Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Movie Adaptations of Books - Part 1

I'm currently reading Fellowship of the Ring (technically, re-reading the first 11 chapters since I tried reading the book before), and it's got me thinking about the movie adaptations of the Lord of the Rings franchise, and movie adaptations of books in general.  So I present to you a series of three posts about this very subject.

I don't know that I can say I've "always felt this way" about the relationship between film and books, but I've felt this way about it for a long enough time: they're different beasts. Yeah, I'm sure this is a newsflash for everyone out there. The weird thing - and this just occurred to me - is that while they are two different forms of media, they are both presented in a similar manner.

I bring this up because that's usually the go-to argument about the differences between film and print; film is a visual medium, they say, while print is not. Wait a second - I understand what point you're trying to convey, but how is reading a book not visual stimuli? You use your eyes to read the words, and that activates your imagination. I guess it would be better to say that books are an intellectual medium - but then, so too can film be intellectual (see: Tree of Life*).

To get to my point faster, here's the question: if books and movies can both be considered to be engaging the same stimuli - albeit in different ways - how come movie adaptations of books are often major departures from the original source?  Unfortunately the answer is a little complicated, so uh...I hope you have some time set aside to do a little bit of reading.  The first difference is obvious - how we physically consume the media; second, the physical limitations of either media; and lastly, the difference is that they're the same.  What?  Yes, they are the same.  Bear with me - in three weeks, you will understand what I'm talking about.
I thought I would start out with the most obvious, which is how we physically consume either media.  To drill down a bit further, it comes down to how much time we spend with each form of story-telling.  When reading a book, we have the leisure to read whenever we want, and virtually whereever we want.**  Some people read at blinding speeds, while others take their time and read when they can.***  Unless you've borrowed the book from the library, it's there, ready for your eyes, whenever you wish.

Conversely, movies have an average running time of anywhere from 1 and a half hours to 2 and a half hours (with the epic movies, like Lord of the Rings, stretching past the three hour mark).  One could argue that outside of the theatre we have the same luxury as we do with books in that we can watch at our leisure, pause and start as we please; the truth is that films are made to make money in theatres****, not at home or on the bus to work.

Because of the time constraint, writers and producers often have to cut extraneous portions of the source material in order to present it on-screen in a reasonable running time.  This is especially true with large tomes (there's a reason why A Game of Thrones went to TV, not theatres).  As a result, what we see on screen is usually not a 100% true adaptation of the book.  And, in what's going to be a common theme in this essay, that's OK, because filmmakers are trying to make a film - just because they don't have an original idea doesn't change anything.

Dealing with a time constraint is the primary reason why die-hard franchise fans are often disappointed in on-screen adaptations of their most beloved stories.  What they really need to do is critique the movies as films, not as adaptations.  Yes, the strength of the story depends largely on the original source, but it's my opinion that you can't objectively say, "This movie was bad because it didn't contain X element that was present in the original book."  Usually there's a reason it was omitted from the screen adaptation.  What you should evaluate is what you see on screen, and how everything fits together.

Next week, we'll explore the physical differences of each media.  And after that, I'll explain why neither of the first two essays matter because both formats are the same.

* - To be fair, I don't actually know anything about Tree of Life except that the critics over at Filmspotting had a field day with this one, and it all went way over my head.  So I think it's safe to say that this film generated intense intellectual debate.

** - I'll thank you to not read while you drive.

*** - I certainly don't take several months to read a book. *cough*

**** - That's why they report box office gross, not weekly DVD sales.  Of course this doesn't apply if your studio releases movies direct-to-DVD.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Harperland: The Politics of Control (2010)

Harperland: The Politics of Control, by Lawrence Martin: A Review in Haiku form

Steve Harper, PM
He likes to be in control
Book takes aim, misses.

Honestly, I don't think I need to expand much more on that. The book tries to come off as a scathing account of how Stephen Harper has abused his power and has taken control of everything, but it barely goes beyond the surface of events that happened between 2006 (when Harper first took office) and 2010. Interesting, sure, but hardly an in-depth analysis of the Harper government. As an example of how in-depth this book was (or how much it wasn't), the last chapter would tell you exactly what the rest of the book covers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Brother (2008)

Today I just finished reading my electronic copy of Little Brother, a 2008 Young Adult novel by Cory Doctorow.  I decided that I'm going to do a five-minute review of this book in my Five Minutes On segment of the Alternative Airwaves podcast, so this blog post will basically serve as the copy for that.

Little Brother (2008, Tor Books) tells the story of Marcus Yallow - AKA W1n5ton - a 17-year old high school student in San Fransisco who delights in outsmarting his school's attempts to keep tabs on him.  After a terrorist bombing of the Bay Bridge, the Department of Homeland Security institutes sweeping measures in an effort to stop any future attacks.  When he finds that he no longer feels safe in his own city, Marcus decides to fight the DHS and restore freedom to the country that he loves.

I really liked this story.  It's classified as a Young Adult novel, but it has some fairly mature themes for the age level that it's targeting.  And let me re-emphasize that I like the story, but not so much all the sidebars about all the hacks Marcus is able to implement.  I understand that these explanations are quite relevant to move the plot along, but it feels like a text book about cryptography and network hacking dropped in between a pretty intense story.

That's why I gave the book three stars over at Goodreads.  The story was good, but it was bogged down by a few too many detailed explanations.  I suppose that's Little Brother's version of TNG's technobabble.  Still, despite these small problems, I thought the book had a lot of neat ideas and presented a fairly convincing picture of what our society might look like five to ten years in the future.

Just a few notes about Little Brother: As if the title wasn't a dead giveaway, Doctorow drew plenty of influences for this story from George Orwell's classic 1984...If you read this book and are interested in making any of the cool things Doctorow mentions, check out this page: http://www.instructables.com/member/w1n5t0n/...There are a couple of afterwords at the end of the book by Andrew Huang and Bruce Schneier, some pretty big names in the field of hacking and security...Doctorow included a very comprehensive bibliography with some interesting reading material and various links; well worth checking out if this book gives you big ideas...Speaking of interesting reading material, one work that specifically sticks out from that bibliography is Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, surely a compelling read...And lastly, this book contains several references to some pretty cool historic events that ocurred in San Fransisco and of the people that made up the counterculture; definitely worth checking out that rich history.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

His Girl Friday (1940)

I have a 5-minute review of this coming up in my next podcast, but I felt in the mood to actually update a review blog I set up months ago.

I wrote a haiku about it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Piracy

I haven't written here in a while; so why not write about a controversial topic? I don't think anything is as controversial these days as piracy - the "scourge of the Internet". I don't know if that's an actual quote from somebody, but let's pretend that it is.

To clarify, I'm thinking of a specific branch of piracy.  I don't believe that music piracy - as rampant as it likely still is - is a hot-button issue anymore.  To put it simply, people are finding ways to legally support artists they like (something music fans have always said they are willing to do) in models that now work.  There's also a lot of music available legally for free online if you know where to look (and it's not hard to trip over all of it).  I'm not thinking of the piracy of films either - I think the movie industry has done a much "better" job locking down their content.

My target today is book piracy - specifically, e-books.  I don't think anyone can make their morning commute on the bus without seeing at least five people reading from their various e-readers.  They're everywhere, and have exploded probably a lot faster than the publishing industry ever anticipated (mostly thanks to the Amazon Kindle). Blah blah blah - this is old hat now in 2011.  Long story short: we now have the same technology that was introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation: the PADD.  Moving along...

Wait, can I back-pedal for a second and point out that this isn't going to have any kind of reference to statistics?  This is largely an anecdotal piece.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, e-book piracy.  I'm indifferent to e-book piracy - that is to say, it's a gray area for me.  Would I download an epub version of a book I don't own?  Probably not (unless we're talking books by Cory Doctorow, which are freely given away); I consider that to be piracy.  But if I get an e-reader (which I might quite soon), what if I want to read one of the books I already own on my shelf?  I really don't think I should have to buy it in another format if I already have it on my shelf.

I suppose it's the same argument as music - if you own the CD, why re-buy it as an mp3?  But the difference there is that it's really trivial to put a disc in a CD tray, and rip the music to your computer's library.  Not so easy with books, unfortunately.

And, books are one of those things that friends and family usually give to us (or lend).  If I'm given a physical book to read, is it still piracy to download an ebook format if I don't feel like lugging around a physical copy?  That's a tough one, and the answer is both yes and no.  Probably I should read the physical version.

Anyway, I really don't know where I stand on this, as you can tell from this wishy-washy post.  Originally I was going to include some statistics on book piracy but I got lazy.  So uh...hooray for e-readers?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Caprica S01E02 - "Rebirth"

It took me a long time to actually start writing this review; mostly, that's because I have no idea where to start - this episode didn't stick with me mentally like an episode of Battlestar Galactica might have in the past. I find myself needing to re-watch the episode in order to get a better grasp on what's going on in this series. However, I've also decided that I'm not going to do that, because I don't really have any interest in going back and re-watching it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Brief Thoughts: "Caprica" Pilot, Doctor Who S06E09 "Night Terrors", + Cover Me Canada

I watched a bunch of things over the weekend and got a ton accomplished at home, so I'll condense it all into a few brief thoughts.  Word of warning, there are potentially some spoilers happening below. Here's a little jump in case anyone with spoilerphobia comes across this in a google search or something.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Search for Sp- I mean a New Computer

Alas, the time has come to retire my Acer Aspire Laptop (circa 2006); not that there is really anything wrong with it (it's survived being rained on - twice at least, several different liquids, up to and including milk, spilled over the keyboard, dropped, banged around...it's been abused, to put it mildly).  I mean, the wi-fi adaptor doesn't work anymore for some reason (the driver is corrupted?), but I have an external adaptor for that.

It quite capably runs Windows XP, but the slower hardware is starting to show its age.  I can't even watch Doctor Who over at http://www.spacecast.com/, because the video is too choppy!  And then there's also the sound recording/editing that I like to do - well, unfortunately the poor bugger suffers a little there, too.

I would add more RAM, but I can't seem to find any that's compatible with my specific laptop.  And I can't be bothered trying to put in a new Hard Drive - too much work!  So the solution is: buy a new laptop to last me another 5 years (if not longer).

The only thing is that I have no idea where to start.  All I know about what I want is this:
- Plenty of HD space - 500GB seems to be the average, but anything over 320GB for me is gravy...I have a lot less than that right now between my two computers
- Ample RAM.  I don't know what qualifies as ample though - consider the most I have right now is 512MB. Is 2GB okay?
- Should run Windows 7 (though I think that is standard these days, right?)
- Graphics / screen size are not a big concern. Basically I want a screen that is fairly large but I don't need the Largest Honkin' Screen On The Market
- Oh yeah, the important one: I don't want to spend too much money.

It seems that everywhere I've looked - for laptops at least - when you start paying less money, you also get less HD space and RAM.  I don't know where I can find something that sacrifices other things in place of HD space and memory.

I need help.  Does anyone want to help?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Wonderful World of MP3 Players

At the risk of letting you all in on my personal life from ten years ago, I am linking to a review of an MP3 player I had a few years ago: the Creative Zen 8GB MP3 Player.  I'm doing so for a small handful of reasons:
1) I thought that was a pretty darn good review of an electronic device, and I liked the way it sounded when I read it over again
2) It reminded me how much I liked the device (until it died and I switched it for an iPod Touch)
    2b) It reminded me that if I knew then that I could try importing a new "OS" onto the MP3 player, I might have an extremely useful MP3 player instead of having thrown it out in Sudbury.  Woops.

Anyway, that's not to say I don't love my iPod Touch (I do, by the way) - but it's just a reminder that there are a TON of MP3 players on the market that go several worlds beyond what the iPod is capable of.  Well, that's if you're counting only the audio/video playback, and not including the App Store.  Because in that case, Apple kind of wins quite handily.

But, it's something I should consider if/when my iPod ever dies on me and I need a new device.  I plan on getting a better Blackberry, so the whole touch screen aspect of the iPod may not be necessesary.  But then again, Apple does make some fine devices.

Oh, the wonderful world of MP3 Players...such a joy to navigate.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Musing - Using Fairy Tales to Craft New Stories

You may or may not be aware that I am an avid podcast subscriber.  More often than not, I can be found at work listening to a podcast on my iPod Touch rather than a specific album (although, I also often listen to new artists to post about over at Alternative Airwaves - but that's serving to discredit my intro here).  I listen to both music podcasts, and spoken word podcasts.  One of those spoken word programmes is Writing Excuses.

tl;dr: Writing Excuses is basically a panel of writers offering tips and advice to aspiring writers and is short and sweet and informative.  Check it out if you're at all interested.

In their most recent episode, "6.10 Scott Card's M.I.C.E. Quotient", they use the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff as a base to provide fun examples of the M.I.C.E. Quotient.  No, I won't describe the MICE Quotient, you'll have to listen to the episode (and seriously, it's only 15 minutes, so it won't take that long to dive into).  The result was a fairly entertaining series of stories based on a simple fairy tale, and a neat writing prompt to go with it:

"Apply the M.I.C.E. quotient to Red Riding Hood, and write at least one page of story per element."

One of the elements the panel espoused about using fairy tales was that once you have your basic story established, change everything.  Maybe instead of a Wolf, we're dealing with a slimy, green, oozing mess with teeth.  The point is, you start with something familiar, and you create something unfamiliar from it.
This is not an unfamiliar process - Hollywood has done this plenty of times, using various sources of inspiration to give us things like Easy A10 Things I Hate About You, and She's The Man*.  Granted, those are fairly blatant adaptations and don't try to hide the source material.  What Writing Excuses suggests is not to adapt a familiar work, but to use the building blocks provided to make something new.  (I feel redundant, suddenly.)

I feel like this is a Good Idea, and something I'm willing to do, or at least try.  However, I think you can only do this so many times before somebody is going to start recognizing some similarities between your "original" stories and fairy tales.  Of course, I'm not suggesting on using this "technique" as a means of cheating your way into a creative work.  The requirement to build a comprehensive set of characters and a unique world is still there - you're just borrowing basic story structure.

I think it's worth trying out for a few stories; my specific idea in this case is to try my best to mask the original fairy tale and make a game out of it.  Can you identify the story I've used as a base?  This would be sort of a challenge to see how creative you can get to make a new story, while retaining just enough of the source material to allow readers to make an educated guess.  The goal is to fool, but give them just enough that someone paying close attention can identify the building blocks.

This is something I'll have to work on come September.

Oh, on a related note, through all of this I found a book I'd really like to read: Snow White, Blood Red.  And I really think I'm going to have to pull out all my mythology books and borrow some good old Joseph Campbell from the library.


* - I was thinking about going with O Brother, Where Art Thou? but I wasn't sure if that was really a blatant adaptation of The Odyssey - however, it does support my idea of taking a source material and drastically changing it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

I've been anticipating this movie for quite some time - not because I'm particularly excited about the Harry Potter franchise (though it is a fascinating piece of work), but because it provides ultimate closure to the series (no matter what JK Rowling has to say about it).  I had some expectations, based both on what I saw of the previous movie and what I read in the book.  I don't think I need to address everything I feel about the movie, but I will do my best to give you a comprehensive overview of what I thought of the movie - both its strengths and weaknesses.

WARNING! If you have a particular allergic reaction to the phenomenon known as SPOILERS you should probably stop reading this until you've seen the movie - or read the book - because I'm not going to hold back on specific details.  I will, however, provide a page break in case you're just glancing at the main page.  Also, I apologize for the length of this.  I'm sure you'll understand the need for an epic review.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Transporter Not Starring Jason Statham

I finally did a daily prompt and actually wrote something today.  Here's the prompt:

Prompt for Monday, July 25 2011:In whatever style/genre you like, spend at least 15 minutes writing something based on the following sentence:
A team of North American scientists have announced what they claim is the biggest technological break-through of the 21st century: they have created the first teleportation device capable of transporting organic matter from one point to another.

And here's what I came up with (after the break)

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Non-Screened Review of Friends With Benefits (2011)

Disclaimer: I have not seen, nor do I intend to see, Friends With Benefits - the new movie starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis due out today.  This review is based on what I have gleaned from the trailers.

Here is the synopsis, from IMDB:
While trying to avoid the clich├ęs of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.

If you were wondering at all why I do not intend to see this movie, your answer is in that synopsis.  It's telling me everything I need to know about this movie.  And then this trailer fills in the rest.  Before I continue, does any of this premise seem familiar at all?

Allow me to present some evidence:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Disappointment - With a Positive Outlook


Picture shamelessly stolen from Lifehacker
The Machine of Death Volume 2 Submission Deadline has come and gone (it was 00:00:00 July 16th 2011).  Unfortunately, I did not manage to get anything put together for a submission - that's the disappointment part of this post.  I would have loved to put something into contention to get included in a really cool anthology, but I just didn't find the time to put into writing it (and I am purposefully distinguishing "finding time" and "having no time").

So what's with the positive outlook?  Despite my disappointing results with writing so far (I haven't even been doing daily prompts, as was my intention), I still feel like I'm being creative and productive.  And that's despite being in the process of taking my house apart in advance of a September 1st move.  Here's why I feel so creative:
  • In the last week and a half, I've written a review of Titanic II, as well as an off-the-cuff piece about Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero.  I really liked how both pieces came out.
  • I feel like Alternative Airwaves is going in a good direction; I'm on a bit of a haphazard posting schedule for the summer (in part due to the move), but I'm doing my best to stay on top of things and pump out what I think is a unique take on the music I'm linking to
  • I actually feel motivated to write & produce new content; while I haven't actually done that as yet, this can only be a Good Thing.  Actually, this blog post really is a result of feeling motivated - I just felt like writing something.
tl;dr: I'm really itching to write about anything.  I should take this as a sign that I should practice my music writing skills (that is, writing about music, not writing music) and also find new things to write about on a more regular basis.  I've said a long time ago that non-fiction writing seems to be my bread and butter, and right now I really want to do more of it.  Time to get busy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Titanic II (2010)

In 2012, the 100th anniversary of the disaster of the original Titanic, the Titanic II sets sail from New York to Southampton, UK to recreate the historic voyage - minus the sinking, they hope.  Meanwhile, a really big iceberg starts breaking apart, and a really, really big piece causes massive tsunamis - which push an ice field (and a lot of waves) towards the mid-Atlantic...right in the path of Titanic II!  Can the people aboard the poorly-thought out named ship avoid the disaster that occurred 100 years ago?

Spoilers, ho!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hobbit: A Possibly Spoiler-y Review

I changed my mind about reviewing The Hobbit.  More specifically, I was convinced by my buddy Zach to write a big spoiler-y review of the book.  Well, this probably won't live up to his expectations, but I'll do my best.

Before I begin, how about some news about the upcoming films?

A brief recap of the book: Bilbo is a Hobbit who really just likes to stay in his Hobbit-Hole and stick his thumb out to the world.  Gandalf pays him a visit, and Bilbo is really rude and tells him to piss off.  Gandalf has other plans, and leaves some markings on Bilbo's front door - markings that actually end up calling a party of thirteen dwarves to Bilbo's home for An Unexpected Party, which also leads to An Unexpected Journey - to recover stolen treasure from Smaug the Dragon, who lives in the Lonely Mountain beyond Mirkwood.

Deep breath - that was a bit of a mouthful.  Okay, continuing: along the way Bilbo and his friends run into several small bothers (including but not limited to Trolls, Goblins, weird elves, and Smaug himself.  Also, Bilbo just happens to find a magic ring that makes everything a heck of a lot easier for him.  He plays a riddle game with Gollum, which is probably about the most interesting part of the book.  Oh wait, I'm still summing it up.

Anyway, Bilbo has a long talk with Smaug, and discovers his weak spot - which is relayed to the men in Lake-Town (or whatever it's called), and Smaug ends up getting killed by the men.  They're not too happy with the Dwarves, because in the process, their entire village was destroyed.  So they march off to the Lonely Mountain with the intent of taking some sweet, sweet treasure.  Eventually the Goblins and their giant wolves (called "Wargs" here) come to kill everyone and there is a giant battle involving Five Armies.  Bilbo falls unconcious and does nothing of real consequence, and wakes up when it's all over so he can go back home.

As I was reading, I had heard about the Battle of the Five Armies, and was assuming it would be a Pretty Big Deal once I got to it.  But in the same sense that Bilbo barely aided in the defeat of Smaug, all he did was get knocked on the head and wake up.  The battle occurred without his help or hinderance.  Which leads to me saying that the riddle game with Gollum in the Goblin caves was probably the most interesting part of the book.

It was okay, and at least now I see where Peter Jackson is going to fill all his time in the movies.  Obviously, the Battle of the Five Armies will take up most of the second film; but also there's mention of the White Council in the end of the book (really, it's one sentence), and you can bet they'll expand upon that.  I think they could easily condense this book into 1 three-hour film, instead of two three-hour films.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Hobbit

I'm currently reading The Hobbit (75% completed, according to Goodreads.com), a book I was concerned I might not be able to get through considering previous experiences with Tolkein.  Considering the fact that I am 75% of the way through, I'd say that those concerns have long been waylaid.  Though I'm still not overly fond of Tolkein's writing style, it's a little easier to read than I remember Fellowship of the Ring.

I'm not going to do a full review when I'm finished, but I just wanted to do a quick post about the upcoming movies (coming out as An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again in 2012 and 2013, respectively).

How the heck do you split this book into two movies?  It boggles my mind.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Network (1976)

A few weeks ago, the boys at Filmspotting.net did a special show about Sidney Lumet's films.  This prompted me to see what movies I could find at the library, and one of them was Network.  I'd heard about this film a few times, and only recently realized it's where the "I'm as mad as hell" speech comes from.  I was quite excited to finally see this movie.

Some first impressions: the DVD case (I got a 30-year special edition from the library) boasts how "frighteningly, hilariously prophetic" this movie was in 1976.  Right away, I tried to make an effort while watching the movie to completely ignore that quote.  I find that when there are sensational quotes like that, they're usually exaggerated (what a shocking insight!).

For the most part, my initial thoughts were correct - I'd hardly call this a prophetic movie (especially since it seemed to be reflecting the times as they were - so in other words, things have simply continued along the same path).  However, there were some lines that were just bang on and could easily describe the state of the world today; for instance, take this line from Howard Beale: "Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube!"

If you understand the Internet to be a series of tubes, well, then, sure, this was a very prophetic film.  Moving along, I think my favourite scene in the movie was Ned Beatty's speech to Howard Beale.  It was just beautifully shot, and the lines were awesome - especially the parallel to an earlier scene in the movie.

I think that's also what was great about this movie: it was all just a bunch of big speeches delivered impeccibly.  And the characters were brilliant, especially Diane, the PD.  She was as she was described by Max - "You're television incarnate, Diana ..."

Loved the movie.  So, am I the last person on Earth to realize that the basic structure of Anchorman was largely based on Network?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

This next sentence is probably more enjoyable to you, the reader, if you imagine it spoken the way I do; that is, as if I were in a drunken stupor of some sort.

I have a lot of things to say about On Stranger Tides.

Okay, don't read the rest of this review in that same voice; I am catagorically sober for this review (and for the movie).  Since there be spoilers in these waters, I will hide them from the main page behind a handy little page break.  Maybe read some of the review in a pirate voice.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Star Wars: Death Star Review

So I finished Star Wars: Death Star last weekend.  The book was okay - it had its moments, but ultimately feels like a novelty item, so to speak.  The characters were fun enough, but not exactly what I'd hoped.  And the writing wasn't the greatest - there was a lot of repetition going on, mostly to reinforce themes and ideas, but it came across to me more as, "Okay, I know what you're saying - you've said it five times now, maybe you could move the story along?"

It was things like the Death Star gunner questioning his morals before/after pulling the trigger on Alderaan.  It seemed like I was reading the same passage several different times across five different chapters.  I don't want to give it away, but if you read it, you'll know what I mean.

Anyway, I was entertained, but slightly disappointed; my expectations going in was that this was a book comprised of short stories.  That's not what I got, but I only feel half-cheated.

It's a fun enough read, so I'm not going to say "don't read it"; instead, I'll just say that if you don't read it, you're not missing out on anything important.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's the point?

I've been doing some more thinking about my creative processes; this has all been spurned on by my attempts to come up with a submission to Machine of Death Volume 2.  Basically, at what point do you stop kidding yourself and stop trying to be a creative fiction writer?

I have the work ethic to maintain a decent blog, and occasional guest posts on another, but that seems to be the extent of the writing that comes relatively effortlessly.  I am usually pleased with the outcome of my "articles", but often I find myself questioning my writing when it comes to fiction.  I know this is "normal", but I find it hard to come up with original ideas and actually see them through to the end.

So, do I tell myself, "stick to what you can actually do" and stop trying to write fiction?  No, I don't think so.  I'm stubborn.  What I SHOULD do is go back to the basics.  Stop trying to write anything complicated and just write.  You know, this post is actually sounding a lot like one I just wrote a few weeks ago.

But sometimes I need to express these thoughts over and over so that they sink in.  I still plan on putting together a submission for Machine of Death 2, but it's going to be something simple and manageable.  I will be disappointed if it doesn't make the cut for published stories (there are already AT LEAST 30 submissions after all), but I will nevertheless hope for the best.

Wish me luck!  Oh, and if you're a writer reading this: submit something to MOD2.  I'm really looking forward to what everyone comes up with for round 2.

Monday, April 25, 2011

NHL 2004 Rebuilt

Before the long weekend, I stumbled across an online community dedicated to - and I mean this literally - rebuilding the PC version of NHL 2004.  I spent most of the weekend installing it and getting it ready to go on my laptop.

First, a little history.  NHL 2004 is widely regarded as one of the best iterations of the popular EA Sports franchise.  I believe NHL 2011 has overtaken that assessment as far as console gaming is concerned, but since EA Sports no longer produces NHL series products for the PC, NHL 2004 remains, in many gamers eyes, the best NHL game on the PC.

One of the really awesome parts of having a game on the PC is the ability to modify just about every facet of the game, from uniforms to game menus, as well as music/sounds.  I remember doing this with NHL 99 when that game was still current.

People have done that with NHL 2004, replacing just about everything they can: rink graphics, jerseys, player faces, coach models, statistics, rosters (rosters are up to date as of the trade deadline of this year), game clocks (CBC, TSN, ESPN, etc.), and in-game menus.  It's ridiculous how much they've been able to do, and how well-done it is.

Anyway, I really recommend it if you have a copy of NHL 2004 handy for the PC.  It's amazingly fun.  Oh, and because I'm an idiot and didn't mention what the site is called: it's called NHL04 Rebuilt, fittingly enough.

While we're on the sports topic, I just thought I'd mention that I'm going to be doing some off and on writing on The Blue Jays Luddite, a new Blue Jays blog started up by my brother.  Expect a little bit of cross-promotion from time to time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just some thoughts.

I haven't posted in a while (that BSG finale was just too amazing, really), so I thought I would just make an entry without any real purpose beyond expressing some thoughts.

It might be a rather lengthy entry so I thought I'd put it all under a page break thingie.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BSG S04E20 - Daybreak, Pt 2

The Opera House was a metaphor for the Galactica.  Of course!

Wow, what can I say other than this was a brilliant episode?  The siege on the Cylon colony was thrilling; honestly, with the way this series goes, it was impossible to tell who might survive.  Yes, we know there are top-billing cast members, but we've seen before that none of them are really safe.  And who knew Lee had such dreamy hair?

The scene where the Galactica jumped into the Cylon colony, with the Cylon guns pumping the old girl to bits.  It was a pretty powerful scene!  No pun intended.

And as I alluded to earlier, it's fitting that the Opera House was only a representation of Galactica itself.  And that it all ends up coming down to Baltar realizing his destiny that he's been struggling to discover since the beginning.  This episode is, basically, one giant catharsis.  I am satisfied.

And for the record, I haven't even finished watching the episode at this point.  I'm typing live.  There's still another 45 minutes or so to go; even without the answers, I'm happy with this ending.


Ugh!  Except for the frakking chief!  He always messes things up.  Although I understand, I mean, Tory (is that how you spell her name?) did blast his wife out of the airlock.  I never liked her character anyway.  Okay, going to stop typing until the episode is completely done.

Okay.  Still not quite over, but I'm pretty satisfied with the ending, still.  A little sad, actually.

Well, I don't know if I'm going to end up watching Caprica.  I want to, but we'll see if I get around to it.  I am looking forward to the new series, Blood and Chrome, however.  It should be a good one!

Cheers, Galactica; you had a good run.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BSG S04E19 - Daybreak, Pt 1

Battlestar Galactica has never failed to let me down.  And I even mean those times where I didn't like where the show was going, and the episodes were really preachy, or nothing happened in them (see: Islanded in a Stream of Stars).  BSG just goes and ramps things up another notch, and delivers a killer episode.

Caprica (Before the fall)
"Daybreak" is no exception.  While not much happened in this episode, it didn't happen in style.  If you know what I mean.  This was purely a character development episode - yes, that's right, the second last episode was developing characters.  We got to see some of the heroes (and the not-quite-heroes) in their original element as the episode opened with scenes from Caprica, likely only a few weeks (or months?) before the Cylons attacked.  We got to see what drove the characters before it was all about simply surviving.

Other than that, it was another pure setup episode.  No answers yet, but I am hoping we get those in the next episode (which is really sort of two episodes, as it's a two-hour long finale).  And it seems like BSG is ending the series on a strong note, going back to one of its core strengths from the early seasons: the impossible mission.

They have to go rescue Hera, in what is likely to be a suicide mission.  Galactica's last hurrah, I suppose.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode, even though it was just meant to set up the last part.  Like I said, it was really cool seeing the characters pre-war, worrying about things like Baltar's dad stabbing nurses (yes, this happened!).  Oh, and it was great to see Lee back in his Colonial uniform at the end.  'Bout time he ditched the suit, as good a story line as that is (or was).

Bring on part two...although bring it on when I have two hours to spare, please.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

BSG S04E18 - Islanded in a Stream of Stars

Alas, poor Galactica. I knew her, Saul!
I know I'm almost at the end of the series, because this episode was pure set-up.  Nothing actually happened in the episode itself except to set the stage for the finale.  We learned a couple of things, but nothing of importance.  The episode was just filler, the show runners giving us just a taste of things but delaying the final answers.  If you haven't figured it out by now, I didn't really like the episode.

Well, I liked parts of it.  I liked that Kara finally came to terms with the fact that she really DID die and come back - and that it was confirmed in the same episode that she's not a Cylon.  Unfortunately, the best answer we get as to what she is was that she's an Angel - which I don't think is the case; there's a larger, better answer coming up in the finale, but again, this is just a tease to set it up.

I think that's why I didn't like the episode.  Everything was just so blatantly prepared for the finale.  We learn that Sam, while hooked up as a Hybrid, controls the Galactica's systems (AND its FTL drive) because of the Cylon technology.  So they unhook him; but then guess what!  Kara hooks him back up at the end; of course she doesn't know that it's possible he can make the Galactica jump into FTL.  She just wants answers.

And of course Adama just decided to evacuate the Galactica moments before Sam is reconnected.  It's all a little too perfect, at least for my liking.  I don't know what I would prefer though, because you do need to set things up somehow.  I think I would have preferred something a little more subtle, maybe?

Maybe something more like what Doctor Who manages: insert a tiny clue early, and then completely blow your mind when it becomes evident how important that clue really is.  Yeah, I think BSG is a little short on mind blowing than its earlier seasons.

Still, looking forward to the last two episodes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Doctor Who - The Eleventh Hour

When do I ever write about Doctor Who?  Not nearly enough times is always the correct answer to that question.  Over the weekend I finally watched the first episode of the Eleventh Doctor (also known as Matt Smith, the 26-year-old wonder child), appropriately titled The Eleventh Hour

I think I am what you might call a "casual" Doctor Who fan, in that I really like the show, but haven't thus far gone out of my way to make sure I've seen every episode.

I've really wanted for a long time to watch all of the David Tennant Who shows, but never got around it.  Thankfully, Mark Watches went and did that for me, and gave me a general gist of what went on over four seasons in marvelous style.  So now, while I don't have an exact history of what went on during the 10th Doctor's run, I have a brief history.

Before I continue, please allow me this brief digression concerning "my" doctor.  Fans of Doctor Who will often tell you who "their" Doctor is - that is, the Doctor they identify with the most and like the best (which is the really cool thing about different actors bringing in different angles to the same character).  For a long time, I always thought I liked Christopher Eccleston the best; he was my first introduction to the character.  And then I got to know David Tennant's Doctor, but I still preferred Eccleston.  I guess you could say, Eccleston was MY Doctor.

I'll just say that after seeing only ONE episode with Matt Smith, I can say with certainty that he is my Doctor now.  There's more to it than just his personality - the production values on his run are through the roof.  I like high production quality.  A lot.  But it really does say a lot about the actor and the team behind the show when one episode wins me over.

Either that, or it says I'm really fickle about my Who actors.  Either answer is probably true in a way.

Back to The Eleventh Hour.  I really liked this episode on a number of levels; mainly though, I appreciated how it acted as an introduction to new viewers, while at the same time giving a nod to existing fans that have been following the show for years.  It establishes rather quickly that this is a Brand New Doctor, and things are going to be a ltitle different.  It says, "Sure, you loved David Tennant.  But you're really gonna love Matt Smith.  Just look at his bowtie.  C'mon, look at it and tell me you don't love it."

You know what else I loved?  It showcased the Doctor's ability to think on his feet and solve a problem without his trusted tools (namely, the TARDIS and his sonic screwdriver).  Without spoiling anything, he had twenty minutes to save the world even though he was still adjusting to a new body.  Fantastic fast-paced action in this one.  In fact, the 'Prisoner Zero' plot wasn't even the central focus - that was just a nice McGuffin.  It was all about introducing us to the New Doctor and his new companion.

Anyway, I will very likely end up waiting until this season is on DVD before watching more, but this season looks extremely promising.

Friday, March 25, 2011

You know what I miss?

I miss:
being a part of things like Mulder & Scully's Bogus Journey (thank-you very much Wayback Machine)
the long-defunct star wars rpg the Bounty Hunters' Guild

in short: being a part of a like-minded community.  Sure, I'm a member of a few forums here and there but they are largely non-specific beyond one common thing (i.e. Notebook in Hand's common theme is Creativity - but that is a very broad connecting theme.  Not complaining a lot, mind you, it's a fun community!).  However I don't think there's anything out there right now that I can jump into.  No fandom that I'd like to join.

Perhaps though, that might change if I can be on the ground floor of that Blood & Chrome series comes out, I can get into that.  Although to be honest, I'd rather it be something like a new Star Trek or Star Wars series, or something.  As much as I like the Battlestar Galactica franchise, it feels like something with a concrete end, rather than something open* like those other two franchises (or even Stargate - and I tried and horribly failed to get into THAT community when Universe was launching).

I really didn't have a grand point to make in this post, except that I think my lack of a community to participate in amongst peers is leading me to try and fill that void by becoming Internet-Famous; I'm constantly trying to think of cool ideas to pull off after seeing something particularly neat that someone else has done.  And then I remember I need actual artistic skills to become "Internet-Famous".  I'd much prefer being the second kind of "Internet-Famous":

Obscure around the globe, but at least well-liked by members of a like-minded community.  Is that so much to ask?


* Pardon my stealing of your trademark asterisks, Sarah, but you touched on this very topic a while ago so I thought it was fitting.  I can't find it, but I assure any outside readers that it exists in some form on http://srkriger.com/.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Android on the iPod Touch?

I was browsing a forum sometime last week (this forum: Notebook In Hand) and there was a topic about iPhone / iPod Touch owners.  I mentioned that I had an iPod Touch "1G", and that while I was looking for an upgrade, it was still serving me quite well.

That triggered a response of "Well you should jailbreak it!  AND install Android!"

Wait, what?  Android on an iPod Touch?  What a crazy world!  It turns out that it's fairly simple to do this, so last weekend, I fiddled around with my iPod, and, lo and behold...


Now don't get me wrong - this is not a very functional version of Android.  It doesn't make calls, but it does connect to wifi perfectly fine and you can browse the web, etc.  But it's slow.  Way slower than the iOS.  And it overheats and causes the iPod to shut down. 

But it does one thing very well: it gives me the opportunity to play around with Android in a way that's sort of similar to using a tablet.  And it's not permanent, as I can switch back to iOS very easily.

And it ALSO speaks to my penchant for doing geeky things with my devices, like installing Android on a platform not designed for it.  Woohoo!

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Irrational Hatred of Kevin J. Anderson

The first time I was introduced to the work of Kevin J. Anderson was also the first time I read a lengthy novel, which was ALSO the first time I ventured into the extended Star Wars universe.  The book was Dark Apprentice, the second book of the Jedi Academy trilogy (I think I picked the second book because of the cover).  At the time I think I enjoyed the book, but mostly because it was a book about the Star Wars universe that I so loved growing up.  I should point out that I was fairly young when I read this book.

Since reading that book, I eventually acquired a taste for what I liked in books, movies, anything with a plot, etc.  I later read Anderson's next Star Wars book, Darksabre.  It was that book that really gave me the whole "I hate Kevin J. Anderson" point of view; I really didn't like the story in that book, nor what he did with the characters.  Going back to Dark Apprentice, I realized I didn't like what happened there, either, especially when compared to a fantastic trilogy like Thrawn trilogy Timothy Zahn put out earlier (which I must re-read).

I've always said - "I hate Kevin J. Anderson.  I don't like his stories."  I now realize that I'm being completely unfair to the man.  I've only read two of his major novels, and a small handful of his Young Adult Star Wars books (which are actually pretty good for kids books).  I've never read anything else by him.  Who's to say that he's not actually a good writer outside of the Star Wars universe?

I recently both read and heard him state how hard he works as an author.  He did the math, and figured that the average writer might take 1 full year to complete a novel.  He is able to do that in 5 weeks (and I believe him - do you know how many novels he's written??).  It's given me a new respect for Kevin J. Anderson.

Mind you, that doesn't mean I'm going to rush out and buy his stuff.  But I am more likely to consider reading his books now that I don't irrationally hate him.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bloggable Topics

Last night, I finished a complete draft of my nefarious "Pocket Watch" story!  And in actuality, it's not about a pocket watch anymore.  It's quite different.  It's also quite weak - but the point is that the story is on paper (well, computer) and just needs some editing.

Some other stuff:
  • I finally got a hold of the last three episodes of Battlestar Galactica - look for some reviews, probably around March
  • I finished watching Dexter!  I didn't know the last season was only 12 episodes.
  • I have a review to type up of that Star Wars book that I finished less than a month ago
  • I have some things to say about Kevin J. Anderson
  • Currently I am reading John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars and am enjoying it.
So look for all that and more coming this month on my blog.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Movie Reviews...

So once upon a time I ran this movie review blog called Quick & Dirty Movie Reviews.  I had fun putting it together, and apparently it has over 13 thousand all-time hits, if I believe the stats.  Of course, most of those hits are from porn-related search results, with the most popular being "Anita Briem's nipples" (which is in response to search results for this post).  There wasn't actually anything "dirty" about the site, but I wrote it in a different voice than what I usually do.

The other fun part was that there was nothing serious about it whatsoever.  Most of the time I wrote what I truly thought about a film, distilled from wordiness and right to the point - plus some sort of joke that seemed witty to me at the time of writing it.  Other times I exaggerated what I thought about certain films, which was fun too.

The point of this post: I've been feeling restless creatively.  A lot of it has to do with that short story anthology I'm trying to complete (I'm getting frustrated - love the story concepts, but not my execution), but the other bits of it is that I've realized (yet again) that I have more fun writing "quasi non-fiction".  I call it quasi non-fiction because while I am expressing my personal opinions, I am doing so through a specific character, and not really as myself.

Boy am I long-winded.  So I think I'm going to pick this up again, but this time I'm going to use Tumblr.  I don't know if there are any mechanisms in existence to transfer a Wordpress Blog to Tumblr, but if not then I will just start from scratch.  Because there is no way I'm re-typing all of those reviews.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dexter - Season 5 ep 8

Just updating my progress for season 5 of Dexter; I just stopped watching episode 8, and so far I'm finding that the season is largely dealing with consequences - but not necessarily just to Dexter's actions.

I like how everything is intertwining with each other while it still doesn't really feel like everybody is fighting one "big bad" like the earlier seasons.

And lastly: Peter Weller is awesome. That's probably not something that should be much of a surprise, but he is really making the most of his small screen time.
--
Stephen Gower (from my Blackberry)

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Challenge

I'm still working on that pesky short story anthology - hopefully by the time this is published, I'll have everything assembled and will just be in the process of turning it into a readable ebook.  However, I decided that I don't want to be stuck in an uncreative period - I want to keep turning out new stuff.  With that in mind, I've thought up a new challenge for myself.

It doesn't have an official name or anything like that, but it's fairly simple: write 15,000 words in a month.  That works out to 500 words in 30 days, assuming I pick a month with 30 days.  So it'll be 15,500 if I pick a 31-day month.  That sounds simple enough, but probably a little too simple.  So I've come up with a few rules.

1) I can't have any "cheat" days - I must write at least 500 words every day.  In other words, I can't write 1,000 words in one day and take the next day off.  Extra words are bonus.
2) I can't start a new story idea until the current idea is finished.  Sure, writing isn't exactly the most linear endeavour out there, but I think it would be easier for me to come out of this challenge with something concrete if I make sure I have finished products at the end of it.
3) If I meet my monthly goal early, I don't stop.
4) No editing until the end of the month.  This will not be fun later on when I decide I want to do something with these stories.

Just a further note to number 2 - this doesn't mean that if I start writing a novel I have to finish this novel before moving on.  Not quite.  I am going to go on the assumption that I am just writing short fiction (or non-fiction, depending on the day I guess).  Honestly I don't feel like I have the time to commit to creating a full-length novel.

I'm not sure when I'm doing this but I know for sure it's not going to be March.  I wouldn't be surprised if I start this in April.

*** EDIT - Not quite done the anthology.  BUT I have made headway.  Also I have until June something in order to get the CreateSpace reader copy, so I have a little time.  But things are coming together.  Promise.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick Reviews

I recently read a couple of short stories, so I thought I'd give my thoughts on them.

First up, is Hunter, by Wil Wheaton.  I've obviously written about this story a short while ago, but unfortunately I couldn't read it the minute I downloaded it because I couldn't figure out how to get the story onto my Blackberry's e-reader app.  Thankfully I remembered that I have Stanza on my iPod Touch, and I reconfigured the settings on that thing and had the most amazing small-screen e-book experience in a long time.

Anyway, the story was good.  It starts off with a character in his element: a bounty hunter, I suppose you could call him, chasing prey in a futuristic world ruled by a mysterious alien race.  Mysterious only because we know very little about them other than that they are invaders.  And they invaded Earth.

The story quickly reveals that this hunter really ISN'T in his element, and, well - I don't want to spoil it, but his world does get flip-turned upside-down.  A very brief glimpse into a possible future by Wheaton, and it was good.  I want more.  So I give "Hunter" an A+.

Second story: I, Robot by Cory Doctorow.  This story originally appeared in a short story collection, so I'm not exactly sure how I downloaded JUST "I, Robot" and not that particular collection - but I did.  I started reading it a LONG time ago; it was sort of just something to fill time.  Unfortunately, I got a bit bored of it at the time because I didn't know where it was going.  Determined to finish it though, I opened it up again in Stanza and I remembered where I left off.

The story starts out simply enough: an experienced Detective in Toronto is on the chase for his daughter, who disappears following an explosion in a mall.  It's a futuristic world along the lines of the classic sci-fi novelists, so some of the descriptions might seem "familiar".  For instance, references to Eurasia and the Social Harmony remind me immediately of 1984 - but it's fairly apparent that this is a completely different world (which is a good thing).

I wasn't getting why it was titled "I, Robot" until the payoff at the very end.  I thought that was well-done.  However, for losing me a little at the beginning (I thought I was given a little too much information to handle), I'm going to have to give Cory a B+ on this one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Just Go With It (2011)

For Valentine's Day, Vanessa and I decided we'd do dinner and a movie.  Picking a movie yesterday was pretty hard, because there wasn't anything out that really jumped out and interested us.  I mean, there was True Grit, but we wouldn't have made it to the theatre in time to see it.  We ended up narrowing it down to two choices: The King's Speech, or Just Go With It.  In a shocking move that will surprise anyone who hasn't read the title of this review, we chose Just Go With It, an Adam Sandler / Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  Gee, I feel like a professional reviewer already!

If you're not familiar with the movie, here's the basic premise: a guy tries to get a girl to date him by pretending to be married to his office assistant.  And they go to Hawaii for some reason (it actually is a funny and somewhat believable reason in the movie, so I won't spoil it.  Not yet anyway.).  Shakespearean hilarity ensues.

To clarify, this isn't based on any Shakespeare play of any kind; I just mean that there's technically disguises and hidden identities and what not going on in this movie, so in a way it's basically based on every Shakespeare comedy out there.  Moving on to the one important bit of the review: I liked the movie, and laughed.  It hit the right points and avoided the typical low Adam Sandler humour you'd find in something like 50 First Dates or Happy Gilmore.  Let us rejoice: Rob Schneider was NOT in this movie.

The movie established some "rules" for the story pretty quickly: Sandler's character had his heart broken in the 80s, and quickly discovered a way to sleaze his way into any woman's bed.  He became unlimitly (is that a word?) rich, and throws money where he wants - BUT, he recognizes that rich people stay rich because they don't just give money to people.  It kind of gets questions like "well how can he afford to just go to Hawaii on a whim?" out of the way so that the story can take over.

Without spoiling anything I can tell you that Sandler of course ends up with Jennifer Aniston's character - that's the trope that's at play in this movie.  There's no question from the start of the film that they're going to end up together; I mean it's pretty much spelled out in the trailer, because we've all seen movies like this before.  But the strength of the movie are the subtle one-liners (and the not-so-subtle jokes too), and the kids.  The kids are really good in this movie.

Other features included a pretty funny-if-not-disturbing cameo appearance by Kevin Nealon, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from Heidi Montag.  It's fitting that she appears in a movie where the main character is a plastic surgeon - and also good that she appears to have a sense of humour about herself.  I assume, anyway.

I definitely recommend this one over No Strings Attached.  I didn't see No Strings Attached, but watch the trailer of both movies - I am fairly certain you'll be able to tell which one is the one to see.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wil Wheaton is (maybe) my muse

I think what got me excited about the whole aspect of self-publishing and getting something out there was always Wil Wheaton (yes, THAT Wil Wheaton) and his attitude about the Internet and just putting things out there because we can.  So of course leave it to Wil to inspire me AGAIN to get back to working on my writing project.

He's just released a new sci-fi short story (which I will read & review when I get the chance) called Hunter.  It's a pay-what-you-want type of release, meaning you can download it to your heart's content and pay nothing, or you can spread the good karma and donate.  This story is DRM-free in multiple formats, so you can do whatever you want with it - up to and including sharing it with others.

I'm currently struggling to figure out how I can load it onto my Blackberry Kobo app, but sadly I think that app is pretty well locked down.  I have a PDF saved on my Dropbox (sorry, not in my public folder - I donated to the Wil Wheaton fund to get my copy of Hunter), so I think I can at least read the PDF on my phone.

I personally donated $1.00, based on this little bit from the page for Hunter:
If I sold it to a magazine, I'd probably get around $125 or so (assuming I could get the SFWA professional rate of five cents a word. I figure that at least 125 people will want to read this, so if all of them donated a dollar, I'd feel really good about this, and I'd be able to do it again in the future.
Essentially, I've taken my fair share of free stuff from the web and I want to start giving something back.  In this case, it's a small donation for a short story.  I've since heard that people are donating $2.00 on average, but $1.00 is still a respectable contribution.

tl;dr - this is making me want to release my short story compilation as a pay-what-you-want thing.  I was considering it anyway, but this has finalized that decision.

New Story

I put up a new story on ficly.com - you can take a look at it here:
http://ficly.com/stories/23804

It's an idea I had a long time ago, and until now didn't think to write it as a ficly piece.  I've got another linky-type post coming up later.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Movie Review: ALIENS (!)

Just thought I'd start my review before the movie. Can't say enough how excited I am!

Okay so just finished the movie. Gotta say seeing it on the big screen was great! There were some special effects that looked worse on the big screen than on my small TV, but it was well worth it.

So I guess I'm really just reviewing the experience of seeing a favourite movie on the big screen. It was sort of like finally seeing Star Wars in 1997, except without the special edition part - just a crisp digital print.

Very cool.
--
"And that was DEFINITELY the most interesting part of my day!"

Stephen Gower

Aliens!!!

I'm going to see Aliens this afternoon.  On the big screen.  In a movie theatre.  I am really excited!  See, Cineplex is doing this "Digital Film Festival" thing where they're showing older movies for low, low prices.  So you can get the chance to see, for the first time, movies like Alien/Aliens, Back to the Future, and The Goonies on the big screen.

I am going to write an immediate review of the experience after I finish seeing it.  I've seen Aliens before, but never on a screen larger than 27 inches.  I would like to see Back to the Future on the big screen, but I don't think I'll get the chance.  I'm sure it'll come up another time!

PS I've been watching Dexter season 5 and have a few things to say about it, but I think I'm going to try and collect my thoughts (based on memory, the most exact, 100% helpful tool in existence. *cough*) and review the whole season as a follow-up to my season opener review.  All I can say right now is that I am impressed, but also annoyed in parts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Roommate

I haven't seen this new movie coming out, nor do I intend on watching it.  However, I keep hearing audio previews on the Local Radio Station and this one thought keeps popping into my head.

Let me start by offering a brief synopsis of The Roommate, courtesy of Wikipedia:
A college freshman, Sara (Minka Kelly), is randomly assigned to a dorm with a girl named Rebecca (Leighton Meester). They start off as friends, but things turn deadly as Rebecca begins to obsess over Sara's life, including her friends and family.
A few things not mentioned here that pop up in all of the previews: the movie seems to be about Rebecca's attempts to take over Sara's identity.  I have no doubt that is probably NOT a central plot point in this movie, but regardless it is what caused the wheels in my head to spin.

Obviously the idea is that Rebecca wants to become Sara for some reason or another.  My thought was that instead of just obsessing to the point of stalkerish and law-breaking, what if Rebecca was really some sort of monster and was literally becoming Sara?  She has some sort of monster magic and/or voodoo that erases her from existence, and assumes her new identity as Sara - ready to consume her next victim later on.

I guess my idea is sort of that Rebecca is some kind of creature that preys on other living beings and constantly changes identity to keep a low profile or whatever.  I don't know.  I just think that my idea is probably a lot more interesting than what the movie will turn out to be.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

So, How About That Short Story Anthology?

I've been working more on my other blog lately - Alternative Airwaves - and have really come to neglect this one.  I feel bad, but then again when I started this one I neglected the other one, so it's sort of evened out.  I hope eventually the forces of entropy (is that a thing that applies here?) combine to lead to me keeping BOTH blogs updated on a regular basis.

Anyway.  An update on my poor short story anthology.  I say poor, because it's suffering.  I've barely worked on it at all, especially the lead story for which the anthology is named.  I have started writing a few other stories here and there that are pushing out the stories of inferior quality, so that's a good thing.  I'm still aiming to have all my stories written & collected by February 20th, so that means I'll likely buckle down and do some last minute writing / editing in the few weeks to come.

Other writing stuff: I have two episodes of Battlestar Galactica left to review; the thing is, I only have one of those episodes downloaded, and I can't get it to load properly on my computer.  I'm working on that.  I hope to get it and Caprica done before the new series, Blood and Chrome, airs.  I'm not sure when that's airing, but I think they only JUST released casting info, so I'm not sure they've even started filming.

That's it for now - go read Alternative Airwaves! ;)

Friday, January 21, 2011

eBook Review: His Robot Girlfriend

eBooks are definitely on the rise - and most authors out there will actually tell you eBooks have risen and are the top of the publishing game - so I decided I'd try out an eBook reader.  Chapters (or Indigo or whatever they want to be called) is backing the Kobo, which from their marketing I suspect they're trying to say it's Canada's answer to the Kindle.  I haven't read many comparisons, but from the sounds of things it's at least decent.  I tried out the Kobo app for both the iPod Touch / iPhone and for my Blackberry.  For a small screen, the apps do a very good job of making the books readable.

I snapped up a bunch of free titles, a mixture of classics and some free sci-fi fare.  One of the titles I downloaded was His Robot Girlfriend by Wesley Allison.  It's a very short piece, more of a novella than anything else.  To be honest, I wasn't really impressed by the book; it would be unfair to say I hated it, but I do have some criticisms.  I'm going to at least try to be fair in this review.

First, I recognized from the start that it seemed like Allison put some decent effort into world-building for this novel.  He definitely has a vision of what a possible future might look like, with vueTees and texTees replacing Televisions and books / computers / anything electronic.  He does a fairly good job of establishing a world that is at the same time different from what we know today, but believable in development.

My biggest problem with the book though is not his attemps at setting up the future world his characters must explore.  It's the writing as a whole.  Allison describes every little detail - such unimportant things as what the main character, Mike, does when he wakes up.  And then repeats it every time he wakes up in the novel.  Actually, it felt like reading an un-edited National Novel Writing Month book: there just seemed to be a lot of mundane activities going on in this novel to contribute to some word count that didn't really allow me to get into the story.

And that, too was a problem - there wasn't really much of a story.  As good as his efforts were to create a unique vision of the future, he fell flat in the story-telling department and as I was reading, I generally felt unsatisfied with the number of themes left unexplored.  What probably should have been the main story - the robot girlfriend company trying to pull off a massive identity theft scam - was relegated to the sidelines and dealt with in just two pages.  Instead, Allison focused on the romance between Mike and his titular girlfriend; that would be okay, except it wasn't even much of a romance.

It really just seemed like the main character, Mike, was a pseudonym for Wesley Alison, and this story was just an elaborate sexual fantasy (oh yes, there was quiet a bit of robot-on-guy sex in this ebook).

Like I said I was impressed enough with the level of thought Allison must have put into this beforehand, but disappointed in the execution.  That seems to be the general consensus among other reviews I've read online - great concept, poor delivery.

Anyway, it is free, so you get what you pay for in this case.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ottawa Senators 2010-2011

Since I don't run a sports blog, it's hard to justify writing my opinion about the Senators.  However, this does count as a piece of writing, and it's practice, so I'm doing it here.

I think everyone can agree that this season is toast.  Ottawa is not going to make the playoffs (barring a miracle), and even if they did, they would likely get swept.  Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this - you can't win every season in sports.  The problem this year is that the team is losing horribly.  They're not even making a game of it.  When I see them play live, I would like to be able to watch an interesting game, but this team is not even capable of doing that.

So what's the problem?  Do the players just not care anymore?  Is it the coach?  The GM?  Unfortunately, the answer is likely "all of the above".  I think it's time that the organization moves on after this year with a new look. Both Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston's contracts are done at the end of the year, so that makes it easier to get a new GM for the team.  Not that I'm entirely upset with what Murray's done - he's brought in a great player in Erik Karlsson, as well as other young dynamic players - but I think he's just about at the end of his rope in Ottawa.  At least as a GM - if he stays on as a scout, that wouldn't be so bad.

The only players I really want to see here next year are Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson.  Other than that, everyone is fair game.  Up until this year I probably could be accused of being sentimental for the likes of Chris Phillips or Mike Fisher or Chris Neil, but it's clear that this team needs a new face.  There are some young players down in the AHL that will come up to replace some expiring contracts, and then the rest should be traded.

It would be really nice if next year, for the 2012 All-Star game, for Ottawa to be a competitive team; however I don't think that is really going to happen.  I would at least like to see a young, fresh team that shows signs of promise.  I can wait for a couple of years for another chance at the Stanley Cup; just give me a team that shows that they WANT to play.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

I got this book for Christmas, and it's probably the first new Star Wars book I've read since I stopped reading the New Jedi Order series.  I was kind of getting tired of the whole "the universe is doomed we're killing everybody" tone that the books were taking.  I don't know when they moved on, but we're now 43 years after A New Hope.  I'll get to that timeline bit in a minute.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a short review series of the book.  In part one (this post), I take a quick look at the production quality put into the book and my first impressions.  Part two will be after I hit the mid-point of the novel, and part three will be my final impressions upon finishing it.  On we go...

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex: Episode I: First Impressions


Come on, I had to go with the "Episode" route for this.  Surely you saw it coming?

Vortex is written by Troy Denning, who is no stranger to the Star Wars novel universe.  Including this novel, he's written 18 Star Wars titles, which includes 10 novels, 2 eBooks, 2 short stories, and a few gaming-related stories.  Like many other SW authors, he's also got a lot of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels under his belt.  So I think it's safe to say that Denning knows what he's doing with a typewriter.  Specifically to Star Wars though, most of the stuff he's written has been set in the new universe (and I mean like 20+ years after Return of the Jedi), with a few set around the time of the novels written in the mid-90s.  This sounds confusing but what I'm trying to get at is that Denning is part of the "new blood" SW authors.

Onto the book itself; it starts off with a very detailed timeline of Star Wars novels.  This also doubles as a shopping list of books I want to buy now.  As I mentioned before, Vortex is set 43 years after A New Hope.  Assuming Luke is 18 in ANH, that makes him 61 now.  Or roughly what I assume Obi Wan Kenobi is in ANH.  Why is this important?  You'll see...

The book also follows the X-Wing series' example and includes a dramatis personae at the beginning.  It is very useful, especially to somebody who hasn't read a Star Wars book in quite some time.  Even though it just gives you the most basic information available, it helps paint a little picture of who is doing what in a universe that is still somewhat familiar, but very different.

The book itself has high production value: cool little graphics at the start of each chapter.  It's very easy to read.  The type is apparently called "Galliard" - see the write-up from the book here.  Actually, I thought that was also a neat inclusion, something that you don't often see.

OKAY now we can get to the story.  We start off with an excellent hook: Lando Calrissian (yessss) and Jaina Solo (daughter of Leia and Han) are floating in an old rustbucket of a ship - in the wrong system.  Aiming to arrive at Coruscant, they instead show up near Kessel.  Somebody has impersonated Lando's voice to redirect their flight path and generally disable their ship.  Who would do that?  Why would they do that?  I don't know, but it's a great scene to start off and Denning has painted a pretty neat picture of the old ship.

AND, in just 14 pages, I've been given the makings of a cool story as well as given some back story.  Holy carp - Jaina had to kill her own brother???  Because he turned to the dark side???  That is just nuts, and I'm sort of glad that I didn't have to read - God, I think it's at least 20 books - to get that information.

Oh yeah, and Lando must be what - in his 70s?  80s?  Let's remember, Han and Lando were at least 5-10 years older than Luke.  Let's be generous and say he's in his 70s.  I do want to point out a nice scene where Jaina remarks that Lando hasn't taken the time to dye his hair.  Hard to explain but I thought it was funny anyway.

That's as far as I've got so far - 14 pages.  But I am enjoying it; high-paced action to start the story mixed with some "here's-what-happened-for-those-of-you-who-don't-read-star-wars" fluff in the background.