Saturday, July 5, 2014

Beach, I am at you

I entered this year's beach vacation more burned out than I have been in years.  I am so very glad to be here.  I hope to relax and sleep and relax some more this trip.

I find this place so lovely and so peaceful.

Click the image to see a larger version.

It is indeed a hike to the ocean, but I'm okay with that. 

Listening to the waves from the house is also a treat on its own. 

I love this place.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

For the first time in many, many years, we did not hold our annual fireworks show.  I hope we can resume it soon, but this year it just wasn't workable. 

Instead, a few folks ate burgers and dogs over here, and we kept it low-key.

I try always on this day to think about what it meant to those who wrote the Declaration of Independence.  I often come down to this line and all that they truly were putting on the line:

...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

How rarely these days do I hear anyone talk about honor, sacred or otherwise.  I find that sad.

My mom taught me to believe in it, to believe in the power of a handshake, to believe that pledges mean something.  So I also always think of her on this day, and I miss her, and I silently thank her yet again for all that she did for me.

I hope your Fourth has been great.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blade Runner: Final Cut

A group of us gathered the other night to watch this version of the classic SF film.  I'd never seen this 2007 re-cut before, though I knew it was the only one over which Ridley Scott had full artistic control.

I highly recommend it.

Gone is the annoying voiceover.  Present are the cuts and violent scenes from the international release, the original ending, and even the full unicorn dream.

The print, which we watched on a Blu-Ray disc playing on a large 4K TV, was stunning, every image crisp and clean.  The future still appeared as grim and gritty as I remembered it being, but the print's quality let us see all the details like never before.

The movie has always been troubling on several levels, and on this re-watching I was particularly bothered by the near-rape tone of Deckard's "love scene" with Rachael.  Though that scene didn't strike me as different from its version in the original theatrical release, it bothered me more now than it did then, probably because of changes in me.  One could argue that it helps make the case for Deckard being a replicant, but whatever the reason, the scene is disturbing.

I'm not the kind of Blade Runner fan who has seen every cut of the film; until now, I'd watched only the U.S. theatrical version.  Even so, I found this Final Cut edition to be quite compelling.  Check it out if you get the chance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

And now a few words from Holden

The world's cutest dog would like your attention.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Seriously, click on it.  He wants you to.

Now, he would like you to stare into his soulful eyes and ask yourself this important question:  Is there any reason, any real justification, for not giving him just one more treat before bed?

He thought not.  Fetch that treat.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ed Mitchell's Que falls short

The other night, a group of us visited this new barbecue joint from local barbecue legend, Ed Mitchell, the founder of The Pit.  As anyone who knows me will tell you, I loves me some barbecue, and I liked what he had done at The Pit, so I was quite looking forward to this meal.

I left rather disappointed.

Let's start at the top and work our way down. 

The highlight of the dinner was the basket of hush puppies.  This place makes hands-down the best pups in the area.  I'm glad they didn't bring many, because I might of eaten them.   

The sides were pretty decent.  I opted for mac-and-cheese and baked beans, and both were tasty, though not in any way exceptional.

Where the meal fell down was at what should have been its heart:  the meat.  The pork ribs were decent but no more.  The brisket was sliced too thick and cooked to dryness.  The pulled pork, the core of Mitchell's past work, was at best okay, under-sauced and overcooked.  I didn't hate the meat, but it was not up to even local averages.

Sadly, his old place remains a far better option for barbecue.  In fact, I can't think of a worse all-barbecue joint in the area.

Until someone I trust tells me they had a good meal at Ed Mitchell's, I won't be going back.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ConTemporal 2014 quick recap

ConTemporal is a local steampunk convention.  The nice folks who run it were kind enough to invite me as a guest, so I did one panel Friday early evening and two more appearances on Saturday. 

Steampunk cons provide some of the best people-watching of any cons.  The costumes are wonderful and plentiful; though I didn't do a serious census, at a glance it felt as if as many people were wearing costumes as were not.  I enjoyed roaming the halls and checking out the dealers' room.

My first panel was at 5:00 p.m. Friday and was on what professional writers' organizations can do for you.  The con had been open for only a couple of hours when we started, so the audience was predictably miniscule, but the other two panelists and I chatted amiably with those few who came to see us. 

I sat Saturday for an hour at a table in the dealers' room, but as a writer who does not sell his own books, I had nothing on offer.  I did chat with a few friends who were wandering the room, so that was nice.

My final event was a panel on world-building, which drew a decent audience for a con of this size.  We talked about many aspects of this part of writing, and the audience seemed interested the entire time.

If you're really into steampunk and live in this area, check out ConTemporal next year.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

is by far the front-runner in the battle to be the dumbest action movie of this summer.  It is also the longest so far, and the two statuses are definitely related. 

As usual, I suspended my disbelief as much as I could manage and so had a reasonably good time watching this flick, but enjoying it took work.  Others in our group were not as charitably inclined toward it, and Scott was downright pissed at it. 

Let's start with its most egregious sins:  length and product placements. 

Two hours and forty-five minutes is just too damn long for a movie this silly.  You could cut a half an hour from it with no effort and no loss in comprehensibility, and I expect you could lop off another fifteen to thirty minutes without trying too hard.  By the time the movie ended, I heard multiple people around the theater say, "Finally."

The product placements were the most obvious and annoying I have yet seen in a movie.  I understand that Michael Bay seems to feel he has to spend the GDP of Montana to make a movie, but is this level of product placement really necessary?  We actually had Marky Mark stop the action to open a can of Bud Lite and drink a little. 

The political considerations Bay apparently had to give to shoot in China were also amazing.  There is no other reasonable way to explain his insertion of completely unnecessary bits in which civilians said they should contact the central government, and then a very strong-looking central government minister strode out of a building and declared that the central government would protect Hong Kong at all costs.  Wow.

The bulk of the movie, of course, was Marky Mark, his daughter, and her once-secret boyfriend running around and somehow helping the gigantic and incredibly powerful Transformers.  I was happy to note that Bay had transferred to lips-and-eyes actress Nicola Peltz the full measure of Megan Fox's acting talent--and all of her dust-resistant lip gloss.

As of this writing, the film is 17% from the critics and 64% from audiences on RottenTomatoes.  I wonder what the people in that 17% of the critics were thinking.

I could go on and on about the movie's flaws, but at the same time, I managed, as I noted, to have a decent time watching it.  I can recommend it, however, only if you feel a powerful need for a Transformers fix.  Otherwise, give this one a pass.


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