan firm, but if’n I were to go lookin fer coin, I’d sign on with that group from Amn. That Isabelle can give me orders any day.
If yer thinkin’ to leave Freeport, on some wild goose chase, ye better stock up on bandages and maybe hire someone to cart yer hind end back to town. Out there, the Island’s full o’ things that just wanna eat ya. If’n the wildlife don’ getcha, the orcs will, or them black skinned elves. Ya, we got drow here, but listen here lubber, ye better get some sense if ye go lookin’ fer them. Some of them drow are protected by then woodsy elves. Calls them moon prancers or some such. If ye go after one of them, ye might as well have a good ol’ pine box waitn’ cause them woodsy elves’ll fill yer arse full of arrows.
That’s all just in the woods. If’n ye are thinkin’ of headin’ toward the mountain, ye’ll hafta get through the orcs. They hold the ol’ fort north of here, and got themselves lots of caves and such up on the cliffs. Course, inside the mountain is the dwarves. They’ll deal with ye, but ye better not try and cheat them. They don’t take kindly to that kinda foolishness. It’s yer life lubber, if ye wanna die on this island I’m sure ye’ll get a right fine burial in the sea. Me? I’m headed over to Smythe’s place for a pint and the fights. I hear their gonna throw a pair of gobbos in the cage with a bear. My coin’s on the bear.

These words greet newcomers to the Island of Aldmyst, also known as The Gray Isles, a NWN2 persistant world a group of us decided to start nearly a year ago.  Getting close to the year mark is what spurred this little plug/review, but also I think our server is getting to a point in its life where we are ready for more players to bring their unique and fantastic stories to life.  Whether you are new to Neverwinter Nights 2, or a veteran looking to get back into the game, this server could be a good fit for you.

Back when we started this project, some of us were desperately looking for a server that offered a good mix of roleplay, story, and dedication to the game we all love.  Sadly we could not find a good fit.  They were either set in worlds we weren’t interested in, action servers masquerading as roleplay servers, or just plain awful places to play.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many good servers out there, that cater to specific types of players, they just weren’t a good fit for us.  After talking about it for some time, joking about it, and finally saying ‘what if’, we decided to buckle down and see if we could actually get this thing off the ground.

I guess first, I should give a little basic information to those who aren’t familiar with some of the terms above.  If you aren’t a NWN2 player, or even a Dungeons and Dragons player you might look at this post and wonder what the heck I’m talking about.  Well, first off Neverwinter Nights 2 is a computer RPG based in the world of Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons and Dragons setting (like a backdrop world for a game.)  A persistant world is an online server where players can go, roleplay, and act out the stories of their characters along with other players.  It’s sort of like getting together to play Dungeons and Dragons with your friends, but instead of going to someone’s house and sitting around a table, you log onto your computer and see the world, and the actions, right there on your screen.

We believe, what makes us different, as a persistant world, is our philosophy, and our dedication to meeting it.  We started with a team of 6 founders, head admins to take on the key roles in server development and make the decisions for the server that would effect everything.  This is the first thing that makes us different.  Most servers have one or two admins, and sometimes that can lead to a number of issues related to favortism, or biased decisions.  We wanted a team of admins that could keep each other in check, make sure that decisions that effect the server and players aren’t based on any bias, and we also believe it has helped us develop a much more vibrant and in-depth environment for our players.  Our core staff is now down to 4 for one reason or another, but the premise is the same.

Another thing that makes us different is our adherance to the heart of the game we love and the lore that goes along with it.  Myself, being an avid reader, writer, and history buff, I have always been drawn to the lore that goes along with any DnD world.  Forgotten Realms has some of the most extensive lore of any of the worlds, and because of that it leads to contradictions, questions, misconceptions, and the like.  What many servers are lacking, and what we believe leads to a lot of issues, is a dedicated loremaster.  Someone to filter the lore through, to organize it, and to make final decisions on what is accurate and what is not.  It helps to keep down arguments between players and staff, and generally offers that broad and detailed lore so that players can create even more elaborate and detailed stories.

We have also dedicated ourselves to the spirit of the game this world is based on.  Our first measuring stick is “Is it PnP (pen and paper)?”  Basically, does the tabletop game do it, or is it made up as part of NWN2.  In every case, if we can make something closer to the tabletop game, we will.  There are limitations, but we’ve done a lot of edits, and customization to bring NWN2 on our server more in line with DnD.  Some servers have tried this, but many times I’ve seen it fail in very obvious ways, when they deviate from the dedication to the game in order to achieve a false sense of balance.  It’s sadly, a myth, that a lot of non-tabletop players have.  Staff on many servers have never even played DnD, but come from computer game backgrounds, where things are balanced.  Dungeons and Dragons is not a balanced game, and trying to force it to be balanced only leads to problems.  We have accepted that the game is not balanced, and instead of spending our time trying to fix that, we have decided our time is better spent making the game fun, and making RP easier and more rewarding.

Those are some of the things that make us different, but what makes Aldmyst different?  What sets it apart from all the other Forgotten Realms servers out there?  When we first got together we talked about a custom world with our own story and lore.  Only drawback to that is it’s harder to get people excited about something they have never heard of.  Custom servers struggle to gain and keep players when they start out, and it’s easier on the writing staff if they don’t have to create 100% of the world out of whole cloth.  We also wanted the server to feel real.  By design a NWN2 server must be limited in size, as far as areas.  Instead of building our world and ringing it with ‘end of the world’ maps, we wanted to make it a frontier setting on an island.  Give a logical limit that represents the real life limit of the server.  As we talked about this we decided, why not both?  So, we came up with Aldmyst.  An island, in the Forgotten Realms, that isn’t actually part of any published lore.  We can present the players with custom content and story that is original, that they haven’t seen anywhere else, against a backdrop of a diverse world that everyone is familiar with.

So, that’s my little review of the server project we have going on over at Gray Isles.  If you are a role player without a table, or someone looking for an RP experience that is more involved, interactive and in depth than some MMOs, come check us out.  If I’m not mistaken you can get NWN2 pretty cheap on Steam.