Sunday, October 24, 2010

Notice of Absence - 10/24/10 - 11/02/10

Today, I'm leaving to go out to the west coast for a few days.

I'm of course not looking forward to the hassle of the airport, I don't much like to fly to be honest. but I like the places I can get too via a plane.. so its a useful inconvenience if nothing else. So beyond that, and having to sit in Charlotte North Carolina each way for a 3 hour layover.. It won't be too bad.

I might post some small stuff on my netbook while I'm there.. but I'm hopefully going to be too busy doing other stuff to remember. This will be my second trip to Portland Oregon, and I also am planning to head out to Astoria, and to a few other places on the coast. Have been a huge fan of it since seeing the Goonies for the first time 21 years ago.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The gunslinger chased the man in black through the desert, and I followed.

Having just, no more than 5 minutes ago finished turning the last page of the last of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series.. I can say that I am left with only one feeling.


I could spoil the ending, but I'm not going too. This isn't out of any particular urge not to ruin the series for anyone else.. I just don't not want others to be as annoyed as I was when they get to the ending, and then think.. Is that it? Is that how the series ends?

If it wasn't for the fact that the proposed 8th volume actually would fall between the 4th and 5th volumes.. I'd be prone to fall back on cynicism and say the ending was done specifically to set up for more sequels.. but then I think, this is Stephen of the most prolific authors in the world, and maybe not the wealthiest but he isn't hurting either.. I don't really know if he comes across as the sort who would write sequels just to cash in.. like the writer of a certain boy wizard seems to be doing now that the movie money is going to be running out soon.

To say I was unimpressed is an understatement.. but then I've not really liked either of the last two books in the series.. I felt that the inclusion of the writer himself was just a tad too strange. And the character of Mordred served no clear point except to up the gore factor.

Now comes the waiting, soon they will begin working on the hybrid Television/Movie adaption of the series. We will get to see how they change it, what they opt to leave out. I have no idea if Ron Howard and company will do a good job or not. I felt he was perfectly adequate for adaption of Dan Brown novels. But then I don't really hold those in much esteem to be honest. And while I am ambivalent towards the ending of the Dark Tower, the journey for the most part, until book 6 anyway, was one hell of a ride.

I look forward to one day in the future being able to sit and watch it all as one epic film. It probably won't happen. After all, I'm still waiting on a single edit of Lord of the Rings which seems destined to never appear. But I can hope.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Towers of Midnight, Who dosen't have a copy?

Maybe its nothing, but I for one am kind of sick of bloggers posting photos of this book just to show off the fact they got it 2 weeks earlier than everyone else. I won't go into any theories as to why.. but it is an odd fad thats cropped up...

Its driving my friends nuts.
Which means I have to deal with it.

So stop it.


Think of my sanity rather than your page hits.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Battlestar Gallactica.

I never watched this the first time it was on, I didn't really know anything about the original except for the robot dog. So because of this ambivilance, and the stigma of change for change sake Starbuck. I chose not to watch the Mini Series back in 2004/5 and so when the show started I was completely lost.

But it's since been added to Netflix's Instant view system. So I started watching it. And have just finished the Mini-Series. It was an extremely bleak couple of hours. But Edward James Olmos really shines as Commander Adama.. even if I don't really care for Donnie Darko's Mom as the President. And I'm still not sure how I feel about Starbuck. And I really really dislike the Cylon woman.

Just the mini-series so far. But I've got a few things that kind of bug me about it. For starters, why do the space battles have sound effects? After going to all the trouble to show how the Vipers fly in space, they add sound effects?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meanwhile on

I don't post there, so I don't check it that often. But I happen'd across this rather interesting thread.

Apparently, some chap in Russia has written himself some Fan Fiction set in Middle Earth.. at best one could call it an "Unauthorized Pastiche".. But I prefer to reserve Pastiche for "Authorized Fan-fiction".

Anyway, they are having a very heated debate about the quality or lack thereof of this book. I dunno what to say about it really. It looks like utter drek to me. And I don't see why any of them are even treating it as if it is anything but fan-fiction..

I'll refrain from re-posting the samples given in that thread, but they are there for you if you want them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

They keep saying "Maybe"

Yesterday was October the 12th, that means it was Columbus Day. Saturday was the 9th, which means it was Lief Erikson day. No one gets Lief Erikson day off from work, but then not many people get Columbus day off either.

But I've noticed something on a large number of websites. Every one that is running a fluff piece on Columbus, makes mention of the earlier Norse exploration of the "New World".. But they always do it with the caveat that they "Maybe" found it first. Now, I don't understand this.. since I thought the L'Anse Aux Meadows site was pretty certainly Norse, and pretty certainly built around the year 1000. Which is just shy of 500 years before Columbus "Discovered" jack diddly.

I realize that in the US, there are, how shall we say, political ramifications of this shifting history. If you've seen the TV show "The Sopranos" they show several very outraged people's reaction to the altering of teaching about Columbus. But cultural identity means nothing compared to Facts. And the Fact is, that neither Lief Erikson, The Chinese Grand Fleet, or Columbus "Discovered" the new world. But as far as we know, even if it wasn't Lief specifically.. the Vikings were the first Europeans to build a settlement here as far as the current research allows us to know.

So why do they persist in making it sound as if its just a theory?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disappearing act.

As I have mentioned before, one of my hobbies is Genealogy. I work on it together with my mom, and a few various other family members. For the most part, we are fairly successful in this endeavor. Having been able to reliably trace the majority of my family back at least as far as Colonial America, if not back to the British Isles or Europe, and a few even back as far as the late middle ages.

To me, this adds to my story. It means that my anscestors were the lucky few who didn't die in child birth, who made it past age 5, who didn't die of the plague, who weren't killed in one of the infinite numbers of wars which Europe can boast throughout its history, and didn't freeze or starve to death, and who weren't hanged for poaching a few ducks eggs.

But my family tree has a glaring black mark on it. In the form of my maternal grandfather's, father. We know his name, and the fact he was born in 1906. But we don't know a thing else about him except where he died. We don't know what town, county or state he was born in. Worse, he was born during a void in the draft, but after the state militia ceased to exist. Before the Income Tax began. Marriages, Births and Deaths were frequently unrecorded. And the vaunted U.S. Census only recorded head of household and how many people live there. Not their names.

His wife, who we know slightly more about, only goes back through her paternal grandmothers line. But it, is one of the few that goes back to the middle ages, and while I don't trust it, without some sort of paper trail to prove it at least.. to the dark ages.

This is nearly a full 1/4th of my ancestry that is proving elusive. I've searched and searched. And while I've got living relatives who might know, the annoying thing about Genealogy in the South Eastern United States is.. people are interested in breadth, not depth when it comes to "findin' Kin" They want to know who you are related too, that they are related too, but don't seem so much interested in where they came from to begin with, at least in my experience.

I feel that I am beginning to know how Pellinore must have felt during his endless chase for the questin' beast.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I think I may have figured it out.

I finished reading the Anthology " Swords and Dark Magic " today. At the beginning of the book, there is a small introduction from the editors, it briefly explains what Sword and Sorcery is and where it came from. Upon re-reading it, I've had an epiphany.

I've mentioned here before that I don't care for the ambiguous morals of a lot of modern day Fantasy stories. I wondered why, especially after having been repeatedly asked how I feel Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey mouser are different.

The Difference is length, and the plot.

It seems simple now, looking at it, but it really didn't before. I can deal with morally ambiguous characters so long as the fate of the world dosen't rest on their actions.

The average Conan story, is less than 100 pages long. It gives Conan enough time to do his thing, and then go back to whatever it is he does between stories. He does some thieving maybe, pilfering some candle stick from an open window in Shadizar then slipping back to the Maul for a tankard or three. But had he been written by one of these modern writers. He would have slipped in, raped the dog while the owner watched in horror, slit the persons throat then peed on the rug for good measure. But Howard didn't have space as a luxury with which to dwell on all the possible anti social things Conan could have hypothetically engaged in. Space was a premium. He got paid by the word, and the magazines were crunched by the depression. He had to get on with it. But the longest, though not the only Conan story where the fate of the many rests on his shoulders, Hour of the Dragon, he makes the right choice and proves he is a better king than his predecessor.

But I came to this conclusion after reading Joe Abercrombie's short story in this anthology. I'd said before on my review of the first 300 pages of The Blade Itself, that I didn't think he was a bad writer, merely a writer who created characters I didn't like. And thats what got me thinking about the length issue. In The Blade Itself, big things are clearly afoot. But if it was my world, I wouldn't have wanted any of his protagonists to be the ones it was left too to fix. All the characters except Logan Ninefingers. I didn't feel I could trust any of them to do the right thing.

Logan was the closest thing to a "Hero" the book could boast, and it was made clear upon the introduction of his cronies when they murder a child, that he wasn't really all that Heroic. If only by virtue of associating with people of their ilk, it marred him. And thats the whole point, Abercrombie had essentially limitless space to expound on all these reprobates. Had he been limited to 50-100 pages to tell the story of "The Blade Itself", or maybe a single 300 page novel for the entire story, instead of closer to 1000 pages.. I may have liked it better.

Since the late 1980's a fantasy novel isn't really a fantasy novel without at least 400 pages.. On the one hand, it gives writers the luxury of endlessly illustrate details. This itself can turn into monotony like what Robert Jordan did with the Wheel of Time. He minutely details the dress of his characters, of their mannerisms and quirks, what the furnishings of a room are like. Or it can give you lots of time to flesh out the History of your world beyond what is immediately needed for the story.

But, on the other it allows for the kicking over as many rotten logs as they want. Forcing you to see all the creepy crawlers that skitter away when the light hits them. Stuff that would normally be left quietly along the roadside due to having more pressing concerns.. are now gleefully dragged into the street and rolled in like dogs.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And with that, I'm done.

I just finished reading the 6th book in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. It's the one everyone warned me about. It's the one where Goodkind's Objectivist/Humanist politics come front and center, where as they had been mainly in the background (and hence easy to ignore) since a quick scene in Wizard's First rule which was forgotten about just as quickly. It's not that I hold his political views against him, thats not the case at all. But I do hold against him ham handed preaching of said ideas. I don't like any book, trying to convert me to any thing. Whether it be a political idea, or a religious one.

The other thing I don't like, are the more and more sadistic sex scenes. I realize you want to make your villains appear to be evil.. but you already had one of them be a pedophile way back in the first book. It's kind of hard to top that, and simply getting more graphic with the scenes just make you like you have a problem.

It makes me wonder, had the TV series lasted this long, how would it have handled Richard's preaching? How would it have handled the increasingly sadistic sex scenes in the book?

It's really a shame too, as I really liked his character Zedd. Along with a few of the others.. But if the rest of the books in the series are this bad, I just don't want to waist my time trying to read them. I skimmed big chunks of this one as it was. I dunno, maybe I will give #7 a try after the new year.. but for now I'm through with them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dawn of the Book Scanners

This past weekend, was a big weekend for me. 4 different libraries near me all had their annual book sale. I loaded up big time. At least at one of them. Last year, I loaded up at none of them. The difference being, this year, the biggest of the sales, banned Electronic Scanners.

It vastly improved the selection of books, and also improved the overall atmosphere of the sale. Over the last few years, these sales, along with Goodwill stores have become demon haunted wastelands thanks to the efforts of some of these " Resellers ". They show up, riffle through all the books as fast as they can. Scan all the bar-codes, using a PDA and cartridge, loaded with software that checks Amazon for sales chart status and approximate value.

On the one hand, this is a good thing. Instead of the book languishing at a goodwill for a few weeks before being sent off to be pulped.. it gets bought and put online and some one who wants it can buy it. It's also fueling an ultra cheap after market for college text books. At least some of the time.. some of the resellers simply list them for at or slightly below cover price. A second hand college text, bought 2.00$ at goodwill.. can net them a 50-60$ profit. On that note, they are buying a Donated book for a very small amount of money and then reselling it for many times what they paid for it. That's not the worst aspect of them though. Their attitude is.

Of the ones I've had the misfortune to run across, they tend to be rude, they elbow you out of their way. Treating other shoppers, as if they are literally taking food out of their mouths. I've seen them go through other shoppers carts if they think no one is looking. At a Library book sale last year, I even saw one of them going through the 'Hold' boxes you get up at the front of the room under the check out tables. Until the library people made them leave, he was taking books that other people had already picked out and put aside to continue shopping. They denude goodwill stores so badly sometimes that its not even worth going to them anymore to look for books. I've read of people having confrontations with the. Its a related concept to that scourge used to plague the toy world. The Scalper. They engineered scarcity, but didn't take advantage of a charity.

I know there is nothing legally wrong with what these guys are doing, it's almost always men, but I can't be alone in feeling that perhaps its unethical?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Books I'm looking at for 2011 or not

was looking at Locus's list of upcoming books.. and color me disappointed..

The List goes all the way through June of 2011, and I can't find a single thing on it.. apart from maybe a new Elizibeth Moon book.. that I'm even remotely interested.. there are two Malazan books on the list.. but I don't really know much about that series. I know it gets touted as being great, and TOR certainly lavishes enough effort on them.. every one of them seems to have three different editions.. and its the only series from TOR that I think you can usually find every book in it in Trade Paperback format at most mega book stores.. but I've also heard that its its very much in the grim and gritty style which I really don't care for.. On the other hand.. I've heard a lot of people compare it to Glen Cook's black company books.. which I really liked.

So I dunno, looks like this year will be another year of scouring book sales, goodwill and ebay looking for authors I've read, books I've not read yet.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

sameness in the blogosphere.

I can't be the only one who's noticed it.. because I know I've read some other similar comments lately somewhere.. but does it seem like an awful lot of blogs all seem to review the same books.. and always seem to give them good reviews?

Do they never review a book, and then think.. my god that was horrible? the cynic in me thinks they review these "big release" books.. and then give them glowing reviews whether they really like them or not.. just to keep the gravy train of ARCs flowing. Many Many of these same blogs who are guilty of this dodgy reviewing scheme also seem to continually post pictures of "what came in the mail today".. which generally is all the books that aren't the ones the publisher really wants to push. Are the blogs simply being used as part of a marketing scheme?

I know I got taken by it once already, I bought in to the hype of the First Law trilogy entirely. So I'll admit that perhaps I'm just skeptical now about anything that reviewers like. Though it does seem to be an inordinate amount of stuff from PYR and ORBIT that gets the reviews these days.. and having read an author each from PYR, Joe Abercrombie and ORBIT, K.J.Parker.. I can't help but find the only similarity that these authors have.. with another pair of authors that are tremendously hyped on the blogs but I can't stand. China Meivelle and Richard K. Morgan.. they are all British.. so what happened in Britain? Is British fantasy going through a period like British Sci-Fi went through in the 60's and 70's? or British Comic Books went through in the 70's and 80's?

I feel it's important because, just like the Comic books.. it seems to be spreading to this side of the pond.. through the likes of Scott Lynch and Sam Sykes.. Authors I've never actually read but feel no desire to read simply because they have either been compared favourably to one of the British authors I mentioned.. or have been reviewed favourably by a blogger who gave high marks to one of the British authors I mentioned.

I find the grim and gritty, morally shady, cynical to a fault fantasy novels to be at complete loggerheads with anything remotely resembling what I would consider to be good. I like Anti-Heros as much as the next guy.. But I feel that a balance must be met some where. I personally see enough "bad" people exploiting "good" people in real life.. and part of the reason I like the Fantasy Genre is.. the bad people actually get punished.. instead of in real life where they just get elected to high Office or install themselves as president for life in a coup.

I know I've wandered a bit by this point.. But I just feel as if bloggers, in their efforts to score free swag are contributing to the destruction of something I really enjoy. It's really pretty bad.. I've actually found myself reading the blogs to find books that the reviewer dosen't like.. and then seeking them out just to be contrary.. and in some cases really enjoying the books.. but of course the criticisms leveled at these books tend to be things like "too traditional" or "Too black and white".. I think I'd happily read hundreds of Tol-clones rather than be subjected to one more K.J. Parker..

But if thats the case, and "traditional Fantasy" is a clear category.. what exactly does this new stuff get called? my own vote, of crap, is a bit too laced with hyperbole.. but I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

... and then we get to the bad news.

So.. now its being reported by the L.A. Times that the Hobbit is perhaps only days from being green lit, that all the kerfluffle's with the actors unions, the Tolkien estate and everyone else in the the world are close to being sorted. If this is true, it would allow the movie to go into production on schedule in January, and still make its projected December 2012 release date.

However, the New York Times, as usual, brings the bad news.. and is reporting that it will more than likely be shot in 3D...

So I guess that means no Midnight show for me, since I'm officially refraining from spending my money on any movie shot in, or converted to 3D.


Friday, October 1, 2010

It's amusing, really.

I dunno if you guys have ever heard of writer who's initials are W.R.S or not.. I'm not going to go into too much detail about him... (I don't want a letter from him posing as a Lawyer, like so many other blogs/forums have gotten) except that he is a relentless self promoter, and is notorious for getting negative reviews of his books removed from Amazon.. I certainly don't wish the guy ill or anything.. and I almost kind of admire him for not letting the publishing industry deter him from doing something he obviously enjoys..

On the other hand..

when I went to the public library the other day, and found they had more of his books than they had of nearly any other Fantasy author except Robert Jordan or Mercedes Lackey.. I was absolutely astounded by this. They had 7 of his books at my local branch, and when I looked it up in the card catalog (Georgia uses a system called PINES, which links all the libraries in the majority of the state together with one card catalog.) and in the entire system, there were probably 40-50 copies of his assorted titles..

It really pissed me off.. thats my SPLOST money going to buy those books.. I think I'm going to have to see about joining the Friends of the Library and see if I can't figure out who's responsible for this and explain the situation to them. Whats done, can't be undone but I can do my best to make sure it dosen't continue. My local library system dosen't exactly have a big budget. They are heavily dependent on volunteers and book sales in order to purchase new books.. and the occasional splost grant.

No Sir, I don't like it.

netbook armed and ready comrade

you get a bunch of geek points if you can place the quote I paraphrased there.

been spending the last few hours getting my netbook all ready, got open office, firefox, chrome, pigin, security, the whole nine yards.. I'll neither confirm nor deny a torrent app. a few other things, like updating flash, silverlight, adobe reader.. and setting up my book marks. since its primarly for travel I've made sure to put all my travel tools on it. booking sites, favorite B&B's and Hostels that I've stayed at.. car rental... maps of various airports I've been through and am likely to go to again.

all in all its a neat little critter, the keyboard takes some getting used too so you will have to excuse any typos in this post.. its about half the size of what I'm used too. but it makes up for it by only weighing 4lbs.. slightly less than a jug of milk. loaded all the rest of my mp3s on it that didn't fit on my mp3 player... and while I was doing all this I watched Buckaroo Banzai on it via Netflix. which if you've never seen you really should.

starting next week, will be Voltron Wednesdays, sure its not as snappy as Warlord Wednesdays, but said with my Swiss friends accent and its Woltron Wednesdays... so it sort of works. I've never actually seen the entirety of Voltron.. but since they are fixing to start working on a live action version, i figure I better that way i will be better equipped to moan about how much the live action one sucks when it comes out.