Friday, 30 November 2007

Literary Section IV

Gothic Fantasy: The Memoirs of Prometheus
Act I: The Name of the Game
Part IV: Brothers

Read Part I first! Right under the Dumbledore story.
Part II.
Part III.
Part V.
Part VI.
Aftermath.

We crossed over to Japan without incident. I was surprised to find my bike – an old Indian that Master Ozymandias had tooled around and given to me as a present for passing my Opus – waiting for me at the airport. Surely enough, Master Rama read me like an open book: I loved and still love that bike. It kinda reminds me of happier days now… So we rode from the airport all the way to Kyoto, Long Kuei’ s oldest and most probable haunt, according to my Master. Needless to say, trouble invited us – not the other way around – almost immediately and that was the beginning of a deep friendship.

During the first 6 months, we were unable to get a lead whatsoever. That was of no real consequence, since Master Rama had given us as much time as we needed, but it frustrated me; I blamed it on my own incompetence. Meanwhile, Sorakirin and I had a great deal of interesting and dangerous adventures, not the least of which was an almost deadly encounter with Katsuishin assassins of the Ajisai Sect. We had been digging around; for five and a half months we had been sticking (mostly I did) our noses in all the wrong places and had gotten into all sorts of trouble. Someone finally noticed and was irritated. We were in Tokyo at the time and I was walking in Harajuku district, on to a meeting with a supposed Technomagus who could possibly pull some strings and point us to our target. Well, he was a Technomagus all right, but he was pulling our legs and the strings for others. Sorakirin had said that he was engaged otherwise and so it was up to me to walk straight into a trap!

I am not ashamed to say that, though I had a good enough command of the two Scientiae most feared by those collectively – and simplistically – called “undead”, I was easy prey for them. Their powers were astounding and deadly. With one down and two to go, I had already been exhausted, though I fought one at a time with no intervention from the others (they have a peculiar code of engagement). I was expecting to go down impressively (there was no way I would be able to elude them, due to an ability known as Onisokudou), even if that incurred a tremendous Nemesis on me. As it started to rain, announcing my fall, I thought, I gathered my wits and the last of my strength to summon a Sacrum Fulmen, a sacred lightning in the middle of friggin’ Tokyo; the reality backlash would be deadly in that area.

Well, I never had the chance, as a lightning bolt from the storm above struck between my assailants and me. There, in the midst of dust and steam, a sprawled form lay apparently unconscious; I recognized Sorakirin’ s blue mohawk and stopped in the middle of my Magia. One of the Ajisai approached, determined to end this quickly, before police and firemen gathered at the scene. As he reached a distance roughly 2 meters away from Sorakirin, quick as lightning, what seemed like a metallic staff hit him and bluish energy crackled, turning him into dust within seconds. The other assassin wisely thought better of it and started calling upon one of his frightening powers, akin to an Elemental Fire effect but much more devastating. I knew my friend could not counter it in time, so I threw myself between them, taking most of the blast. Only the skin thick Elemental Barrier I had summoned prevented me from burning to a crisp. Nevertheless, I lost all consciousness.

When I woke up, I was someplace dark and damp but I could feel the bandages, in the parts of my body I actually could feel. I could not make out anything though, either because of the blast or the place. I struggled to focus my sight. Then I saw Sorakirin but I believed that I was too seriously injured, since it seemed as if his skin had peeled off to reveal... I felt intense pain and coughed up blood.

“Kang-Lin, please tell me he'll live! You have the power to...” I heard my frantic friend.

“It takes a while for the damage to mend, even by Magic. It is a wonder you could bring him here in time” said a firm female voice that brought chills up my burnt back.

“...”

“Worry not. Your friend should be dead, but he resisted the Tengu Kaen (as that power was evidently called). Impressive, for a mortal; even one of his kind. It is up to his will to live now. I must be gone; I have already tarried enough”, she said coldly but with a hint of anxiety.

“Wait, I...”

“What?”

“Thank you” he said honestly, more seriously than I had ever heard him talk before.

“You know I would do anything for you” she said before leaving. Was that a hint of tenderness? I was in too much pain to remain awake, but I decided not to die that night.

I woke up, completely healed, 3 days later but stiff as a stick. I was in our room and very, very hungry. Then, Sorakirin entered and yelled out of joy that I was awake. It was the first time his face was not eternally smiling and tears of joy trickled down his cheeks.

“You dumb bastard”, he said to me “eat up so I can yell at you for scaring me like that, with my conscience resting easy. Are you nuts? The Ajisai almost fried you like cheap tofu. What were you thinking?”

“Well”, I said weakly, “I thought I at least owed that to your ugly mug, for blasting in at the right moment. If not for you, I'd be… Well, wherever you end up when reality spits you out… It’s a one-way ticket, whatever the case.”

He said no more; he just smiled, relieved, and helped me eat. When I was done and he was doing the dishes, I asked him:

“Who was that woman?”

“A healer... of sorts.”

“I asked you who she was.”

“You are susceptible enough to death, without me burdening you with such knowledge.”

“Fair enough. There is one other thing though...”

“Yes?”

“It's probably just my imagination, but... there, in that place, I had the impression that your face had… peeled?”

“...”

“Yeah, I know, probably too much heat on the old gray cells.”

“Actually, no.”

“What do you…?”

I then heard the sound of something ripped apart, like paper, and Sora turned to look at me with his right eye permanently closed; a set of nasty claw scars had sealed it shut. He explained to me how the scars and the blue hair had to do with his violent crossing of the Threshold, involving a Loup-Garou and a blast of Prima Materia. I never learned about the healer, but I didn't mind anyway.

That night, at midnight precisely, we took an oath: one would always be the other's shield and blade, true, honorable, brother. Should one succumb to Darkness, the other would use any and all means to bring him back to the Light. If all hope was forfeit, he would see to his death, no matter how long it took or how much the other pleaded or resisted. We sealed the oath with our blood and from that day on, we became Consanguinei, “Blood Brothers”.

Together we spent one and a half year searching, investigating, fighting side by side, drinking and teaching each other the secrets of our Scientiae.

[To be continued…]

Monday, 26 November 2007

Body (Parts) Building



Do you know what one of the most lucratively rewarded jobs is? Aw, come on! Give it a shot: Writing easily consumed novels for youngsters? Nah, too lawful (although royalties like THOSE people get, could be potentially considered “criminal”). Human trafficking? No, too old-fashioned – I mean, you CAN be more imaginative than the Romans, really now! Drug trafficking? Damn, you sure are unoriginal and just how do you think the various government-powered drug cartels would react to a new, hard-working player?

OK, let us give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you do not know or even that you would never consider careers like the above (well, except maybe the first one). Although all of the above gross a pretty penny and some top the budget of countries many times over (quiz: which “superpower” has an invisible “Made in China” stamped discreetly on it?), the most lucrative business out there is trafficking in parts; body parts. If you watch as much Discovery Channel as I do, you will have noticed that when building/pimping/repairing any sorts of cars, the hard bucks are spent under the hood, not on it. Similarly, the black market yields astronomical income to those trafficking in internal (under skin, or “hood” so to speak) organs, especially livers, kidneys and hearts (yes, the tariffs are set AND widely known).

Now, as ergoproxy has explained to me with painful patience, there is only one thing that raises a product’s price like nothing else: lack thereof, coupled with high demand for it. Livers and kidneys for example: not many to go around and people seem to demand more every day, whether as a result of sickness, overindulgence and plain old bad luck. Let us not forget, the frustration factor: organ rejection. When anything and I mean ANYTHING enters your body, the body reacts (if you are healthy and God forbid otherwise) with a top grade Corporate Antivirus, which never ceases to get updated, detecting the threat, if any and sending divisions of little soldiers to snuff the little bugger. I layman’s terms, anything perceived as “of a similar nature but not the appropriate type” goes boom. You cannot just stitch up any liver to your patient, for its building blocks may not agree with theirs, therefore making the soldiers attack the new organ: the result is all sorts of nasty medical conditions (and go watch reruns of the ER if you have the stomach for it; I am not analyzing this any further), a result of which is that the organ must be removed (and potentially used elsewhere). Hence, “organ rejection”.

That is exactly what the lowlifes (actually, they could probably buy out any small-to-medium country like ours but you get the inference) trafficking in human body parts exploit: the constant, unabated need for them. One effort for an alternative led to the creation of body parts from memory materials, which would be “tabula rasa” until they came in contact with their new host, thereby infused with the same “identity” and accepted by the body. I believe this has gone quite well only in the case of hearts, who are relatively simple organs (compared to the kidneys and liver, they are just biologically timed blood-pumps). Another alternative is stem cell research, of which I know very little and would require an article on its own. The solution presented here is very intriguing, especially at the level of 3D printing, because the replacement organs are grown from cells of the prospective host himself, incubated in artificial “bodies” or literally printed using the prospective host’s cells.

If research such as Tony Atala's could be more widely funded – hell, invested in – I believe a major plague of the world (such as organ trafficking is) could be held at bay, even rendered obsolete.

Speedgrapher

Literary Section - News I: Lone Wolf is Back...!

...and better then ever! A few years back, I was thrilled to see that Mongoose Publishing (who produces the Conan D20 series) had obtained the rights to Joe Dever's Lone Wolf and made it into a full-fledged RPG with D20 rules. OK, I was skeptical at the beginning, since I do not really like D&D Editions 3 and 3.5 (and will probably hate the 4th Edition, due in 2008) or the whole open license thing (which, granted, gave opporunity for a few good things to be published - mainy by Mongoose and AEG, as well as the Eberron Campaign) but also brought to the surface a real sea of turd and cheap-ass rip-offs. HOWEVER, the Lone Wolf RPG pays only token attention to the new editions of D&D and forges a new system, more true to the tradition of the feel of the original Lone Wolf gamebooks.

Cover Artwork from Mongoose's Lone Wolf RPG.

Now, scavenging for various books through the alleys and underbellies of this pipeline network called "internet", I came across this spirit-raising fact: the gamebooks are coming back out from Mongoose, revised, expanded AND - for the real aficionados - in hardback! The one thing distressing me is "with new artwork". I LOVED Gary Chalk's and Brian Williams's illustrations but I will not judge before I see. Although I also loved the original covers (especially in the Magnakai and Grandmaster series), the new covers are also really, really good.

The Original Edition of Volume 1.
(Red Fox)

The Edition that came over to
Greece from Italy.

Another version of Volume 1.
(Beaver)

The new, Collector's Edition.
(Mongoose)

You can order the books either throught the usual sources (Amazon etc. although they were unavailable in the Book Depository) or wait for them to hit the shelves. However, you can also order them from Mongoose Publishing directly, especially the collector's editions AND there is an offer I find tempting there, though a bit hard on my pocket at first look.

ergoproxy and I were very fond of these books back in the day (although the Greek translations were not THAT good) and we even attempted to convert some of the creatures there for the 2nd Edition AD&D. I still have those papers...

Anyway, this is obviously NOT today's regular update (which will appear later in the day) but I just HAD to mention this developpment, honoring our youth. Yes, the picture was posted in the Literary Section during the small hours today and I apologise for that (was supposed to be on the weekend) but, as I said, I keep odd hours and for me the day does not change until I wake up, heh.

...and this is my personal favorite
from the Red Fox Edition,
Volume 08 - The Jungle of
Horrors!

See you later,
Speedgrapher

Friday, 23 November 2007

Literary Section III

Gothic Fantasy: The Memoirs of Prometheus
Act I: The Name of the Game

Part III: Flying Solo

Read Part I first! Right under the Dumbledore story.
Part II.
Part IV.
Part V.
Part VI.
Aftermath.

Master Rama the Gentle was true to his name: he called me Magus the moment I crossed the Threshold, the moment I first joined with Klymene. In the world of Wyrd, “Magus” refers to one who can access reality’s building blocks and rearrange them, so as to produce miraculous – magical, as it were – effects. Of course, it is as much a talent and a birthright as it is a skill; a skill achieved and practiced at some cost. Usually, the cost is one’s spiritual and mental reserves, limited to a degree by the strength of their Alma Magica. In extraordinary – and might I add, dangerous – circumstances, the cost can be much, much higher.

This is a story told to me by an ancient Vampire knight, as a parable for the limitations and risks of my then-newfound power: “The Graumannwelt – an old, German term meaning “World of Grey People”, the non-Wyrd reality) is akin to a titanic stone giant, upon whom the world of Wyrd rests as its regalia. The giant now slumbers, as it has for many centuries, dreaming our existence. Once, it thrived on these dreams, marveled at the beauty of the Wyrd enveloping him and encouraged them to play out. With the onset of the ages, the slumbering giant’s body hardened and it started to forget its regal garb, small details at first, then whole sections. As it forgets about them, these pieces fall to ruin, unless the giant’s dreams burn intense to remake them. But memory of what has been lost is harsh, thereby sealing away all desire to reclaim it. Therefore, whenever we act on our birthrights with reckless might, we stir the giant’s dreams and as one tries to resist and wake from a displeasing dream, especially if it is intense, thus does the giant push us back until we stop reminding it its former glory; and if we persist, it might elect to not see this dream ever again… So long as the giant sleeps soundly and content, so may we.”

And there you have it: the Wyrd and the Graumannwelt must brush against each other gently, risking terrible consequences if one vulgarly trespasses into the other. Therefore humans would do well to remain at the safe, dreamy, poetic fringe of the Wyrd and the Wyrd should avoid altering reality in flashy, dramatic ways which interact with Graumannwelt –which is called Hubris – or risk failure, at the very least, expunction from reality, at the very worse – which is called Nemesis. The only exception to this rule (at least, the Nemesis part), are the Kyuuketsuki, Blutsauger, Nosferatu and called much else, commonly known as… Vampires. Dead, yet not dead, devoid of soul but possessed of immortality, they are the Zwischenweltenmenschen, the “People Between Worlds”, who hide from the light of the Sun and the perception of the giant. But I am getting ahead of myself…

After the prospective Magus’s (usually) intense tutoring, for all the above reasons, they have to be tested and judged by three Wyrd, regarded as Masters, Wise Men and Women, Luminaries or what-have you, among their kin. This committee, of sorts, is called Opus Elementum. Now, usually, this is a matter between Magi but there have been rare exceptions, where another Wyrd has acted as member of the Opus on a given circumstance. Thus, a month before my testing, Master Rama asked me how bad I wanted to be recognized “officially” as a Magus for, as he said, in his eyes I was Magus enough (not in small part thanks to Klymene). Of course I wanted to be recognized! Though his approval was enough for me, I wanted to wear it proudly, as a badge of honor.

“Well then, as you know, Bowen is not a Magus but he is a respected elder to most Wyrd and Ozymandias and I could fill in the rest of the Opus positions. Would you like that?”

“I would be honored beyond words sir! However… if it is alright with you, I would rather the Opus Elementum were chosen for me in the usual way… whatever it is.”

“Oh? And why is that? I am telling you right now, this is not a test. Should you agree, it is all said done. I swear it by the Standing Stones” which, of course, was an oath so outrageous as only he could take. Indeed I had believed it a test but not of my integrity; in fact, I had no idea why he would pose such a dilemma before me but I felt I should answer as I did.

“Sir, you three are well-renowned Masters, respected by many, if not all. Already I have to live up to studying under you, much less being publicly approved by you.” It was the first thing that came to mind and I blurted it. I had found that with Master Rama, your first thought was your best one.

“Very well. It is your right to ask this but let me tell you a secret: no matter what you see, who you talk to and what you do in your life, there is something you must remember; along with what I told you when first we met and as ancient as the Law of Tales… There are no Masters in the world of Wyrd. All are students, until they elect to stop, whereupon they simply don’t study and learn no longer. The only Master one has, is the one they accept.” Words that made me shake with excitement and tingle with joy. Words I cannot fathom, for Rama the Gentle, whom I had accepted as my Master, is sure to have said this, knowing of the dreadful things that lurk in our world.

Christmas was a favorite period for facing the Opus Elementum, for the testing took place just before the festivities. Should you fail, there was ale, warm honey-wine and apple cider to console you. Should you pass, all the more reason for the ensuing merriment. I will not dwell on the events of that night in 1992, for their memory brings me such pain as my death could never inflict. Save to say, it was recorded as one of the most unusual Opus to ever test a Magus, consisting of the Maga Helena, a spindly Lon Dubh Fae (the Fae keepers of secrets) by the name of Walter Braniggan and a Vampire, nearly 3 meters tall, named Dmitri. That last one was mostly silent, with the eyes of a wolf and after he tested me: “I shall acknowledge you young fokoosnik (which, I think, is Russian for “sorcerer”) but it matters not. You will die very soon, if your mind is not set on killing your enemy because your heart forbids it” he said with his level, deadly serious and almost uncaring voice. How right he was, I could have never imagined…

This is Prometheus exactly at the end of Act I,
(yes, he is 22 years old, believe it or not)
while the drawing featured in Part I is the more
manga version, many years after the events of Act I.
This is - in my opinion - an extraordinary piece by
Lockie and reminiscent of Gary Chalk's and Brian Williams's
style in the Lone Wolf series.

After passing my Opus Elementum, I started being an active member of our Order, under the orders and guidance of the three men the Dragons of Kildare considered Masters. However, though at 22 years of age I was quite adept at Channeling and Kineticism – a definitively combat-oriented combination when coupled with the Elemental Technique – and had proven my resourcefulness on numerous occasions, still something ate me. Though many, who had been tutored at the same time as I, had already taken posts and long-term missions appropriate to their abilities, around the world, Master Rama kept me close at home – so to speak and even had me tutor a few new arrivals. I was proud of his trust but still, it gnawed at me that I never flew solo. Even if it had not been obvious to the untrained eye (which it was), he could see it, clear as daylight. So he decided to indulge me, as well as make use of my love for Japan and my rudimentary mastery of the tongue:

I was to go to Kyoto and locate a certain individual by the name of Long Kuei; a pseudonym of course, but using his actual name would either result in nothing or serious trouble for me, since he belonged to the Ajisai Sect of the Eastern Vampires, also known as “The Heartless”. He informed me that this guy had been in his prime during the rise of the Meiji Government and had died quite a violent death, shortly after his marriage. He had returned to the Land of the Living to avenge his killer and comfort his young widow, in the form of a Katsuishin (karada de tsuihou-sareta seishin, “an exiled soul with a body”, a person cast off from the Karmic Wheel in order to atone for their inefficiencies in life), as they are called. Those things he did, but having led a less than virtuous life in certain respects, the Karmic Wheel expected him to go the distance and attain inner peace and balance before returning whence he came.

He was a dangerous opponent, my Master told me, and coming from a man like him, it bore serious weight. But Long Kuei was also very, very honorable, following a strict code of morals that made him stand apart from a mindless or even devious Katsuishin. I was to locate him and relay him the following message: “...that the merciful blade that may be a step towards your goal, is in the hands of a friend of a grudgingly accepted friend and equal”. If he accepted the message, I was to take him to Skellig Michael. If not, I was to try and convince him, using strictly words, for I was no match for his skills, plainly said. That, I fully accepted, if a little stubbornly.

Though, among other things, I was chosen for my command of the Japanese tongue and my knowledge on the eastern culture, still I was unexposed to the subtle nuances of a Katsuishin-driven society; not to mention the exotic power brokers and resident horrors of the East. Thus, I was to make a brief stop in Singapore, where I would meet with a trusted contact of the Dragons, a Ryuumajin, by the name of Sorakirin (which, at the time, felt like a really silly name), who would help my endeavors and guide me through the new kind of wonder and darkness.

So it came to pass, that two and a half years ago, at a Singapore Buddhist temple, I met the young man who was destined to become my most trusted friend and my most persistent hunter. I don't know, maybe it was the atmosphere of Singapore, maybe the fact that he was Chinese or just the place of the meeting, but I half-expected a Houshin Mystic with his ring-topped staff and traditional garb and everything. Silent, mysterious and wise; was I ever more wrong? Sure, he turned out to be both mysterious and wise during the events that followed our acquaintance, but... Suffice to say that when a Kawasaki Ninja-riding guy appeared, with a Mohawk painted bright, light blue, wearing black biker's clothes, it never occurred to me it might be him. If not for the fact that in Singapore I was hard to miss (thick, copper-red hair worn long and a trimmed beard the same color, in westerner's clothes outside a Buddhist Temple, for example), we may have never made contact. Anyhow, he parked the bike and came to greet me, all smiles and good humor. I once prided myself on my sense of humor, so getting along was really none too difficult. I was being made uncomfortable by his persistent smile and cat-like face, but it was not until later that I understood the true nature of this uneasiness.

[To be continued…]

And check back during the weekend, for a new drawing by my friend Lockie.

Speedgrapher

Anime Music I - Pilot Section


New section, new section! With the upcoming Gothika (who are, of course, Japanese) live concert in Underworld club, in December, as well as the authors' love for anime music, we found it necessary to create this new category, where related events and rant will be posted. However, its inaugural run will feature my currently favorite anime song from D.Gray-Man. It's the third opening of the series and it features Doubt & Trust by Access. The piano opening and solos just rock! Enjoy and do not forget to check back in the afternoon (or early night, I cannot really tell the difference) for today's regular update.

Speedgrapher

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Cosplay Pictures from BIOS - Round 2!

Here we go, another special update, out of turn: I DID say either Tuesday or Wednesday, did I not? Sure enough, this is being written at the edge between the two, at 11:55 Local Time. AS always, anything I am missing which should be mentioned in any of the pictures, just comment away. No lengthy intro this time, on with the goods...!

Oh, just a big "THANK YOU" to all the readers and their positive comments, as well as people who pointed out some details and names for the pics. Cheers boys and gals!

OK, I'm playing favorites
but I'm allowed, arent I...?

...not that the gals have anything to
complain about.

Belial from Angel Sanctuary.

Finally found it: Yuki Cross from
Vampire Knight!


Road Camelot from D.Gray-Man
again. (Damn, the Noah are
everywhere!).


Yakuza.

Toshiro Mifune off the filming set.

DJs Nana and Lucy from Elfen Lied again.

Nana Up Close (you gotta love the Diclonius
or they slay you; couldn't get
a good face shot
of Lucy-san though,
gomenasai).




Urahara Kisuke from Bleach.

Madame Batolli from Under the Glass Moon,
enchanting the lens again.

"It's me, Mario!" said the
Nintendo enthusiast.

Aaaand...

...quit complaining! How
else would I thank the
most cooperative
cosplayer of that night?

Well, that's it from me folks. We had a blast that night, we got to listen to Rolling Star from Bleach, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni from the anime of the same name and much else besides AND I am polishing my camera for the next event, whenever that may be. Check back Friday for Part III of Prometheus's story (and hopefully no more surprises this week - I am bashed!)

Cheers!

Speedgrapher

Monday, 19 November 2007

The Roar of Beowulf

Right, well… It’s not really late noon, but afternoon yet still, you got a load of cosplay pics to enjoy AND I was with ergoproxy on the phone – poor fella – and you do not hang up on someone who is in the army against their wishes. Anyhow, today we’re talking about the much anticipated 3D movie, featuring models and voices of well-known actors, such as Ray Winstone (Beowulf), Anthony Hopkins (Hrothgar), Angelina Jolie (Grendel’s Mother), John Malkovich (Unferth), Brendan Gleeson (Wiglaf) and Robin Wright Penn (Wealthow). For the full cast go here.



It’s really amazing how a bit of animated, 3D blood and approximately 7cm of extra 3D Jolie/Grendel’s Mother breasts constitute reason for making this trailer “Restricted Audience” only. I mean, haven’t these people figured out that their children see more blood and violence on their PC screens, action and horror movies or decent news channels every day? But I will not let this escalate to global social commentary, no dear sirs and ladies. I only want to give you an educated glimpse into the historic reality behind this film.

Beowulf is an epic poem written in Old English, its oldest surviving manuscript dating from the end of the 10th or the beginning of the 11th century A.D. (also known as the Nowell Codex). Let us clarify something: when we say, “Old English”, it has nothing to do with your father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s English and onwards, or even Shakespearean English. No, in truth it is more accurate to say that this is the oldest surviving Germanic Epic, since English, Swedish and modern German originated from the common Western Germanic progenitor tongue, which used runes common with the Scandinavians; on the other hand, the Eastern Germanic progenitor tongue gave birth to the Gothic tongue (as in Goths, Ostrogoths and Visigoths, not black-dressed people with too much make-up). Even though the manuscript is dated centuries after the Germanic tongue went on to give birth to the Saxon tongue and then the aforementioned Old English, it is almost certain that it was copied by an older version or even the recording of oral tradition dating centuries back. The text has been identified as having two authors, the second taking over at line 1939 out of 3183 and it mixes Western Saxon dialect with Old English and uses the evolution of Gothic script, as shown below.

The First Page from the Nowell Codex.

The story it relates takes place in the late 5th and early 6th century A.D. and describes the exploits of the hero Beowulf, against the monstrous Grendel, the monster’s witch-mother and finally, a Dragon. I will not tire you with the actual story, which you can find in any number of internet sites or printed editions in (modern) English or experience in the Neil Gaiman version (either the comic book or movie). I only want to stress a few issues: first, the name “Beowulf”. It is widely (and mistakenly) thought that it means “Great Wolf”. There are actually three interpretations: the first literally means bee-wolf, an ancient (Old English) vernacular for “Bear”, since they are both furry predators and a Bear likes honey, thus making it a “bee-eating-wolf”. Beowulf was supposed to have the strength of ten men, so “Bear” seems reasonable. Secondly, it could derive from the Old Dutch term for “black woodpecker”, common in Norse regions and persistent to the death. Thirdly, the most recent interpretation (2005) is that it’s a permutation of the Old Norse word for “Thor’s Wolf”, which contains the name of the Germanic god Beow, an earlier version of the God of Thunder.

The new Video Game’s Interpretation of Beowulf as King.

Lastly, I want to make something clear: however you may have seen it (or will see it as I will, next Saturday) in the film, in the original story Beowulf had nothing to do with Grendel and his mother, save slay them and free the people of King Hrothgar from terror. His only sin may have been in his somewhat arrogant and uncontrolled behavior but that is to be expected by a man who was probably a Norse berserker.

There have been another two cinematic Beowulfs: First, Christophe Lambert in 1999, with the porn-star Layla Roberts as Grendel’s Mother (which is why the movie was worth it). Second, Gerard Butler (of 300 and Phantom of the Opera fame) in 2005, in the film Beowulf & Grendel, a more human, historical approach to the legend. It is an interesting film, with good performances but hardly amazing.

Layla Roberts.

Well, that’s it for me, except for a few links:

Beowulf in Cinema

(New) Beowulf Official Site

Audio and Transcript of the Old English Beowulf (for those of you who wonder what it would look like on printed paper or what it would sound like back then).

See you soon with more cosplay pics and on Friday, with our Literary Section and our regular update.

Speedgrapher

Cosplay Party at BIOS!

Hello again faithful readers! Yes, we ARE having a double update today, since I am writing this at 12:50 A.M. Local Time and for me, it is technically still Sunday, so the scheduled update will be posted today around late noon. The reason is simple: I had already scheduled the update content and lo and behold, on Saturday we had a Cosplay Party! It took place at the BIOS club (in Athens, on Pireos Street, near Gazi, for those reading us locally), with Japanese music (all genres from pop, rock to metal, goth, you name it) and LOADS of people cosplaying, whether dressed as anime characters, following the staples of visual kei, goth, loli or both! I went dressed just as my nickname states (Tatsumi Saiga), in order to blend in. Of course, that did not entail much, save for black trousers and overcoat, white shirt generously unbuttoned and messily stuffed into my pants, just like the semi-derelict Speedgrapher. Oh, and let us not forget, my black digi-cam hanging by my neck, part of the attire BUT mainly so that I may take loads of pictures and share some with you right here.


Before we get straight to the goods, some explanations and “thankUs” are in order. The party was organized by JMusic.gr, with my friend Myrto and Michael at the forefront and I thank them both for all the effort they put into it (if anyone else from the organizing committee is reading this, apologies you guys and gals but… I do not know who you are!). Next up is my friend Catherine who works at the Solaris Comic Book Store, is probably THE most up-to-date person in Greece (besides me of course, hehehe – OK, just kidding!) about manga and anime and saw to it that people with cool costumes stayed put and got photographed by yours truly (seriously, I am hiring you as my PR manager). Last but not in any way least, I want to thank Adrianna for suffering me to take her picture with my ridiculously bright flash bulb, even though that caused her discomfort. She was the most cooperative and fun person I met all night (along with Elisabeth, the definitive Queen of Dark Magic).

Well, that’s it from your ranting author/photographer/part-time domesticated bear, so on with the goodies (pictures will have the name of the cosplayed character, if any - the cosplay was not anime/manga exclusive but also related to modern japanese street fashion, visual kei etc., as mentioned above - unless I do not know it. If you see anything you know and I don’t, feel free to comment on it and I will add the name afterwards)!

Haruka from Love Hina.


Road Camelot from D.Gray-Man...

...and friends.


Light Yagami from Death Note.

Lady Oscar from Rose of Versailles,
Light Yagami from Death Note
and Japanese Goth Fashion.




Madame Batolli from Under the
Glass Moon.


Naruto Enthusiasts (Konoha Shinobi).



The DJs as Elfen Lied's Nana and Lucy.

Enjoyed it? More to come during the week! Don’t forget to check back at late noon for our regular update.

Speedgrapher

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Annoying Virus: You Have Been Infected With...

Yup, it's not update day but as mentioned in the original post for the updates, it's "one of those Specials": this is a social service by Easy Subjugation and its suffering authors. Suffering? "Why?" you ask. Well, ergoproxy is doing his M.A.S. and poor little old me has been dealing with problem after problem with my new, rapidly-becoming-beloved PC. First it was the forbidding distance of my room from the house router, then faulty wiring with the internet and phone cables and then yesterday, the absolute horror: a virus threat that got through! Besides my faithful Corporate Edition Norton, which had detected the threat but did not seem able to counter it, I was rained upon by bogus "You have been infected with so-and-so Trojan of a very high risk (successive windows professed different threats, such as low internet connectivity and CPU performance or credit card number theft etc.), so please download so-and-so anti-spyware/trojan/etc. from our (automatically loaded) site".

OK, I have encountered some weird stuff in my time, so I just ignored it and ran a full anti-virus scan, deleting manually anything that seemed suspicious, deactivating the internet and deleting cookies, whereby the annoyance stopped - temporarily. As soon as I got back online, here we go again and not only that, but two cookies REFUSED to be deleted. By then, the successive - and wildly different - messages were popping-up, so I realized it was definitely a virus and a stubborn one at that. It took me some time but after googling a bit, I found the actual problem and solution in the Symantec site at this location. It is a bit of a pain and you have to be careful, but it DID resolve the problem. Now all that remains is finding a way to close the door through which enter these annoying Trojan.Vundo and Adware.Ezula, which Norton keeps blocking and warning me about. They only infect the Temporary Internet Files so it's nothing to worry about.

(After a bit of digging around...)

Oh, here we go:

Vundo Removal
Ezula Removal

Happy Hunting,

Speedgrapher

Friday, 16 November 2007

Dungeon Cinema



Yes, I know this is hardly news but I really cannot stay silent about it, now that the movie will be premiering in Greece on the 29th. When I thought I saw a trailer on satellite TV, I was near certain I thought wrong. A quick trip to the internet kindled my hopes… and doubts. I have been an enthusiast of the Dungeon Siege series for nearly three years (I have played DS and DSII as well as Broken World numerous times, in order to collect all the special items and item sets and try out different races and am now trying out various mods, that had come out when it was all hype); that said, seeing Jason Statham from the Transporter and Crank movies, in the role of “The Farmer”, I was flabbergasted: first, he is a damn good actor and second, well, the game series got you used to seeing the female redhead in the lead role (even if Tristan Dragonfist the Dwarf ended up being played the most and as my personal favorite, but I digress). John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones’s large friend Sallah in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Gimli, son of Gloin in the Lord of the Ring Movies) was a special treat in the role of Merick (who, in DS is a wizard you meet and get as a party character in the Alpine Caverns), as was Burt Reynolds (the tough Inspector Logan from Hostage Hotel) in the role of King Konreid.

The much marketed Farmer Girl turned hero, from Dungeon Siege.

However, my anticipation turned to doubt and controlled resentment, as I saw the name of Uwe Boll, filling the director space. It seems he is on a roll, producing movies based on popular video-games, like Alone in the Dark and Bloodrayne. I do not know about AiD, but Bloodrayne seriously sucked: it was probably one of the worst bits of direction and acting I have ever seen, which puts me in quandary concerning this movie. I LOVE Dungeon Siege and there is a VERY decent cast involved; but will it deliver? The story is loosely based on DS and a multiplayer-only expansion called “Yesterhaven”, where you can take your characters to the Utraean Peninsula, wherein is located Crystwind Hall. I am not really sure how Ehb and the Peninsula are connected but the Krug incursion in DS was the plan of the mysterious Seck, who forced these simple, a bit barbaric people to become their shock troops. In this case, a wizard named Gallian is behind it all.

Kingdom of Ehb.

The Utraean Paeninsula and Crystwind Hall.

You can find and download larger versions here.

The Krug are not very well made and only passably resemble those in the game or the character designs (see below). However, this should probably not matter much, since they are sort of the DS Orcs.

Krug Concept Sketch.

I WILL go and watch the movie but retain my reservations as to the result, all the while praying for Dungeon Siege III. In closing, here is another trailer of the movie.





Speedgrapher

Literary Section II

Gothic Fantasy: The Memoirs of Prometheus
Act I: The Name of the Game
Part II: The World of Wyrd

Read Part I first! Right under the Dumbledore story.
Part III.
Part IV.
Part V.
Part VI.
Aftermath.

At first, I was puzzled; I knew what “Magus” meant: it was derived from the Greek “Magos”, which means “Miracle” and by association, “Magus” is equivalent to “Miracle-Worker” and “Thaumaturgist”…or “Wizard”. Then, my first thought was that this peculiar man, whoever he was, must be a total nutjob. Well, it is hard to believe someone who tells you you’re a mini-Gandalf, especially when he is wearing ordinary doctor’s apparel. It seems he was aware of my thoughts (literally or judging by my expression – I never really found out) and he smiled condescendingly.

“You are skeptical; that is good in this world – to a degree; means you don’t have your head constantly in the clouds – but you must also be open to the wildly improbable, for it is the foundation of your very existence – and ours. Why are you unharmed? How did you even survive the disaster? The casual observer would say it was impossible – and he would be wrong, for it was merely improbable, highly, if you like but still, merely improbable. Therein lies your power, within the realm of improbability anchored to the core of your being; your soul, if you like. She should be stirring soon enough and with her, your grasp on our world.”

I suddenly raised my hand to stop the torrent of his words and shook my head as if my ears were full of water.

“Whoa! Wait, stop. What are you talking about? What improbability, what… Who’s ‘she?’”

I was confused beyond words: those surreal people – the people I came to hold so dear in my now dead heart – were talking of Magic, probabilities, a soul who was female and was inside me and would grant me power and… then I heard it for the first time: the gentle and powerful stretching of large wings, coming from somewhere deep inside me. It was not as if I would burst open, in true lovecraftian fashion, but as if I somehow grew in size while losing mass, something projecting out of me, becoming me, kissing my eyes open.

“Hello my young cub…” she purred, like a great cat. No, “cat” is probably not right. More like an ancient, female, feline megatherion, who had devoured the most sensuous woman on Earth and now used her voice. Even in my degraded state, I still remember the moment clearly – yes, memory has been my greatest blessing… and curse – as if it were yesterday: I felt perfectly, wonderfully helpless, indeed just like a cub in his lioness mother’s jaws, or a man surrendering unconditionally to an incredible woman. I was rigid – in every sense.

“Who… who are you?” I realized I wasn’t speaking but it seemed our inner voice carried over, because Cynthia and the almost-stranger were looking at me – us? – intently.

“No need to fear me my young one, indeed no need to even bask in my presence, however I enjoy it. I am your Truth. Good men and women, even evil ones, will label me Alma Magica, the “Miracle Soul”, the “Soul of Magic”, a Daemon akin to that of Socrates. Heed their words for they hold truth but I am your Truth. Yours and yours alone, I am what completes you, as you are what makes me.”

“What are you called?” for, if anything I had read while seeking the wondrous in a world of bleakness, stood true, you never asked one’s Name. It was tantamount to insulting them and if anything, this creature commanded an instinctive respect. She laughed, booming, deep, satisfied and amused.

“Good call, for one thinking with his brain. Touch me with your heart and know me, for there is nothing of me that does not belong to you, until death do us part. I am Klymene, the Black Sphinx and I am yours.” And the words seemed to flow naturally, secreted away since forever, in some unknown recess of my self.

“I am Prometheus, the Rememberer and I am yours.” Like a wedding of body and spirit, we were joined, Magus and Sphinx, the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I regained conscious control of my body and looked at Cynthia and the old man. They had bowed slightly and the old man was looking at me with silvery eyes, a satisfied smile on his face.

“I bid you and the Lady Klymene welcome to the World of Wyrd, Magus Prometheus” and he spoke in a language I did not recognize, yet mysteriously understood. My instinctive response stuck halfway from my brain to my mouth.

“He is Rama the Gentle and there is much that is unknown and unknowable about him, save his kindness and wisdom. None but he and you may understand this conversation, for he and I know each other of old.”

“I extend my gratitude to you Master Rama and put myself in your care, to be taught the ways of our world.” At that, he raised an amused eyebrow. He extended his hand and I took it and he clasped my shoulder with his other one.

“There is much potential in you my young friend, much more than meets any eye, human or otherwise and I vow to try and teach you how to bring it forth. Above and beyond any and all lessons, always remember: you are your choices and only as strong as your heart of hearts.” I started to ask but he raised a wide hand and stopped me. ”What meaning these words hold, is for you and you alone, to discover, as well as keep. Come now, there is much to be done and your family awaits.”

Thus did I cross the Threshold into the World of Wyrd. It is by no means easy to describe what this actually means or entails: the easiest explanation is that you realize man is the dominant species only by convention and retains that place due to historic events and circumstances completely unknown to him. I know that “The Truth Is Out There” got coined for that – for the most part – silly TV series but it’s true: the common person does not even suspect that there is a whole other community, indeed a whole other world of races found mostly in fiction and fairy tales (and even more usually, nightmares), living and dying just beyond the edge of his perception. A more complicated – and difficult to put into words – view, is that by crossing the Threshold, whether simply a human believer or otherwise, one gains a near-supernatural awareness of the strangeness of the Wyrd people, as opposed to unremarkable humans. However, this description is inadequate and only part of my fruitless effort to remember how it was when Klymene was still with me or indeed, when I simply lived and dreamed and hoped. What is definitely true, is that when you see us for what we are, not only do we see you, as always but an unwritten law states that we may freely interact with you – and that is especially true for the sort of dark creature I have become. Our kind, bereft of the warmth of life, is better equipped for and more prone to breaking the Law of Tales. In any event, the World of Wyrd is much like the everyday world, existing right beside it, only much more affected by all things supernatural and emotional, as well as colored by them. A favorite playground may be a small Fae Court and an abandoned building may be a pocket Nightmare Realm and anything else you can think of.

But I digress. That is how I met my Master in the mystic arts, known as Rama the Gentle. He, along with two other Wyrd, the Artificer-Magus Ozymandias Clendathum and the mysterious Bowen Dragonfriend, was the leader of a Society – or perhaps Order is more appropriate, though it did not follow such a structure – that was comprised of many Wyrd, a surprising majority not Magi and many Fae namely among them. It seems that the High Council – also known as the Well of Wyrd, after the well guarded by Mimir and whose waters supposedly gave Odin ultimate knowledge – had a very healthy respect of the Dragons of Kildare (as the Order was called) and let the three gentlemen act with much free leave. Though the World of Wyrd does not have global politics per se, except within each race – with a few notable exceptions – the Well is sort of the Wyrd UN, convening rarely and enforcing its rare decisions with absolute authority – and power. The Well has 8 Seats and each race is represented by its chosen Mimir (a term of honor, relating to the same myth). To give an example of the Mimirs’ power, the Vampire Seat was once filled by none other than Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, Count Dracula himself.

After the initial shock of my true nature, I welcomed it as the realization of my dreams and stories. Cynthia of course, was Fae, a Panther Fauve, offshoot of the shapechanging Pwca family. She admitted to having been ordered to keep an eye on me, because my "eccentricity" made me a perfect candidate to be Wyrd or a human ally, at the very least. She thanked me for "providing her with the necessary essence" for as long as we had known each other, though I never quite understood what she meant by that and Rama’s explanation of the "mechanics of Dreamsence" did not exactly enlighten me. She also admitted to "finding me interesting", but that was as far as she was willing to take it. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement (so young, so clean of blood), but my understanding of this Fae (if that can ever be said) made me capable of accepting it.

Life went on... I was allowed to graduate high school, while simultaneously studying the Hermetic Principles of Magic. My first assigned mentor, before I studied under Rama, was a British Dragon (meaning, member of the Order, not an actual Dragon) by the name of Annie Kensington. She was calm, methodical and tolerant most of the time, but memory of her punishments is one of the few things that make me smile even now. Thinking back, I learned my Magia (method of harnessing reality itself to perform what is commonly referred to as Magic, a.k.a. “spellcasting” but that is so cartoonish) exclusively from Annie, while Master Rama somehow, guided me into unlocking capabilities and producing effects on a whole different level, beyond the actual formulas. I am not even sure he was a Magus and those hints I have of something far above and beyond, I will keep to myself, in case this journal ever falls into the wrong hands.

On the pretext of attending an Irish College for Physics and Mechanical Engineering, it was arranged that I went to live with the rest of the Dragons of Kildare, at their concealed Sanctum Sanctorum and home, in the southwestern island (more of a titanic rock sticking out of the Irish Sea actually) of Skellig Michael (it’s not as if someone simply learning of the location can actually do much about it). There, I spent some of the happiest years of my mortal (Magus) life. I met many kinds of people, of many different races, both human and Wyrd and made some good friends. Describing them and my years there, as well as the missions we went on at the behest of the Masters, will make me deviate from the purpose of this manuscript. Only the last mission I went on matters now: the one that put me on this dark, lonely road…

[To be continued…]

Speedgrapher

Not making any sense?

Go to Part I. Right under the Dumbledore story.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Invisibility Cloak Off!!!

Yup, here we reappear. OK people, we know we failed to comply with our announcement of regular updates every Friday and Monday, but there is good cause behind that: ergoproxy left just yesterday for his Mandatory Army Service and was crazy with preparations and as for me, heh, I just got a new PC and had to rewire the whole damn thing, as well as the internet. Result: no internet until I found out where I had screwed up, so it went to rewiring - Round 2. However, everything is back in working order now and I will keep up with the updates, make no mistake. Check back later today for both the missed update and the Literary Section. Meanwhile, let me post this here video dedicated to my army-suffering friend, with a montage of the best scene in Lord of the Rings II: The Two Towers.



Keep it together dude!

Signing off,

Speedgrapher

Monday, 5 November 2007

Mindful of Wonders



This video describes the extraordinary mental abilities of Daniel Tammet. He is one of the world’s few savants. Really the word genius does not even scratch the surface. I guess the way to describe it is this: While I am sitting here trying to make this description half-amusing, he has managed to learn an entire language in a week and can casually do calculations to 100 decimal places in his head. He really has a breathtaking mind. I don’t feel comfortable admitting it but I actually wept watching this video because of how lucky I felt to be able to witness such brilliance in my lifetime. On second thought, it is the world that is lucky to have Daniel.

I don’t want to write too much about the video because I do not want to spoil it for the people who read the comments first. Instead what I do want to write about are the people we idolize. Why is it the actors the singers or the models? I love music, movies and models as much as the next guy, but at the end of the day all these people are terrible role models. I want this guy on MTV!

ergoproxy