Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From.Joseph, especially...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Almost here...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Draw Something! Roundup!

Mads insisted on doing the "L"! :)

Wine looks a lot like hot sauce in my mind.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Draw Something! Vol 5

Proof that they can't all be winners - Mickey and Pluto, from memory

Sorry for the white line thing - my screenshots on this app don't always work right...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Draw Something! More!

A roundup of some of my recent amazing Draw Something entries. Be forewarned: they are complex and amazing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books and more books

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

It's time to catch things up on my recent readings. And there are many. We start today with "Old Man's War," AKA 'Some Weird Sci Fi Book I Came Across Somewhere.' It's an interesting premise: in the future, humanity has figured out how to download people's consciousness into cloned bodies. They clone the bodies from your own cells, so it's your body when you were in your prime. And then they modify your body so you have a computer in your brain and are super muscle-y and you have green skin (something about photosynthesis and how it gives you more energy). And then they download your consciousness into this new body, throw your old body away, and then make you fight as a soldier in wars across the galaxy against random aliens.

I guess there was a little more to it than that - the aliens apparently attack human colonies throughout space, so there was some kind of internal logic going on. Old people get a 2nd chance at being young again and so they're super into it - instead of getting sick and very old and dying, they get to go out with a blast as young hot green people who have semi-super powers. Honestly, I'd be halfway tempted to sign up for such a program today, even if it meant being green, if only to get my hair back.

I actually really thought this book was pretty good. The main old guy character was well written and had some strong narration, including some decent humor here and there. And it was just a fun goofy premise and an easy read. I give it two green thumbs up.

Asylum/Sanctum, by Madeleine Roux

This book and its sequel were OK. They're about a group of teens that go to a summer school at a private school that used to be a psych hospital. When they were there, they experience many strange things and start to hallucinate and have weird dreams. The books sorta have a fun vibe about them, even if the details don't work out to be all that memorable. There's a semi-Harry Potterishness feel about 2 teenage guys and a teenage girl teaming up to take on a dark mystery. But the parallels end there - the author doesn't do much with the premise.

The books are very picture-heavy. The first one, Asylum, has many pictures in it from real life broken down asylums that had long since been abandoned. So it was kind of a "Mrs. Peregrine" rip-off. And the 2nd one just had cheesy staged fake old timey circus pictures.

The characters are not well-written. The lead guy is awful. He's basically Thomas from the Maze Runner - all questions, all passive, no action. The plot happens to him, he doesn't drive the plot. Having a passive protagonist is a great way to make your story fizzle out quickly. Plus, the dialogue isn't very entertaining. The characters all have personalities, but they happen to all be boring. Can't any of these people be interesting or funny or unusual in some way?

Other complaints: Massive plot holes in both books, especially the 2nd. Many unresolved things. Which maybe she's saving for a 3rd book, but I don't really buy that. If she planned on the plot holes, why not call attention to them and have characters wonder about them? Why does the main character keep having dreams from the psych hospital warden's point of view? He died decades ago! No answer - the answer is just 'try not to think too hard about that and enjoy people behaving in ways that humans don't actually behave in.'

Also, there's too much casual profanity in the books (nothing about PG13, but much of it) and the author takes a needless snarky partisan swipe at Republicans for no reason than to try to assert that she's superior somehow. Which is technically not possible for a girl with a pixie cut, which should be illegal. Girls, I know you like the ease of managing a pixie hair cut. But if guys were attracted to pixie hair cuts, we'd just be attracted to guys and be done with it.

Much more to come! I have read...a lot of things. Like, 9 books or so.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Draw Something

If anyone's up for a game of 'Draw Something' (it's basically Pictionary for smartphones), I can be found at the following id: ch2k


Turning and turning in the widening gyre  
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-William Butler Yeats

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Song Review: The Logical Song by Supertramp

I stumbled across "The Logical Song" on Pandora the other day and it was a real blast from the past. I think it's probably been decades since I last heard it - at least 20 years or so. I think it was on at a dentist's office? It had existed on my distant periphery but if you hummed a few bars I probably could have finished the rest.

But it's been on a constant loop for me this week ever since I heard it again - I'm simultaneously hooked on it and fascinated by it. The entire point of the song is that the guy says 'they' sent him away to learn how to conform and how that just made him into an unthinking vegetable, and how free thinking will get you called a commie liberal just because you refuse to live in the Man's button-down world. 

Today, this song is deep science fiction, as if Roger Hodgson had written had written about how it's liberating to breathe nitrogen on Neptune's moons. Let's dive in and examine closer...

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.

OK straightforward. Before I went to school, life was 'beautiful, magical...'

But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.


There are times when all the world's asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

Now that I am intellectual and dependable, I have completely lost my sense of identity. Can't I just be an ignorant flake again?

Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.

I don't know what pop culture was like in 1979 but in 2014 this is the exact opposite of reality. The thought police live almost exclusively on the left and will not tolerate even the mildest dissent

Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

Ha. Ha.

In short, being clean cut and religious and conservative today is about the most daring, dangerous, counter-cultural, subversive thing you can do. Greg Gutfeld says it better than I can:

In short, liberalism is based on one central desire: to look cool in front of others in order to get love. Preaching tolerance makes you look cooler than saying something like, "please lower my taxes." This is why the only true form of rebellion left on this planet is conservatism. Conservatism, by rejecting the trademark forms of romantic rebellion (anarchy, activism, [etc.]) turns out to be far more subversive than anything on the planet. The conservative, every day, knows that he or she says things that aren't considered cool among the media elite. Yet the conservative still comes out and says it. This is why Dick Cheney is closer to the Hell's Angels than Hunter S. Thompson ever could be. And why Jon Stewart is about as daring as a diaper filled with Nilla Wafers.

Still, great song. The best part is probably the 'take it take it take it!' part that segues into a blazing saxophone solo. And at 97, this guy has aged better and sounds better than he did when he was like 30.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Reviews: The Flight of the Silvers and The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner

Having hated The Maze Runner, I moved on to the sequel, The Scorch Trials, to see if I would hate that as well. I listened to the Maze Runner on Book on CD, and while the prose and story and characters were all written at the 3rd grade level, the voice acting was top notch. And these are not lengthy books; each one takes about 4 days of driving to and from work to get through. So I gave this one a shot.

The story was somehow even less interesting than the Maze Runner. This one is set in the desert. Thomas and the other Gladers meet some zombie people and some other teenagers. There's the 'way too friendly' Brenda and the 'very spanish' Jorge, whose every other word is 'muchacho' (the spanish word for 'moustache,' if I'm not mistaken, and I'm not). Together, they'll have to make it through the 'scorch' to get to the end of the desert and get the cure for the Flare, which is a disease that the whole world has that turns you into a gross zombie.

They make it through the desert. Some not very exciting things happen. Characters come and go. A guy that attacks them is strongly hinted to return later. He never does. Some killer robots appear at the end. The Gladers mostly kill them. There's a lot of bad lightning. It kills more of the Gladers. By this point, there should be about negative 7 Gladers. But there are several (and yet we still only know the names of 4 of them). 

The writing is painful. This is a nearly verbatim quote:

Thomas was shot! He closed his eyes. It hurt. It hurt really bad. He felt bad. 

The characters are reduced to personality traits that run about 2 microns deep. Newt's personality is based around being irish and saying the word 'buggin'' a lot. Jorge, 'muchacho,' Minh-ho, 'slim it, guys!' and so on. And Thomas remains the most boring and 1-dimentional main character ever. He's not smart, he's not brave, he's not interesting, he's not cool. He just exists. 

But now I'm roped in and have to see how this whole big mess ends and if there was a point to anything that has come before, so on to the 3rd one...

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

This one was much better, but I don't know if any of my readers would like this. It's a tough genre to peg - I guess sci fi would be the closest. There's a touch of fantasy, maybe? The plot is pretty complicated, so bear with me.

Basically, some strange angel-like people save the lives of a few people as the world is ending. They put silver bracelets on their wrists and the world kind of disappears. The people wind up in San Diego on an alternate Earth that is the same as our Earth but their timelines diverged in 1913. This Earth has figured out how to do a lot of really interesting and cool things with time. With technology, they can move extremely fast, or slow time down to a crawl. Some devices work like microwaves and restore food to when it was new. Some machines can repair injuries by sending the person's body back to before they were injured.

There are unknown plans for these saved people, who some scientists gather and call "the Silvers." There is a bad guy who is repeating the last 5 years over and over who hates them and is chasing them. They break out of their scientific center when they are attacked by people who think that their being in the world has disrupted time and will cause major problems. And there is a FBI-like woman who is pursing them.

This isn't a great synopsis, but with a story with this much plot and this elaborate of world building, it's tough to condense. The most impressive thing is how well thought-out the world of the book is. There are really interesting applications of the time technology and how the Silvers find that they can do all of those time things themselves without technology, and what affect that has and what different 'powers' everyone has. One girl can summon time portals and send herself notes back through the past. One guy can summon visual and audio representations of past events that occurred at whatever place he's at. But rather than make that a one-off power, the author makes it part of the technology tha the world has discovered and so the police use it to re-create crime scenes, and he talks about what affect that had on society and crime and all sorts of other interesting applications. There's also movie theatres where people can watch a 3-hour movie in 20 minutes, or restaurants where you can have a leisurely lunch in 2 minutes but it takes hours, etc. Really great details.

I was also glad that there was really surprisingly little language in it, up until the end. This book could easily be made into a PG-13 movie without sacrificing any of the story or characters. If this gets popular (I think it just came out in 2014), it would be a great movie. But it's pretty lengthy (17 discs, which is 700 pages or so, maybe?) and, if it has one flaw, it's that it has WAY too many characters. There are literally about 25 people that you get to know to some degree. Even really minor characters get a back story. There are also some minor plot holes, but hopefully those get worked out in the sequel that the author is just now finishing...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Threefer: Book reviews

It's been a bit since I posted some book reviews, so let's have a few, shall we?

The Maze Runner, by the delightfully named James Dashner

The Maze Runner is pretty weak. And I feel bad since it's an LDS author and the language is clean as super soap and nothing immoral happens in the book and it's a nice harmless read for today's young adults, but boy this is dull.

First, it's a Hunger Games ripoff. Everyone's going to compare it to that, but that's only because it's TRANSPARENTLY A HUNGER GAMES RIPOFF. And I haven't read any of the HG books but I assume they have better writing and better characters than in this book.

Young adult Thomas wakes up in a strange maze world where about 50 other young adult boys live. They have all had their memory erased. They run in a big maze. A girl gets sent to the 'Glade' where they live, and immediately goes into a coma. There is a bit of maze running and some hints at some genuinely interesting mysteries.

All of these mysteries fail to pan out. And the people who erased Thomas' memory erased his personality as well, along with anything that would make him interesting or a compelling or a realistic character to base 3 entire books around. He isn't funny, he isn't cool, he isn't interesting, he isn't well written, he has no interesting thoughts, and he's not attractive. So obviously let's make him the main character. He is mostly a passive observer of events. He comes up with a few ideas, and has one heroic scene thing, but for the most part he runs to and fro looking concerned and wondering if the girl in the coma likes him.

Spoiler: no one knows or cares. The ending arrives and few questions are answered. And, apparently - and I'm completely serious here - one of the very main characters apparently died and I didn't even notice it. I'm on the 2nd book (don't ask) and said character isn't in the book at all, and no one has even mentioned that he isn't there anymore. So either he died off-screen with no mention at all or he died onscreen but it was so poorly written that it barely made the slightest impact.

I read this because there's a movie version coming out in September that is getting terrible advance reviews. I did these things because I enjoy tormenting myself, apparently.

On a side note, books like this make me mad that I never wrote a book. Other than not having any ability to write dialogue that doesn't sound like it comes out of a late 90s Riesen commercial (look it up - they're painful) and having no ideas whatsoever for any interesting plots, my big holdup was 'why write a book if you can't write the BEST book'? Now I wish I'd just rehashed a popular YA fiction series and cashed in while the cashing in was good. Even I could have done better than The Maze Runner.


Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I read this because it's the sequel to The Shining - the only Stephen King book I've ever enjoyed. This book isn't a) scary b) good c) anything like The Shining, though, so it was pretty much a bust as far as sequels to The Shining go. It's also, like everything SK has ever produced, hopelessly over-written. Why use one paragraph to describe something unimportant when you can use 17??

Dan Torrence is all grown up and is an alcoholic. A young girl named Abra can communicate with him telepathically. They meet on page 1800 of like 2000. (This felt like an insanely long book since literally not a single interesting thing happens from pages 10-one million.) There is a group of vampire-like people who are searching for Abra because if you kill telepathic kids, they give off 'steam' that said vampire-like people ingest and it makes them young.

All of the vampire characters are annoying and terrible. Dan is OK but you think his alcoholism has a point but it doesn't. It doesn't come into play at all. He quits drinking on like page 200 and never drinks again. Some insane coincidences occur but never pay off. i.e. a guy in Dan's AA group is Abra's pediatrician. He knows both Dan and Abra are telepathic and gifted with paranormal stuff. But he never introduces them ever. They meet in a completely different way. So what was the point of this pediatrician?

There are one or two sort of clever things in here about how the telepathy works (I liked a scene where Abra was able to write messages on Dan's blackboard from many miles away) and the ending was pretty OK in a high level kind of way. Like, I like the plan Dan came up with to kill the vampires. But meh.


The Martian by first-time novelist Andy Weir

I saved the best for last; this is the best book I've read in years. It's hilarious. I couldn't put it down. The main character is brilliant. The supporting characters are a little weak but since the main character is 95% of the book it's fine. It's about an astronaut who gets accidentally left on Mars because his team thinks he died in an accident. Turns out he survived. The entire book is about him and NASA trying to get him off of Mars. Lots of language, unfortunately, but everything else about this book is perfect. It's very heavy on scientific talk but it all sounds pretty accurate; the author reportedly spent over 3 years researching this book, and it shows.

It's not a comedy officially but it is laugh out loud funny. The main character is a riot. The plot moves quickly - much is going on. You're rooting for this guy from the first few pages of the book. It immediately hooks you and you stay hooked because the dialogue is so great. Thematically I guess it would be considered sci fi but it feels very realistic and is set in the very near future, so don't shy away if you're averse to sci fi...

It's been optioned into a movie to be directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, who is 100% the wrong casting and will utterly ruin this movie, plus I hate Matt Damon. Plus, the entire gist of this is that it's a guy's journal log entries. Many things happen, but they're kind of not the point. His stream of consciousness is the star. So unless you want to film 2 hours of an astronaut typing up journal entries, 99% of the charm of this book will not translate well to film.


More to come! My constant absorption of odd books continues apace...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Review: Johnny Lingo

Johnny Lingo is a unique little slice of LDS cultural lagniappe, and as such is very easy to take for granted. Anyone raised in the Church is familiar with the story, and the concept of being an '8-cow wife' (more on this in a second) and the other distinctive aspects of the 'movie,' which at 29-minutes long is more a one-episode TV mini-series than a movie, but whatever.

We start off with Johnny Lingo, ruggedly handsome dude and all-around good guy, who is Polynesian and yet has a name that sounds like he was one of Patrick Swayze's surfer gang members from Point Break.

Johnny Lingo is interested in marrying a girl named Mahana, and shows up at Mahana's house to bargain with her dad...

I felt like Moki when Johnny Lingo offered 8 cows for Mahana.
Pictured here, sporting his very best 'Velma' haircut.

...and his best friend, the enigmatic and nameless 'counselor' of completely indeterminate age and gender.

If you gave me a million dollars I still couldn't tell you if this is a man or a woman.

Poor Mahana is (figuratively) beaten down by her dad and, with no modern Disney movies around, has no way of knowing she just needs to believe in herself, and would it kill you to put on some makeup or something?

Mahana: for when you're attracted for some reason to the 4-day heroin binge look.

Dad thinks Mahana is worth, at best, 3 cows, but Johnny blows everyone's minds when he declares that he will pay 8 COWS for Mahana. This is the cow equivalent of demanding to pay $2,000 for USA For Africa's "We are the World" on 8-track. This despite Dad exclaiming, "Mahana, you ugly!" just moments before.

"You're no Adam Levine yourself, Dad."
Anyway, despite Dad's doubts, Johnny Lingo makes good on the cow thing, and shows up to whisk Mahana away to places unknown, 'visiting many islands.' They get married (apparently - it's off-screen), but the shoot really hits the fan when some juvenile delinquents make up a mean anti-Mahana chant at the wedding dinner, and Johnny Lingo runs them off with a nonsense threat.

"Kooie Phlay!!!"

Around this point I'd like to mention that the film didn't apparently have any lights for the shoot and thus filmed about 25% of the movie by, apparently, moonlight.

Johnny and Mahana Lingo take off in his 8-cowpower boat and that's the last we see of them until the end, when a shopkeeper guy (oh sorry, there was a shopkeeper guy) hears that the Lingos are finally back from their honeymoon. He arrives to deliver something that Johnny had put on layaway, and discovers Mahana's Dad leaving in disgust, mumbling that Johnny Lingo had 'cheated him.' Baffled, the shopkeeper goes into the Lingo's house to discover...

Someone got a JC Penney card...

Mahana is pretty now! Or at least she smiles a little more. You see, all she needed was a little nurturing, a new wardrobe, some makeup, a nearly total make-over, a haircut, a pedicure, a manicure, posture lessons, an eyebrow plucking, a completely different personality, and a wealthy/attractive husband who excessively spoils you, and poof! She's hot and emotionally stable, just like that!

And all it took was love, and several thousands of dollars.

The shopkeeper pervs out on Mahana and almost literally starts drooling on himself until Mahana, realizing that things are getting weird and not a little bit uncomfortable, excuses herself to attend to an urgent errand involving walking over to the beach for no reason.

OK pal, let's reel it back in a little...

Johnny Lingo helpfully explains to the shopkeeper that blah blah blah something believe in yourself blah blah possibly plastic sugery, you too can be hot like us. 

I give it 8 cows out of 8. And if you want to, you can watch the entire movie here.