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Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Book Queue, 2013 Update
It's only been about 4 months since the last book queue post, but I've already knocked off about half that list (out of 10 posted, 5 books completed, one other started) and while that might not sound like a lot, keep in mind that at least a couple books were behemoths like Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which is a long, dense, philosophical, mathematical text that has been sitting on my shelf unread for about 5 years. And naturally, I've read plenty of things that weren't in the queue, because I'm fickle like that. So sue me.

The notion of only reading long epics is certainly not going to fly all year long, but I still plan on tackling a few massive tomes just to keep frosty. My Goodreads Reading Challenge is currently set at a reasonable 30 books for the year, but according to my stats, I should be just about equaling the number of pages I read last year (when I hit a 50 book goal). So anyways, here are the holdovers from the last list, and some new ones I'll be tackling in this second half of the year.

The four remaining books from my last queue (note: I began Theodore Rex, but have not yet finished)
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (992 pages) - I have to admit, I probably won't get to this one this year, unless I put on a lot of mileage in Theodore Rex (which I'm intentionally reading rather slowly), but I swears, this will be the next forbiddingly long history book I read.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (800 pages) - I'll definitely be starting this one in the next couple months sometime (probably after some vacations in August), and I am very much looking forward to it.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce (783 pages) - Go big or go home. This is one of those towering literary novels that's supposed to be great but impossible to read. And long! Not sure if I'll have the fortitude to pick this one up this year, but I do want to give it a shot at some point.
  • Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh (528 pages) - I was not a huge fan of C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner, but this one seems to be more my speed. I was thinking about doing this as an audio-book during an upcoming long drive, but the reviews of the reader are awful, so I guess that's out. Definitely something I plan on reading this year though.
New Stuff
  • Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton - Hamilton's book Pandora's Star was on the last queue, but I didn't realize that it was really just the first half of a longer story. It doesn't even really end on a cliffhanger so much as it just sorta stops (that's perhaps not too fair, but I was still disappointed), so now that I'm about a thousand pages in, I figure I should finish off the story (and this one is another thousand or so pages, jeeze).
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold - Another book whose predecessor was in the last queue, but in this series, Bujold at least writes self-contained stories, so I can take my time getting to this one (which I will probably read in the near future).
  • The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey - A short book I added to the list because I'm trying Worlds Without End's 2013 Readers Challenge, which is to read 12 books - 1 each by 12 different female authors. I'm 5 books into that challenge, and am looking forward to expanding my horizons a bit more. McCaffrey is probably more famous for her fantasy novels, but this one is SF and sounds interesting enough.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - Whenever I take those Myers Briggs tests, I always score off the charts as an Introvert (I've taken the test formally two times, scoring a 95 and 100 on the Introvert side respectively), and I'm always fascinated by that and what it means. I picked this up based on Jay's review a while back, and am looking forward to digging in at some point.
  • Warhorse by Timothy Zahn - A little while back, Amazon put up Kindle versions of a bunch of Zahn's back catalog, much of which is out of print. Zahn has always been a favorite of mine, a workhorse I could always fall back on, so I'm happy to have more books available, and this one will probably make great vacation reading.
  • Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks - The first in the Banks' Culture series, which seems to be pretty well respected and beloved. Banks recently passed away, but seems to have made a big impact (apparently one of the folks that brought Space Opera back into vogue in the 80s and 90s).
Well, that should keep me busy for a while. I do want to make sure I work in some horror novels when we get to the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon, but I'll need to look into that a bit. I'm a bit out of practice when it comes to horror literature (any suggestions?)
Posted by Mark on July 14, 2013 at 05:39 PM .: link :.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tweets of Glory
As a testament to the enduring power of blogs, I give you a blog post that consists almost entirely of tweets. You're welcome. So there you have it. Blogs are alive and well. (See you on Sunday with, hopefully, a more edifying post).
Posted by Mark on June 12, 2013 at 09:54 PM .: link :.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tweets of Glory
There's some great stuff on Twitter, but the tweets just keep coming, so there's a fair chance you've missed some funny stuff, even from the people you follow. Anywho, time is short tonight, so it's time for another installment of Tweets of Glory:

I have to admit, hatewatching The Newsroom has actually been pretty entertaining, but I'd much rather watch this proposed feline-themed show.

Yeah, so that one's a little out of date, but for the uninitiated, Duncan Jones is David Bowie's son.

(I love the internet)

Well, that happened. Stay tuned for some (hopefully) more fulfilling content on Sunday...
Posted by Mark on August 22, 2012 at 09:54 PM .: link :.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

When the whole Kickstarter thing started, I went through a number of phases. First, it's a neat idea and it leverages some of the stuff that makes the internet great. Second, as my systems analyst brain started chewing on it, I had some reservations... but that was shortlived as, third, some really interesting stuff started getting funded. Here are some of the ones I'm looking forward to:
  • Singularity & Co. - Save the SciFi! - Yeah, so you'll be seeing a lot of my nerdy pursuits represented here, and this one is particularly interesting. This is a project dedicated to saving SF books that are out of print, out of circulation, and, ironically, unavailable in any sort of digital format. The Kickstarter is funding the technical solution for scanning the books as well as tracking down and securing copyright. Judging from the response (over $50,000), this is a venture that has found a huge base of support, and I'm really looking forward to discovering some of these books (some of which are from well known authors, like Arthur C. Clarke).
  • A Show With Ze Frank - One of the craziest things I've seen on the internet is Ze Frank's The Show. Not just the content, which is indeed crazy, but the sheer magnitude of what he did - a video produced every weekday for an entire year. Ze Frank grew quite a following at the time, and in fact, half the fun was his interactions with the fans. Here's to hoping that Sniff, hook, rub, power makes another appearance. And at $146 thousand, I have no idea what we're in for. I always wondered how he kept himself going during the original show, but now at least he'll be funded.
  • Oast House Hop Farm - And now we come to my newest obsession: beer. This is a New Jersey farm that's seeking to convert a (very) small portion of their land into a Hop Farm. Hops in the US generally come from the west coast (Washington's Yakima valley, in particular). In the past, that wasn't the case, but some bad luck (blights and infestations) brought east coast hops down, then Prohibition put a nail in the coffin. The farm hopes to supply NJ brewers as well as homebrewers, so mayhaps I'll be using some of their stuff in the future! So far, they've planted Cascade and Nugget hops, with Centennial and Newport coming next. I'm really curious to see how this turns out. My understanding is that it takes a few years for a hop farm to mature, and that each crop varies. I wonder how the East Coast environs will impact the hops...
  • American Beer Blogger - Despite the apparent failure of Discovery's Brewmasters, there's got to be room for some sort of beer television show, and famous beer blogger and author Lew Bryson wants to give it a shot. The Kickstarter is just for the pilot episode, but assuming things go well, there may be follow up efforts. I can only hope it turns out well. I enjoyed Brewmasters for what it was, but being centered on Dogfish Head limited it severely. Sam Calagione is a great, charismatic guy, but the show never really captured the amazing stuff going on in the US right now (which is amazing because it is so broad and local and a million other things Brewmasters couldn't really highlight given its structure).
Well, there you have it. I... probably should have been linking to these before they were funded, but whatever, I'm really happy to see that all of these things will be coming. I'm still curious to see if this whole Kickstarter thing will remain sustainable, but I guess time will tell, and for now, I'm pretty happy with the stuff being funded. There are definitely a ton of other campaigns that I think are interesting, especially surrounding beer and video games, but I'm a little tight on time here, so I'll leave it at that...
Posted by Mark on April 15, 2012 at 08:28 PM .: link :.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Book Queue, 2012 Edition
The last list I posted, back in July 2011, had 15 books on it. I've made some excellent process, clearing out almost all of the "Holdovers" from previous lists, including some books that have been sitting on my shelf for literally years. The one remainder from that list is Godel, Escher, Bach, which I chose not to read due to its length (not sure if I'll tackle it this year either, but it will remain in the queue until I do!) I've actually read several books that weren't even in the queue, but I think it's time to regroup and look ahead to what I'll be reading in 2012. The first few books here are holdovers from the previous list, which I didn't read for various reasons.
  • Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter: Again, not sure I want to tackle this one right away, as it's quite the lengthy tome. And it's not super easy reading either - it's dense, complex stuff. I've actually read the first chapter or so before, and I'm virtually certain I'll enjoy the book a great deal, but I've got a ton of other stuff I'd like to get through first.
  • Komarr, A Civil Campaign, Diplomatic Immunity, and Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujuld - These are the last 4 books in Bujold's long running Vorkosigan Saga, a series I cracked open last year, plowing through the first 10 installments. I'm told that these next few books are some of the most fun in the series, so I'm already looking forward to them (and dreading that I won't be able to fall back on reading Vorkosigan novels)
  • The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge: I still want to read this (a continuation of Vinge's loosely linked Zones of Thought books), but initial reviews of this book seem to indicate that it ends on a cliffhanger and that another novel is forthcoming. I thus won't be reading this until I know more about when the presumed conclusion to the story will be available...
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi: I actually ordered this last year, but for some strange reason, Amazon could not fulfill the order (it had something to do with my ordering of the paperback version, which is apparently nonstandard or something). I do still want to read it though (it's appaently a SF heist story, which seems right up my alley), and now that I have a Kindle, I can probably get to this whenever I want...
  • Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale: The first in a series of crime novels by Lansdale, whom you may know from his work on Bubba Ho-Tep (a book/movie where a black JFK and an old Elvis fight a mummy in a modern-day Texas retirement home). I just never got to this last year, but I don't see myself delaying anytime soon.
  • Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson: I really enjoyed Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, but I've never read any of his other stuff... until now. Or until I read this one, which is already sitting on my shelf.
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris - I gave this biography of Theodore Roosevelt to my uncle as a gift a while ago, and he though I'd like it too, so now it's in the queue. The biography apparently begins with Roosevelt's taking office (i.e. no getting bogged down with his childhood and upraising, it just goes straight to the action). It is a long book with small type and everything, but it's probably something I'll get through this year.
  • Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh - I've actually started reading this one already, so you can see that this book queue works in mysterious ways and that I certainly won't be reading this stuff in order. In any case, this is apparently the first in another long-running series about humans first encounter with aliens. So far, it's quite good, though I'm a little discombobulated by how the narrative keeps jumping ahead. From what I can tell, the series gets much better as it goes...
So there's 11 books I want to read this year. My goal is to do just as good as the 30 I read last year, if not improve on that a little. I also got a Kindle for Christmas, which means I could maybe do more reading on the go. Or not. We'll see. I'm going to be keeping track of progress on GoodReads, so feel free to follow along or friend me or whatever.
Posted by Mark on January 11, 2012 at 06:26 PM .: link :.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2012
Before I get started on recapping the 2011 movie landscape (yes, I know most folks are already done with their year end recaps, but here at Kaedrin, we work at a more leisurely pace), I thought I'd look ahead at 2012. My impression of 2011 is an odd one. I really enjoyed many movies I saw, but there were few that really blew me away. It's not quite a year of mediocrity, but it isn't a spectacular year either. 2012, though, is shaping up to be at least very interesting and possibly one of the best years in a long time...

The Obvious Blockbusters:
Most folks already know these movies are coming and they're also something of a known quantity, so I'm separating them out. There are, of course, other big blockbusters coming, but these are the ones I'm most interested in:
  • The Dark Knight Rises - I'm obliged to include this one. I'm a huge fan of The Dark Knight, but I have to admit that I have trouble believing this new installment will even come close to its predecessor. I actually don't know much about Bane as a villain and I think Tom Hardy's a fantastic actor, but I can't imagine he'll compare favorably to Heath Ledger's Joker. What's more, this film seems to be suffering from typical superhero-sequel-villainitis - there are apparently three villains here. On the other hand, if anyone can pull it off, it's Christopher Nolan and his typical band of collaborators. I'm excited for this movie, but I'm also a little wary and am trying to temper expectations (I'm also avoiding trailers/marketing as much as possible).
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Peter Jackson has reassembled the LotR crew. I don't really need to explain why this is so awesome, but interestingly enough, I think the Hobbit is probably a more mainstream story that will really hook audiences. On the other hand, they're splitting the book (which is pretty short and straightforward in comparison to the rest of LotR) into two movies, which seems like a naked money grab. Still, I can't wait for this one.
  • The Avengers - Another superhero tale, this time a superteam comprised of superheroes, each of which has had their own solo movie. The problem, of course, is that all of the solo movies have been profoundly mediocre (with the one possible exception being the first Iron Man). On the plus side: Joss Whedon is writing and directing, which is the one factor that distinguishes this movie from its ilk and really makes me want to see it. But to be honest, I want this movie to be good more because I'd like to see Whedon go on to make something original and interesting (the way Nolan was able to parlay his success with Batman to make movies like Inception).
  • Skyfall - Bond finally returns to the big screen. I can't say that I'm too excited about director Sam Mendes for this, but I loved the hell out of Casino Royale and the series has nowhere to go but up after the disastrous clusterfuck of Quantum of Solace.
The Less-Obvious Flicks:
It seems like 2012 is brewing up a lot of original screenplays with talented directors, which is a welcome development. And an exciting one too!
  • Django Unchained - Without a doubt my most anticipated movie of the year. Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino is taking on the Western, and he's assembled a fantastic cast to help him along. I'll be curious to see how the tragic loss of Tarantino's long-time editor Sally Menke (frequently cited as an important collaborator) will impact the production, but I'm confident Tarantino will be able to put together something great here...
  • Looper - Writer/Director Rian Johnson's take on the time-travel story is another of my hotly anticipated films of the year. I loved Johnson's Brick and The Brothers Bloom, so this one is a no brainer. Also of note: Apparently Shane Carruth (who wrote, directed, edited, and acted in the ultra-low-budget time-travel tale Primer) is pitching in, so now I'm expecting some really mind-blowing time travel stuff.
  • Wreck-It Ralph - It's been a long time since I've been excited for a new Disney Animation movie, but it appears the time has come. I don't know much about it, but it's apparently set in an arcade where video-game characters can hop from game to game. Typical villain Wreck-It Ralph gets sick of being a bad guy and attempts to channel his inner-hero. The whole intersection between video games and movies is interesting to me, so I'm expecting a lot out of this one... Also of note: Director Rich Moore cut his teeth working on The Simpsons and Futurama. Excitement level: Rising.
  • The Cabin in the Woods - A horror movie with a tired premise ("Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen."), but some interesting talent attached (it doesn't seem like it will be the teenager deathtrap that so many of these movies devolve into), including a script by Joss Whedon. Color me intrigued.
  • Seven Psychopaths - Writer/Director Martin McDonagh made a name for himself with In Bruges, and this latest film seems like it'll be right up my alley. Apparently the plot features a bunch of gansters and the titular psychopaths and follows the tale of a dog-kidnapping. Also, it stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, and Kevin Corrigan. Yes, please.
  • Argo - I'm not sure how it happened, but Ben Affleck really has quietly become one of the more interesting directors working in Hollywood these days, and this movie seems like another offbeat choice. Apparently it follows a CIA plan to mount a fake movie production in order to save Americans trapped during the Iranian revolution. Yeah. And Jack Kirby is apparently a character? Ok. I will see this.
  • The Secret World of Arrietty - It's not often that Anime films get a release in the US (and who knows how many screens this will end up on), but a new film from Japan's Studio Ghibli is always worth a shot (even if it's not directed by Hayao Miyazaki - though he has a writing credit here).
High Risk/Reward Films: This is risk/reward from my own estimation of the potential enjoyment, not from any sort of budget or box office perspective. All of the above movies could be horrible, of course, but some of the below movies seem so strange that they seem like they could either be amazing or horrible. Still, even if they fail, I have a feeling these will at least be interesting failures. This list sorta mutated halfway through into movies that are perhaps less risky, but also have less potential, but I didn't really have anywhere else to put these movies and don't know what else to call this list (Honorable Mentions? Except that there are way more of these than any other list)...
  • Gravity - Director Alfonso Cuarón's one-woman show starring Sandra Bullock as the lone survivor of a space mission to fix the Hubble telescope sounds like it could be amazing. But I've never been a big fan of Sandra Bullock, and I've always found Cuarón's Children of Men to be overrated. That being said, rumors indicate that Cuarón will be relying heavily on long takes to tell this story, which could elevate a seemingly simple story into pure spectacle all by itself. Then again, it could also be a tremendously boring character piece with long shots of Sandra Bullock crying or something. Still, an original science fiction tale that might have some hard SF elements is something I am certainly excited for...
  • Cloud Atlas - Six interconnected tales that span centuries and genres, directed in parallel by two units lead by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski Siblings. It's certainly ambitious and it will almost certainly be epic... but the question is whether it will be an epic clusterfuck or an epic wonder of cinema. Neither Tykwer or the Wachowskis have done anything all that interesting recently, so that's not very encouraging, but the sheer scope of this movie is interesting enough to make me want to see it...
  • Only God Forgives - Nicolas Winding Refn is always interesting, though he sometimes gets a little too carried away. This film reunites him with Drive's Ryan Gosling and has a pretty strange premise: "A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match." Alright, I'm interested.
  • Cosmopolis - David Cronenberg adapting a Don Delillo novel about a young millionaire's odyssey through New York in order to get a haircut stars Robert Pattinson. This could be interesting or an utter disaster.
  • Bullet to the Head - Walter Hill's return to action films could be decent. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa and Christian Slater(!) and it follows a cop and a hitman joining forces to bring down a common enemy. Everyone involved in this has hit-or-miss careers, so I wouldn't get too excited, but there's potential here.
  • The Great Gatsby - The thought of an adaptation of this novel alone wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the movie is being directed by the bombastic Baz Luhrmann. In 3D. I'd like to pretend like I have a clue about how this will turn out, but I have a feeling that I'd never come close to what this will actually be.
  • Gambit - A script by Joel and Ethan Coen always intrigues, though director Michael Hoffman's filmography does little to inspire. Still, it sounds interesting: "An art curator enlists the services of a Texas steer roper to con a wealthy collector into buying a phony Monet painting." I kinda wish the Coens were directing, but I'll still give this one a shot...
  • Wanderlust - Mostly because director David Wain is pretty awesome. Also, Jennifer Aniston. The premise is lackluster (New York couple moves to a free love commune), but Wain is typically hilarious.
  • The Raven - Edgar Allen Poe hunts a serial killer. Interesting casting choice of John Cusack as Poe and a premise that could be great (even if it's pretty well trodden revisionist ground).
  • Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson's next film certainly has a great cast - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban - but I'm always wary of Anderson.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Yeah, this revisionist stuff was overplayed a few years ago, but this could be a lot of fun, right? Director Timur Bekmambetov can certainly bring some interesting visual flare to the proceedings, though I don't think I really like any of his previous films (but they are pretty!)...
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation - I know, right? This doesn't sound like it would be any good, but I recently saw the preview and it actually looks like an exciting action film with some unexpected starpower in the form of Bruce Willis. I don't really expect much out of this, but it could be a bucket of fun...
  • Frankenweenie - Tim Burton? I haven't been a fan of most of his recent stuff, but this animated feature sounds like it could play to Burton's particular brand of whimsy.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - The first movie was horrible and the preview for this isn't particularly inspiring, but co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (known mostly for the Crank films) have a wicked sense of humor and a manic visual style that could make this movie more interesting than it deserves to be.
  • The Bourne Legacy - A Borne flick without Borne? It's certainly got a lot of talent attached and I'm a fan of Writer/Director Tony Gilroy (who wrote the previous installments, though his work on the third was apparently minimal due to the writer's strike), so there's a big potential upside here. But it could also fall completely flat without Damon...
Uncertain Release:
There are some movies in the pipeline that may or may not be released in 2012. But when they do come out, I'd probably be interested in them:
  • The Master - I have no idea what it's about, but any movie from Paul Thomas Anderson will of course be hotly anticipated by any film geek. Unfortunately, it's unclear if it will be released this year. I will say, though, that I'm disappointed that Anderson never got to make his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's awesome stoner/noir detective novel, Inherent Vice (hopefully he tackles that next).
  • Inside Llewyn Davis - It's the Coen Brothers next movie. Duh. The plot summary is less than inspiring, but the Coens always seem to make their movies worth watching.
Notable Absences:
For whatever reason, these films aren't inspiring as much interest in me as they seem to be in everyone else...
  • Prometheus - On the face of it, it sounds interesting. Ridley Scott directing a new original science fiction movie? Except that it's apparently something of an Alien prequel... and man, the concept of finding out the origins of the space jockey is just silly. Ridley Scott's recent output has been rather dull as well. I guess this could be good, and the preview doesn't look like the abomination that it sounds like on paper, but I'm still not really looking forward to this one...
  • The Amazing Spider-Man - An unnecessary remake/reboot that doesn't look like it will add anything new or interesting to the series. I suppose it could be ok, but I have a hard to believing that.
  • Lincoln - Don't get me wrong, the involvement of Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis is intriguing, but I just can't muster much interest in this biopic...
So there you have it. 26 movies I really want to see, 2 that might have to wait until 2013, and 3 that I'm not that excited for, but will probably see nonetheless... The funny thing? I probably missed quite a few interesting movies! Feel free to share anything I missed in the comments...
Posted by Mark on January 01, 2012 at 06:02 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Silent Return of Friday is List Day
So I just plum forgot to write something on Wednesday. In all fairness, there was a holiday and I had other things going on that day, but really what happened was that the cluck struck 1 am before I remembered that I normally post something on Wednesdays. This might be the first time in 6 or 7 years that this has happened. I must be getting forgetful in my old age. Anyway, I decided to resurrect the Friday is List Day style post to make up for my earlier negligence. This was a quasi-meme started by my friend Roy several years ago. He has since stopped blogging and quite frankly, I never partook in the Friday is List Day thing in a regular fashion anyway. So I wouldn't expect any more of these in the near future, but hey, enjoy it while you can:

Random 10:
Or maybe a not so random (though still semi-random) list of recent musical listening:
  • The Mars Volta - "Cassandra Gemini"
  • Deerhoof - "Secret Mobilization"
  • The Black Keys - "She's Long Gone"
  • Baby Huey & The Babysitters - "Listen to Me"
  • They Might Be Giants - "Minimum Wage"
  • Neutral Milk Hotel - "Holland, 1945"
  • Les Baxter - "Hot Wind"
  • Richard Hawley - "Tonight The Streets Are Ours"
  • Forest Fire - "Born Into"
  • Aloe Blacc - "You Make Me Smile"
5 Ideas for Modern Day Silent Films
Well, perhaps not exactly silent. One of the great strengths of film is that it is a visual medium and a lot of information can be communicated simply by the framing and movement onscreen. The introduction of sound in the 1920s and 30s has lead to an atrophying of visual storytelling, as we usually end up with long strings of dialogue and exposition (and, gasp, voiceover!) that could just as easily be accomplished visually. Sound itself isn't a problem, but I'm coming to find a lot of movies that I hate (and even some that I generally like) are sullied by poor (and unnecessary) dialogue. Simply removing half of the dialogue would be a big improvement. So in the below movies (which will never get made), imagine that it would have lots of sound, just not any real dialogue (or, at least, very minimal dialogue).
  • Alien vs. Predator: Fuck the human element. Who needs humans? Even in the comic (which is awesome and would make a much better movie than any of the craptacular AvP movies), they were a bit unnecessary. Imagine this movie - no dialogue, no subtitles, just aliens, predators, and ass-kickery.
  • Wall-E: This one is already halfway complete. What's more, everyone agrees that the movie goes downhill a little once the humans show up and start talking. I guess you'd still want some basic dialogue type stuff, but it would be minimal at most.
  • The Tree of Life - The film is basically a series of mildly connected visual vignettes. The parts where people talk are mostly unnecessary, and as an added bonus, cutting them out would decrease the bloated running time of the film. There are numerous movies I think this could work for that I've seen recently: Melancholia, Drive, Meek's Cutoff (practically a silent film already, though some of the dialogue in the film is important), and so on. Cutting these films down to 70-90 minutes would be a boon.
  • A Silent Slasher - It's a subgenre of horror that is so well codified that you really don't need dialogue. The audience knows all the beats that need to be hit and the dialogue in these movies is usually horrendous and filled with lame, dated slang. Instead, fill the film with tension-filled stalking sequences and tracking shots.
  • An Underwater Adventure - I was trying to think of a situation in which people would be unable to speak to each other, and I came up with this: old-timey deep-sea divers running around on the bottom of a large body of water, encountering mysteries/monsters/something. Since they're underwater, communication would be accomplished through hand signals and pure visual storytelling on the part of the filmmakers.
5 Beers Everyone Should Try
Actually a tough list to put together, but I'm trying to choose beers that are unique and interesting, yet widely available (while I'd love to recommend obscure, hard-to-find wonders like Devine Rebel or Sierra Nevada ExPortation, that's not really the point - it's unlikely you'll be able to find those, and I know it's frustrating to see folks recommend stuff like that). So here goes:
  • Saison Dupont - Sweet, spicy, light colored and full bodied, an awesome gateway into the world of "good beer" and Belgian beers. If you like this, look to try: Avec Les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont (basically a stronger version of Saison Dupont - in fact, trying any Dupont saison is probably a good idea), Ommegang Hennepin, and Unibroue La Fin Du Monde.
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8 - Dark fruits and lots of spiciness, with a ton of intricate and complex flavors emerging as you drink. A very unique flavor profile here, but still approachable and a wonderful, perfect beer. If you like this, look to try: Rochefort 6 and Rochefort 10 (basically weaker and stronger versions of the same beer, respectively), Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel, and Chimay Blue/Grand Reserve.
  • Ommegang Abbey Ale - This is the beer for all those folks who think they don't like "dark beers." (Come to think of it, so is Rochefort 8). Rich flavors, full body and dark fruitiness (very distinct from Rochefort though), it's a fantastic beer. If you like this, look to try: Affligem Dubbel, St. Bernardus Prior 8, Westmalle Dubbel, and Chimay Red.
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - IPAs are definitely an acquired taste, but it's worth trying a double IPA like this, as they tend to be more flavorful and less one-dimensionally bitter. This one has great characters of citrus, caramel malts, and a well matched citrus. If you like this, look to try: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Victory Hop Wallop, Brewdog Hardcore IPA, Bell's Two Hearted, and Russian River Pliny the Elder.
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout - Dark, roasty and maybe even a bit chocolatey, this is a well balanced boozy beer. A more traditional "dark beer", but well worth trying. If you like this, look to try: North Coast Old Rasputin, Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, and Victory Storm King Stout. (In addition, if you have extra money and can find a barrel aged version of a Russian Imperial Stout, go for it.)
Ok, so that's a reasonable list, though it does skew towards Belgian beers and high ABV beers. Sue me. They're all relatively easy to find (though some of the additional beers mentioned at the end of each one may be more regional and difficult to find) and there's a reasonable variety too.

Well, that's all for now. Hopefully I won't forget to post on Sunday.
Posted by Mark on November 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Link Dump
Just some links for your enjoyment...
  • Make it Stop: Dreamcatcher - Devin Faraci's epic takedown of a bad Stephen King adaptation.
    It’s like this series of non-sequiters; the opening of Dreamcatcher is almost avant garde in how weird and unsettling it is. The movie opens by daring you to keep watching - “We’re starting with this nonsense, imagine where we’re going to end up!” And where you end up is a movie about shit weasels and Morgan Freeman’s baffling eyebrows.
    I've seen the movie. It was a while ago, and yeah, it's pretty bad, but in a so-bad-it's-good kinda way. Faraci addresses that sort of thing in his review, but I still think it takes talent to make something this bad. I don't mean to say that they did it intentionally, but you have to have a certain level of ambition to make something this bad.
  • My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead - Chuck Klosterman's musings on why Zombies are so popular these days.
    You can’t add much depth to a creature who can’t talk, doesn’t think and whose only motive is the consumption of flesh. You can’t humanize a zombie, unless you make it less zombie-esque. There are slow zombies, and there are fast zombies— that’s pretty much the spectrum of zombie diversity. It’s not that zombies are changing to fit the world’s condition; it’s that the condition of the world seems more like a zombie offensive. Something about zombies is becoming more intriguing to us. And I think I know what that something is.

    Zombies are just so easy to kill.
    He's got some interesting ideas, but on the other hand, this highlights one of the big problems with zombies. They're so easy to attach meaning to that they quickly become meaningless.
  • The Rose in Winter - I suppose this is kinda like that Infinite Summer thing (that, uh, I never finished), but for Umberto Eco's In the Name of the Rose (a book I do want to read at some point, not that I don't already have lots of reading to do)
  • The Physiology of Foie: Why Foie Gras is Not Unethical - I've never actually had Foie Gras. It's one of those weird things I only ever saw on Iron Chef (the proper Japanese version of the show, that is). As such, I never knew there was any sort of controversy around it, but this article is a pretty interesting look at where Foie comes from...
  • The Comics Curmudgeon - You wouldn't think that some guy who analyzes the Sunday funnies would be compelling, but yep, it is.
Posted by Mark on January 12, 2011 at 08:10 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Book Queue (Updated)
According to my records, I read 21 books last year. This is not a large number by any means, but it was an improvement over recent years. Earlier in the year, I posted my book queue, featuring 10 books that I had sitting on my shelves (an unprecedented number of unread books for me, as I usually don't work that far ahead of myself) and of course, I've only read 7 of those. So three of the below are repeats, and in looking at some other previous lists, there's a couple other repeat books as well. Then there are several new additions, meaning that somehow that unprecedented list of 10 unread books has actually grown despite my reading 21 books last year. Score. Anyway, for the record, these are the books:
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: This one is next up in the queue. Not sure why I got this one in the first place, nor why it's taken me so long to pick it up, but there you have it. It seems relatively short, so hopefully I'll knock this one off quickly.
  • Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville: I've some mixed feelings about Miéville, but the fact that his work is described as "weird fiction" in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft and M. R. James has always interested me and since he's one of the more prolific and popular genre authors these days, I figured I should give him a shot. But then, while my friend Sovawanea enjoyed the book, she also mentioned that it was a bit of a slog at the beginning, and looking at the 600+ page book with small type, well, I don't want to get bogged down to start the year, so it probably will be a while before I pick this up. That being said, I do want to get through it, if only because it's been on my shelf for 2 years!
  • Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter: I think I've read the first chapter of this book about 3 times. And I really like it! But this is another of those do I really have time to read a dense, 900+ page book with tiny type books. That being said, it's a classic geek text, and something I really do want to finish off this year (assuming I can get through some other stuff first).
  • Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram: Another one that's been sitting on my shelf for years. Boyd is apparently quite influential in military circles and his theories are apparently quite important in current conflicts around the world (in particular, he's frequently referenced by John Robb in Brave New War, a book I read from the last book queue post). I'm not usually a big biography fan, but it's something I should try out.
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale: A gift from longtime Kaedrin friend and reader Spencer, I will most definitely be reading this early in the year (probably before most of the above). I don't know that much about it, but then, the subtitle pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond: Another gift from Spencer, and another one that I'll most likely be tackling early in the year.
  • Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky: I picked this up on a whim whilst at the bookstore a few months ago. Shirky is always entertaining and fun to read, though sometimes I feel like his ideas are too high level. He's a good writer, but perhaps too clever for his own good. Or maybe not - I guess we'll find out.
  • Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon: I get the impression that Pynchon is slumming it in a genre story (hard boiled detective fiction) with this book, so I'm actually quite looking forward to this, as Pynchon is a brilliant prose stylist and yet this novel seems more accessible than his other, more literary works. Also, I want to read this before Paul Thomas Anderson finishes his movie adaptation (which I will also look forward to!)
  • The Cobra Trilogy by Timothy Zahn: And of course I return to one of my favorite trashy science fiction workhorses. This is apparently one of his older books, but I'm still looking forward to it. Of course, this is also an omnibus collection of three books, so it's a monster (around 950 pages).
  • Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold: The first in an apparently longstanding science fiction series, including several Hugo Award winners. I'm looking forward to this, but I can easily see myself getting sucked into the series (and thus delaying some of the other books in this list).
  • The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist by Fred Brooks: I'm a big fan of Brooks's The Mythical Man Month, and this book about design from a computer science perspective should be interesting.
  • Time's Eye (A Time Odyssey) by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter: A Christmas gift from my brother and yet another first book in a series (!), I will try getting to this, but I have a feeling that it will be pushed back by some of the above...
A lot of these books are longer than the ones I read last year. In my zeal to cut down the book queue, I seem to have gravitated towards shorter books, leaving only longer (and in a lot of cases, denser) books. As such, I think I'll be lucky to hit 20 books again this year... but that shouldn't really matter.
Posted by Mark on January 05, 2011 at 09:35 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, December 18, 2009

12DC - Day 5: Friday is Holiday List Day
Even though it is infrequently observed, Friday is list day, so here's a couple lists...

Not So Random 10
Holiday music generally gets overplayed, but let's see what comes up:
  • Shostakovich - "Suite #2 For Jazz Orchestra - Waltz #2"
  • Vince Guaraldi - "Linus and Lucy"
  • Bobby Helms - "Jingle Bell Rock"
  • Weezer - "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
  • John Lennon - "Happy Xmas"
  • Tchaikovsky - "The Nutcracker Suite"
  • Gary Hoey - "Carol of the Bells"
  • Bruce Springsteen - "Merry Christmas Baby"
  • Vince Guaraldi - "Christmas Time Is Here"
  • Sufjan Stevens - "Come on! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!"
Yeah, so some of those are reallly overplayed, but what the hey.

Holiday Link Dump Well, that's all for now. Stay tuned for what passes as a Christmas tree around here as well as Egg Nog madness.
Posted by Mark on December 18, 2009 at 07:57 PM .: link :.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday is List Day When I Say It's List Day
This is probably the most uneven feature on the blog, but I like to make me some lists from time to time. It's just not predictable, I guess. Anyway, enjoy.

Not So Random Ten
I suppose an explanation is in order. Normally I start off a list day post with 10 random songs from my playlist. Lately, I've come to realize that my music selection has become rather stale. So I'm attempting to liven things up a bit, with some help, of course. Any musical recommendations are welcome, though I suppose I can't guarantee I'll listen to everything... Anyway, what this means is that the selection below isn't quite as random as normal. Some of it is new, some of it is old, some I've heard before, some I haven't.
  • Vendetta Red - "Shatterday"
  • Arcade Fire - "Intervention"
  • The Animals - "House of the Rising Sun"
  • The Mars Volta - "Aberinkula"
  • The Mars Volta - "Metatron"
  • Sufjan Stevens - "Come On! Feel The Illinoise!"
  • Sufjan Stevens - "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!"
  • Modest Mouse - "Paper Thin Walls"
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela - "Hanuman"
  • Sigur Ros - "Hoppípolla"
5 Annoying Things People Do When Playing NHL 10 Online
  • Abandon A Game - This happens all the time, and it's really annoying. Picture this: You're playing a game of hockey online, and for once, you're doing really well. The puck is bouncing your way, you're putting up a pretty good wall of defense, and you're actually getting scoring chances. You're about halfway through the game, and you've just taken a 4-1 lead when... your opponent quits the game. Now, it can be intensely frustrating to play this game against someone who is a lot better than you, so I can sympathize, but at the same time, this is a douchey thing to do. Indeed, some of the Trophies you can earn are dependent on actually finishing the game (this happened to me for the Century Play trophy, a gold-level trophy I've been slowly chipping away at for a few months now). Of course, there are accidents. People lose connectivity, etc... But those are rare. This happens way too often.
  • Watch All the Cut-Scenes/Highlights - Dude, come on, they're the same damn things every game. There's no reason to do this. None. It's a big waste of time. Sure, you want to watch a particular goal because you're amazed at how good I am (or you want to rub your talent in my face), fine, that's understandable. But that should be maybe once or twice a game, not during every goddamn whistle. Also related, but not a full-blown pet peeve, are the people who pause the game constantly for some reason. I'm assuming it's because they're fiddling with their lines or something, but that's still annoying. Real players can win with what they're given.
  • Play With The All-Star Team - Look, if you're really that bad, maybe you should put in some time playing the CPU on Hardcore Superstar until you get better or something. Choosing the All-Stars as your team just pisses me off. It's bad enough that most people seem to choose amazingly good hockey teams like Pittsburg or the Canadiens, but there's at least a reasonable chance that those people are legitimate fans. I play with the Flyers. A good team, but nowhere near the best.
  • Gratuitous Fight Picking - This is partly the game's fault for allowing so much shenanigans after the whistle and there is a place for fighting in the game (among other things, it boosts your lines energy, etc...), but that doesn't mean we need to take EA up on the offer every time gameplay stops.
  • Playing With A Slow Connection - Really? You want to play a game that's this choppy? Gimme a break. This is the one time I think it's acceptable to abandon a game (but you need to be sure you're not the offending party, in that case).
All that said, I am enjoying myself with the game. Now I just need to figure out the online league thing. I created a team and I have like 7 members on the team, but I can't figure out how to join a league or play a game. I guess some of my other members have to be online or something. Damnit.
Posted by Mark on December 04, 2009 at 11:02 PM .: link :.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The 2009 Holiday Movie Season
I've noticed lately that people are starting to put out best of the decade lists. Me, I have a hard enough time putting out a best of the year lists, and this year is no exception. It's been a decent year; better than last year, but then, that's not saying much. 2009 still suffered from the tail end of the writers' strike, though that should be out of our system by now. And now we're beginning to approach the time of year when Hollywood tones down the explosions and starts putting out their prestige fare in the hopes of garnering an Oscar (with at least one notable exception)... but I have to say, i was much more intrigued by the movies being dumped off in August than most of those being released in December. That being said, there are still a few movies I'm interested in seeing:
  • The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (November 20) - I'm a little disappointed that this isn't getting a wide release, as it's something that seems like a big barrel of weird fun. I mean, it stars an apparently unhinged Nicolas Cage and is directed by Werner Herzog. From what I've seen, I have this almost cognitive dissonance in my head that I can't quite reconcile, but that only really makes me want to see this more. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to it, but it looks like fun.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (November 25) - So this came out last week and I haven't had a chance to see it yet, but it looks fantastic. I'm really intrigued to see Wes Anderson tackle something outside his usual "quirky" wheelhouse (which has been getting a bit stale of late). It's part of a larger trend this year of young, trendy directors taking on children's stories (the other notable example being Where the Wild Things Are), which I found rather interesting. It's also interesting in that this year really does have a lot of different animation styles going on. This movie's got a very old-school stop-motion style, but this year you've also got the more advanced stop-motion of Coraline, the computer generated art of Up and even more traditional hand animated fare like Disney's The Princess and the Frog and Miyazaki's Ponyo.
  • Up in the Air (December 4) - Jason Reitman's third film is garnering a lot of buzz these days. From what I've seen, I don't think it will overtake Thank You for Smoking as his best film, but I have hope. But then, from what I've heard, it's a bit of a downer. I'm hoping for some levity through funny cameos though...
  • The Lovely Bones (December 11) - Peter Jackson switches gears to a (relatively) low budget drama about the murder of a 14 year old? I'm there. I haven't read the book and only have a vague idea of what it's about, so I'm excited for this one.
  • Avatar (December 18) - I suppose this is the one exception to the traditional December fare, but despite my misgivings (this film is a charter member of the "Films I want to see even though I know they will suck" list (see the bottom of this post)), I am looking forward to the return of James Cameron. I have to admit that I'm not very impressed with what I've seen so far (the dialogue seems especially bad), but you never know and at the very least, it looks to have some breathtaking action sequences...
  • Other Stuff: The Boat That Rocked/Pirate Radio, Ninja Assassin, The Road, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Sherlock Holmes.
  • Stuff to Watch on DVD/BD: February 2 looks busy... I may have to delay my top 10 list until I see these two: Black Dynamite and The House of the Devil. I would also really like to see A Serious Man, but that's another film that only had a very limited release and I can't even find a date for the DVD/BD... I know nothing about Franklyn other than that it's apparently SF and already out on DVD, so it's in my queue. I missed Extract when it was in theaters, and it's coming on DVD in December. Perhaps less excited about 9, Pandorum, and Jennifer's Body, but they're also coming out soon...
And that about covers it. Will any of these make my top 10? There is certainly a chance, but I don't see more than 1 or 2 making it on the list (provided I manage to see all these, many of which I predict I won't be able to due to annoying limited releases and lengthy waits for DVD/BD).
Posted by Mark on November 29, 2009 at 07:42 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, November 13, 2009

Night of the Friday is List Day
So yeah, it's been over a year since the last List Day. I figure we're due.

Random Ten:
  • Mike Oldfield - "Tubular Bells Part Two"
  • Nine Inch Nails - "9 Ghost I"
  • Mew - "Why Are You Looking Grave?"
  • The Who - "Welcome"
  • Clint Mansell, Kronos Quartet - "Winter Overture"
  • Soundgarden - "The Day I Tried to Live"
  • Jimi Hendrix - "Stop"
  • Steroid Maximus - "'Pusher' Jones"
  • Fantômas - "Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion"
  • Dave / Del tha Funkee Homosapien / Handsome Boy Modeling School - "The Projects (Pjays)"
5 Interesting Documentaries Available on Netflix Instant Viewing
In honor of Netflix's newfound PS3 support, I've been watching a bunch of stuff this week, including these documentaries.
  • Overnight: Wow, Troy Duffy (of Boondock Saints fame) is a tremendous douchebag.
  • Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired: A little too sympathetic to fugitive child rapist Polanski, but that's a tough line to walk and the movie does a reasonable job in spite of that. Apparently a sequel covering recent happenings is in the works.
  • Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film: It's a fun film for fans of the genre (I wrote about this before).
  • Revolution OS: Seems to be a reasonable overview of the rise of Free Software, Linux, and Open Source. Like most movies about technology, it's out of date, but still interesting.
  • Zombiemania: I don't even really like Zombie movies that much, but I love watching documentaries about movies, so this was fun.
5 Other Documentaries I Want to Watch That's all for now. I doubt this will be the regular feature it once was, but you never know...
Posted by Mark on November 13, 2009 at 12:03 AM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Link Dump: Top 10s and Some Nitpicking
Time is short, so here are a few links to end of the year movie lists and the like. Still not sure when I'll get to my top 10, but it probably won't be this week.
  • The 2008 Top Tens - Movie City News collects and aggregates 286 top 10 lists, ranking the movies by number of list mentions and a weighted version that considers how high on each list a given movie was ranked. The top 5 movies on the list are WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and The Wrestler. Not a bad list, though at most, only two of those will be appearing on my list. One nitpicky frustration - why on earth did they put all the data in images? It makes it a lot more difficult to find a movie you want to know about.
  • The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2008: An interesting list of the underdistributed, sometimes underrated films of last year. Except for Speed Racer, which was horrible. Honestly though, this year's list isn't as good as last year's list, which I take as just another sign that 2008 was not a particularly good year for movies.
  • jim's ten best favorite movies of 2008: the movie - Jim Emerson's top ten is presented in the form of an 8 minute montage of clips from his favorite movies. I was able to name 4 of them (probably because I haven't seen the other 6, and I have to say, I didn't see anything in his clips that indicated that I was missing anything). Kind of a stereotypical critic's list... but I'm greatly looking forward to his 2nd annual Exploding Head Awards (that's a link to last year's awards - he hasn't posted this year's yet).
  • Speaking of Jim Emerson, he's been doing some spectacular nit picking (don't miss Part 2) on The Dark Knight, particularly with the first sequence in the film which culminates with a school bus merging with other school busses. If you still haven't seen The Dark Knight, don't read his posts! They will put you in the wrong frame of mind to watch the movie (or any movie, for that matter - at least, any movie you're watching for the first time). Now, these are nitpicks, but I do believe that Emerson has a point. I love the movie, and I'm sure regular readers wouldn't be surprised that it will be my top movie of the year, but it isn't perfect. There are several sequences that cheat in one way or another, whether it be through editing or awkward camera angles or any other number of filmmaking tricks. Emerson's argument boils down to a question of whether the filmmaking tricks employed in TDK impair suspension of disbelief. I would say that when I view a movie, I have a certain sense of moviegoing goodwill. When I watch a movie, I want it to be good, I want to be sucked in and immersed in the world a film creates. But sometimes there are things that happen in a movie that are simply unbelievable. These movies knock you out of the movie's world and force you to recognize that you're actually sitting in a theater (or on a couch, or whatever). These moments work against my moviegoing goodwill. Usually a single moment won't do it - it's a culmination of things. After a while, my goodwill runs out and the movie simply can't recover. The Dark Knight obviously grated on Emerson. He found himself wondering about all the details of the various things that were being presented to him. He claims this was a sorta unconscious effect. He knew he didn't like the movie, but couldn't explain why until he'd seen the movie a few more times on DVD/BR, where he could really dig into it. That's when he started noticing all of the shots or edits that worked against his suspension of disbelief. Now, I didn't have that problem. Indeed, I've seen the movie 5 times since it came out, and while a couple of things jumped out at me during my first and second viewing, I didn't really start to think about it until the 5th viewing, at which point some of the imperfections became more clear. But even then, it wasn't enough to ruin my moviegoing goodwill. Even reading Emerson's well thought out objections, I find that I can see his point without granting that it ruins the movie or the suspension of disbelief that is required to watch it. I'm interested by this sort of thing, because I think people like the movies they like for less rational reasons than we're willing to admit. There are a lot of great movies that I can nitpick to death, but still love anyway. So when I find myself trying to explain why I dislike a movie with something like "Well he fired 8 shots out of that there revolver! You can't do that!" or "...giant humanoid robots really don't make any sense" I think what I'm really trying to say is that the movie did not pull me in and immerse me in it's own world. The frustrating thing about this is that I think this can be dependant on mood. Context matters, and there are certainly times when I'm muchmore willing to suspend disbelief than I would normally be... and vice versa. Well, I've babbled on long enough, so I'll just leave it at that for now.
Didn't mean to get off on that tangent there. That last subject is perhaps something I'd like to revisit at some point, but it will not be tonight...
Posted by Mark on January 28, 2009 at 08:30 PM .: link :.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday is List Day
Another Friday, another list day.

Random 10: The Guitar Hero Edition
Ok, perhaps not random, but 10 songs from Guitar Hero III that I like
  • Social Distortion - "Story of My Life"
  • The Strokes - "Reptilia"
  • The Killers - "When You Were Young"
  • Weezer - "My Name Is Jonas"
  • Muse - "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Kaiser Chiefs - "Ruby"
  • Senses Fail - "Can't Be Saved"
  • Naast - "Mauvais Garçon"
  • Backyard Babies - "Minus Celsius"
  • DragonForce - "Through the Fire and Flames"
Incidentally, I was finally able to actually complete "Through the Fire and Flames" on medium difficulty this week with a whopping 68% of notes played. I'm not sure if I'm really any better at Guitar Hero so much as I've memorized the songs and developed muscle memory, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to give myself arthritis if I keep playing the game a lot.

10 Favorite TV/Movie Robots
In honor of WALL·E, here are 10 great movie robots (not necessarily great movies though:P) Ok, I cheated and put some cyborgs on the list. In no particular order:
Posted by Mark on June 27, 2008 at 10:32 PM .: link :.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Friday is List Day Caper
It's been a long time since a proper list day, so here's a few lists. First off comes a meme from Aziz that will take the place of the usual random ten songs:

Seven Songs I Am Into Right Now
  • DragonForce - "Through The Fire And Flames"
  • Weezer - "Only in Dreams"
  • Tool - "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)"
  • The Heavy - "That Kind of Man"
  • Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers"
  • UNKLE - "Nursery Rhyme / Breather"
  • Mr. Bungle - "Carousel"
So basically, I need to start listening to some new music. Heh.

Top 5 Heist Movies
  • Ocean's Eleven (2001): Probably the most purely entertaining films of this century, and very well made too.
  • Heat: Michael Mann's brilliant cops and robbers story contains some of the more memorable realistic heists, including one of the best gunfights in film history. Perhaps a little long and a little unfocused, but it all works for me.
  • (tie) Bob le flambeur and The Good Thief: Yes, I'm cheating, this is a tie. However, The Good Thief is a remake of Bob le flambeur, and they're both pretty good examples of the heist genre. The newer film has more of the modern conventions of heist films (and it does a good job subverting them as well), while the original helped establish the conventions of heist films (the original is a little slower than the remake, but still worth a watch). The ending of both approaches what Roger Ebert describes as "cosmic irony."
  • The Killing: Before Stanley Kubrick made a name for himself, he worked on a couple of genre pics, this being one of the finest examples of film noir and heist films.
  • The Bank: Underrated Australian caper flick that might be a little out of place on this list, but I wanted to put it on because almost no one has seen it and it's worth a watch...
This was hard, there are lots of movies I wanted to put on the list, but fell off for various reasons, including The Usual Suspects (the capers really aren't the focus of the film though), The Asphalt Jungle (pretty much the blueprint for the modern heist film), The Killers (not really a heist film, though it does feature a heist shown with a great tracking shot), Heist and Die Hard

Top 5 Heist Movies I should Have Seen Before Compiling the Above List Interestingly, it seems that most of these films are on Filmspotting's next marathon. Score.

5 More Good Heist Movies I forgot to mention earlier Ok, so now that I've mentioned 20 heist films (without mentioning Dog Day Afternoon!), I guess I should stop.
Posted by Mark on June 20, 2008 at 10:27 PM .: link :.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday is List Day: Oscars Edition
The Oscars are this weekend, so here's a few lists for your enjoyment including some movie related ones. Oh, and of course, I'll be liveblogging the Oscars (as I did last year, and even a few years before that). Feel free to stop by and play along!

Random Ten
  • Eels - "Rock Hard Times"
  • Guster - "I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today"
  • Weezer - "The Good Life"
  • Mr. Bungle - "Egg"
  • The Who - "Pinball Wizard"
  • The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema"
  • Mansun & 808 State - "Skin Up Pin Up"
  • Tool - "The Pot"
  • KMFDM - "Blame"
  • Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers"
Top 5 3 Oscar Pseudo-Blunders
Everyone does Oscar Blunders lists, but there are some that I've always thought were being a little too harsh. Were the below wins really a "blunder"? Probably, but I think it's worth considering that the films that won...
  • Rocky beats 3 classics - I think Rocky's sequels have irrevocably ruined the reputation of the first film, which is a lot better than most people seem to give it credit for. On the other hand, is it really a better film than Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President’s Men (other nominees that lost)? That's a tough lineup to beat, to be sure, and I'm conflicted. Taxi Driver is indeed one of my favorite films, but so is Rocky and if I had to watch one of them right now, I'd probably pick Rocky. It's perhaps not objectively a better-made film, but subjectively, I could definitely see Rocky winning.
  • Titanic wins best picture: This movie gets unfairly maligned, I think, because it just didn't go away. The film was in theaters for months, we had to listen to that stupid song for months, and we had to watch all those teenage girls swoon over Leo. Nevertheless, Titanic is a good film, and it didn't have much in the way of comptetition. The only other nominee that puts up a fight is L.A. Confidential, which I agree is a good film, but is this really a huge blunder?
  • Annie Hall beats out Star Wars: On a personal subjective level, there's no way Star Wars should have lost to Annie Hall. But now that I'm older, and now that I've had the Star Wars franchise knocked down a peg or two by the prequels, I think it's fair to say that, you know, the first Star Wars film was poorly made and it pales in comparison to The Empire Strikes Back. But then, I really don't like Annie Hall at all. I recognize it as a well made film and it did make me laugh a few times, but hell, we're talking Star Wars here! Ok, maybe this is a huge blunder.
Alright, so this list didn't go so well and I can't think of any more. Fleh. See you Sunday.
Posted by Mark on February 22, 2008 at 08:27 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday is List Day: Book List Meme
Looks like there's a book meme making the rounds:

Read it? Bold it.
Start it, but didn't finish it? Italicize it.
Hated it? Strike it through.

As you can see, there are few books that I've started and not finished (and the ones I have were only started due to some sort of school assignment that didn't require a complete reading). I also don't hate many of the books, but perhaps that's just because I think hate is a pretty strong word. (I have no idea where this list of books came from - it's a mildly ecclectic mix of old and new. I guess Sara just made it up? Strange.)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Oliver Twist
Tess of the Dubervilles
Gulliver's Travels
Les Miserables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes
A People's History of the United States : 1492-Present
The God of Small Things
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: A Novel
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
Treasure Island
White Teeth
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

And Roy's additions:

For Whom the Bell Tolls
War of the Worlds
The Invisible Man
Time Machine
Old Man and the Sea
Bluest Eye
The Republic
The Bible
Alice in Wonderland
Wizard of Oz
Return to Oz
Ender's Game
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Stranger
Animal Farm
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Lord of the Flies
Naked Lunch
The Confessions of Nat Turner
Rabbit, Run
As I Lay Dying
Snow Crash
The Sound and the Fury
The Great Gatsby
Charlotte's Web
The Giving Tree
Good Night Moon
A Wrinkle in Time

I suppose I could add some books, but there's no real limit here and there doesn't seem to be any sort of theme, so I'll just leave it be.
Posted by Mark on November 02, 2007 at 08:56 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bride of Friday is List Day
It's been months since I've posted one of these, and even Roy isn't doing this anymore, but I figure, why not?

Random Ten
  • The Secret Machines - "Road Leads Where It's Led"
  • Yoko Kanno - "Too Good Too Bad"
  • Guster - "Red Oyster Cult"
  • Mike Oldfield - "Tubular Bells Part One"
  • UNKLE - "Bloodstain"
  • Weezer - "Hash Pipe"
  • The New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show"
  • Modest Mouse - "People as Places"
  • Steroid Maximus - "Aclectasis"
  • Jimi Hendrix - "Machine Gun"
5 Underappreciated or Unknown Horror Movies
  • Mute Witness: Perhaps not strictly a horror film, but it's a very tense thriller, which is close enough in my book.
  • Bay of Blood: A great openeing sequence, lots of inventive death sequences (most of which were lifted by American films, notably the Friday the 13th series), and an ending so absurd that I'm still not sure it actually happened.
  • Parents: I haven't seen this in years and it probably doesn't really count as horror, but I think I'm one of about 6 people who've ever seen this. It plays it's story straight, but it's almost kinda funny.
  • Bubba Ho-tep: I don't know if this counts as overrated, but Bruce Campbell as an aging Elvis (who had faked his death) fighting a mummy in a Texas old-folks home (alongside a black JFK). What more can you ask for?
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate: Heh, just kidding.
Posted by Mark on October 26, 2007 at 11:11 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday is List Day
If Friday really is list day, I should really be doing this every week. For some reason, I sometimes don't get around to it, but really, how hard is it?

Random Ten
  • Faith No More - "Hippie Jam Song"
  • Pigface - "The Greenhouse"
  • Skinny Puppy - "The Killing Game"
  • Gypsy Kings - "Baila Me"
  • Stabbing Westward - "Control"
  • Aerosmith - "Big Ten Inch Record (unplugged)"
  • Radiohead - "Life in a Glasshouse"
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - "Sie"
  • Yoko Kanno & Seatbelts - "Rush"
  • Coheed and Cambria - "Coheed and Cambria / XI"
Five Podcasts I Listen To That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on August 03, 2007 at 10:03 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, July 13, 2007

List Day is Friday
Strange night. I'm mildly drunk right now, so these lists should reflect that.

The Random 10:
  • Mr. Bungle - "Goodbye Sober Day"
  • Barenaked Ladies - "Alcohol"
  • Propellerheads - "Cominagetcha"
  • Louis Armstrong - "What a Wonderful World"
  • Nine Inch Nails - "A Warm Place"
  • UNKLE - "Lonely Soul"
  • Genesis - "Hairless Heart"
  • Tool - "The Pot"
  • Tweaker - "Crude Sunlight"
  • Willie Nelson - "Gotta Get Drunk"
5 Great Beers I've Recently Drank I had three of these tonight, and all of them within the past couple of weeks. Good stuff.
Posted by Mark on July 13, 2007 at 11:34 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday is List Day: Second Time In Two Weeks
Well, what do you know. Maybe I can do list day more than once a month. Screenshot game update: We're on Round 4 folks. Hop to it!

Random 10
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird"
  • Eels - "Trouble With Dreams"
  • Crystal Method - "Keep Hope Alive"
  • U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name"
  • Mansun & 808 State - "Skin Up Pin Up"
  • Cake - "Italian Leather Sofa"
  • Clint Mansell & Kronos Quartet - "Summer Overture"
  • Radiohead - "Paranoid Android"
  • Pearl Jam - "Deep"
  • Moby - "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters"
6 Cartoons I Loved When I Was a Kid (Off the top of my head)
  • G.I. Joe
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Tiny Toons/Animaniacs
  • Voltron
  • Duck Tales
  • Thundercats
That list could probably keep going on for a while...
Posted by Mark on July 06, 2007 at 11:18 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Link to Someone New: Top 100 Movies Edition
A quick note: after a promising start, the screenshot game has stalled a bit. Alex posted a screenshot (update: new screenshot posted, and we have a winner!), but I have no idea what it is, and apparently neither do his readers. If you've got a keen cinematic eye, go check it out and see if you can answer it (if you get it right, you get to host the next round!) When I started the game, I was a little worried that something like this would happen. One of the perils of trying to start a meme on a low traffic blog, I guess. That's why my screenshot was so easy. I bet this could take off if it ever hits a reasonably high traffic blog.

In any case, it's time to make another attempt at escaping the echo chamber of blog reading that I've constructed around myself by linking to people I've never linked to before. The theme here is Top 100 movie lists.
  • Edward Copeland's Top 100: Inspired by the recently revised AFI list, Copeland tries his hand at putting together a top 100. Excellent work, complete with screenshots and even goes the extra mile by putting a description for each film. Excellent.
  • Damian's Top 100: Another top 100 list, also inspired by AFI and others like Ed Copeland. A very good list.
  • Lazy Eye Theater: My Hundred: Another great list and contains a lot of films that you probably wouldn't find on other lists (though several will definitely be on my list).
Also worth noting is James Berardinelli's All-Time Top 100, but I've linked him before. Compiling a top 100 list is a daunting task. I think I'll give it a shot, but reading lists like these always makes me realize how many of the "great films" I haven't seen. I've seen enough movies that I think I can put together a decent Top 100 list, but I've got a lot of backfilling to do if I want it to be as authoritative as some of these other lists...

The other challenge is how subjective to be. There are a lot of incredible films in terms of film techniques or innovation, but do they really belong on my list? Citizen Kane is an incredible film, and on any objective list, it should probably be somewhere near the top. But should it be on my list? I recognize the greatness of the film, and I got into it while watching it, but in the end, I didn't really connect with it the way I do with some of the films that will be at the top of my list. On the other end of the spectrum, I have an inexpicable love for Phantasm. While undeniably creepy at times, it's also a pretty bad film. Should either of those films be on my list? Who knows? Maybe filling up 100 slots will be harder than it seems, but I have a feeling that I'm going to have lots of honorable mentions...

I doubt I'll be able to compile a good list by Sunday, but you never know. Maybe I should start with the cinecast confessions list: Movies I Can't Believe I've Never Seen.
Posted by Mark on July 04, 2007 at 11:33 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

Friday, June 29, 2007

One Friday A Month Is List Day
Apparently I only ever really find time to do a Friday is List Day post once a month. In any case, here you go:

Random Ten:
  • Guster - "One Man Wrecking Machine"
  • Pink Floyd - "Fearless"
  • KMFDM - "Brute"
  • Beastie Boys - "Song for the Man"
  • The Chemical Brothers - "Let Forever Be"
  • Handsome Boy Modeling School (DJ Quest/DJ Shadow) - "Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II)"
  • Mike Oldfield - "Ommadawn On Horseback"
  • Eels - "Somebody Loves You"
  • UNKLE - "The Knock (Drums Of Death Part 2)"
  • Isaac Hayes - "Run Fay Run"
5 Unread Books I Own
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon: Just purchased this and want to read it based mostly on the awesome title. I like Chabon too. And the book is getting good reviews.
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell: This has been out for a while, so I'm behind the trend, but I just picked it up recently. I like Gladwell a lot. Even if I don't agree with something, he's usually pretty interesting and thought provoking.
  • Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram: Based on what I've read of OODA loops, I decided to check out this biography. Boyd seems to have lead an interesting life, not to mention that his ideas appear to be playing a major role in current world conflicts.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: This one takes the award for longest on shelf without being read. I've had this book for at least 5 years, but can't bring myself to open it up. Firstly, it's around 1,000 pages, and from what I've heard, it's one of those Pynchon-like post-modern footnotes-within-footnotes type of book. After finishing Gravity's Rainbow, my interest in such works has waned considerably.
  • The Marble Mask by Archer Mayor: My uncle gave me several of Mayor's detective/mystery books for Christmas last year. I've read a couple of them and while I haven't read much in the genre, he seems to be pretty decent (if not especially brilliant). I think this would have made good airplane reading, if I hadn't been engrossed by Neal Stephenson's Interface.
5 Upcoming Movies I Want To See Even Though I Know They'll Suck
  • Hitman (October 2007): After some initial distaste, I've grown to love the video game and even considered just writing a script myself based on the concepts (just for fun). Movies based on video games don't exactly have a good track record though, and I can't say that the no-name makers of this film inspire confidence. Also, there's this quote from IMDB: "he's being groomed as the ... I don't know ... the next Paul Walker?" Still, the trailer is pretty decent and they've retained one of my favorite parts of the game: the Ave Maria.
  • Transformers: God help me.
  • The Simpsons Movie: I stopped watching the show a while ago, as I found myself watching an entire episode without laughing even once. Maybe they'll reignite for the movie, but it will probably suck.
  • I Am Legend: I loved the book (well, the book is a bit of a downer, but it was good), but I'm not too confident that we'll see a good translation here. The book's study of isolation and grim irony doesn't appear to have made it to the screen. I guess there's hope, but previous attempts to bring it to the screen have meddled with the story significantly (infamously and inexplicably, a recent script made no references to Vampires, instead using the term Hemocytes. At least the upcoming release avoided that trap...)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum: This one's cheating, I guess, as I think Greengrass is awesome and I'm pretty sure it won't suck. But the #3 movie in a series is a tough one, as evidenced by other summer sequels, and I'm pretty sure this will disappoint.
Posted by Mark on June 29, 2007 at 08:09 PM .: link :.

End of This Day's Posts

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