Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book 27: Legacies

Sunday, April 30, 2006 2
Having read every Recluse novel which L.E. Modesitt, Jr has written I can say with complete confidence that after two or three novels it becomes quickly apparent that Modesitt tells the same story over and over again. That's fine. I happen to enjoy the story that Modesitt tells. He tells the story of a young man from humble beginnings. This young man typically has a hidden "Talent" or magical skill which would set him apart from the rest of the world. His family tells him to not reveal this talent because he will never be safe when people know. The young man is moral. He always chooses to do the right thing, the proper thing, and the difficult thing if the difficult and dangerous thing will lead to a greater good. Eventually the young man becomes a target but rises to a level of power and authority because he is highly skilled.

I just described The Magic of Recluse, The Towers of the Sunset, a variation of Ordermaster, and pretty much every other Recluse novel.

This is also a very accurate description of Legacies, the first novel in Modesitt's Corean Chronicles.

Alucius is from a herder family. Herders typically have some measure of Talent. Alucius has Talent in full measure. Where do we think his story is going to go from here? What sort of novel is this? Who is the author?

Ah, yes. It is a fantasy novel written by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. The basic outline of the plot fits the outline given above. Add in the matriarchy vs patriarchy which also fills out Recluse and it makes me wonder if there isn't some way that the Corean Chronicles isn't set thousands of years after The Death of Chaos. Likely, it isn't. But there is a fit.

The book is workmanlike and decently crafted. Modesitt knows how to tell his story and if you space out his novels enough there isn't the full sense of retread.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

to write well

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2
I'm not a writer, but author Dan Simmons has an interesting series of articles on his website regarding the craft of writing. They are definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

issues

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 0

Ugh.  More formatting issues here.  Sorry about that.

a couple of seasons of television

I understand that some feel that Season 2 of 24 is one of the weakest seasons that has been broadcast so far, but if that’s the case I can only imagine how stellar the other seasons are.  The whole plotline with the nuclear bomb and then trying to find the proof that three nations were not behind the bomb, and replacing Palmer...gripping television.  I was amazed by just how far the show would go to tell the story...such as the torture of Jack.  And still I hear that the next two seasons are better.  I can’t wait.

As much of a fan that I am off Joss Whedon and Buffy, I don’t love Angel.  I watch, and I’m interested, but I don’t have that same connection to the show.  My feelings for the show sort of come and go in waves.  When Darla and Drusilla were doing their little vamp spree during Season 2, I was sold.  And then it went away.  Then when Darla was back in Season 3 and doing the whole pregnancy thing, I was sold.  When she gave birth, my interest checked out a bit.  Angel with an infant isn’t nearly as effective as the how two vampires could produce a child.  That said, the actual birth scene was incredibly powerful.  I think what I really miss is Kate, the cop from Season 1 and part of Season 2.  But I finished Season 3 last night and I’m curious how some things will play out, but not as much as I was after previous seasons.  I wish that this wasn’t the beginning of when Cordelia is on the show less and less.  From her origins on the first episode of Buffy through Season 3 of Angel (3 seasons on Buffy, 3 on Angel), Cordelia Chase has undergone the most dramatic character change of anyone in the Buffyverse with Wesley in a moderately distant second place.

Anyway, I don’t have much to write about Angel.  Decent show, but nothing terribly special. 

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pulitzer - March

Monday, April 17, 2006 0

I'm always disappointed when the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is announced and all I can say is: "Huh?"  That's exactly what happened this year when I just heard on the radio that March by Geraldine Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer.  Since I have been specifically paying attention in the past few years I have heard of previous winners Gilead and The Known World before the win, and had already read Middlesex and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  I think it has to do with how familiar I am with the author's previous work.  I've read Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys) and Jeffrey Euginides (The Virgin Suicides) before and think highly of the authors.  NPR has had a few Edward P Jones and Marilynne Robinson pieces on air.  But March?  This isn't The March, by E.L. Doctorow (a Pulitzer Finalist), but rather a continuation of Little Women, taking a character from the book and expanding the story. 

Ooh?

Nah. 

I can't say just how not interested I am in March.  Maybe it's a fantastic novel and I know I'll find out because I would like to read all the Pulitzer novels, but ugh. 

Saturday, April 15, 2006

a song for Easter

Saturday, April 15, 2006 0

no temptation seize a man

that he can’t overcome

who am i to be fallen?

crack your back on a slab of wood

come freedom, nail it down

i come crawling

i come crawling

 

come trickle down and save the world

two hands that i can’t see

come breathe, come breathe

come breathe on me

split-rib water, blood and bone

come now, come Calvary

come breathe, come breathe on me

 

Testimony come now, quickly,

whisper in my ear:

celebration

Peace at last, not far away

empty sheet, a borrowed grave:

Salvation

come freedom, come

come freedom, come

 

 

breathe on me - Jennifer Knapp

Friday, April 14, 2006

Book 26: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

Friday, April 14, 2006 0

Once again a Star Wars author gives us two half books for the price of one.  From the title and cover art the assumption here is that this book is going to be about Darth Vader and his rise to power.  You wouldn’t be wrong with this assumption as all of that is in the book.  But Darth Vader doesn’t appear in the first 50 pages.  Instead we are given a story a small group of Jedi who where ambushed when Palpatine’s Order Sixty Six was given to eliminate all Jedi.  Three had survived specifically because a squad of Clone Troopers thought for themselves and gave the Jedi a chance to escape.  Early on in the novel these Jedi are trying to figure out why they were attacked and what is going on in the galaxy...they learn of Vader’s massacre at the Jedi Temple and that the Jedi are all but destroyed.  This brings us to Vader and his initial uncertainties and frustrations with his body and being more machine than man.  Luceno has a nice passage where Vader analyzes various parts of himself with “this is not seeing” “this is not breathing”, “this is not living” and it’s a very well written and moving passage for this former Jedi turned Dark Lord. 

 

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader suffers from the issue that Luceno is telling two different stories.  They connect and intersect and it allows us to care for some of the Jedi that Vader is cutting down, but I feel that the novel loses quite a lot because of it.  This is it, this is the behind the scenes story of Vader that Star Wars fans have always been hoping for and it’s only half the book.  It’s the good half, but that doesn’t excuse the other hundred and fifty pages.  There could be a great novel about the Jedi who survived the Purge and how they dealt with what happened.  This is only half of that novel, too.  So here’s the thing, we are given half of two good books, one of which has been eagerly awaited for years.  The complete novel is nothing special.  Perhaps it is my expectation of what Dark Lord would be, that it would this grand Darth Vader novel where we get all of his inner thoughts and more Purge killing of the hidden Jedi.  So the novel did not live up to what I expected and hoped it would be because Vader was only in half the book.  But this is like Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.  When a character is the title character of a book, that character should be the overall focus of the novel with maybe some side events going on but most of the book should be about that title character.  This is not truly the case with Dark Lord.  I felt cheated out of Vader. 

 

Still, this was a very fast paced novel.  I finished the book in two or three days and the plotline moved along at a pretty good clip.  What Vader material was there was interesting and is worthing picking the book up for.  It just could have been so much more. 

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Book 25: A Knight of the Word

Thursday, April 13, 2006 3
When I was a young lad I would read every Shanarra novel I could find, and several times.  I read all of Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom of Landover novels.  But for some reason I never picked up Running With the Demon or any of the Word/Void novels.  It really makes no sense because of how much I enjoyed Brooks' work.  A couple of months ago I finally read the first Word/Void novel and was stunned.  Running With the Demon was quite possibly the best thing Terry Brooks has written with an argument to be made about Elfstones.  What's more, it felt fresh.  It was the story of John Ross, a normal man picked by the Word to be its Champion in trying to hold the balance against the Void.  When the novel started, Ross had been a Knight for some twenty or so years and made his way to Hopewell, Illinois to try to stop something from happening.  He wasn't sure what because his dreams only give him a location and a taste of the horrors that would be unleashed on our world if he fails.  He finds a teenaged girl, Nest Freemark and her magic. 
 
Five years later Nest is a college student and John Ross has given up being a Knight of the Word.  He once had a vision of an event that he needed to stop and he failed.  He couldn't continue to serve, the burden was too hard.  But being a Knight is not a burden one can lay down.  The Void wants to turn John Ross to its side.  The Word needs John Ross to resume the fight.  An agent for the Word contacts Nest to try to convince Ross to rejoin the fight for the Word.  In just a couple of days Ross will take a step that will put him solidly on the path to the Void and he won't know it.  A Knight of the Word is a novel of the continuing fight for balance between the Word and the Void, the fight for John Ross's soul, the future of Nest Freemark and ultimately the future of our world. You see, the world of the Word/Void novels is out own, just with a twist.  Most people have no idea. 
 
By this point in my life and having read nearly everything Terry Brooks has published (there are a couple of Landover novels I haven't read now) I would have said it was impossible for Brooks to surprise me.  But he has.  I am nearly shocked by just how good his Word/Void novels are.  A Knight of the Word is the second book in the trilogy and it is just as good as Running With the Demon, possibly better.  Even if a reader does not like the typical fantasy novel, I would suggest giving the Word/Void novels a chance.  This is more of an urban fantasy where there is some magic, but it is in a modern setting.  It's worth a look.  This trilogy is the best work that Brooks has produced. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Book 24: Hyperion

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 0

Dan Simmons writes incredibly literate science fiction.  I mean this in the best possible sense.  The first two books of his which I read were Ilium and Olympos, a retelling of sorts of Homer’s Iliad and other classic texts.  Only here Simmons twists the story into something else, something far different which still honors the source material as well as tells a compelling science fiction story.  Now I have turned to Hyperion, the science fiction classic which put Simmons on the map.  Hyperion is, interestingly enough, a science fiction telling of The Canterbury Tales.  There is a group of “pilgrims” going on a pilgramage (of course) to the Shrike Church on the planet Hyperion.  During the pilgrimage they tell each other stories about who they are and why they are going to Hyperion.  Taken together this build a rich tapestry of Hyperion, our future, the Universe, and what is happening in the novel. 

 

Hyperion is fantastically well written.  Each one of the pilgrims’ tales are quite interesting and tell a good story by themselves.  But in between the tales there is the story of the pilgrimage and we start to see how things fit together.  Simmons is building to something big and it’s going to be a whopper of a tale.  The conclusion here will be in The Fall of Hyperion, but Hyperion was a real pleasure and a joy to read. 

 

Besides all the Canterbury Tales connections, there is a heavy dose of John Keats.  Unfortunately I am not terribly familiar with Keats, but the heavier one is into classic literature the more illumination one will have.  The bottom line is that this is a Great science fiction novel.  Capital G. 

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Queens

Sunday, April 09, 2006 0
Thursday night we watched The Queens of Comedy, that wonderous offshot of The Kings of Comedy. Note that Spike Lee didn't direct this one. Honestly...it wasn't that funny. The women were loud and they cursed a lot. A lot. I don't think I'm a Super Prude Deluxe 3000, but it seemed excessive to me.

Anyway, we turned it off before the last of the four comics went on. Ladies, gentlemen, feel free to skip this one.


On another note, I still need to come up with something for Hyperion early this week.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

just...can't

Thursday, April 06, 2006 1

I just can’t keep it in any longer.  The song “Temperature” by Sean Paul has to be one of the single worst popular songs ever recorded.  We can’t count all those really bad songs that never make it on the airwaves, but this song is played once every 108 minutes on the radio here.  Or so.  It’s like they just have to keep entering the code or the world will explode, but I’m worried my head might.  This is me diving for my radio trying to turn the volume down. 

 

“My Humps” was a terribly annoying, yet catchy song.  But there is some entertainment value there, check it out.  But “Temperature”....ughghghghaaughh!  I should just slap together some random consonants to try to really get my point across:  jhgythnghtss!  That’s what I think of the song. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 0
Making a live action film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe is a risky venture. Sure, there are legions of fans of the Narnia series but there are mythical creatures and talking animals and children who are heroes. This is such an easy novel to mess up and make a really cheesy movie with bad special effects. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, if Aslan did not succeed the film itself would have failed utterly.

Fortunately, Aslan does work on screen and the cheese factor is quite low. The children do a fine job and the CG effects are excellent. The world is brighter than Middle Earth, but Narnia looks fully realized on screen.

The story is a fairly simple one, four children in war torn England are sent to a relative’s home to stay so they are not at risk from bombings. While playing in the house they discover a wardrobe which harbors a secret: out of the back of the wardrobe is some sort of a portal to a different wintery world: Narnia. Narnia is ruled by the White Witch and is permanent winter until the return of Aslan. These children are foretold in prophecy and will have a major role to play in the future of Narnia.

The story is simple. It could be viewed as a typical fantasy stet up. But because C.S. Lewis was also a Christian writer there is a very strong Christian overtone (or underpinning) if you know what you are looking for. It is there, but it is not overwhelming.

Rated PG, this film is toned down for children. The battles are nothing like that of Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and yet this does not feel as if it were a children’s movie. Well made. Well acted, even by the children. Well done.

There are a slew of bonus features on the two disc DVD: Bloopers, multiple commentary tracks, documentaries and features on the making of Narnia (including a focus on Lewis himself), and the creatures and legends of Narnia. This is a very complete DVD for the fan of the film and the novels.

i don't think James Blunt knows what he is talking about

I know the song Beautiful by James Blunt is a good six months old if not older.  I know it has hit this good amount of success right now.  Yay.  Something in the lyrics caught me this morning. 

 

In the first verse he sings that he won’t lose hope, he won’t sleep on it, because “I’ve got a plan” to get this girl he saw on the subway who was with another man.  Great.  He has a plan.  Let’s hear it.  Second verse he sings that “I don’t know what to do.  I’ll never be with you.”  Wait a second.  We’ve only had a chorus here.  What happened to the plan?  Why don’t you know what to do?  Are you losing hope? 

 

Well, maybe there will be some more hope coming up and he’ll rediscover the plan.  Let’s find out what Blunt has figured out.  “But it’s time to face the truth.  I’ll never be with you.”

 

That’s unfortunate.  He went from not losing hope and having a plan to facing the truth that he can’t possibly get the girl. 

 

So what happened to the plan? 

a little of Bonds on Bonds

Out of curiosity I decided to record the first episode of Bonds on Bonds, an ESPN reality series which will follow Barry Bonds throughout the 2006 season as he chases Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, and the homerun record.  Now if you’ve paid any attention to baseball at all in the past year or so you know that there is a major steroids investigation going on and Barry Bonds is at the center of it.  This gets addressed during the show.  Bonds, of course, denies everything and the allegations continue.  But this show gives a glimpse inside the life of Bonds and one thing that the show does very well is that it humanizes Bonds.  He may be a real jerk in real life to other players and fans and the media, but he’s also a person and that means there will also be a more upbeat and friendly side. 

 

Watching Barry talk about his father is quite interesting.  Barry says that the reason he is the player he is today was because he always wanted to prove his father wrong, that he was better than his father said.  A complicated relationship. 

 

Is the show any good?  You know, it’s not bad.  I’m not sure if it’ll work over the course of a season, but as a one episode curiosity, I was intrigued.  But the point is to have the full chronicle. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Soul Plane

Tuesday, April 04, 2006 0
Is craptacular a word? 
 
Soul Plane is the story of a guy who won a hundred million dollars in a lawsuit against an airline because he got stuck in an airplane toilet and his dog got killed due to negligence.  He decides to open his own airline, called N.W.A..  The name comes from his own name, but it also has to do with the rap group, of course.  Did I mention this guy is black?  See, his blackness shouldn't be a storypoint so much except that his plane turns out to be a ghettolicious, pimped out purple ride with spinners on the wheels.  There is an excellent first class, and a fairly ghetto low-class where the louder ign'ant folks are with a black and white television and rabbit ears with aluminum foil to get reception.  Snoop Dogg is the captain, but he is more interested in getting high than being serious about flying the plane.  Let's reinforce stereotypes here. 
 
Tom Arnold is the head of a family named the Hunkeys (honkeys) and we first see them wearing hats with the logo for "Cracker Land" on it.  Naturally they are bumped off their flight and moved to N.W.A..  Hi-jinks are presumably suppose to ensue. 
 
Does any of this actually sound appealing?  Is there anything that accidently resembles a plot in this movie?
 
The answer, of course, is a whimpering "no" to both questions.  There are occasional funny moments where both my wife and I laughed, but then we went back to marvelling at how bad Soul Plane is.  Soul Plane is so bad...it is craptacular. 

Monday, April 03, 2006

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Monday, April 03, 2006 0

In the original Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston somehow crash lands on a planet where apes have evolved and rule the world, humans are subjugated.  In the very final shot Heston sees a half buried Statue of Liberty and realizes that this is humanity’s future.  Heston somehow traveled through time.  Beneath the Planet of the Apes has another astronaut end up on the PotA in search of Heston and finds Heston in captivity, held by apes who are worshipping a still active atomic bomb.  Throughout we have met the apes Cornelius and Zira.  Well, after the Earth is destroyed it turns out that Cornelius and Zira were in a space ship of their own and the backlash of the exploding planet sends the apes back in time and in Escape from the Planet of the Apes the two apes are now on present day Earth (at the time of the movie, it’s the early 1970’s) and there is wonderment about their stories of the future and just the fact that these are two articulate apes.  At the end the two apes are murdered and their infant son is taken in by a circus man who tried to help them.

 

Flash forward twenty years and we’re up to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.  The circus man is showing Cesar the ape around the city showing him, and in turn the viewer, what Earth is like.  8 years ago some mysterious disease killed off all the domestic animals on the planet and humans turned to apes and monkeys for pets, but as the relative intelligence of the apes increased the animals went from pets to slaves.  And it is this brutal Earth that Cesar experiences.  Cesar is seen as a threat as he was assumed to have been killed twenty years ago and he ends up leading an ape revolution and the future seems to be fixed, that apes really will take over the planet. 

 

After the quite good Planet of the Apes, the rest of the sequels are all pretty poor.  This may be a little bit better than the previous sequels, but not by much.  It’s purely a matter of opinion and preference.  The original film turned the tables on the human/animal relationship and showed just how inhumane humanity could be by how the apes treated the humans.  That, and it was a neat science fiction play.  The next two movies did not do much with anything of importance.  Conquest of the Planet of the Apes does show exactly why the apes revolted.  So, there is a certain amount of power and disgust in the behavior of man and one could almost say that we deserved it.  But it is heavy handed and we know exactly where this story is going.  There is no mystery here. 

bad joke of the morning

“I heard this morning that the pope has the bird flu”

 

 

 

“He got it from the cardinals”.

 

 

 

 

Urg.  I overheard a lady telling this joke to a co-worker.  She said she heard it at church.  You’re welcome.

 
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