Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wrestling for Free

I went to my mail box eagerly today hoping that I'd gotten a bunch of Ring of Honor DVDs in the mail, and I was disappointed, although I figured they wouldn't be in, I was just hoping they would be since it was my day off. The good thing about being a wrestling fan is that I don't need to spend money on DVDs to see new matches and get a fix of my hobby. Thanks to Youtube and similar sites there are hundreds of hours of wrestling free to view whenever I could want to. The easiest things to find are WWE and Puro matches. WWE has a lot of television matches that they don't seem as worried about taking down and it's a great way to check out old Velocity matches where you can watch Bryan Danielson when he was one of the local talents they'd bring in to lose to midcarders. It's also the best way to check out matches from guys that are never going to get a DVD release. You can see all the awesome Jimmy Yang vs. Paul London matches, and other great stuff like that.

The real gem of Youtube is being able to watch puro for free. NJPW and NOAH are the two that seem to have the biggest following and not care that the matches are put on the internet since they don't really sell tapes or PPVs in the USA. There are whole NJPW and NOAH shows uploaded and the some of the best matches you are going to find are there to watch for free. Dragongate has the style of wrestling I like the best, but since they have a branch in America now they seem to patrol Youtube a little bit to try and keep matches off there. At least I've noticed the DG matches from my wrestling playlist disappear unlike any other Japanese promotions. With twitter becoming more popular a lot of American wrestlers who go to Japan are promoting that fact. The one that sticks out the most to me is MVP who tweets out youtube links to his matches all the time as well as somebody who made a playlist of his NJPW matches.

It's a pretty awesome time to be a wrestling fan and I forget that once in a while. It was one of Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcasts that reminded me that there is all that wrestling on Youtube. Which I kind of knew because I go in streaks of watching matches on there, but it's the kind of thing you need to be reminded of. I don't have to worry about tape trading and that hassle because everything is there to get easy. And even buying wrestling can be that quick with video on demand and Smart Marks downloadable content as well as IVPvideo, which also offers a free download every week. And going back to the beginning of the paragraph the Art of Wrestling is a phenomenal podcast to listen to as a wrestling fan. Cabana gets all kinds of awesome guests and then has great conversations with them that are fun to listen to and easy to enjoy.

Beyond watching full matches on Youtube there are a lot of really good editors who make wrestling music videos. I did that for a while as well, and didn't reach anywhere near as high as the best can do. When they cover a subject you love they're fun to watch, or a great way to introduce people to wrestling. And then there is always the genius that is botchamania. It may cover the downside of wrestling, but it is never not entertaining, and the recent addition of CZWmania is awesome as well, although I feel for Masada showing up so much. I really like him, but I blame it on him being in death matches and CZW's not very wrestling proficient roster of death match workers. Either way they're fun to watch and if you don't want to spend money on wrestling there is always free wrestling to watch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wrestling Match of the Day

I've been watching some wrestling on youtube lately because I've been working on creating a playlist for one of my friends who needs to be exposed to not WWE wrestling. One of the matches I watched today was fucking awesome and I wanted to talk about it, so this could be a thing I'm doing more often on this blog. The match I'm going to talk about is KENTA vs. Naomichi Marafuji from NOAH (10-20-2006) and you can watch it at the link below. Afterward I'm going to give some of my thoughts so you should watch the match first if you don't want stuff spoiled.

KENTA vs. Marafuji

The combination of KENTA and Marafuji as a tag team is what got me into Japanese wrestling to start with and their matches against each other are awesome as well. It's always a little weird to watch some Puro after a break from it because of how different the style is from American wrestling, either the WWE style or Indy wrestling. The basics are similar, but the nuances are different in the styles and allow wrestlers to do stuff different and the displays of fighting spirit are always cool to see in puro matches and this match is no exception.

This was one of the later matches between the two and they tease a couple of moves that they'd done before, and just trademark moves in general that are countered because of how well the two wrestlers know each other and it is cool to watch. They do a spot on the apron where KENTA teases a German suplex to the outside, but Marafuji holds the ropes to counter. It's a spot I've seen in lots of matches, but I don't think I've ever seen it succeed. If anybody can show me when a German suplex has been hit from that setup I'd like to see it. Of course after a bunch of teases for apron spots at that segment they finally hit a move which is KENTA delivering a picture perfect falcon arrow from the apron to the floor and it sounds and looks brutal, and Marafuji sells it like a boss. The follow up springboard double stomp was pretty sweet as well.

That was a jump forward in time, but it was a nice slow build up between the two with submissions and nice counters and escapes between the two. Marafuji demonstrates how not to perform an asai moonsault at one point where he manages to knee KENTA in the face, busting him open, and draping himself chest first over the guardrail. It looked bad all around, but worked well in the match, and KENTA's bloody face looked intense. The presence of the elevated walkway to the ring is awesome, and they use it in the match. First with KENTA countering a shiranui by throwing Marafuji over the ropes and kind of onto the walkway and the ground which looked brutal. The two get on there and tease some suplexes before KENTA germans Marafuji off, but he kind of lands on his feet and nails a nice superkick.

The pace really picks up from this point and KENTA gets to demonstrate his love of kicking people really hard. They exchange finishers and near falls for a bit and then we get the display of fighting spirit which features a backdrop driver and german suplex for each man, before KENTA flips over on a German and delivers a spinning lariat that staggers Marafuji enough to allow him to deliver a superkick that puts both men down. The end sees Marafuji take control of the match and hit all of his trademark moves that KENTA kicks out of until he hits a cross leg fisherman michinoku driver. That's a complicated description for the move, but it looks good and is an awesome finish. Definitely a match worth checking out as are all of the KENTA vs. Marafuji matches.

Monday, May 14, 2012

RoH Border Wars

I watched Ring of Honors latest IPPV this weekend, and I worked Saturday and only caught the main event live, which was probably for the best as I missed the technical difficulties that apparently beset the show, but that does mean I get Best in the World 2012 free so that's pretty cool. So I thought I'd give some thoughts on the card and how everything played out.

Rhino vs. Eddie Edwards
A good match to start the show off. Both of these guys were crisp and hit some nice moves. The shenanigans in the ending sucked, and the presence of so many people willing to cheat in RoH makes me sad. It really takes away from what made RoH special. Still these two men did a good job to start the show.

All Night Express & TJ Perkins vs. Young Bucks & Mike Mondo
The match on the card that fulfills the spotfest need, and it does it in a good way. All six of these guys deliver in the ring and it's a fun match. All tag matches kind of bother me when they break down and everybody hits finishers and tries for pins when they're not the legal man, but it was a good match.

Jay Lethal vs. Tommaso Ciampa
This match began with some brawling on the outside of the ring which I think the match would have been better off without, but once it got into the ring it was a good match. The end with Lethal hitting ten backbreakers in the Lethal Combination before finishing it off was awesome. I'm not quite sure why they ended Ciampa's undefeated streak here, with it not really going anywhere, but I'm pretty sure it was Lethal's return that kind of ruined plans for that streak. Maybe they'll make this go somewhere good for Ciampa, but it probably means leaving the Embassy, which is the cheating heel faction I want to stay in RoH. Although they should lose some of the hanger-ons and get some wrestlers in the faction. A good match between these two.

Mike Bennett vs. Lance Storm
Storm looked awesome in this match and I was a fan of this match although Bennett is pretty vanilla heel, but this was one of the better matches I've seen him in. Storm was impressive with a leap to the top rope belying his age, and he also borrowed from his former tag partner, Jericho, and hit a nice codebreaker before getting the win. I haven't seen a lot of Bennett matches, but what I have seen hasn't impressed me.

Michael Elgin vs. Adam Cole
I've yet to see Elgin vs. Richards, and if everybody telling me how awesome the match is didn't convince me this match did. Cole looked good in this match as well, but Elgin was phenomenal and did some awesome stuff. This was my favorite match on the card. The best spot perhaps ever. Was Cole standing on the apron and Elgin stood on the second rope, lifted him up into a superplex falcon arrow. So good. I definitely need to make it a priority to find more Elgin matches.

Roderick Strong vs. Fit Finlay
This was a solid match, but I don't think there is a real reason to bring Finlay in to RoH. He's a perfectly fine wrestler, but nothing more than that. It also seemed to limit the amount of ridiculous backbreakers Strong got to do which made me sad although he did deliver some brutal sounding chops.

WGTT vs. The Briscoes
A solid brawl between these two teams, but RoH's production staff is not good at knowing where to be at the right time. Both table spots in the match were good, but I don't think a brawl like this really played into the strengths of both teams. The Briscoes do it, but WGTT are a little more tame in their weapon filled brawling, and the ending was not to my liking. I can see how it works, but again it's more bullshit that RoH shouldn't have. I'm guessing this is going to build to a Ladder War and I do love the idea of Shelton Benjamin and ladders.

Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards
I really liked this match and everything was built up to well, although they did a few too many trading forearms spots for my liking in the middle and near the end of the match. There were some excellent false finishes and Richards hitting the DR Driver was the best. Steen delivered brutal looking powerbombs onto the ring apron in this match. I like the exposed turnbuckle coming into play since it gives Cornette a reason to say Steen didn't win fairly, without being truly illegal.

Overall it was a good show. Not great, but good and I don't regret ordering it at all, mostly because the problems didn't effect me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Women's MMA (Invicta FC)

Saturday I watched a stream from Invicta FC which had a whole MMA card of Women's fights. And to tell the truth it was as good as any other MMA card you are going to see. The only downside I can see to the women's division in MMA is that they don't have a real heavyweight division which generally means you're not going to get the kind of fighters with more regular knockout power.

The Kaitlin Young vs. Leslie Smith fight was probably the best fight I've seen all year. Those two went toe to toe throwing huge strikes and neither went down. It was one of the few draws that seemed legit to me and a rematch between the two fighters should be awesome. I think it was important for them to have a fight like this on the card because nobody is going to look at this fight and say it was good for a women's fight. It's just a good goddamn fight and you can tell that they are putting everything they have into it, and neither one is backing down.

The card had some boring fights, but most MMA cards have a couple of those anyway, and a lot of the problems with the card probably come from the lack of exposure that women's MMA has and the difficulty in judging the talent when they don't fight regularly and don't get to fight at just one weight class because finding fights was difficult before. Hopefully the existence of Invicta Fighting Championships starts to change that and becomes a regular thing, especially if they keep streaming shows for free which is awesome.

Hopefully the impressive numbers the show did make the UFC realize their is a market for women's MMA and start promoting fights and what would be even more helpful for the division do a TUF for it. Hopefully Invicta gets to keep putting up shows and giving the women of MMA a place to perform.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quality Commentators

As a fan of wrestling I have to listen to commentators for hours at a time and there are a lot more bad commentators than good ones. What made me start thinking about this was that I was watching UFC 145 and got to listen to Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan do commentary which to me is exactly the kind of commentary a fight should have, and the kind of thing that applies to MMA and wrestling equally.

Both men have a role that they play on commentary. Goldberg handles the backstories of the fighters, the fights, and what the fight means for the fighter. Rogan handles the details of the fighting which he is great at because he's a big fan of the sport, and used to be a fighter, albeit not for an extended time. Both of them can do both things, and you'll hear Goldberg comment on maneuvers or Rogan give commentary about the story of the fighters, but they stick to what they do best and give a great product. Goldberg also knows that Rogan, and the details of the fight have the higher priority over what he's talking about and cuts himself off, but does a great job of picking back up when the fight slows again. The most important part is that they work well together and probably have a good relationship outside of the job as well, although that is just speculation on my part.

The biggest difference from UFC's commentary to WWE's commentary is that they don't prioritize the in ring action unless it's the main event, and sometimes it only matters once they get to the PPV. So much of the commentary is about selling the product and not selling the action in the ring. What the WWE commentary needs more of is the Rogan aspect of commentary. A person who can call the action well, and explain why a wrestler is doing what they are doing to viewers. A portion of your viewer is going to understand, but there are always small things to point out that teach the viewer, and help to develop how smart the fighter is performing, something that can be used to play up the abilities of wrestlers who aren't as strong in the ring as others. They may not be great at a ton of things, but if you highlight the small things they do to make their moves more effective they seem like a better fighter.

As wrestling is centered more on entertainment than MMA is the sports they like to go with a heel/face dynamic with their announcers which is done to varying degrees of success from Bobby Heenan to Michael Cole. Heenan often used comedy to play down the faces, but mostly played up the actions of the heels to emphasize how smart their cheating is instead of how dumb the faces are which is what Cole does. Heenan, and Lawler when he was a heel, and not being sexist, were capable of acknowledging the smart things that the faces do, because they would appreciate the quality of the performer which Cole never does. I'm fine with wrestling commentary without the heel/face dynamic, but if WWE feels the need to use it the heel has to be talented, know wrestling, and be entertaining.

Currently WWE commentary often lessens the product that is being watched instead of enhancing the viewing experience. Michael Cole makes listening to the commentary unbearable, and Lawler isn't much better and I've taken to listening to music while watching wrestling instead of listening to commentary. Something I wouldn't think of doing over a UFC show. The commentators need to compliment the in ring action and not take the focus from it which is something the WWE could learn from UFC, or perhaps the WWF.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reading and Kind of Reviews

I've been reading a lot lately and grabbing different books from the Library.

I got some Clive Cussler novels first to try going through the Dirk Pitt series again and seeing if I still liked them as I had when I first read them. I read Flood Tide and I think it's safe to say I don't enjoy the Dirk Pitt books anymore. Granted this one didn't follow the same structure as the ones I remember. There isn't a sunken treasure for them to locate until the end of the book and it plays almost no role in the plot of the novel. The things that turned me off the book was the racist and sexist feel to the writing. The basis of the novel was mass immigration from China to the US that would allow them to split the country, and had lots of negative portrayal of Asians. The female was often viewed deragatorily, by Dirk. I might try something like Sahara later to see if it's better. The writing is okay although the descriptions of characters lets you know whether they are good or bad. In shape attractive people are good, overweight people are bad. That pretty much goes for The Chase the other Cussler book I picked up, although this one is in the Isaac Bell series. I did find this book more interesting, but it does drag on a bit. Cussler's books have simplistic plots and they should really wrap up more quickly than his do. He also has a tendency to go on about how vehicles work, especially cars. The Chase has a lot of description of a car being driven, and a train engine which don't do much for me, but don't really take away from the experience.

After that I made a much smarter choice and picked up a couple of Elmore Leonard books. I read Road Dogs and Bandits. Road Dogs was interesting because it had a supporting character from the only other Leonard novel I've read LaBrava. I first heard of Leonard from watching Jackie Brown, and took too long before I read his novels because they were phenomenal. Both the books I read build up the heist that the characters are planning only for everything to go sideways and the plot gets resolved in an unexpected, but still satisfying way. The plots for the book are an important part and make it feel like a genre piece, but the most important part of the books are the characters as the plans don't work out, and are resolved in the last couple of chapters while so much time is invested in the characters and making the reader care about them and making them seem like real people. I'm definitely looking forward to reading some more of Leonard, but I had to take a break from the noir style for a bit.

The last book I finished is Bernard Cornwall's The Last Kingdom. This was an interesting piece of historical fiction and the kind of book that is tough to put down. At times the Uhtred rushes through his early life, but it's still interesting. The depiction of the past embraces the brutality of the time and the characters celebrate in the violence, but the book doesn't really do that too much. At times the violence gets intense, but that's during the combat and to relay just how brutal the fighting is instead of just to be about the gore. Uhtred changes his loyalties several times through the book, but it's all done in a way that portrays a consistent character and all the changes make sense. From Englishman to Dane, and back and the variances he has within them. There are positive and negative portrayals of characters on both sides. It's fun to see the character complaining about Christianity because it's boring compared to the religious celebrations of the Danes and the Norse gods. Beside Uhtred the book creates the super badass Dane Ragnar who is awesome in every way. He's a great father figure for Uhtred growing up, and a strong leader that makes the reader sympathize with the invading Danes as they commit atrocities on the civilians of the land they conquer. This is the first part of a series and I can't wait to pick up the rest of the series and see how things end.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mass Effect 3 DLC

Most of the talk about Mass Effect 3 on the internet is all about how the ending sucked. I don't feel that way, but I'm not here to argue about that. I want to talk about the awesome multiplayer mode that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, except by Bioware who is delivering 2 new maps, 6 new characters, and 3 new weapons all for free.

The choice of free is good for them since they allow people to buy packs with real money as well as money earned playing the game as well. The kind of freemium setup that works so well for computer games and it's cool to see it coming to a big console release, as Gotham City Imposters used it as well, but as an X-Box Live only release it doesn't have the huge fanbase like Mass Effect. If it's the kind of setup that keeps getting me free DLC I'm fine with it. I'll play the game to get my money and buy my packs that way. If I could buy guaranteed objects like most other freemium games EA would probably be seeing more of my real money, but thankfully they haven't yet.

With freemium games I am always happy to be the person who plays for free and takes advantage of the people who are willing to shell out money for stuff they can earn with a bigger time investment. If the model of having the game being free, but players being able to pay for more characters and customizable appearances I'm all for it, because I'm always willing to try new games, just not a big fan of shelling out money to try them. Hopefully Mass Effect continues to use the paying players to fund my future DLC.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finally Finished the New Jedi Order Series

I finished reading through the NJO series again, and it allowed me to see some of the flaws that time had wiped from my memory and left only the highlights. As you would imagine from a series with a lot of different writers the characters can have different personalities depending on who is writing them. Jaina Solo is the character who suffers from this the most in the books, although its more of her fluctuating back and forth as if the writers didn't really let each other know how they were developing her. She goes from being certain she's going to die and accepting of that fact, to wanting a future, and back to wanting to die again. It's annoying as a reader for a character to lose the development that she has made.

My biggest complaint is going to come with the Force Heretic trilogy which isn't poorly written, but doesn't much deal with the main crux of the story of the Yuuzhan Vong invading the galaxy. The major characters are split up. Han, Leia, Jaina, Tahiri, and Jagged Fel go to repair communication outposts and relive some older Star Wars books when they return to the planets near the Yvetha crisis and then to Bakura to fight the Ssi-Ruuk. Nominally the Vong are riling up old factional conflicts, but it really just seems like a chance to take a trip down memory lane for no real reason. The third book gives them a new story where they save a communication base while teaming up with some Imperials led by Grand Admiral Palleon, a character who changes a lot depending on the author. The other half of these books are made up by the team of Luke, Mara, Jacen, Danni, and Saba looking for Zonoma Sekot. In the first two books they go to Imperial space and Chiss space and have misunderstandings before redeeming themselves with victories. The third book has them finding Sekot which then becomes much like Rogue Planet in a way that is not particularly endearing.

The two defining problems of the series in my mind are the failure to make the new, non-movie characters matter, and the abrupt ending.

Establishing the new characters was the point of the series and there are books that focus on the new characters and try to establish them, but they are quickly cut off by the returns of Luke, Leia, and Han. Star By Stary is one of the books that works well with this theme and seemed to be the point where Luke said the new Jedi had to solve problems so a team of them go off to Myrkr to kill the Voxyn and we are essentially given a squadron worth of characters to care about, the number of people that worked for the X-Wing novels that didn't worry about the big names. This book is also where they establish the idea that anybody could die when they kill Anakin Skywalker who has been set up as the hero of the series. After this Jaina and Jacen each get their own books which both have issues. Jaina's book Dark Journey has her touch the dark side too quickly, and glazes over that aspect too easily. T'he way she treats Jag and Kyp is a little weird to me as well, but it's a strong showing for the series. Jacen's book Traitor starts too slowly and is a little too philosophical in the soft way that Star Wars books like to delve into philosophy, but the end of this book is phenomenal with the sacrifice that Ganner Rhysode makes, and really vindicates the character who was shallow throughout the series. The problem with these new characters is that these books Jacen and Jaina can't escape the shadows of Luke, Han, and Leia. Jaina is particularly boxed into that as they continually relate her relationship with Jag to that of Han and Leia for some reason that doesn't make any sense to me at all.

Star by Star doesn't just focus on the mission of the New Jedi Order though, it deals with the Vong attack on Coruscant and some stuff with Han and Leia as well which I think could have been cut and helped the book, but the idea is that at the end Coruscant is lost and the New Republic is on the retreat and that's the halfway point of the series. The ending that shows up in the series comes out of nowhere and they ignore a lot of what the New Republic does to weaken the Vong leading up to the last books so they can focus on outlying missions which I think was a poor choice. This series would have been an excellent place to write a new X-Wing series with the new Rogue Squadron led by Gavin Darklighter. However the books don't want to deal with the common soldiers, except in the case of Aaron Allston's books which deal with the defense of one planet and a real military conflict and not the magic missions that the Jedi go on to cause massive damage with small numbers. This is a glaring issue with later books and Jaina's Twin Sun Squadron where lots of the pilots are killed, but never the Jedi who have names, and the dead pilots are only referred to by numbers and their losses mean nothing to the reader.

The series has a lot of highlights to it, but as a whole it's not a shining example of what the Star Wars Expanded Universe can be. For that I'd stick to the Allston X-Wing series books, as well as Shatterpoint. The idea was a good one, but the execution wasn't there.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Building Lego Sets

I was negligent in putting up quick reviews on the NJO books, but I was burning through the series really quickly so soon I'll just do a quick review of the series as a whole.

But to continue my trend of being super nerdy I bought a couple of Lego sets recently and I like having the models to display, but I'd forgotten just how much fun it is to build a set and see the way the pieces go together to create the finished product. I've stuck with smaller sets for most of my Lego building days starting as a kid, and the biggest set I ever got was the original Star Wars X-Wing. They have a newer set which is a little bigger with more pieces. A lot of the bigger sets seem to rely more on custom pieces, which take away from the building in my eyes. While I will always want the Star Wars sets because I love Star Wars, my favorite sets to build are the vehicles.

Lego sets with vehicles have always been my favorite sets so I picked this set up to build because of how awesome the truck looked, and I was not disappointed. It does have a few fancy pieces, with the mudguards, but the cars have always had those, so I don't consider them too much of a cheat. I hate the stickers, but that's just because I'm awful at putting them on. Putting this set together was a lot of fun and the truck moves well after being build. The trailer is very solidly built, I've had quite a few trailers that are very fragile, but this one holds up well, and looks cool as well with the flaps and the tool box. The motorcycles are simple, but look cool, and the helmets have cool goggle-like visors that I love.

Buying the new sets was kind of a curse because I remimded me of just how much fun Legos are and are going to make me want to buy more of them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reading the New Jedi Order (Part 1)

Star Wars is the first movie I remember seeing and I've been a huge fan of it ever since as are many other people. As someone who's loved to read for most of my life as well it's not surprising that I found the Star Wars expanded universe (EU) stuff and read a lot of it throughout my high school years and continuing into college. The last series I followed was the New Jedi Order, which was meant to change the face of the EU and did in many ways. About a week or two ago I decided to start reading through the series again and give my thoughts on the books as I read them. I'm going to be doing this in larger chunks of reviews as I don't want to throw out small blurbs for each individual book. So without further ado here are my thoughts on the first four books of the series.

Vector Prime by RA Salvatore

The first book in the series and the Star Wars book that got the most press with the act of dropping a moon on Chewbacca. This book starts the series on the path of handing over the reigns of defending the New Republic to the new breed of Jedi represented by Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo. The book features a big family dynamic with all of the Solos together with Mara Jade and Luke, the droids, and Lando showing up and the plot works well with giving the new characters stuff to do. Jacen and Jaina get that treatment the best when they actually take the place of Mara and Luke to recon the Vong base. Anakin gets good stuff to work with as well with Han blaming him for Chewie's death. Some complaints I have about this book are the dialogue is a little too clunky to explain how people are feeling at times, and the Senators come off as too villainous to me. My biggest gripe is the fact that Chewie's death is used to prove that they could kill any of the characters, which is fine, but then there is dialogue between Han and Leia that says exactly that. You don't need to prove that you could kill anybody and then repeat it to make sure people get the idea. A lot of the Star Wars books including this one in the series do a lot of hand holding for the reader. My biggest complaint on that point is Chewbacca is exactly the character you would kill to prove that point without really meaning anything. The loyal protector/partner is written into stories to be the character that dies to prove anything could happen. I like the way the death is handled, but it doesn't make me believe they'll kill anybody in the series.

Onslaught by Michael A Stackpole

I used to love Stackpole's books, but they don't hold up well on rereading. At least not his Star Wars stuff.  The dialogue is rough throughout his two books in the series and he just throws his EU characters in and has them take over. Corran Horn, who I still like as a character, comes into play which makes sense as he's a Jedi and as an EU character despite his age important to the story. A beginning trend in the series is throwing in tons of viewpoint characters which I think hurts the individual books. Starting here the authors will throw the character into the viewpoint of a random soldier to view battles that none of the main characters are at.  Along with Corran Stackpole brings in his creations of Elegos A'Kla and Gavin Darklighter as Jaina Solo joins Rogue Squadron. I think Jaina joining Rogue Squadron was a poor choice, but that's just my view, and Rogue Squadron doesn't add much to the stories as Stackpole goes on to develop nobody but Jaina or Gavin and kill squad members off throughout the two books. This is supposed to be the fucking elite fighter squadron not a bunch of cannon fodder. Anyway this book is much more of a setup for the next in the series. All of the new Jedi are paired with their mentors who take them on dangerous missions, and don't do much teaching just directing. Except Mara who has some good scenes with Anakin teaching him to not use the force.

Ruin by Michael A Stackpole

The second installment from Stackpole and a stronger showing as it has more from the military of the New Republic than just the Jedi and features Jacen a little more prominently, although you can tell Corran is still the focus of his plot and story. One thing that bothers me about Corran in this book is how much he acts like a Jedi Master. Yes he is older than the other Jedi, but he hasn't used the force anymore than the others. He is treated as almost equal to Luke and that fucking blows my mind. Sure he can provide good advice, but in the force he is no more trained than others, and weaker than many. We get some thoughts from the Vong Shedao Shai in this book as well which I think was a poor decision. He sends Elegos to be with the Vong and learn about them and Shai trains Elegos in the Vong way, and these scenes should definitely have been from the view of Elegos. Anyway this book works better than Onslaught with a little more focus ending on Ithor in a better way than the previous did on Dantooine. My biggest problem comes with the end and how he writes off Corran as a character. The explanation is there, but doesn't make much sense, and almost reads like I made my EU character a big deal in this war and now I'm taking him away so nobody else can use him.

Hero's Trial by James Luceno

This is the best written book of the first couple. The problem, in my eyes, is that all it deals with is Han Solo and getting over Chewbacca's death. That is a story that needed to be addressed, but not as its own novel and really needs to include the new people because this book doesn't do a good job of establishing the new Jedi characters at all. It also gives us too many scenes from the perspective of the Vong. I think it takes away too much of the mystery of the species which the reader should learn more along the lines of the New Republic characters we are following. It also deals with characters who are too far on the sidelines of the main story which would be fine for its own series, but not in this world they are trying to create with the series. It does have a lot of callbacks to the Han Solo trilogy by AC Crispin which I enjoyed, but tonally I think this one strays to far from the idea of the NJO and harkens back to the normal EU which is the adventures of Han, Luke, and Leia. There are also scenes from the viewpoint of C-3P0 conveying his fear of death since the Vong kill machines that I didn't find engaging either.

I know the series gets better, but at this point in time if it wasn't for my love of Star Wars I probably wouldn't continue reading the series. They do a good job of making Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin the focus at the beginning and then don't move forward with it in the two Stackpole novels and then completely forget about it in Luceno's first novel. Hopefully I don't get quite as ranty with the next ones of these I put up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Separating Inspiration and Story

This blog post is going to be a little more focused on writing and comes from a story I recently received some critiques on and I can see a problem is that I was so wrapped up in the inspiration from where the story came from that I couldn't see that the story would do better without the beginning that inspired it and focusing on what came from that story.

This is something I can see in my other writing as well. Largely this comes from the fact that I do my writing as a discovery writer so I only have a vague idea of what I want to write and let things flow from there. A lot of my stories just start from one idea and can move in ways that move quite far from there and result in what I started writing being irrelevant to what develops.

The problem comes from my inability to realize that the inspiration may not be as important to the story as what I've created from that idea. I wrote a dystopic story which stemmed from some commentator on ESPN calling MMA modern day gladiator fights. Which I disagree with, but I took the idea of a society that brings back gladiator battles and used that to create a story. In the end the gladiator fights don't really matter, but they are in the story. Thanks to the feedback on my more recent story it's shed light on the fact that I could lose the gladiator fights, even though I use it as a set piece.

It becomes a case of killing your darlings and in a less obvious way to me. Something about losing the inspiration for a story seems more painful and less obvious than conversations that are amusing, but don't move the story anywhere, which are much more obvious story killers for me to notice than anything else. So hopefully I'll be able to keep this in mind in the future and if you're reading this you'll pay attention to that idea as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


For the majority of my life I've never understood the need people always place on setting goals and accomplishing them, but really that's because school set my goals for me. Since I've graduated college I don't have do well in class and graduate as goals and actually need to set something concrete to accomplish or I'm content to play video games and keep the job I don't like. So this year I'm going to get shit done and set goals to accomplish so I actually do them.

1. Write a short story a month.
I'm not talking really short stories, but something in the area of 20k words or so. That will become tougher as I start revising stories while writing new ones, but as I get into the habit of writing it should be easier for me to sit down and write and pump out words.

2. Start self-publishing on Amazon.
Along with getting into the habit of pumping out short stories I want to publish those with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) although I'm actually just guessing what those letters stand for, but short stories of the longer length I want to write don't have a real target way to get published so this seems like a good way to sell them at least to me. Plus it will force me to revise things I write instead of just writing them and leaving them sitting around.

3. Get published.
I will write short stories that can qualify for publication and I want to work on that and actually get something published. Plus once I get published as an author I can start calling myself a professional writer which would be cool.

4. Complete NaNoWriMo.
I've tried it the past two years and failed. Partially because of poor planning, and partially because the new Call of Duty game always comes out that month. This year I want to have a plan and build the world I'm going to write in before I get into it and have a plan and execute it.

All my goals are writing related and while I would prefer a new job than the one I have currently and to improve other things. Concentrating on my writing is something I really feel the need to do and give writing a chance to be my profession and the way I make money for a living. Thankfully the job I have right now is one where it's easy to leave work at work and do some writing when I'm off. And I have enough free time to play video games, watch tv/movies, and still get writing in every day. So this is the year I become a writer and see where it can take me.