Saturday, March 30, 2013

Odd Collections

Project 52: 7/52

For some reason I had the urge the other night to collect obscure NHL player trading cards, bought cheaply at Dollarama. The idea would be to buy these packs - which presumably are leftovers, misprints, etc that the trading card company deigned not to include in the "real" packs - and sort through, collecting players who are virtually unknown to the common fan. There would be bonus cards as well for players in the wrong uniform for the current season (see: Rick Nash in a Columbus jersey - or Radek Bonk).

To be honest, I have no idea why this urge washed over me. I know when it came: I saw a package of extra hockey card inserts at Wal-Mart. Naturally my first thought was, "gee, I would love to collect hockey cards nobody wants!"

In hindsight it's completely silly. I know this. But even now I still kind of want to do it. What would I do with these cards?  I feel like I would most likely start a blog and post about these obscure players in a "where are they now" vein.

This is intriguing me even more, now. It's grown from a completely ironic idea to a legitimate idea. Obviously this means someone has already done this, no doubt. Don't expect to see anything from me too quickly.

Here's the one example that started the thought process of all of this:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sudden revelation about Ready Player One

Project 52: 8/52

I was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark this morning and came to a sudden realisation about Ernest Cline Ready Player One: it has a parallel plot.

Stay with me: in Cline's novel, the "Sixers", the ostensibly evil group trying to obtain Halliday's easter egg, at one point get information about a clue - but they only get half the information they need.

In Raiders, the Nazis mistakenly use the wrong length of staff, which gives Indiana a head start.

I don't know if that was done on purpose, or if anyone else caught that before me, but it just blew my mind.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Deep Space Nine Re-Watch: Early Observations

Project 52: 6/52

I've been re-watching Deep Space Nine with Vanessa lately - partly because I really love the show and wanted to watch it again, and partly because I really love the show and want to introduce Vanessa to its greatness.  To be honest, as much as I love the show, I'm almost positive that there are episodes I either haven't seen at all, or just haven't seen very much.

So far, we've made our way through season 1 and the first four episodes of season 2.  I am legitimately impressed at the quality of season 1; my misconception has always been "Season 1 is terrible".  While that is the case with some episodes (ugh...I'm looking at you, "Move Along Home"), the first season is very solid and only slightly relies on previous series for stories (The Duras sisters, Q).  You can really see the seeds of what would grow and develop over seven seasons.

Season 2 is drastically different in tone.  For starters, it is more action-oriented.  It kicked off with a three-parter, which is a really strange decision, but the result was a great three-hour episode.  The writing is right up there as well, with the highlight being Kira's goodbye scene in "The Circle".  The dialogue is snappy and quick-witted and is actually funny.

I'm looking forward to more of season 2, which is already laying way more groundwork for seasons to come (and yes, I know, it ends with introducing The Dominion.  After seeing the first four episodes, I have to figure they were planning this from the start of S2).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Ready Player One (Novel, 2011)

Project 52: 5/52
"...Cline has written in Ready Player One a strong story..."

I'm a week late writing a review for Ernest Cline's debut novel, Ready Player One.  I say I'm late, because I finished reading it a week ago and am currently half way through Redshirts (John Scalzi) - but don't worry, I'll have something for that soon.  Back to the review - Ready Player One is, in a nutshell, about an immersive video game quest chock full of 80's references.  I guess I'd classify it as a Young Adult novel?  It's a strange one to classify, precisely because of the 80's pop culture references.

To be slightly more accurate with the book's synopsis, an eccentric billionaire leaves his entire fortune to the player who can successfully locate an "easter egg" within Oasis, a massively-multi-player-online video game the billionaire designed.  As the quote on the front of the book says, it's a little like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

Obviously, the story is more complicated than that - it has to be.  What kind of stakes could be expected in a story that takes place in a video game?  "Oh no, the protagonist's avatar will die!"  Thankfully, this is where Cline excels: the story takes place in 2044, in a very plausible future where money is scarce and people are forced to live in RVs stacked one on top of another (seriously).

Think about all of the real-world problems we face today, and multiply them tenfold.  This creates a world where a contest to win billions of dollars - in a video game - becomes something certain people would most definitely kill for.  And that's how you effectively create stakes for a story set in a video game.

As for the 80's pop culture references, as prominent as they are, they manage to take a back seat to the story.  I realize how little sense that makes, considering how important those 80's references are to solving the clues that lead to the ultimate prize.  What I mean is that Cline could have easily come up with some other clues that didn't hinge on knowledge of the 1980's, and the story would stand up just fine.

And the story does hold up.  Cline has written in Ready Player One a strong story with characters who make choices that feel right for them.  In my book, that's what counts.  That a bunch of awesome 80's references were included as a gimmick?  That just makes it more awesome.

Some other random observations:
I was strongly reminded of Cory Doctorow's For the Win, which isn't surprising; the subject matter in both books revolve around online video games with real-world stakes.  However, I prefer Ready Player One.

I hope that the success of this book leads to more re-discoveries of some of the better aspects from 1980's pop culture.  I've already put War Games on my "to-watch" list - I've never seen it, so hopefully it's an enjoyable experience.

I noticed an IMDB page for Ready Player One.  While the story seems like it would translate well to the big screen (though I'm not 100% certain of that), I'm concerned about rights issues.  Specifically, I imagine in some cases it would be prohibitively expensive to license certain rights and the story might actually be compromised.  Well, I guess we'll see if anything actually comes from it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Project 52: 4/52 (Yikes, I'm way behind!)

So, Podcasts are pretty much my thing - I talk about them a lot as a result; it should be no surprise that one of my weekly writing topics is about Podcasts.  I'm sure I've mentioned them before in some capacity on this blog, but I've been thinking about podcasts in general this week.  (As a complete aside: Sarah, how the heck do you consistently write something every week?)

Why do I like podcasts so much?  I think it's primarily because the content that I can get from podcasts I can't get anywhere else.  There are some exceptions to this rule, when traditional radio stations release popular on-air shows as podcasts (such as one of my favourites, CBC's Under The Influence or KFAI's Crap From the Past).  Sometimes podcasts even cross over to the radio realm (usually through syndication). Either way, my favourite podcasts combine to provide me with the ultimate programmable, personal radio station.

The other thing that's neat about them is that they are usually amateur in nature / quality (the above examples of professional podcasts notwithstanding).  Anybody can make a podcast.  Not everybody can make a successful podcast, but it doesn't matter.  If you can find a way to record your voice, and upload a file to the web, you can create your own podcast.  Why go through the legal hassle of pirate radio when you can broadcast without regulation (okay...not completely without regulation - that's one reason why Creative Commons exists)?

Hence why I podcast.  I've always loved playing around with recording my voice, especially when I was younger.  I remember having my own tape recorder that I played with when I was growing up.  I had a lot of fun being on the air when I took Radio Broadcasting, but that line of work is not a career interest for me.  It's just a hobby - which makes podcasting the perfect avenue to keep working on that hobby.

But I've hit a wall lately; part of podcasting is creating a sense of community with your listeners.  I've been doing Alternative Airwaves for years now, and I feel like I'm sending the podcast out to nobody.  I keep wanting to change things up and try something new, but it never sticks because I don't get any reaction, or I get bored of one idea and move to another.  I'm toying with the idea of hanging it up for that podcast, but I hate the idea of quitting on something I've worked so hard on.

I haven't released a podcast in over a month now, and the last one was admittedly half-assed.  I'm at a point right now where I don't want to release another one until I feel energized about the idea and put in a solid effort and make it sound GOOD.  I hope I can do that before too long, but for right now, I'm just taking it easy and finding good music in the meantime.

That's all I can pound out on this tiny keyboard right now; I hope that in reading all of this, I've sparked some previously unheld interest in Podcasts and that you go listen to either Alternative Airwaves or Futurama Pedia (or both!).  Thus ends my brief shameless plug.