Arrival

I have had three drafts of a review for Arrival.  WordPress ate one and I deleted the other two.  One was moony and fawning, the other was overly florid, pretentious swill.

I’m a writer, a book lover.  I’m terrible at languages other than English, but I know a smattering of a few Romance languages and a few more complicated, like Finnish or Gaelic.  Enough to fuck up the grammar if I put them in a book.  Or use a word out of context or inaccurately.  So after Arrival, I found myself looking up linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity.  After Arrival, I felt like I had been looking at the world through a pinhole.

I don’t always feel the need to be a critic.  I love peer review, beta reading and editing, but reviewing a final work always seems disingenuous.  I have to separate my Feeling and instead qualify and quantify.

Holy shit, I fucking loved Arrival.  It was beautiful and poetic, well filmed and well paced.  There were no dramatic scenes of military might repelling hostile invaders.  No dramatic presidential speeches.  What there was in plenty were questions, morals, ethics and a whole lot of science.  There were some cool aliens and some very nice visuals.

Arrival is a film about love, language, the nature of humanity and how we perceive the world.  It is almost an infinite loop.  There ought to be more films that are unafraid to be intelligent and to ask questions of the viewer rather than answer them.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the film is based off “Story of your Life,” a short story by Ted Chiang.  The story is very well written and worth the read.  Go do that thing…

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Winter is Coming

Winter Is Coming, and damnitall I’m ready for it.  I’ve been ready, since I finished A Feast For Crows back in 2005.  I was hesitant when one of my friends handed me a copy of Game of Thrones, urging that I read the series.  “It’s the greatest fantasy series ever written, you have to read it.”

My response, of course, was, “Is the series done?”  To which my friend replied, “No.”

“Well I don’t want to start a series that hasn’t been finished.”

“No, really – greatest book ever.  And he has a plan to finish it.”

“Sure, okay.  I’ll read it when it’s done or close to.”

I eventually capitulated, proceeding to devour the entire series as if it were so many morsels of sweet intellectual nourishment.  The intrigue, the plotting and scheming, the grand scale of myths being written; it hooked me.  I’ve probably read the four books already written in the series at least a half-dozen times, each time gleaning new details our information.  I’m like an addict, with any book that I’ve enjoyed really, I want the next piece of the puzzle.

The Game of Thrones series gets its television premiere on April 17th, thanks to the hard work of HBO and David Benioff, among others.  The hype is palpable, to the point where people who aren’t a fan of the books (or don’t generally read books, let alone the massive tomes of A Song of Ice and Fire) are buzzing about the latest HBO series.  This isn’t surprising, given today’s marketing strategies.  Nor am I upset about it, being the obsessive-fan-type about some things.  I think that, based off the 12 minute preview I’ve seen, the show is off to a strong start.

The temptation is to act as a sort of aggregator, collecting links to videos of Game of Thrones; there are many, so I won’t shell the links here.  They all exist on both YouTube and HBO’s site, available for your perusal.  Today, however, they released a 25 minute documentary – a primer to Westeros, if you will.  It’s neat to watch, and chock full of information to get you geared up.  Also, probably useful to keep those less savvy from being totally overwhelmed.  That the producers want to put out all this information before the series really takes off, it’s evidence of their level of commitment.  It also stinks of fan service, but who cares?

On April 17th I’ll be glued to my couch.  It’ll keep me occupied until July 12th, when A Dance With Dragons supposedly hits shelves.  I’ll stick it out through the bitter end, no matter how long the wait.  Why though?  Why this madness?  Can it really be that good?

Well, no.  But it is close enough.  I know I couldn’t write it, so somebody had to.  And I’ve stuck it out this long, I’ve already committed and I know that there will be plenty of other fiction to keep me occupied until the end finally comes.  By the time the final book in the series appears, I’ll have probably read the series several dozen times.  It holds up that well.

But maybe you won’t like the books.  ASoIaF is long, verbose and complex.  There are so many threads being woven together that I’ve had to read the series a half-dozen times to piece them all together and search for hidden clues.  The wait has been horrendously long, though it has yet to reach the scale of The Wheel of Time or The Dark Tower.  We have no guarantee that the last book won’t be finished until post-mortem (my vote is for Rothfuss or Brust), but I’m okay with that.  And the books are violent, depressing and no character is safe.  Maybe you just want to watch the show.  I won’t judge you this time.

 

Coming soon in future posts:  stuff.

You Can’t Stop the Signal…

…but you sure can misinterpret.

 

Let me start by saying that I am both a Browncoat and a Whedonite.  I started watching Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the pilot on the WB, refusing to leave the house unless my dad promised to tape every episode thereafter.  In high school we had Buffy and Angel night, which kept up afterward.  I missed Firefly while it was on the air because I didn’t have a TV for a few years, but now own it on DVD.  I saw Serenity in the theater a half dozen times, and every time that last “I am a leaf on the wind…” happened, I gasped.  I’m such a Whedon devotee that I stuck it out for Dollhouse, watching every episode.

The whole Help Nathan Buy Firefly campaign is great.  Browncoats are numerous, and more crop up every day.  This is an awesome thing, and the series deserves it.  Moreover, we as fans deserve more Firefly.  Fox canceling it was a terrible decision, and they should pass the rights on to somebody who could do something with it.  That will not happen, even if you, me, Nathan Fillion, Patrick Rothfuss and Fidel Castro came up with 1 billion dollars and tried to bury Fox executives with it.  This article over at Inside TV has a very good explanation why.

I’m not trying to be needlessly pessimistic.  I want more Firefly, more of the crew of the Serenity, more awesome space cowboys and crazy ‘readers’ and Reavers.  I want Joss to do it, with all the cast returning.  Is it likely to happen?  Probably not.  Why not?  Well in the most immediate sense, Joss Whedon is busy.  Who else could be the showrunner?  None that I would trust with the integrity of the property.

But really, the whole impetus of this latest charge to resurrect our favorite canceled program was a misread signal.  The interview that spurred all this, Nathan Fillion made an off-handed comment.  “If I won the lottery….”  How many times have you said, “If I won the lottery, I could do X.”  Numerous, I’m sure.  The people running HNBF understand this, thankfully.

Fillion tweeted yesterday “It’s beautiful to dream of more Firefly, but PLEASE DON’T SEND ANY MONEY. Just keep being great Browncoats, which you are!”

So watch the DVDs of Firefly and Serenity.  Buy the comic books.  Watch Castle (because they like to make references and because its awesome).  Be the best Browncoat you can.  But don’t get your hopes up that Firefly is returning.  You’ll only crush them.

You Can’t Go Home Again

My friend Justin just put up a post over at his blog discussing childhood television, full of nostalgia and sentimentality over the things you can’t find on TV anymore.  Well, his post got me to thinking about the other side of that coin.  What about all those shows and cartoons that we used to love so much that just don’t hold up?  You know the old saying, ‘you can never go home again,’ I feel as if it can apply here.

I’ve gone back to watch some of my favorite cartoons from my wasted youth, and while some are still treasures, others are just atrocious.  Think back.  What were your favorite shows?  I was lucky enough to have a TV addict father, so we had cable.  I got to watch Fraggle Rock and the Disney Channel when I was a lil’ nipper.  I watched all the old Nickelodeon shows like Rugrats, Doug (which got ruined by ABC before I even had a chance to wax nostalgic over it) and Aaah! Real Monsters.

I, like Justin, am still a cartoon junkie.  Sure, my tastes have broadened a bit.  I prefer more adult fare, like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Samurai 7, Venture Bros, The Boondocks, etc… But I’ve tried to go back and watch some of my old favorites.  Sure, things like Rugrats and Aaah! Real Monsters have still got it, despite being a little puerile at times.  But have you tried to go back and watch He-Man or Thundercats?  If you haven’t, then just stop.  You can’t go home again.  You can’t go traipsing through your childhood memories and expect to feel the same about them.  I tried to rewatch Thundercats and couldn’t even make it through the first episode.  It was just that bad.

So what does that say about me?  Sure, we all like to give ourselves over to sentimental nostalgia.  It is one thing to remember something fondly, and another to go back and attempt to recapture those feelings you had a kid.  Loyal readers, don’t go back to that place.  Somethings are best left to memory.  I loved Thundercats so much as a kid, some of my first memories involve running around the backyard screaming “Thundercats HO!” at the top of my lungs in only my Thundercat Hanes.

I keep hearing rumours that they are going to remake Thundercats, the way they’ve remade Transformers, He-Man and GI Joe.  My one plaintive cry won’t be heard, but please don’t do that.  Stop ruining our childhood.  Come up with something new.  I’m sure a large portion of why these things get remade is due to people of our generation trying to relive childhood memories.  Why can’t we just make new ones?  Why can’t we make something of such an awesome caliber for our children?  Something that doesn’t involve a homophobic sponge making fart jokes under the sea.

As a closing note, I want to mention one series that does hold up.  Sure the animation is a little weak compared to today’s standards, but the writing and the voice-acting were top notch.  It pulled from a myriad of mythological characters, as well as a handful of Shakespeare and some cyberpunk-lite.  Add to that a handful of voice actors from Star Trek: TNG and the funding of Disney, and what did we get?  We got Gargoyles.  I have the entire series on my hard drive right now.  Now to track down Darkwing Duck…

Twitter Will Doom Us All…

I should clarify a few things here.  I don’t have any sort of fancy bachelor’s degree.  I’ve taken a few classes and made it half way through culinary.  Doesn’t mean I don’t know anything, just that I don’t have credentials to back up my opinions.  That being said, I feel that social media via the internet will doom us all to complacency, pushing us further and further away from close personal relationships.  And man will it play heck with the English language.  Really, I think the language part bothers me the most.

I love the English language, with its counter-intuitive spelling constructs, its odd dipthongs and the rare beauty of a language cobbled together out of spare parts from every other language.  And I understand that a language like English will only continue to evolve.  But I don’t know how I feel when we start erasing grammatical constructs and shortening words so that they’ll fit within a 140-character tweet that has a link attached.

And books!  Nobody reads!  Well why the hell not?!?!?

And that’s not true, lots of people still read.  But there are huge numbers of people who go: “Books?  I read a magazine once.”  Because reading is a chore.  Sure, I’m biased as a writer.  I want people to buy and read books so that they will one day buy and read mine.  But I have spent the majority of my life with my nose buried in a book.  I love the texture of paper under my fingertips, the feel of a worn paperback cover.  Maybe I’m just a huge dork.  I don’t care.  I love books.

But now there are e-books.  E-BOOKS!  &*$&%*$ Kindle!  Because we need one more piece of technology to carry around with us.  Sure, maybe they are better for the environment.  Less paper used, right?  I like the trees too and I don’t want to run out of them.  But then again, I like post-apocalyptic fiction.  I think I could survive your apocalypse situation du jour better than your average John Cusack.  Between recycling plants and hemp paper, I think we can keep the trees and the paper.  Sure, hardcovers suck.  So find a more durable paperback.  It would be so much cooler.  Maybe we can make it some sort of holo-book, but with some actual page to turn.  It could download books.  A crazy hybrid book/e-reader.

So yes.  I greatly fear that technology is gradually taking over our lives, making them too easy.  I feel that it makes us lose touch with the world around us, isolates us.  Not to say that I don’t enjoy its perks, I am most certainly a product of the Digital Age.  But we should all step away from the computer, pick up a book and go outside.  Sit in a sunny spot in the park and read a book.  Or just go for a walk.  But the book-reading part is great.  And let’s please try and spell things properly.  R U getting me?

Really, he started another one.

How many blogs can one man have?  That’s right, as many as he damn well pleases.

I’ve experimented with Livejournal, Blogger, having a travel blog, a random blog, a gaming blog.  I can’t do a focused blog anymore.  Too restrictive and I never updated, because I couldn’t come up with some topic related to tabletop gaming when it wasn’t an active part of my life.

What is active in my life?  Writing.  Cooking.  Video Games.  Work.  My wife.  I read a lot, I watch TV.  Hang out with my roommate.  Complain about the weather.  Aren’t I normal?

Well not really.  I’m incredibly neurotic, with a confidence in myself that borders on egotism.  Wait, that’s still normal.  Ah normalcy.

I’m tagging this post with every category I might use.  I may be tempted to bare my soul, to complain, to rant.  I may share recipes.  I may not update for weeks at a time.  Fortunately, my Twitter feed will keep you company.  I can hear hawks outside my window now, circling Golden Gate Park for a sumptuous morsel.