Monday, 25 February 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey

More like Fifty Shades of wasting my time…

Quickly lets give a little info on the book: Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance by British author E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first installment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM).

My thoughts on the book in a nutshell: Twilight for grown-ups…

The protagonist Anastasia Steele is no different than the famous Bella Swan of Twilight trilogies but instead of keeping friends with vampires and werewolves she lives in a more realistic world and keeps company of a seriously disturbed man Christian Grey, who has to go all the trouble with making women sign a NDA before engaging in sexual intercourse with them.

Wanna go kinky boy? Put those papers down and go kinky!

It is the same washed up, tiresome story about a clumsy, slightly idiotic woman meeting her better, mysteriously-dangerous-to-an-acceptable-degree man. Supposedly she sees herself as nothing special, the narration describes her as nothing special and yet the superior guy sees her from a different angle and goes nuts over her. They make a perfect couple. One is completely devoid of self-reliance whereas the other relies on people to rely on them.

I suppose it appeals to the women out there who see themselves as nothing special and they wait for their Christian NDAnuts and Edward Whitefangs to save them from their mundane lives.

Cant really blame them on the one hand. In every woman there is a little voice that keeps saying: “Oh he will take care of me and worry over me. When I kick him out of the door he will come back from the window. He is my superior, I adore him and for some dumb reason he adores me although I am nothing special.” That voice must be killed…I murdered mine with a fire-poker! Daddy issues? No thanks!

 Funny how I heard that a housewife of 15 years of marriage left her home after reading the book claiming: “There is more to life!”. Have you ever tried BDSM sweetheart? Because it hurts. Books are for reading, lives are for living. Some books are less worth reading though…

And yet people kept mistaking me as they always do when I finish a book way too quickly! “Oh you must have liked it a lot.” Once again: No I did not like it, if I did like it, I would have savored every page, soaking in philosophical debates, putting the book down for long periods of time to think on it and maybe even take notes on the ideas it offers and sometimes even go through revelations. If you see me finish a book in 1day-1week that means I do not value it, if you see me read it for at least a month that means I like it so much that I do not wish to finish it.

I did take notes on this book though. Some of the positions mentioned were definitely interesting to carry into my private life with my husband. And the only revelation it offered was: “Best Seller” means something else to the popular culture than it does to me.

Still I love when I am proven right. I kept saying that it was twilight for grown-ups and incidentally when I was doing a small research to write this post I came across this tiny little bit of information on the internet about how it was written by E.L. James firstly as a fan-base work of twilight. Oh I just knew it!

Apparently Stephanie Meyer refuses to relate any of E.L. James’ book to herself even as inspiration. I suppose it gets her down to think how lousy her (and by that I mean both authors) characters are when subjected to a real world setting. Well on the bright side Twilight Series were at least meant for a much younger audience than Fifty Shades series and this by all means is the only reason why it escapes my wrath. Much like Harry friggin' Potter series whose surname I suspect comes from the fact that he does a lot of pot hence imagines all his adventures...

I am not saying that one should not read love stories or get gooey and romantic. But do you want to read a real love story full of torment, written in the right way with full profiles of complex characters that go beyond their times hence being rendered immortal? Read Wuthering Heights, read Anna Karenina, read Madame Bovary, read Mrs Dalloway…

But don’t read this pop-corn and then claim it to be a great book. If books of the classic literature are the equivalents of FIPRESCI award winning movies then books like Fifty Shades are the equivalents of American Cheerleader comedies with Rob Schneider starring in them. They will show you a nice time but if you try to take them seriously people of intellect will simply laugh at you.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

LOTRO: Riders of Rohan

Since my character is level capped I think I have a good hold on whats going on in LOTRO’s latest expansion: Riders of Rohan.
 Let me be frank: I had left LOTRO after what I deemed one lousy and grindy addition to the game after the other. My qualms usually were not about expansions in general but the updates that followed. I have to say that Riders of Rohan has been an exception to that so far. Furthermore it has been my return to the game. So I will give LOTRO a positive review for a change. I know that till now there have been 2 reviews, one quite positive, the other a little negative but you should have reviewed the posts in my head for the expansions following Moria. They all added a new dimension to the meaning of negative but thankfully and hopefully that’s behind us now.
Let us begin with the new Mounted Combat feature. I think Rohan expansion would have been incomplete without an introduction into such a feature so I am glad that they came up with it. Regardless of your class you can go for three different kinds of Steeds: Light, Medium and Heavy. Unlike what I thought it would be, those types do not necessarily go together with the type of your armour. For example if you are a light armour wearing class this does not mean that you “have to” go for a light horse. The type of the horse and the skill trees they come with usually promote to endurance vs agility. The light horse is highly agile and fast but what it makes up for in speed (and through speed fury and momentum) it lacks in endurance. You can also always go for a medium horse neither favoring nor lacking either one of these qualities. The table system of skill and trait trees of the steeds, is very similar to that of Star Wars online class proficiencies. You are able to see the entire table of skills and traits to add or subtract points before you make a decision hence you can more easily decide what to go for.
There are issues to the warsteed system for sure, rubberband being one however it doesn’t bother me all that much. Lag can be a huge problem but it is manageable in my opinion. Besides it actually did make me laugh out loud when I saw my horse get stuck on the screen for almost a minute at the end of which I found myself defeated at the bottom of a precipice.
For me the biggest and severest problem would be how I do not get my melee class feel. Ranged classes are great on horseback. In fact they are the funnest thing Turbine has come up with ever. I only wish that I could get a better feel of my class from close range as well though. What I mean mainly concerns my guardian. In order to inflict more damage you need Fury which works like momentum in mounted combat. In order to build fury you have to run. This philosophy does not work perfectly well on my tank though because I am used to staying and fighting multiple foes without giving an inch. If I am honest this is the only thing that I did not go crazy about in mounted combat. Tank doesn’t feel like tank. Of course all this, is my personal opinion.

Moving on from the mounted combat lets see what other changes were brought to the game. Let us begin with a new feature which I found so extremely helpful and fun to do. Warbands!

 They are the haven of solo adventurers. They are fun, fast, rewarding for what they are. Mainly the idea must have come to Turbine from Guilwars 2 where you do not need to be in a group to do a group quest. Now that the mobs are common and lootable to everyone and there is no “you stole my mob” discussion anymore, warbands are an excellent addition to expand this new style of adventuring in the wilds. I just wish that they would change shard droppers in the rest of the world to warbands as well. So mainly this feature entails daily mobs which spawn around the same spot on the map (they respawn every 15-20 minutes the most but are doable only once a day per character) and drop different boxes with random gifts in them. Most of the times what they drop are common and repeated, filling your inventory with useless cosmetic banners but once every while they drop something to surprise you, a cosmetic for your war steed perhaps or Rohan rings and many other small things. As for me I find the marks and medallions they drop most useful. I am sick of skirmishes and I do not wish to visit the instance finder and go for a random skirmish in order to attain like for 4 medallions per run during my solo questing. I much rather go and kill Bugud in 5 minutes with other adventurers I do not know and on my beautiful steed. Besides it is much more exciting to have a silver box sitting in your inventory full of possibilities instead of doing a run which you have done like a 1000 times (and that is no hyperbole) and you know what will come out of it every single time you go for it(although they must have revamped skirmishes as well since the last time I went for a skirmish the boss dropped surprisingly good little gifts) . So yea! Thumbs up for the Warbands of Rohan.
Pending-loot was yet another positive addition to the game in my opinion. The fact that you do not have to go and click on the corpse every time you defeat something especially works perfectly well when mounted on your horse or while you are grinding for traits. It saves a lot of time and space and it goes easy on your eyes as well. I cannot tell how many times I felt dizzy trying to loot a mob during fellowships or raiding. Another thumbs up for this expansion with only one minor setback. Extremely rare items such as loot boxes should have been subjected to a die roll when in a fellowship. When not it is ok.

The end game solo content is the best I have ever seen in LOTRO. It is very refreshing to see Turbine admitting by deeds that solo-play is an aspect of preference in the game whether it fits their philosophy of an MMO or not. Finally there is something else to grind in the game other than Marks in Skirmishes (which was impossible to do solo if you like some sanity left in you. You had to group up at one point or another to get marks and beat the impossible drop numbers of solo-skirming). And they have fit that grind in a perfect little scenario of rebuilding Hytbold. I must admit the Hytbold dailies could have been a little more than 5 quests per day but I have got absolutely no major complaints concerning the end game solo content. All I can say is: Thank you Turbine for giving a set of armour to the solo players out there for a change.    

As for the designs of East Rohan. As usual Turbine has done its top notch job while designing the terrain and the locations. It actually feels like being in Rohan. The epic line and quests were more than satisfactory. Some of the armour sets were not as impressive as they could have been but hey, one cannot really ask any more than the great work and effort they have put into this expansion.
All in all Riders of Rohan did more than just surprising me. It impressed me greatly. I did not expect the content of one expansion to change the entirety of the game altogether and putting a fantastic spin to it. This has not happened since Moria and Legendary weapons (its randomness prevented it from being fantastic though and still does) and Mirkwood expansion when they introduced the Skirmishes. But this time they seemed to have gotten it right. As a returning player I am especially happy because LOTRO has always had a special place in my gaming life with its story, community, artistic graphics which sets the game apart from other MMOs out there. I am glad to be back home.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Vanity; thy name is smart phone!

It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy, it doesn’t matter where you are from, it doesn’t matter if you are clever or not. The new craze that has been going on for like the last 5 years now, is to self-take pictures of you posing in front of the most mundane places imaginable. Most of the profile pictures in places such as Facebook, google plus, tweeter and even avatars in various sites are those ridiculous images one tends to take of him/herself. On Facebook, if it is not the profile picture, you are sure to find at least an album of a smart phone originated faces and an arm extending to the invisible phone its invisible hand holds.
I suppose having a camera in your pocket has become such a trusted habit that it is meaningless to ask 500 strangers a day to take a picture of you for you to use as a profile picture or an avatar. Besides how ridiculous would you look if you asked someone in the public restroom to take a picture of you right there? I can hear the conversation.
You:  Hello, hi. Could you take a picture of me please?
Stranger: Here?
Y: Yes, yes here
S: Why?
Y: I look kind of pretty/handsome today.
You wouldn’t do that would you? Well the next time you have got a smart phone camera in your hand try playing out this scenario to yourself and abstain from doing it! The conversation with an actual stranger may not have taken place but from the photographs it is obvious that you had the conversation in your head with your inner stranger. Next time try saying it out loud. You will find that you sound absolutely ridiculous. 
If you do not wish to hear the voice of reason please then at least learn how to crop images so that you don’t look silly with that phone holding arm. Seriously…