Monthly Archives: December 2022

December in Review

The Site

The end of another calendar year has arrived.  As it approached I did make it to the milestone I was attempting to achieve, posting for one thousand days in a row.

A four digit number

That and a double sawbuck will get me something at Starbucks.

I am actually up to 1,008 days in a row today, having a bunch of year end stuff to finish up.  And I’ll hit 1,009 tomorrow for sure.  But at some point soon I’ll take a day off and break the streak.

It was actually not a bad month for traffic here at TAGN, though that was largely due, once again, to somebody rolling up on the site in the middle of the night and viewing all the pages.  Or something.  I don’t know.  I just woke up and found I was about five thousand page views ahead of the norm that day.

The middle finger, in the nicest possible way

So an uptick this month, but not exactly representative of the trend around here, which is all down hill.  The new year will no doubt revert this momentary spike.

One Year Ago

My daughter and I finally got the Pokemon remake we had been waiting for with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.  All Pokemons were go!

There were end of year summaries where I wrote about how much time I spent on Reddit, what channels I was watching on Twitch, I reviewed the answers to my questions for 2021, and then there were the highs and lows of 2021.

I was wondering what the FFXIV Endwalker expansion might do to WoW’s numbers.  Then there was the WoW Community Council, where Blizz selected members that pretty much aligned with their own outlook.  It seemed a bad year for Blizz and I was wondering what the biggest blow to them was in 2021.

EverQuest II got the Visions of Vertovia expansion while EverQuest got the Terrors of Luclin expansion.  But those were barely news compared to how much coverage the hint that they were making a Marvel superhero MMO was getting.

While Potshot and I had tried out Forza Horizon 5 on XBox Live, I went off and downgraded to Forza Horizon 4 on Steam, where it was on sale with all the DLC content.  Also, it was set in the UK and I wanted English (and Italian) cars.  It seemed like a bargain and lots of fun despite not being the latest offering.

The instance group was still playing New World.  We were out to find that Azoth staff, needed for dungeons.  Finding that got us to the Amrine Expedition. The first run went poorly, and the second run ended without killing the final boss.  The third time we managed to finish it off.

Meanwhile, our server was starting to decline, though not as much as some.  Still, we got merged into a new one. I was also feeling the pain of not allowing alts on a server.  But we did get the Winter Convergence event.

And then there was EVE Online, where CCP began inflicting the New Dawn permanent austerity plan on players.  My view of the state of New Eden was somewhat grim.  They even fumbled getting the MER out.

There was the Winter Nexus holiday event in New Eden, I commemorated a decade in null sec space, and I got my year in review video from CCP.

I was also wondering what, if anything, came before PLEX in the industry.  And then, in a Friday bullet points post, I noted that Daybreak acquired Magic the Gathering Online, Crowfall had found a new owner, and Perfect World Entertainment had been embraced by the Embracer Group.

Five Years Ago

We got the Ring of Scale expansion for EverQuest.

Nintendo and Game Freak released what might end up being the last Pokemon title to arrive on their handheld hardware in the form of Pokemon Crystal for the Virtual Console.

I was kind of bummed when Blizzard took away my sunglasses.  But I was still out fishing and doing pet battles in World of Warcraft.  And, most important of all, I unlocked flying in the Legion expansion.  I also spent some time trying to find an objective way to measure my favorite WoW expansion.

CCP launched the Arms Race expansion for EVE Online which included expanded Alpha Clone abilities and special skill injectors just for them.  The Agent Finder also got moved into The Agency completely.  Meanwhile, the Yule Lads weren’t delivering presents to us in New Eden.  We had to go find them ourselves.

I also hit a tipping point in the game, where now most of my time playing was now in null sec.

Actually out in space Reavers were deployed into Pure Blind and were quite active in December, with the following posts about fleet ops:

There was the usual set of review posts for 2017.  I looked at my predictions, my MMO outlook, highs and lows, and some MMO bloggers.

And there was, of course, a Steam Winter Sale.  I was in the “not enthusiastic” part of my relationship with Steam.

Ten Years Ago

I wrote a post looking at 50 years of James Bond.  It included ranked lists for people to argue about.

There was my standard Highs & Lows post for the year gone by, and I reviewed my questions for 2012.

Turbine announced that they were bringing back Asheron’s Call 2.  That ended up going mostly wrong in the end.

I was deep into my World of Tanks binge.  I was up to the KV-2 on the Soviet heavy line, choosing that path after the three way split at the KV-1. (And the T-28.)  I was also still working on the German tank destroyer line.

We were having a bit of fun in Need for Speed: World.  I even made a holiday video.

In Rift we were having some trouble getting a full group together, so we were doing some lower level instances as a group of four.  I was also struggling with the whole dimension thing.

Gaff and I took a quick peek into EverQuest II.  Nostalgia didn’t last long.  I also took a one-time shot at Wizardy Online.  It just wasn’t a game for me, but not every game has to be.

I was looking back on a year in null sec in EVE Online.  The Retribution expansion went live.  Also I hit 90 million skill points.

I crammed together all the ads I could find from the EVE Online splash screen.  The then new launcher killed off those ads… sort of.  They’re just elsewhere now, but not so easy to screen shot.

Fifteen Years Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

Another EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities, including grousing about keyboard settings.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” the whole “predicting Kunark” thing from the year before having gone to my head.  I was also looking at crafting after the Rise of Kunark expansion shipped.  I hit level 61 and then 62, but I wouldn’t get much further for a long time.  And I was looking at shrunken owlbears and trolling in Darklight Woods.

The Saturday Night Instance Group was in World of Warcraft and finishing up Blackrock Depths.  This was back in the days where you didn’t just run an instance in 15 minutes with some strangers then queue up again in dungeon Finder for the next one.  Our first run got us through the detention block, our second run got us to Lord Incendius, and our third run finally finished off the instance and got us on our way to Marshall Windsor and Lady Prestor.  That was basically four Saturday nights dealing with one instance.  Good times.

I was also happy about a feature of the WoW Armory.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

was interviewed over at World IV blog.  That was back when I was somebody I guess.  And blogs were still a thing.  I had to reset that link to the Internet Archive.

I was annoyed at Lord of the Rings Online, which was updating a lot of files and killing my video card, but still wasn’t giving me a horse.

lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

We also got the Trinity expansion, which had some issue… like deleting the boot.ini file on people’s drives.  #NeverForget

CCP was also telling people to get out of Jita, it already having grown to be the trade hub of New Eden.  A couple of jumps over in Hageken somebody built one of the first space designs I had seen.

I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

X-Fire was still a thing and putting out stats about what their users were playing, including MMOs.  EVE Online figured on the list, as it did on the F13.net poll about MMOs.

There was a Duke Nukem Forever trailer, just six years after the last one.  The game still wouldn’t come out until 2011 and remains the yardstick for delay to which even Chris Roberts may still aspire.

And the best selling PC games of 2007 were:

  1. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
  2. The Sims 2: Seasons
  3. Command & Conquer 3
  4. The Sims 2: Bon Voyage
  5. Supreme Commander
  6. Lord of the Rings Online: The Shadows of Angmar
  7. The Orange Box
  8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  9. BioShock
  10. The Sims 2: H&M Fashion Stuff

Twenty Years Ago

The Sims Online launched, the first of a number of half-hearted attempts by EA to find success in the virtual world space without simply buying another company that had some success.  Misunderstanding the meaning of virtual worlds to paying customers, and perhaps the meaning of The Sims to that very dedicated player base, the game was reported to feel like and endless grind to do things like make pizzas in order to be able to afford to do things.  Since I was told that by one of the designers, I’m going to stick with that point of view.  The game would eventually be shut down in the summer of 2008, having survived pretty long for an EA effort.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Quake II launched, which I recall being mildly controversial and leading to a Quake vs. Quake II division in the community.

The Pokemon anime episode Cyber Soldier Porygon aired, causing hundreds of kids to have seizures due to the rapidly flashing animation.

Also my wife let her recently laid off boyfriend… me… move in with her for reasons I still don’t quite understand.  Any objective outside observer who had ever seen my apartment would have called it a bad idea I am sure.  Also, I had a cat.  An unemployed man with a cat.  What was she thinking?

Thirty Years Ago

Westwood Studios releases Dune II, arguably the first real-time strategy game and the one that serves as the template for its many imitators.  Some nerds at a company called Silicone & Synapse are obsessed with it and decide to make their own RTS, but allowing multiple players.

At a company Christmas party everybody who worked on our “Teleport Gold” project got a video game console, either a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis.  I was disappointed to get the latter, but we ended up playing a lot of NBA Jam on it.

Forty Five Years Ago

The Atari 2600 was on store shelves everywhere and I got one for Christmas.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. Flight in Pre-Patch Outland
  4. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  5. Faction Warfare Updates Kicking Off in EVE Online
  6. WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases
  7. Making the Grey Pit in Valheim
  8. The RimWorld Biotech Expansion
  9. CCP Lets EVE Online Players with Multiple Accounts Subscribe Secondary Accounts at a Lower Price
  10. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  11. The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath Classic
  12. The Federal Trade Commission Sues to Block Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Search Terms of the Month

all least of fantasy westward journey and thier names
[Not sure I can help with that]

which outlands area has least amount of group quests
[I think Zangarmarsh has the most soloable group quests]

2009 minecraft realms
[Only back in 2009]

world of warcraft collectible coin set alliance
[I am sure it is out there somewhere]

Game Time by ManicTime

Well, at least I played four games on my PC this month rather than just two.

  • WoW Classic – 62.71%
  • EVE Online – 31.90%
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – 3.05%
  • Valheim – 2.34%

EVE Online

As you can see by the time tracking above, I actually spent a bit more time in New Eden this month.  There was the big battle at H-PA29, which kept me logged in for a few hours.  But then I also got myself invested in some ISK making in order to revive my bank account, which has been dwindling since the end of the war.  I want to have enough financial padding when the next big event comes along.

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

I picked this up on Steam, though there is a longer tale about it than that, which I will get to in the new year.  But I did get some play time in with it.

Pokemon Go

My wife and I, having hit 43 last month, started the big climb to level 44.  11 million xp to get there.  I suspect I will be ringing in 2024 and not be there yet.

  • Level: 43 (10% of the way to 44 in xp, 0 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 746 (+2) caught, 764 (+3) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 21 of 25
  • Pokemon I want: Pachirisu
  • Current buddy: Golisopod (just because he looks cool)

Valheim

The advent to the Mistlands update got me to dig out our old world and set it up again, then run out and get myself killed in the new content.  That is always the way of things.  I didn’t find a lot of time for Viking life after that, but it is still there as an option.

WoW Classic

I made it to level 80 with my first character and the group got together and did a couple of instances.  But the back half of the month saw a lot of family and work events getting in the way, so I didn’t spend as much time in Wrath Classic as I might have.  I also pretty much punted on the holiday events there.

Zwift

I fell off the wagon… or the bike I suppose… in the back half of the month.  Again, the holidays will do that to you.  My dedicated ride time is generally Saturday and Sunday mornings, and when Christmas and New Years fall on Sunday, they get in the way.  Still, I did not slack off completely.

  • Level – 17
  • Distanced cycled – 1,399 miles (+47 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 54,409 (+1,387 feet)
  • Calories burned – 43,140 (+1,194)

Coming Up

2023.  That’s the year.

Well, you likely know that tomorrow will be some sort of New Year’s prediction post.  There are also a few more end of year wrap up posts to be done.

But most of all, I feel like a nap.  Are we all good with that?

Looking Back at 2022 – Highs and Lows

Looking back at 2022 makes me feel tired.  Tired for a lot of reasons, including getting laid off and having to start a new job, the failing health of my parent’s generation and having to manage that, another election season, the Russians, the general state of the world, and Elon Musk… I am very tired of Elon Musk.

I am also tired of hearing the word “charcuterie,” which I think I have heard more in 2022 that in all my past years combined.  I believe my wife unironically said “charcuterie” 14 times last week alone.

2022 is what we get

But here we are at the end of the year and another staple annual post here, something else that makes me feel a bit tired.  Some years I start writing this post in May or June, so it is easy to wrap up.  And then there are years like 2022 where I am throwing something together at the last minute.

For looks back at past years, there is a list.

Anyway, let’s step right into this steaming pile so I can get it over with.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Shipped the Dragonflight expansion in 2022!
  • Characters don’t use “borrowed power” directly in Dragonflight!
  • An actual plan announced for how Dragonflight is going to play out!
  • Shipped Overwatch 2!
  • Shipped Diablo Immortal!
  • Launched Wrath of the Lich King Classic!
  • Gave us a ship date for Diablo IV!
  • Actually announced a NEW GAME, something in the co-op survival genre!!!
  • Microsoft acquisition promises a cleaning of house when it comes to their loathsome corporate overlords

Lows

  • Dragonflight didn’t get that “what a great launch” compared to past expansions press release, a staple of expansions since WotLK, which is probably a bad sign
  • Dragonflight repeats the Shadowlands theme of a quick run to level cap and then the next two years in end game grind
  • Dragon riding on special dragon mounts… is still borrowed power
  • That two year Dragonflight roadmap is pretty light on dates and details
  • This new survival title is way out in the future
  • Overwatch 2?  That didn’t seem to make much of a splash
  • Heroes of the Storm??
  • StarCraft universe???
  • Diablo Immortal just lacked a cryto connection to fufill all of our worst monetization expectations
  • Diablo IV seems unlikely to hit its mark when it comes to a ship date and that was probably thrown out there for the benefit of Microsoft
  • No matter what happens with the Microsoft acquisition, the people who made Activision Blizzard a horrible place, who led by example in making it a hostile work environment, will be rewarded handsomely for all of their bad deeds
  • Oh, did I forget about Blizz and NetEase falling out, leaving Chinese gamers in the lurch?

Enad Global 7

Highs

  • EverQuest and EverQuest II get expansions, updates, and 64-bit upgrades
  • Mini-expansion and new starter areas for LOTRO
  • PlanetSide 2 hits 10 and tops its past world record
  • A lot of press coverage about their unannounced Marvel super hero title
  • They shipped some other titles… I’m sure…

Lows

  • EverQuest and EverQuest II got absolutely no other attention from the company
  • The idea of LOTRO on consoles seems less likely now than it did two years ago
  • Marvel super hero title cancelled… again… after getting all that attention
  • Daybreak titles make up most of the software revenue and almost all of the recurring subscription revenue
  • The company is now pretty much run by the Daybreak team, which has a track record of shipping nothing new and simply milking old titles
  • It probably says something that I have this little to say about the company

CCP

Highs

  • FanFest was back!
  • Big expansions were back!
  • The Uprising expansion saw players coming back and the daily population count rise!
  • The MER is now better than ever!
  • Faction Warfare finally got some love
  • The Photon UI is starting to come together
  • Finally listened to players on about the economy
  • Finally listened to players about resource harvesting, and specifically about locking resources into low sec
  • Finally gave us corp/alliance logos on ships
  • Came out against putting crypto in EVE Online
  • After many complaints CCP pulled the Prospector Pack, which sold a fitted ship, from the web store and promised not to sell ships in exactly that way again
  • We actually had a few big brawls in null sec, including that recent one at H-PA29

Lows

  • Whatever EVE Vegas was, or whatever was going to replace it in the US, that seems to be dead
  • Kind of a long wait between announcing Uprising and actually getting to it
  • Spent a whole YEAR not listening to players about the economy or resources while every obvious prediction came to pass
  • EverMarks for logos are annoying, gated busy work to get logos that we would happily spend money or PLEX on
  • Faction Warfare remains an all-in commitment for your character, so if your corp or alliance isn’t all-in you need an alt
  • The Photon UI is still slower and less responsive that the old UI, especially under TiDi
  • We’re quite a ways from the next big war in null sec
  • 33% price increase for subscriptions… in US dollars and Euros, which means it was a lot more for some people in other countries
  • Did you see the player count between the subscription price increase and the Uprising expansion?
  • The player count is on its way back down now that the expansion has been around for a bit
  • CCP prefers Monthly Active Users over any direct player count, and they have been obviously goosing that number with generous login rewards and give aways, but MAU does not reflect people in space
  • The infrastructure of sites that support EVE Online saw a notable decline in 2022 with sites going dormant or altogether dark
  • CCP only backed away from crypto “for now” after putting them in the Alliance Tournament and highlighting their CEO meeting with crypto evangelists
  • CCP thought the Prospector Pack was a good idea and, while they claimed to be listening to feedback, did not remove it from the store until their pre-planned promotion was over
  • Also, while CCP removed the Prospector Pack from the web store, they continued to sell it directly in-game as a pop-up offer to new players who ran the career agent missions for mining, thus making their statements about not wanting sell fitted ships generated out of thin air yet another bald faced lie
  • CCP is clearly going to sell fit ships again
  • EVE Valkyrie and CCP’s other VR games have now been shut down.
  • CCP is still devoting resources to making a first person shooter despite that market being both crowded and dominated by a few titles as well as CCP having shown no special insight nor innovation on that front

Other Gaming Industry Notes

Highs

  • Valheim gave us the Mistlands at last
  • Pokemon Scarlet and Violet!
  • Another big Minecraft update
  • RimWorld got the Biotech expansion
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalks Saga finally made it out the door
  • Guild Wars 2 got End of Dragons
  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet
  • New World seemed to be trying to get its act together
  • Lost Ark has hung on to its opening success and remained pretty stable
  • Solesta was a pretty solid, if a bit low budget, table top RPG simulation

Lows

  • That Game Awards were boring; stop trying to make them the Oscars and just do your own thing
  • Amazon took its sweet time trying to fix New World, and it is still something of a mess
  • Meta can’t make the metaverse happen even with an annual burn rate in the billions
  • VR actively set back by Meta after they kicked legendary John Carmack to the curb along with his idea of lighter, more affordable headsets, instead opting to follow the Juicero guy and his plan for a more expensive, more awkward path forward for VR hardware
  • Much of the year was spent again with crytpo bros trying to conflate their horrible idea with things like the metaverse and online gaming
  • Just when it seems to be clear to most that cryto in video games is a bad idea, THAT is when Richard Garriott decides to prove once again he is the 21st century harbinger of death for video game trends by announcing his own shamelessly transparent cryto NFT video game scam
  • Crowd funded MMOs continued to prove, with very rare exceptions, that their promises are empty and that you should never give Wimpy a hamburger today on the promise of being paid on Tuesday

Television, Books, and the Media

Highs

  • Still a lot of stuff to watch
  • Amazon gave us a Middle-earth show and William Gibson’s The Peripheral
  • HBO gave us House of Dragons and more Westworld
  • AMC gave us the final seasons of Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead
  • Netflix continues to surprise with new content like Wednesday and The Glass Onion
  • Even Disney+ managed to give us Andor, a welcome entry in the Star Wars canon
  • I liked most of the movies I saw this year, including Top Gun: Maverick, Bullet Train, The Batman, and…. um….
  • Books… I am sure there were some new books released… lots of them probably

Lows

  • A fair chunk of what I mentioned above ended up being something of a disappointment
  • Netflix is chaotic and is as likely to green light garbage or cancel something you really enjoy
  • I feel the fragmentation of so many streaming channels more and more with each passing year
  • It was a bit of a struggle to find things that were both new and good in any media
  • HBO Max is just pulling a bunch of their original content to avoid paying royalties, proving once again if you want to have access to something reliably you should own the physical media
  • I think I saw one movie in the actual theater this year, Top Gun: Maverick
  • Thor: Love and Thunder really tried hard to recapture the magic of Thor: Ragnarok… and kind of failed
  • Top Gun: Maverick was the US box office leader in 2022… not that it was bad, but there apparently wasn’t anything better (Avatar: Way of Water fans will bring up the overseas box office, but that is like losing the objective and claiming you won the ISK war… it doesn’t count… also, TG:M is still winning on that front)

Blogging and Social Media

Highs

  • The blog is still here and running, now sixteen years into is existence
  • I posted for 1,000 days in a row
  • Blaugust was a thing again this year
  • Some people still visit this site regularly
  • I did have some good interactions on Twitter, which remains my social media of choice
  • I spent quite a bit of time on Twitch
  • If social media gets bad enough, blogging might see a revival!

Lows

  • Fewer people visited this site this year than in any year since 2007
  • Any resurgence of long form writing like blogging will probably bypass established blogs to jump onto whatever the trendy platform of the day ends up being
  • Posting for that many days in a row sounds a lot more interesting than it is… and it doesn’t sound all that interesting
  • Email subscriptions on the blog pretty much broke this year, and WP.com doesn’t care in the least
  • Bing decided it doesn’t like WP.com sites, so the bit of traffic they sent me petered out
  • The local neighborhood of blogs shrank some
  • My time on Twitch was mostly it being in the background so I could collect channel points or game drops honestly
  • Facebook remains a horrible dumpster fire
  • I cannot train Instagram’s algorithm to show me what I want
  • Elon Musk is trying to turn Twitter into the biggest and loudest dumpster fire in social media
  • There is no direct replacement for Twitter and what it was
  • Mastodon has moved from a small collection of individually managed fiefdoms with their own rules and norms and tribes and echo chambers into a somewhat larger version of all of that
  • Post News is that condo you just bought and are trying to furnish with a limited budget and no free time
  • Hive doesn’t run in a browser
  • I used to joke that Linked In was business Facebook, but it has really become that, and I don’t mean in a good way

The World

I’m not sure I have any highs.  There is a war in Europe, COVID is still a thing no matter how hard we try to pretend it isn’t, attacks on voting rights, democracy, and free speech have become just part of the normal way of things, and, as always, nobody wealth or famous ever faces any real accountability unless they hard somebody else wealth or famous.  And don’t get me started on people who are billionaires.  If we could harness self-absorbed narcissism, our dependence on fossil fuels would be solved.

2023

And we’re on to a new year this weekend.  Let’s hope for something better.

My Twitch Time in 2022

I spent time on Twitch in 2022, and Twitch has decided to tell me about that, as it did in 2020 and 2021.  time for another 2022 summary post I guess!

They even provided me with a handy little summary graphic, which I will plop down right here at the top of the post.

My 2022 Twitch Experience

My time totaled up to 214 hours, which I would compare with previous years except that the summaries Twitch provided for past years did not include a total hours number, just total hours for specific channels… which is missing from this year’s summary.

So a downvote for Twitch on consistency I suppose.

They did give me the total time for my top four channels though, so I can compare those to 2020 at least.  The top channels were:

  • CCP
    • 2022 – 76 hours
    • 2020 – 9 hours
  • Imperium News
    • 2022 – 41 hours
    • 2020 – 74 hours
  • Mind1
    • 2022 – 30 hours
    • 2020 – 29 hours
  • Imaqtpie
    • 2022 – 22 hours
    • 2020 – 0 hours

A lot of time spent watching CCP… which is a bit of a lie.  Whenever CCP’s stream is up and I am online I will tune in and put it in the background to earn Channel Points.  10K channel points can be turned in for an in-game ship SKIN.

Imperium News is about right.  I tend to just watch The Meta Show.  But without a war on or much in the way of news I have lapsed a bit on that.

Mind1 is the Imperium DJ and I will put him on and listen to music at times.

And Imaqtpie… well, that was for Lost Ark in-game drops.  Early in the year around the launch the game had some special in-game items, like mounts, you could earn by watching designated streams.  Imaqtpie was my choice, and they sat in the background until I collected my loot.

But all of that is somewhat reflected in the top categories part of the graphic.  EVE Online was on top, followed by Lost Ark, then music, then Albion Online, which Mind1 plays occasionally.

And that was my year on Twitch.

My Books in 2022

Another of those annual posts.  I usually pick five books I’ve read over the previous year to highlight.  Past entries in this series:

However, I am having trouble picking five, or picking just five, or some variation on that.  So I am just going to bulldoze into some books and see where I end up at the bottom of the page.

2022 is what we get

Part of my issue is that it has been something of a hectic year for me, which has tested my patience on many fronts, including my ability to put up with plodding narrative devices, over used tropes, and that sort of thing.  For example, Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book opened with such a stale scene I had to put it down and move on.  The series was recommended, but I wasn’t having the kick off, and that was that.

Anyway, as usual, I am depending on Good Reads to guide my memory, because about half the titles on my list for 2022 I am looking at and saying, “Oh yeah, I guess I did read that.”  You can see my book profile here, but this is my summary for 2022.

Good Reads – My 2022 in Books

Hitting 37 titles puts me above par for annual reading, which surprised me a bit, but there is a reason for that, which I will get to.

Enough of that though, maybe I should just get into the books.  These are the titles that stood out for me this year, though not to unreserved acclaim on my part.  Life is like that.

  • Slough House Series – Mick Herron

This is the book series that kicked off with Slow Horses, which was the basis for a series on AppleTV+ that I wrote a bit about back in May.  The thing here is that there are 8 main books in the series and another five novellas… and I’ve read or listened to them all at this point.  So there is a lot of Mick Herron to go around, and most of it is pretty good.  I was invested in the series enough to go listen to the audio book versions of the novellas and… well, you can skip those really.  They give you some background information about a couple of characters that will feature in the next full novel, but they aren’t all that interesting.  That still leaves 8 books, which are mostly worth the effort, though the series does meander a bit.  But Jackson Lamb is always fun to follow around.  But I’m into my list with a series of books 13 deep, so you can see why I had problems getting a list of five.

  • Russia: Revolution and Civil War – Antony Beevor

Long time followers of anything book related on this blog might recall that I am a big fan of Antony Beevor’s work.  His books on the battles at Stalingrad and Berlin are essential reading in my opinion when it comes to those topics.  He also tackled the war in general in one volume, which he did quite well, delving into bits often left unexplored in other general works.  And here he was going into the Russian Civil War, one of my favorite topics, at least when I was much younger.

And it was okay.

I think my familiarity with the material was a bit of a spoiler.  The book was not without nuggets of information new to me, but it is a well trodden topic and one I spent a lot of time with in the 80s and 90s, which even then was long after most of the main actors in the drama had passed, so there were no startling new revelations.  If you want something beyond a basic level guide to events, it is a worthy volume.  But if you want the depth and individual narratives of some of Beevor’s work, you likely won’t find it.

  • Jack Reacher Series – Lee Child

A very popular book series, given there are 25 books or so already out and more in the works.  After watching the Amazon Prime series (which I mentioned in the same post as Slow Horses) I decided to give the series a look.

And, I will admit, it starts out strong.  However, it is, perhaps, a series that shouldn’t be read in a continuous trail.  I got through the 6th book and was kind of done, though it was really the 5th book that did me in.  Maybe I will return to it, but the tropes of the series were already weighing a bit on me. (Also the author, who is English, does get US terminology wrong now and then.  The US Army, for examples, has engineers, not sappers.)

  • Comfort Reading

At a few points over the course of the year I just needed something in my head to keep the world out without being too fresh and complicated.  So I went back and read William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Count Zero, the Douglas Adams Dirk Gently books, Robert Harris’ Fatherland, and some of the Marko Kloos books again.

  • Politics

And then there is the occasional attempt to confront the current reality.  I went back and re-read Everything Trump Touches Dies, so that might really apply to the previous category.  Rick Wilson is about the same age as I am and his use of metaphor speaks to me.

Probably the best read was Elie Mystal’s Allow Me to Retort, which takes on the Federalist Society and its absolutist extreme originalist view on constitutional interpretation, which this book very much destroys.  The founding father’s original view was slavery was okay, so if you start making exceptions on that front other originalist groundings are likely as weak.

Less entertaining was Weapons of Mass Delusion by Robert Draper that covers the Republican party from the January 6th insurrection to the 2022 mid-term elections and, while a thorough and detailed accounting of what was going on, it was also a litany of dumb people doing dumb things for stupidly selfish reasons.  A good account of history, but history that is depressing.

  • Honorable Mentions

I think I am almost 30 books in at this point, so why not mention one more?  Hell, why hold myself to just one more?  I also read John Scalzi’s Lock In, which is about a pandemic that causes a condition where a small percentage of people who get it lose the connection between mind and body, so are “locked in” to their bodies without control.  Technology finds a way to let them out through a digital interface and what we might call presence devices like remote control bodies.  And then there is a murder mystery in the mix.  Interesting, but SciFi murder mysteries always run the risk of magical solutions because the reader can’t know everything about the tech.

I also read John le Carre’s Silverview, which was… okay.  His work is a bit hit or miss with me already, and this was him going up one alley in pursuit of a point I wasn’t sure I cared all that much about once I got there.

Finally, there is Jeff Edwards, who I have followed on Twitter since he was on tap to write the book about The Fountain War back during that Kickstarter fiasco.  I finally, got around to picking up one of this titles, Angel City Blues, and it was a solid tech noir tale.  Would recommend.

And so it goes.  I read a lot of stuff, but didn’t come out at this end of the year feeling like I had a few titles I needed to talk about, so you got a buffet of what I read.

I am going into the new year with Raymond Chandler.  I feel like I need something out of old LA to get into 2023.

Drak’Tharon Keep on the Run

I am a little behind in posting, but it has been the holidays and all of that.  So this is from the week before Xmas when we got together to take a look at the next dungeon on our Northrend list, Drak’Tharon Keep.

Drak’Tharon Keep is out in Zul’Drak, one of the zones I have pretty much avoided so far in Wrath Classic.  However, there was one quest in Dragonblight that I did that sends you off to the first flight point in the zone at Light’s Breach, so I had that already.  And, as it turns out, that is also where Drak’Tharon Keep is.

Just into Zul’Drak

However, only I had the flight point, so when Beanpole showed up I met him over in Dragonblight and we rode over from there to Zul’Drak together.  He got the flight point and, together we would be able to summon the rest of the group from the meeting stone.

We were a bit early though, so we ran around doing this and that while we waited.  I was fishing a bit while he was off collecting soul stones.  He burned down enough mobs that there was a Heavy Frostweave Bandage tome in the loot for me.  One of the quirks of Wrath is you can’t just train that, you have to get it as a drop and only in certain zones and only when you’re first aid skill is high enough.

The rest of the crew logged on as we were doing our thing, so we headed down to the summoning stone to bring us all together.

It is just down stairs

We got ourselves together and sorted and walked on in to the instance.

Drak’Tharon is one of those middle-game instances that I didn’t really have much of a memory of doing.  We obviously didn’t have Prince Keleseth levels of issues with it.

Into the instance

Going inside didn’t really shake loose any more memories, though the map of the instance did at least bring something up.

Drak’Tharon Map

The raptor pens sounded like a place I had been, but we had a bit to get there.

We rolled on up to the first boss, Trollgore, and having no memories of the fight, I went to take a look at what WoW Head had to say  There I found a series of dire warnings about Trollgore, his abilities, and how the fight might go wrong.  And then we fought him and won without an issues as all.

Trollgore down

I just kept him on the steps and backed up a bit when he was in an ability wind up, and that seemed to do the trick.

From there it was around to the Temple of the Forgotten and Novos the Summoner.

Arriving at Novos

Novos was another boss I read up on who had a whole bunch of stuff going and who, in the end, went down without a lot of effort.  I don’t think we’re over leveled at this point, hitting the instance at level 75… I forgot to take a pic of the group and levels this time… and all the more so when the hunter DPS is mostly on auto attack.  But there we were.

Novos did, however, drop something nice for us.  Or for the casters at least.

Robes of Novos

Those robes went into a need off between Ula and Beanpole, with Ula getting a new set of threads.  They were nice enough though that Beanpole suggested he might want to re-run this far into the instance for another shot at them.

After Novos we made our way into the raptor part of the instance.

Welcome to Raptorville

And the raptor in chief is King Dred, the next boss, who set us to our first wipe of the day.

That did not go well

That wipe was my fault.  The notes on him suggest clearing out ALL of the raptors in the area as they will come join King Dred during his fight if left alive and two of the raptors are behind where King Dred wanders.  Seeing a gap, I thought I could successfully pull them without getting King Dred… and I was very wrong.

We ended up, on the second try, sneaking past King Dred to get the two hidden raptors, but then had to take the boss when he came back.  But this time around we managed to take him down.  It wasn’t as easy as the previous fights… we weren’t really ready and I ended up laying hands at one point, but that is what it is there for… and he went down.

King Dred, now King Dead

And, like Novos, he has a nice upgrade for the casters.  This time it came in the form of a staff.

Staff of the Great Reptile

That went to Beanpole, and there was an opinion expressed that we might have to come back.

At that point, however, Beanpole was called away and we were left without our Warlock.  No more health stones to heal us or soul stones to revive us.

But the four of us decided to carry on… and got in over our heads almost immediately.  The trash mobs on the way to the final boss mix together in uncomfortable combos if you don’t pull correctly, and I ended up pulling a group that got us to wipe.  We were wondering if we would make it to the final boss.

With some care we managed to move forward, keeping the pulls simple and separate, until we found ourselves at the base of the steps look up to the platform where the final boss lay.

Behold The Prophet Tharon’ja… up the steps

This was another fight with a lot of details, including a whole mid-fight event where your group is transformed into skeletons with a special set of skeleton attacks.  The whole thing seemed like it might be a bit sketch… but then we started the fight and rolled on through with just the four characters.  The skeleton phase of the fight went by very quickly.  I guess we all pressed the right buttons.

And with the death of The Prophet Tharon’ja the achievement popped.  We had finished the instance.

Drak’Tharon Keep Complete

We were a bit surprised to be done, but went and took that final victory shot.

Victory over The Prophet Tharon’ja

Then we took the way out, which involves jumping down the back of Tharon’ja’s tower into a stair step of drops with water landings until we were back in the aptly named Hall of Return.

We may have to go back because Beanpole didn’t get to finish the instance with us… and because of the drop.  We also didn’t do any pre-work to pick up any of the quests for the instance, so that might take some looking into as well.

Our run was about on par with our original run at the instance back in 2009.  We wiped on King Dred then as well.

That was also likely our last Wrath Classic instance run of the year.

We will return once we’re past the holidays.

EverMarks and Rifter Hull Price Inflation

Back with the Uprising expansion, almost two months ago at this point, CCP introduced the Paragon Corporation that would allow you to run missions for it in order to earn EverMarks, their currency, which you could then use to purchase corporation and alliance logos for your ships.

Uprising

On the plus side, corp and alliance logos were absolutely something players were asking for.

The downside was… well.. the implementation.  You can do a daily mission for Paragon out of one of their stations, which are located in the five major high sec trade hubs and a series of nearby (to the trade hubs) low sec systems.  The systems are:

  • Jita
  • Ourapheh
  • Amarr
  • Dodixie
  • Hek
  • Rens
  • Amamake
  • Assah
  • Aubenall
  • Yehaba
  • Hakonen

I think the primary criticism was why do this elaborate (and slow) mission system rather than just sell them for money like some very loud voices in the community had been suggesting for ages.

I mean, I get the idea of making people invest their time, giving them something to do, but that works a lot better if it is something interesting, rather than being somewhat dull and artificially constrained by a 23 hour timer… and, also inconvenient if you live nowhere near one of the trade hubs. (And the EverMarks are character bound so you can’t run the mission on an alt then buy marks with your main.)

I’ve read some theories… this was supposed to be a different system, this is how CCP is trying to whitewash selling fit ships somehow, NFTs or blockchain were supposed to be involved until players threw a fit about Hilmar’s ongoing flirtation with crypto, causing him to finally back down… but whatever it was, this is what we ended up with.

And I pretty much ignored it for the first month.  Not only did it look dull, slow, and inconvenient, but there were also a limited number of hulls being supported by the feature initially.

However, with the coming of the annual Winter Nexus event, CCP started giving out EverMarks as part of their daily login rewards.  They also announced an expansion to the hulls supported, including heavy assault cruisers, the staple of null sec.  So I thought I might be able to collect at least one for a ship I had.  And the, part way through the event there was a Thera wormhole connection from Querious to Thera, then Thera to Placid and a system two jumps over from Aubenall, which is where one of the Paragon stations sits.

So I grabbed Buzzard out of my hangar and took a little trip up north, found my way to the station to look at the price list.  As it turned out, I did not have enough for the Ishtar logo.

11K EverMarks for either of these

However, while I was there I decided to see what the missions were about.  They seemed pretty easy I guess.  You have to go fetch a particular ship hull, bring it back, repackage it, and turn it in.  My first mission was for a Rifter, for which I would get 2,500 EverMarks.

The Rifter mission

Basically, a shopping trip.  I looked at the local market for a hull, but the ask was 550,000 ISK, which seemed to me like a lot for a Rifter.  I know it got a bit of a buff recently, but it is pretty rare to see anybody flying New Eden’s most iconic hull if they have other options.

I wasn’t too far from Dodixie however, so I figured I could fly over there in a corvette, pick up a Rifter for cheap, fly it back, and be done.  But when I crossed the lines into Sinq Laison, the prices were even higher.

The price of a Rifter these days

So I turned around and headed back into Placid, where the prices were a bit cheaper and the hull I wanted was closer to the delivery point.

I put a festive SKIN on it for the flight

Having flown it back to the station, I turned it in, collected by 2,500 EverMarks, and was told I could go again in 23 hours.

Come back tomorrow!

So, in order to collect enough EverMarks to unlock more than a few ships you really have to be committed with you main character to doing this routine daily in one of 11 very specific locations.  And if you’re an Alpha clone, who gets a 10% of the EverMarks an Omega does for turning in hulls… forget about it.  It is very much a “Fuck you, subscribe already!” move by CCP.

I did find out the whole thing was more quickly done in Jita on one of my alts.  You can go to The Agency, start a convo with the agent in system, accept the mission remotely, then just buy the appropriate hull off of the market, fly it over, turn it in, and be done for the day.  Fine if you’re corp or alliance isn’t war dec’d with a couple of ista-lock Tornadoes sitting at the undock waiting for you to show up.  Not so good for my main.

I did, eventually, collect enough EverMarks for my Ishtar logo though the Winter Nexus login rewards… and then accidentally bought the corporation logo rather than the alliance logo for the hull, so rather than the distinctive Fat Bee on my ship I have the rather generic KarmaFleet unicorn on display.

What I wanted vs what I got

And, of course, it is barely visible on my hull.

Blaze SKIN Ishtar with the unicorn circled

The logo is also visible on the rear of the ship, but it is even harder to see there.

Now I have to scrape together another 11K EverMarks to get what I actually wanted.  Or, more likely, forget about the whole thing for now.

All in all, I am a bit underwhelmed.  I will collect EverMarks if they keep giving them away with login rewards, but I feel like the effort required to actually earn them is well beyond the reward on offer.  One of the prime complaints about SKINs is that ships are so distant that you can’t see them unless they’re on a titan or you’ve zoomed in on somebody.  Now we have these logos that are hard to find on your own ship, even when zoomed in.

Such is life.

I suppose one interesting side effect to watch for is what happens with hull prices and industry.  Looking at Jita, where supply is most plentiful and the market most closely reflects the value of items to New Eden Rifters, as one example, have seen a bit of a jump in pricing since the introduction of EverMarks and Paragon Corporation missions.

The Rifter price rise illustrated

They aren’t crazy expensive, but it does seem like there is some value in producing them at least, if only to serve the mission market that turns around and takes them out of the economy immediately.

Of course, it could be just the rising price of minerals like isogen causing the Rifter to get more expensive as well and that the demand is actually just finally getting people to produce them and then sell them at close to cost.

Star Trek: Beyond

We have arrived at the last of the Star Trek films to date.  Star Trek: Beyond is the third in the theatrical reboot of the series, and it asks the question, “Can they bowl over a silly and somewhat disjointed script with raw talent, effects, and a solid musical score once more?”

Star Trek: Beyond

Hrmm… maybe?

The previous two films have set a pretty high bar for just going all in on those things to distract from any shortcomings, and successfully so.  Part of writing about this series of films is sitting down and thinking about them after watching them, which leads to inevitable compare contrast between how I felt in the moment watching them versus how they feel after a bit of post-credits cold reflection.

As with the last post, I will be getting into spoilers and this is the most recent of the Star Trek films, so I should probably warn you of that.  I won’t reveal major plot points, but I’m not going to try and avoid moments of tension that are resolved shortly.

The film starts, oddly enough, with Kirk being bored.  At the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness he was all excited that he and the Enterprise and all the usual suspects were getting the coveted five year exploration mission that was one of the framing element of the opening credits the original series.

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

Cue that ethereal Desilu sound track and off they go.

Some time later, after trying to broker peace between a couple of alien species by delivering some geegaw that nobody seems to know much about as a token and failing to impress or succeed, Kirk is in his quarters pondering a request to an administrative post that comes with an Admiral’s rank.

And it really feels like a betrayal because he’s been in Starfleet for what… three weeks now?  He’s gone from being a cadet in the midst of cheating scandal to the commander of the most modern exploration wessel in the Federation’s inventory (We’re not counting however many real warships Admiral Marcus built with Khan’s help and which were never mentioned again) in a little over four hours of screen time and he’s now bored with the whole thing.

Prime timeline Kirk would be ashamed.  Isn’t this Kirk drinking and womanizing enough to keep himself distracted?

Anyway, moody Kirk takes the Enterprise to the Yorktown star base where he asks Admiral Avasarala if she can’t get him an admiral’s slot of his own, which again makes me wonder what in the hell kind of organization Star Fleet is if somebody with as little time in grade… any grade… as Kirk can just wander on up into senior leadership simply because he saved the galaxy a couple of times early on in his career.  What has he done for Star Fleet lately?

This is all interrupted by a distress call and the Enterprise, true to the whole history of the movie series so far, is the only ship on hand who can take the mission, so off they go into a nebula that is about a five minute drive from Yorktown I guess in search of a ship or somebody’s missing crew or something.

Anyway, it was, as Admiral Ackbar noted so succinctly, a trap.  Then the film falls into one of my least favorite recurring events of the series, the destruction of the Enterprise.  Yes, we’ve reached the point where severe damage, gaping holes in the superstructure, and hundreds of dead crew are not enough.  Nope, we’re crashing that MF into a planet.

There are some ugly aliens down there that look like Balok in the Corbomite Maneuver… the fierce screen version, not wee Clint Howard… and the crew has been split up with some of them captured by the aliens.  Not Kirk, Scotty, or Spock and McCoy, who all have their own side adventures until reuniting with another alien who lives in an old Federation ship that has been sitting on the planet for decades that Scotty immediately gets working because of course he does.

Anyway, a rescue plan is concocted, Kirk rides a motorcycle, Scotty’s jury rigged devices don’t kill anybody, the villain’s real plan is uncovered, and the deleterious effects of listening to the Beastie Boys are demonstrated.

After a series of improbable events, the greatest of which is flying that Federation starship off the planet, there is a chase scene and the villain’s motivations are revealed… to be petty and banal and a whole lot of work for little end result.

The crew of the late USS Enterprise prevails and nobody from the main cast dies on screen, though Anton Yelchin passed away in real life before the film was released.

Kirk, having had a real adventure, decides the five year mission might be pretty cool after all and decides to keep being captain of the Enterprise.  The problem of having gotten the Enterprise destroyed is taken care of via a fast time lapse video of a NEW Enterprise being built before our eyes.  That was pretty cool, though it still does make you wonder how Star Fleet is run if they just keep a crew and command staff idle while a new ship is build from scratch expressly for them, and given the same name no less, so they can carry on as before.

All in all, a mid-pack outing in the context of the series.  I am not at all keen on the script writers blowing up the Enterprise then bringing her back in the form of a newer, sexier model.  The ship is as much a character in the story as most of the crew members, and what kind of crazy show would just find a nutty plot device to change actors every once in a while just because they felt like it?  WHO would do such a thing?

And Kirk… I get that he is young, too young for his command, so to suggest that he would be up for an admiral’s slot already is too silly.  And all the more so because he is petulantly bored with the five year mission he was previously so eager to lead.

What this episode… I mean film… needed was Admiral Pike to slap him around a bit, both not buying Kirk’s whiny tendencies and mentoring him as to what he should be doing, how he should be behaving as a Star Fleet captain.  Kirk clearly needs it… and the series clearly needs it.  Kirk, this Kirk, young and still in need of seasoning, needs a mentor.  Admiral Avasarala shouldn’t have patiently listened to Kirk, she should have told him to grow a pair and get on with his mission.

Oh well.  As I said, not a bad film in the scope of the series, but a bit of a let down after the first two.  I would still be up for another film with this cast.  One has been in the works off and on for a while, but COVID and conflicts have gotten in the way.  Maybe some day.

So, just to round things out, here is how I rank these three entries in the reboot films.

  1. Star Trek: Into Darkness
  2. Star Trek (2009)
  3. Star Trek: Beyond

Into Darkness gets top spot for subverting the Khan story into an oddly parallel universe version of events.  I like it and all that it implies about this version of Star Fleet.  Also, no freaking origin story nonsense.

Star Trek gets a solid second place for being as good as it was.

And Star Trek: Beyond… well, it had big shoes to fill after those two and didn’t quite get there.  Also, negative 100 points for Slytherin for destroying the Enterprise.

So that is it.  My wife and I have watched all 13 of the Star Trek films.  There will likely be a follow up post reflecting on Star Trek in the medium of film versus its episodic origins… and I might also try to stack rank the full list of films, which should be comically divisive.

It was also suggest that my wife and I watch Galaxy Quest as a follow on, which sounded like an excellent idea.  We’ve seen it before, but a rewatch in the context of so much Trek would be interesting.  The only problem is that it is not currently available on any of our current streaming channels and I don’t own that one on DVD or BluRay.  So we’ll have to get to that when the opportunity arises.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

May your celebrations today be joyous.

Fireworks in front of Jita 4-4

And if you’re traveling, may your journey be warm and safe.

New Eden ice storm…

Enjoy some peace and hope for better things in the new year.

If you want a video game Christmas tale, you can read my post about 1977 when what I wanted more than anything was an Atari 2600.  Written back in 2006, it does represent my earlier writing style.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Spoiler Alert.

This post will contain spoilers.  All of my Star Trek movie series posts have contained spoilers of some sort, but I have tried to not completely ruin key plot points and sought to at least introduce some ambiguity into how things came to pass.  Aside from kvetching everytime the Enterprise gets wrecked and the crew surviving, I think I have been pretty good about that.

But now we are on to Star Trek: Into Darkness and there is just too much there to dig into for me to be vague or use adjacent metaphors to get my point across.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Also, just to put a bit more text between that warning and some actual spoilers, I wanted to point out that the whole reason my wife and I started down this Trek film festival was because HBO Max sent me an email declaring that they had ALL of the Star Trek movies available and, since we have HBO Max, it seemed like an opportunity.

Now, I blame myself for having just read the headline and not the fine print, but HBO Max only has the FIRST TEN Trek films available.  Since the reboot, which I argued last time isn’t a reboot but an alternate, parallel timeline that the films themselves recognize, was not on HBO Max, I had to go find the first film on Netflix.

But Netflix only has Star Trek.  To get to Star Trek: Into Darkness I had to go to Amazon Prime, who had me covered. (And, for the record, Star Trek: Beyond isn’t on any of the three services, so I might have to kick start the PlayStation 3 to watch it on BluRay.)

Anyway, on to the film.

There is a LOT to unpack here and I am not sure I grasped it all and could relay it all if I could.

Once again, on the surface, the script is kind of weak and, once again, the film rises above that largely due to cast, effects, sound track, and the shear audacity of not just grabbing onto a parallel Trek universe, but then re-imagining one of the classic Trek stories through that lens.

Last warning about spoilers.  The next paragraph is it.  Don’t look down.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the retelling of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Okay, maybe you knew that.  I mean, I think they had Benedict Cumberbatch over enunciating the name “Khan” in the trailer back in the day.  But the twists start right away.

Because of the events in Star Trek, the Federation freaks out a bit and starts scouting for other threats vigorously, leading to Admiral Marcus finding and reviving Khan Noonien Singh years before Kirk and the Enterprise should have found him back in the original series.

I base that timeline on the fact that in the original series Kirk had risen up through the ranks to eventually command the Enterprise on its five year mission, while here in the parallel universe the script yadda yadda’d him into being captain of the Enterprise while still a cadet… though we don’t know how delayed he was getting into Star Fleet in the parallel, but Kirk seems much younger than his prime timeline counterpart.

Also, somewhat as an aside, Star Trek established that star ships are built on the planet (Kirk drives by one under construction on his motorcycle) and flown into space, so atmospheric flight was at least implied, something that comes up in the first few minutes of the film when we find they are using the Enterprise as a submarine to break the prime directive because of course they are.

Khan’s life takes on a new trajectory… one without literary allusions in his speech apparently, just a lot of deliberate enunciation in ways that force him to make his mouth move in strange ways… as he is recruited to create super new military weapons for Admiral Marcus, who also happens to be the father of Dr. Carol Marcus who, back in Wrath of Khan, was the mother of Kirk’s son and a research scientist, but in this timeline she is a weapons scientist who looks good in a bikini and who cannot quite ditch her British accent even though her father is played by Peter Weller, whose flat American prairie accent is a harsh contrast.  Also she is friends with Christine Chapel who apparently slept with Kirk then left Star Fleet for a medical career, so maybe she ends up having Kirk’s kid?  I don’t know, but I like the hook into a different series of events.

Anyway, Khan feels used, being manipulated as he is by Admiral Marcus, who has 72 members of Khan’s crew, still in cryo-sleep, to use as hostages to assure Khan’s good behavior.  Khan isn’t having it though, smart guy that he is, and he tries to destroy his work and kill the Admiral before escaping to the Klingon home world of Kronos, which is about two minutes away in warp if the movie is any guide.

This seems to play straight into Admiral Marcus’ plan because he wants to use the new toys Khan made him to go to war with the Klingons, so Marcus sends Kirk, who is still wearing the rank device of a Star Fleet captain despite never having graduated so far as we have seen and having had his ship taken from him for violating the prime directive, and the Enterprise to kill Khan by firing 72 special torpedoes at him from the edge of Klingon space.  This will start the war Marcus wants.

Spock talks Kirk out of this, they decided to fly to Kronos in a smugglers ship they impounded during the “Mudd incident,” which certainly implies a Harcourt Fenton Mudd character alive and well somewhere.. and Cyrano Jones as well, since we see a tribble… and they team up with Khan, fight Klingons, and get back to the Enterprise, where Admiral Marus shows up in his shiny new Dreadnought class ship, which dwarfs the Enterprise, and harsh words are exchanged, shots are fired, and then they fly in warp for about a minute before falling out in combat above Earth.

Khan and Kirk and Scotty go to take down Admiral Marcus, but then Khan looks out for Khan and sends them back to the Enterprise, which is heavily damaged and falling into Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled until, in the greatest juxtaposition in the history of the franchise, Kirk runs into the reactor reactor, fixes the core alignment by kicking it repeatedly, after which the Enterprise, falling into cloud cover, recovers and appears broken but alive burning on thrusters out of the clouds again.

Spock rushes to engineering to hear Kirk’s dying words… needs of the many and all that… causing Spock’s eye to drip a tear even as I could feel my own eyes getting moist… then shouts, “KHAAAAAN!”

Kirk shouting “Khaaaaaaan!” just as a reminder

Meanwhile the Dreadnought, with Khan running it by himself, has been sabotaged and it too falls into Earth’s atmosphere.  But Khan wants to get to Star Fleet HQ in San Francisco where we briefly see that Alcatraz is still a tourist attraction until the Dreadnought crashes through it, leaving a wreck in its wake.  Oh well.  But we do see that there are still cable cars in 23rd century San Francisco, though their ability to climb halfway to the stars is undocumented in this context, with ships from the stars literally raining down on the town.

A running fight through the city between Spock and Khan ensues, but you know the Enterprise crew has to win.  The next film isn’t Star Trek: Khan Takes Over Everything after all.

In the end, we also avoid a whole Star Trek: The Search for Kirk sequel because Khan’s super blood brings Kirk back to life, the same way it did that tribble on McCoy’s desk, which I guess says something about Kirk. (Also, that was the second plot point to establish the effectiveness of Khan’s blood as a miracle cure, so they were making sure they had that fully established I guess.)

All of this sounds completely forced and awkward and even when trying to quickly summarize the film aloud it comes across like the whole thing should be an unmitigated train wreck, with any ability to suspend disbelief being the first car off the rails.

And yet… and yet… as with the previous film, it seems to somehow come together through sheer force of will, acting talent, great special effects, and a score that breathes extra life into every epic visual.  I don’t care that there is about 90% less lens flare than Star Trek, this should not have worked.  I cannot imagine it looked like anything but unmitigated garbage on the page.  But we don’t get to see the script up on the big screen, we see the finished product, and the finished product was a winner.

Now that I have seen two of the reboot films, I have to start ranking them,  I am going to call it this way.

  1. Star Trek: Into Darkness
  2. Star Trek

That’s the way I am calling it on this re-watch. I feel like J. J. Abrams was following the Rob Gordon guide to mix tapes from High Fidelity.

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch

Now there is one film left.  Star Trek: Beyond will be the last review/summary in the series, but I am sure I will have something to say after 13 films.

Star Trek (2009)

Just seven years after Star Trek: Nemesis and the demise of the TNG end of the Trek film franchise a new contender entered the ring.  J.J. Abrams, whose only previous experience directing a film was Mission Impossible III, was coming aboard to take the helm in order to reboot Star Trek for the next a new another generation.  Was he going to be able to breath life back into the franchise?  I was dubious at the time.

Star Trek 2009

I have problems with this film right up front.  For example, it kicks off as an origin story and I am so tired of origin stories.  So we have to sit and watch the Joker shoot James T. Kirk’s parents as they exit the theater… wait… no… that can’t be right.

No, Chris Hemsworth is his dad, which is really strange in retrospect, though I am not sure I can explain why.  Anyway, we have to go through the story of Kirk getting into Star Fleet which involves wrecking a Corvette and getting into a bar fight… not the traditional path into space as I understand it.

We also have to be reminded of Spock’s origin story too, though more briefly.  But that is also a much more tired tale, and if it doesn’t involve him seeing the Joker murder his parents outside of a theater, it is still an episode that has been recounted too many times, Vulcan dad, human mother, something about love and logic and getting teased at school, where learning is done in giant salad bowls.

Then there is the need to stick in just a few more origin moments for McCoy and Uhura and Scotty, which felt as unnecessary as the scene where we learned where Han Solo got his name in Solo.  It was a question nobody asked and they still felt they had to answer it.

And it is another time travel story.  Oh my God, can we just once not go that route?

Then there is the lens flare… how can the bridge crew see with that lighting?  I mean, I remember the jokes about it back when the movie came out, but I had forgotten how completely over the top the use of that one effect was.  Knock it off already!

Finally, there is the story itself, which isn’t that great.  Pissed Romulan named Nero… what did I say in my Star Trek: Nemesis post about them stealing Roman culture wholesale… travels back in time to avenge himself on the Federation because of the wrongs he feels they inflicted on his life.

But he screws up and gets the calculation wrong and drops early and then has to wait around for 25 years for his cue in his advanced mining ship from the future that I guess has enough supplies stored away to last that long… we don’t spend any time covering that.

I know, I am 400 words into this and it is nothing but more bitching and moaning.  Hasn’t that been my theme for at least eight of the last ten films?  So let me change gears a bit.

For all the problems, there is one Star Trek avoids; it doesn’t feel like a padded out episode.

I cannot put my finger on what the difference is, because the script could legitimately be a one hour episode quality entry in the canon.  Pull out the origin story openings, ignore the academy stuff, tighten up the main story a bit, and you could have shaved it down to 42 minutes plus commercials.  It is only has a two hour run time.  It wouldn’t be like trying to chop down Titanic or Spartacus.

Somehow though, it felt like a movie.  When I asked my wife for her impressions after we watched it, her first statement was that it felt like a movie, and she has not been reading my posts so hasn’t seen how often I’ve gone to that particular well for this series of reviews.

How did it achieve this?  Well, there is the casting, which was near perfection.  Chris Pine… we could have swapped him for Hemsworth I think and still gone pretty well… but Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as McCoy, John Cho as Sulu, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura, that was like five casting home runs in an industry where three is considered a minor miracle.  I’m not saying Pine wasn’t great in his role.  He sold it.  But the other four, I couldn’t imagine anybody else in their places now.  They seemed to both evoke the original cast and yet create their own presence on screen.

And the strength of the cast just goes on.  I’m a little iffy on Simon Pegg as Scotty and Anton Yelchin as Checkov, but can live with them.  Meanwhile, Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, he feels like he stepped off the original series set and straight into this movie.  He has the look and the vibe and is so good.

Ben Cross was able to channel enough Mark Lenard to be Sarek, and Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother… brilliant.  Also, at one point she has that open mouth shocked look that we all saw in Stranger Things.

I guess when you are free to pick actors and have the budget to get quality, as opposed to having to run with the cast that your modest budget TV series could attract (OMFG TNG getting Patrick Stewart must have been a miracle), maybe that makes a difference.  Not that I didn’t love those casts on the TV, but the transition to the big screen… didn’t seem to suit them all equally.

And the movie… lens flare aside… looks awesome.  Ships, effects, uniforms, space, explosions, you name it, it looked damn good.  It is all in on visuals at all times with no letup, no cheesy sets in quick, transitional scenes.  A continuous and consistent level of quality throughout.

Through all of that I almost forgot to mention the sound track.  You take a risk when you go a different direction, but Michael Giacchino hit the mark.  It is one of those sound tracks that just elevates the film, like Where Eagles Dare or Intersteller or Tron: Legacy

So the question is, can you throw enough talent and effects and excellent scoring and editing effort at a mediocre story and elevate it into a good movie?

I think every good Bond fill will testify to that.

As dumb as some of the story is, as contrived as aspects of it are, as inevitable as outcomes seem… all complaints I could level at most of this set of films… the finer aspects of it pull you past it, keep you from being distracted by logic.  Spock would be appalled and delighted I think.

Then we end up finding out this is not a reboot, but an alternate timeline caused by the initial time travel incident, something the characters discuss openly mid-film… well, it is quite a thing.  Actually reflecting on the impact of time travel on your own time space continuum.  Give me more of that please!

I am not going to say it was Oscar worthy or anything crazy.  It is still escapist fluff.  But it felt like more of a movie than at least eight of the ten previous Star Trek films we’ve watched, and I’m in a mood to say it is probably better than seven of the twelve Star Wars films.

Magic happened and the end result was greater than the sum of its parts.  I liked it and would watch it again, which is a pretty solid endorsement.  But can they keep it up?  There are two more films to go.  Is this the peak, or is the best yet to come?