Saturday, September 1, 2012

My All-Time Movies List

For some reason, I found myself thinking about the movies I watched over and over as a kid; the movies that, no matter how many times I'd seen them, I could always pop in when I was bored.  These are the movies that I watched when I was sick; when I was home all summer; on weekends.  These are the movies that I want my kids (when I have them) to watch as they grow up.

The movies aren't in any particular order - I just listed them as they came to mind.  Most of these movies were recorded from TV, and were watched complete with glorious '80s commercials.

Back to the Future
What can I say about this movie?  What can I say about any of them?  As kids, we watched this from a VHS tape, recorded from some TV channel I can't remember.  I should point out that I'm referring primarily to the first movie, not the entire trilogy.  We never had Part II or III on tape, but we watched the hell out of the first one.  It's an easy plot for a kid to wrap his head around.

The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
The unfortunate thing about this trilogy is that I'm unlikely to ever find copies of the original, unedited versions (without going on eBay finding the DVD copies that were released a few years ago with the original theatrical versions) in high definition, because this is how I grew up watching them.  I think that I would definitely want to show my kids these versions, and I'll do my best to make sure that happens.  I think there's a lot to be said for using physical special effects instead of computer generated crap.

The Karate Kid Part I and II
This one's a funny one for me; I remember watching both of these movies quite a bit - mostly the first one - but I really prefer the second one.  The problem is, our copy of the second one got messed up in the recording.  Oh well!

This is an obscure one, and I've never seen it available in any media ever, anywhere, except our one VHS tape that we recorded from TV.  There are probably a dozen movies by the same name, but in this case I'm talking about the 1987 made-for-TV film starring Candice Cameron Bure.  Yes, starring DJ from Full House.  I think the only other bigger stars in that movie were Colleen Dewhurst and Joseph Maher.  Have you even heard of them?  Yeah, exactly.  Okay, actually, the father, James Sloyan, appeared in a few Star Trek episodes (TNG, DS9, Voyager), so there's at least one "famous" character actor in it too.  Look, it's a great movie, and you should watch it.

The Great Muppet Caper + A Muppet Family Christmas
I think my favourite of these two is The Great Muppet Caper, but both are excellent films (the latter is made-for-TV I think) that showcase The Muppets at the height of their amazing-ness.  While last year's The Muppets was great, I don't think it can ever top The Great Muppet Caper - even though it may have matched  it in tone at least.

Another of the great '80s films, I probably watched this one just as much as the Star Wars movies.

I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting, and likely will come to mind after I hit "Publish".  But if I only remember these movies, that's still one pretty great list to show my kids.  There's only one modern movie I can think of that I would add to this list - and it's Moneyball.  It seems like a strange choice, but I just finished watching it for the umpteenth time, and I'll likely watch it again and again.  It's become one of those movies, like those listed above.

I didn't really have much of a point to this post, just stuff I wanted to share.  Got any movies that you watched over and over in your childhood?  I'd be interested to see what any '90s kids watched too.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Fight Club Ruined by Spoilers?

Please note that this post will have spoilers in it - and even though I'm talking about a movie that is more than a decade old, this probably still matters to somebody out there.

Okay, that's out of the way; I can get on with this quasi-review.  This week, I both read and watched Fight Club for the first time.  I'd seen the first 20 minutes of Fight Club when I was in High School, but never finished the movie.  I'm sure most of my readers have seen this shirt before*, so it should come as no surprise that I knew of the major twist at the end of the movie.

My question then is: did knowing this spoiler ruin the movie for me?  For that matter, do spoilers in general ruin stories at all?

First, I think I should mention that while I read the book before watching the film, I'm going to concentrate on talking about the film - most people haven't read the book anyway, I assume.  I should also assert that the simple fact of knowing that the narrator is Tyler Durden DID colour my viewing experience.

While I was watching, I was looking for all the clues that point to Ed Norton really being Tyler Durden.  You know what?  There are a lot of clues, starting with one of the opening lines: "I know this, because Tyler knows this."  There's also an almost throw-away scene on a city bus where a passenger knocks into Norton, and not Tyler.  All the references to sleep - the narrator never knows if he's awake or asleep; Tyler disappearing when Marla shows up; the subtle camera angles when both Tyler and Nortn are supposedly in the same room that only shows one or the other.**

These clues are fairly subtle, and I'm not sure that I would have noticed all of them had I not known the big secret at the end.  These are clues that I would have definitely picked up on during a second viewing of the movie.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the film, I don't think I would watch it again.  In a way, this was my second viewing.

In this instance - just this particular case - I believe the spoiler did ruin the movie for me.  But not because of someone else telling me the secret; I would have only watched it a second time anyway, no more.  What may have been ruined was the whole "my mind is blown" moment, but I'm not too concerned about that.  I can tell you what wasn't ruined: how I enjoyed the film.

Yes, the joy of discovering the truth about Tyler Durden was taken away from me, but instead I had fun picking out those "Aha!" moments that I mentioned earlier.  You know what?  I probably even missed more than what I mentioned, and could find more on a second viewing.  So to answer my initial question, Fight Club was NOT ruined for me because I knew the story's secret.

But what about in general - are stories really ruined by spoilers?  Most of the time a spoiler is just one small tidbit of information, and in no way affects the rest of it.  I knew that Snape Kills Dumbledore, but I didn't know the Snape was the Half-Blood Prince (sorry).  While I'm not presenting very much evidence in support of my theory, I think my stance here is fairly obvious.  Spoilers don't ruin anything beyond a brief surprise at the end of it all.

* I'm not a fan of the wording of "Tyler Durden isn't real".  While it gets the point across, I'd very much argue that Tyler Durden is very, very real in Fight Club.

** I really appreciated the way these clues were pulled off.  Also the fact that the writers/director didn't feel it necessary to go back to each instance and hit us over the head with it, as many other entries into pop culture dealing with an imaginary person do (*cough*Dexter*cough*).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I was going to write out a whole review of The Dark Knight Rises.  I had even started writing it out in a notebook (I got to two and a half pages, and still wasn't finished).  But here's the problem.  Since seeing it last Tuesday, I've called into question my opinions of the film.  And no, not because I've listened to reviews of it that disagree with my initial grade (I thought it was the best of the trilogy immediately after watching it), but because I went back and watched the first two Nolan!Batman films - and that's when my opinion changed.

Call it revisionist history; I always felt that The Dark Knight felt like a really long movie, like they stiched two different stories together.  Don't get me wrong - I really liked The Dark Knight, but I felt that it had too many flaws to be really a "great" movie or "greatest movie of all time".

This is why I felt that The Dark Knight Rises was a superior movie.  It proceeded along the plot in a timely manner, and didn't feel too long (despite being actually longer in length).  But then, as I said - I re-watched The Dark Knight recently, and I saw it in a different light.  It didn't feel as before that Nolan was stitching together two stories (that of The Joker and Two-Face).  It felt like a fairly cohesive story that worked quite well.

So all that's really changed is my opinion on which movie is better - and that is, The Dark Knight is better.  That's not to say that The Dark Knight Rises is a poor movie - on the contrary, it's very good.  I think I enjoyed Bane as a villain more than The Joker.  However, I enjoyed The Joker as a character more than Bane.  It's quite an interesting dilemma.

Suffice it to say, if you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises, you should.  I also urge you to NOT compare it to The Dark Knight if you hold it up on a pedestal.  In all likelihood it's in your best interests to avoid watching either Batman Begins or The Dark Knight before watching Rises.  Trust me, it stands very well on its own (despite its flaws).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Dexter Season 6 (Spoilers)

I recently caught up with season 6 of Dexter, which has been over and done with for quite a while now (I believe they're gearing up for season 7, the first of the final two seasons).  If you're not familiar with Dexter, here's the basic premise: Dexter is a serial killer who works for Miami Metro Homicide as a Blood Spatter Analyst.  Oh, he only kills those he deems to be "bad".  Season six deals largely with a couple of religious fanatics who believe they are bringing about the end of the world by re-enacting scenes from the Book of Revelation (and also killing people).  It also deals with some other things, but that's the spoiler-free version.


More specifically, season six also explores Dexter's spirituality.  As in, does he have any beliefs beyond his Dark Passenger?  This is something with which he struggles for the first half of the season, until he comes to a decision and the matter is abruptly dropped.  This is where I was slightly disappointed with the season - but we'll get to that.

I suppose I should dive into some specifics.  The season starts with Dexter trying to get his son into some prestigious school that just happens to be Catholic.  This launches the question: What does Dexter believe in?  Dexter at first determines that it's not important for him - but he needs to let his son, Harrison, decide for himself.  Enter Brother Sam (played brilliantly by Mos).  Brother Sam is a formerly violent man, who did the time he was sentenced and came out a religious, reformed person.

Sam challenges Dexter to accept that there is a light within him, that it's not all about his Dark Passenger.  Dexter *almost* buys into this, until Sam is torn away from his life by someone he trusted, and Dexter reacts on impulse and kills in revenge.  He then goes on a trip to Nebraska, where he faces temptation - and gives in a couple of times - but ultimately returns to his own "light" and sticks to the Code that has always steered him in the right direction (well, right for Dexter at any rate).

I suppose this is what amounts to the highlight of the season for me - this attempt to figure out the balance between "Good" and "Evil".  No doubt, the writers present Dexter as "Good", and Gellar and Travis ('s just Travis, in a reveal straight out of Psycho.  More on that later.) are "Evil".  But they go a little deeper and try to give Dexter some layers - and they were succeeding, right up until the moment Brother Sam dies.

I've never been a big fan of Dexter's interactions with his "Father", and Season 6 brought this to a whole new level.  When Dexter kills Nick (who murdered Sam) out of revenge, Dexter's brother returns and acts as temptation for him - and he goes through with some pretty impulse-based killings.  Dexter ends up realizing that he doesn't want to do that, and returns to familiar territory.  Where am I going with this?  Oh yes-  this was basically your standard Angel on one shoulder, and Devil on the other.  It was slightly silly, even if it did serve to illustrate the twist in the next episode.

What was that twist?  We're originally presented with the premise that there are two killers, played by Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks.  It's revealed that Olmos has been dead for years, and all along it's been Hanks.  He was seeing visions of Olmos, just like Dexter sees his Father.  It's at this point in the reveal that everything goes downhill for the season.

Basically it's a race against the clock to find Travis (Hanks), and the final episode is Dexter's usual "Damsel in Distress" - except in this case it's Harrison in Distress.  I suppose the story has to be resolved somehow, but look at how they ended season 4 - I thought that was done quite well.  Instead we get this.  At least they did end with Deb witnessing Dexter kill...we're left to wonder what the heck is going to happen with that in the next two seasons (which are going to be one big arc, according to the producers).

I'm starting to ramble now, so I do want to get to a some observations before I forget.

Number one - I really am creeped out by the whole Debra being in love with Dexter thing.  While technically, it's okay - they're only adopted brother and sister - it's actually how she comes to realize it that makes it strange.  She sees a therapist, who plants the idea into her head (and can someone tell me why Deb can't just be a loving sister for having Dexter in her life, and not be in love with him?), and she just accepts it. To me, it feels like she was manipulated into feeling that way.  It's just creepy.

Number two - I always felt that in every season, Angel's character was sort of like Tyrol in Battlestar Galactica.  He's the character that always Does Something Stupid to mess everything up.  It seems like Angel made some better choices this season...except for once, and it was such a weird moment that seemed both in character and out of character at the same time.  He smokes up with Quinn in his car - and while that seems like something he would do in the past, his character's decisions so far in season 6 negate this.  But at the same time, Quinn is the one making Stupid Decisions this season.  It's easy to see how he might influence Batista.

Number three - Lewis (or is it Louis?).  This seems like a creepy guy - I'm not sure what his angle is, and I'm interested.  I'd like to see where his character is going to go, and why he mailed the prosthetic limb from season 1 to Dexter - and what the markings on the hand mean.

Overall, I thought season 6 was pretty good, but it had some low points.  There are only two more seasons left, so I'm already on board for those.  Hope it's a good ride!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 Priorities Revisited

It's been a while since I wrote here.  As a short explanation: I've been busy.  I haven't read as much online or watched as many movies.  My time is starting to free up though - but I don't have time to do the things I wanted to.  What better time to revisit my New Year's "Priorities", 7 months into the year?

1) Weight Loss
      - I'm currently hovering around 276-280.  Weight loss hasn't gone the way I wanted, but it's getting there.  I'm attempting a new thing with biking (because I really can't do 30km a day, 5 days a week) though, which is to bike part of the way and hop on the bus the rest.  It's working out decently...let's just leave it there.

2) Writing
     - Not going so well here either.  Not a big deal, I'm not worried about it.  I was doing some movie reviews, but as I said, I ran out of time and haven't been able to do as many.  I hope to get some more written up here though.  I still need to go through all of those DVDs.

3) Sorting out leisure time vs work time
     - I've done a pretty good job here, I think.  I rarely play video games, and have actually added a second podcast.  It's called Futurama Pedia, and I record it with my friend Mike.  It's pretty good!  Check it out on iTunes - we only have two episodes so far, with one coming that I am in the process of editing.

4) Be better with money
     - No better, no worse here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ShoStoWriMo - Week 2

Well that was a bust.  Didn't get anything done.  My goal this week is to try writing a scene as a story rather than what I traditionally call a story.  That probably makes sense to no-one but me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Short Story Writing Month: Week 1

A while back - not sure when exactly - I pondered the idea of doing a short story writing month.  Well, I decided to do it this month, with the basic rules being that no matter what state the story is in, it gets posted in a public place immediately following the end of the week (i.e., post last week's story today).

Well, I failed spectacularly in the first week.  I started with good intentions, but things got in the way (read: the Excuse Monster came for a visit).  I did manage to write something, though:

"I winced as I watched the events unfold on the monitor to my side."

Yeah, seriously, that's it.  So, lacking an actual story, I thought I might talk about what was supposed to come out of that sentence (which, I can admit, is actually not that great on its own).

I had a few ideas; my first idea, and one I don't think I'm going to run with anymore, was going to be a superhero story told from the villain's point of view.  I don't think I had any specific direction beyond that, aside from attempting to garner sympathy for the "villain".

The next idea, when I was going to just try and finish the story in a hurry, was that of a museum security guard who encounters ghosts of some sort at night.  I'm not too great at writing "horror" or suspense, but I might have had a little fun with that.

So, back to the drawing board, as they say.  My goal this week is to at least get a coherent story written.  I'm not going to overthink it, but rather I'm going to find a writing prompt somewhere and just run wild and see what I get.  Who knows, I might like it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Black Sheep

So the reason why I didn't immediately post my review of Black Sheep was because I got invited on to do movie reviews over at  I decided to throw that review (and use any future movie reviews) over there.

You can read it here:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DVD Survivor: An Introduction

Alright, so in my last post I mentioned my concept of "DVD Survivor", wherein I have a list of DVDs that are teetering on the chopping block, and I watch them to determine whether or not they stay on the shelf.  Simple, right?  In Part 1, I will not only list all of the movies I'll be watching, but also do the first review.  Everything is listed in alphabetical order, which is also how I will be watching the films.

The List
  1. Black Sheep* (1996)
  2. Ed Wood (1994)
  3. Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
  4. Hero (2002)
  5. The Last Samurai (2003)
  6. Lost in Translation (2003)
  7. Saw II (2005)
  8. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
  9. Syriana (2005)
  10. Taxi Driver* (1976)
Some quick stats: Oldest movie: Taxi Driver (1976); Newest movie: Good Night and Good Luck / Syriana (2005). Percentage of movies with George Clooney in them: 20% (tied with 'Movies with Bill Murray in them).
* - Denotes a movie I haven't watched yet

Well, this should be interesting.  The first review up is 1996's Black Sheep (not to be confused with 2006's film about zombie New Zealand sheep)!

My original plan was to actually put the review here on the blog.  I've watched it, and written it, but for some currently secret reasons I am holding it back.  So how about we play a little game?  Let's go through the list and see which I think I'll Dump or Keep.  Even though I've watched Black Sheep, I can still give you my initial opinion when I first made the list.
  1. Black Sheep* (1996) - DUMP
  2. Ed Wood (1994) - KEEP
  3. Good Night and Good Luck (2005) - KEEP
  4. Hero (2002) - DUMP
  5. The Last Samurai (2003) - KEEP
  6. Lost in Translation (2003) - KEEP
  7. Saw II (2005) - DUMP
  8. Shaolin Soccer (2001) - DUMP
  9. Syriana (2005) - KEEP
  10. Taxi Driver* (1976) - KEEP
So, we shall see in the coming weeks/months!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Problem With Being Creative

Here's the thing.  There are currently a lot of things going on in my head creatively, and I find I am thinking about them constantly.  This is both a blessing and a curse (and not one of those cool superhero curse type of things); on the one hand, this is way better than being in a creative funk where you can't think of anything.

On the other hand, I feel sometimes that I've put too much on my plate.  There's so much that I'm trying to do, when I probably should be doing One Thing, and putting my focus on that.  Ostensibly, that One Thing should be my Podcast, but I think I should be trying to relegate that back into hobby territory.*

I don't mind that I'm working on several things at once.  What I would prefer is to set aside specific times in the week where I can just switch this on, rather than be thinking about it all the time and become frustrated when I can't do anything about it, or have no time to work on it.  Also, I have a lot of things going on at work right now, and I probably should be focusing on that, you know?  Instead, I am writing a random blog post to eat up some time at work.

Once again this comes back to time management.  I think I made that a resolution at the start of the year?  I'm not sure.  In any case I'm not going to re-visit my resolutions until June.  In the meantime, I plan on watching the first DVD of my "DVD Survivor" series soon...I just need to find some time in my week to do it.

* - This will help in my feelings of "wow this is not nearly as good as it could/should be" re: the Podcast.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DVD Survivor, Baseball, + Other Creative Stuff

Today's post isn't really meant to be thought-provoking, unless it provokes the thought of "why does he think we care?"  Anyway it's another "update" post of things I'm working on / will be working on.  Or you may want to call it, "Things I'm Writing That Aren't Actually Stories".  Or "This is What I Write Instead of Fiction".

DVD Survivor
I'm not actually working on this yet, but it's an idea I had while (of course) on my lunch time stroll around the block at work.  The basic premise is this: I have a bunch of DVDs that I bought a long time ago; in most cases these were movies I hadn't seen before, and rather than rent them, I bought them.  In most cases, I probably ended up liking the movie; but in some, I haven't watched since.

We recently got an HDTV; even more recently, a Blu-Ray player.  I'm going to want to be buying some new movies - some as replacements for movies I already own on DVD (Star Wars, Back to the Future, and a few others).  Obviously those DVD copies will be out the door once they're replaced.  But we'll also be picking up new copies of Blu-Ray movies we don't own, and we really don't want to run out of space.  This is where we get to "DVD Survivor".

This isn't going to be something where I pit inanimate objects on Britannia Beach or something.  "Survivor" is just a catchy name to me.  I will watch each movie that is on the chopping block, and decide on each viewing whether to keep or toss said movie.  I don't have a full list of what movies I'll be watching, but I can tell you it includes Hero(2002), The Last Samurai(2003), Lost in Translation(2003), Taxi Driver(1976), Good Night and Good Luck(2005), and Syriana(2005).  I can tell you I can picture myself keeping at least three of those movies (I won't tell you which!).  And of that list, there is only ONE which I haven't even watched yet.

I don't know when I'm starting this, but I do know these things: 1) It will be soon 2) I will be watching the movies in alphabetical order.

Oh, baseball.  The pre-season matchups kick off next month as teams across the league try to figure out how their roster will shape up for the 2012 season while pretending that they're really not enjoying the beautiful weather in Arizona and Florida.

I am a "regular" writer at my brother's Blue Jays blog, Blue Jays Luddite.  Well, I was "regular" last year, but I think I'm going to make an effort to give him some more contributions.  So if you like baseball, or at the very least want to read about the Blue Jays, be sure to keep an eye out next month for what's sure to be exciting training camp stories.

Other Creative Stuff
I think I've been letting all of this stuff take over my work on Alternative Airwaves, but I feel like it's okay.  At the moment I don't feel overwhelmed, so I'm going to take that as a good thing.  You see, it wasn't too long ago I was complaining about wanting to do something creative but not knowing what to do.  I won't take it as a bad thing that now I have tons of ideas and they're all flowing.

I think the favourite thing I'm doing right now is my page-by-page review of Planet X, a Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men crossover novel written in 1998.  I found it in Value Village, and I had to buy it.  You can read it over at  I have a friend, Xyloart, who is doing the illustrations.  And they are awesome; probably way better than my writing.

Speaking of Alternative Airwaves, as I said I've been stagnating a little.  I'm coming up to the 50th episode (that'll be in May), and I'd like to put a bit more work into it to get it sounding really great.  We'll see what I can come up with, but mostly the work will involve putting more time into finding music than anything else.  Too often lately I've been picking music last-minute and only from 1 or 2 sources.  Something I need to work on.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Dark Mirror

I finished this book a week ago (just in time to get Win Tie or Wrangle from the library), and I meant to write a review immediately after.  But then I forgot.  Woopsie!

Here are the basics: the USS Enterprise D, while exploring a really boring area of space in the outer reaches of the galaxy, gets pulled (sucked?) into the Mirror Universe.  If you're unfamiliar with the Mirror Universe at all, it would behoove you to do some reading before continuing on with this review.

To be honest, if you want to enjoy this book, be prepared to do a lot of waiting.  The beginning of the book takes a long time to get going, talking about nigh-uncomprehensible things like "hyperstrings" and some dolphin-like alien which makes very little sense whatsoever.  Seriously, Diane Duane, why not pick an alien species we're more familiar with?  All I could picture from the descriptions was a super-happy dolphin floating around in a space suit with robotic arms.  The scenes without him were much better.

Once we get into the meat of the story - which, to me, is when Picard beams over to the Mirror!Enterprise and help LaForge and Troi with their mission (which is to get them out of the mirror universe).  Once we get to this point, the plot moves around at a very good pace and the action is fun.  And then, where the novel should have ended, we get a chapter of the crew enjoying some sort of opera on the holodeck.  Uh...maybe that would work as a coda in the TV show, but it is utterly boring here (and I skipped it outright).

I only have two main beefs with this book.
1) The characterization seems a little off.  They talk completely different from how they would in the TV series.  This brought me out of the story a couple of times.*
2) The Mirror Universe is the same as we saw in the TOS episode Mirror, Mirror.  This is a beef for me, because the extrapolation of the MU's history seen in the Deep Space Nine episode Crossover is much more believable than what we get here.**

Other than that, I felt that the characters' actions were much more realistic than what we see on the TV show.  It feels like they're actually military officers (sorry, explorers) operating aboard a very complex starship.  I don't know how to describe it, but I guess it doesn't really feel like these guys are on the bridge 100% of the time.  Don't you find it odd in the TV show that we see the same bridge crew every episode?***

Anyway, it was an interesting enough read.  Three out of Five stars.  ALSO!  This ties in directly to a new creative project I'm working on.  Head over to for more details!

* - Granted, their personalities were almost bang-on for all the characters.  They just didn't talk properly.
** - I will grant that perhaps the mirror universe we see in this novel is a branch of the mirror universe we've seen on TV - where in this particular universe, Spock's efforts to bring civility to humans doesn't work and they remain as they were.  I think I'll take that explanation over the fact that they're the same universe as on TV.
*** - I think both TNG and Voyager have attempted to address this; the only episode that comes in mind is Data's Day and I think there's one episode on Voyager that puts Ensign Kim in command of the night watch or something. 

Friday, February 3, 2012


You may or may not have heard of this new show on Fox from producer J.J. Abrahms called "Alcatraz"; if not, here's the premise: in March 1963, 300+ inmates and guards disappeared without a trace; now, in 2012, they're coming back.  And committing their original crimes on top of doing some mysterious dirty work for some higher power.

I've watched three episodes now (well, technically four since the pilot episode was really the first two episodes back-to-back), and I think that's enough to form an initial opinion.  I think I need to wait until I've absorbed the entire first season before putting together any official "review" of some kind, but here are some brief thoughts about the show so far:
  • It's essentially a police procedural show, except it's got paranormal overtones and is funny
  • Sam Neill
  • I like fiction that takes historical events and puts a new spin on them, and I am a little excited for something as cool as Alcatraz
  • No really, Alcatraz was this prison on an island that was next to impossible to escape from.  Can you think of a cooler premise for a TV show of this nature?
  • Sam Neill
  • They're spending equal time in 1960 and 2012.  They're giving us a lot of backstory on the criminals that the team is chasing down, and there has to be a reason for that - but what's the reason?
  • This show has paranormal overtones - or does it?  Maybe time travel is involved?  That's not paranormal in my books.
  • Sam Neill
I highly recommend this show - and I never watched Lost, so I'm not saying that you should watch this show based on that last show.  I hear though that the guy who plays Doctor Soto played a guy named Hurley in Lost, and maybe some people might like that?

You can watch Alcatraz Monday nights at 9PM EST on Fox, or be like me and watch it on CITY TV in Canada.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Novel I will be reading through a web browser

The famous (infamous?) Ryan North linked to this tumblr:

I can't imagine this project being anything other than awesome, and I will be following along.  Oh and this is actually written by Ryan North so it should be fun to read in that respect.

That is all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

ShoStoWriMo and other things

Just thought I'd make a new blog entry, since I've apparently been doing one a week or so thus far this year.  I think?  Anyway why not keep up with that trend?

An idea I thought of earlier this week was to do something I call, "ShoStoWriMo".  Now, very likely this acronym already exists on the Internet somewhere, and maybe you can guess what it stands for: Short Story Writing Month.  I'm not joining in any pre-existing challenge (again, I'm sure there is one), but rather giving one to myself.  The challenge: write 4 short stories in a month, one per week, and publish each of them regardless of quality / whether or not they're actually complete.

The idea behind this challenge is simply to get me to write a story and post it online.  I've written / started far too many things that I say I'll post but never do.  So this time, I have to - even if I don't end up finishing a story.  My target month for this is April, but I may push it back to May - we'll see.  I just wanted to throw it out there.

Other things
There's not too much - except it's All-Star weekend here in Ottawa.  I really wish I had tickets to see the game, but I will have to settle for watching it in HD at home (because I just got HD, you see, only a month after getting an HDTV).  If I can I will also record the skills competition, but that is depending on whether I can get my technology to cooperate with me (I don't have a PVR with my HD box, but I do have a DVD-R).

As a result my podcast this week will be peppered with random All-Star game trivia.  Now I have to go and research some of this trivia while also picking music.  What have I gotten myself into?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition

According to Goodreads, it took me 9 days to read Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire (20th Anniversary Edition); this is probably a considerably shorter time than when I first read the book, which was I believe 15 years ago or so when I was 12, and at the height of my Star Wars obsession.  Obviously, this was not a tough read.

This review is actually not concerning the book itself, but rather the presentation of the book and all of the elements associated with it being a 20th Anniversary Edition.  I figure that most people have read this already (or maybe not; I could be vastly overestimating the number of Star Wars fanatics that are reading this blog), so there's no point in going over the story.  Suffice it to say, it's about a new, smart villain and his attempts to bring the Empire back to glory five years after the huge loss suffered at Endor in Return of the Jedi.

To start with, the book looks absolutely beautiful.  Don't take my word for it - just look at the book jacket, and the hard cover concealed beneath.  A lot of care has gone into making this thing look really nice, something you don't often see (I mean really - do we ever see XX Anniversary Editions of classic works?  Not usually).  It's a hard cover book, obviously, and it displays rather nicely on a book shelf.  I almost don't want to display only the spine when I shelve it later, it's so nice.

Heir to the Empire 3 Heir to the Empire 2

On to what drew me to the book in the first place: the comments in the margin.  I mean, tons of books have different editions throughout the years with fancy covers; but what made this a must-have for me was that sprinkled throughout the text were little tidbits of information from Timothy Zahn.  Comments like how he decided to start the novel with a scene on a Star Destroyer, because that's what all three original movies had done.  And also various comments about how Thrawn (the villain) fits the qualities of a good leader, thought processes during original outlines, "Tuckerisms", and so forth.

Heir to the Empire 1

There were also a small handful of comments from Zahn's editor for Heir, Betsy M?.  Let me just say that I drew no insight at all from her comments.  They make her sound like your standard middle-aged woman who doesn't know a thing about Star Wars, the way that an ignorant mom might say "Stop playing Nintendo!" when their kid is clearly playing an Xbox; she is the Ralph Wiggum to Zahn's Lisa Simpson, gleefully announcing "When I grow up, I want to be a principal or a caterpillar."  I think the most condescending comment comes at the end of Chapter 12, where Zahn presents somewhat of a cliffhanger ending:

"Bestselling writers often use the literary device of the cliffhanger to grip readers.  How many times have you stayed up far too late at night because something enthralling happens at the end of a chapter and you simply have to find out what happens next?  Tim brings the use of the cliffhanger to a high art in Heir.  I defy anyone to put this book down after a closing line like Leia's."

So I think you can guess from my comments that this book would have been better off without her margin notes.  It's too bad, because it's a huge missed opportunity to give us some extra insight into the editing process for this book.  In the end, she's also redundant, as the one insightful comment she does make is repeated by Zahn a little later.  Oh well - nothing's perfect, I suppose.

There's also the matter of an extra novella after the novel, written by Zahn exclusively for this book.  It's nothing special, and details one of Thrawn's exploits shortly before the events of Heir.  It was a neat enough read though, but I think also the book could have done without it.  The margin comments were draw enough - I don't think people were likely waiting for the promise of a new novella to buy the book.

Lastly though, the story still IS a fun read, and is quite possibly still the best piece of Extended Universe fiction for Star Wars out there.  It's not high class literature by any means, but it's paced extremely well and you can definitely get a "movie" feel while you read it. 

For Star Wars: Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition, I give 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Priorities

I'm going to straight out save myself from not fulfilling "New Year's Resolutions" by calling them my priorities for 2012.  SO THERE DEAL WITH IT

My priorities for 2012 are probably not unlike many other peoples', with the key difference being I am me and not other peoples.  Uh, yeah.  Anyway, my priorities:

1) Weight Loss
I started the year with a bang, losing 8 pounds - of course that was mostly due to an ugly stomach flu.  Considering I don't count on having a stomach flu every month, my priority here is to come up with an organized and realistic-according-to-circumstances plan and to actually execute it.  Using 284.6 as my start weight, I hope to go down to at least 250.

2) Writing
Look, I'm not a fiction writer - that much I've learned and established over the last two years.  I just don't have the motivation - or more likely the focus - to put together a well-crafted story.  Maybe I'll bang out a couple of ficlets here and there, but my priority for 2012 is writing for my podcast.  Nothing extensive, but the goal here is 1-2 posts per week about music in some form or another.  Also lesser priority is writing at least once a week here about something.

3) Sorting out leisure time vs work time
I don't mean this as in recognizing "Oh, I go to work Monday-Friday during the day that's my work time" - rather, I mean taking care of things around the house that need doing, maintaining a podcast/music blog, and that sort of thing, before I waste time by playing NHL 2004 or watch a movie.  Luckily I already don't waste very much time sitting in front of a computer at home, so it's the TV watching that needs to be curbed.

4) Be better with money
Pobody's Nerfect, as Marge Simpson might say.  This isn't so much a priority I wish to discuss publicly, but is listed here for completeness' sake.  Basically though, this is more about saving more money and spending less, but pretty much everybody should be doing that anyway.

So no specific goals, but I just thought I'd get them down somewhere.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Lord of the Rings: A Review of a Piece of Classic Fantasy Literature

January 5, 2012: that is the day that I completed my first-ever reading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I ate up Fellowship of the Ring, took a bit more time with The Two Towers, and slowed to a painful crawl with Return of the King.  In a way, I just about mirrored Frodo's journey with The One Ring.

Note that while I say I finished reading Return of the King, I didn't actually read the appendices - who the hell has time for that?  Mainly I wasn't interested in them, especially after the massive denouement that is Book Six.  Here, then, are my thoughts on each book, reduced to a single paragraph.

The Fellowship of the Ring (Books 1 and 2)
Technically, I read the first 11 chapters of Book 1 a few years back but got (understandably) frustrated with the writing and the dense subject matter.  I still skipped over many of the songs and lengthy history lessons, and quite frankly I didn't miss anything.  It would be one thing if Tolkein included some foreshadowing in the songs (he didn't; I looked it up in Coles Notes SO THERE), but these are largely there to provide depth to Middle-Earth.  Honestly, I got depth enough when I was imersed in his haunting descriptions of The Old Forest and the Barrow-Downs.  Other than the snoozefest that was The Council of Elrond, a lot was happening in this book and I felt the descriptions were super immersive and well I liked it okay?  Four stars.

The Two Towers (Books 3 and 4)
I went into this thinking that this would be my favourite of the three books, since it was my favourite of the three movies.  Not so - I'll ruin it now, Fellowship was my favourite, which shocks me considering so much more plot-wise was happening in Two Towers.  While I appreciated that Tolkein seemed to have sped up his narration and cut down on the songs, I didn't get as into this as I did with Fellowship.  I think I got really bogged down by the descriptions of the Battle of Helm's Deep - it was hard to follow, and I think that other than random elves showing up the movie handled it a lot better - but I think the best part of this book was Book 4, with Frodo/Sam/Smeagol.  Three and a half stars.

The Return of the King (Books 5 and 6)
This was just incredibly difficult for me to read in some parts, and I don't know why.  The battle scenes were epic and pretty well translated to screen so that I could more easily follow them than Helm's Deep, but when Tolkein got into some lengthy passages my eyes just glazed over more than a Tim Horton's doughnut.  For Book 6, the chapter describing Sam's heroic efforts to rescue Frodo was awesome, but the journey to Mount Doom was a chore to read.  I think it took me three hours to read two chapters.  And then - even once the chief task was completed and the Ring is destroyed - we spend a heck of a long time walking back through Middle-Earth in the most boring fashion.  The saving grace for this book was The Scouring of the Shire, which was an awesome chapter - even though Sarumon is a complete dick.  Three stars.

And there you have it, my brief review of The Lord of the Rings.  My next book to tackle is the 20th Anniversary Edition of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, which I am much looking forward to.  It's a hardcover beauty with author commentary in the margins.  So I will largely be reviewing the presentation of the book, rather than the book itself.  Heck, I can give you the review of the story right now: it's awesome, and you should read it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why Movies and Books are The Same

I am so bad at this Blogging Business - I was going to have three well-thought-out posts about movies/books and try and have something somewhat similar to an intelligent discussion.  Well, I got one post out of the bag, and got busy with work, podcasting, and life in general.  Oh and I got sick somewhere in there, too (and STILL released a podcast on New Year's Eve).

So now I'm scrapping my original plans, and giving you my reasoning (or at least, the best reasoning I can remember) for why film is essentially the same medium as print.  What a crazy notion!  I'm probably not even going to try framing this as an intelligent debate, either.

The main reason I came up with this argument in the first place was I was trying to classify film and books under different mediums: film is visual media, and books are intellectual.  But wait, we use our eyes in both, don't we?  And films can jumpstart our brains just the same as a book, right?  So they must both be visual media!  So then I thought some more (sometimes, a dangerous prospect).

It's my view that the movies are simply a forced perspective narration, just the same as books - and this is why film adaptations are almost always inherently different from the source material.  With books, authors have the luxury of picking any view point - our minds can paint the picture, so to speak.  Unfortunately for film, we're stuck with one unchanging perspective (with a few experimental exceptions, I'm sure): third person.  There are minor variations (sometimes, we are omnipotent and others not) but for the most part, this is how a movie must be presented.  Wait, did I say omnipotent?  I am pretty sure I meant omniscient.  If only we were omnipotent viewers, we could change some frustratingly bad movies.

As I said just last paragraph, this is the only reason (well, that's a lie, there are other reasons that don't prove/disprove my point) that books and their film adaptations are different.  The ones that closely match probably do so because the narrative in the original book is in the third person; often, I find that third person limited offers the easiest adaptations.

I think that was my general point, and I wish I had made it better the way I originally intended.  But I just needed to get it out there.