Lord of the Rings Online

I thought I was done with MMOs. I had first started with Everquest after hearing my friends rave about this great new game. Over the years Jess and I played many Massively Multiplayer Online games and worked (or in Jess’s case, still work) for an MMO company! We enjoyed them all but eventually just decided that we didn’t have time enough to play to justify the monthly subscription costs of such games. There was also the annoyance of having to pick which server you played on and inevitably finding out you had friends on a different server after you had already built up a character on your own server and having your friends splintered across different games, much less servers.
We loved World of Warcraft. The only reason we quit playing was purely the money thing. We couldn’t play enough to justify paying $15 a month for each of us when we only ended up playing maybe once a week. We reluctantly decided that we were probably pretty much done with MMO games. Then Jess brings home two free issues of PC Gamer from work. They included free beta CDs for the new Lord of the Rings Online game. We figured, what the hell, play a couple of weeks of free beta in Middle Earth! Then I noticed that if you pre-ordered the game you got some special benefits. There were some cool items in game that you would get but there was also the special “Founder’s” pricing. Instead of the normal $15 a month per account you could either get $10 a month or the “Lifetime Subscription” for $199 per account. “Cool idea” I though, as I had bought a lifetime subscription on my TiVo Series 1 when I bought it (sadly they no longer offer lifetime subscriptions on new TiVos) and it had long ago paid for itself. I thought this was probably the smartest idea I’d seen in an MMO.
At first I didn’t even consider it. I mean, come on, $199 a piece plus the price of the game?That means it would cost damn near $500 for Jess and I to get 2 games and lifetime subscriptions. Absurd. Then the more we played and thought about it, the less absurd it seemed. We had played all those other MMOs where we had paid for the game and the monthly fees probably totaling much more than $500 over time. If we played this game for 20 months we’d break even and after that it was all profit! I know plenty of people who have been playing various MMOs for years and are still playing and paying. We would definitely get our use from this game and since we weren’t paying monthly we wouldn’t feel that pressure and guilt about not playing enough to justify a monthly cost. We could explore Middle Earth as often or as little as we liked for as long as the game exists. This could truly be the One Game to rule them all and judging from the fact that even some of the worst MMOs we’ve played are still going many years later, we have no doubt that LOTRO will have a long life.
So once again, we have been pulled into the world of online gaming. We’re playing on the Landroval server. Look us up if you visit Middle Earth. We’re both really impressed with the game too. It seems to have really learned from the evolution of MMOs and incorporated a lot of the best features and improvements over the years. It’s beautiful too. If you’re a fan of Middle Earth you will certainly geek out over being able to be a part of it, explore it, meet characters from the books and visit familiar locations. It has reawakened my enthusiasm for playing MMOs, which I thought was dead and buried. It still hasn’t overcome the problem of multiple game/server splintering (for example, I still have lots of friends playing WoW who don’t want to switch to a new game and after playing for 2 days we found out some friends of ours were playing too but on a different server so we started brand new characters from scratch so we could be on their server and join their “Kinship”) but overall we are excited about playing.
Just think of it like this: how much do you spend on going out to the movies or out to eat each week (or whatever)? Now if you could pay for two years up front and in return do that as much as you like for free for the rest of your life, wouldn’t that be a pretty good deal? What? Stop looking at us like that! We’re sensible dammit! If you really analyze this, we’re not crazy! It’s genius!

Finally, some progress!

Ever since my layoff last June there have been many things I’ve been meaning to do to more fully pursue my life goals. One of the top items was to put together a promo package to try and get a talent agent here in Austin and get some paid acting gigs. I puttered around far longer than I should have, but I eventually sent packets to my top 3 agents a couple of months ago. As time wore, I really started to think I wasn’t going to hear anything back. I was surprised. I have a full resume, and what I think is a great promo package, although I think my Demo reel is a bit lacking.
On Friday I had a message form what I consider probably the top agency in town. They wanted me to come in to their audition “class” on Monday. They sent me 3 scenes and a commercial that I would be filmed performing. I spent all day Monday memorizing them and working on my performance. Now generally, you don’t have to have things memorized for an audition, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible and look as professional as possible. Also, having the lines memorized means I can concentrate more on my performance and less on trying to remember the lines.
We’ll see what happens, but I feel like it went really well. I don’t really know how to explain this without seeming totally conceited and egotistical, but I’ll try anyway. This was the second experience I’ve had recently (another being a film audition I recently went on) that really made me feel confident in my acting abilities. I felt that I gave a great performance and that I seemed to be in a whole other league from most of the people there (here’s where I sound conceited). It’s not that everyone else was bad or anything but I just really felt much more natural and honed. I was born to a mother who was into community theatre so I was brought into theatre literally from the moment I was born. Acting is literally a part of my essence, something that has been with me my entire life and it’s only within the last few years that I’ve really settled into a real confidence in my talents. These recent experiences have been wonderful in solidifying and bolstering my acting pursuits. I just really felt in my element and like I had some thing special going for me that a lot of other people didn’t. I think most people came off looking like they were acting. Let’s hope the agency feels as strongly about me as I felt about myself. Next step, figuring out how to get some of the big work in L.A and then how to juggle that with living in Austin. If that means sending out tapes auditions, or gambling a plane ticket every now and ten to make an audition, I’m willing to do that. No more delays. It’s time to get my life on the track it was meant to be on but has been derailed from for so many years.
Today’s random non sequitur: Eric Bana is one “na” away from banana.

Freedom

Previously on Cerebral Flotsam and Jetsam:

I am now locked up in a medical research facility until April 1.
I’m thinking I may not shave while I’m in here so I can emerge looking a little like Jack Bauer after his stint in a Chinese prison.

The following takes place between 3 P.M. and 4 P.M.

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More Google Geeky Goodness

I have always used Bloglines to keep track of all my friend’s blogs and other RSS feeds. However, being a fan of all things Google and only just really discovering Google Reader today, I think I’ve left Bloglines behind.
Don’t get me wrong, Bloglines is great and I can’t really say it lacks in any way but I just found Google Reader more appealing to me in some intangible way. It just “felt” better. Both services also have plugins for Firefox that can alert you when you have new unread posts (Bloglines Notifier and Google Reader Watcher). Now it should also be said that I only use these services in the most basic way. all I want is a central place to view all my RSS feeds and to be notified when one of them is updated so I can’t really say if they’re comparable when it comes to feature beyond the basics. For example I know Bloglines has all kinds of bells and whistles beyond these basic functions but I’ve never touched any of them nor can I say if Google Reader has comparable bells and whistles. Being that I already use many of Google’s other features (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, etc.), I also find it appealing to have everything I can consolidated under one umbrella (as the long as the services are also among the best options available also). Don’t foret to go into Firefox’s Tools>Options>RSS menu and set your default reader to make subscribing to web pages even easier.
All I can say is that in initially setting up my Google Reader account and checking out the basic needs I have from a reader, I think I have left the Bloglines ranks for the great land of Google.

Lifehacker: Geeky Overload

Thanks to my friend, Jon, I have discovered Lifehacker. I so love this site. Since discovering it, I have started using:

  • Rocketdock and Launchy, two kick ass programs that increase the efficiency of using my computer.

I also discovered

  • IZarc, a great free archive program for dealing with .zip, .rar and other archive types
  • Gaim, a free multi platform IM program (like Trillian, except it’s open source and free but I haven’t had a chance to actually try it out yet) and
  • Paint.net which is a great free alternative for anyone who can’t afford Photoshop (GIMP is another free alternative)
  • Free Download Manager and DownThemAll, 2 free download manager/accelerator programs which speed up your downloads and allow you to resume downloads if they’re stopped for any reason (by your own hand or by a crash/restart, etc). I prefer FDM, but DTA is good if you often find yourself wanting to mass download all the links on a page (such as downloading all images on a page or all mp3s on a page)
  • Firebug which allows you to see the HTML and CSS of any page you’re viewing and let’s you make changes to the code right there in your browser and see the changed immediately (obviously it doesn’t actually change the code on the server but just temporarily in your browser).

I was already using ExplorerXP and several other recommended plugins and programs.
In general I’ve found Lifehacker’s opinions and suggestions indispensable.

Locked up, Day 1

As Jess wrote here,I am now locked up in a medical research facility until April 1. After doing our taxes, both Larry and I suddenly realized we needed to do another Medical Research study to get some more cash influx and allow us to continue our lives as artists concentrating on our craft. We went to a screening, which consists of listening to someone meticulously read through the mound of paperwork for about an hour or more and then having a battery of tests performed such as urine collection, ECG, vital signs, having blood drawn, etc.

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Damn Dirty Apes

I just realized something I haven’t written about yet. Larry and I have been writing and rehearsing an original improv/sketch comedy show with our friend, Jon Steele (his real name). It all started a couple of months ago when we decided we wanted to put something together and by the end of the first rehearsal we already had almost an entire show’s worth of ideas to flesh out. There’s a few strictly scripted pieces, but most are just loose skeletons that we improv around. They’re still kind of scripted but just not strictly. They’re more like specific plot points to create the basic story flow and resolution with room to play. We also have a few pieces that are just a very loose concept and are improv’d from audience submitted suggestions. We’ve done two test performances in our living room for friends and have received very positive feedback.
We’ve settled on the name “Damn Dirty Apes” for our troupe and the show is called “The Madhouse” as there is a running set of sketches involving me as Charlton Heston.
I wanted to present two of my favorites to here now. Naturally they are the fully scripted pieces since I can’t really present any of the improv pieces.
The first one is “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s General Store”.
The second is one I’m particularly proud of, as we’ve taken one of the most basic lowbrow comedy staples, the dick joke, and turned into one of the most densely pun and innuendo packed and dare I say, intelligent pieces we’ve written. It is known to us as “Dickin’ Around”.
We hope to start booking the show soon and perhaps participating in some of the improv Olympics that go on weekly around here.

“Email this entry…”

Lots of websites and blogs have a little link down at the bottom that says “Email this article to a friend” or something similar. This came up in a conversation tonight and I decided I wanted to add links to “Email this article to a friend”, “Email this article to an enemy”, and “Email this article to a disinterested third party”, purely for the humor of having those links more than any actual functionality. Then I read about how in the past spammers have used this functionality to spam people and make it look like it’s coming from you, so that pretty much put the brakes on my desire to add that functionality just for the sake of a joke. Stupid spammers. Really one of the lowest life forms on the planet.

The Beatles: “Love”

For Christmas I received not one, but two copies of the new Beatles album, “Love” which I had desperately been wanting ever since learning of it. For anyone who doesn’t know, Cirque Du Soleil wanted to do a Beatles themed show so George Martin and his son Giles took the original Beatles master tapes, put them in a metaphorical blender and came up with some amazing musical casseroles, some pieced together like Frankenstein’s monster, with amazing results. Some songs have the vocals from one song set to the music from a completely different song with various textures from even more songs thrown in, while some other songs are changed very little from the originals but almost everything has at least some small subtle bits from other songs creeping in.
I definitely think the die hard Beatles fans (like myself) will reap the deepest rewards from this collection but even more casual Beatles fans can’t miss the more extreme remixes and sound collages which, in my opinion, are by far the best and most amazing. This album continues to elicit goose bumps from me even several after listenings. I’m just about as big a Beatles fan as there is but I have yet to be able to trace each bit of each song back to its origin. The end of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” mixed with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” sounds to me like a pristine aural representation of Hell, and I mean that in a wonderful, pure genius way. Listening to this album is like being caught in some strange wormhole where the entire Beatles catalog exists as one living, breathing entity; time and space ripple and fold back on themselves as sounds and images fade and meld into each other and through you.
I’ve evangelized for years about the genius of George Martin and how I think his role as producer had as much effect on the end result of Beatles records as the 4 Beatles themselves had in writing and playing them and I think this album puts his talents on display more than ever. Just listen to “Anthology” and you can hear a demo of a good song end up as a true masterpiece due in no small part to Martin’s input.
The album is also available in two formats, standard CD, and a double CD+DVD version which includes the whole album (with some slightly longer versions of some songs) in 5.1 surround sound. This is an absolute must hear. Absolutely one of the most creative and amazing things I’ve heard in a long time.

News Flash from the Republican party

BS Newswire:
In their continuing efforts to counter the buzz surrounding presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the republican party released this statement:

We’ve already touched on how “Obama” sounds frighteningly close to “Osama” and how his middle name is “Hussein”, but we think this latest link can not be ignored. How could any patriotic American not be concerned about the similarity of the names “Barack” and “Baraka”. For those who do not know, “Baraka” was a monstrous enemy in the popular and exceedingly violent video game, “Mortal Kombat”. As you can see in this photo, he had a demonic, clearly anti-Christian visage and two deadly metal swords in his forearms. The only logical conclusion to the parallels between these two entities is that if we let Barack Obama into the Oval Office, he will most likely perform a “fatality” on this country. If you support Obama, then you are obviously a freedom-hating demon lover who wants to see America have its skull and spine ripped out in one fluid motion and then mockingly shown to its own momentarily standing body.