Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Humor – Anthropomorphism

Okay boys and girls.  Today’s word is anthropomorphism.  Can you say that? 


Goooood!  I knew you could do it. 

So what does it mean?  It means ascribing human attributes to something that is not human, such as animals.  Click “Read more” for examples.

Book – Into Thin Air

In May of 1996 nine climbers from four different expeditions all died near the peak of Mount Everest when a freak storm caught them by surprise.  Three more people would die before the month was out.  This was the deadliest season in the history of the mountain.  By sheer coincidence one of the climbers who survived this tragedy was writer Jon Krakauer.  He was greatly shaken by the event and after writing his contracted magazine article, he began working on this book to more fully document what went wrong. 

Even though I hike, I have never had an interest in mountain climbing.  Krakauer does such a good job with the writing on this book that I finally understood just what would drive a person to continue up a mountain when death might be waiting for them.

Hike – Seaside Path and Jordan Stream Trail

Cobblestone bridge, Jordan Stream
This post describes making a loop starting and ending at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park in Maine.  The two trails involved are the Seaside Path and the Jordan Stream Trail, bridged by a short walk on Route 3.

This loop avoids the crowds of people that go to Jordan Pond House.  You take in mossy forest trails, the ocean, a beach, a rushing stream with many small falls, and the only cobblestone bridge in the Acadia National Park Carriage Trail system.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Movie – Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch was just released today.  I went to the opening then came back home to work on today’s blog posts.  These are my immediate impressions.  Over the coming days I will probably mull over things in the movie.  I had a lot of anticipation built up to see this movie.  As such, it made it harder for the movie to live up to those expectations.  I may ultimately change this from a three star recommendation to a four star one.  [Note – a new review of the superior, extended version available on Blu-ray follows this original review of the censored, theatrical version.]

Movie – Watchmen (2009)

Here is what Watchmen is not – it is not a superhero movie.  If you are looking for another Spider-Man, or God help you, Fantastic Four, then this is not the movie to see.

What it is is a murder mystery set in an alternate history U.S. where costumed vigilantes have been around since World War II.  The movie opens with the death of one of them, killed in his apartment by someone you can’t identify.  It is also a very realistic look at just what kind of person would be drawn to being a costumed “hero.”  Hint – that kind of person would probably not be very well adjusted.  It is a dark story, told during the height of the nuclear arms race in the mid 1980s.  While the smaller events are going on, the world at large is on the brink of nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

Movie – 300 (2007)

300 is based on the graphic novel written and drawn by Frank Miller.  It is an imaginative telling of the true historical event where 300 Spartans held off the entire invading army of King Xerxes of Persia at Thermopylae for several days in the year 480 BC.

The movie has a great visual style influenced by the graphic novel.  Director Zack Snyder also manages to give good depth to characters that you know are on a suicide mission.  It would have been easy to just fast forward over getting to know any of them and get to the fighting.  Instead Snyder spends time showing King Leonidas of Sparta (Gerard Butler) and his wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey.) You know when they finally part that it will be for the last time, and because you have gotten to know them it is actually an emotional scene.

Zack Snyder Movies

“This is Sparta!”  - King Leonidas, 300

This week’s set of related recommendations are movies directed by Zack Snyder.  You may not recognize the name, but you’ve probably heard of at least one of his movies.  He has directed the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, and the just-released Sucker Punch.

Snyder got some notice within the horror genre for his Dawn of the Dead remake, but it was the movie 300 where he really burst onto the movie scene in the U.S.

I am going to write recommendations for 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch.  Dawn of the Dead is a genre (zombie horror) that doesn’t do much for me, so the movie would have to be really good to get my recommendation and this one doesn’t.  As for Legend of the Guardians, that is an animated children’s movie that I have not seen.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Sucker Punch

Note: Man of Steel (2013) added June 14, 2013.

On to the reviews…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Humor – What Happened to the Ads?

Perhaps you have noticed that the ads that appeared on the right and at the bottom of the posts have not been there in recent days, and now look different.  Perhaps you didn’t.  Perhaps you are saying “What ads?” 

Google Adsense notified me a few days ago that my account was suspended and that they were taking back the 66 dollars and some-odd cents that I had earned so far.  Why?  This is the best part: they won’t tell me.  They say that if they tell me why it was suspended that will reveal too much about their (and I am quoting) “proprietary detection techniques.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hike – Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain

Camden Harbor from Mt. Battie
Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain are located in Camden Hills State Park in Camden, Maine.  They represent the finest coastal mountain hiking outside of Acadia National Park.  There are many trails in the park.  This post covers a traverse of Mount Battie via the Mount Battie Trail and the Tablelands Trail; an ascent most of the way up Megunticook Mountain via the Tablelands Trail, a side trip on the Adam's Lookout Trail, an ascent to Ocean Lookout via the Megunticook Trail, a summit of Megunticook via the Ridge Trail, a bypass of Mount Battie via the Carriage Trail, and a walk back on roads to the start.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Movie and Book – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Author Stieg Larsson was the Editor-in-Chief of the Swedish magazine Expo.  He completed three novels, and had a fourth partially written, when he got a publisher to buy them.  Unfortunately, he died soon after this.  As a consequence he was never able to finish what he intended to be a six book series.

The three completed books were published and became very popular in Sweden.  They were later translated into other languages and became very popular around the world, especially in the U.S.

Movie and Book – The Girl Who Played with Fire

Author Stieg Larsson was the Editor-in-Chief of the Swedish magazine Expo.  He completed three novels, and had a fourth partially written, when he got a publisher to buy them.  Unfortunately, he died soon after this.  As a consequence he was never able to finish what he intended to be a six book series.

The three completed books were published and became very popular in Sweden.  They were later translated into other languages and became very popular around the world, especially in the U.S.

Movie and Book – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author Stieg Larsson was the Editor-in-Chief of the Swedish magazine Expo.  He completed three novels, and had a fourth partially written, when he got a publisher to buy them.  Unfortunately, he died soon after this.  As a consequence he was never able to finish what he intended to be a six book series.

The three completed books were published and became very popular in Sweden.  They were later translated into other languages and became very popular around the world, especially in the U.S.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Books and Movies (aka The Millennium Trilogy)

“Are you trying to tell me that Salander turned up at [the] cabin and all by herself beat the shit out of the top echelon of the Svavelsjo Motorcycle Club?” – Jan Bublanski, The Girl Who Played with Fire

The books of the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) have been very popular the last year or so.  There is going to be an American movie of the first book that is scheduled to come out at the end of 2011.  In the meantime, there have already been movies made of all three of the books in their home country of Sweden.

I have seen all three movies and read all three books.  I will be writing recommendations for them together, since they are tied so closely.

When it comes to movies made from books, the book is almost always better.  There is a chance to go into more depth on the characters in books, or to include events that need to be cut for a movie’s running time.  In the case of these three stories, I actually prefer the movie over the books for two of them.  I will explain in the posts.

You can find my posts for these movies and books here:
On to the reviews…

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Humor – Social Networking and Relationships

Because what better place is there to discuss your current, former, and future relationships than in front of the whole internet?

Click "Read more" for some examples.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video – Castle Cast at Comic Con 2010

What does the TV show Castle have to do with the biggest convention in the world for celebrating all things science fiction, fantasy, superhero, comic book, etc.?  Absolutely nothing.  The show is a mainstream detective drama/comedy with none of those elements. 

So why did they have the cast of the show at the latest convention?  Because Nathan Fillion has a huge fan following from a prior science fiction show he did called Firefly.  You may not have heard of it, but in the few short years since it went off the air it has probably amassed the third largest set of fans in the Comic Con community – behind only Star Trek and Star Wars.

Book – Naked Heat

Note – if you have not read the prior posts introducing Castle, discussing the TV show, and discussing the book Heat Wave, please do so.  You need to understand what they are about in order to “get” this book.

This is the second book written by “Richard Castle”, the fictional writer on the TV show Castle.  It is a little different from the first book, Heat Wave, in a couple of respects.

Book – Heat Wave

Note – if you have not read the prior posts introducing Castle and discussing the TV show, please do so.  You need to understand what the show is about in order to “get” this book.

It was the Fall of 2009.  Castle had just come back on the air for its second season.  On the show, the writer Richard Castle was preparing for the release of his first Nikki Heat novel – Heat Wave.  The physical book had been a prop on the show.

TV – Castle (2009 - present)

Castle debuted as a Spring replacement on ABC in March of 2009.  It only had time for a run of 10 episodes, but that was enough for ABC to see that it had something good.  They brought it back for a full 24 episode run the next Fall and that’s when the show really hit its stride.  It’s now in the midst of its third season.  It airs Mondays at 10:00 PM on ABC.

Castle TV Show and Books

"There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers.  I’m the kind that pays better." – Richard Castle, Castle

I’m going to do something a little different this week.  Instead of a set of movies that all have something in common, I am going to write about one of the most entertaining shows on TV today, along with the books that are an integral part of it.

The ideal way to experience both sets of media is to watch Castle Season 1, then read the book Heat Wave, then watch Castle Season 2, then read the book Naked Heat, then watch Castle Season 3 (the current season.)

Because of the intertwining of the TV show with the books, I will write up a post for the TV show and I will have links in it to the posts on the books, so that you can easily go to them, then come back to read about the next season of Castle.

I am also going to include some videos.  The first has the two stars of the show reading an excerpt from the book Heat Wave.  It does a great job of showing the chemistry the leads have with each other.  I will embed this video in the post for the book Heat Wave.

I will then have a separate video post with the complete set of footage of this panel that shows that the entire cast and creative team have great chemistry.  It’s a really entertaining 50 minutes.

You can find my posts for these here:

Heat Wave
Naked Heat
Castle at Comic-Con 2010

On to the reviews…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Video – Forget You

What do you get when you combine a black pop singer trying to out dress Elton John, an Academy Award winning actress, and a whole lot of puppets?  No, it’s not the latest sex tape scandal.  You get this:

Saturday, March 5, 2011


An example of one of the photos on the site
Dave and Anne (or Anne and Dave) originally started this blog in early 2010 to document Anne’s battle with esophageal cancer.  I am happy to say that the battle was won and in January of 2011 they started on a four month long camping trip that will take them around the eastern, southern, and western perimeter of the U.S.  They will finish by driving back across southern Canada.  They have posted many great photos and descriptions.  I am recommending this site for both the medical and travel reasons.

Humor (and a true story) – Indian Place Name

Sometimes the Indian names that were kept for places can be a little daunting.

True Story:

Book – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins.  She had previously published some other books, but this is the one that launched her onto the Best Seller lists.  The book falls into the “Young Adult” genre, but like the Harry Potter books it has ended up being enjoyed by many grownups, too.

I first heard about the book from an online post on IMDB.  (There is probably going to be a movie.)  One woman enjoyed it so much she said, “I want to make love to this book!”  That might have been the best recommendation I had ever read, so I picked it up.  While I also enjoyed the book, I did not have quite the same reaction she did.  I mean, we’re talking paper cuts in a pretty sensitive area.

Hike – Beech Mountain, Beech Cliffs, Canada Cliffs, Valley Trail

Long Pond from Beech Mountain Trail
Beech Mountain is located in Acadia National Park.  It is on the west side of Mount Desert Island, away from the more heavily populated trails.  The island is almost cut in half by Somes Sound – the only fjord on the Atlantic side of North America.  Since Bar Harbor, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, etc. are all on the east side, the west side of the island sometimes gets overlooked. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Movie – Forbidden Planet (1956)

This movie is both sci-fi and SF (see my explanation of those terms in the category introduction post.)  On the surface it can be enjoyed as a simple monster movie with some jokes from a comic relief character.  Dig a little deeper and you find a story that is based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, and that incorporates the concepts of the conscious and subconscious as major plot points.  It also throws in two different mysteries to solve.

Movie – The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

First things first – if you saw the recent remake with Keanu Reeves then please try to wipe that from your mind.  While I am not one of those people that hates remakes on principle, this particular remake was tough to watch.  They took an SF classic, threw in a bunch of special effects, and threw out everything that made the original such a great movie.

If you have not seen the remake then the original version is definitely the one to see.  If you have seen the remake, then watch this version so that you can overlay your memory with a much better movie.

Movie – Metropolis (1927)

This movie was the first big budget, feature length science fiction movie.  How big was the budget?  Factoring in inflation it was roughly the equivalent of $200 million.  What did that buy?  Massive sets right out of the German expressionistic art movement, special effects that were decades ahead of their time, 37,000 extras, and the vision of the most influential director of his time, Fritz Lang.

Movie – A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Question: What was the first special effects laden, science fiction blockbuster?

Answer:  The French film Le voyage dans la lune, or as it was known in the U.S., A Trip to the Moon.

When this came out people were amazed by what they saw.  Moving pictures had been available for a while, but they were basically short stage acts captured on film.  This movie used many new techniques including fades, superimposed images, many cuts/edits, and even some early animation to achieve the visual effects.  While the result is something anybody could put together on their computer nowadays, back then it was nothing short of a marvel. 

Movies Before Star Wars

"Michael Rennie was ill/ the day the Earth stood still/ but he told us/ where we stand./ And Flash Gordon was there/ in silver underwear./ Claude Rains was the invisible man./ Then something went wrong/ for Fay Wray and King Kong./ They got caught in a celluloid gem." – Lips, Rocky Horror Picture Show

A lot of people may think that Star Wars invented the big, sci-fi, special effects laden, event movie.  It made a huge impact when it came along because the science fiction films that had come before it for at least a decade were all ones that were kind of depressing.  There were movies about man having destroyed civilization (A Boy and his Dog), destroyed the environment (Silent Running), and a triple-play from Charlton Heston – Soylent Green about severe overcrowding and lack of food, The Omega Man about the end of the human race due to biological warfare, and The Planet of the Apes about man becoming a secondary species.  There were also four Apes sequels that eliminated what little hope was given at the end of the first one.  This doesn’t mean that all of these movies are bad; far from it.  It just means that moviegoers were ready for a big, fun, sci-fi movie at about the time Star Wars came along.

First, explanations on a couple of terms I am going to use.  There are two kinds of science fiction movies – “sci-fi” and “SF.”  “Sci-fi” movies are the somewhat dumbed down ones whose only ambition is to sell tickets – lots of them.  These make up most of the science fiction movies that get released, from all the superhero movies, to all the space battle movies, to all the creepy/cute alien movies.  These have the biggest “wow” factors.

“SF” movies, on the other hand, are actually about something.  The best science fiction books and movies make you look at things in ways that you never have before.  They stimulate thought and maybe even discussion after you are done with them.  A recent example is the movie The Man from Earth.  These kinds of movies do not get released as often because they usually do not sell as many tickets.  Also, let’s face it - a majority of moviegoers today don’t want to have to actually pay attention to a movie that makes them think.  They want one that they can still follow even though they are talking over it, texting, etc.  They just want to be entertained.

Both sci-fi and SF movies are entertaining to me.  Depending on what mood I am in, either one can provide a couple hours of enjoyment.  Are these two categories mutually exclusive?  Almost.  On very rare occasions a movie gets released that is both sci-fi and SF.  The Matrix is an example of this.

There are so many good science fiction movies that came out before Star Wars that I will probably revisit this category at a later date.  I am also going to have an After Star Wars category to recommend movies like the aforementioned The Man from Earth.

In this set I am going to cover A Trip to the Moon (1902) - sci-fi, Metropolis (1927) - SF, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - SF, and Forbidden Planet (1956) - SF and sci-fi.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

A Trip to the Moon
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Forbidden Planet

You can also see my After Star Wars category selections here.

On to the reviews…