Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Hobbit

Second alphabetically in the big four films I saw over the holidays is Peter Jackson's sprawling rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's relatively small novel, The Hobbit.  As Jackson has publicly said, this first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is the beginning of a trilogy, each member of which will run nearly three hours.  To provide the material for so many hours of film, Jackson is weaving in bits from other Tolkien material. 

This first installment clocked in at 169 minutes, just 11 minutes short of three hours.  I can honestly say that I was never bored and always entertained.  At the same time, long scene after long scene after long scene felt too long, as if Jackson was so enthralled by his material that he lost sight of any notion of telling his story in the most compelling manner and instead just indulged himself.  By making a dozen or more two- to three-minute cuts all through the movie, he could have made a much more effective story--and none of us would have felt the lack of the cut bits. 

Such plot as Jackson gives us is more than a bit weak. After taking entirely too long to get our intrepid band on the road, they then follow a winding path that seems to exist entirely at Gandalf's whim.  By the end of the film, when giant birds literally fly in out of the blue and save our gang, it's hard not to feel that Gandalf could have just called in the birds at the beginning, put the team on them, and in a few hours had our boys right where they were when the movie ended. 

Having said all that, I have to also say that I enjoyed the movie, had a good time in the theater, will go see the next one, and recommend it to fantasy fans.  It was fun, though it never achieved the sense of soaring greatness that Jackson so clearly wanted. 

As a side note, I should address the much-discussed issue of the 48 frames-per-second technology Jackson used to make The Hobbit, but I can't. The only way to catch a 48-fps version in my area was to watch it in 3D, and none of us wanted to suffer through nearly three hours of wearing 3D glasses. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Want to see No Going Back win a Hugo?
You can make that happen.

Yes, it's that time of year again, the week in which many SF writers, including yours truly, take to the InterWebs to push their works as award contenders.  I've joined the crowd for the last few years for a lot of reasons, chief among them the grief I took from friends when I didn't do this embarrassing bit of self-promotion.

Nominating a book (or any other work) for a Hugo is easy:  go to the WorldCon's Hugo nomination page, read the instructions there, and fill in either the paper or the online ballot.

Well, it's not that simple:  to do those things, you have to be at least a supporting member either of the current WorldCon, LoneStarCon 3, last year's WorldCon, or next year's WorldCon.  These memberships aren't cheap; a supporting one is sixty bucks, and an active membership, which you need to attend the con, will now set you back two hundred smackers.

For that sixty bucks, though, you get the progress reports and the right to nominate works for a Hugo for two years.

My only eligible work this year is my novel, No Going Back.  I think it's my best book yet, and I'd love to see it win, but I think it has far less chance of even being nominated than Billy Mack's "Christmas Is All Around Us" crass song did of being the bestseller of the Christmas season in the movie Love Actually.  The difference is that the song won in the movie, while I've never had a work on the Hugo ballot.

To place a book on the Hugo ballot requires a surprisingly small number of nominations:  most years, sixty or so will do the trick, and I believe a hundred would do it in any year. 

So, if a hundred or so of you would like to see No Going Back gracing this year's Hugo ballot, please get busy and nominate it.  I'd certainly be grateful. 

Tomorrow, I'll return to my regularly scheduled programming--at which I'll be less embarrassed than I am now. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sometimes a book's title is all you need

to convince you that you absolutely have to check out that book.  This is one of those titles:

How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?

Yes, with those 15 words author Hiroyuki Nishigaki has my attention and my interest. 

The best part is that I don't care if it's serious (and thus unintentionally funny) or intentionally funny; I'll be happy either way. 

Did I order it?

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Django Unchained

Over the past few weeks, I caught several of the hot movies of the season but didn't get around to reviewing them.  In the course of the next week or so, I aim to catch up.

Simply because it is alphabetically first, I'm starting with Quentin Tarantino's slavery-focused western, Django Unchained.

The first roughly sixty percent of this 165-minute-long film is an odd sort of buddy tale, the story of dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz and former-slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django Freeman.  Though plenty violent, this story adds to Tarantino's usual staples of snappy dialog and strong hits of violence a touching human story that made me think Tarantino had developed new depth.  Jamie Foxx turns in an excellent performance, but the real star of this part of the movie is Christoph Waltz, who is completely engrossing and who owns the screen whenever he's on it.

Once the duo set out to rescue Django's slave wife, Broomhilda, from the evil plantation and slave owner Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio in a full-on scenery chewing mode, the movie changes to a much slower pace and a much darker tone.  It confronts the horror of slavery more directly, which is a good thing, but it also ultimately surrenders much of its seriousness to Tarantino's obsession with bloody violence.  Now, I'm all for a good bloody violent movie, but here the violence often feels over the top for no good reason and to no real effect.  Tarantino's own death in the film--he plays a mining company employee taking several slaves to work in a mine where they will most certainly die--is a perfect example of his inability to resist piling on silly violence: he dies in a spectacular explosion from being shot in a saddlebag of dynamite he was holding. 

That said, I ultimately enjoyed the movie, and I believe it's worth paying to see in a theater. I just wish the second chunk could have been as good as the first. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello, 2013

I started you by sleeping very late on a cold, gray, rainy day that made sleeping late the very best choice.  I hope to be more energetic, though, in (most of) your remaining days. 

A lot of folks have asked about my resolutions for you.  I almost never talk about that subject, partly because I rarely make new year resolutions and partly because talking about such goals feels like it weakens them.

This year, though, I do have one overarching goal that I hope to achieve:  I want to learn how to be the person I want to be without paying such a high price in health.

That will be a big challenge indeed, one that seems large enough to fill you, my brand new year.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye, 2012

To say this past year has been mixed is to commit grievous understatement.  Towering over it all is the death of my mother on February 11.  Tonight is the last of the big holidays for me to celebrate without her, without our annual call and chitchat about nothing whatsoever.

Many grand things happened, of course, including the publication of my fifth--and best, so far--novel, No Going Back.  As if to keep my ego in check, the world largely ignored the book, though I shouldn't complain in that it sold enough to keep me a hardback author (I think and hope). 

I could go on and on with the year's ups and downs, but I haven't the heart right now.  Instead, I'll go spend time with family and a few friends, think of Mom often, and resolve at midnight to do better next year on so many fronts. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Support Jain's art!

Long-time readers may recall that I am a huge fan of the work of local artist (and friend) Jain Faries. Jain is best known and makes her living from her work in fabric, which you can see here and which though I appreciate it is not the sort of thing I seek. The art she creates that I love is her weirder stuff, some of which you can see on her personal site and at the occasional convention.   She gave me one of her "balls onna stick," and I adore it; for more on them, read this earlier post

Lately, though, Jain has expanded into small, hand-built libraries, one of which she made for me and gave me as a Christmas gift.  Here it is standing up; sorry for the crappy photography and the glare off the protective plastic sheet, which I left in it.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

For a sense of the size of this wonderful creation, here's a (less glare-covered) picture next to a Mac Magic Mouse.

Every compartment in the library is a little box that you can remove.  On the back of each box is a burlesque image.  Jain made every single wee volume, each of which features different texts or images and a variety of binding styles.  Yes, that's a skull in the lower center, and an acorn above it. 


What does it all mean? 

What I love about this piece of art is that I suspect no one, including Jain, can definitively answer those questions.  Each viewer mixes her or his perceptions with what Jain builds to create her or his own meanings. 

Jain's weirder art generally does not sell as well as her more conventional stuff.  That's a damn shame.  I think this little library and others like it should be going for many hundreds of dollars in galleries and at conventions. 

If you like what you see, contact Jain, bring real money, at least a couple hundred bucks, and commission her to build something for you--but leave the commission just that vague.  You'll be glad you did.

This is not, by the way, a paid advertisement.  I even violated my own rules for the blog and wrote this without first consulting Jain.  Jain's first knowledge of this blog entry will come when she stumbles upon it.  I simply feel strongly enough about the quality of her work that I wanted to pimp it.  If she's a bit embarrassed by this post, she'll just have to get over it. 

Imagine the hours of enjoyment you could have exploring your own little library. 

Now, make that dream a reality. 


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