Friday I’m In Love

royal_heart2So, way back in the days before there was any sort of video gaming allowed in my household, I had to turn to other forms of entertainment. (I say allowed because we didn’t have really any sort of disposable icome growing up and because the one time my mother broke down and rented an original NES machine for my brother and I it ended up in the sort of ‘console machine to the side of the head’ fight that all kids get into from time to time. Don’t ask.) Lacking both any sort of pixelated joy in the form of video games and the attention span for TV, I read a lot. Like, a lot. I read like other people breath. Books, magazine, cereal boxes, placemats – anything.

I still love to read and I will still abandon WoW from time to time in favour of reading something really fabulous. Or reading my assigned book for the monthly book club meeting that I have with my mother and sisters. I’ll read just about anything, but what I have been reading lately is the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon.

The books have had a bit of a sordid past. They’re not exactly easy to classify – and because the main character was a woman and there was quite a bit of sex in them, the first two got relegated to the “Romance” bin. Which, is not to say that it hurt the books, but it definately pushed them into a ‘niche’ market. You can only read paperback books with flaxen haired buxom women in ripped bodices, swooning in the arms of shirtless Fabio lookalikes on the cover in certain places – and still expect to be taken seriously.

Which, in an odd aside, makes me think of the Harry Potter books (which I also like quite a bit). Diana Gabaldon’s books have been republished several times, and the newest print run of the books have a plain cover with a celtic knot on the front. Very discreet and adult looking. In much the same way, book publishers have capitalized on the deomgraphic-crossing popularity of the Harry Potter books and have printed them with more subtle covers so that adults won’t be embarassed to read children’s books on the train to work.

But I digress (are you shocked?). The books are hard to describe, Diana Gabaldon, when asked what the Outlander series was about, said:

“History, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honour, betrayal, vengance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul … you know, the usual stuff of literature.”

Look here

Which is pretty much the most accurate description. She also says “Look, pick it up, open it anywhere and read three pages. If you can put it down again, I’ll pay you a dollar”, which I just love because it’s so absolutely true – it’s how I got hooked on them. She also said that she’s sold a lot of books that way – but not lost any money.

I love them because they are epic in scale, far reaching in concept and deliver a taste of everything like a good variety show. They’re not just romance books or scifi novels – they’re amazing stories, told by a very, very talented author who deftly wields literary tools from every genre.

It’s hard to give a synopsis that won’t make them sound really silly, because they are such a mishmash of styles (the author calls them ‘historical fiction’ which is about as accurate as any label will get, I suppose). What I can comment on is the talent of the author, both in crafting memorable, moving and elegant phrases (I used one in this post, because it’s the most spine-tingling, shiver-inducingly accurate description of All Hallow’s Eve ever penned), as well as presenting us with some of the most well rounded characters I have read in a long time. Each character speaks with their own voice, stays true to their character traits and changes and develops as the series progress. It sounds like such a simple thing to do, but it’s actually quite difficult (to judge from some of the tripe I’ve been forced to read through Book Club) for authors to manage. I’ve read some deliciously written books that have horrid, one-dimensional characters that never change, learn or grow, are used clumsily to make some point or other, or speak with the author’s voice and not their own.

One thing I’ve noticed with Ms. Gabaldon’s writing over time is that she has refined her talent to the point where her writing style changes very subtly (and very appropriately) with the character she is writing about. Her own author’s voice, her word usage and sentance structure is tailored to suit the main character in whatever that particualr scene is. I have no idea if she’s doing it consciously, or if it’s an artifact of her being so in tune with her characters as whole and complete persons, but it’s fabulous and I love her for it.

The most recent (8th!) book in the series was published last week (in the US and Canada.) I’ve just started it after re-reading the previous 7, and the author’s talents have never come across so clearly. I’m only a few chapters in and I’m already entranced, staying up far, far too late last night, trying to cram just a few more pages in. It’s a marvellous read, and I’m finding that I’m required to physically restrain myself to keep from gobbling the whole book down at once, rather than taking the time to savour it.

The books (which are hefty, make no mistake. The hardcovers run about 3 inches thick!) have been described by Salon Magazine as, “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting Scrooge McDuck comic books.”

To which I can only add: “and getting better with every installment.”

I love Diana Gabaldon, I love her Outlander series, and all the rest of her books. You should check them out!


Friday I’m In Love

growing_heartI love Warcraft a whole lot. (I should think that that would be obvious by now tee hee.) But there are actually other things out there that I love too! Really there are – and there are other things that I make time in my life for (not always the easiest thing – curse you raid schedule! – but I do try). One of the things that I love that is not Warcraft is the PopCap game Plants vs. Zombies.

I’ve been a fan of PopCap since way way way back in my younger days (I can conclusively date my Bejeweled addiction to early Fall, 2001. At least.) I like a lot of their games and I like that you can play them online for free. Fun! Diverting! Why write this biochem paper when I can match animals against the clock? When I was away earlier this summer (Field Season 3: The Search for Scotch) I had no internet connection on site and loads and loads of free time. So when I was back in my hotel room I downloaded the demo versions of all of my favourite PopCap games. And then this new one that sounded like it might be ok.

It was way, way more than ok.

I think I played the 60 minute trial at least four times the first day (I figured out how to re set the settings on my computer so the game would think it was a new trial.) When I got to the hotel that night, I willingly (eagerly!) shelled out the $20 for the full version and it was fabulous!

The little plants are just too damn cute! The gravemuncher “om nom nom” sounds and animations had me totally giggling out loud. And the corn-apults and watermelon-apults were such an unexpected delight. The zombies were hysterically funny and the game play clever and intuitive. It’s pretty much a tower defense game but the way it is packaged is a singularily unique joy. I love the mini games (I’m a big fan of Zombotany and the one where you play as a zombie and nom cardboard plants). The in-game alamanac that has descriptions/biographies of all the plants and zombies is really clever and witty (with only one concern – what the hell is with the vast, vast majority of all the plants and zombies being male?) The little Zen Garden mini game you can acess after playing through the game once is pretty cool too because it lets you collect all the plants – awesome!

I used this site for some good advice (yes, I hacked my game to give me lots of money. *shifty eyes*). GameFAQs has a few other good resources, to. There’s also a PvZ wiki! Otherwise it’s pretty straightforward and addiciting gameplay. One piece of advice: using garlics to channel the assault into the middle three rows is a pretty solid strategy.

Two last things about PvZ – 1) Check the music video out here. So catchy! 2) PopCap has my undying gratitude for their way of dealing with this shit (which disgusts me on several levels – as a gamer, an internet surfer, a female, a human being with more than two functioning brain cells.)

I love Plants vs. Zombies. And I’m not the only one!

Post Scriptum: I have heard that the makers of the crappy game linked above (I’m not providing them with any extra advertising. All my links go to sites that are criticising their shittacular ad campaing) are associated with gold spammers/farmers/sellers. I can’t find the link atm, but I metion it just in case you needed an additional reason to not give them your clicks, links or money.

Post Post Scriptum: Tomorrow is (yay!) Talk Like A Pirate Day! (In addition to Caturday) There is even an in game event, so don’t miss out! Arrr, ye salty gopher!

Friday I’m In Love

starry_heartSo, I loves me some Warcraft. I love Warcraft with the heat of a thousand suns. I really, really love it. But! There are things that are not Warcaft that I also really, really love. In an effort to provide a little more of that work/life balance that I jabber on about all the time, and to share some of the things that someone (like me) who loves WoW a whole heap also loves with some of you folks that love WoW loads ‘n loads, too. Here is the first installment in my (hopefully!) weekly series – Friday I’m In Love. Subtitled: Set Your Phasers to “Squee”.

Folks, I love (rebooted) Battlestar Galactica. I don’t think it’s possible to accurately describe how much I love this TV show. (Not loved. Yes, I know it’s over but MY LOVE WILL NOT DIE.) I used to want to be an astronaut very, very badly when I was younger and I remember so vividly the night that I was driving home and staring up at the stars and I realized that Star Trek wasn’t real. It was a pretty crushing realization and I remember shedding actual tears in my disappointment. I was highly unlikey to ever go into space – and even if I did it would not be as I had imaged it. So I love Space Operas. Mmmm … living vicariously.

I did a lot of performing arts when I was younger too. It was a hard decision to make – but there came a day when I had to decide whether I was going to pursue acting or science. I ended up chosing science for various reasons, but it was a close call. So, I’m pretty critical when I watch TV or movies. (I’m also really critical when I read, but that’s because I worship the written word like the Ancient Egyptians did. Well, almost.) I loathe poor acting, I won’t abide shitty scriptwriting and I’m highly picky about what movies I donate my $12 to. They also have to pass my pretty strict standards in terms of social justice. (I had a tense conversation with a co-worker about Bruno. Don’t go there.) So, the finishing point of all this rambling is that I’m very, very picky. I’m hard to impress. I’m even harder to woo.

BSG did some serious wooing.

After being badgered by my better half to (Please? Pleeeeeease? C’mon, please? Once? Just once? Today? Now? How about now? Is now good?) watch the miniseries I broke down on one of our raiding off weeks and watched it. I was fucking entranced. It was like three hours of scotch and catnip. It was amazing. Beyond amazing. Fabulous acting, (omg, Edward James Olmos, omg Katee Sackhoff, omg James Callis O.M.G. Mary McDonnell) delicious dialogue, superb characterization, epic storylines and very very little of the (dreary and common) scifi waffle. So many Canadian actors! All so very very good. (Why are they not on more Canadian TV shows? Why do they not have better roles on Canadian TV? CBC YOU OWE ME AN EXPLANATION!) Fabulous. Fablulous!

There were some limping episodes (hissssss Michael Angeli) later on in the series and I’ll say up front that I felt that the final episode was not enough of a crowning glory to such an amazing show. But I suggest you check out this post from Sady Doyle, a Lady Blogger who I also love with an epic love, and these recaps (Be warned: they are by three seperate authors. The first is quite good, the second very good and then there’s Jacob. Oh my dear sweet and gentle Jesus, thank you for sending the literary world Jacob. Amen.) over at TV Without Pity. (Honestly, some of the recaps were more moving than the damn series. It’s like BSG is a Russian Doll and each nested figure contains even more scotch and catnip. The more I see about BSG, the more I find to love.)

I love Battlestar Galactica.


Post Scriptum: If you’re not doing anything tomorrow, check out the first in my series of Caturday posts! (Seriously. I have them already written and scheduled until well into November. Which says a. that even if I stop blogging – again! – there will still be posts and b. I have a LOT of pictures of my cats.)