Friday, December 17, 2010

Claymore...Enjoyable but unfinished

So I enjoy anime.  I can't really explain why.  It geneally starts off as wholly understandable, and ends wholly uncompromisable.  But the animation style, the initial stories themselves are usually quiet enjoyalble.  The most simple of those I have watched is Dragonball Z...which honestly is really simple and never reaches the incomprehensible point that I have run into with other shows.  Gundam Wing has a little of both.  Akira was just bizarre but interesting as was Ghost in a Shell.  I keep watching various shows and movies and the most recent of which was Claymore.

This show I thought was really enjoyable.  It is based on a Manga series with some changes in the story line as the series goes forward.  The show was 26 episodes long so not a huge commitment, but part of the reason behind that is because the Manga is ongoing and the
anime series apparently is not.  So the story as far as the show goes is incomplete.

The show is a dark story that set in a world shared between two group of sentient beings, Humans and Yomma. Humans of course are like you and me, Yomma are sentient monsters that feed on Humans entrails.  Not what you would call a good living relationship.  In order to defend humans a secret organization crossed the two species to create create a mixed breed resembling more Human than Yomma creating what the Humans call the Claymores. The Claymores fight for humanity for a huge fee paid to "The organization".

The show follows the Story of Claire one a very independent Claymore seeking revenge from her past.  It is a very action oriented show which to me resembles a much darker Dragonball Z.  I tend to enjoy darker stories which is why this interested me as the story went on.  I also thought it had a very fun soundtrack for an anime story.

I always hate to go into too much detail for fear of ruining something for someone who would actually want to watch the show. But suffice is to say it is a dark, action oriented show focused on sword play and monsters.  As the show went on it got a little stranger, but I wouldn't say it ever verged off the path of comprehensibility. I won't lie, I rated it 5 stars on Netflix... It's fun.  I hope they continue the series once some more of manga is finished.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Friendly Public Service Announcement

From the "Australian Office of Public Defense".

Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse from Nathaniel Lindsay on Vimeo.

Pulled this from Io9, who has the full story

Some useful tips in the event you survive to make it to the post-apocalypse.  A lot of uses of scorched human skulls I had not thought of before.  I am assuming it is not just me who feels that obviously they will be one of the survivors. You know... just because.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Learning lessons from Movies

So I've been stuck in a Post apocalyptic kick for a couple of years now.  If you couldn't tell from my giant list of Zombie movies that I have watched in the last couple of years.  In addition to Zombie movies that I have watched recently, I have also watched The Road, The Book of Eli, Carriers, The Signal, Vanguard (this is a terrible movie, don't watch it), Escape from New York, Escape from LA, Death Race 2000 (a classic B movie), and currently I am watching the remake Death Race.  There are probably some others in there.  I am a big fan of Battlestar Galactica (the remake, definitely post apocalyptic although pure sci-fi as well), and an even bigger fan of Fallout 3.  I can't wait for Fallout: New Vegas to release this month.

So what does this have to do with anything?  Watching a lot of movies about life after the end of the world as we know it; whether it come about by nuclear, chemical, biological, or the undead, made me wonder how would I fare?  Am I even in a position to survive whatever the cataclysmic event is?  I addressed some of this in my Zombie plan entry a few months back.  What made me think of it again was watching a movie recently called Right At Your Door.  Along with The Road I think it was one of the more scary depictions of a cataclysmic event and the effects.  While The Road almost purely focuses on survival after the fact, Right At Your Door looks at the event itself and survival in the near term.
Right at Your Door Poster
Poster from IMDB - Right at your Door (2006)
***Below is going to contain Spoilers for anyone who might have interest in watching the movie including the ending***

So the movie is basically about a major terrorist attack in downtown LA.  The attach is a series of bio-bombs that when the burn release contaminated ash that coats the surrounding area.  The main character in the movie is a out of work musician (aren't they all in LA).  Anyway, his wife goes to work downtown, and he is at home as a series of explosions rips through the city casting a pall of contaminated smoke and ash all through the area.  The man of course makes attempts to get to his wife but finds the police blocking all entrances into the city.  He eventually is forced to return home and seal up his house.  He kind of loots a hardware store on they way home to grab plastic and tape to seal all the windows and doors in his house from the outside world as the ash starts to rain down in his neighborhood.

This is where I learned my lesson.  I figure living in Houston area, we are in an area surrounded by refineries that are processing some pretty heinous stuff sometimes.  In the few years I have been down here there have been several explosions are various sites.  One even resulted in a shelter in place in my area due to, you guessed it, a large cloud of potentially poisonous smoke.  So it doesn't even have to be some crazy attack, sometimes it would be good to have the supplies to seal up your place from the outside world.  Or just having something to cover a broken window while waiting to to get it fixed.  So a couple days later I went out and acquired some more stuff to add to my hurricane (read zombie) kit.

So anyway, as the movie goes on you find that the man's wife has survived the explosions and makes it back to their home, only to find that she has been locked outside but her husband.  So the problem with this movie that made me go out and buy a few more emergency supplies is that, at one point the wife busts a window into the house to try and get in and a small amount of the "viral ash" gets in.  Since his house was sealed up it basically incubates the virus turning the place into a death trap.

So this movie taught me, sealing up your house can lead to your death, and I ran out and got supplies to do so?  Thinking about it later made me wonder how that logic wormed its way through my brain.

What movie lessons have your learned?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My E-reader Wishlist

I being a huge fan of science fiction and the like have been interested in electronic readers forever.  They strike me as the "datacards" and whatnot of sci-fi.  For being able to read large amounts on I want that e-ink background as opposed to the I pad and other coming tablets.  To be able to carry my entire library around with me would be awesome (though I still want to keep my books too, I'll get to that shortly).  Unfortunately even though since Sony first announced it's Sony Reader, to the Kindle, to the Nook, and all the various other versions out there, I still haven't seen the technology get to where I would buy one.  I have a few things I really want to see prior to investing in an e-reader.

At A Glance image

Amazon's Latest Kindle
Star Wars "datapad" via Wookiepedia

1.  A screen the size of a paper back book.  I don't mind having a slightly larger device but I want the reading area to be the same.  I don't like the devices that are the size of a book with the smaller screen, it doesn't maintain that book feel to me then.  I know that there is a larger Kindle but it is too big, although if I were still in college and I could get my textbooks on it I would probably consider it.

2.  Non-proprietary formats.  Like Apple uses with itunes, Amazon uses a proprietary format for its books.  I hate this.  I don't want to by a Kindle once and then be forced to keep buying from the same company because I lose my collection if I switch to another device.  Yeah, it makes sense from a the perspective of trying to trap your consumers into staying with you.  I can't stand it and will avoid it where I can; meaning I won't get a Kindle until they open up of the format more.  I believe the Nook uses an open source format, and I believe Sony uses a plethora of open source and proprietary.  I am not sure about the other ones out there.

3.  It needs to look good and function well.  I have not had a chance to actually look at a Kindle in person, but from what I have seen of them online they just don't look that nice.  Sony's look nice but from what I have seen in person they are slow, and looked like they had a burn in problem.  I could see faint text in the background behind the text that was being displayed.  I also didn't like how the screen flashed black during page turns.  Figure out a way to animate a page turn or something but clean it up.  I understand it is e-ink but they need to have the function down better.

4.  Price below $200 preferably below $150.  Some of the Readers that get close to my preferred standards are too expensive.  Considering what is being done with computers, phones, and the like for less, they need to work on their price point.

5.  Books and e-books together.  I think Disney had a brilliant idea with the way it has been selling its Blurays.  Their Blurays at least the ones I have purchased have come with the bluray risk, a dvd, and the electronic copy of the same movie, so you can watch it in whatever format you want.  I think it would be awesome if publishers would start doing that with books.  Buy the paperback and you get a code to unlock the electronic version for download into whatever reader you have.  If this were to start happening I would be much more inclined to get an e-reader.

So there you have it.  If you have in the E-reader business get to it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What's in a name?

OK, so random thought of the day.  Does your name have an effect on your personality?  If you grew up with a different name would you still be the same person that you are now.  I know it might seem trivial but that whole butterfly affect thing.   Plus it might really be so trivial.  That whole "Boy named Sue" concept.  The way people treat you can have a large impact on you.  So if you had a different name growing up would people have treated you the same or different.  Do you people treat Patrick's and Eugene's the same.  How would it have affected your life?

I have heard a lot people in my life, mainly girls, say "Oh you don't look like a... fill in name".  So obviously in some ways people attach certain characteristics with certain names.  Do they treat people according to those characteristics.    I mean some people can get made fun of because of there name.  Richard Brains, my dad knew someone by this name.  I can imagine he was teased throughout his childhood.  If his name was Steve, would it have been the same?  

I would imagine it would depend on other factors as well.  If you have a easy to make fun of name, but stand a foot taller and 20 lbs heavier then anyone else maybe it doesn't matter.

If your name is Snake, do you try to be more a badass in life?  Yes, I just watched Escape from New York.

Not really sure where I'm going with this.  I just thought it was one of those interesting questions that have no answer.  Where would I be if my name had been Bob?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Can Zombies be Romanticized?

When one mentions vampires now a day it frequently brings about disgust.  Vampires once a concept of horror now are are seen as girlish icons.  Television and books today are overwhelmed with vampire stories.  Romance stories of girls and vampires.  They have lost pretty much all the horror concept that belonged with them in the age of Bram' Strokers Dracula or Nosferatu.  Can this happen to other staples of horror?  Even werewolves on on that path as well, as they have also romanticized in Twilight.

I figure the last bastion of hope for horror icons lies in Zombies.  They are grotesque, rotting corpses that try and eat other people.  They have conquered the comedy realm with Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. 
From the movie Fido (2006)

Is there a way these creatures can become the icons of women's dreams, like vampires and werewolves?  Will there be the zombie romance flick next?  Is is possible.  Can we have endless show after endless show of  teenage zombie drama.  I think this is a pretty safe category of horror, but stranger things have happened.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On the roadside

Have you ever seen a fellow jogging who physically looks so much like a non-jogger, usually because of wardrobe and / or disposition, that your first thought is "wonder what that chap is running from?" I have.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Zombie movies, what gory fun

So I went through a "scary movie" period of my Netflix queue a while back.  Some of my favorites involved zombie movies.  They can provide such great fun.  Below is a list of the ones I have seen and a few thoughts on each.

Night of the Living Dead - Really the one that started it all.  I mean its not the greatest in the way of action or special affects, but you have to remember when it was made and how it was a breakthrough.
Dawn of the Dead - Probably my favorite in this series so far, though Romero is still making them.
Day of the Dead - It's interesting to see the Zombie "evolution" in Romero's movies.
Land of the Dead - This was alright, mindless fun.  I guess that is what zombie movies are.  So good on you.
Night of the Living Dead 3D remake - I didn't see it in 3D, but you could tell where the crappy 3D effects were supposed to be.  This was just an awful movie and a real downer on the original.  The best part of the movie was when they showed the original on television at the beginning of this one.
Dead Alive - One of Peter Jackson's first flicks.  How he arrived on the set of Lord of the Rings from this start is astounding.  Probably one of the goriest movies I have ever seen.  Using a push lawn mower as a weapon... I think so.
Quarantine - This was a good one.  Slow start, and shot will handheld cameras, but extremely well done.
Zombieland - A great zombie movie with excellent comedic value, excellent rules to live by in the event of the zombie apocalypse.
Resident Evil Trilogy - I almost forgot this was a zombie series.  Again falls into the mindless fun category.  I watched them all back to back.  The first two were okay.  The third was getting weird.  I guess Milla Jovovich is an added benefit to this series.
Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 - Evil Dead surprised me by how whiny Ash was.  Army of Darkness was the first movie I saw in this trilogy and he was a bad ass.  Not the case in Evil Dead.  Evil Dead 2 was basically a reinvention of the first movie and a reinvention of Ash's character.  Both great movies for how they were made.  I would say Evil Dead 2 was the funner movie.  I wouldn't call Army of Darkness a Zombie movie, but also great fun.
Fido - I really liked this movie.  A boy and his pet zombie.  Enjoyed the 1950's vibe of the movie, particularly after spent a great deal of time playing Fallout 3.
Shaun of the Dead - I need to go back and watch this movie again.  I went into it expecting a straight comedy along the lines of Zombieland, what I got was a very dark comedy.  Expectations are everything, and this hurt my opinion of the movie.  Having then watched Hot Fuzz with the right mindset I found that movie highly enjoyable.  So Shaun of the Dead is a definite revisit.
Stripper Zombies - So I am not sure should admit to having actually seen this movie.  Gratuitous in the extreme, as I guess should be expected.  I was expecting it to be campy funny.  Instead it took itself way to seriously.  Oh well.
I am Legend - A remake of a remake of a movie of a book.  This movie wasn't that great.  The computer animation was too much.  It was a decent for zombie plan ideas though.
The Omega Man - The original remake of The last man alive.  I honestly don't remember this too well except that I saw it after I am Legend and that it has identical product placement of red Ford Mustangs.  
28 Days Later - OK so I could have done without the opening scene.  But aside from that good movie.  Really pioneered the sprinting zombie mythos.
28 Weeks Later - Much more of an action oriented then the previous.  Fun in that regard.
Planet Terror - Over the top ridiculous.  Made in the fine tradition of the seediest grind-house films.  This movie was a lot better than I had originally thought it would be.  I guess stupid movies have really grown on me.

I do have several more out there that I have been meaning to see.  Some of the new Romero films, and a couple of the remakes of his movies, which I heard were better than the other remake that I did watch.  Also the Crazies.

So if you aren't too squeamish go and watch some of these flicks.  They should give you some good ideas in helping to develop your zombie plan, while providing hours of flesh eating, corpse ridden fun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So What's Your Real Zombie Plan?

When I say that I am not necessarily referring to the cannibalistic un-dead roaming the streets waiting eat you and possibly turn you into one of them.  I am talking about the "what do you do when the world goes to hell in a hand basket" plan.

The world we live in is not a stable place.  Between threats of terrorism, climate change, crazy totalitarian states (yes, I mean you North Korea),  growing political divisions within out own country, a super virus, or the zombie apocalypse, there is always the chance that things just fall apart.  So are you ready?  Do you have a zombie plan?

I do have a plan, but not necessarily the means of putting it into place at this moment.  So really its pretty useless.  I have a fall back location planned in a rural area in the mountains.  The place is pretty pretty self sufficient.  It provides shelter, should have clean drinking water as it has its own well, even a few rifles for hunting and defensive purposes if need be.  The surrounding area has farms which could be useful as well.  The problem would be getting there.  Particularly since this plan was originally put together when I lived much closer to the planed escape area.  Now it will be a quite a trek, through  what is expected to be hostile terrain or some form or another.  That is the part that I really need to work out.  The getting out of town and supplies for leaving the area.

In the event of real zombies, I'll have to modify my plan to have enough folks with me to sacrifice to the zombies on my way out of town.  Yes, that will just add to there numbers, but it will slow them as they have to stop and eat.

So...who wants to join my evac party?

They bring up some good points.  So what's your zombie plan?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What my phone has taught me of the upcoming zombie apocalypse

So I bought my first app for my Droid.  Not that I haven't downloaded any apps before, they were just all free.  But this one felt important.  For 99 cents my phone now runs as its live desktop a zombie outbreak simulation.  I can now watch zombie outbreaks take place over and over again.

Through intense observation I have learned three important lessons.  The first is unless there are zombie hunters right on top of the initial outbreak the world is pretty much screwed.  They just spread to fast otherwise.  As a side note, if the Zombie hunters proximity to the zombie outbreak results in them being the first to die, the world is also screwed

The second lesson is that team work is crucial when killing zombies.  No matter how good you are at killing zombies, you always need someone to watch your back.  Zombie hunters working alone always get overwhelmed in the end.

The last lesson I learned is that I enjoy nuking zombies.  Sorry to all those folks who weren't quite zombie's yet, but all the hunter's were dead and I had no choice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NHL Rankings based on my opinion of the team

So my wife recently made the comment that I hate pretty much any team in the NHL that is not the Detroit Red Wings.  I decided this isn't the case, its just the Wings tend to play a lot of the teams I hate fairly frequently.  Below is a list of how I feel about the various teams around the league.  This list was started at the beginning of the second round.  Somethings have changed in that time I point a few out.  

  1. Detroit Red Wings - Greatest Franchise in sports history.  End of story.
  2. Buffalo Sabres - I mean they have Ryan Miller playing for them, how can you not like them.  
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning - Oh how things can change in the course of a few hours.  When I first started putting this list together I had the Tampa Bay Lightning at 20 with the one comment being "Just a poorly poorly run franchise."  In some regards this is still true with an ownership debacle currently taking place.  However, it is being reported today that Steve Yzerman is taking over as General Manager for the team.  So I can no longer call them a poorly run team, and I can't root against a team managed by one of the greatest if not the greatest Red Wings of all time.  After 27 years with the Organization, good luck with Tampa Bay.  
  4. Ottawa Senators - I have liked the Senators for a while, I liked the speed of their team back when Hossa was still with them.  They have changed a lot since then, but I have nothing against them.  I mean Heatley is with San Jose now, so just one more thing to hold against San Jose.  
  5. Montreal Canadiens - For a team that turned over half its players this past year, wow is all you can say for the level they played.  Sad to see them lose out to Philly, a team I hate, 
  6. Washington Capitals - Having lived in their hockey region, I gotta like the Caps, but they bought into their own hype before ever actually accomplishing anything, so I had to drop them down a little.  
  7. Boston Bruins - Another delta from when this list was started a couple of weeks ago. I had them at #3 and listed as "A well coached, hard working team.  Better stop choking immediately though."  Well they didn't stop choking.  They are the third team in history to allow a comeback from a 3-0 deficit.  This is the second year in a row they have choked in the second round.  Maybe not as much heart as I once thought.  
  8. New York Islanders - While a fairly pathetic franchise in general, my cousin works for this team so they gain some favoritism through family ties.  
  9. New York Rangers - A previous favorite of my youth until I was no longer allowed to play as them on a NHL '95, this team comes out of the gates flying every year only to fall apart midway through the season.  What is wrong there.  Aside from that I like King Lundqvist.  
  10. LA Kings - A team that has come a long way in the last few years.  I might not like them as much in the next few if they keep developing as they have but for now, good on you.  
  11. Atlanta Thrashers - I just have a feeling of apathy towards this team.  
  12. Florida Panthers - Apathy again.  Have no strong feelings one way or another, but l like the Thrashers more.  Maybe a home state thing?
  13. Carolina Hurricanes - Possibly the most inconsistent team in the sport?  I think so.  
  14. Vancouver Canucks - I really don't have anything against this team except that they are in the same conference as the Wings.  
  15. New Jersey Devils - Swept the Wings in '95, have never really forgiven them.  
  16. Columbus Blue Jackets - A team in the Central division that has made the playoffs once and was subsequently swept by the Wings in the first round.  Then fell apart again the following season.  They have never really been a risk to the Wings and therefore I don't hold much ill will towards them.  But like most Wings fans, Rick Nash scares the hell out of me.  
  17. Nashville Predators - A well coached team that plays hard.  Man do they play the Wings hard.  I gotta admire them but we play them far to often for me to like them.  
  18. Phoenix Coyotes - Admire their hardworking season despite the uncertainty surrounding the franchise, but really hockey in the Desert.  Shane Doan lost most admiration I had for the guy in his three playoff games against the Wings this year.  
  19. Dallas Stars - The closest I can get to NHL hockey where I live.  A series of management blunders the last couple of years has this teams stock dropping rapidly.
  20. Edmonton Oilers - 2006 Playoffs, Pronger was on the team, and now they just suck horribly.  Not only did they finish in last place in the league, their farm team finished in last place in the league.  Bright future ahead of them.  
  21. Minnesota Wild - They keep claiming they should be Hockeytown, USA.  Try winning something first then come talk to me.  
  22. Toronto Maple Leafs - A team that's general manager is Brian Burke?  Gag me now (yes I know he was team USA's GM for the Olympics).  This team has been a perenial suckfest for a while now, but every year they beat the Wings in their original six showdown.  I just don't like this team.  
  23. St. Louis Blues - The team where Chris Pronger spent a majority of his career.  Big rival of the Wings in their own division until the wheel fell off around the lockout timeframe.  Starting to work there way back into contention with a young team.  Might earn some respect soon, but as they are in the Wings division, I'll never like them.  
  24. Calgary Flames - Another bunch of dirty players. 
  25. Philadelphia Flyers - The origin of dirty teams like modern day Anaheim.  Current employer former Anaheim, Edmonton, and St. Loius POS, Chris Pronger
  26. San Jose Sharks - Until this year I thought they were just a team with no heart, now they found a way around that by becoming a cheap shotting, diving bunch of players with no heart.  
  27. Colorado Avalanche - The years of animosity with this team were just brutal, although they mainly exorcised all those demons back in the 2002 WCF, and Colorado hasn't been the same team since, you can't forget all that bad blood.  
  28. Chicago Blackhawks - Biggest historic rival of the Wings.  Cabby beater Kane is on the team, Another team that followed the suck long enough and we'll be able to draft well theory the Pens had been working on for so long.  
  29. Pittsburgh Penguins - June 12, 2009 is one of the bigger reasons, but the NHL appointment of their whiny captain as the hockey god has not helped at all.  Stay classy Sidney.  
  30. Anaheim Ducks - Bunch of cheap-shotting, scumbag players, run by a coach and put together by a GM who praise both qualities.  I have no respect for this team.  2007 WCF did not help at all.  Their sweep of the Wings in 2003 also doesn't help, but it was a different team then as well.  Overall nothing good has come out of this team except Mike Babcock coaching the Wings.  

So while I don't hate every team except the Red Wings in the NHL, the Stanley Cup final is now between two teams I do hate.  I don't even know if I can be bothered to watch the finals this year.    

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Playoff Beard Story

For four years I went to a military college.  During that time facial hair was frowned upon.  As in not allowed.  My first year upon leaving school I jumped whole heartedly into the tradition of the hockey playoff beard.  My beard would grow as long as the Red Wings were in the playoffs.  It paid off when I was rewarded with seeing them win the Stanley Cup that year after a six year drought (I know I'm spoiled Wings fan).  Obviously this was a tradition I need to continue.

I fear I must have over groomed the following year as the Wings once again made it to the finals but devastatingly lost in game seven.  So this year I am following a minimal upkeep policy.    Tonight will reveal if this is in fact a working system.  The Wings are in game seven of their Western Conference quarter final series with the Phoenix Coyotes.  The the power of the beard push them through.  If they survive tonight we shall continue to track the beard.  If not we will have to figure out a way to bring the mojo of the beard back because something has gone tragically wrong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Books, Books, Books

So I had initially intended on doing a review of each book I read as one additional thing to write on this blog. I found my ability to critique stuff kinda sucks. So instead of doing an entire entry based on each review. I shall now combine all into one. Here goes:

The Forever War - Joe Haldeman - Five Stars

Awesome story and concept. One of the best books I have read in a while. It is a story about a man who starts fighting in an interstellar war that is drawn out because of the great distances between the two fighting species. It uses the effects of relativity to paint a really interesting picture of war and human society over a vast period of time.  I would highly recommend this book, as would many as it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Armor - John Steakley - Three and a half stars

I read this on a recommendation of a big fan of Ender's Game who was comparing the two (it was actually in the introduction to Ender's Game). However, I will say it does not hold a candle to Ender's Game. Not much out there does. This is actually the review that kept me from doing reviews as I am not really sure what I thought of it. It is about a war with bugs fought in suits of armor, a common theme in sci-fi, and a characters will to survive despite a certain amount of self loathing. The story is a bit odd taking place in many disparate parts, that finally come together at the very end. It was a alright book in the end, but I wouldn't put it out there as a must read.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon - Three stars

The fact that it took me five months to get through this book pretty much captures a lot of how I felt about it. It is a Hugo award winner from a Pulitzer prize winning author. I took this as a big recommendation. This is a work of historical fiction that portrays a world where Israel failed shortly after its founding and so the United States lent land in Alaska to the Jewish people for 60 years. The story is a murder mystery taking place in the district just prior to the land reverting to US control. I will say the world and characters that the author built were incredibly detailed and well thought out. The problem for me was the story just dragged. I did not find it compelling in the least. The authors use of metaphor and simile had me constantly rereading lines to figure out what he was actually describing. This made me think this is somewhat above the "reading level" of what I normally read. It is interesting writing style, but when there is one after another, after another, things get muddled. Knowing more details of Jewish history/culture would probably make this story more interesting.

The Old Man's War - John Scalzi - Four and a half stars

This was a fun read. It is a action packed story in the vein of The Forever War and Starship Troopers. It takes place in a universe where humanity is colonizing among hundreds of other species who are all at war over the same basic territory. It follows the story of a 75 year old recruit from Earth and his journey into the wars to defend humanities colonies.  He has a very simple straight forward way of writing.  I loved the fact that Scalzi is not shy in his writing.  Also, his writing can also be quite humorous even when covering serious situations. Some of the things I like about this book and this series in general is its look into the question of what is acceptable in warfare, and what extent would we press warfare to ensure our survival.

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi - Four Stars

I've decided it is particularly hard to review a series because any description of the later books can ruin the prior books. So forgive my vagueness. This novel picks up couple years after Old Man's War. It follows some of the same characters and investigates some interesting concepts of cloning, human consciousness, and also authority of government in war times.  I did not find it quite as fast paced as Old Man's War but it is still a fun creative story.  It does a great job of shedding light on part of his universe that was only hinted at in OMW.  

The Last Colony - John Scalzi - Four Stars

Another fun novel by Mr. Scalzi and completes the main story arc of his Old Man's War Universe.  This novel follows humanities last attempt at colonization as the balance for power shifts in their portion of the galaxy.  For the third book in the series he again went a different direction with it and did a good job of filling out the series and bringing to to a fulfilling ending.  

This series in general was highly entertaining. The only problem I would say is that at the end I was not connected to the stories or characters as I am with the books I consider to be the best. When I finished the Narnia Chronicle's or the Ender's Game series of books, I was sad they came to an end. I wanted there to be more to it. When this series ended I was OK with it. Not because it was a more satisfying ending, but I just did not connect as much to the story in the end.  I'm not sure why as it was a fun series to read.  

And with that I am caught up. Stayed tuned for The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, last years Hugo Award winner, which I am currently reading. The next book on my reading list after that is The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which means you might never hear anything about me reading ever again. If you don't know what I mean you probably haven't read Dostoevsky before.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Tragedy of Remakes: Revisited

Let's see, back when I first started this site I discussed how tragic it was that people just keep remaking movies and how this stunts creativity. This is particularly sad when the movies are almost completely the same. One of the most painful or these I have seen was The Omen. The seemed to almost literally go scene by scene and just did the same exact thing. Why bother with the remake?

Now the reason I wanted to come back to this was because at the time I wanted to note how ridiculous it is that this is acceptable to do with movies, TV, and music, but you never see it done with books. Well things might have changed. Recently one of my current favorite writers, John Scalzi, decided to take up the "challenge" of rebooting a book series. So not necessarily a remake but a reboot ala Battlestar Galactica, Batman, V, but with a book series.

"...I took the original plot and characters of Little Fuzzy and wrote an entirely new story from and with them. The novel doesn’t follow on from the events of Little Fuzzy; it’s a new interpretation of that first story and a break from the continuity that H. Beam Piper established in Little Fuzzy and its sequels." - John Scalzi

For his full take on it: Fuzzy Nation

He originally did as a fun project for himself on the side. My question is, is releasing this to the public for profit opening a new can of worms in the field of writing? If he is commercially successful in this attempt to reboot a written series will we see other authors go back and rework other older works? I don't think this is going to destroy the world or writing by any means. It is much more open than movies and music are. It is not as controlled as those industries. I also don't see the rights of books being bought and sold as readily. I actually wonder if he will be paying any commission to the estate of the original author?

I haven't read the original work Little Fuzzy and I might now that it has been brought to my attention, which was one of Scalzi's goals. So maybe in a way this can be a good thing. I guess time will tell on that front. It will be interesting to see where this leads and if he is successful with it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Finally more travel

So we didn't make it out of the country this time. Not enough time for that, but we did finally get some more travel in for a long weekend. A trip to New Orleans over the long Easter weekend was quite enjoyable. I will admit I had some doubts as to wanting to travel here. It has somewhat of a reputation as a shady city. It is an interesting city. Two very different sides to the town and they are right next to each other. You have the party and debauchery side of town, mainly encompassing Bourbon St, and some other parts of the French Quarter. The next street over is Royal St, and it is filled with Art Galleries and Antique stores. We wandered both interchangeably throughout the course of the weekend.

We stayed at the Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It just finished up a $145 million renovation post Katrina and reopened last year. It was an amazing hotel. Probably, the nicest I have ever stayed in. It wasn't much to look at from the outside but when you walk in and see this view that goes the width of the block it is located on, its a nice feeling. The first night we got in around 9, so we dropped out bags in our room and hit the hotel bar to try our some historical beverages. I say this because the hotel bar is named the Sazerac Bar, after what is thought to be the first cocktail drink ever invented. The specialty of the bar is said drink. It consists of rye whiskey, bitters, a sugar cube, and 1/4 ounce absinthe. It smelled like licorice and tasted like whiskey. Can't say it was the greatest drink ever but not bad. We also tried a Ramos gin fizz which was much worse; Tasted like flowery soap. After a few more drinks we called it a night.

The following day we walked the city. I was surprised by how busy the city was considering it is still in recovery mode, but it is spring break time still so that probably helped. Our first stop was a restaurant called Deanie's. It was a seafood place that made Creole style cuisine. It was
pretty good. They ripped us off on our appetizer of shrimp remoulade, giving us only five small shrimp, but the main dishes were large and tasty. I also could have probably killed someone with the beer glass I was given, it was so large and heavy. In the end I ate too much which became a theme for the weekend. It was the first time I had craw fish Étouffée, it will not be the last. Other sites seen in the city that day were various places along Bourbon and Royal street, the basilica, walked along the river, and walked through the Harrah's Casino. What a depressing place. Casino's are just sad, particularly when they aren't nice casino's.

We went to dinner back at our hotel at one of John Besh's restaurants Dominica. The appetizer was delicious, it was a buffalo mozzarella, with some garlic and olive oil on toasted bread. Hard to screw up. The rest of our dishes were a little too salty though. Somewhat disappointing for the price and for the level of chef who owns the restaurant. We had purchased a bottle of wine earlier in the day so that was how we ended the day. I had eaten too much again. Three dishes not counting desert will do that too you.

The next day we wandered the city again, stopped by an art museum, had some beignet's, got a drink on Bourbon street and walked around; things you are supposed to do in New Orleans. The highlight of the trip was dinner that night. We went to a the Le Foret Restaurant and had the tasting menu with each dish paired with a glass of wine. Some of the food was a little different than I have had before, foie gras, rabbit pate, caviar things of that nature but the food was delicious. The highlight was the diver scallops and the soufflé. Both were amazing. A great way to spend the evening. The service needed a lot work would be my one complaint.

The last day we hit McDonald's, great Easter morning breakfast. Almost as good as when we ended up at a McDonald's for breakfast on Valentine's day this year. I continue to be that classy. All in all a good trip. New Orleans impressed me a lot more then I would have thought.

On Lack of Posting

So its been a while. I think partly I haven't been posting because I know at least five people will now see a link to this site because as soon as I post it will pop up on Google Buzz. So someone might actually read this. Who am I they won't. The other problem is my last two posts were about how great Avatar, complete with overly large movie poster photo. Call it a guilty pleasure. Just a movie I feel like I shouldn't have liked as much as I did but thoroughly enjoyed is anyway. So I have avoided drawing attention to a site that no one looks at anyway. Seems like poor plan.

But I am back in that mood of writing again, so here I am. I have about 11 draft posts going so we'll see how many of them actually make it out of the starting gate. And go...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avatar: Game Changer

I believe Avatar is on pace to beat out Titanic for highest grossing movie of all time; It sure took long enough.

I have read so many various reviews of "hardcore" science fiction fans of late who absolutely despise Avatar, because all it did was "play to the lowest common denominator" or "pander to the masses" with a weak story and amazing special effects. Therefore, it is not a good movie, it is not worth seeing, and it is in no way shape or form a game changer.

I agree, the story is not the most original. But unless you have seen it, you do not have a valid opinion. You cannot have a judgement that mean anything of something you have not seen. And you cannot appreciate that even if this was a weak story (I think it was well done and touched up enough to avoid this being weak), you have to appreciate that this movie IS a game changer. Maybe this movie just teamed great special effects and 3D with a lack of an original story, but now everyone is going to try and team the same effects and 3D with their stories to keep up. So while you might not think this movie is any good, it is opening the door for all those others out there to put it these effects together WITH a great story. It showed that spending the money to make something like this can make the money back. Team that with a great story and you have an out of this world experience.

So Avatar is going to be a game changer; Maybe not in story telling but in the level at which the story can and should be told. Other movies are already delaying or rewriting to try and keep up and fans of the movie going experience should have nothing but appreciation for Avatar, for showing the potential of new special effects whether it be CGI, motion capture, or 3D for movie goers to see.