Vlog, 07/06/2014

July 7, 2014 at 3:10 am (Uncategorized)

It’s not the full fledged post I wanted to make, but until I have time, here’s a Vlog to hold you over.

And yes, I know the quality sucks. It was kinda impromptu. 

HERE IT IS

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“Skin Game” Review

June 22, 2014 at 1:18 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

The latest entry in the Dresden Files is fun, but lacks enough substance for fans wanting more.

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June 21, 2014 – I’ve reviewed a number of books on this site before, but I’ve never reviewed one of the books in the Dresden Files series. That is a shame, because I’ve read all of the Dresden Files long after I started this reviews blog, and they are all worthy of my time to review. Now here I am, reviewing book fifteen in the series out of the blue (sixteen if you count the “Side Jobs” anthology.) Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s Been Forever…

June 14, 2014 at 5:56 am (Uncategorized) (, )

But I think I’ll be coming back.

I don’t think there are many out there who still remember this blog, but I do. Fond Memories.

Yeah. I’m going to bring this back. Maybe not the same as before. But it will come back.

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Mass Effect 3 – The Review, The Endings, The Controversy

March 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm (Bothered, Entertain Me nt, Interests, Squee!, Write, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Hello, everybody! I know there are some of you out there who are really looking forward to the next post of the “New Canon” series, but there are some minor hurdles that need to be dealt with before we can post it. Not to worry, though! It’s day will come.

Until then, however, I can’t just let the blog lie fallow, and I have a topic of some interest to me I want to discuss. So let’s get to it, shall we?

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Just the other day I finished up Mass Effect 3. If you want to know my full and detailed feelings about the game, just click on over to my Review. It will come as little surprise that I loved the game immensely. However, on top of all the amazing experiences and emotions that game gave me, there is some sour as well. That sourness, the ending, is what I wish to discuss today. As much as anything else, this post is partially to sort out my feelings about the ending, as well as parse my thoughts on the surrounding controversy, the petitions, the “indoctrination theory,” all of it.

For those of you who think I’m going to be all rage and nonsense, I assure you that there are things I feel the ending did well. For those of you who think the ending is blameless…. Actually I really want to hear from you because I only hear from the ragers (this IS the internet), and I want your perspective too.

Oh, and it should be obvious by now, but there are going to be major spoilers incoming, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know ahead of time. Play it and come back. The discussion might help more people deal with it besides just me. At least that is my hope. So…

**********************SPOILER WARNING**********************


(Before we start, here are some details about my playthrough that my help contextualize the following material, though I will talk about all possible “Best” Endings – I played a Female Shepherd Paragon who only did Renegade Actions to save the lives of friends and innocents. My Shepherd romanced Liara and chose the “Synthesis” ending.)

I think it’s important to start out by talking about what the ending did well. Partially to remind myself that I do, in fact, love this game despite what I’m going to get into later.

The sacrificial element was well done. Beautiful even. The entire game talks about the costs of war, the price of peace, and the sacrifices and lives it takes to get through it all. Shepherd’s sacrifice to either control the reapers, or synthesize all organic and synthetic life was moving to me. I was literally in tears over it. If there was anyone who deserved that retirement, that joy in victory and life at the end of the game, it was my Shepherd. And she would never get it. The thought of all of Shepherds friends living on without her was heartbreaking, especially in Liara’s case (Shepherd will never get to see all the little blue children!).

Shepherd’s sacrifice was also built up to well, if a tad obviously. The growing sense of dread, desperation, and despair combined with the talks with all of her past crew-mates that felt very much like last good-byes, all pointed to a conclusion that wouldn’t see Shepherd alive on the other side. In this respect, at least, it seems like the developers were trying to bring closure to Shepherd’s story. You say your last good-byes and then go save he universe by sacrificing yourself. These little moments with her friends were touching to me.

Of all the endings, I feel that the best ending was the “Synthesis” ending. I’ll get into some of the specifics later, but part of the reason for me was that it touched on three things that I always like to see. First of all, I’m a sucker for stories about the plight of true AI. The idea of this new creation finding life and love, and yet being feared and despised because it isn’t a “real person” is always a touching story for me (I don’t know why, it just is). I also love things that tickle my imagination with the possibilities of a new and different future. And the last is the successful union of love over boundaries that might seem insurmountable. All of these things were addressed in the Synthesis ending.

Specifically, EDI and Joker are able to actually share a future together. In the simple “Control” ending, EDI and Joker, despite their relationship and survival, are still distant and separated by the boundaries of artificial life and the difficulty, no, impossibility of emotion. In the “Destroy” Ending, EDI isn’t even alive anymore. But in “Synthesis” there’s that magical moment when you see Joker’s glowing green irises and realize that Joker’s DNA has been rewritten into a new form of life. The synthesis of synthetic and organic. And then EDI emerges from the Normandy and immediately you can read the emotion on her face. Joker extends his hand to her with a smile and helps her out of the ship. They both shimmer with the newness of their beings, and they embrace lovingly on this garden planet.

Seeing EDI overcome the limitations of her synthetic design, to carry emotion, was a beautiful sight. Seeing Joker up and moving around (I think he may already be healing from his disease) and embracing EDI… well, If there was any one thing I enjoyed more about the ending, I don’t know what it is. And of course I want to know what the combination of these two forms of life mean for the Universe. How does this change things? I could speculate, but that isn’t what this post is for, and the possibilities are endless.
"Yeah, a synthetic/organic relationship. Whatcha gonna do bout it?"
Those are the things I like and love about the ending. Other things, not so much. Before I get into them, I think I should point you over to my Post on the Rough Writer’s Blog where I analyze the ending from the perspective of a writer and what I think went wrong from a technical point of view. I think that discussion really influences all of this, but I understand if some don’t want to go into the writer’s element specifically.

The most obvious problem from the endings, and I do want to emphasize that this affects all of them, is the lack of closure. The “good-bye” chats with the various crew members were good. No question. But they are a sad excuse for closure. I don’t know what happened to any of those people after the fight with the Reapers. None of them. I don’t even have hints to go off of. I don’t know what happened to the galaxy fleet. I don’t know what happened to all those people, or Admiral Hacket – Hell, I don’t even know what happened to Earth! I mean, I assume they survived and rebuilt, but I have little to base that off of. There are exactly three people I KNOW survived. Joker, EDI and Liara. But I’m left with questions there too.

It seems like they crash landed on some sort of alien garden world, so… How do they get off? I don’t think the Normandy is fast enough to get to another planet ahead of that green wave of energy, so that means they did a Mass Effect Relay jump trying to escape. In that case, doesn’t that mean they are stranded? All of the relays were destroyed by the energy. So are they stuck? Forever? Nobody is likely to get to them any time soon. And if you want closure, at the very least, on your Romance choice (assuming they didn’t die earlier in the game) well, you’re screwed. The only reason I know Liara survived was because she climbed out of the Normandy after EDI. Assuming they do get off the planet they are apparently stranded on, what happens to her? Does she ever have any little blue children from that one beautiful night with Shepherd before the last mission?

There are so many questions. What happens to the rest of the galaxy? What happens now that everyone is cut off from everybody else due to the loss of Mass Effect Relays? Where are the Reapers going now, anyway?

The idea that the Normandy crew is stranded, and what happened to Liara, are my biggest issues with the lack of clarity. A lot of the other things don’t have to be explained. It is important as a writer to hold some things back to keep the audience invested in the world long after the end. But these are gaping black holes of depression that need to be filled. If we don’t assume that they are somehow magically saved, the Normandy crew are doomed to a life of isolation and starvation in at least a portion of the crew.

But those are just the obvious issues. Then you get into the plot holes.

How exactly was Liara able to get back on the Normandy when she was down on Earth with me during the final push? Why didn’t the destroyed Mass Effect Relays destroy all life in the galaxy (It’s been established that blowing one up destroys all life in a system)? Why did the pistol have unlimited ammo just before Shepherd went up in the beam to the Citadel? Why was the citadel so different from how they remembered it? How did the Illusive Man get there too? How was Shepherd able to breathe when he was with the Catalyst? Why did the Catalyst look like the little boy who died on Earth at the start of the game?

Let me make something clear before I continue. I have no real issue with “Space Magic” or “handwavium,” or whatever you want to call it. Hard Science Fiction is cool and all, but I prefer good drama to good science. So I don’t consider the “Synthesis” option’s impossible science (as far as we know) to be a plot hole. Same with the “Control” option’s ability to maker the Reapers just sort of fly away. The “Destroy” option, however, is problematic.

In the “Destroy” option, why does the Crucible destroy all synthetic life? How would it not also destroy all technology if it was that far reaching? If so, doesn’t this option reduce everyone to the bronze age again? Furthermore, it implies that Shepherd is still alive somehow. Since we witness the destruction of the Citadel, and it looks like Shepherd is on Earth, how does she survive the fall through the Earth’s atmosphere? She’s not Master Chief, and even if she rode some piece of the citadel through the atmosphere, the crash at the ground would surely have killed her. If some part of the citadel survived and was floating in space, assuming she somehow has atmosphere, doesn’t she now die a slow death there? Remember that the “Destroy” option has eliminated technology, so how is anyone supposed to get to her?

So, now that I’ve finished the game, and there are all of these unresolved issues, I find myself aghast that I have to ask the question: “Did I win?”

I mean, I saw the credits. There was even a bland after-the-credits sequence that rubs the fact that what happened was fiction in my face (another issue), but I still don’t know if I actually won anything. As far as I know, everyone died. Most died fighting the Reapers, some died stranded on a planet, For all I know, Earth is stuck in the bronze age with the remains of a galaxy fleet falling from the sky, and Shepherd died, for what?

Did. I. Win. I’m shocked that I don’t know the answer at the end of the game. Everything I love about the ending is possibly invalidated by this singular problem. Did I win? Was there any way to win? Was the whole point from the developers to say that no matter what, Shepherd loses? I don’t know. And looking over everything, this is why I still feel so upset. Why so many people are upset.

This of course is the source of the “Indoctrination Theory” that has sprung up in response. What this theory states, is that the end of Mass Effect 3 was an indoctrination dream. The scene in the “Destroy” ending when Shepherd appears to wake up, actually happened right after getting shot by the Reaper (Harbringer, by the way) before going up the beam to the Citadel. Everything between getting shot and waking up in that ending was a dream sequence.

What shocks me most is how much this makes sense. A lot of the plot holes of the ending are explained by this. The dream-like walk to the beam. The way Anderson is always miraculously slightly ahead of you in the Citadel. The whispers. The appearance of the Catalyst as the boy from the beginning of the game. The sudden switch of priorities from killing the Reapers to letting them live. A lot of the “space magic” plays into this too. If you want to read or watch good analysis of why this might be real, a quick google search will reveal the best laid conspiracy theories about it.

I find it sad that this ending is the most compelling to me. It’s probably more sad that I hope it’s true. The mere prospect of DLC that actually does a better job of ending the series has me salivating. Here, Bioware, take my money! But if this were true, it would be a lousy move on the part of the Developer. Ending the game with a “fake” cluster of endings is like pulling a prank on your customers. And DLC won’t save people without internet access, immediately solidifying a large portion of the player base away from any sort of closure. If this is true, and was planned, then it was a really crappy move.

But that’s why I think there’s no way the theory is correct. I simply think the writers at Boware made some dumb choices and mistakes. It happens. Writers screw up. Believing the Indoctrination theory is reading too much into it.

So we’re stuck with the endings we have, flaws in all. Or are we? Right now there are petitions going on, and organized movements to plead with Bioware to change the endings by providing DLC revisions. Initially I thought these efforts were stupid and misguided. Trying to get a company to change its product through a petition? Silly. What right do these people have to ask for something like this?

But I looked into it further and I’ve changed rather drastically on the issue. First of all, after examining the endings closely, there is no doubt that the fans are right to feel betrayed by them. This Article from GameFront examines why, and talks about many of the same things I’ve mentioned here. Furthermore, the petition isn’t just a bunch of ragers and entitled kids. The petition they’ve begun is also a drive for charity. You can read up on them in this Forum Post and see their progress (over 23k raised as of this writing) Here. I’m so impressed at the level of respect and dedication of the group that I donated a bit myself. Even if nothing is ever done, at least the children get helped out.

Do I think it’ll work? No. Not really. But I think there is one way I might get something out of it. There might be some way for one of the future DLC packs to at least have some kind of “Afterwards.” Something that shows that Shepherd’s choices throughout the game mattered. That people were actually saved. That the Normandy crew was rescued. That Shepherd won.

I cannot express how badly I want this.

Now as for whether Bioware “has to change it” or not – No. Of course they don’t “have to.” Even with its heavy flaws, it is their game, and they don’t have to do anything. But should they? I think so. Their audience has put substantial investment in this series. Not just emotional, though certainly that, but financial as well. These are the people who have gone out and bought it day one. These are the people who buy the merchandise. These are the people who tell their friends, their family, heck probably even their enemies and complete strangers to go and buy this game.

Does Bioware “Owe” this player base something? This is a question whose answer relies on your view of the relationship between the customer and the producer, or the recipient and the artist, or, as I talk about at the Rough Writer’s Blog, the audience and the writer.

The fact is, the process is a two-way street. The customer gives up money in exchange of a product that will keep its promises as advertised. This is easy to discern in a physical product. A toaster that doesn’t toast is a breech of that contract between buyer and maker. A disc that doesn’t play music is a breech between a production company and the listener. The path forward is clear. The producer, the maker, must make amends.
Let's all dream together. ... Of what might be...
When it comes to the more abstract promises, however, in terms of story or quality, things become dicier. There is no question that Bioware broke the promises of its story, but these are abstract promises. So should they “Owe” their audience for it? Should they make amends?

I say “yes.” And the reason why I say so is because that the demand of the maker, the publisher, the producer is in itself becoming more abstract. They demand more than money. They demand mindshare. They demand control over the products they sell. They demand strict DRM and invade the social space of our lives. If companies are allowed to make abstract demands on their audience, then the same may be demanded the other way.

Of course, the demands both ways, being abstract, also mean that there are no legal demands that may be made. Bioware doesn’t have to do anything. They probably should do something, but “have to” goes too far.

For one additional look at the problems of the ending in video commentary format, here’s a guy who puts the heart of the matter in a very concise and clear way:

Now, since the reader is asked to fill in so many of the blanks. I figured I might as well give you my personal rosy and cheery ending, in which I filled in a number of holes according to my own preferences.

It may not be right, but it helps me sleep at night.
Ahem…

When Shepherd Sacrificed herself to synthesize synthetic and organic life, the process evolved life to a higher plane of existence. The basic necessities of life are minimal for these new heavenly beings. While they can enjoy food and water and such, they no longer require it. The Normandy crew, now being immortals are eventually rescued. And go on to live happy lives. Liara has a daughter whom she raises on the stories of her other mother, Nova Shepherd (my Shepherd). The combined galaxy fleet begin the long FTL flight home, but are able to make it within the next few decades with little issues due to their new immortal state. Living as elevated beings, they continue to get along in peace and harmony FOREVER.

SO THERE!

The fact that I have to say this to myself to make the ending bearable says something, I think (and not just about me, to all you smart alecks.)

Here’s hoping Bioware listens.

Edward L. Cheever II

P.S. To those of you who think I may be too down on Mass Effect 3, keep in mind that I love the game until the final 10 minutes. It’s one of the best series of all time, in any medium. I love Mass Effect. Please go read My Review to find out.

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The Classic Natures of Sci-Fi and Fantasy

March 5, 2012 at 3:31 am (Creativity, Entertain Me nt, Interests, Intrigued, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

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Over the past few weeks, Me and Scott’s continuing series, “The New Canon” (which you can begin reading HERE) has prompted me to think about the nature of these genres. We had mentioned how Science Fiction is generally treated better in academic circles than Fantasy, and I want to know why.

There was always the possibility that Science Fiction, due to its obvious focus on science, could be considered more “realistic,” and therefore more palatable since it lessens the “fiction” element of the story. This relies of course on the assumption that “fiction” is a dirty word in academia. In many ways I take this assumption to be at least partially true, but I have come upon something that I feel is a little bit more significant: Their respective portrayals of humanity.

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Science Fiction, in general, shows mankind as we are. Flawed. Broken. Hollow and cruel, despite our smarts and skills. Not, perhaps, all of the time, but in general Sci-Fi shows us the darker side of who we are. Fantasy, on the other hand, tends to show us who we could, or should be. Noble. Heroic. Flying in the face of danger for love and doing what’s right, despite our inadequacies. Fantasy is often an empowering and uplifting medium.

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Note my use of “often.” There are exceptions. But in the cases of these exceptions, they often begin to blur the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction. Dune, John Carter, Star Wars and other heroic science fiction could just as easily be classified as Fantasy as Science Fiction in most cases. Meanwhile, extremely technical or cynical fantasy begins to look more and more like Science Fiction, with rules and sources of supposed “magic” that begin to look like science with a sheen of superstition, or lead characters that are so damaged, the fantasy is in service of their self destructiveness. Despite clearly science fictional elements, or fantasy elements, we tend to question the authenticity of those labels when the work acts counter to, or outside of, our presuppositions about the way those genres are supposed to look at the world, and at humanity.

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Mainstream literature tends to focus on those cracks in the human psyche. It focuses on what is wrong with us. It aspires to be a mirror to show us our darker selves, ostensibly so that we may acknowledge it and change (Whether that change actually happens, or as to whether or not showing it to us is enough motivation to change is another question entirely). Because this goal is much closer to the nature of general science fiction, rather than fantasy, it makes Science Fiction more palatable to the academic audience who already hold mainstream literature to be superior. Fantasy meanwhile shows the best possible of humanity, a romantic view of nobility and heroism, and therefore must be trash.

I do agree that showing us the flaws in ourselves is a useful literary tool, and is worth lauding and celebrating, especially when done well and with skill. In that vein I appreciate good mainstream literature, or the academic perspective, as it were.

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But I do not agree with the underlying assumption that showing us the best possible of ourselves is somehow base or not worthy of intellectual thought.

In fact, these two perspectives in tandem may be the best way to achieve the actual goals of literature itself, which is to spark growth in the reader (as well as to entertain, of course). Gaining both perspectives, a dissatisfaction with where we are as a society, and as individuals, coupled with some end goal of positive progress, may be enough to spur that growth.

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It is for this reason that I do not understand the ghettoization of good fantasy literature, in academic circles. Shouldn’t fantasy and science fiction both be appreciated for the types of messages they are, and what they bring to the existential discussion? Of course they should.

 

  • Edward L. Cheever II

 

 P.S.

I also do not believe that Science Fiction and Fantasy have to provide those general perspectives on humanity. I enjoy uplifting, heroic Science Fiction, and cynical Fantasy as much as their more archetypical brethren.

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A Continuing Series: the New Canon – Science Fiction

February 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Edward: Welcome back, everyone, to our continuing series on new entries to the English canon from genre fiction!

Scott: Last post, we finished up with our favorites from the world of fantasy that we didn’t have much hope for. But we are back with a whole new genre.

Edward: It was hard to say that those works would not make it, as they are dear to our hearts, but that just means it’s time to perk ourselves up by talking about works that will take us to the stars!

Scott: *facepalm*

Science Fiction:

Edward: “Sci-Fi is an interesting genre in that it encompassed what we now think of as fantasy, horror and alternative history, along with its aliens, space-ships and robots. Science Fiction is still the broadest genre, taking in stories that, in form, may have very little in terms of similarity. These stories can be subtle, taking place merely a few years into our future, dealing with small but impacting scientific advances, or they can be bombastic space operas. That range, along with the often-times serious nature of the stories that defy mere escapism, has made Science Fiction the most favorably viewed of the popular genres by academia and intelligentsia. Furthermore, there have been a number of relatively recent authors of this type who have made it into the Canon. I say recently, but that’s something of a stretch as I am thinking of Jules Verne, primarily. But modern Science Fiction, for all its growing presence and power, is still not seen as valuable as other literature.

“This will change. So let’s get to predicting, shall we?

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

Dune, by Frank Herbert
Dune Book Cover

“I always feel a bit of shame whenever I predict the inclusion of a book I have not yet read. This is again the case. Nevertheless, even with my tangential exposure to the book, I can say with certainty that it is an utter classic, and a shoe-in for the Canon. Smashing cultures, political-religio machinations and philosophy, Herbert has managed to create a complete and detailed world that has extraordinary depth, influencing writers across multiple genres and leaving a huge mark on the literary landscape that is impossible to ignore.

“You know, Scott, that Dune was a major influence on Robert Jordan?”

Scott: “No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Dune is very much a classic work already among the Sci-Fi readers and I think it is only a matter of time for it to be included in the canon. Science Fiction has been steadily gaining popularity with readers and now that we live in a world where some of these things seem feasible, there is less of a stigma attached to Sci-Fi works. I’ve noticed many similarities between Western novels and Science Fiction, most notably the concept of unknown space. With that, I’d like to introduce my first prediction:

Scotts’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game Book Cover

“This book was really one of my favorite works growing up, and to this day I see a lot of promise for its inclusion. Card has really created a work that epitomizes the change from innocence to experience. In some ways this has all the elements of a coming of age story, but with all that space and war represents as a realm of mystery and the unknown. It forces us to deal with the concept of childhood in an age that has become overcautious with the mental strain placed on young minds.

“The sequels to Ender’s Game are one of the things that make the story truly unique. The second work, perhaps even defining its own series, deals with the story of Ender’s second-in-command, Bean. While Ender’s books wax philosophical at times, Bean’s books mirror the events in the same universe, but deal with the struggles of politics and war among the nations of earth. Both are fascinating reads, but Ender’s Game is the cornerstone for the series and a book that will be enjoyed by both young and old.”

Edward: “Yes, Ender’s game is one of my favorites too, and an excellent choice.”

Scott: “Ed, have you recognized any similarities between the Western and Science fiction genres?”

Edward: “I have, though the similarity varies. At times it is as obvious as Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly, and other times it is more subtle. And then there are the crossovers (such as last year’s movie, Cowboys and Aliens). Of course, Sci-Fi is a wide genre that covers many types of stories, some of which are very different from the tropes familiar to fans of westerns and space opera; such as my next pick for Sci-Fi works that will be entered into the Canon:

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr.
A Canticle for Leibowitz Book Cover

“The post-apocalyptic subgenre is almost an entire genre unto itself, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll wrap it up into Sci-Fi. This book, following the story of the human race after a nuclear holocaust, is a marvelous portrait of human society and civilization. It is a study in how we perceive the world around us, how we react to it, and how, if we’re not careful, we will fall into these same old traps. Religion and the circular nature of things take center stage as well. Infusing the writing with a sometimes dark humor, Miller manages to create a compelling narrative of the human race spanning centuries. An excellent read that chooses not to spell out things for the reader, and instead let them piece things together for themselves. A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best examples of the genre, its subgenre, and a great addition to the Canon.”

Scott: “The post-apocalyptic has always been a source of intrigue for me. Personally, I enjoy the vivid exploration of the anarchy that follow these events and how humanity reestablishes civilization in some form or another. The creation of civilization, though it is usually portrayed in fiction, is something much closer to home. It deals with how we deal with our desires without the formal structure of society. The rise of the Interweb brings me to my next pick, one that has had a significant impact on literature, but also represents our own reflection in the digital age.”

Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

Neuromancer, by William Gibson

“Out of all the literary works that have popped up over the year, I would say that Neuromancer has probably the best chance of being included in the canon. Therefore, the fact it is second on my list might raise a few eyebrows; however, I’m not putting these in order of preference, but as they came to mind. Many people will recognize the word cyberspace. How can we not? It has become the embodiment of a large part of our modern world. The word cyberspace was popularized by William Gibson in Neuromancer, though he coined the phrase in an earlier work.”

“This book has become a classic among many cyberpunk and net enthusiasts and it represents a drastic change in the way we began to perceive the “hacker”. If there is any book that defines us as the computer-deluged civilization we’ve become, it is Neuromancer.”

Edward: “Yet another fantastic sounding book I need to read. One might wonder if we’re really qualified for this, Scott!”

Scott: “I begin to think you are right, but the purpose of this is partially to recommend books for each other as well. That being said, do you have any other picks I’ve not added to my reading list?”

Edward:
“Well, you’ve set my mind at ease, Scott. True enough, part of the wonder that is the breadth of genre fiction is how much of it there is yet to explore. And in that vein, I highly recommend to you…

Scott: ah AH wait! This is getting a bit long and our readers might be tired. So lets continue next time with our picks that are personal favorite, but probably not likely to join the Canon.

Edward: Yikes! You’re right, the time has just flown by. Well, until next time!

Edward and Scott signing off.

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A Continuing Series: The New Canon – Fantasy Part 2

February 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm (Creativity, Entertain Me nt, Interests, Intrigued, Squee!, Write, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Edward: “Hello everyone! We’re back! If you missed the first entry in this series you can find it right Here. Now um… where were we?”

Scott: “Oh yes, our hopefuls. These are a few of the books that we’ve admired over the years, but doubt they’ll meet the cut.

Edward: “Yes indeed. This is our time to name works that sit in the Canon of our hearts, though not, perhaps, one day in the Literary Canon as a whole.

My first pick is easy -

Edward’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #1:

Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces Cover Art
“Don’t get me wrong, I think that Till We Have Faces is easily of a high enough quality to be considered for the Canon. Lewis’ fantasy work, a new take on the story of Eros and Psyche through the eyes of Psyche’s sister (a character compiled from Psyche’s sisters in the original tale), is Lewis’ best fictional work. It is a masterpiece of storytelling, with compelling and strong, but deeply flawed, female characters that is a must read for any fan of fantasy, Greek myth, or C.S. Lewis. What will ultimately keep this choice from entry into the Canon is its obscurity. You never hear it mentioned whenever anyone talks about Lewis and his work, and that is an utter shame. I do not know how many can lay claim to having read it, but I assure you, it is not nearly enough.

“Now I’m intrigued, Scott. What is your choice going to be?”

Scott: “I truly haven’t read your first choice, but this back-and-forth has given me a lot of great recommendations.”

Edward: “Good recommendations are half the fun of lists like these!”

Scott: “And here is mine:”

Scott’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #1:


The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett

NightWatch Cover Art
Scott: “The Discworld series is a vast collection of books written about a world laced with myth, legend, and fun all rolled into one. Personally, I’d love to see these wonderful books in the canon, especially Nightwatch, which is a personal favorite of mine. Pratchett is really able to not only access a large variety of myths: trolls, dwarves, ogres, vampires, zombies, Egypt, and really anything you can think of. However, he stacks them together in a world where myth meets the day to day life of cities and there aren’t enough hills for mad scientists to build castles. One of the reasons I doubt this will be added is because of its humor, it is masterfully done, but the canon tends not to lean towards the comic.”

Edward: “Another tragedy, in my book, Scott; I completely agree that it faces a steep climb to Canon-hood. It’s strange for a Canon that includes such humorous entries as Gulliver’s Travels and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to snub modern humor. Another unfortunate sign of the Canon’s dwindling relevance.

“My second pick was hard, deciding between my final choice and The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (which I ultimately decided against because I think it does have a shot at Canon-hood.)

Edward’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #2:

The Mistborn Trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn Trilogy Cover Art
“The Mistborn trilogy is excellent in a number of ways. First is its impeccable world building. Sanderson knows how to create a unique and immediately identifiable landscape, culture and mythos, not to mention a very inventive magical system that is as tactically interesting as it is cinematically described. Secondly, it has very well drawn characters that, while occasionally bordering on stereotypes, land more firmly on the archetype side of the fence, with the important characters especially going through interesting growth and changes. Thirdly, Sanderson does a marvelous job of undercutting some of the foundations of the fantasy genre. One of the major influences on the story was the simple question, “What if the hero lost?” This sets up a fascinating plot that is unique in the genre.

“What will keep this out of the Canon is ultimately the fact that as interesting as the series is, it doesn’t have nearly the impact or weight of the heavy-hitters in the genre, and outside of some interesting musings on religion, it has little commentary or importance outside of itself. The events and plot are great, but they also feel somewhat remote from the reader, and don’t have much relevance in real life. This is not a knock at the story’s quality, but it is a problem when it comes to inclusion in the Canon.”

Scott: “Sanderson has been truly impressive with the additions to the Wheel of Time, but I personally haven’t read the Mistborn trilogy. Even though these books aren’t exactly our primary choices for the canon, they are all fantastic books with many others out there.”

Scott’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #2:

The Crown of Stars, by Kate Elliot
The Crown of Stars Cover Art
“Elliot’s series examines a world reminiscent of our dark ages; a land controlled by religious paranoia and the fear of war with an unknown force. Though this work will not be familiar to a large group, Elliot’s introduction of magic into a medieval world makes it a highly philosophical series, but not without a dramatic story of war and feudal honor. Those with historical training will be able to understand the full extent in which the series mimics the Church’s overwhelming influence over Europe. Unfortunately, I doubt it’s inclusion in the canon because, although Elliot creates a vivid and complex world, the story sometimes becomes bogged down with too much complexity and extensive description. Even so, I would recommend this as this has been one of my favorite fantasy series.”

Edward: “Yeah, that’s another one that I’ve never really heard of before. The middle ages have been a source for fantasy inspiration for a long time, and the politics of the Catholic Church is full of material for plots and world scenarios. It’s always good to see it when somebody does it right.

“Well, I’m sure we could go on and on about specific works in the Fantasy Genre, but it’s time we turned our gaze elsewhere. To the stars!

“… Next time!”

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A Continuing Series: The New Canon – Fantasy

February 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm (Creativity, Entertain Me nt, Interests, Intrigued, Uncategorized, Write, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Welcome, friends! Today we’re doing something a bit out of the norm. The bloggers of EdwardCheever.Wordpress.com and NeuroReverb.Wordpress.com have joined forces to have a special discussion about the future direction of the English Literary Canon. This post will go up on both sites, which we recommend you visit in the future. :)

Edward: “Alright, shifting out of the “We” business, let me get to the heart of the matter. This will be something of a conversational blog post in which Scott and I talk about the future of the English Canon. Now, to put things into perspective, we’ve already talked a bit about this. Modern inclusions into the Canon are growing thin and wane. Yes, you get your DeLillos and Pynchons in there, but two or three major Literary I-Just-Saw-Them-Mentioned-On-Double-Jeapordy authors since the 60s? Them is slim pickins’.

“The Canon is many things to may people. To some, it is the definitive list of “good and respectable” writing in the English language. To some, it is a list of the works which have had the broadest impact on culture. To others, it represents the jewels amongst the muck. To some, it represents the finest examples of wordcraft. To others, it is a list of the greatest stories ever told. To some, it is an arbitrary list created by elitists in the polished halls of expensive Universities. To others, it is a guideline for teachable materials. To still others, it’s that list of English reading homework that they never did exactly get around to, ‘You know… I was kinda busy that night, and…’

“No matter what your personal feelings about the Canon are, in practice it is the definition of “artistic merit” and “high culture.” So when works we feel need to be added to the Canon are pushed aside as rubbish, well it rubs some of us the wrong way. This hard-nosed, elitist and close-minded feel to the Canon has, along with various other factors, led to the disintegration of the relevance and vitality of the Canon, starting as early as the post World War II generation and before. That is why Scott and I think that the only way, the natural way, for this to change is for those in charge of the Canon (so to speak) to get over themselves and seriously consider the inclusion of excellent representatives of Genre Fiction. Take it away Scott!”

Scott: “Thanks Ed.
“The literary canon for the past century has had many representations of what people believe to be ‘Great Literature’, but what I’ve primarily seen in the canon are books that represent cultural ideas and beliefs of the day. If there’s one thing that has blossomed in the 21st century it is Genre Fiction. I think we have some biases in the literary world against anything sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or graphic novel related. However, the thinking is beginning to shift.

“Genres have become a large part of the literary market. Fiction has become an overall classification for the many different genres, as many of the books being published are a part of these genres. Without Genre fiction, we will miss out on a lot of the great literature that should be recognized.

“While content is of primary importance, medium can make a difference in the way a work is received. Graphic novels are beginning to deal with more than just the simple superheroics of the Biff-Boom-Pow! variety, and are beginning to deal with lasting issues. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi, deals with modern issues and has become a new medium for great works. I’m sure Ed has some Graphic Novels he’d like to talk about too.”

Edward: “Absolutely, Scott! But we’ll get around to Graphic Novels later, (we may even have to save it for a “Part 2” if this gets too long). Let’s start with what kicked off this discussion, my pick for our first Genre.”

Fantasy:
“Fantasy is one of the oldest genres, with close ties to the English Canon going back throughout the history of English lit. Classic novels and poems like Beowulf, The Faerie Queen, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have made an indelible mark on the Canon. This is why it stumps me that starting around the turn of the century Fantasy has been relegated to the rubbish heap as far as the Canon is concerned. It is probably connected with the gritty realism of the Modernist and Postmodernist periods and the rise of suburban lit like that of my relative John Cheever. Either way, this gap has gone on too long, and it is already being closed by my first choice for Fantasy works of this last century to make it into the Canon.”

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings Cover Art
“Sorry I took the easiest one on the list, Scott. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that no work of Fantasy in the past century is as immediately obvious in its inclusion to the English Canon as the monumental work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Even if we were judging by mere impact alone, we would have to include LotR, which is the father of the modern Fantasy genre and still remains the standard by which all other works in the field are judged. But impact is not at all the end of what Tolkien’s work offers. It is a work of terrific scope and impeccable writing skill. It is a story with character and implications that are as applicable to the human condition as anything in the Canon. What Tolkien accomplished is not some throwaway novelty of a fad, it is a work of art, and its why we’re having this conversation in the first place. Wouldn’t you agree Scott?”

Scott: “I’d agree. Fantasy is one of the oldest Genres and LotR definitely takes a prominent place in the new canon. Tolkien links the old fantasy to the new. It represents some of the timeless characteristics of great literature. Well Ed, I have to agree with your first choice. However, there is another book series which may become influential in the Canon. My choice for fantasy is a difficult one, as some of my favorites tend to stray into other territory. With the Fantasy genre in mind there is one pick that stands out to me:

Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan
Eye of the World Cover Art
“Though this series hasn’t gained as much literary fame as Tolkien, I believe that Jordan has been tremendously influential in the fantasy world. I believe you are a fellow fan of this series, just as I am of Tolkien. I balanced my first and second choice for this genre against two considerations: impact on literature versus reflection of society. I choose The Wheel of Time as my first consideration for the canon because of the tremendous impact it has had on much of the other literature in the field, just as Tolkien has. I believe Tolkien and Jordan are both excellent examples, but I’m curious as to your second choice. Do you think it’s more difficult to place a first or second choice in this genre?”

Edward: “The Wheel of Time is definitely a pick that plays a tune I’d dance to, my friend. But Robert Jordan has been criticized for many perceived flaws in his writing, whether it is his penchant for drawn out description scenes, his complex political plot-lines or his portrayals of women, he is a controversial figure.”

Scott: ”Indeed, Jordan may have some detractors; however, there aren’t many figures in the established canon that haven’t had their flaws pointed out.”

Edward: “I absolutely agree. And in my book, Jordan is a master of world building and characterization which cannot be adequately denied. Not only that, but though he is criticized for the ways he tackles certain topics such as gender roles, he has had the bravery to do so in a genre that for many years enforced old-fashioned viewpoints. Add on to that the fact that, as you’ve said, he has had a large impact on modern fantasy and I’d say that he is ripe for entry into the Canon.

“As for which choice is harder, well I’d say it’s probably the second pick. The Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time are easy choices, but it’s when you have to sort out the rest that things get complicated. For instance, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series was really tempting. Nevertheless, I still had little trouble choosing my number two for this category:

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
American Gods Cover art
“Neil Gaiman is a name you won’t see the last of in this post of ours, and for a very good reason. Some authors put out one or two great works and that is all they are known for, and then there are some authors that put out work after work of absolute quality. Gaiman is fully one of the latter. What was hard about this choice wasn’t whether or not a Neil Gaiman work should be chosen, but rather which of his works I should choose. In the end, though, no matter how much I adored Neverwhere, the writing skill and the vision of so thoroughly mixing modern Americana with old world gods, all covering an interesting critique of American culture and themes of where the past and present meet and conflict… well, let’s just say it was a shoe-in.”

Scott: “The first time I read American Gods at your recommendation, I was thrown off somewhat by the style of the writing; however, as the book progressed I really began to appreciate the detail and subtly that went into making the characters. I am personally a huge fan of mythological tales especially those of the far north and Gaiman’s research was not lost on me.”

“For my second pick, I lean towards the reflection-of-society aspect of literature. This second series is not nearly as well know as my first choice (or either of Ed picks) but I consider the message as a look into not only American culture, but western thought:

Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

The Soldier Son Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
Soldier Son Trilogy Cover Art
“Robin Hobbs is better known for her Farseer books than for her most recent books. However, many of the summaries of this series don’t do it justice. Though the work appears more post-colonial, it represents a backlash of the “ideal” and well written commentary on western thought. But before I frighten people away with too much literary jargon, this series is an a excellent read for both critics and for fantasy enthusiasts.”

Edward: “I’m ashamed to admit it, but I am not familiar with Mrs. Hobbs’ work. Your recommendation intrigues me, though. I’ll have to check that one out.”

Scott: “That’s perfectly alright Ed, I hope you give it a look sometime. Hobbs’ work is still somewhat buried under a few of the larger names and we both know that it’s hard getting to all of them. Well Ed, I think that wraps up our predictions for the fantasy genre’s entries to the canon, but I know there are a few books that both of us would like to see in the canon that probably won’t make it in, our personal favorites besides the big ones.”

Edward: “That’s absolutely correct. Both Scott and I here are genre literature enthusiasts, as you no doubt can tell, but despite the occasional “fan-boy” tendencies we may both have, we are not deluding ourselves into thinking that all of our favorites will make it into the Canon. To that end, we’re including a sort of Honorable Mentions category…

Scott: “Wait a second, Ed. This is getting entirely too long for one post. How about we call it a night and continue next week?”

Edward: “Oh, wow, you’re right. Look at that clock!” *stares at clock his readers can’t see* “I agree. Let’s pick this back up again next week.”

Signing off for the night: Edward and Scott. See you next time.

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A Wedding and some Gaming, a Returning and a Parting

January 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm (Entertain Me nt, Interests, My Life, Peeking Through the Window, Politics, The Voters Booth) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m making no bones about it. It has been AGES since I last posted. And I have excuses! Boy do I have excuses, let me list them: Wedding, Honeymoon, Moving in/out,Student Teaching, The Holidays, etc. It’s not like they took up all of my time, but they jammed it packed. And posting about the wedding was a little daunting to me because I wanted to give it justice, but time kept slipping away and…. *sigh*

The fact is, these excuses are not really good enough. It’s time to get my lazy butt back to work, so here is my first new post. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, of course, but I won’t be going into depth about everything. No need to recount the holidays. No need to look back on the year that was. I’m going to keep it breif-ish, though who knows how long it’ll get once I get to the personal stuff, so let’s get started, eh?

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So when I say I haven’t blogged in a while, it was actually sort of a lie. I’ve actually kept up blogging through my reviews, which I know doesn’t really count for readersof these posts as much, but hey! I’ll take my bonus points where I can get them. All of my recent reviews have been on video games, which is something of a shame, seeing as how I saw some movies I would have liked to review as well (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes 2 being the most notable of these.) But for those of you who live life on the gaming sie, you migth be interested in my reviews of ICO (from the HD PS3 collection), To the Moon, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It has definitely been a good year for games.

Of course, that’s not all I’ve been playing. League of Legends is something of a habit. Of course that’s largely because it’s one of the main ways I hang out with my friends. But lately there have been some lousy bits that has discouraged me in my time with the game. First off is the fact that two of my friends are more or less tired of it and want to play other things. Now this isn’t so bad, but finding those other things that we all enjoy on a regular basis is difficult. I’m not really an MMO guy, for instance, and the only one I want to try out (Star Wars: The Old Republic) is a monthly payment, which is blah for everyone. I’m kinda hoping the recently announced new additions to the Co-op versus AI mode in League of Legends will draw those friends back. Even if for a little while.

The other major drawback though is that Riot has more or less nerfed Jax a whole lot in the recent rework.

Poor little Jax

It’s not that his new kit an’t do a lot of damage. Goodness yes it can. Pop that steroid ulti and Surge, leap in and clean some clocks. … For six seconds. And if you didn’t already die in those six seconds, you’re pretty much screwed once the buff is gone. The main issue is Jax’s survivability. He has no health bonus, no magic resist and no armor without seriously adjusting his build to practically remove his damage output. I’ve been experimenting with some builds, and I’m getting better results than I’ve feared, but there’s no escaping that Jax just isn’t as viable as he used to be. He’s so item dependent now it isn’t even funny.


And that’s not even taking into account the terrible construction of his Counter Strike ability. The stun is almost worthless for the cooldown time, especially since using the ability telegraphs the oncoming stun 1.5 second before you can actually use it. Any self-respecting player can dodge the stun 75% of the time, and that 25% is because Jax used it before leap-strike, which negates the whole dodge mechanic’s use entirely. – Dyrus said it before, and it’s true. Jax’s kit is hypocritical. Is he an assassin? Is he a brawler? Both and neither. He simply isn’t good enough at either one, and two crappy halves don’t make a complete whole. He’s still playable at least, and I keep trying out new builds. Hopefully they fix some of these problems in the future.

Meanwhile I discovered a new mini passion for minecraft. Building on my single-player fortress was fun, and all, but it’s also lonely and boring at times. So when Scott invited me onto the PandemicCraft server as a villager in Westphalia, I thought it would be a neat way to give the game new life. And let me tell you, it’s working. Now that I have a community to live in, my scope has shrunk (no giant fortresses at the moment) but my artistry has grown. The house I’m building across two plots is going to be really cool when it’s completed. I feel like I own a part of a larger world, now. It’s sort of addicting. This tiny little outpost in the winter biome is steadily growing. There’s a town square. Houses, and an Inn. And somewhere out there is an Empire that is pressuring other settlements to join with them. Thankfully our Baron is tough in the face of such pressures. We Westphalians live free out in the wilderness. ^_^

Part of what makes it all worthwhile is the economy system, where people actually do own pieces of the town, and these towns can expand. And people have jobs and specialties. The Innkeeper and his assistant actually grow food, buy meat off of hunters, and sell it to the villagers and travelers at low cost. It’s fascinating and fun. I think the system needs some expansion, though. It’s far too easy to become rich, with little to show for it. I don’t know if the server’s mod can be modded further or not, but it seems like cool things could be done with it.

Well, I’ve been yammering on about what I’ve been enjoying lately, so let’s take a detour into some less pleasant waters…

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Of course, less pleasant waters doesn’t mean it can’t be funny at the same time. How about those Republican Primaries, eh?

I tell you, watching this circus has been at least as fun as it is depressing, which makes it ok in my book. I mean seriously, these are the nominees? THESE are the nominees? The idea of any of them as president is stomach churning. Even Ron Paul, who at least is the most honest and least-politically corrupt of them all, would be a terrible president. Romney would be predictable, boring, and dangerous in his own right, but could you imagine Newt Gingrich as president?

Oh my sweet lord. The question would be whether we bomb Iran right after the inauguration, or if we wait a day. Don’t get me started on Santorum.

Of course Obama hasn’t been a particularly good president either, but at least he’s a little more inclined to do what’s right than these jokers. And that’s really all I have to say for now. Until the end of this, I think I’ll just buckle up for the roller coaster ride and hope there’s a smooth stop at the end, and not an abyss.

Abysses aren’t fun.

Which is why, thankfully, the internet was able to keep us from jumping into another kind of Abyss entirely. The SOPA and PIPA legislation are currently falling apart (woo-hoo!) Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t come back in some sort of new and deadlier form. (Why is it that legislation acts so suspiciously like Final Fantasy boss fights?) It was pretty cool to see so many internet powerhouses throw their weight against the bill, though. I guess sometimes the people can win. Fancy that.

But that’s enough of the entertainment an the political, let’s move on to the personal…

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I’m married guys! :D

Of course I have been for 3 or so months now, and should have said something on here sooner, but let’s not dwell on that…
While this topic deserves a full on recounting with details, descriptions, emotions, chronology, etc. I think I’d rather keep it simple and say it was a beautiful wedding. And I had a top-hat!
I plan on putting up a picture gallery eventually, but that will take more time, unfortunately. Until then I will leave you with two things. The first is our vows to each other. Me and Katie wrote them out (though I must admit I wrote most of it with her input >.> ) and we alternated speaking the different lines to each other. It worked out wonderfully. The second thing is a picture of the little wedding-decoration place we mad in our Duplex. It’s not finished yet (we’ve got to get a picture to put in the frame) but I think it’s already very nice.

Our Vows –

From all the times together, thick and thin,
We found a bond in our joys and rest.
The grand adventures shared through paper, pen
And dice, or pages turned, or buttons pressed
Were just the start. Beneath the fun and play
was deeper love. A love that waits beside
Your sick bed; Love for which we pine and pray.
A love that age and death cannot divide.
This love’s worth more than worldly wealth, or woe
Its lack may bring. May God look on this love
And smile, as when he sparked all life to grow,
Or when he woke the galaxies above.
My hand’s outstretched to you and my heart’s doors
Are wide. All I have, all I hold, are yours.

I, Edward Lee Cheever II, and I, Katie Michelle Guth, in front of family and friends, before God and man, do pledge myself to you.

This is how we read them:

Me: From all the times together, thick and thin, we found a bond in our joys and rest.
Katie: The grand adventures shared through paper, pen and dice, or pages turned, or buttons pressed were just the start.
Me: Beneath the fun and play was deeper love.
Katie: A love that waits beside your sick bed;
Me: Love for which we pine and pray.
Katie: A love that age and death cannot divide.
Me: This love’s worth more than worldly wealth, or woe its lack may bring.
Katie: May God look on this love and smile,
Me: as when he sparked all life to grow,
Katie: Or when he woke the galaxies above.
Me: My hand’s outstretched to you and my heart’s doors are wide.
Katie: All I have, all I hold, are yours.
Me: I, Edward Lee Cheever II,
Katie: and I, Katie Michelle Guth,
Me: in front of family and friends,
Katie: before God and man,
Both: do pledge myself to you.

Married life has pretty much been great, as well. Of course there are the little things, like chores and such that things can get tense over, but otherwise, living with the person I love the most, whom I can both have fun with and be serious with, has been wonderful.

Settling into the duplex has been a process of course. As has mashing two lives together. Finances are particularly… fun… But we’ve got some of it sorted out now. Still lots to do, of course, but when isn’t there? Job-wise I haven’t been doing the serious job-hunt that I probably need to do. Part of my hang-ups are all around the certification test I’m supposed to take at some nebulous time in the future. At least I FINALLY got some information abut it out of the education department and I can start preparing for it (by the way, could this material be any more dull and lifeless? Or useless for that matter? I think the people behind this live in a fantasy world somewhere between Mathland and MotivationalSpeakervania.

In any case, I still have my job as a writing tutor, which I am very thankful for, and I’ve been doing a rather lot of substitute teaching over at CTA. So finances are better than they otherwise would be if I didn’t have a job. I think the bills would really start eating away at us if not for that promise of my soon-coming paychecks and Katie’s recent raises and long hours.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to segue into this final topic, but I really can’t think of one. It’s much like asking the question, “When is the best time to hear the news of a death?” There isn’t one. No time is ripe, and no segue can ease the issue.

My friend, Jarret Wade, is dead. He died of cancer some time ago, now. I’m honestly not entirely sure because time seems to flow so swiftly. Has it really been a week and a half?

To say I knew a lot about him would actually be a lie. I didn’t know his family, I didn’t delve into his personal life much, and we only really interacted at school. And yet I have little hesitation to say he was a great friend. Part of that, I believe, is because there was nothing about him that wasn’t genuine, and completely open and honest. He was completely himself at all times. A few conversations would be all it would take before you felt like you knew him for life. Like he was a friend from your earliest days.

So unlike other acquaintances I’ve known who have died, I felt a real shock at the news. I learned about it early in the day during a time I was substitute teaching at CTA, and it was difficult not to break down when I would mention him during prayer requests at the start of every class period. My voice would falter, and I can only imagine how red my eyes grew over time, holding back tears that blurred my vision.

I knew it was coming of course. We’ve all known for some time of the cancer that was eating away at him. I last spoke with him over the phone while on my honeymoon. We were in Seattle, and though he said he would call, and show off his beloved home city to us, we never heard from him. I called him up to see how he was doing, and he had just gone through another serious treatment. He didn’t sound good, then. He apologized for not being able to show us around. Of course I said it was nothing, and that his health was more important. He said he’d make a trip down to visit Keene soon. That he looked forward to seeing us all again, and to meeting my wife.

It was a trip he would never make. And while I know that there was no real way I would have been able to, I constantly think that I should have made time to go see him again while I was there…

I’m not the poet I once was. I have a tendency to write them far less than before, and I usually make them boring and emotionless for trying to make them structured or fancy. But occasionally, something happens that gets that emotion stirring again. It’s not the greatest poem I’ve ever written, but I feel like It has my heart in it. Here’s to you, my brother, Jarret Wade.

Jarret

I see the rain on the western shoreline
Pouring into a hole that never fills.
I know the shadows of those blackened clouds.
I know the brim of that endless cold cup.

Like the echo of a distant tempest,
The strong vibrations of thunder long since
The blinding light of the lightning strike,
Your going shook me, and my earth stilled.

Till the trumpets ring from the mountain tops,
Till the silvered bells toll at sea.
Till the bright cloud comes from the east.
Till then, rest ‘neath the trees.

You found the deepest roots of all our hearts.
You could see their dark gnarls, their twists, their cramps.
You always knew how to water them,
With smiles, and hugs, and conversation.

The world was not a stranger to you.
It was a lonely friend in desperate need.
Not an unknown mist of vague statistics,
But a painting of minds, faces and eyes.

Till the trumpets ring from the mountain tops,
Till the silvered bells toll at sea.
Till the bright cloud comes from the east.
Till then, God holds Grave’s Key.

His hand hovers over the sepulcher
Holding out that golden metal Work,
Trembling with desperate impatience to swing
Wide those black and silent gates that stand closed.

And past that unknown date, what triumph waits?
A son of heaven comes home! You will ride
His chariot, And wear a crown of gold,
bejeweled for lives you’ve touched. A friend of God.

Then the trumpets ring from the mountain tops,
The silvered bells toll at sea.
The bright cloud comes from the east.
And then, at last, be free.

For now, there are dark clouds out to the west.
No rain, no tears, no grief, can fill torn hearts.
You lit so many candles on your way,
You left your light in all of us.

Edward L. Cheever II

Sorry to leave it on such a low note, everyone. But sometimes, the world gets serious. And laughter is a little far away. Good-bye, friends. I hope to have you here again soon.

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Women Play League of Legends in Pakistan With Global Warming

September 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm (But I Digress, Entertain Me nt, Madness? This is Science!!!, The Voters Booth) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Don't I Wish My Days Were Stuffed With Relaxing


It’s amazing how much STUFF has been packed into the past few weeks. How much things change. How fast they move forward. I’ve barely found time to breathe, much less write a blog post. Thankfully, I’ve found a spare minute or two to put this thing together so, let’s get started shall we?

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The amount of entertainment I’ve been able to consume has been cut drastically short lately for a variety of reasons which I will get to. However! This has not stopped me from enjoying certain elements of popular culture.

First of all, League of Legends continues to be my primary time-sink for my off-work hours. Not that I have a lot of time to sink, mind you. This is for the usual reasons of course. It’s one of the few times I can hang out with all my friends and do something that is usually fun. The game is as fantastic as ever. Yadda-Yadda.

But what it has really done to capture me lately is the introduction of the Dominion game mode beta. I rarely ever get a chance to try out this fantastic new mode, but my word how fantastic it is. It is blazing fast compared to your bread and butter Summoner’s Rift, with all sorts of nuances and strategies that are in their infancy stages. Right now every game is chaos. Players running in all directions, getting lost in the jungle, picking fights hey shouldn’t. It’s a good time to be a Jax player, like myself. Tanky DPS champions are kings of the hill right now.

Of course I’m hoping that as players grow more experienced with the mode, and as complex team strategies and maneuvers develop, the dominance of the Tanky DPS will lessen and go back to merely carrying like normal. The most shows tons of promise, and most importantly it is FUN. I just can’t wait till I can play it any time.

In other news, Minecraft has been grabbing what time I don’t give to League of Legends. My stronghold gets more stronghold-y every day, and I’m looking forward to going and exploring the world around me when I’m done. Or mostly done. You’re never really all done in Minecraft.

As for Doctor Who, we’ve caught up to the most recent episode and we’re having to wait week to week for the new ones to come out. I’ve grown so accustomed to marathon television shows that these week long gaps are especially painful. Otherwise, we’re enjoying it as much as ever.

On a side note, there’s a rather funny and interesting article on Doctor Who mania over at Cracked.com right now that draws some fascinating parallels and differences between the Doctor and the concept of a god (or rather “God”). At the very least, it’s an interesting read.

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There are so many things to commentate upon in politics. I could talk about how ridiculous the Republican debates are (and if you’re watching the debates without simultaneously following the commentary tweets by @RepublicanDalek and @ASupremeDalek then you just aren’t doing it right). Etc. Etc. But I’m going to focus a little on foreign relations and politics for a moment.

First on the docket is King Abdullah, of Saudi Arabia, giving women the right to vote and run in local elections. Now, let’s make no mistake, this isn’t some sweeping change in the fortunes of Women in that country. If I’m not mistaken, they are still not alowed to drive. But this still represents a solid step in the right direction. The Arabian Spring has provided many people of the Middle East with new opportunities, and Women in this, one of the most conservative countries in the region, have gained some valuable ground. I applaud the king for being as revolutionary as he is, even if his government won’t let certain reforms through (Seriously? Driving?).

In other news, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has called for consideration of military action against Pakistan. The argument goes that the terroristic attacks on American troops in Afghanistan is being funded and aided by the Pakistani government directly. As these are hostile action, hostility is the best response.

This is ridiculous. For a number of reasons.
1. Unsubstantiated ideas concerning the military power and actions of foreign nations is what got us in this Middle-Eastern mess in the first place.
2. Your best plan to get Pakistan to stop killing American troops (if this is even happening at half the scale that is being assumed) is to send more troops over to get shot? Good job Einstein.

Good news, guys! We've got a new plan to stop the violence! Shoot more people! :D


3. You really think you’ll get support for this when everyone is appalled at shooting a couple missiles into Libya in a genuine attempt to help a rebellion against a vilified power, not to mention get American interests in the region (oil) back up and running again? What, do you know a guy who knows a guy who likes the idea?
4. Hurray for more government spending? – You’re more than happy with the idea of Government size and power when it comes to killing people, but helping people… oh no. oh NO nono!

I really have nothing more to say about that. I frankly see this being burred soon and never being heard of again *knocks on wood*.

Finally, and probably most controversially, the attempt for Pakistanis to gain their own independent state. Needless to say, the bold steps being taken in the UN right now are popular amongst the Pakistanis, and needless to say, it’s not popular in Israel or in America.

I say controversial because I think I’m coming down on the side of the Pakistanis. Israel has ever right to exist and defend itself after some fifty years of existence. I am not suggesting otherwise. But we are hypocrites to say that self-determination is a good, noble thing to desire, and then deny this to the Pakistani people. I think that concessions should be made on both sides to achieve this. Perhaps not all of the land that Pakistan wants should be given (I know there are concerns about opening up Israel’s heartland to artillery range from the border). I also think that it is right and proper to let the Pakistanis have their land for themselves. Surely there is a middle ground in there somewhere.

Of course this will not happen. At least not for a long time. Hostilities are far from ending in the land of Abraham’s descendants.

Now, on to my latest bog section…

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This section will be dedicated to any scientific articles that I find the urge to comment upon, or social issues that are more or less dominated by the science that inspires it.
Oh, and I’ll probably talk a lot about Robots and Lasers too.

But the introductory topic and article I’m going to focus on today is This One Over at the Associated Press About America’s Allergy to Global Warming.
I have long felt that I needed to see more proof that Global Warming was real before I made up my mind. I always stood by my decision that the reason why we should care for the environment was because we should want to keep the planet beautiful, and if that also kept us from disaster, then great! But this reasoning isn’t enough and never will be enough for oil barons and other captains of industry who simply won’t be able to ad another level to their Scrooge McDuck Money Bin if they don’t keep the profits rising, so screw the environment.

I find that I can’t just sit in my comfortable “keep nature beautiful” mindset anymore. It’s not a motivation for most people. And this is becoming serious. I’m convinced of Global Warming.

Two of these things are looking pretty familiar right about now.


It’s not the record setting number of days with hundred-degree weather. It’s not the momentary discomfort of a too-warm backside on my car’s leather seats. No. It’s the statistics of the greater whole. Even taking into account the cyclical nature of the world, the changes in temperature are too swift and too convenient (post industrial revolution). On top of that, 98% of climatologists are on board with this. 98%! That kind of consensus is ridiculous in the scientific world. Sure, I’ll concede that the majority of the scientific world has been proven wrong before. It might even happen again. But we have no reason to ASSUME that they are wrong. And we certainly have no reason to assume that 98% of climatologists are on some sort of quest for money in some scheme (that makes no sense if you think about it – who would be paying thee people?).

So I think we should take this as seriously as life and death. If they are wrong, what’s the worst that could happen? That we live in a prettier, less polluted world? Oh the horror!

Now, I was going to move on to talk about personal stuff, but I think I’ll save that for another time, when I have more information about what is coming up. Instead I’m going to finish off with a story that I find perfectly hysterical.

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So apparently Nicholas Cage was, at some point in the past, woken up by a mostly-naked man with a fudgesicle. There really is no better way for me to put it. Apparently the man was mentally ill, and somehow found his way into Cage’s house, bedroom, and closet, where he took Cage’s leather jacket. He promptly wore it while eating a fudgesicle by the side of Cage’s bed.
That would have been terrifying.

Though I'm not sure who felt more terrified, now that I think about it...


I can understand why Cage moved away from that house. I wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly again.

And on that note, it’s time I left you for today. There’s a lot of stuff to do yet. Have a great one, everybody!

Edward L. Cheever II

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