Advertising vs honestly recommending stuff

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a company willing to pay me a bit to advertise their online services here on this blog. That had never happened before, so I was a bit stunned! And flattered, of course! Tempted to say yes, sure! Money is nice, right? And again, it was very flattering.

Now, I haven’t accepted. And I probably won’t. Because in the end I figured… I have no frakking idea if they are worth endorsing or not. They are aimed particularly at people with mental health issues, and while they might be just lovely I don’t know that. How can I tell followers of mine to spend money on something that might be crap? Or worse, might potentially make those mental health issues worse?

So here I am, not advertising them. Instead, I’m going to share with you some of the items we have bought this summer (more specifically, in Visby during Medieval Week). Not because anyone is paying me to advertise for them, but because I personally found these things bloody awesome and the small scale crafters/musicians making them deserve the praise.

 

 

 

I am still looking for info on some of these and so will have to add more later, but here’s what I can say right away:

Idisi, awesome medieval fusion band from Moscow  – that’s the cd you see there.  We saw them perform at the market, and aaaah yes. So good. Would definitely have gone on to see their concert later that night if it wasn’t for the fact that we by then had left the island.

Historiska Fynd  – see the bronze pieces? The spear pendant, the Fenrir pendant, and the two little ‘thingies’ that will go onto a belt. Based on archaeological finds. Absolutely fabulous, I get pretty much all my bronze stuff from this guy.

Mariefred Pottery made those ridiculously pretty blue-brown jugs-and-little-flask. Oh and I gotta say, you can fit an entire bottle of wine in one of those jugs, they’re brilliant.

Medeltidsmode.se – The fabulous wool fabrics you see there are from these guys. I stood forever unable to decide between the blue and the green, so I ended up getting both.

Tallgårdens Krukmakeri – See the blue-ish mugs? Gorgeous. We’ve bought things from this place pretty much every year in Visby, it’s such a talented crafts(wo)man!

Gott från Idholmen – That jam you see there is just mouth wateringly good. I wish I bought more.

 

Still looking for the correct links to the rest of the stuff seen in the pictures, so I’ll have to get back to you on those.

 

But there you are! Stuff! Actual awesome stuff that I honestly can recommend!

 

Not-really-a-great-review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

Since when do I do movie reviews? Uhm, I don’t really. But aaah, never too late to start. Let me try and do this without spoilers, m’kay?

In the grand scheme of things I am a fan of the X-men movies. They are the sort of movies I’ll watch when wanting something light and entertaining, true super-hero movies where you can say fuck you, it doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful, I like it anyway!

So last night we watched this latest X-men movie, Days of Future Past. It takes place partially in a not too distant future where there is all-out war between mutants and non-mutants, and partially back in the 1970s where our heroes struggle to change time and stop the big bad from ever happening. No, really this can’t be counted as a spoiler, every summary or trailer will tell you just as much!

There is much to like about this movie, there really is. Great performance from our old time favourites like Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen. Great performance from our new favourites, the younger versions of the X-men heroes (I just love the young Magneto, Michael Fassbender rocks). Great looking special effects. High paced action that keeps even me from falling asleep, as otherwise easily can happen. Plenty of moments to gasp, hiss, and laugh.

Oh and best of all, this guy here:

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Yes, I just learned how to make GIFs so I of course must find an excuse to put one in here, sshhhhh! This guy here, the younger one with the goggles, is a young Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters). In my humble opinion he is the single greatest part of this movie. Well written, well played, brilliant character. Evan Peters, I think I love you for this!

So with all these good aspects, this review of mine must be positive, no?

No. I am sorry but the plot of Days of Future Past has so many logical errors that by the end I was literally flipping the middle finger to the tv and yelling foul words. Yes really, I did that. I want to love this movie, I really do. There is so much in it that tickles my happy super-hero action gene, so much to like, but then they simply… ruin it with bad, bad plot.

I will probably watch it again though, soon enough. And I’ll probably be just as angry at the end. And I’ll probably love Quicksilver just as much – seriously, well done with that one! But the movie as a whole? It suffers from a bad case of “screw logic, this is fantasy anyway so who cares?” And that we all know won’t fly, even fantasy needs to make sense withing its own universe, you can’t use fantasy as an excuse to do things badly and skip out on logic.

Repeat after me folks. Even fantasy must make sense within its own reality.

 

 

 

The Witcher 3 – First Impressions

Guess what I got for Christmas? The blog post’s title gives it away I’m afraid. The Witcher 3, yes oh yes. I have still only teased the surface of this gem of a game, but I can’t wait any longer. So here, have my first impressions of The Witcher 3 – The Wild Hunt!

 

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I honestly didn’t know quite what to expect of this game. Unlike so many I had no expectations after the first or second Witcher game – for I had never played them. Of course I knew this game was supposed to be good, a number of good friends have told me so after all, but you never really know until you try it yourself. No customized main character? Too used to MMOs where I can play whatever type of character I fancy, the idea of only playing the role of this man, this Geralt, was not actually very tempting. But… all my friends couldn’t be wrong, I just had to try it.

After the first minutes of gameplay I was squeeking and jumping up and down in my chair. Not even exaggerating, I really did. “LOOK!” I called out to my husband, giddy as an excited child. “Look at how pretty it is! Ooooh look at the clothes! Oh my GOD look at how he handles the sword!”

Yes, I was in love.

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What do I like about this game? I’ve hinted at it already but let me go over it with more clarity and structure. First, and this I doubt anyone can argue against, it is absolutely beautiful. I am not only talking the technical aspects here, the graphics (though they are great!), but of the entire visual design. The landscape manages to be beautiful even when it’s ugly, with swamps and discoloured patches of grass. The sunsets and sunrises bring colour and light that has me stopping just to look and admire the view. The villages and cities… oh don’t get me started on those.

 

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And the swordsmanship? I’m an old HEMA enthusiast, I’ve practiced many long hours with the longsword myself and drooled over the old manuscripts (not really, wouldn’t drool on the actual manuscripts, that would be… bad). Most of the time, seeing swordfighting scenes in movies or video games leaves me disappointed and frustrated. (Have you ever noticed that in Guild Wars 2 for example, the sound a longsword makes when hitting any target is spot on the sound that comes from beating a metal trashcan with a baseball bat? It makes my skin crawl.) But here? Come the first fight scene and I was happily calling out the stances taken, the techniques used. I haven’t read up the facts here but I would bet my mead collection on them having had actual HEMA-practicioners do the swordfighting. Even the soldiers doing lazy sword drills in the background are doing it right! You might not know how rare that is to see, but trust me, it’s impressive.

 

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What more? Oh yes, the clothes. Aaaah now this not just makes me drool, it makes my fingers itch. Never before have a game given me this much inspiration to be crafty, it’s quite amazing. The attention to detail they’ve put into the garments worn by even the most unimportant NPC is just brilliant. At one point during a cutscene I even yelped and pointed out the screen, exclaiming “LOOK! They’ve not just made any old ribbon but CARD-WOVEN RIBBONS that look just like the one I’ve made!” This game makes me want to sew, and weave, and dye, and work with leather, and and and… Yes. The medieval enthusiast in me that has laid rather dormant for a few years is somersaulting.

 

 

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Let’s not talk about how this game also makes me want to learn more about what herbs may grow here locally, and what they traditionally might have been used for. Did I say that? No no, I am not crazy, I can’t have said that. What video game makes you want to pick herbs?

And the story? Haven’t even mentioned the story yet. You know how in many games you basically just skip the dialogue because it’s completely uninteresting, and the story feels like a meaningless last-minute addition? Not here. Now I have still not played through it all and there is much to the story I don’t yet know, but so far I am thoroughly impressed. It’s intriguing and grips me much like how a good book or movie will do. Even the side quests are well written and well played – oh yes I say played, for the voice acting here is far above the terrible standard in most games. Some scenes have had me hanging on to every word they say, I’ve cringed and even gasped. Again, I’m not even exaggerating here.

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This I will say though. It is not a game for you who want a bright and happy fantasy world. This is not, I repeat not a game you want to buy to your children. Please, please don’t put this in the hands of a kid, it’s far too dark for that. For all its beauty this is a game with so much darkness that it’s at times almost overwhelming. The world portrayed in this game is not a pleasant one. The stories told don’t always have happy endings and you don’t even always get to be the good guy. But if you enjoy playing through a more gritty and dark world, where violence isn’t actually glorious and fantastic (but rather gruesome and unpleasant) then yes, go for it, play this game.

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There is more I could say, but I think that will be it for now. I will be back with another blog post once I’ve played through the entire game (the entire main story at least!), and see if my final impressions will have changed from these, initial ones. There I will also delve into what weaknesses I think the game has, for of course there is always things that could be done better. But that’s for later, for now I am all about the positives so deal with it.

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

Barnbruden – a book review

I just recently decided that since I am working on getting back to writing in Swedish, I should in fact also read in Swedish. Now, for one who has almost exclusively been reading fiction in English for the past ten-fifteen years, this quite honestly didn’t seem too appealing. But, I though, I used to enjoy literature in Swedish as well. There are good Swedish authors after all, plenty of them. And I need to get back into the Swedish mind-set.

And so I went to the bookstore in search of a novel. I wanted historical fiction, preferably centered around the 18th century, and I wanted Swedish to be the original language. Why? Because I have a general dislike of translations.

Barnbruden by Anna Laestadius Larsson caught my eye. As I picked it up, a store clerk sighed happily and said “Ooh that one, it’s so good!”

Well alright. It fit the bill. Swedish, check. 18th century, check. Good reviews, right? Worth a shot.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, this review is not a positive one.

Where do I begin… Ah, the dialogue. In her attempt at having the characters speak and think in a poetic and historical fashion, the author has managed writing speech in a way that most often feels far removed from any realistic portrayal of actual people. That alone really is not too big a problem, though. But combine that with characters that to a large extent seem as two dimensional as cardboard cut-outs and the result is not a happy one.

There are instances where character development and growth are attempted, like when the main character, Charlotta, temporarily falls for the temptation of dulling her pain with alcohol and gambling, or when Sophie struggles to come to terms with life as a housewife in charge of a kitchen. Or for that matter when Charlotta i left by the lover she has been passionately in love with, or when the Queen is faced with the shameful insight that the reason why she hasn’t managed getting pregnant is that the King has been using the wrong hole, and another man is brought in to show the King where to put it. These moments, these challenges, that could have been ripe with opportunities for personal growth, are passed by as quickly as possible. Is there a budding alcoholism? Not to worry, that passes as quickly as it came, seemingly without any effort or consequence. As a result, the difficulties met by the characters seem as no more than superficial tools used by the author to show how well they can fight their way through misery, how strong these women are.

And there we touch on the next issue I want to mention. Undoubtedly life was hard for women in the 18th century. Undoubtedly they were treated as inferior to men, there was systematic discrimination and abuse commonplace. Unfortunately it would seem as Laestadius focuses so much on showing this brutal reality, that it tips over heavily into sensationalism.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with graphic descriptions of violence, or even of sexual abuse, when it is justified and well written. I do not however like to be whacked over the head with yet another rape scene when it seems to be there for the sole purpose of making the reader gasp at how terrible everything is.

The feminist agenda runs through the novel from start to finish. Which, one might think, should be a good thing. Sadly it is done so clumsily that the whole thing feels a bit like a large piece of propaganda. Male characters are all abusive, bordering on insane, or womanizers. Female characters are all almost exclusively victims of the patriarchy, while being clever, beautiful, modern, and most importantly good. Male characters only think of furthering their power or satisfying their lust. Female characters are interested in philosophy, charity, love and literature. A man who is cheating on his wife is ridiculed as a horndog. A wife cheating on her husband is strong and and rightfully looking to her own pleasure. The difference in how male and female characters are created, and how they are portrayed, couldn’t be more obvious. They come across as stereotypes created to serve a political purpose, not as believable characters.

Do I have nothing good to say about this book? Well, the actual historical figures that lie behind are absolutely fascinating, I’ll give you that. But as literature goes, I wouldn’t recommend it.