30 December 2011

I Heart Ramona, aka Presents

There's stuff that tends to get written about this time of year. There's the recapping of the year's highlights, the looking forward to what the future has in store, etc. I did all that stuff in a previous blog post. There's the complaining about the weather. I think I actually touched upon that as well in that previous post.

Then there's the traditional 'bragging about cool Christmas presents' thing. Which is just another excuse to write crap about stuff I like.

So, this year the present that stands out most for me is undoubtedly the complete set (volumes one through six) of Scott Pilgrim.

Have I written about Scott Pilgrim in my blog? I don't remember doing so. I saw the movie for the first time last summer. I enjoyed it. There was something about the combination of cute romance, martial arts action, video game references, indie rock and crazy humour that rather appealed to me. Hell, it was almost like the whole thing was engineered to specifically appeal to my particular tastes. Even down to the lazy underachiever gamer musician protagonist. Talk about relating, ahem... (Except all that 'getting the girl' stuff, maybe. I guess that's a protagonist thing. And I'm just not protagonist material. I could be an antagonist, maybe, except I'm too lazy to go around kidnapping girls. :-p)

A little later I read the comic. And liked it also. More even than the movie, since it obviously goes more in depth into the characters' backgrounds, etc. I decided it would be cool to own my own copy of it, and ended up requesting it for Christmas. So now I can read it whenever I like, yay. :-)

Oh, and Ramona Flowers is, like, totally hot, and stuff. And I hope I won't have to fight anyone to the death 'cause I said that. ('Cause I'd lose. And I hate losing. Especially in a fight to the death.)

EDIT: Apparently putting a '<' in my original post title messed it up, so it got posted without a title, and Blogger didn't even bother to notify me about this... Well, whatever. I fixed the title, although the permalink (seriously? the spellchecker in my browser recognises 'permalink', but not 'blogger'?) is words from the start of the post rather than the title. Of course this should not matter in the least, but the perfectionist nitpicker in me made me write this note...

23 December 2011

Who Is This Elcalen Guy Anyway?

For years now, I've used the nickname 'elcalen' on many online services. I don't think I've ever really discussed its origin, though.

It goes all the way back to the mid 90's. And it was originally made up as a name for some RPG character. Probably for MERP, or possibly AD&D, or possibly both. And I'm pretty sure the character or characters were never used for anything. This was before we started spending all our waking hours online, and people (well, kids anyway) actually had time to waste doing something like character creation just for the fun of it. It was also a time when I was very interested in RPG's, but didn't get as many chances to play them as I would've liked.

I mentioned MERP, which of course stands for Iron Crown Enterprises' Middle-earth Role Playing system. This was the first RPG I ever bought, I think, probably not in the least because I was a huge Tolkien fan as a kid (and I guess I still am, even if I don't get around to reading the books very often these days). Since this was a Middle-earth character, I made up the name by picking words from the Elvish vocabulary provided as an appendix to The Silmarillion. 'El' stands for star, and 'calen' I think is a word for 'green'. So together they're supposed to mean something like 'green star'. I don't know if it's grammatically correct or anything, and I've never cared about that. (Anyway, these days I don't really even think about the meaning much, it's just a word that stands for, well, me.)

And later, when the Internet and online chats and forums became a 'thing', I recalled this name from my memory. And it kinda stuck.

The end.

EDIT: And I realise this post has very little to do with who 'elcalen' actually is. But whatever, it was a good title.

EDIT 2: And as for pronunciation, I don't say it 'elCAYlen'.

21 December 2011

2011 Wrap Up Post

It's been a not uninteresting year. So a traditional highlights post is in order, I suppose, and a little look toward what's cooking next year. Sure, the year's not quite over yet, but there's no time (for procrastination) like the present...

The most noteworthy event is sure to be starting my own webcomic, Escape from Lowresia. It was a very spontaneous creation, really. For whatever reason, I ended up contemplating these old sprites I had from abandoned game projects, and thought, what the heck, why not try actually making something out of them. Which has thus far resulted in about four months worth of twice weekly comic strips, and is likely to continue on a regular schedule at least for the foreseeable future. Although, while the response from friends has been very positive, the fan base hasn't been growing very fast, what with me being really bad at marketing myself and stuff... (If fans of the comic happen to have great ideas about how to promote it, I'd certainly be interested in hearing them.)

Other than that, my life has mostly been defined by the usual geeky activities; gaming, music etc.

The RPG front has again been fairly active. My ongoing campaign Tales from the Teya'o Iva has provided much fun. Another noteworthy event is discovering Pathfinder and getting back to some oldschool-ish fantasy gaming after a long break. These games are likely to continue next year as well, and there are some other, crazy ideas also in the works...

With video games I've again been rather lazier than I'd like, I'm afraid. Skyrim is probably the most notable event for me this year. Finally getting round to playing Portal is probably worth mentioning (though I still haven't managed to buy Portal 2). And I've played a bunch of interesting small indie games, too, so at least there has been variety, if not great quantity. Games produced in the west seem to have dominated my gaming this year, which is somewhat new. Though I did also finally play through FFX-2 (and found it unexpectedly entertaining). I don't really have many games lined up next year that I'm particularly looking forward to. FFXIII-2 will of course be a must play.

Some of my favourite music from this year includes new offerings from Nightwish, Within Temptation, Tom Waits, etc. If anything, I think my listening habits this year have been more varied than ever. Metal still comprises a large part of it (with genres ranging from symphonic to power to black), but as usual, there's a lot of classic rock, soundtracks etc. thrown into the mix. I've also been exploring new genres, like post-rock. (You can check out my profile at last.fm, if you wish.) Next year I'm looking forward to at least new material from Garbage and Epica. And yes, new material made by myself will be along sooner or later...

And yeah, I guess I must also admit to succumbing to a certain degree of bronyhood.

It looks likely to be a 'black' Christmas here in Helsinki. I think it may be a first for me, having spent most of my Christmases further up north. And I'm loving it. After the last couple winters we've had, I'm just bloody sick of snow. Let it be dark and dank!

EDIT: I realised I'd neglected to mention charity video game marathons. These have provided some great entertainment for a bunch of weekends this year. I think I first discovered the phenomenon last year, probably through someone's retweet about Mario Marathon 3. I watched a fair amount of Mario Marathon 4 this year (my blog post about it), and a few others, like g33kWatch's Mass Effect Marathon 2, and Metroid and Zelda marathons by TheSpeedGamers. This is a trend that will surely continue next year.

11 December 2011

A Brief Story with a Bear in It

One of the funniest things I've seen recently happened when I was walking up this fairly steep mountain road. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a large bear reared up in front of me. Well, I didn't have much choice but to kill it. After it fell, I looked down, with a mind to skin it, but the carcass had mysteriously vanished.

So I turned and looked behind me, and there it was. Sprawled on the ground, nose pointed downhill, sliding down the mountain path.

I laughed my arse off.

Oh, and this all happened in the land known as Skyrim, of course.

8 December 2011

Do I Have a Hobby?

Just something I've been thinking about a little lately.

I'm a geek, that's been well established. I play video games and roleplaying games. I watch sci-fi and fantasy movies and read comics.

I'm also keen on music. I listen to it, I write it, I play it.

These things fill my life. But are they 'hobbies'? According to dictionary.com a hobby is 'an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation'. Sure, they're not exactly my 'main occupation' (at least in the sense that I get no income from them). But still they seem to go beyond what people generally think of as hobbies. They're more like a way of life to me. I couldn't imagine my life without any of them.

But if I don't define these things as hobbies, does that mean I have no hobbies? Doesn't that make me sound like a dull person?

Well, there may of course be more specific subsets of the whole that work better with the 'hobby' definition. Currently my webcomic might be one such. While strongly influenced by my other interests, it, in itself, isn't (at least yet) a defining factor of myself, or a compulsory part of my core being. It's something I choose to do, because it's fun (and gets me complements from friends)...

I guess all this also ties into what I was writing about a 'post-geek' lifestyle earlier this autumn, the way that geekdom has gone beyond being a 'hobby' so that what remains is simply... me. Hard to quantify or categorise, just being myself, the way I am, and spending my time the way I wish to spend it.

Did I have a real point to all this rambling? I guess not...

1 December 2011

Imaginaerum: A Review of Sorts

So Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish's long awaited new album was finally released, and I've listened through it a handful of times, now.

Reactions to the band's new material since the split with Tarja have of course been mixed. As for myself, the previous album, Dark Passion Play, is by no means my favourite Nightwish album, but I do enjoy listening to it. And I have no antipathy towards Anette, either. Her voice and singing style may be different from Tarja's, but she's by no means a bad singer. And in any case, the music of Nightwish is about Tuomas's compositions. The vocals are merely one element in the mix.

So, anyway, I had pretty much no expectations for the new album, Imaginaerum. Or at least I tried very hard not to have, lest I be disappointed. As it turns out, I'm not disappointed. More like addicted, actually, though it's hard to put one's finger exactly on the reasons why. The album feels fresher, I think, than Dark Passion Play, yet firmly rooted in classic Nightwish sounds.

The sound is definitely more whimsical and playful. There is some intriguing experimentation with different, less traditional influences. There are bits influenced by celtic folk (which isn't really new, of course). The chorus of the first single, Storytime, has an almost ABBA-ish quality that makes it perfect earworm material. The slow, jazzy number Slow, Love, Slow puts me in mind of Twin Peaks. There's a surreal circus show, an Arabian interlude, and even a whistling nod to Ennio Morricone in one song...

All this is of course wrapped up in bombastic orchestral and choral arrangements, done once again by Pip Williams. All in all I like the instrumental arrangements quite a bit. Some of the vocal parts maybe took a little bit longer to get used to, but I'm growing to like them as well.

The lyrics deal largely with the same yearning for childlike wonder and innocence that has been present throughout Nightwish's career. It has been announced quite some time ago, of course, that a film is being made, which should intertwine the songs into a narrative of sorts. While I'm probably not expecting a masterpiece, I guess after hearing the album I am quite looking forward to it.

Time will tell how this album will fare in relation to Nightwish's earlier works, but right now I'm quite enjoying it, and I think it's already one of my favourite new releases from this year. Which, strangely enough, I find myself slightly surprised by.