Tuesday, December 31, 2013

You Can't Pick Your Cereal Based on Prize Any More

So this one is going to start with 'In my day' and make me feel like an old man, just talking even if no one is listening.

Here we go...

In my day they had prizes in every kid cereal.  Most everyone I knew picked their cereal based on the prizes. I know I did. Prizes were the number one aspect in the choice, then you worried about if you actually liked the cereal or not.

I still have all manner of cereal prizes from when I was kid. Yes, I am horrible when it comes to getting rid of things. Of course that means I have a really cool collection of such prizes covering all level of toys.

Over the last few decades the idea of prizes in cereal boxes have faded to the occasional promotion for some reason. It makes picking your cereal far less exciting.

So when they do a prize promotion, it is noticeable.

Movie promotions and such are the common way to go and can have a better level of prize than there used to be. A recent one they just did was for Star Wars Character pens. They had done a very similar one a few years back to promote the release of the movies on Blu-Ray. This time there was nothing to promote, which I felt was a little odd. And General Mills (The company whose cereals had the prizes) seemed to have done nothing to advertise this promotion. The promotion went so quick that you really might have missed it even happening. However it must have been popular, as in the short time they were available they sold through fairly well. I've seen some promotions that have lingered on the selves for months, yet here is one I was interested in and it runs out in no time at all.

I guess that shows that Star Wars is still huge.

Wish they would do more of this kind of thing.  Without the prizes, it just doesn't feel worth it to pick up the name brands. At that point there is little difference between the name brands and generics.

Okay, I think I have ranted on this subject long enough.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Hobbit:The Inflation of Peter Jackson's Ego

We let our boys choose the movie today.  It was between Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It was a hard choice, but the boys picked The Hobbit.

The movie itself was enjoyable, although the forced love story slowed things down and got really boring, feeling 100% out of place. It doesn't help that it was one of the many added scenes/stroylines that are not in the book.

One of the most obvious isseus with the Hobbit movies is this is Peter Jackson's ego gone wild. With the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seems like Jackson really believes himself to be above it all.  We are getting a trilogy from him that should never have been a trilogy.

I understood going for two films, and that might have worked just fine. The story from the book could have been told in one film and expanded nicely for two. But here we are getting three.  With the end of the second, we are close to the end of the book.  So what are they going to do to flush out another three hour long film?

While the movies are enjoyable, the fight scenes are getting more and more silly.  Now that is saying something with how ridiculous the fight scenes got by the end of Lord of the Rings. It is a weakness that Jackson does not seem to see.  One can make such scenes exciting without over doing them to the point that they are cross that line and end up being just silly.

And there is no point at all in having Legolas in it.  That was as forced and pointless as it gets.

So the main issues with the movie as the aspects that were not in the book that felt forced on us.  I didn't mind the orcs being in a little more or that the dwarves actually go up against Smaug, although there are many parts of the battle that fit with my issue about how silly the battle scenes are getting. I understand the idea of adding some filler to make things a little more exciting and fill out the movie. Just too much of the filler here feels forced and unneeded. I am scared that the third fill will be nothing but pure needless filler, as there is less than an hours worth of story left if one is following the book.

If you know the story of Jackson having to push the studio to let him expanded the whole saga to three films, then you should be able to see where the problem started. Jackson's ego is getting too big and it may hurt the saga in the end. I really do have a bad feeling about the third movie. I predict some serious story issues to come before the saga is done.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Awkwardness That Was The Time of The Doctor

Warning, I am not going to try to be spoiler free in this post.  So if you have not seen The Time of The Doctor and are worried about spoilers, stop reading now.

Not sure where to start with this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, The Time of The Doctor.  For eight years now we have had a Doctor Who Christmas special, and now that we here in America get to see them on Christmas, it makes for an enjoyable end to the holiday.

The Time of The Doctor was Matt Smith's final as the active Doctor.  Yet for some reason it lacked the emotional impact of the last two departures, which includes Christopher Eccleston, who we only got one season to get to know. We have had so many emotional moments of actors leaving the series, so we know what it should be like.  There is something missing from The Time of The Doctor denying us the full emotional ride that should have been there.

We had a lot of throw away scenes that did nothing for the story, such as the Doctor needing to be naked to go to the Church. The focus was just not on the story. While we are used to Matt Smith's Doctor being silly and odd, this time it really felt more out of place than ever, wasting time that would have been better used for story. Even the Weeping Angles and the wooden Cyberman were not needed, adding nothing to the story.

The Doctor spends centuries helping to defend the town of Christmas and yet there is nothing given to make us really care about the town itself or the people.  All of the information we have been given suggest that millions will die in the battles during this time and it actually seems like the Doctor is making matter worse, possibly upping the lives lost by his involvement.  No reason is ever given as to why the people had to stay there. They were innocents getting caught up in a battle of gods and at no point did the Doctor seem to think it might be best to smuggle them out little by little over the long centuries.

We did get a few of the answers we had been promised, but they were mostly just throw away lines that held no real impact. So many mysteries that gave us nothing significant in the end. As with many of Moffat's drawn out storylines, it ended up lacking.

We also get yet another of Moffat's annoying rewrites of the timeline. Not sure why he goes back to this so much, but I think he thinks it is clever, even after it has been way too overdone.  This time the rewrite is the Doctor does not die at Trenzalore, which would invalidate all of Clara's time/storyline and make all of the last batch of episodes irrelevant.  So a 'fix point' in time where the Doctor fakes his death is so pivotal to the timeline that if it gets messed with time goes wrong, but his actual death is changed and there is no repercussions at all... No it can't work that way. Moffat is already really bad about not following his own rules, but it really felt to me like we crossed a line of justifiability here.

Moffat actually should have had the Doctor die and in truth complete the storyline that has been building up. Do a big funeral scene and let us see the creation of his grave that we saw in The Name of the Doctor. The Timelords have the technology to bring Timelords back from the dead, as they did with the Master. It would be easy as it gets to show a mysterious someone approach the tear in space/time that is the Doctor's remains and do something that would bring the Doctor back.  I actually have the whole thing in my head and can picture it scene by scene, which would give some real emotion to the end of Matt Smith's Doctor.

I will say that all in all I do not feel that Moffat has lived up to the expectations I had when he took over as showrunner and I do not believe I am the only one who feels this way. For me the failure that is The Time of The Doctor is a true example of this and only makes me feel that maybe Moffat should step down and go back to what he was brilliant at, writing one or two episodes a season. Maybe then we'll get back to having a regular season instead of this jumping around with the scheduling.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Doctor Who Day

This year Christmas in our house has been strongly Doctor Who themed.

I got two Doctor Who t-shirts, a classic Doctor adventure on DVD, a Doctor Who character encyclopedia and a random titans vinyl figure that ended up being the 8th Doctor.

My boys got a TARDIS that makes all the noises from the show, a TARDIS nightlight, a TARDIS pillowcase, a build your own sonic screwdriver set, they each got a random titans vinyl figure (One got the 11th Doctor and the other got a Silence).

There were plenty of other Geeky gifts, but Doctor Who undeniably dominated the gifts this year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And His Time Is About To Come To An End

Twenty-Seven hours until the beginning of the end of the 11th Doctor.

Since BBC America started airing Doctor Who we have been getting the new episodes the same night as they air on BBC One back in the UK, instead of waiting months for them.  That means that we get the Christmas Specials on Christmas Day, making it so Christmas Day ends with a nice little gift.

This year's the episode is 'The Time of The Doctor' and will be the end for the 11th Doctor. Supposedly we will also get answers to just about all the big questions still out there from the last few years. We'll see how that goes.

We will also be introduced to the 12th Doctor, although most likely this will not give us much of an idea of the character.  We'll have to wait till fall next year for the new season to start up to see just what the new Doctor is like. It is going to be a long wait.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The General Lee Seems to be Missing Something

Looking through the displays of models at Wal-Mart I picked up the general Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.  The pictures of the model were very clearly missing some, as were the obviously photo-shopped promotional pic from the TV show.

They have removed the Confederate flag from the roof of the car.  Not really sure how I feel about that.

I understand the reasoning behind removing it, yet it feels odd for it to not be there.

As a child when the show was on I never understood what the flag was. It meant nothing to me, just a design. I don't remember the show beign racist, at least not directly as I do not remember there being any black characters in the show ever.  Of course the show aired when I was too young to understand racism, so if it was there or now I would not have noticed at that point. I doubt they ever dealt with racism one way or the other, as that was just not a theme you dealt with back then.

It seemed that Americans for the most part back then didn't think much of the Confederate flag.  It didn't elicit a response back then.

So here we are thirty years later and there has been a good deal of debate over the controversy that is the Confederate flag and the undeniable racial issues that will always be connected to it.

That still leaves any images of the General Lee looking off without the Confederate flag on top of it.  Just calling the car The General Lee is celebration of Confederate ideas and could be viewed as being of the same manner of offense as the flag itself, yet there was no effort made in changing the name of the car.

Not really sure if taking the flag of the car really makes a difference one way or the other. It just ends up being one of those things that gets you thinking.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

LEGO Rental Service...

Just found out about http://www.pleygo.com.  It is basically Netflix, but for LEGO building blocks.  I'm really not sure what I think about this service. Not fully sure what the point of renting LEGO sets is.  It seems a little counter to the greater idea of what LEGOs are all about.

The service works just like Netflix.  You make a list of the LEGO sets you want and you get them one at a time after you send the last set back.  They claim to sterilize the blocks in-between shipping them out, although I picture that would fade the painted on aspects or ruin the stickers that some of the pieces have.

Part of the fun of LEGOs is to collect the sets and reuse the pieces to build new things. Unless you plan it out ahead of time, no hope of doing that with pleygo.  When I do mess with LEGOs, it is unplanned for the most part. I also like having a great deal of various pieces available when I want to mess around with them.

I also like to collect the mini figures and find that to be one of the main reason as to why I pick up the sets I go for. Interestingly enough it would seem you could actually do this with the pleygo deal, as you can loose up to ten pieces per set. I get the feeling that very often mini-figures are the pieces that go missing.  In fact I could see the value of requesting sets with the rarer mini-figures and then conveniently misplacing them. This would also be a great way to get some of the more interesting pieces that are not found in any of the cheaper sets. Not sure if that would be worth the monthly fees, but for the free trail one could end up with a few nice pieces.

At $15, $25 or $37 a month (Depending on the size of sets you wish to rent) it seems to me it would be more fun to use that money on buying you own sets and building up a collection of them.  Outside of getting access to huge sets that you might not otherwise ever get to play with, I cannot see any advantage to this program. And while I would love to build the Death Star set (Normally about $250), I can't see the fun in building it, which could take a week or more due to the size, and then sending it back.  That would take a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me.

I guess it is partially the collector in me, but the idea of 'toy rental' for basic toys seems pointless to me.  I do wonder just who this manner of service is marketed towards.  It seems pricey to me for a family with limited income and rather extravagant if you just want to control your child's clutter.

But that could just be me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Today I finished rereading The Stars My Destination.  As it turns out today would been Alfred Bester's 100 birthday, the author of the book.  Interesting coincidence there.

For those of you not aware, The Star My Destination is considered by many to be the greatest Sci-Fi novel of all time.  There is a good reason for this.  It is an incredible novel.

The first time I read it about fifteen years ago or so, I enjoyed it then.  I remember how intense it was and enjoyed the fact that you didn't know where the story was going next. It was a wild trip. A good read.

Rereading was an even better experience. I saw it in a different light this time, as my sensibilities have changed. I saw the commentary that was clearly there, especially once you get to the end and the mortality question is straight our presented unedited. So much of what was said in the conclusion of the story very much applies to what we are seeing today with the privileged and their priorities. It is timeless in its commentary.

I also saw the great play on human nature and how contradictory we are.  The nature of inner struggle is so well done with Gully Foyle, as he fights his inner monster. It is great, believable character development, even is he is unlikable for most of the story.

I will say that the attitude towards women presented in the book is very much dated, but that can be said of most classic sci-fi.  Is it one aspect of story telling that has greatly matured over the last half century since the book was written. It is one of those things that one has to understand when reading classic sci-fi and not letting it ruin the experience.

The visuals in the book would lend themselves so powerfully to the big screen.  I guess there have been numerous attempts at turning it into a film, but nothing has come to fulfillment.  With John Carter and Ender's Game not having done too well in the theaters, that will make it harder for high concept sci-fi like The Stars My Destination to get the go ahead.

There is no doubt the influence that The Stars My Destination has had on sci-fi.  It was ahead of its time, presenting so many strong concepts that are still active in sci-fi today.  I've seen it said that The Stars My Destination is an predecessor to cyberpunk, and I very much can see that.

This is a book that should be on everyone's must read list. If you have not read it, go get a copy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Where You Can Find My Creative Endeavors

A collection of my writings, My delusions of Godhood can be found in the following formats-
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/My-Delusions-Godhood-Collection-Fictions/dp/1460996410/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1332009490&sr=8-3
Kindle: (http://www.amazon.com/My-Delusions-of-Godhood-ebook/dp/B004WOVZ3Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303161244&sr=8-1 )

My story 'Enforcers: All in a Day's Work' can be found in in Tales of the Talisman  (http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/ ) Vol. 7 Issue 3 (http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Talisman-7-3-Carol-Hightshoe/dp/1885093616/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4)

My story 'A Night at the Club' will be Volume 9 Issue 4 coming out spring of 2014.

My story "Naked Diplomacy" can be found in Wondrous Web Worlds Vol. 9 (http://sdpbookstore.com/anthologies.htm )

My story "Brew of the Gods" can be found in Wondrous Web Worlds Vol. 6 (http://sdpbookstore.com/anthologies.htm )

My story 'All  Things Being Equal' can be found in the anthology 'Say Goodnight to the Bad  Guy' from May December  Publication  ( http://maydecemberpublications.com/ ).
Print: (http://www.amazon.com/Say-Goodnight-Bad-Aaron-Garrison/dp/1936730065/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314209536&sr=1-  )
Kindle: (http://www.amazon.com/Say-Goodnight-Bad-Guys-ebook/dp/B0059JDXVU )

I am still active with the Amateur Skeptics podcast (http://www.amateurskeptics.com/ )   I am a founder of  this group and a regular co-host and contributor for the podcasts.

You can check out the short film Jack Staple and the Cubicles of Doom  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLZwdsemjRg&feature=related ).   This was done as part of the 48 Film Project for the Denver area.  I was one of the writers and I got to be 2nd unit director on it. It earned 'honorable mention' with the audience appreciation awards and was rescreened as one of the 'Best in Denver'.
I wrote the script for 'Birthright' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3gCP6p2LhE ) and my son starred in it. It was entered in the MockSides 72 hour Fall Film Challenge.  In finished 2nd place in the contest and won the audience choice award. 
I  also have a couple of supplements for the Sci-Fi Role playing game Ephemeris from Nomadic Delirium Press, 'Critters and Pests', available as both an e-book and now in print.  (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=64133&src=FrontPage ).
and 'The Secrets of Gladsheim IV' only available as an e-book

Obviously  for that to be of any use to you, you need to have the core rules for the system (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0980170311 ).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sorry Rachel Bloom, But You Are Mistaken

I recently finished Ray Bradbury's Sci-Fi novel The Martian Chronicles. While it might not be the worst book I have ever read, it is beyond a doubt in the bottom ten and is not even close to being worthy of the modifier 'classic' that seems to be attached to it.

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is pure crap.  The few interesting concepts, and there not enough to make it worth suffering through the garbage that is the rest of the novel, are not well presented or explored as much as they deserve.

I am not making these criticisms on the basics of the science in the novel. I very much understand the style of story telling fits in just fine with the age in which this was written.  I can appreciate classic sci-fi written in that era and not be bothered by ideas of a Mars perfectly inhabitable by humans or the simplistic ideas of interplanetary travel. When you get a good writer like Heinlein, none of that matters as the rest of the aspects are enjoyable and work together to form a good story.

With the Martian Chronicles there are just so many poor concepts, characters, situations and motivations that it does not work on any level.

To start with, somehow we are told that the sociopathic Martian race, which posses some form of telepathy that can create physical structures by pure will power (But only for the insane), are supposed to have been a great race of artists and dreamers. That is what we are told. What we are shown is a race of beings who greatly fear the unknown and the unusual.  They will attack indiscriminately anyone that is considered a threat to their way of life. This includes Martians killing other Martians for nothing more than having a prank played on them. When it is revealed that they had been accidentally taken to the brink of extinction by Chicken pox, I was relieved.  It meant they no longer could become the great threat to every other sentient race in the universe that they clearly were.  I was however surprised that they had not destroyed themselves long before this, as they seemed to lack the basic understanding of simple survival instincts that a society needs in order to function.

At one point we get a totally silly story where Earth born seeds will grow to full size over night in the Martian soil with Martian rain. The concept in itself is just ridiculous and childish.  It is made all the more pointless by not playing a role in any of the rest of the stories.  By simple logic this would mean that any time it rains on Mars, trees should pop up everywhere and basically destroy the local landscape.  All buildings would be in great danger as seeds have a habit of blowing around and ending up everywhere.  Yet even with these overnight forests that should provide more than enough building materials, that are easily replenishable with no actual cost, the humans still have to import lumber from Earth... Let that sink in.  There is not one bit of logic to the settlers importing lumber from Earth, even if they could not grow forests overnight. Long before these stories were written mankind learned how to build dwellings out of materials other than wood, yet that seems to be all they want to build them out now that they are on Mars. Bradbury seems to introduce various concepts like the quick growing seeds that are then forgotten and ignored in the greater storyline, yet such concepts actually would greatly influence the society in so many untaken directions. Just throwing up mid 20th century society, with no changes made to it, on to Mars is NOT good story telling.

The book basically ends with Atomic War breaking out on Earth and most of the human settlers returning to Earth for some reason.  No rational reason for this is ever given.  If one looks at history, never has anyone ever decided that it made sense to take your family and led them into a war zone, yet most of the population of humans on Mars do this. There is no rational motivations given for this action.  These are people who came to Mars to create new lives for themselves and their families and are now ready to give it all up and basically sacrifice their families (There is no doubt at all that they know it is an atomic war going on back on Earth) by foolishly returning to Earth. We are given a story where all the blacks in the Southern US went through a lot of trouble to get to Mars and escape the discrimination.  There is no logic at all that has them returning to Earth so easily. I will buy that there would be individuals who still feel a loyalty towards their home countries (Although it felt as though only Americans had journeyed to Mars) willing to return to Earth and fight as soldiers, but none of them would uproot their families to drag them to their deaths.  Mars should had remain fairly well populated.

The last few stories were senseless, lacking any real significance, although I believe Bradbury felt that he had given a sense of hope for the future in the last story.  We are supposed to believe that just two families would be enough to get the human race going again as they finally go with some level of logic and move into the Martian cities, which we have been told many time were well built.  For some reason even though humanity spent a lot of effort to clean these cities up, they never got around to using them.

There is no level on which I could recommend anyone read The Martian Chronicles.  It is collection of really bad Sci-Fi that would be best forgotten. I do understand that one bad book does not a bad author make.  However I have read Bradbury's other famous classic Fahrenheit 451.  While it is nowhere near as awful as The Martian Chronicles, I found nothing exceptional to it. Bradbury is at best a mediocre writer who hit on a few interesting topics and is for whatever reason granted praise far beyond what is deserving for the low quality of his writing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hunger Games Candy Bars

As if the Subway and Cover Girls promotions for Hunger Games: Catching Fire from my earlier blog on the subject did not seem out of place and way off the ball enough, I saw these today at a grocery store http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4272038453339362685#editor/target=post;postID=3453757492217523926. So they made 12 candy bars, each themed to a specific district with truly unique flavors (beef jerky + smoked mesquite + 41% cacao milk chocolate for district 10).

The idea of the candy bars in and of itself is not what gets to me, it is the price. The ones I saw at the store were $5 a piece and this complete set of 12 is $65. A little pricy just for candy bars. At such a price point, it puts the candy bars into the realm of being an indulgence for the upper tier.

It is an impressive looking gift set, but it really gets me that such merchandising so goes against the concepts promoted in the books.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Need $200,000...

I have a new reason to win the lottery now.  I really would love to add this piece to my collection:

Yes, the screen used DL-44 Blaster belonging to Han Solo, as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.  No bids yet and the starting bid is only $200,000.

Now that would be one awesome conversation piece to have in your house.