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The Wheel of Time Turns on My Mind

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The recent scandal surrounding a surprising and controversial pilot episode, and the resulting lawsuit filed against author Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal Rigney, has definitely put the entire series back into the spotlight. Not since the series’ conclusion a couple of years ago has this much attention surrounded it, and my own attentions have returned once again to the stories that filled my late teens and most of my twenties with adventure, trial, mystery, and enjoyment.

As the story itself is concluded indefinitely, there is nothing else to expect from the long running series of novels, except a companion novel to be released later this year that will feature back story and information directly from Robert Jordan’s notes. This will be called The Wheel of Time Companion. Such a novel is indicative of the end game of this series. All that is left for fans to do is either move on if they can find something to fill the void, or investigate the layers of story and the innuendos that Jordan famously constructed into his storytelling in the most tantalizing ways.

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While the books purport to give us all the answers that we need, and certainly they do, they do not expose things with clarity. Instead, things are resolved and revealed by the actions of the plot, or through the limited perspective of the characters, and the true answers lie somewhere in the mix, dispersed in pieces and parts that only can be assembled by taking together several different threads.

In short, Jordan has woven a tapestry that is just as interesting to study in its construction as it is enjoyable to experience.

Much like the effect Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and other works has on me, The Wheel of Time’s lore can draw me in for hours. As someone who aspires to write, studying how the author assembled these things is akin to students of painting studying the great masters in Paris. When you can understand the strokes and patterns that are used, you can apply those techniques to create masterful works of your own.

While time has yet to decide if Robert Jordan will be considered a true master, he definitely ranks up there as an ambitious writer. Much like Tolkien, he left behind a legacy of copious notes from which could possibly be derived several more stories if someone were allowed to rummage through them and edit them into something concrete. Jordan himself even promised that there were two more books he could have written as prequels to the main series. His widow, who was also his editor, is now the ultimate arbiter of his estate, and her ensuing legal battles regarding the series’ conversion to either television, in the manner of Game of Thrones, or into some sort of movie series will likely overshadow any chance that other books that could be released.

What is ironic is that fans waited months and years between releases of the books to find out what happened next. Such a thing became an iconic feature of being a fan of The Wheel of Time. We all got used to having to wait interminably for the end, or at least the next tidbit of story that inched us closer. When the series finally concluded, I had thought that my days of waiting for any news on what to expect would happen with Rand, Mat, and Perrin would be over for good. Their stories are done. I know how it all ends.

Now, fans are once again caught in a flux of waiting as we now strain to discern what the series’ fate will be in other mediums. Will it make it to some premium channel like HBO or Showtime? Perhaps it will be a web series, something that has proven lucrative and effective. What sacrifices should we expect in such a conversion? How will all these legal proceedings affect any plans for any of this to happen? Once again we will have months and years more to see how this all will come to pass.

To wait for answers is the ultimate destiny of anyone who enjoys this series, it seems. The wheel of time turns and ages come and pass. While reading A Memory of Light seemed like the end, it was only one ending, as there are no true beginnings or endings. Paraphrasing Robert Jordan’s common description of time in his works shows just how true to life some of his work will always be.

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The Mystery of the Winter Dragon

A Wheel of Time television pilot.

For real.

It aired in the early morning of 2/9/2015, in a cloud of mystery. I myself have not seen it, but the reactions according to Reddit have been a chorus of disbelief, confusion, surprise, and dashed hopes.

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According to those who have seen it, the production values are cheap, but many claim that it could be worse. Airing in a late night time slot, Winter Dragon depicts the prologue from Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World in which Lews (misspelled Lewis in some TV descriptions) Therin Telemon is confronted by his nemesis Ishamael, who is surprisingly played by Billy Zane.

Yes, Billy Zane.

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What is going on?

Further thickening the mystery is the tragic death of the director just days after an alleged whirlwind production of the pilot. This strange revelation of events has left the Wheel of Time fan community in a daze as we are left with pieces of a strange puzzle.

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There are suspicions that this pilot was  made in order for the production company, Red Eagle Entertainment, to stake it’s claim on the film rights which are allegedly about to expire. An actual production that airs on TV may air them to keep the rights longer, giving them time to develop this into something more. With the Game of Thrones series proving to be wildly popular, many fans hope for the same with WoT.

On the other hand, this pilot may just be a petty effort to retain the rights. The lack of press and publicity, and it’s obscure premier lend credence to this unfortunate idea, and we may in fact not see anything come from this like we would hope.

Surely The Wheel of Time deserves a less dubious introduction. As the mystery unfolds, we may learn more so as our real world time rolls on. Until then we are left with the saying common to the series, “The wheel weaves what the wheel wills.”

Star Wars: TIE Fighter is on GOG.com

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Released by Lucas Arts and Totally Games in 1994, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is the excellent sequel to Star Wars: X-Wing, and one of the best games ever released in the entire Star Wars franchise. It’s combination of story, gameplay, and production values make it a winner to this day, and you can get it now on GOG.com.

I remember playing X-Wing and it was a dream come true. Long had I desired the chance to experience what it would be like in the cockpit of a starfighter, and that game have me that chance to carrry out daring raids and rescue missions to my heart’s content. Then came along TIE Fighter, and I wasn’t too keen on it. It was about the bad guys…  

I was such a good kid.

Once I delved into TIE Fighter, I was entranced. There was more of everything. More variety in the missions and spacecraft, advanced weapons, tractor beams, better graphics, brand new starfighters to test, there was always something new to experience. And my qualms about flying for the enemy quickly dissolved since I got to fight lawless pirates and Imperial traitors just as often as I got to fly against that Rebel scum.
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Superficially, TIE Fighter is a space combat flight simulator. You spend most of the game in a cockpit tweaking your joystick, shield and weapon settings, and blessing target after target out of the stars. However, there is so much more going on than this. While you may spend time flying around outer space shooting things, there is also a larger story going on around you, and you always seem to be in the epicenter.

The story of TIE Fighter is what really makes it shine, and it’s one of the first Star Wars games to draw extensively to the Expanded Universe while also contributing significantly itself. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Lord Vader, and even the Emperor himself have designs and plans that involve you. By the end of the game, not only are you a hot shot pilot to rival the Skywalker clan, but about half of the Empire owes you a favor due to your fancy flying. Whether you are uncovering conspiracies or protecting the Emperor himself, you’re always uncovering more and more story.
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Missions are presented to you in the form of objectives, and most of the primary objectives you face are relatively straightforward and sometimes challenging. It’s the secondary goals, or even the elusive bonus goals that will keep you on the edge of your seat in order to defy the odds to inspect that one container before it gets torpedoed, or trying to keep your craft together through wave after wave fierce opposition so you can identify that mysterious shuttle at the mission’s end.

These things aren’t necessary, but they add a great value to the gameplay, and since most missions rarely replay exactly the same way, you’re bound to get some replay value. Furthermore, there are always tidbits of story presented to you between missions, or even in f un little FMVs that show informing cutscenes. Their quality is rather dubious nowadays, but they’re still well made and worth a view if you want to keep up with the Byzantine inner workings of Imperial intrigue.
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I have one quibble with the version of the game I got from GOG.com.  First, I must say I’ve been a fan of that site for years and they work diligently to bring us updated versions of classic games that run on our modern rigs, and my complaint in no way regards the folks there.

For the price of one, you get two versions, the original 1994, and an updated 1998 release that features updated textures and orchestral music by John Williams as featured in the next installment in the series, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. At first, these sound like a bonus, and in a way they are.

However, the 1996 CD ROM version of TIE Fighter is the one I grew up with. Though its Gouraud Shading isn’t as accurate as the newer textures when compared to the films, its metallic-ish sheen was sleeker, and in my opinion aged a bit better. Also, the original soundtrack was outstanding as well, and it reacted to events in the game to alter the musical mood accordingly. It’s a shame that the effort invested into those amazing features is overridden by the version we have now, but maybe the Good Old Games team will get that for us sometime down the road.

Overall, it’s been great to revisit one of the best games of my childhood, one of the best games ever. It’s synthesis of features gives one of the most engrossing, satisfying experiences a PC gamer could ever ask to have.  So get out there and clear the galaxy of those filthy pirates, insidious traitors, and that ever irritating Rebel scum.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Sex and the City (The first episode)

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And so it begins, just as you remember it with the sexual know it all strutting down the street in questionable attire. This won’t be the last time.

The episode begins with a parable. It’s supposed to hook the women who have been burned by sleazy men, but also snag some straight men with some tantalizing silhouetted side boob.  A pretty English lady gets dumped and, alas, we have yet another jaded woman in the world. This is how we are introduced to Carrie, from behind with a cigarette.

By the time Carrie breaks the fourth wall and asks, “How the hell did we get into this mess”, I find myself wondering that too with all the asides to the audience. It’s like Saved by the Bell with sex. (Maybe there’s something to that…)

Then, after a few interview-esque montages, we see a couple more of our ladies give their own characterizations, something my English teachers advised against doing. Then we are finally introduced to catty Samantha, after drag queens escort a cake of course. Here the episode’s premise is discussed: women having sex like men. Their initial banter sets the stage for almost every episode that follows.

You will eventually look forward to the ladies’ dirty mealtime chats.

After this the gay hook is cast with the appearance of bitchy but fabulous Stanford Blatch. He points out an old flame of Carrie’s (big mistake) whom she pursues in her attempt at man-like sex. Unsurprisingly, Stanford disapproves like a sassy gay friend should.
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So it’s off to the races, or the bedroom anyway where we see Carrie try out the casual sex line “maybe we can do it again sometime?”

Then our confident leading lady heads out to the sidewalk where her purse is spilled and some random guy (one who plays a Big role) bends down to help her get her pens and hair tools, and condoms, condoms, condoms!

But there’s no time to dwell because this is a pilot and we need more people shoved down our throats.

Namely Skipper.

The “nice guy” is basically a waste of time in the first season. He really doesn’t fit. He’s too nice. So Carrie does something shitty and sets him up with her best friend.

We see this date in action. You’d think from this exchange Miranda is a surgeon (she’s worse, a lawyer) from the way she rips Skippy a new orifice. That’s when Carrie does something shittier than before, she chats up her hook up instead of saving Skipper, and it’s clearly Miranda who needs saving.

After having her experiment backfire, Carrie watches Samantha perform oral sex on a cigar in front of the man who cleaned up Carrie’s condoms. We also see Charlotte’s plan to court a man slut backfire, too. Silly girl.

Samantha’s cigar seduction also backfires. Wow these women are winners. The only one who wins is the one who loses her will, Miranda, when the “nice” guy pounces on her. That’s until we see Samantha hook up with Charlotte’s former date. She says she’s fine with just a hookup, but that momentary look of longing makes you wonder is that’s what really makes her happy.

And finally, just when Carrie is about to do the unspeakable, whore herself out for a ride, she gets a ride from a guy who thinks she’s a hooker when she describes her career: sexual anthropologist. Then the Big mystery guy says the magic word: love.

But has he ever been in love? He says, ambiguously, “Absofuckinlutely.”

And that, friends, is the busiest 26-minute pilot ever. It’s here that I must warn you that Sex and the City suffers from First Seasonitis, an inflammatory condition caused by a new show trying to do too many things at once to fight for airtime.

While the series eventually settles down into a romantic sit-com role, some of its best moments occur in its more serious and dramatic scripts. This season is all about shock value. It’s not a bad tactic while it lasts, but it does begin to wear thin. Returning to this season after the high drama of the sixth certainly causes some stylistic whiplash, but it’s all in good fun. No wonder my mom thought this show was porn.