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?)

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).

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…


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…

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.

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 <a href="Quantum of Solace“>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…

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.

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.

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.

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.