Girls und Panzer will blow you away


Surprised to find that I like the show?  So was I!

Girls und Panzer is an anime about girls in their early teens being (mostly) nice to each other.  It’s also about tanks, and about young girls shooting at other girls driving other tanks.  Don’t think too hard about it.  The show is actually fairly high quality; the tanks are lovingly rendered in well-done CG that meshes with the rest of the art, and the writing delivers pretty much everything you could want from an anime about young girls and their tanks.  Besides which, the premise is just too much fun: Girls und Panzer offers heavily armed and armored vehicles cavorting across the landscape as their adorable and irrepressibly friendly crews wrestle them into thrilling mock-combat.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, don’t bother.  If, on the other hand, you think it sounds interesting… read on!

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Dune by any other name: Twilight Imperium Rex

Twilight-Imperium-RexPretty cover art?  Check.

Fantasy Flight is good at making fun games, and their rehashing of the original Dune boardgame is no exception.  Though they were unable to nab the necessary IP, they’ve cleverly injected the mechanics and flavor of the original Dune into the universe created for Twilight Imperium.  But simply recreating an old game was not enough; they then streamlined and shaped it into something that you can pick up through one round of experimental play.  The end result is a highly entertaining game with excellent group dynamics, one that introduces just enough complexity to give you lots of material to work with without overwhelming you with its intricacies.

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Chiptunes: Beauty in Simplicity


I love chiptunes.  I have met few other people who love chiptunes as much as me.  Hell, I have met few other people who can even sit down and listen to chiptunes without getting annoyed.  It is arguable that my love for chiptunes comes from nostalgia.  It is true that some of my favorite games are old enough that their soundtracks are chiptunes (and I do listen to them recreationally).  But I would argue that my love of the genre is more than just a fond looking back at simpler times.

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First Thoughts on Agents of SHIELD

Agents of SHIELD doesn’t deliver the unexpected in the same way that previous Joss Whedon projects have.  The world in which it takes place is already fairly well defined, and so the sense of discovery and wonder that I had when I saw Firefly for the first time isn’t replicated here.  That said, Joss Whedon is good at what he does, and his skill at establishing an interesting and precarious status quo is clearly shown in this most recent project.

Agents of SHIELD doesn’t occupy that category of stellar TV shows which are unassailably good right off the bat, but it seems to me that the foundation is being laid for a much longer story which should gradually grow in complexity and appeal.  To be honest, I think I may prefer it this way, provided it pans out: a carefully designed and cultivated story that grows into an excellent favorite would be much better than something that starts off promising only to go sour.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’m not yet rabidly enthusiastic about this show, I do think it holds promise.  I don’t constantly foam at the mouth in anticipation of the next episode, but I want to keep up with what happens next.  And I can see the potential for this show to be really great.

What’s good?  I like the characters, brief as our exposure to them has been, and I want to see them given more chance to grow into bigger, deeper people.  It seems like Joss Whedon is moving them in that direction, though we haven’t truly seen that yet.  The writing and wordplay is predictably enjoyable, with the fun and funny banter I’ve come to expect from something with Whedon’s name on it.  Perhaps most importantly, Joss Whedon’s previous successes give me hope that this will become a more powerful and gripping story.

But what about my concerns?  Well, it seems like the characters haven’t had the time to really show themselves as the more interesting people I suspect they are.  I don’t have much sense of the characters beyond the role that they play for the team, and I want that to change.  The problem is, I don’t know that the current constraints of the show will allow them to; “find problem, investigate, solve problem” doesn’t leave much room around the edges, especially if the “problem” is always some SHIELD-specific mission.

Similarly, I worry that Whedon is constrained by all the other Marvel stories that he has to juggle at the same time.  That constraint seems like a real risk for a show like this, since it automatically means that the scope of the show can’t grow to larger proportions.  Anything that the heroes (or villains) do above and beyond the farm-league level would have to be acknowledged as a development by the big-time superheroes, and it’s unlikely that the eponymous stars of the various Marvel franchises would show up in person (regardless of how much sense it might make for the story).  Then again, Nick Fury shows up… so perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.

Finally, I really want there to be a big bad that I can sink my proverbial teeth into.  Unfortunately, despite the most recent episode’s hints (1.05 Girl in the Flower Dress), I still feel like I’m chewing a dry bone in search of meat that isn’t there.  It’s a very unsatisfying experience.

But I still think that this show could be great.  In fact, I’m hopeful enough that I’ll probably keep watching even if I don’t feel that it’s changing in the ways that I want.  I’m a little sad that SHIELD can’t (and shouldn’t) be the next Firefly, but I believe that Joss Whedon can still deliver on the promise that I think is here.  I really hope that he and his team do just that, because that would be great.

Screenrant is unhappy with Agents of SHIELD as it currently stands, and you can read one of their articles here.

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Sorry folks, I won’t be making my usual early post today.  I’m going to be in meetings with people for most of the day, and want to do some last minute orientation for the material we’ll be covering.  I do want to weigh in on Agents of Shield, now that I’ve watched more episodes of it, but that will probably have to wait until tomorrow.



I’ve fallen crazily behind on this whole writing thing while working on funding a new project of mine, and my computer is filled with nothing but drafts. I figured I’d put one of these drafts out into the open:

Felix absent-mindedly fingered the coin that hung from around his neck. He could feel the touch on the coin just as clearly as if he were rubbing his own skin. He pressed the coin between his thumb and forefinger, and for just a moment, imagined he could feel the coin squishing, giving way as though it were his own flesh. He drew his fingernail back and forth along the coin. It tingled. Once, the tingling had felt distant, like an itch between his shoulder blades that he couldn’t quite find. That thought had bothered him once, but now it comforted him. The tension in his shoulders lessened. He was safe. Protected.

A warm tingling spread across his skin. A warning. He looked up at the sky, questioningly. Dark clouds stretched to the horizon, with not even a hint of the sun. Felix shrugged. He had gotten this far trusting his instincts. He looked around for a moment, scanning the horizon, then turned and trudged off.


The bar wasn’t impressive. That would have been a nice way of putting it. The door looked like it was rotting off of its hinges, although the smell would have given that away, and there was more peel than paint. But the walls were sturdy, and the windows fully boarded on the inside. At least they were prepared. Felix rested his hand on the door and paused for a moment. He pushed against the door, and it groaned, dragging along the ground as it opened. He stepped slowly inside, and the door swung shut behind him.

At first, he couldn’t see anything in the dark of the room. Unfortunately, his other senses worked just fine. The musk in the air was so thick he could taste it, all the blood and alcohol and sweat from drunken bar fights and sex. He heard a few grunts and wet smacks from somewhere to his right, and then a heavy thud. He guessed that meant a fight, but his guess was as good as any. He took another step forward, and heard his boots squelch. He couldn’t yet see what he was standing in. Perhaps that was for the best. He swallowed the growing lump in his throat and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to adapt to the dim room. A few embers lit the room.

In front of him was a game of cards, and judging from the scraps of paper on the table, it had just started. Not nearly enough possessions were up for grabs yet. In the corner, a woman had pinned somebody else against the wall — man or woman, Felix couldn’t tell — and was thrusting rhythmically into them. Felix couldn’t help but think the rhythmic bouncing of her breasts funny, if hypnotic in a way he didn’t quite understand. Against the wall, a man was blowing into a thin reed and dancing, although Felix could hardly hear the music in the room. Maybe he wasn’t playing anything at all.

He turned away from the spectacle and walked over to the bar. A young man stood on the other side. Too young for a bartender. Hardly old enough to shave, he guessed.

“I’d like to set up with a room for the night. No questions asked.”

The boy looked around uncertainly for a moment. “Pa’ll be back in a moment, but I think we’re all full up for the night.”

Felix grimaced at the young boy, then looked around him at the bar. When he turned back, an older man was standing behind the bar. “My son says you’re looking for a room. I hate t’disappoint such a fine sir as yourself, but we’re all booked up for the night, and the usual fare is already covered for the night,” he winked and grinned widely at Felix.

Felix reached into his shirt, to his chest, and pulled the Coin out. In response, the embers in the room flared, the bright light casting shadows across the room. He rested the Coin on the bar, his finger pressed atop it. A thin layer of frost spread slowly out from the Coin. The bartender’s eyes widened, and a look of fear spread across his face. Beads of sweat broke out on his brow. “I’m s-sorry, sir. I didn’t recognize you. I’m sure I can make a room available. Give me a moment.” He backed slowly away, his eyes fixed on the Coin.

The young boy stared at the Coin, transfixed. Eventually, he tore his eyes away, up to Felix’s face. Timidly, he raised his hand.

“Yes, boy?” The gruffness in his voice would have bothered Felix once, but there was no room for that.

“C-can I…” The boy looked down at his feet for a moment, then looked back up at Felix. “Can I see your Tribute?”

Felix frowned, his brow furrowing into a mass of wrinkles. They hadn’t taken anything. They normally did. Being a Coinbearer came with a cost. A Tribute. But he was whole. Physically, at least. The Coins had driven him apart from the one thing he’d had in the world, his friends. They’d underestimated how dangerous a man with nothing to lose could be. And he was coming for them.

Burdens of the Dead, by Flint, Freer & Lackey

The next installment in the Heirs of Alexandria series is here!  It took me all of three days to read it, tops, and that was while I was doing other things.  Actually it might have been two days, I kind of lost track.  Burdens of the Dead offers yet another compulsive read, much like the other books in the series, and explores a fantastical Renaissance-that-might-have-been in which magic works, demons plot the conquest of mankind, and forgotten gods still roam the Earth.  If you haven’t read the other books in the series and any of that piques your interest, I strongly recommend that you pick up The Shadow of the Lion, the first installment in the series.  I really love this series…

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Emotional Attachment in Games


This article comes a day late because… I’m not going to offer an excuse.  You’re just going to have to live with the mystery.

I assume that most of us who have played games have at one point (at least) come across a non-playable character that we became attached to.  But sometimes we don’t become attached to characters who the game makers want us to get attached to, and sometimes we get more attached than we are supposed to.  While quality narrative can do wonders for making a character appealing, I have found that players often base their connections on the mechanics of the character instead (and this sometimes causes problems).

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A Brief Digest

Did you notice how I mentioned that I was reading Hide Me Among The Graves several weeks past, but haven’t yet posted any review of it?  Well, I can explain.  And I have a few other points of interest for you today, with tidbits on Agents of Shield and Dominions 3.

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Ladycops bring The Heat

Have any of you seen The Heat?  I more or less ignored it until I was stuck on an airplane last week with nothing to do.  I won’t claim to be glad that I was on an airplane for so long, but I am glad that I had the chance to watch the movie.  The Heat combines stupidity, comedy, entertainingly awkward social interactions and a dash of action in the very familiar buddy-cop formula, and comes out just ahead of the grade.  We’re not talking about a new classic, but it’s a fun and funny movie that will happily scratch your comedy-action itch.  Better yet, it delivers the tried-and-true buddy-cop comedy with all-female leads.

While there are vast swathes of buddy-cop movies, hordes of films in which we can watch men being silly with and at each other while they fight crime, The Heat is the first that I know of in the genre which stars two women in the leading roles.  While this point may feel overplayed, it’s still a big frickin’ deal as far as women’s movie roles are concerned, especially because The Heat has been so successful.  I’m not begging for a sequel, but I could certainly go for more movies like it.  Why?  Well…

I’ve seen enough of these movies to have a good feel for where the story beats are going to come; I won’t claim that I can call them all before they show up, but I rarely feel surprised.  Following the ladies offers a different experience.  I still expect the pieces that are staples of the buddy-cop genre (which The Heat delivers on), but The Heat’s take on romantic side-interests is refreshingly entertaining (the plucky puppy-dog local FBI agent is worth a good laugh, as are Melissa McCarthy’s terribly mixed signals).  These aren’t really new, just a fun reworking of already well-known story patterns.

But I really think the interpersonal social dynamics deserve a mention: we end up sympathizing with two women who are clearly not especially sympathetic according to our standard cultural expectations.  These are women who have almost certainly been called “bitch” repeatedly by their detractors.  They are brash, overbearing, and competent.  But instead of disapproving of them the movie clearly wants us to like them.  Novel and intriguing, no?  We’ve long been shown men like this and been told that they were protagonists, it seems only fitting that we should see a movie with women in those roles.

The Heat isn’t a masterpiece.  It isn’t even terribly unconventional except for its casting of two female leads and how that plays out in the film.  But if you are looking for a movie to watch with your friends and you feel the need for buddy-cop goodness, take a look at The Heat.


Oh and by the way, talk about badass: crawling down a long corridor to shoot the bad guy after being stabbed repeatedly in the leg?  Groovy.  It’s very reminiscent of poor shoeless John McLean with his room full of broken glass in Die Hard.