Archive for July, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

I finished reading it on Friday, and I liked it, but I was a little disappointed. Formulaic Empire-Strikes-Back plot to tee up book seven: the plot is winding up, and it shows. J.K. is also quite clearly playing to the movies, which is not necessarily a bad thing: I can see several puerile jokes making it verbatim into the film scripts.

I guessed who the Half-Blood Prince was (hmm, old school book, very good at potions, studies dark arts, who on earth might that be?). I also knew immediately what sectumsempra would do. I mean honestly, why don’t they teach Latin at Hogwarts?

It’s also a shame that Snape is now such a one-dimensional character: I thought he was previously one of the most interesting characters. I would have liked to see more conflict in him.

More about bread…

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Sorry Jen, the title lied: I can’t think of anything else about bread right now. Except that I wish I had some “bread of the gods” (as Mrs Elbeno and I know it – Sainsbury’s unsliced granary loaf to the rest of the world) in the cupboard. If so, I would be a bread-muncher right now.

Anyway the more accurate title of this update would be: Turning Native or Not? It’s been almost two years, and my neural pathways are still resolutely British about some things.

Even now, if I’m not thinking about it quite hard, I write down the date the wrong (the right!) way around. Happened just yesterday.

I still say “shedule” rather than “skedule”, “zed” rather than “zee” and of course a hundred other Britishisms. I still spell the British way: always -ise rather than -ize and -our rather than -or. And here’s the thing: I do this without thinking, rather than in some attempt to hold on to my British identity. If I’m talking to someone and they just said “zee” then I am likely to say “zee” too. But left to my own thought patterns, the British way comes out without my noticing. The two people I talk to most often at work are actually Canadian, so that’s just fine.

The other day I made some email joke about the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, and email tumbleweeds blew by. Did my joke fall on barren ground? Or did the workaday business merely spring up and choke it? Where I come from, people launch into the Four Yorkshiremen sketch as quickly as thinking.

I still can’t remember whether “a quarter of four” means quarter to, or quarter past, four o’clock. I don’t hear it much around these parts though.

And yet, it seems to me that I already have a mid-atlantic accent. I can hear my own speech and it’s definitely different from how it used to be. The first symptom is Ts changing to Ds.

Should I just go with the flow? I just sound fake to myself, which makes it hard. It’s getting so that when I talk to someone Californian, it’s “hey dude”, but when I’m talking to someone British, it’s “awwright?”


Monday, July 18th, 2005

Just come back from Comic-Con in San Diego.

Saturday we spent most of our time wandering the convention hall and looking at various booths. Mrs. Elbeno picked up volume 1 of Amazing Agent Luna (signed by the artist), and we both got J-List t-shirts. She got a blue Totoro shirt and I got a Domo-kun one. We successfully warded off the attentions of the scary L. Ron Hubbard representative woman, and took a look at the art show. It was mostly fantasy artwork, and as such of variable quality and originality. I really tried to find a standout, but there are only so many pictures of rocky alien moonscapes, fairies in bosky glades, and unicorns play-fighting by starlight that one can handle.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Our room was advertised as no-smoking; perhaps it was a recent convert. At any rate, the cigarette smell was horrible and I found a cigarette burn on the bedspread. Anyway we stuck it out for a night and contented ourselves by tucking the J-List H games brochure inside the Gideon bible, to be discovered by some future guest.

On Sunday we decided to spend the day in lectures and panel discussions rather than the “shop floor” and to that end we planned out the day to take in the various programme elements containing video game/comic crossover material. While waiting for everything to open, we shared a Coke ($2.50!) and got chatting to the creator of Thunder Agents. We talked a little about comics and video games. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was pro-Marvel in the Marvel vs. NCSoft case.

First event of the day turned out to be excellent: “Lost in Translation”, a panel discussion among 5 translation industry veterans from games, anime, manga, and comics in general. What made the discussion so good was the breadth and depth of experience of the panel, and a knowledgable and interested crowd putting forward insightful questions. We got many insights into the details and technicalities of the translation industry.

That was the high point of the day, and it went downhill from then. A panel discussion about the new X-Men and Fantastic Four videogames was little more than a Marvel/Activision marketing pitch punctuated by fanboy questions which left me, not knowing much about the comics side, cold. The promisingly-titled “Did videogames kill comics?” talk ended up with only two panel members and degenerated into little more than ill-informed teenage opinion (note: the panellists were great, but with no moderator keeping things ticking along, the audience rambled too much and made too many baseless points rather than directing questions on topic).

Finally, Nintendo presented the new Pokemon, Fire Emblem and Zelda games. Obviously Comic-Con doesn't rate on their calendar, because they had sent along a couple of localisation guys instead of PR or marketing folks. Anyway, while Fire Emblem and Zelda both look like great games, I'd seen it before at E3 and in net videos, and the fanboys were hooting and hollering (and heckling) throughout. We left before the barrage of questions.

This was the first con I've been to apart from E3, and it was very different to E3. It seems that comics are much more culturally advanced and varied than the games industry, which for the most part still seems like a one-trick pony. Very few companies are trying to extend games into different areas. Both industries have been through boom and bust (multiple times), and reports of the death of comics are greatly exaggerated. I was glad to see the many small publishing, writing and drawing operations at the con – something that doesn't really break the surface of the games industry. I came away with the feeling that talent can still find a way in comics: someone with skill can pick up a pen and write or draw, and create something original for not much money. By contrast, video games are going the way of Hollywood and marketing-driven mediocrity with high production values.

Perhaps next year I will pay more attention to the Kentia Hall at E3…

Book sale!

Saturday, July 9th, 2005

Remembered the book sale today at our local library. Spent $23 and came back with a box full of books. Actually, I limited myself pretty well, but Mrs Elbeno went for the paperbacks in a big way.

We like book sales.

what I've been doing this week

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Back from Montreal. It was hot! Over 30C (that's 90F) and humid with it. But we spent most of the time indoors in the air conditioning, or out and about at night when it was a little cooler. It was a productive trip, and I got a spare half hour to shop so I picked up a Jazz Festival CD (missed the actual festival by a week) and also a Thelonious Monk CD – I've been meaning to get some Monk for a while now.

I finally got around to upgrading my PC. The new one is quite shiny. Athlon 64 3700, 2G of RAM and a 300G HDD. 6800GT for the graphics, and a dual-layer DVD writer completes the package. Oh and there is also the anecdote of the speakers. So a week ago, Mrs. Elbeno is telling me to order the thing, already. I had a good idea of the spec and budget thanks to my previous research on Anandtech. So I casually ask Mrs. Elbeno: “Shall I get speakers too? There's a good set here.” She agrees and I order the lot. To be delivered to her office while I am in Montreal.

Well, it seems she hadn't realised the size of a speaker system (chiefly the subwoofer) – she was expecting a desktop pair, not a 6-speaker set weighing 42lb. So she was a little surprised when she had to ferry that home! Now that it's all set up I get regular admonishings about the bass. 🙂