Tuesday, October 20, 2009


These are my current characters. Love that you can get these from Aion Card's website. It auto generates cool signatures for your character.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


So I'm still working on those reports, still hoping to get it in ahead of the deadline. Taking a break for a moment to gather my thoughts.

Haven't had any time with Aion the past few days because I've been thinking about these projects.

I've been looking up Criss Angel videos and his channel is full of really spectacular stunts and illusions. There are some videos under his channel that are criminally under-rated and under-viewed. The steamroller clip I put up pales in comparison to some of the things he does in his later videos. He's taken to heart a lot of what the skeptics say, and he makes his new tricks just about bullet proof. Going into a desert and doing a vanishing trick, throwing a bandana off a 22 story building and catching it before it hits the ground, and so on. The two tricks that really impressed me: packing a snowball, making it levitate and putting his hands above and below it to show there are no strings, and then taking his hands away and having it hover for a while, and then he pushes it across a field and over to his girlfriend. The other trick is he takes someone's dollar bill and writes the serial number down on the guy, has him put his initials on it etc, and then put it into a vending machine. The guy says he wants water, Criss puts his hand against the slot that accepts bills, then onto the glass near where the water bottle is, takes his hand away and the same bill is now floating inside the bottle of water. The guy takes the bottle out and fishes out the bill and it's his for sure. I have no way to explain that, and the tricks just blow my mind. But the videos only have at most 3,000 views and have been online for months. So for your viewing pleasure I'm pimping them out here. Enjoy:

Go to 7:52 on this video to see the snowball trick. Crazy!

Check out his youtube page for other videos.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Before Bed

Past few days have been fairly stress free, although I'm descending into a week of hard work that I'm desperately trying to resist. My whole body is weary but I'm fighting sleep a little longer because the next few days are going to be nothing but work. After the work comes revision and studying for mid-term exams. One course I've barely looked at, but luckily has no exams or assignments until December.

I had originally intended this blog to offer a fairly analytic perspective on various academic subjects, mostly brought on by my research for school, however, I've begun to turn it into more of a personal space for my thoughts and activities. I apologize, although I am aware that I have no followers, and no indication as to whether or not anyone is reading this on a regular basis. For the moment I'll continue to post my thoughts and comment on topics of interest as its fairly therapeutic to do so.

I have switched from my spiritmaster to a gladiator in Aion, because I wanted to see what the other classes had to offer, and I was also intrigued by the image attached to the previous post. It depicted a samurai warrior woman out for revenge, and I thought I would make a character like that. It so happened that, while I was playing a priest character who was an alt of my cloud look-a-like, the server went down and I had the option to start again on a different realm. Because your first character is always going to make some obvious mistakes after you get used to the system, my latest character has been much more refined and detailed, and more attuned to the world she inhabits. I created Chou, a female character who is a gladiator, who has a good amount of money and hasn't made the mistake of wasting Kinah learning too many crafting professions at once. She's spent time crafting armour and weapons to outfit herself better, and I've been keeping her on a steady pace to level up regularly. When I was creating Lucard, I picked the 'lean' body type, which I later found translated to "lanky" ingame. Tall and awkward with freakishly large hands. You can notice it in some of the screenshots. The new character design for Chou was much more accurate to a human being.

I've also got some pictures for your enjoyment.

After getting my Divine Points to maximum, Chou started to glow with a powerful aura. Each tier of Divine Points opens up spectacular moves that consume them, so I like to think of it as a Limit Break move, similar to Final Fantasy VII. At the third tier the aura is very bright and does not fade until you use your limit break move, so I kept it a few hours and enjoyed the feeling of being a little more special than other players. But since no one seemed to comment on it, I asked a passer-by if I was glowing and they said no, so I suppose it is just a cosmetic way of letting you know you have an ability ready, but doesn't appear to anybody else, unfortunately.

Sleep is overtaking me so I will go, I also have a lot of housework to do after the thanksgiving dinner I cooked - plates and pans all over the place.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dream led me to Delon

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By Melanie Delon.

I had a dream a week or two ago where someone in the dream I met happened to be named Melanie Delon. I have never met anyone with that name, and out of curiousity I searched google and found her website. She's a wonderful artist and has done work for videogames as well. Very cool. Check out her site and see what you think.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nice day

I just finished writing a science fiction essay, and the past week has been really good in preparing me for it. I've been introduced to some interesting blogs through the massively website, and all the science fiction books I've had to read for my class have been great as well. I didn't find that I had any anxiety when writing, and in part I attribute that to the writing I've been doing on this blog in the meantime. I also expected that I would jump onto Aion several times by now, but I actually pulled through and spent the day working, so go me!

Also, having some extra money lying around from student loans, I went onto Itunes and grabbed several albums.

Glory Hope Mountain - The Acorn

Beacons - Ohbijou

The Pink Ghosts - The Acorn

Funeral - Arcade Fire

All happen to be Canadian bands, which is great. I think I've just found my own little niche of music, which is great because mostly I'm faced with the question, "favourite band?" and I have no idea. So far The Acorn is winning.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More pictures from playing today.

First, I arrive at Sanctum, the main capital city for the elves.

It's quite amazing.

When I was running around, you would occasionally see these transparent fish flying in the air on wind currents, and several times while playing I would see dragons just flying around the sky just out of view. Very cool. I also noticed dinosaurs hanging around!

Determined to find more, I ventured out of the City to a nearby province.

After spending the day looking for dinosaurs, I crafted some food for the first time.

Satisfied for a while, I went back to town to sell some potions and show off my wings at the starter area.

After finishing up some quests, I was heralded as a hero by all the NPCs! Not a bad way to end the day. :)

My character ascended today, and here are some pictures I managed to snag during the ceremony. I also have a pic of my new fire pet as well. :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thoughts on Aion (short)

I purchased a digital copy of Aion today, after seeing some trailers for the game and hearing of the good success it's been having. I also heard that servers were full to bursting and extra servers were added to help, so all around it seemed a strong case for trying it. It's had a good history in Asia so far, and it's using the CryEngine, which powered Crysis, one of my favourite games for the computer.

Once I started the game, the music and the visuals really impressed me, and I found the whole experience very nostalgic and touching. It reminded me of when I first started playing MMO's, back on Ragnarok Online when I was still in middle school. It has this wonderful graphics engine powering it, letting the designers have free reign to do anything they want, and they have lovingly captured the feel and essence of those older korean MMO games. The graphics are lush and vibrant, and everything feels so joyful. The music is very nice to listen to, very upbeat and happy. Every so often you get a peak at the engine flexing it's muscles, with wind blowing in tiny wisps across water or with a lightning bolt in the sky during a storm. The weather changes and the time of day shifts every so often, bathing the character in bright vibrant colour, orange glows, and twilight paleness.

It is a game that has made me happy, which is something I really respect. I'm a very depressed sort of person most of the time, and a game that can light up my day like this is very commendable. My computer is flagging behind these days and isn't up to high end details, but surprisingly the game runs very well. I get my high res textures, my bloom, and a tiny bit of anti-aliasing and it runs around 30 frames, which is totally fine for an MMO.

I made a mage character, hoping to get to be a spiritmaster sometime soon, as it reminds me of the summoner from Final Fantasy X. You get all kinds of giant monsters and entities that fight for you, and they look so beautiful.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, I was delighted to find that out of the 43 or more hair styles, they have a mint copy of Cloud's haircut from the Advent Children movie. I know because I have a giant wall scroll of cloud beside my desk, and from close inspection, it's pretty much as close as you could get. So I made my character look like cloud, and off he went into the world. I'm very happy so far.

Here are two pictures of him.

*edit* one more for fun. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Assorted writings


The man shrugs it off but in pretending not to notice, he knows he is being watched. Head cast down he slips out of time and perception, becoming the voiceless shadow he must to be alone with his thoughts.


Light and stone. A tree licks upward like a candleflame, shadows caress leaves and shelter the weary at spring's approach. Sand runs under the wheels of glass-framed cars as trees hold their ground beside telephone poles. Gazing from a window of a moving vehicle, all becomes clear as light-rays stain my pages with lines of ink.


It's past midnight and I'm absorbed in the quiet of my room. Jingling bells from afar precede scratches at my door, before a soft murmur breaks the silence. I open the door to let my friend climb onto the bed we share, as I reflect on my day's events. I learned a song and read a story, but it is the morning's bright caress like alarm bells to my sleepy mind I dread.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Redefining MMOs: co-operation and GNS theory

I remember posting a short review of Fallen Earth on it's forums and receiving around 65 replies and a thousand or more views. Some commented on it like it was an essay, and I thought if I wrote something more academic, they would be certain to love me for it. Of course, no one read it or, if they did, didn't care for it. Luckily there is a gaming website dedicated to MMO's and they've been kind enough to let the average person weigh in on where the genre is headed - a link to that page can be found here. Since I assume you are reading this directly from that website and no where else at present, I'll end this obligatory introduction with my username: abadcoverband.


In this essay I will begin by addressing some issues of relative realism concerning Fallen Earth, and show that the result of pure simulationism is antithetical to other game types. This extends to players and their behaviour toward each other as well, mirroring defensive positions of thought and activity in the real world. Second, that limitations were put in place to appeal to players who enjoy a mix of gaming types, and that this is a good thing and not to be used as a means of contention or insult towards one another. Lastly, I propose a hypothesis that suggests adjusting the pricing scheme of an MMO will further stimulate co-operation and compassionate behaviour, as the chief point of contention (being initial monetary investment) is removed.

If Fallen Earth were entirely realistic, weapons would jam. Crafting a shirt would take far longer than 8 minutes, and you could not explore, do quests, or enter combat during the crafting process. You would have to eat and drink food that was not irradiated. If you had to eat the irradiated food, you would have to constantly contend with sickness and disease. You would not be able to withstand several bullets or knife wounds from another person without serious side effects, taking days or weeks to recover from. You would not regenerate your health (or, if mutated, the health would regenerate to some degree of side-effect). A bandage will not help a punctured lung, etc.

In pen and paper games, it was quickly found that a balance between reality and game 'fiction' had to be struck. It also helped minimize the amount of math and dice rolls that needed to be checked. Take for example this damage formula for blades, bows, and blunt weapons from Bethesda's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:

WeaponDamage = BaseWeaponDamage * fDamageWeaponMult *
( fDamageStrengthBase + Attribute/100 * fDamageStrengthMult ) *
( fDamageSkillBase + ModifiedSkill/100 * fDamageSkillMult ) *
( fDamageWeaponConditionBase + WeaponHealth/BaseWeaponHealth * fDamageWeaponConditionMult )

You may notice that several different things are being checked, from the quality of the weapon to the skill and attributes of the player. A computer game has the advantage in that it can calculate more than a person without slowing gameplay. Pen and paper checks, by contrast, often ignore weapon stability or if the weapon is rusty or if the player is fatigued, and focuses on a simple formula of base damage plus weapon modifier or simplified checks that accelerate gameplay by minimizing calculations a player must make to continue playing.

Fallen Earth could very well add in formulae that check a player's daily fatigue, say, the amount of activity versus rest a player has, and how that will affect their ability to communicate with other players, merchants, etc, not to mention effectiveness in combat and overall efficiency. The game could implement a code that randomly assesses the player's main weapon to make a check based on weapon condition/player fatigue to determine if it jams, and how often it jams. Encumbrance could be calculated to realistically depict the amount of physical weight and stress each person will have to contend with when carrying a large 50 pound backpack as well as a 10 pound weapon and hundreds of magazines of ammunition, food, tools and supplies. Aside from experienced hikers and military units, the ordinary person would not be able to withstand the stress of prolonged weight lifting and the rapid loss of calories from rigorous activity on a day-to-day basis. The psychological stress could be calculated, much like in the Call of Cthulhu pen and paper game, so that the player has to make checks against insanity the longer he or she plays, becoming more frequent the more horrifying the events a character sees or experiences. Failing the checks a character descends into madness, depression and possibly suicide. *See references at bottom of post for more information*

But this is a sample of simulationist thinking and not gamist thinking. IE, the more realistic a game is, the less of a 'game' it becomes. You would not level up, you would not get points - you would simply be a person in a world trying to survive. However, Fallen Earth is a game based on rules and points like other massively multiplayer games, full of competition and caveats such as playing as a 'clone', allowing you to bypass the realities of life and death, and 'mutations' that allow for rapid health regeneration.

If you had a pie graph, you could divide games into three categories: Gamism, Simulationism, and Narrativism: the latter focusing on story driven elements, and the extremes of each form alienating the others. But the best video games are a combination of all three, or at least two. You can see how role-playing games fit into this wheel. You can also see how, given the three archetypes, it is not a bad thing to be more inclined towards one side of the spectrum or another. People will have their own innate preferences, based upon the game types they have enjoyed throughout their lives. Need for Speed: Shift incorporates simulationist and gamist thought by allowing the controls to assist the player and encourage arcade-style racing, while allowing simulationist players the ability to remove those same assists and further, to activate full damage scaling with life-like effects to bring a more realistic experience to the forefront.

Challenging people and calling them names and harassing them because they enjoy a different type of game is futile, in this light. As said, "To each their own", which is why some people like Call of Duty 4 and some like Red Orchestra, the former being a more arcade style shooter and the latter being more realistic in practice. Some prefer Ace Combat 6 and some prefer Microsoft Flight Simulator, again a contrast between arcade style gaming and simulation type gaming as far as airplanes are concerned. World of Warcraft is a streamlined, competitive game that focuses heavily on the gamist side of the spectrum, incorporating elements of narrativism but little in the way of simulationism. Dying is temporary; the game's main drive is fun at the expense of the rules of reality. There are other massively multiplayer games that take a different approach, some with a fully player driven economy or even perma-death, but there are limits to what each person will endure before a game goes too far beyond his or her innate preferences. This falls outside of whether or not a game achieves it's goals, whether technically or otherwise, and resides in whether or not a game is enjoyable to the player.

You will find complaints of Fallen Earth because the game does not align with every individual's preferences for entertainment. Fun is supplanted by toleration, perhaps because you may have friends who play and you want to stay in-game for their sake. I chose this game because the trailers and advertising made me think I was getting a first-person shooter/MMO like Huxley or Planetside, that would in essence be an extension of Fallout 3, that is to say, merging the elements of a first person shooter with role-playing game qualities, much like Deus Ex. When playing Fallen Earth the game functions better in third person mode, and the FPS portion is not conveyed in a manner that appeals to players expecting Deus Ex/Fallout 3 type mechanics (such as incorporating interactive elements/inventory management, like the wrist attached pip-boy), or players who are used to Quake or Counter-Strike's arcade style mechanics and want to get into a more persistent world instead of server hosted maps. In this way, I think most players who come in expecting that aforementioned kind of gameplay will feel misled and upset that they did not get what they wanted. Players who have little to no experience with FPS mechanics will not necessarily mind, nor will players who have an ideal of 'fun' that coincides with what this game gives to the player.

My solution is an adaptation of the east-Asian model for MMO games, whereby a micro-transaction system is employed that offers the game as a free platform for players to sample and ascertain if they like it or not. Committing say, $10 a month to content and items a player wants when he/she can afford it may encourage more players to stay longer and bring friends to the game akin to the viral spread of internet media. It also allows players to try the game and not feel pressured to 'love or hate' it, because the initial investment is the time to install it only. Western massively multiplayer games are beginning to adapt this system gradually, with Dungeons & Dragons Unlimited being the latest addition. D&D Unlimited is free to play with micro-transactions adding content and cosmetics to the game when and if you want them.

To conclude, a game that focuses too heavily on one archetype of gamism, simulationism, or narrativism, will alienate players with alternate game-type preferences. I ask for a more open-minded view of what other people enjoy, and not use it as a point of contention and division. Lastly, I call for a shift in how western MMO's function, changing from a premium retail box fee and monthly subscription cost to a freely distributed platform, backed up with a micro-transaction model that allows players to spend as little or as much on the game as they want, and encourages a 'try before you buy' mentality with no pressure of 'loving or hating' the game. The end result should remove a great deal of anxiety and general defensiveness players have towards a product, as the investment is no longer a point of contention.

See also:


http://worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/GNS_Theory - GNS theory, note: to advance a page, scroll to the bottom of the site

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/13/13975.phtml - information about the call of Cthulhu game

Short Stories

The following is a series of shorts I wrote back before Lord of the Rings Online was released. They are fragmented here, because they were originally placed between posts other people were making on my guild forums at the time. I had a falling out with them and removed my part of the tale shortly afterward. Here are the shorts, without much context, presented to you to read at your leisure.


A squat two-tiered building lay beside the beaten path of the training grounds across from the common stables. A radiant beam of light caressed its roof, casting a glow of dim blue and crimson upon the shingles. The grass waved softly in the breeze as birds began their morning song, and the fluttering jade leaves of proud trees outside the compound cast fanciful shadows upon the gravel path and those traveling it. Several armoured figures moved slowly towards the building, talking to one another anxiously as the morning light gleamed off their equipment, disguising the otherwise dull and beaten gear. The sound of revelry could be heard from within the tavern, encouraging the otherwise melancholy band to hasten their entrance.

Within the tavern lay all the amenities typical to a mercenary refuge, with several roughly sanded wooden tables and chairs taking up the majority of space on the first floor. A bar held precedence at the western wall, shrouded in a haze of swirling smoke, holding upon its rack a sizable amount of liquor given the small venue. A hostess was busily filling another tankard with frothy ale as the group entered. The man receiving the tankard looked up as the armoured contingent marched inside, smiling with recognition before bringing the tankard to his lips and pouring the contents down his gullet. His large frame dwarfed the stool he sat upon as though it were made for a child. His bronzed skin shone in the candlelight as if the fire itself was painting upon his well developed muscles. Like cords of spring steel, the veins in his arms protruded with every gesture, doing little to hide his mammoth strength. With a broad smile he greeted those who entered, his darkened mane of hair matted with sweat from the previous night’s revelries. Slamming the tankard onto the counter, he belched and merrily wiped the froth from his mouth, demanding it to be refilled from the barmaid. One had the sense upon entering the tavern that one was walking into the squalid home of a wolf, and the unusual feeling of discomfort associated with it. One of the men carrying a lute alongside his sheathed sword glanced into the merry drinker’s piercing brown eyes and felt as though he had caught a glimpse of some wild animal that had made its way into the tavern, not a man at all.

A thunderous cry broke his meditative silence, as the brutish man bounded from his stool with surprising grace for all the sack he had touched to his palate. “Drink up, lads! Whether from high tower or valley low, from the ruins of the Dunedain all the way through the land of hobbits, drink I say! You’ll have need of it, for I smell death around you like foam washed upon the sails of a warship.” He gestured towards the new guests with an open hand. “I’d just as quickly get it over with for all the tension these scallywag drunks bring to the bar!” Stopping a moment to drink from his tankard, the bear of a man cast his gaze to others in the bar, some betraying their fear for battle, before raising his mug in the air as though it were a prized trophy. “Wassail! Find your courage in the drink,” he bellowed, “and ale for all lest my name not be Ulfheonar!” An equally thunderous applause broke out from the revellers, some who had clearly revelled too much, captive by the friendly giant from the night before. At the mere mention of more ale an elderly man who had been keeping pace with the others fell over in his chair, spilling what remained in his tankard over his clothing, to which Ulfheonar responded with a hearty laugh, his mighty hands slapping his stomach.


Rising from his stool beside the bar, Ulfheonar listened attentively as Meldarion outlined the scouting plans. As he drew the briefing to a close, Ulfheonar fixed his gaze upon the map and walked slowly over to the table that housed it, placing a hand upon the hilt of his sword. The cloak he had been given as part of the squire-ship enunciation hugged his form gently. Soft wrinkles in the fabric rippled like sea-green waves when he shifted his weight, and would occasionally move aside with a gust of air from an open window to reveal not one, but two weapons along his belt. A pair of short and slightly longer rusted swords were draped along either side of his hips, with a spare short-axe corded up with string and slid into the back of his belt. When he folded his arms and concentrated on the map, one could see a simple cloth tunic covering his broad chest with lightly armoured paddings going down the length of his legs, providing protection for his thighs and behind the knee. The protection was meagre, but he was proud to wear the kit given to him by the Gray Council; he had been celebrating several other candidates who were fortunate enough to be chosen as squires alongside him, and had not ceased the revelries until the moment Meldarion stepped into the tavern and laid out his great plan.

It appeared to Ulfheonar that trouble was but a stone's throw away and after a moment of studying the map, looked up and met Meldarion's eyes. Stiffening his body and standing upright, he wiped the last of the ale off his lips before placing a finger down on the map, landing eastward. "Meldarion," he said, his voice devoid of mirth entire, "I was reared on a naked land. Having survived by makeshift camp, my only guide being the stars above, I learned how to fight from the very creatures that plagued the lands. With tightened grip and rending of flesh, I learned to fight the wolf in close quarters combat of the sort where swords became useless and bare hands had to be weathered like granite to ensure survival. Even then the frenzied howl I did fear, until that same piercing shriek did instill in my soul a burning instinct for the hunt. Ere did I follow the hounds and hone my nose to smell as they do, to study the tracks where human senses fail, and remain hidden in the leaves to catch hare, fox, and coon for the feast. Some say the people of Dunland be savage, aye, and I stand proof of that claim before your eyes. But the low-laying mire is where I make my home, not the trappings of steel cages and labyrinthine tombs of stone your people call cities." He tapped the map again, keeping his eyes locked with Meldarion. "I will take a small charge to the East, if you will have it, and find the invading host. Whatever their foul devices may be, by fire or stone you shall be made aware. Of that I give my word." Bringing his hand up to rub his temple he steadied himself as he met the gaze of the men and women around him, then added in a weary tone, "Though a moment of rest for my aching head would be welcome, if there is but a moment to spare."


One by one the candle flames were extinguished, their gray wisps of smoke like brush strokes upon the air. One by one the shutters were opened, the rays of white light chasing away the orange dim and gray shadows of the tavern. The dust twinkled and reflected light upon the naked eye; a thousand falling sapphires, jewels, emeralds and stars emerged and then blinked out of existence just as quickly when the light began to pass through the coloured glass of an old lantern hanging by the window. It was into this kaleidoscope of light that Ulfheonar reflected his own thoughts. It was not the barbarous accent, pounds of muscle, nor embers that swirled in his eyes that made him strong; it was the inner fire of courage, confidence, and will that made him a force of nature. Fire spreads and fire burns from even the smallest spark, and compared to the gods who rest on jewelled thrones upon the highest misty peaks, such a man as Ulfheonar would appear to be naught but a wink of light emerging and then blinking out of existence to their immortal reign. A man's worth was not measured in physical size. One by one the squires did file out of the tavern, and to each did Ulfheonar attach his gaze and search beyond the flesh for hearts that burned ethereal, leaving aeriform wisps to mingle with the brush strokes of extinguished candles.

With furrowed brow the savage rested a hand under his chin and brushed the hair of his beard above the lip in a thoughtful motion. It seemed the squires that permeated the compound carried the spark he sought, though there were others who would not survive the coming siege. He carefully concluded that their presence was still vital, as shields of bone could be substituted for shields of iron in battle, giving those imbued with warrior spirit an opportunity to prolong their warfare upon the enemy; those who would pass his silent test would accompany him to the front lines of battle to exact the highest death toll among the approaching war-band. Leaving his tankard behind, Ulfheonar relaxed his posture and walked silently out of the tavern, disappearing into a portal of pure white light to those whom eyes had not yet adjusted to the break of day.


The compound was filled with activity. Metal buckles clinked against armoured pads, swords were sheathed and unsheathed, and in each direction ran another squire or knave making themselves ready for what lay ahead. The bustle was that of a stirred hornet's nest, one filled with eager creatures readying their respective stingers for the pelting of rocks that would surely come. Unlike bees, hornets can sting several times before dying. Ulfheonar knew that in this particular compound there were certainly a few bees running around, and the task of finding a suitable partner for his scouting patrol was becoming more and more daunting. Standing upon the lower steps of the tavern, he scanned the gravel paths, the stables across from him, and either sides of the tavern, looking for someone who wasn't already taken with another task. His hands wandered down to the holstered weapons around his waist, toying with the hilts as he pondered. He loathed the feeling of helplessness associated with dependency, working his thoughts upon the grip of his weapons now. He clenched his teeth and began gritting them as his eyes narrowed, the alcohol in his body not countervailing the feeling of rage that was building up inside of him by any means. With each twist and grind of the handle, the sound of strained leather complimented the inner turmoil building within him. Several minutes passed. Having been lost in thought, he noticed he was wearing out the leather hilts and released his hold with a sigh.

Coming to his senses, he skipped down the remaining steps of the tavern and threw himself to the ground, trying to wear out his anger with push-ups. Simultaneously he was getting covered in dirt and mud, which again went unnoticed in the beast's mind. He tried counting each repetitious movement but found his voice too choked up with adrenaline, and so relegated his speech to grunts and other animal noises. After the hundredth push-up, and finding that he was no closer to wearing himself out, he half-thought of asking one of the passing hobbits to sit on his back but withdrew the idea for the sake of their safety. This outburst of energy and anger was nothing compared to the real frenzy he'd work himself into before the coming battle, and had at times in the past been known for attacking allies who came too close at the apex of his unsated blood lust. It was for their safety that he vented his anger upon the ground, now. After the second hundredth push-up some of his energy began to wane, and so he sat up on his knees, breathing heavy and watching the horses eat from their troughs at the stable parallel to him. He repeated to himself mentally that he would have to remember to remind whoever he was saddled with that in heights of emotion he was somewhat of a wild man, as uncontrollable as the winds of a hurricane.

Finding his balance, the barbarian stood tall with straightened back and began to stretch. In the back of his mind he knew that his ire was merely pacified for the time being. Taking out a scrap of parchment as well as some coal from one of his pockets, he wrote down a requisition before tacking it to the exterior of the tavern door. It read,

"I pray thee read onward if skill in stealth ye possess. Gallant warriors, most happy are they when there is hope for battle, are needed. If smashed spear-head or broken blade come by you upon the eve of warring and with them so to does your skill break, heed not this letter's request. If ye be affeared of the Eastward wood come nightfall or grow loath of discomforts paired with it, preferring to hide head keelward as if showers of water were arrows, do not heed this letter's request. If thou rightly continued reading this parchment, with bearing both skillful and dutiful, hasten thee to the one known as Ulfheonar at the Training Grounds of this very compound."

After checking to see that the paper would hold its place, Ulfheonar stepped backwards down the steps, keeping his gaze fixed upon the parchment to make sure the wind would not blow it away. Satisfied with his work, he spun around and jaunted up the path toward the northernmost grounds of the compound, eager to practice his fighting skills and await whomever would answer his summons.


From the arrow-slits of the donjon, one would be afforded a view both pantheistic and heartbreaking. Going back to times immemorial, men (and now women too) were preparing for war. The purpose of their engagement was then unclear, but to they who practiced with sword and arrow, it mattered little. The enemy whom everyone could see and seldom had power to conquer was time itself. When the sun next rose to greet the inhabitants of the bailey, who among them would have eyes to greet with? Would the gods part the clouds to attend the battle? Despite divinity they would observe and endure man's inhumanity to man, weeping from a distance with the clouds themselves. Say all who fight, "Bring us glory in death!", and to those above, "Bring them glory in life!” The fighters fought the dummies, archers arrowed targets, ere did the axe chop the wood for machinations of war, no thought paid to their own self-destructive nature.

-Excerpt from Strato's journal, two days after the razing of the compound.

With a heave and a sigh, another block of wood was splintered in half. Having no particular desire to fight with warriors of hay, Ulfheonar instead chose to chop wood with methodical, meditative strokes of the axe. Wiping his brow, the sun beating down on him, he rested the axe head upon the ground and took a moment to gather himself. Other squires who were waiting for their turn to patrol, or had come merely to sharpen their skills, were vigorously slashing at dummies, notching arrows at rounded targets, or chopping wood to pass the time. It was decided through Ulfheonar's self-imposed break that food supplies, light clothing, and plenty of water were needed for his patrol. He hoped that whoever chanced upon his script at the tavern could tolerate rough conditions, as he had no plans to bring firewood with him. Were the route shorter, he conceded that a horse would be better left to the stables for all the dung they left on the road; if ambushing the ambushers was called for, it was best to leave no trace behind. Fire creates light and smoke, and the smell of cooked food may drift throughout the wood attracting all manner of beast and man alike. It was his nose, Ulfheonar concluded, that he would inevitably have to rely on. The brush was thick, so seeing the enemy from a distance would prove difficult; staying downwind was crucial, and should they chance upon the droppings of a man, broken twigs or cut leaves, they would have to stalk the forest like panthers, using their hearing and sense of smell to catch the lookout off-guard. Only the inexperienced would make the mistake of thinking a camp consisted merely of men by a fire, Ulfheonar thought, for the encircling spotters would have more than one arrow poised at your back. To die in such a manner was not considered glorious among his people.

With an amused smile he rested his hands upon his hips and mused about a cushy hobbit intercepting his note, and envisioned the short trip that would follow. Surely after the second or third meal break of the hour, the insistence for jaunts of cooked animal meat over berries and foliage would alert even the basest of guards around the imagined camp he sought to find. Arguing would follow, raised voices would echo the woods, and come nightfall, after wandering off and leaving Ulfheonar to sleep unguarded in search of mushrooms, they would both awake in cages over pots of boiling water or spike pits. With a hearty laugh the man of Dunland then envisioned the last words he would hear should a thing occur, with the hobbit complaining that the cage was too "dirty" and "uncivilized" as the men of Angmar pierced their flesh with spear-tips. Stifling his laughter, Ulfheonar turned his gaze from the practicing squires to the entrance of the training grounds, where a tall intimidating man with a pipe in his mouth stood, anything but cushy. "He'll do", he muttered with a grin.


A ring of smoke blew into the taller man's face, but no cough betrayed him. The duo stood facing each other with locked eyes, the smoke dancing upon the iris of each man like black wisps that foreshadow the flame made from bow and kindling. A gust of wind burst from the beast's nose, clearing the air between them and bringing the grounds to silence. The savage released his grip, letting the hatchet fall to the ground. Squires who had not already turned their attention to the standoff did so, allowing the rounded targets and straw filled dummies a moment of reprieve. With a slow and meditative motion the imposing figure brought his hand to hip-level with the challenger, taking the lit pipe from him and holding it aloft in the space between both men. The pipe was then brought to bear at eye level so that each could see it without shaking their intimidating stare. Closing his hand into a fist, the barbarian's muscles hardened into tree trunks, the veins winding along the length of his arm like corded strings of steel upon his bronzed sinews. The pipe was crushed, burning embers and all, the sound of breaking wood coupled with a soft, drawn out hiss. He opened his hand and let the ashes crumble to the earth below, as the squires watched on. Silence.

A moment passed, and then another, before finally the silence was broken with a resounding crack that would have been mistaken for thunder had storm clouds been present. Slapping Syngar's back boisterously, and laughing just as carefree, Ulfheonar relaxed his posture and smiled wildly. The squires let out a collective sigh of relief as the tension evaporated from the grounds, settling their nerves with reassuring banter as they returned to normality. "I admire your bravery fellow warrior," Ulfheonar said after his laughter had died down, "else I worry about your sanity! For it was either boldness or stupidity that bade you to do such an action, but since you mentioned my note I can only surmise courage." Ulfheonar took out a scrap of parchment and eyed it carefully as he continued. "Regardless, your merit will be tested when we leave this place. I have here a list of supplies for the road ahead," and here Ulfheonar looked up and met Syngar's gaze, "pipe-weed being not on the list. We move against the trained hunters of Angmar with full intention to keep them unaware of our actions and learn what they know of us. I won't risk firewood either. Mayhaps we will get lucky and they will make that mistake for us, providing us with an easy time of it, though I am doubtful of such a thing occurring." Sensing some discomfort after giving over the list, Ulfheonar placed his hand on Syngar's shoulder with sympathy. "A deal then is the thing, for compensation of your lost pipe. Should you earn my trust in the wood, and I yours, a new pipe will I purchase for you of the finest craft, and the beard on my face will I cut free," patting his own cheek with a smile, "for there is much wealth to be gained from those foolish enough to oppose us. Unless there is anything more to say, take that list and bring it to the food-stores while I saddle the horses. If you have trouble carrying anything, tell them who it is for and I am certain they will be more than glad to carry it for you." Turning his head and meeting the eyes of an observing squire in the bailey was all that had to be done to cause the young man to yelp and skitter away towards the gate.


A cool breeze kicked up in the afternoon, rippling the blades of grass as waves caress the beach. The air was mild and warm, the sun had taken a firm grasp on the sky, and the clouds were scarce. Ulfheonar left himself to be enchanted by the fine weather, closing his eyes and breathing deeply; spiritually nestling himself deep within nature's womb. It was a small wonder to him that people could long for a complex city life while the simple offered the most; the rustling leaves and singing birds were his orchestra, the soil and tilled land his market square, his quiet reflections upon stumped tree-trunks the equivalent of lectures in great halls. He pondered the need for land, the desire to reign over men while amassing and hoarding wealth, and the battles that waged over lines in the sand. Clutching his cloak close to him to keep the breeze from chilling his arms, he looked out across the visible tree line, the mountain ranges in the distance, and the unending ocean of sky above him. It bemused him to think as his compatriots did, or those of the Angmar forces soon approaching, that any mortal creature could [i]own[/i] the infinite. In truth, one could merely put a label on something so big and claim it for their own, but it, like the wind, belongs only to itself. It was for these reasons that Ulfheonar then thought of his own people and their nomadic way of life - traveling with the herd, migrating with the weather, hunting out of necessity and claiming no property; either of man, beast, structure, or borders on a map. It fascinated him to study the 'civilized' man, as a stranger in a strange land is wont to do.

It was upon this very thought that Syngar returned from the gate, seemingly empty-handed save for the scrap of parchment given to him by Ulfheonar's hand. "I don't need any of this," Syngar said with a tone of irritation, "my senses, my hatchet, and my bow is all I will need out there. Let us make haste." He held the parchment in a lackluster way, letting the wind tempt it over the walls and into the blue yonder, with an expecting look upon his face. Reaching out and calmly taking the paper, Ulfheonar studied it once more, and looked up at Syngar with a slight air of confusion on his face. "Syngar, all goods and equipment are essentially a luxury. I know this, I am used to improvising in the wild, but even my people would meet and trade with settlers for common goods." He glanced at the list and continued. "Things like fish hooks, a shovel, matches, candles, parchment, and bandages may seem far-removed from our task, but they are certainly worth getting while we stand among friends." Ulfheonar folded the paper and placed it inside a pocket with remarkable grace for someone with hands so big. "I suppose we can subsist on plants and dig for springs of water, but why not bring a canteen while we can? Considering the danger we head into, bandages are as good an idea as warm jackets for the night. I'll go and fetch some lard as well as we can't cook, though candles will do in a pinch, since we can't rely on hares or coons to thoroughly feed us. The meat is too stringy, though if we find any small feral cats we can use their innards for reliable bow-strings." Syngar began to grimace. "I'll fetch food rations, but we pack light," Ulfheonar added, walking towards the gate. "We'll need a map to know where we are to patrol. I'll tell Meldarion that we'll be departing and that if he has no word from us by to-morrow eve, something is amiss. Go to the stables and saddle our horses while I get what we need." Turning on his heels, he silently slipped through the gate despite the giant body he inhabited.


Several hours had passed since Syngar and Ulfheonar had begun their patrol of the north-east route, and with them brought little worth describing. Suffice to say several breaks were had, roads were checked for other human tracks, canteens were emptied and then refilled with water springs, and at meal times the pair sat and waxed machismo while eating foraged berries and springs of leaf. Soon the sun set itself into the horizon, warping the colour of the sky and clouds to a red and crimson glow. At night they happened upon a natural covering to hide themselves from the cold wind as they slept in shifts, eating lard out of their palms and gnawing on dry rations. Ulfheonar would lay slumped against a tree with a sword across his lap, and Syngar would sit on the bark of a fallen tree, keeping the horses company as they knelt and slept.

By daybreak the pair were off again, moving from the East up to the North on their patrol, passing through the brush and clearing, over the knolls and logs, and bounding over the grass - all the while covered in sparkling patterns cast by the roof of the tree line. An hour later, they had ceased their steadfast journey, leaving the horses tethered to a batch of trees surrounded with enough brush to keep them out of sight. With careful steps, slight pauses, and silent gestures between the pair, they came to a halt outside the perimeter of a camp. Syngar dutifully marked the location of the camp (roughly 6 miles North East of the Gray Council compound), as Ulfheonar checked for traps and indications of ambush. They knew a camp was nearby for the change in air temperature, the smell of burning wood wafting in on a northern breeze, and the remains of fallen branches and leafy stocks discarded in its direction. Syngar recognized the markings as having come from that of a sword, slowly widening with each branch - the blade that was used was becoming more and more dull with each cut, assuring Syngar that the invading company were about as poorly equipped as they were.

The two continued their investigation, making sure they kept downwind as often as possible, for, as Syngar had hastily concluded in their first few moments together, the barbarian's one true weakness was bathwater and soap. Staying true to their survival instincts and past experiences granted them the upper hand when Ulfheonar spotted a small wisp of smoke that ended with a red flare among the trees. Moving closer, and squinting as best he could manage, the outline of a small figure sitting on an equally small wooden plank became apparent. Dressed in earth tones, the hunched character was sitting with his back to the trunk of the tree, high enough to have a clear vantage point of the surrounding area --when, Syngar hastened to add upon discovery, he was paying attention. For, as luck would have it, the pair came across the guard on his meal break, and devised a clever plan of attack suitable for such an encounter.

Caught glimmering in the field below, a bright light beckoned to the woodsman, disappeared, and did so again. Taking the pipe from his mouth and resting a broken slab of bread beside him, the guard placed his boot on the edge of the plank and leaned forward to get a better view. The brush was thick and elusive, and to his eyes all he could see were patches of jade and silver glints of metal. Cautiously, he picked up his bow and reached back for an arrow to nock into the bowstrings, his eyes fixated on the light below - it might have been the glinting steel of Syngar, if not for what happened next.

A surprised yelp, followed by an outright yell, ended with a triumphant and resounding crash upon the earth. The unfortunate woodsman lay in a crumpled heap amid the bushes, his glittering prize a mere fishhook on a line. Like the sirens of ancient myth luring men to their doom, a line and the able hand of a barbarian continued the tradition in a fateful way. Using his silent prowess and pleasant smell, Syngar had carefully made his way up the tree branches to the plank of the guard unnoticed, and at the most opportune moment had aided nature with the gentlest of nudges. Ulfheonar inspected the corpse as Syngar searched the supplies above.

A plan was made based upon their findings: from the body of the scout, Ulfheonar retrieved some coins and procured some identifying marks, and from the supplies the man was eating, it was agreed that he was to be there for quite some time. The amount of water and food rations indicated a watch of at least four to five hours, and the amount that remained untouched upon the pair's fated arrival would allude to one, maybe one and a half of those hours served. The duo made sure to scatter the arrows and make the scene look like an accident, careful not to upset the fallen body for fear of detection. When a person ceases to be alive, the blood pools and forms white, mottled patches on the skin in places not directly leaning against another object; it is from this process of livor mortis that the experienced are able to discern a person's time of death, and if the two had decided to shift the body to another position, it wouldn't take more than a careful glance to know that somebody had suspiciously moved him.

With a newfound sense of adventure, Syngar and Ulfheonar proceeded inward toward the camp, now certain that they had a window of at least two hours with which to study and map out armaments, equipment, and other essentials before having to retreat. Silently, carefully, the pair melded into the shadows and continued their mission of reconnaissance.

Preface to a short story series I never finished.

"Concerning the people known to us as Dunlendings"

From the North-Western lands of Middle Earth beginning with the House of Haleth, second of the three houses of Edain, came distant relatives to the Dúnedain known now as the Dunlending. Split by the great river of Sirion into East and West lay Beleriand, host of the final war against Morgoth in the First Age. The three houses fought alongside the Valar, marching across Beleriand to meet the dark forces of Morgoth on the plains of Anfauglith. It is said that the glory of their weaponry illuminated the land, with brilliant lights from the battle visible for miles in any direction. In the aftermath, the Orc armies of Melkor were utterly crushed – so too were the Balrogs, a scarce few fleeing the battle to hide themselves among the darker recesses of the world. The great land of Beleriand lay in ruins, leaving only a fraction of its Eastern territory behind to form what is now known as Lindon. The survivors of the war fled to Númenor, else they crossed the Ered Luin, settling upon either side of the Gwathló, or moving into the Ered Nimrais. The Haladin of the Gwathló became the ancestors to the Dunlending people; forest dwellers, numerous and warlike.

The Gwathuirim opposed the Númenórean people, who had failed to recognize that the forest-folk of Minhiriath were their distant cousins, instead mistaking them for those descended from Morgoth’s allies, as the language they spoke bore little resemblance to that of Hador and Beor. Thus the estrangement between the peoples grew into conflicts of war and blood, as the Númenóreans had want for timber, and the Gwathuirim were natural forest-dwellers. By the Second Age, the Gwathuirim and their land were known as Enedwaith, as they lay between the newly founded Númenórean successor states of Gondor and Arnor. They were largely ignored by Gondor, but were soon to be scattered once more by the ravages of the War of Elves and Sauron in S.A. 1700. By S.A. 3320, the land of Enedwaith formed the northernmost region of the new Kingdom of Gondor, in an official capacity, before the Great Plague of T.A. 1636 began. The plague completely depopulated Cardolan, one of Arnor's 'successor states', with whom Gondor would have shared Tharbad's maintenance - Tharbad being the only settlement of Númenóreans in Enedwaith. Cardolan's few surviving Dúnedain - including those in Tharbad - fled west to Arthedain. Gondor too was devastated, and in the years following the Plague, traffic along the road through Tharbad declined considerably, leaving many parts of Eriador to fall into decay. The woodland that the Enedwaith occupied was left relatively unscathed by the plague, and with the Dúnedain slowly fading away and most of Gondor ravaged, the healthy forest-dwellers began to colonize Calenardhon, reclaiming the land between Adorn and Isen that had been given to the Éothéod; ancestors to the Rohirrim.

By the Third Age the Enedwaith’s old hatred of the descendants of Númenor kept them isolated, and encouraged them to abstain from learning Westron, the common tongue. The descendents of the Éothéod renamed the foot-hills of their western neighbours 'Dunland', the Hill Country, and its inhabitants 'Dunlendings', while also renaming the Calenardhon to Rohan. Competing for territory led to open war between the two peoples during the reign of Helm Hammerhand (T.A. 2741–2759), who had himself battled in open warfare with the Dunlendings that operated out of Isengard. Isengard itself had originally been a fortress loyal to Gondor, though the guards who were stationed there inevitably lived and died, and by the time of the Steward of Gondor Beren, they had all but intermarried with the people of Dunlending to the extent that Isengard became hostile to Gondor.

By the Long Winter of T.A. 2758–2759, Wulf, son of Freca, managed to besiege the Hornburg and capture Edoras itself, killing Helm Hammerhand's son and heir. It wasn't until Helm's nephew Fréaláf killed Wulf at the end of the Long Winter that Rohan was able to recapture Edoras and drive out the Dunlending people. In the aftermath, Saruman appeared after years of absence and offered Fréaláf his support and friendship. On Fréaláf's advice Beren gave the keys of Orthanc to Saruman, to guard it in the name of Gondor.

By the time the Númenórean city of Tharbad fell to devastating floods during the Fell Winter of T.A. 2912, only two groups survived in Enedwaith: the Dunlendings of the Far East behind the Isen, and barbarous fisher-folk along the coast. Dunland now stands north of Isenguard on the Western side of the Misty Mountains, parallel to the Fangorn forest over the hills to the East. It is in Dunland in T.A. 2983 that the one who would come be to known as Ulfheonar was born, sharing that year of birth with Faramir, brother of Boromir and second son to Denethor II, the Steward of Gondor, and Finduilas, daughter of Adrahil of Dol Amroth. And while Faramir lived and became a skilled man-at-arms and leader of men in the white city of Minas Tirith, Ulfheonar of Dunland warred and became equally proficient at leading men, though he was raised with wolves - for it should be known that the tribes of the Dunlending were nomadic in nature, prone to travelling in barbarous packs, each having different dialects of their native tongue; a mere semblance of their former glory.

Log 4

Thinking about human nature makes me really feel depressed. I have a hard time justifying anything that humans have done, and everything just feels like it was achieved for the wrong reasons. The technology has improved but human nature has not, and every day just feels closer to the time when we become extinct. People like to think that we've progressed to a more enlightened time, but it was only recently that we still had slavery, that European settlers landed in the west and exploited good people and made them slaves or butchered them. That until the last few decades, people of colour could not go to the same schools as white people, drink from the same water fountains, have the same basic rights.

Women throughout the world are still being suppressed and exploited, whether via religious veils or through the entertainment industry, exploiting their bodies for male pleasure like meat in a grinder. Women get the short end of the stick in most things, being told what they can and cannot aspire to by masoginists, being forced to hide their bodies in black outfits leaving slits for eyes: a disgusting symbol of male dominance. People who stand up to the problems in the world end up dead, and since the time when Lazarus was resurrected and then killed once more, nothing has changed. I can't find any hope in anything humanity does. The only thing that gives me some solace is music.

If people were part of an enlightened society, no one would willingly manipulate and torture/kill other life forms for their own amusement or food. Science has given us the ability to create food that does not require something to be murdered, and yet people still choose to inflict as much indirect harm as they can by eating a once living creature for the benefit of taste, something that the non-meat foods can replicate better and better each day. It is immoral to kill, to keep animals pregnant so that we can enjoy their milk, to take their young away to be slaughtered, to force animals to perform for our amusement, to keep them in cages to be gawked at. The list goes on. But it is easier to ignore suffering when it is not in front of you, when it is masked in a breaded strip of white chewy 'something' on your plate. To string a pig up by it's hind legs, cut it's throat, and then drop it into boiling water (often times while it's still alive) to remove the skin and fur, to butcher it and consume it for the sake of taste, a full stomach for an hour or so, is criminal when there are options that do not require any suffering at all. To justify such wanton abuse of other species with something as obscene as "I prefer the taste" or "I like how this fur/leather looks on me" is shameful, and that it is so common and not seen as wrong by any means makes me beyond furious.

Humanity creates bigger and better weapons to kill itself. The 'humanity' is stripped out of soldiers in the military, 'humanity' is left behind when we watch people fight each other inside of a cage till one is left a bloody mess, 'humanity' or compassion is something too easily left behind. It's a joke. We all pretend to be civilized but everything in our culture says otherwise. We're self-destructive and in denial about it. We even use religion to suggest that our actions are guided by a higher power, and therefore frees us from responsibility of our actions. God is on our side when we commit genocide against other humans because they don't share our beliefs or values. God is on our side when we commit genocide for resources that will make our country stronger, when we protect 'our way of life'. Whatever peaceful notions religion began with are gone, replaced by excuses for rampant bloodshed.

I try to be hopeful, I try to help and lessen my impact on the world, but everything in Western culture is designed to work against that. To be a moral person is to battle upstream perpetually. On television, in books, on the internet....wherever mainstream culture exists, there is no room for the moral person. That person becomes an outsider, a novelty to bring up at dinner over veal and alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs.

I find it so very hard to believe in people, so very hard to think that we will not destroy ourselves in the near future. Sartre said "Hell is other people", and I think he was on to something. I just wish the world turned out like Mr Rogers and Seseme Street made it seem, full of love and equality and respect. It'll never happen until every last human on the planet adopts morality over self-indulgent excess and greed.

Log 3

The biggest appeal of post-apocalyptic stories is that they show us what might be, and serve as a cautionary tale. Stockpiling nuclear weapons and spreading biological infections that turn people into zombies is a bad thing, but makes for an interesting story especially if it's presented in a realistic way. Post-apocalyptic tales are also very entertaining because they tend to focus on individuals who overcome their barren, solitary existance and begin anew, like pioneers or early settlers. Sometimes the character even manages to save the entire world through his or her actions, showing that a single person can make a difference. Despite the setting, the stories can be hopeful, and show that no matter what happens, nothing can really squash the human spirit and our stubborn persistance.

Another thing about the end of the days is that it involves the purging of mainstream culture and starts fresh. The old is wiped away, and a new order is put in place. Mostly, the stories are a return to nomadic lifestyles with no massive cultural centers, and government is abolished. The anarchy that replaces the old system provides much more personal freedom, and a person becomes committed to the family and the self, over the entire society. Theres something appealing about getting away from it all, moving from the humdrum life in the city for a quiet, personal life among the plains. I think that's why most post-apocalyptic scenarios depict a vast, sprawling wasteland of land or water, rich with opportunity and untamed once more. Despite looking like a horrible nightmare world of grays and browns, green water and crumbling buildings, the stories almost always take place after the radiation has settled and at the point where people are starting to reclaim the world for their own. Part of the fantasy for me when I play a game in the Fallout series is the exploration and personal achievement that comes with taming a new world. Cultural centers are at most a collection of shanty style huts in a crater, and at times just two homes made out of spare parts and old world know-how under a ruined bridge.

The fun is in surviving and making a new world, and by having the old world completely obliterate itself shows just how faulty and full of problems it was. The allure of a new world is that it's made by the few who could survive, and who possess the knowledge of the past and know how it came to disaster, and who know how to avoid it. Any problems with the world will be washed away in atomic fire, a real cleansing. You could say that mainstream culture needs a reboot, that it's inevitable that we blow ourselves to bits, and that we should just as well look forward to it. Stop worrying and love the bomb.

Another thing that survival stories of this kind do is prepare people mentally for a nightmarish scenario, and show them what they can expect. The best part of realistic science fiction of the kind Asimov employed is that it takes a very focused look at our current society and extrapolates on it, predicting a future if things stay on course. The resulting future can be analyzed and thought upon, and affect how we deal with it now. Genetic modification, robot slaves, time machines, dinosaur themeparks: how they fit into our world and the changes made can be examined, and if these things sound harmless at first, they quickly appear to have deadly side-effects that are best avoided. If one of these things is unavoidable, talking about it through story can at least prepare someone for the future. A recent video I watched stressed the importance of violent videogames in a child's education, to teach them how to survive in the future. While humourous, it may not have been totally off the mark, since it does get you thinking about how you would adapt later on.

Primarily the stories are about human endurance, our strength at adapting, and getting away from the culture in order to rebuild it from the ground up. The backdrop of a nuclear wasteland just serves as a means of telling a story of retaming the world for a better future, getting the individual more attuned to nature, and appreciating nature for all it's given us. In exchange for a world made by many, you would get a more responsible world made by the one.

Log 2

"If we can send a 17-year-old to war, why not a 16-year-old? 15? 12? 10? (Kids are brutal enough in the school yard, they make terrific soldiers.)"

In the last report I took a fairly serious stance about the cause and effect of war. That it preys upon notions imbued to the individual through the media is one example I mentioned. Simply put, that war is fun, or war is a respectable enterprise. In the past few classes we've even seen how intrinsically linked the military and commercial industries are, and that has to reflect outwardly to some degree doesn't it? It can be viewed as a mixed bag and resembles the struggles environmentalists have between commercial industry and animal exploitation for example, or as a sign of the times...something to solidify that beyond our self-praise, we're just more advanced animals that like to club each other over the head with bigger and better tools. It's depressing to know how our prosperity and frugal enjoyments are so deeply sown with the military. Far more depressing is the idealized view people have towards the military and how it pervades our culture, that when watching a sitcom or awards show, it's commonplace to have somebody ask the audience to clap and support the troops or even have interviews with plucky soldiers on late-night talkshows. My favourite online shooter happens to be Call of Duty 4, before that it was Counter Strike - I can't figure out why I find war and war mongering so disgusting and yet can't help but enjoy the first person action games that take their cue from military counterparts. Perhaps I'm overthinking it and a cigar is just a cigar - the games are fun.

But it would be a mistake to assume that young men and women flock in droves to the military to see what a first person shooter would be like in person. I think that a fair amount of arm-chair marines would be too bothered to even try paintball or airsoft in real life, let alone the front lines. So the other force at work is the government, and it has the power to force people to war whether it appeals to them or not. A draft.

I've heard stories of solider faking their age to get into the army sooner than later during the Second World War, but a draft is something different. It takes a generation of people just coming out of childhood and puts a gun in their collective hands for better or worse. The justification for 18 or 17 year olds may simply be that it's a nice convienent number, co-inciding with the age of majority. That they can't legally drink but they can murder people is an oddity, but perhaps the product of bureaucracy and nothing more. Aside from the legality of it, it's infuriating to the person who has a family of their own and has to lose someone they want to keep because of a number. Too often it feels like shouting at the sun for going down at the end of the day, and that it's simply an inevitable thing. Wars of the past were fought with younger people than 18, relagating the very young to be powder monkeys running around re-stocking guns with ammo belts for what it was worth.

Summarily I cannot think of a explanation for using younger and younger people without coming across as selfish. I would rather war be a thing of the ancient past and that we've embraced a more enlightened philosophy of co-habituation. That I could be drafted tomorrow should the country go to war terrifies me, and that I have no say in it nor does any other family member who's taken charge of me from my birth reminds me the most of using slaves to get the dirty work done. In the past slaves were used to cement foundations for empires and the building and maintaining work that was exceedingly dangerous at times. Like slaves, soldiers from Vietnam were treated with apathy if anything, and like slaves they had to hump and carry and march on day and night with their friends dying all around them. That the politicians who declare wars do not themselves join the front line ranks is just another resemblance to slave labour. The only difference is the propaganda that drums up the desire to become a slave and all the benefits it grants you. It worries me that should the government enter total war once more, that the women will join the men as an inadvertant side-effect of the feminist rights movements of earlier times. We'll cast our populace upon the rocks and lift out the survivours with the unsullied hands of those who sent the orders. So it goes.

Log entry 1

"If we lock on to a sense that the foot soldier possesses an inherent
nobility, then what? What comes out of that?"

It is not difficult to attach ideas of glory and well earned recognition to the fighting men and women of the armed forces, especially if they happened to have fought during something I consider the "Golden Age" of wars. This term refers to those wars and battles that were as brutal as any other war, but yet from our cultural memory harken back to a more noble time of clear cut distinctions of good and evil. Memory isn't always reliable.

Society is comprised of war widows and soldiers who may not return to their life before the war, who never truly forget what war has shown and done to them. These individuals have lost friends, lost battles, lost sanity, lost youth, remain lost to those they return to. These people go to remembrance day ceremonies and silently contemplate meaning in their lives, shaken and torn and hastily re-constructed as they were with the help of people who were not there and some who were. They talk amongst other survivors to piece together and re-tell their stories to find some sense in all of it. Water runs from their eyes freely, turning to vapour upon pyres that no tear may quench.

Society is comprised of ambitious young men and women, bolstered by tales of courage and valour, a willingness to prove oneself and live up to past glories. Some of these people will see war films and quote lines and refer to then enemies of the Allied Forces insofar as racial indignations will reach. They go to remembrance day ceremonies and see respect, perceived hero-worship, and settle for hardships paid by their grandfathers for a favourable cause: a clear cut battle between good and evil. Water runs from their eyes freely, a flood of pride and awe washing their faces clean from doubt of war's nobility.

Young men and women favour their culture's mainstream perception of battle and war, remembering the good fight against a clearly defined evil. The young do not seek out veterans to hear their stories - those stories come to them through a variety of entertainment media. Alongside gameplay in EA's Pacific Assault of 2004 come shaking and real interviews from men who were there and serve to add authenticity to the experience. Juxtaposed with a product of entertainment, their experiences become a product of entertainment too. Choice sound bytes are captured and presented to the player, when presented in the context of an enjoyable action game, leaving a strange and skewed impression of what war is. Burdens of war equate carrying a cross for the betterment of all. Their pain becomes our pleasure.

Let us be clear then, that war is an ineffable evil that destroys lives and damns us all. War is also a tradition of the human species, carving out the world that we currently live in and regarded as such in the culture. Good and evil become abstract appendments depending on what country won and lost. We are always on the side of good when we win, regardless of who we are or what we've done to win.

When I ask my step-father about our current war, he thinks it's foolish, without purpose. Nothing to rally behind. Certainly not defending our country. He looks at the Second World War with reverance. His father served as a war photographer and his brother Donald stormed the beaches, lasting a short while in the European campaign before being mortally wounded and dying later in a military field hospital. My grandfather served in the Navy during that same war and my mother's uncle was a British commando who never talked openly about his work. My half-brother Peter currently serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has served, will serve, for longer than I know. In memory or in action. Despite a heritage of military tradition, my family remains anti-war. They honour the dead as lost family members.

". . . these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang."