The Jinx

August 25th, 2010

Well, it looks like is finally back on the 'net. We were living in a corporate apartment for the month of July, and then although the FiOS got turned on promptly at our house in the beginning of August, it took a few weeks and a fair amount of trial-and-error to figure out how to configure the FiOS router to properly handle my static IP address(es).

And once the networking was resolved, of course, itself freaked out, necessitating the painful spinning back up of my Linux-fu. She'd come up, appear to be working, and then a few hours later the machine would simply hang. The log files revealed nothing, but when I'd reboot the machine would not recognize /dev/eth0, the onboard ethernet port. Try again the following day, the whole saga would repeat.

At the moment it appears that the problem was... the ethernet cable. Yes, I switched the little piece of Cat-5 between the router and the server (which tells you how far down the troubleshooting list of possibilities I had gone) and has been up without problems for several days now. WTF? I don't know. But here's hoping.

Toy Story 3

June 29th, 2010

Short version: Meh.

Long version: $50 for four tickets, for 3-bloody-D, which for me means muted colors, motion blur, and annoying background blurriness in most scenes. Maybe I'm just being cranky, but 3D just doesn't add all that much: It's kinda nifty, but the cons outweigh the pros by a fair margin.

The movie itself was too long, and the story just wasn't very compelling. It was much, much too slow for the first hour, then went into Action Movie Mode (with More! Louder! Action! Scenes!), then collapsed into soppy mush. So...the beginning was slow, the end was dull, but the middle part was decent. But not as good as the first two movies.

So not terrible, just disappointing. The kids (mostly) liked it, though. But I think that the 3D stuff was more interesting for them (and didn't give them a headache).

It also started badly, with a dull yet preachy opening cartoon. Save your $50 and rent the movie (FIFTY DOLLARS!).

Reviews: Prince of Persia, The A-Team, The Losers, Iron Man 2, How to Train Your Dragon

June 27th, 2010

Prince of Persia - 7/10

Pretty but silly. Unsurprisingly, they dropped historical elements into a multi-millenium blender, but as escapist fluff it was a fun movie to watch.

The A-Team - 7/10

A fun movie if dumb as a bag of hammers; the actors all fit nicely into their respective characters, including to my surprise Face, the bad guys were quite bad, the explosions were copious.

The Losers - 6/10

Although the characters were quite good, the movie never quite escaped from its own stupidity. And when I say the characters were good, I mean the protagonists - the bad guys were so unbelievable as to be moronic. Not even rising to the level of paper cut-outs. Every time any of them were on screen one could only ask "WTF?"

Iron Man 2 - 8/10

Gorgeous to look at, silly but well held together, and chock full of action. I'm a little worn by Tony Stark's self-pity - but then, I always was in the comic book as well, so at least it's accurate to the source material. They brought in the second Iron Man (James Rhodes) with too little introduction, but all of the actors did a bang-up job. Scarlett Johansson, although hot enough to create plasma, is quite simply not well-suited to be Black Widow. But that's just quibbling.

How to Train Your Dragon - 9/10

An excellent film. Simply excellent. It's so compelling to watch, and so inherently grounded in fantasy, that niggling questions never arise, and you can take things at face value and simply enjoy them. Also, the protagonist reminded me strongly of Ian Fagan.

Reviews: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Furies of Calderon, Academ's Fury, The Age of Napoleon, Changes, Empire of Liberty

June 27th, 2010

Well, we're moving back to Washington D.C. (actually, Virginia) this week, so if I want to not lose track of what I've read I better get it down!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson - 9/10

A superlative finale to the "Girl Who" series by Larsson. It's a damn shame he died, I have to say; although it's kind of obvious that he wrote these books at least partially as wish-fulfillment fantasy, they are nonetheless compelling reading, with intriguing characters and well-paced action. I'm sorry to have reached the conclusion, but I am eminently satisfied with that conclusion.

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher - 6/10

I wanted some light fantasy reading for an airplane trip, and this was it. Somehow it never grabbed me - the characters were not very interesting, nor was the fantasy world they were set in. I enjoy Butcher's other work but this series wasn't intriguing.

Academ's Fury by Jim Butcher - 6.5/10

Of course, it was a five-hour flight so I'd bought the first two. This one was somewhat better, introducing more complex characters and a more intriguing world, but the way he shuttled back and forth between ongoing battles at the end was annoying rather than gripping, and ultimately I doubt I will continue the series.

The Age of Napoleon by J. Christopher Herold - 7.5/10

I've been looking for a good book on the Napoleonic period, and Napoleon himself, so I picked this up. It's a bit dated at this point (containing asides to cold war and decolonization themes, the book was published in 1963) but offered quite good baseline coverage of the period and of Napoleon himself. I'm still seeking an excellent book on the subject, but Herold's entry did good work, was enjoyable to read, and particularly succeeded at stitching all of the disparate elements of Napoleon's arc through history together into a single coherent story.

Changes by Jim Butcher - 7/10

The latest in the Dresden Files novels, it was a good read but grimmer than earlier novels in the series, and that doesn't make it more compelling. Despite the fact that "important things happen", this one felt like filler.

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood - 8/10

Another excellent entry in the Oxford History of the United States series. What happened after the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution? A surprisingly forgotten period of turbulence, uncertainty, and long-reaching precedents. Wood approaches the period more from a societal than a chronological or event-based narrative, and it serves him well; knitting together dates and events with societal change is a difficult art and Wood succeeds well if not flawlessly. My personal predilection is for a more event-driven narrative, but nonetheless an excellent and worthy book.

Scott Pilgrim

June 6th, 2010

Despite my distrust of anything popular, news of the upcoming movie included lavish amounts of praise heaped on the source comic. And the descriptions of the same piqued my interest enough to get me to buy the comic from my trusty comic book store.

Er...this was actually a few months back, not just last week or anything. I make that clear to preserve at least some amount of my trend-hostility.

And, yes, the comic is as good as they said. It's gloriously, unrepentently geeky; a manga/video game/hipster slacker mashup that pushes my...well, my manga-loving, video game geek hipster slacker buttons.

The second trailer was released recently, and damned if it doesn't look good. And, hark! Right there, in the middle of the damn thing, I hear a very familiar guitar riff. Which rattles around my brain for a few seconds, and then it hits me: "It's getting boring by the sea," by Blood Red Shoes.

Oh, those bastards. That's just cruel. You already hooked me, but you had to make sure that hook really stuck, didn't you?

It's like chocolate and peanut butter, except it's comics and indie rock, which is a much more potent combination.

Please don't suck. Don't be like Spider-Man 3, which used a snippet of a Curve song in the trailer ("Hell above water"), but not in the actual movie. Which, obviously, cursed the whole thing. (Instead of Spidey kicking ass to Curve, we got a weepy melodramatic crapfest).