-- My views on life defined. --

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Speaking of superheroes...

There was some superhero reality show on the Sci-Fi Channel, though I did not watch it. I did however have some fun with this. Meet Montana Smith, what his superhero powers are, I do not know. But with the whip, he sort of reminded me of Indiana Jones, which is what the name is supposed to be resemble.

Update: Of course, every superhero needs a match, so without further ado, the Blue Vixen.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A superhero flick

So I saw My Super Ex-Girlfriend today. Much better than I thought it was going to be. I went in with low expectations thinking it could be funny, but it ended up being hilarious and a lot more interesting story-wise than I thought. While I love my X-Men, Superman, and Batman flicks, it's cool to watch a movie with non-familiar superheroes every now and then. Plus it was just plain fun.

New Miles book

Read from the rec.arts.sf.written Usenet group that Bujold is contracted to write a new Miles Vorkosigan novel for Baen Books. This is very good news, as Miles is one of the most interesting characters of science fiction, and always a good read. The last book in the series, Diplomatic Immunity, wasn't as stellar as the rest, so it will be good to get a new book that is hopefully a little bit more satisfying. Miles is always a good read, and I look forward to reading his latest adventure soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hugos and reading

So here's a list of Hugo winners by years. For fun, I am listing below all the Hugo Novel winners for every year I have been alive. The bolded ones are the novels I have read.

Foundation's Edge, Startide Rising, Neuromancer, Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, The Uplift War, Cyteen, Hyperion, The Vor Game, Barrayar, A Fire Upon the Deep, Green Mars, Mirror Dance, The Diamond Age, Blue Mars, Forever Peace, To Say Nothing of the Dog, A Deepness in the Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, American Gods, Hominids, Paladin of Souls, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

So, I'm 9/23, which in baseball isn't too bad. Having read 39% of all the Hugo Novel winners since I've been alive is much better than I thought before I started. Unfortunately, if you added all the awards winners since 1946 (which is when I assume they started, since that's as far as the site goes), I'm guessing the percentage drops significantly lower. On some ambitious day in the future, I will embark on a reading project to read all the Hugo Novel award winners, but for now, I'm satisfied at what I have accomplished.

Funerals and remembrances

I attended a funeral today (just got home from it), and as with most funerals, it made me ponder my own mortality and that of those I know. When the son got up to share with us about his mother, I started to wonder what I would say at my own mother's funeral. It was a hard thought to have. I'm not sure that I could adequately put into words what either of my parents has meant to me. I hope I have many, many years in which to formulate those words, as I cannot even begin to fathom life without my parents to help guide me along the way (even as I slowly unravel myself from the parental nest of security).

It is also amazing how wonderful some people are, that even though I have very few memories of this person, that hearing the stories of her life almost brought me to tears at several occasions. I literally have one memory of this person, and it isn't even a memory with a story. It is just a casual remembrance of a very casual conversation. Yet hearing how she impacted the lives of the people she loved and knew in amazing ways was very powerful. It makes me wish I would have met her earlier in life, when she wasn't fighting the wasting away that comes with multiple strokes and Alzheimer's. This person lived a very grateful life, and she now rests in heaven; God be with her.

Genre hopping

The Paperback Writer asks what makes us as a reader cross outside our chosen genre, specifically what elements in a story. My comment was that I basically don't read outside my genre very much. Science fiction is such a broad genre with so many subgenres within it that I definitely don't feel like I need to shop in other genres for variety. Alternate history, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, hard science fiction, space opera, and all the books that fall in between the cracks of subgenres is more than enough variety for me. Looking at my library, the books that I own outside the umbrella of science fiction fall into two categories: 1) books I have from school and 2) books that were highly recommended by people I trust. That of course does not include my nonfiction collection, since my nonfiction book-buying habits are completely different from my fiction ones.

Of course, saying all that makes me reflect the actual question of what elements in a story make me cross genres. What made me originally branch out to each subgenre that I read? My first foray into genre reading was epic fantasy. I branched out into other science fiction stories at first that were also epic in scope, but not necessarily fantasy. From there, I just kept branching out in order to find new things. I think we as readers tend to look for something familiar when we look for something new. We want to know that the time we invested in reading it will be rewarded, so we look for something we know we will like.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lamora finished, good read

Just finished The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Shitloads of fun. Highly reccommended.

It starts off fun, but due to the odd style of the book, it is really easy to put down, which normally isn't that good. It's interesting enough though that I kept wanting to pick it back up, then all of a sudden it gets real exciting, tapers off again, and then really hits the mark at the end. Very satisfying book, very satisfying indeed.

My only real complaint about the method of delivery is that the real backstory kind of ends halfway through the book, which I guess helps the actual story kick it up a notch, but it makes the somewhat random backstory interludes somewhat less useful (and it does feel like they are there only to serve the structure of the book rather than the actual story). I also was hoping to meet Sabetha (in the backstory, as it was pretty clear that we weren't going to meet her in the actual story) just to see who this girl was that had Locke was in love with, but I guess I'll just have to wait for future installments. Something that I am (unfortunately) getting used to (with all the other series books that I read).

Okay, minor spoiler following, so don't read if you don't want to know. You've been warned.

I was really surprised at how much Lynch was able to get me to not only like the despicable characters that he has written but also how much he was able to make me invest in Nazca (Barsavi's daughter) after two scenes (and really, it was the first one that had me hooked). I could really feel her importance to the story, and I was looking forward to the end where she would inevitably lead the Right People after Barsavi met some cruel fate. I was so invested in her that I was convinced her death was somehow faked and that she might be the Gray King in some scheme to make her brothers respect her when their father died. Obviously, this fantasy became less and less possible as we approached Barsavi's death, and completely obliterated when Capa Raza was born.

All in all, a damn good book. Bring on some more.

Turtle Power!

Must. Watch. This. (Discovered via SF Signal).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Word-of-mouth and an on-line presence

To anyone that may have doubted that the reviews of common bloggers and their influence on book-buying habits, I present to you a list of books I've bought in the past year solely because a) someone blogged about it or b) I followed the author's blog.

Also, there are authors whose blogs I read (like Tobias Buckell and Scott Westerfield) that I keep wanting to buy books from, but my growing to read pile keeps discouraging me from doing so.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cool website idea

David Louis Edelman (author of the new book, Infoquake, which I would buy if I ever saw it at Borders) has an interesting idea that he calls Amazon for Voters. It's pretty neat, and I'm all for it (though I have no idea how someone would pull all that together). It's basically a site where you can input your political views and it lines you up with your "best match" political candidates based on what you say. It gets more complicated than that, so check it out.

Unfortunately, something like this would be a huge timesink for someone to do alone (or with even a small team of volunteers), so the likelihood of it happening in the near future seems pretty small to me. As useful as it could be, lots of money and time would be involved in its creation, and since it would be political, I don't really see a way people could make money off of it that would not ruin the whole idea of the thing.

On a related note, I do remember taking a survey at some site (don't remember the name and I'm too lazy to google it) during the 2004 election, which told me that my views were more in line with Kerry than Bush. Unfortunately, I was still slightly clinging onto my Republican upbringing at the time and voted for Dubya instead. Not that it really mattered all that much, since I was voting from California.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Links from the Culture Wars

I have read two good essays today on the subject of religion and science, one from a physicist (not religious) who basically reiterates Gould's NOMA principle (discovered via Uncertain Principles) and one about a genome mapper (evangelical Christian) who recently wrote The Language of God, a book that argues theistic evolution.

Despite coming from two different places, they both resonate with me. From Peshkin (the physicist):

"None of what I am saying threatens religion. No observational evidence can disprove some subtle supernatural intervention in cosmological or biological evolution that would leave us with the evidence we see. That possibility is important to some scientists. It does not interest me, but I cannot argue
against it within the logic of science. "
From Collins (the genome mapper), via the Time article:
"'I don't believe God intended Genesis to teach science,' [Collins] says, arguing that 'the evidence in favor of evolution is utterly compelling.'"
And also from Collins' book, via the Time article:
"I.D. portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at a regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan...this is a very unsatisfactory image."
Personally, I am a Christian, but that does not mean I believe that God literally created the world just the way Genesis says. Both of these scientists take middle ground approaches, which I hope more people take notice of. This type of discourse needs more moderators and less agitators. This is the kind of conversation that nonbelievers and believers should be having.

On a related note, I think I will be checking out Collins' book sometime in the future (I'd say near future, but with the stack of books already accumulating on my "to read shelf," that would be an outright lie).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

My oh my!

While I don't want to unnecessarily get my hopes up or anything, I am elated to point out that my Mariners are heading into the All-Star break only 2.5 games out of first. Of course, they are last place in the AL West, but what a crazy division it will be with the second half coming up and each of its four teams having a legitimate chance at contending. The only question is can they keep up with the pace, or will they be out of it a month from now, with me wondering why I even bother to follow a team that constantly lets me down. Only time can tell.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A pirate's life for me...

I just got back from the new Pirates of Caribbean movie, Dead Man's Chest. I'd like to preface my thoughts by saying that I enjoyed the first movie. Maybe not as much as everyone else, but I liked it. I did buy the DVD, but I don't watch it that much (though that might be my own sort of inner backlash at all the attention it has received rather than any indication of its own watch-ability). It was great the first time through, but subsequent watches weren't as thrilling. With that said, I really enjoyed the new movie. The fight scenes were great. The thing with the wheel might have been a little long, but it was still pretty damn cool. Off the top of my head, things I enjoyed about the movie:

  • The interaction of Norrington, Jack, and Will at the end. As said above, a damn cool fight.
  • Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp once again out does himself.
  • The introduction of Will's father, Bootstrap Bill. He turned out to be a very interesting character.
  • The fights with the Kraken were great, too, though I wish they would have turned out differently in some aspects (without getting too spoilerish).In general, I loved how Will really takes charge a lot in this movie. I wouldn't be surprised if Will ends up Captain of his own ship (maybe even the Black Pearl) by the end of the trilogy.

Without doing spoilers, there was really only one thing that really bugged me about this movie: the love triangle. Yes, there was great chemistry between Jack and Elizabeth in the first movie, but I always got the impression that as far as actual feelings were concerned, it was all on Jack's side. Elizabeth seemed to be too into Will to really give notice to Jack. This movie doesn't really change this interpretation, other than to add that Elizabeth might have some feelings towards Jack. I really hope this isn't the direction they go, because the pirate really shouldn't get the girl.

More spoilerish thoughts following...

You've been warned.

Wow, Jack is dead, but not really. I'm not sure what I think about the ending to be sure. As I said above, I hate the whole love triangle thing, and I really think they could have removed it and the remains would have been a better story. The whole bit felt like something put in to appease fans.

When Jack rowed away at the end, I really thought his moral dilemma would have led to him turning himself in to Davy Jones in return for the lives of his friends. This would have been the real right thing to do. Elizabeth could have made that shot just as easily as Jack. There was no need for him to return, except so Elizabeth could kiss him while chaining him to the ship, where Will could catch a glimpse and get all jealous-like and suspicious. This ending would have set up Will to lead the way to rescue both Jack and his father from the clutches of Davy Jones. Of course, who knows if Jones would have taken the deal. Jack is also too big of a character to be relegated to such a reduced role (and I suspect that Johnny Depp is also too expensive for that reduced of a role, but I could be wrong).

I also thought it would have been cool if Will had killed the Kraken. The first movie was really sort of a growing-up type of story for Will. This movie was much more, "Hey guess what? I'm all grown-up now, so get out of my way!" I think it really would have continued his arc in that fashion if he had killed the Kraken.

Even though the ending didn't happen the way I envisioned it, I have faith the Pirates crew can tell another great story. Though the first movie was definitely a tighter story, I think I'm going to enjoy this one more in the long run. I definitely can't wait for the next installment to see how it all ends.

Third attempt - charming, right?

Well, this is the third blog I've started. The other two no longer exist, but I hope this one sticks. I'm not sure what to say, other than this is a place for my thoughts and that's all. Views Defined is exactly what it says. I'm using this spot as a place to flesh out my thoughts on various topics, from pop culture to the science of evolution (although I doubt science will come up too often as a source of my inspiration). If you've made it this far, welcome aboard.