Opposites Attract

A contrast in styles

The last two books I have read are A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin and Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind.

For someone who hasn’t read either series, there are some interesting parallels. Both are epic, multi-volume fantasies. Both have been on the New York Times Bestseller List, and both have had television shows based on them.

Anyone who has read both series can tell you just how far apart they are.

Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is a gritty, realistic walk through the sewer that is humanity. Anyone who aspires to higher ideals is raped and killed, after having their point of view hideously and very grittily disabused. A twisted dwarf, a lord’s bastard, and an orphan who nearly married her brother are the main characters. Back-stabbing, political intrigue, and scenes of a graphic nature are thrown in the face of the reader in an unapologetic orgy of… well, gritty realism.

Goodkind’s Sword of Truth has graphic violence, graphic scenes of sexuality and brutality as well, but there the similarities end. Goodkind writes toward the nobility of heroes. Richard, the main character, is right. His supporting cast of characters are sometimes right. The bad guys are twisted. They believe wrongly, they are misguided, and they are evil, and they espouse communist ideals.

Ice and Fire is beautifully written. Time is taken to set up a world whose scope is only surpassed by the Malazan series and the Wheel of Time. Martin’s prose is a wonder to behold.

Goodkind’s writing is clunky. It gets the job done, but too much is explicit, repeated, and dumbed down.

Martin’s action scenes are interesting, even if they push the limits of realism.

Goodkind’s action scenes are riveting, even if they’re mostly impossible.

Martin’s message is unanimous. The world is shit. People are assholes. If you don’t believe it, I will personally disabuse you before you are raped and murdered.

Goodkind’s message tends to be a little self-contradictory. Life is yours. Rise up. Don’t let anyone rule you. Do what you want. Unless you don’t do what I want. Then I’ll kill you.

It’s hard to cheer for anyone on Martin’s cast list. They’re all jerks or dead. Conversely, there’s no real bad guys, except for the Big Bad who’s looming on the horizon (and who everyone is ignoring).

Goodkind has Real Heroes (TM) you can root for, and cardboard cut-out deliciously eeeeeevil bad guys to throw proverbial popcorn at.

Which do I prefer? I think I appreciate the series that Martin is writing more, even if I have been disappointed at the pacing of the last two books to a certain measure. I’m sure that the pacing of the writing and release of the books has more to do with it than the pacing of the story, but that’s a different complaint. On the other hand, the Sword of Truth has something to it that I enjoy reading. Good action, quick pacing, a definite target for my ire. The clunky writing can be endured. The shaky morals make for interesting philosophical discussions. The action scenes are definitely a draw.

I don’t think I can actually pick a favourite from these two, even if the memory of Naked Empire and Confessor make me want to change my mind and start this post over much less positively for Mr. Goodkind.

Until later on,
Liam

Generations

Some of my friends have been in the child manufacturing state longer than others. So long, in fact, that their children are now old enough to start infringing... er... - participating - in our activities. Specifically I am talking about my friend Jason and his two boys Connor and Adam. Knowing Jay, I'm sure he was just itching for his kids to be old enough to play D&D. From what I can gather he started running games with them at least a few years ago, but now they are full-fledged nerds; old enough to sit with the big boys.

This spring we started a new game (I hadn't played in about 3 or 4 years at that point) and I am shocked, and kinda disturbed by, the amount of information that these two kids can spew out. Stats for monsters, classes, abilities... whatever it is, I'm pretty sure that one of them knows it. On one hand, it's actually kind of useful since that used to be my job. However, my hiatus from that part of the Dork Forest taught me that I really don't give a shit about that stuff any more and I am more than happy to pass the torch. On the other hand... it can be right fucking annoying. Look kid, I don't care how many hit points Orcus has or that he can kill you at 1000 paces with a sideways fart.

I can't begrudge these kids for doing something that I used to do myself, but at the same time I often think to myself, "was I like that too when I was their age?" One thing I can be sure of is that the game feels different but I don't know if the game itself has changed or if it's the boys' influence or some combination of both. This summers' gaming sort of feels like playing a video game without a computer. It's very numbers-oriented and it lacks the sense of story that D&D used to have. Maybe it's because Jay is just trying to keep it basic or maybe he just doesn't have the time to invest that he used to.

Either way, I'm still glad I get to play even if it's not everything I ever wanted. I'm sure that if we continue the game will continue to change as we all get older.

Houston Texans, 2014

The sun has set on the 2014 NFL regular season. 12 teams get ready for the playoffs, but 20 other teams are blinking back the tears of disappointment and focusing their energy on the 2015 entry draft, free agency, and, eventually, the 2015 regular season.
Among those teams cast adrift from the schedule are the Houston Texans, who came as close as any of the other bridesmaids. It turns out that a better-than-.500 record isn’t good enough. Especially not when so many other teams boast the same percentage.
I’m not disappointed at the performance of the Texans. Sure, I would have liked to see more from the quarterback position, maybe through an earlier offer for Ryan Mallett, or maybe an earlier look at Tom Savage. I would also have liked a stronger presence in the defensive backfield than we got through most of the season. But in the end, with worse-than-suspect quarterbacking, the Texans managed a 9-7 record, seven full games better than last season.

No Kubiak

Without Gary Kubiak, I didn’t know how this team would fare on offense. Without Matt Schaub, I hoped it would improve. The results? I’m not sure about on paper, but I’m happy to say that I have more confidence in this team than I did in the one that took the field for the 2013 season. There’s no question that the quarterbacking was more reliable, even with Keenum coming back to steer the ship at the end of the season. I had no fear of the dreaded mis-timed head-scratcher from Schaub, and it certainly was a joy to have quarterbacks leave the pocket with the expectation of better than an insta-sack or, as was Keenum’s penchant, running backwards until getting tackled for a 20-yard loss. It felt like Kubiak’s system was really good for getting chunks of yardage throughout the game, but really poor in crucial situations, such as goal-to-go or when the game was on the line.
Conversely, it feels like Bill O’Brien has a handle on all of that, like he knows what play to call on third and long, that it will work, and why. He just feels like a much more competent game-time coach.

No Wade Phillips

I will admit that I was concerned when the Texans let Phillips go and took on Romeo Crennel. I like Crennel, and I thought and still think that he is a fine defensive coordinator, but I didn’t think that the defense was the problem last year, and I worried that a change in perspective and philosophy might lead to a regression. Which it did, to a certain extent. The defense wasn’t as high in the yardage rankings as it had been the year before, but Wade’s defenses weren’t winning games, and it feels like the 2014 defense won more than one, almost on their own. Granted, a healthy Cushing probably helped with that, but, again, Crennel just seems like a coach that can be counted on more.
So, saying goodbye to this Texans team is a little more bitter-sweet than last year, where it was about time.

Audios Amigos

Prior to the 2014 season, and for two years, I invested a not inconsiderable amount of money into getting a GamePass account to watch the Texans through the magic of the Internet. After last year’s god-awful showing, I decided that I would pare it back to an AudioPass account and listen to the games. I’d done that before, and it had been fine.
It is no longer fine.
Listen, NFL, I understand that you’re in the business of making money, and that video on demand is the new crown jewel. I really do get that. But seriously, up yours for letting AudioPass become such a piece of crap that I am, without hyperbole, embarrassed for you.
If it were a free product, I would expect this level of disregard. But at this point, it’s no longer a priority. It’s not even a second-thought. It’s an inconvenience to you. I like to listen to the game after the kids have gone to bed. It gives me the day to spend with my family and something to do before going to sleep on Sunday nights. Two weeks ago, the Houston/Baltimore game was unavailable for listening after even the Sunday night game was over. So I skipped listening to the game. I did the same thing this past Sunday, because I didn’t feel like fighting with your broken, piece-of-crap software. If you honestly feel this much apathy toward your AudioPass offering, farm it out to someone else. I’m sure there are companies out there who would pay you good money for the rights to the Audio of the games, and the experience would not suck so bad.
Next season? One thing I know for sure is I won’t be going back to AudioPass. It’s a shame that the only other alternatives are getting cable TV or paying $250 to watch the games on the Internet.