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I am [Aug. 5th, 2011|03:07 am]
An idiot.
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Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves [May. 20th, 2011|06:54 pm]
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Alright, not what I have been planning to write about, but still something that needs to be written. Finally got through the last book in the Earth's Children series. And I've spent the day trying to figure out how to put it into words.

Jean Auel's Earth's Children has been a favourite series of mine since I first read "Clan of the Cave Bear" in 8th grade. That was a while back. The concept captured my imagination, and the storytelling was beautiful. Ayla was a wonderful character, the Clan was amazing, Jondalar was a role model, and the Mamutoi were fascinating. I loved pretty much everything about the first 3 books. The 4th book was enjoyable, but retraced the steps of the 2nd book. And then it really started going downhill. The 5th book finally had Ayla with Jondalar's people, and it was such a letdown. Conflicts weren't fulfilled, tension wasn't built, and it was generally a boring book.

The latest book, "The Land of Painted Caves" continued the downhill trend. And I really hate to say that. There were some really amazing ideas that got completely lost in the rambling of the first half of the book. Characters that were half remembered got more time and random thoughts than the main characters, flashes of tension were simply glazed over and some completely forgotten about, and the first 300 pages took me a month to get through. Yes, I was doing other things too, but stil, if it had been entertaining, then I would have read more and faster.

The second half of the book was a bit better. I really loved the descriptions of some of the cave paintings, especially Chaveaux, but even some of those seemed halfway done and not fully fleshed out. When the novel actually starts to have conflict that is cared about, things happen so quickly especially compared to how slow the first half of the book was. There were parts where I was on edge, nail biting because of how wonderfully written parts were. If the whole book had been like this, then I would have been raving about this book as opposed to pointing out its weaknesses.

The ending though felt rushed and incomplete. I had thought that this would be the last book, but if it isn't, then I do hope the wait for the next isn't as long and it isn't as much of a letdown.

Coming up will be a blog about the news stories of the past few weeks. I'm prepared to be hated.
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Movie Review:Thor [May. 7th, 2011|01:49 am]
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Alright, after some time for it to sink in, and a couple of cakes made in the mean time, I'm going to try a spoiler free review of Thor. First off, let me say, best comic book movie since Iron Man, at least. Maybe even Batman Begins. It was that good. Rest of the review will be attempting to put a finger on what it was that made it so good.

First off, it felt completely epic. Kenneth Branaugh brought his Shakespearean touch to the super hero movie. It felt like a great dramatic story, with all the highs and lows and feel of a great work of art. Yes, other people could have directed this, but I don't know if they would have captured the scale of it the way that Branaugh did. It felt classy yet didn't lose the fact that is was based on a comic book, so was funny and light at times. It was just beautiful to watch. Asgard was amazing to look at. And unlike so many other movies, sets were built which added a feeling of realism to the movie. It was nice to see actors interacting with a set instead of just having it projected behind them. Yes, there was a lot of blue screen work as well, but the actual set work was amazing.

Further along those lines, the costumes were absolutely amazing. Thor's armor was beautiful, and Loki's armor even more so. The rest almost matched those two. Except for Odin's. There were some things that I really loved about it, but other parts just didn't seem to work for me. But that was the only one that had that problem. And everything else about Odin made up for the not as cool armor. Heimdahl's armor still gives me chills thinking about it.

Thirdly, the acting was top notch. When Anthony Hopkin's arguably turns in the weakest performance, that's saying something. And his performance just had times where it didn't work. Most of the time he was an amazing Odin. But Loki was the scene stealer. The actor was just amazing, conveyed both the good and bad in his character. Truly Loki Silver tongue. Natalie Portman was fantastic as always, as was Stellan Skarsgard. The cast chemistry was just amazing and they all seemed to play off each other really well.

Then comes the story itself. It give something that isn't found in too many movies, shows, or books even. A dual Hero's Journey is so rarely done well, especially in what most people would consider a light fun movie. But I can't think of any off the top of the head that do it as well as this one follows both Thor and Loki. The only thing that comes close is the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. I think that Thor did it much better.

I don't feel like I can say much more without giving too much of the story away, but it was totally amazing and I would recommend everyone go see it.
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Updates and other things [Apr. 28th, 2011|09:36 pm]
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It's the last week of the month, so I've been spending the mornings and early afternoons at the local soup kitchen. Haven't had as much time to work on things as much as I would like. But it's a good thing to do and will hopefully pay off in the long run. I have however gotten a bit more done on my scarf.

On the other hand, the season premier of Doctor Who was amazing!!!!!! Totally mind blowing and has me counting the hours to to second half of it. Really need to know what the hell is going on!

In other TV news, I'm really loving HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation. It's been really close tot he book so far, while not being overwhelming to those who haven't read it yet. Plus it's got Sean Bean and Lena Headley in it, which should be enough to sell it for everyone.

I was really enjoying the Borgias as well. But I missed last week's episode and haven't caught the newest one yet either. Jeremy Irons is just amazing, as always.

Alright, will write more on the important stuff later. So much to say but so many emotions involved in pointing out the stupidity of people. lol
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Feeding a new addiction [Apr. 22nd, 2011|12:33 am]
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Again, I've been a horrible blogger. I've been feeding a new addiction instead of being a good boy. Bad James. But here's a progress report on what I've been up to. :D

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Book Review: The Exile [Mar. 27th, 2011|02:10 am]
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I'm still trying to make up my mind about this one. It's a graphic novel set in the Outlander universe. Hell, it's set within the first half of the novel Outlander. So the story is a very familiar one to fans of the novels. The point of view however is completely different. Instead of focusing on Clair's point of view, this is told mainly from Jamie and Murtaugh's view points.

I will say, that I do love the way the story is told. Murtaugh has always been my favorite character, and to see inside his thoughts for once was an interesting experience. There was a layer of the story there that I never picked up on from the novels, though I wonder if it was there. Won't tell what it is fr spoilers sake, but it was a revelation into the character of Murtaugh. It was also interesting to get Jamie's view on things. I had forgotten how young he was at the beginning of the saga. So different from the man at the end, but the similarities are there as well.

The part that keeps me up in the air is the art style. I honestly can't make up my mind about it. It tells the story wonderfully and it is gorgeous, but it doesn't quite suit the story in my opinion. The highly Asian influenced style, and it just doesn't click with the Scottish story. It is beautiful to look at however. The depiction of Claire is spot on. Jamie is young and handsome. But Murtaugh just doesn't look rough enough. In none of his panels does he really come close to looking the way that I pictured him. He's just too soft and good looking. lol I take that back, the opening pages are exactly how I pictured him, but there aren't any close ups there.

Overall, if you're an Outlander fan, go pick this up from the library at least. Give it a shot. You'll finish it in well less than a day. And if you like it, then go get it. There's probably a Borders closing somewhere near you and they have it 50% off. Well worth it.
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Book Review: Songs of Love and Death [Mar. 6th, 2011|07:06 pm]
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Time for another book review. After stretching it out as long as possible, I finally finished the last in this fantastic collection of short stories. There isn't really much I can say about this. Found a couple of authors that I'm going to have to look up other works. But the fact that it's a collection of short stories by authors like Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, and Jacqueline Carey, edited by George R. R. Martin should be enough to convince anyone who is a fan of sci fi and fantasy to give this a shot. Like all collections, some stories stand out more than others, but I can't say that there were any that I just didn't enjoy reading. There is a lot more of the love than death than the title would suggest, however. There weren't any that were just plain morbid. Gabaldon's and Carey's stand out above the others. They fill in several areas that fans of their writing will really enjoy. Gaiman's story was his usual mind trip of wonderful prose. But all around, if you don't buy this book, at least go to the library and check it out. It's really fantastic and I recommend it all around.
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Again, I've been bad [Mar. 3rd, 2011|02:34 pm]
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Once more I've been a bad blogger, reneging on the promise I made to myself and anyone else who does keep reading this, that I would be blogging regularly again. So much going on, so many things that I want to talk about, but unable to to figure out where to start, I've paralyzed myself again. I'm awful, and I know it. So much has made me angry, and riled so much emotion, and that is a position that I hate writing from. What it adds in passion, it takes away from the logic and reason of the argument. And while sometimes the raw passion is a good thing, with most of the things I enjoy writing about, it is a downside.

But, where should I start? Most pressing in the news at the moment is Libya. So why not start there? If I could pick one place in the world to be right now, this would be it.

Revolution has finally caught up with Gadhafi. He was the bogey man for a while when I was a child. The man responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. The first world leader that I can remember being talked about as funding world wide terrorism. Of course this was at the time when we were supporting Saddam in Iraq. lol But now the people have risen up in a long overdue rebellion. Rebellion against a corrupt regime is always a good thing. Even I didn't dare imagine that what started in Tunisia and Egypt would move to the country that is sandwiched between them.

But what is the point of rebellion? It is to topple the unjust and replace it with something better for the people. Not necessarily something better for the world. Due to the impact that the rebellion is having on oil prices, the temptation is there for intervention from the outside. There are calls for UN and US air strikes, mobilization of ground forces, and the whole 9 yards. Iraq has shown that doesn't work. Is Gadhafi as bad as Saddam? Yup. Has he treated his people with the same kind of disdain? Yup. The difference is that in Libya the people have risen and are willing to go as far as it takes to topple a corrupt leader.

A light hand is needed in dealing with situations like this. Should the world abandon the rebels to whatever the army may do to them? No way. but support should be subtle, under the table. Not overt shows of force and occupation. Self determination has been the correct policy of international relations since the collapse of the British Empire. Imperialism has no place in the modern world. Support for just revolution should be offered without condition, without expectation of pay back, but for the simple fact that it is the right thing to do.

A heavy handed military response would feed the anti Western sentiment in the Islamic world. It would fuel the fires of radicals that have been taking arms and preaching jihad for years. But an Islamic country that rises up against a cruel dictator, that chooses a western style democracy, the way of life that is raved against, is better than any publicity or propaganda that we can throw out about ourselves.

Alright, that's enough of a rant for now. Agree? Disagree? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment and let me know.
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On happenings in Egypt [Feb. 2nd, 2011|02:55 pm]
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Alright, first political rant in a while. Bear with me if the language isn't up the par with some of my previous posts.

Alright, if you've been under a rock for the past couple of weeks, a revolution has started in the Islamic world. It started with the overthrow of the government in Tunisia. Things seem to be progressing well there, and I have high hopes. But their revolution was quickly eclipsed by uprisings in Egypt. The reason that Egypt gets more coverage than Tunisia, aside from the population and strategic importance, is that more people in the US know basically where Egypt is. Yeah, we're a special people aren't we?

Back on point, Egypt for the past...half century at least, has been ruled by strong willed presidents who have taken on the power of dictator. The most famous being Nassar, but most recently Mubarak. Dictators provide stability in a part of the world that doesn't know stability without a strong hand. The western idea of democracy and country is still a relatively new concept in the middle east. History has shown that the area goes to chaos quickly when a strong leader is removed, or a strong stabilizing government. Be it empire or monarchy or dictator, strong leaders have been the only way to provide stability.

The cost of this stability, however, is what are thought of in the western world as basic human rights. The idea of democracy is so entrenched in our way of thinking that it is hard for a westerner to see things through a different set of glasses. What we don't realize though, is that it has taken over 300 years for us to reach this state. Less than 100 years ago, most of the region was ruled by one of the European empires, before that various other empires. Egypt stands out as being relatively independent for a good chunk of that time. Left to their own string of dictators.

Am I saying that revolution is doomed to fail in Egypt? Far from it. I think of all the countries in the middle east that Egypt has the best chance of forming a stable democracy. It has a lot of western educated professionals, western influence is stronger than in most countries (even if it is mostly due to tourism), and it has a history that almost predates time itself. It has seen more changes than most other parts of the world could imagine.

However, revolution is always a dangerous proposition. Iran was an extremely westernized country prior to their revolution in the 1970's. Now it is one of the most isolated and feared and hated countries in the world. The strongest opposition to Mubarak is an Islamic radical group that would turn back the clock in Egypt and make it another Iran. Democracy is more than just mob rule, though mob rule is the easiest thing to achieve. They would more than likely set up a theocracy in the guise of democracy. Another set of dictators, but with seemingly popular backing.

How will things work out? I don't know. I personally would like to see a British style parliamentary system set up with an American style constitution in place. A set of checks and balances set up to ensure long term stability. But level heads need to prevail. Inciting a riot is easy, creating a proper government is much harder.

If you haven't figure out yet, yes, I do believe in a distinct right and wrong and that some cultures and governments are better than others. Relativism has it's place, but is highly overrated and used by western culture today.
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Ever have... [Jan. 28th, 2011|09:42 pm]
One of those days where the urge to pick up a phone and dial a number that hasn't been used in years screams in your head? Coming from someone who doesn't even pick up the phone and call numbers that have been used recently...the conflict is nearly unbearable.
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