July 22, 2009
July 04, 2009
June 23, 2009
(picture-heavy below the fold)
June 02, 2009
(Picture heavy below the fold)
May 28, 2009
May 26, 2009
May 24, 2009
May 23, 2009
However, when they saw the weather looking like this...
Ok, maybe it looked a bit more like this...
Suffice to say I quickly found myself on my own. So I decided to at least drive up and see how things looked (but I'm not dumb enough to do the full hike alone).
(It gets picture-heavy below the fold)
May 19, 2009
April 08, 2009
We like to point to Obama's various screwup on his first world tour as signs of a weak and unserious mind. But the more I look at his actions, the more I see a pattern that was noted before throughout the Rush kerfluffle in January and February.
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
That's Rule 13 (which, depending on your source, may or may not even exist). We know Obama was raised drinking deep from the far-left koolaid; where all the world's ills are attributed directly to western liberal democracy and the United States in particular. In order for leftist utopia to emerge, the United States must be brought to heal, or destroyed all together. That's his target.
-Present a weak and rudderless national defense posture. Don't respond to provocation; cut the defense budget.
-Propose massive spending increases with deficits that will bankrupt the country in short order. Create so many domestic problems to contend with, we can't effectively handle international ones.
-Lay the blame for the current recession and any other current bugbear at the feet of the United States. Give all the world's problems a uniquely American face. Domestically, it may be "the previous administration," but internationally it's all about "Americans" this and "America" that. Failures are "American," successes are "Multi-national."
-Be perfectly content with the eliminating the US Dollar as the standard world currency.
-Insult the leaders of our most steadfast allies through poor decorum and double-speak.
-Leave those nations most depending on our support (Israel, Japan, Iraq, Taiwan, South Korea) wondering if they can really depend on us at all.
All of these actions serve to isolate us from our allies and weaken us in the eyes our enemies. He's looking to turn us into an international pariah worthy only of ridicule, leaving the US no different effectively than North Korea.
March 26, 2009
I'm about three chapters in to book 7 of the Malazan series and Erikson has given up on playing it straight. He'd descended into full-on Canadian Twat Lefty Wet-Dream Political Allegory Theater. A group of Letherii calling themselves the "Patriotists" is running rough-shod over the local populous searching for political dissidents and torturing/disappearing academics and intellectuals.
This better improve quickly or I'll burn the fucking thing in effigy. Christ, how many people have I recommended this to by now? I'm going to have a lot of apologies to write.
March 03, 2009
Every once in a while you'll come across something that resembles a good 'ol fashion Fisking, but the ruthlessness and bile just isn't there like it used to be.
February 18, 2009
February 15, 2009
December 23, 2008
Sometimes we're graced to be in the right place at the right time, even if it's only obvious after the fact.
December 02, 2008
(Thank kami-sama they're not a litigious culture)
November 12, 2008
With lyrics. (such as they are)
November 05, 2008
September 26, 2008
Finished the third volume of Gurren Lagann, Just as good the 3rd, 4th, 5th time now? I've lost track. It really is good to see a character shed the emo-nebbish funk in such a fashion.
I guess I stopped putting up new content right around the time my A/C gave out. That tends to put a helluva damper on things. Given how much heat both my computers pump out, I shut them both off that week and read a book while they ordered the new compressor. Thank god for home warranties.
I've got plenty of thoughts on the bailout, but none of them are fit for a blog with anything less than an X-rating.
Got tripped into World of Warcraft by a friend. I find it fun, but I'm also glad to discover I don't carry the gene that causes people to ruin their lives over a damned video game.
Thinking about a mini-one-day road trip up to the cool pines for a classic car show this weekend. I haven't decided it it's going to be worth the gas. Then again it sure would be nice to get the hell out of Dodge for a bit.
August 08, 2008
Having dug into a few fantasy series at this point, it's become clear there are tiers involved in picking and/or recommending certain series to others.
Stuff like Harry Potter is ubiquitous because it's easily accessible to a wide range of people. The language used isn't particularly dense (when it does get weird, it's used for effect), and the tone starts out whimsical and only darkens with the need for greater perils to throw against the protagonists.
That's what I'd label elementary level material. That doesn't mean it's necessarily simple; just that there's always something shiny to catch your eye and at least spme themes easily grasped by an inexperienced audience. There can still be other concepts churning beneath the surface for the older, patient, and more experienced readers. Pacing tends to be brisk to maintain interest; or lots of uncanny/unique set-pieces keep you reading when nothing spectacularly important is going on. The main cast usually doesn't extend beyond a dozen or so people.
Next come the intermediate series like Jordan's Wheel of Time or Feist's Rift War material. Geeks in junior high and high school eat this stuff up. It may start out light. It may start out dark. There will be blood, guts, and a little sex. You can usually expect over a dozen characters to keep track of, often split into groups scattered hither-and-yon. Pacing may take a hit in favor of political machination or other drudgery necessary for later plot points. None of this means a younger audience won't enjoy them, just that a much smaller percentage of young kids will be able to stay interested or have parents who think it's age-appropriate.
Wheel of Time is great for trivia geeks who want to decrypt all the cultural/historical references and extrapolate how those references may play into the plot. The gee-wiz fun of learning about the world of "Rand-land" drops off in books 4-6 as the plot descends into politics. This is where a lot of people will give up on the series. Jordan isn't inclined to linger on the gruesome like some authors. Characters have a nasty habit of not being dead when you think they should be or staying dead when you know they were. The plot finally started moving again in book 11, just in time for Jordan to die of a rare blood disease in the middle of writing #12, the finale.
Rift War is basically a D&D campaign in novel form. You will be dealing with entire generations of characters scattered across two different worlds (Midkemia: elves and dwarves and medieval humans oh my - Kelewan: interesting mix of ancient Japan, Incas, and Aztecs with lots of hexapedal animals thrown in to the mix). That means there will be a lot of characters dying in battles or of old age. While the series does devolve into political drama from time to time, it rarely does for more than half a book before something somewhere goes to hell. Gets gruesome from time to time, generally for effect, not just for gore's sake.
Finally we get to advanced/college level fantasy. Series end up here either because they're just incredible dense and/or they have one or more aspects (flaws maybe?) that would eventually drive off your "average" junior high or high school kid. Chance of annoyingly detailed descriptions of blood and gore? Very High. Odds you'll run across the author trying his hand at prophetic-sounding prose, poetry, and/or songs? Also very high. Number of character you'll run into that speak in gibberish (often 3rd-person) that may actually be very damned important? 2+. These series may ask you to keep track of several groups numbering a dozen or more. Names will look like the author got a bulk bargain on vowels and apostrophes and is damned-sure intent on using them. A couple names like this can be great for helping you remember a few unique characters. The converse can also be true.
Lord of the Rings gets placed here for only a couple reasons, otherwise I think it's readily accessible to a younger audience.
1) Yes mister Tolkien, we know the whole cosmic mish-mash of the world you wrote is one massive song building to a climax, but you are not a song writer. Please stop.
2) Tom Bombadil. If there was one spot in all the books that tried even my patience, (and I have a strong tendency to wait things out to see how they end) it was dealing with this fruit.
It's been a long time since I read the series, but I do remember the pace being a little more sedate than most. The language used is more advanced, and I'm not sure if that says more about the target audience at the time, or the general aptitude of the target audience today.
Goodkind's Sword of Truth is here, not because it's particularly advanced, but because it's so full of "mature" material. Several rape scenes and a metric ton of gore (not to mention the protagonist's raging temper) left me wondering what's going on in Goodkind's head. It gets very dull reading him rant and rail through his characters at communism and religion over and over again. Yes, we get it. You're an angry libertarian atheist. Odd that you would build an after-life into your world, but we'll just chalk that up to a conceit of the genre.
All of that blather leads me up to the series I wanted to talk about in the first place. Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
This series is the definition of what I would call dense. There are a ton of important characters crossing paths constantly. We're constantly jumping from one group to another in a way that keeps the pace up. Sticking around long enough to advance that portion of the plot, but always moving on at just the right moment to leave you itching to get back. It's dark and gruesome when it's appropriate, but it doesn't lingers in a way that makes you wonder what's wrong with the author. Now, much of this "dense" perception may have a lot to do with the fact that I haven't had much chance to re-read any of the novels. It also doesn't help that there have been great lengths of time between when I read each new novel. Even with all that potential for confusion, it's clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the underlying cultures, systems, and history of these novels. (Erikson is an anthropologist, which helps)
There's an interesting mix of names used. Common foot soldiers in the Malazan army operate almost exclusively on given nicknames like Sorry, Fiddler, Smiles, Whiskeyjack, and Bottle. It's very different and makes it easy to keep track of the 50 or so of them I've run across at this point. Some of the other races allow Erikson to experiment with names like Anomander Rake, Mappo, Scabandari, Trull, and Icarium.
Deities can have a couple different names depending on who's talking: Fener, Boar of Summer, Shadowthrone, Ammanas. The magic system and the Pantheon are deeply intertwined because magic is drawn from holds/warrens, which are both a realm, and an elemental power. Each warren my have anywhere from 1 to a dozen deities running things. The Pantheon is constantly churning with gods killing one another off, mortals ascending to god-hood, and existing gods fading from memory. There are at least two tiers of gods, Elder and modern.
I've never felt like I was being preached at through the text*. You get the usual "war sucks" theme from the ground level, but you also get a god's-eye view on occasion that lets you realize that the fight really does mean something in the grand scheme.
There isn't a whole lot of black and white "the last battle is coming" prophetic nonsense going on. You can tell you're looking into a snapshot of an ongoing battle that may or may not come to an end some day. Nobody's even trying to guess how it will all end.
*Some of the content in the most recent paperback release compels me to amend this statement slightly. There's been quite a lot of railing against recent Christianity-like strawmen Erikson has built up. There's also been significantly more "War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" in this volume than the previous ones. Rather stupid considering how important the fight is he's been building up.
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