Dec 29, 2010

Camera on Sword

1) How has no one thought of this before. 2) How did they not think to pair this video with what it looks like from a normal POV?

Dec 24, 2010

Event Reviews @ The Temple

Beauty and the Beast – Well it will be pretty hard to disentangle this one from emotion, so I won’t bother, just take that as a caveat. This was pretty cool. First my complaints – the show was more kid oriented than I expected. Maybe that makes me stupid, and I did expect it would be focused there. It was just moreso than I thought. Very silly humor, very slapsticky. Sometimes just a funny face and a “wah wah".” If it was a movie, I’d say it was very bad. As a musical in an audience 25% under 10, it gets away with it. 2nd thing was Lumiere, he was way too over the top. He is clearly a man who has seen/played 20 years of Lumiere, so he’s become a caricature of himself. For christ’s sake, it took him 30 minutes between “Be” “"our” and "guest'” That number, by the way, was probably my least favorite, surprisingly. I thought I would really like it, and it certainly seems like its meant to be the big thing. It didn’t really go for me, though. It felt a little under budget, not grand enough. Lastly Mrs. Potts accent was just about the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Not only was it a horrendous british accent, she couldn’t seem to decide if she was cockney or posh, it was ridiculous. On the other hand, the music is fantastic. The Belle song, beauty and the beast, the mob song, the library song, all awesome. The bar song with this amazing glass clinking dance thing was super cool. I used more words on complaining than complimenting, but that’s not what I mean. Overall it was really just a lot of fun and really enjoyable.

Don’t Steal a Hacker’s Computer

This is pretty awesome. Really long, but worth it.

Dec 17, 2010

Word Lens

Cool idea, if it really works that well (which I’m sure it doesn’t yet, but still).

Dec 14, 2010

Book Reviews @ The Temple

Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee – Wow it’s been a long time since I read a book! This is a pretty weird one. It’s about a guy, in South Africa during the war (I’m going to have to leave “the war” vague cuz I know fuck all about it cuz I’m a bad american). He tries to take his mom to the country to live out her days, things happen, he goes on a weird journey. It’s an extraordinarily odd story, the strongest feeling I can attach to it is actually post-apocalyptic. Traveling between towns, living in the moutnains, avoiding the army, it feels like he’s living after the world done got effed up. It’s actually a cool feeling, so that’s not a bad thing. The book is broken into parts, the vast majority is this weird semi-life of his, then two shorter sections. The first from a different person’s perspective, trying to take care of him, the second back to him finishing out his story. I don’t really know what to think about it. It feels, more than anything, like it’s supposed to have a point. It seems extraordinarily particular to not have some kind of moral before it. The story is very well written. It’s captivating (and short, which helps) and is very carefully written. This was not thrown together to tell an exciting jaunt, it feels very specific. And I can only think that means it should have greater meaning. I’m not sure what that meaning is, though. Certainly there is this idea of living close to nature, living a simple completely isolated life. Not just simple, as minimalistic as humanly possible. In fact, more than is humanly possible as I don’t see anyone surviving this life in the real world. It is as broken down to the bones as any story could be. But I can’t find anything deeper than that. Both the other person’s reaction to him in the second chapter and the finale point to some sort of understanding of this man’s choice of life. But it seems like neither a cautionary tale nor advice. Perhaps his life is presented as pure. But by no means is it presented as good, or even possible for a real person. It’s an odd book and I’m unsure what to think. Very well written, crafted I’d say. But I’m left with a certain lack, after reading it. Like I was peaking through a window to look on a completely different life and, but then the window closed and I just went back to mine, not particularly affected…… Brief update – went to a book club for this (weird, huh?) and was given one idea that I find interesting. That this book is actually a commentary on homeless people. A guy, who goes into things with good intentions, his life goes awry, he ends up a wackaloon who is just trying to survive. The one loose end that theory ties up is the last chapter that involves these weird young people who use Michael K almost as a plaything. Looking at it in the context of how we, as a group, treat homeless people (bum fights?), it becomes more interesting. I’m not sure that that’s a definitive answer, but it’s an interesting thought.

Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin – Well I finally got to this book! Gawdam is it long. 31 CDs long! Fortunately that’s just a corner of my mp3 player. It’s pretty fascinating. I am, as always, very uneducated about history. So there were aspects of Lincoln’s presidency that I didn’t know about though they must be pretty commonly known. The structure of the book is interesting. Rather than talk about just Lincoln, she talks (with almost equal length!) about his 3 rivals for the Republican nomination for president – Seward, Chase, and Bates. He pulls each of these men into his cabinet (as well as some democrats) in order to have a variety of ideas. Comparing their lives and personalities is really interesting. Lincoln’s greatness is all the brighter for being compared to these men, both in that they were also great, and in that they were sometimes very far from great. Seward in particular is at first his fiercest detractor, then becomes his most loyal ally as secretary of state. Chase, meanwhile, is a fucking asshole and from the beginning to end of Lincoln’s presidency is acting only in his own interest and trying to steal the office. But Lincoln is the star, of course, and it’s astounding the man he was. Granted this book is biased, it’s about his greatness, but wow. I read that Washington book, he was impressive, but he was very very flawed. Lincoln is nearly superhuman, as portrayed in this book. His intelligence and grace and control is just remarkable. I can’t imagine what the country would have been without him, and I’m sad to imagine what else it could have been with more of him. The book also seems to be a lesson in moderacy. I’m not all that moderate. Stewart/Colbert rally aside, I’m pretty firmly in the left camp and think most of the right are either heartless or morons. But here Lincoln is in the midst of slavery, and he argues JUST to stop the spread of slavery to the new states. Not to give them rights, not to let them vote, not to count them equal to a white man, not even to free them. Just stop the spread. Baby steps. That leads to emancipation. And that of course leads to rights, even if it took us 100 years. Yes, we can all absolutely say it was wrong from beginning to end and the “right” thing to do would have been complete equality, immediately. But if the republicans had nominated a “radical” who wanted immediate emancipation, he would have lost, and slavery would have continued for who knows how long. Not only continued, but infected the new states. Lincoln’s moderacy may have saved the cause. I can’t help but imagine the parallel’s to now. Gays should have full rights, we should have full health care, we should take 75% of our defense BS and put it in schools and research. But maybe Dennis Kucinich will never win and if he got nominated would just insure another Bush in the whitehouse. Maybe someone needs to be up there giving us ONLY half assed health care, so in 10 years we’ll have the right one. It’s pretty interesting, I think, even if my nature rebels against it.

The Brothers Mario

This fake trailer is genius. Not just the concept, but the direction and assets are really pretty fantastic.

Dec 13, 2010

Jump Ropers

I know watching jump roping for 8 minutes seems like a ridiculous idea. But I promise you this is the craziest shit you’ve ever seen. If the US gov’t had any sense, they’d recruit these girls into some sort of insane ninja fucking strike force.

The Pale Blue Dot

I kind of fail as a nerd, science type person, and person in general for not having ever read or seen anything Carl Sagan. Some day when I have nothing to do (ha!) I’ll go watch Cosmos. But until then, this seems like a good start.

Dec 7, 2010

Princess Bride Light Sabers

I don’t normally use ‘epic’. When warren specter and disney have co-opted a word, it’s fairly played out. Nonetheless – epic.

Dec 3, 2010

Candlelight – The Maccabeats

I’d never actually heard the original cuz I’m not cool, I’ve since seen it, and it’s not that good! Then this guy did this version, which is really cool. But this is pretty awesome for a bunch of dorky jewish boys.

Oct 14, 2010

It Gets Better

I’m so happy to see this It Gets Better thing. I’m so sad that it’s necessary. I’ve not watched a lot of the videos, but this one is hard to click off. And let me be clear, if you use gay as an insult, even a joke, if you are okay with yelling faggot on xbox live, I don’t need to know you.

Oct 7, 2010

Suburban rapping

I wish white dudes rapping wasn’t so funny: Arlington Rap and Dad Life. (yes, I realize they aren’t all actually white, but you realize that my statement applies)

Sep 22, 2010

Fan Made Pokemon Movie Trailer

I….. really want this to be a real movie. With good CGI.

Never Trust a Cute Girl

I honestly expected to skip my way through this music video, but it’s kind of awesome. It’s like Run Lola Run, very cool.

The Office Lip Dub

Remember when lip dubs were cool? Like, 6 months ago? Y’know, 300 years in internet time? Okay, now imagine that someone does one now, 300 years later. Okay, now imagine that it’s a TV show trying to be cool because they thought their JK wedding parody was neat a couple years ago even though it wasn’t. Okay, now imagine that they do a really shitty job at it. Weird, huh?

Fibonacci Pigeons

That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

Sep 14, 2010

Irish Hand Dancing

Um…. kay.  While I recognize that this is something I’ll never be able to do. They must recognize that it’s also something I would never want to do. And yet… kind of entrancing.

Sep 9, 2010

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Okay, I’ve been too busy and my computer has been too not-turning-on to keep up to date, so, speed round:

Funny People – Better than I thought. Adam Sandler’s attempt to be serious. Very inside baseball for comedians, which I feel some awareness of due to KATG. Not bad, way too damn long, but if it had been an hour and a half I’d say it was pretty good.

Ponyo – Cute movie. The ponyo sperm/fish/little girl thing is kind of creepy. But no one ever claimed Miyazaki put out totally normal not at all bat shit crazy movies. In the end it’s pretty charming, very weird, certainly unique. Has a surprising amount of american voice talent behind it, I actually watched it with dubbing on. Worth seeing if you are into that sort of thing.

Kick-Ass – Thought I would love this. But then again it’s so up it’s own ass because a 9 year old girl says cunt. Whoopteefuckindoo. I loved Millar’s Wanted, though the movie was clearly lacking. This is similarly anti social in many ways, though obviously it has a different intent. It gets a pass as the first of what seems like is going to be many stories about amateurs who want to be heroes. I did enjoy it, a lot of the over the top action was a lot of fun. The story itself isn’t really that interesting. Besides the failed super kid and the cuntmouth kid, it’s a fairly normal super hero story. Good enough, 3 start on netflix, but it didn’t rock my shit.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard – Snore! 100% average movie with 100% average acting, writing, and jokes. I did laugh, there were plenty of mostly silly moments that made me giggle, but I don’t look back on it as a particularly hilarious movie. It’s kind of just a remake of Used Cars from the 80s, except not as good. Nothing about it is offensively bad, it’s just an extraordinarily vanilla experience.

The Unborn (American version) – Meh, whatevs. Kind of normal horror movie. Effects were nothing special, story was nothing special, suspense was nothing special. None of these movies have much going for them. It’s mostly about the hook. Girl who kills you after you watch a tape, that was original. Seeing things when you are blind, kind of. This is just a devil baby that was never born. Not that hook-ish. The infusion of jewish mysticism was an odd choice. In the end it had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Swap a cross for a star, a bible for a kabbalah, a priest for a rabbi, and latin for hebrew, and it plays out exactly the same way any christian based ghost would. It wasn’t bad, it was made well enough, I suppose. But I won’t remember anything about it later on.

The Unborn (Thai version) – Watched these within a couple days to compare. The sensibilities are certainly different, I guess. In the first place, the main character is very unlikable, maybe that’s a cultural thing, but I didn’t care if she got haunted. As we’ve come to expect, it’s more suspensey than horrorey. Not quite so much about the horrific visage of a demon than it is about an out of focus girl in the background behind a character. That effect, used often, was actually cool, you always noticed her in a mirror or on a stairwell or out a window. The girl seemed to really be haunting the movie. But at the end of the day, same meh as the other one. The hook isn’t much. Thai people didn’t get the message that ghost girls with long black hair are over. It’s kind of got more of a twist than the american version, not really a twist, just who’s the “bad guy.” The american version played it more mystical, demons invading our world and such. The thai version is more of a classic ghost getting revenge story. Again, not a bad movie, but nothing special.

The Real Stuff White People Like

God damn okcupid, why are you always pointing out how awkward real-life racial and gender issues are? It gets even more uncomfortable when they get to writing level vs race and religion. Yikes.

Sep 8, 2010

The Wilderness Downtown

I know I’m way late to post this, been way late posting a lot of things. But I can’t let it slide, it’s too cool. Arcade Fire did this interactive video experiment with Google, you have to use Chrome, but it’s pretty damn slick.

Aug 17, 2010

Swedish Team Test

This is crazy. You get randomly connected with 3 other people in the world, you play little games at the same time. When you succeed, your neighbor gets more time. Everyone work together or everyone loses. Crazy.

Shot for shot Journey Remake

Kinda hilarious. The lead singer guy really sells it.

Aug 12, 2010

Big Bang Big Boom

I realize 10 minutes is a lot to ask of someone these days, I honestly didn’t expect to get all the way through it, but this video is fantastic. This guy has done stuff like this before, where he paints images on surfaces and does stop motion video of them changing. But this time he’s really included a lot of other physical media that is great. Plus the whole big bang evolution theme is really cool. Plus he’s got a Katamari Damacy moment. Very cool.

Aug 10, 2010

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Step Up 3D – Helllllllllzszs yeah. I’ve been so excited by this, you have no idea. Yes I’m fully aware that these movies are horrendous in nearly every respect. Acting, writing, non-dance-related filming and directing, all trash. But gawdamn is the dancing fun. It took a little while to get started, this one. I was worried 20 minutes in. But once the “battles” start, it gets pretty effing awesome. The 3D honestly isn’t worth it. In fact it’s actually a negative thing. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me, i was so excited, but 3D = half frame rate, and half frame rate for a fast moving dance movie is a fucking stupid idea. The 3D brings almost nothing to the dancing. Mostly they just do a lot of tutting into the camera, which is obnoxious. Besides some splashes in the water battle and puffs of smoke in the first battle, all the 3D accomplishes is fucking up the fast paced moves of the rest of it. Really pretty disappointing. But even with that being true, the dancing is great. They go back to the water thing solely because of the 3D, I’m sure, but it’s still cool. The final dance with the LEDs, while gimmicking, is fantastic. The choreography, though maybe not individually the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, as am ovie is really very good. And it has lots of people I recognize from dance stuff. In addition to dancers from SYTYCD – twitch, legacy, joshua, etc. I saw at least one choreographer dancing – dave scott, and I’m pretty sure lil c was in there. Plus of course people from the John Chu LXD and AC/DC crowd. It was totally fun, I totally wanna buy it (not that I ever bought the first 2).

Up In The Air – Oh I don’t know. This is one of those movies that doesn’t bring anything super original to the table. It’s a slightly different take an extraordinarily standard story. But it is cute, george clooney is charming, it comes off as heart felt despite its rote nature, and so it gets by. It’s like a cute well intentioned chick who’s just not that interesting, but it’s not a bad time to talk to her for a couple hours. (I don’t know when I started making woman analogies, that’s actually really weird) Clooney is clooney, the supporting cast is fine. I object to the moral, of course. These movies come out now and again, about a person (usually a man, probably always a man) who simply doesn’t need the standard idea of love and life to make their life good. Whether they are obsessed with work, or money, or a hobby, or being single, or – in this case – travel, they always learn at the end of the movie that love is the only way to make your life meaningful. Spoilers - the only difference here is it doesn’t quite work out the way he intends. But he lesson is learned nonetheless, and I find it to be a false lesson. Sure, it is true for most people. Through biology, family, or society, we have learned that to be with a person gives one’s life meaning. Absolutely, it is true for me. My life felt nearly pointless when I had the house to myself for 3 weeks. But that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. And I object in a very fundamental way to the idea of moralizing the “worth” one a person’s life. Now, people make the film, those people can make the film about whatever they want. Make it about how the meaning of life is rubbing up against chain link fences, I don’t care. But this is a message we all nod and tear up and say yes yes it’s true. I think that’s pretty unfair to those who don’t feel that way, as if they are missing something, aren’t real people. It’s like how a religious person will look at an atheist and shake their head, like they just don’t get it, so sad, so sad. Well that’s ridiculous, and so is saying the only happiness is in another person. Happy is what makes someone happy, eff off if it’s not what makes you happy. But decent movie besides that.

Time Traveler’s Wife – So I have read this book, my thoughts were largely the same, I was just going to point to my review. But apparently I didn’t write a review, so… shit. The story, for those unfamiliar, is a dude who time travels to a semi-random time & location (usually ones important to his life) at random points. It’s mostly just a love story, however. Knowing his wife throughout her whole life (having time travelled back to her when she was little) and how that relationship and marriage works. It has a strong current of creepiness to it. He does go back and meet his 6 year old future wife, that’s weird. The movie cleans it up a lot. In the book she is literally begging him to bang her before she’s 18. I think he eventually gives in at 16 or 17. That concept (though written by a woman) strikes me as a strongly chauvanist sentiment. It’s an ego thing to want a woman to beg you to be with her. And while I can understand that fantasy in general, it’s uncomfortable that someone invented a woman to beg a man to do her, seems wrong. It gets worse – at one point he goes back and teaches younger-him to jerk it. Nope, I’m not kidding, that shit happens. The whole book is very sexual, it comes across as a trashy romance novel a lot of the time. Made me kind of squirmy since I listened to it on audio and so I had people saying all the dirty talk into my ears. But the movie wisely chooses to forgo those details. Besides the going back and visiting the young girl, it’s mostly a normal romance movie. It has an extra wrinkle that makes it more interesting and not just another romance. So if you are into that sort of thing, it’s worth seeing. i would say it’s great in any other way, though.

Shutter Island – Meh. I’ve written a bunch of these in a row, and i’m out of energy to put anything into this review. The movie was spoiled for me by KATG before hand. But to be fair, Keith had never seen it, he just guessed what the most obvious “twist” could be, and he was right. It’s a fine movie, I guess. No, not really, actually. It’s not bad, but it’s not even quite fine either. If it wasn’t that DiCaprio and Scorcese were involved, I never would have watched it, it looked like a crap idea. But they didn’t bring much to improve that. Everyone acts fine, the dialogue is written fine. The movie looks cool, very muted and grey. The story just isn’t that interesting, I couldn’t get invested. Not much else to say.

Afghan Star – Documentary about Afghanistan’s equivalent of american idol. Kinda fucking crazy for a country that was not allowed to dance or sing for most of the 90s. From a filmmaking sense, the movie is fine. It’s not particularly masterfully crafted or anything, but it serves its purpose, just getting us the story. It follows a few of the contestants. There are all manner of interesting elements to it. The competition seemed to both divide people along tribal lines (voting for contestants from their region) and bring people together. There’s a clear euphoria and celebration of the freedom to enjoy music again. Among the women especially, they revel in the ability to go unveiled at the taping of the show, because Kabul is more liberal than the other cities. It’s an odd feeling, watching these people. They are clearly desperate to change their country. At the same time you don’t like everything you see in them. The contestants want to be rich and famous. Even with their minor fame, they are infatuated with it. if they were any other person in an american context, they’d be douchebags and we’d hate them. But you want so much for these people to be free of the tyranny, you accept that they are going to be douche for a couple decades. One of the contestants dares to dance on stage, which pisses the whole country off, including the other contestants. The shortsightedness of fighting for your right to sing, then telling someone that dancing is plainly evil – it’s very confusing. One can only hope our shitty cultural waste like american idol can drag oppressed people out. Certainly being obnoxious is preferable to being enslaved. But it is conflicted seeing it all play out.

Julie & Julia – Ugh, no thanks. I had heard that the Julia part was interesting and the Julie part was trite. If anything, the opposite was true for me. Julia was obnoxious. Her story was kind of interesting in a cultural history kind of way. But Meryl Strep’s impression of her was hard to listen to. Maybe that’s what Julia Childs really sounded like, and if so i never want to hear her say a full sentence, it was awful. Her story wasn’t really that interesting anyway. Julie’s story was kind of interesting, to those who are so minded, in a new media sense. I am so minded. I think new media is pretty interesting and a blogger turning her silly little quest into a book and a movie is pretty interesting. On the other hand, Julie’s a very unlikable character and an unlikable person in real life (from what little I know), so that’s not exactly a big win. The movie wasn’t patently offensive or anything, but it wasn’t worth my time either.

The Lovely Bones – Huh. That’s a weird one, eh? It’s a murder-solvin thriller, a ghost story, the fantastical imagery of What Dreams May Come, the creepyness of Little Children, all wrapped up into a very strange package. I can’t necessarily call it inconsistent, it is consistently what it is. But it’s such an odd mix of genres and atmospheres that it’s hard to find your place. One might argue that’s entirely appropriate for a movie about the ghost of a little girl who is murdered (and we are left to imagine what happened before the murder) by some fucked up old bastard. I can’t say it’s a bad movie, it does what it’s going for well. It just sits really weirdly with me. Can’t really say I enjoyed it either. I’m finding it hard to judge. I think it is worth seeing in as much as it is different. But it is so schizophrenic, so jumbled up, I don’t know that you’ll enjoy it.

Rivers & Tides – This is a documentary about an artist. Not really a scupltor, but that’s the closest I can think of. He kind of sculpts with nature. laying out dirt, or leaves, or wool, or sticks, in patterns and shapes that interact with nature in some way – flowing down a river, covering a rock formation, hanging from a tree. What he does is quite beautiful. It’s all very transitory, he’ll make an elaborate structure on a beach, knowing full well that in an hour it will be underwater. It’s part of his thing, which has a tinge of pretentiousness, to be sure, but is nonetheless kind of cool. The movie itself is rather boring. And by rather I mean very. It’s slow as hell. I mean, there’s a lot of just video of his art blowing in the breeze or whatever, and that’s all nice. But there’s a lot of him philosophizing, which I don’t find particularly interesting. It’s an hour and a half movie that honestly could have been done in 30 minutes. What he does is very very cool, certainly worth showing, just not worth talking about for so long. A cut down version of this movie would be an absolute recommendation. At 90 minutes, I don’t know, at least skim through it to see some of the stuff he makes.

Jul 28, 2010

Metric Time

This idea is so great, I don’t know why I never thought about it before. SciFi always has to fudge the fact that the spaceship is mysteriously based on earth time, or a 25 hour day just to be different. Or whatever planet they are closest to. This makes way sense.

Translated 56 times

Clever idea.

Jul 25, 2010

One-take Music Video

Cool video done all at once. The song itself is fine, just another love song from just another piano playing singing guy. But the video is cool.

Jul 24, 2010

Book Reviews @ The Temple

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein – So I had never read this one (again, I listened). It is a freaking weird book. The story is in broad strokes like the movie, but the book isn’t really about the story. It’s a first person narrative of what it’s like to be in boot and in the MI. It’s much more about the details than the fighting. That’s all well and good, I liked it. I thought it was a good story, told well. But the book is REALLY about Heinlein’s (presumably) political beliefs. It is virtually a treatise. Political discussions, debates, and lectures loosely strewn together with a story about a war between two interstellar species. It’s actually kind of shocking how extreme his views are. I was convinced for at least half the book that he was setting up these ideas to be knocked down by “real” life once Rico got out of boot and into real war. But, nope! Heinlein is militaristic, extremely conservative on crime, borderline facist on a “citizen’s” role in society. He argues that violence is the only viable force in the world, and that everything that has ever come has come from it. He argues that criminals, the mentally handicapped, and juveniles are equally guilty and equally deserving of death. He argues that a true citizen puts himself between his society and its threats. That in itself isn’t so bad a statement, but combined with the utter and fanboyish glorification of the military, it’s actually hard to take in. Wiki tells me this book is required reading for the marines, which makes a hell of a lot of sense. The final words of this book are all glory to the mobile infantry. This book would instill more pride in a soldier than all the marines fighting CG dragons commercials in the world. Yet, it is a good story, told well. Really kind of a tough one. Is it ok that it’s his platform to spout what I largely think is nonsense? Well, of course it’s ok, but is it still allowed to be a good book? Can I separate the two? I suppose I am, as i have positive feelings about the book, but it is hard to reconcile. While I’m here, I rented the movie immediately after finishing. I hadn’t seen it since forever. And though I don’t really review re-watches on here, I find it relevant. Mostly because, this movie is actually kind of genius. No no, don’t close the window, follow me here. The movie is a complete lampooning of the ridiculousness of the book. Every extreme hawkish conservative motivation underlying the book is completely torn apart by the over the top cheesy propaganda of the movie. It shows children squashing bugs to pick at the built in racism. It gives the announcer the cheesiest voice to convince you that the only true citizen is one who fights. It has ridiculous violence that reflects the blood thirsty nature of the book (which itself, actually has no blood). It directly quotes some of the more ridiculous lines of the book. It even turns capital punishment into a spectator sport, clearly pouncing on Heinlein’s seeming eagerness to impose it on criminals. I’ll grant you, the acting is fucking horrible. And it dances freely one either side of the fine line (like all movies that criticize the glorification of violence, sex, or profanity) by clearly reveling in its gore. And they must be fully aware that most people see this FOR the gore. The writing isn’t really that great. The filming and effects are fine, hold up rather well for it having been over 10 years. So I had to add this because it kind of blew me away. On the surface this is a gory cheesy movie that is likable for those qualities, but nothing more. In context it is a completely response and reversal of everything Heinlein was going for in his book. If I was on Heinlein’s side, i’d probably be super pissed. But I’m not, so I’m kind of just sitting here clapping slowly.

Jul 22, 2010

iPhone “End Call” Sticker

I’ve stayed out of this iphone 4 thing. Though I do love two things about it:

1) RF engineers are suddenly a thing people know about. Welcome to the 1940s!

2) Apple is getting unfairly fucked in the exact same way (“fact light” public perception) they have fucked countless others. Ha.

But that’s not the point of this post, the point of this post, is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen.

Jul 12, 2010

Cardboard Warfare

I know I’m way behind on this one, I’ve been out of the loop (so says my 1000+ google reader entries), but it’s still cool.

Jul 9, 2010

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

The Last Airbender – Hurm, this is a hard one. I know, intellectually, that it’s not a very good movie. The writing is pretty atrocious.  I don’t know what the hell M Night was thinking writing this garbage. The dialogue is nearly painful in parts. The acting is kind of so so. The filming in general is fine, nothing amazing. Momo isn’t even named in the movie, let alone used. Appa is barely used, we only got one quiet “yip yip” But, god dammit, I love the show so much. It is one of only two shows I’ve ever watched more than once. I mean, sure, I’ve watched reruns in syndication. Especially the comedies, especially especially the cartoon comedies like simpsons and family guy. But that was long ago when I had time and cable. But Avatar and Firefly are the only things I’ve watched all the way through more than once, more than twice! So this movie started about 28 legs up. Granted, you could imagine that would turn into disaster with nerd rage and dire screams of “I am not pleased!” from the back of the theater. But that’s not what happened (at least not for me, my movie going companion experienced her first ever nerd rage, I believe). Instead I gave this movie all the leeway in the world just for showing me more avatar. The effects are pretty great. The movie made much more of a deal of the form of bending than the show, which was actually cool. It seemed like kind of a cop out to turn a given effect into a 10 second arm-waving ordeal instead of having to pay for 10 fire blasts in one second. But there is, no pun, an art to the forms in martial arts. I don’t remember what they are called, those practice routines that train technique or stances or attacks or whatever. But there is quite the love for those in this movie. I’ve been told the cartoon was really faithful in that regard, using real martial art motions, and the movie really takes than and runs, it was cool. The fights are pretty cool, they cheap out at times and avoid showing the cool stuff. But they ramp it up at the end and it’s pretty fun. I think the movie actually does a pretty admirable job of compressing 7 or so hours worth of season 1 into a 2 hour movie. There’s no way they could get it all, but they manage to hit the high points. It’s kind of a greatest hits record, plot wise. Sadly, the charm is almost completely missing. I think this is inevitable too. The cartoon is wacky and silly and a little over the top. There’s no way to to that live action. They could have mimiced it, I suppose, but I think they made the wiser choice to underplay the humor. I think there could have been more, I don’t think M Night is a good comedy writer, but I agree theoretically with how they went about it. For the same reason, the movie lacks the charm of the show. All the little moments are gone, sitting around a campfire telling stupid jokes or hopes or fears. The small moments around a cup of tea between iro and zuko are gone except for one place, which I was happy to see. So, the movie isn’t great, but I kind of loved it anyway, I got to see all the bending fights and that was great. There is, of course, the meta issue of race bending I think I should mention. The cartoon is pretty strongly not white. The written language is something asian (which is preserved in the movie), and nearly everyone is a non-white race. Aang is the only exception, though some might argue he’s asian, he seems kinda white to me. So we were all pretty shocked when the first trailers came out and Kitara and Sokka were pretty strikingly not non-white. Aang was as well, though that was fine. Zuko was at least dark skinned, and that was mostly all I saw. It’s kind of depressing, sure, in an ideal world you hire the best actor for the part (and the sokka guy does look an awful lot like him, modulo skin tone). But the world is not ideal, and there are a lot more white actors than dark skinned actors. And too often we “end up” with white leads that are best for the part instead of the other way around. So, I’m not comfortable with their chocies. On the other hand, the movie did go out of its way to make all the nations extremely multicultural. In the show everyone is kind of asian-ish, in the movie you get everything in most of the nations, which is pretty cool. Fire nation might have been an exception, but it’s hard to tell under all that armor. So that’s the story, I can’t help but like this movie, and I’m super excited for a sequel and to see Toph, and that crazy earth kingdom old man, and the earth king, and all that. And god dammit, next time there better be the cabbage man. It kind of sucks that the movie was missing so many little things of the movie, but I honestly don’t know what you would expect in 2 hours. I see this movie, like I said, as a highlight reel. If you want the charm, and the humor, and the little stories, go watch the damn show, it’s the best way you’ll ever spend 7 hours.

Prince of Persia – Well, it’s taken me a week to get around to even writing this review, and that’s about how I feel about the movie. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just fundamentally underwhelming. It seems like it could have been a really fun movie, it had all the elements. The actors are nothing special, especially given the race bending going on (I’m looking at you, last air bender). Are people really seeing this cuz jake jigglypuff is in it? Couldn’t they have gotten, like, a persian guy? Maybe one that can even do parkour so that the action scenes aren’t a compilation of 59 1.5 second clips spliced together by quick cuts and reaction shots. The princess was unimpressive as well. Everyone was, really. I think the movie looks pretty good, like aladdin come to life. The effects are mostly cool, the sands of time stuff is pretty great besides the weird CG faces they get. The movie isn’t that funny, some humor, but kind of forced. The action is decent, but suffers the same quick cut treatment as the free running. The plot is fine, if kind of hole-ey. I mean, I didn’t hate it, I wasn’t sitting in it praying for it to be over. But I am 100% neutral about the fact that hte movie exists and that I saw it. It’s just completely unimportant. Sad to say.

Best Worst Movie – This is a pretty amazing movie. It’s a documentary by the kid (now grown) who starred in Troll 2, widely found to be and celebrated because it is one of the worst movies ever made. But bad in a way (I haven’t seen it yet) that is genuine, like they really tried and really failed. Not so much just didn’t give a shit. The “star” is the guy who was the father in the movie, who is an unbelievably nice dentist in alabama whom everyone likes. He has an interesting arc. He gets very quickly wrapped up in the “celebrity” of being the guy from troll 2. Whereas the first screening he is blown away by all these people there to see him, by the end he is practically bullying everyone he meets into learning about his movie and his obnoxious catch phrase. But reality hits hard when he goes to some places that don’t embrace him. Where he is no more or less important than some chick who played some chick in the 8th Freddie movie. It’s an interesting moment of clarity. Eventually he seems to wear of the faux fame and though he loves the spotlight, maybe feel like he’d rather be the little fish in the tiny pond. It’s not to take anyting away from him, he seems honestly like one of the nicest people on the planet, but it’s an interesting arc. But we also go through and meet most of the people involved in the movie, and go through the screenings and conventions and all the culture surrounding this bad movie. It’s a very honest and endearing look at these people and the people who watch them and love them for their horribleness. It is at times very sad. The crazy guy who played the crazy shop keep is 100% crazy, no jokes. The woman who played the mother is a recluse, a shut-in. Semi-delusional, trapped in her very small world with no human interaction besides her enfeebled mother. I was very annoyed at people laughing at these parts. It was heart breaking to see where these people have ended up. But the movie as a whole is a celebration of this crazy movie and the crazy people who hold parties in its honor. It was at the Loft, so lots of the crazies were in attendance. After the movie we had a live skype chat with the creator. He was supposed to actually be there, but his wife had a baby. But the skype thing was neat, he seems like a pretty straightforward guy. But a couple questions from the audience proved the quality of people we were dealing with. Well, I shouldn’t judge their quality, but I can absolutely judge their classification. And in some cases – yikes. The movie is also largely about the director of Troll 2. An italian, with his wife who wrote it, that has largely no connection with the reality of movie making. He legitimately believes Troll 2 to be very good and very important. He is so around the bend that he’s another one of those somewhat sad characters. Not as much because he’s an (apparently) successful director who has a good life and I’m not worried about him. Not like the old man who couldn’t become an actor because he wouldn’t leave Salt Lake City. So he will die alone in a few years, and no one will remember him. I’m not being mean, he discusses his approaching fate, it kind of hurts. But the italian is not this, he’s mostly just a clueless idiot. He’s insulted that people consider his masterpiece the best worst movie. He’s insulted that his actors didn’t understand his genius. But by the end of the movie, I’d actually say that he wins. He has a monologue, one of many, toward the end about what makes a movie good. Not this or that, but its ability to make an impression. He has a disdain for boring emotionless movies, and thinks that anything that can gets you going, whether its funny, sad, or thought provoking, is the heart of a good movie. And that’s hard to argue with. And the fact that this movie has become such a thing and that all these people get together and have the best time of their year watching it – he wins. It’s not what he meant, if he thinks about it at all he’ll be embarrassed. But people love his creation, and that’s cool.

Alice in Wonderland – Hm. This movie isn’t that great. I fell asleep the first time, it is far from captivating. At the same time it’s a pretty burton-ey movie with all the expected crazy visuals. Though, honestly, if you’ve seen the trailers you’ve seen all the crazy visuals. But if you go into it just for that, you’ll be satisfied. The story is more interesting than I gave it credit for. It’s not precisely a remake, which is actually pretty cool. But there is something fundamentally lacking. Depp’s Hatter isn’t actually particularly charming, though he is supposed to be the quirky crazy rapscallion you love. The Tweedles aren’t funny, the rabbit isn’t endearing, the red queen isn’t scary, and white queen isn’t inspiring. The characters should carry this movie, but instead it falls flat. I don’t know if that’s the writing or the acting or both. It’s sad to say, because in principle it could have been pretty cool, but in reality it’s just kind of meh.

The Men Who Stare At Goats -

State of Play – So this is kind of a political intrigue / reporter movie. It’s a big of a love letter to investigative reporting, with a couple of montages of pavement pounding. Not really that much, though. Mostly its sort of a politics mystery thing. I suppose I didn’t see the end coming, we tend to naturally distrust certain entities in movies like this. But I was playing a game at the same time, and it’s not really much of a shocker or anything. People do fine, I suppose. Russell Crowe is himself, Rachel McAdams is fine. I didn’t like helen miram’s character, she was too bloody british. Almost a caricature of a strict british lady. The movie isn’t bad, but there’s not all that much to say about it either, I don’t think.

Land of the Lost – Wasn’t really expecting much from this movie. It’s funnier than I thought it would be. Mostly the humor is the standard will farrell stuff. Something crazy happens and he talks/yells loudly about the ridiculousness of the situation and that’s funny. It’s kind of old hat, but it still made me laugh. The movie is fairly inoffensive, I thought it would be stupider. I have no connection to the original, so whatever is or is not there is lost on me, no pun. I wouldn’t rush out to see it or anything, but it was surprisingly enjoyable for what it was.

The Day The Earth Stood Still – Well, I finally saw the remake! I watched the original almost TWO YEARS ago because the remake was coming out and I thought I should be prepared! Jeeeeesus I’m slow. This movie is fine. I don’t remember the original, which was the whole fucking point of watching it before seeing this. But apparently I thought it was decent. A nice cautionary tale (against our own self-destruction) that likely had much more impact in the 50s than now, though our own self-destruction is as real a possibility as ever. This one doesn’t focus on that so much. It’s mostly a normal scifi theme of the aliens thinking we are brutes, then seeing our good side, then wanting to save us. Everyone does okay. The movie has sort of a digital sheen on it. Looks as if it was all digital backgrounds, though I’m sure it wasn’t. I guess it fits with the style. I don’t really think there’s any reason for the movie, it doesn’t do anything better than the first. The galactus-style nano machine effect is neat, that’s pretty much the only solid improvement.

Pathfinder – I’m fairly shocked at how good this movie was. Now, I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s better than bad. First off, the atmosphere, while kind of cheating, is very cool. It’s all very dark and misty. Feels “new world” in a stereotypical way, but is actually somewhat original for an action movie like this. The viking thing, too, is basically unexploited territory. I can’t even think of the last time I saw viking-based entertainment. I’m thinking that old SNES lemmings-like game with the 3 vikings. That’s all I got. So that’s in its favor. NOT in its favor is the ridiculous white man saves the ethnics story. I understand that it makes dramatic sense for a leftover from the invaders to save the invaded, I get it. But let’s be realistic and recognize that you are once again having whitey mcwhiterson save all the poor natives. There’s nothing special about the writing or the acting, but you don’t expect there to be in this movie. The fact that it’s not obnoxious is a real achievement. The action is pretty alright, with the caveat that they hide behind the mist a little too often. Sadly, this “wow, this is almost good” feeling has me almost more upset about the movie than not. I expected it to be shit, i would watch it, see some swords, see some shit, and forget. The fact that this movie has almost a measurable quantity of worth is distressing, because you can see where it would have been good. Attend to your race issues, fix some really dramatic missed opportunities when it comes to action scene structure, spruce up the look and the writing a little, and you’d have yourself a movie. It still wouldn’t be anything amazing, but it would be ahead of the pack in this genre. It really had a chance! Oh well, I’d still say I liked it, when netflix asks.

Raise the Red Lantern – This movie causes some consternation in me. It’s about a household, in china 50 or 100 years ago. The dude is the boss, he has 4 wives, and a shit ton of servants. The main character is the fourth wive, a college girl (apparently a rare thing) who’s family has no money and so she becomes a wife. The consternation comes from me finding myself thinking bad things about victims in this movie. It’s horrible that this girl has no choice but to become a professional mistress. Yet she takes to her role with such arrogance, cruelty, and expectation that you hate her. She is a insufferable little brat who mistreats her maid and expects the world to be handed to her. Meanwhile, the other wives are no better. They fight and connive and betray to be the preferred wife, which is sad and pathetic. But the actress do an amazing job of displaying this and the psychology that leads them to it. The desperation is palpable. And in a sick way, you can understand how these women are beaten down (not literally, but then I wouldn’t be surprised, they just don’t show it) so much that the only achievement then can attain is to be the preferred wife. Their world view is so distorted that they think earning the right to be forced to have sex with this man is a good thing. Just because it comes with foot rubs, literally. It’s a disturbing frame of mind that is presented, but I think the movie is fairly fantastic for doing it. They make a point of never showing the man closer than half a room away, which is interesting. The movie is also gorgeous, this is partially my penchant for chinese architecture and art. But it’s filmed really beautifully as well. Much care (almost redundant care) is gone into framing shots. The house of the 4th mistress is always shown the same way, with a little patch of ground framed by 4 close buildings, the house in the back. People are often shown through doorways, multiple doorways, framed by light and the doorway itself. It’s striking and lovely. It’s not really a movie that you love, because it is sad, it doesn’t go anywhere good, bad things happen and the cycle continues. But it is a good movie.

Throne of Blood – So here’s a funny story – a japanese remake of an english story! Whaaaaaa? It turns out this is Akira Kurosawa’s remake of MacBeth. I’ve never seen or read macbeth, so I don’t know how it compares, but wiki tells me its nearly exactly the same. Two war heroes, given a prophecy of different levels of greatness. But things do not go that way immediately for the one who should be greater, and so he (largely spurred on by his wife, i.e. Lady MacBeth) goes pretty nutbar supreme trying to make sure he gets the power promised to him. It ultimately leads to him doing horrible things (though not quite as horrible as in macbeth, I read) and then to his own demise (again, not as exciting a demise). Unfortunately, as in most of the american remakes of japanese horror movies, there is simply no point to this movie existing. I do like reimaginings of stories, and putting this in a japanese context could have been cool, in theory. But nothing new seems to have been brought to the table. It maybe makes the story consumable by a japanese audience, but it doesn’t add anything to an american audience, at least not a me audience. It’s too bad, Kurosawa is suppose dto be such a master, and i woudln’t say it’s a bad movie by any stretch. It is made well enough, for it’s time. The acting is kind of japanese in style, the main guy starts out the movie screaming all his lines, so when he goes mad and screams them, it’s not as effective. I just don’t see why the movie had to exist. Sorry!

Invictus – I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. I wasn’t super interested in it, but it got good reviews so I figured I oughta. Don’t care much about soccer (it’s not about soccer, but I thought it was), and never knew much about Nelson Mandela. Its actually about rugby, and mandela trying to bring his nation together through it. I don’t know to what extent the impact of the rugby world cup is, but hey it makes for a good story. Everyone does a good job in it, acting wise, nothing mind blowing, but definitely good. The script is fine, the filming is fine. Some of the scenery is very beautiful, with south africa being at the tip of a continent like that. But it’s also often very digital looking, which took away from the beauty. But it’s a very nice movie. Didn’t change my life, but totally worth the time. Plus it educated me a little, and as embarrassing as it is to learn about history from an effing movie, it’s still good for me.

The Invention of Lying – Didn’t really expect to like this movie, and I didn’t. On the surface it’s kind of a parable, twilight zone esque movie. A crazy world where no one knows how to lie, it doesn’t even exist. You have to give the movie a lot of faith, because the concept is stupid. And I don’t mean the core concept, but how they structure the world around it. Since when does not lying mean being a dick to everyone? There’s a huge difference between lying and saying you love someone and crossing the street to tell them they suck. The whole basis of social interaction is so ridiculous because it places this artifice in our social structure, instead of building a new one that might possibly make sense when everyone constantly gets their feelings hurt. But let’s say you get over that, then there’s this one man who can lie and the world is his oyster. Then it turns into some cautionary tales about religion, and faith, and happiness, and in the end love. At the end of the day, this is a romantic comedy where the fat ugly man really wants the hot woman to like him for him. That’s all this movie boils down to, and as far as trite morals go, this is pretty standard. It’s not as if it’s on offensively bad movie, there are humorous moments, people act fine, it’s just unnecessary. A forced concept to get to a forced conclusion, not super interesting.

The Manchurian Candidate – I effed up and forgot to review this one for a month and a half and now I can’t really remember it. It was interesting, I think. I honestly can’t remember what I thought, though. I don’t think I was blown away, I don’t think I hated it. I haven’t seen the Denzel Washington remake, so I can’t make a comparison there. Pretty sad, this is why I write this blog, and yet I still fail!

Jul 4, 2010

Book Reviews @ The Temple

Podiobook Edition! These are all free audiobooks released as podcasts.

How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick E. McLean – This book started out with such promise. It has a very wry sense of humor that is really entertaining. The book is about this guy who is sort of a supervillain advisor, an “evil efficiency consultant”. He gives them advice on their finances, how to build a lair, etc. He is very intelligent (but in no way super) and is generally frustrated and flabbergasted by the stupid villains and their stupid plans. There are some really great scenes where he’s trying to explain to these exasperating villains that their plans just don’t make any sense. Trying to give the numbers to one that bank robberies earn you this much per attempt and have a failure rate of this and equal a total return on investment of this, which is significantly lower than if they just invested in the market. And one who invents an evil doctor persona and wants to put a laser on the moon even though it makes no sense financially. And just their goals being so shortsighted and wrapped up in the idea of being a villain. It’s really a lot of fun and very entertaining. The author seems to really get into the sense of humor, he’s very dry himself. He reminds me a little of Mur Lafferty in his style, but with this air of sophistication (not to call Mur unsophisticated, it’s just different). The story progresses with Edwin trying his hand at evil, though really just trying to make money. As it goes it loses some of its flavor. I’m not sure why, maybe he got too wrapped up trying to make the plot work, or solve the machinations. But somehow it loses some of its charm. It’s still a good book, and I think he’s got an awesome character in Edwin to work with. Maybe a rewritten version (for publication) or a sequel would work out those kinks, because I really love the concept and a lot of the execution. It’s just not solid all the way through. But worth supporting, I’d like to see more!

Contagious by Scott Sigler – I’ve listened to every Scott Sigler, he is one of the arguably two pioneers in giving away free fiction online to promote his books. He is a horror writer with a strong technology bent. His books are pretty over the top at times, very violent, pretty adult, fairly relentless. It’s not necessarily artful writing, but its damn entertaining. And what I’ve realized listening to a few podiobooks in the last couple months is that he’s a damn entertaining narrator / host / guy. I’ve listened to some Mur Lafferty podiobooks before, but that was it, so I didn’t realize the range of bad readers there are. I’ll say more in the next review, but suffice to say Sigler is great. This book is a sequel to Infection, about this alien lifeform that infects and possesses the host, except for one host, Perry Dawson, who fought back and literally dug them out of himself. The sequel is the aliens ramping up their attempt to take over the earth and Perry and the US gov’t trying to stop them. It’s very entertaining, fairly gory, and decently exciting. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of his books. I think Infection might have been better, it was so in Perry’s head that is was pretty damn cool. Besides that I loved Earthcore (the first Sigler book), Ancestor was meh, but Nocturnal was cool and the Rookie was awesome. So it’s kind of middle of the pack, but it’s a fun pack. I’m pretty excited about The Crypt, which he’s been releasing little tidbits of, and very excited for The Starter, the sequel to The Rookie. Anyway, this book was fun, Sigler is great, I really need to buy a bunch of his books just to support him.

Voices by Various Authors – This is a collection of short fiction from various “new media” authors, i.e. podiobook authors. I was excited for this because I thought it would expose me to a bunch of these authors who have a business model I’m personally a big fan of (not just because I’m cheap, I just like people doing things a new and cool way w/o the need for big companies). Sadly, the series mostly informed me that I already know about most of the good authors out there. The stories, on the whole, weren’t that great. There were a few good ones, but not much. Even from authors I like – like McLean from up above, his stories stories were kind of average. I had heard all of Mur’s stories (all these stories had been previously released) so I didn’t listen. I did find that I liked one story by Paul S. Jenkins. It’s this very simple story of the sole survivor of an extremely long term colonization / first contact mission that goes wrong. It’s very focused, but very well done. But then he had a second story that was monumentally boring. Tee Morris is big in this space, his story was ok. Cory Doctorow is also big, his Sysadmins story was kind of ridiculous, but also pretty well done. I was across the board disappointed with the performances. Mostly by the authors, sometimes by another speaker. But they were largely without personality, sometimes actively bad. As I mentioned above, it really made me appreciate Sigler. He can’t do voices that well, he makes mistakes, he’s kind of manic, but he’s charismatic, and fun. People need more of that.

Heaven by Mur Lafferty – This is actually 5 books in a series, Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland, and War. It’s a nice set of stories, but it has some fairly fundamental flaws. The idea is these two friends die and start traveling the afterlife. They go to various mythological heavens, which is kind of neat, but immediately begins begging for nitpicking. Theoretically every religion has its own heaven, but the idea of a “christian” heaven when there are so many kinds of christian, makes no real sense. I’m sure that was true of greeks and norse and egyptians too. At a minimum, there are as many heavens as there have been people. More likely, there are an infinite number of heavens for the infinite combinations dreamt by all of humanity So while the exploration of the afterlife is pretty fun, you have to not think too much, or it gets kind of annoying. The stakes raise eventually as Kate & Daniel themselves become involved in the affairs of gods and then gods themselves. New worlds are created, new mythologies, etc. The entire idea of godhood is treated in a fairly limited way. The only way to reconcile it is that they are not gods at all, just really powerful beings. Because they can fight each other, and be trapped, and die, and all that. Really very much like the mythological gods where they can be tricked and beaten. Honestly the first book, despite the logical flaws, was enjoyable. As the story goes on, as with so many series, it becomes more about trying to push the plot and wrap up the story. And as such it loses its focus, becomes less fun. You have to be a master of serialized fiction to make it work long term. I like Mur, for the most part, I really liked Playing for Keeps, in which she created a very interesting world of super powers and not-that-super powers. This one didn’t work out nearly as well for me. It was good in parts, and I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy to have listened to it all, it just didn’t work out for me.

Jun 25, 2010

Doodle God

This game is totally cool. It’s kind of simple, well, it’s very simple. It’s just matching things to try to make new things. But somehow its addictive. I only got to 70 elements last night before I gave up. Today I discovered that it doesn’t remember me and I’d have to start over. No thanks!

Jun 18, 2010

Migration map

This is so cool. Click a county, see the #s of people who moved in or out of that county and to/from where. Really neat.

Death to the Death Penalty

Super cool video. Doesn’t really mean anything, light will be lead us from the darkness, I guess? In any case, I’m kind of okay with the death penalty to a limited extent, but still a cool video.

May 31, 2010

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Ironman 2 – Second verse, same as the first! This one’s just like the first, it has the same good points, and the same bad points. Perhaps my single greatest complaint about the first was the overwhelming number of bob-the-builder montages. So what do I get in the opening credits? Montage!! So that’s annoying. The movie is fun, it has lots of explosions and fighting. Robert Downey Jr. has the charming asshole market cornered. So much so that it became a little overbearing. I couldn’t take one more smirk. The action is great. I am to this day SHOCKED at how well they have pulled off ironman. Not only the CGI ironman flying around shootin’ shit. But the tony stark iron man standing on a rooftop mackin’ on gwenyth paltrow in what must be a real life suit. The fact that that cheesy ass 70s red and gold suit can come to life in a completely realistic, superheroey, and cool way is great. On the other side, the movie is very thin. It’s a pretty, exciting, explodey veneer that is approximately 2 and a half microns thick. There’s just nothing underneath it all. It’s all surface. And hey, that’s not a horrible thing. There are all manners of thin movies that don’t come anywhere close to the entertainment value. But let’s not pretend this is the dark knight, this is not an amazing movie, it’s just a fun movie. It’s not like it supercedes its genre or anything. Getting into the lore aspect of things, I was rather disappointed with Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury. To be fair, this version of Fury isn’t really fleshed out. He’s really only been in the Ultimates line, as far as I know, so maybe he was allowed to be sam jackson. But the classic Fury is more interesting than sam jackson being sam jackson. He needed to be gruffer, not so smirky. Then again, I’m not a big avengers guy, maybe fury is exactly like that and I never noticed. The biggest butt hurt of the movie is obviously the science BS. In as much as physics is ritually abused throughout the movie, it’s truly engineering that gets dick-punched from top to bottom. As if building the suit in a cave wasn’t bad enough, now he’s making particle accelerators in his basement? Engineering doesn’t work like that, folks. Science is not discovered in basements anymore. I know it’s charming and romantic. I know we all want to believe the surfer who smokes pot 6 days a week can actually invent the grand unified theory on the 7th day, but it’s not 1900. Copy editors don’t invent fields of physics anymore. You have to be very well educated to even know what there is to discover. And no matter how smart you are, you don’t cobble together a particle accelerator out of stuff in your living room. Sorry! The post-credits teaser, and I’ll warn you of spoilers here even though it’s not worth the words, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty lame. Thor’s hammer in a big crater in the desert. Honestly, it’s not that big a crater. Secondly, as amazing as ironman looked, he hammer looked correspondingly crappy. I’m pretty sure it is exactly the hammer you will find if you go to the aisle in the back of the toys’r’us. The one under the big foam hulk hands on double clearance. It was kind of sucky, I imagine they had the dollars to make some amazing, rippling, electrified, steaming source of power. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they tried that and it looked really cheesy. I hope they figure it out, though, I’m pretty worried about the next two movies. Captain America is going to be really hard to pull off. He was cheesy when he was created, let alone 60 years later. Making a guy in a plastic red white and blue suit with freaking wings on his head is daunting, to say the least. But Thor, yikes. How the hell do you make a norse thunder god not look ridiculous? Some nordic weight lifter with a silly helmet, flared nostrils, and a superiority complex? You’ve got a hell of a job, marvel! UPDATE: None of what I just said matters. Because I just learned that the 3D printer that they used in the movie to make all the physical (non CGI) iron man suits is an Objet, which I HAVE IN MY NEW LAB. All I need is a leaked torrent of print files from the production company and I’m going to have a bad ass halloween costume.

The Human Centipede – Uh, wow. This movie sets out to be the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen and it very much succeeds. The premise, if you are sane and are not familiar with it, is (hold your lunch) a mad scientist surgically joins 3 people together, mouth to asshole, to make a human centipede. It is not only a disgusting concept, they go out of their way to show the surgery. More than that they have to show us the experience (though not an x-ray vision visualization) or what digestion is like for them. It’s the grossest thing you’ve ever heard of. I hate to give the movie points, let alone money, for just coming up with the most revolting concept in the history of cinema, but there it is. The rest of the movie is average crappy b-movie fare. Everything from the flat dialogue, over acting, walking alone in the woods, not using obvious means of escape, and not killing the bad guy when you have the chance. The camera used to film the movie is fantastic, and I bet it cost no more that $1000, which is pretty great. The trouble with digital films is often that they tend to look TV ish or even worse. But they actually do a damn decent job with lighting to make the movie look good. The director is awful fond of perspective, he usually filmed the bad guy from below to make him menacing and towering and the women from above to make them seem diminished and weak. It’s over used and too obvious, but it’s not wrong in theory. The bad guy is dutifully creepy, in a particularly german way, I suppose. The three victims are a japanese dude whose job is merely to yell a lot and does that fine, and then two girls, one of whose job it is to cry a lot and be the emotional center, while the other’s job is to be very very hot, both succeed. Nothing much else to say about it, it doesn’t have a point, the mad scientist does his thing, the s hits the f, he gets his, everyone loses. But you will never unsee it, that’s for damn sure.

Whip It – Meh! This movie is like 25% very cute and 75% really annoying. If I told you “outcast girl in a small town, forced into beauty pageants by her mother, discovers rockin’ roller derby chicks – GO!” You could write the entire script. Rock star boyfriend who’s an asshole? check. Supportive best friend who gets in a big fight then makes up? check. Dad who hides in his room and watches sports? check. thinly structured rivarly with the badest ass derby chick that turns to gruding respect? check. Do you need more? You could seriously write the whole thing in 10 minutes, you’d probably get most of the dialogue right. And not just that it’s predictable, it’s obnoxious. It’s so trite and stereotypical, it’s really annoying at times. If not for the novelty of a roller derby, this would be a horrible movie. But we all have a little love for the derby chicks. The silly combination of sexiness, violence, and anti-social gender bending is endearing, in as much as it is kinda dumb. So the movie has that going for it, but it’s just not enough. And in fact, there are times where I think this movie is a 15 year old boys idea of what derby girls do. There’s too much sorority girl pillow fighting. I mean, not literally, but it has that feeling of what a boy thinks these girls do. Either that or this is an accurate representation of roller derby culture and that’s kind of pathetic. Could be either, I guess, I hope the former. So, the movie is okay, not really, but I’m not left with immensely negative feelings. Oh, also, the juno chick must do something different next movie, or she will be michael cera with tits. Fact.

The Princess & The Frog – So this is Disney’s big return to form. I assumed it would be bad, but then I heard from multiple sources that it was actually good. That it had the art, and the humor, and the music of the old 90s cartoons. And it’s true, it looks a lot like them, feels like them. Trouble is, it’s 2010, and it doesn’t quite fit. Maybe that’s not fair, not every cartoon should look like Pixar, or even like Dreamworks. But I didn’t love this one. If anything, the similarity to the old standards just kept inviting comparison. The princess looks like any disney princess but with darker skin. The villain is Jafar, the old man is Smee, the bad alligators are Ursula’s eels, the good alligator is the bear from the jungle book, and the firefly is jiminy cricket. It feels like a disney greatest hits movie! It’s not a bad story, it’s sweet. Though there is a tough line to walk between “the love of your family is the greatest thing of all” which we are all for, and “you are only complete when you find the man you love” which we are not all for. Even as someone who finds his most importance in another person, I understand that’s a dangerous message, especially for young girls. But besides that the movie is likeable enough. The music for the most part isn’t all that wonderful. It’s not bad, it’s just average mostly. There are some fun jazzy songs, but nothing I have stuck in my head. My favorite character, despite being Jafar’s and Ursula’s love child, is the shadow man, the voodoo trickster. He’s pretty entertaining and his introductory song is the absolute standout of the movie. Both the music which was toe tappin’ great and the visuals were really wonderful. The movie never got better than that song 20 minutes in, for me. Still an okay movie, just not what I had heard.

May 25, 2010

Creepy “Cripple” Naked Ballet

This is waaaay too “modern” for me, it’s mostly just weird. But skip to 5:20, that is as close as we’ll ever see to Silent Hill: The Musical, I believe.

May 24, 2010

LOST Finale

I don’t believe in fate. There’s nothing in my world view, my education, or my history that would allow me to. But there is something undeniably attractive about a world in which fate does exist. A world where you are meant to do something, or to be with someone. One in which the entirety of the universe conspires to put you where you are supposed to be. It’s not true, but it’s a beautiful lie.

May 21, 2010

Auto-tuned Wolves

In case you are confused and think that any pop or rap artist to come out in the past 5 years was any good: Ha.

May 6, 2010

Restore Joss Whedon

I don’t know if you’ve seen this. It’s basically the most patently ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Stephen Baldwin “fans” (i.e. stephen baldwin in an internet cafe with a fake mustache on) are calling for christians to restore his wealth and position in society to prove the glory of god. It is truly amazing in its nutiness. Fortunately, the internet saves us all in delivering

May 3, 2010

Ole Miss Jai Ho

Ole Miss went all improv everywhere on their student union. Except to a song I love. It goes on, truth to tell, you don’t really need to watch the whole thing, but it’s cool.

Apr 14, 2010

Comic Book Reviews @ The Temple

Pride & Joy by Garth Ennis & John Higgins – This is a quick book, 5 issues or so in length.  About a single father whose past comes back to haunt him.  Cheesy ass way to describe it, but then the opening line “Blood only flows downstream. It’s got nowhere else to go.” is pretty effin cheesy. The book isn’t really, though.  It’s a kind of straightforward book, an ex-criminal has his past threaten his family, and two father-son relationships. It’s well done, though, there are some shocking moments. It ends in the only way it can, which is slightly disappointing.  I feel like I’m not really seeing anything I haven’t seen, or won’t see again.  It’s a well done story, but it’s also a done story. I’m starting to wonder why Garth Ennis is such a genius.  I guess I haven’t read much of him, his punisher was just ok, he has a lot of short lived contributions to big books that I haven’t read, I’ve still yet to get to preacher which I’m pretty excited about. Maybe should read Hellblazer too.  Anyway, it’s good I guess, but it didn’t amaze me or anything.

Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert – Took me a while to read this because it’s kind of thick, but it was good. This guy Emmanuel befriends an old WW II vet who lives in France. They have a friendship of some years and Alan tells stories of his time in the war. He came into the war late, never saw any real combat. All the stories are weird little vingettes almost, things mostly you haven’t heard before. None in particular is amazing or worth making a movie about. But they all fit together into a very charming view of the war and the reconstruction. I know it’s weird to call war charming, but that’s only because he didn’t see much real war. His stories are about friends and girls and broken tanks. It’s drawn black and white, fairly simply, but that suites the story and the story teller. You really do get a feeling of this old guy telling you these little stories from 50 years ago. It’s pretty good.

The Filth by Grant Morrison – In the end, this book is not a winner for me. It’s trying to be Watchmen meets Transmetropolitan, both of which I love. So it is an outrageous and over the top future where crazy things happen and its all very violent and sexual. It is also very meta and post modern trying to comment on comics and society and such. Unfortunately, it does not have the extremely weird charm or world-building-solidity of Transmet. And it definitely doesn’t have the quality of Watchmen. There are interesting parts, and the world itself is certainly interesting in places, it’s not all bad or anything. But as a whole, I don’t believe it succeeds in either what it was presumably trying to do or in just pure entertainment value.

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill – Coool book. This is apparently from a well known suspense novelist named Joe Hill. It’s a story of a family that moves back to their parents home town after their father is killed. Then some spooky shit starts happening. Some sort of ghost in the house, keys that open magical doors and do crazy things. It’s kind of bloody. It’s very very well drawn. It draws you, no pun, into the atmosphere of the story with fantastic skill. I’m kind of amazed how much it felt like a movie or something, being immersed in the atmosphere of this town, Lovecraft. It’s only an introductory few issues, I’m pretty sure I have to get more, I really enjoyed it.

Current Subscriptions Update:

Invincible – Still very good. The events feel smaller though. It’s still building to a big Viltrumite war which is exciting. And they are still drawn beautifully and clever. But reading it month to month is harder when I’m slogging through the in betweens.

Walking Dead – Also still very good. Enough happening book to book that it’s not quite as slow going as Invincible. But I do long for the good ole days when I read the first 2 years in one weekend.  If I didn’t love Robert Kirkman so much, I’d cancel the subscriptions and wait for a trade.

Chew – This book started out super interesting. It’s a world of overbearing food restrictions, and chicken in particular is banned. FDA is a powerful agency, and one agent (Tony Chou) has the super ability of knowing everything about anything he eats. It was such a crazy ass original idea, I was in. It’s starting to wear thin, though. They aren’t all that great so far. I’ll give it a couple/few more issues to decide, maybe it’s warming up to coolness.

Haunt – This one seems like it can’t fail. Kirkman and McFarlane together! It’s just started, the story is a guy possessed by his dead brother, and together they turn into a crazy (rather Spawn-like) badass. Brother worked for some super agency and there are still mysteries to be unraveled, it’s only 5 books in. It has hope, it looks pretty good, I’ll give it it’s first year probably to really sell me.

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

How to Train a Dragon – This movie was really good! It was just pure fun in a very innocent and genuine way. When I first saw the posters for this I thought it looked bad. Another 3D cartoon, everyone likes dragons, gonna suck. But I heard it was really good, so we saw it, and it really was! In a way its a standard story – the boy who doesn’t fit in with his people and makes his dad ashamed, but finds his own way and is a hero. But at the same time, they (well, the book) create a really cool world. Narrow in scope – one town of vikings, but with this very cool variety of dragons that plague them. A totally well developed situation to plunk the audience down into. Sure, the plot doesn’t hold any surprises, although I have no idea why I didn’t see the super obvious dragon/people pairings coming. But outside of that, the movie is just a whole lot of fun. Very cute, very funny, the dragon flying sequences are really cool. If I was a 10 year old boy I’d spend the next week trying to fly my dog around the living room. As it was I took a couple sharp turns driving home. We saw it in 3D, I’d say that’s unnecessary. I had heard it was done well, and just because it’s a cartoon it’s done better than a 2D live action shittily converted. But I wouldn’t say it added much to the movie, I would have been happy to see it in 2D and save a few bucks. So, see it in 2D, or even at home, but definitely see it, it’s great.

Precious – Finally saw this. There’s an awful lot of meta going into this. I know it’s horrendously sad, I know the big sad events, I know monique wins an oscar, I know the young girl is seemingly made for the part. I spent a good portion of the movie not really happy with it. It IS horrendously sad, and for a long time it seems to have no purpose but to beat you down with its sadness. And while, yes, it’s important to know that sadness exists, we shouldn’t hide ourselves from the reality of many peoples’ lives, at the same time I don’t really need to see 2 hours of it, it’s overbearing. But, naturally, the movie is more than that. It’s essentially a kind of rising from the ashes, making yourself better kind of story. Against an impossible life, she tries to make the best of it. It’s nice, and ever so slightly inspirational. You can’t help but wonder how many people are able to make such a recovery, but it’s nice to think it’s possible. In that respect, if the movie is meant to expose us to this reality, it undoes its own work by giving us a fantasy of escape. It’s also largely about mentors and teachers. Certainly if you are someone with that position in life, it will give you a feeling of higher purpose, an ideal to reach for. As for the acting, I was impressed with the young girl, I, very cynical, said to myself that they happened to find a very fat very young, very sad looking girl, presto bingo she plays the part. But to her credit she brings more than that. There is a little more dimension to her than just the abuse, which is certainly important to her story. Monique, too, I thought can’t be that great. And for most of the movie she was just a shitty person. People get points too easily, I think, for being fucking horrendous human beings. But then it became clear she won that oscar for her last scene. I’m not sure she deserves an oscar, but she certainly deserves respect. The movie is still sad, it’s not something you need to see more than once, but it is worth the once.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – Ths movie is pretty cute, but there is something not quite right about it. It’s very charming, the stop motion animation is cute. The story is fun, the voice acting is fun, it’s all very likable. But, it is also pretty boring. It’s not a long movie but it felt like it just kept going. I’m not sure what about it should have been better, on paper it is everything it should be. For some reason it just didn’t click for me. Still very enjoyable, just not awesome.

Street Fighter; The Legend of Chun-Li – Yeah yeah, what do you expect. Some halfway okay choreography held together by the threads of a story in a 20 year old video game with all of 200 words for its plot, 25 words if you only count Chun-Li. I’m surprised by how it takes from the game (her motivation, bison’s organization), but modernizes it a lot. Does away with every good guy from the game, but keeps the bad. Not much to say about it, it’s exactly as you expect. Not totally sure why Michael Clarke Duncan is in it, sadly not surprised to see chris klein or that guy from that cop show playing bison. Everyone else is unknown to me. It’s an okay thing to have on while you are doing other things, I guess. Don’t run or anything, though. It’s definitely not good, it’s just not insulting. This is why netflix needs a “meh” star level.

Where The Wild Things Are – Yikes, this movie is kind of scary. When we all heard this was going to be a movie, we said that’s stupid, there’s not remotely enough there to make a movie. Turns out that was true, it was really just the framework for an entirely different story. Then we saw the trailer, and we were all blown away by the awe and childlike wonder distilled down into a pure form. The movie, sadly, never even approaches the trailer, let alone surpass it. A few mundane things before the main point – the wild things are kind of muppetlike. I understand this choice completely, I would have hated to see them CG, but, they don’t quite work as they are. They look a little too much like big head costumes, like disneyland characters. But I was mostly okay with it. The music is a big part, as featured in the trailer, and I guess it does a decent job. But due to my reaction to the movie as a whole, the music ended up feeling forced and overly indie or wonderous. The movie is actually about a fucked up kid. Not an evil kid, looks like he’s got reasons to be fucked up, dad is gone, mom is busy, he’s sensitive and lonely and sad. Hell, I probably could have been that kid if I didn’t have the parents I had. But, the wild things are just his fantasy framework for dealing with his issues. And he has some serious issues. He seems borderline autistic, honestly, with all the rage and dependency and fantasy involved. The wild things act out aspects of his personality and that makes those characters very unlikable, as most of the aspects of his personality are negative. It’s a very mean movie, it’s a very hurtful movie. I wonder maybe if you are the parent of a troubled child, or if you were one yourself, this movie might bring to life in an utterly unique way how you felt. But I am neither, so the movie was either troubling, or just annoying, which is kind of sad in itself. After writing this, I went and watched the TRS review, and each of those 3 boy connected with this boy in a very direct way. Maybe I’m just not a normal boy, I don’t know, it didn’t resonate with me like it was supposed to.

Ben-Hur – Here’s an epic I really should have seen by now. Until the last 30 minutes, this movie is actually really good. Judah Ben-Hur is a jewish leader of some kind, runs afoul of rome, goes to slavery for a while, gets out, becomes a citizen, wins a big race. All happening during the lifetime of jesus. All of that story I just said is really well done. The movie has a great feeling, acting is pretty solid. Heston sort of has this shatner thing of conveying emotions via dramatic poses, but besides that he’s good. I didn’t like his lady friend, she was too cheesy (though I’m sure it was fine in the 50s), but everyone else was very good. The story itself is very good. Jesus only appears (and never his face) in passing. Things are happening while jesus is happening, it’s not about him. Which is just awesome. There’s no miracles or holy business, things are just happening in that period. The famous chariot race is cool enough, the whole story is cool enough. THEN the last 30 minutes happen. Sigh! It begins at the sermon of the mount, which is actually really good because Judah is bent on revenge and refuses to hear the sermon, which is of course famously about turning the other cheek. I thought this was wonderfully subtle. Then the movie gets worse when the lady friend has to belabor this point to judah and to the audience. Then the movie gets really bad when it starts to focus on the crucifixion. Then the movie gets horrendous when, spoiler alert for a 50 year old movie, judah’s mother and sister are cured of their leprosy by the magical jesus rain after his death.  God dammit! The move was so good until now! And jesus wasn’t magical, he was just historical, things that absolutely could have really happened. But noooo, they had to go and have fantastical jesus pee from heaven wash away their disease. Freaking bullshit! But really quite good besides that. Next up we have to see the prequel – Ten Commandments!


8-bit monsters take over Earth. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Mass Effect 1 – Yes 1. I’m a little behind the times, ok? More than you know, really. I finally get to this, and my computer can just barely play it. It was a pretty obnoxious experience, honestly. It started okay, I even had the settings at a reasonable place. But by the end I had all the graphics completely down and it still crawled. Don’t know what’s up with my computer, it can barely handle flash anymore. In fact, toward the end you have to race your little buggy through an area in 40 seconds. Trouble is, my computer run that race at 1/3 speed, but the countdown happened in real time, it was literally impossible for me. I had to install the game on my work computer JUST to finish the game. Beat Saren there too, can’t imagine that nightmare on this computer. So, to be fair, the experience of this game was harshly colored by my computer. And those last 20 minutes on the work computer were much more fun and a whole hell of a lot prettier. With that true, I didn’t think the game was all that great. It had all the problems I had heard about – stupid elevator travel, mediocre battle system, horrendous moon-buggy missions. But on top of that I wasn’t super into the story. It seems like a cool world, very well developed and fairly original and all that. But I didn’t really care, didn’t care about my companions, didn’t care about side missions. I went out of my way to be evil, which was fine, I guess. The game certainly isn’t bad, but it didn’t have any epic feeling I was hoping for. It didn’t feel like KOTOR, that’s for sure. By all accounts, ME2 fixes all these things and is a magical game. Sadly, this thing will never play that, so I won’t find out for years until I get a new computer. Ohswells!

Apr 6, 2010

8-Bit Dr. Horrible

I’ve been watching this guy develop this project over the past couple months, first releasing just the music. I was under the impression that it was going to be an actual playable game, maybe it’s just a video, I’m not sure. If that’s the case, I might as well post now – AWESOME!

Apr 4, 2010

Book Reviews @ The Temple

Heretics of Dune – Huh, this book is kind of a return to form for Herbert. Book one was this masterpiece of political intrigue, character evolution, rebellion, heroism, coolness. Book 2 was about a hero cult, and avoiding an inevitable future. Book 3 was weird, about joojoo and plotting. Book 4 was about despotism, power, control, humanity, fate; also joojoo. Here we are in book 5 and suddenly nearly all the joojoo is gone (except for the standard joojoo of dune – long lives, guild navigators, face dancers, etc). It is nearly 100% political intrigue. The bene gesserit are back on top, though the tlielaxu are also very powerful. Ix is still a player, the face dancers, the guild, and the church of the tyrant are kind of minor. And now there’s this new force, the honored matres. When the tyrant was deposed, according to his own plan, humanity scattered and therefore saved itself from annihilation. The returnees from The Scattering are wackaloons and super powerful (not to mention super sexy, which is kind of stupid, but oh well). The honored matres want to kill or subjigate everyone, especially the bene gesserit. But the book is just wall to wall scheming. The BG vs the BT vs the HM and the interaction of the minor players among them. It’s kind of hard to read. Especially because I didn’t read, I listened, and sometimes I miss something and god help you if you miss something important. I had to read the wiki one paragraph-per-week to catch myself up on what I just heard. But, it is pretty cool. It’s still nothing like the first book, but it’s a more traditional story without all the magic. And I like that. I’d say the book was too big for its britches, I’m not sure it needed all these pages to tell this story. Sometimes it seemed like it was complicated for its own sake. But the over all arc, if you trimmed 1/3 of the book, was actually quite good. That one group coming to dominance at the end got me totally interested to see what the next book would have.  I have one major complaint about the book - negative 300 degrees Kelvin?!?! At one point a bene tlielaxu is explaining, via narration, that he has an undetectable poison on him because it was kept at something like negative 384K for some amount of time. Excuse me, fuckhead Herbert, you can make up the spice, you can use omniscience, you can invent interstellar travel, you can even make little snails latch on to a man and turn him into a giant fucking sandworm. What you CAN NOT DO is go below ZERO FUCKING DEGREES KELVIN!

Chapterhouse Dune – Wowwww, what a good book! I’m not at all convinced I read these last two 15 years ago. I thought I read them all and it was a steadly decline in quality from the first book to the last. This book is more about plot and intrigue than any of the other books, including the first book. I wouldn’t say its better, the first book was just too revolutionary in its world creation, but this book is fantastic. Heretics left me ready for it, even though heretics wasn’t amazing, and this totally delivered. The factions were awesome, the dynamics were cool, the verbal battles were just perfect. My favorite part in the book is maybe halfway, the conversations between Lucilla and Dama. I was so bummed when that ended rather abruptly, it was just so fucking captivating. That is echoed in the stand off between Odreid and Dama, but isn’t surpassed by it. The book does manage to have more than just plot. It tries to make comments on politics. I’m not sure I agree with its conclusions, but I think the discussion is great. My mind was blown that the Jews have a role in the book. Christianity only peripherally occurs in Dune due to the “Orange Catholic Bible” which seems to have fuck all to do with catholicism.  Islam plays heavily, if only by implication, due to the Fremen and the Tlielaxu. The reflections of islam are strong there, and had been from the first book. But the jews are actual jews! No reflections, no allusions, but actual jews. Jews who have survived these thousands and thousands of years as a culture. Who have learned the art of disappearing into the universe, their religion and culture more of a secret cult at this point. Masters of blending into society, “you could spend your whole life working with one of them and never know they were a jew” And some comments about how some bene gesserit beliefs or customs may have descended from judaism (though they are the ones with the OCB, so maybe it comes through that). They don’t have a big role, though it is a hugely important one in the context of the fiction, but it still shocked me. I was all in for the vocal performances, they were almost perfect. My only problems were one actor pronounced Honored Matres as Honored Maters. And one said SKYtale instead of SIGHtale. I feel like there was another too, I don’t see why they can’t nail down simple pronunciations before they do these things. But all in all it was really good, and I effing love the voice of the Tyrant, it’s so good. The horrible thing about this book is the CLIFFHANGER. It’s not a hard core cliffhanger, like this person is about to die, oh em gee, book ends. But there are some serious and overarching mysteries to be answered, and Herbert died a year after he wrote it! arg! His son has come along and cobbled together two sequels (not to mention all the prequels) based on his father’s notes. But opinion is apparently divided on whether he did a good job or not. I will certainly get to those soon. But we’ll never know, and that is just such a shitty feeling. I want to know who the threat from the scattering is! I want to know if the BG/HM merger works! I want to know what Shiana and Duncan do! And christ I want to know who Daniel and Marty are!!

Hunters of Dune / Sandworms of Dune – I’m starting this review only having read the first book, but they are naturally presented as a pair, so I will finish it after I finish the second. That likely won’t take long, as plot-wise, I am totally into this stuff. Herbert left us with a hell of a set of questions at the end of Chapterhouse, and for most fans those questions lasted 20some years. But for new (and renewed, like me) fans, we have the answers right away. Or at least, one version of the answers. As I mentioned in chapterhouse, we’ll never really know, which is monstrously aggravating. But this is what we have. So this is my first Brian Herbert / Kevin J Anderson book. I bought the prequel (houses harkonnen, atreidies, and corrino) books a long time ago, but never got around to them. I might even own some of the legends of dune series (the very-pre-quels). I thought about going and reading those before these, as there will be a lot of history that it’s probably assumed you know and would certainly be enriching. But I’m a child, and I couldn’t wait to find out what’s up. Whether its right or not, I am just so into this story. It’s an awesome universe, with awesome characters, I sped through Hunters and I’m sure I will through Sandworms. It’s just really sort of cool and exciting story stuff. I will certainly go back and read the legends of dune series (set some 10 or 15k years before the main books), I’ll probably read the house books as well. I see that they have now started on a new trilogy, starting with Paul of Dune, which fills in the gaps between Dune and Dune Messiah. And here we come to the heart of the problem with the writing. There is a short interview with Herbert & Anderson after the Hunters audiobook (which, ps, is awesome, it’s not much, but adding value is always good). In it they explain, without any embarrassment or awkwardness, the difference between their style and Frank Herbert’s, and the difference is subtlety. I was shocked to see 12 years pass between Dune & Dune Messiah. I was even more shocked to see 3500 years pass into God Emperor, and kind of used to it when 1500 passed into Heretics. On top of that, as they point out in the interview, Herbert destroys Rakis in Heretics, and he never shows it. It happens in between chapters. I mean, fuck, it’s called Dune, and Dune is gone! without ceremony or description. But I have really come to appreciate Frank Herbert’s subtlety, I can’t imagine the books without them. Herbert & Anderson come out and flatly state, we don’t like that, we like to see the details. So they go and describe the burning of Arrakis, and now they are writing books to go between Dune & Messiah. I find this kind of annoying and unnecessary. There is nothing there that helps me understand or appreciate better. It’s just more stuff. This might not be a problem if they were just such amazing writers that any story told by them in this universe, even in between stories, is worth it to hear it told. But that’s not really the case. Most of it is fine, it’s not atrocious, I don’t spend a lot of time rolling my eyes. And at this point I am in it for the plot, not the experiment that was God Emperor. But it seems their “fill in the details” really applies across the board. They said they simply had to make the 7th book into two, there was too much. What they seem to have missed is that the first book, and I imagine the second, could have been cut down a whole hell of a lot with some easy editing. Admittedly, it’s not 50%, it’s probably 80%. So I’m sure it’s still 2 books easy, but nonetheless, the book would be better tightened up. They really just repeat themselves so often. I am a couple chapters into Sandworms, and so far I have heard the list of new gholas I think 3 or 4 times. I fucking remember! Jesus! They will say things, and then say them again. Not even that differently, or from a different character, or in a different context. They will virtually repeat themselves for no apparent reason. It’s somewhat maddening. It doesn’t really take away from the books, and I am totally digging them. But I feel like I’m reading amateur writers sometimes. And these are their 8th and 9th books? Oh man, how are their first 3 going to read? I’m a little scared. They’ve got good ideas, they’ve got amazing source material, they just really need to work on their styles, it’s too much. And hey, let the audience guess sometimes, I don’t need to see every single line, just gimme the dots. [time passes] Okay, I’ve read Sandworms now. My comments are nearly identical. On the one hand it is really satisfying to hear the end of the story, I was definitely into it and definitely eager to get back to the book anytime I had to stop. But the same problems remain. I still feel like this could have been cut down by 25%. Sentences just go on for no reason sometimes. Motivations and especially character history are restated again and again. I get that this person had this happen, and that relates directly to this event. I get it! It was a little sad when the book was essentially over, but I had 2 and a half hours left in the audiobook. Most of that wasn’t really necessary. It returns again to this idea that Herbert & Anderson insist on filling in every single little detail. There is so much that can be left out, I can imagine pretty well what happened to all of these characters, but they tell me anyway. It’s frustrating not only that they do it, but that they are so aware that they do it and are completely okay with it. But, some good things: The quotes at the start of each chapter are sometimes really really well done. Often they are just fairly obvious commentary on the coming events, with some overarching moral or theme. But sometimes they tie together widely spaced events in a resonant way that is striking. What is done with and to poor Uwe is poetically tragic. He is really a sad character. The book is essentially a nature vs. nurture argument. And while it’s not exactly real life data, it is an interesting conjecture, especially Paul vs. Paulo. And especially especially with the presumptions applied to the gholas. It reminds me of siblings placed into their roles and left to live up to them, both bad and good. On the other hand, I am left feeling that the whole ghola thing is very limiting. It’s too bad, it’s another thing the authors openly state as a concern, yet seem to completely ignore. It’s all the more annoying that they say Frank Herbert originally brought Duncan back as essentially fan-service. So now we’ve got this plot device that is fundamental to the universe just because fans couldn’t live without Duncan. They say how there is a fear that unlimited life via rebirth reduces our attachment to the character and reduces the impact of threats to them. Well, it does. I can’t be that upset when someone dies, I know perfectly well they will grow another. Though I can imagine that’s not a comfort to someone watching their child die, you can’t help but think they’ll have it back, exactly the same, in a few years. My other big problem with the end game is again a problem with feeling the importance of the characters’ actions. The end has essentially three major confrontations – Murbella’s fleet vs. the machine fleet, shiana/leto vs. the city, and duncan vs. omnius. The guild has a dramatic (if expected) and cavalry-like savior role for murbella, which is great. Leto has sort of his destiny fulfilled, and shiana gets to use scytale’s weapons, okay. But then Duncan does his thing, and neither of the first two mattered. Maybe Murbella would be killed if not for those events, just because of the timing, I guess that matters. But Shiana and Leto could have just stayed in the damn ship and Duncan’s efforts would have produced the same results, it reduces all the importance of the events. Leto especially, I fail to understand why he was even resurrected, all he did is return to his place among the worms, what’s the point?? It’s kind of annoying. This book did sort of solidify my love of the Tyrant, though. Leto II is supposed to be this horrible despot, but I think he is the most interesting and tragic character in the series. He was flawed, I buy that, he lost his humanity. But Duncan has it easy, his destiny was to be a really good guy, make the moral choice, and save the universe. Leto II’s destiny was to be a completely ruthless monster in order to save humanity. How can you retain your connection to your humanity if you have to control and kill your people because that’s the only way you can save it. A much more sympathetic character, to me. The one other thing I notice in this book is what seems to me to be one more inclusion of a major religion in the series. We’ve had slight christianity, significant islam, and direct judaism. I think what happens with Duncan is a direct reflection of buddhism and hinduism. He has lived like 5000 years now through lifetime after lifetime. He has the wisdom of not just thousands of years of memories like any bene gesserit but having actually lived those lives. He is born, lives, dies, and is born again repeatedly learning more about himself and humanity. His ascension to perfection comes from his continuous rebirth. I’ll grant you that I know essentially nothing about these religions, but it seems like continuous rebirths leading to enlightenment has something to do with it. It’s pretty cool. Anyway, I’m done with the series now. As I said, I will probably go back and read some of the prequels, definitely not all. But I don’t have all of them right now, so I’ll probably take a break from this universe. I think this series covered some serious ground. Some of it was plot, some of it was amazing writing, some of it was almost an experiment. It was absolutely worth my time, and there are some really fantastic things in it. Wasn’t perfect, and I certainly have a lot of issues with the Herbert/Anderson side of things, I will always wonder what Frank would have done with the finale. But it was all really pretty good.

What Do We Do Now? – This is kind of a silly one to throw in, but damn it I’m doing it. This is a relationship book by Keith and the Girl. If you aren’t familiar, they are a podcast, and the funniest thing in the world. Now, they aren’t for everyone. They are very “adult” very inappropriate, don’t listen at work, don’t listen if you are sensitive. Don’t listen if you are fat, black, a woman, jewish, chinese, a nerd, a man, gay, or white. Or at least not if you are one of those and uptight about it. They rag on pretty much everything. They do occasionally go too far down the racist/sexist/homophobic rabbit hole. But for the most part they are those negative things in such a way that it is patently ironic and meant to be exactly opposite. People might compare them to shock jocks, Stern or O&A, and I think those people would be doing it in the spirit of a compliment. I happen to hate shock jocks, and I don’t think KATG are, I think they are much funnier and smarter. But, whatever gets you listening. Anyway, they do a podcast, minimum 1 hour a weekday, over 1000 episodes, the highlight of my media consumption nearly every day. Now they wrote a relationship book. “Smart answers to your stupid relationship questions” is the tagline. Most of the answers are common sense. I didn’t learn anything amazing in the book. Nearly always the advice is communicate, and a passive aggressive reflection onto your mate of whatever they are doing that you don’t like. Kind of silly, but always funny. Their personalities don’t nearly come out in written form as they do on the show. And I wonder that it might be even less so for people who aren’t so 1000-episodes-familiar with their voices. Nonetheless I think it is very funny and worth reading for a few laughs. I don’t really expect people to rush out to buy it, but if you feign the slightest hint of interest, I’ll probably buy it for you for your birthday.