Thursday, April 9, 2015

In Which I Realize that John Scalzi is Not a Very Good Author

Picked up the third book in Scalzi's Old Man's War series: "Last Colony".  It's not good.  I don't mean that in the "it didn't work for me but I can see how others might enjoy it" sense, either.  I mean it in the "wow, this book is not competently structured, paced, or edited" sense.

Example: The book is essentially 3 Acts:
  1. Intro, and develop need for new colony planet.
  2. Colonize planet with some surprises and complications.
  3. Reveal real reason for new colony; resolution and climax.
One of the complications in part 2 is the realization that there is already a sentient species on the planet the newcomers have colonized.  And they are hostile!  And dangerous!  And eat humans!  and have spears!  And move silently! (I don't know if they could Bend Bars and Lift Gates, but I suspect so!)  And they look like...  like... like...

Wait for it...

Werewolves!  Yeah!  Fast, ninja-moving, spear-carrying werewolves that eat people!  And they're right next door!  And they even murder one of the more slightly-interesting secondary characters right in front of us at the end of Act 2!

I'd tell you more, but that's the last time they're ever mentioned in the book, even though a large part of Act 3 takes place on the colony.  I was hoping that they were being deliberately minimalized because there was a way to clumsily shoehorn them into the rather predictable climax at the colony, but no, they were just tossed aside, unresolved and unremarked.

That's just one of the examples, but probably the easiest to describe.  It's a problem that decent writing would not have created and that any competent editor would have redlined, but there it is.

This was my fourth and last Scalzi.  I liked "Old Man's War" and I think I liked the sequel.  I thought "Redshirts" was pretty shitty.  I took a chance on "Last Colony" because I figured his core storyline would be okay.  I was wrong.  I guess Scalzi ended up having one story to tell well.  He wrote it.  I read it.  I liked it.  But now I'm done.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thank You, Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu Fizzy Tablets

And screw you, expiration dates.  If I wanted to hear from you I would've looked at you months ago.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rally Check

Thanks.  I needed that.

4. We are outworking, outthinking and outbreeding our withered, hateful, failed opponents. They are defending the status quo, and who is happy with that? The trends go our way. Look at the loser they are wheeling out in 2016 – an elderly, hypocritical cryptolibfascist email-shredder reeking of corruption and decay, whose satyr of a husband will undermine her by nailing every tramp he can get his gnarled paws on from now until election day. Bring her on. Oh yeah, we’re ready for Hillary.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nyub nyub - Spooky-ooky!

Sometimes you don't just see a movie.  You experience it.

The Exorcist.  I'm not really much of a horror guy.  I'd read some, watched some, mainly because of my early GF.  I get to the Twin Cities years ago, meet a guy who's a real aficionado - seen 'em all, knows the limited-appeal vs. the mass appeal, etc.

He finds out that I've never seen The Exorcist.

He doesn't spew, doesn't pontificate, doesn't wax horrifical-like.  Simply says I must see it.  He find one or two others in our group who haven't seen it either.

Gathers us, and a bunch of others, at his house.  He & his wife get things set up so we have plenty of comfy chairs.  He explains that he's going to turn all the lights off, and would appreciate it if no one talked or even, if possible, broke for a smoke except when he would pause it, once.

He got us settled in front of his big-screen, then he hit Play.

And that movie proceeded to scare the crap out of me.  It was wonderful.

I've watched a lot of movies.  A lot.  With a lot of different types of people.  And I have to say that my 2 horror movie friends (yes, I've known two, and probably seen movies you haven't, through them and others) have been the best at knowing their movie audience, and best at setting a proper movie mood.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Star Wars III: "How did we let this happen? We're smarter than this."

Wow, been a long time since I started to rock 'n roll this Star Wars Blu-ray release, huh?


Original Thoughts:

This one I was waiting eagerly for. Watched the trailers on YouTube. Talked about its potential with friends. Bought tickets ahead of time for opening night for me and my date (yes, date).

I honestly figured that, with as many separate plot lines and situations that Lucas HAD to resolve, I'd be happy with "good enough". The trailers I saw looked good - not a lot of info, but enough to whet the appetite, and I was honestly looking forward to it.

Things I liked:

1) Space battle opener. This was a feast for the eyes, and a true testament to space opera everywhere. Just imagine what someone could do with the Lensman series!

2) The bubble-opera scene. Maybe George had a weird day. Maybe Hayden and Ian took their "work past the director" pills that morning. Whatever happened, this scene, where Palpatine subtly begins to reel Anakin in, is very well done, in my opinion.

3) The effects. Yes, I know that calling out the FX in a Star Wars movie seems silly, but really, I'm not kidding. There are things going on that are simply amazing, and 90% of them aren't really there (at least in scale - there was a lot more model work in the prequels than is commonly understood).

4) The finish line. He did it. He managed to wrap up all of the main, and most of the secondary, plot lines he had created heretofore, in a relatively coherent and entertaining package. That couldn't have been easy.

5) Rebel Blockade Runner in the house! Woo hoo! One of the best-loved, most-desired, and least-served spaceship designs in all of the Star Wars modeling community, and there it is up on the big screen again in all its 11-engined glory.

Things I liked less:

1) Part of the opening crawl:

"War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere."

"There are heroes on both sides." Really? Well, maybe, except that the Republic's heroes have names like "Skywalker" and "Ki-adi Mundi" and "Commander Cody", and the guys flying the separatists' banners all have speeder licenses issued to "Darth Tyrannous", "General Grievous", and "Major BabyCrusher". No doubt there was a Corporal "Atilla von Cribdeath" waiting for his turn at the Separatist hero machine. (Thanks to the late author Brain Daley for that last name.)

"Heroes on both sides" reeks of moral relativism. Moral relativism perturbs me.

2) Ensmallening of the Star Wars universe. It's not bad enough that Darth Vader built C-3PO? Now Yoda has to be best buddies with Chewbacca? Yuck. Next you'll tell me that the Emperor's face wasn't ruined slowly by years of messing with Black Magic, i.e. the Dark Side of the Force, which would be consistent with the morals of all those classic fairy tales that George Lucas professes to want to emulate; but instead that it was melted by 20 seconds of force lightning as part of one fight.  But he would never do that.

3) Palpatine's lightsaber. Phantom Menace's Darth Maul showed us the double saber-staff, Attack of the Clones' Count Dooku wielded a one-handed "fencer saber" - so clearly one of the differences between the Sith and the Jedi (blue or green single-blades, anyone?  Everyone?) is that the Sith are much less conservative as regards their weapons and fighting styles. Giving in more to their passions, their individuality comes through in their weapons. Intentional or not, I like it. It fits.

The Palpatine/Sidious character was built up as clearly more of a thinker than a fighter, a talker and a persuader and a liar rather than an ass-beater. Palpatine is overall a wielder of raw dark side power, not physical tools. This power seemed to mainly manifest as an overall cloud of foreboding and confusion pervading all of the Jedi (all across the galaxy!), and in that context, the complete eschewing of traditional fighting styles and weapons would have been perfectly in character.

When confronting first Mace Windu and then Yoda, it would have been far more interesting and proper, I think, to have the Emperor's sole weapon be his force lightning - for close-in work show him focusing it into an energy blade of sorts and let him duel with saber-wielders, even. It would help avoid the repetitiveness of the lightsaber fights in the 3rd act of the movie, would have looked better (sorry Ian and Sam Jackson - you're just not the kind of movie swordsmen that MacGregor and Christensen are), and would have been more appropriate, I think. Plus, I could believe him force-blasting 3 bad-ass Jedi swordsmen in 5 seconds as opposed to cutting them down with a blade like they'd never even seen a saber before.

4) Space and time. This deserves a longer post - I think I'll break it out into its own in a bit, but suffice it to say that, for heroic drama to work, there needs to be tension - a chance for failure of a choice. For that possibility of failure to be made real, there has to be a challenge of some sort - usually overwhelming odds or a ticking clock, and sometimes both. Another way to achieve or increase tension is inflicting sense of isolation on the character, in time or in space or in both. In the prequels especially, there is no such isolation - you want to go from the heart of the galactic capitol to the edges of civilization, you can be there before the next commercial.  Yawn.  And a bit jarring for space opera.


5) Rebel Blockade Runner in the house, but they based the CG model on the stupid and inaccurate West End Games line drawings instead of the original studio model.  Which us geeks have been drooling over since the summer of 1977. Dickmove, George.  But a special "geek you" to the  CGI artists/modelers who made sure they included a couple Panther tank rear decks in around the docking bay.  Nice touch, there.


6) To steal a line from the Rifftrax, "What? From Jedi Knight to child murderer without even a stop at kiting checks?"  Let's face it - moving the story along at the speed of a charging rhino means we're going to be feeling a little rushed, but really.

Blu-Ray Hubbub

Once again I am hard-pressed to claim to spot anything that is different in the BluRay version. It's pretty and it sounds great, and the special features are nice. After 3 prequels, it's still hard to believe they never had to make a suit of Clone Trooper armor - they were, each and every pixel-jack of them, CGI creations.


I like it.  Sure, I have criticisms and sure I think it could've been better/different/more like what I wanted, but really, there's 3 more movies of material in there at minimum to do it "right".  Heck, the Clone Wars series (which is totally awesome, by the way and should be seen if you haven't yet) showed that you could do 6 seasons of stories and still not be technically done.

When you're done with The Clone Wars you can totally buy the fact that Anakin Skywalker could flip burgers for the Dark Side.  No problem.  And you'll care.  After an hour of this movie?  Mmmmm, not so much, in my opinion.  And since it's the whole point of the storyline, it's a big problem. It's not enough to kill the whole movie for me - the Ben/Anakin duel, the other things I mentioned in the list of likes above, and the fact that Lucas managed to tie it up at all carry a a lot of weight with me - but I understand that it does ruin the movie for a lot of people.

Placement in my list?  Solid 3rd.  Better than Attack of the Clones but not my Top Two, neither of which will surprise anyone, I'm sure.

My rating of its place in the pack, best-to-worst:

1 - XXXX
2 - XXXX
3 - Revenge of the Sith
4 - Attack of the Clones
5 - The Phantom Menace
6 - XXXX

Next up, for the non-geeks: A New Hope (i.e. Ep IV i.e. Star Wars.)

Market? Shmarket.

A lede from Real Clear Politics today:

STUDENT: Hi, I am Mario. I am a student here at Ivy Tech. My question is if community college becomes free, do you think the value of an associates degree will fall?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely not. I have been asked this question before, and I do not know where it is coming from.
For the first time I think our Boy King is telling the truth.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Welcome to Sher-HOLY FUCK!

Condition Legolas?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

And That's the Truth! PPpbbbbffffttt!!!!!!

I'd like to offer my particular man-pig lens on the whole "man contrasted with woman" thing.  In general, of course.  With exceptions noted.

In America, the desired end-state of the average woman is some version of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Whereas the desired state of the average man is some version of John Wayne's or Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Now, I'm not saying that necessarily implies any complications in relations between the sexes, but...

I am saying it's kinda true.  Chew on that and spit out what you will.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cardinal Envy, Your Party is Holding Your Table

Yes, Jon Stewart is an uber liberal.  Yes, it's a disgrace and a lens on Our Times that the Daily Show is an actual source of "news" for bajillions of Americans.

But you know what?

Jon Stewart is effing hilarious.  The Daily Show is, most times (IMO), effing hilarious.

And when, that 1 time out of 100 when he/they turn their lens on non-conservative ... things?

I laugh my head off.  Because it's effing hilarious.

So let's be honest with ourselves, fellow travelers - we don't dislike Jon Stewart and his platform.

We envy it.

Here's another one I like from the beforetimes.

If Jon Stewart and his Daily Show were 100 to 1 in our corner?  We'd be making fun of anyone and everyone who didn't "get it".

Get it?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

News Flash: 316.1 Million+ Americans Who Didn't Resist Arrest Yesterday Still Alive

Don't fight cops.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Not meaning to offend, and all that, but really, do the Intelligent Design folks have any arguments that are more robust than "isn't it amazing that my legs are long enough to reach the ground?"

Because when I run into this topic, it seems that I'm supposed to find the above position compelling, and if that's all they've got then it's even less sciencey than they think they want it to be.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wave at the Wave

Just finished my 2nd cigar and putting this night to bed.

Planned on drinking lots of bourbon, but actually didn't - just a couple of glasses of the good stuff.  Finished off the last of the current bottle of Buffalo Trace Single Oak.  Maybe if it was a Friday, maybe if I still didn't have to be at work until 3pm like the last few years instead of on a conf call at 8am with my new schedule, maybe if I didn't actually have to spend 3 hours tonight logged in finishing up work I couldn't get to earlier today...
So I'm going to be tired tomorrow, but not hung over.

Oh well.  My intentions were sound. :)
MN looks bad unless we really did take the MN House as it looked like we might a couple of hours ago, and Mills over Nolan (MN) and Brown over Shaheen (non-MN) would've been nice, but... pretty awesome overall.  Truth is most of the key MN Repub candidates just weren't that great.  "I'm not the other guy" just doesn't cut it, most nights, it seems.  Maybe we'll learn.
Ortho followup 11/11, and hopefully I can start using my left arm for real again after that.

Monday, November 3, 2014

This is Some "Look at What I Almost Stepped In!" Dumb

Haven't done a ton of politics here lately, but I read this today and simply could not resist. It's such a dumb, vapid - and, if you've ever read anything by a liberal before - utterly predictable essay that it will take me longer to format the post than to comment on the content.

From the NYT comes some superdumb, and I'll translate each graf because it's easy: I speak jive.
DURHAM, N.C. — By Tuesday night about 90 million Americans will have cast ballots in an election that’s almost certain to create greater partisan divisions, increase gridlock and render governance of our complex nation even more difficult. Ninety million sounds like a lot, but that means that less than 40 percent of the electorate will bother to vote, even though candidates, advocacy groups and shadowy “super PACs” will have spent more than $1 billion to air more than two million ads to influence the election.
Election money bad.

There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.
Don't like your medicine?  Have more of it then, rube.

There are few offices, at any level of government, with two-year terms. Here in Durham, we elect members of the school board and the county sheriff to terms that are double that length. Moreover, Twitter, ubiquitous video cameras, 24-hour cable news and a host of other technologies provide a level of hyper-accountability the framers could not possibly have imagined. In the modern age, we do not need an election every two years to communicate voters’ desires to their elected officials.
Modern life is so fast and full, accountability can't keep up, so we ditch it.
But the two-year cycle isn’t just unnecessary; it’s harmful to American politics.
Politics and the bedbugs that populate it would be less shitty if we just lie back and count ceiling tiles until it's over.

The main impact of the midterm election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation. Since the end of World War II, the president’s party has on average lost 25 seats in the House and about 4 in the Senate as a result of the midterms. This is a bipartisan phenomenon — Democratic presidents have lost an average of 31 House seats and between 4 to 5 Senate seats in midterms; Republican presidents have lost 20 and 3 seats, respectively.
Leave Britney alone!
The realities of the modern election cycle are that we spend almost two years selecting a president with a well-developed agenda, but then, less than two years after the inauguration, the midterm election cripples that same president’s ability to advance that agenda.
If you don't like your president's agenda, you get to keep your president's agenda.
These effects are compounded by our grotesque campaign finance system. House members in competitive races have raised, on average, $2.6 million for the 2014 midterm. That amounts to $3,600 raised a day — seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Surveys show that members spend up to 70 percent of their time fund-raising during an election year. Two years later, they’ll have to do it all again.
Market economics bad.

Much of this money is sought from either highly partisan wealthy individuals or entities with vested interests before Congress. Eliminating midterms would double the amount of time House members could focus on governing and make them less dependent on their donor base.
As time increases, time to raise money does not increase.

Another quirk is that, during midterm elections, the electorate has been whiter, wealthier, older and more educated than during presidential elections. Biennial elections require our representatives to take this into account, appealing to one set of voters for two years, then a very different electorate two years later.
There’s an obvious, simple fix, though. The government should, through a constitutional amendment, extend the term of House members to four years and adjust the term of senators to either four or eight years, so that all elected federal officials would be chosen during presidential election years. Doing so would relieve some (though, of course, not all) of the systemic gridlock afflicting the federal government and provide members of Congress with the ability to focus more time and energy on governance instead of electioneering.
Our Federal government was not designed by the Founding Fathers, it was sneezed onto a sleeve by accident.

This adjustment would also give Congress the breathing space to consider longer-term challenges facing the nation — such as entitlement spending, immigration and climate change — that are either too complex or politically toxic to tackle within a two-year election cycle.
Government should do more.

To offset the impact of longer congressional terms, this reform might be coupled with term limits that would cap an individual’s total congressional service at, say, 24 years, about the average for a member of Congress today. This would provide members enough time to build experience in the job, but also limit the effects of incumbency and ensure the circulation of new blood in the system.
Giving politicians more time and power to dig in combined with decreasing the number of elections will increase turnover.
The framers included an amendment process in the Constitution so our nation could adjust the system to meet the demands of a changing world. Surely they would not be pleased with the dysfunction, partisan acrimony and public dissatisfaction that plague modern politics. Eliminating the midterm elections would be one small step to fixing our broken system.
That amendment part is still pretty cool though.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"China is here, mister Burton."

"'China is here'? I don't even know what the hell that means.  All I know is, this Lo Pan character comes out of thin air in the middle of goddamned alley with his buddies flyin' around on wires, cuttin' everybody to pieces, and he just stands there waitin' for me to drive my truck straight through him?  With light comin' out of his mouth?!?"

Dig it:

And, really apropos of nothing, if you like Westerns, and like Tarantino's stuff at least a little, and like things that get a little... weird, check out The Good, the Bad, and the Weird.

Great soundtrack, too.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The First Rule of... Oh, Whatever

So I'm watching Fight Club for the 3rd or 4th time last weekend and it hit me: the batshit craziest guy in the movie isn't the Ed Norton character.

It's the guy who, upon seeing Ed Norton's character beating himself up in the parking lot, asked to be next.