December Medialogging
By Dwip December 31, 2014, 12:22 am Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

We are now closing out year two of this little experiment, which I suppose moves it from the realm of experiment into something I’m actually doing for like, real now, especially considering I wrote a whole subset of Highlander posts and wrote real, actual software for it that is now in its second major version.

I’m a little surprised by that, and a little surprised at the continued evolution of this blog over the almost twelve years of its existence. But the day has been fun thus far, so I think I shall continue.

YTD stats:

January:
February:
March: : 4 books; 4 fiction (1,450 p.) / 3 videos; 1 movies (2.6 h.); 2 TV seasons (15.2 h.)
April: : 5 books; 1 graphic (136 p.); 4 fiction (1,269 p.) / 1 videos; 1 TV seasons (6 h.)
May: : 8 books; 5 graphic (1,352 p.); 1 fiction (465 p.); 2 non-fiction (829 p.) / 2 videos; 2 TV seasons (11 h.)
June: : 17 books; 5 graphic (1,584 p.); 12 fiction (4,483 p.) / 1 videos; 1 TV seasons (4.8 h.)
July: : 7 books; 6 fiction (3,221 p.); 1 non-fiction (576 p.) / 7 videos; 1 anime series (10.6 h.); 4 movies (7.7 h.); 2 TV seasons (10.5 h.)
August: : 2 books; 2 non-fiction (894 p.) / 3 videos; 1 anime series (10.8 h.); 2 TV seasons (20.5 h.)
September: : 8 videos; 3 movies (6.3 h.); 5 TV seasons (48.1 h.)
October: : 4 videos; 1 movies (1.7 h.); 3 TV seasons (41.6 h.)
November: : 3 books; 3 fiction (1,702 p.) / 2 videos; 2 TV seasons (24.7 h.)
December: : 3 books; 2 fiction (980 p.); 1 non-fiction (486 p.) / 2 videos; 1 movies (2.0 h.); 1 TV seasons (6.5 h.)

Year to Date: 49 books; 11 graphic (3,072 p.); 32 fiction (13,570 p.); 6 non-fiction (2,785 p.) / 33 videos; 2 anime series (21.5 h.); 10 movies (20.3 h.); 21 TV seasons (188.8 h.)

Details for December after the jump.

12/01/2014 Vince Gilligan, et al., Breaking Bad: The Final Season (2013 Sony Pictures DVD, 391 minutes, 8 episodes – Corvallis Public Library)

In which Breaking Bad comes to its final and inevitable conclusion.

I say inevitable because it was pretty obvious what was going to happen last season when Walt showed up with an M60 in his trunk, it just needed a few little details to fall into place, which were fairly easily guessed. Lest that sound like criticism, it is not – I sat down to “watch the first episode over dinner” and we’re now sitting at 4am after I finished the last episode straight through. Breaking Bad has always had more than its share of powerful acting and “Oh shit!” moments, and this final season brings all of it in spades along with some very, very dark places. I don’t know that I want to watch it all again, but it was a hell of a ride while it lasted.

All of that said, I struggle slightly with what I’m supposed to take away from this show. Perhaps that will crystalize in the days following this writing, I don’t know. Perhaps the lesson here is that drugs corrupt everyone – Walt obviously, Skyler, the DEA agents like Hank and Steve, street kids like Jesse, even relative innocents like Andrea and Brock. We knew that, of course, though rarely is the illustration of it so stark. Or maybe there’s more to it than that. I dunno. I do know at the end of the day it’s a powerful, powerful show about some very dark and human things.

12/03/2014 S.M. Stirling, Dies the Fire (2004 Roc hardcover, 483 pages – Personal collection, 2004)

In 1998, a strange event happens over Nantucket. When the world comes through the Change, everything is different.

If that sounds oddly familiar, perhaps precisely like Island in the Sea of Time, well, that’s because this series is the mirror image of that one, only instead of Bronze Age industrialization, we’re suddenly a post-apocalyptic modern world, complete with cannibalism and crossbows. After three excellent and generally grounded in reality alternate history novels, Stirling apparently decided that what he actually wanted to do was write post-apocalyptic fantasy novels. Thus, we are suddenly in a world where exothermic reactions over a certain threshold fail – gunpowder fails, internal combustion engines don’t work, high pressure steam isn’t a thing, and various other carefully manipulated limitations suddenly come into being, as our heroes discover.

And if that last bit sounded kinda messed up, well, this is one of those premises where you can either accept that the author handwaved some stuff in order to write a novel and we’re probably never going to get it explained, or you can’t. If you can’t, go home – there is nothing for you here or in the next zillion books.

If you can, the next bit you need to make it past is that about 15 minutes after the Change, everyone involved realizes they’re living in a fantasy novel and goes crazy. Thus our main factions include a bunch of medieval combat enthusiasts united under the Eye of Sauron, a bunch of faux-Celtic Wiccans constantly on the verge of throwing a claymore and shouting “FREEEEEEEDOM!” and the most believable of the lot, a bunch who call themselves the Bearkillers because the main character killed a bear. Fair enough.

On the one hand, this sounds completely insane, and despite Stirling’s heroic efforts to make it otherwise, it never does quite seem legit, though the explanations given as to why Norman Arminger of all people came to run Portland are pretty reasonable at the end of the day.

That said, provided you can suspend some disbelief, the world Stirling sets up in these books is fantastic and thought-provoking, mixing all the interesting world building bits from ISOT with a dash of The Lord of the Rings meets Braveheart. It helps a great deal that the entire series is set in Oregon, and while Stirling’s Corvallis geography is sometimes a bit spotty, there is nonetheless a certain visceral thrill in having a fantasy novel taking place quite literally in your backyard. More to say on that later.

Lest I sound overly negative here, it’s because I’m getting some things out of the way – this book and its sequels are many, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them, and I need to frame my discussion a bit. I really dig these books.

12/10/2014 S.M. Stirling, The Protector’s War (2005 Roc hardcover, 486 pages – Personal collection, 2005)

Eight years after the Change, we rejoin our heroes in Oregon, just in time for some serious warfare to break out, which will decide the fate of the entire region for a generation.

Yeah, just kidding, that’s next book. If you were hoping for the war promised in the title, yeah, give it 500 pages or so – the next book takes a bit to ramp up.

This is definitely the middle book of a trilogy, stuck between the exciting setup of the first book and the exciting climax of the third book, wherein we’re mostly just setting up the post-Change world now that we’ve had the chance for some time to pass. A little less Mad Max, a little more Braveheart now. Lots of important characters are introduced here, most of whom won’t make a great deal of sense until the next book and the next series. Why is Rudi given so much screen time? Well, we’ll find that out. Later.

For now, this is mostly just 486 pages of stuff we need to get through to describe what’s up in Change Year 8. More Lord of the Rings inspire wonkiness, some raids, and a very extended sequence where a bunch of Englishmen make their way in a very coincidental fashion to Oregon. That bit was cool the first time – I liked seeing what was going on in the rest of the world – but on repeat it does take a great deal of time getting to the point, time that might have been better spent getting to the actual war we were promised.

I mean, it was in the title. I have expectations. But there’s always the next book I guess.

12/21/2014 S.M. Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (2006 Roc hardcover, 497 pages – Personal collection, 2006)

Well, there’s a meeting that happens in Corvallis, I guess, but mostly this thing is about the war we were promised in the last book, with a side order of child hostages and epic duels. As climaxes go it’s pretty great, though I don’t think Stirling has quite hit his stride on the mass battle scenes just yet, and maybe never will. Or maybe they’re just not my thing.

Anyway. This is probably a good time to talk about a couple things somewhat tangentially related to the book itself.

First, as I said in my review of Dies the Fire, I noted that there was a visceral thrill to a series taking place in one’s home. As an OSU graduate, I still think it’s pretty funny that the various characters find the whole school spirit angle amusing and odd, because I started there a year after Dies the Fire is set, and yeah it’s pretty amusing. We’re the Beavers, for chrissakes.

Too, I kind of hate Eugene, so there’s a certain level of glee inherent in the idea that Eugene snuffed it and Corvallis is the center of the new world order. Go Benton County, go!

Somewhat back to the main thrust of this book, it wasn’t really clear to me until the series after this one that Rudi Mackenzie is actually the main character, Mike Havel getting a great sendoff here but being kind of an also ran in the character sweepstakes. Dies the Fire is kind of strange like that, in that a lot of characters that were important there suddenly get demoted to sidekick status in later books. One kind of wonders what the thinking was there. Island in the Sea of Time and successors kind of did the same thing to a lesser degree, so it’s definitely something of a Stirling trope.

In the event, we’ll be returning to the world of the Change next month.

12/25/2014 Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes, Dead Presidents (1998 Hollywood Pictures DVD, 119 minutes – Personal collection, 2014)

I first ran across this movie in previews some time in let’s say 1995. Sounded like a pretty cool heist movie, in the vein of other 1990s action movies I enjoyed because the 1990s were a great time to a boy who liked action movies.

So, you know, 20 years later is a good time to get back to stuff you meant to see, right?

As it turns out, the heist portion of this movie is almost like another movie aside from the main movie, shoehorned into the last 40 minutes of a totally different movie. It’s like somebody flipped a switch. It’s strange.

The movie this turned out to be is actually mostly about Vietnam. Our Heroes, such as they turn out to be, come of age in New York, get sent off one way or the other to the war, and there become changed, then return to a totally alien society before turning to crime for various reasons.

This is somewhat standard Vietnam movie fare, and I’m somewhat surprised that the Hughes brothers accomplished a fairly credible look at the whole thing considering they weren’t all that old when this movie was made. What’s more, they manage to pull off a pretty credible and even resonating look at the characters who live in this world – a kid who comes back from a war with a lot of problems and some anger issues, a single mom trying to make ends meet, a young revolutionary, a preacher’s son who turns out to be a hypocrite of sorts, and more.

Put shortly, this is a much deeper movie than I expected it to be. I dig it. I like the movie I got more than the movie I thought I was going to get.


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