John de Lancie – My TV Show Surprise!

Recently I was watching the original Battlestar Galactica episode “Take the Celestra” (I had to do my homework to see how the new rendition compared to the old version). While working on my laptop between scenes I heard a very recognizable voice that quickly drew my eye to the screen.

Looking up I saw a handful of Terran police talking on screen (apparently having just come from an intergalactic BMX tournament of some kind as indicated by their very threatening helmets). The lead officer was clearly John de Lancie as his voice has become one of the more easily identifiable inflections in the geek community.

Many of us, like myself, first encountered John in Star Trek: The Next Generation premiere episode “Encounter at Farpoint” as the omnipotent Q. He went on to make many appearances in DS9 and Voyager – and continued on into various other scifi shows. His tone and inflection are so clearly identifiable that he doesn’t even need to use the “Q” voice to be quickly identified. He even recently had a small part in Assassin’s Creed 2: Revelations that I hope will be larger than the 5 minutes of speaking time allowed him in the game.

I am always surprised when I see an actor/actress that I think “started” there career where *I* encountered them – but had an entire career before that intersection. Or you remember an actor from a previous “life” who has grown dramatically larger than their origins might have indicated (George Clooney – Facts of Life and Leonardo Dicaprio – Growing Pains or Billy Zane as an 1-line extra in Back to the Future).

In our normal lives we rarely get to see the type of rock star growth that can happen in Hollywood and am always excited, encouraged and elated to see that there are instances where talent and hard work prove off. Most people in life have slow trajectory growth and movies/television have a way of taking someone from nothing to something in a short time. Music can do this as well but rarely do the musicians grow, evolve, expand their career the way most actors/actresses tend to do. While it is still all acting, the choices that they make with their career are very deliberate – usually much more so than our own meandering and easily anticipated step-after-step lives. There are those last few who go even further to move out of acting and into producing (Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney) and we’re exposed to yet another amazing career jump. I can take a lot of inspiration from these types of individuals.

And just in case you were interested in more background information, here you go…

Battlestar Galactica: Take the Celestra
http://movies.netflix.com/WiPlayer?movieid=70072546&trkid=3326467&t=Battlestar+Galactica%3A+Take+the+Celestra

Wikipedia Description
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_the_Celestra

John De Lancie
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_de_Lancie

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Guild Wars 1 – A Retrospective Journey (Part 2) – Wayfarer’s Reverie

The wife and I finished what may possibly be our final, official quest line in Guild Wars 1 tonight. In order to fully complete the quest and receive the reward, a player needed to own the main game and the 3 expansions that were released over the 7 year lifespan of the game.

It took us 4 nights, around 10 hours, and at least 2 nights way past our bedtime to wrap things up. It was a great experience to run through the lands again and we even had a few areas that we’d never even been in before. GW1 did a good job rewarding exploration and GW2 does an already more amazing job. I had never really considered it before but I am heavily considering joining a role playing guild this time around. Not so much so I can speak in old english but as a way to talk about the excitement I experience from exploration and the small hidden stories I come across. As the storyteller that I am I greatly appreciate the love ArenaNet puts into their games so I can have small moments of glee!

If you want to check it out, here is the Wayfarer’s Reverie – Quest Description: http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Wayfarer’s_Reverie

See you all in Guild Wars 2 soon!

Here is a screenshot from the final quest near the tree that will play a more significant role in GW2 (it gives birth to a new race of people known as the Sylvari).

Guild Wars 1 – A Retrospective Journey (Part 1)

Last night the wife and I began our final journey through the realms of Tyria, Cantha, Elona and the Far North in one of our favorite games – Guild Wars!

We were able to log some time in Guild Wars, probably one of the last major times we will do so, before the launch of Guild Wars 2 on 8/28/12. It was a fun reminder of how far we’ve come as a couple and in the game since we started playing in April 2005. We’ve gone from Dating to Married, Condo to Town home, crappy computers to newer slightly better computers (they age over time ya know!), no kids to two kids.

I learned about Guild Wars prior to them launching their open beta and was excited from the beginning to hear of an online role playing game without a monthly fee. At the time, my wife and I were only dating and living 5 hours apart in different states. I had hoped to find something we could play together long distance. The game took its time getting to beta and by then we were engaged and living together – so we were able to play side-by-side. We spent many long nights (and days) playing through the different areas of the world of Tyria. If we were fortunate to have a completely open Saturday, we would partake of some adult beverages and dive into an enormous delivered pizza and game all night long. It was pure heaven and something we can no longer do.

We had limited time and have a toddler who still wakes up 1-2 times before midnight so we knew that we were on borrowed time (as we always are now with kids). Thankfully we were able to play uninterrupted for a little bit. Hopefully we’re able to squeeze in a little more time over the coming weeks prior to the launch.

The newly added quests serve as a swan song to Guild Wars 1 and takes players across all the realms to popular, picturesque destinations. The last quest we finished was a visit to a beautiful, Kodak-picture spot called “The Falls” in the Magumma Jungle.

We should have visited these falls over 7 years ago but apparently have no memory of it. So even while the game was attempting to help us relive moments that we should have previously experienced, we visited at least 2 destinations tonight that we both failed to remember. Amazing how something that they were able to create a world so rich with detail and expansive with exploration that we were able to possibly miss something – and were able to experience it again (for the first time) tonight. We should all be so fortunate to have just a little bit of this wonder from time to time.

Our small office prominently features 2 maps that came with the games:

And we even managed to secure some “Coming Soon” posters from our local Gamestop. Not quite sure where to put those! They’re huge!

For those GW fans, more info about the new fun quests can be found here:
http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Feedback:Game_updates/20120817

Book Review – Paladins of Shannara

Terry Brooks, long-time author of the Shannara series, is venturing into the eBooks market with a new short story in the Shannara Universe exclusively for the Kindle.

He will be releasing 3 total stories over the course of the year in partnership with Amazon to see how the new digital distribution opportunities empower authors to write and publish their content.

Paladins of Shannara
Author: Terry Brooks
Pages: 40

The Shannara books are quick reads and demand little of the reader as the stories are straightforward hero-journeys that stay away from complex character relationships, political mechanizations or mysterious motivations/initiatives for the main characters; a trend which has become exceedingly popular over the past 15 years. They’re pure popcorn fantasy that feel like a nostalgic throwback to our youth (when many of us originally read these books).

Many I know who once read these books have left the series behind in their youth – so this new short story will have less relevance for those who have spent little time lately with the series. Or it might serve as a quick reminder what fun the books are and pull them back in. Fingers crossed!

— Spoiler Free Review —

The first of three short stories in this series is entitled “Paladins of Shannara”. It is a brief glimpse into the world of Shannara and is set shortly before the events of the original “Sword of Shannara” (published in 1977). The main character of the story is Allanon, the mysterious wizard-like Druid from the original trilogy, and a fan favorite of many. The story also serves as a bridge between “The First King of Shannara” (published in 1997, 20 years after the original book) and “The Sword of Shannara”.

The story is quick, light, and relatively free of any deep character insights or major reveals that would normally appeal to fans. Based upon the description and the premise I had hoped for more and was somewhat disappointed. There was great potential for the story to show more than it did but in the end it felt too short and more of a light skimming into the world of Shannara. The story is for fans-only and would be of little use to persuade a non-fan to pick up the series. While the subject of the story would be irrelevant to a non-fan, the subject matter lacks depth and an intriguing hook. I would most likely use one of my favorite chapters from “The Druid of Shannara” to convert a non-fan than “Paladins”.

In the end, the price tag and time investment is low and the story reminds us how far we have come as Shannara readers by bringing us back to the beginning of the whole series. The title “Paladins” seems to indicate that the other 2 stories might involve other characters (since the title is plural) or continue on with this same story arc. Either way, I’ll be fan-excited to read the other 2!

You can read more about Paladins of Shannara from Terry Brooks’ website:
http://www.terrybrooks.net/2012/07/new-eshort-story-allanons-quest/

Or purchase the Kindle Version:
http://www.amazon.com/Paladins-Shannara-Allanons-Quest-ebook/dp/B008C82N6G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345129954&sr=1-1&keywords=paladins+of+shannara

In other Terry Brooks news…

The new novel, Dark Legacy of Shannara: Wards of Faerie, hits shelves on 8/21/12. It is geared towards those who have been involved with the series for a long time as it follows a continuing set of characters. For more info go here:
http://www.terrybrooks.net/novels/shannara-2/the-dark-legacy-of-shannara/wards-of-faerie/

Lastly, a fan recently compared Sword of Shannara (and others in the series) against The Lord of the Rings books. The excellent summary is very open and direct in its comparisons. It is intended for those who have read the books and not meant to be reviewed prior to reading many of the novels:
http://grandcentralarena.com/on-my-shelves-terry-brooks-_shannara_/

Game Review – 10000000 – A Twitch-Play Tile Matching Dungeon Crawler

iPhone Game Review for 10000000

Game: 10000000
Developer: EightyEight Games LTD
Platform: iPhone
Launched: July 25, 2012
Price: $1.99
Link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/10000000/id544385071?mt=8

I just escaped from the dungeon in my latest iPhone time waster – 10000000 (that is seven zero’s!)

The game has very simple mechanics similar to Bejeweled or Puzzle Quest with a very, very light RPG element to the game. As you match 3, 4, or 5 tiles on the playing field, your adventurer moves deeper and deeper into the dungeon. Along the way your character encounters treasure chests, locked doors, and multiple different types of monsters that impede your progress. Match tiles before the timer runs down or your adventurer will be squashed! Depending on the tiles that you match on the playing field, your adventurer does different things in the dungeon animation along the top of the screen (open chests, unlock doors, battle monsters).


Between levels you are able to use earned gold, wood, stone, and magic points to increase the effectiveness of your adventurer as he pushes deeper and deeper into the dungeon. Once your character reaches 10000000 you are able to escape, free of the shackles of the addictive nature of this simple game. But what happens once you are free?


I just won the game tonight and it took me a little over seven hours! I have no idea how I got so sucked into this game but I found myself addicted and playing it constantly and at any opportunity. I found that within a few minutes of gameplay I was capable of getting just enough stuff to level up an item or two, which allowed me to venture just a little further into the dungeon, and earn more stuff, and then go buy more and venture further…you get the point.

At $1.99 it is one of the more expensive apps that I have bought for gaming but I clearly got plenty of play time out of it!

It is fun, addictive, if not somewhat repetitive and unclear as to how your leveling is truly affecting your progress, but an easy time waster with little need to think too hard.

Venture forth and see if you can free yourself from the dungeon!


Download the 1,000,000 from iTunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/10000000/id544385071?mt=8

The Tolkien Professor & Mythgard Institute – Your Geek Education Options

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The @tolkienprof and @mythgardian want to educate you about Tolkien!

How ready are you for the THREE Hobbit movies that are about to come out?

Do you want to know more about Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit? Understand how he influenced the fantasy worlds you are exposed to today?

I have been a Tolkien fan since 7th Grade when I was first introduced to “The Hobbit”. I learned about The Tolkien Professor and his podcasts over a year ago when my 2nd son was born and I found myself up at all times of the night taking care of him. I poured through hundreds of hours of free lectures that the Tolkien Professor has put online for you to enjoy. He covers Tolkien influences, the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion and many of his earlier works unknown by many readers. His lectures are well recorded with energy and a great flow to the content. Students participate in some of the podcasts and help keep things fluid and interesting. You can choose to go through whole courses or narrowly focus in on particular books & chapters.

Highly recommended for any fan of Tolkien and fantasy!

Tolkien Literature

On Fairy Stories: http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/introduction/

(Great background to understand how Tolkien cared for and approached all his works)

Undergraduate Tolkien Survey: http://tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/courses/the-undergraduate-tolkien-survey/

(This covers everything, not as deep as some others, but if you want a great

Lectures on the Hobbit: http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/the-hobbit/

(Multi chapter podcasts about the Hobbit that go even deeper than the Survey)

Silmarillion: http://tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/courses/silmarillion-seminar/

(Chapter-by-chapter lectures on one of the most amazing and complicated fantasy & literature books out there!)

Riddles in the Dark: http://www.mythgard.org/exclusives/riddles-in-the-dark/

(A new series about the Hobbit, with guest lecturers and also very topical with discussions around the new movies. I have not done these yet.)

Tolkien Q&A Sessions: http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/bonus/

(Lots of little good nuggets in here – like Tom Bombadil and “winged” Balrogs)

Non-Tolkien Related Lectures:

Faerie & Fantasy: http://tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/courses/faerie-and-fantasy/ (I have not taken this one yet)

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The Mythgard Institute

In addition to all these great (FREE) lectures, you can also expand your Tolkien, fantasy and scifi knowledge further by taking credited and non-credited classes at The Mythgard Institute. One of the most affordable ways to take classes and/or get a degree in this area – which is one of their commitments to their students. I have wanted to take courses here for the past year and am intimiated by the time commitment that it would take to read, listen to lectures, participate in class sessions, and write the papers that I still haven’t signed up for a class. But I hope to one day soon!

Check out the catalog here: Mythgard Fall 2012 Course Catalog – http://www.mythgard.org/academics/fall-2012-course/

They can be followed here on Twitter: @tolkienprof and @mythgardian and at The Mythgard Institute (http://www.mythgard.org) and The Tolkien Professor (http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/)

Corey Olson (the Tolkien Professor) also has a new book out called “Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit” (http://www.mythgard.org/exclusives/exploring-the-hobbit/) that I am excited to read in the near future.

For a fan of Tolkien, his works or epic storytelling and world building – these classes and podcasts are for you!

LEGO Lord of the Rings :: Game and Toys

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Did you hear that there are LEGO Lord of the Rings toys (http://thelordoftherings.lego.com/en-us/default.aspx)

There is also a LEGO Lord of the Rings game coming out soon as well (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkSd3caCYJQ&feature=player_embedded)

The LEGO game looks great and I’m really excited about it. They appear to be using audio from the movies which will really help round out the LOTR experience. Another reason I love these LEGO games so much is that a wider range of people can play them and I get to do some side-by-side sofa sitting with my wife as we traverse all the levels over and over again.

Check both out!