Movies: Dune - Part 2

Megan and I saw Dune Part 2 a couple of weekends ago in iMax. It has been years I think since we last went to a movie at the theaters. Probably since before COVID if I had to guess. 

The movie was quite good and I really enjoyed the movie experience. As with any movie adaptation there are some changes from the book and I fully understand how those changes needed to be made. In the movie version there appears to be a much larger emphasis on the Bene Gesserit and their role in the whole prophecy. I would've liked to see a bit more of the space guild and the mentat, if only to highlight a bit how there were more forces as play in the whole galactic politics. 

My only other gripe with the movie that jumped out at me was the handling of Chani's relationship with Paul at the end. In the book she was much more aware of the potential political marriage that needed to occur and stayed with Paul. The movie changed this dynamic quite a bit, apparently having the two split up and bringing forth the conflict between Paul's religious war and the longterm identity of Dune itself. 

It's an interesting take. I got the impression from the books series that the Freeman wanted Dune to become green. The movie portrayed this a bit differently for me, and I got the impression that there is a sector of the Freeman who want to be free, but have Dune remain as it is due to their "heritage". I feel Chani would fall into this camp. The movie conveyed a real sense of dread and devastation. The scene where the Emperor's ship is attacked on the Dune surface was a demonstration of a brutal and devastating blow. 

I had a great time though and despite the hight cost of going to the movies, I would like to get out a bit more and go back. The past few years of movies have not aught me at all. As I posted about earlier this year, I am getting a bit burned out on streaming services and subscriptions all over the place. It was nice to get into that whole movie experience, with the popcorn and everything. Here's to the hope that movies can make a bigger impact as we move forward. 

Maison Marginal Artisanal Collection 2024 - Fashion and Art

I saw clips of this fashion show popping up on my feed a few weeks ago and decided to watch the show on Youtube after figuring out what it was. Wow, what an experience. I absolutely loved this show and it really capture a beautiful cross between fashion, visual art, dance and music. The atmosphere of this being filmed under a bridge in France really set an amazing mood. If you have not watched this, do yourselves a favor the favor and take a look. It was just beautiful. 

Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

I started reading the ACOTAR series a little of a year ago and the behest of my wife who had been reading these books for quite a while. It was only after seeing the continual clips on TikTok that I decided to give the the series ago, if only to see what the fuss was all about and to connect with my wife on what she was reading.

I liked the first book, but I didn’t love it. I could see the appeal, but as a pure fantasy novel, I wasn’t entirely taken by the story that was presented. I continued on reading the second book and I could see how the writing improved significantly. While working through the series it was interesting to observe my interpretations of the scenes and development compared to my wife. I saw things that she didn’t and vice versa.

By the end of the second book I was hooked. I was really drawn into the world and if I am being honest the love story between Rhys and Feyre was very well written. The overall story was just “OK” for me, but it was the personal moments and the family that she built that really had me invested in this story.

I love that the third book gave us the opportunity to really learn a bit more about the other kingdoms and get to know those characters. The war with Hyburn was a nice topping point to the whole series. In the end I only had a couple of minor quibbles with the final book, and most of those issues arose near the end. The first issue is the sudden reappearance of the Archeron sister’s father. For me it came out of nowhere with no context. I dont even believe Maas connected his coming to Lucien setting out to find the one human queen. The other major issue was that none of the major characters or other lords died at the end of the book. It made for a happy ending sure, but it seemed a bit improbable and removed some of the gravity of the situation.

I was also a bit confused when the other high lords who were able to change into a beast during the final battle. Rhys and Hellion I believe both did this. I though that was Tamlin’s specific power as the lord of the Spring Court? All of the other lords have distinct powers, but if they all can change into beasts what does that leave Tamlin with?

In the end though, this who series was about the relationship between Feyre and Rhys and it had me fully invested. It was touching and quite beautiful and I love how Maas showed how much they actually cared for each other.

I’m not sure if I will continue on to the other books in this series, but I think I am definitely a fan of Maas and her writing, and I will certainly check out some of her other series at some point.

Book Review: With Fire and Sword

With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going to be a very hard book to review.
I very much enjoyed this book, but if I am being honest it was a VERY long read. Despite the length this is going into the list as one of my favorite books, and deserves to be up there with Romance of the Three Kingdoms as one of the all time classics.

I did a bit of Wikipedia research while reading it and as far as I can tell, the supporting characters were all real people during the events of the Cossack rebellion.

What I found so fascinating about this book is that it read both as a historical fiction, but also as a historical fantasy. There are multiple passages and scenes where the characters talk about their fear of witches, vampires, and other creatures of the night. At no point are any of these really portrayed as being real. They sort of exist as commonly held superstitions that remained persistent in both the character's and reader's peripheral vision. I found the inclusion of these superstitions both to raise the tension in a scene while acknowledging that weren't actually going to show up. Just their possibility added to a scene like MSG adds that "something" to a dish.

The book also reads easily despite its age. I read the Jeremiah Curtin translation from, which is also the Project Gutenberg version. It was very readable translation and a very nicely formatted book. I will caution though that despite the general ease in readability, the names are going to give most people some difficulty. The book does include a pronunciation guide in the back, but if you just roll with the pronunciations as you need to for your own head, you'll be just fine.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes historical fiction, military fiction. Even fans of fantasy will be able to get into this as the structure and writing could go right up there with any fantasy book you've read.

View all my reviews

Videogaming: Baldur's Gate 3 is Infuriating

I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate 3 for the past month or so, since it came out on the Xbox. People have been praising this game since August so I was pretty excited to get into the game. I am a huge D&D and TTRPG fan afterall, so the prospect of bringing that to a videogame seemed pretty exciting.

I’ve just hit Act 3 this past week and I think I am about 60-70 hours in. If I am being honest, I dont think I like this game very much and it almost entirely boils down to the combat.

But before we really get into that, let’s talk about some other things in the game that just don’t seem to connect with me. The game is very heavility influenced by the actual D&D roleplay mechanic system. Unforuntely, that brings all of the similar trappings that come with playing D&D, but without the benefit of having the ability to get contextual information or clarification form your dungeon master. Roleplay is probably my favorite part of D&D and Baldur’s Gate on the whoile does a pretty decent job of this. However, it obfuscates the skill checks and rolls in most roleplay or social situations. I very often will find myself in a conversation which results in a roll, but I have no way to know which character may be most appropriate for the situation or context. Furthermore, when a roll like Persuasion is required I have no idea what the stat for the chracter that I have select is. If the game didn’t explicitly have a dice roll in these situations, I probably wouldn’t care, but if it is going to show me that actual roll, every…single…time at least let me see what my modifier is before I select that as a dialog option.

Contextual clues are the biggest frustration I have with this game. There have been way too many situations where I am walking around the world where combat will just suddenly start, or worse yet, I think it will, and it doesn’t resulting in a conversation that has to preempt combat. Just today I wrestled with a combat scenario against some Githyanki in a hidden library. I must’ve run this combat 6-7 times. After getting obliterated the first time I tried to sneak and get surprise on the enemy for an attack. every single time I would get a spell off and then the conversation would trigger and then waste the concentrate or spell I just cast. I had a nearly identical level of frustration with the combat that occured at the entrance of the Moonrise Towers in Act 2.

I basically had to “cheese” the combat to get an upper hand due to the action economy. Almost every combat has significantly more combatants than your party.

Let’s continue our conversation though on that Githyanki fight and the way it was structured. There were two portals on the sides of the room, summoning in more Githyanki each round. Those portals were placed just sor perfectly to be out of reach of any of my spells like Fireball, etc. This is frustrating game design, because it is almost impossible to know that those exist until you fail at a first attempt of combat. There was no way going into that room to know how to position my characters and accommodate for that specific setup. So many of the combat encounters have this same sort of thing and it is just driving me away from wanting to continue to play.

Xbox - 2023 Year in Review

Let's take a look at my year in gaming on Xbox. I am a bit surprised at this to be honest. I had no idea that I played 43 games. Deep Rock was definitely my most played game this year. I am surprised at my hours for Starfield. I cranked through that game in a couple of weeks and enjoyed it, but fell off pretty hard after the first ending. I didn't make to any subsequent NG+ games. 

The Oscars Could Really Learn from The Video Game Awards

The 14th annual Video Game Awards (VGA) were on this past Thursday and I have probably watched this show every year for the past eight years or so. It is the only award show that I regularly look forward to and it really is a testament to Geoff Keighley who has organized and promoted this thing since its inception. 

I think there is something important about how the VGA's are approaching the  award show space that really sets them apart from many of the other shows out there. No one is watching the Oscars or Grammys right? They are boring as all hell. The Grammy's if anything should probably be pretty easy to make entertaining considering it is a music focused show, but the format is just straight up boring. 

The VGA's have nailed it though in creating an entertaining show and they have done it by leveraging the value of the entertainment format. It is an awards show first and foremost, but they do an excellent job of getting away from the endless monologue of "thank you" speeches. I think for all of the awards that they gave out on Thursday, maybe 5-8 people actually came up on stage to say thank you. They even had some of the awards given out at an off-stage camera position and it appeared as if the awardees there read from a teleprompter for their thank you speech to keep it nice and short. The worst part of the Oscars is the endless droning of thank you's that no one cares about from the actors, made worse often by their self inflated philanthropic or political posturing. No one cares and it isn't entertaining for anyone. 

The VGA's also do a really nice job of featuring some important awards on the show that others do not. For example, they do an award for accessibility in gaming, which is something that others need to be doing. Even if the Oscars are doing something like that, they aren't putting that on the screen. 

The VGA's fill most of their time though with trailers for upcoming games, which is the real reason why most people come to watch. They also then fill it in with some excellent musical performances from some of the best soundtracks of the year. The Oscars should be doing this exact same thing. Musical performances, seem like a no brainer, but trailers? That also seems like an easy win of self promotion for all involved. Show us trailers for new movies coming out the next year. Better yet, remember all of that cool and fun bonus content that we got on DVD's back in the day? Give us that content for all of the nominees. That stuff is largely gone as a result of online streaming and some of that stuff is great. That would be an easy way to fill in a show with entertaining information that ranges from a technical/artistic insight to simple outtakes and bloopers. People would love to watch that. 

I'm Kinda Done with Subscription Services

Is anyone else just absolutely fed up with subscription services? Netflix is apparently raising their prices again. Amazon Prime Video is going to raise prices after the first of the year and it seems that Disney+ just raised it’s monthly price. I’m not going to pay $20 a month for Netflix. 

I was listening to a great episdoe of This Week in Tech a couple of weeks ago and they were talking about these recent price increases along with the available content up on the various streaming services. There has been a lot of talk this past year about various services removing content entirely. Netflix did this with the Willow show and HBO and Discovery have recently gotten into some hot water on the topic as well earlier this year. The whole premise of the streaming services when they first launched was that we were going to have all of the back catalog of content available. It unfortunately  seems that we are moving in the opposite direction. 

I’ve also found that since getting these streaming services, I watch less content then I used to. Years ago, even when I subscribed to the Netflix disc service I used to regularly watch 1-2 movies per week. Popping a disc in on a Friday or Saturday night to watch a movie was a common occurrence and even going all the way back to the Blockbuster days I regularly watched a movie once a week. These days I feel like I rarely have any idea of what movies are out and about. 

I’ve had a bit of a change of heart though recently. TikTok of all places has introduced me to some movies that I have never heard of before. Notably they have been some Anime films that have really caught my eye. Do you know where I ended up finding the DVD/Bluray to watch these films? My local library. My library has a ton of movies and access to even more via their network. I have watched more movies from my library over the past couple of months than I have through Netflix or Amazon all year. 

I really think starting January 1st, I am going to strongly cut back on my streaming choices and invest myself back into a weekly movie night with DVD and Bluray rentals. 

Investigation Dagon - A D&D 5e Halloween Adventure for Level 16 Characters

Late into the Halloween game, but I wanted to share this adventure I wrote a few years ago and have consolidated into a proper document for other DM's to run. This takes H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon short story and turns it into an investigation adventure. 

I hope you enjoy. 

Updated: 10/09/2023 - Updated to fix grammar, typos, and some formatting issues. Improved newspaper layout for easier printing. 

Ridelog: Iron Butt Association - Bun Burner 1500

Back in July the MEWS group did a quick Saturday and Sunday Bun Burner out to Maryland. This was a 1500 miles in 36 hours. The ride was all highway, but we were pleasantly surprised by nice highway roads through Pennsylvania, including some gorgeous tunnels. Dinner in the evening was at By the Docks and was some great crab cakes with DJ's family. 
The ride back on Saturday started out really well, but we did have an incident on the highway in Pennsylvania. Thankfully everyone was OK, but we did have to separate with one member due to a crash. We were able to get back on the road about an hour later. 
Long story short though we made it back to Naperville within our 36 hour window and successfully completed our Iron Butt award. I have my patch and license plate holder coming the mail hopefully in the next month or two.