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First impressions with VR (via Oculus Dev Kit 2)


A few days ago, I finally got my hands on the Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2, and I’m already loving it. It did take a few hours to get it working; I had to change the lenses for my nearsightedness, calibrate the distance of my uneven eyes, and my PC needed new drivers that Nvidia’s auto-update wouldn’t download. Anyway, I haven’t actually done much with it yet besides try out a few demos. A lot of demos out there are unfortunately outdated now and won’t work with the Oculus’s latest software (Runtime 0.7). But I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far, and I’m very excited for the possibilities VR holds, in gaming and beyond. This thing is AWESOME.

First, the cons. The Dev Kit 2 is a bit clunky; it’s not the most comfortable thing to wear. The resolution is also pretty low; it’s a bit like looking at an old standard definition TV up close, where you can see all the pixels. They mesh nicely together, so it’s not like everything’s pixelated like an old DOS game or anything, but that “pixel grid” is still clearly visible. Small text is practically impossible to make out, for example. It’s like you’re looking at the world through an old TV screen.

Another annoying thing about DK2 is the smell. That new electronics smell isn’t bad in and of itself, but when it’s pressed to your face and you’re smelling it for a while, it can get annoying. And you know what they say: Neurons that fire together, conspire together. (Actually, they say “wire together”, but I think “conspire” is more poetic.) When you start associating the smell with VR sickness, it can be extra annoying.

And the biggest problem for me at the moment is VR sickness. I don’t usually get very motion sick, so I didn’t think it would be too much of a problem for me, but VR sickness, though related, is actually a bit different than motion sickness, as there’s really no motion involved. Rather your eyes tell you that you’re moving, yet you feel no forces acting upon you, and the result is nausea. Some movements in VR are completely unnatural as well. In the real world, unless you’ve been hit with a force strong enough to injure you, you cannot go from resting to moving forward at a constant velocity instantly. You’ll accelerate first, and your body naturally expects to feel that acceleration, even if you’re just walking. Some of the most sickening moments in VR for me happen when the acceleration, or lack thereof, just feels completely unnatural.

I also suspect the sickness may have something to do with the motion the eyes detect in their peripheral vision rather than what’s right in front of them. This would explain why we don’t get VR sickness with games on TV; the lack of motion around the TV “grounds” us. Also, I’ve found that VR experiences that put the player in a cockpit or something are much more comfortable; they keep the motion out in front while the walls on the side keep you feeling “grounded.”

Another thing that may help, but that I haven’t seen in a demo yet, is BLUR! Someone needs to try it. Blur the quick movement, especially on the edges of peripheral vision, like in Batman: Arkham Knight. In the real world, things moving quickly past our peripheral vision will blur. I’m guessing that’s not going to happen in a game unless it’s actually programmed to render. It could also help with quick head movements. I was very impressed with its implementation in the Batman game; I’d be interested to see how that sort of thing might look in a VR experience. I’ll have to search around; surely someone’s tried it somewhere…

I suppose this VR sickness issue is a testament to how convincing the 3D VR world can seem, but I think it will require: 1) developers to pay far more attention to movement control; what you can get away with on a TV screen or monitor you just can’t away with in VR. (I wonder if the mouse or the Oculus Touch controls might also be able to help with this? Maybe if the movement of the world could be linked to the motion of one’s hand, one might have an easier time with it?) And it will require: 2) consumers to ease into the VR experience with simple demos first, rather than jumping right into some fast-paced action game. I have read that VR sickness can be like sea-sickness. That is, one can adapt to it, just as one can adapt to the feel of a boat beneath one’s feet. I hope this is true. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Sitting in place in a virtual world still offers many possibilities, though; so far the best demos I’ve tried out kept the player in one position. Here are the demos I’ve tried so far:

SightLine: The Chair


This demo just involves sitting in a chair and looking around. When you’re not looking at something, it’ll change, so the demo keeps you looking around, passing you through a variety of environments. It’s a neat intro to the VR experience, taking you from the claustrophobic feel that the walls are closing in, to the awe of floating in the vastness of space with the surface of a planet thousands of miles below.

Staring up at tall buildings or peering over vast heights are definitely some of the most awesome things to experience in VR. You really get a sense of size; it really feels like you’re staring up at something immense or down far below. The sense of scale is just amazing. You can’t get the feeling in any other way besides the real thing; it’s something pictures on a TV screen just can’t do. So I’m not worried too much about VR sickness; there are plenty of VR possibilities to explore with just a static viewpoint. I could easily play a shooter game or puzzle game or virtual board game, etc., all day long with a static viewpoint, and the VR would still be worth the cost.

Anyway, SightLine was a great demo!

I Expect You To Die


This mini-game also gives the player a static viewpoint. You play a sort of lighthearted James Bond-ish spy that’s trapped in a villain’s car and you need to escape. To do so, you must explore the small world around you, using the mouse to grab, move, and use items. It’s a very short game, but the controls are intuitive, further illustrating how a static viewpoint alone has plenty to offer. It would be awesome to see this expanded into a collection of puzzle scenarios; I could definitely play a game like this for many hours.

Mythos of the World Axis


This is yet another static-viewpoint game, but this one’s in third person. You look down (or up or sideways or whatever) at a miniature world and control a small character in front of you. I suspect games like this will become very popular; indeed, this is the sort of game I think I’d like to develop myself. In a way, it’s a bit like playing with toys, only your action figures move and the world is alive. While I found it a bit annoying to have to keep resetting the view in this demo, the style of gameplay is very promising. This demo didn’t even involve much; you just move a character around a small level. And yet it’s addicting and fun. (The end of the demo also offered a brilliant little creative twist!) I’m hoping there’ll be a lot of games like this!

Darkfield Alpha: Sneak Peek


A sci-fi demo in which you shoot robots and stuff. It lacked a bit of polish, unfortunately, and the movement in the 3rd person perspective was a bit jarring, almost inducing some VR sickness, but the first-person shooter style and the spaceship flying definitely looked promising. Space battles in a spaceship cockpit will certainly be a popular VR gaming genre. Getting that sense of the immense size of the ships in front of you along with the vastness of outerspace… it really brings the simulation to life in an amazing way. A bit of VR sickness is possible, however, when you turn your ship too much, but I imagine this will subside with experience. I can’t wait for a fully-fleshed out space-battle game!



In Windlands, you explore an immense world and collect golden coins or whatever. I thought the movement control in this first-person game was pretty comfortable. You slow in and out of moving rather than just jolting ahead instantly, which definitely helps. And, again, it’s awesome to really see and feel the immense size of an immense world like this. Looking up at giant floating islands in the distance is just fantastic. Unfortunately the gameplay itself kinda bored me after a bit, but the smooth movement control definitely holds promise. If there were more to actually do in the world, perhaps solve Myst-like puzzles or talk to Monkey Island-like characters, this game would be easily enthralling, and I’m sure those sort of games are on their way!

Virtual Desktop

Not a game or a demo, but just an application, Virtual Desktop allows you to see your computer’s desktop in your VR, allowing you to blow it up to an insane size, as if you’re viewing your desktop on a grand movie screen. The resolution isn’t great though, so it’s still a bit impractical for web browsing, for instance. But streaming Netflix in your own personal VR theater is fantastic; one of my favorite VR experiences. It really feels like you’ve got a huge screen to watch a movie on. It’s less than DVD quality though, so I’m not going to stop watching blu-rays any time soon, but still, I love it. It may definitely become something I use regularly. (As if I’m not already unproductive enough.)

So there you have it; my first VR experiences. There’s plenty to explore, and I can’t wait to start my own VR projects this week.


My Kickstarter is failing miserably at the moment, and now being excited about VR, I’m honestly not that inspired to continue advertising it at the moment, for better or worse. It’s also amazing how much spam you get when you start a Kickstarter. All these offers to help you market your Kickstarter. Sorry, but if I need to spend money on marketing to raise $9K, then I’m not sure my project really deserves $9K in the first place.

(I really hate that about marketing; it’s hard to learn about it objectively because there are so many making too much money off of telling others how to make money. It makes it hard to find the useful information because so many are in the business to take advantage of others. There’s a lot of money in it, I’m sure, but it’s such a vacuous, soulless market.)

Theme update

Finally, I hope you like the new blog theme! I was getting sick of looking at the other one, which I had kept for several years. Four or five years, I think. Maybe even six or seven? Anyway, I hope this one looks a bit more modern and polished.

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Trying a Kickstarter sometime soon…

I’ve been in a bleak creative rut lately. I feel like doing nothing creative at all. I’ve had no inspiration, interest, or will to do anything. Go to work, come home, eat, and waste time watching movies and surfing the web. A dull, boring, purposeless, vacuous existence.

So in an effort to give myself a bit of purpose, I’ve been working on putting together a Kickstarter campaign called “Give me some money to smile again.”

OK, it’s not called that… it’s actually fundraising for that book on melody that I’ve been writing on and off for years. The Secrets of Melody. It details my theory of melody, including how my melody generators work. Basically, if I can raise the funds, I can finish it by March 2016. Of course, I have hardly any online following, so I know it’s a long shot. Seems worth a try though, especially as I feel no great desire to do much else at the moment.

And if I fail to raise the funds, I’m going to go ahead buy an Oculus Rift dev kit and start having some fun with it to make myself feel better. So it’s a win-win for me. And I might buy one regardless because I’ve been dreaming of VR and I’ve got some fun ideas for projects I’d like to try with it. But if there’s enough interest for my book on melody, I’d love to make that a priority.

Anyway, I just have to make the Kickstarter video, which is hard because I’m the self-conscious type who hates looking at a video of himself. But I’ll try anyway.

So look out for that sometime this week.

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Son of a bleep…

I’ve heard it asserted that the phrase “son of a *bleep*” is sexist against women because it points the insult not at the male, but at the female. I suppose the interpretation is that the man doesn’t deserve to be insulted and so the insult has to go to someone more worthy of it? But that doesn’t make sense; the insult is clearly directed at the man, and mothers are rarely even present. It’s insulting to the man because he naturally venerates his mother. So, if anything, it points to women, mothers more specifically, being venerated above men. The man knows he’s a dirty stinking rat, so the insult is directed instead at a person the man honors more than himself. That’s what makes it hurtful. (It’s like when villains take hostages in movies. If you want to threaten a man, you could point a gun to his head, but he may be more than willing to die for his cause. Instead, point a gun to the head of his loved ones. Is he willing to sacrifice someone else’s life for his cause?)

But then, does it really make sense to be offended about a manner of insulting at all? Shouldn’t the moral condemnation be directed at the intent to insult in the first place?

It’s like when people get upset about the word “retarded” being used as an insult. Shouldn’t you be upset that someone’s insulting someone else in the first place? Is there a proper way to insult people? Insults are meant to offend people; do you really think the insult-giver cares about offending a non-present third party when he’s, you know, trying to offend someone? Aren’t all insults bad? Moral priorities, please!

Speaking of moral priorities, a video was recently released revealing that Planned Parenthood sells body parts of aborted children, to which I’ve seen comments such as: “I’m pro-choice, but this is sickening.” Really? Killing an unborn child is OK, but what’s done with the body is crossing the line? If you had any respect for the child, you wouldn’t defend his or her being killed in the first place. If a conscience allows for the murder, what difference does it make what’s done with the body?

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Unity and games and stuff

Learning Unity!

This week, at the expense of working on my next novel*, I’ve been getting back to studying Unity, the game development platform. My new computer handles it beautifully, nice and fast. And I found some great introductory tutorials to start with from a “gamesplusjames” from Ireland, land of me forefathers:

It’s still a lot to take in; I don’t know if it’s just my aging brain or that I haven’t been programming regularly for a long time now, but I’m definitely slower at learning this sort of stuff than I used to be. Anyway, Unity makes a lot of stuff pretty easy; wish something like this was out when I was in high school.

(* On a side note, my writing blog is down for the moment. It was getting inundated with bots, and just pointing the domain back to the registrar was my lazy way to try to get them to go away. It’ll be back at some point.)

Let’s Plays!

With my powerful new computer, I’ve been able to record some “Let’s Plays” on my new YouTube gaming channel, SirDragonWizardMasterLord, the dorkiest name I could come up with.

Probably won’t make them regularly, but it was fun to try, and I was very impressed with how well my computer could handle them; capturing video didn’t slow the games down at all, even with the games’ graphics settings at their highest. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 is just awesome.

Inside Out’s blatant plagiarism!

I saw Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, earlier this week. It was a great film, but as I mentioned on Twitter:

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My Oculus Rift PC build

Still waiting for the consumer Oculus Rift, but I was excited to build the PC for it for the games I already have, and for learning Unity so that I can try working on some of my own projects. I based my build mostly on this guy’s recommendations, with some small changes.

The case


I went with the Antec Nine Hundred. It’s got plenty of fans for great cooling, nice blue LED lights, plenty of room for expansions (at least the sort I imagine I might make), and a window with which to peer into the PC’s guts. (Plus I got a great deal on it.) The USB 3.0 ports on the front are also a plus, as the Oculus Rift will require them.

The motherboard


I went with the recommended MSI ATX LGA 1150 PC Mate Z97. I had no experience buying a motherboard before, but this seemed to have all the essentials. It’s got a nice fancy BIOS too.



I went ahead and spent a bit more and got the Intel i7 4790K processor. Maybe diminishing returns compared with the i5, but I figure it may help with any future video and music editing. I’m just using the fan that came with it, so I’m probably not going to try overclocking it. Anyway, it seems fast enough as it is.



The EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Super Clocked ACX 2.0 4GB GDDR5 Graphics Card. As of this post, it’s pretty much the latest second-tier GPU out there. I haven’t tested a lot of the modern games with it yet, but there are plenty of YouTube videos showing off what it can do. It’s pretty nice. Plus it came with Batman: Arkham Knight.



Kingston HyperX FURY 16GB Kit (2x8GB) 1866MHz DDR3, works for me.

Hard Drive


I went with a Crucial MX200 250GB SATA 2.5 Inch Internal Solid State Drive. I wanted a solid state drive’s faster loading times for the OS and the programs I use the most. But I’ve already used up half the drive with just the OS, Unity 5, and a few games. I’ll definitely get a higher capacity traditional hard drive as soon as I can. My music composing will definitely eat up some space, though it’ll probably be a while before I try migrating my sample libraries to this computer.

Power unit


The Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Power Supply supplies the PC with more than enough power. (I certainly don’t plan on having multiple GPUs anytime soon.)

DVD burner


I got a Lite-On Super AllWrite 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive for cheap.

Operating System

Staying away from the annoying ugly-looking Windows 8. I went with Windows 7 Professional SP1 64bit.


The motherboard didn’t come with WiFi, but fortunately I had an unused Panda Ultra Wireless N USB Adapter (150Mbps). It’s small, cheap, and seems to work fine for my purposes. I just had to download the latest drivers from their site to get Steam to work with it. (Which I reckon is the sort of thing you should do anyway with all your hardware when building a new PC.)

Building the PC

I had never built a PC before, but they design these components so morons can figure out how to put them together. OK, maybe not complete morons, but it’s pretty obvious where and how things fit together, and the manuals are always there with pretty pictures, and everything’s somewhere on the Internet. It’s easier than building furniture from IKEA. I guess you just have to hope you don’t have any defective parts.

WARNING: Do not stick a 9 volt battery to random metallic parts for fun. It’s unethical.

First, take the motherboard:


Carefully put the CPU in the CPU cage thingy and give it a fan base:


Introduce the motherboard to its glorious new home, “just in case” haha:


Find a place for your hard drive. In my “case”, it happily hides near the bottom, where I don’t have to put it in any holders or anything:


The DVD drive slips in the top front slot:


Add our massive GPU to the appropriate PCI-E 3.0 slot:


And, finally, add our power unit to distribute power everywhere, and make sure everything that needs to be hooked to the motherboard is properly hooked to the motherboard:


You could probably do some wire wrangling to make them nice and neat and out of the way, or not. Just as long as they aren’t in anything’s way, like the CPU fan or something, obviously.

Power it up, check out the BIOS, install the OS, drivers, and OS updates, test everything, and we’re done!



Like I said, I still need to buy another hard drive, and I may also buy a VGA switcher and a USB switcher so that I can hook my mouse, keyboard, and monitor to both computers and switch between them with ease.

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Hoping to build a computer this year…

Still waiting. You know, for 2016. Because you know what happens in 2016? Presidential election! But, more interestingly, the Oculus Rift will be released! (If everything goes as planned, I guess.)

(Sorry in advance for the materialistic nature of this post. Thinking too much about money and materialistic crap may be harmful to some readers’ souls. Reader discretion is advised.)

I spent some time researching the computer I’ll need to power the Rift, and honestly I’d like to have it ASAP so I can start fooling around with game programming with Unity 5. (As I said before, my current computer runs Unity 4 too slowly, and my OS (Vista) is not even officially supported, so trying to learn Unity on here is a bit torturous.) I’ve used this site as a sort of guide for what I’ll need, so I’m basically looking into building the computer myself, which, for all my interest in computers, will be my first time actually building one from individually purchased parts. Fingers crossed that it’ll go well. Anyway, my plans currently don’t deviate much from the parts listed on the aforementioned site. I’ll probably look into different cases as I’d prefer one with a bit more personality (such as a window), but that’s only if I can find one at a good price with some good space for future upgrades should I want them. Hard drive wise, I’d like to look into perhaps getting both a solid state drive to store the operating system and an old-fashioned mechanical hard drive with 1 or 2 TB’s for some good storage. (Composing music can take up a good amount of space when you’re storing some big audio files, plus games in general can take up some significant chunks themselves.) I’ll have to research how to set that up.

Altogether, my current estimate is that the computer will cost $1,200. Of course, when the time comes, I’ll search around for deals and save every bit I can. I’ll probably also search some nearby stores and see if I can pick up anything in person; having to wait for parts in the mail will be torture for my weak impatient soul (though that will probably be the cheaper option). Anyway, I won’t have to worry about it yet; still gotta save the actual money. (It’s tempting to just use my credit card and buy it all now, but I guess I’ll resist.) With the debts I’m still paying off, my phone bill, and my Netflix addiction, it’ll probably take around three months, give or take. I’m currently about 1/6th of the way there, $200 saved of $1,200. So only $1,000 short.

It’s aggravating having to wait; my mind’s been obsessed with dreaming about VR and a new rig all week. Everything I do feels like something to fill the time while waiting. And while that hasn’t really helped me be more productive in any way, it has actually been a bit cathartic; it’s helped relieve some of my overly-self-conscious “is this a good use of my time?” anxiety that just makes me angry when I feel like I wasted some time, which just makes me waste more time.

I’ve also been looking forward to YouTube’s upcoming game-streaming platform, their answer to Twitch. Maybe I’ll even try streaming some gameplay of my own, though that’ll have to wait until I build that new rig, because I doubt my current Vista-powered computer would stream very well.

I’m also looking forward to the upcoming game for PS4, The Last Guardian, showcased not long ago at E3. I’ve been waiting at least 6 years for this game; it was originally intended as a PS3 game, but it’s been in development for so long that PS4 is now their target console. Check it out:

I don’t have a PS4, but I guess I’ll need to buy one just for this game. Unless I get trapped in my Oculus Rift.

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Waiting for the Oculus Rift

It was computer gaming that inspired me to self-learn GW-BASIC programming in elementary school. I wanted to make games. For the past decade, I’ve meandered from that interest, more towards music composition, writing fantasy, and even a couple years studying character animation. I’ve also been interested in 3D images since a young age, when ViewMasters and those Magic Eye books were popular. I’ve loved 3D movies at the theater since they’ve become feasible. I pity those who get motion sickness from the experience, but I’ve never understood any other sort of objections to them. (I, on the other hand, get motion sickness when trying to read in a car, which stinks. I usually have to look out the front window to avoid sickness. Of course, when driving, I have to do that anyway.)

So I’m super excited for the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality gear set to come out sometime near the beginning of 2016. That also gives me time to save up the money to buy it, along with the new computer I’ll need to power it. (And which I need anyway now that my 2009 Alienware laptop is practically useless outside of safe mode thanks to a failing hard drive, and my 2008 Vista-powered desktop is almost out of hard drive space and is outdated a quite a few other regards.) The Rift may get me obsessed with gaming again, and of course I’ll also want to explore developing my own projects with Unity 5. (My current desktop doesn’t even support Unity 5, and Unity 4 runs so slowly that it’s a bit agonizing to use.) The wait is a bit agonizing, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Beyond gaming, I can’t help but think about other possibilities the VR gear may make possible. Could I write a novel in a VR world, inspired by fantastical scenery and drowning out real-world distractions? Could I compose music by moving around blocks of notes or something instead of having to click notes into a scoring program? Could I watch a movie (perhaps a 3D one?) in a virtual movie theater so that it’s like watching the movie on a big screen in the distance?

How might VR gear transform websites themselves into virtual experiences? Could I browse books on Amazon as an enormous epic bookstore? Could I make a VR world for my blog?

What about chatting and VR hangouts in virtual worlds?

And then of course there’s Oculus’s Story Studio which I’ve already blogged about that is exploring fascinating possibilities.

I can’t wait to see what awesome new worlds VR technology may make possible!

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Used bookstore plunder

We don’t have really any good used bookstores very close to us. They tend to have very small selections or high prices. But on Tuesday I was able to make it to a larger used bookstore about an hour away. Their selection wasn’t amazing, but wasn’t horrible either, and their prices were pretty nice. I unfortunately didn’t have as much time to peruse as I would’ve liked, but I spent quite enough money anyway, so the time limit was probably a good thing. I could browse books for many countless hours; it’s a great source of intellectual stimulation and inspiration. As to how long it will actually take me to get around to reading the books, I’m sure I’ll have them all read by *cough* *cough* [inaudible] *cough*.

So because I don’t have much else to blog about (besides [insert the latest controversial issue here], but enough’s been said about that already), I will tell you what books I got, complete with beautiful photographs filtered through Instagram’s X-Pro II because I’m so cool.


Became interested in the works of Jung through Joseph Campbell, though he’s usually so abstract that he’s tough to read. I can’t help but think that trying to interpret dreams very much risks searching for meaning where there actually is none, at least not as much as one may think. But I’m interested in the subject regardless, and certainly open to having my mind changed if I can manage to understand what Jung writes. And even if I don’t agree, I’ll be interested in his thoughts.


Speaking of Joseph Campbell, found a couple of his books there as well. Goddesses in particular looked interesting, because I had never heard of it before (granted, I think it was published posthumously and is actually a collection of his essays on the subject rather than something he actually put together himself), and because one of the stories I’m currently plotting involves a “goddess” archetype, so I’ll be interested in what insights Mr. Myth himself can share on the subject.


I’ve eyed this at the bookstore a few times, so nice to get a big discount on it at a used bookstore, eh? And it’s in almost new condition too. Just curious about the subject, though I know very little about it.


I really have little clue what exactly this book is about. Browsing through it, parts looked interesting enough, and it was cheap. Guess we’ll see!


On to fiction, picked up the fourth book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, though I’ve yet to read the 2nd and 3rd. I read the first book, Wizard’s First Rule some years ago and enjoyed it. Goodkind’s writing is very bland, but that’s at least better than being clunky and cluttered, and the story itself definitely held my attention throughout. I’ve heard the series gets repetitive later on, though.


I have yet to read any of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, though I hope to at some point, especially now that it’s actually complete, so I picked up the second, third, and fourth books in that series. (Already have the first.)


Similarly, I have yet to read anything by Vernor Vinge, but I’ve good things about him from readers I trust and his books definitely look interesting.


I’ve read Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and Reamde, both of which I gave five stars, so I’m interested in anything by Stephenson. (Already have his Baroque Cycle and Cryptomicon, though I haven’t read them yet; they’re definitely doorstoppers.) I hope to start reading his latest book, Seveneves, as soon as I finish the last eighty pages of Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, which I’ve been reading for the last two months.


From the mind of Ray Bradbury, I’ve only read Something Wicked This Way Comes and Zen in the Art of Writing, both of which are fantastic. So I’ll definitely be interested to read some more of his work. I also like the look of these classy 70’s paperback editions. Can’t find ’em like this anymore. In a new bookstore, that is.

Peter Pan

Always interested in some classic children’s fantasy, as old-fashioned as the old stuff tends to be, and this isn’t one you see too often.

Sweeney Todd

And just because it was cheap. One of my favorite movies.


Finally, also got some CDs, mostly soundtracks. Good stuff.

And there you have it. Go out and peruse your closest used bookstore today, and support authors not getting any money… oh no, wait…

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Love Never Dies

I watched Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies on blu-ray over the weekend, his sequel to his famous Phantom of the Opera. Being a fan of the original, I was curious to see the sequel, though I didn’t really have high hopes. I actually bought the cast recording when it came out, but couldn’t really get into it for whatever reason. And the plot involves the Phantom working at Coney Island, which sounds laughably ridiculous. Finally, the title, Love Never Dies, seems rather a bit melodramatic.

Love Never Dies

But I actually really enjoyed Love Never Dies a lot. It features some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s better melodies, and the dark mysterious atmosphere they give Coney Island and the other sets complement the dark mysterious atmosphere of the original Phantom.

That said, I think one still has to approach this musical as sort of its own self-contained thing, merely based on the original, rather than a “definitive” continuation. (Especially as the original Phantom ends quite fine on its own, thank you very much; it doesn’t really leave anything to be said.) Though the main characters are back and musical references to the original are all over the place, Love Never Dies still feels a bit like fan-fiction. It has a different “spirit” to it. It’s not nearly as large in scope; rather, it’s a drama among a few characters. Gone is the mysterious and murderous Phantom lurking in the shadows, willing to kill to get what he wants. Now he’s the main character, trying to get back a piece of the love he knows he lost, without resorting to violence. Gone is the romantic and dependable Raoul willing to do anything for Christine; he now likes to drink and is a pretty much a jerk. And now there’s a child, Christine’s son, whom the Phantom quickly comes to realize has more in common with himself than his supposed father, Raoul. Could it be the Phantom has a son? If so, what does it mean for everyone?

So it’s a very different kind of story than the original Phantom of the Opera. But I think if you view it as “story variations on a group of characters” rather than a definitive sequel, it works very well. I enjoyed seeing the a-bit-too-romantic-Raoul turned into a jerk, I enjoyed seeing Christine still caring about the Phantom (though I suppose we must forget that he is a murderer who got away with even burning down an entire opera house), and I enjoyed seeing the Phantom facing the realization that he might be a father. After all, he’s been alone and rejected almost all his life; being able to pass on his interests in music and … dark brooding atmospheres? … seems a salvation. (And having just written a book called Son of a Dark Wizard, I suppose that dynamic appeals to me.)

Perhaps because I’ve been listening to quite a bit of symphonic metal lately, the song Beauty Underneath got stuck in my head the most. It’s a parallel to the title song of the original, only this time instead of leading his love interest to his lair under an opera house, he’s showing his lost-love’s son … a bunch of freaks trapped in glass or something. Anyway, it’s here that he’s realizing the child may share his interests because he shares his blood. Also, I think the singers on the blu-ray do a better job with the song than the cast on the album:

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