Friday, May 23, 2014

Nihal of the Land of the Wind

Here's an interesting book I received from Net Galley a few weeks ago.

Nihal of the Land of the Wind is a beguiling book filled with many bewitching scenes painted with words of power and grace.
I really enjoyed reading it and hope that the rest of Licia Troisi's novels are translated into English soon. My only issue with this book is that often the beauty of the prose interferes with logic but I doubt that will bother many readers. This book works much better using strong imagery and stark characterizations than it would otherwise. I strongly recommend this book.

The main character is Nihal and she's the last remaining person with Elf blood left in the world. This is due to a vendetta by the villian of the story, Tyrant--and with the voices of her slaughtered people constantly filling her dreams, she's out for vengeance wielding the amazing black crystal sword forged by her foster father. And there's dragons too!

This volume chronicles Nihal's childhood and training, both martial and magical, as well as her motivation to personally destroy the Tyrant. It's heady stuff and Troisi does a great job at getting the reader into Nihal's head, for better and worse.


 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/939013761

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Passion Play

By Passion Play I'm not referring to the dramatic presentation depicting the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, rather I'm referring to the 2010 movie starring Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Rhys Ifans and Bill Murray. I recorded the movie a couple of weeks back because the description sounded interesting in a peculiar way, and got around to watching it last night. Here's the summary of the movie from Amazon:
The last thing washed-up jazz musician Nate Pool (Mickey Rourke) wanted to do was betray sinister gangster Happy Shannon (Bill Murray). But it may be the last thing he does unless he can deliver Lily (Megan Fox), a beautiful and mysterious carnival sideshow attraction. The stakes can't get any higher for the two lovers as they try to elude the merciless killer who will stop at nothing to keep Lily for himself. Kelly Lynch and Rhys Ifans costar in this gritty and unpredictable tale of redemption in the hard-boiled tradition of classic film noir.
Believe me, that description is not on target.  This movie sucks so bad that it boggles the mind. On Rotten Tomatoes the movie has an approval rating of 3% and yes, that's out of 100!  According to the writeup on Wiki, the movie is a vanity project of Mitch Glazer who wrote and directed the movie and cast his wife, Kelly Lynch, as one of the leads. The reported cost was $15 million and the movie theater net was $3,669. Yikes! The movie was introduced to the world at the Toronto International Film Festival and according to the article on Wiki some of the comments from critics there were:
Variety describing it as "Perversely eccentric and frequently inert." In a video review, David Poland extended his condolences to Glazer for his 20-year dedication in realizing the project, but described the experience as "an absolute car wreck." eFilmCritic's Erik Childress left the screening after an hour and declared it "Awful." Karina Longworth from Village Voice asserted that "it's hard to imagine that anyone will take Passion Play nearly as seriously as it takes itself."
I can't argue with those comments. This was one very bad movie. And here's a SPOILER, so don't read on if you have some weird masochistic need to watch this movie, the lead guy is dead---the entire movie was a dying dream of his. Ta-duh! You're tortured for an hour and a half and then you find out it never happened anyway. Geeze. To put the final nail in the coffin, the best acting performance was that of Megan Fox---and I think everyone knows how talented she is. Rourke was an embarrassment, Murray was just there for a paycheck, and Lynch is married to the writer/director.

Heed my warning and avoid Passion Play.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Book Review: The Sensory Deception

The Sensory Deception is an amazing ride. Ransom Stephens takes you from the moneyed halls of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley to the dirt poor coast of Somalia's pirates and then onto the deep jungle of the Amazon Basin. The sense of wonder he conveys using the idealism and technical know-how of the entrepreneurial protagonists is matched by the thrilling settings and the situations in which they find themselves. I highly recommend you read this book, it's incredible.

Farley Rutherford and his team of technical wizards have invented a device that allows a person to totally experience the world from the viewpoint of another being---human or otherwise---seeing, hearing, smelling what they do. This book is about how they use this technology to try to change the world. Let's hope that this is a case where reality soon catches up to fiction because this is a device that can really change minds and souls. Imagine experiencing the loss of polar ice from the perspective of a polar bear: sensing in hours what the polar bear endures across weeks searching for a next meal---but also being immersed in the joy of swimming with those powerful limbs, stalking, killing and eating a seal from the bear's perspective, temporarily losing your human perspective. Stephens conveys this in a visceral way that is believable and convincing. This is one hell of a book!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Eggs

 We received 5 chicken eggs on Easter so in a way they're Easter eggs. True the hues are limited but you can see there is some variation: two white, two light brown, and one brown.

 And we also received one turkey egg but that didn't seem very Easter-y. As you can see, it's a lot bigger than a chicken egg. Around 50% or 60% bigger. They taste a little different than chicken eggs but not bad by any means.







After laying their eggs, I let the chickens into the garden next door, so to speak, and they had a grand ole time eating weeds, scratching out bugs, and munching on blades of grass.
  Even the rooster got interested for a while.
But then he stalked away. Apparently gardening is work for the hens.

Friday, September 21, 2012

spider

Incy Wincy spider went up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain, and Incy Wincy spider climbed up the spout again.
 
I don't think I'd call this one "incy" or "wincy."  It's a big sucker. But it's web is in a bad state of repair.

The beastie has made itself quite at home on my back deck and doesn't seem to find my taking pictures bothersome so we've found our balance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The New Season--part 1

I've watched a few of the new shows for the Fall Season and I'm not very impressed. I guess for quality I'll have to wait until the end of the month when Dexter and Homeland get their respective starts.

So far I've seen the first 3 episodes of The New Normal, as well as first episodes of Go On, The Mob Doctor, Guys with Kids, and Revolution.

The New Normal: I though the first episode was uneven, some jokes worked and some didn't. The grandmother (Barkin) was too harsh for me, but of course she was supposed to be, and the two prospective dads were a bit too cutesey. The second episode clicked. The jokes worked and the preachy aspects were worked in quite well. I decided that maybe this show was going to live up to the hype. Unfortunately in the third episode they only had the preachy part on board. What jokes were there fell flat, very flat.

I'll try a few more episodes and see if the quality evens out.

Guys with Kids: Run away from this show. It sucks. The guys aren't funny, the babies they carry around are just props and the wifes are annoying. The only saving grace is the older kids on the show---and they can't carry it. I'm not going to watch any more episodes.

Mob Doctor: Way too preachy.  I work mainly with MDs and we were mocking the show the next day at work. The main character is a resident who's in bed with some organized crime characters in an effort to get her younger brother out of debt. She also tells everyone at her hospital what they should be doing and is the go-to doctor for complicated procedures. And she steps on toes constantly: Mob toes and hospital toes. Ha!

The first 5 minutes of the show were fun but then it descended into soap opera-ish silliness.  I'll watch another couple of episodes because I think the acting was there, just not the writing. I hope they can fix things because the show does have potential.

Go On: I always like Matthew Perry but this show is a stretch. I liked the first episode but it seems a high wire act. I doubt they can manage to come up with a season's worth of good scripts.

Revolution: I wish I liked this show more. But the loose threads were so numerous that watching the show was aggravating. The premise that electricity no longer works is fine with me---though that does put into question how the first episode ended---but the 15 year jump from the first scene to the rest of the series is fraught with peril. I just can't get on board with how they decided things developed in those missing years.

Even if you accept those changes, the behavior of the characters on the show negates the lessons they've supposedly absorbed in the interim. By the I mean that the characters act like 2010 folk put into a non-tech setting, not 2025 folk that are used to a much more scary way of life. IMHO, that is.

Regardless I'll watch the next few episodes but I doubt I'll still be watching when the season ends---if Revolution lasts that long.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rough Love

Actually the phrase should be Rough Wooing but the word "woo" sounds too much like the background chorus in a Motown song for me.

In any case, Rough Wooing is a somewhat caustic reference to the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. I know, I know. Pinkie Cleugh sounds a little cutesy too, doesn't it? How about this one: Firth of Forth? That's a location in Scotland that the battle was near. The Gaelic version of the name, Linne Foirthe, sounds somewhat more serious.

And a serious battle it was. In Scotland the battle is also known as Black Saturday, and for good reason. While estimates vary, something like 30,000 Scots went up against around 17,000 Brits and at the end of the day a third of the Scots were dead but only 600 British died that day. That's the kind of lopsided result that can really make a nation mourn for centuries.

It happened in September of 1547. The King that started it was already dead, the future king it purportedly was started for was only 9 years old and the fair maiden that was involved was but a toddler. Strange war.

You see, King Henry (the 8th I am, I am) wanted his son Edward to marry Queen Mary of Scotland to seal diplomatic ties to the advantage of England. Since the kids were only 9 and 4 respectively, they didn't have a lot of say in this. But Scotland wanted to be aligned with France and not England, so they declined the engagement offer--Henry was less than amused. Off to war they went---except Henry since he died 8 months before the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

The lesson here? Don't piss off a fat King with a gravely infected leg. Or maybe invest more heavily in a Navy.

Despite the huge win by England, Scotland didn't acquiesce for another 8 years. And 2 years after that Mary married Francis, Dauphin of France and he was crowned king of France a year later. And then died 2 years after that. These people were very dramatic. Declare war and die, or become queen at 6 days old, marry well and then become queen again for a couple of years. Queen squared!

It all makes US history seem staid by comparison.

I still find the term Rough Wooing amusing. If the engagement offer is rejected, kill tens of thousands of men to force that marriage down her throat! Rough indeed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Niche

Sometimes when you read a book description you wonder just what demographic the book is aimed at. That's what happened when I saw the blurb about a book by Linda Laird titled The American Grain Elevator: Function and Form.

Here's the blurb:
NEW BOOK! Explains the who, what, where and why of these sometimes massive structures that puzzle the traveler and are mostly taken for granted by the locals. The 111 pp. paperback, with over 150 regional illustrations, tells the story of how grain storage began, elevators were invented, who owns them and how they work. Includes sections on a variety materials used in the Midwest from the 1800s to today; with many historic photos and 86 full color examples of an important building form that is integral to our American heritage and agricultural economy.

I just have to wonder how large an audience there is for this book. For all I know, it could be huge and untapped---I've not seen many grain elevator books around---but it's not for me. I see plenty of elevators at the farms all around where I live and they don't seem all that interesting. Over 150 pictures in 111 pages. Isn't that a bit odd in and of itself? A picture and a half per page?

If this sort of thing interests you, there's a contest on Goodreads where they're giving away 5 copies:

Grain Elevator Contest

Good luck!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing Strategy

Every once in a while when I read the description of a book the idea pops into my head that the writer was following a definite strategy for marketing the book.

Case in point, today I read the description of a recent release, Joshua's Revenge, by Richard Wren. The blurb goes:
Yosemite Park bears are being killed and eviscerated for their body parts to be used in Chinese medicines. Joshua, a Yosemite Ranger, is assigned the task of finding the gangs behind the killings after his best friend, another Ranger, is murdered by one of the bear killing gangs. The trail leads from the backwoods of Yosemite to the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he’s faced with beatings, murders, kidnappings, and gang warfare.
Fortunately, Joshua was born with superior athletic attributes and his well kept secret of being a world champion Oriental Martial Arts expert is put to the test. When his wife is captured and tortured, he must use trickery, misdirection and imagination, as well as his mastery of Chinese, Japanese and Korean Martial Arts to save her life and find the mastermind behind the killings.
Can one man defeat vicious and murderous gangs that are willing to go to any and all extremes to protect their crooked business?
   Interesting, huh?

   Now that's really loading the deck. Going after people who attack bears, an endangered species, and one that is fuzzy and cute---at least from a distance---and they attack and EVISCERATE them in a beloved national park! And it's the Chinese that are behind it (a nationality that is currently on the outs with the US due to economic and political issues).

   I have no idea if the book is good or not, but the author certainly is trying to touch on some sensitive issues. And then those bear-killing bastards torture his wife and kill his best friend! Now that means war! And this guy is a ass-kicking multi-sport martial arts world champion. But he manages to keep his world championships a secret.  *shhhh*  Don't tell anyone!

   Well.... I expect Hollywood has already optioned the book for a movie or two.   *sigh*

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sew What?

 This is what happens when a guy tries to repair some pants with a sewing machine. Havoc!

In my defense I wasn't trying to be neat, nor tidy, not even pretty. I just wanted to keep my bits from dropping through the bottom of my pants.

You see, the entire crotch was torn out of these poor cargo pants. It started off with one small tear, as these things usually do. But then it got bigger.



 And then a tear started on the other side of the seam and that tear kept getting bigger. Soon they started looking like chaps---they covered my legs but little else.

So this was my solution. I cut some cloth out of an old t-shirt and sewed it over the torn material of the pants. The pants' material was so thin it couldn't handle the repair on its own.

Admittedly it'd have been a lot better had I used brown thread for the repair but I don't use my sewing machine very often and it's a miracle I did this without sewing my fingers to the pants.

 Here's a smaller repair near the front pocket just to show that I can put in a simple row of stitches without it looking like some horrid Frankenstein-ian creation.

Of course the thread still doesn't match the fabric.  Oops.
And since I was at it---I patched a few other pairs of pants too.

This is a pair of jeans that I sliced open when I was climbing over a barbed wire fence a couple of months ago.

Amazingly enough I barely cut myself at all but I sure did a number on the jeans. The join that you see there is pretty strong. I was rather surprised it worked at all.