Quit while you’re ahead

I watched Terminator: Salvation last night and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought “Enough, already!”

It was an enjoyable enough experience, in a “blokes movie night” (thanks for the company Justin) sort of way. Loads of guns, loud noises, some interesting looking Terminators and a vaguely coherent plot. Unfortunately, there was just too much suspension of disbelief required. As if a jump-start defibrillation wasn’t enough, they went on to do a heart transplant in an open field hospital with that same heart (God alone knows where the anti-rejection drugs were going to come from).

This is all an aside from my real point… Why don’t some people just quit while they are ahead?

Terminator was a fantastic movie. Highly original plot, interesting and not-carboard-cutout characters, Arnold, Arnold not stretching himself artistically, guns, loud noises. What’s not to love? I remember having a discussion with a friend prior to the release of Terminator 2 that the whole concept ran the risk of entering a time-travel paradox of its own: Can’t kill Sarah Connor? Send someone else back to kill John. Or further back and have another go at Sarah?

Any of this sound familiar?

Before I go any further, I though T2 was a good movie too (and not only because of the GnR theme song), but it really didn’t need to be made. Sure the first movie left you with some unanswered questions, but that isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing. Sometimes we can just enjoy things a bit more when our imagination is left to fill in some of the details.

How about I share a small list of great movies (or books, or TV) that really just should have quit while they were ahead:

  • Ghostbusters. Again, I’ve got nothing bad to say about Ghostbusters 2 and I’ll be in line to watch 3 if I get a chance. But, why?
  • Highlander. Oh, dear. Is and always will be my all-time-favourite-bestest movie. Just so long as I forget they ever made sequels. Why, oh why did they forget that “There can be only one”?
  • Red Dwarf. As if seasons 7 and 8 weren’t bad enough, but then they came back for more.
  • Toy Story. Shrek. Brilliant movies that finished their stories. Only one reason for a $equel.
  • The Blues Brothers (you can make a new Bluesmobile, but a new movie? Aargh!)
  • The Godfather (they keep dragging YOU back in?)
  • Comedies like Revenge of the Nerds and Police Academy. All the jokes that needed to be made were made in the originals. Repeated, they are just unfunny.
  • Mad Max (sure the original left the story open for a sequel, but it didn’t need it. To say nothing of more than one.)
  • Rocky (exactly the same story how many times is it now?)
  • Alien.
  • I could probably go on. But won’t.

I’m giving a free pass to Back to the Future (which could have stopped at 1, but at least it looked like the sequels were always planned), Star Trek (could stop at any time, but even the mutliple movies fit like a longer TV series), The Simpsons (because) and Indiana Jones (what pulp fiction character ever stops being awesome just because we get bored?). I’m enjoying The Fixer on SBS right now, but give me a few more episodes into season 2 before I decide that they should have just made a miniseries (how many times can John and Lenny argue over whether he’ll take orders or not?).

And to justify the TILT tag on this post, here’s my list of those movies and such that could easily have kept going, but stopped when they should. I like these (because they are awesome and because they knew when to quit):

  • The Princess Bride
  • Life on Mars (I could rant here about all the shows that the American TV industry feels the need to remake with local accents, but that would take too long)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. They could make a sequel today and it would rake it in at the box office. But they haven’t. Therefore: Awesome.
  • Fawlty Towers. John Cleese, you are the master of comic timing. And a perfect judge of when smacking Manuel is no longer funny.
  • Blade Runner (Am I counting my chickens before they are hatched? They let a sequel novel be written so a film is not out of the question. Please no.)
  • Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog (see above). I’d also like to add Firefly/Serenity here but I think their one series, one movie is more a case of good fortune rather than good planning.

And a couple of parting thoughts:

  • District 9, are you listening to this? No, really. District 10? No. Just, no.
  • Why can’t modern fantasy writers do anything that is not part of a trilogy or longer? They can be good at short stories, but not a single novel?

And before anyone complains, I know that there have been good sequels. Even good sequels that surpass the original (if only rarely). I just like stories that get told, we enjoy and are then over.

Until we read/hear/see them again.

j j j

Here comes the Bladesage

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series bladesage

For a number of years I have been telling myself I want to do more gaming (as in RPG gaming) and more writing. To make things easier, I thought I would try to make the two run together. Of course, I’ve participated in the last two NaNoWriMos (winning the last two), but precious little gaming and no writing outside of NaNo. There’s an expression about good intentions that I think applies here. Over the years I’ve had a couple of good ideas for a setting for this stuff but other than a few notes on various bits of paper, nothing much has happened. I even considered expanding the setting of my 2008 NaNoNovel and I didn’t even like it all that much!

Now, I am actually going to do something concrete. You read it here, so it must be true. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, if only because having people know about what I’m trying to do might keep me a little bit accountable.

Here’s the plan. The gaming (which will be solo initially, expanding to include the children as time and circumstances permit) will be using Swords and Wizardry and Mythic GME. The writing will be to fill in the blanks in history and world setting or to expand on something fun or interesting that comes up in the games. I hope to have plenty of back-story to be able to do NaNo ’10 using the setting and my NaNo/Twitter friend winnie3k has encouraged me to try to add a short story per quarter into the mix too.

Mythic Yahoo! group member blastedpsychic has produced a very clever Random Campaign Start-up Generator for Mythic which I have used. While I was planning to veto any rolls that really didn’t appeal (what on earth is a ‘Noir’ theme anyway?) I managed to get a very interesting setting out of it. I’ve given it the working name of Bladesage (after the significant city state in the area) and I’m planning to expand on some of the details I rolled up as I go..

I have a basic history, a set of bad guys, a possible good guy/girl, some external influences, some internal movements, a couple of non-human races and a terrifying wandering monster. I hope to share some of these in my next couple of posts.

Watch this space.

j j j

Live Bookmarks or death!

Firefox uses Live Bookmarks, rather than the trimmed-down RSS reader that other browsers like Safari or IE have. It is the number 1 killer feature that keeps me tied to Firefox.

Let me explain why…

When you add a live bookmark to your toolbar or the bookmarks menu, it shows up as a menu, rather than as a single link. In Safari, you are then taken to a page that shows all the “stories” on a single page.

Have a look at this screenshot of Safari with my delicious.com feed (click for more detail):

The link on the toolbar is on the left, labelled “delicious/wynter”. If there was a new post in the feed it would show up with a (1) after the name of the bookmark. This is great if you want a newsreader.

Click on the bookmark and you get the page displayed as shown in the screenshot. I don’t generally put descriptions in my delicious items, but if I did, you would read them there.

So that’s Safari. It does what it does and it does it fairly well. If what you want is a bare-bones RSS reader mixed in with your browser, then you are set. The problem is, I don’t. If I wanted the latest stories from the New York Times (which btw is one of the default bookmarks in Safari) then I’ll put it in Google Reader (or my RSS reader of the hour).

Let me show you instead what I do want. This is how I use Live Bookmarks in Firefox.

The “Bookmarks” bit gives it away. I want something that gives me access to bookmarks… that is, lets me find pages I have been to before. It is no surprise that I have decided to use delicious.com (social bookmarking) as my example.

I have a small set of sites that I like to visit every day (or as often as I think to). I could just set all those pages as my “home” pages, but I use multiple browsers on multiple machines and the set of daily sites wasn’t always so small. Here’s how I manage to do what I want.

  • On delicious, I bookmark the sites and tag them with “daily” and “routine”.
  • Go to the delicious.com page where all those bookmarks live (http://delicious.com/wynter/routine+daily).
  • In the address bar I see the beautiful orange RSS logo. If I click on that, I get a page not dissimilar to Safari’s with the posts at the bottom and some subscription options at the top.
  • If I chose to subscribe by Live Bookmarks, I get to choose where to put my Live Bookmark. Normally, you would choose the Bookmarks toolbar. I have put this into a sub-folder (namely “routines”).

Have a look at what that looks like:

So you can see that if I go to my little “Routines-Daily” menu, I can get at all of my links that I want to. Even better (and this works for any FF bookmarks), I can hit the “Open all in tabs” option to get the whole lot to open in one hit. (And yes, before any smarties comment, I can right-click the menu to do the same thing).

So that’s it. Build a list specific tags in delicious, grab the RSS feed and put it in a large bookmark and you’ve got a handy menu that you can adjust and have reflected in any browsers you’ve set up with that menu. As you can see from the screenshot, I’ve got a few set up here.

I’ll be explaining the “Useful” feed (next to the Routines folder) in a future post.

One last thing:I might have to eat a little portion of humble pie. I hadn’t looked closely, but it seems that IE’s Web Slices does a very similar thing. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons not to use IE so I won’t let it bother me.

j j j

I like… Webcomics

I was going to pick just one, but I can’t really stretch a whole post out of why I like a single webcomic, so I’ll speak generally and then give you a list.

I’ve followed certain webcomics for probably about 10 years now. In the early days that involved remembering which sites to go to and checking them every day. Needless to say, I didn’t follow too many back them.

At one point, I followed a set of instructions for writing a script for downloading all your favourite strips for offline reading (this was before always on broadband internet was common). It worked really well too. I even managed to write an offline ‘home page’ in HTML that displayed them all for me in one big page, one after the other. It also left me with a great archive of all the strips if I ever wanted to revisit them.

I never did.

Nowadays we have RSS feeds for most of them and it is a simple matter of plugging in a feed address into Google Reader or your reader of choice and away you go. Every time the strip gets updated, there it is. Webcomics have never been more accessible.

There is something about webcomics (as opposed to the normal paper-based strips) that appeals to me. First of all, I don’t buy the paper that often and the one that I do (the Weekend Australian) doesn’t have a funnies page (it’s far too high-brow for that). But as well as that, there are particular themes that run through many of them. Computers and the internet for one (for obvious reasons), geek culture in general is another. They make me feel right at home.

When I went to compile my list I noticed how small it has got. I have sometimes had as many as twenty or more, but I do cull them occasionally (like I do with all my RSS feeds) and I haven’t replaced them with anything new.

Just on the culling process, I have found that I don’t really like the larger strips with convoluted stories. Those strips that are essentially short stories in picture form. I like to just have a quick look, have a giggle then go on to the next one. For the same reason, when I read a paper with funnies I tend to skip over Phantom or Modesty Blaise and the like. If I want to read a graphic novel, I’ll go buy one from the newsagent.

Here I have my list of comics that are currently in my Google Reader:

  • Darths and Droids: A screen-capture strip made in homage to the great DM of the Rings (and if Shamus happens to read this: please, please, please put the old strips of Chainmail Bikini up somewhere). The artist is taking screen shots of the Star Wars films and making a comic strip story based on the premise that they are characters in a roleplaying game. Plenty of D&D and Star Wars in jokes. A bigger strip, but not too many words for my attention span.
  • Order of the Stick: D&D in jokes galore. OOTS is starting to try my patience with too-long strips, but I have had far too many laughs from them in the past to give up just yet.
  • PvP: or Player vs Player. The life of the team at a (computer) gaming magazine. Crude and sometimes potty-mouthed but without a doubt my favourite strip. Characters are well-defined and lovable (especially Skull the flatulent troll). I sometimes miss the computer-game references but there is plenty of D&D love in there too and most of the jokes are PvP-jokes anyway. Good work @pvponline!
  • Dilbert: Dilbert is required reading. It has its own line in the geek code for goodness sake!
  • Doghouse: as in “In the doghouse”. I’ve only just starting following Doghouse, but anything that makes jokes about the differences between men and women is good value in my book.
  • UserFriendly: The first version of The IT Crowd, only Canadian. An oldie but a goodie, but currently only running repeats.
  • OK, they are not really webcomics but you can get Calvin and Hobbes and Zits via RSS, so I do.
j j j

auTAKU: An Australian Otaku Blog [tilt review]

To start my TILT (Things I Like Thursday) series, I thought I would point you in the direction of a relatively new blog run by my friend Steve McKenzie.

I make a point of following all the blogs run by RL friends and family and when I found Steve’s old blog “Steve Likes…” I added it to Google Reader and read the articles as they came off the press. To be honest, a lot of the things that Steve Likes I don’t have as much interest in as I might earlier have (but that probably says more about me than anything else) but Steve writes well and inspires interest in the things He Likes.

Which brings me to the successor blog, auTAKU. The name itself is a play on the term otaku with the “au” replacing the “o” because he’s an Aussie. Apparently, an otaku is a “person with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and video games.” (thanks Wikipedia) and once you understand that, you’ll get an idea of the content over at auTAKU.

There’s reviews of computer games, movies, collectable figures, anime/manga, technology and all sorts of Japan-related stuff. Like I said earlier, most of this means very little to me but if he can keep the interest of an unbeliever like myself I can imagine that the site would be of particular interest to anyone who shares the things Steve Likes (are you listening @starconstant?)

I am particularly impressed with the way Steve has branded his blog. He’s set a target of what he wants to write about, picked a really cool and clever name (which he really needs to pick up the domain for before he loses the chance) and posts regularly with well-written posts.

Anyone with an interest in popular Japanese culture or anyone who just wants to see a well-done startup blog should go visit Steve now. And if you’ve missed all my links hidden in the text and images above, here it is again: http://autaku.wordpress.com/.

(Don’t take this the wrong way Steve, but I rushed this post so I could get started on my Project52 challenge and my TILT series. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your work any less.)

j j j

YANC (Yet another writing challenge)

Hot on the heels of my second NaNoWriMo win, and thanks to a post from fellow wrimo Natnie, I’m going to have a go at the inagural Project52.

I’ve complained regularly of spending more time fiddling with the theme on this site than I do writing on it. This could be a good way around it. I had already set in mind a goal to do more writing here this year but Project52 seems to be a good idea. It’s concrete (write once a week), there’s community (one of the great things about NaNoWriMo) and hopefully some accountability.

So this year expect a bit more traffic here. It will be no more focused than it normally is. Maybe once I get into the habit of writing more often, I might be able to “brand” the site a bit and maybe focus on one particular topic. But we’ll leave the future for the future.

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