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One of those days...

Yesterday, I tripped on a parking bumper. Now my left big toe is bruised, my left wrist is sore, and I may have ruined the pants I was wearing.

Sod it...

Last night, I watched the movie Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland. I cannot in any good conscience recommend it to anyone. Not that it was completely horrible, but the cons so heavily outweigh the pros that it just isn't worth it.

The pros:

  • The main character, Justine (played by Kirsten Dunst), is actually a very accurate portrait of the devastating effects of crippling clinical depression. While her behavior is in many ways deplorable, it's 100% consistent with someone whose natural brain chemistry is seriously messed up.

  • Dunst's second nude scene is both beautiful and poignant*. It is integrated into the inner journey of Justine in a way that reflects her depression while simultaneously showing her acceptance of the inevitable. From that point forward, Justine has made peace with her fate.

The cons:

  • To say that the pacing is glacial would be an insult to glaciers. There's barely 20 minutes' worth of story in this 2 hour and 15 minute movie, and the unrelenting lassitude of the storytelling would try the patience of Gandhi. And there is literally no point at which it picks up. Its inexorable slide toward the conclusion is unvaried, uninterrupted, and unbearable.

  • Most of the story is utterly banal. There are good moments, but they are few and far between. And the big premise of the movie (the rogue planet's arrival) doesn't even make an appearance until the second half.

  • EDIT (9/23 10:35am): The movie comes in two parts, and the two parts are almost completely unrelated to each other. As stated above, the rogue planet doesn't even get mentioned until the second part. The first part is all about a wedding reception. I sincerely have no idea why Part 1 is even in there.

  • The nude scene referenced above, unfortunately, is about two-thirds of the way into the movie, and so by the time it arrives, it just isn't worth the effort one has gone through to get to it. And yet, without the context of the story up to that point (or at least from the beginning of Part 2), the scene itself has no poignancy at all.

  • This is a nit, but it bugged me all the way through: The astronomy is terrible. I mean, it is bad to the point of near-comedy for anyone who knows anything about the basics of planetary motion, gravity, or physics. From constellations visible after sunrise to the path that the rogue planet takes to the myriad of things its passage doesn't do to Earth, it was pure headdeskium**.

My final score: * (out of 5)


*It should be pointed out that neither of Dunst's nude scenes is in any way sexual or sexualized. The one is beautiful; the other is not. But they are each completely appropriate in context.

**The final decay state of handwavium, which first decays to eyerollium, then to facepalmium, and finally to headdeskium.

"Whoops, I forgot I had this..."

Some of you might know about my objections to the Harry Potter series. They are numerous and varied, but the biggest one is the fact that characters conveniently forget obvious solutions to problems or information they'd been explicitly told just a few chapters before*. I don't know if I'm just weird this way, but I have a real beef against characters doing obviously stupid things for no other reason than that the plot requires it.

Alas, I've encountered this problem in one of the books starring a different Harry: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.

I started reading The Dresden Files when I was laid up after breaking my foot in 2009, and I've been hooked ever since. Recently, my sweetie gave me copies of the audio-books for the first four volumes (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, and Summer Knight), and listening to James Marsters narrate them was a wonderfully fun experience. I later picked up the next two, Death Masks and Blood Rites. And it was in Blood Rites where I encountered the same thing that made me so frustrated with the Harry Potter books.

I don't know if it's because Jim Butcher was rushed or if his editor was asleep that week, but [MINOR SPOILER] there are several points in this book where I found myself almost screaming "Use your shield bracelet, you dumbass!"** And then, when he used the shield bracelet in one of the most dramatic and climactic scenes in the book, it was the wrong tool to use!

I don't like being that much smarter than the protagonists of the books I read. I like my OMG moments to line up with the protagonist's OMG moments, or at least to come not too far before***. I like the protagonist to come up with a solution that, even if I didn't see it coming, makes perfect sense for the situation. And when protagonists ignore the rules, I like that to happen in a way that still makes sense without violating character, setting, or plot. When the protagonist conveniently forgets the fact that he has the perfect solution for the current crisis, that pisses me off. It's like the opposite of a Deus Ex Machina†. It's the hand of the author reaching in to knock pieces into place to make sure the plot happens they way he wants it to, and it's obvious as hell.

I hope this doesn't keep happening. My first reading of these books was long enough ago that I can't really remember, so listening to the audio-books has been a lot of fun, because I'm kind of re-learning their stories. Stuff like this would make that experience less fun, and I don't want that.


*[SPOILERS] The biggest error of this type, in my opinion, is in book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore and Harry encounter a note signed with the initials R.A.B.—and are completely baffled by who R.A.B. could possibly be. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there saying, "It's Regulus Black, you ƒµ¢{!ηϑ morons! You know, the guy you've mentioned at least three times so far in this book as being highly significant? That Regulus Black? No? Seriously?"

And yes, I did read the whole series. It was at the behest of my sweetie, which shows how much I'll torture myself for someone I love. (I did the same thing with the Star Trek novel Uhura's Song—which wasn't even about Uhura, and which features an original character who is so obviously a Mary Sue that I think the term "Mary Sue" must have been invented just to describe her.)

**I also don't know if I was asleep the first time I read it, but I didn't bounce on this in 2009 for some strange reason, just this time while listening to the audio-book.

***Grant Morrison and Peter Clines have both done this with enormous skill. [SPOILERS] In Morrison's run on JLA, he had Batman running through the steps of a logical deduction he'd made, and at the end of it I cried "They're Martians!" right before Batman himself said, "You're Martians." Clines did the same thing in his book 14, when the group of people are trying to figure out a set of initials, and when one character ran through the logical deduction, I sat up and said, "It's Nicola Tesla"—again, just before the character said, "It's Nicola Tesla." Having these kinds of epiphanies in narratives makes me happy in ways I can't describe.

†A Diabolus Ex Machina?

If Fantastic Four was a MARVEL MAX* title

This is just a bit of amusing dialog I thought of in a "what if" scenario: what if Fantastic Four was a title under Marvel's MAX* imprint (and thus not sanctioned by the Comics Code Authority):

Assistant: But Your Majesty, Doctor Richards says that these calculations are off by three decimal places. This whole experiment could--



*MARVEL MAX is the imprint that Marvel uses for their mature-themed titles. The debut title was AKA Jessica Jones.

Meme-age for a Thursday Night

I'm going to list the first lines of 30 of my songs in random order. The person who correctly guesses the most titles wins a free digital recording of the song of your choice. (And no, you probably don't already own everything I have recorded.)

EDIT: Well, someone already got all 30. So, the amended rules are: Everyone who correctly guesses all 30 gets a free digital recording of the song of your choice. (That's the great thing about digital recordings—they don't cost me anything to make, so I can give away as many as I want!)

Comments are screened, so you can leave a comment with your guesses, or you can message me privately. This contest runs until Saturday, September 17th at 12:00 noon PDT (UTC-07:00). The winner (EDIT: winners now) will be announced at the Geeky Music Show first, then I'll post the winners here the following day.

  1. I woke this morning and I could not see the light

  2. There's a place in this town where I can be found

  3. Ring! I sit bolt upright

  4. Hush, little darling, be glad you're alive

  5. Hey, crazy old carney clown with your laughing gas and your acid flower

  6. She always looked good in a tux

  7. "What brings you out so far?" ...

  8. There's an old homeless rag-man

  9. Come in, my dear lady, and sit here by me

  10. I've done all this before, and I'll do it all again

  11. I remember flowers and the candles in the night

  12. I have the power to change the world

  13. I moved into this town last weekend

  14. Well, I was feelin' kinda stressed out in Heaven on high

  15. My friend the big badass fights bad guys out in R.V.

  16. I slept really badly; my back's all twisted up

  17. Some hippies sing songs of biting political protest

  18. I can't stand that guy

  19. It was a good thing; hit me out of nowhere

  20. I sit at home with my radio

  21. That's odd; it starts with The Train Job

  22. I ask you, please don't write

  23. Here's a girl who's dressed like Phoenix

  24. Stephen left home, for where to I'm not certain

  25. I know it's quite romantic to think that no one's ever felt the way we do

  26. Welcome, weary traveler; there's a place here by the fire

  27. My name is Lambert; I am a hobbit

  28. Thunder rolling and the smell of rain

  29. Have you heard the call, the one that's galvanized us all

  30. Aldebaran is great, okay, and Algol's pretty neat

A-Z Me (ganked from Keith R.A. DeCandido)

This isn't the first time I've done an alphabet meme, but I think it's the first time I've done this particular one. Many thanks to Keith R.A. kradical DeCandido, from whom I took this. (He, in turn, took it from a friend of his on Facebook, and she probably got it from another friend, etc. I guess that's how memes work, huh?)

Twenty-Six Things About Me:

A. Age: 47
Curious fact: While looking up the spelling of Keith's last name, I discovered that he is exactly one month older than I am.

B. Biggest fear: Varies, but usually heights.
I am, in fact, so scared of heights that I can't watch certain scenes in movies or play certain levels of video games without curling up into a little ball and hyperventilating a little.

C. Current time: 10:31a.m. PDT (UTC – 07:00)

D. Drink you last had: Water.
I know. I'm boring.

E. Every day starts with: Appeasing the elder goddess of the house.
Or, in more mundane terms, feeding the cat.

F. Favorite song: Wildly variable, but right now I'm digging on "Come With Me Now" by Kongos.

G. Ghosts; are they real?: Only in our memories.
Of course, this is not to say that they aren't just as dangerous as real ones would be. . . .

H. Hometown: I'm actually not sure how to answer this. I was born in Paoli, IN; I lived the first four years of my life in Indianapolis, IN; I pretty much grew up in Los Angeles; but San Diego has been my home for over 25 years.

I. In love with: My sweetie, of course. :)

J. Jealous of: Way too many people for way too many things. It's one of the reasons I started doing meditation and trying to follow more Buddhist practice in my day-to-day life. I'll never be a perfect Buddhist, or even a very good one, but keeping some of its ideas in my mind has really helped me to not be as much of a reactionary asshole as I once was.

K. Killed anyone?: No.
Never have, never will, never will support or condone anyone else doing so. Period.

L. Last time you cried: While watching the Pixar short "Lava"

M. Middle name: Brooks
My performing name, Eben Brooks, is just my first and middle names. I drop the legal last name because I already have one unusual name; I don't need people fumbling over two.

N. Number of siblings: One brother.

O. One wish: To learn to be less attached to stuff.

P. Person you last called: neo_tanuki, last night, about gaming.

Q. Question you are always asked: "How are you today?"
It's how my sweetie greets me every morning when we IM.

R. Reason to smile: Many of the things on this list, including D, F, I, N, and P.

S. Song last sang: "25 or 6 to 4" while grocery shopping last night.

T. Time you woke up: Too damn late.
I.e., 8:45a.m. PDT

U. Underwear color: That's a bit bloody personal, ennit?
Okay, fine. White.

V. Vacation destination: I don't do vacations, I do conventions.
I seriously haven't had a real vacation since I went to London in 2004 (with neo_tanuki, as it happens).

W. Worst habit: Video games.
Once I start, I can't put them down. It's a known problem that I really don't have any serious interest in solving. ;-)

X. X-rays you've had: Yeesh, where do I start? Left foot, repeatedly. Teeth, at dentist's office, every couple of years. Torso, several times. Head, a few times. Hands, a few times each. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot more.

Y. Your favorite food: Come on, this is a cop-out. This should be F. A proper Y question would be "Yankees or Red Sox?" or something like that.
That being said, I don't really have a favorite food. I like to diversify.

Z. Zodiac sign: Western, Taurus. Eastern, Rooster.
This is why I refer to Cock & Bull Ginger Beer as "My ginger beer".

The live stream: What happened?

I am very, very sorry to everyone who tried to watch the live stream on Saturday as wasn't able to. I made a big ol' mistake getting the stream set up, and I ended up having to switch to a different stream just a few minutes before the show started, so I didn't have time to get a message out to people to let them know that the old link wouldn't work anymore.

That being said, a very big THANK YOU to everyone who DID manage to find the new stream and watch it. I hope you enjoyed the show! And I hope that, next time, I'll have everything set up properly far enough in advance that I won't be hyperventilating on stage. ;-)

Again, thanks very much! You are all awesome. :)

My friend's comic book!

My friend Ed Verso has been working on a comic book for the last couple of years, and the other day the first issue went on sale.

I've read it and liked it very much. It's definitely worth two bucks. Go take a look.


Saw a couple of movies recently that I thought were worth mentioning:

Star Trek Beyond: Easily the best of the series so far. Don't get me wrong: I like the 2009 Star Trek*—it has its flaws, but overall it is a good, fun movie. Beyond, however, is where the series has hit its stride. It is the closest in feel, in character, in story, and in theme to the Star Trek that I grew up with. The main actors' portrayals of their characters have matured, with all of them getting a good amount of screen time and all of them fully inhabiting their roles. For the first time, I felt like I was watching Kirk, not Chris Pine playing Kirk; Spock, not Zachary Quinto playing Spock; McCoy, not Karl Urban playing McCoy; etc. Their portrayals are still different from those of their predecessors, but I don't get the sense that they're trying to be "as good as" anymore—they just let themselves be their characters, and it works!

Story-wise, it also feels very right. It's a Star Trek story, not an origin story (like the first movie) or a twisted, corrupted retelling (like Into Darkness). Simon Pegg and Doug Jung did a fantastic job with the script, and the director (Justin Lin), cinematographer (Stephen F. Windon), and editors (D'Auria, Highsmith, Matsumoto, and Sprung) did a fantastic job of bringing the script to life.

My Score: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars) — Dinged a half-star because I saw one of the major plot points coming long before it arrived, but then that happens sometimes.

Suicide Squad: Rotten Tomatoes can blow me. So can Rolling Stone, Metacritic, The Altantic, and The Hollywood Reporter. Suicide Squad is a fun movie! No, it's not a cinematic masterpiece. Yeah, it's slow in spots. Yes, it tries to milk pathos from a couple of characters who don't really have any. But despite all of that, it is a totally fun movie to watch. And sorry Rolling Stone, but Suicide Squad does NOT "mess up Harley Quinn". Okay, she's a little darker in places, and a little sillier in others, than the source material is. But to my mind, it's still Harley, and a damn fine Harley at that. (Also, what the movie adds to her origin story is both chilling and perfect.) Jared Leto's Joker is also very much the Joker, despite the visual differences. Of all the live-action Jokers there have been so far**, I actually like him best***.

But the absolute best performance in the entire movie is Will Smith's Deadshot. I can't comment on the performance without giving stuff away about the plot, but trust me: Will Smith nails it!

My Score: *** (out of 5 stars) — because the plot is kinda thin, some of the characters aren't sufficiently developed, and other minor flaws.


*Star Trek Into Darkness, on the other hand, I do not like very much at all—it's too dark for Star Trek, ignoring the message of hope that Trek had always embodied.

**But none of the live-action Jokers can compare to Mark Hamill's animated Joker. Seriously, movie guys, just cast Hamill as the Joker already!

**For those who are interested, my ranking of the four live-action Jokers in major media are 1) Jared Leto, 2) Cesar Romero, 3) Heath Ledger, and 4) Jack Nicholson. The gaps between 2, 3, and 4 are much smaller than the gap between 1 and 2.

Business politics is getting lethal...

At my work, there is a whiteboard where people write down things that they need. It's how I got my trackball mouse, for instance. Today, I walked past it and saw:


Knowing that it couldn't possibly have actually said that, I looked again and noted that it actually said "Lightning cables".


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