The Geek Pit

People who know me know my geek-potential, which is quite high. So, to figure out how geeky I truly am, they ask me questions like: Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers? Pokémon or Digimon? Dungeons & Dragons or Tunnels & Trolls? Well, most of the time, I just ignore queries like those, but one question just keeps coming back:

“Aki, are you more in the Star Wars or the Star Trek camp?”

Frankly, I don’t even know. So, to see which of these two franchises can conquer my heart, I’ll have them duke it out in The Geek Pit: Star Wars vs. Star Trek! In a three-round epic battle, we will see which science-fiction brand is King of the Hill! A word of caution: I do not base this fight on any objective perception and empirical study, just on my bare gut feeling. So in case you’re not sharing my opinion…don’t try to find out where I live.

Round 1: Creativity

When it comes to science-fiction, I like my shows to be in some way original, and not just as some carbon copy of something I have seen a million times. Both Star Trek and Star Wars are the foundation of many of our modern sci-fi clichés, but what was their “catching phrase” when they came out, and which one was better?

When Star Trek aired in 1966, it had some very creative stuff: spaceships flying at post-light speed called “warp”, alien races that were either friendly or extremely deadly, and the technology to “beam” objects and living beings around. Later on, Star Trek discovered that their fanbase was largely made up of PhD’s and semi-scientists, so they could turn it up to eleven and add even more half-true technobabble, giving the franchise the reputation for being quite a “realistic” outlook on how our future could look. However, this made the show also very, very heavy and somehow even truly philosophical, which is not exactly what you want on your Friday evening while enjoying a cold beer.

Eleven years later, the first Star Wars movie aired. Before going into premiere, George Lucas organized a private presentation of the film for the crew and their friends and family. After the movie ended, George’s wife just said: “What an amount of bullshit” (or something like that). Well, miss Lucas, apparently science-fiction fans just LOVE bullshit, since the franchise is the best-selling movie series after James Bond and Harry Potter. What makes Star Wars stand out is the unique combination of science-fiction technology and space-faring heroes with classical fantasy elements like the quest of a Chosen One and an order of noble knights using a mysterious power (the Jedi and the Force). Definitely, Star Wars is a lot more epic than its rival: it has the bigger space-fights, the more dramatic one-on-one-duels and that gritty feel to it. All in all, the whole concepts and ideas behind this brand are more accessible to the broad public than Star Trek is.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my share of intellectual talk about the probability that a worm hole could end in subspace, causing a spaceship to be reduced to nothing but quantum particles. But let me tell you where Star Wars has the cutting edge when it comes to creativity and shaping the science-fiction genre, next to epic storytelling and revolutionary shots: lightsabers. Say whatever you want, but lightsabers are the coolest thing that ever came from a director’s mind. So, I have to say…Round 1 goes to Star Wars!

Round 2: Coming of age

Now, we all know that both franchises are old: Star Trek turned 43 this year, and Star Wars is just ten years younger. However, my question is: how did both franchises evolve over time?

The Star Trek franchise spawned six television series and about a dozen full-length feature movies, each exploring different parts of that big Star Trek cosmos. Until today, nerds fight about who is the best captain, and what ship was the most awesome. But in the end, all that matters is that Star Trek was one heck of a productive franchise in these last 43 years, and…the women on the show got more gorgeous! Nichelle Nichols a.k.a. Uhura from the Original Series was not THAT special, but just look at Jeri Ryan a.k.a. Seven of Nine. Damn, if all Borg looked that HOT, I would get myself assimilated ASAP!

Certainly, resistance to this IS futile...

Certainly, resistance to this IS futile...

Now, women are not everything (but, frankly, quite much), but Star Trek did quite some other stuff to keep itself alive, with its latest spawn being the new Star Trek movie. Even though most Trekkies (including me) are disappointed, the movie did manage to give Star Trek a young and more action-packed face. This franchise isn’t dead yet, even though it limits its presence mostly to telly shows and big-screen movies.

Star Wars, on the other hand, made sure to fully use every medium available, and did especially well on the novel and comic book market. Also, the “new” trilogy gave the whole saga an even more epic presentation, giving Lucas the chance to show the world what he really had in mind when he started filming the original trilogy way back in the seventies. Also, media coming out under the label of “Expanded Universe” keeps the cosmos of Star Wars growing and growing, elaborating on existing storylines and adding new ones. The television show “The Clone Wars” used quite an original animation style to depict the events between episode II and III, and novels and comics based around the movies just keep coming.

However, Star Wars didn’t change much in these 33 years. Where the Star Trek franchise actually at least tried to look like it changed (changing crews, ships and locations in the universe), the galaxy of Star Wars just remained the same for the ignorant observant. So, I’m afraid I have to cut Star Trek some slack here. Round 2 goes to Star Trek!

Final Round: Memorable characters

No matter how good your plot is, no matter how expensive your special effects are: if your characters are dull and boring, your story is an instant failure. Luckily, both Star Trek and Star Wars are rich with thrilling personas, races and factions. But which brand has the coolest of ‘em?

When it comes to Star Trek, most people will think of either Captain James Kirk or Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as they are the hallmark of the different captains. In pop culture, these two have become the reason for the geekiest of discussions: which captain is better? However, Star Trek has some other quite interesting characters, like Scotty, Data, Seven of Nine (forgive me, but…RAWR!) and the hologram Doctor. Unfortunately, most of these never really got into the common mass media, and stay quite unremembered outside of the nerd-o-sphere.

Enter Star Wars, a brand that managed to create the most stereotype of sci-fi bad guys, who’s most renowned quote gets abused so often in pop culture it’s not even funny anymore: Darth Vader. Who DOESN’T know him? His suit, helmet and voice are more than remarkable, and what bad guy can say he has a theme like him? Pure awesome! But we’re not done yet! Who’s green and never heard of grammar, but kicks your ass anytime? Oh yes, Jedi Master Yoda! Another character that gets quoted so often and somehow everyone tries to speak like the little gnome, but fails miserably due to being educated in linguistic structures. Even sidekicks like Admiral Ackbar made it into pop culture just because of one damn line!

So, I hate to break it to you, but this final round just has to go to Star Wars. I think we have a winner!

STAR WARS WINS!

But don’t worry, Trekkies, it’s not like I don’t like your stuff. If you just had light sabers and Force powers, instead of technobabble and Vulcans…

Signed,

Aki

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It’s Fiction Time, it’s Fiction Time, won’t you have some Fiction of mine!

(Author’s note: the following piece of fiction is a bit older, I think that I wrote it about half a year a go some where late in the night. I just had to get some things out of my head, and somehow, it took the form of a piece of fiction about two girls having quite an intense talk. The way it ends is not the way I intended it to end, but that’s just a good example of fiction can get a life of its own!)

Nothing compared to this. Not to this moment, not to this smell, taste and sound. It was like the origin of beauty framed unto this very moment. It was impossible to describe, but yet impossible to deny. It was the very cause, and use of life rushing through her veins.  But beyond this glorious feeling, this unnatural beautiful sweet scent of female skin was the bitter taste of loss and long gone days. And she knew why.

“You know this is good-bye” she whispered. The reply of her love followed, about half a minute later.

“It does not have to be. We can…”

“No. No we can’t. Not after what you did. I cannot give you…” But she could not finish her sentence. Once again, the soft lips of Tara touched her. It was exactly this soft touch that enthralled Diana merely two month ago. It was what showed her the very meaning of love, devotion and passion. But this fire of love and lust had been extinguished, by cold and harsh rain. It was ironic that the woman, who ignited the fire, was also the one that called for this tragic thunderstorm.  Diana stepped away from Tara, breaking loose from the warm arms of her love.

“Do not even try to make me forget about it! I cannot! I will not!” she screamed, with tears in her eyes. A lonely gust swept around her feet, as the word left her lips. Tara stared at her with a blank face. Another paradox: in one moment, Tara was the most passionate person in existence. And in the other, she was so cold, so solid. Like the cliffs at the coast of England they saw together during the holidays. The cliffs they looked at, while they confessed their love to each other. Those white, yet lonely cliffs. Was it all meant to be? Was it meant to be, that Diana’s heart would be lonely, once again? Like the cliffs at the coast of England?

“And again, you are the one being a drama queen. It was just a little mistake. I was drunk, and Isabelle looked so gorgeous…” Gorgeous? GORGEOUS?! Diana could not hold herself anymore. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she balled a fist. This terrible cocktail of anger and depression started to take hold of her, but she did her best to not lose herself.

“Do…do you know how you broke my heart when I saw you two making out…in OUR bed?!”

“Look, I do not have time for this. I still have things to do, you know?”

Things to do. THINGS to do. Things.

“Yeah, I guess that you still have things to do. Like listening to how I will break this relationship in two, in this very moment.” Did she just really say that? Diana could not believe her very own words. It was like someone else was speaking through her, like the ghosts of the times gone spoke through a medium. The blank stare on Tara’s face turned into one of surprise, and then into a grim visage of disgust. Then, Tara stepped forward on her slender, beautiful feet. She stroked her left index finger across Diana’s right cheek, as she strode past her.

“You know you cannot live without me. I am your addiction, I am your cause. You cannot leave me.” Tara was right. Diana could not leave her. She tried once, but she just came back, crying. She tried twice, but she just came back, crying. And now, she tried for the third time. And she felt how she would fail another time.

“I will leave you, Tara” Diana said, as Tara had just opened the door of the tiny, downtown apartment. Tara closed the door immediately, and Diana turned around to look into Tara’s surprised, and somehow confused eyes.

“You will no longer control me” Diana continued, and grabbed her mobile phone. She pressed some buttons, but did not press the green button. The green button that would call Maren, her ex-girlfriend.

“You know who I will call, right?”

“Maren Simmons” Tara replied.

“You know her all too well, right? What was the reason for your hate towards her? Oh, yes! She dumped you, after you cheated on her. How that must have broken your tiny, cold heart.” Again, Diana could not believe what words had just left her mouth. But somehow she liked how the sound of those vocals changed the expression on Tara’s face over and over again. It was like the very vibration of her vocabulary pulled and pushed the muscles in Tara’s face around, like a puppet master pulling on the strings of his marionettes.

“If you dare to…”

“She already awaits my call. All I have to do is to say I am free for the night, and we will have a most exquisite night with champagne, cheap action movies and philosophical talks. All. Without. You.”

All. Without. You. Diana liked to play the part of the ice-cold slut. It gave her the feeling that she was the one in control of this. It changed the entire distribution of roles in this macabre play, like the director had a sudden change of mind. But some actors start to really like their part, and turn into something akin a monster when someone takes their script away. And that was just what happened to Tara. She lunged forward, and slapped Diana in the face, followed by a punch to the stomach. Diana winced, but reacted by grappling Tara, and throwing her to the ground. She pushed Tara’s shoulders tightly to the floor, and both girls stared at each other with a wicked, yet desperate glare.

“You cannot leave me. Remember all the good times we had. All the moments we shared. Remember our love weekend in Paris, as we had a pick-nick under the Eiffel Tower? And how we danced next to the Seine, enthralled by the sparkles of light in the water?” Tara whimpered, and tears rolled down her face. Crocodile tears. Diana knew these fake, yet sweet drips of despair. But she also knew for what end these tears were. And she would not fall for them another time.

“But I also remember the times you left me outside alone. When I needed you most, you were not there. No, you had to party with your friends. When I could have used your shoulder to cry on, you just told me that I should not be such a twat and stop crying. And every time you got me far enough to leave you, you looked at me again with those eyes…”

Yes, those eyes. The mix between an emerald green and arctic blue was so pure, so unique, neither men, nor women could deny the natural perfection. Those eyes were meant to entrance, were meant to enslave. Especially to enslave.

“Give me another chance, my fair Diana and you can look as long as you want into these eyes. If you want, you can look into them forever.”

Forever.

Forever.

How did she do it? Moment ago, Diana felt so strong. She was on the best way to tell Tara to go fuck some wild whore on some dirty pub toilet and leave her the fuck alone, and now she moved her lips closer to those of Tara. And before she knew it, they were once more entangled in a kiss of beauty and perfection, but also an expression of addiction and slavery.

As they lay on the floor kissing, Diana realized how weak she was. She realized how much she was like those cliffs at the coast of England. Bound to the most beautiful thing on earth, meant to never leave, meant to never change.

And meant to be lonely. Forever and ever.

The Troll’s Opinion – Star Trek

Wow, this movie was terribly…average. Gosh, what a letdown for my €7,50.

Now now, dear Trekkies, you would love to know what makes the Troll so sad about the new Star Trek movie? Honestly, I don’t know. This movie just doesn’t feel like Star Trek, no, it feels like what a fanfiction author would do with the franchise if you would give him a few millions and tell him to make a movie high on special effects about his personally written alternative storylines. That kinda brings it to the point.

Everything about this movie is average. The actors? Average, even though I have to admit that they made quite some cool choices for the key characters like Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana might be a bit skinny, but makes a very delicious xenolinguist). Also, I liked the way Chekov and Scotty acted in this movie. But what for the love of William Shattner got them to cast Chris Pine as the young James Tiberius Kirk? No matter what he does, he looks like a high-school dropout who tries to act all tough and bulky. Oh, what do you say? That’s his role in this movie? Sad, very, very sad. And oh so average…

You might think the story can save it? WRONG! Again, we meet an average two-dimensional bad guy (played by Eric Bana, known from his protagonist part in the “Hulk”), who has an average plan full of vengeance and hatred, and who has a lame and average Doomsday Device. My dear J.J. Abrams, did YOU write the script? Because, you know….did you lose all your awesomeness in the writing process for the twenty-fifth season of Lost? Are you sparing your energies for a totally awesome sequeal to Cloverfield? Or are you just kidding us? Really, get something different than [SPOILER ALERT!] frickin’ time-travelling!

So, that’s two points for Team Average. What could save this movie? Right, the special effects! I would be lying if I said that they sucked, because they were more than awesome. Gene Roddenberry would be kinda proud of what we can do with his franchise nowadays, and I guess he would have loved to be a part of the creation of these space battles. Still, I somehow have a hate for that extremely sterile look of the Enterprise, which causes a very interesting contrast with the ride of our two-dimensional big bad evil guy, however.

But still, some flashy effects do not make a movie awesome. When the credits started rolling, I said in my seat and had a very strong feeling of: “Mehh”. Is this all we can get out of such an awesome world and setting nowadays? Do we really have to resort to the most cheapest of storylines, with some not-so-awesome actors? I expected more of the revival of this brand, and thus, I feel very, very, let down. And I hoped that this movie was enough to get my brother into the Trekkie-camp. You have failed me, Abrams!

And thus, this movie get’s no more than 2 out of 5 “Fascinating”-remarks from me. I’m sorry Leonard Nimoy, but even your presence couldn’t save this movie.

Signed,

Aki

On the horizon: Star Wars – The Old Republic

You cannot tell me this is not so awesome and epic. It might be because I have the hots for Star Wars and everyone who uses a lightsaber as his primary weapon, but I’m still drooling all over this.

Of course, I know of Star Wars: The Old Republic for quite awhile. After seeing how Star Wars: Galaxies by SOE failed miserably as they made essential changes to the core concepts of the game, I believed that LucasArts wouldn’t trust anyone ever again when it comes to turning the good ol’ franchise into an innovative and progressive MMO. But I guess when BioWare, creators of renown games like “Knights of the Old Republic” and “Mass Effect”, came knocking on my door to create a game based on my gazillion-dollar-franchise, I would have a hard time to say no.

But what makes me have so much trust in this title, except for the fact it is made by a group of people who obviously know how to create an immersive experience? Well, call it a marketing technique, but it definitly got me hooked: BioWare wants to add a missing element to the MMO world: story. Now I know that most MMOs at the moment already have some kind of story backdrop, but think about it…what direct impact does the story have on YOUR character? Does it influence him in any way, except on a role-playing level? I think not. All the MMOs I’ve played so far had good background stories, but all of them were just that: background.

BioWare strives to creating a personal storyline for every class. In that storyline your character will have choices to make, and this choices will make your story different from that of someone else who plays exactly the same class. Think about the following: you are fighting a grim battle against the man who killed your beloved one years ago, but who also happens to be the only one who knows how to get off of this hellhole planet. In an epic battle, you have the chance to wrangle your arch-nemesis to the ground, ready for taking the final blow. And here comes the choice: do you let vengeance guide you, and kill this bastard, or do you let him live, so he can get you off the planet? The choice is yours. Believe me, if this works out like I hope it will, I guarantee goosebump-moments and some epic storytelling. And guess what I just LOVE in video games?

The other thing that really interests me is the setting BioWare picked: the Old Republic. This sets the game several thousand years before the rise of Darth Vader, and lets us play in a time where Jedis and other force-wielding persons were more common than in the “default” Star Wars setting. This will also make it more plausible for having quite some Jedis and Sith as characters, unlike what SOE did in Star Wars: Galaxies. Still, BioWare should make sure to not screw up the immersion: the Force is still a very rare gift, and the last thing I want to see is a server population of 75% Jedis, and 25% other classes.

Which leads me to my only real problem with this game: handling Jedis and Sith. Personally, I liked SOE’s early approach to “Jedihood” in the early months of Star Wars: Galaxies. Players had to fulfill a long, long chain of quests, which took you a very long time to beat. At the end of this chain, you had to face a very hard and perilous trial, and only if you could beat that, your character rose into the rank of a Jedi, wielding power unlike most other characters on the server. This made Jedis rare and unique, and it just felt right. Of course it was not the fairest way to handle it, but it kept the amount of these gifted people low.

As we all know, SOE changed that later, in a way that was just completely sick: everyone could roll a Jedi from the very START. This threw off the balance of the game, and was the essential suicide of the whole game. So how will BioWare work around this? Jedi and Sith as a starting class, or as something you have to “unlock”? Or will they take some complete new approach? I can hardly wait to see what these geniuses will do!

Until then, I can only say “May the Force be with you”!

Signed,

Aki

Is God nothing but a particle?

So, last night I went out with Daniel and Britt to see Angels & Demons, the wide-screen version of the famous novel by Dan Brown. Even though many of my friends warned me, and told me to rather see something else a bit more nerdy, I was more than pleased. The pace of the movie is fast, and doesn’t leave you bored in your seat while also learning something about Catholic history (including some semi-true stuff).

The movie got me thinking however, because of that one part where science and religion are compared to being just two different languages describing the same thing, and how they can co-exist. I’m wondering…is that truly possible? Can two completely different things co-exist, or even merge into one single being, a kind of belief in Divine Progress, or Holy Technology? Well, I think that such a thing is possible.

Let us look at the roots of modern science, and especially chemistry and physics: Ancient Greece. Way back, Greek philosophers tried to find explanations for why things work like they…well, work. One of the earliest concepts of chemistry, which would also be the foundation of the later created Alchemy, was born: the transmutation of different elements. Empedocles stated that all of creation was based on the four elements Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Later philosophers added an element that held these four together, named Aether. These elements could transform into each other, and be reborn as another one. This is not too different from modern-day chemistry, even though our modern periodic table of chemical elements contains 117, instead of just 4 (or 5) elements.

However, this view was not purely scientific. Philosophers used it as the foundation of their own belief, of their view on how the Gods worked their wonders on Earth. In addition, they saw their “science” as a way of mimicking these powers, and doing something of god-like proportions. In their ancient society, science and religion were not like two different polarities. No, they were more like two sides of the same coin.

However, in time, some philosophers became scientists, and others priests. The first group tried to understand the world in a more…empirical way. A way based on the perception of the world around us. The second group, however, put their faith into something that cannot be explained by scientific means or whatsoever. They started to believe that some things cannot be explained by pure observation and codification: some things were meant to be uncomprehendible by the human mind. And so, these once united spirits drifted apart.

And we all know how that ended: ideologies collided, people got mad about what other people said, some people got burned, others got exiled, and from time to time the occassional church got burned and university got blamed for creating anti-Christian academics. But imagine what we could have achieved if science and religion, no wait, science and FAITH would have combined their forces, and united the world on a whole new level?

Science is the tool that expresses mankind’s need to evolve, to strife for the next big thing. It is in science where a human can break the boundaries of his body and mind. Look at what our modern science can do: fight diseases on a molecular level, create power sources that are near infinite and bring humans into space. These things are wonderful and good, but people still need guidance. Is our path the right one? Will we find ascension at the end of the rocky road? In comes faith…

Faith is another tool, a tool used by humans to give them support in things they cannot completely comprehend. Science can create wonders, but some things are just not yet achievable. Faith can give the inner strength to those who need, to those who need a higher concept to guide them. See it as an outline, a rough blueprint you build your dreams and ideas on. A blueprint which can be the final spark of imagination needed to create the next scientific wonder…

So I ask you, die-hard scientists who deny the existence of all divinity, to look into yourself and witness how often you have asked yourself “Why?” and couldn’t find an answer in your quantum physics. You might find one in faith.

And I ask you, stubborn fanatic zealot, to drop your shield of belief and your monopoly on the truth. Look at what answers mankind has to all the questions your holy book or local preacher has. Just try to embrace them, and weave them into your “divine construct”.

Don’t worry lads. In the end, God will neither be an old man chilling on some cloud, nor will it be a single particle that is at the core of every atom. No, fellow readers, because in the end…science, faith and divinity is what you make out of it.

I wish you all a good night.

Signed,

Aki

Quick update

Yes, I feel guilty for forgetting to upgrade. But here, I brought you a video! A bigger update will come this weekend. Be prepared!

Signed,
Aki

The Hunt for Gollum

You want to know what kind of stuff you can do with about $3000? Well, you could go on a very expensive shopping spree, or get yourself a very, very nice second-hand car. But I know something even better: making one heck of an awesome Lord of the Rings fan movie.

Certainly the most entertaining 40 minutes of my Sunday afternoon.

Signed,

Aki