Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Geeks, Snobs, and Critics

Geeks are cool. They know their stuff- whether it be computers, HAM radios, literature, sports, music, films etc. It's fun to play audience to their verbose diatribes on whatever particular interest/genre they're passionate about. I mean that. I've met people that can tell you everything you didn't know you didn't know about "Star Trek", comics, or the 1968 World Series. Geeks inform without the pervading pretense or condescension that you'll get with snobs. Surround yourself with a few geeks and you'll be the smarter for it, all while having a great time!
Then you got your snobs. These are the folks that equate their ridiculous knowledge of a particular interest with an intelligent quotient. They believe that by rattling off obscure movie titles, directors, or writers that they have something over the "masses". You can spot these folks by their overt disdain and repeated use of the term "mainstream" in the pejorative. I do my best to avoid these types, as their only purpose is to promote their ego. My "bullshit detector" goes haywire around these people, whether in person or in "blogdom".
Finally, there are the critics. The critics are not as fun as the geeks, more genuinely informed on their particular subject than snobs, but most of all they usually get paid to do what they do. I respect critics, but prefer geeks.
Not everyone fits neatly into a particular category, but the discerning factors are evident enough to point you to the right direction along the spectrum if you're paying attention. Unfortunately, not all critics get their due. My buddy Joe should be writing for "Film Comment", or a major publisher, but he is the exception. As the rule goes, geeks know they're geeks, but snobs think they're critics. I fall into that category of knowing a little about a lot, but mostly keep my ears open and get my information from the pros- the geeks and the critics.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Quotable Death

I'm not blessed or merciful. I'm just me. I've got a job to do, and I do it. Listen: Even as we're talking, I'm there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone...When the first living thing existed, I was there, waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.


The words of Death in "The Sandman" (Dream Country; Facade)written by Neil Gaiman.

Monday, September 25, 2006

GURPS Quote of the Week

You just knocked an 80 year old man unconscious, but you won't let me give an 8 year old kid a cigarette?


Agent Duncan Jones rants in dismay to Agent Michael Lone Deer after he snatches a cigarette out of a wailing 8 year old (who happens to contain within him the soul of the heretofore mentioned 80 year old man).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ultraviolet


I finally took a chance on Ultraviolet starring Milla Jovovich. Milla Jovovich. She is the only reason to watch this film. Unfortunately the only Jovovich skin shots we get are of her torso. Synopsis: great torso; horrible film. Rather than watch the film, I suggest you go to IMDB and look at the photo gallery from this film. It'll only take you a few minutes to see all of Milla Jovovich's babeness- then you can go about your day. This movie made absolutely zero sense. Granted, there was about five minutes worth of action shots that were clean and snazzy. And there was Milla Jovovich. That about sums this film up. Banal to the max. I don't rate movies, but if I did this one would get 1 star out of 5. After all- Milla Jovovich is a star.

I Paid the "Stupid Tax"

I'm in a convenience store the other day, and see a cool looking card with aliens and UFO's. Of course I knew it wasn't a card, but a lottery scratch off. They've finally made a ticket that will lure in the sci-fi crowd. I proceeded to go the clerk and ask for the ticket called, "Little Green Men". It's a $2 ticket. I went outside with my Red Bull in one hand and "Little Green Men" in the other. I scratched the ticket; of course I didn't win. I felt dirty and stupid. I had just paid the stupid tax. Lottery, beer, and cigarrette taxes are largely aimed at getting back the money refunded to low and middle income earners on their state and federal income tax returns. I don't smoke or drink, but those little green men got me to pay the "Stupid Tax", and hopefully I'll never pay it again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jello!


Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a bit of a food snob. More specifically, I am a dessert snob. I love to bake. I have spent years testing and creating dessert recipes of all kinds. I am picky about my ingredients and I make everything (with the exception of phyllo dough) from scratch. I truly am a dessert snob.

So when I came across this cool looking Jello dessert on a message forum awhile back, I resisted the urge to try it. After all, it was made with Jello! I haven’t actually had a box of Jello in my kitchen for at least 5 years now. But I kept seeing the Jello thread pop back up and it looked so cool. Finally, I could stand it no more!

This past Saturday, I gave in. I went to the closest Kroger store and purchased 16 boxes of jello in various colors. This was enough to make two. I had to make one for friends and one for family. Thus, the great Jello experiment began. It wasn’t a really complicated dessert to make. It was certainly easier than sculpting Jabba the Hutt out of chocolate cake. However, it was almost as time consuming. It took a little over four hours for the entire process.

Of course, the jello needed to be refrigerated overnight. So I had to be patient and understand this was not a dessert for instant gratification. When I was finally able to un-mold it on Sunday afternoon, I was not disappointed! It was definitely a cool looking dessert. But how would it taste? I didn’t have to wait long to find out. I took it to the GURPS game for that night’s dessert and it was a success!

I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The combination of all of the different flavors was quite good. I think it helped that every other layer was mixed with vanilla yogurt. The yogurt supplied the slightest amount of tang and helped cut the sweetness of the Jello. So if you’re looking for an easy (although not quick) dessert that also looks impressive, this might be for you.


Quote of the Day

Desire, listen to me carefully. Remember this. We of the endless are the servants of the living- we are not their masters. We exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist. When the last living thing has left this universe, then our task will be done. And we do not manipulate them, if anything, they manipulate us. We are their toys. Their dolls, if you will. And you- and Despair, and even poor Delirium- should remember that.


King of Dreams (Morpheus) speaking to his sibling Desire. From "The Sandman" written by Neil Gaiman.

Monday, September 18, 2006

OJO Ain't No Sissy

So it was time to take 'ole OGEE (pronounced oh-jee) to the vet today. He had to get his heartworm, frontline meds, and get his ear checked. FYI: OJO weighed in at a lean 59.1 lbs. The vet tech commented on how strong his legs are; tell us somethin' we don't know! Horses get jealous of how strong OJ's powerful legs are! If they'd let him, he could beat any horse or greyhound in a race- and that's a promise! I digress. This office has seen Odorous before. I know he's embarrassed to admit this, but he gets his toe-nails clipped. Believe me, if he had his way, he wouldn't. When I took him in the backroom to get his ear checked out, the vet tech brought in a muzzle. I asked if he had needed that in the past (I don't go back with him when he gets his nails clipped because he doesn't like me to see him like that). She smiled and said that when OJO gets his nails clipped it takes three people to hold him down! I couldn't help but laugh, the problem was, it was just me and her, and she explained that she would be needing to use a rectal thermometer on Ogee! I've never held down a 300lb gorilla before, but I imagine it would be no different than holding 'ole OJO down while the tech probed him alien style! Poor fella- he had a rectal temp, a blood test (needle), ear swab, and muzzle on today; it's been a rough day for Trashcan Odorous Jr! No need to worry though- OJO's as healthy as a world class pugilist specialist- and stronger too! Just remember- just because OJ'er gets his nails clipped doesn't mean he's soft; OJ ain't no sissy!

GURPS Quote of the Week

I figured if I shot him in the feet he'd be easier to track.

Agent Duncan Jones explains to Agent Michael Lone Deer why Agent Wu has a bullet hole in each foot.

This week's gaming was very quotable, unfortunately in the midst of all the action I didn't take the time to write them all down. Better luck next week...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

House MD Meets X-Files

If you missed last week's "House", and you're a sci-fi fan, then I really feel sorry for you! You missed out big time! Last week's episode was the most bizarre "House" installment to date (including last year's season finale). A young boy is abducted, anal probed, and dumped in front of his house face down. His parents take him in, and because of the weirdness factor, and combined with the fact that his symptoms are inexplicable- House, MD is called in to save the day. I'm not going to recap the whole story, suffice to say that it's a strange one, and House is on top of his game, as usual.

SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING!

Ok, for those of you that saw this episode, a few points from OJO. I really wanted this one to remain unexplained, perhaps with a follow-up story later on. I feel like this episode would have given them a chance to really set the stage for a monster follow-up episode, along the lines of, "will they figure out the mystery of the anal probed-kid?" You get the idea. It's starting to get to the point where House and crew need to be wrong, or unable to answer every medical conundrum that comes before them. The whole concept of House and team being medically infallible will start to wear thin.
Also, House is slipping right back into addiction. Any thoughts on that?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Vocabulary: One Day At A Time

English has always been my strongest subject. When I was younger, I used to keep 3 x 5 cards with me whenever I was reading. If I came across a word that I didn't understand I would write it on a card. Then I would look the word up and write the definition on the back of the card. Eventually I had several stacks of homemade flashcards to help me build my vocabulary. In the past few years I've gotten out of that habit. About a week ago I was looking up a word on dictionary.com, and I saw a link for the "Word of the Day". When you sign up for it (which I did), dictionary.com emails you a word a day. The email includes the definition, some information about the origin of the word, and a few examples of how the word can be used in a sentence. It's free (really free, not like freecreditreport.com, which is free, except for the monthly fee they charge you)! If any of you fellow bloggers out there are like me, you have bigger aspirations for writing (novels, essays, short stories, screenplays etc) and are using the blog to "sharpen the saw". I know this will help me beef up the vocab, and maybe it can help you too. Also, National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us, and we'll need all the words we can get to reach that 50,000 word mark in one month!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quote of the Day

Ask yourselves, all of you. What power would hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of heaven.


From "Sandman" written by Neil Gaiman

Monday, September 11, 2006

GURPS Quotes of the Week

We are looking for a man we just pulled out of a hood.


Timecorp Agent Solomon

I got about 5,000 people back home that are willing to jump off a cliff for me, I think I can handle a few rogue agents.


Timecorp Agent Duncan Jones responding to the Mission Leader after his ability to gather information from rogue Timecorp agents is questioned.

I figured if things got too bad I could slip some LSD through your lips


Mission Leader explaining his thoughts to a faceless Duncan Jones.

From now on we gotta start organizing our drugs.


Timecorp Agent Duncan Jones

Sunday, September 10, 2006

House is Back!


I've never been big into tv shows. Oh, I'll watch re-runs of "Seinfeld" and "King of the Hill" if they happen to be on, but I don't plan my evening to catch any particular show. For instance, I love "The Sopranos", but I would just assume wait for the DVD's to come out than plan an evening to make sure I watch the latest episode. Throughout my life there is a short list of tv shows that I have absolutely, with no exceptions (save a death in the family, but even then I would have the show going on in the background at the family gathering) made sure that I was plopped down in front of the tube at the time the show started. The list goes something like this: GI Joe (every morning before school), Duck Tales (in 2nd and 3rd grade this was must-see-tv), "X-Files" (pre-Robert Patrick), and finally "House". That's it. That's not to say I won't catch Monday Night Football, Friday Night Fights, or any random MLB game, but "House" is the only show running that I just cannot miss! Hugh Laurie has the privilege of playing the best written character that you love to hate since, well, ever. The only downside to the show is that House is the show. There's nothing particularly wrong with the other characters, they just aren't integral to the show. Think of it this way: can you imagine "Seinfeld" without Kramer, Elaine, or George? In "House", any one (or all) of the other characters could be gone next week, and I could care less. So long as House has someone to demean, patronize, or show-off to, it doesn't matter to me who that someone is. I'm not suggesting the cast be changed, but maybe the writers could beef up some of the supporting cast with a little more depth. There's so little to criticize, and so much to praise about "House"! Now, if they'll only bring back X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, I would have two shows to watch a week. Is it wrong to dream?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Great Movies Despite the Acting

I watched Terminator 2 yesterday for the first time in a while. I was reminded of how much I love that movie, despite Edward Furlong and his squeaky whining. There is so much to admire about T2, but there are parts of it that just make me shudder. Mostly the parts where Furlong is given a line longer than 5 words. Like that part in the car when Furlong's character is explaining to the Governator that he should say, "hasta la vista, baby". Shudder. I know that was written in, which leads me to another point: if you're a director of Cameron's caliber, why don't you give less slack (and lines) to actors that can have a detrimental impact on the enjoyment of your film? Imagine how great T2 would have been if Furlong was either: A- not in the movie, or B- given a whole lot less to say and do? I'll go ahead and admit something- I can't stand child actors in sci-fi/horror movies (with rare exception, like Linda Blair), unless they have a limited amount of lines and screen time. I'm sorry, but if you don't have Haley Joel Osment or Abigail Breslin on your cast then don't let the kids act! There, I've said it.


There are other great movies that were almost single handedly ruined by either bad acting or a mis-cast. I'm thinking "Silence of the Lambs", and Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster's great, but she sported the worst southern accent I have ever heard. Her accent grated on my nerves every time she spoke. They should have either dropped the accent or dropped Jodie. That part wasn't for her (didn't she get some award for that, too). Julianne Moore was a much better agent in the sequel. Which accent was worse- Jodie Foster in "Lambs", or Nicolas Cage in "Con Air". Consequently, I still have nightmares about the scene where Cage is yelling over and over in that gut-wrenching drawl, "give me the bunn-nay" (from Con Air). Ugh. How about that brat in Star Wars: Episode One? His "whooping" and Jar-Jar's "aunt Jamima" impression almost ruined a franchise I've loved since I was a tyke.


Conclusion: no more kids in sci-fi/ horror movies unless you run the idea by me, and no more crappy accents. Also, if there is ever to be another Star Wars movie, don't let George Lucas direct it. I know that's ridiculous, considering he owns the franchise, but maybe he has an influential friend or family member that can talk him out of directing ever again. Never again Georgie, not after casting the "brat" and Haydin Christensen.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bashar Miles Teg: Strategy Lectures

A mere player should never assume he can influence the rules of a game.


From 'Hunters of Dune' by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quote of the Day

It is often easier for us to destroy each other than it is to resolve our differences. Such is the cosmic joke of human nature!
-Mother Commander Murbella, Chapterhouse meeting notes


From Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

I dashed into Barnes & Nobles bright and early on the day after the August 22nd release of Dune 7: Hunters of Dune. I couldn't get home quick enough to tear into the universe of Dune, a universe I fell in love with several years ago. I caught onto Dune over a decade after Frank Herbert had penned 'Chapterhouse Dune', which most believed would be the final entry in a wondrous epoch. I was fortunate enough to be able to read all of the Dune novels straight through- never having to endure an agonizing wait for the next installment. I read the six prequels that Frank Herbert's son (Brian) and Kevin J. Anderson put together between 1999 and 2004. I felt like the prequels were flat compared to the original Frank Herbert canon. In my July, 2006 review of the prequels, I stated, "I liked the prequels, but when it comes to 'Dune', liking just isn't good enough. The standard is too high; BH and KJA didn't live up to the 'Dune' standards in the prequels, and I doubt they will in Dune 7". Fortunately I'm not flexible enough to put my foot in my mouth, so I'll have to eat crow instead! I was way off in my prediction of a mediocre follow-up to "Chaperhouse: Dune"!


The last installment in the Dune canon had such an enigmatic and abrupt ending that I was curious and skeptical as to how BH and KJA were going to credibly re-ignite the series. The good news is that they weren't flying blind- Frank Herbert had extensive notes on Dune 7, and I'm sure this is why 'Hunters' worked so much better than the prequels. 'Chapterhouse' ends with a Duncan Idaho ghola (similar to a clone, but with all of the memories of his previous lives), Sheana (Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother), Scytale (Tleilaxu Master), and several others stealing a no-ship the size of a city from Murbella and the Honored Matre/Bene Gesserit combined faction on 'Chapterhouse'. After their escape, they are captured in a cosmic net by an old man and old woman. Two decades later, we finally have an explanation!


The majority of the story takes place in three milieu's: aboard the no-ship that Duncan and team used in their escape, Chapterhouse (home of the New Sisterhood), and Tleilax. I got the sense that BH and KJA took greater care in both style and content to maintain continuity with original canon. I truly believe that if someone who had never read the dune novels were to pick up and read this series, from Dune to Hunters of Dune, they would not be able to tell that 'Hunters' was written by a different author(s). I know that's a bold statement, but throughout my journey into 'Hunters', it never felt like an imitation of Frank Herbert's work. This is in stark contrast to the prequels. None of the Dune novels matched the first book (Dune) in the series for philosophical grace and sheer literary beauty. That's not to say that the proceeding novels in the canon weren't excellent in their own right, but none of them matched the elegance of style or evoked the same kind of revelatory stir that 'Dune' created. With that in mind, 'Hunters' fit right into the previous five books in the series. A warning, though. 'Hunters of Dune' incorporates many subplots from several of the classic Dune novels, as well as the prequels, particularly the 'Legends of Dune' trilogy. If you haven't read all six of the original dune novels, I highly suggest that you do so before jumping into 'Hunters'. The complexities of the plot will seem overwhelming at best, and utterly incomprehensible at worst. The elder Herbert's characters often cited their plans as, "wheels within wheels" or "plans within plans". Dune 7 weaves a complex tapestry of many wheels within many wheels- a myriad of plans all working toward a grand universal plan that is too complicated to comprehend without a working knowledge of the many storylines that have been told thoughout the epoch. The latest installment to the series was sharp, poignant, and thoroughly enjoyable, but only because I had read all of the Dune canon, plus the 'Prelude to Dune', and 'Legends of Dune' trilogies. Part of the intrigue of the Dune universe is it's commentary on the inner-workings of politics, religion, and the essence of human survival. Complex topics encompassed in a complex story, both beautiful and brutal. This series deserves to be read in it's entirety, and 'Hunters of Dune' necessitates that, at the bare minimum, the entire Dune canon be read before this one can be savored, enjoyed, and appreciated for the great work of science-fiction that it is.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Quote of the Day

Our motivations are as important as our goals. Use this to understand your enemy. With such knowledge, you can either defeat him or, even better, manipulate him into becoming you ally.
-Bashar Miles Teg, Memoirs of a Battle Commander


From 'Hunters of Dune' by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Quote of the Day

Superstitions and nonsense from the past should not prevent us from making progress. If we hold ourselves back, we admit that our fears are more powerful than our abilities.

-The Fabricators of IX


From Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Friday, September 01, 2006

Quote of the Day

When one has an obvious need, one has an obvious weakness. Take care when you make a request, for in doing so you reveal your vulnerabilities.

- Khrone,
private communique to his Face Dancer operatives

From 'Hunters of Dune' by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson