Friday, September 29, 2006

Mirrormask and Exotique 2

I've finally bought Mirrormask. I was looking forward to the film since Neil Gaiman announced it on his blog. It's a low-budget film that heavily relies on CG, so I didn't expect a lot - basically just a good story in a mediocre presentation (as I don't fancy Dave McKean's style too much either). In the end, I definitely got more than I expected and was positively surprised. It's a nice, average fantasy story with very funny dialogue and absolutely appropriate art. Dave McKean's style fits the film perfectly. Mirrormask is in the same range as Labyrinth, so anybody who likes Labyrinth should check out Mirrormask as well.
Like anybody else who saw the film, I now want a Really Useful Book as well.

***

Ballistic Publishing has announced Exotique 2. You can browse through a page gallery on their website. The book looks nice. As with Exotique, it's purely eyecandy, unfortunately. I guess you don't need to create an exotic character to get into the book. A human that's very well rendered will do fine. Which is a shame - after looking through the page gallery I got fed up of pretty faces and wanted to see pictures that actually have a deeper content.
It's a bit like with the ImagineFX covers. They're ALL pretty faces of girls. The magazine is for SF and Fantasy art, but the covers don't necessarily reflect that (they mostly do, but some covers might as well be non-SF/Fantasy girls). I realize that covers need to be somewhat generic to reach a big audience, but if you have a limited target audience anyway you might as well go all the way and let the cover reflect the content of the magazine fully (which partly has been done, but the tendency seems to steer away from it).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting rid of memories

My aunt died in 97. This summer my brother, who now owns her flat, started to clean out the flat, throw away huge amounts of shoes, candy boxes and old spices. I saved some books for myself, and now have about four new metres of books to read. My wild frenzy of helping my brother throw away stuff went like this: I opened all sorts of drawers, looked at the stuff inside, threw the things that we didn't need anymore on the floor and opened the next drawer. My brother's girlfriend cleaned up after me. In this wild frenzy I found, amongst other things, a box of letters from a French penpal my aunt had written to from 1964 to 1972. It amazed me that they had written to each other for so long.
We threw all the letters away, except for one. It was the first one my aunt had received from her penpal, and which included a photo of the then about 10-year-old girl, who now must be around 60.

Every summer, during the holidays, I thoroughly clean out my room and throw away whatever I don't need anymore. I always end up with some more space that I can fill over the coming year. This year, the only thing that got thrown away were some letter from my penpals - a girl who had lived next to me and moved to America upon her parents' divorce; my Canadian exchange student; and a French guy whose address I had got from an online penpale database, but who apparently had never added it there (he was surprised to get a letter from a strange Austrian girl, but nice enough to always reply anyway).
I only kept one letter from my mother in which she told me ten times to take care of myself (written to me when I had spent three weeks in England over the summer).

I have four pillow on my bed. An ordinary one that any bed has. A 'healthy' one that is supposed to put my neck into a good position, but - in my opinion - only puts it into a comfortable enough position to sleep, not a healthy one. A cuddly one, with fur, of which a friend said it wouldn't last a year (we're in year two so far, I believe).
And an old one. It's not really a pillow. I got it when I was four years old. It was part of those cribs that you get for dolls. At the bottom of the crib, below the proper, nice sheets with patterns, there was this pillow. Small, white, just a few layers of cloth, really. I named it 'Windel', which is German and means 'diaper'. That's what it's always been. I don't know where the name came from, I don't remember to even have named it. My only pillow with a name, which wasn't really a pillow.
I took it with me whenever I spent several nights away from home - scout camps, the three-week trip to England, the year in Oxford. It wasn't even comfortable to sleep on, since it wasn't a pillow. But sometimes it came in handy. It didn't take up much space, but if I folded it to a quarter of its size, I could have my head in a comfortable enough position to fall asleep (and then have it roll off the pillow while I slept). That was only really necessary on scout camps, though. For the other trips, I guess I just took it with me because it had become a tradition.
Some weeks ago I looked at the pillow, instead of just grabbing it and sleeping on it. The cloth had ripped in several places, and its colour resembled yellow rather than white. I told my mother, and she said it's probably time to throw it away (well, she actually said she knew and when changing the sheets the next time she'd throw it away).
Today, being semi-incapatitated by a cold, I looked at it again. I saw the ripped cloth, the colour, and with a sigh I took the ripped strands of the cloth and tugged at them until the first layer of cloth had completely come off. Lo and behold, under it the cloth was as white as ever. Without the remains of the ripped parts and single threads poking out, it would have looked like it had 18 years ago.
Still, after it had served me well for 18 years, I decided it was time to release it to its deserved retirement into the wastebin.

And that's how it is.

You put all your memories into boxes, and when it's convenient for you, you throw them away.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chocolate

On Friday and Saturday we had Chocolate Days in Linz. Lots of activities, events, exhibitions, shows and lots of chocolate to buy and taste for free. It was very enjoyable to stroll through downtown and look at all the different varieties. Unfortunately, it seems dark chocolate is fashionable at the moment, and it's a bit too bitter for my taste. Most of the free chocolate was, of course, dark chocolate.

There were two (guarded) chocolate fountain and a chocolate Titanic. The Titanic was impressive. It weighed 250kg and was 2.75m long. 480 hours of work, made out of 1200 parts. I wonder who ate it afterwards.




Monday, September 18, 2006

The Middleages aren't so much Fantasy after all

And there you thought the Middleages were over and the Crusades a mistake from the past. I can only shake my head at the current argument about what the pope said. Of course, if people are actively looking for a reason to wage war, they'll find it. Anything the West says about Muhammed will probably be taken as an offense by certain Muslim groups. Sad world.

In the end, they are just words. You don't respond to words with violence. You simply don't do it. I can't even find an appropriate analogy. Beating somebody senseless because they made fun of your hair will only make you seem weaker. Hitting your wife because she said you're a spaz will only get you a divorce and (hopefully) a whole lot of money to pay. To words, you react with words. Explain, elaborate, make people understand in what way - in your opinion - they are wrong. You don't blow them up when you could make them understand instead.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Big Brother

There's an article in one of today's newspaper about tracking-devices for schoolkids. The device is done by a company in Graz and is similar to a mobile phone. It recognizes all mobile phone poles on the child's way to and from school, and when the child is too far off the way (like Little Red Riding Hood) automatically calls the parents. In the future it should be possible to precisely track the child's position.

That made me think. It's common to chip one's cats. So when will we start chipping our children?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Queen of Nothing



I lost myself to gold
When it faded
I was queen no more


On becoming queen, she started to value her treasures more than anything. The jewellery, diamonds and gems became the centre of her life, so much that she lost herself in them, lost her identity. Her kingdom fell apart, her servants abandoned her. Her castle broke into ruins and she escaped into the forest, which had died with her realm. Only there her golden mask could crack, giving her a chance to find her identity again. But don't tell her. She hasn't realized it yet. Right now, she is only lamenting the loss of her gold.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Monsters

Interesting observation. I check the website of an Austrian newspaper daily to keep up to date and have a secondary view on events (instead of just the view of the newspaper we have subscribed to). So, with all the 9/11 anniversary drama, this newspaper apparently has also picked up an impressive headline for the big day.
When I checked the website last night, some time after midnight, I got a big picture with dust clouds with the title 'Is the war against terror already lost?'. I think "WTF?", because - for some reason - I found the title inappropriate. After I read the article I understood it better, since the article basically said the war is lost because Bush keeps ranting about and dramatizing terror, so people will stay afraid and therefore the terrorists will have achieved their goal.
When checking the website again today, the title had changed to "9/11 shakes US self-confidence". It's not uncommon for the newspaper to have website articles rewritten and resubmitted with a new title, but I haven't noticed it happen so often that just the title was changed.

***

On my last day in Rome, while waiting at the station for the train to arrive, I bought War of the Worlds and Marry Shelley's Frankenstein. I had a book with me, but I wasn't sure if it would last for the whole journey home. Needless to say, I slept through most of the journey and didn't even finish the book I had brought myself.
So I read it at home. While War of the Worlds was a bit tedious, as written previously, Frankenstein was just the opposite. I knew parts of the story, of course, because we had discussed and read extracts in English class and I believe it also turned up in some lecture at uni. Still, my basic idea of the story was that a mad scientist created a nice, but horribly looking creature, and fled from it. And that the creature followed its creator out of duty and to get things straight. That's what Hollywood does to you.
I didn't expect the long descriptions of Frankenstein's childhood, his years as a student and his work. I enjoyed it. Unexpected parts are always good in books. I also enjoyed the landscape descriptions, which surprised me. The descriptive style in War of the Worlds got tedious. It sometimes bordered on being too excessive in Frankenstein, but overall it's a nice, distinctive feature of the book. Definitely one of my favourites now among classic literature.

I also finished watching the anime Monster. Very good one. The last few minutes of the second-to-last episode were very touching. I like the overall idea of the whole anime. Anything I could write about the story would spoil it, so I'll keep my mouth shut. I might buy the manga as well, since it doesn't consist of too many books is probably more condensed than the anime (hopefully making the story clearer by that).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"I don't wanna die. Screw you."

Best famous last words of a manga character that I've read so far.
Death Note; a 108 chapter manga. I came across it months ago through random browsing. The drawings were nice and the story interesting - a notebook that causes people, whose names are written in it, to die, if the writer knows their faces. The notebook belongs to Shinshigamis, gods or spirits of death. One of these notebooks falls into the hands of a student, who decides to create his perfect world by killing off all the people who are undeserving to live.
The manga is a mixture between crime story and thriller. There a lot of puzzling involved, by several characters. Sometimes too much. I enjoyed the general theme and story of the manga a lot. The beginning was very good, as was the ending. The middle part got tedious after a while. Too much scheming and planning, too much guessing and too many conspiracy theories. After that, too much explaining of conspiracy theories and how the plans were executed. Pages and Pages of it. I ended up skipping the explaining and just accepted that it had happened somehow. I guess I also lost some interest in the mange after two of my favourite characters were killed off, and the third (Misa) was pushed into the background; so I had a break of some months in betweeen in which I stopped reading the manga.
The last 10-15 chapters raised my interest again a lot. The last pages of the last chapter are fabulous in their atmosphere and execution. I don't fully understand them, but it was a good ending. Very satisfying. Plus, good dying words.
The manga is being published by Viz at the moment in English (up to Volume 8, I believe; you can even get it through German Amazon), and in German by Tokyopop, even though there's only one volume published so far, from what I know (maybe two).

***

I read on the Shadowmarch Forums that Tad Williams' next novel Shadowplay will be illustrated by Todd Lockwood. That's awesome news. A book by one of my favourite writers with a cover by one of my favourite artists. Can't get any better (wait... what about 'illustrated novel'?).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Poppy



"It was a girl, standing in the open doorway, dressed all in black with a long coat and close-fitting hat. No, maybe not a girl - how could you tell anything with these folks, anyway, especially age? - but certainly with every appearance of young womanhood. She had a heart-shaped white face and wide, startlingly violet eyes; all he could see of her hair beneath the hat was a tar-black curl on her forehead. 'Oh, God,' Theo said miserably. 'Is this your suitcase?'
She looked at him curiously for a moment, almost startled, then a mischievous smile curled the corner of her mouth. 'No. But now I'm rather certain it isn't yours, either. Are you thieves?'"
- Tad Williams, 'The War of the Flowers'

Friday, September 01, 2006

PvP and Anime Realism

Kinda having a nostalgic evening. After watching the WeiƟ Kreuz OVA I got the "Oh, watching Sailor Moon again would actually be neat" mood. I know the anime is cheesy, teenage-y and the German sub is godawful (I hate the main characters voice - hate). Still, it was part of my teenage years, I got mocked at school for watching and liking the series, so I have some kind of emotional connection. The only problem is that buying the anime is more than expensive (and I hate the sub), and it's impossible to get the manga in shops or even on Amazon. Sold out, no reprint. Since it's old, it's also hard to find scanslations online (Yes, they're illegal. But what else can you do if you can't get it anymore legally?). No luck, I just found some extracts. Which is probably better, since I'm sure I'd get bored of it quickly due to the repetitiveness. That's the problem with old loves. You have fond memories of them, but when you come across them again, they're not as good as you thought. I had the same problem recently when rereading R. A. Salvator's Darkelf Trilogy. I loved the books when reading it the first time, but the second reading wasn't as good. I'm currently fighting my way through the third book.
Anyway, on my nostalgia trip I also came across a website of an artist who I liked years ago, after some searching. He's been doing SciFi covers for decades. He's also been doing Sailor Moon fanart for some time. What intrigued me about him was that he is drawing the characters realistically - something that I tend to do as well when doing anime or manga fanart. I liked his interpretations of the characters very much. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to improve his skill a lot; but his art is already on quite a high level, so I guess it's not that bad. Alan Gutierrez's website

***

I don't know if I have plugged PvP here before. It's an online comic about the lives of people who work for a gaming magazine. The comic is very good and deservedly won an Eisner Award recently. It brings much enjoyment and gets updated daily - since I began reading it there has never been a day without an update, which is amazing.
The reason I'm plugging the comic at this point is again the most recent storyline (as happened with Megatokyo), which is very touching, and funny. The storyline begins here. I love the fact that the webcomics I'm reading had amazingly good storylines recently. It's just a pain to have to wait for the updates.