My first anniversary in Empire Avenue: 365 days of social media learning, curating and fun

Some of you may ask yourselves “What is Empire Avenue?” And the answer would be rather simple if you like the internet tl;dr style: A virtual stock exchange game in which players buy and sell shares, interact with the community to build up reputation and strive for the highest share prices and dividends. However, with Empire Avenue (EAv) there is an added element which will make some people sit up and take notice: Your activity and your reputation is your social media interaction. Yes, whatever you are doing on Facebook, Twitter, G+, flickr and other social media channels will make your stats go boom or take a dive. Liking, commenting, plussing – all the average daily interaction you have come to appreciate in your life will be taken into account. And that is where all the fun starts and convinced me to play the game for 365 days straight now.

So what is this Empire Avenue thing all about?

When visiting the EAv website five major points are made:

  1. Link your social media accounts
  2. Be social. Collect Eaves and Vees
  3. Exchange Eaves and Vees.
  4. Get Free Social Scoring and Analytics.
  5. Be part of the community.

I’ll take those from top to bottom but will probably have to jump a little inbetween.

Linking your social media accounts / free social scoring and analytics

As of Nov 26th, 2013 the networks available for connection with EAv are:

Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Linkedin, Foursquare, Instagram, WordPress.com, G+ as well as blogs and RSS. The technology behind it isn’t that easy so not all of those connections offer the same access opportunities; it all depends on the APIs the different services provide. With all of those EAv offers scores on a scale from 1 to 100 (except for blogs and RSS, those do not receive the scoring treatment). Knowledgeable members from the EAv community have commented that the scoring does not necessarily mirror your activities on any given network (is your number of followers/ people in your circles/ interaction received most important) but that criticism is about the same level as people criticising Klout on its stats – it is a secret concoction which you may surely doubt but for a quick oversight into your activities it will serve you well. And it’s free, remember?

My profile at EAv (c) Empire Avenue

My profile at EAv (c) Empire Avenue

So basically you can see with one quick look: I’m very active on EAv itself, my Facebook profile is good, too, I am spending quite some time on Twitter and both my Instagram activity as well as my Facebook page (The Tolkienist) are doing okay. Now, there are players with scores in all of those networks close to 100 – but those really are social media whizzes and/or people who know how to play to the game :)

Doing ‘missions’ and collecting eaves and vs

Now, the fun part of the virtual social stock exchange is you can earn dividends by buying shares and have others buy you. You’re basically a ‘company’ listed at a stock exchange and your social media reputation (see the scores above) will get you ‘bought’. Up until now this was pretty straightforward (and I am not going to bore you with digits like [top 5000 players > 0.28 div/share]) because you a) bought other people = gets you virtual eaves and you did b) missions offered by others which = gets you virtual eaves. The range of those missions usually is determined by the network people would like to have ‘supported’, that is, if someone posted an interesting tweet you would retweet it and get, let’s say, 10,000e for it. Or you are asked to like and comment on a Facebook post – anything you could possibly imagine happening in any social media network would be up as a ‘mission.’

Strangely enough this ‘mission thing’ does work without it getting abused to the max – you might think, “well, I’ll just buy some of those eaves and ask people to become my Twitter followers” but that just doesn’t happen. Anything in real life can be rigged, I agree, and there is some nonsense stuff happening on EAv as well but because the community is rather close-knit and serious players are regularly debunking the worst of those attempts for the community to see you don’t get the worst. The internet still is the wild, wild west but with a game like EAv where community and sharing is the thing that gets you forward in the game good content and decent behaviour will help you be successful. Oh, and yes, there is kind of a ‘reputation’ system implemented by which you can ‘punish’ the stealers – if somebody doesn’t do the mission the way you would like him to then you can either mute and/or block him and you can give him a negative review. Think Amazon and/or Ebay – if you don’t have a majority of good reviews you won’t get bought and/or appreciated as seller.

P.S.: Eaves are the currency in use for all of this; Vs are coming up soon as the currency with which to exchange for ‘real life offers’ – those are still being determined as of the time of writing but I’d expect 2014 to be a good year for that :)

Okay, nice – but why should I play this?

Well, that’s a pretty good question. I’ll tell you why I am playing this and what I need it for. And then we’ll see whether this game is something for you, right?

Part of ym EAv evaluation screen (c) Empire Avenue

Part of ym EAv evaluation screen (c) Empire Avenue

You may have heard of my new blog project, TheTolkienist.com. Now, this is more than me just writing a couple of blog posts and enjoying myself – I want to enjoy myself and hope to become a blogger who can actually live off this particular project. I know I have the expertise to do this, I know thousands of people interested in this particular niche (Tolkien and modern fantasy literature in films in general) and I think with the right amount of great articles and interaction with fellow Tolkienists and fantasists I could get there. Because I have loved writing all of my life and this is what I am really good at – so why not make my hobby and my passion my profession?

So when I started my blog more than a year ago I was looking for a tool which would offer me stats and an insight into social media which would help me improve in both the writing and the sharing part of the game. Because today it is no longer (necessarily) essential to write really good stuff, you need to get heard to get your great content through. And if you don’t happen to be part of a multi-billion-dollar publishing company that is kind of difficult to do. The option open to freelancers and small businesses is working the social media for support – and that is what this game is all about. At least to me it is – you may use to other ends!

You get the opportunity of learning from some really, really knowledgeable people who live and breathe social media. You start learning about curating the best stuff which is out there, you learn writing great stuff yourself (or how to improve on it) and you get an idea of how the different social media channels work. And how you can get better at using them. If you are competitive (which is quite good when you’re also a gamer ;) ), love social media and do like to spend some time on a demanding game – then EAv is the place to be.

If you are not active in social media, if you don’t have the staying power (you will probably have to spend 4-6 weeks of daily interaction to get ahead in the game, about 15-30 mins should do the trick; having friends on EAv will help you immensely, though!) and if you can’t take a challenge – well, there are tons of free browsergames out there waiting to happen.

Empire Avenue home screen (c) Empire Avenue

Empire Avenue home screen (c) Empire Avenue

Today is my first anniversary with EAv and I am here to stay. I have passed 250e in share price (which makes me about no. 700 worldwide), my daily earnings are close to 400K (ranking me about no. 500 worldwide), dividends I am paying out are close to the no. 700 worldwide (with my blog and work next year moving ahead swiftly this will change, indeed!) and my activity with EAv puts me at no. 77 right now out of a couple of thousands of accounts (and in Germany I am at no. 7 :) ) With all of this I will be able to use EAv not only as a tool for improving my knowledge and experience in social media but I will start using EAv for consulting volunteer-run organisations on their social media efforts and at the same time promote my blog.

Yes, as we say in EAv, I’ll be paying it forward. The community at EAv is out there to help you and if you start giving back to it those people won’t let you down. So if I have learned anything out of this it would be my knowledge and my expertise in Tolkien and social media might just help you to be more active and more successful with what you do. Let’s meet up at Empire Avenue (using this link will get you and me some extra eaves!) and have some Middle-earth fun [Announcement on TSMC coming up soon! Watch this space!]

‘The Blue Umbrella’ – special screening of PIXAR short at Berlin

Project INDAC, headed by Johannes Wolters, has taken upon itself for many years to support the German animation scene with special screenings, master classes and more – a service which would not exist without it.

Today there was a special screening of the new PIXAR short (thanks to Berlinale)’The Blue Umbrella’ at Filmkunst 66. The German director Sascha Unseld presented the film, a making of, first production reels and the original pitch with which he managed to get the film produced by PIXAR.

The story is very simple but very cute (it only takes six minutes in all): Whenever it rains in a city, the city comes to life and with it the umbrellas we humans use to protect ourselves from the rain. Our hero, the blue umbrella, meets a lady, a red umbrella, at a traffic light and fals in love with her immediately. But as it so often happens with chance meetings – like at a traffic light! – their owners go different ways immediately. Our hero umbrella needs to act now if he does not want to lose the love of his life … I am not giving away more.

The Blue Umbrella (c) PIXAR, Disney

Director Sascha Unseld gladly described the development process of this film – from the original idea over preliminary sketches leading up to further production steps. Obviously, PIXAR seems to have taken a special interest in photo-realistic depictions as well as shading and lighting. Interesting, indeed, that even shortly before the whole project is finished a man like John Lasseter may come up and say: ‘There is one thing we have to change. Otherwise it won’t work.’ Creativity may change its opinion anytime :) A really fascinating hour.

If you have a chance do see it. It is very cute, very simple, but with amazing depth. In love all things seem complicated at times.

For a good cause: 2013 fantasy literature pin-up calendar

It really is nice to see that geekdom (and all that may be close to it) has finally become mainstream. Yes, very much so – we can now have a pin-up calendar with pictures from our favourite fantasy worlds! The list of names is very much impressive: Bradbury, Martin, Harris, Rothfuss, Pratchett, Gaiman – and it is all for a good cause! Patrick Rothfuss recently presented it in a blog post and I would like you to consider buying this – as of now, only pre-ordering is possible.

Each month of the calendar will feature a pin-up based on a different author’s works and/or characters. Illustrated by Lee Moyer, all proceeds will go to Worldbuilders in support of Heifer International.

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New Hobbit trailer

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Hobbit trailer finally there

It is good to see a hobbit and some dwarves again.

High resolution version: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/wb/thehobbit/

Enjoy watching!

Of all things essential – series, part 2

Sorry, this article is only available in English but generally is about how looks can deceive.

Bildnachweis: manwalk  / pixelio.de

“Lord of the Rings” favourite book at NPR poll

Sometimes it is really bad to be a fan of something that is always successful. There was a time when a true Tolkienist was a nerd, first class, and enjoyed the qualities of an outstanding author who wrote much more than just “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and “The Silmarillion.” Only a chosen few knew this to be true and the film trilogy by Peter Jackson did not really change that – but sometimes it is also great to see that your favourite book wins all the prizes.

National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States, a national syndicator to 797 public radio stations, has done a poll on the Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books and released the results on August 11th, 2011. #1: “The Lord of the Rings”; #2: Douglas Adams’ outstanding “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”; #3: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game”.

The hundred titles listed are an impressive and pretty decent overall list on all science-fiction and fantasy classics and is definitely worth a look. By the way: “The Silmarillion” is at #46 but the “Hobbit” does not show up on the list. Thumbs up to the participants who do not seem distracted by the hype beginning to surround the “Hobbit” films by Peter Jackson. The other explanation would be that the children book classic simply is not as well known in the States as it is in the UK :)

NPR Books: Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

Google+ invitations still available

Hi guys,

when Facebook is down Google+ is an option (no conspiracy theory here, but anyway)

Do shoot me an email at me(at)macrobee(dot)de with the line: I wanna be plussed!

Picture source: berlin-pics  / pixelio.de

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How a simple ›thank you‹ can make your day. »Things that should be a matter of course« – series. Part one.

Today is one of those days when I am using the German Railways all-country ticket (Deutsche Bahn Quer Durchs Land Ticket.) It is pretty cheap at 42 Euros, it lets you travel all over the country starting a 9 a.m. and ending at 3 a.m. the next day. From what I have tried out in recent years I can tell you that you stand a good chance to making it from the Alps right up to some North Sea island if you are tough enough.

The less exciting part is its restriction on short distance trains so no ICE, no IC or EC. By comparison: Travelling from Berlin to Cologne can take something like short of five hours on an ICE or well over nine if you take this very ticket. Well, it’s cheap so they do have to save on something.

Another fun thing about it is that it does not really take those nine hours to get from Berlin to Cologne. You will have to change trains pretty often (understandably) – it ranges from changing from four up to six times (or even worse, if it is pretty late at night.) In order not to miss any connecting trains and to be on the really, really safe side here you will have breaks of up to fourty minutes at any given station. If it were not for them you could cut things down to about seven hours but then – why buy expensive long-distance train tickets? ;)

You may be wondering: »Is this actually going somewhere?« Yes, it is. Hang on a second.

With every stop there is about half an hour of free time in some of Germany’s most horrible train stations, i.e. Deutsche Bahn (DB) shopping malls. I am not against shopping but the quality of the products provided and the prices really are train station style – and with places like Magdeburg, Braunschweig or Bielefeld it is not as if were dying to spend my time doing anything financially awkward. (Okay, if you ever get to Frankfurt or Leipzig, man, THAT’s something different but I digress…)

Today at Braunschweig the train came in on time (kudos to that!) and I had 38 full minutes to procrastinate or do something useful. I opted for the latter, went up to the lady at the information counter and asked for the location of a pretty well-known German discounter (trading globally as well) because I had set my mind on buying these netbook-connecting-to-the-net-thingies (usb stick with dial-up connection) as I can no longer be bothered not being able to work on one of those regional trains. She told me where to go, the bus lines available, how much time I would have to spend on this and off I went. Bought a ticket at the Braunschweig public transport counter (2,15 € that is for a 90 minutes trip return), jumped on the bus M11 and rushed off to ›Kastanienallee‹ where I easily found the discounter aforementioned. Got in, bought the thing, returned to the central railway station ahead of time and set my mind on installing the darn thing. That is another story and it may soon be told …

Anyway, I had a couple of minutes left at the station so I went up to the self-same lady at the information counter. As I assumed she might not remember me helping out hundreds of different customers a day I reminded her of the fact that she kindly enough told me where to find the four-letter-company (an attempt at a crappy German-English joke ;) ) and thanked her for it. Not with flowery, poetic words but a pretty simple ›thank you very much for your help. It is highly appreciated.‹

Her face lightened up, she broke into a smile and was obviously at a loss for words. She stammered a ›thank you very much‹, obviously surprised and pleased that a customer would actually come up to her and thank her for a service she is being paid for.

In recent years (growing a beard and older) I have very often encountered people and lived through situations when I was baffled to the extent of shock that some things my parents taught me when I was a kid sometimes seem to get lost on the generations (or just on some people who happen to be morons but who knows) and one of those things was to be polite.

The true writer that I am I would love to quote one of my many forewords (*cough*) saying: »Anything you may find fault with is totally my responsibility. The other buggers at the publishing house didn’t really read this, anyway, but there you are« – so if I ever happen to misbehave in your presence it would be my very own fault and not attributable to my parents.

»Wie es in den Wald hineinschallt, so schallt es heraus.« A very nice German saying meaning: ›we reap what we sow.‹ A simple ›thank you‹ does not have to be said, especially if the person rendering a service is being paid for it – but it has never hurt a single human being in our planet’s history (yes, I am willing to go that far!) to actually say the words, if only as a part of our daily rituals.

Now, I do not know this particular lady at Braunschweig central railway station and I will, in all probability, never see her again in my whole life. But it does make me feel good knowing that I, if only for a couple of seconds until the next ungrateful bastard of a customer came along, made her smile and happy about doing her job.

Her reaction truly amazed me (and it does so every time this happens to me) as I consider this kind of behaviour as a matter of course. It does not cost me anything, except for a couple of seconds of my very own time. Time I am always willing to spend if the outcome so obviously is worth the effort.

What about you guys?

Next on the series: ›Flushing the toilet the right way‹ – or ›Don’t touch your neighbour’s cheesecake without permission.‹ Or anything more reasonable.

Picture: RE. Etienne Rheindahlen  / pixelio.de.

The horror that is travelling on German ICE trains on a sunday

I have always loved travelling by train. One of my grandfathers used to be a train driver, another worked as a guard and took me with him on regional trains when I was a kid. I used to play with a model railway that I had helped to build. As a grown-up travelling on the train became a metaphor for freedom, visiting friends, making acquaintances, working and doing business. To me a car, a bus or a plane will never take the same place as a train speeding through the shifting landscapes of many countries, the opportunity of either working, thinking, watching the miles go by or simply sleep … You may have noticed: I do love going places by train.

As a young student seeing an ICE train from Deutsche Bahn entering a major railway station was a sight to behold, an engineering effort of outstanding quality, a symbol of technological advances in Germany. We are talking early 1990′s here, and I will never forget the moment when I rode on an ICE (InterCity Express) going 300 kilometres an hour for the first time in my life zooming from Cologne to Frankfurt. Why bother flying a plane if you can enjoy the comforts of a decent train?

However, in recent years the outdated ICE trains of all engineering generations have become a burden at the hands of a managing team at DB oblivious to the needs of its customers. Now, let me say in the beginning that I have met many friendly employees of the Deutsche Bahn on trains and at railway stations and things have become much better when it comes to customer service. I have also travelled on trains which were on time and well-managed and fellow travellers who were corteous, entertaining and interesting.

But the technological issues plaguing the old carriages used on long-distance trains have become legion. With some trains the air conditioning does not work at full speed (or not at all) which in recent summers led to people actually collapsing from heat. I am riding on a train from Hanau to Berlin while writing this (it is a Sunday afternoon) and with four carriages there are supposed to be eight toilets – but five are out of order and with a sixth the door cannot be locked. As Deutsche Bahn does not demand advance seat registrations in recent years trains had to be stopped because there were too many people in them (without registrations) – and having to leave a train in the middle of nowhere is not what these people had in mind when boarding the train. On friday long distance trains and on sundays you will see many people standing or sitting in the aisles. Many carriages will not have electricity for a laptop (or not enough outlets) and do not ask about wireless internet.

All in all, the former railway glory of Germany has turned into something that is, at best, second rate. I am not even going to mention the issue of punctuality or the fact that families with young kids have special compartments but not enough of them – which turns some carriages into living hell with infants screaming for two hundred miles.

Now, keep in mind we are talking about second-class travelling. One would assume that with a first-class ticket you would be much better off but in comparison with countries such as Sweden and France things look pretty bleak. Tee, coffee, free wireless internet and other amenities are available as long as you are not travelling Deutsche Bahn. The question is: why bother paying almost double the price of a second-class ticket if the only thing you get is quiet? Yes, I know, people will say that there are first-class lounges in several major railways stations but if you ever have the chance of going to the capital of Germany and have a look at one of the most expensive and biggest railway stations in the world in Berlin you will find a first-class lounge not worth being called ‘first-class.’

The only thing I could do is to hunker down at the ‘board restaurant’, get myself an espresso, put in my earplugs and listen to loud music while writing this at a tall table. You don’t get a seat because you are not supposed to disturb people with your mobile, notebook or other ‘electronical devices.’

We definitely need more competition on long-distance trains. Maybe that’ll help in getting decent trains again. With enough leg room. Affordable prices. And a travelling experience I would love to share with you because it is simple awesome … instead of depressing or disappointing.

Ah well, wishful thinking.

I am looking forward to my next Thalys ride.

Picture source: Deutsch: ICE-Werk München mit ICE 1. Datum:  22. Januar 2005.  User: Sebastian Terfloth; Sese_Ingolstadt. Copyright:  CC-SA-2.5.

Does Albus Dumbledore have anything to do with Tolkien?

As a Tolkienist reading my favourite author’s works is both a pleasure and an inspiration. J.R.R. Tolkien has envisaged a fantastic world which seems both boundless and ever-changing as my own perception of its possible messages and hidden meanings changes over time (while perfectly ignoring the option that there are no messages and meanings.)

Recently, I stumbled over a single and very rare word in one of Tolkien’s most complex poems called ‘Errantry‘ (which to students of English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Cologne was a pain in the backside as one of the professors had people try and find out its rhyme scheme – do have a go!) and this word is ‘Dumbledors.’

Now, anyone who has ever heard of J.K. Rowling’s outstanding fantasy series ‘Harry Potter’ will easily recognize the similarity – but is there, actually, a link?

I found an interview J.K. Rowling gave at the website Etoys.com and is preserved on many Potter fansites (unfortunately, the original article has been deleted as the website has undergone major changes since the year 2000.) In it she is quoted saying:

How do you come up with all the unique names, places, and things that help make Harry Potter so intriguing?

Many of the names are invented, for example “Quidditch” and “Muggle.” I also collect unusual names, and I take them from all sorts of different places. “Hedwig” was a saint, “Dumbledore” is an old English word for “bumblebee,” and “Snape” is the name of a place in England.

A branch of academic research on Tolkien’s works has been specialising in looking for his sources, a time-consuming but extremely satisfying task with a leading philologist of its time. In many cases only experts on medieval literature or Anglo-Saxon will be able to determine the links and associations the Oxford University professor has been using in his very own creative process.

Now Rowling is, of course, not an academic of Tolkien’s standing (which is not meant as a slight on her – there are many writers without any formal training and I am very happy about that!) and her process of naming characters and places will be different from the one Tolkien had been working from. There is a difference between someone using a dictionary and someone who worked on it – as Tolkien did with the Oxford English Dictionary. (And by the way: Truly inventing a word is almost impossible [except for gibberish] but it is rather easy to revive words long lost and it is quite probable not to know about possible relations – “Muggle”, for example, is to someone from Berlin a pretty common sight in “Müggelsee” and “Müggelberge”, a lake and hills surrounding it. I do not know whether there is a connection between these two but with Germanic languages almost anything is possible.)

Browsing through several major dictionaries of the English language it was pretty simple to determine the meaning Rowling had been looking for:

(…) “Dumbledore” is an old English word for “bumblebee.” (…)

The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition of 1989, vol. iv, p. 1116, offers the following explanations:

(c) OED Dumbledore

(c) OED Dumbledore

So it boils down to a bumble-bee (as Rowling rightly stated) or a cockchafer, both flying insects.

Funnily enough the link to “drumble-dore” offers the option of being associated with “dromedary” or fig. “a heavy stupid fellow” (p. 1084, vol. iv). It is essential, though, that the number of examples provided by the OED is very small – a possible hint that this word is rare, indeed.

In James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial words from the 14th century (I used a 1973 reprint of the 1855 3rd edition by AMS Press, New York) the entry “Dumbledore” is very straightforward:

DUMBLEDORE. (1) A humble-bee. Devon.

(2) A beetle, or cockchafer. South.

(3) A stupid fellow. Somerset. (vol. i, p. 324)

So “Dumbledore” is a word present in several regional English dialects but with divergent meanings. With “drumble” the explanations are “(…) to be sluggish; to be confused in doing anything; to mumble. West. It occurs in Shakespeare.”

Websters’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary in its 2nd edition, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1979, reduces “dumbledore” to “1. a cockchafer [Brit. Dial] 2. the bumblebee” (p. 563) and with “drumble” the entry is mainly [Obsolete.] “Slow and inactive or sluggish” are the suggested meanings.

With Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language from 1755 (available in a reprint Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, Hildesheim, 1968) there is no entry for “dumbledore”, only “drumble” is found:

TO DRUMBLE. v.n. To drone; to be sluggish. Take up these cloaths here quickly: where’s the cowlstaff? Look, how you drumble. Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

It was with Johnson’s dictionary that I came across a great set of articles of fellow Tolkienist Jason Fisher on his blog Lingwe – Musings of a Fish (a must-read for any Tolkien afficionado) dealing with Tolkien’s linguistic creativity and his remarkable ability in reviving ancient words in his writings (especially in the more obscure texts besides The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.) And there I found a link to Johnson’s dictionary being revamped for an anniversary in 2009 mentioning the bezoar used in one of Hogwart’s potions.

To find a word like “dumbledore” as the name of a powerful magician is quite a feat considering its rarity. It might be present in dictionaries on regional dialects or middle to modern English but if the OED only has a very small amount of quotations to show for it seems reasonable to assume that J.K. Rowling used such dictionaries in her search for fitting names. There is a small possibility that she may have heard the name of “dumbledore” for “bumble-bee” in her youth but this seems highly unlikely judging from her biography.

Or she might have read “Errantry” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

So there you are. One word in a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien and one article. Thanks to the Europäische Übersetzer-Kollegium for providing me with this opportunity to go berserk on  a lot of different dictionaries.

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And so it begins … again. The Hobbit

The Hobbit is being filmed in New Zealand, starting on March 21st, 2011. Thumbs up for this project!

http://www.thehobbitblog.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheHobbitMovie

Really nothing else to say. Looking forward to it!

Picture:  (c) Peter Jackson. New Line Cinema/ MGM

John Howe could paint your Smart, too :)

Sophisticated Games SMART in Hobbit colours

Sophisticated Games SMART in Hobbit colours

Sophisticated Games in Cambridge belong to a very small number of companies allowed to publish board games based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical world of Middle-earth.I have only been involved in one of these products, the Middle-earth Trivia Quiz, which in Germany was published by KOSMOS (I was the translator.) Generally speaking, I am always interested in board, card and roleplaying games as I have been a gamer all of my life (both virtually and in front of a gaming table.) Robert Hyde, managing director of Sophisticated Games, sent me these pictures of their company’s SMART which has seen some slight alterations. All fans of John Howe (artistically responsible for the film trilogy, amongst others) will appreciate this new style.

How a Hobbit can become a beatboxing champ

Note from the start: The young man I am presenting with this blog post does not seem to be a Tolkien fan. His nickname does not derive from the Hobbit of my favourite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, but from his father’s nickname (whose family name is Hobbs) – and simply because the nick sounds great. However, my personal interest in beatboxing AND Tolkien made me find this illustrious English beatboxer from Gloucester: pleased to meet Hobbit.

He is in his early twenties and has recently won the South West Heat of the UK Beatbox Championships 2011. Despite not being grown up (according to Hobbit lore) he has earned quite a few accolades and is considered to be the 2nd best beatboxer in the UK right now (I am not judging on that but have read this a couple of times.) What I find especially interesting about him is that does not simply stand on a stage with a mike in his hand but does loads of cooperations with other musicians, even going on tour with world music players from all over the world. To get an idea what this man has been doing do have a look at the YouTube channel of Hobbit, hobbittv.com. His label mic(ism) does have some more pieces of information and the beatboxing Hobbit is on Facebook as well.

One of the best pieces I have ever seen is this littel beatbox game between Hobbit, Marvill and Reeps feeding each other lines. Big up!

Picture: Hobbit (c)

The Saga of Biôrn, the Viking. Wonderful animated short

The Animation Workshop in Denmark seems to be a breeding ground for hilarious creativity in animation art if you judge it by this film – and it is a bachelor film project, i.e. done by students! The class 0f 2011 put up their stuff in February on Vimeo eingestellt and I have to thank Blaz for telling me about some of the most entertaining seven minutes I have ever had in my life.

Biôrn is a Vikings’ Viking and for him there is only thing in life he would die for: to reach Valhall, the Hall of the Fallen, where they celebrate and fight until the end of time. However, every time the opportunity arises to actually fall in battle the Gods seem to have it in for him – until, finally, he stumbles over a might troll just torching a church …

Biôrn, an old Viking, is determined to reach Valhalla, the warrior’s afterlife full of excessive drinking and debauchery. To gain entry he has to die honorably in battle, but he discovers that the right death isn’t so easy

Picture: Saga of Biôrn, Animation Workshop, 2011. A film by: Benjamin J. Kousholt, Daniel D. Christensen, Mads Lundgaard Christensen, Jesper A. Jensen, Jonas K. Doctor, Steffen Lyhne, Pernille Ørum-Nielsen, Frederik Bjerre-Poulsen, Jonas Georgakakis

Unusual reading with live music on March 5th at Periplaneta, Berlin: Jung, Märkert und Klatte

Incidentally, this event is not available in the foyer – or in German. Our apologies.

Help Nathan Buy Firefly – fans want to have series back

On February 17th, 2011, Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds with the awesome Sci-Fiseries Firefly, said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly something that made the fans go wild – again:

If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.

People who know Firefly fans (called Browncoats) know who truly fanatic they are about their favourite series which made it onto the television screen at the end of 2002 just to be cancelled – prematurely. The man behind it all (as well as Angel and Buffy), Joss Whedon, had the opportunity to do at least a film and this happened mainly because of the support given by the fans. Since then the whole franchise didn’t really get anywhere, television or film-wise.

Following Fillion’s statement Browncoats from all over the world jumped at the opportunity to try and convince licencees Rox and Universal (television/film rights) of a resurrection of Firefly. When other people who participated in the original series, both in front and behind the camera, offered their support and the Facebook group Help Nathan Buy Firefly had more than 100,000 members (on 28.2.2011) pledging financial backing for this whole project on a website it became pretty clear that this might be the biggest chance yet to have Firefly on the air again. By the way: one of the most vocal supporters is bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind.)

war klar, daß dies mit Abstand die beste Gelegenheit seit Jahren war, Firefly endlich wieder auferstehen zu lassen.

Support this initiative!

http://twitter.com/HelpNathanBuyFF

http://www.facebook.com/HelpNathanBuyFF

http://helpnathanbuyfirefly.com/the-pledge-system-and-100k