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Coursera: Online Games Week 2

This week in Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

This week the class is going to dig a little deeper into Tolkien, the social aspect of MMOs and take a look at one of my favorite epic poems: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Readings
– J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (complete novel)
– Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Gameplay
This week’s in-game activities ask you to explore (or if you are a more experienced player, help others to explore) the social world of LOTRO. You have two options for completing the in-game assignment:

1. If you are in one of the four Coursera kinships, participate in the games planned for Saturday, July 26, 2014. Take a screenshot of yourself and some of your kin mates at the games.
OR
2. If you are not a member of one of the Coursera kinships, you should join a kinship and have a conversation with another member of the kinship in /kinship chat. Then travel to your kinship house and take a screenshot of yourself in front of or inside it. If your kinship does not have a house, travel to one of the housing areas on your own and explore. Find an interesting place to take a screenshot of your character in the kinship area.

I’ve started watching (well, listening) to the videos for this week already. I’m SUPER excited about Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came! I first ran across this poem in college and I even got a chance to study and discuss it one-on-one with a professor. Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came was also Stephen King’s inspiration and muse for his magus opus: The Dark Tower series (which was originally titled series titled “Wizard and Glass.”

I have to admit – I’m a little behind. I haven’t completed all of the readings and gameplay for last week as of yet. O_O I need to get on it as I have some assignments to turn in.

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Movie Review: X-Men Days of Future Past *Light Spoilers*

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The beloved characters from the original “X-Men” film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from “X-Men: First Class,” in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.

In a dystopian future, robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants, as well as humans who harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring. A small band of mutants manages to evade the Sentinels with the assistance of Kitty Pryde, who can project a person’s consciousness back in time to deliver warnings. Pryde’s group convenes with Storm, Wolverine, Professor Xavier, and Magneto in a monastery. They decide to have Pryde send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 to prevent Mystique from murdering Bolivar Trask, the creator of the original Sentinels. The assassination will make Trask a martyr, while Mystique will be captured and her DNA will be used by Trask’s followers to create advanced Sentinels that are near-invincible due to their ability to mimic and adapt to mutant powers. Xavier and Magneto advise Wolverine to seek out both of their younger selves for aid.
 
 
Cast:
Wolverine – Hugh Jackman
Charles Xavier (Young Professor X) – James McAvoy
Young Magneto – Michael Fassbender
Mystique – Jennifer Lawrence
Storm – Halle Berry
Beast – Nicholas Hoult
Kitty – Ellen Page
Bolivar Trask – Peter Dinklage
Iceman – Shawn Ashmore
Bishop – Omar Sy
Quicksilver – Evan Peters
Colossus – Daniel Cudmore
Blink – Bingbing Fan
Sunspot – Adan Canto
Warpath – Booboo Stewart
Magneto – Ian McKellen
Professor X – Patrick Stewart
Stryker – Josh Helman
Toad – Evan Jonigkeit
Havok – Lucas Till

 

3 Stars. Acceptable.

I honestly wasn’t in the mood to see this movie – I’m almost never in the mood to watch a movie, tbh. I’m really not a TV/Movie kind of person. I’m much, much more interested in books. Regardless of that, I ended up going to see this movie with some family members. I was a bit annoyed by this particular movie choice because I still haven’t gotten over my trauma from watching the first X-Men movie. “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? [pause] The same thing that happens to everything else.” *shudder*
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Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz

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Dorothy thinks she’s lost forever when a tornado whirls her and her dog, Toto, into a magical world. To get home, she must find the wonderful wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has her own plans for the new arrival – will Dorothy ever see Kansas again?

 

 

 

I used to consider myself a Wizard of Oz expert. I’ve seen the 1939 movie a ton of times. I’ve seen the musical adaption movie The Wiz about a million times (Micheal Jackson, Diana Ross, Mabel King, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor? YES, please). And then – just to put 10 on the 20 – I’m a theatre geek from waaaaaay back. I served as Technical Director and Lighting Designer (and I also danced in!) for the stage version of The Wiz. I used to know that script backwards and forwards. So you can’t fault me for thinking I knew my The Wizard of Oz.

Well, guess what? I did NOT know my Wizard of Oz!

I went into this read thinking I knew what was going to happen. I had the movies and the plays all circling in my head so I spent the entire read fighting with my memories and knowledge of the adapted works. The Wicked Witch that Dorothy kills is wearing silver shoes; the Good Witch that meets Dorothy upon her landing is NOT Glinda and she’s an old, weak witch about the size of the Munchkins; The Wicked Witch of the West has very little on-page time and Glinda doesn’t get page time til the very, very end. Like, Glinda didn’t even know Dorothy was in town til she came pounding on the Witch’s front gate. And those are just the initial big differences. There was just so much changed…
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Review: Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad #3) by David Eddings *spoilers*

Magician's Gambit

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Ce’Nedra, Imperial Princess of Tolnedra, had joined a dangerous mission to recover the stolen Orb that supposedly protected the West from the evil God Torak. And somehow, she found herself feeling quite tender for Garion, the innocent farm boy, who would be forced into the strange tower in the center of all evil to retrieve the Orb by himself.

 

 

Magician’s Gambit starts with the company on a ship sailing out of Nyissa.

While Belgarath and Silk were away from the company, they discovered that Zedar no longer had the Orb. Zedar and Ctuchick (also a disciple of Torak) fought and Zedar fled.. Ctuchick too the Orb to Rak Cthol in Cthol Murgos.

Belgarath received a summons from his Master – the god Aldur – so the company prepares to travel the 250 leagues to the Vale of Aldur. This will take them a month or more.

While traveling to the Vale the company (Garion, Ce’Nedra, Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, Barak, Silk, Hettar and Mandorallen) is chased by groups of Murgos, all coming from different directions. At this time the company was close to Maragor, so Belgarath decides that the only way to avoid capture was to go through instead of around Maragor.

Maragor

Maragor is a haunted and empty land. The Tolnedrans declared war on Maragor – using the subterfuge of stamping out cannibalism – because Maragor is filled with gold. In their greed, the Tolnedran armies slaughtered all of the Marags (including non-combatants). Mara, the god of the Marags, was driven mad with grief over the loss of his children. Continue reading

Emotional Re-Reads: Jacqueline Carey & Jenny Crusie

For some strange reason I had the urge to do a quick re-read of the last two books of the Imriel Cycle of Kushiel’s Legacy and Bet Me this week.

My God! I’d forgotten how…powerful these books are (to me, at least). I didn’t count them as a true “re-read” because I am skipping whole sections and chapters…but I have been reading large sections of these books.

kushiels justiceOne of the strange things about this particular re-reading combination is…the wildly different emotions that these books evoke. Kushiel’s Justice and Kushiel’s Mercy (“Kushiel”) are…narrated by a emotionally damaged main character while Bet Me has a couple of different POV changes with the primary MC being a sarcastic person who isn’t completely self-aware.
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Review: Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad #2) by David Eddings *spoilers*

queen of sorcery

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The Sorcerer Belgarath and his daughter Polgara the Sorceress were on the trail of the Orb – stolen by a priest of Torak – seeking to regain its saving power before the final disaster prophesized by the legends. And with them went Garion, a simple farm boy only months before, but now the focus of the struggle. He had never believed in sorcery and wanted no part of it. Yet with every league they traveled, the power grew in him, forcing him to acts of wizardry he could not accept.

 

Note: This is one of my favorite series. I read this series, it’s sequel The Mallorean, and Belgarath the Sorcerer yearly.

Queen of Sorcery is the second book in The Belgariad series by David Eddings. In comparison to the first book, Queen of Sorcery gives the reader a lot more information and a greater incentive to continue the series. One of the things I liked the most about this book is that the reader starts to get to know the side characters a lot better – and a lot of the things left unexplained in book one are cleared up in book two. Eddings is not one for a lot of loose ends, which I greatly appreciate.

Queen of Sorcery starts the same way Pawn of Prophecy does – with an info dump prologue – and then it proceeds into another info dump. The prologue tells of a famous battle that happened centuries in the past and the second info dump gives the reader a rehash of Pawn of Prophecy. It also reminds the reader that Garion is anguished and that the adults are keeping secrets from him.

Unlike Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery tells the questing group (and the reader) the exact nature of their quest at the beginning of the book: The Orb of Aldur has been stolen by Zedar the Apostate. They have to retrieve the Orb before Zedar can deliver it to the evil god Torak, waking Torak from an ensorcelled sleep to take over the world.

Queen of Sorcery also gives the reader a better sense of Eddings’ world. Each country is populated by a different racial stock and each racial stock is a stereotype. Thus far we have met the Sendars (who are sensible) and the Chereks (who are rowdy, drunks and war-like). Queen of Sorcery introduces us to the Arends (who are “not very bright but very brave” and who’s nobles engage in almost casual warfare while severely mistreating their serfs), the Tolnedrans (materialistic and obsessed with stature) and the Nyissans who emulate the snake. The Nyissans are also drug users and dealers, they sell poisons, are untrustworthy and are also slavers. Got all that? Good.
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Review: Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad #1) by David Eddings

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Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of The Belgariad, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved–but did not know…?

Pawn of Prophecy is the first of five books in The Belgariad series. In this book we meet our hero, Garion and most of his companions: Polgara, Belgarath, Durnik, Silk, Barak and Hettar. Garion is an orphan farmboy who is being raised on a farm (of course) in Sendaria by his aunt, Pol. This trope – the orphan farmboy – is one that the seasoned fantasy reader is quite familiar with. The big difference here is that Eddings’ Garion is one of the first of his kind. Pawn of Prophecy was published in 1982 – a time when fantasy had very few titles and readers were clamoring for this type of epic fantasy.
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