Wednesday, January 30, 2013

100 Themes Challenge: Dark


     The world had been dark for a long time now.
     Not literally, actually; although there seemed to be more clouds and less sunlight as time went on. But figuratively. A darkness of the soul, of the mind. Something had descended from the sky that one day, so many years ago. Churches proclaimed the second coming. Cultists announced the return of the old gods. Atheists laughed at both and scientists were desperate to study it. But it melted into the earth, left no trace, and that seemed to be the end of it.
    Then the madness began.
     Violent crime took a sudden upswing, wars broke loose, anxiety hit an all time high. Several governments descended into pure anarchy, and many people fled to other countries, only to find that the still established government was so soaked in corruption that they were as bad off. And still, scientists could not find a trace of the thing that seemed to be at the root of it all. It didn’t matter. Soon, they too were squabbling-over awards, over recognition, and finally, over nothing at all. The thing had caused a spiritual sickness; it could not be fought with physical weapons even if one had wanted to fight it.
     In the midst of it all, there was one being unaffected.
     The child had come down from the icy mountains, where he had lived in peace with the monks since he was small. Now, old enough to care for himself, but too young and far too na├»ve to yet partake in the horror around him, he made his journey. First, down the mountains. Then, across the ocean to the island where the thing had first touched Earth. He was alone. His fellow monks had succumbed to the thing’s darkness. Once on the island, the boy walked to the center, sat down, and closed his eyes.
     For a long, long time, nothing happened. All around the world, anger still reigned, yet the boy still sat.
     Then, slowly, the light began to shine. It started first on the boy’s stomach, then spread to his whole being. Then, slowly, it enveloped the island. The wild creatures that lived there all went silent. Then, the light began to spread, first to one country, then to another. Soon, the entire world was enveloped in a bright light, and then, just as suddenly, the light disappeared, melted into the land, just like the thing that had fallen before.
     The pointless violence ceased. People woke up, blinking, looking around, wondering what was happening. Oh, some did not stop what they were doing; some had the darkness in them already. But soon they were stopped by others who felt the touch of the light.
     On a high mountain covered in snow, several monks set out on a journey, to find the lost boy. They traced his movements to an island, but there, they found no sign of him. The only strange thing was the tree growing at the center, towering above all the rest, bigger than the giant trees found in rain forests. The monks pronounced it a sign of the boy’s enlightenment, and the tree became a pilgrimage for many people seeking cleansing from the previous darkness. They did not know that the tree’s roots wrapped around the whole Earth.
     Or that caged within the roots was a dark thing, waiting to get out.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: The 200th Anniversary

LET'S CELEBRATE IT BY BEING PREJUDICED! YAYYYYY!!!!


Insane Troll Logic: 
Telegraph quiz about a famous literary work? Let's make it into an argument about the ills of religion! That totally makes sense, right?



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Film Review: The Woman in Black

It occurred to me that I never posted my review of this film. I looked for it all over my blog but I only found the book review. So, here goes nothing.


Right.

I might have laughed a bit at this.

I was…somewhat disappointed.

The beginning wasn't that bad. It starts out with three young girls having a tea party in an attic. Suddenly, they all look toward the window at once, then walk over, trance-like, and leap out. Good beginning.

We transition to DanRad, a.k.a. Arthur Kipps, telling his young son goodbye as he heads off to conclude the late Mrs. Drablow’s business at Eel Marsh House. On the way he meets the kind Mr. Daily, but when he arrives the villagers make it clear they don’t want him there, and the local lawyer even tries to have him driven straight back to the train station. Kipps, however, is determined, and goes to Eel Marsh House anyways, where he begins to notice strange things. And as his visit goes on, more and more children die in horrible ways…

This is where it starts to fall apart. In the book, it is certainly hinted that The Woman in Black is killing the village children. Yet it is only hinted at. The book maintains subtlety, having a few creepy moments lead up to the ultimate horror at the end. It maintains a low-key atmosphere. The villagers are simply xenophobic, which is pretty common even today in small places.

The movie blew subtlety out of the water.

The villagers aren't just xenophobic, they’re a creepy town with a dark secret that knows children will die. They even stand in the middle of the road, hoping to block the way to the house. Children aren't just hinted at dying. They are frequently shown doing harmful things, under the influence of She Who Must Not Be Seen. They drink lye and jump out windows and set themselves on fire and drown themselves in the sea. Mrs. Daily isn't just a nice lady married to Mr. Daily. She is a psychic whose dead son, killed by Ye Olde Witchy One, draws pictures through her and gives a creepy Trelawney-esque warning to DanRad. The Woman in Black doesn't just drift through the house and occasionally make creepy things happen while DanRad is staying there. She flies around making ghostly screams and her creepy little zombie son runs around muddily through the house and it’s just kind of silly.

That’s another thing. In the book, we don’t know how the Woman in Black makes horrible things happen. They just do, all seemingly accidental. A tipped over carriage, a precarious chair, etc. In the movie they shove it down your throat that she’s forcing the children to kill themselves.

I think this video is appropriate:



All in all, it wasn't that great. It started out strong, but it diverged from the low-key creepiness of the book, and turned into your run-of-the-mill horror flick.


2 out of 5.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

100 Themes Challenge: Light


     They had been working in the mines for months now. It was hard, back-breaking work, and dust found its way into their masks, supposedly meant to filter in clean air. Rob hadn’t felt clean since they started.
     But it was important, they said; the geeks with their computers had found massive gold deposits, they said. Rob didn’t know much about the computers. He was just here to dig.
     For the most part, they had used equipment, swift-moving drills that kept a good pace and made enough noise that the deep darkness of the mines did not overwhelm them. But then, suddenly, all their equipment failed. Every piece they tried to use failed. Rob had heard that some scientist, somewhere, had panicked, tried to set off some alarm about “things man was not meant to know”, but she had been sent packing pretty early. Now it was just them and their picks and axes, kicking it old school he decided.
     He just wished it wasn’t so quiet.
     At that moment, over the monotonous clacking, he heard a shout, coming from far down the line. A beefy man, his long beard turned gray from dust, ran up, tearing off his mask as he went.
     “I found something! You won’t believe what I found!”
     The foreman walked over calmly, hands on his hips. He seemed to be the only one entirely unaffected by the darkness and the eerie occurrences around electrical equipment.
     “Gold?” he asked.
     “No sir, but better, oh, so much better!” Rob frowned. The guy’s behavior was almost manic. He’d probably be the next one sent to surface and told to take a long rest. How many had they lost so far…?
     “Dammit, Grady. There’s nothing there.”
     “What d’ya mean, there’s nothing there? Can’t you see it? It’s beautiful.” Grady’s voice lowered a notch, almost in reverence. Rob shivered. Some of the others were wandering over now to see what was going on, and Rob was torn between checking it out and staying the hell away from whatever was going on. Everything was giving him the creeps right now.
     “Grady, I don’t see nothing,” someone else said. “Maybe you need to go topside for a while. Getting pretty deep now.”
     “It’s there! And can’t you hear it? The light and the music!”
     “Grady, son, we’ll check it out, but we need to have some space. Why don’t you just go up and get some fresh air while—”
     “NO! You’ll go in without me! You’ll leave me here, here in death and decay and stupidity and hatred and ugliness and—”
     At that point, two of the burliest workers approached, and at a nod from the foreman dragged Grady off, whose screams echoed off the walls.
     The foreman walked over, tapped at Rob.
     “Take over Grady’s spot for now, will you Rob? I gotta go topside with him and get a message through. This is bull.” Rob watched him go. Grady was, what, fifth or sixth person to get like this? Rob knew some people couldn’t handle it down here, but this was ridiculous.
     Rob took off his mask briefly, drank some water, then put his mask back on and began chipping away at the wall. He saw nothing, of course. Grady was nuts. He’d heard the man had some sort of head injury years ago, had a metal plate in his head. Who knows, maybe he was picking up alien transmissions? Rob chuckled to himself, swung the axe against the wall again.
     A crack sounded, like a shot gun going off, and a fissure opened up in the wall before him. Rob glanced up at the ceiling warily. Wouldn’t do to have this thing collapse in on them. Then he looked back at the wall. He stifled a scream.
     Light, pure white, emanated from the fissure. He stumbled back at first. Was he the next to go crazy? The next to lose it? But no, he heard murmurs, gasps, his coworkers gathering around him.
     “Grady weren’t crazy after all,” someone muttered. Rob said nothing.
     Then it began, the music, and suddenly Rob stopped caring. It was beautiful, otherworldly, like nothing he’d ever heard before. Visions danced through his head, of green hills, abundant food, no mines, no dust filled mines, open blue sky above, color and light and sound and children’s laughter and suddenly he knew he had to go there, it was his only chance, and he darted forward.
     The others followed, some whooping with joy. Foolish foreman! If only he had the mind to see what they saw, to hear what they heard! What glory, what joy! Rob rolled onto the ground, enjoying the soft grass, the sun on his face, the cool breeze…
     Suddenly, another crack. This one louder, echoing endlessly. In an instant the light was gone, the warmth disappeared, and Rob felt not grass but stone beneath, stone growing around him, and without the music he now knew that the laughter he heard was not laughter at all, but screams...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Blood Oath by John Vornholt


     John Vornholt returns, with a less clunky, but still somewhat odd, version of B5. In it, we find that although G’Kar happily survived that previous assassination attempt, Du’Rog’s family has now sworn a blood oath. Oh crap. G’Kar comes up with a wonky plan to fake his death, and when his shuttle explodes when leaving B5, everyone is horrified and assumes he’s dead. They have a lovely memorial service, and Londo gives a strangely touching speech. And keeps referencing Mark Twain.
     Sheridan sends Ivanova and Garibaldi off to the Narn Homeworld to attend the memorial service there. They swiftly discover G’Kar hiding on the transport, Na’Toth punches him, and a good time is had by all.
     Until they get to the Homeworld, and find they have to find a way to appease Du’Rog’s family, because there’s no way ax-crazy Mi’Ra is letting this thing rest once she finds out G’Kar’s still alive.
     As I said, Vornholt improved a bit, and most of his characters seem more 3-dimensional and less exaggerated versions of themselves, but I still feel like Vornholt hadn't quite gotten a handle on Sheridan yet. On the other hand, he does a great job of describing Narn culture, giving us the confused Ivanova and Garibaldi to relate to and an overly-cheery human guide with a Narn fetish (he apparently married a Narn and will not stop hitting on Na’Toth, providing some surreal comedy). We also get a glimpse into the antagonist’s mind, and a few anvils regarding the ills of society are dropped, but in a pleasant, Straczynski, G’Kar-Is-Having-One-Of-His-Moments kind of way. Overall, it was an okay book. Still not the best, but I am happy to see that Vornholt improved. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Voices by John Vornholt


     The novel opens with Harriman Gray (from Babylon 5 episode “Eyes”) daydreaming about Ivanova.
     No, really. That’s pretty much the first thing we hear. This continues until he arrives on Mars, upon which Bester forcibly scans him then offers him a job as a personal assistant. Gray is understandably confused, but doesn't have much time to be so as the hotel hosting the Psi-Corps convention explodes.
     Cue Gray suggesting Babylon 5 would be a great place for convention, which has absolutely not a thing at all to do with Ivanova! At all!
     Cue Ivanova and Garibaldi hitting their heads against the wall while Sheridan, new and green to the whole situation, bounces around happily at the idea.
     While the command staff are gritting their teeth and preparing for an invasion of telepaths, Kosh is trolling Talia. Again. He asks her to scan for a third person known as “Invisible Isabel”, and Talia is surprised to find someone there. Afterwards, Kosh drifts off, possibly to plan further trolling sessions. Talia, meanwhile, is pleased to meet with the Psi-Corps (except Bester, but no one is really pleased to meet with Bester, so that comes as no surprise). She connects to the commercial telepath organization known as The Mix, designed to actually let telepaths interact with people without freaking everyone out, which Bester is Bad At Doing. However, during the first meeting, Talia gets a Convenient Psychic Meltdown from Kosh, and she barely escapes an explosion that leaves a whining Bester in the hospital, Talia accused of blowing people up, and Mix CEO Malten noping away to Mars with his assistant Emily Crane.
     Talia is in the brig for all of half a day before Kosh arrives, knocks out the guards, and helps her escape from jail.
     Let me repeat that.
     Kosh arrives, knocks out the guards, and helps Talia escape from jail.
     I have no idea how to make that sound cooler, so I’ll just leave it at that.
     Talia winds up going on the run with Deuce (who apparently had something to do with the bomb but we’re never told what), which sounds like one of those kooky eighties movies.
     “She’s a classy telepath accused of a crime she didn't commit. He’s a low-life gangster on the run. Together THEY FIGHT TERRORISM.” Or something.
     Anyways, what follows is Talia’s attempts to survive, and Garibaldi and Harriman’s attempts to save her.
     Also Bester whines.
     This book was simultaneously good and bad. This was the author’s first attempt, and I think he wasn't quite used to the characters. The bit where Talia just out of nowhere decides to seduce Malten to work her way up in the telepath world seems rather random, and doesn't really have much bearing on the plot. Sheridan seems a bit of a caricature of himself, almost too cheerful and too optimistic. He wasn't a fool, even when he was a nO0b. However, on Straczynski’s website, the author does agree that the first book was clunky. Apparently later books have improved, so I shall keep up my campaign of reading all the B5 novels.
     Also Kosh breaks Talia out of jail. Did I mention that?




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Snark Censor broke

I think Logic class is already affecting my mind. Either way, my snark censor broke and spilled out all over the place. Usually I'm pretty good at keeping it under wraps, because usually snarking means someone is being stupid, and that stupidity isn't helped by snark.

Regardless, my snark censor broke, and snark doesn't look like a word anymore, although I'm not sure it was really a word anywhere except the Internet and Lewis Carroll's poems.

You know, I'm not particularly thrilled with the president's gun law fetish. I also think that the response to some crazy person killing people is try to keep normal people from getting guns is kind of a silly response.

But...I mean...

So many posts. So many rage-filled Facebooks posts comparing Obama to Hitler. Now, it may very well be that he is secretly another Hitler. I haven't checked up on his background to see if he got rejected from art school or what have you. But the comparison posts are completely ridiculous.

One states that "Hitler also posed with children in photos, so if you see Obama posing with children you should be concerned."

BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE EVER POSES WITH CHILDREN EVER.

Another is "Hitler was a good public speaker."

BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER BEEN A GOOD PUBLIC SPEAKER EVER.

If you have an issue with Obama's policies, give a good reason to have an issue with Obama's policies. Throwing out the "lol Hitler" argument is a childish response for anyone to use, liberal, conservative, green, or what have you. Perhaps if the argument was something more specific than "Hitler ate sugar" then it could be a valid argument. But it's not.

Anyways, the long and short of it is, I finally got fed up and wrote under one of those posts "Hitler also liked dogs". Currently waiting to see the response.



Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross


     Bob Howard was your average hacker/math geek. That is, until his playing around with mathematics and computers nearly summoned Nyarlathotep.
     Enter the Laundry service. A secret organization within Britain’s government that fights all those horrid Lovecraftian beasties that think humans make great toys (or food…or both). Howard is put at a low-level job keeping the computers running, but his expertise (and dealing with his flat mates Pinky and Brains’ mad experiments) has him joining the field services-the spies that take care of the supernatural problems personally, not to mention his new boss Angleton is creepy as all get out despite his snark and Monty Python quotes. (Yes, Stross named a British intelligence officer “Angleton”. Troll.) And when Howard’s job leads him and a lovely red-headed professor right into the path of some crazy cultists, he will need all the math he can get to save themselves…and the world.
     This book was funny, in a droll British humor sort of way. Charles Stross keeps a snarky tone throughout, and it’s this that makes the book so readable. If someone tried to make a story like this completely serious, it simply wouldn't work. But tackling the spy genre and Lovecraftian horrors with tongue firmly planted in cheek overcomes even the technobabble. And trust me, there’s a lot of technobabble. Being a liberal arts kid (I…can read. A lot. That’s a skill, right?) most of the higher mathematics went straight over my head and out into the wild blue yonder, most likely to disturb Cthulhu’s well-deserved sleep. Still, being able to read a lot is a skill, because context clues helped me figure out what was going on.
     “Concrete Jungle” was included in the book, a novella in which Howard is woken in the middle of the night by Angleton to figure out if a cow spontaneously combusted due to a basilisk (yes, they have those), or if something more sinister is going on (yes, there are more sinister things than basilisks).
     Overall, it’s been…interesting. And I have a feeling it’s going to get even more interesting in the next few books.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

100 Themes Challenge: Love


     Love, she decided, was not what she thought it was. So many times she had been hurt, over and over. The initial rush, the heady anticipation, the passion and fireworks, and then, it faded, it ended, and she was left alone. She decided love was not for her, or perhaps it didn't exist.
     Then, she saw it. An icy winter morning, dreading going out into the cold to clear off her car and get it started. Nursing her coffee and wondering if she could call in to work. She looked outside, and there he was. The old man, with his gouty legs, hobbling through the snow wearing pants that didn't even reach his ankles. Methodically cleaning off each car in turn, scraping and brushing with more care than anyone else. Someone approached, tried to hand him something; he held up a hand, smiled, nodded, and went back to cleaning. She wondered how many winters in Korea he had seen before moving here. She wondered what he had seen to make him want to do this for people who barely spoke to him.
     Was…this love? Not heady romance, but…real love? To go out in the cold and snow and clean off cars without expecting anything in return?
     Perhaps, just perhaps…she’d been looking for the wrong thing all along. She rose, suddenly filled with energy that had nothing to do with her coffee, dressed, made herself ready, then left her apartment. Before she went, she slid an envelope under the old man’s door.
     If that didn't cover his doctor’s bills, she didn't know what would.

A/N: I know I told the real story last year, but I thought it'd make for good fiction.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Film Review: The Hunger Games


     Having read the entire Hunger Games trilogy ridiculously fast, I was excited when the movie came out on DVD and I could see what they did with it. And what they did…was amazing.
     The film is set up by showing us the poverty in which Katniss and her family lives; in some ways, it gave a sense of a turn-of-the-century coal-mining town in the south (which the filming location actually was at one point). This was further impressed upon the audience by contrasting everyone’s drab clothing and glum faces to the overly-pink-and-cheerful Effie Trinket. The moment when Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games is powerful. There is no hesitation in her voice.
     The acting is remarkable. Jennifer Lawrence brings a combination of vulnerability and maturity to her role as Katniss, and Donald Sutherland steals the show with his few scenes as the calm, assured, single-minded villain Coriolanus Snow.
     The visuals were also excellent. The citizens of the Capitol are very colorful and outlandish, especially compared to the poverty we see before. The effects are well done. One thing that people are concerned about is how they portray the horrific violence of the story. Some were afraid that it would wind up celebrating it. But I can say that it did just the opposite. They made the visuals rather choppy at those points, and the acting cemented the idea that this is something that should horrify us, while not being overly gory. However, I wouldn’t recommend this for children. Thirteen or fourteen is the youngest I would go in who should see this.
     It’s an excellent film, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they will do with the next two. Catching Fire comes out this November. LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN.

(By the way, I just realized how apt the name is. "Snow" compared to the "Girl on Fire" and "Coriolanus"...well let's just say that was a good choice.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

100 Themes Challenge: Introduction


     in·tro·duc·tion

  [in-truh-duhk-shuh n]  Show IPA
noun
1.
the act of introducing or the state of being introduced.
2.
a formal personal presentation of one person to another or others.
3.
a preliminary part, as of a book, musical composition, or the like, leading up to the main part.
4.
an elementary treatise: an introduction to botany.
5.
an act or instance of inserting.

     And right now, he was about to insert himself in this conversation. It should be simple: walk by, feign expertise in whatever subject they’re on at the moment, observe them all as he carried the discussion. He could do this. No problem. He’d have this case wrapped up in an instant.
     He picked up another glass of champagne (perhaps he shouldn’t have quite so many…) and edged his way closer to the knot of scientists.
     “Naturally, when it comes to the bosons of early string theory, we could no doubt assert then that…”
     What?
     “Are you talking about Dr. Who?” he asked, then could have kicked himself. They all turned to stare at him. Then, to his surprise, the scientist who had been droning on, smiled.
     “They certainly use a great deal of experimental physics to explain time travel. Although, it is interesting that what people once considered pure science fiction has been proven and developed.”
     “Like their ‘invisibility cloak’,” he said, pleased that the scientists were willing to talk down.
     “Yes. Which is why I suggest you move on.”
     “Wait, what?”
     The scientist leaned in, and his smile turned sinister.
     “Because you currently have a man with a cloaking device training a gun directly on your head.”
     He took a step back, swallowed, smiled awkwardly.
     “Ah. Well, I’ll just, uh…just leave you to your…umm…bosons.” He nearly tripped over himself heading for the door, and only stopped to deposit his champagne in a much abused potted plant.
     Well.
     That could have been worse.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Film Review: Snow White and the Huntsman


     At some point in the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman”, they refer to Snow White as “The One”. It made perfect sense to me. In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves is The One, and he mainly tries very hard to show emotion on occasion. I’m not sure Kristen Stewart is even trying to show emotion, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s clear this movie also takes place within the Matrix, and Snow White is merely another incarnation of The One.
     Joking aside, this movie wasn’t as bad as some people claim, but it could have been better.
     The movie starts out with Snow White’s birth and parts of her childhood-her friendship with the son of the duke, her attachment to her mother, and her mother’s insistence that her greatest beauty is within her heart (as she tries to nurse a bird back to health-go figure). Then her mother dies and her father’s kingdom is attacked by strange glass knights. In the wagon overturned during the battle, they find a beautiful woman, who the king decides to marry right away-and who promptly murders him and locks Snow White up in a tower, because she’s a Special Snowflake. (Actually, they have a decent plot reason for this, surprisingly enough.) Fast forward many years later, and the Evil Queen discovers Snow White is now the fairest of them all, in all sense of that word. No wonder-you left her in the dark. She probably would have gotten fairly tan otherwise. Nice Job Fixing It Villain. Either way, the Queen decides she will gain eternal youth and beauty by eating Snow White’s heart. Unfortunately her Idiot Brother with whom she has some decidedly Odd Subtext manages to be outwitted by a girl who has been locked in a tower for some ten years. Snow White promptly escapes into the woods, and the Queen demands the Drunken Woodsman go after her. Instead, they and their belligerent sexual tension team up with some equally drunken dwarves to make it to the duke’s castle and gather an army to defeat the Evil Queen.
     This movie is simultaneously good and bad. On the good side, we have a rather dark fairy tale, with the Queen being extremely creepy and evil and I-don’t-even-want-to-know-what’s-going-on-with-her-and-her-brother, not to mention a back story for why the Queen is the way she is. (Magic. It’s always a good explanation.) We have an excellent good vs. evil storyline with the destructiveness of evil opposed to the life-giving force of good. I’m even okay with Snow White being a Chosen One who literally restores life to the kingdom. The downside is that you have Kristen Stewart whose expressions can be summed up as “dull surprise”. The girl who plays the younger Snow White actually emotes better than she does. Some people tell me I’m too critical and that it’s clearly meant to be a stoical look, which I would believe if it wasn’t for the fact that she looks like that in all her pictures. Unfortunately the movie sinks a lot when the main character isn’t acted that well; otherwise this would have been an excellent and entertaining film.

Resolutions

This year, I will write things that you consume with your eyes, and I will post them.

Apart from my reviews, I plan on tackling the 100 Themes Challenge. And whatever other writing exercises catch my eye.

Also I will actually make use of Goodreads, instead of only remembering it when my brother posts something on his.

Also I will exercise more. That's kind of a given for basically everyone around this time of year.