Aug. 3rd, 2009

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This may sound weird, but I've been watching a lot of Barney Miller lately. I'd forgotten how incredibly funny and well-written it was. I'm constantly being amazed at how good the show is.

But the televised episodes have been terribly cut. In season three, there was an episode with Mr. Lukather, who was blind. He was chatting with Harris and Yemana, and someone mentioned that when you lose your sight, your other senses become keener to compensate (which is actually not exactly true, I think; you probably just become more aware of them).

Mr. Lukather agreed, and said that for example he could tell that Harris was over six feet tall, nervous, and a chain smoker. Yemana was amazed, and asked Lukather what he could tell about him. Lukather answered something like "You're very cool and collected, with great self-control; a natural leader. Either that, or you're Japanese."

It was an incredibly funny moment, but the entire interchange with Yemana was simply cut from the show. Annoying! Maybe I'll see if I can buy that season on DVD, if it's not too expensive.
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Day of the Giants Day of the Giants by Lester Del Rey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a mere 128 pages, Lester Del Rey tells a better story than most modern writers can in 500. Day of the Giants feels astonishingly slim next to the mammoth tomes which are de rigueur these days, but that slimness just points up the fact that most of those gargantuan books are simply padded.

The book is very strongly reminiscent of the Compleat Enchanter series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. Both feature modern twentieth-century men who are unexpectedly faced with the world of Norse mythology. But while the situation was expertly played for laughs by de Camp and Pratt (the Compleat Enchanter series is rightfully considered a classic of the genre), in Day of the Giants del Rey plays it straight. Fimbulwinter has descended on the Earth, Ragnarok approaches, and two twin brothers - one a war hero, the other a farmer - have been taken up to Asgard by Loki and Thor to play a role in the final battle.

The interaction of modern science with magic and mythology is always interesting. I consider one of the failures of the Harry Potter series to be J.K. Rowling's relative neglect of that topic. For example, didn't witches care about the threat of nuclear war, or or ecological collapse? Surely witches who grew up as Muggles, as Harry did, must have been aware of those dangers - so why weren't they addressed? The idea of two societies existing side by side, with one unknown to the other, has all sorts of interesting possibilities...none of which were addressed by Rowling.

It's true that the issue of science vs. magic has become a cliche in modern genre fiction. But it certainly wasn't a cliche in 1959, when DotG was published.

In Day of the Giants, the interaction of science and mythology is handled in a much more satisfying way (I am tempted to compare the relative page counts of DotG with the Harry Potter series, just for laughs). del Rey's handling of the characters is never awkward or clumsy. By the end of the book, I found myself more satisfied than I've been at the end of many a weightier tome.

I suppose that there's no way that a 128-page novel is ever going to be reissued by a modern publisher, so Day of the Giants will remain a curiosity, only to be found in libraries and used book stores. That's a pity, because it deserves a wider readership. It's not a classic that will last for the ages, but it's a very well-written, entertaining book that many modern genre writers would do well to emulate.

View all my reviews >>
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On Sunday afternoon I finally gave in and installed the World of Warcraft trial edition.

If I'd known how long it was going to take, I would have timed it. It was at least three hours, perhaps as many as six - I wasn't really paying attention. Considering that I had the installation DVD, this was an astonishingly slow process. Of course my computer far exceeds their recommended specifications.

I created an account; "Omac" was already taken, so I became "OMAClives". The system recommended a normal server, but when I went there it turned out to be locked. So I picked another normal server (not being interested in PVP or RP yet). I don't recall which server I was on; I'll look it up later, if it matters.

My first (and so far only) character was a human mage, a bald redhead with a beard and mustache. Movement and such weren't too complicated; I've played enough CRPGs to be able to figure that sort of thing out well enough. My first mission was to kill ten vermin, so I did. Can't say it was particularly exciting.

The graphics were nice enough, but all in all I just wasn't that impressed. There were lots of people and creatures running all over the place, with their names floating over their heads; it just seemed kind of silly and a bit pointless. Maybe I'd have more fun if I was playing in a group. In any case, I didn't stay up late playing, for once. WoW just didn't wow me. :D

But I'll try again tonight.
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Played the mage a bit more. Didn't get a lot of excitement out of it, but it was okay. I don't like that you just right-click and move into range to attack; it seems very hands-off.

So I created a fighter named OmacBlade on the Maelstrom server. He seemed more effective. But I screwed up and sold my weapon, leaving me unarmed. I had to beat a lot of kobold vermin to death bare-handed to get enough money to buy a new shortsword!

Damn. Something glitched and the last two paragraphs I originally posted were deleted. Short form: I don't know how to level up. I HAVE leveled up, but it seems to be automatic. Don't I get to make some choices for how I progress? And how does my mage gain spells?

I'll look it up tomorrow, if I can. Right now I have a headache and I need sleep. Good night!


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