Archive for September, 2010
Thursday, September 30th, 2010
I recently decided that I’m not getting in enough reading time per day and I’ve been trying to figure out how I can rectify that. Unfortunately, I really have a hard time finding more time at home and I’m pretty much confined to reading in bed, sometime after 11:00. Sometimes I can get in a good hour or so, but if I’m really tired, I might only manage to read a few pages before I pass out.
In the past I’ve tried reading during my lunch break at work, but it has never been all that satisfying. First, I only have a 30 minute lunch break and, second, I can only concentrate on a book so well while I am trying to cram food in my mouth. I would only ever end up reading five or six pages and it just seemed like it was more trouble that it was worth, trying to juggle between the book and a sandwich. However, I think I have found a couple of ways to improve the situation.
#1 – eBooks
I have never been a huge fan of reading on my computer, but for short periods of time, it’s not really an issue. Because the text is on my computer monitor, I don’t need to spare a hand for a book. That means, I can enjoy my lunch without diverting too much attention from the book.
#2 – Shorter Novels or Short Stories
Let’s face it, I’m not really a fast reader and it’s hard to make a ton of progress in 30 minutes. If I’m reading a 500 page novel, reading five pages isn’t really all that encouraging. However, if I’m reading a 200 page novel, all of a sudden, those five pages go a lot further towards completing the book and may actually be enough to propel the story significantly.
Test #1 – Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
My first test was Doctorow’s first novel, which he offers for free download on his web site in a vast multitude of formats. I had heard good things about the novel via the Sword and Laser podcast (which is awesome by the way) and I knew I could get a free copy so I grabbed a PDF and decided to give it a run.
The novel satisfied both of my conditions; I had my PDF copy and it was only 72 pages digitally (208 in paperback). The first test went really well. I was able to make major advances on the story during my short lunch break and check another book of my enormous “to read” list.
I just started my second test, which is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I expect it to go well and I’m excited about squeezing in a bit more productive reading time. FTW.
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
Tonight, No Ordinary Family, starring Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz, premiered on ABC. The pilot episode was decent, but didn’t grab me as something really special. I do think the show has potential, but it isn’t quite there yet.
Michael Chiklis plays the role of Jim Powell, a slightly discontent police sketch artist, while Julie Benz plays his wife, Stephanie, a successful research scientist. They have two kids, Daphne and JJ, who are both teenagers. The pilot begins with the family on a vacation in Brazil, but trip doesn’t go as planned and a plane crash leaves them with super hero-like abilities. As a result, Jim ends up having super strength, Stephanie is super fast, Daphne is telepathic, and, apparently, JJ is super intelligent.
The pilot episode was fairly good and acted as an origin story of sorts for the entire family. Jim got the biggest piece of the pie this week and it seems that his plot line will be the most important for the show. He was the first to discover his new power and, like many superheroes before him, tries to put it to use fighting crime.
Probably the best part of the episode was Jim’s second fight with the criminal. It actually looked pretty cool, a bit like the opening Nightcrawler scene from X-2, and it also helped set up the underlying story arc.
Unfortunately, the title of the show, didn’t quite ring true. The show is not terribly original. The superpowers are very basic and standard as those things go. Even the concept of a family superhero unit isn’t really that new; The Incredibles did an awesome job exploring that concept a few years ago and the Fantastic Four also comes to mind.
I think the thing that is going to make or break this show is whether the writers are able to keep it fun. Sure, they can tackle the serious family and marital issues that were already prevalent in the pilot, but they need to do it with a little humor or it could get a little too preachy for the crowd that ABC is targeting. I think I’ll give it another shot next week, but I’m not signing up for the long haul yet.
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
I decided to check out Undercovers despite the fact that the commercials made it look incredibly cheesy and, really, it wasn’t too bad.
Undercovers is a show starring two married ex-spies. They have been out of the game for five years and are running a catering business at the start of the show. A veteran CIA agent manages to recruit them for one more operation to find a man, Leo Nash, that both Steven and Samantha Bloom know from their spy days.
Undercovers is yet another J.J. Abrams brainchild and his second foray into the spy world. Alias, his first spy-fi series, starred Jennifer Garner and had a couple of fantastic seasons to start off, but gradually declined over the following three. For those living under a rock the last six years, J.J. Abrams was also the creator of Lost, which is a show that I really enjoyed, and recently directed the Star Trek reboot. I have to admit that I’m a bit of an Abrams fan and I gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave the series a chance despite my reservations about the promo commercials.
Overall, I found the pilot to be a pleasant surprise. It was entertaining; there was a lot of good action sequences (some involving bazookas) and the dialog was fairly witty. I think the “sexpionage” gag missed the target, perhaps because it was overused the trailers for the show, but other than that, I thought the pilot was a solid episode and I’m interested in seeing where the story goes.
I’m not sure if Undercovers has quite the charm that Alias did early on (it was so easy to fall in love with Sidney Bistro and the SD6 plot was just superb). It certainly doesn’t evoke the sense of suspense and mystery that Lost was famous for. What it does have is likable characters, pretty good dialog, and good action. I can already tell that I’m going to like Leo. Undercovers may turn out to be a bit of an eye-candy series, one that you don’t have to think about too much, but it’s not always a bad thing to keep one of those around for when you just need to unwind.
I’m going to check out the show again next week and see where it goes. The pilot was good, but not amazing, so I’m going to have to feel it out for a few weeks. After about a month, I’ll probably know whether I’ll stick with it for the season or not.
Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Chuck is back and filled with awesome, spy-fi goodness! I was really excited about the premiere, especially after seeing how excited the cast was at Comic-Con, and it did not disappoint. Chuck is basically my favorite show right now and I’ve got very high expectations for season four.
The premiere certainly delivered with the mix of action and humor that have come to define the show. Seriously, tonight’s episode was a blast. They did a great job wrapping up the loose ends from last season’s finale and getting right back into the action.
My Top 10 Moments
- Amazing casting. Dolf Lundgren. Olivia Munn. Linda Hamilton. A geek’s fantasy. Enough said.
- The Buy More is back and better than ever.
- Gretta. (Oh crap, I just drooled on my keyboard.)
- Chuck is a spy again, after about a 10 minute break.
- Casey’s groans.
- Morgan as Chuck’s sidekick.
- Sarah. (Drooling again).
- Chuck is still a badass.
- Chuck’s mom is even more badass.
I really want to say more, but it’s late and I need to sign off for the night. Godspeed!
Friday, September 17th, 2010
Over the course of the summer, I have been working my way through the first season of Supernatural and I just finished watching the final two episodes. When I first started watching the show, I wasn’t completely sold. There were a lot of horror elements that I just wasn’t that into, but as the season went on, I got more and more wrapped up in the characters and the underlying plot and found that as soon as I finished watching an episode, I was ready to watch the next.
The show definitely got better as the season progressed. In the pilot, we were presented with the backstory that frames the main plot for the entire season, but many of the early episodes didn’t focus too heavily on that story arch. Instead, they were one-shot, monster-of-the-week type episodes, somewhat reminiscent of the first season of Buffy. However, as the season progressed, the episodes became more and more engrossed in the central story line and just got better and better.
Probably the best part of the show for me was the characters. Sam and Dean are two brothers that have a lot in common, but have pretty different personalities. They have a great chemistry, a camaraderie that only brothers can share. But then, they really had to be perfect in order for the show to work. Sam and Dean are the only characters to appear in every episode so if the chemistry was off or one of the actors wasn’t great, then it would have been very easy for the show to have failed early on.
Another thing that I really liked was how the show was geared around the concept of family. Sam and Dean are fiercely loyal to one another. They have very different relationships with their father, but it is clear that no matter what happens, they love each other and will stop at nothing to keep their family together. Family really is the primary theme throughout the show and it worked really well as a backbone to the plot.
Despite the macabre elements, the show had enough lighthearted moments to take the edge off and gave me a few good laughs. I also liked the use of classic rock. I’m pretty sure that every episode featured at least one classic song. I’m a big classic rock fan so I was always eager to listen for the song and find out what they decided to use. Sometimes, the song was very fitting and would be played at a critical moment (Don’t Fear the Reaper comes to mind), but often, they would just sneak in a song while Sam and Dean were driving.
Overall, I really enjoyed season one and I can’t wait to start in on season two. The finale ended with quite the cliffhanger and I’m dying to find out what is going to happen next.
Honestly, I would recommend this show for anyone, but especially fans of the paranormal or horror, or fans of Buffy or Angel. The first season definitely had a lot in common with those shows, so if you liked either of them, I think there is a good bet that you would like Supernatural as well.
Thursday, September 16th, 2010
I FINALLY got to see the 12 minute epilogue to Lost that was released on the Season 6 DVD and it was awesome!
Right now, Lost is basically my favorite show ever. I loved the mystery, the drama, the characters, the story; I loved it all. That’s not to say that there weren’t some things that I found to be annoying or disappointing, especially some of those unanswered questions and “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but I’ve forgiven the writers for some of their shortcomings and decided that I don’t care (that much). The characters and story were always the most important pieces to me and, on those fronts, Damon and Carlton delivered.
But when my mind cleared after witnessing a very emotional and beautiful season finale, I realized that there were a lot of questions that went unanswered and some of them were kind of a big deal. Then I heard that there was going to be an epilogue with Ben and Hurley on the Season 6 DVD and I was really excited, hoping that we would get a look at their time on the island and maybe an answer or two.
The epilogue leaked on YouTube shortly thereafter, but by the time I got home from work, it had been taken down and I was forced to wait and, in doing so, my eagerness dissipated and my forgetfulness took over until I realized just the other day that I still hadn’t seen it! A quick Google search directed me to the video and I can now say that I have been enlightened.
Basically, Ben visits a couple of dudes at a Dharma (Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-esque) warehouse in Guam and ends up showing them a training video starring Piere Chang, which reveals the answers to a number of mysteries like what the Hurley bird was and why pregnant women die on the island. From there, Ben visits Santa Rosa and recruits a teenage Walt to join him on the island. Ben and Walt join Hurley in a Dharma van and the epilogue concludes with them driving off. Based on Hurley’s comments, we are led to believe that Walt was special because he was a candidate.
Overall, it was pretty cool. I mean, this thing was a total fan treatment and their were a lot of nods to things that only the dedicated fans would understand. I definitely enjoyed it and, in fact, I may need to go back for a second viewing. If you are a Lost fan, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Monday, September 13th, 2010
This weekend turned out to be a good one for catching up on movies. After finally seeing Moon on Friday night, I watched Kick-Ass on Saturday night and, honestly, I really enjoyed it. I was a little surprised at the brutality, but I really liked how the story was told and how it presented itself.
Most of the film revolves around a geeky teenager named Dave whose love for comic books leads him to don a costume and take on evil as the alter ego Kick-Ass. He’s really just a normal, likable guy and the whole superhero gig doesn’t go as well as planned and he gets in way over his head.
But it turns out that Kick-Ass isn’t the only superhero in town. Big Daddy and his 11-year-old daughter Hit Girl legitimately kick some serious bad guy ass in a very vicious and brutal manner. Hit Girl is one hell of a badass, which led to some outcry when the film was originally released in theaters.
I thought the film was well-done for the most part. It did take a little longer to get the story set up than I might have expected, but I even found that entertaining in its own way. I mean, who doesn’t love a good origin story, right?
Overall, I liked it, but not as much as Scott Pilgrim, another comic book adaption that was a whole lotta fun. It was a little heavy on the violence and a little light on humor for my taste, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. The highlights of the movie were mostly the action scenes, but it did have a few good one-liners too. Not recommended for children or your mother.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Last night, I finally got a chance to watch Hugo award winning Moon by Duncan Jones, son of the acclaimed musician, David Bowie. David Bowie’s music certainly had its science fiction influence, especially his Ziggy Stardust album, so I guess it’s no surprise that his son’s first major film would be a science fiction endeavor.
I had heard great things about the film and had been meaning to watch it for awhile. Recently, Moon won a Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and it also became available for instant watch on Netflix so I really had no more excuses. I was rewarded with a very intelligent film about an astronaut at the end of his three-year stint working on the moon.
The film is a very solitary view of Sam’s final days on the moon and addresses many of the atrocities that could occur in such a situation. I don’t want to go into more detail for fear of spoiling essential plot points, but, needless to say, the most interesting aspects of the film are the horrors that Sam uncovers.
The film has a minimal, but high quality cast with Sam Bell being played by Sam Rockwell and the computer GERTY being voiced by Kevin Spacey, whose monotone dialog was delivered perfectly.
Overall, I thought the film was well done, especially for an independent production, and the plot was very good. It’s not a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat; the story is a more subtle and intellectual than it is action-packed. Still, there was enough suspense and intrigue that I never got bored. I’m definitely glad that I watched it, but it won’t go down as one of my favorites.
Friday, September 10th, 2010
Blastr has posted a complete guide to 20 new and return sci-fi TV shows just a day after I decided to peruse the major networks’ web sites to see what is on tap for this fall. As it turns out, I’m not really that excited about the lineup at this point, but here’s what I’ve got to say about each series.
The Big Bang Theory – I’ve heard this is very funny, but I’ve never watched it. I may just try to hop in anyways and catch up on previous seasons via Netflix.
Caprica – The second half of season one was scheduled to debut in January, but got bumped up to October. I watched the first half and thought it was decent so I’ll give the second half a whirl.
Chuck – I’m really excited about Chuck. I’m expecting it to be my favorite show this year since Lost is over. I really enjoyed season three and I think they’ll do a good job with it again this year. The writers seem to have a knack for catering to their fans.
The Event – I saw the premiere at Comic-Con and thought it was decent. I think it could go either way, but I think I’ll give it a shot.
Fringe – I watched the first couple episodes and stopped, but I’ve heard it just keeps getting better. I won’t be watching it this fall, but I may check it out on Netflix later.
Human Target – I thought this got canceled. No? Oh. Well, I didn’t watch season one and I’m not planning on watching season two.
Medium – I’ve never watched this show and I’m not interested in starting anytime soon.
Nakita – I never saw the original series that this is based on, but I was always under the impression that it was rather cheesy. The new show promises the same. No thanks.
No Ordinary Family – I think I’m going to check out this show about a family with super powers. I heard it didn’t get amazing buzz at Comic-Con, but that might not mean anything.
Sanctuary – I haven’t had a chance to check this one out yet so I’ll have to pass again this fall.
Smallville – Considering that I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from season one (which I enjoyed), there is just no way that I would consider jumping in for season ten.
Stargate Universe – I’ve heard mixed reviews on this one and I’ve never watched any other the other Stargate shows so I’ve got no plans to start watching this fall.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – I started watching this when it first aired a couple years ago, but it was a little too cute for me. I know that there are some people that are really into it (adults included), but I’m not sure if I’m capable of watching a children’s program anymore, even though I love Star Wars.
Supernatural – I just started watching this series on Netflix this summer and I’m really getting into it. Unfortunately, I’m still working through season one so I’m going to hold off on season six until I catch up.
Tower Prep – I have no idea what this is so I’ll pass.
Ugly Americans – I did see one commercial for this and I thought it looked terrible.
Undercovers – I’m not sure this is really sci-fi, but it is from J.J. Abrams so he’ll probably work in some sci-fi at some point. Honestly, it looks pretty cheesy, but I’m usually willing to at least give an Abrams program a chance.
V – I started watching last season and I hated the storytelling. I thought the concept was decent, but the execution was terrible. Oh and the son was a total moron. I couldn’t handle it and gave up. I’m not planning on picking it up again.
The Vampire Diaries – Oh god no.
The Walking Dead – I’m not really a big zombie guy, but I heard the comic series is excellent and I did absolutely love Zombieland so there is a slim chance that I may check this out.
Well, out of the 20, I plan on watching Chuck and Caprica for sure; I’ll be giving newcomers No Ordinary Family, Undercovers, and The Event a shot; and I may try to pick up on The Big Bang Theory. Combine those with football, hockey, and Netflix and I’ll soon be spending far too many hours in front of the TV.
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Rolling Stone magazine recently released their list of the “Top Ten Beatles Songs of All Time.” As an avid Beatles fan, I was very interested to see what they had chosen and thought I should share. Here is Rolling Stone’s top 10:
- A Day in the Life
- I Want to Hold Your Hand
- Strawberry Fields Forever
- In My Life
- Hey Jude
- Let It Be
- Come Together
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Needless to say, these are all great songs. Each of them is legendary in its own way. However, I’m not sure that these songs are necessarily the “best” of the Beatles’ vast library. Perhaps I would agree that they are the most influential or the most inspirational or even the most important songs written by the Fab Four, but I don’t think they are most enjoyable, at least not for me.
Now that’s not to say that I wouldn’t rank some of these in my own “Top Ten Beatles Songs of All Time” list, but Rolling Stone’s list as a whole doesn’t seem quite satisfactory if for no other reason, than because they don’t explain what they mean by “best,” which, in the case of musical preferences, is usually subjective (at least, not on the web site).
I do know a few things about the Beatles, but I won’t claim to be an expert. I’m sure that Rolling Stone was able to factor in how the songs impacted history, what the songs meant for the band’s development, how well the songs sold, and so forth. Since I can’t claim to know those things, I’m keeping my list simple. Here are the Beatles songs that I enjoy the most, based on my own inferior knowledge and my personal tastes:
- Let It Be
- Dear Prudence
- I’ve Got a Feeling
- In My Life
- Don’t Let Me Down
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- Paperback Writer
- Happiness is a Warm Gun
- Hey Bulldog
Wow, that was really difficult. I’m sure that I didn’t give it enough consideration, but this list pretty accurately describes the songs I find the greatest desire to crank up when I hear them. There are several others that I had a really hard time not putting on the list including Eleanor Rigby, Getting Better, Day Tripper, and No Reply just to name a few.
I’m a little disappointed that I have almost no early songs (which I enjoy, but not as much as the later stuff) and I have nothing from Revolver or Sgt Pepper (which are both great albums). Perhaps I should make a list of my top 20, just to make myself feel better, but that’s for another time.
According to Rolling Stone’s the web site, they have actually ranked the top 100 in a new collector’s issue of the magazine available at Barnes and Noble. I think I’m going to try to pick this up.