Sociable

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why #yxu is a Bad Label

In the Twittersphere for London, Ontario there has been a trend recently to change what we use as a hashtag, or label, to identify tweets pertaining to our City and area.  For years now I have been using #LdnOnt as the hashtag for London.  As you can guess, simply using #London is often confused with London England and searching on that hashtag brings up both resident's tweets.  Recently, there has been an influx of competing hashtags, such as the current favourite #yxu.  Primarily, I see no reason to change my tried and true hashtag but let's see why I don't like #yxu.

Why is #yxu a bad Label?  It is Cryptic, Elitist, and Immemorable.

It is Cryptic because it is nonsense.  The letters do not stand for anything at all and you can not decipher its meaning by simply looking at it or cross-referencing it to any knowledge of London aside from it's actual precise representation.  So in other words, the only way to understand what it is, is to look it up and even then, it means nothing more than a code for London's Airport.

It is Elitist because if you do not know we are all using it, you would likely not intuit to use it.  My argument for this? How many people in London actually fly in or out of our Airport?  I've lived here for 6 years and have flown to British Columbia twice and don't even know where our airport is, let alone the code, I fly out of Pearson.  I have flown out of the Powell River airport twice and have no earthly idea what it's airport code is. Nor do I know the airport codes for Prince George or Orillia where I also resided for a number of years.

Ask yourself if someone in Hamilton or Chatham would think to look for London tweets by our airport code?  What about someone in Somalia?  I understand some major Canadian cities are using their codes, namely Vancouver and Toronto, but let's face it guys, those are two of the busiest International airports in all of Canada.  London is not.  So the way you'll know how to find our tweets is if... you already know the password into our elite club.

It is Immemorable because it is nonsense!  There is no mnemonic property at all to #yxu or any other airport code aside from pure coincidence.  For example, nearly every time I fly to Vancouver and decide to use the airport code at booking I have to double-check whether YVR or YYZ is Vancouver or Toronto - and that one even has a coincidental mnemonic in it (YVR has VR for VancouveR) but I start wondering, "or was it the opposite of what makes sense."  You see I can get doubtful because I know YYZ means nothing.  I know YXU means nothing.  How am I to remember them other than through sheer repetition?

In my opinion a good label, a good index, a good way for people to find each other is not something they have to learn.  It isn't something WE have to learn to use and memorize.  It is whatever comes naturally, whatever makes sense, and whatever means something. #ldnont isn't perfect, but it at least means something when you read it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An E-Prime Character Intro

Homework for my Writing Class had us writing a page in E-Prime and also beginning to jot down ideas for a Character we'd like to write about.

E-Prime, as explained in the link, has a great deal of potential as a tool to free up the English language from the constraints of too much reliance on the verb to be and with the pleasant side effect of improving readability for a broad range of individuals with difficulties reading contemporary writing.  The example given being persons with English as a Second Language (ESL) who have a difficult time following what is meant by our many subtle uses of the verb.

That sounds good, but writing in that mode takes a great deal of attention as I discovered when I combined the two objectives and wrote a story opening with a heavy focus on the main character and entirely in E-Prime.

The result follows, hit the break to see it and my thoughts on the exercise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Intro to Fiction Class 1 - It Starts.

You may recall my fiction blurbs from last year, well they are about to resume.  Last week in Intro to Fiction we were given 10 or so minutes to jot down something in 1st Person narrative that would hopefully be intimate to the character.  This is what I threw up on the page:
I stepped out into the dim memory of a beautiful summer afternoon, diminished now to the half-light of coming night.  It was cooler and not least of all for the absence of the glowering sun overhead.

I love this time of the day, it always reminds me of the evenings I spent with my childhood friends many years ago.  How long has it been now since I last stayed out at kevin's place debating which comic book villain was best under an observant graveyard of stars?  Too long.  And yet, who thinks much of comics these days?

With a long breath I exhaled old thoughts and stretched my back, releasing old knots.  Where is that cat?

Furball is usually croaking his tired voice at me before I'm even halfway down memory lane to Kevin's old home.  I keep meaning to let him in before he can annoy the neighbours with his nighttime challenges up and down the neighbourhood and it looks like tonight I'm too early... only, I'm not.
I didn't edit this much, just a few typos and carriage returns, although a whole bunch of it is singing at me right now, not least of which is a little ditty about adverbs and useless words.  That said, it was fun to flex the creative muscle again, even if this one is highly unoriginal.  I also started reading a book on Characterization & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card which is very insightful.  I'll post whatever I write each week.  Our current assignment is to create a character of some sort so I'll post that soon.

Classes are on Wednesdays so stay tuned!

MMO Review: Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) has gone Free to Play in the same style as previous Turbine games such as Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO). The main difference here is that LOTRO is a superior game.

While it vied to capitalize on the recent successful movie franchise, LOTRO licensed the video game rights from the books and as such, uses none of the imagery from the movies. That said it does a wonderful job of evoking a cinematic experience with such innovations as clever little intro videos for each race and class and nice short segue videos for important transitions in the main story arc of your character.

The game obviously takes the written works of Tolkien very seriously and there is a great deal of care taken to imbue every character and location with every factoid you could mine from it.

More after...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Classic Movie Review: Beat the Devil (1953)

I still can't remember why I got my hands on Beat the Devil to review - it is an obscure movie with a very peculiar comedy to it.  It stars Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, and a supporting cast of four "desperate fellows" on an ill-fated trip to Central Africa to exploit a lead on a Uranium-rich tract of land.

The trip serves to provide the setting, first an idyllic seaside stop-over then an ocean voyage, and the intrigue. a 5-way business arrangement held together more by suspicion then trust.  The real story here is not the Uranium mine at all, but the bizarre antics of these characters as they all interact with one another.

Much like while doing my review of Bringing up Baby I was surprised at the timelessness of the comedies of the 50's.  Co-written by Truman Capote, the script was produced day-by-day and the actors tasked with performing them hot off the presses.  This plays through in the way this movie feels more like skilled improv than a traditional movie.  There are some wonderful characters at play, from the Chilean German with an Irish name who waxes poetic about the meaning of time, to the Blonde Beauty who is fickle with her affections yet liberal with her imagination.

Beat the Devil is punctuated by stunning set pieces of dialogue.  Tongue-in-cheek interchanges and occasionally insightful mini-soliloquys make quick work of your defences and will render you raptly aware of the bizarreness of each character.  For me, it is reminiscent of the distinct characters found in Charles Dickens - lively, colourful, and just a bit bent.  Although there is at most 3 settings throughout the movie it has the feeling of being a mad capering adventure in that the situations seem as improvisational as the acting.  Whether it was the dialogue or the situations, I found myself laughing out loud more than once and chuckling over the few recurrent gags that sneak in under the wire.

I've never seen Humphrey Bogart in a film before and I'm not sure this was the best introduction of him as an iconic actor, although it has the benefit of my seeing him disarmed from any affected grandeur.  Now I know him as an interesting actor, who can turn a deadpan phrase and still seem the dashing lead.  I want to note also that I had never heard of Jennifer Jones before, but after her charming, intelligent turn in this film, I can imagine she had the hearts of many young men firmly entrenched in wishful thinking.

One thing you can expect from Beat the Devil is never to hear a bland or clichéd statement responded to without a cupful of wit and on that topic I'll let our protagonist Billy have the last word, "The only thing standing between you and a watery grave is your wits, and that's not my idea of adequate protection."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review:: World War Z

In tomorrow's generation, many of us will be known as Generation Z - the survivors of a brutal World War that nearly ended our race once and for all.  What's the Z you ask, why that's Zombies of course.

What would happen if in the next 20 years a deadly new virus were to break out in central China, one that kills and then reanimates the corpse as a deathless evisceration machine unstoppable short of brain destruction.  How would their government react, how would their people, what if it got out of their country?

Taken from the point of view of a UN sanctioned researcher investigating the cause and events of this frightening plague, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, takes us through a series of interviews with the people that were there on the front-lines fighting with ill-suited weapons, in the offices of power making the gruesome choices, and in the back rooms of the black market making a fast buck.

The book is an easy read, at only 300+ pages it engages in a conversational style and spans so many cultures and situations that you will never get bored.  You will be turning every page, eager to learn a little more about the bigger picture and you won't be disappointed.

Overall I enjoyed the book, although in a lot of ways its strength is its weakness.  The contagious element of the book keeps you reading it for extended periods and that's when the interview style wears thin.  So many of the interviewees ended up spewing out litanies of events they witnessed in too similar a style that by 2/3rds through the book you wonder how half of it would be possible for one person to do, see, and remember so much in one conflict.  From the soldier who seems to have personal knowledge of dozens of unique scenarios to the International Space Station astronaut that personally observed every major event in the war from space while simultaneously jerry-rigging satellites and space vehicles for unintended purposes it seems like everyone interviewed in the book had more things to say than they should.

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like the author's research and brainstorming was writing this book.  Aside from the dialogue, somehow only a dozen or so years after an event that devastated the majority of the human population and had untold impact on our elemental resources, infrastructure, and culture folks are running around with cutting edge science, technologies that are only ideas now and maybe 20-30 years of dedicated R&D away.  I don't buy it and often the new tech references were so off-the-cuff and devoid of explanation that you are left simply saying to yourself, "Ok, whatever that is".  In my opinion, it was unnecessary and jarring.

That all said, if you are a zombie fan, this is a fun and clever read and will really get you thinking.  Clearly the author Max Brooks leveraged his research from The Zombie Survival Guide and if you enjoyed that book, check out how it all turned out in this one.

Movie Review:: Shutter Island


It is the 1950's, the Nazi's have been defeated and the Cold War looms and for U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck something about the Penitentiary/Hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island just doesn't add up.

Leo DiCaprio continues to refute all my claims against his acting with movies like The Departed straight through to Inception and this is no different.  In fact, this is a must see.  Ironically when I was watching Inception I thought, "Leo sure does remind me of Jack Nicholson these days, but what he really needs to be in that calibre is a The Shining or a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".  Well folks, this is it.

Teddy Daniels is ostensibly on the island to find an escaped prisoner, but his real purpose is much deeper, darker, and fitting.  This movie is a psychological-thriller with a wonderful 50's ambience and a lot of attention to the troubles of the time.  Just keep an eye on those shells, the ending isn't where you expected it.

The movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and this Goodfella hasn't lost a trick. The visuals and the sound are used to wonderful effect.  Driving your experience of the protagonists environment to wonderful and gut wrenching levels.  Waking dreams, nightmares, hallucinations, reality, all start to wash together and this is one rabbit hole that goes straight to hell.

Some movies pull you in, Shutter Island threatens to never let you go.



Movie Review:: The A-Team

Four Army Rangers form a crack team of special operators, running 80 successful operations over 8 years.  This is the kind of success and off-the-books team the CIA needs for a Top Secret op that involves as much money as you can print with your own private U.S. Mint and as much protection as the worst of Iraq's underworld can muster.  Too bad it blew up in their face.  Now they must get the bad guys and clear their names.

If that sounded vaguely familiar, chances are you were thinking more along the lines of this summers hit The Losers than the 80's iconic TV Show.  In fact these movies have a lot in common, maybe too much, to the detriment of this A-Team reboot.  While the movie ditches the main premise of the majority of seasons of the TV show in favour of a palatable 3-act introduction to these characters, replete with massive action set pieces, it does manage somehow to sneak in the 'feel' of these characters we know and love.  That said, this remake lacks the heart the TV show had.

In the 80's this show was a child of the times, it was after Vietnam, America was a lot of things and confused might have been one of them.  Enter four Desparados, wrongly convicted men, who travel the country and risk their lives to help the innocent, the downtrodden, and the oppressed.  Often for a pittance, fashioning what they would need for their cunning plans out of the vehicles and farm equipment so often at hand.

Fast-forward to 2010 and we have Iraq-vets trying only to help themselves in a tongue-in-cheek Bourne style war with the CIA.  Leave that to The Losers, in a lot of ways, they did it better.  Don't get me wrong The A-Team is a funny movie, and the action scenes are memorable.  The key was the casting, all the characters came out on screen and I enjoyed watching the interplay.  I was impressed to learn B.A. Baracus is actually played by a UFC fighter, I had no idea this guy was not a character actor.  All said, I would have traded in Liam Neeson for another actor, but maybe I just never got over Star Wars.

As with so many of these reboots what we got was a script written as a revisionist back-story introduction to the characters we used to know and in so doing, we rob them of the setting and actions that made us love them.  If Hollywood's plan was to cash in on yet another 80's memory with no clear understanding of what made it a phenomenon, well, I guess they must love it when a plan comes together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Classic Movie Review: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Why this movie? I asked twitter to suggest a great movie that came out before I was born in '79 and HeyLady33 suggested Bringing Up Baby as one of the most memorable.  I was skeptical at first but I found that it was on both an AFI 100 Movies list and also on Filmsite's 100 Greatest Films.

The Story is a screwball romantic comedy sparked by a chance meeting on a golf course that throws a million dollars, a marriage, a leopard, and rare dinosaur bone all into mayhem.

My Thoughts Wowee!  This movie was an absolute rollercoaster ride.  It picks up staidly enough and gets quirkier and quirkier as we go until it becomes an absolute free-for-all of mile-a-minute banter and comically misconstrued wordplay.  Hepburn's character Susan is an absolute charmer with her carefree and flippant approach to the quibbles and concerns of Grant's hapless David as she tries to win his affections, however haphazardly.  There is a real duality between these characters, two peas from a pod, and their interactions bring out a part of David that is polar opposite to the side his fiancée evokes.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell - Outliers: The Story of Success


This was my first Gladwell book and won't be my last.  I had heard that he has a very approachable writing style that tackles research and statistics based premises adroitly and he didn't disappoint.  The premise he puts forward here is simple, profound, and important.  He basically sets out to prove to us that no real element of success is self-driven and even the greatest success "outliers" are indeed products of their environment.  This is a casuality subscribing cynics dream come true but doesn't read like one.


In a fairly small package, he very clearly shows some startling corollaries between when groups of athletes were born and their career potential.  He delves into the makings of computer giants like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  He points out the biggest single reason The Beatles became "bigger than Jesus" (*1).  This is all in his signature style and leaves you wondering how you could ever see success any other way but his.

Don't worry it isn't a demotivating revelation as he points out some ways how a better understanding of success can help us generate it and foster it proactively.  Tip number one is do not push your kids ahead a year in school - if they are of that on the fence age - unless you plan to make up the difference with a rigorous summer learning routine!  There are many more insights for parents of athletes and students and even geniuses.  For my part, I've finally given up the childhood hope to be the next Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, or Mario Lemieux and that is incredibly liberating.
 
I wonder though, is it too late to be the next Malcolm Gladwell?


*1 - In an ode to Gladwell (*2), I'll take a footnote here to point out that it bothers me how misrepresented this off the cuff remark of Lennon's is when quoted as I have done here.  It's a shame because Lennon was an insightful guy at times and this quote always takes that and makes him look like an arrogant git.  Mind you, I'm not saying he wasn't at least a little arrogant...
*2 - He does have a distracting habit of writing a book-within-a-book via very lengthy footnotes that take his asides to up to half the page height, while interesting they are excessive.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What are your theories on deja vu?

As a teenager I had a theory that Time has no bearing on us after we die, and so Deja Vu is our spirits revisiting important moments in our lives. Perhaps this all happens in the "life flashing before your eyes" moments and each flash is a stop and moment of past Deja Vu.
So at the time I used to take especial notice of my situation and surroundings and conversation during Deja Vu and try to savor it.
Maybe these critical moments were critical mistakes and God provides us one last chance to correct our lives at death? Look for the novel based on this next year.

Today what are my theories? Gosh I don't know. Maybe it is simply that it is a common situation that you have encountered before and your brain gets tricked and misfires and writes memory in the same place it is reading it and so you feel like you know what's coming, like listening to a reverse echo sound effect - you can't quite make it out but when it arrives it sounds like it was always coming.

I just made that one up for you HeyLady33, that's how I roll.

Ask me anything

What is the most annoying thing that someone could do to you?

Shatter my ego in front of everyone I know and love. Actually that's a bit past annoying and on into terrifying.
Let's go with constantly doubt and second guess everything I say and play Devil's Advocate whenever I complain about something.

Ask me anything

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So why the "screen name"? What does it mean?

Oathbreaker, who are you, really?

I once wrote a rather exhaustive, yet tantalizingly light retrospective on my various "screen names" and what they meant to me. You can find it here: http://humanfailmachine.blogspot.com/2009/10/ice-cream-assassin.html

I'm curious if my answer now changes from then. Oathbreaker to me is a character, he is a mode of being that I can fall into for online games and those rare moments when defining yourself in egoic terms is useful. Oathbreaker is a person who does right, by his reckoning, with or against the rules of society. He is haunted by a past shame that is also that which allows him to follow his contrary course. I see him as a free man in an age of thralls and lords.

Of course, when ti comes to twitter and other things, it's just a convenient way to hide my real name from the intertubes and still have a recognizable moniker for those who know me.

Read my other blog post for a FULL accounting of the history of my "screen names" and other aggrandized back stories.

Ask me anything

Monday, April 26, 2010

What hobbies, sports, or other leisure time activities do you enjoy most?

When I was a teenager in (I don't recall exact years so this is a guess) Gr. 9 and 10 (maybe) my friends and I used to do two things. Before school, at lunch, and after school we would bat some tennis balls around the dilapidated tennis courts. We were terrible and we spent as much time hacking through the brambles and bushes on the other side of the fence as we did actually volleying, but it was loads of fun. The other thing we used to do, and we did it most of our childhood together to various amounts (once I moved to the same neighbourhood as them I got to do it a lot more) was play street hockey. Throughout University and while working up in Orillia I joined rec league floor hockey teams and killed myself pounding floorboards and being generally terrible at it, but I haven't played it since. Partly because Ice Hockey is much more popular and I never learned to skate growing up on the West Coast (no natural ice might have contributed) and partly because of low faith in my physical ability to keep up and my expectation that my peers would expect more actual hockey knowledge from someone my age. The fact is I always found it loads of fun but I didn't really watch it much or care to learn subtleties of the game for mostly 1-on-1 driveway matches or the occasional 5-on-5 with 2 subs neighbourhood game.
Tennis I never played once we changed schools, I went through an introspective and mostly depressing period of life and didn't do much until I moved out of town for University. Then last summer I got into tennis through my work's in-house tennis league. I'm not as terrible as I thought I would be and spent a lot of effort on taking it seriously. I was still playing with my racket from when I was a kid!! I've just signed up this year and I hope to take it just as seriously and have a great time playing with all the wonderful members of our league.
As for hobbies, well, I play video games and they are my bane. I waste so much time playing them that I fail to achieve my other goals for myself. It's a damn shame I won't be able to some day save the world with my game playing skills. Otherwise I like to read, I enjoy /having written/ but dread /writing/, and I would love to actually pick up my guitar and (learn to) play versus thinking about it and then not.
You all know I am also in Toastmasters and take it slightly more seriously than learning the guitar.
Well, I could go for awhile longer on this rather all-inclusive question but I will stop hear AND I think this post has /just enough/ of my own failure in it to justify a post on my blog (looking @HeyLady33 ;).

Ask me anything

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You always seem to be analyzing people and trying to figure them out, do you think people do that to you as well? How do you think you come across?

I do always seem to be analyzing people and trying to figure them out. I think it's a habit I got into a long, long time ago first to analyze myself and then to understand other people for myself. A lot of people ask you to analyze them or people they know but without consciously doing so. By sharing their concerns or problems with other people they are appealing to you to analyze themselves or their neighbours to offer insight or advice.

We all want to understand each other (and ourselves) and often I am in a position to offer a different perspective on someone. I'm not concerned with being expressly right or wrong, so much as circling in on an understanding of each person. I realize we are all dynamic and many-faceted but fundamentally we all do things for similar base motivations and they are almost always noble in our own minds.

I think in the vast majority of situations I come across as either insightful or off the mark and possibly offensive. That's simply because a lot of the time people are offended if you say something that doesn't match their personal self-image or image of another person. We humans are also easily offended even when no malice or even any attempt to assert an opinion is made. Just because I might argue my reasoning for a view doesn't mean I think only I am right, I just want to be clear in my line of reasoning before tossing it aside. Online, I'm sure people might think I'm a jerk, because we all have this lovely view of our piece of the internet being a private island of our ego's on the seas of open sharing. We don't like it if someone busts down the non-existent door and pretends to know us based on a few incidental observations. And you know what, that's fair - I've actually recently chastised myself for doing this - I really don't need to make myself more of an e-ass than I am through my already controversial opinions.

I suppose all I can do is console myself in the fact that everyone does this, whether they tell you or not. Many of us hide behind quick prejudices, some selected from stereotypes, and others elected by one or two statements from the recipient. At least I give you the opportunity to rebut my thoughts and the resultant opportunity to attempt to expand my understanding of "you".

If I had more time to write this and more than the 3x8 window on Formspring to re-read it I could attempt to make this sound more dickheaded but as it is this will have to stand. Comments are welcome on my Blog.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What is the proudest moment of your life so far?

The proudest moment of my life so far was my sister's wedding. Seeing the first one of us kids committing to a lifetime of happiness with one person and joining into a whole new group of relatives was quite a moment.

I was proud of her and what she was doing and what it would mean to the new family she was just starting to create. I was happy and proud that my entire immediate family could make the trip from Ontario to British Columbia and all of us through Aunts, Uncles, and new distant in-laws managed to get along for a couple days and just be genuinely happy for these two kids exchanging solemn vows.

Pride is a funny thing. It can be an evil construct of the ego, undermining the goodness and purity of man's actions, or it can be the glue that makes a defining moment in your life resonate and continue to define you. I'm thankful to my sister and her husband for giving me some glue to work with.

Ask me anything

What is your favourite place in London?

There are so many places I could mention that are my favourites for different reasons. For example, my favourite place for the particular brand of cheddar poutine I like is Billy's downtown. My favourite place for quiet contemplation is Victoria Park on a crisp winter's night. My favourite bridge is Blackfriars. My favourite venue (so far) is Centennial Hall. But those are pretty specific and I think this question was more general.

I guess my favourite place in London is my house's back deck on a cool, bright, promising early-summer morning. It's quiet, with only the birds playing overhead. Sometimes they sit on the roof of my shed, or my neighbour's, observing me as I sip coffee and watch the sun slowly crawl across my lawn towards me. I can see the last remnants of due glistening in the green and I can smell the freshness of the air, itself just a bit chilly and rapidly warming. In time the sun will crest my roof at my back and fill the day with summer thoughts but for the next 20 minutes it is the glorious birth of spring.

Ask me anything

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What do you enjoy the most about being part of Toastmasters?

So many cliches jump into my mind!
An easy answer is the people. The only thing like this would be a religion or a cult. Everyone is accepting and encouraging and working towards a common and difficult goal: self improvement. Their is a real fraternity in that.
As great as that is, that thing we strive for? That's what gets me back. That's what I walk away thinking about each meeting - How did I do, what did I learn from everyone who spoke, how can I improve.

What I enjoy most about Toastmasters is that enables me to constantly think about and practice the fundamental and finer elements of human communication.

Ask me anything

What is an I.S. lackey?

It's a bucket term I coined, perhaps unoriginally, to represent any generalist job in Information Services.
In a nutshell, regardless of my current Job Description I build, change, or fix things on, of, and for computers for other people.
It carries with it some of the connotation that I'll basically learn and do anything related to computers, like a good lackey, and most people's 'expertise' is just them having a headstart.
Not to be confused at all with the much more noble IS Entrepreneur.

Ask me anything

Are you married?

No, I am as single as that endless point in time that you are captivated by a sunset.
I was once closer than it feels good to think about and I don't consider it having never occurred a 'close call'.
I'm looking forward to that special day in both our lives.

Ask me anything

Friday, March 19, 2010

Disturbing New Images

I tweaked my sidebar with a fun but pointless and potentially disturbing-looking little widget.

Further I signed up for http://www.formspring.me/Oathbreaker so that you can now ask me for all the disturbing imagery that your minds can think to ask for.  If you want to break down my candy coating (because I come across as such a fuzzy, nice guy I'm sure) then here is the hammer to do it.

Apparently, Alice in Wonderland is chalk full of disturbing images in the classical Tim Burton sense.  Hopefully I will get a chance to see what my fellow Tim has been up to on the big screen soon.  Have you seen it?  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 1, Deuce-Aught-Ace-Aught - Breaking News

For some damn reason I am sporting a scruffy goatee again, as in my glamour shot in the sidebar.

I can't say how long it will last but it seems a few weeks may be in store for those around me.

Also, don't miss the LOST finale season premiere tonight, 9pm EST.  I'm afraid you may have to endure a LOST post or two upcoming.  It's moments like these I wish I had that whole Hi-Def fad covered.

My final revelation is that Black House so far is a heck of a riveting book... half Talisman, half crime thriller, with a dash of Dark Tower mystique.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Talisman Book Review

Stephen King & Peter Straub - The Talisman

Published: 1984      Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Expect: A 6-part mini-series in 2012, A series of Graphic Novels

I picked up this book because it supposedly has tie-ins to the Dark Tower series of King's and what I found was, that is the absolute wrong reason to read this book.

Synopsis and Positives

This is essentially the story of the young boy, Jack Sawyer, that sets out on an adventure of hardships and trials and moments of incredible beauty to save his mother's life and so much more. It is a story of magic and moral allegory. It has a clear undertone of the sort of evil modern lifestyle message that King so often represents but does it primarily through his contrasts between two very different and yet very similar worlds. Some of the events, characters, and concepts are worth reading, especially for a novel from 1984. I can see how this book may have been influential and inspiring in it's time. It is a sometimes painful litany of the trials and horrors survived by a 12-year old boy on a seemingly hopeless, yet predestined, quest.

Negatives and Discussion

Stephen King has the unholy knack to keep you riveted to the pages to find out what happens next and that did not waiver here, even though at times, I didn't particularily find myself liking the book! Some of the things about the book I disliked were 1) some elements of the particular writing style I didn't vibe with and these may have been Peter Straub's contributions or things King was trying out, but I fear I wasn't expecting them 2) I felt at times that the story was too unbelievable, too childlike, too incongruous, or too darn heavy!

In all fariness, a lot of my dislike in 2) was my preconception that this was The Dark Tower Appendix A when at most this book is The Dark Tower's feeble ancestor, or to put it another way: The Talisman is to the Dark Tower (DT) as The Hobbit is to the Silmarillion. The Talisman is in the spirit of the Dark Tower but in miniature and infancy, it is a childs tale of adventure in it's form but with some jarringly unchildlike imagery along the way. In regards to DT this makes perfect sense since only The Gunslinger (DT Book 1) had yet been published when this story hit the shelves but the problem is that so very much of this story feels and sounds like The Dark Tower that you can't help continuing to make the comparisons.

While I'm being fair, some of the frustration and incongruency the story wrought with me was somewhat convieniently explained or justified towards the end of the book, while some other of it is just left as is. I think most of the reason these hanging bits frustrated me was my need to tie them into the Dark Tower, whereas in a standalone tale (which this is) they could be accepted as simply being part of the magic. Although, for the life of me, I never understood why a 12-year old boy in 1981 would describe someone's looks in terms of a 1950's movie actor. Heck, maybe this is accurate as I was 2 years old in the year this story took place and the fact the book was published when I was only 5 should mean I cut it some slack if I found a lot of the metaphors and references were sending me to wikipedia. I guess the lesson there is that if you make too many pop culture references in your timeless classic, you end up needing some publishers Shakespearean footnote armada to explain them 30 years later.

Conclusion

This story is a fine and novel tale for it's time, and if you can avoid comparing it point-to-pont to the Dark Tower - either because you haven't read it, or are not that type of compulsive person - you will probably enjoy it if you can get through the considerable grim parts that comprise it's bulk. And for a mere pittance used or a few bucks more new, it's a pretty safe investment for 700+ pages.

Now, I start the sequel.

Avatar Review and VIP Theatre


I saw this at the Wellington VIP Cinemas in 3D on the weekend and here is my brief overview of both.


First off this was my first 3D movie ever and my first visit to the VIP cinema ever. There were a number of neat 3D moments but none that were more than a novelty which really surprised me since the vast majority of this movie is computer generated which would allow for a lot of stunning 3D moments. I was left with the clear impression that a really good 3D movie would need to be specifically filmed to take advantage of that display medium and very likely be entirely CG with simple colour themes, perhaps a scifi of some sort. I wear glasses and after wearing the tinted 3D glasses over my own for a number of hours my eyes and head started to feel taxed, also a lot more of the movie seemed kind of flickery than maybe it should have.

As for the movie, it followed almost exactly what I thought would happen in the narrative after watching only one trailer. The story is predictable in it's major elements and evokes some amount of both Deus Ex Machina near the end and simultaneously fails to suspend my disbelief in the motives for some of the actions on screen. Maybe this latter is due to a lack of investment in the future world these events take place in - we have only the off-hand word of the "villian" characters to go on that certain pressures are legitimate influences to allow certain contradictory actions.

That said, it was compelling. The story really did have me interested in how they were going to pull off what I thought was coming and the majority of it was pretty cool. This would have made it a watchable and fun movie for me but what the story really does is offers a vehicle for the visuals and concepts. The visuals and concepts in this movie are stand-out the reason to see it in my opinion. This is a really cool place, with really interesting creatures and plants and customs and represented in some of the most stunning computer generated scenes I've seen in a movie. This is not a Pixar movie or a plastic feeling Spirits Within, this is computer generated effects at their best. Acting was great and the translation to the CG characters was flawless... often in video game mocaps and lower quality CG movies actions are overwrought and mime'ish, but here these are living creatures. For these reasons, I'd like to have seen it without 3D to get the full clarity of the visuals. As it was it felt a bit like looking at the Mona Lisa in that funky stereovision.

As for the VIP experience I'd say if you want a big comfortable seat (with a bit of recline) and no hassle seat reservations or are dying to drink while watching a movie or hate watching a movie with kids and teens disrupting things, this place is a well worth the $5 premium. In short, it's ideal for a date. If you want to kick right back, the first-row seats fully recline La-Z-Boy style. VIP Downside? I'm not actually sure how much of the movie I remember...

All in all a good movie and worth experiencing in the theatre even if the main story arc is predictable. The 3D is worth checking out if you've never seen 3D before or are a fan of 3D in movies, otherwise this movie has a lot more to offer than just that. Oh yeah - if you loved this movie, perhaps check out the fantasy version: Ferngully.