The Cave of Shadows

For a little while now, I have been calling the village of Alna my home. Nestled in the woods, it is a place that is surrounded by natural beauty. It is unencumbered by buildings, walls, fences and other things meant only for keeping people out. Those who live here do so for two reasons. One, they are no longer welcome where they came from and two, the other residents have chosen to let them stay.

Today is a special day for a small group of us. Today is our name day. Our group is as diverse as the population of Alna. There is the dragonborn sorcerer, Kriv. The lizard folk, Lish and the half-orc, Grulog, both of whom are barbarians. Then there are the wood elves. The ranger Nihil and her druid sister whos name I cant seem to recall.

The mayor, Nibsom, summoned us to the center of the village. A small crowd gathers and he explains that in order to remain in Alna, we must prove our worth. To do so we must undergo 3 trials. Each more difficult than the last.

Our first trial takes place in The Cave of Shadows. Almost immediately upon entering the cave we could tell it was a dangerous place. Four giant spiders were milling about in the first rotunda. With two powerful fighters, a couple of spell casters, a master archer and my stealth there was no doubt the six of us would be able to handle four spiders without much trouble. Unfortunately, while we were finishing up the first two, some of us werent paying attention, and two more fiends snuck in. This mistake nearly cost us everything. We managed to overcome this surprise and learned a great deal from the encounter. Badly hurt, we decided to make camp for the night. But not before dining on some delicious spider stew!

In the morning we went further into the cave. Here we found a strange shrine. on the floor there was a very large blue glyph. On one wall there was a gigantic stone cauldron with a red liquid in it. The liquid had the consistency of cherry flavored sugar water. Though, non of us dared drink it.  The back of the shrine had a strange statue in it. It appears that the jaw of the statue opens and closes but we were unable to find a way to activate it. Perhaps the most perplexing thing was the four scarecrows laying randomly around the shrine.

After a little bit of investigation, Grulog got board and threw one of the scarecrows into the middle of the glyph. The moment the straw hit the ground the glyph turned red and all of the scarecrows sprang to life. Having learned from our mistakes in the previous battle we defeated them in no time flat. When the last pile of hay met its demise, the jaws of the statue opened. Inside we found six, round, golden coins. Each coin had a hole in its center and one of our names on it. We have completed the first trial. Time to head back to Alna and find out what we face next.

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Downsizing

Watch it.

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Ready Player One (2018)

I was first introduced to the book Ready Player One on the site known as Reddit. Many people raved about how it was a fun, nostalgic romp through pop culture of the 80s. The story follows a nerdy outcast named Wade who escapes the real world inside of a virtual world known as the OASIS. When he’s not in a virtual school, he spends all of his time searching for clues to uncover an Easter egg hidden in the virtual world by the OASIS’ creator before his death.

When I heard the book was being made into a movie by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, I nearly crapped my pants. Not only did the book have great potential for a visual medium, Steven Spielberg is the kind of directing power house that could get it done.

While there are many enjoyable moments and the movie has similar sensibilities to the book, it’s vastly different and a bit too safe at times. There were unnecessary plot changes and too many holes. Some of the dialog and character connections were completely cringe-inducing. For example, millions of people around the globe use the OASIS, but you are really going to have me believe that the 5 characters who connect inside the virtual world also happen to live in the same city in the real world? Gimme a break.

Even though I would have preferred a purified book experience, I was OK with some of the changes as they added some mystery and unknown territory. What really fell flat was the pacing. It was too fast and there was never any chance for anything to breathe. The story elements were condensed. Much of the character building was absent.

If you like 80s pop culture and an adventure-filled Easter egg hunt, you’ll enjoy this movie. If you’re a fan of the book, you might just want to re-read the book or listen to the Wil Wheaton narrated audiobook.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Sometimes, a movie will come out of nowhere and no one knows anything about it. Then a buzz starts up and then some Golden Globe awards are won and it seems like maybe there is something good there.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that kind of movie and it appears to be a top contender for the Best Picture Oscar. The story follows a grieving mother who purchases three billboards on a road no one travels to advertise the local police chief’s inability to catch her daughter’s murderer.

The writing and delivery of the material works very well and keeps the viewer engaged, even though it seems like an unconventional and potentially boring story. The characters are wonderful and develop in ways you don’t totally anticipate. There are plenty of subtle intricacies that once you catch them, make you smirk. Things like dialog that seems rather mundane only to find a story element later on referring directly back to what was said.

The performances are also top notch. Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson deliver the goods and Sam Rockwell’s roller coaster of a character arc definitely deserved that Golden Globe, and possibly an Oscar.

My only gripe is that I felt there were a few too many coincidences. These things can bring the story momentum down a bit, because it seems rather forced, contrived, or outright impossible. What this movie had going for it was that it was set in a small town, so there are just going to be coincidences when everyone knows each other and the landscape is pretty compacted.

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NFL 2017 – End of the Season

Apparently, I was wrong about the Eagles. They proved to not only be the Super Bowl champs but also the best team in the league. They took a back up quarterback who everyone gave up on a few years ago and made him the MVP of the game. Good work Philly, you earned this one, thats for sure.

RankTeamPointsWinsLosesChange
1Eagles12216-3Up 1
2Patriots10615-4Down 1
3Vikings9714-4Same
4Steelers7013-4Same
5Saints6712-6Same
6Panthers5811-6Same
7Falcons5111-7Same
8Rams5011-6Same
9Jaguars3512-7Same
10Chiefs2410-7Same
11Cowboys189-7Same
12Seahawks159-7Same
13Lions139-7Same
14Titans910-8Same
15Bills59-8Same
16Chargers39-7Same
17Ravens-29-7Same
18Cardinals-28-8Same
19Redskins-117-9Same
20Packers-147-9Same
21Dolphins-276-10Same
22Bengals-327-9Same
2349ers-326-10Same
24Raiders-356-10Same
25Bears-435-11Same
26Buccaneers-475-11Same
27Jets-535-11Same
28Broncos-605-11Same
29Texans-744-12Same
30Giants-833-13Same
31Colts-844-12Same
32Browns-1440-16Same
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Super Bowl Pick

Once again, I only got one pick correct last week. That leads me to believe that I need to either stop picking against the Eagles or continue picking the Patriots. And, since I cant do both, Im going to go with the Patriots.

 

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NFL Power Rankings Super Bowl

The top 2 teams are the 2 teams with the best records and the 2 teams moving on to the Super Bowl. The Patriots inched out the Eagles to take the #1 spot for the first time this season.

RankTeamPointsWinsLosesChange
1Patriots11015-3Up 1
2Eagles10615-3Up 1
3Vikings9714-4Down 2
4Steelers7113-4Same
5Saints6812-6Same
6Panthers5811-6Same
7Falcons5211-7Same
8Rams5011-6Same
9Jaguars3612-7Same
10Chiefs2310-7Same
11Cowboys179-7Same
12Seahawks149-7Up 1
13Lions139-7Down 1
14Titans1010-8Same
15Bills79-8Same
16Chargers49-7Same
17Ravens-29-7Same
18Cardinals-28-8Same
19Redskins-117-9Same
20Packers-147-9Same
21Dolphins-266-10Same
22Bengals-327-9Same
2349ers-326-10Same
24Raiders-346-10Same
25Bears-435-11Same
26Buccaneers-465-11Same
27Jets-515-11Same
28Broncos-595-11Same
29Texans-734-12Same
30Giants-833-13Up 1
31Colts-844-12Down 1
32Browns-1440-16Same
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NFL Conference Championship Picks

Once again, 1 of 4 on my picks. Its been a great playoffs for me. Good news is I can only get 2 wrong this week!

Jaguars (12-6) at Patriots (14-3): Patriots
I dont know how the Jaguars scored 45 points on the Steelers but theyre not going to do it again on the Patriots. That said, Tom Coughlin (Jags exec VP) sure does know how to take an underdog team and ruin the Patriots season.

Vikings (14-3) at Eagles (14-3): Vikings
The Eagles have had a good run but it ends here. The Vikings are on fire and I dont think anyone can put them out. The have the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl at their brand new stadium. The only chance the Eagles have is if they find a way to break the new found confidence that the Vikings have in their 3rd string quarterback.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Watch it.

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NFL Power Rankings Conference Championships

The Jaguars come through with a huge upset to join the top 3 teams in the Conference Championships next week. Despite the win they were unable to move up any spots because the top of the pack is so far ahead. In fact, the only change in the standings is the Cowboys inching ahead of the Lions.

RankTeamPointsWinsLosesChange
1Vikings10114-3Same
2Patriots9714-3Same
3Eagles9114-3Same
4Steelers7313-4Same
5Saints7012-6Same
6Panthers5711-6Same
7Falcons5311-7Same
8Rams5111-6Same
9Jaguars4012-6Same
10Chiefs2110-7Same
11Cowboys169-7Up 1
12Lions149-7Down 1
13Seahawks149-7Same
14Titans1010-8Same
15Bills89-8Same
16Chargers59-7Same
17Ravens09-7Same
18Cardinals-28-8Same
19Redskins-107-9Same
20Packers-127-9Same
21Dolphins-276-10Same
22Bengals-307-9Same
2349ers-326-10Same
24Raiders-346-10Same
25Bears-415-11Same
26Buccaneers-455-11Same
27Jets-515-11Same
28Broncos-595-11Same
29Texans-714-12Same
30Colts-824-12Same
31Giants-833-13Same
32Browns-1420-16Same
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