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...