Profile for Siegfried der Waelsung


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E. Gary Gygax passed away in General
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It turns out that as you get older, the penalties to your saving throws add up, and eventually you fail one. And even the grandest of heroes eventually roll a natural 1 at the wrong time.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
The Wire in Geneforge Series
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Geneforge 3 has two minor characters named Stringer and Avon, as well.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
The Wire in Geneforge Series
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People should watch this show, by the way. It's too bad that its audience has been so small, no doubt because so few people have HBO. But it is worth going out and getting the DVDs or using Netflix to cycle through them. It's important to start with Season 1 and watch each episode in order. All told, it is the greatest show in the history of television -- no exaggeration.

[ Saturday, February 09, 2008 14:31: Message edited by: Siegfried der Waelsung ]
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
The Wire in Geneforge Series
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I am playing through Geneforge 2 again. Has anyone noted here before that the Shapers in the Loyalist Encampment are Bunk, Kima and MacNulty? I was playing through as a Barzite, and felt bad killing them.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Kelandon

"This is just factually not true. Scientific studies have suggested that race is not a tremendously important trait — it certainly doesn't split humans into three difference species, as some pseudo-scientists once suggested — but it certainly does exist."

Oh yeh? Then could you tell me what the "races" are? How is it that a person can be "white" in Latin America and "black" in the United States? 18th and 19th century caricatures of Irish in the United States show them with exaggerated "Negro" features, and we have on record incidents like an Irish participant in the New York revolt of 1741 (a joint action between slaves and "indentured servants") saying that it was time to "kill all the white people." In South Africa, on the Cape, they used to determine who was "white" and who was "Coloured" under the apartheid racial laws by sticking a pencil in someone's hair and seeing if it fell out. Not very scientific.

Yes, there is plenty of group variation, including susceptibility to diseases that is more prevalent in some groups than in others due to inherited genetic factors (e.g., sickle-cell anemia). But that's not the same as placing people into discrete "racial" categories. There is no such thing as race, nor was there any such thing as race until it was created about 500 years ago at the earliest, as a justification for slavery and colonialism.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Kelandon writes:

"'Western' does not equal 'from Western Europe.' Compared to, say, China or Japan, Russia is a 'Western' entity."

This only buttresses my point that there has never been any such thing as a "Western canon" if the "West" can be defined in such an elastic fashion. Russia is part of Eastern Europe; its cultural giants can be considered part of the "Western" canon only if we define the "West" to include anyone we want to. With people like Dostoyevsky, maybe the Russians bought admission into the "Western" canon, but not a one of Dostoyevsky's contemporaries would have considered him a "Westerner."

This debate reminds me of the concept of race, to which it is of course closely related. As a matter of biological science, it is a settled issue that there is no such thing as "race." Race does exist socially, though, and its definition differs depending on where and when you are. There are plenty of "black" people in the United States who are "mulatto" or even "white" in Latin America. For empirical discussions of how racially ambigous white ethnics in the United States became "white" over time, I'd refer people to the work of historical scholars like David Roediger and Noel Ignatiev.

This is a really interesting discussion, by the way, although I think it's a tangent from the original one. I partially blame myself for starting it. ;)
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Dame Annals writes:

"Russia is not Western by any standard? Uh, no, that's just wrong, sorry."

There are plenty of Russians who will be pleased to learn that they are now part of Western Europe. Similarly and for the same reasons, I am sure that V.S. Naipaul would be pleased if someone told him that he was a "Westerner." But it just ain't so.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Kelandon writes:

"As far as Tristan and Isolde, that story goes back a long ways, and many versions are considered classics. You may not care about the predecessors, but that doesn't mean that no one does. Malory wrote a version of it, for instance, and you can't say that nobody cares about Le Morte D'Arthur."

True; isn't the Lancelot and Guinevere story basically a species of the Tristan and Isolde story? But I suppose the adulterous love triangle is a staple of medieval courtly literature anyway. In any case, there are several things that make Wagner's Tristan as powerful as it is. He did, in fact, have a supreme appreciation for medieval legends and literature, and he was no dilettante in that regard; the simple fact that he wrote his own libretti, a rarity for any composer, is proof of his literary and dramatic seriousness. But the medieval legend was not his only source material; that is really only a shell, and the core of the drama comes from his reading of Schopenhauer, mixed with his own, idiosyncratic ideas about redemption through love and the symbiotic relationship between love and death (a theme which anticipates Siegmund Freud).

Further, of course, there is the music, and maybe I will use this as an occasion to illustrate by way of example what I meant when talking about the distinction between art and entertainment. Someone else here agreed that not all entertainment is real art, but that all art must have an entertaining aspect -- or more precisely, this person said that it must produce "enjoyment." I'm inclined to agree with this, but maybe I'm not sure that "entertainment" and "enjoyment" are the same thing. You don't go to a performance of Tristan to be "entertained" the same way you would go to a showing of, oh, I don't know, My Fair Lady or something like that (and I do hate showtunes, so maybe my prejudice is showing again). But at moments like the second act love duet of Tristan, you are washed over by something of transcendent -- almost unearthly -- beauty, something that caused Giuseppe Verdi (who knew a thing or two about opera) to remark that he could never quite grasp the fact that it had been created by a mere human being. Call that what you want, but "enjoyment" and "entertainment" don't adequately describe the experience, I think.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Chief of the Smugglers' Alliance writes:

"The gist of what I'm getting across is that it doesn't have the widespread appeal now to such an extent that I, a reasonably literate college student, have not heard of it, it seems unlikely that it will stand the tests of time."

This is a non-sequitir. I don't at all intend to cast aspersions on you intellectually or morally by saying this, but simply because you have not heard of it does not mean that it isn't going to be a proven classic, nor does it mean that it doesn't have widespread appeal. You have said yourself that you haven't read that widely. I'm not passing judgment on that; c'est la vie, but you have to admit that it does call into question your standing to pass judgment on literature, no?

For example, you also write:

"I am not concerned with literary quality, well that's not quite true, but I recognize that mere good writing is rather commonplace. It is the ability to capture the imagination and consciousness of the public that truly enables a piece of literature to take the leap into the canon of Western Civilization."

There are several problems with your line of argument here. One is this idea of the "canon of Western Civilization." I won't go into too much detail to dispute this, but it should suffice to say that (1) it is debatable whether any such "Western" canon ever existed, because even among the literate public in Western Europe and North America in previous centuries, plenty of the great works of art, music and literature came from "non-Western" countries (e.g., even Russia is not "Western" by any standard, and there you have Pushkin, Golgol, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, etc. etc.) and (2) even in the metropoles of the world now, it is widely acknowledged that the better part of the greatest works of art of the last fifty years at least -- and probably more than that -- come from "non-Western" countries (in literature this means especially the Indian subcontinent and Latin America), and these are already largely incorporated into any "canon" worthy of the name.

Apart from that, though, let's consider some of the things that have been said in this discussion. You have indicated that you've not heard of One Hundred Years of Solitude. This does not mean that you are a bad person, but it does mean that you're more than a little out of touch. You could perhaps get away with not having heard of V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, or even Jose Saramago, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a different story. He has tens of millions of readers around the world, and his "magical realism" is hugely influential. If you have not even heard of him, that says something about you and not about his literary legacy. I am not arguing with you, I am simply telling you this. One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera at least will live on as long as the human race does -- much longer than Harry Potter or similar works that have been cited (with apparent seriousness) by some people in this discussion.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Chief of the Smugglers' Alliance writes:

"Rushdie will most likely be remembered, but only because of the fatwah thing."

Come on, now. Rushdie's literary career is about a good deal more than the fatwa. His greatest novel, Midnight's Children, is the book that will secure his place in literary history, and it predates The Satanic Verses by several years.

The Chief of the Smugglers' Alliance continues:

Also, Tristan und Isolde pre-dates Wagner by a good deal. Check out the earlier text by Gottfried von Strassburg

Yes, I know, and in fact this is part of my point: who would care about the earlier legends of Tristan and Isolde were it not for the opera (or "music-drama," if you prefer)? Who cares about any version of the Romeo and Juliet story before Shakespeare's?

What others have said here about the enduring popularity of some pulp novels -- The Maltese Falcon, for instance -- is convincing as far as it goes, but I still think that there's a distinction to be drawn between entertainment and art. The two are not mutually exclusive -- not by any means. But they do not always completely overlap, either. Something may be entertaining but ultimately empty and frivolous -- which is no knock on cheap entertainment from my point of view, but it is a fact. And at the same time, there are works of art that are so deeply inspiring and poignant that it borders on blasphemy to call them "entertainment."
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Dame Annals writes:

"'Derivative' is a very serious adjective, but it is one with many shades of meaning. If you label anything that borries a story, or pieces of one, or a certain stylistic technique, as derivative, then you will be hard-pressed to find anything worthy of being called a classic."

Fair enough. :) It is of course no secret that R. Wagner reworked the Volsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied -- and much else besides -- for his work on the Ring. But it is his use of those tales to say something about our modern condition -- and of course his music, which I do have to admit makes it a little unfair of me to use him as a stick (or a spear, if you prefer) with which to beat Tolkien, since the genre is so different -- that makes Wagner's stuff so compelling.

Consider the recent movie that came out about the legend of Tristan and Isolde. How stupid is that? They even used the tagline, "Before Romeo and Juliet, there was Tristan and Isolde." But frankly, there were also plenty of Romeo and Juliet legends before Shakespeare turned it into Romeo and Juliet -- and Shakespeare's version, with his unsurpassed dialogue and peculiar insight into the human condition, is the only reason any of us give a hoot about the Romeo and Juliet legend today. Similarly, without Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, who in their right mind -- and professors of medieval literature do not count -- would care a whit for the old legends of Tristan and Isolde?

Tolkien is actually derivative of Wagner in plot element details (e.g., the one all-powerful ring, stolen by a dwarf from the bottom of a river -- elements that are not found in that combination in any of the old legends, and which Wagner confected himself). But that is not the most important thing.

The reason (apart from his music, and yes, despite his appropriation by the Third Reich) that RW speaks to us while JRRT does not and never did is the following: RW's philosophy is about the apotheosis of Man (note the capital "M"), about human beings making their way in a world without gods and forging their own destinies. He mined ancient legends for that reason. Tolkien, by contrast, liked the old legends because he wanted a return to old sureties, and believed that a world without God was leading to disaster; that people could not act in the world without the steadying hand of religious and spiritual devotion, else they would royally mess things up; yadda yadda yadda. :o

Frankly, I can't stand that kind of crap. It's definitely the insipid conventional wisdom, and his books sure are simpler to grasp and easier to understand than better novels or other works of art -- but that does not make their middlebrow pop philosophy any more true. I know I'm not going to get many fans for bashing Tolkien around here, but there you have it.

On the Orwell question: he is simply a second-rate writer who was deified because he was politically useful. Even his defenders should admit that Animal Farm is tripe, a painfully belabored allegory in which Stalin is a pig named Napoleon -- if I ever have to read that again, please just shoot me. And 1984? With the cartoon villain whose motivation, we find out, is "pure power"? Pure evil, just for the fun of it? There are Blades of Avernum scenarios that have better-drawn villains than that -- and that's not a knock on Avernum at all, it's just that no one is going to go around claiming that video games are great literature. There's no way Orwell would be considered a good novelist if he had not been politically congenial for powerful people who wanted to stockpile nuclear weapons and fight leftover colonial wars in places like Vietnam. His supposed "socialist" convictions were largely a ruse to cover his small-minded "Middle England" views. I would say he's totally worthless, except I found his essay denouncing Gandhi to be pretty funny.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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"Chief of the Smugglers' Alliance" writes:

"While I have no doubt that these are good books, I haven't heard of any of them. While they might be considered worthy of that title by a literature professor, I have difficulty seeing them as classics with staying power."

I'm going to guess (or at least hope) that you're exaggerating some. Surely you've at least heard of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Further, people have been listing Stephen King and Dean Koontz as possible "classics." That's ridiculous. They're pulp novels that will be forgotten just like the pulp novels of the early twentieth century are not remembered now.

Not that there isn't plenty of crap that gets iconic "classic" status, usually because it reinforces the insipid conventional wisdom in the guise of being oppositional or even subversive (Orwell is the best example of this). But others that people have been listing as "classics" (e.g., Tolkien) are crap that doesn't even rise to "classics" status as far as I'm concerned. Tolkien is far too derivative of a much better artist (Wagner, who was of course not a novelist) for my tastes. Further, Tolkien had that tiresome Anglican -- or was it Anglo-Catholic? can't remember which -- thing going on, which T.S. Eliot did too (though at least Eliot had talent). Contrast that with Wagner's virile humanism and high tragedy -- not to mention his sheer technical brilliance -- and Tolkien fades into the shadows, looking like a farce.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be remembered until the end of time as probably the greatest novelist of the second half of the twentieth century. Rushdie, Saramago, and (shudder) Naipaul will be remembered, too. But Chuck Palahniuk? Stephen King? Puhleeeze . . .
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
Modern day classics in General
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Blindness by Jose Saramago makes the cut (1995), as does Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987 -- and I'm not a fan, but a classic it is). But twenty years does not take us that far back. Some writers who have written books (including great ones) within the last twenty years also wrote books from before that period that are already "classics." I am thinking of Salman Rushdie's finest novel, Midnight's Children; two by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera); and one by Guenter Grass (The Tin Drum). Not to mention V.S. Naipaul (a really repulsive person), who will be remembered for A House for Mr. Biswas at the very least, and probably more.

Maybe a more appropriate question to ask is, "What are some classics written by still-living authors?" This would require us to consider such works as Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, which dates the whole way back to 1947.
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Avernum V in Avernum 4
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Apparently the next Spiderweb game in the pipeline is another in the Geneforge series, but I just wanted to put in a plug for what ought to be added to the next Avernum game:

There should be an option for vahnatai player characters.

This assumes, of course, that none of the action will take place on the surface (since the vahnatai are sensitive to light). But I was disappointed that it wasn't an option in Avernum IV.
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00
How do I find Dorikas? in Avernum 4
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My characters don't get far in exploring Erika's ruins. They step on the runes, and the walls open up, revealing the bandits. After slaughtering them, though, the gate doesn't open. Nor does it open again when they return again and step on the runes again. Is there supposed to be another way in, or am I missing it?
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The Matrix in General
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What does Zizek say about this third episode? IMAGE(Spiderweb Software Boards The Matrix2_files/wink.gif) When he reviewed "Reloaded," (in In These Times, June 24 issue -- online at http://inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=220_0_4_0_M) he warned that "there is something inherently naive about taking the 'philosophical' underpinning of The Matrix series seriously and discussing its implications," but ended by saying:

"If the forthcoming part three, The Matrix Revolutions, is to succeed with anything like a happy ending, it will have to produce nothing less than the appropriate answer to the dilemmas of revolutionary politics today, a blueprint for the political act the left is desperately looking for." IMAGE(Spiderweb Software Boards The Matrix2_files/eek.gif)

All the more depressing, considering that the message would probably be: You can never beat the Machine, although you might be able to get "peaceful coexistence" with it. Plus the Machine has ways of assimilating, incorporating, co-opting, and downright harnessing dissent for its own purposes. Pomo indeed, with a new literal twist to Foucault's concept of "biopower." IMAGE(Spiderweb Software Boards The Matrix2_files/confused.gif)
Posts: 19 | Registered: Monday, November 10 2003 08:00