Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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{originally written 2013 May 23, then banished to the Drafts folder for no good reason when I never got around to finishing it.}

Spoiler-free review:  A solid sophomore outing for the NuTrek crew, but it’s no Wrath of Khan. ====== Spoilers follow =========== Continue reading “Review: Star Trek Into Darkness”

The Mongrel Dogs at Sea (4): Review: Next

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Insta Rating: 4 out of 5

OK, it’s a little odd to be reviewing a movie when I’m supposed to be off on a wonderful cruise. But as mentioned before I was pretty wiped out, so I decided to take advantage of the onboard movie theater and catch Next starring Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel. I remember when this came out but I never got to see it, despite being a sucker for a Philip K. Dick movie

Nicholas plays Chris something, who was born with the very Dickesque talent of being to see the future but only his own future and only two minutes ahead. He’s making a living as a second-rate Vegas magic act and just trying to have a normal life. The only exception to the rules of his talent is that he saw Liz (Biel) at a diner some indeterminate time in the future. He’s been visiting that diner for a week trying to meet her, which he does, acting in a manner which he hopes isn’t too creepy (but which kind of is).
Unfortunately for Chris, there’s an FBI agent who’s somehow become aware of his talent and wants to use it to track down a missing Russian nuclear warhead which has been smuggled into the US. The movie is about bringing Chris around to the greater good and stopping the bad guys.

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So long, Studio 60

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Edited for grammar 2007 Dec 16.

I just finished watching my TiVo’d copy of “What Kind of Day Has It Been”, the 22nd and final episode of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Studio 60 was highly touted as the Next Big Thing in TV drama, opened with a stellar pilot, and then faded out over the course of a season. A while back, NBC made it clear that it would not be picked up for a second season; the word was out early enough for Sorkin to adjust the storylines for the last few episodes.

Short version: Like most of the post-hiatus episodes, this one was pretty good. It had flashes, at least, of the brilliance that Sorkin brought to Sports Night and of course The West Wing. Much like the rest of the season, alas, it had only flashes. The episode was bittersweet, in that you can see where this might have gone with another season’s chance. There really was potential for a break-out, smart, important TV show, but Sorkin never quite found his feet.

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Irksome metric

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Today, there’s a piece by Maya Jasonoff in the Sunday magazine of the New York Times on the Americans loyal to Britain during the Revolution, and it has me irked. It’s not the thesis, which I agree with, that we should be more aware that the “self-evident” truths were anything but, to about 20% of the population. It’s not the timing, the seemingly-obligatory article near July 4 warning us that it wasn’t all fireworks and oratory. That’s a useful exercise, too, especially in an age of unquestionable jingoism. No, what has me irked is the following statement:

Yet in all, more than 700 people put their names to the parchment — 12 times the number who signed the Declaration of Independence.

“The parchment” referenced here was a petition by the royalist Americans to their king, declaring their loyalty and dismay at the Revolution. Despite the inherent strength of her arguments, Ms. Jasonoff appears compelled (by insecurity?) to puff up the popularity of the Tory case by a specious popularity contest. She must know better: The Declaration was signed by members “in Congress assembled”; it was not an invitational and the grouping was by design small in number. To compare it to an open petition left out in a New York tavern for three days, is simply absurd. How many roaring patriots would have signed the Declaration (had it be a petition) is unknowable but certainly vast… more vast than 700, if one can judge by how rapidly and how widely it was reproduced.

Ms. Jasonoff’s editorial choice doesn’t really undercut the article and in some ways it’s a tiny thing. But it’s another example of a growing carelessness we display with our rhetoric, a growing willingness to compare apples to oranges and act as if the comparison meant anything. It’s intellectually sloppy.

Review: The Book of Lost Things

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The Book of Lost Things
a novel by John Connolly
InstaRating: 5 (out of 5)

This is simply a good book. I would not have thought anything would rank up next to a new book by Guy Gavriel Kay (Ysabel, which I’ll review some other time), but this one easily meets that standard. One of life’s greatest treasures, for me, is a book that compels me to keep reading at an ever-more-breakneck pace. I love a book that gives me the sensation that I’m missing details because the vision is so extravagant and the journey so enthralling that there just isn’t time to savor everything. I love a book so good that, around page 50, I start calculating how long I have to wait so that it will be fresh when I re-read it.

A short summary: David is a pre-teen in World War II Britain, who loses his mother to an unnamed lingering disease and his father (as David sees it) to a stepmother and half-brother. David starts to hear books whisper to him and then, in an ancient house, hears his mother’s voice calling to him. He ventures into the garden just as a Luftewaffe bomber crashes, propelling him into an alternate world where strange versions of well-known fairy tales seem to be true. He meets a kindly Woodsman and a questing knight, but is menaced by the half-wolf Loups, by harpies, trolls, and above all by the Crooked Man, an indistinct but terrifying menace who wants, for reasons left unexplained, for David to tell him the name of his half-brother. At the suggestion of the Woodsman, David travels east toward the castle of the ailing King and his magic Book of Lost Things. What he discovers — there and along the way, in the King and in himself — ends up changing everything.

More detail will inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll hide them below the fold. If you’re looking for whether this book is a good read, but you don’t want to know the ending, stop here and take my word for it: This is a good book. It will richly reward you for reading it. Connolly shows himself to be a master of atmosphere and foreshadowing. If you need to hear more, and don’t mind knowing what’s coming, read on…
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Lunacon (1)

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This past weekend, I attended Lunacon 50, a science fiction convention held annually in Rye, New York by the New York Science Fiction Society. I wanted to attend “a con” this year and I chose Lunacon because, of the Northeast conventions I could find online, it seemed the most writer-friendly and writer-centric. Appropriately, for the next few days, I’m going to type up my thoughts and impression.

Our story begins with an epic tale of travel and travail.
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Marc Cohn in Carnegie Hall

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I am not really much of a “joiner” and I don’t have many entertainment things about which I get passionate. Long ago, however, I decided that I would pick an artist and follow them closely. I chose Marc Cohn, whom you might remember from a 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis”, which still gets significant airplay, at least on the sort of stations I listen to. 🙂 Anyway, Cohn has continued to release albums at a gushing dribble (three in fifteen years) but also tours a lot and plays intimate, small venues.

Last night I rode NJ Transit up to NYC to catch his show at Zankel Hall, a small 600-person adjunct to Carnegie Hall.
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Review: Echelon

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Echelon
a novel
by Josh Conviser

InstaRating: 2 out of 5

This book\’s title caught my interest because I keep up with surveillance tech and its social implications, and ECHELON — the alleged US NSA electronic sifting program — is the monster of all surveillance programs. Although I knew this was a spy thriller, I thought there was a chance that it would delve deeply into some of the issues revolving around the invasive new technologies coming online. Alas, it didn’t pan out that way.

More below the fold — warning: Spoilers to come.
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