1.30.2014

Heroines ≠ Xena Warrior Princess



I've gone on record before with my pet-peeve about "D&D Warrior Babes" and "Xena Warrior Princess" type heroines, especially in film. I had an opportunity to go on a little mini-rant on this topic on our recent Desolation of Smaug episode of Swords and Space Radio. I recommend you listen to the show, but here's just a real quick recap:

It irks me how female protagonists always seem to have to be cast in the mould of warrior women. That is, basically male archetype characters inside female bodies. Some might accuse me of being reactionary and/or misogynistic, but if you ask me the real misogyny is this concept that for a woman to be worth anything she has to basically be a man. Whereas in reality there is such a great wealth of feminine characteristics and so many great womanly heroics that are ignored.

I find it especially infuriating when film adaptations of books "warrior-ize" strong non-combatant female characters from the novel, or add ones that never existed in the original work (#1 reason I haven't watched John Carter of Mars yet).

Now, since I always try to be about proposing solutions rather than just complaining, let me propose some real-world women who were real heroines without being she-men and kicking butt, for your consideration (and at the same time giving me some ideas to store away for future use in my own writing!) -- unfortunately time permits but a very few examples off the top of my head:

Audrey Hepburn: Before her acting career, this British beauty put her life on the line with the Dutch Resistance during WWII. Now, if this story was a Hollywood movie, she'd be flipping around inside some bunker killing Nazis by the dozen all River Tam-style, or gunning them down. But in reality what she did was dance in secret productions to raise money (the fuel of war) for the resistance. She also occasionally ran messages. If she'd been caught she would have been executed, so this was no less courageous than playing at G.I. Jane and it made good use of her particular talents and feminine graces.


The Women of Tiffauge: During the Vendéan War, the Armée catholique et royale faced the elite French regiment called "the Invincible Mayençais" at the Battle of Torfou. The Vendéens were forced to retreat in the face of vastly superior forces, but they were blocked by their womenfolk praying at a shrine in the rear. Instead of taking up arms and fighting the republican troops themselves, the women angrily reproached and mocked the manhood of the fleeing soldiers, who then turned and fought, and won the day against overwhelming odds.

Laura Secord: Kicked some serious American-butt like Mel Gibson did to the redcoats in The Patriot ... no, actually, what she did when she learned of a planned American sneak-attack during the War of 1812 was walk 20 miles out of American-occupied territory to warn the British/Canadian troops so that they could do the Yankee butt-kicking rather than getting bush-whacked themselves. She was a devoted mother of five and was caring for her husband who'd been wounded earlier in the same war at the time she made this trek (other forms of heroism unto themselves!).

1.28.2014

eSlavery


One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.

Words spoken by Aragorn in J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, Book Three, Chapter 'Flotsam and Jetsam'.

Several years ago, I read an article in a Catholic magazine that recommended that if a person must use the internet, he should limit himself to checking emails only once or twice per day and having a specified time each week that do will do any other research on the internet. Never using the internet at home was further advised.

After first reading the article I was inspired to take the prescribed medicine for eSlavery and found it very beneficial. After following the practice for perhaps 3-4 months, I fell back into old habits and started spending more and more time  emailing, reading the useless gossip or sports scores, and visiting discussion boards (although seldom posting). I mentioned in my reboot post that I had a very difficult 2013 and I've realized that my internet habits did not help. If anything, I think they contributed to struggles with depression.

I know back in 2008 I did a second round of internet abstention and found I read (books) a lot more, walked more, and found the time to complete divers other projects I had constantly been putting off. I've renewed my realisation that the creature (internet) has again become the master of me, rather than the other way around as it ought to be.

One of the reasons I don't own a television is that I find TV to be a monumental time waster. This can easily apply to injudicious use of the internet. I'm therefore cutting back cutting-back on internet use. If I can stick to it, I expect an increase in writing along with progress on my Astronomi-con army. My increase in posts this month is already evidence that its working.

1.20.2014

For the Record

I just realized over the weekend, that readers and listeners of Swords and Space Radio might have noticed that one of the shows we share air time with on AMDG Radio is something called "The Beautiful Game". Talk about a misnomer if I ever heard/read one -- "The Beautiful Game" is about soccer!

I just don't want anyone associating Swords and Space with soccer. I mean, this is "the Beautiful Game" in action:



Whereas here is how men in a real sport settle their differences:


I write this a bit tongue-in-cheek. I'm not really that into sports anymore, and the spectacle in the Calgary-Vancouver game was just silly. But it's 100% true that I can't abide soccer for all the diving that goes on.

By the way, take note of the next Swords and Space episode coming up in a few weeks: Swords and Space XIX: The Matrix (film) and Dune (novel) 02/04 by The AMDG Radio Network |

1.18.2014

Space Hulk (Boardgame Review)


Name: Space Hulk (third edition)
Game Designer: John Blanche; et al.
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Summary: A fun, intense 2-player tactical game pitting Space Marines against hideous "Genestealer" aliens in claustrophobic corridors portrayed by gorgeous miniatures and a clever jigsaw-like board.

Fantasy Flight Games is, as far as I'm concerned, the king of boardgame developers. Although I haven't written a formal review for Twilight Imperium, I hope my "after action report" conveys my love for that game and my conviction that it's the best board game ever. So good that I've gone back and downgraded Puerto Rico  from 5/5 down to 4/5. Anyway, I think they've made another very solid offering in Space Hulk.

Its a two-player action/adventure sort of game with a three-dimensional board. One player controls a group of heroic space marines battling in the confines of a derelict space hulk against the other player's genestealers. The genestealers are initially represented by motion sensor "blips" so the space marine player knows there are aliens lurking down that corridor but doesn't know how many. I found that this really gave the game an intense feel like watching Aliens for the first time. The space marines have big guns but if the genestealers get close they are absolutely deadly in hand-to-hand combat and the space marines will die fast. My first play I watered-down the rules a bit and dialed down the intensity (like removing the time limit on space marine turns) for playing with my 7 year-old son, but it was still great fun.

Here's a shot that gives you an idea of the components in the box -- lots of highly detailed miniatures, plenty of interlocking jigsaw-like pieces of space ship corridors and rooms, doors, dice, weapons templates, and markers. The rule books is quite straight-forward and not very long. The fatter missions book holds all the mission layouts and special rules:


Don't be intimidated by all the stuff you see. The game mechanics are pretty standard: each space marine has 4 movement points per turn. It takes, for example, one point to move one square. They can spend two points to be set on "overwatch" which allows them to shoot in the genestealer's turn, each time one of the aliens takes a move within line of sight. The aliens themselves have 6 points to represent their greater speed and agility. The space marines have a variety of weapons that each rolls a certain number of dice and require a certain number to kill (for example, their assault cannon rolls three dice and on a '5' kills its target).


There are a few characters that give bonuses, too, like the space marine sergeant, and in later missions a Librarian with potent psychic powers and the alien Broodlord. There are a wide variety of missions with varying objectives such as destroying a computer, eliminating all the aliens, or rescuing a stranded marine. I've only had a chance to play two missions so far, but really enjoyed what I did play and I think it gave me a good grasp of what the game offers.


This is a game that's easily picked-up by beginners. As mentioned, my 7-year old was able to play it without much difficulty, although I think sticking to the box's recommendation of 12+ will lead to a more enjoyable experience. I think the genestealer player needs to be a bit more ruthless than I've been with my son to crank up the intensity.

The biggest downside of this game is that is had a limited single print run in 2009 and has been out of print since then. As such, while it isn't particularly difficult to find on eBay or the Boardgamegeek Marketplace, it will run you $200+ (now the $100 I spent on my copy three years ago seems like a steal).

My only other complaint is that it seems to have the tendency to get a bit repetitive. I think that they would have been better off to incorporate a bit more role-playing and character development as in Hero Quest (man, really wish that game wasn't out of print!). But on the whole a very solid game, with the added bonus of being suitable for two players (its hard to find good two-player games).

1.08.2014

Swords and Space XVIII Followup

In yesterday's show, during the "Event Horizon" segment, we talked about some upcoming sci fi/fantasy films that we're looking forward to. I mentioned the Governator's return to film in "The Legend of Conan" which is supposed to be out sometime this year. Apparently they're even talking a new trilogy starring the original Conan, but I'll be happy with a one-off. Check out this article: http://screenrant.com/new-conan-trilogy-starring-arnold-schwarzenegger/

We also mentioned  Edge of Tomorrow due out in June. Here's the trailer:


... and here's the scene from Galaxy Quest that I referenced when saying what I thought about the idea of the romance between Elf maiden Tauriel and Dwarf Fili, that Peter Jackson felt the need to insert into The Desolation of Smaug:


1.07.2014

Back in the Saddle with Swords and Space Radio Season 2

 Last night we recorded and broadcast the first episode for the new season, discussing Peter's Jackson's Desolation of Smaug. Although I haven't had time to see it, my two guests had, and we had a good discussion -- I even got a bit of a rant in against "D&D Warrior Babes".


Online Movies Radio at Blog Talk Radio with The AMDG Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio

1.06.2014

Bits and Pieces 8


Trying to get back into the swing of things, and there have been a few interesting items in the space exploration department at least. But before that, I'd like to wish me readers a Happy Epiphany or Feast of the Three Kings. Here's a rendition of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" that I particularly enjoy, performed by Mario Lanza:



1. First up, we've got a shot taken by the Curiosity Rover on Mars on New Year's Day. The mountain directly ahead is Aeolis Mons (apparently also known as Mount Sharp). Click on the image to get the full size view. Apparently this New Year's day was also Curiosity's 500th day on the red planet.


2. Then we've got a New Year's "selfie" that was actually worth taking. Following the trend set by Canadian astronaut Commander Hadfield, American astronaut Mike Hopkins "tweeted" this photo on Christmas Eve (source: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_24806981/photo-astronaut-spacewalk-shoots-ultimate-selfie):


3. I stumbled across Arena.Xism the other day -- an RPG that works completely through Microsoft Excel. It's made my Cary Walkin, an accountant who, by his own admission "[makes] cool things in [his] spare time". Indeed he does. I haven't played it yet, but I intend do, as a hat-tip to such ingenuity.

1.03.2014

Happy New Year/Reboot


A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my readers. It's been many moons since my last post. 2013 was a very difficult year all-around that played havoc with my life. I don't think I got any writing done and even getting the radio show in was a struggle as evidenced by the erratic broadcast "schedule". 2014 will begin with me heavily engaged in a lengthy murder trial but I hope that some normalcy will return after that.

Either way, by hook or by crook I'm going to get some writing done and at the very least get back to at least a few posts here per month. So I'm "re-booting" Swords and Space.

The big event I'm looking forward to this year is Astronomi-con Toronto 2014. I plan on attending the two day event with my oldest son (who will be 8 by that time). I've made some progress getting my army ready for that and some pictures will follow.

I wrestled a lot with whether Swords and Space would return for a second season, and finally the solution presented itself in my father who I've brought on as co-host/producer. We had a pile of fun doing the Twilight Imperium and Blade Runner shows together, and having  help to produce and host the show will really take a load off my shoulders allowing us to continue.

So, on 7 January we'll be starting the new "Wansbutter and Wansbutter" Swords and Space Radio. Aside from having two regular hosts, we'll be running a regular schedule, appearing on AMDG the first Tuesday of every month. We'll also cover a film and a novel each episode. This new format begins this week:

Swords and Space XVIII: The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug 01/07 by The AMDG Radio Network


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