Comic-Con Week–Stranger Things Season 2

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Image Source: SDCC Blog

So the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) or Comic-Con as it is usually referred to, happened this week and this is a celebration of all things comic book related, but also it is a huge intersection for Science Fiction and Fantasy.  While I’m not really a “con” guy myself, I still have found myself drawn to Comic-con because of all the announcements and trailers of upcoming Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book movie properties in the past few years.

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Stranger Things Season 2 (Image Source: CNN)

So this week, like E3, I’m going to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite announcements/trailers from the convention.  Today it’s going to be Stranger Things, Season 2.  My understanding is that this series (Netflix only) appears on Halloween (Oct. 31) and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Even though I’m linking the trailer in this blog post–Stranger Things, Season 2 Trailer–I haven’t watched it all the way through.  In fact, I’ve only seen about the first 10 seconds (the very first scene in the trailer).  If you watch those 10 seconds, you’ll see the kids peering into an arcade cabinet and playing a video game, Dragon’s Lair (pictured above).  That video game is one that I played when I was a kid (& bought on my PS3 when it was offered for sale digitally). To steal a line from popular culture, “They had me at Dragon’s Lair.”  I’m in.  I’m hoping that it won’t veer too far into the realm of horror and that it will stay creepy and thrilling without getting to gory, but we’ll see.

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Image Source: Steam

I’m excited for show and based on just the first 10 seconds of the trailer.  Job well done, Netflix marketing department.  Well done.  *Slow clap.*

Commodore 64 Nostalgia

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Image Source: Oldcomputers.net

So we are going to be reading an essay on next week that deals with a line of code for the Commodore 64 and the way in which that code expresses itself as “art.”  I had a Commodore 64 as child and it was my very first computer.  I learned how to program in BASIC and I have very fond memories of the system.  I dug out some of my old manuals (both programming and gaming) and I’ve been having a blast reliving some of the nostalgia from a bygone era.

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C64 1541 Disk Drive Image Source: Wikipedia

Watch out–whatever you do, don’t use the “Scratch” command unless you really mean it!  As I recall, the Scratch command erased the data on your disk.  It also made a really, bloody awful noise in the process as if it was eating your disk.  As I also recall, the big beige box was also a pretty noisy beast under the best of circumstances, whirring and chunking and clunking away.

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C64 Tape Drive Image Source: YouTube

That’s right–cassette tapes could be used for more than music back in the day.  Most people didn’t realize that cassette tapes could also hold data (0s and 1s) that the computer could magnetize on to the tape and read it back.  The tape drive didn’t last long in the product cycle, however.  It was too bloody slow.  Loading in all but the simplest programs meant sometimes a four to five minute wait–heaven help you if it was a game you wanted to play–you could pretty much double that time frame in some instances.  We howl today if a game’s level take longer than 15-30 seconds to load.

Ah, memories.

VR Hype!

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Image Source: UploadVR

So this post is late for a reason–I went to the MTSU’s Library and to their Maker Space and scheduled time to use their VR Headsets (for a presentation on technology on Wednesday).  I scheduled 1 hour with Oculus Rift and 1 hour with the HTC Vibe.  These are 2 of the 3 VR Headsets that are currently on the market and after today’s demonstration, I want to get a PSVR (Playstation VR Headset).

It was incredible!

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Image Source: Bestbuy

I tried Oculus Rift first and this was the best starting point.  It allowed me to get used to the VR space.  It is mostly a visual and auditory experience.  It is true and full 3D VR, but movement in the demos was limited.  You can mostly stand in one area or move one or two steps to see all of the content.  The content is fully 3D and moves all around you so that you can look up, down, around, and behind you.  I saw several demos that were really immersive.

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Image Source: YouTube

Moving on to the HTC Vibe, it has a headset like the Oculus Rift, but it also has handsets that are tracked in realtime by two cameras and it allows you to have space to move around and this really opens up the “play” environment.  I was able to look at spaces, but I was also able to look in spaces as well.

Whereas Oculus Rift shows you the potential of VR, the Vibe allows you see how that potential will be realized once the technological limitations are addressed.

I’ll talk more about VR in upcoming post, but I just wanted give a quick impression of these two VR systems.  They look really awesome and change the nature of the interactive experience.  I’m looking forward to getting a PSVR sometime in the near future!

Not Enough Time

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Image Source: Lifehack.org

So this will be a (much) shorter than usual blog post, but readers may realize that I missed a blog post yesterday.  Simple answer: too much work for class.  I did all my readings, but I needed to post a response to the readings on the class discussion board.  That response (written at breakfast time) took up all my time and I had no time left for writing a blog entry.  Sorry about that.

Time just seems to get away much quicker than I realize on days that I have class.  I’ve tried alarms, notifications, even SIRI to help me be more productive, but sometimes the readings take longer than I anticipate or sometimes it takes longer to write the responses.

Perhaps if I dictate my blog entries as I’m preparing breakfast, then I won’t have to lose that “creation” time if I still have something else to work on in the morning (I try to only have the blog to work on in the morning, if possible) as I can only seem to complete one or two writing tasks while doing my morning routine.  Perhaps as I struggle through this summer course, I’ll find a process that works for me creatively and consistently.

 

Finished–The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (Book Review)

The Heart of What Was Lost_Amazon

I finished The Heart of What Was Lost (THoWWL) by Tad Williams over the weekend.  I’m going to give a short review today and I’ll probably paste and cut this review on to Goodreads.com (which also reposts my blog, so if you’re seeing this blog there, you might get a “double post”) and LibraryThing.com

Final Grade: B+ (or 4 stars out of 5)

Having read the Memory, Sorrow, Thorn Trilogy late in high school and early freshman and sophomore years in college, I always hoped Tad Williams would return to the world of Osten Ard and tell more stories in this world.  However, after George Lucas’s Prequel trilogy and seeing the mess made by sequels of my other favorite stories (for instance, the original Karate Kid sequels, Alien 3 and up, Terminator 3 and up, and Jurassic Park 2 and up), I slowly soured on the idea.  So, when Tad announced he was returning to Osten Ard, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation.

THoWWL is a short book, by Tad Williams standards, but it contained a story that seems to function in two ways: a coda for the original series and a prologue for the new series.  It functions as a coda as it picks up directly after the events of To Green Angel Tower and tells what happened to Isgrimmnur and his warriors.  At first, I didn’t think I would like the (I think) new characters of Endri and Porto as their banter seemed forced, but as the story went along and their complications grew, I warmed to the pair.  The same is true for the Norns, Viyeki and Yaarike, in that it took the complications of the plot for me to truly like them as characters.  The first third of the book, I didn’t like so much, but after the introduction of the Norn General, that is when I feel the book hit its stride and the relationships between all of the main players really coalesced into a strong narrative.  I can say truly that by the end, I was totally invested in the outcome of the Endri/Porto and Viyeki/Yaarike storylines.

While the action isn’t necessarily on the same scale as in the main MST books, I feel that the action that is there is great and more than appropriate to help change the characters in meaningful ways.  A cousin who has also read the book remarked that she saw this much like a World War 2 narrative following a “band of brothers,” and I can definitely see echoes of this in the storyline.  It is a shorter, more compact, and more empathetic look at the nature of war than most fantasy novels give us and I, for one, am grateful that the characters took center stage over the action.

Having finished this first book, I can say that I’m excited that Osten Ard is back and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Witchwood Crown.

What’s in a Name?

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Image Source: Creative Indie

I was once told by a Creative Writing professor to just use your real name when you are trying to publish your work.  Her reasoning was thus: it is hard enough just getting published, why shouldn’t you get the credit instead of some made up, fictitious persona?  That reasoning sounded fair to me, so I chose my real name–Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

This is seems like a reasonable name–nothing to exotic, right?  A first and last name, or in the parlance of naming, a given name and a family name.  My father, for whom I’m named, is still living, so the suffix Jr. (for Junior, aka Sidney Blaylock “Junior”) is literally what my name translates to.

However, if you wanted have a complete bibliography of my work, you’d need to look under the following names: Sidney Blaylock, Sydney Blaylock, Sidney Blaylock Jr., Sidney Blaylock, Jr., Sydney C. Blaylock, and Sidney Blalock.  All of my published work, be they short-stories, comic books, or articles have been published under one of these variations on one simple name: Sidney Blaylock, Jr.

Normally, I wouldn’t care–when I see my name misspelled on letters and such, I don’t generally make a big issue out of it.  I simply raise my eyebrow and note that the person or entity doesn’t know me as well as they they should (esp. if they’re trying to solicit me for money) and move on.  In the days of computer assisted sites for bibliophiles (such as Goodreads or LibraryThing) it makes a difference as Sidney Blaylock Jr. (without the comma between the last name and suffix) is an entirely different author than Sidney Blaylock, Jr. (with the comma in between).

My later publications have been much better about the standardization of my name, but some still miss the comma and that means that I have fewer publications listed on Goodreads and LibraryThing than I actually have published, which in turn makes it hard to build up an audience/fanbase of readers.

So I urge you, next time a name comes across your consciousness–take a moment to look at, to really look at it, and make sure that your idea of what the person’s name is actually matches what they wrote.