Fandom Friday – Gateway Fandoms That Made Me Who I Am Today

Flicking through Twitter yesterday I noticed that Neri of Mama Needs Mana had tweeted what looked like an interesting link to a blog I’d never heard of before. Needless to say I went to have a look and immediately loved the idea proposed by the Nerdy Girlie. Lists are one of my great passions, it’s not that I’m particularly organised but something about an ordered and bullet pointed collection of words which just sings to me. Plus I found the idea of Gateway Fandoms intriguing because I never identified as Geek during my childhood / teenage years despite having some truly geeky interests. So to start at the beginning:

1. 2000AD

My Father thought that Televisions make you fat and lazy, thus we didn’t have one (although the second I left for University… what did they buy?). Instead I played outside, I built things (mostly forts), I sewed and I read anything I could get my hands on. I quickly decided that Mandy and other “girl” comics were too juvenile for me and aged around 8 or 9 I spread my comic reading wings and fell head over heels in love with 2000AD. Luckily other than making pronouncements like TVs are bad, my parents paid very little attention to my choice in reading matter because reading = good regardless of subject or quality. It wasn’t just Judge Dread or Judge Anderson although I had definite crushes on both at various points but the art work and the whole feel of the comic. It inspired me in the art work I submitted at school and pushed me think outside the bubble in which I existed. I still have most of my comics from that period because I just can’t bring myself to throw them out and of course I’ve watched both Judge Dread movies although I was disappointed about the portrayal of Anderson in the last one.

2. Star Trek

As my father was in the Air Force, the only colour which mattered was Blue and I think the world which Roddenberry envisioned had many similarities to the one I thought I grew up in. A world where women could be pilots and where you came from was less important in the grand scheme when compared with the choices you made. Then when I discovered the harsh reality of the world around us, Star Trek made even more sense to me. I grew up in Germany and given that we lived in a German town not on an Air Force base had a variety of friends. These were other Service kids, local Germans and the children of Turkish workers. Now unsupervised we all got on fine but add in parents and things got messy fast. Most of the German parents didn’t want their children hanging out with the Turkish children and most of the Turkish parents didn’t want their children hanging out with anyone who wasn’t Turkish. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement and of course had us children wishing for a world where being human was enough, thus we searched for sanctuary amongst the many worlds of Star Trek and got good at deceiving authority, after all.. the needs of the many (us) outweighed the needs of the few (the parents who had issues).

3. Gothic Literature

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Dracula, Carmilla, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights.. These novels heavily influenced my early forays into dating as well as fascinating me on much deeper level. Was Stoker’s attempt at creating a monster who feeds of  the life blood of his peasants before retreating to the safety of his castle a dig at the Angl0-Irish landowners for example or is it just what it’s presented as.. either way it’s a brilliant read and has spawned so many wonderful things. At Halloween, I still like to bring my battered old copy of Dracula out and read it even though I know exactly what’s going to happen. I think those early reading experiences also had a marked impression on what I like to read today, as I’m drawn to books like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows collection and well anything with ghosts or vampires in it. I think I owe my fascination with the Day of the Dead and with Halloween to my love of the Gothic too. Without these stories I wouldn’t have carted a five foot wooden skeleton across the Atlantic nor have almost as many Halloween decorations as I do Christmas ones.

4. Pre-Raphaelite  Art

In many ways this is similar I suppose to my love of the Gothic but those paintings get inside your head and make you see the world differently, at least they did for me. They made me realise that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and that all too often we don’t see what’s right in front of us. The four core and founding beliefs behind the movement should inspire us still today:

  1. to have genuine ideas to express
  2. to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
  3. to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
  4. most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues

and they certainly played a role in my development.

5. World of Warcraft

Without WoW this blog wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have encountered so many interesting and passionate people. The game has pushed me creatively and mentally in so many ways, from sewing my own Tree of Life and managing to sustain writing which despite my love of it has proved remarkably hard given my mental state over the last few years.

Nostalgia – That Bittersweet Pill

Nostalgia is a funny thing. In someways those first few years playing WoW were my happiest, playing with a stable group of people, raiding high end content and generally enjoying myself.Yet when I unpick those memories most of them aren’t hugely happy ones. I’ve certainly been left wary of trusting others, of fully engaging with my current guild because of things which have gone before.

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I’ve just spent the afternoon running UBRS remembering how much I loathed the place when it was current content, when the General only dropped one blood and therefore you had to run it over and over again to get your whole raid attuned for Blackwing Lair. I remember having to solo heal it one day in a raid of 15 because the other Priest took offense when someone linked the healing meter (not me) and set out to smite the rest of the run. The wipes because people adored hugging the whelps or being knocked off various ledges and edges. The fights we would have to convince the rest of the group that they’d should do Solakar Flamewreath because Priests deserved a shot at their dungeon set shoulders just like everyone else. Then there was the night we had to go and rescue a guildmate who joined an UBRS raid three or four hours before hand so that he could raid with us the following night and when he finally asked for help, they’d only made it as far as the Rookery… I think I still have nightmares about that PuG.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of WoW, I find myself questioning why I’m still here, why I haven’t learnt from past mistakes and run away as fast as my legs would carry me.  There are plenty of decisions the Developers have made which have left me rolling my eyes but the flip side of that is they’ve also done things I love, Hallows End and Ulduar being prime examples. Besides if they always got it right for me, they would be no doubt a fairly large subsection of people criticizing that because they just don’t like or enjoy the same things as me. Yes it’s a balancing act but it’s not as simple as say deciding not to read a book because either things contained within the text revolt you or you just think a five year old could produce more literary merit. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example, a friend gave me the first one stating I’d love it. I read the first few chapters in a mix of disgust and horror, imagining Thomas Hardy rolling in his grave and made a conscious decision not to purchase any of her books. WoW on the other hand is more than just a game, it’s a community, something which inspires and pushes me. Do the pluses out way the negatives, I’d argue yes they do at least in my current circumstances as I sit here trying to figure out a way of coping with ante-natal depression and what comes after. Besides, I think there is hope for WoW. People can and do change their minds and their perspectives, it’s just about keeping the dialogue going in such a way that everyone can engage with it. After all, when someone creates something and pushes it out into the Public view then they have to expect criticism. I read English Literature at University and that’s pretty much all we did, unpick other people’s words trying to get inside their heads. Art History contains a fairly hefty criticism component. We have book reviews, Food critics and people who write about the Theatre so why should the Gaming Industry expect to be any different?

Sea and Sand

We live in a beautiful part of the country, although I’m biased because this close to the sea everything is beautiful in my eyes. However for various reasons, I’m trying to combat years of spending 11 hours a day either at my desk or commuting to work and this involves lots of walks regardless of the weather. It also involves trying to get to know the local landscape a lot more, after all, we’ve only lived here a year next weekend so there is still lots to explore from ruined villages on beaches and the bare bones of castles clung to cliffs like nesting birds.

This weekend we went to two places, both rather close to our house. The first was a bird reserve with a lovely waterfall and thousands of birds.
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If you follow the path away from the reserve you end up here with lots of rocks and the pools of all different colours.
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Then on Sunday because despite the forecast, there wasn’t any torrential rain, we went to our local beach.

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Getting down onto the sand requires a slightly precarious trip down the side of a cliff. Hand rails aren’t something we seem particularly good at, perhaps the authorities assume everyone who lives around here had a previous life as a mountain goat.
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The beach ends with yet another waterfall and lots of rocks. There is an old fisherman’s cottage just peeking out amongst the rocks at the foot of the waterfall which must have been a fabulous if slightly scary place to live once upon a time.

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This one is for Matty.
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I have a slight obsession with driftwood, there is something pure about it’s bleached whiteness and this piece with it’s fishing twine and weeds caught up in, suggests that Mother Nature sees art in the strangest things.
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The beach might look empty but someone had obviously been here before us. At this time of year, lots of jellyfish wash up but there is something creepy yet beautiful about the fact that someone placed this egg shaped stone on top of this one.

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The rocks are made up of various materials including slate but I just liked the contrast of this rusty piece of metal, hot orange against that blue sky with the dark grey rocks tinged with green.
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So, we’re climbing a cliff along a path where there has clearly been a landslide at some point in recent history and we come across this sign. Do we automatically retreat? Of course not, the incorrect spelling of the first word surely makes the rest of the text immaterial.  To be fair, whilst I wouldn’t have wanted to attempt it in the rain or even on damp ground, the path was no more dangerous than the one we came down in the first place but I just liked the sign and the fact that it had been brutally thrust aside by someone else.
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Finally, this is the view from just above the dangerous sign, showing the rocks stretching away into the distance.
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Home Sweet Home

Last week the Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was:

What in WoW reminds you of your home?

Suggested by Sycro of Sycro Owl.

Unfortunately I was too ill to put words on the page then so I’m sneaking in late.

I’ve been fortunate to call many beautiful places home and so rather than picking one, I’m going to take you on a quick tour of my life via WoW locations.

As a child, we lived in Germany in amongst the mountains and the fairytale castles so Gilneas immediately springs to mind. Their accents might be an approximation of English but those barren crags, dark waters and ornate walled city reminds me more of the Germany of my childhood than it does Britain.

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Then as a teenager, we moved to a far softer landscape surrounded by farm land in Scotland where you could see for miles, fields tapering down the sea. So in WoW terms I couldn’t imagine a better fit for Westfall and the rain in this particular shot is merely art mirroring life.

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There was an interlude traveling to places which didn’t remind me of home at all, following by a stint of living in a city about as far removed from Stormwind as possible and now, I live idyllically less than 200 metres from the sea in a tiny fishing village. The best equivalent I think in WoW would have to be  Sri-la village perched as it is at the base of a cliff. Okay, we don’t have a waterfall or any giant statues but that hidden away feel persists. There is only one road down into the village, passing the sea front and for a moment everyone seems to pause just to look down over the houses scattered below.

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This is the view less than a five minute walk from my front door and it makes me smile every time I see it.

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The Gnome Garden

When we bought our house by the sea, we inherited the most beautiful terraced courtyard garden along with it. Slowly but surely my fingers have been turning green as I’ve spent more and more time out there. We are growing strawberries, jalapeños, tomatoes and herbs by the pot full and nothing helps you relax after a tough week at work than sitting the sun, shadowed by your own sweet smelling roses.

Then a few months ago I got the idea to build a little Gnome Garden in a terracotta pot.

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The lump of stone at the back was the stand in for the cottage I knew the garden had to have whilst I sourced something suitable. I looked at plastic Smurf mushrooms and at ruins for fish tanks before finally settling on something so simple I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me straight away.

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The good old painted stone cottage which can be customized in any way you see fit.

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Over all I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out and intend making a village full of cute little cottages to hide away amongst the herbs, roses and marigolds in the garden.

Liebster Love part 4

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Here are the answers to my next 22 questions.

Mon of Mon Plays WoW:

  • Why do you play WoW? This is actually a question I’ve been putting a lot of thought into recently. I’m not even sure I’d call my current WoWing “playing” as it mostly consists of tiny snapshots these days. I log and talk to my cooking apprentice on Dulca. I might do the odd spot of PvP on Snowflower. Sprout might get an outing to make cloth for another bag. Random alt number 17 might gain a level or two but I have no real purpose. I don’t raid (too anxious and if I’m being honest, I feel raiding without being willing to get gear from other sources plus cloak is lazy and unfair to the rest of the team), random battlegrounds show you the worst of humanity more often that not and there are only so many pet battles I can stomach. Mr Harpy thinks I’m an optimist desperate to the see the best in things and personally I suspect it’s stubbornness. In my head I’m not ready to quit, I want to play through Warlords.
  • If you had to play one class, and one only, what would you pick? Priest. I’ve deviated away from this on many occasions only to find myself running back to the comfort of the one class I’ve always been happy playing.
  • How long have you played WoW for? February 2005… although there have been breaks along the way.
  • What is your favourite meal or delicacy? (Gaming related or not) What I’m cooking right now, whole chicken roasting slowly in the oven. It’s buttered skin sprinkled with paprika, oregano and with slices of fresh lemon tucked up beside it. I’ll be serving it with flat breads, red wine and a spicy tomato salad. 
  • What got you in to gaming? I got my first computer when I was quite small but then as a teenager I decided it wasn’t cool and abandoned gaming completely. It was only when I met Mr Harpy that I got sucked back in, primarily playing first person shooters over a lan with him and his friends. Turns out I had a shed load of aggression and loved shooting his mates repeatedly in the head. From there I graduated to Age of Empires and Dungeon Keeper I and II and haven’t really looked back since.
  • Why do you blog? I’ve always loved to write. I won my first ever short story competition as a rather precocious six or seven year old (for the record it was terrible) and was always encouraged to write by my mother. She with a tiny bit of imput from me created scrapbooks for me starting when I was two or three, which I still have and blogging is a continuation of that.
  • What is a strange habit you have when playing WoW? To completely lose track of time.
  • What is your ideal next expansion? One with strong characters, both male and female, compelling and interesting quest lines and stunning scenery. 
  • If you could create a mount, what would it be? A giant bug a la Princess Huhuran. 
  • What is your favourite raid or instance? Hmm a toss up between Karazhan or Ulduar.
  • What could you never live without? Books, bacon and and long hot baths. (I’ve love to say Mr Harpy but I know life is not like that).

Chatmay of the WoW Debutante:

1. How long have you been blogging?  Why did you decide to start a WOW blog? Scarily enough, I’ve been blogging since the end of May/start of June 2008 which surprisingly enough means this year is my 6th anniversary.  I must admit when I started, I never thought I’d last this long. It took me another year to force myself onto Blog Azeroth and another year and a half before I managed to make a twitter account.
2. What has been the highlight of your blogging career? Discovering that people do actually choose to read my ramblings.
3. What games do you play besides WOW? At the moment I’m playing Dragon Age: Origins and trying not to fall for Alistair, Candy Crush because I have a disturbing need to get three stars on every level and Harmony Isle just because…harmonyisle02I’m also fond of Transport Tycoon. 
4. What hobby do you spend the most time on besides gaming? Reading, crafting, sewing, gardening and cooking all divide my time fairly equally at the moment.
5. What kinds of foods do you like and when do you snack the most? I prefer savoury over sweet although I found a fascinating sounding recipe in an old cook book the other day for a mashed potato chocolate cake and I’m definitely going to try that.
6. What period of time/expansion have you enjoyed the most in WOW and why? Probably Wrath. I loved the bad guy, the zones and the quest chains leading up the Icecrown Citadel. Also it played host to some of my favourite five man dungeons in Halls of Reflection and the Culling of Stratholme.
7.  What is your favorite profession in WOW?  What is the rarest pattern you have made in a profession? Herbalism so no rare patterns just that peace of mind which comes from wandering around picking flowers and taking screenshots.
8.  How often do you twitter about WOW?  In one day? I’m not the most prolific tweeter out there, in fact I probably on average tweet less than once a day.
9.  Do you attend any conventions for comics, anime, WOW, gaming, etc.? No. If Blizzcon was closer, I might be tempted but in reality I’m awfully shy.
10. Tell about a close friend you have had in WOW and whether you are still in touch. Because of the above, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had that many close friends in WoW. None of my real life friends play or at least they’ve never admitted it to me and whilst I’ve always got on with most of my guildmates, I wouldn’t say we were particularly close. 
11. Random WOW fact or adventure you have been on. I couldn’t think of a WoW adventure I’ve been on that I haven’t already described at some point or another so instead I thought I’d show you some photos of a real life adventure I went on.

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The view from the roof of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City (and yes, I was up there legally).

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A Mayan Ruin

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The only surviving monument to a town laid to waste by a volcano

Long Weekend Away – Photo Heavy Post

This is totally not a WoW post although I’ll be happy if my Garrison ends up resembling a few of these castles in their heyday.  Mr Harpy and I have just returned from an idyllic couple of days away wandering around in the great outdoors and these are a few of the pictures we took in the process.

Edzell Castle

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Falls of Feugh

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Drum Castle

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I never thought I’d end up saying this but now I love wandering around the walled gardens far more than I do clambering up spiral staircases and staring wide eyed at suits of armour. The walled gardens at Drum really are beautiful especially as you have to wander through a wonderful wild area before you find the wall with the wrought iron gate set it in.

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Crathes Castle

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If you’re ever passing through Scotland, I’d definitely recommend stopping off this way and taking a look for yourselves.

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