Easily Distracted: Things which aren’t Warcraft

A couple of other games have been distracting me from WoW recently.

First up is the amazing, awesome and hilarious Scribblenauts Unlimited. It has haunted houses, dinosaurs and castles to explore plus the Headless Horseman as an art lover which is absolutely how I envisioned him. You have to help save your sister by creating (by typing) items to solve problems and make people happy. There is no right answer to the problem although there are definitely wrong ones (vampire teddy being one example) and it’s interesting to see how Mr Harpy would solve problems differently to me.

On my phone, I love Aqueducts.

Taking this:


To this is a bit addictive.

Although I’m far from a natural aqueduct builder. Mr Harpy takes a very sensible and logical approach, starting from the far end and figuring out what options work and what does. I take a much more relaxed approach and essentially “wing” it. I suspect Caesar would have fed to me the lions for my attitude and tendency to flood vast areas of the city although I’d probably have already accidentally drowned the lions.

 

Finally, I have found a replacement for the Chibi maker which had distracted me for far too long. This is Avatar Maker: Witches and apparently at heart I’m still the little girl who loved reading about Dorrie the Little Witch and the Worst Witch books.

 

I’m also trying to increase both the amount of fiction and non fiction I read as it feels like I read 100 children’s books to every 1 adult book at the moment. For Fiction at the moment I’m reading “Life and Fate” plus “American Gods“. They do make for slightly unlikely bed fellows I admit. My Mother buys me books for Christmas every year (I know it’s early) but if anyone has any suggestions especially in terms of non-fiction I’d love to hear them. I’m interested in most things, especially the quirky and unusual.

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Fandom Five: My Must See List of Christmas Movies

The Fandom Five is the brainchild of The Nerdy Girlie and Superspace Chick. It’s also meant to be done on Fridays, a level of organisation I just don’t have at this time of year. I love the concept because it takes the form of lists which appeals to the control freak in me and also because of the answers other people give. In this particular case, so many Christmas Movies I never knew existed.

Christmas has me in two states of mind, we have to eat three Christmas dinners in as many days, it never snows like it did in my childhood in central Europe and my parents usually start to argue by 3pm on Christmas Day although I do love wrapping presents, the smell of pomanders and of course Christmas movies so when I saw the latest prompt for the Fandom Five, I knew I had to add my opinion.

So in no particular order:

1. Die Hard I and II

Perhaps not what people might expect from a list of Christmas movies but they’re set at Christmas, are great to snuggle up with a blanket, someone you love and lots of lebkuchen plus they remind you that whilst spending the festive season with your nearest and dearest might at times resemble a war zone, it could be worse, much worse.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

This makes both my Halloween and Christmas lists. I love everything about this movie and could watch it on a loop for hours although you do get funny looks singing “This is Halloween” in December.

3. Christmas with the Kranks

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This one ticks all the right boxes for me because I suppose it encapsulates my own mixed feelings about Christmas with of course the conclusion that the child in me wants. Every year I secretly toy with the idea of running off abroad for the festive season and every year like clockwork we go to my sister-in-law’s for Christmas Eve, my parents for Christmas Day and the in-laws for Boxing Day.

4. The Wizard of Oz

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Growing up, every Christmas this would be on television, it became as much a part of my family festivities as crackers, talent contents on Boxing Day (we’re a competitive family) and elaborately iced Christmas cakes. Whilst the adults drank (male) and cooked (female), we children were banished to the sitting room with a selection of presents and told to watch The Wizard of Oz until food was ready which surprisingly enough, we actually did.

5. Home Alone

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What’s not to love about this movie? I used to secretly fantasize about my parents managing to leave the country without me so I could heroically fend off inept burglars with the help of my trusty hound. However my parents never quite managed to lose me to that extent, although Home Alone is one of my Mother’s favourite movies too so perhaps I just have Daddy to blame for that.

Dragon Age Inquisition – First Thoughts

Santa came early to the Harpy household this year bringing with him a copy of Dragon Age Inquisition. It’s a joint present and as we have with both incarnations of the game, we’re playing together sharing the decision making and taking it in turns to pilot our way around the stunningly beautiful map.

Naturally we’re playing a Mage as we have in every other incarnation of the game and spent around an hour playing with the character creation screen.

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Visually the game has blown me away, it’s far too easy to stand around admiring the way the light falls through the leaves or the little details dotted around.

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What has really sold me though is the scale of the game, we’ve played for around eight hours but haven’t really achieved anything at all. From puzzles, to little quests just to be kind along with the main story lines, the scope is immense.

My favourite thing so far however is this:

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It might turn more like a  tank than a horse but the level of detail is amazing, from the difference in your position depending on your speed to the individual hairs making up the tail.

Books for Halloween – My Favourite Spooky Reads

As autumn bleeds into winter, my thoughts tend to turn to dark and scary things. By five at night, we’re already starting to lose the light and by six it’s pitch black outside with the street lamps throwing pockets of orange light into the shadows. Inside where it’s warm and light, I like to sit by the window and read about ghosts, vampires and the monsters under the bed (although given all the other stuff under ours, it would be a very small monster, pocket sized in fact). I don’t really have Halloween movies, although I do tend to like watching Sleepy Hollow and the Nightmare Before Christmas around now, instead I have Halloween books that I pull out and scare myself with.

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So in no particular order here they are:

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Fair enough, this isn’t particularly scary but feeds into my love of vampires and witches. Plus humour helps dilute the fear a touch.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

I first read this as a young girl, maybe early teens but I suspect a bit earlier and was terrified by it. One particular part left a lasting impression on my mind and it’s now one of my favourite books for snuggling up under a duvet and reading, assuming of course I’m not alone in the house.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

I read this for the first time during High School French. My teacher at the time apparently had better things to do than teach us and so I and the girl I shared a desk with spent our fourth year reading our way through Stephen King. Reading under the bright classroom lights was one thing, but walking the mile and a half home in the dusk another altogether. Instead of taking my usual short cut through the park and along the river bank, I almost ran the long way under street lights just in case.

IT by Stephen King

I still make sure my hair is safely tucked out of the way before I lean over any plug hole thanks to this book. The idea of anything being able to see our darkest fears and use them against is terrifying enough but somehow King manages to make it extra frightening right from the first few pages.

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

Whilst I like the all novels in this particular series, the first one stands out perhaps because it was the first one I read, anyway you can’t go wrong with a spin on the Dracula story.

The October Country by Rad Bradbury

Nothing beats creepy short stories for those quick bursts of heart pumping fear between chores.

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

In all Bradbury’s stories about the Elliott family, I can’t shake that feeling of familiarity. No, my nearest and dearest aren’t mummies, ghosts or vampires but they are eccentric, strange and oddly fond of once living animals now stuffed and inanimate. Somehow the family dynamic is similar although my Grandmama doesn’t just come out at Halloween.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

This is the book I always imagined reading to my children on Halloween, when their sated with sweets and the candle burns low in the Jack O’Lantern.

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse

The first story in this collection reminds me so much of the ghost stories of my childhood, whispered undercover of darkness by my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.

 

There are others, books which somehow catch the edge of what frightens me, the darkness inside not out, that send a tingle of fear tripping down my spine but these are my favourites. That said, I’m always on the look out for more books that make me curl up by the light so any suggestions of spooky things to read would be appreciated.

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.

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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Fanciful Friday – Wolfenstein: The New Order

We’ve finally finished our first play through of Wolfenstein and despite it’s somewhat dark subject matter, there is no denying it’s a stunning game.

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