Wednesday, December 19, 2012

At Year's End

Many moons ago, I was made aware of the Mayan calendar and, you guessed it, all the associated 'end time' - prophecies and interpretations. It scared me, I admit. It is easy to be scared when all you hear is doom and gloom, and you forget for that one moment to think and rationalize, and go looking for the evidence supporting these claims. It is actually kind of strange to think that today, we are but two days away from the "dreaded date". Ten-fifteen years ago I'd probably be nervous. 
Fortunately I have developed a more healthy view on everything reeking of fear-mongering, propaganda, pseudoscience (though I can't shake the feeling those Ancient Aliens-folks, for all their fallacious research, may be on to something), religion and distortions of truth. If you're not keeping a cool head while traversing the Internet you might just be sucked in by an idea or suggestion and fall for it, never bothering to read up on counterarguments to make up your own opinion. 
I'm glad I've looked into the Mayan 2012 research, on both sides. And while it is still scary to read books I remind myself that these authors seldom come with scientific evidence but bring out their arguments using a language that draws you in and makes you forget to consider the truthfulness. 
If you go out onto the web to find fatalistic material concerning the end of the world, you will find it. But if you go out and look for scientific argumentation against this supposed cataclysm in two days' time, you will find that as well. Meaning that nobody can really know how December the 21st, 2012 will turn out until we actually experience the day, only one side have provided a number of arguments that it will be a regular day, so I guess statistically the chances are best for a regular day. 
Still, the more we ravage the Earth, the closer we come to the day that it will happen (and it seems that it will happen eventually). We're a sad bunch, really. 

Anyway, that was an enormous digression. I wrote the title for this post, 'At Year's End' to present a couple of my personal "Best of the Year"-lists, but as I wrote it my mind automagically turned to the Mayan calendar. So yeah, it's certainly on my mind even though I dismiss the idea (I mean, how many supposed doomsdays have we missed already?). And yet, and yet ... the thought keeps nagging at me, it's gloomy allure keeping hold of me, and when I see on the news that people have built shelters and stocked food supplies...I wonder. If a big change is coming for humanity in two days I hope it's definitive evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. That would change many people's perspectives, hopefully (unless said intelligence is out to destroy us, that would be disappointing). 

And there I digressed again. All right, some geeky 'Best of the Year' lists. These are personal. I really haven't read as much as I should this year, so the list is based on very few reads. Not all items are actually from 2012 either, but I experienced them for the first time in 2012.

BEST NOVEL OF THE YEAR:
1. 'Forge of Darkness', Steven Erikson - Dark and complex, philosophical and fantastical. 
2. 'Blood and Bone', Ian C. Esslemont - Not quite finished it, but it's definitely his best. Review coming soon.
3. 'Red Country', Joe Abercrombie - Say one thing about Joe, say he's darkly funny.

BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR:
1. Snow White and the Huntsman: Fairy tale mixed up with Martinesque (in)sensibilities. Great stuff.
2. The Pirates: In an Adventure with Scientists! 

I'm afraid those two are the only really good movies of 2012 that I've seen. I guess I could put The Hobbit on number three, but it really wasn't all that. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted was also quite entertaining and got some chuckles out of me, as did Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. Say one thing about being a father, say you don't watch that many movies anymore and when you do watch one, it's usually one for the children. I do have a few films lying about waiting to be seen, including the third Batman

BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
1. My Dying Bride, 'A Map of All Our Failures' - A dark and ponderous, beautiful and harrowing experience. My favorite band delivered this year, though it sure as strawberries isn't for everyone.
2. Enslaved, 'RIITIIR' - progressive Norse black metal of beauty and originality. 
3. Deathhammer, 'Onward to the Pits' - this is just crazy no frills old school thrash/death metal with the sickest vocals since Paul Bailoff did Exodus' 'Bonded by Blood'.

As passionate as I am about rebellious music, there were a lot of runner-ups for this category. What a great year for extreme music! New works from Desaster, Kreator, Nekromantheon, Nile, Testament, Dawnbringer, Witchtrap, Paradise Lost, Angantyr, Gorod, Moonspell, Hammercult, Angel Witch, Lich King, Pharaoh etc etc etc and even more etc were all worthwhile listens and showed once again that metal never dies (it just dozed off for a couple of years mid-nineties unless you were into it). 

BEST GAME OF THE YEAR:
1. Legend of Grimrock
2. War of the Roses
3. Crusader Kings II

Haven't played much new games this year either. The last months I've been re-investigating old RPGs mostly, from hoary almost unplayables like The Ishar Trilogy (a bargain over at gog.com) to still relevant titles like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate. My Magic: Online fetish fortunately came to and end about half a year ago after having spent truckloads of money on digital cards (I get nauseous just thinking about it); still, I can envision myself lying back in the couch with a game or two in the upcoming holiday but I really really want to avoid spending more money on it. Finally I also tested a fair number of free-to-play MMOs this year, including both Everquests, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Star Wars: The Old Republic and others with none of them able to scratch the roleplaying itch that so often overwhelms me (although there was a time I never knew that sensation as I was gaming all the time). My brief return to World of Warcraft to finally visit the Cataclysm zones was more a guilty pleasure than a fun experience. 

So, what's up for next year, assuming there is a next year? I'm looking forward to the massively multiplayer Neverwinter, indie-RPGs like Project Eternity, the second The Hobbit-movie (has to be better, it must), I don't even know if there's any other geek movie (fantasy movie) coming in 2013, I do hope so of course. There will probably be great quantities of metal albums released next year as well so I am not worried about that. As for novels, I really don't know what to expect. I hope Erikson publishes the sequel to Forge, which is to be entitled Fall of Light, and maybe Esslemont pushes out another Malazan Empire-novel. I guess we won't read anything new from Martin, Abercrombie and Rothfuss. Fortunately, my to-read pile is large enough for many years. 

I am curious about Fantasy Flight Games' new Star Wars RPG, Edge of the Empire, which was published two days ago, I believe. And of course, I guess 2013 will bring us updates on Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII - for good or for ill. 

Oh, and I almost forget - there is of course the third season of Game of Thrones. I haven't really been paying attention like a true fanboy this year, but I know the first production videos have rolled out to whip up excitement. I found they kind of missed the beat with season two, but hope that the third season will be closer to the source material.

If there's anything fantasy or geeky that's coming up in 2013 that I should be aware of, feel free to leave a comment :) It's hard keeping up with it all.

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